Monday, March 28, 2011

The March meeting of the SOCCCD board of trustees: Merlin the Magician?

In the Reagan meeting room.
     6:30 I've set this post to appear at exactly 6:30 p.m., the scheduled start time of tonight's meeting of the SOCCCD board of trustees. Naturally, the meeting won't start then, but I'll likely be in the room, staring at the walls, feeling like Buster Keaton (with the rock 'n' string).
     Did you know that the district feeds the trustees during these monthly meetings? You betcha. Meat and cheese and such. On skewers maybe. With tiny flame-throwers and pseudo-napalm made of lard.
     6:31 - "The lawyers" just left the closed session. Couldn't read 'em. Grim, I think. But with lawyers, you never know.
     The room is slowly filling up. It's still light outside--I'm feelin' summer comin' on! A festive orange-and-blue gift basket (or some such thing) awaits each trustee. Don't know what that's about. Right about now, trustees are lappin' up milk 'n' cookies 'n' luncheon meat.
     6:42 - I checked those "gift baskets." Turns out they're just an IVC mug with an IVC T-shirt and chocolate stuffed into it, sittin' on a delightful bed of fake, orange confetti-substitute. Plus a blue ribbon. Wrapped in cellophane, natch.
     6:52 - Still got nothin'. I'm feeling that my life is ticking away. The outdoors calls to me....
     Yeah, it's great outside; nice California sundown. Kids are out there talkin' about surfing, of all things. I spotted Dante, the whizzbang financial guy, wearing a nice (albeit rumpled) suit. He's talkin' finance or business with Brandye and some other suit. It's 7:00 and nothing's happening. The room stopped filling up. It's still pretty much a skeleton crew.

Heaven forfend!
     7:11 - THE MEETING BEGINS. The trustees are emerging. I see Meldau, Fuentes, Prendergast, Jay, Padberg. Don't see Milchiker or Lang (yet). Ah, yes, Lang has appeared. Still no Milchiker. Padberg and Poertner have disappeared. Some trustees have examined their Cellophane Giftage. They seem unimpressed.
     7:18 - Still no Milchiker. Nancy is grabbin' her gift crap. She filed it below immediately.
She knows crap when she sees it. Poertner is more polite, pretending to admire the T-shirt and mug within.

     7:19 - Marcia Milchiker just arrived. They are starting the meeting!
     Milchiker reading out actions:

(1) An announcement re some litigation. I don't know what that is.
(2) 7-0 approved unpaid benfits for somebody taking leave.
Those are the only actions in closed session that she can "read out," Milchiker says.

     Bill Jay: moment of silence for Japanese victimsd of tsunami. 5.9, 6.3 pulled

Room of magic

2.4 SOCCCD: Facilities Corporation 2011 of the South Orange County Community College District, Initial Organizational Meeting (I believe this concerns ATEP and the financial scheme discussed at recent meetings)
     Fuentes speaks: mentions effort to end redevelopment agencies in Cal. "And here we are" going along with redevelopment! Continuing to grow government and to spend. I believe this is wrong. At this time, we should be moving on a "pay as we go" basis. This is unwise, ill-timed. Will be projected to the people--why are we doing this when we are asking the people of CA to pull in their belts? Why do we have this approach of privilege? I don't think that ATEP should be approached except if we can afford to do it, on our basis, our time frame, not motivated by "outside forces"; not being told the speed in which we need to do it. Should have the taxpayer in mind. It is my intent to be with the times, and to vote "no."
     They vote: all yes, with Fuentes "no." Fuentes continues to vote "no" on particulars. All others vote "yes."

Reconvening the board meeting (ending facilities corporation meeting).

No public comments or resolutions.

Board reports:

Bill Jay: no report
Frank Meldau: no report
Marcia Milchiker: blah, blah, blah. Attended workshop for new trustees with Meldau and Prendergast. Up at the capital, they met with Assemblyman Don Wagner and others on higher ed committee. Lobbied for CC's.
TJ Prendergast: thanks IVC for "our basket." Holds it in the air.
Nancy Padberg: no report.
Tom Fuentes: no report.
Dave Lang: no report.
Student trustee Shieh: no report

Chancellor Gary Poertner's report: We're about to begin discussions that are important. Brandye D'Lena will present. We all saw the bond program problems in LA. Will we have the same problems? Asked Brandye to go over that matter. Another topic: 20-20 Vision/Student Success. Have to do something to improve # of graduates/certif holders we produce. We have a goal of 1 million more by 2020, and that's a big order. Bramucci will present about that. With regard to ATEP, will hear from David Bugay about New Market Tax Credits. Answering questions raised by Trustee Tom Fuentes: how will this look when we're done? Are we in debt? Not? Randy Peebles will report on a number of issues that require decisions soon (about ATEP). Describing where we've been; where we are now; where we could go. In April or May, the colleges will present their visions of what they'd like to do at ATEP. We need to set priorities. What will we offer at ATEP? The proposed programs involve 300,00 s.f. Must prioritize, since we'll have much less space in the short term at least. We've been talking about "ground leases" to generate funds. Partnering with other agencies? Should we go beyond public universities? Private? For-profit? Religiously affiliated? Need guidance about this. Finally: what kinds of corporate partners we might entertain for ground leases.

