Lautenbaugh responds to Gray

You may have seen the story on the throw-down between state Senator Scott Lautenbaugh and Ben Gray in the OWH. They reported it as follows:

It all started with a meeting that five school board members held last week to gather community input on the selection of the successor to retiring Omaha Public Schools Superintendent John Mackiel.

Gray and Jim Vokal, chairman of the board for the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, were among about eight people invited to give their opinions. Gray is co-chairman of OPS’ African-American Achievement Council, and his wife, Freddie, serves on the school board.

Vokal spoke first, and he told The World-Herald he suggested that the next superintendent have budget experience in reallocating resources while showing fiscal restraint.

Gray spoke next and, according to both men, took issue with Vokal’s comments.

Several people in the meeting provided differing accounts of what Gray said. But according to Gray, Vokal and another person in the room, the word “racist” was used in some manner.

Gray said he brought up Lautenbaugh’s proposal, which he says is sexist and racist.

So Lautenbaugh took to the floor of the legislature to address Councilman Gray’s accusations of racism and sexism. We offered him the chance to expand here on Leavenworth Street, and Senator Lautenbaugh issued the following press release:

In a day where our Omaha children compete with students from not only Chicago and L.A., but China too, we have to ensure our Omaha students get a high-quality education. Yet today, when looking at our student proficiency scores, it appears many of our students are falling behind the rest of the world.

I have been reflecting on the recent press coverage of my effort to reform the OPS Board, and City Councilman Ben Gray’s comments dismissing the effort as “racist and sexist”. I have read Councilman Gray’s explanation – as reported in the press- that because the board is made up of 11 women and “3 minorities”, then criticism of the board is criticism of women and minorities.

This is obviously a ridiculous, convenient and despicable attempt by Councilman Gray to insulate the board from any criticism whatsoever. It is this type of thinking that has made the Board what it is today. We need change.

But it is worse than that– Councilman Gray made his comments about racism when Jim Vokal was discussing the need for a new superintendent to be fiscally responsible, as I understand it. The fact that Councilman Gray found that to be racist says much more about his unusual view of minorities than anyone else’s.

When he was called on it, he decided to claim that he wasn’t talking about Mr. Vokal (the man whose comments he interrupted to charge racism). He was instead talking about my proposal to change the board as being racist and sexist. That seems very hard to believe.

As I understand it, the OPS board members present at this meeting did not object to these outrageous comments by Councilman Gray. This is worse than disappointing.

This is all more disturbing because Councilman Gray is co-Chairman of the school district’s African-American Achievement Council. I worry about message it sends to our youth to have someone who so recklessly and baselessly throws around wild charges of racism and sexism in a position of authority or leadership at OPS.

As such, I am calling upon the OPS Board to apologize to Mr. Vokal — both for the outrageous treatment he received from Councilman Gray at the meeting in question, and for the Board’s failure to disavow and denounce Councilman Gray’s conduct at the time. Further, I am calling on the Board to ask Councilman Gray to step down from his position with OPS’s African American Achievement Council, and to remove him if he refuses to go. Race-baiting and dishonest, irresponsible charges should not be tolerated, and OPS should not be promoting Councilman Gray’s involvement with the youth in our schools if these comments of his as reported actually reflect his views.

We can all agree that Ben Gray is absolutely flippin’ nuts here and we are happy to see that Lautenbaugh stood up to his bullying, slow-witted tactics of screaming “Ism!” when he can’t muster up a rational argument.

But other than that, nice job Councilman. Your move.


  1. Macdaddy says:

    Go, Scott, go. By nearly every metric, OPS is failing to teach kids anything. They’ve gotten everything leaders like Councilman Gray and Ernie Sanders have demanded, and the numbers keep sinking. Apparently, Councilman Gray’s Plan A to deal with this failure is to call people names. What’s his Plan B?

  2. SoWhat??? says:

    One has to wonder why anyone with any small measure of common sense would ever appear at any meeting that involves Ben or Freddie Gray. Ben is a marxist and racist but is a moderate compared to Mrs. Ben. Is it a shock that OPS spent big bucks for a racist screed under the guise of “cultural sensitivity” and that Ben/Freddie fingerprints aren’t all over that little project??? The hilarious thing is that neither would have much of a public voice if it wasn’t for the financial backing of a certain local liberal heiress that apparently suffers from a huge case of self-inflicted white guilt. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see that the OPS School Board is about as corrupt as it comes. Just look at that throne room where they hold their meetings and draw your own conclusions where their self-serving interests lie.

