Just a Thought – Swan Dive

While it will take a few months for him to hit the rocks – November to be precise – it seems that Karlo Silbiger has gone and done just what we pleaded with him not to do; Political suicide.

Monday’s School Board meeting saw an almost pointless exercise in power – hey look what I can do – to stop a popular bond measure from proceeding forward. But it has assured Karlo that his run for re-election will not cross the finish line.

Why put up the stop sign on something that so many people in the community wanted, felt was needed, and were just rolling up their sleeves to get busy with ? Why call in the easily persuaded votes on the board? Why kill your own political future?

Nancy Goldberg, who practically ran for office on the idea that we do not have enough functional water fountains on our high school campus, somehow opted to vote against her own interest by following along with Silbiger. Nancy has already said she’s not running for another term on the school board, but by voting against the bond, she has negated the very platform that she spoke about as being central to our students well-being; adequate facilities.

Why Patricia Siever decided against the bond is also a mystery. She has often spoke of the wonderful upgrades on her West Los Angeles College campus that were paid for with bond money although those projects almost died owing to the vast incompetence of Mark Roche, WLA’s once-president. The current president, Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh, has done much to clean up from his predecessor and move the college forward. But without the bond money, the campus would not have been able to serve the students it has, let alone attract more.

But Nancy knows she’s not interested in the long term, and and Pat still has not decided to run for re-election this year. Just a thought – don’t bother. Your position on Monday just assured your loss.

Karlo seems to have taken this decision that same way he did the whole deal with the classroom adjuncts; why allow a lot of parents, who are passionately interested in their children’s education, to make decisions that will benefit the process? As a member of the school board, Karlo seems to feel that parents should be kept as far away from the school system as possible.

There is already plenty of enmity against Karlo among the voters, but with the small electorate we have for the school board, this will more than tip the balance against him. The few people who will be voting might want to ask why he’d even want to run for another term. Do we need a school board member whose political strategy seems to be based on flipping off the people who care the most about the schools (parents)? Perhaps it’s pandering to fear – fear that the older voters will not want to approve of borrowing money. I’m sure none of them sent their kids through these schools, or bought their houses on mortgage. Our energetic real estate professionals will understand they will have to sell the school programs and not the structures themselves when they are selling houses to new residents. If someone is looking at moving to Culver City, they are buying into the community, right, not just investing a few hundred thousand dollars in a structure. Who cares about structures?

Well, we do. We have to. They are vital.

But the folks who will be most energetically waving him goodbye as he drops past the fourteenth floor will be the district administrators and employees. These very hard working people thought that they were going to be able to create some concrete improvements for their students, and now, they won’t.

So, why would Karlo opt for suicide ? Maybe it’s a way out of the family business. Plenty of people are pushed into doing what their parents have done, only to discover that they don’t like to do it, or they are not as good at is as they need to be to succeed. Perhaps it’s just ego – hey, I’ve got two other votes on the board I can control, so watch me jerk these people around like puppets. Watch me jump off this building in a single bound. Or maybe it’s just misguided perception. Perhaps Karlo really does think it’s a bad idea to improve the infrastructure of the school buildings that have not been updated since the mid-20th century.

But wait – Wasn’t he among the faction decrying moving Culver Park into bungalows to make space for the legally required full – day kindergartens at El Marino? Wasn’t he speaking about upgrading the Robert Frost? Didn’t he take a position that Nancy’s water fountains were as vital to student health as she said?

There’s a joke that’s popular on the campus of the University of Chicago “Ok, that’s all fine and well and practice, but how does it work in theory?” Politics in not theoretical. It’s the practical application of energy into policy into reality. The art of the possible.

I can only hope that in his next life, Karlo has a better understanding of how power works. Going in the opposite direction of your constituents every time a major decision needs to be made does not create longevity, but rather it’s opposite.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

10 Comments

  1. I’m very surprised by the sudden vote of the Board against the proposed Bond measure. I’m told that Karlo spoke about too many “unanswered questions” at Monday’s meeting. What are those questions? Can we address them? Did the Superintendent or the consultants get a chance to answer them? Surprising the community and CCUSD Administration by shooting down the entire Bond effort is not the approach I would have taken.

