Two weeks before elections

I’ve avoided even opening this page because it seems I’ve hit a dry spell, with nothing interesting to say and words that scatter as soon as I even think about writing them down.

It’s the last few weeks before the primary elections, and on the local level there’s a lot riding on those votes. Especially for the schools. School board meetings are tense and angry. Members call each other liars, and I don’t quote them. I think I know which one is right, but I have a lot more work to do before I can say so with confidence.

It’s the entire direction of the district that’s at stake.

One board I cover schedules special meeting after special meeting and I can’t possibly cover them all. Court hearings come down on my day off and I scramble to catch up. Formal hearings stretch on to midnight but it could have been worse, always could have been worse. Someone planted a dumb question at the candidates’ debate; the moderator should have caught it.

Other districts are facing the same. I come in at 10 p.m. to drop my notebook on the desk and leave a note for the editors, a short recap because I’m too tired to write, and there’s another reporter at the desk next to mine, Styrofoam Sheetz coffee cups collecting like dust on his desk, hair standing every-which-way from the pulling.

Afternoons are quiet in the newsroom; we’re all home, working split shifts, taking a few hours to mow the lawn or do the laundry before heading out to yet another budget meeting, yet another forum, in these last weeks.

It really is decision day for the districts. School board candidates cross-file on both democrat and republican ballots, so there’s a very real chance that Joe Smith wins both the democrat and the republican nomination, and though there’s still the general election to endure, he’s won the race already.

And districts all over our county are in panic mode. Cut funding, rising costs, and rural taxpayers who can’t fork over any more are conspiring against them. They’re closing schools — and if you’ve ever lived in an area like this you know that you might as well suggest selling someone’s firstborn child. Renovations have become a tool in the fight to keep buildings open, and children are everyone’s trump card.

Do you want your daughter studying in a drafty, rundown building or being bussed for miles and miles to a some one else’s school? Didn’t think so.

Do you want your son’s education to be put second to buildings while their parents’ tax payments skyrocket? Didn’t think so either.

Back and forth, back and forth. The headlines from all of our meetings could read the same.

“Are you free for coffee next week? Any night but Wednesday,” she writes, but I have meetings every night but Wednesday this week and last week and the week to come.

And so I don’t write here, because after a while they’re all the same, all running one into another. And because I’m tired, and afraid that the frustration I’ve kept out of the newspaper will spill out, and that someone will recognize himself and that my objectivity will be called into question.

It doesn’t take much for someone to call your objectivity into question. And it’s dangerous when I’m not sure I care.

Two weeks left until the primaries. Let’s hope they pass quickly.


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