Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Deep, Heaving Sigh

A commenter who is, it appears, who he says he is (and it's only fair to admit and remind that my suspicion about another commenter on this topic was, in that case, unjustified) seems to lament that I didn't discuss the MoCo BoE races in my epic rant on the upcoming MoCo primaries. Sadly, the commenter does not appear to be the most effective of readers:

The other important primaries are for the Board of Education; there's no reason for me (or, by extension, any right-thinking MoCovian) not to obey the Apple on the BoE races.

Okay, BoE candidate Louis Wilen, I answered this briefly with a comment of my own, but let's discuss the District 5 BoE race, where I endorsed (by extension) one of your opponents, Mike Durso (to be fair and get everyone in the first sentence of the paragraph, the other candidate is Lou August, who's getting no attention in this post other than a mention of his name). Perhaps I'm being presumptuous when I suspect that this is the race that you'd prefer that I discuss (while there are districted seats on the BoE, everyone votes for the candidates in all districts, as well as for the at-large candidates, which I seem to recall is an artifact of some long-ago legal matter), but I'm thinking it's probably a good guess. And you begged for it.

Let's start with the obvious: Durso was endorsed by MCEA. I admitted my bias toward MCEA-endorsed candidates in the original endorsement post, and from a quick perusal of items linked to Mr. Wilen's Blogger profile, it appears that he has a little problem with the MCEA and the Apple Ballot. By the way, thanks, Mr. Wilen, for giving me the means to track down additional reasons why I didn't and won't support your candidacy. Ever.

The blog linked above is a treasure trove. Mr. Wilen whines on his blog that MCEA produces the Apple Ballot before the candidate registration process closes. He misleadingly states here that "...most of the Apple Ballot candidates paid a $6000 fee to the MCEA to appear on their ballot." Uhm, hold up, there, sir. MCEA asks endorsed candidates to pay $6000 to help cover publishing costs for the ballots. They ask after they give their endorsement. MCEA doesn't withdraw the endorsement if the candidate doesn't pay. As you pretty obviously know, since you do say "most." (Update: Mr. Wilen has removed the quoted statement from his blog. Kudos to him.)

That post alone is worth two strikes against Mr. Wilen. He also says there that "The Apple Ballot folks even paid Google to display a diversionary link to the Apple Ballot when the search words "Louis Wilen" are entered." Wow. Y'know, Mr. Wilen, I understand that you're running for public office, and that you have a need to bend the truth a bit, but that's really kind of outrageous for a self-described "computer guy."1

Here are the front-page results of a Google search for "Louis Wilen." (click to enlarge):

The MCEA link is clearly highlighted as a sponsored link. There's nothing diversionary about it. It's Google's practice. It's not targeting Mr. Wilen personally; while it is a paid link, it comes up whenever a search string is entered that's related to the MoCo BoE races. Nice job of trying to make it look like they're out to get you, Mr. Wilen. Maybe if you gave a fig about the union, or about teachers, you'd have actually done something to try to obtain MCEA's endorsement, instead of making up paranoid shit when you didn't get it.

What's that? Three strikes on the same blog post? Uhm, yeah: "My name may be the last on the ballot, but no candidate in Board of Education District 5 is more supportive of teachers or more committed to the success of all students."

That's a flat-out lie. I'll concede the possibility that Mr. Wilen doesn't hate teachers--the reason we have one of the best school systems in the country--as much as his opponent Lou August, but to claim that he's more supportive of teachers than Mike Durso, a former teacher and principal, is pretty outlandish. Especially when Wilen is on record as saying--apparently in response to his endorsement questionnaire for the Municipal & County Goverment Employees Organization, a public employee union that would (probably rightly) sell its own children to avoid budget cuts affecting its employees--that he "would have supported MCPS employee furloughs as a way to reduce costs." Mr. Wilen lamely protests that he would want the furloughs to occur on professional days, of which he claims that, "According to teachers, many of the professional days are little more than Weast indoctrination sessions, and many teachers would appreciate a break from those sessions."

