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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday Briefs

Board of Supervisor Speculation

With the announcement of County Supervisor Mariko Yamada for State Assembly, the dominoes are now set to fall in other directions and the focus last night turned to the County Supervisors race for district four.

The Davis Enterprise reports five possible candidates to replace Ms. Yamada:
While none has yet formally announced, there is plenty of conversation regarding five possible candidates. Indeed, Yamada is already supporting the candidacy of Jim Provenza, a member of the Davis Board of Education. The other four most frequently mentioned as possible contenders are John Ferrera, chief of staff for state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny; Bob Schelen, consultant for the Assembly speaker's office; Richard Harris, Sacramento lobbyist; and Erik Vink of The Trust for Public Land.
A quick breakdown of the field, Bob Schelen is nice guy, but I don't see him as viable. Vink, I've never heard of. Ferrera would be very formidable. Richard Harris who was a former staffer for Fazio and currently a Davis Enterprise Columnist would be formidable. And School Board Member Jim Provenza would be formidable. Harris has been a big supporter of the council majority and land development. I do not know much about Ferrera. Provenza would be a standard bearer for the progressive but he has broad support in the community and I would think at least at this point would be a front-runner depending on the decision of Ferrera and Harris. I don't see both of them running, but you never know.

Public Poorly Informed on Departure of Murphy

Nearly a week after giving David Murphy a single-person standing ovation, Bob Dunning finally realized with the help of his confederate "Bog" that in fact, David Murphy was fired.

His confederate concludes:
"My question is this: Since this decision involves elected officials and public money, why is the board allowed to mislead the public in this way? As a public body, don't they have to tell the public how they are spending the public's money? I find all this secrecy and duplicity troubling."
Now the responsible thing for Dunning to respond with is to explain that confidentiality laws preclude the School Board from discussing this issue in public. Just as the city council could not discuss the firing of Jim Antonen or Jim Hyde in public.

Instead Mr. Dunning throws fuel on the fire:
You've hit the nail on the head, Bog … David Murphy, as a private citizen, can make any kind of "confidential" deal he wants concerning his own contract and salary … but the duly elected school board has a moral obligation to let us know — in triplicate — any time it spends the public dime … we have been badly misled by this "retirement" …
We have been misled by this "retirement" because the personnel confidentiality laws do not serve the public interest. Then again, when the matter is about Mr. Dunning's friend Nick Concolino, Mr. Dunning is probably less reticent about employee confidentiality agreements.

Which leads me to my next problem... which involves two letters to the Davis Enterprise both of which question the wisdom of paying for two Superintendents, one of whom will not work.

George Warner writes:
Let's see if I have this straight. We're paying one school superintendent $168,000 for an $80,000 job and another $235,000 for sitting on his hands for a year or so.
Barbara Wochok writes:
Under a "complex settlement," nearly $300,000 in taxpayer dollars will support two superintendents during one year. One will be housed at the district office, one not.

Obviously, administrators matter more than students at Valley Oak. Taxpayer dollars are taxpayer dollars. Once again the money goes to the top, not to the classroom. How sad!
What would be nice is if the local paper instead of writing editorials about how much we will miss David Murphy, actually reported the truth about what Murphy did and why he was likely fired. We have talked about the King High debacle here several times, but do these people understand that the district lost nearly $5 million in matching funds because it failed to meet deadlines? A fact that was buried in a paragraph near the end of the editorial on Sunday. Let's see five million versus $200,000. Hmmm.... Someone want to do the math here.

The district did the only thing they could to protect tax dollars and if that means spending a couple of hundred thousand to get the district back on track for fiscal sanity, then it is money well spent and it is meant to protect money for the students.

Finally, the public needs to realize why are where we are. When the previous school board left office in November of 2005, they voted 4-1 to extend David Murphy's contract until July of 2008. Why? They knew that the new board was likely to try to get rid of Murphy. And so BJ Kline, Joan Sallee, Marty West joined Keltie Jones and extended Murphy's contract. Only Jim Provenza dissented.

The new board then had to endure several more scandals before they apparently said enough was enough and they bit the $200,000 bullet. Dunning wants to call it misleading. The public wants to complain that we are paying someone not to work. It was the right thing to do. It took courage. And the sad thing is that because of confidentiality laws, they cannot even defend themselves. Which is why having the Davis Enterprise failing to perform due diligence and report the facts in a meaningful way does this board and this community a grave disservice.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting