Decades of self-governance movements culminated in a six-hour gathering at the Isla Vista Community Room this Tuesday evening when the I.V. Community Services District held its first public meeting.
Directors Ethan Bertrand, Spencer Brandt, Jay Freeman, Bob Geis, Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, Natalie Jordan and George Thurlow were sworn in by First District Supervisor Das Williams to a crowded room of cheers and applause. Directors Bertrand, Jordan and Brandt were voted in unanimously as president, vice-president and secretary, respectively.
Prominent members of the community were present including representatives from the Third District Supervisor’s office and the I.V. Recreation & Park District as well as community leaders like the president of the I.V. Community Development Corporation. Several members of the public were also present to express their excitement and concerns over the district’s future.
The CSD confirmed Geis, former auditor-controller for the county of Santa Barbara, as the county appointee to the Board of Directors and Thurlow as the university appointee, who will serve until Dec. 4, 2020. Thurlow, the assistant vice chancellor for alumni affairs and special assistant to the chancellor for I.V. Affairs at UC Santa Barbara, will report directly to Chancellor Henry T. Yang for local government business.
Director Freeman expressed his concern over the appointment process for county and university appointees, saying the process is too lenient for the appointees who would be acquiring representation without being directly elected to the Board.
“I was adamantly against both appointed positions, the county and the university. There’s a reason why the structure of the CSD is set up the way that it is with elected representatives,” Freeman told the Nexus after the meeting Tuesday. “The university has committed funds, but only for seven years, but then they will continue to have this representation essentially forever.”
Freeman said while he had hoped for a more independent district, UCSB is currently the only funding source for the CSD, meaning that the district should look to work together with the university in order to complete projects beneficial to both residents and students.
“Because the only person who has put money into this right now is the university, it’s a matter of working with the university and figuring how to find things in Isla Vista that they would be interested in funding,” Freeman said.
Director Bertrand said it is important to recognize that elected I.V. residents still hold a majority on the board and said he believes the appointees are great choices.
“I think we’ve ended up with excellent appointees,” Bertrand said. “I think it’s important that we look to them as allies and also recognize that the majority of the members are residents of I.V. who were publicly elected.”
Freeman said his concerns over the district’s independence are focused on the future of the district’s autonomy rather than the individual people appointed to the board.
“My issue is not with the people involved. I like George. I like Bob. I’m glad that those are the two people who are appointed. I just, I had a dream of a more separate district,” Freeman said. “The appointment process allows leniency for people who weren’t even in Isla Vista on the district, and we’re lucky to have people like Bob Geis who has been around here for a long, long time, but who knows what could happen.”
As for the university’s role in I.V. through the CSD, Director Thurlow said Chancellor Yang is focused on improving the area.
“He is incredibly interested in making Isla Vista better,” Thurlow said. “It’s a priority for him.”
Thurlow said he plans to work, in the short term, on an internship program for UCSB students to work directly with the CSD. Thurlow said the program would offer paid internships through private funding and would be conducted through the political science department.
“I’m hopeful that that’s a program we can start right way in the spring with two interns and then have more interns in the summer. And these would all be paid interns,” Thurlow said.
Among the items discussed on the meeting’s agenda were the creation of three committees – the formation, internships and policy committees – which will work on getting the government organization started, hiring additional staff and writing policy.
Members of the CSD also prepared a 90-day action plan outlining potential solutions to I.V. problems. The plan is an unofficial 25-page document prepared by Bertrand and Brandt detailing plans to establish a municipal advisory council, a graffiti abatement program and to develop a solution to the parking problem in I.V., among several other ideas for the unincorporated area.
The CSD will meet every first and third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the I.V. Community Room of the 970 Embarcadero Del Mar building.
Correction: This article previously said that the 90 day action plan would be implemented as soon as possible and suggested the plan was written by the Board. The plan was actually written by Bertrand and Brandt and is not an official document from the CSD.