Editorial Oct. 6: The future of Measure H

Sonoma County’s Nov. 4 ballot includes a bond measure proposal from Santa Rosa Junior College, and any objection to receiving $410 million seems nonsensical, considering the college’s needs – and the fact that Measure H is only the second bond proposal drafted and put on the ballot by the school since 1938.

In 2002 Sonoma County voters approved Measure A, a $251.7 million bond used for “expanding existing and constructing new facilities such as classrooms, libraries and laboratories; repairing deteriorating classrooms and replacing portable classrooms with permanent classrooms,” according to the Sonoma County sample ballot in March 2002. Measure A was also designed to help solve the parking problem.

With Measure A approved, SRJC tripled the size of the Petaluma campus. The bond also gave the Santa Rosa campus new buildings like the Bertolini Student Center, Burdo Culinary Arts Center, Doyle Library and the Zumwalt Parking Pavilion.

Twelve years later, SRJC has proposed a similar bond measure. Measure H’s list of potential projects “include but are not limited to constructing, upgrading and expanding veterans’ support, job training and other facilities; modernization projects at numerous facilities; repairs of roofs and electrical, plumbing, heating and mechanical systems and refinancing or retirement of outstanding lease obligations.”

The college created a template of how it intends to use the bond measure. Many of the planned projects involve modernizing, renovating or entirely rebuilding math, science and general-purpose computer labs. The full list of planned “capital projects” is available on SRJC’s website.

One problem with these planned projects is that the bond’s wording on the measure is vague enough that the college is not required to spend any of the money on what is outlined in the proposal.

Still, it’s impossible to predict the future, so having some flexibility in dispensing funds to meet whatever needs may arise in the future will be a good thing.

Measure H’s bond will increase property taxes throughout Sonoma County, with the average homeowner looking to pay about $67 more a year. This tax shouldn’t concern most SRJC students; according to SRJC’s records, more than half of students enrolled are under age 25 – not a property-owning demographic.

What should concern students, the people for whom the money is meant, is that so far they have had little say on how SRJC spends these bond funds.

Currently the members of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee are all local business owners whose views on how the bond money should be spent may not align with what’s best for SRJC or its students.

Associated Students President Joshua Pinaula raised his concern about how Bertolini Student Center, funded by Measure A, was designed for students to escape their hectic life, yet it feels more like a shrine to the Board of Trustees. This is a prime example of the previous bond’s money being spent on a building intended for students to use, but without feeling like a building for students.

SRJC President Dr. Chong has said he wants to set up a transparent, democratic process of prioritizing Measure H’s bond money. To be truly successful, this effort must involve student input.

The Oak Leaf urges SRJC’s students to vote yes on Measure H.

Passing the bond will be the first step in using our voices to determine how Measure H’s funds can be spent to improve our education and our campus for the future.