By Troy Lambert
A collaborative in Oregon brought together the US Forrest Service, environmental groups from all over the spectrum, so called “tree-huggers” to conservationists, the state, and members of the timber industry to discuss an issue they all viewed differently. All the stakeholders sat at the same table, and discussed issues ranging from environmental concerns and threats to endangered species to the equal threats of fire danger to populated areas and transportation corridors, and economic concerns voiced by affected communities.
Several months of meetings and lectures by both independent experts and opinionated ones, a compromise was reached: selective cutting began near populated areas, transportation corridors, and in forests with high levels of fire danger due to overgrowth of underbrush. The old growth forests that were healthy, but held wood coveted by the timber companies were left alone. The US Forest Service was able to offer timber sales in some areas unopposed by lawsuits filed by environmental groups (one of the largest obstacles to ongoing thinning operations), and the timber industry was able to make selective cuts and harvest timber. Everyone won something. Forests were healthier, public lands managed better, fire danger averted, species protected, and timber harvested.
On the other side, everyone made a sacrifice. Some timber was cut, and roads and infrastructure disrupted the environment to facilitate its removal. Old growth was preserved, off limits to the envious timber industry. Everyone gave up something. The end goals of most stakeholders were the same. Healthy, well managed forests, and public lands for all to enjoy. Although there were extremes on both sides, they were persuaded that the middle ground, though painful to both, presented the best and fairest option.
The Kuna Levy has two sides, both seemingly far apart. There are radical members of both sides. One side states that more money is always the answer, and if you are against the levy, you must hate children, God, and your country. On the other side are those who believe all taxes are bad, and that everything, from education to roads should be privatized or run by the state. Both extremes have valid points, and both have blind spots.
After the event at the grange where I “faced off” with Corey Tanner, we talked afterwards, and found out we’re not that far apart. With increased tightening of Federal and State budgets, we need to find sources to fund schools, and an obvious one is a levy, or property tax. On the flip side, the increasing cost of healthcare and its impact on disposable income for families combined with other economic factors makes raising taxes not the most desirable option. What to do?
Here is what I propose: we aren’t working for opposing goals, although there are extremists on both sides who might argue differently. We need a Kuna Education Collaborative.
This needs to happen no matter what the outcome May 20th. In my mind, a ‘Yes’ vote buys us the one thing we need to make this work: time. Others may see that differently. But either way, the long term answers lie somewhere in the middle ground, far from a popular place to be. However, since Junior High, I haven’t been too concerned about popularity.
We will still have to run levies (hopefully smaller ones) and pay taxes toward education. The budget shows such future actions are unavoidable. It takes money to run schools, and however we compare to those around us really does not matter at the end of the day. What matters is a healthy bottom line, regardless of how we get there.
At the same time, we need to make budget cuts. What does that mean? Some studies show that privatizing transportation and janitorial services actually end up costing districts less short term, but actually cost more after five years. We need to study these options carefully before diving in. Pay to Play needs to be on the table, and Booster clubs and others encouraged to help those disadvantaged so everyone has an opportunity to participate.
Even if we save only a million dollars, and therefore have larger carryovers we will be able to run smaller levies in the future. Creatively, we can still offer competitive salaries and still make progress with budget cuts. It means both sides lose something. We seek levy funding, although in smaller amounts, while cutting budgets and charging fees where we must to cover district costs.
So who is with me? Let’s get past the levy vote, either way it goes, and then let’s get together and get to work. Here is the kicker. Unless all the stakeholders come to the table, our efforts will be in vain. We need to collaborate, cooperate, and compromise. At the very least we should talk about it. Set aside political agendas, personal opinions, and let’s get practical when it comes to educating our kids.
The Kuna Education Collaborative. It may not be the answer, but together at least we can find some of them. Will you be a part of the solution?