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Peralta Bond Confusion Concerns Laney Faculty

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday December 12, 2006

Six months after local voters overwhelmingly approved $390 million in facilities bond money for the Peralta Community College District under Measure A, there is confusion within the district about how the money will be allocated to each college. 

Faculty members of Laney College, the district’s largest college, have expressed concern about how much Laney’s share of the bond money will be, and the president of the Laney College Faculty Senate has asked the head of Peralta’s Department of General Services to meet with her organization this week for clarification. 

General Services Director Sadiq Ikharo is also scheduled to make a presentation of the Measure A bond projects to the Peralta Board of Trustees at the trustees’ regular meeting tonight (Tuesday), which will be held at 7 p.m. at the Peralta Administrative headquarters at 333 E. 8th St. in Oakland. 

In addition, Peralta may already be out of compliance with a requirement for formation of a Citizen Oversight Committee to monitor the spending of the Measure A bond money. The Measure A ballot language called for the establishment of the oversight committee “within 60 days of the date when the results of the election appear in the minutes of the Board.”  

The results of the Measure A election were reported to the Peralta Board of Directors in late June. Although the district authorized the formation of the oversight committee within the 60-day time period, only five of seven committee members have been appointed.  

Implementation of Measure A became an issue in last month’s Peralta Trustee Area 7 race, with challenger Abel Guillen charging at one debate that Peralta “doesn’t have a plan for the spending of that bond money, just a laundry list of projects” and that the citizen oversight committee “doesn’t have the power it should have. It doesn’t set priorities.” Guillen beat incumbent trustee Alona Clifton in that race. 

The confusion over the bond project list began last Feb. 28, the night trustees approved putting the bond measure on the June ballot. A Measure A bond project list handout produced by district administration officials and included in the board packet and passed out to the public that night indicated that Laney would receive $213.2 million, or 46.3 percent, of the $460.4 million committed to Measure A facilities projects. 

The list handout indicated that the $70.4 million above the $390 million requested from the Measure A bonds would come from the state chancellor’s office and from other funds. 

Last September, three months after the passage of Measure A, the Peralta Department of General Services posted an updated version of that list, with total Measure A project expenditures now listed at $528.4 million. Of that amount, Laney was slated to receive $234.9 million, or 44.5 percent of the total bond project expenditure. 

But Peralta District Academic representative Evelyn Lord, the past president of the Laney College Academic Senate, says that district officials been giving Laney representatives conflicting figures on how much Measure A money the college may be getting, some of it almost half of what appears on the general services website. 

Saying that “I think [General Services Director] Sadiq [Ikharo] has been the source of the numbers,” Lord said that “I first heard that we were going to be getting only $120 million of the bond money. That’s when faculty members first started getting concerned.” 

Lord said that the Laney share was later put at $140 million, “and the last I heard was that it will now be somewhere over $200 million. I have no idea why the number has fluctuated so much.” Lord said that current Laney Faculty Senate President Shirley Coaston requested the meeting with Ikharo “in order to get clarification on the numbers.” 

Laney College President Frank Chong says he believes that discrepancies will be worked out. 

“We feel that Laney has been shortchanged in the past concerning facilities maintenance and construction, and we now want to ensure that we get our fair share,” Chong said by telephone last week. “I’ve had a conversation with Sadiq about this, and he says that Laney will be getting 40 to 43 percent of the Measure A money.” 

Chong said that Laney is due that large a percentage of the bond measure money because “it is in line with our percentage of FTE’s (full-time equivalent students) in the district,” as well as the fact that Laney is the district’s oldest existing campus, with buildings that are more in need of repair or reconstruction than the other colleges. 

Part of the problem with the discrepancy in the Measure A figures, Chong said, may come from the fact that the district is identifying money from other sources that will be going to Laney College projects originally listed as Measure A projects, keeping those Laney projects in the pipeline while lowering the actual Measure A dollar amount that will go to Laney. 

If that is so, part of the confusion has been generated by the considerable state of disorder concerning the genesis and status of the bond project list that is posted on the district website, as well as disarray within the list itself. 

