In an effort to reel in some well meaning citizens, I have some insight and a recommendation for their quest to achieve term limits. This is prompted by reader Martie O’Meara, who wrote this today:

“August 2014, I requested that the school board place on the agenda a discussion of term limits and spending limits. Two years later it was placed on the agenda July 12, 2016– middle of summer.

“Last night I asked them to place it on the ballot for the public to decide. Surprise, surprise, —- A few statements were made by board members but there was no pro and con discussion of the item. Basically they said it was an election tactic and they placed it on the agenda for discussion in 2017.”

To Martie and anyone else pushing for term limits, it may help to take a step back and gain an understanding of the greater challenge before you.

The district administration and the school board club are an entrenched bureaucracy that works very hard to preserve the status quo. They will not make any substantive changes to the way in which they operate unless forced to do so by a court ruling or by some other extreme circumstance.

The best recent proof of this is the passing attention they are giving to area representation and voting instead of the current at-large voting system. A switch to area representation could mean fundamental changes in the make-up of the board, including – gasp! – a Latino representative for Costa Mesa’s Westside. The school board club has not had a Latino member – ever.

The bureaucrats did not decide to study area voting because the collectively woke up one recent morning and thought, “Hey! It’s about time we elected people by area instead of by district! Yeah!”

No, they decided to study the matter to stave a potential lawsuit.

And just like all the other important challenges they have faced and are facing, the area study has been placed squarely on the back burner, devoting only as much attention to it as is necessary to stay out of court.

They don’t want term limits and anyone who attended the board meeting of June 28 got that loud and clear.

So, given that the school board club has all the leverage in the term limits situation, there is no use at all in telling them that you support term limits. Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing…

They don’t care what you think about term limits or a lot of other issues. They are going to do what they want, when they want, unless a court tells them otherwise.

Term limits? I can’t hear you I can’t hear you lalalalalalala…

If you need another example, go back and read the multiple posts about John Caldecott’s records requests, which cost taxpayers – that’s YOU – hundreds of thousands of dollars in money that should have gone to educating our children (Thank you Judy Franco for that perspective). Or perhaps to teachers, who are getting the runaround in their current compensation negotiations.

The records requested by Caldecott were handed over only after a court ordered them to do so.

These are not isolated examples, it has been like this for decades: Sweep it under the rug, drag it out for as long as they can, and hope that it will go away. And who can blame them? That M.O. has worked very well in the past.

The final example is the Mariners mess. One report issued on the last day of school and another one due over the summer while you are on vacation.

That’s the insight, here’s the recommendation:

The only way you are going to get term limits on the agenda without a court order or lawsuit behind it is to elect new people to the school board. That changes the status quo.

If there are three candidates running for the board this year and all of them support term limits, that’s still only three out of four – not the majority that is needed. Oh, but wait! School board club member Karen Yelsey made term limits a big part of her initial campaign ten years ago, so let’s see… Three new people, plus Yelsey equals… Four! And that’s a majority.

Don’t hesitate to get up at school board meetings and give the club the what for on term limits or any other issue. While you’re up there, remind club member Yelsey of the term limits position that helped get her elected ten years ago.

Just remember to reset your expectations.

Steve Smith

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