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Friday, November 16 , 2018, 3:47 pm | Fair 69º


Cruzito Cruz Seeks to Increase ‘Americano’ Community Representation

Santa Barbara council candidate points to district elections as a way to boost minority participation

[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  |

At a recent candidate issues forum, Cruzito Herrera Cruz immediately distinguished himself from the other Santa Barbara City Council hopefuls during introductions: he opened with a conch shell tribute to the four directions, and acknowledged community elders at La Casa de la Raza who taught him the Aztec tradition.

As a council candidate, Cruz seeks to give a voice to this community.

Cruz’s passion for community activism began with his undergraduate education. He studied both political science and Chicano studies at UCSB, and graduated with two bachelor’s of arts degrees.

“In retrospect, my education was preparation to become a public servant,” he told Noozhawk. “While studying I learned about the political inequalities in society and I wanted to become engaged and work to remedy that.”

Cruz’s background in political science is easy to detect as he cites legislation and policies by number and section — often without reviewing his notes — and attends candidate forums armed with a thick binder containing state legislation, city ordinances, the 2010 and 2011 city budgets, and election results from previous council elections.

This isn’t Cruz’s first time on the ballot. In 2007, he submitted a candidacy petition with 169 signatures, but the city clerk’s review concluded that he didn’t have the 100 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify. For his second attempt, Cruz submitted 288 signatures and was confident that this would satisfy the requirements to become a candidate in the 2009 election. Again his petition was rejected, this time on the grounds that the extra copies he made of the blank signature form were not valid.

Cruz saw this act as a violation of the Election Code rules regarding abridgment and suppression. In response, he filed a writ of administrative mandamous accusing the city clerk’s office of illegal electoral actions. The late Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge William McLafferty ruled in Cruz’s favor on Sept. 5, 2009, and issued a court order that allowed Cruz to run for council, giving him 60 days to campaign.

Although his run was unsuccessful, Cruz wasn’t discouraged.

“I’m not going to give up until I get elected,” he explained.

One of the issues at the center of his campaign is the council’s electoral process. In the 2010 census, 38 percent of Santa Barbara residents identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, yet to date only one Latino has served on the City Council (Gil Garcia), and none of the current council members is Hispanic. Cruz prefers to use the term “Americano,” rather than Latino, because “we all live under the same flag and pay the same taxes.”

Cruz is an advocate for district-based elections, wherein each council member represents a specific area of the city. Citing election codes §14025 of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and §14026(3)(D) of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1973, Cruz contends that Santa Barbara is a racially polarized voting community, and the system of at-large council members dilutes the vote of “Americanos,” a minority group that qualifies as a protected class of voters.

In his view, adopting a district-based system of electing council members will benefit all Santa Barbara residents.

“District-based elections create more opportunity and incentive for representatives to engage the community,” he said. “They promote more transparency and make representatives more accountable to the community.”

For Cruz, being accountable to the community includes changing the city’s approach to neighborhood safety.

“The gang injunction is racial discrimination and economic persecution,” Cruz asserted. “It is a threat to liberty, personal freedoms and civil rights.”

He believes enforcing the gang injunction is too costly, and the money would be better used for education and youth programs.

In the debate over increasing the number of sworn police officers, Cruz points out that law enforcement is the largest portion of the current municipal budget.

“Many candidates make us believe that the only answer is law enforcement,” he said, “but we can help through economic development.”

This economic development would include the creation of an Office of Human Development and Employment that would focus on rehabilitating the Eastside and Westside, Cruz says. He would also seek to redefine the Redevelopment Area to include both neighborhoods.

Cruz proposes increasing Parks & Recreation Department funding (currently 12.7 percent of the city budget) and working with community-based organizations to improve the Community Development Block Grant program.

Before drafting a new budget, Cruz said he wants to see an independent financial audit. His ideas for funding the proposed youth and neighborhood services include liquidating assets, reforming the CalPERS pension system for supervisors and upper management city employees with annual salaries above $100,000, and cutting the law enforcement budget.

“Police power is not required when there is a remedy through CDBG programs,” Cruz said. “We can’t police our way out of this.”

Overall, Cruz is optimistic about the future of Santa Barbara, and eager to implement his policy ideas in the town where he has lived all his life. He added, “I’m blessed to live in Santa Barbara.”

                              |  2011 Election Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

Additional Resources

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

Noozhawk intern Jessica Haro can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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


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