The Daily Planet earlier reported that at least two members of the Peralta Board of Trustees have directly opposite memories of whether the board approved the budgeted bond list at the February meeting in which the bond measure was authorized. Trustee Cy Gulassa says that the budgeted list was part of the board packet, and he believes that was the list that was authorized by the board. Trustee Nicky González Yuen, who criticized the district for setting up a “slush fund” for bond projects on the night the bond measure was approved by trustees, says that the board only approved a generalized, non-budgeted list that night and not the budgeted list that now appears on the district’s website. The generalized, non-budgeted list is what appeared on the ballot last June as the list of Measure A projects. 

A Daily Planet review of the minutes and videotape of the Feb. 28 meeting could not determine which of the two lists was considered by trustees, leading to the possibility that trustees had different ideas that night of what they were approving. 

In addition, the itemized Measure A bond measure list that now appears on the district’s website has serious discrepancies and lapses in its explanation of how its final figure was developed. 

There is a $68 million difference between the $460.4 million total of projects in the February list and the $528.4 million total in the list that is currently posted on the district’s website. 

While that additional money is not explained on the current list, it appears to come from the fact that the list now includes money for projects that was originally slated to be paid from Peralta’s last bond measure, Measure E. In the February list, for example, the cost projected for modernization and facility renovation of the College of Alameda’s D Building is $13,041,852. 

The cost of that same project in the currently posted list is projected at $16,331,852, with no explanation on the list as to why the cost increased. A notation on the February list indicates that the Alameda D Building modernization is “currently scheduled as a Measure E project with a budget of $3,290,000.” 

That $3.2 million figure is the exact amount that has been added to the project on the current list, with the current list providing no information on Measure E money, and giving the impression that all of the money will be taken from Measure A. 

That omission is repeated several times in the posted list. 

A second, more serious problem is that the $528.4 million total in the posted Measure A bond project list may have come from adding up project amounts that were listed more than once. 

Among its immediate, campus-wide needs for Laney College on the posted list, which was not broken out into individual projects in February, Peralta has one item of “Chemistry and Biology Laboratory plumbing and benches” at a cost of $1.5 million. Directly following that, however, is a second item of “Labs upgrades; plumbing, benches (6 labs)” also with the same $1.5 million price tag. 

The posted project list also has one item for “IT Room Air Condition Replacements” at a cost of $87,000, with a second item below it for “Main Computer Room—Air Conditioning Replacement” at a cost of $80,000. 

And one half-million dollar project at Berkeley City College is identified simply as “Unknown—unknown.” 

Meanwhile, five of the seven member citizen oversight committee have been chosen. The bond measure language indicated that each of the members must represent one of the following interests: business, students, an organization involved in support of the community college district, a taxpayers association, a senior citizens organization, and two members of the community at-large. 

The business representative on the committee, Jose Dueñas, is the President and CEO of the Oakland-based Bay Area World Trade Center, where Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris serves as chair of the board. 

The student representative is Scott Folosade of Laney. The representative of a community college support group is Peralta Foundation member and EBMUD Board President Bill Patterson. 

The representative of the taxpayers association is certified public accountant Hyacinth Ahuruonye, owner of the HCA financial services company of San Francisco, who once served as a campaign treasurer for former Oakland City Councilmember Moses Mayne. It is not certain what taxpayer association Ahuruonye represents, and the Peralta language concerning that taxpayer representative has seen some alteration. The bylaws for the oversight committee passed last summer by Peralta trustees says that the taxpayer representative must be a “member active in a bona-fide taxpayers association,” although what that means is not defined. In its resolution appointing Ahuruonye to the oversight committee last month, Peralta officials said that he will serve “as a citizen from a taxpayers association that supports a college or the district.” Ahuruonye did not return a telephone call asking for clarification of his taxpayer association status. 

Also chosen as one of the two at-large members of the oversight committee is League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville community college chair Helene LeCar, who campaigned for the bond measure in the June election, writing a favorable article in the League’s newsletter. The second at-large position has not yet been filled, nor has the one for a representative of a senior citizens organization. 

Late last month, in a brief telephone interview, the Peralta executive director for marketing, public relations and communications said only that the oversight committee “has not yet met” and is “still being formed.”