Editorial: School bond proposal needs more work
October 30, 2015
Bond would benefit from another year of study
A bond for public education facilities in Park City should be an easy score. This one is not. The Park City School District’s $56 million capital improvements plan has been controversial, not because of the amount the district plans to spend, but the manner in which the plan was pitched and a lack of consensus over many of the details.
And whether or not it passes will depend largely on who shows up in Tuesday’s off-year election. With little or nothing else on the ballot in many Snyderville Basin neighborhoods, complacent school district constituents may be swamped by their more agitated anti-bond counterparts in the city limits. This week’s dustup over potential electioneering violations lodged against both supporters and detractors of the bond illustrate the public’s general malaise about the issue.
In hindsight it would have been prudent for the school board to postpone a bond vote until next year’s presidential election when a more representative turnout is expected. But they were impatient albeit for many of the right reasons. Interest rates and construction costs are unlikely to be as favorable next year.
Additionally, the plan has many hallmarks of a rush to judgment. While the school board is to be commended for attempting to devise a long-range, district-wide vision, it failed to bring the public along as the scope grew. Several elements took residents by surprise the proposed move of the football field (a major fumble) and the inclusion of $12 million in improved athletic facilities, for example.
Those issues are still festering among the opposition, as are other concerns like placement of two regional schools on the far west side of the district, transportation and grade alignment, to name a few. Those, more than a tax increase, are making otherwise supportive parents wary of approving the current school bond.
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The Park City School District has said that it needs to move quickly and that it is prepared to impose a capital levy bond to move forward, regardless of the public’s will. That would be a huge mistake.
If the bond passes on Tuesday, the district will have taken a gamble on the public’s trust and won. If it fails, the district should use some of its $19 million in capital reserves to refine its plan, gather more community input and return to the voters next year. Given Park City’s fervent support of public education, it would then be a guaranteed win for everyone.
Among city’s surfeit of qualified candidates, Beerman, Murphy, Worel are on top
This year’s Park City Council campaign season has been tame, but the dearth of drama is not due to a lack of capable candidates. For the most part, the six candidates on Tuesday’s ballot are aligned in their concerns about growth, transportation, affordable housing, environmental sustainability and the economy. What differentiates them is their varying levels of experience.
Incumbent council member and Main Street businessman Andy Beerman has proven himself a leader on local and regional issues. His diplomatic skills were especially evident as he represented the city’s interests during the emotionally charged Mountain Accord discussions. He also showed extraordinary statesmanship following the contentious 2013 mayoral race which he lost to now-mayor Jack Thomas. The hatchets were dropped and immediately replaced with a spirit of team work and mutual respect.
Rory Murphy is also a well-regarded civic leader. As both a developer and former Park City planning commissioner, Murphy has kept Park City’s best interests in clear view. He earned community-wide respect during his tenure as a lead representative of the Flagstaff development, even among those opposed to the project and most recently honed those mediation skills while serving on the Park City School District’s master planning committee.
Nann Worel who heads up the People’s Health Clinic and currently serves on the Park City Planning Commission, offers a mix of strong organizational skills and experience with residents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Her perspective about the needs of the city’s essential-but-underrepresented service workers would be a valuable addition to the council.
As one of the youngest candidates to run in recent years, Becca Gerber has added a fresh voice to the campaign debates. She is well informed and speaks for a growing but often silent segment of Park City’s workforce — young professionals who are hard pressed to donate time to public service. Her campaign, though, would have benefited from a more detailed platform that might have set her apart from her more-experienced opponents. If elected, though, she has shown she will learn quickly. If not, we hope she and her supporters will continue to be active in shaping city policies.
Hope Melville, in her tenure on the Historic Preservation Board has demonstrated a sharp eye for detail and a strong commitment to the city’s heritage. She is also more willing than most to demand compliance with, and enforcement of, the city’s overarching architectural guidelines. Her service on the board is to be commended and our only reservation about recommending her for a council post is based on the broader and longer term experience of her opponents.
Dan Portwood added to the campaign, too, as an outlier with respectful but divergent viewpoints. His opinions, however, are not as in sync with the community’s overall goals, especially pertaining to environmental initiatives and managing growth.
Beerman, Murphy and Worel are the strongest candidates in this impressive field.
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