While protesters paced outside, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promoted his $37.3 billion bond measure in UCSB’s Davidson Library on Saturday morning, just a day after state legislators approved the proposal.
The measure – the largest infrastructure bond measure in California’s history – was approved on Friday, and will appear on the November ballot. If passed, the measure will allocate nearly $19.9 billion to transportation, $4.1 billion to flood control, $2.9 billion to housing and development and $10.4 billion to education – $3.087 billion of which will go toward higher education.
Schwarzenegger’s Deputy Press Secretary Darrel Ng said UCSB administrators would use $1.1 million of the funds to upgrade Phelps Hall and $1.25 million for a 45,000 square-foot addition to Davidson Library, as well as seismic retrofitting and other upgrades to the library building.
The library was closed to the public for the duration of the press conference, which was held on the fourth floor. Outside the building, about 40 student protesters chanted, “Go Home, Arnold,” and expressed their extreme discontent at being barred from the event.
With only about two-dozen members of the media and UCSB administrators in attendance, Schwarzenegger opened by commending the state legislature’s decision to approve the bond measure. He reiterated concerns expressed at his State of the State address in January, saying that this year is “the year of rebuilding our state.”
“We are bursting at the seams in every area whether it is with our schools, our universities, transportation – our levies are fragile and falling apart,” Schwarzenegger said. “So all of this is to be rebuilt.”
Schwarzenegger said the bond measure will allow for road improvements and freeway upgrades which will reduce traffic and air pollution. He stressed the importance of flood control and rebuilding the state’s levies.
“Let’s fix our levies once and for all because our levies are literally one big storm or one earthquake away from a major disaster – from a Katrina type of disaster,” Schwarzenegger said.
In addition, Schwarzenegger said, the bond measure would set money aside to create more affordable housing in California and improve the state’s education system.
State Senator Abel Maldonado (R-15), who was also in attendance at the press conference, said he supports the governor and the bond measure.
“Today the winners are the students of California – the ones that are going to benefit by the bricks and mortars,” Maldonado said. “I ask my fellow friends, my constituents of the Central Coast to please get out and join Governor Schwarzenegger in supporting these bond measures that are so important in rebuilding the great state of California.”
When asked why funds were allocated to Phelps Hall and Davidson Library as opposed to areas such as student and faculty housing, Schwarzenegger said the decision was best left to the university’s administration.
“I think that the education leaders that work on those things, they look at what is most needed and they come up with this,” Schwarzenegger said. “I’m not the expert in student housing or, you know, how to distribute that money, but it goes then to people that really specialize in that and they look at what is needed and they do the research so I think it was distributed really well.
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t need also more money for student housing, but that maybe is again something we can do later on. You know, you never get everything in. Like I said, we didn’t get the prisons, we didn’t get the courts and some of the other things, but we got this and this is great, historic infrastructure here – $37 billion.”
Meanwhile, several protesters met outside the building after learning about the conference late Friday night. First-year anthropology and psychology major Gahl Shottan said she felt insulted by the private press conference.
“I thought it was a little bit of a slap in the face that he was using our resources and not inviting us to partake,” Shottan said.
Third-year dramatic arts major Hillary Blackerby said she attended the protest because she believes Schwarzenegger does not care enough about higher education. She said she was also upset about a visit he made to Santa Barbara in 2004.
“He had students there and families there [in 2004],” Blackerby said. “He called everyone outside ‘special interest groups.'”
Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Kelly Burns said she was protesting because she felt Schwarzenegger was using the library as a publicity stunt to feign interest in higher education.
“He can’t do this last minute,” Burns said. “He’s running for reelection in six months. … I just hope he doesn’t get reelected.”