Tuesday, February 18, 2014

VC 2/18: Budget, Treasurer's Report, Goals, and Water

Dear People:  Did you know that today is the birthday of BOTH Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison?   Two wise women who are a gift of this long cold month of February, when, nevertheless, the sap begins to flow in the maples and the rumbling, warm, unstoppable energy of spring starts breaking through the ice.  And Bill Felker walked into Norah's this morning and confirmed that this really is the first week of early spring. 

So I'll end with a couple of favorite statements from both of those "early Spring" February women. 
But, yep, we have a Council meeting tonight, so let's get down to it.  Here's the packet, if you want to play along at home.  By the way, there are some great little reports from HRC and the Police Department, as well as our budget and treasurer's report and goals--lots of colorful charts and clarity and good information. 

(I realize I just waxed rhapsodic about Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde, so it feels funny to want to issue a paean to the clear report, but then I'm also a fan of Edward Tufte...)

BUDGET SESSION (6:00 pm) General Fund Budget
Marianne MacQueen's thoughts about the Budget, sent as a public document to the entire Council because she'll be gone tonight, are eloquent and deserve a wider audience, I believe, so I'm going to share them here, in italics their entirety, with a few brief comments of my own: 
MacQueen  on 2014 Budget

General Fund Budget
I’m concerned about the potential .5 M shortfall in the projected 2014 budget that does not even include any capital expenses. I understand from Melissa that this is a very conservative budget meaning that income could be higher and expenses lower. None-the-less it is the budget we have. I’m unclear about when the current “temporary” levy will be up for a vote. The loss of that revenue will create even greater problems. 
{LJA: I share this concern.  I would note that we intentionally wanted to spend some of our surplus, which is substantial, because deferred maintenance is also a serious problem.  But we do have to be concerned about the current imbalance between revenues and expenditures.}

I have an overarching concern that the community be made aware about the budget and the issues we face. The more the community understands, the more we can gather from the community what is of most importance in terms of services we provide. In addition, I’m hopeful that the community will recognize the importance of increasing revenue, in particular, through expanded economic activities. I’m hopeful that the YS News will pick up on this as well.

As we consider increasing the use of electronic media and social media in particular, we might consider these venues as means for community input into the budget. I’ve read of a community (possibly Gavin Newsome in San Francisco) that used this as a method to getting the community to prioritize the most important services. 
{LJA:  This is not a bad idea--the thing is, our means are very limited, and educating people about the means at our disposal is in all our best interests.  I don't see it happening this year, with our new staff needing to just get their feet on the ground, but I could see us moving this direction in the future.}
• Police Department:
Expenses related to policing comprise over half of our General Fund budget. We are not a high crime community and we have a lowered population than in the past as well as a lower college student population. Even though we do have bleed-over from neighboring communities where crime is more of an issue, I question whether we need to number of personnel in this department. At this point I would not consider expending the department. This would result in $105K in savings for 2014. I understand this is a sensitive issue and I am not suggesting disbanding the dispatch department in favor of regionalizing.
{LJA: I share this concern, and I believe that we do have to consider all our options carefully both for police and dispatch.}

• Contractual Services: It makes sense to review Contractual Service expenses and see if there are ways in the future to minimize these. There may be ways to use volunteer services within the village in conjunction with paid consultants to lower these costs. We may also need to look at our legal expenses and how to minimize these.
{LJA: I agree, but I am mostly opposed to depending on volunteers for vital services; I believe people should be paid for their work.}
• Green Space Fund: I would favor not funding the Green Space fund in 2014 since there is approximately $250,000 in the fund and there is no request at present for these funds.  {LJA I agree.}

Special Revenue Funds Budget
I support a planned maintenance program in terms of street repair and upkeep. I assume we have such a program. Given the state of this budget, however, I would be in favor of going slowly with this in 2014 and focus on the most critical issues. I support maintaining the pool although I would omit less critical expenses. The 2014 budget includes nothing for economic development and I support that at this time. However, it is critical that Council and our new Village Manager treat economic development seriously. I will work toward that end in 2014. 

