By Doug Porter
Sometimes big headlines result from big spin. Take Escondido, for instance. Politicians in that north county bastion of reaction have mastered the fine art of drama when it comes to politics.
Whether it’s banning immigrants from renting homes, terminating a social service agency’s contract in retaliation for its speech, and enforcing a restrictive ordinance that stifled rallies and demonstrations, the yokels in America’s 11th most conservative city know how to stand the truth on its head to advance their cause.
From the mindset that imagined refugees from Central America were here to sell drugs, spread disease, and rape their daughters, comes the story of poor hard working Republican school board members being bullied by a mean old Latino Democrat.
So it was big news, just like they hoped it would be, last week when the Union-Tribune revealed that a temporary restraining order had been filed, barring Escondido Union School Board member, Jose Fragozo, barring him from stepping onto any school district property or attending board meetings.
A Big Mouth Gets You a TRO in Escondido
Superior Court Judge Richard S. Whitney granted the TRO following allegations of intimidation and threats against District Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra and other district administrators.
The complaint doesn’t list any incidents in which Fragozo explicitly threatened violence.
Instead, it outlines a number of situations where Fragozo allegedly raised his voice and was “very angry and loud,” or intimidated Rankins-Ibarra. The document alleges on one occasion, Fragozo wanted the superintendent to hire a director of curriculum and assessment from a list of candidates that Fragozo provided. Such a maneuver would have effectively sidestepped the recruitment process. Rankins-Ibarra eventually appointed Kathleen Sorensen from his own list of executives.
The complaint says Fragozo expressed his displeasure about the hire, and allegedly “intimidated” Rankins-Ibarra and “made me feel threatened for my safety because of his words and actions.”
Escondido Education Advocates Push Back
Parents and education advocates have called on the public to attend Thursday night’s meeting of the Escondido Union School Board (7 p.m. 2310 Aldergrove Ave., Escondido) to voice support for Fragozo.
The TRO and accompanying declarations do not back up the claims that Jose is “hostile” or that he threatened harm, according to Rebecca Nutile, spokesperson for Voices Against Privatizing Education, which describes itself as a grassroots coalition seeking to repeal California’s Charter School Act of 1992.
The name of the group supporting Fragozo provides a clue to what’s really going on here:
Unless more compelling details come to light, these allegations appear to be political, much in line with other treatment received by Mr. Fragozo from the board majority who have the authority to direct Mr. Ibarra and staff. All elected members of the school board except Mr. Fragozo are members of the local Republican organization and all either have direct ties or have expressed strong support of the local charter schools. The board majority continues to support these privately-run schools at the expense of the public schools they are elected to run. Mr. Fragozo is the lone Democrat and has spoken out repeatedly about many issues particularly the district’s need to better serve students who are English learners.
A ‘Dangerous Neighborhood’ Blamed for Exclusion
The “treatment” of Fragozo referred in their statement includes excluding him from the at-home delivery (provided to all other board members) of documents in advance of meetings, based on the presumption the neighborhood he lives in is too dangerous.
This special treatment meant he didn’t receive advance notice and documents relating to a recent motion approving a new charter for the second location of one of the lowest-performing schools in the state of California.
Public education advocates say this action will result in diverting $18 million dollars over next five years away from public schools which have much higher test scores, Field Act compliant facilities, and unionized teachers.
Escondido School Board members also voted recently to change the decades-old rotational method in which the board’s officers were selected. Jose Fragozo was, not coincidentally, next in line for the President’s job.
A Passion for ‘Our Kids’
An email sent out to Escondido parents urging them to attend the school board meeting said:
Jose has embarrassed the superintendent and other board members by his persistent pressure on administrators to act more to improve the curriculum for English learners. The 2015 scores were abysmally low. The Superintendent and other Board members find it easier to turn his persistence into a legal issue—shooting the messenger of the problem rather than fixing the problem.
Those of us who have known Jose for years, recognize that he has a passion for what he calls “our kids”. His passion can cause his voice to rise with that passion. But, we find it extremely difficult to believe that he would ever, in any way, physically threaten or intimidate anyone.
Meanwhile, Fragozo was in court yesterday, coming out on the losing end of a bid to get the TRO modified so he could attend Thursday night’s meeting.
Fragozo’s attorney, Kirsten Andelman, told NBC 7 the court action was taken because her client has a difference of opinion from the administration.
“This is very clearly a political vendetta where my client’s rights to publicly participate in the required duties of being a member of the school committee are being threatened,” Andelman told the judge.
The court order will remain in effect until a full hearing is held on December 18th. In the meantime, the Brown Act will allow Fragozo to participate in meetings via teleconferencing.
