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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?

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Current progress, Grandview Crossing

Published March 29, 2018 by justicewg
The dirt pile

The dirt pile

The development at the corner of Grandview Ave and 33 was originally projected to become a big box store anchored retail development, the 2006 plans were called “Grandview Station”. Opposition to the development by the city, and the downturn of the great recession, killed that first attempt.

We are now up to version two of the Wagenbrenner owned Grandview Crossing development (original plan in this 2016 story).

We are still years away from the start of construction, the long history of change in planning makes any prediction of the final form unreliable. This is the current dream.

The stats today

GC is now 52 acres, purchases from the railroad have expanded it some. The Grandview section is 16 acres, about 36 acres are in Columbus, which also must approve plans. Because Grandview will probably ask for more Mixed Urban, Multi-story plans than Columbus, we can probably set the tone for the entire development.

The project now is projecting 200K square feet of office, about 128K square feet of retail and restaurants, and about 1,178 residential units. The Grandview section is expected to include a hotel, a four-story, 240-unit senior-housing complex and three one-story retail/commercial buildings. An additional building might include 27 rental units above retail stores. Read the TVN story for more details of the current plans.

Implications for Grandview – more tax money from a hotel, retail stores, and residential housing. Because the senior living building will have no children, we have no reason to expect more kids attending Grandview schools (maybe a few from the 27 rental units).

Not mentioned in the TVN story – how did the developers get approval for residential buildings on top of the old dump site? Maybe the additional property bought from the railroad is the location of the housing (the Grandview section was not a waste dump, it was last occupied by a motel).

The location of the housing just yards away from a busy railroad track doesn’t make much sense to me. But then I couldn’t understand the appeal of the rental development behind the Lennox, and it appears to be thriving. I guess people just learn to adapt to the noise.

The entrance into the property from Grandview Avenue is still part of the plans. Read this story from 2015 with then council president Panzera’s take on the possibility of traffic problems cause by this entrance. In the time since this story, traffic has only gotten worse in that section of Grandview Ave. during rush hours. I’ll ask the council if there are any new plans for traffic control for this entrance.

A new traffic light on Grandview Ave

(Edit ) The April 2 city council meeting had some more discussion of the Grandview Crossing plans. Go to the minute 28 committee report by Panzera on the video. At around minute 34 he says that a traffic light south of the train tracks is the only way to make the new entrance to GC work. I don’t see how adding a traffic light is going to make an already slow section of the road get anything but slower.

Culp’s G4G video response, and why it is unimportant

Published March 9, 2018 by justicewg
culp-leads-laughter

Andy Culp promotes laughing at community comments at the first public facility meeting.

There is an email circulating in Granview that is supposed to be a response from superintendent Culp to the G4G video. I’ll get back to the email, but first some straight talk about the way things work in the Grandview Heights school board, why they don’t respond to any criticism – and why they should be the ones responding to G4G.

A long history of Policy Governance

I have written often in this blog about the way the school board believes in Policy Governance. If you want a the long form story on that theory of governance, you can read the Wiki article. Here is the short version:

“The board will focus on strategic leadership rather than administrative detail; observe clear distinction between Board and CEO roles; make collective rather than individual decisions; …”

That quote was from the Columbus school board website, back when they were firmly entrenched in Policy Governance. It is as good a summary as any I have found for how the Grandview board operates.

The board treats the superintendent like a CEO of a private company. They don’t want to be bothered with hearing complaints about the daily operation of the school, they are only “big picture” focused. So you get board meetings where the super lists his recommendations, and the board complies, five votes yes. You never read challenges to the ideas the super promotes in any school board meeting.

The board is big on using ideas from business, like using a committee composed of people from private companies. This is part of the “run the government like a business” that is a mantra of the republicans.

The board almost always votes unanimously. Years pass between split votes. The theory from Policy Governance is that the board should be letting the CEO run the school, so there should be no opposition from the board. In a practical, real world application, the people who want to change school policy go to board members in private, then the board communicates with each other outside of meetings to form policy.

Another big reason the board is always unanimous – members who stake out positions in public that are not immediately accepted and become unanimous policy would be venerable to challenge in the next election. You can’t pick out individuals when the board is always a faceless collective.

The present board has another favorite method of forming school policy outside of meetings, the facility Task force and Finance committee are run by board members, and greatly control school policy, but they are closed to public attendance and meeting notes are not allowed out of the room. Culp tries to claim these meetings are not being run by the board, therefore are not part of the Open Meeting laws. He is wrong.

