Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Other Side drinks dumbass; talks to MPBN

This reporter has a solid record when it comes to staying away from Kool-Aid.

But I can’t say the same about staying away from a nice, tall, cool glass of dumbass. Or two, or three, or four.

You’d think we’d have learned after a cordial half-hour conversation with Bill Nemitz of the Portland Newspaper a few years back. I fell into the trap of thinking he was objective and looking to explore, and held to that until I read the column in which I was quoted. 

Clearly, Nemitz had a plan for his column ahead of time, and talked to enough people knowing he’d get colorful quotes that he could cherry pick and use as punctuation for his own ideas.

Side should have learned, but we didn’t.  As they say, life is a learning experience, and then you die.  And I went to school again in recent days.

A courteous young news producer from MPBN, Josie Huang, called last Wednesday to ask if I would meet with her to talk about the Brunswick School Department plan to collect loose change around town.

Never a shrinking violet in such matters, I said I would.  And so on Thursday, following other business in Portland, I stopped by the lavish MPBN studios on Marginal way to chat with Ms. Huang.  A polite and lovely lady, she quickly ushered me into a “studio” for what was probably a 20 minute discussion.

Since I knew what the general subject was, and had done some preparation, I began by briefing her on Brunswick School budget history for the last 5 years or so, and provided her with detailed data on the subject.  I emphasized that the School Department needed to look inward before collecting change because per student costs had increased from about $8800 per year to $12,200 per year in just 4 years, and that this simply was not reasonable, or even worse, sustainable.

I also told her about the times folks at budget hearings proclaimed how they’d “gladly pay more taxes if it went for the children,” but when asked to sign a list so they could be contacted, they failed to commit.

She did not seem interested in such background, but maintained a pleasant tone.  Sticking to her story line already in mind, she asked me if I would contribute to the change jars. 

I answered truthfully. I told her that I had no children in the schools, and paid taxes well above average.  I said I would not contribute, and that officials needed to look inward at their spending increases first, and to pursue more direct solicitation of those who wish to pay more in taxes as well. 

Why not send home a flyer with each child, asking parents to pay more?  It was alright to send home a flyer with each child when the vote for the new school was about to take place; why not use the same method now?  Why not print up a plea to be mailed with property tax bills asking rate-payers to go ‘above and beyond’ their obligation?

None of that logic made the cut.  The only thing that did was my comment that the change jars were a “tawdry” and “juvenile” response to budget challenges.

You can read the transcript of the report here.  And if you enjoy hearing me talk as much as I do, you can listen to the audio version here.  I sound exactly like the Joisey boy I am.

This time, I hope the lesson takes; the urge to speak out is a powerful one, and agenda driven reporters know that.

So be it; I stand by my answer, especially when ‘considered’ in view of the realities described above.

Now that I think of it, MPBN has a regular feature entitled “All Things Considered.”  Based on this experience, they fail the test of living up to their own hype. 

They should rename the feature “Only those things that fit our agenda considered.”

That’s it for now.  The next time we meet in town, I’ll buy you a glass of dumbass.  Unless, that is, you’re quicker on the dumbass trigger than me.

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