Amherst Racist Pig Parker: Final Version

UPDATE: I spoke with Kyle Mast, the man shown in the video below. Without a doubt, Mr. Mast is having a bad day. To the extent people are contacting him directly to harass or threaten, you’re committing a crime and could be prosecuted. I gave Mr. Mast an opportunity to give his side of the story, and he obliged over the course of two phone calls. 

He traveled to the Dick’s on Maple to check out see if there were any good sales. He is adamant that he did not intentionally park in a handicapped spot. He sometimes has a placard to use for his own family members, and is sensitive to the need for easy access for the disabled. When he parked there, he says he saw no markings on the ground or any signs or poles marking that spot as being for the disabled. If he parked in a handicapped spot, it was accidental and not intentional. He didn’t see that it was a disabled spot, and he would typically have apologized had he realized his mistake. 

As soon as he got out of his car, Mr. Mast says Marcia Lynn began yelling at him, accusing him, “you can’t park there, you’re illegally parked” and making jokes about how his truck was overcompensating for something else; “big truck, small package” he recalls. Mr. Mast says he was “aggravated” by this taunting, but didn’t respond at all as he went into the store. 

Contrary to the Facebook post’s allegations, Mr. Mast claims only to have been inside the store for about 5 minutes, not 30. He adds that, if he had been parked illegally for 30 minutes, why didn’t the woman shooting the video complain inside to the manager. He also says that Marcia Lynn was yelling at other people about parking improperly. 

He says that, as he came back out of the store, the taunting resumed until he got into his truck. He was growing angrier because of the heckling, but also because he saw that Marcia Lynn was videotaping.  In a fit of rage – he says he was being “hotheaded” – Mr. Mast used a racial slur. He is sorry that he did that, and says, “it just came out”. He says, in retrospect, he didn’t even know or think Marcia Lynn was black, and was just trying to come up with the most hateful word he could muster. He admits that he wasn’t thinking straight, and was very upset because Marcia Lynn wouldn’t leave him alone. 

In speaking with Mr. Mast, I detected genuine remorse for what he said and what had happened. He knows what he said was wrong, and that there were many other ways he could have either defused or ignored the situation – just driving forward was one of them. Mr. Mast let his emotions get the better of him, even though he knew he was being recorded. 

Here’s a video from local Facebook user “Marcia Lynn”, capturing her encounter with the driver of a wildly conspicuous monster truck in the parking lot of a Dick’s store on Maple Road in Amherst.

Here is her story, in a nutshell:

 

 

So, a pig parker parks his Tonka truck in a handicapped spot for about 30 minutes, and when someone confronts him about it, he tells her to, “get a life” and, just before he drives off, calls her a “nigger”.

Here’s what his real-life Hot Wheels truck looks like:

As always, you can email me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com with any information / tips / etc .

 

Carl Paladino Gets it Exactly Right

A Tweet from Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel, who is in Maryland covering the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual confab.


I applaud Mr. Paladino for saying exactly the correct thing about Rudy Giuliani.

Seriously. Kudos.

Net Neutrality: Achievement Unlocked

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to keep the internet free and open. Classifying broadband internet service – including mobile broadband – as a Title II public utility, the FCC banned ISPs from trying to control what you – the consumer – get to see while using the internet. Some ISPs had already extorted additional fees from content providers like Netflix, threatening to throttle data streams unless they basically paid a ransom. That’s illegal now.

Now, the company from whom you buy your broadband service can’t speed up or throttle content you want to access, for any reason.

This is especially important for home broadband, which remains monopolistic in most areas of the country. Even here in WNY, unless you live in one of the small handful of places that have FiOS, you’re stuck with Time Warner. Do you want Time Warner to have the ability to dictate what you do and don’t get to access? Do you want Time Warner to slow Netflix down so it becomes unwatchable, while speeding up the stream of some competitor that paid TWC off?

People who seemingly don’t know any better have denounced this move as “Obamacare for the internet” and tried to frame net neutrality as excessive government regulation. This is, of course, utter nonsense. As this piece in Engadget notes, the loudest voices against this rule are from Republicans, libertarians, and big telecoms. The libertarians hate everything, but the connection between the Republicans and the big telecoms isn’t accidental, and GOP opposition to net neutrality has been well remunerated.

The telecoms opposed net neutrality because it forever closes off an additional potential source of revenue through holding content hostage in exchange for paid ransoms. It’s estimated, however, that Time Warner enjoys a 97% profit margin on broadband service. The guaranteed open internet guarantees that content providers can continue to innovate and provide incredible and competitive creative content.

From this Engadget article,

“It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during today’s open commission meeting. “That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to telecom-backed critics thusly:

“This is no more a plan to regulate the internet than the first amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression, and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

As a contributor to a content provider on the internet, I am grateful that the FCC has taken this step to ensure that the people who control that series of tubes we call the broadband internet can’t dictate to us what we can and cannot see.

