Residents in the have a lot to think about before they head to the polls next week, but at a candidates forum Tuesday, about the only thing on their minds was Andrew Cegielski.
The 27-year-old candidate, one of three people running for two seats on the School Board, was the focus of much of evening - as audience members and his opponents riddled him with questions about his two drunken driving arrests, his views on school finance, his opposition to the upcoming referendum and his lack of experience.
"As a parent, it's becoming more and more glaring to me, as I listen to Andrew, I don't understand why he's running," candidate Joe Kasle said. "The thought of a School Board member who has been pulled over not once, but twice, is no role model for my children."
The wforum at Nicolet High School was sponsored by Fox Point-Bayside Patch. At times it was heated and included occasional outbursts from the audience, requiring Cegielski address the issue of his criminal record.
"Three years ago, I made some poor choices and I was pulled over for a DUI," he said. "Over the course of three months, I got a second DUI. It’s not something I’m proud of. I’ve learned from it, though."
Cegielski also was the only one of the three candidates to oppose the referendum that will be on Tuesday's ballot, calling for spending $2.15 million annually over the next five years.
"It represents a stop-gap measure for those costs that are set in stone," he said. "We should have the power to live within our means and the referendum was not necessarily the best way to start that process."
"Can I burst your bubble?" Kasle asked. "Do you believe the crap you’re spewing? If we cut $1.3 million out of this budget, where’s that going to come from? What’s going to happen next year? In your own little world of looking beyond your nose, look a little further beyond that."
Cegielski said he would like to see math and science classes become four-year requirements, as he sees technology as a basis for future jobs. But Kasle questioned Cegielski's financial capacity to understand where the funds for additional classes would be found.
"Where’s the money going to come from to pay those teachers?" Kasle asked. "If we don’t pass the referendum, how are you going to sustain what we have today, let alone, implement some of these ideas, which are good ideas?"
Kasle questioned Cegielski's choice to run for a Nicolet School Board seat since he has no children in the district and never attended Nicolet. Both he and candidate Morton Grodsky suggested that Cegielski may have ulterior motives for running for the board.
To emphasis that point, Grodsky brought up a letter the Cegielski sent to local radio talk show hosts in which he links the Nicolet referendum to efforts to recall state Sen. Alberta Darling.
The letter said in part: "If the district gets this money, it will embolden the liberals who are now in the midst of recall efforts and judicial challenges."
"There’s no room for a political agenda on a school board - zero. It doesn’t work," Kasle said.
"In terms of an agenda, there's no question this gentleman, Mr. Cegielski, has an agenda," Grodsky said. "His agenda is to sacrifice our children for his own personal, political beliefs."
But Cegielski defended his actions.
"We have to, in many ways, show our young people education is a lot about emulation, about looking to your elders and seeing what they would do in certain circumstances," he said.
He added that the effort to recall Darling is a waste of time and money since she her term expires in 2012.
"My letter to those individuals, talk show hosts or whatever, represents not only my voice but a lot of people's voices," Cegielski said.