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Election Q&A with Michelle Giddens

NOOZHAWK: What specific actions should the City Council and the police department be taking to fight gang violence? If elected, what would your plan be and what would you identify as benchmarks for success?

Michelle Giddens
MICHELLE GIDDENS: The gang issue has been on the top of my list of priorities. As a community we must protect our children. I want to design a comprehensive plan that brings schools, teachers, police, business, volunteer groups, churches, etc. together in an organized effort to help our youth. Since I first proposed this early in my campaign, the City Council has finally taken steps in this direction. Action should have begun long ago. Ignoring the problem, in my opinion was a gross oversight. There are more inequities than I was previously aware of in this community, specifically in the qualities of schools and education.

It is true that it takes ... "more than a few months to get programs started, paid for, and having an affect," (according to Councilman Das Williams). That is why action should have been taken long ago!

We need to work with children at risk beginning around third grade. This would include a variety of activities including guest talks, tutoring, participation in sports as well as opportunities for East and West side children to come together frequently at a young age. In later years, job training and employment/scholarship opportunities should be provided. Education with a focus on health, physiology and sociology are essential. All youth require opportunities to build self-esteem.

We cannot eliminate gangs. But we can reduce the gang population by creating alternatives and ideally refocusing gang activity in a positive, nonviolent direction. I propose a 50 percent reduction in gang population over the next 5 years.

NOOZHAWK: Would you consider an injunction banning certain individuals from wearing apparel associated with gangs?

MG: Don’t know how enforceable it would be. Need more thought.

NOOZHAWK: With the General Plan update in motion, what is your vision of what Santa Barbara will look like in 30 years?

MG: Honestly, I would love to see Santa Barbara stay as small as possible. I don’t see that we have any reason to expand beyond our means. Santa Barbara is unique because of its geography and what is right for other communities may not work here. There will always be a housing imbalance. For the health of our community we need some diversity and we also need a certain amount of workforce housing. Santa Barbara currently has some competing policies and as a part of the General Plan update we need accurate input in order to determine the policies. There will be tradeoffs, for example: We cannot be a sustainable community, limit growth and density and supply large numbers of workforce and affordable homes/condos.

NOOZHAWK: Should Santa Barbara’s Sphere of Influence boundaries be expanded? Specifically, what should the boundaries be?

MG: Can’t answer at this time. Need to do some research.

NOOZHAWK: Should Highway 101 be widened from Milpas Street to the Rincon?


NOOZHAWK: Are you willing to spend local tax dollars to bring commuter rail to Santa Barbara?

MG: Ideally, it would be great to have commuter rail and it is encouraging to have the support of Ventura County and Amtrak. However, I am not convinced commuter rail will have any significant impact on traffic congestion (based on stats from other cities), and the cost to develop and maintain may outweigh the benefit. I also question the efficiency and environmental impacts. I put a lot of faith in technology. Undoubtedly, we will see many more viable options and innovative ideas in the near future. Either way we need to support Measure D!

NOOZHAWK: What is your opinion of street narrowing and roundabouts as traffic-control measures, and do you think they have been successful?

MG: Don’t like ‘em; the benefit is not worth the cost. I am generally opposed to the narrowing of any street. I am not opposed to roundabouts in general but the "mini-roundabouts" and "bulb outs" I do not support; they’re too dangerous, ineffective and expensive.

NOOZHAWK: With regard to new buildings in downtown Santa Barbara, how high is too high? What should be the height limitation in terms of stories?

MG: I support a ballot measure to determine the community preferences regarding building height. The biggest complaint I have heard from voters is that there is too much development and, to maintain the charm and character of Santa Barbara, we need to stop/slow growth. As a community, we must find a balance between property rights and preserving the small-town character. I promise to support the neighborhoods and the people on this issue. In the end my decision will be based on factual input from the community.

NOOZHAWK: Is Santa Barbara losing its middle class?

MG: I’ll skip this one for now. No time!

NOOZHAWK: Should the city help develop more workforce housing?

MG: Yes, we need to have an "operational" percentage of workers housed in the city. A) Because that is one way to attract them, the good ones; they deserve it. And B) We need to have basic services and trained personnel in case of emergency — police, fire, nurses, doctors, teachers, perhaps there are others.

However, the cost of workforce housing should not be the burden of property owners. The government and the city need to help fund it. If the community decides it must provide workforce housing then we must determine where we will allow it to be built.

