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    Redeeming A School Board Election Trashed

    (March 19, 2006) -- For thousands of people in south-central LB, time is of the essence. Unless a principled LB taxpayer steps forward on or before March 28 and shows what some people consider acceptable is really unacceptable, LB taxpayers and residents will lose.

    In a dark day for democracy, the Long Beach Press-Telegram and Long Beach Business Journal have advised south-central LB residents to reelect School Board incumbent Suja Lowenthal who has thumbed her nose at her school district constituents (with her name safely on the reelection ballot) to pursue a suddenly vacated LB City Council seat.

    The Press-Telegram editorially advised, "Concerned voters should cast a ballot for Lowenthal anyway and let her decide whether to step aside, if she wins, and force a special election."

    Let her decide? We thought that decision was for voters.

    What about Elections Code section 8605? As we read that state law, it entitles a bona fide write-in candidate (proper paperwork filed by March 28) qualifying for the April 11 election to have his/her name printed on the June runoff ballot if he/she drags the April top finisher under 50% (not hard to do) and the write-in candidate finishes second with votes equal to at least 1% of all votes cast for the office in the last election at which that office was filled. [This doesn't apply to term-limited incumbents, like Jackie Kell, since LB's term limits law would control].

    Lowenthal's only printed ballot opponent is someone she said on Feb. 8 "appears to be a roving candidate, moving from place to place, looking for any office in which he could run." In her official ballot statement seeking reelection to the LB School Board, Lowenthal told voters in salient part, [emphasis in original]: Re-elect School Board President Dr. Suja Lowenthal. Dr. Lowenthal will use her experience and ability to continue to serve our schools..."

    We don't believe Suja Lowenthal, Ph.D., daughter in law to state Senator Alan Lowenthal and Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal can be elected -- not to the School Board or to the City Council -- if voters grasp the injustice that her self-aggrandizing action has inflicted on her school district constituents and taxpayers...and if voters have a legitimate, grassroots, independent (and probably incensed) candidate to elect.

    In endorsing Lowenthal, the Press-Telegram makes no distinction between her record and the other School Board incumbents. We do.

    In April 2001, Suja Lowenthal was first elected to the School Board, succeeding her mother-in-law, Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal, after a campaign in which Suja Lowenthal supported televising school board meetings. In October 2001, we pursued the point.

    A mother of three school age children learned that the School Board was spending money to televise high school sports games on its cable TV channel but wasn't televising its own Board meetings at which major parent and taxpayer-impacting actions were taken. Taxpayer advocate Traci Wilson-Kleekamp travelled from ELB to LBUSD's WLB HQ to speak on the matter at a LB School Board meeting. We reported that her testimony "drew no visible response from boardmembers [including Suja Lowenthal] at the time."

    That struck us as odd coming from someone, like Lowenthal, who'd gained public office less than six months earlier after telling voters she supported televising boardmeetings.

    So we contacted Suja Lowenthal and asked about what had happened. Salient text of our October 2001 report follows:

    "She did a wonderful job," said [Schoolboard member] Lowenthal, contacted by for comment today [Oct. 22, 2001],

    Ms. Lowenthal, elected to the board in April, 2001 after a campaign in which she supported televising school board meetings, said the issue is important to her and she believes "it's the right thing to do."

    She commended Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp for making persuasive points, noting that televised board meetings encourage public participation, especially for people without transportation and for parents with children.

    Ms. Lowenthal told she plans to raise the issue of televising school board meetings at a forthcoming board study session, expected to take place before the end of the year.

    Nearly half a decade later, LB schoolboard meetings are still not televised. That record, on an issue she said was important to her, is consistent with stranding her constituents in a school board election that is important to taxpayers but less so to her.

    On April 11, taxpayers and parents deserve someone who will represent their interests on the school board, not an incumbent more interested in moving up the government food chain or someone too closely tied to the local public employee teachers union.

    We do not believe Suja Lowenthal can survive a tsunami of homemade lawn signs and homemade fliers which would likely accompany a legitimate and aggressive people-powered write-in candidate.

    We hope the right person appears and teaches others in LB a lesson. Democracy comes from the Greek words demos (people) and cracy (government/state or power). People-power. What a concept.

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