Zimmer Irate Over Reform Coalition Attacks
Hillel Aron | February 27, 2013
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It was perhaps no surprise that District 4 School Board member Steve Zimmer was visibly upset when he happened to run into Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Deputy Mayor for Education, Joan Sullivan, at today’s United Way education event.
“RFK, Joan? Really?” said Zimmer as the two rode the escalator together. “That’s just wrong.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Steve,” responded Sullivan.
The exchange, followed by harsh remarks from Mayor Villaraigosa about Zimmer later in the day, reveals just how antagonistic things have gotten between City Hall and the District 4 incumbent who was once considered something of an ally.
The bad blood between District 4 Board Member Steve Zimmer and Mayor Villaraigosa’s allies goes back to 2009, when Zimmer was endorsed by Villaraigosa in his initial race for School Board as part of a cease-fire with UTLA. The two men even stumped together, as you can see from this 2009 Daily Bruin clip.
But then Zimmer failed to show sufficient support for Villaraigosa’s views about school reform once he was in office. Four years later, Villaraigosa’s Coalition for School Reform has spent over $900,000 supporting District 4 challenger Kate Anderson and opposing Zimmer — much of it in the form of television ads and direct mail flyers attacking Zimmer for laying off teachers and approving the construction of the $500 million Robert Kennedy School.
In total, over $1.7 million has been spent by the Coalition, SEIU and UTLA on the District 4 race alone, with more than $550,000 of it going to negative ads.
“There are very legitimate things to come after me about,” Zimmer told LA School Report. “Layoffs shouldn’t be politicized.”
Both the layoffs and the building of RFK were approved by School Board President Monica Garcia as well as Zimmer, who is being supported by the Coalition for School Reform.
“That’s the height of hypocritical cynicism,” said Zimmer’s campaign consultant, Mike Shimpock. “Monica Garcia was the driving force behind getting that school approved.”
But if Mayor Villaraigosa is feeling any remorse over the attacks, it isn’t showing. Talking to reporters later in the day, the termed-out Mayor took credit for raising what he claims to be $3.7 million for the Coalition thus far.
“I’m the one raising it,” he said. “If we lose Los Angeles and New York, we lose the heart and soul of the education reform movement. And the reason I’ve raised as much money across the country is because people get that.”
And he also took time to lambaste Zimmer.
“He was a very good teacher, but he’s been an absolutely abysmal School Board member,” said the Mayor. “I’ve known him for years, and it’s not personal… He’s equivocated on virtually every one of the reforms that we have.”
There was perhaps one good thing that happened for Zimmer at today’s event. Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti endorsed him.