The Isla Vista Vote Yes on R campaign held a kickoff meeting for volunteers and supporters Monday evening to strategize different methods that would gather support for Measure R, the tax measure that aims to fund the Isla Vista Community Service District ahead of the Jun. 5 ballot.
Measure R is the second time Isla Vista will attempt to pass a tax to fund a community services district. In November 2016, Measure F, the previous version, was only approved by 62.5 percent of voters, failing to reach the two-thirds support it needed to establish an eight percent tax on utilities to fund the newly-formed IVCSD.
The failure to pass Measure F cast a shadow over the victory of Measure E, which was approved by 87.5 percent of voters and succeeded in establishing the IVCSD. As a result, a community services district was created in Isla Vista without the steady funding needed to carry out any of of its proposed initiatives — such as tenant mediation and devising parking solutions.
The kickoff meeting saw good turnout, with both students and community members in attendance. This time around, proponents of the tax measure are more hopeful that Measure R will pass. Measure R has the full support of the IVCSD and is sponsored by the UCSB Campus Democrats, many of whom are helping with the Vote Yes on R campaign.
Emily Murray, a second year history of public policy major and the President of Campus Democrats, is one student who is working on Vote Yes on R campaign. She says that despite large student turnover from year-to-year, Measure R remains an important issue for students to care about.
“It will address key problems students face in Isla Vista such as public safety, parking, infrastructure, and a tenant mediation program to help empower tenants,” Murray said. “Even if some students are only here for four years or less, we’re all residents of this community.”
Jeike Meijer, a second year global studies and feminist studies major, and the vice-president of the UCSB Campus Democrats, is working on the campaign for Measure R. She says that the biggest thing to get right this time around is making sure people have the right information going into the polls.
“There was a lot of backlash from landlords and they were giving out flyers,” Meijer told the Bottom Line. “There was a lot of misconstruing and people were worried about the costs.”
Meijer said she went door-to-door to raise support for Measure R and was surprised to see how many students were unaware of how little the utility tax would cost them.
For example, if someone paying $45 in utilities, Meyer says an eight percent tax would cost them $3.60 extra a month, which she says is “worth the benefits.” Those still worried about the cost will be relieved to know that the tax measure features a low-income reduction for tenants who cannot afford to pay an eight-percent tax on utilities.
Confusion about the cost of a utility tax is, in part, due to the opposition campaign efforts of a group called Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes, which formed back in 2016 to fight back against the passage of Measure F. As reported by the Independent, the group was “funded entirely by landlords.”
IVCSD President Ethan Bertrand says he does anticipate similar opposition will arise against Measure R but cautions against the community believing that this group has their best interests at heart.
“Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes is really disgraceful group made out of out-of-town corporate landlords,” says Bertrand. “Their name is a misnomer and it’s really unfortunate to see this group of selfish landlord who are spending a ton of money to say no to their tenants having more political power.”
Following the failed Measure F initiative, in the beginning of 2018, the IVCSD voted to put another tax measure on the upcoming Jun. 5 ballot in the form of Measure R, or the Improved Isla Vista and Infrastructure Funding Plan. The tax measure will be similar to Measure F in that it will aim to create an eight percent utility tax in order to provide an estimated $642,000 annual revenue to sustain the IVCSD.
Additionally, Measure R, like its predecessor, will still need the approval of two-thirds of voters to pass. Bertrand says that he has hope the tax will pass given that the IVCSD has had a year in existence to prove its worth.
“There was a lot going on on the ballot and we had a lot of explaining to do,” Bertrand told The Bottom Line. “The biggest thing that has changed is that we’ve now been in business for a year and we’ve been able to make real change in this community.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled Jeike Meijer’s name.