Local residents got a chance to meet their state assemblyman Saturday morning when 35th District representative Pedro Nava opened his doors and invited everyone to breakfast.

Approximately 50 people, including Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, gathered in Nava’s office downtown at 10 a.m. for his first open house reception since he took office in January 2005. Nava used the event to introduce himself and his staff to the crowd, and to speak about some of the political issues that he said are most important to him. Those who attended the open house were also treated to a free breakfast and a performance by a group of tango dancers from the Lobero Theatre.

Nava said the reception provided him with a chance to meet with members of the community and encourage dialogue between his constituents and his office.

“I think it’s important for the community to know there are people there to answer questions,” Nava said. “I’m accessible, and we have an office staff that is prepared to help constituents.”

Nava’s District Director Jillena Eifer said Nava held the reception to let local residents and politicians know about all the resources his office has to offer. She said the staff is available to provide information to Santa Barbara residents about state services and act as liaisons between local voters and the state government.

“We have three [people] on staff that do case work,” Eifer said. “If you don’t know how to fix your problem, we can help fix it. With families that have uninsured children, we want to inform those families that there is insurance provided by the state.”

During his speech, Nava spoke to the crowd about some of the issues effecting the state he is concerned with, such as public transportation and funding to state educational programs.

“We have the highest expectations for our children, yet we only fund education 44th out of the states,” Nava said. “That’s unacceptable. We will fight with the governor to fully fund education.”

Nava also met with residents individually after his speech, and fielded several questions regarding his position on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposal to allow the public to vote on issues such as delaying tenure for public school teachers and stripping legislators of the power to decide their districts’ boundaries. Nava said he was opposed to the proposal, and said he thinks the special elections would cost too much money.

“Every elections clerk in the state should not hold special elections unless directed by the state,” Nava said. “It’s a waste of money.”

UCSB Law & Society Assistant Professor Paul Amar, who was at the reception, said he liked hearing from Nava in person. Amar said he was disappointed, however, that more county government representatives did not attend the open house.

“I got to meet members of the state and local level to see how to direct recommendations about issues such as rights and laws,” Amar said. “All our state issues are determined by county, and [county officials] are inaccessible. UCSB is more important to the county as it is not a part of the city.”
– Nikki Moore contributed to this article