Capital Budget
• I imagine that there will be only incidental expenses for the CBE in 2014. This is and will be a complex issue.
• In light of our financial situation, I believe we need to review our sidewalk policy and plan for repairs of the most highly used walks to be staged over a period of years. While I see a rationale for the Village to fund sidewalk repairs, I’m not sure that makes sense in every case. I definitely support some sidewalk repairs in 2014  
{LJA:  Our current policy is to do sidewalk repairs ourselves.  Until we have a change of policy, which I believe would also require a stronger Planning department, we need to develop and carry out a plan for replacement and repair.}
• In Fair Acres I would hold off the street repairs until the infrastructure repairs are completed. 
{LJA: My sense is that this has been the plan, but I'll make sure that's the case.}
• I would avoid buying any new equipment for any department that is not critical.
• I suggest not funding anything in the Parks & Rec. Improvement Fund, in particular the $140,000 for bridges at Ellis Park. Perhaps this, as well as some of the pool expenses, could be done through special fundraising work by community members who appreciate these amenities. 
{LJA:  I need to look at the Fund.  Part of our commitment in the levy was to our parks, esp. the pool.  So I want to better understand the state of this part of the budget and if there are funds set aside for this purpose.}
• Sutton Farm-PW Facility Improvement has been on the table for a long time. Even though it doesn’t seem that we have funds to do much this year, I would support a plan for incremental improvements.
• I support whatever is most critical in terms of repairs for the library. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to me that we have the funds to do anywhere near the $400,000 in improvements requested for this year. 
LJA: Again, I need to look at the Fund.  Part of our commitment in the levy was to our library, too.  So I want to better understand the state of this part of the budget and the funds we have set aside for this purpose..}
• In the Electric Fund I would hold off any improvements and repairs that aren’t critical.
• In the Water and Sewer Funds, I support beginning the Fair Acre repairs but this necessities the decision regarding how these will be paid for. I would tend to take Kent’s lead on this as well as considering common practice in other communities and the historical approach used in Yellow Springs.
• I do support moving forward on the water line bottle neck issues.
  {LJA:  Note that the Mgr's Report notes that we have gotten a green light on the state grant funding toward this project ($400K) so it will go forward, as will some work on the Cemetery Street housing project and the water service near the new hotel location downtown on the Barr property--see report below.  These, to me, are vital projects for our long-term economic sustainability.}
Minutes of February 3, 2013 Regular Council Meeting.
At this time, Council may add to the Agenda any other such matters as they may wish to discuss.
    The Clerk will receive and file (On Line):
    Mike DeWine re: Drug Abuse Awareness Town Hall Greene County Library re: March Schedule GCCHD re: Private Well Webinars
    GCCHD re: 5K

    GCAOA: Insights Newsletter
    Reading of Resolution 2014-11 Authorizing Payment with a Then and Now Certificate for First Quarter of 2014

  3. CITIZEN CONCERNS (7:15 pm)
  4. SPECIAL REPORTS (7:20 pm) Quarterly Treasurer’s Report
    HRC Annual Report
  5. OLD BUSINESS (7:45 pm)
    Presentation on Scenarios for Water Sourcing Including Timeline

    From Mgr Rpt 2/14:  To give a comprehensive view of our water source options we need current information on the costs of the Springfield option. Last November the Springfield City Manager confirmed that they were still interested in having Yellow Springs for a customer. He did say that they would now probably want to have the contract effective for a longer term in order to recover their up-front costs (15 years instead of ten). During our staff discussion about presenting information to Council we realized that we need to tell Springfield about the reduced volume we now need based on recalibration of our water plant output (down from 164 million gallons/year to 120 million gallons/year). The people in Springfield are reviewing the new information and it may affect our cost per thousand gallons and possibly other aspects of a supply contract.
    2014 Council Goals-- see packet.  Karen's work is excellent here.
  6. NEW BUSINESS (8:25 pm)
Water Rate Increase Discussion:  I have propsed that in addition to the 3% scheduled increase that we must have a larger increase in our budget (say 10%) to take effect this April, as this fund is rapidly going into the red just when we are needing to invest mightily in new water sourcing--one way or another--see the manager's report.
  1. MANAGER’S REPORT (8:45 pm) excerpts from 2/7 note and 2/14 note:
(2/7)  The sanitary sewer on East Limestone Street is theoretically capable of handling the output from the new hotel in addition to its existing users. But the line is old and in bad condition. Rather than waiting for the inevitable problems to develop, I have asked Mike Heintz to design a replacement, larger sewer line at a cost of $3000 (for the design, not the sewer). I plan to bid three projects at once in the next moth or so Cemetery Street water line, and both the storm and sanitary sewers on East Limestone Street. The Greene County Economic Development Director feels this project could be a TIF, which would reimburse the Village for infrastructure costs (including a water line extension) from the increased tax revenues generated by the hotel.


We just now received notice that our application for a $400,000 grant for the water line loop completion project has been approved. We will receive a contract on or after July 1, 2014, presuming the budget allocation goes as expected.

Verizon is now ready to build their cell phone tower on land they leased from the Village at the rear of Bryan Center. They asked for and received permits several years ago, but those permits expire if unexercised within a year. This means they will need to go back through the process at a time they are ready to go.
"A Litany for Survival"  ~~ Audre Lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.

“Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

"The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek - it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas." -- Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize speech which you can read or listen to here

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Thoughts on CBE Funding

[Photo Credit: Lori Askeland.  Those are the holiday decorations on the lavender bush by Village Artisans.]
Sorry about the long, blog hiatus.  I'm going to try to get in the habit again of publishing my weekly emails here.  
Dear People:  Several people have thanked me over the past few days for my vote against bringing the CBE funding resolution to the next meeting, and people I care about have asked me to explain my position, so this email, at some length, explains where I stand right now and what happened between last Saturday when I said in my mass email that I planned to support the CBE funding, but with “concerns,” and this past Monday, when I voted no at the meeting.  (I will note that when I first drafted that email, I had written “misgivings,” and that stronger word was, at it turns out, probably more accurate).

It's basically my philosophical position--and as several people have noted, it is the Comprehensive Plan's position-- that development should pay for itself.  That's a long held belief of mine, which developed long before we moved here and started paying attention to local politics in Lawrence, Kansas.  Government support for economic development is too often a transfer of wealth from poorer people to the wealthy; Frank Goetzke, the YS resident who is a professor of Urban and Regional Economics at the University of Louisville, argues that such things are usually a mistake UNLESS the municipality has its own goals that such an investment will also directly serve, beyond economic development.

But, given all that had been invested up to this time, I was willing to say, ok, any position may have an exception; maybe there are other ways of thinking about this, and I hate to see the federal dollars lost and another building season gone by.  Frank is a self-described “free market guy” and I am more of a socialist at heart.  I also hate the idea of wasting the already expended effort, money, and time of many good and thoughtful people.  And I am aware that municipalities around here, everywhere, are wooing businesses with all kinds of tactics.  They are doing so not because they are foolish, but because they recognize that the only way you can keep costs of services down is to get some tax-paying, wage-generating businesses in your borders.   Some of the tactics are probably fine, but as with any investment, it’s easy to lose sight of the costs with which one is “buying” often elusive future money.

So I am wary of the “me-too”-ism that can make that "get businesses at all costs!" idea into a downward moving spiral that ends up costing a community so much that future benefits are canceled out.   But I'm also wary of the "we're different"-ism that can keep us on a course of becoming simply a retirement community, gentrifying, aging, losing diversity.  We really do need a plan to keep costs for residents down, services up; it is hard for low-income people to live here.  I am deeply aware of that.

And it's also reasonable to look at the last election as something of a referendum on this question: this was the issue that dominated debate, and the people who won were, effectively, in favor of it--those who staked out a position against it lost.  Kent Bristol points out that because interest rates are so low right now, particularly for municipalities, the annual costs of our initial investment will be less than 1% of our General Fund and, unlike private investors, we can think of this as a slow-return investment--we can be patient and wait 20 years.  Most private investors need faster turn around, have to think in terms of quarters, not decades.  That all speaks for government investment.
And let me state up front: First, I believe that the people who volunteer for CR have our Village's best interests at heart; this is a group of dedicated people really trying to make something happen that they believe will help the community survive and thrive, create opportunities. And, second, I personally am not swayed by the arguments about this as sprawl or by the concerns that something horrific like pornographers or drone-producers will end up in that space.  Karen is right: no business wants to put itself in a place where it will not be welcomed and may have to contend with pickets, etc.  Those are red herrings, in my view, and unpersuasive at best.

And let me further be very clear: I am not opposed to there being a business park on that site, at all.

The question is, should the infrastructure for this project be mostly publicly funded by the Village, which will necessarily also mean that the village must take significant responsibility for marketing the property?

On those grounds, then, it is ultimately my job to look at this as a long-term investment / reinvestment strategy, which governments can do (ideally from the Federal / State level--think of the railroads, the interstate system, etc.)  The reasonable argument that CR and others make is that we need to invest in ourselves and our economic viability; every investment has some risk--as does doing nothing, as does doing anything else.  

And let me say one more thing: I am deeply aware also that it's really easy to say "no," and there's an ego-boost in being critical.  Even better: saying "hell no!!" and fancying oneself as the truth-sayer in the wilderness.  This is a VERY seductive role for Yellow Springers, me included, and it's kind of how we like to imagine ourselves as a community. 

But the thing is: that's a very low-cost role to take on.  If we no-sayers are wrong, we've often lost nothing immediately visible, and have invested little.   If the plan goes ahead and works, we can celebrate the success and quietly disappear.   If it doesn't work, we can feel smug about being "right," and yet still have the option of doing nothing but throwing snowballs from the sidelines.

So as I have been thinking about this, I have worked very hard to be mindful of the seductive nature of that "party of no" position.  It's been deadly in Washington DC.  And that means thinking carefully about what alternatives I see as reasonable and available to us, that I would put energy into and advocate for.

And, finally, no one manufactured the time pressure here--the pressures are coming from the potential loss of the grant funding and the timing of the annual construction cycle, not from nefarious intentions by evil capitalists, or what have you.

Given everything above, I would argue that if this project offers a likelihood of payback, even on a somewhat long range, like 20 years, then it is a reasonable thing to do. 

