Why are you running for Council?
I decided to run for City Council because I have both a unique background and set of skills that would be valuable on the City Council. I have experience in serving constituents and have cultivated strong working relationships with city, county, state and federal representatives. And because of those relationships I have the support from City Mayor Erik Nasarenko, County Supervisor Steve Bennett, Assemblymembers Das Williams and Jacqui Irwin, and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson. Working for the California State Assembly has given me an in-depth understanding of the role that different levels of government contribute to our city’s success or demise. I am also running because I am a Latina with a strong desire to bring diversity to our Council. I have always been driven by a passion to invest in others and particularly this community. I hope to, in collaboration with the entire Council, bring positive changes to Ventura that would benefit our youth, women and population as a whole.
What has prepared you for the job of Council member?
Though every job comes with learning curves, I bring more than 11 years of experience organizing this very community. In my current role as district director for the state Assembly, I have also learned to effectively assist constituents and navigate the system in order to help them. My experience and expertise with the state Legislature and local government gives me perspectives that will lead to innovative and effective new ideas about how to exceed expectations and achieve positive results for the city of Ventura. For example, I was directly involved in garnering community and local support when Assemblymember Irwin made it her priority to get funding for an engineering school at California State University, Channel Islands. It took community outreach to individuals, tech businesses and chambers to get support; something both the city of Ventura and Ventura Chamber publicly supported.
What major goals are you hoping to achieve in your term on Council?
Supporting and maintaining public services.
The role of government is to provide a high quality of life. The city should contribute to a better life for its citizens and commit to building a strong and resilient community. We have some of the most talented and dedicated city staff who provide essential public services to us every day. Part of keeping our city vibrant involves protecting and securing the much-needed public services we already have. From keeping our streets clean to responding to emergencies, it is fundamental to commit, now and over the long term to continue those services. I look forward to using the outreach methods I have utilized in the Assembly offices I have worked in, such as town halls and discussion roundtables, to determine the public’s priorities for services and ensure they are being provided effectively.
Engaging youth in our local government process.
While working with Assemblymember Irwin’s Young Legislators Program, I have seen first-hand the impact engaging our youth in the government process can make. By starting young, we are setting them up to have a lifetime of engagement in our democracy. Local government is often the most overlooked level of government, despite having the largest impact on our day-to-day lives. I look forward to using my experience with the Young Legislators Program to engage our youth in local government and creating a Youth Council to work alongside with City Council in the decision-making process.
Supporting our older population.
It is estimated that by 2050, for the first time in human history, older adults will outnumber children less than 14 years of age. With this in mind, the city of Ventura must unite on clear goals to support this growing and aging population. Not just the fact that they’re growing older, but also considering the impacts to their physical and social challenges associated with aging so they can continue contributing to their communities, maintain their health, independence, and lead happy lives. Working in government has given me a deep understanding of the services available, but often under-utilized, for seniors. We have to make sure we are providing walkable streets, efficient transportation options and senior housing. It is essential to create, promote, and celebrate new partnerships with private and public sectors to bring opportunities for them to not just survive but thrive. The older population will forge new paths in how our community will fare and we have to come together to not just temporarily adjust, but to build a community for a lifetime.
How will your contribution benefit citizens?
As district director for the state Assembly, I have a lot of experience bringing government closer to the people it serves. I will utilize the same outreach methods to engage citizens at a deeper level of city government. In particular, I am looking to engage those that are often left out by making a direct effort to involve our youth, seniors, small business and underrepresented communities. As the first Latina ever elected to Ventura City Council, I believe I will be an especially effective messenger to the Latino community as well as providing a direct avenue for them to bring their concerns and ideas.
What are your thoughts on the state of local businesses in the city?
I’ve worked closely with the business community in the last six years in my role as district director for both Assemblymember Das Williams and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin. We consistently meet with business representatives through the advisory councils we’ve created and by connecting them to resources like the Economic Development Collaborative — Ventura County, the Small Business Development Center, and California Competes grants, in order to give our small businesses the resources and funding they need in order to succeed but also stay in Ventura. I worked with Ventura Chamber’s Green Taskforce to bring summits on green jobs and the California drought. I consistently attend Chamber events and meet with small-business owners to hear their concerns. I am very proud of businesses, such as Very Ventura, TradeDesk and Patagonia. All have come out from within Ventura city and have expanded to bring bigger and better opportunities for our economy, and as a city we need to foster and help provide the support they need to continue succeeding. I look forward to continuing this relationship with the business community as a Council member as I truly believe small businesses are the backbone of our economic well-being.
