A paltry voter turnout at LA’s polls on Tuesday, March 5 provided an incumbent Los Angeles Community College District trustee a second chance to be elected in what may be the district’s last runoff.
Nancy Pearlman, an LACCD Board of Trustees member since 2001, fell short in the primary election to David Vela trying to reclaim the Board’s sixth seat, but came close enough to call for a runoff election.
It is likely these will be the last two candidates to face a runoff in an LACCD election, according to LACCD Board of Trustees President Steve Veres.
Veres said the Board performed a financial evaluation of previous runoff elections.
“The leader in the primary tends to be the winner in the runoff,” Veres said. “However, the runoff’s price tag is absolutely enormous.”
The Board sponsored Assembly Bill 2572, which was drafted by Assemblyman Warren T. Furutani and introduced it to the Legislature on Feb. 24, 2012.
Termed the “Highest Vote Getter” bill by the LACCD, the law specifically eliminates their requirement to perform runoff elections if no candidate in a primary receives at least 50 percent of the vote, according to the full text.
Only two districts in Calif., the LACCD and the San Diego Community College District, use the runoff scenario, according to Veres.
The bill, which applies only to the LACCD, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in Sept. of last year, but will not be in effect until the district’s next election.
“We will be saving $3 million to $5 million every two years if we do adopt this,” Executive Assistant to the Chancellor, Perrin Reid, said.
Because the bill was passed with less than 54 ayes in the Senate and less than 27 ayes in the Assembly, it did not qualify for an urgency designation.
If it had passed with just six more votes, three in the Assembly and three in the Senate, the LACCD would have had the ability to adopt the new authority by resolution immediately after Brown signed it into law.
Instead, the bill went into effect the first day of 2013, well after the Oct. 2012 deadline the LACCD faced in order to join the City of LA in the election and share the costs thereof, according to Veres.
The delay in adopting the new law is a significant windfall for Pearlman who trailed Vela by nearly 5 percent of the vote in the Mar. 5 election results.
“I supported the legislation on behalf of the district saving money so that more money could be used to provide classes for students,” Pearlman said. “However, if it had been adopted the first time that I ran and won, I wouldn’t have won without the runoff. And, this time, I need the runoff to win.”
The lag in LACCD adopting the legislation is a hindrance to Vela who would have been declared the winner of the election had six more members of Congress voted for the bill.
“I’m definitely for it only because it is a savings cost measure,” Vela said. “Right now it’s tough for the community college district to spend money – I’d rather that money go to students. I’m not saying it because I was the top vote-getter, but because, from what I learned, it would save the community college district some money.”
Vela, a young public servant who seeks to replace Pearlman, distinguishes himself from his opponent as being more of a team player who would be able to stand up to the Chancellor on the behalf of students.
“It’s just really about rolling up the sleeves,” Vela said. “I will be doing more of the intense heavy lifting that, in my opinion, Nancy hasn’t done.”
Pearlman said this election was a political maneuver for Vela.
“He has come out of the blue and is probably planning on running for higher office and is using this as a political stepping stone, and I don’t think that helps our nine colleges,” Pearlman said. “I’m a community college instructor . . . I have institutional memory . . . I have experience on being on the board.”
The LACCD Board of Trustees runoff election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.
More information about the candidates can be found at nancypearlman.net and electdavidvela.com.