Wednesday, October 09, 2002

OPS Override No Match for Humor and Humanity

Paul Dorr is winning school spending battles all across Iowa and Minnesota
with three things that have been conspicuously missing in Nebraska's school
tax battles so far:

Humor, humanity and young people.

Dorr, a political consultant in the northwestern Iowa town of Ocheyedan,
just west of Okoboji, has been the leader of citizens' groups opposing $57.9
million in school bond issues and tax levy overrides . . . and has won nine
out of 10 of them.

He did it by coaching his clients to present the financial facts to the
public in a straightforward way. Dorr's citizens groups have been able to
pierce through the cloud of deception and confusion about the actual tax
consequences of spending proposals often spread by school officials. They
remind people that lavish facilities and offices do not correspond to
better-quality education, nor do they meet children's real educational

Dorr has been successful in exposing ways that top school officials use
deception and duplicity and exploit well-intentioned but naive citizens into
shilling for them, like political puppets.

He uses friendly phone banks, simple flyers, radio ads, a little spice of
humor and appeals to common sense about the impact of additional taxes on
the finances of everyday taxpayers.

Best of all, he educates young people about school spending and political
campaigning, and they wind up as his best allies and workers against what
has been called "the tax-consuming educational juggernaut."

Paul Dorr's phone number is (712) 758-3660. His email address is

To Omaha taxpayers: hint, hint, hint, hint, hint.

I am just hoping and praying that somebody with a little bit of money in
Omaha will call him, right away, to put together just a few tactics to
battle the gigantic spending-lid override campaign being waged by Nebraska's
largest school district, the Omaha Public Schools.

If Dorr's track record is any indication, all that it would take to knock
off that multi-million dollar money grab by OPS on the Nov. 5 ballot would
be his brand of high-spirited, sincere, responsible and most of all,
effective, campaigning for "the little guy."

Here's what Dorr does:

To expose the arrogance of pro-spending forces in Westside, Iowa, who had
insulted the local community by claiming in full-page newspaper ads that
anyone who would vote against their $3.7 million bond levy were "cave
dwellers opposed to everything," Dorr's volunteers put up funny yard signs
that said, "Welcome to our cave . . . vote no." One man shaved down an old
fencepost and went to the high-school football game carrying it as a
caveman's club with the sign: "Vote no." The bond issue went down to defeat,
67 percent against.

To counteract the insidious and illegal electioneering of school officials
in a district that had "vote for the bond issue" posters plastered all over
the school buildings, and staffers propagandizing the students, Dorr
developed a kid-friendly flyer about proper campaign tactics and had
teenagers distribute it outside school one afternoon to other teenagers, to
the apoplexy of school officials . . . but the next morning, every last
stitch of improper, self-serving electioneering was gone, and Dorr's team
brought the bond issue down to defeat.

To counteract the common slogan that schools use to compel people to vote
for additional taxes "for the kids," Dorr's answer is to use a child's voice
on a radio ad telling it like it is:

"We're getting tired of being . . . well . . . USED by many in public
education," the little girl says. "They don't fool us. We know when they
want a new building, they say (high, sarcastic falsetto) 'It's for the
kids,' but we know better. They want it for themselves."

Ooh! Out of the mouths of babes. . . .

People loved that ad because it's the truth, Dorr said. And people are
waking up to it. "People are escaping the bondage of guilt. They want to set
an example for their kids, that you can escape fiscal tyranny."

He said, "I'm here to lift the guilt trip off your back. You DO love your
children and your grandchildren and just because you don't want to have to
educate them at the cost of your total bankruptcy doesn't mean you love them
any less."

Dorr, 46, was a longtime bank stock acquisition consultant who went out on
his own several years ago. He says schools have developed an insatiable
appetite for more spending out of force of habit rather than educational
need, and because they want to pay for a lot of "ridiculous social
engineering" instead of plain academics. Dorr says cutting off the
additional money is the only way to drive schools' focus back to academics.

His first taste of success in fighting bond issues happened in his own
hometown district, and since then, his reputation has spread mostly by word
of mouth.

He says it doesn't take much to win, just a little organization and tactical
savvy. He says most citizens are inexperienced in these spending campaigns
because school bond issues and tax overrides come along once in a blue moon.
Meanwhile, paid school officials have a wealth of training and resources
helping them from the national educational establishment that is set up to
keep the monster fat and fed. Citizens have only each other . . . and the
rare champion like Paul Dorr, to get the ball rolling.

"One person may write out a check, and call family, friends and neighbors.
Pretty soon, you've got 50 people. You find out everybody's been thinking
the same way you've been, but just didn't know it. Pretty soon, you've got
spontaneous humor breaking out all over town. Pretty soon, you've changed
the spirit of the whole thing."

Here's a look at his track record:

Sibley-Ocheyedan, Ia., schools, September 1989 and February 1990,
schoolhouse levies, both defeated.

Redwood Falls, Minn., November 1992, excess levy, defeated.

Harris-Lake Park, Ia., December 2001, $4.3 million bond issue, defeated.

North Cedar schools, Stanwood, Iowa, March 2002, $9.3 million bond issue,

United South Central schools, Wells, Minn., April 2002, $32 million bond
issue, defeated.

Jesup (Ia.) Community School, April 2002, $5.7 million bond issue, defeated.

Remsen-Union School District, Remsen, Iowa, $5.5 million bond issue, May
2002, defeated.

Harris-Lake Park (Ia.) School, July 2002, $4.0 million bond issue,

Ar-We-Va Schools, Westside, Ia., September 2002, $3.675 million bond issue,

Significantly, since March of this year, Dorr's clients defeated their bond
issues by an overwhelming "no" vote of 69.1 percent, almost a complete
reversal from the nearly-automatic approvals that bond issues were obtaining
up until just recently.

He could bring that success to Omaha, in these days of direct hits to
people's retirement funds by stock market turndowns, Enron, WorldCom,
Nebraska state government's budget deficits, the $151 million federal fine
imposed on Nebraska the other day for failure to license a nuclear waste
dump . . . man, taxpayers could use some good news for a change.

Beating the OPS override would be a ray of sunshine, a breath of fresh air,
a shot in the arm for the beleaguered "little guys" of Omaha who dare to
take on the Goliath of the state's largest school district.

Paul Dorr could be our champion, with skill, style and a sense of humor.

Anybody want to equip him with a caveman's club . . . or five smooth stones?

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