Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 12, 2014

A non-believer who don’t believe in anything

Filed under: Alameda, Election, School — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Unless three members of the School Board and folks in the community can convince Board Member Barbara Kahn to vote to place the facilities bond on the ballot, it looks like we may not see fixes to the current problems with our schools any time soon.  Based on the tweet by tweet action by @AUSDNews it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll be voting on a school facilities bond come November.

The significance of getting a bond measure this year is that only 55% vote is required to pass as opposed to 2/3 of the vote.   Words like “bias” and “lack of trust” kept popping up in the tweeted summaries which can only bode bad things for getting the four votes needed.

Anyway, the reason I say that it has to be Barbara Kahn’s mind that is changed is that Trish Spencer clearly was never ever ever going to vote to place the measure on the ballot.

I mean, this four tweet summary really just crystalizes her position on this bond:

Did you see that, she asked if language could be put in telling voters how long the bond would be for and then when the bond counsel indicated that putting that information in the 75 word summary leads to “crushing defeats” she says she won’t vote for placing a bond on the ballot without the language essentially dooming the ballot measure from the get go.

Other than complete distrust of the Superintendent it’s not really clear why Barbara Kahn is refusing to vote for the bond measure.

While I understand that, by nature, being an elected official is “political” I’m troubled by the idea that an elected official who would typically be supportive of improving facilities for Alameda’s children is holding up the process in order to make a political point about the Superintendent.   I’m rather agnostic about the Superintendent myself.  I think she has made some really politically tone deaf blunders, but on balance she has also moved the School District along quite nicely as well.   So I guess my puzzlement is that I don’t think that she is THAT bad.



  1. I’m confused, I thought these Bond Issues came under Prop 39 which requires 55% no matter which year they are on the Ballot,,_Supermajority_of_55%25_for_School_Bond_Votes_%282000%29

    Comment by frank M — June 12, 2014 @ 6:41 am

  2. I have always voted for schools, but bonds are über expensive. language about “how much it costs” and “for how long” should be on EVERY ballot initiative, not just school bonds. Then if it passes, it passes. Bond counsel’s reflection that it won’t pass with this language just concedes that the process is based on trickery. You know, like buying a car that ends up costing way more than the sticker price. Spencer is right, again. kahn’s hesitation reflects the general feeling in the community that this is too much, too soon given the seemingly unnecessary expenditures, focus on OAHS, the fence, the expensive new offices, and previous funding requests of AUSD. The 51% will not be a slam dunk when property owners really look at their bill. If facilities are really decrepit, why not file a William’s action based on inadequate facilities to get state funds?

    Comment by Puzzled — June 12, 2014 @ 6:56 am

  3. During the last round of contract negotiations, one of the very few valid points raised by AEA was the poor state of facilities. And yet the two board members whose campaigns were explicitly endorsed and aggressively promoted by AEA are trying to kill a provision for updated facilities.

    AEA is not helping its membership. Teachers pay approx. $1000/yr in dues and get nothing but embarrassingly poor leadership for it.

    Comment by dave — June 12, 2014 @ 6:58 am

  4. I watched the board meeting and was very disappointed. I like Board Member McMahon’s idea about phasing the bonds so the elementary school facilities would be Phase 1, and bond money would be set aside for the high school(s) giving the community more time to decide what to do about the high schools. I feel this is a good compromise – and that’s what governing is about sometimes – is compromise.

    I was also very impressed by board member Neil Tam’s comments about putting personal feelings aside for the good of the community.

    I found Board Member Kahn’s speech to be very personal – more to do about her feelings and dislikes for the superintendent, than it is about doing what’s best for our children.

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 12, 2014 @ 7:48 am

  5. 55% vs 2/3rd rule:

    Proposition 39 – 55% Local Voter Elections may be presented to voters only at a primary [March of even numbered
    years] or general election [November of even numbered years], a regularly scheduled local election or a statewide special election.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 12, 2014 @ 7:50 am

  6. Went to the meeting, I can’t believe the AEA supported two board members who are so destructive to the process. Trish Spencer is the most negative influence I have seen on any board in Alameda. Barbara Kahn needs to put aside her conflict with the Superintendent and start doing her job as a board member.

    Comment by John P. — June 12, 2014 @ 7:59 am

  7. Maybe it’s too early in the morning … but:

    What is wrong in spelling out how long we’ll be paying for the bonds? Shouldn’t we be informed about this in any event, in the interests of full disclosure?

    If this (or any ballot measure) is relying on subterfuge to win votes, doesn’t that tell us something?

