On the eve of one of the most controversial and hotly contested school district referendums in Champaign history, after more than a little speculation, I can confirm that Friends of Champaign Schools, the organization that has been pushing a "yes" vote tomorrow, is intimately tied with Unit 4 School Board President Laurie Bonnett.
The group, which uses shitty clip-art graphics of crayons, and the image, likeness and voices of children who have no idea what they are perpetuating to promote poorly planned ideas for the school district, has paid for robocalls to go out to Champaign landline numbers tonight to push their agenda.
The calls are coming from Laurie Bonnett's phone number.
From what I am able to gather, this is perfectly legal. See #8 of the link, here. It's cool. No one is being prosecuted or some weird shit. And to be frank, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Laurie Bonnett using her phone number to push these calls out.
Initially, when this passed through, I hatefully hoped it was illegal. Then I stopped myself, and was reminded two things:
1. Laurie Bonnett is a very decent person. Super kind, really. We've met, and I think we got along. The current referendum has divided us, and my language has been less than tactful at times. Quite directly, I am probably the last person I can think of to call someone out on tact. Nevertheless, I must proceed.
2. The idea that something like this would be "illegal" is asinine.
So, to be clear, this isn't much of an issue. It's a lede. She and I disagree, and that's all. If you are still reading, hopefully, I at least have your attention.
This isn't the first time that Ms. Bonnett has gently toed the thick line between ethical and just downright silly and misinformed. Last fall, she allegedly addressed the entire Unit 4 faculty and staff at an assembly in Centennial's gymnasium, and "accidentally" told everyone to vote "yes" on the last referendum. As the rumor goes, she turned to Unit 4 lawyer, Tommy Lockman, and asked if what she did was OK.
It wasn't. And he said as much to her on-site, according to inside reports. But nothing came of it, because, meh — it's whatever. It's dumb perhaps, but it's probably not worth kicking up much fuss about.
Then, just after the last referedum failed, she unequivocally stated that Interstate Dr. is where the new Central was going to be built, long before she'd consensed with the rest of her board, and before a new referendum was put on the table.
By now, and for all of her outrageous quotes and relative lack of humility, for me, this final little odd nugget is yet another indicator that this person is unfit to preside over this school board.
You can listen to the robocall below here. Yes, it's from a child, who probably can't give a full-fledged opinion about the intricacies of this whole what-have-you:
It's not surprising. Everyone knows that here in 2015 robocalls are as effective as a one-armed trapeze artist with an itchy ass. But if I am being honest, they can be effective. Here's a study from 2010 that sums it up nicely. The same idea rings true, today.
Essentially, a robocall is analog SPAM. And there's always a couple of suckers out there that might take the bait. But see, this goes into the same argument I will make below.
That she'd push this out the night before the election is par for the course with this board and with what she seems to think of this community:
You aren't smart enough to vote for anything truly comprehensive and well-designed.
By her line of thinking, this community can only do the bare minimum.
But I believe she's wrong.
The referendum they are proposing will build us a 21st century high school, that's true, but in a location that is decidedly stuck in the past. In a community that has been known as one of the most technologically advanced cities in the entire world, we deserve better.
Recently, UIUC has announced its first new college in decades: Medicine. MEDICINE. That means the people who will want to come to live and work here are literally brain surgeons.
And do we want to send their kids to a new high school built next to a Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby? Do we want them to send their kids to a Centennial that cannot begin to compete? Do we want them to be forced to send their kids to school in automobiles and buses alone?
Gas. Gasoline. Yeah. That's not gonna be here for all that much longer. And while we will adapt, we will also be seeking new ways to manage the methods by which we travel.
No. That's not what we should want. We should want smart design. We should want in-fill. We should want to fix what previous generations have left for dead. We should want to reinvigorate our low income communities. We should crave this. We're at a particular moment in history that allows us to examine the mistakes we've made, and realign our ideas, to pursue what has been confirmed time and time again:
People want time. Time is everything. It's the only thing. Sitting in cars, checking your device, mindlessly trying to just get by — these are the tortures of suburban life.
They made a movie about it. It's called Office Space. Watch it. It's really funny.
We should want a board that understands that the cheapest option isn't the best option.
To use the same metaphor, why drive a damned Yugo when we can all ride together in a Cadillac? We can — if we work together and fund it together.
Genuinely, I appreciate passion. I am supportive of Laurie Bonnett and the rest of board's right to propose and promote one of the most idiotic and backwards thinking referendums in recent history.
But the desperation stinks. From the audacious attitude and referendum she has put forth towards the community, to the ethical missteps promoting it, to the FOIA documents that confirms that Ms. Bonnett denies the League of Women Voter's the opportunity to discuss the issues in public, to the weird robocalls earlier tonight, this type of leadership simply cannot lead.
