Our view: Lack of campaign worrisome | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Lack of campaign worrisome

We were immediately concerned last week when we learned there was no organized campaign committee working to promote the issues the Steamboat Springs School Board has placed on the Nov. 7 ballot. We think it's pretty risky for the school board to approach this election without having recruited a dedicated group of community members to promote the measures.

Without taking an official position on the bond issue and mill levy questions, we don't think the community or the school board should assume the issues will pass without a concerted, focused effort.

So we enter the election season worried that the school measures could be defeated, not on merit, but because a campaign to educate voters has not yet been launched.

Voters are being asked to support a $12.9 million bond issue to fund three infrastructure projects, which the district describe as "critical," as well as a mill levy to create a permanent source of funding for the district's capital renewal, maintenance needs.

According to Superintendent Brad Meeks, the ballot proposals were influenced by the work of the Community Committee for Education – CC4E – a group of community volunteers who spent over a year meeting with members of the community to discuss facility needs and raise awareness about issues facing the district. Meeks added that the proposed bond issue and mill levy were ultimately "driven by four core values: safety, student success, transparency and longevity."

Based on the work done by CC4E and deliberations of the school board prior to voting on what issues to place before voters, we editorialized that we saw merit in the school board's cautious approach to going back to the taxpayers with more conservative measures after the dramatic failure of the $92 million bond issue in 2015.

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But we also noted in that editorial that it would be essential for readers to educate themselves about the bond issue and mill levy increase before the vote by engaging with the campaign to pass them.

And now with only six weeks left before Election Day, how will readers learn about the critical issues facing the district without the existence of an organized campaign in support of the ballot measures?

If we have learned anything from previous campaigns, it's that voters have lots of questions when it comes to taxes in particular, and if those questions go unanswered, the odds of the issue passing are low.

We think attorney Bob Weiss summed it up perfectly when he was advising members of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority board before they were voted to put a mill levy for affordable housing on the November ballot.

“I’ve been involved in about a dozen of these … and what I’ve learned is, none of these happen by themselves,” Weiss said. “Don’t take the position that the community will understand this. It has to be a concerted, energetic campaign effort for there to be any chance at all. There has to be real commitment. It’s politics, and it’s a lot of work.”

We agree with Weiss's assessment of what it takes to run a successful election campaign, and we hold out hope that maybe some members of the community will step up in support of the school ballot initiatives and lead a campaign to get them passed.

Editor's note: Bob Weiss is a member of the Editorial Board, but he did not participate in the discussion for today's editorial.

At issue: There is no campaign committee formed to help promote Steamboat Springs School District’s upcoming ballot issues.

Our view: Without an organized effort, we fear the proposals will fail.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Beth Melton, community representative
• Bob Weiss, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

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