DISTRICT TURNS TO CITIZENS FOR HELP ON DELICATE ISSUE

August 07, 2001 11:00 pm

The La Grande School Board had a couple of options when it came to deciding how to approach the subject of remodeling or repairing the school districts aging buildings and possibly closing one or more of its schools.

It could have hired an architect or some other consultant to evaluate the buildings, make up a list of deficiencies and recommend the needed repairs. The board then could have considered funding options and possibly gone to school district patrons with a request for a bond levy to pay for the work.

The school district has chosen a different path, involving a committee made up of citizens that will take a close look at the districts buildings.

Members of the new committee will be given score sheets to help them evaluate the roofs, plumbing, windows, floor coverings and other details of each building.

The committee will decide what kind of remodeling work, if any, should be done, and will make recommendations on paying for it. It will also look at the question of closing school buildings in response to the loss of 500 students in the district over the past 10 years.

The committee has the potential to become a helpful public relations tool for the district. Seeking voter approval for building bond measures is always a delicate affair. The school board also realizes that it will be walking on potential land mines when it discusses closing any of the old, beloved schools. Just look at the opposition that surfaced five years ago to the closing of Ackerman School on the Eastern Oregon University campus.

The citizens committee promises to produce much more public participation and acceptance for any decision than if the board were to act alone on a plan.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinichs proposal to create a Department of Peace in the executive branch of government deserves more than a passing glance.

Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, introduced his bill on July 11 to establish a cabinet-level department that holds peace as its paramount principle. The legislation is being considered in

committee.

The department would work toward strengthening non-military means of peacemaking, promoting justice and human rights and preventing violence and armed conflict. According to Share International, it would develop strategies for conflict prevention, non-violent intervention, mediation and peaceful resolution of conduct.

How would the department be funded? As the nation turns to peaceful means to resolve conflicts both at home and abroad, funds could be shifted from the massive U.S. defense budget to help create and sustain the new department. It could turn out to be money well spent.