Wednesday, November 5, 2008

TUSD Press Release on Victory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Tammy Khan
Office of the Superintendent

Date: November 05, 2008 Phone: (310) 972-6152

Victory for Measures Y and Z!

I am elated to announce the overwhelming victory of TUSD School Bond Measures Y and Z. It has been a long journey to achieve this success, with months and months of planning, community meetings, informational forums, and thousands of volunteer hours. The Torrance community rallied together - parents, students, both certificated and classified employees, community members, and all of the city’s elected officials, in order to pass these two bonds. Both bonds passed with tremendous community support; Measure Y passed with 74.05% of the vote, and Measure Z with 71.24% of the vote.

We will continue to provide the community with updates on the progress of both bond measures through our website, www.tusd.org.

Again, I want to thank the over 1,000 volunteers who made phone calls, those who walked their neighborhoods and spoke to their friends and neighbors, and those who made monetary contributions to the campaign so that we could be victorious! This success would not have been possible if the Torrance residents had not recognized our need to upgrade our facilities and voted to pass both bond measures. Thank you to all the Torrance residents who participated in this very important election. We did it thanks to your involvement and dedication!

# # #

2335 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance, CA 90501 – 310.972.6500

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Results

UPDATE3 (Wednesday): Final numbers with all precincts reporting: 74% on Y and 70% on Z. Wow. Great job to everybody on the campaign, the phonebankers (there were a lot of them), the marchers, the signwavers, and all the folks who brought up the importance of these bonds to their neighbors and friends. The resounding approval shows Torrance residents support their schools.

UPDATE2: With 36% of the precincts reporting, Measure Y is even higher, at 73% and Z is up to 70%. In order for the bond measures to end up not passing, the rest of the vote would have to come in at below 50% - very unlikely. This is because the voters from areas that have yet to report aren't going to think much differently about the bond measures compared to those whose votes have already been counted. So I go to bed happy about the results on these measures.

UPDATE: With 27% of precincts reporting, Measure Y is at 72% and Z is at 69%. This is looking really good so far.

With 5% of precincts in, we're at 68% on Measure Y and 64% on Measure Z. Remember, it takes 55% to pass each of the school bonds. A simple majority is not enough.

Results available here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Hands On Deck: Election Day Tomorrow! Then Party after the Polls Close

Someone who'd been to the phonebank in the last week told me there callers have heard from over 10,000 Torrance voters who've said YES, they'd be voting for Y and Z. But we need to make sure these Yes voters actually get to the ballot and cast their vote.

This is why it's critical to get people making those calls on election day. Go to the campaign office and make some calls. The office is located right near the entrance 12 (between Joann's and Macy's on the ground floor). You don't have to wander through the mall at all to get there.

There's no organized opposition to the bond measures, but that doesn't mean that people will automatically vote yes. This is a challenging economic environment, making people more inclined to automatically vote no on these kinds of initiatives, regardless of their merit.

Consider phonebanking for a few hours to bring Y and Z to the finish line.

Then head out to the Red Car for a post-election celebration. Per Michael Wormers and Don Lee emails, the party is for all who've helped the campaign in any way and starts at 8pm (after the polls close) at the Red Car Brewery at 1266 Sartori Ave in Old Torrance.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hands Across Torrance

Lots of people came out today to raise awareness about Measures Y and Z - a great mix of kids, parents, grand parents. There was a ton of enthusiasm, and a LOT of horn honks and thumbs up from the cars passing by. I only took a few pictures but met a few photographers there documenting the event, and will hopefully be able to share some of there photos soon. (Please check back!)

The Y and Z'ers took up a lot of the northbound side of Hawthorne from Carson most of the way to Lomita, and a group set up shop on the southbound side as well.

Here are the pic's I got today -
In preparation for the event, my daughter and I put together some signs:.
I'm especially proud of the sign that she did all on her own:

Meet the Y and Z Crusaders


Wonderfully creative!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Republican & Democratic Parties - Not One Bad Thing to Say on Y and Z

The County Democratic Party endorses Torrance school bond measures Y and Z.

The County Republican Party takes no official position on Measures Y and Z. There's more to it than that, though. I left a message with the County Party office today to inquire further, but did reach the local office (at Hawthorne and Lomita), which confirmed the no stance. However, the phone answerer indicated the higher ups in the party were supporting Y and Z, that there are a lot of safeguards in the measures. This was not an 'off the cuff' answer, but rather what she said after checking with the office staff -- so I suspect it's the unofficial party line on Y and Z. Call yourself if you'd like to inquire for yourself - the number is 310-791-3305. The person I was talking to also shared her personal position that she was going to vote Yes on both Y and Z.

So, the major parties are either explicity endorsing or unofficially giving its thumbs up on Measures Y and Z. I think this is a great indication that fixing Torrance schools is not a partisan issue - it's just something we HAVE to do.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Supportive Residents + Superior Schools = One Strong City

That's the final line of a strong endorsement of Measures Y and Z from the Los Angeles Family Examiner. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here's a couple excerpts.

