Field of Dreams, Part I

Filed under: ELECTION,Guest Writer,Uncategorized — tkm August 26, 2008 @ 23:0 pm

By Kevin Johnson:

As one of my all time favorite movies, Field of Dreams (1989) always tugs at my heart with its premise that, If you build it, they will come. It is a movie of hope, of love, of longing and of simple trust.

Unfortunately, Portsmouth’s new Field of Dreams, based also upon the premise that “if you build it, they will come” is fraught with so many empty promises, false assumptions, private deals, political intrigue, backroom shenanigans and financial incompetence that it makes the movie seem, by comparison, realistic.

And what do we call this new Field of Dreams? The answer: the proposed City Center.

In the next few issues I’ll be discussing the background of this proposal in depth. For this first installment – let us look at a simple planning and information comparison.

The ordinance originally proposed for the November ballot reads:

“Whether or not to construct a new facility to be known as the Justice Center at the Washington Street Site to house the Police Department, Municipal Courts, Clerk of Court, Probation Department and Solicitor’s Office and to renovate the Chillicothe Street Property to develop a City Center and house various city offices including Legislative and Executive offices, Engineering Department, Finance and Income Tax, Council Chambers, and other City offices.”

This ordinance was amended after vociferous public objections when it was considered by council. The additional language reads:

“The principal amount of bonded indebtedness serviced through property tax revenue shall not exceed twelve million dollars for this project.”

Notice that the amount of indebtedness does NOT include the hoped for $1.4 million from the Marting’s Foundation. Thus the anticipated cost of this project is around $13.4 million dollars – or nearly double what voters rejected in May 2006 (by 69.4% to 30.6%). In addition, public discussion of the amendment was disallowed by Council President Howard Baughman – a gag order I’ve never, ever witnessed or heard of in 30 years of political experience and participation.

Now compare the City’s ordinance with that of the Portsmouth City School District on November 6, 2001.
“Shall bonds be issued by the Portsmouth City School District to pay the local share of school construction under the State of Ohio Classroom Facilities Assistance Program in the principal amount of $11,550,000, to be repaid annually over a maximum period of twenty-three years and an annual levy of property taxes to be made outside the ten-mill limitation, estimated by the county auditor to average over the repayment period of the bond issue 4 mills for each one dollar of tax valuation, which amounts to $0.40 for each one hundred dollars of tax valuation, commencing in 2001 first due in calendar year 2002, to pay the annual debt charges on the bonds and to pay debt charges on any notes issued in anticipation of the bonds?” (and) “Shall an additional levy of taxes be made for a period of twenty-three years commencing in 2001, first due in calendar year 2002, to benefit the Portsmouth City School District, THE PROCEEDS OF WHICH SHALL BE USED TO PAY THE COST OF MAINTAINING THE CLASSROOM FACILITIES INCLUDED IN THIS PROJECT at the rate of ½ mill for each one dollar of valuation?”

Let us compare the planning issues contained in both documents.

                                     City Proposal              School Proposal

Bond Limit                            Yes                                Yes
Years to pay                         NO                                 Yes
Mills detail                            NO                                 Yes
Tax valuation                       NO                                 Yes
Commence date                 NO                                 Yes
First due date                      NO                                 Yes
Maintenance                       NO                                 Yes

In summary, the City’s ordinance does NOT provide taxpayers any detail concerning how may years it will take to pay off this indebtedness, it does NOT indicate how many mills per dollar of tax valuation, it does NOT give an estimate of cost per each $100 of valuation, it does NOT indicate when the taxation will commence (or end), it does NOT indicate when the taxation if first due and it does NOT include any maintenance funding.

Though each of these issues is of vital importance for voters in making an informed decision, the maintenance issue may be the most important given that the City of Portsmouth has a dreadful history as concerns maintaining its properties (the current City Hall, the Charles Street facility, our sewers…, the community pool).

The rule of thumb for any project is: maintenance costs for a project are estimated at 10% of the project’s cost, per year. The School District asked for 0.5 mills on top of their existing operations and maintenance income sources (including intergovernmental) and their 2006 budget for operations and maintenance of plant was $2,053,486.

At the 10% maintenance rule of thumb the City Center proposal will require a maintenance budget of some $1,340,000 per year.

The City has no such maintenance budget nor are there monies to accomplish such maintenance.

Many believe our current government is incapable of managing our taxpayer dollars – and recent events, from the municipal pool to our sewers and much more, only exacerbates this belief among taxpaying citizens of Portsmouth. And, as if we needed more proof, read on.

At the Council meeting of August 26, an Ordinance requesting Council to approve a transfer of money from the General Fund to an Engineering Fund was discussed. A request was made of the Auditor to certify money was available for transfer to the account. Auditor Trent Williams essentially responded that there was no way he could certify available money for transfer and, in his opinion, the General Fund was operating in the red. He also expressed that he had contacted the Engineering Department to try and resolve the issue of funds not being available for this transfer but had no success in obtaining clarification. The Mayor remained silent (regarding money available).

