Isla Vista Community Services District General Manager and Santa Barbara City College Trustee Jonathan Abboud is running for the California State Assembly as a Democratic candidate in 2022.
The UC Santa Barbara 2014 alumnus is centering his campaign around education, housing, childcare and climate change. Presently, he’s the first to announce his candidacy.
“I’m passionate about the central coast and making it a better place for everyone here,” Abboud said. “I really want to work on steering us towards a brighter future and doing that through thoughtful, open and respectful communication.”
He was formerly UCSB’s A.S. president during the 2013-14 school year and is currently the youngest Santa Barbara City College trustee.
Abboud also worked with the former State Assemblymember Das Williams to create a bill that ultimately created the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD).
“I’ve never been afraid to take on the hard issues and address them throughout my entire time as a community leader,” Abboud said. “That’s always been my focus, is taking on the most important issue, the tough issues and the ones that people feel are most important.”
If elected, Abboud hopes to increase funding for local public school districts, increase teacher salaries and work to solve the current shortage of substitute teachers in California.
“We need to fully fund our schools and we need to get back to being in the top, at least top 25%, of the country and funding in per student funding. But we’re in the bottom 10 right now,” he said. “We used to be, if not number one, in the very top of the country in funding per student for K-12 students. So I would want us to get back to that point.”
Abboud also wants to address issues affecting higher education in the central coast.
“I want to get us back to tuition-free college. I want to get the Cal Grant expanded within the California community college system, which right now, [is] not available to California community college students,” Abboud said. “I think a big part of education and housing, it’s kind of a dual issue, is student housing because I think the state needs to make bigger investments and more strategic investments in affordable housing.”
Abboud added that he wants to streamline the transfer pathway from community colleges to California State Universities (CSU) and Universities of California (UC) and provide adjunct higher education faculty members with more job security.
The Democratic candidate expanded on these improvements and discussed bigger system changes, including changing the way people are appointed to the governing boards of higher education by implementing elections for members instead of operating on an appointment-based system.
“One other idea I’ll put out there on the higher education front is reforming the governing boards of the higher education institutions like UC, CSU [and] community colleges, to make them more accountable. Right now, there is a lot of disagreement that the UC regents are not accountable to the public interest and appointment only,” Abboud said.
In addition to education, Abboud hopes to improve childcare accessibility, citing the City of Goleta’s approach to childcare as an ideal model.
“[The City of Goleta has] actually been a statewide leader on childcare. Council Member James Kyriaco has been working on it, and they’re doing things like making it easier to zone and permit childcare facilities just to increase the number of them,” Abboud said. “So, I think something like that on a statewide level would be helpful just to increase the availability of [childcare].”
Abboud also stressed the need to build more housing, both for students and for houseless residents in the central coast.
Abboud’s final campaign issue, climate change, centers around improving housing and transportation — he noted that 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions are transportation-based.
“We’ve got people who work at UCSB who live as far as Camarillo or Santa Maria or even SLO who are driving down to UCSB to work,” he said.
“That’s just a clear one where [if] the state invested in workforce housing more for UCSB, that’s just a lot of people being taken off the road not needing to commute that far.”
With seven years of public service under his belt, Abboud said he wants to center his priorities around the needs of the people living along the central coast.
“I just want to re-emphasize my determination to work for the people here and to get things done on their behalf. Again, that’s always been my guiding principle. I want to work on the issues that are important to people here, and not just any issue, but the long standing ones, the tough ones, the ones that we really need to solve to make life better,” Abboud said.
“And I will be laser focused on getting those done using the seven years of experience I have, using the energy I have and using the knowledge and connections I’ve built over the years in the community.”