Living with docile, compliant school boards
For those whose heads were left spinning by the enthusiasm with which the school board majority (Spencer opposed) gave away $4.6 million in cash for $1.95 million in return, here is some context.
City officials know that voters would never approve a tax increase to subsidize a property developer, such as Tim Lewis Communities, which, in addition to the Crown Beach property, has interests in and around the soon-to-be-former Alameda Unifed School District tidelands parcels. Voters, however, can routinely be counted on to approve parcels taxes and tax bond measures “for the children!”
Knowing this, officials routinely and repeatedly bleed the school district dry through mechanisms like redevelopment, infrastructure financing districts, land swaps and other dumb deals, like we have seen in the past two weeks.
In Alameda, docile, compliant, school boards and administrators have repeatedly ignored their fiduciary and other duties to taxpayers, parents and students, and readily co-operated in these grand bargains. In 1991, the school district signed a deal with the City of Alameda that ultimately produced the $4.6 million for low-income housing that the district just gave away, because it’s not in the business of building low-income housing.
(Back in 2008, when I publicized this, and a second, smaller, fund, hardly anybody — not even school district officials — knew about this money. Then-Superintendent Ardella Dailey angrily told me that the district had no obligation to track those funds that were explicitly set aside for the school district.)
In 2000, the school district signed another land-swap deal that gave away Mastick School, ostensibly, in return for the 17 acres of tidelands trust parcels that the district now insists is worthless, and can’t possibly be appraised for value. (I understand that San Francisco State University is now calling AUSD Chief Business Officer Dr. Robert Clark, asking him to return some of the letters after his name.)
That agreement also called for the school district to receive rental revenue from the tidelands parcels. The district now insists it is not, and never was in the business of managing property like this. If the property is worthless to the district, and the district was never in the business of managing the property, why on earth did they sign the agreement?
Now, in the middle of a facilities master plan process, the district is trading away cash and property for a pittance in return. Very odd decisions indeed by a school district that is coming begging to voters again later this year.
I encourage Alameda voters to reject this model of subsidizing private development corporations under the guise of paying for schools by voting against any tax measure that AUSD puts on the ballot this year or next.