“I knew absolutely nothing about this.”
“I had no idea this was going on.”
“I have no idea what this is about.”
It doesn’t matter what actual words are used. When someone in the community utters them in some way, shape or form when an important issue is coming to a head or a vote is to be taken, it can be extremely frustrating for people who get paid to disseminate information. The frustration level is tenfold when whatever the event or issue that a person is claiming ignorance of has been has been disseminated through multiple information channels in the community, short of screaming about it from the rooftops.
Hey, we get it. Everyone’s super busy. Everyone’s lives are a daily hectic, frenetic mix of kids and activities and work and trying to find time to make supper and do homework and mow the yard and get a decent night’s sleep.
But there are a lot of things going on in Crookston, some more important than others, depending on who you are and what you care about. But, whether it affects only a few people, a bunch of a people or basically the entire community, there are local media outlets every day articulating the message and disseminating it to the masses through a variety of channels. And there are community leaders and stakeholders getting the word out, too.
But, too often, too many people somehow miss the message, or they hear just part of it, not enough to deduce an accurate picture of what’s going on.
Which brings us to Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson. On Nov. 5, there will be two questions on the ballot, one asking district voters to approve the construction of a new bus garage for around $2.9 million, and also extend an operating levy referendum that’s nearing its sunset in 2022.
Community forums on the ballot questions have been held this summer, and two more are coming up, on Sept. 26 and Oct. 24, both in the CHS auditorium.
But, when it comes to getting the word out, Olson is going into hyper-drive. He’s scheduled a series of “mini-meetings” that he will attend along with a district staff member or two, or a school board member or two, and they’re going to be held over lunchtime or after work at places like Drafts, DaRoos, RBJ’s, The Shanty and Happy Joe’s. The small gatherings begin Sept. 30 and continue through Oct. 15.
Olson knows he might get little or no turnout at many of them, but he says making the effort is necessary and worth it if, on Nov. 5, it reduces the number of voters who see the ballot questions and say to themselves, “I don’t know what this is all about.”
If you can’t make any of the meetings, here’s what it’s all about:
• The bus garage: The district’s current bus garage is more than 80 years old and its life is long past over. It’s too small – the district can’t buy the buses it would like to because they don’t fit – and it’s not safe. The new one envisioned certainly isn’t cheap, but keep in mind that entities like a school district face additional regulations and requirements well above and beyond what someone in the private sector constructing a similar facility would face.
• The operating levy: District property owners have been paying annually for around seven years after they approved the ten-year operating levy years ago. It provides critical revenue to the school district, but, with the swimming pool revenue dropping off the levy, if the levy extension is approved, the school district portion of the property taxes you’re paying now would actually decrease. If voters reject the extension this November, it’ll be back on the ballot it 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Maybe School Board Chair Frank Fee said it best a few months ago. If voters don’t approve the operating levy extension, he said, “We might as well close our doors.”