Saturday, June 28, 2008

RSD Campaign Season: Mixed Messages

On July 19th, we'll all go to the polls for a special vote on a series of ballot propositions related to millage rates and public school funding. This is an important vote.

We need to vote to renew the public school tax millage. It translates to approximately $1000 per pupil, regardless of whether we're talking about OPSB, RSD, or Charter.

I was reminded of this because I got a flier in the mail today from the Public Education Progress Committee (RSD-birthed org). It was paid for by Keep New Orleans Moving Forward (chaired by C.B Forgotson in 2003).

The flier told me to go to timetorenew.org to get the facts. There, they have some of the relevant bullet points as to why it is a good idea to renew the millage.

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But the flier wasn't the only thing I got that had me thinking about going to the polls. I also got a few different emails. The first two were from the RSD about various community stakeholder meetings on O.C. Haley Blvd on the evening of July 10th and the morning of July 11th. I'm a little bit confused about the meeting schedule because the emails are 100% identical except they refer to different meeting times and were sent out to different stakeholder groups.

I'd like to find out who got invited to what.

But that's secondary because I became concerned with this sentence in the email:

Please join the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board for a briefing on the status of the School Facility Master Plan and the Millage Renewal campaign.

Now there's nothing immediately wrong with the email. Certainly the RSD backs both the millage renewal and the Facility Master Plan that it is currently creating. Naturally we stakeholders can all get behind the millage renewal campaign while still demanding specific responses for our Master Plan suspicions.

Yet I became concerned because another email showed up in my mailbox that expressed a different take on the RSD phrasing.

Anonymous inside sources took notes at a behind-the-scenes planning session that occurred just the other day. This meeting was a discussion of the campaign for millage renewal but my sources became concerned by the way certain parties and meeting documents continuously coupled the millage effort with a campaign for acceptance of the RSD School Facilities Master Plan. This appears to be an inappropriate turn of events because nobody has seen the Master Plan and it figures to be extremely controversial given the firms involved and the rubber-stamp public participation process.

It becomes even more troubling when you understand that this campaign will not only be a well-funded advertising and PR blitz but will also work behind the scenes to secure the endorsements of various municipal and state elected officials.

The meeting included various millage campaign stakeholders including several members of the Orleans Parish School Board. Most interesting was the participation of professional firms the Brylski Company and Bill Rousselle's Bright Moments. If I had any doubts that my inside sources were on to something, take a look at the current campaigns touted on the Bright Moments website. While they are indeed working on the Time to Renew campaign, they are also under contract with the Recovery School District for . . .

"community outreach to ensure broad public participation in Master Planning for the entire New Orleans Public School System"

Is the Bright Moments team mixing messages? If advertising materials and/or official lobbying efforts are coupling the "nonaffiliated" millage renewal campaign and the RSD-affiliated facilities master plan, which bureaucracy signs the invoice?

Certainly this isn't the last we'll hear on this matter.

7 comments:

Maitri said...

Thanks for bringing this vote to our attention. I want it to be important and significant, but my first thought was "1000 per pupil or $1 per pupil and $999 for all the bureaucrats and other pigs at the trough?"

I will vote for it using the rationale that there is a practical and ideological difference between $1 and $0.

E said...

That's a good point, Maitri.

Still, we've got to pass the millage renewal and get money into the system. We can still deal with changing how the district spends the money - but let's get the money.

Anonymous said...

does anyone know what time the meeting is on July 10th? I've heard about the meeting the 11th in the morning but no details on the earlier one. Any help? Thanks.

E said...

Anonymous, I'll post the meeting times ASAP.

NolaCycle said...

Hey E, I know my work projects drive you crazy, but I'm starting an independent project (making a bike map of the city with help of volunteers) and I made a blog to keep people updated on what's happening. Mind adding it as a link yours? it's www.nolacycle.blogspot.com. Thanks -Lauren

Morgan said...

I received this information today from the RSD Communications Director:

Please join the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board
for a briefing on the status of the School Facility Master Plan and the
Millage Renewal campaign.

We are inviting parents, neighborhood organizations and the general public
to attend this important conversation. Presentations will be made by lead
planners and representatives on behalf of the school districts.

The meeting begins at 6:30 pm and will last approximately one hour.

Our host will be the Dryades Street YMCA on 2000 Philip Street corner of
Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, ample parking is available.


What: School Facility Master Plan for Orleans Parish - Update Meeting

When: Thursday July 10th @ 6:30 pm.

Where: Dryades YMCA - OC Haley Blvd corner of Philip Street.

Morgan said...

Orleans Parish public school parent and community millage renewal meeting
7/2, 6PM
2220 O.C. Haley Dryades YMCA, corner of OC Haley and Philips St. (Central City)