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All posts for the month March, 2016

Culp again talks new school buildings, Watching the board group

Published March 29, 2016 by justicewg

Culp sideFor the second time in six months, Superintendant Culp wrote a “superintendent speaks” story in the TVN that reminded us that the board really, really , really wants to build new school buildings. The board is so focused on getting new buildings that I’m surprised that all of his stories are not about the facilities at the schools.

He again mentioned the K-12 Business Solutions report, and again was deceptive. That report was an accounting of the projected costs for all facilities at the school, including the 700 Thousand dollars that will be needed for the athletic facilities over the next ten years. Culp wrote “Through this extensive research, we learned the yearly costs to maintain and upgrade our current infrastructure and classrooms will continue to rise and are not going away.” No – the report looked at all of the facilities at the school, including athletics, vans, and snowplows. It didn’t focus on costs of classrooms. There is no way to cleanly break out costs for classrooms, or contrast those costs with replacement construction, from the data in the report.

Culp wrote, “Ensuring our students have access to a modern learning environment, similar to the environments they will encounter in today’s colleges and the work force, is vital to their success.” While this is true of the curriculum inside classrooms, and the technology, I’m having trouble understanding how the interior of a classroom affects students. Sure, they need roofs that don’t leak, and warm rooms in the winter (something that not all schools in our country can expect, to out national shame). Grandview has good classrooms, and the latest tech (all students have laptops). Is Culp saying that shiny new buildings are needed for student success?

Culp ends with “Please know that we are only in the assessment phase of our K-12 facilities planning process; thus, no plans or discussions about our facilities have yet taken place.” Right. No discussion – except the board was holding meetings in May 2015 in which they said, “80‐90 years ago the people of Grandview invested in school buildings and infrastructure; it’s our turn now.”, and “Feeling of MORAL IMPERATIVE to do something”. That wasn’t discussion? More deception from Culp.

Watching the board group

The school board is obviously focusing all of its effort on getting new school buildings built. They have empaneled a task force that is supposedly looking at “all the options”, but are probably really just looking at how to get the levies passed that will be needed for the new construction. I don’t know what that task force is doing though, I asked to attend meetings, but the board has banned public attendance at the task force meetings.

The board will no doubt be holding multiple board meetings to make further plans for their new buildings, and because they have as many or more special meetings in the morning that are attended by no parents or press, they might as well be private meeting too. They are required to record meeting notes, but the records for those special meeting are sometimes no more than a couple lines for hours of discussion.

I am not against progress, I don’t have any attachment to the old school buildings. I do have major problems when a public body intentionally deceives the public and uses fraud to waste the taxpayers money. I’m hoping there are others like me in Grandview Heights.

I’d like to form a group, call us “Watching the Grandview School Board”. Our task would be simply to attend board meetings, and record what is said (all board meetings are open to the public by law).

There are too many of these board meeting being held for me to attend them all by myself. If we could get a group together that can attend as many as possible, we can improve the transparency and accountability of the Grandview school board – something that has been very much lacking in recent years.

Want to help? Can you attend a board meeting and set up a camera? Or if that is too much, simply attend and take detailed notes.

If you are interested, use the contact form on the “About” page. Thanks!

Mayor responds to complaints from The Lorax

Published March 25, 2016 by justicewg
Lorax on Flickr

CC Broken Simulacra on Flickr

Mayor DeGraw posted a second message on the Grandview city blog about the removal of trees from the Northwest Boulevard and First intersection. The first message, posted a week before, attempted to explain the reason the city has been working to re-do the trafic pattern for that area, and why the trees must be removed. This week’s post reported that a couple of additional trees would be cut down due to safety concerns.

 

Ribbons didn’t save the trees

I gave a short report on the kerfuffle over the trees in a post last August. A protest lead by (at the time former, now current) city council member Steve Reynolds complained about the cutting of trees for this project, even placing blue ribbons around the trees (which the city removed the next day). The protest didn’t save the trees, but they did point out that there was not enough meetings being held to take comments from the community, and the additional meetings produced a modified plan that saved some of the trees.

