On “Chair Comment” (to Phil Hart)
Now that you’ve set the precedent of providing one member of this board with the opportunity to be on the agenda to comment in public, from this time forward there must be equal time set aside for any one member or all members to be on the agenda to comment in public.
Without provisions in the statutes or our own bylaws giving special status to any one member – and there are no such provisions – then all members are necessarily equal with equal rights of participation. If there’s time set aside for one member to be on the agenda and comment then there must be equal time set aside for every other member to be on the agenda to comment. If one member has that privilege, than all members must have that privilege otherwise you’re violating 500 years of common law, parliamentary law, state statutes, our own bylaws, and the equal protections rights of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
On Pay Raises and Contract Extensions:
I will vote again, as I did last year, against pay increases, more days off, and contract extensions for the administrative staff because to vote for these increases, in my opinion and according to my conscience, would express alack of consideration for the taxpayers of Region 1. The recession has not gone away. We are still living in a time of economic and political peril. There is instability, uncertainty and saber-rattling in the worldm making it impossible to know what the next few years will bring even in terms of the cost of fuel. We know there are some very wealthy taxpayers in Region 1. We also know the majority of people are not among them. The majority of people are hardworking employees, some of whom have lost their jobs, some of whom have lost or may lose their homes, many of whom make well below the middle class median household income of around $50,000 for a family of four, and most of whom have not had raises for the past few years, or whose raises have not even met the almost 3 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index. By contrast, there’s no hardship in the administrators’ present compensation packages which range from over $100,000 to more than $160,000. Region 1 taxpayers will be asked to bear an additional tax burden for necessary and mandated repairs to the high school building. To ask them to pay for raises for people who already earn so much money is, to me, unthinkable. Any budget increases at this point should be directed toward improving student learning.
On Free Speech; Advocacy and Opposition
The Region 1 Board of Education is a body politic and a corporate political subdivision of the state and therefore it is governed by the political process in the same way that the state is.
With respect to the people who participate in the political process, there can be no proper restraints placed on them with regard to speech or advocacy or opposition to public policies. Our budget is a public policy. In fact, ourpolicy book says: “The Regional School Board regards its annual budget as a basic policy document through which the District’s plans for the improvement of the secondary school program are expressed.” To claim, as some people have claimed, that once a majority of this board votes on an issue then everyone on the board is required to “speak with one voice” is as unconsidered as it would be to say that a member of Congress or the Senate could not advocate against a majority vote that passes legislation – or even to try to overturn legislation after it passes as we see this week in the SCOTUS oral arguments over the health insurance law.
Also, when we’re elected we take an oath of office to represent our constituents to the best of our ability. With respect to the oath of office we have a duty to advocate as we see best. Oaths are about truth. So it’s not that we’re just permitted to speak the truth as we see it, we have a duty to do so. In other words, if you think something is wrong you have a duty to your constituents to stand up against it. History buffs may recall Abe Lincoln’s Cooper Union address during a presidential election when he said words to the effect that if he, Lincoln, did what Senator Douglas thought was right, he’d be perjuring himself on his oath of office. Douglas wanted to extend slavery into what they then called the territories and Lincoln was against it.
To say that a person on a board has to advocate for the majority vote, that a minority view has to shut up and not express and, yes, even lobby against a majority vote that he or she is against, is in fact a seditious notion.Additionally, there are numerous lawsuits that have been lost over attempts to gag school board members from exercising their right of free speech to advocate against majority decisions by their board colleagues;.