Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rainy day pre-election thoughts.

Election day is coming -- Wednesday April 27 -- and the rhetoric and all the stuff I hate about the process is in full swing. Signs on lawns. PR pieces in the newspaper. Blog posts with their anonymous comments and unique "spin" on facts. I've always been up front about my lack of political savvy. I don't play the games and I just try to call it like it is. There's really not a lot I can do to change some people's minds, once they've got certain ideas stuck there.

It's frustrating (and sort of funny, if it weren't so serious) to see myself portrayed as "the establishment." I have spent the past three years feeling like the outsider on the BOE. Many of the things that frustrated me before I was elected still cause me to bang my head on my desk -- even more -- today. The answers or solutions were not as easy as they looked from the outside. And they're not always easy to explain to others.

I am still the first to agree that the Board needs more openness and transparency. I've been working on it for three years. Not everyone on the BOE or in the administration agrees with me. We have improved, but not enough. It is like turning an aircraft carrier, the culture is so ingrained and the bureaucracy is so entrenched, that one board member can only impact so much. I will keep working on it -- I know it can get better. In the meantime, I've tried to fill some of the gaps with my own personal communication via this blog, even though it's a bit of a minefield to navigate the boundaries of free speech, confidentiality and "appropriate" Board member behavior.

As for the budget (tax levy) you're being asked to approve on Wednesday -- we have kept spending flat in all areas except health care, and that is contractual so there is nothing we can do about it with this budget. (In fact, if it weren't for the health premium increase, the budget would be going down $75,000.) We are working on the next contract now and the entire Board is well aware that salaries/benefits -- especially health insurance -- cannot remain as is. We simply cannot afford it. The system cannot support it.

I'm still hoping my serious commitment to these issues -- and others, as I've described before -- will convince enough voters to return me for three more years on the Board. I'm still the "new" member. I'm still the one on the Board who has not been part of the establishment for years and years. There is a lot more I can do and I'm willing to keep working.

I chose not to raise a bunch of money and pay for expensive signs (the ones you see now are all those that I saved from three years ago), postcard mailings, etc., because I felt I couldn't ask people to spend money on that stuff in this economy. I'm still silly enough to believe that elections should not be about who has more signs, who had more coffees or whose name is in what ballot position. I know what I've done, I know what can be done, and I know I can make a positive difference...if you'll re-elect me on Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

Well said.....and I wish you the best of luck in the election and thank you for all your work.

Anonymous said...

I really don't want Sheila on the BoE any longer. But I am still voting NO on the budget.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, you have had three years to make some impact on the board's lack of transparency and their lack of willingness to discuss and debate the issues raised by the public. You have had three years to tame what most see as over spending in certain areas of the budget. I wish you were the type of board member you have described. You'd be my kind of candidate. But you are not. For the past three years you have been ineffective on the promises you now try to make at election time. It's time to see if someone else with good intentions can actually bring them to fruition. I just don't see anything in your performance these past three years that makes me want to give you three more. I will give my vote to Ms. Krauss and no again this year to this board's budget. You folks have made some terrible decisions and now we're all going to have to pay for them.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, I'm voting for you. I know what kind of person you are -- you are exactly as you have described here and as you have written over the years. Anybody can read your opinions and I have appreciated your candor. Don't give up! Thank you for all you have done. I hope you will continue.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:43. Laurie, you describe yourself as one thing and act as another. Even if you are sincere, you haven't made any difference in three years. To me, that says it all. You and Sheila need to go. Even if that can't happen this time, I'm certainly not going to lend me support to a candidate I don't believe in.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Laurie for your service, but you have not lived up to the ideals in your blog entry. You have not supported the openness that you refer to. You have not engaged with the citizens that elected you. You have not seriously challenged the way the way the BOE spends tax dollars. It is time for Sheila and yourself to step down.

I do applaud you for publishing all comments on your blog both positivve and negative, however. Were that you had demonstrated this transparency as a BOE member; I could have gladly supported you.

Laurie said...

Thank you. I know what conversations and meetings I've had with BOE members and administrators, and I know what I've supported and worked for. I choose not to advertise myself for my own "political" gain (surely to the detriment of my re-election prospects), and I don't publicly criticize the opinions of my colleagues and others who have different opinions, which are well-intentioned, which they are entitled to have and which I respect. I choose not to put on a show. I just work at my job, deal one-on-one with issues as much as possible, and help accomplish what can be accomplished. There is more engagement and transparency today than there was three years ago. The change is very slow. I have been told more times than I can count things like "change doesn't happen overnight" and "don't expect the district's culture to change so easily" when I express frustration with the pace. One of the ways I tried to increase transparency was through my own communication, something I have control over, such as this blog. I think one out of five BOE members writing a blog, sharing opinions and engaging residents in conversation, "counts" as something toward transparency and engagement. There are not many BOE-member blogs out there and I have received plenty of "helpful" cautions or warnings from members of the school establishment. But I held on to this as a way to have more of the openness that I craved.

