You know what they say, all politics is local which explains why I am running for the State Senate. In Santa Maria, where I reside, I have been watching for 15 years the locally elected not getting state attention and so big problems remain unsolved. One example that most are familiar with – the DMV. When I arrived in Santa Maria, city leaders lobbied for a new DMV building. In Santa Maria it was built in the 1960’s, first used in 1970 yet is so small, long lines of customers spill outside of the building. In 1970, the population of Santa Maria was 32,749. Today over 107,000.
We are told a new DMV will be built in Santa Maria next year after a 15 year wait still no firm dates. Santa Maria is NOT a priority for Santa Barbara-based Senator Hanna Beth Jackson. She comes to Santa Maria on occasion to do a presentation, hardly the same thing as regularly communicating with locally elected officials. I am not running against Senator Jackson. I am running against Assemblywoman Monique Limon but Senator Jackson has told us that Ms. Limon is her protégé.
I do not believe either Senator Hanna Beth Jackson or Assemblywoman Monique Limon have any ideas on how to solve our problems and little interest in fighting for the people of Santa Maria and the other cities in the District like Santa Maria so I want to fight for them and I have ideas on how to turn the situation around for all of us.
Everyone has heard of the DMV but there are plenty of other problems in Santa Maria and as it turns out, many of them are common to other cities in Senate District 19. Below are bullet points of some of the big problems that need fixing:
- WAGES & JOBS – The per capita income of Santa Maria is just $19,647. This is about $3,000 less than Oxnard and almost $22,000 less than Santa Barbara. Even though new employers have come to Santa Maria in recent years, still too many jobs are low paying jobs requiring families to work multiple low paying jobs to pay higher rental rates and homes now priced at $400,000 – $500,000. Many of these families have come here from out of market to raise their families here and moved here because it is more affordable than where they had been living. What they have found is Santa Maria does not have enough higher wage employers and there are important reasons for this. Some of the problem lies in the training of the existing workforce. Too many high school graduates struggled with math and English studies and the City has no college that offers a Baccalaureate degree. The major industry still is agriculture but given the increased size of the city, and the employment problems that have come from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to think creatively and out-of-the-box to get more good paying jobs in our city.
- EDUCATION. Six years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown sponsored a massive overhaul of school finance and provided extra funds for school districts with large numbers of “high-needs” students, those from poor families, foster children and/or “English-learners.” The Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF was aimed at narrowing the “achievement gap” in learning that separates the 3.5-plus million targeted kids from their more privileged classmates. But a recent study concluded that one failure of the Local Control Funding Formula is that it has allowed districts to hire more teachers yet schools with the highest proportion of at-risk kids tend to get the least experienced teachers. No one in Sacramento is doing anything about this and the problem cannot wait.
- HOUSING AFFORDABILTY: This is a huge topic and there are many aspects that can be discussed. For now, I would like to talk about work-force housing. Farmers in the greater Santa Maria area use the H-2A visa to provide farm labor with the bulk of the workers interested in labor-intensive hand harvesting. The use of the H-2A visa program has created an acute housing shortage problem because farmers must provide housing for these workers causing overcrowded housing. Often some eight or ten people live in one home with a spike in rental rates – forcing some low-income people including immigrants and seniors to be put out onto the streets. Also, the County Public Health office has documented a spike in COVID-19 cases in these crowded houses as a reason for northern County having increased case rates.
- HEALTHCARE: I want to see more quality prenatal, maternal and newborn care for mothers, but we don’t have enough doctors in northern county. This is because it is difficult to persuade doctors to relocate to northern county and more doctors today work for large medical groups and do not have an interest in running their own practice.
- THE POVERTY RATE IS 18-20%. This is a perennial problem that I have painfully watched for 15 years. California’s unaffordability problems come down the hardest where the per capita income is the least.
SOLUTIONS: Here are a few ideas I have that I want to bring to Sacramento that I believe can solve these problems.
JOBS and WAGES
The cities in our District should collaborate with each other to attract new employers to the area. Santa Barbara has a trained work force coming from City College and UCSB, but Santa Maria, Lompoc and Oxnard have less expensive commercial real estate where warehouses can be acquired less expensively. Much like the laws Sacramento passed back in 2006 and 2008 to create regional housing development to encourage affordability and with policies that aligned transportation and housing, we need to do the same for in the commercial sector. One immediate benefit would be the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions if workers were able to find jobs in the city they live in as opposed to commuting 140 miles round trip for work. Imagine a private business that stores and assembles microgrids in Lompoc but has a sales engineer office in Santa Barbara.
HOUSING UNAFFORDABILITY AND WORK FORCE HOUSING
Given that I have seen so little done to build more work force housing in Santa Maria, I can only conclude it has not been a priority for Santa Barbara-based politicians. But this will be a priority of mine and I will craft legislation to insure we never again find ourselves in a situation where pandemic case rates spike as a result of over-crowded work force housing.
In August of 2008 Sacramento passed SB-375 Transportation planning: travel demand models: sustainable communities strategy: environmental review and in in August of 2006 Sacramento passed AB-32 Air pollution: greenhouse gases: California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. These policies were created to align transportation funding with the housing allocation program to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and increase housing affordability. But years later we see that while these laws have had a positive effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they have not had a positive effect on rental and home prices as they are higher than ever. I pledge to hire the very best staff to look carefully into these laws for ways to revise them in such a way that little is done to the transportation part of these Bills but the changes promote housing affordability. I worry about that we do need to build and the answer from the environmental community cannot be status quo because it’s not sustainable.
In Sacramento I will insist on accountability of LCFF because in this time of distance learning “high-needs” students are likely to be more negatively affected by a program that has not been succeeding for them in the classroom. My K-12 education was from public schools so I know they can work, but I also like competition so I will sponsor Bills that encourage more charter schools and home study, work study and computer-based learning programs.
Many doctors do not want to relocate to rural areas like Northern Santa Barbara County or to economically impoverished areas because of a lack of access to resources including medical technology, and lower salaries than their urban counterparts. What can be done and something I pledge I to do, is author Bills in Sacramento that encourage and reward improved transportation and community partnerships, with a goal to improve health care resources so that mothers and families will be the biggest beneficiaries.
POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Leila Janah was an Indian immigrant raised in Los Angeles who believed in creating dignified work for everyone and founded a company that hired workers from impoverished areas and provided them the technology to plug their skills into the global digital economy where they could earn living wages. In Santa Maria and many other places in Senate District 19, we can learn from her example. Broadband is available in these communities to plug these workers into the global economy to produce a wide variety of products and services like electricity, wind turbines and solar panels for example. I want to be the connection to Sacramento to sponsor Bills that ignites this kind of environmental entrepreneurship in places where there is elevated poverty.
In conclusion, with my decades of corporate and entrepreneurial experience I am uniquely qualified to play a role in the economic recovery required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is what we need to do. The key to creating jobs through government policy IS NOT LESS REGULATION OF SAFETY, NOT CUTTING WAGES, NOT SKIRTING ENVIRONMENTAL RULES, it is letting the private sector do that for us and set ground rules, and have an incentive structure. I will do this in all the cities in this district if elected. We need the leaders of all the companies in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties to come back to their offices and lead their employees back into the marketplace. And the political class needs to support them, collaborate with them and do whatever we can do get burdensome SACRAMENTO regulation out of the way to help these leaders succeed.
I would be honored to have your vote.