Catherine Flaherty ended her term with the Isla Vista Community Services District in December 2022 after serving on the board of directors for the past two years.
Flaherty ran in 2020 on a platform to strengthen “sustainability, safety and connectivity.” She defeated her opponent Daniel Mitchell, a fellow UC Santa Barbara student, for the two-year seat.
Flaherty held her position on the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) concurrently with her enrollment at UCSB and leadership in Associated Students, where she served both as an off-campus senator and interim internal vice president for three months.
Her concurrent A.S. responsibilities garnered public attention as to whether or not a student could successfully balance the duties of student government and local government. Flaherty — who was the second to accomplish this task at UC Santa Barbara — successfully balanced both positions’ and its requirements.
Flaherty said she sought to raise awareness of nighttime safety resources for students amidst a string of local crime incidents, including a shooting, multiple attempted kidnappings and sexual assaults.
“I worked really hard in relaying that information to students and making sure that students knew they could reach out to me with community concerns, and then I could ask certain community leaders about that — like the police or [IV]CSD members about how we could best support them in that moment,” Flaherty said. “I was really intentional about how I did that, and so I hope that involvement did make a difference.”
As a voice for the UCSB student body, Flaherty said she endeavored to connect students with IVCSD’s free rental housing mediation program and to advocate for less law enforcement presence during the weekends of Halloween and Deltopia.
“A lot of students and members of the community feel like that level of policing just isn’t warranted or necessary in our community, and so advocating for more of a community-based approach through [Community Service Organization officers] (CSOs), through alternative events — that was really, really important to me,” she said.
During her term, Flaherty planned the first-ever Spring Festival alongside Directors Spencer Brandt and Carrie Topliffe to create a safe, alternative event to unsanctioned street partying during Deltopia weekend.
“I am really proud of the efforts around Deltopia and Halloween and other events to make nightlife safer,” Flaherty said.
IVCSD scrapped its original aim to host a Spring Festival in 2020 due to interruptions caused by the pandemic but brought the event forward in April 2022.
“The spring community festival was one of the first real big steps in creating a different event there that can hopefully start some change in our community and have that be a place where people can come together and celebrate how unique and amazing and creative our community is,” she said.
Despite the large amount of money and planning for the Spring Festival, the event garnered lower turnout than projected, in part due to IVCSD’s limited advertisement of the festival to the public.
Flaherty also helped coordinate IVCSD’s community programming for Halloween 2021 and oversaw the creation of a $10,000 grant program that funded Halloween events of local organizations.
“Because [IVCSD] was a relatively new organization, there was just so much opportunity to really focus on community needs and be very intentional about where you expand,” Flaherty said.
The Nightlife, Events and Cultural Planning Committee, which Flaherty worked on with Directors Ethan Bertrand and Marcos Aguilar, formed in 2021 to transform the nightlife of I.V. post-pandemic. Despite their ambitions, the committee produced no substantial proposals or improvements.
Flaherty emphasized her desire to have a space for “bringing different people together” at community events. She highlighted the post-pandemic reopening of the I.V. Community Center in Jan. 2022 and lauded the work of IVCSD Community Spaces Program Manager Myah Mashhadialireza, who has since coordinated over 400 events, according to Flaherty.
Joining IVCSD in the height of COVID-19 restrictions, Flaherty carried out the majority of her term during the pandemic, attending board meetings virtually and urging constituents to practice masking and social distancing.
“It was crazy that I didn’t meet a lot of my community members or fellow board members until well into my term,” Flaherty said. “I never felt disconnected from the community during COVID, but the community just looked different, and I think that was a bit difficult.”
Though Flaherty’s work is evident in her dedication toward committees and other group-oriented activities, she rarely introduced resolutions or brought forth community issues to the board independently.
Despite that shortcoming, the Nexus recognizes that Flaherty’s term of two years offered a short window for her to deeply address community needs, and she represented her constituents while juggling being a student and leader in A.S.
Flaherty served as IVCSD’s vice president in her first year on the board, but declined a nomination to serve as president for the following year. She looked back on her decision as a pragmatic one but still wished she could have contributed as president.
“I was honored that my board members nominated me and thought of me for that, but, ultimately, I decided that I didn’t have the capacity to serve in that role,” Flaherty said. “If I did do that role, I wanted to give it my all because it’s such an important position as president.”
Now graduated from UCSB with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Flaherty said she hopes to move to Washington D.C. to work in governmental affairs, making “change and progress wherever I can.”
“Having your heart be in this work and truly, deeply caring about the Isla Vista community is just so important when being in this role,” Flaherty said. “A massive thank you to the people that I list. It was truly such an honor serving as a director of the [IV]CSD, and I’m just so excited for all that’s going to come in the future.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Feb. 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.