What we witnessed last night was a Lame Duck Session. Some of these Board members are running for re-election and may or may not win. A couple of them have very well financed Darth Vader-style establishment opposition and I doubt they'll be back. A few are leaving altogether, probably to get in on the PUSD land rush. There's some big money that is going to be made there.
But with the election next month, and a new Board of Education being seated in May, this is very much a short timer outfit. And while what they had to say last night might have some validity for a few weeks, once the new Board of Education is seated whatever that was will be of little importance. And I suspect they are very aware of this. Which means that all they were really doing last night was attempting to calm the herd and buy some more time. Something they apparently have a lot of experience doing, and have done so for years.
Ramon Miramontes, who numbers among those hanging it up, is apparently the only straight shooter in the bunch. And what he had to say pretty much nailed it. The new Board of Education will be dominated by representatives who will answer to their own districts. Their political future hinges on them delivering the goods to their folks back home. The more goodies they bring back to the schools in those neighborhoods that elected them, the more likely they are to have continued successful careers. At-large representatives, who might have at least paid lip-service to Sierra Madre's problems, are a thing of the past. And since our right to elect someone to the Board was stolen from us for some reason nobody cared to explain last night, we will have no voice. Sierra Madre will have become an orphan, and like most orphans we are going to get the short end of the stick. And perhaps worse.
Here is a question. If under the new regime elected Board of Education representatives only answer to their own subdistricts, will we ever again see a meeting at City Hall where all of them attend? Would any reps from the other districts even feel the need to show up? Since we will have no representative for the next two years, the next meeting might be a very quiet affair.
Chris Koerber and John Capoccia tried to get the various Lame Ducks to come out and unequivocally vow that the Middle School will be built, and soon. None of them cared to do that. We heard from some that they believed it would be built, and others said that in their personal opinion the Middle School would happen. But nobody wanted to swear on any stack of Bibles. And honestly, how could they make such a promise? They're lame ducks. It is the next Board of Education that will get to decide where the hundreds of millions of dollars in remaining Measure TT bond money will be spent. A Board of Education that will not include us.
Like I said, unless you like hopeless tragedies, this meeting was probably not a very good use of your time.
I also have to tell you this, I have never heard so many "I'm sorries" in all of my life. Board President Renatta Cooper was sorry, and apologized profusely for a variety of things. It was a very well done performance, and I swore at the end she was dabbing at her eyes. Other Board members were sorry, too, and didn't hesitate to share their pain with us. Some of the staff guys were sorry as well. Including Fredo, who seems to have built a career around it. Even the architect was sorry, though in keeping with the educational theme he did say that he had learned from the experience. Just a veritable mountain of sorrow.
Let me ask you this. Did you ever dream that we'd see a day when those you voted to give $350 million in your tax dollars so that they could build beautiful schools and bring education here into the bright new millennia would end up five or so years later sorrowfully begging for your forgiveness? This was a sad spectacle indeed.
I have to admit to some great admiration for the parents who stood up and expressed both their disappointment for how things have gone up until now, and their hope that things will improve in the future. They were prepared, informed, aware and on target. Their sincerity and passion can in no way be doubted. They are good people who want to do what is right for their children.
But let me play Dutch Uncle here for a second. I work in the music industry. I am fairly well up in the chain of command, and I deal with a lot of people that I frankly consider to be hustlers. I'm not talking about the rappers and rock stars that I speak with from time to time, they are generally nice folks and fun to hang out with. I'm talking about their managers. These are some pretty tough folks who have made it in a business that barbeques the weak. And if you go into a negotiation with the intention of being sincere, and earnest and forthcoming, they're not going to like you for being so good a person. Rather they are going to think that they will be able to get what they want, and perhaps even a little more.
My take here is that while many of these parents spoke, and spoke well and with passion and conviction, it was not received by certain of the Board of Education members in quite the way hoped for. Rather it confirmed for them that they were safe, and the people talking were in no way a threat. To them it was an experience confirming their belief that they are going to get away with years of grossly mismanaging more than a third of a billion dollars in our tax money. And all that was required of them to do was say they're sorry.
That is pretty much all I have to say for tonight. It is well past midnight and I need to get some sleep. The blog as of this moment has received over 1,000 hits since this evening's meeting began, with 200+ comments on yesterday's post alone. People are hungry for information, and they're coming here. Maybe because what we offer is good, or perhaps there just isn't any other place to go.
I don't really know any more than about all this than you do. In fact, I suspect that some of you know a whole lot more. But I do know one thing for certain. If you have an ounce of pride and you care about our schools and community, you need to fight. We have now been subjected to repeated broken promises, a bait and switch bond operation, and the theft of our vote. All by the same people. No city has ever been abused any worse than Sierra Madre has. And I sincerely doubt that this cycle of abuse and easy apologies in any way ended last night.
If you don't fight now, and fight in a way that means something, then I can't say there is much to hope for here.
Bonus Coverage - The Organize Sierra Madre Schools Facebook site has a series of photos called "Abysmal Conditions of Sierra Madre Middle School Campus." It is pretty shocking. Click here to link in. Obviously the Board of Ed really does have a lot to be sorry for.