Beth Looper and My Response
By Alex Saitta
July 26, 2015
This edition of fact-check focuses on the recent comments of Beth Looper (see below). She had a lot to say, and all of it negative and some quite malicious, so I felt it needed a full and complete reponse.
She identifies herself as a teacher at Dacusville Elementary school. When I think a teacher of little children, I think nurturing, caring, and kind. After reading her comments, I thought, teacher? I had to double check the Dacusville Elementary website and look at the staff listing. Of me — Alex Saitta, she wrote: “motivation for his own selfish gains… He’s a bully… sacrifice the children for the almighty dollar… intimating voters (which by the way, if that bogus claim were true it would be a crime)… one man could do this much harm… for his own benefit… this fox has been difficult… FOX WILL GET INTO THE HENHOUSE and our children will continue to be the victims!”
If she has differences of opinion with me or opposes this or that vote I made, then write about the issues and the whys or why-nots. Beth Looper didn’t address any issue, any position of mine or any vote, likely because she has a baseless argument or lacks the knowledge of the issues. The way I see it, in her mind disagreement results in hatred and this spews out on the page for all to see.
My belief is, if such an issues-back-and-forth-took place, likely Ms. Looper would advocate for more spending, borrowing, and taxation for the school system. My rebuttal would be, total spending has risen from $122 million in 2006 to $171 million. The tax rate has been raised from 128 to 165 mills. That’s enough. Instead of knee-jerk spending, borrowing, taxing more, the district needs to first better manage the money it is already receiving.
Some just want to make it personal, so she fired off in a burst of emotional personal smears directed at me. Here’s my rebuttal, one point at a time.
Beth Looper wrote: He owns rental property in Pickens County and makes a pile of money as long as taxes remain low.
Alex: I’ve never talked to Beth Looper. She knows next to nothing about me, my finances or my purpose, and it shows. I was elected in 2004. Simply put, I saw how much money was being spent on schools (spending was growing 8% a year), tax rates were increased 5 of 6 years, and how little of that money was making it to the classroom (only 55%). With my financial knowledge I hoped to help the district focus its money on the classroom, resulting in improved academic results. The voters agreed, electing me in 2004, 2008 and again in 2012.
I owned the home I lived in from 2004 to 2012 — nothing more. I bought some rental properties in 2012 and 2013. I was fiscally conservative from my first day on the board, and I’m still to this day, and will be tomorrow, next week, next year even if I sold my rentals.
My rental properties give me some income, but they aren’t my primary source of income. Additionally, the rents I charge are about 15% below market rates, so if the school district raised taxes $24 a year on a house, let’s say, it would be insignificant. If I decided to raise the rent, I could easily tack on $2 a month to cover the higher taxes, with my rents anywhere from $100 to $150 a month below the going rate.
Beth Looper: He is a RETIRED financial analyst and it is his full time job to micromanage the business of the Pickens County’s small town politics for his own benefit.
Alex: I suspect Beth Looper is probably trying to make every dime she can and she’ll never relate, but I don’t have that problem. I worked on Wall Street like a dog for nearly 20 years, made a good amount of money, saved it all and retired to enjoy my wife, my children, my time, and my family. I didn’t want to be an absentee or part-time dad. My father died when I was six, so I learned firsthand my time here is limited. If I was this money hungry fiend Beth Looper is painting me out to be, victimizing children and teachers, I would have never left Wall Street where my income was much higher.
Making even more money isn’t the driver with me anymore. I’m ahead financially. As a result, I seek to protect what I have, in order to remain ahead. I was more interested in buying the houses because I felt they would hold their value, than the income they’d earn as rentals. For instance, one I rent to my cousin and make absolutely nothing.
Beth Looper: He shamelessly and self-righteously performs for the crowd on a monthly basis [at school board meetings].
Alex: I went to my first school board meeting about nine months before I ran. It quickly became clear the administration created all the plans, board motions were made, seconded, with no to little discussion by any board members, and they’d pass 9 to 0.
Those who supported the proposals, couldn’t explain them so they didn’t say much. Those unsure, lacked knowledge to critique anything presented by the administration, didn’t say much and usually just went along. Board members were approving plans with little knowledge of what they were actually voting on. It was a rubberstamping process of district administration proposals, exactly what employees like Beth Looper wanted in my view.
I got on the board in Nov. 2004 and as Beth Looper wrote, “trouble with the school board began when he took office”. Critical votes started to turn 8 to 1. But most important, I would explain my reasoning, point out the overspending, show how the money wasn’t going to the children, and academic results weren’t as the public was told. The press reported this, and the public started to listen. The administration’s 100% lock on the board began to slip away. All sorts tried their best to shut me up, smear me and defeat me. No luck and I’ve stayed on course. You can feel the frustration in Beth Looper’s post. She wrote: “He can’t be dissuaded… he’s shrewd…”
Beth Looper: He negatively influences others (usually newly-elected inexperienced board members)…
Alex: I don’t influence other board members. I couldn’t count all the votes I’ve lost 8 to 1, 7 to 1 or 5 to 1.
