council

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Watching Grandview Heights in 2017

Published December 31, 2017 by justicewg

This year contained some end points, like the opening of the new Grandview swimming pool, but it was more about the continuation of projects that had been in the works for years. Next year might be the time for a final decision on the school facilities, or the plans for a new city office building. Here are the news stories that had people visiting this website.

Bomb threat at PNC Bank

pnc-bank-bomb

A bank robber at the PNC bank on First Ave caused the first major story of January 2017. The street was closed and lockdowns in place at all the schools until bomb squad members determined that the bag left outside didn’t contain explosives. By February the Grandview Heights police announced they had a suspect in custody. Karl Schlenker, 60, of Cranford, New Jersey, was arrested at his home without incident.

I can find nothing online about a trial, so I guess it is possible Schlenker might still be walking the streets of Columbus after he posted bond and was released.

School facilities recommendation, and Good for Grandview group formed

culp-leads-laughter

The school board ramped up the public meetings to study the facilities at the schools this year, options for possible building plans were first presented at a May meeting. The school quickly narrowed choices down to three by June, and after an open to all (and hackable) online survey, superintendent Culp determined that the outcome of the process supported the “Tear down the middle school” option.

Some of the parents and community members who attended the facilities meetings got together, and decided they couldn’t agree with Culp’s recommendation. The Good for Grandview group posted a website with their complaints with the process the school used to chose a facility plan, and a warning that the cost of the new construction was just too expensive for this small community. As of December 31, 2017, they have 276 signatures on an online petition to the school board.

The board has remained absolutely silent about the GfG group. Culp had some jargon filled responses, but he rejected all direct questions. Two new board members will join the board in 2018, but past experience indicates there is little chance they will deflect the board from its current path.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reynolds adds some drama to council meeting about kid’s helmets

Published June 19, 2017 by justicewg

Council 6-5-17Have you been following the city council as they debated a new law to require helmets for kids on bikes? Did you express you opinion to a council member? According to city council member Steve Reynolds, the process to explore new rules has been rushed through the council law making process, leading to a proposed law that has not been given enough thought.

If your kid gets a proposed ticket for riding a bike without a helmet, are you ready to spend some time attending the Mayor’s court with your child, at which you will be lectured and fined some amount of money?

The new law as read by Reynolds says that the bike of an offending child can be seized by the ticketing police officer. Do you think it is a good idea to have police snatching away kid’s bikes for failure to wear a simple helmet? Is it a good use of police time to deal with taking away bikes, storing them, and arranging for the return of them after a fine has been paid?

The 9/11 of council drama

Reynolds said the council president didn’t follow her own promise to hold off on writing down a proposed law. Reynolds added some hyperbole to the debate by saying that there was a perception that the council make laws outside the council chamber, and that rushing this law “is throwing jet fuel onto that”. He didn’t feel that any positive reinforcement (cops giving treats to kids who wear helmets) could be done now that the law punishing kids for no helmets has been written.

The above video will start at the point where Reynolds begins his complaint (if it doesn’t in your app skip to 40:20). Skip forward to 1:23:55 for Panzera’s heated reply to Steve.

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Live YouTube videos of city council meetings now available

Published May 31, 2017 by justicewg

The city council has begun a new chapter in responsiveness to Grandview Heights residents with live video posted to YT as the meetings are in progress. The council has recorded the last four council meetings, with variable quality, but the effort shown is a big step up in opening up meetings and improving responsiveness for the city.

Councilwoman Keeler, as chair of the Communications & Technology Committee, was most responsible for bringing the camera to the council meetings. According to her, the city did look into how some other cities use video to record meetings, but had no special request from the any visitor to the council meetings to start offering live meetings on YT.

The video feed has some rough recording issues, mostly with the audio. Some council members sit back and make it difficult to hear their voices. The worst problem is microphone “thump”, caused by council members shuffling papers or taping the desk, it is magnified by the desktop and gets really annoying when a low “boom” makes listening to quiet voices painful.

They could improve the quality of the sound by placing something soft, like a mouse pad, under each mike.

The video was in low quality 240P resolution for some of the first meetings, but now is at an acceptable 720P HD. The video could be improved by the use of two cameras so that the members with their backs to the camera could be seen better, but that would require a person to be operating a switch live, activating the camera that is pointing at the current speaker.

The real advantage for the residents of the city is to allow us to see how easy it is to get your voice heard before the council. The example above, from the May 15, 2017 Council Meeting, shows how the council spent a full 30 minutes listening to residents proposing a new law that required children to wear helmets while bike riding. The council was not enthusiastic about adding a new law that stacked more work on the city police, but the issue got a full hearing and will probably be under more discussion at future meetings. This level of attention to issues that residents bring before the council is not often seen in larger cities.

If you have not gone before the city council and voiced your concerns about problems on your street, you are missing out on a big part of what makes this a democracy.

Don’t expect video from the school board

Grandview is a city of contrasts, no where so much as the attitudes of the board when compared to the council. The board doesn’t want you to speak, is probably not going to give you answers, and will be sending pigs into space before they volunteer to make video recordings of their meetings.

Board president Jessie Truett has this to say when requested to make audio recordings:

“Today’s (special) meeting was not recorded and as in the past, we do not intend to record future work sessions. “ – Jessie Truett

I don’t think video recordings will be made at board meetings unless a real change happens in the next election.