Grandview City

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Are Grandview Heights parents revolting?

Published May 25, 2020 by justicewg

Photos taken at Pierce Field, Buck Park, and Wyman Woods, at the end of a Memorial Day weekend.

Pierce Field

Somebody got tired of the closed playground equipment, fenced off since March 24 as a response to the Covid-19, and tore down the plastic fencing that was wrapped around the swings and slides. Although there was an incident with some fencing being pulled down weeks ago at night by kids, this looks more like exasperated parents who decided to revolt and retake the playground equipment.

There was rumor of a sign that had been left at Pierce field, something with the message “Open our playgrounds or give us back our taxes”, but I could find no evidence (see below) of this sign. Three parks with similar ripped fences does point to some sort of coordinated group.

In the big picture, I don’t see this as much to get upset about. I don’t want to see the children of our city getting sick, but the stats say most will recover with minor harm. At this point, it seems inevitable that the corona virus will burn through most kids.

I’m more worried that kids who play on equipment that has ripped down plastic fencing around it will be taught a very unsafe lesson – that orange plastic fence can be ignored. That sort of fence is standard for many construction areas. It will result in tragedy if kids tear down a construction fence and end up at the bottom of a trench.

(Edit) Found an example of the sign that was posted near the parks that had fences torn down.

Thanks to D’Kneel Richards on Facebook

What do you know about the park liberation group?

I have been asking the Grandview Hts police some questions about the torn down fences and the signs which were posted at multiple locations (three on the fence facing Marshals, the pool, maybe more). The cops are being very tight lipped – because they were ineffective in patrolling the parks? Or did they see the fences being torn down, and turned a blind eye?

Were you part of the group that posted the signs?

What is your reasoning for tearing down the playground fences? Why post the signs? Did you try to contact the Mayor or the council members, and ask them to open the parks? What did they say?

Are you a Grandview resident who was in the parks while the fences were torn down? What did you see? Did you report anything to the police?

Use the contact form on the About Watching Grandview page (linked at top) if you would like to be anonymous. The form will ask for an email address, you can enter a fake one.

Grandview Hts. police should set an example with PPE wear

Published April 21, 2020 by justicewg

I sent this email to Chief Starns last week. As of 4-21, he has not answered any of the points I made to encourage the Grandview police to be good examples for PPE use. I do know that the department continues to have a “do what you want” policy for the officers.

Chief Starns;

I learned this week from an email with officer Bruney that the Grandview police department has no policy on facemasks and other PPE, it is left to each officer’s discretion when to wear a mask.

I think this is a mistake.

First, although some officers might be diligent, and wear masks for any interaction with the public, some will not. I think this is too important for a “do what you feel like” policy.

COTA busses now have rules that require all riders to wear masks. The Governor has asked us all to wear masks. A number of business are now requiring masks. We are still on the rising part of the curve – this doesn’t look like a time to be allowing less use of PPE.

Second, if the use of PPE is voluntary, are officers not wearing masks inside the police station? If so, the entire department – and all of the families of the officers – are now one large pool of potential sharers of the virus. One child might get infected, then give it to the parent on the force. That officer then returns to the department, and can spread it inside the building (because officers don’t wear masks). The entire department may become sick at the same time. This would be catastrophic for the city of Grandview.

Third, police officers act as examples of good behavior for the community. When we see officers wearing a mask as they drive through town – a cloth mask would be OK – that encourages us all to continue to protect ourselves and our families. When we don’t see a mask on the police, it allows those who “don’t think the virus is real” or are just tired of the masks, to use the example of the officers to slack on protection.

We are not past this pandemic, and we all need to continue the safe practices that will bend the curve. I don’t think a “do what you want” policy is helping the community.

(Edit) Houston, Texas is the next large city to require masks for everyone in public areas.

The R’s are the expected group who are opposing masks, but the police unions also are saying they don’t want to wear masks. I just can’t understand how a group which is supposed to be about protecting the public are trying to endanger it, because they are inconvenienced by masks?

