Does Bob Baines Really Agree with Rich Girard On Middle Class Leaving Manchester?

The Girard for Mayor campaign site posted a claim that former Mayor Robert A. Baines agrees with Richard H. Girard that the “Middle Class has left Manchester.”

The post in the website’s “News” section was formatted as a press release.

Baines is the president of Manchester Proud, a community group dedicated to improving the quality of Queen City Schools.

Whether Bob Baines actually agrees with Rich Girard is open to question — very much so — since in his remarks before the Board of Mayor and Alderman, his position was opposed to that of Girard.

In reality, Bob Baines position disagrees with Rich Girard’s stance on the School Charter Amendments and school policy.

Baines rebutted Girard’s opinion that the Mayor should continue being the chair of the School Board, and expressed his support for Pat Long’s School Charter Amendments that would enable the Board to pick one of its own members as chair.

“The Middle Class Has Left”

The Girard for Mayor press release links to an edited “soundbyte” created by Jon DiPietro on the Manchester Republican website. DiPietro’s soundbyte edit is in no way deceptive, though it hammers home certain phrases. It does what a political soundbyte is meant to do — make its point, make its point quickly, and then hammer it home.

Bob Baines remarks are taken in medias res — right in the middle of his testimony, without the preamble, shorn of context.

“The middle class is disappearing, or has disappeared from our city, and a lot of it has to do with education,” Baines says.

The video — sweetened with dramatic music — then breaks with an intertitle, “So why does he think they’ve left?”

Screenshot of Manchester Republican Committee website video

Baines says, “That means the middle class has left, and a lot of it has to do with education.”

This is followed by a new intertitle, “Wait. What???” and the repetition of “a lot of that has to do with education,” before the video launches into a standard attack on incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig.

At the Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, Bob Baines said, “The School District has changed. It’s not the same School District that existed when I was mayor. It’s certainly not the same School District that existed when I was the principal of High School Manchester West for 20 years. The challenges are profound.

“Anyone can talk about people moving out of the city — that’s already happened. The middle class is basically disappearing or has disappeared from our city. We just have to look at the Title I numbers on poverty. I think there is only one school in the city, Green Acres, that doesn’t qualify as a Title I school.”

When most people refer to Title I, they are actually talking about Title I, Part A of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Part A, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged Program, is one of the most well known parts of federal education law….. Title I funds are targeted to high-poverty schools and districts and used to provide educational services to students who are educationally disadvantaged or at risk of failing to meet state standards.

What Bob Baines is talking about is that there has been a rise of poverty in Manchester. One of the drivers of the rise in poverty might very well be Manchester’s being a refugee resettlement city. The Queen City petitioned the federal government for that status, which was granted, when Raymond Wieczorek was mayor.

Rich Girard served as Wieczorek’s chief of staff at the time.

Deception

Of course, former Mayor Baines was not there to discuss an apparent middle class exodus from the city. Based on the ongoing discussion about the funding of Manchester’s public schools over the past two decades, Bob Baines was making the point that the lack of quality schools due to underfunding discouraged middle class people with school-age children of moving to Manchester.

It also has forced many parents seeking better educational opportunities for their school-age children, or parents with disabled children of school age, to leave the Queen City.

But the Girard for Mayor platform decided to make this about Rich Girard’s campaign platform plank that the City should be attracting more middle class people to Manchester.

Both Rich Girard’s press release and the Manchester Republican Committee video avoid the reality that former Mayor Bob Baines, in part, was specifically rebutting what Girard had said in his own testimony before the Board.

How ironic that in his own testimony before the BMA, Rich Girard all but accused Alderman Pat Long of being deceptive. (Under the Board rules, a speaker is not permitted to specifically address a Board member.)

Saying he supported putting charter amendments on the ballot, Girard added the caveat: “However, I think that your language needs to be clear, because it’s not.”

Girard said, “If the intent of this question is to remove the mayor from the school board it should say that.

“If you want the voters to pass judgment on that it should say that.”

He then addressed the amendments endowing the School Board with the authority to override the tax cap by a super-majority vote:

“Similarly, it does not spell out the authority it will give the School Board the authority to appropriate its own budget but to send its own tax bill.

“This fiscal autonomy language that you have here, frankly is mealy mouthed and it’s designed, I think, to hide the reality of what you are trying to do which is to give the School Board the opportunity to raise its own budget and send its own tax bill.”

Debate

Richard H. Girard speaking at Board of Mayor & Aldermen meeting (july 20, 2021)

In what essentially was a campaign speech, Rich Girard’s ego led him to make the issue all about him.

“I’m happy to have that debate with the voters, he said, before declaring, “Again, your language should be clear, it is not, it is deceptive, and it is not going to get an honest result from the voter.”

Yet, isn’t that what the “debate” is all about? There is nothing stopping Rich Girard, his fellow Republican mayoral candidate Victoria Sullivan, or anyone from talking about, let alone debating the School Board Charter Amendments.

Yet, there has been little discussion of the issue through the year. The Republicans on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen ignored the issue and never brought forward their own proposed amendments, which was their right.

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