Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Three Torrance Initiatives for 2016

Proponents of a trio of measures that would consolidate Torrance city and school board elections, impose term limits on school trustees and create more transparency in labor contract negotiations are expected to begin collecting signatures this week.

The goal is to put them before voters in June 2016.

Marshall said the intent is to raise the profile of the school board.

“Our whole goal in doing this is making the school board stepchild an equal partner in our city in terms of agencies and elections,” Marshall said.

The Torrance School Board deserves more attention. They make decisions which affect the lives of many children for years to come. The board floated two more bonds last year, with hundreds of millions of dollars connected to them. Major building operations will ensue, and residents are upset that with all the money going toward a new aquatic center

The labor contract measure — called the Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN — would require the city and school district to use an independent negotiator for bargaining with public employee unions. It also calls for an independent auditor to prepare an economic analysis of the contract.
To make it to the ballot, it needs the blessing of 10 percent of the city’s registered voters, or 8,403 signatures, Marshall said.

This reform is the most important for me. Labor unions must be transparent with the city, its residents the elected officials, and the employees. If the state of California and country governments refuse to take the lead on dealing with labor abuses, pension and benefit largess, and collective bargaining reforms, then individual cities will have to take on that challenge.

The term-limit charter amendment would boot school board members after two terms or eight years, just like the Torrance City Council.

Term limits are a two-edged sword. On one hand, diffident incumbents cannot hold onto a seat indefinitely because of an uninformed and apathetic voting public. On the other hand, well-meaning, experienced and effective leaders are forced out just because they have served two terms. Numerous inexperienced legislators represent California residents in the state legislature, and the unchecked taxation, spending, and general progressive malaise has not ceased.

I have often retorted that the best term limit is called an election. Getting people informed and engage is more important than arbitrary limits set on who serves and for how long.

A charter amendment to consolidate the school district and municipal elections would have them both in June. The school board has traditionally held its elections in the fall.

I am not sure what to think of this move. I do support the idea of having the school board elections on the same day as city council elections. I would save time and money, and would also better engage the public. Then again, these legal attempts to make voters more aware and participate often do not create the intended results. A well-informed and well-intentioned citizenry is essential for accomplishing a more democratic and responsive government.

Final Reflection

The most important reform is the COIN ordinance. The supports of this initiative must present their argument to all residents, including the public sector employees, that more transparency is in their best interests as well as for the entire city and attending taxpayers.

Consolidating city council and school board elections is a wise idea, too. If nothing else, the measure will save the city money. The vote should take place in June, not November.

As for term limits for school board members, I find this reform the least engaging and thus the least important. As I had written above, the best term limit is an election. Voter ignorance and apathy cannot be undue with election reforms.


  1. Moving the school board election to June will raise (at least double) the cost of running a strong campaign, meaning incumbents, the establishment and the well-heeled will be given a tremendous advantage. You should reconsider your support.


    1. I disagree. Please present more information to affirm your points. Why would moving the election raise the costs of campaigning?