Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick and Treat: More Admin Wheeling and Dealing with Construction

A recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune by watchdog reporter Tanya Sierra reveals another layer of madness in the college's mismanagement: posh vacations for administrators and construction companies paid out of SWC Foundation funds.

Echo Pacific Construction "won" a silent auction prize, which included spending the weekend with Nick Alioto, SWC Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs. Alioto plays a key role in determining who gets construction contracts.

And guess what? Three weeks later, Echo Pacific did get a contract--for 4 million dollars.

There's more, much more, so please read the full article.

As November 2 approaches, it's as important as ever to get the word out and make sure voters are informed of the truth!

How can you help?
  • Contact everyone you know in the SWC district--an email, a quick phone call, a Facebook post, a tweet--and ask them to contact three other people they know, etc.
  • Participate in one or both literature drops organized by candidate Tim Nader:
Late-night Literature Drop to Get Out the Vote
Tomorrow (Monday) at 7:30 p.m.
Meet at 7 Kingswood Dr., Chula Vista, CA 91911
Early Morning Election Day Literature Drop
Tuesday at 4:00 a.m.
Meet at 7 Kingswood Dr., Chula Vista, CA 91911
  • Help out with sign-waving Monday morning or evening and/or Tuesday morning . Contact Veronica Burton at or just show up at one of the following intersections (7:00-8:30 am; 4:30-6:00 p.m.):
Bonita Road and Otay Lakes Road

East H Street and Otay Lakes Road

Terra Nova Plaza

E Street and 805

L Street and 805

The Governing Board incumbents and upper administration seem to think the C in SWC stands for "Construction." Let's set 'em straight.

Let's Save Our Southwestern College.

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Is News not News? When It's Business as Usual

In our last post, we told you about some shady dealings on the part of Governing Board incumbents. Now there's more.

We've just learned that the Southwestern College district itself sent out a mailer promoting the Board and downplaying accreditation problems.

How did they do this? By packaging the propaganda as "news."

This 8 1/2 X 11 inch mailer on glossy card stock pretends to be "News from Southwestern College," but its timing--right before the election--couldn't be more transparent. (Besides, honestly, if you wanted to send apolitical information to the community, would you choose to do so at the very moment people's mailboxes are overflowing with campaign literature? We think not.)

While not mentioning candidates by name, the mailer refers glowingly to the current Governing Board no fewer than eight times, once in bold red font.

Twice (once on each side), the mailer claims that accreditation problems date from 1996 and 2003 ("Southwestern College is currently resolving issues from previous WASC reports in 1996 and 2003")--a story the incumbents have been promoting throughout their campaigns, especially as a way to discredit former Superintendent/President Norma Hernandez, who is running against Yolanda Salcido for Seat #4.

The truth, of course, is that this Board and Superintendent/President Raj Chopra are responsible for the college's probationary accreditation status, as we've been documenting on this blog for over a year.

So what does it cost to manufacture this kind of spin? According to the label, these mailers went out ECRWSS (Enhanced Carrier Route Walking Sequence Saturation), which in US Postal Service lingo means the mailing had to go to every address on the route.

Assuming the district sent only to addresses in Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach, Bonita, and Coronado (skipping outlying areas like San Ysidro and Otay Mesa), that amounts to at least 100,000 households (and we're not even counting the business addresses on those routes). At the non-profit ECRWSS mailing rate of 11 cents per, the mailing cost alone comes to $11,000. And we haven't even included the cost of the mailer itself yet!

Even if we assume an incredibly modest 10 cents for each mailer, that brings the grand total to over $20,000.

And guess who paid for it, folks. Yep, that would be you, the taxpayer.

In case you didn't receive a copy in the mail, you can see the scanned mailer here:
Side 1
Side 2

Monday, October 18, 2010

False Advertising and Deals vs. The Truth

Like it or not, campaigns and election outcomes largely depend on money. Yard signs, commercials, banners, mailers, and other forms of getting the word out require cash. Lots of cash. We know this, and--grudgingly or not--accept it as the way business is done.

What some of us are not so ready to accept is bad business, deceptive business: candidates who misrepresent themselves and their supporters, figuring that no one will notice, and if they do, oh well, the lie got out there anyway.

We've already addressed
Yolanda Salcido's I'm-an-honorable-judge early Halloween costume. Now, a recent article in the Southwestern Sun [link updated Oct. 20] reveals that Salcido used Associated Student Organization (ASO) officer photos and a fake quote in her publicity materials.

According to The Sun, ASO President Manuel Lopez and Vice President of Public Relations Nick Serrano both "feverently denied supporting Salcido and demanded that she remove their photos and false endorsements from her campaign website and all printed campaign materials."

As they say in TV-land, though, that's not all! What many voters don't realize is that space on a lot of slate mailers is bought: despite the appearance of organization endorsement, all that's being endorsed is a fat check.

