(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.
We may not have had their feet to the fire like Costa Mesa, or the fireworks of an Anaheim political event. What we did have was an informative forum of Tustin City Council candidates. Sponsored by the Tustin Chamber of Commerce on Monday evening, the five candidates, vying for three seats on the city council, discussed their views on everything from the budget to the relationship between the city and the school district.
The forum was moderated by Bethelwell Wilson, Esq., who provided guidance and kept the candidates on point. Assisted by a timekeeper, the candidates were given two minutes each to offer an introductory statement and then two minutes each to answer the questions. Most questions were taken from the chamber of commerce guidebook. They did allow a few questions from the audience, however, that led to some interesting discussion.
As expected in a chamber of commerce event, most of the questions centered around business growth and development of both the Old Town and Legacy property. And, although we expected incumbent John Nielsen to be most informed on all issues, we have to give the edge to Tracy Worley-Hagen, who showed through her answers that she has done her homework and has specific ideas for the further development of the MCAS property. Worley, who was instrumental in obtaining the base property when she sat on the council in the ’90s, focused her answers on the final build out of the property that Oringinally included a regional, three mile park that would, as she said, tie the entire project together.
Chuck Puckett, another city council retread, also appeared well-informed, owing mostly to his recent years on the Tustin Planning Commission. He said the city’s latest effort to encourage business growth through an abatement of license and construction fees was a tremendous success and could be continued by using the anticipated bed tax from new hotels that are currently under construction as an offset. He also said the city is “up to the task” of acting as their own master developer and the opening of Tustin Ranch Road will create new opportunities for the Legacy area.
In a question on the demise of redevelopment funds and what the city was doing to meet the challenges, Puckett said the city had already made up the fund loss (really, Chuck?) and that development will be able to continue in the Legacy District. Nielsen claimed that cost cutting measures such as the early retirement package offered to 37 employees already save the city money. Worley-Hagen thought differently saying the sudden loss of such a number of employees would create a brain drain. Bernstein, who appeared to be the least informed of the five, said the city manager did not seem to be concerned over the loss. He supported the early retirement program. However, it was David Waldram who pointed out the fact the city had been balancing the budget in the past few years by dipping into reserve funds. He estimated this year’s shortfall at $4.5 million dollars.
It was the question of the evening, on the lawsuits between the city and the school district, that showed the true colors of the candidates. Nielsen began by saying he has gone on record calling for the school district to drop the lawsuits. Saying that this situation has gone on far too long (we agree), he placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the TUSD school board and, again, called for them to drop their suits against the city.
Waldram said he had met with all parties involved and the five lawsuits had become more of a personality conflict than a question of law. He said the cultural infighting needed to stop and the two sides needed to start working together for the benefit of the community.
Bernstein, again showing that he is out of touch with reality, used his best Snidely Whiplash impersonation while holding up what he called a “news release”. Never saying that the press release came from the city’s own website, he inferred it was from a third party while demanding that TUSD drop their lawsuits. He then went into a diatribe about how, as councilmember, he would call for term limits for Tustin school board members. Making the only attack on an opponent heard that night, he blamed the union and cited Waldram as a “union man”. In the end, he was nearly sputtering his comments, leaving us to wonder if he would work toward any civility on the dais.
If we were keeping score (and some of the audience did), we would have to give lead points to Tracy Worley-Hagen who showed she remains up to the task of managing city affairs with a balanced approach. Likewise, Chuck Puckett stood out as well informed and ready to take the reins again. Chuck is also one of those rare individuals who comes off as an “aw shucks” kind of down home type but who can replace that quickly with an all business demeanor that we think would serve well to keep civility as a watchword for the council.
We would place Nielsen higher on our list but he seems to have a bit of trouble in the honesty department. I’m not saying he has lied about anything but he has managed to twist a few facts to suit his needs. While touting a balanced budget, he failed to say it was only due to the city dipping into reserves. His unwillingness to compromise on the lawsuits will lead the city to the inevitable outcome of losing and quite possibly footing the legal bill for the school district. And, let’s not forget that he was not being completely honest when he stood up and called himself, what amounted to, a pillar of the community when, in fact, he appears to have a plethora of personal issues to deal with. To his credit, he did spearhead the strategic plan the city council is working on.
David Waldram, who apparently had his high school Government class attend the meeting to write on civics, is in the middle. He has a strong vision for Tustin as a family town. His answers, while sometimes rather simplistic, displayed his fiscal conservatism and knowledge of government function. He has a bit of a Pollyanna attitude toward the city but we think his demeanor will serve well on the city council. He does need to bone up on past city issues if he wants to bring those to the argument as he made a misstep in regard to eminent domain. Nice recovery, though.
The entire forum, by the way, was televised on the city cable channel 3 and is due to be repeated. I don’t get cable so I can’t give you the schedule. But, if you did not get to see this live, this forum is well worth the watch, especially if you are on the fence about who to vote for.
Did you attend the forum? If so, we would like to hear what you have to say. Remember, you don’t have to agree with us, just follow our simple rules that are posted in the comments area of each post. Oh, and be prepared for a comeback either from me or one of the other readers.
Yup, we are still in Northern California, where at least one commenter would prefer we stay. We’ll be back next week. In the meantime, enjoy-jg
We recently received a forwarded email from David Waldram. As you may know, David previously ran a strong but unsuccessful campaign for Tustin City Council, barely being edged out by Beckie Gomez. He is running again in 2012 and has declared his candidacy on his website and in this email:
During the last campaign for City Council, I was so appreciative of the support and endorsement of many of you. Since then, Kendra and I have had many wonderful life changing moments including the birth of our daughter and purchasing our first home here in Tustin. Having been born in Orange County and raised in Tustin, I am blessed to now be raising my own daughter in my hometown. We are facing a momentous election season. We will be voting not only on whom should be our President, but ultimately which course our country should take to best strengthen our economy and remain the moral compass of the free world. In our own hometown we have a similar choice ahead of us.
With the many challenges facing America, believing in your hometown is needed now more ever. After much prayer and consideration, I have decided that I should run for City Council in this upcoming election. I believe in Tustin just as I believe in the greatness of America. Giving back to both is why I am running for office.
Waldram also has a website with much the same message on the home page. This website is a retread apparently and there are no links on the home page to other pages. However, if you want to see the rest of his site, go here. On the website, he has a link that will take you to a questionnaire that allows the user to enter the issues he or she thinks is most important to them regarding the city.
Waldram claims he will be fiscally responsible and points out the fiscal irresponsibility of the current council with such facts that the city council has been running a deficit budget for the past two years (but we already knew that). He also points out the unnecessary increases to water rates.
One thing we especially liked seeing on his website is, “Rudeness towards citizens and each other [is] unacceptable at City Council meetings. I will show respect to all & listen to all views.”
That would be a refreshing change.
Next week, filing begins for the Tustin City Council race. It is interesting to see that we have two declared candidates and one who has all but declared already in the running. Get your wallets out. Although city races don’t usually require a lot of money, I suspect the one who reaps the most in political contributions will have a distinct edge.
One question remains. Will Deborah Gavello run again? In a recent interview with her, she said that she had not decided. She feels strongly that, with the right mix of people on the city council and a toning down of the rhetoric that has become too common lately, she could continue to be an effective voice for city residents. One thing for sure, she has at least $17,000 in her campaign account as of the first of the year. We understand she has been busy garnering new contributions and that number could be quite a bit higher during the next reporting cycle. That is huge jumpstart in a race where even a few dollars can make a difference.