In Support of Irvine’s Measure R

We received this essay from Gavin Huntley-Fenner, an IUSD Trustee and a deserving public servent up for re-election in Irvine, on Measure R on the ballot for city voters seeking to help fund Irvine’s excellent schools.

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By Gavin Huntley-Fenner

Consider the following

  1. Irvine schools are a primary reason people move to the city.  The schools are a major draw/recruiting tool for local businesses that are trying to attract new hires or to relocate to Irvine.
  2. Just as education is important to Irvine, high quality schools are important to California businesses and key to California’s long term viability as a global scale economy.
  3. Irvine would be better off if it were less dependent on Sacramento
  4. Irvine is one of the top performing school districts in the state of California and we are one of the most prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars.  A few years ago, we were recognized by School Data Direct a Standard & Poors organization as being one of the more fiscally responsible and financially efficient districts in the county.  We have become even more efficient since then and more effective in terms of student performance.  For example, in the last few years we’ve cut waste hauling and slashed electricity costs through enhanced recycling and solar power initiatives.  Part of the reason Irvine Unified is so effective is that it enjoys the support of the business community including many chamber members such as the Irvine Company, Hoag, Maruchan Foods, Kaiser, Vizio, Oakley, Samsung, Kia, AT&T, Broadcom, Wells Fargo, Schools First Credit Union and Yum Brands to name a few.  The schools also depend on the goodwill of many chamber members for their individual support (a recent example is chamber member and city council candidate Lynn Schott’s successful initiative with local churches in support of clothes and school supplies for homeless students and Roland Boucher’s work coaching middle school science students for competitions).

Having cut $38Mn out of our district budget over two years (~$200Mn per year annual operating budget) our strong schools are at risk.  Irvine’s Measure R is a way to stabilize the near term future of IUSD in the context of uncertain state budgets.  It limits Irvine’s exposure to Sacramento (goodness knows when we will get a state budget and how much education will be cut).  It puts the onus on parents and the local community to support schools as much or as little as they are inclined or able to do.  Exposure from a city budget perspective is limited to be no more than current funding (even at the nadir of the economy an affordable amount in Irvine).  Going forward, if the economy continues to do poorly, then parents and businesses will give less and the city’s obligation will be reduced.

Finally, we know exactly what the money is going to be used for, such as smaller class sizes and more health and guidance counselors, and we know that those uses have been and continue to be highly effective in improving children’s success in Irvine schools.

Opponents have three primary objections:

1. This is purely political and is a partisan stunt in favor of the city council majority.
The city council vote to put the measure on the ballot was unanimous.  All members of the city council both Republicans and Democrats are in support of Measure R. 

2. This is budgeting by ballot is bad practice (governing body gives up its flexibility)
This is a good point.  Clearly measure R is not a viable long term solution.  It should be time limited.  Three years is prudent and supports common sense budgeting in that school districts need to have three years of balanced budgets.  Moreover, the time frame gives the school community some breathing room to work on longer term more sustainable fiscal reforms.

3. This shall encumber future city councils
All of the persons (elected and non-elected) who know the finances of the city and the school district most deeply and who have a fiduciary responsibility to the voters are in favor.  The mainstream candidates for city council (Republicans and Democrats ) are in support of this measure.  All of the school board members two of whom are running for re-election are likewise in favor. The individuals who are likely going to be in office during the term of this measure are all running Measure R and argue that it is a good idea.

There may be good points pro and con but the argument weighs in favor of Measure R all things considered.

  5 comments for “In Support of Irvine’s Measure R

  1. Ltpar
    September 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Nice commentary by Mr Huntley-Fenner and could we expect anything less from someone representing the School District. Who in their right mind would look a gift horse in the mouth? The next group likey to step up to the feeding trough will be the Teachers Unions. City of Irvine money is more tax dollars for their members. In additon, the unions most likely will funnel thousands of dollars into whatever Independent Committee manages the Measure R campaign. This is all part of the Larry Agran Master Strategy which has been used so successfully in the past.

    Each of the four points Mr. Huntley-Fenner made about the Irvine Schools was accurate and on target. No one has ever questioned the quality of the schools, dedication of the teachers, or the need for more money. However, the reality is is that the turnip has been squeezed dry and times are getting worse instead of better. Now we have the City of Irvine, running deficit budgets every year, with wasteful spending by the Agranistas. They use millions of dollars each year from the Reserves for Economic Uncertainty to balance their reckless spending. Meanwhile the Reserve Fund decreases and in another year or two will be depleted. Common sense and logic would suggest that when the water in the well starts to go dry, you ration your drinking. In the Irivne City Government, common sense and logic are words of which the Agranistas do not comprehend. Instead of eliminating wasteful programs like the “Agran Shuttle to Nowhere,” the Barclay Theater and a host of others, they now now want to divert scarce City Resources to the School District. Anyone who knows Larry Agran realizes that he does nothing out of the good of his heart. There is always the latent issue of, what is in it for the Agranistas? This School Initiative is nothing more than the Agranistas using a sensitive issue (Schools) to keep his political power.

