Return to trustee areas may mean worse elections
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Mar 14, 2013 | 857 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
It appears that the election of seven trustees who govern the Patterson Joint Unified School District will soon be by trustee areas.

That means the district will be divided seven ways, with the voters in each district selecting their own member of the school board.

Bad idea. Or maybe I should say, not an entirely good idea.

The plan, of course, is to provide diversity on the board. Fortunately, we have had good diversity in recent years, and voters have been selecting trustees who have proven themselves to be highly dedicated elected officials who have worked together to improve our local schools.

Let’s take a look back to the mid-1960s. It was then that voters chose to combine our four local school districts into one — PJUSD.

For nearly 60 years, four districts had maintained schools in this area: Patterson Union High School District and the elementary districts of Patterson, Grayson and Rising Sun. That meant the election of no fewer than 16 school board members.

Unification of the districts changed that. And as a political move to gain the support of the Grayson and Rising Sun areas, election by trustee areas was proposed and approved.

Now get this: The former Grayson and Rising Sun areas each received two trustees, outnumbering the Patterson area, which was allotted three. Thus the rural area to the north, with fewer than 300 registered voters, gained a 4-3 majority on the board, even though the Patterson area had more than 2,000 registered voters.

Over the years, some of us felt this was wrong. The old Rising Sun district finally dropped to no more than 40 registered voters, from whom two needed to be willing to serve on the school board.

A few years ago, we pointed out this discrepancy, and action was taken that dropped the election by trustee areas.

Gone were the days when elections went uncontested, as was often the circumstance when voting by trustee areas. The arm-twisting needed to get candidates to seek office was generally negated when we switched to only one pool of candidates on the ballet for the entire district.

After all, once a trustee is elected, he or she represents the interests of all of us — not just those in his or her area.

I predict that switching back to trustee areas, this time seven of them, we will result in hotly contested races in some districts, and none in others. As one local resident recently pointed out to the school board, trustee areas are designed to work much better in metropolitan areas.

The city of Patterson may be considering a similar change for the City Council. Yet I, for one, would far prefer to elect the best of all candidates on the ballot. After all, those five members of the council take action that affects all of us. Therefore, we should all have a say on all elected officials.

If ethnic diversity is the argument behind voting by trustee area, let me point out that we have had such diversity on both the school board and the council. Not only that, but our residential neighborhoods generally reflect that diversity. It appears to me to be a moot argument.

In pursuit of trivia

Patterson’s commuters have been getting twice-a-day looks from the freeway at our gorgeous orchards in full bloom. Likewise, in the downtown and older streets of the city, the blossoming trees have never been prettier.

Whatever happened to the waterbed craze? Does anyone sleep on a waterbed anymore?

Housemate (HM) just had to point out to me on Sunday that her cellphone automatically turned the time ahead to Pacific Daylight Time. Her comment was deliberately mean-spirited.

While on the subject of cellphones, I direct your attention to a federally funded program called Lifeline. Previously, it financed landline phone service for low-income residents, and now the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a plan whereby the same financially disadvantaged may receive cellphones providing 250 talk minutes and 250 text messages. And the homeless qualify, too, since they have no home phone service. Who, supposedly, will the homeless be calling for more than four hours a month — themselves? Just think: The feds are cutting services from the budget that include burials at Arlington National Cemetery, while at the same time providing free cell service. Disgusting.

And here it comes: the iWatch. You wear it on your wrist. You can use it to make calls, read the time, check map coordinates, count steps as a pedometer, monitor health issues and check your text messages. When it brushes your teeth and scratches your back, let me know; I might consider one.

Coleen Sanguinetti is heading a Soroptimist Club project in the downtown museum that will feature mementos from Patterson High School. The club used one museum room last summer to display wedding dresses and photos from longtime Patterson families, and it will now change that room to feature PHS. Anyone who has items — from clothes to photos to whatever — should contact Coleen. Items may be returned if requested. The display will be up in time for the Apricot Fiesta.

By the way, high school classes began in Patterson in 1913, using space in the elementary school building. Discussion is about to begin on a huge Patterson High celebration in 2015, the centennial anniversary of the school’s first graduating class.

About this time every year, Fast Talk offers the same tip about spring cleaning. It’s this: Return those grocery shopping carts to their rightful owners or put our community at risk of being referred to as South Modesto.

And, lastly, Fast Talk’s weekly classroom offering is on spring break this week. Enjoy your vacation, rest your minds and prepare for a rewarding educational experience on March 21.

For the sports fan

Wow — receiver Anquan Boldin coming to the 49ers.

Almost too good to be true.

And finally…

Being curator of Patterson’s downtown museum, I get to enjoy first-hand the numerous items donated or lent to the Patterson Township Historical Society.

This week, it was a menu donated by Allister and Marilynne Allen. It listed broiled fresh Kennebec salmon for $2.25, roast prime rib for $3.50 and apricot pie for 50 cents.

The year was printed on the menu — 1946. The restaurant? Hotel Mark Hopkins in San Francisco.

The next time I dine at the Mark (ha-ha), I may take my own menu along.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

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