Tom Clyde: Stay home and vote
More Dogs on Main
October 29, 2017
I got my ballot in the mail the other day. I'm still not used to the mail-in election. It lacks the gravitas of driving into town and standing in line. Years ago, we voted in a neighbor's living room on a rickety card table while the election judges worked on a quilt. It doesn't get more democratic than that. Then they got the new machines and combined all the voting districts. It made the votes easier to count, and made it harder for people to get to the polling place. So mail-in is probably better. It removes any legitimate excuse for not voting other than pure apathy. But I do miss the Election Day climax to the campaign season.
In my area of the unincorporated County, there are only two items on the ballot. There is a school board election between two people I don't know and who have not campaigned that I've been able to see. Nobody ever campaigns in my neighborhood because they can't figure out where the county line is, and don't want to waste their time pitching to voters in the wrong county.
The other item on the ballot is a $58.6 million dollar bond election to build a new high school in Kamas and update the existing buildings. The plan would then realign the grades in the existing buildings to spread the kids out over the available space. The school board has made a pretty convincing argument that the growth demands more space, and it's been a very long time since any new buildings were built. They studied the needs and how to meet them carefully, and this is a practical, if expensive, solution.
I've never voted against a school bond in my life. I attended public schools and believe they are the foundation of democracy. A quality public school system is essential to a quality community. The student population is projected to nearly double in the South Summit District in the next 10 to 15 years. That could easily happen. So I think the need is legitimately there, and $58 million is about what a high school costs.
“It feels like South Summit voters are being asked to solve Park City’s problems instead of Summit County solving Summit County’s problems.”
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But I'm struggling with this one. A big part of it is just a general orneriness about growth. I'm tired of accommodating it; tired of the traffic, tired of endless road construction, tired of my windshield getting chipped from rocks bouncing off dump trucks, tired of seeing farmland turned to suburbia. As density increases, there will need to be sewer systems. I would vote against any sewer bonds on the theory that if they can't flush the toilet, they won't come.
In the movie "Field of Dreams," the ghosts told Kevin Costner, "If you build it, they will come." The counter-factual is always harder to prove. It's not clear that if you don't build it, they won't come. I doubt that voting against the school bond will slow, let alone stop, the growth. But it might be worth a try. The school board would point out that they are already here, looking for a place to sit. It's too late.
Summit County has three school districts. The reasons for that go back a hundred years when it as a very long day by horseback to get from on to another. There were undeniable cultural differences, too, that left people more comfortable with the three districts. The original boundaries were drawn up to try to equalize the tax base of each district. Park City had the mines, Coalville had the coal mines and railroad. Kamas didn't have an industrial base, so they gerrymandered the South Summit boundaries to follow the Union Pacific tracks into Park City, so they got the taxes from the railroad. That used to be worth something.
It doesn't make sense to have three school districts any more. The growth in Kamas and Oakley isn't because Ace Hardware hired a few more clerks. Kamas is growing because Park City is growing, and growing so ridiculously expensive that the middle class is moving to Kamas, Heber and elsewhere. The displaced locals have to live somewhere. Without the Aspenization of Park City, Kamas Valley would not need a new $58 million high school.
So how come Park City's tax base isn't available to help educate the kids who live in Kamas because their parents work in Park City? Silver Creek Village will account for about 1,000 new students in the South Summit District. Not one of them will think they live in Kamas. It feels like South Summit voters are being asked to solve Park City's problems instead of Summit County solving Summit County's problems. I'd feel better about voting for the bond issue if merging the school districts had been fully explored first.
Either way, be sure to stay home and vote this week.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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