Emails to ask/challenge “Yes” vs “No” committees on Unit 4 referendum

from: Charles Schultz
to: Denise Martin, “Ditchfield, Daniel Dan”, alan nudo, David Sholem, Neil Strack
cc: Pattsi Petrie, “u4boe@champaignschools.org”, Judy Wiegand, Stephanie Stuart
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 7:27 AM
subject: Unit 4 Referendum Yes/No debate

 

Good morning,

I officially request that the chairs of the “Friends of Champaign Schools” and the “Keep Central Central” committees (aka, “Yes” and “No”) schedule and attend at least three public debates and/or panels between now an April 7th. There are a number of persuasive arguments on both sides, and ultimately it is not the school board that must be convinced, but rather the voters. So please exhaust your resources on healthy deliberation that involves and engages the voting public, bringing to bear raw data and facts.

Thank you for your time and attention.


from: John Bambenek
to: sacrophyte@gmail.com
cc: Denise Martin, “Ditchfield, Daniel Dan”, alan nudo, David Sholem, Neil Strack, Pattsi Petrie, Judy Wiegand, Stephanie Stuart, Laurie Bonnet, Lynn Stuckey, Joe Petry, Craig Walker, Imani Bazzell, patricia avery, aaron ammon, Nicole Lafond, Seth Fein
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 8:13 AM
subject: Re: Unit 4 Referendum Yes/No debate

I was going to put this in the press first to return the favor of the Joe Petry and his friends who are “desperately working with Unit 4” but only seem to ever talk to the media but I will put it here.

There will be only one debate permitted which will adhere to the follow conditions:

Joe Petry will represent the no side. I am not interested in hearing how he is “not really involved” or any other dressed up nonsense. Alan Nudo may supplement but Joe is on stage.

The debate format will be Lincoln Douglas, no other format will be allowed. We will be free to challenge each other on stage. This won’t be an audition debate.

We will be talking about your fourth proposed location. Based on current intelligence and communication shared with me it is in southwest Champaign (farther SW than Centennial). Assuming this is true, it is no wonder why you don’t want to talk about it considering how racially inflammatory such a move would be.

We will also talk about the motivations of the ringleaders of the no group. It isn’t environmental concerns or you wouldn’t suggest placing a school on top of environmental contaminants with your Beardley Park plan. It isn’t cost because all your options are significantly more expensive. It isn’t educational achievement or minority achievement because your options don’t demonstrate any difference in programming (and in some cases LESS programming). And its not sprawl or transportation costs because you wouldn’t be looking at SW Champaign which would be more expensive and time consuming than Interstate.

Sufficient time will be allowed for questions from audience at end.

I will represent the Yes side.

AV will be necessary so slides and other information can be displayed.

I want the NAACP or their authorized representative to moderate.

Venue must be open to media and public. Venue must be accessible to CGTV so it can at least be televised by them but all media will be invites.

This event will happen if you decline anyway. If you decide not to commit, I will set a date and acquire the appropriate card board cut out to be on stage in your absence.

Take it, leave it. Entirely up to you.

I am in DC first half of week of Feb 23. Second week in March I will probably be in the UK, third week of March I will be in Vancover.

What works for you?


from: David B. Sholem
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 12:49 PM

Charles:

Thanks for your email. I cannot speak for the Keep Central Central committee, but personally, I think your suggestion (echoed by the League of Women Voters spokesperson at Saturday’s press conference) that a public debate of the bond referendum issues be scheduled is a good one. I am sure the Unit 4 administation, Unit 4 Board of Education, Keep Central Central committee and League of Women Voters can work out the details. Best regards.

David Sholem.


from: John Bambenek
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 1:13 PM

David-

As you know, this morning I issued a debate challenge to Joe Petry to defend his three site locations and recommended that the NAACP or their representative moderate the debate.

I’m curious as to why you don’t think the NAACP is appropriate to have this debate?


from: Denise Martin
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 1:23 PM

Rather than a public debate, wouldn’t it be better to get the two sides into a room to discuss their differences and try to work through a plan? I think everyone agrees we need a solution, but a debate might create enough controversy to further divide the community on the main issue. If both sides got together to compare notes, we might be able to evolve the plan to an even better solution for the community as a whole.


from: David B. Sholem
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 1:37 PM

Denise:

I am responding on behalf of myself rather than the Keep Central Central committee or others. I have repeatedly tried a dialogue with the BOE and the Unit 4 administration, but unfortunately, it has failed. I have seen others experience the same disappointment. We all desperately want a new or expanded Central High School, but any site north of I-74 is a non-starter.

I feel compelled to join others in spending significant time and dollars to work against the April 2015 referendum because I cannot take a chance that the Unit 4 administration and BOE will proceed to construct a high school on the 80 acres purchased north of Market Place Mall. The northern site is not in the best interests of the school district, the city, the students or the general public. In addition, the cost estimates circulated by Unit 4 for the new high school are not trusted by members of the public. The problems with a new school at that location are well known, but they are being ignored or deemphasized at the Mellon Building.

If you have ideas for a constructive dialogue, please let me know what they are. If the April 2015 bond referendum is withdrawn, I think we can work together to fairly evaluate alternative sites. Personally, and I cannot speak for others, I have a plan in mind which involves construction of a new high school at any of the identified alternative sites. They all seem feasible from my perspective. It is a shame so much time, money and energy is being spent by Unit 4 on such a poor location for a high school.

David


from: John Bambenek
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 1:51 PM

The solution here really is Dodds Park. It preserves the low cost of Interstate without the use of eminent domain, the dealing with environmental contaminants at the Beardsley Park plan (or the use of eminent domain against a power company and rewiring of the municipal electric grid), or the city having to close streets. None of which the Parks or City have said they would do. The three plans they propose:

Central Remodel is really $107 M. It is a $54 M referendum, a $26 M backdoor referendum based on using an unrealized expense as income and then using that “Revenue” to pay for the backdoor bond, and about $27M to correct for them just subtracting 40% of construction costs for reasons that are never explained.

