Tom Stone: Local Hero

We note with sadness the passing of Tom Stone, who was able to thwart the efforts of Isla Vista’s absentee landlords to block the formation of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District nearly 50 years ago.

The IVRPD is Isla Vista’s first formal unit of local government. That is, one which has taxing authority and which I.V. residents — and only I.V. residents — elect its board of directors.

In 1972, the town’s ad hoc representative body — the I.V. Community Council — took a plan to form a special district for recreation and park services to county authorities requesting an election to establish such an agency as is allowed under state law. At the time, I.V. had only one county park and that existed solely to qualify the county for $75,000 per year from the state because of I.V.’s proximity to the offshore oil drilling operation, Platform Holly. Enterprising local residents documented that the county never spent any of the $75,000 in I.V., a shameful practice that continued throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Much to the surprise of most observers, the IV/Goleta/Hope Ranch county supervisor — Dan Grant — endorsed the proposal to hold such an election, and it sailed through the other county authorities. The election was set for October 31, 1972. Yes, Halloween, I.V.’s bacchanal holiday.

But I.V.’s absentee property owners took advantage of the existing state law that they could prevent such an election if they could muster the owners of over 50 percent of the assessed valuation of all property in the proposed area. And they did get 50.2 percent of the assessed valuation to veto the election, which crushed the hopes I.V.’s young reformers.

Into this crisis stepped the young attorney, Tom Stone. I never heard how or why he got involved but he led a couple of resident volunteers to do the research to disqualify enough of the absentee landlords to drop the protesters below 50 percent. The election was held after all and passed overwhelmingly.

And the district is still alive nearly 50 years later.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, Tom Stone passed away December 5 in his native Iowa.

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