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Your Concerned Stock Photo Neighbors in Clarence

On Friday, Clarence households received yet another ultra-slick mailer from astroturf organization Americans for Progress opposing the school budget. This time, thanks to a tipster’s suggestion, I ran the images through a reverse image search. Who, exactly, are these Clarence residents and neighbors depicted on the flyer? After all, I’d love to speak with them about their concerns. 

As it turns out, they’re pricey stock photographs. 

(I have written about the 2013 – 14 Clarence school budget on two occasions; here, and here). 

This woman earnestly looks into the camera and tells us that local AFP astroturfers are conservatives and/or liberals – just like you and me! 

Except she’s as phony as the claim that “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a plucky local effort of concerned citizens with a PR department, a graphic design department and six figures to spare. 

Is she a former Maryland-based drug addict

Is she a joke in the Onion

Did she win big in an Alabama lawsuit

A reverse image search using Tineye reveals that this woman is a stock photo from istockphoto.com. She is described as “Forty Something Hispanic Woman” and if you want to use her image for your slick Clarence mailer, you have to pay about $70.  

The others are as phony as she. 

There’s hardhat guy. 

Hardhat guy has also been used on other websites.  Hardhat guy is also identified via TinEye as an istockphoto.com image, except the stock photo company that sells him describes him as “manual worker in hard hat and safety glasses.” He’s also a bit cheaper than his “forty something hispanic” female counterpart, above. 

The anti-school brigade has been especially concerned about seniors, and uses two pictures of local Clarence seniors. Who are they? 

You guessed it – she’s a stock photo, too. She’s the alliterative “serious senior woman supermarket shopper makes selection“. 

Finally, the senior on the front of the flyer - 

She is “Summer portrait of a lovely grandma”,

…and here she is in a story sponsored by Liberty Mutual

As I wrote late last week, it is critical that you vote yes for the Clarence school budget on Tuesday May 21st at the High School gym (Gunnville at Main). In order to right past wrongs and to ensure that the budget can maintain a steady course within the tax cap in years to come, these measures must be taken. 

The efforts of tea party activists using outside materials paid for with outside money, falsely asserting their “local” or “bipartisan” nature must be strongly rejected. Indeed, to compare the slick use of stock photography and glossy card stock from Long Island with a simply despicable sign that’s been popping up around town: 

That’s the sentiment, boiled down to a nutshell. It’s not as slick, and no expensive, tested PR department vetted the message or language, but it reflects the true grassroots effort to decimate the schools. 

Unlike the proud patriot with the black sign, the AFP’s effort is a form of concern-trolling; they pretend to be supportive of the schools, but bring up their “concerns”, masking the fact that they are not at all supportive. If they had genuine concerns, they could have picked four photographs of actually concerned Clarence residents. Instead, we have “forty something hispanic woman”, “manual worker in hard hat”, and “serious senior woman supermarket shopper”.  This is a sophisticated, media-savvy effort – not one that’s done in Clarence by local activists

This, on the other hand, is a genuine grassroots effort made in support of the school budget: 

The “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a group made-up and paid for by the Long Island-based Americans for Progress New York chapter, but that doesn’t justify vandalizing their signs. Not if they depict the “summer portrait of a lovely grandma” or anyone else. It doesn’t justify damaging a massive sign costing hundreds of dollars that’s conveniently sited on an abandoned eyesore motel across from the high school. It also doesn’t justify the myriad pro-budget signs that have been ripped from people’s yards and discarded. 

A teacher writes, 

Lisa Thrun needs to be exposed for what she is.  She had three children attend Clarence schools…I taught two of them …  All three then went on to higher education and have done pretty well, from what I understand …  So basically their kids had a great experience (they were all very involved in the school) at Clarence…but too bad for everyone else now?  My kids are done so now screw you?!  And then she has the audacity to say “she and her people have to remain anonymous for fear of backlash?!”  How horribly insulting I find that to the teaching profession and to Clarence…our teachers are wonderful, caring people of character …  Clarence is a small, tight-knit community…and they are destroying it…but I would never ever hold that against a student, past or present.  It goes against everything a teacher stands for.  Shame on them for those comments.

