Independent Expenditure mailers in Irvine are notorious for … lying. A batch of new signs sported up promoting Irvine’s “education team” for city council and school board are intermixed with an IE sign promoting a teacher’s union slate. I spoke with one candidate who said he/she hates them.
The IEs in Irvine usually have close ties to former state senator Dick Ackerman, Flash Report publisher Jon Fleischman and the group at FivePoint neighborhoods. You really can’t pin anyone down, but consider last year when Democrat Sharon Wallin was shocked to learn she was on a ticket with Steve Choi and Ira Glasky as “Irvine’s Education Team.” Sharon took a lot of call from pissed off Democrats. And perhaps that’s the intention here.
The latest I.E. mailer touting Irvine’s Republicans (and one Democrat) as education leaders is a prime example. Take a look at the bad photo I have of it above and tell me what is wrong? Paul Bokota, a Democrat who has the DPOC endorsement in spite of endorsing no one in 2014 when asked to, is up for re-election and likely to win. Lauren Brooks, a small “r” Republican, is also up for re-election and likely to win re-election.
Betty Carroll, a board member with the Irvine public Schools Foundation (IPSF) has the large photo in the middle with a caption that says she’s already an IUSD trustee and many Irvine voters are looking at this flyer and saying, “wait, wait….she’s *on* the school board?” No, she’s not. But it’s par for the course as IEs, likely paid by developers and produced by Irvine’s Republican politicos, who lie like rugs when it comes to campaign season. Carroll is a candidate for school board and despite what the caption says, she’s not up for re-election. Carolyn McInerney is also not on the school board despite being identified as such.
Carroll is a lawyer and an NPP candidate. We’re told her husband is hardcore Republican which explains why the vast majority of her endorsements are Republicans. In a phone call with her Friday, there’s a lot of history of some of her endorsers she seems unaware of (Christina Shea’s Irvine Values Coalition for one; Steven Choi’s IPSF auction winnings of $10k which he kept $9k and gave $1000 back when he should have given all of it back).
Brooks and Bokota are likely locks for re-election. The real race is between four candidates to replace outgoing trustee Michael Parham and Carroll is the Irvine Republican establishment candidate, despite her NPP status, and has the endorsement and backing of Irvine Republicans — many of whom frankly aren’t fans of education. She says on her website that she “is the only independent candidate for School Board and she has no financial ties or promises to special interests of any kind.” But consider how close FivePoint has been with IPSF and the “support” IPSF has received from Emile Haddad over the past two years, and it makes that particular claim hard to swallow.
There are three other choices:
Naz Hamid, a Democrat, has the endorsement of the DPOC and the ITA; her background is in technology and in finance and she brings a certain level of expertise the IUSD board does not have in those regards. She’s very mild mannered and one that builds consensus on a very personal level. She has kids in the district and has lived in the city for some time.
Mark Newgent, endorsed by the OC GOP, has a military and security background; a quick look at his positions gives you the impression he wants to make schools in the safest city in America more safe without much consideration for curriculum. But in talking with him, there’s an entire anti-bullying initiative at play and he advocates for programs that put protocols in place for school grounds safety, student safety and drop off/pick up process that is needed. He also wants to go to fight for the 40% in funding the federal government is supposed to pay for special education that no school board member has done in years (the feds cover about 10% leaving the rest as an unfunded federal mandate). Newgent also recognizes there are kids in Irvine who go hungry and applying for subsidies is often embarrassing for them and their families. He hopes to make this easier to do. And curriculum does matter to him. But to dismiss him as being solely focused on safety and security is wrong.
Geri Zollinger is also a Democratic candidate for school board: she’s a Democrat with a degree from Harvard. If elected, she’d be the second Harvard lawyer on the dais. Oddly enough, the buzz on her is not great and it comes from rank and file teachers. Her campaign online presence is pretty basic and perhaps she could benefit from candidate training.
The one thing that Carroll, Hamid, and Newgent all have is young kids in school in the district and, in my opinion, have very limited institutional knowledge of how the district works (or doesn’t work). Carroll and Hamid are the two benefitting from IEs but Newgent has the GOP backing and seems willing to fight for more state and federal funding when it seems so many board members don’t bother anymore.
Bokota and Hamid have the official DPOC endorsements in the election. And while Bokota is an incumbent, he’s a miser when it comes to making endorsements himself especially for Irvíne City Council. Democratic voters in Irvine ought to take that into consideration when casting ballots next month.