    Comment by bayporter — June 12, 2014 @ 8:11 am

  8. anybody expect Vital to be around for 25 years? I just read that she wants teachers to be locked out of their rooms for the entire summer so they don’t get in the way of custodians. My spouse worked closely with custodians for years to gain access during weekends and in summer so she could work over time. Not sure what Kahn’s issues are. Sounds like a good meeting to watch on tape and maybe to ask board members direct questions. I’ve always had mixed feelings about administration but would prefer not to make this infrastructure issue about administration, or unions dave. It does seem logical that ballot language be complete and I’m surprised these type of inclusions aren’t included by law. Let the chips fall. #5. adds even more confusion. ugh.

    Comment by MI — June 12, 2014 @ 8:17 am

  9. Just to clarify, here is an example from the June election of Fremont’s ballot measure.

    The “summary” in dispute is the 75 word summary which would typically read like this:

    To upgrade/repair neighborhood schools with local funding the State cannot take away, shall Fremont Unified School District update technology/aging classrooms, math, science/computer labs for 21st Century learning, upgrade electrical wiring to current safety codes, fix/replace leaky roofs, aging plumbing/restrooms, remove asbestos, repair, construct, acquire equipment, classrooms, sites, facilities, by issuing $650 million of bonds at legal rates, with citizen oversight, no money for administrators, salaries, benefits/pensions, and all funds for Fremont schools?

    The details of how the bond would be structured including length of the bond and how much a homeowner would be assessed is under “Tax Rate Statement.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 12, 2014 @ 8:18 am

  10. 7

    It’s not known yet how long the bonds will be. At best the issue wouldn’t come for at least 6 months and probably more like 9-12. Interest rates, investor demand, construction draws, the shape of the yield curve and other factors will affect decision on bond maturity schedule

    Comment by dave — June 12, 2014 @ 8:30 am

  11. 8 should do a little homework before popping off with another cheap shot. The locked out of the room all summer thing is not true. There was some compromise reached on that this week among the custodians, teachers and administration. Two unions sent out an email about the compromise to several hundred employees. Saying things like the the superintendent “wants” to lock people out of their rooms is ridiculous an false. It seems to reflect a warped, biased perspective.

    Comment by Homework Helps Sometimes — June 12, 2014 @ 8:44 am

  12. Whatever her reasons, Barbara Kahn is right. Casnocha’s comment speaks volumes. To me it says, “If we make it clear what voters are signing up for, we will lose.” So the idea is to put one over on voters because, the ends justifies the means? I think the board is right to delay putting this on the ballot.

    There is a large block of voters out there who are not among the two-income, kids-to-raise variety. They are not as willing to give whatever it takes to make our schools the best they can be and keep giving no matter what. Those who don’t understand why the heck people so greedy and selfish should understand that people who can’t afford to go to Starbucks, can’t afford to replace their cars when they break down, and still can’t find a decent job are not being greedy. Greedy is about people who have more than enough. We’re in the position of having less and less and not being able to do much about it. We would love to improve the schools but many homeowners, especially older ones who are active voters, are tired and tapped out.

    Most of us believe that education is important and want to support it, but AUSD has been to the well too many times of late. When the economy was at its worst, we sucked it up and voted in favor of the schools, even though many of us had taken massive hits to our family income. What did we get? Some very high profile, controversial moves that squashed any good the money did in the minds of voters. I had to laugh that taking the debris field fence down was a budget item. We didn’t want it in the first place. Now we’re paying for it twice.

    The AUSD board’s decision to make its first order of business when voters rallied to support the schools was to boost the superintendent’s compensation package. My biggest issue with Vital is that she could have saved the day in the minds of voters by refusing to take it, as at least two other superintendents in other districts did at the time. If she had shown leadership and political savvy by doing that, we would not still be complaining about her and AUSD nearly as much today. AUSD’s and her lack of awareness and inability to see things through the eyes of a financially battered public has cost the kids and the district plenty in money and support.

    Delay moving this onto the ballot a little longer. New, fairly affluent young families or soon to be families are moving here in droves and they have plenty of money. They will tip the balance before long and the schools will get plenty of support. People with enough to spare rubber stamp these things. People just barely holding on just can’t afford to.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 12, 2014 @ 8:48 am

  13. Older homeowners are in a much better position to pay than new ones. They have massively appreciated homes with tax bases a fraction of their value.

    Comment by dave — June 12, 2014 @ 9:25 am

  14. # 13–Many of those same homeowners have little income. (income=money to pay this proposed school bond) Driving by that ugly “debris fence” just makes people tighten their already tight checkbooks.

