The Villaraigosa and García machine's perfect gerrymander

posted Oct 29, 2012, 1:27 AM by RD Skeels
LAUSD District 2 Redraw
"But some school board officials and those involved in the redistricting process said that although Villaraigosa may not have directly managed day-to-day activities, the makeup of the commission allowed for a majority bloc of those aligned with him." — Stephen Ceasar of The Los Angeles Times

There were two registered District 2 schoolboard candidates before Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was redistricted last Spring. Those candidates were Abelardo Diaz and myself — Robert D. Skeels. Both of us live in the 90026 zip code and have/had a considerable voting base in the community.

This is particularly true for me, having lived in Echo Parque since 1995. I lived on Valley View Drive for years, Laguna Avenue for over a decade and a half, and two years ago my wife and I purchased a home on Westlake Avenue in South Echo Parque/Historic Filipinotown [1]. I taught bilingual Catechism (CCD) at Saint Teresa of Avila Church for a dozen years and RCIA for two years. Over that time I gained the friendship and trust of many families who still stop me and thank me today when they see me out and about in the community

For years my public education and immigrant rights activism existed alongside my volunteer work at my church, but eventually I decided to devote more time to activism as I saw the same neoliberal policies being implemented in our own school district as I had seen imposed on Latin American countries during the past decades. I began organizing alongside parent, teacher, and other community activists in earnest, I've been involved in many major struggles in defense of public education and immigrant rights ever since.

Group shot of candidates at the District 2 Neighborhood Coalition's first candidate forum. For more information and future forums see http://www.district2neighborhoodcoalition.com

Along with fellow social justice activists I opposed the colocation of Logan by the Gabriella Corporate Charter. Educator Cheryl Ortega and I exposed Gabriella's filching of more rooms than they were allotted. We provided support for the parents fighting the unjust colocation of Micheltorena Elementary. We spent nearly a year backing the Echo Park Partners Community Plan for CRES 14. Our efforts to try and keep CRES 14 in the public fold almost prevented the community school from being turned over to a private corporation. I staunchly defended parents and community members when the deep pocketed charter forces took away the public votes from the LAUSD Public School Choice. We arranged for screenings of the Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman at both Union Avenue and Micheltorena Elementary Schools. These are just a few of the local struggles I have been involved with [2].


Education Writer and social justice activist Robert D. Skeels speaking at the October LAUSD District 2 Candidates's Forum

During the past decade I've been a high-profile vocal opponent of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAUSD President Mónica García's policies of school privatization, narrowing of curriculum, and imposition of policies that have been an abject disaster in our school district. I've written scathing articles about them and their policies. I've been interviewed on radio and television criticizing their administrations. I've led major community struggles against some of their pet projects and handouts to cronies. I phone banked and precinct walked against their hand picked corporate candidate for District 5, who despite millions from Villaraigosa's right wing allies like Anschutz, Perenchio, Hastings, and Broad still lost. I was one of the organizers of and participate in the highly successful OccupyLAUSD campaign that further highlighted the leadership of LAUSD being in the pockets of the one percent.

Award winning teacher and social justice activist Abelardo Diaz speaking at the October LAUSD District 2 Candidates's Forum.
Most importantly, when President García and Superintendent Deasy zeroed out Early Education Centers, Adult Education, School Readiness Language Development Programs, and Elementary Arts from the LAUSD budget, I worked tirelessly with the Save Adult Ed campaign to prevent shuttering of those programs. When we saw it would take a little more to convince the District to save the programs, several social justice advocates and I became proponents of an official recall campaign that frightened García into partially restoring those programs. While the recall campaign came up just a few thousand signatures short of the 26,000 plus required, it prevented cuts to programs vital to families throughout our city. It also showed that García's grip on power was vulnerable.

Going into the race for the District 2 Trustee seat, I knew I could confidently count on hundreds of votes from Echo Parque residents who I've either worked alongside or for in the struggle to defend and improve public education. I figured I could count on several hundred more votes from families I served at St. Teresa's. I knew I could depend on all the Logan parents, Micheltorena parents on the District 2 side, parents that wanted CRES 14 to be a public school, and even families that lost there homes to the construction of the latter to vote for me. That was, until I saw the finalized District 2 maps recently provided by LAUSD. All of Echo Park — including Angelino Heights — North of the 101 Freeway is now in District 5. I find it hard to believe this wasn't anything but deliberate. Given that LAUSD schoolboard races are often won by just a few hundred votes, drawing my strongest base of support out of District 2 was a brilliant masterstroke.

I now live South of the 101, so I'm still a qualified candidate and still running for LAUSD. While Villaraigosa's skillful gerrymandering of District 2 clearly cost me hundreds maybe even thousands, of votes, I'm still confident that I will win the seat and speak truth to power on the schoolboard. If you live in what was formerly District 2 and planned to vote for me, but cannot due to redistricting, please support me by volunteering for my campaign and contributing funds. Especially the latter, it's expensive to run for office. García's backers include right-wing billionaires, peculiar cults, and wealthy charter operators. Clearly, I won't have, nor would I accept, any funding from sources like that. Tell everyone you know about me running, they might live in District 2 or can help. Come out to the candidate forums and meet me and the other candidates running against the neoliberal consensus represented by Mónica García. We need to take our schoolboard back from the one percent!

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NOTES

[1] From Wikipedia: "Historic Filipinotown is a district of the city of Los Angeles, California, that makes up the southwest portion of Echo Park."

[2] Meantime I was involved with many more organizations like the Southern California Immigration Coalition, Hungry for an Education, Coalition for Educational Justice, the March 4 to Save Public Education movement, and so much more. I was also on the leading edge of opposing Yolie Flores' Public School Choice, charter take-overs, astroturf groups including Parent Revolution, etc.

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