Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why I'm Voting 'No' on the Lone Star College Bond

So, okay.  We're facing an election.  Again.  This time it's not dirty, sexy, national level politics.  It's dirty, sexy local level politics.  Politics is always dirty, ain't it?  This time we're talking bond election for a local community college system, Lone Star College System.

What goes through your mind when you hear the word 'bond'?  I always want to put my hands up in front of my face and shrink back in horror to try to hide from it.  I immediately think, debt, piles of money that the tax payer will owe, bondage and no, not THAT kind of bondage.  Come on, now, this is a family show.  Ahem.

So, in order to avoid such a 'knee jerk' response to this bond, I decided to peel back the layers and find out a little about the bond.  First, let's talk dollars.  How much IS the bond referendum?  It's for $497.7 million dollars.  Second question I usually ask is, WHAT are they going to spend it on?  Here is a broad scope of things to start with:
  • New instructional and support buildings – 996,000 sf
  • Renovations to existing facilities – 252,000 sf
  • Increase parking – 5,630 spaces
  • Improve campus safety and security
  • Expand and upgrade technology infrastructure
  • Improve traffic flow and campus access

Okay, so we can go to the next question, WHY?  Here is information taken straight from the Bond Referendum website: The 2013 bond referendum expands capacity to meet unprecedented student population growth. In the five short years since the last bond referendum in 2008, LSCS has added 30,000 students, which is equivalent to adding the combined total enrollment of five medium-sized colleges like Alvin Community College, Lee College, Galveston College, Temple College and Victoria College.  Here are a few videos from a meeting that I helped coordinate in order to find out more information.  Forgive me, they are raw, unedited footage. 

Seems pretty straight forward at this point, right?  Well, not quite.  You see, there are a few more questions I want to have answered, and I haven't heard back from the college in order for me to recommend a 'yes' vote.  The questions I had and still have are:
-What is the graduation rate of students?
-What number of students are transferring to a four year school?
-What has enrollment been?  (I think the current number of students enrolled is 90,000.)
-What is the current debt load of the district?
All of these questions I called and left messages for the head of the accounting department, Diane Novak.  She then passed my information on to Jed Young and he called me and took down my questions and promised to email me the answers to these questions.  I have not heard back from him to date.  Here are the links to the two videos that I recorded the night of the meeting.  Ray Laughter speaking to a group of concerned citizens.

Thankfully, I wasn't the only one with questions.  I found this information posted on Google Plus from a Leslie P.  "Carl Joiner, Treasurer - I'll Google that name, see what I find.  Yeah. Carl Joiner, President of Joiner Partnership, they design buildings. Buildings for school districts, colleges, and fire departments (government buildings, paid by tax dollars). His wife is their VP of Interior Designer. His son is their Director of Construction. So they can design the building inside and out, and build it. How helpful.

And all of the advertising investment he's making to ensure that these bonds get passed. Well, golly, he's just being a good public servant."  She also links to Mr. Joiner's website here

There's already another blog out going against the bond and they cite the flagging enrollment rate as a reason to vote 'no'.  Here is a quote from that blog: "However, there is good evidence that recent growth in enrollment may be leveling off. LSCS’s 2011-12 Comprehensive Annual Report is introduced with a letter from Chancellor Richard Carpenter that states, “The next several years will prove challenging with anticipated continued restrictions in state funding and flat enrollments” (Emphasis added).

When I read about the information on Google, I cringed a little because we always seem to find ourselves being pushed to support what I call cronyism.  Also, if there is really a flagging enrollment that's a problem as well.  So I'm saying vote 'no' on the Lone Star College Bond.  The End.

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