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ABC Unified School District Board Approves Bond Resolution During Heated Meeting


The ABC Unified School District held their regular Board meeting this past Tuesday night but it was far from regular, as the Trustees considered striking an item from the infrastructure bond “resolution” that excluded Project Labor Agreements.

The exclusion stated, “that the Board does not plan to build and maintain its bond-funded capital facilities under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA).”

A PLA is when the government awards contracts for public construction projects exclusively to unionized firms.

The PLA requires all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order to work on a government-funded construction project. 

It is essentially a comprehensive pre-hire collective bargaining agreement. The basic terms and conditions for labor are established in advance for all organizations involved in the project.

A typical PLA includes no-strike, no lock-out agreements, and also includes procedures for quickly settling any problems or disputes that might arise during the project.

Critics always point to their anti-competitive nature, but PLA’s never restrict bidding solely to union contractors, projects are available to any contractor who will accept the terms of the PLA.

The Board meeting included heated exchanges, two controversial votes, and even a tirade from one of the Board members.

At public comment, all but one speaker supported removing the exclusion of the PLA from the resolution.

Ernesto Medrano from the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council spoke in support of the Bond and for the PLA.

“Please delete or strike out that section that excludes the PLA-Community Benefits Agreement, workers want to work locally and we should hire locally.”

Adam Elliot from the Local 582 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union was next to speak supporting the bond and against the exclusion of the PLA.

“This community deserves those man-hours on the job, they are going to pay the taxes, they should get the benefit, you need to back the PLA.”

Richard Hathaway, a member of the Facilities Committee, wanted to remove the exclusion, “if you take it out, you can discuss the issue, you are not agreeing to have one so you can include it later. You will see more security, better educational facilities for STEAM and STEM, and property values will go up.”

Chris Martinez from the Local 803 Carpenter’s Union spoke in support of the bond and against the exclusion of the PLA, “we all want to work local, the Union is not asking a PLA be required, we are asking for a fair shot at working local.”

One resident spoke of the minor contribution homeowners would make given the tax formula for the bond. The formula is based on the assessed value of your home, not the market value. 

“The median assessed value of home in the ABCUSD is in the $300,000 range, so median taxes would go up $150 per year, $12.50 per month.”

His house was worth more than $300,000 but that did not matter. “Over 10 years I will pay $3,500 but my house value will rise much more than that.”

James Yee was against the bond measure calling it “premature.” Yee cited the enrollment policy that should tabulated before the bond is put up for a vote.  Yee speculated that the enrollment study “would necessitate combining schools.”

Yee also cited that 15% of the students come from outside the district. One district official told HMG-CN it was closer to 10%. “Senior citizens and families are outraged,” said Yee.

Yee lives in Cerritos, the average assessed value in his area is $257,000. That dictates an additional annual payment of $187 per year, an extra $15.58 per month for Mr. Yee, if the bond passed.

The outside number would be lower, but construction of new homes in the ABC is almost non-existent and a major factor why children come from outside the district.

Sophia Tse

Board discussion ensued with VP Letty Mendoza quickly moving to amend the resolution and remove the exclusion of the PLAs; Board member Chris Apodaca immediately seconded the motion.

Sophia Tse spoke up and, in an overt political maneuver – Tse is rumored once again to be running for Cerritos Council – moved to change the language of the exclusion to state “using the lowest responsible bidder” even though current state law and district policy already mandate awarding a project to the lowest responsible bidder.

Grumblings came from the audience which elicited a response from Tse, “I am union my brothers and sisters.”

Mendoza wanted to keep her original motion intact, but Ernie Nishii seconded Tse’s motion.

Apodaca spoke up and said, “the best practice here is to strike the motion, we already take the lowest responsible bidder. Let’s remove the exclusion and move on.”

Board member Nishii spoke next saying, “we can’t come back with the same language, let’s include the lowest bidder statement.” 

Even though the district is required by law to take the lowest bidder, Nishii was adamant for redundancy in the resolution, “we are not paying by the word,” he stated.

Clerk Olga Rios supported Mendoza’s motion to strike the language, joining Apodaca.

The Board voted on Mendoza’s motion to strike the PLA exclusion, the motion passed 5-2 with Tse and President Soo Yoo voting to exclude PLAs.

The motion was then made to include Tse’s redundant “lowest bidder” amendment.

On a vote of 4-3, the motion predictably failed to pass, with Tse, President Soo Yoo and Nishii voting yes.

Nishii then made the point to lower the amount of the bond to $227 million, cutting the amount by $31 million. The initial $258 million was recommended by a district ad-hoc committee.