(More) This article in the Atlantic covers the reasons we should all be wearing masks. The most important quote:

Models show that if 80 percent of people wear masks that are 60 percent effective, easily achievable with cloth, we can get to an effective R0 of less than one. That’s enough to halt the spread of the disease. Many countries already have more than 80 percent of their population wearing masks in public, including Hong Kong, where most stores deny entry to unmasked customers, and the more than 30 countries that legally require masks in public spaces, such as Israel, Singapore, and the Czech Republic. Mask use in combination with physical distancing is even more powerful.

Read the story! The important fact is that a cloth mask can stop you from spreading the virus, when you are asymptomatic and don’t know you are infectious.

(4-27) Gov. DeWine will be opening offices and retail stores on May 4, with the following rules:

Beginning May 4, DeWine said office workplaces can reopen, along with manufacturing, distribution and construction services. All businesses must follow strict health protocols if they choose to reopen, including a “no mask, no work, no service, no exception” requirement for employees, clients and customers at all times.

The governor cares enough about saving lives that he will require face masks – but the Grandview city council doesn’t care enough about our police force, and the citizens they meet, to require masks on the police officers?

(5-6) Massachusetts’ Mandatory Mask Order is now in effect. Anyone found without a mask in public will face a $300 fine.

(5-27) Ohio governor DeWine says wearing a mask is ‘about loving your fellow human being’

(5-28) New York Gov. Cuomo signs executive order that allows store owners the right to ban any customer that enters without wearing a mask.

Don’t let corona virus slackers get away with endangering your health

Published April 13, 2020 by justicewg

corona virusWe are now a month into the Corona virus emergency in Ohio, and residents are chafing at the stay at home orders. I hear increasing numbers of people saying “We have done enough, time to go back to family gatherings (Easter was spent together for many families). Businesses want to re-open, people want to have gatherings in parks.

Until the curve is really flattened – with unambiguous, scientific data – now is not the time to slack on your personal protection. Even after the numbers of infections goes down, we will still need to take precautions. Continue to wear masks and gloves, continue to wash hands.

You might have friends and family who never really took the protections seriously, never wore masks, maybe they were courteous enough to stand at a proper distance, but took no other protective measures. I read that these people are now saying “I don’t know anyone personally who was sick, so why should we continue the PPE, it is too hard”.

Don’t let corona virus slackers get away with endangering your health, because they are “tired”, or think “It isn’t any worse than the flu”. They can live their lives as they wish – just don’t let then ruin yours. Don’t let them in your house. Don’t shake hands with them (you shouldn’t be shaking hands with anyone, for the extended future).

Don’t let them shame you with belittlement like “stop being so concerned, relax a little!”.

Now Is the Time to Overreact. If you spend more time taking protections now, when you might have been safe, you will loose – a little time. If you drop the PPE, forget to wash hands, allow friends in your home – you risk contracting a fatal disease. Maybe you are willing to take the risk, because you are young. Do you want to become the family member who sent Grandma to the hospital?

It will be warm, and springtime will inevitably drive us out of our homes. Be safe – go out to see the blooms – but continue to social distance, until the orders come to relax.

Comments from Visitors should not be limited to email

Published April 6, 2020 by justicewg

Council 6-5-17The following was an email sent to the city council before the April 6th council meeting. The Grandview school board has a similar new rule that restricts public comment to email, and I have a similar email ready to be sent to the board.

To the Grandview Hts. city council:

The city council normally has a “Comments from Visitors” segment at the beginning of each council meeting. Any member of the public used to have the right to speak live before the council at length. This was required in the Open Meeting laws of Ohio.

Due to the restrictions on public meetings during the Corvid-19 pandemic, the city council has restricted public comment to email, which must be received and pre-approved by the council. We don’t know if the council will read these emails – because the first meeting under these rules has yet to occur.

Following the law in SB 197

I believe the city council has made the wrong choice in restrictions to comments via email. I don’t think the restrictions are following the laws, as spelled out in SB 197. The following is a quote from that law.

From SB 197
(C) When members of a public body conduct a hearing by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology, the public body must establish a means, through the use of electronic equipment that is widely available to the general public, to converse with witnesses, and to receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.
End SB 197.

