Thursday, January 05, 2006

Stillwater: Question for Councilman David Junker

Today I sent this off by email to Stillwater City Council Member David Junker, son of School Board Member "Choc" Junker.

Dear Councilman Junker:

For some time now, I have been asking members of the local School Board the following question about your father’s health.

“On a scale of one to ten, with “ten” representing “fully functional” and “one” representing “severely impaired,” how would you rate the current mental capabilities—including the ability to concentrate on and understand issues before the School Board—of School Board member “Choc” Junker?”

I am sorry to have to trouble you with this, but none of your father’s colleagues seems willing to give me a straight answer to the question. You, your father and the members of the school board are all elected public officials and it is important for the public to know whether or not you believe your father is able to understand school board business and exercise his independent judgment to make decisions about issues before the board. That is why I am asking you: does your father have problems concentrating on or understanding School Board business? Has your father ever been diagnosed as having some mental infirmity? Is he taking medications or seeing any medical professional to help him to deal with those kind of problems?


William J. Prendergast


At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last night's board meeting, Junker was elected the Secretary to the Board - again. The Secretary's duties used to include a final edit of the minutes for each board meeting and signing legal documents. Can't imagine that Junker can understand the minutes, let alone edit them. Wonder who does that job for him.

Last year, he was also the District 916 board member, receiving over $4000 per year for that additional duty. Gee, I bet he did a lot to earn that $$!

At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only was he elected secretary again, but he offered a motion to increase board members salaries by $200/year. (It failed) What does he do that justifies the current salary of $4400?

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proposing a pay increase (albeit a small one) after years of budget cuts sounds a bit crazy, doesn't it?

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I apologize as I tried to comment on a more recent posting of yours but for some reason an unable to. Most of this, however, still applies.

I can appreciate your views on many things, especially those of our inept president, however, you continue to miss some key items in many of your strong statements against some members of the school board. A couple of notes: First, you didn't exactly break the story about the 4-3 split and while I can't recall when it appeared, I am quite sure the Gazette ran a story last year commenting about this split you seem to think has previously gone unnoticed. Secondly, though I live in Stillwater I do not know Choc Junker personally except for what I've seen on television, but you are simply showing how out of touch you are about certain members of this school board when you continue to call him a conservative. Ask anyone in the know (I do know at least two people who are friends of his) and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that Junker is farther left than even you. Maybe one of the reasons so few take you seriously is that your premises for some arguments are so flawed on such basic levels as this. You may also recall that the only reason there is this current split is that previous members of the school board (perhaps sharing a liberal perspective, though I wouldn't want to be so presumptive) decided to invest about $1.5 million to ensure that students in two of its dozens of schools each have laptops. Good luck ever passing another levy after that mismanagement of funds. Even the most liberal spenders should cringe at that and your side certainly burried itself with that blunder. Another thing that I feel you overestimate is politics in general at the school board level, though maybe I'm just naive. Your pal Thole may be a conservative, but do you honestly think anyone who spent as many years as a teach and coach doesn't want as much money as possible for our state's schools, or is it impossible to be a conservative and still care about funding education? I can guarantee the school board did not want to choose those busing cuts you like to bring up, but sometimes tough choices need to be made and they certainly weren't voting to cut programs because they themselves are conservative, but rather were reacting to what the presently conservative state government was forcing upon them. I guess you could make a case that three of those conservative board members voted for Pawlenty in the last election and that is the reason they have been put in the situation of being forced to make cuts, though I think that's a stretch as Pawlenty won by more than three votes. You're a smart guy and I'm sure you can see this, even if the truth does make for a more boring blog.

At 9:57 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Thank you for writing in. Your critique of my commentary on the School Board was remarkably thoughtful, given the fact that most of the people who disagree with me on this blog write in to tell me they hate my fat face, et cetera. I hope that you will continue to write in and to correct me whenever you think I’ve got something wrong—I can always use more and better information. I won’t reply to every point you raise, because that would make my response even longer than your comment, and this could turn into a Russian novel. (Suffice to say that I have read your arguments, evaluated them, and concluded that I am right, and you are wrong. But if, in the following, I failed to address some issue that really bothers you, write in again and I’ll deal with it in a future post.)

You write: “Ask anyone in the know (I do know at least two people who are friends of his) and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that Junker is farther left than even you.”

Well, well, well. Now I must admit, that is news to me. I had been working for and with Gazette personnel for more than two years, under four different editors and perhaps as many as a score of different reporters, and during the whole time that I was in and out of that office, having lunch with and corresponding with those people—not one of them, not even one—ever so much as hinted to me that “Choc” Junker was even more liberal than I was. So according to the friends you mention, my premise is all wrong, and Choc is more liberal than Bill Prendergast, the liberalist liberal that ever liberalized in Stillwater.

