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Larry Agran Apparently Attempting to Gain Control of Irvine School Board Again – This Time Via Special Election

Posted by Chris Nguyen on December 19, 2013

Councilman Larry Agran

Larry Agran: Doing for Irvine Schools What He Did for the Great Park

(Update: 12/20 6:55 PM: I now have multiple conflicting stories as to whether Agran is behind this or if he is simply a supporter of the effort. A few OC Political sources closer to the Agran camp state he denies being behind this effort and argue that when Agran has been behind petition drives, ballot measures, etc., he’s been very public about it.  At this point, it does remain unclear as to who is indeed the person or people behind the effort to force this special election.  However, it does appear that Agran is supportive of this effort even if he is not necessarily the organizer of the effort.)

It appears Irvine Councilman Larry Agran is attempting to force a special election to oust an Irvine School Board member from office and potentially get one of his own allies elected because the school board failed to obey Agran’s will in the Great Park battle.

During the 2012 elections for the Irvine Unified School District, Larry Agran attempted to get his own slate of candidates elected to the Irvine School Board.  The slate of Michael Parham, Lauren Brooks, and Paul Bokota swept the top three positions to block Agran’s slate of Carolyn Inmon, Cyril Yu, and Omar Ezzeldine, who came in fourth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.  (Nine candidates ran.)  Bokota narrowly defeated Inmon by 706 votes. Incumbents Carolyn McInerney and Sue Kuwabara had opted not to seek re-election, thereby setting up the hotly contested slates.  Parham was the sole incumbent to seek re-election.  (In the interest of full disclosure, Custom Campaigns, which owns OC Political, ran the campaigns of Parham, Brooks, and Bokota in 2012.)

Not only did Agran fail to get his slate elected to school board, but also, as is well-known to most of our readers, he lost his own race for Mayor against Steven Choi and lost control of the Council when Christina Shea was elected over his ally, P.K. Wong, thereby setting up the Republican majority of Steven Choi, Jeff Lalloway, and Christina Shea.  Considering the domination at the presidential and state level by Democrats in 2012, Larry Agran may well have been the saddest Democrat in California on election night 2012.

Last month, Gavin Huntley-Fenner vacated his seat on the Irvine School Board.  On a 3-1 vote, the school board appointed Republican Ira Glasky to the board.  (Parham voted to replace Huntley-Fenner with Hugh Hewitt.)  A mysterious group has launched a petition drive to void Glasky’s appointment and force a special election.  The web site does not disclose who is behind the drive, other than in the PDF of the petition, which is required in the mandatory disclosure required in state law, which names only Stephen Buxbaum and Patricia Schneider-Zioga.  Schneider-Zioga is a linguistics professor at Cal State Fullerton.

In the Irvine Matters newsletter published by Agran and Councilwoman Beth Krom, they write in support of the petition drive and blast the school board for not opposing the site of the new high school at the Great Park (scroll to the bottom of this post to see the Irvine Matters email).  The school site issue has been the bogeyman created by Agran to attack the plan by FivePoint Communities to develop the Great Park.  The Council majority of Choi, Lalloway, and Shea voted in favor of the plan, doing in one year what Agran and his allies could not do in a decade in power – actually build the Great Park.

Additionally, multiple sources in Irvine have told OC Political that Agran supporters have stated he is behind the petition drive.

Agran is trying to turn the school board and the school site into a political football in his battle to stop the construction the Great Park; this special election is Agran’s attempt to bully the school board into backing his position on the school site at the Great Park.

The text of the petition itself notes, “The cost for conducting the election called for in this petition is estimated by the Orange County Registrar of Voters to be $392,779-$443,329 if the election is a stand-alone election.”  Glasky is forced to run for re-election in November; this special election would be held just a few months before Glasky is due to run.  There are many times when forcing a special election in lieu of appointment would be appropriate, but it simply is not the case here.  Agran’s agenda is not an adequate reason to force a special election.

Pursuant to Education Code Section 5091(c), petition proponents must gather signatures from registered voters within the Irvine Unified School District equivalent to 1.5% of the number of registered voters at the last election for school board. There were 109,490.  In other words, they must submit 1,643 valid signatures of registered voters by tomorrow’s legal deadline to the OC Superintendent of Schools at the OC Department of Education.  (Our information indicates the proponents have been gathering signatures for about two weeks now.)

People who have signed the petition but now wish to withdraw their signature should contact the OC Department of Education at 714-966-4000 or the OC Registrar of Voters at 714-567-7600, as those two agencies are responsible for the administration of the election and the ministerial acts involving the petition, including the verification of petition signatures.

Dan Chmielewski at The Liberal OC and we here at OC Political don’t agree on much, but we agree with Chmielewski on this issue, as he has written in opposition to the petition drive: 

IUSD has progressives, moderates and conservatives on the Board; they work well together with a minimum of politics to advance education in Irvine so that the teachers, administrators, students and parents have the education possible considering the low state funding we get regularly.

So whoever is behind this petition drive really isn’t pro-education in Irvine; a special election six months in advance of a regular election is a waste of money. At least have the backbone to stand up and identify yourselves as being behind the effort. This is a shame to Glasky. His family donates countless hours to the schools and the community so he clearly understands the issues our district faces and his legal background is an asset to the district.

