Monday, November 12 , 2018, 6:00 pm | Fair 65º


Incumbent, 2 Challengers Seeking Santa Maria City Council District 3 Seat

Dr. Michael Moats, Gloria Soto and Raymond Acosta are vying in the city's first district-based election

Candidates for the District 3 seat on the Santa Maria City Council. Click to view larger
Three people are vying for the District 3 seat on the Santa Maria City Council in next week’s election. They are, from left, incumbent Dr. Michael Moats, and challengers Gloria Soto and Raymond Acosta.

An incumbent and two challengers are vying to represent the city of Santa Maria's southwestern edge in the first district-based City Council election.

Dr. Michael Moats, in the middle of his two-year term, will face off against Gloria Soto, a regional development manager, and Raymond Acosta, a grocery store manager, for the four-year term on the City Council.

They are seeking to replace Councilman Jack Boysen, who chose not to run for re-election.

In the second race, incumbent Etta Waterfield and attorney Rafael Gutierrez are seeking the District 4 term.

Moats’ original term expires in 2020, but when the council created districts, it proved problematic since he and Boysen live near each other. 

If Moats wins this election, he and the four other council members will have to decide how to fill the remaining two years on his existing term — whether to appoint someone or hold a special election.

It’s also not clear if the person would be appointed from the city at large or the new District 1, which encompasses the northwestern segment of the city. 

While there are differences between Moats and his challengers, all three say they support Measure U, which would extend the current quarter-cent sales tax and increase it to 1 cent with proceeds primarily going to public safety. 

Soto and Acosta are relative newcomers to city politics. 

Soto, a Santa Maria native and graduate of Pioneer Valley High School, said she would bring a younger perspective to the City Council.

Now 29, she would be the youngest woman to serve in Santa Maria’s history. 

“I think that’s exciting,” she said.

A homeowner since 2015, Soto said she is concerned about the high cost of housing in the city. 

“It’s crucial we start looking at the housing crisis we have in the city,” she said. 

She said she favors an inclusionary housing ordinance to pressure developers to sell a certain number of residences under fair market value as one solution to high housing costs, in addition to rent control. 

She also expressed concern for the plight of mobile home owners, many of whom have residences on land they don’t own, putting them in vulnerable positions.

Noting several people she grew up with did not return to live here, Soto said the city needs to focus on attracting companies that offer better paying jobs.

She also supports creating a youth council in Santa Maria, and advocates developing a soccer complex in the city.

“It would be a great way to bring in tournaments to the city and also generate revenue for Santa Maria.

Her age also more closely reflects the residents of Santa Maria, she said, noting that the median age of the council members is 69 while the city’s median age is 29. 

“There’s a disconnect between those in elected positions and constituents,” said Soto, who graduated from Allan Hancock College and Chapman University. 

Acosta, graduated from Righetti High School in 1985 after moving to Santa Maria from Orange County as a teen. He is from a family of 13 children.

“I think the main reason I am running is we need to make decisions that are better to improve the quality of life for the residents of our city,” he said. “Even before that, you know one reason I’m running? Because I’m an American and I get to run. I’m a very patriotic guy.”

Acosta, a manager for a grocery store on North Broadway and the husband of a teacher, said he wants to reduce the expense of living in Santa Maria. Noting assorted taxes residents pay, he said he would be a wiser spender with taxpayers’ dollars.

“Those that are overseeing the financial distribution of our city funds need to do a better job,” Acosta said. 

He also is concerned about homelessness in Santa Maria, something he blames on the cost of living compared to salaries.

“We can’t treat them like trash. They’re people,” he said.

He added that in talking to people, he has learned they want elected officials they can trust, adding that his conversations with customers and others he encounters have revealed residents’ concerns.

Public safety is another worry, Acosta said, adding he reluctantly supports Measure U, but questioned why the tax is needed, saying the city’s money needs to be spent on different priorities.

“You have to have a heart for people. If you live in a city like this and you really want things to change, you’ve got really have a heart for people,” Acosta said. 

Moats, who has practiced medicine in the Santa Maria Valley for 40 years, previously served on the Planning Commission before he was elected to the council in 2016.

While the city has switched to district-based elections, Moats said he supports the current council’s decision that council members will represent the entire city, not just their own neighborhoods.

The other council candidates sat down to talk to Noozhawk, Moats did not so his comments come from the candidates’ forum. 

Regarding the high cost of housing in the community, Moats noted that the city doesn’t own land or develop housing. 

“What we have to do is to get developers interested in doing things,” Moats said, adding that developers should be encouraged through density bonuses to build less-expensive homes.

“And when I say homes, I mean apartments,” he added. 

Other ideas include infill development and rezoning land to accommodate high-density housing, he said.

Moats said the city must provide a safe community and higher-education opportunities to attract prospective employers providing higher-paying jobs.

“It’s probably important for the city to provide an opportunity for new employers and businesses to be able to get their buildings built in a reasonably quick fashion, maybe with something like fast tracking of planning,” he said.

The city also should look to mitigate some types of fees for businesses moving to Santa Maria. 

Moats received his bachelor’s and medical degrees from UCLA. For most of his time in Santa Maria, he has operated a dermatology practice. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

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