I Want to NOT

The title of this blog is "I want to NOT". This is the phrase uttered by my 3 year old, stamping her feet, when she refuses to do something. I think she's hit it right on the mark!

Friday, December 09, 2005

What Should We Expect?

Recently Superindent Tom Moline wrote a thank you letter to the citizens of Royal Oak detailing how the money from the bond will be deployed. I was shocked at my reaction in two ways. For one, my cynical side has a vision of building that don't look much different than the what we currently have; that is, we will see our money used up and not have a sparkling new building with all the bells and whistles because that would cost us 3 times as much as we alocated.

My other reaction was that what we would get would be the same as what happened in Ferndale, where the school district built nice appearing but structurally unsound buildings. My wife worked as a teacher in Ferndale and her classroom was flooded during Christmas break of the first year of her new facility. We maybe getting this as well.

As a community we want assurances - nearly half the voters in this last election said a loud "NO" to the budget and the goals of the bond. Who are the contractors that we are using, and how is the School Board going to report back to the community the progress and the expenditures along the way. Laying this out for the community would also be a sign of gratitude.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On Deck

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.

-- Chinese Proverb

The defeat of the bond would have asserted our community's commitment to fiscal responsiblity and would have been a prudent choice given the spate of doom and gloom articles centered arouned the Big 3's demise. Unfortunately the heavy lifting is still ahead of us if we are to ensure our money is spent wisely.

I want to pose a nightmare scenario and see how many times it makes you shudder. What if all the real estate investment that has turned Royal Oak into to a miracle boom town suddenly dries up? Will we still have the steady flow of families to our community that we have pinned our future salvation to? What happens when we have completed half of the construction and there is a sudden migration away from this region and we have to raise taxes yet again?

I don't think it's too late to change the way this money will be spent. As a community we have the right to determine how the appropriations are used and need to shed light on the bad practices that are typically used by school boards. Just because they have passed the bond does not mean that they still can spend any way that they wish, and our job is to continue to ask the school board tough questions about how our money is used.

Friday, November 25, 2005

What Now? How about show me the bodies ...

Now that the bond has been passed I'm wondering what the next phase will be. It's like graduating from school - now that that's over, what can you expect next?

I suspect that many of us on both sides of the issue feel the same way since the furor has died down. For one I need to figure out how to track our progress and expenditures with the proposed plan and corresponding budgets. The Board of Education meetings should be a good start. I am doubtful that the Mirror will perform any follow reports as the project progresses, as they did not devle all the deeply into the issues to begin with. Have they figured out how to track each new family who move here and if the school system is a factor in that decision?

It would be great to be able to post the figure of the student population over the period of a year or two and see if there is any identifiable trend up or down. I suspect that there will be no upward trend - all the bad news for GM and Ford will certainly slow purchases of homes. Maybe the dire news for the automakers will stop flight to Clarkston. Who knows, but I would like to see all those who promised a great flood of new families migrating to Royal Oak produce the figures in five years that confirm their great predictions. My guess is that they will be silent on this issue.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Happiness

What do we teach our children about Thanksgiving? Give thanks that we have bounty? I have been removed from education curricula for so long I can't honestly say that I know what history lessons we learn about the first Thanksgiving.

Before I start pontificating, I want to share a moment I had after work while waiting in line at Herman's Bakery in Royal Oak. I was there early in the evening and stood in line with folks who were either just off from work or who were scrambling to make their holiday plans to come to fruition. Some were there to pick up the last items for their holiday. One fellow had called in late but was able to get something from the selection that lay sprawled out next to the front counter. It made me happy to see everyone getting ready for family time - just an hour earlier I was in the midst of my "I-can't-afford-to-take-these-few-days-off-from-work-so-leave-me-alone" crisis.

I realized how lucky we are. We can take time to celebrate. We don't have the same worries as many others do. In some respects we should have no worries at all. How can we enable others to create their own version of Thanksgiving? Sharing is important, but can we share our ideal of creating your own bounty?

The ladies at Herman's Bakery are always super nice, and last night, despite of all the commotion, the were super-super nice, and that sweet disposition and calm amongst the clammer of all the customers is what started my great Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Little Distraction ...