So that means that we have try to assess the likely costs and the likelihood of payback of what is in some ways real estate speculation.  Diane's editorial in the News also strongly stated that we desperately need some better numbers to base our decision on, saying "$700,000 is a Lot of Money," and her arguments, after the long series of articles in the News, trying to get to the bottom of this investment, which I also read, gave me pause. 

It's widely recognized, even by supporters, that the numbers that the CR provided in their report from earlier this fall, are just not credible.  We have asked for better numbers in a variety of contexts, but they have not been readily forthcoming.

Then, having written my email on Saturday, saying I was supporting the project with "concerns" (originally "misgivings"), I was frustrated that it was only by late Monday that I found out that the initial investment / stake, with the costs of financing, is likely to be closer to $1 million.   This works out to $80K per year for 20 years, $120K per year for 10.  (See Manager's Report from Monday).

Even knowing that it will probably be not quite so much as $1M, and that the numbers were calculated on a "worst case scenario" basis, there's a distinct sense of cost creep.  Because, as Diane noted, that’s just the "up front" cost.  The people who have talked to me about this, even the supporters, have made it clear that they expect we'll have to offer tax abatements and/or other incentives for this site to get building jump started; if we don't, the project will likely languish.  And it's clear to me that we'll need to provide some kind of project management focus, so the $80K / year is just the beginning of the costs for us, let alone the time. 

(As an aside: While $80K per year is only a small portion of our General Fund, it is a good salary in this town, even with benefits included. It’s more than double what we pay all Council members combined, for all our work, even with the pay increase.  As a Council member, I do have to ask: Is this the best way, even a good way, for us to spend money for the next 20 years toward economic development?) 

And, frankly, our track record on this very project isn't great.  The design we have at length gotten approved by the Army Corps and ODOT looks problematic, particularly after Sarah Hippensteel Hall, of the Miami Valley Conservancy, recently spoke to us about retention ponds as horrible from a conservancy point of view.  It's really hard for governments to be supple. 

This isn’t about a personal attack on Council or CR; it’s structural.  For the reasons articulated by Richard Lapedes and Frank Goetzke and others who say: if you don't have your own "skin in the game" these kinds of projects have a way of languishing just due to the nature of governments, elections, and the many other central demands on our time and attention.  CR is a group of really dedicated people, but they are volunteers.  We on Council, meanwhile, are also dedicated but while we are the only group in town that can provide water, sewer, street repair, etc., other groups can do economic development--and often do it better because putting your own money down has a way of focusing your attention.

So cost creep concerns me particularly when it’s public funds.  But what about the other side—the likely benefits / return on investment?  The argument has been that it's close to impossible to get the numbers we need, particularly.  But two people are giving me some numbers, and they both are suggesting this is likely to be a bad idea--Bob Baldwin, a local, long-term real estate investor, and Dawn Johnson, who lives here and works in this field in our region.  Specifically, she is the the Warren County GIS Coordinator, and in that capacity is privy to most land developments prior to their approval and certainly upon their execution, and she works with Auditors to determine values of properties based on the geographic location, and she regularly with the Warren County Economic Development and Warren County Planning and Zoning. She is asking very specific questions along the lines of those asked for by Diane Chiddister, questions I don't have good answers for at this point.  Johnson seems to be providing data that we need to attend to, just based on work she's doing on her lunch hour. 

In particular, Johnson's numbers about local TIFF projects, which I would like further time and help to digest, don't look great, even with better siting (e.g., visibility from I-675) and better infrastructure (fiber optics in place) and an aggressive marketing strategy for those sites.   With all that in place, the Valle Greene sites have an estimated 165.91 years-to-recoup their costs.  I know that YS is different, that we have better coffee shops and restaurants for employees, etc., but are we that different--145 years different, for the kinds of projects for THIS site?  As someone who owns a small piece of commercial real estate in town, I have significant doubts. 

Of her years of work in Warren County, Johnson herself says, “I have never seen a community ‘grow’ its way out of debt--when its growth by way of debt driven subdivision, regardless of the type, residential, commercial or industrial. And I have seen communities grow without debt, by virtue of market forces.”

Then Bob Baldwin again reminded us that the CM building across the street had been built for probably around $9.5 million dollars (95,000 sq ft at $100/sf, a reasonable estimate) and was just sold for $700,000.  (We might have been better off buying that building with our $700K, frankly).   Moreover, the article in the YS News noted that the new owners are open to building a high bay space, to a business's specifications, for lease on that site, which already has infrastructure.  Shovel ready.  No government involvement.