Dr. Coseo and the Board of Education also need to be called out for getting us into this disaster… so much bad decision-making and poor planning.  The Board always did pretty much what (prior Superintendent) Dr. Coseo told them to do…all “yes” people…don’t rock the boat.  

(Edited to omit identifying information)

Although the Clarence Republican Committee’s executive board decided to stay out of the school vote issue, AFP puppet Lisa Thrun has now reached out to them in a desperate cry for help. To read her own words is to be disgusted: how dare schoolkids advocate for the schools?!

From: Greg and Lisa Thrun <EDIT>
To: Greg and Lisa Thrun <EDIT> 
Sent: Saturday, May 18, 2013 3:18 PM
Subject: Your help is needed

Dear Clarence Republican Committeemen and Committeewomen,
I am writing you today, to ask for your help in the upcoming school budget vote on Tuesday, May 21st at the Clarence High School Gym on Main St. from 7 am-9 pm.
 
As you know, many in our community are very upset about the 9.8% school property tax increase and how that will affect their families and businesses.  It is not just the higher tax rate that is the concern, but the unwillingness of the Board of Education and the Clarence Teachers Association to take the necessary measures to avoid cuts to student services and teaching positions in the very near future.
 
The issues and solutions outlined by Citizens for Sustainable Schools (EDIT) have started the conversation about ensuring the quality of education with a tax rate we can all afford.  The path the district is on is unsustainable and measures must be taken now if we are to continue to offer a Clarence education our town is known for. 
 
There have been some lawns signs and emails circulating that are meant to distract from the conversation and claims that the funds for the efforts are coming from outside sources.  The truth is that we heard from seniors that are worried about losing their homes, families that are considering moving out of state because they can no longer afford to pay the high taxes, and small business owners that are concerned that a 10% increase will force them to pass the costs on to customers and make them less competitive.  They offered their services, money, and time to help educate the public about the issues and to stop this excessive tax increase.
 
The district and the union has been organizing for months prior to the budget being formally adopted.  An art show, an all elementary school track meet, and a chicken dinner has been lined up which will make it very difficult for others to get into the polling place.  Superintendent Hicks and BOE President Mike Lex have been holding meetings with every PTO, Booster Club and even the Post-Prom Party Committee.  They added a last minute concert where only a few songs were played but a pro-budget pitch was included.  There are PTO Facebook pages that have posts with accusations and links to articles with wrong information and have gone so far to word emails that can be construed as endorsements for specific candidates.  Now you may have received a knock at the door by students asking for your YES vote.
 
We do not underestimate the organization of the union or the advantage the district has with communicating with the school community.
 
The GOP is the party of lower taxes and limited government, understanding that those principles lead to the betterment of a community, state, and nation.  Although the executive board has decided not to tackle this issue, we are asking for all of you as individuals to help with phone banking and door to door efforts.  Your neighbors, business associates, and fellow residents are taking a stand —please join them.
 
We will be holding a phone bank from 5:30-9pm on Monday at an office location to make GOTV calls.  Phones are limited so please call for a time slot and location.  If you would like to make calls from home, we can email call lists.  We can also make arrangements to drop off flyers and maps.
 
We understand that this is a controversial issue, but how can any of us stand on the sidelines when members of our community will be hurt by this and while the education of our children will face future risk?
                                   
Sincerely,
Lisa Thrun
H: 741-****
C: 604-****

As soon as I find out which office hosts this phone bank, I will expose it, and I will urge people never to patronize it. Guess what? Also, I suspect that our local AFP stooges vandalized their own sign in order to get on TV and make budget proponents look like thugs. AFP has spent tens of thousands – maybe more – to try and defeat the school budget. The schools are a huge part of what makes Clarence what it is. Your property values reflect that. 

Vote yes on Tuesday, and vote DePasquale and Andrews. The reasons why are here. 


  • http://twitter.com/nicoleffe Nicole Ferguson

    “Let the schools rot”?! I’d be embarrassed of myself if that thought even crossed my mind, and these people are proudly displaying it on their lawns.

    • Jim_Holstun

      ironic, maybe?

    • Clarence Schools

      Whatever the source, the message takes the anti-tax group argument to its logical end point. I think most rational people will be offended by something like this, and they should be.

