Monday, June 25, 2012

Predictably, Mickadeit attacks the BOT

     Wow. It didn’t take long for Fuentes admirer Frank Mickadeit to attack the board (and me?!) for its decision tonight to appoint retiring administrator Jim Wright as the late Tom Fuentes’ replacement on the board: Fuentes' family stung by college board.
     Mickadeit asserts that the board’s deciding, three days after Tom’s death, to proceed with the process of replacing him, was a “stunning affront”:
Tom Fuentes had been dead just 72 hours before the long-fractured community college board on which he sat decided to appoint a replacement. ¶ It seemed like a rather stunning affront to the Fuentes family.
     Was that an affront? The board needed to make a decision whether to appoint or not. They made that decision that night. The only alternative available to the board would have been to schedule a special meeting at a later date—or to wait until next month’s meeting. As trustee Prendergast pointed out (at last month’s meeting), the board was already assembled; why not make that decision now?
     Please note that, during the May meeting, the board did not decide on Tom’s replacement. No, they decided to pursue a replacement. The charge that the board “decided to replace Tom only thee days after his death” sounds appalling only if one erroneously supposes that they replaced Tom that night. They didn’t. (In philosophers' lingo, Team Fuentes was committing the fallacy of equivocation.)
     Some would say that it should have been obvious to the trustees that the right decision was to leave the question of Fuentes’ replacement to the voters in November.
     But we live in a political world—a world in which people play hardball and exploit advantages when they have them. That’s certainly how the game of politics was played by Mr. Fuentes. I have no idea what went on in Nancy Padberg’s mind at the May meeting (I haven't communicated with her; I have made no inquiries about her reflections), but it seem to me that, if the board had decided to take no action and to leave the matter of replacing Tom to the November election, that would almost guarantee the election of someone like Jolene Fuentes, should she choose to run. How do you compete with the noble widow, determined to carry her husband’s torch? –And in a heavily Republican area in which the name "Fuentes" means "Republican"?
     (And let’s face it: there are plenty of reasonable people who will tell you that Tom Fuentes was the worst thing that ever happened to this board. The man played hardball, and fairness was not among his concerns. I respect any fear a trustee might have that the presence of another Fuentes on the board would be a return to that kind of ugly and divisive hardball.)
     It is true, of course, that any appointee will also acquire the “incumbent” advantage. But the selection of the appointee can be made fairly, honestly, objectively. Even though I believe that Mrs. Fuentes did an admirable job tonight making her case for her application, I cannot see how any reasonable person could judge her to be the superior candidate when compared to James Wright. He has had tremendous experience in the community college system. She’s had virtually none.
     Near as I can figure, today, the board made the only reasonable decision, faced with these two candidates.
     Mickadeit clouds the issue with his talk of the “anguish” of TJ and Jolene. He does not object, he says, to the choice the board made; rather, “it was the manner in which the board went about it, and the dismissive, disrespectful way it treated Jolene Fuentes and her and Tom’s odest son, T.J., both of whom expressed their anguish to the board on Monday only to receive stone-cold silence or indifference from the majority.”
     Both Jolene and TJ expressed the view, a respectable one, that the question of Tom’s replacement ought to be left to voters. Does anyone really suppose that they are “anguished” that others might suppose otherwise? Does Jolene suppose that, since she was Tom’s wife (and TJ was Tom’s son), ipso facto their preference in this matter ought to be honored? That would be an absurd position.
     Mickadeit launches into some revisionist history:
The board on which Tom Fuentes was elected to serve 12 years ago was almost completely dominated by trustees whom Fuentes believed catered to the faculty union.
     Really? The board that Tom joined in 2000 included Don Wagner and Nancy Padberg, two arch-conservatives with a record of expressed hostility to unions. It also included John Williams, the fellow that Tom supported to the bitter end in his efforts to become (and to keep the position of) OC Public Administrator/Guardian. (Admittedly, Williams did actively court the union.) And it included Dave Lang, who has never been viewed positively by the faculty union. Does that sound like a board "almost completely dominated" by trustees who catered to the faculty union? In truth, the only trustees who could be described as pro-faculty (in 2000) were Marcia Milchiker and perhaps Williams, two Republicans.
     According to Mickadeit’s clueless revisionism,
Fuentes and a few other conservatives he helped get elected [who would they be?] believed the faculty was generally paid enough, and tried to divert more revenue to other areas. ¶ This ignited a war between the conservative wing of the board and the faculty-backed wing, a war that has ebbed and flowed over the years but has never disappeared.
El Toro Rd. c. 1970
     Who exactly comprised this so-called “faculty-backed” wing of the board? For many years, what the faculty wanted more than anything was the firing of the odious Raghu Mathur, Chancellor. And the board didn’t get around to doing that until Mathur finally pissed off Don Wagner one too many times back in 2009 (or thereabouts). The faculty finally got what it wanted, but only because Wagner could not abide Mathur. As usual, the faculty’s wishes had little to do with the board’s actions.
     Those who have observed the board over the years understand, of course, that a war between two factions did indeed ignite at one point. It was quite dramatic. It was ignited by Don Wagner’s refusal to continue to support Raghu Mathur as chancellor. That "war" had nothing to do with faculty salaries.
     According to Mickadeit’s revisionism, I am an activist in support of the pro-faculty—high salariesposition. In fact, I have never advocated higher salaries, despite fifteen years of writing Dissent (my old newsletter) and Dissent the Blog. I have, however, been attacked for my failure to put “faculty salaries” on my list of issues.
* * *
     I’ve gotta go. More, I suppose, tomorrow.