    Comment by A Neighbor — June 12, 2014 @ 9:47 am

  15. Headline says it all:

    Only someone who doesn’t have to pay for it, doesn’t care if the details are spelled out. Trish to the rescue again! Her nickname should be “flashlight”. Keep shining that light on things, girl!

    Comment by vigi — June 12, 2014 @ 9:50 am

  16. What Barbara Kahn did was unconscionable. (Trish is a lost cause.). If Barbara is that unhappy with the Superintendent, she needs to get the votes together from the other board members to fire Vital. Holding school facilities hostage for “political” and “control” reasons is not fulfilling her obligations to the students, teachers and our community. Absolutely shameful! She and her backers (AEA leadership) better not complain about crappy facilities if they’re not even willing to put a fix up for a vote. Let the voters decide.

    Comment by Oh the Irony! — June 12, 2014 @ 10:09 am

  17. 13. By older I mean over 50, especially those who aren’t planning to sell anytime soon. The money is only on paper until you sell. We can’t get our hands on it without going further into debt, and don’t kid yourself that we’re all just moments away from paying off the mortgage. HELOC were very easy to get at one time and many of us took advantage of them to repair and improve our properties. The numbers of long-time unemployment among us are growing every day. We cease to exist on paper because once unemployment benefits stop, we disapper from the statistics but we are here. We are Boomers, remember, and we are legion.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 12, 2014 @ 10:12 am

  18. I watched that whole debacle. Kahn kept saying she wanted the board to have control of the spending, not staff. Counsel adds language about the board having to approve each bond issuance after passage and how it is spent. Spencer jumps in and starts talking about the terms/duration/repayment/etc and counsel indulges not realizing the game is about mollifying Kahn. By then, Kahn, who by this time of the meeting seemed tired, frustrated and disengaged didn’t appear to understand that she was getting what she asked for. If she wouldn’t support it at that point, she clearly doesn’t want it to be “only the board can approve the spending,” she wants it to be “only if I approve the spending. The Spencer bird walk about transparency was a red herring. That info is available, but in 75 word statement you are making a sales pitch and have to economize. If you put the nitty gritty bond terms in there, you lose space for telling people what they get for their money. Spencer would have it say 70 words on financing terms and five words to say “to be spent on stuff.” That would lack a different kind of transparency. If you are against the measure for whatever reason, fine, I get it. Too expensive, too many trips to the well, mismanagement of funds…. Fine. But it ain’t because the ballot language is pulling a fast one.

    Comment by BMac — June 12, 2014 @ 10:49 am

  19. “Bonds will be authorized for 25 years.” 7 words. 10% for transparency and disclosure. Would you sign a mortgage, a rental agreement, or any other contract without the disclosure regarding the terms of payment? Scheduling when to put this as a ballot measure is also a bit sneaky. Par for the course, unfortunately.

    Comment by Basel — June 12, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

  20. Here is Fremont’s required tax rate statement that accompanied the 75 word statement referenced in comment #9. Alameda would be required provide the same information.

    An election will be held in the Fremont Unified School District (the “District”) on June 3, 2014, to authorize the sale of up to $650,000,000 in bonds of the District to finance school facilities as described in the measure. If such bonds are authorized and sold, principal and interest on the bonds will be payable only from the proceeds of tax levies made upon the taxable property in the District. The following information is provided in compliance with Sections 9400-9404 of the Elections Code of the State of California. Such information is based upon the best estimates and projections presently available from official sources, upon experience within the District, and other demonstrable factors. Based upon the foregoing and projections of the District’s assessed valuation, the following information is provided:
    1. The best estimate of the tax rate which would be required to be levied to fund this bond issue during the first fiscal year after the sale of the first series of bonds, based on a projection of assessed valuations available at the time of filing of this statement, is $0.05900 per $100 of assessed valuation (or $59.00 per $100,000 of assessed value) for fiscal year 2015-16.
    2. The best estimate of the tax rate which would be required to be levied to fund this bond issue during the first fiscal year after the sale of the last series of bonds, based on a projection of assessed valuations available at the time of filing of this statement, is $0.05900 per $100 of assessed valuation (or $59.00 per $100,000 of assessed value) for fiscal year 2023-24.
    3. The best estimate of the highest tax rate which would be required to be levied to fund this bond issue, based on a projection of assessed valuations available at the time of filing of this statement, is $0.05900 per $100 of assessed valuation (or $59.00 per $100,000 of assessed value), which is projected to be the same in every fiscal year that the bonds remain outstanding.
    Voters should note the estimated tax rate is based on the ASSESSED VALUE of taxable property on the County’s official tax rolls, not on the property’s market value. In addition, taxpayers eligible for a property tax exemption, such as the homeowner’s exemption, will be taxed at a lower effective tax rate than described above. Property owners should consult their own property tax bills and tax advisors to determine their property’s assessed value and any applicable tax exemptions.
    The attention of all voters is directed to the fact that the foregoing information is based upon projections and estimates only, which are not binding upon the District. The actual tax rates and the years in which they will apply may vary from those presently estimated, due to variations from these estimates in the timing of bond sales, the amount of bonds sold and market interest rates at the time of each sale, and actual assessed valuations over the term of repayment of the bonds. The date of sale and the amount of bonds sold at any given time will be determined by the District based on the need for project funds and other factors. The actual interest rates at which the bonds will be sold will depend on the bond market at the time of sale. Actual future assessed valuations will depend upon the amount and value of taxable property within the District as determined by the County Assessor in the annual assessment and the equalization process.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — June 12, 2014 @ 1:19 pm

