What to do next? The $37 million question

By: 
DAVID KEYES
Laurel Outlook Publisher

What to do next? The $37 million question

 

The message or the messenger?

Two days after Laurel’s school bond election went down, one has to wonder what the real message that was being conveyed on Tuesday.

From this vantage point, the message was crystal clear. 

• With more than 50 percent of registered voters casting ballots and the vast majority of those voting no, something didn’t click.

• Laurel has outgrown aging facilities and the student population is trending up.

• A bond was needed in order to construct a school and refurbish others to solve overcrowding.

• The bond was nosebleed expensive. In order to make the changes the district and advisory council suggested, a lot of money needed to be borrowed.

• The need isn’t going to go away and the price of construction – and money – is only going to go up from where it is now.

Much like national politics these days, there are two camps – the “for us” or “against us” parties. And as much as some would like, it is really difficult for many to see another person’s point of view.

The old adage about walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins unfortunately doesn’t fit in the  “you’re a snowflake” or “you’re a Trumper” political discourse of today.

These liberal versus conservative lines even popped up during this election and that made no sense to me.

The fact that a bond election is the only real time a person can directly vote to not spend more money didn’t help matters. Getting property tax notices during the election time didn’t help matters either.

So, where does this community go from here? It might make sense for the school district and citizens to listen to the no voters rather than doubling down right away and running it again.

The common strategy for passing bonds is to make sure the guaranteed yes votes are active and engaged, remind the maybe votes to get out and vote yes and to ignore the no voters.

It looks like the Citizens for Better Schools did a good job informing folks. They were at nearly every civic meeting, held a forum and were engaged, informed and energetic.

It appears that there is a need. All a person has to do is see the overcrowding, the buckets on the floor to capture water and the general state of disrepair in the oldest schools to know the status quo isn’t working here.

My guess is that some of the no voters haven’t set foot in Laurel schools for years. 

Many people were also confused by the scope of what the bond was buying. More than a few people asked me what the timetable was about purchasing land for a new school, etc.

People are going to ask all sorts of questions with such an aggressive, expensive plan. Obviously not enough questions were answered for the majority of voters.

So was it the message or the messenger on Tuesday?

 

David Keyes is publisher of the Outlook.

 

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019
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