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LPS town hall, 04.05.2018

An audience member holds a Nebraskans Against Gun Violence sign during a town hall meeting on school safety Thursday in Lincoln.

By attempting to kill three birds with one stone, the proposed joint public agency between City Hall and Lincoln Public Schools has generated significant opposition at each step.

Accordingly, the Lincoln City Council’s decision Monday to tap the brakes to examine alternate means to the same end – followed later in the week by the LPS board – needs to be applauded. The seven members took the spirit of representative democracy to heart by listening to constituents’ concerns and responding to them.

The manner in which the council explored alternatives also seems to have calmed down from the partisan accusations levied immediately after the JPA was first introduced.

Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm offered a resolution to extend interlocal agreements to accommodate the desired outcome. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird and school board President Lanny Boswell have tasked attorneys with drafting an interlocal agreement that would do the same thing as the JPA.

“Clearly, there is interest in seeing what an alternative to a JPA approach might look like,” Gaylor Baird told the Journal Star.

She’s absolutely right. Kudos to her and Lamm for taking cues from Lincoln residents and leading the charge in that direction.

For a refresher, the initial plan would have authorized the hiring of six new school resource officers for Lincoln middle and elementary schools, additional funding for mental health resources and a threat assessment officer and a larger contribution and a steering agency for the community learning centers found in 26 Title I schools, all in the name of improving school security.

That broad approach earned a thumbs-up from the Journal Star editorial board because of its multifaceted approach. It partnered more reactive, protective measures with more proactive, longer-term goals.

Trying to achieve everything at once, though, spawned much of the opposition to bits and pieces of the proposal. Some Lincolnites believe more police officers in schools improve safety; others prefer fewer. Some view the expenditures on mental health and community learning centers as essential; others consider them a waste.

Unsurprisingly, such a wide-ranging proposal drew a lot of topical opposition, as evidenced by letters to the editor and Local View columns. But the biggest question crossed all those divides: Is a JPA even necessary?

Our only hang-up, like much of Lincoln, was on the need to create a JPA with new taxing authority. If all of those same outcomes can be realized – and hurdles of spending and levy caps cleared – through interlocal agreements, the need for a new level of government is greatly diminished.

Once that draft is ready, Lincoln will have a much clearer picture of the best path to proceed. Whatever decision is ultimately made won’t leave everyone happy – but it certainly won’t be for lack of trying.

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