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November 6, 2018 — California General Election
Local

City of Santa MariaCandidate for Council Member, Council District 4

Photo of Rafael "Rafa" Gutierrez

Rafael "Rafa" Gutierrez

Attorney/Business Owner
3,062 votes (42.62%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • My top priority as a council member is to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods through a robust community policing program, increased educational, employment and leisure opportunities for young people, and ensuring adequate police staffing levels.
  • The economic revitalization of the city is as important as public safety because by attracting 21st Century technology companies to the city we ensure residents have better-paying jobs and strengthen the tax base so we can fund essential services.
  • Successfully lobby for the location of a California State University campus in Santa Maria to take advantage of our proximity to Vanderberg AFB, educate and train future generations of Santa Marians, and at the same time boost the area’s economy.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Attorney and Small Business Owner
Attorney, R. G. Gutierrez Law Firm (2018–current)
Deputy Public Defender, Attorney, Office of the Public Defender of the County of Santa Barbara (2016–2017)
Case manager/Attorney, James R. Murphy Jr. A Law Corporation (2014–2016)

Education

Columbia University Law School Doctorate in, Law (2000)
univesrity of Calfiornia at Berkeley Bachelor's Degree in, Political Science (1997)
Allan Hancock College Associate Degrees, In Social Science and International Studies (1995)

Community Activities

Pro bono advocate for chidlren with disabilities and their families, Fiesta Educativa, Inc. and Down Syndrome Association of Orange County (2005–2012)
Editorial Board Member, Columbia Human Rights Law Review (1998–2000)
Member, Santa Barbara County KIDS Network (1994–1995)
Member, Santa Barbara County Superintended of Schools' Alternative Education Committee (1993–1994)
Campaing Manager, Friends of Rogelio Flores for Judge (1994–1994)

Biography

Rafael attended Ernest Righetti High School and Allan Hancock College. At Righetti, Rafael studied drafting and architecture design and he received several awards for his skills in those areas. As a high school and junior college student, Rafael supported himself by working as a carpenter for a local construction company. His experience in construction and love of architecture led Rafael to become proficient in other areas of construction, including electrical, plumbing, and finish carpentry, in addition to architectural design, a field he has continued to pursue.

 

In reverence of his mother’s example, when Rafael was at Hancock, he began volunteering to work for the benefit of the community.  From the early to mid-1990s, Rafael served on the County of Santa Barbara Superintendent of Schools’ Alternative Education Committee, which functioned as an advisory body on issues pertaining to at-risk youth. Later, Rafael served on the Santa Barbara County Kids Network, an advisory body on children and family issues created by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Besides running successful campaigns for student government at Hancock, Rafael also volunteered to work in Judge Rogelio R. Flores’ campaign and eventually served as the campaign manager. 

 

After graduating from Allan Hancock College, Rafael attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Art degree in political science. The subject matter of his honors thesis was California’s Three Strikes Law. While at Berkeley, Rafael volunteered to work at La Raza Centro Legal, a legal aid organization in San Francisco where he served as a labor and employment advocate for low income clients and often represented clients at Labor Commissioner hearings.

 

Rafael then attended Columbia Law School in New York. At Columbia Law School, Rafael joined the editorial board of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and edited several legal articles for the journal. Rafael also served as editor of the Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, in addition to serving in other law school student organizations. 

 

Following his graduation from Columbia Law School, and prior to embarking on his legal career, Rafael worked in the fields of real estate, banking and finance in Los Angeles and Orange counties, which included working as a financial planner and financial advisor at Smith Barney.

 

Rafael’s unwavering devotion to giving back continued, and when residing in Orange County, he served on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County, where he worked closely with the administration and faculty of local law schools to increase access to higher education for disadvantaged students. 

 

 

Rafael also volunteered to serve as a pro bono advocate for children with developmental disabilities and their families. While working as such advocate, Rafael came to the realization that there was an enormous need for knowledge of the applicable laws and negotiating skills among parents of children with disabilities. Consequently, Rafael started conducting seminars teaching parents the law and how to effectively advocate for their children. At first, Rafael conducted the seminars at his home, and later at the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County and Fiesta Educativa, Inc., an organization serving primarily Spanish-speaking parents of children with developmental disabilities. In 2012, Rafael served as the Master of Ceremonies for Fiesta Educativa’s annual conference, a conference attended by over 500 parents of children and adults with developmental disabilities and which featured speakers such as Rosario Marin, former Treasurer of the United States, and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. 

