Board resolution to support pride month fails with no second

Published June 23, 2019 by justicewg

I’ve seen embarrassing failures from the Grandview Heights school board in the past, this time they have hit a new low.

Ms Wassmuth brought a resolution before the board at the May 2019 meeting, which would have expressed support for Pride Month. This was not a policy change – in fact, the board already has policies in place that would protect students and staff with minority orientations.

Mealy-mouthed, timid support was expressed by two board members, but when a second to the motion was asked, there was an excruciating silence from the board.

More important to the board members was keeping the board from opening itself up to groups who might have the temerity to ask the board to support other good causes. Unspoken opposition to any student with LGBTQ orientation can be inferred by the silence expressed by most of the board.

Go to the recording

The link above goes to a clip from the May 8, 2019 board meeting. Near the end of the full meeting the board has an “other discussion” section, which is very rarely used by members. Wassmuth had good reason to bring the resolution before the board, she was asked by students in the Grandview HS to make the attempt. Four students attended the meeting, one spoke before the board with a passionate defense of students who have suffered bullying because of their orientation.

The recording begins with fumbling by President Truett, who failed to pass out copies of the resolution to the board. You have to wonder, was that failure intentional as a passive aggressive hit to Wassmuth?

Wassmuth read the full contents of the resolution. It contained nothing radical, just standard support for LGBTQ students, as the school policy manual already mostly agreed. The board was asked for no change other that a resolution of support for Pride Month (the Grandview city council has passed this same vote in the past).

A student spoke in support of the resolution. Remember how hard it was to speak in front of adults when you were a HS student? Now imagine speaking as a representative for a group that has faced discrimination and violence. This student deserved a “good for you for having the courage to stand and speak” from the board, instead she was given a curt “thank you for your comment”.

One of the board members (I’m assuming it was Mr Bode ) did speak in favor of the resolution, he even spoke about his own daughter’s involvement in the forming of an anti-discrimination group in the school, but when the time came to show the same courage that his daughter used to stand up and speak, Bode chose to sit in silence during the vote.

There was an unspoken sub-text to the meeting, there were probably board members who would have voted no on the resolution. In order to enforce the unanimous voting – which is the highest unwritten rule for the board – the members protected each other with a refusal to allow a vote.

At 18:00 in the recording, Ms Wassmuth asked for the motion to go to vote. What followed was the most pathetic 25 seconds in the history of the school board. I imagine Wassmuth was looking at the faces of her fellow board members, with a look of pleading. The were probably looking down, avoiding her gaze. And they sat, and allowed the resolution to fail with no second.

Imagine if you were one of the students who attended and spoke before the board, and then listened to the board sit in silence for a simple resolution of support? Does the Grandview board need to make it more clear – those student got nothing, no even a simple raised hand. An unspoken “we don’t really care about LGBTQ students” is the inference from this non-vote of four members.

Ms Wassmuth should get the support of the community for her attempt to make a resolution on Pride month. The board didn’t want to have votes on “months of support”, like most other public bodies do. However, this was special, and a group of kids speaking before the board made it important to act on. I’m hoping other board members will learn from Ms Wassmuth to stand up for what is right.

And if they don’t get anything out of re-listening to that pathetic performance, the rest of the board should just resign. It was a humiliation for the entire community of Grandview Heights. The best way they can serve the city now is to step down, and let a new board member with a functioning sense of right and wrong to serve in their place.

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City sidewalk ordinance fails, for now

Published June 6, 2019 by justicewg

Discussion start 34:20, ends 1:20:45.

Submitted for your viewing pleasure, the city council spent nearly an hour debating the ordinance brought before the council by Steve Reynolds, which would shift all responsibility for sidewalk repair and replacement to the city (as Marble Cliff has done for decades).

The simplified summary – Reynolds believes that monitoring sidewalks and shopping for companies who can do the work, then dealing with supervising the work, and possibly fighting with private companies over workmanship, is an additional headache that homeowners would be glad to turn over to the city.

Others on the council think the city should not take on an additional financial burden, and mentions were made to financial cost sharing which the city might offer (but are not laws enforced by ordinance).

No matter which side of the question you support, you have to give the council praise for taking the issue seriously, and exploring every nuance of the sidewalk issue. The discussion might get a little hot and over-dramatic at times (special award for Panzera), but it was a good discussion that served the citizens well.

Of special note – all of the council members who spoke were well acquainted with the issue, and did not ask questions that showed they were too lazy to read the documents presented (that’s a foreshadowing of a board article on the way soon).

Reynolds and Houston were in favor, the rest of the council voted no. I foresee this ordinance returning in the future, as long as Reynolds holds the position that the city taking responsibility is the best way to deal with sidewalks in Grandview Hts.

The TriV news story on the sidewalk ordinance.

