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College district trustee candidates face off in forum
YCCD Abe Rojas 1
Abe Rojas

The three candidates vying for the District 3 seat on the Yosemite Community College District’s Board of Trustees discussed a number of issues, including campus safety, improving graduation rates and providing more jobs, during a forum hosted Thursday by the Stanislaus County League of Women Voters.


The candidates seeking to represent District 3, which encompasses South Stanislaus County and Merced County, include longtime incumbent Abe Rojas, and newcomers Billy Holly and Kevin Sabo—all from Turlock.


One question that proved to be a source of contention for the candidates regarded how best to improve communication and trust amongst faculty, staff and trustees.


While Rojas said he tries to visit all programs, an effort which he said leads him to believe there isn’t “that much discord” within the district, Sabo said it was “dangerously naive to suggest things are rosy for staff on campus.”


“In three years of being on student government here not a single trustee or chancellor or college president came to a student government meeting and we are a stakeholder here,” said Sabo. “I think that the Board of Trustees has a lot of faith in our Chancellor—which is great—but you can’t rubberstamp the Chancellor without being loyal and actually giving an opportunity for stakeholders to come to you.”


Holly called for increased transparency within YCCD, citing an incident where administration destroyed 52,000 books, which is about 70 percent of the total collection at MJC.


“The library would not have been destroyed if people had been told what was going on,” said Holly.


When asked how each candidate would ensure that student organization money is appropriately spent, Holly suggested that the community colleges bring back student-run newspapers to publish student body expenditures since he said that he knew of cases where student officers hired “limousines and had laser tag parties and called it team building.”


“I was in ASMJC. I was president and I was involved two years before that and I can very comfortably tell you that we never had a limo, never had laser tag,” contradicted Sabo.


While the candidates disagreed on many issues Thursday, one thing they did agree on was the importance of Proposition 55, also known as the California Extension of the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase Initiative, which will extend the personal income tax increases on incomes over $250,000 approved in 2012 for 12 years in order to fund education and healthcare. About 11 percent of revenue from the tax increase would go to state community colleges.


“If passed, the proposition will generate between $4 and $9 billion dollars, over half of which will go to K-12 and community colleges, so we have to do as much as we can to pass that initiative,” said Rojas.