Mayor, school board president should focus on school safety, not election law minutiae

| September 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

Now that Mayor Rob Schroder and school board President Jonathan Wright have teamed up on an op-ed discussing the nuances of election law (“Contra Costa Elections Department wrongly  blames School Board, City for voting confusion”) , perhaps they can carve out some time to work together on matters that actually impact the well-being of our residents and children.

I was interested and pleased to learn recently that the city had included in the ballot language for its November sales tax measure “school safety” as one of the intended uses for the funds. However, I was also puzzled that neither our city nor school leaders had coordinated any specific plan for how such funds would be used to advance school safety, nor given any indication that they intended to make public such a plan before voters cast ballots. The city has no direct jurisdiction over our schools, so it is both odd and concerning that it would include such language in a ballot measure without crafting a plan with the school district in advance. A new city mailer on Measure X raises even more questions. The only reference to schools in the mailer is “providing safe routes to school” (whatever that means). If this is what the city intended by “school safety,” why didn’t it use that wording in the ballot language? Or could it be that it is now trying to downplay the ballot language because in fact there was no specific plan to use funds directly for school safety when the ballot measure was written?

I raised the ballot language with the school board at its Aug. 13 meeting and asked that it make public such a school safety plan with the city before voters are asked to vote on Measure X and state for the record whether it supports using funds to reinstate one or more school resource officers at our schools, as this appeared at the time to be one of the desired uses of the funds. I’m still waiting for an answer on that question; instead of addressing these issues at its next board meeting on Aug. 27, the board instead saw fit to engage in a passionate, outrage-filled half-hour discussion over the implications of mail-in ballots, complete with ridiculous claims that Martinez voters are somehow being disenfranchised by these minor and necessary changes to comply with the new logistical realities of district elections. The board indicated at that meeting that it wanted to send a letter of protest to the California Secretary of State over this issue; sadly, it ignored my requests last spring to follow the lead of other area school boards in passing a resolution calling on state and national leaders to take action on the pressing issue of school safety and gun violence. Interesting priorities for elected leaders who are supposed to be focused on student well-being.

The city and school board have an obligation to inform voters before ballots are mailed out in a few weeks on how they propose using Measure X funds to advance school safety (as opposed to “routes to school”). If they do not, voters should feel more than justified in treating the “school safety” language in the ballot measure as little more than a ploy to leverage our community’s legitimate concerns over the safety of our schools to drum up support for a tax increase, without any assurance that our higher taxes will actually go toward that purpose.

Craig Lazzeretti
Martinez
Area 3 school board candidate

Category: Opinion

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