Why democracy matters

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EDITORIAL There's a troubling anti-democratic trend taking place in this country, one that's been recently reflected everywhere from the US Supreme Court's decision to strike down key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act to City College of San Francisco losing its accreditation and being placed under state control.

Maybe you've only been passively following the City College story, either because it doesn't seem to directly affect you or simply because of mid-summer distractions, but here's why you should care: power has been unilaterally stripped from the Board of Trustees, the people we elect to carry out our will, spend our money (including the parcel tax for CCSF that local voters overwhelmingly approved just last year), and strike the right balance between training students for jobs and universities and offering more community-based programming.

That can be a difficult balance to strike in San Francisco, with its multitude of interests and needs, and we can legitimately criticize how decisions are made or not made by this often dysfunctional board (as we've repeatedly done in these pages over the years). Democracy isn't always the cleanest or most effective way to govern, but we as a country long ago decided that it's an important experiment worth trying, and that it beats more autocratic alternatives.

But Mayor Ed Lee has been all too eager to give up on that experiment when it comes to City College, as he's made clear in repeated public statements since the decision. Asked about the issue during the July 9 Board of Supervisors meeting, including the loss of local control over vital public assets and meeting halls, Lee once again praised the move "to save City College through a state intervention."

Maybe that's not a surprising position coming from a career bureaucrat who was appointed mayor with the support of powerful economic interests, but it should trouble those of us who haven't yet given up on democracy, which is the stuff that happens between elections even more than casting ballots every couple years.

It's about process and protests, coalitions and consensus-building, trial and error. As strange as it may seem to some, the Egyptian military's recent removal of President Mohamed Morsi, whose unilateral dismantling of democratic mechanisms prompted widespread protests, was essentially a democratic act (albeit an imperfect choice between untenable options). That's because that unilateral action was driven by popular will and accompanied by strong assurances to rapidly restore democratic institutions and leadership — something that has not yet happened in relation to City College.

Detroit has long been one of the most troubled big cities in the US, thanks to this country's evaporating industrial sector and other factors. But when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder implemented a state takeover of the city in March, fully half of the state's African-American population was denied democratic representation. And since then, Snyder and other Republican leaders have magically found the funds that could and should have been offered in the first place to bail this city out. Instead, they've begun packaging up Detroit for the capitalist speculators.

If we aren't vigilant, financially troubled California cities such as Vallejo and Stockton could be next on the urban auction block, and that list could grow from there given the ability of coordinated capitalists to withdraw investments and cripple any jurisdiction that opposes their interests (as writer Naomi Klein compellingly showed in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism).

Comments

And in fact, it is people appointed by elected officials who presided over the disaster.

No, it's a QUALITY issue and quality isn't decided by voters - it is decided by subject matter experts and outside assessors and auditors. And on those counts, CCSF failed disasterously - so much so that it barely passed one of the accreditation criteria.

It is politics in fact that condemned CCSF by making it far too overtly political rather than educational.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 4:44 am

Guest:

Here's what the accreditation commission wrote in their report last year placing CCSF on show cause, i.e. threatening it with closure:

http://www.ccsf.edu/ACC/Accreditation%20Evaluation%20Report%202012.pdf

“City College of San Francisco is commended for several exemplary models of demonstrated educational quality based on their program reviews, student learning outcomes and assessment results used for continuous improvement.” (pg. 10)

The team concluded that the instructional programs in credit and non-credit programs provide high-quality instruction to meet the needs of the community while also demonstrating the college effort to meet the broad mission of the institution (II.A.1, II.A.2.c).”
(pg. 37)

Guest: Your high quality level of ignorance is impressive.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

From what I've read,the quality of the education at this college is exceptional, and the accrediting commission pointed out this fact. The college was cited on issues regarding finances and leadership, not quality. The college is seen as a model institution actually.

I don't want to be mean, but please check your facts before posting stuff. I'm tired of reading unintelligent emotional nonsense. Sorry!

