This looks and smells like Democracy but fails at Leadership and Representation ….and costs $2.5 million.
by smf for 4LAKidsNews
Jan 8, 2014 :: In the end it was a failure of leadership and consensus building, hampered – I submit – by the very open-meetings law that supposed to insure the fairness of the democratic process.
Ultimately an unpopular compromise was hammered out that may leave the voters, taxpayers and children of Board District #1 unrepresented through August – and all because the six board members could not quietly meet and discuss among themselves over the past month how to best accomplish what is best for the children of Los Angeles.
For three hours the board listened to the voices of the community. Something like 43 constituents of Board District 1 spoke for the importance of filling the seat giving the community a voice through the appointment process – about half that number spoke in favor of calling an election. Spokespeople on both sides were often eloquent and passionate …and some of that passion carried over into the debate on the board before it was subsumed into administrival wrangling and sentence parsing over whether amendments were friendly or not.
Any first semester PTA parliamentarian will tell you: There is no such thing in parliamentary procedure as a friendly amendment. Roberts Rules of Order are meant to facilitate debate – not prolong it.
The first vote by the board – to go ahead with an appointment process, was a 3:3 tie – the motion failing – with Dr. Vladovic casting the deadlocking vote along with Garcia and Galatzan. Kayser, Zimmer and Ratliff voted to appoint.
Boardmember Zimmer – often given to public debate with himself – offered an outside the box solution: To call an election and appoint a interim officeholder to represent the community in the interim.
That sparked a debate between the three lawyers on the podium over whether such a solution was legal. District General Counsel Holmquist advanced that the solution may not be legal because it is not envisioned the City Charter – but when challenged by Attorney Ratliff admitted that it wasn’t specifically illegal. Attorney Galatzan refused to parse illegal v. may-not-be-legal (the usual playground of the profession) and looked up from her iPad which had held her divided attention for the previous three-and-a-half hours long enough to bemoan the failure of the rule of law and the decent into Hades should the board explore the road not taken.
At no time in the debate were these four words, beloved by attorneys, said: “Let a judge decide.”
Ultimately Zimmer’s motion failed, leading to a motion by Galatzan to call an election – at a possible cost of $2.5 million – that will fill the seat from August 2014 to June 30 2015 – at a prorated cost of $250,000 a month from the LAUSD General Fund. That’s a lot of teachers’ salaries – or counselors, school nurses, librarians, etc. And those ten months will be spent with the winner of the election in perpetual election mode as there will be yet another election in March 2015 for the next term.
Roosevelt's Man or Woman in the Arena may not have been in the building Tuesday night …or may have been a silent memory in LaMotte’s empty chair.
But Mr. Zimmer dared.
He said he came to listen – and was challenged on that with a caustic “I thought you only came to listen!” when he spoke. He continued to dare even after the final vote; speaking for the unrepresented voice of the community and the Children of District One ….and promises to continue in that advocacy until Marguerite LaMotte’s is filled.
At one time, not so long ago, the Board of Ed had their own independent counsel who could have advised them. That position was eliminated in a cost saving move when the ®eformers took charge and aligned with City Hall.
Now those days are also long ago.
Schools to hold election to fill LaMotte seat
After community members weighed in, L.A. Unified board decides to hold vote.
By Howard Blume | LA Times |
11:24 PM PST, January 7, 2014 :: After listening to hours of public testimony Tuesday evening, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to call a special election to fill the seat of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died last month.
The vote followed a spirited debate both within the board and among community members. At one point, board member Steve Zimmer proposed defying legal advice and appointing a replacement until a special election could be held.
But in the end, a board majority sided with legal counsel in determining that they had but two choices. The final vote was 4 to 2, with Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff dissenting. Ratliff said she still was willing to take a chance on Zimmer's approach.
The board action also requires a report next week on whether an appointed caretaker could represent District 1 until LaMotte's successor takes office.
In recent days, elected officials and community activists have been split over whether the board should leave the South Los Angeles seat open until a special election could be held, probably in June, or appoint a replacement until the regular election for the seat in 14 months.
Those aligned with the appointment option included U.S. Reps. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and a coalition of black community groups. They would have liked to see retired L.A. Unified School District administrator George McKenna hold the seat. McKenna said that he would also be interested in running for the post.
Those who favored an election included Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson. An election would best respect the democratic process, Ridley-Thomas said.
