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  • Happy Ending At Last in Cedar Falls

    • Posted on Apr 10, 2016
    This morning's (April 10) Courier column on the Cedar Falls School Bond election last Tuesday.  Good news and a happy ending for a change.   

    Cedar Falls Bond supporters finally got good news last Tuesday.  Their perseverance won.   

    Two previous bond proposals did not—in September, 2014 for 118 million, and June last year for 35 million. The winner last week was for 32 million.  Three million seemed to make the difference.  

     Well, only partly.  The cost to taxpayers was about the same.  

     Actually, the community seemed to change its mind.  Elementary enrollments are increasing, making overcrowding inevitable.  Also schools are visibly deteriorating. 

     You don’t want your schools looking third world, as though public support were unavailable.   Worse, if public support is available but not given, it shows a community turning its back on itself.       

     Yet this time, even hard-core naysayers like Judd Saul, who was loudly and vocally against the first two referendums, supported it.  His reasoning, according to one report, came down to the school using 8 million in its reserve funds. The actual cost will be forty million, with bond funds only covering 32 million.  

     So even to naysayers like Saul it seemed like good money management. 
    When I heard this bare-bones proposal had passed, I breathed a sigh of relief.   If it hadn’t passed with the needed supermajority, those of us who care about public education would have gone into despair mode.  
     
    A loss would have put naysayers in charge, making any real progress all but impossible.  More classes in trailers.   More jammed-up school hallways filled with storage containers. Larger classes, lower teacher morale.  Public education in decline. 

     A deteriorating school system sits right next to a deteriorating infrastructure as visible signs of community decline.  

     When you visit a city as a possible new home, you want to see signs that it’s taking care of itself.  Badly potholed roads, shuttered buildings—College Square, anyone?—bode ill, and deteriorating schools reveal a community that no longer bothers.     

     However, in Cedar Falls, a vibrant downtown Main Street, a saved historic Depot, and as of last Tuesday, a renovating school system, make it all go together. 

     Repairs, remodeling schools, and construction of a new elementary school mean citizens still want a community that cares about its future.   

     And yes, the current repair of University Avenue sits right up there as a sign that yes-sayers are still in charge.  

    Roundabouts are coming here, and in a decade we’ll all be thankful.  The larger world out there happily uses roundabouts, after all.    

     Condition of a school system and roads reveal the future of a city, now and always.  Cedar Falls has some of the best-run and best-regarded schools in the state, and good schools attract families more than most other community features, I wrote in 2014 in support of the first bond issue.  

    In fact, I did despair after that first loss, and immediately contributed to the school system as a token of support.   

     A hearty thanks to Superintendent Andy Pattee, the Cedar Falls School Board, and all the yes voters who look to a positive community future.    

     As a former student and resident of Cedar Falls wrote when he saw the good news:  “The covenant has been nurtured.”   

     Exactly.  
     



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  • A Tale of Two Coaches

    • Posted on Mar 27, 2016
    Here's this morning's Courier column--does God intervene in basketball games?
    Happy Easter.   

    “To God be the glory!” exclaimed Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy after their utterly improbable win over UNI Sunday night. His team had come back in the last 38 seconds from a 12-point deficit to tie, then to win in double overtimes against the Panthers. 

     Coming off the floor, he insisted that his players prayed their way to victory. 

     In contrast, UNI Coach Ben Jacobsen at the postgame NCAA press conference struggled with words, explaining,  “unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of just a crazy thirty seconds—you know, we aren’t ever going to be able to have an answer for, nor do we need one.  It just happened to go that way.”

     Three of his senior players, Paul Bohannon, Matt Jesperson, and Wes Washpun, sat beside him, looking utterly exhausted and disappointed.  They had been beaten down not only by the furious pace of the game, but also by the shocking turnaround from winners to losers in just over a half-minute.   

    Jacobsen forged ahead by supporting his players, saying “but everything that happened to get to that point—these are three of the finest young men and three of the best guys we’ve ever had come through our program, and I’m extremely proud of them.” 

     They had just experienced an epic game loss they will relive for years, though they won’t blame coach Jacobson for it.  Nor themselves.  Nor God.   

     So, did God answer the A&M coach and team’s fervent prayers for a win?  Or, as Jacobson insisted, did it just happen for reasons they’ll never clearly understand?  And don’t need to?  

     As much as we all hope for a supernatural entity that will intervene when she/he/it hears enough prayers, that’s an empty hope.  In the ringing phrases of the Old Testament’s Ecclesiastes (9:11, to be exact) “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

     Anyone who gets past kindergarten knows this to be true.  We’re all subject to time and chance, and to suggest that we didn’t pray hard or long enough comes perilously close to blaming the victim.   

     Teams win or lose because of a variety of events all emerging, creating a win or loss.  We call them “perfect storms” now, but it’s the same as the Biblical “time and chance.”   

     Most important, Coach Jacobson handled the loss exactly right by graciously thanking his team, complimenting the winners, and moving on.   

     To praise or blame anyone feeds resentment, creates false responsibilities, and ultimately calls into question one’s faith.  That’s the irony of thanking God for winning.

    If God helped you win, what about when you lost?  Isn’t blame the logical response?  So I compliment Coach Jacobsen for taking the Ecclesiastes route, admitting that time and chance happened to the team.  

    That’s true, and it’s the long-term best attitude.   

     The A&M Coach’s insistence that God helped them win amounts to a lack of faith in his players and their last-minute burst of strategy, energy, and lucky breaks.     

     
     



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