SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The election is fast approaching and voters are deciding who they want to see in office. Santa Maria candidates running for local office shared what issues they want to focus on in Thursday's Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.
Among the mayoral candidates, housing is a big issue.
Incumbent Alice Patino said crowding is an issue. "We just passed a rezone and a specific plan Tuesday night," she said, "where we are going to be able to build some single family homes."
Candidate Alberto Ugalde said affordable housing should be planned. "They make the builder reserve 20 to 25 percent of the building for affordable housing, so maybe that's something we could look into," he said.
Candidate Will Smith said developers need to keep affordability in mind. "If we are going to give them any breaks, then they're going to need to make the rents to where they're affordable to the people," he said. "The average income around here for a family is somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000.
Another popular topic of the evening for city council in district one is youth.
Candidate Carlos Escobedo talked about youth programs cancelled in the pandemic. "The youth and recreation, everything right now, it's been a challenge," he said. "This is a great opportunity to learn from this pandemic."
Candidates Brian Billones, Christopher Diaz and Osvaldo Sotelo spoke about youth programs as a tool to prevent gang involvement.
"I think it would be great to have community centers," said Billones. "We have the Abel Maldonado youth center but we could also have centers built at the park specifically for youth."
"We could think of investing in things that keep [youth] from turning to that direction in the first place," said Diaz. He said "parks and rec centers, swimming pools, [and] basketball courts" are all examples of this.
"My goal in focusing on youth programs and giving our youth a future connection to the city," said Sotelo. "The youth who are inspired to engage are youth who don't get involved in the criminal justice system."
Mike Cordero for city council, district two, is running unopposed.