Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chamber Continues to Get Flak for its Public School Patronage

Progressive Nashville weighs in and cites some familiar names, Sharon and Howard Gentry, who both sit at the receiving end of a lot of campaign finance cash and who are entangled among the benefactors giving that cash.
Notable among those in the most recent campaign finance report is money given by Tom and Constance Cigarran. Tom Cigarran is a member of SuccessPAC, the Chamber's political action committee. The reports show that Tom and Constance each gave $1,000 to Sharon Gentry's campaign and Lee Limbird's campaign. Gentry's husband, former vice mayor Howard Gentry, works for the Chamber.

The Chamber claims that its money is given freely and without strings attached, which is true. However, major contributors get access to candidates and they use that access to promote the Chamber's agenda.

So what is the Chamber's agenda? That's what's unclear. It's obviously political because of the money it spends in that arena rather than on what's happening in the classrooms.

Most importantly, we must remember that the Chamber's mission in life is "supporting the growth and prosperity of Chamber-member businesses," according to its web site.

Whatever the Chamber has in mind for Nashville's schools, you can bet that educating all of Nashville's children is not topping the agenda. The Chamber's agenda is intended first to help its member businesses and that doesn't mean being an advocate for children who live in challenging social situations and who have no options other than the city's public schools.
I have not decided whether to vote for Sharon Gentry or not, but her embeddedness with the Chamber of Commerce, which has goals not necessarily consistent with an average parent like me, does not endear her to me.  I would like to see more independence from special interests on the school board than we've seen so far, and I am concerned that all of the influence peddling is eroding any chance of getting a free-thinking, public-oriented board.

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