Torrance has been known for its fine schools long before I moved here 31 years ago. As a 9-year-old, I didn’t know much about the relationship between property values and highly rated schools, but I did learn about it in 1998, when my husband and I bought our first single-family home in South Torrance. I was unaware at the time that this specific neighborhood, which is nestled between the busy streets of Lomita, Hawthorne and Sepulveda boulevards, actually was considered “South Torrance” until our Realtor explained about Torrance Unified School District (TUSD) boundaries.

I was thrilled to think that my future children would be able to attend South High School, where I went. Having access to schools earning a “9” on the Academic Performance Index (10 being the highest) was a huge selling point for both me and my husband. We signed on the dotted line in large part because of the excellence of our neighborhood schools.

Earlier this year we cheered when our daughter’s elementary school was designated “A California Distinguished School.” Soon after we learned about two bond measures, Y and Z, that would be on the ballot this fall to repair and modernize Torrance’s aging schools. Only then did we take a closer look at the structural side of these schools. En route to a soccer game at Seaside Elementary, I spotted the sign celebrating the school’s founding in 1949. I said to my daughter, “This school is almost as old as Grandma!”

But this is no joke. Most of Torrance’s schools are more than 50 years old, with some approaching 100 years old. We remembered our disappointment 2 years ago when a similar school bond measure failed to pass. Since then, extreme budget cuts from Sacramento have meant that older districts like Torrance's receive even fewer dollars.
......
It’s hard to believe that two measures with so much grassroots and institutional support still stand a chance of failing. Our country may be on the brink of recession, but no matter which income bracket you claim on your tax form, people everywhere agree that education is the best investment we can make into the future of our great country.

This means putting our money where our values are and honoring our commitment as taxpayers to support our city’s fine schools. There’s no question that Torrance campuses are in dire need of repair: Visit any one of them and see for yourself. The only question is whether residents are willing to pay now or to pay later. “Delaying repairs will only increase future construction costs and state matching funds may no longer be available,” say supporters of Y and Z.

Many of us grow wary during the election season because we’re not sure who to trust. Sometimes the things we hear just don’t add up. But here’s an equation that makes sense no matter how you spin it:

Supportive Residents + Superior Schools = One Strong City.
Four more days till election day. Volunteer!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hands Across Torrance Event-Nov 2 1-3pm

Updated flier (click to enlarge). Share with your friends and neighbors and anyone with a sign in their yard, whether you know them or not.

My daughter and I walked the neighborhood and distributed a flier to those with a Y and Z sign - and everyone we encountered was nice and most were happy to learn about the event.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Anti-Measure Y and Z Campaign & Their Amazing Website

I was reading my Sample Ballot to go over both the Pro and Anti arguments for Measures Y and Z, just to do my due diligence and see what arguments there were against it.

The Anti argument (authored by Rick Marshall and a few others) is rather pathetic, to be frank. At one point, they argue the bonds shouldn't be including money for maintenance because it's not proper to borrow for those expenditures. Then, in another spot, they're arguing this reserve for maintaining the improvements is "a good idea" but that "it's not enough". At least you'd think they could be internally consistent in what they're arguing.

So needless to say there was nothing they were arguing that made me question my support for the bond measures. However, there was something they brought up that was of great interest: the donors to the Pro-Y and Z campaign.
Have you seen who is donating to the campaign to pass the bonds? They plan to raise over $150,000 to pass these measures. Please see our website for the entire list from the last time and for the latest information.
I was so anxious to see who the supporters were so I could thank them, so I went to the website they listed: www.remodelthebonds.com. It's rather comical what's there -- a blank GoDaddy webpage that's plastered with advertisements for kitchen and home remodeling. See for yourself.

If they really had a compelling reason to oppose the bond measures, you'd think they'd be blaring it all across town. I doubt they're going under the radar with a stealth campaign, but who knows? I think it's much more likely that they simply don't have anything really to say, other than "taxes are bad". And since Torrance voters are smart enough to understand that schools don't magically take care of themselves, that just won't sell.

Get Out the Vote for Measures Y and Z

Can you spare a few hours during the days leading up to the election to help get out the vote? There have literally been thousands of people who've told phonebankers that they will be voting for the Measures, but unless we get them to the polls, it won't matter. So making get out the vote (GOTV) calls right before and on election day is pivotal. So if you want the measures to pass (and I suspect you do since you're reading this blog), then please give a few hours to GOTV!

The campaign needs volunteers to phonebank morning and evening shifts at their Del Amo Mall office during November 1 (Saturday) through Tuesday November 4th. Please contact the campaign (it's called Torrance 4 Kids) at 310-864-7356 and let them know your availability. (By the way, the office is located right near the entrance 12 (between Joann's and Macy's on the ground floor. You don't have to wander through the mall at all to get there).

Who's Endorsed Measures Y and Z

The Torrance school bond measures have a lot of endorsements from city organizations, elected officials and PTA's. Check the link above to see the list.

There is also a section for individuals who endorse the measures. If you'd like to add your name to that list, you can do so by going to the campaign site's Get Involved page.

There's also on that form boxes you can check to sign up to phone bank, donate or get a lawn sign. Given how close we are to the election, you're better off calling the campaign headquarters directly if you'd like to phone bank or contribute (310-864-7396). Also, I believe they ran out of signs a long time ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Tool to Convince Your Neighbors to Support Y and Z

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to explain the formula for figuring out how much you would owe under Measure Y and Z to other homeowners. There's just no good way -- the math confuses people.

