The Race Is on for Goleta City Council

Two Incumbents Face Two Challengers for Two Seats

From left: Roger Aceves, Luz Reyes-Martín, James Kyriaco, and Sam Ramirez | Credit: Courtesy

As if in celebration of its 20th birthday, Goleta actually has two contested races for City Council seats. In the past, too often there would only be one candidate running without any opposition. Even after a voting rights violation lawsuit was threatened in 2017, one of the arguments against district elections was questioning whether enough people would step forward to have meaningful contests. The answer, today, is yes.

Two districts on the eastern side of the city each have an incumbent and a newcomer vying for a seat on the City Council. In District 1, Roger Aceves, a veteran police officer and councilmember, faces Luz Reyes-Martín, vice president for community engagement at Planned Parenthood and a member of the Goleta School Board. In District 2, James Kyriaco, who is finishing his first term on the Goleta Council and works for the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, faces his first challenger, Sam Ramirez, who is employed by the City of Santa Barbara and is a former Delano city councilmember.

Each is ambitiously knocking on doors to meet voters in their district, but if you haven’t met them in person yet, these portraits may help fill in the gaps.

District 1

District 1 runs above Highway 101 from roughly Kellogg Avenue to Glen Annie Road. 

Roger Aceves recalled driving the miniature train at the South Coast Railroad Museum, one of the many nonprofits he supports, when his son was a little boy. | Credit: Courtesy

Roger Aceves

Roger Aceves is currently Goleta’s longest-serving councilmember and is running for his fifth four-year term. At the council dais, Aceves is known for his gruff and serious demeanor, but in person he is affable and even charming. He’s the only fluent Spanish speaker on the council and often the go-to person among the community when a question or an issue — such as a broken tree branch or adding a parklet — arises.

Since retiring from the Santa Barbara Police Department, where he was a detective and a hostage negotiator for many years, Aceves has put his energy into Goleta and myriad nonprofits — serving on the boards and committees of the Pacific Pride Foundation, Old Spanish Days, Earl Warren Showgrounds, and the United Boys & Girls Club, where he’s current board president.

He views the city’s Measure B on the ballot, a one-cent-per-dollar sales tax, in this way: “We just went through a pandemic that put us in a deep recession and now we’re in an inflationary period where the cost of goods has gotten higher. I walked 125 homes last weekend. Most of them didn’t know about it, and not a single one was in favor of the tax.”

Aceves was the only councilmember to vote against putting the measure on the ballot and asked his fellow councilmembers what the money would be used for, which the ballot measure lists. He’s heard the argument that 40 percent of the tax would be paid by out-of-town shoppers, but he simply does not agree.

In his 16 years on the council, Aceves said he’d seen a lot of agreements and disagreements, and many accomplishments. He was most proud of setting up a trust fund for extra pension costs — a financial deficit plaguing many jurisdictions — and the city’s new Diversity Equity Inclusion program. “I’m so proud of the work we will be doing to bring more people on commissions, staff, and the council. We have three Latinos running for council. Unfortunately, two of them are in one district.”

Luz Reyes-Martín senses a feeling of optimism in the community after emerging from COVID and hopes to turn that energy into new family and arts events in Goleta. | Credit: Courtesy

Luz Reyes-Martín

Luz Reyes-Martín has been a Goleta Board of Education member for the past eight years. Born in Mexico and raised in Downey, she’s lived in District 1 for a decade and worked for Goleta city’s neighborhood services department from 2013 to 2016.

“I love cities,” Reyes-Martín said. After graduating from Stanford University in 2007, she earned  a master’s degree in planning/economic development and public administration from the University of Southern California. Her mother and father had emphasized education for their three daughters, she said. 

“I’ve been knocking on doors since June,” Reyes-Martín said of her campaign for City Council, learning about the concerns of residents. Fire, drought, and climate change drove residents’ questions about power shutoffs, energy, and fire.

Beyond discussions of the bread-and-butter issues of potholes, crumbling sidewalks, and the things that impact daily life — all of which she views as solvable tasks for an effective City Council — Reyes-Martín is also looking at what brings people together.

“There’s a feeling of optimism now because people are emerging from COVID. People are excited to be out and doing things, but they often go to Santa Barbara for that. We need more public events in Goleta.” She suggested shows of Goleta artists and partnering with UCSB Arts & Lectures to bring film screenings and speakers into town.

Any new program requires money and staff to bring them to fruition. Though Measure B is on the ballot to raise an estimated $10 million for the city, Reyes-Martín said she would leave it up to voters to decide, rather than speak for or against it. She recognized the need for the new tax to restore Goleta’s creeks, maintain roads, pay for its police force, and other needs, but she wanted a clear picture about how the funds would be actually spent. “If I’m on the council and Measure B passes, I would push to tell the community exactly how the funds are used. We need to see where it goes and have accountability.”

As for the other measure, Measure C to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vape cartridges in the city, Reyes-Martín is in favor. 


Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from Independent.com, in your inbox, every morning.


District 2

District 2 runs through Old Town Goleta, extends from Patterson Avenue on the east to Storke Road on the west and includes the hospital and Target but not the airport or the university. 

James Kyriaco shows off new public art at the United Boys & Girls Club. He’s been working to bring more childcare to Goleta, and succeeding. | Credit: Courtesy

James Kyriaco

In the four years James Kyriaco has been on the Goleta City Council, he’s earned a reputation of being prepared and collegial. He lists as his main accomplishments improved activities at the Community Center: free pickleball, a new sports field, new public art; and across the street the new Jonny Wallis park, $4.2 million spent on sidewalks in Old Town, community choice carbon-free energy, 1,400 new LED streetlights, savings on rent for City Hall by buying it, saving another $140,000 a year in electricity costs by adding a solar array, and building Target without paving agricultural land, a store that is in the Top 5 for sales tax compared to Kmart, once in that location, in the Top 10.

“There’s still so much I want to do,” he said in the next breath.

One of Kyriaco’s signature goals has been to add more childcare — something he needed himself as a child, he said. “By bringing this up all the time, we’ve been able to create the space for the conversation,” Kyriaco said. The city changed its zoning rules to permit childcare facilities without an extended conditional-use permit process and also to waive development impact fees. Kyriaco supported Goleta granting the Children’s Resource and Referral of Santa Barbara County $12,000, to help six people work toward a family childcare license — four of them completed the training and are now looking after 32 children.

He also is pushing for affordable housing. “Although Goleta added 1,300 new units of housing in the past decade, only 9 percent was priced affordable,” he said. “That was an opportunity lost.” Goleta has the most aggressive inclusionary housing percentage in the county — 20 percent, he said. The Heritage Ridge project off Los Carneros is 30 percent affordable. “Of 332 units, more than 100 are affordable,” he said. “That demonstrates that there is not a disincentive to build when you insist on affordable housing.”

More bike paths, more pavement on roads, and more services for the homeless were on Kyriaco’s still-to-do list. The Super 8, which is being converted to permanent supporting housing, had been up for sale and was purchased by the County Housing Authority. “This will provide the final bit of support for 59 homeless people,” he said. Kyriaco saw how successful a similar site run by Good Samaritan in Lompoc was, and he said, “With trust and assurance, we can have the same outcome here.”

Sam Ramirez coached his daughter’s AYSO soccer team last year and brings his coaching style in encouraging progress, including much in Goleta that he’d like to work to improve. | Credit: Courtesy

Sam Ramirez

Sam Ramirez is a comparative newcomer to Goleta, having moved to the city five years ago. But he’s not new to city politics. At age 26, Ramirez was elected to the Delano City Council and served from 2004-2012. Since moving in Goleta, he was appointed by Councilmember Kyriaco to the Planning Commission a year and a half ago 

Ramirez thought that improving Old Town parking, putting better sidewalks on Hollister, improving store facades, and adding more street sweeping should be a budget priority. He argued that the city should prioritize the use of federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for projects like these. (The city received $225,000 in CDBG monies in 2020-21; $144,000 was earmarked for Americans with Disability Act improvements for the Community Center in Old Town; the remainder went to a clinic, family resource center, and safe parking shelter.) He also thought allowing the Super 8 at Fairview and Hollister to house homeless people was a mistake. 

Ramirez lives in a new development across the street from City Hall with his wife and two children. There, he has seen the price of homes in his own subdivision go up to the point of unaffordability. “They’re not building housing in Goleta,” he said and thought the industrial area at the end of Kellogg where the drive-in has closed was a possibility, as well as Rutherford Street and Pine Avenue.

What has plagued Goleta is its Revenue Neutrality Agreement with the county, and Ramirez argues, as everyone who runs for office in Goleta has, that it should be renegotiated. The agreement feeds 50 percent of what the city gets in property taxes and 30 percent of sales taxes to the county. The city tries regularly to persuade the Board of Supervisors to renegotiate the agreement, but Ramirez thinks the city should work harder and consider litigation.

Goleta loses about $9 million of its tax revenue annually to the county. This year, to fill the gap, the city put Measure B on the ballot, which Ramirez opposes. “That is just another cost in what is the harshest, hardest economic time for people,” he objected.

Ramirez also doesn’t support the ban on flavored tobacco, the city’s Measure C. “I don’t smoke,” he said, “but I think we should leave this one up to the voters.”

Among Goleta’s four voting districts for City Council seats, Districts 1 and 2 are up for election on November 8, 2022. Go to https://www.cityofgoleta.org/city-hall/city-clerk/election-2022/know-your-district to type in an address and find out what district it’s in. | Credit: Courtesy City of Goleta

Correction: James Kyriaco works for the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, not the County of Santa Barbara, as this article originally stated.


Support the Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or a single contribution.


Login

Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.