Earlier this spring, two communities on the eastern edge of Missouri found themselves in dire need of improvements to their school facilities, with multi-million-dollar bond measures on the April ballot, poised to provide the needed funding. The Mark Twain Association of REALTORS® and the Southeast Missouri REALTORS® stepped up to persuade the voting public to approve the bonds with vigorous campaigns funded by REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grants and additional funds from the Missouri REALTORS®. Both efforts were successful, and the schools are getting the funding support they need.
“The Issues Mobilization grants are the best advocacy tool that the National Association provides local and state associations,” says Erin Hervey, Vice President, REALTOR® Party and Local Board Relations of Missouri REALTORS®.
In Cape Girardeau, Mo., which the Wall Street Journal cited last year as having the most concentrated poverty in the state, the school system is working in partnership with the city to create a Purpose-Built Community that has been successfully modeled in a formerly struggling Atlanta neighborhood; a $12-million no-tax-increase bond was placed on the ballot to renovate and expand schools, and to create a new aquatic center. Terry Baker, Association Executive of the 305-member Southeast Missouri REALTORS®, credits her Government Affairs Committee with having the vision to see that the REALTORS® needed to get behind the effort. The superintendent of schools came to speak with the committee, she explains, at the invitation of one of its members, who is also a member of the city’s school board. “For us, supporting the school bond campaign was a good way to engage in a true partnership alongside people where they work and live. It was clear that strengthening economic development on the south side of Cape Girardeau must begin with education.” Southeast Missouri REALTORS® contributed $1,200 of its own funds to the campaign, which used polling, live phone calls, digital advertising, and yard signs to promote the school bond, passing with nearly 62% of the vote. “All those who’ve been involved in supporting the bond are extremely grateful to Missouri REALTORS® and to NAR for their investment in the City of Cape Girardeau,” says Baker.
Further north, in the rural community of Monroe City, the Mark Twain Association of REALTORS® was working to convince voters to approve a property tax increase to raise $13.5 million in funding to improve deteriorating school facilities. REALTOR® Debbie Kendrick, Past President of the 108-member association, and chair of the Friends of Monroe City Schools committee, explains that the REALTORS® were already solidly behind the school bond. “But, when you’re running a campaign in a town of 2,500, you have to know who’s going to be walking in to the polling stations and casting ballots,” she says. So, in addition to the campaign of direct mail, yard signs, print media, advertising in local newspapers and social media, Kendrick and her committee supported the School Superintendent in an energetic speaking tour of local civic organizations, from the Knights of Columbus to the Garden Club. “We helped the Superintendent with talking points, and a member of the school board, as well as a member of the ‘Friends’ Committee, accompanied him on each visit,” she says, adding, “It really was a matter of getting our School District leadership in front of the voters, so they could put themselves on the line!” She notes that the application for the REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization grant was not just user-friendly, but helpful, in forcing the committee to get down on paper what they were doing and why. “We’re very blessed to be able to turn to NAR and the Missouri REALTORS® for funding and guidance; otherwise I don’t know that the bond would have passed.”
Erin Hervey, Vice President, REALTOR® Party and Local Board Relations of Missouri REALTORS®, worked closely with both boards on their respective efforts. “The Issues Mobilization grants are the best advocacy tool that the National Association provides local and state associations,” she says. “Individual REALTORS® and individual REALTOR® offices are active in their communities, but these grants show the power of the whole association and our dedication to the livelihood of the communities we serve. From a practical standpoint,” she adds, “they are a good way for local associations wanting to become more active politically, but are a bit worried about picking one candidate over another. Issues such as school bonds are usually not as controversial and really elevate the status of the association in the community.”
To learn more about how small communities in Missouri are being strengthened by Issues Mobilization grants, contact: Debbie Kendrick, Past President of the Mark Twain Association of REALTORS®; Terry Baker, Association Executive of Southeast Missouri REALTORS®, at 573-579-9586; or Erin Hervey, Vice President, REALTOR® Party and Local Board Relations.