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2009 Council Election Q&A with Justin Tevis

NOOZHAWK: What experiences from your professional or personal life make you uniquely qualified to be a Santa Barbara City Council member?

Justin Tevis
Justin Tevis

JUSTIN TEVIS: I bring a lot of unique experiences to the table in my run for City Council that many people may not know. I grew up in the Santa Barbara County, wrestling and playing football from a very early age. Coming from a divorced family, sports and academics were how I was able to stay on the right path. It taught me many life lessons and values that I still carry along with me today, such as work ethic, personal responsibility, loyalty, character, competitive drive, and a relentless desire to succeed.

To me, diversity doesn’t just come in the form of ethnicity, although it is one of many components. Everyone has a distinct story that makes them the person they are. Growing up, I had many friends whose families were first- or second-generation immigrants. This gave me a different perspective, as I always had a Spanish nickname, whether it was “Chito,” “Justo,” “Justino” or “Nuestro Gringo.” I always embraced being around different cultures, and was warmly accepted as an honorary member in many Latino households.

My time spent at Claremont McKenna College taught me how to be a strong leader and prepare against some of the country’s most competitive college students. It helped me learn the balance between hard work and play, as football practice consumed four hours a day on minimum, yet I was still expected to perform in the classroom. It gave me a high level of confidence upon graduation, as I was able to succeed in a very prestigious, competitive environment.

Studying abroad in Chile also gives me a unique perspective, as I lived with a Chilean family throughout the entire experience. I was able to learn a new culture, speak my second language, spend a few weeks with an indigenous family in the Andes, and also witness the lasting effects that a dictatorship has on a country.

Last, my professional experience brings a very well-rounded, business-oriented background to this race. My first job was for a homebuilder in Nevada, where I did a management trainee program, learning how to run the business side of the industry. My next job was for an upstart company, where I delivered in all areas such as financial analysis, budgeting, general ledger, business development and management, sales, customer service, IT and finally as operations manager of a 64,000-square-foot distribution center, with around 30 employees working under me. With my acquired experience, I knew I could make the trip back to Santa Barbara and find a suitable job in the town that I love. Now, I bring my experience as a buyer for The Territory Ahead to the council race. I love my job and the people I work with! With my strong roots in business and economics, I know good business decisions and will apply those if elected to the City Council.

NOOZHAWK: With all of the city’s fiscal challenges, why are you running now?

JT: I am running now because of the city’s fiscal challenges. Too many people with no business experience are running a $250 million per year enterprise and have been making decisions that will bankrupt our city. I felt it was absolutely imperative to run because I have the experience and leadership qualities to solve our financial crisis. I have balanced large budgets and made business decisions to minimize the risk for my companies in the private sector. These are the same skills that I will apply when elected. I also feel it is unfair for our City Council to continually try to squeeze more revenue out of our citizens, as there is no longer enough money in the private sector to bankroll the careless ways of our elected officials. The glory days of being a politician and throwing around money are long gone. It is time that we live within our means.

NOOZHAWK: What three steps would you take first to resolve Santa Barbara’s financial crisis?

JT: 1. Bring all public-employees unions to the bargaining table and negotiate for salaries, benefits and retirement plans that are comparable to those in the private sector. I would also call for a freeze on all early retirements, as good productive people are bailing out of their jobs early to collect on an unsustainable pension plan.
2. Perform a thorough analysis of the city’s infrastructure of 1,200 employees and look for areas where we could improve efficiencies and reduce costs. That would include possible merging of positions, elimination of positions, allowing some positions to be turned over to the private sector, and even examining the pay of elected officials themselves.
3. Go through the city’s budget line item by line item and look at capital expenditure waste, unnecessary special interest projects and other expansionary proposals, and put a halt on those that are not suited for our city. Many times a project will get pushed through because it creates work for city employees, even if we do not have the money or need. Other times, money will be thrown around to promote a cause, such as high-density housing, which is another agenda that needs to be cut immediately.

NOOZHAWK: Public safety accounts for more than 50 percent of the city’s operating budget. With more spending cuts likely, how much would you trim from fire and police services?

JT: Public safety is an important aspect of our city. We have 140 uniformed police officers in Santa Barbara, which I feel should be suitable to combat our city’s crime. I am not proposing any cuts as a part of my campaign, but we can look at other areas where we can save money, such as capital expenditures for new cars and motorcycles, as well as allowing for early retirements. Instead of retiring at 50, public employees could maybe be transitioned to a desk job, so we would not be forced into hiring for an early vacancy from that position.

NOOZHAWK: Would you support increasing or adding new municipal taxes as a revenue source?

JT: Absolutely not. The problem is spending. Nobody in the private sector has money to pay for higher taxes.

NOOZHAWK: Should any municipal services be privatized? If so, which ones?

JT: It is something that should absolutely be looked at. When we are paying parks and recreation directors $90,000 per year or more, I simply wonder, “Can’t we preserve our parks at a lower cost?” Absolutely! Instead of the city finding work for its bloated staff, privatized services would compete and perform the highest quality work on those jobs that are vital to the city of Santa Barbara. It would also help to break up the complacency that has been apparent at City Hall during this financial crisis.

NOOZHAWK: Why do you support or oppose Measure B, the ballot measure that would restrict downtown building heights to 40 feet?

JT: I support Measure B because it is the only way to stop over-development in Santa Barbara. In an ideal world, we would have great city leadership where height wouldn’t be as big of an issue, but our leaders have lost their credibility in dealing with how to preserve small-town Santa Barbara. They want to put high-density developments anywhere and everywhere they can, and I do not want to see this city look like Los Angeles. I am a passionate supporter of Measure B and love that the citizens are allowed to decide on this issue.

