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2011 Santa Barbara City Council Q&A with Sebastian Aldana Jr.

[Noozhawk’s note: There are 10 candidates running for three Santa Barbara City Council seats in the Nov. 8 election. Over the next five days, Noozhawk will be posting two candidate Q&As each day, based on the order in which the questionnaires were returned.]

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

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

SEBASTIAN ALDANA JR.: I have volunteered for our community for the past four years — three years with the Franklin Advisory Committee, which represented the Eastside and Lower Eastside. I was nominated the chairman of the Neighborhood Health and Safety Committee. We would listen to neighbors’ needs and concerns, then take it to city staff and have them resolved. Some would be fixed as work orders and others with Community Development Block Grant government funding — for example, curb cuts along Alisos Street from Carpinteria to Ortega streets, and a fence around the dugouts at Cabrillo Ball Field because of the bad environment at the time.

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Sebastian Aldana Jr. (Valorie Smith / Noozhawk photo)

I am a co-founder and vice president of the Milpas Community Association. I was able to help gather a lot of Milpas business owners together to take care of some needs and concerns along the Milpas Corridor. I am also a member of the new Neighborhood Advisory Council, which is City Council appointed and takes care of issues and concerns of various neighborhoods. I enjoy listening to people’s concerns and finding the answers or fixing the problem of the neighborhood.

NOOZHAWK: Most of Santa Barbara’s labor concession agreements expire in 2012 and 2013, and CalPERS costs are expected to increase by millions of dollars. Would you support restructuring the city’s retirement or benefit plans?

SA: You can’t restructure time that they have already put in. That would be like the employees saying I need more salary for work I did for the past few years. Before anything, I would audit the managing company to see if the numbers are correct. I have been doing some research, and it seems to me that the managing company is not being straight. CalPERS is one of the largest pension funds. This year they brought in 20.7 percent. The system works, but the numbers do not.

NOOZHAWK: There have been several violent attacks on Santa Barbara’s Eastside and in the Milpas area within the last three years, and residents have called for more police protection. With the limited budget, how would you realistically address that community’s concerns?

SA: Currently there are 141 officers. Fourteen are out sick, hurt, pregnant or serving in the military. That leaves us with 127 to be out on the field, not counting the sworn officers who take 18 to 24 months to train sitting behind a desk because of a lack of administration staff. It doesn’t make sense to me. We need each beat to have its officer and tactical/restorative department running at 100 percent, which is probably at 50 percent at the time.

There needs to be community policing, getting to know the neighbors, find out in each neighborhood what the needs and concerns are and to come up with a game plan for that particular neighborhood. If we had our neighborhoods patrolled properly and had proper lighting in our neighborhoods, I believe people would be and would feel safe.

The Police Officers Association did a forensic audit and mentioned there was plenty money if more police were needed. Maybe they should have a town hall meeting and show the public what they came up with and see if it is true. It’s not a secret.

NOOZHAWK: What do you think of the General Plan’s direction?

SA: I am not happy with it. High density is not needed. The Eastside, downtown and Westside are already congested. We were at a debate Tuesday, Sept. 27 with the Upper East Association. It was great to hear that the Upper East was spared, but guess where the high density for god only knows who will be buying these units will be built? Yes, a 6-1 vote will have them placed in the old dumping ground — the Eastside.

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

SA: It would have to be our homeless problem. With 55 agencies helping with homeless needs and to still have the situation we have is unacceptable. The downtown and neighborhoods do not deserve the disrespect we get from some of these individuals. Senate Bill 2 clearly states that each city must have transition housing and emergency shelter, so why does Santa Barbara have close to 70 percent of the problem. There are eight cities in Santa Barbara County, and each one has to do its part. I don’t care how small the town is, it has to contribute.

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

SA: It goes without saying, and the City Council is fully aware, that the Eastside is the most neglected neighborhood. Our gateway to the neighborhood coming from the beach and up the corridor has its homeless issues, two marijuana stores, many liquor stores, five or six security guards from Carpinteria to Haley streets, and youths in the neighborhood who need programs to try to keep them from bad behavior.

