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Martin's vote against school budget amounts to pandering

Pasco School Board member Cathi Martin needs a refresher course in civics: Political pandering and leadership are not interchangeable.

Tuesday evening was uncomfortable for School Board members. They faced a gauntlet of pickets along U.S. 41 and then an overflow crowd of an estimated 250 teachers and staff members unhappy the district's budget does not include $6-million for previously negotiated raises tied to years of experience.

The task at hand was approving the budget and final tax rate — a statutory requirement so property tax bills can be sent Nov. 1. Martin cast the only dissenting vote with an goofy explanation that low morale, a falling stock market and down economy led her to believe the country was headed for a depression.

Voting against the budget certainly isn't going to change that, but it did give Martin the opportunity to try to impress the United School Employees of Pasco. She should have paid closer attention to the presentation from union head Lynne Webb who used a parody of a national retail advertising campaign to urge the board to do something beyond pushing the easy button.

Martin pushed away regardless. Voting against the budget without offering a concrete alternative is easy. It is called pandering and is a transparent attempt by Martin to appease past political supporters.

Her so-called concern for the working masses was absent July 29. That evening she seconded the motion to give preliminary approval to the proposed budget and tax rate — the same thing she voted against Tuesday.

Her resolve also in short supply during a budget workshop in May. Then, fellow Board Member Marge Whaley offered her own suggestions for cutting spending in an effort to free up money for employee raises. Martin's contribution was to say the administration should review spending cuts.

Martin's dissent also is hard to figure considering her own accurate observation that the approved budget likely is irrelevant since the district faces cutting $8-million more in the coming months because of declining state revenues and student enrollment falling short of projections.

If Martin truly wants to advocate on behalf of the union she should publicly quiz superintendent Heather Fiorentino and her staff on why neighboring Hernando and Hillsborough school districts found enough money to offer employee raises. Or she could ask if the district is indeed bargaining in good faith if its opening offer for raises is zero.

They are legitimate questions. But, pressing for accountability takes more than pressing the easy button.

Martin's vote against school budget amounts to pandering 09/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 9:06am]
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