The Victory in Clarence
I feel like punctuating everything with a Jesse Pinkman-esque “bitch!” And I wonder what Donn Esmonde would say now, what with his bullshit, facile tea party pandering from last year.
Clarence taxpayers took back our school district last night. The budget, with a 2.46% spending hike and a 3.16% within-cap tax levy increase, passed by an overwhelming and decisive margin: 2670 – 786.
But no one was seriously advocating against the budget – well, sort of. One especially nasty group foolishly tried to have it both ways, not expressly advocating against it, but not endorsing it, either. They repeatedly reminded their “supporters” that they’d be paying more in taxes. Never mind that everyone’s getting a rebate check for the difference later this year.
On the other hand, we faced a very extensive push to vote against a proposal to replace aging buses. We were told the district should pay cash, instead of financing the purchase with an almost no-interest state loan over five years, like normal people do. The bus proposition also won overwhelmingly, 2454 – 999.
I confess that I’m somewhat curious as to why 1,000 Clarence residents believe safe buses for schoolkids to be unnecessary; the opponents’ rhetoric was equal parts ridiculousness and fantasy. I’d love to find out about that.
Turning to the school board, we originally had five candidates for three available seats; four pro-school candidates, and one anti-school. When the organization with which I was working endorsed three, we had the difficult task of asking Dennis Priore, a former Ken-Ton administrator, to drop out. It took a bit of convincing, but he did so, much to our relief and astonishment. His selfless sacrifice will not be forgotten.
And so it was that we had three pro-school candidates – Andrews, Stock, and Kloss – and one candidate who was making noise about “creative solutions” that exist only outside the board’s mandate, and “clean revenue”, which would be a job for the town board. For me, he disqualified himself by sending his children to a private Christian school outside the district, (they are entitled to public bus transportation, though), and by failing to donate to the private foundation that helped to restore lost programs last year.
Remembering that I never much paid attention to school board races, we needed a way to drill our choices into people’s heads. We came up with a mnemonic – “ASK”, and we used it repeatedly on all of our lit and signs. People responded positively, and as we canvassed outside the polls yesterday, they knew to vote “ASK”. We had a small army of volunteers canvassing their friends and neighbors with palm cards. We leafleted events, utilized social media, and pulled together a great robocall to remind people to GOTV.
In doing so, I solicited help from the best political consultant in town. (I won’t use his name until I get express permission). He helped pull the script together brilliantly. When I couldn’t figure out whose voice to use for the call – no one wants to hear from me, and some people I asked couldn’t do it for various reasons, he recommended we use my daughter’s voice. I reacted that no one knows her, but was convinced with, “she’s a schoolgirl who’s concerned about her future. Everyone knows that girl.”
Everyone hates robocalls, but when have you ever received one from a kid? We got a great response from that, and reminded people not only how to vote, but to vote at all.
So, we have a bit of time to celebrate an unexpected but decisive victory, with many thanks to everyone who helped, gave ideas, and otherwise spent valuable time or money to get us to this point. We took back the district yesterday. Our opponents’ 2013 playbook failed miserably this time around.