I believe in rental housing or a tiered system of affordable condos that splits equity. A condo would remain affordable but at a market-adjusted level.

NOOZHAWK: Seizing on the adoption of the Isla Vista Master Plan that will yield more than 1,400 housing units, Santa Barbara County has asked the state of California to certify that the I.V. plan satisfies the county’s unmet need for affordable housing under the 2002 Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Is it fair to use Isla Vista’s willingness to accept increased density as a way to avoid a regional allocation of affordable housing units? How would you handle this obligation?

MG: Yes, it is fair. They need housing for the students. Santa Barbara’s population has remained level the last several years.

NOOZHAWK: The City Council is looking at approving a new downtown transit center of up to four stories that, conceptually, would include affordable and market-rate housing, retail commercial space, a day-care center and underground parking. But under the proposal, most MTD buses would still require street parking. Do you agree with this approach?

MG: Need more time to give you a thoughtful answer.

NOOZHAWK: Measure A calls for aligning the city of Santa Barbara’s Election Day with that of the nation by moving it to even-numbered years. Proponents say this would help boost voter turnout. Opponents say it would add a year to council members’ four-year terms and lead to campaigns that are more partisan. Do you support Measure A?

MG: I am opposed to Measure A because it is not in the best interest of our community. I am in favor of increasing voter turnout but in a genuine way, not by artificial means. Let’s bring the voters to the polls, not the other way around. Voters who might not otherwise vote for a City Council seat might, while they are at the polls voting on a president, vote for a City Council candidate based on name recognition only. I don’t see how that is beneficial for our community.

Voting is a right, but you shouldn’t coerce a vote. Many choose not to vote in local elections because they are simply not significantly effected by local issues and prefer to put trust in those who are.

From a personal perspective, as a challenger in a local election, I appreciate the nonpartisan local support I have received. Having our election in odd years allows the citizens of Santa Barbara to participate in this election either by monetary contributions or volunteer efforts. In other years, both time and money may be committed to state or federal elections, which often take priority.

NOOZHAWK: Mayor Marty Blum recently gave her staff a grade of A minus. What grade would you give?

MG: No comment at this time.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support cities competing with the private sector for the deployment of Internet broadband networks? If so, what is your preferred financing method to build the required infrastructure?

MG: No comment at this time.

NOOZHAWK: Have we heard the last of the "blue line"?

MG: The Light Blue Line fiasco solidified my decision to run for City Council. It is inexcusable that the council spent hundreds of man hours on this project. The council should have known from the beginning that a line like this was not allowed under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. If they didn’t, they were each informed by an intelligent and proactive citizen who wrote to the Federal Highway Administration and forwarded that response in August.

Why hasn’t Helene Schneider or Mary Blum apologized for their part in this public action? Why isn’t anyone being held responsible? Even after widespread public criticism, the council refused to re-evaluate the decision. Their actions were unacceptable in my book. Iya Falcone and Roger Horton are the only two council members whose actions were respectable.

NOOZHAWK: What are your thoughts on medical marijuana? Do you agree with the mayor that it should be available in pharmacies?

MG: It should be available for people who need it.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite neighborhood?

MG: I live on the Mesa near Shoreline Park. It’s a great neighborhood for children and we love our neighbors, the park and beach. It’s home.

NOOZHAWK: What book had the most impact on your life?

MG: Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, the true story of Ernest Shakelton, is an amazing story of survival. Clan of the Cave Bear — I read it at the time I was recovering from a broken leg — gave me inspiration and was interesting from an anthropological standpoint.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite movie?

MG: It’s A Wonderful Life, Mask, Pulp Fiction, Far and Away. So many, it’s hard to choose!

NOOZHAWK: What music are you listening to now?

MG: Nothing now, but I like all kinds of music, especially blues, ‘80s New Wave and classic rock like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, the Grateful Dead and more!

NOOZHAWK: What kind of car do you drive?

MG: 2002 Jaguar S-Type.

NOOZHAWK: What do you do for a living?

MG: I am a mother of an almost 4 year old, Cody. I have a business that focuses on environmentally healthy home products and appliances, including laundry, air and water purification.

NOOZHAWK: What political leader or historical figure do you draw inspiration from?

MG: Thomas Jefferson — what a writer! Nelson Mandela, Ghandi.

NOOZHAWK: Would you support an ordinance requiring that Santa Barbarans set their home pages to Will you propose it for us?

MG: Great idea!

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