Now that IS astonishing. Because before I ran that piece naming Choc as one of the conservatives on the School Board, I made a point of having it vetted (checked and read in advance) by the Gazette reporter then assigned to cover the School Board and by my editor, who covered the School Board prior to her promotion. The reason I asked them to check out that column so thoroughly in advance of publication was so that I was sure I had my facts right before I published. And, despite what your friends may tell you about Choc Junker’s core political beliefs or party affiliation--neither of these two professionals, presumably “in the know” and well versed in local School Board issues, raised any objection to my identifying Junker as one of the conservatives on the School Board. Not only that—my column, like every Gazette column, was subject to a “round robin” of proof reading for error by the entire news staff, and not one of those “people in the know” raised ANY objection to my identifying Junker as a conservative member of the school board. And it’s odd that no one wrote in to correct me on Junker’s political orientation after the piece was published—isn’t it? I was never asked for a correction on the “conservative” tag by Junker, or by any of his colleagues, or by any of his family--at the time, or since.

Now how would your friends, who claim Junker is more liberal than I am, explain that? I don’t know, but here’s how I explain it: I suppose that my editor and the school board reporter raised no objection to me identifying Junker as one of board’s conservative because, then as now, Junker regularly votes with the conservatives on the board. If you vote with the conservatives so many times that it ends up being described as a regular 4-3 split on the board—well then, you’re a conservative, aren’t you?

It doesn’t matter to me at all how Junker describes his politics to other people, whether or not locals think he’s a conservative, whether or not he thinks he’s a liberal. It doesn’t matter to me if he’s a Democrat, registered or whatever—if he votes with the conservatives (and in doing so makes a conservative majority on the school board a reality)—then the guy’s a conservative, whether he understands that or not, whether his friends think of him that way or not. (As for his being a Democrat, ask former school board candidate John Rheinberger if the mere fact that you’re a Democrat is enough, by itself, to convince Bill Prendergast that you can’t be a conservative. Astonishing as it may seem, there are Democrats—right here, in the St. Croix Valley—who vote for and advocate right-wing conservative policies.) I don’t care what Junker said or sincerely believed in the past—if he’s voting with the conservatives on the Board, and helping them divide all the key board offices among the conservatives—the man’s a conservative, and it’s fair to call him that--no matter what he thinks he is or says he is, and no matter how he would like to be perceived. For this reason, I stand by my description of Junker as one of the school board’s conservatives, and I’ll continue to do so as long he continues to vote with the conservative bloc on the board.

As for “so few people in the community taking me seriously”—well, some of the key people in this community took me so seriously that they actually took the trouble to get me fired. For printing a column about the School Board elections that the Gazette never retracted. The reason they couldn’t retract it is that there was nothing false or inaccurate in that column—how could there be, when I had it vetted by the Gazette staff in advance of publication? So I’m sorry, but your claim that I’ve got my basic facts wrong just doesn’t hold water. Some people still take me seriously, I think you’d be surprised by some of the names of the people who regularly read this blog. Quite a respectable little list, many of which I’m sure you’d recognize—but of course, I won’t disclose these publicly because I’d like these people to keep on reading and giving me stuff anonymously, since that’s how they want to do things.

Okay. So much for me. You don’t seem to have any “take” on Mr. Junker’s current mental health. You claim an acquaintance with at least two people who know him well, and you seem like an articulate, intelligent person. Why don’t you ask these friends of yours their opinion about the matter and write in again to tell me what they say. So far I haven’t found one person who will assert that Choc’s mental capabilities are fully functional. Nobody seems to want to put that in writing and sign their name to it, but everyone takes me so seriously when I ask about it.

At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's one thing I just don't think you have a good grasp of Bill, and that is that for the most part school board politics are not about being conservative or liberal. Yes there is a 4-3 split on the current board, but what exactly are the major issues that they've addressed that necessarily would fall along party lines? They may be staunchly conservative, but I don't think most votes would even reflect that, unless they are voting to cut money from their own district, which has not happened and in fact I believe each of the four are on the record as having supported past referendums and have suggested they are necessary for the future of the district. Hmmm, sounds like Republicans supporting tax increases to me. Your idea of a split is not feasable because one of your alleged Republican board members doesn't support the GOP. Is Choc a Republican because he votes with some conservatives on the school board but hasn't voted for a conservative in an election for decades. Isn't it possible that the issues the board deals with are simply not partisan issues but the band of four just tends to agree with each other on the majority of issues. As far as nobody notifying you about Choc's true political leanings (again, just ask and you will find out how wrong you have been on that particularly important point that apparently is your premise for so much of your ramblings against the current board), I don't want to speak for anyone, but is it possible they consider you so insignificant (especially now that you're out of circulation) that it's not worth the bother?

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Prendergast said...

