I am pleased to once again submit guest opinions to Lee Central Coast News. As a way of introduction, I have been the executive director of COLAB, the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, a non-profit coalition, since 1991. I serve as a government watchdog and business advocate. As an adjunct to my “day job” of monitoring the county board of supervisors, in order to inform the public about pertinent issues that affect our economy, our standard of living and our rights, I also host a daily radio show and write guest opinions.
I would like to share three quotes that explain why COLAB exists. The first quote came in 1991, in the middle of a recession. The quote was this “The cost of preserving the high quality of life includes limiting opportunities for others, it limits economic mobility, but that is a legitimate political choice”.
The person who said that was the county’s planning and development director. What did he mean? People in the South County believe they have discovered paradise and they didn’t want anything to change, regardless of the impacts to others, including the less fortunate.
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The second quote came from the Peter Ueberroth Commission on California Competitiveness. In the early 90s, California was not emerging from the recession as were other states. The state commissioned a study and the conclusion was as follows: “California is not suffering from a recession as much as it is suffering from self-inflicted blows to its own economy by its own government”!
Well, since then, things have only gotten worse. High taxes, and over-regulation, coupled with laws such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and the rule of rogue state agencies such as the Coastal Commission and the California Air Resources Board, have put the kibosh on our ability to produce better-paying jobs. The one exception? The Silicon Valley. Regardless, the boon in the Silicon Valley may be helping the bottom line in Sacramento, but it doesn’t help young people in the rest of the state to get a good-paying job or obtain affordable housing.
The third quote came from an economist making a presentation before the county Board of Supervisors who informed the board “We don’t need jobs here; Monterey and Carmel don’t have jobs”. The context of this statement? The economist was informing the board that 90% of the county’s local discretionary money comes from property taxes and that the bulk of that money comes from places like Montecito where property values have proven themselves resilient over time. The rest of the money that funds county operations comes from state and federal revenues, which are not dependent on the health and well-being of the local economy. Hence, Santa Barbara County can embrace no-growth policies, including no-growth of the local economy! Of course, the people who will suffer the most are those living in the North County - but who cares about them!
Supervisor Peter Adam coined the term “the colonies” to describe the economic and political disparities and disenfranchisement between the working class North and the South County elite. Exposing and addressing the manifestation and impacts of this phenomenon continues to be my life’s work of nearly 30 years.
Andy Caldwell is a conservative Santa Maria radio host, founder of COLAB of Santa Barbara County and a candidate for the 24th Congressional District seat. He is writing as a private citizen.