This is unfortunate, because there a lot of homeowners out there who are probably overestimating how much they would have to pay for the new bonds, and will vote no because of it. They may want to support schools but feel they don't have the means to pay for the bonds, such as those on fixed incomes or with very tight budgets.

It's unfortunate that we can't just ditch the formulas and simply tell a neighbor exactly how much (or rather, how little) they would pay for the bonds, isn't it?

Actually, I'm just kidding -- we DO have the ability to tell our neighbors exactly how little they'd pay, and it's public information. (You don't have to snoop in their trash to find out.)

Here's how you do it:

* Go to the Assessor's Website and enter an address in the Search by Street Address box. Start with your own address.

* When you look your own place up, the 2008 Roll Values will show your Land value, Improvements value and your Homeowner exemption. Since property tax bills came out recently, you probably have that handy. You can pull that out and verify that the assessed valuation that you're taxed on (Land + Improvements - Exemption) is the same on the Assessors site as on your actual tax bill. (I know it works because I checked my address and it matched exactly.)

* The next step is to check your neighbors. If one of them wondered to you how much they would pay, you can look it up for them and tell them.

* You can either look their address up like you did your own, or you can use the map on the left side of the screen to pick which one you want to look up.

* To do the latter, click on the icon below the map which is a white "i" inside a black circle. After doing that, you can pick a neighboring property to get its information.

I did this for my next door neighbor who's lived in her house for decades. I haven't discussed the bond measures with her yet, but now that I know her assessed valuation is $75,000, I can tell her that her annual maximum tax for the new school bonds would only be $36 ($48 / $100,000 X $75,000). Talk about being armed with a pursuasive argument for her. Wow -- she'd pay $3 a month to have fixed schools in her city. A pittance.

Another neighbor across the street has an AV of $62,000. That means the calculation for what he would owe is $48 / $100,000 X $62,000. That comes out to slightly less than $30. Not per week or per month. Per year.

People on fixed incomes are rightly worried about having to pay more in taxes. The good thing for a lot of them is that they have been living in their houses for a long time and probably have very small assessed valuations, so they would pay very little in Measure Y and Z taxes.

I did a few calculations and came up with another way of putting it:
Anyone with an assessed valuation of:
less than $52,000 pays under $25 per year for Y and Z bonds.
less than $104,000 pays under $50 per year for Y and Z bonds.
less than $208,000 pays under $100 per year for Y and Z bonds.


So if you're not comfortable doing the calculations yourself, you could use the reference amounts above. You can just check the AV, and then figure which range it fits in.

Then you're armed with your information that will hopefully put your neighbor in the Yes column on November 4. You just say to them: "Isn't paying $__ per year worth it to [keep our neighborhood schools][renovate our dilapidated schools][remove asbestos and other hazardous materials from the school buildings children are in 5 days a week?][maintain Torrance's reputation for good schools and help our property values]"

You may know the right argument to insert as the last part of the sentence - the above are just suggestions.

If you use this argument, please share your experience.

Painful Memory - Letter from Past President of JH Hull PTA

I received this letter yesterday passed on from a Walteria PTA member, and am sharing it with you at the urging of the letterwriter. It appears the letter writier has addressed the letter to all PTA groups in Torrance Unified.

Dear PTA,

As the election draws near, I feel I need to speak with every PTA member regarding Measure Y and Z. I have a unique perspective: I was the PTA President at JH Hull when the last bond attempt was defeated by 397 votes. I want all of you to take a minute to walk in my shoes.

The day after the election was a Torrance Council of PTAs Meeting. People arrived, greeting me hugs, smiles, 'Wow, great Karen, the bond passed!'. Even then, even in a room full of highly involved people, one of the key elements was missed by so many, the bond failed; it needed a 55% pass rate, not 50% as so many thought. Shocked faces of friends, panicked calls to school principals and others in the community, all the while for me, sitting in utter shock.

Back on campus at JH Hull, the district sent grief counselors not only for the students, for the staff. Something at Hull died that day, our campus of 35 years in our community. Students saddened they wouldn't see their final days on that campus, teachers that atended Hull as students, became teachers and 'came home' to Hull having that opportunity torn out of their hands. Teachers and parents that chose to have children in TUSD hoping their kids will go through the same schools as they did being denied that opportunity by 397 voters.

When you get involved with a PTA, you do it for your students, the schools they attend, and to make a difference in your community. You take ownership and personal pride in 'your school'. As PTA President the day the ballot measure failed, I felt overwhelmed with disappointment and that personal ownership failed. Akin to when a child overhears a conversation not meant for their ears, sees a car accident, finds a special present not means for him/her, just that shear moment as parents that we all go through of "Oh my gosh, I completely let you down' and then trying to work through those painful steps to recover.

As a PTA we worked through the rest of the year, worked through the pain all the while with the daily presence of the passing of a dear friend on the mind of everyone involved with JH Hull, hollowed, forever changed, and not stronger.

I went to Hull the day the portables were demolished. I stood there watching a bulldozer tear down rooms that were full of education, smiling students and memories. Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Words cannot describe...

