COCFA President’s Address to the Board of Trustees:
My name is Wendy Brill-Wynkoop and I am President of the College of the Canyons Faculty Association. On behalf of the COC faculty, and as a service to our community, I want to comment on the two resolutions placed on the tonight’s agenda calling for the District to change its Board of Trustees electoral process to elections by “trustee districts”.
The membership of COCFA supports the switch to trustee districts. COCFA has always favored this system as a resolution to the Voting Rights Act lawsuit. However, we feel compelled to voice our concern over the stated process of implementation as outlined in the two resolutions.
Overall, we have two primary concerns.
One, the proposed resolutions create a conflict of interest and two, the proposed resolutions do not provide for adequate public input and community involvement in the creation of the new trustee districts.
First, the terms of the resolutions create a conflict of interest by delegating the authority to oversee the adoption of the new trustee districts to the Chancellor and the District staff. The conflict of interest resides in the contractual and overall direct employment relationship existing between the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor. The Board of Trustees spent two years and, by various accounts, nearly 2 million dollars fighting the voting rights lawsuit that sought the establishment of trustee districts. And when provided the option to move directly to trustee districts, the Board instead opted for a negotiated cumulative voting system.
For the sake of good governance and civic and community involvement, we urge you to consider the creation of an independent community panel to work with and oversee the work of the contracted demographers to create the new districting plan.
The District needs to distance itself from unilateral input and oversight of the drafting of the plans. It is common practice to have independent third party commissions now draw statewide and congressional districts, we believe this more inclusive process is warranted.
In addition we believe public hearings should be held to receive public input from the start of the process. Doing so would instill public confidence, trust, and a sense of community ownership of the newly formed districts. The entire point of moving to trustee districts is to ensure more equitable enfranchisement of the school district’s voters.
Second, the time frame for public input stated in tonight’s resolution is too short and this consolidated time frame was avoidable. This past spring the District was notified by the Los Angeles County registrar that cumulative voting stipulated in the settlement was not possible. Why was there not immediate action taken by the Board of Trustee to move to trustee districts months ago?
Tonight’s proposed resolutions grant access for the first public review of the proposed trustee area plan on October 6th, 2015 and a mere 29 days later, the Board of Trustees is then scheduled to vote on, and formally adopt, the plans on November 4th.
We understand there is limited time to have the new trustee districts in place for the November 2016 election, but the community deserves more time to weigh in on the matter and be heard. The expedited public hearings are insufficient to alleviate any concerns that might result in future legal challenges of the area plans.
In closing we submit to you a set of inquiries regarding the current and impending process. We would appreciate a response to the following:
- Will the District solicit bids for the use of a demographer to draft the district area plans? If the District already has a demographer, was that consultant awarded the position after a competitive bidding process?
- Were any district area drafts proposed during the voting rights lawsuit? And if so, will any or all of those plans be used as the officially proposed plans to be disseminated publicly on October 6th?
- One criteria in the proposed resolution provides that the “pairing” of incumbents may be avoided as long as there are not legal conflicts in doing so. Is this particular criteria found in existing State or Federal statutory law?
And finally, to be clear, as teachers who serve this community and whose expertise spans a multitude of disciplines, it is our contention we are in a unique position of expertise and insight to bring public and institutional awareness as to the actions and public standing of this District. These new trustee districts do not belong to the trustees themselves or the Chancellor or the school. They are districts for the community.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here tonight.
President, College of the Canyons Faculty Association