Boom! There Goes the Middle Class
How’s that trickle down working for ya? Thirty-plus years after the great communicator promised us all wealth through tax cuts and less government, things aren’t looking so good for those in the middle. The rich, as we all should know, are getting richer.
Here’s the latest news from the Pew Research Center:
After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.
For those at the bottom of the economic ladder –news flash for Republicans: most poor people work– things are not looking up.
From a recent article in CalMatters:
There were about 354,800 Californians working full-time and year-round in 2013 living under the federal poverty limit, according to the nonprofit California Budget and Policy Center. That’s 3.1 percent of California’s full-time workforce, double the rate it was 35 years ago.
“A low-wage worker today earns less than a similar worker would a generation ago,” said Luke Reidenbach, policy analyst with the center, which researches how state policy affects low- and middle-income Californians. “Even as the economy grows, that’s not resulting in an increase of their hourly wages, and so over time the value of their wages has eroded.”
Pay for California’s bottom 20 percent of wage-earners has declined by 11.3 percent since 1979, when adjusted for inflation, according to the center.
Other research has tried to calculate the tax cost of California’s working poor. UC Berkeley Labor Center, a liberal-leaning research group, estimates low-wage California workers and their dependents received $14.3 billion a year in cash assistance, health care, food stamps and tax credits between 2007 and 2012.
Don’t let your eyes glaze over on that last stat: tax dollars are subsidizing low wage employers to the tune of $14.3 billion annually in California alone. Note that the 3.1% of the full-time workforce cited is only at the federal poverty limit, defined as $12,316 a year for a single person. According to the Center on Policy Initiatives, a single person needs to earn $27,655 annually to make ends meet in San Diego with a no-frills budget.
The WalMart Effect on Jobs & Wages
Economist Robert E. Scott, has shed some light on mega-retailer WalMart’s impact on jobs and wages via the Economic Policy Institute article on the trade deficit with China.
In the long history of false promises made by trade negotiators, the claim that China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 would reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China and create good U.S. jobs stands out. The total U.S. goods trade deficit with China reached $324.2 billion in 2013. Between 2001 and 2013, this growing deficit eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs (Kimball and Scott 2014). As the world’s largest retailer, U.S.-based Wal-Mart is a key conduit of Chinese imports into the American market…
On average, each of the 4,835 stores Wal-Mart operated in the United States in fiscal 2014 (Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 2014) was responsible for the loss of about 86 U.S. jobs due to the growth of Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.
…The growing goods trade deficit with China displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs in the United States between 2001 and 2013, and it has been a prime contributor to the crisis in manufacturing employment over the past 15 years. Due to its own growing trade deficit with China, Wal-Mart alone was responsible for the loss of more than 400,000 U.S. jobs, 13.2 percent of total U.S. jobs lost in this period. The current unbalanced U.S.-China trade relationship is bad for both countries, and Wal-Mart has played a major role in creating that imbalance. The United States is piling up foreign debt, losing export capacity, and facing a more fragile macroeconomic environment.
WalMart’s PR people have denounced the study, saying it’s based on out-of-date data. I dunno, it doesn’t look too out of date to me…
Ripped from the headlines of a largely fawning press, here’s the latest news about America’s leading purveyor of puerile proclamations:
- A petition to the British Parliament urging consideration of action banning The Donald from entering the United Kingdom has gathered more than 445,000 signatures as of this writing. The Parliament considers all petitions getting more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.
- The Union-Tribune commissioned SurveyUSA to poll 500 adults in San Diego on The Donald’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Fifty two percent of those surveyed said they agreed with the idea to some degree or another.
- And then there’s this from Bloomberg Politics:
Almost two-thirds of likely 2016 Republican primary voters favor Donald Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., while more than a third say it makes them more likely to vote for him.
Those are some of the findings from a Bloomberg Politics/Purple Strategies PulsePoll, an online survey conducted Tuesday, that shows support at 37 percent among all likely general-election voters for the controversial proposal put forward by the Republican front-runner.
“We believe these numbers are made up of some people who are truly expressing religious bigotry and others who are fearful about terrorism and are willing to do anything they think might make us safer,” Doug Usher, who runs polling for Washington-based Purple Strategies, said in his analysis of the findings. “This indicates that, despite some conventional wisdom expressed in the last 48 hours, this is unlikely to hurt Trump at least in the primary campaign.”
— TIME.com (@TIME) December 9, 2015
On This Day: 1906 – The first sit-down strike in U.S. was called by the IWW at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y. 1950 – Dr. Ralph J. Bunche was presented the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the first African-American to receive the award. Bunche was awarded the prize for his efforts in mediation between Israel and neighboring Arab states. 1967 – Otis Redding, at age 26, was killed when his tour plane crashed into a Wisconsin lake. Redding’s tour band, the “Bar-Kays,” was also killed.
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