(Updated to reflect a late email from Monique Ketteringham-ed.)
Tammie Bullard – Incumbent
Francine Scinto – Incumbent
James Laird – Incumbent
I knew there was something we forgot. Hey, come on, how many voters truly look at who is running for the school board? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t and, during the contentious issues we have had between the TUSD and the city of Tustin, they deserve a once over. Face it, even the candidates themselves didn’t even think it important enough to spend a few dollars on a website as I have not been able to find any for any candidate.
There are five candidates for three seats on the Tustin Unified School District governing board. They are, Francine Scinto, Monique Ketteringham, Dr. Elias Teferi, James Laird, and Tammie Bullard. Of the five, only the three incumbents bothered to file candidate statements. All three of them promote the fact that TUSD, under their guidance, has maintained a low student to teacher ratio, increased relevant student scores and run an efficient budget. They are also long time members of the board, Scinto and Bullard both holding seats for the past 16 years. Laird has been a member of the board since 2004.
None of them has raised the issue of the ongoing fight between the district and the city of Tustin and that is a bit of concern.
There also appears to be some concern over the actual residence of school board member Francine Scinto. Earlier in the year, a commenter mentioned that Scinto may not actually live in the district. They cited a Google search that indicated Scinto lives in south county. We did our own Google search and it came up with an address in North Tustin. So, at a recent event (which was held in her neighborhood in North Tustin, by the way) I asked Scinto about her residence. She adamantly denied living out of the district at the time. The person making the accusation has not sat on her heels. She may also run a website that posted this a few days ago. Still no solid proof. Just accusations. I’ll let you be the judge.
Tammie Bullard is also a long time member of the board. She has been board president multiple times and continues to advocate for a fiscal conservatism and low class size.
The two upstarts in the race have neither websites or candidate statements. There is not much information to go on regarding their reasons for entering the race. Dr. Elias Teferi, who lists his occupation as Independent Educational Consultant, has put up a few signs in public places but has not made any further efforts in his campaign. He also endorsed Measure S, the school technology bond.
Monique Ketteringham responded to an email inquiry, saying she entered the race late and was not able to muster enough financial support to place a Candidate Statement on the ballot. Ketteringham says her priorities include supporting the arts within our district, tending to infrastructure, and seeing Measure S through. “I feel our school district needs a new, fresh voice on the board, someone who can relate to the needs and concerns of the parents and students that make up our community.” She is running a grassroots campaign, meeting and greeting people door to door as she, by her own admission, has not been able to do much fundraising prior to the campaign.
Both of the challengers are Democrats while all three of the incumbents are Republican, if that should matter to anyone in a non-partisan race.
There is an old adage that if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it. The current Tustin Unified School District governing board continues to do a good job in raising standards and pertinent student scores for academics while maintaining sound, fiscal policies. And, while I do not subscribe to Measure S, the technology bond, I believe their stewardship over Measure G demonstrates their capability to be responsible in the use of tax money. We’ll take the incumbents in this race.
A couple of things happened in short order that reminded us it is time to make our endorsements of local candidates, propositions and measures. One, was the endorsement of Tracy Worley-Hagen, Chuck Puckett and John Nielsen for Tustin City Council by the Orange County Register. The second item was notice we received that absentee ballots have been mailed by the Registrar of Voters. Since those folks tend to vote as soon as they get their ballot, or not at all, we just wanted to be able to throw in our two cents.
As we have said in the past, we will leave recommendations for Federal and most State races to others. Chances are, you wouldn’t like my picks anyway (remember, Libertarian..). We have plenty to say about the local races and, as we go over them in the next week or so, we will put them on a new “Endorsements” page you can use as the handy-dandy OTT voters guide.
Tracy Worley-Hagen – We agree with the OC Register that Tracy is, by far, the most experienced candidate fielded for city council. She was mayor for 4 of the 12 years on the council. She was instrumental in obtaining the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station base at a no cost transfer to the city, making this one of the last bases to be transferred that way. As a councilmember, she sat on the boards of the Orange County Fire Authority, the Sanitation District and the Transportation Corridor Authority. “When I saw that one of our councilmembers chose not to run again, I felt my experience was needed during this critical time in our city.”
