Q&As with the Board candidates: Rafael Mandelman

By Carolina Orozco Rincon
The Guardsman

Why do you want to be a trustee right now in the middle of this accreditation crisis?

Well, I have done a lot of stuff for San Francisco. I was on the Building Inspection Commission, on the Board of Appeals and I am into public service. And I think it’s an extremely important institution in San Francisco, 80,000 to 90,000 people a year are going there. It’s a very sad and interesting time to be on that board. I think it would be a real challenge, but it is an important time to do it.

My work at my professional life is as a lawyer. I represent local governments, so I work with a lot of public agencies staff. And I think that some of the problems that City College has are just related to what has happened to public entities in California over the last five years.

They have all gotten starved for money. I hear revenue, it’s been down everywhere. Educational institutions are totally strapped.
And so, I have seen all that, and I don’t know if that necessarily translates into solving City College’s problem, but at least I have an understanding of it. And having been on boards and having been active in colleges for a while now, probably gives me some skills that would be useful on the Board of Trustees.

What do you think it is going to happen if Proposition 30 and Proposition A don’t pass?

I think it would be really horrible. If both of those go down, there would be a deeper hole. It is just worse. And none of the choices are very good. I don’t think there is a lot of hidden money at the college

Do you think that the job that the past Board of Trustees has done is good?

I think it is hard to say. I don’t know whether the trustees would say that they have done a very good job. They have been very divided.
I don’t really know who is to blame or whether anyone is to blame. I think there are a lot of people at the board, and at the college, who have strong opinions about what is wrong and why (the problem) is everyone else’s fault. I think it would be nice to have someone on that board that would be listening a little bit more and hearing what the institution’s needs are and what the different constituencies are saying.

It’s Day One, you are a Trustee, what is on top of your to do list?

I think my to do list is going to be handed to me by whatever the board does in the next four months. They are going to make a decision about an interim chancellor that is going to be around for two years, program cuts that are going to, dramatically, alter the college in some way with whatever they do.

And so, even anticipating what am I going to be doing on that first day, it’s hard now, because we just don’t know who the special trustee is going to be, what that first move is going to be like, who the interim (chancellor) is going to be.

In general, for education, I want, over time, City College to recover some of what it has been forced to shut now. I believe in community colleges and I believe that kind of the narrowing of the mission is a little unfortunate.

I think that, over time, I would like to see it expanding back out, I would like the idea of an academic institution that anybody can take advantage of at any point of their life.

Some of your critics point out that you don’t have experience in the education sector because your job has been more oriented towards low income housing and other law practices. What do you have to say about this?

In a sense, it is a fair criticism. I don’t have a background in education, but I don’t know if you need to have a background in education to be an effective trustee on the college board.

I do have a background in workforce development. I was on the public policy advisory Committee for Jewish Vocational Services, that actually partners with the college.

What is your connection to City College?

Well, I have taken classes at City College, long ago.  I took Russian, when I was in high school.  But I always thought it was an important institution and my connection is mostly that I care about San Francisco in a sense that it is a really important part of the city, that it’s struggling right now.

Do you read The Guardsman?

I have seen it. I don’t regularly read it, although, I will.

How is a typical day in your life?

There is no typical day. But usually it involves a lot of time in the office. Going to the gym early. And then I am usually doing something in the evening, either socially for one of the organizations that I am involved with. So it is a mix of social, civic and work.

You seem to have a pretty busy schedule in your life. Do you think you would have enough time to dedicate to the board, because right now, in this crisis, it would probably require a lot of commitment and time?

I have to say that there is nothing more time consuming than a campaign. During a campaign, I’m going every night to four or five events. If I can do this and do my full time job, I can do it. I’m not going to say it will be easier, but manageable.


Follow Orozco on Twitter: @caritorozco