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SBCC Trustees Redistricting Bumps Out Long-Serving Incumbents

Board candidates/members must live within the area they represent and will no longer be elected under an at-large model

Last year, the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees voted to redistrict its voting area and get rid of the at-large election model. Trustees now must live within the area they represent, and the new boundaries bump out two long-serving incumbents.

Candidates must reside in and be registered to vote in the area they want to represent as a trustee. Now, each SBCC trustee represents one of seven geographic areas — instead of four — and is elected only by voters within that district, instead of at-large elections in the district that spans from Gaviota to Carpinteria.

Redistricting combined with the 2010 election’s ousting of long-serving incumbents will result in a board of new faces. As of Dec. 7 when the new terms start, the board’s most experienced members will be halfway through their first terms.

“This means the entire SBCC board will have no more than two years of experience each, which represents a major change from the prior SBCC board history of long-term service,” said Trustee Joan Livingston, who will be retiring after 19 years of service when her term ends in November. She lives in the newly drawn District 5, which will be held by Marsha Croninger until 2014.

Trustees with terms that expire first — including Livingston and Morris Jurkowitz — are the ones who leave office in the two cases where new districts have two people representing them, according to SBCC public information officer Joan Galvan.

District 1 is represented by board president Peter Haslund and Jurkowitz, whose term expires this year, and Haslund holds the seat until 2014. Since Jurkowitz lives in Montecito and Haslund in Carpinteria, one incumbent has no option for re-election this year.

“Morrie really has no choice to run anywhere else; that is where he lives,” Galvan said.

Haslund says he isn’t worried about the loss of institutional memory.

“It’s good to have new blood, fresh looks at how we do business,” he said. “I’m very confident in my colleagues’ ability to ask penetrating questions and make decisions on the basis of what is in the best interest of the college long-term.” 

Trustees say they made the change to get more proportionate Latino representation. The new boundaries created more evenly sized districts — each with a population of about 28,000 people — and to help avoid lawsuit vulnerability under the California Voting Rights Act, according to the college. 

The SBCC district’s population is 32 percent Latino, but only one trustee — Luis Villegas — is Latino, according to redistricting information packets. Villegas, who has served since 2003, has not filed papers to run again with the Santa Barbara County Elections Office as of the Aug. 15 deadline.

Haslund said there is a Latina candidate — Veronica Gallardo — being appointed in lieu of election, for the district that includes Santa Barbara’s downtown, Eastside and Westside.

The boundary maps available are still vaguely drawn, but the college is working on more detailed ones, according to Galvan.

Redistricting was brought up by the past board and former president Andreea Serban, Haslund said. The college contracted with Sacramento-based Redistricting Partners and the Community College League of California to do a study last summer, which recommended redistricting to avoid the possibility of facing some voting-related lawsuits.

SBCC’s board approved the group’s newly drawn map for districts in December, Haslund said, adding that the board didn’t want to draw the boundaries themselves and be accused of gerrymandering.

New district areas 2, 3 and 4 are up for election on Nov. 6.

Newcomers are unopposed for two of the seats and will be appointed in lieu for election. Marianne Kugler is a retired education administrator, instructor and SBCC Continuing Education student, and will be serving for District 2 (Goleta). She also served on the 16-person search committee for current SBCC Superintendent/President Lori Gaskin, who joined the campus July 1.

Local teacher Veronica Gallardo will be serving for District 3 (downtown, Eastside, Westside of Santa Barbara), an area created with Latino representation in mind, Haslund said.

District 4 has nonprofit board president Craig Nielsen going up against Brian Fay, a social services administrator for People Creating Success. This area covers parts of Santa Barbara and the unincorporated areas north of Goleta.

District 6 (Santa Barbara and Isla Vista) is represented by Lisa Mackler and District 7 (the Mesa area of Santa Barbara) is represented by Marty Blum, whose terms are up in 2014.

In 2008, Jurkowitz, Livingston and Villegas were elected without opposition, or even going to the ballot. Jurkowitz has served since 2003, and Livingston and Villegas have served as trustees since 1993.

Before the last election in 2010, a Citizens for SBCC group gathered support after upheaval from the Adult Ed program and changes in the parent-child workshops. Community support brought Blum, Croninger, Haslund and Mackler onto the board, unseating four incumbents in the process: Kay Alexander, who had served as trustee since 1965, Joe Dobbs, Sally Green and Desmond O’Neill.

After the new board majority was elected, trustees conducted reviews of Serban in closed session and placed her on paid administrative leave through June 30, 2012, the end of her contract. It was seen by many as follow-through on their election promise to clean house, and many people spoke on Serban’s behalf during public meetings. 

Controversy has surrounded the current board ever since, culminating with an Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges investigation that placed SBCC on warning status early this year, as a result of complaints about the board. The ACCJC report said the board didn’t follow its own policies, micromanaged school administrators and needs to better understand the Brown Act and its role in decision-making. 

SBCC has to submit a response by March 15, 2013, and show it corrected the deficiencies found in January’s report and implement some recommendations: be trained by outside experts on the appropriate roles of the board and superintendent, revise its code of ethics policy and “redirect its focus to creating an environment for empowerment, innovation and institutional excellence.”

Though Haslund says he isn’t worried about the loss of institutional memory, Livingston feels the opposite.

“Prior to 2010, SBCC had two of the longest-serving trustees in the entire state — Kay Alexander and Joe Dobbs,” she said. “The 2009 accreditation report highlighted the prior stability and longevity of the SBCC board as one of the key elements to its reputation for good governance.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

SBCC Redistricting

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