Brief comments on video of City Council Meetings in February 2019, and some suggestions

Published March 1, 2019 by justicewg

 

Video of City Council Meeting 2.4.19

50:40 Vote on the tax deal for the school and the NRI – South of Goodale ordinance.

56:00 Councilman Reynolds explains why he opposed the ord. He supports the schools and wants to see the tax burden lowered, but objects to the emergency status of the ord. The issue has been under review for a year, there is no emergency. That emergency just takes away the ability of the public to bring the issue up for a referendum. Reynolds also spoke against the development, saying that the school could have gotten a deal for new TIF money without a 450 unit apartment development that is not a good long term use of the land.

Discussion and other ordinances on the same SOG issue continues until 1:15:20.

1:20:45 Ord on City replacement and repair of sidewalks. More on the cost and logistics. Tabled until April 1. Note that Panzara voted no on the table of the ord. (he has spoken against the issue in the past).

Council Meeting 2.19.19

Molly (something, couldn’t hear her last name) spoke for more than 17 minutes about the issues she and her neighbors had with the new paid parking in Grandview Yard.

One more example for the difference between Grandview city council and the school board – I have never seen a parent speak before the board at this length, and never seen them answer questions like the council (my experience was that the board refused to answer questions).

Suggestions for improving video during council meetings

I’ll be sending this list to the council members, but maybe these suggestions could help you if you are trying to video a meeting and post it on YT.

Things dropped on the table create a loud “thunk” on the sound recording, sometimes making it hard to hear what is being said in the meetings. Some sort of sound isolation for the mics could be installed, but for now, just being aware and attempting to set your things down quietly could go a long way to improving the sound of video recording.

I know that the council chamber is small, and the city desperately needs a better, larger room. For now, lifting the camera up higher so all the council members can be seen, and people walking out don’t block the view, can improve the video.

Members of the public who have signed up to speak should be seated in the front row, so they don’t waste 20 seconds walking from the back of the room to the mic.

YouTube specific suggestion – there should be a listing of the topics and ordinances placed in the description box below the video title, along with the time stamp of the place in the YT video. Simply typing the numbers (such as 12:38) will create a hot link to the time in the YT video. This will allow members of the public to immediately jump to the section of the video that interests them, instead of being forced to scroll through a long meeting video looking for the content they need.

I understand there may be technical reasons to cut portions of the council meeting video out of the final posted video. Cutting section of a meeting out should only be done if it is really important, and a reason for the cut should be added to the description of the video. Cuts in the video record can seem as though there was attempts to censor content of the video, or remove words said by the council members or the public. Censorship in this case is a correct use of the word, because it was a governmental body that is altering a recording of a public meeting.

The board might not tear down the middle school commons?

This link is to the Grandview City Council Meeting of 3.4.19 so it belongs to a March summary, but one issue discussed is important news.

At 17:48 Council Pres. Kearns gives a report as the liason with the school board, and says that the board is looking at plans to keep the middle school commons and gym, at least during the rest of the middle school construction. The next community meeting will be March 27 at 7PM.

Once again, the school board has nothing on the school website that indicates this change to the construction plans (the Finance committee recommendation, approved by the board, was to tear down the commons at the start of construction and force middle school kids to walk to the HS for lunch).

 

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Six reasons the Grandview school board refuses to make videos of their meetings

Published January 19, 2019 by justicewg

culp-leads-laughterSorry for the clickbait title, but it seems appropriate for the subject. The Grandview Heights school board has a tradition of obstructing inquiries into their actions and deliberations. You can read my featured article for more on why they do this. Most of the time they also claim they don’t have the policy of hindering transparency, and will simply refuse to answer when asked why they don’t do simple things like make video recording of their meetings.

I was able to access this list of reasons that board president Truett and Super Culp came up with that bullet points their lame excuses for not recording meetings. They added “and this isn’t all, we might have more” to the description of this list. If these are the best reasons they could come up with, they need to get more creative – every one of these can be easily dismissed via reading current board policy, or knowledge of video tech.

The six reasons Grandview’s board will never video record meetings

  • ADA compliance, especially with closed captioning
  • Delays in editing due to confidentiality of student names, rights, who may be presenting etc.
  • Platform usage, especially platform that may contain ads
  • copy right issues, considering student groups, theater productions, etc.
  • privacy concerns for private citizens
  • Costs associated with video taping these sessions and ensuring we have met all facets of legal requirements of the law in advance of releasing.

