Skip to Content

VOICES June '08 Issue is out - State College School Board Interviews

Comments

Good article on School board

Voices,

Nice job not adding hype or bs to the report!!!!  Love it.  It highlights that Mr. Hutchinson actually thinks that the new board is "hiding something."  Where did this idea of "developer interests" originate?  

please read carefully

The point of this story was to get people to listen to one another, but maybe  that'll never happen with you passionate advocates for instigation. If you see what Hutchinson said, it's that the new school board thinks "the district is either incompetent or irresponsible financially or they're hiding something." 

 If you don't know where this idea of developer interests came from, read the campaign finance reports or the issue of Voices where we reported on them. 

Oh

Geez.....Okay - I read it wrong.  It should have read "it is hiding something" to be more accurate.  A district is not a "they," it is an "it."  The sentence was a little confusing.  The subject is "the new school board" so when he said later "or they are hiding something" I thought he was referring back to the subject.  I'm not instigating anything.  Maybe I'm just used to being part of a general group of people who have been repeatedly falsely accused of having terrible hidden motives and just thought this was more of the same.

When I read the campaign finance reports, I saw developers on both sides.  I saw at least three or four that I know of on the team of the future side - yet, this fact was not highlighted in any article.  So, I still don't know why it is only the change side that is presumed to have developer interests.

Passionate Advocates for Instigation?

Interesting phrase to describe your readers, particularly one who was offering you a compliment on your article!  "Concerned parents and taxpayers" may have been more appropriate.

The supposed link between the new school board members and "developer interests" is the State College Area's version of the second gunman behind the grassy knoll in Dallas - often alledged and whispered about, but never proven. 

The article in Voices and others in the Centre Daily Times omitted mentioning that the "Team of The Future"  and "SOS" received financial support from there own powerful members of our community including local developer Galen Dreiblebis, several former and current State College Borough Council members, along with advertising and publishing executive Mimi Coppersmith Fredman. 

The point here is that this election was very divisive for our community and people lined up to support their preferred candidates.  To continue to repeat the tired and unfounded rumor that the new board members are somehow beholden to powerful local developers does a grave disservice to individuals who have volunteered to provide governance and oversight to our school district.  

 

In the Pocket of Developers?

Oh, please...... 

"That Dog Don't Hunt!" 

That was a rumor started by the old board to rationalize the public opposition to their ill-conceived plans for renovating the high school.  It's feels better to believe you are fighting a highly organized, well financed pressure group backed by Republican developers with questional motives than to accept the fact that your plans and your behaviors are unacceptable to the parents and taxpayers in the community.  Soccer Moms don't make as compelling adversaries.

The takeaway I got from the latest Voices article is that the new board members all expressed a desire to work cooperatively for the good of the school district.  The old board members don't seem to express a similar commitment to teamwork. 

Developers

Mimi is also a developer.  She built the Towers on Allen Street and I believe she also built several other large buildings downtown.

Carol Herrmann works/worked? for Pinnacle Development - which is a Bob Poole company.

Rich Kalin is a real estate attorney who also owns several rentals around town.

Galen is a developer.

If you look at ratio of developer "interest" to general people interest in the school board race, I think you will find that the Team for the Future had possibly more developer interest relative to their level of overall donations.

The Voices article tried really hard to make other "ties" that are not based in reality, but I think there were actually less real developers on the change side (and the change side had more overall support from the community).

But, let's not let facts get in the way of good rumors........

That Would Make A Great Tattoo!

I thought Bob Heisse was the only one around here with that low of an opinion of his readers.

money talks

Folks,

First of all, I spent a ridiculous amount of my own time studying those campaign finance reports and the last thing Mimi did was pour money into the campaign! Putting one's name to a committee doesn't pay for mailings and push polls. On the other hand, if memory serves me right, donations of $3500, or various multiples of $700 were dropping into coffers of folks supporting the "change candidates" as you call them. That's what we reported. Real money, real results, right? But why live in the past? That's why we approached this board with this story idea - to see if we could move forward as a community. I wonder if you all would like to do that.

As for the misreading - People don't always speak in perfect grammar but I didn't want to be accused of changing what folks meant by playing fast and loose with their quotes. I thought readers would understand that since it was essentially a Question and Answer, that the answers might sound more spoken than written.

Peggy - it's nice to get compliments but calling anyone here passionate advocates for instigation is downright diplomatic compared to some of the name calling and allegations you've leveled at otherwise civil posters here. I'm not going to waste my time crafting blog posts when I've got a living to make so have fun with whatever trips your trigger -  I'm not afraid of words, and neither is anyone at Voices (that I know of) so long as they're truthful and not defamatory.

