|Just looking for a 4th ...|
The 2001 Voting Rights Act prohibits “racially polarized” elections that impair the election of minorities. Redistricting was supposed to fix that. However, it did not, and we are still being held hostage by Measure A.
The City of Sierra Madre, firmly and flatly rejected the redistricting model. However, because our city falls into a tri-city served by a single school district - Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) we fell under their jurisdiction, and thus we are at the mercy of the larger of the three cities, the city of Pasadena.
A fiasco has ensued, created by the larger, paranoid city, which in order to fend off a lawsuit that was never filed and never would have been, pushed this thing through. Now we sit voteless, and unrepresented on the PUSD Board of Education, as regional self-interests determine who will make decisions for the larger district in a, ahem, cooperative blending of harmony and good will.
So, keeping in the spirit of goodwill and super juju, then, the Board of Education - made up of six residents of Pasadena called the Board of Education - with the assistance of Mayor Bogaard of Pasadena and Mark Jomsky, the Pasadena City Clerk, offered advice to the PUSD Board President, Renatta Cooper who was not exactly the president that week, and which she shared at the May 14 Board Meeting.
The outcome was that the now vacant Board seat, which had previously been opened for all residents of the tri-city area, and which attracted a whopping 38 applicants, was now going to be reduced from 38 interviews, to 8 interviews.
One of the applicants was disqualified, and due to the vote by the 6 Pasadena residents under the, I assume, informal advisement of the Bogaard and Jomsky, for a “paper screening” which was quickly attributed to “Doctor” Tom Selinske. The result was that 28 of the eligible 37 applicants were turned away from the promised interview process. In the fairness of disclosure, one of those applicants was myself, as well as a handful of people I know and respect. Two of the four Sierra Madre residents were removed during the paper screening - Joellyn McGrath and myself - leaving two applicants, Makayla Rahn and Gretchen Vance, to be considered for the interview. The latter was almost eliminated at the May 28 Board Meeting as the Board discussed possibly narrowing the process down to three applicants, a point I brought up during public comment. I also brought up that there was no clear criteria, and that the process kept changing (click here).
I had read about it that day in the Pasadena Star News (click here). According to James Figueroa: Three leading candidates have emerged from a pool of 37 applicants for the vacant seat on the Pasadena school board, and another six might join them in the interview process. Mikala Rahn, Laura Romero and Carmen Vargas were each named by four of the six sitting board members as top candidates … Ruben Hueso, Stella Murga and Luis Ayala ... wound up on three board members' lists and would be interviewed if the board decides to consider the top nine candidates. Also receiving support from at least three board members are Cushon Bell, Serafin Espinoza and Gretchen Vance.
Come Back, Annette, Come Back
Two days later I submitted a blog to the Sierra Madre Tattler (click here) which outlined my public comment. As a conversation about eligibility and parenting and criteria and education, quickly devolved into a muscle beach party, I tried to focus on just a few points:
1)This isn't about who is a harder working parent, or who has more education, or the ethnicity of the applicant.
2) This is about six people from Pasadena telling applicants from Altadena and Sierra Madre who can be interviewed and who can't be.
3) Why is it that the Pasadena city clerk and Pasadena Mayor are deciding with six Pasadena residents which Sierra Madre citizens are worthy of holding court with them?
4)Why were the other candidates, candidates who, like me, got involved because of the promise of a face to face interview suddenly disenfranchised, again?
I Believe! I Believe!
I am still convinced that a conversation took place about the placement of the president and vice president prior to the official “election” process took place which placed Renatta Cooper into the President’s seat. I also believe a conversation took place before the paper screening about applicants, and I believe that preferential treatment has been granted to some candidates.
I believe that the Board members did not fairly analyze the applicants, that not every board member read every application, and that there is a voting trend that is suspicious, at the very best.
I believe that Renatta Cooper swiped the seat from under Scott Phelps - a seat that he was supposed to be grandfathered into, and that Renatta Cooper’s statements in the press over the last few weeks may have had a precedence somewhere else.
You can call it a hunch.
So What’s All This, Then?
A couple weeks back in Pasadena Now an unassuming little blip flew under the radar (click here) in which the Pasadena Latino Coalition released a short note to the press. Apparently the PN article didn’t include the entire letter. At the very least, its underlying meaning wasn’t completely understood.
Date: May 13, 2013, 3:55:37 PM PDT
Subject: Letter RE: PUSD Board of Education Vacant Seat
PUSD Board of Education Members:
Please find the enclosed letter on behalf of the Pasadena Latino Coalition, regarding the appointment of the 4th seat on the PUSD Board.
