Approval of night lights a taxpayer fraud

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In 2006 voters approved the Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Safety and Repair Measure BB in order to “improve health, safety and class instruction.” Today, SMMUSD has a $3 million deficit and will have a more than $11 million deficit next year. It is already considering cutbacks on teachers and other essential educational resources. Yet the board has decided to dedicate a significant amount of money to overturn a long-standing environmental protection commitment by the Coastal Commission and the City of Malibu. That is, to preserve nighttime dark skies by prohibiting sports field lighting.

$17,850 from General Operating Funds was approved for consultants to prepare and file an amendment to the Coastal Commission permit to allow temporary lights. Ironically, on the same day that the SMMUSD Board was talking this action, other school districts such as Oxnard were instructing their schools to reduce field lighting to save money and teacher jobs.

However, this is just a down payment, as a substantial sum will have to be approved and expended to support the application with expensive environmental and community impact and other reports. Reports already put together with Measure BB funds cannot be re-purposed to support a non-BB expenditure.

The Board ignored requests from residents to defer a vote to another meeting so that notice of the new proposal could be legally posted to ensure that the issue is fully vetted in public.

I call on the SMMUSD Board to rescind what they have approved, and to bring their priorities in line with those of the voters and taxpayers that they serve. In this time of shortages, every precious tax dollar must goes to the essentials: teachers and the critical needs of the school and its students, health, safety and class instruction, just like the language of Measure BB requires. I believe to do otherwise is to perpetuate a fraud on the taxpayers.

Steve Scheinkman