All posts tagged council

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.

The push polling for building new schools has begun

Published May 7, 2017 by justicewg

I mentioned in the last post that I was told a PR firm was doing paid focus groups and polling on the schools here in Grandview, at which they are probably doing Push Polling, a standard method for political groups to influence public opinion. I don’t have proof this is happening with that PR firm.

I do have access to the online poll the school has created, and was a little surprised at the blatant push polling in that survey.

Out of all the options the board wants to build, the moving of the K to 3rd grade out of Stevenson and into a building on the present Middle school location seems to be mentioned the most. It is in the 3A, 3B, and 3C options. The master plan doesn’t say what will happen to the building. “Evaluate  future  use  of  Stevenson  Elementary” is what they say on the option list.

The online Poll that the school wants us to fill out has a very different thing to say about Stevenson school:

 “If Stevenson Elementary was converted to a community center for the city, would you favor or oppose moving the kindergarten through 3rd grade students into a new building on the high school/middle school campus?” – from the online poll.

Nobody from the city has said a word about using Stevenson as a “community center”. This is completely from the school board, used as a method of confusing the options on closing down Stevenson, a move that will be stridently opposed by all the parents on the east end of the city.

What kind of “community center” could even be built in that building? No way a Rec Center is going to fit into the many small classrooms. The auditorium is way too small for any adult ball courts or community swimming pool.

I’d like to hear one of the city council members comment on this – they have never said a word about it that I know, and I don’t think they would support closing down Stevenson (unless they are looking to get booted off the council by the voters).

(Edit – I confirmed with Council President Kearns, no one from the board has ever talked to them about a “community center” at Stevenson, no plans have been discussed by the council about any alternate use of the building.)

After some thought, I’m not sure if push polling is the correct label for what the board did. There was not even the slightest establishment of the possibility of the school building being turned into a community center. That makes it more a flat out lie from the school board, intentionally done to deceive the voters of Grandview

Keep an eye out for the push polling, I’m sure we will be exposed to all sorts of assertions in the polls that are just fantasy created by the board to manipulate public opinion on their plans. Read the rest of this entry →

City addresses long term plans for Goodale Blvd.

Published April 28, 2017 by justicewg

Brexton BldgConstruction of a five-story building on the former reTAGit site on Goodale, as well as street work and the nearing completion of the pool, has focused attention on the area. A TVN story gives the latest news on the city’s long term plans.

I think the parking and flooding issues are the main challenges the city must confront in developing the street. Although past work on the floodwalls has improved the classification of some of the area, there are still lots that might end up under water.

“Because the property sits in the flood plain, federal, state and city regulations limit the cost of renovation to being no more than 50 percent of the property value … The high cost of flood insurance also required the first floor (of the five story building) be used for covered parking rather than the retail or office use desired, Galvin said. “

Patrik Bowman, the city’s director of administration, recounted past efforts to work with the city of Columbus to build flood flap gates across the train tracks that would hold back flooding, but that never worked out. He mentioned a possibility of a re-calculation because of a lowering of the Olentangy River , but didn’t put much hope in that occurring.

The small size of the lots on Goodale makes any future tall buildings difficult to plan because of a lack of parking. The use of the first floor for parking is a serious strike on the profitability of any future construction, the utility of the first floor for retail businesses is a key to the income for most developers.

Bowman predicted that future re-development on Goodale would be limited to renovation of existing structures, rather than tall new buildings.

The newspaper article ended with a odd quote:

Galvin said he is concerned that property values on Goodale could lead some developers to seek approval of higher density, residential development along Goodale. He said he would rather see smaller development involving office or retail use.

The Galvin who is quoted in this part of the article is the CEO of Brexton, the developer of the five story building. I’m not sure why his wishes for the future are of importance for a story about the long term plans from the city of Grandview. (Edit) I was reminded that Galvin was a city council member from June 2014 – January 2016, but was not re-elected. His opinion on development for Goodale might be well informed, but he is no longer a office holder, so his wishes for the future of the city are not as important as the current council and city director of administration. The story would have been improved with their comments.

More Bozos on the bus

Grandview doesn’t need to look far to find examples of small towns that were overwhelmed by new housing. Powell, Ohio shows what can happen when too many residents turn the streets into gridlock and government services stretched too thin leads to unhappiness.

New residential housing on Goodale would cause the least disruption on inner street traffic for rush hours, out of any other location in Grandview. However, choke points like the intersection of Goodale and Grandview Ave. will become worse.

Allowing more development without careful city planning is a sure fire way to turn Grandview into Powell. Careful watch of the city council members is needed to prevent pro-development boosters taking the city the wrong direction.

Running for a public office in Grandview Heights

Published October 12, 2016 by justicewg

Some Grandview residents have interactions with local public officials, and wonder just how a person ends up an elected council member or board seat holder. A much smaller number actively try to run for office. How does that work in Grandview Heights?

