Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Combative Wishneff gets taken to school
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Shanna Flowers is The Roanoke Times' metro columnist.
What is wrong with Brian Wishneff?
Roanoke's combative, mean-spirited bulldog of a councilman was back at it again Monday morning in a joint meeting with the school board.
What's up with his jones for attacking the school board every chance he gets?
Breakups are hard to do, but why can't Wishneff make former Superintendent Marvin Thompson a memory -- along with embellishments of his own days as a school board member?
Why would he use a budget meeting to pick a catfight with school board Chairman David Carson and then concede he actually had no questions about the school's budget?
Wishneff's councilmates have done a pretty good job of marginalizing him, so does he pull these little stunts for attention?
Whatever his reason, enough already.
This time, when Wishneff tried to bully Carson, it backfired badly.
First, he blasted the school system as one of the state's worst urban divisions, saying how they have slid since he left the school board five years ago.
But Carson showed the tiger in his tank, too. After all, the man is a courtroom litigator.
Counsel hit Wishneff with so many facts and figures debunking the councilman's worsening-schools claim that I'm sure Wishneff didn't know what hit him.
But like a good fighter, Wishneff rebounded, charging that Thompson "completely destroyed the school system."
Granted, Thompson had his problems, which is why -- thankfully -- he's no longer employed with the school system.
But that's when, by his own account, Carson essentially lost it.
Good for him.
"It plucked a chord," the school chairman said later Monday.
"I'm going to defend the school system. There are too many people out there working too hard to get abused by Brian Wishneff."
School board member Todd Putney stepped in and urged Mayor Nelson Harris to stop the verbal sparring between the two men.
I have no beef with Wishneff's asking the tough questions. But he loses his effectiveness when everything he says comes across as a personal vendetta, or worse, a street brawl.
That type of behavior is divisive at a pivotal time when the schools need the full cooperation of the council and the board.
Carson used a sports analogy to talk about the importance of a united council, board and community front in improving the schools.
"Let's be fair, let's play fair and advance the ball."
He's right. We're all on the same team -- or we should be.
Shanna Flowers' column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.