UB’s International Students

 

Via Wonkblog

Via Wonkblog

Yesterday saw something unprecedented happen. Carl Paladino apologized.

As originally reported in the Olean paper, Paladino appeared at something of a failure of a tea party rally over the weekend, and said hateful and ignorant things about Asian students at UB.

On Monday, Paladino said the point he wanted to make at the rally is that out-of-state students – whether foreign-born or not – are taking advantage of New York’s heavily subsidized university system at the cost of taxpayers. Since the state – via taxpayers – heavily contributes to its university system, the tuition for out-of-state residents is far lower than the actual cost to educate them, Paladino says.

“I don’t think that’s fair to taxpayers,” Paladino said Monday. “Even nonresident tuition is highly subsidized tuition. I was pointing out deeper problems that are not otherwise being expressed.”

UB boasts – BOASTS – about 5,000 international students. 99.2% of them attend UB on an F-1 student visa. While in-state students pay a tuition of just over $6,000 per year, international students pay close to $20,000 to attend UB.  Before obtaining an F-1 visa, the student must have already applied – and been accepted – to a school that is certified under the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).  In order to obtain an F-1 visa, the applicant must prove that he does not intend to abandon his foreign residency. As such, it is impossible for the holder of an F-1 visa to claim domicile in New York State in order to reap the benefits of a subsidized in-state SUNY tuition.

Paladino said he does not take issue with the fact that foreign students attend UB, but thinks their education should not be subsidized by taxpayers. He said he selected Asians as an example of out-of-state students because it is easy to assume they are not from the area, an assumption for which he apologized.

“I apologize to all Asians for the coarseness of my remark and selecting them as my example,” he said. “That wasn’t the point I was trying to make.”

“Easy to assume they are not from the area” – here’s a case of an apology being pretty much as bad as the original insult. The International Institute’s Eva Hassett explains, “Immigrants, refugees, international students, foreign born professionals are are critical to the region’s economic growth. International students in particular are more likely than native born students to study in STEM fields, which relate highly to making the investments in the BNMC, Solar City, etc turn into jobs. Lots of cities get this. What they also get is that communities need to be ‘welcoming’ to the foreign born, or none of their other strategies work. Being inclusive and tolerant is a great base for an economic development strategy. Not to mention making it a nicer place to live.”

Paladino isn’t the disease, but merely a symptom of longstanding, ingrained xenophobia and ignorant animus plaguing western New York. Look no further than the absolutely disgusting, desperate clinging to a racist team name going on in Lancaster. Imagine people willing to turn their backs on the student who designed the new Lancaster mascot, or yelling “Heil Hitler” at the school superintendent. Lancaster isn’t the disease – it’s also a symptom.

We seem to have this mentality that it’s not our own fault that the region doesn’t – or we individually don’t – advance. Don’t blame the easily identifiable Asians or brown people or black people, western New York. “Stop being a bigot” may just be the key to regional and personal advancement.

Paladino Opines About “Damn Asians”

 

Via Governor Cuomo on Flickr - anti-Asian bigotry everywhere

Via Governor Cuomo on Flickr – anti-Asian bigotry everywhere

At long last, you can put a fork in the Palinist wing of the WNY Tea Party.

But before we get to the reason why, it bears mentioning that, as much as we can ask where Frank Sedita is when it comes to Preetsmas:

Where’s Carl Paladino?  The raids on Pigeon, Casey, and Grant took place on May 28th, and this supposed hero of anti-corruption and good government has absolutely nothing to say about it.  He’s sent some stuff out. He likes that US Attorney Preet Bharara may be getting closer to Cuomo, but other than that he has zero to say about three local political movers being under scrutiny for possible corruption or illegality. Nada. Zilch.  Maybe it’s because Pigeon and Paladino are buddies. Carl has made peace with Byron Brown for business reasons, and Chris Grant is a political ally. So, corruption only matters to Carl Paladino when it’s someone who isn’t a friend or ally. But you have to figure Paladino is a guy who has a lot of very strong opinions, and he isn’t shy about expressing them. So, when the biggest political earthquake in years takes place, you’d sort of expect him to have a field day.  His silence reveals him to be a fake – a phony. The same goes for all of these so-called “tea party” types. They don’t really care about good government or corruption.  But that’s not why the tea party is toast. Paladino and his driver/companion Rus Thompson organized some sort of ammosexual rally in Olean this weekend. The Olean paper was there, and you won’t even believe this. First of all, Thompson and Paladino organized the rally to protest, in part, State Senator Cathy Young, who did something Carl didn’t like. But Young supporters showed up to Carl and Rus’ rally, and outnumbered the tea party by “maybe a dozen“.   

Paladino, who arrived about 45 minutes late for the scheduled noon rally, led the group in singing “God Bless America” before speaking for about 20 minutes. After starting by berating Republicans for speaking without cohesion or leadership, Paladino veered off into what some thought was “borderline” racism by referring to all the “non-Americans walking around” the University at Buffalo campus. Asking “why do we have this huge population of foreigners?” Paladino answered his own question. While they pay higher out-of-state tuition their first year, they soon declare themselves residents, and pay the lower tuition, Paladino stated. This is because “we have la-de-da legislators,” Republican-in-name-only GOP officials and liberals allied with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Paladino said. Later, when he spoke to reporters, Paladino made reference to those “damn Asians coming here to go to school” and keeping local students from educational opportunities.

Late for his own rally. 20 minute diatribe. Quick and pointless lurch to racist xenophobia. Not “borderline” racism, but straight-up anti-Asian animus. Seriously, was he drunk? Who talks this way? Who does it in public? In what way do these, “damn Asians coming here to go to school” appear on the tea party agenda? On Twitter,   

So, who thinks WBEN is going to publish this video? Me, neither.

But this is the elected member of a school board, going to some public demonstration and expressing anti-Asian bias apropos of nothing at all. Can this be it? Can this be the end of this noxious individual’s political career? How much more does there need to be? Are we done now? Can we stop pretending like this is a serious movement led by serious people?

Russ Thompson of Tea New York, warmed the crowd up for Paladino, outlining how six Upstate Republican senators including Young, “threw us under the bus” by naming Flanagan majority leader to succeed Skelos.

Thompson got into a verbal scuffle with Mark Williams, the county American Legion commander, who was carrying a sign supporting Young.

Thompson made reference to Williams circling the park with the Young sign, at which time Williams, the county’s public defender, walked toward the gazebo waving his sign and saying he was a veteran.

Thompson thanked Williams for his service and asked him to keep walking.

Seriously, these guys can’t even organize a demonstration without being outnumbered by supporters of the person they came to denigrate. They can’t hold an anti-Skelos rally without going after Asian students at UB?!

At long last, can we be done with these clowns?

Tale of Two Buffalos

Photo by Joe Cascio via www.canalsidebuffalo.com

Photo by Joe Cascio via www.canalsidebuffalo.com

Things are happening in Buffalo. Good things. Renaissance-y things.

The county’s public art partnership with the Albright Knox has brought us the wonderful Shark Girl, Silent Poets, and You Are Beautiful.

Out of every 150 murders in Buffalo, there are no arrests.

The notion of “beer-related development” is a real thing, as we see from Big Ditch, Resurgence, and Community Beer Works.

Buffalo teachers have been without a new contract for 11 years, and picketed in front of Carl Paladino’s home. To his credit, Mr. Paladino bought the teachers pizza and took it all in uncharacteristically good humor.

Canalside is hopping, and giving people from all over the region an excuse to come downtown.  That waterfront area had been a dilapidated parking lot sitting in the shadow of a long-abandoned hockey arena.