1. Discussion item: Brandye D: "Protective Measures Relative to Construction Complexities": LACCD scandals re construction program. "All construction is fraught with danger." The LACCD projects far exceed the scope of our projects.

     Program management assigned to consultants -- frivolous spending ($6 billion). This was put into the hands of only two employees. Compare that with SDCCD project ($64 million), much smaller, with ten employees. Our project smaller still, four employees ($30 million). Very hands on. LACCD moral: Joked about the goodness of micromanagement.
     In general, Brandye seemed to have lots of reassuring things to say. I won't bore you with the details. Lots of gremlins in her slide presentation, but she seemed unflustered.
     From now on, if there is an atypical situation, you'll be informed (special consultants), says Brandye.
     Poor planning at LACCD resulted in waste. Presidents had freedom to change things, stopped projects. But SOCCCD has stayed the course. We're developing our master plan now.
     At SOCCCD, we pay as we go. Not as vulnerable to future costs. Discussed shoddy construction. The case of the science building: problems with plumbing in LA. Our recently built science building at IVC also had air-flow issues. But our project was much smaller. Science projects coming up at Saddleback. Some of the same people are working on these new projects and understand our construction issues, etc.
     Lots of measures in place; very hands-on. Construction projects are "infinitesimally" opportunities for problems. Can't avoid that. But we're prepared.
     Brandye made a strong statement about "ethics" in construction. No funny business going on here.
     We've improved transparency and accountability. "Plan your work, work your plan." You trustees keep us accountable, as do Presidents.

Fuentes: asserts that he is reassured by all this. Says there is a "great tradition" of communities that we serve--Irvine, Mission Viejo, San Juan C, etc.--ranches, agriculture, adobe and red tile architecture, mission. These things reflect who we are in a tangible way. Are those things considered in all this construction? These buildings all seem so "modern" or "post-modern."

     Brandye wanted to let Fuentes know that people have access to meetings. But Fuentes pressed the point: elements in our community, historical organizations--we should get these "experts" involved with their artistic, cultural knowledge.
     Brandye said she is unfamiliar with these organizations, but she will research them. Agreed that it was a good idea.

The eternally incipient ATEP
Meldau: compares San Diego (ten employees) and us (two). Brandye: we're very hands-on. We go to all meetings. If we were to expand our projects, we would indeed need help, but we seem to be doing fine right now. Meldau notes that, in LA, there wasn't sufficient oversight. Brandye had already agreed (in back-and-forth with Marcia) that there will be many updates. Brandye was very reassuring. Poertner: addresses and corrects some concerns.

2. Advanced Technology & Education Park (ATEP) Planning and Development

     VC Randy Peebles: some history. Showed slides. Briefly describes activities re ATEP since 2004. We've been very active in last 9 months. Describes phases, including demolition, which has much improved the property. Career Technical Education is the focus at ATEP. Discusses Career Technical Education (CTE). Pretty rambling, dry, unexciting.
     Describes "progress" since 2007. Blah, blah, blah.... What we'll need to do to become a "center."
     Discusses "building 1." 30K s.f. One college? Two? Mix of programs? All CTE?
     Future partners: the possibility of "ground leases." Similar to what we're doing with apartment complex at Saddleback. Discusses a draft of "desirable criteria." Need direction from the board.
     Building at ATEP brought to halt a year ago by lack of agreement on programs. This continues (?).
   Key questions: Who will be at ATEP? IVC? Saddleback? Combo? Other key questions.

3. SOCCCD:  2020 Vision Report

     VC Bob Bramucci: brief introduction to national and state effort that will be a regular companion for the next 9 years. Blah, blah, blah. America's position re other nations is in decline with regard to education. Falling behind. Current generation may well be less educated than parents. Only 12% of initial group of 3rd grade students get college degrees, etc.
     Grim statistics. On the other hand, all entities are pulling together in same direction. 20-20, etc.
     Compares CA to Texas, New York, Fl, etc. We will be a huge part of the effort.
     CA's goal by 2020. A million more graduates.
     Bramucci is a good speaker. But his message was spooky. Hard to see how we'll accomplish in the state what we "need" to accomplish. Discussed diversity issues.

