Meet the I.V. Community Services District Board Candidates
Why Are They Running, and What Challenges Will They Face?
On November 8, Isla Vista voters will decide whether or not to approve the formation of a Community Services District, known as Measure E. Also on the ballot is the district’s accompanying 8 percent utility tax, or Measure F.
The ballot items emerged after Assemblymember Das Williams sponsored unprecedented legislation known as AB 3. Last fall, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, reigniting a bygone effort to establish a local governing structure in the unincorporated yet densely populated place.
Williams has bankrolled the campaign committee to the tune of $80,000 — just less than 80 percent of its total — with money left over from his successful supervisorial race. In January, he will be sworn in as Santa Barbara County’s 1st District Supervisor, which represents Montecito, the City of Santa Barbara, and Cuyama.
Landlords in Isla Vista, meanwhile, have entirely funded a campaign to oppose the tax measure. They raised nearly $40,000.
The sticking point may be that Measure E requires just a majority to pass while Measure F needs two-thirds of the vote. Should Measure E pass but the tax fail, the formation of the board would still be created but many question how effective it would be without the half million dollars that the tax would bring in. Last year, UCSB pledged to donate $200,000 each year for seven years should the district pass. According to UCSB’s I.V. czar George Thurlow, the university intends to keep its promise even if the tax measure fails. That money, he wrote in an email, would be restricted to “mutually agreed upon projects and programs that will benefit UCSB students.”
Measure E would establish a seven-member governing board, made up of five elected members and two appointed seats (one by the UCSB chancellor and the other by the 3rd District Supervisor). On the ballot are also the candidates running for those seats. Confusingly, there are actually three separate races for the five elected positions. That’s because one of the seats is a two-year position. (Ethan Bertrand is the sole candidate). Another two seats will initially be two-year seats (running are Jon Hedges, Natalie Jordan, Andrew Gabriel Pragin, and Michael Kile) in order to stagger them with the remaining two four-year seats (Jay Freeman and Spencer Brandt running unopposed). Hedges, Jordan, Brandt, and Bertrand are running as a slate, and have been endorsed by the Democratic Party.
The Santa Barbara Independent sent out email questionnaires to each of the candidates. The following is an edited version of their responses.
Founder of tech company Cydia, former 3rd District supervisorial candidate
Why did you decide to run for the CSD? I am running for the I.V. Community Services District to help ensure that residents of Isla Vista are represented and informed, not just locally, but at the level of the entire county: I will be fighting the battle to set up a Municipal Advisory Council power, which I believe is the most important thing we can do as a community. I have been involved in the creation of this district since 2014, and was at the center of the efforts for the Isla Vista Governance Options Financial Analysis Study.
What challenges do you see the new district facing should it be approved by voters? The most important challenge facing the Isla Vista CSD will be lack of support from the Board of Supervisors. Almost all of the powers that were given to this new district cannot be activated unilaterally: most of the powers are only for “funding.” Essentially, we are going to be spending most of our time arguing with the Board of Supervisors (which is why it was so drastically important for me to run in the primary election for supervisor. In the best case it would have given all the unincorporated communities a stronger voice, and in the worst case it simply provides us a little more leverage and moved the discussion).
Father Jon Hedges:
Assistant pastor at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church
Why are you running? My wife has been asking me that one. What are you doing? Do you think it’s 1967 again? Why are you sticking your neck into this? Because I believe this is a historic opportunity. It absolutely cannot be missed.
What challenges do you think the CSD will have to overcome? This is an adventure. When you are kind of in adventure mode and you are facing something of historical proportion, there are going to be challenges. Yet there is a sense of unity and collaboration. One of the big challenges in that is that I.V. traditionally has been a very balkanized community, divided into special interest groups even more so than the broader country.
I think the creation of the CSD will give us an opportunity to have an anchor point that will build community identity. The building of an Isla Vista community identity is the biggest challenge. How do we bring in the people who have been historically on the margins? To make Isla Vista great is not talking about just white people — it’s about talking about everybody.
What are your top priorities for Isla Vista? The community center, community policing, and tenant mediation aspect of it. Everyone keeps saying it won’t have any teeth — if it’s the consensus of the community, if it’s transparent, then it does have power. We are looking at building transparency in this community — not control by landlords or control by the university or by county bureaucrats. I think the people’s voice ought to take the lead.
How long have been involved in Isla Vista politics? Peripherally, since the 1960s, I have typically taken a role of advising.
SBCC alum, I.V. Recreation and Park District boardmember
Why did you decide to run for the CSD? I have never loved a community more than I love Isla Vista, which is why I have been working tirelessly to serve my neighbors since arriving a couple of years ago. The time that I spent as a member of the Isla Vista Safe Task Force gives me a large amount of insight into one of the main interests of the IVCSD, community policing. I am also proud to represent our people of color and the LGBTQ community, two groups of which need more local representation.
What are your top priorities for I.V.? As Director, my highest priorities will include: building a robust community policing program, improving the rental housing experience through a landlord-tenant mediation program, and amplifying the will of the people through a Municipal Advisory Council (MAC). My experience working with local public safety leaders is unparalleled by anyone else in the race, and I have a thorough understanding of the issues related to housing and the small amount of local representation that we currently have.
What challenges do you think the CSD will have to overcome? I believe that the CSD will have to gain the trust of the community, something that I’m confident my running mates and I will be able to accomplish. With the limited funding of the CSD, the board will have to be creative and thoughtful in its allocation of resources.