Spalding Park is $45M extra when correcting for the same unexplained 40% cost reduction (or an explanation on why construction costs there is cheaper than building at Interstate).

Beardsley Park is AT LEAST $45M before considering the use of eminent domain on the power company, cleaning up the PCBs and other contaminants in the ground and the AT LEAST 10 years that will take.

Those options COULD work, but when asked where that money should come from, I got silence, so they just won’t work. Dodds will work.

I stand ready to work with David, Alan, and Joe who can demonstrate that they do, in fact, have the best interests of the community at heart to make Dodds work and that this simply isn’t just that they want to put manufacturing and light industrial at the location we picked for a school.

And I would like to take this moment to give kudos to Mayor Don Gerard who understands that Dodds is the solution here and has stated it’s time to make this happen. I don’t often praise the Mayor, but here he is showing real leadership and the ability to work collaboratively with other units of government and that has been missing from other politicians who have been involved in this issue in the past.


from: Pattsi Petrie
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 2:16 PM

Folks–Dodds Park is a long term terrible choice for the whole community from any perspective, including urban planning. Second the dialogue continues planning as if education in a decade let along 4-5 decades from now will need the facilities being planned. Why don’t you folks take advantage of Bill Cope, College of Education, who researches the technological delivery of education, changes on the horizon, effectiveness of this delivery means, and integrate his expertise into these conversations and move away from 2010 education design thinking.


from: Kerris Lee
date: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 10:09 PM

What we fail to mention in the location issue is the needs of the kids now. We are at 104% capacity and need a solution for our kids.
Waiting at this capacity is just irresponsible (we all know that as adults) as we are not providing the best education for our kids with rooms that are over their capacity. We cannot expect educators to meet the needs of our kids when we do not even have the space to do so…that is just wrong. We would not run our companies or work in an environment like this so why would we allow it for our kids.

Dodds is clearly the answer to this solution, but I have not heard the opposition put their resources towards Dodds nor speak about it.

As for 2010 education…tell that to UIUC and all the other colleges across the nation that have this same mentality. Here is the reality… not all kids have internet access, are hungry, and their only meal that day is the one they receive from our school. So before we get too far ahead of the future disruptions of education, let us at least try to address the issues from the past that still plague us today. However, that is for another discussion. Besides, we have an example of this model of a high school that is close by a college, UNI, that works.

I bet if we got together and put our assertions aside we would find Dodds to be a good solution. Instead we learn of plans months later through NG from the opposition of the other 3 sites described above. That is not working together. “Keep Central Central” talks about building a better community. Well it STARTS with this issue…not a location…our community starts with us working together. Not against each other.

It is unfair to say the BOE has not been open. We have evaluated Country Fair, Spalding, (wanted Dodds). and some of us met many times to engaged the opposition to discuss proposed solutions and seeking to work together. I am sure you recall my reaching out to the group and the meetings that “Keep Central Central” held. Outside of that I have met with Petry, David, and Rector many times as well. Here is the truth of the matter…people that serve in the “Keep Central Central/KCC” have agreed that Dodds is a good location for the school. I know that you have David, Jon Rector, and Joe Petry. So since we have a closer consensus on that…one would think the group would work together to make that happen. The BOE agrees with you and some of the people in KCC that Dodds is a good site.
Perhaps, that would be a good plan to work on.

I truly hope the KCC incorporates Dodds in their planning. I believe that we can look at ways to expand Dodds reach. (i.e. We do not have to just take away from Dodds. Perhaps, we can give to it and create a win-win. Sometimes the best deals are made when both sides don’t get what they want.)

Hope we all keep an open mind to the possibilities and stop pointing fingers and work toward a better community which = is meeting our kids needs first by working together and showing a great example of it!

Ghandi said be the change you want to see in the world.


from: Pattsi Petrie
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 9:31 AM

I am responding to the posting by Kerris as an urban planner, not even as a taxpayer. My responses are intertwined within his posting ( denoted by *********).

P2

“What we fail to mention in the location issue is the needs of the kids now. We are at 104% capacity and need a solution for our kids.”

*********I have heard this statement about over capacity since the beginning. I heard different statistics during the press conference. My issues with these demographics are many: historically Unit 4 has missed the projection mark on many occasions; one can construct statistics to make the point desired; there is a new HS being built by Judah–what will that do to change the projections?

“Waiting at this capacity is just irresponsible (we all know that as adults) as we are not providing the best education for our kids with rooms that are over their capacity. We cannot expect educators to meet the needs of our kids when we do not even have the space to do so…that is just wrong. We would not run our companies or work in an environment like this so why would we allow it for our kids.”

*********My counter argument is that making a 50-year decision under the circumstances that have been created by past boards and the skewing of the process by the chosen consultants is probably the worse scenario for decision making. And much worse than temporary over capacity that can be temporarily accommodated is incorrect 5-decade decision made on the argument that we may or may not be over capacity.

“Dodds is clearly the answer to this solution, but I have not heard the opposition put their resources towards Dodds nor speak about it. ,”

*********Well, I have heard the KCC contingent speak in opposition to Dodds. As a counter, I have not read, seen, or heard any descriptive comments as to how Dodds would be used. The leaning toward Dodds is directly related as seeing this as a wide open space, not unlike I-74, that takes no creative solutions. The flip side is what does it do to and for the community to remove a large section of green space from west Champaign. Champaign is park poor statistically. Further, this would put both HS at the western section of Champaign leaving the core of the community sans a HS and creating exactly the same traffic situation that has been discussed related to I-74.