It is indeed possible that the editors and journalists I checked with (prior to identifying Junker as a conservative) NOW consider me so insignificant that it's "not worth the bother" of straightening me out--and thank you so much for that kind thought; what a classy person you are. But what is not possible is that that all the Gazette personnel would sit idly by and permit a glaring, obvious error about Junker's politics to get into print in the first place. When I was writing for the paper and printed that Junker was a member of the conservative bloc on the school board, it was the JOB of the editor and the reporter to “straighten me out” if I made any egregious error of fact. The reason that they DIDN’T correct me about Junker’s politics is that I was RIGHT about Junker’s politics—he is indeed a member of the conservative bloc on the school board. I may be a complete and utter insignificant nobody today (as you suggest) but back then my regular column on politics was regularly checked by the editors and the people who covered the school board. If my opinion of Junker’s politics was obviously wrong, the editor and the reporters would have made it their business to remove any such error--PRIOR TO PUBLICATION—because failure to remove an unfounded or silly accusations prior to publication would have made THEM look bad. But they didn't remove the allegation, because Junker DOES vote with the conservatives on the board. Sorry about all the CAPITAL LETTERS, but I’ve already explained this to you, and I feel that EMPHASIS may be HELPFUL to you, because you seem to have some trouble UNDERSTANDING THE FACTS.

I wasn't wrong about Junker then, and I am not wrong now, and if your friends insist that Junker's not a member of the conservative bloc they're demonstrably wrong--all they have to do is look at his voting record on the school board. Thole, Kunze and Hoffman are conservatives--read the letters to the newspapers, read the stuff Kunze put on his web page, read the stuff that Lou Hoffman writes in to the Gazette on the letters page, read Thole’s regular column. Read their comments, their inspiring anecdotes, arguments, proposals. Conservative, conservative, conservative. They're conservatives--and Junker votes with them. Other peoples' opinions about Junker's history of liberalism simply don't matter. You just don't get it, do you? If Junker votes with the conservatives on the board, and votes to appoint the conservatives on the board to all the key offices on the board--then the guy IS a conservative on the school board! Where did I lose you, in that last sentence? It doesn't matter what you say, or what Junker's friends say, or even what Junker says--it's what he DOES on the school board that makes him a member of the conservative bloc.

Print out these facts and memorize them and keep repeating them to yourself over and over until it sinks in. I’m sorry if I seem rude, but I just don't have the energy to explain it to you eight more times.

Another quick point you need to know. Is it possible to be a conservative and still care about funding public schools? In my opinion, no, it's not. It's possible (and politically profitable) to be a conservative and PRETEND to care about funding public schools--but in reality and as a matter of ideology, conservatives hate/hate/hate public schools as an American societal institution, and many of the conservative movements best efforts are directed toward destroying this country's historic commitment to providing quality public schools—conservatives want to privatize public education and kill off public schools by starving them of funding, redirecting education funds into privatized school scams, discrediting the teacher's unions, etc. etc. Don’t believe me? Turn on conservative talk radio, read the conservative columnists, maybe you’ll believe them.

Finally--I notice that you too, ducked my question about Junker's current mental health. You're very glad to give me your take on the 4-3 split and an informal (if ill-informed) history of the board's voting. (e.g. You allege that Choc hasn't voted for a conservative in an election for decades. But didn't Choc just vote to appoint the other members of the conservative bloc to all the key offices on the board--again?)

I asked you directly about Choc's current mental health—and I receive the same stony, panicked silence I get from anyone else—even though you’re writing in anonymously. Surely the issue of Mr. Junker’s health is more important than whether or not I accept his alleged "liberalism." If it turns out that Junker is sick and currently unable to understand the issues before the board, the conservative/liberal thing doesn't even matter anymore, does it? If Junker is sick and the other members of the board know it—then who is it that guiding his hand, telling him to vote with the conservative bloc? Is it Thole? His sons? If we find out whether or not Junker is sick, then we'll find out all about nature of the 4-3 split and how the school board really works, these days. Please seek out the truth and offer an opinion. Otherwise it seems as though you're less interested in the realities of the school board than you are in insulting or discrediting me. Please, in the future--try harder to get your facts straight--and less about Bill, more about Junker's health.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this. I am certainly not a doctor and have no comment on Choc's mental health. I did ask one of my friends who indicated Choc doesn't communicate as well as he used to but is entirely capable of making informed decisions (I do recall him actually voicing dissention for the cuts to busing) so he must not have realized what he was voting for or who to listen to on that one. I guess you find the Stillwater Gazette to be far more infallible than even you, though it sounds like both of you dropped the ball big time on that one. I'm sure their fact-checkers appreciated your carelessness with a fairly important detail of your argument. Personally, I prefer to take responsibility for my own words and deeds. I have addressed your question for me, now how about you answer the one that you have tried so hard to avoid: WHICH SCHOOL BOARD DECISIONS AND ISSUES ARE INHERENTLY POLITICAL? It seems to me the board is reacting to what occurs at the state level. I don't think they are the ones asking for less money from the state. By the way, I have never denied there was a block, I just question your assertions that the block is set up solely based on conservative/liberal ideals. I maintain that voting with the current majority in the current 4-3 split doesn't make Choc a conservative, it just makes him agree on non-partisan issues with three other people who happen to be conservative. Meanwhile, I'll just wait to hear about all of these local school board votes that you feel are solely the result of the board members' party affiliations (or invented affiliation in the case Choc). I just don't see partisan politics playing a role at the school board level and I think there's a legitimate reason board members don't appear on the ballot with (GOP), (DFL) or etc. next to their names.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. It seems that I have managed to wring at least one small concession from you—you concede, in your last post, that three of the current board members are indeed conservatives, and that Junker votes with them. I say the fact that Junker votes with them makes Junker a de facto conservative, you disagree; and since your reasons for disagreeing don’t make sense to me (you seem to think that what your anonymous friends tell you about Junker’s liberalism outweighs his history of voting with conservatives on the board)—well, we just have to agree to disagree. I stand by my conclusion—if Junker votes with and for the conservatives on the board, he’s a de facto and de jure member of the conservative bloc on the board. You haven’t presented anything in your arguments so far to convince me otherwise, because I am not concerned with what Junker believes he is, or says he is, or what your anonymous friends say he is—it’s the way he votes (with and for the conservative bloc) that convinces me he’s part of the conservative bloc on the school board.

