STORY #7 FROM 2013-2015 POLL RESULTS: NEWKIRK AND WITT DIRECTLY PREVENT JILL FELLMAN FROM ATTENDING MEETING SHE WAS SCHEDULED TO ATTEND

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #7:

What Happened: This is the most recent story in the list, one based on a message that Jill Fellman sent out just a few weeks ago:

“Many people who support the recall of the school board majority have recognized that it is not just the substance of what this group is doing, but the dismissive and disrespectful way they are doing it. Here’s the latest example. There is an Agenda Setting Meeting with the Superintendent and his Cabinet a week or so before every board meeting. The purposes of these meetings are to determine how much time agenda items might take and to give appropriate direction to Cabinet members to ensure agenda items meet the needs of the Board. According to practice, Mr. Newkirk and I alternate going to these meetings. Today was my day to attend the meeting – so, I drove to the Ed. Ctr. Mr. Witt arrived at the meeting with Mr. Newkirk and informed me (in the presence of several staff members) (1) I was not needed and (2) Mr. Newkirk would be attending the Agenda Setting Meetings until the election. I’m a big girl, and I can deal with the lack of respect that I see every day from this Board majority. At the same time, our District deserves elected officials who treat each other and the public with respect, even when they disagree on policy. It’s up to Jeffco voters to make that change.”

Newkirk, Witt and their allies were trying to “stack” the District Accountability Committee (DAC) with their allies only and no dissenting voices, and that’s just what they did.

Why It Matters: How many ways can we count?

  1. Spiting Transparency: WNW ran on a campaign of transparency and keep boasting that because school board meetings are live-streamed, they are setting new standards in transparency. Then this kind of stuff gets reported all the time. It’s completely disingenuous.
  2. Really, Who Does This? OK, a few weeks before that we saw Mike Huckabee’s crew physically prevent Ted Cruz from joining Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis on her jail-release-celebration stage. Then again, the Davis situation was…unusual. Newkirk and Witt let Fellman drive to the meeting, enter the meeting, and then they told her to leave? What was she going to do if she stayed? Actually speak and maybe disagree?
  3. “Listen, Listen, Listen, Decide” was a mantra of Newkirk’s campaign.  Did he decide to just skip the first 3/4 of that mantra? Or is listening only with people who he agrees with?
  4. People Expect Much Better from Elected Officials. And they should. They are representing the public as a whole. Witt recently held a press conference to “prove” that he’s not the type to make decisions behind closed doors. Does repeatedly having meetings behind closed doors, including when you kick out fellow board members who were slated to be there, sort of erode that trust?
  5. Witt stated that he was “glad to have a discussion” with the public about the accomplishments of the school board. Then why this kind of behavior?

We could carry on, but we’ll leave it at that.

Suffice to say that if they survive the recall, this kind of behavior will be commonplace!

Vote Lasell, Stevens, Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, and remember that Merritts and Johnson are aligned with WNW! 

Keep fighting, JeffCo! And remember to VOTE by Nov. 3!


 

Reader’s Thoughts on Being Told that WNW Vote is “Godly” Choice

Another Guest Column for our “Faithful and Fed Up” series, this time from a reader of faith who is beside herself that her vote is being tied to Witt, Williams, and Newkirk’s “Godly” attributes:

FaithfulFedUpSomeone told me today that voting against the recall would keep “Godly” people in their leadership positions.

I felt gutted.

I found the suggestion that I would prove my respect for God if I voted for Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk infuriating.

Let’s start by saying that I disagree with them.

To me, “Godly” people don’t shame and humiliate a student who is bravely standing up to voice her experience as a student in Jeffco to her school board.

To me, “Godly” people don’t comfortably compare the atrocities that Black people in the south suffered through during the 60’s to being in a charter school.

To me, “Godly” people don’t arrogantly run a school board while pompously ignoring the needs and wants of the very community they were elected to serve.

To me, “Godly” people don’t tell students to stay at home during Jeffco’s Day Without Hate. We have a suicide problem directly linked to hateful things like that.

To me, “Godly” people don’t speak at workshops co-hosted by a political group that openly suggests violent acts in order to defend and preserve White power.

However, I will pause and respectfully acknowledge that many people may agree and even feel grateful for some of the changes this board majority suggests. Some voters might like to see our history and health curriculum modified to align more closely with their religious beliefs. So, to them, I say, vote.

As one person who considers herself “Godly,” I retain one strong belief:

Those in public office need to run their office with honesty, transparency, and a willingness to listen to their community members. A quick look into the origins of most religions will guide you to leaders who follow those clear guidelines about respect.

So, this Godly person is going to vote for the Clean Slate. Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert and Susan Harmon all bring with them a strong commitment to doing what is right. I have no doubt that they will follow the Golden Rule and treat others and they would like to be treated.

They will think of their own children when they make decisions that impact mine, they will consider the needs of the many, and they will let community input guide their decisions.

Story #8 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Koch Brothers and Other Major Outside Funding Flood Jeffco for WNW

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

Note that if we had run the poll this week, we certainly would have included Witt’s bizarre and appalling press conference that even his media allies can’t restrain themselves from criticizing and joking about. Safe to say that his presser will be on everyone’s mind for a while.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #8:

Koch

What Happened: To summarize what we posted a few weeks ago, in 2013, WNW sent approximately 6 mailers out across much of Jefferson County. Jeffco Students First also sent out “The Jeffco Observer.” According to multiple professional estimates, the mailers alone would have cost *at least* $200,000 dollars for design, printing, and postage. The Observer, designed largely to support WNW, cost a lot too.

