Oak Leaf guide to endorsements


The editorial board’s opinion of the candidates, propositions and measures on the Nov. 4 ballot

Dorothy Battenfeld

One of the most important questions the Oak Leaf editorial board asked each candidate was to describe in their own words the issues students might have with Santa Rosa Junior College. Dorothy Battenfeld expressed concern over obstacles that can keep students from success: a lack of access to classes, scholarships, counseling and childcare, along with transportation difficulties, finding affordable housing and language barriers.

Battenfeld has taught social science at Montgomery High School since 1987. This constant interaction with students has made her the candidate most in tune with students’ needs — proved by the most comprehensive and informed answer out of all the candidates interviewed.

Moreover, Battenfeld has pledged to keep the Board in better communication with the community at large, as she feels the current trustees have not always been in the best of contact with the colleges’ neighbors.

Speaking of the community at large, this race is distinctive for being in Area 3/4/5, meaning that instead of campaigning to represent one district, candidates must drum up support from all three. This essentially forces them to canvass three times the voters than candidates in the other areas. At the same time, there are no distinctions made as to how the members are distributed within the 3/4/5 boundaries; all three members could hypothetically live on the same block.

As the only challenger directly affected by this arrangement, Battenfeld believes that redistricting should be one of the Board’s priorities, as the current system does not allow voters proper representation.

Jordan Burns

Although he is a new candidate for SRJC’s Board of Trustees, Jordan Burns is by no means a new face.

Burns graduated valedictorian from the college in 2009 before moving on to get his bachelor’s degree in political science from University of California, Berkeley.

During his time at SRJC, he also served as the Student Trustee member from 2008-2009. He’s had firsthand experience seeing how the board works and where it needs some help.

In particular, what interests our editorial board in Burns is his commitment to make the Board more accessible both to SRJC students and the community at large.

Burns believes the Board’s present methods of communication have been almost nonexistent. Adequate dialogue with the public will be especially necessary if the $410 million bond Measure H passes, and the community wants to know how its newly raised taxes have been spent.

Along with being “as open as possible” on a personal level, Burns wants to set the Board’s meetings at times more convenient for the public to provide input and ask questions of the Board.

In terms of student representation, Burns wants to see the student trustee share the full rights and responsibilities that the rest of the Board’s members have: a full vote, as opposed to the “non-binding advisory vote” the student trustee can currently give — one not included in determining the Board’s actions.

The Oak Leaf supports Jordan Burns for committing to a more open and accessible Board of Trustees, giving students a stronger role in SRJC’s governing body and bolstering SRJC’s financial oversight.

Kathleen Doyle

The endorsement for Area 2 was a close call between candidates at all levels; in the overall vote by the Oak Leaf editorial board and the personal opinions of each member, both candidates had a strong skill set and a wealth of experience to offer.

However, every competition must have one winner, and in this case it came down to Kathleen Doyle.

Doyle is the only incumbent member of the Board of Trustees the Oak Leaf is endorsing. She proved herself as the most adaptable and open-minded of the presiding board members.

Of the issues the Oak Leaf has asked the candidates, student participation has been at the forefront, with special consideration to the student member of the Board of Trustees as the representative of student interests. Doyle was the only candidate to provide reasons why student trustees can’t vote. Instead of the flat “No,” sans explanation that her fellow incumbents gave, or the more affirmative, if less certain, responses from every challenger, Doyle cited the California Education Code, which clearly states that the student member of a community college board cannot vote. While this isn’t the answer we’d like to hear, the members of the editorial board appreciated Doyle’s blunt delivery of the straight facts.

One thing Doyle said at the very end of the interview bothered us, however. She asked for students to come to the Board to express their concerns, but showed no explicit intention of going out into the student population herself.

The Oak Leaf challenges Doyle – and all members of the Board – to do just that: take initiative to engage with the students. Consider the administrative styles of our current president Dr. Frank Chong versus his predecessor Dr. Robert Agrella. Unlike Agrella, Dr. Chong is a regular sight around the campus grounds and makes appearances at many public gatherings. This open and immersive style of leadership is vital to maintaining strong bonds with the community the Board serves.

Jared Huffman

Preserving an environmentally and economically sustainable future is the political fight Congressman Jared Huffman (D) has fought and hopes to continue fighting. Before he represented California’s 2nd Congressional District, Huffman fought for gender equality and environmental protection as an attorney.

The 2nd District stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border and consists of Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties, and portions of Sonoma County. Huffman’s opponent is Dale Mensing (R).

After voters elected Huffman in 2012 with 71 percent of the vote, he served on the Committee on the Budget and the Committee on Natural Resources.

Huffman said he thinks the two biggest issues our generation faces are global climate change and income inequality.

Our generation also faces increasing higher education costs. Huffman supports a number of reforms to lower and lock in student loan interest rates, increase grant aid, and provide student loan forgiveness – especially in areas where the economy is deficient, like primary care physicians and educators.

According to Huffman, California’s drought not only threatens water levels but environmental regulations as well. He said some people will try and use the drought, in combination with wildfires, to raid other districts’ water and rollback regulations. Regulations that protect rivers and prevent clear cutting and additional logging in our National forests could also be bypassed in response to the drought. Last summer Huffman fought to keep water in the Trinity River system and allow flows for fish. Huffman anticipates he will have to fight this fight year after year and he has no problem doing that.

 

Measure H: Yes

Upgrading classroom technology, expanding career and technical programs and retrofitting older buildings up to current earthquake codes is essential for the students and the community, especially with half of Sonoma County high school graduates attending SRJC. The college must make changes to properly prepare students for today’s demanding workplace.

Measure A, which passed in 2002 with 70 percent support, helped build the Doyle Library, the Burdo Culinary Center, expanded the Petaluma campus, added more than 3,000 computers and made more changes to improve SRJC — but the money is running out.

Proposition 2: No

The proposition will create a rainy day fund by requiring the state and individual school districts to hold budgetary savings of 10 percent. School boards will be forced to keep no more and no less than 10 percent, creating strict limits in a state where education funding has an awful track record. School funding is low across the board, and schools will not function any better at 90 percent funding. Opponents have also voiced concerns over Proposition 2 conflicting with Proposition 98’s minimum funding guarantees for schools. California schools already receive low funding; we don’t need to squeeze any more money from them.

Proposition 46: Yes

The proposition will enforce drug and alcohol tests on doctors if any medical practitioner reports suspicious behavior, which means that a nurse can report it if a doctor seems under the influence. If the doctor fails the drug test, the California Medical Board will be required to suspend them. Health care practitioners will also be required to consult a drug prescription database before prescribing certain drugs to patients. Though Proposition 46 will raise the cap for medical lawsuits to more than $1 million and may raise healthcare costs for both consumers and malpractice insurance for doctors, it will reassure patients that they get the best treatment.

Proposition 47: Yes

Reducing certain drug possession offenses from felony to misdemeanor will alleviate prison overcrowding and save county criminal justice systems several hundred million dollars annually. The proposition will also relieve the state of the cost of K-12 school dropout prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment and victim services. In fact, supporters include California for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools and the Open Policy Center, a human rights non-profit group. Those who fear the release of an estimated 10,000 felons must keep in mind that Proposition 47 does not excuse those previously convicted of rape, murder or child molestation.

Proposition 48: No

Allowing one Indian Tribe to build a casino off an Indian Reservation would open the floodgates and allow casinos to be built anywhere in California. While the casino has the ability to bring in money and tourists, the location of the planned casino is already surrounded by existing casinos — what’s the need for another? We support creating new jobs, but not at the cost of allowing California to become the new Nevada.