Board member Maynard Law was not in favor of cutting the amount, “we have already cut $100 million from the initial amount, one of our major goals is to make school’s safe, we had 1,100 people work on this plan and it a solid plan, things that we need. We need to move on the full amount.”

Apodaca echoed Law’s statement, “our plan is about needs, not shiny things, we should not change the amount. It warms my heart that our Union brothers and sisters and residents who know the value of the bond spoke up tonight ready to pay the average $150 per year.”

Soo Yoo

President Yoo once again spoke about the lowest bidder addition to the resolution, evidently not understanding that both California law and district policy dictate that the lowest responsible bid must be awarded.

“We lost the 2014 bond, it is a different climate and culture, what kind of confidence are we giving our voters if we do not include the lowest bidder?”

Soo asked ABC attorney Robert Ainslow, who “was confused” at Yoo’s question, finally explaining that the lowest bidder inclusion “will not appear on any documents that voters will see.”

“You are going to follow California state law for the bidding process,” Ainslow said.

VP Mendoza echoed Law and Apodaca, “the $258 million is our needs, not a wish list. Our kids will have classrooms that will be up-to-date, that’s what they need, if we do not improve our schools, families will go elsewhere. And I want the men and woman in the audience who spoke to work on our schools, I saw the passion. If we approve less than $258 million what are we telling our kids?”

Nishii once again argued for a lower amount, which would lower the tax amount placed on residents by a nominal amount, instead of $50 per hundred of assessed value, it would be $35 of the assessed value, but the bond would be cut from $258 million to $178 million.

Sophia Tse followed Nishii with the same argument, claiming she was not playing politics. She stumbled on her math computations, and launched into a tirade for over four minutes screaming loudly while pounding the dais.

Contradicting her entire argument, at the end Tse said, “I support the $258 million.”

President Yoo once again delayed the vote on removing the PLA exclusion saying, “taxes and Unions are taboo in Cerritos,” echoing the old neo-con views that are prevalent in Cerritos and validating the moniker that ABC means “All About Cerritos.”

Yoo, who owns a tutoring business in Cerritos, with some claiming conflict of interest between that business and her Board position, concentrated on the voters of Cerritos when she spoke.

“I am disappointed in our Board members, we focused on PLA, what happened, I don’t have the confidence to continue.”

Apodaca interrupted and called for point of order to stay on the subject and “stay focused on the matter at hand, don’t chastise those in the audience or your fellow Board members who you are supposed to be leading at this moment.”

Finally, after two hours and forty minutes Board member Law made the motion to approve the bond at $258 million dollars. 

But a vote could not be taken until after additional public comments.

Long-time Cerritos neo-con and self-proclaimed campaign consultant Matt Kauble, who questionably waited until after the PLA debate to comment, sided with Yoo and said “your problem is not with Cerritos voters but with Artesia voters as well.”

Matt Kauble

Kauble, who sources tell HMG-CN assisted with the campaigns of Sophia Tse, Soo Yoo, and Ernie Nishii, omitted Hawaiian Gardens and Lakewood voters, even though they are in the ABCUSD.

“You have three trust issues,” he stated,  “corruption, incompetence, and whether the Board listens to the district. Nobody trusts the government around here.”

Kauble then threw out a statement  that precipitated more grumblings, “you have created an extra hurdle by removing the PLA language…voting to get it out might have cost the votes you need.”

As he left the podium, no one in attendance clapped.

Public comment was done and a vote was taken: the motion passed 7-0 to remove the exclusion of PLAs.

  • jas says:

    Do not like this election for voting for bonds, because not everybody in the school district who owns property is eligible to vote. Property Owners do not have to be citizens nor SS numbers, so they’ll be a lot of residences not qualified to vote, because they are international investors in California. There is just a small number of Voters who own property and are pre-qualified to vote. This should be addressed to the Supreme Court. School district wants to Levy a bond on all residences in the school district, very small amount of residences are eligible to vote . Some cities in the state, allow all Property Owners to vote, no matter if they are registered or not. But in this school district, it is different.

    Personally feel we could spend millions of dollars on bonds, it takes a village to educate our children, and remember our village is composed of a lot of immigrant parents, who have never had the United States education or degree or job skills, so they can’t pass that Talent on to their students / children after the school hours. Classrooms are only good from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., district village does not have the capability of educating the children. If our district was composed of educated parents from the United States with an MBA or Ph.D, or were CEO’s, we probably would not even have to go to bond measures, because the parents would be teaching their children not the school districts.

