Grandview Yard

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Porch decoration collector

Published October 2, 2018 by justicewg

An odd thief has been caught on cams stealing from the porches of Grandview homes.

He likes to steal wreaths off doors, large planters, and pumpkins from the front porch of homes. He commits his crimes both at night and during the day.

These videos are from Pullman Way and Urlin Ave. One of the videos has a fairly clear image of the suspect vehicle that we believe to be a silver mid-size SUV or hatch back vehicle. He also wears what appears to be Adidas sandals during the offenses. Anyone that may be able to identify him is asked to contact our police department at 614-488-7901.

Sometimes crime makes no sense at all. What is this guy doing with the wreaths, planters and pumpkins? I can’t see how he can sell the stuff, it would be obvious they are stolen to any purchaser. My guess – this guy has a shrine at home, decorated with all of the plunder. Probably has a map on the wall behind, with string connecting pushpins, showing the deep connection between all of the stuff.

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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.

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.

Understanding Grandview Yard tax revenue

Published August 30, 2016 by justicewg

The city has big plans in store for the future, and unless we are thinking about going to war with Upper Arlington, we will not be funding those plans with more taxable land area. We have some new businesses on Goodale, but that area has about maxed out on value (unless business owners can be convinced to build tall offices). That leaves Grandview Yard as the key to the future increases in finances. The City recently published an overall summary of the financial data available on the Grandview Yard development, let’s dig into the numbers.

Property tax income and TIFs and Pilots

Property value GY

The first chart shows the property market value of the Yard. The TIF value is the additional value that was created by construction, and by agreement with NRI, will mostly be used for infrastructure bonds. The abatements are cuts in taxes given as a lure to build (or what some might say as a give-away to businesses that always have a hand out for corporate welfare).

What you learn from this table – between the TIF and the abatements, the city has not increased tax revenue into the general fund from property tax. If anything, it went down. If the city would have the same reliance on property tax as the school, you would be reading stories in the TVN similar to the “No boon from G.Y.” story that was published this year.

Pilot is the brain of the TIF

We are getting into the complex part of the story when we try to understand PILOTs. I quote from the doc:

Properties in the Grandview Yard TIF pay amounts equal to the property taxes, known as “payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS)”, as though the TIF had not been established. To the taxpayer in the TIF it is the same amount of money, but behind the scenes it is put into two different “pools”. The entire amount of PILOTs is sent to the City for distribution to the School, Library and Infrastructure Bond Trustee.

While the TIF was being set up, it was an agreed fact that the school and the library could suffer while the old buildings were torn down, and the TIF shuttled money to construction bonds. The PILOT is the brain of the TIF, and sets aside money to help the school and the library. There is complexity in the “Waterfall” of tax money that is diverted in stages to the school first, but I’m not sure if that’s important information. What you learn – the school tax income from G.Y. will be mostly flat.

Employment

According to the doc, there are over 2,000 new employees working at the Yard as of July 31, 2016. That’s not counting construction employees who are building the Yard. We are starting to get into the income tax part of the finances, and it is important to understand who pays income taxes to the city.

(Edit) I had some incorrect info about municipal income taxes, Ohio has some very complex rules. Some cities give 100% credit for income taxes collected outside the city, some 50%, some no credit. So it is possible for some Yard workers to pay taxes both to Grandview and an outside city. There is no breakout of the kind of tax income (personnel or business) in the data shown in this Grandview Finance document.

Business who are located in Grandview do pay income tax here. The 30 new businesses in the Yard will pay significant new income taxes to the city.

Summary of Revenue Created

Summary of Revenue Created

This chart shows a listing of the types of new money at G.Y. Note how much is being sent to the City of Columbus. Also note the size of the hotel tax, which only comes from one hotel, and will soon come from two. The largest non-TIF part of the pie is city income taxes.

Hotel Taxes

I’m working on a new story about how the Hotel taxes are generated and distributed. The only surprise I have at this tax is how well the Grandview Parks and Rec department did with a specific tax slice worth $136,439 last year. It will be something to watch as that number increases.

