Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Wheel's RISD Voters Guide

Election day is Saturday, May 6, 2017. Early voting is underway. I attended multiple candidate forums for Richardson ISD Board of Trustees, so you didn't have to (you're welcome).
I also read the candidates' opinions on a range of topics chosen by The Wheel:
Based on all of that, this is how I decided to fill out my own ballot.

RISD Place 3

This is a tough one. There are several good candidates. Karen Clardy is the recently-retired, long-time executive assistant at Lake Highlands High School. I met her by watching her at several candidate forums. I thought that she "saw everything narrowly, like how I'd expect a school support staff member to see it." Gradually, I decided that this unique perspective should be viewed as a strength, not just a limitation. Clardy's RISD experience will round out a seven member board that is as green as any in memory. Only one board member has served even one complete term. The superintendent is in her first year as superintendent. Clardy's long-time, RISD in-school experience will be helpful in keeping the board connected to people across the district. So, I recommend a vote for Karen Clardy.

But if you decide to vote for Eric Eager or Joseph Armstrong, that's OK, too. RISD is a major consumer of electronics. Eager has technology experience. RISD is a major construction operation. Armstrong has construction contracting experience. Both have family ties to RISD schools. Both have the best interests of RISD in mind. A vote for either one would be a good vote.

Ben Prado, while intelligent and keen to serve, would make a good trustee but lacks the experience needed for voters to pick him over the other good candidates for school board.

RISD Place 6

Justin Bono is running unopposed for re-election. He'll win whether or not you vote for him, but he deserves a positive show of support anyway. Drawing no opponent in a year when feelings ran high in some parts of the district suggests a popular candidate who can bridge a divide. The divide might still exist, but the bridge does, too. Vote for Justin Bono.

RISD Place 7

Unlike Place 3, this race has been contentious. Perhaps nothing encapsulates it better than the aspersions cast on the candidates' associations with outsiders. There are many other issues voters could look at, and I have, but this is enough to tip the balance for me, so let's focus there.

Kristin Kuhne has been criticized for her position on the staff of the non-profit Educate Texas, which describes itself as "an innovative alliance of public and private groups that share a common goal: strengthening the public education system so that every Texas student is prepared for success in school, in the workforce, and in life." There she is "the Director of Insights and Analytics. Her primary responsibilities include conducting quantitative and qualitative research on our statewide educational initiatives." You'd think that voters might want to have a school board member with such relevant professional credentials, but Kuhne's critics see the link, not as an asset, but as a conflict of interest.

Lynn Davenport has been criticized for her own associations with outsiders. Social media has photos of Davenport with national figures such as Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Louie Gohmert, and lots of photos with Texas conservative activist Alice Linahan—posing, testifying, dining. Linahan founded "Voices Empower" and is host of a radio talk show "Women on the Wall." She is against gays, Muslims, refugees, Common Core, CSCOPE, STAAR, sex education, District of Innovation, Bill Gates, climate science, school vouchers, etc. That's not to say Davenport herself is against all of the same things, to the same extent, but she's left enough of a social media trail to confirm more than a few of them (e.g., Big Bill Gates Club). Davenport doesn't bring up Linahan in her campaign. She has said this is a non-partisan race and party politics have no business here. That's the correct position for a candidate to take, but voters would be foolish to ignore the broader political associations of candidates when deciding whom to choose as a school trustee. [Update: see my comment below for clarification on what we know about the beliefs Davenport and Linahan share.]

If associations are going to play a role in deciding for whom to vote, it's an easy choice between a candidate with an association with an educational research non-profit like Educate Texas versus one with an association with an activist like Alice Linahan. Vote for Kristin Kuhne.



Mark Steger said...

I received the following private communication:

"Mark, I know Lynn very well. So I can speak with 100% confidence when I say that lynn davenport is not against gays, muslims or refugees. She is a loving and compassionate person. I do not know what her stance on sex ed is as a candidate, and I've never had a discussion with her on climate science. I personally would take an abundance of caution, and completely avoid any accusation of racism, religious intolerance and/or homophobia against any private citizen or candidate. Believe me, there are no facts to substantiate this allegation, because it is completely FALSE. I hope you will do the right thing, and edit your blog to reflect what you know to be true."

I cannot cite any comment by Lynn Davenport, written or oral, that contradicts what this reader says. I apologize to Lynn Davenport for any implication otherwise.

DennisTheBald said...

Well, some people say Kristin Kuhne kicks puppies. I'm gonna vote for her any way. Louie is one scary guy.