Carl Paladino Threatens “Sisterhood”

Let’s get one thing out of the way: “blurt” is not a noun.

What follows is the text of an email that Carl Paladino sent to four women of color; three of whom sit with him on the Buffalo School Board. The fourth is the board’s attorney.

To: Ms. Barbara Nevergold

Ms. Sharon Cottman

Ms. Theresa Harris-Tigg

Ms. Rashondra Martin

Cc: Everybody

From: Carl Paladino

Date: February 24, 2015

Re: Slander

Over the last few months each of you has slandered me with blurts or the use of incomprehensible illogic and accusations that I am a racist and sexist or that I have a conflict of interest.

Slander may be defined as an intentional tort which means that I can initiate a lawsuit against each of you personally and you may not have the benefit to claim defense and indemnity from the Buffalo Public Schools.

Insofar as I am a public person, in order to establish slander I must also prove malice. Under New York case law, actual malice can be shown if prior to the slander you were put on notice that the slanderous statement is false and is not supported by fact.

This letter shall serve as notice to you that there is absolutely no discernible basis for your accusation that I am a racist or sexist. Further, there are two legal opinions from two different competent, qualified and objective attorneys that show that I, as a member of the Board of Education, have no conflict in dealing with issues involving charter schools.

This letter shall serve as further notice that in the event that you continue to offer false and defamatory statements, I intend to protect my reputation and will take all appropriate legal or other action at my disposal to do so.

Anyone with a checkbook can bring a lawsuit. It doesn’t mean anything. Anyone with a mouth or a pen or a computer can threaten a lawsuit. That, too, is meaningless.  The underlying question is whether the lawsuit has any merit.

Cutting again to the chase, were Carl Paladino to bring this threatened defamation lawsuit against the four women of color who serve with him on the board of education, his lawsuit would not likely withstand a motion to dismiss, because it would be completely without merit. In fact, anyone bringing it should be sanctioned for wasting the court’s time with utter frivolity.

Why? Because the underlying rationale behind defamation jurisprudence is that the plaintiff is protecting his reputation: his standing in the community, his good name. Alas, Carl Paladino’s reputation is not all that good. Sure, some people like him, and the Buffalo News has been his apologist-in-chief for decades, but Paladino is as reviled as he is beloved. Were Paladino to actually bring a slander lawsuit, and it made it past a motion to dismiss, he would by definition open his character and reputation up for scrutiny. The discovery process—the exchange of documents and things, and depositions under oath—would be compelling indeed.

Mr. Paladino accuses Ms. Nevergold, Ms. Cottman, Ms. Harris-Tigg, and Ms. Martin of slander because they have accused him of being racist, sexist, and of having conflicts of interest with respect to board action on charter schools. He threatens to sue them for slander. Mr. Paladino is not, however, a victim of actionable defamation. 

Firstly, the alleged defamation must be a false statement of fact. “Pastor Jones beats his wife,” if untrue, would be slander. On the other hand, “I think Pastor Jones is a violent jerk” is opinion, and not actionable defamation.  

Secondly, insofar as these women of color have made these allegations against Mr. Paladino within the context of their shared service to a school board, their statements are likely immune from any action for libel or slander. 

Mr. Paladino notes that he is a public figure. In the US, it is more difficult for public figures to bring successful defamation suits. They must prove that the false and defamatory statement of fact was made with “actual malice,” which the law defines as “knowing or reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.” But here, is it a statement of fact or a statement of opinion to say that Carl Paladino is racist or sexist? If a statement of fact, is it “false and…not supported by fact,” as Mr. Paladino alleges? 

One need only go back five short years to find ample evidence of Mr. Paladino’s purported sexism or racism. In email caches WNYMedia.net published on two occasions in 2010, there exist myriad supporting examples. 

Racism? Here’s the first batch of emails. Public official and Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino sent an email in 2008 featuring a video of African tribal dancers and it was captioned, “Obama Inaugural Rehearsal.” An email dated October 2009 shows President and Mrs. Obama photoshopped into 1970s-style “pimp and ‘ho” outfits. It’s captioned, “White House Ball.” Another email showed an image of black males running from what appears to be an airplane bearing down on them. It’s captioned, “Holy Shit! Run, Niggers, Run!” In April 2008, Mr. Paladino, “told an educational gathering that School Superintendent James A. Williams was hired ‘because he was black.'” The Common Council condemned Mr. Paladino’s remarks as “racially divisive.”

Based on these materials alone—which Carl Paladino approvingly forwarded to a wide array of local bigshots, politicians, bureaucrats, and developers—certainly the women of color who serve the Buffalo Board of Education can easily establish that their charges of racism against Mr. Paladino are “supported by fact.”

Sexism? That first email blast contained a handful of hardcore pornography, including a video of a horse having anal sex with a human female. A second batch of emails, published later in 2010, shows more hardcore pornography and degradation of women. One email shows video of a woman expressing breast milk onto a pane of glass, and there’s a lesbian scene that a vocal anti-gay Paladino labeled “awesome.” This current school board trustee sent around a video of a woman getting a Brazilian wax, and another video—from “fistflush.com”—of a woman shoving a bunch of bananas into her vagina.

