Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trouble in Portage

There's controversy in Portage over "rules of conduct" proposed by the Portage School Board. The rules include prohibiting school board members from using their title in making endorsements, prohibiting them from criticizing decisions made by the board, and not talking to the press about anything controversial.

The rules appear to be targeted at board member Wendy Mazer, a conservative elected last May. Mazer endorsed State Representative Jack Hoogendyk in the primary last August. She has also been a critic of the some policies of the board, and has questioned the district's International Baccalaureate program.

Taking the proposed norms one by one:

Board members should not use their board titles when they endorse political candidates because the press and the broader public will assume one board member speaks on behalf of the entire board.
Board members evidently don't think much of the level of education of the general public.

A member should defer all press questions to board or district leadership if they think their comments could create ``confusion or controversy.''
We can't have any disagreement, can we?

Even if a member voted against the majority, the member should voice support for the board's decision when speaking with the public.
They should lie to their constituents?

Mazer had many defenders. One was Jim Rodbard of the ACLU, who was surprisingly right on throughout both stories. Other defenders included many conservatives:

District parents Melanie Kurdys and Mark Anthony Martin, Portage City Councilwoman Margaret O'Brien, Kalamazoo City Commissioner Mary Balkema, and Republican County Commissioners Nasim Ansari and John Zull also criticized the norms or voiced support for Mazer. No members of the public spoke in support of the rules.
This sums up the story well:

In an earlier interview, Mazer said she was surprised that none of the board members contacted her after a Gazette reporter questioned them on whether the conduct rules were aimed at her. Mazer was elected in May and is widely considered more conservative than other trustees. Portage City Councilwoman Margaret O'Brien has said she believes Mazer was targeted for her conservatism and for questioning the district administration.


Anonymous said...

This is a taste of your own medicine. "Conservatives" have tried to silence "liberals" for along time. The Patroit Act is a good examle of this. Also, school board elections are non-parisan, so saying its widely known that she is a conservative is wrong.

Anonymous said...

What is even more interesting is the comment: "Mazer had many defenders. One was Jim Rodbard of the ACLU, who was surprisingly right on throughout both stories." Note the use of the word "surprisingly." It is very revealing to see the shock conservatives express towards an organization whose purpose is to defend civil rights.

Conservative First said...

"I am for Socialism, disarmament, and, ultimately, for abolishing the State itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class and sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal."

"Do steer away from making it [the People's Council] look like a Socialist enterprise. Too many people have already gotten the idea that it is nine-tenths a Socialist movement.... We want also to look like patriots in everything we do. We want to get a lot of good flags, talk a good deal about the Constitution and what our forefathers wanted to make of this country, and to show that we are the folks that really stand for the spirit of our institutions."

-Roger Baldwin, founder of the ACLU

Anonymous said...

"[To] defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."
- Mission Statement of the ACLU.

Your quote just goes to show, Allan, that you cannot distinguish between someone's personal views and the mission of an organization. It is exactly why the Portage School Board wants members to refrain from using their titles when making speeches. So you see, once again you exemplify the problem and are most certainly not the solution!

Anonymous said...

This story would have more credibility if it were true. I know, because I was there for a majority of meetings that these SUGGESTED norms were discussed for several months and Wendy Mazer sat there and said nothing. It was only after they were released that she decided she did not like the norms. This was not muzzling, this was Mazer sitting in the weeds to make an issue out of nothing.

Anonymous said...

Recent event, the superintendent, who is not elected, endorsed two candidates for the board election. SURPRISE but the same people who defended Mazer's rights, called the Kalamazoo Gazette to complain about the superintendent exercising his first amendment rights! I guess there is a double standard??? See article in the May 5, 2007 Kalamazoo Gazette for more detail

Anonymous said...

Rather than use the link for International Baccalaureate provided on this very odd site I would suggest going to That site is descriptive of the program and leaves out all of the arbitration stuff