photo by Hannah Cohen
VoK: Proposition K
TKC staffers went around Downtown Kirkwood to find community members and discuss Proposition K (Prop K) with them. Prop K is a 46-cent tax increase for those living in the vicinity of the Kirkwood School District (KSD). There are different views on this tax increase in comparison to KSD and their needs such as debates over enhanced facilities, technology and education in general. TKC found a group of Prop K supporters and here are there opinions on the proposition, which will be voted over April 4.
TKC: Do you support Prop K?
Dan J. Sullivan, “Dan the Good” (Dan): “Yes. My answer is yes. I work at the polls, and I’m telling my friends to vote for it. We will have a sign in our yard, and I’ve sent them 100 bucks.”
Why is that?
“Because I believe in it. Our son graduated in 2004 and is now working on a PhD at the University of North Texas. I always tell people that our son received a world-class education at Kirkwood. He met the best man in his wedding who came to Kirkwood from South Africa. How can you do that? So, my family, we are giving back.”
Drew Ehrhardt (Drew): “I can’t say it any better, I would say the same thing as my friend here. I have three kids that went through the Kirkwood system and they’re all doing extremely well. They are raising their own kids. The school system’s been very good. We worked real hard for Prop A last November, [Dan] used to get all the parents registered and voted. If you want to spend your time doing something, that’s one thing you can definitely do to make sure people get out and vote. Last I heard, 12 percent of parents were still not registered.”
Dan: “About 700 parents are still not registered.”
Gerry DeWulf (Gerry): “They worked really hard [with Prop A] and were pretty unhappy with how it turned out. I had a sign in my yard supporting it, I voted for it, but I wasn’t happy with the effort last time. I thought it was misguided. The other side was selling fear and it wasn’t being addressed by our side. I’m for it again, I think this is a reasonable request. We won’t have Tom Williams around after June so his salary won’t be a worry anymore.”
Lou Smith, retired Washington University professor (Lou): “We lived in Kirkwood for sixty-something years. Both of my kids went through Kirkwood, we were pleased all the way through. My kids seemed like they got a broadly ranged education. My son took the route of athletics and played tennis and soccer, he had reasonable coaching I think with a lot of talent. He went on to college and got a degree and has been teaching tennis for the last 30 years. It’s not quite professorial, but [it suits him]. My daughter turned 65 a few days ago and she’s retired. It’s weird talking to a group of people younger than my grandchildren. She never had any real problems [at Kirkwood] and was a better student than my son, she went on eventually to do some kind of work in New England with disturbed kids and out to California, got a job in a program there with kids and eventually got a master’s degree in counseling. The school experience from my point of view was always very positive, creating incredible possibilities for all kids. One generation down the line, my grandson went up to live in Michigan and recently wrote a TV program. We’ve been very pleased, each of our grandkids now are doing very different things with their parents’ and grandparents’ support. The whole tradition worked out well, and Kirkwood High School is the cause of it. My wife died five years ago and I’m living out in Manor Grove [in the Kirkwood community].”
Tom : “I taught 33 years in elementary [school] in the city.”
Gerry: “It’s not the same, you don’t have the same resources that you do in Kirkwood.”
Dan: “My son was one of four students of his class in 2002 that went on to Wash U. All four students did real well, mine was in the top 15-17 percent of his class at graduation. So he’s able to swim with perks of other educational programs without a problem.”
TKC: Thoughts on the campaign so far?
Dan: “You’ve got votes there that are lying foul, I’m just wondering who’s picking them up and running with it.”
Drew: “You’ve gotta have announcements every day saying ‘Get out and vote.’”
Dan: “I’ve said so many times, one message repeated in advertisements. Ever been to Paris? In the metro? When you’re going down the connecting tunnels, right? And what do you see? The same ad 20 times in a row. The same message repeated so someone can’t miss it. This is the same thing, if you want your message conveyed and people to register to vote, every morning in announcements say it.”
Why aren’t other voters as passionate about Prop K?
Gerry: “You’re on a fixed income, you’re 85 years old, you live in a house, you pay taxes. All of these things are rising and this is the only, only expenditure you can vote against. The only tax you can say, ‘No’ to. I mean, what are you gonna do? You’ve got heat, you’ve got light, you’ve got food, power, insurance, I can see that. I can see where you have no choice but to vote against it. Because it’s just your survival.”
Dan: “There’s something else that’s also hurting the district. I served on a school board back in the ‘70s over in University City. The images that turn voters off are powerful. The images that you have to support Prop K are not as clear. In the last election, Prop A, Dr. Williams’s salary was an issue, and I have great respect for him. The swimming pool. The upgrades of the athletic field and the pressbox. All donations. Someone told us last year that the updates to the journalism area and the band rooms were unnecessary. But, again, they’re donations. People get a picture [from this], but what are the pictures on the pro side? Quality, great students, great programs, great education, fairness. These images are really less clear, they’re fuzzy.”
Drew: “To put it the other way around, the opposition says your taxes will go up 218 dollars. That’s all I’ve gotta say. People say, ‘Oh, I don’t wanna pay.’”
Dan: “He’s right. To offset that message you’ve gotta take the message and hit it first and hard with the wise. If you come in second on that message, you lost. The other side will come in and plant their flag and that’s where you wanna dance.”
Drew: “The district has extremely fine facilities. People say, ‘My gosh, how much more do you need?’ They obviously don’t understand where the money comes from.”
Dan: “How old were you in 2008? Do you remember the recession? Well, this is 2017. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families in this community who have not recovered. I know a family across the street from me. They were doing fine. He was a teacher at St. Joe’s, and she was working for a financial investing corporation. Two [kids] in college, two in high school. They got crushed. He got laid off, she got laid off, and these were people that were doing well. Not marginal people. They ended up selling their house at a loss, moved across the street from KHS into an apartment after having four bedrooms, and they couldn’t afford a car to get to the high school and finish so they had to be nearby. They sold the other car, the mom was working at Starbucks across the street. She was probably making about 70 thousand in the finance industry, but then she downgraded to Starbucks. These were the people that were way up here, and they still have not recovered. But then the people who were marginalized got hit, lost jobs or retirement and college, yet recovered from all of those issues. This was the greatest recession since around 1938. So when people see this, ‘Oh, it’s 200 dollars? Wow.’ And they shy away.”
“So I grew up outside of a town that was much like Kirkwood, and occasionally, when I got into grade school and high school, I would go in and visit some of these people in town in beautiful houses and we’d go inside and there was no furniture. They were living on a shoestring and holding on to the house but there was nothing inside. It was a shell. It was all appearances.”
Gerry: “I just want to throw one thing out. My son is 33 this month, just moved into Kirkwood three months ago to get back into the school district and lives six houses down the street from me. He’s there because his wife is heard how good Kirkwood school district is and wanted to get back into that. Also, Lee is a voter who worked hard on Prop A. What’s your feeling about Prop K?”
Lee: “To put it shortly, I sincerely think it needs to pass, and I think the evidence is there supporting it. I hope it makes it.”