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Vote no on issue #6, part 2 – the NRI deal

Published October 19, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6The school is trying to complete a negotiation with NRI that could accelerate the tax payments from the Yard, to the point where the boost in tax money may becomes as much as 50% of the cost of the bond the board needs to build a new middle school. Why should voters pass the present levy, when we could have a significantly smaller one via waiting until the negotiations are finished?

The deal

Early in 2018, the school board started negotiation with NRI over increasing the rate of tax money coming from the Grandview Yard development. The board had almost completed the facility meetings, and had set themselves a goal of building a new middle school – the only uncompleted work was the finance committee recommendation to increase the already high $50 million plan from Culp up to a $55 million plan with the extra connector between the schools.

The board was also fully aware of the objections to the new school plan by the G4G group. That unprecedented group spelled levy doom for board members who were not living in a fantasy world. Normal, uncontroversial levies have only passed with 60% yes votes in the past, an opposition group insured failure of the levy (and the two additional NO on #6 groups are the nails in the levy coffin).

I’m of two minds over the board’s attempt to cut a new deal with NRI. Was it just an amateurish mistake to attempt to renegotiate taxes with NRI.and pass the bond at the same time? Even the slowest members on the board must have known they were shooting themselves in the feet with the uncertainty added by the NRI deal. I also think it might have been a desperation move by the board, they knew they would fail in the levy attempt, so they wanted to have some way to win – even if it was by completing a deal that would be bad for both the the school and the city. As long as they got some money, they could claim victory, as long as THEY were the ones who got some money out of NRI..

Whatever the motivation, we now have a deal in progress that might bring substantial money from Grandview Yard, well ahead of past deals. Lets look at what the Mayor said about the deal.

The Mayor and the council

Before the quotes from the Mayor, to be clear – he supports the school levy, So do all the council members who have been asked. They support it because:

It is a normal thing for the board and the council to support each other when they have a levy on the ballot. This is standard mutual support – it is what good politicians do *.

And the council will be asking for new tax money for a new city hall next May. They want the school levy issue completed so they are not both asking for new taxes at the same time.

The mayor speaks

How much additional money will (the NRI deal) mean to the school?
There are some initial estimates using various assumptions, but I do not want to speculate until we have an agreement. I believe we are close. It should be recognized that until recently the City and School have estimated only the dollars coming to the school of what is actually built. We both are fiscally conservative. Those figures indicated that the school would receive about $60 million over the next 20 years. For a long time, this was the figured used. We now have more information on what is being proposed in the current project, which would bring an estimated additional $18 million, or $78 million total to the school. Add to this the development to the south of Goodale and modified school compensation agreement and that figure could almost double. – Mayor DeGraw

Re-read that last sentence for the most important news. The school might be getting an additional $78 million, through modifying the TIF agreement. But the additional taxes that might come from the construction of new buildings south of Goodale could be another boost, up to $156 million total.

This is the most important question – why are we being asked to pass a high levy by the board, when they are on the verge of receiving news that could completely change the financial position of the school?

Committee for Grandview Heights Schools pamphlet

The Pro-levy committee sent a brochure out to every home in the city, answering questions about the levy. What do they say about the NRI deal, in a bullet point section?

The need is now, and at this point no agreement has been reached with NRI.

OK, most taxpayers want to know what they are getting into, and can wait a year for a deal to be completed. What is the rush? Are their bulldozers sitting near the middle school, ready to start the demolition?

The NRI deal could reduced costs to residents by 50% , but could never cover the entire costs

So what? If my income might go up by 50%, I sure would want to wait until I know for sure, before I buy a house. Who cares what percentage the NRI deal covers? If it is significant, we should wait.

Delaying the project would result in added costs.

The committee doesn’t have a crystal ball that allows them foolproof projections on cost, but they do have this thing called “history”. The cost of construction went down in 2008, due to recession. “Costs always rise” is not true. Also, income to the school will be rising, because of the additional tax money from the Yard (tax money that was negotiated in the past, not the current deal). Everyone with any financial skills at all should be shouting “STOP, do not sign contracts for construction when your income is in flux”.

Waiting until the NRI deal is reached would not change the ballot millage, however, it would reduce the taxes the school could collect from residents.

