Elections results for November 6, 2018

Published November 7, 2018 by justicewg

Screenshot 2018-11-07 at 11.24.43 AM

The City Charter

There was nothing controversial about the revisions to the city charter that I could find. Was the 15% no vote because of something we didn’t know, or are there people who just vote no for everything?

The Dispensaries issue

Issue #32 was a referendum on whether the city’s ban on dispensaries should be overturned, in a twist of expectations, the wording of the issue required an understanding that Yes vote means No to dispensaries. Was the final 60% No vote a popular choice to allow dispensaries, so that local taxes would benefit from the addition of the marijuana dispensaries? Or was it just confusion caused by those who think “no” means “just say no”? If you were confused, please comment.

The Green Space ordinance

Citizen referendums have a big hurdle to cross from the beginning, they need a lot of signatures, and organizational momentum that can be hard to sustain. The Grandview city administration did a number on that momentum for the Green Space via legal challenges that went all the way to the Ohio Secretary of State. Even though the group was victorious in keeping the ordinance on the ballot, the strident opposition from the Mayor and City Attorney probably gave an insurmountable hit to the question about the actions of going through this method of bringing change to the city.

I also though the “taking our rights” push by the anti-#31 group was overblown, your rights were never in jeopardy unless you own a very specific, narrow strip of land. I don’t think the “right to do a lot split” was worth getting upset about. If the “rights” issue was so important, why isn’t the rights of a group of neighbors to organize and decide how they want development to look like on their own street worth standing up for?

The school levy

A close vote, I don’t think the pro-#6 group can call the result a mandate, nor can it be seen as a blank check for the board to go into warp speed on the wrecking ball for the middle school. It will be interesting to hear how the board and administration plan to heal the rift in the community over the facility process. More later.

All levies passed in FC

Dublin – 58% yes, $195 million bond issue with 7.9 mills additional money.

South-Western – 61% passed a $93.4 million bond issue.

Whitehall – 61% yes on a bond and millage.

Worthington – Separate bond and millage levies passed with 70% and 62% support.

Grandview Heights – 52% passed a combined bond and operational millage.

The voters in Franklin County were all confident in the economy, at least enough to pass school levies. Other schools had large bonds, but managed to pass them with much higher percentages. An obvious question – why was Worthington willing to pass their bond with 70% yes, while Grandview had the lowest approval number in the county?

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No on issue 6, part 3 – The Income tax option for Grandview Heights schools has been neglected

Published October 26, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6I have read a number of opponents of issue #6 who dislike the unfairness of the property tax the board wants to use for the facilities, and the loss of older and lower income segments of the community, as the taxes drive these people away*. Property taxes are inherently regressive, costing a larger percentage of the income for lower income people.

An income tax would still hurt those who have low incomes, but it would probably be a smaller hit, and impact all segments of the community the same. Why has the possibility of an income tax been almost totally dismissed throughout the facility review process?

Unanswered questions about income taxes

I checked back in past documents and found almost nothing about evaluating an income tax for the school facility improvements. During Community Engagement Meeting #6, held June 8, 2017, Treasurer Collier did say that there was a possibility of using an income tax.

https://www.ghcsd.org/apps/video/watch.jsp?v=150462

Skip ahead in the video by dragging the progress bar, at 1:26:10 an income tax is discussed. No projections were made by Collier for how much income tax would be needed to address the school needs. All questions about the possibility of an income tax were being left for the Finance committee.**

Treasurer Collier said that the Finance committee would be looking at the income tax possibility, but with no statement of support for an income tax from the school board, the committee was left to take all the heat generated from proposing an income tax. Without a specific mandate from the board to explore income taxes ( and come up with a plan, instead of a quick dismissal) , why would any committee place themselves in the position of proposing a new kind of tax?

Why would something as important as exploring the possibility of a new income tax for the school be left in the hands of a closed, no meeting notes, no accountability committee? This is the same question we asked about the recommendation from the Finance committee to add a one mill operation levy to the bond levy – why is a closed group, in violation of Ohio Open meeting laws, making decisions that should be made by the school board?

Why open meetings are important

We have no way to find out what happened in the Finance committee meetings. Was the option of an income tax even discussed? There was no recording of the meetings, there was no meeting notes. Emails to participants are not answered.

