Friday, April 16, 2010

Commentary on School Board Election

As if there was not already enough brouhaha preceding Tuesday's school board election, somebody called my attention to a flier from a New York-based union that endorses one of the four slates, while disclaiming any connection with the candidates or their supporters.

I had not really looked at the flier and had to fish it out of a wastebasket for a closer look. It was followed by another one today, both with the disclaimer in a box below the recipient's address. It says, "Paid for by Service Workers United, 330 West 42nd Street, Suite 900, New York, NY 10036. This expenditure was not made with the cooperation or prior consent of, or in consultation with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate, or person or committee acting on behalf of a candidate."

The primary message to voters appears to be criticism of Gov. Chris Christie's tough stand on education costs. The cure is portrayed as sending Christie a message on election day by voting for the indicated slate.

At the LWV forum Wednesday, candidates were asked whether they had received contributions from any political organization or union and members of the slate in question said they were not. That may well be true, because Service Workers United put the wrong polling hours on the fliers and also told recipients to bring them to the polls, where campaign literature is not allowed.

A call to the union was not answered today, nor was an e-mail to the slate pictured on the fliers.

The only link Plaintalker could see here was that workers for the district food provider, Sodexo, are members of the union.

Whatever the union's intention, the net effect was to roil further the turbulent waters of this election.

This election has 14 candidates, with three slates and two independents. The level of accusations, name-calling, derisiveness and incivility is unprecedented in this writer's memory and echoes what seems to be a nationwide trend affecting discourse. Even the children are perplexed.

My post on the forum resulted in a flood of comments, only a couple of which called for moderation. I am letting them stand so far as a mirror of the situation, but plan to cut them off at some point over the weekend. The fray can continue on the Star-Ledger forum, if that's what people want.

I am hearing that people are having a hard time deciding who should get their vote among the 14 candidates. Three three-year terms and one unexpired term are up for election on the nine-member board. Whatever you decide, remember to go to your polling place between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday and cast your votes.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It probably wasn't completely coordinated. And I believe a local of that union represents the district's maintenance workers and endorsed their slate. But at least one of the "Coalition for Better Schools" had to know about them. The pictures are the same as those on the mailer that their team paid for. Where'd the union get those? And it means someone from their team misrepresented this issue or lied outright at the LWV forum.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice, you are being a little coy by not saying which team these fliers are for. Specifically they are for the New Dem slate led by Christian Estevez.

This is also known as "pay to play". The NY unions have paid. Soon they will want to play.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Williams said...

Hi, Bernice,

I am glad that you wrote this post. As you know, when the league organizes the candidate forum, we work to create an atmosphere of civility to ensure the comfort of all the candidates as well as the audience. I think we achieved our goal at Wednesday night's forum. The emails and phone calls that I received in the immediate aftermath commended the league on our forum, and those who contacted me thought that much of the commentary was thoughtful and showed true concern for the children. I would have hoped that, in the final days leading up to the election, that atmosphere would have triumphed over what I have read here. I have enjoyed warm and cordial relationships with many of the candidates on all of the slates, as well as with some of their family members, and have even worked with some of them on other community and/or political initiatives over the past several years.

While filling in for the vacant "Voter Service" slot in order to put together the forum, I have remained assiduously nonpartisan, per LWV guidelines. I have now stepped down from that role, and have resigned from my officer role (as 1st Vice-President), although I will continue to support and serve as a volunteer for the league. Yesterday, though, I received several email messages urging me to read the responses to your report on the LWV forum, some containing chunks of anonymous commentary. A few of those who wrote to me said that they were shocked by the angry tone, angry at the personal attacks, and some even said that they were only going to vote for one or two candidates and just write in other names. Two people simply said they don't want to be a part of this BOE election season at all and were going to sit this one out.

That last response is the one that should be of primary concern to all of us. When the level of discussion falls so low that folks don't even want to vote, we have a serious problem. I have been registering people to vote since I was a teenager, and for people to not exercise the franchise for which so many dedicated their lives is troubling. As the LWV celebrates its 90th year, I would just ask that the candidates reflect on what it means to be elected by the people of this city and to consider the aftermath of this local school board election, no matter which individuals "win." We all have to live in this city on April 21st, and whoever is elected will need the support of the community to carry forward what I thought was the agenda--to provide Plainfield's young people with the best education possible. The folks running have all stepped up--there is no salary and there are no benefits attached to serving on the BOE--it is voluntary service.

