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Voters say 'yes' to library bond but 4th Ward seat will go to run-off

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By Lauris Olson

(Nov. 8, 2011 - 9:10  p.m.) Ames residents settled the $18 million dollar bond question for library renovations with a solid “yes,” with 76 percent of the voters approving the bond. Voters of the 4th Ward, however, will need to return to the polls on Dec. 6 to chose between the top two vote-getters, Chuck Jons and Victoria Szopinski.

Jons received 381 votes. Szopinski received just five fewer at 376. The third candidate, Frank Jeffrey received 138 votes.

Turnout citywide for the 2011 Ames City Council election and the $18 million dollar library renovation bond was at 11 percent.  It was slightly higher in the 4th Ward where the three first-time office seekers were vying for the seat being vacated by Riad Mahayni.

Just under 12 percent of the 7, 165 registered voters in the 4th Ward had voted by 7 p.m.

In the 2nd Ward, unopposed incumbent Jami Larson received  1,812  votes.

Incumbent Matthew Goodman ran opposed for his at-large council seat, receiving 4,067  votes.

Three trustees at Mary Greeley Medical Center also ran unopposed. Sarah Buck, Bradley Heemstra and Kenneth McCuskey will continue to serve on the hospital’s board of trustees.

Final vote tallies for the library bond will were 3,690 votes for and 1,235 votes against. The referendum required 60 percent approval.


Just hope the April bond issue for schools is successful as well.

It should until September or it will fail

... at this point it has no shot.

Doubt it

Voters are typically not inclined to support two consecutive bond issues over $15 Million.


Getting bonds passed is a simple matter of demonstrating the value of what the bond will do. Obviously, the school bond failed because people didn't see the value in the plan. The library did their homework and demonstrated the value of the project to voters.

There is nothing "typical" about any bond issue; either the community sees the value in the proposal or they don't. If the school board puts together a sane plan that voters can embrace it will pass no problem. The previous bond had failed before the ink was even dry on the proposal.

To nonsense

"The previous bond had failed before the ink was even dry on the proposal". That's unfortunate. That board showed every piece of data and how that plan would grow Ames. The minute Roosevelt was mentioned the nasty people got busy and people in some parts of Ames as well as teachers started to spread false information. How embarrassing and how hurtful. The small amount of money to operate six schools vs. 5 could have helped each and every part of Ames.

Thanks fellow voters for support of the library.

I hope that Ward 4 gets busy and gets the vote out for Victoria!


"Getting bonds passed is a simple matter of" the voters deciding whether or not they can afford the increase in taxes it creates.

We've already signed up for a $30 per $100,000 valuation increase. And that doesn't mean a $30 increase for most Ames residents, because the average home in Ames is valued at a lot more than $100,000. (The average valuation of a home in Ames is currently above $160,000.)

Smart folks around here remember that we just recently had a 50% increase in our water/sewer rates, and that we will have a second increase of about the same size in a very few months. By the time the new school board actually gets a new proposal put together and gets it put on the ballot, those new water/sewer rates will have gone into effect.

There is absolutely no reason to assume that grocery bills are going to go down any time soon. Michele Bachmann may claim that if she's elected President, she'll bring back $2 gas, but people with two functioning brain cells know that's just her fantasy.

The US economy, while making a slight move in the right direction this quarter, is not going to be anywhere nearly fully recovered before another school bond issue comes up for a vote, even if the next bond plan doesn't happen for a couple of more years.

If you think that you're going to have more money a year from now than you have now, you're living in la-la land.

People vote for a bond issue because they believe they can afford it. Not necessarily because "they see the value" in it. I can see the "value" in a whole lot of things Ames doesn't currently have. I can easily see the value in at least one more large outdoor swimming pool. I have no trouble seeing the value of an indoor, warm water exercise pool. I easily see the value in establishing a lot more miles of bike trails. I could even easily see the value in the original library proposal. But I don't think most Ames residents feel they could afford any of those things on top of current expenses.

And that's why I had really, really hoped that we could have gotten a school bond issue passed before the Ames Public Library forced a vote on their own bond issue.

