Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lower Cost Option Petition Making The Rounds

Many residents have spoken and written to the school board about the excessive costs of the planned high-school renovation. These residents, by and large, feel that their concerns have been dismissed. Now those residents are taking their concerns to the people, where they are finding a receptive audience. Collecting signatures both online and door to door, they hope to send the school board a message that cannot be ignored.

Here is the text of the email that is currently being distributed around town:
Dear Mt. Lebanon Resident,

An on-line petition has been created to gather signatures from our Mt. Lebanon residents in support of a lower cost option than the current plan to spend up to $113 million for the proposed high school renovation.

This is because the latest school district budget forecast dated 2/3/2010 shows a 45.3% increase in our real estate taxes between now and the 2015-2016 school year! Here is the projection as published on the school district’s website. http://www.mtlsd.org/district/budget/stuff/budgetfiveyearforecast10%2011.pdf (Look at the Real Estate Tax line and compare the numbers from 2008-2009 to 2015-2016.)

Most residents in Mt. Lebanon simply cannot afford property tax increases of this magnitude. Many of us are on fixed incomes and others of us have not had pay increases comparable to these anticipated property tax increases. In short, this is the time for a cost effective renovation of the high school, not the current plan which shows no sensitivity to today’s economic realities.

Other concerns that could raise taxes include pending property reassessments, an underfunded state pension fund which has to be replenished, possible municipal tax increases, 2011 state and federal tax increases, and an uncertain teachers’ contract. With so much uncertainty, this is the time for a more conservative approach to our tax dollars consistent with a reasonable renovation for our students.

If a high school renovation at a cost of $113 million concerns you please do the following:

1. Click on the link to the petition website: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mtlhscost and sign the petition (PASSWORD is “spendwisely”).

2. Send this e-mail on to as many Mt. Lebanon residents who share your concern as possible and encourage them to sign the petition.

Your voice will be heard when the petition is presented to our School Board within the next few weeks. Time is of the essence, so please consider responding quickly!

Sincerely,

Charlotte Stephenson
Concerned Citizens of Mt. Lebanon
mtlsdcosts@gmail.com

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63 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering the fact that a referendum vote has effectively been taken off the table, this seems to be the next best option for residents to vote yea or nay!
Dean Spahr

March 02, 2010 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I feel as though my concerns have been dismissed. And with each signature, the school board needs to realize that there is a story attached. It could be a job loss, the dream of starting a family crushed, having to pay taxes using a credit card, a death in the family, barely making that mortgage payment as it is, losing health benefits, having to get a second job or even a third job, on the verge of bankruptcy, and the list goes on.
Elaine Gillen

March 02, 2010 11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The $113M is two to three times the amount that all of our neighboring school districts paid for their renovations. How can our renovation be so expensive??? I believe the high school is in need of repair, but not to the extent that many of my neighbors will truly be unable to afford their tax bills. The spending decision MUST be realistic and reasonable in today's economy.
Sue Gove

March 02, 2010 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said...

This is a great idea, and I agree with the 3 comments ahead of this.

March 03, 2010 1:41 AM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

The Federal Reserve has been targeting headline inflation at 2%. There is a risk that this 2% target will put downward pressure on earned incomes for a period of sub-standard growth; the lack of growth of earned incomes growth in Mt. Lebanon and an unbalanced State Budget is a symptom of pressure on earned incomes.

The 45.3% increase in taxes forecast by the School District represents a 6.47% yearly tax increase for seven years. Subtracting the 2% inflation leaves a 4.47% excess transfer payment to the School District for a total transfer payment of 31.29% (4.47% x 7 years).

Sub-standard growth of earned income plus the 31.29% transfer payment could reduce program and employees, increase class size, and lessen building needs in our schools. We need to cut the size of the High School to preserve our educational program. Please sign the Petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mtlhscost

The PASSWORD to sign is “spendwisely”

March 03, 2010 5:32 AM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

Concerned Citizens of Mt. Lebanon, the sponsor of the petition, is also the name of a citizens group that arose in the wake of Sablegate, the buyout of former Superintendent Margery Sable for undisclosed reasons in late 2004. Then as now, CC of Mt. Lebanon was angered by what it believed was reckless spending and arrogant leadership by the School board. CC advocated for fiscal restraint by the School Board and transparent management of the School District.

