Stillwater: The column that got me fired.
Two old Stillwater pals were sitting at the counter in the diner, having their pie and coffee.
“So who’s the conservatives on the School Board are these days?”
“Well, ya got Coach Thole, right? And ya got Junker. And then there’s the two newest conservatives, Hoffman and Kunze. They’re the majority on the Board. Those support all that Republican we-ain’t- gonna-have-no-new-taxes bull. That’s how we got the schools into this mess and got our property taxes raised in the first place, ya know. But Thole’s the only one of them up for re-election this year.”
“So there’s only one conservative seat up for grabs, then.”
“Yah but ya see, one theory is that if there’s a conservative elected onto the school board this year, we’ll get an even more conservative majority on the school board for years to come.”
“How ya figure that?”
“Well ya see, there’s a theory goin’ around that two conservative members of the school board, Hoffman and Junker, might retire. And maybe they’re going to wait to retire until January.”
“Why would they wait til then?”
“So the Board can appoint their replacements without havin’ no election. See, if Junker and Hoffman retire next year, the School Board gets to decide who their replacements on the Board will be. Not the voters. Ya get me? The replacements would be appointed by the School Board, instead of having to run for office. The voters would have no say in who was going to fill those two seats, see? A conservative majority on the school board could appoint people who never even had no chance of being elected, they could appoint replacements who are even further to the right than Hoffman or Junker. They could appoint Kate Carlsen to the School Board, even though her candidacy didn’t even make it through the primary. Hell, a conservative majority could appoint Lu Shaughnessy to replace Hoffman or Junker.”
“Yah, and even before this election we got all these conservatives on the school board, they voted to cut the school bus services, they fired the kid’s crossing guards out on Stillwater Boulevard—“
“On Highway 5? Jeez, that’s a four lane highway, ain’t it?”
“Yah, well now they’re puttin’ the crossin’ guards back cause the big election’s comin’ up, see?”
“Oh, so they look good for the election. I getcha.”
“Yeah, but after the election’s over, if the right wingers get in again they’re gonna start cuttin’ again.”
“Ya think they’ll cut back school buses some more?”
“Ah, they wanna keep the taxes down. Conservatives really hate the public schools, ya know. They wanna take money out of the public schools until the public schools fail and die. They sure as hell don’t wanna pay taxes to support public schools.”
“Yeah, but they say they support education.”
“Ah, that’s a bunch of baloney. Look at the record around here of the conservative school board members and all those conservatives in St. Paul cutting Stillwater school funding. You look at what’s been cut here in the last couple of years, you know they’re all lyin’ like dogs.”
“So who’s the conservatives runnin’ for School Board now?”
“Well, there’s George Thole, he’s already on the board and he’s a conservative. The conservative runnin’ who ain’t already on the Board are Carlsen and Rheinberger.”
“Carlsen got knocked out in the primary.”
“That don’t mean nothin’, the last two conservative candidates got in as write-ins; Carlsen could do the same. There’s enough dummies in this town that’d vote for her ‘cause they don’t understand how it raises their own property taxes. Then there’s this other candidate they got runnin’, Rheinberger, he’s real right wing, but he’s keepin’ a lid on it these days. He’s tryin’ to fool the voters into thinkin’ he’s mainstream or somethin’.”
“What makes ya think he’s a secret right winger?”
“Well, for while there, he was tryin’ to persuade folks that we oughtta sell off the public library so’s we could all save the taxes.”
“Oh ho ho! Yeah, I remember that now. Jeez, what a character. Didn’t he say we oughtta burn it down for the insurance?”
“Nah, nah, that wasn’t Rheinberger, that was Prennergass, the goofball who writes in the Gazette.”
“Hey, ain’t that Pernerfass right dere?”
“Right dere, sittin’ on the stool next to ya, ya blind old dope! Hey, Brennerpass, you tryin’ to listen in on our conversation?”
“Well no, gentlemen, but I couldn’t help overhearing—“
“Go on, get outta here, Blendergass! Go have yer own conversation, if you can find anyone who’ll talk to ya, ya...”
And so I got up and left the diner and walked out into the night, along the rain-soaked streets of Stillwater—alone.
William Prendergast is the author of the crime thriller “Forbidden Hollywood” and he thinks it’s ironic that you conservatives of the St. Croix Valley voted for a bunch of conservative legislators and conservative school board members whose policies have just raised your property taxes by 8%--in one year. Not counting the school levy, by the way.