Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Dead Bloggin'" at the APS Board Candidate Forum

I just got back from attending an hour or so of the APS Board District #1/#4 Candidate Forum at Highland High School. I had some crazy plan to "Live Blog" the event, forgetting that Highland HS has a computer network from the days of Marconi and Tesla. Nothing ruins a candidate forum like an inability to check ones Gmail every twenty to thirty seconds.

Despite the antiquated tech setup and a general bad community college classroom look at the HHS "Lecture Hall", I stuck around and took a few notes. I'm tempted just to copy/paste the prose-less notes directly into this post as a sort of litera-verite style that provides a pseudo-hip, groovy cover to the simple fact that I'm too tired and lazy to spend much time grinding my insipid notes into paragraphs. Sadly the notes are too insipid for such new-wave journalism...besides they include little petty jabs at the candidates, jabs that provided necessary entertainment for me while I watched the forum wi-fi-less, but would only serve here to show how fundamentally infantile is the mind of your humble blogger.

So I'll compromise by just making a few points from the forum:

  • The forum was attended by District #1 candidates Dolores Griego and Richard Sanchez (Cecilia C. DeBaca didn't make it) and District #4 candidates Pauline Nunez, Vanessa Alarid, Marty Esquivel, John Edward and Charles MacQuigg. Ms. Alarid had to leave immediately after her opening statement due to a death in the family.
  • There were roughly 75, maybe 100 people in the audience. About 74-99 of them were middle aged. Many were on the back nine of middle age, some nearing the 18th green.
  • School board elections are refreshing in a way in that they feature candidates who are generally unpolished. The only one of the seven present tonight that seemed to have any real "I could be running for NM-1 instead" slickness was Marty Esquivel. Relative to the others Esquivel was friggin' John Edwards meets Barack Obama. I found myself asking almost out loud: "Hey Marty Esquivel, why didn't YOU run against Heather Wilson?" At the same time, Esquivel's slickness was almost unsettling at times in a milieu that featured the the folksiness of Charles Macquigg and South Valley "we suck" fatalism of Richard Sanchez and Dolores Griego.
  • Speaking of Charles Macquigg, I'm guessing about half the audience only showed up on the chance that Macquigg would sound as obtusely semi-sane as his web postings and comments might make him appear. That half the audience must have been disappointed, as the guy sounded anything but crazy. Slightly conspiratorial at times, but understandable and restrained. It must be said that Macquigg's look and demeanor did remind your humble blogger at times of a sober Foster Brooks, or Lee Marvin in "Paint Your Wagon". In fact, I would not at all been surprised if Macquigg had broken into a rendition of "I Was Born Under a Wandering Star" at some point in the festivities.
  • As a District #1 resident myself, I couldn't help feeling that District #4 gets all the best candidates. This feeling only increased every time that Richard Sanchez opened his mouth.
  • Dolores Griego sounded better than Sanchez, but she too exhibited that South Valley Fatalism (Trademark Pending), complete with woeful tales about drop-outs and poverty without much in the way of solutions. It was almost as if District #1 was in a completely different city/district/state/nation than District #4.
  • Interestingly, there wasn't really much in the way of philosophical differences between any of the candidates, at least in the context of the questions asked at the forum for the time I stuck around. They all hate NCLB. They all think the District has been run poorly. Drop-outs are a big problem. Middle School sucks. Mars needs women.
  • What differences exist seem to be those held by District 4 candidate Pauline Nunez and the rest of the District 4 candidates. Namely, Nunez says she wants to work with Mayor Marty on school reform issues (although she opposes the idea of Marty appointing three school board members). The other candidates for District #4 and #1 were more vehement in opposing Chavez and at least one said something about "the Mayor breathing down our necks".
  • Nunez also was more pro-charter school than most of the others, but to be honest none of the candidates came off as really anti-charter. Marty Esquivel pointed out the possible financial millstone caused by state legislation mandating that charters must be in public building by 2010. He threw a figure of $350 million out as the cost of implementing such a plan. Others like John Edward disagreed with the size of the figure. Generally it was more of a charter school love-fest, with Dolores Griego talking about her kid at a charter and Pauline Nunez (the designated by many pro-charter candidate) praising charters and making her voice really loud as she proclaimed she doesn't want to "pit kids against kids".
  • I did notice that when saying "pitting kids against kids" Nunez voice got really booming loud. Like she was at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver instead of the Highland High School "Lecture Hall". Really loud. Far louder than the polite just-past-golf clap reply to this booming oration.
  • I left after almost an hour and a half, and there might have been really good questions and answers after 8:00...but I somehow doubt it. Of course if I missed the "good part", I hope someone who stuck around will let me know.
All in all, I'm glad Highland HS put together the forum and I was glad I attended the thing. It was good to put faces to candidate names, and I even got to talk to one of them (Edward) for a bit before things began. I also got to experience that "small town" of teaching feel by seeing several ex-colleagues, parents and other acquaintances I hadn't seen in a while. The drab lecture room had a pleasant, if distinctly middle aged, vibe.

Still, outside of the pleasant warm feeling of having participated in an aspect of democracy in action, I'm not sure much really happened at the APS Board candidate forum tonight. Truth be told, I'm almost quite certain nothing of real import did. The candidates threw some philosophical pennies into the ocean of problems in public education. Those pennies looked a lot alike and were generally the same size. The ocean was unmoved.

Remember to vote for one of those pennies on February 6th. You can also vote to renew a mill-levy for another $157 million over six years.

--For Molly. R.I.P.


Ched MacQuigg said...


You left before I presented the method by which voters will regain control over a school system that will not provide absolute transparency of the public interests, and will not hold it self honestly accountable for its stewardship of $168M - don't give it to them

no accountability
no transparency

no mill levy

Ched MacQuigg said...

There was a distinction drawn between those who are asking to be trusted as they "lead" us to success; or, business as usual; and enabling fully informed stakeholders to meaningfully participation in decisions that effect them, before they are made.

It is worth examining objectively-no?

Maggie said...

On a barely related trivia note, Marconi Beach on Cape Cod - yep, named after that Marconi - is beautiful, complete with historical commemoration!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post franny. Insightful summary and entertaining late nite reading.
Really that loud, huh?
Good to see you and read over your shoulder a bit.