Mike Neubeck pushes for higher voter turnout and correct information about Byron referendum

His job is to get as many people as possible to the polling stations and make sure they go there with the right information.

“I’m just asking them to be educated and vote how they want to vote,” Neubeck said. “I can respect that and appreciate that, but I want them to get the right information.”

RELATED: Byron Public Schools Attempt Third Referendum in Less Than Two Years

After all, there is a lot at stake.

If approved, the referendum would provide $ 44.5 million for projects around the district. It will be presented in two questions. The first question asks voters to approve up to $ 23 million for more space in high schools, renovations to several kitchens and renovations to the administration building.

The second question depends on the approval of the first. He is asking voters to approve up to $ 21.5 million for college and high school sports facilities, as well as a high school auditorium.

Catering workers Judy Mathias, right, and Helen Radke begin tidying up the salad bar and beverage station in the Byron High School lunch / activity room in February 2020. The kitchen is too full to contain these amenities, forcing them set- in the activity room.  (Ken Klotzbach/kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

Catering workers Judy Mathias, right, and Helen Radke start tidying up the salad bar and beverage station in the Byron High School lunch / activity room in February 2020. The kitchen is too full to contain these amenities, forcing their set- in the activity room. (Ken Klotzbach/[email protected])

The story, however, has not been on the side of the district. This will be the third question on the obligations that the district poses to voters in about a year and a half. Voters rejected the two previous referendum measures, whether they were presented in one or two questions.

The amounts have varied. The first took place in May 2020 and requested $ 58 million. The second took place in May 2021 and requested $ 41 million.

However, this will be the first referendum for Neubeck. He landed on the scene in July after former city superintendent Joey Page took a job in Austin.

Neubeck thinks the third time around could be the charm, at least for part of the project.

“I am optimistic, especially regarding the first question,” Neubeck said. “We listened to the community, who said ‘we want a question that is only for schools. “”

Neubeck says there are factors that could turn the tide this time around. On the one hand, he says there are a lot of untapped voters: residents who did not show up to express an opinion in one way or another in the previous election. This could make a difference since there was only a difference of 60 votes against the first question in the last election.

This time is also different in that it will include the continuation of the renovation of the district administration and community services building. This means that the referendum vote will have more to do with the community as a whole.

This became possible when the Zumbro Education District officially decided to build its own facility in Kasson, indicating that it would no longer need the space it had rented from Byron. For this reason, Byron plans to renovate the DACS building.

“We want this place, this building here, to be our community center, even though it’s another type of community center,” Neubeck said, referring to the administration building.

Like the last two rounds, the district is playing cards on the table. Referendum-related notice boards greet people as they enter the administration building. The neighborhood organized information sessions. Its website is full of data relating to the referendum and its impact on voters, how it compares to previous referendums, and more.

Neubeck is just one of the many people in Byron who are arguing for the referendum. From school board members to business leaders to parents, many Byron residents have encouraged the referendum for years.

Alisha Eiken, left, and Nicki Nicholas hold up signs supporting the Byron referendum on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jordan Shearer / jshearer@postbulletin.com)

Alisha Eiken, left, and Nicki Nicholas hold up signs supporting the Byron referendum on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (Jordan Shearer / [email protected])

Emmy Harvey is Vice President of the Byron Chamber of Commerce and recently served on the Byron School Board. She is candid about the important role the school system plays in the small town.

“People come to Byron especially for our school,” Harvey said. “We don’t have a lot of business. We don’t have a city center. We’re a fairly small community, but it’s our schools that attract people.

Nicki Nicholas is another advocate for the referendum, working with a committee called “Vote Yes 4 Byron Schools”. Like Neubeck, she says she is happy that the questions have been reformatted to better reflect what the community asked.

The committee is also trying to get more people to vote.

“What I’m really advocating for, and what makes me feel good, is that we can increase voter turnout,” Nicholas said. “It’s really the change for us this third time.”

Whether it was Nicholas or Neubeck or some other lawyer, convincing the public was not an easy thing to do – certainly not in large groups at once anyway. At one of the district’s information seminars on the referendum, only five people attended. Neubeck stayed for two hours that night, going through all the information for those who showed up.

Another time, Neubeck helped organize a neighborhood tour for the public, so they could see the need for themselves. Only 12 people came for that.

That doesn’t seem to deter Neubeck, however. For him, it is about speaking to as many people as possible, whether it is one-to-one or in a large group.

“They left knowing and being able to go talk to their friends about it,” Neubeck said of the residents who attended the briefing. “If they’re going to talk to (a few) more people about it, all of a sudden we’re up to 50, 60 people getting the right information.”

Neubeck says he has received generally positive feedback from the community.

There were exceptions. They failed to convince everyone. No matter how they vote, Neubeck wants them to go to the poll with the facts.

“I still don’t think I convinced her,” Neubeck said of a voter he spoke with. “At least now she has all the right information.”

Byron Public Schools Superintendent Mike Neubeck on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Byron.  Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Byron Public Schools Superintendent Mike Neubeck on Thursday, October 14, 2021 in Byron. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

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