After referendum, here’s hoping we can come together again
Dear New Hampton superintendent in 2037;I’m writing this letter in February 2017, because with all my bad habits, there’s a chance that even though I’ll only be 71 when you open this envelope, I’ll be “looking up at the grass.”I have no idea if you’re planning on a referendum to place what is now an almost 100-year-old building at our downtown elementary school, but if you are, can I make a couple of suggestions?First, go back to the Tribune’s 2016 and 2017 archives and follow the “game plan” developed by that School Board, its superintendent, a guy named Jay Jurrens, and the community members who served on the building committee that helped pass a referendum that led to your middle school, competition gym and industrial technology and vocational agriculture center.Be open, be transparent, be ready to take on a firestorm of criticism, but mostly, stick to the facts.If you don’t know the answer, don’t make one up. And don’t make any guarantees. It’s OK to say, “I think this positions us well for the future,” but it’s not OK to say, “This will definitely happen.”Second, if you’re going to put a referendum to the voters, can you try to avoid February, just for the sake of the guy or gal — especially if they have kids involved in extra-curricular activities — who’s manning my chair in the year 2037.I’m only half-joking. I feel like I spent the entire month of January 2017 at a wrestling meet, a basketball game or a referendum meeting.Seriously, though, go back and look at what happened in 2017 because this isn’t an easy community to get a bond referendum approved. If you want to be successful, that’s got to be your blueprint.Sincerely,Bob Fenske•••••I will really be 71 in 2037, and the way my retirement account looks, I very well may be still sitting in this chair and at this desk.But if I am, I hope to God I have some kind of title like “editor emeritus” or am some kind of part-timer like the late Jim O’Connor, who had first refusal rights on any given story.I am, though, serious about the letter I’d like the superintendent in 2037 to read.I understand that not everyone in this community supported this referendum. All I have to do is look at the vote totals and see that 760 residents — including some of my very good friends — voted no last Tuesday.But I will applaud School Board members Joe Rosonke, Damian Baltes, Tim Denner, Jay Matthews and Nate Schwickerath for their work in setting the groundwork for this referendum.They didn’t always make the “popular decision” — case in point, sticking with the contract with Facilities Cost Management Group — but they were open and transparent.So, too, was Jurrens, who laid out the information in what seemed like countless meetings. I sat through a good number of those meetings, and not once did I see Jurrens dodge a question.And the committee that put together this referendum’s plan deserves a thank you from all of us — and that includes the “yes” and the “no” voters — for their work and diligence.As more than one committee member stated, “not everyone got everything they wanted” but for that committee member who lost out on this or that, the fact that he or she stayed on that committee speaks volumes to me.It’s how America is supposed to work. It’s how government is supposed to work, yet too often these days, in both Des Moines and Washington, if we don’t get what we want, we rant, rave and pout.My hope is that the 38 percent of the residents who voted no understand that they are still part of the process when it comes to this school construction project.In the end, to me, the best way to move forward is come together and construct the best dang school, gym and agriculture and industry center we can build.