Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Results in State School Board District 13 and double-disenfranchisement shenanigans?

First, I was wrong in my prediction that vote totals for State School Board District 13 would be significantly lower than the 2004 election. The unofficial results (pg. 3, lefthand column) show just a few hundred fewer votes than the race in 2004. Kyle Bateman defeated C. Mark Openshaw with 17,509 votes. I hope the almost 300 votes not for either candidate on the ballot were mostly write-ins for A. LeGrand Richards, the highly-qualified BYU professor excluded from the ballot.

However, my frustration with the apathy and lack of communication demonstrated by Bateman and Openshaw, as well as the entire school board candidate selection process, has been confirmed by subsequent events. In a minor, but indicative Election Night note of the silly process that allowed seven businessmen not living in District 13 to choose our candidates, Openshaw confirmed my suspicions that the candidates represented the same viewpoints: "I know Kyle well," he said. "I like him. We agree on many things, and so I give him my full support." And in keeping with the theme of his successful campaign, it appears that Bateman was the only victorious candidate in Utah County who did not return the Daily Herald's phone call after winning election on November 4th.

But the Tribune yesterday revealed that the situation has become even more sneaky and non-representative.
Bateman said he has two homes -- one in his district in Provo and one that his company bought as an investment outside his district in Mapleton. He said he intended to live in the Mapleton home for a time and sell it eventually while keeping the Provo home as his primary residence.

In his letter, however, he said he sought private counsel, who recently told him the law "would not likely support" that arrangement.
So he was going to move out of the district he was elected to represent to "eventually" return to his "primary residence" as soon as he was able to profitably flip that investment home in today's market, and he honestly thought that was no problem? I personally have trouble giving credence to the assertions that Bateman: A. sincerely believed that his living arrangement would meet state requirements and B. that this belief was "recently" disabused by private counsel so he could conveniently withdraw on the last possible day. If he cared about serving, why couldn't Bateman stay in his Provo home that is ostensibly his primary residence? He is apparently financially secure enough to own two houses, so living in the Mapleton house is a personal preference rather than a necessity in order to sell it. I also have trouble believing that Openshaw did not know this was coming.

So voters in my district were subjected to a political farce on two levels. First, they were arbitrarily denied the opportunity to have the most qualified candidate, A. LeGrand Richards, on the ballot, and second, the two candidates chosen to be on the ballot refused to campaign...literally. Neither Bateman nor Openshaw spent one penny on their campaign beyond the $15 filing fee. They didn't return phone calls and emails from organizations asking their positions and even voters in their district.

They expect us to believe that they somehow knew, independently, that they wouldn't need to spend any money or even respond to questions to win an open State School Board seat? They just assumed the other guy wouldn't campaign either in a year when increased scrutiny has been paid the board because of the voucher dispute and the faulty selection process? They "would love to have served," but put forth no effort to campaign in a district where the winner in 2004, Tom Gregory, spent $300 dollars of his own money to buy signs? The district was important enough to local politicians in 2004 that the defeated candidate, Brian Woodfield, raised over $1000 for flyers and signs from Becky Lockhart, Curtis Bramble, and Micron (i.e. Stan Lockhart), and the voters are supposed to believe that those political interests just went away? Bateman has close associations with PCE through his position on the Children First Utah advisory board, and they didn't donate money to a candidate in need? (I don't know if the PIC Development that Bateman was chair of is this PIC Development based in Orem Utah, but the lack of specifics and "Board of Sages" sound vaguely Koerberian. And Bateman's house flipping "investment" that is more important than the election he just won seems vaguely similar to "equity milling"... I bring that up because PIC Development is still the job listed on the CFU website and he is now president of Action Target, Inc. (I think that's him in the middle of the top picture) and holder of several shooting equipment related patents...which then makes absolutely no sense as to why he would be forced to live in the Mapleton house "his company bought as an investment.")

So a lot of things don't add up here. Why would two apparently competent and successful businessmen, both in high CEO/President positions, run apathetic, careless campaigns that actually alienated any of their constituents that did any research? How could they not post one sign, deliver one flyer, walk one neighborhood, or even answer an email inquiry? They could not have become successful in business if this was their normal persona. (Openshaw's company actually specializes in facilitating communication!) How could they have honestly thought they had a chance to win the election with such a campaign if they didn't know that their "opponent" was going to do the same thing?

