November 2, 2007

Editorial:

Time for Equal Representation in the South Bay

The intent of the democratic process and of our election system, which at times is a complex process that involves a lot of rules and regulations, is the right to equal representation with fair and competitive elections which constitutes the will of the people. With the South Bay school districts, these basic premises do not apply. There is not equal representation and the elections are not competitive, which brings into the question the issue of fairness.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District best exemplifies the democratic process becoming circumvented.

The Chula Vista Elementary School Board presides over an area that encompasses 103 square miles representing 318,800 residents with a student population of approximately 26,800 students. Yet all the school representatives come from the community of Bonita which all told is 5 square miles and is located in the north east cul-de-sac of the South County. In fact, the city of Chula Vista doesn’t have a representative sitting on their school board.

Four of the five Chula Vista School Board incumbents have more than a decade of service. Patrick Judd takes home the prize for longest tenure, when his term expires, it will be 24 years on the board. There are no term limits and no campaign contribution limits, which gives the incumbent an unfair advantage. Once elected it is rare if ever an incumbent is defeated at the polls. The fifth Chula Vista board member, also a Bonita resident, was appointed by the other four that live in Bonita.

The same political circumstances holds true for the other school district in the South Bay, the Sweetwater Union High School District, with three of the five board members living in Bonita.

The lack of representation on the school boards is obvious and it is difficult to come up with any salient argument to maintain the status quo.

A group of local South Bay residents came together wanting to see a diverse and representative way in which South Bay school board members are elected by creating geographical boundaries, or in more common terms, districts, from which the elected representatives will come from to ensure an equal representation of the South Bay.

A plan was devised that created five equally distributed districts for both districts based on population and a petition was created. Two thousand people signed these petitions and a committee has gone before the County Board of Education with their petitions to request that they put their plan on the next available ballot.

The County Board has agreed to take up this issue and has scheduled a community meeting at the offices of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, 84 East J Street in Chula Vista, Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 6:30 p.m., to hear arguments for and against the plan.

The County Board has the power to put this plan on the ballot. The inequity is obvious for all to see and the proposed plan is fair and does not displace any present sitting board members. But it will take the community to come forth on Tuesday the 6th to impress upon the Board the importance of the call for change.

All that this committee is asking for is the opportunity to put forth their plan to the voters of the South Bay so that they can have a say about the future of their school districts! Let us hope that the County Board members see the inequity as well and have the foresight to ensure a representative government at the school board level. After all, what the committee wants is nothing new — the County board members are elected by district!

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