Local politics are great. You and I have much more influence here, where our voices aren’t drowned out by millions of others, as in state and national matters. The debates are more passionate, and few punches are pulled to avoid offending delicate ears. Strangely enough, that fire is rarely warranted, considering how little power is really held by local officials. Local matters are trivial enough that we can more easily take a step back and objectively analyze the rules that are made, which is exactly what I intend to do.
The first case study is one in power-mongering – exceeding the bounds of your mandate. Assembly line producers long ago found that when a specialized group does each task, the whole process works more efficiently. It turns out that this holds true for more than just slapping together coffee makers – society benefits from the specialization of its members. Hence, the decision of UCSB administrators, whose specialization is education, to extend their influence to law enforcement is a bad idea. If you think there should be stricter punishments for crime or that enforcement is too lax, take that up with the legislature or police, respectively. Having a university dispense justice is as ridiculous as the IRS dispensing condoms.
The next lesson for my legal Padawans is to be sure that your solution addresses the problem and does so without infringing upon the liberties of citizens if at all possible. This seems fairly obvious, but very few legislatures keep this in mind, the IVRPD included. Take the ordinance against sleeping in public spaces for instance: Nobody’s worried about the damage to property that will be caused by all that rampant slumber. IVRPD members were attempting to curb poor sanitation and assaults that are occasionally associated with the people who do most of the sleeping in parks. Somehow, it slipped their minds to curb assaults and littering by targeting their legislation and enforcement at assaults and littering. Another example that they have so tragically provided is the proposed “public nuisance” ordinance, which would give IVFP officers the power to shut down parties when fighting breaks out or “rowdiness” exists. Fights sometimes break out at sports events, too, but most people consider these “really fun” and not a menace. The problem is that people feel comfortable exhibiting violence, so it is reasonable to expect that the solution is to more aggressively target that behavior for punishment.
Even more obvious is the need to have a problem before trying to craft a solution. You’ll gain no esteem nor win any debates with the line, “Because I said so.” And yet that seems to be the only justification for the county ordinance preventing one from carrying an open container of alcohol. Pretending that this law discourages drinking is laughable (what, did you think that thousands of gallons are sold every day to be poured out?). Walking around overly intoxicated is already illegal, so this law appears to be entirely superfluous. Come to think of it, Isla Vista should be up in arms about such a restriction of freedom.
Take not all ye who wish to hold office in the future, or do so now. It’s not a place to get your rocks off or to impose your lifestyle on the rest of society. It is instead a great opportunity to do much good for your community, and I wish you all the best if that is your intention.
Loren Williams is a sophomore computer science major.