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UPDATE: Mercer Island School Bond Appears Headed for Defeat in Special Election

Election night results show local voters are overwhelmingly rejecting a $196 million Mercer Island School District construction bond measure

Update, April 17, 9:30 p.m.: The "Yes" campaign to approve the Mercer Island School District bond has conceeded the race after initial voter returns indicated the measure was headed for defeat, with 60.6 percent opposed.

The Committee for Mercer Island Public Schools (CMIPS) issued the following statement about an hour after King County Elections released their election night vote totals:

"We are disappointed for our students, staff and the Mercer Island Community that based on current trend, we did not achieve the needed 60% hurdle to pass this bond measure.

We knew that it would be challenging to fully communicate a plan of this magnitude to the entire island in such a short time frame; and we are gratified with the community support achieved so far for the bond measure.   We will work to understand this vote and what we are hearing as we consider next steps.

We are highly concerned because the capacity crisis remains, and will need to be addressed with increasingly drastic measures as the district rapidly runs out of room for additional portables.  Even more concerning is that this vote imposes a delay of unknown length to solving the crisis and removing the daily obstacles to education excellence caused by current overcrowding.

We offer our deepest appreciation and gratitude to those that have worked tirelessly and selflessly for the past 4 years to research, evaluate, create and advocate for this measure:  The 21st Century Facilities Planning Committee Volunteers, the School Board, the excellent and unflagging MISD administration, and the many community volunteers who have contributed to the process and the plan.  Our thanks as well to our fellow Committee for Mercer Island Public Schools (CMIPS) members.

Finally, we would like to congratulate the Issaquah community, who successfully passed its bond measure to build new schools."

Update, April 17, 8:36 p.m.: The released the following statement on the defeat of the school bond measure, with 60.6 percent of voters opposed:

"We would like to extend our deepest appreciation to the citizens of Mercer Island for participating in the democratic process and exercising their right to vote on Bond Resolution No. 592 to modernize and expand facilities. While we are very disappointed with the outcome, we are grateful for the dedication of the many volunteers who worked long and hard to help us bring this historic bond vote to the community. At this point, we plan to take some time to pause, reflect and dig deeply into the issues so that we can better understand why the majority of citizens has voted no. Thank you again."

MISD Superintendent Gary Plano also issued an additional statement in his own words in the school district press release.

"While we will be taking some time to digest the message we have received today, we are keenly aware that our schools are overcrowded and more students are coming.”

According to the press release, the MISD move forward the selection of with two architectural firms who will work with staff and community on the development of educational specifications for future school designs.

“I am confident that our teachers and staff will continue to work within our existing facilities and will provide the very best education possible to Mercer Island students and their families,” Plano said.

...

Original Story: Mercer Island residents rejected a $196 million proposal to rebuild all of Mercer Island School District's K-8 schools at the polls Tuesday.

The district's $196 million school construction and modernization bond measure appeared to be headed for defeat, trailing by more than 1,700 votes, according to early returns from King County Elections on Tuesday evening.

With 48 percent of ballots returned, the school bonds are failing 61-39 percent, according to King County Elections. Over 1,000 ballots arrived today and another 200 ballots are still yet to be counted by election workers — with more ballots expected to arrive over the rest of the week.

The school bond would have also paid for a new science wing at , provided for significant repairs to extend the life of , renovated , bought more land for future MISD use and a funded the drafting of a master plan for the so-called Mega-Block campus.

For Islanders with long memories, the vote against the bond ‚ first in the 1970s and again in the early 1990s, when a large, $50 million bond to rebuild and renovate several other schools overwhelmingly failed by a similar margin (on election night the margin was 30 percent). Several smaller school bonds in the mid-1990s were offered and approved instead.

Elsewhere in King County, the of the 60 percent needed to pass a $97 million bond, with the "Yes" vote currently at 59.49 percent of 14,967 votes cast (). Voters in Issaquah, on the other hand, have given overwhelming approval to a $219 million school bond issue, 69.2 percent "Yes" and 30.8 voting "No".