Maybe there was a significant number of FC members who thought that an income tax would be the best way to fund the school improvements? And if the community were allowed to attend those meetings, we could have noted who argued in favor, and the reasons they gave. We could take that information to the board, and ask them to revisit the possibility. We could have promoted the option of an income tax in community groups like G4G, and organized a groundswell of support for that option.

All those possibilities are gone, because the Finance committee was closed, because all of the process and deliberations of the group – which those members told us they did in depth and for many hours – are lost forever. Any new finance committee which may be needed to revisit the facility questions after a failed levy will have to start from zero.

The board should be the only group discussing tax options

Tax levies are the most important issues the board is legally empowered to decide for the schools. It is the basic floor that all the rest of the school system is built on. Unless the money from the taxpayers can be acquired by a board that is trusted, and earns the votes of the community, all of the planing and policy of the board means nothing.

School boards are supposed to be open, conducting all discussion on tax levies so the community can evaluate the arguments. We can listen, be persuaded — or be opposed. Most importantly, we can know which board members made what arguments. When elections for seats on the board come around, we can remember who we liked, and give them our vote. We can campaign against the members who don’t do a good job.

The foundation of democracy is listening to the public office holders, and making them accountable in the polling place.

When the Grandview Heights school board delegates vital issues to closed committees, they are breaking the laws of Ohio on open meetings. They are actively degrading the democratic basis of our community. We should never accept that as “the way we do things here”. We should be telling the board, over and over, “you are wrong, stop taking away out democratic rights”. We should keep doing that until they understand they are wrong – or until they are voted out of office.

Dayton Task force cancels meetings

Tip of the hat to Stephanie Wolfe. A Dayton school system tried to hold facility task force meetings in private, similar to the Grandview Task force and Finance committees. After complaints from news media that Ohio open meting laws required the meetings to allow everyone to attend, the meetings were canceled.

Previously – Vote no on issue #6, part 1

Vote no on issue #6, part 2

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Vote no on issue #6, part 2 – the NRI deal

Published October 19, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6The school is trying to complete a negotiation with NRI that could accelerate the tax payments from the Yard, to the point where the boost in tax money may becomes as much as 50% of the cost of the bond the board needs to build a new middle school. Why should voters pass the present levy, when we could have a significantly smaller one via waiting until the negotiations are finished?

The deal

Early in 2018, the school board started negotiation with NRI over increasing the rate of tax money coming from the Grandview Yard development. The board had almost completed the facility meetings, and had set themselves a goal of building a new middle school – the only uncompleted work was the finance committee recommendation to increase the already high $50 million plan from Culp up to a $55 million plan with the extra connector between the schools.

The board was also fully aware of the objections to the new school plan by the G4G group. That unprecedented group spelled levy doom for board members who were not living in a fantasy world. Normal, uncontroversial levies have only passed with 60% yes votes in the past, an opposition group insured failure of the levy (and the two additional NO on #6 groups are the nails in the levy coffin).

I’m of two minds over the board’s attempt to cut a new deal with NRI. Was it just an amateurish mistake to attempt to renegotiate taxes with NRI. and pass the bond at the same time? Even the slowest members on the board must have known they were shooting themselves in the feet with the uncertainty added by the NRI deal. I also think it might have been a desperation move by the board, they knew they would fail in the levy attempt, so they wanted to have some way to win – even if it was by completing a deal that would be bad for both the the school and the city. As long as they got some money, they could claim victory, as long as THEY were the ones who got some money out of NRI..

Whatever the motivation, we now have a deal in progress that might bring substantial money from Grandview Yard, well ahead of past deals. Lets look at what the Mayor said about the deal.

The Mayor and the council

Before the quotes from the Mayor, to be clear – he supports the school levy, So do all the council members who have been asked. They support it because:

It is a normal thing for the board and the council to support each other when they have a levy on the ballot. This is standard mutual support – it is what good politicians do *.

And the council will be asking for new tax money for a new city hall next May. They want the school levy issue completed so they are not both asking for new taxes at the same time.

