Grandview Watch Archives

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The FieldTurf Loan (G.W)

Published August 20, 2015 by justicewg
This donation board was used during the failed attempt to help the Andersons pay for the Anderson Field.

This donation board was used during the failed attempt to help the Andersons pay for the Anderson Field.

A re-post from November 2006. The school board pushed though an expensive plan to dig up the grass football field and install a FieldTurf surface, after months of assuring everyone who spoke against this project that donations would cover all of the cost, they failed and had to take out a $175K loan. This incident was also notable because of the unique argument the board tried to push, they said the cell towers belonged to the board, therefore the money from rents on the towers belonged to the board, and they didn’t have to take public comments on the use of that money – it was their money to spend as they pleased.

The turf project was also a time-bomb, the board minimized the cost of the replacement of the turf after 10 years, but it was estimated to be a $250K project. Read on for this story, then see my postscript where I show what the board now estimates the replacement turf will cost in 2017 (hint, $250K was way low).

(From November 2006)

The Grandview school board has voted to take out the full $175K loan that they had previously approved for the construction of the FieldTurf project. Remember the claims by the board that no taxpayer money would be used? That the fund raising would find $175K, as they asked for with their inaccurate donation board? It now appears that the $50K in hand from donations will barely cover the cost overrun announced at the Nov. meeting.

It was bad enough when they decided to pre-approve the $175K loan before the fund raising project had even begun, thus insuring that the donations would be small. Who wants to help fund a project that has already been pre-paid? How do you tell people that they should help the Andersons fund the Anderson field?

The worst part of the affair is the duplicitous claim that “The loan will be paid with income from the cell towers, and this is not taxpayer money because the tower leases are not publicly owned”. The board members and the superintendent tried to come up with explanations for this theory, but they failed. The land that the towers occupy is owned by the public. The money from the leases has been going into the general fund, which is part of the publicly accounted and taxpayer owned school fund (and if anyone thinks that educational funds are not owned by the public, they have not been paying attention to DeRolph v. State since 1991).

If the board was honest, they would simply have said “Yes, we will be using taxpayer money for the FieldTurf, we judge this to be a good use of school funds.” Maybe the attempt made by board members Heydinger and Cameron to restore $80K worth of cuts to the activities at the school (in the Nov 22 TVN, no link to the TVN news website because it sucks) at the Nov. meeting is an admission that school funds were used on the FieldTurf? And that they now want to spread some non-existent extra money to other activities as a way to buy off criticism of the FieldTurf project?

Board president McLeod is quoted as saying “Any part of the $175K not used will help to pay off the loan, or be used as “seed money” for the replacement turf needed in 10 years”. I don’t expect our board members to have degrees in economics, but those two statements are so stupid I have to comment.

If you have loan money left over after a project, you have wasted money. It costs money to take out a loan, every dollar that is not used is costing interest that you didn’t need to pay. The correct way to do a project is to take out loans as they are needed.

You don’t take out a loan for “seed money” for a project 10 years in the future. The cash will be costing the district more money as it sits unused in the bank. Duh. The frightening thing with our school board is that they probably don’t have the economic intelligence to understand these simple concepts.

(End story from 2006)

I wonder if that money that McLeod was going to use as seed money for the replacement of the turf is still sitting in an account somewhere. The school will need every penny they can dig up – they now project the cost will be $365K, and be needed by 2017.

While reading through the school board meeting notes, I found that they were still paying off this loan for the turf as late as 2014. If you are wondering why the board has not set some money aside in preparation for the turf replacement, the answer is that they were still paying off the old loan.

Poor planning and deceptive actions

Why is this story about a failed plan by the board to raise money still of interest?

Suppose you had a friend who wanted to start a business, and showed you a business plan that assumed a lot of money would flow in to get the business off the ground. The friend then quit his job, and after the money didn’t show up, came to you with a sad story about how he was in big trouble and needed you to loan him a lot of money, fast. You would probably sit him down and explain that if his business plan was based on assumptions that were not true, he has let optimism overwhelm reality. He needs to get real.

A school board that assumes it will get a lot of donations and will be able to build a big new project, then charges ahead with the project before the donations are in the bank, is similar to the unfortunate friend with the failed business. What made this project even worse was that the board was so out of touch with reality that they couldn’t even acknowledge they had failed, and came up with a dumb story that the cell towers were free money.

When you have a school board that is insular, out of touch, actively tries to keep anyone from knowing what they are doing, and ignores all criticism – that is the kind of environment that produces boards that make big mistakes. It was true 10 years ago, and it is true today.

Grandview Hts. – CrunkTown or OVI Trap? – (G.W.)

Published November 12, 2014 by justicewg

This repost from the old blog is a conversation I had with city councilman Ed Hastie. I don’t have any current data on OVI rates, but I’m assuming that Grandview has continued to have the same high rate of arrest for drunk drivers in the city that it had in 2009.

