SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Measure M, believed to be the first ballot initiative of its kind in Santa Barbara County history, appears to have been narrowly defeated by voters on Tuesday.
It would have let voters decide how county funds should be spent in the annual budgeting process.
Measure M would have mandated priority funding for the repair and maintenance of county roads, parks and buildings.
Measure M supporters said after decades of deferred maintenance, there's a backlog of maintenance and repair work on Santa Barbara County roads, parks and buildings in the hundreds of millions of dollars and growing every year.
"I wanted to give the voters an opportunity to have a say in the way our government functions", said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Peter Adam who led the effort to get Measure M on the June ballot, "to be able to tell the Supervisors that they would like to have the maintenance done instead of deferred."
Measure M opponents said the mandate would have siphoned off and diverted funds away from other essential county programs and services including public safety.
"We spent enough, worked hard enough to let people know what I thought, you know I thought that was my job to do", said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino who was a leading voice in the No on M campaign. "Like I said tomorrow its putting in the will of the people, if they pass it I'll go 100 percent to make sure their voice was heard, if it fails we're definitely going to find a way to move forward on our maintenance program."
Preliminary results showed the measure failed by just over 1,000 votes. Final results have not yet been released.
"I drive the county roads and drive an 80,000 dollar truck, and it tears it up", said Santa Barbara County voter Mark Dugger who voted yes on Measure M. "It's not cheap to fix, so you gotta keep the roads up," he added
"Its just an interesting thought that we are now going to hold feet to fire so that they do do what they are saying they are planning on doing", added Santa Barbara County voter Dana Parker. "I lived in Grover Beach, nothing is as bad as Grover Beach."
Later this summer, Santa Barbara County Supervisors will dive into a $250,000, 3,500-page report prepared by a consultant on the county's facilities maintenance backlog and how best to manage it going forward it.
"In the end we're going to have to figure out how to make the commitment to fund it or else we're going to continue to defer," Supervisor Adam said, "so if Measure M loses in my opinion my colleagues will continue to choose to defer maintenance."