Furthermore, why would Bateman's shooting supply company even be involved in real estate flipping and why would that force Bateman to move to Mapleton? How long has Bateman known he would be moving? Why did Bateman continue running at that point? He is the president of the company and just won election to state office--does anyone believe he could not stay in Provo if serving on the school board were important to him? How big and how nice is the "company" house in Mapleton that the company president is going to live in "for a time" that Bateman values the move more than the public service he ostensibly sought? Why wait until the last day of vote certification to make that decision public? Why move your family at all if you're just going to sell the house anytime in the near future?

I don't believe either Bateman or Openshaw is that clueless. I think the circumstances point to exactly what current State School Board Member, Kim Burningham, and excluded candidate, A. LeGrand Richards decried in the Tribune article...a willful collusion to ensure neither candidate had to face Richards on the ballot. The initial faulty process gave us two candidates with similar views, eliminating a choice for the district's voters. Bateman planned to move to Mapleton, whether before or after he signed his oath that he met residency requirements upon filing for candidacy on March 17th, I don't know. (Though I think that ownership of a home in Mapleton by either Action Target or Kyle Bateman and the date purchased would be part of public tax records...) Bateman knew that the next highest choice of the selection committee, A. LeGrand Richards, who differs philosophically from Bateman and Openshaw, would be put on the ballot if he dropped out--this was confirmed as the public education choice in District 11, Ralph Haws, who also finished third in committee rankings behind two voucher supporters, almost replaced Ted Heap on the ballot over a finance reporting mix-up. There was contact between Bateman and Openshaw in order to communicate the plan, i.e. that Bateman would remain on the ballot and that neither needed to waste any time or money campaigning since the result was a foregone conclusion.

This is admittedly conjecture, but I don't know how else you can spin the actions of these two intelligent men. I would love to hear their explanation for their non-campaigns, their non-responsiveness, and how much they honestly communicated before, during, and after the election. I don't think a run-off election would be allowed or cost efficient, but a run-off between Openshaw and Richards would be the best way to allow District 13 voters a real choice of representation on the State School Board. Are there any provisions for something besides appointment if extenuating circumstances are found to exist...such as a candidate willfully misrepresenting his intention to abide by residency requirements of the office?

Tribune Article: Kyle Bateman "discovers" he lives out of area and declines State School Board 13 position


I underlined a couple of important passages of the article.

Key Questions that might be answerable: When did Kyle Bateman know of his residency problems? It appears to be a situation where he knew about this for some time. Did C. Mark Openshaw or others know of the probable outcome of the residency problems?

Key Question that we'll never know: Did Kyle Bateman seriously think it was OK to move outside of the district he was elected to represent? He signed an oath that he did...

Snarky, but relevant question: Does Mark Thomas of the Lt. Governor's office really think it's OK for candidates to lie on their oath and that it's up to others to challenge those assertions?! For example, how would one possibly prove that a candidate did or did not know of the residency requirement they were apparently planning to break soon after being elected?

State ed board race winner drops out
Residency » Worried he didn't meet requirements.
By Lisa Schencker
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 11/17/2008 07:18:01 PM MST

The winner of a recent state school board race has decided not to take his seat because of problems related to residency requirements.

Kyle Bateman, who won the race for the District 13 board seat two weeks ago, sent his letter of resignation Thursday. His opponent in the election, C. Mark Openshaw, will now likely take the seat, said Mark Thomas, administrator at the Lt. Governor's Office.

"This is just me trying to follow the law," Bateman said. "I would love to have served but I didn't want to get up there and find out there was a problem and create controversy."

Bateman said he has two homes -- one in his district in Provo and one that his company bought as an investment outside his district in Mapleton. He said he intended to live in the Mapleton home for a time and sell it eventually while keeping the Provo home as his primary residence.

In his letter, however, he said he sought private counsel, who recently told him the law "would not likely support" that arrangement.

Bateman said the confusion was due to a misunderstanding. State school board member Kim Burningham, however, said he believes Bateman purposefully waited until now to drop out.

