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Facts, reason must steer vote on Corbett school bond

Opposition has distorted the truth


I have held my tongue. I have focused on the greater good. And I have hoped and prayed that reason and facts will prevail.

My children go to Corbett Middle School and I went to this school. It needs to be replaced.

There was a diverse group of community volunteers who gave months of time to deciding what, if anything needs to be done about our facilities. They arrived at a well thought out plan, and after engaging the community farther made changes based on that input.

I am pretty invested in the school bond decision; I put a sign in my yard. These signs were expensive, the cost of these signs were born by people who want to support the decision made by our neighbors on the Facility Committee.

I personally painted every single “yes” sign that you saw around town. My sign has been driven over one day, smashed the next, tossed in the bushes and thrown down. I fixed it and put it back up again, each time with good humor — “Hey, this is just someone trying to flex their freedom of speech,” or so I told myself.

As of today I have received more than two dozen calls this week from people who have had "YES" signs stolen, smashed or tossed into the road or bushes. This does not include the number that have lost signs, but not yet contacted me.

I have neighbors tell me they are scared because their homes have been identified as supporting the bond. The violence and destruction of property has become frightening. I understand their fear. What happened to my freedom of speech? Is this 2013 or 1964?

The group that opposes the bond, “SOS”, has posted signs illegally on utility poles, oversize signs along the highway, and signs on public property. Their signs remain untouched. Their right to freedom of speech has been honored.

I teach my children that if the world were fair we would not live as comfortably as we do, so I will not complain about fairness. I will talk about honesty and integrity. Some members of our community will be basing their decision on information they receive from “SOS,” which is supposed to stand for “save our schools.”

But their actions, untruths and misinformation make "saving our schools" seem the furthest thing from their purpose. This group and the associated websites play upon my neighbor’s fears and emotions. “SOS” attacks anyone who disagrees with them or who asks for fact-based information.

During an election, the Secretary of State reviews all information related to the bond measure that comes from the school district for accuracy and honesty. SOS and the associated websites have not held themselves to the same standard or to any standard of accuracy and honesty.

I recently spoke face-to-face with one of the SOS leaders, reminding him that we are a community and regardless of our differing opinions we need to remember that at the end of the day we support and help each other. He became so angered, because he was not getting his way, that his behavior caused him to be asked to leave the public building we were in. I asked if we could meet again and talk about this more. I was told they have my number and they will call me (my number has not changed.)

The meeting we were at? The Multnomah County conditional-use permit hearing on Oct. 11, at which this person became angry when I clarified for the hearings officer the actual facts regarding his earlier statement.

Additionally, this group keeps stating that Corbett School District is trying to expand. The conditional-use permit is for 1,382 people (students and staff), roughly equivalent to current occupancy.

The reason Corbett School District is requesting a conditional-use permit now? Because the previous administrations, going back to 1986 (Dr. Dale Nees, for those of us who lived here then) when the Gorge Commission — which oversees the National Scenic Act — placed new use requirements on local properties, were not aware that our schools needed one.

Only during the new construction of the grade school was one sought and it was for that building alone as it was constructed after the Gorge Commission went into effect. It was understood that the other buildings were grandfathered in.

Then recently, a member of the school board filed a complaint with the county when after looking long and hard she found something to complain about. This was done in a very public way, and it was used to bolster this person’s credibility as a “seeker of truth.”

It was not given to the board for action until after this board member got some personal mileage out of it. Did the school board member who also sat with the group from “SOS” at the hearing make any clarifications on the conditional-use permit to this group her husband runs?

No, she has not helped our community understand in any way what this process is about. She has used innuendo and lack of knowledge to make it appear that the district purposefully violated a rule.

Some “SOS” misinformation

“$15 million is too much and it is not specific on how it is going to be used”.

$8 million dollars? What is that going to get us? The same tax rate (amount per $1,000 of property tax) as $15 million, but way less value. By the time we could potentially pass a bond in May, the construction costs and the interest rates, which are both skyrocketing, will make this money insufficient to accomplish the needed fixes to our facilities.

Additionally, the chances of this passing in a May special election are minimal. The next election will require a supermajority (50 percent plus 1 of all registered voters turning in ballots with a 50 percent plus 1 approval of the bond).

After the misinformation by SOS, I do not see this happening. The problems that were identified in our schools are not going to go away. Knowing about the problems gives us greater liability than ever. We will be required to make the necessary fixes, but at a much greater cost. If this bond fails, and we either do or do not pass an $8mil. bond we will still have to acquire the balance of necessary funds. This is done through a much more expensive process at a much greater cost to you and I. This makes me angry.

Specifics are listed on the school district website, they went out to the community in multiple mailers, what more do you want? A classroom color scheme?

• “The number of classrooms will double." The proposed high school only adds one additional classroom. A science room is greatly needed as the current one was built in 1958 and is inadequate in size and equipment for its current use. Unless I am mistaken one does not equal twenty two.

• “The administration will not answer my questions." As with the conditional-use permit, some of our very own school board members have sought information only to use as ammunition against our schools. This information has been restated and/ or misstated and posted as anti-CSD material. When the staff and administration realized this misrepresentation of information was occurring (after much false information and innuendo was spread in the guise of “seeking truth”) the administration was forced to utilize legal services to assure that only appropriate information was disseminated based on the Freedom of Information Act. I do not know the cost of these legal fees, but I am sore about my tax dollars being used to protect the district against school board members and their families that have a grudge. These are people who made oaths and commitments to our schools and us taxpayers.

Speaking of money

This is money that we only have because some parents, who don’t rest their heads here, trust our teachers, staff and administration enough to bring their children to us.

I was talking to the parent of a child, who rests her head in Gresham, when she realized I live in Corbett she became defensive. I had to explain that most of us love having all families in our school community. It's not because of the money, but because of their shared dedication to family and school.

No one should ever have to feel embarrassed or defensive because they want something better for their child.

Tracy Brill is a Corbett resident.



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