Appoint or Hold an Election

The San Carlos School District is faced with a choice on how to fill the seat soon to be vacated as a result of Carol Elliot’s retirement. This is a topic I have quite a bit of experience with. I’ve been through two different appoint or elect decisions, one when I was on the School Board and one when I was on the City Council. As it’s also one on which I have strong opinions I made the following public comment at tonight’s Board meeting.

Thank you President Layton and the Board, I appreciate you and the other trustees giving me a few moments to address you.

I strongly encourage you to find a way to hold an election to fill the seat soon to be vacated by Carol’s retirement. And, BTW, thank you, Carol, for all the work you’ve done on behalf of our community, both on the Board and in your many other civic roles.

Elections are essential. They allow the community, whom you represent, a chance to decide who they want to make decisions on their behalf.

They’re also important because they validate, and help evolve the views of, all the candidates who run. When you’ve been through the mill of an election you will not have any doubt you are empowered to act on the community’s behalf.

Should you fill Carol’s seat by appointment a majority of this Board will not have been elected. Meaning no disrespect to the appointed trustees that is not a desirable situation. It doesn’t walk the talk of representative democracy and it doesn’t model the civics lessons we try to teach our children.

It’s true elections cost money. But it’s an essential cost, in some ways even more essential than the traditional tools of education. Because without them the community will begin to believe their government is disengaged from them. The recent history of our nation shows where that ends up.

Not holding elections can also feed the belief a board is seeking to perpetuate itself as a club of insiders. While I know that’s not true in San Carlos, it has been true, sadly, in other places in San Mateo County. And it did not end well.

Granted, elections cost money. Lots of money, when they are special elections. And I know the District is extremely short of funds.

But other public agencies have more resources. If money is a barrier I strongly encourage you to reach out to the City, the County and the State for financial support. And not by contacting staff; contact the elected decision makers directly. They are the only ones who can make the call on whether or not to assist you.

In closing let me summarize all this by saying you cannot have the kind of high-functioning representative democracy we all want without elections. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.

Good luck with what is admittedly a difficult decision.

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