I have recently read comments suggesting that Dodds Park through an MOU with the park district become the athletic fields for both HS and this would greatly reduce the amount of land claimed necessary for a new Central. Further, I drove out to look at the new Judah site on Rising Road. In a moment of humor, I thought why didn’t Unit 4 buy the farm land next to the Judah land and then both schools could share those athletics facilities. Of course, this is counter to any argument that one of the HS ought to remain in the core of the community.

Dodd Park is essentially the living room for that area of Champaign.

“As for 2010 education…tell that to UIUC and all the other colleges across the nation that have this same mentality. Here is the reality… not all kids have internet access, are hungry, and their only meal that day is the one they receive from our school. So before we get too far ahead of the future disruptions of education, let us at least try to address the issues from the past that still plague us today. However, that is for another discussion. Besides, we have an example of this model of a high school that is close by a college, UNI, that works.”

*********This is an ad hominem fallacy–the point is not what UIUC is doing, the point is where the delivery of education is moving and the movement is technology and the deliver using such, which is highly likely not in a massive structure, but in scattered pods.

I have no” information about the high school you have mentioned close by UNI, nor do I find any doing an internet search. Why don’t you provide more information about this situation.

“I bet if we got together and put our assertions aside we would find Dodds to be a good solution. Instead we learn of plans months later through NG from the opposition of the other 3 sites described above. That is not working together. “Keep Central Central” talks about building a better community. Well it STARTS with this issue…not a location…our community starts with us working together. Not against each other.”

********I take umbrage as to the comment that at the last minute alternatives are being presented via the N-G. I have attended every community meeting and met personally with the hired consultants during which I have presented many alternatives. In fact at one of the community meetings, I was randomly assigned such that I sat next to the superintendent. This gave me an unexpected opportunity to share directly with her several different alternatives.

It became very clear as I attended the many community meetings that there was minimal “john Q. Public” participation so those voices have not been heard. It also became clear by the consultant presentations that there was a skewing as to what were to be the desired results. The “show” was not taken directly to the public–where were the public charrettes. Where were the involvement of the students to design their ideas of their future HS, which could have been integrated into classroom plans. Right now the situation is adults imposing on the teenagers what is conceived to be best for them.

“It is unfair to say the BOE has not been open. We have evaluated Country Fair, Spalding, (wanted Dodds). and some of us met many times to engaged the opposition to discuss proposed solutions and seeking to work together. I am sure you recall my reaching out to the group and the meetings that “Keep Central Central” held. Outside of that I have met with Petry, David, and Rector many times as well. Here is the truth of the matter…people that serve in the “Keep Central Central/KCC” have agreed that Dodds is a good location for the school. I know that you have David, Jon Rector, and Joe Petry. So since we have a closer consensus on that…one would think the group would work together to make that happen. The BOE agrees with you and some of the people in KCC that Dodds is a good site.
Perhaps, that would be a good plan to work on.”

*********I am not certain how you can make the statement that those involved with KCC agree that Dodds is the solution. Even though I probably talk with a skewed population, I do not know of a single individual who thinks Dodds is the choice de jour and know of only one individual who votes for I-74. I have never seen a random stratified community survey asking about site locations therefore none of us have sufficient data to make a statement about preference.

Th closest we have recently come to doing any comparisons is the work by Neil Strack. The work done by Brian Deal and Holly Nelson have been completely ignored to the extent of not being integrated to any plan presented by Unit 4.

“I truly hope the KCC incorporates Dodds in their planning. I believe that we can look at ways to expand Dodds reach. (i.e. We do not have to just take away from Dodds. Perhaps, we can give to it and create a win-win. Sometimes the best deals are made when both sides don’t get what they want.)”

*********I totally agree that the time has come to back away from the situation, take a deep breath, and reconstruct the decision making process. The best way to do so is defeat the referendum. The administration and board, otherwise, will not step back and rethink and this needs to be done.

It is time to integrate the work that Brian Deal has done, the research done by Holly Nelson, the work of Neil Strack, talk with Bill Cope, capture the expertise that exists in this community, and base the decision on good urban planning principles:

1. Community facilities ought to be in the center of the community, not the fringe
2. What is the obligation of Unit 4 to the community related to the quality of the community in addition to educational opportunities for the students.
3. What is the financial burden put upon the citizens by any plan
4. What is the financial benefit for the community analyzed by any plan
5. Is there connectivity within the plan to the rest of the community.
6. Is the school site and design such to become the community social center
7. Is the school site and design such to integrate responsibility across grade levels and age groups
8. Does the school site cause another barrier to the north end and potential for additional isolation of that part of the community
9. Aggravated transportation issues, negating walkability, degrees of travel freedom and increase of independence, and undermines health research on obesity
10. Does the school site create added burdens on families
11. Does the school site create the environment for students to come and go independently at all times enhancing involvement in all provided school activities
12. Does the school site maximize distance to population density
13. Does the school site aggravate sprawl
14. Does the school site invigorate economic development

I know others could add many more question/concepts to be considered in the decision making process.

It is important to have paradigm shift to thinking of this community as land locked and not assume that the solution is to move to the fringes and use up more and more valuable farm land.


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 10:25 AM

My responses in line (JB:).

*********I have heard this statement about over capacity since the beginning. I heard different statistics during the press conference. My issues with these demographics are many: historically Unit 4 has missed the projection mark on many occasions; one can construct statistics to make the point desired; there is a new HS being built by Judah–what will that do to change the projections?

JB: Anecdotally, you are right, our projections are off… it seems those numbers are actually lower than the actuals for the last 3 years or so. I’ve asked for official numbers.

And frankly, there are lots of variables involved, assuming we do nothing and put 1/6th of our students in trailers, that will be a self-correcting problem because those students with families of means and high quality teachers will both opt-out and leave. That, however, is a solution to a public policy problem that is “not desirable” to be mild.

