Depending on which side was providing the analysis, Tuesday night's defeat of a ballot measure to recall Bonita school board member Robert Green was either a triumph of democracy or a sad manifestation of voter apathy.
With about 11% of the registered voters in La Verne and San Dimas turning out, 1,397, or 45.6%, voted in favor of Green's recall, while 1,666, or 54.4%, chose to keep him in office.
Green, who has said he was targeted for recall because of his tough stance during contract negotiations with teachers last year, credited the outcome to an intensive campaign of mailings and phone calls he has conducted in recent weeks.
"I tried to tell my side of the story, and I was trying to tell people the reasons for the recall," Green said. "I said: 'Look, you elected me on the following platform, and I have carried out that platform, and therefore I don't see any reason for a recall.' "
Mel Hawkins, co-chairman of the recall committee, which collected 5,663 signatures last summer to place the measure on the ballot, was seething after election results were announced Tuesday night. Hawkins, a math teacher at Bonita High School, blamed the measure's defeat on low voter turnout, particularly among parents.
'Sat on Their Hands'
"I cannot believe that the parents . . . sat on their hands and did not vote 'yes' on the recall of Robert Green," he said. "I'm very bitter. This man, in my opinion, has been a detriment to the education of the children of the Bonita (Unified) School District--large class sizes, low salaries, less than quality programs and a very repressive attitude and leadership."
Voters who favored Green's recall were also able to vote for his potential successor. William King, a financial administrator with General Dynamics who was endorsed by the recall committee and the teachers association, received 1,429 votes, or 64.2%. Arthur Lopez, who teaches at an elementary school in Azusa, received 796 votes, or 35.8%.
The effort to recall Green was born last March amid the turmoil of bitter contract negotiations between the district and the Bonita Unified Teachers Assn. Green, warning that the district was on the brink of bankruptcy, took a hard line against the teachers' wage demands.
With negotiations at an impasse, the teachers staged a one-day strike, and many parents later expressed sympathy by keeping their children out of school for a day. After two months of dispute, the two sides agreed on a pact with a 6% wage increase in May, but tensions remained high.
In November, voters replaced board incumbents Sue Moran and Roger Campbell with Biff Green and Robert Watanabe--both of whom had been endorsed by the teachers association--and Sharon Scott, who had helped organize the student boycott.
But on Tuesday, voters rejected the endorsement of the teachers association, which had urged a "yes" vote on the recall. Green said the recall was basically a union-sponsored proposition.
"I think if the teachers association had not gotten involved (in the recall), it never would have gotten out of the starting gate," Green said. "They were behind this to keep the labor dispute in the papers. Recalls make good press."
Hawkins charged that Green helped stave off the recall by spreading misinformation about recall proponents in a last-minute mailing. But he said non-voting parents were the main culprits in the measure's failure. Hawkins said he canvassed precincts Tuesday evening and was told by poll workers that many more senior citizens were voting than parents.
"The parents stayed home," Hawkins said. "Apparently, the parents just don't care about the schools. They're satisfied with mediocrity. . . . They get what they deserve, and they're getting Robert Green. They can have him."
But Green said voters in the district rejected the recall because they have had enough of dispute and discord.
"I think a lot of people were just fed up," Green said.
Although Green and recall proponents kept the acrimony strong by trading allegations of impropriety last week, the board member prided himself on running a clean campaign.
"I tried to take the high road, be positive and not get mad," Green said. "And I think that's why I won."
ELECTION RESULTSBonita Unified School District
21 of 21 precincts FINAL
Should Robert Green be removed from the School Board?
Vote % No 1,666 54.4 Yes 1,397 45.6
Candidates to succeed Robert Green if he is recalled.
Vote % William T. King 1,429 64.2 Arthur Lopez 796 35.8