Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who is on the board of the foundation working on Obama's future presidential library?

Today marked the official launch of the formal search for a home library for President Barack Obama's presidential records. The Barack H. Obama Foundation currently has three board members: Martin Nesbitt, J. Kevin Poorman,and Julianna Smoot. Let's find out who they are.

First we have Martin Nesbitt:
Martin Nesbitt is a founding board member of The Barack H. Obama Foundation. He is a longtime friend of President Barack Obama and served as national treasurer for his two presidential campaigns.

Mr. Nesbitt is a co-founder and co-CEO of The Vistria Group, a private equity firm. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors of Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate company based in Chicago, as well as the Board of Directors of Norfolk Southern Corporation.

In addition, Mr. Nesbitt currently serves as a trustee of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art and on the Board of Directors of the Noble Network of Charter Schools.

Mr. Nesbitt is the former CEO of The Parking Spot, a successful company which owns and manages off-site airport parking lots around the country. He has also previously worked for LaSalle partners, predecessor to Jones Lang LaSalle, and is the former Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Mr. Nesbitt has a Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Science degree and honorary doctorate from Albion College in Michigan.
Nesbitt co-founded the Parking Spot in 1998 with current Commerce Secretary and Hyatt heiress Penny Pritzker. I highly recommend Rick Perlstein’s two part series (one and two) on the Pritzker plutocratic dynasty. 
The Vistria Group, the private equity firm he launched last year, focuses on companies at the “nexus of the public and private sectors,” such as education, health care, and financial services.
And he certainly has experience at that nexus. He was recently appointed by Rahm Emanuel to serve on the Midway Advisory Panel, tasked with exploring the privatization of Midway Airport. The Noble Network of Charter Schools, on whose board he serves, also fits nicely in that nexus.

The Noble Network of Charter Schools got attention a few years ago for its practice of fining its low-income students for behavior infractions:
Noble Network of Charter Schools charges students at its 10 Chicago high schools $5 for detentions stemming from infractions that include chewing gum and having untied shoelaces. Last school year it collected almost $190,000 in discipline "fees" from detentions and behavior classes – a policy drawing fire from some parents, advocacy groups and education experts.

Officials at the rapidly expanding network, heralded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a model for the city, say the fees offset the cost of running the detention program and help keep small problems from becoming big ones. Critics say Noble is nickel-and-diming its mostly low-income students over insignificant, made-up infractions that force out kids administrators don't want.

"We think this just goes over the line ... fining someone for having their shoelaces untied (or) a button unbuttoned goes to harassment, not discipline," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of the Chicago advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education, which staged protests last week over the policy after Woestehoff said she was approached by an upset parent.

Students at Noble schools receive demerits for various infractions – four for having a cellphone or one for untied shoelaces. Four demerits within a two-week period earn them a detention and $5 fine. Students who get 12 detentions in a year must attend a summer behavior class that costs $140.
One mother was even fined $3,000 by Noble. 
Chicago's school system received quite a bit of attention last year because of Rahm Emanuel's outrageous number of school closings. While closing down public schools and failing to provide sufficient resources to those still open, Rahm was also expanding charter schools like Noble.
The Chicago Planning Commission approved the Noble Charter School Network's zoning request Thursday, paving the way for a new high school to be built across the street from Prosser Career Academy in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. ….
Those with Communities United for Quality Education (CUQE) and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS) say the Northwest Side community does not need any more high school seats, as four public high schools are already located within a 1.5-mile radius of the proposed site. Those surrounding schools include Edwin G. Foreman High School, Kelvyn Park High School, North-Grand High School and Prosser.

According to CPS’ funding formula for new charter schools, Noble is estimated to receive $1.3 million in startup and operations funds from CPS in its first year, the education organizers with CUQE and CSOSOS said.

