As that lyric to the Mark Knopfler song goes, “Sometimes you’re the windshield/Sometimes you’re the bug.”
This week, I’m the bug.
A few weeks after writing a story detailing former MUSD Superintendent Frank Romero’s plagiarism in columns he submitted to the Mammoth Times, it came to my attention that Sheet writer Andy Geisel himself plagiarized a few paragraphs from online encyclopedia source wikipedia in a review of the latest high school play, “Skin of our Teeth.”
What Andy did was wrong, and he acknowledges the wrong. His own apology can be found online, right here at www.mammothsheet.blogspot.com.
Am I going to fire Andy over this incident? No. Does that make me a hypocrite? Perhaps. If plagiarism is black-and-white and each offense, no matter the offense, is weighed equally, I’m a hypocrite. If plagiarism is somewhat more amorphous, and there are shades to such offenses, perhaps not.
Did the plagiarism incident in and of itself cause Frank Romero to lose his job? No. As one current Board member explained, Romero was let go after an accumulation of incidents which led to a breach of trust.
One of those incidents, involving an alleged resignation which Romero insisted he never made, was covered in our Oct. 3 issue.
As much as one would like to believe that the Superintendent’s position is strictly an educational one, it’s not. It’s very much a political position, and a Superintendent, the Board, teachers, parents, students … they’re all battling over resources and all think they know how these resources should be allocated.
To Frank’s credit, he battled. He cares deeply about this community, and cared deeply about doing the best job he could. If he had not battled, if he had not overextended himself, if he had not assumed the Elementary School principal’s job in addition to his duties as Superintendent, if he had not committed to writing columns he didn’t have the time to write … he’d still be employed. But he battled, overplayed his hand, had his bluff called, and lost.
Frank knows, as Andy knows, as we all know … we tend to bring the problems upon ourselves. Have no one to blame but ourselves. And damn well hope that when the storm passes, we’ve learned something that we’d rather not repeat.
If you think for one second that anyone at this newspaper or on that School Board revels in Frank Romero’s demise, you’re crazy. His dismissal more than likely means he will have to leave this community to pursue job opportunities. That we will lose a valued member of this community.
In response to recent fan mail over this issue … some people decry the current state of The Sheet. They say it’s gone bland, gone soft, lost its edge. Others are delighted that the paper has matured over time and takes the extra step to get the story right. Still others think I am an incorrigible asshole with no redeeming qualities. Whatever your view, you’re entitled to your own opinion (and mine). Next time, just sign the letter. I get so many anonymous letters. It gets so old.
A big thanks to Judy Burgenbauch and Jeanne Oakeshott for contacting me about the plagiarism issue and giving me the chance to talk about it and process it.
Some big news this week out of Canada indicated that lenders are threatening to foreclose on Intrawest, which recently missed a $524 million debt payment according to a New York Post report.
The big question is whether this is a real threat or merely a negotiating tactic being used to pressure Intrawest to accept less favorable refinancing terms.
At Council Wednesday, the most interesting discussion involved what was initially described as a “resident satisfaction survey.”
Staff proposed hiring a consultant to conduct a survey to “assess community priorities for use of tax resources.”
Of course, Clark made his entire presentation without mentioning that sticky little three letter word.
Councilman Eastman even had a motion to approve on the table before he was halted by calls for more discussion.
The survey, it turns out, is meant to ask voters what they would approve spending money on in the event We the People vote for an extension of the utility users tax (UUT) in June.
The tax extension was initially pitched as an absolute necessity because of the near $1 million in revenue it generates annually. It’s been implied (or perhaps I misunderstood) that if this tax were allowed to sunset, that it would tear yet another large hole in the General Fund.
But as Councilmember Jo Bacon explained, it’s actually a zero-sum game. Sure, the tax may sunset, but the debt obligation would sunset at the same time. So really, what we’re talking about is a new tax and Council needs to sell the public on it.
The UUT, and I’m going from memory on this, costs the average Joe anywhere between $100 to $150 per year.
Personally, if Council wishes to impose such a tax, I think it should be dedicated initially to finishing all of the current pipe dreams and projects already conceived (i.e. put a roof on the ice rink, replenish the fund dedicated to the construction of a North Village parking structure, etc.)
Or they could just hold it in reserve, because if we lose that airport litigation appeal, we’ll need the $1 million per year just to pay the interest on the principal (which grows daily).