President & CEO National Hispanic Media Coalition
(Attachment) May 13, 2013
Dear PUSD Board Members,
We write as concerned leaders of the Pasadena community, to urge the Pasadena Unified School District Board to appoint a Latino for the newly vacated seat on the Board. Pasadena’s student body consists of over 60% Latino students. Representation from the community the District is serving matters. It is essential that Pasadena have a Latino on the PUSD Board.
The Pasadena Latino Coalition (PLC) has long been concerned with the lack of Latino representation in appointed and elected positions in Pasadena, on the School Board and in local government. Given the importance education plays in improving the socio-economic status of Latinos, we could not be more convinced as to the importance of appointing a Latino advocate to the Board.
During redistricting talks last year, the PLC came together to comment during the District Task Force meetings, calling for more accountable districts for Latinos. We believe that the Board has a historic opportunity to not only appoint a qualified applicant that adheres to the Latino community’s needs, but also one who will help strengthen the community’s engagement to help contribute to the betterment of Pasadena’s education system.
We are currently aware of three qualified applicants: names who would address the concerns expressed above. These candidates all ran for a PUSD seat and have expressed a commitment to serve on this body. We hope these applicants garner the serious consideration of the Board. We trust the appointment process will be thorough and fair with the knowledge that all people deserve to be represented at the decision-making table, especially such a large population as is the Latino population in Pasadena.
If any of the current board members have questions as to PLC’s concerns or PLC in general please contact Alex Nogales, National Hispanic Media Coalition President & CEO at (626) XXX-XXXX.
Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena
Centro de Educacion del Pueblo
Community Organization of Pasadena for Advancement in Education (C.O.P.A)
Mothers Club Family Learning Center
National Hispanic Media Coalition
Office of Creative Connections at All Saints Church
Pasadena Mexican American History Association (PMAHA)
CC: Renatta Cooper, Tyron Hampton, Kimberly Kenne, Scott Phelps, Elizabeth Pomeroy, Tom Selinske
So What am I going on about ?
Read it again.
Remember? The outcome of redistricting changed the Latino voice on the board from 14% to 0% during the 2013 election when Ramon Miramontes stepped down from the Board, and none of the Latino candidates (Carlos Ayala, Stella Murga, Reuben Hueso, Guillermo Arce) was voted into office.
So ... which three Latino Board candidate applicants are being referred to?
Go back to the Figueroa story, the one that seemed to set everything off ... Mikala Rahn, Laura Romero and Carmen Vargas were each named by four of the six sitting board members as top candidates … Ruben Hueso, Stella Murga and Luis Ayala ... wound up on three board members' lists
How was it that within three days of the applications going in around closing time - 5PM on Friday, May 10 (click here) - was the Pasadena Latino Coalition able to coordinate and then email this document before 4PM on the following Monday, May 13?
… Ruben Hueso, Stella Murga and Luis Ayala ... wound up on three board members' lists
I mean, it’s possible, yes. Especially in today’s electronic digital frenzy. But, damn, that is pretty organized. Like, we have a plan, organized. I mean, all of those groups signed on, right?
So. Let’s start connecting the dots. Stella Murga was the spokesperson for Pasadena Latino Coalition in an official capacity until approximately December, 2012. We located a blurb which cites October, 2012, as a solid (click here) and for all I know, she still is the spokesperson.
Where’s the financial trail of love? Well, let’s see. Dale Gronmeier from Sierra Madre, and who was on the districting task force as a PUSD attorney donated some money to the Murga campaign. So did Nogales, the sender of the previously mentioned email - and which consolidates a couple of connections. Who are the other Grono-buddies? You may recall Reuben Hueso and Luis Luis Carlos the Iceman Ayala. Hmmmmm. I wonder if they are the other two swell choices alluded to.
Another interesting connection is the Measure A Redistricting Task Force (click here) which included one Victor Gonzalez. Gonzalez updated Murga’s campaign page in 2009 (click here) prior to serving on that pesky Redistricting task force with Bart Doyle in 2012. Gonzalez and Ken Chawkins, another Measure A Alumni, both donated money in January, 2013 (click here) to Murga’s campaign. Interesting.
And then there’s this fluff piece, written to represent a letter from an ordinary guy (click here) named, uh, Victor Gonzalez.
Having served on the task force to create the new districts I was surprised (and angered) when we were accused by some people that the creation of these districts would actually disenfranchise voters. It's great to see such a variety of candidates from areas of the city that have had no representation. Which leads me to the second reason for this letter.
