By Mike Schoemer – Publisher, founder North Wright County Today
In the first decade of this century, Minnesota Vikings fans were fed the same line as appears in this headline – either you want to keep up with the rest of the NFL, or you don’t.
And as things became more and more dire at the Metrodome (including a ceiling collapse caused by heavy snow), the pressure became more intense.
Eventually, those who wanted to “keep the team” and “keep up with the Jerry Jonses” of the world got their way, and the Minnesota State Legislature cleared the way for one of the most beautiful stadiums in all of sports, US Bank Stadium. It’s architecturally stunning. It’s state-of-the art. And, in the end, it’s a want that fans felt they deserved.
Let’s bring the discussion closer to home.
Tomorrow, as you step into the voting booth (or if you don’t), the question boils down to much of the same – either you want to keep up, or you don’t.
First, let’s dispel some of the Vote No arguments and boil it down to the facts:
“It’s a February vote. It should be in November.” – Well, it’s not. It’s Feb. 7. So vote. If this is your reason for voting no, let me simply say that NO other district does this anymore and you’re pining for years gone by. School District elections are held when the school board wants, not governed by Election Day. Some don’t even vote for their boards in November. So drop it. It’s a lame argument. Period. You can kick and scream and shout at the sky all you want about this one. Those days are gone.
“This should be two questions, not one. It should be a split ballot.” – Fair, and I won’t be as harsh as I am with those pining for a November vote. You could have a 1 then 2 proposition here, but the board didn’t do that. If that’s what you wanted, talk to the board. Again, the ballot is done and the vote is tomorrow. You can’t ask for that to change anymore. This is, however, a more valid reason to vote no, particularly if your stance is against the athletic facilities. And if you want this process to change, you let the board know with the “no” vote. Can’targue with that.
“This was a covert operation perpetrated by the board and the cities. They haven’t been truthful.” – Actually, friends, this is dead wrong. The board and councils bent over backwards to make this a publicly involved process. It didn’t need to be a vote AT ALL. The district and cities could have worked with the money raised by the hockey association (gambling, fundraising, etc.) and levied, legally, for a few improvements to schools and the hockey facility. Instead, we have a full compliment of tech improvement, athletic facilities, classroom space and security measures. And you get to vote on it. I think it was as open a process as any I’ve seen in 20 years of journalism. And that’s not ‘fake news.’ And no one … NO ONE … is hiding the sports facilities. It doesn’t HAVE to be on every piece of literature the ‘Vote Yes’ people put out because we’ve known for literally YEARS this is about sports facilities.
On the other hand, this isn’t a no-brainer for the “Yes” vote, either.
Yeah, 60 percent of this $32 million-plus is covered by the State of Minnesota, but those are still state taxes paid by you and me. It’s not like that’s coming out of thin air.
And yes, you’re asking for families who don’t have kids in sports to pay for kids’ equipment and facilities who DO. That’s not always easy for families to swallow, particularly in Minnesota where the tax climate is already, well, daunting. Asking $50 a year for your kid to play – well, whatever – while my kid enjoys theater and scouts, for example, is asking me for money. Period. And that’s hard.
What it boils down to friends, is this:
Vote yes, and you’re building a pretty nice future for St. Michael-Albertville families. Yeah, it costs more. Nice things cost more. But what the district is asking for isn’t as ‘extravagant’ as some complain. The hockey arena costs more in 2017 because we didn’t build in 2015. Or 2004, the last time we could have levied for it. Simple as that. They’re not building the Xcel Energy Center in Albertville. Heck, it’s not even the mini-Englestad in Thief River. It’s a nice arena for a high school, which is NOT what we have now. Mites in Fargo play in better buildings.
Our football team is going to Class 6A. Our high school teams in softball, soccer, lacrosse and tennis already play at the highest level. We are one of the largest high schools in the state. Gone are the days of STMA being “flyover” country for sports. We don’t play the Wright County Conference, anymore. We’re playing state champions at the highest level. Period. Sports domes are part of the landscapes for these communities, and those that support this bond believe it should be for the Knights, as well. And for your youth programs, too.
Our high school is overcrowding. Our kindergarten needs space. And you don’t want to close open enrollment if you’re for lower taxes, because that’s antithetical.
So the bottom line is this – If you want to vote “no” because you want to save money, you think government spends too much money and you believe our state needs to fix its funding measures before giving our school district more money to spend – I can respect that vote. You have every right to cast that ballot.
If you’re against sports funding, that’s a vote I may not agree with (sports are great things for kids, just check every study ever) I can agree with that, too.
But if you’re making the other excuses, it’s a non-starter for me. You’re simply wrong in some cases, or just blind the process in others.
Finally, if you want to vote “Yes,” respect the fact that some may disagree with you, and that yes, a lot of these things are “wants,” not needs. STMA can’t move to Los Angeles for hockey, unlike the Vikings for football.
In the end, we need to come back together as a community. If this fails, or if this succeeds, we’re all still neighbors, business owners, co-workers and community members. Whether this passes or not, STMA will continue to grow and move forward as one of the largest exurban areas in the Twin Cities. The superintendent doesn’t deserve some of the flak she’s gotten.
The school board is simply doing its job. The Vote No people aren’t pessimists or people who “hate kids.” The Vote Yes folks aren’t trying to shove anything down anyone’s throat. People are passionate. If you don’t like it, lock yourself in a cave somewhere so you don’t have to deal with people. Otherwise, breathe, and move on.
Things are going to change. Do we want to keep up with the Joneses? We’ll find out together.
Oh, and one more thing. Either way: Go vote. Today until 4 p.m. at the school office, or tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the school.