Our City Council representative, Jim Strickland, addressed the Midtown Republican Club last night.
The first topic he delved into was the continuing school charter mess.
“On one day everything changed,” Strickland said. “As of March 1st, there could be no city schools. Right now, there is literally no plan. It’s an interesting legal situation,” he said. “The statute is dead silent on whether the suburbs can vote.”
Strickland believes the election commission will get some guidance from the state on setting a date and thinks that voters will pass the surrender of the city school charter “overwhelmingly.” State law would put David Pickler in charge of both city and county school systems then and his term would run until 2012, even though he doesn’t live here. “We don’t know what changes they would make,” he said, noting that Pickler has said there would be no optional schools. “We don’t know the ground rules.”
Acknowledging that the city pays a billion dollars on schools for its approximately 105,000 students – at a cost of $10,500 per student – Strickland would like to see smaller districts. It would be a plus to elect a new school board, or boards, monitored more directly by the residents, he feels.
As for the city in general, Strickland is optimistic, even though he agrees people “vote with their tail lights.”
“For the first time in 2010, MLGW had fewer customers than the year before. Certain council members didn’t believe we were losing people.” This has made his job harder, but he hopes they are beginning to recognize the true situation.
“People leave an area for three reasons,” he said. “Public safety, schools and taxes. We need to dramatically reduce crime,” he said, noting, crime rates have been going down. The move to revamp the school system is good, too, he adds. As for taxes, Strickland said he needs some support and emails to avoid higher taxes. He related that surprising as it sounds, it is easier to raise taxes than to cut government jobs. The backlash on the latter outweighs tax increase anger.
Still, “I’m optimistic in Midtown about Overton Square,” he said, believing that an upscale grocery store will happen in that area, along with some other projects. He feels the Bass Pro deal will happen; “they are spending a lot of money towards it,” which indicates they’re planning on it.
Members had lots of questions to ask and Council man Strickland graciously accommodated us. We greatly appreciated his time.