Mayor Cathy Murillo drew the ire of some Santa Barbara residents during Tuesday’s City Council meeting for her contentious exchange with 1st District Councilman Jason Dominguez the previous week.
Some demanded Tuesday that Ms. Murillo apologize for cutting off Mr. Dominguez in the June 18 meeting’s budget discussions, but the mayor did not apologize.
“After three months of budget deliberations and decision making, it was time to vote,” Ms. Murrillo told the News-Press after Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m trying to run a good meeting.”
During the June 18 meeting, Mr. Dominguez said a few words on why he would vote no on a financial plan for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, after which the mayor and 2nd District Councilman Randy Rowse made some comments. Mr. Dominguez then tried to interject with further comments but was stopped by Ms. Murillo as she tried to move the item to a vote.
When the mayor told him she wouldn’t allow him to speak, Mr. Dominguez protested that he was allowed to speak as a representative of the city. The two spoke over each other for a few seconds until Ms. Murillo brought down the gavel and called the meeting to a recess.
On Tuesday, Ms. Murillo told the News-Press that she and Mr. Dominguez spoke privately following the recess,and that he got to say what he wanted to when the meeting resumed.
“He wasn’t prevented from saying what he wanted to say,” Ms. Murillo said.
But several citizens used their time at the podium Tuesday to chide the mayor for her behavior.
Among them was Santa Barbara resident Natalia Govini, who called the mayor’s behavior “atrocious” and accused her of “bullying tactics.”
“I would suggest that you begin on a journey of some real, deep soul searching, where you can find a place in your soul to rectify this destruction that you have created, and apologize to council member Dominguez, his district, and the city of Santa Barbara,” Ms. Govini said.
Santa Barbara resident Lorna Boyd also asked for an apology and called the mayor’s behavior “incomprehensible.” She brought with her a letter that included the names of more than 50 people from the 1st District who she said took exception to Ms. Murillo not allowing Mr. Dominguez to speak.
Frequent public commenter Anna Marie Gott reiterated her back-of-the-room exclamation from the June 18 meeting calling Ms. Murillo a “petty tyrant” before tearing into the mayor’s policy choices.
Following public comment, Mr. Dominguez spoke and said he was “silenced” in the June 18 meeting.
“I would think a mayor would want to hear everyone’s opinions before voting on something as big as a two-year budget. In fact, council members had questions for me after the meeting because I wasn’t able to get to them,” he said.
Mr. Dominguez said he often feels humiliated during meetings and that he is “treated with contempt,” particularly taking issue with his seat on the dais three chairs to the mayor’s right.
“As the chair of the finance committee and as a senior member of council, under council tradition, normally I would be sitting in the center, closer to the mayor, but I’ve been relegated out here for contemptuous reasons,” he said.
In other business, the council unanimously voted to amend an ordinance that adds inclusionary housing requirements to the city’s Average Unit-Size Density Incentive program. If adopted, the ordinance will require housing projects of 10 or more units built under the AUD program to make at least 10 percent of its units affordable to moderate-income households, those that earn between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income. This 10 percent requirement would apply to units both inside and outside Santa Barbara’s Central Business District.
Additionally, projects with between five and nine units will have the option to either build an affordable unit or pay a $25 per square foot in lieu fee. Projects with four or fewer units will be exempt from building additional units or paying in lieu fees. The amended ordinance will go back to the council for introduction at its July 16 meeting. Introduction requires four affirmative votes, while final adoption requires five.