Suza Francina On the Issues
Issue statements by candidates are quoted from public media statements either direct or edited for brevity.
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? Yes What would you change? Yes. Ojai is following State and County regulations and the City Council cannot weaken those regulations, only strengthen them. We objected to the County closure of a local variety store that we considered "essential business." (It is now open) If I could change State regulations I would loosen restrictions on outdoor activities for children. Closing playgrounds has a negative impact on children from lower income families, especially if living in apartment buildings and other housing situations where they have no yard to play in. I also believe the State and County could do much more to encourage personal health practices, eating organically grown, pesticide free food, appropriate vitamin and mineral supplements to boost one's immune system, increase exposure to sunlight and fresh air. Note: Almost all County Covid related deaths had a comorbidity such as heart disease, diabetes, drug overdose, and old age related health conditions.
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?
Continue to promote masked, outdoor socially-distanced activities, doing business by appointment rather than drop-in to avoid too many people in a building at once, promote outdoor dining and other services that could be done safely outdoors. Outdoor classrooms. Continue strict regulations of no large gatherings. Encourage open windows and doors to allow for improved fresh-air flow.
How, specifically, would you help to improve or reform the local Police Department?
The problem is that we no longer have a local police department familiar with our local community. Our County police services operate under a $3.4 million police budget. The council is currently investigating ways to reduce the police budget and allocate more funds to social and health services, support struggling families, and help fund housing for the homeless.
If elected, what, if any, remedies to systemic racism would you help Ojai implement?
According to statistics, the Ojai Valley is 87% white. I don't know if that is due to racism or lack of affordable housing and jobs. I regard failure to provide Hispanic and Latino workers primarily in the low income tourism/housekeeping and agriculture industry with affordable housing, reliable public transportation and safe bike routes as a form of discrimination. The Council recently instructed staff to come back with a Black Lives Matter Resolution.
Interconnected key issues: water, housing, traffic congestion, tourism
We do not have the water or infrastructure to handle more tourists. We need to protect our housing stock for local residents and enforce our residential zoning laws. We have a narrow two-lane highway with traffic spilling onto our residential streets. In order to maintain the small-town character we’ve worked so hard to maintain, and get the thousands of visitors that drive into our valley, it is essential that we implement the bicycle pedestrian master plan that was first adopted when I was on the council in 1998.
The city needs to bring the full range of water experts to the table — people in the valley as well as outside consultants, groundwater agencies, local and state agencies involved with our water supply, permaculture and primary water experts. I support the adoption of Water-Wise Development Standards intended to promote water conservation. We need to require that all new construction be designed to conserve water using efficiency practices such as low-flow toilets, gray-water systems and ways of capturing rainfall. We need to learn how to slow and sink rainwater on our land to rehydrate our aquifers. Landscaping should be limited to drought-tolerant plants. Like some other cities, we might consider a moratorium on issuing water service connections.
One way that the city can help is to protect our housing stock and make sure that houses that were built and permitted to be long-term houses for local families don’t end up as short-term rentals. Every house removed from the inventory impacts our families. Protecting Ojai’s small-town character means that we must do everything we can do to make it possible for families to stay in Ojai. I am committed to protecting our housing stock for our residents and enforcing residential zoning laws. We need to solarize all public facilities and provide incentives for home owners to follow suit. In the years to come with our growing senior population we will be looking at options like co-housing and other solutions.
Local economy and tourism
I make every effort to shop locally and encourage others to do the same. Growing up in Ojai, I remember when the stores in our downtown core catered more to the daily life needs of residents and not mainly to tourists. It is critical that local businesses fully understand the downside of overly depending on tourism. At first it seems logical that more tourists means more customers. But if you study what happens to towns where tourism has taken over, you will see that in the long run, along with this ever-increasing flow of tourist customers you inevitably get new competition. As tourism increases past the balance between the needs of local residents and visitors, the town gets noticed by wealthy mega investors. This new competition is much more competitive with a high-end marketing department and ample cash and time to build their business. They start buying up buildings, setting up shops that mainly cater to tourists, and increased rents drive locally owned business out. Locals lose the ability to control the town and it becomes more and more a corporate-controlled city.
Three public safety issues immediately come to mind: Drought, traffic and drugs. There are many others but I’ll focus on these.
The longer it doesn’t rain, lack of water increases fire risk. While we may be able to access sufficient outside sources of water for our personal needs, consider how the dryness of the landscape, the dying trees, increases fire risk.
Increased traffic without a bicycle pedestrian infrastructure is a public safety hazard, especially for the more vulnerable members of the Ojai community, our children and those who are new to traveling by bicycle. I have served on the city’s Complete Streets Committee and cycled the valley with representatives from CalTrans and other agencies/planners many times. I attended numerous county and state workshops on making cities more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, and promoted bicycle safety education and create Safe Routes to School. As an elected official, I set an example by leaving my car at home and walking or bicycling as much as possible.
The continuing opiate epidemic causes accidental deaths from prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin to exceed accidental deaths from car accidents. I am strongly in support of medical marijuana licensing. Medical marijuana pain management properties are now well-established as a safer alternative to opiates — the time has come for doctors and other health professionals, law enforcement and policy makers to work together on this public health and safety issue.