*********My counter argument is that making a 50-year decision under the circumstances that have been created by past boards and the skewing of the process by the chosen consultants is probably the worse scenario for decision making. And much worse than temporary over capacity that can be temporarily accommodated is incorrect 5-decade decision made on the argument that we may or may not be over capacity.

JB: People like telling us our data is wrong, our consultants are skewing things but never actually tell us how. How… specifically, have our consultants skewed the process?

*********Well, I have heard the KCC contingent speak in opposition to Dodds. As a counter, I have not read, seen, or heard any descriptive comments as to how Dodds would be used. The leaning toward Dodds is directly related as seeing this as a wide open space, not unlike I-74, that takes no creative solutions. The flip side is what does it do to and for the community to remove a large section of green space from west Champaign. Champaign is park poor statistically. Further, this would put both HS at the western section of Champaign leaving the core of the community sans a HS and creating exactly the same traffic situation that has been discussed related to I-74.

JB: “Creative solutions” is a euphemism for “you should spend tens of millions of dollars in more money and I will not lift a finger to help you sell that to the community. We COULD do Spalding, that’s $45 Million more. We COULD remodel Central, that’s $25 Million more. And ballpark, Beardsley is $75 Million more but there really is no way to estimate that because eminent domain on a power company and rerouting part of the municipal power grid is without precedent.

Now all those estimates ASSUME the park gives us some parks and the city gives us some streets and anecdotally on both, the answer is no. So the 3 “creative solutions” proposed are impossible to act on even given the extra money.

I’ll pose the same question to you Pattsi, that I’ve posed to the ringleaders of KCC. Spalding is $45 M more and solves a problem for MTD, the Parks and the City. I’ll put up 5. Where does the rest come from?

Our polling shows quite clearly that ANY referendum above $150 fails. And you can say that there is skewing involved, but both Unit 4’s polling and my poll were spot on at 47% yes.

I’ll repeat, and I know everyone likes to call us liars on this point… if you have a solution that we can do at $144 M, there is nothing in the referendum that prohibits us from doing it. The referendum does not tie us to Interstate, it ties us to an upper limit of cost.

Something gives here, either we build on empty land (which is always going to be the least expensive option), we use eminent domain and displace residents, we spend tens of millions more, we take green space to preserve costs or we do nothing and have trailers. Something has to give… there is no “best of all worlds” decision.

There never is.

********I have recently read comments suggesting that Dodds Park through an MOU with the park district become the athletic fields for both HS and this would greatly reduce the amount of land claimed necessary for a new Central. Further, I drove out to look at the new Judah site on Rising Road. In a moment of humor, I thought why didn’t Unit 4 buy the farm land next to the Judah land and then both schools could share those athletics facilities. Of course, this is counter to any argument that one of the HS ought to remain in the core of the community.

Dodd Park is essentially the living room for that area of Champaign.

JB: I’m not sure what message it would send to the community to have Centennial where it is and then build a high school further southwest of it, but I can’t imagine it would be good.

Quite frankly, I’m sure it would get us sued.

*********This is an ad hominem fallacy–the point is not what UIUC is doing, the point is where the delivery of education is moving and the movement is technology and the deliver using such, which is highly likely not in a massive structure, but in scattered pods.

I have no” information about the high school you have mentioned close by UNI, nor do I find any doing an internet search. Why don’t you provide more information about this situation.

JB: Among the many things I do is intelligence forecasting, I’m quite cognizant of the limits of our ability to predict anything in the future. Lots of things move in lots of different directions… and then bubbles pop. That said, there are lots of opinions on where education is going, the scattered pods heavy-technology based approach is one idea, but certainly not the consensus. What I do know is what our educational requirements are today and I know what ISBE will do if we don’t meet them. Chicago Public Schools are learning that lesson as we speak.

We have laws and policies we must adhere to and I’m sure many of us here can find plenty of absurd requirements (for instance, hurricane proofing the school) but the reality is, we don’t have a choice. That’s the law, we can ignore it, sure, but then whatever we build will be prohibited from opening.

********I take umbrage as to the comment that at the last minute alternatives are being presented via the N-G. I have attended every community meeting and met personally with the hired consultants during which I have presented many alternatives. In fact at one of the community meetings, I was randomly assigned such that I sat next to the superintendent. This gave me an unexpected opportunity to share directly with her several different alternatives.

It became very clear as I attended the many community meetings that there was minimal “john Q. Public” participation so those voices have not been heard. It also became clear by the consultant presentations that there was a skewing as to what were to be the desired results. The “show” was not taken directly to the public–where were the public charrettes. Where were the involvement of the students to design their ideas of their future HS, which could have been integrated into classroom plans. Right now the situation is adults imposing on the teenagers what is conceived to be best for them.

JB: I’d like to know more about this. I wasn’t there and it happened before I was on the board. That said, the people who show up to anything a government body does is not representative of the public. In fact, no one on this list is representative. We participate in public policy, that makes us a radical aberration from the word go.

That said, Unit 4 set up committees, talked to students and had this slow almost 3 year death march in public about the high school location where Interstate Drive was always on the list. It isn’t like this was done in a back room.

*********I am not certain how you can make the statement that those involved with KCC agree that Dodds is the solution. Even though I probably talk with a skewed population, I do not know of a single individual who thinks Dodds is the choice de jour and know of only one individual who votes for I-74. I have never seen a random stratified community survey asking about site locations therefore none of us have sufficient data to make a statement about preference.

Th closest we have recently come to doing any comparisons is the work by Neil Strack. The work done by Brian Deal and Holly Nelson have been completely ignored to the extent of not being integrated to any plan presented by Unit 4.

JB: Actually we have polling on the location at our Future Facilities site. That’s about the best you can get to deal with the problem that many voting members of the public just don’t show up to committee meetings.

