In 2003, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury issued a report titled “Isla Vista: Take Charge” that aimed to raise awareness of the myriad issues that plague IV. Most notably, it called for the creation of a Community Service District as a means to address the shortcomings of residential life. As laid out in the document, the CSD would have created a political organization solely responsible for increasing the quality of life by providing essential and often underfunded services directly to IV residents. The report framed the issue as necessitating immediate action, yet here we are—12 years later—considering the same solution for the unchanged problems.
Anyone championing Assembly Bill 3, Assemblymember Das Williams’ self-governance bill, as the end-all and be-all solution for seemingly every problem in IV is misguided. As it currently stands, AB 3 is a half-baked attempt at changing the status quo and addressing the issues residents need. The bill is months away from being finished; there is no finalized language regarding the specific powers the CSD would have, structure of its board, or even the means to finance it.
AB 3 has already caused headaches for many people. Most notably, this legislation attempts to supplant the authority of the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO is responsible for the review and approval of the formation of any special districts within Santa Barbara County, and AB 3 attempts to supersede them by bypassing the standard process with special legislation.
Assemblymember Williams has argued that bypassing the standard process of creating a special district would offer more flexibility in how the district operates. More importantly, this process would require passage of the bill in the California State Assembly as opposed to gathering a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the qualified voters of the proposed district area. I can understand Das’ sense of urgency, especially considering the recent UC Santa Barbara Foundation Trustees’ report that called for establishing a form of self governance, but to rush the creation of a CSD would be disastrous. Creating an ineffective organization would do more harm than good, and the desire to churn out a CSD in three months leaves much to be desired.
The support AB 3 has enjoyed is a result of the massive shift in public mindset during the publication of the Grand Jury report 12 years ago, in addition to the beginning of last school year. Prior to the events of last spring quarter (largely the Deltopia Riots and last May’s tragedy), IV was largely ignored by the student body and greater community. Pockets of people passionate about improving the living conditions for residents of IV existed, but this sense of collective responsibility did not exist.
AB 3 has effectively created an army of servile sycophants. It is increasingly clear that within the current self-governance movement, people are attempting to capitalize on the renewed sense of agency. Many members of the community, greater student body, and quasi-elected officials are head over heels in love with AB 3. They have been more than eager to support it with active mobilization and organization. Some are attempting to try and make a career out of Isla Vista, but their relevance and importance is highly transitory and fading more and more by the day.
We may be on the precipice of true change Isla Vista, but AB 3 is not the way forward. Putting all our eggs in this basket will ultimately hurt us in the long run, and the unwillingness to research or seriously consider potential alternatives will be its downfall.