One of the most pressing issues to her is to mend fences with the school district and bring the lawsuits to and end. “They’ve cost the taxpayers over $2 million in legal fees.” She accurately pointed out the lawsuits have become a personality clash with the losers being the Tustin Taxpayer. Tracy has been active in the schools and the community and has kept watch at city hall, where she says the council acrimony against the public and each other has to stop. Tracy says she understands the true nature of the current fiscal status of the city, and that she will work to restoring the city to good fiscal health. She says that every line item in the budget needs to be looked at for trimming and she is willing to take a hard look at everything including further pension reform.
Chuck Puckett– Chuck loves Tustin and we like Chuck. I first met him at a fundraiser for Worley-Waldram. He is an approachable guy who, incidentally, also has prior experience on the city council.
Puckett’s chief concerns are maintaining Tustin’s great public safety record and making Tustin more business-friendly. He is a member of the Tustin Chamber of Commerce and would like to see another abatement of the business license and building permit fees which he sees as a great enticement for businesses looking for a home.
No one seemed to be asking Puckett directly, what he would do to end the taxpayer abuse with the lawsuits between the city and the school district. We did, and his response was encouraging. He believes the lawsuits have gone on too long and cost the taxpayers too much money. If elected, he says he would do everything possible to encourage both sides to sit down and reach a settlement before trial. In our minds, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Chuck has been extremely active in community politics and civic affairs almost since he moved here. He is a co-founder and past president of the Tustin Community Foundation and recently resigned from a stint on the Tustin Planning Commission to run for city council. Along with his four years on the council, one as mayor, Puckett has also spent over 12 years on the Tustin Planning Commission. He makes sure to be seen at community events, such as the Tustin Tiller Days and the Chili Cookoff. He has been named “Tustin Man of the Year”. And, he shows up for meetings of the city council and planning commission to stay on top of the local politics. A highly approachable candidate, it remains to be seen what he would do about the foul atmosphere in city council chambers but we could hope his affablitly would spread across the dais.
If we have concerns about Chuck, it is that he has aligned himself with “Team Tustin” a nickname we heard Puckett, John Nielsen and Allan Bernstein have given themselves. Nielsen, has done nothing to squelch the harsh words that frequently cross the dais and, in some cases, has even taken part. And, while he has occasionally opposed Jerry Amante on issues, he has fully endorsed the current dysfunctional state between the city and the school district.
David Waldram – David would be the freshman councilman on the dais. He is a lifelong Tustin resident and has chosen to raise his family here. I am corrected in a previous article I wrote as David says he is a full-time teacher and runs the video production on the side. Waldram previously ran for city council in 2010 and was beaten by Beckie Gomez in a close race where the last 100 votes counted. A gracious loser, he did not ask for a recount and instead decided to wait for another day. Although he has not sat on any commissions or committees for the city, he is involved in community affairs with The Boy Scouts and through his church.
Waldram’s focus is on public safety and the school district lawsuits where he told me the personality clashes have to stop. He is appalled with the behavior of the sitting council toward the public and each other. Waldram believes that political discourse can take place in a polite climate that takes in every citizen’s view.
John Nielsen, who the Register did endorse, is our current mayor and is up for re-election. There are a lot of things to like about John and a lot not to like. As we mentioned, Nielsen has done little to repair the divisiveness on the dais and has sometimes taken part in bashing other councilmembers. He has also done nothing to stop the lawsuit abuse on the city’s side. He has a real problem following Robert’s Rules of Order. However, he does approach most issues that come before the council in a deliberative, thoughtful manner. We just wish he was a bit more of an independent thinker that would tell the noise machine to his right to sit down and shut up once in awhile.
And, as we have said before, we are still waiting to hear what anyone has to say about Dr. Allan Bernstein. Although we note he was mentioned in the Register endorsements and Waldram was not, they don’t seem to say much about him either. Having no community or civic experience we can see, other than an unverified claim that he was involved with the Boy Scouts. He is the only candidate who still does not have a website up and running. At a recent Tustin Republican women’s forum, he said that he would work to implement term limits on the TUSD which shows us how he feels about the lawsuits and makes us wonder if he knows which race he is running in.
So, here are our picks. If our opinion means anything to you (and even if it doesn’t), we endorse Tracy Worley-Hagen, David Waldram and Chuck Puckett for the Tustin City Council. Whether you agree with us or not, we hope you will get out and vote on election day. If you are an absentee voter and would like to hear about the local measures and bonds coming before the voters, you may want to wait before filling out your ballot and sending it in.
We are heading to the Extraterrestrial Highway for our annual run to the Little Al’ e Inn. Depending on the interference from the UFO’s you may or may not hear from us for a few days.