All posts tagged politics’

Checking the council and the board member’s email responses, part 2

Published June 25, 2018 by justicewg

guess the email client

Time for another email policy request for the council members and school board officials. I did this same poll back in 2014, and got everyone on the council to get back to me. In 2014 the board was slow, but except for a notable hold-out, I also got the answers I needed. This year, however, there is a big change for the worse from the board.

Email is now the standard communication channel

If anything has changed since that last test of the email abilities of the politicians, it has become even more standard to use email to contact officials. Old fashioned paper through the mail is unusual enough for contacting representatives that it might be a better way to get your message to stand out from the firehose of emails most people receive. While face to face conversations and phone calls are harder for the politicians to avoid, unless you record them you will have an off the record chat that will be forgotten in a short time.

It is now important to know if your email will be answered, how long it will take, or is a phone call a better way to get in touch. I asked all of our representatives.

First, the good council

Every one of the council members answered my emails. Panzera was a little late because of a vacation, and Houston had a problem with my emails ending up in a spam folder, but all eventually answered, and were happy to provide information on how to contact them about city policy.

Steven Gladman again was the record holder for fast replies, three minutes. He gave me his personal phone number for voice calls (I don’t feel it is right to post that number here, but he will send it to you if you ask). Keeler, Kearns, and Reynolds replied within a day, and said they normally gave answers to email questions within 24 hours.

Panzera said he prefers phone calls for more complex questions. Houston had an issue with a spam box that was eventually solved. She also shared her personal cell phone number, which I will not post, but she was happy to provide it to anyone who tries to contact her.

The board has a problem

When I tested the reliability of the school board in answering my emails back in 2014, I was already well known for being the owner of this blog. I have emailed all of them (except the new members) in the past, and although they might not have been happy to see the questions I asked, all have replied in past years.

This year was a new experience. I sent all of them three emails within a week, just to be sure that it didn’t get lost in their inboxes.

I was expecting Jessie Truett to throw my emails away, unanswered. He is the president of the board, his job is supposed to be the point of contact for all of the members when discussing school policy. And yet he can’t even answer a simple “are you listening” email message. Brannan and Palmisciano also refused to answer.

Eric Bode had a two sentences long reply (which I guess is better than zero). As a test of their willingness to discuss school policy, I send him (and Molly Wassmuth) some questions about the G4G group. Bode seemed to think they were just an anti-tax group (despite their website that shows them to be much different). When presented with proof that the board and Culp had lied to the community about opening up the finance committee, he stuck his fingers in his ears.

Wassmuth had an interesting position on answering policy questions. She claimed that she could not talk about school policy via email, because of some rule or something that she couldn’t point out, but she was sure that the only place she can talk about school policy is in board meetings.

She is wrong, of course. The council and board members are free to discuss any policy matter they want before the vote. And that is their job really, making us aware of their positions and reasoning is what they get paid to do. Wassmuth seemed to think she was a human suggestion box – thank you for your submission, your words will be conveyed to the board meeting (where I don’t have any intention to share them with the board).

Will your emails be sent to the black hole?

Three board members didn’t answer my email at all. That’s really troubling, especially because this is the time that the board will be getting the most emails they have ever in years, because of the intense conflict they will be setting off with their upcoming decision to spend $55 million on the school facilities.

Will everyone who sends them an email opposing the school facility plans find their emails black holed if they are not supportive of the board?

There is a list of 360 community members publicly posted on the G4G website. Will the board use this list as a filter – support the G4G, and you will never get another answer for your emails? I wouldn’t be surprised if the board could be that petty and small.

School Finance Committee report May 29

Published May 30, 2018 by justicewg

Finance report may29The school’s Finance committee, the closed group that refused to share meeting notes, finally gave its report to the community last night. As expected, they followed closely to the plans the school administration has been pushing, with small changes.

The big question before the report was presented was, what they were doing in the closed meetings? They were more than two months late in presenting the findings. I’m still processing all the documents and the video of the meeting, but I think they answered my question – they were not taking so long because they were evaluating the faults in the plans pointed out by the Good for Grandview group, and others. If the performance of the committee last night was representative of the general tone of the meetings, the delay was caused by self-important bloviation by some committee members.

Only the middle school replacement was on the table

The school administration repeated often that the finance committee was going to be an independent group that would have all options on the table. That was a lie – the group members themselves said that their work was only an “audit” of the 50 million dollar “tear down the middle school” choice. No time was spent on evaluating cheaper options that could have renovated the middle school. The only real changes the group made to the administration plans was to add an additional $5 million for things like a connector between the new middle school and the high school.

Why was the committee looking at an operating levy?

Part of the recommendation of the finance group was to suggest that the board add a one mill operating levy onto the request for 7.5 mills to build and renovate the schools. Why was this group considering an operations fund? That was a purely political question that should only  have been considered by the school board. The answer they gave was that adding operations funding was a “holistic approach”. I think by holistic, they mean that it gives the board leverage to hold the students hostage – pass our levy, or your kid gets services taken away, we close down class options, we add fees back for activities.

Scare tactics will be in full effect

The finance report spent a page of the report on “safety and security”, and told us all about how we needed to be adding “basic security measures” that are lacking in the old schools. Never miss a chance to freak parents out about school shootings, if it will pass the levy. You can be sure that these security options will also be used as levers to pass the operations part of the levy – vote for the tax, or we will not have the money to protect your kids from anyone with a gun who wants to walk into the school.

For a little history of the school using scare tactics to push for more money, read the history of the SRO in the school. They used the threat of Al-Qaeda terrorism to push for a police officer in the school. Not kidding!

Culp “fully committed” to open Finance committee meetings, until he wasn’t

The video of the finance comm. report has been posted on the school website. One of the questions you might have about the meeting is the insistent questioning by parents – where are the finance comm. meeting notes we were promised? Why were the meetings closed to the public? Watch this short video to understand why that was so important to many parents.

A community member asks superintendent Culp about the Finance committee, asks if there will be notice of meetings, public participation, minutes online. Culp says “I fully commit to that, I don’t think you can do it any other way.”

If you are pedantic, you might say he didn’t use the words “promise” when he said those words. But “Fully committing” is good enough to call it a promise. Culp didn’t say a word last week when questions were being asked about his commitment. He doesn’t answer questions via email. The board refuses to even acknowledge that Culp made a promise at meeting seven.

Standing by your word is what gives a person integrity. Failing to answer questions shows a lack of honor. Culp has a big problem, and if he is too cowardly to answer questions, the board should step up and tell us – why was the Facilities Task force closed to the public, and meeting notes kept secret? Why, even after Culp promised to have an open fiance committee, was the door slammed shut?

Those are important questions, and the split in the community cause by the failure to address these questions might cause the failure of the levy.

Even if you don’t care about those questions, and just want to see the board fix up the schools, you should be asking the board why they are not answering those questions. Because you are going to see a long protracted fight, because the school board can’t fess up and answer questions they don’t want to answer.

Part two on the finance committee report, a detailed look at the meeting video, is now posted on my blog.

Read the rest of this entry →