Community college bond measure fails

Three incumbents elected to board

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By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

School bond construction measures have had an easier time of it since 2001, when state Proposition 39 lowered the threshold for passage to 55 percent voter approval (from the previous two-thirds). Voters have rarely rejected such measures. Tuesday night was an exception.

Measure H, the San Mateo County Community College District's bid for another $564 million to continue its decade-long reconstruction program, missed the mark by a little over two percentage points. Meanwhile on the college district's board, the three incumbents running for re-election -- all advocates of Measure H -- were re-elected.

The unofficial tally for Measure H from the county Elections Office showed 52.75 percent of voters favored the measure and 47.25 percent opposed it.

In the district's school board race, the three incumbents were re-elected to the three open seats: Dave Mandelkern with 26 percent of the vote, Karen Schwarz with 24 percent and Patricia Miljanich with 20 percent. Challenger Joe Ross garnered 16 percent, with the other two challengers finishing in the single digits.

Measure H may have had a tougher than usual in part due to the struggling economy. And it was the third time in 10 years that the district asked voters to approve a big bond measure. The district came to voters in 2001 for $207 million and in 2005 for $468 million. Both measures passed with about 65 percent voter approval.

The district has three campuses: Canada College in Woodside, Skyline College in San Bruno, and the College of San Mateo in San Mateo. All three campuses still have classroom buildings that are 40 to 50 years old, board President Richard Holober told the Almanac in October.

When asked before the election to justify another half billion dollars of indebtedness, the candidates noted that the district has seen funding evaporate, including $200 million in state funding canceled in 2006, and $25 million lost in the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank.

The candidates also noted the importance of up-to-date science, technology, engineering and math curriculums for students transferring to four-year schools for undergraduate education and beyond.

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Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 9, 2011 at 10:34 am

Thankfully at least 47.3 percent of people have some sense. Probably even more people would have opposed it had the ballot language been honest.

This measure was disgraceful.

Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

Since voting yes did not get me membership in the new gym already built with my previous money, I voted no.

Like this comment
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Funding for education is critical to these community college schools and to the students who want to get ahead. This should have passed easily.

Like this comment
Posted by education for all
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Funding for education is absolutely critical, but unfortunately the SMCC District administration is a joke. They squandered the last allocation on a country club-like gymnasium with penthouse admin offices for their flagship school CSM, when their other schools remained in desperate need of classroom (Skyline and Canada have had tremendous growth compared to CSM.) The administration expects the handouts they have always been given. They do little to aid the many good people in the district desperately trying to provide the best education possible and those trying to bring in funding from outside (e.g. federal) sources.

Given the desperate funding situation in our Universities, we need community colleges to help provide a high quality and affordable education for as many people as possible. Nonsense like fancy gyms and sports teams are not what is needed at community colleges in these desperate times, and have harmed the ability of the district to raise needed money. Not being able to raise funds for education should be a wake up call for everyone.
The district administration and board of regents should be reviewed very seriously.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Funding for education is absolutely critical just as is funding for emergency services.

So why did 47.5% of the voters vote against Measure H for educational facilities while 76.8% voted to approve the Gann Limit for the Fire District? I would suggest the difference is a belief on the part of the voters that the proposed expenditures for educational facilities would not being as well managed as are the expenditures of the Fire District.

Like this comment
Posted by A Disgruntled Voter
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I voted yes for the last two bond issues, totaling $675 million, because we were told that the money was desperately needed for classroom renovations. Did the classrooms get renovated with the money like they promised? Unfortunately, the answer is no, and until the present administration is replaced, my vote will be no from now on.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Looks like FM3 Research missed the number by 13-17 points.

“In June, FM3 Research completed a survey of likely voters in the November 2011 election which indicated that between 65 [percent] to 67 percent of likely voters would support a community college bond measure,” Barbara Christensen, director of community/government relations, wrote in a staff report.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I think this rejection is just the latest example of the voter revolt in government spending. Supporters of this bond issue couldn't even make the revised threshold of 55%!

Elected officials should take note. Voters have spoken - enough!

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 13, 2011 at 8:04 am

It appears that common sense did prevail. Now we will hear complaints about how less than 15% of the registered voters "deprived" us of quality educational facilities. The fact is, that with the 55% requirement, less than 15% of the registered voters almost succeeded in imposing yet another Billion dollar burden (interest included) on property owners.
It is time to restore the 2/3 vote requirement.

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

Lowering the vote requirement from 2/3 to 55% has produced a dramatic increase in bonded indebtedness. A history of the District's Bond proposals begins with a $148 Million bond measure (Measure A) in November 1999. That Measure which required a 2/3 vote, was defeated in spite of the District's expenditure of $25,000 for a Survey of Voters, $250,000 for a multi media campaign by Adrienne Tessier's Bay Relations and an SMCCCD Foundation Grant of $40,000 to the Citizens for Higher Education Committee to support Measure A.
In 2001, thanks to the reduction in the vote requirement to 55% instead of 2/3, the District passed a $207 Million Bond, with 65.3% Yes votes to 34.7% No votes. Less than17% of registered voters imposed this debt on property owners.
Even with State matching funds, the District was not satisfied and in 2005, they passed a $468 Million Bond, with 64.2% Yes votes to 35.8% No votes. To their credit, 33% of registered voters passed this measure.
In June of 2010, with Bond proceed investment losses and a nearly bankrupt State renegging on Bond matching funds, the District became the first Community College District to pass a parcel tax. The SMCCCD Foundation contributed $64,260 to the campaign. That measure passed the 2/3 vote requirement, but was supported by less than 25% of registered voters.

Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm

How much money is being paid to the college board members? Are they also getting free health care?

Like this comment
Posted by TheWorldTurnedUpsideDown
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm

The present law puts our priorities upside down. I would much rather see a 55% requirement for tax increases (pay as you go) and a 2/3 requirement for bond issues (beggar our posterity) than the present system.

In this case we narrowly avoided another half billion dollars of unfunded indebtedness.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm


"In this case we narrowly avoided another half billion dollars of unfunded indebtedness."

You are so right I think it was going to be closer to 1 Billion with interest up to 40 years of indebtedness.

It will be good to see who was involved from the very beginning of the Measure H idea, was public money spent on study sessions, word crafting, surveys. The property owners didn't organize and raise substantial war-chest to fight this. I know several property owners who supported this measure, but I know several hundred who don't.

Congratulations to the parcel owners, this was a close one.

Like this comment
Posted by I voted for it
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

Sorry to rain on your Libertarian parade, messrs Stogner and Hickey, but a lot of people did vote for it. In fact, the majority of those who cast ballots voted for it. Please don't congratulate me. I'm a parcel owner and I don't feel like I won anything. In fact, I feel that our County and our youth lost. Our community colleges are a critical investment in our youth and one should not be proud of denying them the funding needed to update our facilities. We all benefit from quality community college facilities and we should all pay for them.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Speaking as someone from the working poor who manages to live in a nice neighborhood for once in my life, I voted no. Why? Because I cannot afford a rent increase.

These measures are anything but invisible in their effect on renters.

While renters are to the press and many other institutions, WE VOTE. I suspect I was not alone in voting as I did. Life and education on these campuses will go on without this half billion. They can wait until the economy improves.

It is outrageous to be asking for this kind of money in this kind of economy, the district's excuses about unemployment rates and retraining needs notwithstanding!

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Correction: While renters are invisible ...

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 5, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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