A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

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By William Smithers

The government of Santa Barbara is a government of all its people.
In 2002, the California Voting Rights Act authorized municipalities and other publicly-elected bodies to govern themselves via so-called “district elections,” by means of which citizens having majority cultural population in certain neighborhoods, but who constitute a minority in the overall community, have the right to vote for, and elect, a representative to their governing body.
Many state communities and electoral bodies have adopted this form of governance, usually mandating in a municipality that its mayor be chosen by a vote of all its people, with other representatives on the governing body chosen by district vote.
This form of government has the benefit - and strength - of giving cultural minorities at least roughly proportional representation in their governance.
Its weakness is that it relies on the character of district electees to conduct themselves in a manner evidencing their respect for, and needs of, those community citizens not in their districts.
Though our government is a government of all its people, its success and equitable functioning begin to rot when any of its district representatives pointedly and repeatedly refuses to accept responsibility to deal with problems affecting all, or other, parts of the community.
Throughout history, we know this recognition and support for community inter-dependence as the common good: “ … that which benefits society as a whole, in contrast to the private good of individuals and sections of society.”
If state law permits the sale and use of liquor, or of tobacco, should your district representative – or any - fight to prevent a store selling these to be licensed in his/her district? If recreational/medical use of marijuana is legalized, should any district representative fight to prevent relevant facilities from existing in his/her district; should any representative try to create legal conditions making such locations impossible to create? Would this be a commitment to the common good?
If sewer lines erupt; if storms throw trees, boulders and debris across city neighborhoods; if spilled chemicals threaten the lives or health of Santa Barbarans, should your district representative - or any - refuse to authorize monies to deal with these because they don't occur in his/her district? If foul odor, water contamination, environmental degradation and wildlife diminution threaten the health and reasonable comfort of Santa Barbarans in one area of the city, should a representative of another area refuse to help provide funds to eliminate or ameliorate the problem? Would this be contributing to the common good?
Unfortunately, community irresponsibility of just this kind is happening in Santa Barbara, especially by one of the first to be honored with governmental authority via the new district election system. In my view, this behavior should be noticed, criticized, condemned and, eventually, repudiated by voters who care about the fairness of the system that governs them.
This has nothing to with debate over measures affecting all our citizens: housing, taxes, zoning, election laws, community-wide transportation or environmental concerns, economic prosperity, etc. This has nothing to do with likes/dislikes of anyone's personality.
This is a Declaration of Inter-Dependence. This is a reminder that if District X residents want others in the community to consider their problems and needs, they had better be sure their elected representative is exhibiting that concern for others. This is a reminder that District Y and Z residents should understand whether District X's representative is refusing to support funding to address serious problems in their communities. Everyone should know, or find out, which of their government's district representatives demonstrate commitment to legislate for the entire community: the “common good.” 
This is an appeal to any fair-minded Santa Barbaran to hold accountable any district representative who makes a habit of ignoring the concerns and needs of those who didn't actually vote for him, but whom he has pledged to represent.

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Becky Feb 24, 2018 12:33 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Totally agree, and it needs to be explained to our elected State & Federal representatives too. When I write to members of a committee dealing with an issue I care about and am knowledgeable about, and get a response that essentially says, "You're not in my district," I want to ask them why they deal with ANY issues beyond their own district if that is their perspective. You are there to represent ALL the people, and you should be listening to input from anyone who takes the time to write to you. If you're on a committee dealing with an issue, you need to listen to anyone providing feedback on that issue.

SDP Feb 24, 2018 04:21 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

It is too small a town for this to not come back and bite the members of City Council on the butts who fail to grasp this simple concept.

Davy Brown Feb 24, 2018 06:59 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

we always knew the district system would have this flaw, yet they ignored certain areas in the City, e.g. Eastside and Westside, that it seems worth it.

A Real Local Feb 24, 2018 10:25 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Councilmember Eric Friedman believes that priority needs to be given to one's own District and that a Councilmember can't really represent people from other Districts. During the whole SBCAG drama that he and Murillo got the City into (which now includes a lawsuit) he inferred that he would not and could not represent those not in his District. --- Why elect someone who refuses to represent the whole City?

LocalinSB Feb 24, 2018 10:53 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Friedman isn't intelligent. His comments since being elected have shown us again that the local Democratic Party doesn't care who gets elected as long as it's their man or woman. We need intelligent committed people who are not looking higher Office. Friedman just doesn't have what it takes to be a good representative and we are stuck with him for 4 years.

a-1519569378 Feb 25, 2018 06:36 AM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Hmmm. There’s always the inverse of this: district reps could gang up and vote for a noxious land use to be put in one district they don’t represent. The targeted district’s rep only has the one nay vote.

Wm. Smithers Feb 25, 2018 04:20 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

3620: Thing 1 is possible. Thing 2 is possible. Things X, Y and Z are possible.

The article you are responding to is not theoretical. It presents concrete examples of the community irresponsibility of “one of the first [in Santa Barbara] to be honored with governmental authority via the new district election system.”

EdHat seems to provide no “Search” facility for previous Op-Ed pieces, so I can only refer you to the title of one: “Who Does Jason Dominguez Represent?”

