The candidate for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College District board in the April 14 election was wrapping up a long and thoughtful answer to the reporter's question about why he was seeking election to the colleges' governing body:
"And lastly," he said, "there are the headaches. Some of my friends think I'm absolutely crazy for running, but what the heck? Somebody's going to have to be around to deal with the headaches."
Indeed, the 19 candidates--including three incumbents--who are running for four at-large seats in the sprawling two-year college district are well aware of the problems. At times, they seem to threaten the district's ability to provide its 104,000 students with vocational skills or the courses they need to move on to a four-year college or university.
The root of the problem is money, and Los Angeles district officials say they are not getting enough of it from Sacramento. In 1986-87, more than 80% of the district's revenues of $220 million came from the state.
But when enrollment falls, so do the state funds, because much of the money is tied to attendance. The district therefore is still reeling from a plunge in enrollment from 130,000 to about 88,000 that occurred from 1983 to 1985.
After stabilizing the year before, enrollment finally jumped 10,000 last fall, but that also turned out to be a mixed blessing. The state, enduring a budget squeeze of its own, now plans to provide funds only for 1,000 of the new students. With this and other sources of state support being reduced or eliminated, the district is facing a budget gap of about $17 million between now and June, 1988.
To deal with the deficits, the trustees have been forced repeatedly to cut spending, most often concentrating on salaries, which account for 84% of the district's budget.
Until last year, the American Federation of Teachers' College Guild, which acts as bargaining agent for the district's faculty, was fairly sympathetic to the district's plight and accepted many of the program cuts and layoffs without much struggle.
Last spring, however, when the trustees proposed laying off 157 full-time faculty members, the American Federation of Teachers dug in its heels. Although nearly all of those faculty members ended up being retained, the guild leaders decided in the course of the fight that no more layoffs would be tolerated and that the union will try to oust any trustee who voted for them.
So earlier this year, the union announced that it will oppose two of the three incumbents on the April 14 ballot and will support only former teacher Harold Garvin of San Pedro, who opposed last year's layoffs. The federation is hoping to raise $100,000 and provide volunteer workers on behalf of its candidates. It is the kind of help that can make a big difference when voter turnout is low, as it usually is for community college elections.
More fuel was added to the fire earlier this month when the board again voted to advise 59 faculty members that they may have to be laid off in the 1987-88 school year.
In the opening weeks of the campaign, the challengers have sought to portray the incumbent trustees--Garvin, Marguerite Archie-Hudson and Monroe F. Richman--as a distant, unfeeling, free-spending lot who have let the district's financial problems get out of control.
One slate of candidates has been organized with ties to the Republican Party (the election is officially nonpartisan, and candidates are not listed by party on the ballot). It includes former Trustee J. William Orozco and former Los Angeles school board member Richard Ferraro, who make much of a Los Angeles County Grand Jury report last year that criticized many of the district's financial practices. "They've been throwing money down a rat hole," Ferraro said. "They need to get rid of the top-heavy (salaried) administration."
The candidates, each looking for a way to stand out from the crowd in a campaign that attracts little public attention, have pushed forward a plethora of suggestions to trim down the district into a leaner agency that can avoid further faculty cuts.
Nearly all the candidates, including the incumbents, say Chancellor Leslie Koltai and the 300 district employees must move out of their expensive headquarters on West 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles. The office costs about $1 million a year in rent and is derisively referred to by many faculty and students as the Taj Mahal. Most candidates say the administration should move to a district campus, such as West Los Angeles College.
Calls for Removal
Many of the candidates also call for the ouster of Koltai. They accuse the chancellor of a wide range of shortcomings, such as promoting inexperienced people into key administrative positions and creating poor morale among teachers and students with an arrogant style of management.
The Hungarian-born Koltai, who is 55 and has been chancellor for 15 years, points with some pride to this year's rise in enrollment and dismisses much of the criticism. "I have to go through this every two years" at election time, he said. "I've faced the difficulty in the district more than anyone else."
The Los Angeles district, by far the largest in the state, contains nine campuses and covers 882 square miles. In addition to the city of Los Angeles, it serves such suburban communities as Alhambra, Bell, San Gabriel, San Fernando, Torrance and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
A candidate will win outright election if he or she gets a simple majority of the votes cast. If no one gets more than 50%, the two contenders for each seat who receive the most votes will meet in a runoff in June.
In contrast with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where board members represent a specific geographical area, the community college trustees are elected at large and serve the entire district. Here is a look at how the campaigns for the four seats are shaping up:
OFFICE NO. 1
Incumbent Monroe F. Richman, a Sun Valley physician, has drawn four opponents in his bid for a fifth four-year term. Known for his combative style, Richman is being opposed by the American Federation of Teachers because of his recent votes in favor of faculty layoffs. "I was the fourth vote," he said, "and I've invited the ire of the union. So be it. I still represent a voice of reason, a voice of independence."
Los Angeles attorney Wallace Knox and former Trustee J. William Orozco have mounted serious campaigns to unseat Richman.
Knox, who is supported by the American Federation of Teachers and has been active in Democratic politics, believes that the incumbent has supported too many cuts and has made them in the wrong places. Because of this, he said, district officials sometimes have difficulty making persuasive arguments with Sacramento lawmakers and Gov. George Deukmejian to get more money for the district.
