Wed, Jul

California AD54 Turns 55… Democratic Politics Springs Into 2022


POLITICS WATCH - Dear Peeps:  Part of the new electronic world order, LACDP continues to meet remotely as did the CA State Convention this past week.

The mode of meeting has serious consequences for not just protocol but policy produced as well. Unable to communicate directly and, say, argue a point personally or ask a point of order or clarification or even move for, say, postponement of a motion, there is serious concentration of democratic power among the chair of committee meetings.

But people have striven to be dictatorial since time immemorial. The coincidence of global pandemic with the technology to enable productive social distancing, marks our diminishing capacity to impede hegemony – even while these maneuvers backfire in effect. This ironic blowback has evolved on exhibit lately in both LACDP and CDP.

The order of the day is endorsements for the upcoming primaries on June 7, 2022. On the ballot will be (among others more locally) statewide offices from Governor to Board of Equalization candidates, and regionally eligible candidates from Districts for CA State Assembly (“AD”) and Senate (“SD”) and US Congress (“CD”).

Some of these endorsements are very hard-fought and won. By design the Party automatically endorses incumbent Democrats and there is a very complicated process for assessing and voting on those with newcomer status. Endorsement is not conferred by mere majority but by 60% vote in many cases and even higher in certain circumstances.

But the process is gamed incessantly, from messing with the denominator of available votes to hoisting insurmountable barriers to process to tilting the field of evaluation and alignment. I am dismayed to see an ethos of gamesmanship reminiscent of the unamerican voter suppression currently being pressed by the GOP, in spirit if not in specifics. We are Democrats and I expect adherence to a democratic ideology of equal votes, equal opportunity, equal representation.

Accordingly last month saw a showdown at the LACDP regarding early-endorsement of a candidate for County Sheriff. Because the LACDP is on record censoring our own formerly-endorsed, now disgraced incumbent sheriff, there was a strong feeling that endorsing a candidate for Sheriff from out of the crowded field of ten competitors early on could be the most effective way to counteract the power of incumbency. A special process for early endorsement was invoked and large scads of endorsements were harvested from among Party officers, and endorsement committee members and many other such veteran members. Even while there was a companion effort to investigate all candidates’ history and prioritize prediction of future behavior on that basis over preemptive, machine-driven politicking.

Forced by the domineering process of remote, zoom meetings, the slanted endorsement of former assistant Sheriff Cecil Rhambo nevertheless failed, and without identifying a better candidate (e.g., Eric Strong, responding here to colleagues’ questioning). The temptation to limit communications and control meetings is fierce in this political climate and zoom handily provides such means. But manipulated outcomes tend to blow back. As happened with this insufficiently vetted early endorsement, and happened the following month at the full California State Convention with working subcommittees comprised of insufficiently diversified points of view. The inexperience limited awareness of sleights of hand or motive.

What actually happened with the CA Democratic Party’s (CADEM) platform adopted Sunday (3/6/22) at its convention?

At the eleventh hour, following an eleven-hour meeting finalizing draft proposalsfor updating the 2022 CADEM platform, it came to light that one of its 23 platform “planks, that of Education, had been tampered with by charter school (CS) industry insiders.

As a consequence, CADEM delegate and California Federation of Teachers legislative advocate, Tristan Brown, urged from the floor that fellow delegates vote “no” on the entirety of the proposed platform changes, since the rules forbade focusing on specifics to excise.

It was argued that the new language altered the hard-won, former mandate that charter school boards must be elected, because democracy demands public, elected accountability. The platform’s new language morphed this fundamental demand, requiring instead that charter schools simply be authorized andmonitored by a school board. The language of conditional support was removed altogether.

On the strength of the Union recommendation by the statewide federation of teachers, and the leadership of several key caucus chairs and leaders, the final floor vote passing the platform was far shy of consensus at 57% aye (691 votes), 43% nay (510 votes). [The absolute numbers are extracted from the meeting transcript and are a little different from the poll result percentages shown to delegates via zoom].

