There Will Be Better Days Ahead

Last night’s vote to kill the swap – and set up our community to deal with worse traffic, overcrowded school sites and less athletic field space – marks a sad, unfortunate and unnecessary chapter in San Carlos history.

The risks and challenges inherent in any significant decision were used as arguments to keep residents from having their say at the ballot box. The Council was even advised to ignore the District’s timeline, as if our parents somehow form an entirely different community from the one the Council represents! Instead of being an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, a decision was made which took counsel from fears and emphasized our differences rather than our common interests. Where the Council could have taken the lead on mitigating concerns and impacts, it chose to shrug its shoulders and move on. This despite the fact that a majority was ready, willing and able to take up the task.

But as I often remind people, unless you own a time machine all we can do with the past is learn from it. So what lessons can we draw from what happened?

While in the end the swap effort didn’t succeed, it came amazingly close. There was a tentative deal in place, supported by majorities of the Council and the School Board. Had it not been for a 4/5 supermajority requirement – a highly unusual provision of law – the next stop would have been the ballot box. That was no mean feat, and it was a testament to what people can do when they band together and petition the Council and Board to do the right thing.

The need for more athletic field space got injected back into public discussion. It’s been absent for years, during which time the number of kids and adults using our fields continued to grow. The problem is even more imperative now that San Carlos is going to lose significant field space at either the Heather or Tierra Linda campuses. I intend to keep this issue alive, looking for other ways to meet the need — as, too, with trying to do something about the worsened traffic situation we are going to get — and I urge you to do likewise.

Finally, for the first time in our community’s history the School Board and the City Council worked together and came up with a deal that met needs spanning the responsibilities of both agencies. This demonstrated that our two parallel local governments aren’t doomed to stay locked in a years-ago-they-did-something-the-other-side-didn’t-like tit-for-tat mindset. That experience will help our community the next time a joint opportunity comes up.

And if I’ve learned anything at all from my thirteen years in public office, there’s always a next time. We can build the future we want for our community. We just have to stay engaged, stay alert, and be ready to act.

2 thoughts on “There Will Be Better Days Ahead”

  1. Loh-Chung Lum

    Hi, Mark,
    Your concern about the education is much appreciated. Since we have limited space and competing interests, my question is why can we work with what we already have. For example, to replace the current 1 story building with 2 or more stories building and make the school playfield larger and available to the public to use for a fee? I do believe we need to preserve our very precious open spaces and keep them as nature as possible.
    Thanks again for your concerns about our future, even we disagree about the future usage of precious open spaces.
    Best Regards,
    Loh-Chung

  2. That’s a reasonable question, Loh-Chung. I won’t try to give you all the answers, since it’s a school district issue. I encourage you to contact Adam Rak (adam_rak@yahoo.com), the school board president, for a more comprehensive explanation.

    The short answer is we’re talking about two separate schools, with two separate identities, two separate student populations (of two different age ranges). That wouldn’t work well in a multi-story environment.

    In addition, there is a strong bias in favor of lower structures for elementary schools (which is what’s at Heather).

    Finally, building up doesn’t address the issue of overcrowded school sites, which was the District’s primary concern in wanting to find a separate home for the Charter Learning Center.

    Personally, I agree with those arguments. Others might not. That could have been addressed in the required election.

    – Mark

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