It may well be true that the broad, general ballot language gives the district great legal leeway to alter the planned projects after the bond passes. That may even be for the best (though it would be less necessary if the bond plan didn’t extend out so many years). But if that’s the district’s position, shouldn’t it be trying hard not to raise any expectations to the contrary?
But the district is not only including inconsistent messages about the issue in its bond information, it is widely disseminating detailed descriptions of the projects that are planned for each school (example here)—none of which say anything about being subject to change or about how little they are reflected in the ballot language. Here, for example, is how the descriptions are introduced:
On September 12, 2017, voters in the Iowa City Community School District will consider an estimated $192 million bond package. The bond will fund the second half of the approved 10-year Facilities Master Plan (FMP), which impacts every school in the District and every area of the community. Below you will find detailed information on the impact of the FMP on each building within our District. Each school’s project sheet also includes FMP project information on their associated feeder schools.The descriptions explicitly link the projects to bond funding:
If people are enticed into voting for the bond by these detailed project descriptions, how easy will it be politically to change course later on, if the projects turn out to be unnecessary? Will it be enough to point out the disclaimers that appeared in some parts of the FAQ? By sacrificing candor now to generate support, isn’t the district needlessly laying the groundwork for future conflict?
A more frank presentation of the district’s stance, though, would invite a discussion about whether voters should trust the district to implement the plan in a way that makes sense and is based on real needs.
Continued in part 11.