Another Shocker in the East Valley: Here’s How it Happened

nury-martinez-dnLocal politicos are still recovering from last night’s shock result in the City Council District 6 special election, where former LAUSD Board member Nury Martinez stunned former State Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, winning by fewer than 900 votes. Because of the exceedingly low voter turnout in the East Valley district, the margin was enough to give Martinez a healthy 10-point victory. She now holds the distinction of being the only female on the 15-member LA City Council. The mayor, controller and city attorney are also men.

In a tweet, LA County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman called it the “upset of the year,” and Martinez herself told the LA Times, “I feel like I just overcame an impossible mission.”

Few gave Martinez much of a chance after she came in a distant second place in the May 21 primary, finishing 19 points (about 3,000 votes) behind the first-place Montanez. The gap left Martinez struggling to raise money; most of her campaign staff left, including her political consultant, Rose Kapolczynski.

“There was some change [in personnel],” said Roy Behr, who took over the direct mail operation for Martinez in the runoff.   “But the field team was similar. And the closest supporters were there throughout. Those people stuck with [Martinez] and kept her energized.”

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Martinez v. Montanez Gets Ugly

The attack mailer that started it all

The attack mailer that started it all

Remember former School Board member Nury Martinez? She’s locked in a tough runoff with Cindy Montanez for the last open City Council seat. Whoever wins will be the only woman on the 15-member body.

Montanez, who finished 19 points ahead of Martinez in the May primary, stepped up her attacks on Martinez this week, sending out a campaign mailer accusing Martinez and the rest of the school board of hiding “the existence and arrest of a serial child molester from parents and teachers at Telfair Elementary School.” That was the school where third-grade teacher Paul Chapel molested 13 former students. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Martinez then came forward with a startling revelation: she “was repeatedly sexually abused as a child,” according to the LA Times, which said she was going public about it now “to counter attack ads being circulated by her opponent” in the run-up to the July 23 special election to fill an open council seat.

“She is accusing me of covering these things up. That’s where I draw the line,” said Martinez, who denied any knowledge of the Chapel case before the Daily News broke the story more than 18 months ago.

Previous posts: East Valley Power Politics Shaped District 6 RunoffMarathon Board Meeting Signals Changes to ComeBoard Member Martinez Touts Union Support & Public Choice

Marathon Board Meeting Signals Changes to Come

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Superintendent John Deasy, Board President Monica Garcia, and departing Board member Nury Martinez

As anyone following us on Twitter knows all too well, Tuesday’s School Board meeting was a marathon session that lasted well into the night — much of it accompanied by the sound of protesters drumming on the street outside.

Among several key decisions the Board arrived at during the lengthy session were votes to award a $30 million contract to Apple, close a charter school that had dodged a district audit, and add some local regulations to the controversial parent trigger process (but not call for the law’s repeal).

The last meeting of the 2012-2013 school year, it also marked the final appearance of Nury Martinez, who left the Board after four years to run for City Council.

School Board President Monica Garcia presented Martinez with a giant bell, and Board held a bizarre mid-meeting reception in her honor that included a soft jazz band and chicken salad sandwiches.

By 9 pm, when the meeting finally ended, the Board had also approved its 2013-14 budget and begun a furious (and likely to be long-running) debate on how to spend future revenue increases.

If last month’s Board meeting represented a series of hard-fought victories for Superintendent John Deasy and his allies on the Board, last night’s meeting included a couple of losses, with a hint of more to come when the Board changes composition and leadership next month.

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East Valley Power Politics Shaped District 6 Runoff

A diagram of the East Valley clan relationships that shape City Council and LAUSD politics

As you may have read in last week’s LA Weekly about School Board member Nury Martinez’s bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, there are surprisingly few women left on the Council thanks in large part to a rivalry between two male-dominated East San Fernando Valley political clans.

The rivalry between these two Latino clans doesn’t just affect the City Council, however.  It also greatly influenced Tuesday’s District 6 runoff between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff.

