I have to tell you, this is about as sad as it gets. Grown men and women in Wake County who actually give a damn what John Hood thinks about anything, and especially about public education. I guess when your bossman is Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope you get accustomed to people sucking up to you, but this sorry spectacle is beyond belief.
It's hard to know exactly what writer Ruth Sheehan really thinks about this creepy scene, but if I had to guess, the word 'disgust' would come to mind.
I'd been sitting in the Wolfpack Lounge at the RBC Center, listening to the Blue Ribbon subcommittee on financing schools in Wake County for nearly two hours when my colleague sidled in to check on the group's progress. He listened and watched for a few minutes, then leaned over to whisper:
"Is John Hood the chairman of this committee?"
No. But Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, sure was the focal point. Around the table sat a selection of local luminaries chosen to help county leaders figure out how to build schools to keep pace with growth.
(Or, as Frank Daniels Jr., former publisher of The News & Observer, put it, to provide cover for a board of county commissioners scared to raise taxes.)
There were big-time developers, business leaders, the chancellor of N.C. State University. Tom Oxholm, a former school board member, drew on his years of experience to help guide the discussion. But there was no doubt that the point man was Hood. The members seemed to address most of their comments to him. Trying to convince him, perhaps. Seeking to persuade. It was a waste of time for the most part.
That's the money line from this story. A waste of time. But dealing with the Puppetshow is not a waste of time just for the most part, it's a waste of time completely and unequivocally. Because when it comes to integrity and competence in doing research and reporting the results, the Prince of Puppets has never met a fact he couldn't twist (or ignore) to suit the Puppetmaster's ideological ends.
It gets worse from there. According to Sheehan, Hood will argue that his is the voice of the voters.
In fact, on Tuesday, he came armed with a poll commissioned by the Locke Foundation, a group founded and funded by former Rep. Art Pope to promote free-market ideals. The poll indicates that a majority of Wake voters will not endorse a tax increase to support school construction.
The voice of the voters? If that is true, dear readers, North Carolina is totally f*cked.
I'd like to see John take his poll to the UNC School of Journalism, where he was trained as a writer and researcher, and see if it passes the smell test. Because what I've seen of John Locke Foundation polls, they are no less dishonest than the people funding them. But the fact is, you really can't even tell where the data came from because there's not so much as a hint of methodology anywhere that I can find on their website.
One more thought. If concerned citizens and education professionals in Wake County are willing to cower in their corners while the Prince speaks, they probably deserve every miserable piece of nothing they get. Too bad they're also taking the good of the community down the toilet with them.
PS Thanks to Lance for digging up this story for me.