When I sat down in a living room Sunday night to attend a coffee for school board candidate Nancy Goldberg, I found myself back in a familiar political scene. I had attended coffee parties for both Scott Zeidman and Laura Chardiet last weekend, and I felt that I needed to get all three candidates on the same page to write things up. The week in between these events was so filled, so over-filled, with parent-teacher meetings, financial obligations, teaching classes, romantic scenes, accounting tasks, birthday parties for children and big piles of dirty dishes needing to be washed, I’d really almost forgotten we were having an election. My focus was swept into, y’know, life. It was sort of like coming back into the room after an hour away from the tv, and finding the movie wasn’t over yet.
This movie is not over, and the suspense continues to build.
The practice of having coffee and questions with the candidates is really small town Culver City at it’s zenith. At each one of these gatherings, there were a dozen or two interested voters who came to ask the candidates about specific issues. What I noticed – what really annoyed me- was that at all these coffee parties, most of the questions were about information that had been easily and readily available for months if not years. Anyone with just the smallest amount of curiosity could have gone to a school board meeting or called the district. Questions being asked were so simple, it was a bit scary.
What is a charter school ? Who decides what teachers to hire? What factors are involved in creating the budget? (Gasp – sigh- really? You don’t know?) Well, then I guess it’s good that you are asking now.
I moved from annoyed to understanding when I noticed my mind had wandered back into the rotation of wondering if I should call that guy or text him, and did I lock the back door or take the bread out of the freezer? The reason we are asking these questions in the weeks running up to the election is that the rest of our time is take up with, y’know, life.
Which is why we need coffee. Very strong coffee.
At a modest house in mid-city last Sunday, Scott Zeidman did a great job answering questions, giving details and offering his perspective. With the women getting far more attention, Scott seems to feel that his outstanding record and his incumbency does not offer an easy win. Having seen Scott handle many issues (and many district parents) with aplomb, I can’t imagine not having him on the board. He has been essential to all the progress the board has made in the last two years, and there has been a lot of it.
At a more luxurious Lindberg Park address, Laura Chardiet offered smart and thoughtful answers to a more demanding and educated group of voters. Questions about permit policy and crowding were asked, and concerns in regard to the financial support of the state were voiced. Former board members interviewed her with intent. Without the benefit of board experience, the candidate still had a secure knowledge of procedure and policy. I’ve never seen Laura confront an agenda or marshal support for a vote, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that she can do it.
Nancy Goldberg spoke at a pleasant Carlson Park home to voters who seemed to each have a specific complaint, (not really questions, more like gripes-) which she agreed with or demurred. I was not just surprised but shocked at her admission of innocence about things like budgets and policy. With her supporters all talking about how great it would be to have a teacher on the board, we already have two. I know Nancy wants to do the best thing for the community (and I personally think she is a treasure,) but serving on the school board just is not it.
I want our school board to walk in the door with their pencils sharpened and their notes ready; we have things to accomplish. Electing someone so that they can get up to speed just isn’t the way to be functional. We’re in mid-crisis with our finances, and there won’t be any let up. Problems need to be resolved now.
Everyone who has a stake in the success of this district- that’s all of you – needs to be able to see what is best for the kids is what is best for the future. Any relay team is only as fast as the slowest runner.
While people are already voting by mail, the election will be taking over all the headlines for another three weeks. While there is still laundry to be done and phone calls to be returned (ok, ctn, just txt,) we can’t get too distracted by life. As Molly Ivins, the late liberal pundit from Texas noted, “Politics is not a sitcom you can decide you don’t much care for.” Attention must be paid.
May I suggest some very strong coffee ?