Saturday, November 5, 2011

What did I learn?

Some people have asked me what I think about the process of running for office.  All I ever come up with is, it was interesting.  I should probably say, "It was unbelievable."  That could go either way...good or bad.  And parts of it were unbelievable.

I had a hard time believing that the union lied to me...well, not directly to me.  Rather, they lied about me when they told a News Tribune reporter (who then relayed it to me) that they had called me to participate in the endorsement interview process when they had not.

Now I appreciate that preparation--it wasn't so unbelievable when they lied to a colleague (in a similar pattern--about contacting him) regarding district business.

I have also had a hard time believing that the union endorsed Dexter Gordon when he stands for so many things that they oppose.  Aligned with Stand for Children and Vibrant Schools Tacoma, Gordon supports "getting rid of bad teachers"--words he spoke at the News Tribune endorsement interview--by way of administrative fiat determined by test score-based teacher evaluations.

I'm generally skeptical of such arguments, but my skepticism of the union is compounded by the fact that  they endorsed a candidate who has these views.

I also have a hard time believing the News Tribune.  I found some of the things they did and said to be rather strange.

An explanation by way of a recent e-mail exchange with one of the editors.

From me to the editor:

Back in June, when we had the endorsement interview at the paper, I was brand new to the whole business of electoral politics.  So when we sat down for the interview I didn't really know what to think or expect.  While I enjoyed myself in the conversation, a couple things struck me as odd.

Scott Heinze was not present.  While at the time I was 'glad' for the extra exposure that he didn't get, it seemed odd that one of the candidates didn't get to participate.  (I understand that Scott had a previous and unbreakable commitment.)  I guess I wondered why we hadn't all tried to find a mutually agreeable date, since the endorsement choices were going to made at later date anyway.

I found it equally odd that a friend of Dexter Gordon's got to sit in on the interview.  [You two editors] greeted him warmly, and I chose not to make an issue of it, wondering if doing so might seem petty....Again, I was a neophyte in all this, and only discovered that our TNT interview was unusual when other groups specifically said that the only the candidates could be present in those activities.

Well, all that to say, have you given any thought to having another interview with Dexter and Scott--to start on an even playing field for the new election round?

The editor responded thusly:

I appreciate your interest in our pages and especially appreciate the fact that you ran for school board.

Candidates often perceive our endorsement interviews as being more important than they actually are. I learned a very long time ago not to judge a candidate on the basis of how well he or she comes across in a single meeting. Some of the most impressive-seeming people I’ve met in interviews have turned out to be frauds or incompetents on closer inspection.

We don’t endorse people on the basis of a dazzling show. We have conversations with people we respect in the community, we read our own news coverage, the candidates’ literature, and other sources of information.

In this case, we wound up with a very favorable impression of you, Scott Heinze and Dexter Gordon. We felt comfortable that any one of you would make a fine member of the school board. Six members of our editorial board all had their reasons for recommending Gordon (I don’t remember any dissent about it). I personally was influenced by watching his public advocacy - over a period of years - for more successful ways of educating disadvantaged students.

It was very unfortunate that Heinze couldn’t be there. Schedules conflict, and sometimes it’s all but impossible to get everyone in the room at the same time. But in this case especially, the meeting was not a dominant factor in our decision.

I have tried to believe this, but I have not been able to...not in its entirety, anyway.  Dexter Gordon is flashy.  Everyone agrees, he's a stirring speaker.  Many add that they never quite know what he's saying.  That's flash...and Dexter has it.

I do believe that the meeting was not the dominant factor in the editors' decision--they'd made up their minds already.  You know, after Dexter's years of advocacy.  At the interview, he explained that advocacy in this way.  "When I came to Tacoma nine years ago, I met with the leaders of the communities of color, and agreed with them that if they would fast-track me to leadership, I would speak their needs in the community."

Some might call it advocacy.  Others might call it ambition.  Just as some might call me skeptical while others might call it sour grapes.  The latter might be more substantiated for you by my disappointment that the News Tribune never did post my Letter to the Editor (after two attempts on my part).

So, sour grapes it may be...but it is what I learned.

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