“Why is CPS giving less to my school and willing to give more to charter schools,” Karla Cervantes, a Prosser senior and CSOSOS leader, said before the meeting. “My school lost $1.2 million this year, but CPS is willing to invest $1.3 million of my parents and other Chicago taxpayer money to get this new Noble Charter School up and running. We are sick and tired of CPS valuing charter schools over our schools."
According to CUQE and CSOSOS' calculation, by the time the charter school opens to all four grade levels, Chicago taxpayers would have paid over $8 million in operating costs. Those are resources that neighborhood public schools, not charters, desperately need, organizers said.

The existing public high schools in the Belmont Cragin area are already underresourced and have seen their collective school budgets cut by $6.3 million so far this school year, the activists said. The students and parents argued that the new charter high school may also lure students away from area public schools, meaning the neighborhood schools could lose even more dollars in the future due to decreased enrollment.
Due to the $1.2 million in budget cuts at Prosser, some classes are not using textbooks because the school cannot afford them for all the students, said Angel Sosa, a Prosser sophomore. Those affiliated with Prosser said they have been asking CPS to build an extension at the school to accommodate more students looking to get in, but the district has reportedly rejected the idea, citing budget constraints.

"Why is there no money for my school, but there's enough money to have a whole new charter school in front of my school in an area where there is already four CPS high schools with a 1.5-mile radius?" Sosa asked the commissioners.

Quijna Walton, a student at Steinmetz College Prep, added that her Spanish class has almost 50 kids in one classroom due to the budget cuts.
Next we have Kevin Poorman:
Kevin Poorman is a founding board member of The Barack H. Obama Foundation. Mr. Poorman also serves as the President and CEO of PSP Capital Partners and Executive Chairman of Vi Senior Living. Additionally, Mr. Poorman is currently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Loyola University of New Orleans, and a director of The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Inc.

Previously, Mr. Poorman was a partner in the law firm of Johnson & Swanson, and he remains a member of the American, Illinois and Texas Bar Associations. He received his Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Oklahoma, and graduated law school with highest honors.
PSP Capital Partners is the private equity firm founded by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Vi Senior Living (formerly known as Classic Residency by Hyatt) is also part of the Pritzker family commercial empire. 

Poorman is also on the board of directors of Hi-Crush, a frac sand producer and distributor:
Hi-Crush is an integrated producer, transporter, marketer and distributor of high-quality monocrystalline sand, a specialized mineral that is used as a "proppant" (frac sand) to enhance the recovery rates of hydrocarbons from oil and natural gas wells. Our reserves, which are located in Wyeville, Wisconsin, consist of "Northern White" sand, a resource that exists predominately in Wisconsin and limited portions of the upper Midwest region of the United States. Hi-Crush owns and operates the largest distribution network in the Marcellus and Utica shales, and has distribution capabilities throughout North America.
And then we have Julianna Smoot:
Julianna Smoot is a founding board member of The Barack H. Obama Foundation. Ms. Smoot is currently a principal and co-founder of the Smoot Tewes Group, a Washington, D.C.-based political and public affairs consulting firm. Ms. Smoot has served in senior roles in President Obama's Administration and on both of his presidential campaigns.

During the 2008 presidential election, Ms. Smoot served as National Finance Director for the Obama for America campaign. During President Obama's first term, she served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and later, as White House Social Secretary and Deputy Assistant to the President. In 2011, Ms. Smoot was asked to serve as a Deputy Campaign Manager for President Obama's re-election effort. During both election cycles, she set new fundraising records.

Ms. Smoot's previous experience includes work for numerous prominent Democratic senators, including Senators Dick Durbin, Tom Daschle, and Chris Dodd.
Ms. Smoot received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College in Massachusetts.
I tried to find out more about STG's clients. It describes its portfolio as ranging "from health care issues to energy and environmental campaigns, as well as fundraising and strategic counsel for a number of charitable and political causes. Unsurprisingly, Smoot consults for OFA and a Majority PAC. She also advises Democratic-affiliated advocacy group Americans United for Change, which was founded by Paul Tewes in the fight against Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.  STG is currently helping the campaign against the proposed Facebook page seems to indicate that they have done work against Keystone XL, or perhaps other pipeline projects.

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