City of Grandview Heights – Community planning process

Published February 2, 2018 by justicewg

Presentation at Jan 16 meeting

The city of Grandview Heights is starting a community planning process, it might seem familiar to those who have attended the school’s facility planning meetings, but the city planning meetings are much wider in scope. Commercial development, residential development, neighborhoods, pedestrian safety and walk-ability, city finance – the whole gamut of issues the city council must plan for are going to be up for public discussion.

This post will be a little confusing, because of the way the city posted the information on YouTube. The city council meeting with the presentation is in one video (above), the graphics on the screen behind the speaker are on another video.

10:00 start of presentation. If I heard right, Greg Dale was the man giving the presentation.

11:10 Discussed the work the council did at a workshop on Nov. 30 2017. There were photos of five whiteboards worth of discussion points from that meeting. The focus of that meeting was for the council to discuss the “forces and trends” on the community. Thirty trends were written down, and 24 of what were called priority issues.

12:20 Presenter stressed that the material on the board was a snapshot of one day of work from the council, and the forces and trends will be changed as the wider community is brought in to the process.

13:50 The guy doing the presentation said that the use of the word “zeitgeist” in the workshop was the first time he had heard that word used in 30 years of meetings. It is a perfectly cromulent word! He says the the planning process is not a set process, that there is an “art” to defining a community and its issues.

15:00 The zeitgeist slide attempted to highlight the different groups who need to work together – “new vs old Grandview”, young people vs retired, rich vs less rich (no poor people in Grandview). The council seemed to want to work to reconcile the differences in the city, and not shut out those who are normally left out. The question this slide brings up is, how do you get to parts of the community that are least willing to attend meetings? Young people are tough to reach.

16:20 Neighborhoods and build slide. Lots of issues with density and how to allow multi-family buildings while preserving old single family areas.

17:48 Public realm slide. Talking about traffic and walk-ability issues. Infrastructure and green space. They even wanted to discuss how autonomous vehicles will change parking in the city. (I’m with atrios on this, self driving cars are still 20 years away.)

18;50 Public services and facilities. There was a repeat of a line I heard from the Mayor, that as Grandview attracts more higher income people, they will be expecting more services, like a big recreation complex. Maybe, but the town is still small, and runs into funding issues that Grandview Yard taxes are probably not going to completely solve.

19:30 Resiliency. This one seemed like a good idea, but there are no simple solutions. Yes, the city should be able to roll with the punches that the future might bring, but that is sort of the opposite of setting a course for the future, and sticking to the plan.

Comment from the presentation guy “I have never felt more uncertain about the future than I am right now”. Great! Let’s plot a course to the future, while the deck of the ship is rolling all over the place!

22:15 Public Facilities and the public planning. This is where a lot of meetings to be held will converge with planning the buildings that are needed in the future. Too much here, read the slide. The thing that I got out of it was that the overall community planning might be one track of meetings that takes a whole year, but the meetings that are focused on facilities might be a separate track that splits off and has its own time line. The council and the Mayor are ready to build, and they want it soon.

From what the presenter says this night, the council is so ready to move into the facilities process that not only do they want a separate track, they don’t want to wait for any completion of the more general planning process. I think this is a big mistake.

First, splitting off facilities detracts from the focus of the more general process. The community only has a limited attention span, and ability to attend meetings. Splitting off into two tracks will make both less focused, and less attended.

Second, the general planning track graphic shows a bubble that says “Capital and Facilities recommendations ”, and that is AFTER the split of the facilities track? The implication is that there will be two different plans for the facilities, worked on by two different groups. That is way too confusing to explain to the community.

As much as the council is chomping at the bit to get to work on the facilities, I think the general planning track needs to get done with the recommendation phase before the facility track starts.

This is my own comment to the council on the issues of city facilities. Yes, we know that the police and the fire departments need better buildings. We got that back in the 90’s, when the city tried twice to pass levies, and failed. Don’t try to manipulate the process, don’t push too hard, because the public knows when they are being scammed. The school board is about to learn that lesson when their levies for a $50 million school fail big time. Don’t follow their lead.

Above all, make all parts of the process open for inspection (don’t use the T word, the board has made it toxic). Everything should be open for public attendance, everything recorded, videos made, posted up on the web.

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Board says “Join the conversation”, then slams the door on the Finance committee

Published January 17, 2018 by justicewg

The Grandview school board received plenty of criticism over the secretive way they ran the Facility Task Force, a group made up of community members who were supposed to be selected for knowledge of public facilities (yet few had any experience). Now the board has carefully selected a Finance committee, and as a very public middle finger gesture to the Grandview parents who criticized them in the past, the board is making the Finance committee closed, no visitors allowed, no meeting notes will be provided for those who question what is happening behind closed doors.

