[Vision2020] [Bulk] Re: Weitz Lawsuit: A Challenge

keely emerinemix kjajmix1 at msn.com
Sun May 13 16:45:26 PDT 2007

Brilliant, Sue -- and thank you for your passionate, clearheaded reasoning on this.keelyFrom: suehovey at moscow.comTo: vision2020 at moscow.com; jeffh at moscow.comDate: Sun, 13 May 2007 13:32:50 -0700Subject: Re: [Vision2020] [Bulk] Re: Weitz Lawsuit: A Challenge

Jeff,  If what you are saying makes sense now, 
why did it not make sense a decade ago when to have gotten a court decision 
might not have been so harmful?  Gerry Weitz would have been a natural for 
that responsibility when he was on the board and his children were in school. 

You say,
" No two 
non-elected citizens (albeit that they are both individually involved in the 
matter - Weitz and Donacht) are in a position to represent the vast interests of 
the array of stakeholders evident in this matter."
Really, that's 
exactly what Gerry Weitz did when he filed the lawsuit.  He assumed he was 
in a position to invalidate the votes of the taxpayers of this district. 

Whether or not 
permanent levies are a "bad" way to fund public expenditures, is your opinion; 
however, it continues to be the law.  You wrote in several hundred words 
what you could simply have reduced to a single sentence.  Why didn't 
you just say, "we in Latah County have a number of projects to fund: parks for 
children, playgrounds, an ice rink, so if we cut back on the funding for their 
education we might be able to consider those other 
golly, now at least they'll have somewhere to go when we close the school 