The important words in that law are “to converse with witnesses”. The word converse implies a back and forth, live comment from the public. An email is not a conversation, it is a one way text.

Residents could have been allowed into video conferences

The city council could have allowed live comments during council meetings. The online video conferences that is used instead of in person meetings allows additional attendees to hold the floor, with permission, and speak live before the council, and hold a live conversation. That option was not chosen by the city council.

There is no additional danger from residents who might try to violate the rules for speakers before the city council during an online conference. If anything, the council has even greater control of speakers, because they can be rejected from the meeting with a simple button press.

The council should change policy and start allowing live conversations online at the next council video meeting.

The emails from residents might be censored before meetings

The council has rules in place that restrict the words that may be used during live comments at council meetings. I’m afraid that the temptation will be to pre-screened emails that are to be entered into the public record, and reject whole emails that only contain certain objectionable words.

I have heard residents speak before the council in the past, and use strong words. The president has a gavel to restrict the use of specific words during live meetings, but the general comments of the speaker are still heard by the council. If the council can pre-screen emails and reject some for strong language, that person has been censored, and loses the right to be heard.

And the word censored is correct, because it will be an action taken by a governmental body. F*** that.

Restrictions on speech feed into general paranoia during the pandemic

One of the more common reactions to the restrictions that have been placed on the public is to accuse the governments of using a national emergency to take away freedoms – and imply that those freedoms will never be returned.

The council could have followed a less restrictive method to allow public comment. The law, as written in SB 197, says that the meetings of public bodies may be held online until December of 2020. This is not a minor, temporary change in council policy, if it will be taking away the right to be heard live before the council for 8 months. This is a major restriction.

Restrictions on “Comments from Visitors” that will now only allow emails are bad policy. Given that the Grandview council can streamline meetings by cutting out comments that might go at length and take up a lot of time, the council will have a big temptation to restrict comments from the public in the future. I have no faith the council will return to live comments, in person, in the future.

The council should re-think policy and start allowing live conversations at the next council meeting.

 

Grandview BOH March Meeting on YT

Published March 31, 2020 by justicewg

An interesting video conferencing meeting was posted to YT on 3-30-20 by the Grandview Hts. Board of health. They are using a video conference service called Cisco Webex. There were some tech glitches, the audio disappeared for a while, some of the participants had no cameras or turned them off, which made it difficult to follow who was speaking.

Of note – at 50:45, a question was asked about the length of the stay at home orders. The representative from the Franklin Co. BoH estimated the peak of this wave of Covid 19 in our area is at least 7 weeks away. They discussed how traumatic it will be for the community to be in isolation for another two months, and the mental health issues that will be showing up. The number of deaths in places like NYC have just been reports on the TV for most people (unless you have relatives there). When the number of deaths spike here on our streets in a couple of weeks, it will be a trauma that hits us hard.

A question was asked about the number of Covid 19 cases in Grandview, the FC representative said those numbers can’t be released because of HIPPA concerns.

Suggestions for anyone who is using a video conference camera for meetings, as many now use for work.

Stop fiddling with the camera! Set it pointing directly at your face at the same height as your head. Then leave it alone. Have a light in front of you somewhere, so your face is brighter than the background. Please don’t fiddle with your hair or clothing, it drags the attention away from the current speaker.

Use a headset. We don’t want to hear your kids screeching in the background. If you are not a person who uses your hands while speaking, hold a hand up to your shoulder while speaking, so we know who currently has the floor at a glance.

Ways the city can continue live conversations with council visitors during the Covid emergency

Published March 30, 2020 by justicewg

council on YTThe city of Grandview Heights has published new rules for public participation during all city meetings (see quote from the email at bottom). All residents are now directed to watch live streams of the meetings on YouTube, and stay out of city hall. The result of this new policy will be to end the “comments from visitors” section of all meetings, along with important live testimony during BZA and other hearings. The city claims it is following new emergency rules from the State that allow meetings to be conducted online without visitors. I think the city is failing to follow the new directives properly, and has not given enough thought to simple measures that would both allow live public comment, and protect the council from exposure to Coronavirus.

