Plenty of work ahead for “Good for Grandview” group

Published December 19, 2017 by justicewg
Culp and Douglass

Andy Culp and the man who pulls his strings

Reading the cryptic messages from the politburo at the Grandview school board has never been easy, they are normally stuffed with jargon and deflection of direct questions. I have a new email from Culp that contained more of the same, but if I’m reading it right, it doesn’t bode well for the G4G.

Three weeks have passed since the “Good for Grandview” facility review group made a public plea for the school administration to rethink plans for a $50 million new build at the middle school, along with renovations to the other buildings. A short article in the TVN contained some quotes from superintendent Culp in reaction to the group, but didn’t address any of the issues the GfG brought up on their website. Culp stuck to boilerplate phrases like “we are transparent” and “community-driven”, and said nothing about the issues of faults in the facility process, or answers to the questions of how this small community could support an unprecedented new tax burden for the new schools.

This was similar to the reaction from the board when they were asked about the break with consultant Harrison Planning Group, the board refused to answer questions from the press, and relied on meaningless jargon – as though they were too stunned to process or comment on what had happened.

Three weeks have now passed, I’m sure many phone calls between board members and administration staff have occurred, possibly even work done by outside consultants to formulate strategy for dealing with the G4G group. I have been sending multiple emails to all of the board members, asking them to respond with their own reaction to the statements that G4G made about the facility process, and the opposition the group has to the $50 million plan.

This is the reply I received: Read the rest of this entry →

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Facebook is bad for everybody / Changing minds

Published December 13, 2017 by justicewg

I try to keep my commentary on this blog focused on local Grandview issues, but occasionally I read or see something that makes me say, “Yes, this person is absolutely right, we all need to pay attention”. I will get back to the local after a while, but first some thoughts on this TED talk about social media, and Facebook in particular. Later, I discuss a good website on changing minds.

We’re building a dystopia

That is a bit of a clickbait headline, isn’t it? Sure, but this TED talk backs it up with careful reasoning and reference to studies of how behavior changes because of online ads and social media groups.

There has been a few headline news stories that have told us how we are becoming a nation that is sharply divided, not just because of ideological differences, but because of the perception of reality. We want to read stories that reinforce our own world view, and discount those that don’t fit – cognitive dissonance has been studied for many years, we know how the mind can bend perception to fit our view of how “things should be”. Now we have Facebook to reinforce those perceptions, feeding us a computer generated stream of news and commentary that intentionally pushes us into more extreme views on politics and society.

It has gotten so bad that even one of the founders of social media admits that Facebook is tearing the social fabric apart (jump to 21:30). He suggests the best solution is to stop using Facebook, but if that is not possible, at least understand how it works to suck you in and make you angry. Read the rest of this entry →

New school group critical of Facility process named “Good for Grandview”

Published December 1, 2017 by justicewg
GfG website

Home page of the Good for Grandview group (at http://www.goodforgrandview.org)

A group that calls themselves “Good for Grandview” has announced they will oppose the current school plan to spend $50 million on a new middle school, as well as extensive remodeling of the other buildings. Via a new website, they list a number of complaints with the facility review process, and state that they believe there is no way that voters will pass an unprecedentedly large levy. They say they are not just a “No” group, they are in favor of a right sized facility upgrade.

The founders of this group are an impressive list of parents and former school board members. This is not a bunch of anti-tax zealots or a sore losers club, they are the people who were sitting in the front rows during the many meetings of the facility review and educational process.

The group speaks well for themselves on their website – go read it! The reasons for their creating the group can be summarized as the following:

If the school board tries to pass an unprecedentedly high levy to pay for $50 million in construction at the schools, the group feels that there is no way it can pass. There is simply not that much money that can be raised in this small town. There has not been formal organized opposition to levies in the past, and almost all were approved by the voters. Tension between the pro-levy boosters, and opponents, will tear apart the community. The schools will remain in the current condition. They call it a lose-lose-lose proposition.

The group points out that the “$44 million in deferred maintenance” that has been repeated at every opportunity by the administration is a figure that is not applicable to the reality of the buildings – that number assumes that complete tear out and replacement of all systems in order to meet current codes and standards as though they were built today. An older report by a company called “K-12 Consulting” concluded that around $500K per year would be needed to keep the schools running for the next ten years (that included major new systems like boiler replacement).