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  Jeff Harkins 
  To: vision2020 at moscow.com 
  Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2007 10:24 AM
  Subject: Re: [Vision2020] [Bulk] Re: 
  Weitz Lawsuit: A Challenge
  The Weitz/MSD lawsuit raises a plethora of issues about 
  taxpayer funding of public interests.  At the core of the lawsuit appears 
  to be the issue of whether or not the school levy process was in conformity 
  with Idaho legal protocol.  Because "public education" is important to 
  most of us in the MSD, it is critical that there be no ambiguity or 
  uncertainties about the "legality and integrity" of the levy event.  
  Unfortunately, it appears that some individuals have concerns about just 
  that.  Consequently a legal assessment (via a lawsuit) is 
  underway.As this involves decisions of legally elected public 
  officials (school board members), the use of non-elected citizens to arbitrate 
  the issue is inexplicable (the Swanson proposal).  No two non-elected 
  citizens (albeit that they are both individually involved in the matter - 
  Weitz and Donacht) are in a position to represent the vast interests of the 
  array of stakeholders evident in this matter.Properly so, this is a 
  matter for our courts. As community members ponder this event, here 
  are some things that might be useful to consider:Permanent levies 
  (levies in perpetuity) are a "bad" way of funding public expenditures.  
  The most egregious decision a current generation can make regarding public 
  programs is to deny future generations the choice of how their tax dollars are 
  spent.  Referred to as a problem of "inter-generational equity"and stated 
  in simple terms, current generations should not encumber the ability of future 
  generations to invest their public resources in those programs deemed 
  essential by those future generations.  Permanent levies have the 
  potential to do just that.  The reason we use "balanced budget" systems 
  in state and local government is to provide reasonable assurance that the 
  current generation "pays its way".  Perhaps the Weitz/MSD lawsuit will 
  give us reason to reflect on the "permanent levy" approach.  We can 
  probably achieve greater public accountability for school district resources 
  if there is some reasonable limit to the life of a levy - say three years or 
  four years.  Returning to the taxpayers to reaffirm their tax investment 
  is an effective means of accountability.One of the things that 
  concerned me about the recent levy election was the lack of a detailed 
  spending plan for the additional supplemental funding request.  Future 
  levy requests should be required to have a complete line-item level of detail 
  to support the additional funding request.This is a particularly 
  volatile period for public education.  New technologies and new 
  educational processes are working their way through educational systems.  
  We want to be sure that we leave adequate room for future generations to have 
  flexibility in design and delivery of public education.In Latah 
  County, as in most jurisdictions,  we have limited public resources to 
  invest in what at times like seems like unlimited public projects - sort of 
  like the diamond appetite on a zirconium budget.  The school district 
  wants or needs a new high school, or junior high; the county wants or needs 
  new facilities (law enforcement center, county hall, fair grounds); citizens 
  want or need new parks and playgrounds; citizens want or need a permanent 
  location of the ice rink; county residents want or need road improvements; 
  Moscow wants or needs to address the issue of water distribution; some Moscow 
  citizens would like to have their streets paved; and so on ............. It is 
  time that we assess carefully our public needs and prioritize our 
  preferences.  Allowing our public institutions to gain additional 
  resources by simply being the first to the trough does not serve the public 
  interest.As our property tax rates are once again at the highest 
  levels of Idaho Counties, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on our priorities 
  - and the proper expenditure of our limited public resources.  If some of 
  our citizens are correct in their assessment that we have reached our 
  sustainability limits (e.g. water, quality of life), then we must be 
  extraordinarily judicious in our commitments of tax dollars to public 
  projects.  For example, if we are at our sustainability limits, the 
  public school census has probably peaked.  Fiscal austerity would suggest 
  that we impose significant fiscal restraint in funding public programs.  
  If there is a prospect for future economic development, the sooner our 
  community explores the possibilities and moves forward with them, the sooner 
  we can begin to take advantage of a growing tax base and move forward the many 
  public projects that we want to have.Weitz is to be commended, not 
  vilified, for taking the first steps necessary for us to engage in serious 
  dialogue about our public infrastructure investments - and to place the 
  responsibility for those investments where it belongs - with the 
  taxpayers.  At 07:40 AM 5/13/2007, you wrote:
  JFord asks:
      > What about asking for a "judicial opinion" or judicial review" of 
      the facts 
      > as presented by the interested parties? Does Idaho have such an 
      option or 
      > would a judge(s) be willing to do this? How about the AG looking 
      at the 
      > "facts" and issuing an opinion? If those come back negatively 
      > wouldn't that at least be a "warning" to other potential 
      filers?The Weitz lawsuit is styled as one seeking a 
    "declaratory judgment and injunctive relief."Â  The declaratory 
    judgment portion of the lawsuit asks the judge to do precisely what you 
    suggest.  That is what is happening.  One may seek an 
    opinion on the merits of an issue of Idaho law from the Attorney General, 
    but this is only "authority" in support of whatever position the A.G. 
    decides is the correct outcome under! the law, and not "precedent."Â  A 
    judge, and the ultimate arbiters of state law questions, the Idaho Supreme 
    Court, would be free to decide this case differently from the opinon issued 
    by the Attorney General, and the court system's answer would be the final 
    say.As authority but not precedent, an Attorney General opinion will 
    suggest an answer but it could be "wrong" in the eyes of a later reviewing 
    judge.  I suppose an A.G. Opinion could "warn" of a probable 
    outcome, but it will not carry any weight in terms of forcing those, who 
    might bring a lawsuit that suggests an answer different from the A.G. 
    Opinion, to face any additional consequences for doing so than already 
    exists under existing law.  I suppose the upshot of this is 
    that the declaratory judgment action is designed to get to an official 
    statement of what the law is.  An A.G. Opinion or Idaho Tax Commission 
    ruling will merely suggest what the law possibly/probably i! s.  
    BJ Swanson has suggested that the parties mediate and agree to abide 
    by the answers suggested by the Attorney General and the Idaho Tax 
    Commission.  As I think about this, a potential problem arises, one 
    raised by Gary Crabtree and Sue Hovey already, i.e., the lack of binding 
    effect on non-parties.  Entering into such an agreement would bind the 
    MSD and Dr. Weitz from contesting the decisions of the government agencies, 
    but other concerned citizens could still contest the validity or invalidity 
    of the outcome reached in the proposed mediation decision.Until 
    thinking the process through in writing this answer, I had been initially 
    receptive to BJ Swanson's mediation suggestion, but the lack of a decisive 
    answer that could come from mediation gives me pause.  On the other 
    hand, a year (or three or five) of operating the Moscow Schools without the 
    significant portion of the money (a fifth, a quarter, a third?) that is 
    provided by the indefinite, per! manent supplemental levy, will be so 
    harmful to our children, schools, and this town as a whole  that I hate 
    to contemplate it. What alternatives do others see?Moscow's 
    attractiveness to business and prospects for growth with people that value 
    and support public schools would seem to be damaged significantly in the 
    near term by this lawsuit.  I think that Dr. Weitz is hoping, 
    somehow, to help the schools in the long run with his lawsuit by forcing a 
    re-vote ultimately of money for the schools and hoping to see money 
    allocated for his pet projects.  However, it seems unlikely to me 
    that there is much hope for that prospect to amount to much for a very 
    long time, no matter how favorable the outcome from Dr. Weitz's perspective, 
    given the short term damage.  That is why I think his approach 
    was misguided and unhelpful, no matter how much I support Dr. Weitz's 
    desire to increase professional technical education ("PTE") offerings for 
    our ! children in the Moscow public schools.  I fear the backlash 
    against his approach will damage the long-term prospects for needed PTE 
    offerings in which the Moscow schools indisputably are lacking.  
    (Assuming that Dr.Weitz's lawsuit had not been filed, I note that some new 
    PTE programs that came out of November's MCA forum were being put into place 
    at the alternative school.  I hope that still happens.  Those 
    courses need to be made available to the kids at the high school, too, and 
    not be stigmatized as "just" alternative school offerings, but I am willing 
    to get there with smaller steps that will allow some experimentation and 
    time to establish a track record of success.)I fear that the only 
    folks unharmed by this lawsuit are those to whom the public schools are 
    unimportant, because the the lawsuit will not damage their thoughts about 
    whether Moscow is a good place to live or establish a business.  For 
    the rest of us, the day this lawsuit w! as filed remains a dark 
    day.  Bruce 
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