The Los Angeles Community College District is composed of nine schools: East L.A. College, L.A. City College, Harbor College, Mission College, Pierce College, Southwest College, Trade-Tech College, Valley College and West L.A. College. They are governed by a common board of trustees whose seven elected members serve staggered terms. Elected at large, the trustees represent neither individual colleges nor neighborhoods within the district. Each is elected by the entire district.
On April 11, voters will choose trustees for four board seats. In three of the four races, incumbents are facing challengers. These are: in Office No. 3, incumbent Julia L. Wu, running against Nancy Pearlman; in Office No. 5, incumbent Kenneth S. Washington against Don Brunet, and in Office No. 7, incumbent David Lopez-Lee against Robert Bowen and Casey Peters. In Office No. 1, there is currently no incumbent. Candidates are Frankie Curry, Reynaldo Garay, David Kessler, Gloria Romero, Richard Neil Shumsky and Amanda Susskind.
Trustees are paid $1,000 per month and attend two lengthy meetings per month. The better trustees spend a good deal of unpaid time between meetings on district-related work. The charge is often made that this relatively obscure office, for which a candidate may run with a small war chest, is for some no more than a steppingstone to higher office. Another frequent complaint is that the board attracts lawyers seeking business, teachers advancing the cause of their union or others with a narrow political or economic agenda.
No elective office can really be above politics. Nonetheless, politics in the harmful sense of the word might be kept in check and the best ideas of challengers as well as incumbents might be more effectively implemented if each of the nine district colleges had its own board of trustees, as is the case at such better-known community colleges as Santa Monica and Pasadena. The district arrangement has, from time to time, created inequities of funding distribution. More important, it has inhibited the formation of clear public identity for the several schools. People do not think of themselves as the alumni or alumnae of a district, and rare is the philanthropist who gives to a district.
For now, however, the district system continues under recently appointed Chancellor Neil Yoneji, and qualified trustees are essential to its operation. The Times, having endorsed Wu, Washington and Lopez-Lee in the past, endorses all three for reelection. But we urge those incumbents--and Chancellor Yoneji--to attend to the valid criticisms and common-sense suggestions of their challengers.
For Office No. 1, the Times makes no endorsement. In a race likely to end in a runoff, we find David Kessler, Gloria Romero and Amanda Susskind attractive and superior to the other three candidates.
Space precludes a detailed discussion of the candidates' particular qualifications or of district policies. One point, however, cannot be passed over in silence. By failing either to occupy or to sell a headquarters building for which it paid $12.5 million, the board has created a situation that cries out for resolution. The fullest public airing of past history and current options should be the first order of business when the new board convenes.