Redistricting Open Thread

A couple people asked, “How do we get more of the community to attend these [redistricting] meetings?”

It’s a tall order in view of the recent past. For what it’s worth, though, I will tell people that the discussion so far appears to be generally open to input of all sorts and free of predetermined outcomes.

After dragging myself to half a year’s worth of Facilities Planning Committee (FPC) meetings in 2008, the atmos last night at the school board meeting was kind of a shock. Gone is the jubilation, the denial, even most of the smugness. This district is in deep doo-doo and knows it.

Reality, thy name is EAV.

Next meetings: September 21 and October 7, 6 p.m.

Link to Chronicle story

5 thoughts on “Redistricting Open Thread”

  1. It’s very easy to answer. I along with several other community members joined the Facilities Planning Committee once the referendum passed. Once again I’ll say it, I wish I would have been on that committee prior to the referendum. The numbers used were skewed towards building the biggest possible dream school they could with a high expectation for new housing to engulf the DeKalb community. 6,000 homes in ten years along with the standard rate of new starts added another 2,200 plus homes to that ten year figure. Over 8,200 new homes or 820 new home starts for ten consecutive years.

    Now, also figured in this total was the development that Shodeen Development was to add over the next few years on their East end project with commercial shopping, hotel, restaurants and upscale apartment(condo) living. The 2nd project to be the downtown miracle of redevelopment anchored by a $2 million plus parking lot, a fake ice skating rink and the hopes of buy it, knock it down and they will come and build us a new downtown.

    NOT HAPPENING!

    EAV is getting just happens to be three letters getting a lot of press lately and now getting some time at our council and board meetings from school to city to the county level even. When you break down simply the fact that in order for this community, a modest one at that, would be able to first draw 820 new families a year for ten years is really over the top. The best year DeKalb has had with regards to new home starts was I believe 2004 or 2005 with about 280 new homes. Did the powers to be really think the a $90 million brand new state of the art high school would honestly draw over 3 times the best year of growth that this community ever had and yet for 10 straight years. Arrogance and stupidity to think that DeKalb offers so much to so many that all of a sudden we become the number one destination to live in.

    Bottom line, this community and our school district needs 20 straight years of new growth or an EAV equivalent to $20 million per year ($60 million worth of NEW growth per year). 13 permits last year and so far this year with 3 months to go we have 7 new house permits and most of them are speculative construction (for sale). No new factories or box warehouses. No new motels or restaurants as of yet. Shodeen hasn’t started as of yet. One of the original developers which accounted for close to 3,000 of the new lots is now gone and Shodeen has purchased the property in hopes of building homes and of course the economy.

    Many local builders and developers have either gone out of business, hanging on as long as they can to see what happens or retooling and rethinking their businesses as not to lose everything they have invested in over the years. Many of our neighbors are losing homes, finding it difficult to pay taxes, utilities, sponsor worth while organizations that have received dollars from the community once but not not as things start to tighten up. Many of us are trying to stretch the dollar further then it ever has been stretched only to see our government bodies continue to spend millions on improvements that really are not essential items at this time. Many wouldn’t be complaining as much about much of the spending if only some common sense was thrown into the discussion just a little bit and maybe plans modified just a bit to allow for this downturn.

    Blame whoever you wish but the fact is that we are being taxed to death with end in sight. We are spending over $110 million on a couple new schools and fixing up a couple and now are forced to close a few because of a shortage of dollars to operate and maintain the infrastructure. Hiring freezes at the city while we see our city behind in their pension obligations to the tune of $30 million plus and only growing but alas the latest news is that we have a surplus of money. Creative accounting will get you anywhere you wish to go but in the end we are in the RED and we still need to come up with $30 million plus in cash to take care of this debt. How stupid do the elected officials in this community truly feel we have become?

    I have openly been warning this community about the short fall and deficit that the school district was going to find itself in. So, the meeting was a little humbling last night? There should have been resignations handed out last evening. I have been ridiculed by many in this community and yes my business has suffered. This is how people who try to speak the truth and let their friends and neighbors know what is happening treated? Yes! A few of the elite in this community who think they know what it is that you and I really want have led us down this path. I along with several others who by the way supported the referendum, were mocked by administration and school board members along with staff at city hall and city council members and the mayor.

    Why would anyone wish to stick their neck out on the line for the better of the communty only to go through what we have gone thru along with many of the forgotten community members over the years who tried to do the same? The Braggs, Johnsons, Blitblaus, Walters etc. I remember these people and also know what many went through. The Facilities Planning Committee did have many good discussions but the design and size was all school board and administration. In fact, millions of dollars was saved by the bid process and efforts of the FPC but many options and upgrades were accepted because of those savings. Why?