– List of reason for never video recording board meetings created by Truett and Culp

Why the board video opposition list is lame

There will be many block quotes inserted into this point by point take-down of the board, linking to schools that are making videos of board meetings right now. I could find thousands of examples, but I’ll just be focusing on near by locations. Like this FC school system –

Westerville City Schools Board YouTube channel – 114 videos.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLO7Mqfvx9dEJU5zoFIglhQvs7HyimlMfn

ADA compliance

If access to the board meetings was really important, they would already be videoing and captioning the board meetings. At this point there is no access for hearing impaired, there is no sign language interpreter. The meeting are held deep in the building on the second floor, requiring mobility impaired visitors to use an elevator that Culp was claiming has issues, back when he was holding meetings to show off the conditions of the schools.

Was the point of this bullet to complain that captioning is too hard? YouTube can auto-caption at the click of a button, and even if the captions need editing to correct mistakes, the cost would be a fraction of that needed to hire a sign language interpreter. I’m surprised the school chose to talk about ADA compliance, because it highlights the poor job the school is doing right now.

Bexley City Schools YouTube channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3Bq8Y1Lmkqpc1ufSoacQ7Q

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Watching Grandview Heights in 2018

Published January 1, 2019 by justicewg

Time to re-cap the best stories posted on the blog. In no particular order:

Board highballs the facility bid, admits finance committee is running the school

The school board’s push to build a new middle school was the top issue for the school system, and the tactics used by the board were the topic of many posts. This July story documented the highball bid used by the board to push for more money for construction. It also points out the board board had no defense from the charge that the finance committee was a policy deciding group that should have been open under the Ohio Open Meeting laws.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/board-highballs-the-facility-bid-admits-finance-committee-is-running-the-school/

The Goodale Green Space Ballot Initiative

A group created a petition to change the Green Space rules on Goodale, after a disagreement over the city decision to allow a large new home on Goodale Ave. Ms Oster provided me with a long list of reasons the group had come together to make this initiative, as well as the petition that was signed by almost 400 Grandview residents. The citizen initiative placed on the ballot by the group failed to stop the house from being allowed to proceed.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/the-goodale-green-space-ballot-initiative/

Video of the May 29, 2018 finance committee report

A listing of highlights from a video taken at the school. School administrators shouted down questioners. The superintendent danced around questions about the meeting notes and closed door policy for the committee, but failed to answer questions, showing a lack of integrity. Committee members shrugged their shoulders when asked what the effect of the levy might have on lower income residents.

The most interesting part was when Kukuria talked about the only disagreement the group had between each other, over renovations for the Stevenson building. Apparently some wanted to do the $6 million in renovations that were recommended, while the final report suggested the school be given minor repairs. The conclusion from this report suggest the committee wants Stevenson to be allowed to deteriorate, so that it can be next up on the demolition list.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/video-of-the-may-29-2018-finance-committee/

City might take responsibility for repairing sidewalks

Councilman Reynolds proposed the city might take over the repair of sidewalks, and answered some questions. As far as I know this issue is still up in the air in committee.

(Edit) A TVN story covered the sidewalk repair proposal, still in committee and under study to find an accurate cost to the city.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/city-might-take-responsibility-for-repairing-sidewalks/

City of Grandview Heights – Comprehensive Community Planning process

The city of Grandview Heights started a comprehensive community planning process, much wider in scope than previous planning groups. Commercial development, residential development, neighborhoods, pedestrian safety and walk-ability, city finance – the whole gamut of issues the city council must plan for are up for public discussion. The process will continue into 2019.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/city-of-grandview-heights-community-planning-process/

Winner of the tallest snowman in the city competition

8 ft tall snowman

If the city holds another snowman competition, and if it ever snows again in Grandview, I defy anyone to beat my championship level snowman building.

https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/winner-of-the-tallest-snowman-in-the-city-snowman-competition/

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2017

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2016

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2015

Top Watching Grandview stories of 2014

After the school levy, money is not the issue – but construction zone issues will cause conflict

Published December 7, 2018 by justicewg

The board passed the levy on Nov 6, 2018, they have the $55 million bond they wanted to update the facilities in the schools. The issue that is important now is completing the work on the schools with the minimum possible disruption of the education of the kids who are going to be in schools just a few feet away from major construction zones, and may be required to waste time on long walks to the HS for the cafeteria and gym. That means getting the parents to agree with the construction plans, when they know their children will be negatively impacted.