Mercer Island's turnout easily surpassed expected Special Election turnout of 34 percent.

This is a breaking news story. Check back with Mercer Island Patch for updates.

Mercer Island School District No. 400

Ballots Cast Registered Voters Percent 8147 16953 48.06% Proposition No. 1 General Obligation Bonds - $196,275,000 Position Votes Percent APPROVED 3206 39.38% REJECTED 4936 60.62%

King County Cumulative Verified Total

District Total Issued Received Today Cumulative Verified To Date % Verified COUNTYWIDE 237518 6102 69545 29.28

King County Special Election Ballot Returns By District

District Total Issued Received Today Cumulative Verified To Date % Verified CITY OF ENUMCLAW 6406 174 2138 33.37 CITY OF AUBURN 28393 625 7244 25.51 MERCER ISLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 400 16989 1022 8368 49.26 RENTON SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 57143 1168 15404 26.96 ISSAQUAH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 411 59631 1851 19761 33.14 SOUTH KING FIRE AND RESCUE 68956 1262 16630 24.12

— Information from King County Elections, Last updated: 4/17/2012 8:00 PM

Claus Jensen April 18, 2012 at 04:13 AM
It is not difficult to understand why this bond was totally rejected by a large majority of voters. The "1.400+ Endorsers" of the bond - including a coalition of Politicians, Realtors and others with obvious conflicts of interest - plus the biased and distorted coverage by the M.I. Reporter and Mayor Bassett's "Father Knows Best" sermon yesterday created an impression of a manipulative effort aimed at achiving it's goal at all cost! As they say "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time!"
David de Yarza April 18, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Thank you Kendall for your reporting over the last few weeks, and for engaging the community on the issue. Thank you also to all the Mercer Island citizens who served on the various committees, and to the School Board. And thank you to the voters of Mercer Island for sending a clear message to the School Board. This is an opportunity to move forward with increased transparency towards a more cost effective solution.
Robert T. Brown April 18, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Thanks to the Patch for unbiased, accurate reporting. Also thanks to the "Yes" campaign for their thoughts and discussion. Who knows, maybe I'll be working with them when the next bond comes around? I'm sure these politicians don't want "Endorsed failed $196M bond" on their resume. Hopefully, we can come together and work at a better solution.
Kendall Watson April 18, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Thanks for the kind comments, Robert, David and others. @Robert re: resumes — on the other hand, how often do you see politicians proudly displaying their "Endorsed No campaign on School Bond"? It will be interesting to see how the No campaign pivots from this election.
David de Yarza April 18, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Good point Kendall, I know that those of us that have voiced our opposition to the bond have done so for various reasons and there has not been one coordinated NO voice. Those of us that have been passionately involved in this debate will continue to be engaged with the School Board and the community in moving forward towards a solution.
Ira B. Appelman April 18, 2012 at 06:10 AM
It is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that those Islanders who disagreed with the District's demolition/rebuild approach remain involved. It is 100% certain that Islanders will reinvest in their schools. Those pushing the District's approach [CMIPS, the PTAs, MI Schools Foundation] are permanent institutions and won't be going away. CMIPS put out a statement tonight that in getting only 40% of the 60% of the vote they needed, they "fell short" and the problem was they didn't have enough time to "communicate a plan of this magnitude," so we cannot count on reality testing from CMIPS. A variety of issues were raised in the campaign: (1) 3 vs. 4 elementary schools; (2) if 4 elementary schools, where is the 4th located; (3) remodel vs. demolition/rebuild; (4) what's the role of portables in handling increased population; (5) how do we provide appropriate common spaces, like lunch rooms; (6) what's going to happen on the megablock; (7) what's an appropriate and reasonable amount to reinvest in our schools; (8) how do we balance the cost of keeping our schools current with other costs such as the announced ballot measures for the sourth end fire station and King County's Youth Services Center; (9) and I'm sure others can identify more issues that were raised. I urge my fellow Islanders who voted to reject the District's demolition/rebuild approach to stay involved and shape the new approach so we can vote YES in good conscience the next time around.
Carv Zwingle April 18, 2012 at 02:21 PM