A long planning process

The first blog post by the Mayor was a comprehensive accounting of the entire process that lead to the tree cutting on NW Blvd., please read that post for all the good info on the history of the planning that has been done around the Grandview Yard project. Worth your time!

Also, read the Character Framework for Community Investment,(Pdf) a 2013 planning document that was produced by an outside consultant. Five focus group meetings were held that looked at the direction the city could move in the years ahead, knowing the G.Y. would dominate the planning process. It is a good doc that covers some basic info on traffic flow and potential upgrades to the city.

The cars must flow

The biggest reason that the city is remodeling the NW Blvd intersections is to improve traffic flow into and out of the Yard. I think there will be bumper to bumper traffic jams when the 3000 employees at the Nationwide campus (plus other businesses inside G.Y.) are all driving to work in the morning and going home in the evening. The entrances on Third and Goodale are supposed to handle the majority of the flow, but that will be primarily traffic from 315 and areas to the east. I expect that will be how most employees enter at first, but they will quickly find houses to live in the near area. The new employees living inside Grandview and U.A. will be trying to enter from the west side of the Yard, and NW Blvd is the major route. Some will use First Ave too, there was talk about modifications to the intersection at First and Oxley to prevent this, but I don’t know where that is in the current plans.

Back in the dark ages before 315 was upgraded into a freeway, NW Blvd was the standard route for anyone living in the U.A and further north to get to downtown. It was choked with traffic, even after they banned all parking during rush hours and turned it into a four lane throughway. I can see it returning to that state if the traffic into G. Y. gets bad, which will be difficult for the residents who depend on those parking spots. This temporary loss of parking on NW Blvd is a sign of things to come.

Walkable – to what?

A part of the planning process for the Yard was figuring out how to connect it to the rest of the city. We have the Arena District downtown as a stark warning of how development can be localized, leading to choking businesses outside the new development area. There was much talk about how the Arena would bring up all of downtown, but it turned out to be the vampire that sucked the life out of the City Center mall.

The intersection of NW Blvd and First is also being remodeled so that it can be an extension of the walkways already completed that lead into the center of the Yard. Hopefully there will be some people that will walk from the Yard to the strip of businesses on First across from the park. I can’t imagine anyone walking further up the hill to the Grandview Ave shopping area – Americans just don’t like to walk that far.

Here is a possible scenario for the future, one that I have not heard mentioned and is not in any planning document.

The school board has been making lots of warning signals that they want to build new schools. A panel to review the school physical facilities has been created, an outside firm is working on recommendations, which I’m sure will somehow align closely with the already stated wants of the board, which has paid the consultant generously.

Stevenson school will no doubt be pointed out as a “decrepit building” that needs replaced. Nothing wrong with it right now, but I’m sure a 90 year old building can be declared shockingly outdated and hindering the education of our children, if the board is in the mood to get on the gravy train and build schools. Closing Stevenson and building a massive new building that included other grades can be an expected path for the school board.

Wouldn’t it be just an amazing coincidence if the board wanted to close Stevenson and build an elementary building somewhere else, and then the old Stevenson building became the perfect place to extend the retail shopping area on First? “The Shops in Stevenson” has a catchy name.

Mayor to hold “Community Conversations” meetings

Mayor DeGraw has announced meetings at the shelter house at Wyman Woods on April 12 at 6:00 p.m. and again Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 a.m, so he can answer questions from the community about current and planned city projects, and discuss community issues.

North Face wearing corporate sheep

Published March 19, 2016 by justicewg

NF jacket droneI occasionally get comments on my posts that sting a bit, this one from a post about the Virtual Golf place on Third has sunk my battleship.

__________

How snooty is this blogger? The separation of Grandview height/ the said area is petty as well, the person who wrote it. Very little about the businesses and more about classist inorance that keeps real people from moving to ” Better than everybody Grandview” Funny how ignorance and pettiness rule the so called upper class. I bet you wear a black north face jacket identical to every other lame corporate sheep that floods the streets of your separatist suburb. This is why u are an almost journalist ( blogger). Stick to the subject of your article moron. I’m sure the golfing is fine but you are likely a terrible person who no cares to lists complain in real life. Your the one livng in a virtual world where u think someone cares.

_____________

Zing! I’ll have to wash the tears off my North Face jacket, good thing I have the DryVent™ technology so they bounce off and don’t get my wool wet. Ah well – back to writing stories about how we have a superior suburb that we need to defend from the Hoi polloi that want to invade our sacred town.

Signs of the times

Published March 11, 2016 by justicewg

No Urlin sleddingThis “No Sled Riding” sign in front of the Summit Chase condos has been successful in keeping the snow away from the hill this winter. Seems to have worked too well, it kept all the snow away from the city all winter. I can’t recall another when it was not possible to sled.

work at home scam

A work from home scam sign on Goodale Ave. near Urlin. I can’t believe there are people who still fall for this. Also can’t believe that this location is where people who want a work at home job are living, if you can afford to live in this neighborhood, you will not be getting a job from signs on the side of the road.

Orange Barrel NWbvOrange barrels have turned the section of NW Boulevard from First to Goodale into a eye-blasting orange overdose. Sorry about loosing all those parking spots, and the trees that need to be removed for the street construction are on the way to the toothpick factory. Progress! Get out of the way, or you will find an orange barrel placed over your head.

levy sign city hall

I noted in a previous story that there were no yard signs for the Issue 3 renewal on Grandview Ave. near the city hall. I found one, and (record needle scratch) what the heck is that behind it?

 

central committee

Not going to get a free mention of your name from me, Ms. Duvghjvd

Grandview has been infected by a case of gigantic sign syndrome! Symptoms are an inflated sense of self importance, and signs in your front lawn that exceed the rules for size set by city ordinance. Expect a 15 foot tall police officer to be arriving soon with a door sized ticket to present to this Gulliver.

(Later) Ms. Duvghjvd did not get elected, maybe she should have used a 100 foot tall sign?

Khouzam agrees that taking discarded stuff from the alley is legal

Published March 6, 2016 by justicewg

Xmas TrashmanI wanted to have a definitive answer on the issue of taking discarded stuff from the alley. Officer Cohill was not really clear on how this works as far as ownership of discards and what the police would do when they saw a resident taking something from the alley. The matter was referred to City Attorney Khouzam, and she gave me the final word on how the matter will be dealt with in Grandview.

 

Mr. Wagner:

The police department forwarded me your inquiry regarding the city’s trash removal ordinances, and the regulation to determine when permits should be issued.  That regulation was to permit the city to ensure safety and reduce theft/unauthorized removal of materials, particularly at a time when metals were being stolen and turned in to fabricators and recyclers for cash. 

The City’s ordinances provide for authorized removal by city personnel of items placed in collection bins or bags, or otherwise bundled and left in the right of way where bins and bags are placed.  As indicated by the year of passage and the reference in the first line, Codified Ordinance 955.06 was intended to prohibit hauling companies from engaging in the business of collecting, hauling or transporting waste (i.e., doing so for a fee), since the city provides this service at no additional charge to residents.  The ordinance addresses persons in the business of” performing such services.  This provision should not be read as an invitation to trespass onto residents’ private property.  When in doubt, it is recommended that a homeowner be asked whether he/she actually intended for item(s) left at the curb to be repurposed by others.

Taking your example, if a neighbor leaves a picture frame or a piece of furniture on the right of way, a person not “in the business” of waste removal can take what is in the right of way, other than bins, bags, or bundles (city has exclusive province to do this).  If the person removing the frame or furniture happens to be driving a truck that would suggest he or she is in the business of hauling, then the city has the ability to act on this accordingly.  Of course, as you know, the city provides an annual free hauling week in approximately mid-May, when it removes far more than bins, bags, or bundles. 

