Measure BB Advisory Group Stands By Allocation of Funding
• Issue Reflects Growing Differences Between Malibu and Santa Monica School Interests
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
It was supposed to be an opportunity this week for the Malibu contingent of the Measure BB Advisory Committee to see if they could get money reallocated for Malibu middle school projects that had been eliminated despite strong local support.
Six members of the citizens panel had previously voted to recommend to the board, which approved the matter, eliminating the allocation for the construction at the middle school in Malibu.
The action, which has created an observable power struggle and self-acknowledged politicizing of the committee, had created a call by some Malibu parents for the district to split.
A recent tour of the Malibu campus by committee members and some of the subsequent comments made by the Santa Monica contingent had given the impression they were open for reconsideration.
However, no sooner had committee member Laura Rosenthal made a motion Monday afternoon to allocate $42 million to the district’s three middle schools, in effect reinstating Malibu money that was previously stripped, than a substitute motion was made effectively blocking the her motion. Kathy Wisnicki, the only Malibu resident on the board, was not present.
Committee member Dennis Crane was the maker of the substitute motion that offered support for the secondary schools, but postponed any further allocations depending upon consultation with the architects. The measure was approved on a seven to six vote with one committee member abstaining.
Panelists were told the substitute motion trumped the Rosenthal proposal that was still on the floor.
One of the Santa Monica contingent laid out the rationale for keeping to the board’s vote.
“I visited Malibu. I understand the single campus. That project makes sense,” said committee member Chris Harding. “However, other projects make sense. We are spending a disproportionate amount of money on middle schools. What is the explanation?”
Rosenthal, however, shot back what she thought was the underlying motive. “It is an attempt to make sure Malibu did not get more money,” said Rosenthal, who after the meeting said she was extremely disappointed about the recommendation of the committee, which Superintendent Dianne Talarico said would require no additional action by the board.
“I am astonished by the substitution motion. It just shows how difficult it is for anybody [because of the power struggle],” she said.
Rosenthal warned the committee vote had far reaching consequences for the district. “It dealt a death knell to the parcel tax. I will not support it. I am leaning toward openly campaigning against it,” she said.
Rosenthal’s warning is not considered idle. She is making a presentation on the reorganization of the current Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District into two separate districts at next week’s Malibu City Council meeting.
Rosenthal acknowledged there is much work to do to find out if the separation of the districts is viable, especially financially.
She said there is already a steering committee, a petition is currently in circulation for registered voters to sign and there are more than two dozen volunteers to help move such an agenda.
Earlier in the meeting, committee member David Resnick called the previous votes on the matter “uninformed,” and urged approval for the Malibu allocation because he thought the board would approve it. “I am particularly sensitive to the reallocation of the Malibu funds. Those funds were really for the middle school and the high school,” he said.
It appeared at one point, before the substitution motion was made, that some committee members were being swayed.
Committee member Don Girard said he was one of the six members who voted for the cuts because he thought the needs of Samohi are “transparent,” but the money could be allocated to Malibu. “I don’t think it was a mistake, but there is no excuse to not provide the financing authorization for Malibu High,” he said.
Malibu was not the only one lobbying for money. Parents and school children from Lincoln Middle School urged the committee to visit their school and allocate additional money for projects that were originally called for in the school’s master plan but were unfunded.