One change in Grandview that might make it even more of a OVI trap is the addition of bars to the Grandview Yard development. The new Hofbrauhaus seems like it would be a bonanza for cops waiting to bust drivers leaving the parking lot. My experience with the place is that it doesn’t really encourage hard drinking, the crowds and high prices drinks were not drunk friendly. I can’t even say I saw a single drunk person, there were people standing on benches, but if they were tipsy they would have ended on the floor. Things might change when the patio that is being built is opened next year.

(from 2009)

Reading through the gripping meeting notes of the Dec. council meeting, I came across this interesting little FYI from member Ed Hastie:

…Hastie commented that in reviewing statistics on OVI violations, the City of Columbus averages eleven (11) OVI’s per square mile and the City of Grandview Heights averages sixty-four (64). The City is by far the highest in the County … Hastie encouraged everyone to take a cab.

That’s a big jump in the OVI rate, something unusual is going on here in Grandview. I decided to go to the source and ask what Ed knew about these numbers.

JW: Where did you get the stats on OVI in the county?

EH: I was citing stats from an article in a magazine my friend edits. I’m sure its fairly easy to find the number of OVIs (OVI is the new “in” term with the legislature) in each municipality and then divide it by the square miles.

JW: Why do you think that Grandview has such a high number of OVIs?

EH: (1) Density: I don’t necessarily think Grandview has an abnormally high number considering that square mile figures are bound to be skewed in a place that is 1.42 sq. miles and monitors high traffic areas like 33. The bulk of our OVI’s happen on the edges of GH (33, 5th, Goodale). I’m sure if you took high traffic areas in Columbus the numbers would be comparable (315, Lane, High Street, etc). We have a heighten number of people who use 33/Goodale to travel through Grandview from Arena district and Short North.
(2) More Police: More observation leads to more arrests. The NHSTA cites a study that says each OVI offender drove 80 times (yes, that’s the right figure) under the influence in the year leading up the arrest. So the VAST majority of Drunk Drivers go uncaught. We have more police out in a small area, hence more arrest.

JW: Is it better enforcement? Or more residents who drink and drive?

EH: I doubt its GH residents that make up the bulk of the offenders.

JW: Is there something about Grandview that attracts outsiders to drink here, then drive? Maybe lax enforcement by the bars of cutting people off who drink at Grandview bars?

EH: I think more people drink elsewhere and happen to pass through Grandview(or Grandview Patrolled areas) on the way home. The vast majority of watering holes in the area are in Columbus, So I don’t think its GH bars per se. As far as lax enforcement by the bars – I don’t see these bars as a problem. I have watched people get cut off (or not even served) at several of the places in the area. The majority of my practice is representing bars, restaurants, and wineries. They have an IMMENSE amount to loose if they over serve and look the other way. I hope I was able to answer your questions. I’m always available to discuss.

What is a city council member doing at several bars in Grandview? Inspecting * the city? 😉

I think Mr. Hastie’s job representing alcohol serving establishments might bias his observation about cutting patrons off, but it does ring true from what I have seen. Bars in Grandview will not risk their licenses in a residential area that does not put up with drunks in the streets.

Both Goodale and 33 are frequent locations for the OVI busts listed in the police beat reports in the papers. They are probably considered “safe routes” for late night return drives from bars, who knows how the minds of drunk drivers work, but they could conclude that the freeway would be more highly patrolled.

So my conclusion is – Grandview is an OVI trap. Drunk drivers beware. Use the designated driver system. Or just stay in your own neighborhood and walk, there is no shortage of bars in the metro area.

*Columbus had a Mayor named Tom Moody (he served from 1972 to 1984) who was found with his car wrapped around a pole at 3AM on Cleveland Ave. As I remember the incident, he was able to use his status as Mayor to avoid taking an alcohol test, but it was assumed by everyone that it was the cause of the accident. When Moody was asked why he was out so late driving so far from home, he famously replied “I was inspecting the city”. This became a catch-phrase for drinkers, any time we would go out to hit bars we would say we were “out to do some city inspection”.

(From Grandview Watch, 2009)

Kids say the darndest things

Published February 17, 2014 by justicewg

dead_birdThe H.S. administration is upset about a new twitter account that has been set up for kids to post anonymous tell-all confessions about the bad things they are up to. Tweet after tweet has kids bragging about vandalism, drug use, sexual encounters, etc. I think what really got the school upset is that there are a few kids making thinly disguised stories about having sex with teachers. The email from H.S. principal Chaffin is posted after the jump.

