Students and Isla Vista residents are encouraged to attend a meeting today to discuss increasing and reorganizing funds for public transportation.
The meeting, which begins at 2 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center, is hosted by People United for Economic justice Building Leadership through Organizing (PUEBLO) and will present participants with information about lobbying local politicians to change the language of Measure D – up for reaffirmation in this November’s elections – so that it allocates more funds to public transportation. Kelsi Boyle, a PUEBLO intern, said the county’s public transportation program has not received the funds, taken from a county sales tax, promised to it when voters first approved Measure D in 1989.
PUEBLO organizers will also discuss Measures A and B, which are up for approval, Boyle said. If passed this year, the combined measures would put an additional sales tax to fund transportation.
Boyle, a third-year sociology and women’s studies major, said Measure D specifies that 70 percent of revenue from a county sales tax should go to roadwork, while the other 30 percent should be dedicated to special projects like large, local transportation issues such as widening the 101. However, she said, a 2005 analysis done by the Santa Barbara News-Press showed 92 percent of the funds have gone to roadwork over the past 17 years.
Boyle said she thinks the county is able to use additional funds past the 70 percent allocated for road funds because the language of Measure D is unclear.
Harley Augustino, executive director of PUEBLO, said he thinks local politicians, including 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, should push the county to use the funds for public transportation, as was intended.
“There is already a large constituency of people that think tax dollars should go to public transportation,” Augustino said. “We need to get more accountability to where our money is going.”
Despite the current focus on Firestone’s office, Augustino said the supervisor is not the only politician from whom PUEBLO will seek support.
“We’re working on a number of elected officials,” he said.
Boyle said she hopes to join other activists in negotiating with Firestone to persuade him to support changes to the current Measure D that would allocate more money to alternative transportation.
“He is definitely somebody we need to work with, not against,” Boyle said. “We want him to be open to other options.”
Boyle said she organized the meeting as early as she could because ballot measures will be finalized within the next few months for the November election. After this year, Measure D will most likely not be up for renewal for another 30 years.
“It’s really important to have people at this meeting,” Boyle said. “There are people out there with ideas better than mine.”
Besides Measure D, Boyle said the meeting might include a discussion of upcoming Measures A and B. If either Measure A or B were approved by voters, they would provide an additional tax on top of the one outlined by Measure D.
Measure A, for the most part, has the same stipulations as Measure D, while Measure B has more stipulations for supporting public transportation, but also includes a 25 percent increase in sales tax.
“It’s kind of like throwing a bone to advocates of public transportation,” Boyle said. “Measure A and B were uncalculated, sloppy. It hasn’t been given a lot of thought. It has been given as a ploy, a puppet to be given as an excuse.”
Boyle said she thinks today’s meeting should be of particular interest to students and I.V.’s low-income families, as they rely on public transportation more so than any other group.
“We’re starving some of the basic needs, marginalizing already marginalized people,” Boyle said.