Thursday, December 5, 2013

My glass is half empty, so yours should be too

If you aren’t reading Michael Tilley’s blog, you’re missing some of the best commentary out there on the facilities plan and other local school issues. Today he disputes the argument that equity requires all three high schools to have equal athletic and parking facilities, even if there is no connection to benefiting the students who are least well off, and even if it comes at the cost of closing a neighborhood elementary school, and even if we have to make other high schools’ facilities worse to achieve it (as I saw argued today on Facebook).

Michael is right that equalization at any cost is “equity run amok.” Moreover, it never seems to occur to some of City High’s “supporters” that City might actually have some advantages over West High and over the future new high school, and that some of those advantages might be related to its physical surroundings. After all, thousands of people freely choose to live in the area around City—because they like it. I live right next to City, and I love the neighborhoods around it. I like that City is easily walkable for so many people. I like its proximity to downtown. I like that City has an elementary school right next door. I like that the junior high is easily walkable from City. I’m not bothered by the fact that a few of City’s athletic facilities are located near the junior high; I think that has benefits for the neighborhood, too.

This is nothing against the west side or the North Corridor. Different people choose different things. But I chose the east side because I like it. If I were at West, I’d be envious of some of the things City has. What I don’t get is why some of City’s supporters are determined to see every difference between the two as a badge of inferiority. Why are they so sure that the balance of advantages and disadvantages always tips in West’s favor? And how does that stance help City High?
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5 comments:

Karen W said...

Agreed that Michael Tilley's blog is worth reading.

Facebook just keeps getting better--this morning brings us the assertion that pointing out that Hoover land would be used for athletic fields is "like red meat" and "like inflammatory dog whistle stuff" for low-information, emotional voters.

Apparently no rational person could ask why we would spend three million per acre to preserve onsite tennis courts when there are so many other facilities needs in the district or why we would tear down a good-size elementary school to preserve onsite tennis courts when we are apparently in dire need of elementary capacity.

Anyhow, I think you make some good points about City HS's strengths.

I just wanted to note that I happened to visit my high school website recently (on account of hearing that my H.S won the state high school football championship--Go Lancers!) and found that my high school no longer has onsite tennis courts. They were removed to make way for parking and a small classroom building and, apparently, this move hasn't caused any difficulty filling seats at the school.

For what it is worth, I will also note that there were no difficulties filling seats when I attended even though our athletic amenities couldn't even begin to compete with facilities at nearby schools. We have no pool while a nearby high school has an Olympic-sized pool, and many others have onsite pools; we have (had?) a dirt track without any seating for spectators while a nearby school had a track stadium (!) with state-of-the-art track surface.

This isn't a call for City HS to have lower quality athletic facilities than are available at West, but just to suggest that equally nice athletic facilities a few blocks away doesn't create an equity problem that justifies spending millions per acre/tearing down needed elementary capacity to keep those facilities a few blocks closer.

Chris said...

Thanks, Karen. Yes, funny how quickly "people who aren't persuaded by our arguments" get characterized as "low information voters."

It's now very clear that if Hoover is kept open, the City addition can and will go forward, and that the only sacrifice on City's part will be that its tennis courts or softball field will be off-site rather than on-site.

At that's at best. The superintendent still hasn't ruled out a parking lot. We were all told at the community workshops that if Hoover stayed open, City would have to build a 750-stall parking ramp to accommodate the addition. School board member Jeff McGinness repeatedly cited that ramp as the obstacle to keeping Hoover open, and joked that City would be the only high school in America with a parking ramp. (Side-note: not true.) At the recent listening post, one closure advocate identified parking at City as a concern and said that equity required City to have as many parking spaces as the other high schools, regardless of whether it was in a more walkable neighborhood. Yet we're all supposed to pretend that none of that ever happened, that no one would ever think of putting a parking lot on the Hoover property, and that it's irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

In any event, I agree, keeping tennis courts and softball on site isn't worth closing an elementary school, especially when there are possible alternative sites for those facilities that are only two blocks away and that the board has not explored, and when the worst case scenario is that they might be relocated to the nearby junior high.

Swimmers at West, by the way, have to drive much farther to get to their pool than those at City. It's a miracle that the facilities plan doesn't propose to build swimming pools at each of the three high schools. How will we ever achieve equity otherwise?

What I would like to ask some of City's "defenders": Is there anything about City that you think is better than West?

Anonymous said...

There are 7 houses between the parking lot and the field on the map you linked to. I bet you could buy the 7 houses and the field for less than 5 million bucks. :)

City does everything better than West - according to the commenters after this article (http://littlevillagemag.com/iowa-city-standoff-nitpicking-numbers/)

Michael Tilley said...

Thanks for the link, Chris. Everyone can blame your relative quietness over the last month for me getting more vocal. In other words, its all your fault!

We chose the Hoover triangle for particular reasons as well. It has less of a suburbanite feel (that's more suited to our taste), closer to downtown, closer to work, across the street from Hoover, just a bit further from City, and half a mile from Southeast. It is great, too, that Mercer is the community resource that it is.

We've been thinking of buying a home in the neighborhood, and really the only thing that makes us reconsider the Hoover triangle as perfect for our tastes is the shadow hanging over Hoover.

Shannon Severance said...

Stadium High in Tacoma Washington also has a multi level parking garage.