Thereâ€™s good news for county taxpayer advocates: Cue the midgets and roll out the yellow brick roadâ€”it appears Cuestaâ€™s plans of hastily plunking a Measure G redux on the Nov. 7 ballot are effectively dead. Ding, dong, and all of that.
- PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
- ED AND EDUCATION : A straight-faced Ed Maduli listened while a local resident called for his resignation in light of Measure Gâ€™s failure. The Board of Trustees has held numerous closed-session meetings over the past two weeks to conduct an annual evaluation of the Cuesta College vice presidentâ€”and President Marie Rosenwasserâ€”all of which led to speculation of a looming change in the collegeâ€™s administration.
Outspoken opponent and retired businessman Al Brill went so far as to ask for the resignation of President Marie Rosenwasser and Vice President Ed Maduli. Brill accused the duo of misleading the board in a February discussion over public acceptance of the amount. The Arroyo Grande resident stated that he believed the administration deliberately cast a rosy hue on a winter town hall series that ultimately sent the board down the primrose path.
â€œYou disrespected every taxpayer in that room,â€? Brill said at one such meeting in the south county. â€œThis has damaged the collegeâ€™s credibility beyond repair.â€?
Indeed, the minutes indicated that Rosenwasser testified to a perceived widespread community acceptance of the full bond amount at the Feb. 16 special meeting of the board. That meeting also featured a cavalcade of high-profile supporters of the $310 million figureâ€”as opposed to the previously tested $200 millionâ€”including County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian and County Superintendent Julian Crocker.
Board Vice President Pat Mullen, who filled Sam Blakesleeâ€™s spot when the assemblyman left to take office, maintained that the Board wasnâ€™t deceived. Mullen said that he attended the workshop in Paso Robles and personally witnessed a healthy mix of concern and appreciation regarding the bond figure.
Mullen did, however, indicate a reticence to place the measure back on the ballot in November in light of the testimony given at the most recent open-session board meeting. He commented that the July 26 application and Aug. 11 filing deadlines for a new bond would leave far too little time to adequately assess all factors that led to Measure Gâ€™s demise.
And they were numerous.
Campaign organizer William Berry attributed the failureâ€”indeed, the statewide failure of 38 percent of school bond measures in that electionâ€”to certain unforeseen sociopolitical winds. According to the campaign expert, polls conducted late in 2005 by his agency showed almost two-thirds support for the $310 million figureâ€”numbers additionally hampered by an excess sampling of Republicans.
Berry pointed to a low turnoutâ€”sparked by an overwhelmingly negative Democratic primary raceâ€”and an abundance of bond packages in recent years as factors in Measure Gâ€™s defeat.
In a more regional evaluation, locals added their concerns over plans to build a south county campus so close to Santa Barbara Countyâ€™s neighboring Allan Hancock College, the administrationâ€™s unwillingness to explore less-expensive construction options, and the notion of taking out a 30-year bond for technology that will prove obsolete in less than a decade. One north county resident even placed the blame for Paso Roblesâ€™ failed school-improvement bond on Measure G, while other folks suggested that a replay attempt might endanger other November efforts.
San Luis Obispo mayor Dave Romero and Grover Beach mayor Larry Versaw both voiced concern regarding the welfare of the sales tax bumps that virtually every major SLO County municipality plans to lay out over the next few months.
â€œItâ€™s your decision,â€? Romero told the Board. â€œBut rememberâ€”it affects us all.â€?
The most compelling indictment came from Cuesta educators who felt that their input in the overall process was relegated to the hinterlands, if not flagrantly ignored. Lecturer Marilyn Rossa bashed the board for the oversight and argued that forcing another measure with most teachers on summer leave would this time totally exempt the testimony of a core group of stakeholders.
â€œThis bond bombed because of economic factors known in February, but it seems like business as usual tonight,â€? she railed. â€œTake two yearsâ€”do it right this time.â€?
By adjournment, board member Gaye Galvan called for another meeting to discuss the possibility of a lesser bond, but the board appeared less than enthused.
â€œWe are in dire need,â€? said Cuesta College Foundation director June Stephens. â€œTo wait two years, when we have buildings crumbling, is depressing to me, and I think it affects the morale.â€?
Even a lesser effort would require another campaign, and, after the June 6 flop, those funds will prove harder to come by. A breakdown of the contributions to the last fundâ€”a public document available through the county clerkâ€”shows several campus administrative bodies, several more individual administrators, and a few building contractors on the list. But the largest contribution, which accounted for roughly $104,000, came from the general fund of the Cuesta College Foundation, a body for which Board Vice President Maduli is treasurer.
â€œThe whole thing is very incestuous,â€? Brill remarked.
Officials with the Foundation said that itâ€™s not unusual for a college administrator to serve as a liaison to its nonprofit arm.
A few donors to the foundation voiced their displeasure at the apparent flow of unrestricted funds toward a political campaign rather than educational resources.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t anybodyâ€™s gift,â€? Stephens said.
She explained that the organization consulted its lawyers before offering the moneyâ€”to avoid a tax-exemption-related legal snafuâ€”and that every cent of the contribution came from interest accrued through Foundation investments.
One six-figure benefactor was rumored to plan to take the podium, but didnâ€™t appear. She told New Times that she meant to speak at a different meeting. âˆ†
Staff Writer Patrick M. Klemz can be reached at pklemz@