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School board chooses special election

Seeks a June 3 date

Cynthia E. Griffin | 1/9/2014, midnight

Despite listening to three hours of testimony from more than 100 speakers, the Los Angeles School Board voted Tuesday to hold a special election to replace member Marguerite LaMotte.

The decision also included a request by the board to address an overriding concern of many who spoke to the board—having someone in place who can represent the interest of constituents in the ethnically diverse First District as the school board handles some crucial issues such as budget and local control funding.

The approved measure directs the board staff to request of the Los Angeles City Council a June 3 election with a possible August run-off date. The legislation also directs staff to bring back information for the board’s Jan. 14 meeting information on whether an interim representative with voting power can be appointed until a possible run-off election is completed.

The latter concern was one that was voiced repeatedly during the hours-long meeting—the prospect that students and constituents in District 1 could go months without someone representing their interest.

The board also voted down a proposal that would have appointed someone to fill the seat vacated by LaMotte’s death on Dec. 5 in San Diego. This left the question of whether an interim representative with voting power could legally be appointed. The board’s general counsel was tasked with bringing back the answer to this and a number of other questions board members had.

As the board meeting continued, it was easy to see the various issues that flared up. African Americans were particularly sensitive to the fact that no one on the board looked like them or shared their unique history with the school district.

Congresswoman Karen Bass put the issue this way: “District 1 has the highest number of African American children in L.A. Unified, and it is crucial to have a board member at the table who will be the strongest advocate for our children. Marguerite LaMotte was the only African American member on the school board. Having representation on the board should ensure African American families and children in all parts of the district had an advocate.”

Bass was among those who supported appointing an experienced, qualified African American caretaker with full board member status, who understands the inner-workings of L.A. Unified and has the respect of the area’s parents and families.

A representative for the state’s Latino caucus reminded the gathered listeners that their constituents also have a vested interest in choosing the person who would represent their interest.

According to city election officials the cost of the election will be $973,000 if there is no run-off election and $2.5 million if there is one.

A number of candidates have already announced they would compete for the open seat including George McKenna, the overwhelming favorite of those who were seeking someone to be appointed.