As we all move closer to Election Day, please do all you can and then more to educate your community members on the importance of these bonds. Fight for this! If, heaven forbid these bonds don't pass, the Board of Education will close campuses. I stand before you and tell you there is nothing as a parent, PTA member, school community member that you can do post-election to stop the closing of a school. Nothing. Kids will be consolidated onto campuses not of their choosing, neighbors will be divided by new school boundaries and school communities and more so our children will pay the ultimate price. I know, it happened to me.

Please share this with all your PTA members, school community, friends and neighbors.

I thank you for your time.
Karen Cristy
Past President of JH Hull 2006-07

In reading the letter about the grief counselors coming to campus, I imagined how I would have felt about having my middle or elementary school buildings that I attended being destroyed and never being able to go back. Sure, my folks wouldn't have taken me to see my school being torn down, but I certainly would have known what would have happened. I think fondly of my memories of grade school, and a lot of that is tied up with the physical place - the playgrounds, the classrooms of my favorite teachers where I had my "aha" moments of real learning --- I remember those places vividly. The big radiators, the view out the windows, the hallways where I hung out with friends, all that. If I learned that my elementary or middle school was torn down, it would bother me because it would kind of take away those memories a little, make them less real. And that's even with the passage of decades.

I can only imagine what it would feel like to be a kid not old enough to put things into perspective and live through a closure of his/her school in real time and literally be kicked out and have to go somewhere else.

This isn't just about maintaining physical structures, it's about how these structures affect our lives and most importantly those of our children. Displacing them from the schools that they identify with and are emotionally attached to, would be very tragic. When bad things happen, some kids think they are somehow responsible, even though they had no control over the situation. The thought that some of these kids would blame themselves for a school closure bothers me a lot.

The good news is that it's entirely preventable. If everyone supporting Y and Z goes out and convinces a few more people (person to person, through the phone bank, while trick or treating, etc.), then this bond measure will pass. We must strive for that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #1

Over the past ten days, I've been counting down the top ten reasons to vote YES on Measures Y and Z on November 4th from the flyer handed out at the grassroots, parent-organized fundraiser a few weeks ago. I didn't come up with these myself, but I agree with all of them. And now, we're down to number one..

Reason #1: Our students are counting on us to provide them with a good education... most are not old enough to vote, so we must care enough to vote for their (our) schools!

* Every penny from Measures Y and Z will benefit our students, teachers, and community
* Every penny will stay in Torrance and be used to fix our school here in the city.
* These monies cannot be taken away by the state, other districts, or the city.
* These monies cannot be used for any purpose other than facilities construction.
* Our schools will be returned to their former glory... worthy of our Torrance community.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hands Across Torrance Event-Nov 2 1-3pm

Just received this flier in my email. Sounds like this will be a great visibility event. (click to enlarge)



There should be a prize for the best homemade sign.

Please share this with friends. If you want the email version, I'll forward it to you - just ask for one in comments and I'll send it your way.

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #2

Reason #2: Measures Y and Z are smart investments for property owners that will help to maintain the value of our homes in Torrance.

Passing both measures Y and Z will mean an additional $48/$100,000 of assessed value (remember, that's NOT your market value) in property taxes for each property owner in Torrance; that works out to $4 per $100,000 in assessed value per month. Most Torrance property owners would pay about $150-$250, an investment in our schools that we can afford.

If you want to see your home's assessed value, just go to the County Assessor's site (HERE) and look it up.

And remember an extra bonus -- our additional property taxes are actually tax deductible, which reduces the actual cost to you.

The State of Our Schools: Tuesday Edition

Click on the picture to enlarge. This is part of a snappy mailer that we just got in the mail. My wife's reaction was "Aha - pictures!" This is what she was waiting for, and I think that they've been saving the most compelling arguments till the election got to be near. This is powerful. There are a few egregious ones in the mailer (which I'll get to over the next few days). Here's today's:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tonight's March Through Torrance Supporting Y & Z

I got home from doing a quick stint at the Y and Z phonebank and met up with my wife and kids, who updated me on how the pro-Measure Y and Z march through Torrance went. My six-year old was still pretty excited about her evening - she walked with a class mate holding a big campaign sign and chanted "Yes on Y and Z, Fix Our Old Schools", for the whole time. Lots of cars honking approval, and a good crowd of supporters who showed up to participate. There was press on hand taking pictures (I'm guessing it's the Daily Breeze), including one of my daughter. We had to tamp down her expectations a bit of seeing her picture on the front page of the paper. No news coverage yet - I'll post it when available.

The phonebank was pretty busy, with some high schoolers making calls as well as parents and probably some teachers too. By the way, they need to reach a lot of voters still, and if you want to see the bonds pass, making some calls could really help. Call the campaign headquarters for more information or to get involved, at 310-864-7396.

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #3

Reason #3: Our current experienced Torrance USD administration, supported by our current school board, has a good, improved plan to effectively manage bond expenditures.

The Torrance Unified administration has turned over twice since Measure R, and the entire school board is new and different. The current superintendent (George Mannon) and the current chief business officer (Don Stabler) both managed successful bond funded construction at their prior school districts. We should give these new administrators and board members the chance to manage the rebuilding of our deteriorated schools.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #4

Reastion #4: Torrance voters have voted only $1,700 in bond dollars per student in Torrance Unified.

* El Segundo has voted $29,601 per student -- 17 times more than Torrance.
* Redondo Beach has voted $24,500 per student -- 14 times more than Torrance.

Our Torrance Unified students directly compete with students from these and other nearby districts. The lack of funds to support our school facilities leaves our students and teachers at a vast disadvantage, compared to our neighbors. Recruiting and retaining teachers in a district with rundown facilities is difficult when there are a number of other districts with newer and updated facilities where the best and brightest teachers can move to without having to relocate. And the condition that we leave our schools in sends a message about the value we put in education. Measures Y and Z will show that we value education.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #5

Reason #5: In Torrance, property owners are paying less property tax for school bonds than those in almost any other school district in Los Angeles County.

Currently, just $17 per $100,000 of assessed valuation is added to our property taxes to repay our single bond. This puts us as the fourth lowest bond tax rate of all Los Angeles County school districts -- 67th out of 70 school districts -- in bond tax rates.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Video of the Day

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #6

Reason #6: Torrance has passed only one bond for school improvements since our schools were initially built.

We've had 6 measures on 6 ballots, but only one, Measure R, for $42.5 million dollars was passed, and that was 10 years ago in 1998. This bond money was used for critical infrastructure needs like plumbing, wiring, and restroom renovations. See an accounting for every dollar of the bond funds from Measure R.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #7

Reason #7: TUSD may have to close schools if Y and Z do not pass.

Due to lack of facilities monies, the District was forced to close Hull Middle School and bus those students to a new location far from their homes. Measures Y and Z represent a commitment to our children and their education, and to our Torrance community extending far into the future. If Measures Y and Z do not pass, there is a good possibility that more neighborhood schools in Torrance will be closed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #8

We're in the middle of our Top Ten list of reasons to vote Yes on Torrance school bond measures Y and Z on the November 4 ballot. On to today's installment...

Reason #8: No school district has found any other way to raise funds for major improvements and renovations of school facilities aside from bonds.

Drawing funds for major projects from the general fund would be detrimental to our students and their education. Check out a recently completed School Services of California, Inc. analysis of district spending practices to the that TUSD is currently managing your tax dollars well. Just a sample of what you'll find in that report: the number of students per district administrator at TUSD is more than two and a half times the comparable district average (Chart 7).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #9

Reason #9: School bonds are the ONLY way for Torrance Unified to raise funds for our school facilities.

The state expects that our community will raise funds locally for local schools, thus taking community responsibility of our own schools. Only once local bonds (Measures Y and Z) pass, will we then be able to access our due in state matching funds. That's millions of dollars we're passing up in state money if we don't pass these bonds.

Grassroots Events to Support Campaign

While the official campaign is focused on phonebanking and getting out mailers to voters (which are very well done, I might add), that doesn't mean that parents and others who want Y and Z to pass can't get active to support the school bonds on their own.

Have you done something on your own (or with friends) to promote the bond measures? Send me a little writeup and pictures if you have them. I'll put them up on the blog. I wouldn't be surprised if there's some great grassroots activity going on out there, and I'd love to give it some exposure.

Also, are you interested in tabling or doing other visibility events from now to (and including) election day? If you've got a few hours available to help out, there's no shortage of things that can be done. Events to target parents (such as around pickup/dropoff hours around the schools, for example), tabling in front of busy locations, etc. If you want to do something but don't know where to start, chime in in the comments and I'll help facilitate something that will work out for you.

Nothing should be taken for granted - and person to person interaction is the most effective way of getting votes. And there are people who simply aren't going to be reached over the phone, and who may not pay close attention to political mailers during election time. Having phonebanked for Y and Z today, I can vouch there are a bunch of people who never pick up their phone. So do consider getting involved in this way -- it's effective and is also a lot of fun.

[I significantly changed around this post after originally putting it up. I had neglected to ask about grassroots activity going on in support of the bonds, and I've added that in.]

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Y&Z: #10

Reason #10: Our schools are old, built sixty plus years ago. It is time to "Fix Our Old Schools!"

Torrance Unified broke away from L.A. Unified in 1947, fueled by community activists who were committed to educating our youth. And now the school buildings their tax dollars built are crumbling. See the Torrance U.S.D. Facilities and Assets Review Committee report for details.

Safe, clean, and modern schools are important to our Torrance community!

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes on Measures Y & Z

The campaign has put together a top ten list of reasons why voters should vote YES on Torrance school bond measures Y and Z on November 4. Starting tonight and over the next nine days, I'll be counting down the reasons. Reason #10 coming momentarily...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Daily Breeze Endorsement - Today's Lead Editorial

Just updating last night's post about the Daily Breeze stongly endorsing the school bond measures: today's print edition had their endorsement as their lead editorial. It's great to see the Daily Breeze recognizes the importance of our school system to our community.

Red Car Brewery Party - October 11

Yesterday's Y We Care About Z Schools party was a great grassroots event put together by a group of families with kids in the Torrance schools, who did all the work to bring this together (including underwriting the expense of the party so all donations could be used to promote the bond measures). Terry Ragins passes on that $3,000 was raised (!!!) and the money will be used for a parent focused mailing from the campaign.

