November 2009 Editorial Winner

There is really no other choice
Wayne Trotter, The Countywide & Sun
November 5, 2009

There are some things you have to do in life whether you want to or not. If the car won’t start and you must get to work, you have to fix it, trade it or find another ride. If the cupboard is bare, you have to find a way to feed your family. If the ox is really in the ditch, the Bible grants devout Christians permission to do that much work to get him out even on the Sabbath.

And if your roof is badly leaking, you have to fix it. The alternative is to watch the investment you’ve worked so hard to build melt and rot away while you and your loved ones suffer through a discouraging and potentially health-threatening ordeal. You have no choice.

Well, the roof is leaking badly at Shawnee High School and our children and their mentors and helpers are suffering. On Tuesday, Shawnee voters have no choice but to vote “Yes For SHS” and fix the roof.

That, in a nutshell, is the challenge patrons of the Shawnee Independent School District will face when they go to the polls in less than one short week. They will be asked then to authorize $3 million in new bonds to repair the leaky roof at the high school and do a few other things such as build a new concession-restroom building at Jim Thorpe Stadium and install new lockers in the high school.

The other things are nice. The roof is a necessity. The truth is that the school system has no other way to raise this money. If by some cruel fluke, this proposal fails to achieve the 60 percent rate required for approval, voters will face this decision again, again, and again until they finally say yes. The school board has no choice, but in the meantime, the high school will continue to rot and their children will continue to suffer with every passing rain.

Could this fail? While we don’t see how, it has happened before. About a decade ago, it took three tries to raise the money to build the new middle school, now considered the crown jewel of the Shawnee system. Voters twice rejected that bond issue even though the Bodard family had very generously offered to donate the land that now makes up the mid-high campus. District voters looked that gift horse in the mouth until the determination of advocates and the understanding of the Bodards finally made that accomplishment possible.

In Oklahoma, there are challenges in every school bond proposal. First off, the law requires the 60 percent approval rate and that’s a bar other governments, such as the city, don’t have to meet. There are some people who will vote “no” on any plan to increase their property taxes and those people always get to the polls. To boot, these are uncertain economic times and that is enough to make all voters queasy about raising taxes in any form.

But while passing the bond issue will raise property taxes modestly, the effect will not be devastating on anyone. The average homeowner in the Shawnee district will pay between seven or eight cents a day to dry out the high school and keep their kids safe and dry. Surely this is worth that … and a great deal more.

This is what the students call a “no-brainer.” If there is a threat to this issue, it’s lies a low turnout for this single-shot referendum. Don’t let that happen. Mark Tuesday on your calendar, go to the polls and vote yes … for the kids, for your investment, for Shawnee, for yourself.