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Local News

Olivia Uribe Joins Race for Santa Barbara City Council

The 24-year-old says she wants to unite the community, with her main focus on housing

Running for public office isn’t typical for a 24-year-old, but Olivia Uribe isn’t letting her age get in the way of her run for the Santa Barbara City Council.

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Olivia Uribe

“I am not a wide-eyed idealist,” said Uribe, who is most known for her work as associate director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network, a local organization focused on issues of housing, open space and transportation. Other hats she has worn include positions as a board member of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

Her decision to run for the council, she said, stems from a desire to bring together what she sees as a community divided along several lines. For instance, she said, last November she was working with local organizations SBCAN and PUEBLO on behalf of the tenants evicted from their Modoc Road apartments. Later that evening, she found herself volunteering at a local call center because the Tea Fire had just broken out.

“The people who lost their homes to the Tea Fire got more attention because it was a disaster,” she said, and the community rallied around them. Rightfully so, but the Modoc Road residents should have received some of that community support, too, she said.

“Losing your home is bad, no matter how it happens,” Uribe said.

So, it should come as no surprise that one of the main issues for her campaign is housing — affordable, work force and rental housing.

“We’re never going to achieve a jobs-housing balance,” said Uribe, who was born in Mexico but was adopted as a child and moved to Santa Barbara when she was 8 years old. Still, her hope is to be able to provide as much rental and affordable housing as possible to lower-income people who work in the area, and to protect what available housing stock there is for that segment of the population.

“Young people are growing up thinking, ‘I’m never going to be able to afford a house here, I’m never going to be able to stay here,’” she said. As a result, they move away and lose the opportunity to contribute to the Santa Barbara community, she said.

Uribe herself got a break on the housing situation by being able to rent a Santa Barbara-area apartment from Richard and Mickey Flacks, the main voices behind SBCAN, at a more reasonable rate than typical for the town.

There has been speculation that she moved from her parents’ Goleta home to Santa Barbara just to be able to run for the council. Although Uribe acknowledges she has been contemplating a run for office for a while, the move was primarily for other purposes.

“In Hispanic culture, you don’t move out unless you get married, or you start a career,” she said. “I didn’t get married.”

Other issues important to Uribe include sustainability, because it’s an issue that she says just demands our attention, and public safety, particularly in the realm of youth violence.

“We can’t play a blame game. Everybody needs to do their part in contributing toward the solution,” she said. While the city has done much to prevent and control gang activity and other youth violence, Uribe said, it has not met the challenge.

If elected, Uribe says she would represent everyone, but her goal is also to bring voices to the conversation that typically go unheard, particularly the younger citizens, lower-income people and Latinos.

“To the best of my knowledge, I would be the first Latina to serve on the Santa Barbara City Council, if elected,” Uribe said. “I believe my candidacy can give hope to youth in our city that believe they have no alternatives other than violence, and the destructive culture of gangs.”

Asked about a DUI she received recently in Isla Vista, she acknowledges her error. “It was a mistake,” she said. “And I’m sorry. And I’d like to move on. This campaign is not about my past. It’s about the future.”

Uribe joins several other candidates in the council race: David Pritchett, Harwood “Bendy” White, John Thyne, incumbent Grant House, Lane Anderson and Dianne Channing.

Uribe has earned the endorsement of community leaders such as former Santa Barbara School Board member and 35th Assembly District Candidate Bob Pohl, Goleta City Councilwoman Margaret Connell, businessman Larry Crandell Sr., 2nd District Planning Commissioner Cecilia Brown, Ventura City Administrator Rick Cole, former Lompoc Mayor Joyce Howerton, community activists Dick and Mickey Flacks, Democratic activist Barbie Deutsch and businessman Miguel Avila, among others.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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