Neil Strack’s work WOULD be a comparison, if he wasn’t so overtly skewing his numbers. I have yet to hear an explanation why he thinks HIS new building construction numbers can simply cut 40% from ours and why, whatever this approach is, cannot also be used at Interstate. He says Central can be remodeled for $54M, add about $27M for correcting for this magic 40% cost reduction. Then realize that he intends to use the UNREALIZED and UNREALISTIC transportation cost increase of $550,000 as REVENUE to do a backdoor referendum for $26M and then reduces the cost of construction by that number. Let’s at least adhere to the basic rules of math.

Brian Deal’s report is superficially absurd. $60M because everyone is going to get Diabetes? You really expect me to treat that seriously?

Holly has some good points but starts with the assumption that every single student would need to be bused to Central. Busing
would increase, sure. But surely we can agree that people live in Ashland Park.

*********I totally agree that the time has come to back away from the situation, take a deep breath, and reconstruct the decision making process. The best way to do so is defeat the referendum. The administration and board, otherwise, will not step back and rethink and this needs to be done.

It is time to integrate the work that Brian Deal has done, the research done by Holly Nelson, the work of Neil Strack, talk with Bill Cope, capture the expertise that exists in this community, and base the decision on good urban planning principles:

I know others could add many more question/concepts to be considered in the decision making process.

It is important to have paradigm shift to thinking of this community as land locked and not assume that the solution is to move to the fringes and use up more and more valuable farm land.

JB: In politics, the center of gravity is always “do nothing”. We’ve done that for 4 decades. We got close in November, we looked at polling and corrected 3 issues to increase our support. In November we hit 47%. It’s clear why there is a sense of panic in the opponents. We’ve got something that a majority of the community will support. We should we chuck it in the trash and start over again?


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 11:12 AM

Yes John — you should chuck it in the trash.

It’s a horrible solution to a very complex problem. But you won’t come off it, and you’ve all made that clear, so these discussions are kind of pointless, eh?

The very reason I and many others oppose to Referendum, and why there is a PAC now, is simply because your Board President stated clearly that if you can’t get Dodds, the school WILL be built on Interstate Dr. Despite the studies you keep citing, and your polling, we all think it’s a bad ideas

I won’t mince words: that’s a really really really bad idea. It’s embarrassing, really.

The School Board can’t brag about how LITTLE you spend on education and then ask the community for money to build a new high school next to Walmart on land that you purchased for way above prime and then expect people to just nod and go “OK! Great idea duders!”

So, we can keep arguing about it here on email, or — you all can keep just doing what you are doing, and we can do what we are doing — because we all know damn well that you aren’t going to redact the Referendum at this point. Right? I mean, that’s not going to happen, correct?

Perhaps if the Board stated that Interstate Dr. was off the table, and that the referendum would be utilized to build at a site TBD, the members of KCC would end the fight, and join up on your side.

I put that in bold for a reason — and I won’t hold my breath. But I am hopeful that happens. Because it would end this fight, and that right soon.

This is OK, John. This isn’t personal. Don’t make it personal. It’s a difference of opinion. KCC is filled with people with differing opinions, as is “Friends of Champaign Schools” — that’s American.

If you want to meet up in person about this, I am totally down. In fact, after the KCC meeting tonight, at 7PM — any one of you that wants to drink whiskey with me for an hour at Esquire is invited to do so. I will buy. You can also drink anything you want.

But John, you and I are going to drink whiskey.

Love


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 11:27 AM

Prove it. Don’t tell me it sucks, do the math and show me why.

Your words here are quite telling, “Despite the studies you keep citing, and your polling, we all think it’s a bad ideas”.

That’s a rather lousy way to make decisions. We can meet up in person, but we really only end up dancing around each other. But if you want to drink Whiskey, this is relevant to my interests. Not tonight though, my wife is going out and I’m on kid duty.

But I’ll reiterate, KCC can show me a plan, prove it’s better, and I’ll listen. That offer is, has and always will be on the table. But I’m not going to take your word for it anymore than I took our consultants word for their plans. But those plans, if they involve the Park District or the City “giving us” land, better include a commitment from those bodies to do it, otherwise it’s not a plan, it’s SimCity and a waste of all our times.


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:02 PM

Oh John — you’ve seen the alternative studies. You’ve seen the numbers. You dismiss them every single time. Pattsi just got done giving you this, that, and the other. Neil Strack has too. And so have others. I mean, you can write words in an email and placate as much as you want, but that doesn’t change the facts.

Your Board is the one that keeps perpetuating the idea that you need at least 47 acres* of land to build a new high school based on the studies of consultants that Unit 4 Board hired. It’s just not true. It’s not even remotely true. Explain that to Don Owen. Or did you just want to come right out and state that you think that District 116 is in a terrible predicament because of the lack of space it has in its possession?

So, how about it? Can the Board simply accept that it would rather have Dodds, and work with the rest of the community to put pressure on the Park District to get it? To improve it? To add to it? I’d be willing to jump on board with that initiative, honestly. Maybe not others at KCC, but I would and so would many, many others. And you know it.

But that would mean having to admit that you all were wrong to buy the land on Interstate Dr., and that Ms. Bonnett was wrong to perpetuate the idea that no matter what, the school was being built there come hell or high water.

I am not thinking that’s going to happen. Super sad about it, honestly. Because a little humility would go a long way.

Anyhow —

Whiskey is good. We should drink it. Anyone of you that wants to join me at Esquire at 7pm, the offer is on the table. We can talk about this in person instead of through email and see if there’s some common ground to be had, as Kerris suggested. I know there is, but enough bullshit already. It’s tiresome, and we all have lives, and spouses, or partners, and kids, and horrible sports programs to follow, and friends on vacations to be envious of, and what the hell — can’t a man get a decent Greek meal in this town? No, he can’t. Christ.

