All posts tagged negotiations

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.


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.

Reynoldsburg school board sabotaging the district

Published September 9, 2014 by justicewg
The real Raiders in Reynoldsburg are the school board members

The real Raiders in Reynoldsburg are the school board members

The negotiations between teacher’s unions and school boards are often tense. Full out warfare, like the Reynoldsburg school is going through, is the exception. You don’t often get to see the talking points that are part of the negotiations displayed so publicly as the board has done on its website. It is obvious from the changes the school board is pushing on the teachers that this is a group with a radical ideological agenda that is sabotaging the school district.

The Reynoldsburg school board has placed a FAQ on the school website, giving the board’s side of the negotiations. This is highly unusual move. Normally both sides might give brief comments to the newspapers when there are sticking points, but it is considered bad faith to the negotiation process to go full public with the details of the plans for negotiations. The school board and the teachers representatives are hired to do the work of reaching an agreement, by posting a long online listing of talking points, the board is trying to draw all of the community into a fight that they were supposed to resolve by themselves.

(Edit Sept 13, SERB forwarded an unfair-labor-practice complaint by the teachers union for review by a judge. See more below.)

The bad ideas that the Reynoldsburg board members are pushing are part of a general agenda from the political right-wing to deprive teachers of security and pay. Nothing new there, it has been the agenda of the Republican party for the last 30 years to cut worker’s pay and squash unions. The FAQ makes it clear where the problem in the talks are coming from, the changes the board is asking from the teachers are radical and ideological.

They are also a warning to the parents of Grandview Heights about how a board with a right-wing agenda – as the current Grandview board has shown itself to be – can bring about chaos in the school.

“Performance evaluation” becomes everything

The Reynoldsburg board wants to remove step pay from some teachers, the formula that increases pay as a teacher accrues seniority. This has long been the way teachers are rewarded in Ohio, minimum steps are part of state law (for the first 11 years). This keeps wages above inflation, and rewards experience. “Performance evaluation” is how the Reynoldsburg board wants to go, which leaves teachers in the hands of school principals for any raises. If a teacher has a conflict with an administrator, over issues which have nothing to do with the quality of education, the administrator has the tool in hand to take money away from the teacher. That’s not a great difference in how administrators have always been able to control teachers, but in the past the union was on the side of the teacher. This moves the power into the hands of administrators, teachers can do little to protest unfair treatment.

The present Grandview school board seems to have the same ideological beliefs as the Reynolsburg board. Reading the Special Meeting February 9, 2014 meeting notes – that was the meeting that was held in a cabin 20 miles outside the city, attended by no parents or press – the board was discussing “developing a process for strategic compensation”.

Recent agreements between the Grandview Heights board and the teacher’s union have allowed the base salary to be held back as an acknowledgment by the teachers of a poor economy. That shows the union is working with the board. It doesn’t mean they want step pay taken away permanently. It would be a horrible break of faith if the board was to make the voluntary sacrifice of the teachers into a reason to take step pay away.

Taking away the Reynoldsburg teacher’s health plan

The most radical action taken by the Reynoldsburg board is to take the health care plan completely away from the teachers and replace it with a cash payment, to be used by the teacher to buy their own health care insurance.

The board webpage gives a rationalization that this is a “fairness” issue. If a teacher has a spouse with a job that offers a poor insurance plan, they now can be added to the teacher’s plan (with all the same deductable payments). The board says this isn’t fair to the taxpayers, because some teachers don’t have spouses.

Some teachers even have children! Funny that the board didn’t add kids to the additional burden list that the board has to pay for. If they did, their argument would immediately be seen as the ridiculous libertarian style reduction of all social contracts to monetary transactions. Using the board’s logic, it is also not “fair” for parents to ask taxpayers to pay for educations for their children – but that has been the social contract we have lived with in this country since its founding. It is the bedrock foundation of the school and the board itself!

The board argues that the new healthcare laws allows spouses to buy their own health care plan, so it isn’t up to the school to pay for spouses any more. It is true that the ACA means insurance is more available. That doesn’t take away the expectation that spouses and children will be covered by the healthcare plan at the school, if the teacher wants coverage.

Remember, heathcare plans have always been negotiated by teachers with school boards, with variable levels of coverage. Teachers often have given up higher pay, because they wanted the security of a good healthcare plan that they knew would cover their family. By taking away healthcare, the board is slapping the teachers in the face, breaking the deals that were negotiated in the past.

