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Campaign claims: Plan B

Submitted by on 1, February 16, 2011 – 12:02 am9 Comments

Questions are raised about a campaign claim. The Island looks into it.

THE CLAIM: The Committee Against Measure A (CAMA) says an Oakland-based political consulting firm, Erwin & Muir, helped craft the Alameda Unified’s no-parcel tax “Plan B” to scare voters into voting for the Measure A school parcel tax. District officials have said that under “Plan B,” five schools would close over the next two school years and the budget would cut programs to close a multi-million-dollar budget gap.

“The Draconian plan of school closures the Alameda Unified School District says it will have to implement if Measure A fails is a fraud. This plan, known as ‘Plan B,’ was not written by educators or even the school district’s accountants but crafted by political consultants whose only interest was to give the district a political tool to scare people into voting for Measure A,” CAMA secretary Leland Traiman was quoted as saying in a press release issued Monday.

As proof, Traiman and David Howard showed a reporter a June 2009 letter that listed Erwin & Muir’s name partners, Maureen Erwin and Maggie Muir, as members of an advisory board set up to act as a sounding board and to provide feedback on the master plan, as well as a series of invoices from the firm that billed hours for attending master plan meetings, preparing PowerPoint presentations for community meetings that were part of the district’s master plan process, and for writing press releases and preparing mailers to the community.

“The output of that group was the ‘Master Plan’ and ‘Plan B’ which has shaped everything that has followed since it was published and Measure E failed,” Howard wrote in an e-mail to The Island. “All discussions since then have been in the context of the ‘Master Plan’ and all talk of school closures has been Plan B.”

THE RESPONSE: “It’s absolutely a false statement. It’s a lie,” Muir told The Island on Tuesday. “We did not write one word of the Master Plan.”

Muir said she and Erwin were placed on the master plan group to help communicate its efforts to the public and that her firm hasn’t done work for the district since May 2010. (Alameda Unified’s superintendent, Kirsten Vital, said the firm’s contract with the district ended on June 30, 2010 and was not renewed.)

The firm is working for the Alameda SOS campaign, though that’s independent of the district, the campaign and Vital said.

“Erwin and Muir provided communications advice and consulting in connection with the Master Plan during the 2009-2010 school year,” Vital said. “Families and interested community members needed to have a voice in deciding the vision for the district and we hired Erwin and Muir to help us with communications designed to maximize public participation in the process.”

Vital said district staff drafted Alameda Unified’s master plan and the no-parcel tax scenario it contains based on “hundreds of hours” of public meetings and community feedback they collected. She said district staff “made several revisions” to that plan in response to public comments gathered after the Measure E parcel tax proposal failed in June 2010 and with the aid of further staff work and analysis.

“The (school) board authorized staff to begin drafting ‘Plan B’ in June after the failure of Measure E. At this point in time, Erwin and Muir were no longer providing services to the district,” Vital said. “In the end, there are clear differences between the school closures and consolidations that were set forth in the ‘no parcel tax scenario’ of the Master Plan and those adopted by the board this past November.”


  • David Howard says:

    The AUSD Master Plan, including “Plan B” – close 3 or more elementary schools, increase class size, cut administrator pay – was published in February 2010, when E&M was on AUSD’s payroll at $300/hr.

    (Published invoices show E&M attended meetings with AUSD with both partners billing $150/hr each. i.e. $300/hr.)

    Why don’t you let people review that master plan, and look at the timeline of events, and decide for themselves?



    o 2008 – Then AUSD Superintendent Ardella Dailey starts paying political consultants Erwin & Muir $300/hour.

    o May, 2009 – Erwin & Muir begins invoicing AUSD for work on master plan.

    o June, 2009 – AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital issues AUSD master plan update process newsletter, wherein she identifies political consultants Maggie Muir and Maureen Erwin as members of her Master Plan Advisory Group. Nowhere in the newsletter does she admit that they are political consultants doing work for AUSD at $300/hour.

    o June, 2009 – AUSD hires AUSD Trustee Mike McMahon’s daughter, Becky McMahon, as a web designer. Becky joins her mother as an AUSD employee.