    Mr. Huntley-Fenner listed three objections by opponents, but he got the facts wrong. Please let me help clarify them.

    1. This is purely political and is a partisan stunt in favor of the city council majority. Most of this was covered above, but here is how Agan works his strategy. In each election the Agranistas put a Measure or Initiative on the ballot. The campaign for the Initiative is taken over by an Independent Committee, supposedly with no ties to any candidate. Of course, they always seem to be former associates or friends of Larry Agran. There are no limitations to donations to an Independent Committee and big dollars goes into them. In Irvine we have the Great Park no-bid contract people, pay to play vendors, developers who wish to have their projects fast tracked or administrative problems resolved and next thing you know a million dollars is in the campaign kitty. Then the Independent Committee, with names like Hometown Voters Guide and Irvine Community News and Views comes out with a flood of slate mailers to voters mailboxes. A small part of the mailer deals with the Initiative issue and guess what, the rest of the space glorifies the Agranista candidates. Yep, all legal at least on the surface and there is no way any opponent can compete with this kind of money. End result, the Agranistas maintain their chokehold on the City of Irvine.

    2. This is budgeting by ballot is bad practice (governing body gives up its flexibility) Agreed, but the Agranistas use so many bad business practices in the mismanagement of the City and Great Park, who is counting. Bottom line is that it is worse than bad management to be using scarce City resources outside their designated intent in this time of financial crisis.

    2. This is budgeting by ballot is bad practice (governing body gives up its flexibility) Frankly, the comments of Huntley-Fenner were spoken like a seasoned politican, but then let’s not kid ourselves, that is what he is. I’d say, he will most likely be a candidate to join the Agranista Council Group in 2012, when Steven Choi is termed out. As far as everyone supporting the Initiative, any person claiming to be a Republican who goes along with this scam is two faced and a Republican in Name Only (RINO). Last time I looked, Republicans were supposed to stand for smaller, less costly and better managed government. This Initiative is definitely not less costly, nor well managed government. Conservative Republicans in Irvine should note of which of their own candidates is selling out for a few votes.

    As you can tell, I will not be supporting the Initiative on the give away of City money. What I would support however, is a Parcel Tax to help the schools solve the long term funding problem. If we want to maintain quality education in Irvine, the citizens need to belly up to the bar and pay for it. I am prepared to do just that.

  2. September 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Pat –
    “Last time I looked, Republicans were supposed to stand for smaller, less costly and better managed government.”

    Interesting theory; never put into practice whenever Republicans have power. With the current population and city budget, today’s Irvine city government is actually smaller than it was the last time the Republicans had control in a strickt apples-to-apples comparison.

    Progressives keep getting elected and re-elected here for delivering results.

    Irvine’s budget is still the envy of most cities in California, not just OC.

    But I am happy to hear you’d support a parcel tax. I agree with this approach. But it would get you tossed from any Republican endorsement committee.

  3. Ltpar
    September 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Dan, considering our conservative approach in 2008, and from the level of support received from the Orange County Republican Party, we may as well have been Democrats. In my book, the “good ol boy” bunch including, the much fabled “Lincoln Club” are part of what is wrong with the Republican Party across the country. Until that changes, many conservatives will gravitate to becoming Independents or Libertarians.

    While I haven’t seen all the Republican candidates in the current Irvine Council campaign, I will not be voting for anyone who supports the school Initiative. While that may entail leaving Council positions blank, I refuse to back RINOS. Given the weak, no name slate of Republicans, I have no doubt that the Agranistas not only have the election sewed up, but will increase to a 4-1 majority. Who knows, depending on who Larry rcruits for 2012, you could go to a 5-0 majority, which speaks pretty poorly for the Republican Party.

    While I do not support additional taxes in any form, reality is that critical functions sometimes need more funding; i.e. Police, Fire and Education. In such cases, I advocate putting the case with both pros and cons before the people and let them decide. If they support an increase then taxes go up. If they do not support a tax increase, then services are reduced.

    Looking at the bigger picture, as part of an overhaul of government in America, we need to move from Federal and State involvement in many areas to providing them at the local levels. People then decide what they want, can afford and what to say “No,” to. With the chokehold by the Feds, don’t think we will ever see that. Anyway, when it is time to work on a parcel tax in Irvine, count me in.

  4. September 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Welcome aboard Pat; we can agree on some things, can’t we?

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