My definition of “natural resources” is broad and encompasses the whole of nature, plants, animals, soil, water and the sky above.
My philosophy has always been that in a more enlightened era a place as beautiful as Ojai would have the same level of protection as a national park. Fortunately, we have organizations like the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, the Ojai Valley Defense Fund, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, Ojai Trees, the Ojai Water Trust, Ojai Valley Bee Keepers, the Raptor Center and other wildlife protection groups, groups like Pesticide-Free Ojai, as well as numerous individuals working with the City Council, Planning Commission and other agencies to protect our natural resources.
The Land Use Element of our General Plan sets forth the city’s fundamental philosophy that future growth will consist primarily of in-fill development, thus preserving open space and mountain views. I am pledged to the enforcement of our tree ordinance and various other ordinances that help protect the city’s natural resources. We even have a Dark Sky and Neighbor-Friendly Lighting ordinance that not only allows us to view the stars at night but helps to prevent wildlife disorientation and confusion.
Why are you running for re-election to the Ojai City Council?
I'm seeking re election to complete the work that's still in progress, including the process of updating the General Plan, which is a blueprint for the future of Ojai for approximately the next 20 years. I am also seeking re-election to support implementing the June 2020 Ojai Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee interim Report and Recommendations [https://ojaicity.org/climate-emergency-mobilization-committee/]. I support the Committee's recommendations that the City Council assert its leadership and create climate mitigation policies, programs, and resolutions so that Ojai reaches its full potential as a model, sustainable city.
Please list key published articles/books if applicable (include links where possible).
Weekly health and environment columnist for the Ojai Valley News for 12 years. Contributor to Yoga Journal and other health oriented publications. My books on yoga and health are available in bookstores nationwide and internet book sites.
Please list and describe any pro bono or community service work, including name(s) of organization(s).
My volunteer background includes teaching yoga to seniors (low or no-cost) and Jr. High and High School age students. For the past four years, I've served on the Complete Street subcommittee, listening to input from a wide range of members of our community, including pedestrians with mobility, vision, and hearing challenges. I've led Bike Trains to School for many years and participated in other bike advocacy programs to create Family Friendly Safe Routes to Schools, Parks and other destinations. I'm the City liaison to the Ojai Valley Green Coalition and Ventura County Animal Services. I've served on the Ventura County Transportation Commission. I am an animal advocate working with the No-Kill Ventura Group and numerous animal rescue groups and organizations.
Name up to three ways that you will contribute to improving Ojai through its City Council.
I will continue to contribute to the updating the Ojai General Plan, which is a blueprint for the future of Ojai for approximately the next 20 years. I will continue to support implementation of the June 2020 Ojai Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee interim Report and Recommendations. I support the Committee's recommendations that the City Council assert its leadership and create climate mitigation policies, programs, and resolutions so that Ojai reaches its full potential as a model sustainable city.
I'd like to see the Council continue to adopt codes and policies that support higher energy efficiency and renewable energy, all aspects of solar technology including "solar farms." The City is in the process of implementing the Active Transportation Project (ATP) on Ojai Avenue and Maricopa Highway, as part of a City, County and Region-wide network of safe bicycle routes so that all ages and levels of ability can use the bicycle and other non-polluting forms of alternative transportation, not just for recreation, but as daily life transportation. The Maricopa Highway section of the project starts with a six-month long temporary Demonstration Project (funded with a grant from the Southern California Association of Governments), where we will gather data that will inform the final project. The ATP also supports my goal of planting many more trees throughout Ojai for shade, beautification, and to capture and sequester carbon, retain water and replenish our soil.
I want to continue the City Council's support to transition from conventional agricultural practices to pesticide free, regenerative agriculture. Even though most agriculture is outside the City limit, the use of toxic pesticides affects Ojai’s citizens, and the success or failure of agriculture will also have a tremendous economic impact on the future of our valley.
Name the three most important current public issues that Ojai currently faces, or that you expect it to face during the course of your term in office.
In addition to all the aforementioned issues, we are currently experiencing the consequences of the climate crisis with extreme weather events, droughts, sea-level rise, wildfires and other changes. Water issues will be an ongoing challenge in the years to come. One of our greatest challenges is to work with the City of Ventura in developing mutually beneficial, sustainable water solutions.
The lack of affordable housing has led to a decline in school enrollment--many of our workers cannot afford to live here. Ojai Is internationally known as an artist community, and as a spiritual and healing place. But if we don't solve the housing crisis, we risk the loss of our artists, writers, and practitioners of the healing arts. Without affordable housing, we will lose the diversity that enriches small town life.
Do you plan to run for higher office in the future?
Please list candidates you have endorsed publicly, if any.
Bernie Sanders, my nephew Das Williams (former Ojai representative to the State Assembly, current Santa Barbara County Supervisor)
Please list candidates and organizations that have endorsed you, if any.
Ventura County Young Democrats, applied for endorsement Ventura County Democratic Central Committee and Ventura County Women's Political Committee. Endorsed by VC Star and Ojai Valley Democratic Club in 2016.