JOHN C. SMITH
CEPS Candidate Interview Questionnaire – CITY COUNCIL – 2012
John Smith is a former television news producer and post secondary teacher. He is running for his first term on the Santa Monica City Council.
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?
I have worked as a post-secondary teacher since 1997, at UCLA, USC, and Santa Monica College, and teach at SMC and USC now. I have seen firsthand how important it is to support schools at every level, and witnessed how education can transform lives. As a teacher, I carry that message to the greater community. There is nothing more important than education. If elected to the Council, schools would not have a better “champion” than me.
I also spent eighteen years as an Emmy Award-winning TV news producer with NBC4. My newscasts have won the Emmy for “Best Newscast” three of the past four years. One reason: my commitment to developing and airing stories about public education, especially at the state and local levels. At NBC4, I insisted on covering the state’s struggle to fully fund schools, including Governor Brown’s ballot initiative. Our “Education Nation” series always highlighted both the struggles and successes of education at every level.
Describe how you feel that excellent public schools benefit a city.
There is simply nothing else as important as education. Education is the primary engine by which, children, teens and young adults learn to become responsible leaders in our city and every community. The quality, character and success of our city will always depend on the quality of education its citizens receive. I am reminded of that well-known bumper sticker: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” That sentiment has never been truer than it is today.
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?
Clearly, Santa Monica’s city government works more closely with the SMMUSD Board to support schools than just about any other city in Southern California. To me, the key theme is commitment on the part of our city government to keeping schools a priority, even in the face of budget cuts at the state level.
I think the City Council, going forward, could take a stronger leadership role in supporting measures like the $385 million dollar bond measure before voters, by clearly standing with the School Board when such measures are floated and considered. It’s one thing when the School Board comes out and urges support for schools. But the Council could go further, by declaring, from the outset, that support for schools supports our city as a whole.
State 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?
Prop 30 is Governor Brown’s proposal for a slight sales tax increase in California and a tax increase on the wealthiest Californians to help fund public schools and other budget items. Prop 38 would increase taxes for most Californians over a longer period of time. Polls show more public support for Prop 30. The failure of both would be devastating to schools, which have already had budgets slashed in recent years. The SMMUSD would have to cut at least five million dollars more on top of the $2.5 million in cuts already made. I fully support Prop 30. Cuts to schools have reached a critical level already. Further cuts will cost the state and our cities far more in the long run.
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”?
If both measures fail, the city must step up as it has in the past, by pushing for initiatives such as the “Save Our Schools” and “Measure Y” proposals of the past. I would “champion” those efforts. We simply cannot afford not to.
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 trust our School Board to do what is best for schools. Ben Allen would not support that bond measure if it were not needed. I support it, and say so on my campaign website. Voters merely want to know the money will be well-spent. An open accounting of where the money is spent is all the public desires. Let’s make sure they get it.
Would you support sharing new revenues with local schools and, if so, do you have any ideas about how to raise new revenues?
There is a lot of uncertainty going into November about the level of support public schools will receive from the state. I have previously stated I would support raising additional revenues for schools in the event Prop 30 fails. I will always support schools and be open to creative solutions to fund them.
Taking a longer view, what other areas of mutual support might you promote between the schools and Santa Monica’s city government?
While the school bond measure may address the issue of money to upgrade our schools, that money will not be able to be used for programs or new teachers. We will need to address those issues in the near future, especially if Prop 30 fails.