Who will serve and who will eat? A culture of public accountability for power can’t begin and end on Election Day

Who will serve and who will eat? A culture of public accountability for power can’t begin and end on Election Day

Check out Leonard Cohen’s poem/song “Democracy.” It should be a mandatory listening on Election Day. It’s a spectacular burst of clear-eyed American patriotism and humanity from one of our greatest creative Americans — and a great American Jew. Sadly, that comes with renewed and deadly relevance these days. I love the entire song, but especially the passage below. It contains the best, most concise definition of politics that I have ever heard — contextualized within the holiness, grace, sorrow, and furtive human confrontation that define politics emotionally. It’s coming from the sorrow in the street, the holy places where the races meet From the homicidal bitchin’ that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat. From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. I wish we could rename “politics” as “the homicidal bitchin’ that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.” That’s what it is. Those are the stakes. Always. It’s the distribution of power — the state-sanctioned capacity to help or harm — by democratic or other means. Politics cares about you — whether or not you care about it I hear people sometimes say, “I don’t care about politics.” And that’s fine. Your choice. But I assure you that politics does not feel the same way. It cares about you. It will find you; and it will determine, in large degree, your relative share of eating and serving. Power is always working on us. It never, ever stops. The ballot box is only one tiny part of it. But it’s the only part where we share power, as individuals, on roughly equal terms. But power resents even that. And equality of voting feels the endless gravity of power pulling on it. I’m a politician and a public person for whom the homicidal bitchin’ has worked pretty well over the last 400 years. I am not ashamed of my many inheritances. But I think they do impose an obligation on me, as a politician and public person: make the homicidal bitchin’ a little less homicidal. Equalize, to reasonable extent, the burdens of serving and the joys of eating. I don’t believe I can do that effectively without pointing out who is eating...

Read More

The sincerest form of flattery: what Anthony Pedicini and those lame Facebook ads say about Polk’s importance

The sincerest form of flattery: what Anthony Pedicini and those lame Facebook ads say about Polk’s importance

Facebook ads don’t win elections. In fact, I think setting a pile of donor money on fire might be just as effective. But in your 2018 Polk County School Board races, they do provide a fascinating glimpse into the convoluted politics of public education — which is simultaneously a state, local, and federal issue. In sum, a political committee called “Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy” (henceforth known as CAFE) is funding Facebook ads attacking Jennifer Sabin and Sarah Fortney as vaguely threatening boogeywomen. No actual policy critiques. Just spooky vibes and they’ll eat your children type stuff. It’s Halloween after all. I’m not going to link because I have no interest in helping goose the metrics that pay whoever created them. It’s a reasonable bet that person is somebody named Anthony Pedicini. He is the “registered agent” and “chairman” for CAFE. See below. He’s also a political operative for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, among many other folks. And his firm has worked on a bunch of local campaigns over the years, including one for Gow Fields at some point. More on that in a second. $6 million worth of nihilistic nasty First, it’s important to note that CAFE is really just a gargantuan pyre of money waiting to be burned on annoying electioneering. Since 2014, it has raised almost $6 million for mayhem. In the 2018 cycle alone, it’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here’s a screen shot from just one recent $95,000, four-day fundraising period: 10/22 – 10/26. Click to zoom. I particularly like the $35,000 from “Auto Glass America” of Scottsdale, Arizona. No, I haven’t the foggiest. Apparently, Sarah Fortney and Jennifer Sabin present a mortal threat to something vital to the glass industry in Arizona. I jest. But Sarah and Jennifer — indeed the entire Polk County awakening to the realities of test-and-punish, anti-teacher education — do pose a mortal threat to how education leaders have led for a generation. They pose a real threat to the soulless, nihilistic political leadership machine that CAFE and its mercenaries represent. That is what’s motivating CAFE. Trust me. Not one dollar anywhere on that fundraising report cares an iota about you or your child — no matter which party or creed or ideology you subscribe to. When Pedicini met Gow Pedicini and a guy named Thomas Piccolo make up a thing called “Strategic Image Management.” It seems to be...