So have at it -

Huh???

Dear Suzan,

Here is what you wrote in your "money talks" post yesterday:

"First of all, I spent a ridiculous amount of my own time studying those campaign finance reports and the last thing Mimi did was pour money into the campaign! Putting one's name to a committee doesn't pay for mailings and push polls."

Here is what you published in your October 2007 article:

"The financial winner on the incumbents' side is Mimi Barash coopersmith, honorary chairwoman of Team for the Future.  Her company, the Barash Group, had pulled in $7571 of the $9914 spent by the campaign as of the June reporting deadline."

Any clue about how both of these statements could be true?  Before you get all indignant over my terrible "assumption" that Mimi donated money, maybe you should go and re-read your own article - which is where I got that information!

I don't mean to instigate anything or make you waste any more of your valuable time.  I just want to point out that maybe some of us are only "misinformed" because we read Voices.

 

But Wait, There's More!

If you read the Campaign Finance Report for the "Team of the Future" filed on 25 October 2007, covering expenses over the period 6/10/07 to 11/22/07, you will see that 3 additional payments were made to the Barash Group totalling $11,520.52 for creative design, postcards and newspaper adds.  I am assuming that this was in addition to the $7571 reported in Voices.  So Mimi's organization pulled in $19,111 just for the School Board Primary. 

Suzan is right that she doesn't appear as a big cash donor, but one would have to assume that there were some services offered at a discount and "contributions in kind" made by the Barash Group.

The bottom line here is that both sides of this election had "friends in high places" helping them out.  Oh, and let's not forget former Kansas House of Representative Mike Mecaham's political advise!

This is a really great

This is a really great cover! I think one thing that sticks out for me at least about this cover, what makes it different and "attention grabbing" is that this is a picture of people with the whole rift theme and even a rip running through the page (thanks to Anne Marie).

In a way, this cover says to me "action", without there being explicit physical action in the photo, which is way cool.

Now, I'm not saying that pictures of people on the cover of Voices is unusual - not at all. And I wouldn't really be able to comment on that, because I've only been aware of Voices, having volunteered for them, for the last 12 months, so I wouldn't know about the covers before that.

Anyway, this is a great shot, and great photo shopping work here.

I know that the paper perhaps can't always find "action" shots like this - in recent months, the paper has had cows on the front, for the milk labeling story, which was a great cover (with the caption - too cool) for that issue. But, in other issues, we've had horses on the front, or a stream, or, I think fireworks, and several months ago, it was a Back to School type banner running across a store in a picture - and that particular cover didn't do it for me.

I still say one of my favorite recent covers was the shot of the painting with a bloody Jesus -- awesome.

The paper is only getting better, and in a way, edgier.

I'm all about getting people's attention, and stirrin' them up - a great cover helps to do this - and, covers like this and the Jesus one, and the cow one, are controversial, yes, and that's what is going to get even younger people, in their early to mid twenties to [hopefully] pick up a copy of this paper for the first time in their lives.

The story about transitional

The story about transitional homelessness in Centre County was shocking to me, actually --- those numbers, which would definately be low numbers compared to larger cities, say Phil. or Pitt., were higher than I expected for Centre County. And, I had no idea there were THREE shelters.

That being said, this has created a whole new category of anxiety in my brain (something there will never be any shortage of): with gas possibly reaching $7/g by next Spring, there may be more and more hard working people who find themselves unable to drive to work, or maybe unable to make rent or bills each month by throwing so much money into their gas tanks.

I suppose, should such unforunate events occur come next year, it wouldn't be the first time mass amounts of middle class and working class people couldn't make ends meet most of the time. It makes me recall pictures I've seen in history books with these long lines of men waiting for bread and soup to bring home to their families during the Depression.

Taking the predictable route

I periodically hope that Voices will be the newspaper in the community where we can get good news - news that is served up objectively and without an agenda.  When I continue to read that people with money are bad and their motives are suspect ESPECIALLY if they vote Republican, it is just more of the same that I can read at the CDT.  What this community needs is even and balanced coverage of local issues without the spin of any viewpoint - liberal or conservative.  Both sides of the school board election had money backing it or had people making money off of it.  The CDT made a profit on feeding the controversy. The major difference between the campaigns was that those without money voted for change whereas only those with money or ties to the Borough voted for the incumbents.   Why do people want to ignore that?

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and
 independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should
do for themselves.

