Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Distaste for democracy

Our school board members are apparently determined to fill the board vacancy by appointment, rather than by holding a special election. This is a defensible stance, but I think a disappointing one, for the reasons I discussed here. The seat can be filled in only two ways: by the incumbents or by the voters. Letting the voters choose is the more democratic, less self-serving option.

What’s especially interesting is that the board is also apparently determined to choose someone who will not run for re-election. This means that not only will the seat be filled by appointment, but the appointee will not face any democratic accountability for his or her actions while on the board. We’re supposed to see that, somehow, as doing the public a favor.

I know there are arguments to support both of those choices, and reasonable people can disagree. But there seems to be something about school governance that leads officials to gravitate, when given a choice, to the less democratic option. Education seems to touch some chord of discomfort or distaste that people have toward otherwise fairly ordinary features of democracy. Somehow there’s always a good reason for setting them aside.

Good opinion piece by Hani Elkadi here.


Julie VanDyke said...

If another parent hits you with a verbal "rock" over a difference of opinions on school district related issues, or candidates for the open seat they should either fill with Phil Hemingway or not fill with anyone to then trigger a public choice for a director that serves out another 2 year term, the answer is not for as many people as possible to pick up rocks and hit you with them to. That's called a mob. Mob's are exactly why it should be either Phil, who was the next highest voted candidate in the last two elections (reflecting two elections worth of public support just a handful shy of the person that did) or special election. Murley spends thousands on consultants all the time for absurd marketing public outreach he and his team should be doing in the first place for product the greater public has little confidence in and, therefore, the cost of a special election would be worth the credibility gained by, and increased trust in, the person who wins the seat. Other than the justification that Phil has earned by twice being the next highest voted candidate, nothing but a special election will pass the smell test. A two year seat should be determined by public vote, not the already transparency challenged ICCSD board and administration. They have nothing to gain by doing anything else since it will only cause more infighting amongst the factions already locked in a district civil war of priorities. How many of us want more of that?
Though I have to also say, I have heard of another very unexpected but delightful surprise in the application pool and I am very excited about that possibility too. They could bring SO much new perspective the board and district have been lacking ;-) and they have the leadership street cred to pull it off. That's ALL I'm sayin about it, don't ask...I'll not jinx it.
If they appoint Karla Cook to that seat though, when she did not even come close to winning as a seated incumbent, it would be so far beyond inappropriate as to cause a mob. I think she was a better addition to the board than Marla, Sally, or Jeff by leaps and bounds, but that still wouldn't make such a move even remotely appropriate when she didn't win sufficient votes in the last election and shouldn't therefore, be handed the seat over others that beat her vote for vote.

Julie VanDyke said...

Hani Elkadi is 100% correct and, if the gang of 4 votes to appoint Karla Cook (who I actually think pretty highly of in comparison with her peers), as has been relayed as the inside track from a variety of sources who indicate it was discussed and privately agreed to by Kirschling and Lynch, etc., as part of a pre-vote deal to make Lynch president, then any if them who nominate or vote Karla Cook back into a seat she was underwhelmingly able to garner votes for in the last election will only further erode confidence in their ethics and behavior regarding board actions, the district, and their responsibility to honor open meeting law further than they have already made disappointingly likely.

Appointing Karla Cook to this seat (who I think pretty highly of in compared to her peers), as I have been hearing from a variety of sources has already been agreed to by Kirschling and Lynch as part of a pre-vote deal to make Lynch president, will only erode confidence in their ethical behavior regarding the district and their responsibility to honor open meeting law further than they have already sunken it to in this game of magic beans.

The last time a rat jumped ship, Karla and I ran for that 2 year seat. The board members, when deciding who to appoint short term until the already scheduled upcoming board election at that time (which presented different options than are currently in play according to the county auditor blog), including Patti and Tuyet, determined they would not appoint someone who had run in the just previous election, i.e., the next highest vote winner, that delightful woman from the North Corridor, Anne?, because, as was stated then, any candidate who hadn't won in the last election was, in their words, a "loser". I thought that was an unreasonably offensive word to use as, in my opinion, anyone who volunteers to run for school board is pretty brave and certainly no loser just because they didn't win a seat. However, since the board made that an outright reason NOT to appoint the next highest vote garner from the previous election, because anyone who didn’t win was a "loser", to now appoint someone who did not win a seat AS AN INCUMBENT would be completely inappropriate.

IF the board viewpoint is going to change 180 on appointing candidates from the previous election who did not win a seat, they should appoint the next highest vote garnering candidate not to win a seat or they should not appoint any previous -OR- already declared, even informally, candidate at all.

I agree with Hani overall, a special election would be the best thing to do, but I think they should either appoint the next highest vote earner in the last election -OR- appoint nobody within the 30 allotted days and hold a special election. Nothing else is likely to pass the smell test, appearing as anything less than yet another behind closed door decision made out of the public eye of the spirit, or the rules, of Iowa Open Meeting Law by this board, superintendent, and administration.