Voter turnout in yesterday’s Solon school board election dropped from 834 votes in 2013 (18.4 percent of registered voters) to 281 votes (8.18 percent).
What happened? The district is moving on after a 10-year cycle of electing politicized and mostly conservative board members to finding a less political, middle ground focused on doing what’s right for district school children.
2013 was arguably the high water mark for this change when the community rallied around former Solon mayor Rick Jedlicka to ensure his place on the school board.
It is telling that there were virtually no political yard signs for school board candidates on display this year. The change from previous years indicates an emerging lack of interest in political aspects of the school board.
Adam Haluska, a former University of Iowa basketball player, and Jim Hauer, a small business owner, got the most votes, with Hauer edging incumbent Dan Coons by three votes for the second seat on the board. From a talent perspective, the race between the two winners was a tossup. The community voted for the future by electing them both.
There are issues with the school board. They spend money like they have it, but that is a complaint I have about most governmental entities. The bigger problem is how to deal with growth in the district.
Will population continue to move to communities like Solon? For the time being, new families are attracted by the perceived quality of district schools and the proximity to amenities found in nearby Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. A significant amount of new, single family home construction has taken place over the last 25 years. The housing is a bit pricey, but comfortable for a family, and not over priced in the market.
The community is centrally located to enable working in Cedar Rapids or Iowa City. A significant number of people commute to work in the Quad-Cities. It is fair to say there will be incremental growth. Accurate projections—the kind needed to plan infrastructure—are harder to come by.
With the build-out of the new middle school and the performing arts center, the district should reach caesura as the community finds its way. The task of the new school board is to finish the current construction plan and work with the newly hired school superintendent, Davis Eidahl, to set a plan for the future.
Based on yesterday’s voter turnout, most people take the idea there will be progress for granted.