Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What is the Problem?

In light of the direct assault on democracy and gross mismanagement on the part of USD 259 officials, it seems that responding to one little letter to the editor in the Wichita Eagle would be a waste of time. But this little tid-bit from Greg Mudd's letter from April 26th caught my attention:

"What makes me sick are the number of people in this city who complain that their taxes will go up but who have no solution to the problems and no real knowledge of the condition of the schools. If you don't have a solution to the real problems, don't complain."

I sympathize with Mr. Mudd. It is troubling to see people complain about their taxes going up yet offering no solutions to resolve the real problems. Indeed, the only thing more sickening are the number of people in this city who want to raise taxes who have no solution to the real problems.

Mr. Mudd, money is not a solution.

USD 259 has been failing for years. The district was recently boasting about a 76% graduation rate. Ok, 76% might be "C" work in the classroom, but it also means that 24% of Wichita students are not graduating.

So, Mr. Mudd and others are left with the question, what are the "real problems" of the district? Lack of football fields? Lack of swimming pools? Cafeterias that are too small? Are those the "real problems"? Would additional millions of dollars funnelled from homeowners to Shaefer, Johnson, Cox & Frey some how improve the graduation rates?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What about the Other Half of the Bond?

It was nice to see that Martin Libhart finally came clean with the amount of the $350 million bond issue that will be used to pay for FEMA safe rooms. $75 million...just over 21% of the total bond amount.

The USD 259 website proclaims that "It is a FACT that LESS THAN ONE-THIRD of the facility improvements in the bond issue plan are for fine arts, physical education and athletic facilities." (The capitalization makes it extra-true?) That would be less than $190,500,000 going to those types of facilities.

$350,000,000 Bond Issue
-$115,500,000 Arts/Athletic
-$ 75,000,000 FEMA shelters
$159,000,000 ?????

-- Martin Libhart seems to be off to a great start. He has cracked the whip on the USD 259 Public Relations Department and finally made them take the list of reasons why the bond vote HAD to be on the May 6th. Good Job Martin!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Volunteerism not Dead in Wichita!

Kudos to the great folks at Schaefer Johnson Cox & Frey! In these days when we hear so many stories or corporate corruption and abuse it is heartwarming to hear a story of a good corporate citizen.

When a local pro-bond group needed facilities for the important work of educating the citizens of Wichita on the virtues of a $350 million bond, volunteering both time and resources, Schaefer Johnson rode to the rescue and restored our faith in corporate commitment to our community.

As Kenton Cox said in the Wichita Eagle, "We just believe in what's being done, and we believe very strongly in public education."

Maybe we've forgotten what it means to volunteer in our community. In case you've forgotten, here's what it means:

1. somebody who works for nothing: somebody who works without being paid

The proposed 2008 bond issue is the largest in state history and Schaefer Johnson Cox & Frey stands to make much more than mere $3 million they garnered from the 2000 bond issue.

Anyone want to volunteer?

If pro-bond leaders think Wichitans are gullible enough to believe that a business with a multi-million dollar interest in the outcome of the bond vote is "volunteering" I can't wait to see what comes next.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More USD 259 Website Fun

This shrill headline from an allegedly neutral source of information, the USD 259 website:

FACT CHECK: The Wichita Public School’s response to false statements said against the bond issue

Despite the childish sounding response of the taxpayer funded mouthpieces at the Administration building, and poor English, it might be fun to explore a few of the "false statements":

-The administration claims that 700 jobs a year were supported by the 2000 bond issue. There is no breakdown of how many jobs were supported at what contracting firms, or which architecture firm...but we already know the answer to that question.

If the BOE is going to take money out of the economy and direct it to the construction industry, perhaps they should consider other forms of economic development. Maybe USD259 should buy a corporate jet. That would put some folks in Wichita to work. Kevass Harding and Connie Dietz could each give me $20 out of their own pocket. That's $40 more economic development in our fair city.

-Existing buildings are the most cost ineffiencent solution.
Oddly enough, the analysis of this isn't to be found on the USD 259 website. The analysis of why holding the bond vote in May is still up on the website though.

-The capacity figures quoted by those against the bond issue are from outdated sources.
This blog simply used the most recent figures provided on the USD 259 website. It is probably too much to ask that the administration provide the taxpayers of Wichita with up-to-date information on the website, instead of openly campaigning in favor of the bond issue.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Who is "We"?

On Monday, board president Connie Dietz said delaying the vote was the right move, despite potential cost increases.

"Yes, it's worth it, because we're going to win," she said.

Given the history of the administration, it's not surprising to see money spent on frivolous window dressing and consultants instead of addressing the real issues of the the district. However, it seems odd that the President of the USD 259 School Board would not be the least bit concerned about spending taxpayer dollars to manipulate an election.

Often times, elected officials attempt to maintain a degree of impartiality and neutrality, not only is it required by Kansas law, but it is one of our most basic democratic institutions.

Frankly, Connie Dietz should be admired for not even bothering to pretend that she isn't using her elected position to affect the outcome of the bond issue vote. No condescending comments about "hearing all sides" and she isn't wasting our time by telling voters that she is "carefully considering the issues". Nope, just a flat out "we're going to win".

The attempt by the school board to fix the school bond election, coupled with the refusal to allow public comment on the board's decision to change the day of the election makes it clear that Connie Dietz doesn't include Wichita voters as part of her "We".

Friday, April 4, 2008

An Interesting Version of Democracy or Simple Outrage

CARE, the curious little group of Bond supporters, is asking for a "time-out", a "mulligan", a "re-do". Frankly, I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what they are asking for because there isn't a term in our American political lexicon for what they are requesting. The only thing that seems to fit is "Outrage!".

Seems that the bond supporters are going to be asking for an "extension" because, in the words of Sarah Olson, co-coordinator of CARE, the delay "would give us more time to get the message out, because it's a more complicated message this time than it was in 2000." (that is..."we just saw our internal polling and it doesn't look good.")

The USD259 version of democracy allows the district simply change the rules as they see fit.

I hope this isn't what the Wichita Schools are teaching in Civics classes. Oh, and all that fluff about the financial importance of having a bond vote early...just disregard. (how many days will that take to come off the USD259 website?)

Never mind that USD 259 is already spending tax dollars to advertising the bond issue. You've got to love the line at the end about not keeping track of what is being spent on advertising for the bond issue. They probably won't keep track of how much is spent reprinting all the materials with new dates.

What remains to be seen is if the School Board's version of democracy includes inviting citizens opposed to the Bond issue to the meeting proposed by CARE, and will carefully consideration of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.