This social media acting out has been going on for as long as the internet has been around. I looked back in the archives of the old blog and found a post that covers much of the same issues. Back in 2007, the big scandal was kids writing insulting things about teachers on MySpace. I wrote some emails to the super back then, I think they are still pretty relevant to what is happening now. This quote from those exchanges gets to the nub of the issue:

There are two primary facts that have to be kept in mind when you are dealing with a situation where kids are doing bad things on the Internet.

1. Back when we were kids, there was a lot of writing on restroom stall walls that insulted teachers, other students, etc. That’s the nature of kids.
Now we have the Internet, which allows kids to write insults on a much bigger wall that can be seen by more people. But the best way to deal with this kind of childish behavior is no different than back in the old days. You paint over the insults, and move on. Making a big deal out of it just feeds into the power of the wall-scrawler.
All Internet websites have contact info for the administrators of the websites, and an e-mail to them asking for the deletion of offensive content will quickly cause the webpage to be removed. That is the best tactic to suggest to any parent or teacher who reports content that they feel is insulting to them personally.

2. You, as superintendent, are not the Internet police. You have influence over the things that happen in the school, but the things that happen on the Internet – even things that involve kids at the school – are not under your control. The job of “Internet cop” is not part of the school’s mission, and it would be futile to start down that path.

I don’t want to be unsupportive of kids who are being harassed on the internet. When it happens in large amounts over an extended time, it is reasonable for the school to help the kid get the offending material removed. Same for teachers, they shouldn’t have to put up with a campaign of harassment.

But the overwhelming majority of the confessions on this new twitter account are not aimed at any one person, they are just stuff like “Got drunk and had sex before the superbowl -OHS” , “I’m a senior and have a boyfriend but still hookup with my ex on the weekends” -Desales, “A freshman used bible pages to roll joints” -Columbus Academy.

If the school is trying to get this twitter account shut down because of stuff like this, they are being the internet police. Good luck with that! To Chaffin’s credit, he does acknowledge it is a futile task.

Once this twitter feed is taken down, there will likely be another one in a short amount of time if past trends continue.

If that is true, why even try to get it shut down?

This is the email that was sent out by principal Chaffin:
Read the rest of this entry →

Google for “Teabagging” – (G.W.)

Published January 31, 2014 by justicewg

old_teabagAnother re-post from the old blog, this comes from the selection process for the superintendent in 2006. One of the finalists for the position was announced in the newspapers, supposedly vetted by the board and ready to come in for the final interviews. With only a small amount of work I found out that the candidate had some pretty horrible issues that were missed. After a few emails to the board members the offer of the super position was withdrawn for the guy.

I still think I should have received some recognition from the board for the embarrassment and potential litigation I circumvented by doing my research. Never got a word of thanks.

I’ll be doing the same work in vetting the new candidates for the superintendent as they are announced in a few months. I hope this new batch of board members will have improved their skills in using the internet, but I’m generally shocked at how poor the skill set of the average board member has been shown to be in the past.

It’s an open question how the election of Jesse Truett will effect the board’s level of comfort with scandal in the history of a super candidate. After all, if it is acceptable for a board member to have a history of resigning from their job at the school and turning in their teacher’s license because of an affair with a student, what level of bad actions in the past will disqualify a potential superintendent?

Read the rest of this entry →

Anonymous confused pamphleteer against Mayor – (G.W.)

Published March 20, 2013 by justicewg

phamplet_scanThis repost from 2008 reported on one of the most bizarre political acts ever in Grandview.

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 windshields of cars. It was a political screed criticizing Mayor Ray DeGraw, done in a style that  made you visualize a tea-bagger type, convinced that there is a grand conspiracy to hide the truth about the president – and the mayor, for some reason. It started with complaints about the plowing of snow and the closing of the Grandview Theater. What was he supposed to do about that, offer them money? Which would have inspired even more hate from this group. The warning about NRI has some basis in reality, but explaining something as complex as TIFs is not going to fit on a single sheet of paper.

Nobody ever came forward to claim responsibility for papering the city. Unless you count the time the Mayor was asked who he thought printed and distributed the sheet, he replied “I think my wife might have done it” 🙂 Ray was elected to the office of Mayor for the third time in 2011 with no mention of this pamphlet.

Read the rest of this entry →

The lighter side of lawsuits – (G.W.)

Published February 14, 2013 by justicewg
Photo by Gerry Dincher

Photo by Gerry Dincher CC Flickr

Back in 2003, a lawsuit against a city official was in the news, and it was a little ridiculous.

A relative of then mayor Sexton had been mentioned in an email between council members, and the word “shacked up” was used to describe a living arrangement. Somehow this email became public, and was the ignition point for a lawsuit against the council member. After the story of the lawsuit was printed in the This Week Grandview, I sent a letter to the editor, and made this post in my old blog.

(From 2003)

“To the Editor:

I read with great interest the story in This Week Grandview about the lawsuit that the Mayor’s brother has filed against council member Kelley Finan.