These communications were paid for by sources outside of their official campaign reporting, by third-party organizations that were nonetheless formed specifically to aid WNW. This is what’s often called “dark money.” WNW’s campaigns also raised some money.

Clear as day on mailers was “Americans for Prosperity”: The Koch Brothers’ political advertising and activism machine. As for other donors? It appears that WNW’s biggest fundraiser took place in Arapahoe County, and the guest list was packed with wealthy donors from outside of Jeffco.

Meanwhile, Tonya Aultman-Bettridge, Jeff Lamontagne, and Gordon “Spud” van de Water each raised in the $35,000-$60,000 range for their official campaigns. Those numbers were indeed higher than the “official” reporting for WNW’s campaigns, but A LOT LESS than the money that was spent on all of the mailers via the “dark money.” Why is that “dark money?” Because most or all of it came from the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity, or the other wealthy donors from outside Jeffco, and THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

It’s like comparing two families’ spending on food for a month, and saying that one spends a lot more after just comparing their grocery bills, neglecting the fact that the other family that’s spending less on groceries is only doing so because someone is paying for them to eat out at restaurants all the time. In the end, which family spent more?

It’s simple: WNW easily outspent their opponents in 2013. In their usual sneaky tactics, WNW’s allies are just looking only at the official campaign contributions in order to convince you that they were outspent, to further the idea that their elections were driven by a “grassroots” effort.  That’s both laughable and sad. As you can see, WNW really weren’t outspent, and that’s a major reason we’re in this mess.

Why It Matters: We think that everyone intuitively understands why this matters. Political research indicates that more than 90% of elections are decided by those who spend more money. Of course, some of that is because the candidates have real grassroots support among the people that know them, but the Kochs and others wouldn’t be doing this unless they knew that it was usually successful. In local elections, although people joke about putting mailers straight in the trash, they do work because they’re often the only exposure many busy voters have to candidates. Send a good mailer, get a vote.

The juxtaposition is shocking. Not that long ago, winning school board candidates in Jeffco commonly raised $10,000 – $20,000 for some yard signs and brochures, and perhaps a mailer to a cross-section of voters. The sudden transformation from the $10,000 range to $1,000,000+ should cause anyone alarm. That kind of jump in spending, especially on a nonpartisan election, should raise huge red flags about the political nature of the fight. It should also raise your hackles.

It is a disturbing trend that anyone can spend unlimited amounts, mostly hidden, wherever there want, on any local race in the country. Somehow it seems even more painful in Jeffco. Maybe that’s because we’re from Jeffco, and we pride ourselves in the rich history of independence and spirited debate among locals here. This is Colorado; this is Jeffco; we are independent and don’t take well to outsiders with an agenda trying to buy elections and supporting candidates that they don’t even know.

It also matters because it looks as if they’re on an even bigger spending spree to support WNW in 2015. Look for “Americans for Prosperity” on that TV ad, door hanger, or mailer…and then vote for Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell, who have vastly more local support in every way.


 

10.8.15 Witt’s Carnival Sideshow

If you saw Witt’s stunt this morning–and it’s hard to imagine that you didn’t because social media has not stopped talking about it since–you know that it was merely a distraction.

  1. The Independent Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over Colorado school board members (see page 6).
  2. The IEC isn’t meeting until Nov. 6 — after the election.
  3. There’s no reason for them to call a special early meeting (see #1, above).

Witt’s complaint only asks if voting on the matter in a public meeting was a violation of sunshine laws, failing to make the distinction between voting in public and deciding in public. Sunshine laws exist to prevent elected officials from merely rubber-stamping behind-the-scenes decisions in public.

Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams made the decision to hire Brad Miller before the Dec. 13 board meeting.  We know because Bob Kerrigan, president of the Thompson School District Board of Education, told his fellow board members that Jeffco had a school board attorney — and told them this on Wednesday, a full day before the Dec. 13 Jeffco BOE meeting where the issue was first discussed in public.

Not only did Kerrigan know that Jeffco had already hired a firm 24 hours before the BOE met to discuss the issue, he knew that Jeffco would be hiring Brad Miller himself, as reported by the Reporter Herald on Dec. 12:

Kerrigan then revealed that a contract had already been drawn up by a Colorado Springs-based law firm that currently represents Jefferson County schools.

The proposed contract, dated two days after Kerrigan was elected board president, begins: “We are pleased that the District has asked Millers Sparks LLC … to represent Thompson.”

It’s an issue we’ve written about multiple times, and it’s one of many, many reasons to vote yes on the recall.

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with some of today’s highlights, such as the 7 News story “Jeffco Public Schools board president Ken Witt stunts for attention as he faces recall” (and hopefully this clip will open with the anchor saying “Bizarre news out of Jeffco today” because that’s by far our favorite).

And we’ll end with one of the many, many funny social media posts that we saw in our feed today:

Charles Buchanan on Twitter

Kinda wish Witt had ended the press-stunt with a citizens arrest of himself. #Copolitics #JeffcoRecall #JeffCo

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

Recall 101: Your Guide to the Candidates and Issues

DSCN0244You asked and we did it: a Recall 101 page highlighting the top issues that prompted the recall.

There’s a tab at the top of our website homepage so you can access it easily and share it with others. Thanks to our readers for the suggestion!