Alejandra Gutierrez’s father used to give her advice in Spanish that roughly translated to this: “When you are moving forward, you are going to hear the dogs barking,” she recalled.
It’s an apt adage for Gutierrez, the councilwoman who represents District 1 on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.
Since she was elected in 2019 she has marched to the beat of her drum, gone against the grain, and kept the outsider, activist edge that helped propel her to the seat in the first place.
In this podcast with journalist Josh Molina, Gutierrez talks about outdoor dining, her performance at City Hall, staying true to her community, her thoughts on the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, leadership, being a millennial and trying to survive financially in Santa Barbara, and her unwavering commitment to the students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Gutierrez, raised in Santa Barbara, turned heads again at last Thursday’s council meeting, when she pushed for the full council to vote on an outdoor dining fees. The council was deadlocked 3-3 on whether to pass a fee and she helped swing Mayor Randy Rowse’s vote.
“We really need to make a decision on how State Street is going to look,” Gutierrez said.
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“If we are not willing to put the resources and the leadership to keep State Street closed, and when I say leadership, I mean making these difficult decisions, then we should just open State Street.”
She said the staff and City Administrator Rebecca Bjork spent a lot of time and energy, at the council’s direction, into coming up with fee options for outdoor dining, and that it was disrespectful to staff for the council to punt and put off the vote.
Gutierrez also talks about how she has likely lost political support among Democratic Party leadership since she was elected, but it is more important to her to help her constituents.
“I was told by another politician that I don’t play the game right, and I said, ‘no, I don’t want to play the game,'” Gutierrez said. “I am not going to sugarcoat things. I am not willing to make decisions out of pressure from a party.”
Gutierrez also opens up about her council absences in 2022, as she was experiencing a medical problem, and took a new job at the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
“I had health issues,” Gutierrez said. “Rebecca Bjork did know. I went through a medical treatment that I did have. I really had to take care of myself.”
Last year Gutierrez took a full-time job with the Santa Barbara Unified School District. She oversees school liaisons at each of the sites.
“I made a promise that I wanted to help students like myself, first-generation, to pursue their dreams,” Gutierrez said. “And I have.”
Santa Barbara Talks is a podcast created by Joshua Molina to help facilitate community conversation to find solutions to our community’s shared challenges. Consider a contribution to this podcast by clicking here. Subscribe to this podcast by clicking here. Josh Molina has been a journalist in Santa Barbara for 20 years. He also covered City Hall for the San Jose Mercury News. In addition to working as a reporter at Noozhawk, he teaches journalism at Cal State University, Northridge and Santa Barbara City College. Please subscribe to his You Tube channel for more content.