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All posts for the month July, 2016

Did the UA recall kill the Grandview council vote on Wallace Gardens?

Published July 27, 2016 by justicewg

wallace gardensThe same day Grandview city council voted in favor of beer at the Ox Roast, they spent a lot of time in discussion of the improvements that were planned for Wallace Gardens. Council voted 5 to 2 to put the plans back on the shelf (Panzera and Papineau voted against). The $250K gift of money to help the city pay for the upgrades may not be available if the plans get re-introduced in the future.

At first I read this as a simple admission that council had let “free money” take them into an additional spending path that seemed good but also required spending two-thirds of the cost of the garden improvements from the city purse. The council acted as though the full $750K project was a unit that couldn’t be broken down into smaller chunks. After talking to a parks committee member I found that there was no requirement for the city to match spending in any way, they could have taken the grant and built as much as the money provided.

There is some logic to “if you are doing an upgrade, do it all at once”, so the disruption happens one time. But if holding out for the future means losing the grant, did that really make sense?

I’m wondering if the UA recall has the council on edge, rethinking all spending and obsessing over what might get them in trouble with the voters in Grandview? Park spending is always on the optional list, when city utilities and streets still need work.

The Wallace gardens project was always lacking a clear mandate from the voters. No group that I know asked for the upgrade. I’m guessing that if you went by number of visitors, the gardens have the least use of any park.

When I had my plot of land at Wallace, I sometimes found produce going missing while I was away, and suspected there are people who graze the gardens for free food. An upgrade that would bring more visitors to the park that don’t have a plot is asking for trouble – I would expect surveillance cameras would be needed. The upgrade is not being pushed by the present users, and might be opposed (I’m not aware of any garden user organization).*

If this new caution with the checkbook is caused by the UA recall, I have to say – good. Policy should never be driven by “free” money, the needs and stated wishes of the residents of the city should be the overwhelming factor in any city council – or school board – decision.

* I talked to some of the gardeners at Wallace, they didn’t have any unified opinion of the updates at the park. One of them said he has found people walking through the gardens in the past with shopping bags, picking whatever they wanted. When confronted, they said “this is a community garden – doesn’t that mean community food?

Upper Arlington City Council recall election

Published July 21, 2016 by justicewg

Yes for UAThe recall election going on in Upper Arlington is off topic for this blog, but it is instructive to learn how a city council can get in big trouble with the voters when it doesn’t communicate well, and engage the citizens in the process of decision making.

Recall election are rare

In a UA News article, Jeff Mackey, manager of the operations section of the Franklin County Board of Elections, is quoted saying that recall elections require signatures totaling 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the last municipal election, a tough figure to reach. “The election has to happen within 30 to 40 days of the petition being found valid,” he said. “That would be quite a feat. We haven’t had one of those around here for some time.”

Northam Park controversy

I don’t know anyone involved, so I am reading the net to learn about the dispute. The best summary I can give is that U.A. residents are upset over the use of tax money to renovate a city park, they are accusing council members of acting in bad faith, and have convinced three thousand voters to sign a petition to recall the election of four council members. The council members claim they did signal they were going to spend money on Northam Park when a tax passed in 2014, raising the city income tax to 2.5 percent and generating an extra $3 million. The opponents of this spending say the council did not specify the park in pre-election statements, and that the process that resulted in the park renovation was opaque to the taxpayers.

Read the story from the recall website

The people who are asking for the recall have a website, called UA for Accountability. It has a long list of complaints about the city council, and backs them up with documentation. For instance, the city said before the tax vote:

“By law, 100 percent of the revenue generated – approximately $3.5 million annually – will be dedicated to improving our roads, curbs and gutters, bridges and underground water and sewer lines.”

That was in the City of UA flyer, and the website links to a copy (one suggestion to the pro-recall people running the website, links to JPGs would be better that PDF files). Understandable why the anti- council group feels deceived. Lots more complaints and links to backup documents at the website.

The city council empaneled the standard “Task force to look at city infrastructure”, who were “independent” but somehow gave the council the results that were just what it wanted – a tax increase. Something for the Grandview school board to think about, Potemkin task forces don’t always impress people.

She is tired

One of the council members, President Deborah Johnson , is quoted saying that “she is tired of suggestions that council is hiding something”. Quick PR tip for Ms Johnson – when you say you are tired of listening to the voters, the voters are quite justified in saying they are tired of hearing you speak from the position on council, and are doing you a favor by allowing you to step down and rest your ears.

Results of voting, Aug. 23, 2016

(8PM) Absentee Voting is extremely close! (9:30 PM) Those voting no on the recall are up anywhere from 62% to 57% in favor of keeping the council (each member had a separate vote).