Based on these two sets of released emails (more exist that have not yet been publicly released), the women of color against whom Mr. Paladino is waging war can easily establish that their charges of sexism against Mr. Paladino are “supported by fact.”

These women of color are, after all, referred to as the “Black Sisterhood“—sometimes by themselves, and sometimes by Mr. Paladino. There’s a significant difference, however. When they use that term to refer to themselves, they do so out of mutual respect, pride, admiration, and teamwork. When Mr. Paladino spits it at them with his characteristic vitriol, it drips with racial animus and misogyny, and it’s not accidental.

All of this comes just two weeks after Paladino publicly tore into Martin, calling her “ignorant” and threatening her license to practice law. This led Martin to make a formal complaint about sexism and racism by the Board of Education to the New York State Division of Human Rights. This is no way, incidentally, to “run a business.” It’s a waste of time, money, and resources to expose yourself and the school board to a civil rights complaint because you can’t keep your own “blurts” to yourself. Uncontrolled, hateful lurching from tantrum to tantrum is not how responsible adults behave in a professional environment. Even if you disagree strongly with someone, you don’t provoke them by calling them “ignorant” or otherwise trolling them.

“He’s gone after every female, African American female who’s an authority,” she said. “He’s done a lot of bullying. It’s typical of what he does. You can’t sit in an administrative position and do whatever you want to do.”

In her complaint, Martin alleges Paladino subjects African American female employees to a “racially and sexually hostile work environment.”

She also named the school board claiming it has taken no action to “admonish or address Mr. Paladino for his comments.”

Paladino maintains that Rashondra Martin has aligned herself with the four African American women on the board against the five-person majority, which is mostly white males.

“These people, devoid of any other plausible or reasonable argument to defend their positions on things, play the race card and that’s just what she’s doing,” Paladino said. “And that’s getting to be a burden.”

Finally, we turn to the allegation that Mr. Paladino has a conflict of interest as it relates to his advocacy in favor of charter schools. Companies associated with his Ellicott Development lease space to charters in Buffalo. Mr. Paladino rightly notes that a few lawyers have examined these dealings and concluded that there is no conflict of interest. That’s because Paladino quickly divested himself of any interest he personally had in these properties and transferred them to his children. Convenient. If his decisions on the board have a direct pecuniary benefit to Paladino’s children, that’s not legally a conflict of interest, but as a practical matter? None of this has been adjudicated or challenged in any adversarial way. The women of color on the Buffalo school board are well within their rights to continue to voice their opinion that Mr. Paladino is conflicted. They are well within their rights to accuse him of such conflict, and to do so in the press.

It’s not the first time Mr. Paladino has been accused of such conflicts. In 1993, then-Common Council President James Pitts told Paladino that he sits “on the top of the City of Buffalo like a vulture on dry bones,”; adding, “Mr. Paladino has mined the political fields very, very lucratively…If you begin to look at his involvement on all of these boards, his involvement is not based on public service but on private gain. Clearly there needs to be a separation of interests.” Pitts said Paladino’s conflicts of interest were “as blatant as Danny Thomas’ nose.” Indeed, in the 1990s, Paladino targeted his ire at African-American council members James Pitts and George Arthur.

If Mr. Paladino chooses further to escalate this fight that he picked by suing these women of color for defamation, it will make for entertaining copy. It will not, however, further any of the interests he purports to be promoting or defending. A defamation suit isn’t going to fix any failing schools, it won’t raise attendance or graduation rates, and it won’t do anything positive for the district’s overall reputation.

New York School Districts Left Guessing

School districts throughout New York State are now busily plotting out their budgets for the 2015 – 2016 school year. These budgets must be in final form by mid-April so that school boards can adopt their budgets in time for the public to vote on them by late May.

Every district relies on some amount of state aid for every year’s budget, and the state legislature’s unconscionable and cynical “Gap Elimination Adjustment” has short-changed New York’s public schools in the tens of millions of dollars.  Albany balances its own budget by robbing the state’s students of teachers and programs. Governor Cuomo then turns around and relies on standardized testing to determine which schools and teachers are “failing” or “non-performing” while refusing adequately to fund any of it.

In past years, districts had, by now, been given a close estimate of how much state aid they would receive, so that they could work on the local share of their revenue budgeting in an informed way. This year, however, is different. School districts are completely in the dark about how much state aid they might receive, and it’s making budget planning one big guessing game.

Governor Cuomo has introduced an education reform plan that would add just over $1 billion in public school funding; however, this increase in state aid comes with some big strings attached, and no one knows if it’ll pass – and in what form – by April 1st. We hear a lot about “on-time” budgets, as if it’s a laudable cause for celebration that the state legislature manages to accomplish its one real job in any given year. But what about the right on-time budget? Cuomo has said that no school district will see an increase in state aid over last year if his conditions are not met.