NOOZHAWK: What would you do to make city government more accessible to the Spanish-speaking community?

SA: Well, for one my door will be open to all Santa Barbarans, which would also include our Spanish-speaking community. A lot of people from the Spanish community feel they are like a mushroom. They are left in the dark and fed a bunch of you-know-what and that City Hall does not want to pay attention to their issues and concerns. They tell me that they feel like second-class citizens.

With all that said, I would give them all the attention and time needed to address their concerns. I would even be available in the early morning or late evening to deal with their issues and to make it easier for them. After all, we are supposed to be a public servant. When I am elected to the City Council, I will consider this a full-time position. I speak and understand Spanish very well, and I care about our community. I know I will be very busy, but will be honored to do so.

NOOZHAWK: What is your position on funding a new Santa Barbara police station in the current fiscal environment?

SA: I would make my final decision once we receive the feasibility study — $50 million is a lot of money. I would also like to see the breakdown of that guesstimate. I do not like the idea that we are using RDA funds. I would rather see RDA funds now improving the needs of the neighborhoods where that tax money is coming from. I would like to do a complete renovation of my house, but guess what? I don’t have the money. The bottom line is, I would request that we take care of the necessities only at this time. Request seal bids and hire a quality reputable general contractor from Santa Barbara to do the job. Keep the money circulating in Santa Barbara.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the city’s attempt to get a gang injunction, limiting the activities of identified Eastside and Westside gang members? What are some other anti-gang efforts you would pursue?

SA: I do not support the gang injunction. The last time I looked, we had a 0.77 percent problem with gangs, and that report came from the men in blue. That equals 99.23 percent of some other types of problems. I agree we have situations, fights and stabbings, but this is not an everyday occurrence. I don’t feel it is fair to punish neighborhoods to be labeled as a gang injunction neighborhood. If a homeowner wanted to sell his or her home, the seller would have to disclose that he or she is selling a home in a gang injunction neighborhood. How long do you think that home will be on the market?

I read an article that Primo Boxing received an eviction notice from Parks & Recreation and must be out by Oct. 10. If this happens, how many youths will be out of a gym? I am positive something could be worked out. After looking over the city budget and seeing how some of the money is spent, we should be able to work something out so these youths still have a gym for training. Once again, I think a look at the forensic audit the POA did in the beginning of the year would be a great idea.

NOOZHAWK: Many community policing resources have dried up, including the full-time DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and beat coordinator positions at the Santa Barbara Police Department, the Santa Barbara County truancy program and school resource officers. What low-cost solutions would you pursue to provide prevention and intervention services to the community’s young people?

SA: We could start with volunteers. We have about 30 positions in the police force that pay more than $100,000. We can have a “job appreciation program.” That way, they would be showing the community that they love and appreciate their job. I also feel that the Fire Department and city staff making more than $100,000 should do the same — just a few hours a month. I say this because I have volunteered very strongly for the past four years, and it has made a difference. Just an hour here, a few there, and before you know it, you get your results. It’s beautiful to see the results. I would also look into nonprofits that help the youth and see how they could help spend time mentoring and guiding these individuals.

NOOZHAWK: Noozhawk’s Prescription for Abuse series has been exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in our community. What Santa Barbara issue do you think Noozhawk should tackle next?

SA: The Santa Barbara issue I think deserves an in-depth series is the pension funds — CalPERS and the Santa Barbara County Employees’ Retirement System. It seems to me the numbers do not jive and the employees are getting the raw end.

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

Additional Resources

» For more information about Sebastian Aldana Jr.‘s campaign, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.304.3637. Connect with Sebastian Aldana Jr. on Facebook.

» Click here for more information on the city of Santa Barbara’s Nov. 8 election.

Larry Nimmer’s “Touring with the Candidates” video (

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