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Letters: Yes on AA, the Right Way

The proponents of Measure AA had the keys to the kingdom.  A well performing school district by most measures, labor peace, a well educated electorate, growing economy, and well stocked campaign treasury.

Almost everyone who spoke at the ABC school board meetings spoke in favor of the bond.  So how could it fail?

Was it the stupidity of the ABC voters listening to the purported lies of the Anti-bond group and hiding the truth from an educated majority?

Or perhaps we blame the consultants who led a community effort composed primarily of employees and took a biased survey.  A survey that made you seem like an idiot if you didn’t support a bond.

Maybe it was a cynical electorate who wanted payback for being ignored by a board after it was consulted at numerous community meetings about the redistricting – only for the district to vote on a map that had never been seen at those community meetings.

As Mr. Riley stated, we can analyze this to death but we must learn from this failure to find our way forward.

Do we need a bond?  Quite frankly, yes.  California will never fund schools sufficiently to meet the demands of the new economy our kids live in.  If we want our kids to keep up with the technology, like any business, we must invest.   To keep our kids safe, yes, we need to spend money to fix traffic issues surrounding our busy schools.

But we also must listen to the majority.

Democracy works—but our district is made up of more than just the narrow subgroup of people in Cerritos interested in property values and kids.  I have a Cerritos home and a daughter so that is my interest.

Selfishly, I had a big stake in its success because my 11 year old daughter would benefit from school monies.

But what about the limited income Senior in Lakewood whose taxes were going up?  Were they part of the group we listened to? Or a struggling business in Hawaiian Gardens.  Did they understand that this specific tax could benefit them with educated employees?   We need to listen to them.

I think this majority was telling us that the bond was too high.  I don’t care if we compared the cost of the bond to a cup of coffee at Starbucks—I don’t buy coffee at Starbucks because it is too expensive.  You can’t offer to paint the school new fancy colors if seniors are having a hard time painting their home or low income people are losing their homes because they can’t pay the mortgage.  You can say you are investing.  But what are you investing in?

It is hard to convince people to add to their expenses for some general idea of improvement.  You need to tell us how it will specifically improve their school.

A specific debt should fund a specific project because it comes out of MY specific pocket.  You shouldn’t create a huge wish list of projects—then tell us that we cannot build these projects because the bond isn’t big enough.   Instead of a list where every elementary school has a new theater (whether they renovated it or not in the last year) and new track and new paint we should have a principled needs analysis comparing needs across the schools.

We shouldn’t borrow for 30 years to paint the house or to fix a crack- particularly when the voter themselves can’t get a loan to fix their own home.  The problem of deferred maintenance took many years to accumulate and unfortunately it will take many years to fix.  A bond is not the appropriate way to fix this.

A business borrows money to invest in the future.  Lets treat our bond like an investment with a required rate of return.  The Return on Investment should include things which will affect student scores, safety, Technology, and other community concerns.

Everyone would love a new paint job—but does that improve the spirits of our children and results in a better score?  Does that paint job prepare our kids better than a science, technology, engineering and math center?   Inspire me with our financial partnerships with regional businesses seeking kids with these skills.   Are the computers out of date or the classrooms configured for the last Century—then address the issue of obsolescence by shortening the term of the bond. (which might increase short term cost and limit the other projects).

While we are at it address the fear exploited by the “liars” that the funds won’t be used for increased salaries.  No, don’t just tell us that the law prevents it—I’m a lawyer so I know these tricks.  List projects that would not normally be within the school’s annual capital maintenance budget- this way there is no substitution of bond monies for the annual maintenance budget thus providing extra room for inordinate raises.  (by the way, I think the wage increases protections on this bond are far greater than the wage increases Cerritos could experience after raising water rates over 100% in seven years—but I digress)

We need to learn from our past.  Some people hung on the rumor that previous bond funds were wasted and that the district was not disclosing everything.

Perhaps the new bond addresses the distrust of government by providing enhanced public procedures and document preservation so that future generations can see clearly what we did.  Instead of a bare-boned bond oversight committee-mandated by the State Law, perhaps we create a committee with more teeth to enforce the intent of the people.

Don’t cynically tell me that some people can never be satisfied.  I know that if we listen to the majority of the entire district and treat them with respect and information, I have faith that we can move forward with a good investment in our future.  We have two years to do this.  Let’s not waste another moment.

Ernie N.

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