Coming soon to a school bond issue near you - Hardball politics
On Saturday, the Rapid City Journal ran a story on how opponents of the Meade County School District's proposed bond issue hired an out of state consultant who specializes in killing School Bond measures - Paul Dorr of Ocheyedan, Iowa:
A group of school district residents calling itself Meade 46-1 Citizens Acting for Responsible Education (MCARE) has hired Paul Dorr of Ocheyedan, Iowa, to conduct a campaign against the bond issue. Dorr has a track record of opposing bond issues, among other things, and has said that he has a 90 percent success rate in defeating school funding proposals.Read the entire story here.
Meade Superintendent James Heinert and school board President Dennis Thuringer called a press conference Friday morning concerning the new group, hoping to keep lines of communication open between the school district and Meade County patrons.
This isn't a story which should be ignored, as it marks Mr. Dorr's first appearance in South Dakota School Bond elections after racking up (what he claims) is a respectable win ratio for his team.
This story got my attention as soon as I read it because I recognize that name from several abortion battles in this state and in the region. Those and more have been chronicled even further in an article in the on-line website "City Pages" out of Minnesota where Dorr has been working on bond issues for some time:
Read the extensive story here. Minnesota Public Radio has also chronicled Dorr's activism in Minnesota school bond races:
A home-school proponent and political consultant from Ocheyedan, Iowa, Dorr had shown up to battle the school bond referendum in Lyle, as he has throughout the Midwest. To date, Dorr has attempted to defeat 31 school bond initiatives; he has succeeded in 25 of those contests. In Minnesota, he has prevailed in four of his six campaigns.
Dorr refuses to reveal exactly where he's worked in Minnesota, but Norman says Dorr has meddled in referendum issues in Lyle, Blooming Prairie, Wells, St. James, Redwood Falls, and his own district, Lake Crystal Welcome-Memorial. People who've encountered Dorr's campaigns in Iowa and Minnesota describe him as canny, determined, and opportunistic. He is a distant cousin to the Music Man, driving from town to town, painting a picture of failing schools and waste, collecting pay-outs from disgruntled locals who don't want to hand over new taxes.and...
These skirmishes aside, the bigger battle he's waging is on public education in its totality, an institution he believes should be dismantled and scrapped.
Dorr has grandstanded for a variety of causes over the years. As an anti-abortion activist, he founded the Rescue the Perishing Christian Family Ministry. He once argued that Budweiser was encouraging bestiality. And in 2000, he protested a play at Northwestern College, a conservative Christian school in Orange City, Iowa, because he said it promoted "homosexual sin."and...
For 10 years, Paul Dorr was part owner of a community bank in Ocheyedan. After the bank was sold, he worked as a bank turn-around and stocks-acquisition consultant throughout the Midwest. He quit, he says, when he realized the harm of our "fiat-money" system--a term used to refer to a currency not backed by gold deposits.
"An economy whose money system is unhinged from any fixed standard is bound to bury itself and its host country in debt and destructive inflation," he says.and..
Three and a half years ago, Dorr began to devote himself nearly full-time to defeating school bond referendums. He started Dorr Consulting (now Copperhead Consulting Services) and barnstormed Iowa, working in Tama, Gilbert, Iowa City, Independence, and other towns.
In some cases, Dorr becomes involved in local school issues by calling on county auditors and asking if a bond referendum will be proposed in the near future. He'll also advertise his services in small-town newspapers. And as he's become more known for his work, the anti-bond committees composed of farmers and local business people have begun to contact him directly.
Read that all here.
Les Norman, superintendent of the Lake Crystal-Welcome-Memorial school district, fought off an attack led by Dorr last September.
"He does distort information and he has no qualms about that," Norman says. "You have to understand that this is an individual who's goal is to not have public education. He wants to see the demise of public education, period. He wants to see that happen through defeating bond referendums."
Norman says his small rural school district near Mankato was able to pass its bond referendum by quickly responding to the misinformation spread by the opposition.
Paul Dorr declined to comment for this story, saying only that he doesn't do interviews while working on a campaign.
In Orono, Dorr's involvement to this point has been largely invisible. Still, he's caused considerable concern among referendum supporters.
Beth Johnson, chairwoman of the Orono "Vote Yes" Committee, is fearful of an all out assault in the final days of the campaign.
"I'm outraged," Johnson says. "I'm concerned that he is going to come into our community and distort facts, take a tiny bit of the truth and twist it and cause divisiveness in the community and pack his bags and move on."
There's nothing unusual about a consultant helping out on a school referendum. It's just rare when they work for the opposition. Paul Dorr is changing the rules each time he shows up in another Minnesota school district. Mike Wigley says hiring Dorr helped even the playing field in Orono.
Dorr's campaigns have even gotten the attention of his state's flagship newspaper, the Des Moines Register:
Five times West Central Valley school officials have asked the district's voters to borrow millions for a new high school. Five times the answer has been no.Read that all here.
A sixth bond referendum is set for Tuesday, and the result could hinge on one man.
They call him the "bond buster."
"I'm not the issue," said Paul Dorr, an Ocheyedan activist and home-school father of 11 who has become well known for his work in the Midwest to defeat school bond issues. "The other side in these campaigns often want to make me the issue. The issue is rising taxes and declining test scores."
"It's a personal, mudslinging campaign. It's very nasty," said Lisa Waddell, the school district's business manager and school board secretary. "The blogs, three different ones, in our area that have been horrible about some of the things being said."
By gaining a foothold in South Dakota Bond issue elections, Dorr might be intentionally or unintentionally ratcheting up the politicization of school bond issues to a degree that South Dakotans rarely experience.
Normally bond issues run the gamut from contested to quite benign, as the recent school bond vote in the city of Brookings was. But with a consultant (who has had some success) actively seeking measures to defeat and playing hardball, such campaigns are bound to pit neighbor against neighbor in a free-for-all usually only witnessed in top level partisan policial matches.
Watch for his involvement to act as a huge lightning rod in that bond measure, with the only question remaining for the rest of us being; Whether the Dorr driven bond storm will quickly dissapate or spread across the rest of South Dakota.