Not the one I'm married to, Mr. Wilen. For her, they're days when she does the administrative work required because there's not enough time in a teacher's day to plan (my wife has to prepare for three different curriculae scattered over 5 of the 7 class periods in her work day), grade, and record for the 150 students that our growing class sizes require her to teach. Honestly, it would be in our self-interest for her not to work the professional days--we have to get child care for those days, for our middle school son and our special-needs child (an issue to which Mr. Wilen has zero apparent sensitivity, since he doesn't mention it in his Gazette responses or his issues page on his Web site). Oh yeah. Except for that she gets paid for those days. And would have to do the work even if she got furloughed on professional days. Could you possibly talk out your ass a little more, sir?

Had enough, yet, Mr. Wilen? I haven't.

Mr. Wilen sure wants to spend money on a lot of stuff; improved maintenance, capital construction, supplementary curricular materials (more on this in a bit), more teachers and support staff. He spends a lot of time and effort whinging about stuff like gift cards for teachers (they're given as rewards or as tokens of appreciation for efforts above and beyond, Mr. I Support Teachers), and even more time whinging about taxes (Mr. Wilen claims to be a Democrat, though in fairness his claim is irrelevant, since BoE elections are nonpartisan--but if you're a Democrat, shut the fuck up about taxes, sir; I pay mine, and thanks to busybodies with too much time on their hands, like you, I pay even more, while much larger-scale, intentional offenders go unchallenged by "unassuming" people like you1). Mr. Wilen seems to think that we can spend money on all this stuff without spending more. We can't. That's why class sizes are too big, facilities are dilapidated, textbooks are old and scarce, and teachers have to spend money out of their pockets for classroom supplies and materials.

Is there waste through insufficient financial controls? Yeah. Does it exceed the amount spent auditing it? Beats the hell out of me. I'm guessing Louis Wilen couldn't tell you either (and, Mr. Wilen, if my guess is wrong--and I'll be perfectly happy and impressed if it is, though not enough to vote for you--and you can provide some sort of comparative aggregate figures on this, I'd be delighted and grateful, though again--not much point to you doing that, since I didn't vote for you in the primary and I doubt that I'll vote for you in the general election).

Mr. Wilen also flatly and explicitly hates MCEA. In fact, he hates unions in general, as he details here. He bitches about MCPS being a closed shop; of course it is. All teachers are paid under the union contract, and they should all pay union dues. He snidely uses "ostensibly" to describe the union's representation of teachers. He proudly cites to a union-bashing editorial in Your Fucking Washington Post (thank God for the liberal media, eh?). "The Apple Ballot has -- unfortunately -- proven to be an effective way for the union bosses to control the outcome of elections," snarks Mr. Wilen. Yeah, they're out there holding a gun to everyone's head to make them vote the Apple, right Mr. Wilen? Sure, it's a strong endorsement, and for good reasons (among them that Robin Ficker hates the Apple, as you'll see if you scroll to the comments on that last link). But union bosses controlling the outcome of elections? Are you positive you're a Democrat, Mr. Wilen?

Mr. Wilen is also a Weast-hater. That's all well and good. There are a lot of us, from many walks of life. Superintendent Weast has made a lot of enemies, with a lot of different axes to grind. On the other hand, Superintendent Weast announced well before the closing of the Apple Ballot process (nudge, nudge) that he wasn't seeking a contract extension or a new contract, and subsequently (well after the closing of the Apple Ballot process, nudge nudge) announced his retirement. Why are we bothering to run against Jerry Weast, Mr. Wilen?

Mr. Wilen also has a stance on curricular fees. To be fair, he's technically right. They're illegal, and there are enough economically disadvantaged students in this county that such fees should not be mandatory. There are also enough comparatively well-off students in this county that they shouldn't be illegal. Mr. Wilen is not responsible for state law, and he's not wrong to observe that MCPS should comply with the law. The issue is more nuanced than he or a group for which he blogs is willing to admit. This comes from the same place as Mr. Wilen's stance on taxes: they're not fair to him.

Hey, guess who makes up the difference between what's not allowed and what's needed? My wife, that's who. She gets an allowance of $150 annually for classroom supplies (I'm sure Mr. Wilen needs to see the fucking receipts). To his credit, Mr. Wilen wants to double that allowance (or more). Y'know, from one dollar per student to two dollars (or even three, woo-hoo!). Let's perspectivize here, huh?

