It was supposed to be a “make nice” comment by the editor of the local paper in their weekly column “Cheers and Jeers,” but they wrote: “And CHEERS to the seven candidates for the Davis Board of Education for conducting a respectful campaign that focused on the important issues and challenges ahead for our schools. In contrast to the considerable mud-slinging we had to endure in television ads and mailers for other races, this campaign was refreshing and enjoyable.”
I couldn’t help thinking out loud: well six of the seven, anyway. The seventh, of course, is Jose Granda and perhaps you can chalk it up to the fact that Mr. Granda’s conduct the last week of the campaign did not make it on the radar screen of the Enterprise, except, of course, I had a conversation about it with the Enterprise beat reporter.
Remarkably, the Enterprise reported on October 31: “Davis school board candidate Chuck Rairdan was fined $10 by Yolo County elections officials for being a day late in filing his campaign finance report. Rairdan also was late with his campaign finance report due in early October; he was asked to sign a waiver, but was not fined for that error.
“School board candidate Bob Poppenga also was late with the early October finance report and was asked to sign a waiver. He was on time with the late October filing.”
But what Jose Granda did was far more egregious. First, on October 25, he launched, in his belated response to the Nancy Peterson question, an unprovoked attack on now School Board Members-Elect Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer. He wrote, “We have a situation in this race with similar potential conflict of interest. Everyone seems to think Madhavi Sunder or Barbara Archer can do no wrong. That needs to be explored with a magnifying glass.”
“Clearly these statements have Madhavi telling the public that she intends to use her position as a trustee to promote her own personal beliefs on the subject,” he writes. “Madhavi fails to see other conflicts of interest in her campaign. Raising thousands of dollars for the campaign from outside the district and injecting the Democratic Party in a nonpartisan race, does not give a comfortable feeling that this campaign is local and nonpartisan.”
He then raised the issue of Freddie Oakley’s endorsement, as well. “Moreover there is a grave situation when in her mailer distributed to homes in Davis she lists the endorsement of the County Clerk, Freddy Oakley. For those of you who may be wondering what is the issue here: Freddy Oakley is in charge of counting the votes for Madhavi Sunder and for other School Board candidates including me. If the person in charge of the vote count endorses one of the candidates she has violated the public trust on the fairness of the election and has put that count under scrutiny for fraud. “
He then turned his attention to Barbara Archer: “Barbara Archer 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.”
Of course, as Barbara Archer clarified, she was silent on the issue because when she decided to run for school board, she declined to be appointed to a second two-year term. But, of course, Mr. Granda did not do his homework before making that attack.
While Mr. Granda’s attacks might not have risen to the level we saw in the School Superintendent race or the Ose-Bera Congressional race, he compounded the problem in response to our column that pointed out Mr. Granda was behind on his taxes.
At the end of the of the article, I noted, “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 accused the school district of fiscal mismanagement, the Vanguard learned that he owed more than $3200 in back taxes on two properties that are owned in his name in Davis.
Earlier the Vanguard had reported he had not filed a 460 form for the Fair Political Practices Commission.
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 problem is, at the time I wrote the article, Mr. Granda had not filed his Form 460 and had not paid his taxes. He tried to pass it off as though it were my mistake rather than owning up to his error. That triggered a few back and forths between us last week, where he explained why he was late, but never acknowledged his initial error of failing to acknowledge the accuracy of our initial column.
The question is why does Mr. Granda get a free ride from the local newspaper here?
Undoubtedly one answer is going to be that Mr. Granda was not an electoral threat. There were many that believed that, given his 6000 votes in 2012, he could be a threat. Indeed, had he received 6000 votes this time, he would be sitting in third place right now.
However, the Vanguard analysis suggested that it was unlikely that Mr. Granda would garner that quantity of votes and, indeed, his final vote share of 18.8% of the ballots was almost identical to the 18.7% of the ballot he received in 2012. The far lower turnout meant that he received less than half the votes he did last time.
But Mr. Granda’s viability as a candidate is not the end of the story. While he has not been successful at stopping the school district or even the city from passing tax measures over the last few years, he has nevertheless, through lawsuits and accusations, been costly to the district and the city.
Most of his suits were frivolous and were thrown out. However, most recently in light of the court decision, Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District, the school board decided to preemptively and unilaterally make major changes to the parcel tax.
According to a statement from Superintendent Roberson in August, “The District desires to implement Measure E in accordance with the intent of the voters and consistent with current legal requirements. As a result, the District has decided to implement Measure E in a way that is consistent with Borikas by levying one uniform rate for all parcels of taxable real property.”
The decision by the school to settle rather than fight meant that the district risked losing a lot of money on the parcel tax by treating multi-family dwellings and business parcels the same as all parcels.
At the time, the Vanguard criticized the board, arguing that the board acted rashly and without proper justification in making these changes. Measure E contains a severability clause: “Should any part of the measure be found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid for any reason, all remaining parts of the measure or taxing formula hereof shall remain in full force and effect to the fullest extent allowed by law.”
That severability clause means that Measure E was never in trouble. It was never in danger of being invalidated. That clause limited exposure for the district in this lawsuit. Worst scenario, Judge Maguire would have ruled that the school district violated the constitution in its differential assessment of multiunit housing versus single-family units, and would have ordered the district to go back and fix it as they have today.
But if that is the worst case scenario – why do it now, absent a court order? The similarities between Davis’s parcel tax and Alameda’s are not nearly as close as one might think.
Of course, none of these changes to the parcel tax impacted Mr. Granda, which suggested he didn’t even have standing to raise the issue. But they all demonstrate that Mr. Granda has hardly been harmless to the school district, which again begs the question: why the free ride from the local paper?
—David M. Greenwald reporting