Posted by Ed Koch on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

"Guest" has it wrong. Even the ACCJC acknowledged that educational quality was not in issue in its extreme decision. Despite years of huge budget cuts, the governance process at City College resulted in decisions to cut administrative outlays, not instruction or classroom services to students. State statistics STILL show City College has having some of the strongest outcomes of any community colleges in the state.
If serving a diverse, low-socioecomic population of strivers is a political act, then yes, that is what is happening at City College. If the college closes, it will be a bizarre example of a tiny group of unaccountable privatizers (the accrediting agency) run amok with power. Really, fellow citizens, do you believe there is not a way to address the issues of governance and finance at CCSF without annihilating it? REALLY?
Excellent editorial. Fight to save democracy in San Francisco. Fight for the right of everyone to have access to public higher education.

Posted by Barbara on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 7:29 am

1) Those running CCSF are appointed by those we elect i.e. it's a democratically run institution unless you think that, say, every Muni operator should be elected/

2) Likewise, school inspectors and auditors are appointed by those we elect and rightly so as they are protecting our investments via our taxes

3) The academic quality at CCSF was abysmal. Are you seriously equating it with UC Berkeley or Stanford? We need to invest in excellence and not mediocrity

4) Don't give me that BS about having to give preference to non-whites and the poor. We spend billions on educating people so that they can become economic producers and repay their debt, and not out of some insanely misguided ideological nonsense about punished whites and privilege.

CCSF has failed everyone and needs to be closed down. With all the money we save by doing that, maybe we can start a new institution that actually can pass basic State criteria and standards. What a concept!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 7:48 am

"The academic quality at CCSF was abysmal. Are you seriously equating it with UC Berkeley or Stanford?"

What an ignorant statement. CCSF is a community college not a State or UC school. As such, it has functions such as helping high school grads (poorly educated since Prop 13 destroyed the nation's premier public school system) get up to speed so that they CAN transfer to State and UC.

State and UC actively recruit and love CCSF transfer students, because they have one of the highest rates of completion at that level.

On top of which, the CCSF has implemented "student learning outcomes" as demanded by the ACCJC, a metric which State and UC schools aren't even required to implement.

In this way,, CCSF is held to a higher standard than State and UC schools.

Stick that in your neo-liberal pipe.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 9:16 am

and so I really do not know why you're arguing that it isn't. If you are smart enough you can get into UCB or Stanford anyway. Why do we have to subsidize a dysfunctional facility like CCSF when our very own State inspectors are telling us it's a hot mess?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 9:45 am

"Sorry but CCSF is still the lowest level of educational quality, and so I really do not know why you're arguing that it isn't"

What part of they're not comparable do you not understand? How can you compare a TWO YEAR COMMUNITY COLLEGE to a FOUR YEAR UNIVERSITY? You are a moron!

"If you are smart enough you can get into UCB or Stanford anyway"

What part of Prop13 decimated high school education (i.e. college preparedness) do you not understand? What part of kids in poorer neighborhoods don't get the same kind of education that kids in Mill Valley get do you not understand?

"Why do we have to subsidize a dysfunctional facility like CCSF when our very own State inspectors are telling us it's a hot mess?"

The ACCJC are NOT state inspectors; they're a private corporation which gets money from rightwing foundations dedicated to privatizing public education (you should know this, as you probably work for them).

If you want to turn the United States into the libertarian paradise as exemplified by Somalia, then by all means, let's end publicly-funded education so that only rich white kids can go to college.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

He said that CCSF is the bottom rung of the educational ladder and you agree. So if we have to cut colleges, it will obviously be the bottom layer.

As it happened, CCSF self-destructed thereby making the decision even easier.

Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 9:55 am

Wasn't like, CCSF graded one of the top ten community colleges in the country recently?

Also, your #3 is pathetic. Its a COMMUNITY college, not a University.

Your #4: We spend money to educate individuals because its practical, not just for ideological nonsense. If you want an uneducated and therefore jobless populace, by all means.

I also find it funny how conservatives (that hate "big government") are very much cheering for the state to intervene and run it at this point, even though the accreditation board is by a private entity (worse).

Other than that, I'm saddened by the loss of CCSF and the loss of democracy for that matter. Great article. We just gotta keep on fighting and keep our voices heard in any way possible.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

Wow guest. You are a racist. Now is when I really stop reading your vicious posts.