Going into Tuesday's meeting, board members also were split on the issue: Kayser and Ratliff have leaned toward an appointment, while Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan and Monica Garcia supported an election. Zimmer was undecided the first time the board took up the matter in December.
LaMotte, 80, had been the longest-serving among the seven members on the current board, first winning election in 2003. She died Dec. 5 while attending a conference in San Diego.
More than 100 signed up to speak at the rare evening meeting.
"I rise as one ripple in a sea of many community voices" in support of McKenna, said local Episcopal Bishop James B. Walker. It's vital, he said, to avoid a break in representation during a crucial time: "Please do not take the 1st District from Ms. LaMotte to zero."
UCLA professor Tyrone Howard called McKenna qualified and "a dear friend," but said, "If he's going to do it, he should do it the right way."
He added: "The vote is the proverbial equalizer."
Those who spoke in favor of an appointment overwhelmingly favored McKenna, but it was not unanimous.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said earlier Tuesday that he believes the seat should not be left open too long but declined to express a strong preference: "I think I would very respectfully say to the Board of Education: This is your decision, but keep in mind what's best for the children in South Los Angeles who will go unrepresented if we don't do this swiftly."
LaMotte's successor could play a vital role on a board sharply divided on key issues, including the direction of the school system under Supt. John Deasy.
LaMotte was closely allied with the teachers union, which has criticized Deasy. Her successor could therefore strengthen Deasy's support on the fractured board. Or, a replacement who actively challenged Deasy might prove more of an impediment to the activist superintendent.
Deasy last week invited prominent District 1 residents to be part of an interim advisory committee. But this effort, and Deasy's choice of members, were criticized by some speakers.
Even before the decision of how to handle the open seat, two contenders emerged this week ready either to run or accept an appointment: McKenna and former school board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes. Hudley-Hayes decided not to attend the meeting; McKenna briefly addressed the board, stating his willingness to serve.
Hudley-Hayes, 68, served one term on the school board, ending in 2003 when she lost her reelection bid to LaMotte. More recently, Hudley-Hayes served eight years as a fire commissioner, including seven as commission president. She also served as a special trustee assisting Compton College in its efforts to regain accreditation. She first came into public prominence as the Los Angeles head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In her first school board race, she enjoyed strong support from both the teachers union and local philanthropists, but the union switched to LaMotte four years later.
McKenna, 73, retired in 2012 after three years as a regional superintendent of an area that spanned much of South L.A. He had served in a similar capacity for two years starting in 2000. McKenna also worked six years heading the Inglewood Unified School District.
His greatest fame, perhaps, comes from a movie, "The George McKenna Story," starring Denzel Washington, that depicted his turnaround efforts at Washington Preparatory High School from 1983 to 1988. LaMotte later became principal at the school.
Political activist Jimmie Woods Gray also has expressed interest in the seat. Another possible candidate is Alex Johnson, an aide to Ridley-Thomas. Johnson is "still in the exploratory stage," said Fred MacFarlane, a political advisor to the supervisor. Ridley-Thomas has yet to announce his preferences.
All of the potential candidates are black.
LaMotte's District 1 stretches across a diverse swath of South and southwest L.A., over which black voters historically have been the most influential. That seat has been held by an African American since the Board of Education first was divided into geographic regions in 1979.
Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this story.
The vote effectively creates a primary for June 3 and a runoff election on August 12, if no one receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote. A vote to fill the seat with an appointment failed, 3-3.
The vote for the election was 4-2, with President Richard Vladovic, Tamar Galatzan, Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer as the majority, and Bennett Kayser and Monica Ratliff voting no.
The vote followed a lengthy debate by elected officials, community members and board members that included impassioned arguments for an appointment so the seat is not left vacant for months. Because so many felt so strongly about depriving the district of a representative for so long, the board’s vote also included a request to get a legal opinion on whether a caretaker could fill the seat until the election is over.
That request came despite he district’s chief legal advisor, David Holmquist, advising members that the LA City Charter does not provide for an interim appointment prior to a scheduled election. The members asked Holmquist, nonetheless, to examine the issue and report back in a week if there are any options that would allow for one.
LAUSD board OKs special election for LaMotte’s vacant seat
By Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1gDQCK9
Posted: 01/07/14, 11:35 PM PST :: Over the objections of some South L.A. residents, a June 3 special election will be held to fill the vacant Los Angeles Unified School Board seat of the late Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.
At a heated Tuesday-night special session at the district’s downtown L.A. headquarters, board members voted 4-2 to hold an early election for the District 1 seat.