The tower formerly known as HSBC boasted a 90%+ occupancy rate in 2005. Now, it’s 5%, and the building is in foreclosure – Buffalo’s most prominent distressed property.

Gondola over the Skyway! #Buffalove! Restaurants! Bike ferry! Buffalo leads the nation in nanogolf, foot golf, and “Bubble Soccer“!

A majority of Buffalo’s children live in poverty.

The state’s education department got around to replacing the feckless John King with MaryEllen Elia, a western New York native who was fired from her most recent job in Florida and may be a more test-obsessed “reformer” than her predecessor.

A great many residential rental and hotel projects have popped up downtown in recent years, thanks to historic tax credits. They have been credited with revitalizing long-dormant neighborhoods and reversing squalor.

The school district is in disarray, preoccupied with personal and political acrimony rather than education.

Anecdotally, we’re told that millennials hate cars and suburbs, and are choosing to move into the city, fueling its revival.

Since 2010, the City of Buffalo has lost 2,700 residents. The county, by contrast, has gained 3,800 residents in that time. Amherst alone has seen a gain of 2,400 people. This population growth in Erie County represents a reversal of 40+ years of decline, fueled at least in part by new immigrants to our area.

If you want real evidence of a regional renaissance – not the edifice of faux revival, or twee things to distract the well-to-do – but the actual, quantifiable and sustainable indicia of revival, look at the jobs data. Buffalo-Niagara has seen strong growth in private sector employment, and the upstate unemployment rate is lower than the national average at 5.1%. In just the last calendar year, 8,100 new jobs were created in our region.

We have a lot of work to do in terms of crime, education, and ensuring that our economic good times are widely applicable. We have schools to fix, neighborhoods to rebuild, and kids to educate. Blue bikes and paddle boats won’t lift families out of poverty – but jobs will.

Riots in Buffalo: Thugs? Animals?

polishRiffing a bit off the Baltimore riots, and, by extension, l’affaire Airborne Eddy, local historian Cynthia Van Ness brought some interesting news reports to light on Thursday.

But before we get specifically to that, you’ll recall that “Airborne Eddy” Dobosiewicz likened Baltimore rioters to “animals”—specifically baboons in a Merseyside safari park. He said, “My intent was to kind of jolt everybody into reality. We’re doing bad things out there, folks, and the world is spiraling out of control.” How that justifies his selection of one specific group of human beings to be labeled “animals” remains an open question, but as a purveyor of local nostalgia and lore, surely Dobosiewicz must be aware of his own people’s history of rioting?

Did he not know that Buffalo saw Polish riots? In April 1898, the “air was full of flying stones” from an “angry, vicious mob” of Polish Buffalonians. Were they “animals”, Eddy?

Or how about this story from 1894? Jewish merchant Louis Gertzman shot Bernard Renkowski, the Polish guy robbing his store. In response, neighborhood Poles descended on Gertzman’s store to exact revenge, breaking doors and windows, and ruining Gertzman’s stock. Were these Polish rioters, who were supporting the robber over his victim, “animals”?

How about this near-riot at St. Adalbert’s because its priest was replaced with someone the local population didn’t like? Animals, Eddy?

I mean, it’s not the same as protesting the apparent police homicide of a man in their care and custody, along with years of systemic and entrenched racism and inequality, but this group of Polish Buffalonians – 200 to 300 of them – rioted at the Broadway Market in 1893, looting food from merchants. They were out of work—hungry and poor (today we denigrate the poor and hungry as “animals” when they rob, steal, or riot). *Gasp*, “We’re doing bad things out there, folks, and the world is spiraling out of control

My goodness. These Polish are thugs! So must have been these Italians and Irish engaged in a “race riot” in the streets of Buffalo ca. 1894. If only their mothers could have come out to beat them about the head and neck on national TV to show that the best response to senseless violence is child abuse!