"They knew this ages ago," Burningham said, referring to the residency problem, "and they have just purposefully manipulated it."

Burningham said he believes Bateman waited until now to drop out to prevent other, possibly anti-voucher candidates from appearing on the ballot. A total of six people originally vied for the seat. Those six names went to a governor-appointed committee, which narrowed the list to three candidates, ranked in order of the committee's preference. The governor then chose the top two ranked candidates to appear on the ballot.

Had Bateman dropped out after today -- the day election results become official -- the matter might have gone to the governor or to court, Thomas said.

Had Bateman dropped out much earlier, Openshaw might have had to run against the committee's third-ranked choice, A. LeGrand Richards, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations at BYU.

"The democratic process has been totally sidestepped," Richards wrote in an e-mail Monday. "Voters were not allowed to decide on the candidates in the first place and now their choice doesn't matter either. It looks like a great way to stack the deck."

Bateman said he did not purposefully wait until now to withdraw to cut anyone out of the race.

"I don't know anything about that," Bateman said. "I'm not trying to play the system. I have nothing to gain from doing this."

Openshaw, co-founder and president of AirComUSA, a fax and business services company in Provo, said he also thinks Bateman's withdrawl was due to an honest misunderstanding.

"I don't think there's anything nefarious about it," Openshaw said. He said he thought Bateman would have made a good board member, but he'll take the seat if that's what state officials recommend.

Thomas said candidates sign an oath when they file for office stating that they meet the requirements, and it's up to others to challenge those assertions if they feel them to be untrue.

Several lawmakers and the governor are now pushing to change the election system to so voters directly elect board members instead of first sending the names through a committee and the governor.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vouchers absolutely are a voting issue... Selective memory and posturing aside


The relevant summary:

Congressional or legislative incumbents generally tout their experience and “stand by their record,” trying to impress voters with the issues they supported and bills they sponsored. This is common and important. We judge whether the legislator represented us adequately and honestly and decide whether to vote for them or not. The current legislative races are following this pattern except for one thing which many incumbents just want you to forget as a “non-issue”…vouchers.

The polls showed that the public overwhelmingly rejected the concept of private school vouchers before, during, and after the referendum debate. The legislators who sponsored and voted for vouchers knew the public in general disliked the idea and knew who their dependable campaign donors were.

The legislators then strangely formed their own lobbying fund and lobbied the public using slick Utah Taxpayers Association materials, getting reimbursed for their time, mileage, etc. from the funds donated principally by Patrick Byrne.

In fact, due to lack of grassroots support, Patrick Byrne provided almost all of the funding for PCE’s entire pro-voucher campaign.

Many, many voucher supporters of all stripes based their financial arguments on falsehoods.

The public strongly rejected the flawed idea in the referendum vote. Voucher supporters, both within the legislature and from the general public, proceeded to insult 62% of Utah voters who just “didn’t understand” vouchers and were “afraid.”

The point:

But you are supposed to forget all that and just “move forward.” The voucher vote was a year ago and is not relevant to the election today. Punishing legislators would be wrong. Just look at their record…except for vouchers. After years of stagnation, they voted to actually educate the large percentage of new student growth as well as increase school funding during two of the three largest budget surplus years in the history of the state of Utah, so all that other stuff doesn’t matter…especially vouchers. Forget the fact that more moderate legislators would have voted for those same measures AND listened to their constituents by rejecting vouchers. And really, you shouldn’t evaluate many incumbents’ entire anti-public-education attitude continued by the omnibus bill, corporate-handout laptops for preschoolers, $190,000 a year spent on additional bureaucracy just to spite a State Board of Education employee who dared run for public office against Greg Hughes, and successful manipulation of the State School Board election process. Ignore the double standard when candidates rightly disagree with their opponents' records, but expect you to ignore theirs. (That is an affliction common to all politicians of all political parties, but especially prevalent this year in regards to vouchers.) And ignore the extremism dominating much of the public policy discussion in our legislature, such as Senator Stephenson believing public education is "socialism." (The last two paragraphs of the post.)

