Thursday, January 5, 2012

The role of campaign cash

Wilhelmenia Rembert's $150 campaign donation to school board Chair Ericka Ellis-Stewart may have torpedoed Rembert's hopes of being appointed to the board.

Rembert,  an at-large board member from 1998-2003 and former board chair,  was by far the biggest name among the 12 applicants for the District 6 seat filled today.  Rumors had been buzzing for weeks that the board's Democratic majority wanted to add her to the roster.

Going into this afternoon's meeting,  word was that the eight members were split between Rembert and David Knoble.  But if Ellis-Stewart had recused herself from voting for Rembert,  Rembert likely would have fallen short.

There's no law or policy against appointing a campaign donor, and I don't recall that the question has come up in the four previous appointments I've covered.  But suburban Republicans Rhonda Lennon and Tim Morgan were arguing that appointing a donor would undermine public trust in the board.  Morgan had announced he would not vote to appoint Bolyn McClung, a Pineville Republican who donated to him,  Ellis-Stewart and former board Chair Eric Davis.

Before Tuesday's meeting, McClung gave Ellis-Stewart a letter withdrawing his application for the seat, saying he became convinced that voting for donors would taint the process (Bolyn, if you're reading, I'd love for you to post the statement).  Ellis-Stewart opened the meeting by reading McClung's letter and saying "while that is allowable,  I will say for me personally that does not represent that our votes can be bought."

"I would like to support Dr. Rembert,"  Ellis-Stewart told the school board,  but said she was swayed by the community service and focus on children demonstrated by the Rev. Amelia Stinson-Wesley, who got the votes of the five Democrats after negotiating that went to the wire.  The move blindsided south suburban Republicans who had been taking aim at Rembert's political record.  They were skeptical of the Democrats' assertion that the choice had nothing to do with the fact that Stinson-Wesley was the only other Democratic applicant.

Stinson-Wesley, a relative newcomer to Mecklenburg County, is neither a politician nor a party activist.  She's been more focused on overseas work on violence against women and children,  but says her "mommy friends" in Pineville urged her to apply for the vacant seat.  She said even she was surprised to get the nod.  Making her pitch to the board Tuesday,  she had acknowledged the skills and experience other applicants brought to the board and noted that she might not be the best qualified among them -- a remark that was generating some smirking commentary among opponents afterward.

Stinson-Wesley now steps into the public spotlight as CMS tackles such tough issues as a budget and a superintendent search.  She does it knowing some of her most prominent new constituents, including Morgan, are openly skeptical of her ability to represent them.

"It is what it is.  I am who I am," she said.

Her time spent working in war zones of southeast Asia may just prove to be her best preparation for this job.


Anonymous said...

Those rich folks better get use to this or move away.

Anonymous said...

Two Reverends.

One toke over the line, sweet Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Cash plays a role in every election. Just review any candidates financial records and you can typically see patterns there. You just have to simply google the donors names and often they are members of the same clubs or work for the same corporations.

For example, Timmy's boy that didn't get it has a wife that is on the board of CIS. Look at CIS' history and current board members and you will see lots of the same names among donors.

In Charlotte, there are clearly patterns found among he Chamber/Business folks, BOA employees, The Myers Park liberal democrats (Babb crowd)and others in Charlotte. Money makes the world go round and I am often amazed by how little some of these politicians can be purchased for. These groups always have an agenda.

Anonymous said...

Good to know Stinson-Wesley has adopted the J. Fox philosophy and hackneyed expression #1. Just when we thought "it is what it is" had finally left.........

BolynMcClung said...


As you requested, below is the letter I submitted to the School Board about 3:40pm, Thursday, January 5th.

“Mrs. Ericka Ellis-Stewart, Chairperson
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
5th Floor
Government Center
Charlotte, NC 28230

Madam Chair,

Please remove my name from the list of applicants for appointment to the District Six school board seat.

In the last two school board races I contributed to candidates who now serve on the board. After reviewing all the contributions to all current board members serving since 2005, I’ve seen how few citizens give their money to candidates and how the public could construe my donations as other than a desire to have the best people leading the school board.