Before you lower yourself to the level of pointing your finger at “those people” and denigrating them as “thugs” or “animals” – or worse – maybe take a moment to learn about the history of your own people, or the difficulty that oppressed minorities and immigrants face in a country that really wasn’t—and isn’t—set up to make things too easy for them. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you take a fateful leap and deny them their humanity. In doing that, you just might expose your own inhumanity.

Winter Storm “Re-election”

walter

A few weeks ago, the Poloncarz camp did some internal polling regarding its chances (they were good) against a potential challenge from Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw or County Clerk Chris Jacobs. The latter’s numbers were better than the former’s, but Poloncarz still held a commanding lead. We can presume, based on Mychajliw’s and Jacobs’ rapid-fire exits from the County Executive’s race, that the Republicans conducted similar polling, and that its results were not dissimilar from Poloncarz’s own.

In their stead, it appears that Assemblyman Ray Walter is going to challenge Poloncarz. Jacobs sort of let the cat out of the bag yesterday by pledging his support for Walter, who hasn’t announced yet. Walter released a statement yesterday, indicating that he’s still thinking about it, but that he thinks it’s a winnable race.

(By way of full disclosure, I consider both Walter and Poloncarz to be friends, and I have donated money to both. The firm where I work defends Erie County in lawsuits, and Poloncarz recently appointed me – with unanimous legislative approval – to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library board of trustees.)

I don’t think Ray has much of a shot, and he’s taking one for the team. Both Jacobs and Mychajliw enjoy more crossover appeal, yet neither of them are ready to mount a countywide challenge to Poloncarz. When he was in the legislature, Walter played the role that Joe Lorigo has now – that of snarky right-wing eye-roller. Ray’s nickname among Democratic legislators was “Rush”, as in Limbaugh. He’s more of an outspoken doctrinaire conservative Republican than Mychajliw or Jacobs, each of whom has carefully crafted an image and perception of being above partisanship, regardless of the reality.

For sure, Ray is well-known and liked in his Amherst home-base, but outside of there, he doesn’t come close to the name recognition that Mychajliw or Jacobs enjoy, nor has he really taken on an issue in the Assembly in such a way that gets him a lot of attention outside his district. Think DiPietro and guns. In recent weeks, Walter has been heard on WBEN and seen on his Facebook page taking on Governor Cuomo’s dubious education reforms, but the wheels are still spinning, and there’s not a lot of traction yet.

When Walter last ran he was challenged by Steve Meyer, a young newcomer Democrat who evidently gave him enough of a scare that Mike Caputo excoriated Meyer as a kid who should get a job. Another website, which has a habit of being wrong, wrote that Meyer had a real shot and that the race was a toss-up. In the end, however, Walter’s win was lopsided, as the incumbent received 20,852 votes to Meyer’s 14,641 – about a 60/40 split. Still, Walter’s not a charismatic cross-over candidate with crazy name recognition or deep pockets, and Poloncarz’s tenure has been, if not warm and fuzzy, then careful, responsible, and competent.

With the understanding, then, that Ray is a substitute for Chris and Stef – choice 3 of 3 – bullet-taking such as this can, for instance, earn people cush promotions like judgeships. I know that Ray has to say it’s a winnable race, but that’s unlikely. It’s a steep climb, and Ray has less than $5,000 in his campaign account against Poloncarz’s $422,000. Ray’s climb is also steep because he can’t – at this time – attract Democrats like Stef or Chris. We can’t really assess what Walter might do substantively as County Executive as compared with Poloncarz, mostly because the incumbent’s tenure has been effective and people are generally satisfied with the results he gets.

On Twitter last night, people were joking:

That seems about right.

But here’s a thought: where’s Ed Rath? He’s got money, and his name is already hanging out on the county shingle.

