PUSD campaign for Sierra Madre seat turns feisty and vitriolic
The bid to fill the newly formed Pasadena Unified School District school board seat in Sierra Madre and East Pasadena is not the highest-profile race in the March 10 citywide election, but it has been the feistiest.
While the Pasadena voters will be electing the city’s first new mayor in 16 years and selecting a new person to represent District 1 on the City Council, much attention has been drawn to the District 6 PUSD race and candidates Sandra Siraganian and Lawrence Torres.
While Siraganian, a Realtor, has mailed campaign literature targeting Torres for his union membership and teaching at a low-performing LAUSD school, another set of anonymous mailers have circulated in Sierra Madre attacking Siraganian for failing to appear at candidate forums and citing her political views as extreme.
“I’ve seen how it’s become a pretty controversial race,” said Randy Jurdo Ertl, a longtime community activist, who hasn’t endorsed in the race.
Siraganian’s campaign has made Torres’ union membership its touchstone. And the candidate believes Torres cannot serve on a school board that must negotiate with unions.
“It’s a complete conflict of interest,” Siraganian said. “Any teacher would have this conflict.”
It’s not just the candidates going at it.
Supporters of each have been delivering their own jabs — mostly online.
Local blogger John Crawford, who supports Siraganian, posted a story about Torres’ conviction for drunken driving in 1985, which is not disclosed on Torres’ literature or his campaign website.
“It didn’t even dawn on me to report this because it happened 30 years ago,” Torres said. “I hope that people don’t judge me for mistakes I made in my youth but rather look at the breadth of experience and service to the community I have performed both throughout my career and as a parent.”
Peter Dreier, who teaches politics at Occidental College and supports Torres, distributed a story from LA Progressive written by a PUSD parent who lives in the district, Robert Niles, about Siraganian’s Tea Party ties and also some controversial tweets Siraganian allegedly sent.
Siraganian, who was part of an effort to eliminate the Users Utility Tax in Sierra Madre, has given money to TEAPAC California, campaign finance records show. She said she has worked on a “Get out the Vote” effort.
“I’m a Republican,” she said. “Most of the people that I’ve worked with are Republicans or declined to state. Mostly they’re people who believe in the Constitution.”
Siraganian’s Twitter account, @ulrichfan, established in 2009 takes jabs at illegal immigration, “the gay agenda” and deadbeat dads.
In an email, Siraganian defended her activity on the social network — which totals 11 tweets between 2009 and 2011.
“My tweet mentioning the gay agenda was a joke about what I thought were overheated attacks on Kobe Bryant, nothing more,” she wrote. “The fact that my opponent’s union activist supporters would take them out of context shows the lengths they will go to control the PUSD school board.
“I stand by my statement that illegal immigrants are an expensive burden on the State of California budget.”
Torres’ Twitter account, @votefortorres, was established earlier this year. The majority of his tweets focus on the campaign.
Ertl characterized the campaign as vitriolic.
“I think it’s happened in the past, but it is probably getting nastier because people have personal interests, special interests , they have hidden agendas in terms of what to get out of public school districts,’ he said. “A lot of times people are running to get contracts. It has taken away from the priority of improving public education for students.”
When it comes to issues within the school district, Siraganian said she believes it’s important for students to attend their neighborhood schools.
“Sierra Madre and East Pasadena pay more and get less,” her campaign website says. “Sandra will work to make sure we get our fair share.”
She said in her work as a Realtor, she sold a home in Sierra Madre to people who moved from San Marino because they wanted to send their children to Sierra Madre schools.
“School board members should be ambassadors,” Siraganian said. “What we’re not doing well is marketing what we have.”
Mod: For the entire article click here. A couple of things. The UUT effort identified in this story was to bring that tax down from levels that were among highest in the state and back to its original 6%, not eliminate it altogether. The time when Sierra Madre will get to consider its elimination may happen, but hasn't yet.
Did Larry Torres not disclose his conviction for drunk driving because it happened in his mid 20s, or because he didn't want anyone to know about it? My suspicion is it's the latter.
How come when newspaper accounts include supposedly nonpartisan "long time community activists," you invariably have never heard of them? Randy Jurdo Ertl writes for the quite partisan Pasadena Weekly. He thinks Coca Cola has conspired to kill us all (link).
The "anonymous mailers" come from (and continue to come from) Peter Dreier, the Marxist tenured radical (link) college professor straight out of Occidental that has made a career of running such smear campaigns. Torres has to have known these cowardly anonymous hit pieces were (and are) happening, and seems to have no problems with this kind of political activity. He might "love the kids," but he is some kind of a monumental jerk when it comes to adults.
Here is a college kind of question. How many people have been killed by the Tea Party that Professor Dreier hates so passionately? The answer is none. How many have died at the hands of the kinds of Marxist proponents Peter Dreier venerates in his lectures at Occidental? According to Wikipedia, between 85 and 100 million (link). Give or take a few.
Count the political bromides in the last four paragraphs of the column. I found three. Don't you get sick of that kind of vacuous talk from politicians?