According to the
San Diego County Registrar of Voters Campaign Finance Disclosure Public Site, both Yolanda Salcido and Terri Valladolid have so far spent $15,311 each to appear on these mailers:

California Democratic Voter Guide: $4,500

California Latino Voter Guide: $3,811

California Voter Guide: $7,000


Total: $15,311 X 2 = $30,622 to buy two candidates the appearance of widespread support.

And where did all this money come from? Construction interests, of course!

Check it out for yourself by looking at their 460 Recipient Committee Campaign Statements:

Salcido's 460 Jan to June 2010 (shows early donations)
Salcido's 460 July to Sept 2010 (shows additional donations and expenditures)

Valladolid's 460 Jan to June (shows early donations)
Valladolid's 460 July to Sept (shows additional donations and expenditures)

(The third incumbent running for election, Jorge Dominguez, has raised and spent very little money, so we're not covering him here.)

For a comparison, look at Norma L. Hernandez's
latest 460. In contrast to Salcido's and Valladolid's big bucks construction money, Hernandez's donations are almost all from individuals and in the amount of $100-$200.

To be fair, Hernandez's campaign has also invested in some slate mailers, but on a much smaller scale, spending less than a third ($4889) what Salcido and Valladolid each have thrown around.

So how do you get a fair election when big money perpetuates itself by supporting candidates that will later reward it with contracts? You
fight the incumbent political machine any way you can: by donating, by volunteering, by painting your car window, by doing anything and everything you can to tell the truth.

Campaign contacts:

Volunteer contacts:

  • Campus outreach: Patti Flores-Charter
  • Phone banking: Veronica Burton
  • Precinct walking: Diane Gustafon
Tell the truth. Save Our Southwestern College.

Update: Here are a couple more articles from The Sun that you shouldn't miss:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Street Talkin': Some Examples

We've been talking about using our cars' rear windows to get the message out, and here are a couple more examples.

For both, a "glass pen" (available at KMart in the stationery section) was used on the outside of the window.
The results will be water resistant but still washable.

In case you missed our previous updates, you can also look for glass pens (or "glass chalk") at auto stores, hobby shops, and craft supplies.

Also, if you're going old school per our original instructions, a couple of suggestions are 1) add a small amount of liquid dish soap to the tempera to prevent flaking and 2) apply a light coat of hair spray to the window before and after painting.

Please send your photos to, and we'll post them with our next update!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Takin' It to the Street, Part 2: Free Speech on Wheels!

Last night, we gave you some info about how you can help spread the word about the election by painting on your car rear window.

Here's an update with some additional tips:

If you use tempera according to our previous directions, try lightly spraying the inside of the rear window with hair spray first. (If it runs, just smooth out with a paper towel.) The hair spray will dry clear (more or less) and help act as a primer: your paint will go on more smoothly and stick better. Let the hair spray dry thoroughly before you paint. After the paint is completely dry, you can apply another very light coat of hair spray.

An easy (though slightly more expensive) alternative to tempera is glass chalk, which can be used on the outside of the windows. Supposedly, it will hold up in the rain yet comes off easily when scrubbed with water. Check at auto supply stores and hardware stores for this one.

Finally, once you've done your window, please send us a photo of the job at, and we'll post it on the blog!

And keep those tips coming. Let's do this!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Takin' It to the Street!

With less than three weeks to the election (and absentee ballots already coming in), there is a quick, easy way that everyone can help get the word out: let your car's rear window do the talking.

It's a simple matter of buying some very inexpensive supplies, printing the template (provided here), and doing the painting.

Read on for more detailed instructions:

Supplies: You will need to purchase a bottle of white or yellow tempera paint (around $2) and some small brushes (around $2-4, depending on what you get).
  • Make sure you buy tempera paint (not latex or acrylic). Even when dry, tempera dissolves in water and is easy to remove.
  • Get smaller brushes than you think you'll need--the bristles will spread as you apply the paint. We used a 1/8" and a 1/4" brush.
Local sources for the paint and brushes:

Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts
1410 East Plaza Blvd
National City CA 91950
(619) 477-2230

Michaels Arts & Crafts
1242 Broadway
Chula Vista CA 91911

(619) 425-0209

and Walmart. (Note: Target does not carry tempera)

We splurged and bought a four-pack of brushes for $3.99 (at right). Keep in mind that one bottle of paint can do a lot of windows: share with your friends! For around $6 (paint and brushes), you can easily paint ten cars--a cost of 60 cents per car.

Templates: Because tempera dissolves in water (and also provides a tempting surface for initial-carving), you want to paint your sign on the inside of your back window. As a result, you'll be writing your message backwards from the inside so that it appears correctly from the outside. Using a template makes this task much easier.