Balancing the Upstate Billions

Governor Cuomo Presented with Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan

Buffalo’s billion is being divvied up mostly as state investments in private enterprise – things like Elon Musk’s SolarCity. How the money is being spent is reportedly opaque, and controlled by very wealthy, well-connected people whose charge is to transform Buffalo’s economy into, according to the Buffalo News,

a hub for clean energy research and manufacturing, as well as a center for medical genomics research centered around the University at Buffalo’s supercomputing capabilities. Another center would have costly and sophisticated equipment that would help some types of advanced manufacturers develop new products and technologies that they couldn’t otherwise afford to do on their own.

That’s all very forward-thinking and laudable, but average western New Yorkers had no real input into how the state investment was made.

Some of the billion will be used for infrastructure changes, such as redesigning Niagara Falls’ sad downtown, and removing a portion of the Robert Moses Parkway, but that’s a small fraction of the billion.

More glaring is the fact that Cuomo hasn’t come up with a Buffalo or Syracuse or Binghamton billion.

During the 2014 campaign, Syracuse reporters were asking Cuomo why Syracuse didn’t have a billion, and Cuomo challenged the city to come up with a plan.

“I want to do the same with Syracuse,” Cuomo said today. “But don’t think I come and write a check and it happens. Because that’s not what happens. I don’t write the check until you have a vision and you have a plan”…

…To attract more state taxpayer help for the Syracuse area, the ideas and commitment from private companies have to be bigger, he said.

Winning communities, he said, have to be energized, coordinated and committed. “So I’m ready,” he said. “Are you ready, Syracuse?”

Syracuse is, evidently, ready, but its mayor, Stephanie Miner, has a radically different idea about how she’d use the money. More specifically, the state is staring at a $5.4 billion windfall from settlements with banks and other financial institutions, and trying to figure out how to spend it. School districts are clamoring for relief, at long last, from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and Republicans in Albany want money for infrastructure improvement.

As set forth in this editorial, Miner would spend $851 million of a Syracuse billion to replace its crumbling water system. The balance would be spent on municipal broadband ($84 million), rebuilding roads ($48 million), develop newly created public space due to a reconfiguration of I-81 ($3.6 million), $10 million for schools, and a $3.34 million public market specifically targeted at Syracuse’s new refugee residents.

But the price tag for the new water mains has a modern addition:

At the same time, the city would create a natural chilled water system to cool buildings cheaply, efficiently and sustainably using the cold water at the bottom of Skaneateles Lake.

Miner’s ideas for this money directly benefit all Syracuse citizens by spending public money on public needs, like infrastructure and schools. It bucks Cuomo’s goals of public-private partnerships for industrial modernization. The Post-Standard likes Miner’s ideas, although its editorial board thinks it doesn’t go far enough,

It’s an “eat-your-peas” approach that aligns with Miner’s view of the role of government, versus the “shiny toys” approach favored by Cuomo and the Buffalo Billion.

adding,

Miner is right that investing in infrastructure gets government out of the business of picking winners and losers in its efforts to stimulate the economy. Infrastructure is a public good that enables and encourages economic activity. Government doesn’t create jobs; it creates the conditions for the private sector to create jobs.

The mayor is smart to capitalize on Syracuse’s distinct natural advantage — an abundance of potable water — and to piggyback on the existing paths that move it from Skaneateles to Syracuse. The question is whether “the best darn water infrastructure in the nation” is a boast worth making.

Whether by accident or design, the mayor’s plan leaves us wanting more. Think of it as an opening bid. Who’s willing to push her vision farther?

Frankly, wouldn’t it be prudent for a city to use a massive windfall to balance eat-your-peas with one or two big projects that could lead to a fundamental restructuring of its economy? This is without getting into how Cuomo’s handouts to upstate communities hardly puts a dent in the palpable damage that his hedge fund donors have done to those same communities.

But Miner makes a good argument – what’s the point, for instance, of building Syracuse’s version of Canalside if it’s going to be dependent on water mains from the 1890s?

Governor Cuomo has put up a $1 billion revitalization fund that upstate cities must compete for to receive. Business leaders have called on the governor to up the stakes to $2.5 billion.

