Special election price tag: too much for too little

by Mick Rhodes | editor@claremont-courier.com

In last week’s column, “Let the people speak … in November 2024,” I wrote if the folks behind the push to compel Claremont Unified School District to hold a special election for its Board of Education Trustee Area 4 seat were successful, whomever won would serve through November 2024. I was wrong.

“Per Education Code 5091(e), if a special election takes place the person elected will serve until December 2026,” wrote Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder’s Office spokesperson Michael Sanchez, after I asked him on Monday to clarify the question. “If there is no election, the appointed officeholder will serve through December 2024.”

The revelation caught not only me and CUSD by surprise — as the district’s legal counsel had previously said whomever was elected in the proposed special election would serve through December 2024 — it was also news to Hilary LaConte, whom the board appointed to the Trustee Area 4 seat on January 18.

“I hope to continue my steadfast service on the board, to our students, district, and community for the next two years until November 2024,” LaConte told me on Tuesday. “However, in the event of a special election, and now understanding that the term would end in 2026, at this point in my life and in consideration of my family, I cannot commit an additional two years.”

LaConte said last week she would run in a special election, but she was operating on faulty information.

So, if a vocal minority gets its way and compels CUSD to hold a special election for the Trustee Area 4 seat, LaConte — an extremely capable, qualified, and dedicated public servant with 13 years of previous board service under her belt — is out.

That would be a shame.

There are several good reasons to reject the push for this special election, the first and foremost being it would cost taxpayers about $273,000.

Another good reason to balk at signing the petition has to do with its proponents claiming — falsely, and without documentation — that a special election would cost significantly less than $273,000. That is simply not true. I’ve doublechecked with the county registrar, and have been told twice it is an accurate estimate.

Another false claim is CUSD’s costs for the regularly scheduled November 2024 presidential election would be reduced by not having Trustee Area 4 on the ballot. I asked L.A. County Registrar Recorder’s office spokesperson Sanchez about this Wednesday, and he said “It would not impact the 2024 election cycle.”

So, beware of claims from special election proponents that its price tag has been exaggerated. It has not.

Normally I try to stay out of these us vs. them conflicts, or at least weigh in gently. But this time it’s too important to be anything but clear: this proposed special election is a colossal waste of money.

Proponents are currently circulating a petition to gather 99 Trustee Area 4 registered voters’ signatures they say are needed to force their will on CUSD. One of the organizers of the campaign, Joshua Rogers, estimated his group had secured just over half of those required signatures as of Thursday morning.

I urge Trustee Area 4 voters to resist calls to sign this petition.

Cash Whiteley update

I am absolutely thrilled to share that Monday morning I got a call from our neighbor, Cash Whiteley, and he is on the mend.

The subject of my August 12, 2022 story, “Cash Whiteley is a man,” as well as two follow up columns that culminated with my somewhat downbeat assessment of his prognosis on September 1, is off the streets and is being treated for the skin cancer that had left him with a gruesome open wound on his face.

Cash told me he “feels like a new person.” He looks like one too. Thanks to a succession of kind souls who have advocated for him, he’s undergoing immunotherapy treatment at City of Hope in West Covina, and that wound is about 1/3 the size it was the last time I sat with him in August.

Cash has also gone national! Network powerhouse CBS got wind of Cash’s story, and CBS Mornings Lead National Correspondent David Begnaud will air a segment on him sometime next week.

What a turnaround. This guy appeared to be on death’s door last summer. Now his jaw is healed to the point where he can eat some solid foods, he can talk, has put on some weight, and now has a used car and place to stay at night. He’s even looking forward to going back to work as a Door Dash delivery driver in the near future.

Last summer Cash’s mood vacillated from dark and semi-grouchy to very dark and extremely grouchy. He had good reason of course, as he was in immense pain. He couldn’t eat solid food, and talking only made it worse.

Now he’s overflowing with gratitude.

“It’s like waking up from a bad dream,” Cash told me.

I spent an hour with him on Wednesday, and it was one of the most inspiring coffee breaks of my life. I’ll write more about that conversation in next week’s Courier.

In the meantime, watch cbsnews.com/cbs-mornings for updates on when Cash’s segment will air. When I get a confirmed date and time, I’ll post it on the Courier’s website at claremont-courier.com.


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