Your end result will look like this (but window-sized):

When you print out the templates, they'll look weird! Text will be backward and cut off at strange places. That's okay! Once you cut out the lines of text and tape them together, you'll end up with something like this (but window-sized):

There are four different templates (ignore the "parent directory" link but click the others):

Each template consists of four different files: one for the top line (broken into two-three pieces for that file); two for the candidates' names (split down the middle); and one for the closing line (split into three pieces).

With files 1 and 4, cut out each piece. (Leave the lines in files 2 and 3 intact.) To match up lines, refer to the image above, and cut white space as needed. As you tape the parts together, you'll end up with three different chunks (lead line, candidates' names, and closing line).

Application of template: First, clean the back window inside and out! Some window cleaner, or even just plain water, will do the job fine.

To use the template, you will tape each "chunk" face down on the rear window from the outside. (As you do this, the strategy will make more sense: through the paper, you'll see how the print will appear for viewers.) Since there are three different "chunks," you can adjust spacing as needed. (The original template is based on an average rear window size of about 40" X 20".)

Painting: Now all you have to do is follow the template. Climb into the back of the car, and using a small brush with paint (you can work from the container or a small cup), trace the letters. Don't worry about getting everything perfect! Remember, drivers will be seeing your sign on the run; they won't be scrutinizing details. The message is the important part!

  • Trace the letters from top to bottom. If you are right-handed, work from left to right to avoid smudging paint. If you are left-handed, work from right to left.
  • Don't worry about little mistakes. Big ones can easily be cleaned up with a moistened paper towel.
  • As you move down the window, painting may become more difficult. Again, remember it's the message that's important; don't sweat the small stuff.
  • Depending on the quality of your paint, you may want to do a second coat. The image at the beginning of this post shows a one-coat job with cheap paint. Still, the message would be readily visible to other drivers. We'll do a touch-up tomorrow and post new pics. Note: let the first coat dry (might take an hour) before attempting a second.
  • Remember to wash your brushes with some warm water and a little dish soap afterward. In the meantime, you can let them soak in a cup of water.
This is an easy way to contribute to SWC; reading the directions will probably take you more time than to do the job. Speak up. Be heard. Make a difference.

Save Our Southwestern College!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Governing Board Meeting Wednesday! and other news . . .

Wednesday, October 13, is the last regularly scheduled Board meeting before the November 2 election.

The meeting will be held in Room 214 on the main campus and begins at 7:00 pm.

On the agenda will be approval of the college's first accreditation progress report (due October 15). Also planned is an Academic Senate resolution protesting the administration's multiple delays in securing an SLO coordinator--one of the conditions of accreditation.

For more details and reasons why YOU should attend, please see this post at SWC Board Must Go! As that blog states, "You want to address them about their attack on the Southwestern College Sun? You want to know why your children can’t get into classes? You want your chance to speak your mind and make them listen? This is it."

Perhaps, too, someone can ask Yolanda Salcido why her campaign web site refers to her as "The Honorable Yolanda Salcido" (plug for meet and greet event). Salcido is a not a judge; never has been. In fact, according to a search of the State Bar of California, she is not a licensed attorney and never has been. Perhaps she's confused her gavel at Board meetings with that of a judge? Or maybe she's taking cues from Nicholas Alioto, Not-a-CPA in bogus self-promotion? Either way, the college deserves far better governance--ethical, experienced, and not beholden to countywide construction interests.

Jesseca Saenz-Gonzalez is one of those contenders. Going up against what SWC Board Must Go! calls "a has-been opponent who couldn't be bothered to show up at an impartial candidate forum at Southwestern College," Jesseca has a new commercial coming out.

The ad will be airing on Animal Planet, FX, Lifetime, MTV2, SyFy, TLC, Travel Channel, Tru TV, The Weather Channel, and VH1. Watch for it!

Finally, if you want to revisit some of the issues that brought us to this point, Katherine Sweetman's mini-doc, Trouble at Southwestern College is a good starting point.

By the way, as part of the current art exhibition: CONTROverse: Contemporary Visions of the US-Mexico Border, Sweetman's latest microdoc, Living in Tijuana, along with Gustavo Vazquez's Que Viva la Lucha, will be shown on campus this coming Thursday, 6-8 pm, in Room 750. These are perfect examples of what is right with the college. Please help us fix what's wrong.

Please help us Save Our Southwestern College.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

TONIGHT: Student-hosted Governing Board Candidate Forum

In light of the upcoming Governing Board elections, Southwestern College's Associated Student Organization will be hosting a “Student Candidate Forum” this Thursday, October 7, from 6:30 P.M. to 8 P.M. in Student Union East.

This event has been designed for the student body to ask their own personal questions of the Governing Board candidates pertaining to their education at SWC, and in turn, allow them to formulate their own opinions about who they vote for on November 2.

Please note
: Only currently registered Southwestern College students will be permitted to submit questions at this event. However, college staff and the public are welcome to attend.

Event flyer