Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 4:40 pm | Fair 65º


Cathy Murillo: Let’s Vote Yes on SBCC’s Measure S, Then Find Solutions to Other Campus Issues

I support Measure S because I value public schools and public education.

Cathy Murillo
Cathy Murillo

Simply put, Santa Barbara City College is a public school that needs funds for upkeep of buildings and facilities. Students deserve updated and safe classrooms, lecture halls and gathering spaces.

One of my community projects as a City Council member is the Pro-Youth Movement, a monthly forum to discuss gang issues focusing on prevention and intervention. In getting to know our low-income families, it is clear that for some local youth, SBCC is the only accessible pathway to success, either academic or vocational. Importantly, City College offers transition programs to help high school students, even those who are low-performing, get into college.

Yes, the school is asking for a large sum of money, but that was a calculated risk taken by the Measure S campaign. The trustees must make their case to the voters. I do trust the voters to do their homework — on how the money will be spent and also on the details of bond financing. The No on S campaign has taken pains to describe the realities of long-term debt and how property owners will be responsible for repayment over decades. It is up to the voters to decide.

As for the social issues related to the student population and the campus, let's find ways to address those problems without holding the college hostage in the face of capital needs. In other words, let's pass the bond, then work on enrollment, neighborhood impacts, student code of conduct, and housing and transportation.

I want local students to be given enrollment preference over non-district residents and international students. It is up to us, the Santa Barbara community, to work with the Board of Trustees and the college administrators to ensure that district residents are admitted before non-residents.

Let's keep up the pressure on SBCC to work with city residents impacted by students who party too much or too loudly, who litter or drop cigarette butts, or who exhibit any behavior destroying good-neighbor relationships. As for Isla Vista, I support efforts to improve safety in that uniquely challenged community. SBCC can work with other major players in this: the university, the county, the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District, the Sheriff's Department, the student government Associated Students, business and commercial interests, and private property owners.

I would like to see City College collaborate more closely with South Coast cities, the MTD bus agency and regional groups (governmental and community-based) regarding transit, parking and housing. As vice-chair of the Cities-County Affordable Housing Task Force, I initiated an invitation to representatives from SBCC and UCSB to attend our quarterly meetings. SBCC housing officials will now have regular contact with electeds, housing developers, housing authority executives and nonprofits (such as Peoples' Self-Help Housing) that create affordable housing.

The Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) convenes a regular committee called H.O.T., focusing on Housing, Open-space and Transportation. This is a monthly discussion involving bright and dedicated people who can help SBCC delve into housing cooperatives, financing to build housing (tax credits, etc.) and government relations.

And finally, I'd like the Santa Barbara City Council to hold joint meetings with the SBCC Board of Trustees. Our council meets twice a year with Santa Barbara's K-12 school trustees to discuss issues of interest, and we should do the same with City College. At the staff level, of course, these kinds of conversations have been ongoing, but it's important for electeds from both bureaucracies to open communication and forge collaboration. How can we offer each other support?

These are my ideas for finding solutions to the problems being articulated by opponents of Measure S. It is time for our community to stay on top of the budget and policy decisions being made by the SBCC trustees and college administrators. The trustees are elected by district and must answer directly to residents in their districts.

I will close with this: I have served three years as a council member, and I've heard only one complaint from a lower Westside resident about SBCC students. And I am painfully aware of tragic situations when a private company purchases a large apartment complex, evicts longtime residents (usually families), renovates the buildings, then charges higher-than-market rate for rent. The response for relief is usually aimed at relocating the tenants and extracting relocation assistance from the landlord — not so much preventing this kind of thing from happening.

Santa Barbara has long suffered from a brutal housing shortage. Many factors contribute to this, not just out-of-town SBCC students. Over the years, I have heard grumbling that City College should provide housing for its students, but I'm not aware that any organized group has tried to do something about it. Perhaps someone has. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm saying if something needs to be done, let's focus on solutions.

Cathy Murillo is a Santa Barbara city councilwoman.

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