Monday, May 16, 2011

Letter: School-board candidate James Edmund Cannon on recent events

The following is a letter to the editors from school-board candidate James Edmund Cannon. —Ed.

I recently became aware of an email with attachments circulating in our community regarding my school board campaign. They level accusations and impugn my integrity. Here are the facts:

On May 5th, my treasurer, Charlotte Stephenson, sat at the desk of the Allegheny County Elections Division and completed an expense report, as required by law. She asked if there were any other forms to complete and was told no. The following Wednesday, May 11, I received in the mail a letter from the County stating I was late filing my expense report and would be fined $20.00 a day. I obtained a blank copy of said form, left work, signed the form and had it notarized, then personally handed it to the clerk in the Elections office along with a check for $80.00. If one were to actually examine the publicly available information, one would note I still have not reimbursed myself to the tune of $329.56.

Having never run for office, I was not aware of the requirement to fill out a separate but duplicate copy of the expense report. And once it was brought to my attention, I corrected it. In the end, I take full responsibility. It was what we in the real world call an innocent mistake. It hardly rises to the level of a scandal. Yet some in our community seek to use this as political fodder two days before an election. It is silly, desperate, and far below the standards I expect from sitting elected board members.

Recent letters written by Lisa Borelli Dorn and Mary Birks, Board Director, and being circulated by Mary Birks, include the following statements:
It leaves the voter in the uncomfortable position of having to wonder who is backing this candidate and what is their agenda? … Cannon’s yard signs claim transparency, integrity and fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, by either failing to know what was required or perhaps ignoring it for whatever reason, this candidate falls short on those hallmarks. As a veteran, James Cannon deserves our respect, but on May 17, he does not deserve our vote. [From letter by Lisa Borrelli Dorn]
And Mary Birks, sitting board member, is openly rallying for other candidates? For example, in Mary’s own words, she states
Only 5 candidates made certain to have all of their campaign forms completed on time and correctly, as well as turning in their individual candidate finance forms, as required by law: Cappucci, Cooper, Lebowitz, Kubit and Goldman.
Only 5 candidates value a representative government system, and expect to be held to a standard set forth by its citizenry: Cappucci, Cooper, Lebowitz, Kubit and Goldman.
It’s sickening and epitomizes the unethical sheen of modern day politics. I am profoundly disappointed with the behavior of a sitting school board director, and her actions are telling. They are also reflective of all that is wrong with the current board. The lack of integrity and honesty on the part of Mrs. Birks, and the other board members who are as complicit by remaining silent, only underscore the reasons behind my campaign. Our system is broken and I want to start fixing it. We have a sitting board member sending email from her personal e-mail account in an attempt to damage someone else's campaign.

I've seen firsthand the result on a society of tiny, petty individuals with only a minuscule dose of power operating unchecked and unaccountable. Dictators and despots throughout the world capitalize on apathy and fear. Well, I possess neither. I want to do what’s right for our community. This missive illustrates my desire to do so. And this, friends, is what transparency is all about.

Our current board does not want a dissenting voice, a different opinion or even input from the community – the very community supplying the money for the school district’s budget. That’s clear based on the email from Mrs. Birks. It’s akin to putting your paycheck in a bank only to be told a week later by the teller that you’re buying a new boat whether you want one or not.

I won’t spend much time or energy pointing out she tried the same thing with previous candidates only to be shrugged off. But this entire issue should have a chilling effect on voters since we have school board members who actually feel emboldened enough to act this way with no fear of repercussion.

The bigger issue is, as I’ve pointed out during my campaign, the Board’s priorities. Obviously the current directors are solely focused on the renovation. Again, that’s disappointing. The focus should be on academics. I’ve said as much and intend to make that my number-one goal should I be elected.

I look at the board as a volunteer position, one designed to help the community and a position free from partisanship. Unfortunately, objectivity and the focus on children has been relegated to the back burner in favor of pursuing an ever-ambitious and costly high school construction project. I see the current Board’s attitude as dismissive and destructive and hope that my presence on the Board will start to turn that attitude around to be more accepting of dissenting voices.

I am running a campaign based on transparency and am showing that here today by admitting that my campaign made a mistake. This type of humility is sadly missing from the current board.

On May 17th our community will decide whether we want to be bullied and cower in fear or take back control from an out-of-control local entity and reestablish open, representative government. I have faith that my fellow Mt. Lebanon residents will choose correctly.

Thank you for your attention.

James Edmund Cannon
Candidate for Mt. Lebanon School Board


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations to James Cannon and our committee! The people have spoken. In spite of the Republican Committee of Mt. Lebanon tearing down our signs because James was not the "endorsed" candidate and in spite of the ire spewed from incumbents at the polling stations, the residents of Mt. Lebanon had their voice heard today. It's time to reconsider the spending level for the high school project and tax increases to support it. It's a wake up call, Mt. Lebanon School Board! It's time to LISTEN to the residents...and I will do my best to fill in the campaign finance report correctly next time so Mary Birks, sitting school board director, can't use it my innocent errors as political fodder.

-Charlotte Stephenson

May 18, 2011 1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done James Cannon and committee! We look forward to a responsible approach to the high school project and a focus on academics. The residents of Mt. Lebanon have recognized the incumbents' petty attack for what it was. Time for all to get back to the work at hand!

Susan Wagner Clellen

May 18, 2011 10:10 AM  

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