In one month, voters in the city of Santa Barbara will choose the city’s next mayor.
The mayor runs council meetings, votes alongside the council on major decisions and has a large say in what items ever see the light of deliberation. Most significantly, the mayor is the face Santa Barbara chooses to present to the outside world.
Five candidates are vying for the spot. It’s the only position on the City Council to be elected at-large, by all voters.
We asked five people: what’s one problem you want to see the next mayor to solve?
VANESSA GARCIA – High rents
“My name is Vanessa Garcia. I’ve been a resident here for 18 years. Been living with family the whole time. My fiancé and I have been searching for a home for about four months now. It’s just been a real struggle trying to find even a studio or anything reasonable within our budget. Between the both of us, we can afford $1,300, which seems decent but when you’re really looking, it’s not. It’s sad. It affects you every day, struggling, worrying about being homeless. I was actually looking into homeless shelters for my family. Right before we entered one, this gentleman opened up and offered us a room in Goleta. We have access to the kitchen and bathroom, but it’s just basically us in this little room. And it’s me, my fiancé, my 4-month-old baby and my dog. I actually know a lot of families who live in single rooms, which makes it really hard. We don’t want to leave, but we might be forced to.”
BRENT FRANKLIN – Displaced artists
“My name is Brent Franklin. I live in Summerland, but I’m a lifelong Santa Barbara resident. I guess my main concern would be the Santa Barbara corridor and its effect on the community. It used to be a very local community and now it’s dedicated to tourists. It’s displaced our local artists and all the artistry and music and places to play. We don’t have any cool shops anymore. Look at Main Street, Ventura. There’s still thrift shops and real music stores, not just vinyl stores that charge you 40 bucks for something I have at home all scratched up.”
EMMA GARCIA-OCAMPO – Drugs on the street
“My name is Emma Garcia-Ocampo and I live on the Westside. I would like to see that the streets get cleaned up. There has to be drugs off the streets because there’s a lot of people dying from alcoholism and drug abuse on Milpas and all over Santa Barbara. There’s people who live in homes that were banded, slinging drugs out of there. My soon to be ex-husband got deported for smuggling drugs and selling them, and that’s not good because there are people dying everyday. I want to see more cameras on streets so the Police Department knows what’s going on and the District Attorney’s office can follow up. I’d like to see all the drug addicts and most of the alcoholics thrown in jail for recovery, and put in programs that they actually have here in Santa Barbara.”
BEN OSBORNE – Congestion
“My name is Ben Osborne. Coming down from Goleta, parking is an issue. It just seems like there’s never any parking here. The traffic coming in from Santa Barbara to Goleta, there’s just a lot more congestion, even from like three years ago. From what I can see, it’s the development. Being out in Goleta, seeing all these things getting built up and more and more people moving into these apartment complexes. Everyone wants to live here and it’s understandable why, but it’s making it overgrown. Even the Trader Joes had to expand and the other grocery stores are having to expand because there’s an influx of people.”
MICHAEL MONTENEGRO – Gentrification
“I grew up on the Eastside. That neighborhood was a Chicano, working-class community. My biggest issue is how can the next mayor look out for the interests of the working class locals? How can we retain this population? A lot of these mayoral candidates are pushing for business and tourism, but that’s going to continue displacing the working-class people of Santa Barbara. I would love to have the next mayor take a firm stance against gentrification. I’m talking about renters’ rights and rent control. We need locals here. Santa Barbara is losing its small-town charm and it’s becoming more generic like Santa Monica, Monterey, and Newport Beach. It makes me feel like the last of the Chicanos. Now it’s becoming all white. My friends and family have moved to places like Lompoc, Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Maria and commute here. Santa Barbara is becoming more and more of a shell.”