The mayor speaks

How much additional money will (the NRI deal) mean to the school?
There are some initial estimates using various assumptions, but I do not want to speculate until we have an agreement. I believe we are close. It should be recognized that until recently the City and School have estimated only the dollars coming to the school of what is actually built. We both are fiscally conservative. Those figures indicated that the school would receive about $60 million over the next 20 years. For a long time, this was the figured used. We now have more information on what is being proposed in the current project, which would bring an estimated additional $18 million, or $78 million total to the school. Add to this the development to the south of Goodale and modified school compensation agreement and that figure could almost double. – Mayor DeGraw

Re-read that last sentence for the most important news. The school might be getting $78 million, through modifying the TIF agreement. But the additional taxes that might come from the construction of new buildings south of Goodale could be another boost, up to $156 million total.

This is the most important question – why are we being asked to pass a high levy by the board, when they are on the verge of receiving news that could completely change the financial position of the school?

Committee for Grandview Heights Schools pamphlet

The Pro-levy committee sent a brochure out to every home in the city, answering questions about the levy. What do they say about the NRI deal, in a bullet point section?

The need is now, and at this point no agreement has been reached with NRI.

OK, most taxpayers want to know what they are getting into, and can wait a year for a deal to be completed. What is the rush? Are their bulldozers sitting near the middle school, ready to start the demolition?

The NRI deal could reduced costs to residents by 50% , but could never cover the entire costs

So what? If my income might go up by 50%, I sure would want to wait until I know for sure, before I buy a house. Who cares what percentage the NRI deal covers? If it is significant, we should wait.

Delaying the project would result in added costs.

The committee doesn’t have a crystal ball that allows them foolproof projections on cost, but they do have this thing called “history”. The cost of construction went down in 2008, due to recession. “Costs always rise” is not true. Also, income to the school will be rising, because of the additional tax money from the Yard (tax money that was negotiated in the past, not the current deal). Everyone with any financial skills at all should be shouting “STOP, do not sign contracts for construction when your income is in flux”.

Waiting until the NRI deal is reached would not change the ballot millage, however, it would reduce the taxes the school could collect from residents.

I think the brain power of this committee just completely gave out at this point in the brochure. That talking point is one that belongs to the anti-levy groups, the important issue is the tax rates we are going to pay. If the need for operation millage is going down, we should wait until the financial position of the school is clear.

Implied in the statement “no change in the ballot millage” (I think they mean to say bond millage) is a threat – pass this levy, or we will come back, over and over, asking for the same amount. We will never listen to critics and cut the size of the school facility plan. That threat supports the need to vote the current board out of office.

Part three of my “reasons to vote no on issue #6” will be covering the effects of high taxes on the community, and how the board has failed to make obvious moves that could have protected fixed income and lower income residents.

The YT information session

In past years, the school used to hold public meetings before levies, and would answer questions from the community. I just read the following from the school:

Superintendent Culp and Treasurer Collier are holding an online Community Conversation on Monday, October 22 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. They will be at the YouTube feed at  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvM52He47uyzfX0bnjSsz-w.

The superintendent is so deep in the bunker, he can only answer pre-screened questions on YT? For one hour?

(Later) The YT session had “technical issues” and started late, and probably lost all the viewers. They only answered questions that were the softest of the softballs – for 26 minutes. There was one answer that was important, to a question about what the board will do when the levy fails. Will the board do some self examination, and rethink the $55 million plan? Or ignore all the critics, and start plans to cut programs at the schools? Spoiler – Culp only talks about the latter. More on this later.

Previously – Reasons to vote no on the levy, part 1 – The Grandview Heights school board is not trustworthy

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Short and hot council meeting

Published October 15, 2018 by justicewg

https://youtu.be/OLn9jf13emE?t=56s

A very unusual council meeting happened tonight, most are long and boring, this one was the opposite.

Two observations:

Changing the meeting notes of a BZA meeting – or any meeting – so that they support the illusion that a politician (or city official) wants to project, and not the objective facts as they happened at the meeting, is a very serious thing. I don’t have access to the documents that were presented at this council meeting, so I can’t comment on the validity of Ms Oster’s complaint. I do know what it feels like to see meeting notes falsified, and I don’t like it. I will support any investigation the council makes into the matter.

Second, once again we get to see city attorney Khouzam rend her garments, and weep about how she is so offended that someone would have the impertinence to “question her integrity”. When someone has to give us sermons about their integrity over and over, you begin to wonder why. Something about a lady doth protest? The exit is right in front of you Ms Khouzam, if it is too hot in that chamber.

