Editorial: School board recall a searing lesson for San Francisco’s leaders

S.F. recall election voters toss out Collins, López and Moliga

by The Examiner Editorial Board

Score one for Dianne Feinstein and Abraham Lincoln.

The names of these two political leaders will remain affixed to our local public schools for many years to come. But the San Francisco Unified School District commissioners who gained national infamy for their bumbling efforts to strip the names of leaders like Feinstein and Lincoln from local schools have now been relieved of their own relevance in The City’s school system.

These commissioners sought to rewrite history. Instead, they made history by inspiring voters to toss them out of office. On Tuesday, San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly to oust commissioners Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Fauuga Moliga from the school board. Early results showed over 70% of voters supporting the recall of all three.

The resounding verdict came after two years of scandalous political stunts by the commissioners, who turned the school board into a national laughingstock through their cringeworthy and out-of-touch performative activism. It’s likely voters would have tossed out the entire school board if they could have, but existing rules meant only three commissioners were eligible for recall.

Much will be written about the meaning of the movement to remove the three commissioners from their posts. Some pundits will wonder whether San Francisco has taken a conservative turn. Other critics may rue the effect of large checks from tech figures who used their billionaire wealth to allegedly perpetrate a Republican coup in a bastion of progressivism.

But it all boils down to a simple fact: The commissioners failed to do the jobs they were elected to do, ignoring warning signs from parents who ultimately made their voices heard loud and clear at the ballot box. The recall election results do not represent an ideological shift as much as they represent an affirmation of the power of voters to hold their leaders accountable.

Collins, López and Moliga should have focused their energy on getting children back into the classroom, tackling the school district’s major budget deficit and addressing the issue of declining enrollment. Instead, they chose to get attention by attacking Honest Abe and performing cheap stunts for an audience of Twitter radicals. Collins’ anti-Asian tweets and $87 million lawsuit against the school district also helped throw the discontent into overdrive, ensuring an energetic recall effort.

Now, San Francisco voters have spoken.

There’s much to dislike about a recall system that allows a sliver of the voting population, aided by billionaire money, to throw out the results of the last election in a low-turnout contest less than a year before the next one. Our recall system needs reform to prevent costly, time-wasting schemes to eternally relitigate elections.

Yet these arrogant and recalcitrant commissioners – only one of whom, Moliga, ever expressed any remorse for his actions – brought this situation upon themselves. If they had done a good job of focusing on their core duties and addressing parent concerns, they probably would have survived the blowback to their silly radical stunts. Instead, their inadequacy and incompetence inspired a wave of discontent that swept them out of office. They lost fair and square in a recall election initiated by two frustrated parents, Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen, who felt they had no other option.

It’s too late for Collins, López and Moliga, but other local elected officials should heed the clear message The City’s voters just sent. San Francisco is an idealistic, liberal and progressive city, but voters here expect their leaders to do their jobs – and may go to extremes to hold accountable those leaders who smugly refuse to uphold their responsibilities.

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