Brandon Lynaugh decided he needed to try for the city council during the fall 2015 election. He didn’t win, but got a valuable lesson is what is needed to run for a public office. I asked him questions about that run.

Making the decision to run

J.W.: How did you come up with the idea of running?

Brandon Lynaugh : There were a lot of factors that led me to run for GH city council.  First and foremost it was a desire to serve a community that my family and I have a deep appreciation for.  Like a lot of folks in Grandview, we originally came because of the school system.  Over the last decade we’ve come to appreciate the community even more and I wanted to do my part to give back to it.

While the desire to serve should be at the core of anyone’s decision to run for local office, I was also driven by an interest to give the community a choice in who represents them.  I’ve lived here a decade and never once had a candidate for local office knocked on my door.  It’s no real surprise as the previous two elections for council were entirely uncontested.  No need to campaign when you don’t have any competition I guess?  That bothered me.

And finally, I thought I had a background and approach that would be an asset to council.  It wasn’t to stroke an ego or to set up some future race for higher office as sometimes is the case with local campaigns.  I recognized that if elected, I was there to represent the interests of the entire community as best I could and I was excited by that challenge.

J.W. Did people contact you to encourage you to run?

B.L.: I probably have talked about it with friends and neighbors for a couple years, but nothing too serious.  It wasn’t until I worked on the last school levy campaign did I start to think I might make a go of it.  But the final decision came after a porch visit by a longtime friend/neighbor.  I’ve told a lot of people that it was a combination of civic pride and a little red wine.

J.W.: Was the paperwork easy? How did the petition to be placed on the ballot go?

B.L.: The process can be a bit tedious.  Depending on whether you intend to raise/spend campaign funds the first thing you need to do is file a designation of treasurer with the Franklin County Board of Elections.  You’ll then need to collect fifty valid signatures from registered voters in Grandview Heights.  I think I collected about one hundred to be safe.  Every year there are stories of candidates that fail to make the ballot because of errors with their petitions.  The Board of Elections does a good job of instructing candidates on the do’s and don’ts, but it was still nerve-racking to turn them in.

Other than getting certified for the ballot, the big paperwork requirements are campaign finance reports and an ethics/financial disclosure form that all candidates and elected officials have to fill out.  The disclosure form is designed to prevent conflicts of interest.  The campaign finance requirements include pre-election and post-election filings of every dollar raised and spent.  Sounds like a hassle, but once you get the hang of it it is fine.

Finding the Guru

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Did the UA recall kill the Grandview council vote on Wallace Gardens?

Published July 27, 2016 by justicewg

wallace gardensThe same day Grandview city council voted in favor of beer at the Ox Roast, they spent a lot of time in discussion of the improvements that were planned for Wallace Gardens. Council voted 5 to 2 to put the plans back on the shelf (Panzera and Papineau voted against). The $250K gift of money to help the city pay for the upgrades may not be available if the plans get re-introduced in the future.

At first I read this as a simple admission that council had let “free money” take them into an additional spending path that seemed good but also required spending two-thirds of the cost of the garden improvements from the city purse. The council acted as though the full $750K project was a unit that couldn’t be broken down into smaller chunks. After talking to a parks committee member I found that there was no requirement for the city to match spending in any way, they could have taken the grant and built as much as the money provided.

There is some logic to “if you are doing an upgrade, do it all at once”, so the disruption happens one time. But if holding out for the future means losing the grant, did that really make sense?

I’m wondering if the UA recall has the council on edge, rethinking all spending and obsessing over what might get them in trouble with the voters in Grandview? Park spending is always on the optional list, when city utilities and streets still need work.

The Wallace gardens project was always lacking a clear mandate from the voters. No group that I know asked for the upgrade. I’m guessing that if you went by number of visitors, the gardens have the least use of any park.

When I had my plot of land at Wallace, I sometimes found produce going missing while I was away, and suspected there are people who graze the gardens for free food. An upgrade that would bring more visitors to the park that don’t have a plot is asking for trouble – I would expect surveillance cameras would be needed. The upgrade is not being pushed by the present users, and might be opposed (I’m not aware of any garden user organization).*

If this new caution with the checkbook is caused by the UA recall, I have to say – good. Policy should never be driven by “free” money, the needs and stated wishes of the residents of the city should be the overwhelming factor in any city council – or school board – decision.

* I talked to some of the gardeners at Wallace, they didn’t have any unified opinion of the updates at the park. One of them said he has found people walking through the gardens in the past with shopping bags, picking whatever they wanted. When confronted, they said “this is a community garden – doesn’t that mean community food?

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

Published November 12, 2014 by justicewg

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

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

(from 2009)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(From Grandview Watch, 2009)