School Income

School district income from Yard

The school district depends on property taxes for most of their income. As you see in that section of the pie chart, the TIF agreements have held the taxes flat. The only section of the chart that is increasing is the “New Money PILOT”, and that’s only $302K last year, and is not supposed to gain much in the future.

The school can push for even higher property tax, but that will be coming from the rest of the city, not the Yard, which is protected by TIF agreements. The present millage puts us near the top of the chart in property tax rates in F.C., how much more can they expect Grandview residents to pay? Pretty obvious where the school will be going for new taxes in the future.

Mayor responds to complaints from The Lorax

Published March 25, 2016 by justicewg
Lorax on Flickr

CC Broken Simulacra on Flickr

Mayor DeGraw posted a second message on the Grandview city blog about the removal of trees from the Northwest Boulevard and First intersection. The first message, posted a week before, attempted to explain the reason the city has been working to re-do the trafic pattern for that area, and why the trees must be removed. This week’s post reported that a couple of additional trees would be cut down due to safety concerns.

 

Ribbons didn’t save the trees

I gave a short report on the kerfuffle over the trees in a post last August. A protest lead by (at the time former, now current) city council member Steve Reynolds complained about the cutting of trees for this project, even placing blue ribbons around the trees (which the city removed the next day). The protest didn’t save the trees, but they did point out that there was not enough meetings being held to take comments from the community, and the additional meetings produced a modified plan that saved some of the trees.

A long planning process

The first blog post by the Mayor was a comprehensive accounting of the entire process that lead to the tree cutting on NW Blvd., please read that post for all the good info on the history of the planning that has been done around the Grandview Yard project. Worth your time!

Also, read the Character Framework for Community Investment,(Pdf) a 2013 planning document that was produced by an outside consultant. Five focus group meetings were held that looked at the direction the city could move in the years ahead, knowing the G.Y. would dominate the planning process. It is a good doc that covers some basic info on traffic flow and potential upgrades to the city.

The cars must flow

The biggest reason that the city is remodeling the NW Blvd intersections is to improve traffic flow into and out of the Yard. I think there will be bumper to bumper traffic jams when the 3000 employees at the Nationwide campus (plus other businesses inside G.Y.) are all driving to work in the morning and going home in the evening. The entrances on Third and Goodale are supposed to handle the majority of the flow, but that will be primarily traffic from 315 and areas to the east. I expect that will be how most employees enter at first, but they will quickly find houses to live in the near area. The new employees living inside Grandview and U.A. will be trying to enter from the west side of the Yard, and NW Blvd is the major route. Some will use First Ave too, there was talk about modifications to the intersection at First and Oxley to prevent this, but I don’t know where that is in the current plans.

Back in the dark ages before 315 was upgraded into a freeway, NW Blvd was the standard route for anyone living in the U.A and further north to get to downtown. It was choked with traffic, even after they banned all parking during rush hours and turned it into a four lane throughway. I can see it returning to that state if the traffic into G. Y. gets bad, which will be difficult for the residents who depend on those parking spots. This temporary loss of parking on NW Blvd is a sign of things to come.

Walkable – to what?

A part of the planning process for the Yard was figuring out how to connect it to the rest of the city. We have the Arena District downtown as a stark warning of how development can be localized, leading to choking businesses outside the new development area. There was much talk about how the Arena would bring up all of downtown, but it turned out to be the vampire that sucked the life out of the City Center mall.

The intersection of NW Blvd and First is also being remodeled so that it can be an extension of the walkways already completed that lead into the center of the Yard. Hopefully there will be some people that will walk from the Yard to the strip of businesses on First across from the park. I can’t imagine anyone walking further up the hill to the Grandview Ave shopping area – Americans just don’t like to walk that far.

Here is a possible scenario for the future, one that I have not heard mentioned and is not in any planning document.

The school board has been making lots of warning signals that they want to build new schools. A panel to review the school physical facilities has been created, an outside firm is working on recommendations, which I’m sure will somehow align closely with the already stated wants of the board, which has paid the consultant generously.

