Find Anything Interesting in Your Mail Box Lately?

By Richard Michael | July 27, 2016 |

The election is months away, but you're already getting what certainly looks like campaign mailers.

Has some candidate started her campaign in the dog days of summer?

No, it's not from a candidate committee. In fact, it's not from any political committee. It's from your local school, college, special district, or even from your city.

What's up with this?

You can tell just by looking at the mailer that the local government agency is planning on parting you from some more of your cash.

In the case of school and districts, it's actually about C.A.S.H., Coalition for Adequate School Housing, the infamous lobbying organization.

To many voters, the initial reaction is how unfair it all seems. A campaign for votes using public resources, just strikes people that way.

If you're thinking there outta be law against it, there is. For schools and community colleges it's in the Education Code at section 7054.

Basically, it says that public resources shall not be used "for the purpose of urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure."

There's an exception to the rule, however, when the "information provided constitutes a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure."

School officials rely on the word "information" in the exception. If you ask, they will say that as long as they don't tell you to vote yes, they're not doing anything illegal.

A recent opinion from the California Attorney General flatly disagrees. She concludes that it's illegal if it "may be fairly characterized as campaign activity."

When you saw it, did you think it was a campaign mailer? Was there anything that struck you as being "fair and impartial" about it? Of course not. In fact, sometimes the mailer doesn't even directly mention bonds. If you check, however, the district has hired advisors and has been considering a bond measure for months. This is just one piece of the overall campaign.

So why are schools still flouting the law? Mostly because the voters are so accustomed to this tactic, that they think it must be legal. Or they believe the school officials.

Is there anything you can do about? Absolutely. If you'd like some thoughts about that, contact the web site.

Or you can just sit back and watch with amazement as schools put you, your children, and your grandchildren, further and further in debt. Wake up, California.

Richard Michael operates the California School Bonds Clearinghouse whose goal is to cast the light of day on the professionally-organized, state-wide effort to place local communities in debt up to their eyeballs "for the kids."

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