Listen — if Unit 4 wants Dodds, just own it, and go after it, and utilize the community at large to support it. Stop being divisive and unclear about your intentions. Throwing your arms up and stating, “Well, I guess if we can’t get what we really want, we’ll just take what we have” is no way to build a community.

It’s destructive, quite frankly.

With all of my love, and with a wonderful kiss on the cheek,

Seth Fein

*I can’t remember if 47 acres is what was suggested — I am not going to look it up, but you know what I am driving at.


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:07 PM

I should point out one thing… the City of Champaign future land use plan here: http://ci.champaign.il.us/cms/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/4-FLU-Chapter-_maps.pdf

Page 1 shows that this area is residential growth, this is what we used to come to the decision that it is an appropriate place for the high school. This plan was voted on and enacted before we made any decision.

So I’m not sure why people are taking us to task for urban planning and sprawl for utilizing and acting in accord with the City of Champaign’s published, approved and City Council voted-on plan. It strikes me as odd no one here (at least to my knowledge and correct me if I am wrong) took issue with them in 2011 when the voted and approved of this plan.


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:17 PM

I don’t dismiss them, I just disagree that it is super dooper easy to sell, say, Spalding Park for an Extra $45 Million dollars.

I’ve discussed Neil Strack’s plans. I have one question, and I’ll ask it one more time. How is it possible that he can reduce new construction costs by about 40% and if this is possible, why is it not possible at Interstate?

I continue to ask questions of you and of others, and those questions are blithely ignored. Are we having a discussion, or do you just want to tell me how it is and me mindless vote for it?

As fas as the 47 acres, that was come up with in a YEARS long process with MANY public input sessions that started with the question… what kind of educational programming do we want to offer. We developed requirements and we let educational programming determine what kind of facility we need. The KCC/opposition wants us to start with any number of non-educational imperatives and let THAT determine what kind of school we build.

Urbana has been buying up houses around ever since they passed a bond deal to get them on the right track. Had we been buying houses around Central for 40 years, we’d be having a very different discussion today. I don’t know what to tell you, previous boards ignored the problem and here we are. It sucks, and I’ve said as much to you more than once. By the way, Urbana USD 116 has 3983 students (last number on their website). We have 10,000.

As far as Dodds, I think we’ve all told you we’d work with the Park District to close that deal. What more are you asking me to do? I’m down, let’s do it. Joe’s political advisers are on this list… Joe offered us Dodds in Feb ’14 and went back and forth. You guys let me know what you need from me to lock this down.

Hell, if we pass the referendum and I’m off the board in May and we can do Dodds after the fact, I will STILL help.

And even then I wouldn’t admit it was a mistake to buy it… mostly because we can’t just “take” Dodds, we have to swap land for it and now we have a parcel big enough to do just that. So if Dodds is your plan, buying that land helps make it a reality. Tell me what you need for Dodds, I’m at your disposal.


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:22 PM

So, we disagree. In a variety of ways — it is what it is.
But you asked a question and I am going to answer it:

“As far as Dodds, I think we’ve all told you we’d work with the Park District to close that deal. What more are you asking me to do?”

I am asking you to redact the Referendum OR, state with clarity that Interstate Dr. is not where the new high school will be built.

That is as clear as crystal Pepsi, my man.

Love,


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:27 PM

We can’t put location on the question is my understanding… and certainly not a negation of a location on the referendum and certainly not now well past the deadline… all those are factors of the election code which I have no control.

I’m prepared to offer my commitment as my own personal vote, if Dodds is on the table, I’ll vote to close the deal (assuming the deal isn’t absurd like give us $100M too) and vote to put the high school there.

That is as much as I can do.


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:35 PM

Well, I genuinely appreciate that, John. Honestly…

Beyond that, I think the broader goal is to have the BOE state clearly that the Referendum would be used to build a new Central (along with the rest of the proposal) but that Interstate Dr. is no longer considered a viable option as a place to construct the new Central.

Your referendum will pass, and the Park Board would have to start answering questions, and that right soon. And I genuinely think that there’s a way to approach that with the best intentions and to further introduce quality growth to that particular park in NW Champaign.

So, do you all actually want to work together or not? I mean — there’s a pretty simple solution here, but it will require humility from both sides, and some constructive marketing, forged together.

I’m in, but you all have to take the lead here.

Your move, Mohandas.


from: Kerris Lee
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:41 PM

Just want to point out that we cannot do that if Dodds is not on the table.

If it is…then I’m with John on offering my vote for Dodds. I would be all over that within reason.

Sincerely


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:53 PM

Hi Kerris —

Yes, everyone understands that. But how much effort and pressure from ALL sides have been placed onto CPD Board to reconsider and work together? Perhaps if Unit 4 showed some leadership in that way, and worked with the broader community to get it all managed, it might stick.

The point is, Dodds isn’t on the table right now partly because you all bought the Interstate Dr. land with the intention of building a new Central on it, and even spent money constructing a big ass sign that says as much. And then you spent money having some one erect that sign. It’s pretty clear what the intentions of the School Board are at this moment.

So, again — do you all WANT to work together, or not? You have to take Interstate Dr. OFF the table. Definitively.

With, you know, your words, collectively. Ask for that same support from the rest of the Board. Vote on it, or whatever. Make it clear to everyone that we need to build a school and that it’s going to take some work and negotiation, but that we aren’t just going to build to build. We’re going to build with intention and constructive plans for the future of the community.

That’s how this gets solved. That’s how we win together, pal.

Your move, fella. Your move.


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 12:55 PM

I will work together but here is the rub. You are asking us to adopt all the risk on the hopes we can make this happen.

Bear in mind we DID ask the Park Board for Dodds, they said no and the “community” never showed up. Now you’re asking me to front run the same fight in the hopes people show up.

