Down the Ballot

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Campaign '11 Not that Scary...

We are in the midst of the most important election of our lifetimes....nah I can't sell you campaign 2011 with that recycled rhetoric we hear from candidates and pundits every election year. In the grand scheme of things this election might not be very important to most of us, but for some this year this election means more than any presidential election or gubernatorial election they've ever been apart of. Yes, I'm talking about the candidates for school board and all the special district boards and commissions out there. You may know one of them and never realize they are an elected official.
Homer trying to vote on election day.

 Election Day is May 17, 2011 this year and I hope to have my ballot turned in by then. In this 'off' year election ballots that are turned in sometimes only reach into the hundreds in some communities and those few hundred votes decide who will be overseeing the fire district, the water district, the community schools and maybe even the local parks and swimming pools. These are the public service functions we have interactions on a day to day basis. More attention should be given in these campaigns than they traditionally receive. Who gets elected to the fire district might determine how fire services are or are not delivered to residents in rural areas. The local water board could decide that a more expensive source is needed for drinking water. A local aquatics board could decide that due to budget issues the pool can't be open on your one day off during the week. Lots of issues come before these boards so it is important to know who the people running for these offices are and what they plan to do if elected. Sometimes that's tough, especially if no one files a statement in the voters pamphlet. 

The tough races in my local area in 2011 will be the candidates for school board. I often find myself underwhelmed by the options on the ballot. This year is no exception. We have two seats being contested by five individuals. Two current board members are running for re-election, yet only one appears in the voters pamphlet. For some reason the other current board member failed to get in the pamphlet, essentially they have also failed to get my vote. If the position like this was important to you; you would pay the small amount of money it requires to have your name and what you stand for printed in it. So that's one race down. The other involves three candidates. One of them has a clear agenda and probably the most developed campaign message of the three candidates. Both are very vague in what they want to accomplish. One is a current board member and writes a lot about what they have done over the last four years, but not a lot about what they want to do in the next four years. A final candidate demonstrates a long list of activities in support of students and public schools, but still vague on ideas of what they would like to accomplish over the next four years.I am unsure how I will vote for the three-way school board race, I might have to do some digging in the local paper to see if there is any media coverage of the race that might shed some additional light on the matter.

No special district election would be complete without the annual bond measure and my local school district will be voting on one for $20 million dollars to make repairs and upgrades to buildings, buy new textbooks, and buy new computers for the entire district. As of right now I am a 'NO' vote, that could change if I hear better arguments besides, "well we have to do it now or else spend more money later". Don't get me wrong, I'm a liberal progressive Democrat. I love using public money to pay for schools, but I feel like this bond measure should be two separate bonds. Making our schools energy efficient and compliant is a great thing and that alone would be enough for me to vote YES, but if I vote yes I'm also voting for buying the entire district new computers and new big, heavy, burdensome textbooks.

My basic problem with the second half of the bond measure is instead of buying the district computers, we ought to be buying students computers. If every child entered the third grade with a netbook or laptop computer we could start everyone out on the same page technologically. By middle school students would know and understand how to take care of their technology. The other cool thing about every student having the same technology background is textbooks could be put on flash drives. No longer would students have to keep track of 5-8 textbooks everyday. I know; dream on. Our schools are not nearly that progressive. What's the point of buying all these computers for the schools if they only have one IT person on hand to take care of 100+ computers? Wouldn't it be far better if our students learned how to take of their own technology?

I leave you with this simple request. Please remember to vote by the 17th. Your community needs your input on these matters.
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