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Board candidate untroubled by facts

AS IF YOU ASKED

Earlier this week, I wrote about what appeared to be an effort to

steal campaign signs posted by school board incumbent candidate Mike

McDonald. Now, McDonald is trying to do away with a campaign tool

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used by his opponents -- facts.

If the stunt weren’t so offensive to the truth, it would be funny

for its brazenness. McDonald’s campaign is telephoning voters to play

a recording urging a vote for McDonald. In an excited, almost giddy

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tone, a male voice introduces himself. The following is a transcript

of the rest of his message.

“I’m calling on behalf of my friend, Mike McDonald for Burbank

School Board. There have been a lot of accusations about the current

Burbank School Board and they ALL have been proven to be false! Our

schools have never looked better and test scores have gone through

the roof! Now is not the time for change. Vote experience. Vote Mike

McDonald for Burbank School Board. Thanks.”

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I don’t challenge the caller’s claim McDonald is a pal. He’d have

to be that, or an employee, to say what he does. Test scores are up,

but it appears the board wants credit for the work of teachers, and

for implementing class-size reductions and other rules imposed by the

state. I also can’t quibble with the caller’s report that a lot of

accusations have been leveled at the board. But the next claim, that

“ALL have been proven to be false,” is so ludicrous it almost has to

be a joke.

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Does the caller mean to claim someone can prove McDonald and his

colleagues did not approve a budget for this school year that

accidentally left out $1.4 million in annual special-education

expenses? Has evidence arisen that, when auditors warned in writing

year after year of a long list of careless accounting practices in

the district, episodes that led to shortfalls and expenditures from

inappropriate accounts, the board actually did something?

Has someone found a way to prove that, after secretly dumping the

district’s superintendent, board members did not publicly deny for

more than a week having any idea of why he wasn’t coming to work?

McDonald went further back then, ridiculing the idea that the

superintendent vanishing warranted a newspaper article.

Has somebody managed to prove McDonald did not take part in

setting fees for using school sites, specifically saying he wants to

keep costs low for the kids’ football league he runs? What about

board members repeatedly and inadvertently revealing on camera that

they talk privately with a board majority about district issues? Can

someone prove those revelations of illegal meetings were special

effects, devious manipulations of pixels and digital sound?

Maybe there’s proof the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit

did not opine in writing, “It is apparent from these repeated

violations that the BUSD board is in the habit of conducting business

behind closed doors.” I know a lawyer paid by the board disagrees.

But he and the board refuse to provide details, and no one else in a

long list of local and state officials, Burbank’s city attorney,

judges -- or even rulings from the attorney general or others who

actually enforce the relevant laws -- has endorsed the board’s

conduct.

Is there proof the entire board did not receive a “no-

confidence” vote from Burbank teachers, a vote unrelated to contract

talks? Is there proof friends who once worked to support the election

of incumbent board members didn’t really take turns at the BUSD

podium last year pledging not to help those same officials win

reelection?

Schools do look better, thanks to a bond measure that passed in a

second try only after the campaign was taken out of the hands of

board members. And when they brag projects are “on budget” now, it’s

easy to prove the board is bragging about having spent the budgeted

amount -- and the contingency reserves -- without mentioning they’re

getting significantly less than what was planned for that amount.

Can the campaign caller seriously claim there’s proof the board

did not pledge to conduct an exhaustive national search for a new

superintendent and then, without soliciting even one other

application, immediately move to promote the district’s longtime

second-in-command?

Let’s not be so picky, and try a simple one: Is there proof we

misunderstood each time last year that it appeared McDonald fell

asleep during board meetings?

Allegations the school board is responsible for crop circles and

dry skin are unfair and untrue. After that, many charges against the

board are incontrovertible. Anyone is entitled to conclude the

board’s positives outweigh those negatives. But denying the negatives

exist, or claiming they’ve been manufactured by “special interests”

(the label pouting incumbents now apply to the teachers they claimed

to respect and adore last year) simply adds another negative to the

list.

AN UNFUNNY THING AT THE FORUM

On Wednesday, all the candidates for City Council and school board

met in back-to-back televised forums hosted by the local chapter of

the League of Women Voters.

I’ve decided it might have been a teensy bit unfair to candidates

that I watched the first half while suffering miserably from an

abscessed tooth. See, I hated everybody. I hated everything everyone

said. I hated the seat I was in. I hated the pen I was using, and I

especially hated all those happy people who seemed to be enjoying

pain-free teeth.

I know some of the candidates actually did quite well, so I don’t

think it would be fair to write about the event until I’ve had a

chance to watch it again after my root canal. But if you intend to

vote, don’t wait for me. The forums are being replayed on Charter

Communications Cable Channel 6 once or twice virtually every day up

through the Feb. 25 primary election. For example, they will run at 6

p.m. today, and they’re scheduled for 10 a.m. and 7 p.m tomorrow.

However, I strongly recommend waiting until after you’ve undergone

any imminent dental surgery.

* WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He

can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or

by e-mail at will.rogers@latimes.com or at

willrogersemail@earthlink.net.


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