    Demographics of the district, many heartland of america families, do not want to locate in this district, as the village concept does not exist with first/ second generation immigration. District is upside down in diversity.

    Now, if the absentee owner of properties in Cerritos, are not eligible to vote, but are renting out the property to tenants who are registered to vote, now the tenant are eligible to vote, not the homeowner.

    Cerritos has aprox 35% rental properties and about the same number who pay income tax, as they do not make money in Calif or USA, but earnings are from abroad.

    Cerritos has aprox 1,000 orig property owners, out of the 15,000 homes.

    Please vote no on bond

    California school bond elections are local ballot measures that ask voters to decide on whether the school district that is sponsoring the measure should be allowed to issue bonds and to incur the additional indebtedness that bonds bring with them.

    All public school districts in California are entitled to bond issues on the local ballot.

    California also has a statewide school building program known as the School Facilities Grant Program, which is supported by statewide bond measures such as Proposition 1D in 2006. Statewide bond measures require a simple majority to pass.

    Local school districts can also issue school construction bonds and levy property taxes to pay for them, as long as the voters in the district approve.

    Prior to 2001, districts needed two-thirds supermajority vote approval to pass local general obligation bond measures. More than 40 percent of local school bond ballot questions failed. In November 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39. Proposition 39 reduced the supermajority needed to pass a bond issue ballot question from 66.67 percent to 55 percent. Proposition 39 also imposed restrictions on the allowable amount of the bond and included accountability requirements. Since the passage of Proposition 39, districts have had the choice of whether to seek a two-thirds supermajority approval or to comply with the additional restrictions to qualify for the 55 percent approval requirement.

  • jas says:

    Reply posted online regarding the bond. Two board members went missing after this post.
    That’s the problem with out-of-control government. Not fixing things that need fixing and trying to fix things that don’t need fixing.

    The first thing that needs fixed is implementing controls and accountability on spending. I see none of that in this bond proposal. An oversight board with no power to make sure money is spent responsibility and on what it is intended to be spent on is merely window dressing.

    As for closing our eyes to the problem, I will only mention that previous board members served on the facilities committee. Board members who had oversight on the previous bond that even you suggest was mismanaged.

    As for the mention of our schools are only tops in a bottom statt, I’m a bit confused. This is a facilities bond. Furthermore, I basically asked what the targets and measurements were to show this bond would make us tops in the nation- it seemed to be conceded there are none. So, without targets/goals and measurements we can’t honestly say this new tax will increase anything,but our tax bill.

    I did look at the facilities report hoping to see at least a footnote about the experts that did a security/threat assessment; however, I couldn’t find it. I would be happy to take a look if someone can point me to it, if it exists.

    Our concern should be that a security investment is implemented on the recommendations of a well researched and experienced organization(s) on a site-by-site basis. Again, if this exists I would like to see it and would revise my comments.

    This is what I read so far, “Security Cameras, Access Controls
    (door controls, gates, fences), and Replace PA/Clocks/Bells/Alarms.” Nothing out of the ordinary that the districts couldn’t have already installed with a couple of trips to Home Depot and Frys. And I might add for well under the proposed $25million. The difference for the $25 million I hope is rooted in a through report from a well known and established independent security firm.

    In either case, I hope the district isn’t trying to sell this bond on fear. I would point out that the facilities report specifically states that, “incidents of school safety failures are still incredibly rare.”

    That isn’t to say I am against safety measures. I’m not. I am saying I want to make sure there is a plan created by independent experience-experts in the field.

    As for applying for the oversight committee, if it has no enforcement power then it’s merely window dressing.

    To say there are no guarantees except a guarantee of failure misses the educational and financial accountability of planning — Planning that includes targets and measurements that should already be made public.

    The old saying I am reminded of might go something like this: a school board doesn’t plan to fail it fails to plan and to plan properly. Business schools teach and successful organizations use strategic planning and I am just not finding all the components in this $258 million dollar tax specifically at the moment the first component goals/targets and the last component measurements.

    Lastly, in reply to your final comments, it’s not so much as convincing anyone — it’s having plan that sells itself, because it was well designed without guess work on the part of the customer/taxpayer. To be clear I am referring to the bond initiative.

    Finally, you are correct as taxpayers we have a right to disagree. More importantly as taxpayers, citizens and parents we have an obligation to hold our school board accountable and makes sure things are done right.

    It is up to all board members to either ignore my comments as someone not convinced and move on or take serious consideration to the comments and implement the necessary changes on how our district spends taxpayer money and how they demonstrates fiscal accountability. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this important issue in an open an public forum.