Out With The Old, In With The New...And Old

The Free Press    December 25, 2008

He promised Change We Can Believe In. The American People responded: We do believe you. We do trust you. Make those changes! And Barack Obama has started by naming his advisors, department heads, and cabinet members. The early reviews have been mixed, but the many DC veterans, and Chicago hometown buds, show us that there is country for old men. Although they come with pedigrees, some are more questionable than others...

Lawrence Summers, the new head of the White House National Economic Council, has been controversial throughout his careers. In 1991, as the Chief Economist for The World Bank, he signed a memo on free trade, which included "the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that". His pro-deregulation policies as Bill Clinton's final Treasury Secretary are considered key contributors to the current financial crisis. And Summers may be best remembered as having been forced out as president of Harvard in 2006, censured by the faculty, after making controversial remarks about the environment, affirmative action, and women. Timothy Geithner, a Summers protégé, will be the new Treasury Secretary. He helped arrange the sale of Bear Stearns, and the AIG bailout.

Obama is also bringing in three key members of the infamous Chicago Mayor Daley political machine. Senior Advisor David Axelrod worked as a political strategist for Daley, and also for former Philly Mayor John Street. He was a top aide in John Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign, but fell out of favor. Rahm Emanuel, the new White House Chief of Staff, worked with Daley as far back as 1987. Valerie Jarrett, as Daley's former Deputy Chief of Staff, hired Obama's then-fiancee, Michelle Robinson, to work for the city. Jarrett was also tied to several Chicago housing project scandals involving infamous Obama financial backer Tony Rezko.

First-term Senator Ken Salazar is a curious choice for Interior Secretary. As head of Colorado's Natural Resources Department in the 1990's, he authored a massive land conservation program, of which he became chairman. In 2005, Salazar voted against increasing fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, and against an amendment to repeal tax breaks for the major oil companies. In 2006, he voted to end protections that limit off-shore drilling in Florida's Gulf Coast. In 2007, Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would have required the US Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects.

But there is renewed hope for education, and, yes, the environment...

Local residents should be thrilled with the appointment of Chicago Public School CEO Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. While he won't be personally involved in solving QCSD's many problems, he will spearhead national education policy at the community level. In his seven years at the helm of the nation's third-largest school system, Duncan developed a reputation for dealing effectively with progressive reformers, and the more traditional teachers' union. Like the school CEO's in New York City and DC, he favors merit pay, and stresses teacher accountability. That alone would be a huge step forward here, in a district with one of the highest salary scales in the state, and the lowest student performance in the area.

Duncan has called for doubling funds for No Child Left Behind, but opposes the tunnel-vision emphasis on standardized testing. And you can bet your lunch money that the QCSD administration will be pushing hard for those federal bucks, to bail us out of the multi-million dollar deficits our free-spending board majority, and admins, have created well into our future. Heck, if long-time Obama bud Duncan really wants to get involved on the local level, maybe he could personally pin the Dem Medal of Honor on Superintendent Andrejko, for single-handedly scuttling the McCain/Palin appearance at Quakertown High School.

Unlike George W, who treated Energy and Environment as polar opposites, Obama has created the position of Energy Coordinator, with former EPA head Carol Browner, an Al Gore protege, leading a council on energy and climate. She has previously worked to restore the Everglades, and pushed for the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the pesticide-control Food Quality Protection Act, one of the first environmental laws protecting children.

Working with Browner will be the man whose appointment signals the biggest departure from the Bush philosophy - Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as Energy Secretary. Chu is a leading advocate of reducing greenhouse gases by developing new energy sources, a phrase spoken often, but rarely practiced, by the president whose family made its money in the petro industry. And Obama further emphasized that big oil, and political agendas, will no longer trump public welfare: "(Chu's) appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science. We will make decisions based on the facts".

And how's this for a change - an actual environmentalist will head up the EPA! Lisa Jackson, an engineer with more than 20 years experience with the agency, will try to turn around a culture that has frequently replaced science with politics. As head of New Jersey DEP, she helped create the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which Environment New Jersey has hailed as "the nation's strongest and most comprehensive plan to slash emissions".

Historical Society Politics

Last week, TFP's Managing Editor, Shawn Hessinger, offered several suggestions on how the Quakertown Historical Society could improve its image, and its income. Near the top was "Forget the politics". He is quite right. Unfortunately for QHS, (a private, not-for-profit organization), president Nancy Roberts has put herself into a major conflict of interest by repeatedly currying favor with local Dem organizations, like the 145th Committee, and the Obama campaign. Even worse, she was, and likely again will be, a candidate for borough council.

As long as Roberts is a political activist, and candidate, there will be no way to "forget the politics". How could she go before council asking their help, and then campaign to take their seats? Right now, the sides see each other as enemies. But there is a simple solution: If Roberts were to concentrate solely on the many neglected needs of the Society - like fundraising, marketing, and attracting volunteers - and give up trying to use QHS as her personal stepping stone to political position, everyone might see each other in a new light, and actually cooperate.