Let’s just cut to brass tacks. Al Nudo and David Sholem are both political advisors to Joe Petry. They can talk to their candidate and figure out what they need to make this work if they are serious about alternatives. Without that, I am happy to go ahead and have that debate with Joe on his HS location proposals which they have yet to respond to.

We have the superior bargaining position here. Al and David both know if we simply listed 149 again in April we’d be at 53%. By reducing the cost, putting in Dr. Howard and repurposing Central while reducing operation costs, we have a plan that will push towards my goal of 60%. We have got access to far more foot troops than KCC could ever field. And the dirty little secret is that a majority of people who votes no did so for reasons unconnected to location.

That is why Al and David are in the position they are. They know push comes to shove, we win in April which is why the first words out of KCC was how we are lying to everyone while simultaneously publishing erroneous “plans”.

So here we are. The deal really isn’t to be made with you Seth though you’re great and all. The deal is to be made with me and Joe. Either David and Al get Joe on the phone with me and we make a deal for Dodds or this is just another pipe dream plan like everything else on the KCC website.

I’ll even sweeten the deal. If Joe can deliver Dodds, I’ll close my IE PAC.

What will it be? Make a deal or not?


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 1:20 PM

Well John, I am not looking for any glory here, my man. I am looking for this community to grow in smart and constructive ways, and what you all have on the table at the moment is the opposite of that in a lot of people’s opinion. So, that’s neither here nor there.

And I agree — you will probably get your referendum passed no matter what. It’s an April vote, and historically, your assessment is correct.

And if that’s the goal here — to build the school in farmland because you bought it and won’t recant from that position — well, there’s not much we can do about that. But I’d much rather this not become some sort of weird House of Cards political backroom deal, and instead be a situation where there’s some honest discussion about what makes the most sense for as many people as possible.

Right now, we’re not there and you know that.

I reject the idea that this is simply between you and Joe. This is between a lot of subsets within the community. And you might sit on the Unit 4 Board, and Joe might preside over the CPD Board, but that doesn’t create what we need to make this a reality.

Again, I do not think Dodds is the best place for the new Central. But by comparison to Bonnett’s declarations, I’d gladly put it at Dodds. At a minimum, it would be accessible by bike and foot for many many more kids. And that’s huge. Plus, it’s serviced by MTD and has the infrastructure to handle the traffic. And we wouldn’t be forcing more residential sprawl.

Everything we already know.

My only goal here is to get Interstate Dr. wiped off the list of potential locations for the new Central. In a perfect world, the Board would fight like hell to get teachers a better wage, and for students to have more access to Spanish as a second language, and coding classes starting in 2nd Grade, and hell — let’s throw that Greek Restaurant into the mix for no good reason, too? Oh man — spanikopita and saganaki and avgolemono? YUM.

Surely, we can accomplish most anything we want TOGETHER as opposed to apart.

But for the moment, let’s settle on the idea that there’s some potential to come together here, but again, that it is predicated on Unit 4 dismissing its earlier assertions that the new Central will be built on Interstate Dr. If what you want is cooperation, and if what you claim is true about you having the superior bargaining position, then show some leadership to get what it is that you actually want.

I dunno man — seems unproductive to come out and state that you all want Dodds, and then simply settle for second best (or eighth best or whatever) because you weren’t willing to take a stand for it.

Bourbon,


from: John Bambenek
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 1:37 PM

Neither am I… if it isn’t obvious by now, a school board is the last place you go for glory. 😉

The choices we have right now are build at Interstate and do nothing. We don’t have Dodds, Spalding, Beardsley or any of the streets necessary and we can’t make them available. So that’s really the choice.

You want us to chuck the last 8 years in the trash… I hear you. Bear in mind what you’re asking. We won’t be able to come to a new location and restart this process in enough time to have something on the ballot on 2016 and likely not 2017. That means MAYBE we can have something in 2018 but bear in mind, from Great Schools Together to Dejong Richter to now, we’re talking much longer. Just the location was 2-3 years.

You can keep saying we’re building there because we bought the land until you’re blue in the face. I didn’t make a single part of that decision. But I did review everything they have done and am convinced of this one fact… they did the best they could with the best interests of the students at heart. Period. And really the tone got set here by KCC suggesting we’re liars and have some ulterior motive. Even then, I’ll still make a deal but I’m not going to negotiate with myself.

If Dodds is on the table, Joe Petry has to make it on the table. If he wants to negotiate that, he can negotiate it through me. Otherwise these is no deal to be had here. It really is just that simple. What this takes is 4 votes on the Park Board and 4 votes on the Unit 4 board. 8 people is all this takes. Otherwise, all KCC’s plans and this conversation is nothing more than political masturbation. We’re either talking about alternatives, or we’re playing politics.

And I’ll also say this, I will be going to the City Council to offer this, I am going to help get the funding for those bike/pedestrian paths and we can get that done over 74… if for no other reason that there are people who do live up there and we ought not to ignore that.

And we did take a stand for Dodds, we lost and no one else showed up. That conversation happened in July. And we did that after the land was bought. So much for being dead set on Interstate.

Right now we’re not talking about coming together, you’re asking me to surrender and get nothing out of the deal.

Joe can either show the leadership he says he is capable of and broker a deal or not. He has my number. So does Al and so does David. Hell, it’s in the phone book


from: Seth Fein
date: Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 1:42 PM

Wait. WAIT.

They still publish phone books?

=)

I hear you, John. We disagree about Spalding. Always will. We disagree about plenty, and while I suppose that’s too bad, I also like the interactions here.

Nevertheless, I suppose this will play out, but if you are asking me whether or not it’s build at Interstate Dr. or do nothing, that is a defeatist position, and I won’t hear it. We’d be giving ourselves a chance for a new, competent Board to come to the table with new ideas, and a chance to play a different game. Two years isn’t much in the face of 50 years of regret.