And there are the moves by Roger Husbands to develop an impact hub, and the reservations of Todd Leventhal, also a local, successful business person, who said in a letter to Council: "I am all for giving a helping hand to businesses to locate here. Providing funds to fix up an old building or partition an existing building such as Creative Memories would make a lot of sense. Or work with Antioch College to invest in an incubator for new businesses in one of the existing buildings on their campus, would make a lot of sense. Even funding an apprenticeship program at the high school where students could be trained at current factories in the area for good long term paying jobs would be great for our community. But we must be realistic that in an entertainment and educational type of town that we have become, a new industrial park at the edge of town might not be the best way to spend our limited resources."

Given that there may be other similar places, such as the undeveloped parts of the Creative Memories site, for these sorts of businesses, and there are these alternative possibilities of economic development strategies, I guess I just have serious misgivings that $1M up front, plus whatever it's going to take to try to make this work, is ever likely to be returned, which means that we're likely not doing what this project is supposed to do: improve our budget's revenue-to-costs ratio.

And when I, personally, think about putting a lot of time and effort into this project, myself, and re-organizing our few government positions in our shoe-string organization around THIS economic development strategy, I feel exhausted by it, not energized.  I've watched us flounder for a long time on this.  So I feel it's unethical for me to give a vote of confidence for something where I'm thinking: other people better pick up the slack on this one, because I know with every fiber of my being that I, personally, won't have time /energy for it.  (There's another tendency in my beloved community, toward what I call "Conceptual Artist": we like to imagine great projects and then assume other people will do the grunt work.)
Finally, I am hearing significant concerns, again from people who are experienced in real estate, about the lack of a detailed business plan for the CBE (from the start), the lack of real estate professionals on the CR board, and many other details.  Serious people, with expertise I do not have, are telling me that, at the very least, it is absurd to go ahead with a plan that has never had a detailed business plan, and which lacks many more details about reasonable build-out time, exactly how the financing would be offset by taxes and when, especially if other financial incentives would need to be put in place, and other salaries paid to manage the process. 
Increasingly I simply believe that it is unwise for the Village to go into debt for this project, even if that means losing the federal grant.
That is where I stand today.  I am going to make my stance clear, and I am going to advocate that my fellow Council people reconsider their positions.

Yet, with all that being said, if this does go forward, I will of course do what I can to make it a success, which definitely means that I will demand that we get more details such as those I’ve mentioned above.

I will ask wise people to make a checklist of things we need to have before us.    Whatever I am asked to do as a member of Council, I will do, because if we do invest the money, I want us to get it back and then some; I want it to work.  I will seek to have people who do have energy and expertise for this project (not me) put in place to make it work. 

I definitely know that my position is likely less informed than it needs to be in the end—and probably should have been all along.  I am deeply aware that some people who I know and trust have looked at this same information have reached and come to the opposite conclusion--including people who spend a lot more of their time focused on these questions and issues than I do.  There may be things I have gotten wrong or misunderstood here. 

And, ultimately, I do not believe this is a make-or-break decision for the town.  It is not betting the whole farm or putting all our eggs in one basket--we can encourage other experiments too.  BUT it does represent a significant financial stake that will affect our other decisions and our ability to make other investments, so we need to make it thoughtfully, or walk away.  At this point, I felt I needed to send a signal that I'm feeling increasingly less certain that it is our best use of funds, so I voted no.   I am open and still listening to all sides, but my misgivings did reach a tipping point last Monday that I felt I needed to explain. 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

VC last Monday (delayed all around) and My Band Tomorrow Night!

< -- a kitten in the wilderness. Well, our backyard.

Dear People:
I know we are up against some heavy hitters over there in Clifton tomorrow night, but my band, Mack and the Rockets are playing tomorrow night at the Emporium (with possibly a surprising little extra women's trio that I'm part of for a little a capella song during the break....think Leadbelly, 3 part harmony...) 7-10 pm. (AND yes, we Mack and Rockets will be singing "Please, Daddy Don't Get Drunk this Christmas," for those of you who really like the traditional Christmas carols.)

Linda Fischer will be there collecting signatures against the hideous Republican-favoring redistricting that Kasich is proposing. So it would be great if a bunch of you would be willing to sign that.

MONDAY'S MEETING: (Here's the link to the packet). If you've seen this week's paper you know that last Monday we discussed the special revenues portion of the budget, including issues like the Green Space Fund, which has been serving a key goal of our village of protecting green space on our Western side, and which we had only recently decided to support with estate tax monies (which have just been taken away by Kasich and his awful, hideous cronies), and the overall bleak picture for the budget primarily due to the budget cuts at the State level (again, do blame Kasich and Co.).

We also really need your feedback about the water situation: Do read the article in this week's YS News. The bottom line: we have to decide whether to try to find grants, loans, etc. to upgrade our system OR we need to build a pipeline to the edge of Clark County, and let Springfield supply us. Springfield has water that is pre-softened with lime, not salt. The pertinent background info is on pp. 29-30 of the packet.

