Saturday, May 14, 2011

We Are Yankton: Reason #1 That Paul Dorr Is The Issue

The cheer that sticks in my high school memories is "We are the Tigers, the mighty, mighty Tigers . . . "  It was a clear declaration of school pride and support for the athletes on the field or court.  I've lived in Yankton for nearly two decades, but the cheer from this community that sticks with me is far different.   "We are Yankton" clearly declares community pride as a key element of school pride.  The full throated support for local competitors combines both school and community.

"We are Yankton" concisely describes the town's spirit.  Residents have argued about building the Yankton High School and Summit Activities Center.  People became passionate about how to best deal with the Memorial Park Pool, and bickered about how to use the Meridian Bridge.  Those disputes vanished when the Bucks won championships at the Dome.  They became insignificant when we united to mourn the fallen members of Charlie Battery.  Last spring, we united again to line the streets and cheer in the gym as Charlie Battery returned home.  The town has supported congregations that have had their sanctuaries burned down, and put thousands of dollars into collection jars placed a checkouts for cancer victims or families that have lost their homes.

Residents recovered from every disagreement and tragedy, in part, because of an unifying belief:: "We are Yankton."

Paul Dorr had a history of dividing communities.  In Lyle, Minnesota
Yet more than a month after the bond went through, the members of Save Our School and Community are hardly calling it a victory. On one of the hottest days of the year, Ron Frank is occupied with outdoor work, spraying fields and pitching in to help his customers where he can. Some of these farmers were "no" voters, and he suspects that his outspokenness on this issue has lost him some business. He agrees to meet outside of a small white church on a hilltop. It's one of the only buildings visible on a stretch of county road that's mostly decorated with manicured mazes of crops.

"Families were divided, friendships were ruined," he says, looking out over the fields. "It's no different than the Hormel strike. It's going to take time to get over."
In Blooming Prairie, Minnesota,
Anita Angell has experienced the same lingering friction with her neighbors. The pro-bond committee members have come out with statements that, Angell says, question a "no" voter's intelligence. And there have been personal attacks on Angell and others. She says she has received threatening phone calls, but declines to offer any specifics.

"I know for a fact businesses have been affected by this. There are things that happened," she says, her voice trailing off. "And I don't think I'll go to those businesses again. What's going to happen to downtown? I think this turned into somewhat of a tragedy."
After the Yankton School Board passed the opt out resolution, the community held a city and school board election.  In that school board election, three candidates supported the opt out; one opposed.  That election featured passionate but civil debate.  Then as now, opt out opponents argued that the school board has asked for too much over too long of a period.  At the conclusion of that election, people moved on with little ill will.

The upcoming election feels different because of Mr. Dorr's involvement.  If this opt out fails, Yankton will likely face several more divisive elections.  Now that opt out opponents have engaged Dorr's services, I'm relatively certain that all future board opt out resolutions will be put to a vote.    I also believe that opponents will continue to use Mr. Dorr's services, and the damage his involvement has caused in other communities will be repeated and multiplied here.

"We are Yankton" needs to be a yell.  Dorr's record indicates that his involvement in this election will turn that clarion call for unity into a mere whisper, "We were Yankton."


Ben said...

Thanks for the blog, Leo. It's a great read and I like the thoughtfulness of each post. Thanks for the Opt-out posts, too.

- Ben

yanktonirishred said...

Perfectly written and perfectly said. I have argued as loudly as I can, but have always been civil (I believe) to those I have argued with. I have a fear, a dread that Mr. Dorr and his ilk will not be civil. In fact I have a feeling they will be purposely deceitful, divisive and destructive.
Truth be told I'm just as tired of "What about the Children!?!?!?!" as I am of "What about the homeless, naked and hungry elderly?!?!?!?" I also understand that a topic this emotive can and will touch at our basest instincts, that protective beast inside of us. Both sides want to protect their status quo, the gap between the two is as morally different as it is economically and socially.
I tell friends that visit my bride and I here in Yankton that is you truly want to understand Yankton then just sit on the curb at Riverside park at the intersection of Capitol and Levee and watch the Ice House and Seven. I think you'll understand Yankton perfectly.
I am voting Yes, I think I have made that more than perfectly clear. Yes for my son and for the kids I work with in Youth Group; but more for the community as a whole. We have the model for successful school districts in the State. Why destroy something so beautiful and successful? The school, in my opinion is the true unifier of any town. I pray that our school doesn't become the great divider.


caheidelberger said...

I get nervous about calls for unity and school spirit. I have never liked pep rallies.

But it is perfectly clear that Paull Dorr is not Yankton. He is concerned about his personal crusade, his image, and his checkbook, not the common welfare of your community. He can gleefully tear apart the fabric of your community, then run away to his next mercenary job.

The fact that opponents would hire such a mercenary speaks volumes about their commitment to the community. I've previously spoken up against school-funding supporters who try to brand their opponents as lacking community spirit, but in this case, when opponents hire Paul Dorr, such a charge seems accurate and relevant.

LK said...


You and I agree about pep rallies. I also agree that calls for unity can ring hollow. You and I both have spoken about the need for healthy dialogue to sharpen ideas.

I was trying to make two points. First, I've lived in or near 8 communities since I left high school and Yankton has a unique spirit. I fear that the community may be lose that quality if Dorr successfully employs his usual repertoire of campaign tactics.

I also wanted to show the long term consequences unnecessary divisiveness has had on communities.

People of good will should be able to disagree and move on. When Dorr's involved, that doesn't seem to happen.


Thanks the kind words.


Good points about fear. It echoes some of my thinking. I've been trying to crystallize it for a post.