Interview Conducted by Mathew Burciaga
Photo provided by the candidate.
What do you think the EVPLA could have done better this year?
First of all, I’d like to say that I have a lot of respect for the EVPLA, but I definitely think he tempered his message in areas he really shouldn’t have. A few areas–AB 3, definitely. I think that we are losing opportunities right now: we have momentum for representation in the area. There is not only support from the local community but we’re also gaining support in Sacramento. I think that some of the concerns that have been raised against cityhood have some validity to them, but I think they can all be addressed relatively easily. We’re an institution of higher learning; we should be able to think outside of the box on some of these things. I think that [the EVPLA’s] response to Deltopia and Halloween as far as the relationship between the UC and the sheriff’s department–while a step in the right direction–was lacking substantially. I think that allowing our community to be placed under martial law like it was is a poor reflection on his ability to come up with solutions that are based in rationality and logic–that are student-based solutions. I think it’s easy to go to the Board of Supervisors or go to the sheriff’s department and rely on their experience. I believe I have a substantial amount of experience working with the County Board of Supervisors and the sheriff’s department. I would not have allowed the MRAP. I would not have allowed the martial law: the fences, the horses. I would not have allowed that to happen in that community. To his credit, there’s limited power that the EVPLA has in directly challenging that, but I think that one of the biggest powers that the EVPLA has is organizing the student body and community of Isla Vista, which he didn’t quite do as good of a job in that respects.
How have the events of last year informed your understanding of IV and how can it be improved?
There were a lot of incidents that happened in IV over the past year that I think have solidified us as a community that has brought people together in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time. I’ve been here in the Santa Barbara area for over 10 years and I haven’t seen the type of unity and community [that] has been felt in reflection of some of these tragedies, specifically the Elliott Rodger incident. I think that really did kind of galvanize our community. The way that the community responded to that shifted in my perspective. The same thing for the [Deltopia] riot. I have a much different perspective on how the riot started than some of the other people in the community and I think our response to the riot needs to be different. I think that one of the ways that we can grow as a community, first of all, is work towards self governance by providing our own police force. In providing services like that, we’ll be able to be more sensitive to student needs. I think that also if we have cityhood, we’d be able to grant permits for events for Deltopia and Halloween as opposed to having to rely on the county which may not have our community’s best interests in mind. I think that as a community in response to tragedies that have happened outside of our direct community–including the Michael Brown and Eric Garner case–[…] there has been a movement towards solidarity and unity to oppose these sorts of militarization policies that is reflected in the Black Student’s Union going to Ferguson and drafting a letter to Chancellor Yang, in essence, asking to divest from outside police forces. My hope would be, in the upcoming year, that we would be able to come together more as a community and develop community solutions to some of these problems, like crowd control for these festivals. We would be able to develop a sense of camaraderie amongst one another. One of the best ways to combat issues like the rape culture and people being attacked at night is definitely being able to look out for one another. To be self aware of our environment, to be willing to stand up and speak when we see something that is not appropriate or we feel uncomfortable with, and to be able to engage in a conversation and find that we actually have a lot more commonalities than maybe apparent on the surface.
What is the biggest challenge you believe Isla Vista is facing right now and how will you address it within this position?
I think that a lot of Isla Vista’s issues boil down to self-governance. The fact that the student body, as a whole, is increasing–as far as population density–here in the community of Isla Vista so we definitely need to improve […] our relations with UCPD as well as the sheriff’s department. I think that we also need to be able to continue to open up dialogue between the temporary residents (being primarily students) and the long term residents as to why its in our best interests as a community to be able to self govern and not rely on the whims of the county as a whole. One thing I will do personally is go up to Sacramento. I will pitch the case in front of the committees, I have experience doing this. I actually drafted the Liberty Preservation Act, which was signed into law by Governor Brown. It was introduced by Assemblyman Donnelly at the time, so I’m well aware of the process and how to draft legislation [and] the amendment process and I think I have a fairly good argument and fairly good position on how we can become a full fledged city. The first thing we need to do is limit the cost of policing events like Deltopia and Halloween. One of the ways we do this is by establishing a 501c3 that focuses only on Halloween, Deltopia and other festivals. The EVPLA would have an appointed position that then would be able to coordinate with that 501c3, we would be able to petition the city as opposed to the county for the permits. We would be able to have this board be comprised of mostly students with maybe some of the long term residents that are here. We would have different themes for the events we have and whatnot, but that would bring money in. Not only would it reduce the cost of policing, but it would bring money in. I’ve been in communications with Mike Lazaro from Carpinteria. His brother-in-law is the mayor and they do the Avocado Festival every year, and I was thinking we could do something similar to the Avocado Festival. There is not a huge increase in deputies that are there. They do rely on the community and private security to be able to police the event, and I think by increasing student patrols this will be that balance. With the legalization of cannabis coming in 2016, I’ll be the chair of the Santa Barbara County effort to legalize marijuana in California. There is a huge source of revenue that will be able to come in from legalization. I’ve been an advocate for 10 years, primarily for the medical aspect of cannabis, and I think it’s important to distinguish between the two. People who are using it recreationally I don’t believe should be penalized for that. We should keep medical cannabis tax free and tax recreational cannabis. CCHI 2016 is going to be the bill that I’m going to work on and I think it has a cap at 10 percent for the tax. Half of it goes to drug abuse prevention, education and the school system while the other half will go to the state General Fund. I respectfully disagree with my opponent’s assertion that cityhood is impractical. I think it’s very practical and it is very much needed.
