Answers to CEPS Candidate Interview Questions – SM City Council — 2012
Terry O’Day is currently a member of the Santa Monica City Council 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?
I have been a consistent voice and vote for our schools and particularly for the funding they need to survive in these times of adversity. In order of importance:
- Extending the city’s unique partnership with the school district to a ten-year agreement;
- With Mayor Pro Tem Davis, served as the elected official leads for the Y&YY campaign in 2010;
- Prioritized the Civic Center Joint Use Agreement in multiple votes of the Redevelopment Agency, resulting in the rebuilding of Samohi’s athletic field;
- Allocated $50,000 to Save Our Schools in a matching grant that was important to that critical community campaign;
- Fought for inclusion of our schools and lifelong learning in city plans and development agreements;
- Allocated additional discretionary funds to various school programs, most recently including Grades of Green for a cutting-edge sustainability initiative to be piloted at John Muir and SMASH.
Describe how you feel that excellent public schools benefit a city.
Public schools are the foundation of opportunity and equality in a city. Excellent public schools ensure that our city is providing our children with the skills they need to reach their potential, contribute back to our city, and lead productive, happy lives. By providing excellent public schools, our city is also investing in its economy, workforce, safety, and health.
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?
Our funding relationship is no doubt the most unique aspect. It is all the more unique considering that our district is shared with our municipal neighbor, Malibu. Our city’s commitment to our schools in light of this is unique and remarkable.
The second unique aspect is the quality working relationship of personnel in the district and city staff, the elected leadership, the business and residential leadership, and our volunteer advocacy community. Santa Monica is still a small enough town to have good relationships across these agencies and constituencies…and for those relationships to really matter. Regular meetings of these individuals in which we discuss needs, share strategies, create plans, and deepen trust is key to protecting and strengthening the agencies’ reciprocal role.
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 understand and support both measures. Rochelle Fanali’s speech at SMRR gave me exactly the context I needed for the measures.
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”?
The potential exists if we work to find strategies that are mindful of the context of the city’s changing fiscal condition. That and more ideas are discussed in more detail in questions #7 and #8.
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?
Fully support, have endorsed, and will include in campaign literature.
Would you support sharing new revenues with local schools and if so, do you have any ideas about how to raise new revenues?
I support taking serious additional measures to return our school funding to a strong position.
Most importantly, the city’s funding position is changing dramatically due to the loss of the Redevelopment Agency. It has called many of our planned school funding strategies into doubt, most obviously the Civic Center Joint Use, but it also is cutting into the city’s general and capital expenditures, which has meaningful problematic impacts on the city’s ability to fund schools and its myriad other important services. In the next term of office, the council will chart a new fiscal path that will likely last for a decade or more. It is critical that the council has the strongest and most and influential voices for education in place – not just on the council, but also in the seats of mayor and mayor pro tem, which set agendas and some daily priorities. I intend to make this fiscal future my priority and strong schools will be my charter. Innovative ideas will take time to emerge. An example that merits consideration is that the city may consider bonding for capital projects like the Civic and Memorial Park, both of which have adjacencies to school district property. There would be capital and operating opportunities that arise from such a strategy.
There will also be opportunities to fund school efforts, like the Ed Foundation, in our development agreements. This path can be meaningful in a district with such serious funding concerns, but we should exercise caution about raising our expectations for this funding source. First, development projects should stand on their own merits and we should not be influenced about development by donations to our schools. Second, the stream of available revenue is not as significant as our other recent efforts for the schools, such as Y&YY and the bond, so we should stay focused on big opportunities.
Taking a longer view, what other areas of mutual support might you promote between the schools and Santa Monica’s city government?
- Joint Use programs between the two entities have been a great success and there is more potential to increase these partnerships.
- Deepening sustainability initiatives – The city is a world-renown leader in sustainability and likely has much to offer the schools. First in the bond when it passes, the city may guide efforts that reduce cost and environmental footprint while increasing educational opportunities. Second, in operations, where the city can share strategies and resources.
- The city has also become more skilled in construction management and planning than the district, whose own experience has begun to grow. There may be opportunities to share skilled staff.
- I hope your committee will share its ideas in our interview and thank you for your volunteer time in this campaign.