I think the brain power of this committee just completely gave out at this point in the brochure. That talking point is one that belongs to the anti-levy groups, the important issue is the tax rates we are going to pay. If the need for operation millage is going down, we should wait until the financial position of the school is clear.

Implied in the statement “no change in the ballot millage” (I think they mean to say bond millage) is a threat – pass this levy, or we will come back, over and over, asking for the same amount. We will never listen to critics and cut the size of the school facility plan. That threat supports the need to vote the current board out of office.

Part three of my “reasons to vote no on issue #6” will be covering the effects of high taxes on the community, and how the board has failed to make obvious moves that could have protected fixed income and lower income residents.

The YT information session

In past years, the school used to hold public meetings before levies, and would answer questions from the community. I just read the following from the school:

Superintendent Culp and Treasurer Collier are holding an online Community Conversation on Monday, October 22 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. They will be at the YouTube feed at  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvM52He47uyzfX0bnjSsz-w.

The superintendent is so deep in the bunker, he can only answer pre-screened questions on YT? For one hour? Yikes, I think the school administration is having a mental breakdown.

Previously – https://watchinggrandview.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/reasons-to-vote-no-on-the-levy-the-grandview-heights-school-board-is-not-trustworthy/

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Grandview has Issues

Published October 14, 2018 by justicewg

Three signs #6The ballot is loaded with Issues this election, so many it is hard to keep them all straight. Here is a listing of the Issues Grandview residents can chose to vote up or down, and the groups who have Political Action Committees to support or oppose them.

Issue #6 – the school levy, the No groups

No on issue #6, Grandview Heights schools – Tracy Kessler, Tres. Their website is:

https://www.votenoonissue6.com/

Quote – “We are a Pro Community ~ Pro Schools group of residents who believe that Grandview Heights’ Issue 6 proposal is simply the wrong plan at the wrong time.” At least 100 of their signs are on lawns in the area.

Citizens for a Responsible Levy – Craig Berlin, Tres. I don’t think this group has a website. Over 100 signs on lawns.

Issue #6 – the “Info” group

Good for Grandview is a group that formed last year when it became clear the school board would try to build a $50 million new school and other facility improvements. Their website at the time pointed to problems with the numbers the school was projecting for maintaining present facilities, and they objected to the process in the facility meetings. They warned that the board’s plan was too expensive and would bring unnecessary conflict to the community. They had a petition to the school board that had 360 or so names, asking the board to re-think going forward with the $50 million plan (which has increase to a $55 million plan). That part of the website has been removed, now they are just an “info” group, with facts on Issue #6. Over 100 signs are up in Grandview.

https://www.goodforgrandview.org/

Issue #6 – the Pro group

for issue #6Committee for Grandview Heights Schools, Susan Jagers ,Tres. The BOE report shows this group had $29,100 in their bank account as of 7-01-18. Big contributors include “Tri-W group”, at $10K, and another $10K from “810 Grandview LLC”. Nationwide also contributed $5K.

https://forgrandviewheightsschools.org/

https://www.dispatch.com/news/20180827/grandview-heights-schools-ballot-issue-campaign-launched

Issue #31 – the Goodale Greenspace

yes on #31Residents for a Greener Grandview – AKA – Join Grandview – Jody Oster, Tres.

https://joingrandview.com/

The website suggests this group is more than a single issue organization, but at present they are all about promoting Issue #31, the Goodale Greenspace initiative. The group created a citizen initiative to increase the size of the Green Space on Goodale. The required number of signatures were obtained, and the petition was sent to the city, which forwarded it to the BOE. After a couple of legal challenges by the city over process issues, the Ohio Secretary of State ruled that that all legal steps had been followed and the initiative would be presented to the voters.

No on #31

no on #31Citizens to protect Goodale Greenspace, James Oberla, Tres. First registered 10-01-18. I can’t find a website for this group.

I have to make a complaint about the name of this group because of the choice of words, the name suggest they are a group that is somehow protecting the greenspace, but there is no chance that the greenspace will go away with either vote result. The pro-issue #31 group will protect the Greenspace, by increasing the size. Preventing a house being built is more protective than keeping the rules as they currently exist. If this group picked that name just to confuse voters, they don’t deserve a public seat at the discussion table.