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
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Now the Real Work Has Begun

I can't mask my disappointment at the passage of the bond on Tuesday, but it was impressive to see how many more people participated in the vote this November, and both sides did a great job elucidating their respective arguments. The report card, of course, is the election results and the pro bond supporters did a better job presenting their case. Heated discussion on both sides of the argument proved fruitful as more people participated and our system is all about participating.

In retrospect it seems that the bond detractors did not offer a strong enough alternative plan that would assuage the fears of local families. A core strength of the bond opponents was their ability to rationally dissect the opponent's proposal. However there was no counter plan offered in a side - by side comparison. Many bond opponents were quite capable of discussing the issues clearly but from their own positions without restating the poponents argument back in refutation. Being of the same mind set, I always understood the arguments against the bond with little trouble. Part of the problem may have been that it "seemed so clear" to each of us detractors. This weakness relegated us to the position of mere detractors without a counter plan.

Now for the hard part. As a community we have decided to make a significant investment and now that the budget is approved the hard work of ensuring that the money allocated is indeed spent on it's intended objective has begun. The reservations that funds would be squandered due to poor project management and administrative skill is still valid as the school district has not demonstrated a good track record of maintenance, nor has the administration truly listened to the community which voted "nay" on the item of a new football field. The attacks on the detractors have laid the ground work for future attacks based on the argument that SOS and other bond opponents are out for revenge. The anti-bond groups must continue to atriculate their core values of fiscal responsibility, self reliance and ingenuity to counter these future attacks. Will the community be strong enough to stand up to solid critique or will people resort to more emotional responses? Either way, those who are concerned about how our tax dollars are spent will be continue to stay focused on the issues and not be deterred. In the end this focus on fiscal responsiblity will also strengthen our school system.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Last Night in Paris Was Strange

The night before Halloween a neighbor rang the door bell. When I opened the door I was suprised to see that she had my "No to the Bond" sign in hand. She looked upset. Friends of hers, who also had sign on their front lawn, had just had their house windows spray painted. She was going to take her sign in until after Halloween.

Sounds intollerant of people, doesn't it? The blue signs supporting the bond are still out on the streets. What my neighbor's friends went through is intimidation, pure and simple, and although not violent, is still over the line. I guess we should feel lucky that the perpetrators did not feel disenfranchised by the bond's opposition, otherwise they may feel justified buring a car, or a cross, or another building just like the "immigrants" in France. Again, spray painting windows is not violent, but it is an attack on someone's property and is generally frowned by most normal people. Whatever the justification was for the vandalism, they perpetrators should feel comforted that they use the same tactics as the 1000 protestors in Argetina and the vandals in Paris. Nice comradery, huh?

Friday, October 07, 2005

And Then There Were None

The Royal Oak Mirror has endorsed the school bond using the argument that despite a declining population our children deserve better than sub-standard facilities. At first glimpse this raise many questions.

For one, what is it that we need to do that requires such a high price tag? The photo that the Mirror has on the page opposite of the editorial provides an implicit set of evidence that the buildings are falling apart. But does this really mean we need to invest $69 million dollars? Reason would dictate that a better plan needs to formulated, as there are those in the construction industry who state that repairs are needed and total reconstruction that could be only source of the bond's price tag.

Another question is what standards are we speaking of - are these standards a "keeping up with the Joneses" that force us to copy the facilities of nearby communities? Should we be concerned that children are too hot in a gymnasium during the month of May? Many of the attendants of recent meetings concerning the bond issue vast disagree, and this is the basis of the problem we face selecting a course of action. Growing up, my school did not have air conditioning except in the library. The gym was hot, you sweated, and that made you stronger. Many of the class rooms were hot, you sweated, learned to ignore, and that made you smarter. Why can't we provide air conditioning in a few select areas and open the windows? I've taught my children not to lean out the window, as should every parent.

Finally, what is the definitive list of outcomes that we need to formulate to meet these standards. Upon further examination, most of these standards are more of a wish list for those who are unable to cope and overcome. Consequently the demands on the budget should diminish as each "standard" is reduced to the absurd request that it truly is.