Blue Mountain Community College officials have some tough questions to answer following the resounding defeat of a ballot measure that would have kept a capital facilities bond on the tax roll, namely what to do next.
In Tuesdays special election results, voters resoundedly rejected a measure that would have renewed an existing BMCC capital improvement bond, allowing school officials to use the $28 million generated to build three new facilities geared toward workforce training and agriculture, including a sustainable precision agriculture center in Hermiston. According to unofficial results, 7,868 votes, or 57.36 percent, were against the proposal, with 5,849, or 42.64 percent, in favor.
The Hermiston Herald advocated for the bond measure to pass for a number of reasons, including the benefits to both education and agriculture in the region through the construction of a precision agriculture facility in Hermiston, an applied animal science education center in Pendleton and an industrial processes workforce and science, technology, engineering and math training center in Boardman. We still recognize the long-term value of the proposal.
But voters have spoken, and we respect the results, even if it is disappointing. So, what happens next??BMCC?officials will be discussing their next move in the coming months, and we hope they do not scrap the idea to eventually construct three new facilities in Hermiston, Pendleton and Boardman devoted to agriculture and workforce development.
But they should also give considerable thought to what they could have done differently this time around and adjust accordingly in the future.
Should they reintroduce the measure in whole during a regular election year??Special elections generally bring lower voter turn-out.
Voters were not willing to continue paying 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to build the three facilities and make other improvements to the BMCC?campus in Pendleton. Instead of presenting all the projects in one package, should BMCC officials break it up into smaller chunks voters might find more palatable??
BMCC?officials should also consider who they are presenting to when trying to garner voter support in the future. It makes sense to present at chamber of commerce and city council meetings, but if they are stopping there they are not necessarily targeting the people who are least likely to vote for such a proposal: the people on low or fixed incomes, such as senior citizens. Did BMCC?do enough to reach out to those very important segments of the population and make their case this past go round??Did they present at senior centers, libraries or set up kiosks in parking lots to spread the message??
These are important things to consider. Perhaps one of the best places to start would be to canvass area residents asking them if they were in favor of the previous measure and, if not, ask how it could be presented differently to change their minds. Surveys are not perfect, but, if done correctly and presented to the right people, it could be very informative in deciding how best to proceed.
Jessica Keller is the editor of the Hermiston Herald. She can be reached at email@example.com.