Sunday, January 06, 2008

Do we have to draw them a map?

another local media rant

Except for a brief mention in a Picayune article, WWLTV seems to be the only local media operation to pick up on a recent WAPO article about Mary Landrieu and a Washington D.C. School reading program. Personally, I'm happy to see media reports on any connection between political fund raising and government contracts. I'm not not going to defend Landrieu on this one, but I will point out one contradiction in the WAPO article.
Landrieu's earmark illustrates the unusual role that Congress has played in shaping the District's troubled school system. No other school budget is subject to approval by Capitol Hill. None is so susceptible to the whims and policy prescriptions of federal lawmakers.
With the Voyager earmark, she (Landrieu) intruded on a curriculum decision normally made by teachers, principals, administrators and educational advisers.
Landrieu was one in a long line of congressional overseers of the District. Congress retains the right to approve the city's budget because it was the only way in 1973 that a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. William Natcher (D-Ky.), would agree to grant the District home rule

At best, James Grimaldi (the WAPO reporter) has a structural problem caused by trying to report on a systemic problem and a particular case in the same article.

Still, saying "everybody does it" is no excuse, especially in this case as D.C. schoolchildren are some of the poorest in the nation. The best one can assume is that Landrieu and her ilk tell themselves that it's money that they've succeeded in adding to the school budget. They're not rewarding their contributors at the expense of schoolchildren, but at the expense of the federal budget. That might excuse them as human beings, but not as elected officials. That's assuming there's anything to the charges.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you can probably guess what I thought when I saw the WWL report -- "oh, they're finally reporting on local politicians awarding contracts to their financial backers" -- or something along those lines. To be fair, the Picayune did report on the connection between campaign contributions and the sanitation contracts, a year after the contracts were approved -- when the federal government forced the issue. If I remember correctly, that article focused more on campaign contributions to Cynthia Willard-Lewis than to Ray Nagin, I screamed about contributions to Nagin when the contracts first come up for a vote. By and large, the local media still seem to be ignoring the mayor's invitation.

Of course, it could be that we don't need to draw the T/P a map at all. It might be well aware where that road would lead. That would explain the placement of the Landrieu item.

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