Is this measure just one more attempt by Mayor Villaraigosa to take over the LAUSD Board of Education? Setting aside the question of constitutionality (the measure combines more than one unrelated issue on the same ballot initiative; term limits, campaign finance reform, and a compensation committee) this initiative is wrong on so many levels.
Let’s begin with campaign finance reform which, according to the text, will “encourage a broader participation in the political process by placing limits on the amount any individual can contribute” in any one election. Campaign reform of this type, while it sounds good, will actually do the opposite. By setting contribution limits at $1,000 per individual, an unknown candidate running a grassroots campaign will have to get 900 people to contribute $1,000 or more to compete with the likes of Mayor Villaraigosa and his developer friends. These interested parties have already contributed over $900,000 to Partnership for Better Schools -–a committee the Mayor formed to raise money for LAUSD candidates in three separate Districts. Anyone who has ever worked on a grassroots campaign knows that you have to raise money to raise money. If you have the endorsement of people with access to deep pockets who know all the clever ways to traverse the system, this type of reform is useless.
And to add insult to injury, Board Members will be restricted to $1,000 with no matching funds unlike City Council elections where they do recieve matching funds.
Secondly, if you manage to get through the first 17 pages of legal jargon in your Voter Information Pamphlet, you’ll find the breakdown of a compensation committee that is due to form on April 7, 2007. The need for a committee of this sort is baffling enough without trying to figure out how the darn thing is supposed to work. One can only speculate as to why a committee of this sort is needed; maybe it’s one way the Mayor will have of promising his “reform” candidates a decent wage once they leave well-paying jobs to sit on the school board. Who knows? We do know that the current crop are elected officials earning $24,000 a year being of service to their community. This measure makes them look like corrupt politicians in dire need of oversight and accountability.
Thirdly, this reform will do nothing to prevent the formation of a committee like Partnership for Better Schools. After trudging through a morass of sections and subsections, there is a clause that stipulates that as long as the advertisements don’t say that it is paid for by the candidate, anyone can endorse or oppose anyone they want as long as they clearly specify such on all campaign ads and literature. Remember all those 527’s people were so upset about during the 2004 election, well here we go again.
Finally, on the issue of constitutionality, the LA City Council that voted to put Measure L on the ballot were also behind Measure R on the November 2006 ballot. That proposition was ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court Judge and allowed to stay on the ballot by an appellate court.
Mayor Villaraigosa’s initial attempt to take over the LAUSD school board was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Dzintra Janavs in January. He has stated publicly that he is determined to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.
Measure R—the proposition that combined term limits and ethics reform—passed by the voters in November, is due to go before the same judge in April. Like Measure L, it too combined more than one unrelated issue on the same ballot initiative. Doing so violates the state constitution and the LA City Charter.
Don’t let another measure pass that ends up in the courts! Remember it is your money they’re spending; they don’t care what it takes to further their agenda or how long.
Donna Connolly, Concerned Citizen