Learning to Change Your Mind

There are certain things that impress me in politics. One of them is a clearly positive campaign approach: providing a statement of your position that is not focused on trashing your opponent. It is such an approach that got me to vote Republican the one time in my life that I did: it was the approach taken by presidental candidate John Anderson in 1980. Why am I mentioning this? Read on, McDuff…

Back in March, I wrote about the nasty school board fight that we’re having in our school district. This fight, primarily between the UTLA-backed incumbent Jon Lauritzen and the mayor-backed candidate Tamar Galatzan, was extremely nasty in the primary. The mailers we were receiving were almost entirely mud-slinging back and forth: trashing the other candidates, not clearly stating what was going to be done. At that time, I tended to back the incumbent because I was turned off by the negative ads, and he was a former Math/CS teacher.

I’ve changed my mind.

Why? A single mailing. Recently, Tamar Galatzan sent out a mailing with her plans for reforming Los Angeles schools. I read through this closely, and I have to say that I agree with it (although she missed a thing or two–such as the fact that magnet school parents shouldn’t have to foot the bill for technology refreshes). The other camp? Still no website, still a relatively-detail-free position statement.

I mention this now because the election is rapidly approaching (May 15), and because the LAUSD is back in the news. The new Superintendent, David Brewer, commissioned a Diagnostic Report of the district when he was hired. Phase 1 is in. This report states that LAUSD is disorganized, lacks financial controls and suffers from a “pervasive” lack of accountability. It notes that “The current culture in LAUSD is one typified by not responding to priorities and deadlines, and there is no sense of urgency among managers”. The report found a district run by a school board that is too involved in management, but that also operates with nonexistent or outdated policies. Much of the findings seems to echo was Galatzan was saying in her position paper.

I know the LAUSD can produce good results. I’ve seen it in the past (I’m a product of LA Unified), and I’ve seen it in the schools that my daughter has attended. But I also know that the success is based on parent involvement. There are many many schools that simply do not make the grade. Some are improving slowly, but the district still has problems. So this mailing, and Brewer’s report (and his reaction thereto) is encouraging to me.

Let this be a lesson to candidates: Some voters react to positive campaigns.

Updated 4/26 to add: It appears I’m not the only one swayed by the mailer. Louis Pugliese has also been swayed, according to the Daily News, which said,

“Pugliese said he was swayed by Galatzan’s detailed proposal for reforming the district – which was sent to voters in a 23-page mailer – while Lauritzen had not drafted any such plan.”


Politics and Poker / Shuffle up the cards, and find the joker…

Politics and Poker, Politics and Poker
Shuffle up the cards, and find the joker
Neither game’s for children
Either game is rough
Decisions, decisions
Like who to pick, how to play,
What to bet, when to call a bluff.

Yup, it’s that time again. Tuesday we have a Primary Election here in Los Angeles, and for a local election, the phone lines have been really busy with political calls. What office you ask? Nothing of national import… congress is even numbered years, and the mayoral election isn’t until 2009. Our city councilman (Greig Smith) is running uncontested. No, the furor is about the Los Angeles School Board.

Right now, there is a big fight in the city between the Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District Board. Hizzoner wants to run the school distict, and although he had a bill passed by the legislature to allow him to do this, the courts declared it unconsitutional. This has resulted in a nasty battle

Politics and Poker, Politics and Poker
Playing for a pot that’s mediocre
Politics and Poker, running neck and neck
If politics seems more predictable…
That’s because, usually,
You can stack the deck

So, turning to the ballot, we have three candidates for the school board for this district, two of whom have substantial financial backing (to give you an idea how nasty the battle is: when I did a Google search on the incumbant… the link for his primary opponent came up as a sponsored link):

  • Jon M. Lauritzen, the incumbent. Backed by the Teachers Union, although according my wife, the administrators don’t like him that well. A former math and computer science teacher, who has taught at numerous schools in the valley, and whose kids are all products of LAUSD. His daughter is currently teaching in the district. Lauritzen is in favor of class size reduction, noting it is already in UTLA’s contract. He also wants to increase parental involvement in schools and improve school safety. According to his position paper, he wants to cut wasteful spending and ensure spending is intelligent. He also wants to fight to keep valley school money in the valley.
  • Tamar Galatzan, Hizzoner’s candidate. Backed by the mayor and the political establishment. A former prosecutor, her only experience in the educational system is as a parent and one-time LAUSD student. She believes that increasing safety for students, teachers and staff, decentralizing decision-making, improving graduation rates, and preventing truancy should be top priorities of the L.A Unified School District. She has also been the most vigorous on the phone banks… in fact, as I was typing this, I received yet another recorded call from her that talked trash about Lauritzen. She is endorsed by the Daily News.
  • Louis Pugliese, backed by, ummm, no one in particular, but endorsed by the LA Times. He is currently a lecturer in Educational Psychology for CSUN’s teaching credential program, as well as an LAUSD teacher and education writer. He’s not the product of LAUSD, but his kids attend LAUSD schools. As for his positions, perhaps his website sums it up best: “I will be the voice that says “Hey, wait a minute! Aren’t we supposed to be talking about TEACHING and LEARNING?””. Specifically, he wants to focus on student academic motivation and modernizing curriculum. He seems to be the only candidate with a blog, for what that is worth.
Politics and poker, Politics and poker
Makes the average guy a heavy smoker
Bless the nominee, and give him our regards
And watch while he learns that in
Poker and politics
Brother, you’ve gotta have
That slippery, hap-hazardous commodity
You’ve gotta have the cards

So, who do I endorse. Pugliese has some interesting ideas, but I’m not sure he is going to win. I’m not in favor of putting a lawyer (Galatzan) in the office, particular one who has harnessed the phone banks to annoy me — this strikes me as someone looking for future city office, not working for the kids. So, I think go for Lauritzen.

As for the other offices: I’m inclined to go for the incumbents for the Community College District seats (Scott-Hayes, Field, Mercer, and Furutani). There are two city measures on the ballot:

  • Measure L, which would establish contribution limits and additional disclosure requirements for School Board campaigns; have local enforcement of School District campaign finance rules; provide campaign finance training for School Board candidates; create term limits of three terms (twelve years) for School Board members; and establish a School Board compensation review committee. One thing this might do is change the school board from part-time positions to full-time positions.

    Position: For

  • Measure M. Establishes a voluntary program to allow members to purchase service credit with the Fire and Police Pension Plan for full-time service with other public agencies, provided the member pays the full actuarial cost for the service purchased.

    Position: For

So that’s it for this election. Somehow, in this game, I’m not sure that I’m a winner….