Editor’s Note: IVCSD candidate Julia Barbosa was not available for an endorsement interview, and thus, was not considered in the Nexus’s endorsement process.
The Daily Nexus endorses Spencer Brandt and Jay Freeman — both incumbent candidates — for the two available four-year seats on the Isla Vista Community Services District Board of Directors.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) is a local government body dedicated to serving the I.V. community by improving quality of life and addressing local infrastructural issues. IVCSD was formed with the intention of introducing self-governance to I.V. — an unincorporated part of Santa Barbara County.
Brandt, who is currently board president, and Freeman were both actively involved in helping create IVCSD and then became two of the original board directors. Since then, the Nexus believes the pair has served the community through their respective positions for approximately six years with dedication and productive outcomes.
Those advocating for the formation of IVCSD in its inception, specifically former board director Father Jone-Stephen Hedges, came up with the representative maxim, “No more about us without us,” to bring power to the people of I.V.
This is the work that Brandt and Freeman, alongside their colleagues on the Board of Directors, have undertaken to improve the environment and quality of life in I.V.
Brandt, a former UC Santa Barbara working student from a low-income background, now provides the perspective of a current permanent resident and local renter. This experience is coupled with his history both as an organizer with the Democratic Party and as a longstanding representative within IVCSD.
“I have deep public policy experience over the last six years helping build up this local government. And I know that oftentimes, like the idealism of what we want to accomplish in the community is in conflict with the pragmatism of how we can get there, and I think that I’ve been able to help navigate that,” Brandt said.
Freeman described himself as someone who is in favor of both progressive policy and a libertarian approach to governance. Freeman provides both business and technical expertise as the founder of Cydia — a graphical user interface that allows users to access apps outside of the Apple App Store — and the perspective of a long-term resident within the community.
Both candidates served the I.V. community during their tenures through a multitude of projects and community involvement.
Brandt led the effort to incorporate the local compost collective into IVCSD, advocated for and introduced more lighting in I.V. and created the safety stations present on Friday and Saturday nights for community members to request escorts home, find water and charge their phones.
“We’ve really seen that the [Isla Vista] Compost Collective is growing. In terms of the number of households that it’s serving, it’s thriving. It’s a service that people come to rely on, and I just think that that’s so amazing,” Brandt said. “It’s like such in the spirit of what is amazing about I.V. You could be a student that works on a project that starts off as a class project and then you’re dedicated enough to it and you are able to build it up to the point where it becomes just a service of local government.”
He also consistently addressed community needs over the course of the pandemic with the leadership of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, and helped lead IVCSD’s efforts to hold local policing bodies accountable through data collection and discussion with the Isla Vista Foot Patrol and the UC Police Department (UCPD).
Freeman was part of the original group of community and board members advocating for the Interpersonal Violence Investigator — a position operating in tandem with the university, UCPD and IVCSD dedicated to supporting survivors through a trauma-informed, community-oriented policing strategy to address “the way the sheriff was operating things.”
“They weren’t really investigating anything,” he said.
Freeman is also a representative on the Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission, which gives a voice to non-traditional districts like I.V. through a representative position. Additionally, Freeman has offered his technical acumen to serve not just IVCSD but also the Isla Vista Community Network and the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District to record meetings — especially over the course of the pandemic to increase accessibility.
Freeman and Brandt’s record of serving the local community and long-term residency illustrate the pair’s continual dedication, commitment and aptitude for the position.
Both candidates’ previous experience with forming IVCSD and running the relatively new government body provides them with an in-depth knowledge of what IVCSD can accomplish, how they can accomplish it and what issues the I.V. community needs addressed by its local governing body.
Brandt and Freeman both hope to address housing if elected for another term.
“What we’re doing even at the student levels is pricing out people that can’t afford to live here and pushing them further and further away. We saw that happen so clearly last year with the housing crisis that occurred,” Brandt said.
To address the UCSB and I.V. housing crisis, Brandt suggested bringing representatives from both UCSB and Santa Barbara City College to creatively engage in solutions that produce more affordable housing. Brandt added that the I.V. community plan needs to be updated to create room for growth in population and housing.
“I’m working with our staff to investigate creative ways that we can do this partnering with the housing authority and directly creating affordable housing and building it so that it has facilities or office spaces,” Brandt said.
Freeman wished to address a similar issue: “first time renters dealing with cutthroat landlords.”
“I would really like to see us better advertise and better organize the landlord tenant housing mediation program,” Freeman said. “I pushed us to have an internal public information officer … I was really happy we got that person and she’s been doing a very good job of improving this. But I do think, on that particular program, I think we can still do a lot better.”
Brandt critiqued IVCSD for not always being connected with the ever-changing student-based populace of I.V.
“You have to be always constantly using different channels of social media, even new ones that are popping up, and you have to make sure that your organization continues to have people that actually have the same similar lived-experiences of the people that live here now,” Brandt said.
The Nexus concurs with Brandt’s criticism. Though IVCSD has successfully executed several community events, others — such as previous Halloween programming and the 2022 Spring Festival — were sparsely attended. The attendance was not due to the programming itself but rather the type of outreach employed to engage the community.
“The vast majority of people that live here, our young people, our students are renters. And so we have to find people, both for our board and for our staff, that have that background to be able to stay connected with the pulse of what’s going on here in the community,” Brandt said, a sentiment the Nexus agrees with.
Freeman, on the other hand, said that IVCSD could improve on demarcating its jurisdiction from other local government entities.
“We are seen as interloping into discussions or kind of stepping on toes, and particularly with the parks district, for example, of doing a lot of the event planning work and things that they’re always very excited to do,” Freeman said. “I think it leads to confusion also about people in the public who then show up, and they went, ‘Well where should I bring my issue?’”
Freeman is historically more conservative in expenditure, while Brandt consistently pushes large efforts to better the local community. As such, they offer different strengths and areas of expertise that complement and balance each other’s approach for an effective and efficient contribution to IVCSD Board of Directors.
Brandt and Freeman have led IVCSD from its infancy, and the Nexus believes their unique perspectives and strong experiences in local government will continue to advance quality of life in Isla Vista given another term.
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Oct. 20, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.