Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Let the public vote on whether to tear down Hoover Elementary

The Save Hoover group is trying to get the issue of the demolition of Hoover Elementary School put on the ballot. The Press-Citizen has a good article about it. The district’s current plan, of course, is to tear down the building after the 2018-19 school year. The group hopes to place the issue on the September 12 school board election ballot and persuade people to vote No on it. The Q&A on the Save Hoover website gives a more detailed explanation of the petition effort.

I support the group’s efforts to get a public vote on the demolition of Hoover. There is a long list of reasons why the district’s plans for Hoover are bad policy. But the biggest problem for me has always been that the decision lacked the public support that such a major decision ought to have. I hope people will vote No on the issue, but if the voters do vote to tear the school down, I’ll be the first to say that the campaign to save Hoover is over and that people should move on. Without a public vote, though, the Hoover decision will always feel like it has been imposed by a small group without the support of the broader district community.

Disposing of a multi-million-dollar piece of property is a big deal, which is why there’s a state statute allowing people to petition for a public vote on it. The signature requirement is pretty high, though—roughly fifty percent higher than the requirement that applies to the district’s bond proposal. If you’d like to help get the question on the ballot, please print out the petition, fill out the information, and mail it in to:
Save Hoover Committee
P.O. Box 1653
Iowa City, IA 52240-1653
(There is no way to sign electronically.) The deadline for the group to submit signatures is June 29, so the sooner you mail it in, the better. Every little bit helps.


Chris said...

One note: The Press-Citizen article mentions that state law requires that any petition about the disposition of a school building be filed within ten days of a school board’s decision on the matter. This is true, but the statute makes it very clear that the ten-day period is triggered only when the school board “has exercised its independent power under section 297.22 regarding the disposition of real or personal property of the school district and has by resolution approved such action.” Section 297.22(c) lays out a very particular process the board has to follow to exercise that power: it has to draft a resolution, hold a public hearing on it, and then “make a final determination” on the resolution. None of that has yet occurred as to the Hoover demolition, so the ten-day rule has not been triggered.

Anonymous said...

So don't level it, okay. And keep using it as an elementary? Or repurpose it as CHS classrooms? maybe a 9th grade center?

Anonymous said...

It would seem, using your reading of the statute, that the issue wouldn't be ripe for consideration since the board hasn't "by resolution approved such action." Alternatively, in reading the statue is seems the districts action to repurpose the property doesn't qualify as "disposition" since the intent of the statue and its wording seems to be geared towards selling of a property.

At any rate, I assume you and those behind the petition disagree with the either of the above concerns so it begs the question: what is the course of action of the district attorney disagrees with you and/or the board disagrees that this is a petitionable item?

Chris said...

Anonymous – Under the plain language of the governing statutes, the power of electors to petition to put this kind of question on the ballot is not limited to situations in which the board has already acted one way or another on the issue. Moreover, section 297.25 explicitly states that the board’s power to dispose of school property is “independent” and “additional” to the power of the electors to do the same. The statute does not state that board action is a prerequisite to a petition; it states that “if” the board has formally acted as described in section 275.22, then any petition must be filed within ten days.

The statute is not limited to disposition via sale or lease. It specifically states that it applies to directing “the sale, lease, or other disposition of any schoolhouse or school site or other property belonging to the corporation, and the application to be made of the proceeds thereof.” (Emphasis added.) If tearing down the building isn’t “disposition” of a schoolhouse, I sure don’t know how it could thereafter be disposed of. Moreover, the Hoover petition specifically addresses “the application to be made of the proceeds” of any salvage resulting from the demolition.

As for your last question, I don’t know what the group will do if the board does not follow its legal obligations under the statutes (assuming the group files the requisite number of signatures).

It’s worth noting that the section 278.2 makes it clear that the board can choose to place the issue on the ballot even if there are no petition signatures at all—a provision that would make little sense if the statute were limited to situations where the board has formally passed a resolution disposing of the property. So a legitimate question is: Why would the board choose to go out of its way to keep the public from voting on this issue?