The city has not initiated criminal actions against residents who remove items left at the curb by homeowners.  However, the city has had occasion to intercept unauthorized persons attempting to remove property from lawns, property that was not intended for discard or removal, or persons with trucks full of “salvaged” goods.  As a result of the police department’s and our residents’ vigilance in that respect, theft and unauthorized removal have declined. 

Thank you for your inquiry, and I trust this will address your concern.

Joëlle Khouzam, City Attorney

Ms Khouzam;

Thanks for the answers to my questions about removal of materials from alleys set out for the trash.

The one questions I would like clarified is the distinction you made between picking up material with a truck, and the possible use of a car or van. If I saw a large set of shelves set out by my neighbors down the street, I would not have the strength to carry it back to my house, so I would want to use my van to transport it.

You said that “If the person removing the frame or furniture happens to be driving a truck that would suggest he or she is in the business of hauling, then the city has the ability to act on this accordingly.”

Would the use of my van also be considered a business vehicle, and then would be used to charge me with a violation of Ordinance 955.06? Is the kind of vehicle used while moving items from the alley what defines a violation of the law?

Or is it the stated use of the items that are removed? If I say to any police officer who stopped me. “I am removing this item for my own personal use, and have no business or financial gain in taking it, I’m
doing it for my hobby”.

Is a statement of non-commercial use all that is needed to remain in compliance with Ordinance 955.06? – JW

I used the word “truck” by way of illustration.  If a police officer has reason to believe a business is being conducted by someone picking up curb items, whether the person is driving a truck, car, or SUV, I am confident he or she will intelligently inquire and discern whether the person is just repurposing shelves for their own use or if it’s someone who’s in it for commercial gain.  The person’s intent, not type of vehicle, governs whether further action is warranted.

Just for peace of mind, please know that our officers do not make a practice of questioning residents who stop when a neighbor has set out furniture or other items on the curb.  The matters that have resulted in charges typically involve people who are hauling anything and everything left outside, even when it’s not in the right of way and particularly metal items.

Joëlle Khouzam

Thanks to City Attorney Khouzam for the definitive word on the issue. I’m sure that most Grandview residents don’t really care about the rules and will continue to pick up the neighbor’s picture frame from the alley without knowing anything about the laws. Those who care enough to look into it will now know that you can’t get a ticket in the unlikely event a cop was watching you in your alley.

Previously –

The standard arguments against taking stuff from alleys

Who owns the trash in alleys?

My email policy (and expectations for public officials)

Published March 5, 2016 by justicewg

I use email to communicate with public office holders here in Grandview. Some of them consider themselves to be great conversationalists and prefer to chat on the phone, if other people want that, fine. I don’t want an off the record chat, I want everything I say, and the public official says, to be on the record. That means email. If you are old school, paper works too.

I don’t expect immediate answers to my email, a week is fine for most questions. There are some who keep their email pinging on their cell phones and are used to snapping back with terse replies within minutes of receiving an email, I DON”T want that sort of answer.

I expect public official to carefully read all of my email message, then take the time to answer my questions fully, with supporting documents if needed. Completeness is much better than speed.

If you are a public official and you have some sort of disability that prevents you from typing, I am willing to accommodate.

Reasons for my expectations

Grandview’s elected officials have been selected by the community to be the representatives of the people, and to communicate the policies of the government bodies to which they belong. That is the job, and all officials are being paid by the taxpayers to do that job.

There are some officials in Grandview who think that they only have to do the “fun stuff”, allocating the money and making the rules, and they can blow off the emails from constituents because it is too hard, or they don’t have time. I don’t think those excuses will work for a private sector job, and it is worse to do this while on the public payroll. There is a general disdain for the government by large parts of the public right now, and officials who fail to answer emails are prime examples of why that disdain is held by so many. Officials who crow about how good this city is, while actively making it a worse place by trashing emails, are the reason there is so much cynicism about government.

That goes for public officials who answer emails that ask for detailed replies with single sentences too. We have some childish representatives who think it is cute to reply with a single word (most often “no”). If you are going to reply with snark, keep it to yourself, you are shaming the office you hold by being churlish.