The board should be responding to G4G

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New school facility FAQ vs the G4G video

Published March 2, 2018 by justicewg

The school administration has updated the facility FAQ on the school website with new information about the facility numbers and process. Although the board and the administration still refuse to acknowledge the Good for Grandview group, they obviously are responding to some of the points the G4G has made on their website. The G4G group meanwhile has produced a new video that summarized the facts about the facilities in a short, easy to watch video. Lets look at what each of them are saying.

New FAQ on the school website

Faq is a scamThe new FAQ on the school website has the current spin from the school board on the facility process. By the way, that link in the preceding sentence goes directly to the web page on the school website. If you got a email from the superintendent this week that listed a link to the FAQ, you probably got a warning from your email service that said “The link might be a scam”. The problem is that the link in Culp’s email doesn’t link directly to the school website, it first sends you to a tracking service used by the school’s messenger newsletter software. So the school will know which IP addresses clicked on the link (not unusual, but I had to note that the school’s links are listed as scams by some email clients).

Leading with $44.5 million dollars in deferred maintenance

The school board is not going to back off the deceptive $44.5 million number, they jump right on it in the first paragraph, and defend it with a full section of the FAQ. Even though the G4G did a good take down that showed why that is an inappropriate number, the board is refusing to budge an inch.

Quick review of the debate – HPG came up with this number as a full cost to make all of the schools meet current building codes. The problem is that only new construction is required to meet these codes, there is nothing unsafe about the old codes. If you had to make your 90 year old Grandview home meet all of the current new construction codes, you might also figure it is cheaper to build new. But almost nobody does that, because it isn’t needed, and it destroys a historic building for no good reason (unless you like new construction, in which case you can buy a new house in Hilliard).

The board also fails to answer questions about how they parted on bad terms with HPG, and the unanswered questions throw a shadow over the HPG report. In fact, Harrison himself said that the $44 million number was not an appropriate number for this debate.

In the FAQ the board insists that “it would take $44.5 million to simply address our building maintenance needs.” , then they discount the K-12 Consulting report that gave the board a much lower number. The board disparages the K-12 consultants as being unqualified to give an accurate number (but then that raises the question, why did the board hire a consultant that isn’t qualified?).

They then list the replacement of a boiler and a roof as “unplanned expenditures”, in an attempt to show that the K-12 report didn’t have the full, accurate numbers. However, a careful reading of that report shows that boiler and roof replacement was accounted for as a part of the needed maintenance over the next ten years. The board blatantly lied about the contents of the K-12 report.

The FAQ continues to use the effective tax rate, and doesn’t mention the real, total voted millage (where Grandview has the highest number in all the school districts). They also try to insist that residents received “only 5.6 increase in property tax” after the 2017 revaluation. I wouldn’t call that number “ONLY 5.6%”, as though it requires a simple effortless budget shift to find that extra money. And that number was an average – many people now pay even more.

(Edit –  Apparently that 5.6% was more accurately the increase attributed to the  revaluation, when you add the increases cause by other taxes it adds up to 9.3%, and the board is still calling it ONLY 9.3%. Funny, when the board was dealing with cuts from the state, it wasn’t a “ONLY 5%”. When the school gets cut, it becomes “a pretty significant dropoff”.)

The FAQ ends with asking how much the school spends per student , and how that compares to other districts – and fails to answer its own question.

One big change in the school FAQ is the deletion of a section that listed the outside consultants who have done work on the facilities process, and an accounting of the money spent on these companies. Last year the total they admitted to was at least $200 thousand. I have heard that the number is now well over $250K, and that number will spike well above that if the board hires more public relations people to push a doomed levy in the fall.

 

Good for Grandview video

Go watch the video produced by G4G. It’s only 4 minutes long, and is a lot more fun to watch than this sucky blog. (Later) The G4G have taken down their video, they are now in the process of deciding how to react to the board’s $55 million levy bid).

High points – the property tax vs median household income is the chart that is most important. Taxes have gone up, but the average income has not matched that increase. The 2008 great recession hit hard, and while the economy is back, incomes have not recovered much. More importantly, household wealth – the total assets (land, property, money saved, etc.) took a big hit in the recession and many have not recovered. Retirement money was used, and many of those scraping by have not put the money back. People are still hurting. They simply don’t have the income to vote for new taxes.

The G4G video makes a point of this, Grandview is not composed of just doctors and lawyers, we still have some people with lower incomes, and retired folks with fixed income. New taxes will drive these people out. You will never hear the school board say a word about the impact new taxes will have on the people who can least afford them.

