Friday, January 22, 2010

School Board Gets "Lanced" By The Tribune-Review

The following "lance" was mentioned in today's Tribune-Review:

Lance: To the Mt. Lebanon School Board. In capping a contentious high school renovation project at $113.3 million, it beat the $115 million threshold that would have automatically triggered a public referendum. Given that this project could, according to one school director, see school taxes rise by more than 45 percent by 2014, the board firmly planted its thumb to its nose and waggled its fingers furiously at the public who will foot the bill.

Read more: Laurels and Lances - Friday, January 22, 2010

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16 Comments:

Blogger Bill Matthews said...

The Trib does not just give these out to anybody .... you have to earn it.

January 22, 2010 10:23 AM  
Blogger JE Cannon said...

And once again, our illustrious school board creates more publicity for the township...they'll never learn.

I would admonish the board to be ashamed of themselves for the entire debacle but shame is obviously not in their vocabulary.

In thinking about all of this, though, I have come to a sobering conclusion. We can't blame the board members. I mean, that's like blaming a dog for running into the street. They just don't know any better. Instead, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the community--myself included. We ALL had the opportunity to cleanse the house of clowns and we collectively chose apathy. I personally no longer care what happens with the school district. Why? Because no matter how much concern I express, the board will do what the board wants to do, public be damned. Ironic considering the public will end up funding the ridiculous school project.

The problem, at least the way I see it, is that this whole thing was a foregone conclusion. The public meetings were a charade, a placebo designed to placate the public and create the notion of open government. The reality is the school board now runs like the Politburo.

I appreciate James Fraasch for having the stones to stand up and act as a concerned citizen. It's telling that instead of following suit, the rest of the board excoriated him for his opinion (as did a few nutcase contributors on this site).

Mike, Tom and Joe--I appreciate the honest, open and fair discourse your blog offers. Those dolts at Real Lebo need to grow up.
A couple of bored housewives who crave attention don't a viable site make...

-The Other James Cannon

January 22, 2010 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Kristen Linfante said...

Gentlemen...you should be ashamed of yourselves. I feel sorry for your wives. How disrespectful. You don't even know me. For your information, I am no bored housewife. I am a mother of two wonderful children plus I am a musician who travels the world. I will be performing in Carnegie Hall in NYC next week. Have you ever done that? I am a highly intelligent person who is an accomplished musician and, more importantly, I'm a great mom and a great citizen of this community. Get a life boys. This town does not need bullies.

January 23, 2010 12:37 AM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

I'm going to call BS on Kristen Infante's comment. She's unhappy that BL posted JE Cannon's comment that she thinks is "disrespectful" of her and her blog partner? Yet over at her blog, Kristen posted a comment by the original James Cannon (who is, by the way, the father of "The Other James Cannon") that far exceeds this comment in disrespect, and the original JC's comment goes straight into vitriol and outright meanness - directed at this blog! Yet when I called out that Jim Cannon in a followup comment -- where's the beef, Jim? -- I got pushed out the door (publicly!), Jim Cannon's comment stayed online, and the comment thread got "snipped." Real Lebo is comfortable with bullying that suits, obviously. Tom and Joe have the decency and good sense to let the issue get debated here.

When it comes to debating issues, no one cares about your resume, Kristen, or mine or Joe's or Tom's. (Never mind that the PR about Real Lebo emphasizes that it's produced by a couple of ordinary "working moms"). It's fantastic that you're playing Carnegie Hall. Truly. Welcome to the ranks of the thousands of hard-working, accomplished, and distinguished men and women of Mt. Lebanon, including the many other professional musicians who have lived here for generations. But what matters is the content of your words and your willingness to stand behind them when they are challenged. Are they thoughtful? Constructive? Critical? This blog has been many of those things over its four-plus years, sometimes with less success and sometimes with more. But there has always been a healthy back-and-forth here, a willingness to examine and re-examine what happens in town and what is said about it. "Bullying" was never an adjective that was tossed out here - before now.

If you want to make it a gender thing, go ahead; ask the women who have commented regularly at Blog-Lebo. Even ask the wives of the men who comment here, who you patronizingly disrespect in your own way. You may have received abusive personal email; that's awful and a tragic reflection of the fact that in many ways, Mt. Lebanon doesn't differ from any other community in America. (You're not alone in that, by the way; it's not only women in town who have been threatened over something they said or did in connection with the high school.) But that's not what BL is about.