As many people know, I am a big fan of Lincoln, who was assassinated on April 14, 1865, exactly 145 years ago to the day of our forum. In his 2nd inaugural address (the greatest speech in American history, in my opinion), delivered about one month before his death, when it was clear that the Civil War would soon end in a Union victory, he expressed a need for the nation to come together "...With malice toward none; with charity for all." Frances E.W. Harper, one of my other great heroes wrote, "We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity."

I would ask that, as we move into the final days of this election cycle, we consider the overall goal of this election: to elect those whom we each think will bring the most thoughtful and constructive proposals to the BOE table for the education of Plainfield's children.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

All best,


8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for alerting me to this Bernice. I saw the TWO - not ONE - but TWO fliers supporting Estevez and his team mates.

Why is a New York union getting involved in Plainfield school board elections? What do they have to gain?

That is what I want to know!

Shirely J.

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm...where does Christian Estevez work, isn't it for a union? The New Dems getting endorsements and mailers from a union and then lying about it is slimy. I would expect that from Estevez and Cox but am surprised at Burgwinkle and Pile.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think that's bad, one of the candidates had the union he works for send fliers to some individuals. I will send NJ PLAINTALKER a copy via e-mail. It reads" UNION MEMBERS VOTE FOR UNION MEMBERS"

It comes from NJ State AFL-CIO
106 West State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608

Only one candidate, C. Estevez which is part of a team is endorsed as "Union Brother"

If this is how my union dues are spent, I am certainly not voting for any union candidate. - No matter how good or BAD they might be.

9:07 AM  
Blogger RASRAHMATAZ said...

Here's the FACTS: This is the actual text copied from an email received by the Union in question...

From: Hashim Shomari >
Date: Fri, Mar 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM
Subject: SEIU Local 32BJ and the April 20, 2010, Plainfield School Board Elections

My name is Hashim Shomari and I am the NJ Political Director of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union. You and your slate of school board candidates participated in the March 20, 2010, candidate screening for the Plainfield School Board elections that was hosted by Local 32BJ. As I mentioned to you that was the second round of candidate screenings that our local organized, the first being on March 6, 2010.

I am writing to inform you that Local 32BJ has decided to endorse the Plainfield Coalition for Better Schools for the April 20, 2010, Plainfield School Board elections.

There are three basic reasons why Local 32BJ decided to endorse the Plainfield Coalition for Better Schools, instead of the Committee To Elect CAHE:

1.) Solidarity with Christian Estevez. Local 32BJ has worked with Christian Estevez over the last number of years. Chris was the Field Director for the Eddie Osborne for Newark Central Ward campaign during the November 2008 special election to fill the unexpired term of Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Dana Rone. (Eddie Osborne is a Business Manager for the Laborers International Union of North America, and Chris was a staffer with the NJ AFL-CIO at the time.)

The email continues for about 4 more paragaphs...but what's above is the opening and most pertinent information for this discussion if the 'truth' is really what we are after here.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Ms. Cansdale said...

In response to Rebecca, yes, the LWV forum was just as you state, and it was a great relief to attend an event that rose above the fray. I applaud all those who organized, participated, and attended this event. It should stand as a model for the level of discourse to which we should aspire.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's wrong with unions endorsing a union activist? I am a union member and I find all of this union slamming discusting. Several unions are expressing thier support for Christian Estevez because the he has proven his dedication to the labor movement through his hard work for his entire adult life. Many politicians claim to support worker's when they are campaigning, but then turn their backs once elected. Christian Estevez has been on the front lines of the labor movement for many years. Our unions know what we are getting when we support other union members like Christian Estevez: we get elected officials who prove their commitment to working families on the front lines of the labor movement everyday. I find Renata's SLAMing of unions quite discusting. Plainfield is a working class community. Christian Estevez has a strong record of fighting for working families. It is only natural that we would support our union brother who has done so much to support us. I will not be voting for any candidates who demonize union members. I will not be voting for Renata because she SLAM's union members who work and live in the city of Plainfield. I will be voting for my union brother Christian Estevez and the rest of his team.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Rebecca and Ms. Cansdale,
This is why I just sent in a contribution to the LWV. That is who gets my support.

12:22 PM  
Blogger RASRAHMATAZ said...

Renata didn't SLAM any Unions -- she simply put the truth out there. Print one quote where I have slammed any UNION. You can't because I have never. I support UNIONS whole-heartedly. So BEFORE you start accusing people CHECK YOUR FACTS Jack!

What I don't support is LIARS union members or otherwise!

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Mr. Estevez to claim he and his slate have no political or union support was a lie.

