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Southwestern College, the Sweetwater Union High School District, and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, all located in the South Bay, have several school-board seats up for grabs in a few days. The level of campaign contributions received by candidates at Southwestern and Sweetwater is considerably higher than the contributions in the elementary school district. Could it be because of bond money?

Southwestern College is currently spending $389 million of Proposition R funds approved in 2008 and $120 million that remains from Proposition AA, approved in 2006.

One of the most contested races in the Southwestern College district is between Yolanda Salcido, the president of the board, and Norma Hernandez, former president of the college. In Salcido’s most recent campaign-donation filing (covering the period of October 1–16), Seville Construction Services, the company managing Southwestern’s bond money, donated $7500. The majority of the $57,250 picked up in this period is from contractors or is contractor-related. Salcido has received a total of $102,598.

Salcido’s opponent, Hernandez, received no donations from contractors in the last filing period. Her two largest donors during the first half of October were Pacific Spanish Network, which gave $5000, and San Diego PAC, which gave $2000. She has received a total of $40,001.51.

Voters approved Proposition O in 2006, which gave Sweetwater Union High School District $644 million to use for construction and reconstruction. Incumbent Sweetwater boardmember Jim Cartmill and Karen Janney, a retired educator, are waging a fierce battle.

The Seville Group Inc., which is managing the Prop O construction, gave Cartmill $20,000 on October 2. Most of the $34,884 collected in this period came from contractors. Cartmill’s total to date is $85,970.

Cartmill’s opponent, Janney, has altogether $40,638. No contractor donations are listed in her latest filing. The majority of her donations were for $100. Her highest donation was $5,625.46, from the Sweetwater Education Association PAC.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District is not working with any bond money. The Union-Tribune reported on October 18 that “incumbents Larry Cunningham, Douglas Luffborough and Pamela Smith — who are running as a team — have collected a total of $7,000.” The same article reported that Nick Segura, the challenger with the most campaign donations, had raised “nearly $5,000.”

Pictured: Jim Cartmill

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Comments

mustang Oct. 30, 2010 @ 6:41 p.m.

Between the Sweetwater Union High District and Southwestern College, there's over $1 Billion dollars in construction bonds available in Chula Vista. Contractors with current contracts with these institutions have contributed nearly $200,000 to candidates in the Sweetwater Union High School District alone. Of 34 contractors working on the Montgomery High School Prop O bond contract, only 2 are from Chula Vista and very few are from San Diego County. Chula Vista residents are paying taxes on these bonds to keep citizens from other cities throughout the state and country employed. These tax dollars should be supporting our students and families to the maximum extent possible and reasonable. Shame on the candidates who have taken campaing contributions from contractors with current contracts. While it may not be illegal these candidates should realize they have not taken the moral/ethical high ground and this sends a very disturbing message to the people they are elected to represent.

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Pancho Oct. 30, 2010 @ 9:19 p.m.

The U/T has done, by my count, two articles recently on this subject as it relates to contractor's giving large sums to their candidates of choice for the SUHSD Board of Trustees. The most recent article:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/oct/25/contractors-continue-pouring-money-into-sweetwater/

Goes to greater length specifically on the SUHSD campaign contributions. I think it is important to note that there appears to be a strong slate where contributions are given by contractors to Cartmill, McCann & Ricassa, while the other three strong challengers seem to be getting a lot of their contributions from employee unions.

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Susan Luzzaro Oct. 30, 2010 @ 9:48 p.m.

An interesting point related to all this campaign money is that in the Chula Vista elementary school district the starting teacher's salary is $35,000 and in the Sweetwater district the starting teacher's salary is $40,000.

It's interesting to think about all the ways this campaign money might have enhanced students' education.

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dwalden Oct. 31, 2010 @ 12:41 a.m.

Having read the articles above and the comments therein, it seems only appropriate that we (the voters) should institute term limits for starters for ALL ELECTED positions AND secondly, prohibit donations from any contractor who expects to participate in or compete for bids offered by the School Districts and/or College. If companies donated solely out of the kindness of their hearts, with no intentions of future bids for district / college work – great, we should note no decline in their campaign contributions. IF however such ordinance, rule, regulation is enacted AND a significant reduced donation level is noted, then we'll know for sure that the companies donated in hope of achieving a specific gain. The Voters can have no part in such games of illusion where a pay for play kind of scenario is displayed.

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Founder Oct. 31, 2010 @ 8:12 a.m.

Reply #1-#4 It is apparent to me and many others that the Money has replaced Education, as the most important thing in this election! I agree with dwalden that term limits and a prohibition of Contractors donating to those they wish to get Contracts from is long over due!

South Bay's Students education should be Job #1, and it is up to the Voters to make sure that happens. Electing New Board Members will send a strong message that, "Pay for Play" is no longer acceptable!

We need to provide many more Students with degree's not build more Huge Buildings with ornate furnishings just to fatten Contractor's wallets!

Education Not Construction

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joepublic Oct. 31, 2010 @ 9:26 a.m.

