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Analysis: How Vladovic Won (& Zimmer Went Un-Nominated)

Alexander Russo | July 3, 2013

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Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 4.05.31 PMWhile high-profile School Board votes are often said to be “baked” ahead of time — negotiated and known by the key participants well before the public vote — it’s not at all clear that was the case yesterday at the LAUSD School Board meeting, where the result was a 5-2 vote for Richard Vladovic as the new President.

In the days leading up to the vote, insiders generally thought that the vote would be between Vladovic and Steve Zimmer.  Just before the Board convened, rumors spread that Ratliff was the swing vote between the two.

However, during the meeting (see video below), Board member Marguerite LaMotte nominated Vladovic for the position, and Board member Monica Garcia nominated Tamar Galatzan. There were no additional nominations proposed.  The two nominated candidates were asked to describe why they should be President and who they would select as a Vice-President.  Then the Board voted.

Ratliff, who’d been thought to be the deciding vote between Vladovic and Zimmer, effectively blocked Zimmer from being considered, according to the LA Times. However, Garcia and Galatzan made a bad bet in pursuing the Presidency for Galatzan rather than making Ratliff choose between Vladovic and Zimmer, according to others.

David Tokofsky, a part-time consultant for the school administrators’ union and informal advisor to Board member Monica Ratliff during her campaign, told LA School Report that  it while it wasn’t surprising that Vladovic won but it was notable that there were only two nominations.

“It’s very surprising that Zimmer wasn’t even nominated,” Tokofsky told LA School Report. Zimmer “should have had a better chance.”

Zimmer wasn’t nominated in the first round — which produced an audible gasp from the audience — and kept his head down when Superintendent Deasy asked if there were any other nominations.

According to Howard Blume’s LA TImes account, Zimmer was precluded from getting his name into consideration by Board member Ratliff’s decisive vote for Vladovic.  Ratliff’s vote “ended any chance for Zimmer to jump in with a bid to become president,” wrote Blume, noting that Zimmer voted last, after Ratliff and Vladovic, when the outcome was already clear.

But it’s also possible that Garcia, Galatzan, and their allies miscalculated in deciding to nominate Galatzan, who needed votes from Zimmer and Ratliff in order to win (and had to second her own nomination in order to be considered).

“I think what happened was [Board members Monica] Garcia and [Tamar] Galatzan behaved like they were thrust into the minority and didn’t take advantage of the middle ground,” said Tokofsky.

Before the meeting, Garcia wouldn’t say publicly who she was going to support, according to a KPPC story. She and Galatzan may have been operating under the belief that Ratliff and/or Zimmer had been persuaded to support Galatzan, Mayor Garcetti’s apparent pick. Two high-level Garcetti staffers were in attendance at the Board meeting.

However, Zimmer might have had a better chance of winning the position, and would have been a compromise victory for Garcia, Galatzan, and their supporters. The teachers union is said to have strongly preferred Vladovic over Zimmer, who can be unpredictable and who represents a district with pro-reform leanings.

Indeed, nominating Galatzan may have done as much to win Vladovic the spot as Ratliff’s vote, according to at least one close observer: “It would have been awkward if they would have had nominated Zimmer on the spot after Galatzan accepted the nomination.”

Of course, Zimmer might have declined the nomination, or might conceivably only have won votes from the two reform allies and himself.  Vladovic was the front-runner, and his election is no real surprise.

But a Zimmer nomination would have created a more interesting decision for Ratliff than the Galatzan-Vladovic choice — which in the end was no choice at all.

In the future, Garcia and Galatzan and their advisors may have to be more imaginative and flexible if they want to have a strong voice in Board decisions going forward.  Zimmer and his team will have to decide whether he wants to be the union’s reliable 5th vote or to carve out a meaningful independent leadership role for himself.

Additional reporting by Brianna Sacks and Hillel Aron.

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