This coming June, UCSB students will have the opportunity to vote in a candidate to represent them and the 37th District in California’s State Assembly. Assemblymember Monique Limón is the incumbent representing the 37th District, which covers Goleta, the greater Santa Barbara area, Channel Islands, and Carpinteria. Limón is running for re-election against two challengers, Sofia Collin and David L. Norrdin.
In a three-part series, The Bottom Line will be publishing interviews with each candidate ahead of the June primary. This second segment is an interview with Monique Limón, a graduate from UC Berkeley and Columbia University. On her website, her biography emphasizes the importance of education, women’s issues, and building strong coalitions between groups.
This interview was conducted through email and has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
Why are you running for the 37th District, and what makes you different from the other candidates running for the position?
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, worked with students in higher education, served on the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board, and served on several nonprofit boards that help our community. This work and experience gives me great perspective about the needs of the central coast.
As your Assemblymember, I proudly represent the 37th District. During this time, I have worked on behalf of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties on issues ranging from protecting our environment, to securing access and affordability in higher education and caring for our elders.
I serve on a number of Committees in the State Assembly including Health, Housing, and Natural Resources. I chair the Banking and Finance Committee and the Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector. As a first time California legislator I had nine bills signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017. Already in 2018 he has signed a bill I authored to allow Vista Del Mar Hospital to continue to serve patients while they rebuild from the Thomas Fire.
What are some of the main problems facing California today, and what solutions should California be considering in tackling these issues?
The recent natural disasters, including the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flows, are a reminder that Californians need to be prepared for unexpected natural disasters and that we need to be prepared to recover from such disasters. As Co-Chair of the Select Committee on Natural Disaster Response, Recovery, and Rebuilding, I have joined other members in the legislature in introducing legislation this year to better assist families who have been impacted by the recent fires and debris flows and help families be prepared [for] future disasters.
This year, I am authoring several bills related to natural disasters. These bills are intended to increase the scale and frequency of fire prevention activities, create a robust year-round local assistance grant program, require emergency communications to be made accessible to the members of our community who speak a language other than English, and make debris removal easier for homeowners with damages. All of these measures will ensure that public health and safety are protected.
Another issue facing Californians today is ensuring we continually protect our environment. Living in coastal communities, we know how important our ocean is — both recreationally and economically. Oil spills are a real threat and I am carrying legislation to protect our state waters from federal encroachment. Last year the governor signed my bill, AB 1328, to require oil companies to disclose the chemicals they inject in the ground when they drill. This gives the regional water boards the tools they need to make sure our water supply stays safe.
How do we make all higher education (including community college, CSUs, UCs, and private schools) more affordable?
College tuition is an ongoing issue in the legislature. As a member of the Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, these concerns have been at the forefront. Attending college, whether it is a community college, CSU or UC, should not be a burden for students or their families. I support the governor and the UC President’s push to not raise tuition at the UC. For almost 11 years I had the opportunity to work on the UCSB campus with students and know first hand the importance of ensuring students are able to focus on their studies, rather than having to focus on their ability to stay in school due to financial constraints. With one in five college students reporting skipping meals or going hungry, I knew we needed to do more.
I was able to secure $7.5 million in last year’s state budget to address the unmet needs at public college campuses, related to food insecurity. Some of that money is now being used to assist programs like the UCSB Food Pantry, among others. I have called for additional investment in State funding for our institutions of higher education. I look forward to continuing to work with state leaders to ensure better access and affordability for higher education through increased investment and the long-term goal of finding a dedicated revenue source.
California seems to be in the middle of a serious housing crisis. Recently, Vox reported last month that “the state’s population has steadily grown, but hasn’t been building new places for people to live at anything close to the same rate. It now ranks 49th in housing units per capita.” CityLab finds that California is “home to more than one-fifth of the nation’s homeless people” with numbers continuing to grow. These patterns have also hurt students in higher education who are looking for housing but are finding it less and less affordable. What are some of your proposals to aid housing issues in California?
California is undeniably facing a housing crisis. As a member of the Housing Committee, I was proud to work on real solutions to address this problem, but there is not one easy fix. Carefully approaching the problem from both a statewide and regional perspective is critical. The legislative package approved by the governor last year included 15 housing bills that provide necessary and overdue funding for new and affordable homes and protects existing affordable homes. It also holds cities and counties accountable for addressing housing needs in their communities.
What are your opinions on Isla Vista governance and self-determination?
Isla Vista is a wonderful and unique community that has a special place in so many people’s hearts. Unfortunately, it has also faced its share of issues. To combat those issues, the residents of I.V. voted in 2016 to form the Isla Vista Community Services District in order to have more control of what is happening on their streets. There is an important voice to be heard in this community that is made up of lifelong residents, families raising their kids, and students; all who want to live in a safe community.
Why should students go out and vote in the upcoming election?
Our vote is one of the most important rights we have; it should not be taken for granted. Some elections are decided by just a handful of votes. This year we are voting for our new governor, statewide officials, and several important propositions. I encourage everyone to vote because election outcomes matter and will indeed impact that lives of those living in our communities — send in your ballot or go to your polling place on election day.