Stevenson school will no doubt be pointed out as a “decrepit building” that needs replaced. Nothing wrong with it right now, but I’m sure a 90 year old building can be declared shockingly outdated and hindering the education of our children, if the board is in the mood to get on the gravy train and build schools. Closing Stevenson and building a massive new building that included other grades can be an expected path for the school board.

Wouldn’t it be just an amazing coincidence if the board wanted to close Stevenson and build an elementary building somewhere else, and then the old Stevenson building became the perfect place to extend the retail shopping area on First? “The Shops in Stevenson” has a catchy name.

Mayor to hold “Community Conversations” meetings

Mayor DeGraw has announced meetings at the shelter house at Wyman Woods on April 12 at 6:00 p.m. and again Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 a.m, so he can answer questions from the community about current and planned city projects, and discuss community issues.

NRI lays out the future of Grandview Yard

Published June 30, 2014 by justicewg
Brian Ellis announces the new Nationwide Ins. campus at Grandview Yard

Brian Ellis announces the new Nationwide Ins. campus at Grandview Yard

The future will be dominated by the Nationwide Insurance campus. The retail dream of a mini-Easton might have been a possibility back in 2007, but it’s dead now. There were some holes in the map of the Yard that were plotted as ghost white possibilities, but it seems clear that the Yard will be a Nationwide Insurance campus foremost, with 1300 residential units second priority. Another hotel, and retail and food/drink establishments will fill in the gaps, as announced at the June 30, 2014 meeting.

I was encouraged to see the three new parking structures placed firmly on the map. A couple of years ago when the future of the Yard seemed to be headed for a big box store dominated retail there were surface parking lots plotted all over the map. The four story parking buildings will go a long way to insure that the development has the right density of mixed-use construction.

The big surprise was a new 135 room hotel and conference center, with a ballroom for 300 and multi-use areas. I always wondered how it could be possible for the hotel market to have any room for expansion given the new hotel on Olentangy and the hotel being constructed in the short north. Somebody thinks that the market is not saturated. The hotel taxes from the current Hyatt Place has been a boost to the city, if the new hotel is as popular the taxes will be a windfall for the city.

Well, almost a windfall. The current businesses in the Grandview Yard have not caused much of an increase in city employment, but as the thousands of jobs move into the office buildings and retail businesses open in this round of expansion, city police and fire personnel will need to increase.

Mayor Degraw wins big time

Mayor Degraw wins big time

We should be glad?

Mayor DeGraw took some time to point out that Nationwide Insurance is a top 100 corporation who had a lot of different choices in where they could have located their campus, and that Grandview should take pride in being the kind of place where a top business would want to move. There was a bit of obsequiousness toward Nationwide in that pronouncement.

Ray has done some good work for the city, and he will go down in the history books as being the Mayor who brought our small, landlocked, drifting into obscurity city into the big time, while the rest of the region suffered through a major recession. There was no guarantee the G.Y. development would succeed. He has every reason to feel thankful for Nationwide’s choice.

If I were the Mayor of Dublin or Westerville though, who will lose all those jobs, I would not be so happy. There is an element of Greek tragedy to modern business machinations, in which the Gods make their moves while us little people dance around and must cope with tragedy or are blessed with good fortune.

There is a term in business called “eating your own dog food”. That happens when a business uses its own product in the daily business activities of the company. This doesn’t happen as much as you would expect, because the people who make the product are fully aware of the limitations.

Did Nationwide Insurance “eat their own dogfood” when they selected their own development for their campus? Nationwide Realty Investors is a subsidiary of the Insurance company, the choices the insurance part make are supposed to be independent of the investment arm. But it sort of looks like dog food chow to me.

Poor map of the Yard, I added some callouts. Click to bigifye.

Poor map of the Yard, I added some callouts. Click to bigifye.

Connecting the Yard with the city

One of the most difficult problems for the city has been connecting Grandview Yard with the rest of the city. When the area was light industrial, nobody wanted to walk there, and the street layouts helped to wall it off from the rest of the city. Now that the Yard is trying to become a walkable destination, the old layout works against the plan. The solution on the maps for now is to re-build the intersection of First Ave. and NW Boulevard, and create a walker friendly, tree lined entrance to the Yard as an extension of First. The new improved road into the Yard will end at a 2 acre park, roughly in front of the Nationwide campus.