Fuentes to Dante: "Merlin"
4. SOCCCD:  New Market Tax Credit Report (Merlin the Magician)

     Last report: by VC David Bugay: positive murmurings. Has fun with the word "alocatees."
     Will there be debt? "Yes and no." District will loan money to corporation. Blah, blah, blah. A complex transaction. Five entities involved. Bugay does pretty well explaining the stuff, considering. Fees. Loans. Leverage. Buckets of money.
     I am now lapsing into a coma. Such pretty colors....
     ....Um, I can see Fuentes' face. He's concentrating. Grimacing. Lang yawns the biggest yawn ever yawned....
     Fuentes: 5.5 million in transaction costs: could you define? Dante comes up to explain. Conservative estimate of cost. Fuentes stares. Did you know that Dante is an opera singer? I see colorful lights....
     Endless murmurings about consultants and "alocatees"....
     Fuentes: transparent you say? How transparent? What we're used to?
     Dante: more murmurings... Fuentes grimaces, but that means nothing (beyond the room bathed in ugliness).
     Fuentes: I see you as Merlin. I learned long ago that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Nobody up here understands the magician's act you are selling us. Dante: I'm not selling you anything. Fuentes: you have been from the beginning....
     Blah, blah, blah .... Bugay describes attorney involvement, review. Lang: will there be a separate legal opinion in connection with this transaction? Dante: yes. Murmur, murmur.... Complicated scenario of opining by lawyers....
     Fuentes: might we turn to the Chancellor? I continue to have concerns. A redevelopment agency. A move afoot to do away with them in the state. Gary, can we obtain an opinion for us if we have anything to be concerned about. Gary: be pleased to do that.
     Fuentes: 64 days. Clock starts ticking. Full disclosure of participants. Find out who the investors are. Due diligence necessary. Bugay: we will be transparent. All parties will be identified. Will see who the participants are. You will be able to investigate. The board "owns this transaction."

(5.9 was pulled earlier.) Consent calendar. 5.13 separate, Milchiker. Lang: 5.6 and 5.8. They vote. Unanimous.

5.6. Award of bid, grant. Lang had questions about sustainability of program. Blah, blah, blah.

5.8. Community education at the colleges this summer. Lang: Honoraria set hourly fee, bonus. Blah, blah, blah. Burnett: no course goes forward unless it is economically feasible.

Once were cats
6.1. bam.
. . .
     It's now 9:04 and the board is powering through most of the rest of the agenda. Some confusion about something that was passed (6.4?) but should have been pulled. Tedium and annoyance fill the room. Everybody wants out of here by 9:30. They have to withdraw a vote. (I don't think I've ever seen that.) Now they're talking about "lease back services." Fuentes: thought this was being pulled, so did not speak to it. But I have serious problems with this, he says. Discusses an incident years ago in the County. Fears that this proposal "has some of that in it." Could we hold this matter for a month? Get some questions answered about "fair competition."
      Padberg tries to head of Fuentes at the pass. Fuentes: contractors participating in government projects. Opportunity of employment. Unions. That was the issue; you must not have read the paper. Prendergast suggests there's no problem...  Fuentes: pointedly: we're setting policy; let's not railroad this through. Padberg: we've discussed this before. You need to make a motion to table. Fuentes does so. Lang seconds. They vote.  Prendargast and Padberg do not prevail; it is tabled.

6.5. CCT board of directors, election. Blah, blah, blah. Poertner is asked to clarify. Something about nominating someone. Always a bit confusing, says Gary. He seems bemused. Prendergast seems annoyed or lost. Fuentes: the tradition has been to send an OC voice to the board. I dunno. Prendergast is glad to get clarification. The matter passes.

6.6. Wanna nominate a trustee for OCSBA board of directors? Lang: anyone interested in serving? Milchiker: served on this for 20 years. Hopes someone else takes the opportunity. Prendergast utters a loud "no." Laughter. Everyone passes on this "opportunity."

6.7. Board policy revisions. Lang asks about if we had a "UCI type of event" in our district. How would we respond? What are our regulations. (A reference to BP 5401-Student Conduct.) Gwen P comes up to discuss this. The policy is very thorough, she says. We haven't had exactly that kind of situation at IVC. (Referring to Muslim hecklers issue?) Gwen points out that the first thing listed on the policy is "disruptive behavior," then "willful misconduct." Then "disorderly conduct." All mentioned in policy. Lang seems reassured. Blah, blah, blah.

They vote to continue the meeting until 10:00

Lang: re student trustee board policy. Suggested modifications. Catches a glaring error. Easily corrected. It gets pulled. Everything else is approved.

6.8. Calendar: accepted for review and study.

6.9 same.

6.10. Lang asks about new dean position. Burnett explains. Blah, blah, blah.... Everything passed except b1 and b2, which will be discussed separately.

Gwen P: with this position, two things happen. Service to students is pulled together in way more expedient, available. Also a savings of $20k. Pretty dry. She's pretty passionate about it, though.

--My battery's nearly dead. Don't think anything else will occur tonight. I'm outa here.

     See also Tere's Board Meeting Highlights


Anonymous said...

I think they eat cheese cubes and melon wedges. And crackers. With tiny seeds on them. Round ones.

Anonymous said...

Ham rolls filled with cream cheese and olives.

Anonymous said...

What's with all the gift baskets and crap the board members seem to be given at each meeting now?

NavyMan said...

Looks as though Fuentes is more marginalized from the rest of the group than ever before. That's good, even if he is probably right about ATEP.

Anonymous said...

Quite the meaty-cheesy meeting.

IVC's new "School of IDEA." <I>We kid you not.</I>

200 people "came together." It was "spectacular"      We here at IVC received this email today from the President&...