City also addresses SYV Transit operator’s request for amendment of current five-year contract

The Solvang City Council held its regular meeting Monday, April 8, and a good portion of it was spent discussing the council’s prioritized list of goals that was reached at a March 9 workshop.

Mayor Mark Infanti was not present physically at the meeting due to not feeling well, but he did participate via Zoom, with Mayor Pro Tem Dave Brown running the proceedings.

However, the mayor’s seat was not empty, at least not for the start of the meeting, as Solvang School second-grader Finley Henderson fulfilled her duties as “Mayor of the Day.” Finley had won the honor through a school contest, and also got to light the city Christmas tree at Solvang Park back in December.

On April 8, she called the meeting to order and led the council in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then she told the council and staff what she learned as honorary mayor that day.

“I learned about the Fire Department, all the water and how you clean it in the city, and how a building gets done,” she said. Finley was then asked by Brown if she had any recommendations, and she said she had suggested a mini-golf course in Solvang “where kids and families can go to have fun.”

Brown then presented her a gift on behalf of the city, a package of donuts, noting Finley’s love of the treats, and thanked her for “running the city.”

The first of the discussion items on the evening concerned the City Council’s prioritizing of its city goals over the next two years. During the City Council workshop on March 9, the city staff established 33 goals after input from the public and city officials. 

The council concentrated on the top 15, which ranged from the city parking situation (which was ranked No. 1) to affordable housing, local law enforcement staffing, traffic congestion, developing more local events to even it out with tourism events, and drawing business conferences and events to the city.

The council discussed and prioritized the goals with Special Advisor Rod Wood, who advised them on how they could move forward in implementing the goals and even consolidated some that were similar in scope. (To see the list of prioritized goals, go to and jump to page 159).

“What we don’t want is a list of goals and two years later nothing gets done,” Wood said. “My task is to make sure you move forward with what you have approved tonight.

Money’s never the problem, getting to ‘yes’ is the problem.”

During public comment, Friends of the Solvang Library Board Member David Goldstein and Solvang resident Cary McKinnon advocated for the library improvements, which was among the top 15 of the city goals.

“A great city deserves a great library,” Goldstein said. “Right now, our services require three times the space that we currently have.”

“Thank you for considering the library on your list,” McKinnon said. “What is needed is more meeting space; it has none right now, and I get a lot of questions about that.”

At the end of the item, city staff was directed to move forward with the top 15 items, and Wood said after that they could rework them to fit budget concerns.

City Manager Randy Murphy said the list of priorities has been shared with grant writers in the hopes that Solvang could get extra funds for some of the projects.

In other business:

The council established a new Ad Hoc Budget Committee, which Murphy said earlier could be helpful in dealing with the City Council goals. The committee consists of the mayor (Infanti) and additional City Council member and a member of the Measure U Citizens’ Oversight Committee.

Councilmember Robert Clarke was appointed to the committee along with Infanti. The Measure U representative will be determined during a meeting for that committee.

The council heard the item of RATPDev, the operator of Santa Ynez Valley Transit, requesting an amendment of the five-year contract between the operator and city reached in 2022. Mainly, RATPDev requested an increase in fixed rate for non-transit costs, variable costs based on revenue hours, and to recover unforeseen escalation of costs estimated at $103,158.51, a 13.5-percent hike.

Public Works Director Rodger Olds said renegotiating with the transit operator was recommended so that they don’t risk having an unhappy vendor, but Councilmember Elizabeth Orona questioned the request when she found out that RATPDev could not provide any figures for ridership or finances. Orona also pointed out the operator was already getting a 12 percent increase under the current contract.

“We need to be transparent,” she said. “I want to see some match because now they’re asking for essentially 24.5 percent when they’re already getting 12 [percent]”

Solvang resident Denise El Amin, who’s been a frequent participant in public comment, thanked Orona for bringing up the lack of information, but took the council and operator to task.

“How can you have a five-year contract and just decided to redo it after one year,” she said. “I go outside where I live and see a bus go by and there’s like three people in it, and now they won’t give us the ridership figures. It’s a disgrace to give a presentation without figures.”

At the end, it was agreed that Olds would bring the presentation back to council after he was able to get some figures from RATPDev.

The City Council will meet next on April 22 at 6:30 p.m.