All of this back and forth isn't truly about you. It's about the anger in Mt. Lebanon about the high school renovation, the School Board, and the process that led us to its current state. That anger is real and, by all accounts, growing, as more and more people learn details about the scope of the project, its substantial impact on all of us as taxpayers, and its relatively modest impact on teaching and learning. Defend the Board and the project if you like. There is a reasonable argument to be made there, I think. But play defense on the merits. That forces the critics to refine their criticism. Done well, the dialogue makes the result better.

Resistance to the project at this point may be futile, to borrow a line from the Borg, but its very futility shows that if there is bullying in town, it isn't coming from any blog.

January 23, 2010 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kristen-Isn't Blog-Lebo awesome? They even published your comment. Your partner in crime, Elaine LaBlame, came out swinging at the school board meeting, making personal attacks. Then she sweetly says that you're just two moms. Why is everyone picking on us? And now you feel sorry for the wives. That would be like me saying I feel sorry for your two kids because their mother travels the world. Doesn't feel good, does it? And it wouldn't be right. As a woman, I just see it as, you can dish it out, but you sure can't take it. But we digress. The real issue is "Given that this project could, according to one school director, see school taxes rise by more than 45 percent by 2014, the board firmly planted its thumb to its nose and waggled its fingers furiously at the public who will foot the bill."
Elaine Gillen

January 23, 2010 8:21 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Ms. Linfante,

I think that there have been plenty of assumptions made on both sides. Mr. Cannon wrongly assumed that you were a couple of bored housewives. Among other things, you've assumed that we've never played in Carnegie Hall in New York. In fact, I enjoyed playing there in 1992. You've further assumed that we are not intelligent, we aren't great parents, and we aren't great citizens of this community, which is simply not the case.

As far as bullying behavior goes, I think that arguments can be made against both websites. "Snipping" content that you don't deem appropriate is just as bullying as some of the other behavior we've seen.

You have every right to your free speech on your own blog. However, it is also the right of everyone else to criticize you, your thoughts and positions that you post on the blog, and even the blog itself, including how it is administered. I don't condone obscenities being thrown around and have not engaged in that myself. However that's the beauty of free speech. People are free to express their thoughts, even if you don't like them.

I stand by my earlier comment that the snip against Mike was unnecessary. I also stand by my comment that you appear to only want to hear your own point of view and don't want to be questioned. If I want that kind of one-sided website, there are plenty of other outlets for me. However, the ongoing community dialog that Blog-Lebo presents is immanently more valuable and is more deserving of my time for now.

January 23, 2010 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Kristen Linfante said...

I suggest an anger management course people. All of that anger can't be good for your health. This "bored housewife" doesn't have time for it. Enjoy yourselves though...

January 23, 2010 9:57 AM  
Blogger Marjie said...

While the title "Real" Lebo left some of us wondering what that was all about it is no longer a mystery. As an observer it's clearly just a blog to promote the renovate now position stifling any and all comments to the contrary with enough added fluff to make it seem like a community blog.

To be outraged over Cannon (Junior)'s comments here is amazing to me when after not posting comment after comment about positions contrary to theirs on the HS project (as reported back here by the rejected commentators) they chose to post the Cannon (senior)'s post which crossed the line to the defamatory. All I'm seeing is a whole lot of dishing out and very little substance.

At the board meeting I watched as Elaine LaBalme conferred with a gentleman in the back over her prepared comments. Nothing wrong with that. As an alum and parent (renovate the school) and tax payer (how is this effecting my wallet?) I was looking forward to her comments...oh good I thought I'm going to hear different or new or persuasive substantive numbers and facts. I expected to get more information. All I heard was attack, insult, cliche, and a really weird ongoing reference to the Wizard of Oz (????). What little substance there was merely amounted to a restatement of fact we all know: the school needs fixed.

The most disturbing part of all of this (the acceptance and publication of Cannon (Sr)'s comment, the shutting down of Madison, and Ms. Linfante's comment here) is we are now bringing the ugliness further down the drain to notions of gender. Over on Real Lebo the folks on Blog Lebo have been accused of being misogynistic bullies who carry out these behaviors in their work places and homes hence the continuing commentary here by Ms. Linfante over I feel sorry for your wives.

