Local politics are an interesting beast. Generally speaking, they have a far greater impact on our lives than state and federal politics, yet are greeted with far more apathy.
It’s easy to understand why students in Isla Vista feel neglected. Time and time again, they are used as cash cows. Rental rates are high, the university tuition is rising and good paying jobs are scarce. And most nonstudents in I.V., and most University administrators for that matter, would prefer students to just shut up, do their four to five years, spend lots of money and leave.
My job as the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-Op representative on the Project Area Committee is to improve the quality of life in I.V. for everyone, especially students and tenants. With that in mind, I had a most challenging experience at last Wednesday’s PAC meeting. When people you represent show up uninformed to rally against something you feel will change things in a positive way, it can be very frustrating.
The fact is that a parking permit plan has been discussed since the earliest stages of the redevelopment process. It is considered by many, including myself, to be the most important part of the master plan. And everyone living in I.V. knows that parking is an absolute mess.
Personally, I feel that without some regulated parking plan, you can throw the entire master plan in the garbage. Parking and transportation have the greatest impact on the quality of life for I.V. residents. Almost every aspect of I.V. hinges on how residents and visitors come in and out of our town. The master plan simply won’t work without drastic changes in the parking and transportation infrastructure.
In looking at who spoke against the permit program last Wednesday and the recent letters to the Nexus, the majority were people who were barely aware of the process that led up to this decision. Some were even unaware of who represents them on the county Board of Supervisors. They simply didn’t want to pay for parking.
The few who spoke in favor of the parking program have followed the process all along, know why the program is important, why it was recommended by the design team two years ago and why the PAC was going to vote for it. Most highly-populated areas have a regulated parking program, and I.V., whether you like it or not, is a highly-populated area.
If students really want to have a voice in I.V., they cannot decide at the final hour that they want to be a part of this community because it might cost them money. You have to organize with your representatives on the PAC. You have to participate even when it’s inconvenient. You have to decide that every issue affects you and participate in the process from the beginning. You have to be informed.
Not a single person who represents a group with financial interests on the I.V. PAC/GPAC has any questions about where his or her constituents stand. The homeowners, landlords and business owners are organized. They don’t show up at the 11th hour hoping to change things. And if someone representing them on the PAC/GPAC started voting in a way they disagreed with, that representative would be replaced in a heartbeat.
Ask the Associated Students representative how many times he hears from the students he represents. Or the graduate student representative. Or the tenants union representative. Or the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-op representative. People who, quite literally, fought to get these representatives on the PAC. We are not being utilized by those we represent.
One positive thing that came from the meeting last Wednesday was the way the students who spoke presented themselves. As Mike Foley stated, everyone was intelligent and articulate. I can only imagine the impact you could have if you were organized and active throughout the process and did not wait until the last minute. But it’s not too late, and I sincerely hope we, as your PAC representatives, hear from you.
Bryan Brown is an I.V. PAC representative.