 ---Abraham Lincoln

"Objectively" is a hard if not impossible standard

>>> I periodically hope that Voices will be the newspaper in the community where we can get good news - news that is served up objectively and without an agenda.

Well, thats why we offer blogging space and an open invitation to comment here on the website. It's inevitable that each individual writer and investigator is going to bring their own culture to the finished pieces, and it's equally inevitable that a volunteer organization is going to have a point of view.

I think it's not really possible to write anything "objectively". But it would be interesting to see someone try. If you want to write a blog here from 'another point of view', I'll fight to the end for your right to write about things as you see them.

that's the point

YYY, thanks for making my point for me. It is precisely that Mimi's company MADE money off the campaign - she didn't DONATE money TO the campaign (well, she did but it was something miniscule like $200 I think). And for everyone who claims that report was biased, no one until now at least has ever pointed out that we reported that. 

So that's the difference - she may have lent her name, but her financial support was effectively nil. Compare that, as we did, to the stack of $700 checks the PAC supporting the "change" candidates collected.  

hardly worth still debating

Antidonna, it's hardly worth still debating after all this time - the board will do what it will do, and the people will judge its actions. That's the nature of a democracy.

But please don't insult the facts by claiming there were big names on both sides helping out. If it had only been a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars difference, no one could say a thing. But these substantial donations DOUBLED the amount the change candidates raised compared to the incumbents and compared to most other school board elections. No one in any electoral politics at any level (and yes, I've been involved in my fair share) in this country would ever claim that wouldn't make a difference in the outcome.

But Voices has made an effort in its latest issue to move past this kind of debate. Why can't you folks do that? You won and you're acting like you lost - keeping the debate going, stirring up stuff, taking pot shots at folks. You WON, so why not just hold your candidates' feet to the fire and go get what you want, whatever that is? You've got your majority. You've got your change. Now go show the rest of the community what you're going to do with it. But you are certainly no victims, outlaws or minorities. Your folks are in charge. They get to enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of that. It's a good feeling when that happens, yet I never see or read any good feeling from you here. It's always complaints...that gets so wearying after such a short while...just an observation. For what it's worth. 

Not a Debate - How About a Retraction?

Susan,    

     I agree with some of your points but you forget one thing. “We” did not win anything. The community won by the abortion of an ill fated plan and the removal of five board members who forgot that they were elected by and reported to a whole community (outside the Borough). By the “you won” statement, it once again becomes a binary position (black/white, good/bad, Republican/Democrat, etc.) The difference in the board today (4/5) is that they hold conflicting philosophies from what I can tell.

1) Changing old business practices and following the documented procedures – The old board members are slow to change (actions, policies, ideas, etc.) for several reasons and then only seem to follow procedures when it “fits the bill”.

2) The role of a board member - The old board members seem to rarely question actions by the administration or the CACs. As a board member, one should not abdicate responsibility.

3) How to value the community - The community was mostly ignored by the old board unless the people speaking were part of the correct group.     

     I thought that this month’s article was quite good but it is hard to make up for the October issue when your opening statement was: “If money talks, a handful of very wealthy Centre Countians will soon be running the State College Area school board. But to what end?” This was the same issue where you printed a nice opinion piece by Rick Madore but neglected to ask/interview/tell the Change candidates about the lead article where you presented a position that they were under the control of developers. You argued that you did not need to ask the candidates as the article was not about them and I argued the opposite. I am still not sure how you can write an article about the motives of five individuals, state that they are under the control of others and then say that the article is not about them. Your article prompted me to draft my opinion piece which you printed (Thank You).

     As the campaign manager for Mr. Madore, I too followed the money. Let us look at some of the highlights from the reports filed in October:

Challengers:

1) The Challengers (individual campaigns) each raised funds ranging form $1,540 to $6,207 for a total of $17,502.

2) The Citizens for Better Solutions PAC raised $36,663

Incumbents:

1) The Incumbents did not raise any funds by themselves as everything was run via the PACs

a) The Citizens for Constructive Progress PAC raised $873

b) The Team of the Future PAC raised $20,627

c) The Save Our Schools PAC raised $6360

     The Incumbents raised $27,860 and the Challengers raised $54,165. The largest entities that received funds were the Barash Group and State Street Strategies (both paid for by PACs and both large marketing entities). The difference in funding was mostly by the donations of 18 donors who gave from $1000-$3000 to the Citizens for Better Solutions (CBS) PAC.    