She offers the community no humility. She presides over a board that informs a district that brags about how little they spend on their schools. She leads the charge on marginalizing our teachers and their pay.
This is not the person who should be President of the School Board.
Regardless of what happens tomorrow, she should resign that title, that honor. That is not to say that I am not incredibly thankful for her efforts. She's not some Machiavellian character, out to get us. She's done her best.
But her best, quite frankly, is pretty awful.
And that's that.
This is who you vote for tomorrow for School Board i.e. this is who changes the location
To swing the location, you need a 4–3 vote on the board, regardless of the referendum passing. Theoretically — here's your horses:
Kathy Shannon is as smart as a whip, and highly educated in the field of computer science, with family in Unit 4 schools. She's been a vocal proponent of an infill location from the get go. Vote for her, and that's one.
Kathy Richards is of the exact same ilk in a lot of ways. She will fight for better salaries for teachers, smarter curriculum, and yes — she will fight for in-fill as well. That's two.
Amy Armstrong is accomplished. She's a Special Education advocate. Hey, my father was a special ed teacher in District 116 at Cunningham Children's Home for 34 years. I'm biased. But she's the mother of a special needs daughter, Larkin, and she helped to found Larkin's Place at the Stephen's Family Y, which provides access and learning opportunities for kids throughout the community. I still wish the Y was centrally located, but hey — a deal's a deal, and they did right by it. She's the kind of person you wish you got to just hang around, because she always has something both funny to say, and something important to say. I think she will win tomorrow going away, because she's a baller, and she could raise your family for you while mowing the lawn, smoking a bird she hunted down herself, while running your company better than you can. She scares the shit out of me. And while she hasn't stated definitively with 100% certainty her feelings about the proposed location, her ideas about the right amount to spend are impeccable. She know we aren't spending enough. And she's willing to fight for it. It leads me to believe that she knows what smart growth looks like. That's three.
Then there's a wild card between Chris Kloeppel and Kerris Lee.
Kerris Lee is an incumbent, and an entrepreneur, and seems to at least be listening to the opposition. It's true; he voted to buy the land in question and is part of the board that endorsed the current referendum. Obviously, we disagree, but I believe he's available, and open-minded, and would consense with the new board well. I think he'd play ball.
Chris Kloeppel is a union plumber, and there's no doubt that AFL-CIO wants these contracts, and rightfully so. This is the reason why he has not straight up come out and said that he is opposed to the location of the school, in my estimation. And I can respect that. He has to work, and so do his homies, but he also knows that he needs to be a good steward of those that he works alongside. I can't argue that.
Just the same as Lee, I think he'd play ball.
Damn, I wish I had five votes for the four-year terms.
Gordy. Gordy. Are you receiving me? Gordy?
Jonathan Westfield is running unopposed for the two-year term. Regardless, I'd vote for this fella no matter what. He's smart, and kind, and opposes the Interstate Dr. location. And yes — his sister is one of the best people I've ever known. I am biased.
But not biased enough to vote for him regardless. That's another one for the good guys and that makes four. Four votes to shift gears.
The others I cannot endorse. But let me be clear, I am not opposed to them. These are perfectly good candidates, and they have different ideas than I do. That's no crime. They have stated that they like the Interstate Dr. location. Evidently, and it comes as a small surprise, they cannot seem to process how potentially damaging urban sprawl is to a community. It has already damaged our community. This would further perpetuate it.
It breaks my heart, because I do not like the homogeny in the make up of this board, aside from gender parity. It needs to be noted that the other three candidates that I oppose are African-Americans. The North End Breakfast Club endorsed
them all two of them, along with Chris Kloeppel and Kerris Lee. That makes them worth a heavy look, and more. With all of the issues surrounding race relations right now— under-discussed, and simmering in a way that we honestly might not be prepared for — we need those voices. And that's why this is so troubling for me.
(UPDATED: an earlier version of this story claimed that the NEBC had endorsed all three other candidates not listed here, when in fact, only two were endorsed.)
More than likely, we'd agree on issues apart from the location of this high school, in spades.
Sadly, and not without remorse, I am forced to vote based upon this one component that surrounds the role of a board member at this moment in time. If my endorsed candidates seemed to indicate that they would also be a stick-in-the-mud about the teacher's union and their highly reasonable salary increase requests, I'd likely oppose them as well.
I emphatically believe that we, as a society that is rooted in white privilege, have to be far more pro-active in engaging the African-American community in much better ways than we have. We owe it to ourselves as a nation, sure — but we owe it to them more than anything by now.
This is an education issue; a broad community issue. Nothing more.
The bloody Mayoral race
What a shit show. I am not endorsing anyone publicly. I think that the person who I am voting for knows that I am voting for them. And I am not going to go any further.
At a minumum, we know for a fact that there will not be a birther in the office.
I suppose in some small way, this makes me OK with what happens no matter what.