One thing that puzzles me—how can you logically continue to insist that “partisan politics don’t play a role at the school board level,” when you yourself acknowledge that at least three of the current board members are conservatives, and acknowledge the reality of a four-three split--with all the conservatives on one side of the split? You think that’s just coincidence; all the board members you admit to be conservative, on the same side of the split? It seems like you’re acknowledging the reality of an ideological split on the board, and at the same time yelling “No, no, it can’t be so, it’s non-partisan anyway!”

Thank you for finally addressing the issue of Mr. Junker’s health. You say that one of your friends indicated Choc doesn't communicate as well as he used to but is entirely capable of making informed decisions. Thank you for providing the kind of opinion that I asked you for; but if it’s true, why won’t his colleagues on the school board say the same thing and for the record? I presume you’ve read the question I sent to Thole, Kunze, Hoffman, Dave Junker--and noted their replies or the lack of the same. If Junker’s capable and competent, why don’t they say so for the record? Why the stonewalling? As evidence of Mr. Junker’s good mental health, you offer a second-hand opinion from an anonymous person. And that’s fine; I asked you to send in a second-hand opinion from an anonymous person. Thanks again, but you don’t think that that by itself is going to settle this issue—do you? At the end of the day, all I’ve got so far as evidence that Junker is able to fulfill his duties on the school board is the comment you forwarded me from an anonymous friend. Against that anonymous “testimony,” I weigh the fact that his colleagues have so far refused to vouch for his current health, the fact that they so far have refused to register an opinion or respond to specific questions (and the fact of Hoffman’s assertion--that she couldn’t answer my question about Mr. Junker’s mental faculties might constitute slander.)

For that matter—why aren’t you signing your name? I respect your right not to, but I’m curious about your reasons. I sign my name to the blog and to the post because 1) I genuinely believe that what I’m saying has a basis in fact, and 2) so that people know that I’m accountable for the opinions that go out under my name. Why aren’t you letting us know who you are? It would be interesting for the rest of us to know where all this “anonymous” opinion and information is coming from; what are your reasons for remaining anonymous? I mean, you’ve implied that I made some error in describing Junker’s conservative status on the board (I didn’t) and that I’m now trying to sluff off responsibility for some error on the Gazette staff (I’m not, and I couldn’t, because there was no error), and then you try to “out-integrity” me by making the following claim about yourself: “Personally, I prefer to take responsibility for my own words and deeds.” Really? You prefer to take responsibility for your own words and deeds, but you’re signing every post “Anonymous”? And all of the friends you mention are “anonymous,” too? Is that what they call you at home, when it’s time for you to “take responsibility for your words and deeds?” That must look funny; I’d like to be there in person sometime to see how that works.

Next: Your “biggie”-- WHICH SCHOOL BOARD DECISIONS AND ISSUES ARE INHERENTLY POLITICAL? Contrary to your assertion, I haven’t been trying to avoid answering that one at all. As I told you at the outset of this exchange, I will try my best to answer each of your objections individually, as you re-raise them. Most of the objections you make to my Junker/School Board coverage are raised in your very first comment; the reason I didn’t answer them all at the same time is that these posts are much LOOOOOONGER than usual, and, in my experience, readers don’t read LOOOOONG articles, comments or posts. That’s why I offered to address each issue as you re-raised it. I’m not “avoiding” answering anything, I just want to give out my answers in digestible portions.