(edit)   www.protectgrandview.com is the website. I don’t think “the right to do a lot split” was one of the fundamental rights our founding fathers fought a war to give us.

Issue #32 – The medical-marijuana dispensaries vote

Keep off grassIssue 32 is a referendum on whether the city’s ban on dispensaries should be overturned. The city intentionally made the vote to ban dispensaries a non-emergency measure, so the voters could decide the issue.

This issue is a little confusing – a “Yes” vote means No to dispensaries. A “No” vote means we will allow dispensaries inside the city limits (at present there is a planned dispensary just outside).

I can’t find any yard signs or PACs for either side of the issue.

http://www.thisweeknews.com/news/20181008/medical-marijuana-voters-will-cast-die-on-grandviews-dispensary-ban

Issue #30 – City of Grandview Heights – Proposed Charter Amendment Read the rest of this entry →

The dirty campaign tricks begin!

Published October 5, 2018 by justicewg

phamplet_scanGrandview Heights has some history of dirty tricks during campaigns, and the school levy (issue #6) has inspired a political trick by what appears to be from pro-levy people.

According to an email sent out today by a Good for Grandview spokesperson, some people were finding the G4G signs placed on their yards, but they never asked for a sign. The G4G website allows a sign request to be made, but it has no checks for bogus requests. The G4G people placed some signs on lawns without knocking and confirming with home owners. The tricksters are wasting the money of the G4G group on unrequested signs, and are probably hoping to inspire people to accuse G4G of being behind the misplaced signs. It’s a silly little trick, and G4G can very easily confirm with homeowners from this point on to prevent it from continuing.

The G4G spokesperson also said that they had a digital trail of IP addresses that they can follow to find the identity of the tricksters – more to this might be coming if the group decides to press charges.

The DeGraw pamphlet

Grandview has some history of political tricks before an election. Back in 2008, some unknown person (or more likely a group, from the number distributed) went around in the middle of the night and stuck a very odd sheet of paper under the windshield wipers of cars. It was a political screed criticizing Mayor Ray DeGraw, and in a rambling page tried to smear him with various sorts of accusations.

The hundreds of sheets of paper were placed on the windshields of many of the city’s cars that were parked on the street. No one was ever found to be responsible (but in the linked post I made some guesses). Mayor DeGraw was elected to return to office with high numbers.

The best part – word is that when the Mayor was asked who he thought printed and distributed the sheet, he replied “I think my wife might have done it”.

Another Mayor had an election prank pulled on him, John Leitz was in the late weeks of his re-election campaign, and found a news camera and reporter standing on his front step. During a civics class that Leitz had taught as a guest at the school, he dropped some adult words a couple of times. An opponent tried to make this into a big deal, and got at least one local TV station to cover the story of the “bad words from the Mayor”. Leitz was re-elected with no problems.

Email dirty tricksters

I have also been the target of political shenanigans, back in 2014 there was an email in circulation that was supposed to be from me, and I’m guessing they thought it would somehow anger people enough to … send me an email? Tell me off at the grocery store? Whatever, it had absolutely no effect, other than some wasted electrons.

In preparation for another dirty trick like this – if you get an email that says it is from me, read this blog. If I don’t say the same thing here, I didn’t say whatever you are reading in the email. Also, I have this blog, so why would I send emails out to random people?

Also – for full disclosure – I have never been paid by the school for any work, at this point or the past. I have never been paid to oppose the school, or board members, for political reasons, or any reason. I make no money from this blog. Just in case you are wondering who got paid, and who didn’t!

I’ll keep updating this post if the dirty tricks continue – I’m afraid the school levy issue is so hot it will inspire more in the weeks leading up to the Nov. election.

(Later) Some owners of No on #6 signs have reported sign theft. They responded by adding even more signs to their lawns. My suggestion – video cameras are needed for most homes these days, so you might as well get the camera, and point it at your yard sign.

Reasons to vote no on the levy – The Grandview Heights school board is not trustworthy

Published September 28, 2018 by justicewg

culp in facility meeting 7There are many reasons for voters to give a thumb down on the school’s issue #6, but the one I have heard the most is “I don’t trust the school board”. Let’s look at all the ways the board has failed the community, and lost the trust that is needed for a functional school board.

