Archive for Wednesday, November 4, 1992

SCHOOL BOND MAKES GRADE AMONG VOTERS

November 4, 1992

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Renee Karr has been on the winning side of two Lawrence school bond issue referendums, one in 1990 and one Tuesday.

However, Karr said, there was a marked difference between the two experiences.

"This one was a lot more fun," Karr said Tuesday night.

In 1990, Karr and other members of a citizens committee helped defeat a $31 million bond issue proposal for a second high school and other improvements.

This year, Karr and other members of a different citizens committee helped win passage of a $29.9 million bond issue for two new elementary schools and a fourth junior high school. The bond issue also will allow for renovation of Lawrence High School and Central Junior High School and expansion of Wakarusa Valley School.

The bond issue passed overwhelmingly, with 24,969 people, or 73.6 percent, voting for it, and 8,942 people, or 26.4 percent, voting against it, according to unofficial totals.

"I think this is a real demonstration of the opposing sides from the last time coming together and working for something that they both believed in," Karr said. "I think this is the start of a healing process."

THE CITIZENS Committee for Classrooms for Learning organized a door-to-door campaign on Oct. 25, with more than 100 volunteers reaching thousands of homes. The committee also made 500 yard signs, held neighborhood forums and conducted a telephone campaign for about three weeks during October.

School Board President Barbara Ballard, who was elected Tuesday to the 44th District seat of the Kansas House, at one point was criticized by her opponent for not taking a leadership role in the bond issue campaign.

Ballard said Tuesday night that not having been in the spotlight didn't mean she wasn't involved.

"Most successful bond issues are done by the citizens for the citizens, and that's what we did," Ballard said. "There was plenty for board members to do. I don't think a board member always has to be out front doing everything. We were elected to make sure that things get done, and that's what I did.

"I would hope that if we did another bond issue that we would do it almost identically to how we did this one."

Ballard and board member Tom Murray helped develop campaign strategy. Murray said that as important as the citizens-based effort was, there was another crucial component of the bond issue proposal.

"THERE WERE a number of people who did an outstanding job working toward obtaining passage of the bond issue, but the reason that it passed is that it is a good plan that makes common sense to the community," Murray said. "I think the community was so happy to get a plan that made sense to it that it decided to support this and support it substantially, and the community support is very deeply appreciated."

John Bush, an organizer of the telephone campaign conducted by the citizens committee, said callers found out the reason for many of the votes against Tuesday's bond issue.

"There are some people who are concerned about taxes," Bush said. "You have a small minority anywhere that's going to vote against any kind of mill levy increase."

Bush said the callers also found a contingent that was anti-growth.

"They think they can stop it just by voting against the bond issue," Bush said. "There also seems to be a real east-west conflict within our community, and the fact that this was not just a new high school on the west side of town helped."

Bush said that in a recent telephone poll, the committee found that about 60 percent of voters were planning to vote for the bond issue. About 20 percent were against it, and about another 20 percent were undecided.

Bush said that sampling provided some optimism going into Tuesday's referendum.

"If the numbers had been reversed, I would have been real worried," he said.

THE BOND issue vote came just four months after Al Azinger became Lawrence's superintendent of schools.

Azinger, who had seen both successful and unsuccessful bond issue referendums as a school administrator in Iowa City, Iowa, said this campaign mirrored the successful ones he'd seen in Iowa.

"I think the community people who worked on this did a really nice job of getting the message out. In one bond referendum that passed in Iowa, we got a lot of community involvement, and it was a widespread thing. Clearly, I think that happened in this election here."

"It was just a real team effort with lots and lots of people getting involved. I don't think the school board can do it by itself. I don't think the administration can do it by itself," Azinger said. "I think it also has got to be an issue that is credible to a lot of people, and I think people were convinced that the need was there. They recognized the need, and they acted accordingly."

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