So here’s the answer to this question. WHICH SCHOOL BOARD DECISIONS AND ISSUES ARE INHERENTLY POLITICAL? There is an example so obvious that we’ve already discussed it. If there is—as you now acknowledge—a four-three split on the board with at least three conservatives in the majority (I would say four, but I’m humoring you), then the vote on how to distribute the board offices is “inherently political.” The conservatives on the school board vote themselves all the offices—chair, vice-chair, treasurer and clerk. No offices voted to school board members who aren’t also members of the “four” part of the four-three split. Ideological voting, along ideological lines—all important offices on the board go to the conservatives. And Junker, who you still say is liberal, who you still say “never voted for a conservative”, supports that—voting to keep all the offices in the hands of the board’s conservatives. No office for Buchmann, with thirty years experience on the board; no office for Buchholz, who kicked Thole’s ass in the last election. Not even a token of non-partisanship there, by the “gang of four,” now how about that? The minority will cross partisan lines and vote Thole as Chair, because they think he will help get the levy through—but will that conservative majority toss the minority a bone of non-partisanship by making Buchholz or Buchmann secretary? No way, baby, because this majority is partisan, partisan, partisan. No courtesy, just 4-3 bullying. This is about ego and ideology, even if it’s all on a Lilliputian scale.

You want more examples than that? I’m sorry, but I’m not going to go scurrying through years of back issues of the Gazette and the Board minutes and do all your heavy lifting for you. You do the math, you do the homework; why don’t you bring me the records of all the 4-3 split votes, and I’ll give you more examples of which “four” votes serve a conservative agenda. But if you do bother to do that, make sure you bring ALL the 4-3 vote records with you, not just the ones that shore up your selective view of reality.

Please—take off the blinders, if only for your own sake. The people who read this blog know that there is a conservative bloc on the school board (if they didn’t believe me, you just told them) and that Junker supports the conservative bloc. They know that conservatives currently dominate and that it is indeed a local partisan battleground—whether you are can see it or not; whether you want to see it or not, Anonymous.

Next: Why don’t you tell me again about how the current board is really a non-partisan victim of the big, bad conservative no-new-taxes GOP legislature in St. Paul, and how they are simply helpless to protest the cuts to local funding mandated by Governor Pawlenty and the GOP legislature? Come on, let’s do that one next; I feel good.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will try to keep this response to a reasonable length. Also, in reading your latest response it occurs to me that maybe the reason the Gazette really got rid of you is because you tend to ramble on and on and fail to make your point succinctly, but that's merely speculation on my part. For the record, there is 4-3 divide on the school board, but your example is embarrassingly poor. I guess you're incapable of naming any issues (believe me, there have been many in the past few years) on which their votes on the school board have been influenced by partisan political ideology. I just don't see it. I'm talking about real issues here, because choosing the officers doesn't qualify in my book. What's important are votes on laptops, busing, teacher contracts and issues that actually affect students and the future of this school district, not the fact that a new board member still wet behind the ears couldn't get named secretary of the school board. I don't want to get too philosophical, but if a conservative bloc of the school board votes on non-partisan issues can that really make someone who votes similarly a de facto conservative. Me thinks not. It does, however, mean that he agrees with the majority more times than not. Addressing another of your points, I prefer to remain annonymous, but as soon as you can point out any real factual errors or twisting of facts that I have made (similar to your blatant misrepresentation of Choc's political leanings) I would be more than happy to share my identity. As always, thanks for the opportunity to set you straight.

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Gee, you sound a little testy.

Don’t worry; I was not fired from the Gazette because I am incapable of making my point “succinctly.” Most of my columns ran more no more than nine hundred words and I regularly received compliments from my editors on my writing style, so you can kick back and relax about that, dude (or dudette; you haven’t disclosed your gender yet, looking forward to that.)

If you will look over my missives to you, you will see that the reason they’re so long is that you began this exchange with many different kinds of accusations and assertions, all of which deserve a full reply.

The reason it seems to you that I am “rambling on” is that I am trying to be nice to you—patiently explaining and re-explaining the facts and the reasoning to you, over and over again, in many different ways, so that even if you insist on disagreeing with my point of view, you will at least understand it. The reason I believed I ought to keep explaining things over and over again is that I thought there was some hope for you.
You see, I credited you with having some intellectual honesty. I was giving you the benefit of a doubt, assuming that you are a reasonable person who was genuinely interested in understanding why I believe what I believe about the board.

So I explained. And re-explained. I am sorry if you see that as ‘rambling’; I see it as a kind of teaching exercise.

