Thursday, October 28, 2010

Alpine School Board Elections

A few members of the Alpine School Board are up for reelection, including my representative, Donna Barnes. I will not be voting for Mrs. Barnes, and am deeply disappointed in the entire board. I feel they have grown to epitomize the "we know better than you, now sit down" attitude elected officials often adopt.

One experience I have had with them highlights this point. Recently a new elementary school was built in Eagle Mountain a little over a mile from my home. Prior to its construction my children attended a school which is literally across the street from our neighborhood. The kids walked to school together every day in big groups. Many parents volunteered in large part because it was so close. So when the new lines were drawn up and my neighborhood was being sent to the school over a mile away many of us protested. Parents attended meetings for months, came up with a viable alternative and presented our plan to the Board and its committee.

Eventually it came down to a final presentation at a Board meeting. Our group came in large numbers and had an impressive presentation complete with statistics and even traffic studies. It was one of the most impressive displays of grassroots involvement I've ever seen. Perhaps most impressive was that the presentation was based on sound argumentation and was devoid of needless anger or emotion. Which is an important point because of what happened next. Our position was far too commonsensical to be adopted, and we were voted down almost unanimously. One member even abstained from voting because it was just too hard of a decision.

That night I went home and penned an email which I sent to every member of the Board. Again, it was not a "Crazy Parent Being Senselessly Angry" email. Quite the contrary. But I did express my frustration at feeling like the decision was made months previous and all the work my neighbors had done to lobby their representatives on the School Board was pointless, that all of the information that had been gathered had been too easily dismissed. I received an email response from the Board president, who I assume was speaking for the Board as a whole, since it was the only response I got. And it was akin to being a kid who's parent tells them "because I said so, now go away." It in no way addressed anything from the presentation or from my email. I wanted some insight as to the decision making process, as nothing that was said at the Board meeting did so. Instead, I was told that if I was less emotional I would agree with the Board, that the decision makers are all professionals who have done this many times and if I weren't so blinded by emotion I would see it their way.

In effect, after a presentation full of data and checkable facts, I requested more detail as to what specifically overrode those arguments. And I was told I was much too emotional for that. Huh? Now I feel like the Board gave us a collective pat on the head and sent us on our way. What's ironic is that in their fear (I assume that's the explanation for their behavior) of dealing with angry parents, they have created angry parents.

This is not how elected officials should behave. Therefore, they should no longer be elected officials.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eagle Mountain Aquatic Center Bond

Next week Eagle Mountain City will have a $7 million bond on the ballot to build an aquatic center. The center will have a lap pool, a lazy river, concessions, party room and more. It will cost a $200k home an additional $70 a year in property tax. Commercial property of the same value will pay an additional $125.

The center has been a few years in the making, and has actually been pared down from a larger multipurpose recreation facility. Proponents argue that because we have so many children, our city needs a rec center like this one. They say it will attract business to the community as these unnamed business leaders won't take us seriously unless we have additional amenities to offer. What they don't explain is how higher business taxes will be enticing as well.

I am not in favor of this bond for a few reasons. One is the previously mentioned increase of business taxes. Another is the increase is personal taxes. Particularly at a time when housing values are falling yet our property tax bills are not. I will be voting no if for no other reason than that watching my neighbors struggle with job losses, decreasing pay and hours, and some even losing their homes trumps my desire for a cool lazy river to take the kids to in the summertime.

But another reason has lately reinforced my opinion that this bond is a bad idea. Eagle Mounatin is in the Alpine School district. Alpine passed a $300 million bond in 2006 which built and remodeled schools all over the district, including $65 million for a new high school and $32 million for a middle school, both of which Eagle Mountain students now attend. The $300 million has been spent, and the district is planning on putting another bond on the ballot next year. Included in the district's future spending plans are more schools in Eagle Mountain, specifically our own High School and Middle School. So I ask, when our city has $90 million worth of new schools to build (and this doesn't count additional elementary schools), is it wise to be throwing money at an outdoor pool? For me, this was the final nail in the coffin for the aquatic center. How on earth can anyone rationalize spending millions of dollars on a lazy river and lap pools when we have literally a hundred million dollars to spend in the next 18 months? I for one cannot.