Cuomo wants five things:

1. A five-year probationary period before teachers receive tenure;

2. The ability to appoint receivers to manage the lowest 5% of non-performing schools;

3. A simplified teacher dismissal hearing procedure;

4. 100 more charter school slots statewide; and

5. Changes to the teacher evaluation system that Cuomo already implemented, relying more on testing and outside evaluators.

Republicans in the State Senate, meanwhile, have proposed a $1.1 billion increase in state school aid in an effort to roll back the Gap Elimination Adjustment. It’s estimated that it would take a $1.9 billion increase in state aid this year to restore state funding of schools to 2008 levels.

Cuomo is also proposing to do away with the STAR property tax exemption and replace it with a property tax relief credit that would phase in depending on the value of your home and your income – it disproportionately benefits downstate homeowners whose assessed property values are very high.

So, we have to rely on a dysfunctional Albany system and the three men in a room to negotiate an education reform and funding equation by April 1st, so that school boards across the state might be able adequately to plan their budgets for the next school year. The assault on public education – against students, teachers, and parents – has many fronts. The biggest threat, however, is treachery from within. It defies logic to simultaneously de-fund schools in order to balance the budget and demand that teachers, students, and schools are declared “failing” or “performing” based on a few standardized tests.

This simply isn’t how learning should look.

Go Racist Team Name!

redskin2

No, really. Go.

Although “political correctness” and “PC” is now hurled as an epithet, within its definition is the radical notion that people should not deliberately be horrible to one another. Sure, Dinesh D’Souza has a right to call the African-American President of the United States a “boy” from the “ghetto“, but you don’t need a sociology degree to realize how that’s offensive on two levels. The President is a “man”, not a “boy”, and “boy” has historically been used to pejoratively refer to African-American adult males. President Obama also isn’t from the ghetto. Not all black people come from the ghetto. Not all behavior you deem beneath you is “ghetto”. People like Dinesh D’Souza make a good living by being horrible to others. He is not politically correct, and that’s a shame because civil society should live up to that adjective.

The Lancaster High School sports program calls itself the “Redskins”. There is a push on now to have the district re-name the team because some American Indians are offended by it. More to the point, however, the team name is objectively racist. After all, we don’t call teams “Whiteskins” or “Blackskins” or “Yellowskins”. The reason why has to do with the blatant and palpable racial overtones. Redskins is no different, no matter what the tradition or intent. Identifying an ethnic group or race based on their physical characteristics – here, a pejorative term for their skin color – is a slur. You’re highlighting how they’re different from you.

Search any dictionary – Merriam Webster, American Heritage, Dictionary.com, Kernerman Webster’s, Collins – they all define “redskin” as offensive, racist, anachronistic slang.

Some Lancaster residents inexplicably reject that.

“It’s a word. It’s a matter of context,” said Everett, president of Performance Advantage. “No one in this community would support the negative element associated with that name. We don’t subscribe to this negative connotation. It means a lot to people – dedication, achievement, commitment to excellence.”

The Lancaster School District has a choice to make here. Unlike the Washington Redskins, an NFL franchise, we’re talking about a school. If you were to go around spewing racial epithets at kids in the hall, you’d be subject to discipline. So, how does that jibe with having a racist team name? If a student referred to an American Indian kid as a “Redskin” or similar, he’d be punished, but we’re meant to believe that it’s ok to use that term if people are doing the important work of throwing balls hither and thither?

I’m not personally offended by the team name “Redskins”, but I see that many American Indians are. That’s enough to me to – again, reverting back to the core definition of “politically correct” – support changing the name so as to not offend our indigenous Americans with a racial epithet.

Proponents of the “Redskins” name say it evokes pride, bravery, tradition, and all of the good stuff with which we associate indigenous Americans. Here’s the logo:

The Lancaster School District’s mission is:

…to provide our students with a comprehensive educational program that will allow them to develop fully the necessary academic and social skills to become responsible and productive members of a democratic society.

Responsible and productive members of a democratic society. Part of being responsible within a democratic society is changing a team name that has a mere 67 year history, and is blatatly racist by every dictionary definition.

It’s so simple for the district’s school board to simply vote away a racist team name. There are literally thousands of alternative team names available to use, none of which are by definition disparaging to any historically oppressed ethnic or racial minority. What’s so hard to comprehend here? By the Lancaster School District’s own code of conduct (doc, emphases added),

Students are expected to behave, and to treat all students, teachers, school staff and others, with honesty, tolerance, respect, courtesy and dignity as per the LCSD Policy #7552 — Bullying in the Schools. Students should respect their peers, teachers, and school staff. Individual behavior should not interfere with the rights of others. Students are expected to use language that is appropriate in demonstrating respect for self and others. Profanity, vulgar language including, but not limited to, racial comments, and/or obscene gestures toward others will not be tolerated. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

How are students expected to abide these basic disciplinary expectations if the district itself failes to do so? The example the district is setting is a poor one. Racist comments are not tolerated between students, but it’s ok for the school’s team and mascot to be a “redskin” American Indian?