If by now you can’t even admit that Junker’s record of regularly voting with the conservatives on the school board, and voting to put them in key posts, makes it fair for me to say that he is one of the conservatives on the board—well, I guess I was wrong about your potential and I don’t know what else to do with you. As far as I can tell, you don’t give any weight at all to Junker’s voting record on the board; that fact just bounces off your head, again and again--you dismiss it out of hand, or, even more incredibly, argue that it is a mere coincidence. All your responses to the evidence I’ve presented of Junker as conservative could be fairly summarized as “He is not! He is not! My trustworthy anonymous friends say so.”

And I don’t think I can persuade you if you have this power to simply ignore your own errors and pretend you never made them—even when your errors are still on record, still staring you in the face, right on this very web page! E.g.: You tell me that Choc hasn’t voted for a conservative in decades, I point out that he’s voted for them as board officers—and then, instead of offering me a graceful “I’m sorry, Bill, I guess I was wrong about that one”--you just give make more snide remarks about me and a repetition of the ridiculous claim that, despite how he votes, and who he votes for, Junker is a liberal. Are you really so insecure in your beliefs and judgment that you can’t even admit you were wrong about THAT particular point, the point about Junker voting school board conservatives into leadership posts?

You challenged me to give you an example of a school board vote along ideological lines, and I gave you one. I give you an example of the most obvious kind of ideological school board vote—votes by one faction (conservatives) to give all the key offices on the board to each other. So you did get your example, but now you simply don’t have the guts to admit what the example proves—on-going conservative partisan fever on the board. Instead, you dismiss it cavalierly, out of hand, with a snap of your pretty fingers, ‘ho-ho, it’s a terrible example that proves nothing’—even though the example is exactly to the point, a blatant and recurring example of the partisanship of the conservatives of the board, an exact and precise demonstration of why you are so wrong in arguing that the current school board is non-partisan.

Do you really expect me—or any intelligent person--to believe that the reason that Buchholz wasn’t voted an office is because she’s “wet behind the ears”? That’s funny. But let’s pretend you’re telling the truth. Why not offer one of the other two minority bloc candidates a post—have the conservative bloc throw ‘em a non-partisan bone, eh? Hey, how about offering Buchmann a post, make him Vice-Chair or something, he’s got thirty years of experience, is that “dry behind the ears” enough for ya? I already asked you why they didn’t vote Buchmann a post, if they’re so non-partisan, but you “forgot” to reply. I mean, wouldn’t they do that, if they (the folks you admit are conservatives and their “liberal” supporter Junker) are so fair-minded, so non-partisan?

Nah, they wouldn’t. Because they are partisan conservatives, my friend.

But I don’t think you’ll ever admit that. I think if Jesus Christ Himself were to return into historical time and testify that “Yea, verily, I say unto thee that Thole, Hoffman, Kunze and Junker constitute a partisan conservative bloc on the school board—“ if God Himself told you, and explained it to you, and showed it to you--you still wouldn’t admit it was so. Jesus could say to you: “Oh ye of little discernment—hast thou not seen Choc’s record of voting with those ye already hath acknowledged to be conservative? Doth not Choc vote these very same conservatives to all ye important posts on ye board, to the exclusion of anyone who is not of the conservative bloc? Is he a liberal, who does this? Is this not partisanship? What art thou, that hast eyes but cannot see, that hast ears but cannot hear; art thou some kind of obstinate blockhead, who simply repeateth over and over again that Bill is wrong and that Choc is a liberal, despiteth all the evidenth of thy thenthes?” (Sorry, that should read, “evidence of thy senses”)

Yes, Jesus Himself could not persuade you, because you have an amazing power that gives you a huge advantage over me in this discussion—you have the ability to mentally block out any fact, argument or example that undermines your original view. I give you a perfect example of partisanship on the board that proves exactly how dead wrong you are, all you have to do is call it “embarrassingly bad”—and poof! For you, reality is gone! You must have an incredible fantasy life! Or perhaps you’re a trial lawyer?

And then you vaporize another fact! One which I pointed out in my last reply to you—Bill Prendergast is not in the business of doing free research for people who write in to this blog. You asked for an example of partisan voting, and I gave it to you—and a very good example it was, despite your mystifying ability to ignore it as evidence. One is all you get for free. If you want a list of more examples of partisan voting and partisan behavior on the school board, you can do it yourself or go whistle for it. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I WON’T, not for free and not for someone who won’t even sign his or her real name.

So now I have pointed out your factual errors. So now I have pointed out your (chronic) twisting of facts. I don’t know why, but you made my pointing these things out to you pre-conditions for you dropping your anonymity. (Don’t follow your reasoning there, either, but I have honored your request.) So now the time has come for you to take off your mask, Zorro. Who are you? So articulate; yet so insulting and obstinate—and so, so wrong.

If you do not tell us who you are, I think we have reached an impasse--unless you can come up with something better than more catty remarks about my writing and demands that I provide you with lists of evidentiary treasure. All I can give you is the truth about the situation, backed up with the facts on file and Junker’s voting record; that’s all I can offer you--I can’t give you either the brains or personal integrity necessary to see and admit the truth. That is out of my power, sir or madam.

