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Tim Myers: The ‘fun uncle’ runs for school board again

Myers’ Musings

Posted: May 9, 2009 9:40 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.
So Joe Messina, everyone's "fun uncle," decided to run for William S. Hart Union High School District school board again, for the fourth - yes, fourth - time.

I advised him two years ago in no uncertain terms not to ever run again when he finished third in a three-person race - with the two incumbent board members of a district tarnished with cost overruns and management chaos with respect to facilities rehabilitation, attendance areas and the glaring lack of a high school facility in the Castaic area.

Throw in allegations of accounting weaknesses on the construction programs by the district's external auditors to really juice things up.

For the cherry on top, a board member not up for reelection allegedly stated at an open meeting in Castaic that residents should not expect a high school since they paid substantially less for their houses.

If one can't win under those circumstances, I assert that one must seriously consider giving up forever.

Make no mistake. I always support Joe's candidacies and always cast my vote for him, sometimes voting for him alone to increase his chances of winning an at-large race.

Personally, Joe reminds me of the "fun uncle" in every extended family, the guy whom the grandkids enthusiastically look forward to seeing at extended family gatherings - a person with a big heart, an open mind and a friendly manner.

If elected to the Hart district board, Joe would exercise his office diligently and seek advice and counsel from a broad range of the community.
Alas, I fear the first law of thermodynamics now requires that Joe cannot win a seat on the Hart district board.

At every election he campaigns hard and generally raises a large amount of money to run his campaign.

Why can't this "fun uncle" win the race?

One cannot discount the power of incumbency in elected office in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The displacement of a handful of incumbents in the past 20 years required strong, well-known and well-funded candidates who then barely scraped into office.

When a candidate carries baggage like Joe, the odds just become insurmountable.

The first obstacle: One-party rule in Santa Clarita. In many elections all the candidates swear allegiance to the Republican Party, which pretty much precludes any help from the party apparatus for an upstart against the incumbents, unless an incumbent made some incredible mistake of getting cross-wise with local party functionaries.

The second obstacle: The Dunamis Group.

Fairly or unfairly, this group's annual Mayors Prayer Breakfast plays the part of lightning rod for local political controversy.

One local elected official told me years ago that he believed Joe's high-profile involvement acting in the capacity of the public face of the breakfast cost him several hundred votes.

Despite a fair amount of like-minded people in the electorate, many see the event as a heavy-handed "us versus them."

They see Joe acting in the capacity of a divisive agent creating chaos and confusion with everything from the teaching of creationism to strident restrictions on reproductive education.

Nothing stands further from the truth. Joe's primary motivation for seeking a school board seat relates to a need to bring common-sense financial accountability back to the Hart district - something that seemed lacking in the interim years of Measure V and very necessary moving into the uncharted territory of Measure SA.

But fortune does not smile on candidate Joe.

At the 2009 edition of the Mayors Prayer Breakfast, the innocuous and lovable Captain Steubing (Gavin McLeod), the originally scheduled speaker, suffered an injury leaving him unable to attend.

The Dunamis Group replaced McLeod with a conservative talk radio host who accuses a large part of the Santa Clarita Valley community of membership in a cult.

Agree or disagree with their theology, I strongly believe this constitutes an insulting disrespect that does not belong in an event that The Dunamis Group purportedly hopes will provide an uplifting experience for the community.

Did I mention the three current members of the board up for re-election belong to this insulted community?

So what to do with Joe's candidacy? Can he pull out some miracle and unseat an incumbent or charge ahead of a new candidate if one or more of the current incumbents decline to defend their seats?

I believe in the power of prayer, but I fear that God may answer that prayer "no."

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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