Off-year elections are very treacherous waters, without the glamour of mud-slinging political races, an already sparse voting public is thinned even more by a comfortable apathy. The perfect case in point is last week's vote on the Vista Unified School District Bond issue. Of the 59,570 registered voters in town, less than 30 percent of these folks bothered to vote. Seeking to raise $96 million, Proposition B missed the mark of a two-thirds majority by a mere two percentage points. To be honest with you, the outcome of this special election could not be more amusing.
Perhaps the bond issue would have passed had it been limited to repairing the existing facilities. Proponents of Prop B, credit the bond's failure to people not wanting to pay additional taxes. Could it be that those voting against the bond were sending a message that they did not agree with taxes that promote growth. When families look for an area in which to move, schools are usually high on their list of considerations. New schools represent new growth, and as we all know, both should be avoided.
Yes, existing schools should be repaired, but this should be accomplished with existing funds. Perhaps if the school district did not spend so much money on sports programs, there would be money to prevent the ceiling from caving in. Having done my time at Vista High School, I can speak to an institutional case of misplaced priorities. Instead of building a new high school, perhaps the school board can build new classrooms where the football stadium now sits. Considering that maybe 5 students will go on to a career playing professional football, such a facility seems to be a complete waste of space and funds.
Prop B was the school district's attempt to build itself out of an over-population crisis. This bond issue should not be seen as a result of a lack of schools or funding, but rather a lack of planning on the part of elected officials. Between 1980 and 1990, according to the official City of Vista web page, Vista's population increased 100.6 percent. The City of Vista's population was estimated 81,170 in 1995. The question before the residents of this small north county city is how come an infrastructure is not in place to handle the influx of people, before they come.
The Vista Unified School District says it needs to build 11 new schools, and that residents should pay for them. While schools are overcrowded and in disrepair, perhaps the school board could better spend it's time lobbying the City Council to stop approving development permits. A region is to be considered over-populated when it can't support it's inhabitants, and this is clearly the case in Vista. A portion of responsibility, in regards to regional overpopulation and school overcrowding, should also be shouldered by the City of Oceanside, as the Vista Unified School District encompasses the eastern section of Oceanside. Another area currently reeling from the impact of unchecked development.
Proponents of such bond measures say that expecting developers to cover the costs of new infrastructure is unrealistic and ignores history, which is only half right. Asking developers to pay for the infrastructure required to support all the residents and their children moving to the homes they build and profit from is realistic and fair. As for ignoring history, they are right. Because the history of North County politics has been a contest to see which city can bend over the farthest to accommodate the developers every wish.