In the 2005 School Board elections, CC of Mt. Lebanon supported four candidates who were elected to the Board that year largely in a wave of anti-incumbent, "throw the reckless, arrogant spending bums out" sentiment, but also partly in a wave of "stop telling the citizens that the Board knows better than they do" sentiment. The sin of Sablegate, in the public mind, was not merely the fact of the buyout; it was the fact that the Board did not listen to the public's legitimate claim for more information. 2005 was the year when the votes and the new Board members seemed to agree: It was time for the Board to stop simply expecting the public's trust, and to start earning it.

Those four candidates were Mark Hart, Alan Silhol, Josephine Posti, and Dan Remely.

Jo Posti and Dan Remely are still on the Board today, of course. While both have pledged that they will try to reduce the cost of the project as currently specified, to my knowledge the Board has not shared with the public any tangible fruits of its cost-cutting efforts. Both Board members are strong supporters of the current renovation plan.

March 03, 2010 7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The petition signatures will be submitted to the school board secretary as part of the Act 34 documentation and then will go on record with the PA Department of Education. Also, both husbands and wives should feel free to sign the petition.

--Charlotte Stephenson

March 03, 2010 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike:
I had forgotten about the group formed during Sablegate.
Posti, Remely and all the board members "PLEDGE" to reduce the cost of the project, their actions suggest otherwise!
If they firmly believe they can get it done for approx. $95MM then why not set the cap at $95MM?
In their Act 34 documents they say they need $113MM. Under the "rules" even though they say that's the maximum, they can exceed that limit by up to 8% when the final bids come in in. That makes the allowable total for the project $122MM.
Which if memory serves me, was the estimated amount discussed in board meetings when Sable was superintendent!
Dean Spahr

March 03, 2010 8:37 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Reminder: If you want to contribute a comment, you must attach your full name to it somehow, or else we won't post it.

I remind readers of Blog-Lebo’s put-your-name-to-your-words policy because we have a couple of comments from a “cincinnatus” in the holding bin. If you posted them, please (a) edit your Blogger profile to include your full name and then mark your profile as public or (b) repost your comments, including your full name within their text.

If you have questions or need a little help getting a comment posted, just send me a quick email at tmoertel@gmail.com. I'll be glad to help.

Cheers,
Tom

March 03, 2010 10:43 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Personally, I can't sign the petition because I think the not-to-exceed $75 million language is unrealistic. For example, if we can get a great project for $80-85 wouldn't that be a huge improvement from where we are right now - even though that's $5-10 more than the petition's not to exceed amount.

Plus, if I'm not mistaken, $75 is less than what Bethel and Penn Hills are spending on new high schools. I'm not suggesting that we need to spend more than they are, but I think some perspective is critical.

Also, although I think the $113 is ridiculous and many of the mistakes along the way have struck major blows for credibility, I don't understand the argument that no one has had an opportunity to be heard. As we all know, there has been ample opportunity afforded to be heard. That certainly can't be the issue. Look at it this way, if the SB agreed many months ago (after the same 40+ meetings) to spend $50, would you guys allow the advocates for a larger project to claim that they haven't been heard? I doubt it. Its time to stop debating what's happened and focus on what lies ahead.

March 03, 2010 11:25 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Dave,

I don't think anybody is making the argument that they lacked opportunity to be heard, only that their concerns, if heard, were dismissed without due consideration.

Cheers,
Tom

March 03, 2010 11:40 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

If that's the case, can we explain how/why all but one of the incumbents were re-elected? And if you go back through the minutes of all 40+ meetings do you really think you would find reams of testimony from folks who were totally opposed to this project? I'm not talking about Messers. Lewis and Matthews, etc. Their participation has been unwaivering. But everyone else, ask yourself, have you been involved as much or for as long as you should have been? I know I haven't. How many people were truly paying attention to where we are and how we got here before the recent Act 34 stuff?

And lastly Tom, to suggest that people haven't been heard is a bit untrue. I would contend that we've managed to get to $113 because not enough people were told "No!"