Simply put; if you’re in Irvine and you’re pro-education, don’t sign the petition.

The entire IUSD petition web site states quite simply:

Irvine Unified School District
Petition for Special Election

The Voters, Not the Politicians, Should Decide who Represents the Students and Taxpayers.

INSTRUCTIONS: Please click on the button to download the petition. You can collect up to six signatures on each petition, but be sure that just one person collects the signatures on any given sheet and fully completes the bottom portion. Signers and collectors both need to be registered voters. Signers need to be voters in the Irvine Unified School District (collectors can be registered anywhere in CA).

Have petitions to be picked up?

Call or text us at (949) 214-4250 or email us info@iusdpetition.com and we will have a volunteer get them from you.

Irvine Matters, the Agran-Krom newsletter, sent this message out to their email list:

Irvine Matters

Dear Friends,

We’re writing to you because of your opposition to Site A for Irvine’s next High School — Site A is adjacent to a toxic landfill and 1,000 yards from the rapidly growing Musick Jail.

Given the role the Irvine Unified School District Board will play in determining the future High School site, we wanted to make you aware that a petition drive is currently underway to require a special election to fill the Irvine School Board seat previously held by Gavin Huntley-Fenner.

Disregarding the democratic process, the School Board quickly appointed someone to fill the seat in an attempt to foreclose any opportunity for Irvine voters to have a say in who represents them on the Irvine Unified School Board. Incredibly, the man they appointed has already gone on record in support of Site A! In fact, he’s been quoted as saying, “Nothing I have seen so far, has led me to believe that Site A is not a qualified, acceptable, preferable site.”

To download petitions, go to: www.iusdpetition.com.

Those who sign must be registered voters and live within the Irvine Unified School District boundaries. As circulator of the petition, you must fill in the information at the bottom of the petition, including your own signature.

To ensure that signature gathering procedures are followed,
please read the instructions on the petition carefully, and be sure the completed petition is turned in BY DECEMBER 20th the “old fashioned way” — either picked-up from you by an authorized person in the petition drive or mailed (snail mail!) to the petition proponent: Stephen Buxbaum, 4666 Sierra Tree Lane, Irvine, CA 92612.

Petition drive organizers will collect your completed petitions if you e-mail them at info@iusdpetition.com or text to 949-214-4250.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Petitions cannot be scanned, copied or sent electronically to be considered valid.

If you believe your views on where to site Irvine’s next High School are not being effectively represented by the School Board, we encourage you to sign and circulate the petition.

Valid signatures must be gathered and turned in by December 20th to ensure that deadlines are met for submitting signatures to the Orange County Superintendent of Schools.

Time is short. If you think the School Board seat should be filled by special election, please get your family members, friends and neighbors to sign this petition over the next week.

Like you, we have been frustrated by the seeming lack of concern the Irvine Unified School District Board has demonstrated with respect to the serious health and safety issues associated with their proposed Site A for Irvine’s next High School. At a time when issues of elevated levels of toxins at Malibu High School are a major news story here in Southern California, (LINK: http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news%2Flocal%2Flos_angeles&id=9335630), officials for the Irvine Unified School District seem determined to build on a site adjacent to a capped toxic landfill and just 1,000 yards from the rapidly expanding Musick Jail site.

Only with a special election will voters have a choice in who represents them. Remember, time is short. If you want your interests represented, help gather the signatures needed by December 20th.

If you have questions about the petition drive, you can e-mail the organizers at info@iusdpetition.com.

5 Responses to “Larry Agran Apparently Attempting to Gain Control of Irvine School Board Again – This Time Via Special Election”

  1. Chris – Your post is inaccurate. While Mr. Agran might support efforts to launch a special election, there is no direct evidence he is behind it. I am sure I am getting the same emails and voice mails you are; when I ask sources to produce the email from Mrs. Agran, they are unable to.

    The Agran supporters I speak to tell me if Agran were behind the drive, he would be out front about it. The Irvine Democratic Club has issued an email asking members to support the petition drive but this club is not controlled by Agran.

    Call me and I’m happy to share all the wild rumors including how Republican operatives are behind this.

    • Thanks for the call tonight, Dan. There do indeed seem to be a lot of conflicting stories on this. Hopefully, whoever it is behind this will eventually reveal themselves.

      • Just an Irvine Parent said

        I’m just an observer with no involvement or specific knowledge on this, but an interested observer as my children are in Irvine public schools. If Agran isn’t behind it explicitly, my money on who is responsible would be on one of the failed 2012 candidates for the board. Specifically, the one who was quoted in the Irvine Worlds News when they ran an article about this petition.

    • Just an Irvine Parent said

      I read references to the Republicans as “The Stupid Party” and the Democrats as “The Evil Party”. Glad to know that the Irvine Democrats are doing their part to earn the sobriquet.

    • Truth Teller said

      There is “no direct evidence”? Way to lawyer that up. There is ample (if not overwhelming) circumstantial evidence that Team Agran is behind this. More importantly, there is little practical distinction between “being behind it” and actively supporting it. You acknowledge that Agran and Krom are actively supporting the measure – that is reprehensible and sad. Rather than drawing red herring distinctions, you should be loudly AND UNEQUIVOCALLY criticizing Agran and Krom for wasting our school district dollars.

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