Saturday, April 29, 2017

A response to Jeff McGinness

Well, bond campaign season is upon us, and it sometimes seems as if the supporters of the bond were expecting no one to point out counterarguments. I was quoted in a Gazette piece today, and former board member Jeff McGinness, who co-chaired the committee that developed the initial facilities plan recommendation, had this to say about it:

McGinness’s statements that I “essentially campaigned on killing the bond” and that I’ve “voted against virtually every admin proposal” are demonstrably false. As to the former, my campaign position is the same one I have now:
The district will need to ask the voters to pass a bond to follow through on the district’s facilities plan. We need to make sure the proposal makes sense and that the voters trust the district with the money. Passing a bond requires not cheerleading or groupthink but transparency, candor, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.
Some might prefer the cheerleading approach, but that is hardly campaigning on killing the bond. In my view, what risks killing the bond is having it cover capacity expansions—some of which are up to seven years out on the timeline—without any indication that future enrollment will justify them.

As for the statement that I’ve “voted against virtually every admin proposal,” I just reviewed all the votes at our regular board meetings: I have voted “no” 29 times and “yes” 231 times (and that’s not even counting consent calendar items separately). At 60% of the meetings, I did not cast a single “no” vote. Not all the “yes” votes were supporting administrative recommendations, but a whole lot of them were. Again, some people want board members to vote “yes” more than 89% of the time, but that’s hardly voting against every administrative proposal.

McGinness says that my blog contains intentional misstatements, but since he doesn’t cite any, I can’t refute the charge or correct any errors.

As for Sullivan’s Gazette piece, it was pretty faithful to what I said to him when he called me. One arguable inaccuracy in his piece is that the bond wouldn’t “fund a replacement for Hoover Elementary,” at least if that’s meant to refer to Hoover East, which is not bond-funded and which does not actually “replace” Hoover. Sullivan cites my blog (which cited this) for the statement that the plan would put elementary capacity at 1600 seats more than projected enrollment; the district has since revised its capacity numbers, and then revised them again, but that figure is still pretty close to what the district’s own documents show. (Compare Column O with Column M.) In general, my concern is that the enrollment projections are speculative enough that we shouldn’t use them to justify commitments that are years out on the timeline; more on that in an upcoming post.

The bond vote is still four and a half months away. There is lots of time for making arguments and counterarguments before anyone has to vote. When I make my arguments, I try always to include links for any factual assertions. My advice to voters is: take your time and consider both sides. If the proposal is as strong as its supporters contend, they should have nothing to worry about.


Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that Jeff M. resorts to personal attacks instead of facts and logic to justify the bond. The simple fact of the matter is that many of us do not support the bond. We are not anti-education, we are not anti-ICCSD, and we most certainly support our children's educations. We just know waste and a bad deal when we see it. And we vote.

Chris, thank you for your common sense.

Anonymous said...

McGinness, the IA Supreme Court upheld law license suspended convicted liar...talk about a lack of credibility. His secretary wouldn't back his forged signature failed attempt to manufacture evidence and then he paid an alleged expert to validate it wasn't Jeff's signature...how many judges did Jeff's lies fail to fool? Soooooooooooo many. Enough to lose his law license for 6 months. Check out his IA Courts Online driving record and his public intox history. He has no business attacking anyone else's credibility.

Chris said...

Anonymous (1:12 pm) -- My point is that personal credibility issues are just a distraction. If I make a misstatement, McGinness is just as capable of pointing it out as anyone else is. Both sides need to focus on substantive arguments about the bond proposal.

Chris said...

I should add: the credibility of the district itself does matter, if they want voters to give them $191 million. The capacity chart I linked to in the post raises a number of questions, which I am following up on.

Anonymous said...

My spouse and I have always voted YES to school bonds. For the first time in our lives, we are voting NO on this bond.

Two thumbs up to the first commenter.

Anonymous said...

This is just JMG's attempt at intimidation to try to silence any criticism. It is the same tactic that Lynch and other associated cronies have been using for years, which in my opinion is one of the major problems that we have with this administration. Any opposition is quickly silenced. Part of the reason that some feel the need to post anonymously here is fear of retaliation from the administration, which we know is an issue. These tactics may work on the wrestling mat, but I don't believe that it has worked in the courtroom and I doubt it will work with our intelligent community that have a brain and can think for themselves. I have always enjoyed Chris Liebig's blog articles for their honesty, clarity and logical thought and they are always backed with data and sources. Thanks Chris for all that you have done in the short time you have been on the board. I appreciate it and I know many others do too. Keep up the good work and keep fighting for what you believe in!

Anonymous said...

Nobody is going to give me a $190m blank check. Why would we give it to this administration, or any administration for that matter?

Anonymous said...

I attended meetings and my input wasn't heard. The bond cheerleaders don't want anyone looking at details.

Jeff refers to outside experts who have looked at capacity. The district spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on experts like Durant and BLDD and in the end threw their work out. At the last minute the district's in-house guy provided new capacity numbers. Why should we believe the latest capacity numbers? We shouldn't.

I support public education but will vote No on the bond. The Facebook bullying tactics from McGinnis where he has no facts aren't helping.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:09, you said "...I support public education but will vote No on the bond..."

How dare you? How could you support education and vote No? If you vote No, you are just against education. You want to send our kids to sweat shops and deprive them of any modern education and make them sit outside when it is snowing in Iowa. You bad, bad, bad person...


I am sorry I couldn't help it. This is exactly what the supporters will say and do.

Anonymous said...