March 03, 2010 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David:
The petition limit was a concern for me also, but I did sign and here's my reasoning.
The Act 34 $113,000,000 estimate is way too high! I don't think we can afford it and it will have a negative impact on staffing and curriculum down the road.
Furthermore the board keeps touting their belief that number is too high.
The majority proclaims constantly they have every confidence that the final costs will be around $95,000,000.
SO WHY THE $113MM NUMBER ON THE ACT 34 DOCUMENTS?
Act 34 allows the board to exceed their ESTIMATED project costs by 8%when the actual costs come in. Meaning the board could go to $103MM!
And really-- if costs escalated during construction, is anyone going to stop an unfinished building????
Lets see a tight description of the actual project, no guesses on where loading docks and elevators will be. How much parking will exist etc. and real expectations of costs. Not hoped for numbers!
Dean Spahr

March 03, 2010 12:46 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

We got to $113 million with an $8 million contingency fund. If the Board were serious about cutting costs they would eliminate this opportunity for cost over runs. Some appear more interested in making speeches than reducing costs

March 03, 2010 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The information I have is that the new Bethel Park High School project is budgeted for $71M. I don’t know about Penn Hills, but Baldwin's was $63M. Cost per student allowing for inflation of USC's yr 2000 project is $33,000/student; Bethel's is $37,000/student, Baldwin's is $38,375/student and Mt. Lebanon's is $55,000/student.
-Charlotte Stephenson

March 03, 2010 1:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Dave,

Where did I “suggest that people haven't been heard”? My claim was that concerns were not given adequate consideration.

Cheers,
Tom

March 03, 2010 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David--
I just gotta ask...
you wrote: "Also, although I think the $113 is ridiculous and many of the mistakes along the way have struck major blows for credibility,"
Therefore you have a problem with the petition number????
Sorry, I just can't understand your rational.
Dean Spahr

March 03, 2010 1:49 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Dean, $113 IS nuts . . . but a $75 not to exceed limit is also shortsighted. That's a $38 million spread, so I don't think the 2 points I'm making are mutually exclusive. In fact, don't you agree the truth is probably somewhere in the middle??

I didn't write the petition, I was just asked to sign it. Perhaps it's the lawyer in me that reads things too closely, but I don't believe a $75 not to exceed gets us what we think we want/need. My opinion, of course.

And Tom, "heard" vs. "considered" is probably semantics. I think my point is probably the samae

March 03, 2010 2:08 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

A word for those who take the view that they can only sign a petition for a particular dollar level of project scope. This is an issue of "forests and trees."

First, the petition does not control the precise scope or dollars that might ultimately be approved. What the petition does is to request, on an order of magnitude, that the board re-scope to a more practical and affordable level. Saying one will not sign because he or she does not want to go to the precise dollar level in the petition, but to some other specific number, is self-defeating if you believe the cost is way too high as tentatively approved by the board and should be scaled back.

Second, by not signing a petition for review of the scale of the project, one leaves the school board and the community with the false impression that there is more support for the $113 mm expenditure than there is. Again, we can't set the budget by petition, but we need to be heard on the question of scale and affordability.

Third, it would not be possible to come to any exact number responsibly as the petition process is no substitute for the Act 34 process. This is a political prod that the community wants a review of the necessary level of expenditure. The petition also addresses the inability of the community to bear the burden of any project on the scale of the $113 mm proposal.

Fourth, keep in mind that the petition addresses an amount approximately equal to the irresponsible borrowing towards a project that had not yet been scoped or approved nearly a year ago, on which we all are accruing - and will have to pay - some $1.5 million a year (to at least the tune of a total of $3 mm) before the project is authorized and ready to incur any construction obligation. The cart has been before the horse in this process from the very beginning.

Finally, we need to be mindful of the need to act, to do something constructive to force a fresh look, to seek out the alternative project analyses that the board did not consider (from the CAC or otherwise), and to obtain more and better options.

I hope we all can see the horizon here as it is policy and process that drive drive the petition, not a finite construction proposal. If you are for a reform of the project and a second-look at the impact of the proposal on the whole community, I urge you to sign the petition and take up any "line-item" issue at the appropriate time. It is important to realize that if this petition does not succeed in the very short time available, no reform to $85 mm or any other number will be possible. Let's start with a practical review and then let the right number come forward on the merits of the demonstrated need.

Steve Diaz.

March 03, 2010 2:33 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Let me clarify one important point. The millions in project carrying cost we have been exposed to since bonds were prematurely sold in support of a renovation project are only to cover interest, not principal. We are already committed to pay millions in interest because the school board could not control its own non-negotiable pre-conceived conclusion to proceed, public-be-damned. Approximately $3 mm in pre-project interest expense is just one example of the excessive and irresponsible stewardship the school board has shown in this matter.

It's like the guy who sees a $100 fishing rod for sale at $75, and decides that he can't miss the $25 "savings" even though he only has $50 in his account. The "savings" is false because he doesn't have the money in the first place. Paying interest on the cost only compounds the error.