I have always been happy living in my shack, and I never realized that using the term “shacked up” could be thought of as an insult. I’m proud of my shack – it has an indoor outhouse, the roof only leaks a little, and when I finish painting the outside it will be the pride of the neighborhood (but that’s what I’ve been saying for the last ten years).

I take great offense that the Mayor’s brother would insult shacks like mine – I think I have suffered harm, mental distress, and if I had a job it could cause a potential loss of income. In the great tradition of Americans who deserve to sue for every insult, I am considering a lawsuit for a MILLION dollars. If that is not possible, I would take a set of tires for my pickup truck. It’s been up on blocks for a while, and if I can get some tires – even used ones with a little tread left on them – I will consider this matter closed.

(Suggested music to play while reading this letter – Love Shack, by the B-52s.)”

(From 2003)

Some points about this old post.

Yes, there really was a lawsuit because a council member used the words “shacked up”. Yes, the newpaper really did print my letter.

I’m not sure what the results of this lawsuit were. I know what the important result was, council members and school board members became paranoid about using their email to express any honest emotion, for fear of being sued. Most of them will not use email at all. That’s a loss for the community. There is taking a normal amount of care to be sensitive, and there is being terrified to say a word because you might get sued. We have gone way overboard with the lawsuits, and I don’t know what the solution to this is, but we have lost a lot in a litigation society.

I used to have a special icon for the funny posts on my old website. I thought it was needed, because no matter how ridiculous the topic of a post, there are always humor impaired people who need a big flashing sign that says “this is a joke”. You know what? The heck with those people. If you think I was serious when I suggested statues of Marx and Engels be placed in Grandview Yard, you just have a little fit over it.

This post is not a commentary of the lawsuit currently in litigation against superintendent O’Reilly. I’m sure all parties to that action are not seeing much to laugh about. Back in the old days, I think this sort of situation would have been resolved by people getting in each other’s faces and screaming for a while. Now we pay lawyers a lot of money and spend years in court.

Whatever happened to Grandview Station? – (G.W.)

Published February 4, 2013 by justicewg

Another repost from the old blog. The Kaplin tract was on the minds of the city council during the recent retreat , is it possible the property will be developed faster than the 2021 date that was projected?

(From Febuary 2008)

Back in early 2006 the big buzz was the proposal by the Bear Creek Capital developers to build a large shopping center at the corner of 33 and Grandview Ave. The project, called “Grandview Station”, was at first proposed to contain two “big box” retailers, with Home Depot and Wal-Mart mentioned as possible tenants. From the initial application:

The conditional uses proposed by the applicant are incorporated into a development plan for a large shopping center. The development plan includes two large retailing operations of approximately 200,000 +sq. ft. and 102,000 sq. ft., five (5) restaurant out parcels containing a combined building size of nearly 23,000 sq. ft. and a mixed use office/retail building of 49,000 sq. ft.

Opposition by Grandview residents was swift. Speakers at city council meetings said they didn’t think the massive stores fit into the Grandview tradition, would be good employers, or would be a good long term use of the land.

In March of 2006, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s dual-jurisdictional vision for a revitalized Grandview Avenue-Dublin Road was presented. Residents received copies of the study during the first meeting of the Dublin Pike Planning Area, an ad hoc committee of the city council. This plan called for a higher intensity, urban mixed use of the area, including office, retail, and residential. While the plan was viewed as a better use of the land, it was only a suggestion. Later the more formal Dublin Pike Resolution clarified the zoning intent for the area (which is for smaller development, not big box stores). This required the Bear Creek people to make substantial revisions.

A March 2006 recommendation by the city to the planning commission killed the first plan with the big box stores.

After the rejection of the first plan by the Grandview planning commission (the application was rejected because it was incomplete, but the above recomentation would have killed it anyway), Bear Creek was supposed to come back with a new plan. Here is a post I make in April of 2006, listing the players and current events.

As of this date (Feb 2008), although the website remains, (well, it did back when this post was put up, it is a 404 now) Bear Creek has not renewed its option on the land. The last mention of the project in the council meeting notes is in Nov. 2006, when some planning meetings were still under way. I asked Director of Administration Patrik Bowman if there had been any more word on the project:

The project is currently dead. Bear Creek has not renewed its option. The restaurant did change hands but I have not talked with the new owner. I’m afraid that given the cost of the restaurant and motel there may be pressure for surface user–gas stations/drive-thrus.

So which do you prefer, Grandview – watching a boarded up motel slowly rot away, or shall we allow a developer to build a gas station or drive-thru? My suggestion would be to tear it all down and build a park – with all that non-existent money that the city will never have.

Despite the loss of new development in Grandview, the council did a good job holding off a deep pockets proposal that simply was wrong for the city. Maybe NRI should be studying the history of this proposed development before they try to lean on the city council.

(Feb. 2008)