Race for the 24th: William Ostrander

In anticipation of forums to be broadcast live on-air by KCRW in Santa Barbara, all candidates for the 24th Congressional district were asked to respond to this questionnaire. The responses have been published without editing.

Given how dysfunctional Congress is now, how do you intend to get anything done?

A major reason congress is dysfunctional is the amount of money spent to be elected to office. Once elected, the established political parties, lobbyists, special interests and the wealthy write huge checks to candidates and office holders. In return, elected officials reward their benefactors with policies and legislation that favors donors.

Elected officials are expected to raise money for their own campaigns and for their respective political parties as well. This results in congress members spending a minimum of four hours a day raising money instead of doing their jobs.

The most important step in resolving gridlock in Washington is changing the way elections are financed. We must do away with private money that dominates politics and instead publicly finance campaigns. Special interests and the affluent would have much less control over policy and legislation and voters could no longer be ignored.

How would you prevent another oil spill like the Refugio Spill in Santa Barbara?

The Refugio oil spill taught us that it is crucial that oil and other spill prevention, notification, and rapid response measures be in place and functioning properly at all times to minimize the impacts associated with an oil spill.

In 2015, the Governor required the state fire marshal to annually inspect all intrastate pipelines under its jurisdiction. He signed legislation to require oil pipelines in environmentally sensitive areas be fitted with remote leak detectors and automatic shut-off valves. Another law will speed response to spills by enlisting commercial fisherman and other boat operators outfitted with containment gear to help contain leaks in their area.

There is still litigation pending to recover income lost by those adversely affected by the oil spill, but our best bet in preventing another oil spill is to eliminate oil drilling off the Central Coast.

After the recent San Bernardino shooting and the shootings in Isla Vista, how would you reshape laws surrounding gun control?

I agree with the President’s efforts directing the ATF to make background checks of gun sellers more quickly, and to prohibit buying dangerous weapons through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity.

We need to replicate and expand these and other laws at the state and local levels, as well as to push for substantive gun safety legislation from City Hall to the White House.

And, we must continue to elect Congress members who support reasonable gun safety measures. Even members of the NRA agree to requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees, prohibit terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns, make gun-owners inform police when their gun is stolen, restrict concealed carry permits to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older and deny concealed carry permits to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or those arrested for domestic violence.

This March, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials raided Bonita Packing Company in Santa Maria and forced the company to fire 291 farm workers because of their non-legal immigration status. According to the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, about 72% of the roughly 17,000 farm workers in Santa Barbara County are undocumented. This comes when there is a 25% labor shortage in the county, according to the Agricultural Advisory Committee. How would you handle the issue of undocumented workers and the need for labor across the district?

In 2009, there were about 12 million undocumented immigrants. In 2014, the number dropped to 10.9 million. The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen every year since 2008.

Fewer Mexicans are coming north because of a declining birth rate and an improving economy. The number undocumented Mexican immigrants dropped by 600,000 since 2010.

Legislation effective as of 2015 provides access to a low-cost auto insurance, creates a new DREAM loan program at UC and Cal State systems and added $3 million for legal representation to immigrant minors who arrived without parents and faced deportation.

Fewer undocumented workers may reduce the supply of labor, but it also increases the quality of such labor. And, with new programs in place, it’s drawing undocumented workers out of the shadows and allowing them to apply for a wider range of employment opportunities here on the Central Coast.

Recent studies have shown that on average students graduate with $30,000 in student debt. What would you do to help make college more affordable?

The class of 2015 graduated with an average of $35,051 in student debt. American students are more $1.2 trillion in debt, with more than 7 million debtors in default.

I believe young adults should have some “skin in the game.” That’s why I have proposed a coordinated national civil service program.

Twenty-six million volunteers ages 18 to 24 year old would serve 500 hours in our communities and expose them to experiences they might not have found on their own. Afterword, volunteers would have their college tuition paid by consolidating federal, state, and local programs with already significant budgets and a tax on stock, bond and derivative transactions that would raise as much as $300 billion a year.

We can create a national service program so young people can serve their country or community and earn money to offset the cost of college upon completion of their program.


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