A look at the East Valley political factions may provide some insight about how we ended up with the Sanchez-Ratliff runoff rather than any of the other configurations that initially appeared likely — and why teachers union UTLA refrained from picking a single candidate to support in the District 6 race.  They simply didn’t want to get involved in a turf war between the Padillas and the Alarcons.

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Latino Pols Endorse D6 Candidate Zuniga

In an endorsement that somehow flew under the radar, outgoing School board member Nury Martinez has endorsed Iris Zuniga to be her replacement, according to the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter website.

The site notes that newly-elected Congressman Tony Cardenas and State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra have also endorsed Zuniga. Aides to Martinez and Bocanegra have confirmed the endorsements. Congressman Cardenas’ staff has not yet returned our request for comment.

The endorsements are boost for Zuniga, but she remains a long-shot candidate after her opponent, Antonio Sanchez, garnered the endorsements of the unionsthe Democratic Party, and the Coalition for School Reform. Those endorsements came after Martinez, Cardenas and Bocanegra endorsed Zuniga. Continue reading

Board Members Aim to ‘Cuff Supt?

Board Member Richard Vladovic

A controversial item on the LAUSD School Board agenda this week proposes drastically limiting Superintendent John Deasy’s ability to seek funding for the district by applying for public or private grants.

The resolution, initiated by School Board Members Richard Vladovic, Bennett Kayser, and Marguerite LaMotte, aims to give the school board veto power over grant applications made by the school superintendent in amounts over $750,000.

According to a source with knowledge about LAUSD grant applications, Supt. Deasy has been awarded about $120 million dollars for the district through grants so far.

Because of the split on the school board between union-backed board members and supporters of reform-minded Deasy, the effect would be to severely limit the district’s ability to attract foundation and federal money.

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Campaign ’13: Candidates To Watch

The final list of declared candidates for LAUSD school board is in, and the campaigns for Districts 2, 4, and 6 — three spots currently held by those with ties to Superintendent Deasy and his “reform” agenda — will likely eclipse 2011’s races in terms of spending and nastiness. But who are the key challengers to watch?

District 2: Insiders say that UTLA could spend as much as $4 million to try and replace District 2’s Monica Garcia with Annamarie Montañez, the cousin* of former State Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez.

District 4: Steve Zimmer has at least one powerful challenger in Kate Anderson, who raised nearly $400,000 in her bid for State Assembly in 2010. Zimmer may or may not win any support from the teachers union.

District 6: The only open seat, District 6 features three equally strong challengers: Iris Zuñiga, Chief Operating Officer for the Youth Policy Institute charter school operator, Ernie Cardenas, brother of City Councilman Tony Cardenas, who was just elected to U.S. Congress, and Antonio Sanchez, who has ties to both Mayor Villaraigosa and Maria Elena Durazo, head of the LA County Federation of Labor.

Previous posts: Anderson To Run Against ZimmerBoard Candidates Trickling InLAUSD Board Filing Period Opens Monday

*Note: A previous version of this post said Annamarie Montañez was Cindy’s sister.

Events: Board Member Martinez to Talk About Props

LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez

LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez is hosting a town hall meeting in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday, October 27 to educate parents and community members about how propositions on the upcoming election ballot will affect LA schools.

Martinez will speak along with LAUSD’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Megan Reillyhas, about the drastic budget cuts that will be triggered if prop 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s tax measure, doesn’t pass on November 6.

Representatives for props 30, 32, and 38 will also speak and take questions from parents about the impact of their props on LAUSD.

The workshop will be held at Valley Region Middle School #3 in Sun Valley from 10 a.m. to noon.

Find the full event details here.

