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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 6:10 pm | Fair 58º


2017 Santa Barbara Mayoral Q&A with Angel Martinez

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series of questionnaires with the candidates running for Santa Barbara mayor in the Nov. 7 election. As part of Noozhawk’s upcoming Reimagine: Santa Barbara special project, the questions were tailored toward many of the challenges and opportunities of downtown Santa Barbara. Beginning Oct. 8, the installments are being published in alphabetical order: Hal Conklin, Frank Hotchkiss, Angel Martinez and Cathy Murillo. A fifth candidate, Bendy White, did not respond to two invitations to participate. Click here for the complete series index.]

NOOZHAWK: What do you think is or should be the City of Santa Barbara’s role in downtown retail and business development?

ANGEL MARTINEZ: The city should facilitate, not impede, a process of collaboration between business owners, property owners and people living in the downtown corridor to craft a new vision for our retail corridor, including Milpas Street.

Angel Martinez Click to view larger
Angel Martinez (Martinez for Mayor photo)

San Luis Obispo’s recently adopted Imagine Downtown SLO Master Plan should serve as a good framework for the kind of robust process that is needed.

NOOZHAWK: For years, aggressive panhandling and other homeless issues have been public concerns. The city and community partners have worked on this issue, but what would you do differently?

AM: I would work to discourage and inhibit the transient panhandlers from plying their trade in our city. These are people who, by and large, choose homelessness as a lifestyle. They abuse our city’s generosity, take resources away from our local homeless population, and cause many, if not most, of the problems that force our police or emergency services’ response.

I would implement Rescue Dollars, a comprehensive program to deny them cash, but still raise funds that would go directly to our local homeless population through a broad range of homeless services. I firmly believe that this must be the first step in understanding the true breadth and scope of our local homeless population’s needs if we are to ever have any chance in solving this issue.

As other cities have learned, building more facilities and adding more service simply creates a magnet that attracts more and more outside people. This must be discouraged as a first step.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the Nov. 7 ballot initiative that would increase the city sales tax to 8.75 percent? Why or why not?

AM: While I both support and endorse Measure C, I do so because Santa Barbara’s leadership has failed to adequately address our critical infrastructure shortfall, which will balloon to a staggering $400 million to $500 million unfunded liability over the next 10 years.

This is an example of how a lack of coherent fiscal policy from our leaders has untold negative consequences for our community. Due to a lack of political courage by the City Council over the past decade, our backs are up against the wall: across town critically important and historic buildings are deteriorating before our eyes, many of our roads and sidewalks are beyond repair and will cost untold millions to entirely replace.

The members of the current City Council, including those now running for mayor, own this problem. The citizens and residents of Santa Barbara deserve better.

| Election 2017 | Complete Series Index |

My concern with Measure C specifically is that it does not guarantee that revenues will be used exclusively for funding infrastructure, including a new police headquarters facility. The proposal puts the dollars raised into the General Fund, which can be easily raided down the road by the City Council for other purposes.

I would have preferred a bond measure that would have specifically detailed what the money would be used for and that would create direct fiscal accountability and a horizon for success. Therefore, if elected, I would vehemently oppose ANY use of funds raised from Measure C for any other purpose than infrastructure improvements. This is what is being sold to taxpayers and this must be upheld.

Moreover, whether elected or not, I will be the first one to spearhead another ballot measure to RETRACT this sales tax increase if it fails to live up to its promises.

There are those on the current City Council, or in the mayor’s race, specifically Mr. Hotchkiss, who suggest that we should vote against Measure C. But that is also wrongheaded. These anti-tax purists have not brought forth any suggestion on how to tackle our infrastructure problems.

In business, one deals with the hand that is dealt; in this case, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that Santa Barbara has run out of time. In the past six years, our unfunded infrastructure liability grew by $172 million, a 55 percent increase over 2012 levels. There is a tipping point at which a community, just like a business, cannot right itself and thus cannot recover.

Waiting any longer is not an option.

NOOZHAWK: What are downtown Santa Barbara’s greatest infrastructure needs, and how would you pay for them?

AM: Obviously, if it passes, Measure C will help pay for some of the backlog. But the city has been complacent, and has no real plan to handle any of this, five years after Gov. Jerry Brown killed redevelopment agencies.

We are simply scrambling to keep up on so many fronts. Infrastructure needs downtown include upgrading and maintaining pedestrian walkways, improving the speed of our digital networks, and creating more residential housing. I’d also note that maintaining and preserving historic buildings and public spaces such as De lLa Guerra Plaza are in need of leadership.

But these priorities should be reviewed in conjunction with a re-envisioning of our downtown corridor, including Milpas Street, with a collaborative Master Plan process as mentioned in my response to your first question, about the city’s role.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the development of more housing in downtown Santa Barbara, including along the State Street corridor? Why or why not?

AM: I do support more housing in the downtown corridor. Residential units add a feeling of “Home” that will greatly enhance downtown. Subsequently, residential occupants provide a higher degree of caring and attention to their neighborhood, helping to foster an energized and family-friendly environment for tourists and local residents alike.

NOOZHAWK: The Average-Unit Density program aims to create more affordable rental housing in the city. What do you think the program is doing right, and how would you improve it?

AM: AUD should be reviewed and assessed before any more permits are issued. While I support the program’s intentions, it has failed to provide what we might consider “affordable housing” — in Santa Barbara terms. Too many restrictions and unnecessary requirements placed on the projects by the city have skyrocketed costs of construction and contributed to the lack of affordability.

Collaboration with builders and developers is essential if we ever hope to create housing that meets the needs of our local workforce.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite downtown activity?

AM: I enjoy walking our dogs all over the downtown corridor, where we live. We frequent the local restaurants and shops on a daily basis. That’s why I find the current state of our downtown so heartbreaking, as it should be a place that all Santa Barbarans want to visit frequently, with their families.

NOOZHAWK: How many murals of Noozhawk do you think should be included in any public art projects for the Highway 101 underpass on Lower State Street?

AM: I don’t know how many murals would be appropriate, but I embrace our need to celebrate our local artist community. A well-lit and vibrant thoroughfare would be a welcome new gateway to the downtown corridor.

And, of course, the ’Hawk would be a worthy mention!

Additional Resources

» Click here for Angel Martinez’s campaign website. Connect with Angel Martinez on Facebook.

» Click here for more information about Santa Barbara’s Nov. 7 election.

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