With our intellectual betters wielding legislative supermajority in Sacramento, CA is out of money, and state educational spending had to be cut significantly even before the recession started. Instead of firing a bureaucrat or two, school districts predictably turned to voters to raise taxes. Several special elections were held in San Francisco suburb of Alameda, where residents were invited to vote for parcel taxes to support the “excellent” public schools. (In all fairness, some of those schools are not bad.)
Last such election was held in June 2010, when voters narrowly defeated a parcel tax proposed in Measure E. Because the parcel tax would have to get a 2/3 majority to be enacted, it’s obvious that there is broad support for this measure in the community.
Documents show that the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) illegally used more than $10,000 in taxpayer funds last year to mail campaign literature disguised as a newsletter to more than 40,000 Alameda households, with the intent of urging voters to pass their Measure E parcel tax in June of 2010. The measure ultimately failed. California state law forbids taxing agencies to use taxpayer money to run their political campaigns.
The warning letter from the California State Fair Political Practices Commission, confirming that the district used “inflammatory” language in the mailing, confirms what every recipient of the mailer knows: that it was a use of taxpayer funds, contrary to California state law, to conduct a political campaign.
Further confirmation comes from AUSD itself, which confirmed, through a public records request, that this twice-mailed “newsletter” was the only one of its kind mailed by AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital in the past 24 months. Residents who didn’t even have a child in an AUSD school received a “newsletter” from the school district.
The warning letter can be found here (PDF file, but only three pages). Although the Fair Political Practices Commission declined to prosecute AUSD at this time, the ethical issue still stands. AUSD took taxpayer money to sell tax hikes to taxpayers. Lovely. But that’s not the end of the story. After failing to impose the parcel tax in June 2010, AUSD went right ahead to call a special election in March 2011 with a similar measure on the ballot. And this is how the school district is conducting the Yes on A campaign:
Additionally, the Committee Against Measure A in Alameda continues to receive anecdotal reports of the school district using school property to facilitate the distribution of “Yes on Measure A” lawn signs, the use of AUSD computers to distribute parcel tax proponent messages and the distribution through the classrooms, to elementary school students, of messages urging support of the parcel tax, all in violation of state law.
Why do I find this information in the letters section? Alameda Sun is so community-oriented, they run headlines like Bridges to Remain Staffed Overnight. OK, they cover legitimate local issues, including the parcel tax. So why so shy about AUSD misappropriating funds? The Alameda Sun and The Alameda Journal (another town paper) should have dispatched their staffers to ask that Kirsten Vital woman (who is no stranger to nepotism, by the way) probing questions, and stuck their nose here and there to see what’s going on with that Yes on A campaign. But congrats to David Howard for getting the word out in a first place. He must have pulled some strings.
Even if the Sun didn’t bury the news, it would probably take a lot more then 10K to get the locals outraged. You see, the belief that the end justifies the means is quite pervasive here. Revolutionaries have their eggs to break, and Palestinians have no choice but to blow up kids in pizzerias. Also, affirmative action has to be defended by any means necessary. So what’s the big deal about a thieving school district? A Parcel tax had to be passed; it’s for the children. If Superintendent stole money, it was in the service of the cause.
Sure AUSD acted inappropriately, but what’s a little theft here and there between us adults? There is the irony of the school district being a culprit, of course, and campaign law is allegedly being broken in the plain view of elementary school children. News about corrupt officials is met with indifference, and school children are being used in the most cynical manner. That’s how you create a culture of corruption. Oh, did I mention that we are represented in the House by a guy from Maryland?
You know that notorious lefty “Think globally, act locally” bumper sticker? East Bay never fails to congratulate itself on being well informed and engaged. Engagement means imagining world peace, making sure that no private entity profits from anything, keeping traffic away from one’s neighborhood and, above all, separating recyclables from compost. Preserving democratic institutions is not a priority because said institutions are in custody of ideological allies.
We are often warned that if we bring democracy to the Middle East, people will vote in Islamists, as was the case with Hamas in Gaza, for instance. The same can be said about East Bay. The people of Alameda seem to want democracy as a mean to an end, which is socialism. Elected officials are given a free reign as long as they stay faithful to socialist agenda.
But democracy is not a mean to an end, it’s the best form of government ever invented. And in democracy the end doesn’t justify the means because is about the process. If we want to live in a free society, and if we want transparency, we should be outraged when our elected officials cheat and lie, even if the overwhelming majority agrees with their policies. Without a meaningful civic engagement, is it surprising that our elected officials think they can do anything?