Heather Schmidt On the Issues
Do you support the present coronavirus policies of Ventura County and affiliate cities? Do you support current plans to reopen business and other public venues prior to the general availability of a COVID-19 treatment and/or vaccine? What would you change?
Absolutely, and yet at the same time I believe that the communications coming from our leadership need to be more proactive and bold in the fight against the virus. Specifically, I believe that leadership must clearly and effectively communicate with the citizenry of Camarillo and Ventura County to educate and enlighten, for more participation in mitigating the spread of the virus.
With regards to the availability of a COVID-19 treatment and vaccine, and reopening, I believe that this is where strong leadership was lacking at the first reopening in May. We did not have a cohesive effort to make sure the community was still going to work together to fight the virus, while carefully and cautiously opening businesses. This only hurt businesses and employees, forcing many businesses to close back down when the spread became too wide.
If yes, what are the necessary conditions under which a full reopening could take place? If no, why not and to what degree could public and business activities be restored in the meantime?
There is going to be no such thing as a “full reopening” until there is a vaccine. Anyone who is in a leadership position, or who is vying to be in a leadership position, that tells you otherwise is lying. But there can be a safe way to partially reopen the economy, with the participation and the hard work of our community members. There would be more PPE and more city involvement in getting businesses safe and protected. There would have to be more mask wearing. We also need to look to more ways to support our small businesses in innovative ways, like expanding outdoor eating areas (as just one example) and providing more social distance friendly community activities here in Camarillo to encourage the community to do their part, but still enjoy life.
One last note, I believe that people would be a lot less weary of this all if they had easier access to testing locally. I see no excuse why the city leadership is not out front in getting the county to offer drive up testing sites. Especially given our significant number of senior and elderly in the population.
How, specifically, would you help to improve or reform the local Police Department?
I have a long track record of working alongside the police and first responders in our community. I believe in community policing. I believe in community Neighborhood Watch programs. I believe in community dialogue, and in task forces that work to address the many issues our community faces, and makes recommendations to the council based on their findings. We also need to address inclusivity and diversity amongst the police force.
All of these things, if implemented more strategically and holistically through the city of Camarillo would work to improve our local Police efforts. The best way to address any issues that may arise with the Police, and to bolster public safety on all fronts (including the prevention of incidences involving law enforcement), is to work alongside the police.
If elected, what, if any, remedies to systemic racism would you help Camarillo implement?
Camarillo has a fairly significant divide and public debate about whether or not racism even exists in our community. Of course racism exists in our community. The fact that so many people feel justified in claiming that it doesn’t is evidence that it does. So we first have to acknowledge the existence of racially charged bias and flagrant hate behavior through community dialogue, townhalls, and organized forums. If elected, I will work to develop a community Taskforce that is education and information based, that will come to the council with recommendations on awareness and public engagement campaigns to stamp out this “whether or not racism even exists” debate, so that we can then move on to determine where it has infiltrated our community systems, to move forward a more coalesced and equitable society.
The inability of people to live in Camarillo, based on wage levels, is a significant problem that inherently affects communities of color disproportionately.
Why are you running for election to the Camarillo City Council?
I believe that Camarillo needs fresh leadership. The community has suffered greatly through this pandemic, in part because it lacks the proactive and out front leadership necessary to weather the storm. We have seen a failure on the municipal level to educate and create awareness of what community members can, and should, be doing to support each other. We’ve seen small businesses go under, not because of “draconian measures,” rather because our local leaders have acted too slowly to mitigate the spread of the virus through public health measures, like mask wearing and social distancing initiatives. Rather than proactively trying varied solutions -- such as more expansive outdoor dining options, aid in safe worship solutions, creative solutions to keep residents active, while still socially distancing, like outdoor drive-in style events here in Camarillo -- our current leadership twiddled their thumbs and celebrated the grand reopening of the community as though the pandemic had abated.
My opponent has been the acting mayor through the course of this pandemic, and he has addressed the public only a few times about safety measures, since March. He celebrated the reopening, without educating the public on how they all must do their part to safely do so.
But it goes way beyond the pandemic that I am running for public office. Camarillo is long overdue for an increase in quality jobs that pay well. We need safer bike paths, and efforts to ramp up public transportation options. We need more community participation in policing, and bold initiatives in sustainability and renewable technologies. These things all have gone by the wayside while city leadership has spent the bulk of their time supporting housing developments that most people cannot afford, commercial buildings that remain largely empty, and attracting jobs that residents cannot afford to take because they offer low wages and lack benefits.
Have you previously held public office? If yes please provide a list with dates.
Please list and describe any pro bono or community service work, including name(s) of organization(s).
I founded the Neighborhood Watch Program at Village at the Park in Camarillo
I founded the AAC Publishing Networking Group
I worked as an organizer and educator at the Camarillo Art Center
Name up to three ways that you will contribute to improving Camarillo through its City Council.
I will immediately work with other local officials, as well as county, to improve the response to the coronavirus pandemic for the residents of the city. This will include looking to bring a drive up testing site to Camarillo, expanding flu shots for those that have not received theirs, and working with small businesses to develop more innovation and strategies to make it through the pandemic.
I want to completely reimagine the roads in Camarillo for safety, bike use, and expanded public transportation in Camarillo.
Hit the ground running with sustainability and innovation for a more eco-friendly and community centered longevity. This includes looking to install areas of publicly accessible WiFi, solar energy generation in the public squares, and protecting our open spaces by bolstering projects in sustainability and renewable energies.
Do you plan to run for higher office in the future?
I am open to any and all possibilities in the future, given that I have the capacity to make a change and affect public policy for the betterment of the community.