Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tony Brandenburg: The Rites of (an occasional) Spring

Just looking for a 4th ...
Captain’s Log, Stardate 5.30.13
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 FigueroaThree 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.

Kind Regards,
Alex Nogales
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.

Sincerely,

Boys & Girls Club of Pasadena
Centro de Educacion del Pueblo
Community Organization of Pasadena for Advancement in Education (C.O.P.A)
Flintridge Center
Latino Heritage
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).

Mikespeak:
My bet is the rows are:
1. Cooper
2. Hampton
3. Kenne
4. Selinske
5. Pomeroy
6. Phelps

Tonyspeak:
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

Gooble, Gobble,
Gooble, Gobble,
We accept you, one of us.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

75 comments:

  1. Well isn't that wonderful? Cooper is all of a sudden rooting for the Latinos. What a joke. Sure, Mo'natta, we believe you all right.

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    1. A Latino that just by coincidence will vote just like her.

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    2. Apparently, so will the other two stooges

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    3. Wonder if the Latinos will vote for her in 2015? Not!

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  2. Crisis downtown. Power outage has shut both Beantown and Starbucks.

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    1. dial 911, quick!

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    2. uh..no. Beantown was open for business, the owners were operating on a generator, just as they were when that horrendous wind storm ripped through here...but then again facts never did get in the way of posting on this blog.

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    3. Sorry honey buns, but when I went in their this morning to get a green tea latte' they said they couldn't make it because they couldn't get the good stuff hot enough. And if a coffee joint can't make a latte' then they aren't really open, you know?

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    4. The early bird poster at 6:36 am may have been reporting on the status at that time. Chances are the barristas and pastry servers didn't have the wherewithall to plug in the generator. Had to wait for the owner. As for your pissy little comment, I hope your lattes are made with curdled milk.

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  3. At its regular meeting May 28, the PUSD Board of Education identified 10 applicants for the vacant Seat 4 to appear before the board for an interview. The interviews will take place at a special board meeting Saturday, June 1 at 9 a.m. at Pasadena City College, From the PUSD NEWSFLASH. When did nine become ten??

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  4. Odds are, with six of the nine final applicants being Latino, the next board member will be a Latino. what's nice about this for the board is that there will be five Latino losers that will give them cover to say that this was a fair process. Oh, and you other three applicants, two white women and one African American, thanks for "bearding" the process so that it all looked legit.

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  5. Pomeroy, Selinske and Cooper should all recuse themselves from the Board of Education

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    1. I hope that at least one of the two Sierra Madre residents that made the final cut will stand up for the rest of the Sierra Madre applicants who were screened out of their right to interview.

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    2. In public comments, as most public speaker said " I am speaking on behalf of ......" I too did. I said, " I speak on behalf of all 37 applicants . 37 applicants, 37 interviews."

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    3. Good for you Tony!

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  6. The real crisis is that 6 Pasadena residents are choosing who represents Sierra Madre. When are we going to call a special election?
    EVERY single Sierra Madre resident that took the time to submit a resume to PUSD had the absolute right to be interviewed today.

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  7. Nice touch the other night at the Board meeting. Stella Murga sat there while three people sitting with her went up during public comments to lobby for her, singing her praises. She wants that seat so badly she's foaming at the mouth. Why?

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    1. It's nice she has a choir. Who wrote the music? Ken Chawkins?

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  8. Moderator, haven't you discovered Photoshop?

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  9. I am not surprised that the PLC spoke up and asked for a Latino member, that seems like it would kind of be it's role, but what I am surprised about is why it specifically chose those three as the best suited applicants. That's weird.
    Then I am dismayed by Victor
    Gonzalez's letter. It is too bad that a member of that task force did not have the objectivity to see that there are many differing opinions surrounding redistricting. Even to the extent of getting angry that people disagreed with him. Really? Sounds like maybe someone should not have been on a redistricting task force.
    Furthermore, what does one's opinion about the impact of redistricting have to do with board 'dysfunction'? Those things seem completely independent. But of course then he goes on to push for Phelps' opponent to be selected, so clearly his point was just about politics.
    And there it is: the reason this is also screwed up, politics. Have any of these letters even bothered to mention the kids yet? Remember, this is a public school district. Anyone there?

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    1. I think the snooze button is pressed as soon as anyone brings up the students. I watch the vacant stares of some of the board members while parents speak to them during public comment about children that are failing, being bullied, being discriminated against.

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    2. True. Power and money drive these people. The kids they use as human shields.

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  10. "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.
    And Selinske, Pomeroy, and Cooper voted exactly how the Pasadena Latino Coalition directed?
    What about all the other Latino applicants?

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  11. Not me. I can barely operate this blog.

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  12. Ken Chawkins wrote the song for Murga to sing. The outcome has been predetermined for a long time.

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    1. Of course. These people stole our rights to elect a representative to the Board of Education, so why wouldn't you think the fix is in on this one? The whole "must pick a Latino" thing is a red herring anyway. The Chawkins/Dreier/Cooper Communard is using this to get someone in that will help them do the only thing they really care about. Control of a huge chunk of our tax money and turn the PUSD into an arm of the welfare bureaucracy.

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    2. Well put 8:10!

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    3. I love hearing the truth. It is why I think the comments section of this blog is the best anywhere.

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  13. Poor Stella. all this work to put her on the board. First, redistricting, then an election, which she lost by a large amount, and now, she(and her cohorts) must persuade the board that she is the best candidate. How desperate is this woman? Why is it soooo important to her that she be on the board? The voters didn't seem to like her.

