Over the last two months, voters and residents have had the opportunity to observe and evaluate the perspectives and agendas of the four candidates running in the special election for the Third District. Their experience, understanding, or lack of understanding, of the city, its needs, and the needs of the residents has become clear to me.
Only two of the four candidates can win this race, and there is only one candidate who can serve the needs of both the Westside and the city. One candidate, with little to recommend him, is out of touch with what residents need and will bring massive unaffordable housing projects downtown without parking, which will cause traffic and parking nightmares. Another candidate, who has a keen intellect and an extraordinarily strong financial background, will ensure that the city put residents and common sense first. This is the only candidate who will prioritize affordability and livability over the desires of out-of-town investors that seek to destroy the community in an effort to maximize their profits.
Oscar Gutierrez, who became a Democrat earlier this year, was endorsed at the behest of Mayor Cathy Murillo who lobbied the Democratic Party for his endorsement over more qualified lifelong Democrats. He is a cameraman, with no training or experience applicable to govern as a city councilmember and competently serve the Third District.
Gutierrez has already illustrated that he is a poor choice and will harm low-income residents economically, not help them. For instance, at the Independent’s forum on May 9, he was asked what the city could do to increase revenues and boost the economy. He proposed what would in essence be a “tax” on anyone who owns a car and parks it on the street. To increase city revenues and “solve” the city’s parking problems, Gutierrez would impose that the city move to annual residential parking permits that residents must purchase. He also proposed installing metered parking all over town. Both, he claims, would be both revenue generators and boost the economy. Residents don’t need another “tax” when they face ever-rising rents while their incomes are stagnant.
In contrast, Michael Vidal has based his campaign on the skills and training he accumulated over the course of 20-plus years, not on his place of birth. He has a business economics degree from UCSB, is a certified financial advisor, completely understands economics, and has a deep understanding of what it takes to make sound financial decisions. Vidal has dedicated over 20 years of his life to volunteering in our community and has chosen to serve underserved residents in a variety of nonprofits for decades. His financial acumen has led him to volunteer on a board that manages $3 billion dollars in pension funds for 10,000 recipients that trust him to make sound decisions.
Vidal understands the need for affordable housing, the hard decisions that it will take to get it, and the financial burdens hard-working residents already have. He also understands that the city’s policies and goals are not in line, and that to build housing that is truly affordable for workers and residents, it will take much more effort and thought than has been done and is currently proposed. Sound evidence-based decisions are needed. Vidal is ready to demand this, rather than continuing to make unsound and reactionary decisions based on the fantasies of architects who simply want to redesign Santa Barbara for profit.
My hope is that voters base their vote on June 5 on not where a candidate was born but on the very real experience, training, and leadership skills they have. One candidate has shown that he can do the job. The other has shown he cannot. Let’s hope voters choose the right one.