Photo by Gustavo ArellanoAs director of the Santa Ana-based Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Nativo Lopez has done much to defend and expand immigrant rights. But courage and leadership on that issue haven't helped him much as a Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) trustee. Hence, the Feb. 4 recall vote with his name on it.
Since being re-elected in November 2000, Lopez has done little worth celebrating. He engaged in a nasty, racist feud with fellow trustee Rosemarie Avila, at one point claiming the Guatemalan-born Avila was not a “true” Latina because her parents were German missionaries. He alienated nearly all non-Latino Santa Ana residents by insisting his critics hated Mexicans. Meanwhile, Lopez's penchant for collecting political contributions from firms seeking to do business with the school district forced the Orange County district attorney's office—and SAUSD itself—to investigate whether he broke the law.
It would be one thing if those investigations unearthed illegal activities—they did not. Nor is Lopez's continued promotion of bilingual education, infuriating to some recall backers, illegal: a state investigation determined that Lopez has broken no laws when informing parents of their rights to sign waivers allowing their children to be instructed in both English and Spanish.
Although Lopez has done little to better Santa Ana education, he has also done nothing to warrant a recall. If that's not enough, Santa Ana is holding a concurrent election to determine a replacement if Lopez is ousted. None of the candidates seeking to replace Lopez—former SAUSD trustee Robert Richardson, Vivian Martinez, Candy Pettus and John Raya—inspires any hope that they would perform better than Lopez. Indeed, most of these candidates have run only on the strength that they're not Lopez—no sympathy for immigrant parents, no vision to implement a true multicultural education, no progressive credentials at all.
Lopez's ineptitude has so far failed the children of Santa Ana. But Lopez was elected for a four-year term, and perhaps—with the grace of God—the next two years might see a Lopez turnaround. On Feb. 4, Santa Ana voters should vote no to recall Nativo Lopez.
Lopez should not take such an endorsement as applause. He has two years to fulfill his promise to build schools. Here's hoping he also knocks off the racist chatter.
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