Monday, February 22, 2010

Ruth & Jefferson Face the Modern Media

In our modern era, the private lives of public figures are laid bare for all to see. But what would have happened if our modern media existed in the eras of Thomas Jefferson or Babe Ruth? We might have found out that Babe Ruth makes Tiger Woods look like a Promise Keeper and Thomas Jefferson makes John Edwards look like a choirboy.

The basic facts in the following stories are true, while the media outings, public outrage and personal apologies never happened.

Babe Admits to Loving the Babes

People Magazine

NEW YORK, New York - The bizarre life and moral transgressions of basement slugger Babe Ruth (a.k.a. George Herman Ruth) have bubbled to the surface with the death of his wife, Helen Woodford Ruth.

Ruth is a hero to American kids who think of him as the home run king. But that may now be history. Ruth’s lucrative sponsorships are in doubt and his baseball career is on indefinite hold.

Ruth’s secret life unraveled when his wife died in a house fire at the home of Watertown, Massachusetts dentist Edward Kinder. While those close to the couple thought they were divorced, Helen had apparently only separated from Mr. Ruth and was living as the wife of Dr. Kinder. The couple never legally divorced.

In the wake of this tragedy, people started asking more questions about why Helen left the marriage. Friends and family all agree Helen Ruth left the Babe as a result of his repeated extramarital affairs.

In the weeks since Helen’s death, a steady stream of women in cities with major league baseball teams have come forward to admit affairs with Ruth. The Babe apparently had a babe in every town where the Yankees played.

In a tearful address to Yankee fans, Ruth, looking pale and bewildered, admitted to moral failings and apologized to his family and fans.

“I know I have severely disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for.”

Ruth admitted to a sex addiction and promised to seek treatment. He asked the scrum of reporters who have stalked his every more and staked out his house around the clock to back off and give his family the required privacy to “heal.”

No sooner did the Babe make that peace offering than his adopted daughter Dorothy Ruth went public, claiming to actually be the biological child of Ruth and one of his extra-marital girlfriends, Juanita Jennings.

Jefferson’s Declaration of Guilt

YouTube video from the television newsmagazine, Inside Edition

[Scene opens with blonde anchorwoman at desk. Over her shoulder a video screen displays a grainy photo of a disheveled Thomas Jefferson, one hand raised to block the camera. Heading above photo reads, “Declaration of Guilt.”]

“Hi. I’m Deborah Norville for Inside Edition.

“The long simmering scandal surrounding founding father and former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson has reached a rolling boil with Jefferson’s admission that he fathered several children with his African American slave, Sally Hemings.

“Inside Edition broke the story last year when our investigative team staked out the slave quarters of Ms. Hemings.”

[Grainy night-vision video shows Jefferson, with shirt untucked and unkempt hair leaving the house of Sally Hemings. A microphone is shoved in Jefferson’s face.]

“Sir, is it true you’re here visiting your lover Sally Hemings and the children you have fathered with her?”

The surprised ex-president puts up a hand to block the camera’s view. “Err, uhmm, I’m just here visiting a sick friend. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

[Norvelle at desk.]

“Just days after we broadcast that video, another of Jefferson’s slaves sold their story to the National Enquirer, revealing that the Jefferson/Hemings affair began when Mrs. Jefferson was still alive and perhaps when Ms. Hemings was still a teenager.

“Jefferson has been secluded for the past year in his Monticello compound, but today finally admitted fathering Heming’s children in a statement released by his attorney.

‘“It was wrong for me ever to deny that these are my children. I have been providing financial support for them and have reached an agreement with their mother to continue providing support in the future. To all those I have disappointed and hurt these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.’

“Response from 24 hour news network talk shows has been quick and unforgiving.”

[Video jumps to Sean Hannity’s FOX News program]:

HANNITY: “Well let’s be honest, Jefferson’s always been one of those free-thinking (Hannity jabs quotation marks in the air, sneering) “liberals,’ so you can’t be too surprised by this, but what has it done to his legacy as a founding father and author of the Declaration of Independence?”

JAMES DOBSON (leader of the evangelical group, Focus on The Family): “With this Jefferson has revealed himself as a disgrace to America and the family values that made this nation great. Focus on The Family has started a grass-roots movement to get Jefferson’s signature whited-out of the Declaration of Independence.”

[Norvelle at desk.]

