$832 Stops Democracy in Emeryville
But a Fix is On the Way
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters this year has quietly raised the fee to print a 'candidate's statement' in the official Voter's Guide to $832, making the cost for non-incumbents to run a credible campaign for Emery School Board now beyond the reach for all but the independently wealthy. The punishing new bar set by the County openly discourages all and outright stops many would-be participants from seeking the non paying, no benefits and high workload job of a school board member at Emery.
This high fee is doing a major disservice to the idea of democracy in public education, having the effect of entrenching power by exacerbating and increasing the incumbents advantage while pushing down newcomers who offer a change. In a School District like Emery where for years, an anti-teacher, anti-parent culture has taken over the School Board, this new high bar for entry to challengers has already proved to be nullifying to democracy: We know of at least one new candidate considering a School Board run this November who was scared off by the high fee.
|New ideas at Emery School|
District can't see the light
of day without a bunch of
these behind 'em.
The $832 fee reflects the printing cost of including a candidate's statement along with the candidate's name in the Voter's Guide, or so Alameda County tells us. They're doing an end run around accusations of anti-democratic high fee exclusivity by continuing to allow a candidate to have his/her name appear in the Guide and on the ballot for a nominal fee. It's the candidate's statement, the critical chance to inform voters what the candidates stand for, that costs $832. Rather than go to war against the prodigious plenipotentiary power of the County Registrar of Voters, we see a fix for this intolerable problem here in Emeryville.
The Emery Fix: District Picks Up The Tab
Emery Unified School District is going to have to start paying the County for non incumbent Emery School Board candidate's statements. Incumbents are helped as everybody knows by the fact they're incumbents and voters know that fact because it appears in the Voter's Guide (for no extra money) and on the election ballot. Non-incumbents will need financial aid from Emery.
Since it's unreasonable and too expensive for the School District to pick up the tab of every non-incumbent candidate, we propose the aid be doled out on a first come first served or a lottery basis, enough to fill out a full slate of challengers on the ballot.
Allowing the millions of dollars this school district spends on questionable 'community engagment' given in the form of lucrative contracts to chummy corporate consultants for all sorts of less democratic citizen empowerment than this, we trust they will not cry poverty with this idea.
"After spending millions on
'community engagement' forwarding
the Center of 'Community' Life,
they're going to have to spend
a little on democracy."
We find it hard to overstate the importance of lowering this fee and allowing new voices on the School Board. As we stated, this new fee has already curtailed democracy here at Emery. This year it has stopped the people's right to have a choice in the direction of their School District: as a result of too few candidates running, the best case scenario for those wishing change will be a 2-3 School Board minority (the 3 representing the existing established power). We can only elect two challengers this year and that's not enough to bring about new direction. This November, we can only hope to bring incremental change, change at the margins for our School District. The $832 fee has limited our choice.
School Board members here at Emery tend to not fill out their terms. They resign early, giving the power elite on the Board a chance to appoint their favored new replacement (even if sometimes an independent, less-than-compliant pick gets in by accident). This is no good. The citizens need to be able to effectively weigh in here. Every election cycle, the people of Emeryville should always have the capacity to vote for a change in their government be it at the School District or at City Hall. At Emery Unified School District this November, there's going to be no chance for change, regardless of what the people want. This is unacceptable. $832 shouldn't stop democracy. It's time for the School District to pony up, even if the idea of change is threatening to them. We're going to have to spend a little from now on to ensure democracy doesn't go missing. Ironically, they may learn to love it; real democracy will give legitimacy to this District and that's something that's also been missing.