Leirion Gaylor Baird’s Tax-Raising Petition Story Tough to Swallow

Leirion Gaylor Baird City of Lincoln, Nebraska City Council Campaign logo May 2013

On April 15, 2013, Nebraska Watchdog published “Lincoln council candidate mistakenly signed petition to raise taxes”, reporting that Gaylor Baird signed a document calling on the City Council to raise the property tax levy by 5-cents in 2011.

The candidate responded to Watchdog’s inquiry by explaining that when she’d been “asked to sign the petition while leaving a library” she thought it “just supported the mayor’s budget”, but, when she discovered it called for a tax increase, “she contacted the petition organizer” to have her name removed. Watchdog reported that the petition organizer confirmed Gaylor Baird’s version of events.

We have many questions about this subject, all of which arose in doing our own research about Leirion Gaylor Baird. For many reasons, we here at GiN find her explanation about the 2011 petition hard to swallow.

I decided to inquire into this petition kerfuffle further because of her explanation of how her name ended up on a petition to raise taxes when she contends she was not then, nor is she now, in favor of doing so.  I found it disconcerting that Ms. Gaylor Baird was comfortable portraying herself as someone who signs documents without reading them carefully. Is this a quality any of us find appealing in a potential candidate with the power to vote on laws and taxes?

formerly/http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/125788863.html

Digging deeper, I accidentally stumbled across a July 11, 2011 report on the Channel 10/11 website, formerly/http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/125788863.html which opens as follows:

“It’s not very often you hear people asking the city to raise taxes. But one Lincoln woman is rallying people in the area to do just that.

-’We’re putting passion and money behind the things, the values and the ideals we care about in this town,’ Leirion Gaylor Baird, a Lincoln mom, said.”

Note that the quotation above constitutes the first two full paragraphs of the story, unedited. Channel 10/11′s report indicates, then, that Gaylor Baird is “rallying” people on the issue. The article features additional quotes from Gaylor Baird, from Rosina Paolini, and from another woman who doesn’t factor in any further in this issue.

Unless Channel 10/11′s practice varies from local TV news norms, the written version of the story on the website is essentially a minor edit of the copy used by the reporter for broadcasting. It’s not impossible that Channel 10/11 bobbled the ordering of their report and made a casual petition signer passing out of a library look like she was involved in something when she was not (mistakes do happen[1. We do our best to do our homework and avoid error here at GiN. But we’re human and although it’s been a blessedly rare occasion to date, we have made  mistakes. One of them was very recent, in fact, so recent, that the very same Nebraska Watchdog article which reported Gaylor Baird’s petition “mishap” highlights our error. Of course the ironies here aren’t lost on us.]). However, that wouldn’t be the end of the error. Ms. Gaylor Baird appears throughout the story, as does Ms. Paolini, and it includes multiple statements attributed to her. Since the website report is likely a “transcript” of sorts of the live broadcast, it’s highly likely those statements are verbatim quotes. In addition to the quote above, the story also included the following:

‘I think it’s really important to maintain the services for my kids and kids all over Lincoln,’ Gaylor Baird said.

‘I’d really hate to see myself and others who care about the library lose access to something like this which really helps these kids become the future leaders of tomorrow in our town,’ Gaylor Baird said.

Gaylor Baird is talking about maintaining “services” and the potential loss of them. If she thought she was just supporting the Mayor’s proposed budget, why is she concerned about loss of programs? Furthermore, would Ms. Gaylor Baird have us all believe that not only is she willing to put her name to a petition document without understanding its purpose, but that she’s also eager to engage in a TV news interview and so confidently advocate for a cause which she doesn’t understand?

Not only do Gaylor Baird’s claims lack credibility in substance, they lack credibility by circumstance – she was just “leaving a library”, when she:

  • Accidentally signed a petition
  • Somehow got all swirled up in a TV news story which places her directly with the lead organizer, portrays her as rallying others to the petition’s cause, and weaves facts about the petition around her quotes

Further, Ms. Gaylor Baird claims she contacted the petition organizer and asked to have her name removed once she realized the petition was aimed at raising taxes. If Gaylor Baird was so concerned about her name appearing in association with a tax increase effort, why didn’t she contact Channel 10/11 and have it correct the news report? Which is more likely: People will find out about signatures on an informal petition (it’s not the same kind which puts a measure on a ballot), which is not a legal document and so is not a matter of public record OR people will see a news report on local TV, which, if we are to believe Gaylor Baird, completely misrepresented her involvement?