I support unions too but not liars.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Estevez is an opportunist with no morals. He goes along to get along. His personal attack on Dr. B. made me sick to the stomach. He will not get my vote or the vote of any one i know. I have launched my own campaign to keep him out of the BOE seat. No votes for him in the third or fourth wards. Union affiliation or otherwise.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NASTY tone of this election season came from one team:GRAND SLAM. They have attacked everyone from screaming at BOE meetings, to pointing their fingers in the face of an opponent, cursing in public, and attacking a sitting BOE member that is NOT even running. Renata Hernandez has been at the forefront of this UNACCEPTABLE and DISGRACEFUL behavior. If this is the type of behavior we would get if they are elected God help us.


10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard Mr Estevez state that he was not getting any support from outside. Well, he forgot to leave out this small detail.

I too don't mind union membership. I loose repect for those who twist the truth.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous S Smith said...

Rebecca William is not being honest. In her comments she works hard to portray herfelf as an impartial purveyor of good. Goes on to quote Lincoln so as to further cloak herself.

Behind the scenes she is sending out emails asking people to vote for Carmansita Pile because "she worked on Adrian Mapp's campaign". Not because Ms Pile has anything to offer the school board, but almost as a reward for working on another campaign.

This me, this is the height of cronyism and partisanship. Ms Pile has not said anything substantial for herself.

Now Rebecca Williams wants us to vote for Pile simply because she worked on Mapp's campaign.

I wonder what Lincoln would say about that?

S. Smith

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The New Dems have a continual problem: Telling the truth.

C Estevez who is on the board of the New Dems told us that they would not accept any monies from outside of Plainfield. So did the rest of the New Dem slate: Mary, Carmensita and Cox.

Most of all, I am sorely dissapointend in Mary Burgwinkle.

1:13 AM  
Blogger RASRAHMATAZ said...

Renata A. Hernandez has done one thing and one thing only -- Told the TRUTH!

1:57 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Williams said...

Point of clarification needed, Bernice, in re the comment at 11:00 pm by "S Smith":

In response to an email sent to me (and a number of other individuals) by a friend who asked for any additional information I had on the candidates, I quite candidly said that I knew Carmencita Pile and that she was a friend of mine and that she worked very hard on Adrian Mapp's mayoral campaign. I made this remark as a "caveat," so that folks would know that the info I provided was from me outside of my former league role. I wanted to be completely forthright. Had I said I didn't know Carmencita, I would have been lying. I was simply responding to a query, and I answered the question about who she was as honestly and forthrightly as possible. I would never hide the fact that I know her--in fact, in conversations with many of the candidates on all the slates, I said that I maintained friendly (even warm) relations with many of them, such as Wilma and Rasheed on one slate, Mahogany's parents on another slate, and Carmencita and a couple of the others on the third slate. Given the level of community/political activism that I participate in--in a small city like Plainfield--it's inevitable that I would know some of these folks. Again, in the email response, and in subsequent conversations with the individual who first sent the query, I issued the caveat in an attempt to be open and circumvent any illusion of favoritism. All the candidates know that I have been impartial and have not advocated publicly or via email on behalf of any of them. I take my duties as a league member very seriously, and I would never besmirch the league name. It seems that individuals who want to forward personal emails to "anonymous" commenters who, in turn, lie about what I actually said about Ms. Pile want to make hy of this. I say, why not post the entire email response, rather than making up and posting a lie? To post the entire email would be to accurately state the entirety of my comments--I would not have a problem with that. Hwoever, once again, we are moving into an area of discourse that is not helpful and that takes away from the focus, which should remain on the education of Plainfield's children. The fact that this comment attacking me is anonymous speaks to the lack of character of the commenter, who clearly prefers to make these kinds of attacks under the cowardly cloak of anonymity rather than direct his/her query to me directly.


2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Renata. Don't you have anything better to do than post about yourself in the third person from multiple screen names. Your behavior IS disgraceful and now everyone is starting to see that.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RASRAHMATAZ is Renata Hernandez. So why the third person comments about her? Are you trying to confuse people as to the fact that it's you?

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Union Endorsements

At the League of Women Voters candidate forum on April 14th, our slate, along with the other candidates, was asked a question about campaign contributions. We in good faith believed that we were being asked whether our campaign was being funded by any political or other organizations. We answered that we had not received contributions from anyone other than our team members and our friends (all of whom are individuals). We have not and do not intend to accept campaign contributions from anyone other than individuals. We are largely funding our campaign ourselves.

