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Mark Western, Published March 18 2014

Letter: Angry, patronizing reactions to school vote are not helpful

In response to the March 16 opinion column by Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski and the front-page article both about the recent Fargo School District vote on the District’s mill levy request:

I am disappointed by the patronizing tone of Zaleski and School Board member Paul Meyers’ attitude toward “no” voters. Meyers characterizes the “no” voters as either spreading or buying into “misinformation” about the board’s Bluestem Center bailout and the construction of Davies High School. Zaleski’s Sunday column characterizes the “no” voters as perpetrating “ignorance” and “intellectual fraud.” Unfortunately, Zaleski’s and Meyer’s comments amount to the type of taunting and name-calling that belong in a junior high locker room or between boxing promoters.

The fact that the board took upon itself to pay $2.1 million in bonds for the Bluestem Center after Bluestem owed the school district more than

$2 million without any voter input is not “misinformation.”

The fact that the Fargo School Board constructed a third high school with costs in excess of $40 million without seeking any voter approval is not “misinformation.”

Voters want honest and open dialogue with elected officials and a real picture of what the school district intends on doing with additional mills other than “flexibility.” The name-calling and the sour grapes that are substituting for political discourse do nothing to advance the discussion about the future of the Fargo School District.

The board wanted more money, and either they didn’t send the correct message to the voters or the voters simply did not like the vague message that the board sent about the vote. It is not unreasonable nor intellectually fraudulent to ask for accountability from the School Board. It is not unreasonable to expect a school board to provide a meaningful analysis of the consequences of a “yes” or “no” vote prior to the election. It is a school board’s responsibility to adequately inform the voters in the school district about the vote rather than belittling the voters’ decisions after the fact.

Instead of meaningful dialogue, we are now left with name-calling, angry voters and angry board members. Isn’t it about time to press reset?

Western is a Fargo attorney and former member of The Forum’s Readers Board.