to college board
by Seth Hemmelgarn
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee named a candidate running for the City College board as a trustee Tuesday, instantly giving him a possible advantage in the race by running as an appointed incumbent.
The mayor named structural engineer Rodrigo Santos, 54, to serve out the remaining few months of Trustee Milton Marks III's term on the San Francisco Community College board. Marks died earlier this month of a brain tumor.
The appointment, which the mayor announced at a City Hall news conference, comes as San Francisco City College, which the trustees oversee, faces the possibility of closing.
Lee indicated he sees Santos as being crucial to help the school survive.
"Ninety thousand students come through City College and we cannot let that fail. We will not let that fail," Lee said Tuesday.
Santos said he'd do "everything in my power" to make sure the trustees follow "the great work of Milton Marks." However, he said, "I join an institution that must be saved."
The college's future as an accredited community college, the largest of all accredited community colleges in California with about 90,000 students, has been in question since early June, after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges issued a blistering report saying CCSF would need to "show cause why its accreditation should not be terminated" by October 15, according to a report sent to interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher in July, or lose its accreditation. That's a loss that many fear could close CCSF's doors for good.
The report, highlighting that City College is poorly run, aimed to have the school meet a few of the eligibility requirements for state accredited colleges. Among them, to document a funding base and plan for how to bring in future financial resources, conduct audits, and bring in an administrative staff with "appropriate experience to support necessary services for an institution of its size, mission, and purpose," the ACCJC report said.
"Tough decisions and reforms are what City College needs at this time," Lee said. He added, "We need someone who shares my vision of reform," and the school "will not lose its accreditation with Rodrigo's help."
Santos said he's "absolutely committed to that goal." Similarly to Lee, Santos also referred to the "difficult reforms that are going to be required," but didn't offer any specifics. He did say that he and other trustees would analyze things and make sure that "no money is being wasted."
Santos, who introduced his wife, Ginny, and children, Alex and Adriana, Tuesday, is a professional engineer who came to the United States from Ecuador. According to the mayor's office, he's developed mixed-use spaces, office complexes, apartment buildings, and hotels.
He's also served as president of the city's Building Inspection Commission and is currently on the Workforce Investment Board.
According to the Department of Elections, Santos is a former Republican, having registered as such in 2000. In 2008 he switched to the American Independent Party, a far-right group that people often mistake when they want to register as an "independent." In 2011, according to elections department records, Santos registered as a Democrat.
Santos's appointment puts him in the top tier of candidates; three incumbents are also running, as is gay attorney Rafael Mandelman. There are four seats up in November; the board has seven members. Santos quickly put the mayor's press release announcing his appointment up on his campaign website.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Santos touted his endorsements, including that of gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.
Mandelman, a leading college board candidate who secured the local Democratic Party's endorsement last week, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he hadn't been hoping for an appointment himself. (Mandelman is an elected member of the Democratic County Central Committee and ran unsuccessfully for D8 supervisor two years ago.)
However, he said, it's "interesting the appointment wasn't someone with a deeper, longer connection to the college; that the decision seems to have been driven more by political calculation than by necessarily thinking about what's in the interest of the school at a particularly critical time."
Mandelman mentioned Santos's involvement with the San Francisco Coalition for Responsible Growth, which he described as a "moderate to conservative political organization." Santos is the group's president.
The coalition's website says it's "a broad-based organization" representing architects, artists, business owners, and others and is "dedicated to creating an effective coalition that fosters well planned growth by addressing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders."
At Tuesday's news conference, Santos responded to a question about the organization by saying it's "extremely diverse." Lee said Santos's business background made him an asset to the board.
Mandelman said, "I know he has a larger agenda for San Francisco that I disagree with, and I'm sure he disagrees with mine, but if we end up serving together on the board, I'm sure we'll work together and do good things for the school."
Rodrigo Santos (Photo: Santos for college board)