What week: who do you represent? PUSD reflects on regional elections | New
I have elections on the brain this week.
No, not just because the costly statewide recall attempt failed by an embarrassing margin at the polls on Tuesday.
The Pleasanton Unified School District has put on the brakes to slow its review of an internal proposal to move board elections from a general election to a regional election.
Now I am going to commit what some might consider a cardinal sin in opinion writing (albeit a tact that would help social discourse and progress if taken more often): I don’t like this idea for the PUSD, but I don’t hate it either.
The debate – and how genuine it is – intrigues me, however.
You may recall that this issue rose to prominence in the Tri-Valley amid a wave of court challenges along I-680 corridor a few years ago to spur conversion to district elections for local agencies, most of which came in the form of threat letters on behalf of the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative.
The argument of the California Voting Rights Act, which is anything but futile to fight on the basis of previous court rulings, is that general elections can in some cases undermine the ability of voters of protected classes (race, religion or populations). minority language groups) to influence the outcome of an election. You may be more familiar with the term “racially polarized voting”.
Regional elections, because of the way neighborhoods and communities can be grouped together, create more fair competitions is the conclusion.
Interestingly to me at the time, Pleasanton Unified – and Pleasanton City Council – were among the few undisputed Tri-Valley agencies in 2018 and 2019.
Then this summer, the show was introduced to the PUSD seemingly out of the blue. And unlike neighboring jurisdictions, this push was brought by the council itself without any public challenge as a push.
This seemed to be moving forward, a popular conclusion, for the PUSD until the board agreed on September 9 to slow down the process to give the community more time to pass the resolution and to avoid to make final decisions on the limits during the winter holidays.
In the case of PUSD, the change would mean that instead of one resident voting on two district-wide directors one year, and then the other three seats two years later, that resident would vote only for the single director. in its geographic sub-area every four years. .
Board chair Joan Laursen was the director who first requested that the discussion take place in front of the board. So I emailed her this week to tell her about what inspired the timing of her unexpected request.
“Overall, we saw a move towards regional elections by administrators in cities and school districts across the state and we wanted to be proactive rather than reactive in our conversation and review of this change,” Mr. Laursen said, in part.
She said the fact that she and administrator Mark Miller are not running for re-election in 2022 would help simplify the drawing of the map. Additionally, the district is already working with a demographer on data related to school boundary changes, and the new census data is also a good time.
“I believe that as the demographics of our community change, our representation should change to reflect this,” added Laursen. “Regional elections by administrators will reduce the barrier to participation – both in terms of campaign funding and voter outreach, as you have a smaller campaign area – and should help increase our diversity.”
I wonder if the fact that PUSD hasn’t had Colored Administrators for the first time in at least 12 years, surprising for a city as diverse as Pleasanton, also plays a role in the timing. Our locally elected bodies are the best when they sufficiently reflect the communities they represent.
What I consider missing in Laursen’s comments and in the public debate of the PUSD so far, is compelling evidence that the configuration of the Pleasanton neighborhood, geographically, demonstrates that the defined protected classes are at a disadvantage in electoral competition by according to their place of residence in relation to other residents.
Regional elections make more sense to me for agencies with boundaries that span multiple cities (like Alameda County Supervisors) or for cities with a large population of 500,000 to 1 million or more where designs neighborhoods have separated minority groups.
I don’t know how productive it would be to meet these diversity goals to subdivide a town as small to moderate as Pleasanton.
Change for the sake of change can sometimes be good. Change to achieve diversity, on the other hand, is vital. But change in the name of diversity that is not supported by the right evidence and perspective seriously risks failing to achieve these important goals, and therefore stands as an inauthentic exercise.
I do not necessarily subscribe to the argument that such an electoral change will automatically create more social division in a community. We’re doing it pretty well on our own these days, with how many of us tend to interact on an individual level (eg Town Square comments, anyone?).
This decision, however, leaves a governing body open to the strong possibility of internal fighting, prioritizing the needs of their region over the overall needs of the district. This kind of siled decision-making can be very unproductive, even detrimental.
If I were Pleasanton Unified, absent a legal challenge that would promise certain defeat, I would consider taking the time to study how other Tri-Valley agencies that recently made the switch are navigating the news. waters before I jump into the deep end myself. The town of San Ramon looks quite productive in its first year, while Dublin Unified is still not exactly the iconic child of conviviality – to name just two examples.
Because this change most likely cannot be undone.
I wouldn’t make the change to PUSD given the facts right now before us, but I won’t be very worried if they do. Embracing evolution is essential.
I just hope that while they represent constituencies in their specific geographic area, administrators understand that they must always make decisions in the best interests of all PUSD students and the district as a whole first and foremost.
I also hope that you, the constituents of Pleasanton, pay close attention to this process and express your opinion, whatever it is. Because the coming months could be just as important as the November 2022 election in determining who represents you.
Editor’s Note: Jeremy Walsh has been the Editor-in-Chief of Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017. His “What a Week” column is published on the first and third Friday of the month.