Here's my take:
while it is at least initially probably cheaper to simply upgrade our current system (although there are significant unknowns there), doing so could be, will likely be?, more expensive over the long term. Additionally, the benefits of non-salt, softened water are, actually, somewhat significant, given that our water is so hard and when we soften it, all those salts go basically right into the Glen. I am leaning toward simply upgrading our plant and maintaining control, but I would like to hear from you.


by Hart Crane

We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hi, People! Thanks again for your confidence in me on election day. Tonight we're going to be mostly focused on hearing Tim Tobey's report on the Parks Master Plan that he's been discussing--we may even just get a slight update to the old, unapproved plan that would at least be good information to have available to us. Second, we'll (very likely) be recommending approval of the annexation of the right-of-way on Dayton-YS St. that will allow entrance to the CBE (the Antioch-Midwest complex and any additional buildings).

Finally, we'll be discussing the request by the contractor for our new zoning ordinance, LSL, to:

1) identify up to 8 individual people (concerned with zoning?) to be interviewed--I need to get a better sense of what this means.
2) identify "user groups and selected person to particpate in each group" they suggest groups like "downtown business owners, neighborhood association reps, major employers and land developers."

We're also going to try to schedule a start up meeting with LSL and the technical review committee for the zoning code update as well as a village tour.

Let me know if you would like to be more engaged in this zoning project--I should be able to facilitate your involvement.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Dear People: Thanks to all of you for your warm words and support throughout my quiet campaign. I am proud to say that, other than the nominal, required registration fee ($30?), I spent $0. So this was a very efficient little campaign, and that's probably the most beautiful thing about it. Frank was supposed to be my treasurer, but we gave him NOTHING to do!

So, I especially want to especially thank Ona Harshaw who served as an unofficial campaign manager, and for recruiting Jen Reich to help with finding all the old signs and to both of them for getting them strategically placed around town. AND Ona had to fix a bunch of them, too, as they were old and falling apart. So, Ona: I know I owe you AT LEAST one six pack. Actually, I think the whole town owes Ona at least a six pack each. When you see her, buy her one! She also worked all day as a poll worker, and her human relations skills are second to none. Basically, I LOVE Ona, heart and soul. She's a rock in a hard place.

Thanks also to all those who wrote letters to the editor supporting me.

And, finally, I want to thank Jen and Barry for hosting a smashing little campaign party last night for me and Rick.

So, of course, a poem about thanks. And worms:

Aren't you glad at least that the earthworms
Under the grass are ignorant, as they eat the earth,
Of the good they confer on us, that their silence
Isn't a silent reproof for our bad manners,
Our never casting earthward a crumb of thanks
For their keeping the soil from packing so tight
That no root, however determined, could pierce it?

Imagine if they suspected how much we owe them,
How the weight of our debt would crush us
Even if they enjoyed keeping the grass alive,
The garden flowers and vegetables, the clover,
And wanted nothing that we could give them,
Not even the merest nod of acknowledgment.
A debt to angels would be easy in comparison,
Bright, weightless creatures of cloud, who serve
An even brighter and lighter master.

Lucky for us they don't know what they're doing,
These puny anonymous creatures of dark and damp
Who eat simply to live, with no more sense of mission
Than nature feels in providing for our survival.
Better save our gratitude for a friend
Who gives us more than we can give in return
And never hints she's waiting for reciprocity.

"If I had nickel, I'd give it to you,"
The lover says, who, having nothing available
In the solid, indicative world, scrapes up
A coin or two in the world of the subjunctive.
"A nickel with a hole drilled in the top
So you can fasten it to your bracelet, a charm
To protect you against your enemies."

For his sake, she'd wear it, not for her own,
So he might believe she's safe as she saunters
Home across the field at night, the moon above her,
Below her the loam, compressed by the soles of her loafers,
And the tunneling earthworms, tireless, silent,
As they persist, oblivious, in their service.

Source: Poetry (May 2003).


Sunday, November 6, 2011

VC tomorrow night! Note the highlights...

Dear People: Tomorrow night the main issues will be: Mark's position as a finalist for the manager job in Sidney, new solid waste rates, a tap-in request from Home, Inc., our endorsement of the MVRPC's regional strategic plan, the library building audit, the issue of the state's interest in collecting taxes, what to do about our water supply, and LJB making a request for a considerably greater funds for work associated with the WWTP. The packet can be viewed here.

