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A Dearth of Democracy: Why Sac City Voters Deserve an Election, Not an Appointment

There has been a dearth of democracy lately here in Sacramento. Races big and small, from water board to mayor of Sacramento go begging for candidates or virtually uncontested. In some cases there is no election at all. This hasn't gone unnoticed. In his article in the Sacramento News and Review Cosmo Garvin focused on Sac City Unified board member Patrick Kennedy.  Kennedy has been the "winner" in one uncontested race for the SCUSD board and currently faces no challenger for a county supervisor seat. Moreover, by voting to appoint  a replacement for Ellyne Bell's seat on the SCUSD board instead of opting for an election, he helped deprive the residents of District 1 the chance to choose their own representative. But Kennedy's part in that appointment goes beyond his vote. There were machinations behind the scene to orchestrate that appointment. 
                The Bee reported in the fall of 2012 that Ellyne resigned from her seat in October because she had recently accepted a job in San Francisco and would be moving there. In fact, she had taken that job in February of 2012 and had moved to the Bay Area in May of that year when the job went full time. Instead of resigning then, she was persuaded to stay on the board past the filing date for the fall election. Kennedy was among those who convinced her that it would be better for the district if the board could appoint  someone of their choosing.  Ellyne told me this herself when I confronted her in September 2012 about her failure to resign in a timely manner so that an election could be held to replace her. She also told me that SCUSD legal counsel told her it was legal for her to hold her seat while living in the Bay Area, as long as she kept some belongings in her house in Sacramento.  Ellyne gave much the same explanation to our mutual friend Lori Jablonski. She said that she had been convinced by Kennedy that not adding the cost of an election to the district's tight budget was justification for her action.
                Although it may have been legal for Ellyne to hold on to her SCUSD board seat because she left belongings in her Sacramento home, there is a difference between what is legal and what is ethical. If it was not wrong for her to do this, why was it a secret, albeit a poorly kept one? I didn't learn that she had moved to the Bay Area until the end of July 2012, but many other people knew she was no longer living in Sacramento.  I think she knew in her heart what she was doing was wrong.  
                The move to school board elections by district was one of the Coalition's political victories, as was Ellyne winning a seat on the board. Her failure to resign in time for an election to be held seemed like a betrayal of our hard fought battles since the closure of Sacramento High. I worked on all three of Ellyne's school board campaigns and on Kennedy's campaign for city council. I can't express how disappointed I was in both her and Kennedy's actions. I guess both Lori and I were suffering from misplaced loyalty in that we failed speak out sooner.
                Patrick Kennedy seems poised to move on to the County Board of Supervisors in June, leaving another vacancy on the Sac City Unified board. This vacancy shouldn't be filled through the undemocratic process of an appointment. Especially since that process can be manipulated. The residents of District  7 should be able to choose their representative on the board in an election in November. Our efforts should always be to support more democracy not less, no matter how expensive and inconvenient it might be. The voters of Sacramento deserve no less.  So which will it be, SCUSD board members?

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