What are your thoughts on current public safety issues?
I am proud to have the endorsement of our local police and fire associations, and as a participant in the 2016 Ventura Police Department Community Academy, I learned a great deal about the operations of our local police force. I am incredibly supportive of continuing the Academy and other public outreach programs that allow for most positive interactions between the police and the people they serve. I am also supportive of the city investing in more mental health and social services to lessen the burden on our police who often have to respond to calls involving those who are in mental distress or dealing with our homeless population. Furthermore, we need to continue investing in our fire department, which is especially critical given the natural disasters our area is subject to, most recently with the Solimar Fire and the Crimson Pipeline spill.
What are your thoughts on the housing shortage in the city?
The unavailability of housing is something that affects our entire city by creating traffic from people forced to commute, increasing our homeless population, and reducing the amount of Ventura residents able to participate in our community and economy because they are not able to live here even if they work here.
I believe the city of Ventura needs to work with the city of Santa Barbara to address their housing needs due to the amount of people who work in Santa Barbara but live in Ventura and commute in, adding to traffic on the 101. Santa Barbara addressing its housing needs will give people more options and result in less strain being put on Ventura’s housing stock. I developed strong relationships in Santa Barbara during my time as district director for Assemblymember Das Williams and would be happy to work in coordination on a regional solution to housing that will lessen traffic and allow people to live where they work and have a greater investment in their community.
Does the city need more lower-cost housing? Does it need executive housing?
We need to focus on more lower-cost housing rather than executive housing. We need to focus on the redevelopment of existing areas where affordable housing could be added in areas where there are more services and amenities so we don’t add additional strain on city resources. Furthermore, this type of housing downtown is well suited for city employees who work at City Hall to decrease the need for cars by enabling them to walk or take public transit to work. I believe the city should look into partnering with the county to develop workforce housing near the county government center where county employees can live near where they work.
Given our current drought, I believe we need to look at long-term solutions, such as recycled water and drought-tolerant landscaping, to the drought that will change our water habits into the future and make us better-equipped at handling droughts in the future. Droughts do not change the need for housing, which require new water connections, but it should change the way we connect to water, including installing gray-water systems and banning lawns.
How important are the city’s natural resources to you and what are you doing about it?
I have worked to protect and support Ventura’s natural resources for many years. In particular, when I served as district director for Assemblymember Das Williams for four years. Environmental issues were always a top priority for him and as his top district staff member, I had to continually represent him on this issue. One of the first projects we took on during his first year in office was the creation of a neighborhood committee on the Westside of Ventura. We met with key stakeholders in the community and learned of a long community effort to create a new park on the Westside. The only park on the Westside is West Park, which features a small playground and a baseball field, but more open space is needed for Westside children, many of whom are low-income. Our office held a town hall on the matter in 2011 and partnered with local stakeholders to move the project forward. Now Kellogg Park is well on its way to becoming a reality and I continue to support the creation of critical green space for the people of the Westside.
Additionally, I think the biggest issue around environmental protection in the city of Ventura is the local government’s ability to respond to oil spills and hold oil and pipeline companies accountable. The recent Crimson Pipeline spill brought this issue to light. Current law only grants the federal and state government the ability to respond and make decisions regarding spills. I believe strongly that local government should have a role to play considering these situations occur in their own backyards. This issue has very little to do with property rights and is focused more on governmental jurisdiction. I support having more local control over how we as a city can respond to environmental emergencies.
How do you feel about changes to the city’s Charter, election of a mayor, council by district and term limits?
Before I would support electing our Council by district or implementing term limits, I would first want to see how switching to an even-year election cycle changes the makeup of our Council. Term limits can be problematic if they are too short and don’t allow those who are elected to learn how to do the job before they are termed out. In my experience with the legislature, I have also seen how it creates more power in staff that are not termed out and are not elected to their positions. Hopefully an even-year City Council election will allow more voters to participate and will be more representative of whether or not Ventura residents actually think the City Council is doing a good job.
I do support a separate election for mayor because it will create more stability in the leadership of the Council as opposed to changing leadership every year.