The ethics of alcohol and money

Published July 1, 2016 by justicewg

red beer cups

(Addition on Saturday July 16 – the city council will be voting Monday July 18 on the resolution to allow beer sales at the Ox Roast. If you have an opinion, this is the time to send it to the council members. An additional section has been added to the end of this post with responses from the chair of the Rec committee Panzera, and President Greta Kearns.)

(After the vote) Council unanimously voted to allow beer sales during the Ox Roast. Sales and consumption will be limited to a specific area, and only after 5PM.

I read in the TVN that the Grandview Heights Bobcat Boosters are trying to get permission from the city to sell alcohol at the Ox Roast. There has never been beer sales in the past, and although there is small stakes poker being played in a tent to raise money, this marks a major new step in flirting with vices for the school group.

I can’t predict how this request will be treated by the city council – if we go by the recent addition of beer sales to the Hop event on Grandview Ave, and sales at the bike race, I’m guessing it passes. Still, this is for the most part a school event, and the ethics of “what will the kids think” might give some council member pause. There are some questions that should be answered before the city adds to the list of alcohol sales events.

Where did this come from?

The Bobcat Boosters have been around for a long time, not sure but decades at least. In all that time, it must have come up in discussion before to add alcohol sales, it’s an obvious, sure fire money maker. Something changed that made it acceptable for beer sales to now be proposed to the city.

What changed? Was it seeing other groups like the Hop start selling, and that made the Boosters feel like they were missing out? St. Christopher parish festival has been selling beer for many years, why didn’t that event cause the Boosters to ask for permission?

Has there been a shift in public perception for alcohol sales? Is it now OK to bring beer into an event that has to be seen as more of a school related event than any other festival or celebration in the city?

The root of all beer

The story in the TVN said “the Boosters netted about $11,000 from the Ox Roast, which “isn’t as much as we would like” given the number of man-hours that Boosters and other volunteers put in to set up and operate the festival”. Is there an expectation for the amount of money that volunteers should be able to raise, and if less that that expectation is raised, is the event to be judged a failure? Are volunteers wasting their time if they don’t raise a certain number of dollars?

Booster pres Jump is quoted saying “We think we might be able to double our proceeds if we had beer sales.” Is the amount of money that alcohol might add a vital part of the ethics of the question? What if the beer sales only added 10% to the profits from the roast, would that change the perception of the change in policy? Will the Boosters keep track of the money made from the beer sales, and do they have any proposal to stop the sales if they don’t make enough money? What would that number be?

Think of the kiddley divey doos

There is no getting around it – a community that tells its children that alcohol is dangerous, but then brings it into a school event, is hypocritical. We spend most of our lives being hypocritical in front of our kids, like when we break the speeding laws while lecturing teenagers about their use of cars. We ask kids to be careful with their money, while we rack up the credit card debt for a fun lifestyle. We are all hypocrites, to some degree. The question is, what degree do you feel that selling beer at a school event rates?

One of the best answers to this question of how we can justify bringing alcohol around the kids is the standard “we are teaching them how to have a good relationship with alcohol”. There will probably be very few sloppy drunks at the Ox roast, so this can be a valid argument.

Here is a counter argument – we know that beer sales could make a lot of money for the boosters, but because we think it is a poor precedent, we will decide to forgo that money for the sake of teaching the kids that alcohol should not be used at school events. We don’t make the sales, because we want to teach that money is not the most important thing.

Which one of the preceding two arguments would teach the best lesson to the kids?

Where does that slope lead?

If the boosters bring alcohol to the Ox roast, it sets a precedent . What school event will be next? Will we hear the chant of “beer here!” in the stands at football games? What would the reasoning be for saying that alcohol shouldn’t be allowed at school sports events, when the Ox Roast is allowed? After all, the money raised by selling beer in the stands will help the school. If you are against it, are you against helping the kids?

How about wine sales at school plays and musicals? As long as a strict limit is enforced, wouldn’t that help teach the kids to have a good relationship with alcohol? And think of the money!

The school buildings sit idle most evenings. Think of the potential money raised by booking bands, and installing bars. Sure, you might have to throw some left over drunks out the next morning, but think of the profits!

Sorry. That last one was a little over the top. Might be the scotch speaking. Here is a quote from 1577 – It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it relisheth the harte, it lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the hydropsie, it repelleth gravel . . . and trulie it is a sovereigne liquor if it be orderlie taken”.

And it makes money, too.

(addendum)

I was a little silly in my examples above, the school wouldn’t allow sales of alcohol on its property. I guess. For an example of a possible slip down the slope, suppose if the Boosters added another event like the mulch sale – only this would be a “fine wine” event, held in cooperation with a wine store. Adult booster members would go door to door, asking residents to buy wines, and some of the profits would go to the school. I think this would be legal, and it would be profitable – as long as the group is OK with being associated with alcohol sales.

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