Sunday, February 18 , 2018, 6:17 pm | Fair 62º


Local News

Eastside Activist Sebastian Aldana Ousted From Milpas Community Association Board

Former vice president asked to resign over his involvement with district elections lawsuit against City of Santa Barbara

Sebastian Aldana, the longtime neighborhood representative from the Milpas Community Association, has been ousted from the organization. 

Aldana told Noozhawk that he was asked to resign by MCA board president Alan Bleecker during a conversation on Aug. 22. He resigned the same day.

He said the board wanted him out because he is suing the City of Santa Barbara to force district elections for the City Council.

“All I am trying to do with the lawsuit is better the neighborhoods,” Aldana said.

“With proper representation from each neighborhood we will be better off. Now I am the bad guy? I don’t agree with the status quo right now.”

Aldana, an Eastside resident, grew up in Santa Barbara and has been a longtime neighborhood advocate.

He was one of the original members of the Franklin Advisory Committee and serves on the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council. He ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2011.

Aldana was part of a group that filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging that the current at-large voting system dilutes Latino votes by having council candidates elected on a citywide basis, rather than by district.

He said recently he could tell that he may have fallen out of favor with the Milpas Community Association.

“You see the clique and you know if you are in it or not,” Aldana said.

Bleecker told Noozhawk that Aldana was being disloyal to the MCA board by pursuing the lawsuit and by not disclosing the information to the board.

“The duty of loyalty requires that board members avoid engaging in any conflicts of interest with the organization’s mission and goals, or appearance of same,” he said. “The duty of disclosure requires notification in advance to the organization of any possible conflicts of interest.

“His lawsuit against the city created a conflict of interest, as our organization enjoys a very healthy relationship with the city, and a lawsuit would naturally be perceived as a hostile action by the city,” Bleecker continued. “Our organization does not wish to be associated with a lawsuit against the city, and as he was serving on our board, one could be forgiven for assuming we agreed with such an action.

“He’s welcome to sue the city on any subject he likes as a private citizen, but not as an active board member of the MCA. He had the responsibility to notify us beforehand that he was engaging in such an action, under the duty of disclosure, but did not do so.”

Bleecker said the MCA board gave Aldana a choice.

“Our board made a unanimous decision to give him the opportunity to resign on friendly terms, which is exactly what he did,” he said. 

Aldana served as the association’s vice president for three years. The group has worked successfully to reduce the number of homeless people on Milpas Street and push the city to spent more time and resources on the Milpas corridor.

For his part, Aldana noted that he is remains chairman of the Neighborhood Advisory Council, in spite of the lawsuit. He wonders why he can serve as an appointed member of that committee while simultaneously suing the city, but he can’t serve on the MCA board.

City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, the only Latino on the council, told Noozhawk that she respects the MCA’s decision, but that groups in Santa Barbara should aim to work with one another.

“I respect that the MCA had to make that change because that’s what the leadership thought they had to do,” she said.

Still, she said, in a small town like Santa Barbara people should find ways to collaborate.

“He really keeps up with the safety issues on the Eastside,” Murillo said. “I am still working with him, but I don’t have to talk to him about district elections.”

Aldana said he is proud of his contributions.

“I know I was part of the team that helped clean up the corridor of Milpas,” Aldana said. “From four years ago to today it is day and night. It is still not perfect, but considering what we had, it is a lot better.”

Still, he wonders what the future holds for the MCA.

“It was a Milpas Community Association,” Aldana said. “I tend to feel that it is going back to the Milpas Business Association. They are just going in a different direction. It’s just part of life, I guess.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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