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  • Wednesday, December 05, 2007



    The Committee to Recall Rocco will let today’s December 5th final deadline to turn in signatures pass in their effort to try and qualify a ballot recall of controversial Orange Unified School District Trustee Steve Rocco. The Committee had announced late last month that they would end their efforts at a recall of the outspoken Rocco. Today’s deadline officially marks the end of that effort.

    Sources close to the Committee to Recall Rocco said the signature effort did not come close to the 15,000 signatures needed to assure a recall would qualify. The drive to oust Rocco never caught on with the community beyond the small core of recall advocates on the Committee. The small core of the Committee to Recall Rocco was a group of close friends and associates of OUSD Trustee Lisa Smith and OUSD Board President Kim Nichols. The two Trustees helped steer the effort from behind the scenes while the public face of the Recall Committee was community activist Terri Rasmussen.

    Hampered by an apathetic public, unable to put together the kind of community coalition and publicity that was the hallmark of the successful 2001 Orange Recall that ousted three former radical trustees, and dogged by bad timing of the effort, the recall effort seemed for the most part invisible to the general public.

    Making the signature collecting effort a project of the small Recall Committee, the Recall Committee failed to build any type of community coalition before announcing the recall effort. After it became apparent that the effort was too big for the small Recall Committee, the Committee tried to play catch-up in building community support. Among those approached was the Orange Unified teacher’s union, Orange Unified Educators Association (OUEA). Efforts to get the large work force of the district’s teachers involved were hampered by the timing of the effort with the school year ending in June for the summer break. After school resumed in September, the Committee began to send a representative to all of the OUEA’s Representative Council meetings during the signature drive to recruit support for the campaign. After the Committee missed their self-imposed deadline of September 20th to get the recall question on an early ballot, the Committee’s pleas became more emphatic cumulating with a personal emotional plea by OUSD Trustee Lisa Smith at a meeting of the OUEA Representative Council in October. While many individual teachers did circulate Recall Petitions, the OUEA’s Representative Council did not take a stand on the Recall question with the overriding reason appearing to be that while the perceived antics of Rocco were some-what distracting to the democratic process, the reality was that as one vote of seven on the Board of Education, Rocco presented no threat to the policy making decisions of the Board.

    Unlike the very public and community effort of the Orange Recall that included a vast publicity effort that featured everything from public rallies, bumper stickers and balloons, to a functioning press corps, the Rocco Recall lacked a public face . Publicity efforts were mainly focused on Recall Committee speakers at the OUSD Board meetings chastising Rocco in 3 minute public comments to the Board. Later efforts included postings on YouTube using video from a documentary on Rocco being filmed by Chapman University Political Science Professor Fred Smoller and an eleventh hour small advertisement in the Orange City News. The Committee had no internet website or other publicity focus.

    Another apparent problem was the inconsistency of the Recall Message. The beginning message for the reasons for Recalling Rocco focused mainly on assertions he was failing to do the job he was elected to do and misusing his office. After missing the September 20th deadline, the message of the Recall Committee changed. The Recall Committee’s message then became that a Recall Election would prevent Rocco from running again with the advantage of an incumbent when his term expires in 2008. Meanwhile in the YouTube campaign, the message appeared to be that Rocco was mentally unbalanced as the posted video’s showed him in various unflattering speaking situations and featured interviews with various local personalities. Finally, in the Press Release announcing the end of the Recall effort, the Committee announces that “Actually, we may have already achieved our goal of preventing Mr. Rocco’s reelection”. The Committee asserts that because of the publicity of the Recall they have prevented Rocco from being re-elected. Part of the assertion is based on the perception that “Over 7,000 people have seen” the Smoller YouTube videos. These assertions however appear to be a case political face-saving spin.

    Professor Fred Smoller posted 16 different Rocco videos on YouTube. The video with the largest number of “hits” is a video entitled Trustee Steve Rocco. As of December 5th, that video had 1688 total hits. The other 15 Smoller video’s have from 1098 to 42 “hits” apiece. Added all together the total “hits” for the video’s are over 7000, however anyone who understands how the internet works knows “hits” do not equal total person visits. In reality, the most actual people visiting the total 16 videos can be assumed to be close to the 1600 “hits” in the most viewed video. The likely scenario is that each person viewed other videos in the series not that 7000 people visited just one individual video each in the series. In addition, the matter is complicated by the fact that Smollers’ students at Chapman University were directed to the site and the fact that OUSD Trustee Steve Rocco shares his name with a very famous world renowned skateboarder. With YouTube basically a tool of young people, it is no wonder why Skateboarder Steve Rocco’s two videos on YouTube have a combined hit count of over 8,200. Reasonably, because YouTube is a tool of the 20-something culture, many of the skateboarder fans accidentally found OUSD’s Steve Rocco on YouTube and some of the 7000 hits the Recall Committee sees are actually hits of young people looking for the skateboarder Steve Rocco.

    The assertion that the Committee has already prevented Rocco’s reelection also must be questioned. In the November 2006 General Election, Steve Rocco ran for a Rancho Santiago Community College Trustee seat in the middle of the very much publicized Censure of him by the majority of the Orange Unified Board. While losing to incumbent John R. Hanna’s 74% of the vote (58,378 votes), Rocco still garnered 20,324 votes (25%). In next year’s November election, Rocco is seen as vulnerable with candidates already lining up to ruin against him. In a “perfect storm” scenario, a number of challengers could split the opposition vote leading Rocco to again claim victory.

    The Godley Majority on the OUSD Board ran successful election campaigns, but have not been able to move those individual performances to a community-wide victory in three important political moves, Defeated in two Bond measures and now an attempted Recall of their nemesis Steve Rocco, they are now forced to defend two seats in November (Wes Poutsma and John Ortega) while they try and defeat Rocco in his seat. While the Rocco Recall ends today, the story of Trustee Steve Rocco is far from over.

    ALSO CLICK ON the following posts about the ROCCO RECALL:

    June 4th

    June 14th

    June 18th

    June 21st

    June 29th

    September 16th

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    Greater Orange News Service is a community service of the Orange Communication System /OCS/, the communications arm of the Greater Orange Community Orgainization