I'm disappointed by some of your endorsements. I agree with you that Kim Kenne and Ruben Hueso will be great on the board! Another great addition will be Stella Murga.
She is smart and passionate about students having started and run a nonprofit serving students in Pasadena. However, when you endorse Scott Phelps you endorse the continued dysfunction of the board. He was an early opponent of the districting that now allows for a great slate of candidates.
The clear choice for this seat is Luis Ayala.
Well knock me dead and drag my soul to Hell. Did ya catch that? The PLC 3: Luis Carlos Ayala, Stella Murga, and Ruben Hueso = good. Scott Phelps = bad. Oh, and by the way, Just Plain Old Vic Gonzalez from Pasadena, aka the letter writer, is actually Dr. Victor Gonzalez, an LAUSD administrator (click here).
By the way, did I mention that Ayala is a lawyer? (click here)
Captain’s Log, Stardate 5.28.13
So..... on May 28 that list of 3 candidates was expanded to 9. Why?
Well, maybe, just maybe, the next six, including Gretchen Vance, were added so that the three candidates that the PLC wanted in could be dropped in, too. Take a look my presentation during public comment (click here) and while you’re at it, listen to Mary Dee Romney because she was onto it, too. As you watch mine, pay attention. Take a good look at how weird things started to get.
These people forget that I grew up in a world filled with junkies and grifters. It gave me Spidey Sense. I knew I was onto something, though I got there quite innocently and accidentally because of the newspaper article I mentioned earlier. Selinske glared at me, Renatta got weird with me, and then she started asking a bunch of questions around the chamber. Then there was an odd exchange with Dr. Pappalardo.
These guys would be a blast at a poker tournament.
So, dig it. Gretchen Vance had to be included in order to get the Sierra Madre pitbulls off of the scent. I stand by my assertion that some of them already talked this stuff through beforehand, maybe a discussion, or two, or three.
What a better way to placate the Tattlers who might poke around asking questions than to include a Sierra Madre hero? The one thing they hadn’t figured on is that Gretchen has lots of fans at the Sierra Madre Tattler, but I am not one of them. I am hopelessly indifferent. But while Gretchen’s inclusion on the list uplifted the hopes of others, it just made me want to know why.
Why did the list go from 8 to 9? It was more than just “it was a tie” and I think I have a pretty good idea what it was. It was a smokescreen. That way the PLC 3 could slide in without any fanfare, and no one would be the wiser.
The Board was right about one thing though. Tony Brandenburg has no business being among their ranks.
Renatta Cooper, is yer BFF
From Pasadena Star-News (click here) of January 13, 2011. The lack of proportionate representation on the board could expose the PUSD to a lawsuit, said Renatta Cooper, PUSD board member."Given the demographics in the district, Latinos are under-represented on the board, she said. "That's the place where we can be sued."
From the Pasadena Weekly (click here) of May 2, 2013. “I believe the school board should be representative of the constituency served by the school district,” said School Board President Renatta Cooper. “With that in mind, given our demographics, clearly we need Latino representation at the school board level, at least one person.”
From the Pasadena/ San Gabriel Valley News Journal (click here) of May 22, Renatta Cooper wrote: The Pasadena Unified School District is a majority Latino serving district 61 percent of our current Latino students. Currently, there is no Latino presence on the board of education and it is my hope that the current vacancy will be filled by a member of the Latino community. (emphasis added)
Are you paying attention?
Mike Severa Takes an Educated Guess at the Vote
Mike is a math guy. He likes numbers. He gave a rundown in an email, which made perfect sense, and took this guess at the vote. His logic made sense, but I will not share the letter. What I wish to remind you is that this is a HYPOTHESIS and that is it. But it raises some interesting possibilities (click here).
My bet is the rows are:
If Mike’s numbers line up, then Board members 1, 4, and 5 voted very closely, impossibly close if you ask me. 1, 4, & 5 ... Cooper, Selinske, & Pomeroy.
Cooper - Hueso Murga Ayala Espinoza
Selinske - Hueso Murga Ayala Espinoza
Pomeroy - Hueso Murga Ayala Espinoza
Pasadena Latino Coalition ... spokesperson Stella Murga “... three qualified applicants ...These candidates all ran for a PUSD seat ...”
Out of 37 applicants, Mike, help me baby. What’s the likelihood? Three of the same board members’ lists ...
Hueso, Murga, Ayala
Cooper, Selinske, Pomeroy
Hueso, Murga, Ayala
Cooper, Selinske, Pomeroy
We accept you, one of us.