by Cosmo Garvin
I’ve been pretty tough on Jay Hansen since he came onto the school board. He has a way of saying obnoxious things and supporting awful policies.
But the hit piece that the Sacramento City Teachers Association put out on incumbent school board member Jay Hansen, right before Tuesday’s election, is equally obnoxious and awful.
The mail piece uses a couple of quotes from my columns in SN&R that are critical of the school closures and of Hansen’s remarks during the public meetings on closures.
A couple of other sources are used, too, including a story in something called the Courthouse News Service with the headline, “Racism decried in Sacramento school closings.”
The mail piece is completed by a picture of Hansen holding a rifle, wearing dark sunglasses and chomping on a cigar. Then there’s the text, “Had enough of Jay Hansen? Elect a school board that cares about our kids.”
First, I stand by everything I said in those columns. The school-closure process was a joke, and everyone on the board who supported them should be held accountable.
But the way SCTA juxtaposes the text, the “racism” headline, the photo, is all pretty sleazy.
Hansen says the rifle picture was from a skeet shooting event at a cancer research fundraiser, six years ago. Maybe it’s not my idea of a good time, but the way the photo is used is pretty inflammatory.
“When you talk racism and show a white guy with a gun that conjures up some pretty bad stuff. Pretty sad example coming from teachers supposedly who teach our children about civil discourse,” says Hansen.
He’s right. He’s made to look like a Minuteman. Or Dick Cheney. There are so many ways that SCTA can make an honest case for a change on the board. This is not one of them.
SCTA is backing Anna Molander in this race. She was the target of some choice words from Hansen in my column a couple weeks back, so it’s not the first ugly turn this contest has taken.
(Hansen says he’s since apologized for the remarks.)
I asked Molander about the mailer and she replied, “I didn’t send out the mail piece and don’t support negative campaigning.”
I think she’s got more responsibility than that. Even though SCTA says they designed and paid for the mailer, the teachers union is coordinating with the Molander campaign. It’s not like this hit piece was put out by an independent-expenditure committee, which would at least give Molander a level of plausible deniability. (Though, I frankly don’t believe candidates should be let off the hook for what IEs do on their behalf, either.)
I asked SCTA President Nikki Milevsky, “Do you think this is fair?”
She said, “It’s a fair representation of what [Jay Hansen] has been a part of as a school board member.”
“Meaning the closures?” I asked, “Or the shooting thing?” She said the closures.
“So, what is the rifle photo meant to convey?” I asked.
“That he is out of touch with our communities,” Milevsky replied.
Because of his policies? Or because he’s white? Because he attends skeet shooting charity fundraisers?
Not buying it. Right now, I’m afraid it’s the SCTA that looks out of touch. Voters hate this stuff.