In the online version of today’s Daily Pilot, you will see commentaries penned by Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger and Newport Beach City Councilman Keith Curry. Over the past four years, other elected officials from both cities have authored columns or letters to the editor.

These politicians do this because they understand the value of proactive communication. It is so valuable that members of Congress have a “franking” allowance which allows them to mail their constituent communications for free. In typical government word twisting, the allowance is called a “privilege.”

But it has been almost four years since any member of the school board club or any senior member of the administration has contributed a commentary to the Daily Pilot – not even a letter to the editor.

The reason that the folks at the club house on Bear St. have not written anything is simple: They don’t want to and they don’t need to.

They don’t want to because they have an abundance of disrespect for the people they serve. This was evident at last Tuesday’s meeting at the Bear St. clubhouse when several Eastbluff residents stood before the club members to give them the what for over what they claimed was misleading information on the particulars of the new stadium – sorry, “sports complex” at CdM High. The club members listened with faux concern while they watched the timer wind down from the allotted three minutes allowed each speaker.

Not one club member offered an apology for the disconnect or suggested a meeting to straighten out any miscommunication. I saw the same thing in 2014 when Mesa Verde residents were shown fencing plans for Adams Elementary that were 180 degrees from what they had been told would be constructed. The explanation that night? “We changed our minds.”

They don’t care.

They don’t need to care. The current system of area representation all but ensures a job for life unless you get caught red-handed committing some major crime. And sometimes, even that isn’t enough for you to lose your job. In 2001, a sitting school board club member was convicted of misdemeanor drunk driving. This member had a .19 blood alcohol level and was involved in a two car accident. Only one of the club member’s six colleagues, Wendy Leece, called for a resignation. Three of those colleagues are still on the board.

The election system is rigged to ensure as little board turnover as possible. Trustees should be elected based only on the votes of the residents in the areas they serve. Does anyone honestly believe that if club member Walt Davenport had run in 2014 based only on the votes of the residents of Costa Mesa’s Westside that he would have won? Davenport barely campaigned – so little, in fact, that one Westside resident called him a “ghost.”

The current election model makes a mockery of the so-called area representation and it has been one of the key reasons why there is no long-term, comprehensive, strategic plan to improve academic performance in Costa Mesa. But while the system is bad for students, it’s good for maintaining the status quo; for keeping the school board club free of those pesky boat rockers, you know, the ones who have the nerve to challenge conventional wisdom and ask about the details of expenditures.

No, they don’t care. Despite what they say, they don’t care. We should have been reading commentaries or letters about such issues as:

  • The CdM cheating scandal and what has been done to prevent another occurence
  • Specifics of how the club members plan to improve Common Core scores
  • A defense of the approximately $500,000 in legal fees spent thus far to keep the public from reading the documents requested by John Caldecott
  • An explanation of the miscommunication over the plans for the stadium at CdM High
  • An explanation of the miscommunication over the plans for the stadium at Costa Mesa High
  • And many more topics

Instead we get nothing. Why? Because they don’t want to speak up and they don’t have to.

I’m just not sure which reason is worse.

Steve Smith

 

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