The big lie about the Finance committee

The school board used deception and back-room dealing throughout the entire facility review process, but one lie topped them all – the claim that everything about the process would be open and transparent. This video (recorded by the school) captured the moment that superintendent Culp told the community that the Finance committee would be open, that minutes would be taken.

A community member asked superintendent Culp about the Finance committee, asked if there will be notice of meetings, public participation, minutes online. Culp said “I fully commit to that, I don’t think you can do it any other way.” The board later made the committee closed, with hand picked supporters, no meeting notes were allowed out of the room.

Andy Culp knew that the Facility Task Force had already been created as a closed, no visitor, no meeting notes allowed committee by the school board. He should have known that the board would do the same thing with the Finance committee. I think it’s likely he knew he was lying to the parents at this meetings. But if we take him at his word, and accept that he was “fully committed” to an open Finance committee, what does that say about the relationship with the school board? They knew that he had staked his integrity on the stand he took for an open Finance committee – and they destroyed it.

Should we trust a school board that can so casually (and for so little gain) trash the integrity of the superintendent?

The secrecy of the Finance committee was a big deal

Was the promise by Culp really that important? Watch the video of the report to the community from the Finance committee. On eight separate occasions, community members ask why the Finance meetings were closed, why there are no meeting notes available. The G4G group complained about the secrecy of the closed committees on their website (website is under revision currently) and attracted 368 community members to sign their petition to the school board.

For the people who spent hours going to the open facility meetings, attending 7 of them, the major revisions to the school facility plans, made by a closed committee, was a big deal. The fact that the board has refused to answer questions about why the Finance committee was closed is a big deal. It’s a major reason to vote no on the levy.

Do you trust Jessie Truett with $55 million?

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Use the Franklin Co. Auditor tool to find your tax increase

Published September 19, 2018 by justicewg

FC Aud calcThe school board has thrown some figures out for the increases in your taxes if the school levy in November passes. Now, you can get the exact figure, direct from the Franklin Co. Auditor website.

https://apps.franklincountyauditor.com/LevyEstimator

“The Tax Levy Estimator is an easy-to-use tool that allows Franklin County residents the ability to estimate the annual cost associated with proposed tax levies. In addition, property owners can see how their property taxes are distributed to the various political subdivisions within Franklin County.”

Tips for use – enter only your house number in the “Address No.” field.

Enter only your street name in the “Street Name “ field, no “ave” or “Blvd”.

After you hit search, scroll down to look for the results. There is no indicator inside the search box to tell you if it worked.

Scroll down to the “Grandview Heights CSD” box for the results of the Nov. levy. The total line at the bottom of the box shows the results for both the bond and the operating levies.

Don’t forget to go back up and check out the Franklin Co. box, it has tax increases from the MRDD (which passed in last fall’s election and didn’t increase taxes, it was just a renewal) and Metro parks levies that will be on the November ballot.

Good for Grandview meeting was a packed house

The Good for Grandview group had an informational meeting tonight. Word is (didn’t attend, but got reports) that levy campaign Co-Chair Katie Matney was there and acknowledged that they believe the NRI renegotiation could reduce the Levy need by 50%. And they still want you to vote for the full $55 million tax! I wonder if  Matney said “Having those feelings (of distrust in the levy) are normal and natural”.

(UPDATE) The tax levy is sure to fail now (but be sure to vote!), so maybe this isn’t so important any more, but G4G reminds us, the bond gives the school board the irrevocable authority to tax for 38 years after passage. Even if this board cut taxes as a result of the NRI deal, any future board could restore the full tax, for any reason.

Tax expiration on the Bond for the middle school gym and Glenn room.

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Econ committee votes to start city onto a track that leads to a bad deal with NRI

Published September 18, 2018 by justicewg

The city council members on the economic development committee voted on Sept 17 to approve a resolution that supports the deal the school board is making with NRI, which might lead to more money for the schools, but at the cost of approving a deal with NRI that is bad for both the city and the schools. This deal is on a track that will be hard to stop, unless many residents of Grandview Heights speak up, and tell both the board and the council to stop being poor negotiators. With the pressure of public comments, both via email and in city council meetings, the citizens of this city can stop this poor deal, and work for something from a position of strength.

Details of the deal

The full story on the NRI deal is complex, I’m trying to give a short summary that might pass over parts that are important to get a full understanding. I will be posting as many documents and videos from the city as I can, in the future.