I’m not seeing a lot of effort put out by the board to work with these parents. If the board takes the position that “disruption is something your will just have to deal with” and doesn’t work with parents to make the best plans for the minimum disruption, there will be some very angry parents – for good reasons.

No consensus

If the board had overwhelmingly passed the levy, they would have (poor) backing for saying “we have a mandate, now stop complaining and let us figure construction out by ourselves”. That mandate is missing.

The vote was 48% no, 52% yes. Compare that to Worthington, which passed a bond, on the same day, with a 70% yes vote. If we give Worthington’s school board a letter “A”, Grandview’s board deserves a “D”. Not only is there no consensus, the formation of three separate groups that opposed the $55 million bond were a first in Grandview, and indicate the board did a poor job in the facility planning process. Many parents felt the facility process was not fair or open enough.

Not enough board acknowledgment of community divide

No matter which side you were on, you probably had strong feelings about the issue #6 vote. The results of the election settled the question of how much money the board will have to improve the schools, what it didn’t do was heal the rift in the community.

I sent an email to all the board members, and the administration, asking them what actions the board will be taking to help mend a divided community. Except for one board member, the answer was silence.

I asked the board and administration if they understood the objections the anti-levy groups had to the facility process, because the first step in healing is understanding what the problem is. I got this answer from Mr Culp:

“You would need to reach out to the opposition groups to garner their perspectives …” – Andy Culp

This from the person who repeats the “3600 varying touchpoints” line over and over. If you have no idea what the opposition to #6 groups thought, then maybe the problem is that all those touchpoints were just you expressing your opinion Mr Culp, and you were ignoring the replies.

What happens now

We are now a month after the vote, and I’m not finding much info from the board or administration on what happens now. I read a number of “patting ourselves on the back” stories in the news, and on the school website, but the specifics are lacking. I see nothing about groups or meetings being planed to present specific actions in working on the schools, and gain feedback from the parents who will have their kid’s education disrupted by the construction. The board had months to make plans after the FAC recommendations were presented to the board, but they seemed to be focused only on the vote, not on anything they needed to do afterward.

I copied this from the school website:

Here is the general timeline for the overall project:
Phase I – The Edison Commons will be demolished, and the new 4-8 school will be built between GHHS and EI/LMS. (18-24 months)
Phase II – High School students will be moved into the newly built 4-8 and GHHS will be comprehensively renovated. (15-18 months)
Phase III – High School students will be moved back into the renovated high school. EI/LMS students will be moved into the new 4-8 building.

The annex and the existing EI/LMS will be demolished at the conclusion of Phase III.
RLS improvements (safety/security and ADA accessibility) will be completed during the summer of 2021 and 2022.

Missing from any school plans on the website – listening to parents, and working with them to build a plan that minimizes educational disruption.

The Commons destruction was not presented in any public facility meeting

There was a lot of objection to the plan to demolish the middle school commons and gym expressed by the no on #6 groups. That part on the school was the last major build, completed in 1996, and the bond is just now being paid off. If there was any part of the school facilities that deserved to be kept and integrated into the new building, that section deserved being saved. There will be millions of dollars wasted by tearing it down.

Even worse is the plans the board has presented to replace the facilities in the commons – the middle school children will be required to walk past a dangerous construction site, and use the HS facilities. This back and forth might need to happen multiple times per day – for two or more years.

When the new middle school is completed, the HS students move in to the new building while construction is happening at the HS. So the new cafeteria and gym will still be shared with the middle school for another two years.

This plan to demolish the commons was never presented in any of the plans that were presented to the facility meetings that were open to the public. It is entirely an idea that was brought up by the hand picked, closed Finance committee. And yet everything I read on the school website makes this seem like it was a result of open meetings.

