School board candidate Phil Hemingway, who has been particularly outspoken against the closure of Hoover School, was scheduled to have a “listening post” at Hoover tomorrow — but apparently someone complained about his use of public property for a campaign event. The district consulted with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, and today told Hemingway that he could use the building only if he paid rent for it, at the rate charged to for-profit businesses. Hemingway, who’s known for running a self-funded campaign on a shoestring, would have to pay between $100 and $200 for his one-and-a-half-hour listening post.
Under the City’s policy, political candidates can use public library meeting rooms free of charge. But the school district’s policy has no such provision, and treats political candidates the same as for-profit groups.
And, though apparently no one asked, the district went out of its way to say that “unless all candidates have been explicitly invited, it is not appropriate to be at staff meetings or ice cream socials (unless of course you are wearing your parent hat).” The annual Hoover ice cream social is tonight.
In response, Hemingway has moved his scheduled listening post — to the sidewalk in front of Hoover. No word on whether ice cream will be served.
Rules are rules, but some rules are better than others. There’s no reason the district shouldn’t have a policy that makes it free, instead of expensive, for candidates to schedule listening posts at school buildings.
UPDATE: Notice that the district does have a low-cost rental category for “political appearances” – but the superintendent informed Hemingway that his listening post does not fall under that category. If a candidate listening post isn’t a “political appearance,” what is? It’s almost as if the district doesn’t want to make it easy for people to talk about school issues in settings where it can’t manage and control the discussion. (See posts here, here, here, here, and here.)