SB 197 passed to allow emergency rule change

The Ohio Senate passed new rules that allow public bodies in Ohio to conduct official meetings online, or with no visitors but live steamed to online services. The full bill has extensive rules for how this online meetings should be held, this short section is the most important for understanding the new policy (see below for comment on the quality of the video and audio of council meetings).

From SB 197
(C) When members of a public body conduct a hearing by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology, the public body must establish a means, through the use of electronic equipment that is widely available to the general public, to converse with witnesses, and to receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.

Grandview city council has said in the past that they want emails sent to council members before meetings to substitute for live attendance and conversation with the public. The new rules clearly say “to converse with witnesses”, which means live back and forth talking at minimum. The city should have policy for sharing documents from residents during meetings, and physical evidence – and I have read no provisions for doing this during council meetings.

In my emails with the council, I have been told by Vice Pres. Smith that he interprets the above as only applying to hearings like the BZA. But – the city has not made rules for how this conversation with witnesses will be done. After they figure out how to allow testimony during hearings, what prevents them from using the same method for allowing conversations at all meetings?

If the council tries to use a “this is temporary!” dodge to the issue, please read SB 197. It allows these new rules to extend until December 2020. New policy that excludes the public from meetings is not “temporary” when it lasts all year long.

How the council is currently holding meetings.

The city is currently livestreaming meetings on YouTube. The audio quality is abysmal, the fixed wide angle camera doesn’t allow us to perceive who is speaking most of the time, unless the speaker is waving their hands. SB 197 requires high quality audio and video.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzR6z47-hYUc4kvJV3P0GUA

From SB 197
The public body shall ensure that the public can observe and hear the discussions and deliberations of all the members of the public body, whether the member is participating in person or electronically.

The quality of the video and audio so far fail to comply with SB 197. The city should be hiring a camera operator to follow the speakers during meetings, and ensure clean and clear audio is recorded. This is not some magic that requires special skills – the school board has done it since Aug, 2019, and is supposed to have a camera operator recording meetings after April this year. You could hire a teenager with the skills needed for cheap.

When we watch the council we can see they have spaced out the seating, and removed most of the visitor chairs. Good – but they are still passing paperwork between each other with no gloves, they pass within inches of each other while moving around the room. If you made a drinking game out of counting the number of times they touched their faces, you would not survive (but the alcohol you spill might protect you from viruses).

Just let the visitor in the room to speak, then leave

My first suggestion for allowing conversations with the public during meetings is the simplest. Ask those who wish to speak before the council to wait outside the building. Provide them with a means of requesting to speak (someone goes outside and makes a list). When the council gets to the “hearing from visitors” section of the meeting, allow each individual person to enter the room and speak. If the council is really worried about infections, it can provide gloves and a mask for each visitor. When the conversation is over, the speaker leaves.

Every council person already has to go out in public, to shop for food, to see family members. I don’t think allowing a few people to briefly enter the council chambers is going to perceptibly increase the danger to the council.

The window option

I think the above solution is the best, but if the paranoia of the council will not allow people in the room, visitors could stand outside the chambers and speak to council. Give them a phone number to call, place the answering phone in the center of the room set to speakerphone, with the volume all the way up. Each speaker stands outside the left window, and council members face the speaker. After the speaker finishes they can walk away and watch the streaming YouTube video of the meeting on their phone. This would have zero increase to the dangers of infection for both speakers and council.

Video conferencing options

There is no reason the council has to meet in person, as I read the new rules they can meet via video conferencing like Zoom. Everyone just stays home, visitors can watch the Zoom conference, the owner of the Zoom conference has controls that allow individual participants to have permission to speak. Allow residents to join in the conference and take the floor for five minutes.

This could also be done via Google Hangouts for free, as long as the participants are limited to 25. This would be well within the usual number of participants at council meetings.

The city just hired a IT expert who is supposed to be knowledgeable about these things, here is where he can earn his salary. Why do I have to do this work?

The Mayor and council are disappointing

We have been watching this pandemic approaching for two months, and the rules that the Mayor and council have enacted do not show that they have any respect for the preservation of live conversations with the residents of Grandview Heights.

