June 20, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Marc Norton
Where was Jane Kim?
The well-regarded public interest law firm Public Advocates sent a letter to the school board in early May detailing the district's apparently illegal granting of physical education (PE) credits to JROTC cadets, urging them to cease and desist doing so, and asking a series of questions that any reasonable person would think is preparation for a lawsuit.
The school board subsequently holds several closed session meetings to discuss "anticipated/potential litigation." At some point, Jane Kim and Norman Yee co-author a resolution to cease granting PE credits to JROTC cadets. This looks like a slam-dunk winner. Kim and Yee, plus JROTC opponents Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar, make the magic number of four votes necessary to pass a school board resolution.
Even more facts:
The board calls a special meeting for Tuesday evening, June 17, to discuss the Kim/Yee resolution. The board's legal staff publicly advises the board that they are in violation of state law, and that they would very likely lose any potential lawsuit, subjecting the district to significant legal costs, and sowing confusion among JROTC cadets who might wrongly believe they had satisfied the state's PE requirements. Superintendent Carlos Garcia urges the board to approve the Kim/Yee resolution.
The pro-JROTC forces predictably do a full court press to convince the board to continue violating the law. The military, as we all know, is above the law.
Facts, facts, facts:
In the end, the motion to cease granting PE credit fails on a 3-3 vote. Sanchez, Mar and Yee vote yes. Jill Wynns, Hydra Mendoza and Kim-Shree Maufas vote no. Kim -- the swing vote, and the co-author of the resolution -- is unaccountably absent. Presumably the outcome would have been entirely different if Kim had been there, assuming that she would have supported her own resolution.
Enough facts already:
What gives? I emailed Kim early Wednesday morning [June 18] and asked a simple question: "Why were you not at the meeting?" So far [June 22], I have not received an answer.
[Kim subsequently told me that she was in New Orleans on a Habitat for Humanity project. OK, but I don't recall the people of New Orleans electing her to the San Francisco school board. Others have told me that she was expecting a unanimous vote in favor of her motion, even though Wynns, Mendoza and Maufas had previously voted to give PE credit to JROTC cadets.]
Does Yee, the other co-sponsor of this resolution, feel played by Kim? I don't know, but wouldn't you? He certainly didn't look happy.
For the past several weeks, JROTC opponents have been conducting a high-profile campaign to get Kim and Maufas, the two school board members most critical of JROTC, other than Sanchez and Mar, to vote to end JROTC, right now, today. The campaign has gotten several political organizations to sign on to a statement saying that they "will look very closely" at the next school board vote on JROTC, and "consider the votes carefully when making any endorsement for future candidates."
Organizations that have signed on to this statement include the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Chinese Progressive Association, the SF Tenants Union, the SF Bay View newspaper, the Idriss Stelley Foundation, and the San Francisco Green Party (of which Jane Kim is a member).
Well, it is time to start considering. Both Jane Kim and Kim-Shree Maufas just flunked this test, big time.
The day after the special meeting, Beyond Chron published a letter signed by Kim and Sanchez. The letter accuses unnamed people (presumably including yours truly) of attempting to "smear members of the Board of Education through a campaign of misinformation." The authors offer no specific examples of "misinformation." I must say that, in light of recent events, Kim is doing a pretty good job of smearing herself without my help. Why Sanchez signed onto this, I don't know.
I respectfully challenge Kim and Sanchez to point out even one item of "misinformation" that I have written about JROTC and the school board. If they are talking about somebody else, say who, and say what.
If Kim can't handle a forthright political campaign aimed at getting her to change her stance on JROTC, her future in politics is likely very short.
The special school board meeting also provided a certain levity, for those who are able to see the humor in such things.
For example, we got to see big shot Mike Bernick present the pro-JROTC spin on why the board should shoot down the legal logic behind the Kim/Yee resolution. According to Bernick, the whole thing was a big surprise that they just learned about a day or two ago. Yeah, sure -- the board has been discussing this matter for weeks, and none of his allies on the board told him anything. This is how the JROTC spinmasters try to position the military -- the most undemocratic institution in the world -- on the side of democracy.
And who is Mike Bernick? He is the guy running the pro-JROTC ballot initiative aimed at the November ballot. He is a former BART Board member who got caught a few years back, in the words of Matier and Ross, "having taken contributions from contractors doing business" with BART. In fact, "half of Bernick's contributions came from companies that do business with BART." Bernick's response: "This is how business is done." Meanwhile, the FBI got interested, did some wiretaps, and caught Bernick telling one contributor: "If you can help me raise $500 or $1,000, it would be great, but no money directly from you... We've got to keep real clean, so there is nothing linking the two of us."
Somehow, Bernick was never indicted for any crime. He did, however, lose his BART seat to Tom Radulovich. He then re-invented himself as the director of the California Employment Development Department. He now uses that claim-to-fame in opinion pieces declaring that "The military and JROTC, though separate, both offer a mobility route for a significant number of youth seeking employment."
And, can any school board meeting on JROTC be complete without Daniel "Jane Kim needs to die" Chin? Here is this guy, who threatened the life of a school board member, prancing around the room and making speeches. Look, if I said what Chin said, I'd be in the hoosegow right now. Why does the school board tolerate this guy?
But, of course, the real question is why does the school board tolerate JROTC, one of the military's prime recruitment tools, in the midst of the illegal and immoral war in Iraq?
Chin's speech -- about how JROTC taught him "leadership" and "discipline" -- demonstrated that no matter how much of those qualities he may have learned, he still needs some math lessons. He lectured us anti-JROTC folks for stating that JROTC is a military recruitment tool, claiming that he only knew two cadets who joined the military last year. That makes only 2.7%, he said. Oh yeah? Two cadets out of 1600 or so is more like 0.1%.
They should all get their stories straight.