Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Mouse That Roared . . .

Per WKTV: Taxpayers turn down Holland Patent capital project.

2,060 voted No, while 766 voted Yes.

The 2,894 total voters is the most district Superintendent Kathleen Davis has seen in her time at Holland Patent.

Wow! What a way to say, "Enough is enough!"


swimmy said...

Hopefully that will satisfy the people who were for it and claimed the prior vote was not reflective of the entire community.

Can't wait until the town figures out how to do it without the voter's voice. They should talk with earl reed for pointers!

Andrew said...

I have a number of questions about this referendum:

1. Why were these facilities allowed to fall into such disrepair?

2. Doesn't the school district have money in its budget for maintenance of these facilities?

3. Why should the taxpayers state-wide be asked to pay for repairs to facilities that weren't maintained?

4. Why could the voters not be presented each of the capital improvement items on separate lines they could vote on? The whole situation smells a little like blackmail - "approve our new sports fields or we're not going to fix the roofs!"

The state has created a monster that it will now have to slay - massive spending on school districts' pet projects. With multi-billion dollar deficits coming, NY will not be able to drop new facilities on every district that decides not to take care of its buildings.

Anonymous said...

Andrew (I suspect I may know you in "real" life?), to answer some of your questions and to bring up some points of my own.

> Why were these facilities allowed to fall into such disrepair?

The facilities were allowed to fall into disrepair because of bad management. That's the obvious answer, of course, but there are interesting details like beautiful new furniture in one of the new libraries that I hear would be fit for an ivy league school (Harden or something on par), color coordinated playground equipment, and Italian tile flooring with fake columns, all purchased when the roofs were already leaking.

> Why should the taxpayers state-wide be asked to pay for repairs to facilities that weren't maintained?

Darn good question, although I suspect that if this proposal had just included the repairs and renovations that were absolutely necessary, there would have been no problem getting it passed and very few questions asked. They shot themselves in the foot and now everyone will be asking questions like this.

> The whole situation smells a little like blackmail.

Precisely, and to elaborate on that a bit, it's blackmail to try to "keep up with the Joneses", i.e. keep up with Whitesboro and New Hartford. The whole little town is turning into New Hartford North. It used to be a nice little farming community decades ago but now all the newcomers want to change everything. You can clearly see the "new" and the "old", and the difference stood out even more starkly when people started putting signs out in front of their homes.

It reminds me of a story my father tells about a trip to Montana. Everyone was very friendly except for one gent. But that one guy had a very good point. He told Dad, "You people all come here and say that everything is perfect, except you'd like to change 'just one thing'. Then everyone comes in and each person changes 'just one thing', and it's not Montana anymore."

What's most offensive to me is the "state aid" bit, that I have very little say in as I don't live in the district and can't vote on it. 70% of those costs were going to come out of my pocket. Supposedly the money will just go somewhere else, but with the wretched financial state of the state, maybe we can hope it just isn't spent.

I also think it's very interesting that there were supposedly 1,000 signatures, but only 766 "yes" votes. That's only about 3/4 of the number of people who signed the petition. People were passionate enough to sign a petition but not to vote? Either that happened, which I think is a bit odd, or there weren't actually 1000 legitimate signatures.

I really hope this is stirred up enough that people start looking at what's going on over there and start questioning. The superintendent said something about "moving on". Perhaps it's the only decent, professional thing to say at this point, or perhaps it's attempt to get people to move ahead so they don't start digging and questioning.

Mrs. Mecomber said...

I wonder what the vote tally will be when the school "leaders" force the budget again to the polls next month...

Andrew said...

Here's my theory for the disparity between 'yes' votes and petition signatures: people actually went door-to-door collecting those signatures. Yesterday, the voters actually had to go to the polling place to cast their votes. I'm sure that there would have been more votes - in both directions - if people knocked on doors to collect votes. Also, how many people signed the petition, but changed their minds later? How many people signed the petition just to "be polite"? I think there are lots of explanations other than fraud here and I don't want to accuse the petition gatherers when I have no evidence.

Looks like we've got more fun coming up - Whitesboro is about to vote on a $50.4 million capital project:
-"Long overdue" expanded science classrooms at the high school and middle school (how long overdue?)
-Two new special-ed classrooms at the high school
-Six new tennis courts at Marcy Elementary
-Two new softball fields at Westmoreland Rd. Elementary
-New lights for the middle school and high school fields
-90 new parking spots at the middle school
-"BCS" items, including a/c, plumbing, asbestos abatement, &c

Apparently, the district was handed three capital project plans, and this was the "middle of the road". I have no reason to disbelieve that. But once again, it appears there will be no opportunity for the voters to, say, select new science classrooms and fix the plumbing but maybe hold off on the new tennis courts and have the booster club pay for upgraded lights.

Also not revealed was what was in the other plans...

Greens and Beans said...

Wow! I am genuinely impressed with the posts on this issue. You guys are correct and right on the money with your conclusions. I too am not a Holland Patent School District resident. But there are some eerie similarities on the modus operandi of the district administrators. And you guys picked up on them.

I have witnessed petitioners actually obtaining signatures at sports games, science fairs, concerts and other performing arts events. Most of the parents and family members are afraid not to sign the petition for fear that the administration will reciprocate by taking revenge on their children. Approximately one-third of the people, who sign these petitions, vote their actual mind when they are safely behind the curtain of the voting booth.

The administration seems to always package the different mini projects under one main proposal. This is an attempt to have all of the special interest groups (etc. sports, performing arts and academic – all too often in this order) to show up and vote for the entire capital project spending package. If they were to grant the voters a “line item” option, the descending votes would almost always turn these pork fattened projects down.

The Administration will always attempt to manipulate the voters to approve all budgets and capital projects. If the administration senses that their capital project may be facing considerable opposition, they use threats to intimidate the special interest groups (etc. sports boosters, cheer leaders, band, and performing arts groups) and the district employee unions to mobilize their families and friends to vote the project in. I have witnessed the administration actually perform all of the above including conducting special “pep rallies” to convince the students, teachers, and non-instructional employees to get the “correct” voters out. The administration also manipulates to set the actual voting date to optimize approval and minimize opposition.

School administrations can be some of the most unscrupulous public officials that we will ever have to deal with. They act like accomplished con-artists. They are experts in using the cliché “it’s all about the students,” but the reality is that it’s all about their personal paychecks.

Anonymous said...

They tried comparing this to the Westmoreland Project. We upgraded everything except the field itself. Press box, stands, replaced the 1960's track and people were ok with it. If we wanted a NH/Sauquoit/Waterville type of turf field, the parents woulda said no too.

I can just imagine how the Whitesboro one will turn out. At least they took the new pool out of the project :-P

Anonymous said...

Some of us signed the petition because we thought having a special vote, even with the related expense, was the best way to show those very loud complainers that we meant it the first time. I think they got the message this time.