Sending school choice to the back of the bus

It's official -- teachers union boss Larry Moore has filed paperwork with the elections office that indicates he intends to run for the Fresno Unified school board against trustee Manuel Nunez.

Moore has been pondering a run at Nunez's seat since last summer. He decided to challenge the incumbent after Nunez and three other trustees -- Tony Vang, Janet Ryan and Michelle Asadoorian -- gave Superintendent Michael Hanson a 35% salary increase.

Moore said the raise was approved without community input and before the state figures out its budget that could include cuts to education.

Nunez, who has been a trustee since 1990, said the board majority "did the right thing" in giving the superintendent a raise because Hanson and his administrative staff provide good leadership.

Three seats are up for election in November -- Nunez, Ryan and Carol Mills. The nomination period doesn't open until June 9. But Moore filed papers Monday to form a fundraising committee for his school board campaign, a county elections official confirmed.

Moore, a computer science teacher, has spent eight of the past 10 years as president of the powerful Fresno Teachers Association, which has played key roles in getting its candidates elected to the board.

Moore said he plans to retire as a Fresno Unified teacher once the school year ends. His term as union president also expires at that time.

Tribes split on propositions

There's a "huge, huge division going on" over four tribal gaming deals on Tuesday's ballot, says Fresno-based American Indian advocate Laura Wass.

Supporters point to the increased state payments called for in the deals. Opponents call the compacts "sweetheart deals" that reward significant political campaign donations by the four tribes.

Wass, a spokeswoman for the Fresno chapter of the American Indian Movement, is firmly in the "no" camp. Gaming has "been one of the worst things that ever hit Indian Country," she said.

A "yes" vote on Propositions 94-97 means that four casino-operating Southern California tribes would be authorized to add 17,000 slot machines. A "no" vote on each proposition would nullify the compacts approved last year by the Legislature -- though the tribes are widely expected to press their case in court.

Plenty of tribes have lined up on the "yes" side, including the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, which hopes to one day build a $250 million casino in Madera County. But other tribes are helping to bankroll the "no" campaign.

No Valley tribes have made contributions to either side, according to a recent check of campaign filings. Most analysts say the vote outcome will have little effect -- positive or negative -- on North Fork's dealings with the state.

Parra endorses Obama

Assembly Member Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, would seem to be just the kind of endorsement Barack Obama needs.

Parra is a woman and Hispanic. Polls show Hillary Clinton doing well with voters in those demographics, so any endorsements the Obama campaign can get from politicians like Parra can only help him in California, where he trails Clinton in the latest polling on the Democratic presidential primary.

Parra visited Obama during a March trip to Washington, D.C., and endorsed him right away. "I had read his books. I talked to him about the presidential race, told him I was from the Central Valley. He was very interested and asked me for my endorsement. And so I said yes ... right there on the spot."

Other Hispanic state lawmakers endorsing Obama include Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who has long pushed to allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses.

Clinton, meanwhile, has racked up endorsements from several Hispanic heavyweights, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. Juan Arambula, a Democratic Assembly member from Fresno, also has endorsed Clinton.

Chamber weighs in early

The filing period for candidates hasn't even opened, but the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce's political action committee wasted no time in issuing endorsements for June's Fresno City Council elections.

The chamber announced this week that it will support Council Member Larry Westerlund, running for a second term in District 4, and newcomer Lee Brand, running to replace Council Member Jerry Duncan in District 2.

Duncan, who cannot run for a third term, is running for mayor.

The move was a calculated effort to send two messages, according to Amy Huerta, government affairs manager for the chamber.

"We wanted to show how strong of candidates we have in Larry and Lee," Huerta said. "Also, we wanted to discourage competition from people who might become stragglers in the race."

Huerta said chamber members encouraged Brand to run for City Council. She said Westerlund has a strong history of supporting businesses.

The chamber did not endorse a candidate for District 2, where attorney Andreas Borgeas is the only candidate so far. Huerta said the chamber plans to wait to make an endorsement in that race until the filing period, which runs from Feb. 11 through March 12 in races like District 2 without an incumbent. Brian Calhoun, the current District 2 council member, cannot seek a third term and is challenging Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson for her seat.


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