Union leads spending in school board race

The political action committee for the Glendale teachers union has emerged as the dominant financial player in the race for school board, spending tens of thousands of dollars in what otherwise has been a low-budget campaign cycle.

The Glendale Teachers Public Education Improvement Fund raised $19,754 between Feb. 25 and March 22, according to the most recent campaign finance disclosure forms filed at the city clerk’s office. The contributions came from the Glendale Teachers Assn. — which funnels a portion of its union member dues to the committee — as well as from its parent organization, the California Teachers Assn. The fund already had a balance of $45,414, according to the filings.

The group’s campaign expenditures have topped $41,000. Much of that money has been spent on election mailings promoting union-endorsed candidates Ingrid Gunnell, a challenger, and incumbent Nayiri Nahabedian. They’ve also paid for fliers criticizing incumbent school board member Mary Boger.

“We feel it is important to be involved in the GUSD board race so we can campaign for candidates who we feel share our advocacy of doing everything for the students, first and foremost,” said union President Tami Carlson.

Fundraising and spending by the union’s political action committee has outstripped that of the eight individual candidates. Nahabedian, first elected to the board in 2007, tops the fundraising list with $19,322, followed by challengers Vahik Satoorian, with $14,344, and Todd Hunt with $8,905, according to the latest campaign disclosure filings.

Fundraising among the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees candidates has been similarly muted, with incumbents Vahe Peroomian and Tony Tartaglia raising $10,972 and $4,911, respectively, well below their 2007 figures. Challenger Vartan Gharpetian has raised $5,724.

Changes in city campaign finance law, including a new $1,000 limit on individual contributions, and a tepid economy have combined to slow the pace of fundraising, candidates said.

“I think it is a good thing,” Tartaglia said of the new campaign finance rules. “I don’t think people can buy campaigns as they have in the past. These $100,000, $200,000 campaigns aren’t happening. I think the public deserves people who are going to get out there and get real support, and not just have somebody write them a large check.”

Many of his contributions have come in the form of checks for $25 and $50, Hunt said.

“I think overall, for the individual candidates, there has been less money raised,” Hunt said. “That said, there are independent expenditures that a few of the candidates have been able to get the benefit from.”

Nahabedian’s campaign has raised an additional few thousand dollars since its most recent filing on March 19, she said, and continues to reach out to supporters through Facebook, e-mail, and coffee meet-and-greet events.

Still, the sum she’s raised is well short of the $30,012 she had received at this time four years ago, Nahabedian said. But as an incumbent, she is feeling confident about her record and there is less pressure to raise large sums of money, she added.

“What is different is that more people know about my service in the past four years, and I feel fortunate about that,” Nahabedian said.

The candidate who has raised and spent the least amount of money during the campaign has actually generated the most buzz in recent days, the result of negative campaign mailers backed by the teachers’ union. Boger has been criticized for, among other things, a vote two years ago that mandated teachers remove small appliances from their classrooms.

Boger and others have described the decision as an energy- and cost-saving measure. Union officials said the district was denying its teachers a hot meal.

“I absolutely hate that such a large amount of money is being spent by special-interest groups, because the last thing in the world I want to see is the school board race politicized,” Boger said.

“There is an old Yiddish proverb that says a half-truth is a whole lie,” she continued. “Unfortunately, those hit pieces were full of half-truths.”

First appointed to the board in 2002, and then reelected in 2003 and 2007, Boger has raised $2,323. Nearly half of it came in the form of a $1,000 check from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

“I have never thought that this is a position for which one should have to raise a great deal of money,” Boger said. “If you are going to be on the school board, you should have demonstrated such a commitment to children that you don’t have to buy name recognition.”

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