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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Stand (Semi) Corrected

So this issue of the Kay Smith-Blum's billboards was bothering me. I reported that in two places on her public disclosure information, she spent about $6500 on billboards. One reader said he had been told by the campaign that they were $1200 each. It seemed puzzling to me that she would report one thing and her campaign say another. After a bit of detective work, mystery (somewhat solved).

The billboards were $1200 so that means there weren't just 2 but 10. Where they all are, I don't know except that clearly she didn't buy them to put them all in the Central district. So, in essence, she was already running for the general election in the primary. More power to her. I do find it hard to believe that she will run on just a website, some billboards and public appearances. (She is running a green campaign so no mailers or yard signs.) I predict we'll see some tv spots from her.

It's also a good example of how much money to expect to be spent in this election. Last election, Sherry Carr, Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist all raised and spent over $100,000 which pretty much was a coming of age for School Board elections. Spending money seemed to work for them.

However, I think that most people are smart and will be able to pick candidates based on their qualifications and what they say about being in office. Having money to get your name out there is a definite help.

But as Mike McGinn, spending only $40,000(!) on the primary has shown us, grassroots can still work. (Update: the Times says he spent $80,000 on the primary.)

12 comments:

gavroche said...

10 billboards?! Wow.

Yes, clearly Smith-Blum was already presuming she would make it to the general election. I wonder what made her so cocky?

I also wonder how she got nearly 40% of the vote (so far -- not all ballots have been counted) with only billboards.

She may not have used yard signs or mailers (yet), but she or somebody on her behalf must have done something to rustle up those votes.

I'm sure her slick Web site and campaign manager helped.

Having $26,000 to play with doesn't hurt either.

I wonder what the outcome would have been if Andre or Joanna (or Charlie for that matter) had had that kind of money & equal resources to get their word out?

I trust their genuine understanding of the district and what our kids need over hers any day.

Which brings us to campaign finance reform. Right now there are no campaign financing limits for School Board races. Consequently, this makes for a pretty uneven playing field.

We really oughta change that law.

I think there should be cause for concern when candidates like Sundquist, Meier and Carr in the last election, and now Smith-Blum, can have such an advantage over other more grassroots candidates, simply because of their financial ties.

Cause, they are definitely not winning office because they are the most qualified.

By following this 'buy your way in' trend, does this mean that if Smith-Blum defeats Bass, she will join Sundquist/Meier/Carr and often DeBell, as yet another rubber stamp for the Superintendent?

All her talk of "data-driven" this and that sounds awfully familiar. Do we really need more of that gobbledy-gook on the Board?

We need checks and balances between the Board and Superintendent, as well as between the Board and the anonymous folks in JSC admin. who seem to be running the show from behind a curtain -- and not a row of bobbleheads nodding or nodding off at every School Board meeting.

No matter what, this resource imbalance in School Board races is not healthy for our district or democracy.

For all these reasons, I think Smith-Blum's 10 billboards are a troubling sign.

Robert said...

Pun intended?

Sahila said...

Melissa -

10 billboards at $1200 each (if Robert's info is correct on the per unit price) totals $12,000 on billboards alone, not the $6500 Blum disclosed...

And 2 billboards at Robert's $1200 each, totals $2400...

10 billboards would have to cost $650 each if we are going to get to Blum's $6500 disclosure figure

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I said there were TWO sums of about $6500 plus $940 in printing. So multiply $6500 x 2 plus the $940 and it's just under $14,000.

TechyMom said...

Something to think of with downtown billboard placement is that many people who live in central work and shop downtown. I saw her billboards driving home to central. That placement may be neither dumb nor cocky. Seems to have worked for her...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Who called her dumb or cocky?

Also, did you see all 10 billboards and were they all in downtown/Central?

Sahila said...

OH... :-)

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

I believe all were placed in or within a couple of blocks of district 5 based on desirable/available spots.

And yeah Kay should get much more carry over from there purchase in the general than she would have in a wasteful/much more expensive district 5 only mailer.

In previous post Melissa I believe you said that you hadn't seen a SB candidate use BBs before. So here is a new idea that appears to have provided more bang for it's buck and is environmentally conscious... Aren't such ideas what we should be looking for from a candidate?

Melissa Westbrook said...

You mean "its" buck?

You'd have to ask political pundits and campaign managers about whether using campaign funds for billboards is the best bang for the buck. That's not my area.

My point is that the School Board elections, since the last cycle, are getting more expensive than they ever were. This is a definite change that is happening that people should be aware of and it's changing the landscape of these elections and may likely influence who runs in the future. It's no small thing.

This is something to note as is that billboards are more green than mailers (although, like I said, some people think they are visual pollution).

Robert said...

Oops.. yeah "its."

And I concur that last cycles expenditures were disgusting... Let's hope that won't happen again. I wonder if there was any indication that some of that money came from a certain math book publisher.

WenD said...

What would it say to voters if a well-funded, well-connected candidate said, "Rather than use campaign funds for advertising, I'll donate X thousand dollars to SPS. My supporters will do the same." Earmark it for after-school enrichment, teacher supplies, field trips, wherever it's needed the most. (Can this be done, or will SPS refuse an earmarked donation?)

As Sahila pointed out in another thread, SPS administration is top heavy in comparison to other districts. No amount of reform is cutting admin cost and waste, is it? The idea of candidates spending thousands to help guide a bloated, nearly bankrupt ship is counter productive, to say the least. Honestly, it makes me want to vote for the least visible candidate, or demand an agreement that candidates stick to a spending limit.

There are affordable means of reaching voters. Paying for billboards just benefits the candidate. With this amount of money being thrown around, it makes me question - why - the well-funding candidate is running. What are they getting out of it? Do they get to pad out their CV with more public service, and benefit on the side? Is it their ego? Or do they really want to make SPS a district they'd send their children to?