City of Santa Barbara issues proclamation for workers, disability employment
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo presented a proclamation to the Santa Barbara Harbor Crew Wednesday.
The occasion celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the 29th anniversary between the city of Santa Barbara and Momentum WORK Inc., which connects disabled people to jobs. (Momentum also offers day services and recreational programs, like adaptive sports.)
An enthusiastic Mayor Murillo shouted periodically as she read the proclamation, which ends by calling on other employers, schools and organizations to observe NDEAM too and “openly recognize that people with disabilities add value and talent to our workplaces and communities.”
Kevin Smith, director of program services at Momentum, said the harbor respects the crew. The maintenance staff, boat crews and those who live on the boats know team members.
“I know they’re known; they’re appreciated; they’re outside and not hidden away,” he said. “A real person belongs in the community, and that’s what they want.”
Crew members, when asked what they enjoy about working at the harbor, told the News-Press they like the people.
Brian MacLaren, a crew coach and instructor at Momentum’s Santa Barbara Art Works program, focuses on his team.
“I really really care about the crew, and that’s first and foremost and their well being,” he said. “I just want them to be productive and develop a real work ethic.”
He said the harbor is a “nice office” that inspires him to paint. He is working on a series of paintings of the harbor and presented the first to Mayor Murillo Wednesday. She plans to display it in her office.
Momentum isn’t partnered with other cities, but it does employ people to work for the state in offices, such as California Highway Patrol.
Executive Director Judy Linares said the company’s purpose is to integrate people.
“We fight to make sure that people have equal rights with their talents and interests,” she said. “Not everyone wants to do a janitorial job, so we work hard at building relationships with all employers based on the talents and interests of the people that we support.”
The harbor crew keeps the harbor’s facilities clean every day. Some have been doing the job for as long as 27 years and were honored Wednesday.
“The intent of this crew is really to gain skills and move on into another competitive job in the community. But a lot of our crew members fall in love with the work,” Ms. Linares said.
Rick Kaufman has been working in the harbor crew for 27 years. He has taken care of the harbor’s trash all 27 years and continues to tackle trash four days per week.
Mark Cortez joined the team 10 years ago after someone told him about the job. He enjoys the location and community, so he doesn’t plan to look for other jobs.
Gregg Landry, another 27-year crew member, is also happy working alongside nice people.
“This program is unique because I can’t find another program, anything like it, in the country,” Mr. Smith said. “So we’re pretty proud of that. But it’s kind of bizarre that it’s unique because it works so well.”
The employers Momentum work with are welcoming to disabled employees, but sometimes Mr. Smith encounters a company that doesn’t understand.
“A lot of what those employers lacked was that experience of meeting and knowing that people with disabilities are doing a great job,” he said.
Coach Ben Warren said the crew stays busy cleaning, and he enjoys leading them.
“It’s great. We’re at the beach, and we’re cleaning up and contributing and giving back to the community. And everyone puts in a great amount of effort, just as much as they possibly can,” he said.
All harbor crew employees earn minimum wage or higher. In late September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law phasing out subminimum wage for disabled employees by 2025.