Many were surprised to learn that Barbara Archer has decided not to seek reelection for the school board seat she first won in 2014. In an interview with the local paper, she did not offer much in the way of an explanation, other than stating, “I have really enjoyed the work, but I need to focus on other things.”
At the most basic level, Barbara Archer’s departure means there will be at least two new board members come November.
But, as of right now, it does leave us in a situation where there is not going to be a competitive election this fall – which, if things stay as they are, would be extremely unfortunate.
Right now there are three seats, and three candidates have filed. Tom Adams is the only remaining candidate from 2014’s class of three new board members. Cindy Pickett and Joe DiNunzio have filed for the other two seats.
Let me state this, what I am about to say should not be read as a shot against either Ms. Pickett or Mr. DiNunzio – I know both, I like both, I think both would be excellent board members. But, in a democracy, we should not have election by anointing office holders. The voters deserve to have a rigorous public policy discussion and to choose between competing candidates and ideas as to the best person to serve.
So my real hope is that at least two more candidates join the field in the next three days to make this a competitive election again.
While I understand that there were going to be two incumbents, and both Ms. Pickett and Mr. DiNunzio are formidable candidates, I am surprised by how narrow the field is. After all, we had around seven candidates for the school board in 2014 and nine candidates for two seats on the city council this spring.
Moreover, it is not that there is a lack of interest. There are seven people willing to serve on the school board for four months – but none of them for four years.
So my biggest hope is that we get a few people willing to sign up to become candidates and give the voters a choice as to who becomes the next school board member.
We have huge challenges facing the school district this year.
We have already had a protracted discussion over teacher compensation. While the school board granted teachers a pay increase, for it to be a long-term and ongoing closure of the funding gap, there will need to be a funding stream.
This fall, voters will have the chance to vote on a facilities bond for the first time. That means we will have a chance to upgrade what is, in a lot of cases, aging infrastructure. But even that facilities bond is about one-third of the school district’s capital infrastructure needs.
Finally, we have to figure out what to do about a parcel tax. There has been a push by Alan Fernandes to support a parcel tax that is a majority-rule tax, but that requires him to attempt to go the initiative route, and put it on the ballot through voter signatures rather than through action of the school board. He was originally looking at November, but is now looking at a possible spring special election.
It would be great to be able to choose between competing visions for how to resolve these and many other pressing problems in the school district. But that will require another candidate, or preferably two, to step up.
This is all of course anticipated with the rules of election nominations. When an incumbent does not file, that means the nomination period is extended by five calendar days. That means challengers now have until Wednesday at 5 pm to file for the election.
The incumbent is ineligible to do so. This all makes intuitive sense. The presence of an incumbent, with all the advantages likely, serves to deter quality candidates from coming forward. However, by clearing the field, it changes the calculation.
We will find out by Wednesday at closing time whether there will be an active election this time around.
There will of course be no shortage of important issues on the ballot. There figures to be a contested county board of education seat on the ballot in part of Davis, as Melissa Moreno takes on David Murphy. There is Measure M, which is the facilities bond that will likely be interesting to follow. And of course we have another Measure R vote – the West Davis Active Adult Community.
But once again, I hope someone will step up to be a candidate and at least force the three candidates currently on the ballot to introduce themselves to the voters and explain their vision of the future.
—David M. Greenwald reporting