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Cathy Murillo

Water Usage

ISB: With a federal government which expressly denies Climate Change and sea rise, where do you stand on these issues as it impacts Santa Barbara? What should the mayor, the city council and the community do to assure sufficient water for our needs? What are your thoughts on rainwater capture, grey water, rain barrels, cisterns and other low cost methods?

CM: The City of Santa Barbara’s General Plan explicitly acknowledges climate change and calls for strategies to respond. Our Climate Change Action Plan describes the City’s plan to reduce fossil fuel use in city operations and prepares for sea level rise and other impacts from global climate disruption. Planning staff is currently updating the Local Coastal Plan, which must be approved by the California Coastal Commission; this Plan addresses sea-level rise as well. The drought is a direct result of a changing climate and the City has responded by diversifying our water portfolio: Cachuma supplies, desalination water, groundwater, State Water, purchases of water from other parts of the state, and conservation. Our residents and businesses have achieved water conservation rates as high as 45% and we must continue that diligence. The rains in February are giving us only temporary relief, and rainfall will remain unpredictable.

We must plan for rainwater capture — groups like Sweetwater Collaborative and others are already working on sustainable water systems at the household and community level. We should utilize all the water capture and re-use methods mentioned in your question, as well as give homeowners incentives to convert turf grass to drought-resistant landscaping. Finally, I serve as the City’s alternate representative to the local water agencies: the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board, Cachuma Conservation Release Board, and the Central Coast Water Authority (state water). As Mayor, I will build collaborative relationships with all the jurisdictions sharing water supplies in our region.

Oil Development

ISB: President Trump campaigned on expanding oil production. As mayor how would you respond to a proposal to expand off shore oil drilling in the Santa Barbara channel? Where do you stand on the 700 up-county new production wells being considered, the issue of corroded pipelines and other oil transportation. How as mayor would you deal with oil companies in our county?

CM: Our City Council this summer approved a resolution opposing new offshore oil drilling and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The Santa Barbara Channel is a precious natural resource we must protect for our residents and everyone living along the South Coast and beyond. In my public service and as a private citizen before elected, I support the Environmental Defense Center, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, Surfrider, and other environmental groups in their effort to halt harmful oil and gas development in our community — harmful because of the inevitable spill and also because continued burning of fossil fuels contributes to global climate disruption. 

Mayor Helene Schneider and I successfully passed a resolution last year declaring solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, invoking our prior opposition to the Oil Trains proposal and reminding the community that the Plains All-American pipeline ruptured in 2015. This year our City Treasury division divested in funds supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have a strong record of pushing for transition from oil and gas development to renewable energy production. As Mayor, I will continue my diligence transitioning our City from dependence on fossil fuel and moving to green energy in 100% capacity by 2030. I would support the County Board of Supervisors in properly regulating and/or limiting new oil production on land. 


ISB: Healthcare and the safety net are under attack by the current federal administration, how would you address the homeless and mental health problem in Santa Barbara? Do laws that regulate public camping, sleeping, sitting in front of businesses or aggressive panhandling work to address homelessness, mental health and its related problems? How would you change what we are currently doing with mental health issues and the homeless? What are the other ordinances you would recommend?

CM: As Mayor, I will continue my work addressing the challenge of homelessness. I serve as the Vice Chair of the Policy Council of the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, or C3H. We are elected officials from the county and cities countywide pooling resources and data, coordinating successful street outreach, and working with non-profits and other service providers to get people off the street and into housing. We work with County Behavioral Health and County Public Health specifically to help people with mental illness and get them into supportive housing. I will work with leaders like County Supervisor Janet Wolf who is pursuing re-purposing the old juvenile hall facility to offer beds and treatment for the mentally ill, many of whom need intervention and residential services for their own safety.

The solution lies in collaboration. For instance, our City Housing Authority, County Behavioral Health, and the non-profit Mental Wellness Association have opened a home for mentally ill homeless women. I have strong relationships with these entities, public and private, and as Mayor will continue finding collaborative solutions. The laws you refer to regarding public camping and panhandling are meant to ensure clean and safe public spaces. No one should be urinating on a public street, for instance, and our City has an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. We acknowledge the free-speech right of an individual to stand passively on the street with a sign. Beyond that, police officers must respond if a crime is being committed, and our restorative police officers and other intervention specialists respond through compassionate street outreach, offering access to services.


ISB: The median price for homes in SB is now over $940,000.  The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment ranges between $2500 and $3,000. What role if any should city government have in providing, maintaining or incentivizing more affordable housing for those living here? What is your position on residential development on State Street?

CM: It is absolutely the responsibility of City government to develop and implement policies that create housing — in all income ranges. The biggest obstacle to housing production is the high value of real estate in Santa Barbara.  For affordable housing (income-restricted) our City Housing Authority and non-profit housing developers such as People’s Self-Help Housing use subsidies to build their projects but even they are challenged now by the loss of Redevelopment funds and other cuts to HUD from the federal government. I am the Council liaison to the Housing Authority Commission, and I’m the vice chair of the Cities-County Affordable Housing Task Force.