From a convention of 3,037 elected delegates + 80 proxies, that translates to passage by just 22% (=691/3117) of total eligible voters at the convention. But the total number of delegates voting for the platform was not presented. If quorum were just reached for the vote with its 1559 members, then a bare minimum of 358, or nearly one-quarter of delegates (23% of the eligible quorum (=358/1559)), abstained from the platform vote altogether. The sum total of those failing to vote for the platform {“nay”+abstain} far outstrips those who did.

As it happens, the reality of the platform language change is far worse than what was hastily presented on the floor. And befitting their shepherding by charter school operators (including the board chair of the charter school lobbying association), these changes do very much advantage charter school operations.

The former language of bullet 23 in the K-12 Education plank conditioned circumstances for the Party’s support of charter schools on five contingencies [emphasis mine]:

    • Support only those charter schoolsthat are managed by public and elected boards, not-for-profit, and transparent in governance; have equitable admissions; adopt fair labor practices and respect labor neutrality; and, supplement rather than supplant public education programs.

The draft language posted in advance of the convention eliminates rules for conditional support altogether. Instead conditions are replaced by definitions. The term “charter school” is redefined through use of the modifying adjective, “public”. A list of characteristics is simply inserted, absent any conditioning on support. And the long-standing federal exhortation acknowledging and specifying the fungibility of money to ‘supplement not supplant’ (ie, do not rob Peter to pay Paul), is lost:

    • Support publiccharter schools that are governedby not-for-profit, elected, public boards with transparent governance, have equitable admissions, adopt fair labor practices, respect labor neutrality, and supplement public education programs for students in historically low performing subgroups such as low income, English learners, Black, American Indian, and Alaskan Native students, foster children and students with disabilities

The real problem came from a change inserted after the posted draft platform. Support is urged for these entities now defined not by their governance but by the circumstance of their chartering: authorization and monitoring [emphasis mine]:

    • Support public charter schools that are authorized and monitoredby public and elected boards, not-for-profit, and transparent in governance; have equitable admissions; adopt fair labor practices and respect labor neutrality; and, supplement public education programs for students in historically low performing subgroups such as low income, English learners, Blackor African American, American Indian, and Alaskan Native students, foster children and students with disabilities

The change amounts to saying “I exist therefore I am”. It asserts support of charter schools no matter what, and defines them as “public”, a characteristic denied by the courts. Reversing the stringent conditional acceptance terms delineated formerly, this incarnation accepts charter schools as the choice of the Democratic Party.

Another change instigated by the charter school lobbyist who volunteered their services to the platform committee, softens the field for two competing ballot initiatives to privatize our public schools through the use of vouchers.

Under cover of redundancy, bullet 14 that unequivocally and expressly “opposes voucher systems for schools,” is eliminated. Its declaration is diluted by sending it lower in the long list of bullet points, and combining it with Education Savings Accounts. The real problem comes in conditioning this opposition to their effect. Since charter schools are defined in the platform now as “public”, vouchers would not be found to “take away from public school funding”.

    • Oppose K-12 Education Savings Accounts, school vouchers, or any programs that would take away from public school funding;

This change was not a mere correction of duplication, it substantively prepares the field for a statewide fight about “school choice,” launched and led from the left. The platform now states that because we define charter schools as “public”, vouchers are a system we no longer oppose because they do not take money away from the public-charter entity. Just as this new platform accepts charter schools de facto, we also now fail to oppose voucher systems.

Trickiness gonna be tricky. Voters gotta be vigilant. Special, monied-interests are persistent and focused; the rest of us are harried volunteers.

The political world revolves quickly, and no sooner do I settle on a report for you than it has become overwritten already by newer feints and maneuvers. Please forward your interests to me so that I may better tailor these reports.

And do note that California Has Been Redistricted!  Find your new districts overlain on the old here. You will vote for representation in your new districts at the primary on June 7, 2022; and the general on November 8, 2022.



p.s. There will likely be at least a dozen ballot measures to consider in the November general election. Can you guess how much money in aggregate, has been donated by the top 10 contributors to each of the highest-grossing measures currently pending Secretary of State verification or still circulating for signatures?  Ans: $370m and counting. And these are just the currently high-grossing initiatives; there are another 27 pending, with 8 months yet on the calendar. If you think you’re receiving a lot of campaign mailings right now, you might want to prepare a second recycling bucket …


(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com.)


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