Speaker of the House Greg Curtis has said vouchers are dead under his watch. Senate President Valentine said he thinks Utah voters would “support vouchers with the right information.” (i.e. bad numbers and propaganda…) Both my House Rep. and my State Senator have told me they would vote for vouchers again if it came up. People in the audience at the Utah County Republican Convention this year agitated for vouchers, and the only organization I remember having a booth in the display room along with the candidates was Parents for Choice in Education. That group continues to pour out-of-state money into legislative races this year to further their agenda. But don’t worry. Just trust your legislator that it will be all right. House Majority Whip, Dave Clark, for example:

"I don't know why folks keep dragging (the issue) up," Clark said. "To waste so much time looking backward when we have so many challenges ahead of us is a poor, poor direction."

Learning from the past is poor judgment. Got it.

Education is a voting issue! It is a cornerstone of our democracy and accounts for over half of the tax money spent in this state. Vouchers are a wealthy subsidy that would erode that funding for public schools. Basing a large part of your voting decisions on the differences between candidates’ positions on education—including vouchers—is prudent morally and financially. Don’t listen to vague name-calling and discussions of “one-issue” voters meant to divert attention from the many dismal legislative records in support of public education.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

September Tribune article detailing some of PCE's donations to candidates in '08 legislative races


All of the underlined passages, italic text, and the extra comment in brackets were added by me:


Voucher battle carries into this year's elections
Article Last Updated: 09/10/2008 10:10:45 PM MDT

Posted: 9:40 PM- The echoes of last year's voucher fight are still ringing, as both sides in that pitched battle continue to slug it out in this election.
Parents For Choice in Education, the leading backer of the failed voucher proposal, has spent nearly $200,000 on expenses such as polling, mailers and fundraising in an effort to defend legislators who championed their cause, including endangered House Speaker Greg Curtis.
"We continue to be supportive of legislators who work for [education] solutions and vouchers are one of them," said Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education. "We don't want last year's defeat . . . to be a catalyst to stop them from doing the great work they are doing."
Nearly 99 percent of the $222,000 Parents for Choice raised came from two sources: Overstock.com entrepreneur Patrick Byrne and Michigan-based advocacy group All Children Matter.[I.E. Patrick Byrne, Amway, and Wal-Mart are still fighting for vouchers in Utah.]
The Utah Education Association, meantime, has invested nearly $100,000 this year, much of it going to the campaigns of challengers looking to knock off the same legislators PCE is defending, and mobilizing its troops for the ground war.
"We're going to be as active as we can afford to be and we're going to play in races where we feel our involvement can make a difference," said Vik Arnold, director of government affairs for the teachers' union.
Parents For Choice, meantime, spent thousands of dollars on phone banks to identify potential voters and raise funds for their legislative backers. The group provided more than $5,000 in phone banks and voter lists to Curtis and gave a $2,000 contribution to Senate President John Valentine.
Legislators like Reps. Craig Frank, Steve Sandstrom, Steve Urquhart and others received phone bank services, and more than a dozen others received direct contributions to their campaign.

The group's biggest expenditure was $105,000 spent on polling between the months of February and June. Clark said the group was testing the public's response to various education reforms and also doing some voter identification work.
"We were really seeing in Utah what are people's major concerns and what are some ideas" they would be receptive to, she said.
The group provided more than $7,000 in phone bank calls to try to get out the vote for Rep. Glen Donnelson and Rep. Paul Neuenschwander, but it wasn't enough for either to make it through the primaries. Each lost to his UEA-backed Republican opponent, Ryan Wilcox and Becky Edwards, respectively.
"We're obviously sad to lose Representatives Donnelson and Neunschwander. They'd done good things for education as well as all of their constituents," said Clark.
Rep. Carl Wimmer said Parents for Choice set up phone banks to help his campaign raise money to help stave off a challenge from Dave Hogue, a former Republican legislator who changed parties to run for his old seat.
Wimmer said he expects Hogue to try to beat him up over his support for vouchers, but he says it will "be a non-issue."
"I won my last election with 66 percent of the vote and I campaigned in favor of school choice. Everyone in my district knew I supported school choice and they voted for me," he said. "So its obviously not as big of a wedge issue as the Democrats and my opponent think it is."
UEA, meantime, bought $1,000 worth of signs to help Hogue's campaign.
In many cases, the UEA-backed candidate was running against an incumbent who had voted for vouchers.
"For the most part, it is fair to say that [the voucher vote] was a litmus test, it always has been and it will continue to be," said Arnold.

