MARGUERITE LAMOTTE AND REPLACEMENT POLITICS-Two key players in South Los Angeles politics, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and some black preachers, showed their true colors at Tuesday’s LAUSD Board meeting during discussion of what to do about the vacancy caused by the unexpected death of my friend, Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Rev. K. W. Tulloss of the National Action Network-Los Angeles, a branch of Rev. Al Sharpton’s organization, stormed the board meeting demanding a special election that would leave LaMotte’s seat vacant for at least 6 to 8 months.
A vacancy until at least June or August 2014, would mute the voice of District 1 and leave the District 1 seat on the school board with no vote during several critical discussions scheduled to take place between now and June, including: the 2014-2015 school year budget, how to carve up the $7 billion school construction bond, the billion-dollar iPad project, and adaptation of the Local Control Funding Formula and Common Core Curriculum, which are going to drastically change the way K-12 education is administered and funded.
With no seat at the table, no one can even question that District 1 is going to lose out. This is why leaders like Congresswoman Karen Bass, who initially supported a special election, now support appointing George McKenna as a caretaker.
Ridley-Thomas and Tulloss literally refuse to talk about the harmful impact of an at least 6 to 8 month vacancy on Marguerite’s “babies.” Instead they are busy attempting to manipulate our emotions as it relates to the right to vote, ignoring the fact that voting is not an end, but rather a means to representation.
There is no representation if the seat is District 1 is empty. While District 1 would be engaged in the exercise of a special election, the real voting that affects our children and schools would be done without us at the table. It would literally leave us to the mercy of six others for at least 6 to 8 months. And all the while Ridley-Thomas and Tulloss have been hiding their underlying political motives.
I would say Marguerite is turning in her grave, but her family hasn’t even had time to bury her before the very forces she fought against on the Board and political opportunists are seeking to harm the schools and children she fought so passionately to protect.
Ridley-Thomas Doesn’t Mention He Wants His Education Deputy in the Seat
What is not being stated by Ridley-Thomas or the Empowerment Congress he controls is that the Supervisor wants his education deputy, Alex Johnson, in the seat. Ridley-Thomas knows he can’t legitimately push for an appointment of Johnson, because the 33-year old is virtually unknown in the community, and his only K-12 experience is his 3 years as the Supervisor’s education deputy along with a 2-year stint as an attorney for the New York Office of Education. Even suggesting him as a possible appointee indicates an attempt to maneuver the very backroom political deal that Ridley-Thomas claims the community should be worried about.
The willingness of the most acclaimed school principal and administrator Dr. George McKenna III in District 1 to serve the remainder of Marguerite’s term, kills the concept of an Alex Johnson appointment. If there is an appointment, almost everyone agrees it should be McKenna. No one can question his credentials, which include stints at three different school districts as a superintendent or just below superintendent.
So instead of uniting behind McKenna, Ridley-Thomas is pushing for a special election to get his guy in. Ridley-Thomas is probably right to assume that Johnson would have a leg up on most other contenders in a special election given the quick election cycle. Just two weeks ago Ridley-Thomas put his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, in the Assembly, so the campaign infrastructure could be patched back together overnight for Johnson. Also, young Ridley-Thomas has plenty of money left over from his $800,000 campaign war chest that was filled with donations from special interests like Monsanto, oil companies, liquor stores, big developers and Eli Broad. His father raised the money for the 26-year old, so surely Sebastian will fork over as much as he can for a campaign for his daddy’s education deputy and fellow Morehouse alum, Johnson.
Rev. K.W. Tulloss: The Leading Local Black Face of the Charter Schools/Corporatize Public Education Forces
Another crowd that would have a significant advantage in a short special election cycle is the charter school operators and their billionaire friends who seek to privatize public education. Not even before Marguerite’s body was cold, the California Charter School Association was busy lobbying for a special election. But Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad and company can’t be seen as meddling in South LA politics at such a sensitive time. Enter the president of the National Action Network-Los Angeles branch, Rev. K. W. Tulloss.