NOOZHAWK: Do you feel the direction of the General Plan update is consistent with your vision? What kind of city will Santa Barbara be in 30 years?

JT: The General Plan, as it stands, is not the right approach for our city. In 30 years, we will have a city comparable to somewhere farther down south, such as L.A. We do not need to over-develop Santa Barbara with high-density projects and build more government-subsidized housing units. We do not need to waste space in the downtown area to discourage people from coming to Santa Barbara who own cars. We need to simplify the General Plan so that our streets are clean, our aesthetic beauty enhanced, and our natural environment preserved. Before embarking on costly projects, such as car-sharing ports, free housing projects or high-density mixed-use units, let’s improve what we already have. The corridor to State Street is in shambles, yet our politicians want to continue to push through this agenda of eliminating cars from Santa Barbara. Our tourist industry would be devastated. There are only a limited amount of resources in Santa Barbara, and if we continue to build more when our incomes are less, we will only jeopardize our quality of life.

NOOZHAWK: The General Plan update will have consequences for housing, transportation and other key issues in the region. Does the city have a responsibility to think regionally when it makes policy decisions? How would you rate the city’s record?

JT: I think we have to think regionally because a good portion of our industries are supported from the surrounding cities that support our local economy. That means people who come here to spend money on our local economy or people who live outside of Santa Barbara and work here. We should think regionally, but never jeopardize small-town Santa Barbara in doing so.

NOOZHAWK: If elected, what is the one issue on which you would focus to improve Santa Barbara’s quality of life?

JT: The homeless problem. We need to free our streets from the aggressive homeless population. We can do that in ways that will encourage them to strive for a higher quality of life. First, we need to respect businesses’ rights by allowing them to operate without patrons being scared of harassment when they exit that store. We can do that by enforcing loitering laws and aggressive panhandling laws. We also need to discourage people from handing out money to the homeless population. This has proven to be effective in other places around the country when people stop giving and funnel the homeless into the available resources that are out there for them. With the limited amount of resources in Santa Barbara, we should also consider relocation programs to places where mental health and more homeless services are available. We cannot continue to allow our streets to be a free-for-all.

NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most neglected neighborhood?

JT: The neighborhood of Santa Barbara itself. People’s voices are not being heard at City Hall because too many average citizens have been working day jobs while City Council members make poor decisions that have been neglecting our voices. I also feel like the Eastside near Milpas has been fairly neglected. On a side note, can we please do something about the corridor to Santa Barbara? Talk about neglect.

NOOZHAWK: How would you control aggressive panhandling?

JT: See my answer above, on Santa Barbara’s quality of life.

NOOZHAWK: Santa Barbara has a plethora of medical-marijuana dispensaries, relative to other tri-county cities of similar size, but has yet to reject a single application. Why? Is that in the public’s interest?

JT: I feel that marijuana dispensaries are not right for every neighborhood, much like commercial developments are not right for every neighborhood. With better planning and a City Council that is more in touch with the general population, the best decisions would be made with the citizens’ voices being heard. Right now, with the fiscal mess that our city is in, our politicians’ hands are tied as they look to generate revenue in any way possible from our private sector. Therefore, they are looking at medical marijuana as a gold mine to support their reckless spending.

NOOZHAWK: Even with two catastrophic wildfires within the city limits in the last year, the danger is hardly diminished. What can the city do differently to prepare for the next one?

JT: We need a rapid-response helipad that can dump on the fire as soon as it starts. If we can get after it quickly, then we won’t need to spend millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars to let it burn our beautiful community. I think we need to get after these arsonists, whoever and wherever they are. That means a clear tactical approach to finding the root of these fires.

NOOZHAWK: A grocery clerk asks you, “Paper or plastic?” You say:

JT: Plastic because I reuse them in my house for my bathroom trash can and trash can by my desk.

NOOZHAWK: How often do you use alternative transportation?

JT: I used to bike to work, downtown and to the beach often. That was until my bike got stolen ...

NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most precious asset?

JT: You know, this race has really made me appreciate the two greatest things about Santa Barbara:
1. The people. Going door to door and participating in local politics has been an eye-opening experience, but I have met so many people who have reaffirmed my faith in the good of the general population here.
2. The scenery. There are so many quaint little neighborhoods that I have encountered in my campaign that are true gems and reflect the general beauty of the city. We need to preserve those small, quaint areas, by not overdeveloping around them.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite view?

JT: Jalama Beach as you come over the final stretch to where you can see the break and tell if there are some big swell lines coming through. With no cell phone reception, it is paradise out there.

NOOZHAWK: Health care is all over the news these days. What do you do to stay fit?

JT: I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Gracie Barra, compete in jiu jitsu tournaments, ride my bike downtown and to the beach, surf, take ping-pong breaks at work, throw around the football, walk down to Milpas Street at night for dinner, etc. I am also taking a Claremont McKenna College Stag Alumni trip to Argentina to play a few football games down there in May. I am going to start training for that after the election.

NOOZHAWK: The Coast Village Road roundabout is slowly nearing completion, but the island inside it is missing something. Do you support our plan to erect a Noozhawk statue there?

JT: Haha. Is it me or do these projects seem to drag on forever?

Additional Resources

Click here for Justin Tevis’ campaign Web site

Click here for Noozhawk’s candidate interview

Larry Nimmer’s “Touring with the Candidates” video (www.nimmer.net)

Justin Tevis - Touring with the Candidates for S.B. City Council 2009 from Larry Nimmer on Vimeo.

Click here for SBCityVote.org’s candidate statement video

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