Thank you for your feedback. We will see on Wednesday if my approach to the BOE has been effective enough to enable me to keep going.

Anonymous said...

Putting yourself at risk on this blog is a bold thing to do.....I have enjoyed reading it even when I disagree with you.....you publish dissent and state your positions. When you don't think it is ethical to go into something, you explain why.
Thank you, you have my vote.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, I've politely asked you questions that you have chosen to ignore on a couple of occasions. So much for your openness. And you also worked for decisions that the public at large simply did, and does not want. The only way you will be re-elected is if people decide they don't want Sheila more.

For the most part, word on the street is that voters will be choosing who not to vote for between you and Sheila by who is worse not better. I'm sorry if that's hard to hear. Believe me, it's disappointing to write.

Laurie said...

@12:26 I apologize if you feel you were ignored. I don't knowingly ignore polite questions...although I have been known to stop participating in a protracted back-and-forth when it's not getting anywhere.

FYI, I'll probably be offline for the rest of the day, work meetings and deadlines.

Anonymous said...

No problem Laurie. That's pretty much what I was expecting.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate what you are saying but you have to understand whatever group you are a part of sometimes you must publicly have the courage to stand up for what is right. Why not tonight make it the 1st day of the rest of your life. Honestly this BOE is the most discourteous arrogant bunch of
public servants we've had in a long time. If you feel different when you see that during meetings it's not wrong to say something. If you are that weak and don't have the courage to say something then you don't belong on the BOE.
This is what people are trying to tell you. I don't know what oath they give you when you sign on but
you have a public oath. There is no secret oath not to politely IN PUBLIC express your opinion. If not
then we might as well all be living in China. I hear their schools are getting better. The way this board conducts their business in secret maybe they should all go to China. If you don't agree then SPEAK UP. Stop using the excuses you use. They are not believable anymore.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

to 3:10 pm; In my opinion I think that was a bit unfair.

a. She started by apologizing to you if you felt ignored. She also expressed why sometimes she backs away from a conversation - if, in her opinion, it is getting impolite, or just going in circles.

b. There was a BOE meeting tonight, I assume that you want Laurie to be prepared for that.

c. This is volunteer work that Laurie is doing, she has paying work that also needs her attention.

d. She was kind enough to let us all know that she wouldn't be responding anymore the rest of the day, and why.

e. I don't see the other board members engaging in dialogue with the public, lets not abuse it.

Anonymous said...

9:40, I wasn't trying to be unfair as you suggest. I have tried to ask Laurie questions here and there from time to time. She has promised to check into things but never responded. The scenario she described as a reason she might not have responded did not happen in my case. She did not even take this opportunity to show any interest in what I had asked.

Laurie claims that she runs this site as a service to the public to give information, carry on dialog and answer questions. I merely pointed out that my experiences here did not support that. I had come to expect, through these experiences, that Laurie would not show any interest in responding. Once again, I can assure you that I was polite and that my questions were non-confrontational. But even if some conversations get a bit heated, that is also part of communicating with the public you serve, something that Laurie claims she embraces.

While I'm here, I'd like to agree with 3:42 who makes a very good point. An elected official's first and only loyalty should always be to the public he or she serves, not a fellow official. Laurie has no problem running for re-election as an individual, apart from the others on the board with her own ideas. Too bad she didn't bring some of that to her three years on the board.

I agree with 3:42. Her excuses are just not believable. If the past three years is the best she could do, she will not be effective for three more if re-elected.

Anonymous said...

See The Patch article this morning.
Dan must resign now for lying (again). How embarassing for the rest of you. You should have an immediate special meeting to discuss this serious matter. How disgusting when you can't get the truth and stupid excuses are given instead. We're not that stupid and it's time you have the courage to do the right thing and call out the Superintendent. We are waiting. Trust me this all will come out either way. Why not now at least cop a plea. FIELDGATE!

Laurie said...

Hi, @12:04. I just want to clarify that I don't think I've ever claimed to write this blog as a "public service." Blogging is as much for the blogger as for the readers. I know I've stated previously that I would be writing this even if no one read it -- and for two years that's pretty much what happened. This is not a news site. I am not functioning as a journalist. I clearly have a point of view. I write about what I feel like writing about...sometimes I report facts, sometimes I share opinions, sometimes I share other interesting things I read in other places, sometimes I answer questions, sometimes I respond that I'm not the one to ask and that the school district administration is the proper source for information requested, sometimes I write to work out my own thoughts on issues. My posting is sporadic, because my life and my work schedule don't allow me to adhere to a schedule. (Like right now...there are half a dozen things I want to write about/respond to, but I just dont have time!)

