It’s unfortunate that I must even dignify Justin Ruhge’s opinion article (“UCSB Students Shouldn’t Vote in County Elections,” Daily Nexus, Oct. 15, 2002) with a response. What Mr. Ruhge is requesting of the UCSB student population is misleading, false and inappropriate, as well as undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Ruhge starts off by assuming that the “UCSB students probably have had no interest in the results of the 3rd District supervisorial election.” If students have no interest in local elections, then why are so many students mobilizing, campaigning and leafleting about the upcoming election? It is because many of us recognize that the outcome will affect us. Isla Vista residents realize that the County Supervisor’s decisions directly affect their daily lives. Whether it is safety issues, landlord/tenant policies, offshore oil drilling, agricultural regulation (Could I have some more water with my pesticides or more closed beaches because of cow shit polluting streams and eventually the ocean?) and even party ordinances, all of these local issues, and others, affect us. Even though the individual students may fluctuate, there will always be a common student interest that must be attended to in order for democracy to truly be implemented. If folks like Mr. Ruhge had it their way, they would remove from the students what little power we have in the local politics, and our needs would go unattended. We are a significant portion of the population of the community; we will not and cannot be ignored.
To Mr. Ruhge’s dismay, Santa Barbara County is home to many students, including myself. Santa Barbara has been my home for the past four years. I have gone to school, worked with local non-profits, participated in student groups, served jury duty and worked for many businesses here in Santa Barbara County. I have invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this community as well, and, quite frankly, it is insulting to hear that I should vote “in my hometown.” The politics of the town that I grew up in do not affect me as much as it does here. It is the issues that are happening here that affect me and are of my concern.
Despite the occasional hotdog freebie, Gail Marshall is one of only a few politicians that I have seen in the past four years who have shown genuine interest in the student’s needs and opinions. She has taken action, while her opponents have only inundated us with clumsy rhetoric and misleading accusations questioning her patriotism, which are little more than poorly veiled political attacks. There is a lot of work to be done to improve the situation in I.V, and Gail Marshall is the best candidate for the students and its residents.
Mr. Ruhge claims that Marshall only represents a “small clique in the South County,” and that if the students did not vote in the local election, Larry Mills “would have won by about 78 votes.” Let me ask, is the combined voice of all Isla Vista residents, both student and not, worth less than 78 non-Isla Vista votes? Is I.V. simply to be a community of underrepresented sub-citizens subject to the whims and wills of landlords, oilmen and developers? What would Mr. Ruhge have us be? What would I.V. be like if we could not voice our opinions through a vote? Would there be such a thing as a building code? Would the streets be paved?
People move all of the time, some for shorter periods of time. Yet they participate in the local elections while they are living where they are. Should we rescind the voting rights of the terminally ill or the elderly because they won’t live to see the repercussions of their contribution to the ballot box? Besides the numbers, is there really any difference between the students of UCSB and those who move in and out of the county, or do our needs and demand not fit North County’s personal agenda? The student populace of UCSB is here to stay, and we have rights too. These issues are timeless as new students come and some go. I’d recommend that those who have not realized this learn to work with us, not against us.
So please make sure you register locally (the deadline is Oct. 21), vote locally, and say no to the recall.
Gregory Nielsen is a senior political science and business economics major.