Peralta Officials Backtrack on Measure A Money

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday July 24, 2007

Peralta Community College District officials released their first comprehensive report last week on how much Measure A facilities bond money the district plans to spend on each of its four campuses, but quickly backtracked when trustees complained that the board had never authorized such an allocation plan. 

In June of 2006, area voters approved a ballot measure authorizing a parcel tax increase to raise $390 million to build and furnish facilities in the Peralta College District. 

At the July 17 Peralta Board of Trustees meeting, General Services Director Sadiq Ikharo reported that the district has now allocated $35.2 million of that bond money for district projects. But while there have been no allegations that any of this money was spent for anything other than projects authorized by the bond measure, there have been complaints by the media, board members, and college staff that up until now the district has maintained no publicly published running total of bond projects and expenditures, with fears that new projects might be added to the list without regard for planned projects perhaps being knocked off. 

In addition, a citizen oversight task force called for in the bond measure has yet to organize itself, elect officers, or even hold a formal meeting. 

On Tuesday, concerns about Peralta’s bond measure allocations surfaced when Laney librarian and faculty senate representative Evelyn Lord complained to trustees about an agenda item requesting trustee approval for the proposed Laney College Athletic Facility Complex. The agenda synopsis for the item indicated that the proposed funds for the complex “will be deducted from laney College’s share of the Measure A allocation.” 

“What is Laney College’s share of Measure A?” Lord asked. “I’ve never seen that presented. In item after item, I see Measure A money coming to the board and being approved, and that makes me nervous. What priority items are going to fall aside?” 

Board President Bill Withrow first said that he recommended “that the board defer commitment for any more expenditures of Measure A funds” for the time being, but after Chancellor Elihu Harris explained that the board was only being asked to approve asking for bids for a project it had already approved in concept last March, and Laney President Frank Chong insisted that no Measure A project suggested by the Laney Facilities Committee “is going to be left out,” trustees unanimously voted to authorize bidding on the athletic complex. 

But the issue of how Peralta will allocate Measure A money surfaced again when Ikharo presented board members with a “Road Map To The Future-Facilities Development,” a 25-page report on the district’s future capital improvement projects. Included with the report was a breakdown on how Peralta had allocated its first $35 million in board-authorized Measure A expenditures: 2 percent to Berkeley City College, 21 percent to College of Alameda, 44 percent to Laney College, 23 percent to Merritt College, and 10 percent district-wide. But in addition, the report included a “Phase 2” chart that detailed how district officials planned to allocate the remaining $354.8 million in Measure A bond money: 1 percent to Berkeley City, 20 percent to College of Alameda, 37 percent to Laney, 24 percent to Merritt, and 4 percent to the District Administrative Center. 

Ikharo said that the allocation to each college “was made based upon the square footage” of buildings in each college which needed to be renovated. The problem was, such a square footage allocation has never surfaced either in the text of Measure A itself, or in public board discussions on the issue. 

Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, chair of the board’s facilities committee, immediately called putting out the allocation figures “speculative,” and “a little bit premature. To my knowledge, the board has never allocated specific amounts to each campus.” 

By publishing such amounts, Yuen said, “the colleges will be expecting these amounts and if they don’t get everything that is promised to them in these figures, they’re going to come back to us and ask why.” 

Ikharo immediately agreed with Yuen, saying that the future Measure A allocations in the “Road Map To The Future-Facilities Development” report were “tenative numbers.” 

In other action on Tuesday night, board members rejected on a 3-4 vote a proposal that would have set up a citizens committee to assess the reinstatement of comprehensive child care services at the district (Linda Handy, Yuen, and Abel Guillen voting yes, Marcie Hodge, William Riley, Cy Gulassa, and Withrow voting no). Instead, on a 5-2 vote, trustees authorized the chancellor’s office to produce such a report by March of next year (Handy, Yuen, Guillen, Gulassa, and Withrow voting yes, Hodge and Riley voting no). 

Reinstatement of full child care service in the district has been what trustee Riley called Tuesday “a real touchy issue, an emotional issue” since Peralta ended infant care services at its Laney College child care center last year, with district officials saying it could no longer afford to provide the service.