In Paper Packet and On Line:

RITA re: State Control of Municipal Income Tax Collection Update (see item under "New Business")
Tom Clevenger re: Rescheduling of Energy Charrette for the BARR PROPERTY SENIOR HOUSING: on WED. NOV. 9th at 5:30 in the Bryan Ctr. Rooms A&B there will be a meeting with the developer lead, the project architect and the project consultant to the green enterprise community standards. If you are interested in the design of this building, particularly as it relates to energy efficiency, please attend this meeting.
Vickie Hennessey re: Fluoride Rinse Program
Mayor’s Monthly Report
Emily Seibel, YSHI re: Fee Waiver Request: (see resolution 2011-54 below)
Len Kramer re: Support for YSHI Fee Waiver
Fred Bartenstein re: YSHI Fee Waiver

E-Packet Only:
GCCOA re: Newsletter and Invitation
Greene County Environmental Services re: Free Nitrate Screening for Well-users: If you have a well, you might want this!
MVRCP re: PDAC Meeting
GCCOA re: Free Paper Shredding (in Beavercreek, NOV 15--RSVP required; also this is a "how to organize your papers" event, targeted at seniors. Look in the packet for more details--it's near the very end of the packet.)

We just received news that Mark is a finalist for a City Manager position in Sidney. He will be reading a statement about his decision to apply for this job (and this job only) due to long term connections to the city.

Ordinance 2011-27 Amending Chapter 1060 Solid Waste Rates: Since we signed the new contract with Rumpke, the following rates will now apply:
Tier 1 (Not more than 35 Gallons): $10.40 Per Unit/Month
Tier 2 (Not more than 65 Gallons): $11.40 Per Unit/Month
Tier 3 (Not more than 120 Gallons): $12.40 Per Unit/Month
[Commercial Services – Four Cubic-Yard Container: $55.00 Per Container/Month]
I will vote yes.

Resolution 2011-54 Home Inc. Tap-In Request: The amount requested is minimal--less than $20,000--which is less than the first year of taxes that will be brought in (about $25,000 per year), and the successful project will bring in $4.25 million dollars of tax credit equity. While they are continuing to look for other local support, they recently have become convinced that this support is vital for a successful proposal. It would have been better had this been a part of the original packet, and I am a little disappointed that it wasn't, but I will vote yes because I would have voted for this had it been a part of the original proposal, and I believe it is reasonable.

Resolution 2011-55 Supporting MVRCP’s Going Places Initiative: I will vote yes. The plan was strongly influenced by Yellow Springs and our Visioning process; the goal is to encourage smart growth and reduce suburban sprawl.



Library Evaluation Presentation: Ted Donnell was awarded a contract to do a building and energy audit. He's recommending a variety of upgrades that are either "high" "medium" and "low" priority. The most expensive high priority item is replacing the 1963 windows with energy-efficient ones (estimated at $150K.)


Water Supply Feasibility Study: Mark writes that likely will not have the information about likely rates from Xenia/Spfld by this meeting, in which case, we will discuss at 11/21 meeting.

State Collection of Income Tax Discussion: RITA, our current tax collector, is concerned about the State's interest in taking over the function of all municipal tax collection. I could not understand this, and asked that we discuss the issue. We have a long email on the topic that was written by the manager of Albany Ohio: the good reasons to oppose this move include a loss of local control and an extensive list of historical problems with state collections. I will likely vote that we bring a resolution to Council opposig this State move.

Discussion of Resolution 2011-50 Authorizing Payment to LJB for Additional Services Rendered: This is a request of, I believe an additional $45,500 from the original contract, for work completed during the first 10 months of this year. While we recently authorized paying for a manual that was not included in the initial bid, that's only $5,840 (so far as I can tell, but I find the memo unclear on this point. If I am reading the bill correctly, the estimated additional costs are $33,373.54 so far, plus $5,840, which added together are substantially less than $45,500. So I don't completely understand this billing statement and I am surprised to be getting such a big additional bill at such a late date when the additional fees had apparently been adding up since January or even late 2010. So I will look forward to clarification at the meeting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

VC tonight! Water (very important!), campaign update, trees, budget

To the left is a photo of the Yellow Spring by an artist named Tom Hock. When the leaves disappear and things become mostly grey, the orange of the spring and the last green moss can seem this intense.

Dear people--VC Meeting tonight and there's quite a bit going on. Our water treatment plant is especially on my mind, so I want to call your attention to that and ask for your response, see below.

Quick Campaign Update:
I know many of you have asked for yard signs, but I think I'm plumb out. Still, check your garage? We've found a few that people pulled off their own property after the last campaign and tucked 'em away. So make sure you don't still have one--and if you find one and you already have a sign, let me or Ona Harshaw or Jen Reich know, and we'll find a place for it.

The best thing you can do for me right now is to write a letter for me to the YS News!
Please consider getting one in TODAY if you have even 15 minutes, a half hour. Can be short! (Short is good!--Just think of the most important reason you support me, and say it in a sentence.)

Key issue tonight: The most important thing that I see on the agenda, and which I'd really love some feedback and thought on over the next few months, is the water feasibility study that we had LJB engineering do for us (John Eastman). It's included in its entirety in this week's packet (the first page of the study is on page 34) and I'd appreciate if a few of you took the time to read it and shared your thoughts--particularly if you have any engineering background.