The upshot of all of this is, in the big picture, how inconsequential a name change would be. Would Lancaster students, teams, and alumni have less pride in their school or alma mater if the team’s name was changed? Does changing the name of the team and school mascot lessen past glory or affect one’s affinity for the school? Of course not. A racist name chosen almost 70 years ago, before the Civil Rights Act and before Congress and the Courts came around to agreeing that our contemporary American society guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of race or color, the same basic civil rights, is due for a change. Especially when you’re talking about an oppressed people expelled from their homes by colonial invaders.

This isn’t the kind of thing you poll for; you don’t leave it up to majority vote. Just because the name is popular doesn’t make it less racial. Just because 50%-plus-one residents might support it doesn’t make it less violative of the district’s own code of conduct. Just because you’re purporting to use a racist term to highlight what you say are that group’s positive traits doesn’t make it less racist. We would never dream of using “Yellowskins” or some other racist term for a team to describe positive Asian attributes, nor would it be appropriate to use Nazi-era caricatures  to establish that Jewish people are good with money. These are examples of “political correctness”, too.

Appropriately enough for a school district, this is a teaching moment. Will Lancaster show its student body that it’s willing to follow the same code of conduct it expects kids to follow? Will Lancaster’s school district opt to be respectful of all races and ethnicities by changing the school’s mascot and team name to any one of a thousand inoffensive alternatives?

It seems to me that this hardly merits a controversy. High Schools should lead by example and name their teams using terms that aren’t overtly racist.

Paladino Mistakes Windmill for Giant

paladino2The Paladino descent into self-parody continues apace, as he opens up yet another front in his relentless war on everyone.

Last week, Gary Orfield, a UCLA professor and head of its Civil Rights Project, complained to the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights about Paladino’s efforts to dictate to and intimidate Orfield and his group. Orfield is not Paladino’s employee, but the head of an organization that the Buffalo school board retained to investigate complaints of racial discrimination in criterion school admissions. Orfield had strongly urged the board majority, including Paladino, to holf off on committing to any charter plans for the four “failing” schools until his group could finish its work and issue its recommendations.

Orfield’s complaint to the OCR was made public, and apparently threw Paladino into a rage. His skin is far too thin to tolerate any criticism, however mild. So, he fired off an intemperate, now-irrelevant letter to the OCR blasting Orfield. Most of it is just an ad hominem attack against Orfield.

Witness the reaction of a man whose companies rent space to – and profit from – charter schools:

To: Timothy Blanchard Director New York Regional Office Office of Civil Rights,U.S.Department of Education

From: Carl P. Paladino

Date: August 14, 2015

Cc: Everybody

Re: Gary Orfield

Mr. Blanchard, this is in response to an uninformed Buffalo News editorial and Gary Orfield’s letter to you dated February 10, 2015. I am writing as an individual member of the Buffalo Board of Education, (BOE) and I speak only for myself.

Contrary to Orfield’s letter, I am not the Chairman or leader of the BOE, however, I am a member who is incapable of being cowed by an academic elitist who knows nothing about our BOE’s reform intentions and actually seeks to have you admonish me and delay the implementation of our reform agenda. I intend to do what I was elected to do.

Orfield has an MA and PhD in political science. He appears to be a self-absorbed charlatan. He is not a person conducting a study, but rather an activist anti-charter zealot. He is an advocacy researcher, not an unbiased researcher. He is a paid lobbyist who uses Harvard and UCLA after his name because he admires himself much like Jonathan Gruber the MIT professor who wrote Obamacare.

Orfield purportedly was selected by a Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) committee because he was the cheaper of the two people who responded to the RFP. Actually I suspect a much more sinister process took place. Apparently, as has been past practice, no one from the BPS bothered to Google Orfield or look beyond his self-serving and deceitful response to the RFP to see who he really was. Appearances are he is a plant on a mission commissioned by the BOE minority to delay and frustrate the implementation of the reform agenda.

Orfield holds himself out as a “published anti-charter expert and noted speaker.” He ascribes an astonishing fraction of America’s educational failings to America’s obvious lack of “civil rights” in the public schools. He is known as the “segregation professor.” He has been accused of “breathtaking intellectual dishonesty.” He lobbies for busing and stands and speaks extensively against neighborhood schools and charters claiming they create segregation. See attached. He refers to New York schools as Apartheid schools. He supports “social passing-feels that testing is a means to force children out of schools. He has a predisposition to find segregation everywhere, especially in New York. He lacks any discernible objectivity. When considering the requirements of the RFP, he has fraudulently presented himself. Why would the BOE imagine hiring someone who intends to impose his socialist will on the District?

