Races in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 to determine district’s future.
By Kyle R. Cotton
Every two years the Alamo Colleges board of trustees has three of nine positions up for election; however, the May 7 election will have four races, which could give Bexar County voters an opportunity to change the direction of the board if they so choose.
“Any policies that are made that affect students or employees, whether they be staff or faculty, emanate from the board,” political science Professor Christy Woodward-Kaupert said. “The chancellor, whether you like him or dislike him, he is a creature of the board. He is hired and retained based upon their decisions. Those are things that matter.”
Woodward-Kaupert said while this is a unique opportunity for San Antonio to change the direction of the board, the issue will be voter turnout.
“The problem is — especially when you get down to the local level — not only do you not see a lot of competition in the race, there is not a lot of participation by voters either,” she said. “You are looking at seats that can literally be won or lost with as few as 1,000 (or) 2,000, and that’s sad.”
Woodward-Kaupert encourages students to be involved in state and local elections.
“The national level is such a train wreck,” Woodward-Kaupert said. “State and local are so much more important, particularly when you view it from the perspective, ‘the closer the government is to your wallet, the more attention you need to pay to it.’
“Often, that is not the case when you look at voter turnout data,” she said.
Historically, voters in the southern half of the county, areas covered by District 1 through 4, show low voter turnout in local elections.
“When you are dealing with low levels of educational attainment, high poverty, young population, minority population, which pretty much characterizes the bulk of everything south of SAC — certainly to the East Side and to some degree the West Side — you are going to see low levels of voter turnout as a result of those factors,” Woodward-Kaupert said.
“It doesn’t have to be that way, but unfortunately that’s sort of the understanding that we have regarding explanations as to why voter turnout is so low.”
Woodward-Kaupert said the key to winning a local election like this is making sure candidates have support at the polls.
“If you can walk people to the polls, remind them to go vote, send them literature where to go vote, what day to go vote, and encouraging them to go early vote, these are all things we know will increase voter turnout,” she said. “Again you’re dealing with an election that typically the only people that are engaged in the election are faculty, staff and the immediate friends, family and neighbors of the people running for office.”
Woodward-Kaupert said it’s unfortunate that only an engaged few are involved in these elections when a lot of people who pay Alamo Colleges taxes are not casting their votes.
“Certainly, we would be better off if we had candidates with some experience with higher education,” she said. “It’s one thing to understand and have business acumen; it’s a completely different thing to understand the needs and wants of students outside of what’s sometimes the most cost-effective path for the organization to take.”
Woodward-Kaupert said the major issues facing the board today are the same ones that have been around for sometime, such as employee morale and communication by the leadership.
“To some extent the board, for better or for worse, … (is) disengaged from the functioning of the college environment,” she said.
Woodward-Kaupert cited a political adage that discourages “yes-men all around the table” and said some trustees only take recommendations from district and college administrators.
“I think that’s unfortunate that they lose sight of the day-to-day operations of the colleges as a result,” she said.
“I don’t know what new challenges they are going to face because it’s Texas, it’s the same dance, different song,” Woodward-Kaupert said. “We see these problem emerge and a Band-Aid is slapped on it, and a temporary fix is provided and the next session, the problems creep back up again.”
The Alamo Colleges’ election is in conjunction with other Bexar County city and school district elections May 7.
Early voting is 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-April 29, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 30, and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. May 2-3.
For a map and list of early voting locations, visit http://elections.bexar.org.
To find out what district you live in and who represents you, visit http://map.bexar.org/community.