In a recent post, I tried to describe why the district continues to fight John Caldecott’s requests under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). The district has lost every time and has spent in excess of $158,000 of your money doing so.

John Caldecott weighed in to provide additional thoughts:

“Mission 1) The District does not want any information released through the CPRA that reflects negatively on the actions of the administration or the board.

“Mission 2) Raising the bar to require a citizen to file a write of mandate in court in order to obtain public information drastically limits/delays the flow of negative information to the public. [As a result], Mission 1 accomplished.

“If the District was transparent with information and practices, the need for CPRA requests and the waste of public funds would be minimal.

“Transparency would require a high level of ethical leadership that views criticism as an important part of continued improvement, not as a threat to the status quo.” 

Newcomers to the district seen often make the mistake of assuming that everything the board does is in the best interests of the taxpayers, parents, and students in Newport-Mesa. It’s understandable that they would think this because nearly all of them have worked in or are working in the private sector where people are held accountable for their mistakes. So, they figure that the folks on Bear St. are accountable, too.

Once they get a peek behind the curtain, however, they begin to see that far from being the experts we thought they were, the board and the administration continue to blunder their way through the taxpayer-funded budget, using your dollars to fix what seems now like an endless string of major mistakes in 2016.

The situation was not helped by the re-election of the three incumbents last November. Despite a closer race than I can recall in years, all that matters is who got the most votes. The three incumbents won and probably haven’t given a moment’s thought to the ramifications of tighter races. In their minds, there is no such thing as “almost losing.” They won, that’s it, and now we can go on with business as usual.

That means rubber stamping everything presented to them, including the approval of more administrators, fighting CPRA requests with your tax dollars, and never, never, never, admitting responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

Someone owes taxpayers and JoAnn St. residents an apology for erecting 80′ poles at Estancia High without proper community notice. For a district that drowns itself in those absurd community input meetings with flip charts, stickers, and people who act interested, they should have conducted such a meeting about the poles but didn’t. Why? Because they were honest. By not holding a community input meeting over the poles, they admitted what many of us have known all along: They don’t care what you have to say. I saw it firsthand awhile back when they held a meeting to review the new fence around Adams El. There was no input – the decision had been made and if residents didn’t like it, well, too bad.

Even worse (better?), they do not plan to apologize for screwing up the solar panel construction at Estancia by authorizing their placement in the baseball diamond’s prime foul ball territory.

The district will continue to fight Caldecott’s records request for the reasons he listed and for the ones I mentioned last week.

But I really do think there’s more than just the preservation of the status quo at work here. Most decisions are made on an emotional level, even those that seem to have only a rational basis. We vote for people we like. We go to doctors we like even though we have no idea whether they graduated first or last in medical school. We marry people we love, even when there are enough red flags during courtship that should convince us otherwise. And I believe that the board and the administration are fighting Caldecott’s requests because they just don’t like him.

That is not to say that they would OK a CPRA request from a friendly face, it just means that when logic would tell an impartial person to stop wasting taxpayer dollars, in these cases, their dislike of Caldecott is justification for the spending.

And that $158,000? Think back to the 2014 campaign when I offered that the $200,000+ travel budget was being wasted because no one could or cared to draw a line between the expenses and any benefits to the district. In an exchange with Trustee Vicki Snell at a candidate forum, she called the travel budget “a drop in the bucket.”

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD