Adding its name to the list of those endorsing Proposition 30, the Cal Poly Alumni Association announced support of the proposition in an email sent to members this past week urging them to vote for the tax proposal.
The association joined several similar organizations across the state that have endorsed Proposition 30, including the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees and several University of California alumni associations, according to the “Yes on Proposition 30” campaign. Gov. Jerry Brown, who originally proposed the tax increase, is also on a tour of public colleges in the state to gain support for Proposition 30.
“We want to get every young person in California voting for this,” Brown said. “We know from the surveys that nearly every young person in California is in support of this. The problem is, sometimes their turnout to vote is not that great.”
Alumni Association President Tom Lebens, who sent the email to the organization’s members, said Proposition 30 is important to the university because of the estimated $14.5 million cut Cal Poly will face if it fails.
“This is a way to give some short-term support and allow the university to recover from some of the cuts its already had,” Lebens said.
Despite the Alumni Association’s intent to help Cal Poly by endorsing Proposition 30, critics say state organizations should not involve themselves in political campaigns. Lebens, however, said the endorsement is not an evaluation of the proposition’s effect on the state, but rather to tell alumni how much Cal Poly has to gain from the passage of Proposition 30.
“Our role is not to look at the greater public policy question as whether this is the solution to Cal Poly’s larger budget problems,” Lebens said. “I respect the opinion of all alumni. Much of the concerns I’ve received stem from their belief this is not the solution from a greater California viewpoint.”
According to California law, public agencies cannot use state resources to promote a political campaign. This includes sending out political emails from a state account or using an email list compiled by a public agency.
But the Alumni Association’s lawyer, Jeff Radding, said its endorsement is completely legal because it is a nonprofit organization and is not publicly funded. This, combined with the fact that the email was sent using just a public email address and no other state resources, means the endorsement was legal, Radding said.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association is looking to file lawsuits against public schools violating this campaigning law. Its legal director Tim Bittle said because the Cal Poly Alumni Association is a nonprofit, he does not anticipate any legal action against it.
The Howard Jarvis Association sued a department chair at CSU Monterey Bay earlier this month after he sent an email to his students telling them to vote yes on Proposition 30. The CSU has since distanced itself from the professor, calling his actions “inappropriate and unfortunate” in a statement.
But in a move the CSU surely supports, the Cal Poly Academic Senate followed the CSU Academic Senate by also endorsing Proposition 30 this past week.