As you research the State School Board candidates, find out how and by whom they were chosen. Talk to your legislator about reform.

Many of the hits on this blog recently are from people searching for information on candidates for the State School Board. I am going to link you to excellent resources for finding more out about your candidates (If you are in State School District 13, you can read on this blog 3 posts within the last few days about the candidates in our district.), but just as importantly, I am going to ask that you spend 20 minutes to read the history of how the State School Board election process was changed from a normal election process to a warped, non-democratic selection committee which allows or disallows certain candidates to run.

In effect, 80% or so of the candidates allowed on your ballot in any district for State School Board were vetted and voted upon by just 7 businessmen on a 12-person committee appointed by virtue of their close relationships with the governor's office, with power to summarily dismiss other qualified candidates who did not meet their philosophical or professional expectations. They often opposed the candidate favored by the education rep.'s who served on the same governor-appointed selection committee. And even if the "education bloc" had won the vote and allowed other candidates onto the ballot, what kind of process is that?! It is not right for a narrow, non-elected group to have power over the public ballot. Can you imagine if our candidates for governor or the state legislature were chosen that way?

The committee in several districts eliminated the candidates who were strong advocates for schools and replaced them by candidates who are more pro-voucher and "reform" as defined by the legislature. They also gave low rankings to and cut three incumbents, Teresa Theurer, Richard Sadler (the elected board chair...), and Bill Colbert. I don't even agree with Bill Colbert much, but he can't run for re-election in his own district because some insider circle businessmen don't like him? That's beyond silly.

So read all about the process and the specific sad outcome of the committee vote in June in the Accountability blog. Then contact your legislator in November and tell him/her that this is a priority issue.

Getting to know your State School Board candidates:

1. Another Accountability post shows the information available online about each of the candidates.

2. Utah Moms Care blog links to the two voting organizations which distributed surveys to the State School Board candidates on their opinions. (Check her entries for September and October for more specific information on Districts 1, 4, 7, 8, and 12, including some direct information from candidates.)

3. Utahns for Public Schools candidate surveys

4. Utah League of Women Voters candidate surveys


Saturday, November 1, 2008

A. Legrand Richards in State School Board Distict 13...Could the rules be broken if the others don't even show up to play? Sign search...

OK. Tom Gregory, the current State School Board member from District 13 let me know about some technicalities, and I found the stats from 2004 when he won his seat.

In 2004, Mr. Gregory won his seat on the state board with a total of 16,865 votes, while his opponent received 13, 310. My candidate of choice, A. Legrand Richards obviously will not be receiving that many votes. Plus, for reasons unknown, the county doesn't count votes for write-in candidates if they don't register a "Write-In Candidacy." Can someone please explain that to me? Candidates register with the state or county in order to get on the ballot, not to be a resident citizen eligible for office. Why should their registration have any bearing on my right to cast my vote as a desire for them to represent me? What if in some unusual circumstance, an undeclared write-in candidate won? It's not like he or she would be "cheating." Why should those voters be ignored?

This is just reality, but it's really frustrating because I will be surprised if either Kyle Bateman or C. Mark Openshaw receive even 10,000 votes. Has either one even put up a sign? I am certain that A. LeGrand Richards would have beaten either handily if he hadn't been undemocratically disallowed as an eligible citizen to run for elected office. I also think that if we had started a month or two ago, he would have had a much better chance as a write-in candidate than normal because of our two candidates' complete lack of interest in campaigning. Neither has a web presence. When you search for their names, the few newspaper articles about the race and some blogs, including mine and the Accountability Blog show up. I am receiving dozens and dozens of hits each day from people searching for information on the mystery men.