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    1. I think the fact that Stella had nothing interesting or new to say might have hurt her with the voters.

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    2. I think what hurt her was the desperation .

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  14. Tony, you never had a chance. the unstated criteria obviously was Latino and/or female

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    1. I didn't disclose my Puerto Rican ancestory. its only important to the census taker, right?

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    2. So you fit many criteria, TB...except I don't know what the board's criteria are. You're an educator, transparent, active in local issues, and you're Hispanic. So what happened to your interview?

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    3. He didn't kiss the hem of Renatta's 55 gallon mumu.

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    4. It was filed with my vote. I heard many of the interviews. they have all been good, but so far, the three ay the top of the list soundedpretty darn good.

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  15. This whole mess needs to be put back into the hands of the voters. The last thing we need is a hand picked messenger of the same people who are killing the PUSD.

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    1. That's right. we the people who chose this board should choose the next person. we the people should be held accountable.

      Oh. wait.

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  16. city talk,,,

    The District attorney has been calling Sierra Madre residents and discussing city issues.

    Any one wanting to share their discussion?

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    1. Who would we call?

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    2. Ghostbusters?

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    3. Sooo..MY best intent after 38 years working in this district to serve ALL students..not just by ethnicity...is just seen as being a "beard" for others? Interesting to say the least.

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    4. Too bad you lost your opportunity to speak about why you would have made a good addition to the Board of Education. At least you don't live in Sierra Madre where our vote, and for very mysterious reasons, went missing in 2013. This sort of thing has been going around this year.

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    5. That's ok, dm. I am just the groucho glasses, mustache, & eyebrows.

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    6. Goatee or Honest Abe?

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  17. Outstanding expose and analysis.

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  18. The entire interview process is for show. They have already picked the person.

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    1. Bill Bogus is there. Just to make sure the show goes as planned.

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    2. we kept giggling and taking his picture. he flew the coupe

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    3. He should have worn a paperbag on his head.

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    4. Do they allow that in Pasadena? I thought bags had to be reusable.

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  19. It's 11:30 and time for STELLA Murga's interview. did she bring a full cadre of people?

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  20. Congratulations. mikala Rahm.

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    1. apparently i now spell your first name correctly, and now your last name requires that i misspell it instead

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  21. Sierra Madre gets a Board of Ed rep. It pays to complain!

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    1. I don't think it was the complaining so much as it was Mikala's overwhelming quality and qualifications.

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    2. Nonsense. They'd have picked Stella Murga in a heartbeat if they were not concerned about Sierra Madre. This was not a good day for the Pasadena establishment. The mouse roared and the old cat slunk away.

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    3. actuall stella was konked out in round two if memory serves me right.

      props to the young woman who spoke and helped open up the public comment, as well as to tyron, who nominated gretchen, and tom s, both of whom took a look at the bigger picture and the qualifications. even the abstains by pomeroy were statements of no confidence and showed a dynamic i haven't seen in a while.

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  22. Renatta Cooper openly stated that she favored only a Latino candidate. Her flagrant racism is a violation of the California Constitution and she should be immediately removed as President, censored by the Board and prosecuted for violating her oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.

    CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
    ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS


    SEC. 31. (a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant
    preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of
    race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of
    public employment, public education, or public contracting.

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    1. Political negligence.

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  23. Congrats Mikala Rahn and congratulations to Sierra Madre! we now have a voice on the board.

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    1. And they said nobody pays attention to tb and the esteemed Moderator! The Sierra Madre Tattler is a force to be reckoned with!

      Incidently that's two wins - one in May and one on the first day of June. Do you think the 4th of July Committee would have chosen the VFW as Grand Marshall of the Parade if the Tattler hadn't championed them for the last couple of years!

      I used to say I was a Pepper but now I'm much more proud of being a Tattler!!!

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    2. By the way, did you notice the weeds were mowed at the Upper Campus recently! And we didn't even have to shame the PUSD into doing it...

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    3. Worrying about what "they think" is an oxymoron.

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  24. Under California Education code section 35145.5, anyone can request an item be placed on the school board agenda and they are required to agendize it. Someone immediately needs to contact the PUSD and request they agendize a vote to censor Cooper for advocating that the board discriminate against candidates based on ethnicity.

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    1. That's a good idea, but it's got to come from the right person as it obviously would be shot down if it came from us.

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  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. News flash - that was quick!June 1, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    From Steve Madison:

    Mikala Rahn, PhD, was selected today by the PUSD Board to fill the remaining two years of an open seat (Seat 4) on the PUSD Board. Mikala was selected from a group of 38 candidates. Even with such a deep, impressive pool of applicants, it's easy to see why Mikala was appointed; she's brilliant and dedicated and has been doing great work with Pasadena school-age kids through the nonprofit she founded, Learning Works (http://www.publicworksinc.org/) and two related organizations.

    http://local.nixle.com/alert/5011177/

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    1. Today's big losers. Cooper, Bogaart, Chawkins, Dreier. The big winners? Everybody else.

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    2. come back mr, bogaart. i will put my camera phone away.

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    3. Another loser was Stella Murga. With all her sneaky tricks she still didn't win. She was the spokesperson for the Pasadena Latino Coalition and she sure took a lot upon herself in the name of the Latinos.

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  27. Enter a new bill, AB1333 this will require local governments to review roll over contracts or EverGreen contracts, so long Athens Services, or some might call them as Toxic to local city governments.

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