Orozco, a Los Angeles travel agent, has long been active in Republican politics and was on the board when the district was formed in 1969, serving until 1979. Among other things, he favors the closing of Mission College, under construction in the East San Fernando Valley, and spending the money elsewhere to save other programs.
Also running for the seat, but so far lacking the financial support to mount much of a campaign, are instructor Patricia Hollingsworth and businesswoman Deborah S. Le Blanc.
OFFICE NO. 3
Incumbent Marguerite Archie-Hudson, an administrator in the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences, was appointed to the board in 1978 and has since won election to two full terms. The board's only black member, Archie-Hudson has been a vigorous supporter of the colleges that serve minority areas of the district, particularly Southwest and Mission colleges. Aware of the criticism of financial instability, she argues that she was not afraid to make some unpopular decisions that cost her the American Federation of Teachers' support.
Archie-Hudson said the district can improve its image and financial status by instituting, with the help of several large corporations, a vocational training program that would provide a pool of labor for these companies. A self-sustaining program is feasible, she said, because "many businesses are beginning to recognize . . . our ability to train the work force that they need."
She is being challenged by three opponents, two of them endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers. Julia L. Wu, a librarian and college instructor, and Bernard Friedman, a retired chairman of the mathematics department at Los Angeles Valley College, got the dual nod from the college guild, although it is not yet clear whether the union will favor one over the other when it comes to providing campaign support.
Wu, a Republican with many endorsements from Asian-American groups, feels that the district should strengthen ties with business groups, such as chambers of commerce. She also is critical of some faculty reassignments made by Koltai last summer that she said left many instructors teaching unfamiliar subjects. While it may have sparked enrollment, Wu said the streamlining also "shortchanged many students of quality instruction."
Friedman is critical of Archie-Hudson and the board because of the additional layoffs being contemplated. "The morale of the district is so low that something has to be done," he said. "Why should (administrators) live in high-priced offices downtown while they're asking faculty to take pay cuts?" He said more budget cuts need to be made in the administration in order to save instructional programs.
Archie-Hudson's third challenger is Marjorie A. Davis, a former student body president at Trade-Tech College and now a student at USC. She is running on the Republican-linked slate along with Ferraro and Orozco and espouses similar views on the issues. She is particularly critical of the salaries paid to Koltai, other administrators and lobbyists employed by the district.
OFFICE NO. 5
As the only incumbent supported by the American Federation of Teachers, Harold Garvin may have the easiest of the four races. A two-term trustee, Garvin is seen by some as an influential board member who, if reelected, could make life miserable for Koltai when his contract comes up for renewal next year. "There's a tremendous amount of dismay, bitterness and frustration on the campuses," he said, "and that does not make for good education." He added, however, that Koltai has done "a pretty good job in the past. My judgment is that he has to re-establish his credibility . . . or we should get a new chancellor."
Frank Mazzi, principal of a private elementary school in Pacific Palisades, is opposing Garvin on the Republican-linked slate. He is critical of a move, supported by Garvin, to raise the salaries of the trustees from $12,000 to as much as $24,000. "The board has to prove itself in straightening the financial chaos" before voting itself a pay raise, he said.
Also on the ballot, but running a lower-profile campaign so far, is attorney Mark MacCarley.
OFFICE NO. 7
A runoff seems a reasonable prospect for this open seat, being vacated by Trustee Letitia Quezada, who is running for the Eastside seat on the Los Angeles school board. There are seven candidates.
The most familiar of the seven to the voters probably is Richard E. Ferraro, a conservative who served on the Los Angeles school board from 1969 to 1983. Ferraro ran for the community college board in 1985 but lost decisively to incumbent Arthur Bronson. He has been the most vocal about the belt-tightening that he believes should take place and makes no bones about his position on Koltai and some other administrators in district headquarters. "Koltai must go; they must go," he said.
Two Latinos with a long list of Eastside endorsements are campaigning hard for the seat in the belief that Quezada's seat should go to a Latino.
David Lopez-Lee, a professor of public administration at USC, attacks the trustees for considering still more layoffs. "Here we have increasing enrollments, and they're trying to lay off teachers," he said. "It makes no sense."
Lopez-Lee, who is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, is no stranger to politics. He led an unsuccessful recall effort in the mid-1970s against then-Los Angeles City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder. He has been considered in the past for an appointment to the board. Among his supporters are Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Estaban Torres (D-La Puente).
Carmen E. Luna, an analyst with the City of Los Angeles, is running with Quezada's support. She said the community colleges have failed to attract support at the neighborhood level because they are not offering the right programs or recruiting students properly. The system, she said, "has lost sight of how important it can be to our communities."
She favors the formation of private foundations by alumni and local businesses to raise funds for specific campuses and also supports many of the cost-cutting measures suggested by others, including the relocation of the district headquarters.
Strong Political Role
Luna has been politically active, serving for two years as a field representative for Eastside City Councilwoman Gloria Molina when she was an assemblywoman. Luna is also president of the Los Angeles chapter of Comision Femenil , a Latino women's service organization . She has been endorsed by, among others, state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre.
Others running for the seat are Douglas Lasken, teacher; Elizabeth Rowen, student body president at Pierce College; Noel Stone, educator, and H. Zakary Zietlin, a management consultant and former president at West Los Angeles College.