Catherine Flaherty, a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), has recently been elected to the board of Isla Vista Community Services District (CSD).
With a double major in political science and history of public policy and law at UCSB, Catherine’s coursework has helped her as a student and as a public servant.
“You have … unexpected conversations [in classes] that can totally change how you choose a position that you have on something that’s happening, or they bring up something you didn’t consider before and it’s super valuable,” she said.
These two perspectives have allowed her to put what she’s learned to use and to bring nationwide political discussions to Isla Vista, the community which she considers to be “the perfect place to test out progressive policies and rethink local government and local involvement.”
Previously an off-campus senator at UCSB Associated Students (AS), she made the formal decision to run for CSD in August. Seeing her involvement in AS as “the perfect bridge for the CSD,” Catherine hopes to be the connector between the two agencies, increasing the awareness of ongoing projects and existing resources, and “partnering as much as possible, and maintaining that open line of communication.”
Following the resignation of AS President Daevionne Beasley, Catherine has assumed the position of AS internal vice president. Totally surprised by the new position while serving on the CSD board, she says that she will make sure to recuse herself from any conflicts of interest.
“I think IV has such an amazing chance of being a model for sustainability for future generations,” she explained.
Catherine’s most ambitious plan during her two-year term is her sustainability proposal. She hopes to first establish an area-planning commission, which would work with community organizations to create an IV Master Plan, envisioning a more sustainable Isla Vista long into the future. Wanting community members to sit on that board, Catherine plans to have the CSD and the new commission collaborate with community leaders on housing, lighting, and transportation.
“I don’t know everything, but I know that a lot of people do have a lot of interests that we can collaborate on, and I think that commission would be an incredible opportunity,” she explained.
Alongside this commission, she hopes to push for more alternative modes of transportation — increasing access to buses and bikes — and improving sidewalks and bike lanes in the community. As someone very excited about this project, she hopes to start the conversation with other board members as soon as she is sworn in. Her other short-term goals for sustainability include supporting the IV Compost Collective and improving and increasing carshare services like Zipcar in post-COVID-19 times.
When it comes to safety in the neighborhood, Catherine thinks the tense relationship between the residents and police needs to be most immediately addressed, “to ensure that the experiences with our police are safe and we do feel supported.”
Her plans are to increase the presence of the Community Service Organization, to ensure people’s safety and their peaceful interactions with the police, implement racial bias and implicit bias training for the police department, and support communal discussions about investing in community programs. Lastly, she plans to establish a community position that would be the first to respond to minor situations such as noise complaints.
With the historical lack of women representation on the board, Catherine believes that a more holistic representation of the IV community on the CSD board would be a great way to ensure the safety of minority groups in the community, such as women. While lighting and general safety-related changes will be included in the IV Master Plan, “we have services that are already in place that I don’t think a lot of people know about, and increasing the awareness for that resource is a really great first step.”
Catherine also hopes to connect the local government to local residents. Prioritizing everyone’s access to basic needs, she wishes to empower people to come to the board and feel at ease accessing their resources. She also plans to implement “small things that make a community really feel like one.” Open markets and live music are on the top of her list.
Given the ongoing pandemic, she plans to hold these events outdoors in the newly renovated community center, “and over Zoom too, but there’s something special about actually going somewhere and seeing people, even if you’re 10 feet away.”
There will also be very specific guidelines in place and staff at the event to make sure these rules are followed, of course. Planning to open the newly renovated community center and the parks for different community groups to host their events, Catherine hopes to bring a sense of community celebration to all.
When asked about her plans regarding the COVID-19 situation in IV, she responded that she wants “as much testing as possible.” She explained that the CSO safety tents are starting back up again and that there is an expected increase in community testing. Hoping that the newly passed county ordinance, which allows the local government to charge fines, will deter behaviors, Catherine believes that the increase in testing is what is really going to change things.
“I know that a lot of people do have concerns about that, and the CSD is definitely listening. I’m excited to work on that response because to me, that’s the biggest thing facing IV now. And there is a lot of concern and rightful frustration,” she said. “I’m in the same boat too, I’ve been staying in my apartment and it’s frustrating seeing people go out as if nothing is happening when we’re all making sacrifices, and some bigger than others.”