Monday, December 7, 2015

Have we been told the whole story?

Help me understand what's going on in Augusta.  Since I no longer subscribe to Maine newspapers because when I retired, we needed to cut down on expenses somewhere.  And since newspapers took a sharp turn to the left, they no longer met my needs, I gave them up.  My opinions here are only the result of what news I've been fed.

On that note, one of the fields of study I had at the University of  Florida was in journalism.  We were taught that a good news person told both sides of every story.  It was not our job to influence outcomes or decisions but rather to give our readers both sides of a story and let the readers draw their own conclusions. 

That was pretty much the standard throughout the industry although reporters did find subtle ways to get their side of a situation across through placement of the facts as each side knew those facts to be.  When I stopped reading the local daily newspaper, editorializing within stories had already become the norm.  And that continues today.  I think we can blame Richard Nixon for that.

Television reporting isn't much different.  There are still a few from the "old guard" still around, Don Carrigan and Pat Callaghan of WCSH come to mind, but they are growing fewer and fewer.  From watching, I'm not sure how many of the new, young reporters, I hesitate to call them journalists, would succeed in a college class held by the late H. G. Davis at Florida.  Do radio reporters even exist anymore or are they all just news readers?

As usual, I digress.  So what's happening in Augusta?  On one side, the Democrats are accusing Republican Governor Paul LePage of unfair, non-professional practices.  On the other side, the Republicans are calling the events just plain hard politics.

What's the event?  Well, it seems the House Speaker, a Democrat, was offered a full-time job at a Charter School in Maine.  Mark Eves has been a solid critic of charter schools since the idea first arrived in Augusta.  Among other reasons, he argued such schools would take too much money away from public schools.

On the other side, Gov. LePage has been a strong supporter of charter schools and even made public funds available during the last legislative session to enhance them.  He said he would consider withholding funds from his discretionary account this year if Eves were elected to lead the school.  Eves was elected and a week later, dismissed.  It cost the school about $30,000.

The Democrats cried, "Foul!"  The Republicans responded, "That's politics."

The Dems called for a bi-partisan panel to investigate the situation.  Of course, that bi-partisan panel had a majority of Democrats and a Democrat chairman.  But it was formed and held hearings a while back.  Reading about those hearings was interesting, once the reader could get passed the partisanship of the writers.

Here's the confusing part.  The panel has met a couple of times, but the chair denied many questions to be asked because, I suspect, they went against the Democrat agenda.  There was one very unusual bit of testimony that totally defies any semblance of believability.  One of the leaders of the school testified he had received a memo from Gov. LePage that clearly threatened to cut funding.  Of course, he could not produce the memo to back his case.  Did one really ever exist?  I know not, but the official then said he had committed it to memory just in case this question was ever asked.

He committed it to memory because it was such an important memo and said he was quoting it directly but didn't keep the paper on which it was written?  Sure!  I'll bet everyone believed that.  Well, the Dems on the panel did.  It sure did answer some questions I have; Just how dumb do those Dems think we are? 

I must say there were also some Repubs, at least one, who believed it, too.  But of course that came from an individual known to support the Dems much more than his own party, anyway, throughout Legislative sessions.

And I must also include the Gov's admission on the question when his representatives told the Panel that LePage would consider withholding his discretionary funds.  There is, of course, a subtle difference between the two statements.

So now the panel has sent a recommendation to the full Legislature to consider when it convenes. 

Now, I ask, why doesn't that panel also submit a report about one of it's members, Eves himself, who's isn't facing censorship.  After all, we also learned that one of his staff members is on the board running the school.  That staffer also apparently urged Speaker Eves to apply for the office, and then supported his selection.

Why is the governor facing censorship for doing his job challenging one of the most vocal members on the Legislature on an appointment to a school, a charter school he has opposed vigorously, with an assistant involved and the House Speaker not facing censorship for an egregious use of his position for personal gain? 

We should include a question about that school, too.  Why would it appoint a person to lead it who has fought against charter schools throughout the Legislature.  I wonder what his educational background is that would give him the credentials to do such a job.  Oh, yes.  He is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a body that provides some funding for schools.

 From all that I've learned about this, and it was from the dem-leaning news media, the apparent interest conflict is far more serious that the governor's protection of my tax money.

It should lead to a new law prohibiting elected officials from gain because of their positions.  But that couldn't pass the legislature.  It would ruin too many opportunities for politicians.


NOTE:  Edited to correct Eves' title.

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