Tacoma has another chance to show how it values youth

February 10, 2013 

We can see it in the tutors, mentors, coaches, parents and community activists who believe that one caring person can make all the difference in a child’s view of the world. We can see it in the youth centers, church groups, parks – and schools – Tacomans have built as safe, positive and challenging places for young people of all economic backgrounds.

We can see it in the new ideas about how to make our resources work more efficiently for our kids. Our schools play well with others. They host community gardens, language and citizenship classes for adults, health professionals, community groups and sports teams. Just as we can see our investments in all of this, we can see what we still need to do. It has been more than a decade since we have passed a major school and safety improvement measure.

Proposition 1 gives us the opportunity to get to it at a time when the need is great, and the cost is as low as it will ever be.

With it, we can improve learning, security and safety at nearly all neighborhood schools.

Prop. 1 will update intercom, alarm and security systems, including covering radio dead zones for 911 communications and emergency responders. It will include removing asbestos, bringing schools into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, retrofitting for earthquake safety, and adding security gates and front office windows for clear entrance viewing. It will make the needed repairs to preserve current buildings.

It will also give up on some buildings that have deteriorated into money pits. They have aged beyond usefulness and are on the list of 14 neighborhood schools that will be renovated or replaced.

 • Arlington, Browns Point, Lyon, Birney, Grant, Boze and Downing elementary schools will be replaced.

 • Washington and McCarver elementary schools and Stewart Middle School, all of which are registered historic buildings, will be renovated to modernize their interiors while retaining their character.

 • Wainwright Elementary and Hunt Middle School are now closed. Prop. 1 would provide money to rebuild them when projected student population growth warrants in the next few years.

 • Wilson High School may look great from the newer outside, but behind the facade, the school campus is worn out and awaits the final phase of renovation and construction.

 • The Science and Math Institute will move from a muddy sprawl of portables into a real campus.

Tacoma’s young people will get enough power for their computers. They’ll be able to toss the buckets they now use to catch ceiling leaks. They’ll have plumbing and heat that work. They’ll have what they deserve.

Their families and neighbors will get new community resources. Tacoma Schools have pledged to work with residents to find out what resources – from meeting rooms to playgrounds and kitchens – the new buildings can add as 24-7 additions to the community. The partnerships the schools make possible will invest the neighborhoods in the schools, and the success of the kids who study in them.

With long-term financing at record lows, Prop. 1 will make it possible to refinance old debt at a lower rate, actually reducing tax rates through 2020. The average Tacoma homeowner will pay $58.24 annually, or $4.85 a month, over the length of the bond measure. Prop. 1 will create good jobs now and invest in Tacoma at record-low rates.

It’s a plan so sound, it has won backing from groups that opposed previous bond measures. It has united business, labor, government, parents, youth and faith, civic, cultural community activists in support.

Those backers make a broad and impressive list. Among them are the PTA, the League of Women Voters, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, the Pierce County Labor Council, Realtors, Tacoma Education and Principals Association, the Ministerial Alliance, the Blue Light Coalition for Community and Law Enforcement, the NAACP, the Urban League and Centro Latino.

Prop. 1 needs all that backing, and your vote. It requires 60 percent approval to pass and get to work on providing students and teachers with the best possible environment for learning and teaching.

Tacomans value our young people. It’s time for us to prove it again. Please vote yes on Prop. 1.

Kathleen Merryman, a former News Tribune columnist, and Willie Stewart, a former administrator of Tacoma Public Schools, are co-chairs of the Renew our Commitment campaign to pass Proposition 1. Co-chair Dan Barkley, former associate superintendent, also contributed.

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