No on Issue 3

Dear Ohio University students, if you’ve been seeing fliers or social-media pages trying to persuade you and fellow students to vote against a local school levy, you can be forgiven for thinking this is satire. The spelling and grammar are so atrocious, the reasoning so embarrassing, the attempted manipulation so transparent, it’s hard to take this effort seriously.

Think about it. What if the so-called “Citizens for A+hens Education” identified on the NO3 campaign website deliberately made themselves look so silly and thick – so gloriously uneducated – in order to persuade OU students that, debate settled, Athens needs all the education it can get. So, by all means, vote Yes on Issue 3!

Oh, did I write “Athens”? I meant to write “Athen’s,” as the name of the local school district. That’s the way the NO3 campaign spelled Athens in 64-point type at the top of their webpage. It shouted, “THERE ARE BETTER PLANS FOR ATHEN’S EDUCATION. BETTER FOR YOU, TOO.”

Let’s consider this for a moment. Attending OU’s main campus, how many times do you see the word “Athens” on any given day? Ten? Twenty? One hundred? You see it all the time. So think twice before accepting voting advice about an educational issue from someone who can’t spell the name of the town where they presumably live. (The “Athen’s” error eventually was repaired.) The flier also is poorly put together, twice intending to use the verb “affect” but spelling it “effect.” Again, when making an argument about education, it probably makes sense to get someone to proofread your materials, even if it’s just your 10th-grade daughter who likes to read.

The arguments on the website/flier hint strongly at the general identity of the thus far hidden person or people who are responsible for it – one or more local landlords. Taking various examples of commodities that college students frequently purchase (pizza, beer, athletic sneakers and Lyft rides), the NO3 campaign argues that if the Athens City School District’s capital-improvements levy on the Nov. 6 ballot passes, off-campus landlords will have to raise rents, and their student tenants will have to shift money for personal purchases over to their housing costs.

There’s no small amount of irony in this argument, in that an abiding complaint over the years among many Athens County residents has been that OU students shouldn’t be allowed to vote on local issues, since they’re only temporary residents and (supposedly) don’t have to pay property taxes.

This doesn’t account for the fact that students as a class are an incredibly vital part of the local economy, and can’t avoid being affected by decisions made by local government, including by taxes.

So, it’s possible that some rents might go up if Issue 3 passes.

It’s also possible many might not, if landlords decide they can’t raise their rents any higher. Passing along added costs is the landlord’s decision, and clearly, nobody is becoming poor as a landlord in Athens.

 

THIS LEVY AND BOND ISSUE will ask for a property tax increase of 5.88 mills to fund the Athens City School District’s facilities master plan. With the state of Ohio contributing around a third of the cost, the plans calls for building two new pre-K to third-grade school buildings on the sites of two existing pre-K to sixth-grade schools; a new high school for grades 9-12 at the site of the current high school; total renovation of The Plains Elementary School for grades 4-6; and renovation of the existing Middle School for grades 7-8. The total cost of the plan is $86.1 million with the state kicking in around $27.5 million.

Supporters made the case that with state money available now, and the schools badly in need of updating, there’s no time like the present to address that situation.

The plan is also intended to address socio-economic inequities in the Athens City School District, by grouping kids in the same elementary grades in the same schools, rather than neighborhood schools, which are more prone to class stratification.

As a newspaper, we haven’t decided on our endorsement yet on this issue, but speaking for myself, I can’t say the tactics in the NO3 campaign make me sympathetic to the cause.

My guess and hope is that most OU students will see through this ham-handed, cynical ploy. Who wants to be the person who sells out local education for an extra slice or two of pizza?

The NO3 campaign website and flier never hint at what Issue 3 is about. They’re assuming that students will be easy targets for the cave-man argument, which I’ll paraphrase here: “Athen’s wants to raise taxes for education; but that’s bad education, and it will cost you pizza and beer. Plus there’s a better plan!”

There’s not a shred of explanation of either the Issue 3 levy plan or the “better” plan, or even any hint that the people behind the NO3 campaign have any idea what they might be.

OU students, I used to be one of you. Back then, I hope that I wouldn’t have been dimwitted or craven enough to be influenced by such a patronizing pitch as that lobbed by NO3. I’m confident that you won’t be either.

As for the originators of the NO3 stealth attacks, as of Sunday they still hadn’t come forward and identified themselves. The purported group name, Citizens for A+hens Education, gets no Google hits, and we could not find any relevant entry for “Heartland America Inc.,” which the website and flier say paid for the materials.

It’s depressing to see this sort of underhanded, stealth campaign taking place in our local community. It’s even more depressing to see it take such a patronizing approach to lobbying students. OU students, they don’t respect your intelligence or your integrity. Show them that they’re wrong about you; do your own reading and research before deciding how to vote on Issue 3.

And finally, don’t forget this life lesson: never accept advice about educational issues from anybody who doesn’t know how to spell the name of the city where they live.

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