Bruce Maiman

Politics and intrigue in Twin Rivers school board race

Fliers attacking candidate Basim Elkarra have appeared in mailboxes in the Twin Rivers Unified School District.
Fliers attacking candidate Basim Elkarra have appeared in mailboxes in the Twin Rivers Unified School District.

When a brick flies through his window, Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian protagonist in the Netflix series “House of Cards,” is able to draw public opinion away from his political opponent. Using a gullible media, he spins the incident as proof the opposition will stop at nothing to get what it wants.

That came to mind when a crude flier magically surfaced earlier this month trying to tie Basim Elkarra to Islamic terrorism – an absurd notion, but one that did exactly what false flag operations are designed to do: Pretend you’re the enemy, attack yourself and generate sympathy for your side. Remember the Maine. WMDs in Iraq.

Not for a minute do I think either Elkarra or Sonja Cameron were responsible. The two are competing in a May 12 special election to fill a vacancy on the Twin Rivers Unified School District board. Yet in all the predictable reaction – media coverage, letters to the editor, a “rally against hate,” staged by Elkarra supporters Saturday – no one has publicly questioned whether an Elkarra supporter “threw that brick.”

So I started asking.

“It’s well within the realm of possibility,” said Aaron McLear, partner at Redwood Pacific Public Affairs, a political consultancy. “Those kinds of tactics are ethically wrong and politically stupid, but strategists resort to them if the damage done by the accusation is greater than the backlash from voters if they discover it’s a dirty trick.”

This election smelled rotten from the beginning. Board members in December appointed Cameron to fill a vacancy created when Cortez Quinn resigned after pleading no contest to a felony. Local Democratic Party officials cried foul on due process, filed a petition and successfully forced the district to hold an election.

Would Democratic activists have squawked had Elkarra been appointed? Come on. This election isn’t about process or race. It’s about power. Cameron is a charter school leader. Democrats and their most influential donor, the California Teachers Association, have little love for charter schools. The CTA’s district chapter, Twin Rivers United Educators, backs Elkarra.

Local union president Kristen Finney argues that Cameron wants to move Regency Park Elementary, one of two schools in Area 5, from Twin Rivers to the Natomas Unified School District. Board members tell me Cameron only wants to raise the issue for discussion, but perhaps the union’s concern is the loss of teacher membership, and therefore its clout?

“The concern is the divisiveness,” Finney said. “Regency Park is part of our district, part of our culture. We brought four districts together and now we’re talking about taking schools away?”

So a special election isn’t going to add to already existing divisions? Each year, a majority of Regency Park graduates attend Natomas charter schools. Geography is one reason. While the school sits in a western part of the district’s quirky boundary, the Regency Park neighborhood is in North Natomas.

The Twin Rivers district’s troubled past still shapes public perception. For instance, some continue to insist the district remains plagued by fiscal mismanagement. Really? Every year since 2012, Twin Rivers has been one of only three California school districts honored for its fiscal acumen by the Association of School Business Officials International

Maybe Democratic operatives shouldn’t have petulantly forced a special election that will cost the district $113,000. Yet, they’ll line up to say the district is wasting money. Sort of like being outraged over an ugly flier.

I can’t prove who created that flier. Nobody will ever confess. I can only raise questions. If I’m wrong, fine, but given how disgusting the politically power-hungry can be, if I’m right, would anyone be surprised?

Bruce Maiman regularly fills in as a host on KFBK radio. Contact him at brucemaiman@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Maimzini.

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