Courtesy photo

BOY

Oh boy.

A writer always wants to elicit a response from readers. Most never take the trouble to contact you. When they do, it usually comes from being very enthusiastic or very displeased with what you wrote.

But people really are swell, aren’t they? They want to help. There have been a lot of people who wanted to help with this column, after I wrote last week that the subject matter was the School Board and the upcoming elections for positions thereon. But I think it’s safer to write only from my own experience and knowledge, not someone else’s agenda, whether it agrees with mine or not.

To get straight to the point, I wouldn’t any more vote for the two incumbents, Jon Kean and Maria Leon-Vazquez, than I would for any of the four City Council incumbents. Yeah, it’s that bad.

You might expect that schools, and how they are run, would be a subject of great interest and passion in any community. But beyond helping out at kiddo’s classroom or on field trips, it can get pretty complicated and clique-y and, well, political, as you climb the bureaucratic ladder to try to figure out what the heck is going on. You think the PTA isn’t political?

THE INCUMBENTS

With Ralph Mechur retiring (bless his heart, he promised early on to restore the iconic Muir Woods mural), that leaves two incumbents running for the three seats available.

One of them is Maria Leon-Vasquez. In case you’ve forgotten: we discovered that she had been voting for years to award six-figure SMMUSD contracts to firms that no one knew were paying consulting fees to her husband Tony, as he sat on City Council and served as Mayor. Her excuse was that she didn’t know those firms were involved, that those info packets the Board members get before they vote are just so huge, who can read them all? (Tony, perhaps choosing to not be subjected to too much scrutiny over the issue, left Council to run successfully for the CA Board of Equalization, where he is involved in rulings on tax rates for businesses, decisions that can mean millions of dollars to them. Oh well. I hope he’s had time to read all the info before ruling.)

Leon-Vaszuez’s candidate statement reads in part: “I am committed to full transparency and accountability as SMMUSD continues to balance its budget, oversee its bond projects, and give SMMUSD families a voice.” You decide.

REMEMBER THAT FADING REDWOODS MURAL?

I do. I have fought since 2014 to preserve that 42-year-old environmentally conscious art that has become a treasured part of the Ocean Park community, for all of Santa Monica, and known around the world. A young Jane Golden painted it, and all these years later she is now probably the most famous and respected mural supervisor and promoter in the world, in charge of some 4500 murals for the City of Philadelphia.

I’m not going to recount the whole story of its demise (it could still be resuscitated), from neglect by the school district. It’s a very complicated decade-long weave of intrigue over a SMASH extension high school, the fate of Olympic HS, the Obamas’ name, space at Samohi, and a whole lot of money, power and prestige. But Board President Jon Kean was the ringleader in deception and broken promises over the mural. You can read all the columns I wrote, and that’s a lot (sorry, Ross), or some time when you and I both have a spare couple of hours you could ask me.

I’ll give just two examples. During a months-long mediation process, ultimately unsuccessful, that Marissa and Jerry Rubin and I engaged in with representatives of Olympic HS, both sides agreed not to contact artist Jane Golden any more. She had stated that while she loved that mural and would favor seeing it restored (I have the emails), she did not want to be in the middle of our fight.

Kean broke that agreement with the school district by having multiple phone conversations with Golden prior to bringing her here for consultation. We kept the agreement. Do you think he may have misrepresented the actions and intentions of our little committee to save the mural? (I have no emails to that effect, only conversations.) He offered her $10,000 to come here — call that what you will — but she turned it down in favor of simply paying expenses.

Kean was always very friendly to me, solicitous even, and we do share an interest in the arts, music and film. But I always felt it was agenda driven. After one public meeting he came up to me privately and expressed concern for the wellbeing of my cohort Jerry Rubin, who spoke that night.

“Is Jerry OK?” he asked. “Sure,” I replied, “why?” “Well, he didn’t seem to be speaking very cogently,” Kean said, “disoriented, searching for words…”

I just stared at Kean with incredulity. “That’s Jerry. That’s just his manner of speaking, but everyone understands him and he makes perfect sense. You know that, Jon. Everybody knows that. Jerry is very well respected in this town.”

Here’s my last knock against this incumbent and his… transparency, if you will. His campaign posters and other material ask you to “RE-ELECT Jon Kean.” The thing is, he was never elected. When he ran there was no opposition, three candidates for three seats, so it was decided to spare the expense of an election.

Yes, had there been one, he certainly would have gotten the one vote to be elected. But that’s not what happened. And now he is waving the potent vote-getting flag of RE-ELECT. He is an incumbent, He served a term. But you cannot RE-ELECT him because he was never elected.

You can say that’s nit picking, or you can say that’s a flat out lie. I say it is indicative of character, and you should take that into account when voting.

OFF WITH THEIR HEAD START!

Then there is that issue. Again, the summary is that SMMUSD decided to replace Head Start this year with a brand new, untested program of their own, giving up $8 million in federal money over five years, and necessitating dipping into our pockets for $5 million to replace it. That’s been a SM standard of governance for too long. Our elected and selected officials throw our money around, recklessly.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, critics said the transition would leave behind some children who relied on the program for meals.

It’s easy to remember: no incumbents, School Board or City Council. As Kean says in his campaign statement, we can do better.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com