I appreciate your thoughts during our phone call Wednesday evening. For this situation where I’m asking for yours and two other members’ vote, it is too precarious. The public’s trust is always a fragile thing and it is of the first importance to protect it.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the full Board this past Tuesday.


Bolyn McClung

CC: Tim Morgan, Eric C. Davis”

Anonymous said...

A lot of the votes that went to Tim Morgan could have gone to Elyse Dashew and Aaron Pomis. Would Dashew or Pomis then have enough votes to have edged out union boss, Mary McCray? It's likely that one or both would be in if Tim hadn't run.

Tim's intentions may have been good, but whatever plan he had clearly backfired.

Anonymous said...

Morgan and Rhonda probably got a talking point from local GOP'ers to use the campaign contribution as a way to ding Rembert. It was effective enough that it took out McClung in the crossfire - poor guy.

It was a desperate ploy by the GOP, but it worked, good for them for trying and succeeding. But come on, really? A 5-minute discussion about this issue would clearly show how ridiculous it is.

But the fact that later stories mentioned that Rembert's name was still being pushed by some board members just before the meeting gives credence to notion that Lennon/Morgan/Davis were not going to let the contribution thing go.

It certainly does appear that the Dem majority simply turned to the only other Dem applicant. McCray stated she didn't know the Reverend was a Dem - this creates a problem for McCray because it makes it look like she did not do enough due diligence on her background. If pretty much everyone else knew she was a Dem, then McCray should've known too.

Either McCray didn't know and did not do proper background checking, or she did know and played it off.

Bottom line is the Democratic party continues to flex their muscle, from the strong election day turnout (relatively speaking) to getting another Dem on the school board.

Anonymous said...

..or her work in Asia, while wonderful, leaves her woefully unprepared for this job as compared to MANY of the other candidates. This is a very poor start for the Chair and Vice Chair. I was hoping for much better judgment.

Anonymous said...

I posted under the previous topic but it seems to be relevant here as well:

I don't believe that Stinson-Wesley herself should not be criticized without knowledge of her positions. As a public school parent in district 6 she may be very much concerned about issues important to the district. The question is--does she have the skills to effectively represent us? Or was she selected by the majority because they believed she would be a lap dog for them?

I do believe though that it is perfectly legitimate to question how the selection was made. Agree very much with a poster somewhere who questioned Tom Tate's reason for supporting Stinson-Wesley: "because she wants to see all students soar". A nice thought but pretty hackneyed at this point.

Sharon Starks

Anonymous said...

Oops-first line should read "I don't believe Stinson Wesley should be criticized without knowledge of her positions."


Anonymous said...

Tim and Rhonda made their bed now sleep in it you roaches ! Tim had the opportunity with in the GOP to fix this , but he listened to the fat boy Larry Shaheen. Tim will walk away in 4 years as his kids are out of CMS having used the system and gotten paid for it. Dems now run the board and first strike against Mary for lying about the D she had to know it was presented to her on Tuesday same week ! LIAR

Anonymous said...

Just for once I would like to see the focus of the press and board circle around the actual needs of the attendees and staff of CMS, so that we focus on the future of the survival of the city of Charlotte. Remove all Donkeys and Elephants from the process and posturing; Focus on what matters...efficient, well educated future members of the community. If the board must focus on political labels and statements, then the board is just that...a 2 by 4. And nothing gets built with just one.

Anonymous said...

All of these types of people say things like, "I want to see our students soar!" or "It's time for the whole community to make education our number one priority!"

These platitudes sound good in newspaper articles, but they do nothing to actually improve education.

What we need is leaders to make tough choices:
-do we close schools that have abysmal performance year after year,or do we keep them open until they get better?
-do we scrap pay for performance because it's too tough on teacher morale?
-do we continue to pay incoming teachers half of what we pay experienced teachers, regardless of ability?
-do we stop all testing that's not mandated by the state?
-do we keep the practice of tenure?
-do we bring back busing?

It's time for the Observer to start figuring out where the board stands on tough questions. We don't need any more articles about how much the board members want to "see students soar."

