A Change of Heart
Raymond Wong, a longtime Milpitas resident, was one of three individuals who initiated the petition.
However, in October, when the ROV sent him a letter announcing that the Special Election was a go, Wong couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness.
Days before the petition signatures were verified, Wong had actually shifted his stance on the matter. He felt regret over coming onboard as a petitioner. And this was something that he could not deny.
“I’m a pretty good friend of Ling’s. So when I was approached to put my name as one of the petitioners, I thought, yes I want to help Ling. And I didn’t think about what it really entailed. I put my name on there, and it turned out it was a petition to put a Special Election on…I don’t want to point fingers, but I think it was unfair, because the person who recruited me, didn’t tell me it was about putting up a Special Election…” said Wong.
Only after signing on as a petitioner did Wong realize what the task fully entailed. But by that point, it was too late.
Wong wrote a long letter to the group, telling them how he felt about how misguided going for a Special Election would be, and how spending the $105,000 wasn’t ideal for the district. But nobody agreed with him. Their minds were already made up.
Wong mentioned to The Beat that he himself collected about 10 signatures total. And though he didn’t use the controversial flyer, he mentioned that he knew of others who did use it while asking for signatures. One other source confirmed his statement, saying they knew for a fact that the flyer was used by at least some of the individuals gathering signatures.
Wong also added: “This group started way back when we tried to shut down the landfill. We didn’t want it to expand, but then it got approved. Then we pushed Measure L, so that Milpitas wouldn’t use their landfill. And we were successful.”
Wong mentioned that the group was not a formal one, and lacked any kind of structure. In fact, out of all the people that The Milpitas Beat spoke to, Wong was the only one, ironically, who admitted to being a part of Better Milpitas.
Tom Clavel, a friend of Kong’s who has been very vocal about his lack of trust in the school district, is part of the leadership of a group known as South Bay Eco Citizens, which was formed as a way of inspiring change and putting an end to pollution in the region. When asked if the three petitioners are from Better Milpitas, he adamantly denied it, and said that all were members of South Bay Eco Citizens. He believes that the focus on the Better Milpitas group and how they operate is a distraction from the issue at hand:
“Better Milpitas is a group of residents of Milpitas who share some of the same concerns as we do. We’re not Better Milpitas,” said Clavel, who has been a strong voice in support of Kong and the special election, particularly on social media. “There’s this conspiracy around Better Milpitas…but beyond Better Milpitas, and beyond us, there are 700 people who supported this petition…”
But Wong says that simply isn’t true.
“All these people are the same people…South Bay Eco Citizens, Better Milpitas…the core people are the same,” said Wong. “Other people have come and gone, because they decided they couldn’t do it, or had other interests and couldn’t find time, for whatever reason. But there’s been a core of us that have stuck together.”
A few individuals who gathered signatures told The Beat that they were able to collect signatures from their friends and neighbors. For the most part, such individuals mentioned going door to door and explaining what had happened with the board appointment issue. All of them denied using any Better Milpitas materials — while also claiming not to be part of Better Milpitas.
“When we went out, we didn’t bring any flyers with us. I just brought the petition with me, and went door to door to my neighbors, collecting signatures,” said petitioner Fa Yoeu.
A letter from Suzanne Carrig, Director of Policy Development & Administrative Programs at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, that was addressed to MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan and Board President Chris Norwood, contained words about the controversial flyer:
I have read the text that was translated from the Chinese language version and which appears to have been posted on the website associated with the petition to fill the school board vacancy. Although the County Superintendent’s responsibility to determine the legal sufficiency of a petition does not include review of the statements circulated with the petition, it is important to note that the statement associated with the petition contains deprecating statements about the provisional appointee, school board members, and the Milpitas Unified School District Superintendent such that the language of the statement is not in keeping with the spirit or the text of the Code of Fair Campaign Practices, Election Code section 20440 which school board candidates may choose to sign upon declaration of their candidacy, or MUSD Board Policy 9005, Governance Standards.
However, the letter went on to say that in spite of this, the petition materials themselves did seem legally sufficient. It also went on to say that Superintendent Jordan and Board President Norwood might want to “consider reviewing Board Policy 9005 as a district leadership team in order to fortify the District with regard to its governance standards in light of this matter.”
One source, who doesn’t wish to be named, denied using the flyer in collecting signatures:
“A lot of the signatures we got…it was because of Ling [Kong],” said the source. “She had a reputation because of the work she did in the community. The minute they heard it was about Ling, they just signed, and then they asked what happened after the fact.”