Dear Board of Supervisors,
Like Britney Spears, you can’t seem to get out of your own way, can you? And, continuing in the Britney-themed vein of the last column I wrote in response to the unmerited - and largely unmitigated - attacks on Isla Vista’s festivities, all I can say is that you are creating a situation that will be nothing short of toxic should you continue on your current path.
Normally I wouldn’t want to insult the fine men and women who selflessly serve Santa Barbara County, devoting countless quantities of time and effort to the Board of Supervisors, by comparing them to the bastion of bad decisions that is Britney Spears. But, this time, you deserve it. That’s right, I’ve seen your agenda for this Tuesday’s meeting, with that insidious little item entitled “Amended Ordinances for Isla Vista.” And I’m pissed. How pissed? Let’s just say that you’re lucky I don’t have an umbrella and easy access to your automobiles.
From extending the punishment for providing alcohol to minors to creating harsher financial penalties for playing loud music in the period before, during, and after Halloween, the Amended Ordinances are nothing short of a no-holds-barred attack on Isla Vista. You’re even planning on amending a so-called “Nuisance Party Ordinance” passed in 2002, which “declares that a social gathering constitutes a public nuisance when three or more violations of local or state law ordinances occur. The proposed revisions would amend Section 36-6 of Chapter 36 of the Party Ordinance to include additional violations pertaining to fires, public nudity, urinating in public, and furnishing alcohol to a minor.” What’s the penalty for throwing a party deemed to be a public nuisance? A guaranteed misdemeanor charge, the possibility of prosecution “by county authorities in the name of the people of the state of California,” and up to $500 in fines for multiple offenses.
Sure, unless you make the same mistakes more than once, you’re most likely going to face fines of only about $100 for the first offense. And sure, that’s about what you would spend to buy booze for a given party anyway. But, that’s not the point. It’s the principle of the thing. Much like Brit Brit, I feel as though the people of Isla Vista are under unfair and unmerited attack by forces beyond our control. You may not be as obnoxious as the stalkerazzi, but you sure are ballsy, given the fact that most of you will need our votes to win what looks to be a contentious reelection campaign in the near future - Brooksie, I’m talking to you in particular here.
If you think endorsing an ordinance that characterizes Isla Vista as a place full of “excessive and disturbing noise, and uncontrollable litter and waste,” featuring “a hostile environment and diminished quality of life for the public and law enforcement officers” is the way to win over Isla Vistans, you are as deluded as Miss Spears herself. Attacking the so-called “party atmosphere” of I.V. is not the way to solve any problems.
The only thing you’re guaranteed to accomplish with these new ordinances is the alienation of the Isla Vista electorate. Sure, we forgive you for taking our tax dollars without fixing I.V.’s sidewalks, streetlights, and similar public fixtures. And sure, we have patience with the protracted, probably-never-going-to-be-finished process of putting the Master Plan into place. And sure, we’ll even conveniently forget the way you let political maneuvering get in the way of the residents’ best interests when it came to the D.P. evictions and the Conquest Housing debacle. Because of our relatively temporary time of residence in Santa Barbara County, us Isla Vistans tend to be a pretty forgetful - and forgiving - bunch. But, you’ve started screwing our soirees. And that we won’t stand for.
You see, men and women of the board, we know you have a point. Halloween has its problems, including those I mentioned above, along with many others. But what you don’t seem to understand is that we have about as much to do with most of those problems as Britney does with writing her own music. It’s a widely acknowledged fact that the vast majority of I.V.’s Halloween-related woes come from visitors, not residents. In a November, 2006 article published in The Daily Nexus, Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. Spokesman, Erik Raney said that over 80 percent of the people arrested during the 2006 Halloween festivities were visitors from out of town. Why should I.V. residents be blanket punished by extended ordinances prohibiting such relatively innocent activities as having live bands in our backyards and choosing not to wear clothing in the privacy of our own parties, when it’s clearly out-of-town visitors who are to blame for most of the more-dangerous behaviors the board says it finds objectionable?
My fear is that these seemingly innocuous new amendments - a $100 fine isn’t the end of the world after all - be as easy to abuse as Promises’ lax policies on leaving the grounds during a rehab stint. And, in my opinion, they are just as ridiculous and liable to lead to just as slippery of a slope. If you want to do something about I.V.’s Halloween problems, don’t make up silly laws and try to get them passed while most of the student population is away for summer vacation. Involve us, include us and encourage us to help come up with ways to make Halloween more local - which is really the only long-term solution I can see to help ensure the safety of I.V.’s residents during the holiday. I’m sure we’d be as happy to talk things out as Brit is to defend herself to any paparazzi who will listen - and infinitely more lucid and rational to boot. We’re not all crazy partiers looking to drunkenly drain the county’s coffers. We’re students, we’re county residents, and most importantly, we’re voters. And, we are just as entitled to a safe and enjoyable celebration as Santa Barbara’s older residents are to that other loud, alcohol-fueled mecca for out-of-towners in S.B. I think it’s called Fiesta. And by the way, when was the last time someone was fatally shot during an I.V. Halloween party? A digression, I know, but food for thought nonetheless.
In conclusion, I am going to tell you the same thing I would like to say to Brit on behalf of all of us who bought her albums back in 1999, still harbor repressed teeny-bopper tendencies, and continue rooting for her success. I’m not mad. I’m disappointed. And I truly hope we can work this out, together, before you do anything else to ruin our relationship - for our sake and yours.