The Challengers did run a campaign separate from the PAC (unlike the Incumbents). The candidates did not agree with all of the decisions by CBS and we had limited insight into most of their functions. Did we take direct funding from CBS, yes…for the yard signs (~$1300 as I remember but would need to check my files). We benefited from some of their independent actions (big road signs) and were damaged by others (a silly phone poll). Like many political parties and campaigns, I think we agreed about the outcome (winning five seats) but disagreed on the route to take. I am not here to defend/explain CBS’s actions but I can offer my position. As a former candidate and a manager, Mr. Zaborney (State Street) approached us to offer his support and was rejected. His track record was not solid, he did not pass the smell test in my opinion and his services were way overpriced. He found a home with the PAC who wanted to employ his services. A PAC can support or attack with/without the “approval” of a candidate. I am sure that none of this will matter to you or some of your readers but it is the truth. If I did not know the details, I too might make the same judgment.

     In summary, the election is over but your initial article was a key piece of marketing that the Incumbents/SOS Campaign used as gospel. Just as Bill stated that he supported Dr. Hendrickson/Jim Leous and he wished that Voices had invited the Challengers to speak (after the fact of them winning the election), I supported the Challengers and wished that your article had gotten a bit more of the facts from the other side (i.e. the people whose reputation you attacked). Your article propagated a myth that has proven not to be true and will continue so.

     As a reader, I am just wondering when the retraction will be printed as this has nothing to do with winning or losing but rather being ethical and running a paper according to standards? I am not attempting to attack you or the paper but this is my belief on this matter. To date, this is the only issue that I have experienced with Voices. All of my other interactions have proven your paper to be open and responsive.

Eric

Thanks for the Lecture

The Insulting of the Facts began when you insinuated that the new board members were beholden to local developers.  If you have proof of these allegations, print them.  If not, you do a disservice to our community by trying to pass rumors off as fact. 

no retraction

Eric - we stand by that story - every word of it. We checked our facts; we did the math. I personally interviewed the people and I stand by what they told me and what my notes reflect. Could we have done more? Yes, always the answer with us is yes...if we'd had more time. If we had more resources. If we had full time reporters. We could have interviewed many more people...and I wish we had, though the candidates, once again, were not at the top of that list for me. I do wish I had interviewed some of the donors, even if all they were to tell me was "no, we had no intention whatsoever to sway anyone's vote. No we have no stake in this...we just want to be a part of the proces..." and all that other stuff I'm used to hearing in similar situations. but again, the clock was ticking and working against me in a big way that week. I remember it, and trust me, it wasn't a pleasant sight...but we had a story, based on the contributions, and that's what we printed.

But the truth is the paper HAS a system in place for readers who believe stories we print are incomplete, wrong, misleading etc. That is the Opinion section. We have never turned down anyone in the school board debate and in fact have bent over backwards to reach out and invite them to write. Some of your folks misguidedly believe we make money off the debate so would not write to the paper. Some just decided to walk off and sulk, or make their charges, innuendo and insults anonymously on these Web pages. That's their choice, but the paper's pages have been open to them to do just what you did here, and you did at the time. They could've all descended on those pages (though truth to tell, at some point we have to deal with the cost of printing a larger paper, but we never had to deal with that problem, so no telling how it would have turned out).

So please don't throw "ethical standards" at me. people start crying "ethics" and "check your facts" when they disagree with what the facts tell us, when we choose to state facts they wish just didn't exist and when we choose to focus on a part of the picture they wish would remain fuzzy. you're not the only one. talk to the folks over at PSU about the milk story we ran. Talk to Clearwater about the Spring Creek manure spreading agreement fact that we ran.

Thank you for your compliments over time, and for your level-headedness. While we disagree on most things, most if not all of our dealings have been civil, and that goes a long way in my book. But you will not get a retraction from Voices for that story or anything in it, and you (well, not you because you've moved out of town) but local folks are always welcomed to write to the paper, with their real names and addresses, and we'll print their responses to our stories so long as we've got the room (aka resources) to do so. And if we don't we'll be sure they go up here.

Too Bad - An Apology is Owed

Suzan,

     I do not argue any of the facts that you presented in your article regarding who gave or how much was given. None of the facts were fuzzy! Those facts are all items of public record and any person can take a trip to the election office for the same data (and should to see the details on both sides).

    Where I find fault is in the jump from facts to innuendo.  Developers did not and do not control the new board members. I don’t remember seeing any developers at our campaign meetings or strategy sessions! That type of jump in logic is faulty (Cause and Effect). It has nothing to do with limited time or resources that Voices may experience.