Morning Read: Healthy Food, Ballot Fights

Board Member Nury Martinez Wants Schools to Serve Healthier Food
Los Angeles Unified board member Nury Martinez has introduced a resolution promoting the school district’s efforts to ensure that its 700,000 students have access to healthful food that is locally grown with sound environmental practices. Daily News

Charles Munger Drops Another $13 Million Into Ballot Measure Fights
Wealthy heir Charles Munger Jr. has ponied up another $13 million to kill off Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increase and to pass the anti-union Proposition 32, according to new campaign finance reports. Sac Bee

College Students to Dress Like Zombies and March for Prop. 30 in ‘The Walking Debt’
California Community College students are planning to dress up like zombies Friday afternoon and take part in “The Walking Debt” — a march from L.A. City Hall to the governor’s Downtown office in support of Prop. 30 and education funding. KPCC

L.A. City Council Celebrates Charter School Leaders
The Los Angeles City Council is taking time out from its Friday meeting to praise local charter school advocates as California’s charter school law turns 20 years old. Los Angeles Councilwoman, and mayoral candidate, Jan Perry has prepared a proclamation for L.A.’s charter school leaders. KPCC

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Board Member Martinez Touts Union Support & Public Choice

Raised in Pacoima and an alumna of San Fernando High School, District 6 School Board Member Nury Martinez earlier this fall announced that she isn’t running for re-election to the LAUSD board in order to run for City Council (see Martinez Running For City Council).

Board member Nury Martinez, with Supt. Deasy
Photo: USC Annenberg

The announcement hasn’t made the four-year board member any less busy.  Like District 3 Board Member Tamar Galatzan (with whom she is often allied), Martinez is also a mother who has opted to be a part-time school board member and work another job. Last week, Martinez authored a resolution to beef up arts education in the district (see Nonprofit Funds Big Arts Education Push).

In a recent interview in her office on the 24th floor of LAUSD headquarters, Martinez described how she won UTLA’s endorsement (and presumes she still has its support), why the initiative known as Public School Choice is an important vehicle for teacher empowerment, and why she hopes a woman will run to replace her.

Filing Deadline For LAUSD Fundraising

Today is the latest deadline for Board candidates to file campaign finance documents with the City Ethics Commission.  The quarterly reports will tell us how much money candidates for city offices raised between July 1 and September 30.

As you may recall, there are three spots being contested — currently held by Board members Steve Zimmer, Nury Martinez, and Monica Garcia. The totals will appear on this page, and will be updated sporadically throughout the day.  Once independent expenditure money starts flowing (and being spent), the site will also include those funds as well.

Previous posts: Dark Money Dominates LAUSD ElectionsPossible Board Candidates: District 2 (including Isabel Vazquez), Possible Board Candidates: District 6 (including Iris Zuniga), and Possible Board Candidates: District 4 (including Kate Anderson).

Nonprofit Funds Big Arts Education Push

The clamor to support arts education in LAUSD just got a lot more visible with the launch of a $4 million ad campaign that will appear on public buses and bus stops though out the city.

Megan Chernin of LA Fund and Nury Martinez of #LAUSD with students at the Barbara Kruger bus for the #ArtsMatter Launch Event via @LAFund

Arts education in Los Angeles has been drastically reduced for budgetary reasons and runs the risk of being altogether eliminated in 2013. The campaign, “Art Matters,” will promote the importance of art education by bringing the work of high-profile artists to the streets.

The initiative is underwritten by the non-profit LA Fund for Public Education with donated ad space provided by CBS and Zenith. (See more at Daily News, LA Times).

The argument that arts education promotes critical thinking and creativity is also what’s behind today’s school board proposal by Nury Martinez – who wants to make arts education part of the new common core curriculum.

Preview: Board Agenda For Tuesday 10/9

You may already have heard that LAUSD Board member Nury Martinez will introduce a motion at the Tuesday October 9 monthly school board meeting to make arts a “core subject” (KPCC: LAUSD considers making arts education a ‘core subject’). And we’ve already told you that Board member Steve Zimmer is holding off on offering a revised version of his charter school oversight proposal (see previous post here).  But that’s not all that’s going to be discussed and decided.  Below are a handful of other items worth watching. Continue reading

Board Member Galatzan Tells (Almost) All

School Board Member, Tamar Galatzan

School board member Tamar Galatzan (pictured) is quite possibly the busiest elected official in the city. One of two board members who has chosen to serve part-time (along with Nury Martinez), Galatzan also has a full-time job at the City Attorney’s office, and is the mother of two boys in elementary school. (She’s the only board member with a child currently in LAUSD.)

