Monthly Archives: January 2013

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Praise for the Redondo Beach Board of Education

My first contact with the Redondo Beach Board of Education  (school board) occurred a few years ago when my son and a few of his 4th grade classmates were invited to present a dramatization of some California historical events. I was a Harbor Commissioner at the time. I found the environment very familiar, citizens like us giving up their evenings to sit in a meeting room and try to do things to help the community.

My next visit to the school board came a year later when some Jefferson parents sent an email requesting volunteers to speak at a meeting. Jefferson was the last RB grammar school to have 6th grade. The others had all begun sending their 6th graders to middle school. The parents I joined wanted one more year of 6th grade at Jefferson.

I spoke briefly in front of the packed room. Jefferson is a great school run by people who care about education. Like me, the other parents wanted as much of that as they could get for their kids.

The school board ignored me and the other parents and voted to discontinue 6th grade at Jefferson. I couldn’t understand how our eloquent arguments could have received such a cold reception. I was sure this would prove to be a bad decision by the school board.

I was wrong. My son went to middle school and he absolutely loves everything about it. He has me wake him up early because he can’t wait to get to school.

When I look back and remove my ego, (you know, the voice inside that tells me I’m right no matter how much evidence I see to the contrary), I recognize what happened. The board members knew things I didn’t know. They knew the trend in education was for 6th graders to migrate to middle school in preparation for high school and beyond. They spent time like I did as a Harbor commissioner, gathering information and examining the issues.

They did what we elected them to do, make rational, informed decisions to help guide the city’s education system and produce the best results. Even though I disagreed at the time, I know now they got it right.

They got it right again in December when they refused to bend to pressure to endorse Measure A, the misguided ballot imitative that asks Redondo voters to change the zoning of the AES power plant and make it illegal to generate electricity on their property. I admire the courage and wisdom they exhibited in the face of pressure from the loud and ever-present zealots who have attached themselves to this issue.

We elect and appoint people with the expectation they will look rationally at the issues that come before them and make the right decisions. That’s what the school board did with the Jefferson 6th grade decision and that’s what it did when it chose not to support Measure A.

The whole idea behind a ballot measure is to circumvent the city council. So the RB council won’t vote as a group one way or the other on Measure A. But they did vote against passing a resolution denouncing the power plant.

I’ve looked at the no power plant information online, I can’t find an elected official other than councilman Bill Brand who co-authored Measure A, who supports it. Look closely at any responses to this statement. You may see something like, Ted Lieu said the citizens should be able to vote on a power plant but that’s not the same thing.

I’m talking about an elected official making a public statement that he or she supports Measure A. I’m pretty sure you won’t find one.

In fact U. S. Congressman Henry Waxman wrote, “I’m submitting my statement, I explicitly told Councilmember Brand that I was not endorsing the ballot proposal. I think it is unwise and will lead to a great deal of litigation, even though I am sympathetic to their goals.”

So if you hear someone who supports Measure A say they don’t have politicians endorsing the iniatiave because they haven’t asked them for their support, it’s pretty clear from Congressman Waxman’s statement they have all been asked for an endorsement and they have all declined.

As a voter, you should ask yourself why? It sounds like such a good idea to vote against the power plant. Why would the Redondo Beach School Board, the City Council and every other elected official refuse to support Measure A?

I can’t speak for them even though I’m pretty sure the answer can be found in Congressman Waxman’s statement above. I will say our other elected officials, like our School Board and City Council, have taken the time to look closely at Measure A and the potential damage it will cause the City. Their refusal to support the short-sighted ballot measure is the equivalent of a unanimous vote. No on Measure A.

Nasty Politics

My friend Michael Jackson, who has taken on the formidable challenge of unseating an incumbent in the Redondo Beach City Council race, told me his uphill battle just got a little more difficult. It seems a person or people have embarked on their own campaign, a campaign to remove his name from public view.

It seems in the last week, five banners his campaign paid for and placed around the city have been stolen. The first thing I thought when I heard about it is probably the same thing you thought when you heard about it. Who stole the signs?

As I worked through the question, my first thought was someone who dislikes him for some reason stole the signs. That didn’t make sense, I’ve known Michael for a few years and he just doesn’t seem to evoke that kind of response from people. He’s a good guy and people like him. In fact, on the Harbor Commission, I’ve seen him work for harmony at times when I’ve chosen to give up on that possibility.

The next obvious answer would be one of his two opponents in the District 2 city council race.  That one’s just too crazy. I can’t imagine a legitimate candidate for Redondo Beach City Council who would automatically assume his or her message was so weak the only chance of winning was to try to remove all of Michael Jackson’s yard signs from the city.

If it was just a rash of random yard sign thefts, the other candidates’ signs would be gone too but they all seem to be in place. That leaves only one group from which a suspect in these thefts could be found, supporters of one of Michael Jackson’s opponents.

No doubt, people get passionate about this political stuff. I’ll be honest. I thought about destroying a yard sign for the party I didn’t support in the 2012 presidential election. There are two reasons  I didn’t follow through with those impulses, One, I’m not a sleazebag. Two, I’m not a thief.

I also knew that if my candidate’s message was sincere and persuasive, he’d win the election. More fundamental than that, I had to believe my candidate had a message. If a supporter or supporters of one of the candidates in District 2 feel the best way to win the election is to commit larceny on behalf of their candidate, I have to believe it’s an act of desperation by people who understand their candidate has no message.

You might say that stealing something like a lawn sign that costs $5 or $10 isn’t really stealing but I’d argue strongly against that. Someone had to earn that $5 or $10. Whether or not you agree with the candidate’s beliefs, he has a right to believe them and a right to try to convince other people to support him. Stealing that sign is not only larceny but an attempt to deny him his rights.

So when I say Michael Jackson’s uphill battle to unseat an incumbent got more difficult, I’m saying that unlike a similar attack on his political arguments, he has no way to defend against some sleazebag creaping around in the dark of night trying to steal from him and deny him his rights.

If I was one of Michael Jackson’s opponents and I had nothing to do with stealing the signs, I’d take this opportunity to get out in front of this thing and declare that not only did I have nothing to do with it, I have no knowledge of who might have done it. Because if some whispered news of the sign theft details were to find its way to a candidate and that candidate didn’t alert the police and tell the police everything he or she knew about the sign thefts, that candidate would be complicit in those thefts.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’d guess some charges could be filed against a candidate in addition to the charges filed against the actual thief if the candidate had knowledge of such a theft. It’s probably unlikely a thief would be caught in the act but if the police got lucky and found the person or people who committed these thefts, they would probably want to know whether anyone including a candidate was involved in, or aware of the series of thefts.

Other than the fact five signs have been stolen, the whole discussion is merely speculation. But the idea of reporting  a crime intended to help a political candidate raises some interesting ethical questions. Reporting the theft to police wouldn’t be a very nice way for a candidate to repay someone who thinks he or she is helping the cause. But from where I stand, it would be the only moral thing to do, the only way a person worthy of public office could behave.

Now I just hope some good citizen comes forward and helps the police figure out who stole the signs.