We should be paying no interest until we need the money. Further we should never borrow more than we can afford. These are among the primary fiscal issues addressed by the petition and why everyone who understands how public money should be handled should sign the petition.

Steve Diaz

March 03, 2010 2:52 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

DAVE,
not signing based on the argument that 75mm is "unrealistic" is maybe a bit unrealistic. Caping a project budget is extremely important, and that seems to be the case that the petitioners are making. The rational behind that is, from my understanding, derived from the fact that 75mm of debt (69mm premium bonds) has already been issued and in a non-call window, and in order to limit the pain of death by a thousands taxes that is coming, caping the renovation at the current funding level seems like a fair middle ground between all camps. Heck, the more I have followed this stuff, the more I can make the case for not spending any more than what would be necessary for basic maintenance until we know for sure the economy is on on firm footing and until the State and the PSERS get their act together. PSERS has lost many billions of dollars in the last couple of years in their investment funds and if you look at their portfolio, it looks like the managers threw darts at a board, then threw 50 million behind each dart. Furthermore, the PSERS pension had been running underfunded for the last 5 or 6 years. So, it is more realistic to put all this spending in the context of the broader economy and its absolute effect on learning, and then cap the madness. The number is not arbitrary, but the amount of debt already issued.

As for the amount spent by other municipalities, the numbers have been posted and perspective given. And when you look at per student data, it seems that we are clearly out of whack at 55-60k per studend. Nevertheless, we probably shouldn't even be comparing these numbers. We should be looking at what the district actually needs and then spend appropriately. Again, I could make the case for spending fractions of the 75mm if you read the Engineers letter.

As for being heard, it is more about listening to reasoning than turning the deaf ear toward the logic of many people who don't have the blinders on. If you have resigned to the fact that they are not listening (to you), that's your choice, however, they are still listening, as are the state representatives and many others. There are many sides to this issue and many different thresholds for spending. There is still a chance to move the needle.

And, as for you thoughts that "Its time to stop debating what's happened and focus on what lies ahead.", what do you think the $75million cap addresses. It addresses the future spending on this project, and attemps to reign is the fiscal madness and monkey math that is prevelent in the district and at the SB.

regards
Michael Andrascik

March 03, 2010 3:05 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

A point to Dave (who obviously cares a great deal how a renovation project is implemented). Please consider that no one has had the opportunity to be heard since the majority of board members closed their minds and their ears. For example, who decided not to allow less expensive alternative analyses to be explored or publicly considered? Who decided that public hearings should be held on 3-day holiday weekends? Who says that the substantially altered macro-economic condition of the country and the world does not create a need to go back to square one before jumping headlong into massive debt and tax increases? Who decided that the "mere" increment of millage cost for this project should be accepted in a vacuum without placing it in the context of the total cost of the new teacher contract and the retirement fund obligations we already have? Who decided to go forward with an utterly inadequate Act 34 pamphlet based on facts and figures that are both disputed and constantly changing?

No, no serious consideration has been given to public "hearing" on the project. The input of the electorate has been relegated to a pro-forma exercise in "let's have a trial and then hang 'em." No one has had the opportunity to be heard on this railroad express unless they supported the predetermined conclusion. Opportunity to be heard has nothing to do with the amount of time spent, it has to do with the substance of the process.

So long as decision makers want to "testify" as advocates at public hearings in which they are supposed to receive for consideration the views of nonmembers of the board, we know that the "opportunity to be heard" is a mockery. Frankly, those members of the school board who interfered with the public's right to make known its views and concerns about the project by speaking as advocates when they should have been listening as elected representatives of the people, have demonstrated that they are unfit for the trust we have reposed in them. Those members, Ms. Posti and Ms. Burkes, should recuse themselves from further participation in this project and any future school board votes on it. That would show some respect for democracy and the community they purport to serve.

Steve Diaz.

March 03, 2010 3:11 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

In response to Dave Franklin's statement that people may not have been as involved as they should have been before the "Act 34 stuff" we should be mindful of the fact that the Act 34 process was created because most people don't have the time and ability to be aware of major projects until they get to this stage. If the Legislature thought that sufficient public participation were probable at any earlier time, they would not have required public hearings such as we are now having under the command of Act 34. Now that we know the size and nature of the board's proposal, the public is in a position to speak out. That is, we can speak out if the board's proposal meets Act 34 standards of specificity and reliability, which is in considerable doubt at this juncture. So before we conclude that everyone should already have spoken, consider that the public hearing process under Act 34 has just begun, and now is the time that the law contemplates public comment and debate. The school board is supposed to present a mature plan for the public to consider and comment upon which has never happened until we reach the Act 34 hearing stage. Now is the time to be heard (if anyone is listening).

