On and off during my four years here at UCSB I’ve heard of the issues surrounding Isla Vista’s cityhood – or lack thereof – but somehow I never managed to connect it with anything other than abstract economic concerns or visions of an environmental commune. On Monday I realized a much more important side of the issue: Our ability to party this Halloween is directly proportional to the amount of democratic might we wield over our own destinies.
It happened while reading last Friday’s article by Matt Dozier, entitled “I.V. Hears Halloween Security Plans,” with some friends and wondering who was in control of I.V. anyway. Are the powers that be just anti-fun? It turns out the same question was asked by the Santa Barbara Grand Jury just three years ago in one of their finding reports entitled “Isla Vista – Who’s In Charge?”
Back in 1972, an organization known as the I.V. Community Council was recognized by Santa Barbara County as the official representative of the community, but it was disbanded in 1987. Their Planning Commission is responsible for such aspects of our daily lives as Anisq’Oyo’ Park, the I.V. Food Co-op and the I.V. Credit Union.
The most important aspect of this entity was that it gave I.V. citizens much more direct say in their affairs. The council established a voting body, allowing all residents over the age of 16 to participate in elections. This power was used to both establish, and later pass, bond measures to help fund the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District.
In the years before and since, we haven’t had such power. Our unincorporated status means our services and construction are mandated and provided by Santa Barbara County, a form of government that is largely designed to deal with less-populated rural regions. The challenges of maintaining an urban community were never supposed to be handled at the county level.
I’ve had a vague understanding of this for a while now, having attended UCSB through the adoption of the City of Goleta – although with the explicit exclusion of both I.V. and eastern Goleta. Various friends who are here for their first or second year, however, are still under the impression that I.V. is in fact part of Goleta, unaware that it is its own separate entity.
This lack of awareness has led me to write this article, and to try to reformulate the problem in terms that all of us can immediately get behind. If Isla Vista was a city, it would be in control of many of its own laws and policing and have much more say in various countywide decisions, such as the “Festival Ordinance.”
Many of the people I know and myself are feeling like five-year-olds being punished by our parents. An old Nexus article from last year quotes Sgt. Phil Willis as saying that the main use of the mounted patrol in I.V. is on Halloween, and a county board agenda letter from May 2002 shows that the “Festival Ordinance” was specifically put in place in regard to I.V. Halloween parties. In addition, the letter points out a considered option to extend the ordinance year round.
When you’re out on DP this Friday, wondering why you are being blinded by flood lights, holding your nose at the odor of horse manure from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Mounted Unit and walking past cop after cop after cop – and I don’t mean of the sexy persuasion – I urge you to stop complaining to each other and start organizing. Think about how great the party could be a few years from now, and how it could all be thanks to you. Isla Vista, the people. Yes.
Jay Freeman is a senior College of Creative Studies computer science major.