Mayor DeGraw was part of the Finance committee at the school (the closed, hand picked group that made major decisions on the school facility plan with no meeting notes or video being taken). The group was looking hard at ways to improve the poor deal the school made with NRI back at the start of the Yard development, but as the mayor told the group, the city and the school had no bargaining power, a slight revision in 2014 didn’t help the school much.

The mayor told the school board that there was only one possible way to get movement from NRI, that was the land south of Goodale near the Yard. There were problems with the ownership of the land (at the time of the finance meeting), and there are big issues with cleanup of the land from pollution, but it was the only way that the school might get a lever on changing the deals made with NRI.

The school board saw this as a green light to start a new negotiation with NRI, and in the first months of 2018, they pressed NRI to make a new deal. NRI, being some of the best deal makers in the Fortune 500, immediately saw this as a way to come out on top of a deal with the rubes on the school board.

NRI must have been fully aware that the school was throwing every bit of influence they possessed into the quest to build new school buildings, and they are now almost certain to fail in the November levy request. The only way the board can pull some respect out of their floundering is to make a deal that brings more money out of NRI. This was a setup that NRI used to make a terrible deal for both the board and the city.

What is wrong with the NRI deal?

Both council members Anthony Panzera and Steve Reynolds spoke at length before the econ committee about the bad position the city and school are placing themselves into. I will be posting video of their talks. A short summary:

The council is allowing itself to be leaned on by the school board, and is shortcutting the normal channels under which the city would review and approve deals like this.

There is no reason for linking the development of the south of Goodale area with a renegotiation of the TIF with NRI. The only reason this is happening is that NRI knows the board is desperate for something they can call a win. The only one winning is NRI.

A housing development with 400 new units is not the best use of the land, and the city can do better.

The school board has been talking lowering their tax rate if they get the NRI deal. First, this is pure fantasy, the board will just use excess money to tear down Stevenson and build a new middle school. And even if the board did cut taxes for residents property, the one entity that would get the biggest tax cut would be – NRI, the largest land owner in the city.

(UPDATE) The board is now officially saying “vote for the full tax levy in November, but we probably will not need all that money if the NRI deal goes through.

While the combined bond issue and operating levy on the November ballot as Issue 6 would still be needed, this agreement would likely enable the district to reduce the amount of taxes that are collected on the November ballot issue. – Andy Culp

Amazing. The board is now saying “pass our levy, but trust us to give some of the money back to you – maybe”. This is self sabotage, why will anyone now vote for taxes that the school says they might not need? I think the board is so sure the levy will fail that they are giving themselves an excuse for the failure.

What about the Comprehensive city planning committee?

There is a large group of residents who are in the middle of a comprehensive city plan, one that is supposed to set the direction the city will take in future development. That group is not finished, and is not scheduled to be done until sometime next year. The fast tracking of the south of Goodale development is a blow to the integrity of the process – it is the city telling all of those people who spent hours in meetings “sorry suckers, you just wasted your time, because we are going to do what we want, to heck with your plans”. This is the kind of action that generates cynicism in the community. This is what makes people say “I though Grandview was different, but I guess we have a city government that is the same as anywhere else”

Check back on this post often, I have lots more to post – city documents, video, etc. Until those updates, you can watch the video of the NRI deal discussion in the last council meeting, starting at the 1:04:30 point in the YT video.

(UPDATE 2)

Video of the Sept 17 full council meeting

All of the preceding discussion happened at the Econ committee meeting on the 17th, and was not recorded by the city. Immediately following that meeting there was a full council meeting, which was video recorded. The speeches given by school board members at this meeting are just carbon copies of the ones they gave to the committee, except for one from board member Brannon. The things she said about NRI needs to be listened to carefully.

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City council video 09/05/2018 meeting – Scooters, Green Space, School Board Taxes

Published September 6, 2018 by justicewg

The city of Grandview council meetings were video recorded and posted to YouTube since spring of 2017. The quality of the recordings have been all over the place – some OK, some totally unusable because of low volume and noise. I have been monitoring the city’s attempt to do a better job with council member Keeler, and for the first time, the council has gone to a more professional recording setup, with a camera operator tracking the conversations and working the sound levels.