  2. “Pandering: the act of expressing one’s views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal,for the purpose of drawing support up to and including votes and do not necessarily reflect one’s personal values.”

    Looks to me like Mr. Silbiger did exactly the opposite.

  3. I’m sorely disappointed in this maneuver by the 3 board members to delay or possibly kill putting a bond measure on the ballot. And the salient point here is not that the board was rejecting a bond measure; it is that they rejected the opportunity for the public to VOTE on a bond measure.

    Mr. Silbiger, Ms. Goldberg & Ms. Siever denied the Culver City citizens the opportunity to vote on a bond measure that would repair, replace or update facilities and equipment that are in dire need of attention.

    Mr. Silbiger recently opined on increasing our parcel tax from $1.2 million a year to $2.5 million a year to cover our facilities needs. He must not have read the report that outlined $165 million in facilities upgrades that are needed. If we were insane enough to even consider this possibility, my children’s grandchildren’s grandchildren MIGHT see the last nail hammered into the walls of CCHS somewhere near the end of the millennium. This is only if you consider that construction costs will remain the same. They won’t.

    Mr. Silbiger and his circle of consultants will say, “What does it hurt to talk about this some more? You, know form some committees; do some more studies and have some more public discourse.”

    I am all for due diligence. However, waiting 6 months or 12 months for next ballot opportunity will cost millions of dollars. If I am not mistaken, by definition, public bonds are financed. In fact, Mr. Silbiger stated as much in his explanation for his rationale. We are talking about a facilities bond that will range between $50 – $100 million dollars. If you’ve paid attention to the business section lately, interest rates are going up at a precipitous rate. Our loan will cost significantly less today than it will in 6 or 12 months.

    There is no question about the need. Mr. Silbiger and his fellow bond-killers will agree to that. Yet, we cannot repair our buildings, bathrooms, water fountains, electrical systems, update our technology, make the district more energy efficient, etc. with a hundred-year plan, which is what Mr. Silbiger is considering as an option with his $2.5 million per year parcel tax.

    We need a large sum of money; tens of millions of dollars – in reality, over $100 million. This can only be done by taking out a loan: A Bond. And the cost of that bond is a lot less than it will be in the near or distant future. Call a financial analyst and tell me if that is wrong.

  4. Judith,

    The next time you decide to share your thoughts with us, perhaps it would be helpful for you to do your homework first. Water fountains are not in jeopardy and neither are any of the other projects that have been in the planning for sometime now and will be taken care of over the summer. For someone who likes to write sarcastically and caustically about school issues, you do surprisingly little research, but thank you for clarifying your stance on the bond issue. Since your piece was dripping in sarcasm, I feel that turn-about is fair play.

    I am more than surprised (or maybe, as I think about it, not really) to hear that you don’t think putting a bond issue on the November ballot requires any due diligence on the part of the board.

    My goodness, don’t we all just take at face value everything we are told? Especially by consultants, financial experts or others that have something to “sell” us for their own financial gain? Why what difference could it possibly make that in passing a 60 million dollar bond, we would have to pay back 100 million (or there about) over 25 years? That’s just a drop in the bucket, after all! What’s a little interest between friends?

    And why should the board even bother taking into consideration how this may affect the members of the community? Seniors on fixed incomes–who cares about them? After all, they don’t have children in our schools anymore–why should their feelings count?

    Heck, our tax bills already reflect the approximate $200.00 per year we’re still paying on Measure T (and will be paying for the next 20 years), the Community College bond to the tune of about another $200.00, and Measure EE for $96.00…so why even quibble about another $300.00 on our tax bill for the NEXT 25 YEARS? What possible difference can that make in the grand scheme of things and why, in heaven’s name, should the board members give it a second thought? After all, according to you, that is nothing more than blatant pandering and political suicide!

    This is not to say that repairs are not needed, of course they are! But, those modernizations will not even last the 25 years it will take to pay them off–and what do we do then? How often can we dip into the taxpayers’ pockets before they say “Enough, already!”

