The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted yesterday to form an anti-Halloween committee with the eventual goal of ending the traditional Isla Vista celebration.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone and 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray formed the ad hoc committee at the meeting on Tuesday, and plan to report back to the board by March 1 with suggestions and ideas on how to reform Halloween in I.V. Janet Wolf, the newly elected 2nd District Supervisor, will act as an alternate to the committee.
Although I.V. is not in Gray’s district, she said she is passionate about ending the famous I.V. celebration, and said she does not know why Firestone did not propose to form the committee himself. Gray and Firestone both visited I.V. on Oct. 28 to experience the event first hand. Gray, who jokingly said she was dressed up as an “old lady,” said she was “flabbergasted” by the lack of control in I.V.
Despite Gray’s reaction to the scene, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. deemed this year’s operation a success. The number of arrests, assaults and other incidents were down from previous years.
“I felt [that Halloween is getting better] this year and everyone seemed to be having a good time,” Firestone said in an interview after the meeting. “A lot of people are saying that, but it could go downhill.”
Gray said the committee plans to work on placing the financial burden of Halloween – including the $250,000 cost of paying law enforcement – on the people who benefit economically from the influx of revelers.
“If the gas station owners and taxi drivers are willing to pay for overtime [police enforcement], more power to them,” she said. “I want to shut it down if [people who benefit from Halloween] won’t pay.”
Gray said she thinks out-of-towners should stop going to I.V. to party for Halloween, and she is prepared to do the work to keep the crowds at bay.
As a member of the ad hoc committee, Firestone said, he will work to find solutions to Gray’s complaints about the cost of Halloween – like charging a fee to attend the celebration or restricting out-of-towner access to I.V.
“There was a lot of movement toward this, it was like a stampede,” he said. “I sort of had to go along with it and I am on the committee. This is simply an expression of concern and the appointment of the two of us to work on the policy.”
Gray said the public will have a chance to comment before any actions are taken, and she wants to hear from everyone involved, including UCSB, Santa Barbara City College, the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, and the Sheriff’s Dept. as well as I.V. merchants and residents.
Dianne Conn, a board member for the IVRPD, said she attended the meeting to speak on a separate agenda item and did not know that the supervisors planned to form the committee. However, Conn said the formation of the committee – specific details of which were not on the Board’s original agenda – did not come as a surprise because she said Gray is adamantly opposed to the Halloween party scene.
“Joni Gray is constantly complaining about funds without knowing the facts,” Conn said. “What she really wants is for I.V. to pay for the party. I’m not sure if she wants to make it local, make it safer or shut it down.”
Conn said she thinks the supervisors may have purposely discussed the issue on a day when people were focused on the midterm elections. She said the board should hold meetings in I.V. to allow the community to comment.
Gray’s central complaint with the Halloween celebration is the fiscal impact it has on the county. She said the county spends an excessive amount of money for increased law enforcement – over 150 officers on Oct. 28 alone – that benefits only a few county residents.
“I want to get the event under control so that it is paid for by the beneficiaries of the event,” Gray said. “I’m not sure what that means, it could mean a lot of things.”
In rebuttal, Conn said after the meeting that the supervisors should consider how much money the event pulls in, not merely how much it costs.
“They are quick to complain about the resources spent here, but they don’t talk about the revenue we provide,” Conn said. “We need to talk about both.”
Most I.V. businesses, including Silvergreens, Isla Vista Surf Company and Subway, reported increased business on Halloween weekend. Ron Glieberman, the general manager of Silvergreens, said the restaurant saw a “record-setting weekend,” and that he thinks Halloween is valuable to the I.V. community and businesses.
Local hotels reported increased business during the weekend as well. A representative for the Super 8 Motel in Goleta said the business raised its rates for the weekend and sold out all of its rooms. The Best Western South Coast Inn also reported a sold-out weekend.
Second District Supervisor Susan Rose said her district is “incredibly affected” by I.V. Halloween, and said she supports the new committee and the idea that I.V. residents and merchants should be responsible for the cost of the party.
“My point is that the [rest of the county] is footing the entire bill and if the folks in I.V. want to have the party, they should pay for it,” Rose said during the meeting.
UCSB Alumna Liz Kelber addressed the board yesterday during the public comment concerning the proposed committee. Kelber, who works for the clerk of the board, said this year’s celebration was safer than three years ago, and the added protection of floodlights and the removal of cars from Del Playa Drive have contributed to the decrease in incidents during the holiday.
After the meeting, Kelber said the agenda item was vague and that she did not expect the supervisors to create an anti-Halloween committee at yesterday’s meeting. She said if the issue was better publicized, she thinks more students would have attended to speak out against it.
Kelber said during the meeting that she decided to speak on behalf of I.V. residents, since no one was there to defend Halloween.
“I think telling them [Halloween] is going to be shut down will only make things worse and make people want to come,” she said to the supervisors.
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. Undersheriff Ken Shemwell, who has worked in I.V. on Halloween for the past 29 years, spoke at the meeting. Shemwell said the number of incidents from this year’s celebration fell in line with the trend of decreased incidents, giving much of the credit to ordinances passed by the Board in the 1990s.
Shemwell said there were only eight burglaries over the Halloween weekend this year, compared to the 29 reported incidents last year. He said driving under the influence arrests were also down this year because partygoers were taking taxicabs and buses into I.V.
Spokesman Sgt. Erik Raney said the Sheriff’s Dept. does not support the effort to shut down the Halloween party completely, but said the department wants to continue to keep the celebration local.
“We would support any progress that would lessen the impact to our agency and the fiscal impact to the county,” Raney said. “We think keeping [Halloween] a local event will do just that.”
Fifth District Supervisor Joseph Centeno said he worked in I.V. as a police officer controlling the riots that took place in I.V. during the Vietnam War. Centeno said he hated his experience in the town where he thinks students “terrorize” each other.
“Terrible things can happen; this is not just about having a good time and partying for Halloween,” Centeno said. “We need to shut this thing down because something could really happen and someone could really get hurt.”