Where is the political power in Selma? According to my unofficial, unscientific and unbiased poll, it now lies with the Selma Health Care District.
My reasoning is flawless. I mean, what other group could hold a meeting that draws four members of the Selma City Council and three School Board members?
That’s what occurred on Aug. 31, when the Health District held a marathon meeting at the Senior Center that was widely attended for a few reasons: The possibility of a coup that could topple board president Stan Louie; the Selma Unified School District inviting supporters and band members for a couple of funding requests; city police and fire presence, also for funding requests.
(Did I mention band parents, including members of the City Council and school board? Band parents are one of the most loyal and supportive school blocs in all of academia.)
They all gathered to pitch their pet projects, and those projects totaled more money than the health district had in its bank account.
But first, those who came for the funding requests had to sit and watch as board members Rose Robertson, Leticia Gallardo and Lorane Avalos deposed Louie, the longtime president. Robertson led the coup, reading a list of grievances (mostly organizational stuff), and she was rewarded by being named the new president.
She then ran the meeting, and even moved Louie to a different seat so that the board’s counsel could sit next to her.
The health care board receives approximately $150,000 in tax money each year. It doles out those funds to community organizations for projects that affect health care in Selma. In the past, it has funded school, police and fire projects; youth sports, animal shelters, pickleball courts and even the mural across the street from Garfield school.
The Aug. 31 meeting saw funding requests from Selma Cares, Selma Cancer Support and Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life. Then there were requests from Selma police, Selma fire and Selma Unified.
Now, nobody would ever argue that our firefighters, cops and kids don’t need to be safe. In the past, the Health Care District has helped chip in when those entities came calling.
Sure, there were a few skeptics wondering why the school district, which last year received $30 million in bond funding from Measure O for building projects including a new football stadium and all-weather track, was showing up to collect on a promise for $100,000 for that same track — a promise (requiring matching funds) made in 2013 when the district couldn’t afford that project.
The Health Care board approved those funds by a 4-1 vote because, well, a promise is a promise and nobody wants to go on record denying anything to school kids. And the high school band got its $24,000-plus. A win-win for the schools.
The Health board also funded more than $38,000 to protect firemen during active-shooter incidents and $10,800 for protective gear for police officers. Selma Cares got $5,000 (it asked for $20,000) and Selma Cancer Support and BBNBTL each received $20,000.
When the long meeting reached the final funds request — $125,000 for computerized equipment that evaluates balance disorders in the elderly — it had already spent more than half of its bank balance, so that request was tabled for the next meeting on Nov. 30.
By that time, many of the SUSD and band supporters had exited, thinning the crowd. Those left were folks too polite to walk out on a meeting in-progress, those who just can’t get enough of funding requests and a few relatives and friends.
And it also allowed us to focus on the family connections involved in running — and funding — things in Selma.
Here’s the roster for Family Affair, Selma style: City Councilman Scott Robertson is Health Care District President Rose Robertson’s wife, and district member/treasurer Letitia Gallardo is her sister; Member Lorane Avalos is the wife of City Councilman Jim Avalos; City Council member Yvette Montijo is the wife of school board member Andy Montijo, who previously served on the Health Care District board. (Unrelated to this story, Mayor Mike Derr and his wife Jeannette both are members of the Selma Arts Council.)
But as we all left the Health care meeting last week, after more than three hours of bloodless coup and explanations of police and band protective equipment, after questions and comments from the audience and board members, all of it was rendered relatively inconsequential by an incident that occurred just a few blocks away that night.
A teenaged girl was shot to death at a barbecue by drive-by shooters.
So that’s the bigger challenge for our powers-that-be. All-weather tracks, band equipment, police and fire safety gear and a bloodless coup may bring big crowds to meetings, but gun violence is a problem more complex than merely asking for an infusion of funds.