Buffalo’s only civil rights issue comes in the form of the desperate attitude of the BOE minority which consistently plays the race card for lack of any plausible argument against the reform agenda. They were the majority until this year and on their watch the BPS slid into the abyss of total dysfunction. The people of Buffalo voted overwhelmingly for change and reform installing the new majority. Self -empowerment and the ability to control money and jobs is more important to the minority than ending the urban cycle of poverty and giving 34,000 kids a fair opportunity for education no matter what the vehicle, which ironically is the mission of the BOE majority’s reform agenda.

Orfield lacks any objectivity and when considering the requirements of the RFP, he has fraudulently presented himself. We can expect him to include in any report he prepares language that would exclude any Charter School considerations.

Orfield’s letter to you illustrates that he intends to use the Buffalo Public Schools as his Petri dish for his socialistic social re-engineering. He concludes that obviously the BOE majority could not possibly have good intentions for minority children, an insulting and racist remark that illustrates his lack of objectivity. The majority’s reform plan was being prepared when the misguided complaint of the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC) was filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR.) Knowing what they know today about the majority’s intentions, I expect that the DPCC would agree to withdraw their complaint.

The majority’s plan specifically addresses compliance with the “No Child Left Behind” legislation by using an array of vehicles to create seats in performing schools for implementation in 2015. It is shameful for Orfield to suggest that our children must suffer in underperforming schools for another school year so that he can finish his report sometime in the future.

The BOE majority seeks to correct bad policies administered in the past by the BOE minority when they controlled the majority together with an incompetent Superintendent which resulted in the conditions addressed in the complaint. We have 46 out of 57 schools failing. Our overall proficiencies in Math and English are approximately 10%. There are over 27,000 kids in failing schools who need to be relocated to performing schools. The suburbs and Catholics are closing schools for lack of students. High quality charters want to expand. We filled every seat in the performing schools and we now seek to expand or duplicate them. Is OCR going to delay these good efforts for another year to satisfy Orfield?

Orfield’s fraud in the inception of his contract and belligerency in trying to delay and frustrate the reform intentions of the BOE majority are not tolerable.

I will move to terminate his contract at the next meeting of the BOE.

Fraud? Orfield should sue for defamation – fraud is a crime, and Paladino should prove that up.

Query: the BOE’s minority-as prior-majority presided over not only the “failing” schools, but the “performing” ones, too. There are myriad reasons why the underperforming schools can’t seem to educate or graduate kids, but blaming it all on the BOE minority or the teachers’ union misses the mark.

“Petri dish for his socialistic social re-engineering” what on Earth does that even mean? This stems from Paladino figuring out that Orfield isn’t a Paladino clone anti-SAFE Act tea party activist, and is therefore a socialist. “Self-absorbed charlatan”, “activist anti-Charter zealot”, “sinister process”. Orfield has the nerve to oppose racial segregation, and this apparently sets Paladino into a rage.

Note the very careful, repeated (improper) use of the word “socialist”—Paladino uses “socialist” as an adjective for someone who opposes racial segregation. It bears mentioning, then, that Paladino is rather expressly advocating for illegal racial segregation; integration is “socialist social re-engineering”.

Following up on his intemperate segregationist rant, Paladino reproduces an article written by a xenophobic conservative activist slamming Orfield. He then reproduced a laundry list of things that Orfield has said or written about a variety of topics in order to establish that Orfield is a liberal academic who has the nerve to disagree with positions that Paladino holds. If you’re interested, you can visit a local tea party website and see the whole thing: it is basically a compendium of ad hominem attacks and character assassination by a state official against an academic who dared to raise an objection. Who cares if Orfield didn’t like John Ashcroft? Who cares if Orfield is a Democrat or a liberal? To Paladino, that alone is enough to disqualify anything from anything.

Except, of course, for the Democrats whom Paladino supports.

That is the danger of all of this. While it’s arguably ok for private citizen Carl Paladino to hurl his hateful invective at anyone who dares to even mildly disagree with his dogma, Paladino is an elected state official. Not only does he owe the schools a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of all students, but if he decides—as a state official—to issue fatwas and wage jihad against everyone who dares to threaten or thwart his thinly veiled efforts to privatize and profit from schools, Constitutional and civil rights issues suddenly arise.

As we already know from Orfield, Paladino clearly “shows deep disrespect for federal civil rights laws.” They – and Orfield – are mere impediments standing between Paladino and his ultimate goals.

Perhaps more chilling than Paladino’s own efforts to defame and censor a critic, the Buffalo News’ editorial page gently chides Paladino for his behavior. The News has been a friend to charter schools, so its tsk-tsk tone is to be expected; however, the Buffalo News gets everything right except two: that Paladino sincerely wants to help, and that he can be a force for positive change. There is no evidence of the former, and while he could be a “force for positive change”, he’ll have to start acting like a responsible adult and less like a petulant toddler. The News says that Paladino sets back his own goals if he “self-destructs”. Unfortunately, self-destruction is what Paladino does. No one is as good at it as he.