    By the way, while it may make sense to some that we get all of our money up front as the bond would allow, instead of modifying Measure EE, think about this: a modification of Measure EE to bring in 2.4 million a year doesn’t cost us a dime in interest. It may necessitate prioritizing our expenditures each year, but why shouldn’t we? As a homeowner, I have a wish list a page long of things that need to be fixed, modernized, replaced, added, etc. around my house. But, guess what? I can’t afford to do them all at once, so I have to PRIORITIZE them and do the most important ones first. Hmmm….maybe this is what the board members who didn’t want to rush into approving the bond for the November ballot we’re thinking? That they should investigate the prudence of any course they take in order to make a fiscally sound decision–especially one that will affect every property owner in the community? Gee, what a concept!

    You also site in your piece that “many people in the community wanted, felt was needed, and were just rolling up their sleeves to get busy with” the bond issue. I’m not sure how many people you feel that is, but if you had done your homework, you may have come to realize that there are also many people who vote in this community, have children in our schools, yet do NOT support a bond and do support the board’s decision to wait.

    Just sayin’.

    Sincerely,

    Debbie Hamme

  5. I guess I just wonder what happened to the editor who wrote about civil discourse in politics : https://culvercitycrossroads.com/2012/06/04/from-the-management-a-comment-on-comments/. Dismissing a lifelong teacher and board member as having run for new water fountains? Accusing a member of sabotaging his political career because he has parent issues?

    This article is dissapointingly out of character for Crossroads, and much more in line with the Culver City blog I rarely read anymore (which, by the way, posted Mr. Silbiger’s full statement yesterday).

  6. Dear Editor,

    I found this editorial to be lacking in credibility and offensive in content and tone.

    Rather than a nasty, highly biased attack on School Board members Silbiger, Goldberg, and Siever, it would have shown journalistic integrity to:

    • Print Mr. Silbiger’s statement in its entirety, as was done elsewhere
    • Do some research and provide information about the bond itself!
    • Refrain from stating personal assumptions as facts (i.e.: motivations of individual Board members or how the Culver City community thinks)
    • Be respectful

    I know that EVERY member of this School Board is committed to doing what is best for students. To suggest otherwise – as was done repeatedly in this editorial – is grossly unfair and shallow. References such as “political suicide,” “swan dive” metaphors (and the like) reek of sensationalism and distract from the relevant issues.

    I am embarrassed to say that, until recently, I have blindly voted “yes” to anything with the word “schools” in it, without bothering to find out exactly what the short and/or long-term consequences would be. If I had looked closely I would have realized that some of those “yes” votes were financially irresponsible and that long-term effects that were actually counterproductive when considering the outrageous amount of interest paid for decades afterward. I know I was not (am not) alone in my ignorance of critical details. These are precisely the details that this Board needs to clarify through research, thoughtful analysis, discussion, and communication to prove that it is a sound investment.

    I applaud Board members Silbiger, Goldberg, and Siever for recognizing the need to properly evaluate how our hard-earned money is spent, regardless of political fallout. We ALL need to look good and hard at the true cost of a bond measure or anything else that has complex, wide-reaching effects. Considering today’s economic landscape, haven’t we learned that by now?

  7. This editorial implies that a vote was held last Monday night, which is incorrect. There was no vote, as the agenda item was for report and discussion. The board members were not scheduled to vote that night — the plan (per the agenda) was to hear presentations from the consultants and to discuss.

    I was actually at the meeting last Monday night, and I saw board members and members of the public ask valid questions about an important issue. I believe people should ask questions, and should seek to understand the issue, as it is not trivial.

    The school board agenda is here:
    http://www.ccusd.org/ourpages/auto/2013/6/28/66246298/2013-07-01.pdf

    The item is 12.1, “Capital Needs/Bond Consultant Team Report”

    It is clearly listed as an informational item, see the text in the box…….”matters which may require Board action at a later date.”

    There is a little information in the board packet, but not much; see the information from AMN Key Solutions in the link to the board packet. A little more information was provided in powerpoints at the meeting, including results of a telephone survey that had been completed just a few days before.

    I have heard that the video of the board meeting has now been posted, as well as one of the powerpoints that was presented.

    I believe that it is unfortunate that so many people have been led to believe that a vote was taken, and that is among the several ways this issue has been mischaracterized — especially through hearsay. The video of the meeting would be a better way to learn what actually took place that night.

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