District bond measure challenged

Court asked to stop June 5 vote to upgrade classrooms, district office

A politically active local man has gone to court to force the Mountain View Whisman School District to remove "misleading" language from literature in support of Measure G -- a bond measure the district plans to place on the June 5 ballot.

On March 19, Steven Nelson filed a petition with the civil division of the Superior Court aimed at forcing the elementary and middle school district to change the wording, which was to appear in county-issued voter guides under the pro-Measure G argument.

That bond measure -- recently approved by the district's board of trustees -- will ask voters to pass a $198 million school bond to pay for various improvements to local educational facilities. The district-drafted argument in favor of Measure G, submitted to the county's registrar of voters, states that improvements are needed for various reasons, including to make schools "safe from asbestos, lead and other hazards."

Nelson's petition alleges that the inclusion of those two words -- "lead" and "asbestos" -- were included in the argument to "purposefully mislead" the public. He claims that the school board has greatly exaggerated the risk posed by asbestos and lead paint in older school buildings as a scare tactic aimed at garnering voter support.

"The ballot question contains an unlawful 'misrepresentation' that this court may correct by ordering it's deletion before the ballot question is printed," his petition states.

Nelson acknowledges that traces of lead and asbestos may be found in district buildings. However, he said, none put children in immediate danger; any asbestos is not at risk of becoming airborne and all lead paint is buried under layers of lead-free paint.

Craig Goldman, superintendent of the district, expressed vexation at the lawsuit -- noting that it is just another ploy in a series of ploys to thwart the district's plan to move forward with a bond measure that Nelson does not support.

"Mr. Nelson has let us know that he's willing to do anything to deny our students access to safe efficient and modern facilities," Goldman said. "This latest action demonstrates his willingness to file a frivolous lawsuit in order to impede the district's ability to renovate and upgrade student classrooms and facilities."

"We have provided Mr. Nelson with copies of inspection reports that reflect our recent work done on asbestos abatement," as well as a recent report that reflects ongoing asbestos needs.

Those reports, also provided to the Voice show that a number of schools, as well as the main administration office of the district, contain either asbestos or lead. Much of the asbestos was discovered in renovations done to tile and linoleum flooring (in the adhesive underneath the tile), in ceiling tiles and in drywall. Traces of lead were found in window frames and gutter downspouts at Stevenson school.

Nelson has been opposed to the bond measure from the outset, and has made his opinion very clear at a multitude of Mountain View Whisman School District board meetings. In an interview with the Voice he called the bond "a poor expenditure of public money."

Nelson said he is trying to throw a wrench in the spokes of the district's pursuit of the bond measure because he feels not enough community input was sought in planning it. He maintains, however, that he is not against the school district getting more money.

"I always advocate for schools, but it matters for me how the money is spent," he said, noting that while he has fought to get the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school boards money in the past, and while he would like to see the local districts get more money, he disagrees with the manner in which the Mountain View Whisman School District has pursued this current bond measure. "It's an OK bond. But we really need a great bond."

Nelson said he is concerned that the district will prioritize the construction of a new district office over remodeling facilities for students.

For his part, Goldman said, the district will not prioritize a new district office.

"Just because the district office is part of the overall facilities improvement plan, doesn't mean that we intend to use bond funds for that purpose," Goldman said. "In light of the many projects that have been identified in the plan, such as safe, efficient and modern facilities for our students, we don't expect to use bond funds for the district office."

Goldman added it is "insulting when individuals try to suggest that our employees are not entitled to the same kind of workplace that every other employer in the City of Mountain View provides."

"It is highly irresponsible for him to take this action against the district and unnecessarily cause expenditures for attorneys and additional staff time when there is no doubt that we need to continue to renovate our facilities and eliminate lead and asbestos," Goldman said.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Go Steve!

And shame on Craig for implying that Steve is somehow trying to deny kids access to nice facilities. It's exactly the scare tactic that Craig and others use to try to squeeze more money out of residents without having to be accountable.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Steve is the voice of logic in a system run amuck with snake oil salesmen. You would think we would have learned with the way the board was the patsy for ex-Superintendent Ghysels.

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Posted by garym
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm

For the past 50 years, schools have always tried to get more money to waste instead of just teaching children how to read and write. School administrators are bad managers and have no idea how to manage. I support Steve as he IS the voice of reason. Go Steve.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:20 am

Nick, this court action, a writ, is only to prevent the Registrar from using the ballot 'question' language from the District. It asks to remove TWO MISLEADING WORDS, and then give the voters a chance to vote on the merits. The court action had to be filed on the 19th, According to a Lead Deputy County Counsel, this was the only way to do it.
I'm willing to do anything legal to get GREAT COMMUNITY PRIORITIES for spending $198 M. Why did Superintendent Goldman ask for a "replacement" District Office when there is only 42% of the money needed for the Student Facilities? Craig and Fiona were both on the staff Facilities Plan committee. When I very publicly asked Fiona to call me about delaying for a November Bond election - I ended up with that lament from a Stanford a cappella group, "Stanford girl ain't got no time for me". So now we are in a very public debate!

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 11:26 am

Nick and Tom at the MV Voice - A slightly more accurate headline would be to add " ... wording".
"Local man suing to block bond measure wording".

