There is a lot of space between the passage of a mandatory measure and these dollars that are actually going to schools. | Monterey County Intro NOW
Sara Rubin here, reflecting on the complexity of how government works when you peel the surface. For example, what exactly happens to a school tie after voters approve it? We could see signs that bonds are sold and those dollars are being used – while a large portion of spending on school bonds is spent on invisible objects (new HVAC system, for example), some is spent on shiny new public infrastructure. The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District is reminded that voters passed Measure I, a $ 213 million bond, in 2018 thanks to loan signs that are erected in front of schools: “Your good dollars at work “.
But there is a lot of space between the passage of a mandatory measure and those dollars that actually go to schools. In this week’s cover story in the print edition of WeeklyI wrote about a particularly thorny linkage project – a proposal to build an auxiliary field plus stadium lights and bleachers for visitors to Dan Albert Stadium at Monterey High School – but the story is also about how sausage is made more generally. Some of what MHS neighbors have lamented about the project turns out to be the basic mechanics of how school links work.
A citizens’ watchdog committee meets quarterly in order to ensure that all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed for each line item of measure I funds that are spent. When they met (virtually) on May 5th, it was clear to me that the committee members are committed to doing a good job of monitoring how the public’s money is spent. Regarding the dozens of items listed as “Other B6 Costs,” committee chair Kevin Dayton asked staff what the expenses were and never got a clear answer.
“Eventually there will be a [California Public Records Act] request to find out each of those expenses, ”Dayton said. “It is probably good for the committee in the future to have more details. This is where the committee is going to be criticized for not overseeing things …. Because people are critical about it, we have to make sure it all goes higher and higher.
There is a pending lawsuit, filed by taxpayers for MPUSD liability, search for undisclosed records for strange reasons. And there is the stack of over 23,000 records already turned over which reveals surprisingly little.
Here’s where I’m going to zoom out from the mic level to nickels and dimes and public recordings the big picture, and why Dayton anticipates requests for records and public scrutiny. It has to do with the Dan Albert Stadium, a proposition that MPUSD administrators thought they could follow through, but instead face strong opposition.
One of the main concerns raised by neighbors about the proposed MHS stadium is the addition of lights and a sound system. There is no question that the stadium lights would alter the neighborhood nightlife feel when in use, or that the audio system will be heard from outside campus – you can turn to the draft environmental impact report of 243 pages seeing the impact would be “significant and inevitable”.
Living near a high school inevitably has significant and unavoidable impacts. There are children, parents and teachers coming and going, there are sports practices, there are diplomas and special events. In the complaints that I have read and heard, the neighbors recognize this. An improved pitch that can accommodate training and nightly games appears to be a sufficiently harmless request. But for some, the noise of the sound system and the lights changing the night sky are disturbances that go too far.
With these neighbor concerns in mind, MPUSD’s RIA project offers a whole host of restrictions. how often and at what times the lights and sound system can be used. The neighborhood strives to create a benefit for its students while minimizing the impact on the neighborhood.
Proposed mitigation measures include that lights would only be used for home football games, plus four home games per year for each of the following sports, October through March: soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. For sports other than football, games would end at 7 p.m. and the lights would go out at 8 p.m. Non-school groups should be done with the events by 6 p.m., and on Saturdays all events should end at sunset; no use is permitted on Sundays.
This is all intended for the public, but of course the downside for the public This is because by restricting use, there are fewer benefits for everyone. This is where some opponents find themselves in a circular argument, saying the stadium will not benefit enough people, just a few soccer players. The proposed compromise indeed minimizes the number of people who benefit from it, but it is an attempt to create a balance.
Not all neighbors are opposed to the project; there are also a lot of letters filed in support. “This school is a part of the heart and soul of the city of Monterey and this project needs to come to fruition for many important reasons,” wrote a parent, who purchased a home two blocks from MHS in 2020. “Everyone who lives near this school knew the school was there when they too decided to move to this neighborhood.
Whatever you think of the virtues of the project itself and the extent to which it will disrupt a peaceful neighborhood, it’s a fascinating case study of how we analyze the impacts of a project and measure those benefits against the impacts. The MPUSD school board will vote next month.