As UC Santa Barbara students bask in a long summer, five Isla Vista residents have begun campaigning for office in a college town on the brink of self-governance.
Ethan Bertrand, Spencer Brandt, Jay Freeman, Father Jon-Stephen Hedges and Natalie Jordan are the first to announce candidacy for the I.V. Community Service District (CSD) board of supervisors, which will be put to a vote in November.
The CSD is a proposed form of local government in I.V. with the ability to improve infrastructure, institute community policing and mediate between tenants and landlords.
It will appear as Measure E on the November ballot and require a majority vote to pass. All candidates running for office as the board of directors will be listed on the ballot, along with a tax designed to partially fund the CSD.
Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3), which outlines specific powers for the I.V. CSD, states that the board of directors will have seven members — five directors elected at large, one director appointed by the county and one director appointed by UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang.
Of the five elected board members, four directors must serve four-year terms and one director serves a two-year term. For the inaugural election in November, two four-year positions have been swapped for temporary two-year candidates.
Freeman, who was the first to file for candidacy, is the founder of software company Cydia and a 16-year I.V. resident. He joined the race shortly after an unsuccessful run for Santa Barbara County Supervisor in June. He and Brandt are currently unopposed as the only candidates vying for the two four-year positions.
Jordan and Hedges will be running for the temporary two-year terms and Bertrand is running for the permanent two-year position. The three candidates, along with Brandt, filed for candidacy together. They say their unified action is intended to show that they will support each other as a like-minded slate of candidates.
Clark Covolo, a full-time assistant manager at a nonprofit fundraising organization Telefund, filed for candidacy and made a public Facebook announcement on Tuesday.
He and Bertrand would have competed for the two-year position come November, but he will be dropping out of the race early next week to run for a seat on the I.V. Recreation & Parks District (IVRPD) board of directors instead, leaving Bertrand unopposed.
Covolo said he came to this decision after a “meet-up” with self-governance organizer Jonathan Abboud on Thursday night that concluded he would be “a more valuable asset to the community” as an IVRPD director.
“We talked a lot about the implications of the Community Services District and the levels of scrutiny it’ll be under in the initial years,” he said. “It would be a better use of my knowledge of local government and financial planning to help IVRPD get into better alignment with the objectives of the CSD.”
Abboud said he and Covolo discussed Covolo’s work schedule and decided that it would be difficult for him to win a competitive IVCSD race while working downtown as late as 8 p.m. He said he recommended IVRPD candidacy to Covolo for him to gain more experience.
“With the level of knowledge he has right now, I thought that the CSD was not the right time,” Abboud said. “I was telling him, ‘If you want to be a good CSD board member, there’s a lot of due diligence to do beforehand. You’re going to be under a lot of scrutiny.’”
Abboud, Cameron Schunk and Darcél Elliott, three lead organizers of the self-governance movement, publicly endorsed Bertrand, Brandt, Hedges and Jordan on Friday. Assemblymember Das Williams, who wrote AB 3 has also endorsed Bertrand, Brandt, Hedges and Jordan, according to Elliott, his personal assistant.
Schunk said he, Abboud and Elliott helped the candidates coordinate their candidacy and chose them from a group of approximately 10 residents who expressed interest during an information session in July.
“The most primary benefit of creating a slate of candidates like this is giving people the opportunity to start working together now so that, when they’re elected to the board, they’ve already formed that cohesion,” he said.
According to Abboud, he and the other organizers interviewed at least nine potential candidates and decided to support Bertrand, Brandt, Jordan and Hedges for being the “most qualified” and “most well-connected” candidates. The four new candidates represent the various demographics of I.V., according to Elliott.
“I was looking for who I wanted to support and who’s going to run,” Abboud said. “We’re throwing our support behind these four because they’re the four best candidates who showed interest in running.”
Bertrand, who currently serves as an IVRPD director, said he has been active at the self-governance meetings since fall 2014, “before we had even decided that a Community Services District would be a good idea.”
He is a former I.V. community representative for the student government at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), and said he plans to attend UCSB in the future. “I love this community and I love the people here,” he said, and is currently taking a break from school to do political work and community projects.
Brandt, second-year history of public policy major, gained interest in the IVCSD after covering self-governance meetings as a Nexus photographer. His first assignment was in October 2015 when AB 3 was signed into law. From then on, he said he picked up as many assignments as possible for the Tuesday night meetings.
“These outreach meetings are a large reason why I decided to run in the first place,” Brandt said in an email. He said he is running for a four-year term, the longest term-length possible in this race, so he can “ensure that there is a precedent set for student representation and participation on the board.”
Jordan, third-year history of public policy major, recently won the race for Associated Students (A.S.) Internal Vice President. She said she offers a role on the CSD board of directors as someone who can “facilitate the partnership” between the CSD and the University. In her first year at UCSB, Jordan also served as A.S. Off-Campus Senator.
“I want to bring to the table the students and residents of Isla Vista who are not often normally politically engaged,” Jordan said in an email. “They will need to be part of the solution if we want the CSD to be widely successful.”
Hedges is a local pastor and volunteer chaplain for the I.V. Foot Patrol and has lived in I.V. since he first arrived in 1968 as a UCSB student. He is running for the director position because he “got drafted” by other community members, he said.
“I responded favorably to that because I believe in what is being done with the Community Services District,” he said. After living in I.V. for 48 years, he said he has been in a “unique position” to have observed and been “right in the middle of” much of I.V. history.
“This is the first time I have heard a strategy that really moves this community forward toward identity and a voice,” he said. “It may not have been time for [the CSD] decades ago, but it is time now.”
The four new candidates will be officially registered with the county elections office after finishing paperwork due August 12, according to Hector Gonzalez-Loera, the Santa Barbara County elections supervisor. Prior to dropping out, Covolo was the only candidate that had filed completely, Gonzalez-Loera said.