Now that we're committed to an $18 million bond for the library, I sincerely believe that people are going to want to scrimp as much as possible on any bond proposal that the current school board may come up with. And, while I love our library and totally understand why it needs more room plus certain upgrades, I also think that schools should come before libraries.

It's a lot like a family knowing that their furnace is on it's last legs, and so is their car. Most sensible people I know would find out how much it was going to cost to replace the furnace, and then decide how much was left over to invest in a newer car. Not buy the car first and then decide how much they had left to replace the furnace...only to discover they quite possibly didn't have enough.

So here's hoping that the "new and improved" library will have lots of extra space that can be used for over-flow classrooms.

very well stated

I posted endless cost analysis on this for a long time, why I thought it was out of line with what other libraries in the region spend, and what we should have gotten out of the life of the 1984 renovation

But you raised the most important point - overall costs of living are going UP, overall (real) incomes are going DOWN, and there are a large number of capital investements/bond issues pending

While this one bond issue may not break the town, in my opinion it was extravegant, and in the context off all of the pending captial expendatures, beyond the town's means. Carrying the attitude toward ALL of the pending bond issues may very well break they town. In my opinion, the town has not yet adapted to what may be 'the new normal' of 3 dollar plus gasoline in every citizen's car and every city owned vehicle, and the resulting inflation that flows from near 4 dollar diesel fuel of eveything you buy transported by truck, which is about everything

On which of the other bond issues will we end up having to cut corners, when the majority wakes up to these realizations?

totally agree

I voted no on the library as I also feel that Schools come first. That didn't occur, and I now know that those that voted for the library won't vote for schools. Very sad. We were hoping for a great bond issue coming up, but it won't happen because some value the library more than schools. Upsetting

To totally agree

"Those that voted for the library won't vote for schools." Really? I mean, really? I have children in the Ames public schools. You can't seriously believe that I place more value on the library than I do on the schools that I trust to provide a major portion of my children's education. In my opinion, both are important to a vibrant community, but they are not entitlements—they are only as great as our investment in them, and our taxes are a major part of that investment. But what do you expect when you live in a community? Oompa-Loompas who magically make everything happen at no charge to any of us? That kind of thinking is about as ridiculous as saying (or implying) that a vote for the library is a vote against schools. When the school board presents a proposal that I believe shows the same consideration for community input that I feel the library showed with their proposal—and I like some of the discussion I've heard so far on revised plans for ACSD schools, you'd better believe I will vote in favor of that bond, and I'd like to think I'm not alone in my opinion.

Schools versus library

I don't necessarily think that just because a person voted for the library bond, that means they won't vote for a school bond at all.

But I'm concerned that a school bond that finally passes may well be a lot smaller than what is really needed to get our schools up to where they need to be.

To continue the analogy of the family needing both a new furnace and a newer car, this would be like them buying the car first. Not necessarily their ultimate "dream car." (I mean, we did voice our objections to the first plan for the library as being beyond reasonable.) But the best second-hand car that they could get a loan to buy. And then, when they go to replace the furnace, they realize they don't have enough borrowing power to buy a nice, high efficiency furnace, so they end up buying the cheapest furnace they can find. It costs them more in fuel costs to heat their house and, before long, they will actually have spend more on home heating because of that. And it's a bit under-rated for the size of their house, so some rooms in the house stay a bit chilly on the coldest days of winter. But hey...they've got a nice "ride."

It's just a matter of prioritizing things. For most families, both a car and a furnace are necessities. Neither can be termed an actual "luxury." But when there isn't enough money to go "all out" on both, you must decide which is the higher priority. So, for most people I know, they buy the good furnace (maybe not the "top of the line", but a good, high-efficiency one), and then figure out how much money they have left to upgrade the car. Although both are necessities, the furnace is the higher priority.

And that's why I wish we'd have gotten a school bond issue passed first, and could then decide how much money we had left to devote to a library upgrade, instead of the other way around. I'm concerned that we'll end up passing a school bond based not on what we actually need to get our schools up to par, but only the bare minimum because we finally realize that we can't afford any more than that.

It always rather bothers me when a bond issue is put on a ballot. I'm never sure whether people are voting on it just because they'd like to see whatever it can buy in Ames, or because they're actually understanding that the issue is not "Would we like another pool in Ames?" Or "Would we like a better library in Ames?" etc., but the question is actually, "Can you, as Ames taxpayers, afford this much of an increase in your property taxes?"

