[JK: Rob Arrigo, who is an active volunteer with Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, and I hold polar opposite opinions regarding most national issues. He proudly identifies himself as a person of the right while I similarly proudly identify myself as a person of the left.
I came to know Rob when he emailed me about a major inaccuracy in a blog I wrote regarding the on-going campaigns for the Saratoga Springs School Board. His note to me was courteous, and at the time I had no idea of his political persuasion. I called him to ask that he document his assertion which he did quickly and quite thoroughly. Subsequent to that Rob became something of an archivist for me. He has the most thorough knowledge of the relevant events, legislative history, and many of the persons who occupy the history of this controversy. The fact is that he has been spot on regarding everything I have asked him about.
While he has been an absolute gentleman to me, he admits to a history of being an in-your-face person. He warned me that he came out of a rough and tumble life and that his manner at times reflected that.
I have asked him to be a guest writer on this blog not only because of his extensive knowledge of some key issues but also because one of my goals in my blog is to break down the kind of culture war myths that undermine our ability as a community to speak to each other and to listen to each other. Neither Rob nor I are labels. We are people.
I particularly wanted him to discuss the selection of the consulting firm that is assisting SPSS in their campaign. The firm which primarily works with candidates who are on the right of the Republican Party was the subject of a story in the Sunday, April 28 Gazette.
Where possible we all need to temper our manner in addressing each other to seek ways in which we can work together and to create an atmosphere where we can disagree in a manner that maintains the spirit of the democracy which we all cherish.]
Full disclosure: I consider myself a person of the right. In fact, I am a registered Libertarian, or will be once the BOE changes kick in around November. I have grave reservations about many of the policies put forward regarding gun control. I strongly opposed the SAFE Act and I am no fan of gun control in general.
I know it may be hard for some to understand but my involvement in the group Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools was motivated by my friendship with Kara Rosettie and our joint concern regarding the safety of our schools. People who know me know that I would have no reservations talking about guns, but the issue in Saratoga Springs is not about guns, it’s not about gun control, it’s about keeping our kids safe in the schools.
The people involved in our group are highly diverse. We do not all share the same views on each and every important policy of the day. In fact one of our endorsed candidates is a Democrat. It shouldn’t be impossible to imagine that he and I disagree on a lot. So in order to hold our group together we are extremely careful to keep our focus narrow. We agree on one core issue, bringing back the armed security that Saratoga Schools maintained for the past 30 years.
This is what local politics is supposed to be about. People with diverse opinions coming together to work on a common goal, despite opposing political affiliations.
Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools has been repeatedly criticized for helping to fund the campaigns of our endorsed candidates because it is alleged that they will be somehow controlled by our group. This criticism reflects how little people understand who makes up this group. Aside from the fact that our candidates accepted our support based on the single issue of rearming the grounds monitors and have made clear that they jealously insist on their independence, our group is so diverse it would be hard pressed to agree on anything to actually demand of them. This idea that our group is some kind of powerful cabal really illustrates how easily people’s fears can coalesce into inaccurate suppositions.
Another concern people have about us is more understandable. It involves the fact that the consultants we employed, Go Right Strategies, definitely represents candidates on the right of the Republican Party.
The reason, however, that we employed this firm is not because of its politics but because its principal, Spence Rodgers, is actually a friend of mine. As a favor to me he agreed to help us with the logistics of our campaign and forego his own fee. It is important to understand that in this modern age of social media there are tools that a small group like ours on our own cannot access ($33,000.00 while a lot of money is considered minuscule in the age of social media campaigns).
Spence has played no role in the substance of our campaign. It is also important for people to know that none of the three candidates had any hand in selecting Spence’s firm. This was an operational decision made by the folks who are managing the logistics of the campaign for Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools.
Here is a brief review of what he helped us with:
Go Right Strategies assists us with graphic design for digital and print advertising as well as providing us access to online advertising tools that would be difficult to access for small organizations like Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools.
When it comes to substance, it is the candidates who call the shots. Our working agreement with them requires that they approve all paid materials. This important understanding allows us to comply with NYS Education Law which specifically prohibits outside expenditures on behalf of school board candidates.
I find it ironic that while our critics attack us for being a PAC (we are not), they ignore the fact that Saratoga Unites is a PAC and according to social media is actively supporting Heather Reynolds’, John Brueggeman’s and Nataklya Lakhtakia’s campaign for School Board.
Now I have no problem with Saratoga Unites helping Heather, John and Nataklya. Like us, they are made up of a diverse local group that cares deeply about our schools. They have united (pardon the pun) to help them. I have every confidence that they no more tell these candidates what to say and do than our own organization does our candidates.
I urge the readers of John Kaufmann’s blog to focus on the issues put forward by the respective candidates rather than on the noise that extraneous accusations produce. The best place to begin is to actually take the time to go through their answers to his questionnaire which is available on this site.
There are certain times when particular issues transcend partisan politics. It is my sincere belief that school safety is one of those issues. When deciding whom to support in the School Board race, ask yourself, how long should a child have to wait for help to arrive? That, my friends, is the only question that matters here.