San Francisco Unified Board of Education Vice President Faauuga Moliga made the case against his recall at a virtual event Tuesday, touting his accomplishments on the board and distancing himself from embattled school board colleagues.
He was the only one of the three members of the school board facing recall to show up to the forum, hosted by the San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club and the Noe Valley Democratic Club. Moliga hopes to appeal to enough critics to survive even if board president Gabriela Lopez and member Alison Collins are recalled in the Feb. 15 vote.
Moliga said the recall efforts were “not a normal function of our democratic process.”
“There are not any candidates to measure me against. This is a recall and the bar for deciding if an elected office should be recalled is much higher,” Moliga said. “In my case I’ve not done anything to warrant immediate removal.”
Moliga argued that if voters have an issue with his policy decisions they have an opportunity to vote him out in the next general election.
“If you want to debate policy and legislation, we'll handle that business in November 2022. That's what elections are for. We could have recalls every day if people are upset about this person voting this way. But those are issues that we debate over at the general election,” Moliga said. “You don't recall a person over that. I didn't commit a crime, I didn't break a law.”
When asked about whether he could speak against the recall efforts of all three school board members or just himself, he replied the latter.
Moliga highlighted his status as the first Pacific Islander elected to public office in the city and detailed policy successes including the establishment of a coordinated care campaign that led the district to conduct wellness checks with families across the district in the early days of the pandemic. Moliga was the lead author of the resolution and was joined by Lopez and Collins.
He also spoke about his efforts to support the district’s Pacific Islander students and establish a community hub at the Samoan community development center in Visitacion Valley.
Moliga largely demurred when asked if he would have done anything differently earlier in the pandemic, when the board infuriated many with initiatives like renaming schools and changing admissions standards at Lowell High even as the district lagged far behind in returning students to the classroom.
The pro-recall movement was represented by Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, a couple that led the successful signature-gathering campaign to put the issue on the February ballot. They stressed the district’s lack of leadership in getting students back in the classroom.
“Our schools are in deep crisis and it's not just one crisis, there are three different crises that are affecting our school situation right now,” Raj said. “There's an educational crisis caused by the pandemic. There is a fiscal crisis and there is a leadership crisis on the school board.”
Over the past two years, the district saw enrollment decline by some 3,500 students, costing schools tens of millions in funding. An estimated $125 million shortfall in the school district’s budget for next year has led to a plan to cut funding in areas like special education staffing, multilingual programs staffing and peer resources which could lead to hundreds of jobs being eliminated.
“Faauuga Moliga’s heart might be in the right place and it sounds like it is, but he's incapable of getting things done,” Looijen said.
Kevin Truong can be reached at email@example.com