No conspiracy here; I just don’t think the current Board knows what the hell it’s doing. And yes, teacher’s pay and the way we tax our property owners is part of that equation. It’s systemic.

Anyhow, off to do something else now. Until later.


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15 Responses to “Emails to ask/challenge “Yes” vs “No” committees on Unit 4 referendum”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    Added more emails. Too bad all these emails are not being sent via a listserve with public archives – would make my job a little easier. 🙂

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    I also removed a large number of addressees, since they started to repeat so often. I should make the caveat that not everyone copied everyone else. 🙂 But personal replies sent only to me are not included.

  3. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    We should all know that Dodds is not available for a school, I personally am not in favor of that idea. But then it occurred to me when I was looking at the KCC site that if Central and the park district shared a sports complex it would be cheaper to maintain, and it could be at Dodds. That opens up so many possibilities as far as school locations.

    • John Bambenek Says:

      As of right now, you are right Dodds is not available. For that matter, neither is Spalding, Beardsley, nor any of the streets we would have to acquire for any of the three options that keep central Central has put forward. I am happy to consider alternatives, we have done that twice just in the last year after we picked the location. But at a certain point, some basic footwork needs to be done. I cannot understand why keep Central central will put forward three options that the park district and the city have not made available. At the same time they refused to discuss Dodds, for the same reason.

      And, for the record, I am happy to work with anybody on alternatives or to explain why the district came to the decision that they did. This was done before I join the board, so I am unclear why everybody thinks that I’ve either been bribed, and are incompetent, or stupid. At a certain point, when I am not willing to do is work with individuals that when they don’t get their way, resort to impugning my integrity. That is not helpful for the children and it is the distraction from the serious work of educatiom that needs to be done.

  4. kshannon617 Says:

    I really like Denise’s idea. I think almost everyone on both sides of the issue really has the best interests of the students and the community at heart, and we’d all like to find an idea that works for everyone.

    • John Bambenek Says:

      For the record, we try that. I never did like the Spalding park idea. Both sides basically agree that it is an extra $45 million to build there. I offered to put forward $5 million extra to work on that project. It would solve problems to the park district and deal with urban revitalization, neither of which are educational objectives. I was met with stunned silence. What I am not willing to do is pay full freight to solve other units of local governments problems while using education dollars. As a potential future school board member, how would you have responded?

      • kshannon617 Says:

        Not quite sure what the question is…if you’re asking how I would have responded to Denise’s suggestion that everyone sit down together and try to work it out, I would have said, GREAT! Let’s do it.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        I believe Denise was trying to get away from a public debate, per se, and focus more on getting the proponents of each side to hash things out – at least, that is the way I read it.

        I like the ideas that Pattsi has put forward in regards to having interactive workshops and charettes, lots of tactile and physical manipulations, drawings, sketches, etc. However, this is something that should have happened two years ago as part of DeJong-Richter; they opened the door but never stepped through. But still worth doing, I think, even at this late hour.

        My perspective is that there is a lot of emotion and opinion flying around on this topic, and an obvious case of decision fatigue on hand, not to mention what I perceive to be a chronic case of voter apathy. I wonder if there is a viable, practical way to take smaller steps forward instead of going with a $150 million tax package. For instance, is it realistic to break the proposed referendum up into several pieces that we vote on? Or all they all tied to tightly together?

        In the end, the voters need to keep their eye on the overall goal – that of public education. The voters and tax payers own the public schools, so it is their responsibility to manage it properly. That includes addressing issues to the proper legislators as well, which is a whole other game.

      • John Bambenek Says:

        My point is, Kathy, that we HAVE sat down and tried to work with several of the now-leaders of the KCC movement. Now I don’t know the full membership, I really don’t even know who the leadership is and many have never talked to me. I do know several and we worked through the summer on Spalding and then Dodds. Spalding would cost $45M more and Dodds was rejected by their side. The new options have not really been given to us, and as far as I know, neither the City or the Park District. So all the streets that would need to be given to make these plans happen and all the Parks aren’t on the table.

        And all three options are more expensive.

        We dealt with Spalding extensively last summer. Of the 45M, I offered 5M, I asked what the other parties would do… I got nothing.

        I asked the other parties if I put this on the ballot, would they help us pass it. I got nothing.

        All those emails are public record and many already posted here.

        So all we’ve gotten from at least those people (and again, many people in KCC were not part of those discussions) was a demand to spend 10s of millions more and do nothing to either help come up with the cost or to help campaign for it. And then they say they are desperately working with the school board. I’d welcome the opportunity… I’ve asked several questions of them, some of those questions have been asked for about 8 months and I’ve gotten no answers.

        I’m not sure what more I can do if working together was truly the objective.

  5. Kathy R. Says:

    John, you said above, “And the dirty little secret is that a majority of people who votes no did so for reasons unconnected to location.”

    What is your source? Please share this information, in the interest of transparency.

    • John Bambenek Says:

      The source is polling and I’m not prepared to share it. However, KCC is free to run their own polling on why people voted no.

      • Kathy R. Says:

        Information from a poll on why people voted no in November sounds like it would be helpful. I’m sorry you are not prepared to share it. I have to ask why you don’t want others to have access to the same information that you are using to make your decisions.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        Just so others are aware, the NG reported that John hired a firm to conduct some polling on this very topic:
        http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-02-07/bambenek-hires-pollster-high-school-site.html

      • Kathy R. Says:

        Well, the News Gazette is reporting that John has paid for a survey to ask which sites are preferred for the new Central (Interstate Drive or the alternate sites listed by KCC); this is a different question than why people voted “no” on the November referendum.

        Regardless, I look forward to hearing the results, along with all of the context necessary to understand the results (sample size, polling method, etc.).


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