LaMotte, 80 — the most veteran member of the school board, having served since 2003 — died in December while at a California School Boards Association conference in San Diego, leaving her district without representation. The regularly scheduled election for her seat isn’t until 2015.
For the Tuesday-night meeting, the board rescinded its standard policy limiting the number of speakers and instead allowed an unrestricted number — but at only two minutes each, one minute shorter than usual. Many in attendance at the four-hour meeting urged the board simply to appoint an interim member until the planned vote.
According to board member Bennett Kayser’s count, in more than three hours of public comment, a total of 46 people voiced support for the appointment of a temporary board member, while 25 advocated a special election.
Led in part by board member Tamar Galatzan, the board opted for the June special election and ordered a report on how LaMotte’s district, which includes a large section of South L.A., could be represented informally in the months before then.
Members Kayser and Monica Ratliff both voted against the election plan. The June election could cost up to $2.5 million, board members were told.
Tori Bailey, who backed the appointment of a temporary board member to represent the area, left disappointed. “I’m pretty sure the will of the majority of the people wasn’t taken into consideration,” she said, filing out of the auditorium late Tuesday night.
The special election had the support of many area politicians, including L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who appeared before the committee.
Ridley-Thomas — whose county district overlaps that of District 1 — argued an election was the only fair way to provide representation. He listed the names of other politicians, including Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, who supported having a special election.
“I rise to simply make the point that democracy matters, and it matters all day long,” Ridley-Thomas said.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez | Pass / Fail | 89.3 KPCC http://bit.ly/1a0JSUN
January 7th, 2014, 10:47pm :: The Los Angeles Unified school board’s six elected members voted Tuesday night to call for a special election in June to fill the board’s seventh seat, now empty by the sudden death in December of Marguerite LaMotte.
“There’s a line in the Declaration of Independence that said that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed and I think that’s what we’re really doing here. We are supporting the residents and constituents of board district one,” said board member Tamar Galatzan, who proposed the special election.
The decision came after three hours of public comment by nearly 100 speakers and another hour of debate among board members. The board voted down proposals to postpone the decision and appoint an interim board member until regular election failed.
The election will cost the school district as much as $2.5 million if no single candidate takes a majority of the vote and a second, runoff election needs to be held in August, according to the city clerk. A single election will cost $973,000.
The board did direct legal counsel to report back on its options to appoint someone to fill the seat temporarily.
The decision went against the majority of the dozens of people who filled L.A. Unified’s board room. They spoke in support of appointing former school district administrator George McKenna, a friend of LaMotte, to fill out her term through next year.
Speakers included some of the region’s most prominent African American leaders.
“I think of an appointment of a person in this position would be most appropriate at this time,” said former L.A. Unified board member Rita Walters, who was elected to the board in 1979.
Former Los Angeles councilmen David Cunningham and Robert Farrell agreed.
“We don’t want our community to go without. There’s so much need, so many decisions you’ll need assistance for,” Cunningham said, referring to upcoming school district budget deliberations.
This large coalition of African American leaders has been organizing in the weeks after LaMotte’s death around the appointment of McKenna.
“I am here as your colleague, as your employee in this district for over 32 years,” said McKenna, a former principal and area administrator. “The community has asked me to be of service.”
LaMotte represented school board district 1 on the school board for 10 years. With strong support from the teachers union she unseated Genethia Hudley-Hayes, who’d won the seat with backing from then L.A. mayor Richard Riordan.
LaMotte was a staunch supporter of teachers - taking a strong stand against layoffs - that won her fans in United Teachers Los Angeles. The teacher's union and SEIU were her strongest backers.
The seat has been held by a black woman since 1979, but the South L.A. district is now majority Latino - a community that is likely to draw support for its own candidate.
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was the most prominent supporter of a special election.
“Voters matter, they are important in this process,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “District 1 must have a champion for its children and its families. A champion that can effectively deliver results.”
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy sent a letter to twelve prominent African American leaders on Jan. 3, inviting them to join a District 1 advisory committee he’s created to give him “information, advice, and direction” until a board member is chosen.
After public comment, board member Bennett Kayser moved for the board to appoint a replacement for the seat but that motion failed on a 3-3 vote.
Board member Steve Zimmer then submitted a motion to call for a special election and also appoint an interim school board member.
The school district’s top lawyer, David Holmquist warned board members that city law that governs board member succession precludes the board from taking both actions.
Zimmer’s proposal failed on a 4-2 vote.