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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Vanguard Commentary: Schools and the 8th Assembly Race


Two separate items of interest in the news this week. We'll start with schools because it is amazingly what is on everyone's mind. I say amazingly because flashing back to last October that was about the last thing anyone wanted to talk about on this blog. Now it is virtually all people are interested in, even with a looming City Council election which is usually the creme de la creme of Davis politics.

The school board decision is a very interesting decision because it is the outcome that I preferred--I did not want Emerson to close and yet in many ways I think the decision is problematic at best.

It is my hope that the wrath does not shift to Boardmembers Tim Taylor and Gina Daleiden on this. They both voted against the motion primarily not because they opposed keeping Emerson open, but rather because all of the options--school closings, reconfigurations, program and teacher cuts--needed to be on the table at the same time. And moreover, if they were not going to close the schools and reconfigure the secondary program, there needed to be concurrent cuts proposed so that they knew where the money was coming from that they needed to balance the budget.

Tim Taylor called this motion financially irresponsible.

Now I think there are good educational reasons to keep Emerson open, but then again I felt there were good educational reasons to keep Valley Oak open--and two of the members who voted to close Valley Oak, the two strongest proponents of that closing, led the way to keep Emerson open.

With this decision, the April 17 board meeting is looming large because it is at that meeting that the board will need to once again identify more than $4 million in cuts. With already more than 100 teachers and librarians receiving pink slips, we can only look on in horror wondering what next.

We wanted the school to remain open, I just hope we don't end up regretting that decision down the line. The district and board face some very tough choices in the coming weeks, we will have to see just how bad this decision ends up looking. In the meantime, parents of all junior high students and even a lot of high school students probably rested a bit easier last night knowing where their kids are kids to school.

8th Assembly District Race

Well if it means anything, Supervisor Matt Rexroad is now calling the race for West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. It seems like the Assemblywoman Lois Wolk endorsement of Cabaldon's campaign has been known in inside circles for sometime, and even before it was official, it seemed like she was leaning that direction.

However this week, Mayor Cabaldon gained the Democratic Party's endorsement and the endorsement of the sitting Assemblywoman.

As Matt Rexroad states:
"I knew that it was coming last week. Now that it is official that Assemblywoman Wolk has endorsed Cabaldon for Assembly I think it is over.

For weeks I have been telling people that Cabaldon is favored but they should not underestimate what Yamada can do on the ballot. This district wants to elect a woman. That ended yesterday.

With a huge endorsement advantage including support of the incumbent, a fund raising advantage that is going to approach a ratio of infinity:1, and the party endorsement, Cabaldon is the next Assemblyman for Woodland."
It was a nice ceremony on Thursday with Former Assemblymembers Tom Hannigan and Helen Thomson joining the sitting Assemblywoman and the candidate. And yet, where was the news coverage? There was not another member of the press at this event.

The public is really getting shortchanged on the local election coverage. No one else covered the candidates forum this week and that was with Davis Enterprise assistant publisher/ editor Debbie Davis as moderator of the forum and reporter Claire St. John in the audience seemingly taking notes. From the standpoint of the public making informed decisions, the information is scant from the mainstream press.

Back to the 8th Assembly race for a moment. One could argue that it might not have mattered anyway--Christopher Cabaldon has run a tremendous race, he has earned endorsements throughout the district from elected officials, he has captured the activist youth, and he has raised a huge amount of money.

At the same time, one has to wonder what if. At the beginning of 2007, Mariko Yamada was a fairly popular Supervisor who had strong support among the Davis Progressive community and then for some reason, she decided to back efforts to develop on Davis' borders. This drove her base into the arms of Christopher Cabaldon. You just cannot do that politics. And if that were it, that would have been bad enough, but from the start, she has been outworked on the campaign trail by Cabaldon and his team. And so even when she and her supporters put on a fullcourt press last weekend to avert an CDP endorsement for Cabaldon, she managed just 13 votes and just a 160 signatures. Too little, too late.

Is the race over? That is more difficult to assess since there are no reliable polls for the race or the district. But it is increasingly difficult to see a scenario where she even keeps the race close given both the advantage in terms of support among elected officials but also the monetary advantage. Her financial report from a week ago was frankly appalling. She is not bringing in money. One could theoretically overcome that with grassroots organization, but there is little evidence that she has produced that.

I stop short of declaring the race over, but at this point it does not look good from the Yamada campaign. And in some ways that is too bad because I still remember the Mariko Yamada who was the fighter for social justice. Sadly it appears she has even allowed Cabaldon to steal that mantle.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting