SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

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SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

As she seeks a five-year second term, Mayor Cathy Murillo said in an interview that her decade of City Council experience merits her re-election, declaring that "everyday people are happy" in Santa Barbara and describing the city as "well run."

As the race for mayor begins to take shape, the incumbent also disclosed in an extensive interview that she favors a possible tax increase -- perhaps a countywide property tax levy -- to finance expanded services for the homeless, while listing several sites she is exploring for a "sanctioned" homeless tent encampment.

Despite the growing problem of homelessness in Santa Barbara, the city's top elected official added, however, that conditions here compare favorably to other Southern California cities.

"I don't know how it sounds if I say it, but if you look at other cities, we're not so bad," Murillo said, noting the proliferation of homeless camps in Venice, near Dodger Stadium and in other areas in of Los Angeles County.

"We have a really great outreach team and we do get some people into housing," she said. "It's hard, it's management -- we have to manage the problem. Until there's another shelter or until there's little apartments to put them in, we're going to have a challenge."

The mayor, who recently celebrated her 60th birthday, was first elected to council in 2011 and now faces at least two major challengers in a bid for a second, and final, term in the only City Hall office still elected citywide. Longtime Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz and anti-racism activist and entrepreneur James Joyce both have announced candidacies; whoever wins will get a five-year term, as part of Santa Barbara's shift of its municipal election schedule, from odd to even years.

Our previous interviews with Schwartz and Joyce are here and here.

Last week Murillo agreed to a one-on-one conversation: originally scheduled for 30 minutes, the interview lasted nearly an hour, as Cathy generously agreed to hang in and answer further questions.

Among the highlights:

  • On policy: The mayor associated herself closely with current city and county efforts to combat homelessness, calling the issue "one of my assignments on the council" and highlighting her position as chair of SB ACT, the organization seeking to coordinate some $40 million in annual services provided by local governments and non-profits -- adding that she also favors a special parcel tax, or increased bed or sales levies, to finance a new homeless "navigation center." She also strongly defended the new, union-friendly Project Labor Agreement policy she championed on council; described the State Street Promenade as "a work in progress" and said that her biggest priority in a new term would be to "make policy decisions that create housing opportunities, (which) would solve a lot of our issues."

  • On politics: Murillo spoke proudly of having raised nearly $80,000 to date for her re-elect campaign. Asked to identify specific accomplishments that warrant her re-election, she pointed to the Project Labor Agreement, the city's enactment of demands by Healing Justice/Black Lives Matter, and a citywide Women's Summit which she convened. She also asserted that a far-flung network of personal working relationships she has forged with what she called "my residents and my businesses," as well as with city staff, homeless people and "gang risk youth" represents a major contrast with her rivals.

  • On high-profile controversies: She provided her fullest explanation to date of the incident in which she publicly clashed with leaders of last spring's Black Lives Matter demonstration outside the Santa Barbara Police Department; offered her perspective on a widely-publicized dispute she had with council member Kristen Sneddon at a recent council meeting; and spoke candidly about her confidence of ultimately winning endorsements for her re-election of more than the two council colleagues -- Meagan Harmon and Oscar Gutierrez - who have backed her to date:

"I'm working on (Mike) Jordan and (Eric) Friedman," Cathy said. "Alejandra (Gutierrez), I haven't even broached her about it -- it's like if you're asking your wife for a favor...you kind of have to wait for the right moment and, you know, wait until she's in a good mood."

Below is a transcript of key excerpts of Newsmakers' wide-ranging interview with Mayor Cathy Murillo on March 5. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Watch the entire interview via YouTube below or by clicking through on this link. The podcast version is here.

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a-1615427635 Mar 10, 2021 05:53 PM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Thank you all City Council public speakers who chastised Cathy for her denigrating comments towards Alejandra Gutierrez. Cathy has a known 'woman' problem, where anyone competent and possibly competitive is bullied by her. Too bad Roberts was the only reporter with the guts to point this out. Welsh and Molina have taken pains not to point out the mayor's mean girl issues. The public comment was so refreshing - our citizens see our mayor's problems loud and clear, despite the media's lack of reporting. May the vote go accordingly.

sbrobert Mar 10, 2021 01:24 PM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Housing is the answer to homelessness. According to the Independent, $42 million was spent on about 2000 homeless people in 2020. About half those dollars and numbers were in the City of Santa Barbara.

How could we be spending $20,000 a year per homeless person and still have homeless people? Couldn't we build dorm style rooming houses and give everyone a real home and still have money to spare?

Maybe we don't need a new tax? Maybe we just need to spend the money more wisely?

doulie Mar 11, 2021 07:37 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

A person of sound mind would know the thousands of illegal aliens being illegally allowed entry into the US likely do not have a place to stay. These people will be competing for the few shelters and benefits now available to Americans in need. I suspect the problems for Americans in need of assistance will get worse, in large part, due to illegal aliens entering the US. Do you truly believe some of these illegal aliens will not soon be parking themselves in our city? People rightfully scream and holler because we can't care for our (American) homeless. What will happen when illegals take an available shelter before and American?

sbrobert Mar 10, 2021 09:38 PM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

I lived in dorm style rooming houses when I was young and had little money. Many of the residents had mental illness and substance problems. Many were living on meager SSI checks. Not one of them caused any problems at all in the community, SACJON.

