“Step number one is being a good listener. That’s what I have done and aspire to keep doing,” Laura Capps said.
Capps — a Santa Barbara local raised by two congresspeople — runs a public affairs firm, is a Santa Barbara Unified School District board member and formerly worked as a speechwriter for Bill Clinton, press secretary for John Kerry, and communications director for Ted Kennedy.
Capps announced her candidacy for Santa Barbara County 2nd District supervisor on Jan. 31. She is currently running unopposed, after potential candidate Jonathan Abboud decided not to run for the position. Though nobody within the second district announced an intention to run yet, the deadline to file for candidacy is March 16.
If elected, Capps hopes to use the office to address local poverty, noting that around 64% of Isla Vista residents live in poverty.
“We have such an incredibly high poverty rate in the County of Santa Barbara,” Capps said. “Most people don’t realize unless they’re living it that our county is tied for first as having the highest poverty in the state of California, and California has the highest poverty in the country.”
According to Capps, the way to address poverty within the county is through an earned income tax credit.
“It rewards people who are working. So if you’re working and you’re making minimum wage, you’re still living in poverty,” Capps said. “This is a tax credit that if you file your taxes, you get cash back. If you have dependents, children depending on you, mouths to feed, you get even more cash back. It is a successful program that was designed to create economic stimulus back in the ’70s.”
Capps said that poverty is intertwined with other issues that need to be addressed within the district, including transportation, education, climate change, houselessness and the local economy.
“I say poverty because it connects to everything … It isn’t just a singular issue. It is a foundational issue. And it drives me to want to be on that board with four other colleagues because I believe we can have an impact in a short amount of time,” Capps said.
In addition to poverty, Capps hopes to implement measures that enforce “good governance.”
“I believe in good governance, which is a big term, but it means that our county needs to be governed as efficiently and ethically as possible. So that leads me to want to impose some new rules that don’t exist,” Capps said. “Our county doesn’t have a lot when it comes to what other counties have done, like an ethics commission.”
“I’m looking forward to getting into the county job and actually understanding and studying where we can make some improvements so that things run more efficiently and that special interests don’t have as much of an influence as they would absent some of these very common sense rules,” she continued.
As COVID-19 and public health regulations remain a part of daily life throughout the country, Capps said she commends the work of the Santa Barbara Public Health Department. Looking forward to her possible tenure on the board, Capps said she’d hope to utilize her communication skills to effectively inform the community about the ever-changing pandemic.
Capps acknowledged that while communicating the new rules that come with the different stages of the pandemic is difficult, her background in communication can be an asset to the endeavor.
“How things get communicated is the way that my brain works and how I’m trained,” Capps said. “That’s where I’d want to add value. Right out of the gate is to help think through how we communicate these ever-changing rules because no matter wherever you are in the spectrum of the restrictions currently, everybody can agree that it’s been confusing.”
When it comes to I.V., Capps hopes to address the college community’s biggest issue: housing.
“Housing, housing, housing. That is the big million dollar question – or maybe a billion dollar question – for Isla Vista and UCSB. I understand the need; I want to be part of the solution,” Capps said.
Capps, whose father, Walter Capps, was a professor at UC Santa Barbara, said she loves the university and wants to advocate on behalf of the college community.
“[UCSB] is intrinsic to who I am, having almost grown up on the campus … I grew up loving it as well and just having such profound respect for all that the campus provides, not just the students, but the entire community and the entire county of Santa Barbara,” Capps said. “And so advocating for students and for faculty and for staff and for the communities of Isla Vista and surrounding UCSB will just be major.”
Capps added that she hopes to address public safety within the I.V. community. In the past two weeks, the I.V. community witnessed the aftermath of a car accident at the UCSB Lagoon that resulted in the death of one individual, two traffic collisions on Del Playa Drive, a shooting on Del Playa Drive and the arrest of a UCSB student for placing hidden cameras in an I.V. residential bathroom.
“I think it also speaks to where we are in crime. [It] is up across the country. I’m not surprised, although it’s unfortunate that we’re experiencing it here as well,” Capps said. “I want to be an advocate for the students for a lot of challenges that are happening in people’s lives right now in varying degrees of trauma.”
If step one for Capps is listening, then step two will be campaigning for the June election. Capps said she hopes to have students involved in campaigning as interns. Any interested students can reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.