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Timothy Myers: What to do with Stephen Winkler?

Posted: June 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.

By the time this column runs, with a bit of luck, Stephen Winkler, the extremely controversial member of the Saugus Union School District governing board, will have submitted his resignation from the board.

However, if that does not occur, the good citizens of the Saugus Union School District will find themselves left with only difficult options to remove Mr. Winkler.

I possess opinions concerning Mr. Winkler’s alleged Internet activity, but no reasons exist to discuss that in detail here. The local blog that originally broke the story and other local news outlets, including this newspaper, provided that service.

Anyone having spoken to Mr. Winkler for more than 30 seconds would not find himself shocked by these revelations. Bottom line: While Mr. Winkler denies the most disturbing aspects of his Internet behavior, he embraces and admits referring to Saugus Union teachers with a reference to Nazis, going from zero to Godwin’s law in a matter of seconds. This alone would justify removal.

However, those now agitating for removal will find only difficult choices, primarily due to the fecklessness and division of the local Republican Party.

If the local Republican Party existed in the same state it did even five years ago in the SCV, Republican operatives, perhaps even Congressman "Buck" McKeon himself, would quietly strong arm Mr. Winkler into a face-saving resignation within days or even hours of these revelations.

However, local divisions, perhaps indicative of the general state-wide implosion of the California Republican Party, not only fail to provide a counterweight to aberrant behavior of party members, but two local Republican organizations enthusiastically endorsed the candidacy of Mr. Winkler, to the ironic detriment and eventual loss of an incumbent Republican, aided and abetted by a 9 percent turnout in the election that elevated Mr. Winkler to his present office.

This endorsement came despite the fact that local Republicans actively joked about Mr. Winkler rolling up to the Republican meetings in his car proudly sporting "Hillary Clinton for President" and "Jerry Brown for Governor" bumper stickers.

So without this admittedly behind-the-scenes but effective remedy, what can Saugus Union voters do?

They have lobbied for a vote of censure by the governing board and called for Winkler’s resignation, but believe me Mr. Winkler stands well beyond any effective embarrassment or shaming. This leaves the process of the recall.

What would a recall entail? Since the Saugus Union district possesses more than 52,000 registered voters, a recall petition must contain valid signatures from at least 15 percent of these registered voters, working out to about 8,100.

In the realm of signature-hunting, professionals generally try to get about 20 percent more than the minimum, since the election officials will eventually disallow about 20 percent because folks either were not registered voters or did not actually reside within the boundaries of the district.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say the folks seeking removal need to get 10,000 signatures. The process gives them 160 days to obtain these signatures after the "serving" of the notice of recall, which requires minimal signatures.

This means that folks will need to obtain at least 63 signatures every single day, or 441 per week.

Looked at another way, with an average of 1.5 registered voters at every residence, and an assumption that at least one-third of folks are not home at any given time, canvassers would need to knock on just under 400 doors per week, or 57 per day, to meet the total.

Forget about camping out in front of Wal-Mart because the disallowance rate of signatures at large retail complexes approaches 50 percent.

While a committed corps of even 20 volunteers could certainly make this happen, they still run up against the problem that this number of signatures needed exceeds the amount of people who actually voted in the last election by a factor 62 percent.

Earnest volunteers may find a lot of blank stares at the doorstep with folks not even realizing the Saugus Union School District exists.

Better, perhaps, to wait to serve the recall notice until the beginning of school in August. Volunteers could hit the schools with petitions on back-to-school nights and first days of school, with PTAs circulating the petitions at their meetings.

In this manner the petitions would fill quickly with mainly good signatures.

But the problem with waiting revolves around whether outrage, initially expressed at keyboards and on smartphones on social media, would fizzle in the heat of summer. A real possibility in the SCV, and a real shame.

Timothy Myers Sr. is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" runs Saturdays in The Signal.


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