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Friday, April 13, 2007

Chris Stewart - Quite a Piece of Work

I watched Thursday's four hour Minneapolis School Board meeting, where Supt. Green's recommendations for the next round of school closings were approved by 6-1 votes. Freshman member Chris Stewart was the lone dissenting vote on both resolutions.

It's becoming clear to me that he's a show-boater, and enjoys playing to the angry crowd. Last fall, using an alias, he maintained a tasteless, racist, sexist website attacking 5th CD IP candidate Tammy Lee. On this blog I was one of many people who called for his resignation, and my post was quoted in the 'Bloghouse' section of the Star Tribune.

When Supt. Green's options for a 'North Side Initiative' were first presented to the board a few weeks ago, Director Stewart declared the plan to be 'brilliant'.

Since then, the board has held a number of public meetings/forums to gather public input, and have no doubt been on the receiving end of many calls, e-mails and letters.

I think it's a mark of a responsible, thoughtful elected official to actually listen to and consider public input, but during last night's debate and votes he continually threw out red meat to the audience (and smirked while he did it), gathering applause and cheers while he stuck knives in his colleague's backs.

During last night's debate on the school closing resolutions, Stewart suggested racist motivations behind the board's assumed support for the recommendations. To paraphrase what he said, it's a lot easier to support the school closings when they're in another part of the district (board member Peggy Flanagan is a north side resident).

He made a motion to delay a decision for an unspecified amount of time, to allow for more study/research. He cited a lack of transparency in developing and communicating the plan. The board had a lively debate, but the motion failed.

Other amendments were offered to exclude Lincoln from the closings, as supporters of that school had organized a passionate protest to the plan. Another amendment asked the staff to salvage some sort of K-8 option for the southern portion of the north side. Both amendments failed.

Board chair Pam Costain withheld comment until everybody else had their say, at which time she expressed support for the administration's plan without amendment. She also called out Chris Stewart, scolding him for 'impugning the motives of fellow board members'.

Stewart spoke again, denying that he had ever questioned another board members motive (which was remarkable double-talk), and later said, 'of course the board chair supports the plan - it's her plan'.

If that isn't impugning somebody's motive, then I don't know.

To be fair, I was happy to see the school board actually having a spirited debate on a very important topic in front of a live camera, something that doesn't happen very often. It was unfortunate that Chris Stewart had less to say about the merits of the plan (or lack thereof), than complaints about the process and skeevy suggestions about how other board members made their decisions.

The other thing missing from this four-hour circus was any type of serious alternatives to the proposed resolutions - it was all complaints, with no solutions.

Life will go on, but Mr. Stewart did not gain any political points with his fellow board members last night, which could help him in the future when he wants to gather support for his own initiatives. Like Michele Bachmann, he might be more content to be a loud show-off than actually develop serious policy initiatives.


Avidor said...

Check out Chris... uh... Rahelio's You Tube site...