For the past 30 years, I have spent nearly every miserable Tuesday sitting in the chambers of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. I am convinced we need to rename the hearing room “the echo chamber.”
The definition of an echo chamber is an environment in which people encounter only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered. The bottom line? Debate and the meaningful exchange of ideas has been forsaken.
This past Tuesday, our supervisors engaged in a perfect echo chamber exercise as they pondered why our county doesn’t have enough affordable housing.
I can cite the reasons in my sleep: the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Coastal Commission, the County Planning Commission and the County Planning Department, along with hundreds of fees and dozens of zoning machinations, regulations and restrictions.
And let us not forget the numerous nimby organizations such as the Environmental Defense Center, the Santa Barbara County Action Network, and CAUSE, all of which compose the choir that regularly performs in the echo chamber.
It is no mystery why housing is so expensive here. The same holds true for automobiles, fuel, electricity, water and food, not to mention taxes, permits and fees charged for various services! None of this is happening by accident.
California has been governed exclusively by the Democratic Party for decades. They own this situation. It is their creation.
And, as much as they try to blame shift, the fact is California, which was the richest state in the nation, is now the poorest by any number of metrics including the people living in poverty, along with our debt and deficits.
Decades ago, the most prolific apartment developer in the region entered the echo chamber to meticulously explain why he could not build more so-called affordable units here. He outlined the cost of the limitations — having to do with requirements for setbacks, open space and height limitations, to name a few.
He then explained that getting involved in a development project in this county is considered a risky proposition because planners and neighbors, not to mention busy-body activists, can and certainly will create delays, design changes, and most assuredly, calls to downsize the project. When all was said and done, the potential return on the investment did not justify the risks of the same.
The supervisors paid no heed. Instead, they imposed millions in fees to developers via a Ponzi scheme, by which they charge every developer a fee by way of taxing the market rate units in the development. Every home sold in this region has these hidden fees and taxes embedded in the purchase price that is used to pay for things our government should provide and to facilitate discount housing for others.
The injury to the insult? The tax monies that were once used for community improvements are now absconded to help pay for the exorbitant salaries, benefits and pensions of county employees!
Unfortunately, the echo chamber stupidity of the Democratic Party is not limited to or wasted on California alone.
In a competition of dumb and dumber, consider President Joe Biden’s statement “My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars. Instead of wasting money on tax breaks, loopholes and tax evasion for big corporations and the wealthy, we can make a once-in-a-generation investment in working America. And it adds zero dollars to the national debt.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki added, “In the past, companies have passed on these costs to consumers … We feel that that’s absurd and unfair, and the American people won’t stand for that!”
Translation? We are going to tax the bejesus out of America, and it won’t cost a dime!
Can you hear the echo?
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.