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6 Set Sights on 2 Community College District Board Seats

Education: The candidates, running at a time when two-year schools are trying to attract more money, support bond.

April 01, 2001|ZANTO PEABODY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Six candidates for two contested seats on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees agree that voters should approve a $1.2-billion bond package to patch up and modernize the nine campuses. But they part ways on what should be done next.

Among the politically connected candidates vying for a chance to run the sprawling system is the son of a congressman, a field representative for a councilman, the chief of staff for a state senator and a television producer active in West Hollywood politics.

Trustee Kelly Candaele of Los Angeles, whose first term ends this year, is running unopposed in the April 10 election.

The two new trustees will join the district at a time when two-year colleges statewide are trying to attract more money and local leadership is beginning to gain momentum under Chancellor Marshall "Mark" Drummond, who took office in 1999.

Three colleges have presidents hired within the past two years--Adriana Barrera at Mission College in Sylmar, Darroch "Rocky" Young at Pierce College in Woodland Hills and Linda Spink, sworn in March 23 at Harbor College in Wilmington.

When trustee Althea Baker announced she would retire from the board, she opened a race for Office 6, one of seven at-large positions on the board.

The four candidates running for the $24,000-a-year part-time job said they would bring fresh ideas on financial management and a tougher curriculum to the nation's largest community college district.

"I want to see the community college district become the model it should be, considering its size," said Nancy Pearlman, 53, of Los Angeles. Pearlman, a part-time instructor, ran unsuccessfully for the board in 1995, 1997 and 1999.

"I want to put a new voice on a board that has voted with the unions on everything for at least the past 10 years," Pearlman said.

Other candidates in the race are National University professor Deborah Le Blanc of Los Angeles, Samuel "Joey" Hill, chief of staff to state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), and TV producer Mark Gonzaga, all of whom have held political appointments but no elected positions.

All four candidates criticized the district's financial management, specifically the 1998 sale of an office building at 4050 Wilshire Blvd. for $5.9 million. The district lost $6.6 million on the sale plus another $20 million in bonds sold to pay for the building that it never occupied. The district bought the building in 1990 but moved its administrative offices to 7th Street in 1993.

Le Blanc, a public administration professor, said, "For almost $600 million a year, we should be providing a better educational service. The key is we need the bond to finish building out the campuses and to build transfer centers at each campus. That's what's going to help with our transfer rate that's so incredibly low it's embarrassing."

Mervyn Dymally, the state's community college liaison to the Legislature, urged Le Blanc, 42, who is African American, to run for the position.

Baker was the lone African American on the seven-member board, and Dymally and other members of the community said they would like to see another black candidate replace Baker.

Hill, 43, an African American vying for Office 6, said while the nonpartisan board represents all areas of Los Angeles, the board needs someone specifically interested in African American students.

"My No. 1 goal is to increase outreach and bring an infusion of inner-city kids onto the nine campuses," said Hill, who as a legislative consultant helped draft a bill establishing performance standards for community colleges.

Self-employed investor and cable talk show producer Gonzaga, 40, of West Hollywood, said community colleges can help ease racial tensions in the city. Gonzaga uses his cable show, "California Politics," as a forum for local educational issues and related topics, he said.

"If people make a livable salary, [one] they can live decently with, they will get along better with each other," he said. "They can get the basic skills to get better wages at the community colleges."

In the race for Office 2, Michael Waxman, son of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), is running against Dan Rosales Jr., field deputy for City Councilman Alex Padilla. Rosales comes from a family of five community college graduates. He earned an associate's degree from Mission College in 1983, when classes were being held in storefronts.

"Strengthen families, that's what these nine colleges do," said Rosales, 38, of San Fernando. "It was the inspiration of teachers in these schools that led me to become an activist and to go on to a four-year college. I have looked at the district through the eyes of a student."

Rosales said district enrollment would be higher if more Los Angeles residents knew about the campuses' success stories. With about 110,000 students, citywide enrollment is on an upswing after slipping throughout the 1990s.

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