Regarding endorsements, our slate member, Christian Estevez, is a proud, lifelong, union organizer. Our team strongly supports the right of all employees to organize. Christian is currently employed by the Communication Workers of America, and was previously employed by the AFL-CIO. Christian (and not the rest of the slate) was endorsed by his employer and the AFL-CIO. Our slate was endorsed by SEIU Local 32BJ United of Service Workers United. That local represents the cafeteria workers in the Plainfield Public Schools. Food service is privatized in our system and is outsourced to Sodexo. The local engages in collective bargaining with Sodexo, not with the Board of Education. We are proud of the hard working men and women of the Service Workers Union, and are happy that they have confidence in our slate.

When a union gives an endorsement, it publicizes the endorsement as it sees fit, and not in consultation with the candidates, consistent with the disclaimer printed on its literature. Our slate was not consulted about the content, timing or the extent of the mailings that were sent. Once again, we strongly support the right of unions, and of any other organizations, to endorse candidates who share their core beliefs and we appreciate our endorsements.

Our slate regrets the controversy that has arisen over this issue in an election that is rife with controversy, and we hope that this explanation will clear the air.


Mary Burgwinkle
Plainfield Coalition for Better Schools

8:59 AM  
Blogger RASRAHMATAZ said...

Hey Anon -- You are TOO SILLY! Welcome to Plainfield! Everyone who has been involved for AT LEAST the last 6 months knows who Rasrahmataz is...I have my photo next to it LOL...LOL...LOL - Bernice has just chosen not to allow the image to come through.

So -- Get over yourself will you. Stop trying to create this storyline because your fella flubbed up! I have nothing to hide dear lady. Never have!

Too funny...

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary is being disingenuous. The photos on the SEIU mailer tell the story--they're the same photos that have being used by the candidates on the Cox-Estevez slate.

I'm sorry about this--I expected better of Mary, and I am really disappointed. The question at the LWV forum was quite clear and not only did Estevez lie in his answer, he also "fudged" on other issues.

I had been tempted to vote for Mary (but not Cox or Estevez) but I have changed my mind and will not vote for anyone on that slate. I don't have a problem with union endorsements--I'm a proud union member myself--but I do have a problem with people who either tell a lie or bend the truth. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Mary, Christain and the rest of the New Dem slate:

When you take money from an outside organization - it is pay to play.

They have paid. Now they will want to play.

Question is how much of Plainfield's money, which should go to children, now will go to these pay-to-play unions?

That is my problem here. There is no free lunch here.

Tell me that I am wrong!

- A dissapointed citizen.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Bernice said...

Hey Renata, images do not come through on comments. You are jumping to conclusions and mischaracterizing me when you say, "Bernice has just chosen not to let the image come through."

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"RASRAHMATAZ" or Renata Hernandez says she had nothing to hide? Then why don't you tell everyone the rest of your screen names on the forum? Or would you rather spend hours talking to yourself making it look like you're different people? No me gusta your other bs either. I don't care who gets elected as long as it isn't you or Ms. Edwards. Your team has made a mockery of this race with your negativity and Ms. Campbell and Mr. Abdul-Haqq should be ashamed to be associated with you.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The New Dems apply two standards. One for themselves and one for everyone else.

They will jump all over the party when the party gets money from outside.

When they get money from New York, the party line is " we are happy that they have confidence in our slate"

Janitorial workers who have nothing to do with the system are pouring money into this campaign, for the incumbants, out of the goodness of thier hearts? Come on!!

An investigation is going to be called for, on who awards contracts to Sodexo in the Plainfield school system.

Not everyone in Plainfield is stupid you may be surprised to know.

Some will NOT vote for those with double standards.

3:23 PM  
Blogger RASRAHMATAZ said...

Bernice they do to come through on the comments. My Photo Always shows up on Maria's. So I apologize but because it doesn't on yours I assumed it was because you selected it not too. When I post to Maria's comments, Dan, Old Docs or my own my photo always shows up.

Point is my Screen name has been the same since I've been blogging over two years and had ANON who is so busy worried about my screen names that they post as ANon (that's funny in itself)...they
would know this.

Really it's not a mischaracterization it was a logical deduction. Please forgive the error.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

Barbara Todd Kerr set up the technical part of the blog in 2005. She has since turned the blog over to me and I know more recent blogs have upgraded features, but I don't know how to go in the back and change the settings. I hope to relaunch the blog soon with more modern features, but that may be part of the problem. Sorry.

4:37 PM  

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