A $98 million bond measure is vital to the community, important to an aging school district, insisted Yuki Cutcheon, before telling a roomful of residents Sunday afternoon it’s time for them to “make your vote count” in a plea to take their yes vote to the polls on November 8.
Along with that vote, Cutcheon, the co-chair for the “Yes for South Pas Schools” campaign with Jean Gunn Zenas, urged a roomful of supporters in attendance at Sunday’s kickoff event for the measure to lend a hand in any number of ways.
Speaking to about 50 individuals in the local library community room, some wearing “Yes for South Pas Schools” t-shirts, Cutcheon encouraged supporters to “step up and help make this a reality for our students, and for our community because our five schools are a vital part of the South Pasadena community.”
Cutcheon reminded the gathering “that South Pasadena is a strong vibrant city centered around a dedicated community of active and spirited, caring members.”
In her brief remarks, she wondered why the air conditioning and the internet in classrooms don’t always work, why the bathrooms at schools are in disrepair and why neighboring districts have better performing spaces and auditoriums. “It should be clear to everyone in this room how vital this bond measure is to our students, how vital this bond measure is to our schools, how vital this bond measure is to our community,” she said.
Charles Heath, a partner with TBWB Strategies who has guided more than 100 ballot measures to victory, presented some positive numbers, telling the group that voters overwhelmingly supported past bond measures in the city, 83.8 percent saying yes in 1995 and 78.0 percent in 2002. Those figures far exceed the 55 percent required for passage.
Information gathered during a recent South Pasadena Unified School District survey, pointed out by Heath, showed that maintaining the quality of education in South Pas schools is an extremely or very important issue for 94 percent of local voters. Heath showed a slide indicating more than 85 percent of SPUSD voters rate the quality of education as excellent or good.
Among the project priorities shown during a presentation of local schools were:
•Replacing leaky roofs, old rusty plumbing, faulty electrical and air conditioning systems.
•Retrofitting school buildings for earthquake safety.
•Upgrading facilities to support student achievement in math, science technology and visual and performing arts.
•Removing hazardous materials like asbestos.
•Improving access for students with disabilities.
He noted that the facility needs are well beyond the scope of the district’s operating budget and that the state does not provide funding for school facility improvement projects. Heath stressed that local bond funds will help the district qualify for state matching dollars. All funds, stressed the consultant, stay local and cannot be taken from the state.
“Whether on not you have schoolage children, protecting quality schools, quality of life and home values is a wise investment,” Heath said, explaining, “Lower propensity voters and younger voters are among the demographic groups most likely to support the bond measure.”
Heath, flipping through a series of messages on the screen, said a high turnout like the November 2106 presidential election, will maximize the bond’s probability for passage.
However, he insisted, “Given the November ballot, a strong campaign will be required to ensure this measure does not get lost in the noise surrounding the election.”
Heath called on supporters to endorse the yes campaign, display yard signs, donate to the campaign, call on neighbors during phone banks starting September 19 and walk neighborhoods October 15-16 and November 5-6.
SPUSD President Julie Giulioni talked about South Pasadena’s inclusive community, its diversity, tree-lined streets, walkability, safe neighborhoods, access to the arts and the city’s “great schools” being the “jewel” in the community. Passing the bond message, she said, sends a powerful message that South Pasadena is committed to educating, its students while maintaining the city’s unique quality of life.
To learn more about the campaign, visit YesOnSP.com