News Column

Bond issue divides Mount Pleasant

August 30, 2014

By Joey Aguirre, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa



Aug. 30--One representative for the Our Kids -- Our Future committee alleges the Save Our School committee is placing inaccurate information before the public through the media and is asking for a public forum where both sides come together to answer questions from the community.

And a representative for SOS says no thank you.

The proposed $16.9 million bond issue goes to vote Sept. 9, and Dave Helman wants to get a public forum scheduled sometime next week, after the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion ends.

"A panel forum where questions are posed to representatives from each side and citizens have a chance to fill out note cards with questions," Helman said. "We're just getting so much stuff in the press that people are just very confused."

Iowa Wesleyan College has held a few of these public forum meetings, the most recent one involving the new Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.

One man on that forum, John Hendrickson, said he would be open to moderating a discussion between both sides. Hendrickson serves as an adjunct professor at Iowa Wesleyan, teaching history and government classes. He started in 2006.

Hendrickson said he would look into organizing an event.

"I'm going to look into organizing a quorum, but it's kind of at the last minute, so I'm not sure something will be put together," Hendrickson said. "The forum would just be a way the community could get together and hear both sides of this argument because it's an important issue that's been front and center over the summer, and it's created both these camps.

"This issue has divided the community, and it's sad," he said.

Hendrickson envisions this forum as a Q-and-A between the public and members from both committees to answer questions for and against the bond issue.

"I have moderated and participated on panels at Wesleyan, and this would be something similar to one we did with the Affordable Care Act," Hendrickson said. "My goal as moderator, if we can organize this, would be to be non-partial, independent. This would be the community's chance to get clarifications on the issues."

Brian Roth, spokesman for the SOS committee, said his group will not participate in the forum. Roth preferred to have Helman call him personally instead of sending an email out suggesting the idea.

"His group has had all types of public forums. The school district has had all types of public forums prior to this. I don't see a reason for our group to participate in one," Roth said.

SOS is not in support of the bond issue.

"We're basically saying, 'No, not now,' because we believe it's a flawed plan," Roth said. "We don't believe the language of the bond in question is ironclad that they would spend the money in that manner.

"It's very general and not specific and does not obligate the school district to spend the $16.9 million on all these little projects that they talk about," he said.

A sample ballot obtained by The Hawk Eye shows what voters will see when they go to vote. It reads:

"Shall the Board of Directors of the Mount Pleasant Community School District in the Counties of Henry, Jefferson, Lee and Van Buren, State of Iowa, be authorized to contract indebtedness and issue General Obligation Bonds in an amount not to exceed $16,900,000 to provide funds to build, furnish and equip additions to and to remodel, repair and improve its existing elementary buildings and sites, including HVAC and related improvements; and to make technology improvements to the existing building, including technology equipment?"

Helman imagined a forum where everyone gets a chance to speak and answer questions. One question could be, in two minutes or less, explain why you are for or against the bond issue. The questions wouldn't be seen in advance.

"The Old Threshers reunion ends Monday, and everyone around here kind of takes a deep breath. Then there usually isn't much on the calendar that next week," Helman said. "The vote is the 9th, so I would think there's an evening or afternoon. On that Saturday (Sept. 6) the Hawkeyes don't play till 2:30 so we could do it that morning."

Helman and his group have held three public meetings and plan to hold three more before Sept. 9.

"The SOS people have had no public meetings, this is all being debated with ads and letters to the editor, and people are getting frustrated," Helman said. "This might be a good way to have a civil discussion about the issue and speak to the public."

___

(c)2014 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

Visit The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) at www.thehawkeye.com

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Source: Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA)


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