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College requirements

February 21, 2007

THE LOS ANGELES Community College District Board of Trustees has seven elected members, each of whom are elected at large and serve four-year terms. The four trustees in odd-numbered seats are up this year and will be on the ballots of all voters in the district, which is larger than the city of Los Angeles and the L.A. Unified School District but smaller than L.A. County.

The district educates more than 100,000 people at any given time, preparing them to transfer into four-year colleges and universities, training them for jobs in nursing and other key fields or enhancing their language and other basic skills. Our recommendations:

Seat No. 1: Sylvia Scott-Hayes

Seat No. 3: Mona Field

Seat No. 5: Georgia L. Mercer

Seat No. 7: Warren T. Furutani

The four trustees up for reelection on the March 6 ballot work so closely together that they are running as a virtual slate, telling voters in effect that their nine-college educational system is humming along smoothly enough that no changes are warranted at the top. Four challengers also are running informally as a slate, saying the current board is directionless on policy and offers poor oversight of a massive building program funded by two recent bond measures. There are also two challengers running independently.

The challengers argue that the board heads a closed system of insiders who shun scrutiny of their actions and enjoy the backing of the region's Democratic Party elite. The board, in fact, has been headed by Michael D. Waxman, son of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), although the younger Waxman has vacated his seat.

The voters' task would seem simple: Go with the machine or go with the fresh faces. This page would like to see more newcomers running for local office. But, in this case, the challengers fail to demonstrate that they have a better plan for running the district than do the incumbents. To be taken seriously, a candidate should know something about the budget of the agency he or she wishes to help run, and should offer something more concrete than a promise to check things out once they get into office.

The trustees have done a good job of setting policy -- a difficult task with so many competing missions and a dependence on state funding -- and of selecting competent leaders. They deserve reelection.

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