The G4G saw a number of problems with the way the facility review process was run by the school board. They mentioned the closed to the public Task Force meetings, and the way the surveys and exit tickets were designed to minimize open-ended discussion and steer the process toward a narrow range of possible outcomes. Although the word “transparency” was a favorite of the administration and the board, the reality was that they failed to act in any way that would earn that name.

My suggestions

This is a big deal, there has never been organized opposition to the school board like this before. The board was probably going to go with the full $50 million plan, that option is now dead as a doornail.

The question is, what now? I sure don’t have any pull on the board, but if I thought they might listen, I would tell them this. Read the rest of this entry →

Quick answers from council candidates – part 2

Published November 3, 2017 by justicewg

Link to part 1

(Edit after the election – the three candidates who responded to my questions received the most votes, and Panzera also was re-elected. Not sure if any positions held by these candidates were deciding factors, as the conventional wisdom goes, working hard on door knocking and answering all questions seemed to be way to gain office.)

Melanie Houston

Neglected issues – Houston makes a good point about the lack of park space in Grandview, we are low in terms of per capita park space, and have no “wild” areas. I don’t know where we can find more space inside the present city boundaries though. Maybe connect the community garden with the McKinley Field Park (the strip in the back by the tracks is already owned by the city). Buying and tearing down the homes south of Goodale has been suggested in the past, but that doesn’t really feel like greenspace when it has trains a few yards away. Increasing park space is a good topic for the council, I would like to see more discussion, maybe it would be part of the community planning process that has been mentioned in the past.

More about money and parks in this 2016 story on Wallace gardens.

Medical marijuana – Houston says she believes medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for our community members, but she got no requests to support dispensaries in Grandview while door knocking. She also has the “but what about the children?” worries, and correctly assumes that some other town in the area will have no problem taking in the taxes that will be generated.

Apparently Grandview council had no issues with allowing the sale of alcohol at the Ox Roast (approved in 2016 by unanimous votes), which somehow didn’t trigger any “but what about the children?” worries. Someday there will be acceptance of the facts about which drug is the real danger, we have a way to go on that issue.

School facilities – There has been a long discussed plan to somehow make a community recreation facility that could be shared by the schools. Houston also likes the idea. Where to find the millions needed to build a indoor pool and track facility has always been the stumbling block. Houston mentions a paid pass system as a possibility, but that still puts the funding problems on the schools.

The logistics of how to share a rec center, while keeping random people away from school kids, has never been explained in the plans I have read. And recreation facilities is not the problem, finding funds to build new schools is the current puzzle for the board.

A funny things that happened on the way to office – someone told Houston she looked better than her campaign literature. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this was a guy who was on the make, or at least well trained in responding to “do I look good in this photo” questions. Still looking for the candidate who can bring the funny.

Full answers after the jump, more Q and A’s will be posted here if the last two guys respond.

Read the rest of this entry →

Quick answers from council candidates – fall 2017

Published October 29, 2017 by justicewg

The five candidates for four council seats have been out knocking on doors and attending meetings to answer questions from the public. They are still open to questions from emails, here are a few that I thought had not been done in the past. Responses from the candidates are posted in the order they gave me their replies.

Come back to this post for updates, I will add new commentary to the front page as I read through the responses, and the full text of the answers from the politicians will be added after the jump.

Greta Kearns, current council member

Question about policy that has not been given enough thought – she mentioned a comprehensive community planning project, which has been talked about by other council members. I’m not sure that it is a missing topic for the average voter in the community, these planning sessions are generally boring and don’t really engage the attendees.

The issue is the same one that made the school facility planning session a dud, they asked the parents to attend days of sessions, get deep into the weeds on policy, but there was no payout for that work. The final vote on facility options was open to anyone, and easily hackable. And the board was clear that they can dump the recommendations and go their own way. I don’t have a solution for this problem, but I would like there to be an admission that a problem exists.

Medical Marijuana is a no for Kerns. She sites reasons that are similar to the Tobacco 21 and minor bike helmet legislation, if a drug is bad for kids (or a lack of a helmet), we should not allow it in Grandview.

Relationship with the School board. Kearns says there is no problem ( but since she is the the School Liaison, she would say that). The competition for property tax can be solved, according to her, if city can add all needed improvements without a tax increase. That will be quite a trick to build a new fire and police station (which she supports) without new taxes. She doesn’t see any way to share facilities with the school.

A funny things that happened on the way to office – I guess the resident who answered his door wearing only a toga and a cowboy hat was sort of funny. I guess you had to be there.

Chris Smith, council V.P.

