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Letter: Ferndale Councilman Responds to School Board Endorsement Questions

City Council member Dan Martin submitted this letter to the editor.

Ferndale Patch welcomes letters to the editor.

The following was submitted by Ferndale resident and City Council member Dan Martin.

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I appreciate former Councilwoman Helen Weber’s questions posed in her October 11th letter to the editor regarding City Council member’s endorsement of school board candidates. I have a great deal of respect for her and her accomplishments in the city, so I think it is important to answer her concerns. Considering the number of times that she and I have interacted over the course of the last few weeks I do find it disappointing she did not ask me personally instead of vetting her concern in a public forum laced with innuendo.

My endorsement of the CLEAR candidates for school board is a personal choice based on my own personal experiences. First and foremost, none of the candidates other than those associated with CLEAR asked me to hear their positions or for their endorsements. As an elected official in the city I will and have gladly worked with any school board incumbent on issues relating to our official capacities and have personally promoted a higher level of cooperation between the school district and the city. This commitment does not start nor end with any election and I will continue this work with whichever candidates are elected in November.

My personal decision to endorse CLEAR candidates Kevin Deegan-Krause, Amy Butters, Raylon Leaks- May and Jim O’Donnell is based on my agreement of their positions and experience with the candidates. I find all of them to be very qualified, provide a fresh perspective, not afraid to ask difficult questions and have the ability to listen to all residents in deliberation. In the past when I had the opportunity to address the school board prior to taking office I candidly felt discounted because I did not have children in the district and was directly told that I didn’t care about the district unless it was an election year. The fact that I have worked with non-profits (which Councilwoman Weber and I have collaborated on for many years) that have invested in the school district, in addition to my investment in tax dollars to the district demonstrates that my interest and care is not so narrow. I believe that we need better listeners on the Board and that is what earned my endorsement of these candidates.

The school district is too important to take a passive interest in its success. To suggest that there is such a coordinated effort by Council to remove the school board is just absurd. Council members are residents of the City of Ferndale and are free as other residents to act as individuals in their support of candidates and should not be discouraged from doing so by suggesting some “unspoken agenda.”

This is a serious election with high stakes. We need to take the discourse to a more appropriate level focused on the quality of candidates running for office and electing those who share our beliefs and visions. More importantly, we can then afterwards continue to build collaboration between these two great institutions.

Dan Martin

Robert Bokram October 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
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Robert Bokram October 13, 2012 at 01:41 AM
The councilman is absolutely right that this is an important election. He is absolutely right that it is important to elect the most qualified candidates. What he wrong about is who are the most qualified candidates. If you examine the CLEAR candidates, you find very little bosard committee participation, no board experience, little PTa participation. Both candidates either quit the library board, or would if elected, disregarding their constituents commitment to them. I would hate to think that they might do the same with the school board if offered a more attractive political opportunity ! I regret that the board members did not solicit the council for interviews but I also regret that the council did not seek out the incumbents and their positions before making their endorsements. My father used to say that there are always two sides to an argument and the council neglected to gather the facts as they normally do for the issues put to them. To me, this supports the author's proposition that the board made a political, not objective decision. I hope that the voters use a more thoughtful and balanced approach when making their choice for school board candidates.
Barb Landry October 13, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Dan - thank you for all you do for or community and for just being involved! I think you totally deserve a right to endorse whoever you may choose. As a very involved volunteer in our community and schools, I too will be joining you and voting for the BOLD candidates on November 6th. I want a board that has fresh new ideas, wants to engage with the community and wants to make the administration accountable. I know that my decision along with many of my friends, family and community members to vote for BOLD is the right thing to do. We will all go out on November 6th and tell the current board what they have done in the past years and continue to do is unacceptable. From the behavior the board showed to a former resident recently at a board meeting to the board deciding to extend their own terms (even though the public begged them not to) and then saying we showed them huh? WE NEED CHANGE! Please join me in voting BOLD.
elisasinnett October 13, 2012 at 11:02 AM
BOLD? I am voting for them. Definitely. We need to keep Ferndale and RO Township and our slice of Oak Park students in school, learning and thriving. Talk to any one of the candidates personally if you have questions. I did. Lisa Sinnett (mother of two Ferndale Eagles! :>)
T. Scott Galloway October 15, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Robert - when you say the "board" made a decision - I am sure you meant the Council Members made personal decisions to endorse - as there has not been any action by the Ferndale City Council relative to the school board race. I find it interesting that you believe endorsements of individuals running for political office can be anything other than a political decision. CBE and CLEAR are political action committees with their purpose being to further their political ends. Elected officials are politicians who act in their public lives to further their political objectives. Are you suggesting that politics played no role in the decisions of CBE as to whom they would endorse?
CBE October 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Dear Councilman Martin: With all due respect, CBE would like to inform the public that a formal letter was sent to all public officials including yourself on July 14, 2012 asking them to defer endorsements for any candidates until we had an opportunity to announce our selection of which four candidates from the eight potential candidates who had asked for CBE’s endorsement. Only the Mayor gave us the courtesy of a reply. Here is an excerpt from the letter sent: “CBE has interviewed interested candidates and will announce the names of those candidates to be endorsed by CBE during the week of July 23, 2012. Meanwhile, we hope that you will defer any personal endorsement of Board of Education candidates until you have an opportunity to meet and get to know the CBE candidates. We also realize that you may not choose to endorse anyone or any slate of candidates since you will have to work closely with those elected.” It is disappointing that so many civic endorsements were given prior to this time-frame, including this time-frame, and also prior to any candidate even filing their official petition to run on August 11, 2012. CBE agrees with former Councilwoman Helen Weber’s suggestion that these endorsements were not an exercise in good judgment and sincerely hope that voters will consider all these facts.
T. Scott Galloway October 15, 2012 at 02:40 PM
The traditional approach to seeking political endorsements from an elected official is for the individual candidate to contact the person whose endorsement they seek very early in the election cycle, schedule time to meet and attempt to persuade the elected official that their candidacy is worthy of endorsement. It is not uncommon for this to happen in the late winter or early spring for a November election. The CLEAR candidates did this; the CBE candidates never did. Instead the CBE candidates had their political action committee send a hectoring form letter to all elected officials in the district discouraging them from making endorsements. This letter was not well received by this Councilman nor any of the other elected officials who I spoke to about their CBE letter. Rather than building bridges to the community, it seems that CBE is more interested in putting up barriers to political participation in our schools. NEVER in the 15 years of my involvement in local politics have I seen one candidate or slate of candidates complain about the endorsements another candidate. It appears that rather than discuss the state of our school district and their accomplishments CBE wants to make the broad community support for the BOLD candidates THE issue of the campaign. I find that both odd and unfortunate.
Dan Martin October 15, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Thank you for the comment and yes, I did receive that letter. I also did respond to it but I am sorry that the response did not reach you. When I indicated that I was not asked for an endorsement I did not mean from the political action committee, I was referring to individual candidates and personal efforts being put forward. Your statement is correct that individuals will endorse candidates that they feel strongly about and I do not believe that my own decisions were made in a vacuum and without knowledge of candidates. I do object to the notion that there was some coordinated agenda on Councils behalf to promote one side and that is what I was writing about, along sharing my own personal experiences that influenced my decision. Most of all, it is about talking about the issues facing our community and making personal decisions to support candidates we believe in, having an election that the people of our area deserve with good debate and fair discussion not resorting to political theater.

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