Steve Diaz

March 03, 2010 5:31 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Steve, its a petition. By its very nature, its asking me to put my name behind it and support what it says. I don't. Why? Because I don't know if $75M - and not a penny more - is what's best for all. Do you? Frankly, I think this petition - as worded - does the same disservice as the ridiculous "survey" that was circulated by one of the political parties a few months ago. You will recall that that survey was blasted because it only told half the story and/ or was intended to push a particular agenda. This is no different. It assumes that we can DO the RIGHT thing for $75 and not a penny more.
And for heaven's sake, why on earth craft a petition that's supposed to mean one thing but says something else?

Send me a petition that says the SB screwed up and we shouldn't spend anything close to $113 and we should hire an owner's rep ASAP and I'll sign it. No questions asked.

March 03, 2010 5:50 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave: If you cannot sign the petition - don't. If you think that gets you closer to where you want to be, then you are mistaken. If signing to suggest a $75 mm cap in lieu of an $85 mm cap offends your consience, well, that is a matter of judgment; I would make a different call. In any event the petition will not go away, as I hope you don't. I still implore you to join us as I know that you don't want your silence to count as a yes vote for the wasteful and mindless proposal that may otherwise go through.

Also, I don't know who, but someone suggested that the election last year was enough of a sign that people support the $113 mm expenditure. As to that I want to say one thing: I voted for Ms. Birks (sorry for misspelling her name before), but that does not mean I would agree with everything she might do once assuming office. Knowing what I know now about how she has conducted herself, I would take that vote back and will never vote for her again (as if that were in doubt after my previous posting).

Steve Diaz

March 03, 2010 6:04 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave: I have a thought. Why don't you submit your own letter to the school board, saying exactly what you do believe, in affirmative terms: that the school board screwed up and should pursue a more thorough and practical course. I think that would be a dandy result for you and the circulators of the petition. It definitely proves our point. You are right, we are not by petition setting a budget, but you and we want a more realistic approach. If we must approach this in our own separate ways, let's do that. The important thing is that the school board realize how much opposition there is to what they have done so far. I appreciate your willingness to raise your voice, let it be heard in the council that counts: tell it to the school board, formally.

Respectfully. Steve Diaz

March 03, 2010 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David:
I agree with your point. I don't know if its going to take $75MM, 85MM or 65MM for that matter.
We agree also that $113MM is as you say NUTS!
Were there a petition that said the board screwed up and don't spend $113MM, I'd preferred to sign it. But there isn't, and to start one now will only serve to dilute them both.
Maybe this will sway you, if the board set the cap at $75MM, they would be allowed to go to $81MM when the real numbers come in. So you're only $1-3MM away from your middle ground.
Also, as a lawyer, if the board considered the petition... would they be stuck at the $75MM? Could they not decide the public wants us to bring the number down and use that as a starting point?
One more thought...
for a potential cost of $113MM and 3 years of planning... is it too much to ask that we get schematic drawings that someone can read. If this is the quality of work we can expect going forward... heaven help us.
Dean Spahr

March 03, 2010 6:48 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dean makes my point, the amount suggested is neither controlling nor ultimately important---as I said before, it is a question of scale and bringing the project into affordability and practicality.

Moreover, we need to be very concerned with the inadequacy of the Act 34 disclosures. The "budget" is a riddle, the "plans" are an enigma, and the process is a puzzle. So, to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill (with some license), the project now under public review is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a riddle.....it will not stand scrutiny administratively in Harrisburg or anywhere else, so why don't we get serious and reform the project without wasting time trying to defend the indefensible.

Once we are past the financial catastrophe, there are also lots of serious design issues that should have been vetted when identified by CAC...the board needs to be mindful that the outrageous scope of their proposed expenditures is likely exceeded by the architectural and design flaws apparent from what can be gleaned of their defective plan disclosure.

Steve Diaz

March 03, 2010 9:46 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Steve, you seem to have a lot of answers . . . . where have you been for the last 7 years?