P.S.: check out the comments to Mickadeit's column

11 comments:

  1. If I remember correctly, I believe that others have been appointed to this Board when those already seated could not complete their term. Was Fuentes or others in the arch-conservative wing ever part of those appointments? That would seem to fly in the face of his family's assurances that waiting until November was "what Tom would want".

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  2. The Fuentes family tried hard to hang onto the throne! Sorry guys. This is not a dynasty.

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  3. Fuentes was instrumental in the appointment of a Norby - who was later recalled or something.

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  4. Again, Fuentes railed against nepotism. You'd think his family (and his apologists) would respect his obsessions.

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  5. Hi Roy -- I'm curious but Mickadeit says you published old rumors about Fuentes without documenting a single fact. This seems to be counter to your regular workn of going overboard to documentstuff you write about. Can you address this in a post please?

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  6. 1) During Fuentes's recent illness he attended very few board meetings. Though an election is coming up, the board members may have they've been without their full number for long enough already.

    2)I disagree about how well known the Fuentes name is. If I walk into my neighborhood grocery store and ask 50 people if they know who Tom Fuentes was, it's possible *one* will recognize the name. But I doubt it.

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  7. Wow - sounds like Frank M. is asking you to step outside Roy.

    Good job.

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  8. Glad to see Frank Mickadeit and the Register taking an interest in higher ed issues - ha ha ha.



    PS: 7:54: I don't think I want anybody to respect Fuentes' obsessions!

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  9. Tom Fuentes origins with the Board were through an appointment. Talk about hypocrisy, these people can't make up their minds about nepotism, fairness, or anything else for that matter.

    Throw in the fact that not a single voice from the GOP leadership has been heard from on how the SOCCCD
    has handled this, and you can see exactly where Fuentes' legacy resides these days.

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  10. Good point!

    Fuentes himself was the appointee who replaced Steve Frogue. As someone quipped - the board replaced Frogue with the only person in Orange County more controversial than him.

    They seemed to have really examined the qualifications this time and moved away from the kind of politicization that Tom Fuentes brought to the board.

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  11. The indignance of the Fuentes family is laughable. Fuentes stopped attending board meetings months ago, and yet the board continued to vote to pay him his monthly meeting stipend as a courtesy. Everyone knew his was terminal. As sad as it is to lose a family member, the business of the world continues. How arrogant to think it should stop for some false sense of propriety.

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