That reminds me of a story I heard about back when the board was pushing the 2002 tax increase, when voters rejected a ridiculous 9.8 + 4 + 4 incremental school levy. Board members were calling up residents, and told them that “people who can’t pay for new taxes should shut up and move out”. I’m guessing some variant of that message will be used for the next levy campaign.

No comparison

So who wins in the school FAQ vs the G4G video? Let’s see – the school board stubbornly repeats useless numbers and refuses to concede that they made any errors in the HPG scandal, or the anti-democratic hiding of school policy creation in the closed task force and finance committees. Their tactic seems to be “fingers in ears, yell the same lies louder”.

The G4G has created a video that has a perfect balance of good information about the past, and points to the way we can get to a better outcome for the schools and the community without tearing the school into warring factions. Is there any question about who wins?

Finance committee failing to make their schedule

Just today we learned from Culp that the closed to the community Finance committee, scheduled to make a report before the community on March 12, will not be ready by that date. No new date has been set. Culp is claiming that they are “still in the process of doing research”.

Given the history of deception from the board, you have to wonder – is this some rebellion that has to be quashed? Maybe – but I have been burned in the past hoping that some group will stand up to the board and tell them that they are a bunch of idiots. We will see. Finance committee members – anyone want to be a good guy and let the community know what is really happening? Use my “about” section to send an anonymous message.

City of Grandview Heights – Comprehensive Community Planning process

Published February 2, 2018 by justicewg

(update – the first city planning meeting is scheduled on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at the Shelter at Wyman Woods at 7:00 p.m.)

Presentation at Jan 16 meeting

The city of Grandview Heights is starting a comprehensive community planning process, it might seem familiar to those who have attended the school’s facility planning meetings, but the city planning meetings are much wider in scope. Commercial development, residential development, neighborhoods, pedestrian safety and walk-ability, city finance – the whole gamut of issues the city council must plan for are going to be up for public discussion.

This post will be a little confusing, because of the way the city posted the information on YouTube. The city council meeting with the presentation is in one video (above), the graphics on the screen behind the speaker are on another video.

10:00 start of presentation. If I heard right, Greg Dale was the man giving the presentation.

11:10 Discussed the work the council did at a workshop on Nov. 30 2017. There were photos of five whiteboards worth of discussion points from that meeting. The focus of that meeting was for the council to discuss the “forces and trends” on the community. Thirty trends were written down, and 24 of what were called priority issues.

12:20 Presenter stressed that the material on the board was a snapshot of one day of work from the council, and the forces and trends will be changed as the wider community is brought in to the process.

13:50 The guy doing the presentation said that the use of the word “zeitgeist” in the workshop was the first time he had heard that word used in 30 years of meetings. It is a perfectly cromulent word! He says the the planning process is not a set process, that there is an “art” to defining a community and its issues.

15:00 The zeitgeist slide attempted to highlight the different groups who need to work together – “new vs old Grandview”, young people vs retired, rich vs less rich (no poor people in Grandview). The council seemed to want to work to reconcile the differences in the city, and not shut out those who are normally left out. The question this slide brings up is, how do you get to parts of the community that are least willing to attend meetings? Young people are tough to reach.

16:20 Neighborhoods and build slide. Lots of issues with density and how to allow multi-family buildings while preserving old single family areas.

17:48 Public realm slide. Talking about traffic and walk-ability issues. Infrastructure and green space. They even wanted to discuss how autonomous vehicles will change parking in the city. (I’m with atrios on this, self driving cars are still 20 years away.)

18;50 Public services and facilities. There was a repeat of a line I heard from the Mayor, that as Grandview attracts more higher income people, they will be expecting more services, like a big recreation complex. Maybe, but the town is still small, and runs into funding issues that Grandview Yard taxes are probably not going to completely solve.

19:30 Resiliency. This one seemed like a good idea, but there are no simple solutions. Yes, the city should be able to roll with the punches that the future might bring, but that is sort of the opposite of setting a course for the future, and sticking to the plan.

Comment from the presentation guy “I have never felt more uncertain about the future than I am right now”. Great! Let’s plot a course to the future, while the deck of the ship is rolling all over the place!

22:15 Public Facilities and the public planning. This is where a lot of meetings to be held will converge with planning the buildings that are needed in the future. Too much here, read the slide. The thing that I got out of it was that the overall community planning might be one track of meetings that takes a whole year, but the meetings that are focused on facilities might be a separate track that splits off and has its own time line. The council and the Mayor are ready to build, and they want it soon.