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't want to do the research, OK, how about this. I can name at least two votes where the voting block failed to hold up: voting for the proposed raise and (Thole voted no) and the busing cuts (Junker voted no) last spring. Those are just two, though it does qualify as research. Now, can you come up with a legitimate voting issue the board has tackled which is inherently political in nature? I've researched two, can you match it? Also, until school board members are identified by GOP, DFL, Nazi or Independent, I can't agree that Choc's voting for them constitutes a vote for partisan politicians because as you should know that is simply not a factor at the school board level.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

(Sorry I deleted the previous version of this comment—typos.)

So—thousands of words later, you are finally bringing in some evidence to try to prove your case. Congratulations; for you, that represents a giant step forward.

First—I already gave you an example of “partisan fever” on the school board—dividing up the offices among members of a faction, and voting to ensure that all offices are held by other members of the faction. I could give you a second example right off the top of my head—another vote where the “gang of four” passed over more experienced board members to vote themselves all the leading offices. I know, you hate that one too, but whether you like it or not, that’s partisanship—it is indeed “inherently political in nature”; it doesn’t matter if it’s not partisan behavior “in your book” because “your book” is nuts. Factional voting to divide available offices among the members of the faction is the classic example of partisan behavior, since before the days of Jefferson and Jackson. It’s the classic example in everyone else’s book—it’s partisanship in “my book,” in “the history books,” in “the political science books.” If it doesn’t count as partisan “in your book,” you need a new book, because “your book” is a book of fantasy, and reality is what we are supposed to be discussing here.

Next: here’s what I WILL do—and for free! If you prepare a complete, concise, and coherent summary of the school board voting for me, listing the dates, the issues voted on, the breakdown of who voted for what, et cetera--if you prepare that and send it to me free of charge, then I will be convinced of your good faith and that your challenge to me is not just some practical joke to get Bill to run around the town and Internet like a blue-assed fly so he can do all your homework for you.

Send me such a report; compile it, make it into a single Word document, send it to me. Remember to keep it coherent, include a brief bibliography and sources section at the end so I know that you are not depending on your imagination or you anonymous pals or “your book” for your facts.

If you do this, I will rise to your challenge to show you evidence of partisan behavior on the board. Nor will I confine my list of examples of partisan behavior to the school board’s voting record; no, no! I will draw further examples for you, from the local papers—and most impressive of all to a person like you—I will draw anecdotes of partisan behavior on the board from MY anonymous friends! That should impress the hell out of YOU and YOUR anonymous friends, eh? And I will indeed admit it if I am wrong. I have admitted that I was wrong before. I admitted I was wrong in my initial judgment of your character, remember that?

But again—I doubt if any independent evidence anyone presented to you about the school board could ever convince you that it has a partisan faction in the majority. Do you realize that you admitted this at the end of your last post? You said that “until school board members are identified by GOP, DFL, Nazi or Independent, I can't agree that Choc's voting for them constitutes a vote for partisan politicians.” You mean that until these people—the three members you acknowledge to be conservative, the ones who vote together—agree to wear labels, you won’t admit that a vote for them is a vote for partisanship? Nothing will persuade you, short of a public confession of partisanship by the members themselves? Then why should I bother to collect examples of real live partisan behavior for you, if observed reality and voting records don’t convince you, if factional division of office doesn’t convince you—if the only thing that would ever convince you is a public confession by the board members and the opinions of your anonymous friends?

Anyway, who are you? I asked you to tell me your reasons for remaining anonymous, and you wouldn’t even do that. You just set out some rather arbitrary conditions under which you would CONSIDER dropping your anonymity (like some character in a bad opera libretto)--and when I met those conditions you still wouldn’t drop the mask. Why are you so afraid of telling people who you are? Do you regret something you said here? Are you ashamed of something you’ve said about Junker or the school board? There’s no reason that I can see for you remaining anonymous—you’re not disclosing any news ‘bombshells’ here, it’s not like you’re saying anything about anyone that would lead to reprisal. Given that, it just seems like you prefer to remain anonymous because you think there’s something shameful about what you’re writing to me—that you don’t want to be associated personally with what you are saying to me, or “take responsibility” for it.