Sort of like handing out credit cards to everybody. It's not a question of whether we'd all like to see a big screen television in our homes. Of course we would! It's a question of whether or not we can pay the bill when it inevitably arrives. I think sometimes voters see that credit card as a pre-paid gift card. It's not.

If I may paraphrase some of your comments

"Not necessarily their ultimate "dream car." (I mean, we did voice our objections to the first plan for the library as being beyond reasonable.) But the best second-hand car that they could get a loan to buy."

I'd look at that absurd 35 million dollar library this way

They proposed a rolls royce, then settled for a mercedes, when all we needed was a ford

and it's debatable that we need a new car at all


Sorry, but you both have chosen to live in a highly educated community that prioritizes things like libraries.

One that cares about its youngest citizens having quality library facilities in the future.

One that believes that a rundown, underfunded library would be a black mark on our community.

One that believes in showing gratitude for our great, albeit inadequately resourced, library. The APL truly adds to the quality of life of our town. Why wouldn't you want to keep its services going at a high level?

76% of Ames voters gave an enthusiastic Yes vote to the library bond. Anyone living outside Ward 4 really didn't have to move a muscle on election night. Outside that ward, the races for city council were uncontested. But droves of people who could have stayed home came out to vote Yes and make damn sure the library bond passed--unlike elsewhere in the country, where library bonds are going down to defeat with alarming regularity.

I talked to a woman yesterday who moved to Ames from a town in CO. She said the "last straw" was its defeat of a library bond. She was beaming with pleasure at being in a town that could pass a library bond with such a resounding margin. She wanted to raise her family in a town like Ames, not the kind of place where tight-fisted voters denied necessary funding to their public library.

what bothers me is the hostiity toward the question of cost

statements like 'Sorry, but you both have chosen to live in a highly educated community that prioritizes things like libraries.'

if you read most of the critics, most favored some kind of expansion. They just questioned the cost of it. but we were told to defer to 'the experts'

but didnt 'the experts' ALSO propose a 35 million dollar library? werent the vast majority of the town's citizens questioning 'the experts' then?

very coincidently, this proposal was 1/2 that size. very old negotiating trick. very underhanded. these costs were way, way out of line with industry standards, and ordinary the lack of ordinary usefull life of the last expansion

imagine if you were buying a car, and you had the right 'values' about safety, confort etc for your family. you selected one model that seemed to fit. but the price the dealer is way out of line. and every time you question the price, the salesman browbeats you about questions whether you really value your families safety and comfort, etc

would you say 'he's right, i need to get my values in line, there's no other choice', or would you WALK, and begin the process over, not giving up on getting the car, but refusing to be BULLIED by what seems to be a very padded bill?

opposing this particular proposal did NOT mean people didnt 'value' good libraries, it mean we also value fiscal responsibility, something that's dangerously out of style in this country

There are really only two critics on this subject and the self-described ex-librarian who cops to using the library a lot but doesn't want to pay even a little bit more for it. :-)

Enough people did not like the $35m plan that it was dumped in favor of a modest plan that 76% of voters said yes to. There was nothing "underhanded" about any part of it--how laughable--this process was as transparent as it could possibly have been.

You'll just have to live with that.

here's what was played on the community

and yes, it was very underhanded. why do people play these games? because they often work

To here's what was played

Nothing was played on the community. Let's consider the history of the library proposal. The original library proposal was presented to the city council in March 2009. Unless the library directors and board magically pulled the proposal together overnight, it has already been in the works for several months. Despite what many citizens already knew, the federal government did not acknowledge a recession until December 2008, and even when we moved to Ames in the summer of 2009, most people we met here didn't feel like the recession had really hit central Iowa in the same way other areas had been affected. So, the library's proposal was not based on "sticking it to" a community that was already in the throes of the recession. Even so, the community rejected the initial proposal, because of cost, yes, but also because Ames citizens were opposed to abandoning the Carnegie library.

