Monday, April 09, 2007

A manifest lack of judgment

When Jane Garland - Newport-Mesa Unified School District's director of outreach and advocacy - advocated in the April 7 edition of the Daily Pilot for a daytime curfew to help stem the district's truancy challenges (here), the community immediately offered support and opposition to Garland's essay in the Pilot's on-line blog feature.

Two of the participants in the dialogue were Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor and Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever. And in their comments, both men displayed a manifest lack of judgment that - not for the first time - underscores a cavalier, blast-from-the-hip style that is not in the city's best interests.

Mansoor, in his post, wrote: Ms. Garland, with all due respect, I believe it is parents, teachers, and the school board who need to reduce the 222 unexcused absences per day. The "it takes a village" approach is not the answer. If the 222 unexcused absences per day were under the jurisdiction of the city, there would be a line a mile long at public comments. Where is the demand from the parents for results from the school board? It seems to me that the school district itself has an unexcused absence on this issue.

A couple of observations, here. One might argue that the troika of parents, teachers and the school board the mayor cites indeed comprises, on some scale, a "village." But, beyond that, it's the mayor's undisciplined urge to publicly tongue lash the school district and one of its officials - and even the parents of school children, presumably many of whom voted for the mayor - over their "unexcused absense on this issue."

The problem is, Mr. Mayor, the NMUSD is an autonomous legislative agency empowered by the State of California, not the City of Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa has no authority to compel the district to tie its shoe (or issue "unexcused" absences), let alone mandate how it should police truants. Nevertheless, the NMUSD is a partner with Costa Mesa - most notably and in writing through the JUA governing the use of NMUSD property for the recreational needs of the community's youth and adults.

This is to say that the City needs the NMUSD far more than the NMUSD needs Costa Mesa.

Don't think so? Well, the district doesn't need the CMPD to enforce truancy laws, since it is perfectly capable under California law of establishing its own law enforcement agency not unlike the Los Angeles Unified School District (and perhaps it should do so). And it certainly has no legal obligation to provide recreational fields for Costa Mesa's youth and adults after school hours. Nor does it need the City's money; it has every authority under the law to ask voters for money via some tax or another (and it's proven to be effective at that).

In this context, the mayor would do well to bridle his tongue against undisciplined and reckless commentary that has the potential to damage the City's partnership with the NMUSD.

For his part, Bever posted this entry aimed at the district:

"The CMPD does deal with truants currently. What they don't do is send the kids through the courts for ditching school. They generally drag them back to their schools. From there, the school's job is to use their system to address the problem. I recall reading about the school's get-tough policy on truants a year or two ago, and it sounded like they had some effective measures and practices in place (SARB). What seems to be lacking is a commitment on the part of the schools to use the tools they already have in place. "

Bever's remarks were a bit more disciplined than the Mayor's. Nevertheless, he should recognize that bitch slapping a government agency that Costa Mesa needs to work with if the city is to improve is not conducive to a productive partnership in achieving said improvement.

C'mon, boys, grow up and shut up. And if you have something to say to the district, use the proper channels.


dvs said...

Dear Byron,

In my view, one of the unfortunate side effects of youthful City Council members is their lack of life experience as a parent, taxpayer, property owner and member of the broader social and political community.

Once again we see the impudent and brash young men on the council acting as if they were anointed by the entire community. They seem to forget that they were elected to represent their community. The heady fumes of elected position have clearly clouded their judgment. Their lack of restraint underscores their political adolescence. Let us pray (if one is so inclined) that the good citizens of Costa Mesa reject the proposal for an elected mayor. Heaven help us should one of these gentlemen be given more encouragement for their bad behavior.

zenofobe said...

It seems to me that a truancy problem is a problem in the school area since it is school they are truant from. Therefore, the school should handle it. They should be free to ask CM for help and then we can talk about it if necessary. The school board should handle it first though. It probably relates to parents and maybe they should be punished appropriately. Let's gather some facts. Such as what day or time of day are the truancies happening. What schools are they happening at the most. Maybe it is just a couple (could not guess which ones :) )and the schools could have an officer there. But a lot of kids have reasons to be off. Why have cops hassle them? Cops should be going after those who are doing something a little more serious. After all, if these kids are ditching, they are only hurting themselves and soon will be coming into contact with the police for other things anyway. Epperson only thinks there are white gangs anyway. I took his class at citizens police academy and was disturbed by his lack of candor of what really is going on. Don't him involved with kids too.