How do you plan to address the question of Isla Vista self governance within the position you seek?
As I said, I would personally go up to Sacramento and sit in on the committee process and talk to the committee members and be able to address their concern, specifically about funding. That seems to be the underlying reason Assemblyman Williams and the other advocates in the area feel it’s not practical. Again, I have to disagree with that. The city of Carpinteria is generally the same size and population density [and yet] it has five city council members and they have festivals every year that are successful without major conflict. I think as an institution of higher learning we should be able to come together as a student body and say this is possible. Not only is it possible but it is practical. It’s practical to have students in control of these events. It’s practical for us to have an entire department that advocates for self governance that as students we should be able to take those ideas and ideals and put them into practice in our own community. Besides going to Sacramento and advocating for what I think is missed monetary opportunities and addressing the concerns of people both on committee and locally, just going into the community and talking to the people. At the end of the day, that’s one thing I think is unique to the EVPLA as opposed to the other positions is that there is an obligation to go into the community and to make sure that not just the students, but also other people that have businesses and property owners have their concerns addressed and I can be a liaison or a voice for the students to that part of the community.
What’s your understanding of the 1993 CA Supreme Court Ruling Smith vs. Regents, and how do you anticipate it will impact your plans for the office?
Being a law student, this is something that fascinates me. On one hand, I believe the EVPLA and other executives should have somewhat of a buffer to be able to act as an impartial advocate for the purview of their office. For instance, the EVPSA has different focuses than I would have. Within that understanding, there should be some protection. That being said, I think that it should be an individual’s right through their conscious be able to object. I don’t think that if you object to the war effort, for instance, that you should have to pay for bombing people on the other side of the world. That being said, if an individual doesn’t like me advocating for full cityhood as opposed to what AB3 currently says. As EVPLA, you would think it’s in my best interests to represent the student body as a whole. If a majority of the student body has an issue with something that I’m doing, I’m going to respond to the concerns of my constituents obviously. Whereas I have my own personal opinions on things, I’m not going to do something counter to the desires of the people that are voting me into office. If I understand your question, I think there should be a level of protection for the executives and the student senate to be able to advocate unbiased. I think if you don’t have those protections, it ends up allowing for special interests and other things to come into play that may cause some bias in the office.
How will you collaborate with outside organizations while still ensuring students, whose fees pay for your office, are the ones you represent?
That’s easy. The first thing I would do is find out which outside organizations the students I represent want me to coordinate and collaborate with and be sensitive and listen to the voice of my constituency–if they feel that I’m coordinating or collaborating with organizations I disagree with. For instance, the Black Students Union’s letter to Chancellor Yang about the bringing in of officers from the outside areas; I would absolutely respond to that and advocate for the drawdown of the police force and so on. At the end of the day, I very much believe in representing your constituency. I think to a certain extent, the EVPLA needs to be able to use discretion but being transparent, they’re able to use that discretion with feedback. That’s what I think will be able to help me represent the will of the student body.
How will you engage students to get involved in Isla Vista?
I have a lot of experience doing that. Right now, I’m forming an ACLU chapter here for Santa Barbara County. I have engaged students in the Isla Vista Community by forming the Santa Barbara CopWatch association. I regularly host ‘Know Your Rights’ training meetings through different nonprofits in the area, through different clubs on campus. Encouraging students to film the police in their interactions with other student. There is a lot that goes on in Isla Vista and I’m fairly involved with a lot of the different programs that is going on. Obviously, there’s more that I can do and there’s more that I will do being EVPLA. One of my number one focuses right now is making sure that the student body is safe, that they’re safe to walk home from school and work, from harassment from both other students and the police, people of authority whether it’s their landlords–that’s a concern of mine […] I think that one thing I will do to help organize the student body is always have my door open and have public meetings that are well advertised unlike the ‘Pizza with a Cop’ where you never know when or where you’re going to have it, or like the senate meeting where they change the location and they don’t put a sign on the door to tell you where it’s going to be. These are basic things that I think we can do to help engage the student body, and thirdly, to help educate the student body and encourage them to exercise their rights to empower people to not be afraid to exercise their rights responsibly.