Board of Trustees stops parking fee increase, expands to seven seats

Trustees and audience members converse after the meeting. Matthew Medina / MOUNTAINEER

The Mt. SAC Board of Trustees met Wednesday and, in a unanimous vote, decided not to raise parking fees by $10 during 16-week semesters and $5 during six-week intersessions. At the conclusion of the four-hour meeting, all but one of the trustees agreed to a redistricting firm's plan to expand the board to seven seats, giving Latino and Asian voters more representation and allowing the Mt. SAC school district to better adhere to the regulations set by the California Voting Rights Act. The parking fee would have gone into effect during the summer 2012 intersession. According to Gary Nellesen, director of facilities, the money would help maintain parking lots that are in decent shape, such as lot H and lot R, before they deteriorate and therefore require costlier repairs. He estimated that the additional revenue would add about $80,000 to $100,000 annually that would go towards the maintenance of parking lots. "That $100,000 a year will pay for the cost to maintain a parking lot that is still in decent shape," Nellesen said. Trustees had mixed opinions of the parking fee. Dr. Bill Scroggins, President and CEO of Mt. SAC, said that there are numerous small actions behind the scenes that help the school maintain its high standard. "And yes, that parking fee pays for a lot of this work," he said. "We don't waste money. We're the best because we use it well." However, the trustees said they did not fully understand the details of how the lots would benefit from the parking fees, as well as the facilities department's plan for future fees. "I would like additional input as to why you are implementing that fee," said student trustee Bruno Hernandez. ""I'm sorry, but I can't help but see it as a slippery slope." Trustees also expressed concerns about the financial burden on students. "If we can just take another look at our budget, I think we can find some money somewhere else," said board President Rosanne Bader. Seven Mt. SAC students, many of whom serve on Associated Students, used the public comment portion of the meeting to ask the board to vote against the fee. Jesus Alex Mendoza, President of A.S, praised the quality of education at Mt. SAC, and said that they should stay committed to being a great school, but find an alternative to raising costs for students. Mendoza said that he attended Mt. SAC while living in Van Nuys for one and a half years. "I commuted for four hours to get here, but it was worth it," he said. "I would like to encourage the board not to punish the students." Mathew Foresta, Senator Pro-Temp and Inter-Club Council Senator, said he was angry when he learned of the possible fee increase, because people have to withdraw from extracurricular activities due to work and school. "People have to leave the newspaper," he said. "People have to leave A.S." "Please, don't raise our fees," Foresta said. "If that means construction projects have to wait, they have to wait." Albert Chang, Environmental Senator, said that the fee hurts international students such as himself more severely. "For international students, they pay $214 a unit," he said. "That's a lot." Jose Jimenez, Vice President of Business for A.S, said that he has heard from numerous students directly on their financial issues. "I speak to all of our students on campus; hundreds of them daily," he said. "Raising the fees is a punch in the stomach to students right now." Prior to the decision to elect trustees based on electoral districts, as the California State Legislature and national House of Representatives currently do, Mt. SAC trustees were voted on by the entire populace of the Mt. San Antonio Community College District in an "at large" system, meaning that the constituents of the entire district voted for multiple seats, and the trustees represented the district as a whole, without emphasis on any individual region. John Mendoza, a Pomona resident, said that he has gathered support to encourage Mt. SAC to move from at-large representation to a system of electoral districts in the past. If the board were to approve a plan that includes five members and therefore does not create as many districts to give minorities additional representation, he said he would readily bring forth another petition. "Go with the seven-member board," Mendoza said. "Deal with the issue for good." Mt. SAC worked with a Sacramento firm, Redistricting Partners, which drew out several maps for possible methods to create new districts. Political consultant Paul Mitchell, who is in charge of Redistricting Partners, attended the meeting to explain the maps. The most discussed among the plans was one coded "B7," which creates seven districts, three composed of over 50 percent Latino voters, and one consisting of over 50 percent Asian voters. This was the map that the board voted to approve. Board clerk Fred Chyr took the most issue with the redistricting maps. He said that all of the plans that Redistricting Partners produced sacrifice the interests of minorities and city boundaries in favor of helping incumbents remain in familiar territory, which would be in violation of the Voting Rights Act. "I'm saving the board from making a mistake," Chyr said. "This plan was designed to protect trustee residences and is in violation of the state constitution." Chyr also brought up a November 2011 article by ProPublica alleging that Mitchell had worked with some Democrats in California's state legislature in 2010 to create districts that were more favorable for them to win reelection. The other board members expressed concern about these accusations, but agreed to approve map B7 pending an independent legal review. Chyr was the only trustee to vote against approving it. Four Mt. SAC student-athletes spoke during public comment to discuss alleged cases of sexual harassment that occurred between former coach Carlos Moore and members of the women's track and field team. "The handling of sexual assaults on myself and other female African American teammates has been discriminatory," said Krystal Brown. "I have been threatened with being kicked off the team simply because I did not play along with Coach Moore's politics," said Shantelle Fall. The speakers also expressed disappointment at the handling of their accusations up to this point. "I feel that Mt. SAC violated me as much as Coach Moore did," said Devin Thompson. The Board of Trustees took time to honor the state champion women's basketball team; the roster and Coach Brian Crichlow posed for photographs and spoke about their success. "I used to watch Brian; he was an assistant coach for many years," Chyr said. "I knew he was ready." Clarence "CB" Brown and the Mt. SAC Marketing, Communications and Public Affairs Department won two awards from the 2011 Paragon Awards, hosted by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations. They won a gold award for feature writing and a silver award for fundraising/annual campaign. "There is an even greater need now to tell the Mt. SAC story," Brown said after the trustees congratulated him. "This is the college's award and I present this to the institution." Matthew Medina News Editor