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Our recommendations in the March 4 Los Angeles municipal election


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And yet, a number of district advances in recent years have his stamp on them — including setting up an Inspector General’s Office to serve as a watchdog on spending, improving the way legal advice is obtained and ensuring environmental safety at schools. On this board of education, he serves as a helpful irritant, an antidote to the excesses of the superintendent and board majority, willing to ask uncomfortable but often necessary questions. He also contributes a thoughtful, lively brilliance to questions of policy.

Tokofsky will never win a popularity contest at school-district headquarters, and that’s precisely why he deserves to stay on the job.

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7th District — Mike Lansing

The district of one-term incumbent Mike Lansing encompasses a swath of South Los Angeles that plunges straight down to San Pedro. Lansing faces only long-shot opposition because 37-year-old challenger Gilbert Carillo, a tax auditor, failed to secure the teachers-union endorsement and the campaign money that comes with it. Lansing, 46, has demonstrated through his integrity and intelligence that he deserves a second term.


The format in this election is stupefying. Each board member represents the entire geography of the nine-campus system — an area larger than those represented by either City Council or school-board members. But at the same time, each seat on the board is treated as a separate office. The result is that you combine the worst features of both at-large and district elections.

You could, for example, end up with all seven board members living on the same block. That’s the problem with at-large elections. You don’t necessarily get a representative for each geographic region.

Or you could have the best challenger running against the best incumbent and not be able to choose them both, even though four seats are open. That’s the problem with elections by district: Some races may have only weak candidates; others may have more than one who is worthy. In the community-college board races, a challenger has to pick one and only one incumbent to go after.

In this cycle, four incumbents are trying to hold on to their seats. This group of incumbents was endorsed, as a bloc, by labor and faculty in 1999. All of them were elected to this board for the first time in 1999, although Georgia Mercer had been on the board for a year after being appointed to fill out the term of a board member who died. This gang of four are still chummy with labor and each other, and they are trying now for a second term.

Overall, they deserve to continue in office. Each brings some valuable skills to the table. Furutani was a former L.A. school-board member and is a veteran legislative aide in his work outside the board. He brings lobbying and political know-how. Sylvia Scott-Hayes manages a testing center at Cal State L.A., providing perspective from another rung of the higher-ed system. She’s especially keen on equity issues, increasing academic standards and using bond money to build environmentally sustainable campuses. Georgia Mercer is a veteran public servant especially attuned to women’s issues, such as the training of child-care providers. She also sits on the statewide community-college board. And she’s the only board member who lives in the San Fernando Valley. As for Mona Field, she may not have written the book on California politics, metaphorically speaking, but she has written a book on how state politics works. She uses this handy reference in the course she teaches at Glendale Community College, where she’s been a faculty leader for years. She has an innate understanding of governance, and her Glendale position allows her to apply the insights of another system to Los Angeles. She also has a sensitive ear for the much-abused part-time faculty members upon which the community colleges rely. And she makes a point of attending school-bond oversight meetings.

This board generally flies below the radar screen of the public and the media, and the Weekly claims no intimate knowledge of its workings. Still, there are some accomplishments to acknowledge. Collectively, the board successfully steered a $1.2 billion bond measure to voter approval — a major, vital achievement for the largest community-college district in the state. The board also upgraded the administrative leadership of individual campuses and of the district itself, while continuing a decentralization effort that should allow talented managers to improve their campuses more quickly.

Major structural problems persist that, for the most part, are not the fault of the board. These schools remain perennially underfunded and are slated to take a big hit in the state budget. Meanwhile, the state is raising tuition — money that will go to the state, not the schools. The cost of a typical class is likely to triple from $33 to $72. It’s not a good deal for students: fewer, more-crowded classes that will cost more money to take.

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