Grandview has Issues

Published October 14, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6The ballot is loaded with Issues this election, so many it is hard to keep them all straight. Here is a listing of the Issues Grandview residents can chose to vote up or down, and the groups who have Political Action Committees to support or oppose them.

Issue #6 – the school levy, the No groups

No on issue #6, Grandview Heights schools – Tracy Kessler, Tres. Their website is:

https://www.votenoonissue6.com/

Quote – “We are a Pro Community ~ Pro Schools group of residents who believe that Grandview Heights’ Issue 6 proposal is simply the wrong plan at the wrong time.” At least 100 of their signs are on lawns in the area.

Citizens for a Responsible Levy – Craig Berlin, Tres. I don’t think this group has a website. Over 100 signs on lawns.

Issue #6 – the “Info” group

Good for Grandview is a group that formed last year when it became clear the school board would try to build a $50 million new school and other facility improvements. Their website at the time pointed to problems with the numbers the school was projecting for maintaining present facilities, and they objected to the process in the facility meetings. They warned that the board’s plan was too expensive and would bring unnecessary conflict to the community. They had a petition to the school board that had 360 or so names, asking the board to re-think going forward with the $50 million plan (which has increase to a $55 million plan). That part of the website has been removed, now they are just an “info” group, with facts on Issue #6. Over 100 signs are up in Grandview.

https://www.goodforgrandview.org/

Issue #6 – the Pro group

for issue #6Committee for Grandview Heights Schools, Susan Jagers ,Tres. The BOE report shows this group had $29,100 in their bank account as of 7-01-18. Big contributors include “Tri-W group”, at $10K, and another $10K from “810 Grandview LLC”. Nationwide also contributed $5K.

https://forgrandviewheightsschools.org/

https://www.dispatch.com/news/20180827/grandview-heights-schools-ballot-issue-campaign-launched

Issue #31 – the Goodale Greenspace

yes on #31Residents for a Greener Grandview – AKA – Join Grandview – Jody Oster, Tres.

https://joingrandview.com/

The website suggests this group is more than a single issue organization, but at present they are all about promoting Issue #31, the Goodale Greenspace initiative. The group created a citizen initiative to increase the size of the Green Space on Goodale. The required number of signatures were obtained, and the petition was sent to the city, which forwarded it to the BOE. After a couple of legal challenges by the city over process issues, the Ohio Secretary of State ruled that that all legal steps had been followed and the initiative would be presented to the voters.

No on #31

no on #31Citizens to protect Goodale Greenspace, James Oberla, Tres. First registered 10-01-18. I can’t find a website for this group.

I have to make a complaint about the name of this group because of the choice of words, the name suggest they are a group that is somehow protecting the greenspace, but there is no chance that the greenspace will go away with either vote result. The pro-issue #31 group will protect the Greenspace, by increasing the width of the protected zone. Preventing a house being built is more protective than keeping the rules as they currently exist. If this group picked that name just to confuse voters, they don’t deserve a public seat at the discussion table.

(edit)   www.protectgrandview.com is the website. I don’t think “the right to do a lot split” was one of the fundamental rights our founding fathers fought a war to give us.

Issue #32 – The medical-marijuana dispensaries vote

Keep off grassIssue 32 is a referendum on whether the city’s ban on dispensaries should be overturned. The city intentionally made the vote to ban dispensaries a non-emergency measure, so the voters could decide the issue.

This issue is a little confusing – a “Yes” vote means No to dispensaries. A “No” vote means we will allow dispensaries inside the city limits (at present there is a planned dispensary just outside).

I can’t find any yard signs or PACs for either side of the issue.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/news/20181008/medical-marijuana-voters-will-cast-die-on-grandviews-dispensary-ban

Issue #30 – City of Grandview Heights – Proposed Charter Amendment Read the rest of this entry →

City might take responsibility for repairing sidewalks

Published October 9, 2018 by justicewg

Sidewalk no on 6The city requires all homeowners to maintain the sidewalk between your house and the street, and if you get the “green X of shame”, you will soon be receiving a letter that tells you to fix it, or the city will repair it and send you a bill. The city of Marble Cliff maintains all sidewalks by themselves, and doesn’t require homeowner repairs. Grandview Heights city council is looking at following our neighbor to the west and might start taking responsibility for sidewalk repair into a part of the city service provisions.

