Mile Post: Dollars and sense

Teri Orr

Teri Orr.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Marking a place in time — puttinganailinit—in a year that felt like shapeshifting Jello — is kinda difficult.

We are still full of “known knowns and known unknowns,” and it all feels pretty fluid and stuck in the same moments. Wearing a mask is uncomfortable and hot and just might save your life and other people’s lives. We thought vaccines would make us bulletproof and that we could return mostly to life as we knew it with full body hugs and BBQs when we were all double-vaxxed. And when spring came we felt a measure of both hope and relief. And we ate inside at trusted restaurants and gathered with good friends. And hugged again.

And then that damn delta variant showed up and crashed the party. And now we need to return to protocols that require vigilance or death. It is another hard year ahead. Election years bring out the issues, in ways we look at less deeply in other years. Development and roadways and toxic soil and what is art and what is culture and why they are vital to appreciating our understanding of our place on the planet.

There was only one time (that I recall in 40-plus years) the Park City School District ever failed to pass a school bond election — and that was the last one. It became a hydra-headed monster that in the 11th hour threw in a fieldhouse proposal, with officials thinking who will notice another $12 million? The bond was for $56 million as part of a proposal that would cost $66 million altogether and included $12 million for the fieldhouse and other athletic improvements. And jock parents talked in a jock circle and convinced themselves they knew how the folks in the Basin would vote. It was a really bad, un-educated guess. They were asking for money for the critically needed classroom infrastructure and then a giant hot fudge sundae on the side. We love our kids and educators, and we want to provide them with what they need to successfully educate and be educated in spaces that allow for continued great learning to happen. If only teachers could teach board members (and engaged parents and voters) what elements/spaces are most needed to better teach students. And then — let those educators run the election. And yes, parents would still be needed to campaign, along with dedicated senior citizens who know a successful community only exists when the school system has the smartest buildings and the smartest faculty we can afford.

As to the bond amount the School District is seeking this time around — let’s be abundantly transparent about the money we need and what we already have. If we need what was once tossed around as $150 million to fix our schools and we’re only bonding for about $80 million because we are “hoping to raise the rest or borrow another $50 million” “from other sources,” shouldn’t we identify those other sources before we feel confident to vote for this? Clearly, nobody runs a major, multi-structure proposal like this in the real world and says “we hope we will have enough money when we need it to build it out fully. Trust us and we’ll figure it out later.” Ask them at, say, Goldman Sachs how that would fly. No bank loans like that. If it is true the district has already secured a source for that extra outside funding, they need to share that information with the public. We need educated and trusting and confident voters to get this critical bond passed. So nobody puts (our) Baby in the corner of the (overcrowded) classroom.

The county, meanwhile, hopes to run an election of maybe $50 million for open space. This is such a no-brainer. The county is late to the fencepost on saving space — something that Park City has done in a spectacular fashion for decades. We moved here for the open space — not a series of pop-up box developments or sprawl we were all too familiar with in the places we left behind. We should be able to jumpstart this rather modest fund, really, given the price of real estate everywhere in the country. And though we often have an US-and-THEM kinda mentality — we all live downstream and we all live in the same damn county.

Of course our relationship in Park City of working “together” with the county was, for decades, separate and somewhat unequal. We were the favored child who brought home the trophies. Sundance and the Olympics and bike races and arts and culture events that were filled with national names. The county had the fair and the rodeo and all that stunning farm and ranchland we thought of as “our” open space. It wasn’t. It belonged to generational landholders who preserved the land for their children to farm/ ranch. And the kids are alright — they just don’t want to stay down on the farm. And now all that land is being carved up rather quickly. The county (which again, is US) wants to start saving open space, too. We need to vote for this fund. Four more years will be too late. Recently, I saw there was a new business listing in Kamas called the Shamanic Twist Wellness Center. Which I intend to visit, but just to be clear — this is no longer your grandmother’s Kamas.

It is kinda difficult to take the temperature of an entire county at this marker in time. But right now — if I am honest — it all feels like a shaking bowl of scary lime-green Jello. Become informed and vote — by mail or with a mask or with a fox or after you have eaten green eggs and ham (locally sourced). There is only one way to change what happens in a democracy — we vote.

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