New Ulm Referendum Passed; Now What?

Well, it happened. The referendum allocating $47 million dollars for a new high school along with renovations to current schools passed with a narrow margin of 52 votes.

Is it the end of the world? No, absolutely not. If I’ve known people from New Ulm to be anything, it’s responsible with their money and investments–we’re Germans after all.

This article is a follow up of sorts to my streets article “More School Money Madness.” The TL;DR of it was that (in my opinion) New Ulm really doesn’t need a new High School and it’s current high school is in prime location.

I submitted this article as a letter to the editor of the New Ulm Journal.  I was promptly criticized (go figure) and was accused of fearing the growth of New Ulm because they would be less dependent on Mankato. I could care less if they were less dependent on Mankato. The reason I’m so interested is because New Ulm was my hometown, I grew up there and I genuinely love that city. I would hate to see them chase the illusion of growth while detracting from their awesome city.

Below are simply my thoughts on how the money could be spent to make sure that it’s an asset to the school system and the city. I would hate to see it end up like Mankato’s new middle school.


At the meeting, there were several sites that were being looked at for the high school. Two of them were outside city limits, one was inside. I hope it’s painfully obvious that they should opt for the school to be in the city limits. I actually heard the superintendent say something along the lines of not wanting to build extra infrastructure just for the school. That is a very wise decision. Adding a bunch of infrastructure for a city that isn’t really growing is just piling on financial liabilities for the future.


Please, PLEASE, keep the architecture fitting with the city. New Ulm has a ton of beautiful civic buildings including the courthouse, water filtration plant, public utilities, fire station, etc… The high school shouldn’t be some weird boxy modernist thing. It should be a classical looking German-American building that reflect the culture and sense of place that New Ulm has going for it.


If New Ulm forced the Wal-Mart to do it, then they sure can make the school do it.


I emailed the superintendent and told him maybe they should think about using the same people who did the new New Ulm Dioceses. Beautiful.



Do the same thing with the renovated middle schools. Take some of the money to make them aesthetically appealing and buildings that add to the community. The more you can instill civic pride at a young age, the more people you will have investing in your community later. People like places that feel like they’re somewhere unique. These middle schools could add to that.


Keep some of the sports downtown. This is a perfect time to re-invest in New Ulm and give a sense of dedication to the city. The NUHS could keep it’s homecoming game at Johnson Park along with playoffs for the other sports. It’s a really cool feeling to watch a football  or baseball game just a block from the historic downtown and it adds to the sense of community–not to mention it gives a great reason for residents and visitors to patronize local restaurants and shops downtown.


Connect it like crazy. Make sure there are tons and tons of ways for people to get there. Sidewalks, dedicated trails, bike lanes, heli-pads, subway systems, streetcars…okay those last three maybe not. If it’s going to be ambiguously placed on the “west end of town” then they should do everything they can to make sure it’s not 100% car dependent. They’re right that highschoolers like to drive and they probably walk less, but that’s not the same for everyone that needs to get to that buildings. There are teachers, cafeteria workers, parents, grandparents, etc… It’s a perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of alternative means of transportation.


Keep the community involved in every little aspect. The margin on this vote was so narrow that half the town thinks it’s good and half the town thinks it’s bad. If you want to win support for the idea, make sure they know whats going on and when it’s going on. Every citizen loves to complain when they’re kept in the dark. I say, don’t give them the opportunity.

Again, this article is simply because I love New Ulm and I want to see it maintained as the great city that I grew up in. Don’t chase the other cities in the area, do your own thing and you will see the benefits.

Matthias Leyrer

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going Follow him @mjleyrer