Beth Looper is on to something, though, but lacks insight to what change actually occurred. Like I said, when I got on the board, it was a rubberstamp board. I started to tell the rest of the story, the public read about it in the press, and the public took matters into their its hands by electing independent-minded trustees who would listen to the administration, but ALSO weighed what they heard against the wishes of the public who elected them. That was the change. Independent minded and not afraid to speak up trustees started to get elected. As a district employee, you can understand why Beth Looper doesn’t like this change. The board is no longer a rubber-stamp for the administration.
Beth Looper: He has gained re-election through the years by intimating voters in my area (many of whom are frugal senior citizens) with talk about the threat of rampant waste and being an advocate against the powers that be taking advantage of the helpless taxpayer.
Alex: I have never intimidated or threatened voters in any way, shape or form. Let me re-write that statement so it is accurate. Alex has been elected and re-elected three times by the people of his district, because he is refreshing voice, questioning the board majority and prodding the district administration to eliminate the waste, excess and low priorities in order to redirect those savings to classroom instruction, and through this increased efficiency, tax rates are no longer rising every year like they were when he first got on the board. Liberals and most school district employees oppose him for this, and wish he’d just disappear or win the lotto and move to Hawaii.
When I first got on the board, I saw taxes going up each year, too much of that money was not making it to the classroom, and large pockets of weak academic performance were hidden from the public. On the other hand, I had just knocked on 4,250 doors and saw firsthand the income/ wealth the people didn’t have. It isn’t about my money, but the lack of money of the people I represent. So when the administration came around with the same old proposal of more spending, more borrowing and more taxation, in 2004 they heard a different response from one board member -- stop asking these people for more money, they are paying enough, do like everyone else in this county and live within the budget you have. Again, not an argument Beth Looper wanted to hear or have the public be told.
Beth Looper: He is RETIRED… makes a pile of money… helpless taxpayers… He owns rental property in Pickens County…
Alex: When I say some of these people have socialistic leanings this is a good example of what I mean. OK. I liquidated some assets in New York, took some risk and invested in homes in our county that were vacant and often behind on their property taxes. I renovated them, buying my supplies locally, hiring HVAC and pest control services here in the county, paying-up all the taxes and now have nice homes for working people to live in as they contribute to the community overall. And this is bad? In her world, evidently it is.
This illustrates one reason why taxpayer support for public education is eroding. The people have been taxed, put in loads of debt and too many public employees make taxpayers out to be bad people for trying to make a living, or get ahead, especially those running their own businesses.
Everything in the public school system is funded by the private sector/ taxpayers. If I was a government employee, I wouldn’t be disrespecting taxpayers. Without them, the school district doesn’t exist. Instead, I think all should be thanking those who invest their time, money and effort in jobs or businesses that pay the taxes that support the school district. I know I appreciate them all.
Beth Looper: He’s a bully…
Alex: Bullying is when you say give me your lunch money or I will punch you in the mouth. There is a threat involved. I’ve never bullied anyone, much less her, who I’ve never met.
This is what they call bullying, and the typical dynamic. Some person will post things like this, thinking I don’t know Alex, he wouldn’t respond and probably wouldn’t see this post. Next, the person is confronted with the rest of the story in a very matter of fact way. My bet is he'd say my response is bullying.
Another for instance. Some school official tells the board when this happens, we do this. The next time this happens, they don’t do this, but instead do that. I challenge them on their inconsistency, at a public school board meeting. They call me a bully for doing that.
Some education advocate rips me up one side and down because I retired before 40 and says my children go to the charter school. Me, realizing their personal attacks are a sign their understanding of school issues is shallow, their facts are weak and often their arguments mixed up, I challenge them to a public debate. They refuse. I respond clearly they lack confidence in their own viewpoints, and call them cowardly. They call me a bully.
They are just not used to being questioned, challenged or having someone present an opposing view that is more thought out and supported then their own. While my response might be overwhelming, and they may feel like they were bullied, they weren't. Their point or assertion was just shot down.
Beth Looper: If people do not get involved in the important issues of their County, and know what’s going on, the FOX WILL GET INTO THE HENHOUSE and our children will continue to be victims!
Alex: Two points. It appears she is trying to paint me as a fox who is about to eat the baby chicks or the children. In my opinion, Beth Looper sounds border line hysterical throughout her post. It is all about appealing to emotion, than trying to win people over with intellect, facts, etc.
Additionally, she wrote “if people do not get involved in the important issues…” Before she asks others to get involved in the important issues (be it school taxation, how children are taught or buildings are maintained) I think she should first demonstrate she is aware and conversant in those issues.