[Vision2020] Luna Laws’ Opponents Hire a Pro

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Wed May 2 19:02:24 PDT 2012

Courtesy of the Idaho Statesman at:

Dan Popkey: Luna laws’ opponents hire a pro
David Williams is a big-city, big-union guy who’s running the Idaho teachers union’s campaign to repeal the 2011 reforms championed by GOP Gov. Butch Otter and state schools chief Tom Luna.

Williams was deputy campaign manager of We Are Ohio, which won 62 percent of the vote in November to overturn a law restricting collective bargaining rights for 360,000 public employees.

Williams, 61, has been chief of staff to congressmen from Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin, worked for public-employee unions in New England and spent eight years as a reporter. He left his home in Bethesda, Md., last month for Idaho and a campaign that will end Nov. 6.

Despite the fact that Idaho is a right-to-work state, Williams says any focus on his union pedigree is “just a distraction.”

“I am confident the people of Idaho are going to make their decision based on whether they think these laws help or hurt the public schools,” Williams said.

Foes of the laws seek “no” votes, while proponents urge a “yes” ballot to retain laws limiting teachers’ collective bargaining, establishing pay for performance, and mandating online education and laptops in high school.

Williams said he expects to have GOP support to toss out the laws. “You’ve got people of all political persuasions who believe that quality public schools are inherent to the quality of life,” he said.

Williams was hired by Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform, the political committee that gathered more than 74,000 signatures on each of three petitions to get the repeal vote on the November ballot for what Luna calls “Students Come First.”

Virtually all of the $390,000 raised by the PAC came from the Idaho Education Association and the National Education Association. The committee that hired Williams included parents Mike Lanza and Maria Greeley from the repeal group, IEA President Penni Cyr, and IEA lobbyists Robin Nettinga and Bert Marley.

The group backed by Otter and Luna has yet to file, but will do so soon, said Ken Burgess, a veteran campaigner and lobbyist picked by Otter to play defense.

“We are not Ohio,” Burgess said. “There is no way you can compare the two states. In the end, it’s not going to be as much about unions and union negotiations and union politics as it’s going to be about what’s right for educating Idaho’s kids.

“By November, people are going to understand that they’re not going to want to go back to the old way of doing things.”

Otter didn’t reply to a request for comment, but Luna said, “We know that people become more supportive of the laws once they learn more about Students Come First and how it is being successfully implemented statewide.”

Also seeking bipartisan support, Burgess had planned to work with John Foster, once a top aide to former Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick. Foster withdrew last month, saying, “The campaign was taking a long time to get started and I finally decided that I could not wait and had to step away.”

Luna said the campaign “is moving forward according to the timetable we have in place.” Burgess pungently added: “That timeline does not necessarily include spending a whole lot of money on consulting contracts this early. Foster’s characterization had more to do with the ability of him to start collecting a check yesterday.”

Burgess said a still-to-be-named campaign chair and treasurer will join Otter and Luna. He’s prepared for heavy union spending. Burgess expects an opposition boost should Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker — who led the fight for Wisconsin’s 2011 anti-union law — be recalled in June. Williams discounted any impact, saying, “I think that’s a stretch.”

Lanza, a parent who helped pass the recent Boise school levy, said any shots at unions are an attempt to “avoid the conversation on the central issue — how the public felt about these education reform laws.”

“We’re David vs. Goliath taking on the political leadership of the state in many respects,” Lanza said. “It’s an uphill fight, yet what we have on our side is very strong public support.”

Williams had a 3-to-1 funding advantage in Ohio, with pro-union forces spending $30 million. That imbalance won’t happen here; both sides say they expect competitive finances.

Back in 1986, unions spent $2.8 million against $1.2 million by right-to-work proponents. Money didn’t win, as voters endorsed a law prohibiting union membership as a condition of employment.

The signature issue of 2012 will be fought on similar ground, but the sympathetic view many Idahoans have for teachers makes Propositions 1, 2 and 3 a different game.

"Lunatic Fringe"
(author unknown)
Lunatic fringe
I know you're out there
You're in hiding
And you hold your meetings

I can hear you coming
We know what you're after
We're wise to you this time
We won't let you kill the laughter

Lunatic fringe
In the twilight's last gleaming
This is open season
But you won't get too far

'Cause you gotta blame someone'
For your own confusion
But I'm on guard this time
Against your final solution

We can hear you coming
No you're not going to win this time
We can hear the footsteps
Out along the walkway

Lunatic fringe
We all know you're out there
Can you feel the resistance?
Can you feel the thunder?

Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"If not us, who?
If not now, when?"

- Unknown

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