On Credibility & Conspiracy — A Letter to Voters

A Letter to Voters

As Good as Our Word

Dear Voters,

In a recent Seattle Weekly article, my opponent’s political consultant, Christian Sinderman (pictured), accused my campaign of ‘insinuating’ that Suzanne Dale Estey supports charter schools.Csinderman

But the fact is, many people, both inside and outside my campaign, locally and nationally, have asked this legitimate question:  If Suzanne Dale Estey opposes charter schools, as she claims, why have all the major proponents of charter schools, the wealthy individuals who also bankrolled last year’s state charter schools Initiative 1240 (which 60 percent of Seattle voters rejected), and other corporate ed reform agenda items, invested a record amount of money into her campaign, and into the political action committee (“Great Seattle Schools”)  they created on her behalf? (For an unprecedented total of $240,000+) And why did they attack my candidacy repeatedly, if she and I are both opposed to their main agenda item?

What are we to believe?

Often, all we have is a candidate’s word on an issue. But what if someone’s words don’t add up? During the course of the last six months, on the campaign trail, both of us have had many opportunities to speak the truth on issues.

So at a forum in September, when we were asked by an audience member to identify our top five donors, many were surprised when my opponent claimed not to know who her top contributors were.  Yet,  Dale Estey’s top donors include the CEO of one of the biggest corporations in the world, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie, the CEO of one the largest foundations in the world, the Gates Foundation’s Jeff Raikes, real estate developer Matt Griffin,  and former Microsoft executive Christopher Larson (and now venture capitalist Nick Hanauer) who currently have contributed a combined total of $83,000+ to Dale Estey’s PAC and campaign.

 
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 37th District Democrats endorsement meeting, Sept. 9, 2013 (resulted in sole endorsement for Sue Peters)

Q: from the audience: Will you please tell us who your the top five contributors are?

SDE: You know, honestly, perhaps I should know that, but I don’t. I’ve received over 400 contributions, many, in fact the last time I checked and run the numbers, I haven’t run them recently, I have more contributors below $50 than my opponent has in her entire…. A senior citizen handed me $7 in cash the other day. I value each and every contribution. But no, I can’t name my top contributors. I could probably take a guess. My parents signed up right away. I have quite a few people who are absolutely fed up with the status quo of the school district and I’m very proud to have all of their support.

Sue P: Well mine is very much a community based campaign and I’m funded by a wide range of people and so my top contributors are teachers and parents and families who support me.

I can help my opponent out a little bit. Here are your top contributors: Steve and Connie Ballmer, I think they both contributed the max; Jeff Raikes, from the Gates Foundation and his wife. And then Matt Griffin and Christopher Larson, as you know, created a political action committee whose goal is to elect you and Stephan. They’ve already spent $32,000 in the primary to help you, and during that time they went negative against me and spent $16,000 on two negative mailers against me. So these are the contributors to my opponent’s campaign.

I am very proud of my campaign. We are grassroots, community based one. I represent the people. I believe in representing all the community. I believe the school board should be a democratically elected body representing all the people, elected by the people, not by the people with the most money.

In the last month of the campaign, my opponent started to claim in public forums that she “ran Governor Gary Locke’s D.C .office.” But there is no mention of this significant role on her resume.  I checked, and was unable to find any record of Suzanne Dale Estey being on Governor Locke’s payroll.

Education blogger and activist Melissa Westbrook researched this and other related issues and discovered that Dale Estey worked in Governor Locke’s office for just three months, as a paid summer intern from June-August 1998. Nowhere on Estey’s resume or in those public forums does she mention the word “internship” or mention the brevity of her experience there. Instead, she has said:

“(…) I’ve got significant public affairs experience in working in education policy at every level of government, from the Clinton White House, when I ran the conference on mayors on public schools, Governor Gary Locke, where I ran his D.C. office, and I’ve worked on education and human services issues for both the City of Seattle and King County Executive Ron Sims….”
– Suzanne Dale Estey, Eastlake Community Council forum, Oct. 15, 2013

And then The Stranger has reported that, in 2004, while serving as a lobbyist for Washington Mutual, Dale Estey sent an email to 9,000 employees urging them to vote against the Monorail, while at the same time, serving as a member of the Transportation Choices Coalition, a pro-Monorail organization. Did she support or oppose the Monorail? Both? Who knows.

Why does all of this matter?

Because one of us is going to be elected to the Seattle School Board. And I believe that honesty, integrity and the truth matter.

As a professionally trained journalist, I am committed to facts and the truth. I will bring such scrutiny to my role as your school board director. I will aim to oversee and safeguard our resources and help steer our district in a positive direction that corresponds to the needs and realities of our communities, and to the facts.

I have a proven history of researching and standing up for issues, and being on the right side of them. In 2009, I spoke up against the school closures. Eight months later, the district had to reopen schools at a cost of $48 million. In 2010, I advocated against the weak Discovering Math textbooks. The court agreed and declared the district’s decision to adopt these books “arbitrary and capricious.” In 2010, I analyzed the MAP test in a blog post called “15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP Test–ASAP.” In 2013, Garfield High School teachers spoke up about the flaws of the MAP, informed by my article. Their courageous action made national news and led to the discontinuation of MAP at the high school level.

Even the so-called “conspiracy theory” that Dale Estey’s PAC accused me of in a clumsy (but expensive) smear attempt last week, merely highlighted my focus on facts and commitment to understanding the bigger picture of education policy, reform and funding.

I will bring such insight and oversight to my role on the board.

I give you my word.

Sincerely,

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