A week from tomorrow (Tuesday) the voters will get their official say in who the next three school board members are, joining Susan Lovenburg and the appointed Alan Fernandes. The view has not changed very much since the last analysis.
It is hard to imagine a scenario where the next school board does not have both Barbara Archer and Madhavi Sunder. In the last few weeks, everyone I have spoken to agrees those two will finish first and second in some order.
It remains a battle for third and, right now, I would say it is a toss-up between Bob Poppenga and Tom Adams. Bob Poppenga raised another $4100 from October 1 to October 18, bringing his campaign total up to nearly $16,500, but a lot of that was from himself – he has put about $10,720 into his own campaign.
Tom Adams brought in another $4890, to bring his total to $10,329. He has a cash on hand advantage, with $5140 on hand while Mr. Poppenga only has $900.
None of the other candidates have raised serious money. Chuck Rairdan has raised $3420, while Mike Nolan has raised $1390. Jose Granda has not filed a form 460. I did receive a robocall from his campaign, however.
Bottom line, we don’t see much change from the last analysis. The race is for third, by all indications, and we see it as neck-and-neck.
Our series of five questions wrapped up with the Nancy Peterson issue. Were there other questions to ask in this campaign? Absolutely. But we were looking at critical questions that have not always gotten that much play.
At the same time, Nancy Peterson is the 800-pound gorilla – everyone can see its presence. At our candidate’s forum in September, the candidates saw the clear need to regain the trust, but we wanted to push them a step further and identify the lessons we should take away from the fiasco that led to the downfall of a school board member and possibly the downfall of a city council candidate.
Bob Poppenga hit the nail on the head in terms of the take home lessons from the Peterson controversy: “1) smart people don’t always know right from wrong or act ethically, 2) clear code-of-ethics and conflict-of-interest statements need to be prominently displayed on the District website and regularly reviewed by the Board, 3) policies and procedures for handling complaints against District personnel need to be in place, publicly accessible, followed, and regularly reviewed for effectiveness, and 4) people need to speak up, privately at first and publicly if necessary, as soon as possible when individuals violate established code of ethics, conflicts of interest, or District policies and procedures.”
I think it is easy to focus on conflict policies and it is important to look at the complaint process, but for me this controversy was created with the fourth item – the lack of people willing to speak up.
In the middle of the controversy, suddenly people were talking about the long-brewing rift between Nancy Peterson and Leigh Choate and Julie Crawford. I was told that Ms. Peterson was warned to stay away from volleyball and I was alerted that there had been warnings and red flags in prominent people’s dealing with Ms. Peterson, but none of this came to light during the campaign in 2012.
Worse yet, however, was the handling of the emerging scandal by the school board. You can have a great conflict of interest policy, but unless someone steps up to call out their colleague, it’s worthless.
In fairness, the school board had no inkling of the issue when Nancy Peterson in February 2013 first pulled the VSA (variable service agreement) of Julie Crawford from the consent calendar.
It was only in July and August that the problem became clear. There was a clear failure by the school board, and in particular School Board President Sheila Allen, who failed to gavel Nancy Peterson down when she publicly denigrated a school employee in open session.
It was that incident that triggered a chain of reactions that ultimately resulted in the resignation of Nancy Peterson half a year later in March.
The school board members were slow to understand the fact that this was a personal conflict and slower to react to clear breaches in etiquette. To me, that’s the real failure here and the one lesson that we need to learn, or all of the other changes will be useless.
With seven candidates, it has generally been a bit difficult to get all of the responses in by the deadline. Several of the candidates have turned in responses late for a variety of reasons. We had two choices – not to publish them, as a newspaper would have done, or make public all of the responses.
We decided on the latter, basically because we hope to provide the public with as much information about their choices as possible.
Jose Granda turned in his response late and published extensive commentary that criticizes two of his opponents – Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer. He writes, “Everyone seems to think Madhavi Sunder or Barbara Archer can do no wrong. That needs to be explored with a magnifying glass.”
He notes, for instance, that Madhavi Sunder stated, “While Davis is a wonderful community and I feel lucky to raise my children here, we are hardly immune from issues of racism and homophobia. We live in a country and a world where racism and homophobia sadly persist.”
Mr. Granda writes, “I also am against any discrimination against these groups. However, Madhavi uses the word ‘homophobia.’ ” He writes, “The problem here is that she fails to see that calling anyone a homophobic is equally discriminatory against those children who hold religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong.”
First of all, Ms. Sunder didn’t call anyone homophobic, she simply stated that “we are hardly immune from issues of racism and homophobia.”
Second, is it “equally discriminatory” to call people who are prejudiced against gays and lesbians “homophobic”?
Mr. Granda then goes on to attack Barbara Archer, stating she “also has a conflict of interest regarding the parcel taxes. She has co-chaired the campaign in favor of Measure C and she has every right to do so because that is what she believes. However at the same time she has been a member of the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee for measures C, E and A that evaluates the use of those funds. The evaluation has to be done by someone impartial, independent, not by those who campaigned to pass the measures; otherwise there is no credibility in such evaluation. If she is elected, would she still continue in that position? She has been silent on this issue.”
First, there is no conflict of interest between serving on the Parcel Tax Oversight Committee, which makes sure that the parcel tax money is spent as the district disclosed to the public during the campaign, and co-chairing the parcel tax campaign.
She has no financial interest in the position and, in fact, one could argue that, as a proponent of the parcel tax, she has a vested interest to make sure that the district spends the money as they claimed they would. We agree that the district would be best served by having a variety of people and viewpoints on the oversight committee, but that does not mean that Ms. Archer has any sort of conflict of interest.
Second, the issue of whether she would serve on the oversight committee after election has never come up, so it is not exactly a matter that she has been silent on. But why do we believe she would serve on it, if no other school board members do?
UPDATE: Barbara Archer told the Vanguard this morning that she served a two-year term on the parcel tax oversight committee. She was asked to serve again this year when the first term ended, however, she said, “I said no because I was running.”
We have often criticized Jose Granda for his lack of fiscal understanding. But he has consistently accused the school district of fiscal mismanagement and has written, “I have excellent qualifications in education and fiscal responsibility.”
He wrote, “The School Board has not been fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. It has wasted money and run the budget into a deficit. It cannot manage the 76 million dollar budget of the district. That needs to change.”
But is Mr. Granda the candidate to do that? While he accuses the school district of fiscal mismanagement, the Vanguard has learned that he owes more than $3200 in back taxes on two properties that are owned in his name in Davis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting