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Those who lose elections cannot blame racism
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A reader whom I've known as long as I've been editor of the Courier, forwarded me an e-mail piece on the death of Common Sense. Written as an "obituary" of a fictional Mr. Common Sense, the piece reflects on how silly society has become. Here's a sample: "Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault."

You get the picture.

One needn't look far to see the effects of the death of Common Sense.

Recently the San Francisco-based Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights (LCCR) sent letters to 25 school districts - Ceres Unified included - "encouraging" them to voluntarily end their practice of at-large elections or be sued. The advocacy group filed a lawsuit - they claim on behalf of Latino voters - charging that the CUSD's at-large method of elections is racially polarizing and violating the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

CUSD acquiesced to the lawyers and chose not to fight such blatant political thuggery. They saw how Modesto and Madera districts were sued and how liberal judges ruled against the concept of at-large districts. CUSD saw the hand writing on the wall and decided, in the words of Superintendent Walt Hanline, against spending "million of dollars to fight a case that is not winnable." Hanline also said the district's trustee area was not a "matter of right and wrong - this is a philosophical difference."

Thus CUSD agreed to eliminate the at-large district in favor of a new system to elect School Board trustees. Five single-member trustee areas and two at-large trustee offices will be established for the November 2009 and 2011 elections. By the November 2013 election, the district will establish seven single-member trustee areas.

Nobody has been able to logically explain what was wrong about at-large districts in the first place. Such strong-arm tactics were unwarranted by outsiders objecting to a local policy.

Truthfully, the lawyers' assertion that somehow Latinos were being disenfranchised from the political system is pig swill. CUSD has an enrollment of 12,000 students, of which nearly 60.3 percent are Latino. (Could we argue that Latinos are now the majority constituency?) Now take a look at the seven-member board. In the 1990s there were no Hispanics on the board. Today there are three: Mike Welsh, Teresa Guerrero and Edgar Romo. That's three of seven seats, or 42 percent of the board. So with such healthy Latino representation on the board what's the problem? Beats me.

I don't think you can make an argument that the board needs to be - or can be - an exact representation of the district. There's too many variables, such as who the candidates are any given year, how well they communicate and campaign and how much money they raise. And are we saying that somehow Caucasian board trustees don't represent the best interests of all students?

I believe there is something intrinsically racist towards Latinos to assert that an at-large district somehow is a disadvantage to them. That they somehow cannot compete in a trustee area if candidates run on an at-large basis. Or is the LCCR suggesting that white voters are incapable of supporting minority candidates? (Let's dispense with this notion as the voters have elected a number of minority candidates to state office, and just put a black man in the White House). I'd argue that CUSD has a level playing field alreadywhere the best candidate wins - as it should be.

The system already allowed any qualifying candidate, regardless of color, creed, sex or religious, to run for office and promote their candidacy. Just how you could prove that the voters didn't vote for Candidate A because he is of a minority race is beyond my comprehension.

If there had been a problem of minorities not being represented on the board - there wasn't - it would have eventually been taken care of within. Consider that the local voters made a change to the trustee areas years back. If you recall, the Ceres teachers union sponsored a measure on the ballot that got rid of Westport's guarantee of two voters on the board. The voters agreed to form one trustee area. That means a candidate from, let's say, Boothe Road can compete against someone living at Service and Vivian roads.

I've never heard any local residents complaining that anyone had an unfair advantage because of an at-large district.

We enter dangerous territory when we start questioning motives of the voting public.

At a news conference held in Madera last August, attorneys claimed that Latinos constitute approximately 44 percent of MUSD's voting eligible population yet had only one Latino school board member. Professor Allan J. Lichiman said, "From 1996 to 2004, as a result of racially polarized voting, four Latino candidates failed to win School Board positions. These candidates. ... would all have been elected based on Latino votes, but were defeated by bloc voting from non-Latino voters." How sadly ludicrous to say.

Here's the thing. America is a land of equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. It's faulty logic to assume that just because a Latino candidate loses to a white candidate it's solely attributable to racial bigotry. Here's a news flash: The voters I know don't look at skin color when they vote; we look at the quality of the candidate and his or her positions.

It incensed me when I heard about white students on the east coast being accused of being racist for wearing McCain-Palin T-shirts to school. It's reprehensible to cry racism when others don't support a candidate who is of a different ethnic make-up. I didn't support Barack Obama nor Bill Richardson (the Mexican descent governor of New Mexico) for president because of their policies, not because of their ethnic backgrounds!

And as long as some have pressed their foot on the gas pedal of silliness, here's one for you: If you accept the logic of the LCCR, would the reverse be true if "too many" Latinos get seats on the School Board? In other words, could white voters start demanding the reinstitution of the at-large district if there are too few whites elected to the board?

It's anti-American to go beyond fair for fairness sake.

Can we once and for all slay the notion that we are a racist country since we have placed a black man into the most powerful office in the land? Can we agree that Americans have signed onto Martin Luther King's dream of not judging people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character?

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at