This heathcare theft by the school board is also driven by a big political motive. The right-wing hates Obamacare, and have been using every lever they can pull to try to make healthcare more difficult for employees. By using the transparently false argument of “more choice” to take insurance plans away from the teachers, they fulfill the predictions of the right that the ACA would cause people to be thrown off healthcare plans. “Look at the failure of Obamacare!” is the cry of the right-wing, while doing everything in their power to push people off insurance.

(By the way, the number of people on healthcare plans has been going up, the costs for heathcare have been going down.)

‘Junk Insurance’ motivating the board members

Offering cash instead of a healthcare insurance plan might sound like a neutral policy – if the teachers use to money to buy coverage that was similar to what they had in the past, why is it bad?

Read this story about ‘Junk Insurance’, low benefit plans that don’t meet the requirements of the ACA.

By switching to cash payouts for insurance, the teachers now have the ability to buy these junk policies. They don’t provide much coverage, but they sell themselves as being cheaper than ACA compliant plans, even with the penalties that must be paid. For someone who is young, healthy, and has been brainwashed into thinking this is “freedom from Obamacare”, they might save some money – until they have a major heath problem, which will leave them in financial ruin.

When you read about “freedom” in stories about the ACA, the ability to make bad choices is the freedom that is most often being being sold. It is also about the freedom of insurance companies to rip off uninformed consumers.

The Reynoldsburg school board didn’t have to take the radical steps they have taken. This is what happens when you elect ideologues instead of people who just want a good education for the kids. The Grandview Heights board under Grant Douglass has veered into the same territory as the Reynoldsburg board. We should be watching what happens next, because that could be the future of Grandview.

More on release of negotiation details on the web

The rules for the talks that the State Employment Relations Board enforce say that negotiating in public, as the board has done, violates the Ohio Revised Code. It is corrosive to the process to draw the public into a fight that is supposed to be between the people sitting at the table. Instead of working between the participants, it becomes a battle of press releases, web postings, and protesters holding signs. All of those are expected when the talks break down and a real strike is in progress, but they shouldn’t happen before the work action. SERB has ruled that the Reynoldsburg board might be in violation, a judge will decide the case.

On one hand, I don’t have any complaint with the board opening up and sharing negotiation points. I’d like to see the counter-points posted by the teacher’s union. I think openness is a good thing in almost all cases (except personal information that privacy laws protects). But I understand how the rules for public-sector collective bargaining have been created, and why this sort of open fighting is bad process.

The best way the public could have been informed about the changes in policy that the school board members are attempting to force on the teachers would have been for them to announce their support for these issues during their campaign for office. Then the voters could have decided if they wanted to start a fight with the teacher’s union. I don’t know enough about the Reynoldsburg school board elections to say if this was done or not. I would guess that it was not done, most elected officials run on a generic “great schools, keep costs down” platform. When you have board members who refuse to answer questions from the public like the Grandview board candidates have done (and I don’t count the highly scripted candidate nights as adequately answering the public), how can we know what actions the board might take?

(Follow up story about the Reynolsburg board)

Reynoldsburg Board of Education President Andrew Swope resigned in December, and said he was moving his family out of the area. Superintendent Manning is still at the school, but this Facebook page asking for her removal shows the mood of the community.

More on Reynoldsburg strike

School board wants to hear when they need money

Published April 3, 2014 by justicewg

The Grandview Heights school board doesn’t care much about reading the email you send them. They don’t try very hard to get agendas out for board meetings, and sometimes they flee town to keep parents away. They now have a reason to set up a special meeting and hear from the community – time to ask for money.

On April 9, in the High School auditorium, the board will lay out the numbers and ask for feedback on the timing and mills for the next levy. The last successful levy was 5.9-mills, in 2010.

The most important factor in projecting costs for the future is to know how much money the teachers will be asking for in the next contract. The negotiation committee would normally be deep in the process, in 2012 they approved the two-year agreement on May 15th.

Here is where all the “we want to hear from you” will be rendered nearly useless, the board has decided to put off the teacher’s union negotiation until the search for the new superintendent has been completed.

Is this a case of “can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?” Putting off a major decision until the person who will need to live with the outcome is in place? Hiding a major dispute with the teachers from all the super candidates? We will never know for sure, because with the Grandview Heights school board, the public doesn’t get told the truth.