Read More

The Kelli Stargel/Kay Fields/Pam Stewart alliance: a tired, discredited, unresponsive leadership order desperately tries to save itself

The Kelli Stargel/Kay Fields/Pam Stewart alliance: a tired, discredited, unresponsive leadership order desperately tries to save itself

Take a look at this video from the last School Board meeting, starting at 1:13:25. It’s during the board member comments. Board Chair Lynn Wilson notices that Board Member Kay Fields has left the meeting. “I’ll reserve some time for her to offer her comments when she returns.” Kay never did come back. And that’s no big deal. All local elected officials, myself included, must manage the demands of life and non-public work. Sometimes there are unavoidable conflicts. But this wasn’t one of those times. According to multiple sources with connections to the Polk Republican party, many of whom are not happy about it, Kay Fields left the public’s School Board meeting early Tuesday night to attend an unpublicized, invitation-only fundraiser hosted by former Congressman Dennis Ross. If Kay or Dennis care to refute what these sources say, I will happily print it. Here is a link and screenshot of a picture from Cindy Ross’ Facebook page. I want to say this again: I welcome all participation in political competition. If Kay and Dennis want to align with each other, go for it. But I can assure you of this: as your board member, I will never leave your board meeting early to attend a fundraiser — secret or otherwise. I will find a way to schedule my political fundraisers so that they do not conflict with the public’s business. We generally only meet twice a month. This shouldn’t be that hard. The for-profit charter industry is now supporting Kay Fields with robocalls by Kelli Stargel’s favorite campaign surrogate The fundraiser kerfuffle comes on the heels of revelations that the for-profit charter industry is paying for robocalls by on Kay’s behalf. The voice of the robocalls is Grady Judd, who was also Kelli Stargel’s prime television surrogate on ads that ran during the summer. I’ve talked about these robocalls — and the Tallahassee establishment backing them — in great depth in this piece. Here’s a key excerpt: Perhaps more importantly, the legislative supporters of the for-profit charter industry are the number one purveyor of active harm for the kids and teachers in Florida’s destructive model. 7069 created the Kelli Stargel/Manny Diaz school kill list, which led to all the drama last year about closing or relinquishing control of schools with school grades that aren’t high enough on the state’s fraudulent grade scale. But it was just a logical progression of...

Read More

The Tallahassee establishment and for-profit charter industry really want to keep Kay Fields. Why?

The Tallahassee establishment and for-profit charter industry really want to keep Kay Fields. Why?

Who is paying for those low energy robocalls interrupting your late evening at 8:45 p.m. on behalf of 16-year incumbent Kay Fields? And why? The first question is easy to answer. The second is less clear, but much more important. A political action committee (PAC) called “Inform Florida” is paying for the robocalls. “Inform Florida” is funded primarily by the for-profit charter school industry and other businesses looking to cash in on compulsory public education. Its top recent donor is “Academica,” a for-profit charter chain, which gave $14,000 on October 5, just a few days before the robocalls began. See the image above from the State Elections Office.  “Academica” employs Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. Diaz is arguably the most powerful education figure in the Florida House; and now he’s running for Senate. Diaz and Kelli Stargel are close allies in harming traditional public schools and teachers in order to benefit for-profit businesses. They are the Tallahassee educational establishment. They both staunchly supported House Bill 7069 in 2017, which mandated that cash-strapped local districts transfer your money to Manny Diaz’s business to help with construction costs. 7069 is one of the reasons our sales tax renewal is so important. My friend Sue “Accountabaloney” Woltanski, newly elected Monroe County School Board member, wrote about the direct benefit that Academica and Kelli Stargel’s close ally Manny Diaz, Jr. receive from 7069. If my calculations are correct, this year’s total Local Capital Improvement Revenue (LCIR) for Academica Schools is $22,852,055; Almost $23 million dollars of new annual revenue to Academica as a result of Rep. Diaz’ HB7069! If you subtract the PECO money (Public Education Capital Outlay) coming from the state, you get the Charter School LCIR Allocation for Academica’s Charter Schools = 13,248,796; meaning over $13 million must be transferred from local school districts to Academica, a for-profit entity. Such a transfer of local property taxes will occur every single year. These are the people who hurt your kids, teachers, and bus drivers Perhaps more importantly, the legislative supporters of the for-profit charter industry are the number one purveyor of active harm for the kids and teachers in Florida’s destructive model. 7069 created the Kelli Stargel/Manny Diaz school kill list, which led to all the drama last year about closing or relinquishing control of schools with school grades that aren’t high enough on the state’s fraudulent grade scale. But it was just a...

Read More

Kelli Stargel and the FCSBM put our kids and teachers at the mercy of malicious cranks. Let’s change that.

