Superintendent Mark Witty and members of the Baker School Board are on a mission.
They hope to hear from voters who represent the opinions of the 4,744 people who opposed the District’s $48 million bond measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, and then use what they hear to go back to those same voters with a plan the naysayers would support.
That was the consensus after a discussion of the topic Wednesday as part of a day-long work session at the District Office.
Had the measure passed, the bond money would have been paired with a $4 million state matching grant to build a new elementary school and to make other improvements throughout the District. To obtain that grant a second time, which Witty said would be a possibility, the District would have to seek approval of another bond in a November election.
On Nov. 6, voters rejected the proposed measure, with 4,747 voting no and 2,199 voting yes.
Connie Potter, a communications consultant who contracts with the Oregon School Boards Association, spoke with the 5J Board by telephone during a portion of Wednesday’s work session.
The bond measure failed in every Baker County precinct that voted on the issue. Interestingly, 36 Union County voters who are part of the 5J taxing district approved the measure at a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, voting 22 to 14 in favor, according to the Baker County Clerk’s summary of votes.
Potter cautioned the Board about trying to guess why Baker patrons didn’t support the measure.
“It’s important to go back out and do some listening with your voters,” she said. “It’s pretty clear they just weren’t ready to support it at this time.”
Potter pointed to a Voter Demographics Report from the County Clerk’s Office, which breaks down the vote by precinct, age and party. She noted that a review of the information showed voter turnout was unusually high in the county, at 72 percent during the November election. Those voting on the bond measure specifically, totaled 6,975 out of 9,768 eligible voters, County Clerk Cindy Carpenter said Thursday.
Countywide, 8,452 voters participated in the election out of the 11,749 eligible voters.
The demographics report showed these countywide numbers of who voted:
• 18-24 — 296, 35.07 percent of the 844 eligible.
• 25-39 — 1,208, 52.82 percent of the 2,287 eligible
• 40-54 — 1,492, 68.91 percent of the 2,165 eligible
• 55-plus — 5,456, 84.55 percent of the 6,453 eligible.
• Democrats — 1,669
• Republicans — 4,629
• Nonaffiliated — 1,620
• Other — 532
Although Potter did not detail voting by precinct, here’s the County Clerk’s Office’s report from the 12 precincts:
• Baker City 1 (north side) — 285, yes; 533, no
• Baker City 2 (north central) — 295, yes; 486, no
• Baker City 3 (central) — 285, yes; 578, no
• Baker City 4 (south side) — 316, yes; 722, no
• Baker City 5 (east side) — 337, yes; 748, no
• 13 Baker County — 195, yes; 496, no
• 14 Durkee — 19, yes; 53, no
• 15 Eagle Valley — 0 votes
• 17 Haines — 136, yes; 323, no
• 21 Keating — 44, yes; 105, no
• 24 Poca-Wing — 214, yes; 500, no
• 25 Sumpter — 73, yes; 202, no
• Union County — 22, yes; 14, no
“You either need to get those older voters to think in a positive way or you need to get those other voters on board,” Potter said after reviewing the numbers with the Board.
Potter said the higher-than-normal turnout could have played against the District’s effort to pass the bond measure. A higher turnout tends at times to bring “people who might have had some negativity just toward government” to vote, she said.
She also pointed to an “informal negative campaign” that gained some momentum during the last few weeks before the election.
But she cautioned the board against guessing why the bond measure failed.
“I don’t think you can beat yourself up about what could of or would of,” she said. “They just didn’t like this proposal for whatever reason.”
See more in the Nov. 30, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.