Anonymous said...

Given the timing of this initiative and the ongoing east side power grab its safe to assume that Hoover will be used as another piece of that plan. And they already know exactly what that is.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:40, can you elaborate? You have lost me! And I'm usually not list in school issue discussions!

Anonymous said...

What is the ongoing east side power grab? I've lived in IC for 6 years and I haven't heard of this. Is this a new ongoing thing? I admit, until this year I haven't paid any attention to the politics of IC's elites because I am not one of them.

amy said...

It's just local paranoiacs. They've got this thing about east/west mafias trying to disembowel each others' schools. They're very vocal and they manage to find ways of reading every bit of ICCSD politics as part of the imaginary turf war. DNFTT, I say (belatedly).

Anonymous said...

The term east side mafia was first used by other east siders to describe a group that has wielded power in the district since '09. The ESM shut down dialogue and put their agenda first. That agenda has included bringing development and a resurgence to the east side schools. Their motives were primarily fear and greed. Even when proven to be untrue the east siders complained that they were falling behind bc of fewer students, more low income black and Hispanic students from Cook County, IL, and a weaker HS curriculum.
As far as the student differences between west and east (which the ESM used to gain support) it was greatly exaggerated. Both sides of the district were absorbing more students from challenged backgrounds.
Of course there was always the issue of Broadway on the east side. That area of town was another thorn in their side, and the east siders resented it. Unfortunately they were blind to the realities of the mall neighborhoods on the west side which have their own struggles e.g. The recent 30 person brawl that errupted in the streets of Coralville. And BTW the mall was offered to the east side and they rejected it. Now they want to tell those mall neighborhood families they can't go to West which is so they (the east side) can push away their Alexander students.
As far as AP curriculum goes CHS made some mistakes (offering AP course to freshman that had no business in the course).
Now Amy is right, ask the kids and the parents if we have an east v the rest issue and they say no. However, dig a little deeper into the politics and a different story unfolds. And make no mistake, the east side power players have a very clear agenda, make the east side better by any means necessary (fear and greed are powerful motivators). This includes massive amounts of the three major funding sources (SAVE, PPEL, and GO Bond) going to the east side (despite a pricey new HS being built) the east side is getting a lot more of that money and always ahead of others.
And while holding the district purse strings they are saying to WHS, you want those 50 year old windows replaced give us what we want. And to Liberty, if you want a real sized school and playing fields give us what we want.
And while everyone says that makes some sense most are lost to the fact that there is a big difference in what's going to the east side and what's not going elsewhere. Just look at enrollment projections and you'll see the FMP makes little sense and the east side is again getting more money sooner despite needs being based elsewhere. And examples of this are throughout their (the ESM's) plan.
It should be stopped bc the funding well is going to dry up and Liberty and WHS are going to be left in a funding vacuum if this bond passes. Of course the west side voted in more of this agenda the last special election when they supported Roesler. So if the WEST Side does it again they will have earned their lot in life.
And FWIW don't expect Murleys kids to be at WHS, he has been floating his resume for years and will jump ship as soon as this bond passes (if it does). Meanwhile his neighbor and former school board member McGinness is already on his way out. His kids will never go to WHS.
And sorry Amy but this power grab has reached its peak and if you feel like you can trust Murley and the east side dominated school board with that money you're naive to what history has been trying to teach you.

Carol deProsse said...

The Code of Iowa says that either 25% (section 296.2) or 30% of the number of voters who voted in the last election need to sign a petition to get something on the ballot, the 25% figure for bond issues, the 30% figure for non-binding referenda. It does not say 'special election' so why not use the number of voters from the 2016 special election (5,763) x .30 to get the number of signatures needed for the Hoover question? If special elections don't count, I do not see it in the code.

If I'm right, the Hoover question could get on the ballot with only 1,441 signatures (1,824 if it needs to be a regular election).

amy said...