(edit) The first comment below this post is the most important one. Someone who was at the final community meeting remembered what Culp had to say about how the Finance committee meetings were going to be held. Go to the video the board made of that meeting, then jump forward to 51:20. Spoiler – Culp completely contradicts himself.

See the video clipped from that meeting below.

Some history of the Task Force

The Facilities Task force was first proposed at a May 2015 board meeting. A list of attributes that were wanted was posted, “Professional and smart” were good things. “Consensus minded” was also a pre-selection criteria. They wanted people who would not dig too deep, that would not voice concerns, that would reflect the over-optimistic ideas that the board wanted to propose. Although the board said in later news releases that the Task Force members would be experts in school facilities, in reality none of them had any experience in design or construction of school buildings. Being a spouse or friend of a board members was the best ticket to a seat on that group.

When I first requested to attend a Task Force meeting back in September of 2015, board president Brannon at first assumed the meetings were open to the public, like other school policy meetings. She was quickly corrected by the people that really run the board that the meetings were closed, and no meeting notes would be allowed out of the room. The Task Force met dozens of times over the next two years, and although their main task of being the hidden controllers of the public facility meetings has finished, they may still be lucking in the shadows.

The board and Culp have received constant criticism for the hypocrisy of the “we are so transparent” PR pushed in meeting after meeting, while approving a task force that worked in the shadows. The Good for Grandview group pointed out in their website that the Task Force has met in secret dozens of times, with no visitors allowed, and no meeting minutes allowed to leave the room. The only fig leaf the board has created to pretend there is accountability is to post meeting agendas for the Task force – bare skeletons of proposed meeting tasks, most less than 5 single sentence bullet points. There is no public record of how the members worked to shape the public meetings – how the choices were made to limit the options to only 9 building choices at the May 2017 meeting, then cut down to three by the June meeting. By controlling the information presented, and the options that were allowed on surveys, the Task Force (and board) manipulated the process to insure the results they wanted.

You would think the board would have learned that they can’t be quite so blatantly obvious in manipulating the facility process from the shadows, by using the closed off Task Force. You would be wrong.

Read the rest of this entry →

Winner of the tallest snowman in the city competition

Published January 16, 2018 by justicewg
8 ft tall snowman

I call it, Mt Freeze Megasnowman, the Comprehensive Community Driven Facility Finance Committee crusher

Years ago my kids and I built this 8 ft tall snowman. The city of Grandview Heights just ran a snowman competition, and didn’t specify the dates for the snowman building, it just had to be in this city. We won! We deserved it too, almost broke my back getting that second snowball up on top.

Congratulation to the kids who won in other categories. Just don’t try to top my snowman – no really, don’t try, it would be dangerous to do it. Make your dad build a bigger snowman!

Watching Grandview Heights in 2017

Published December 31, 2017 by justicewg

This year contained some end points, like the opening of the new Grandview swimming pool, but it was more about the continuation of projects that had been in the works for years. Next year might be the time for a final decision on the school facilities, or the plans for a new city office building. Here are the news stories that had people visiting this website.

Bomb threat at PNC Bank

pnc-bank-bomb

A bank robber at the PNC bank on First Ave caused the first major story of January 2017. The street was closed and lockdowns in place at all the schools until bomb squad members determined that the bag left outside didn’t contain explosives. By February the Grandview Heights police announced they had a suspect in custody. Karl Schlenker, 60, of Cranford, New Jersey, was arrested at his home without incident.

I can find nothing online about a trial, so I guess it is possible Schlenker might still be walking the streets of Columbus after he posted bond and was released.

A reader found the info on the case, Schlenker plead guilty and was sentenced to 4 years, 9 months in jail. He is still appealing the sentence (from jail), if I am reading the casework correctly. Also, prior convictions were mentioned in the sentencing, so this was not a guy who just broke bad at 60 years old.

School facilities recommendation, and Good for Grandview group formed

culp-leads-laughter

The school board ramped up the public meetings to study the facilities at the schools this year, options for possible building plans were first presented at a May meeting. The school quickly narrowed choices down to three by June, and after an open to all (and hackable) online survey, superintendent Culp determined that the outcome of the process supported the “Tear down the middle school” option.

Some of the parents and community members who attended the facilities meetings got together, and decided they couldn’t agree with Culp’s recommendation. The Good for Grandview group posted a website with their complaints with the process the school used to chose a facility plan, and a warning that the cost of the new construction was just too expensive for this small community. As of December 31, 2017, they have 276 signatures on an online petition to the school board.

The board has remained absolutely silent about the GfG group. Culp had some jargon filled responses, but he rejected all direct questions. Two new board members will join the board in 2018, but past experience indicates there is little chance they will deflect the board from its current path.