 

More recently, prior to opening his own law practice in the heart of Santa Maria, Rafael worked as an attorney for a law firm in Arroyo Grande with a focus on civil litigation and as a deputy public defender with the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office in the City of Santa Maria. 

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Growing up as the youngest of eleven children in a deeply religious working-class family, Rafael learned many things, fundamental among them where the importance of service to others, loyalty to family, neighbors, and community, but also the value of charity as well as social and financial responsibility. 

 

Rafael is a firm believer in the power of education to lift people up and enable them to fulfill their potential. He is the product of that power. After his mother’s passing following a long battle with cancer, it was education which offered Rafael a path to success. On the other hand, as a financial planner and small business owner, Rafael knows the importance of investing strategically with a long-term view, that is why he views investing in young people and education as essential functions of government.

 

Rafael understands very well that in order to prosper and offer its residents a greater quality of life, a community has to work to diversify its tax base and its job market. While recognizing the agricultural industry has been the backbone of Santa Maria’s economy for more than a century, and will continue to be essential to its future, Rafael believes that in order to prosper and increase the quality of life for its residents, Santa Maria needs to attract companies in 21st century industries—high tech, information technology, aerospace, and biomedical—industries that offer better paying jobs and enable us to remain competitive in the world economy.

 

A key component of making Santa Maria more attractive to 21st Century technology companies is to bring a California State University (CSU) campus to the city. In Rafael’s view, the entire city council should spearhead the multi-year lobbying effort needed to convince state representatives and the CSU Board of Trustees to approve the location of a CSU campus in Santa Maria. There are several reasons to advocate for such campus. First, the CSU system is looking to expand its number of campuses and it is here in Santa Maria where the population in the Central Coast is growing. Second, nearby Cal Poly and UCSB are highly impacted and our children should have the opportunity to attend college near home. Third, the city’s proximity to Vanderberg AFB would enable the new CSU Santa Maria to be one of the preeminent institutions of higher education in civilian space technology and attract more companies in that area to Santa Maria. Fourth, the new CSU campus would help boost the region’s economy and strategic importance while diversifying the employment and tax base of the city. For example, in 1995 the legislature approved a new University of California Campus for the city of Merced, a city of 82,000 people. In 2000 construction of the new campus started and in 2005 the new freshman class entered the new UC Merced. Today, roughly 13 years after it opened, UC Merced contributes over $1.6 billion to the local economy.

 

Besides bringing a CSU campus to Santa Maria, in order to persuade high tech, information technology, aerospace and biomedical companies to invest in Santa Maria, the city must show it is willing to invest in itself. That is why a critical part of Rafael’s plan for the city of Santa Maria will be to work with the private sector and to access resources at the county, state, and federal levels to revitalize the downtown area.

 

At the core of Rafael’s plan to revitalize Santa Maria’s downtown are multiple changes to the way we approach growth. Rather than encouraging or enabling urban sprawl, which increases the costs of providing public services, the city must create incentives to encourage the development of mixed-use projects—retail and office space in the first and second floors and condominiums or apartments in the upper floors—all along Main Street and Broadway Avenue but beginning at the core of the city. Rather than growing out, we must grow up. 

 

In addition to encouraging the development of mixed use projects along Main Street and Broadway Avenue, the city must work together with the current mall’s owner to redevelop it as an open-air shopping center. 

 

Similarly, rather than to allow development of hotels in the north end of town, the city should encourage new hotel developments to be located closer to the downtown area to support the mall and small businesses in the area.

 

The redevelopment of the mall into an open-air shopping center and the concentration of hotels in downtown must be accompanied by promoting the construction of a civic auditorium which can provide a venue for live theater, comedy shows and concerts, as well as promoting the relocation of museums and galleries to the downtown area. 

 

Essential to the success of the downtown area will be the expansion of pedestrian and bicycle accessways as well as more efficient public transportation. The aim of the city should be to encourage the critical mass concentration of shopping, dining, lodging, cultural attractions, and mixed-use, commercial and high density residential projects in downtown to encourage people to live, work, shop, dine, and entertain in downtown.

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