The Galveston County Daily News has invited the three of us to a Galveston ISD trustee candidate’s forum. We have refused the invitation and feel that the voters of GISD Districts 5-E and 6-F should know some of the reasons why.
Like most voters that have lived on the island for many years, no one can remember when a district trustee candidate’s forum had taken place, let alone one sponsored by the newspaper. However, that is not the only thing that surprised us. Superintendent Kelli Moulton is offering Central Middle School’s auditorium as the venue — using district resources.
This is quite an about-face. Superintendent Moulton made her feelings known on the issue of mixing politics and school resources in a letter provided to the candidates and dated Sept. 20 regarding the candidates’ ability to participate in the homecoming parade: “GISD will not allow any signage to promote or oppose a candidate appearing on the November ballot because to do so would indicate the impermissible use of public funds for political advertising.”
Now if candidates appearing on a stage and making their case to the voting public, with their supporters in the audience wearing campaign pins, and paid district staff working the event using district equipment is not political advertising using public funds, we don’t know what is.
Many parents in Districts 5-E and 6-F would like to know how Central Middle School, on 30th Street, became the venue of choice when not a single voter lives east of 61st Street. If the forum was being held to maximize the public good, the choice was the worst possible. Oppe and Parker elementary schools, and Weis Middle School, all in our districts, have the capacity and technology to support this event. Why would anyone choose a venue as far away from our voters as possible? While we lack any evidence as to motive, this choice of venue made it clear to us that providing a service to the voters was not the primary goal of the organizers.
We now come to the panelists, the selections of which could be described as unequivocally biased. One of them shared an opponent’s Facebook post asking friends to place his campaign signs in their yards. (Donna Lang endorsed and promotes Johnny Smecca). A second panelist, we have come to learn, has already voiced an unfavorable opinion about two of us and has also publicly supported one of our opponents. Two of us have previously been on the opposing side of other high-visibility political issues with the third panelist. How could The Daily News not know any of this? Why did they not ask us for input? We hope it is not a case of political collusion, but it is reasonable for someone to believe the newspaper is trying to tip the election scale in favor of their preferred candidates.
We have other issues with this forum but the reasons above are sufficient for us to decline this invitation, or any made in the future, by The Daily News. It would be a horrific error in judgment for us to participate in a forum organized by a group of people that, as we have shown, tried to produce such a biased event.
We also believe that the district’s administration is acting unethically in many of their efforts to insert themselves into this election process. Some might say that they are doing their best to manipulate the voters.
In the era of social media, masses of people are a click away. Each of us can be reached, questioned, vetted and interviewed in a moments time — and we welcome that.