Candidate Q&A: Norma Santiago for El Dorado County Supervisor
El Dorado County voters in District 5 have the choice of four candidates in the June 5.
To help inform that decision, the Tribune posed a series of questions to each candidate via email. The candidates were asked to restrain their answers to specific word counts for each question. All the answers appear as submitted by the candidates.
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Name: Norma Santiago
Current occupation: Independent Service Provider for the California Department of Rehabilitation, South Lake Tahoe Branch; Community Consultant
Area of residence: Tahoe Valley
Please list any clubs, organizations that you are a part of and would like to mention: Sierra State Parks Foundation, Board Member; El Dorado County Mental Health Commission, Associate Member
Why are you running for supervisor?
I thrive on being in service to the community.
I love being the kind of supervisor that listens and works with the community on delivering solutions that best serve them.
Why should voters choose you over the other candidates?
I am the candidate who best suites the next stages of Lake Tahoe’s evolution in refining a vision and implementing ways to improve technology, advance economic clusters for education, tourism, recreation and environmental science; and, for taking steps in creating the kind of community that will thrive with diversified opportunities for families, the workforce, business, visitors, and assisting those in need within our community.
What is the largest issue facing District 5?
District 5 has been facing a housing crisis for several years and it is time to make a commitment to solve this issue. There have been many studies and gatherings that have led to more studies and gatherings.
Policy changes need to be addressed to move towards building a sustainable, diverse inventory of housing for our residents: revising ordinances for vacation home rentals, converting tourist accommodation units to create some workforce housing, incentivizing short term rentals to become long term rentals and conformance to the 2008 California State Aeronautics Act zoning could seriously impact housing stock.
There is a direct relationship between housing and jobs. The opportunity for varying, well-paying jobs is not only contingent upon a strong and diversified economy, but also on a solid housing policy that creates a diversified housing inventory. We cannot have one without the other.
This issue can only be solved by strong leadership and political will. This will be one of my focused priorities and I fully intend to utilize all available resources by the combined agencies at the Lake to finally provide improvements for affordable workforce housing.
District 5 is made up of a handful of different communities. How would you represent all those interests?
While it is true that District 5 is made of a handful of communities, there are similarities of concern such as representation; housing; jobs; and infrastructure, from roads to digital communications. Through effective collaboration, coordination, and communication with these varying communities, collective solutions can be found that serve the greater good.
Additionally, because of the varying communities on any given issue, one may find a need to partner with different agencies or organizations that work within that specific community. Identifying partners to help resolve those issues and developing good relationships is key to helping the communities find solutions to their particular area of concern.
I have a great deal of experience and, have been known in many circles, as a dot connector. When faced with a community concern, I listen to the nature of the concern; help identify partners that can best help the community address those concerns; identify best practices employed by other communities within the county and beyond that have addressed these concerns; and work with the community on possible solutions.
How should the county address the issue of vacation home rentals? Do you support the idea of a temporary moratorium?
The current escalation of problems with vacation rentals began approximately two years ago. The County while very aware of the issue; was slow to respond. I do believe that all processes have their place; however, given there is a sense of urgency from the community to get to an effective, solid solution quickly, processes should be shorten and expedited. My biggest concern now is that the rate of issuing new permits exceeds the rate to getting to a solution to some of the more complex issues surrounding vacation homes. It is like a “closing the barn door after the horse is let out” scenario which will create more problems. Consideration and much discussion should be given to having a moratorium on the issuance of new permits to give all effected parties an opportunity to formalize solutions to the these more complex issues.
Given my experience with the last revision of the County ordinance, it was very clear that properties under the management of a local property management company were less troublesome and in greater compliance. I would also like to how this could be used in the context of the ordinance.
Finally, it is time for the County to make a policy statement that clearly indicates that these are commercial enterprises and are subject to the same regulatory oversight as any commercial business. It is my understanding that, legally, vacation home rentals are considered single family homes and, thus, are a permissible use in the neighborhood. However, it is well within the County’s authority not to allow certain business type activities in neighborhoods. What is being witnessed in the neighborhoods are small lodging properties that are causing havoc in neighborhoods. The revise ordinance has to have a provision addressing this.
What role (if any) should the county play in alleviating the traffic issues in Meyers?
The county has an important role to play in working with its partners and the community in bringing about solutions to traffic issues. Some of these solutions are contained in current documents such as the Bay to Basin Recreation and Tourism Travel Impact Study released in October 2014. Put together by the El Dorado County Transportation Commission working in conjunction with the Tahoe Transportation District and CalTrans, this document states, “It is clear that transportation policies and investments significantly impact the accessibility and the number and type of destinations available to tourists, and the overall health of a region’s tourism and associated economy. More succinctly stated, the success of a specific tourism market is largely tied to its supporting transportation infrastructure.” Given this, recommendations in the report include broader utilization of intelligent transportation systems to provided real time information about traffic conditions; methods of improving awareness of recreational activities in the area; modification in transportation funding formulas that looks beyond the local population and looks at the numbers that use the roadways; and investment in the road infrastructure itself, just to name a few. We, as a County, need to take advantage of the findings in reports such as this to help implement recommended solutions with agency partners. Often, we are guilty of analysis paralysis. Let us utilized well documented findings to move forward towards solutions without having to reinvent the wheel.
Please explain your decision to sue the county after your time as supervisor? Do you still believe that was the right decision (why or why not?)?
For the purpose of clarification, Supervisor Briggs and I pursued litigation not because of more pay. We pursued it because of a disagreement on a legal interpretation of a compensatory benefit for the members of the Board of Supervisors that was written in the applicable ordinance. Supervisor Briggs, with the help of his own legal counsel, had done extensive research on the matter and brought it to me as well as other members of the board who would have been impacted. Given the extent of his argument, I chose to join him in the case.
As a County Supervisor, you rely heavily on County Counsel to provide you with the legal facts of a case in front of you. I have a great deal of respect for the County Counsel and the many who serve in that capacity. Supervisor Briggs and I had limited avenues for ordinance clarification. From the court’s decision, it forced the County to clarify and correct any misinterpretation of action and ordinance language. In the end, the important thing to remember is not who wins or loses, but that a positive outcome is achieved.
I, strongly, believe that any employee has the right to question policy especially if what is in an ordinance or any governing document is unclear. It is important that clarity be established by whatever manner is available. In our case, the option was to go to court.
I’m glad you asked the question because I want to make it clear to the people that just because you hold a certain position does not take away your constitutional right to challenge a legislative policy.
Is there anything else you would like the voters to know about you?
Anyone aspiring to public service attains their position because of the people. There is an obligation to listen to them. Unfortunately, people are not being heard and that’s why I’m running again.
I am and will always be a dedicated public servant. Leadership is not about the years of experience but about what you do when you’re in a leadership position. In the aftermath of the Angora Fire, I, working with El Dorado County staff, state and federal agencies was able to bring to a community devastated by a catastrophic event a solution that helped them towards the road to recovery. This clean up and recovery achievement then known as the Angora Protocols have become the basis for recovery efforts across the nation. The success in the implementation of these protocols required a complex coordination of local, state, and federal resources. It also required a lot of political will.
When a program or project is not generating the good results we anticipate, we have to make changes. Do you want a County Supervisor that constantly talks about change or one that has proven she makes change happen? I listen, I respond, and I am committed to bringing about community driven solutions.