“It’s reported that Jefferson and Hemings have taped a tear-filled, confessional episode of the Oprah Winfrey show set to air next week.”

*(Perhaps most amazing of all, historians believe that Sally Hemings and Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles Skelton were half sisters, as Martha’s father fathered Hemings with one of his slaves before giving the family of slaves to Thomas and Martha.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Noblesville Schools Referendum: A Matter of Responsibility

Noblesville voters are faced with some tough decisions as the May 4th primary vote approaches. There will be two school funding referendums on the ballot that, if approved would increase property taxes.

Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, but if we want to live in a first class community, we need to vote yes.

The arguments I’m hearing against approving this tax increase oversimplify our traditional moral mindset regarding education and trivialize our responsibilities as citizens.

When Times are Tough

Folks like to say, “When times are tough families have to tighten their belts, so schools should have to tighten their belts, too”

Noblesville Schools have tightened their belt, to the tune of $4.6 million in the past year. The 2010 budget is lower than it was in ‘07 yet student enrollment has increased by 700 pupils. That means overcrowded classrooms and fewer educational programs.

There’s another thing families do when times are tough; they dig deep and take care of their own. In my day job as a Realtor I’ve encountered many families who have stepped in to help a family member struggling in these tough times.

As a community, the schools are our own. And as our schools go, so will go our community.

A Matter of Personal Responsibility

It might seem like a needed dose of tough love to vote down the referendum, but we’ve got to be careful we’re not all “tough” and no “love.” Getting that balance right is a matter of accepting personal responsibility.

Folks like to say, “Those tax dollars are my money.” While that’s of course true, who owns long-term public financial responsibilities – like the responsibilty to fund schools?

We do.

That’s true for any town, but the responsibility to make sure Noblesville’s kids get the best education they can goes deeper for Noblesville voters. One of the reasons our schools need more money is because of a dramatic increase in students. And those students and their families are here because we invited them.

Think you didn’t? Think again.

If over the past 20 years you voted for multiple Noblesville Common Council candidates who won, then the overwhelming odds are that you repeatedly voted for council members who approved huge waves of residential growth.

Consider the approval of the Noble West subdivision on our southwest side. If you voted for the council members who approved Noble West back in 2002 you put people in power that approved a subdivision the size of the town of Sheridan. It required the building of an entirely new elementary school, which we all paid for, and sent a new wave of children into our higher grade levels. Just one lonely councilman, Alan Hinds, voted against it.

People I interviewed within the school system a couple years back told me City officials never once asked them if they could handle the extra students.

That’s just one subdivision and one council. Time and again, election after election, Noblesville voters elected and reelected not just pro-growth candidates, but pro-unlimited growth candidates.

Noblesville voters knowingly and repeatedly participated in a rapid growth policy that brought hundreds of new students each year to our school system. How can we repeatedly vote to be a big-growth town and then vote against paying for the consequences?

Take a look at Zionsville. They could have been a big-growth town. They had builders and developers banging on their door. But their community leaders took action over the past decade to moderate the pace of growth. Though now facing similar budget shortfall issues as Noblesville, their school system’s enrollment isn’t increasing as fast as ours – because they didn’t grow as fast, therefore the measures required to bridge the budget gap are not so severe.

Somebody once told me, “All growth ever did was make Noblesville rich.” That’s not true. Choosing to be a big-growth town also came at a price. One of those bills is due now. The large numbers of new people who came here in the past decade or more are a part of our community. Their children, our children and grandchildren and our neighbor’s children all need a quality education.

My purpose isn’t to blame newcomers, it’s to emphasize that this is our responsibility as a community. We chose the circumstances that created May’s referendums.

Our ever-larger school enrollment, unlike all the things we bought or borrowed when we were riding high, cannot be resold or let go now that things are tough. There’s no chance of reworking or refinancing or walking away like you might from a house you can no longer afford. There’s no bailing out. We have to see this through. It’s our responsibility.

I want to live in the sort of town that’s willing to accept that responsibility, not just enough to get by, but in an A+ manner. Noblesville has always been that kind of town in the past.

So much so in fact, the quality of our schools is one of the big reasons we’ve won so much national attention in recent years as a great place to live. The outcome of the school funding referendums this May will decide whether or not we make anyone’s list of best places to live a year from now.

Next week I’ll take a little deeper look at the referendum and it’s costs, and how the state’s new property tax law leaves us overcharging those least able to afford it.