Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Democracy is not a consent agenda item

The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion. Molly Ivins

At the Board meeting last Thursday, November 20, 2008, I asked a simple question: Who requested that four year terms be placed on the November Board agenda for action?

There was no answer - nine Trustees but no answer to a simple question.

This Board is a danger to democratic rule.

Last week's 7-2 vote on adopting four year terms was a reflection of the current willingness of the Dallas ISD Board to use ruthless politics to preserve its power.

Voting for four Year Terms - Lowe, Price, Garza, Ellis, Bingham, Flores, and Blackburn.

Voting against four year terms - Medrano and Ranger.

The Dallas ISD needs to be cleaned up and cleaned out, beginning with the Board right on through the Superintendent and his deeply flawed administration that appears to have little respect for truth, teachers or taxpayers.

The Dallas ISD culture is one of arrogance, deceit, cover-up and cronyism. Truth often does not walk the halls of 3700 Ross. But the Raptor machine now protects the entrance from menacing and untidy taxpayers

The vote to change Trustee terms from three to four years was all about preserving a wrongheaded administration and a wrongheaded Board - nothing else.

What else would motivate a Board to violate a state law and refuse to even verify the action with officials of the Secretary of State Elections Division. What was the urgency other than the desire to cancel the May, 2009 Trustee election?

Even if there had been no December 31, 2007 deadline, I would not vote for four year terms.

I do not believe four year terms serve the public interest. There has been too much recent pain in Dallas ISD. I understand very well that it serves the political objectives of the current board.

I fully intend to file objections with the U.S. Department of Justice and have already contacted both the Secretary of State's office and Commisssioner Robert Scott for further clarification of the Texas Education Code Subsection 11.059(e)December 31, 2007 deadline, along with a request for possible assistance in obtaining an Opinion of the Texas Attorney General, if that is necessary. Others will probably do the same.

It is the duty of a Trustee to oppose what might be a violation of a state law contained in the Texas Education Code until the matter is settled.

A wise Frederick Douglas had it right many years ago when he said: "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will."

What this vote reveals are Trustees who seem to have no respect for the public who voted to elect us but also Trustees who are ruthless enough to assault the very foundation of the democratic process itself - the right of the public to vote in fair elections open to all - especially during a time when there is a growing crisis of confidence.

The cancellation of elections scheduled for next May by self-serving Board action alone forever marks this Board as one of the very worst in Dallas history.

I pulled this item late on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 19, 2008 afternoon - not by design - but because it took that long to find another Trustee who would help. I had already made two earlier requests - beginning on Monday - to have this item and others pulled - such as the budget and the consent agenda new Tuesday deadline to pull items for a separate vote.

It was clear that the intention was to prevent any public discussion. Trustees would have no direct accountability for their vote against democracy.

Today just one week later, it would not be possible to pull this item on Wednesday because seven Trustees voted to change the deadline for even two Trustees to pull an agenda item for a separate vote. The vote was 7-1. Voting for the more restrictive Tuesday deadline - Lowe, Ellis, Bingham, Garza, Flores, Blackburn, and Medrano. Ranger voted No. Not Voting - Price who left before the vote.

This had nothing to do with the approval of Board Minutes. Minutes were always approved as a separate item by this Board and many other public Boards - including the Dallas City Council where agenda items are often pulled from the Consent Agenda by individual Council members for a separate vote right at the Council Meeting.

Some people want open government. Dallas ISD wants closed government with committees operating in secret without public accountability.

All of this is about an intolerant agenda that seeks to stack the deck toward majority exclusion of minority political rights. Only certain political majorities can prevail or even have issues considered. Board policy is violated by the President and the Board allows it.

We have seen this before in Dallas ISD history but not as clearly attached to an agenda that threatens democracy itself.

Even two African American and two Hispanic Trustees supported the cancellation of elections next year and were going to do so on the consent agenda with no public discussion. This showed great disrespect for the taxpayers.

I am proud to be on the short end of this 7-2 vote against the public interest.

Thursday, November 20, 2008 was a bad day for democracy -- an historic low at the Dallas ISD horseshoe.