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On February 11, 2008, the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, passed a resolution calling for a special election to be held on May 6, 2008, so that citizens could vote on a $350 million bond issue.
On April 7, 2008, the same board held a special meeting at the request of Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education, a group that supports the passage of the bond issue. Two members of CARE asked the board to delay the election. As the meeting agenda did not allow for public comment, none was entertained by board president Connie Dietz, even though several people had followed USD 259 procedure and asked the clerk of the board to speak at the meeting. By unanimous vote, the board agreed to delay the election until no later than November 4, 2008.
The resolution that the board passed in February establishing the May election set two citizen groups that oppose the bond issue into action. These groups have spent money, time, and effort preparing for a May election. All that is now, apparently, wasted.
This action of the board of the Wichita school district poisons democracy. It gives the board and its apparently allied campaign group a tremendous advantage that no other group has, and by law, cannot have. The opposition groups can’t control the election schedule to suit the needs of their campaigns. We have to trust that when the Wichita school board passes a resolution declaring that an election will be held on a certain date, that this election will actually take place.
At present, there is no date set for the bond issue election. When the board sets a revised election date, is it to be believed? When the date is set, opposition groups will be forced to mobilize a second time, making plans and expending precious resources based on the revised election date.
Speculation around town is that the Wichita school board and the CARE group felt they were going to lose a May election, and that is the reason for a delay. If they again feel they are going to lose on the revised election date, will the board delay that election too?
At the April 7 meeting, board member Jeff Davis asked how much money had the school district already spent preparing for the May election. It seems that he was not concerned with how much the opposition had spent. Mr. Davis is a sargeant in the Wichita Police Department, a man who should be concerned about theft. His vote to delay the election amounts to just that — the theft of the time, money, and resources of his political opponents.
Personally, the saddest realization is that it seems the members of Wichita school board and CARE don’t recognize the toxic effects of their actions on the democratic process. Not only them: two members of the Wichita Eagle editorial board wrote separate editorials supporting the delay.
Even worse for the citizens of Wichita is perhaps they understand precisely what they’re doing.