I was going from a phone banking gig for another cause to join the party in progress, so I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked. Here are a few that I did get, which hopefully gives you a good flavor.
I heard most of the speeches including Torrance Board of Education members Terry Ragins and Al Muratsuchi. The point that made the most impression for me was what Al Muratsuchi said about what why the bond measure failed two years ago: parents did not turn out in big enough numbers. We have to talk the bond measures up with our fellow parents and get the word out.

The band S'cool Daze provided the tunes for the afternoon.


Terry Ragins and Sue Herbers, Torrance City Clerk (she handles city election matters, but as the bond measures are done at the County level, this isn't in her jurisdiction)
A good crowd enjoying the wonderful pulled pork sandwiches, artichoke dip, and microbrew served up by the Red Car. I recommend the Pumpkinhead ale.

Torrance Council members Cliff Numark and Tom Brewer were out to support the measures as well.

Because I had to arrive late I wasn't able to get as many pictures as I'd hoped, and I haven't had the pleasure to meet all those who are making such great efforts for this campaign, either, so I should note that I don't have pictures of a whole bunch of folks who deserve to be recognized.

However, from the party invitation I have the names of the party hosts, who made it possible to have this great event to build the enthusiasm for the campaign AND raise thousands of dollars at the same time. The parent organizers below deserve a lot of thanks:
Craig and Alpa Brown, Bob and Laurie Brandt, Gary and Donna Duperron, Keyomars and Monica Fard, Steve and Lucy Hemingway, Frank and Gail Kantrowitz, Hiro and Izumi Koh, Rob and Katy Maloney, Bill and Pam Milroy, Alex and Faith Moy, Al and Hiroko Muratsuchi, Jim and Michele Nadeau, Scott and Terri Nishimura, Rick and Desiree Palmer, Sabine and Nick Peters, Brian and Ginny Rickey, Bill and Andrea Ruof, Larry and Laura Savitz, Brad and Pam Suzuki, Mark and Janis Seraydarian, Linda Tookey, Jimmy and Heather Wakimoto and Red Car Brewery and Restaurant Depot!


[I've updated the post to reflect the grass roots aspect of the party and to add the impressive fundraising total.]

Daily Breeze Endorses Yes on Measure Y and Z

Bond measure supporters will wake up to good news on Sunday if they are Daily Breeze readers:

`Yes' on Measures Y, Z
Torrance school officials paint a picture of political Armageddon if Measure Y on the Nov. 4 ballot goes down to defeat. They would look at closing some campuses and selling them to raise modernization funds for the remaining schools.

The process of selecting which campuses would close is ugly in itself. It would pit neighborhoods and school stakeholders against each other. Bitterness over the outcome would last for years.

To raise the needed funds, some land would likely have to be sold to housing developers. And anyone who's lived in Torrance over the past decade knows what a political firestorm that would cause in the city.

The remaining campuses would have to deal with increased traffic and density problems, as well as less green space. The Torrance Unified School District very possibly would not be the lure it once was to prospective homeowners, creating a drag on property values.
The headlines gives away their stance on the bond measures, but it's great to see their explicit support in black and white at the end of the editorial:
Unlike most other school districts in the region, Torrance has passed only one school bond measure in the past 40 years, and that one will be fully paid off in about five years. Furthermore, Torrance Unified has the second lowest bond tax rate in all of Los Angeles County.

Anyone familiar with school budgets knows that state mandates and personnel needs determine where most of the money will go. Few discretionary funds are available to address the Torrance district's aging infrastructure. Bond measures are just about the only viable way of raising such funds for capital projects. We recommend "Yes" votes on Measures Y and Z on Election Day.
With the great party/fundraiser at Red Car today (some pictures from the event will appear on the site soon by the way) to the strong endorsement for the measures by the Daily Breeze, I'm sensing some real momentum.

Just around 25 days left to make sure we get to victory. I'll be phonebanking tomorrow at the Del Amo office for a few hours to do my part.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Measure Y and Z Fundraiser at Red Car Brewery-Oct 11th

Here's the announcement:

Y we care about Z schools Party!

Saturday, October 11th

3 – 5 p.m.

Red Car Brewery and Restaurant
1265 Sartori Ave., Torrance, CA 90501

Come enjoy delicious appetizers and drinks (no host bar), meet some of the key people involved with the school bond, enjoy some cool music by S’cool Daze and most importantly help us raise money for Measures Y and Z!

Tickets are $25 per person

100% of the proceeds will go to the
“Torrance 4 kids campaign”
For more info go to www.yesonyandz.com

Please rsvp to: ywecare@yahoo.com
(limited to 85 people)

Hosted by: Craig and Alpa Brown, Bob and Laurie Brandt, Gary and Donna Duperron, Keyomars and Monica Fard, Steve and Lucy Hemingway, Frank and Gail Kantrowitz, Hiro and Izumi Koh, Rob and Katy Maloney, Bill and Pam Milroy, Alex and Faith Moy,
Al and Hiroko Muratsuchi, Jim and Michele Nadeau, Scott and Terri Nishimura, Rick and Desiree Palmer, Sabine and Nick Peters, Brian and Ginny Rickey, Bill and Andrea Ruof, Larry and Laura Savitz, Brad and Pam Suzuki, Mark and Janis Seraydarian, Linda Tookey, Jimmy and Heather Wakimoto and Red Car Brewery and Restaurant Depot!
Given that this is a fundraiser for the school bond campaign, is it OK for me to point out that Red Car has some really awesome beer?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Credit Crisis and Its Effect on School Bond Sales

From today's Daily Breeze discussing credit crisis and plans for borrowing on local projects, the Torrance school bonds are mentioned:
School officials in Torrance are monitoring the credit situation as they seek some $355 million in bonds on the November ballot.