Separate from that low-income housing, the Council must provide incentives for housing developers to build exactly the kind of housing we need (for-rent or for-purchase) with as much affordability as we can get, with adequate parking, and supported by alternative transportation options to reduce traffic congestion. New housing must be well-designed and well-located so our City does not feel over-developed. Our Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program is now being re-worked to get us more rental units for our residents. Yes, I support mixed-use development (commercial, retail, and housing together) on State Street. Downtown housing will be one solution to empty storefronts caused by consumer spending online and the consequent decline of brick-and-mortar stores.


ISB: Considering the collapse of big store retail in Santa Barbara and across the nation, how is our economy doing? What do you consider the most important drivers of our Santa Barbara economy? What are the indicators, including State Street business activity of the direction of our local economy? What ordinances would you suggest to renew the State Street corridor? What more would you do as Mayor to assure a healthy economy for business development and jobs for our workers? 

CM: Santa Barbara’s natural beauty, open shoreline, and mild climate will always attract visitors, so the City must continue to support our tourism industry. However, we need to diversify our economy because we saw a drop in visitors during the Recession of 2008, which caused a reduction in bed tax and sales tax revenues. Additionally, the tourism industry creates many low-paying jobs. The need for diversity combined with the change in the retail world, which is impacting State Street, has created a strong partnership involving the City, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Santa Barbara, Hospitality Santa Barbara (restaurant and lodging), Visit Santa Barbara, commercial property owners, and business owners. The good news is that we have a low unemployment rate; the challenge is that we need more high-paying jobs.

As Mayor, I will continue to support and work with and support small business development organizations, such as Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), SCORE, the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and the Eastside Merchants Association. I am a member of the Roundtable of the Economic Vitality Team of Santa Barbara County, a countywide economic development collaborative of chambers of commerce, government leaders, financial institutions, and large employers. I will continue to support the efforts of labor unions, especially in the construction trades, to create green jobs and promote renewable energy business development. Overall, the City must create an environment in which businesses can thrive.

Sanctuary Cities

ISB: Immigration and DACA have been targets of this federal administration. The Trump administration has explicitly targeted California. Where do you stand on these issues? How would you work with the district supervisors to limit ICE in our communities? Would you stand by the undocumented in this city? How would it impact law enforcement? How do you plan to implement Senate Bill 54 – signed by Governor Brown establishing California as a Sanctuary State – as they apply to Santa Barbara. 

CM: After the ICE raid scare back in February, I began meeting with the Mexican Consulate, legal advocates, and faith leaders to develop strategies to protect the rights of Santa Barbara’s undocumented community. We have organized Know-Your-Rights workshops that include legal clinics so that people can take steps to protect their families in the event of detainment or deportation. Our last workshop included assistance for DACA renewal. The Santa Barbara Police Department has a policy, supported by the City Council, that our police officers do not act as ICE agents. All of our residents must feel safe calling the police to report crime, seeking help as a crime victim, or giving information as a witness to a crime.

As it applies to our City, SB 54 or the California Values Act underscores the police department’s policy of not inquiring about immigration status, or acting on that status, unless specific serious crimes (defined by the law) have been committed by an undocumented individual. The Sheriff’s Department controls the County Jail and its interactions with ICE, so it remains to be seen how the Sheriff’s Department will implement SB 54. The law is already undergoing legal challenges from the federal government; I support our police department — and other law enforcement agencies — complying with this state law and at the same time keeping our residents safe and our crime rate low.

Suitability for Office

ISB: What in your professional history makes you the most suitable candidate for Mayor? Why are you the best candidate?

CM: I am proud of what our City has achieved during my two-terms on Council. Under my leadership we have built back our fiscal reserves, we hired a new police chief dedicated to community policing, we opened a new Children’s Library, and we’ve established important environmental protection policies, such as targeting 2030 for the City to be 100% renewable-energy powered and designating Santa Barbara a Bee City USA. My accomplishments demonstrate the success I will have as Mayor, bringing people together to work collaboratively to fulfill the vision of Santa Barbara as a beautiful, economically vibrant, environmentally healthy, and inclusive City. All of our residents deserve job and housing opportunities, and they deserve to have their voices heard at City Hall.

The Mayor is the only elected position that represents the whole city and I offer the experience of having served at-large and as a district representative. I will be able to guide our Council in being constructive and fair as we make budget and policy decisions in the new district-based system. When I interact with my council colleagues, city staff, and the public I am respectful and sincere in wanting to collaborate and solve problems, being considerate of all opinions and needs, and finding common ground. The positive relationships I have built during my public service will be the foundation of finding agreement on critical issues going forward.

As Mayor, my top priorities will be job creation and economic development, public health and safety, and protecting our natural resources and the character of our neighborhoods. My record demonstrates active engagement in these goals as a Council member, and many groups and individuals have expressed support for my hard work, enthusiasm, and optimism. I am endorsed by the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara, the Sierra Club, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, the school board presidents from Santa Barbara and Goleta, and the Mayors of both Carpinteria and Goleta. In addition to endorsements from State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and County Supervisors Janet Wolf and Joan Hartmann, I have been endorsed by civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. These esteemed individuals and organizations recognize that integrity, diplomacy, and commitment to the public good will define my leadership as Mayor of Santa Barbara.