March 03, 2010 10:40 PM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

One small quibble: When we talk about the interest cost of borrowing the money prematurely, be sure to subtract whatever revenue that money is earning while it is parked.

March 03, 2010 11:54 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

Let’s not forget the school board voted Merrill Lynch an extra $200,000 in bond commissions to sell the bonds. Mt. Lebanon provided an extra $200,000 in bailout money for Merrill Lynch.

If you count the All-In cost of the bonds, the cost is 4.117%, not the 3.597% the school board quoted. You can find the truth buried on page 33 of the Act 34 Project Booklet or in the bond prospectus but you can’t hear the truth from any school board member.

March 04, 2010 7:08 AM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave: Thank you for asking, but my family and I moved here only 3 years ago after spending 17 years in Washington, DC where I served as a member of the Access Board and Chief Counsel of the Federal Transit Administration before returning to the private practice of law. I was responsible for developing what became the "liveable communities" program, the integration of transportation and land use policies, and for the finance of mass transportation infrastructure as well as other legislative and administrative law matters. Before that, I was Deputy City Attorney in San Francisco, CA and a member of the State board that built and financed the Edmund G. Brown Building, the headquarters of the CA PUC and taught trial and appellate law. I have worked for 3 mayors, two governors and two presidents as well as serving as the Founding Chairman of the Committee on Transit and Intermodal Transportation Law of the Transportation Research Board, National Academy of Science. You can see more detail, as well as some references on my work on my LinkedIn profile.

I may or may not have any answers, but I do have some experience and insights in public infrastructure projects and the making of public policy. I trust that responds to your inquiry.

Steve Diaz

March 04, 2010 7:39 AM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave: Fair question on the interest cost. Is it your contention that the school board is "making money" - that is, brining in as much or more than holding the money is costing us in interest? I should have expected them to headline any such "fact" - if it were the case. Any offset is a small salve for the needless expense of borrowing two years early.

It is also fair comment to note that the same economy that makes the school board's grand project a hardship on so many people has kept interest rates hovering at historically low rates and is quite likely to do so for a very long time to come. Borrowing when the school board did, and in the large amount they did, was great for the advisors who made fees on the transaction but was a raw deal for we taxpayers.

Steve Diaz

March 04, 2010 7:46 AM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave: Only been here for 3 years. For full details please see my profile on LinkedIn (feel free to invite me to join your network). Steve Diaz.

March 04, 2010 8:29 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Steve, you sound like a perfect candidate for School Board.

March 04, 2010 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Franklin:
Why diverge from the issue at hand, with a question about Diaz's participation.
I didn't know he existed until the Act 34 hearing and to me I don't really care if he was involved or not before then.
I'm looking forward to meeting him in person.
But, lets get back to the issue...
the petitions $75MM is only $5-10MM away from what appears to be your acceptable budget. The board's $113MM is $28-33MM off from your budgeted amount, and their maximum Act 34 limit is a whopping $37-42MM!
As for the republican poll... check out The ALmanac, they're running a poll and the %s so far are pretty close to the "flawed" republican numbers!
YourSouthHills ran a similar poll early on and they too paralleled the republican poll.
And one more... from the DeJong forums, the consensus was the majority wanted to spend $60-80MM on the project!
Dean Spahr

March 04, 2010 10:13 AM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave: Not a chance. I would NEVER run for the school board, and make that ABSOLUTE commitment to myself and everyone else right here, right now. No, thank you.

Steve Diaz

March 04, 2010 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Steve, didn't Cincinnatus leave his farm to save Roman as dictator. Once achieveing that goal he gave up his position.
Only kidding,
Dean Spahr

March 04, 2010 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Chris Brown said...

Just to answer a question above, $75 million would actually be more than Penn Hills is spending on their new high school. Although their total potential bond is for $131 million, it would be for 3 major projects, one of which is a $71.8 million dollar high school.

http://www.yourpennhills.com/news/article/penn-hills-school-board-studies-architects-building-plans

It really seems like everyone but Mt. Lebanon is getting a new high school for $70-80 million. Is ours really going to be that much better?

March 04, 2010 12:30 PM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

It won't be new- most of it will be renovated.
Some taxpayers actually think we're getting option 3 a new school built into the hillside.
They'll be in for a big shock when their taxes go up 50% and many of the same old buildings will still be in place.
They actually believe the flyer sent out by the school district at taxpayer expense.

Most folks sign the petition without hesitation.