Perhaps now you get the picture. Perhaps there is hope that you will speak up about it.

William Smithers

RHS Feb 25, 2018 09:54 AM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Of course an official elected to be part of the government of the city has a duty to the city. But the need for district elections was to break up the cabal of politicians beholden to State Street businesses and who had long ignored needs outside this tourism driven area. Some people will either not be wise enough to balance these duties or simply be craven enough to use the argument of "my district" to escape duties to the greater community. But if the message behind this essay is that district elections were a mistake I disagree.

Wm. Smithers Feb 25, 2018 04:09 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence


The author of this article has always supported municipal district elections (as well as instant runoff elections, which, unfortunately, have never been adopted here).

The article is not a “hidden” message. It presents concrete examples of the community irresponsibility of “one of the first [in Santa Barbara] to be honored with governmental authority via the new district election system.”

EdHat seems to provide no “Search” facility for previous Op-Ed pieces, so I can only refer you to the title of one: “Who Does Jason Dominguez Represent?”

Perhaps now you get the picture. Perhaps there is hope that you will speak up about it.

William Smithers

9310193441 Feb 25, 2018 06:33 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Pro Murillo Hit Piece! SMITHERS, we all know that this and the other posts you have written are hit pieces. You are trying to drum up some sort of anti Dominguez sentiment, based on wildly inaccurate descriptions, all in an effort to paint Dominguez black when Murillo should be in a orange jumpsuit and behind bars - as far as I am concerned. That is were corrupt Officials should be. Let's all fact facts. Murillo IS a lousy Mayor and SO Corrupt that she is dragging the City into a lawsuit because she broke the laws she wrote. And the City Attorney doesn't have the balls to stand up to her! I just wonder when the next shoe will drop with Murillo. That phony mask she has been wearing is finally falling off and we are seeing who she truly is! When it finally drops the residents will be on the warpath!

Wm. Smithers Feb 25, 2018 09:29 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

93441: I challenge you to refute any specific citation I have made of council member Dominguez's votes, and please demonstrate how my citations are evidence of his legislating for the common good.. Please try to use language that is meant to convey actual information. And please assure us you are not cowardly by giving your real name IN CAPITAL LETTERS.
William Smithers

a-1519628833 Feb 25, 2018 11:07 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

Go to Council SMITHERS! --- It is obvious that you do not go to any of the City Council meetings or watch them on TV. If you did you would know that everything you wrote is based on half the truth. Or maybe you just wanted to write it that way. -- You've cherry-pick the facts you write about, but you pervert the discussion with half-truths. That isn't any way to write an opinion piece. Take for instance, the fact that Dominguez wants the dispensary on Milpas moved. There's a big difference between not wanting a dispensary in your District at all to wanting one moved to a different location. But you act as if he wants zero and is doing everything he can to accomplish that. You're flat-out wrong and ill-informed. -- And after reading this I can only speculate that either Murillo has you eating out of the palm of her hand and you will believe anything she says, even if it is a lie or Murillo is behind this hit piece. She was a reporter after all...

Roger Feb 26, 2018 06:46 AM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

William Smithers is a subscriber on Edhat and is more than Welcome to share his opinion articles with us I enjoy them myself.As far as that little sellout representing my district if I could vote for someone else I would. Someone ought to buy him a pointy hat.

Wm. Smithers Feb 26, 2018 03:53 PM
A Declaration of Inter-Dependence

88993: You use my name in capital letters, as though wanting readers to be sure to know who I am, but you seem not to have whatever character is necessary to let us know who you are.

Why is this?

You seem to regard your opinions as authentic, while mine - including my specified disrespect for the legislative behavior of council member Jason Dominguez – cannot be the result of observation, but must be passive ignorance or because I am a conscious, or unwitting tool of someone else.

I have watched many SB council sessions. I was especially struck by Mr. Dominguez's lone vote not to appropriate any money to eliminate, or ameliorate, the stink, algaic contamination, environmental degradation and wildlife diminution at the Astree Clark Bird Refuge, which, I believe important to point out, is not in his district.

In that council session, staff presented council members with thoroughly-researched options – including doing nothing. Each option presented was accompanied by estimated cost and estimated environmental consequences.

The most thorough option was estimated to cost $6 million. Council members voted 5-1 to adapt the so-called “Hybrid” option at estimated cost of $2 million. Staff made quite clear that it is not possible to state with exactitude the effect of any option because of several factors: rainfall amount, tidal variation and other climatic uncertainties.

Council member Dominguez alone voted not to spend the city's money on this problem not is his district. His reason?: “Wait a year and see if science comes up with a solution that may cost less.” No evidence was presented that this hoped-for solution existed.

I regard his behavior in this matter as contemptible in the extreme; an outstanding example of a legislator ignoring his responsibility to the community-at-large in which he lives.

I think your enraged posts here - the language and manner of them - represent just what has caused Noozhawk and the SB Independent to eliminate reader comment in their publications.

Fortunately, EdHat continues to fly the open-discussion flag.

Wm. Smithers

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