Endorsement: Four for Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees

Two young adults at Los Angeles City College
The Los Angeles Community College District sets goals and spending priorities for its nine college campuses.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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The Board of Trustees for the Los Angeles Community College District sets the goals and spending priorities for the nine college campuses that make up the largest consortium of community colleges in the country. Four of the seven seats on the board are on the ballot in November. We recommend three incumbents and one newcomer because they offer the right mix of experience, knowledge and passion.

These candidates recognize the unique role that LACCD plays in the region in offering affordable higher education to a population challenged by the high cost of living. More than half of LACCD students live in poverty, with many from underrepresented communities. About 60% of the students are the first in their family to attend college, and most are 25 years old or older. Altogether, the district serves three times as many Latino students and four times as many Black students as all the campuses in the University of California system.

District enrollment hovers at around 200,000 students, a decrease of about 20% from pre-pandemic levels, which LACCD leaders acknowledge is an ongoing financial challenge. As such, the district is in the midst of a transformation as leaders rethink how community colleges serve the community.


It bears repeating that we believe the current process of electing trustees is undemocratic. LACCD is the only community college district in California allowed by the state Legislature to skip primary elections. Though it saves the district money, it means the four-year seat goes to whoever wins a plurality of votes, instead of a majority.

The L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for statewide ballot measures, elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, L.A. Unified School District board, L.A. county superior court, statewide offices, the state Legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.

Sept. 8, 2022

Seat 2: Steven Veres

Veres, the incumbent, served on the board from 2011 to 2015, and after a two-year hiatus was elected to another term in 2017. He is now seeking a third term. He offers a breadth of experience that comes from serving in various roles locally and in Sacramento. He serves as district director for state Sen. María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) and has served in the same role to Kevin de León when he was a state senator and Assembly member.

Veres is a better choice than the challenger Jason Aula, a small-business owner who has limited knowledge of the district, the students and their needs. A third candidate for this seat, Glenn Bailey, did not respond to invitations for an interview with the board.

As the son of immigrants, Veres has championed access and affordability for working-class students in the district and helped lead efforts to improve graduation and transfer rates. In his next term, Veres wants to ensure greater access to the most underprivileged students of all — those who have been in foster care. His experience and knowledge will be important as the district strives to close learning gaps and meet economic challenges that arose as a result of the pandemic.

Seat 4: Sara Hernandez


The incumbent, Ernest H. Moreno, has a long record of accomplishment as an LACCD campus president and administrator over several decades, and of questioning district expenditures. He was, for example, the only trustee to vote against putting a new bond measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

However, we recommend Hernandez, a land-use attorney and former L.A. City Council aide, because she has a clearer vision of how to meet the needs of current students. Her experience teaching middle school in Los Angeles Unified and law classes at Los Angeles Valley College means she has seen firsthand how students struggle with problems ranging from transportation to housing.

Improving student outcomes and expanding free college options are among Hernandez’s priorities. Notably, she was the only candidate to speak about the challenges facing single parents, who make up 35% of LACCD students and have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to child-care issues.

A third candidate, Christine LaMonica, a kinesiology lecturer at Cal State Northridge, wants to help improve working conditions for part-time faculty and expand trade school options, but her plans are not well-defined.

Seat 6: Gabriel Buelna

First elected to the board in 2017, Buelna is a Chicana(o) studies lecturer at Cal State Northridge and is executive director of Plaza Community Services in East L.A. He serves as board president and has helped lead trustees through a difficult period during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was characterized by declining enrollment. Buelna has shown strong and smart leadership. He’s led a team to upgrade district technology before the pandemic, an initiative that continues to this day. For example, he notes website changes beginning in November that will reduce the amount of time it will take a student to complete an enrollment application from 49 minutes to 19 minutes.


Buelna’s challenger in the race is Robert L. Payne, a feature films technician who has taught at Los Angeles Mission College, wants to enact higher pay for part-time faculty and promote the use of solar energy by installing more solar panels for more sustainability. However, he doesn’t have the experience to help lead a complex institution.

Seat 7: Kelsey Iino

Iino was appointed to the Board of Trustees in April to fill the rest of the term for a seat vacated by Mike Fong when he was elected to the state Assembly. Iino, a community college counselor for 15 years and graduate of El Camino College, is now running for a full term on the board.

She is running against two challengers. Mark Dutton, a music producer and writer, seems to have an earnest interest in expanding vocational education opportunities for LACCD but displays little knowledge of the district. Nancy Pearlman served as a LACCD trustee for 16 years but lost to Buelna in the last election.

We think Iino is the best candidate in this race. She has served as trustee for just a few months but has a clear view of what she wants to accomplish and shows much promise as a district leader. Iino is a longtime community volunteer, including serving as board member of the Little Tokyo Service Center, and is president of the El Camino College Federation of Teachers, which represents about 1,000 faculty members. Her priorities include increasing college accessibility and affordability for students who are first-generation, veterans and previously incarcerated residents.