Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And They're Off!

I voted first thing this morning and it's probably the last ballot I will be able to cast at a polling place. No one else was voting but my husband and me.

I'm going to a Sherry Carr event tonight. If anyone else goes to another SB candidate event, let us know how it goes or if you saw a crowded polling place.

As I mentioned before, SB races tend to have far lower votes than, say, City Council. It'll be interesting to see what the turnout is for SB.

Good luck to all the candidates.


SPS parent said...

Nathan Hale had about 15 people voting at about 7 tonight when I went in.

Anonymous said...

You will probably post thoughts about the election results so far, but I read something in one of the papers this morning that caught me:

Brita Butler-Wall, who did not seek a second term after winning as part of 2003's new majority, blamed the outcome on large donations and a media "witch hunt."

"We actually accomplished many, many reforms, which did not make us popular," she said. "I think what you see here is sort of a backlash from the business community."

I'll say first that I think Brita's not running is a loss for the board and the district - I thought she excelled at bridging the various constituencies in public education politics and operating in a "professional" way with "activist" sensibilities, (notably genuine public engagement) and that she almost always took the high road regardless of her philosophical differences with people, which I appreciated.

I disagree with her on this one, though.

Re large donations: I'd like to hear someone talk about what this really means - does it mean that voters can be bought with mailers (the only big $ expenditure made in school board races - expensive because of the postage)?

And are mailers more effective than robo-calls, which are much less expensive but just as pervasive? (I got 2 in the last few days from Darlene Flynn's campaign, but no mailers or robo-calls from Sherry Carr - and nothing of any kind from any other board candidate.)

And why were the primary results remarkably similar when little money had yet entered the picture?

How does money buy votes?

Re press witch hunt: I wonder if Brita must be referring to press over the last 4 years as opposed to recent, election-related press - the endorsements from the various papers for these candidates were all over the place and did not seem to follow "slates" or binary "business vs activist" lines.

I wonder if in saying these things, Brita is reacting to the results in the Soriano and Flynn races as if it were an indictment against 1) the current board, 2) her, or 3) board incumbents in general - and my opinion is none of the above, though I may not be the average voter. I did not vote the "dysfunction" ticket but on the way I felt about each candidate individually (which included one incumbent.)

Anonymous said...

How to explain Brita's words: Losers need someone to blame their loss on.

Someone posted the PDC link on here a while back and it was amazing to see the scores of small donations to Sherry Carr and Peter Maier. The press' attention is grabbed by a $5,000 donation, but scroll down the page and all you see is fifty bucks here, ten there.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, we have the issue of large donations. I don't think it "buys" any election and I think all these candidates would likely laugh at the idea of being bought.

However, there is the issue of access and influence. Sometimes candidates to feel the obligation to take that call from a donor (who may not be a voter or parent related to our district but who did give a large donation). There are many who perceive that successful business people (and in this case that's who the large donors were) are very smart and should be listened to for advice.

I'm not offering an opinion of whether this is good or bad but it is political reality. It is naive to think otherwise.

What the donations did buy that was a very big ticket item were several quarter page ads in the PI/Times in prominent sections of the newspaper for one candidate. That's is a high cost that most candidates can't afford and for a school board race, it's almost unheard of.

I think Brita feels that the current Board has just been slapped around with this "dysfunctional" tag which wasn't true or fair. Whether voters did their homework or not (and the truth was out there), whether it was part of their thinking (rather than "what am I looking for in a candidate?"), they voted as they did.

Brita said...

Hello all,

Emily caught me off guard last night and I was flip and apologize. The election represented multiple views about what it means to be a school board member--what kind of balance of style and substance voters want to see. IMHO we need people with a vision for our system, with care for the underserved, and with skills to be productive and effective. Let's hope all our new board members grow into this new position--I believe they will.

I am not implying that our new board has been bought or is even buyable-I think they will do a great job, in fact.

However, I am very troubled by the huge jump in costly campaigns we have just witnessed (when did the campaign limits get removed from school board races??). I believe this will have a chilling effect on democracy. Many people who would otherwise be terrific school board members will look at these 6-figure races and not even consider running (especially for what is essentially a volunteer position).

Maybe these large individual donations were not evidence of a 'business backlash'--I guess I was going on published reports in the Times itself. It sure looked like it, though.

What we accomplished these past four years is remarkable and I am very proud of our record. Our new board and Superintendent have a great starting point now, and I know they'll take the district to the next level.

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate Brita's straight-up way of speaking - Venus Velasquez probably would have gotten a lot further by doing the same - saying "I screwed up - big time. I feel terrible about it. I'm sorry that I've let you down."

About the effect of money on democracy, IMO there are many elements of running for and sitting as a school board director that would stop someone from taking that on before the money.

The campaign is nearly full-time for months and is pretty grueling - everyone has a questionaire and a forum - and the job itself is complex, almost thankless and largely misunderstood - with tens of thousands of armchair quarterbacks. Oh, and essentially volunteer. Where do I sign up?

The candidates might appreciate limits on contributions and spending - who knows.

Weren't there limits placed on judges' races in the last couple of years? Do limits apply to PACs?

Anonymous said...

It appears that Peter, and Sherry raised about 10 times the money of their opponents and Steve raised 5 times what Maria raised.

Do you think it is time that the Seattle Schools channel provide a lot of free air time for school board candidates to access? The public needs to have a way to easily access the full messages of each candidate regardless of a candidates ability to spend on mailings and large newspaper ads. This could give the opportunity to make more than sound bites available on a large scale.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no. There are not limits on contributions to judicial races. Nor are there limits on the third party "independant" expenditures. If you don't like what's happening contact your legislators regarding campaign finance reform and to allow local option financing in Seattle. There are several bills being bandied about.

Brita, you rock - Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I hope and trust you will continue to stay involved with SPS and involved on this blog with your unique perspective. You showed real guts and I (and I believe many others, appreciate that.)

I believe it incumbent on us that care about our schools to learn more about the political process and broaden our base and message. The apparent failure of 50% majority tells us something loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

Leslie, are you sure about the judicial races? From the attached, it looks like they just went into place in 2006.

What is local option financing?

Anonymous said...

Link above doesn't seem to be working - it's at the Public Disclosure committee website under contribution limits.

Maybe this will work.

Anonymous said...

Leslie said...
..The apparent failure of 50% majority tells us something loud and clear.

What does it tell us loud and clear?

That many in this state are frustrated with Dr. Bergeson's last 11 years of leadership and wish to have what little control is available to them not removed?

People are becoming frustrated with the current system of education. NCLB's AYP depends on a WASL bar rather than each individual student's improvement (which the MAP test could have done), a myriad of other things frustrate thinking individuals for example school reform that has so emphasized process that little content is learned.

When students arrive at high school knowing little content there is not much to process.

Well that is an explanation of the 50% majority failure.

There must be several others.

Let us hear them.

I am hoping for a "NEWS Lawsuit win" to put an end to all this inadequate funding.