This council meeting was the perfect time to get the video right, because of all the important issues that were on the agenda. Scooters, the Green Space ordinance, the school board negotiation over the TIF with NRI – all topical and of high interest to the community. I did some quick note taking of the action in the video, this is not a complete record, just the high points.

City council video 09/05/2018 meeting summary

6:25 Michel Martin talked about suicide prevention.

13:20 Tijs van Maasakkers was appointed to the BZA to fill a vacancy. He is an Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning at Ohio State University

14:20 School board member Melissa Palmisciano said the board and the city administration have been in negotiation with NRI over the taxes received from the TIF in Grandview Yard. More later.

15:30 Jody Oster, a member of the group behind the Goodale Green Space initiative, spoke to the council. She objected to the fact that the council had not voted to approve the Mayor beginning the legal moves to block the Green Space ordinance. She though the mayor was not following the laws in appealing the ordinance before the county Board of Elections. President Kearns said there was an executive session at which the council “provided input to the city”, but no vote was held. Kearns said she doesn’t think the Mayor or the city attorney needs the vote from the council for pursuing the appeal. The Mayor said he acted because he felt the appeal was in the best interests of the city.

36:47 Mayors report. The “Invasion of the electric scooters” was talked about, the city had to tell the scooter companies they can’t drop them in the city without an agreement in place. The city is still in negotiation, but it sounded like the Mayor will require then to ride only on the street (no sidewalk rides), helmets, and no two up riding. The Mayor said that we will be following the city of Columbus in their rules, since we are so close.

38:05  5G data transmission poles being installed in the city. The Mayor said he would post a map on the city website (I don’t see a map, but this city blog post lists the locations)

51:30 City attorney Khouzam presented the Grandview city side of the debate over the Green Space initiative appeal. Council member Reynolds clarifies that the appeal is coming from the administration, the council has not voted on the issue. Some back and forth happens – watch this part of the video.

1:04:30 Resolution on renegotiation of the Grandview Yard TIF. The mayor talked about re-allocation of taxes to the school, also part of the issue is more development in the Grandview yard south area.

Council person Reynolds expressed his disappointment with making any agreement that would be tied to the development of the Grandview Yard south area as it has been presented thus far. The addition of 400 units of housing is not what he feels is the best use of the area, nor does he feel that the addition is that good for the school board. He didn’t think it is a good idea to plan to transfer money from the city to the school when the city will be looking for new money to do its own new construction.

He also mentioned that if some agreement with the school was made that could cut the tax rate, the one entity that would get the biggest break would be NRI and Grandview Yard. He doesn’t feel this is a good position for the city to enter into.

1:22:15 Anthony Panzera expressed opposition to the resolution. He doesn’t feel that the negotiation over the TIF should have any connection to the Grandview Yard south deal, and thinks the city is being pushed into it for the advantage of developers, not the citizens of the city.

1:23:10 Jessie Truett, school board president, gets up and walks out of the council chambers in the middle of an important debate, disturbing the council and blocking the video. If there is anyone still wondering why the city council and the school board don’t have a good relationship, dumb insults like this from Truett are just par for the course.

1:25:10 A visitor points out that the city is still deep into the city Comprehensive Planning process with the residents, but has not completed the work. Why is the city in a rush to make this GY south development planning all on its own, with no completed city plan? The mayor tries to say that a road south of Goodale has been in the plans for years, but that is not what is under discussion – hundreds of new residential units are on the table.

On the quality of the video – so much better, but still distracting sounds are in the background. Some of them might be impossible to stop – shuffling papers, thunks on the table. Some come from people in the room, because everyone is cramped into a small space right beside the camera. Some of the noise is from people talking in the hall outside the room – maybe some signs can help?

Why can’t the school board video record their meetings?

The city council is now perfecting their video recordings, after more than a year of posting them on YouTube. The school board has never made video recordings, and will never bring a camera into the room. There are supposed to be audio recordings somewhere – good luck finding them.

This was the response I got from Jessie Truett the last time I asked him to record meetings:

“Today’s meeting was not recorded and as in the past, we do not intend to record future work sessions. “ Jessie Truett

The school board doesn’t want to provide audio recordings, they don’t want your opinion, and they really don’t want you to see what they are doing in their meetings.