Amazingly enough, people behave a lot better if they have a secure place to live and a secure place to keep their belongings. And even the most sane among us will do crazy things if we are denied that security.

How about if we try the experiment and see what happens?

ChemicalSuperFreak Mar 10, 2021 06:07 PM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

SACJON: Excellent point. Furthermore, any housing provided for homeless generally comes with rules, such as no smoking, drinking or drug use on the premises. These policies are designed for the welfare of the inhabitants, some of which may actually trying to get sober, or are trying to get away from the violence and psychosis that often goes along with alcoholism and heavy drug use. Without the programs to help them with addiction, the homeless will continue to use and will opt to stay outside rather than deal with the rules, or face inevitably being asked to leave. Some years back I new a guy who was staying at the Salvation Army, until he came back at the end of the day smelling of liquor, and actually tried to sneak in a bottle. He was promptly thrown out.

citizenSB Mar 09, 2021 11:53 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Not long ago we used to believe Santa Barbara downtown was better than Ventura, unfortunately that is no longer the case. Cathy pointed to Los Angeles as being in worse shape for homelessness than Santa Barbara, skipping over Ventura and many other cities closer to home.
Cathy has to work on people to get their support, which means she has to promise to do things they want.
Cathy is proud of Project Labor Agreement which requires hiring union workers for city projects, which translates to more taxpayer money going to unions.
No wonder Cathy wants more taxpayer money.
It looks like we will be voting for the best of bad options; Cathy (A union puppet), James (who worked for both Das and Hannah Beth ) or Deborah (trying to carry on a family political dynasty).

Lucky 777 Mar 09, 2021 10:39 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Oh, the blurred glamor photo, fuzzy like her thinking. Notice that when Jerry quotes her speaking about her council members she refers to the males by last name and the female by first name? Aside from her ineptitude she is also betraying her non-PC bias. We deserve better. Let's build a mental institution for the addicts and aggressively unhoused and let her manage that, get all of them off the streets. Don't tax me to pay for another study of what to do.

a-1615309836 Mar 09, 2021 09:10 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

We can't really fault Murillo for not fixing all of these problems because the City Administrator, not the Mayor, runs the City. But if Murillo was really a strong leader, she would have led the Council to get rid of Casey as City Administrator and hire someone that would fix all of these problems that have been highlighted here. But she isn't and she didn't...

seaninsb Mar 09, 2021 07:46 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

She is a Failure! She doesn't deserve to be in public office when she cannot and will not serve with action.
Be gone you failed public servant.

- Homeless people run rampant, fires happen weekly
- Talks about fixing homeless, but no action taken ever
- State street is dead, 2006 all over again.
- She failed when covid started
- Raise taxes for failure to find alternative income?
- Stop wasting money painting the street green
- Automate all parking structures
- Vax the homeless and remove the encampments
- Create affordable commercial rental spaces for small business owners
- SB has lost its mom & pop downtown feel.
- Even the big box stores are leaving in droves
- 30 restaurants in SB have closed since covid
- 20 retail stores in SB have closed since covid
- 10 national chain stores have left since covid
- People in our community have less money due to covid, even the government is Jumping in to help people out and she wants to tax them more? How is that the solution?

SB is in a horrible state, what reality is she living in? Not ours. She is disconnected from reality. It’s time to find someone who is connected and not in Lala land. Your time is up, get off the stage with your act, it’s no longer working for SB!

a-1615315233 Mar 09, 2021 10:40 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

There was no count this year, due to the pandemic, but there was an estimate count. The county had a big hearing on this a couple of weeks ago. The Independent reported on it too. "In the past two years, the number of homeless people in Santa Barbara County has increased from 1,803 to 2,195. The number living in some form of shelter has dropped significantly — mostly because of COVID — from 670 to 407. In the City of Santa Barbara, 43 percent of the homeless are living in their vehicles. The number of unsheltered individuals connecting with county agencies seeking service jumped by about 1,200. The number of children unhoused increased by about 150.
With shelters either shut down or restricted, the number of people living in outdoor camps has grown astronomically, almost doubling in four years to 437 in 2020. County fire officials reported having to put out three fires at encampments each month.

dukemunson Mar 09, 2021 10:34 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Pit - I do not mean to pry, but you don't by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?

January 2020 was up 5% year over year. They didn’t do the count in 2021... so yeah, it’s based on my perception of Santa Barbara... and that perception is Cathy Murillo is doing a horrific job, and that homeless number is dramatically higher than January of 2020 (when they recorded 33 homeless in IV). I know you have a passion for teachers unions and the status quo... and are right that she probably will win.

ChillinGrillin Mar 08, 2021 10:43 PM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Who in their right mind would want to be mayor? Anyone with adequate management chops and experience to succeed would be taking a massive pay cut moving from the private sector. If they try to change things, they're swimming against a current of nepotism and a deeply distorted system. I actually wish the GOP was a functioning party with substantive local policies instead of a mess of jackaloons talking about space lasers and Dr. Seuss.

Voice of Reason Mar 09, 2021 09:57 AM
SB Mayor Eyes Tax Hike for Homeless, Says Union Donations Not Pay to Play, Calls City Well Run

Seriously Pit? TX's power goes out during a 100 year weather event, ours goes out when it gets hot in summer. GT Townies point is CA and SB keeps voting the same way, decade after decade, and each time expecting different results. What word is it they use to describe doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results?

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