The suprising finding: I've only read it quickly, but it looks like our cheapest option may be to update our current water treatment plant, cheaper than the status quo or getting water from Xenia / Springfield / Greene County or building a new plant.

YSAC re: Funding
YSAC re: BGSU Economic Impact Study
YSAC re: BGSU Arts Economic Study
Mayor’s Monthly Report
Jon Husted re: Information on Ballot Issues
Colin Altman re: 2010 Annual Report This is a really lovely report--take a look at it if you get a chance--it's at the very end of the electronic packet. The fire department is doing a great job of serving us--nice pictures and graphs that tell a very positive story.
Anne Whitaker re: Barr Project Support

E-Packet Only:
GCCOA re: Newsletter and Invitation
RITA re: State Control of Municipal Income Tax Collection Update: I actually read most of the documents about this (they begin on page 104), and I have a few questions. Kasich is apparently seeking to centralize muncipal tax collection at the state, which strikes me as bizarrely opposed to his normal mode of getting rid of decentralizing (i.e., offloading) state services onto municipalities; some say this is an attack on home rule for municipalities,...so I don't get it. If anyone does...I'm all ears.
Greene Co. Library re: November Programming
GCCHD re: Grant Obtained
MVRCP re: Going Places

Second Reading and Public Hearing of Ordinance 2011-26 Supplemental Appropriation Securing Funds Necessary for the Third Quarter: Normal housecleaning, for the most part, some due to recent decisions that have altered the budget.
Reading of Resolution 2011-52 Contracting with LSL/KKG for Zoning Code Rewrite: I will vote yes--this group is very professional and down to earth and I believe we will have good results. Their presentation was very concrete--they had already found many nitty gritty places where our zoning code contains out of date rules and contradictions; I believe they'll get us a code we can live with for many years to come.
Reading of Resolution 2011-53 Contracting with Arbor Care for Annual Tree Trimming: I will vote yes--Arbor Care's bid is a little higher than last year, because we are having them trim more. However, I will take the moment ask staff about the pretty egregious trimming that occurred on Spillan Road (perhaps some other places also). I believe that was done, however NOT by Arbor Care, with whom we had a long talk about the kind of trimming we were hoping for, but by the AMP contractors, whom we did not have a careful discussion with. The topped and mutilated trees on my street make me, well, ill.

Water Feasibility Report and Discussion: See my plea above for help and input!

Discussion of Budget Process for 2011 / Discussion of Goals Process for 2011: We are hoping to hit the ground running with the new council, so we are urging the current candidates to come for this discussion where we are hoping to set up a tentative calendar. Judith has written everyone a quick email about this, but if you see Shane, Gerald, or Dan, tell them to come on down tonight if they can!

New Council Orientation: We're hoping that Council can have lunch with the new candidates on the orientation date, which is yet to be established. Again, it would be great to have the candidates attend tonight's meeting.

This poem is the favorite fall poem of one of my favorite bloggers, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
He's a black guy who writes for the Atlantic and he's just a brilliant, wide-ranging reader and thinker. Ok, it's true that he loves a lot of my favorites, Frederick Douglass and Edith Wharton (!!!) for starters, and he was just totally into Jane Austen (of all people) last year, AND he also introduced me to great histories--James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom and Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought and the absolutely devastating Slavery by a Another Name--which is still haunting me--by a Wall Street Journal reporter--seriously!--Douglas Blackmon about the "re-enslavement of black Americans from the Civil War to WWII." I mean, did you know that slavery was not criminalized until 1944! For Real! Ok. So, you should read Ta-Nehisi's blog, linked above, and below, and read anything that Coates recommends.

(Mostly, I just wanted to recommend Coates; I think I'm not quite as enamoured of this poem as he is--it does feel like more of a guy poem maybe to me?--but it may also grow on me. I do love poets who can rhyme and not sound amateurish.)

October by Frederick Seidel

It is time to lose your life,
Even if it isn't over.
It is time to say goodbye and try to die.
It is October.

The mellow cello
Allee of trees is almost lost in sweetness and mist
When you take off your watch at sunrise
To lose your life.

You catch the plane.
You land again.
You arrive in the place.
You speak the language.

You will live in a new house,
Even if it is old.
You will live with a new wife,
Even if she is too young.

Your slender new husband will love you.
He will walk the dog in the cold.
He will cook a meal on the stove.
He will bring you your medication in bed.

Dawn at the city flower market downtown.
The vendors have just opened.
The flowers are so fresh.
The restaurants are there to decorate their tables.

Your husband rollerblades past, whizzing,
Making a whirring sound, winged like an angel--
But stops and spins around and skates back
To buy some cut flowers in the early morning frost.

I am buying them for you.
I am buying them for your blond hair at dawn.
I am buying them for your beautiful breasts.
I am buying them for your beautiful heart.