Murillo focuses on homelessness in re-election campaign
Editor’s note: This concludes the News-Press series of interviews with Santa Barbara mayoral candidates. See Monday’s News-Press for a review of the candidates and their positions on the issues.
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo says the City Council has accomplished plenty in the last term, whether or not her opponents in Tuesday’s election want to admit it.
“This is a race of challengers trying to unseat incumbents … So their strategy has to be to create a sense that ‘everything is wrong at City Hall, and I need to come in and fix it,’ ” she told the News-Press.
“What I would ask the voters is to look at their neighborhoods, look at the city services. We provide the good work that we’ve accomplished addressing homelessness,” she said. “I would ask people to look at the vitality and all the promise of the State Street Promenade. And so there’s a lot that’s good.”
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara is building low-income and middle-income complexes. Mayor Murillo is excited about an apartment complex for people exiting homelessness that will be located at Anacapa and Cota streets and is securing funding.
She also points to the safe shelter program, which houses former residents of fire-prone encampments at the Rose Garden Inn with CityNet’s wraparound services.
The City Council recently voted to expand the program through the holidays until it can find permanent housing for participants. With the extension, the program costs over $2.8 million.
She knows the expense isn’t popular but believes in the program’s mission.
“Without a bunch of low-income apartment houses for these folks to live in, we’re trying to create a system by which we get them off the street and we get them somehow,” she said.
Around 50 formerly homeless individuals have participated and moved out of highway-adjacent encampments.
“We help the homeless for two reasons. One: to help them because they’re people that need help, and two: to reduce the impacts of homelessness because it lowers the quality of life for all of us to have individuals living on the street,” Mayor Murillo said.
A total of 120 formerly homeless people have found housing through the City this year, she said.
She plans to focus on homelessness if elected for a second term.
She believes the race is down to her and Randy Rowse, a former City Council member gaining support from conservative residents.
She said a main issue dividing her from Mr. Rowse is her support for the State Street Promenade.
She has plans to offer concerts, children’s programs and other activities on the promenade if re-elected.
Residents’ views on policing may be a deciding factor between the incumbent mayor and Mr. Rowse.
The Santa Barbara Police Officers Association endorsed Mr. Rowse and stated it had “no confidence” in the incumbents running for reelection.
Mayor Murillo believes she can still help the Police Department, which is facing a shortage of officers. She supports a project to create a large, new police headquarters.
“When they’re out recruiting, it’ll be helpful to say that the city has a brand-new, state-of-the-art building,” she said. “And I do support them even as I acknowledge that it’s a time in history when the people want reform.
“What that translates to is that we don’t want to happen here what happened in Minneapolis with George Floyd. When that happened, the City Council said, ‘Let’s find a process for civilian oversight to prevent police brutality to prevent excessive use of force.’
“Our police department said, ‘Bring it on. We have nothing to hide. We already have an accountability system in place.’”
She said civilian oversight is being created with respect to SBPD. The commission in charge of creating the committee will deliver a report to City Council in the spring.
Another development for Mayor Murillo is called the Truth and Healing Project. She is collaborating with the Chumash community to reveal harsh realities of Santa Barbara’s history.
“What we’ll do is we’ll look at the history of what happened to the Chumash people here in the city and what the city did, what the government did, what the church did and without laying blame. It’s really just revealing the true history of people of color and other populations,” she said.
“We just need to take another look back at history and acknowledge what happened to the Chumash, to the Chinese community, to the Asian, to the black community in Santa Barbara. And then we can start looking to the future to empower the youth in all of those cultures,” she said.
She is an advocate for the youth apprenticeship program, where young adults often from working-class neighborhoods learn career skills in the City.
Mayor Murillo said she is continuing her campaign while avoiding any drama.
“I’m feeling pretty good, but you know, you never want to get cocky,” she said. “So today, tonight and tomorrow and all weekend, I’ll just be calling voters and making sure that they know of all the good work that I’ve done in these last 10 years, and it would be an honor to continue being the mayor.”
Mayor Murillo has endorsements from the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County, the Sierra Club’s Los Padres chapter and the Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund among others.