Leaders of the Niagara Falls School District insist there is nothing nefarious about a pamphlet that discusses the coming School Board election and mentions only the names of the incumbents. That may be true, but it’s at least careless and that’s not a quality voters might hope to see in the city’s education leadership.
The pamphlet was sent to voters in advance of Tuesday’s School Board elections and budget vote. It noted that the seats held by Arthur L. Jocoy Jr. and Nicholas S.J. Vilardo were up for election without mentioning the names of the challengers, Steven P. DiNieri, Ken Hamilton, Angela J. Bray and Thomas R. Vitello Sr.
Whether intentional or not, the pamphlet gives the appearance of endorsing the two incumbents.
Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco says the district has prepared the pre-election pamphlet this way “forever” and naming the two incumbents is merely a way to identify the seats that are coming open. And, indeed, the ballot was apparently printed before the April 30 petition deadline, making it unable to include the names of every candidate. In addition, the district does provide information about all the candidates in its monthly “Our Schools” newsletter.
But even if the district’s intentions were aboveboard, its approach suggests a tacit level of support for the incumbents, even if it’s inadvertent. And when it comes to elections, governing entities need to be aboveboard and, just as important, seen to be so.
There are several possible solutions to this issue. One is to wait until election petitions have been filed, if timing allows. Others are to identify the seat by means other than the name of the incumbent and to note that all candidates will be listed in the Our Schools newsletter and the district’s website.
All this takes is a little forethought and a decent regard for the requirements of the democratic process. The challengers believe their names were left off the pamphlet deliberately, and given the reach of the district and the inherent power of incumbency, it’s easy to see why someone could think that.
It’s too much to suggest that voters should decide against the incumbents for this transgression, especially if the process, however wrongheaded, has been in place for a long period.
But voters should note that the district is being cavalier in how it presents election information to them and insist that, henceforth, challengers are not given short shrift in their efforts to serve the students and taxpayers of the school district.