Overeager, power-hungry gov't unions

In what would appear to be a pre-emptive strike, the city’s two public safety unions have endorsed the incumbents for re-election to the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education even before the nomination period ends.

Seats for Districts Two and Four will be up for election on April 8, along with even-numbered City Council districts and Long Beach City College trustees. Felton Williams (District Two) and Jon Meyer (District Four) are the incumbents in the school board race.

The endorsements were made on Christmas Eve in a joint press release. Candidates for all the seats have until Jan. 11 to return nomination petitions.

“We’ve been good friends with Jon for some time,” said Richard Brandt, president of the Long Beach Firefighters Association. “We believe their (Williams and Meyer) motives are pure, and felt they are the right people at the right time.”

Both the Police Officers Association and the Firefighters Association have waited to conduct interviews with candidates in the past before making endorsements. Brandt said his union may change procedures in the future as well, while Steve James, president of the POA, said that there was no real need for interviews in this election.

“This is an easy endorsement, as both of these candidates genuinely care about our children, the quality of their education and their safety,” James said.

The endorsement from the police and fire unions is highly sought after by most political candidates, both for the financial support the Political Action Committees provide and the clout of the public safety seal of approval.

“I’m just delighted that the unions have chosen to endorse me,” Meyer said. “I guess they felt secure that I am concerned with the welfare of the entire district.”

Left unspoken was the involvement two years ago of the Teachers Association of Long Beach, the teachers’ union. TALB put up a slate of candidates in the 2006 board election and won two out of the three contested seats. Mary Stanton was the only incumbent to prevail, and she had to survive a partial recount before declaring victory.

Since then, TALB leadership has fractured at least partially over its political activities, and the state California Teachers Association has taken over operations. Calls to TALB President Michael Day and TALB Executive Director Scott McVarish were not returned.

“To be honest,” Meyer said, “I wouldn’t have run for re-election, but I felt that the welfare of the district, the kids and teachers, were somewhat threatened.”

As of last Thursday, even Meyer and Williams had not returned their nomination petitions, although both had taken out papers. Neither of the City College trustees whose seats are up, Roberto Uranga in the Second District and Doug Otto in the Fourth District, has filed yet, either.

All four of the City Council incumbents have filed for re-election, and two already have competition. Gabrielle Weeks has filed to run against Suja Lowenthal in the Second District, and Al Austin will oppose Dee Andrews in the Sixth District. Patrick O’Donnell, Fourth District, and Rae Gabelich, Eighth District, both have filed to seek a second term.


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