Isla Vista residents will start receiving a mail-in ballot this week for Measure O, a proposal for a special tax toward funding additional park services in I.V.
The measure, introduced by the I.V. Recreation and Park District (IVRPD), carries with it a great deal of history and hope.
As the Nexus previously reported, the revenue from this special tax could add $256,348.43 to IVRPD’s $1.5 million budget.
Residents will not have to pay more because the tax would fall entirely on property owners, and there is little indication that landlords will raise rent as a result.
This is largely because the proposal of this tax is strategic. Property owners have been paying approximately $93 a year in special taxes, which IVRPD has been using to pay off a bond.
Now that the bond has closed, property owners no longer pay the rate, but IVRPD officials are hoping to continue that same annual rate with this new special tax.
IVRPD general manager Rodney Gould told the Nexus in January that the tax revenue could allow the park district to address its “backlog of deferred maintenance.” Pegeen Soutar, the IVRPD board chair, said in January that she hopes to use the tax revenues to bring reclaimed water into I.V.
We are then left with just one question in deciding on how to vote on Measure O: “Do we believe our parks are already in the best shape they can be?”
The last tax measure to come through I.V. was Measure F, which proposed to tax property owners 8 percent of their utility bills. I.V. property owners mounted stark opposition to the measure, and it failed to reach the 66.7 percent vote it needed to pass (approximately 63 percent of voters said “yes” to Measure F).
Interestingly enough, Measure F and Measure O have intertwining narratives.
IVRPD had planned to come forward with a tax measure like Measure O in November, but such plans came to a halt when in summer 2016 a group of Yes on E&F organizers asked IVRPD to postpone the measure.
Cameron Schunk, who was among the group of organizers, told the Nexus in January they intended to separate the taxes on two ballots to improve the chances of both passing.
Some members of the IVRPD board at first resisted, telling the Yes on E&F organizers that the request lacked collaboration and was just plain disrespectful. The Nexus agrees.
Yes on E&F organizers say it was for the good of both the tax measures, and they say residents want to pay both of these taxes for the betterment of our community.
If both the measures are truly something the people of I.V. want, however, then why do these organizers need us to believe we are voting for fewer taxes on one ballot while putting more taxes on another ballot? Why do they need to pull the wool over our eyes?
The answer: this is a power grab. As a result, we have been waiting far too long to increase funding for the only local agency that can make a tangible change in our neglected college town.
We need not forget that the failure of Measure F took away the main source of funding for the long-promised I.V. Community Services District, making IVRPD the only funded government in I.V.
Last year, community volunteers put together a weekend conference called Beloved Community, where residents met together and set goals for the changes they would like to see in I.V. Many of the proposals were changes well within the power of IVRPD but not within its existing budget.
IVRPD needs more funds to move forward with the change many hope to see in Isla Vista. Our parks are not in the best shape they can be, and this may very well be the fault of some political maneuvering in recent years.
The Nexus endorses Measure O in the hope of witnessing a change in I.V. that residents can actually see.