Friday, March 09, 2007

Valley School Board Race -- Why Such Little Voting?

Steve Lopez has an important column in the L.A. Times this morning, examining why there was such a paltry turnout in this week's school board and other races. He particularly writes about District 3 in the San Fernando Valley, where only 29,167 voters showed up among 315,181 registered voters, despite the fact that there was a spirited contest between Tamar Galatzan, backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Jon Lauritzen, who was backed by the Teacher's Union. Both had plenty in contributions to get their messages out.

I live in this district, and, as almost always, I actually voted in the election, casting my vote for Galatzan, although for several reasons I wasn't happy with her.

Generally speaking, I'm neither sympathetic with the mayor's desire to run the schools, nor with the Teacher's Union's desire to run the school board. So neither of the major candidates really appealed to me, and a third candidate, who received enough votes to force a runoff, I never heard from and could not view as consequential.

I did hear, sometimes indirectly, from Galatzan and Lauritzen, but the communications were unsatisfying.

As a Republican, I didn't hear a lot directly from Galatzan, probably because her campaign calculated I wasn't likely to vote for her. What I heard from her was through mailings to my son, who votes from this address but who is stationed abroad for the moment.

On the day of the election, a Galatzan campaign worker came to the door to ask if my son had voted. She didn't even have my name on her list as a voter. And she wasn't honest about why she didn't.

Between Galatzan's numerous mailings to my son, and Lauritzen's numerous mailings to me, I hardly gave either a glance, because they were always pap. They contained nothing substantive that would allow me to reach any sound conclusions about the background of these candidates, their policy positions or their hopes and aspirations. This is standard for mailings in most campaigns. They are worthless and I usually throw them away with scarcely a glance.

I've been reading, recently, the definitive complete edition of Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl." In this epic work, the teenager gives always a great deal of herself. I would have voted for her for anything. But there wasn't a line in either the Galatzan or Lauritzen campaign mailings that was worth as much as a phrase of Anne Frank's.

I veered back and forth between deciding to vote for Galatzan and Lauritzen, but what finally decided me was a call from a Lauritzen campaign worker the night before the election.

When this woman called, I told her very frankly that I had some questions about Lauritzen. Would he always do whatever the Teacher's Union told him to do if he were elected to the school board? And did he really mean what his campaign literature said, that he would push for more aid to Valley schools? (Actually, I feel there ought to be more aid to schools on the south and east sides, not the Valley. From my experience when I was raising my children, the Valley schools have adequate resources).

The caller bluntly refused to answer any of my questions. "That's not my job," she told me. (I wonder how much Lauritzen might have paid this ditz for alienating voters).

At that point, I decided to vote for Galatzan, and so informed her. After all, in a call from Galatzan seeking my son, I had asked a few questions and gotten some not-too-specific answers.

So I voted, which as I say, I always do. But I'm not sure I'll vote for Galatzan in the runoff. Maybe, I won't, if I get some real answers from Lauritzen.

By the way, I can't agree with Lopez's suggestion that, based on the poor turnouts, democracy might not be worth all that much, and it isn't worth fighting for it in Iraq. Democracy, as Winston Churchill once said, may not always work all that well, but at least it's better than any other form of government that's been tried.

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