March 04, 2010 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Huston:
They'll also be in shock when they enter the "new" building to find perhaps that a lot of old furniture and desk are in it.
See the exchange between Mr. Leonard and Mark Hart on soft cost during the June 1, 2009 SPecial School Board Meeting.
Dean Spahr

March 04, 2010 1:55 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dean: I leave my plow, as so many others are doing, only to defend Rome and go home. We all act from a deep concern for the wellbeing of the commonwealth. More citizens should be willing to respond when duty calls and go home,,,,we have entirely too many career politicians and other office-seekers. You and I are just defending our homes (...on the beaches, in the fields, on the streets...or something like that...). I am a community organizer; we need everyone to pitch in.

Steve Diaz

March 04, 2010 2:41 PM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

Our Commander-In-Chief was also a community organizer, for what it's worth.

March 04, 2010 2:50 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Holy smokes - doesn't anyone have a sense of humor anymore? Yes, this is important stuff, but for heavens sake LIGHTEN UP . . . .

March 04, 2010 4:05 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

David: Eyes on the ball--we want the school board to get with a realistic and practical program--all comment should be focused on the bloated project.

Steve Diaz

March 04, 2010 5:09 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Steve, for the record, I never take anything too seriously. If you can't laugh, then what's the point. And besides, you guys have spent the last 40some comments with your back to the congregation preaching to me in the choir. I find that kinda funny . . . .

March 04, 2010 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David, though we post responses to you they're not meant only for you, I'd love to hear from others.
You make some great comments and I think we're not too far apart on the issue.
One thing we don't meet on is the surveys. You were pretty critical of the Republican survey. Here's another one.. the Almanac ask readers if they support the Lebo HS project Results last I checked were 86% NO, 14% Yes.
I've already gone through all your objections to it, but isn't it funny no one has presented one to date with the opposite results.
I hear the proponents declare the majority of the community wants to move now at $113MM, but we never see any evidence? Isn't that strange?
I do find it humorous that Cincinnatus and Franklin appear together here, considering Ben Franklin if I remeber correctly belonged to a social club called the Sons of Cincinnatus!
Dean Spahr
Think I'm done here, the threads getting too long.

March 04, 2010 11:04 PM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dean: Before you go, the Society of the Cincinnati is alive and well, with headquarters on Massachusetts Ave. in DC. Let's show the school board that plowshares work the political fields pretty well, too.

Steve Diaz

March 05, 2010 8:28 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Surveys are only any good if you give people a full array of options for their response. The old Republican survey only focused on
half the story and the Almanac survey is worse. The Almanac survey needs about 2 more sentences. Are they referring to any modification of the high school? The project as currently proposed? What? And as far as the percentages, don't get too excited. I'm sure the majority would still be the same, but you can vote as often as you like. Hardly scientific.

Look, my point is this, petitions and surveys aren't going to reduce the cost. People are going to reduce the cost. Much like I always say at election time, if don't vote don't bitch. If you want to sign a petition or push a button for a survey, great. But I'd prefer that email the SB. Better yet, set up a time to meet with one or a few. They don't bite. They tend to listen when cornered and you will certainly learn something. The SB will not likely be moved to action by petitions and surveys, especially after the amount of time they have already personally invested.

March 05, 2010 9:02 AM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

Dave, Dave: you are so focused on minutiae that you have lost sight of what's happening around you. If you can't see the Almanac's question as running to how people feel about the proposal on the table, you have your head in the sand. The poll is not capable of "negotiating" the details, it is a general measure of community sentiment (just like the petition). You seem to grasp at every nuance as if there were no large points to support your position.

The school board has let us down in so many ways, as you have pointed out. We need to get our oars in the water here to move towards reform. You're sitting on the sidelines because you don't like the call on every play (you won't sign the petition, the survey isn't a scholarly treatise on the plan...). Your approach makes you appear rudderless. You are the one who needs to lighten up, understand that these things require coalitions to form, compromises to be made.

It seems to me that you are a careful guy who very thoughtfully wants to re-calbrate the renovation. We are all with you on that; so let's work together rather than picking nits. We need your leadership not carping at details that just let the project proponents run right around our huddle, As one of your favorite proponents said at the Act 34 hearing, "Rome burns while we fiddle."

Consider the possibilities here, Dave. I, for one, would rather focus on the major mistakes of the school board than on the small differences among the majority who question the process and the scope of the project.

