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.
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|
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 salaries—position. 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