Santa Barbara City Council candidates met with a coalition of regional youth groups to discuss high school students’ political concerns on Monday night at the Louise Lowry Davis Center.
The Future Leaders of America, Police Activities League Youth Leadership Council and Santa Barbara Youth Council hosted the discussion for local students to ask the candidates questions regarding education, gang injunctions and youth services. Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos High School Associated Student Body Presidents submitted the questions to the panel of council contenders.
The candidates on the November ballot, which was mailed early last week, include Sharon Byrne, Cathy Murillo, Iya Falcone, Deborah Schwartz, Jerry Matteo, Sebastian Aldana Jr., Cruzito Cruz and incumbents Michael Self, Dale Francisco and Randy Rowse.
San Marcos High ASB President Will Lorenzen said many long-term issues council members will address have a significant impact on the region’s youth.
“These issues will affect all people of this community — all age groups, all ethnicities and racial groups,” Lorenzen said. “We are the next generation; these things will affect us too.”
Santa Barbara High ASB Sophomore Class President Emily Baum said the event revealed the candidates’ wide range of ideas and opinions.
“It is interesting to see the diversity of the candidates,” Baum said. “There were five women and five men, all from different ethnic groups and there is clearly a diversity of opinions. It was also great to see all of the teens who came out.”
The speakers discussed several topics and policy goals during the forum including youth programs and job creation.
Francisco said city officials should prioritize increasing the available funds for youth projects and initiatives.
“Fundamentally, it is a matter of how much money there is, and in tough economic times [youth programs] are the ones that get cut,” Francisco said. “At the city council, what we need to do is promote a strong economy so we can have the funding for youth programs.”
According to Falcone, who served on the council from 2002 to 2009, the council should work alongside local organizations to expand employment options for young adults.
“One of my jobs as a councilmember is to make sure that you have the necessary relationships with business people in Santa Barbara,” Falcone said. “Through internships and apprenticeships, we can give you opportunities.”
Murillo, the former News and Public Affairs Director at KCSB, said such opportunities give students valuable experience for their future careers.
“I am glad to see that Santa Barbara City College has an entrepreneurial program,” Murillo said. “As part of the internships that I have run at KCSB, I also helped young people find their paths.”
Rowse said revitalizing the city’s youth initiatives could encourage students to pursue careers in Santa Barbara.
“If we do our job and restore the funding to the programs that have been cut we will all be better off,” Rowse said. “We need to attract the kind of jobs that are not the next retail or restaurant jobs, but career jobs that you can come back to after your education — jobs in technology and green jobs.”