By George B. Sánchez, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
23 Dec 2008 -- San Fernando Mayor Nury Martinez, who is seeking a Los Angeles Unified school board seat, is facing a court challenge over her decision to describe herself as an "educator" on the ballot.
Martinez does not teach classes but used the term "mayor/environmental educator" with her name printed on the ballot. The phrase refers to her work heading an environmental organization that includes public education as part of its mission.
Opponent Louis Pugliese will ask a judge to remove the term "environmental educator."
The two are the only candidates for Los Angeles Unified School District board District 6, which encompasses the central San Fernando Valley. They are running in the March 2009 election to replace Julie Korenstein, who is stepping down after 22 years in office.
Martinez's educator title refers to her executive director position with Pacoima Beautiful, an environmental nonprofit organization.
"She's not an educator as far as I'm concerned," said Pugliese, a lecturer at California State University, Northridge, and former LAUSD teacher. "They do educational activities, but that doesn't make her an educator."
Martinez did not return phone calls Tuesday, but her campaign consultant, Yvette Martinez - no relation to the candidate - called Pugliese's complaint a "distraction." Though San Fernando's mayor is not a teacher, Martinez oversees environmental workshops, youth training and community meetings, she said. "Her ballot designation is completely true," said the consultant. "She is mayor of San Fernando and core to the mission of her nonprofit is environmental education."
In November, Pugliese asked the Los Angeles city clerk to remove the identification from the ballot. That same day, the City Clerk's Office responded in writing to Pugliese, saying it was not its responsibility to verify or investigate a candidate's identity.
Pugliese is taking his complaint to Los Angeles Superior Court this morning.
Complaints about an opponent's self-identification on the ballot are common in elections, said Jinny Pak, assistant chief of elections in the City Clerk's Office.
"There's maybe one each cycle," she said. "It's not rare, but it's not common. It happens."
Pak expects a ruling today.
Also up in the March election are the seats now held by board President Mónica García, who is unopposed in her re-election bid, and Marlene Canter, who is stepping down after eight years. Two candidates are seeking Canter's seat, which represents the West Valley and L.A.'s Westside.
- smf notes that both candidates for Canter’s seat are high school teachers, one at Fairfax High School and one at Marshall High School.