Vote again

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

None of the three alternative plans presented for addressing early childhood education space needs will save money over the initial $30 million proposal that failed with voters last December — by a mere 80 votes. It goes to show that it costs money to build schools, and there really is no way around it. You can add on to East School or the Middle School and it will cost about the same as building new on a separate, nearby site. Or, you can stretch the project out so there isn’t such a big cost upfront — over time, that will cost more in higher construction and interest costs.

A majority of voters approved of the initial proposal, but not 60%. Of course, the main problem cited by those surveyed was impact on property taxes. Farmers are having a terrible year. Turnout was low. We felt it coming because we heard so few people talking it up.

To win an election, the first rule is to ask people for their vote.

Nobody asked. Not hard enough, at least.

It was a good plan. But there were no big ads in the newspaper urging people to vote YES signed by community leaders. Public meetings were not well publicized and were poorly attended. We are not aware of any coordinated turnout campaign fueled by families and educators.

It would appear that the Iowa Legislature will approve an extension of the school sales tax. That will help lighten the property tax load. If the issue were run up the flagpole again, if a campaign were organized and a message were promoted by everyone, the ballot issue will pass.

The alternatives intrigued us, going in. Maybe something could have been done with East that would be cheaper and better. Not so. Don’t blame the architects. They get paid no matter what.

The school board has kept an open mind. It wants to know what the public thinks about the four options.

We think the board should pursue the original option again. Don’t scale it back to squeak it through. First, organize. Second, motivate. Third, execute by promoting relentlessly. Picking up 80 votes from the December election asks for an all-out community effort led by families, business leaders and educators. It all depends on how badly Storm Lake thinks it needs a new and expanded early childhood education center. Most people think we do. They need to try harder with the same proposal, and not take “no” for an answer.

Another overreach

If you were concerned with rural property rights, you should be alarmed at what the Republicans in the Iowa Legislature are trying to do. Despite widespread public opposition in public hearings that packed the Capitol, a bill persists that would prohibit the purchase of land by private entities for public purposes using public funds. So Farmer Jones will not be allowed to sell his property to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to hold for the county conservation board.

This restrains trade and should be held unconstitutional.

The land purchased is usually marginal ground near a public area or water body, and of limited value to other parties. Groups like the INHF and the Land Trust are able to blend private donations with public funds to expand natural resource protection in threatened areas, such as the Raccoon River Watershed.

Farm Bureau claims it gives these groups unfair bidding advantage. The truth is that livestock integrators like to put confinement buildings in marginal land areas, often near public areas and water bodies of relatively low land value. Farm Bureau doesn’t want a county conservation board to be on a level playing field with Smithfield Foods. And, it does not want to see a county park creep in size and endanger site distance requirements from public places. Farm Bureau has no interest in seeing more land in grass, because it is a major shareholder in Monsanto-Bayer.

It’s not as if public-land creep were a big issue in Iowa. We have the lowest percentage of public lands among the 50 states.

The saddest part is that opposition is widespread. Yet the bill advances. This is a perfect example of madness arising from the hubris of arrogance that builds when government is not divided between the parties. Farm Bureau and the chemical lobby own the Iowa GOP lock, stock and barrel, and nothing will be done to stop that freight train until the next election. Mark this bill down as extremist politics funded by dark money, and opposed by almost all the people. Let it remind us of how dangerous one-party politics is.