Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stillwater: Watch Out For Rheinberger Possibility

Beloved people of Stillwater: I forgot to mention something in my last post about the upcoming changes on the School Board.

In “the Gazette column that got me fired” a year ago, I floated another of my little theories: the possibility that if conservative board members Hoffman and Junker retired before their terms were up, local Stillwater politician John Rheinberger might be appointed to replace one of them.

Why is that important? Mr. Rheinberger is absolutely choking for some political office. Nominally a Democrat, he has his own idiosyncratic ideas about the proper role of government (my favorite example was his attempt to persuade the people of Stillwater to sell off their public library as an unwarranted and fiscally dangerous tax burden.)

I mentioned the possibility that Mr. Rheinberger might be appointed (without election) to the School Board for several reasons. First, he is a friend of School Board Chair George Thole. Second, though he is technically a Democrat Rheinberger is a fiscal conservative; that would appeal to the conservatives on the board if they want to keep their voting bloc intact. Rheinberger would almost certainly vote with the school board members who back the GOP’s tax policy in St. Paul.

Third: as I say, he’s absolutely choking for some public office to keep his political profile above water. Appointment to the school board (without an election) would suit him just fine, because Rheinberger just can’t seem to win elections any more. His last two efforts—a school board run and a mayoral bid—were unsuccessful, despite the fact that Rheinberger campaigned hard. He even went to the expense and trouble of printing his own “newspapers”—political advertising included in the “real newspapers” that seemed designed to look as if independent publications were endorsing his candidacy.

Those efforts failed, but they indicate how badly Mr. Rheinberger wants to remain a player in Stillwater politics. If he can get on to the school board as an unelected replacement for a retiring conservative, so much the better—it would position him as an incumbent when the next school board election rolls around.

And his demonstrated belief in narrowing the definition of “necessary public expenditures” would make him a welcome addition to the conservative “bloc of four” that supports conservative tax policy in St. Paul—the tax policy that resulted in cuts to Local Government Aid by the state and made the new $15 million dollar school levy necessary.

Ms. Hoffman has announced her retirement. Today's Gazette included a letter to the editor from School Board Secretary "Choc" Junker. In the letter Mr. Junker acknowledges the fact that he has recently suffered a heart attack that almost took him to "the next finest place than being in Stillwater." He added that he doesn't know how much time he has left, but hopes it's enough "to see you and me pass the levy."

I hope Junker's got a hell of a lot more time than that, and I hope the levy gets passed, too.


At 4:59 PM, Blogger Stillwater Infidel aka NSA said...

Rheinberger doesn't have a shot in hell. Educate 834, the teachers union and parents will not allow this to happen. Unless of coarse they want to see an old fashioned lynching, with pitch forks and torches.

Oh wait that was Bachmann with the pitchforks.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Prendergast said...

Well, I hope you're right. But I don't see what the groups you mention can do about it--if a majority of the school board votes to put Rheinberger on the board as a replacement for Hoffman.

That's the whole problem--the fact that the public needn't be consulted (via a special election) for the board to replace Hoffman. I fully expect that Thole, Kunze, and Junker would want Hoffman successor who's "on board" with their worldview--and appointment is the way to do that.

But who knows who they will select, in the end. Thole has a lot of influence with Junker and Kunze. So Thole might be the deciding factor in selecting a replacement, and according to today's Gazette, Thole has been getting a particularly hard time from the local right--the anti-school levy people here in town.

He tends to take criticism very personally, and he's chagrined by the fact that "keep my taxes low" conservatives here in town openly doubt his good faith in the matter of the levy.

One thing is for sure: if that levy doesn't go through, the local schools will be in deep trouble. The cuts to Local Government Aid by the conservative Pawlenty administration in St. Paul have put the local conservatives on the school board in a very tough spot--the chickens coming home to roost.

The reason I mentioned Rheinberger is that: he's anti-public spending (therefore appealing to conservatives) but technically, he's a Democrat--so Thole and the others could argue that techinically it was a "bi-partisan" appointment.

People who are familiar with Rheinberger's record and rhetoric would indeed be offended by his appointment. And it would be funny to see the Educate 834 people out on the street at night with pitch forks and torches.


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