    I will also go out to say that most of this was pretty well organized right down to putting a lid on any news information and updating. The Daily Chronicle has done a great disservice to this community by NOT reporting the news whether it is related to the schools or the city. This community only heard what they want to hear and the Chronicle allowed it to happen and this community continues to endorse and support the Daily Chronicle which is really unbelievable to me.

    We as a community need to wake up and start using our heads a little bit more. Many have to stop acting like sheep and stand up for what is right and be heard. We cannot yet so few ruin our dreams and our community. This is a ship that needs righting and we must start now and ready ourselves for the next set of elections in this community and take it back.

    I guess I’m just tired of hearing over and over again the question that a couple of people asked at last nights meeting and any other meeting one or two people may consider important, “How do we get more of the community to attend these meetings?” My sentiment exactly, what’s it going to take to finally push your button?

  2. Nice summary, Ivan. Amazing to think our “leaders” convinced so many to believe the area would expand at the rate of 800 or so new houses per year for ten years! I guess that is somehow abstract enough for people not to question. I noticed last night that the DeKalb Chamber still has a demographic up showing the population of Malta almost doubling by 2010 and DeKalb population over 50,000 by the same year. Do you think these groups will be any more cautious with projections from this point forward? At least they should admit they were wrong and modify plans accordingly! In any event, you and I and others need to keep after them, even though they sometimes verbally beat up critics and usually ignore us. I hope the next election brings more voters than last…it certainly should after the property tax shoots for the moon!

  3. Thanks Kerry. It’s pretty difficult to take information that you are given and make sense of it when you don’t get the entire picture. That’s why I am a bit upset with myself that I didn’t take the initive and join the FPC prior to the referendum. Those housing numbers would have hit me harder while sitting in a meeting an discussing it. I never did see any of these numbers or any other numbers showing how they intended to pay the bond down if the referendum passed.

    The numbers basically were fed to the FPC by Russ Farnum but no one on the FPC had the background or expertise in the housing market to question these numbers. The administration wasn’t going to dispute these numbers because it fell in line with the type and size of school they were striving for. Let’s just say for this case right now that we take all the prior information before the referendum and just call it water over the dam. The information that was necessary for the school board and the administration did come out into FULL light within 4 months after the referendum. This was more that adequate time for the school district led by the school board to adapt to the situation and modify their plans. Many communities have done just that and will be in so much better shape then DeKalb 428.

    All can say that it’s not Dr. Briscoe’s fault. It is. He had more than enough time to say “hey, let’s relook and rethink this plan. There will be no second referendum passed as many expected and alone on these grounds we much reevaluate our overall plan for the infrastructure of this school district.” If Dr. Briscoe would have came forward and suggested something as simple as this, I believe this school district would be in better shape right now. When is Dr. Brisco officially going to take responsibility of everything happening here? He was completely aware of what was happening here and with the economy. He had no problem at the last minute coming in and making a suggestion to change the high school construction format did he?

    I along with many tried our best to help save dollars and would have and could have saved more if they would have simplified the construction and design of the new high school, in essence making it a little bit more builder friendly but in the end it truly didn’t matter. I am hearing from inside sources and will have to find out but the original bids actually came in below the architects anticipated $66.5 million in construction costs in fact $8 million under their target. The school board and administration decided to take most if not all of the upgrades falling only a bit over $1 million under the $66.5 million and they announced that the bids came in under the anticipated target. Patting themselves on the back because they saved money. OK $1 million on a $66.5 million bid…. nothing to jump with joy about because I’m very sure that if not by now, shortly they willl blow through that number with change orders. Those extras no matter how you look at it cost an additional $7 million that could have easily been used elsewhere in the school district.

    The new building will be very nice but it is a building that will cost this community many dollars to maintain and operate over the upcoming years. They will have to run the A/C in the track because it has been designed to run with the A/C, you can’t just pick and choose when you wish to run it, not with all of that hardwood flooring and track surface. It will have to be kept at a constant temperature. This building is so spread out, 95% of this community cannot even fathom how far students will have to walk to get from one end to the other and they complain about the current high school. Just heating and cooling all of this space is going to bring the district to financial problems along with maintaining this building so we can get 40 years out of it. Where is the staff coming from in order to do this? Haven’t they cut staff from the district? This is why I believe that it has become necessary to close 3 grade schools. Staff from these schools will be reassigned to feel in the needs for the new high school and mega schools Huntley Middle and the current high school.

    The day and need for redistricting has finally come but maybe this should have been discussed a while back, maybe even before the referendum but then again, we trusted the school board didn’t we.

  4. I did not trust the school district. I voted “no.” I voted “no” as soon as I noticed the “field house” that was on the drawing at the Egyptian meeting magically stopped fitting into the drawings, bled off the edge of the drawings, and became “physical education.” Many people I know that I talked to before the referendum also voted “no.”

    They better ask God for forgiveness because I will not forgive them.

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