School referendum vote-yes committee members discuss their effort

Three of the four members on the vote-yes committee that promoted the Princeton school facilities referendum that passed May 20 spoke last week about why they participated in the effort.

The three were attorney Scott Berry, chiropractor Jim Gibbs, and Faith in Action communications coordinator Kim Young.

Gibbs is a former school board member, and has a second grader at the K-2 South Elementary, and a daughter who will start kindergarten in 2016. Young has three children in third, fifth and sixth grade and her husband Chad is on the Princeton School Board. Berry’s oldest child is in the seventh grade, his twin boys are fifth graders and his twin girls are second graders.

Berry said  he “gladly accepted” Superintendent Julia Espe’s invitation to be on the vote-yes committee. “I believe in Princeton. I love Princeton. I think it’s a fabulous community. As a (former Princeton Area) Chamber of Commerce president and on the board of directors at the hospital I talked to different employers, different businesses.”

Berry said he concluded from those conversations that one of the big draws for potential business owners to locate in a town, are its schools. “And from my perspective, South (Elementary) needs to be replaced,” Berry said. Repairing and adding onto South Elementary doesn’t make sense considering the cost versus building new, and the decision to build a new elementary is a “no-brainer,” he said. “We have to invest in public schools. It is a very well thought-out project.” The present burden of paying more than $100,000 per year for the two portables at the high school and the 14-unit portable structure that holds South Elementary’s 250 second graders is not using money wisely, he added.

Berry called the approximately six-week campaign by the vote-yes committee very targeted in choosing who the committee members talked to. The committee sought out people who it felt were supportive of the referendum proposal and asked them to not only to make sure and vote, but to also talk to a number of others to do the same, Berry noted.

Gibbs said that if he happened to talk to someone who wasn’t supportive of it, he would still listen to them.

The committee also organized a competition among businesses to see who could put up the most eye-catching vote-yes signs. Berry noted that he was helped in preparing his vote-yes promotions by speaking with South Elementary Principal Greg Finck about facilities needs.

Gibbs, in discussing a two-station gym the referendum bonding will also make possible, said that as a trainer working at the high school during the winter sports, he has seen a lot of competition for the gym space. Sometimes because of the winter schedule, a game will get bumped to the middle school gym and that reduces the middle school’s use of their gym, he said.

The main job of the vote-yes committee, according to Gibbs, was to remind people to vote in the referendum. In a small election people sometimes forget to vote, he explained.

Gibbs said he found the majority of people he talked to were in support of the referendum passing, but questions if he wasn’t “too insulated” from hearing from people who had disagreements with the referendum proposal. “I had no idea of the momentum of a no vote,” he said. “I had no expectations. I was optimistic because I was in favor of it. Nothing (in the outcome) would have surprised me.”

Young said she just “jumped into” being on the vote-yes committee and that what she mostly did was remind people to vote.

She mentioned the talk she had with her children about the referendum and their asking her why anyone would vote no on it. She said she explained that some would vote no because passage of the referendum would mean a tax increase.

Young also commented on why she was part of the vote-yes committee: “I love our community. I feel as a member of the community it is my responsibility to support it. Even though my kids will not be in the new school, it’s actually my responsibility to make sure future kids will have it.”