I fully expect the Grandview school board to use this emergency to shut the meeting doors firmly closed, and place guards outside with orders to use fire hoses on anyone who attempts to enter. As of now, the board has been silent on rules – because informing the public is lowest on their list.

I don’t think this failure would have happened under Ray Degraw. This is another disappointment from Mayor Kearns.

(Edit) The council sent out new rules banning all public attendance at meetings. The council will now read the title of emails sent to the “all” address, during meetings, but not the body of the email. They say the text will be added to the official record – which will never be read by the public here in Grandview. This is not the best way to continue conversation with the citizens, and as I read the new laws, fails to be in compliance. An email sent to City attorney Khouzam asking for her legal opinion has not been answered.

(Later) I have to give credit where it is due – the Grandview Hts. School board has better public comment policy than the city council. On April 8, 2020, at 7 p.m, the board will have a Zoom conference (link to be posted on the school website), and they say they will still allow public comment via participating in the zoom room.

(later) The above was info that was briefly posted by the school, they now say they will hold a closed video conference that can only be viewed on YT. Like the city, public comments must be sent via email. The board claims “comments will be read into the public record and attached to the meeting minutes.” I doubt they will be reading anything aloud they don’t agree with.

City council, you can’t keep up with the school board in allowing live public comment? Shameful. (edit) Shame on both the city and school board for taking away live public comments.

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Restrictions on public attendance and comment during city meetings

Published March 27, 2020 by justicewg

council on YT(Edit – read the new section at the bottom for rules the new Ohio SB 197 requires for online meetings).

(From an email to the Mayor and council)

I received an email on 3-27-20 in which the city of Grandview Heights has set new policy on attendance at public meetings in the city hall. Apparently all of the public will be restricted from attending all public meetings. The reason given was to comply with Covid-19 distancing guidelines that were suggested by the Governor. Instead of public meetings, the city will have private meetings that are broadcast live on a YouTube channel.

No matter what the intended reasons the city has used to make these new rules, the real outcome of the steps taken up to now has deprived the citizens of the right to view, hear, and comment at public meetings. The proposal to restrict the public from any attendance is unacceptable, and in violation of Ohio Open Meeting laws, which have not been suspended.

First, the recordings of two meetings that have been streamed and archived on YouTube are nearly worthless because of audio issues. Council members and the Mayor, sitting on the far side of the room, are nearly inaudible on the recording.

If there was an attempt to record meetings but it can not be heard due to audio recording issues, there is no public record of a speech. If the city can’t fix the audio issues, then it should drop the live YT recordings, and find a new method of sending live audio out. In the past, the council was recording meetings and it was better quality – why is it worse now?

Second, there is no way to perceive who is speaking when the camera is only showing a wide angle shot from a corner of the room. Sometimes you might be able to figure out from the movement of the current speaker who is talking, but when short comments are made at low volume it is impossible to identify the speaker (or to hear low volume speakers because of audio issues).

Third, and most importantly, no provision has been made to allow public input during meetings. Again, this is in violation of Ohio Open Meeting rules. There might be workarounds, the council might have a phone number displayed that will allow comments to be called in and recorded. The council might hold live Zoom conferences and allow comments from attendees at home.

None of these workarounds appears to be under consideration.

I suggest the city work on finding more acceptable solutions, that will both allow live public input and hearing during meetings, and protect the members of the council from Covid-19 dangers.

(after the jump, new info on Open Meeting rules from council person Smith)

(update 6PM) The Ohio senate passed SB 197, which allows legislative bodies to hold meetings online, and stream them to the public. However, read this section of the bill:

(C) When members of a public body conduct a hearing by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology, the public body must establish a means, through the use of electronic equipment that is widely available to the general public, to converse with witnesses, and to receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.

As I read the bill this requires the city to include a means for the public to speak before the public officials that are holding the meeting, through the same means the meeting is being held online. This isn’t a “good to have at some point” requirement, it is a “must” for the council to hold legal meetings.

Read the bill text after the jump.
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