Colton trustees misstep again
10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, June 30, 2009
If Colton school board members aren't careful, they're going to get a reputation as being arrogant and disrespectful of the people who elect them.
Earlier this year, they named a new high school after a retired Colton trustee instead of the city that will host it. They eventually came around, but only after weeks of protests that threatened to ruin the groundbreaking.
Now, in an even more arrogant gesture, they voted to postpone the next school board election until 2011, giving themselves six-year terms when they were elected to serve four years.
What do they think they are, U.S. senators?
Only two trustees -- Robert Armenta Jr. and Patt Haro -- voted against the change.
The trustees who supported the switcheroo were board President Marge Mendoza-Ware, Vice President Mel Albiso and trustees David Zamora and Frank Ibarra.
Thursday's vote was an about-face. In May 2006, the trustees voted to switch elections from odd-numbered year to even-numbered years, giving themselves one additional year on their four-year terms. The first even-year election was in November 2008.
Now they've voted to switch back to odd-numbered years, adding a second year to their terms.
To justify it, they claimed odd-year elections "tend to draw highly motivated voters ..."
Albiso and Mendoza-Ware also said it saves money and one job for the district, which is facing budget cuts, to put off paying for an election until after November 2011.
But when they voted in 2006 to switch to even-year elections, board members claimed it was "to increase voter participation and reduce the cost of election(s)."
They're talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil, who runs the elections, said it costs less to hold your election in even-numbered years with other state and local elections, when you can share the costs.
Those elections also get higher voter turnout.
Armenta issued a strongly worded protest, saying he believes postponing the election is wrong and unethical, and breaks the trust with voters.
If budget problems were a reason for canceling elections, he said, Gov. Schwarzenegger might as well say no further elections until the economy turns around.
He's right. Democracy isn't something you can just cancel whenever the budget's tight.
Well, as Albiso said, "I'm sure we'll find out in 2011 if voters think it was a wise decision."
Speaking of budget cuts, Grand Terrace just eliminated an employee perk that probably was questionable to begin with: giving birthday gifts of $50 to each employee, a practice that started in 1994.
The city has 50 employees, so eliminating the checks will cut the annual budget by $2,500.
That may not be much, but the city also will save administrative time spent tracking birthdays, manually requesting checks and getting the signatures of each council member on each birthday letter, Acting City Manager Steve Berry said.
Grand Terrace employees shouldn't feel too disappointed. They can still chip in for cake, like office workers everywhere else.
Former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman finally did what I thought he'd do as soon as he was arrested a year ago on felony charges of falsifying evidence to the grand jury.
He pleaded no contest on Tuesday and promised to testify against his former coworkers. About time.