CEPS Candidate Interview Questions – CITY COUNCIL – 2012
Gleam Davis currently serves as Mayor Pro Tempore for the City of Santa Monica and is running for re-election.
CEPS is grateful that our work to “promote a shared community vision” to support public education has been so strongly supported within our community. What have you done, personally, to show that you are more than a supporter of public schools, and that in these times of adversity, our community can count on you to be a “champion” of public schools?
As a member of the City Council, I have worked to strengthen the relationship between the City and the District and to ensure that our local public schools share in the prosperity of the community. I recently shepherded the 10 year extension of the original facilities use agreement through the City Council. Prior to that, I worked with members of CEPS to place the Measure Y sales tax increase on the November 2012 ballot along with Measure YY, the advisory measure that asked voters if the District should receive one-half of the sales tax increment proceeds. After the voters overwhelmingly approved both measures, I made the motion to heed the will of the voters and dedicate one-half of the new sales tax increment to the schools. Between the original facilities use agreement and the Measure YY proceeds, the City now contributes approximately $14 million per year to the District’s general fund. I also argued for the use of redevelopment proceeds for the Civic Center Joint Use Project that would have renovated facilities at Santa Monica High School for use by both the students and the community at large. Unfortunately, that project was cancelled due to the loss of redevelopment funds.
Describe how you feel that excellent public schools benefit a city.
Excellent public schools, along with public safety, are the foundation of a secure, vibrant, and sustainable community. A quality education prepares students to become engaged and productive members of the community. Good schools lead to a well-qualified workforce and instill the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that drives our local economy. Communities with good schools (including preschool and afterschool programs) are safer, healthier, and more respectful of the environment. Perhaps most importantly, good schools provide every student, regardless of background or economic resources, the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
Santa Monica’s City government has a unique relationship with its schools and its education community. Please explain what you think is unique about that role. What is your understanding of ways that the education community and city leadership work together and support each other? What would you do to protect and strengthen that reciprocal role along with the direct funding support that the city provides to the schools?
I am unaware of any other city in the State of California (or anywhere else for that matter) that contributes over $1,000 per pupil to the local school district’s general fund. Nevertheless, the relationship between the City and the School District is not one sided. Our local schools produce amazing young people who are terrific ambassadors for our City around the world. Our students have represented us with phenomenal success at international music competitions and showcases, athletic contests and exchange programs, and academic and other challenges. They truly are the leaders of tomorrow. We can, however, do better in terms of providing better preschool, afterschool, and summer opportunities to youth. That is why I strongly support the City’s Cradle to Career Initiative and successfully proposed dedicating another $180,000 to its goal of making sure that every child in Santa Monica has access to quality child care, preschool, and after school programs. I also recently pitched an idea to the Chamber of Commerce to have local businesses provide scholarships to disadvantaged youth so that they may attend stimulating and enriching summer programs. I am optimistic that with these types of initiatives, we will be focusing on the whole child from birth through college or career so that every young person in Santa Monica has the opportunity to succeed in school and beyond.
State funding cuts to education and local cities are hurting both entities. However, it is safe to say that education has taken the greater hit. What do you know about Propositions 30 & 38 on the November ballot? What is your position on these measures? What is your understanding of the impact on our local public schools should both measures fail?
I am very familiar with Propositions 30 and 38. While I think it is unfortunate that the proponents of these measures were unable to compromise and throw their joint support behind a single measure (that I believe would have had a much greater chance of success), I support both. If both measures fail, the financial effect on our schools will be catastrophic.
Should both ballot measures fail, do you feel that the City could have a further role in supporting our schools? If so, what might you propose – and “champion”?
With the loss of redevelopment money and the uncertainty surrounding the City’s current financial situation, it is difficult to predict how the City might increase its direct financial support for schools. While increased direct might be difficult, there are many local programs that indirectly benefit the schools. For example, I proposed and the Council adopted an increase in funding for the Buy Local program. That program increases City sales tax revenues including that portion that is shared with the District and therefore indirectly benefits the District. I also think that the City and the District should continue to look for mutually beneficial opportunities to work together such as a potential future bond measure that might raise revenues to increase open space and improve recreational opportunities throughout the City including at our local schools.
What is your position on SMMUSD’s bond measure, also on November’s ballot? If you support the measure would you carry that support on your campaign literature?
I support the bond measure and will be proud to carry it on my literature.
Would you support sharing new revenues with local schools and if so, do you have any ideas about how to raise new revenues?
Having recently passed Measures Y and YY, it might be difficult for the City to return to the voters (especially as the economic recovery is still moving slowly) and ask them to approve a new revenue measure. However, as the local economy continues to improve and more hotels, restaurants, and other businesses see an improvement in business, local revenues from sources such as the sales tax and the transient occupancy tax should increase. Under the original facilities use agreement, those increases can trigger an annual discussion about the relative financial situations of the City and District and perhaps lead to an increase in the base amount that the City dedicates to the District. This has happened before (when the base amount was increased by $500,000) and, depending on the City’s situation, it could happen again.
Taking a longer view, what other areas of mutual support might you promote between the schools and Santa Monica’s city government?
I think the City needs to work with the District to address issues such as public health in our schools. For example, it is in the City’s best interest to ensure that the there are qualified health professionals at each school so that students receive appropriate medical screening that can identify health issues (which affect entire families as well as a child’s ability to succeed in school) and prevent the transmission of communicable diseases (that threaten the entire community and cost the schools Average Daily Attendance revenue). The City also needs to acknowledge the unfortunate fact that for a significant number of children in our community, school breakfasts and lunches are their primary source of food. The City needs to work with the District to make sure that all students have access to regular, healthy meals both inside and outside of schools so that students are well fed and ready to learn and so their physical and intellectual development is not compromised.