Saturday, April 01, 2006

Seniors Want School Board Forum

When Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs holds her monthly meeting with seniors at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday (April 4, 2006), she will face one big question.

At the membership meeting last week, center Director Sharron Brown announced that the administration had requested that the forum for school board candidates be dropped in favor of candidates providing food and chatting one-on-one with members.

The innovation drew heat from member Jean Black, who asked, “Why can’t they come all together?“

This year’s race has seven candidates for three three-year terms.

Three are running on a slate that has already sent out glossy postcards. They are incumbent Lisa Logan-Leach and newcomers Claudette Lovely-Brown and Reno Wilkins.

Two candidates, Rasheed Abdul-Haqq and incumbent Patricia Barksdale, are running together. Nan Anderson, daughter of the late former Councilwoman Helen Miller, and incumbent David Graves, a city inspector, are campaigning separately.

Brown said she had received word from the administration that there was to be no forum. As an employee of the administration, she said, she had to take direction from the administration.

But members repeatedly questioned the rationale.

“For the past two years, we have had a forum,” member Inez Durham said.

Members also said the senior center board had written to the administration to say the forum was a tradition, but as of the March 29 membership meeting, the board had received no response.

Black spoke up again, saying “I don’t see a reason now for a change.”

Brown said the seniors will have their chance Tuesday to question the mayor on the change and center President Charles Nelson got a vote from the membership to raise the issue Tuesday.

In recent years, the elective school board has become a battleground between the forces of former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams’ New Democrats and Assemblyman Jerry Green’s Regular Democrats. Green, who was Democratic City Committee chairman for many years, wrested the leadership back from McWilliams, who won it in 2003 but lost it in 2005.

At a Democratic City Committee meeting last month, Green said the party itself would back no candidates in the school board race, but individuals could do so.

“The party will not get involved,” Green said at the February meeting.

The school board election is April 18.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: seniors, school board, election