Neglected issues – I like the discussion on public transport, as a metro area Columbus has neglected transportation for so long it gives us a negative image for any business looking to relocate to the area. Why would someone want to develop in a city that had no public transportation other than old buses and roads that are fast becoming constant traffic snarls? Unfortunately it is a regional problem that can’t be solved by Grandview city council.

Smith said that Medical Marijuana businesses would “probably not the wisest use for commercial property in the city.” And given that the city of Columbus will probably have no issues with the dispensaries, and the taxes they pay, there will not be a problem finding a near by dispensary. But if we have full access to Medical Marijuana, but chose to let someone else get all the tax money, does that really make sense?

Smith agrees that there are issues in communication between the city and the school board. He doesn’t have a solution other than “we need to work hard”. He did mention the re-negotiation with NRI at the Yard will allow the bonds to be paid quicker, allowing the schools to boost tax income sooner.

Smith did have a good story about a long rant from a resident during a door knock session. I would call it more poignant than funny. I guess nothing really funny can be expected from politicians.

More full answers from candidates will be added after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry →

Complaints lodged over First Ave condo proposal

Published September 26, 2017 by justicewg
Deyo and Office

The yellow brick office building and the brown roof Deyo-Davis buildings would be torn down for the development.

The meeting room for the planning commission was overflowing September 20th with Grandview residents who wanted to comment on the proposed condo to be built on First Ave. The majority of those who spoke were opposed to the plans that were presented by the developer. The site is now the Deyo-Davis Funeral Home and an adjacent office building.

According to a TVN story, most were in favor of the use of the property for residential use, which would require a change from the current commercial zoning. But speakers at the meeting were critical of the number of units and the increased traffic that would be flowing in and out of the area. The developer, Scott Owens, presented a plan for the constructing of two four-story buildings, each with 16 condominiums.

Many spoke about the nearby Edison school building, and worried that morning traffic leaving the condos would cross paths with children entering the school. There were also concerns about parking, although the developer had parking garages in the back, there would only be two spaces per unit. Residents who lived in the area said the on street parking is already tight, and worried that visitors to the new development would create parking issues for blocks around the area.

Some commission members expressed problems with the size and number of units in the new buildings. They said the new buildings would not fit into the present character of the neighborhood. But commission member Robert Wandel said he likes the “boldness” of Owens’ concept, and suggested that traffic issues could be ameliorated with a second entrance.

The only possible second entrance I could see would be a back exit onto Broadview Ave, but that still allows turning right and entering First. I don’t see how shifting traffic sightly improves anything.

The Powell development cautionary tale

Council member Steve Reynolds posted links on his “Grandview Heights USA” facebook page to a story that happened in Powell. Ohio. The city council in that town approved a large new housing development, but a group of residents created a city charter amendment banning high-density housing that was approved by voters. The city then withdrew the developer’s approval, and the developer sued. The city had to pay $1.8 million to settle the suit.

The present development under consideration is not yet approved by the council, and will require re-zoning for the new use of the land. Grandview doesn’t face the danger of a lawsuit. However, City Council members do have the power to approve development deals that are not wanted by the majority of the voters, and passing amendments after approval can cost the city (and voters) big bucks.

The issued of housing density in Grandview should be a top concern for the council members up for election this fall. Make sure you know what the position of each candidate is, and let the candidates know how you feel about housing in Grandview.

Fall 2017 election candidates have filed

Published August 11, 2017 by justicewg

The Franklin Co. Board of Elections has posted the candidates that have filed to run. These are not certified, mistakes in the paperwork could disqualify some of them.

City Council

Four open seats on the council have six candidates attempting to take office. Anthony Panzera, Kearns, and Smith will try for re-election. Stephen Papineau will be retiring from the council.

Dan Headapohl, a past council president, will try to return to the council. Nicholas Pavlik, and Melanie Houston will also run for a seat.

(later –  Nicholas Pavlik dropped out of the race).

School board

Current member Truett has filed. Douglass and Evans are stepping away. Only two other candidates have filed, Eric Bode and Molly Wassmuth, so at this point they will get to take office with no opposition. You have to wonder how much the planned major building at the schools have turned off candidates for this office, instead of the usual running the schools and passing normal levies, the board will be tasked with trying to pass new construction levies that will hit record heights.

Remember, this is only the first filing list, the candidate must still have all the paperwork in order to be certified. We could still have a shocker election, like 2013, when Clifford made a rookie mistake in her paperwork.

(Aug 23) All candidates for council and the board have been BoE certified.