Alameda Democratic Club endorses one for school board

Alameda Democratic Club endorses one for school board

Dave Boitano

Updated at 11:58 a.m. Thursday, September 20

After a long night of speeches, members of the Alameda Democratic Club endorsed only one candidate in the Alameda school board race. Incumbent Niel Tam was the only one of eight board hopefuls to get the party’s official nod based on the system used to determine the winner.

The club employed rank choice balloting, in which voters list not only their first choice for the office but rank the other candidates in order of preference. The system, which Oakland Mayor Jean Quan used to defeat former State Senator Don Perata, helps avoid a run off in the event that two candidate tie or no one gets a majority on the first ballot.

Tam was among the top three vote-getters Wednesday night, but he was the only candidate to be chosen on more than 60 percent of the total ballots cast as required by the club’s bylaws. The other two top candidates were incumbent Ron Mooney and challenger Barbara Kahn.

Mooney is seeking another term along with Tam and fellow incumbent Trish Herrera Spencer. The other candidates are Kahn, Tom Lynch, Mike Robles-Wong, Jon Murphy, and Kurt Peterson. Rob Mann announced Wednesday evening that he was suspending his campaign and endorsing Kahn, Spencer and Murphy.

There was no such confusion in the race for two seats on the Alameda Health Care District board where the club endorsed incumbents Mike McCormick and Jordan Battani. The board oversees Alameda Hospital.

The differences between the school board candidates became apparent during a lengthy question and answer session with the audience.

Murphy, Peterson. Kahn and Spencer were critical of the current board and its handling of a pay raise granted to Superintendent Kirsten Vital and the controversial lease of a 26,000-square-foot office building on Challenger Drive for a new district office.

Some parents, including incumbent Spencer, questioned the validity of a study which determined that the current offices at Alameda High School were seismically unsafe.

Robles-Wong stressed his experience as a former human resources manager in public agencies as qualification for the board along with his ability to “solve issues outside the box.” Lynch cited his experience as president of the Alameda PTA Council, his 30 years in the high tech industry and his desire to make the district the best schools in the Bay Area as qualifications for office.

Murphy, an instructor at Merritt College in Oakland, insisted the board structure needed to be changed by electing him along with Kahn and re-electing Spencer. All three have been endorsed by the Alameda Education Association.

All three are critical of the pay raise and district office plan and Spencer voted against both.

“There is too much spending at the top,” he said, “We want the money to go to the programs and the kids."

Peterson insisted that the district spends too much money on non-necessities and like the other critics, claimed the current school board rubber stamps recommendations from the district staff while discouraging input from the public. Tam said state funding for education is the main problem and if a tax measure on the November ballot fails, the school district could be faced with a $3 million deficit.

Mooney and Tam defended the district’s master plan as the blueprint for running the schools successfully. And Mooney insisted that the extending Vital’s contract made sense given the major expense of conducting a search for her successor if Vital left.

On the issue of Alameda Hospital, McCormick and Battani support keeping it open.

Battani said she believes the board must work to maintain good, safe patient care while using the funds granted from a parcel tax measure in the best possible ways.

McCormick called the discussions over possible closure of the hospital “contentious” and insisted Alamedans support having a local medical facility.

“I think the community would not know what to do if they did not have a place down the road to call a hospital,” he said.

Video by Donna Eyestone.


Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Thu, Sep 20, 2012

With the emotional partisanship of the Board of Education race reflecting the factions in the community, I hope that the victors will be those best equipped to re-unite our community and restore a unified and collaborative approach to solving the enormous problems facing AUSD. We do not need further fractionalization and animosity anywhere in Alameda.

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Thu, Sep 20, 2012

The sound is fine on this story but the video does not advance in any logical fashion....Can you fix this?

Donna Eyestone's picture
Submitted by Donna Eyestone on Thu, Sep 20, 2012

Hi Jon,

The internet was a bit sketchy over there at Southshore last night. I do get the same issue you are on playback -- but you just on one of the videos. What seems to have worked for me was to simple move the playhead forward a little in time -- the the video and audio are back together. You can even then go back and play from where you left of earlier and it seems to work for me. Not the best -- but hopefully a workable solution so you can hear and see.