As a woman, a lawyer and a feminist I'll call BS on this line of BS. When you have nothing substantive to say, when your position is not being accepted by many, when you feel the heat of the kitchen (and that is an old saying not a mysogynistic nod to your gender)....scream "SQUIRREL!!!!" and everyone will turn and look the other way. Here it's not a squirrel, it's they hate women!, they're mean to us and we are moms for petes sake! they're bullies! Look! squirrel!!! Its the oldest tactic in argumentative play by play out there.

I'm a woman, a democrat, a feminist, a lawyer, an Atheist, a election protection attorney, a single mom by choice, a volunteer and paid attorney in domestic relations court including protection from abuse, a former ACLU volunteer attorney, an Obama Mama and a longterm Blog-Lebo participant and you ladies from all I've personally read, seen and heard for myself are acting like a bunch of dolts and bored housewives.

Now put on your ruby slippers, pick up Toto and get "real" as in substantive and willing to openly discuss all points of view.

January 23, 2010 10:15 AM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

Kristen, did the Mount Lebanon teachers’ union pay for your kid to go to summer camp like they did for your blog partner? See LaBlame’s quote from Real Lebo Blog:

“Making Education Fun: The Mt. Lebanon Education Association

Our young son, already an avid weatherman (his weather station on our back deck is proof positive), was eager to attend a Carnegie Science Center weather camp last summer. "Why don't you apply for a scholarship with the MLEA?" said a well-informed neighbor and this is how we came to learn about the Mt. Lebanon Education Association (MLEA), the representative for Mt. Lebanon's 436 teachers. Lo and behold, we applied for a summer camp scholarship and our son won (as did nearly forty other kids in town) and we still have the weather vanes and rain sticks to prove it (and yes, he loved the camp). . . . “

You can read the rest of the post on the other blog

January 23, 2010 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Eva Marie Schultz said...

Marjie, you seem so angry. I am also a Mt. Lebanon resident and mother of two. I'd like to see the high school project move forward with the best results for our children and community. All of this anger is really disheartening.

January 23, 2010 2:38 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Ms. Schultz,

I think there is a disconnect between the high school debate and the way Ms. Linfante was treating others. The anger you sense does not appear to be directed towards the high school project at all, but more towards the actions and speech of Ms. Linfante.

For what it's worth, I'm a father of two as well and I would also like the best results for our children and community. It does not follow that I am an automatic supporter of a new high school at any price.

January 23, 2010 3:31 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

I spent part of day at the funderal service for Dale Colby - a fine man who in 10 years of service on the Commission never once raised his voice or resorted to name calling . So, with that in mind, I'm going to try and bring this discussion back down to a lower decibel level and back on point.

I just looked at the budget projections from the District's finance director. You can find them here:

http://www.mtlsd.org/district/budget/stuff/budgetforecastspsersandhsdebtapril16%202009.pdf

Although these numbers were prepared by the District's finance driector, Mr. Fraasch was called all sorts of names for bringing this information to our attention. Several accused him of trying to scare this project into submission. Frankly, as I look at these numbers in greater detail I am starting to think that perhaps Mr. Fraasch didn't yell "BOO!" loud enough.

These projections - which again are not made from any position of bias or with any attempt to persuade - are downright scary. Just look at the increase in fringe benfits from now until 2014-15. That increased cost alone is enough to choke this community. And who honestly thinks that the Commonwealth will be in any position to contribute $20 million to our bottom line by 2014?

I know I've used this example in the past on this site, but I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how our decision to approve a max spend of $113 under these circumstances is any different than the crazy mortgage crisis that just crippled our national economy.

Whether you are for this project or not, take 5 minutes to look at these numbers and ask yourself, "Who will bail out Mt. Lebanon?"

The work to cut the overall cost of this project (as promised by each and every Board member) should start in earnest on Monday!

January 23, 2010 7:04 PM  
Blogger Bill Matthews said...

Mr. Fraasch has been criticized for using the "worst" budget projections to feather his "chicken little" arguments. From my perspective, Mr. Fraasch has done the community a huge service, by communicating some whopper millage increases anticipated to be upon us in the next few years.

Please consider: Last April, there were three cases prepared by the District to project the 2014-2015 millage rate.

Case 1: 19% Increase

Case 2: 30% Increase

Case 3: 45% Increase

Yes, Mr Fraasch trained his spotlight on the 45% increase.

Yet, the District did as well. Based on the best available information, the District projected a 44% increase and included a slightly modified version of Case 3 in the Final Budget Book.