Following the rejection, the library directors and board went back to work, seeking public input on how much the citizens would support financially. Once that limit was established (which I believe you, if you are who I think you are, have interpreted as "how deep can we dig into their pockets"), the board authorized the architect to revise the plans from new construction to renovation and to do it within the limits that the public had indicated they could support. Again, this was not an overnight process. While the planning and preparation has gone on, the economy has continued to flounder, leaving many people concerned, rightfully so, about the economic security.

That the library renovation plan and the recession coincided cannot reasonably be construed, as you have attempted to do, as a long-term strategic plan to hoodwink the citizens of Ames. Please avoid trying to paint either the directors or the library board as criminals—or at least as underhanded dealers at the table of public funding.

your position is predicated on there being a rational and

reasonable explanation for the original 35 million dollar proposal, that there was a case to be made for it, rather than just being an outragious numerical endpoint, that, by cutting it in half, (1/2 of 35 is 17.5, round up to 18) could make 18 million seem 'more moderate'

i cant think of any - have at it - tell us why the original 35 million dollar original proposal was a responsible suggestion to the community under *any* economic conditions, rather than just a ploy

I never said

I was opposed to paying "even a little bit more" for a library renovation, and I resent you putting untrue words in my mouth like that.

What I said was that I had really hoped we could get a bond passed for the much more urgently needed improvements to our schools before the library forced a vote on their own bond.

Then we'd know how much it would cost to get our schools up to par, and would have a much better idea of just how much we could honestly afford to improve the library.

Yes, let's...

get ourselves a bright, shiny, newly renovated library, and the heck with our schools, right? I mean, who needs good schools? Certainly not Ames, right?


Yeah, what about the schools. I heard one person say, they were so proud that we were getting a new and improved library, and really didn't care about the schools. Very sad. I would have liked to see a new bond issue for the schools pass in April, and then work on the library. Those that wanted the library KNEW that the schools would suffer at their hands. All I can say is "thanks alot". You certainly made sure the school bond issue won't pass, and they KNEW this. I guess it is more upscale for Ames to have a nice library instead of nice schools.

this was all about getting in front of all the other bonds

before anyone mentally hit the 'Total Button' and got the sticker shock of what the schools, electric and water bonds were going to cost - there's no way all of these other projects can be decked out at the level of the library bond that just passed.

had the citizens really had everything in mind at once, (along with the overall increases in costs of living/operating a city plus any incidentals the city may encounter) it would have been a lot harder to sell something so bloated with wants rather than needs

the best way to have approached this would have been to have a series of town meetings will ALL of the upcoming bonds presented at once, starting with a 'rough cut' of what each would cost decked out at three different levels (A, B, C - you dont need full detail design, just ballpark estimates based on industry class levels), with the costs of each level rolled up into a total for all at each level *added to ALL the current operating costs of the city*.

otherwise, you're like a family on a 7 day vacation, blowing all your money on the first couple of days, because you think you have so much money in your pocket. how much money you have, depends everything on how far you have to go with it

in my opinion this entire bond exercise completely missed that point

To this was all about

Any citizen who was paying attention would have had all of these numbers in mind. The utility costs, the school bond, the library bond—all of those numbers, or estimates of them, have been published in the newspapers multiple times. The blame for things passing or not lies squarely on the shoulders of uneducated citizens who don't pay attention to their community and don't vote.


Yeah, what about the schools. I heard one person say, they were so proud that we were getting a new and improved library, and really didn't care about the schools. Very sad. I would have liked to see a new bond issue for the schools pass in April, and then work on the library. Those that wanted the library KNEW that the schools would suffer at their hands. All I can say is "thanks alot". You certainly made sure the school bond issue won't pass, and they KNEW this. I guess it is more upscale for Ames to have a nice library instead of nice schools.

value vs. affordable

I have to disagree with all this drivel about "boo hoo, we can't afford another bond". Ever decision you make is value driven, you decide whether the money in your pocket is worth more than the shinny object in front of you. This is economics 101. For those who say we "can't afford" these bonds, look around your home at all the things you value more than your community. I live in a big home in a new neighborhood, but I don't have cable TV, I don't have a second car and I very rarely eat out. I value a nice home more than staring at a TV. The money you pay for cable is equivalent to $20,000 more home now in payments over 30 years.