Posted by Ed Koch on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 4:33 pm
Posted by anon on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 9:56 am

Hello mates, fastidious article and good arguments commented here, I am actually enjoying by these.

Posted by Business General Blog on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 2:08 am

I'd say a couple things, starting with the fact that one can simply look up the ACCJC letter directly at their website, or jump on SF's site and see the latest letters as well as all the past ones.

Second off, I am far from a big ACCJC/WASC fan, because I do think they're been throwing their weight around for political reasons, on behalf of a federal Dept. of Education that has clearly been on a crusade since NCLB legislation got passed a decade ago. For that matter, American education has been crashing since 1832, so a lot of these crusades are way wrongheaded. But to claim that they're right-wing funded is just silly.

Third, the squabbling going on is one of the probs that the accreditors have a darn good point about. CCSF has needed to get on the stick or ten years now, and just make REASONABLE compromises with current reality, and instead, they've spent the time squabbling over what current reality is.

Yes, some of this is antidemocratic. Worse, a lot of it has nothing to do with reality. But the left/liberal languid assertion of privilege, intellectual and otherwise, is a lot of what gets us ino these messes.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:44 am

I'd say a couple things, starting with the fact that one can simply look up the ACCJC letter directly at their website, or jump on SF's site and see the latest letters as well as all the past ones.

Second off, I am far from a big ACCJC/WASC fan, because I do think they're been throwing their weight around for political reasons, on behalf of a federal Dept. of Education that has clearly been on a crusade since NCLB legislation got passed a decade ago. For that matter, American education has been crashing since 1832, so a lot of these crusades are way wrongheaded. But to claim that they're right-wing funded is just silly.

Third, the squabbling going on is one of the probs that the accreditors have a darn good point about. CCSF has needed to get on the stick or ten years now, and just make REASONABLE compromises with current reality, and instead, they've spent the time squabbling over what current reality is.

Yes, some of this is antidemocratic. Worse, a lot of it has nothing to do with reality. But the left/liberal languid assertion of privilege, intellectual and otherwise, is a lot of what gets us ino these messes.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:45 am

Then why didn't he turn over the San Francisco Housing Authority to state officials or even the courts? After all, it was officially deemed to be troubled, lost federal funding because of poor management decisions, now has been declared to have housing conditions similar to a third world nation's slums, and is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Oh, that's right. Ed Lee choose the head of the Housing Authority. And never asked for his removal even after all the crap hit the fan. And now he has put his own staff members in charge -- again.

If ever there were a case for a take-over, it is the Housing Authority.

Posted by CitiReport on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 8:50 am

State have taken over the schools board in the past and where now the Feds are taking over the OPD?

you want that?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 9:16 am

Detroit is a shining example of democracy's failure

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 9:35 am

Your arguments concerning city college vs. the accreditation committee and its criteria are reasonable, and your arguments concerning city college vs. Mayor Lee and denied democracy are reasonable, but left unsaid is what connection, if any, is there between the return of democracy to city college and the return of accreditation to city college.

Posted by Guest dirk on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

CCSF failed for it's own internal reasons, mostly to do with unions, working practices and too much ideology.

It's been looking like a doomed institution for a long time, and so this latest deathblow is hardly a shock at all.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 27, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

The ACCJC is a private corporation that is funded by the Lumina Foundation (which also contributes to ALEC). Lumina and the Gates Foundations have dedicated themselves to overhauling our educational system, but in the end, their overhauling will harm students and make their foundations richer and more powerful. These reforms will make education more expensive and more limited. Students will have to rely more on loans, which is where Lumina makes its money. Reforms will bring more computers into schools (CCSF was criticized by ACCJC for not spending enough on technology and spending too much on actual live teachers). Gates wants all schools to rely more on online instruction and computer programs rather than real people. Why? You have to pay people money that the Gates foundation wants to go to Gates and Microsoft. This is all about corporations wanting a piece of the big pot of public money set aside for education. Why so many of the trolls who post on here about CCSF are so angry is beyond me. My guess is that they attended CCSF, failed and are now bitter and angry that they couldn't even graduate from a community college.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 8:03 pm