VOTE BY MAIL BEGINNING OCTOBER 5TH
First, I want to introduce you to my family’s story because I believe that our lived experiences influence the values we develop as adults.
Like so many others, my parents immigrated to this country to pursue the ultimate American Dream--to achieve a better life for their children. My father, at the young age of 15, with not a single dime in his pocket, and with immense courage, immigrated from Morelia, Michoacan. I like to call my father, he who has no fear! It is a perfect nickname for him. My mother, also fearless, and with unconditional love for her growing family, took a leap of faith and joined my father. My parents’ story is not unique; it is the story of countless families in District 1.
When my parents arrived in Santa Maria, they worked, con mucha honrra , as farm workers picking strawberries. Thanks to agriculture, my parents were able to give me and my siblings a roof over our heads and food on our family’s table. To this day, I can vividly remember the scent of freshly picked strawberries that filled our house every evening when my parents came home from their long hours of work. From my parents’ example, I learned not to shy away from hard work; I learned to roll up my sleeves and to believe that my dreams could be shaped by my own efforts.
When I was young, my family had to share housing with other close relatives in order to make ends meet. We lived in crowded spaces--like other residents of District 1--because of the high cost of housing in Santa Maria. But in 2005, when I was only 11 years old, my parents reached an important marker of the American Dream, when they purchased their first home. It was a modest house, but it was filled with love and support.
That was 2005. Then the Great Recession of 2008 hit, fueled by the subprime mortgage crisis caused by the risky practices of hedge funds and banks and insurance companies. My parents lost their home and were on the verge of homelessness. To survive, my family of five moved into a small converted garage. Our struggle was real; it was devastating; but it was not unique. It was shared by so many across the country (in 2008, foreclosure filings went up a record 81% across the nation). This lived experience has inspired me to make AFFORDABLE HOUSING a key focus of my candidacy.
In Santa Maria, homelessness and the housing crisis are both critical problems, and they affect families and children throughout our city. Our county has the third-largest percentage of homeless students in the entire state. 31% of the students of the Santa Maria-Bonita school district are defined as homeless, which means that they live in a shelter, or in a motel, or in a car or RV, or in transitional housing, or they are doubled up with another family in a temporary situation--like my family once was.
It’s very hard to focus on your dreams when you live under such conditions. It’s very hard to focus on learning and school work when you have no place to study--which means that the housing crisis in Santa Maria is already affecting the future of Santa Maria because our children are the future.
I’m running for City Council because we must embrace bold and innovative solutions to solve this housing crisis. For example, I think that landlords should be required to offer long term leases to their renters, which would reduce unfair evictions. I think that rent stabilization ordinances and tenant displacement assistance could reduce homelessness among families. And in a city where renters have to spend 30% or more of their total income on housing, I think that Inclusionary Housing Ordinances will help reduce the steep cost burdens that working-class and middle-class families face in our city.
In the last five years in our county, rents have gone up 27%, while wages have only improved by 8%. So another way to make housing more affordable is by bringing more higher paying jobs to Santa Maria, and by supporting small business owners. This is why LIVING WAGE JOBS will be a key focus of my candidacy. As a professional who works for Goodwill Industries of VTA SB Counties as a Workforce Services Supervisor, I know the challenges that many of our residents face when seeking employment opportunities. In 2015, my organization received a federal grant to enroll 260 young adults from Santa Maria in a job readiness program. At the end of that year, we had successfully enrolled 280 individuals. What this demonstrates is the eagerness of our residents to work for their dreams and their need for living wage employment. It also demonstrates the need for job training. That’s why I support Community Work Force Agreements--also known as Project Labor Agreements. Such policies, which are already established in other California cities, can help to ensure quality job training, local jobs, and higher wages for Santa Marians. Our City Council should put such agreements into action.
As a city council member I would work to support our small businesses, who support our economy and create jobs. This district is a vibrant center for small Latino businesses, and I would like to ensure that our city’s chamber of commerce engages Spanish speaking business owners. I’d also like to work to streamline the process to obtain business licenses and permits, in particular for street vendors.
Finally, I want to point out that AFFORDABLE HOUSING and LIVING WAGE JOBS are both absolutely connected to the third major focus of my candidacy: EDUCATIONAL AND LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUR YOUTH. After I graduated from Pioneer Valley High School, I decided to pursue my educational dream by going to college. I graduated from California State University of Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. And after college, I decided to move back to Santa Maria while pursuing my Master’s degree in Public Administration. I was eager to work and give back to my community. Unfortunately, even though I was a recent college graduate, finding a good paying job was a challenge. And I’m sure some of you can relate! So, I became an intern for the County of Santa Barbara, and that experience gave me the leadership training I needed to advance my career. We need more programs that support our youth leadership development. When we provide opportunities to our youth--through job training, or internships, or recreational programs, we invest in a future that is better for all Santa Marians, especially young Santa Marians.
Santa Maria is a city that I love, and my love has filled me with a desire to give back. I am committed to rolling up my sleeves and getting work done. I understand the challenges that residents in District 1 face on a daily basis. I am committed to improving the quality of life for all Santa Marians by working for affordable housing, living wage jobs, and opportunities for our youth. As I begin this journey, I look forward to fighting for families who are overlooked--like mine, like yours, LIKE OURS. Together, we can be heard! Together, we can secure a better future for all of us. La unión hace la fuerza! Se puede? CLARO QUE SE PUEDE!
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