Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Neighborhood Forum--Tacoma Elections

I went to a Candidate Forum held by one of the Neighborhood Councils here in Tacoma.  All four School Board candidates were there.

All the candidates introduced themselves for one minute, then spent one minute each on two more questions.  One was, What do you think the district should do with the buildings that it has closed?  The second was, What is one policy you will pursue if elected?
3 minutes total, then much later a Q & A, that I did not stay to see.

Some interesting things....
Scott Heinze (seeking Seat #3--the very same which your blogger sought in the primary) did a very good job.  He answered both questions thoroughly and clearly.  In fact, Scott reinforced my feeling that he's the best of the four remaining candidates.  Dexter Gordon (Heinze's opponent) offered little specific material by which to take a good sense of what he's about.

Scott answered first of all four on the 'closed buildings' question.  And after he said that we need a long-term strategic plan by which to make better projections about facilities use, he advocated for 'repurposing' empty buildings into things like community centers for neighborhoods.  Last week, he was at a meeting at the Portland Avenue Community Center (which I also attended) in which Eastside community members talked about a variety of plans to establish community activities and a center in their neighborhood.  It was a good example of the specific ways that Scott works with regular Tacomans to solve problems.

Dexter Gordon and Karen Vialle (Seat #5) both largely recycled Scott's answer.  Dexter even used the word 'repurpose,' which I had always avoided (Scott's early and consistent use made it "his" word) and which I had not heard Dexter use before in 5 or 6 public events.

As for the 'one policy you'd implement' question, Dexter led off with a reasonable observation about eroded trust and the need to rebuild it among all players in the story.  Karen Vialle parroted Dexter, even to the point of squeezing in the same quick reference to how important the hiring of the new Superintendent was going to be.   Interesting observations, and I agree with them.  Neither of them answered the question, though.

Scott, by contrast, emphasized the need to focus energy on early childhood education.  He rightly pointed out how serious the consequences are for children that begin to fall behind early, and said we need to make sure we get the pre-school to 3rd grade students on an early track for success.

Nicely put.

Some interesting (as in, odd) things, too, I thought.

Everybody pushed their doctoral status pretty hard.  Kim Washington emphasized the 'Dr.' in her name when she introduced herself.  (She's an Ed.D.)  Dexter Gordon introduced himself as a Distinguished Professor at UPS, sort of hitting 'Distinguished' hard.  Karen Vialle noted that she finished all graduate work for the Ph.D., except the dissertation.  Only Scott neglected to mention his doctoral status.  Last I heard, he was beginning work on his dissertation.

Another interesting aspect....I saw and heard Kim Washington (Seat #5) for the first time.  All during the primary, she participated in none of the public events to which we were all invited.  It's tough to imagine she can surmount Vialle's sizable lead.

The most surprising, however, was Dexter Gordon's listlessness.  As a voter, I have not been thrilled with his zeal--it tends toward zealotry.  But as more than one observer has pointed out, "He's passionate."  Well, the passion seemed absent.  Recycled answers, lower intensity....I hope he's not flagging.  Not with a month still to go.

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