The school bond vote was as much a rejection of the School Board as it was the measure itself. The Board is profligate and incompetent, Gary Plan and Pat Braman should resign at once so the Island can move forward with proper plans for our schools. Carv Zwingle
TJ Paine April 18, 2012 at 03:13 PM
To the School Board and Dr. Plano, We appreciate ALL people who took part in the election campaign. The public has spoken. Please take time to reflect. Do not rush with your plans, " ... to move forward the selection of with two architectural firms who will work ... on the development of educational specifications for future school designs."First reflect on the type of campaign that was run from the hiring of a non facilitator to head the Building Committee & who did not take minutes nor allow for full hearing of issues. Hire a person to give accurate demographic and financial projections. Consider your policy of hiring retired administrators and request Dr. Mack to choose to "unretire"- take one paycheck- or to retire fully. Practice the all important skill of LISTENING to those who speak in opposition. Put into place rules of conduct at Board Meetings so that the public will know they are heard and not just tolerated or dismissed. Consult with the members of the "Citizens for a Rational School Planning" who were sometimes personally maligned but maintained their dignity while quietly proceeding with their mission of informing the public of the lack of accurate and reasonable financial and population figures. We need a NORTH END school. This morning we are still members of the can-do Mercer Island Community who wants to maintain the quality of the education and to share, listen and gather data to create the bond we need. Provide all of us that opportunity.
Breck Longstreth April 18, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I appreciate the measured and conciliatory response to the failure of the bond by the Mercer Island School District. I am appalled by the tone of the CMIPS response, which I find condescending and snide. Methinks "sour grapes" and "sore losers."
Lori Langston April 19, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Mr. Zwingle -- Your comments are inappropriate and unproductive for this forum and detract from whatever credibility you may bring to the table. For the sake of a more positive approach to moving forward for our schools, please refrain from making personal attacks on the people who work tirelessly for our students. As the saying goes, "You can't judge a man, unless you've walked a mile in his shoes." Thank you.
Ira B. Appelman April 20, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Good suggestion: Carv Zwingle for Superintendent!! I've been telling the opposition that Gary Plano is a good choice to lead Islanders to a new school improvement plan, but after last night's School Board meeting I'm not sure that's right. Showing absolute contempt for the vote, Plano brought in the architects he selected to do the demolition/rebuild and got Board approval to move forward drawing up contracts with those architects to do a deceptive "ed specs" process that will inevitably lead to the same or similar demolition/rebuild plan. The strategy is clearly to give lip service to the vote while following the same or similar plan. It's up to Islanders, but if Plano and the Board sign a contract with the demolition/rebuild architects, I'm going to recommend that we get some new shoes.
Kendall Watson April 20, 2012 at 10:23 PM
@Jeff, That's true, Mercer Island Patch was very much designed as an interactive, collaborative site that aspires to become a community forum where anyone and everyone can contribute. But there are limits to what is allowed here, outlined in detail here: http://mercerisland.patch.com/terms Generally speaking, I would appreciate it if commenters would simply observe these three simple tenents: “Keep it clean,” “Don’t try to trick people,” and “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” I've been getting a lot of feedback lately that some folks here are getting carried away and personalize issues that can easily be discussed in a principled way. There are a number of posts that are very close to the line ("defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive" is not allowed), but are technically not violating our Terms of Use. Please keep these guidelines in mind when formulating a comment and if you have to go back and check them, it's probably best that you re-write whatever caused you to check them in the first place.
George Stanton April 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
We are lucky to have such a thoughtful and committed superintendent in Gary Plano. It is easy to criticize, to nay-say, and to shoot holes in any plan. It is much harder to get involved in the process and take criticism for doing a lot of hard work. The above attitude is not helpful and is downright disrespectful.

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