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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 3:48 pm | A Few Clouds 63º


Letter to the Editor: Solving the Mystery of SBCC Trustees’ Perpetual Incumbency

One of the great mysteries of the long incumbencies enjoyed by most members of the SBCC Board of Trustees is how they have been achieved. Here we have a group of individuals enjoying a remarkable sinecure for almost endless years without anyone even noticing — and elected positions at that!

A few nights ago at a trustee election forum, Dr. Kathryn Alexander commented that she believed the trustees should not be changed all at once but rather over time, one at a time. This type of transition, she reasoned, would allow the “wisdom of the current board” to be instilled in new trustees gradually. Strange, I thought, why hasn’t it ever happened?

There have been only a handful of contested elections during the past 40-some years, and never for four positions, yet the sinecure is really terrific.

First of all, most of the current trustees need to “work” less than five hours per month. Take a look at their favorite starting time for the bimonthly, two-hour meetings and the $200-per-meeting “salary” they earn: 4 p.m.! In addition, they pick up free college-paid medical insurance that can exceed $15,000 for a trustee with a family.

When a group of our hardworking yet not quite full-time instructors asked this board to let them join and pay for the college medical insurance plan, the trustees voted that request down quickly. “If they don’t work full time, they should have no such benefits,” was the unanimous reaction of this aging board.

So how have they been able to keep these sinecures so secret over all these years? Simple: They just have to reduce the probability of an election. In the unlikely event that a trustee decides to call it quits, he or she resigns during his or her term only to be replaced by a mutually agreed upon replacement. Thus the possibility of a vacancy never occurs and the public will never be the wiser for it. In the unlikely event that someone comes across the associated sinecure and wants to take a crack at it during an election period, he or she soon discovers that he or she will have to run against an incumbent — the very person the board decided would replace the retired trustee! Certainly not one in a thousand Santa Barbara area residents is aware of any such appointments.

Thus the mystery is easily explained: There are never vacancies, and if anyone discovers that an election might be held, he or she must run against an incumbent. But note the final insult to the Santa Barbara voter: If no one files to compete against an incumbent — the only type of trustee who would compete in an election during these past 40 years — that trustee area position never appears on the ballot. No write-ins may apply.

So, of course, the incumbents are now digging into their own pockets to fight the challengers.

If you had such a great deal, wouldn’t you want to keep it forever?

Philip Wyatt
Santa Barbara

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