Why did the District include only this "worst" case in the budget book? One look at the underlying assumptions and it becomes obvious:

Case 1: No High School Debt and No increase in PSERS contribution

Case 2: $117 MM in High School Debt and still no increased PSERS contribution

Case 3: $117 MM in High School Debt AND an increase in the PSERS contribution

To project anything else would have been a significant breach of trust.

Maybe the Eagles had it right, my friends: "When you look up in the sky, you can see the stars and still not see the light"

January 23, 2010 9:28 PM  
Blogger Marjie said...

By my number crunching the following stands out:

In terms of revenue sources from 2009-2010 to 2014-2015:

Real Estate taxes go from just shy of $50 mil. to over $72 mil. a plus $22 million increase.

Earned Income Tax, Other Taxes, Investment Earnings, Other Local Income and Federal revenues all remain pretty flat.

And state revenues jump from $12.3 million to over $20 million? Let the numbers speak for themselves.

In response to Eva: I too want want the best outcome for the community and our children. I bought a house and moved back here for the schools and I can remember a time when the district's programming was head and shoulders above schools. I also want the high school renovated/fixed and somehow do not see how it is wrong to question the numbers. The bottomline is can we do what we are planning on doing and be fiscally sound? I stand by my observations and opinions (and was responding to Mike's invitation for the women posters to comment) and will let the readers who have access to this blog, the threads over on Real Lebo and other resources like the School Board meeting tape reach their own conclusions if they so wish.

Dave, thanks for bringing it all back down to Earth.

January 23, 2010 10:21 PM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

I see a very clear qualitative difference in the tone and demeanor between the post of Mr. Cannon on Real Lebo and that of the other Mr. Cannon here. I much prefer the former, in spite of the phrase "angry zealots," which I would agree was the low point of that post.

Beating the drum of fiscal responsibility is a valuable community service. But some people are going well beyond that and it is eroding my sympathy for their noble but now lost cause (at least with respect to the school). My suggestion would be to stay positive to increase the chance of winning the next battle. Meanwhile life can be just a little nicer for everyone, which is still one of our other goals, right?

In the future, I hope the moderators here will snip posts with words like "clowns" and "dolts," regardless of real or perceived injustices elsewhere. Otherwise inaction becomes complicity. Moderation is a heavy responsibility that can't hide behind a laissez-faire style. Not snipping enough is just as bad as snipping too much.

As for being accused of misogyny or bullying, I for one would be mortified, certainly not retaliatory, whether it was true or not, simply if someone thought it so. To be called a bully and respond with aggression pretty much makes their point, doesn’t it?

The creation of the other blog did not happen in a vacuum. There are reasons, right or wrong and whatever they may be, that some people do not feel comfortable here any more. Not to reflect on that would be shallow, and not to care would be brutish. Far better to impress with introspection and forbearance.

January 24, 2010 6:30 AM  
Blogger Marjie said...

Mr. Brown I agree with the heart of what you are saying civility is always best. That said, I don't think in all instances just nice responses versus strong responses are called for. I do write argumentatively for a living and so perhaps my comment was too harsh for some readers as I referenced back to Cannon II's opinion of Real Lebo and took Mikes invite for the women to give their opinions(I don't think anyone used the term "clowns").

I ask you to read Cannon I's post a bit more closely because it goes beyond the angry zealots intro. When you reference regular posters at Blog Lebo (of which there are only a handful and thus easy to identify) and use words like mysogyny, bully and then make as a statement of fact that: 1) it is behavior that was learned early on (defaming not only the men but their parents); 2) is behavior they take into their homes/families (defamation) and 3) is behavior they exhibit in their places of business (slander per se) you're not only being abusive but irresponsible. This then morphed into an argumentative tactic of diagnosing folks over here on Blog Lebo as angry and/or needing anger management courses. I thought long and hard yesterday as I enjoyed an outing at the ice rink with my daughter whether I would respond to the diagnosis leveled at me and decided to take Mr. Franklin's lead of bringing it back to point.

Like Tom just posted in his thread on moderating there is a fine line and tough decisions in "snipping" or not. In my experience on other forums (not related to Lebo) those who take an "if you don't have something nice to say don't say it" stance end up stifling important discussions and opinions. There is a degree of having to have a thick skin if you decide to jump in and debate a topic. My skin is very thick as a result of being a litigator. Your post this morning reminded me in a valuable way I need to keep in mind others don't. I take your post to heart and will try to tone down the argumentative while still trying to make strong points.

January 24, 2010 11:40 AM  

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