Anonymous said...

Do we scrap pay for performance because it is based on a premise that been proven not to work and it uses tests in ways they were not designed to be used?

Isn't that what you meant, 11:50?

Jeff Wise said...

There were candidates in the election that talked about real solutions to real problems. Call me biased, but I was one of those candidates, but didn't reach or convince enough voters to make a real difference.

Based on the campaign, I felt Mary and Erika also spoke about solutions instead of platitudes. I'm still hopeful they are on this track despite the politics that came into play here.

Let's see what they do with the Superintendent selection which, more than picking a District 6 replacement, will signal what kind of Board we'll see over the next 2 years.

The Superintendent selection will tell us much about the how the Board will handle issues of testing, pay for performance and teacher morale.

Realistically, the District 6 replacement isn't going to make a huge difference in votes, but maybe it will encourage that many more CMS parents to get involved and speak their minds - that's always a positive.


Wiley Coyote said...


If Stewart sticks to her original comments in the opinion piece she wrote to the Observer, then I think CMS might be able to get out from under the cloud of doom that's been hanging over it for decades.

Actions speak louder than words and right now we're in a wait and see mode.

I found it interesting that the Observer only posted her viewpoint for about a day and it disappeared. Usually, opinion pieces like that last for days and days but for some reason, her comments did not.

Could it be because there was no mention of race, low income, urban vs. suburbs, diversity, etc, but rather what the focus should be -children and educating them?

Anonymous said...

Basically, the Board will now officially not evaluate any teacher unless he/she commits a crime. Let's keep doing things the same way we've done them for 50's working, it's working! Just "let the teacher's teach!) and step back and "watch our students soar!"

The hypenated women will direct the resources to the minority who could care less about learning and ignore those who can't wait to learn. Just watch.

Anonymous said...

The article you refer to is chock full of platitudes. It's an articulate message, but I can't find anything of substance here. Again, the next super will need to take tough choices. Ellis-Stewart's article doesn't address these choices.

Of course, Ellis-Stewart isn't alone in not saying anything of substance. It was very rare that any of the candidates was willing to say much about where they stood on the difficult choices CMS needs to make.

I fear that all of these folks will continue the practices of the last 50 years, as anon 3:36 said. Jeff, is this why you're so excited about the new BOE? This way your wife's job will be secure and so will her benefits, unless she commits a violent crime or something.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 4:47...

If you read what I wrote, you would have also read I said "we'll have to wait and see".

Stewart is a Democrat. McCray is a Democrat and already within the first week, we've found out that she is an inept one by not knowing Wesley is a Democrat.

I'm not holding my breath for Stewart to continue that middle of the road direction, as she is a Democrat as well, but I'll still wait and see.

Liberals can't help themselves when it comes to spending money they don't have and pandering to their base. It's an inherent trait. Throw in the NAACP and you have quite the CMS cocktail!

Sam said...

I don't usually join the fray here, but I thought like speaking up on this one. As someone who has volunteered for and/or donated to CMS board members of all three political persuasions (we've never had a registered Libertarian on the board to my knowledge), I can't imagine any current board member would ever make an appointment based on a campaign contribution.

Ann, thank you for all of your hard work on this blog and for being at the meetings many of us can't make.

Anonymous said...

Sam, You are probably right about no one on the board making an appointment based on a campaign contribution. However, after watching what went on this week, it's pretty easy to believe that a number of them would make an appointment to this non-partisan board strictly based on political ideology. Luckily, though, at least one member's conscience apparently prevented them from making the worst of all possible appointments.

I wonder what the Community Building Initiative leaders might have to say about this!

Jeff Wise said...

To Anonymous January 6, 4:47pm,

I'm intrigued by Erika and Mary because of the conversations I had with them during the campaign. I felt they were very much interested in finding ways to properly evaluate teachers as well as looking for alternate avenues to reach students of all stripes.

Most teachers are fine with having their pay based on performance - my wife included. The issue is doing so fairly. Many of my comments on this blog addressed that so I'm guessing you missed those. Take a few minutes and sift through older posts, it might do you some good.