Council voted on the Ordinance, Item 7a, to transfer possibly non-existent monies from the General Fund to the Engineering Fund. The three reading rule was suspended and the Ordinance passed 4 to 2. Voting to pass the Ordinance and spend money not certified as being available by the City Auditor were – 5th Ward Council Howard Baughman, President; 2nd Ward Council David Malone, Vice President; 1st Ward Council Mike Mearan; and 4th Ward Council Jerrold Albrecht.

And this Council wants us to sign off on giving them some $12 million on a proposal that lacks even the basics of a plan? Maybe the board of Main Street Portsmouth – which recently endorsed this “plan” – knows something we the citizens don’t; but, quite honestly, I don’t think they do. Nor evidently does the Portsmouth Daily Times. I am hopeful that they both will explain their endorsements and provide us common folk with the plan details that they certainly should have asked for and been provided.

More details to come in further installments of Field of Dreams.

August 25th, 2008 City Council Meeting

Filed under: Council Highlights,Uncategorized — tkm @ 2:0 am

I have known for quite some time that the City of Portsmouth, Ohio has four (4) City Council members, 5th Ward Council Howard Baughman, President; 2nd Ward Council David Malone, Vice President; 1st Ward Council Mike Mearan; and 4th Ward Council Jerrold Albrecht that are not on council for the best interest of the City. Instead I believe they have remained on Council to serve special interest groups like the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership (SOGP) as well as other unelected leaders.

Tonight’s, August 25, 2008, City Council Meeting I witnessed another stage of the ineffectiveness and incompetence of these four (4) Council members I mentioned above at managing the City. On the agenda tonight was an Ordinance that requested Council to approve the transfer of money from the General Fund to an Engineering Fund. Bob Mollette, 3rd Ward Councilman, requested the Auditor to certify money was available for transfer to the account. Auditor Trent Williams’ basic response to this question was to inform Council there was no way he could certify available money for transfer and, in his opinion, the General Fund was operating in the red. He also expressed his attempts for contacting the Engineering Department’s Department Head to try and resolve the issue of funds not being available for this transfer but had no success.

Council voted on the Ordinance, Item 7a, to transfer unverified funds from the General Fund to the Engineering Fund. 3 reading rules was suspended and Ordinance passed 4 to 2. Voting to pass the Ordinance and spend money not certified by the City Auditor were – 5th Ward Council Howard Baughman, President; 2nd Ward Council David Malone, Vice President; 1st Ward Council Mike Mearan; and 4th Ward Council Jerrold Albrecht. City Solicitor Mike Jones sat back and watched as 4 Council members voted to the affirmative to put the City in debt with nothing but a Hope and a Prayer for finding someway to balance the budget at the end of the year.

CLICK:  To Watch video highlights from the meeting.

Main Street Portsmouth Supports…

Filed under: Guest Writer,Uncategorized — tkm August 24, 2008 @ 15:0 pm

News release from Kevin Johnson:

The headline in today’s Portsmouth Daily Times – for those of you who don’t receive the newspaper or didn’t read the article – is “Main Street Portsmouth supports City Center.” Also in today’s paper was an editorial concerning Main Street Portsmouth’s important endorsement of this proposed project. (see Portsmouth Daily Times – mainstreet and Portsmouth Daily Times – opinion)

As an early supporter of and contributor to the development of Main Street Portsmouth, I congratulate their board on evidently accomplishing what no one else has heretofore been able to do: obtain a copy of the City’s “coherent plan for betterment.”

Why is this important? Because the only planning items made available to the public thus far are drawings of building spaces (see Portsmouth Ohio Government). Such is not a plan. A coherent plan is “marked by an orderly, logical, and aesthetically consistent relation of parts.” A project plan is “a formal, approved document used to guide project execution and project control; a description of what is to be done, what funds are available, when it will be done and by whom.”

Heritage Ohio, to whom Main Street Portsmouth reports and is responsible to, requires planning and reporting at each step of their progress, each phase of their development and each step of every one of their projects. This is why I am certain that they (the board) expected and obtained the same comprehensive planning documentation of the City’s effort to establish two new city municipal buildings. (See Heritage Ohio’s principles and criteria requirements for Main Street Portsmouth at Heritage Ohio – Principles and Heritage Ohio -Criteria).

As a resident and part owner of a business located less than half a block from one of these building sites I am, quite honestly, disappointed that I (and other local business owners) was not invited to listen in to or participate in these City Center presentations given to Main Street Portsmouth. And I am especially concerned that our parking problems are viewed as simply a “need (for) better management in utilizing the space available” when no such management exists or has been proposed.

However, Main Street Portsmouth deserves that I give them the benefit of the doubt. I will be requesting copies of the documentation provided them concerning the “coherent plan” for the proposed City Center so that I might, as was editorialized by the Portsmouth Daily Times, “study the issues, ask questions, ignore rhetoric and get answers.”

I encourage you to do so as well. Main Street Portsmouth’s president is Craig DeAtley. He may be contacted via Zoe Richards, Main Street Portsmouth’s Director, at director@mainstreetportsmouth.org or fax your request to 740-355-6927.

Autism Calendar

Filed under: AUTISM,Uncategorized — tkm August 9, 2008 @ 8:0 am

Fall 2008 Presentations Calendar

CLICK:  Dennis Debbaudt’s Summer/Fall Presentations Calendar