  • http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com Jaquandor (Kelly Sedinger)

    Are the “Let the schools rot!” signs really tied to the “No tax increase” crowd, or is this some kind of ironic, reverse-psychology thing? I’m genuinely curious.

    • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

      I have no idea, but the vote no on the bottom tells me it’s sincere.

      • starrrbuck

        the vote no on the bottom tells me it’s sincere

        Possible reasons why “Vote Yes” backers could insincerely, disingenuously write “Vote No” on signs about rotting schools:

        1. For irony, as Jaquandor asked about.

        2. For messaging, to equate in undecided voters’ minds a no-tax-hike result with a consequence of rotting schools.

        3. For demonizing, to smear Vote No campaigners as being unkind people who hope schools will rot.

        #3 would be similar to when a Democrat who worked for the Board of Elections pre-marked Chris Collins votes on absentee ballots before they were mailed to voters. Poloncarz and his blogger friend of course quickly falsely implied in public that the Collins side committed criminal ballot tampering and dismissed those who immediately said it looked like a trick from someone on the D side – which it turned out to be exactly what it was.

    • jr murphy

      the rot signs are not ours, we are willing to offer some solutions to the school tax, we have not said no tax, a reasonable rate at concessions on all sides but not hurting the children.

  • Benson86

    The use of stock photos is standard in the direct mail industry. If you are trying to attach something sinister to it, you are way off base.

    • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

      Not sinister at all!

      Also not local or grassroots. They couldn’t find 4 people from Clarence to photograph for this propaganda.

      • jr murphy

        I am very disappointed in you being attorney and intimidating people to rip up and deface my signs. I wonder if these people were taught by Clarence teachers to use a chemical to blot parts of the sign so that other words could be added. Well we soon will know. I thought you being attorney you would let have freedom speech but I guess not. we will see Tuesday who they believe. What a dis appointment you and your cohorts are disrespecting seniors.

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        How dare you accuse me of “intimidating” people into committing vandalism against someone’s property?

      • jr murphy

        all the lies you put in here about different people and organizations being involved in the school tax vote. as usual your bombastic attack is just foolish. You have no respect for seniors when you say that a woman is drug addict and a picture of a hard hat man doesn’t know what he is talking about, when you do not even know. You call yourself a lawyer you do not get the facts, very unprofessional. I am glad now you did not get elected when you ran and I supported you. What a mistake that would have been for us seniors.

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        They’re not real people. They are stock photographs. They are not a Clarence hard hat man or a real Clarence drug addict. They are photographs that a very powerful lobbying group downstate bought to try and scare people into rejecting the school budget. Your scare tactics are sad and unfortunate. Your inability or unwillingness to read what I wrote is silly.

        You now identify yourself as Jim Murphy. Jim, read what I wrote. Your side is getting played by the tea party. Those are facts.

      • jr murphy

        you are very wrong in saying this is lobbying group from down state. This is a combination of republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals and tea party people concerned about the way the school board and administration is spending money and some of the policies toward low income and senior people. When a school board president and school administrator admit that this budget will hurt these people and offer no recourse that’s not right. When people like you have talked about the star program and some of you want to cut it. That tells me you and your cohorts have no respect for the people mention above. In case you do not recognize my name I was on Clarence Democratic committee with you a few years ago.

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        you are very wrong in saying this is lobbying group from down state. This is a combination of republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals and tea party people concerned about the way the school board and administration is spending money and some of the policies toward low income and senior people.

        The school district doesn’t implement policies toward low income or senior people. It administers the schools. If you don’t like this year’s increase, talk to Dr. Coseo, who spent years manufacturing phony budgets by dipping into reserves which are now depleted, and failed to prepare for the future.

        I have already documented and established (click those links) that the “Citizens for Sustainable Schools” is a construct of the Long Island-based NY chapter of the tea party astroturf group, “Americans for Prosperity”. Lisa Thrun just happens to be their local person.

        When a school board president and school administrator admit that this budget will hurt these people and offer no recourse that’s not right.

        What “recourse” would you like? Should we shut the schools down completely, or just fire another 60 people and eliminate kindergarten, music, sports, and AP courses? Something less than that? What’s your solution?

        When people like you have talked about the star program and some of you want to cut it. That tells me you and your cohorts have no respect for the people mention above.

