Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Art of Penalizing Isla Vista Parties

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors are, at the moment, being urged to expand an existing Santa Barbara County Code ordinance which already makes most any party in Isla Vista a public nuisance. You can view the proposed changes at: http://bos-agenda.sbcgov.net/attachments/8489.pdf The expansions are being pushed through quickly - and quietly - and just in time for this year's Halloween festivities. According to the existing public nuisance ordinance, any collection of three or more of some 20 state and local law violations in any one gathering constitutes a public nuisance misdemeanor. Being added to that list are the offenses of public nudity, unlawful fires, urinating in public, and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Under this proposal, a single act of furnishing alcohol to a minor at a gathering renders the gathering a public nuisance. Under existing law, "rough body contact", "slamming" and launching one's self from a stage are single acts which give a police officr a basis to declare a gathering a public nuisance and thereby subject anyone lingering around after the order of disbursement to a citation and a fine; if not more severe penalties should their conduct rise to what the police would consider resisting, obstructing, or delaying a police officer in the discharge of his duties. All of the changes will be considered, and most likely made law in their entirety just in time for Halloween; 30 days forward from the date of enactment. While the proposed amendments have been, reportedly, vetted through a working group that consists of affected County Departments (District Attorney, Sheriff’s Department, Public Works, Counsel, County Executive Office and Third District), other agencies (City of Goleta, Santa Barbara City College) and representatives from the University of California Santa Barbara, it is noteworthy that neither Isla Vista residents, nor the affected student populations have been asked to join the discussion. Arguably, First Amendment rights to peaceable assembly, free speech, freedom are being further eroded by these proposed changes. Are the Isla Vista Foot Patrol really in need of more potent tools to bust up and criminalize the party-goers? Each year they arrest roughly 1,000 people over the Halloween period. The only good news for party-goers and throwers is that Isla Vista "outdoor festivals" (largely affecting outdoor bands) are to be de-criminalized under this proposal, but are still going to be subject to civil assessments (fines). Tuesday, August 28, 2007, is your opportunity to let the Board know how you feel about this new raft of laws affecting your freedom...but you'll have to drive to Santa Maria to be heard. See the Board's 8/28/2007 Meeting Agenda for further information.

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