This also enhances the car traffic into the Yard. The planners expect Third Ave, and Goodale to be the main traffic feeders for the Yard, but First Ave. will also become a commuter route for local traffic. An expert hired by the city said that 8 percent of the traffic on First would be going to the Yard.

Residents at the meeting were not happy with the though of sleepy commuters driving down First in the morning, as the kids are being dropped off at Stevenson. Even with a relocated school entrance and drop off area to the east on Hilo Lane, the additional traffic on First will be a problem for the school. A board member at the meeting said they were not involved in the negotiations with NRI, explained by the city council as being needed for sensitive talks.

How do you make an inviting connector to the Grandview Yard without increasing car traffic? My suggestion – widen the road and plant the trees, but make the road going into the Yard at First a bicycle path and walking route, and keep the cars out of this entrance to the development.

Where is this push-back originating?

I had a short email conversation with council president Panzara, mainly to find copies of the traffic studies that were mentioned at the meeting. His take on the traffic problems that G.Y. might cause was that the issue was overblown by the reporters at the meeting. He had personally gotten very few comments or question from Grandview residents about traffic problems.

Today in the Dispatch (July 7) there is an unsigned editorial that is headlined “Increased traffic is manageable” , it is a rebuttal to the questions about the traffic that will be driving into the yard every day. Like the council at the meeting, we are reminded that this was all in the planning documents since 2009, so our objections are unreasonable. Never mind that the whole plan for the business tenants and expected traffic has changed multiple times in the years since the first announcement, we should have foreseen the future and raised objections five years ago.

Then the editorial states “But Grandview is an urban suburb, and that means traffic”. As the first commenter to this editorial reminds us, Grandview Heights likes to think of itself as a small town surrounded by the big city, but still small enough to avoid bad traffic. If the choice was living with choking traffic (like Powell, OH), and  receiving all the new taxes, or forgoing the big development for more modest traffic, I think the majority of the residents would vote for less traffic. (I don’t think Powell levels of traffic were in the plans, but I have yet to read the documents).

Why are the small time traffic questions for Grandview Heights receiving editorial page coverage in the Dispatch? Oh , I forgot, “Capitol Square Limited, the commercial real-estate arm of The Dispatch Printing Company, publisher of The Dispatch, owns a 20 percent stake in Grandview yard.” Funny that this disclaimer is often included in articles, but is not added to the editorials in the paper.

Another Dispatch article was printed on July 8th, telling us about the funding for the streets and other public utilities inside the Yard. The issues with traffic on First Ave. were again mentioned, with assurances that the city had plans to cope with the increases.

Big announcement about the Yard Monday evening

Published June 30, 2014 by justicewg
NRI announcment 2007

NRI announces the start of Grandview Yard in the middle school, Dec. 19, 2007.

Mayor Ray DeGraw will be giving us the details of a new development in the Grandview Yard on Monday at 5:30, in the Community Center. A big change in focus for the Yard will be on the way following Nationwide Insurance’s announcement that they will be moving 3K jobs to new offices inside the development. There have been stories about the move in the Dispatch and the Business First.

Two thoughts on this news before the meeting.

This will mean jobs and a big increase in the income taxes Grandview will be receiving from the Yard. So, hooray. I’m not so happy about getting those jobs by taking them away from Dublin and Westerville. This moving jobs around inside the central Ohio area is not real growth, it is moving the chess pieces. Grandview might be the winner now, but if the numbers are run in 10 years and some place else looks better, we could be left with a lot of empty buildings as Nationwide moves on.

Second, this is not bringing us any nearer to the large retail shopping development that was promised back in 2007. Although NRI never said anything other than “commercial development”, we were hoping for a Mini-Easton. I don’t see how that is possible now with 500K sq. ft. of office space being used up by Nationwide (the current offices built and in construction are only 200K). We will hear NRI’s plans on Monday, I’ll be interested in hearing them say if any big retail shopping is now possible, or if that dream is dead.