Anyone who thinks I trust Steve with anything substantial hasn't been reading here long. But you've just given a nice rehearsal of the paranoia.

I'm deeply unworried about West, where my kid goes. Nor do I mind shunting funding to a part of town that until fairly recently really was pretty obviously in need of more help than any other part of town. That's not racism or NIMBYism; it was a result of well-intentioned but poorly-planned 1980s IC housing policy. Until maybe 10-15 years ago, if you were west of the river in IC and poor, you were probably a student or refugee or scraping-by teacher or social-services person of some kind. Meaning your kids, if you had any, had no money but a big educational push at home. In the mid-aughts there was a concerted IC housing effort to deconcentrate SE IC poverty, and things changed -- but we still never really saw the kind of hopelessness concentration you used to see around Broadway and Mercer Park, except maybe in Bittersweet Court. Which is why exactly the same model house would cost $40K more on this side of the river, a whole 3-4 miles away. So yeah, things have evened out somewhat, especially with new development south of Hwy 6 and to the east. But I have no problem seeing that the east side gets what it needs. Incidentally, I've been in both City and West in the last year, and if I had to choose one to throw money at for building maintenance and improvements, City would still get it in a heartbeat. That's one tired old building.

But the likelihood, I'm afraid, is that we're all going to be managing with less, maybe considerably less, unless of course you're a hospital exec or a developer. UI's new president is finally getting around to doing the thing he was hired to do: in the 90s they used to call it "rightsizing". It will take a while and be unnecessarily bloody (and expensive), but it will happen, and state and federal funding will continue to shrink for at least a while for both health and education, the two big things we do around here. So it would be very nice if we would learn to stop squabbling like this over fears of not having ed palaces with semi-pro athletic fields. Or even of someone else needing and getting more for five or ten years.

Anonymous said...

To a large extent I agree with the previous post. But to call City High (or any other ICCSD building) tired and old strikes me as being a big stretch. In the real world, most districts would envy the facilities ICCSD has. Opstad Aud. New tennis courts. Etc, etc.

Sure there are places that could use improvement. There always will be. But that doesn't mean they are needed. And that's what we have PPEL for.

The core problem with ICCSD is the lack of effective educational leadership from the superintendant. You can spend all the money in the world on new buildings and that won't change.

Anonymous said...

Amy at 10:46 City High is not "one tired old building." It's been well taken care of. Many rooms already have air conditioning. My kid couldn't even think of one classroom that wasn't a cool temperature when I asked. Walk through the building sometime. The lockers even have the City High Little Hawk. The new performing arts wing is incredible. The new classrooms added on the third floor are nice. City High isn't getting more kids in the near future with Liberty opening. Keeping up with the Jones is a bad reason to throw money at schools.

Anonymous said...

Murley has had one kid graduate from West, and currently has two that still attend there. They are nice kids and just because you have a beef with their dad, doesn't mean you have to bring them into the conversation.

ICLocal said...

The east side mafia first and foremost hast been about sports. CHS which used to dominate in IC was no longer on top, and they blamed it on the lack of unequal facilities. The real reason WHS was doing better was because it had a larger student population and was able to draw from a bigger pool of talent. The reason Hoover is being closed is due to sports. The mafia is demanding their fields.

amy said...

Not sure what Anon 6/20 9:26 is talking about, but I never said anything about Murley's kids. I said my kid goes to West.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say the anon commenter on June 19, 2017 at 9:53 AM

I am very sorry.

Anonymous said...

I think what decision makers are doing matters.

Anonymous said...

The public should get to vote about whether to demolish Hoover. Superintendent Murley's failure to provide any reason to tear down Hoover before having the board vote on it is just incompetent and reason enough to reverse the decision.

Former board member Tuyet Doreau said the Hoover decision was a bad decision when the board made it and voted against it.

amy said...

No prob, 10:32 anon.

