Thursday, May 07, 2009

District 1 School Board Candidate Shealey Calls Pittsburgh a Racist City

Fascinating article in The City Paper on the District One School Board Candidates. Before reading this article the race appeared to be a rare case in which the public had an option between excellent candidates. Although previously I had experienced the very negative tactics of some Shealey supporters (see earlier post on 14th Ward Independent Doters Club), but believed Shealey to be a bright, open minded and competent candidate. I do feel that Stone is a better candidate based upon her long history of service to the community in support of issues affecting women and children, as well as dedicated service to worthy candidates such as Barack Obama.

Shealey is bright and has been involved in her childrens' school, but she has not been back in Pittsburgh for that long a time and has not been involved in politics. I really know little about the third candidate, Brooks, who declined to be interviewed for the City Paper article and did not appear to speak to the voting Democratic Committee Members in the 14th Ward. The City Paper article certainly makes me question Shealey.

The article started with a quote from out going District 1 Board member Randall Taylor

"You don't have a school board: You just have some people who are rubber-stamping," he says. "I can waste my time in better ways."

Taylor has been a controversial and disruptive figure on the school board. Generally the community sees it as a positive move that we will be getting a new Board member. Later in the article we learn that Shealey is being backed by Taylor. Further we know she is being backed by other individuals associated with the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, who have acted in a threatening manner to "ruin" Stone and have said that she should not run because of the color of her skin.

To her credit, Shealey did not totally adopt this rigid-thinking position and was quoted as saying " a white candidate like Stone could represent the district." On the other hand she dropped this bomb:

"Pittsburgh tends to be a racist city"

Exactly who is she referring to? A city is made up of it's residents. Is she talking about the voters in her district, which is quite diverse: Homewood, Lincoln-Lemington, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, North Point Breeze, Point Breeze and Larimer? Is she talking about her supporters who, unlike her, have said Stone should not run because of her race and that race should be the determinative factor in the election? Is she talking about the voters in the predominately white pockets of the District? Is she making a generalization about the all of the city residents? The comment certainly is offensive to any city residents who do not view themselves as racists.

The next quote attributed to Shealey, in response to Stone saying she has lost confidence in the system, is also surprising:

"I don't want my manager having mistrust in the system."

Compare this statement to the quote from her ardent supporter Taylor, which suggests that he had some "mistrust" of the system. Taylor is right. Board members protect the voters and taxpayers by being watchdogs over the system. If they don't have some degree of mistrust then how can they do their jobs of overseeing the school system.

The article points out that on her face, Stone seems to be an unusual candidate. She is white and it is stated in the article that her children do not go to public school. In reality, her daughter attends a private school but also attends a public school program, which gives Stone a unique prospective. She explains:

"You may have to break the rules: ... what your skin color should be, where your kids go to school -- all that kind of stuff....I am among the families that have lost confidence in the public schools. ... We need to get that confidence back."

Who better than someone who has views from both outside and inside the system. The article also gives a slightly erroneous report of her failure to get the 14th Ward Club endorsement. Quoting Club President Chris Zurawsky:

Club President Chris Zurawsky says Stone "didn't try very hard for the endorsement."

Talk about an understatement! The Club sent a letter to candidates asking if they wished to be considered for the Club endorsement. Stone specifically indicated that she was not seeking the endorsement and asked not to have her name placed on the ballot. She was told her name would be placed on the ballot whether she was seeking the endorsement or not.

Most importantly both Shealey and Stone believe closing the racial achievement gap is a priority, and both understand the importance of fiscal responsibility. Brooks declined to be interviewed for the article. They seem to be close on the issues. Stone has a longer track record in the community. Shealey has children who are students in the district. Stone's children are enrolled in a private school but attend a public school program. Stone wants to break barriers and has an out of the box view point. Shealey thinks Pittsburgh is racist, but she doesn't think we should have a lack of trust in the current system. Stone is the more progressive candidate, who is trying to represent the interests of this diverse district.


Chris said...

Hiya Dave. Thought-provoking post.

For the record, I don't recall sending an email to candidates asking if they want to be considered for the club's endorsement. However, the club does send a letter to candidates informing them that we are holding an endorsement meeting and asking them if they would like to sponsor it.

Christine sent an email to the club board on April 13 (less than a month ago; it feels much longer!) indicating that she would not be seeking the club's endorsement and did not want her name to appear on the ballot. The same day or the next, Christine and I had a fairly long and definitely cordial phone conversation. I told her that the club always runs the full slate of declared candidates, which we procure from the county board of elections, so we couldn't take her name off the ballot. I also offered that it appeared that she was running from a fight and that she was being out-politicked. To Christine's great credit, she subsequently secured a silver sponsorship of the club's endorsement meeting and fundraiser, and mailed a letter to club members asking them to endorse her. Unfortunately, she did not come to the endorsement meeting and present her case to club members, as Shealey did.

So I thought that my observation that Christine didn't try very hard to win the club's endorsement was a reasonable encapsulation of the circumstances, given the kind of confused approach she took toward the process.

And of course, I aspire to understatement!

Keep on bloggin',

Pittsburgh Guy said...

Chris -
Sorry; thought it was an e-mail from you, I corrected the error.

I did recall getting an e-mail from you outlining which candidates indicated that they were or were not seeking the 14WIDC endorsement, which explains my confusion. You indicated in the e-mail that Stone was not seeking the endorsement. As far as your "running from a fight" comment, perhaps you mean ducking an ambush. Big of her to make a Silver Sponsor donation to the club despite the way she was being treated by some of her co-Board members and former officers. You should take it is a compliment to your leadership if she did that as a result of the conversation with you. After the threats from the other members you would think she wouldn't have anything to do with the Club. The 14WIDC is lucky to have her as a member of the Club and the Board. Too bad she is so highly unappreciated.

I appreciate your comments.


Chris said...

Hi again PghGuy. "Threats" is a pretty strong word. What, exactly, were the threats made against Christine by club members? "Threats" to not support her candidacy, or something more serious?

Pittsburgh Guy said...

Chris - if you want to communicate with me directly about this feel free to call me or e-mail me. You have my phone number and my e-mail address. Since you raised the question on the blog though the threat by the former president of the 14th Ward Independent Democrats Club was that if Stone ran for School Board that the former president would "ruin her". I think that threat is serious, maybe you don't. Feel free to call or e-mail though, if you want to have conversation about this.

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