Ha 10:50! You're right.

Did you ever notice that schools were never released early for heat until Murley came and decided to go for a facilities master plan.

Just a couple of years ago, Hoover the school that is supposed to be torn down, got hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades like air conditioning and carpeting.

The spending never stops.

Anonymous said...

If you take a step back and review what happened in the past several years, you'd notice a few things:
1. there is an East/West divide. You have to be blind not to see it.
2. The East side is firmly focused on supporting City High, so much so that they are willing to level Hoover to make room for City's parking lot.
3. There is also an urgency from the East side that most new schools are built on the West and as a result, it attracts more development to the West/North. Iowa City wants to reverse this trend. Their solution is: if we build them, they will come. Or simply, if we build more shiny new schools on the East side, we will have more growth as a result.
4. The East side pushed too hard on the West side and as a balance act, North Liberty now has a big shining new high school. Not in their plan but it happened. Busing kids from the West to East is not enough. (Recall the Diversity Policy? The whole Policy is a busing plan devised to pop up City High, and is overturned and killed. Also remember in the past debates, how many times the Iowa City governments jumped in to offer their "opinion"? It is all about tax base, or just follow the money) Now what? Let's get more money and we can build more schools on the East side.
5. How do we get more money? Let's ask for a big blank check for about $200m as a start.

Mark my words. The minute the bond passes, they'll break their promises and start building new schools on the East side in the middle of nowhere. They have the majority on the board. There is nothing to stop them.

I feel like closing Hoover is the worst of all mistakes they made. Hoover is such a great school. I wish all schools are like Hoover. Walking distance, neighborhood school, nice mix of kids of all sorts, the list goes on. And they want to close it and build new Hoover in the middle of a corn field! Actually, closing Hoover isn't a mistake. It was a planned move and completely done with intent and purpose.

Anonymous said...

"Nick Bergus, an organizer of the pro-bond campaign and a district parent, said he worries the district’s facilities will fall further behind if the bond doesn’t pass.

“My fear is that our kids are going to be stuck in poor conditions,” Bergus said. “We’re going to continue to have days of school canceled from heat, we’re going to continue to have these windows that leak, we’re going to continue to have (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility issues and security issues."

Nick--we're not arguing these issues. We disagree with key economic theories such as scarcity, allocation of resources, and how money is indeed fungible. Knowing that funds are scarce, the district leadership is charged with how to spend the money it already has. And that money for projects is fungible. In short, we don't trust you because you place million dollar astroturf and 7-million dollar tennis courts ahead of A/C, leaky windows, and ADA and security issues.

Pick your priorities and fund them first. Then move down to the wish list. Learn the difference between wants and needs. Just like every other 5 year old.

mariaconz said...

Replacing bus traffic with car traffic on and near Dodge Street is a terrible idea. It's dangerous for children and adults walking to school, though God knows the school district has done all it can to kill neighborhood schools in walkable neighborhoods. That's one of the reasons my husband and I are voting against the school bond. Why give $191 million to a Supt. Murley, who can't be trusted not to waste the money he has now?

Anonymous said...

Murley's administration is investigated for retaliation...no surprise that the comments here are mostly anonymous. People don't want their kids to suffer retaliation for their parents' resistance to groupthink and corruption. Now McGinness is bullying people on social media?

Hey let's give this bunch $190,000,000!!


Zero trust.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:05 hit the nail on the head: "Pick your priorities and fund them first. Then move down to the wish list. Learn the difference between wants and needs. Just like every other 5 year old."

There are obvious wants on this list that are getting priority on the timeline before needs. Absolutely nothing is needed at Borlaug for the next 10 years according to the enrollment projections yet they are getting added capacity in the form of art and music rooms despite already having close to the new/desired "standard" for their size. I don't think Lemme needs much of anything either; if they want a bigger gym there then have the city chip in some money like has been done in the past. Otherwise it is a want for a small school to have that large of a gym. These are just the obvious few.

This whole focus on art and music rooms only popped up AFTER the district was seeing the preliminary enrollment projection numbers that made it obvious capacity additions are not needed at many schools. So additions became art and music rooms - Ridiculous! Administrators (& and a perpetually East Side/City High focused board) cannot be trusted to do the right thing with such a large sum of money! Period!

Be responsible with our hard earned tax dollars and do not waste them on all these unnecessary projects. Vote the bond down and make the next board come up with a better plan that addresses the true needs of the district first like air conditioning, long past overdue regular maintenance and also only put capacity where it is really going to be needed (which is going to be in Coralville and North Liberty) since two new schools in the East have just been built.

Even Alexander wouldn't need an addition if some redistricting were done and/or if Hoover were kept open. Why are we throwing away a facility worth about $15 million dollars again?? While we madly add on unnecessary art and music rooms to help make up for that soon to be destroyed capacity? Madness!

- said...

I just got an email from Steve (hi, Steve) wanting me to go sign the petition to get the bond on the ballot.

I also remembered having seen something about BBB being convicted on SUPES charges, so I went and had another look. Looks like all kinds of people being sent to prison for 7 years for that one. That's the group Steve was consulting for in Chicago.


I have exactly zero intention of voting for Steve to get hold of that kind of giant loan, and I am very, very suspicious of Jeff's suddenly piping up about this. Before I went anywhere near a GO bond he'd been involved with, I'd want to see every. single. agreement he was in on.

Anonymous said...

McGinness is leaving Iowa City and moving to Des Moines. The guy moves back to IC for nine years, supports a huge mess then leaves. What a guy.