Hey, guess what else Louis Wilen and his NIMBY parents group hate? Promethean Boards (sorry, you have to scroll down through a hockey rant to get to the relevance)! Yay! We love teachers!

Here's a fucking clue: every single teacher in MCPS will tell you that they'd love to have a Promethean Board. You know the real problem with Promethean Boards here in MoCo? There's not one in every single classroom in the county. I'll say this for Louis Wilen's diamond-shitting over gift cards; if he's right, and the savings resulting from audits far exceed the amount spent, maybe the BoE can spend more on Prometheans.

Louis Wilen! He's a Democrat who hates unions and taxes, he hates teachers, he hates spending except where he thinks it should be spent (his views on parent input are nuts--he essentially wants the BoE to be controlled by parent input, which is just an utterly wackaloon concept in a county of overcaffeinated, overeducated2 lawyers and tendentious pricks), he hates paying teachers, he hates that the BoE threatened to sue the County Council when the County Council threatened to break the law, he hates that MCPS spent money on the best classroom teaching technology in existence, he's a computer guy who doesn't understand how Google's search algorithm works (friendly advice, sir: learn to optimize, there's no reason your campaign site shouldn't be listed first after the paid links), he's an unassuming guy who thinks it's more lucrative to punish me for a county tax records error than to go after real money (yes, I'm bitching about it--no, the amount wasn't all that great for me, like in the $800 range), he hates a superintendent who's retiring (the relevance is searing), and he loves Your Fucking Washington Post. Yeah, what's that, like strike 19?

Now, let me say this: I have no reason to believe that Louis Wilen is a bad person. I clearly disagree with him on many levels, to a degree where I actively disrespect a number of his points of view. He's certainly not trying to nanny-state me (as far as I can tell), and I certainly don't have any dirt on the man. It's abundantly possible that Louis Wilen and I could be in the same room without exploding. I think that much of what I have complained about in this post is purely political behavior, and I understand it as such. I bear him no particular malice as a human being. However.

To reiterate, I endorse the Apple Ballot in all MoCo BoE primary races. I support Mike Durso in District 5. And I recommend that you do not, ever, under any circumstances, vote for Louis Wilen.

And I apologize, because I really should have said this bit earlier: thank you, Mr. Wilen, for reading and commenting on this utterly insignificant blog, regardless of my opinion on your comment. Which I think I've articulated pretty thoroughly.

1 Hey, speaking of that article, thanks a lot for the escrow hit on my properly licensed and reported rental property a few years back, Mr. Wilen. See what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?

2With a respectful tip of the hat to MoCo Council President Nancy Floreen...


Sasha said...

Wow. I would have gone my entire life without noticing Mr. Wilen's name (or probably his visage) had he not chipmunked his head above ground for your and my perusal.

If Mr. Wilen wants a right-to-work arrangement for teachers, I don't think he is running for the right office. I presume that taking such a ridiculous position and then sniveling that the Apple ballot doesn't love him and isn't fair (I hear the stomping of tiny feet.) demonstrates his reasoning ability.

My grandfather, the union organizer, is rolling over at the whinging about teachers having to pay union dues.

I suspect Mr. Wilen, before moving to MoCo in 1992 was a "Democrat" in some state like South Carolina and hasn't learned a thing about what a Democrat is, even in this post-Clintonian age.

I have to thank you, Landru, for the introduction to Mr. Wilen. His name is permanently inscribed in my mental Rolodex. He won't get a vote from me. He has gotten himself into the 'Franchot' category -- the one where I won't vote for him even if he is the only candidate.

(Also, thank you for the reminder. I still need to write to Ms. Floreen.)

whispers said...

Slightly ot - I first saw the name "Robin Ficker" leaving work this afternoon.

I speak German.

That's a very unfortunate name.

BDR said...

Which he deserves entirely, though I'm trusting you it's unfortunate in a way we'd all approve.

GrizzlyPlaytoy4Rent said...

Never battle wits with a blogger possessing a strong command of logic and rhetoric, a personal interest in the well being of local schoolteachers and their charges, and an endless supply of small, white, pixelated letters.