Pasadena Unified School District Special Election - Shall the Charter of the City of Pasadena be amended to provide for the nomination and election of members of the Pasadena Unified School District by geographic sub-districts, with geographic sub-districts adopted by the School Board and redrawn after each federal census based upon a citizen Redistricting Commission recommendation?
To cut to the chase, what this does is break down the Pasadena Unified School District into seven so-called "geographic sub-districts," with one representative elected from each of these areas. The three cities contained within the PUSD (Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre), once diced up, would then each be represented on the PUSD School Board by their own exclusive representative. This somehow being superior to the current Board of Ed, which has 7 at large members that are elected district-wide, and therefore have to answer to everyone. After all, they are subject to the approval of all the voters, not just those of a particular neighborhood.
For me by far the most important reason for voting 'No' on Measure A is that Sierra Madre has, for whatever reason, been kicked to the back of the school bus representation-wise. How this came to be is a mystery to me, but the sad fact is, should Measure A pass, not all of the resulting "geographic sub-districts" would elect their representative at the same time. Most of them would be permitted to elect their own representatives in 2013.
Sierra Madre and that portion of Pasadena we will be sharing our sub-district with, however, will not be permitted to elect someone until 2015. Which means that during this critical two year period when the big decisions are being made on how to divvy up the $350 million in Measure TT Bond money we will not have our own representative. While those areas we will be competing with for those school construction and maintenance funds will have elected district representatives fighting for them.
When the decisions were being made to shove Sierra Madre behind those other sub-geo districts, we were represented on what had been termed a "citizen task force." Those representing our interests there were, at first, Joe Mosca, and then after Joe bailed out on Sierra Madre, Bart Doyle. Yet somehow we were allowed to be stuck with what will be, should Measure A pass, second class citizenship. We will have to pay our portion of that vast amount of bond money, yet we will not be represented at a critical time. In essence, we will experience taxation without representation.
Before she left office MaryAnn MacGillivray had asked that Bart Doyle come before the City Council and explain this bizarre situation, and how it is that he airbrushed the matter from his PowerPoint presentation of a couple months ago. Yet somehow Bart has never been called upon to explain any of this, or why he did not vote against it when serving on the PUSD Redistricting Task Force. The assumption being that John Buchanan must have been, for whatever reason, shielding him.
Hopefully the new City Council will convince Bart to come on down and explain exactly why were awarded second class community status by the PUSD Task Force, and he didn't raise a finger to oppose it.
If you live in Sierra Madre you'd have to have taken leave of your senses to vote for Measure A.
There are other reasons given for opposing Measure A. Here is the argument put forward by William Bibbiani, the former PUSD Board Member who wrote the rebuttal to Measure A. You may have already enjoyed reading the following in the official sample ballot sent your way recently.
Measure A supporters falsely claim that it will "bring more democracy and local control." In reality, it takes away your right to vote for all 7 school board members and gives you the right to vote for only 1 board member every four years.
Measure A drastically reduces your voting power by forcing you into a segregated political sub-district which will be drawn in large part based on someone's perception of your ethnicity.
Measure A's intended effect - to elect more minorities - will instead allow small political interest groups to control and dominate our schools.
Measure A supporters falsely claim it will give you "greater access" to the School Board. In fact, because you will be allowed to vote for only 1 school board member instead of all 7, Measure A will guarantee that 6 of the 7 board members have no incentive to give you any consideration at all.
Our current at-large election system, which is identical to the method used in La Canada, South Pasadena, San Marino and Arcadia, ensures that every Board member is answerable to every voter, whoever they are and wherever they live.
So apparently one of the driving forces behind Measure A is the politically correct notion that ethnically exclusive districts are somehow more fair than the at-large system of representation. Which kind of flies in the face of the previously politically correct notion, that kids would be better educated should they be bused all over the Pasadena Unified School District to assure racial homogeneity. Times change, as so do the styles.
However, when you consider that the way Pasadena Unified School Boardmembers are elected now has blessed us with the likes of Ed Honowitz and Tom Selinske, it all kind of detracts from Bibbiani's arguments just a little bit.
I would hate to think, however, that the reason Sierra Madre is not being allowed to elect its own representative until two years after most of the others has something to do with the issues raised by William Bibbiani.
There is another reason why this has all come down, and that is something called the California Voting Rights Act. Here is how it is explained in the "City Attorney's Impartial Analysis Of Measure A." The City Attorney in this case being Pasadena's own, Michelle Beal Bagneris.
If Measure A does not pass, the Board will continue to be elected at large for numbered seats. Continuing to have an at large form of election has been asserted to violate the California Voting Rights Act for not providing representation of the diverse interests of the voters, and could result in potential liability for damages, fees and costs if it were challenged in court.
So who would sue impoverished and rapidly declining PUSD over something as ethically nebulous as this? Costing the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars that could otherwise have been spent on school books and teacher salaries?
The organization pushing for such things is called the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (click here). It's Board Chairman is John F. Walker, who is an emeritus partner at the law firm Latham and Watkins. Amos Hartston, who also serves on the Board of this so-called Lawyer's Committee, is also from Latham and Watkins.
So who do we know from Latham and Watkins who could possibly answer some of our Measure A questions? Particularly on the issue of potentially ruinous lawsuits aimed at the PUSD should we here in Sierra Madre assert our rights to proper and timely representation and help vote this thing down?
Our new City Councilmember, John Harabedian. He is a Latham and Watkins attorney as well. Maybe he could shed some light on all of this. Or get someone down here that could. With Bart clammed up and absent, perhaps John might step into the void and bring the light.