Campaign claims: Plan B
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.”