Let the anti-intellectual insult follies continue, I guess. But it’s 2015 and reversion to what arguably worked in the 1930s isn’t the way forward.

How to be Creepy

clownshoes

In this article about Cheektowaga politics, I referenced a story that was published on what I called an “irresponsible local website”, which accused Cheektowaga town Councilwoman Diane Benczkowski of working to “suppress” the details of an investigation into allegations of misuse of town resources by politically connected people.

I spoke with Ms. Benczkowski on Friday, and she explained that nothing could be further from the truth. The allegations against Mark Wegner at the highway department were not uncoincidentally raised just three weeks after she publicly accused Frank Max of falsifying overtime documents. An outside investigation was begun, and all of the details that were included in that online piece were improperly leaked from the town board’s executive sessions. Obviously, someone who was privy to that information improperly leaked the contents of what was discussed in executive session to that website. Whoever leaked it breached town policy and his  or her fiduciary duty as a town councilman.

In any event, it could hardly be appropriate to accuse Benczkowski of trying to follow procedures and policy in discussing sensitive investigations, which were ultimately referred in open session to the Attorney General’s office for prosecution of any wrongdoing. As I noted, it seems as if they’re taking complaints seriously and letting the professionals handle it, rather than turning the matter into a circus.

Benczkowski says that the exposure of Frank Max’s apparently improper timekeeping has resulted in a flurry of whistleblowing, and that many town employees are encouraged by the new town board’s willingness to examine and confront past misconduct in order to clear the air and drag good government into Cheektowaga once and for all. There may very well be more to come.

But investigations like this must necessarily be conducted in a professional and appropriate manner, in accordance with existing rules, laws, and procedures.

But to underscore how unabashedly opportunistic this website has become, its putative author sent two emails shortly after the slam against Benczkowski was published. One, amazingly enough, was sent to Benczkowski’s town email address (which is public and subject to FOIL), and contains a blatant solicitation, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t also reminiscent of the dirty business practices of the late Joe Illuzzi.  Note he also misidentifies Benczkowski as “supervisor”.

Not satisfied to let it go at just that, he also sent the following email to a very well-connected local businessman who has ties to Benczkowski:

He wrote an article accusing Benczkowski of “working to suppress Cheektowaga corruption scandal” but never spoke with her – never met her. He goes on to invite them to call him to give their side of the story after the fact. Oh, and by the way, can I have a job or sell an ad?

The danger with all this is that WGRZ actually cited the website as a source for the story it did on this issue. This is the Illuzzi Letter redux. It is not to be taken seriously.

Paladino Bullies the Wrong Guy

People of New York, be happy today. Be proud and pleased that you so effectively and decidedly dodged the “Carl Paladino for Governor” bullet that was aimed right at your heart back in 2010.

People of Buffalo, be concerned. Concerned not only because Paladino comports himself like a toddler in the throes of a perpetual temper tantrum, but because you have elected him to public office and he speaks for some of you – represents some of you. This isn’t about his general abhorrent demeanor and hateful joie d’ennui, but about bad governance, racial animus, intimidation, and interference.

Forget for a moment the hypocrisy of Paladino’s complaints about another board member forwarding around an email he didn’t like.

Carl Paladino believes that, by dint of his control of a Buffalo School Board majority, he is its dictator and can act in complete disregard of the rules or law. For a guy who enjoys referring to Governor Cuomo as “il Duce”, the hypocrisy is palpable. For someone who purports to be a defender of the Constitution, the hypocrisy is disappointing. For someone who pretends to be acting in the students’ best interests, the whole sordid thing is embarrassing. From the Buffalo News’ reporting, there was a letter that the Buffalo School Board had received from Gary Orfield,

“…a director at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, an independent civil rights research group. In September, the district hired the Civil Rights Project to review the admissions policies of the Buffalo Public Schools’ criteria-based schools, following complaints that the policies were racially biased.”

The letter is reproduced here, along with three emails between Mr. Orfield and Carl Paladino. Cue the “that escalated quickly” meme.

Orfield wrote to the director of the New York Regional Office of the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. In it, he references an exchange of emails he had in late January with Board Member Carl Paladino. He expresses concerns that  Paladino made “a clear effort to control my work and intimidate me.”

The local victims of Paladino’s intimidation and bullying are all to used to and familiar with his hate-filled vitriol, and more importantly the ease with which he gets away with it. But Dr. Orfield is from California and isn’t used to being pushed around.

The Buffalo school district and Office of Civil Rights agreed to carry out a study into the fairness of admission to Buffalo’s so-called “Criterion” schools. Orfield’s Civil Rights Project out of UCLA was hired to undertake an investigation and survey, and to make recommendations to the District and OCR regarding its findings. Its investigation is not yet complete.

When one group came to Orfield for his opinion on a turnaround proposal for a high school facing closure, Orfield said he could not offer any such opinion, and added that no major decisions regarding school space should be undertaken until his group had completed its investigation and made its recommendations, pursuant to their contract. Any decision to rededicate school space to some other use before Orfield’s investigation is complete, “could make solutions less workable or more expensive, possibly undermining the agreement”.