If Torrance voters approve the bonds, Measure Y and Measure Z, officials would try to sell them to investors in February at the earliest.

"If we were selling our bonds today, obviously it would have an effect," said Don Stabler, the district's top financial officer. "We would probably be ready to sell at the first part of the year. Our financial adviser does not think it will affect us at that time."
If they need to postpone the sale of the bonds until rates moderate, then that's fine, they'll have the flexibility to do that. Just because the bonds are voter approved now doesn't mean they have to be issued right now.

Another thing to keep in mind about the bond market turning sour is that it's depressing the amount of construction activity that's going on. That will tend to help the district when it puts out school projects for construction bids. There will likely be construction firms hungry for work and willing to bid more competitively for it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Forum on Torrance School Bonds - October 6

From the Southeast Torrance Homeowners Association blog:

West Torrance and Southwood Homeowners' Associations will hold a forum on Monday, October 6, 2008 at 7PM in the Anza Cafetorium (map), 21400 Ellinwood Drive, Torrance CA on Measures Y and Z for the Torrance Unified School District(TUSD).

Measure Y – To make classrooms and core academic facilities safe and modern, improve learning and qualify for State matching money, shall Torrance Unified School District renovate or replace outdated classrooms and school buildings; repair damaged walls and floors; replace worn-out roofs, plumbing and lighting systems; repair faulty drainage systems, hardscapes, and other safety hazards, by issuing $265 million in bonds at legal interest rates with mandatory audits, independent citizen oversight and all money staying local?

Measure Z – To fund additional upgrades to school facilities that support student learning and extracurricular activities , shall Torrance Unified School District also issue $90 million in bonds at legal interest rates to renovate worn-out physical education facilities and playgrounds for health and safety; construct music/art classrooms and science labs; and replace deteriorating covered walkways to establish a safe school environment; with mandatory audits, independent citizen oversight, and all money staying local?

Mayor Frank Scotto and Dr. Michael Ernst, TUSD Board President will explain the reasons why they believe the school bonds are necessary. Mr. G. Rick Marshall and Mr. Charles Deemer will present opposing views on the proposed bonds. Questions from the audience will follow the two presentations.

John Bailey, President
Southeast Torrance Homeowners' Association

Per the Daily Breeze the number for information on this event is 310-533-4559.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Yes on Y and Z Signs are Around Town - How to Help the Campaign

The Yes on Y and Z - Fix Our Old Schools signs are showing up around the city, and it's great to see. The only problem I had with it is where to go to get my own, and how to chip in a few bucks to help the measures pass.

I saw a lady with a Yes on Y and Z button today and asked her about the campaign - and she alerted me to the Yes on Y and Z website. At that site you can get involved by volunteering to phone bank, requesting a lawn sign for your front yard and/or make a contribution.

The site has been added to the links section on the right hand side of the page, fyi.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Daily Breeze Coverage

Some highlights from the Daily Breeze article from over the weekend:

Some elementary and middle schools in Torrance might have to close and be sold to raise funds to fix aging campuses if voters don't pass two November bond measures.

Warnings about such a worst-case scenario have spread throughout the city as part of a yearlong campaign that has rallied district leaders, city officials and parent groups.
....
For Torrance High School Principal John O'Brien, a bond measure would mean new paint for peeling walls, new concrete for crumbling pillars and new pipes for rusted-out toilets.

"It's starting to scare me, actually," said O'Brien, standing under hall lights held up by electrical wire.
The article discusses the TUSD's 2007 report titled "Torrance Schools: An Urgent Wake-up Call" warning that school facilities are dilapidated and in dire need of repair and modernization.

The report, based on a study by a Torrance Unified School District facilities committee, cited safety concerns such as large cracks in playgrounds, toilets that back up because of old plumbing, a lack of outdoor lighting in hallways and walkways, potholes in playing fields and rotting stadium bleachers.

"Schoolchildren and staff shiver in unheated classrooms when antiquated boiler heaters frequently break down," the report stated.

Specifically, the report cited bursting pipes at South High School that flooded rooms in two buildings, showers that don't work at one Torrance High locker room, heat that can't be turned off in some West High rooms and a science room at North High where there's no electrical power to the area where microscopes and other equipment are housed.
There are a bunch of pictures in the article of the deteriorated conditions at the schools. If I knew that my kids school would look in that shape, I think it might affect my decision to move to the area. Having schools run down like this sends the wrong message that we don't value our schools. The teachers and administrators are doing a good job -- the performance of the students shows that; it's time for Torrance residents to provide school children with decent facilities to go along with the great teaching that they are getting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What the Bond Measures Are About

Summary of Measures Y and Z from Torrance Unified available here.