    o July, 2009 – Superintendent Vital issues a $64,000 “open” purchase order to Erwin & Muir with no written contract, and no AUSD Board of Trustees review or approval.

    o August, 2009 – Erwin & Muir issues a $14,000 invoice to AUSD for website redesign.

    o December, 2009 – Erwin & Muir issues invoice to AUSD for work on master plan.

    o February, 2010 – AUSD issues master plan, with doomsday “Plan B” if parcel tax does not pass.

    o March 1, 2010 – Superintendent Vital justifies $300/hour expense with Erwin & Muir as a cost-saving measure.

    o May 26, 2010 – Erwin & Muir issues invoice to AUSD for $10,757 for mailing over 41,000 pieces of Measure E campaign literature disguised as a “newsletter.”

    o April/May, 2010 – AUSD says that 11 schools will close if they don’t raise $14 million with Measure E parcel tax.

    o June 22, 2010 – Measure E fails at the ballot box. No schools close.

    o July, 2010 – AUSD begins planning for new parcel tax, citing master plan and “Plan B” doomsday scenario, saying schools will close without a parcel tax.

    o December, 2010 – AUSD says that 5 schools will close if they don’t raise $12 million with Measure A parcel tax, even though State of California school finances are no better.

    o January, 2011 – Erwin & Muir being working as campaign consultants for “Yes on A” campaign to pass Measure A. AUSD and “Yes on A” campaign cite the Master Plan and “Plan B” doomsday scenario as a reason to vote for Measure A.

    o February, 2011 – Erwin & Muir and “Yes on A” campaign bully and intimidate Alameda Journal editor Connie Rux into pulling an op-ed piece from the newspaper that exposes Erwin & Muir’s role in creating the fraudulent master plan.

  • Jack B. says:

    Lauren Do just posted a calm, cool collection that should put these ridiculous claims to rest:


    once and for all!

  • Yet again, Traiman and Howard show themselves willing to connect dots that don’t exist, and have so far refused to back up their claims beyond sending out piles of invoices, none of which say a thing about their claims, and instead back up Erwin and Muir’s (and AUSD’s) assertion that the consultants helped with communications work.

    “The output of that group was the ‘Master Plan’ and ‘Plan B’ which has shaped everything that has followed since it was published and Measure E failed,” Howard wrote in an e-mail to The Island. “All discussions since then have been in the context of the ‘Master Plan’ and all talk of school closures has been Plan B.”

    The record clearly shows that Erwin adn Muir have done zero work for the district since Measure E was narrowly defeated. And yet “Plan B” was developed, at the direction of the Board, after the June election.

    There is simply no evidence, beyond the wild accusations based on gut feelings and conspiracy theories to support the claims, yet Howard, Traiman and friends continue to try to manufacture issues out of thin air, yet again.

  • Jack B. says:

    David, we’ve scoured the docs and looked at your timeline and all you have here is a NOTHINGBURGER.

  • dave says:

    Where has Traiman been lately? He wrote the initial piece and cut/paste it onto every piece of the internet he could find, but has been conspicuously absent in defending it. What’s up w/ that?

  • Peter M says:

    Just got an anti-measure A robocall, spouting the usual “secret data” nonsense.

  • John says:

    Does anyone have a total breakdown of AUSD Employess Salary and Total Compensation like the one done on the City of Alameda Employess 2008 Compensation spreadsheet ?


  • David Howard says:

    CAMA would be happy to defend its assertions about Erwin & Muir, and the secret parcel database at a public forum.

    However, the “Yes on A” campaign has refused several invitations to a public debate and a public forum on Measure A.

    It’s futile to debate the issues in this forum – lets have a public forum with the Measure A proponents and opponents, and the public, both in attendance.

  • CAMA can’t even provide primary support for their assertion of an Erwin and Muir conspiracy. Only reams of documents that prove up the assertions of E&W and the District. Why would Alameda SOS waste their time debating tinfoil assertions?

    Politics being politics, no one can blame CAMA for trying to find something, anything, to campaign on, but it doesn’t make it a legitimate issue for debate.

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