Grandview Schools

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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.

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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?

Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Board highballs the facility bid, admits finance committee is running the school

Published July 9, 2018 by justicewg

The process for updating to school buildings has been ongoing for years, and from the start, the board declared they wanted to build expensive new buildings. They are following through on that declaration, and more – the board has proposed a ridiculous highball number ($55 million) and tacked on an operating levy of one mill, just to remind parents that they can hold the school children hostage. If you are voting for this $55 million plan, you are also voting for a replacement (probably another $25 million) of the Stevenson building, because the plan under funds upgrades to the building.

The board also now has no defense from the charge that the finance committee was a policy deciding group that should have been open under the Ohio Open Meeting laws.

How highballs work in negotiations

The school board has known since the G4G group went public with opposition to the superintendent’s request for a $50 million facility plan last year that the first try at a levy would fail. There has been unprecedented opposition to the school’s attempt to manipulate the facility process, even the most optimistic on the board must have known that the $50 million plan was not going to pass. Given that fact, the board decided that a highball bid was the way to set expectations for the future.

Negotiation is all about setting the expectation for a “good number”, a price that seems normal to pay. Some ruthless negotiators find no worth in starting mid range, a high number sets the top of the range, and brings up the bottom. If the school board carefully cut into the plan as presented by Culp last year, they might have come up with a plan that cost $45 million. But the board saw that as leaving money on the table, they said, “if you are going to lose the first bid anyway, go for the big money”.

Make no mistake – this sort of hard negotiation is not normal for a Grandview Heights board. Most levies in the recent past have been in the normal range of past operating levies. Most levies pass with 60% in favor. There was one ridiculous levy attempt back in 2002 that was a big lesson for the board, and which will be used as a template for the present.

The fantasy levy of 2002

The school board of May 2002 used a similar tactic for highballing the voters, with a twist. The “incremental operating” levy asked for 9.8 mills, already a high number. They then added an additional 4 mills, to take effect the next year, and 4 more the next year. Only 35% of the voters were in favor, the biggest loser of all levies.

Nobody expected that levy to pass – but it set the expectation for the “right number” higher. That fall, the voters approved 10.7 mills, the highest millage issue in the history of the school.

The board that approved the original highball levy should have been immediately recall voted out of office, the fantasy incremental levy was an insult to the community that should have been punished. But in the minds of those board members, they saw it as a needed hardball tactic. And the approval of the fall levy was a submission by the community. We got played, and we didn’t fight it.

Stevenson replacement in the future is part of the $55 million bid

When Culp presented his initial plan for the school upgrades in September 2017, he included $6 million in refurbish work on the Stevenson building. That money was nearly zeroed out by the finance committee, they said “we are only looking at doing security and ADA upgrades at Stevenson”. If the school board under funds the maintenance of Stevenson – and nothing will stop them – that will place the closing of the building at the top of the board’s list. Shortly after the new middle school is completed, the board will come back to the voters with irrefutable evidence (because they created the problems) that Stevenson MUST be replaced. Add another $25 million to the construction costs, in the near future.

Two “no on the levy” votes will be needed

The highball bid of $55 million will not pass. But it will set the expectation high, and allow the board to come back to the voters with a $50 million plan in 2019. Cutting a few frills will be presented as painful cuts (funny how all the real pain will be suffered by the taxpayers).

There will need to be two consecutive no votes on the school’s levies before the board can be convinced to come down to a real number that will get the support of the community. This will be hard, because another, higher operation levy will be sure to be tacked onto the second bond levy. The board will threaten major cuts in after school programs, and cuts to classes that are offered. The re-implementation of activity fees will be on the table for the second vote for sure.

Unfortunately the best solution for a school board that is extorting the community – voting out the present board – will not be up for a regular vote until November 2019, when Palmisciano and Brannan can be replaced. If Truett and the other two board members elected in 2017 want to cause maximum damage to the community before they are voted out, the three of them can run the board until 2021.

The board broke the laws on open meetings Read the rest of this entry →

Checking the council and the board member’s email responses, part 2

Published June 25, 2018 by justicewg
eudora_email

guess the email client

Time for another email policy request for the council members and school board officials. I did this same poll back in 2014, and got everyone on the council to get back to me. In 2014 the board was slow, but except for a notable hold-out, I also got the answers I needed. This year, however, there is a big change for the worse from the board.

Email is now the standard communication channel

If anything has changed since that last test of the email abilities of the politicians, it has become even more standard to use email to contact officials. Old fashioned paper through the mail is unusual enough for contacting representatives that it might be a better way to get your message to stand out from the firehose of emails most people receive. While face to face conversations and phone calls are harder for the politicians to avoid, unless you record them you will have an off the record chat that will be forgotten in a short time.

It is now important to know if your email will be answered, how long it will take, or is a phone call a better way to get in touch. I asked all of our representatives.

First, the good council

Every one of the council members answered my emails. Panzera was a little late because of a vacation, and Houston had a problem with my emails ending up in a spam folder, but all eventually answered, and were happy to provide information on how to contact them about city policy.

Steven Gladman again was the record holder for fast replies, three minutes. He gave me his personal phone number for voice calls (I don’t feel it is right to post that number here, but he will send it to you if you ask). Keeler, Kearns, and Reynolds replied within a day, and said they normally gave answers to email questions within 24 hours.

Panzera said he prefers phone calls for more complex questions. Houston had an issue with a spam box that was eventually solved. She also shared her personal cell phone number, which I will not post, but she was happy to provide it to anyone who tries to contact her.

The board has a problem

When I tested the reliability of the school board in answering my emails back in 2014, I was already well known for being the owner of this blog. I have emailed all of them (except the new members) in the past, and although they might not have been happy to see the questions I asked, all have replied in past years.

This year was a new experience. I sent all of them three emails within a week, just to be sure that it didn’t get lost in their inboxes.

I was expecting Jessie Truett to throw my emails away, unanswered. He is the president of the board, his job is supposed to be the point of contact for all of the members when discussing school policy. And yet he can’t even answer a simple “are you listening” email message. Brannan and Palmisciano also refused to answer.

Eric Bode had a two sentences long reply (which I guess is better than zero). As a test of their willingness to discuss school policy, I send him (and Molly Wassmuth) some questions about the G4G group. Bode seemed to think they were just an anti-tax group (despite their website that shows them to be much different). When presented with proof that the board and Culp had lied to the community about opening up the finance committee, he stuck his fingers in his ears.

Wassmuth had an interesting position on answering policy questions. She claimed that she could not talk about school policy via email, because of some rule or something that she couldn’t point out, but she was sure that the only place she can talk about school policy is in board meetings.

She is wrong, of course. The council and board members are free to discuss any policy matter they want before the vote. And that is their job really, making us aware of their positions and reasoning is what they get paid to do. Wassmuth seemed to think she was a human suggestion box – thank you for your submission, your words will be conveyed to the board meeting (where I don’t have any intention to share them with the board).

Will your emails be sent to the black hole?

Three board members didn’t answer my email at all. That’s really troubling, especially because this is the time that the board will be getting the most emails they have ever in years, because of the intense conflict they will be setting off with their upcoming decision to spend $55 million on the school facilities.

Will everyone who sends them an email opposing the school facility plans find their emails black holed if they are not supportive of the board?

There is a list of 360 community members publicly posted on the G4G website. Will the board use this list as a filter – support the G4G, and you will never get another answer for your emails? I wouldn’t be surprised if the board could be that petty and small.