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Thank you, Mr. Nelson, for taking a stand against tax and spend mentalities.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm


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Posted by Steve s.
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm

In addition to my property taxes, there are a dozen other assessments on my yearly bill already. Of course, MVWSD doesn't care if they make living here so expensive that the non-Google, middle class folks have to move away. In fact, they would no doubt appreciate it very much... I mean, fancy new buildings for district staff are clearly essential to the teaching of our children, and much more affordable for the 1% moving in to replace schmuks like me.

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Posted by Yet Another Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Mr. Nelson,

How many organizations you know off are willing to continue to operate in 50 year old buildings? The MVWSD office is a remnant of a Sixty's school. It might be comfortable, as it was refurbished in a limited way upon the school district merger. However, in case you've lost track, that was now A DECADE ago! The building is now functionally obsolete. How else should a school district replace a functionally obsolete building on land it owns? Since bond proceeds can't be used for operational expenses, where in the budget should we cut to rent empty space somewhere in Town? Visit some other local DO's and you will see a vast difference in working conditions. I think you are just in a HUFF (pun intended) that Ms Walker chose not to engage in this matter with you outside of her official role at a board meeting.

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Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Merge all the school districts into one.

Eliminate all the overpaid administrators.

Teach the children!

Quit taxing us to death!

Thank you Steven Nelson!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Clyde
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Yet Another Steve:

Many homes in Mountain View are pushing 50 and we are still living in them. A new coat of paint and some new carpet and the district office will be good to go. Oh, wait, that was just done ten years ago? Wait another ten and then apply another coat of paint. All they do in there is push papers anyway.

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Posted by Steve S
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Excellent point Clyde. My home is nearly 60 years old, and despite changes in technology, number of residents, etc. I have managed very nicely with periodic maintenace, to keep it working just fine. Surely in these poor economic times MVWSD could stretch the life of their DO, without the heed of 198M dollars.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Let me see Rex Manor Steve, HP moved into their world headquarters (is HP big enough for you?) in Stnford Industrial Park - Page Mill Road, in 1957. Is that corporate headquarters building old enough for you?
(actually, it's been a decade since I was on that campus) have they build a "replacement"? )
Maybe after "Student Facilities" (ie performing arts facilities) are finished - then a new District Office. But - that's my priority list, which may not match the Superintendent's!

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Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm

First we had a superintendent that just wanted to chase skirts. Now we have one that just wants to spend money. How about just teaching the kids with pencil, paper, chalk and chalkboard? It never ends.

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Posted by MVMom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Have any of you folks complaining about building a new DO ever been inside the current one? It's a warren of cubes and cubbies and irregularly shaped offices (the main conference room is affectionately called the "Holodeck" because of its pentagonal? hexagonal? septagonal?) shape--a regular conference table doesn't fit in there. The other offices and cubes are similarly dysfunctional. It was originally built as one of those genius 60's style "open plan schools" that were popular at the time, but that you never, ever see any more (despite their prevalence in the late 60's and early 70's) because they are just simply not functional spaces. Bad design is bad design that cosmetics just can't help. Oh, and don't even get me started about the HVAC and temperature--but please take my word for it: dress for a summer heatwave and also bring a coat if you ever have to attend a meeting there--you'll be glad you did.

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Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Ok MVMom, now tell us how any of that matters in terms of students learning and student achievement. The people in the district office are adults. They can handle it. Just like all those people living in Eichlers in Palo Alto.And there are plenty of students learning just fine in portables and other older buildings and you never here them complaining about it. Many students even live in homes much older and they too never complain.

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Posted by kmn
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Where is the millions of money from the lottery for these schools? Where is the money from the closing of the redevelopment institution?

Oh I forgot it's all gone to the Pension system, silly me.

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Posted by NeHi
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

We have been voting overrides and parcel taxes for years. In the '70s we had a superintendent tell us "you don't need to know what we need the money for" [words to that effect]. It took a long time to pass an override and set people up for prop. 13. [The override passed at the last possible vote.]

Mtn. View has voted for many tax increases and voted down many. Some may still be in effect and many are not. A bit of background would help complete the article; it's not too late Nick!

Comments like Mr. Goldman's have delayed acceptance of more than one bond issue.

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Posted by john doe
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm

there are plenty of mountain view school rented out... why not move back in those than tax the poor. where is robinhood when you need them?

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Posted by OMG
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Oh my goodness, if Steven Nelson is "the voice of reason" as Observer claims, this city is in much bigger trouble than any of you drama-commentors think.

Steve has made his rounds to the PTAs and neighborhood association meeting. The LAST thing he sounds like is the voice of reason.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

john doe - Some of the people worried about no school in the Whisman/Slate neighborhood are concerned with just that. It is also expensive to build brand new classrooms, on currently used campuses, when there are structurally sound (class 1) school buildings on the Whisman site. I'm willing to do anything politically and legally responsible to deny Mr. Goldman $200 M of new public taxes on the TERMS he and the Board are proposing. - I like Barry Groves take on if we are now overextended as public education taxpayers - we Californians now pay about 1/2 the percent of income to education as we did under Governor Reagan.
Spend - but spend wisely.
I would gladly speak to any PTA (which I have not yet) or neighborhood association meeting!
I have only so far only spoken at a Rex Manor potluck lunch! I did speed before the Stevenson Foundation meeting - it was very interesting - a woman there INSISTED that Trustee Fiona Walter wanted to do a November bond.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by District Insider
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 30, 2012 at 8:32 am

Make all the administrators give up their cell phone and car allowances. That will save some money. If you itemized them each month, you realize these two allowances were just another form of boosted income.

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