Rudy Crew’s short and sad tenure

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By GENE H. McINTYRE

‘Ah, all things come to those who wait,

I say these words to make me glad,

But something answers soft and sad,

They come, but often too late.’

—Violet Fane, pseudonym of British novelist, poet and essayist, Mary Montgomerie Lamb, (1843-1905).

Memory of Fane’s work was recalled most poignantly this past week when news about Governor John Kitzhaber’s pick of short-lived in Oregon, Rudy Crew, as the state’s first chief education officer, was reviewed by articles and editorials in The Oregonian.  This high-profile hire of the former head of New York and Miami schools was known before he arrived here as a frequent job-changer, big city player and famously restless.  Hence, thought turned to ‘all things come to those who wait (nevertheless) they come, but often too late.’

So, there was serious doubt at the outset about the stick-to-it-iveness of Crew before he accepted the second highest paid position in public employment work in these parts ($280,000 in salary alone while there was much, much more he found ways to use), promising to stay three years, then bailing-out after one.  It’s claimed that he made some contributions to strategic education reform planning; however, with his record of being away for nearly two months out of the 12 he stuck around (gone around 20 percent of the time), traveling during those away times to the Bahamas, D.C., Santa Fe, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and, it’s surmised, every other city of size with direct connections with PDX, while charging his trips, often at first-class rates to Oregon taxpayers, one begins to wonder to whatever make-any-difference extent his contributions were equal to the eye-popping cost of his stay.

Reports on the specifics of his spending include some pretty outrageous items that were charged to us but had no benefit for us.  One was a day-long visit to schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to honor a former colleague there at a cost to Oregon taxpayers of $1,118.  Another was a visit to Los Angeles to teach a four-hour course at USC at $552.  Crew charged us $336 for a town car to drive him between his Salem residence and PDX for a three-day trip to D.C., plus $350 to upgrade his plane ticket to first-class.  Later, he billed the state $850 for flights to Anchorage he never took but kept the money.  There’s much more, too, doubt be dashed, all of it likened to the illustrated lead-in to Mad Men where the main character keeps falling and falling from grace.

Crew’s cavalier behavior and his arguable indifference to what the public in Oregon might think about the way he operated, and Kitzhaber and his team of out-to-lunch members of Oregon Education Investment Board, hired this guy and then just turned him loose to do his thing, with no supervision, no rules, no accountability.  The governor and his chosen few friends told us they wanted to turn education into something more viably effective here but totally dropped the ball. Now, they are proceeding as if nothing happened, with no consequences and no changes to anything or the cast of players.

At the outset of the 2013 session of the Oregon Legislature there was this hue and cry from the governor and some legislators that resulted in Senate Bill 822, a piece of legislation that was ridiculed by the state’s movers and shakers from border to border, north to south, east to west, as not gouging of PERS-retirees enough.  Many, including Kitzhaber and mainly GOP legislators, wanted much more from the pockets of PERS retirees.  That money through SB822 and the threat of more digging in PERS retirees’ pockets is the subject now of those who demand a special session so that deeper cuts can be made to former public employees.  Meanwhile, the so-called “grand bargain” fell dead; so, others outside of PERS retirees will not be taxed one extra cent.

However, since the education board’s main man turned out to be nothing much more than a big spender at taxpayer expense, what is the point of returning all these politicians to Salem in an effort to squeeze more out of PERS’ retirees if the end result is simply putting more good money after bad into another bust along Rudy Crew lines?  Unless there is a majority of the sane to be found in the Oregon Supreme Court, the greatest unjust, discriminatory and contrary-to-contracts unlawful decision in this state’s history will remain in effect, the financial sack and rape of PERS’ retirees and an unwillingness of elected representatives and judges to do anything about it.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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