Local Democrats publicly lament the century-old Republican dominance of Greenwich politics, but year after year they put up candidates who are more conservative, more establishment oriented, more likely to blend into the town hall wallpaper and more willing to buy into the status quo than their Republican counterparts whom taxpayers have counted on to deliver real leadership. It’s as if the Dems are so thrilled just to be at the table that they will do almost anything not to get voted off the island.
It’s not an accident that when the town needed BOE members to shake up the somnolent school board, two Republicans took on that charge. The Democrats either sat on the sidelines (Natalie Queen, Jonathan Cohen) or worse, they made the Kool Aid, stirred it and served it to the taxpayers in meeting after meeting (Leslie Moriarty, Nancy Kail).
Repeat after me:
“Our schools are fine ..”
“Our schools are fine …”
“Test scores are not important …”
“Test scores are not important …”
Now we are presented with the most important school board election in a decade. And the Republicans have an exciting slate of proposed candidates. The Democrats, instead of seizing on this massive opportunity, have served up the same predictable hash that comes with every one of their meals – one from Column A, Jennifer Dayton, and one from Column B, Adriana Ospina.
OMG, why didn’t they just leave Natalie Queen and Jonathan Cohen in place?
To me, Jennifer Dayton is poised to be the biggest disappointment since Nancy Kail, who reeks of pungent, personal ambition. Her blind loyalty to Moriarty is striking. She is the Clarence Thomas to the Antonin Scalia (Moriarty) of the school board. I had high hopes for Dayton two years ago before she withdrew her candidacy. But now I fear she will also drink the Kool Aid.
That gives the status quo the bloc of Steve Anderson, Moriarty, Kail, Dayton, and Ospina – one Republican and four Democrats.
Any challenge to this bloc will have to come from the Republicans. Incumbent Peter Scherr is steadfastly independent with a true north moral compass. He is committed to education for our children and will not be easily moved by local politics and back room loyalties.
But the biggest surprise to this party are the RTC Executive committee-endorsed candidates – four of them – for a slate exciting for its diversity, experience and good sense. To be sure, this was not any grand commitment to give Greenwich a people’s choice, even though the Republicans positioned it as a high-minded strategy to do just that. It was the Republican leadership’s best effort to torpedo the candidacy of Marianna Ponns Cohen pure and simple. The ayatollahs Tesei and Campbell knew they did not have the votes to derail her re-nomination, so they chose the next best option: Flood the zone and hope the two surviving winners will not be Ponns Cohen.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: The Republicans actually came up with some interesting candidates:
Barbara O’Neill ran the Advanced Learning Program for years and will be supported by the ALP parents who have watched Sid Freund attempt to dismantle ALC the last two years. Some worry her loyalties to former colleagues will test her resolve to take on teachers and the teachers union, but we’ll see. Her academic cred is superb.
The big surprise is Anna Povinelli. I heard nothing but praise for her knowledge, poise and deep understanding of what we need to do to turn around the Greenwich schools. She is said to be second only to Ponns Cohen on the issues.
And then there is Ponns Cohen. Greenwich schools were on a serious down slope since the middle of the last decade. The only person who sounded the alarm on the BOE was Ponns Cohen, who joined in 2008. The town should be indebted to her and not demonize her. Come November, she will either be the lowest vote getter or the highest. I do not believe there is a middle ground with her, and believe that’s the way she chooses to go out or remain.
The Republican endorsements were notable for whom was not supported: Rosa Fini, a purported Tea Party wag who was totally incoherent at the candidates forum, and Lisa Harkness, another obsequious PTA veteran which is not what Greenwich needs at this moment. I don’t know that much about Peter von Braun.
After the DTC executive committee endorsed Sean Goldrick and Jennifer Dayton, Moriarty and Kail went to work to convince the DTC to change the Goldrick recommendation to the more politically palatable Ospina. So several dozen DTC members voted in her favor.
That is something for all of us to think about – that several dozen people in a town of 65,000 can determine who runs the school board.
The Republicans have given us the only choice. Please vote wisely.