  3. Kortezzi says:

    Jim Vokal speaks in favor of spending restraint at OPS, and that’s racism?
    Until this incident, I’d though Ben Gray was a slight improvement over Frank Brown. No longer…

    Kudos to Scott Lautenbaugh for his response, and his OPS board reform efforts.
    Sandra Jensen (in office since 1978!) and the entire OPS board should be swept out (except Justin Wayne).

  4. Bam says:

    Frankly, I love it when Ben Gray decides to open his mouth. It just makes more people realize what a huge sinkhole OPS has become and how people of Gray’s mind continue to drag down North Omaha. Of course, he’s against spending restraint – wasn’t he behind on some significant debts when he was elected?

  5. Biily says:

    The throne room, every time I see it it reminds me of Supreme Court setting, more members that county board or city council, and it appears only a select few are in on the decisions, it’s insatiable appetite for the citizens money, while teachers and children struggle

  6. Oh Mander says:

    I understand Lautenbaugh’s frustration, but the floor of the legislature hardly seems like the proper venue to vent it. He is whining to the entire state about a problem that is limited to just Omaha. Heinemann didnt call a special session to deal with this nonsense. Get back to work!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think Scott is well within his rights to use any forum to express his views as an elected leader. Good for him to having the guts to actually try to change what by all rights has become a hen party of ineffectiveness with my apologies to Justin Wayne. I’ve lost respect for Ben given he plays the race card every time he meets resistance. Granted there are times he may be correct in his assertions. This definitely is not one of those times. I wish Scott all the best in his efforts to make a dramatic change.

  8. Icon says:

    Bravo Mr. Vokal! On this issue i for one certainly agree with you. Note this isn’t a local issue by any means as every major city in America suffers from the same problem, that being, the thinking that throwing $$$$ at it will solve the education problem.

    It’s also a very sad state of affairs that a lot of people in the minority community think that money is the answer when in fact the problems are myriad and quite mind boggling & really have little to do with $$$ other than trying to get theirs hands on some of the Big Bucks!!

    The way i see it is, it’s mostly a teacher problem, ie bad, ignorant, union protected teachers & greedy fat-cat administrator who have conned the public into believing their lies! If you look into it, you’ll find that the teachers union is one of the strongest & most corrupt in America. The bottom line, once again, Capitalist Greed destroying America & Americas future!

  9. GO SCOTT!!! says:

    OPS is a state concern. They have 16% of the states student population and they fail to graduate almost a third of their senior classes. Where do these kids go? My guess in the welfare system or less savory venues. It’s time to point out OPS needs to shaken up and reformed.

  10. RWP says:

    Oh Mander:

    There’s has been a surprising amount for flotsam in the Special Session — resolutions on the closing of post offices, congratulations to Eagle Scouts and to the Wahoo Warriors for winning the class C softball championships, resolutions on social security and Missouri River flooding, and best of all, congratulations to Logan View Raiders on winning the Class C Championship at the 2011 Nebraska State Bandmasters Association State Marching Contest.

    I don’t see why Scott’s remarks deserve any special opprobrium.

  11. jensen needs to go as does gray

    jensen has been there since 78 and is a control freak and

    both are on power trips

    and one would think after the Nathan Hale Jr. High abuse fiasco,

    Gray would be focused on fixing her area of OPS, not playing the blame game

    Penny Sophir got kicked out in 2010 out cause of over arrogance,

    and maybe Gray and Jensen ought to wake up and realize they can share Sophir’s fate in 2012 on election day

  12. rick: how bout kicking out

    Sandra Jensen
    Freddie Gray
    Kersten Borer
    Nancy Huston
    Mary Ellen Drickey
    Mary L. Morrissey

    when they are up for re-election in 2012.

    that is only way the school board is going to change.

    except for Justin Wayne, the school board is seriously out of touch with reality.

    btw: Marian Fey (aka district 9’s rep) I predict will be a 1 term board member when she is up for re-election in 2014.

    she has been basically a clone of her predecessor and has done nothing but suck up to Jensen.

  13. Fun Hater says:

    RWP, the Legislature allows Legislative Resolutions to be passed whenever they’re in session. I see you singled out Senator Janssen’s resolution for Logan View for winning the Class C State Marching Contest. He also authored a resolution recognizing long-time Fremont mayor Skip Edwards, who passed away in August. Are you going to complain about that one too?

  14. RWP says:

    Yes, Fun Hater, I am. Damn all silly resolutions. Damn the naming of post-offices, and legislative recognition of eagle scouts, and the rest of the junk. What a waste of time.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What ever. It is great to se the enviro nut Haar stand up and defend the new actions for “Speeding ” up the pipeline! I sure hope the unions understand AND remember how Haar worked so hard to screw the membership out of JOBS!

    So speaking of whack jobs what is Conrad up to with all her whispering and back and forth on the floor? Is she the new whip for the liberal caucus? Sure looks like it, what with getting Wall an to jump from HHS and all. Not to mention how she crowds up to Hello and Dubas, what a trio that makes. Mello needs to keep his distance from those two as they are tarnishing his rep. A coupe of liberal hags who won’t be there in a couple of years to run interference for him. Forever a bridesmaid never a bride will be Mello’s moniker. Guess that is what happens when you hitch your wagon o Ben Nelson and the liberal screed. If only he were a Democrat. It’s easy to see why BTO is frustrated with the NDP.

  16. Macdaddy says:

    Name calling is not an idea. Name calling is not a solution. Mr. Gray embarrassed himself and wasted everybody’s time. If he wants to call people names on his own time, fine, but the purpose of this meeting was to solicit ideas from the community. Mr. Gray should resign. He obviously has no interest in finding ways to make OPS better. He has no sense of urgency and no grasp of the magnitude of the problem. He’s busy insulting people while yet another generation of Omahans gets flushed down the drain.

    See how easy that was Progessive O? I didn’t call Councilman Gray a tool even once.

  17. ricky says:

    Why would anybody give a rats behind what Senator Lautenbaugh thinks about the Omaha School Board? And to make a grandstanding speech at the Unicam special session which is supposed to be about the pipeline? What a load of crap from the term-limited Lautenbaugh.
    Lautenbaugh benefited from a form of affirmative action when Governor Heineman gave him a leg-up by appointing him to the Legislature. Get off your high-horse Senator L and thankfully you are leaving the Legislature. Back to obscurity for you.

    ricky from omaha

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ricky, you have no idea of what Lautebaugh can do with the time left. Nor do you know how much support he has in the body. You have done nothing to prove you are capable of much to help people. It is people like you that keep minorities down. Minorities don’t need special oatmeal to go to school! It would be good if the actions by you and your loyal liberals would back up your words. To date you have failed beyond question, and in your failure taken tens of thousands of individuals dreams and squandered them, all in the name of liberalism.

  19. john, I hope ur right that

    Sandra Jensen
    Freddie Gray
    Kersten Borer
    Nancy Huston
    Mary Ellen Drickey
    Mary L. Morrissey

    when they are up for re-election in 2012 are kicked out.

    Progressive Oasis: ben gray throwing around the race card, is like a seeker driven church pastor throwing the pharisee card at his critics. It dont help. it is scapegoating the issue and not taking a problem head-on.

    yeah, there are bigots, but most people who has issues with the Gray’s arent bigots. they are concerned citizens.

    and btw: what has other than using the blame game and smearing people, what has Gray done for District 2. can someone answer that to me.

  20. Macdaddy is right that Gray should resign, but so should the school board and it wont happen.

    the local media is largely supportive of the mostly corrupt ops school board and hardly raises criticism of them.

    the media in Omaha is mostly left of center. except for Koterba there are no conservatives (as far as anyone knows) at the omaha world herald as reporters/columnists

    throw Freddie Gray and Sandra “my way or else” Jensen and the other 4 failures up on the board out in 2012

    and throw Ben Gray out of city council in 2013.

  21. Joshua asks what Gray has done for his district, what has Lautenbaugh done for his? Other than his gerrymendering practices and whining about being called bad names, I have no idea what Lautenbaugh has done. Obscurity can’t come soon enough for him.

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