It's time to put the big boy pants on, mommy and daddy can't fix this. It will take sacrifice, but the kids in school today will become the adults that decide our fate when we get old. I want them to have the best education possible and I am not afraid to pay for it. I you want to live on the cheap, move out of town.

I live in a very small home

in a very old neighborhood (which is rapidly turning into a slum because of the "development mentality" of some people in this town).

I don't have cable. I couldn't afford it even if I wanted it. I don't have a land-line telephone. I had to get a cell-phone for medical reasons, and I couldn't afford both. I don't have a big-screen television. I get my entertainment from reading books and watching DVDs (both of which I check out from the library for free).

My house is furnished almost entirely with either second-hand furniture, or hand-me-downs I received from my parents when they sold their large home and moved into a much smaller apartment in a retirement community. (I have one end-table and a dresser that I bought new in 1978.) I have never owned a brand-new computer in my life. Until recently, I've had computers that no longer worked "donated" to me, and -- after combining parts from several -- have made one that works. A few years ago I "splurged" and bought a working computer second-hand. I do not have high-speed internet access.

I buy my clothes at Goodwill (for "play clothes") or consignment shops (for work clothes). (So I have a real hard time feeling sorry for people who claim they "need" to go to Ankeny or Des Moines to spend all day wandering through stores looking for something they don't really need, but would like to spend money on anyway.)

I drive a 1997 Toyota Camry. I just "upgraded" from an 1988 Olds Cutlass about 2 years ago. I put about 5,000 miles on my car each year.

The last "vacation" I took was in November of 1996 when I went to a friends wedding in Arizona. As her only attendant, she and her husband paid my airfare.

I have not been to the dentist for about 4 years. I can't afford it.

In the past two years, I have seen my utility bills go up steeply. I have seen my grocery bills rise sharply. The price of gas for what little I drive my car has gone up. A lot. And I have seen my property taxes go way up. Yet I have not received any increase in income in that same two years.

If my property taxes go up even just a bit more, I'm seriously going to have to consider giving up my house. And, if you've been paying attention, you know that this is not really the time to be considering selling a house. I'm not "underwater" on my mortgage, but I probably couldn't get a whole lot more for it than I still owe on it. Once that money has gone to pay rent, I'll be either living in my car (if it's still running), or else under an interstate bridge. The whole idea of my buying a house in the first place was that I'd be able to pay for it while I was still working, and then I wouldn't have to pay rent once I retired. Which means I could afford to retire before age 80. I wouldn't be going on any retirement cruises, but if I continued to live frugally, I would at least have a roof over my head, etc. And then, when I was no longer able to live alone, I would be able to sell my house which would pay for a modest apartment in some sort of senior living place.

Frankly, I'm just about tapped out. And I know I'm not the only one in town that is.

If you have enough income that you can happily accept higher and higher and higher property taxes on your big home in a new neighborhood, goody for you. Not everybody is that lucky. And maybe you could take just a tiny bit of time away from patting yourself on the back to consider the fact that not everybody is that fortunate.

I have a small house in old ames too

My family and I have a small house in old Ames too. It's valued at about $100,000.

That means I will be paying an extra $30 a year on residential property tax. The value my family receives from the library in books and videos for my education and entertainment is worth many times that.

I am sorry about your plight. But even for the cashed strapped living in a small house -- the library is a bargain.

That's not the point.

Yes, having a good library is a bargain. I don't disagree with you there.

And yes, if your home is valued at about $100,000 your property taxes will only go up about $30 per year for the library.

But we still don't have a bond for the school upgrades yet.

The point is: can you afford another 100% increase of your water/sewer bill + more rising food costs + another (much larger) bond issue (with its much larger tax increase) to fix up our schools? You don't know! Because we still don't have even a proposal to consider, never mind actual numbers for the necessary bond.

As I keep saying, but people seem too illiterate to read, I only wish that the school bond issue had been taken care of before the library forced a vote on their own bond. That way, we would know how much we could actually afford to fund for the library renovation.

After the vote

The votes are counted. Our library will be improved. The 4th ward voters have an important decision to make.


Seems to me that Jeffrey voters will be more inclined to vote for Jons than Szopinski.



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