It was a split decision that split the county.
On August 21, a 3-2 majority of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a new map of the county’s political boundaries based on the population figures of the 2000 Census. The map, drawn by 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall, adjusted the boundaries of the legislative districts, as mandated by federal and state law, to ensure equal representation of the population in each district.
The board had unanimously passed the district boundaries on August 14, despite disagreements over the boundary lines of Isla Vista and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Negative response from constituents as well as unresolved concerns led 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray and 5th District Supervisor Tom Urbanske to reverse their votes at a continuation hearing on August 21.
The 3rd District retained Isla Vista and most of Vandenberg Air Force Base despite pressure from Urbanske and Gray to move I.V. into the 2nd District and to keep Vandenberg as part of the 4th District.
Mark Chaconas, assistant to Supervisor Marshall, said Marshall’s plan met the needs of many residents.
“Gail worked out a number of proposals; she recognized that North County wanted to remain whole and not be represented by two different supervisors. The map she presented took into account and addressed the concerns of the North County residents,” he said. “Joni Gray and Tom Urbanske pissed off their constituents with their original vote at the first hearing, but the response we’ve received has been positive. They appreciate the fact that Gail was able to compromise with an efficient plan.”
Andy Caldwell, executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB), who lobbied for Isla Vista to be moved into the 2nd district, said Gail Marshall’s map served her own political interest at the expense of preserving the communities of interest around the county.
“Gail Marshall used I.V. in order to stay elected. She’s not popular in the North County, and she put 3,000 people who are in the state penitentiary at Lompoc – who can’t vote – and 6,000 people from the base who are registered in different counties in her district,” he said. “So basically there is around 10,000 people in her district that won’t weigh in and will be overshadowed by her support in Isla Vista.”
Chaconas said pressure to move Isla Vista out of the district was a political attempt to strengthen the conservative vote.
“They wanted to dilute the voice of Isla Vista,” he said. “It was all politics. It was just to set the stage for future elections.”
The UCSB A.S. Legislative Council issued a position paper encouraging county officials to include Isla Vista and UCSB in the 2nd District based on issues of common interest.
“Isla Vista and the UCSB campus share a community interest with Southern Goleta and the City of Santa Barbara ; hence, the name of our academic institution is the University of California, Santa Barbara – not the University of California, Lompoc, Santa Ynez, or North County,” the resolution stated. “UCSB and Isla Vista are high-density, urbanized areas and very different from the agricultural lands and farming uses in the north portion of Santa Barbara County. Additional comparison between North Goleta and North Santa Barbara County, as opposed to Isla Vista, reveal that most residents of Isla Vista are renters under the age of 30 with no children; whereas, North Goleta and North Santa Barbara County are mostly married homeowners living in neighborhoods comprised of families.”
Chaconas said the A.S. position paper was not the only input from UCSB and Isla Vista.
“We took into account the A.S. resolution, but there were also other UCSB students who testified at the hearings and other Isla Vista residents. The board took all this into account and developed a fair and balanced proposal,” he said.
Susan Warnstrom, Gray’s executive assistant, said much of the disagreement and concern about Vandenberg Air Force Base is centered on the uninhabited areas of the base, which have no effect on the population variance but have important economic implications.
“Vandenberg is a huge economic base for Lompoc. It provides employment, and there [are] obviously a lot of business contracts with the base,” she said. “The base housing was needed in the 3rd District to meet the population needs. But the 90,000 acres of uninhabited land could have been left in the 4th District without affecting the population numbers. But the board majority did not want to offer that to us.”
Warnstrom said many constituents contacted their representatives about the loss of Vandenberg Air Force Base from the 4th to the 3rd District.
“Both of our offices [Urbanske and Gray] were swamped with e-mails, walk-ins, letters from people that felt they were being treated unfairly and asked that they oppose the plan,” Warnstrom said. “One of the major points of concern is that we had Vanderberg Air Force Base and have traditionally had access to it; as it is now, that has been completely eliminated [with the new boundaries].”