Monday, January 14, 2013


Now people are upset that a private citizen, Ed Stone, had extensive input into the wording of our school district’s diversity policy. “When did we start letting constituents write district policy?” one parent group asked. “One person (whose expertise is not equity or diversity) should not have been the sole author of language for such an impactful policy,” another commenter argued.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with the role Stone has played. Elected officials can rely as much or as little as they like on whatever informal advisors they choose. There’s no reason to think Stone bribed anyone, or that he has anything to gain personally from the policy. (He’s an ophthalmology professor.) He’s an activist, and you have to assume that the board members who consulted him agree with him.

More importantly, who cares who wrote the policy? The identity of the drafter can’t possibly tell us anything about the merits of the policy that isn’t apparent from the policy itself.

Meanwhile, in response to the charges of improper influence, Stone “noted that the principals of the west-side secondary schools sent letters to parents that he felt were meant to stir up opposition to the diversity policy. ‘I would be much more concerned about that unfair political advocacy,’ he said.” Ugh. Wouldn’t the time spent accusing people of “unfair advocacy” be better spent articulating arguments for and against the policy on its merits?


Anonymous said...

I no longer have a personal stake in this game (i.e., no kids in school), but I am a taxpayer. I entirely agree that the focus of this debate has little to do with the merits and substance of the a diversity policy, generally, and this one, specifically. That said, there is a reason why there are lobby disclosures rule in the U.S. Knowing whether an elected official has consulted or discussed a policy issue with a lobbyist helps us to understand the agendas associated with proposed policies. Indeed, I would be fearful for the health of democracy that lacked these safeguards. This seems to be an analogous case to me. Hopefully, this understanding will help ICCSD people to craft solid policy that can benefit the community collectively. I doubt anyone wants a policy designed by a "lobbyist."

Chris said...

Anonymous -- Thanks for commenting! I don't think Stone would qualify as a "lobbyist" under any of the federal lobbying disclosure laws, because he is not being paid to push someone else's agenda, and again, he has no personal financial interest in the passage of the diversity policy. Requiring ordinary citizens to disclose their contacts with their elected representatives would go far beyond any disclosure laws we have now.

As for whether anyone would want a policy designed by a lobbyist, I can speak only for myself, but I think it should depend on whether it's a good policy, not on who designed it. I don't care what agendas are "associated with" a policy; I care what agenda the policy itself promotes, which I can best determine by reading it.

I'm sure there are lots of lobbyist-drafted policies that I'd happily agree with -- if I happen to have the same positions as the lobbyist. I agree a lot with the ACLU, but I don't think the mere fact that a proposal is drafted by the ACLU is a good reason to support it; it depends what the proposal is.