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

It's me again--I just wanted to let you know that I will be away from the computer this evening--so you don't think I've stopped speaking to you.
Bill Prendergast

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill this is an easy challenge and you don't need a record of previous school board votes to answer it. What issues does this school board deal with that are inherently political? What are the votes that if you asked 10 staunch conservatives and 10 flaming liberals from across the country the same question (such as whether cuts forced by the state should require (A) teacher layoffs, (B) trimming the music programs, or (C) cutting busing) those blocs of people would come up with the same conclusion. Somehow I think if you asked those same people whether they thought gay marriage was (A) good, or (B) bad that the answers would be vastly more predictable. Following this basic logic, doesn't this suggest that school board votes are in fact non-partisan? Can't people from opposite sides of the fence vote differently on an issue without it being political? I would suggest that it can, but apparently you do not.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Hi--sorry, but I am working and travelling today so I can't reply right away to the comment you left this morning. Just a brief note to let you know that I will send a reply to your last comment late tonight, when I update the entire blog again.
Have a pleasant day, Anonymous--
Bill Prendergast

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Hi, I'm back, Anonymous, thanks for sticking around. Here is my latest to you, edited for length:

Why is it that you keep avoiding the basic issues and keep issuing these “you answer this question” challenges to me? Why can’t you present your own evidence of the point you with to make? I’m not going to play “answer-me-this” with you; state your point and present the evidence to back it up. It’s not that I can’t provide answers to your questions; it’s that I won’t. Make your own frigging arguments and present your own frigging evidence.

Anyway: mainstay of your argument is that these guys on the school board are helpless against the cuts; that the issue of implementing cuts is not “inherently political”—every member of this board is equally a victim of the conservative school cuts forced on us by Pawlenty and the state GOP . Okay—so where are the letters and editorials and interview quotes in the Gazette and the Courier and the PiPress etc from poor little victimized Thole, Kunze, Hoffman and Junker--criticizing the conservative leadership in St. Paul, and excoriating the local GOP for supporting Pawlenty’s budget? Thole has a weekly column--he sometimes talks politics, but I’ve never once read where he argues what you do—that it’s the greedy conservative Republican pricks in St. Paul who are responsible for these service cuts, these teacher layoffs, these school bus cuts, etc.

Thole never gave THAT as explanation—even though it’s the truth; even though you and I both know that’s why the cuts happen, and that that’s why our local property taxes are being raised. Why doesn’t Thole, or Kunze, or Hoffman, or Junker—acknowledge this truth, publicly, in order to put pressure on the local GOP to vote against further cuts and for more state taxes to restore programs to the schools? Why aren’t these “non-partisans” telling local voters that it’s fair to blame chronic Pawlenty budget supporters like LeClair, Bachmann, Charron, and Dean for the cuts, and for the local tax hikes and school levies to make up the difference? You assert the cuts were made necessary by conservative GOP policy, I assert it’s because of conservative GOP policy--why won’t THEY tell the public that? When he was campaigning last fall, did Thole blame Pawlenty and the GOP and the conservatives for a budget that led to the cuts in buses, classes and services, local tax and fee hikes and a dire need for a new levy? Like hell he did! Thole’s explanation for the bad times was that school funding and tough economic times are all on some kind of big pendulum that swings back and forth (incredible but true; this was his argument—government policy by St. Paul doesn’t even enter into it, if you believe Thole.)

Could it be—and this is only a theory—that the reason he doesn’t criticize Pawlenty—or Dean or Charron or Bachmann or LeClair, who support Pawlenty—is because he sympathizes with their conservative economic policy? Because he is, as you concede, a conservative? Eh?
As the school board conservatives good intentions toward this district-- what kind of people say “oh, it’s just terrible about how they’re cutting state funds to the local schools, don’t blame me, I’m a victim of this awful policy, too, I’m just forced to implement it”--and then go out and votes for the party that’s advocating conservative talk radio budget program that results in cuts to their district? They’re bullshitters; they don’t care about whether funding in the district gets cut or not, if they’re conservatives voting GOP.

You suggested that it’s nonsense that any of these conservatives would ever vote to cut funds to their own school district. I’ll tell you again: if any one of these members of the school board cast a vote for Governor Pawlenty or the local Republican legislators, then they already HAVE voted to cut school funding and classes and teaching staff and transportation funding in their own district. As you acknowledge, Pawlenty, the GOP, and the no-new-taxes lobbyists deliberately decided to starve local governments of state funding. They’re not “victims” of a cuts-to-school-funding policy in St. Paul--if they’re voting for Pawlenty and the local Republicans, they’re SUPPORTERS of a cuts-to-school-funding policy. They won’t even criticize the GOP in St. Paul as much as YOU will. They’re Pawlenty’s worker ants-- helping to implement that policy at a local level, claiming the loveliest intentions, and refusing to talk about--much less condem--the conservative GOP ideology that drives the cuts to schools.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Oh--by the way--what did you think of the front page headline story about the school board in the latest Courier? In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the headline: "VOTES SHOW DIVISION BETWEEN BOARD MEMBERS" It's all about how the four member partisan faction on the board voted all the board's offices to themselves again, passing over non-conservative board members with higher vote totals or more experience, in favor of their own partisan faction. Just like they did last year. No non-partisan "reaching out" by Thole and his gang this year, either.


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