School board candidates, Measure LCF campaign make final pitches as election nears

With the Nov. 7 election days away, La Cañada Unified school board candidates and residents campaigning for a $149-million school bond are hitting the streets to rally the support of more than 13,000 voters living inside district boundaries.

Meanwhile, campaign finance documents released by the county registrar’s office provide an interesting look at the fundraising efforts and spending activities of the campaign committees behind the candidates and the causes.

On Tuesday, La Cañada Unified School District voters will choose from among five candidates running for three open seats on the school board. They will decide the fate of the Measure LCF school bond, a plan to help fund the rebuilding and modernization of district campuses.

The bond needs 55% voter approval to pass. There are currently 13,255 registered voters living inside LCUSD boundaries, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, but just how many people will turn out to vote remains to be seen.

Measure LCF school bond

Hoping for a favorable outcome, Citizens for Modernizing LCUSD Schools has convened to campaign for Measure LCF, collecting $67,630 in local donations as of the last filing period ending Oct. 21, according to county documents.

Financial contributors to the bond campaign include school board members as well as school and district administrators and at least two businesses who’ve done facilities-related work with La Cañada Unified.

LPA, Inc. is the Irvine-based architectural firm that helped LCUSD develop its facilities master plan, the document that lists and prioritizes building projects to be paid for, in part, by Measure LCF funds. On Sept. 28, that firm donated $25,000 to Citizens for Modernizing LCUSD Schools.

Documents also indicate Linik Corp., a Valencia-based construction management firm and known vendor to the school district, donated $3,500 to the bond campaign on Sept. 13.

Volunteers will spend Saturday afternoon walking the neighborhood and sharing how the school bond would bring needed improvements to school facilities, according to bond committee organizer Josh Epstein.

“We’ve spent some time making sure everybody gets the message,” Esptein said, explaining phone bankers will make calls into election day. “The turnout is likely to be low, so every vote we get is an important vote.”

Measure LCF proponents point out passage would not raise tax levels, just extend the current level over a longer time period. If the bond is passed, property owners would continue to be taxed at their current rate of $60 per $100,000 of assessed property value over the next three decades, a figure that would otherwise drop to about $30 by 2021 as old bonds expire.

School board race, three seats

The five LCUSD school board hopefuls are also hitting the streets in the few remaining days of their campaigns, discussing key issues and hoping to distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Among them, incumbents Dan Jeffries and Kaitzer Puglia said they feel confident in their ability to build upon the past four years of accomplishments, which have included successful negotiations with the teacher’s union, progress on a possible Sagebrush territory transfer and concentrated focus on student well-being.

“I’ve been doing the job for the past four years — I feel comfortable with the information, and comfortable with the knowledge base,” Puglia said, adding that she’s taking a personal approach to campaigning. “This is a small community. So that’s been part of the [campaign] process, to keep it kind of small townish.”

An education professor at Pasadena City College, Puglia is the only candidate not to have formed a campaign committee, required by the California Fair Political Practices Commission when political candidates and causes receive or spend $2,000 or more.

Jeffries, a prosecutor for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, is running his campaign on a $5,000 self loan and an additional $434 in monetary contributions to himself. As of the most recent reporting period ending Oct. 21, he had an ending cash balance of $3,301. He said he’s telling people not to donate to his campaign.

“I’d rather do it all myself and encourage people, if they wanted to donate, to donate to support groups for the schools,” he said, adding that he and wife Andrea wanted to remind people of the diverse opportunities they have to contribute to local education.

The three contenders — JPL manager Chris Salvo, land use attorney Josh Gottheim and retired Nestlé executive Joe Radabaugh — said in separate interviews the campaign trail has helped acquaint them with district voters and the issues they care most about.

Salvo, who’s lent his campaign committee $1,392 and collected an additional $100 in individual contributions, according to county records, is taking a door-to-door approach to introduce himself to the voting community and discuss the need for a bond and how he’d bring a level of scrutiny to important board decisions.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good support, and I think I’ve got a message that resonates with a lot of people,” he said. “But then, there’s a lot of people out there. I can’t wait to see the [election] results.”

Gottheim, whose campaign is running on $3,500 in self loans and $7,157 in contributions as of the latest Oct. 21 filing period, has spent $9,114, according to the most recent documentation.

He estimates he’s knocked on about 1,200 doors, using “the old shoe-leather approach” and has had many talks with voters about how how he’d help oversee bond spending, were Measure LCF to pass, and support technology in the classroom that would tailor lessons to students’ learning levels.

“At first, no one knew who I was. It was kind of a hard sell,” he said of the campaign process. “Now, people are starting to pay attention to the race. I’m getting to know the community, and the community’s getting to know me — that’s been nice.”

Radabaugh’s campaign earnings include $12,632 in contributions and a $2,500 self loan, making him the most funded of the five school board candidates as of the Oct. 21 end of the most recent filing period.

He said the campaign has been a lot of work, but very gratifying and that he’s eager to answer voters’ questions and follow through on his commitments if elected.

“Every yard sign is like a mini-contract with that person,” Radabaugh said. “I often find myself asking, ‘What else can I do?’ You can always make another phone call, meet one more person, hold one more meeting or ring one more doorbell.”

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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