The smart money in the school board race remains about the same, with most believing that four will be factors, vying for the three top spots. Again, it’s hard to picture the top two not being Barbara Archer and Madhavi Sunder in some order. Most people believe the third spot will come down to Tom Adams and Bob Poppenga.
There is the school of thought that believes that Jose Granda could sneak into the third spot as the only established opposition to the parcel tax. Our analysis from a few weeks ago does not support that notion and, of course, Mr. Granda had a bad week – a very bad week.
The contrast is stark here between how Mr. Granda chose to deal with the issue of not paying his taxes on time and how Bob Poppenga dealt with an error he made in his op-ed on innovation parks and school revenue.
Jose Granda’s Taxes
Jose Granda made the most profound mistake a candidate can make – he turned what could have been a small problem into a very large problem and it gave a controversy legs.
On Monday, our closing comment in an article where we took issue with Mr. Granda’s attack on two of his opponents – Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer – was to note, “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.”
By Thursday he did what he should have done on Tuesday, if he felt the need to respond at all – he explained why he was late on his taxes this year, explaining that his disabled daughter’s medical bills are over $10,000 per month and “I gladly pay huge health insurance premiums, to be able to support her.”
Had he stated this on Tuesday, the issue would have died at that time or, as one commenter stated, it would have been stillborn. We all understand that circumstances arise at times.
The problem is that’s not what happened on Tuesday. Mr. Granda wrote a response that was sent late on Monday night – and the Vanguard published it, per its policies.
In it, Mr. Granda wrote, “In our lovely town there are those who call themselves ‘liberals,’ ‘progressives,’ but contrary to what those words convey, they are the most intolerant people if you disagree with them. That seems to be the case with some of your readers. I am surprised that Mr. David Greenwald will go down the same wrong path.”
He then wrote, “For the record, I have filed my campaign Form 460 and contrary to what he says, I do not owe back taxes.”
The truth is that, on Monday, after reading the Vanguard’s report criticizing his owing back taxes and his failure to file his Form 460 (which cannot be explained away but normally would not be a big deal), he would go into the County Assessor’s office and pay his taxes, and file his form with County Elections.
Again, had he simply stated that something came up this year and he had to delay payments for a few months, everyone would have shrugged and moved on with their lives. But that’s not what he did. His statement on Tuesday implied that the Vanguard and, frankly, I, were mistaken when reporting on Mr. Granda’s taxes and failure to file the Form 460 on time, but we were not.
It is never the mistake that kills public officials, it is trying to cover up the mistake to avoid taking responsibility. Had Mr. Granda simply published his Thursday story on Tuesday, we wouldn’t be here.
But even on Thursday, when he disclosed his paid taxes, he failed to really come clean on what happened on Tuesday. Some of our readers were stunned by this action, others thought it was no big deal.
How To Correct Errors and the Impact of Innovation Parks on School District Finances
In contrast to the way Jose Granda handled an error, we have the op-ed that candidate Bob Poppenga submitted, “Davis Schools and Private Sector Business Interactions: A Win-Win Scenario.” Here he argued, “We should be thinking about what existing and future private sector companies can contribute to our schools to help them maintain their excellence and develop an outward looking, innovative culture.”
But he made the claim, “Attracting more private sector businesses will increase the funding base for our District. If one or more innovation parks were developed and fully occupied, I have been told that the increase in revenue to our schools could eventually reach several million dollars annually.”
I received a note from the district on Friday afternoon indicating that this statement was probably not correct. The information I received was that the district revenue is unlikely to change from an Innovation Park influx, as increases in property taxes would be offset with decreases from State Aid.
Now at some point, tremendous increases in property tax could push the district to what is known as Basic Aid status, but the district sees that as unlikely, as currently the city receives over $20 million in aid from the state.
Shortly after receiving that message, I would receive a request from Mr. Poppenga to correct his statement.
He stated, “I had originally been informed that a portion of the property taxes generated by new businesses locating to Davis would increase the revenue base to our schools. A knowledgeable person in the District contacted me to say that essentially no new revenue would be available to the District since any property taxes would be going to the State and not be passed through to the District (unless there was an unlikely increase in the valuation of the property). In addition, due to the recent Alameda lawsuit regarding local parcel taxes, a company would not pay more in local parcel taxes than any other parcel (apartment complex, single family home) irrespective of the size of the parcel.”
Mr. Poppenga had originally received his information from the city. Speaking to the same city official, it was suggested that we be cautious in anticipating potential revenues until the complete fiscal analysis is done, but it at least seems possible that such revenues might be generated by multiple innovation parks to improve revenue.
There may be a marginal increase in the number of parcels, but not knowing how the property would be subdivided, it is tough to foresee how the district is going to make a lot of revenue from the parcel tax.
But even if those revenue sources do not pan out, Mr. Poppenga wrote, “The type of companies which the city hopes to attract will have a vested interest in good quality schools and programs and will likely contribute to our schools beyond the revenue generated by taxes.”
I am thinking in terms of contributions to the schools, technology to the classrooms, and, of course, the potential for mentorships and training.
Bottom line, in a campaign or news reporting (as our article from yesterday shows), sometimes the information you receive is incorrect and you have to correct it. Being transparent about mistakes prevents small problems from becoming big problems.
—David M. Greenwald reporting