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Peralta Spends Bond Funds on Bleachers By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Friday February 03, 2006

After a relatively quiet period at the end of 2005, the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees returned last week to the type of open-ended fiscal battles that marked the first of last year. If that continues, it would seem to dim the prospects of the passage of a new construction bond measure in the near future, which district leaders have repeatedly said is needed to repair and rebuild the district’s aging facilities. 

At last week’s meeting, trustees approved on a 4-3 vote a $2.3 million contract to construct 1,400 new bleachers, put in additional lights, and revamp toilet facilities at the Laney College Stadium. President Linda Handy, Vice President Bill Withrow, and trustees Bill Riley and Alona Clifton supported the contract, while trustees Nicky González Yuen, Cy Gulassa, and Marcie Hodge opposed. Hodge, who supported the stadium construction when it initially came before trustees last year, reversed herself and seconded Yuen’s motion at last week’s meeting to put off the construction. 

Money for the contract will come out of Measure E funds, the $153 million Peralta Colleges facilities construction bond measure passed by voters in 2000. 

The vote came shortly after trustees rejected—on a reverse 3-4 vote—a resolution by Yuen that would have put the bleacher construction off until a new construction bond measure is passed. 

In his failed resolution, Yuen said that “expansion of Laney’s bleacher seating appears nowhere on any list of current priorities generated by any of the personnel who actually work at or use the four campuses...or any priority lists generated by any of the District or College facilities committees,” and added that “the Director of the Athletic Department at Laney College, Stan Peters, has clearly stated on several occasions...that bleacher expansion is a relatively low priority for the department.” 

Trustee Riley, one of the supporters of the Laney stadium renovation measure, said the renovations were needed so that Laney could host a high school invitational track meet scheduled for April. Riley said the Oakland Invitational Relays, which originated at Laney but were moved to UC Berkeley during the past decade, draw participants from 110 high schools from Northern California and Oregon. Riley said that 5,000 to 6,000 spectators are anticipated. 

But under questioning from Trustee Hodge, Peralta General Services Director Sadiq Ikharo said that the permanent bleachers cIkharo said that construction would only be completed on the additional lighting and access paths to accomodate the temporary bleachers. 

The vote on the Laney stadium renovations revived some of the type of bitter debate that marked last year’s prolonged discussion over the proposal by Oakland developer Alan Dones to develop a portion of the Laney campus and the Peralta Administration grounds. 

Handy called Yuen’s attempt to stop the contract award “irresponsible. There hasn’t been any research on this motion.” Handy added that trustees “have already discussed the original proposal at length.” 

In fact, last week’s stadium construction vote was a continuation of a contentious debate last May, when trustees approved taking out bids for the construction. With Gulassa and Yuen unsuccessfully trying to table the matter for further study, Yuen argued that the vote would constitute a new bond measure expenditure that would prevent the completion of construction proposals already on the district’s list. 

At that May meeting, Hodge initially expressed concerns about the priority of constructing bleachers over what she called “other more pressing needs,” but later voted to support the stadium construction after a conversation with Riley.›