@7:17 speaking of local news websites...I only had time for a quick read so far, but the Patch story to which you refer has several inaccuracies, a distinct point of view (allowed on blogs, not allowed for journalists), and a non-traditional news story structure that presents a confusing picture and may be contributing to (what I see as) your hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, you did state that running this blog was your way of keeping communication open between you and the public. Sounds like you're implying that it is a public service. And in each case that I asked a question, you told me that you would check into it and respond. That's what you said, but you did not. Now you're trying to twist even that into something else. Frankly Laurie, the things I asked were things a school board member should have been able to respond to, but not to worry, I'll get my answers another way.

Laurie said...

I do try to keep up with questions. I suspect that maybe you didn't like my answers?

OK, I'll bite: ask me again now. What would you like to know?

Anonymous said...

Good luck tomorrow, Laurie!

Anonymous said...

Figures you still have to try to shift the blame one more time Laurie. As I said, you offered no answers for me to either like or dislike. It was not a debate. I asked and you said you'd check into it and get me an answer and that was the end of it, more than once. No argument...no nothing.

Instead of accusing me Laurie, perhaps you should be excusing yourself. Maybe my questions were just so benign that you forgot all about them. I don't need or want any more information from you. I'll get it from the person that replaces you.

Laurie said...

OK, well, if I'm re-elected, and if you come to Ridgewood someday, I'd be happy to talk with you.

Anonymous said...

Since you are in a mood to answer and promise to answer....why not answer what the inaccuracies were in The Patch story today. Why not
also answer why you did not or any of the other board members call out the Superintendent Dan Fishbrain when he did not bring up the cost of $21M (a heck of a lot
for a "wrinkle" don't you think!)
to the contractor for Stadium Field. Where were you when we needed you? What's the excuse please. And don't forget my 1st question above about The Patch story. Please be as specific as you can. Thanks!

Laurie said...

OK, so first, here are my issues with the Patch story (in order of appearance, not priority):

Patch: The Board was made aware on Monday night in their packets.

LG: The Board was made aware in their packets, but it was actually Thursday night.

Patch: [Dr. Fishbein:] “All of this is putting stress on our youth sports leagues…”

LG: Actually he said it was putting stress on the SCHOOL sports teams, because they are part of a league and they have schedules to fulfill. And then he added that it was ALSO a problem for the youth sports programs, as they are also part of leagues.

Patch: There was a storm drain blockage on the PSE&G right-of-way on Brookside Ave….

LG: Dr. Fishbein did not say anything about storm drains. He said there was a blockage of the brook, near Brookside FIELD, alongside the right of way. Trees and other debris were in the brook, downstream from the fields, blocking the water and contributing to the flooding on the fields. That blockage needed to be cleared by the County.

Patch: The last two big floods were the 5th and 6th largest storms since 1954, according to Village records.

LG: Actually, I believe Dr. Fishbein said state records (not Village records) showed that the floods in March and April were the 5th and 6th highest water events since 1954.

Patch: The district has maintained these are not normal events.

LG: It’s not the District “maintaining” this idea – I think #5 and #6 largest in 57 years would be considered “not normal” by anyone.

Patch: …the village’s top engineer said the bleachers at Stadium field will be fine, though neighbors have said there are concerns and a worker told resident…that they’d flooded three times.

LG: Not sure what that means. No one has ever disputed that the bleachers were flooded…they are right next to the brook.

Second, as to your question why didn’t I or anyone else call out Dr. Fishbein when he did not bring up the wrinkle-repair cost: obviously I can only speak for myself. I just forgot. I don’t have a good excuse. I was thinking about the silt and the shoveling and raking and manpower. And I was thinking about whether the fields were open or closed. Those were questions I was planning to ask. I had been told about the repair cost Thursday night, I reacted at that time, and in that moment at the meeting I did not think of it. I believe that Dr. Fishbein planned to report the info. I subsequently saw it in his notes. But for whatever reason, he did not remember to do so (in part, probably, because I interrupted him with questions during his report.).

I wish I had asked about the wrinkle repair, but as I've mentioned in the past, BOE meetings are not theater for spectators. They are working meetings of the Board and the Board had already been fully informed of the information in a timely manner. The Board, for its purposes, didn't need to hear it again at that moment. That being said, of course the public DID need to hear it, which (in my opinion) could also have been accomplished in a press release or interview.

That's my take on the incident last night. It was not a great moment for me. But it was not part of a conspiracy or concerted effort. Just a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, what do you mean by "if you come to Ridgewood someday"? Why would anyone who's not from Ridgewood be looking at this site let alone asking questions?

Laurie said...

Hmmm I don't know, I thought something said along the way made me feel like you (the poster) were not in Ridgewood. Maybe it was in a different thread. Sorry!