Wednesday, November 9, 2016

CWI ELECTIONS? SIMPLY STATED, THE NEED FOR SKILLED/READY WORKFORCE DOES NOT GO AWAY

A lot of people have been asking me about the CWI elections including my race and the CWI Bond Election. Before I comment, here is some background.

At CWI’s inception in 2007, Boise was the last metropolitan area in the country lacking a community college.

According to the publication “Inside Higher Ed,” in 2007,

“J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation led an effort called “Community College Now!”  an awareness campaign. At the same time, leaders in the Treasure Valley including prominent businesses such as Micron Technology Inc. and the Chamber of Commerce’s, began a campaign that raised more than $300,000 for voter registration, mailings and advertisements in various media.

Proponents of the new district knew what they were up against: a state with a significant aversion to additional taxes. But the campaign emphasized the proposed college's benefits to the local economy, as well as the educational opportunities it would open up to new high school graduates, people switching to a second career and adult learners.”

On May 22, 2007, a Supermajority of Ada and Canyon County voters passed referendum to establish a community college district, enabling the creation of the College of Western Idaho (CWI).

On July 17, 2007 the first Board of Trustees for CWI appointed. I was one of the founding members. This will be my third term.

On July 30, 2007, first Board of Trustees meeting held.

CWI acquired the programs, personnel, and property of the recently defunct Boise State’s Selland College. Essentially we had one building in Nampa and one vacant building with a hundred acres. We didn't even have a phone. 

Nevertheless, we had huge dreams and expectations!  In those nine years, CWI has become the hallmark of community college innovation, serving more than 20,000 students every year and helping business and industry to succeed. 

From vague promise 9 years ago, today we have: 

  • 20,000+ students served each year
  • 91% positive placement in professional-technical programs
  • 13.9% return on taxpayer investment
  • 5,000+ students have earned degrees and certificates
  • 400+ business and industry partners
  • 28% decrease in student borrowing

In our nine years of history, we have never asked the voters for help until this summer and fall.

The Board of Trustees voted in favor of placing a $180 million general obligation bond on the November 2016 ballot. The bond would fund campus development in Boise and Nampa to expand program offerings and serve more students.

CWI has grown from 1,200 students in its first semester in 2009 to serving more than 20,000 students a year with projections for continued growth in the years ahead.

Again, this is the first time Ada and Canyon County voters have been approached for a bond since the College was founded.  

This this lengthy contextual background, these are my thoughts my race and the CWI Bond Election held yesterday.

My race was NOT a tough race because I was unopposed!

Nevertheless, here are my vote totals:
  • Ada County:  123,426 votes 
  • Canyon County: 53,056 votes
·   Therefore, I received 176,482 votes.  I am humbled to serve another term.

On the CWI Bond Election, the voters supported the bond by 57%. 

However, Idaho law requires a 2/3rd majority to pass this bond. 
  • In Ada County, the Bond got 58.6%. 
  • In Canyon County, the Bond got 51%.
In the scheme of things in a historic yet weird election with huge voter turnout and angst, getting 57% is OK. Arm-chair quarterbacking will ensue right away. 

9 years ago there was an enormous effort with a $300,000 spent. It was also not a general election. The campaign won. And the whole region saw the benefits. CWI became this innovative successful institution.

9 years later, we had a low-key campaign.  We did not use any CWI dollars.  CWI cannot spend money for advocacy. Therefore, a small group of committed CWI supporters led this effort using no college funds. Rather, we utilized “free” outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, CWI Foundation members, and community presentations to spread the word.  

As a result, with 57%, I am heartened by the confidence shown by the voters.

I want to thank those who supported us not only with this measure but in the past and in the future.

Simply stated, the need for skilled/ready workforce does not go away.  We must work to meet those needs as stated by local business and industry.

The Board of Trustees and the senior administration of the College will evaluate potential courses of action in the future.

Thank you for the support!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Disenfranchised disabled voters, strokes, and aphasia

I voted early. I have always voted on Election Day since I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan when I was 18 years old. 

That was the 1980 election. I could not stomach another four years of Jimmy Carter's inept presidency and "malaise."  

I wanted to vote early this year for several reasons. I voted for myself for another term on the Board of the College of Western Idaho. I am unopposed. Tough race!

My second reason is to support the CWI Bond Election. It will be a tough race because state law requires a 2/3rd vote. Despite the compelling need, the reactionary anti-tax voters will be voting against us. I voted early to change my luck!

Third? Well. Our horrifying presidential candidates. At the voting booth, I thought I would get a vision about who is the best of the worst candidates in our history. No vision came to me. I voted begrudgingly and held my nose.

The early voting at my county was crowded. The handy cardboard temporary voting booths did the job.  I did my civic duty. Ada County Elections staff are so knowledgeable. Though crowded, the process was a breeze because of the staff.  

However, four years ago, it was different. Why? November of 2012 was the first election since my stroke. I voted for myself again. And, I knew who to vote for. I have a long history of being engaged politically. I “knew” the people. Nevertheless, because of my strokes, I could NOT “READ” the names on the ballots.   

You see, I have aphasia.  The difficulties of people with aphasia can range from occasional trouble finding words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write; INTELLIGENCE, HOWEVER, IS UNAFFECTED.

My aphasia is pretty mild, and reading a ballot is easy for me. NOW.

I was listening to an NPR broadcast today dealing with people who have disabilities. My aphasia is an invisible disability.  How can people with aphasia read a ballot? They completely understand the issues and candidates. If they fill out a ballot using the standard 2# pencil with oval shapes, who can help them?

The NPR commentator was focused on disenfranchised disabled people. It is often difficult for disabled people to get to a polling place. Think about it. The convenient cardboard temporary voting booths are not “convenient” when you need a wheelchair or a walker. Long lines are especially hard when you are disabled.

Not to mention transportation to get to a polling place. Are there accommodations like vans or busses? In rural areas, it is even tougher to exercise right to vote. 

Even if you have the opportunity to get to an accessible place, what if you cannot read the ballot because of aphasia?

This morning when I was listening to the NPR report about voting and disenfranchised disabled people, was going to an Aphasia Support Group. We talked about voting, aphasia, and disenfranchised people. 

Absentee ballots are wonderful. There is no pressure to hurry. They can read the ballot slowly. They can use a device which “Reads” the ballot aloud. There are more options than before.

Ada County does many things. According to Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane, "We do a number of different things for disabled voters. As you would imagine it depends on the disability. The most significant of which is our Touch Writer. It is a device made available to voters who would not otherwise be able to mark a  ballot independently. It's a machine that will assist voters in making their marks by using a controller, touchscreen, puff and sip, or other accessible attachment. So for instance a blind voter can use the machine to have the ballot read to them and then using the controller they can make their selections and a marked ballot is printed out for them at the end. Each voters experience and need is a little different, but we try to accommodate everyone as best we can."  

I took my responsibility to vote for granted.  Until I could not.