How long have you been involved in I.V. politics? I have been involved in Isla Vista politics since September of 2014. At that time, I was working hard to help re-elect Congresswoman Lois Capps, garner support for Measure P to ban fracking, and elect local Isla Vista candidates, such as Paola Dela Cruz for the IVRPD Board of Directors and Jonathan Abboud for the SBCC Board of Trustees. In October of 2014, I joined the movement for Isla Vista self governance. I’ve been an active participant in the grassroots community process ever since. In August of 2015, I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District.
UCSB’s Associated Students internal vice president
How involved in I.V. politics have you been? In my first year I was elected for the position of Associated Students Off-Campus Senator representing 1,000 students living in Isla Vista. This position put me in the middle of Isla Vista and campus affairs. Through this position, I was able to bridge UCSB and its beloved neighboring community. Over the past few years I have worked on establishing an alternative transportation program, to transport disabled students to campus. This work has made me aware of the needs of Isla Vista and how they can be overcome through the establishment of a Community Service District.
What challenges do you think the CSD will have to overcome? The first thing is that Measures E&F need to pass! We need to create awareness among the residents of Isla Vista of the establishment of the CSD and that they will have the opportunity to vote on this historical step for Isla Vista. Through this, I hope to work towards unity of all Isla Vista residents. The next step would be to keep the community engaged after the district is formed.
What are your top priorities for IV? I would like to have a safer community! I think a key aspect of making IV safer is working to secure parking. Residents are parking blocks away from their homes and are walking on not yet paved or lit streets. Through the CSD, we have the ability to make parking easier and SAFER for the residents of Isla Vista.
UCSB student, member of UCSB for Bernie
Why are you running? I decided to run to continue the ideals I have been working for as part of the Bernie Sanders campaign. I was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention, and as part of the political and cultural revolution, the campaign has to run progressive leaders for office at every level we can. This accomplishes two goals, with the first allowing us to directly affect what happens in our communities, and the second allowing other leaders to take more progressive stances. Progressive stances also include going against party lines if need be. However, the county Dems endorsed a full slate with no thought of representation of the growing Latinx community, which also includes the working families that live in I.V. I am biracial Latino and I want to ensure that my community is looked after when it is usually ignored.
I have been involved in the Million Student March, the Sanders campaign here in I.V., and VOCEROS de UCSB. Los VOCEROS is a new group formed from Latinx town halls and we set a statement of reforms against the university which they have accepted. I was one of the six writers and negotiators for VOCEROS this past spring.
I will be here for at least two more years for school. And my plans after college are in the air. I view myself as someone who can be a strong advocate for communities in need, but I have difficulty as viewing myself as a career politician due to the negative connotation that word has held for so long for me. I view myself as pursuing some time in engineering with an emphasis on the environment and the rest in education.
Andrew Gabriel Pragin:
Former UCSB student, socio-political consultant
Why did you decide to run? I have previously said “because it is the next logical step” after having attended so many community meetings — both about the CSD/AB 3 and beyond. I have been actively involved in Isla Vista politics for at least a year, culminating this past election season with my employment as Jay Freeman’s “Campaign Philosopher.”
The real answer is that I care about every single person that lives in this community and want to see them live up to their fullest potential. I left UCSB some five months ago to devote my time to Isla Vista for the betterment of Isla Vista. In my opinion, the “self-governance” initiative is one that has the potential to create a lot of positive change. It will alter our relationship with other interested entities (e.g. UCSB, CoSB, PD/SBSO/CHP, non-profits) and enable the population with a cemented platform for the empowerment of its voice. I am running because I love this place and what it has given me. I want to give back.
What are your first priorities for I.V.? The hiring of a general manager for the District as well as a realistic prioritization of the funding to be allocated to services. The General Manager of this district will be like no other — the hodgepodge of services essentially causes any candidate to be inexperienced in one way or another.
Because the District is somewhat lacking in funding — it has a maximum estimate of $512,000 annual revenue from the Utility User Tax — it will be incredibly important to set the priorities of expenditure in a way that accounts for funding larger projects, as well as improving the community immediately through more manageable investments.
Second-year UCSB undergraduate studying History of Public Policy
Why did you decide to run? I’m running for IVCSD because I am very passionate about seeing this district get created, and run effectively. I became involved in Isla Vista politics when I began attending the weekly self-governance meetings, where the community was parsing out every detail of how IVCSD was to work. I volunteered to register voters in time for the primary. I helped organize a town hall meeting this summer, when the Sheriff’s Office announced that they were going to ask for a more restrictive noise ordinance.
What are your top priorities for I.V.? My top priority for Isla Vista is to work towards better public safety in a responsible, community driven way. The CSD will have the power to contract for additional policing, and I want to develop a community-policing program that employs non-sworn officers – students, possibly – who don’t have the ability to carry a weapon or make an arrest. Implementing less punitive policing practices can not only build a stable, trusting relationship between residents and police, but it also has the potential to save the county a lot of money.
Tenant rights is another huge issue in our community that the CSD will have the opportunity to tackle head-on. I’m also very concerned about the lack of representation our community is afforded. IVCSD will remedy some of these issues by its mere existence, but it is important that it works with the county to create a Municipal Advisory Council to serve as a coordinated voice to the Board of Supervisors, and an Area Planning Commission to make land-use planning decisions in I.V.
What challenges do you think the CSD will have to overcome? I think that the CSD’s biggest challenge will be to build the lasting relationships with the county and the university. In the past, the relationship has had too much distrust. The task of avoiding that history and building working relationships will be one of the unique responsibilities of the first board.