BRADENTON -- The District 2 school board race will consist of a runoff between the top-two vote getters from the four-way August 14 race, local attorney and education activist Dave “Watchdog” Miner and Lakewood Ranch High School teacher Robert Moates. Miner just missed the 50 percent plus-one threshold in August, which would have allowed him to avoid the runoff, getting 48.5 percent of the vote to Moates' 30.9. However, Moates has enjoyed strong fundraising since that defeat and is hoping to consolidate enough support in a two-man race to close the gap.
Moates has raised over $12,000 since the primary, while Miner's raised about $7,500. Moates has, however, come under attack because nearly all of the money has come from interests related to SMR, the primary developer of Lakewood Ranch, a politically-active group that has been very involved in school board and county commission races. Skeptics fear that such support comes at a price, especially when it comes to development issues like constructing new schools.
It's not clear why SMR is so high on Robert Moates, though it can be assumed that they'd prefer almost anyone to Mr. Miner, who has consistently spoken out against school district-funded development projects that he felt were driven by concerns for special interest, rather than the financial interests of the district, or the needs of the students. Whether or not they feel Moates will be as development-friendly as some of the other current and previous members of the board, they likely feel rather certain that Miner will not.
Miner says that it's that sort of fear which he tends to strike in supporters of the status quo that best describes why taxpayers should give him their vote, pointing out his decades of advocacy, while noting that prior to running for the board, he'd never seen his opponent holding a sign at a rally or attending school board meetings to lobby for changes. Miner says that his long-standing record of challenging the status quo is just what a district in shambles that is poised to rebuild itself needs.
Moates says his combination of experiences give him a unique perspective that would help strengthen a board that he does not feel has provided the kind of strong oversight the district needs. He argues that his experience in the classroom, along with stints in Tallahassee and Washington, give him an understanding of the big picture that will guide him in holding the administration accountable in working with teachers and principals to create an environment conducive to academic success.
|Dave "Watchdog" Miner|
Miner counters that he's been the one traveling to Washington and Tallahassee on his own dime to meet with lawmakers and give expert testimony, while questioning the validity of Moates' experience as a legislative aide, saying it does not come close to comparing to the years he's spent advocating at high levels. Miner admits that his opponent's classroom experience gives him at least a unique, if narrow, experience to draw from, but says that if Moates was truly interested in changing things, he would have been more involved at that level and might have sought election to a Student Advisory Council.
For his part, Moates has said very little about his opponent. His campaign has concentrated more on the classroom component, where he says a returned focus is needed. Miner says that until the district's fiscal house in order, resources will not get to the classroom where they can have the impact. The school district is mired in failure, with low state rankings and a $3.5 million budget deficit because of accounting misrepresentations that were kept secret from the public and still have not been resolved. The new board will oversee an ongoing forensic audit that will need to determine where the fault lies and who is accountable. It will need to begin the process of rebuilding a public trust that has completely evaporated. It will need to hire a permanent superintendent who they will work with to begin the long process of righting the ship.
For the last two years, there has been a divided board, with newcomers Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter rocking the boat by asking for many more details than the tight-lipped administration was used to giving what had always been an relatively incurious board. They were consistently demeaned for their efforts – efforts which were validated when it turned out the exact questions they were asking were where the problems were found. The district has likely already influenced the next board's composition by keeping the public in the dark on the budget issues through the August 14 election, making the outcome of this race even more important. Voters need to choose who among Miner and Moates is most likely to provide the accountability and oversight the board sorely lacks in its current majority.
Click here to watch the two candidates debate.
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