Friday, September 02, 2005

Stillwater: GOP Shoots Self in Foot At School Board

When state legislators reveal that they are unfamiliar with the realities of school funding in their own districts—wow, that’s really embarrassing. Last week Senator Brian LeClair was forced to admit that he has been out of touch with what’s going on in this school district since January.

And whose fault is that? According to Senator LeClair, it’s Stillwater’s fault, it’s the School Board’s fault, it’s anybody else’s fault--that he, LeClair, doesn’t know what’s really going on in his own constituency.

Unfortunately for LeClair, this view is untenable. When Senator LeClair presented his erroneous budget figures to the School Board at a televised public meeting, a humble civil servant corrected him instantly. The realities of the School Budget weren’t “concealed” from him, as he suggested in an angry and paranoid press release following the meeting. As LeClair learned to his chagrin that night, the facts about the district were available to any member of the public for the asking.

Yet in LeClair’s sad world of self-pitying fantasy, it’s the School Board’s fault. Or it’s the City’s fault--that he, LeClair, didn’t check his facts with locals before voting on a key education funding bill.

How out of touch with your constituents can you get? If you were a state senator voting on education funding, wouldn’t you want to see the most recent figures before you voted? Wouldn’t you want to check your information with local educators and officials from your district, to be sure it was still current? Why wait til after you vote, and get all embarrassed when it is revealed that you and your colleagues have not known what’s really going on for more than seven months? Especially if your ignorance causes you to screw up the school budget prediction by millions of dollars. Especially if you claim—as LeClair has always claimed—to be some kind of big expert on budget and taxes and fiscal policy and funding for education.

Instead of accepting responsibility, LeClair “lashed out” with his press release. Another act of political hara-kiri by LeClair. Because in order to accuse the School Board and the City, LeClair must implicitly admit that he, LeClair, does not know what’s going on in his own district. It is of course his job to know what’s going on in his own district; it’s his job to make sure that the facts and figures he relies on are accurate; it’s his job to stay in close communication with School Board members and city officials so that his information is accurate and up-to-date.

But according to LeClair’s press release, he didn’t have a clue. And remember: LeClair is the guy who publicly and repeatedly claimed that education was his number one priority! It’s as if George W. Bush sent out a press release that inadvertently revealed that he didn’t know where Iraq is. (“If necessary, we will cross the Iraqi border into North Korea…”)

LeClair, Dean and Charron really should try to keep up. I mean, gee whiz, the funding problems and cuts to school services in their districts were in all the papers. Maybe LeClair, Dean and Charron should all start attending School Board meetings regularly, huh? So they can find out what’s really going on? In the districts they are paid to represent? Since they claim to be “in the know” on education and budget issues?

They could sit there at the meetings silently and listen and take notes, instead of talking all the time. Then I bet they’d know what the hell was going on. It would have been practically impossible for them to make the kind of mistake they made if they’d been listening to the School Board.

Maybe they should write in and tell you folks how many School Board meetings they’ve actually attended since January.

Boy, I’ll bet if they had been conferring with School Board members and city officials about the budget, they wouldn’t have still been relying on incorrect January figures seven months later. Someone would have told LeClair privately, “Hey, Senator, these figures of yours are B.S., man. That’s a clerical error you got there, chief.”

That would have been embarrassing, sure, but not nearly so embarrassing as trumpeting their ignorance of the facts publicly at a televised meeting of the School Board.

Another public relations and policy disaster for LeClair, by LeClair. Boy, for a guy who’s shot himself in the foot so many times, it amazes me that he still supports Conceal-And-Carry.

And this time, he not only shot himself in the foot—he got GOP Representatives Dean and Charron, too! BANG! BANG! BANG! They went to that School Board meeting with him! Thus LeClair managed to demonstrate publicly that none of these Republican politicians knew what the hell was really going on with local education funding during the last TWO legislative sessions!

William Prendergast is the author of the crime thriller Forbidden Hollywood and feels that taxpayers, parents, and schoolchildren can do better than this in terms of representation in St. Paul.
(Originally published on or about September 1, 2005)


At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

Back in or around September, before you were unduly terminated, you published a piece about the "three amigos" or the "three banditos". Would you be so kind as to reproduce that here? I was trying to tell another reader about that piece, but could not do it justice. Thanks for your time.


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