     If a large percentage of the local Democratic Leadership donated to Voices and I drafted an article listing all of the donors that stated “Local Democratic Leadership Controls the Thinking at Voices”. The facts of the donations may be accurate but it is faulty for me to jump to that conclusion and not right for me to print such a statement. If I do draft such an article, it should be on the opinion page and not the lead story (unless Voices is an all opinion/editorial paper now?).  I would also not claim that I don’t need to talk to the editorial staff at Voices as “this article is not about them”. I have just attacked the integrity of the editorial staff and they should get a chance to respond at the same time.

     I support Voices but you guys went way off the reservation with that article from where I sit. I would argue the same if you had written a similar story about the Incumbents. During the campaign, Robert Hendrickson was quoted in the CDT as “he did not know the cost of the SOS TV ads but that they were quite cheap”. The article was written two weeks after Bob had signed the TV contract with Comcast (also public record and a fact). I pulled the document and challenged him on that “fact”. He replied back (quite angrily) that he was misquoted. As anyone knows, the CDT would never misquote someone (humor). I apologized to Bob and accepted his explanation. I did not start an innuendo that Bob is a liar and I did check with him to ask him about that “fact”.

     In MHO, your article was factual but the logic jump was faulty and you should have interviewed the people that the article impugned. You may not be ready for it today but Voices owes an apology to those new board members unless Voices can prove that developers are controlling the actions of the new board members. That is where I sit and we will always disagree (politely) on this issue.

Eric

Movin' on...

First, I appreciate Voices having this forum. We should all encourage participation by others here and support this paper.  Thank you, Voices.

 

Suzan, about the election, you are right to say that the Change side won.  However, unlike the situation that would be in place if the Team of the Future had won, the new members do not constitute a voting block. The new members appear to be voting on their own understanding of what is best for the community.  Proof of that would be the BB gun issue and our waste of $100,000 for a suspect concession stand, issues where only one person needs to be the swing vote.  In contrast, the behavior, mantras and voting records of the old members is remarkably in unison.  So far, the  "developer interests" have been nowhere to be seen, at least not from the new board members.  

 

About your call to move on, I would be thrilled to do so and focus our attention on the issues that currently face our school district, but as long as some continue to imply sinister motives by anyone associated with the Change movement or any of the new board members, that cannot happen.  Those inaccurate and offensive comments should be challenged with fact at every turn.  The reason, quite simply, is that the old board is gearing up for the next election.  There have been numerous attempts by the old board members and their supporters to belittle and make the new members look bad, all with an eye on the next election.  Their idea is to harass this board and place the blame on the “newbies”.  The never-ending game of “gotcha” is being played by the old members, but not by the new members.  (Roll tape on the "Sunshine Act" comments or the Grimes replacement process.  It goes well beyond the issue being discussed)  Supporting the new members are those who aggressively question the behavior of the old board members,  who for the most part they use more facts and less rumors in their their statements.  Sometimes the comments are a little more harsh than what I would say, but they do have the right to say what they want.  Hutch and his supporters have the opportunity to address those facts, Hutch in his very own in his "forum for dialogue".   They have largely refused to do so.  That is also their right, but Hutch's choice to ignore simple questions leads to further suspicion.  And when it is a topic such as not questioning the identity(ies) of the donors to whom you just matched $100,000 of taxpayer money, I would assume that he must be welcoming the abuse that is heaped upon him.

 

About the election itself, the public was outraged at the "Old Board' board prior to the election.  You could see that at the board meetings, public meetings and the Act 34 forum.  You couldn't miss the frustration.  With over 80% of the population wanting “change” (small “c”), why would it surprise anyone that that opponents would raise more money that those supported by very few?  You stated that the Change people raised significantly great amounts of money that the incumbents.  By looking at the electorate, it should have been much more than that, taking into consideration the outrage felt by many in the community and the sheer numbers of those looking for a new direction.  Clearly these numbers were not as disproportionate as some seem to think.  Also, if I were treated as poorly in public as those who dared question the absolute authority of the board were treated, I would have given more much money and worked even harder than I actually did to get them out.  Personal?  Sure.  Unlawful or unethical?  No.  To say or imply that the new members were somehow bought, or the donors who wanted change had evil motives, or that this community is filled with easily led sheep or pawns who can be swayed by a flyer or a phone call is unbelievably insulting.  This is a smarter and more informed community than that.  

 

Suzan, I agree that it’s time to move on to the present and future.  But as long as some are misstating or misunderstanding the past, it is a difficult thing to do.  

 

Regards,

 

 

D6

Excellent Analysis

Eric-

 

Excellent analysis of the donations.  It paints a different picture of the finances than what is commonly thought.

 

Thanks.

 

D6 

Comment viewing options