Administrators on the public payroll

Grandview administrators should be responsive to email from the public too. We pay the top people at the school and in the city administration excellent wages, and expect them to be responsive to questions. That is the job they were hired to do.

There is a lot of talk in this city about how it is a small town without the bureaucratic fat that allows top officials to wall themselves off from the people who pay the bills. Yet there are some officials who think they are special, and they don’t have to answer email. These people are what is wrong with the city, and they should be removed from office.

Almost stealth campaign for city levy renewal

Published March 3, 2016 by justicewg
Grandview ave no levy signs

Photo fun, count the number of levy support yard signs on this strip of Grandview Ave. right across from the city hall*.

You would not be alone in being surprised by the city tax issue on the March 15th ballot. The city has gone low key, almost stealth, in the hopes of another easy passage of property-tax.

Issue 3 is a renewal of the city’s four-year, 7.5-mill property-tax levy. The city says it is needed for general funds, as well as for some street improvements. I don’t think this tax money has anything to do with the city streets and utilities going into the Grandview Yard development, those were supposed to be paid with the TIF money that targets taxes from that development directly into the project’s public costs.

There may be some additional costs coming out of the Yard that needs regular city funds – additional police and firemen who will now be in charge of serving this part of the city. I have not heard any numbers from the city on how the development has increased personnel, but it is a sure thing.

There are a few yard signs posted around the city to promote the levy. I think you can spot the city council members homes by the occurrence of a sign on a front yard.

Will the Gladman income tax relief cause problems with this levy?

One of the issues that caused conflict on the council last year was the attempt by Mr Gladman to give 100% tax relief to all residents who work outside the city. While the income tax paid by Columbus workers is similar to Grandview’s, it leaves most workers with an additional tax payment to RITA, his plan cut this tax, while taking $250K away from the city. Some council members thought it was a poorly timed issue, this levy renewal was in the planning  stage and it didn’t make the city look consistent by asking for a renewal at the same time it was looking to cut taxes.

If you are thinking about voting against this levy, you have a good reason to hit the no button, provided by a council member.

Does the school board support the city?

The standard way the school board and the city council work is to support each other when they ask for a levy. Apparently the board is asleep – or doesn’t care – about the city levy this time. There is nothing in the school website about the levy, not a word in support of the city in the “Superintendent Speaks” published Feb 24th. Nothing was emailed home with the parents. Unless “Meet Me in St. Louis” is a secret code for “vote for the levy”, the school cares more about the spring play.

If you go by the absence of yard signs in front of the board members homes that I pass on the way around town, you would have to guess they don’t support the city. I hope the council members remember this the next time the school board is asking for more money.

History lesson

There was another Issue 3 on the ballot back in the spring of 2009, it was also a renewal that had a low key campaign, and passed by 773 yes, 125 no. Given that the economy was in the crapper that year with no improvement in sight, I was surprised by the numbers. I guess Grandview residents are happy to vote for something that is not an increase (and almost always vote for big increases too).

It’s like I’m shouting at clouds when I say this, but the way to keep taxes low and the  city representatives on their toes is to say NO every once in a while. Negotiation 101 – suckers take the first offer.

Reynolds flips on Issue 3

A story in the D says that councilman Reynolds has changed his mind and is now against the renewal issue 3. The city has an $8.4 million carryover in its budget from last year, and Reynolds thinks the tax is not needed. Mayor Ray DeGraw is quoted saying “We don’t have surplus money,” and that every dollar in the issue three is needed for long delayed maintenance and buildings.

There is almost no chance that issue three will fail, so it is an odd position for Reynolds to take. Anti-tax is a popular position though. Reynolds said in the article that he will not be campaigning to vote no, but he apparently thought it was a good thing to send an email to the news media announcing his flip during the week before the voting.

Election results

Preliminary vote – 2087 for the Issue 3, and 741 no. This wasn’t the quite the 80% yes vote of 2009, but 73% is close enough to think that any opposition expressed by a council member had little effect.

*Trick question! There are no signs.