Kelli Stargel and the FCSBM put our kids and teachers at the mercy of malicious cranks. Let’s change that.

Let’s meet Marion County School Board Member Nancy Stacy. She’s a director of a very influential and destructive group of Florida education elites, which I’ll come to in a second. And she has opinions she likes to share with the public. Here’s one: “In America whores (Webster’s defines as prostitutes) used to be shunned by some but us Christians prayed for them to change their ways. Today they are heralded as heroines if they are talented enough to present themselves as ‘damsels in distress’ to destroy a man. These ‘whores’ trade sex for money or favors.” “Bill Cosby was example. He was sentenced on one story. A woman goes to married man’s home alone. She voluntarily took pills he offered that would ‘relax’ her. I believe she was a ‘whore’ and went there for monetary favors which is definition of a prostitute/whore! The media portrayed her as a ‘damsel in distress.’ Granted Cosby foolishly played her game she went there to play. He did pay women over the years but they were simply ‘prostitutes’ with a new trick to get money from rich folks.” See the full story about about Stacy’s idiosyncratic take on “whores” from the Ocala Star-Banner. It’s become quite the thing around Ocala. Why does this matter to all of Florida? Because of Stacy’s FCSBM I’m not one to go crank fishing. I’m generally content to let Ocala’s problems stay in Ocala. We’ve got our own in Polk. But Nancy Stacy isn’t your normal, every day crank. She’s also a director of a small group called the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM). Believe it or not, Stacy’s group, which is tiny, has been driving the worst of Florida’s education policies in recent years, such as: 7069, VAM, starvation budgets, lawless charter expansion, and the failed Amendment 8. This group is closely aligned with Kelli Stargel. See this story as one example. The outgoing leaders of the House and Senate, Richard Corcoran and Joe Negron did whatever the FCSBM wanted. Indeed, until she got beat in a recent election, Joe Negron’s wife was part of the FCSBM. It also includes a woman named Erika Donalds, who drove the failed Amendment 8 effort to put charter schools beyond any touch of meaningful oversight. Donalds’ husband Byron is a member of the Florida House and influential on education issues, particularly in hurting teachers and taking away oversight of...

Read More

The First Referendum, pt. 2: A video tour Kelli Stargel’s contempt for the people of public education. Come see.

The First Referendum, pt. 2: A video tour Kelli Stargel’s contempt for the people of public education. Come see.

I understand that it’s hard for some people, particularly my Republican friends, to truly believe that Kelli Stargel truly sets out to hurt the people of public education as much as she does. Just writing that sentence can feel like hyperbole. “Surely, she can’t want to make teachers’ lives miserable. Surely, she doesn’t want a teacher shortage. Billy’s just being political here, right?” I’m really not. I’m telling you the graveyard dead truth, as Grady Judd might say. I respect you, and myself, way too much to lie to you. Bob Doyel’s new mailer is completely accurate, right down to the part about Kelli’s support for Common Core, in both its specific meaning and wider use as a synonym for “test and punish education. Click to enlarge. See this article providing the receipts on Kelli’s VAM and Common Core record — and her general acceptance of bad Democratic education ideas long ago discredited. And you’ve seen her record in draining $160 million since 2014 from kids and teachers and bus drivers. How the Stargel/DeSantis establishment will continue to treat you But as powerfully damning as Kelli’s record looks when it’s written down, it can’t compare to viscerally feeling the contempt that she and your state government have for you if you have anything to do with traditional public schools or the teaching profession. Nothing conveys that like video. So for the rest of this installment, we’re just going to tour some greatest hits from this generation of hateful, spiteful attitudes toward the human beings of education. Stargel and Rick Scott’s Education Commissioner Pam Stewart are the stars. But Ron DeSantis has been very clear that he plans to continue on this path. It’s just a fact. Expect much more of this if he’s elected. See this article.  Trust me, if you have anything to do with public schools, you won’t get a pass for being a Republican if Stargel and DeSantis win. “…you guys are going to have to deal with that.” This fist clip comes from a few months back, when I asked Stargel if she would attend a Polk School Board meeting this past spring. In that meeting, we had to address her mandate to close, destroy, or turnover to private hands several of our schools because of their fraudulent school grades. I came to call this list of schools “the Kelli Stargel school kill list.” Full background and discussion...

Read More