We didn’t vote to destroy the commons

I checked carefully through the wording of the levy we voted for – nothing in there about tearing down the middle school commons. I looked in the material the “Yes on #6” committee sent to every home in Grandview – nothing in there about plans for work on the schools. In fact, the pamphlet that was sent out said this:

“NOTHING IS FINALIZED. There are still many steps to the process, but we do know is that the members of the FAC and the Grandview Heiths schools are working to explore every opportunity to reduce costs while while providing the needed updates …” – from the Yes on #6 committee

Given the history of the board and school administration, I think we are about to hear the words “the plan to tear down the middle school commons is a done deal, because we voted for it” – even though there is not a word about the commons in the voting language or pre-vote publicity.

This is what Culp said at facility meeting #7

We have to go back to community facility meeting #7 to hear what Mr Culp though should be done after the levy passes.

 

“Even after the bond is passed, there needs to be iterative collaborative community engagement that is transparent about the process, and community members will need a voice in and say in what ‘s being done, even then, it needs to be exceedingly transparent.” – Andy Culp, from the school video, community meeting #7.

As we know, the first part of the video, where Culp promised that the Finance committee would be open, with meeting notes, he was either lying, or was overruled by the school board. He has never explained why the FAC was closed, even when the public asked 8 times during the FAC results meeting.

We have no reason to believe the second part of this video, where Culp promised open meetings after the levy passed. When a person’s integrity has been shown to have failed, you don’t easily believe them again.

We are waiting for the board to offer the community engagement that was promised.

A request for your experiences after the school vote

Have you experienced negative comments from school administrators or staff because you were vocal in your opposition to the school levy? Were there actions taken that you feel were retaliatory because you had a no on #6 sign on your lawn? Please send me your experiences, there is a comment form in the “About” section (tab at the top of the home page header).

Email from Culp 12-21-18

We will be scheduling a community meeting in the coming weeks once we have confirmed a date.  Our goals for the meeting will be to provide attendees with an overview of the facility project and design process; the projected timeline for the construction and renovation of our schools; and to share how residents will have an opportunity to be involved in the process.

If there were any real process in motion to ask parents for their opinion and only take action after they approved, the school would not be sending an email like this. I’m not seeing the “opportunity to be involved” becoming more than an after the fact explanation of the board’s actions.

City council on the Grandview Crossing development, NRI deal, sidewalks

Published December 5, 2018 by justicewg

Video of the December 3, 2018 council meeting.

Grandview Crossing development

Starts at 16:10 on the YT video. Current plans are for 50K sq ft of office space, 250 senior housing units, 50K sq ft retail, and a hotel with up to 200 rooms.

Of interest – discussion on the “emergency” designation of the legislation. The effect of the emergency label is to make the legislation go into effect faster, cutting out the possibility of residents who object to the legislation making a public referendum on the law before it goes into effect. It was explained that the developer wants the fast passage because of timing issues with funding, Reynolds explained how emergency legislation can cause problems that resulted in the Goodale Green Space issue.

NRI development

At 31:30, legislation on the NRI development south of Goodale. Council noted that SOG is not a good name but it is all they have at this point. Later they discuss the NRI plans for a hotel with up to 120 rooms, 460 apartments (an increase), and 40K commercial space.

35:05 The amendment to the NRI deal that give the school more money. This is a new 30 year TIF, it is explained that the 2009 TIF is 10 years old and NRI wants a full 30 years.

Council member Reynolds again questions why the NRI deal with the schools has to be tied to the SOG development. NRI is a major company that has no profitability issues, they can give the school a better deal without ties to SOG if they wanted. As both Reynolds and Panzera warned in previous meetings, the attitude of “the school board wants this deal, so we let them call the shots” is stove-piping the legislation for the advantage of NRI, not allowing time for full examination and comments from the community.

Sidewalks repair

At 56:40 on the video. Evaluation of the cost to the city taking over the repair and replacement of all sidewalks is discussed. Panzera is opposed, but proposes a grant program to give incentive to residents to replace their sidewalks. Discussion on the liability for the city. Reynolds says incentives still forces residents to deal with negotiation and supervision of concrete repair companies.

Council president Kearns later moved the discussion of the sidewalk legislation to the Facility committee, where the chair is in opposition, so if you want to see the city take over sidewalks, contact the council members.

 

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?

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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