Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 1967 board: the "immorality" of district membership in the School Boards Association


     CONSERVATIVE SLATE. It turns out that the SOCCCD got its start in life with a dollop of arguably inappropriate partisan politics. Essentially, local Repubs took an opportunity to pack the BOT.
     A Feb. 16, 1967, LA Times article (“Last-Minute Push Elects 5 in New JC District”) explains that all five of the men who received the most votes—and who were by that fact elected to the board—during the Feb 1967 special election were part of a slate endorsed by the “conservative” Committee to Elect Competent Trustees (CECT).
     The CECT, said the Times, engaged in “a last-minute, house-to-house distribution of a pamphlet in populous areas throughout the huge district.”
     Looks like it worked.
     Thirty-four people had filed petitions for candidacy by late December, 1966. (See LA Times, Dec. 31, 1966.)
     Among the 29 losing candidates were a chemist, a library administrator, a surgeon, a writer, a carpenter, an actor, and a woman (LA Times, Dec. 31, 1966).
     But those people never had a chance.
     The five anointed ones were:
Louis J. Zitnik: he’s described as a financial analyst for a stockbrokerage firm. He’d been on the Laguna Beach city council (1952-56). Did some teaching. 
Alyn M. Brannon: he’s described as the “owner of the friendly Quality Dairy in Tustin.” He was a past president of the OC Young Republicans. (Later in life, it appears, Mr. Brannon became a convicted tax-evader.)
Michael T. Collins: he’s described as an attorney with Kindel and Anderson in Santa Ana. Also involved in GOP politics. 
Hans Williams Vogel: he’s described as the “publisher-editor of the Orange County Republican Observer.” He was up to his red, white and blue eyeballs in the local GOP. 
Patrick John Backus: He’s described as a counselor in the Huntington Beach Union High School District and an unsuccessful candidate for the OC Board of Supervisors in 1966. (The "Coordinating Republican Assembly" had endorsed him for Supe.)
     Zitnik, the big vote-getter, claimed that he had not been consulted about his inclusion on the slate, though he did not “object” to the group’s support.
     Brannon, Collins, and Vogel, reported the Times, were members of the California Republican Assembly, but they denied that CECT was “promoted” by the CRA. (Among CECT's members were former OC GOP chairman Tom Rogers and other local Republican regulars.)

* * *
     THE SIX THOUSAND. You’ll be surprised to learn that only 27% of 45,000 eligible voters (in the south county area) voted.
     It gets worse (er, more surprising): “The final, unofficial tabulation of votes showed 6,280 favored forming the district and 3,027 opposed.”
     Wow. A meager six thousand voters brought about the SOCCCD!
     Of course, it wasn’t called that then; it was temporarily called the "South Coast Community College District." The district’s name ("Saddleback") would be decided during the board’s organizational meeting in March.
     Taxes? You bet!
     The district will go on the tax rolls July 1, 1968, with a 35-cent tax rate. Whether bonds will be sought or a pay-as-you-go plan will be adopted for construction purposes is one of the questions to be decided.
* * *
     ILLEGAL, IMMORAL, AND FATTENING. In the past, we've found indications—e.g., Vogel and company's peculiarly last-minute, protest-minded modifications of the design of Saddleback College's first building, the library—that the board often acted in a fashion that reflected its degree and kind of staunch and primitive "conservatism."
     Another example: naming the new library after a Republican Congressman (James Utt).
     Another case in point: according to an August 27, 1969, Times article (“Saddleback Trustees Quit Statewide Group”), the board acted to “resign” from the California School Boards Association (CSBA).
     How come? Well, the trustees “questioned the ‘legality and morality’ of using taxpayer money for membership in this "private" group. 
     Commies, I guess. Maybe they had pink erasers at the ends of their #2 pencils.
     Evidently, Mr. Vogel led the charge, and got unanimous support from the other trustees in attendance. Further, the trustees
adopted a resolution asking that the Legislature and the governor “make a full investigation of the legality and morality of using tax monies to further the interests of a private corporation which is controlled by an unrepresentative and small group of individuals which is not responsible or responsive to the electorate which must supply the tax monies.”
     I wonder if the Legislature responded to our heroes' request? Doubt it. This sort of thing, of course, explains Orange County's enduring reputation as a haven for and generator of right-wing loons.
     You’ll recall that, several years ago, then-trustee (and right-wing loon) Don Wagner acted to cease our Libraries’ membership in the American Library Association—essentially, on the same grounds (see video below). Don didn't like the ALA's stance on the Patriot Act and such.
     At the time, he was supported by a majority of trustees. The decision has not been reversed.
     In the 1969 article, the Times noted that
     Virtually every Orange County school board of trustees belongs to the statewide organization [CSBA] which operates on a voluntary basis. The organization is authorized by state legislation to enable a district to utilize tax funds for membership.
     I’ve been unable to determine whether our district is currently a member of the CSBA. However, a perusal of old agendas shows that it is a member of the Orange County School Boards Association, which is affiliated with the CSBA (see here).

* * *
     For more about the inaugural board of trustees, see
• Charter trustees: the curious Mr. Alyn Brannon 
• Did right-wing loons establish the SOCCCD? 
• A weird windowless library, alleged marauding flag-swiping Hippies, the protean name, and other district mysteries—Solved!

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