Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 24
Five candidates vie for two Santa Maria City Council seats
BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
Two incumbents are among the small herd of Santa Maria residents who want to ring in 2015 with a seat on the City Council. Five candidates signed up by the Aug. 8 filing deadline in a race for two spots now occupied by Council members Jack Boysen and Willie Green.
Since the last election cycle, City Council has deliberated over several controversial issues that stirred city residents to action.
The two that top the list are: The Fallas debate, which made headlines for months as a conversation raged on about if, when, and with what conditions a discount store should be allowed downtown—ending ultimately with a medium-length list of conditions and a green light for Fallas to open where Mervyn’s once was. There’s also the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building, which caused protests and a mammoth-sized City Council meeting attended by thousands who didn’t want ICE in town—but because there was nothing legally wrong with the permit application, council members had to approve it.
How will those issues affect the election’s outcome? Only Santa Maria knows, and maybe there’s still a few City Council meetings left before the election, but because November always comes faster than anyone thinks it will, here’s a little info about those who want to tackle the city’s big issues.
These folks are in no particular order, of course, except for who called back first.
Incumbent Jack Boysen took his seat on the City Council after winning the 2010 election. He describes himself as a “common-sense type guy” who doesn’t take city management at its word.
“It’s a fun job,” he said. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job over the last four years, and I’d like to see if voters agree.”
As he sees it, public safety is the No. 1 job of any municipal government, and its funding should be maintained and increased if possible. Coming in at a close second is economic development.
“We really have to make sure that, you know, we realize who Santa Maria is, and we know who we’re catering to,” Boysen said.
He believes the city needs to take another look at the Downtown Specific Plan, citing how difficult it was for the Fallas discount store to establish its storefront, even after it had purchased the property.
Boysen said the city is running on a “lean, mean” budget, and thinks it’s important to find new revenue sources. He pointed out that increasing sales tax and bumping up the transient occupancy tax (essentially, a tax on hotel guests) would help bring in more money.
Want to know more about what he thinks? Check out jackboysen.com.
Amy Lopez said she is running to give the community a voice and help bring the divided portions of Santa Maria closer together.
“There are some decisions that have been made over the years that the city felt very strongly about that residents didn’t agree with,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the issues she wants to tackle are jobs, the local economy, and public safety.
“Public safety affects our economy,” Lopez said. “Not only the feeling of being safe, but the appearance of having a safe community.”
She said that Santa Maria is a small city with the big city problems of homelessness, poverty, drugs, and gangs. As a program supervisor with Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health Services, she sees those problems. Lopez believes the community has made a step toward finding solutions and uses the Santa Maria Police Department’s film Life Behind Bars as an example.
“It’s very powerful … it’s a starting tool,” she said. “People need to be aware of that, so we can come together and collaboratively address it.”
She believes that the city also needs to collaborate with community groups to figure out how to create jobs that pay a living wage in Santa Maria, and the city can start by streamlining the permitting process.
Learn more about where Lopez stands on the issues at amylopezforcitycouncil.com.
“I, like many people in Santa Maria, have a level of frustration on how things have progressed on many issues,” Tony Coles said. “And thought it was time to put up or shut up.”
Coles said that Santa Maria has created fewer jobs than companies that left town took with them. He points to DenMat, which moved to Lompoc in 2013 and took hundreds of jobs with it. He said it should be easier for businesses to succeed in Santa Maria, and easier for small businesses to obtain a business license—as long as they fit within the city’s development plans.
Coles believes that the city takes on too many projects that don’t fit within its development plan and believes the practice stems from a lack of thoughtful leadership.
“City Council makes allowances because that’s really the only thing going on at the moment,” Coles said. “It’s not a matter of rezoning the land, it’s a matter of … doing the extra work to find projects that fit within our plan.”
More transparency and public discussion would help, too, Coles said.
“We want the opportunities, we want to know what our city officials are doing, we want our community to be a safe, nice place to live,” he said.
Learn more about Coles’ thoughts at colesteam.com.
In her 11th year as a Santa Maria Planning Commissioner, Etta Waterfield is looking for that next step, so she is placing her name in the City Council election hat for the second time. Her first was in 2012.
“Volunteerism is important to me and once you start doing that, you can’t help but care about what’s going on in the city,” Waterfield said.
She said that care is what led her to become a founding board member for the Santa Maria Police Council, where she is now executive director. Public Safety is big for Waterfield, and that’s why she believes the police and fire departments should get the funding they need to do their jobs well.
“To me, the economy and public safety go hand-in-hand,” she said. “Sales taxes are what fund the public safety in Santa Maria, so we have to have a business-friendly city.”
When she moved here 29 years ago, Santa Maria had a very robust economy, but she said that robustness is gone. She thinks the medical industry is a jewel that should be further developed, and that the city needs to pay attention to which companies are leaving and why.
“What can we do to keep them here?” she said. “We’ve just got to keep our finger on that pulse.”
Allan Hancock College instructor Willie Green was appointed to fill a vacant City Council seat in 2013 after Alice Patino won the 2012 election and vacated her seat to take over as mayor.
In his candidate statement, he writes “I know for certain that I am qualified to continue actively serving.”
Since 1991, as an independent consultant, he has designed training courses and workshops in self-discipline, team building, and career building for organizations such as the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the UC Davis Extension Program.
The Sun was unable to connect with Green prior to press time.
Contact Managing Editor Camillia Lanham at firstname.lastname@example.org.