Anonymous said...

I was just looking over board docs for the upcoming meeting and the Hoover ballot question is listed. Within the doc attached, it says that the Hoover question cannot lawfully appear on the ballot, is this correct?

Chris said...

Anonymous (1:35) -- The school district's counsel gave us an opinion that the words "sale, lease, or other disposition" in the statute do not include demolition. The opinion is based on the fact that the legislature in 2008 added a sentence to the statute saying that "dispose" includes the "exchange, transfer, demolition, or destruction" of a building, and then the legislature deleted that sentence the following year. In the opinion of the district's counsel, the deletion of that sentence in 2009 means that the legislature decided that "dispose" did not include demolition.

That interpretation is problematic, though, because the same changes were made at the same times to the statute giving the school board the power to "sell, lease, or dispose of" property. Under the argument identified by the district's counsel, even the school board would not have the power to demolish one of the district's buildings. It seems very improbable that the legislature intended that school districts would be powerless ever to demolish any buildings.

So we'll have to talk about it Tuesday night. There is a more plausible interpretation of the 2009 amendment that would not remove the power to demolish buildings from the board or from the voters. It appears that the 2008 amendments were a response to a court case in Decorah in 2007 about the relationship between the statute that gives the voters the power to dispose of property and the statute that gives the board a similar power. The case appears to have prompted the 2008 amendment, which clarified that relationship.

The 2009 amendment appears to have been designed to "clean up" the 2008 changes and "to allow voters to direct the disposition of school property." (Emphasis added; see this explanation of the original 2009 bill.)

Prior to the 2008 amendment, the language of the statute had been interpreted (both by the Decorah court and by the Iowa Attorney General's office) to apply to demolition. The 2009 amendments were intended to return[] the Code language to how it read prior to enactment of [the 2008 changes]." So in 2009 the legislature was returning to the language that had already been interpreted to include demolition.

Reading the 2009 changes against the background of the legislative history makes it very hard to conclude that the legislature wanted to prohibit school districts from demolishing buildings (either through board action or voter action).

In any event, it's an interesting interpretive problem, and I'm glad we have a meeting to get the issues out on the table before the board will have to vote on the petition (which is not due until Thursday). I'd like to have the district's counsel take a second look at the issue in light of the legislative history and the 2007 Decorah case that first prompted the amendments. At some point I'll write up the issue in more detail here.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the school board, the superintendant or their lawyer controls what can be on the ballot = that's the job of the county auditor who will work with the county attorney on that issue.

Anonymous said...

Unreal that the district attorney says the petition can't be put on the ballot. Then again, he is the DISTRICT's attorney and he will do what the East Side Powers want him to do.

What will happen? Big expensive court case? Sickening use of district funds AGAIN spent on legal issues - money that should have been spent on children/teachers. Board, PLEASE just do the right thing here and put it on the ballot. Let the voters have a voice in this matter. They deserve a voice when it comes to the disposition of an $11 million dollar asset.

I think we deserve to know what is planned for the space before we destroy something so valuable. I do NOT condone its destruction for a baseball field or for more parking. City will not need more parking in a few years when its population declines, especially after capstone kids exit the school due to the loss of Alexander and over half of the Lincoln population.

There are cheaper ways than this to get more parking if it is actually needed in the future. The off-street parking right by the school is plentiful! Much better than the available nearby off street parking at West or Liberty.

Anonymous said...

Chris - I am so glad that you are on the board and are standing up to these bullies. It appears that demoing old Hoover is a critical piece to their master plan and they will keep pushing for demolition at any cost. The sad part is they can't even tell us what they are going to do with the property after they doze it. It is unfortunate that the cost being incurred is to one of our most valuable assets and our children's education. This administration has to go before it is too late. Thanks again Chris - I am looking forward to more commentary from you concerning this issue!

WWICS Immigration Company said...

Thanks for sharing this useful information post... I will really help me to choose school for my daughter.