From what the presenter says this night, the council is so ready to move into the facilities process that not only do they want a separate track, they don’t want to wait for any completion of the more general planning process. I think this is a big mistake.

First, splitting off facilities detracts from the focus of the more general process. The community only has a limited attention span, and ability to attend meetings. Splitting off into two tracks will make both less focused, and less attended.

Second, the general planning track graphic shows a bubble that says “Capital and Facilities recommendations ”, and that is AFTER the split of the facilities track? The implication is that there will be two different plans for the facilities, worked on by two different groups. That is way too confusing to explain to the community.

As much as the council is chomping at the bit to get to work on the facilities, I think the general planning track needs to get done with the recommendation phase before the facility track starts.

This is my own comment to the council on the issues of city facilities. Yes, we know that the police and the fire departments need better buildings. We got that back in the 90’s, when the city tried twice to pass levies, and failed. Don’t try to manipulate the process, don’t push too hard, because the public knows when they are being scammed. The school board is about to learn that lesson when their levies for a $50 million school fail big time. Don’t follow their lead.

Above all, make all parts of the process open for inspection (don’t use the T word, the board has made it toxic). Everything should be open for public attendance, everything recorded, videos made, posted up on the web.

Videos posted of meetings

The first large public meeting of the planning process on April 10 was posted to YT.

The Steering Committee is the sub-group that will manage the public meetings, they had a May 17 meeting and posted it on YT.

Board says “Join the conversation”, then slams the door on the Finance committee

Published January 17, 2018 by justicewg

The Grandview school board received plenty of criticism over the secretive way they ran the Facility Task Force, a group made up of community members who were supposed to be selected for knowledge of public facilities (yet few had any experience). Now the board has carefully selected a Finance committee, and as a very public middle finger gesture to the Grandview parents who criticized them in the past, the board is making the Finance committee closed, no visitors allowed, no meeting notes will be provided for those who question what is happening behind closed doors.

(edit) The first comment below this post is the most important one. Someone who was at the final community meeting remembered what Culp had to say about how the Finance committee meetings were going to be held. Go to the video the board made of that meeting, then jump forward to 51:20. Spoiler – Culp completely contradicts himself.

See the video clipped from that meeting below.

Some history of the Task Force

The Facilities Task force was first proposed at a May 2015 board meeting. A list of attributes that were wanted was posted, “Professional and smart” were good things. “Consensus minded” was also a pre-selection criteria. They wanted people who would not dig too deep, that would not voice concerns, that would reflect the over-optimistic ideas that the board wanted to propose. Although the board said in later news releases that the Task Force members would be experts in school facilities, in reality none of them had any experience in design or construction of school buildings. Being a spouse or friend of a board members was the best ticket to a seat on that group.

When I first requested to attend a Task Force meeting back in September of 2015, board president Brannon at first assumed the meetings were open to the public, like other school policy meetings. She was quickly corrected by the people that really run the board that the meetings were closed, and no meeting notes would be allowed out of the room. The Task Force met dozens of times over the next two years, and although their main task of being the hidden controllers of the public facility meetings has finished, they may still be lucking in the shadows.

The board and Culp have received constant criticism for the hypocrisy of the “we are so transparent” PR pushed in meeting after meeting, while approving a task force that worked in the shadows. The Good for Grandview group pointed out in their website that the Task Force has met in secret dozens of times, with no visitors allowed, and no meeting minutes allowed to leave the room. The only fig leaf the board has created to pretend there is accountability is to post meeting agendas for the Task force – bare skeletons of proposed meeting tasks, most less than 5 single sentence bullet points. There is no public record of how the members worked to shape the public meetings – how the choices were made to limit the options to only 9 building choices at the May 2017 meeting, then cut down to three by the June meeting. By controlling the information presented, and the options that were allowed on surveys, the Task Force (and board) manipulated the process to insure the results they wanted.

You would think the board would have learned that they can’t be quite so blatantly obvious in manipulating the facility process from the shadows, by using the closed off Task Force. You would be wrong.

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Winner of the tallest snowman in the city competition

Published January 16, 2018 by justicewg
8 ft tall snowman

I call it, Mt Freeze Megasnowman, the Comprehensive Community Driven Facility Finance Committee crusher

Years ago my kids and I built this 8 ft tall snowman. The city of Grandview Heights just ran a snowman competition, and didn’t specify the dates for the snowman building, it just had to be in this city. We won! We deserved it too, almost broke my back getting that second snowball up on top.

Congratulation to the kids who won in other categories. Just don’t try to top my snowman – no really, don’t try, it would be dangerous to do it. Make your dad build a bigger snowman!