The more you understand about the bond measures and the reasons why they are being put on the ballot by the school board, the more likely you are to support it.

Measure Y- $265 million to be used for specific classroom and core academic facility renovations. The tax rate for this bond would be $35 per $100,000 of ASSESSED property value (not market value).

Specifically, Measure Y would fund core academic school facility renovations, including:

-Repairing damaged walls, floors and foundations

-Replacing worn-out roofs, plumbing and lighting systems

-Repairing faulty drainage systems, hardscapes, and other safety hazards

-Removing asbestos and other hazardous materials from school sites

-Providing classroom technology needed to prepare students for the workforce

-Renovating outdated classrooms and science labs (including replacing Hull Middle School)
Emphasis added about the asbestos/hazardous material removal. I'm sorry, but, if there's still asbestos that needs to be removed from the schools that our kids are attending, then the idea we wouldn't provide the funds to fix it is unfathomable.

The measure is largely focused on maintaining the infrastructure of these buildings so they can continue to be used. This is basic stuff that must be done to keep buildings that are often 50+ years old.

On the second bond measure:

Measure Z - $90 million to be used for special school facility projects that will protect and enhance student safety and wellness, and provide specialized programs. The tax rate for this bond would be $13 per $100,000 of ASSESSED property value (not market value).

Specifically, Measure Z would fund the renovation of facilities that support learning, extra-curricular activities and ensure student safety, including:

-Renovating worn-out physical education facilities, playgrounds and fields that serve the entire Torrance community

-Constructing music and art classrooms and science labs at schools that do not have these facilities
If we want to encourage our kids to be active and healthy, it certainly makes sense to have decent facilities and playgrounds for them to play at - not to mention the benefits ballfield/playground renovations will have for local residents who will be able to take advantage of the improvements as well.

As as for science labs - it's hard to imagine that there are schools that don't have such facilities. It's about time they get them.

The bond is smartly structured to ensure that the assets will be properly maintained after the renovations are completed:

The Facilities and Assets Review Committee, comprised of parents, teachers, principals and community members, recommended the projects included in these bonds following a six (6) month comprehensive review of all district facilities. The recommendations were reviewed by school construction experts and detailed cost estimates were developed.

Restricted Repair and Replacement Reserve – These measures require the district to establish a Restricted Repair and Replacement Reserve – in order to maintain facilities after they are upgraded and protect taxpayers investment.

Measures Y&Z require an “Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee’ and mandatory independent annual audits to ensure funds are spent properly.

By law, funds from Measures Y and Z must stay in Torrance and may only be used for the specific facility projects listed in the District’s detailed facility master plan. No funds can be used for administrator salaries.

Voters should note that estimated tax rates are based on the ASSESSED VALUE of taxable property on the County’s official tax rolls, not on the property’s market value. Property owners should consult their own property tax bills and tax advisors to determine their property’s assessed value.
A few things to highlight there:

The money is restricted to already specified facility projects and can't go for salaries.

Funds will wisely be set aside for the upkeep of the improvements that are completed.

The tax is figured against your assessed valuation, not your current market value of your house. That means that retirees who are on a fixed income and seen their home value skyrocked over the last 20 years won't have to pay tax on the actual value of the home, only the assessed value which will be much, much lower if they've been in their homes for 10+ years.

Those who've purchased a home for $600K+ in the last few years should have the means to deal with the modes increase in their property taxes. If base property taxes are at 1.0% - then someone with a house assessed at $600K is already paying $6K a year in taxes - the school bonds will add on $300 more. The amount that they'd pay for the school bond - $48 per $100K in value - is less than $300. That's very minor increase - and it will have a direct impact in improving the community - and home values.

A future post will address the school bond tax burden in Torrance compared to other school districts. You won't be surprised to hear (given the state of the school facilities) that the tax rate is very low relative to other districts..

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Daily Breeze Letter to Editor Supporting Bonds

From Sept 8:
Torrance measures vital
On Nov. 4 the majority of us will be going to the polls to cast our votes on a number of issues. Two measures that readers may not know are on the ballot are Torrance's Y and Z to fund improvements to the rapidly deteriorating Torrance schools.

Most of the city's schools were built in the late 1950s and '60s and have had very little spent on them in the way of maintenance or upgrades. As a lifetime resident and product of the Torrance school system, I think this runs counter to the link between the excellent quality of life we experience and the world-class school district that offers our students the best education possible. As most of you are aware, our property values have declined about 25percent in the past two years. Property values are tied directly to the school systems in them, and run-down schools will not help increase them.

J.H. Hull Middle School has been closed and Fern Elementary students have been moved because the district can't afford to rebuild these schools.

If passed by a 55 percent majority, MeasureY ($265 million) will allow repairs to walls, floors, foundations, roofs, plumbing and lighting. Other improvements would include asbestos and hazardous materials removal, rebuilding Hull Middle School and technology improvement. Taxpayer impact would be $35 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

Measure Z ($90 million) would allow replacement of physical education facilities and allow rebuilding of art and music rooms throughout the district. Please vote "Yes" on these two measures.

- STEVE POLCARI

Torrance

Sunday, September 7, 2008