Friday, July 5, 2013

Plenty of blame to go around in Cindy Hill debacle

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about Cindy Hill, Wyoming superintendent of public instruction and gubernatorial candidate, and her sudden loss of power at the hands of Senate File 104.
Since then, the kerfuffle has blossomed into an outright scandal. A recent inquiry into Hill's shenanigans alleges she played loose with education funds, thumbed her nose at improving education standards, and ran a department riddled with fear and suspicion.
But some folks in this fair state remain in Hill's rooting section. They're crying foul on state legislators who backed SF 104, which stripped her of most of her authority and made the Education Department's chief an appointed position.
I believe Wyoming lawmakers made the right choice. I just think they could have been smarter about it. By rushing to oust Hill, they unwittingly gave Hill and her supporters the advantage.
SF 104 was hustled through the legislature in record time, despite voters' outcry to the contrary. Granted, the inquiry conducted after the fact indicates Hill was probably ripe for removal. But lawmakers goofed when they gave SF 104 the fast track.
If they'd ordered the inquiry and then passed the bill, it would have stifled conspiracy theories about a good-old-boys network ganging up against poor, embattled Hill. As it stands, though, the report came out months after SF 104 went on the books. That gave naysayers plenty of time to pooh-pooh rumors of her misbehavior as so much nonsense.
Hill is using the legislature's gaff to her advantage. She's telling anyone who will listen that the governor and his cronies stole their vote from under their noses. In state where most folks are already hedgy about government in general, her fear campaign hits hard.
But, that's all it is: An overwrought ego-fest disguised as something that actually matters. She's playing on voters' emotions like Liberace playing "Moonlight Sonata" on a baby grand.
What's worse, she's derelict in what little power she has left. If Hill gave a hoot about education, would she be traipsing all over the countryside, stumping for the governor's seat? I think not.
But back to the issue at hand. Whatever else lawmakers might have done, they didn't steal our vote. We had our chance, and we chose someone who was fantastically incompetent. In 2011, for instance, Hill argued against having any requirements for guaranteed admission at the University of Wyoming. There's a message to inspire our young people. Go ahead; smoke wacky grass behind the bus barn during 5th period math. You'll get into college even if you can't tell a parabola from a paratrooper. Good gravy.
Perhaps the lion's share of the blame doesn't belong to the legislature or even Hill herself, but with us, the voters. We hired her, after all. Unfortunately, Wyoming students will have to deal with the aftermath of our mistake.

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