Measure H, the long-debated Goleta cityhood proposal, passed last night with about one-fifth of the registered voters within the city boundaries voting yes.

The cityhood proposal – which failed twice in the past when Isla Vista was included in the boundaries – was voted on by 6,689 of the 15,179 registered voters in the area. It won by about a 15 percent margin.

“I feel great,” Goleta City Council-elect Jonny Wallis said. “This was always about local control. Controlling our finances. Having a council that is accessible and accountable to the people it represents.”

Wallis was a member of Goleta Now!, the group that drew up the proposed boundaries. UCSB and eastern Goleta, as well as I.V., were excluded.

Cityhood has been a delicate issue since its first appearance on the ballots in 1987, and then again in 1990. In 1987, cityhood failed by a two-to-one margin. Proponents of Measure H said this year’s proposal worked because it maintained communities of interest while creating local control, something Goleta, formerly an unincorporated area of the county, has never had.

Opponents objected on the grounds that it excluded communities – like I.V. – closely tied to the city, and because it may not be financially feasible. A study released in mid-October by a private company predicted that the new city could face a decade of deficits.

Dave Bearman, an unsuccessful candidate for city council who ran on a platform against Measure H, said he hopes the city proves its detractors wrong.

“Well, we lost it … But frankly, all the aggravation they’re gonna have – it would have been nice to be on there, but it’s more time with my kids, you know?” he said.

“The people of Goleta took a look at this with their eyes open. They did know there were some risks, and I certainly hope the winners prove us wrong,” he said. “I hope I’m not right about this city being unfeasible. We have a lot of hard workers in front. I hope for all of our sakes that the economy comes out of the recession in early 2002. We’re certainly going to hold them to providing municipal services in Goleta. They promised self-rule.”

Goleta mayor-elect Margaret Connell said she was happy about the margin Measure H passed by – 3,196 citizens voted yes, while 2,316 voted against the measure.

“I’m stunned and thrilled that the margin in favor of cityhood is so great. This is really what the people want and that’s what it’s about – the people of Goleta making decisions about Goleta,” she said.

Opponents, however said they were disappointed by fact that the city was decided upon by only about a third of its residents.

“To me, the voter turnout was the most disappointing part of the election. Participation – especially after the tragedy of 9/11 – is the best way Americans can show their commitment to democracy,” Bearman said. “This is a change that’s forever, and only one sixth of the residents of one third of Goleta participated in that decision. That’s sad and unfortunate. This passed with only about four percent of the residents of Goleta.”

Measure H opponent Bill Gilbert said the low turnout, which he said he partly blamed for their defeat, was caused by the “apathy and ignorance” of the Goleta residents

“At least the people in I.V. and at UCSB aren’t gonna have to pay off the debt Goleta’s gonna go into,” said Harley Augustino, an I.V. resident. “Voter turnout was pathetic. People talk about apathy in I.V. – look at Goleta. You wouldn’t have that apathy if we voted for cityhood in I.V.”

Members of the newly elected Goleta City Council were looking forward to what they can do when the city officially is incorporated on Feb. 1, 2002.

Goleta City Council-elect Jean Blois said the passage of the measure will give residents the ability to control the amount of and nature of Goleta development.

“Terrific,” she said. “They want their own city and they want local control. We’ll be able to make our own land-use decisions, which is long overdue.”

City Council member-elect Cynthia Brock said with the passage of Measure H, the supporters’ efforts are starting to take shape.

“This is fantastic. We have worked hard on this for so long, and to have it come to fruition is so overwhelming. [The vote] shows that Goleta residents thought it was long overdue for Goleta to have its own city council and control over itself,” she said. “We’ve been stuck in this rut for years, but we’ve finally found the right combination to get this moving.”

Das Williams, No on H campaign manager, said it will be hard for the new city to keep development out because it will be so small and financially unstable.

“[The council is] gonna be there with a razor-thin budget or with deficits, and there tends to be a lot of fighting when that happens. The prioritization of budget should become a large issue. The city cannot take the easy way out and approve development,” he said.

Bearman and other Measure H opponents congratulated the victors, and said they had waged a successful fight.

“We ran a very good campaign. Initially people didn’t take the opposition seriously, but we raised some important issues,” he said. “These guys have to work hard, and I think they’re gonna run into some tough barriers. I wish them good luck.”