Former Iowa City mayors endorse school bond

Liberty High School in North Liberty on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Liberty High School in North Liberty on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

As former mayors of the City of Iowa City, we write in support of the public school bond referendum going before the voters on Sept. 12.

For years the City Council has prioritized the strengthening and protection of our established neighborhoods. The reason is simple: any local government that neglects its core puts the entire community at risk.

The City of Iowa City has made and continues to make important investments in its established neighborhoods — park upgrades, street and sidewalk improvements, revitalization of housing stock, and much more. The ongoing attention to these neighborhoods makes them more vital, which benefits our downtown and helps the university and other employers attract individuals and families.

As important as these neighborhood measures are, they cannot succeed unless our public schools are also strong. Neighborhoods influence schools, and schools influence neighborhoods.

The ICCSD Facilities Master Plan is a comprehensive, 10-year mission to address decades of unmet maintenance, overcrowding, and rapid population growth. Already, in Iowa City alone, the FMP has undertaken significant projects at Twain, Lucas, Horn, and Longfellow, elementary schools located in important yet vulnerable neighborhoods. It also brought us the first new elementary schools constructed east of the river since 1970, Alexander and new Hoover.

Funding the FMP’s remaining 20 districtwide projects was always contingent on bonding. For Iowa City, passage of the bond means: a complete remodeling of Mann and Lincoln; significant work at Lemme, Shimek, Wood and Alexander; and upgrades and expansions at South East as well as City, West, and Tate. The remaining projects are for schools located elsewhere in the district and are no less important for the students and communities they serve.

Recognizing the importance of completing the remaining projects on the FMP, the City Council voted unanimously this summer to endorse the bond measure. Perhaps even more compelling, leaders from across the district have united to volunteer on the One Community-One Bond committee to advocate for the bond’s passage. Labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce support the bond. Republicans and Democrats support the bond.

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Community leaders who often oppose each other on local issues share a common vision when it comes to our public schools: that the Sept. 12 bond referendum is the most important juncture in our community’s recent history.

We represent a combined 68 years of service on the City Council. We know how essential strong public schools are for our neighborhoods, our economic health, and our community strength. We will vote YES on September 12 so that our school buildings reflect the excellent teaching and learning that occurs within them.

If you agree, you owe it to your community to cast your vote. There is simply too much at stake.

• Matt Hayek, Regenia Bailey, Ross Wilburn, Ernie Lehman, Naomi Novick, Bill Ambrisco, and John Balmer served as mayors of Iowa City between 1980 and 2015

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