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Alone With J

May 4, 2011

    Indiana Gov. Mike Pence visited Decatur on Wednesday and ...
   ... Oops. Sorry. Let me hit the crystal ball de-activation button and start again.
    Congressman Mike Pence visited Decatur on Wednesday, ostensibly to talk about the burgeoning federal deficit and to field questions from constituents. But it was hard to walk away from yesterday’s town hall meeting with any feeling other than you’d just been privy to a job interview for a seat in the governor’s mansion. And if that was the case, Pence passed with flying colors.
    While remaining mum on his future plans, Pence in all likelihood will be the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2012. And the state’s next governor. Indiana is a red state that turned blue in the 2008 presidential election ... and has regretted it ever since. Now seemingly anxious to return to its red roots, and with no Democrat with statewide name recognition waiting in the wings, the job is Pence’s for the taking.
  So, if the campaign indeed was under way yesterday during Pence’s visit, he was very much up to the task. The conservative GOP congressman came across as congenial, personable and an all around nice guy — contrite when appropriate and forceful when called for. It was a performance very much in contrast with other appearances, mostly at tea party events, during which he has been seen on the evening news spewing anti-Obama venom to the delight of a frothy-mouthed crowd.
    Will the real Mike Pence stand up, please.    
    But Pence — the kinder, gentler version — played predictably well to the conservative crowd in Decatur, which was comprised of visitors whose beliefs crossed the political and social spectrum.
    And the audience itself is to be complimented on its demeanor. It should come as little surprise that the angry, mob-like mentality that has greeted other members of congress during recent town hall meetings would be absent in Decatur. But it nonetheless was nice to see evidence that Americans can indeed disagree without being disagreeable.
    While available space and global ink supplies preclude a retraction for everything I scribble in this space which ultimately turns out to be wrong, I nonetheless am willing to admit it when I blow a call.
    A few weeks back, while predicting a series of events which would accompany the campaign for a North Adams property tax referendum, I suggested — incorrectly, it now seems — that the final push would include a threat to cut back on sports teams and programs at the school should the referendum be rejected.
    Nope. To date there’s been no mention of that. Instead — regrettably — it’s music, arts and physical education programming at North Adams schools that apparently will be in jeopardy when (not “if”) the referendum goes down to defeat on Tuesday.
    Additional cutbacks at the school seem inevitable, but it’s disheartening to hear that music and art programs will be the first to go. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t among the recommendations of a citizens’ group that convened more than a year ago to target areas for potential cutbacks. Hopefully the school board will not sacrifice the arts and leave a swimming pool, for instance, in place. There surely are other areas to cut.
    Speaking of the school board, there seems to be a certain level of disdain directed at school officials for even placing the referendum on Tuesday’s ballot in the first place. I don’t necessarily share that sentiment, but it’s easy to understand the board’s motives.
    This is a board that — largely to its own detriment — has bent over backwards to appear transparent and to cater to every whim of every member of the public willing to speak their piece.
    In keeping with that mindset, the decision to put a general fund referendum before district voters — with board members fully aware the chances of its passage are slim and none, and Slim left town — nonetheless has provided the political cover that will come in handy when the time comes later this year to implement real cuts.
    “The people have spoken,” the board will say (oh no, another prediction).
    Bet I’m not wrong on that one.
 
    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.
 

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