There needs to be a good balance between direct state investment in capital projects, as well as public-private partnerships to jump-start anemic upstate economies. After all, it’s not like a complete rebuild of Syracuse’s water system isn’t going to directly benefit private contractors, as well.

But fundamental to remaking upstate, and a point that always gets overlooked because it’s far less sexy than Cuomo making it rain, is that Albany has yet to address things like making it easier and less onerous to start and maintain a business in New York State. It has yet properly to address the dysfunction of myriad stacked taxing districts and authorities that implement and make you pay for unfunded Albany mandates, over and over again.

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.

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.

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.

The BPS and its Shiny New Police State

The underlying goal isn’t unique to the Buffalo School District. Throughout New York State, tea party reactionaries have aligned themselves with the state government to bring about a simple equation.

1. De-fund the schools;

2. Cut electives and programs; fire teachers;

3. Break the teachers’ union;

4. Label schools as “low performing”;

5. Create “charter” schools;

6. Segregate better students into charters; exclude troubled, poor, and special education students;

7. Ensure that charters rent space from private landlords;

8. Profit.

That’s more or less what’s being attempted in Buffalo. It’s a district that has more than its share of socioeconomic crises, but instead of helping the most troubled and disadvantaged kids, powerful, monied interests now controlling the district seems to be writing them off. Instead, it’s moving forward with publicly funded private, exclusive charter schools, not all of which are all that high performing, either, thank you very much.

It’s not just Buffalo, by the way. In tony, conservative Clarence, a small but well-funded band of tea party activists have succeeded in de-funding the schools, which in turn led to cutting teachers, programs, electives, and every social worker in the district. Kids suffer so that some of western New York’s wealthiest residents can save pennies on their tax bill. No district, teacher, board, or student is safe from this new American movement to destroy public education.

But what apparently happened Thursday at a hastily organized public Buffalo Board of Education meeting is something new and chilling. Kevin Gibson is the Secretary of the Buffalo Teacher’s Federation, and has every right to be present at a Buffalo school board meeting, and to speak. He began his remarks with, “My name is Kevin Gibson, and I’m a teacher in Buffalo”. Just a few weeks ago, he gave this powerful presentation, blasting one local charter as being just as “low performing” as any other school.

But this Thursday, Gibson never got a chance to speak. It was a public meeting, and a public comment period. But when Gibson got up, this happened. Keep an eye on Larry Quinn, who seemingly has no patience for this job that he ran for and to which he was elected.

That is simply incredible. He wanted to make “one quick point” and ask “one question”, but was able to do neither. Watch Larry Quinn wave his arm majestically, motioning to the police to silence and remove Gibson from this public meeting in front of an elected board of public servants on public property. Watch tea party “liberty” activist Carl Paladino sit there like a lox, and do and say nothing. Carl Paladino, of all people, talks a big game about liberty and freedom and constitutional values, but when confronted with a genuine opportunity – as a publicly elected official – to carry out those values, he balks. Coward.

Carl Paladino, Larry Quinn, and the rest of the school board majority have created a fascist little banana republic for themselves. Rather than righting a dysfunctional ship, they have raised the dysfunction to hitherto-unheard of, comical and undemocratic levels.

Quinn interrupts Gibson and has him confirm that he’s a member of the BTF, and says that “this isn’t a BTF issue” before the police officer removes Gibson from the public meeting. What difference does that make? Gibson is a member of the public who has a stake in the Buffalo School District, and he had every right to speak at a public meeting within the rules. He wasn’t speaking out of turn, and never got a chance to begin his point. His membership in the BTF is irrelevant to his right to address the board during the public comment session of a public meeting.

When given any political power, Carl Paladino and Larry Quinn and their allies on the school board behave like every fascist in history. Shut down debate, use the police to stifle dissent.

This is an utter outrage.

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