New students at UCSB might be surprised to learn that the next two months will mark the decisive moments of a political war at the local level.
What began as a disagreement over the Pledge of Allegiance erupted into an attempt to recall 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall and end her term two years early. An organization of residents from northern Santa Barbara County claims Marshall ignores her constituents and that this was exemplified by her refusal to allow the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance at a meeting in October of 2001. The residents want Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas to finish Marshall’s term. Marshall’s defenders, however, claim she is the victim of personal attacks from land developers and oil industry higher-ups.
The matter will be decided in the regular election in November, a date which was also the object of contention between the pro- and anti-recall factions. One matter that both recall campaigners and No On Recall supporters agree on is that UCSB students living in Isla Vista will be an important factor in the election.
Lammy Johnstone-Kockler, director of the recall campaign, called a press conference on Sept. 18 with Thomas to discuss the problems they have with the absentee ballots for the November election. Johnstone-Kockler said the ballots were deliberately constructed to confuse voters who would want Marshall out of office.
“If somebody wanted to vote for the recall, first they’d have to vote for the recall and then they’d have to vote for Jim [Thomas],” Johnstone-Kockler said. “The ballot just looks like you could vote for one or the other.”
Johnstone-Kockler accused voter registrar Ken Pettit of working for Marshall from within the elections office.
“Pettit had the option of putting an explanation inside the ballot,” she said. “When a person with such a bias is in charge, you know you’re already behind the eight ball. It should really be a non-partisan job. … Now we have to deal with 83,000 absentee ballots already printed.”
No On Recall director Das Williams remained optimistic about the upcoming election. He said he has promoted Marshall throughout the summer as a friend of the environment and the student body at UCSB.
“The campaign is going well, as far as public support,” he said. “Gail is the best person for preserving the environment and keeping out oil companies and big development. Gail Marshall is suspicious of oil executive finance.”
“She is also the one who is protecting the students’ right to vote by fighting to have the recall decided in November and not in a special election,” Williams said. “She’s done a lot of work for tenant’s rights, too. She spearheaded a housing inspection program, which mandated – among other things – that landlords report evictions to [the] county.”
Currently, the county’s Board of Supervisors is split three-to-two between supervisors who, respectively, favor environmental regulation and those in favor of development, agriculture and industry. Marshall consistently votes for regulation.
Pettit said he supports Marshall because she is the environmental choice.
“If Marshall is recalled, the balance of the county will change from pro-environment to pro-growth,” he said. “Students at UCSB care about the environment. Gail is their only representation on the local level.”
“When [Marshall] says she’s for the environment, she’s lying,” Johnstone-Kockler said. “The people in the northern part of the county have been working with the land for years. They know it best. They are the true stewards of the land.”
Richard Cochran, a recall supporter, said new voters in the county should approach the issue with caution.
“Incoming freshmen should understand that good government is everybody’s responsibility,” Cochran said. “Students need to look around and ask themselves if they are really satisfied with the state [of] I.V. Where are the sidewalks? Where are the blue light emergency phones? When you look at who got Gail into office, you’ll see a lot of them were students. Frankly, I think they were misled by the political machinery and a faculty supporting a liberal agenda.”
Cochran said Marshall’s environmental policy was inconsistent, citing her support for keeping the Tajiguas landfill open even though the landfill had been implicated in contaminating local water. He also said that Marshall repeatedly promises student voters improvements to I.V. that never come into fruition.
“She promises money for parks and blue light emergency phones on Del Playa, but all this money has been frittered away and none of it’s been spent where it’s truly needed. There’s potholes you could hide a compact car in and streetlights that are about as good as a squirrel holding a match,” he said. “I mean, Jesus, is this Rwanda? If I were in Isla Vista, I would be mad as hell. I would have my elected representative on the phone and demand they did what needed to be done.”
Like Johnston-Kockler and Pettit, Cochran said much political power rests with the students of UCSB.
“I hope everybody who is 18 or older registers and votes in the election, but [I] also hope they really know the issues and think about the subject matter intellectually,” Cochran said.
“There have been important environmental issues which have been decided by as few as 12 votes. That’s why the county will be registering voters on the first day of school and sending people door-to-door to register. It’s that important.”