The County Supes’ New Plan Ruffles Student Feathers
Alright, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors — you asked for it. Just when I finally got around to putting away the fishnets, fedora, and photos from my second to last Halloween in I.V., you’ve created a committee with the express intent of prohibiting, or limiting my ability to enjoy, my next — and last! — All Hallow’s Eve celebration. Of course, this means war.
Just as my forefathers and mothers famously declared that there should be no taxation without representation, I hereby say, with all due respect to the supervisors themselves, give me libation or give me death. Or at least give me the liberty to celebrate a long-standing I.V. tradition, or stop asking for my votes and my tax money. Really, I mean it. I totally understand that you object to the way the I.V. Halloween celebration costs the county money and draws huge, and sometimes, unruly crowds to our happy little seaside hamlet. I even understand if you have complaints about the way the Halloween celebration monopolizes the attention of the county’s emergency response services before and during the actual festivities. But hey, Fiesta has plenty of similar problems, gang activity in North County happens just as much before and after Halloween, and the past, present, and future uproar over widening 101 is probably responsible for its own fair share of slowing down S.B.’s first responders.
As an I.V. resident, I’m a big fan of the live and let live philosophy. After three years of renting tiny apartments in our tightly cramped town, I’d like to think I’m also fairly skilled at the art of being a good neighbor. So, I’ll put up with the onslaught of out-of-towners slowing down my State Street shopping sprees during Fiesta, the gang-related graffiti in parts of Goleta and I.V., and always being at least half an hour late every single time I try to head south on the 101 because of backups in and around Montecito. That’s because I know that in the scheme of things, these problems aren’t so bad. Fiesta is an event that inspires cultural pride for S.B. residents, county-wide law enforcement is making the best effort they can to take care of gang problems, and Montecito is still a gorgeous place to visit.
Sure, I.V. has its fair share of problems. Trust me, I know that, from crumbling, crappily constructed, cliff-hanging condos to the serious problem of stolen laptops and pilfered music players. But I don’t see the Board of Supervisors forming an anti-bad-construction committee or an anti-stolen-stuff committee. It’s probably because these problems — much like the issues of an overcrowded downtown district during Fiesta, gang problems, and traffic on the 101 — are not things that can be easily remedied by a little committee with some big complaints.
Or maybe it’s because, with much of its population composed of students whose time here only lasts four years, I.V.’s voters don’t rank very high on the supervisors’ list of priorities. I know they try, and some of them may even have the best of intentions, but if my experience as county editor at The Daily Nexus taught me anything, it’s that threatening to take action against the I.V. lifestyle garners more votes from the rest of the county’s population than offering to use the county’s resources to do something positive for the I.V. populace.
Either way, this so-called “anti-Halloween committee” is not the way to fix the underlying problems within the I.V. Halloween tradition. And yes, I’ll admit there’re some problems. The onslaught of out-of-towners almost always results in an increase in theft, assault, and vandalism during the Halloween festivities. And, although the county has an obligation to provide medical care to the slutty schoolgirl who doesn’t know her libation limits or the puking pirate who took one too many from the keg, I agree that irresponsible partying is a drain on the spirit of the celebration as well as the county’s resources. But, again, a committee seeking to stop the party altogether is not a viable solution. If you ask me, a committee against Halloween is the entirely wrong way to go about this. But by springing the formation of this committee on us Isla Vistans without giving us the benefit of a formal announcement beforehand that would have allowed us to show up and share our feelings at the meeting where this was decided, the supervisors specifically chose not to ask me our my fellow Isla Vistans.
As anyone who follows Santa Barbara politics knows, this town is crawling with committees. From the Project Area Committee (PAC) to the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD), I.V. is largely governed by committees who investigate and discuss issues and then make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The board then votes on these recommendations, and creates rules to regulate the way I.V. operates. As an unincorporated part of the 3rd District, I.V. is ruled by the Board of Supervisors and, largely, the Board of Supervisors alone.
No offense to the men and women who selflessly dedicate their time and effort to local government — and in fact, all the more power to them — but this specific committee seems like an attempt to once again scapegoat the students living in I.V. as being a problem for the larger county without looking to actually fix the infrastructure problems that plague I.V. and serve as the root cause for many of the problems that Halloween merely exacerbates. And while we’re on the topic of the committee, I know that the supervisors are now saying that they never termed this an “anti-Halloween committee,” and that terminology was the brainchild of the reporters at The Daily Nexus. But honestly, what else were they supposed to call a committee designed to work towards the eradication of the Halloween festivities in I.V.? And yes, there is a difference between making the celebration safer and ending it entirely and, from what I’ve read about this committee, it is more concerned with finding a way to shut down the celebration than it is with making it more secure.
Despite the heroic efforts on the part of many of the county’s first responders during Halloween, students still need to feel secure in knowing that calling on these lifesavers will not result in disastrous legal consequences for themselves and their friends. Despite the roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the town, there is still far too much emphasis on punishing people who make bad decisions when it comes to drinking or drug use, rather than preventing those decisions by providing alternative events or alternative transportation for people who drink and then feel the need to drive. And, despite the county’s insistence to the contrary, there is still a feeling from many of the officials deployed in I.V. for the weekend that they are there to take care of a bunch of silly little children, rather than ensure a safe and enjoyable weekend for UCSB students looking to participate in a tradition with as much merit as the Sun God Festival at UCSD, the Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA, or the big Cal-Stanford game up north. Just because our tradition involves dressing up and drinking hard, it doesn’t make it any less valid. And yes, some people take it too far. And yes, the county has every right to try and make the celebration safer, and punish those who flagrantly violate state and county law. But, again, a committee targeting the entire celebration is not the way to accomplish those goals. Rather than establishing a committee focusing on the negative — ways to stop the event, shut down the parties, and keep students ‘under control’ — why doesn’t the board launch an effort to make positive changes? Like making things safer by creating more alternative programming, providing more public transportation to students looking to get around safely during the celebrations, and educating county officials — as IVFP Lt. Sol Linver has often done and done well — to focus on keeping the students safe rather than on the dubious, and doomed, task of keeping the students sober.
So, Board of Supervisors, to sum up my point, allow me to paraphrase one of the great manifestos of our country, a venerated speech by one of America’s greatest leaders and a man who truly knew the meaning of fighting for justice, BIll Pullman, in the film Independence Day: Isla Vista and the supervisors can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests to make Halloween safer and more enjoyable for everyone involved….As Isla Vistans, we will be fighting to save our Halloween — not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.
If necessary, I guarantee you we will go to war against this committee and use every weapon at our disposal — our votes, our voices, and our incredible T-shirt making, tent city-creating, poster-designing powers — to save the I.V. tradition of celebrating Halloween.
But wouldn’t it just be easier to chalk this whole anti-Halloween committee idea up to the supervisors’ post-Halloween hangover, have a laugh at it, and then disband it in favor of something more productive? I promise that if you do, I’ll invite you all to my Halloween party next year.