The Election: Local

by | November 1, 2016 | in A Closer Look | No Comments

The September sun shines onto the heart of a Piedmont lawn, highlighting the colors, symbols and letters printed on the neatly lined-up campaign signs. Green, blue, purple, white. Little beads of color scattered amongst the manicured lawns like constant nudges in our peripheral vision.

Piedmont City Council and School Board elections, along with the vote on Measure H1, will coincide with the national election on Nov. 8.

“We’ll be on the ballot along with [the presidential candidates],” school board president Andrea Swenson said.

This year, the candidates running for the two open seats on the Piedmont City Council will be current city council member Jonathan Levine, current Vice-Mayor Bob McBain, Jennifer Cavenaugh and Sunny Bostrom.

The candidates competing for the three open seats on the Piedmont School Board are Cory Smegal, Hari Titan, Julie Caskey and incumbents Swenson and Sarah Pearson.

“It’s very important that we elect people who look at all the details themselves, and find out what is the best for the students,” Titan said.localelection

The results of the school board and city council elections, and the Measure H1 bond, will be published on the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ website on the night of Nov. 8, Swenson said.

The Piedmont City Council is composed of five members and a mayor and vice-mayor chosen by and from the council. Current city council members are Jeff Wieler, Teddy Gray King, Tim Rood, McBain and Levine. They make all decisions related to the overall functions of the city government. This includes managing the budget, hiring senior managers, revising city codes and building streets.

“The city council goes all the way to the founding of Piedmont in 1907 and in City Hall there is a wall that lists by year everyone that has served on the council over the years,” Levine said.

Besides the city council election, Piedmont residents will also be casting their ballots for new members of the school board. Current members are Swenson, Pearson, Doug Ireland, Amal Smith and Rick Raushenbush.

The school board acts in the best interest of all students, reviews and approves the budget, authorizes expenditures and employs all personnel including the superintendent. It develops the local education vision, district goals and policy within the limits of the state education code, according to the PUSD website.

“As a public school system we need to make sure we meet the needs of all of our students from special education to advanced learners and work to find the spark in each of them,” Swenson said.

Senior Addie Perkins, who went to the school board meeting on Oct. 14 for Civics class, said that the school board members are actually interested in what you have to say.

“I was worried that they were going to blow it off, but they told us ‘No matter is too small, we are willing to listen to what you have to say,’” Perkins said.

A recent matter of importance for the school board is the adjustment to the new changes in the curriculum, Swenson said.

“You know we’ve had a lot of new curriculum lately,” Swenson said. “There’s Common Core state standards, we’ve adopted a different math curriculum and we’re about to adopt a different science curriculum . Education is changing a lot, very quickly.”

In order to execute these educational changes and attain city goals, community engagement in both school board and city council matters is crucial, Titan said.

All the school board’s responsibilities may make it seem like the members are super serious, but Perkins said she was surprised to see that they were having a good time. She said that this could be attributed to the fact that the members like what they are doing.

“[The meeting] was sarcastic, it was funny, it was interesting,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t what you think a government meeting [is], where everyone is super solemn.”

Like Perkins, senior Eoghan Shields attended the city council meeting on Oct. 17 for his Civics government outreach project.

“I think the meetings are important because a lot of people in Piedmont do not really involve themselves in the happenings in the community,” Shields said. “It is a great way to involve themselves in the changes that happen in the community.”

Even though Shields said he would definitely attend another meeting, not all students on campus have had first hand experience with Piedmont government. Freshman Sophia Zalewski said she was aware of the local elections and had heard of a few candidates, but knew little about the school board and city council.

Zalewski is not alone. In a survey conducted by ACL writers, 93 percent of the 135 surveyed PHS students had not been following the local elections.

When it comes to voting, UC Berkeley associate political science professor Laura Stoker said that during election season, people in the community are more likely to vote for national politicians than local candidates.

“People usually do not know very much [about local elections],” Stoker said.

Despite this lack of participation, 87 percent of students surveyed said that PHS students should care about the local election.

“The [school board and city council] are what keeps piedmont in order,” senior Mitchell Argue said. “There are several commissions and departments that all have respective jobs and keep Piedmont a nicer place to live.”

The city council meets on the first and second Monday of each month and the school board meets once or twice a month. Both meetings are open to the public and can be found on KCOM and or the Piedmont website.