New Capo Measure H thread. With some new thoughts, and a POLL!

There is obviously no end of distrust, paranoia, bad blood and bad faith in the debate over the recall of the current Capo school board – probably on both sides.  But theoretically that should not be the case when discussing the voting reform known as Measure H – switching to by-area elections.

There’s no good reason that, contrary to the common pattern, one couldn’t favor keeping the current board while making the by area reform; or conversely be eager to replace the board but keep at-large elections.  Maybe some of you out there do feel that way, I’ve put a poll at the bottom of this post to find out.  In any case Measure H is something we should be able to discuss rationally without getting emotional, calling names, and casting accusations.

Is the fact that opponents of the current board favor the reform, while backers of the board oppose it, an indication of our natural tribalism, our human tendency to pick a side and then follow along with all that side’s positions?  (As I think sometimes happens with our choice of political parties.)

Or is it much more simply the fact that keeping the status quo, i.e. keeping it prohibitively expensive and difficult for a challenger to mount a campaign, protects whoever happens to be the incumbent?

But why should Measure H even necessarily endanger the incumbents?

Say, it shakes out this way:  Measure H passes this November, but not all incumbents get replaced or recalled.  Say, for example, Ken Lopez-Maddox-Lopez hangs on by his fingernails.  And say he goes on, over the next two years, to do a wonderful job for his constituents in Area 3 (Aliso Viejo / Laguna Niguel.)  And say … oh wait, that’s not a good example, since Ken doesn’t really live in the area he represents.

Okay then, let’s say Larry Christensen, representing Area 7 (RSM/MV) manages to fend off Lynn Hatton’s challenge, and Measure H passes at the same time, and Larry goes on to do a bang-up job the next four years making his constituents proud of him.  Lynn or someone else will be able to afford another campaign against him in 2014, but Larry will still have all the advantages of incumbency – the name recognition, the sterling record behind him, the bully pulpit at each meeting, an intimate knowledge of the issues – and he would be almost certain to win.

Why would he need to stack the decks further by making his challenger raise $100 grand and campaign all across the vast district just to have half a chance at his seat?

“What a Crock’s” Nightmare Scenario of a Union Takeover.

Board supporters and H opponents, indulging their dearest tic, claim that the reform, making it much easier and less expensive to mount a campaign, will inevitably make it that much easier for the dreaded Union to get their favored candidates into office and then hold the strings of seven Union Puppets.  (Whether they really believe this or just realize that the Union is an effective bogeyman in the South County is between themselves and God.)

The commenter calling himself “What A Crock” (who really needs to find a better name) has worked hard at this, detailing exactly how it would happen by the numbers, where the Union money would come from, how it would be spent, how much would be needed to accomplish their nefarious goal.  Open and shut case, right?

The one thing What A Crock is completely forgetting is that the Union is not the only interest (special interest, outside interest) that has an interest in school board races.  Let’s say for example – just totally by way of argument – that a group of ideological organizations, let’s say… okay, the Pacific Research Institute, Howard Ahmanson, the Education Alliance, and the Family Action PAC decided to plow A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS into a school district like Capo in order to make the changes that they favor ideologically.  Well, with Measure H they would only have to pour in about one-seventh that much, right?  Saving their tight-assed donors even more than the Union would save.

The real point is, a reform like Measure H can enable candidates to run WITHOUT the assistance of ANY of these outside special interests – the Unions, the rightwing anti-labor ideologues, or whoever else there is.  What honest American can be against THAT?

The Seven-to-One Factor, looked at in a new light.

Okay, we know that Measure H allows greater democracy at least insofar as it makes it seven times easier for a citizen to run. Seven times less expensive and seven times less territory to have to campaign in and be familiar with.

Measure H opponents like Robert Reidel stubbornly insist that citizens will have only 1/7 as much voting power, 1/7 as much democracy, 1/7 as much representation, when they only get to vote for one local person they know as opposed to seven names they scratch their heads over.  Well.  Arguable.  But there is a flip side to this that I can’t believe took so long to finally occur to me, on a pleasant walk home last night:

Under Measure H your vote for your area’s trustee will be SEVEN TIMES MORE POWERFUL than it is now, because it will be one vote out of 30,000 or so instead of one vote out of 220,000. Capiche? I hope so, because there’s more.

People – dumb Americans – not you, but other people – forget that democracy is NOT JUST YOUR VOTE.  Under Measure H your lawn sign will be seven times more powerful, as will your bumper sticker, your talk to each neighbor, your letter to your local paper raving about your favorite candidate, your 3-minute speech at City Hall, your fifty-dollar donation.

It does sound like a really good deal, especially when you add in all the benefits that usually get mentioned already:   You’re much more likely to get to know a trustee who is only representing 30,000 of you.  He or she is much more likely to know your concerns.  He or she will be easier to defeat if he or she lets you down.  YOU will have a much easier time running if you want to!  And add in all the precious district money saved, and I think we’re starting to beat a dead horse or rather gild a wonderful lily.

The fretting bi-areal mother.

There was a mother on one of those threads who kept asking,”What about me?  I’ve got one kid in a middle school in the area I live, and another kid in high school in a neighboring area.  How come I don’t get to vote for the trustee in the area where my kid goes to high school?”

Well, ma’am, like we’ve all said, no solutions are perfect but some are better than others.  But if you’re concerned with who represents the area your kid goes to high school in, and you have a strong preference, you can do a lot better than vote for that person.  You can make friends with twenty or thirty of your kid’s friends’ parents and tell them how great this candidate is.  You can donate money to this candidate.  You can walk precincts for this candidate.  YOU CAN MEET THIS CANDIDATE, LET HIM KNOW ALL THE STUFF YOU’RE DOING FOR HIM, AND TELL HIM YOUR CONCERNS.  Again, democracy is much more than voting.  But of course you all already knew that, I’m just reminding you!


All right, there were a few other little red herrings which will hopefully evaporate on their own.  Waving the bloody corpse of Fleming.  Comparing it to dividing Mission Viejo into seven districts (the size is the thing, Larry.)  Claiming we’re cutting up the district (No Larry, that would be a whole other question with its pros and cons.)  Well, that’s all I’ve got for now…

[poll id=”290″]

Update / Correction

I would like to thank Robert Reidel, first of all for using his real name unlike most of these commenters, and also for pointing out an error I made leaving out a zero in the 220,000 figure of voters in the district.  I got the 22,000 figure off some comment on another thread, maybe that was a typo, I thought it seemed kind of low and was maybe the number of folks who actually voted last time.  In any case my point on the seven-to-one ratio remains valid.

Also in the original version of this story I mistakenly characterized Reidel as an opponent of the current Board who also opposes Measure H – a most rare bird, as the poll above shows!  I’ll look today for the old comment that gave me that impression.  Probably it’s more accurate that he’d say his position on the current Board has no bearing on his opinion on Measure H, which is something I’d agree with him on.  (And obviously isn’t true about the other anti-H commenters here with all their “union, union, Kutnick, union” nonsense.)  Would that be more fair, Mr. Reidel?

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.