        Where have I said or written a word about cutting STAR? You’re making stuff up.

        In case you do not recognize my name I was on Clarence Democratic committee with you a few years ago.

        Oh, I recognize your name. I ran into you at Dunn Tire a few months ago. You’re a nice guy, Jim. No one likes the 10% increase, and it’s thankfully just a one-shot deal to get the schools going in the right direction. People come to Clarence because of the schools. Knowingly enacting policies to harm those schools amounts to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

      • jr murphy

        you are wrong when you say these are downstate people I have meant them at different homes and they are young and older people who feel this is too much of a increase. They have some ideas where to improve the budget process and to improve administration of the school system. You are absolutely right when say that this school does not take in to consideration the effect on any people they just keeping upping the paycheck of their employees.

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        You’re telling me that there are local people who are opposed to the tax. I agree.

        I’m telling you that part of the anti-school effort is being funded and orchestrated by downstate money and an outside organization with which Lisa Thrun is very well connected. She is listed as its local “grassroots activist”, and is a named plaintiff in two of that groups’ lawsuits.

      • momof2in1year

        What about the flyers we received LAST YEAR?? There was no 9.8% increase last year. The anonymous flyers ticked me off then, and I happened to read a comment on a Buffalo News article that was clearly written by the same person that wrote the flyers– Lisa Thrun. So I googled her and found her connection to AFP, pro-fracking “lectures” and lawsuits, etc., etc.

        This year, she came armed with a “new group”– somehow she leads all three groups, but they are not connected with each other. All the secrecy is because she has children in the Clarence schools and fear backlash, yet come to find out her children are GRADUATES of Clarence Schools. Nobody is saying there are not local members of this group, but it is backed by ONE political group, plain and simple– sorry if you don’t get that, I’m sure many will be shocked when Social Security and Medicare are on the same chopping block.

        Lies, lies, lies… all of it.

        Oh, and , for the record, the only major political party I have registered with outside of my current Independent status is Republican.;

      • John (not McCain)

        Are you a product of the Clarence schools? If so, they obviously need the money to hire better teachers: “I thought you being attorney you would let have freedom speech…”

        Or maybe you’re just another drooling bagger moron.

      • jr murphy

        I never said I was lawyer .Sorry sometimes I get carried when trying to type. Usually I do not call people degrading names but with you I could make exception.******

      • ckg1

        What a moron you are to throw around baseless charges with not a scintilla of proof top them. But, I guess that’s to be expected on the internet these days…

      • jr murphy

        We are making reports out to the police on trespassing and destruction charges and having the signs looked at for fingerprints.

      • ckg1

        Not the point I’m making.

        What if there’s no there…there?

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        Good!

      • jr murphy

        Did you hear about the use of taxpayer funds to lobby voters violates Education Law. We have a copy of both the original and altered copy. I wonder if using school children in a video to Promote voting on the school budget is a violation of the law. Especially when they are that young and very impressible. Maybe we should look into and also what the teachers are telling the children scaring about what maybe taken away from them. What brain washing that may be.

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        I think you should totally run with the argument that it’s wrong for schoolkids to advocate for not ruining their schools. I’m sure it will prove very persuasive.

      • http://www.facebook.com/wnyresident Tony Fracasso

        Did you explain to the children that some of the employees make multiple times what their parents earn? And how tough it must be to struggle living on $120,000+ a year? $150,000, even 200k+ not counting healthcare/pension costs? Did you?

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        Strawman argument. Nice try.

      • jr murphy

        now we should work together to fix and make the school system more efficient.

      • jr murphy

        no comment al

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        I eagerly await everyone’s ideas on Tuesday about how we will raise revenue to bridge the budget gap within the cap and not adversely affect the quality of the curriculum or kids’ education.

        My silence was because I spent a great deal of my day yesterday learning about how Paul Stephen provided a meal and a ride to any no vote.

