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Democracy’s Price Tag

As he left the Los Angeles school board for a job in Washington, David Armor finally said something with which we agree: The board should not be a full-time post. There is, or should be, a place in society for citizen/officials who represent the people as something other than full-time policy-makers who are so wed to the system they oversee that they can no longer recognize its flaws.

The more pressing issue is that the West San Fernando Valley needs to be represented on the board. The seat should not be left vacant until regular school board elections in the spring of 1987, nor should the board fill the seat by appointment, tempting as that might be to avoid the cost of a special election. Democracy, like so many other things, carries a price tag. West Valley voters deserve a voice of their own choosing as much as do residents of Hancock Park or East Los Angeles.

The school board, which must pay the cost of any special election from its $15-million emergency fund, can save some money if it acts quickly. It can hold a primary election during the summer (at an estimated cost of $500,000) and consolidate any runoff with the statewide general election in November (for $45,000 instead of the $470,000 that it would cost without consolidation). The winner would serve the remaining 2 1/2 years of Armor’s term.

The cost of the election works out to about $4 a vote if as many people vote in a primary and runoff as voted last April and June--always a dubious proposition in a special election, especially one held during vacation months. But the winner of such an election would represent the views of West Valley voters far more fairly than could a candidate appointed by a board majority that has disagreed with the current representative in many of the most controversial votes.

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