On June 5, the City of Santa Barbara will hold a special election to fill the Westside District 3 council seat left vacant when its representative, Cathy Murillo, was elected mayor. The council’s highly debated 4-2 decision to hold a special election, instead of selecting a new member by council appointment, came after the threat of a lawsuit from activists who charged an appointment would unfairly deny the heavily Latino, working-class Westside neighborhood the chance to choose its own representative. Here are the four candidates:
Oscar Gutierrez, a first-generation Mexican American and recent UCSB graduate, is a senior producer for TV Santa Barbara and works for LifeChronicles, a nonprofit that helps terminally ill patients turn their life stories into video biographies. “Working with a diverse group of amazing people has made me aware of the untapped riches of our community and its people,” Gutierrez said in his candidate statement, which outlines a focus on economic vitality, protection for renters, and preservation of neighborhood character.
Elizabeth Hunter said City Hall “needs more youth.” The 22-year-old SBCC student grew up on the Westside and described herself as “a fiscal conservative with no interest in raising taxes.” She said she would keep a keen eye on public schools and environmental issues, particularly water conservation. “I would protect the interests of our local businesses, support law enforcement, and secure fair revenues from legal marijuana sold by responsible businesses.”
Kenneth Rivas is a longtime Parks & Recreation volunteer and youth mentor with a prior city assignment to the Neighborhood Advisory Council. “Our Westside neighborhood has been underrepresented,” he said in his filing statement. “I will strive to improve street parking, rent control, and resolve housing challenges.” Rivas also committed to enhancing parks and family and senior services.
Michael Vidal, boardmember of both the Legal Aid Foundation and the county’s Employees’ Retirement System, said his top three priorities to make District 3 and Santa Barbara better are “cost of living, water, and public safety emergency responses.” As the owner of a financial planning service, Vidal said he understands the difficulties of growing a family and business. “As your City Council representative, I will strive to enhance professionalism, clarity, fairness, and bipartisan partnerships to improve government efficiency,” he said.
The winner will serve an 18-month term before the position goes up for grabs in 2019.