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COMMENTARY: Interest seems to be lacking in levy referendum

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I’m beginning to wonder if it’s me.

Why does it seem no one is interested in the Brainerd School District levy referendum?

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Even my grandma won’t read my school levy stories anymore, but in the interest of fairness, she doesn’t live in the school district.

For the third time this week, I’ve covered the most poorly attended meetings I’ve ever been to in my 14-plus years at the Dispatch.

And I’m left to wonder, why is that?

The Brainerd Public Library was bustling with people of all ages Thursday night but the only people who attended Marv Begin’s anti-levy group, other than the five regulars, including Marv, was Steve Lund, school district director of business services, and me.

Last week the People Against New School Taxation Policies had six people in attendance, including three who said they supported the school levy questions.

Steve told the group he was there to answer any questions they had about the district and the levy and they asked a few.

But mostly there was awkward silence as Marv scanned through one of his four large binders filled with past stories about the district and everyone else stared at one another.

And, frankly, that can be hard to write about. They also talked about the government, tax-increment financing in the city of Brainerd and Social Security.

The only quotable quote was one my editors won’t let me use because of the salty language, something about teachers and breast-feeding, generally speaking.

But I like to think friendships were made in that 45-minute interaction. Marv is always a gracious host and thanked Steve for coming. Steve told the men to contact him whenever they had a question related to school finances, adding that he was only there to provide information and people would have to make up their own minds about whether to support or not support the upcoming levy vote.

Al Tschida said he was going to take Steve up on his offer of a tour of the former school farm. Steve went one step further and asked Al he’d even like to take him out for coffee sometime.

“I think you did the schools some good by coming over here,” Marv told Steve as he was leaving.

“I appreciate that, Marv,” Steve responded.

Group hugs, anyone?

I kid.

Meanwhile next door, at the Brainerd High School community room, Superintendent Steve Razidlo and a few school officials were waiting to give an informational presentation about the Nov. 8 levy.

No one was there either. Except me.

Steve Razidlo joked that maybe he should stand out on the corner with a sign about free hot wings to drum up some audience members.

Then Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan walked in the door, the first of two persons who eventually listened to the presentation.

I asked Marv why he thought no one seems to be interested in hearing about the levy — from him or the school district — and he figured it was because people have their minds made up already. Marv said he won’t be scheduling any more library meetings since so few people show up.

I asked Steve Lund the same question. He thought people are busy and, as a member of Generation X, generally he feels they don’t like going to meetings. Steve also added that the district has a comprehensive and interactive website about the levy so many people may be just visiting that to learn about it.

Does this lack of attendance to these levy meetings give us any indication on what the vote tally will be the night of Nov. 8?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

JODIE TWEED may be reached at jodie.tweed@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5858.

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Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2010 and works as a online reporter, content editor and staff writer. She is a world traveler, accused idealist and California native now braving the winters of Central Minnesota. She believes in the power of human resolve and hopes to be part of something that makes history by bringing an end to injustice in the world. Sarah has worked as a criminal background researcher, high school civics teacher, grant writer, and contributing writer with Causecast.org — tackling every issue from global poverty to bio-degradable bicycles. Her favorite thing about living in Minnesota is July. Sarah left the Brainerd Dispatch in April 2014.
(218) 855-5879
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