Good government is not unanimous

Policy which will made Grandview a better city is not something that just is revealed to the council members from above. Politicians listen to their constituents, think about the plus and minus effects of rule changes, then present those ideas before the governing body. Some times that results in a majority vote to pass the new law, sometimes it fails. There is no problem with a council that disagrees – as long as the members respect each other, and understand that problems in the city, and the work needed to solve them, is a collaborative process, not a lock-step marching society.

The Grandview Heights school board has a very different philosophy. I has written many posts about the unanimous board, and the insulated process that excludes the parents from decisions. When you have to vote unanimously, the best way to prevent those pesky ideas from parents intruding into what you know will be a unanimous vote is to close yourself off from them.

I still, after many years in this city, don’t understand how we have evolved such different types of political bodies. It is the Grandview mystery.

Are AirBnB houses bringing too much disruption to Grandview Heights?

Published May 13, 2019 by justicewg

 

Five Grandview residents spoke at the May 6, 2019 city council meeting, and told about disruption, parking problems, blatant drug and alcohol use, and rude behavior from tenants at some Airbnb homes that have popped up in Grandview Heights.

22:30 Susan Kukla told about drug use (and buy transactions) happening in the street, large parties (the house is listed as allowing up to 9 renters at a time), which caused a dozen new to the area cars to use street parking, forcing homeowners to use parking in the next block. There is increased noise and garbage in the area, and incidents of items being broken that may be caused by the renters.

The problems might stem from the setup of the AirBnB on this street, it seems like the $600 a night rental would keep casual renters away, but if 9 or more people use the house, the price per person comes in lower than an average hotel room.

Craig Berlin told about party noise at 4AM, and parking issues. There may be issues with over listing a house with bedrooms in the basements that do not have egress provisions per city code.

Michael Connor talked about suspicious behavior from renters in the “party house”.

Cathy Wilson spoke about noise issues increasing. Although the house had high rental fees on weekends, the weekday rates could be as low as $45 per person for a filled house, attracting traveling utility work crews, who parked large trucks and sometimes trailers on the streets near the house.

The Mayor on Short Term rental

36:30 Mayor DeGraw gave information about a conference he had attended, at which short term rental issues, and the legislation that cities can enact to control them, was discussed. He mentioned that although AirBnB is the largest rental company, there are dozens of online companies that are similar (HomeAway, and VRBO, Booking.com). Working with one company to enforce better rental behavior will not be of much use, when there are so many companies, and house owners can freely jump between rental companies.

One solution might be to require the homes to have a host family living inside the homes that are short term rentals. Licensing all short term rental properties is another possibility.

A full ban on these type of rental homes is possible, but enforcement is a problem. Short term rental companies don’t list the exact addresses of the homes, just general areas. The quick increase in the numbers of these homes will leave the city continually chasing down the owners and using legal threats to enforce compliance.

For now, the Mayor emphasized that owners of homes near these rental properties need to keep track of incidents involving drugs, noise, and disruptive behavior, and call the police for each illegal incident.

The big picture on short term housing

Not mentioned in this meeting is the long term effects on housing prices and availability. Grandview Heights is a prime location for short term renters looking to attend events at OSU, the convention center, and downtown. If properties are snapped up by the owners of multiple AirBnB rental homes, the general availability of housing goes down, and prices go up. That might be seen as a good result by present home owners, as the price of homes continues to spike up.

The gamble that present owners risk is if a disruptive rental property moves into the house beside your own. That can bring property values down for that section of the street. The regulation of short term housing can decrease the chances that bad rental homes will pop up in any neighborhood in the city.

Read the TVN story on the council discussion May 6th.

Grandview Community Garage Sale is Saturday, May 4

Published May 2, 2019 by justicewg

Yard sale 19

The list of households who will be hosting yards sales this Saturday has been posted by the city. The hours are 9 AM to 3 PM, please don’t early bird!

One update to the accessibility of the list is the format, in past years it was saved as a Pdf image, and was not searchable. This year’s list is still a Pdf, but is searchable for individual words. Download the file below, then open it in a Pdf reader that includes a search function.

Grandview Garage Sale May 4 2019

 

Asking for documents from the school Treasurer, Ms Collier

Published April 16, 2019 by justicewg

collier-cut-headThe school treasurer, Ms Collier, is the designated person who responds to any requests from the public for open documents, including anything produced by the school board. Don’t ask why the school board can’t do this themselves, it is just the way things are done in Grandview.

My recent experience in asking for some documents was instructive for learning what the school thinks about their responsibilities as custodians of public documents, and their willingness to do the job that the state set out clearly in the Open Meeting Laws. The documents they finally posted bring up more questions then they answered. Jump down for the TL; DR, but first some establishing info.

