In a bold rebuke of the local Democratic Party’s endorsement of Meagan Harmon for re-election to Santa Barbara City Council, council member Alejandra Gutierrez lends her support to Harmon’s challenger Nina Johnson.
Gutierrez, herself backed by the party when she was elected to represent District 1 in 2019, said Johnson had the practical assets and the personal temperament to more effectively represent District 6, which spans the major part of State Street and downtown Santa Barbara.
Gutierrez said that while Harmon “speaks well,” Johnson – who worked at Town Hall for 25 years, most recently as Deputy City Administrator – is better equipped to navigate the various stakeholders in the community and the city bureaucracies to “really get us going”, especially with regard to the declining trade corridor.
“Nina has worked her entire career to bring people together to make things happen,” Gutierrez said, citing Johnson’s role as the town hall go-to person for businessmen, landlords and owners. arts organizations looking to navigate the red tape jungle of Santa Barbara. . She achieved the closure in 2019 of the State Street underpass for an artistic and musical event, said Gutierrez, who went on to serve as a successful model for the current walk. Johnson also single-handedly organized an architectural charette that provided the council – for free – with a rich portfolio of creative ideas for a future city center.
“She’s already doing the job,” Gutierrez said. “His work speaks for itself and his credibility is impeccable. Gutierrez said she would be particularly excited to work with Johnson, who has campaigned to bring a machete to some of this paperwork, on other art projects, and to leverage her expertise in negotiating with homeowners. and business owners on downtown revitalization plans. “You have to sit down and talk with these people to really progress,” said Gutierrez. “Show knows how to do this. “
Gutierrez acknowledged that his support for Johnson rather than Harmon would likely create waves within the Democratic Party and lose favor in some political circles. “But I don’t care about that,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.” As an educator, she said, “I always tell my students that doing the right thing isn’t always easy or popular. “
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During their time on the council together, Gutierrez accused Harmon of sowing discord among his co-workers, conversing with some and ignoring others. “It creates the division,” Gutierrez said. “I don’t want someone like that to run our community.” Gutierrez also claimed that Harmon is effective at bending to a liberal crowd but not rolling up his sleeves and making a difference in people’s everyday lives. “She looks progressive, but how much has she really done?” asked Gutiérrez.
As an example, on the other hand, Gutierrez continued, Johnson has been working quietly behind the scenes during the pandemic to connect her with funding sources to set up learning modules in her district. Parents at the time were desperate for WiFi access and a space to organize Zoom lessons. “Thanks to Nina and other members of the community, we were able to help students from low-income families get back to school,” said Gutierrez. “Above all, Nina seeks to find resources to meet local needs. She always does the best for the greatest good, not just hanging out with other politicians.
Johnson said she was grateful for Gutierrez’s approval. “I am deeply honored to have his support and trust,” she said. “As women of color, we know how difficult it is to be recognized for our contributions and strengths. She is a courageous leader who is passionate about solving today’s problems: homelessness, the high cost of housing and economic recovery for businesses. I’m excited to work with her and bring more people together to be innovative downtown.
In another surprise of approval, Johnson previously gained support from the Santa Barbara County Democratic Women in Harmon.
Meanwhile, Harmon is backed by Congressman Salud Carbajal, State Senator Monique Limon and Assembly Member Steve Bennett, among other big names in the county’s political establishment. She is also supported by the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and the Central Coast Labor Council.
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