I believe Karen Janney, who is running for the Sweetwater school board, refuses to accept contractor money. Other than maybe a few exceptions like her, “pay to play” seems to have become the norm in private contractor/public agency relations. I agree with #4 and #5. We've got to fix this corrupt system!

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emmitsmith Oct. 31, 2010 @ 10:10 a.m.

Norma Hernandez has had more than 300 people donate to her campaign to raise the money for her campaign, most individuals. SHe is the choice of teachers and staff to bring the focus back to education and reinstating a good accreditation standing. Salcido has had a lot less donate to her campaign, but it is mostly big dollar donations from the very construction companies whose bids she has approved, many only after they have donated to her campaign. It's time to dump these incumbent folks who have put our college at risk of losing its accreditation, are cutting classes in favor of building buildings, and most likely getting their pockets lined with money that comes from our taxes. Think about it, a company like Echo Pacific or Seville donates $10s of thousands to your campaign and are rewarded with a fat juicy contract paid for with your tax dollars. Guess where they make up for the money the donate to the campaign? It comes from the bid they have just won.

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SWC_Teacher Oct. 31, 2010 @ 10:10 a.m.

So vote out the unethical incumbents who have accepted tens of thousand dollars in "pay-for-play" money, and insist that new school board members enact term limits while prohibiting donations from contractors who are doing business or want to do business with their districts.

--Philip Lopez

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savesweetwater Oct. 31, 2010 @ 11:06 a.m.

I agree with all the previous comments. Vote out the incumbents. If Cartmill and Ricasa can raise this kind of money from contractors for their campaigns, why haven't they asked the contractors/vendors to donate to save some of the district programs that have been cut due to budget constraints? Where are their priorities? Obviously, not with the students!

Oh by the way, it's interesting to note that one of the latest contributions on Cartmill's list is a $5,000 donation from Citizens for Good Government in South Bay. That FPPC committee is actually organized by GCR (Garcia, Calderon, and Ruiz), a law firm owned by Bonifacio Garcia. He is the Sweetwater District's legal counsel. The Citizens for Good Government has also contributed to Yolanda Salcido's campaign efforts in past years. The Citizens for Good Government has received contributions from contractors, like Barnhart, in the past. We don't know if they have received any recent donations from contractors/vendors because they have NOT filed all the required disclosure statements for this campaign season.

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Susan Luzzaro Oct. 31, 2010 @ 12:02 p.m.

9 I did notice that Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay and looked it up on the state website. You're right they have not filed for this season. As it was not germane to the theme of the story, contractor money, I didn't include the Lincoln Club which is listed on Cartmill's disclosure form. I believe it was $2,500 in literature.

It's useful that these forms are now listed on the county website for all to see.

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SWC_Teacher Nov. 1, 2010 @ 9:56 a.m.

Another SWC Governing Board reform that's needed:

Currently, candidates compete for a single seat on the Board, even though the "seat" they're running for is meaingless. It's not a geographical seat or anything else. What have, in effect, is seperate elections for seperate Governing Board seats.

As a consequence, the winner of a seat might not receive a majority of the votes. Almost certainly, this is going to happen on Tuesday: Tim Nader is running for a seat against the incumbent Jorge Dominguez, against Bud MacLeroy, and against Jaime Mercado. Because there are four candidates, none of them is likely to receive a majority of the votes.

(I'm going to pause inside these partentheses to suggest that the reason Mercado is running for this seat is to split the ballot and take votes away from Nader--which will benefit his Sweetwater Union High School District colleague Jorge Dominguez. Why else would someone like Mercado--who's politically savvy--place himself on the ballot and then do absolutely nothing to win the election? He has shown up at none of the candidate forums, mailed no mailers, taken out no ads, done nada, zip, zero, zilch, but he's sure to get several thousand votes simply because he's on the ballot and because some folks will vote against any incumbent. These are votes that Nader will not get.)

Back on topic: Because SWC Board elections are for individual seats, there's a real possibility that a loser in the election for a given seat could receive more votes than a winner of the election for a different seat.

The solution for this undemocratic mess is simple: If there are three seats open, then voters should vote on the entire list of candidates, and the top three vote-getters win.

--Philip Lopez

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Founder Nov. 1, 2010 @ 11:37 a.m.

South Bay Voters are being "Gamed" by the very folks they are expected to trust to run the educational systems fairly for the People in South Bay!

Quality Education begins with Quality Oversight, otherwise Faculty and Staff never have a chance of doing what's best for Students.

The current Board is skimming educational money and rewarding Fat Construction Companies with Fat Contracts in exchange for FAT Donations!

Wake up South Bay Voters and first vote in all new Board Members, then make sure they change the way the South Bay Educational Institutions works by demanding that they be selected by District instead or "At Large" because as explained above in #11's great post; these Boards are "RIGGED"...

Vote OUT THE OLD Pro Business Members, who accept BIG Contractor $ and VOTE IN the Pro Education Members that want to teach Students.

Remember

All South Bay Students are depending on you, Vote Smart!

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