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Signatures Collected for Split of County

October 02, 2003|From Associated Press

SANTA BARBARA — Proponents of a Santa Barbara County split concluded a petition drive claiming to have collected an estimated 36,000 signatures.

Advocates of a proposal to create a new Mission County need 20,779 valid signatures to move the process forward. If the signatures are validated, the governor would appoint an independent commission to study the feasibility of dividing Santa Barbara County.

Citizens for County Organization said they do not plan to turn in the signatures to the county clerk until after the November municipal elections.

"What has become crystal clear from the tens of thousands of North County residents our teams have spoken with is how seriously strained the credibility of county government has become to so very many in the present county, and they desire to do something about it," said Richard Cochrane, whose Tartan Group paid people to collect signatures.

If the Board of Supervisors certifies the petitions, the governor would have about four months to pick a nonpartisan five-member County Formation Review Commission. The formation group would have six months to study whether the proposed new county could be economically viable. An election on creation of the new county could be held as late as 2006.

Residents favoring a split said county government has become inefficient and fosters regulations that are too restrictive. They want to protect private property rights and encourage business expansion and development. Split foes, including the Coalition Against the County Split, said a split would be economically devastating and that social services, among other things, would suffer.

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