Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thanks, Tom Fuentes: incestuous and Cronyistic South Orange County politics

     This video of a 2009 SOCCCD board meeting, featuring guest speaker Chriss Street (OC Treasurer), manifests the incestuous and cronyistic nature of South County (or, anyway, SOCCCD) politics.
     Treasurer Street is introduced by board president Don Wagner, who has long had his sights on the 70th AD seat—and who will later rely on board colleague (and former OC GOP chief) Tom Fuentes' advice and assistance in pursuit of that office (until the two have a nasty falling out later in the year). It is likely that Fuentes arranged to have his boy Street come and speak, thereby producing photo ops for his pals at the district.
     You can see Fuentes in the video. He's the scowling bald guy.
     Street is accompanied by his underling, Anna Bryson, who happens to sit on the notoriously anti-faculty Capistrano Unified School District Board—which gets both ideological and financial support from Education Alliance, a right-wing, anti-teachers union "back to basics" group (founded by Frank Ury, Mark Bucher and Jim Righeimer) on whose board Wagner sits. (EA's seed money was provided by Tom Fuentes' pal, Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who continues to support EA-affiliated school board members when he isn't pursuing his anti-gay and anti-evolution agenda.)

     Among the speakers here is trustee John Williams, who, no doubt with Fuentes' assistance, managed to become the OC Public Administrator/Guardian in 2003 (only to be blasted for inefficiency and cronyism by two scathing OC Grand Jury reports). Williams, as Public Administrator, immediately hired fellow-Republican and colleague Nancy Padberg, who can be seen here on the dais, along with Dave Lang, who is presently pursuing Street's office (with Fuentes' endorsement), now that Street lost that nasty Fruehauf lawsuit. No doubt the plan, at the time of this meeting, was to elect Lang to that office as soon as Street moved to some higher office. That's how Team Fuentes works.
     You can also spot SOCCCD Chancellor Raghu Mathur, for whom Fuentes recently attempted to finagle appointment as California's Secretary of Education (that was difficult, 'cause Arnold and Tom are enemies; the effort failed). Since Fuentes arrived on the board in 2000 (replacing resigning Holocaust denier and conspiracy nut Steve Frogue), Mathur has managed to get on all sorts of boards and commissions, including some unconnected to education, likely with the help of Fuentes. According to the district website,

At the national level, [Mathur] served on the American Association of Community Colleges Commission on Research, Technology and Emerging Trends. At the state level, he was appointed by the State Chancellor's Office to the Technology and Telecommunications Advisory Council. At the regional level, he is a member of the Orange County Workforce Investment Board and Orange County Treasury Oversight Committee. He was appointed for two years in a row to serve as Chair of the Orange County Business Council's Community College Working Group.

     On and on it goes. Fuentes is like an evil spider, weaving a web of slime, ever larger and stickier and more appalling.
     In this video: in his effort to block a raise for the faculty--he says they have 35-hour work weeks and get paid too much--Fuentes invited OC Treasurer Street to paint a gloomy picture of future tax revenues, upon which the SOCCCD depends.
    Wagner, Fuentes and other board members love to crow that the SOCCCD has raised no taxes through bonds. That's true, but because of the unusual amount of tax money diverted to the district owing to its reliance on local property taxes (this peculiar funding arrangement is called "basic aid"), the district has been swimming in dough (aka tax money) for years and thus has had no need to seek bonds.
     Wagner and his colleagues heroically refrained from seeking extra tax money through bonds in the way that a guy sitting on a sand dune heroically refrains from acquiring extra sand. Big freakin' deal.
     In the Fuentesphere, that sand guy gets a ceremony and a prize and then is paraded around as Mr. GOP "Hometown Hero."

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