  21. 20. I’d love to know how many voters actually read and take the time to understand “the fine print.” I’m guessing it’s pretty low. Let the buyer beware!

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 12, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  22. Mike McMahon what our all our present balances on all our Obligations including all Bonds and Measures passed ?

    Comment by Whats our Balance Now — June 12, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

  23. Mike McMahon is present balances on all our Obligations including all Bonds and Measures passed ?

    Comment by Whats our Balance Now — June 12, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

  24. Mike McMahon what is present balances on all our Obligations including all Bonds and Measures passed ?

    Comment by Third Time is Charm — June 12, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

  25. My position is that if the Vergara decision is upheld, I will vote for a bond issue. If it fails on appeal I will not vote for any increase of any sort of tax increase for public unions.

    Comment by Jack — June 12, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

  26. Currently the Alameda property owners ( no senior exemptions for bond measures) are obligated to pay $60 per $100,000 of assessed value (not current market value of your home) until 2034. So on average Alameda property owners are paying an average of $500 a year for the next 20 years to paid down a $60 million obligation from the 2004 Measure C bond measure.

    In 2011 a parcel of 32 cents per building square foot was passed and runs through 2018. An average size home of 1750 square foot would be paying $560. There are senior exemptions and approximately 2000 seniors take advantage of the exemption.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — June 12, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

  27. Mike, at $60/100M, your estimate of $500/yr assumes an assessed value above 800M. That seems high. I am not disagreeing with you, you certainly are better versed in these figures than I. But intuitively that seems high for an average. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Comment by dave — June 12, 2014 @ 9:16 pm

  28. So that’s over a thousand dollars a year of additional taxes already? No wonder they’re worried about adding to it.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — June 13, 2014 @ 8:08 am

  29. Dave my bad. Yes I meant to use the average of $500,000 which means the average homeowner would be paying $300. I think I typed $500 instead of $300 because I had the $500,000 in my head.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — June 13, 2014 @ 8:09 am

  30. 11. yeah, pop goes the weasel, right? as for my “warped and biased” perspective it may come from years of observing autocratic tone deaf administrative style and administration taking it’s own cheap shots at teachers like labor negotiations tactics ( release of grievance list and attempts to influence public opinion through letter to the editor). Your ire at my post implies impartiality, right? My use of “locked out” may have served to somewhat mischaracterize the purpose of the key policy enforcement but it’s not inaccurate either. The letter I read yesterday (while reading this blog) was sent before the paper’s deadline. A deadline which wouldn’t allow the editors to include the email about the compromise, which was just sent the day before yesterday ( thanks to “homework helper” Susan Davis). How is a citizen supposed to keep up with this stuff unless they are a teacher, custodian, or administrator? For context post 8 also included ” I’ve always had mixed feelings about administration but would prefer not to make this infrastructure issue about administration,” . Last, what constitutes a cheap shot? perhaps posting anonymously without apparent consequence would qualify.

    Comment by MI — June 13, 2014 @ 9:09 am

  31. How is responding to a legitimate public records request with names redacted a “cheap shot?”

    Comment by Vittu Ammattiliitot — June 13, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

  32. From #2 “If facilities are really decrepit, why not file a William’s action based on inadequate facilities to get state funds?” Interesting but I can not find anything in Ed Code that obligates the State to provide funds for inadequate facilities.

    In addition, with the change by State Legislature to Local Control Funding Formula, the State will no longer directly fund a program called Deferred Maintenance. As a result, school districts must budget monies for Deferred Maintenance from their own funds received from the State. If Alameda does not place a bond measure on the November ballot to address facilities issues, expect future budgets to have larger and larger amounts to be allocated to fix our schools.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — June 13, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

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