Steve Diaz

March 05, 2010 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David:
Your right as usual surveys aren't going to reduce the cost of the project. And so far none of them have been very scientific.
About the only true survey would be to hold a referendum on any cost estimate... but you, I and the board know what the outcome would be.
As far as emailing the board, getting face time etc.-- been there, done that, submitted articles, asked for explanations, costs comparisons as suggested by AMerican School & University magazine.
The response from the majority in most cases resembles the unreadable schematics in the Act 34Booklet.
Just look at the CAC presentation. 12 building "pros" suggest saving bldg. C.
What was the response from the board-- we have no intention of revisiting C, don't want to investigate if it will reduce cost.
Eliminating C has been the keystone to this project from the beginning. They ignored Dirk Taylor early on, I suspect it may have some role in Sablegate and its instrumental in avoiding a lower referendum number. My opinions, your not obligated to agree of course.
As for seeing final numbers under $100MM, I'll buy you one of weekly those lattes they say we'll need to cut out, if they are.
Dean Spahr

March 05, 2010 9:54 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

I'm glad I'm in sunny Florida playing golf. Because if I was in cold gray Pittsburgh with Steve calling me a small minded, rudderless dumbass I'd really be miserable.

March 05, 2010 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean - You state that the Republican Party of Mt. Lebanon is opposed to the project yet you fail to note that this $113m project would FAIL without significant Republican support on the board (Kubit, Remely, Birks). News flash...take away those 3 "aye" votes and there is no project. Moreover, two of those "aye" votes are members of the same Republican Committee of Mt. Lebanon which is supposedly opposed to this project. As a Republican, I say it is a sad day when the Republicans are the ones driving bloated spending projects.

Stuart Getz

March 05, 2010 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David:
You lucky devil, why in the world are you dealin with us?
Little golf observation--
The ball will always travel farthest....
when hit in the wrong direction.
Have a good round.
Dean Spahr

March 05, 2010 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It definitely stinks to be us being here in sunny (yes, it is sunny today!) Pittsburgh. I can see why you still have your sense of humor, Dave. I have learned lots going door to door collecting signatures. I can't sleep at night hearing the hard luck stories that have been shared with me. I am not cut out for being a public official knowing that my actions can have devastating results to so many people. Not everyone is living comfortably, so a $113.3 million renovation would be the final nail in the coffin. I am doing everything I can so that the school board sees how the real world thinks, knowing down the road, I will have a clear conscience.
Elaine Gillen

March 05, 2010 12:07 PM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

Stuart Getz: What are you going to do?
Rally behind the good Democrat Faith Ann Stipanovich and
the good Indepenent James Fraasch, of course!

March 05, 2010 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I contacted Elaine Cappucci about the cost of the high school renovation project. Here is her reply.
"I can't promise that the final cost will be lower than current estimates, but I am diligently working on that."
This sounds more realistic than anything else I have heard from the board majority.
Elaine Gillen

March 05, 2010 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re; Elaine Gillen's response from Elaine Cappucci. It seems to me that we have heard, from the six board members who voted for the $113+ million "spending limit" (oxymoron?)that they were SURE that the final cost would be well below the amount they approved. Why now is Ms. Cappucci hedging on prior statements of substantial savings?
Joe Wertheim

March 05, 2010 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elaine:
Not quite the "we believe (or we expect) the project will come in around $95,000,000 or so they've been tossing out at SB meetings.
Wonder if the other members feel te same way?
Dean Spahr

March 05, 2010 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Start G:
I sure wish we could take away those 3 votes! Isn't Rose a republican also?
Its a shame we don't have more thinking members like Faith(D), Dale(R) and James(I)?
And re-reading Ms. Cappucci's(D)response to Gillen -- she can't promise the final numbers will be lower than the current estimate... can we interpret that to mean,,, they could be HIGHER than current estimates?
If you're not guaranteeing lower, only 2 other options... same or higher, right?
Dean Spahr

March 05, 2010 5:37 PM  
Anonymous John Ewing said...

At least I learned which attorney will advocate for one side and which attorney will advocate for both sides. Whose fee would you rather pay to represent you?

March 05, 2010 10:07 PM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

Mr. Ewing, I hope that means you will direct all future unsolicited emails and junk mail to Mr. Diaz's house instead of mine.

March 06, 2010 7:02 AM  
Blogger cincinnatus said...

I would welcome any communication from John Ewing.

Steve Diaz

March 06, 2010 12:55 PM  

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