Leirion Gaylor Baird and Dick Campbell in Campbell's Nursery for Lincoln City Council race, May 2013, campaign commercial

In addition to the substance and circumstances, Ms. Gaylor Baird’s resume casts additional doubt on her claims of apparent ignorance in this case. Her campaign website biography states:

“She has also worked as a city budget and policy analyst…”

It appears Mrs. Gaylor Baird understates her experience in this arena, at least it seems so when one examines her biography in a San Francisco City / County Government report document from 1999 (archived link):

“LEIRION GAYLOR, Budget Analyst, Mayor’s City Budget Office, is the representative staff member from the Mayor’s office knowledgeable about the City’s budget. Ms. Gaylor is not only the COSW’s (Commission on the Status of Women) budget analyst, but is also a specialist about city-wide budget procedures.”

Ms. Gaylor Baird was Budget Analyst for San Francisco’s 41st Mayor, Willie Brown.

In addition to having more understanding of a city budget’s finer points than the average library-goer, Gaylor Baird would also have some familiarity with the politics associated with any sort of petition effort.

Rosina Paolini, the apparent lead organizer of the petition effort, the Nebraska Watchdog reported, confirmed that Gaylor Baird had requested her name be removed from the petition.

It’s not for me to explain this bit of information; I can only ask more questions: How many people take down the contact information of a petition signature gatherer for future reference? Was there a website, for instance where Ms. Gaylor Baird could find Paolini’s contact information? Or did they already know each other, and if so, how?

The research I’ve done shows several points of intersection in interests and involvements between Ms. Gaylor Baird and Ms. Paolini, particularly through City of Lincoln planning and environmental committees, etc., that frequently formerly/http://lincoln.ne.gov/city/plan/lplan2040/committee/110223/notes.pdfinteract or have similar matters to consider 1. I’ll leave the business of analyzing and conclusion-drawing to the discretion of readers.

So, did that tax increase happen?

Paolini’s name appears in at least two news reports and twice in City Council meeting minutes in conjunction with the effort to raise property taxes. On July 13, 2011, for instance, Paolini, the petition, and her statements that she could gather 1,300 signatures of support (she had 300 at the time), were key features in Nancy Hicks’ Lincoln Journal Star article, “Mayor’s proposal is 10% city property tax hike” formerly . Ultimately, the City voted to raise the property tax levy as proposed by the Mayor:  2.8-cents per $100.

Considering the many troublesome problems with Ms. Gaylor Baird’s version of events, the logical conclusion is that she simply doesn’t want Lincoln voters to think she is favors tax increases. In an effort to provide cover for herself, she preferred to appear careless.

Gaylor Baird has raised $95,000 for her City Council campaign, which constitutes 1/3 of all funds raised by all six candidates combined. Among her expenditures, Gaylor Baird has blanketed local TV with a series of ads.

I believe one of them, in particular, is worth pointing out. In “Keeping it Positive”, Gaylor Baird explains that she’s “running her campaign with the same values I’m teaching my children; honesty and fair play.”

Images & Graphics Sources
The images and graphics in this article were obtained from the following sources:

“Leirion for Lincoln” formerly campaign sign

Footnotes, References & Citations

Notes:

  1. Leirion Gaylor Baird is an appointee on the Lincoln and Lancaster County Planning Commission and was a former member of the LPlan 2040 Advisory Committee. Rosina Paolini received an award from the LPlan 2040 Committee in 2010 when Ms. Gaylor Baird was still a member and frequently attended its meetings. Paolini was subsequently appointed to Mayor Beutler’s Environmental Task Force. Gaylor Baird and Paolini both have an interest in running. In addition, Rosina Paolina is the Vice-President of Friends of Wilderness Park, which regularly organizes candidate forums, including the one this year for City Council, and seeks funds from government entities. Paolini organizes the annual “Run for the Bridges” marathon, in which Gaylor Baird has been an annual participant.

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