Guest Columnists

Smaller, neighborhood bonds don't work

Students at Kirkwood Elementary School wait in line for their lunches Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at the school in Coralville.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Students at Kirkwood Elementary School wait in line for their lunches Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at the school in Coralville. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
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I have spent the past six months working with arguably the most diverse group I have ever been associated with on a community issue.

There are leaders participating in our various committee meetings who I know firsthand have never been on the same page of a bond, social or political issue. Ever.

Some of these individuals’ cares seem to always end at their municipal boundary. Honestly, it has been quite refreshing.

I am very hopeful that after Sept. 12, these respectful relationships will carry forward to other important community initiatives.

The reason this collaboration has been so diverse and respectful is pretty simple. The Iowa City Community School District facility needs are very real. And this community — above all else — values public education.

What I don’t understand is the proposed solution of breaking it up into smaller bonds. Those proposing this seem to agree facility needs are real, and report being “pro bond,” just “not this bond.”

For starters, there is no such thing as a perfect bond. The district spent months drafting bond language to provide some flexibility (for enrollment shifts) but require the bond be spent on the projects outlined in the 10-year Facilities Master Plan — developed after participation by more than 2,000 of our neighbors.

Please take time to read the actual bond ballot language at passthebond.com.

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As for this smaller bond strategy, when has that ever worked in this community? This is not a viable solution as we have proved time and time and time again that we do not vote as a community. Well, certainly not at 60 percent. We continue to vote as neighborhoods or, at best, cities.

The east side vs. west side and city vs. county challenges are a very real thing on many levels, our school district being the most obvious. Because of this, I don’t believe any of our cities or neighborhoods would step up and vote for a smaller bond on a promise that the next one will include them. Nor should they have to. It’s also troubling that not one person who advocates for this smaller bond strategy has shared their plan for what would be included. This includes two current school board members.

The much ballyhooed $191.5 million price tag also has been seen as a concern. Yes, that is a big number, but the costs to address these widely accepted needs are what the costs are. This is the all-in total for facility improvements at 20 area schools. The number doesn’t appear quite as shocking when you consider it cost $176 million to replace Hancher Auditorium.

Whether we live in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, University Heights, Hills or Johnson County, we still are one community, one that values public education more than anywhere else in the state. Let’s vote that way, all for one, on Sept. 12.

• Josh Schamberger of Coralville is president of the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau and is a parent of students at Wickham Elementary and North Central Junior High

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