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All posts for the month December, 2011

Grandview Yard will have lots of parking lots

Published December 31, 2011 by justicewg

This was the general plan of Grandview Yard as presented by NRI back in 2007, in those optimistic days before the economy crashed. This is a poor screen grab, so it’s hard to read, but they labeled the areas for the land use. The intention was to put offices and retail to the south on Goodale, retail and residential in the center, and offices to the north. Possibly some retail on 3rd, and some residential. Parking was supposed to be in a number of parking structures, variable height depending on the density of the nearby buildings.

This is the latest plan that was put up on the GY website. Arrows pointing to all the surface parking lots added by me.

You could excuse this by assuming the parking lots are transitional areas that will be converted to buildings in the future. The question is, why do they need so much parking for a narrow row of buildings? Why not leave some of those parking areas as grass covered fields, as they have done for the areas around much of the present development?

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Agreement to curtail job poaching

Published December 23, 2011 by justicewg

Local cities have signed an “agreement to make an agreement” on job poaching between jurisdictions. It may be May 2012 or later before the final deal is signed. This is not the first time an agreement has been attempted by local cities, a 2007 pledge slowly eroded because there were no penalties for breaking the pact. Game theory predicts that when an agreement without penalties is signed, the best outcome is to be the first to break the deal (covering your treachery with the smoke of excuses and pleadings that your specific instance was not covered somehow). After the first few breaks of the deal it quickly becomes generally ignored though and all members go back to square one.

This agreement does have some teeth, a city breaking the deal must send 50% of any new payroll tax back to the jurisdiction which was abandoned (for 5 years). That 5 years may be the Achilles heel of the deal, if a company has enough predicted tax revenue in the future, cities may decide that the tax sharing will be an acceptable cost of poaching. Still a better outcome for the abandoned city, but it doesn’t change the game where businesses can hop between local areas in search of the best tax relief.

I wrote a story about tax incentives back in 2003 on my old blog. It holds up well, re-posted after the jump. The highlight of the story is that tax incentives are “picking the winners” by the government, something that the more socialist countries are fond of doing.

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Marble Cliff revolution postponed

Published December 20, 2011 by justicewg

Marble Cliff’s city council voted 3 to 2 in favor of “de-occupying” Grandview’s services, but the revolution is on hold.

The city has a long history of complaining about the money that Grandview charges for police, fire, etc. I found the record of grumbling by MC started back in 2006 when they asked for a one year contract. This was supposedly a result of their largest revenue source, NiSource, closing their facility in June 2005. During the current contract negotiation they threw the histrionics into high gear and required Grandview and Upper Arlington to provide bids (and second level, super bargain bids) to the council. At the Dec. 19 council meeting they voted 3 votes to 2 in favor of leaving Grandview’s finances in shambles. But because Councilman Cincione, who works as a magistrate for Grandview, abstained from voting, the 3 votes were not a majority and the result is a deadlock.

Marble Cliff’s council members knew that they needed 4 votes to carry out their revolution. There is nothing that indicates this to be anything but a bargaining tactic before they sign the contract with Grandview.

I wish good luck to MC getting the Arlington police (with a much more unfavorable officer to resident ratio) to show up in your city at night when the boogie man roams the streets.

(update) The Marble Cliff council voted to stay with Grandview at the Jan. 16 meeting.

Junkman in the alley (from G.W.)

Published December 20, 2011 by justicewg

Another re-post from the old blog. I had a guy come to my door today and ask if he could have an old tall computer I had set in the alley. I asked him if he had been hassled by the police, he said no, but he had not been in this town much. I’ve read a lot of stories in the police beat about junkers being ticketed because they didn’t have a permit to pick through the alley. I’m going to have to investigate this new trash picker licensing, how much it costs, why they did it, etc.

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Still a lot of unanimous board votes

Published December 13, 2011 by justicewg

In case you have not been paying attention to the school board for the last 10 years or so, we have an unusual amount of unanimous votes in the board meetings. I can’t find any local board or city council that has the record of Grandview’s rubber stamp crew.

The short version of what is wrong with unanimous votes – engaged, thoughtful board members don’t always agree. If they always vote the same, you have two possibilities, either there is back channel discussion going on outside meetings that is not supposed to happen, or members are sitting like lumps, taking their paychecks for meetings without doing any work.

I was looking through the recent meeting notes of the school board and tried to find when they had a split vote. I knew about the brief rebellion by Mrs. Peters back in 2007 during the “drinking bystander rule” changes to student conduct policy. She also had an unexplained no vote on Motion 09-121 (Dec 8, 2009), something about calendars or possibly a field trip. Clifford had a no vote in July 2010 over a change to Kindergarten entrance age.

The award for “funny guy” (a rare occurrence during the humorless plodding of school board meetings) has to be given to former board member Heydinger. In Dec. of 2008, for the first time in the entire history of his seat on the board, Gary Heydinger votes no while the other members vote yes. The vote – accepting the resignation of Suzanne McLeod. What makes the joke is that McLeod had been the chief proponent of the “always unanimous” tactics of the board.

