My View: CSEA Should Re-open Endorsement Process to Talk to All Candidates

CSEA Chapter President Jim Herrington announces appointment process at May 1, 2014 meeting
CSEA Chapter President Jim Herrington announces appointment process at May 1, 2014, meeting

There has been a mixture of responses to the Vanguard’s story from Thursday that the CSEA endorsement process relied on candidates to contact them to set up a potential endorsement process, rather than CSEA contacting all of the candidates. The result of this practice is that CSEA only spoke with half the candidates and only endorsed two for the three open seats.

That does not seem to be in the best interest of the organization, its members, the school board candidates or the public.

To be clear, this is not about which candidates the union endorsed or did not endorse. My personal perspective, and I do not speak for the people who posted on the article, is that this is not a fair or open process and it tends to breed the kind of insider/outsider dichotomy that has quite frankly been at the root of problems in the last year in this district.

In the course of my conversations, I was asked whether the process is the issue, and why this wasn’t brought up previously. First, I was unaware of the process previously. Had I been, I would have raised the issue before. Second, this is the first time I have received complaints about the process.

I also contacted some of the regional people at CSEA and they all told me that this is not their preferred methodology. They would have emailed all of the candidates and interviewed them all.

Jim Herrington announced the appointment process during public comment at the May 1 meeting. From what I have been able to tell, this was the only time when he made the announcement. Three candidates who were present at the meeting and a fourth who was not an applicant, Mike Nolan, heard the announcement or were otherwise told to contact Mr. Herrington. Four candidates did not.

It would have been easy enough to have missed, either by being out of the room or being engaged in other thoughts at the moment.

Some have suggested that it is their organization so they can set up the process however they want. That is true, no one is stating that they did not have the right to have the endorsement process this way, I am only calling into question the fairness and effectiveness of it.

It is true that the endorsement will likely have little bearing on the outcome of the race, but to me that is all the more reason to have it fair and give equal opportunity to all candidates – at least one of which they will have to work with in the future.

Others have suggested that this is a non-issue because candidates could have easily contacted the CSEA if they wanted an endorsement.

But how would they know to do that unless they heard Mr. Herrington’s announcement?

I don’t think a lot of people appreciate the candidate and campaign process. I am in a rather unique position in that, in addition to covering races from the perspective of a reporter, 20 years ago I ran for school board in San Luis Obispo, my wife ran for city council six years ago, and I have managed a few campaigns.

The first thing to keep in mind is that one is constantly being invited to events, candidate forums, and the like. Second, there are numerous organizations that ask for surveys and questionnaires.

It is hard enough to keep track of deadlines, calendar dates and the like, without having to figure out which organizations you have to be proactive in setting up meetings with.

In response to my comment on Thursday, Matt Williams pointed out he “was approached by several very knowledgeable political minds and advised that the Robb Davis campaign should proactively reach out to the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board and ask for an interview.”

My experience with the Sacramento Bee was originally they were not going to reach out to Cecilia, who was running for city council in 2008. Only through a reporter contact did we know how to reach out to them. That pro-activeness paid off, as the Bee endorsed Cecilia. The Bee ended up not endorsing Robb Davis in 2014.

The Bee’s process seems to undermine the strength of their endorsement, because it is not based on an even playing field. On the other hand, I happen to know that the Davis Enterprise will be having an editorial board meeting with all of the candidates (usually they do it in two waves), but, give them credit, they will make their decision – whether you agree or disagree with it – based on a full understanding and having met with each of the candidates.

What happened last winter and spring undermined the community’s confidence in the school board. There is a reason why we have eight candidates now. Many people are concerned because they felt taken in by Nancy Peterson in 2012, and want to avoid a repeat of that mistake.

There is an easy solution here and that is that CSEA keep their two endorsements in the open three seats. They interview the other four candidates and select from them whom they wish to endorse. The Davis Chamber and California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson have endorsed more candidates than spots. There is no reason CSEA couldn’t interview the other four and select an additional 0, 1, or 2 candidates, depending on their preference.

That would enhance the organization’s perspective and improve public and membership confidence in the process.

Regardless, once again, I would like to invite everyone to our candidates forum. We reached out to made sure all eight candidates could participate. It will be this coming Wednesday, September 17, at 6:30 at the Davis Community Church Fellowship Hall.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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2 Comments

  1. DurantFan

    If the process is flawed, so shall the product be. A political process that includes hidden agendas and lack of openness contributes to a lack of trust within this arena.. Trust is an important issue.

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