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Letter | School bond deserves a loud and clear 'vote no'

We followed the advice of the “green color” school bond related signs along Island Crest Way. We “Got the facts”. We attended advocacy meetings, School Board meetings, and even other community discussions on the subject. We carefully listened to the arguments, and read all the available material. For due diligence, we even went further. We compared what was being proposed for MI schools and the bond, to other equivalent size and quality school districts nationally (which have equivalent or better results and scores). Based on all that we were able to assess, it was clear that the only answer was that both the proposed school plan and school bond are seriously flawed, and most inappropriate. The school bond should be summarily defeated. It is important to VOTE NO, not only for the sake of assuring a quality education for our students, but also for the sake of the community.

The school plan and bond’s fundamental basis, assumptions, and analysis are flawed. The school capacity increase is delayed for too long (many years). The capacity is proposed to be added in the wrong places (it is not being added primarily on the north end, where it should be, and where any future growth logically dictates). Both the “tear down and completely re-build” and “swing school” concepts are inefficient, inappropriate, and unnecessary. They are likely to even cost more than other better alternatives. Due diligence, with a credible independent “non-advocate” review was apparently never conducted. The proposed MISD “land banking/ swap” plan is most unconvincing. Based on a two decade failed record of seriously flawed school district land transactions, the MISD has near zero “land stewardship credibility” remaining. Few believe that the MISD could successfully complete any such land swap transaction, with either the city or with a commercial entity, without serious broad community pushback. The school build plan was never assessed or integrated with broader “community wide requirements” or plans, for aspects like traffic consequences, zoning changes needed, general community taxation burden, infrastructure consequences, or emergency preparedness consequences. In fact, in this important regard, the MISD proposal hardly even merits being called a “plan” yet. Even worse, it seems to change weekly. In any serious “business case” type review for a nearly $200M bond, if taken outside of the context of the MI public sector, this bond would not likely have made it to square one. It is little comfort that other nearby school districts may or may not have any more detailed documentation of their bond efforts. This is Mercer Island. Here, citizens care deeply both about education, and about use of validated data, planning, and fiscal responsibility.

We have always been strong education supporters. We supported every other MI school bond. We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the past and present teachers and staff on MI, and the community leaders who helped achieve our quality schools. We are three decade MI residents, with grown children educated by MI schools. Our children each went on to successfully attend top tier universities and complete graduate and professional degrees. So we believe we understand the issues, and choices at hand. We’ve concluded this proposed school bond is NOT the right answer. The community needs to “Vote NO”. This will force the MISD to send the process back to a credible re-plan. The re-plan after the bond fails will need to use validated, current, and legitimate data, and realistic ranges of projected assumptions, with professional input, community wide opportunity for review, successful city coordination, and have independent financial and taxation consequence confirmation. Finally a re-plan needs to survive a serious “non-advocate” review, BEFORE any subsequent bond is again put to the MI voters.

Tom and Dee Imrich

 

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