Galatzan, who represents much of the San Fernando valley, typically votes with the Monica Garcia voting bloc, and, as chair of the Budget Committee, she has also been something of a fiscal watchdog.

Recently interviewed in a San Fernando Valley field office located on the grounds of her Birmingham High School alma mater, Galatzan spoke about school board dynamics, her hopes for the most recent labor contract, and Superintendent John Deasy’s performance during a budget crisis.

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Possible Board Candidates: District 6

District 6 is an open seat, as current board member Nury Martinez is leaving the school board to run for City Council.

Iris Zuniga, Possible Board Candidate

Both UTLA and the education reform community are likely to pick candidates and dump money into independent expenditure campaigns supporting them. But who will they pick?

One possible candidate for ed reformers in District 6 is Iris Zuniga (pictured), the Chief Operating Officer of Youth Policy Institute, a large charter school operator. Its Executive Director, Dixon Slingerland, is very active in LAUSD politics, and YPI employees contribute a lot of money to local elections, according to the City Ethics Commission’s website.

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Update: Folsom Enters Race Against Garcia

Parent activist Scott Folsom (4 LA Kids) suggests that there could be a big change in the makeup of the LAUSD board after the Spring elections — and is throwing his own name into the ring as a candidate (again).

“History tells us school boards prefer to appoint their own superintendent when their membership changes,” writes the Deasy critic (pictured left). “Mayor Tony… is termed out – and his coattails don’t seem to extend into the future.”

Zimmer will face one or several challenges, but Martinez is out and Garcia already has four declared opponents.  Or, make that five.  Folsom has run before — most recently as a District 5 write-in candidate last year.

Candidacy Countdown

Want to know who’s filed to run for LAUSD board member next year, and how much cash they’ve gathered for their campaigns?  Click over to the LA City Ethics Commission’s website: 2013 Municipal and LAUSD Election. Below is a snapshot from yesterday evening showing the three LAUSD races for 2013 (towards the bottom).
District 2 is the seat currently held by Monica Garcia.  District 4 is the seat currently held by Steve Zimmer.  District 6 is the seat currently held by Nury Martinez. Both Zimmer and Garcia are running for re-election. Martinez is running for City Council, so her seat is open. The deadline to file for candidacy is November 10.

Johnson Not Running – Who Will?

Non-candidate Brian Johnson

The latest news is that Brian Johnson, the former Teach For America (TFA) Los Angeles executive director who ran for and lost a close race for state assembly (right), isn’t going to run for the LAUSD school board.

This spring there are three spots coming open on the board — including another TFA alumnus, Steve Zimmer. The other two spots are Nury Martinez (see: Martinez Running for City Council) and Monica Garcia (see: Garcia’s First Half Charter School Money).

No one really expected Johnson to run, and I’m told that nobody pays much attention to board races until after the state referendum season is done, and that makes sense.   But soon comes showdown time, when folks have to decide whether to run or not, and what their positions are going to be, and everyone has to start throwing money at them.

Martinez Running For City Council

Nury Martinez

School Board Member Nury Martinez has long been rumored to be planning a run for Tony Cardenas’ City Council District 6 seat, which will become vacant when Cardenas gets elected to U.S. Congress, which he is expected to do in a walk. This would set the stage for a fight for Martinez’s school board seat, and it could also upset the delicate balance of the current school board, which narrowly re-elected Monica Garcia as president and is just one UTLA-sponsored candidate away from tipping the board over to a Garcia opponent like Dr. Richard Vladovic.
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