Paladino wrote to Orfield in response to that, and the emails are here and speak for themselves.

Orfield’s takeaway from Paladino’s reaction was this:

Orfield says that in 35 years of doing this,

He goes on to say what few have the courage to say,

Orfield responded to Paladino’s whining by maintaining his professionalism, starting with, “I was very sorry you could not make it to the session where I met with interested board members”. He continues,

It seems to me that hurrying major changes in the midst of a serious civil rights investigation needlessly risks more civil rights complaints because it limits future options and limits the work…it is much better to work things out professionally than to get involved in escalating investigations or possible enforcement or litigation that could risk federal funds and put great stress on the district and its leaders.

To this, Paladino lost what was left of “it”.

“Nonsense” with respect to the Justice Department? The federal government became involved in response to complaints of racial discrimination in the admissions process for Buffalo’s eight criteria-based schools. The team of researchers from UCLA just began its work in December.

Another pressing matter relates to four “failing” or otherwise underperforming schools, and proposals to turn them around. Paladino’s majority submitted a plan recently, which can be found here. It blames the Buffalo Teachers’ Federation for refusing to agree to adjust its work rules, and proposes phase-outs of three schools, setting up four new charter schools, and using “surplus” space in the schools being phased out for new and existing charters. It proposes to use the threat of closure as a negotiating tactic to force the BTF to surrender. Members of the community from each affected school also presented turnaround proposals.

The fact that these schools are labeled as “failing” aside, little if any of what is happening in the Buffalo district smacks of good governance.  Even more tragically, at a time when that district needs strong but responsive – if not compassionate – leadership, it has nothing of the sort.  Devolving instead into political grandstanding and backbiting, the reputation of the district suffers, and the students are used as pawns in a colossal game of chicken.

This is why Dr. Orfield’s accusation against Paladino’s apparent bad faith is so critical here. Without responsible people coming together in good faith to resolve differences, negotiate in the kids’ best interests, and to reach consensus, nothing gets accomplished. Threats and ultimatums don’t generally lead to good results – only resentment and power struggles.

If these people all truly have the kids’ best interests at heart, then it’s imperative that someone lead. Not just by barking orders, but by example.

Pity the poor parents and kids who suffer under this bombastic collection of self-interested amateurs calling themselves a board of education. For all the good progress that Buffalo has enjoyed over the past several years in other venues, the epic dysfunction of the city’s educational system casts a depressing pall over that progress.

Cheektowaga Politics: Making Other Towns Look Good

Political figure denies padding his pension - wivb.com 2015-02-12 06-21-28

Lest anyone think the City of Buffalo or state government in Albany have some sort of monopoly on dirty politics and bad government, Cheektowaga pops up to periodically remind us that stupidity and dysfunction can be found everywhere.

Let’s take former chairman of the Cheektowaga Democratic Committee, and current head of the Cheektowaga “Progressive Democrats” club, Frank Max. Although he’s a bit player in the WNY Progressive Caucus scandal, Max has been at war with whomever has been at the helm of the county Democratic committee for years, and for reasons that no rational person can recall. Max is also the former head of Cheektowaga’s sanitation department, and was unexpectedly ousted as chairman of the Cheektowaga committee this past December.  The newly constituted committee blasted Max’s conduct and handling of committee finances.

In December, Max and his club held a fundraiser. Here’s a somewhat shaky picture of the invitation that was sent out.

I have no idea how the turnout was, or how much money was made.

That’s because Max hasn’t filed any proper disclosure. The “Progressive Democrats” juggernaut boasts a warchest of $2.02, that’s after expenses of $5.00 since the 32 day post-general election disclosure.

Friends of Frank Max” and “Frank Max” both filed statements of no activity.

So, where did the December fundraiser money go?

On another note, at least one irresponsible local website has accused Cheektowaga’s town government of attempting to cover up or silence allegations of monetary irregularities.  On the contrary, town government commissioned a private investigation, and allegedly found that town asphalt millings had allegedly been misappropriated for private use, and that people had improperly been paid for work that wasn’t done. Not uncoincidentally, the highway superintendent is Mark Wegner, who replaced Frank Max as chairman of the town Democratic Committee last year. On Tuesday, the town council voted unanimously to refer the investigation’s findings to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

It strains credulity to suggest that the town council, Democrats, or Councilwoman Diane Benczkowski are trying to cover up or “suppress” an investigation that the town commissioned and referred to law enforcement. On the contrary, it seems as if they’re taking complaints seriously and letting the professionals handle it, rather than turning the matter into a circus.

If anything is political, it’s Max partisans leaking false information to irresponsible websites. Wegner says it’s a predictable political witch-hunt; Max has it out for Wegner for obvious reasons, but he apparently has beef with Benczkowski because she accused him of falsifying overtime records in an effort to pad his pay and pension.

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