Some points to begin

When I ask the school for documents, it isn’t for fun. I looked back in my emails, I have made one request for copies of facility contracts with consultants back in 2017, I asked for an expense spreadsheet in 2014. Those were vital documents for understanding the reasoning the board used to pass resolutions. I don’t ask often, and I don’t ask for much. My requests are important.

The school board is in the middle of the largest project it has taken on in decades, building a new middle school, and renovating the other schools. Millions of dollars in contracts are being signed by the board in a very short time. The way we keep public bodies safe from the corruption that can result from so much money changing hands is for the public to increase the level of auditing of all actions taken by the board. The files I asked for were the audio recordings of the school board meetings, necessary for understand the full story on the board’s actions. Read my post on the problems the board has had in the past in the severely short meeting minutes the board produces.

I asked for the audio files from 2018 meetings, and the 2019 meeting audio files as they become available. I made it clear in my request that I would be posting those files on my blog, so anyone in Grandview (or the world) could listen to the recordings. My hope was to lead them to realize the best policy for the board would be to post all the files on the school website

I’m not a lawyer

I don’t have professional knowledge of the Ohio Open meeting laws, but the laws don’t really need expertise to understand. The Sunshine Laws manual makes it clear that almost all documents produced by governmental bodies in Ohio are open – some exceptions are clearly explained, but most are open. Board meeting notes, and audio recordings of meetings, are open documents. Once given to the public, community members can redistribute them in any way they want, including posting them on the internet in Blogs.

I’ve been posting local government documents here on my blog (and a previous version) for more than 15 years. If there were any way the board could have legally stopped me, they would have done it long ago. A big part of the reason I started to post the minutes from board and council meetings, back in 2003, was to shame them into posting their own minutes on their own websites. They didn’t like seeing me posting school meeting minutes on a personal blog, but they had no legal way to stop it. I was successful in pushing both the council, and much later the school, into creating pages on their websites so the meeting minutes could be downloaded.

My request for school documents

On 3/15/19, I made my first request for some audio files of the school board meetings. I asked specifically for all of the audio recordings made during the 2018 school year (which would be about 17 files). I also asked for the audio files made during 2019 meetings, and to be sent any more the board made during the rest of the year. This was sent to school treasurer Collier, and one of the board members.

The response was – silence. Read the rest of this entry →

Sunshine week in Grandview Heights

Published March 23, 2019 by justicewg

This is Sunshine Week — an annual nationwide celebration of access to public information sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It’s a sunny day here in Grandview too. Let’s hear what Ohio Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says about public records requests during National Sunshine Week.

“The public records of the government belong to the people, not the office holders who created those documents.”

You don’t need a special form, or say magic words. Just get a message to the public office holder, explaining as best you can the documents you need to receive a copy of. You don’t have to identify yourself, or explain why you need the record.

Read all about the public record laws in the new updated Yellow book on the Ohio Attorney General website.

https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/Sunshine-Laws

The city has posted near complete Community Planning Documents

Published March 20, 2019 by justicewg

The city of Grandview Heights has been running planning meetings to gather feedback from residents in a comprehensive city planning process that started back in April 2018. This process was intended to be a full review of all aspects of the city’s housing, commercial developments, recreational and transportation, civic spaces, and almost anything else that might become an issue the city council and administration could see for the future.

 

 

(Video from the meeting March 26, 2019)

The Draft doc

https://www.grandviewheights.org/DocumentCenter/View/3513/Comp-Plan-Template-v-031319

There was a meeting March 26th in the Middle School Commons to accept public feedback as the plans moved towards completion.

First impressions

I didn’t spend a lot of time reading the doc, but this is what jumped out.

The suggestions for residential areas are to follow the present building standards for height and density, and not approve developments that are big jumps in size (like the building already approved on First on the site of the funeral home).

Mixed residential and commercial development is also to be limited to match the existing size and number of floors. Demolition of present buildings to build larger, taller buildings is discouraged.

The present commercial areas are to be preserved inside the limits of existing development.

The only area I see allowed to build high is on the south side of Goodale, where there already are new multi-story buildings.

Municipal campus on the site of the service center

After the city service center has moved their truck barns and equipment to a new space on McKinley, the area behind the senior center is now being presented as the potential location of a large municipal campus. This area will house new Police and Fire buildings, as well as city offices. Essentially everything now located up the Grandview hill will be rebuilt in a bigger and better campus.

This included an “event/recreation” area, which will be built on the site of the senior center (and presumably the senior center will go into the municipal building). This area will be large enough the host festivals and farmer’s markets.

I don’t see this plan for a municipal campus in the Community Planning Document linked above, but the city website has the plans in the mayor’s blog.

http://www.grandviewheights.org/Blog.aspx?IID=254

Municipal Campus

More info to be posted as the documents are reviewed.