Read the rest of this entry →

Plenty of work ahead for “Good for Grandview” group

Published December 19, 2017 by justicewg
Culp and Douglass

Andy Culp and the man who pulls his strings

Reading the cryptic messages from the politburo at the Grandview school board has never been easy, they are normally stuffed with jargon and deflection of direct questions. I have a new email from Culp that contained more of the same, but if I’m reading it right, it doesn’t bode well for the GfG.

Three weeks have passed since the “Good for Grandview” facility review group made a public plea for the school administration to rethink plans for a $50 million new build at the middle school, along with renovations to the other buildings. A short article in the TVN contained some quotes from superintendent Culp in reaction to the group, but didn’t address any of the issues the GfG brought up on their website. Culp stuck to boilerplate phrases like “we are transparent” and “community-driven”, and said nothing about the issues of faults in the facility process, or answers to the questions of how this small community could support an unprecedented new tax burden for the new schools.

This was similar to the reaction from the board when they were asked about the break with consultant Harrison Planning Group, the board refused to answer questions from the press, and relied on meaningless jargon – as though they were too stunned to process or comment on what had happened.

Three weeks have now passed, I’m sure many phone calls between board members and administration staff have occurred, possibly even work done by outside consultants to formulate strategy for dealing with the GfG group. I have been sending multiple emails to all of the board members, asking them to respond with their own reaction to the statements that GfG made about the facility process, and the opposition the group has to the $50 million plan.

This is the reply I received: Read the rest of this entry →

Facebook is bad for everybody / Changing minds

Published December 13, 2017 by justicewg

I try to keep my commentary on this blog focused on local Grandview issues, but occasionally I read or see something that makes me say, “Yes, this person is absolutely right, we all need to pay attention”. I will get back to the local after a while, but first some thoughts on this TED talk about social media, and Facebook in particular. Later, I discuss a good website on changing minds.

We’re building a dystopia

That is a bit of a clickbait headline, isn’t it? Sure, but this TED talk backs it up with careful reasoning and reference to studies of how behavior changes because of online ads and social media groups.

There has been a few headline news stories that have told us how we are becoming a nation that is sharply divided, not just because of ideological differences, but because of the perception of reality. We want to read stories that reinforce our own world view, and discount those that don’t fit – cognitive dissonance has been studied for many years, we know how the mind can bend perception to fit our view of how “things should be”. Now we have Facebook to reinforce those perceptions, feeding us a computer generated stream of news and commentary that intentionally pushes us into more extreme views on politics and society.

It has gotten so bad that even one of the founders of social media admits that Facebook is tearing the social fabric apart (jump to 21:30). He suggests the best solution is to stop using Facebook, but if that is not possible, at least understand how it works to suck you in and make you angry. Read the rest of this entry →

New school group critical of Facility process named “Good for Grandview”

Published December 1, 2017 by justicewg
GfG website

Home page of the Good for Grandview group (at http://www.goodforgrandview.org)

A group that calls themselves “Good for Grandview” has announced they will oppose the current school plan to spend $50 million on a new middle school, as well as extensive remodeling of the other buildings. Via a new website, they list a number of complaints with the facility review process, and state that they believe there is no way that voters will pass an unprecedentedly large levy. They say they are not just a “No” group, they are in favor of a right sized facility upgrade.

The founders of this group are an impressive list of parents and former school board members. This is not a bunch of anti-tax zealots or a sore losers club, they are the people who were sitting in the front rows during the many meetings of the facility review and educational process.

The group speaks well for themselves on their website – go read it! The reasons for their creating the group can be summarized as the following:

If the school board tries to pass an unprecedentedly high levy to pay for $50 million in construction at the schools, the group feels that there is no way it can pass. There is simply not that much money that can be raised in this small town. There has not been formal organized opposition to levies in the past, and almost all were approved by the voters. Tension between the pro-levy boosters, and opponents, will tear apart the community. The schools will remain in the current condition. They call it a lose-lose-lose proposition.

The group points out that the “$44 million in deferred maintenance” that has been repeated at every opportunity by the administration is a figure that is not applicable to the reality of the buildings – that number assumes that complete tear out and replacement of all systems in order to meet current codes and standards as though they were built today. An older report by a company called “K-12 Consulting” concluded that around $500K per year would be needed to keep the schools running for the next ten years (that included major new systems like boiler replacement).

The GfG (I guess that will be their acronym) saw a number of problems with the way the facility review process was run by the school board. They mentioned the closed to the public Task Force meetings, and the way the surveys and exit tickets were designed to minimize open-ended discussion and steer the process toward a narrow range of possible outcomes. Although the word “transparency” was a favorite of the administration and the board, the reality was that they failed to act in any way that would earn that name.

My suggestions

This is a big deal, there has never been organized opposition to the school board like this before. The board was probably going to go with the full $50 million plan, that option is now dead as a doornail.

The question is, what now? I sure don’t have any pull on the board, but if I thought they might listen, I would tell them this. Read the rest of this entry →