As much as we disdain the way Councilmember Kevin McNamee takes shots at our local school district every chance he gets, the recently named mayor made one salient point during last Tuesday’s debate about the crossing guard program: Maybe Conejo Valley trustees shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them.
While they had every right to express their opinion and make suggestions, the three school board members who spoke during public comment Feb. 14 chose to insinuate that the city was putting children walking to school in danger by updating its policy to ensure that intersections meet very generous minimum, objective standards for a guard, ending the long-standing policy of letting council members choose winners and losers.
Neither Lauren Gill, Bill Gorback nor Lisa Powell used any of their three minutes at the mic to express gratitude to Thousand Oaks for providing more crossing guards than any other city in Ventura County, for paying for and managing the program for over five decades, and for trying to make changes to ensure the future success of it.
Had they done so, it would have made their opposition to the policy changes more palatable, and come across less ungrateful.
McNamee, given his history of criticizing the district, is fair game. But suggesting city staff was putting data ahead of public safety felt in bad faith—especially while in the same breath calling on the two agencies to work together to promote walking/biking to school. What has the school district done in recent years in this regard? They didn’t say.
Two things can be true: 1. The City of Thousand Oaks should retain control of the program, and 2. The district does have the funds to contribute if they were so inclined.
As such, the district’s representatives would be wise to consider using kid gloves while criticizing the city when its most senior members, people like Public Works Director Cliff Finley, recommend changes.
Finley clearly took issue with the suggestion the city is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to pedestrian safety given the $20 million Thousand Oaks has invested in the past 15 years improving sidewalks near schools.
“This absolutely is not a budget issue,” he said at one point.
Don’t get us wrong: We’re glad to see our school board members take advantage of their new meeting days (Wednesdays) to weigh in on city matters, especially one so closely tied to the district. And we understand why Gill, Gorback and Powell are fighting to see the guard stations preserved. We love and value our crossing guards, too.
But if this is going to be a regular occurrence—trustees addressing the council—we’d encourage board members to use more honey and less vinegar, and leave the hyperbole out. As they very well know, it’s hard enough to govern without individuals whipping up unnecessary fear and contention.
The point of last week’s vote was to make the crossing guard program function properly, not eliminate it. We wish the trustees would have recognized that before taking to the lectern.