As I said, neither has a website or has given out their email or phone numbers except when required to for candidate registration. Neither provided contact information to the Tribune. They ignored some requests from organizations for their positions. Kyle Bateman at least responded to the Utahns for Public Schools questionnaire. I emailed C. Mark Openshaw as a citizen (after searching out his email on the state candidate registration) and asked what he thought were the most important issues and he didn't answer me. I honestly wonder if either has put up even one sign, walked even one neighborhood, or reached out in anyway except when cornered by the newspaper? Even the current rep., Tom Gregory posted that he can't find anything the two candidates. Do they care about what voters think? And that doesn't mean they would have needed to spend a lot of money either. I'm joking around about their signs, but you could run a campaign for State School Board and at least articulate your values and answer questions for free if you wanted. A blog costs nothing. Answering an email is just common courtesy and a responsibility of an elected official in my mind.

I disagree philosophically with Kyle Bateman and I'm assuming from circumstances, C. Mark Openshaw, but I sincerely disagree more with their aloof attitudes towards their constituents. I do not support Mark Cluff in District 12 either, but I can at least respect him as a competent, hard-working, and communicative person from what I've heard.

I don't know much about A. LeGrand Richards, but he has more qualifications than either of the other two candidates. He is the current Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations at BYU, was the choice of all the school representatives on the governor's selection committee who got to interview him, and made some great points on temporal and spiritual education in a campus devotional last year. Tom Gregory has commented on this blog that he has met him and was impressed. Read what you can and make a good decision. I recommend that all write in A. LeGrand Richards for State School Board District 13 and let the total stand as further evidence as to why the State School Board selection process should be reformed.

On a final, lighter note, has anyone seen even one sign posted for either Openshaw or Bateman? I would love if someone could post a picture and confirm the existence of said signs to mildly rebut my assertion that they haven't put forth any effort. Signs are nothing, yet still a basic indicator of some level of involvement in the campaign. The local Alpine School District Board races have signs up everywhere. Those offices are not any more important and those candidates are not any more wealthy.

Political Crap

Crazed demonization of enemies is bad.

I am a pretty big sports fan. I love college football and the NBA, and keep a general eye on most other things that run in the sports page. However, one of my least favorite weeks of the year is the week preceding the Utah-BYU football game. Otherwise good people just go nuts. Seriously. The little comment boards on the newspaper sites and ksl that week make the political debates seem tame. I attended both schools, root for both teams--though in the big game, I root for the Cougars--and am embarrassed each year for both schools, Mormons, and sports fans in general by the anonymous insults and sniping. I saw the same the one time I was able to attend the game in person.

That preface brings me to the topic of my post. I have tried to largely avoid the topic of the presidential election on this blog except as it bears on educational decisions. There are plenty of other good places to get that information and I don't want a heavy partisan debate generally. But I saw something this morning that is just stupid.

Do you remember November 5th, 2004? I was grudgingly happy since I extremely dislike John Kerry, though I'm not a huge Bush fan by any means. That day, I saw news reports of anti-Bush rallies in some spots around the country. The image I remember, in San Francisco I think, was of a shirtless hippie-type holding up a poster that said "F*** America!" (or maybe it was Middle America. Bad either way...) as those around him flipped off the camera with both hands. Most justly condemned such idiocy. I can understand those who totally disagree with many of Bush's policies; both current candidates strongly rejected him. But the utter, arrogant disdain for fellow Americans who thought differently than you is wrong and contributes to stupid name-calling on behalf of both Democrats and Republicans.

I remember doomsday predictions when Bill Clinton won the presidency, and my middle school friends and I semi-seriously batted around plans for moving to Mexico, though I could not have articulated what angered my parents and neighbors so much. I remember the same types of comments from both sides during the Bush/Gore campaign. Some British commentator I randomly found was actually calling the Bush presidency the "Fourth Reich," all before 9/11, the Iraq War, etc. I better remember the crazy, crazy rhetoric from both sides in 2004 as well, since I was paying more and more attention each election. I distinctly remember hearing in 2000, 2004, and 2008 that this was "the most important election of our lifetimes." I guess in a way we should think of every election as the most important so we'll actually research the issues and vote, but you can see my point that the rhetoric is overblown.

The idea I found on a blog this morning is to me just as much of an inarticulate scream of primal, hillbilly, uncivilized chest-thumping as the stupid men with the anti-America posters in 2004.