Rev. K.W. Tulloss has very quietly been a paid organizer for the California Charter School Association. He is the “Director of Family and Community Engagement” for Families That Can an astroturf organization, which per the About page on their website, is funded by the California Charter School Association.
When Tulloss spoke before the school board and the media Tuesday he never once identified himself as a paid organizer of the California Charter School Association. Instead he identified himself as the president of National Action Network, with popular black activist Najee Ali standing beside him. Using civil rights groups like NAN-LA to provide a black face for their corporate agenda is a textbook tactic of the privatization forces. It allows them to wrap their agenda, which is not in the best interest of students or communities of color, in the language and image of the civil rights movement.
Also unsaid by Tulloss is that his boss at Families That Can, Executive Director Corri Revere, had long been discussed as a candidate in 2015 for the District 1 seat before Marguerite’s passing. They’ve been eyeing the seat for a while, and a short special election presents for them the best opportunity conceivable to turn a strong pro-public education vote into a vote controlled by Eli Broad and Richard Riordan, who sits on the board of a powerful charter school alliance.
They Want a Special Election Controlled by the Special Interests Instead of a Regular Election Controlled by the People
Ridley-Thomas’ only-questionably qualified Johnson or the charter schools/billionaire’s Revere don’t have as good a shot in the regularly scheduled election in March 2015 as they would in a special election. In a regularly scheduled election, multiple public school educators are guaranteed to enter the race and each would have time to build campaign organizations, as shown in the elections of LAUSD School Board members Bennett Kayser, Monica Ratliff and the re-election of Steve Zimmer. In the 2013 elections, Ratliff and Zimmer beat back millions in outside funding from billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, and Walmart’s Walton Foundation by doing the grinding work of going door-to-door. (Incidentally, Tulloss is also pro-Walmart, once again standing on the opposite side of most civil rights organizations and black workers groups). Building a school board campaign for an educator takes time. Time that there would not be in a special election. Everyone knows that, including Monica Garcia and Tamar Galatzan, the two puppets of the charter school/pro-privatization/billionaires, who are also calling for a special election in the name of “democracy.” A democracy bought and sold by special interest.
There is No Immoral Depth They Won’t Go In Pursuit of Their Agenda
All parties, Garcia, Galtazan, Ridley-Thomas and Tulloss showed the immoral depths they are willing to go in pursuit of their personal political agenda by demanding the board act Tuesday to call for a special election, even before Marguerite has been laid to rest. It is a violation of religious custom to make such a request.
During their public comments neither Rev. Tulloss, an ordained Baptist minister, Ridley-Thomas, who received a master’s degree in Religious Studies with a concentration in Christian ethics, nor any of the preachers they dredged up to demand a special election, said a word about providing our community a time to mourn and honor Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. Ridley-Thomas, Tulloss and their preachers apparently missed the part of Christian scripture that says, “There is a time for everything … a time to heal … a time weep … a time to mourn … a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3) Time will tell whether the preachers who accompanied them have been outright bought off like Tulloss, were strong-armed by the powerful Supervisor or were just duped into a bad situation.
Playing Politics With the Kids
While the adults are busy playing power politics, lost in the conversation is the kids. That’s the part that would leave Marguerite irate if she were here to witness this mess.
Instead of waiting until the regularly scheduled March 2015 election to play their political games, and in the interim uniting behind supporting the appointment of George McKenna as a caretaker to ensure the children and schools of District 1 are represented during the critical debates over the next few months, they’re pushing a special election that would leave District 1 voiceless.
Appointing McKenna would clearly be best for the kids of District 1. A special election hurts the kids of District 1. In calling for a special election, what Mark Ridley-Thomas, Alex Johnson, Rev. Tulloss, Corri Revere, and the charter schools along with their billionaire puppet masters are really saying is we have to hurt the children to protect the children. Good luck with that as a campaign slogan.
(Celes King IV is the Vice Chair of the Congress of Racial Equality-California, and is a supporter for appointing McKenna to complete LaMotte’s unexpired term, but is not associated the grassroots organization.)
Vol 11 Issue 102
Pub: Dec 20, 2013