Guest Opinion: Former Iowa City mayors endorse public school-bond measure

Seven former Iowa City Mayors speak out in favor of public school bond.


Joseph Cress

Iowa City City Hall is seen on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

As former mayors of the city of Iowa City, we write in support of the school-bond referendum going before the voters on Sept. 12.

For years, the City Council has prioritized the strengthening and protection of our established neighborhoods. The reason is simple: Any local government that neglects its core puts the entire community at risk. The city of Iowa City has made and continues to make important investments in its established neighborhoods — park upgrades, street and sidewalk improvements,
revitalization of housing stock, and much more.

The ongoing attention to these neighborhoods makes them more vital, which benefits our downtown and helps the university and other employers attract individuals and families.

RELATED: Guest Opinion: Vote ‘Yes’ on school bond before Sept. 12

As important as these neighborhood measures are, they cannot succeed unless our public schools are also strong. Neighborhoods influence schools, and schools influence neighborhoods.

The School District Facilities Master Plan is a comprehensive, 10-year mission to address
decades of unmet maintenance, overcrowding, and
rapid population growth. Already in Iowa City alone, the plan has undertaken significant projects at Twain, Lucas, Horn, and Longfellow, elementary schools located in important yet vulnerable neighborhoods. It also brought us the first new elementary schools constructed east of the river since 1970, Alexander and the new Hoover.

Funding the plan’s remaining 20 districtwide projects was always contingent on bonding. For Iowa City, passage of the bond means: a complete remodeling of Mann and Lincoln; significant work at Lemme, Shimek, Wood, and Alexander; and upgrades and expansions at Southeast as well as City, West, and Tate. The remaining projects are for schools located elsewhere in the district and are no less important for the students and communities they serve.

RELATED: Guest Ops: ICCSD bond and election

Recognizing the importance of completing the remaining projects in the plan, the City Council voted unanimously this summer to endorse the bond measure. Perhaps even more compelling, leaders from across the district have
united to volunteer on the One
Community-One Bond
committee to advocate for the bond’s passage. Labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce support the bond. Republicans and Democrats support the bond.

Community leaders who often oppose each other on local issues share a common vision when it comes to our public schools: that the Sept. 12 bond referendum is the most important juncture in our community’s recent history.

We represent a combined 68 years of service on the City Council. We know how
essential strong public schools are for our neighborhoods, our economic health, and our community strength. We will vote YES on Sept. 12 so that our school buildings reflect the excellent teaching and learning that occurs within them.

If you agree, you owe it to your community to cast your vote. There is simply too much at stake.

-Matt Hayek, Regenia Bailey, Ross Wilburn, Ernie Lehman, Naomi Novick, Bill Ambrisco, and John Balmer served as mayors of Iowa City between 1980 and 2015.

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