      • jr murphy

        As usual you make stupid and baseless comments.How would we know how anyone voted. It was all volunteer who did the cooking, I drove the van and never once told a person how to vote. It certainly was not what the teachers and administration did with the children by giving them time off from school to demonstrate and having all those activities going on at the high school during voting. With having that art Exhibit in the gym people standing outside inline to vote in the hot sun until I called Mr. Mancuso and complained. You did not say any thing about the postcards sent from postal address in Albany where the teachers union is located asking for a yes vote on the vote. Maybe they were worried about their health care benefits. You could have come to the breakfast to we did difference from anyone. Some my members were appalled by the language and finger signs used by some parents and kids on them when were demonstrating on Main St. must come from good teachers or some parents. What do you think Al. I GUESS WE WILL NEVER AGREE. What a shame for the children.

      • jr murphy

        line 13 after the word did should have put not sorry I sometimes let passion get the best of me and henpecking on the computer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/georgia.schlager Georgia Schlager

    People don’t get it. Even with a 9.8% tax increase, Clarence’s per student costs will be second to the Frontier school district in Erie county. To have such a great school system and a low per student cost is a win-win situation. These are the numbers from Empire center of NY. http://i266.photobucket.com/albums/ii274/4theabsolutetruth/Scan0008_zps95272c8c.jpg

    • http://www.facebook.com/wnyresident Tony Fracasso

      Simply review payroll at seethroughny.org and you’ll see why the budget is increasing state aid or not. My opinion is one shot aid packages should not be used for ongoing expenses in general. There is no guarantee that the aid will continue year after year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.boniface Alex Boniface

    Hi Alan,

    I work for a stock photography agency and it might interest you to know that using models from stock images for any political or religious motivations, as well as to promote substances such as alcohol or cigarettes is illegal. The entire industry works under an End User License Agreement that serves to protect models against these types of campaigns.

    The only caveat, would be if the model had given her written permission. In this case, I highly doubt that would be the case.

    Cheers

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1142398025 Susan Trick Stebbins

    Well done! So silly and yet so subversive.

  • hwhamlin

    W-A-Y shorter Pundit:
    School tax = Good.
    More School tax = Better.
    Slick mailers by NYSUT = Good.
    Slick mailers by AFP = Bad.

    • ckg1

      Ultra short hwh:

      I STILL have no take.

  • Michael Hohl

    The state gave the school district another quarter million dollars after
    they set the 10% tax rate and they just decided to spend it rather than
    ease the burden to the taxpayers. Kind of shows their mindset when it
    comes to saving money.

    The school board needs a wake up call. Vote NO!

    • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

      Perhaps if they hadn’t “spent it”, the tax rate would be even higher.

    • Clarence Schools

      Michael,

      The only people who need a wake up call are the anti-tax zealots, like you. Clarence has one of the lowest school tax rates in WNY, and will continue to have one of the lowest school tax rates, even if this budget passes. In fact, the tax levy will be LOWER than it was in 2003 and 2007, even with the 9.8% increase. Beyond that, the average increase in the levy over the last 5 years, has been 0.5%, far lower than any other district in the area, if not the state. If anything, the board has managed the budget too conservatively in recent years. Frankly, that’s why we’re in this mess!!!

      The fact of the matter is that the district has cut 60 positions over the last two years, and the current proposed budget calls for 26 more positions to be eliminated. We have 1 single social worker for the entire district, no enrichment program, 30 students per class at the 6th grade level, and the list goes on.

      If the budget fails, we will have to cut an additional $2.5 million. What does that mean? Well, an additional 40+ staff positions cut, huge class sizes, and the elimination of most extracurricular programs. The schools will literally be ghettoized overnight.

      I agree that the pension system, unfunded mandates, etc. could use reform, but those are state issues, and voting this budget down will not solve those problems. It will only decimate the schools and harm the reputation (and property values) of the entire community.

      • Michael Hohl

        Tax rate per thousand is not he amount you get taxed. They have been raising the assessment. Your average taxes have gone up much many more times than .5%.

        If they could live with a budget of 10% before the addional state aid how come they still need 10% after more state aid?

      • http://www.buffalopundit.com/ Alan Bedenko

        They raise the assessment, but lower the rates.

  • Robert Snyder

    On the matter of the slick mailers I did have to laugh. Consumer Reports frequently takes aim at advertising where people show up ,like the friendly doctor in one picture,and then a truck driver in another. Of course the point of the picture is to give more credibility to the ad but somehow that is lost when the same “trusted and sincere” folks keep showing up in different venues!