5 new board members and back to the drawing board on the referendum

First off, hats off to the candidates that won a seat on the school board:

  • Amy Armstrong
  • Chris Kloeppel
  • Kathy Richards
  • Kathy Shannon
  • Jonathan Westfield (2-year seat)

UPDATE: Chambanamoms posted an Instagram pic if you want to see them

With a 10:4 ratio voting against the referendum, I was actually surprised with such a huge margin; I expected it to be much closer. Obviously, the Keep Central Central’s strong campaign efforts (and lack of a corresponding thrust by the “Yes” crowd) made an impression, which is also reflected in the choice of board members; every candidate that took a strong stand for the referendum failed to claim a seat.

So this is what democracy looks like at the ballot. Now the harder part – how do you get all those “No” votes to actually agree on a solution, and then sell that to the everyone else? This will be a challenge for the new board. Another challenge will be if they desire to choose a new president, and building bridges with the North End Breakfast Club (which I think is very important and healthy).

For the referendum, I would love to see a multi-staged effort take place. First, break the referendum up into pieces that actually address individual goals. One for Dr. Howard, one for the current Central (ie, the dreaded lack of AC we keep hearing about in the summer months), one for Centennial and one for a new Central. All of that needs to be put under the umbrella of a comprehensive and community-vetted long-term strategic plan than can be summarized in a one-page infographic. I would love to see an effort towards participatory budgeting whereby the guts of how finances work are simplified and made accessible to the average Joe, and give stakeholders a sense of ownership by giving them the power to vote on more granular items (as opposed to a carte blanche $144 million).

Here are a few short-term goals I am going to push the new school board to jump on.

  1. Figure out a way to have informal get-togethers that do not violate OMA but yet do not require an agenda, much less Robert’s Rules. Most of the candidates have already been practicing this; now to make it official. Happy Hours at Jupiters/Sun Singer/Blind Pig? 🙂
  2. Even though KCC won tonight, don’t let the referendum dominate your role as a board member. Keep things in perspective. Focus first (please!) on governance and serving the people that elected you.
  3. Connect with the North End. Make it a priority to adopt some of their issues, like inequities in discipline and the achievement gap. Jamar’s voice will be missed, so find a way to fill the gap.

There are very exciting times ahead. The public has voted in some good people, even if they are not the ones you wanted. Each of them has promised to bring a listening ear, so it is up to you to make sure they do exactly that.

"Democracy in action"

Last week, Meg Dickinson got the public wondering about a mysterious person who urged some board members to support one of their own as president. I don’t know how many hits the NG article got, but my own post had over 300 hits, which is on the high end for me. I also had a number of folks contact me privately asking questions and opining thoughts.

This morning, Jim Dey has an editorial (not online as of this writing). I do not always agree with Mr. Dey, but he does make a very convincing point; why all the secrecy? I have quoted one of his statements as the topic for this blog because I think, in general, most of us do not even know what democracy looks like. We have too few role models to follow that can show us what being participatory is all about. Having said that, pointing fingers is not helpful at all, either. All the people mentioned in the editorial have stories to tell. Perhaps they don’t want to tell the NG – and for that I do not fault them. It is frustrating when you want to tell a story, only to have it rehashed at the whim of someone else. Also, I have heard that the “requests for comment” was a bit of s stretch, says those who are “reticent.”

So here is my Monday morning challenge; show me more democracy in action. What does it look like when taxpayers and voters are involved, informed, educated and given a space to deliberate? What does it look like when elected officials are not cagey with knowledge? What does it look like when the newspaper editor talks to all the people involved? What does it look like when a thousand people are letting board members know what they think?

Show me what democracy is.

 

UPDATE: Editorial now online (no comments, yet?!?)

http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2013-06-03/era-openness-ends-hurry.html