The Citizens Planning Association hosted an online forum Wednesday for voters to interactively submit their questions to November’s City Council election candidates.

The online forum covered topics including rent control, curb extensions and the recent Occupy SB protests in De la Guerra Plaza. A virtual chat room allowed community members to debate with a panel of candidates including Cathy Murillo, Iya Falcone, Sebastian Aldana Jr. and Cruzito Cruz, as well as incumbents Dale Francisco and Michael Self.

According to chat room moderator and Santa Barbara Independent senior editor Matt Kettmann, the modernized forum spurred significant participation from local residents.

“There are about 60 people watching now, and about 15 to 20 of those are actually chiming in and asking questions,” Kettmann said. “There are also a lot of back-and-forth discussions.”

City TV Santa Barbara producer and reporter Dominique Blocker said participants were impressively up-to-date on current local events and issues.

“This is a very, very active audience,” Blocker said. “They are taking the comments the council members are saying and comparing them to what they said in prior meetings.”

During the discussion, Aldana said demonstrations in De la Guerra Plaza reflect the difficulties in drawing the line between people’s rights and the county’s laws.

“You can’t take away rights from the public and the people,” Aldana said. “However, you also have to look at the rules of the city. I believe you have to be out of De la Guerra Plaza by a certain time.”

Council contenders also discussed the council’s expectations and requirements for the upcoming year.

Falcone cautioned that the position requires an incredible amount of time and dedication to the community.

“Having served eight years, I know for sure I logged a minimum of 60 hours a week and four of those years were unpaid,” Falcone said. “Meeting with people, going to their neighborhood meetings — it is more than a full-time job.”

Francisco emphasized the need for future council members to prioritize the city’s security.

“We should be focused as a city to provide public safety and to provide a clean and safe environment,” Francisco said. “That is the best we can do as a city for the citizens that work two jobs.”

Murillo, KCSB’s News and Public Affairs director, said she would not be able to pass up the opportunity to serve on the council.

“I will quit my job at the radio station, although I love it,” Murillo said.

Additionally, panel members shared opinions about a plastic bag ban similar to Carpinteria City Council’s decision to ban single-use bags last week.

Cruz said more pressing preservation issues take precedence over the plastic proposal.

“I think I am against it,” Cruz said. “There are more oppressing environmental issues in the community right now. However, if the constituents want to vote, then it is up to the voters.”

According to Self, similar sustainable programs are already in place to curb the amount of pollution emitted by Santa Barbara grocery markets.

“All the cities that have done bag bans have been sued for lots of money,” Self said. “What we did is a mandatory ‘Where is your Bag?’ program to educate all the grocers. We also agreed to put it on the next ballot so the city residents can vote.”