Sidewalks belong to you

The history of sidewalks begins in the dense housing of major metropolitan areas. Most houses were set near the street, and the sidewalk was considered a part of the porch of your home. You made the sidewalk as a courtesy for those walking by, but it wasn’t a requirement. At some point it was noted that sidewalks were vital for keeping walkers out of the street and away from traffic, and cities started requiring the construction and maintenance of sidewalks (but ownership of that strip of land was still kept by the private owner).

Letter from the city

Although we know that the tax assessment from the city is an ever growing expense, we can budget for that twice yearly bill. The notice from the city that requires sidewalk replacement is an unplanned shock to most, the thousands of dollars needed to do a complete replacement can throw budgets out of whack, and inspire epic rants on the unfairness of “the goberment tellin’ me what to do”. You have no recourse when it is time to do the repair (unless the city decides a tree caused the issue *).

In order to forestall the anger and pleading that some homeowners are sure to make over a sidewalk repair, many cities have started to fold the sidewalks into the general services of street construction and maintenance. Cities can schedule sidewalks fixed by a contractor as a bulk job, usually cheaper that an individual owners can negotiate. It also helps keep the city safe for those with mobility issues, if a wheelchair user can’t use a sidewalk because of a high lip between slabs, they use the street instead, and increase the risk of accidents.

Email from Reynolds Read the rest of this entry →

The dirty campaign tricks begin!

Published October 5, 2018 by justicewg

phamplet_scanGrandview Heights has some history of dirty tricks during campaigns, and the school levy (issue #6) has inspired a political trick by what appears to be from pro-levy people.

According to an email sent out today by a Good for Grandview spokesperson, some people were finding the G4G signs placed on their yards, but they never asked for a sign. The G4G website allows a sign request to be made, but it has no checks for bogus requests. The G4G people placed some signs on lawns without knocking and confirming with home owners. The tricksters are wasting the money of the G4G group on unrequested signs, and are probably hoping to inspire people to accuse G4G of being behind the misplaced signs. It’s a silly little trick, and G4G can very easily confirm with homeowners from this point on to prevent it from continuing.

The G4G spokesperson also said that they had a digital trail of IP addresses that they can follow to find the identity of the tricksters – more to this might be coming if the group decides to press charges.

The DeGraw pamphlet

Grandview has some history of political tricks before an election. Back in 2008, some unknown person (or more likely a group, from the number distributed) went around in the middle of the night and stuck a very odd sheet of paper under the windshield wipers of cars. It was a political screed criticizing Mayor Ray DeGraw, and in a rambling page tried to smear him with various sorts of accusations.

The hundreds of sheets of paper were placed on the windshields of many of the city’s cars that were parked on the street. No one was ever found to be responsible (but in the linked post I made some guesses). Mayor DeGraw was elected to return to office with high numbers.

The best part – word is that when the Mayor was asked who he thought printed and distributed the sheet, he replied “I think my wife might have done it”.

Another Mayor had an election prank pulled on him, John Leitz was in the late weeks of his re-election campaign, and found a news camera and reporter standing on his front step. During a civics class that Leitz had taught as a guest at the school, he dropped some adult words a couple of times. An opponent tried to make this into a big deal, and got at least one local TV station to cover the story of the “bad words from the Mayor”. Leitz was re-elected with no problems.

Email dirty tricksters

I have also been the target of political shenanigans, back in 2014 there was an email in circulation that was supposed to be from me, and I’m guessing they thought it would somehow anger people enough to … send me an email? Tell me off at the grocery store? Whatever, it had absolutely no effect, other than some wasted electrons.

In preparation for another dirty trick like this – if you get an email that says it is from me, read this blog. If I don’t say the same thing here, I didn’t say whatever you are reading in the email. Also, I have this blog, so why would I send emails out to random people?

Also – for full disclosure – I have never been paid by the school for any work, at this point or the past. I have never been paid to oppose the school, or board members, for political reasons, or any reason. I make no money from this blog. Just in case you are wondering who got paid, and who didn’t!

I’ll keep updating this post if the dirty tricks continue – I’m afraid the school levy issue is so hot it will inspire more in the weeks leading up to the Nov. election.

(Later) Some owners of No on #6 signs have reported sign theft. They responded by adding even more signs to their lawns. My suggestion – video cameras are needed for most homes these days, so you might as well get the camera, and point it at your yard sign.