Not counting the joke vote, there have been no more than three or four split votes in the past 10 years of board voting. I’m working on a post for the “why?”, suffice it to say the groupthink is strong in these people. I’m on pins and needles waiting for Adam Miller to take his seat.

(Update) Policy Governance is the name of the belief system that has allowed the board to work outside the board meetings and present an always unanimous face to the public. Read what I said about P.G in 2015.

Board and Council meeting notes

Published December 13, 2011 by justicewg

I used to put all the school board and city council meeting notes up on my old blog, Grandview Watch. I got started mostly to provide easy access to the meeting notes. The websites for both bodies were primitive when I started to blog, they had no regular updates that posted the notes.

I could get the city council notes after a little nagging by email. It took them until the big website update of 2008 before they had a reliable source of meeting notes online.

The school was incredibly resistant to any updates to their procedures as everyone else was going digital. Before 2006, they used computers to type up meeting notes, but they refused to allow anyone access to these files. You had to make a request for the pages to be printed, go down to the office, and pay 15 cents per page for the privilege of reading open meeting notes. The school website update of 2007 inspired them to start posting Pdf files on a regular basis.

Another big reason to post the meeting notes on my website was the difficulty of searching inside those Pdf files. There is a way to use Google to search the school meeting notes online, if you have the google-fu to put together a term like “”field turf” site:http://www.grandviewschools.org filetype:pdf”. That is not a reliable way to do searches, if the page hasn’t been indexed you can miss instances of your term. For example, the google search I used above for the words “field turf” gave a result in two board meeting notes. A search for those words on my website shows there were five meetings in which the term was used.

The city meeting notes are completely inaccessible to search. The Pdf files are scanned pages, images of text. If you wanted to search the files you would need to OCR each page of all the meeting notes. The people in the city administration are usually good at emailing a regular text version of the notes on request, but that’s a pain that doesn’t need to be an issue. Bad city council! I will give them credit for making a lot of other city material, like BZA notes, available on the web.

Since I stopped posting meeting notes in 2009, there are now two years of records for the city and school that have no good index. I’m considering what to do, the work involved in the conversion to a html format is significant for that many files.

I’m pretty sure I will go back to doing a summary of the important parts of the meeting notes, as I did at the beginning of all the notes on the old website.
A short summary that highlights controversial content will do 90% of the work of a full index.

Replacing the Gas Meter reader

Published December 8, 2011 by justicewg

A guy came into my house yesterday and worked on my gas meter. From now on there will be no need for a meter reader to walk house to house, pushing buttons on his little beeping device that records the gas usage. A van will drive down the street and a computer will send a radio signal to the meter, allowing remote reading. Say goodby to a lot of jobs.

Those jobs were not so great. Walking all day in summer heat and winter cold is no fun. The jobs were outsourced long ago by the gas companies, so the wages were low. But at least they were real jobs (that’s a sad line that might be the most common employment wisdom for the foreseeable future).

Anytime I mention this loss of jobs caused by automation, someone jumps up with a comment like “think about all the jobs that were created designing and building those gas meters!” Yes, a few jobs were created. It didn’t take a lot of engineering to create a radio gas meter. The factory where they were built had a few workers, but I’m sure the automation in that factory was high enough to use no more than a fraction of a man-hour per unit. The net result was way over in the “lost jobs” side of the equation.

There is another dumb zombie arguments that is still shambling around the issue of jobs. The proponent notes that the US used to be a agrarian nation, then as mechanical farm production took away jobs, workers switched to factory work. As factory work becomes more automated, jobs switched to service sector. Now that even service sector work is being automated, the argument is made that some new sector of work will provide jobs. There is no “new” sector of jobs. Primary (agriculture, fishing, and extraction such as mining), the secondary sector (approximately the same as manufacturing), the tertiary sector of the economy (service sector or the service industry) are the three parts of the private economy.

That’s all there is. No amount of wishful thinking will produce a new sector.

I’m a science fiction reader, so the concept of automation and robots taking away most of the jobs is something I have read about extensively. There are a few stories where this transition is managed so that society is able to deal with the loss of jobs and ends up improved. The Star Trek series is the most popular, they have no unemployment, in fact they have no money, they use other means to distribute scarce resources. Lots of other stories foresee a huge impoverished lower class, ruled by an elite who spend time amusing themselves with ephemeral games while doing their best to stop thinking about the class beneath them. Marshall Brain’s story Robotic Nation is required reading for the details of how we lose jobs.

The present job losses are not all cyclical, caused by the Great Recession. There are many structural losses, jobs which will never return. I don’t hear a lot of politicians acknowledging this fact. Republicans have a philosophy that requires them to ignore lost jobs, and given the quality of the candidates they are running for president, ignoring reality seems to be a party platform. I hear a few Democrats talk about structural job loss, but they get scared when the shouts of “socialist!’ are thrown at them.

This week President Obama kicked off his campaign with a new theme. It echoed a historic address given by former President Theodore Roosevelt in the same Kansas town more than 100 years ago. Roosevelt infuriated his fellow republicans with the speech that railed against the great trusts that controlled the economy. I have a suspicion that Obama might freak out some of his fellow Democrats with this new line on the economy. I selected a segment of the speech that directly mentions automation and structural job loss.

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