Most of the city council should recuse itself from future votes on the sales tax referendum (draft)

If the people of the city lose confidence in it’s elected officials, it’s elected officials will no longer be able to govern.

There is a difference between disagreeing with politicians decisions and thinking their decisions serve corrupt purposes and there is enough evidence that the majority of the city council’s decision to fight against a sales tax referendum serves a corrupt purpose. If the people of Jacksonville are to have any faith in their city government the members who took money from the civic council and who worked with Tim Baker should recuse themselves from anymore votes on the tax referendum.

Fighting against the referendum really flies in the face of what a city council should be doing. In addition to revitalizing our schools, making them safer and finally keeping promises to communities that have been long neglected it would have the added benefits of creating jobs, revitalizing neighborhoods, attracting business and stopping or slowing flight to the suburbs or you know what city council’s (and mayors) should be fighting for. Since those benefits weren’t enough to garner support there must be a reason why they didn’t. 

People can argue that since Numerous members of the city council took campaign money from the Civic Council, the group arguably spearheading the fight against the referendum they have sided with them over the people of Jacksonville Several members of the civic council also have charter school interests and even though only a small percentage of the city’s children attend charter schools and the district has promised to share with charter schools it hasn’t been enough for the city council which  has made getting more money for charter schools an argument for resisting the referendum.

Next numerous members of the City Council have close ties with Tim Baker who they used as a consultant while running for election. Tim Baker along with former Curry, top Lieutenant, Sam Mousa attempted to get nearly a half million from the district in order to convince the city council to support the referendum. People can argue that the council has refused to support the referendum until their friend gets a large pay day, furthermore if members of the council changed their mind there would their could be questions about an implied quid pro quo down the line.

Furthermore there is the out sized influence that mayor Lenny Curry seems to have over this board. Curry is notoriously pro charter and he and his pac have taken lots of money from the civic council. The city council seems to shrug their shoulders at many important issues while fighting tooth and nail against the tax referendum. Are they doing so because of legitimate concerns or are they doing so because they are afraid of the mayor or they expect something in return if they follow his marching orders.

Conflicts of interests, close ties to parties seeking to benefit, specious reasons to oppose, what more evidence do we need?

In a vacuum you may be able to squint your eyes shrug your shoulders and go okay I don’t like it but, but when taken in its totality there isn’t just a whiff if impropriety there is a full blown fog.

The only way the city can truly know if this decision is being made on the up and up is for the city council members who have taken money form the civic council or who worked with Tim Baker to recuse themselves.

Do we want to live in a city where the people are led or are being ruled because if the city council despite these glaring conflicts of interests continues to vote on the referendum then we aren’t being led, we are being ruled.

What did Curry know and when did he know it?

Two of Lenny Curry’s top lieutenants Sam Mousa and Tim Baker attempted to extort  get 450k from the district in a give us whatever we want or the tax referendum will never pass scheme. It is inconceivable to me that Lenny Curry did not know of this plot and since it started while Mousa was still a city employee I imagine he helped to facilitate it as well.

David Bauerlein, TU reporter had a great quote about the proposal too.

That’s what is so insidious about the proposal, it was an offer to help get nothing they wanted. The school board wants the referendum on the ballot in 2019, they don’t want to give charter schools 150 -250 million dollars.

Mousa from all accounts is a smart gt too he, knew this but that didn’t stop him from making the offer anyways and nearly half million for him and Baker well that’s just gravy on top.

The school district would not have benefited from this arrangement but Curry’s super donors sure would.

A mayor elected with just 15 percent of the vote, while being misleading about the privatization of a local utility, who then fought against what every other mayor in the country, a referendum to help the city’s schools, would fight for on behalf of his donors, while two of his top lieutenants tried to extort the school district out of nearly a half million while offering them things they did not want. This sounds more like the plot of a political thriller but instead it’s not, this is us, this is Jacksonville.

If the City Council didn’t know they were dupes for the charter school industry they sure do now.

The signs were all there.

The city council was asked to ignore its responsibilities to help improve the city and instead fought against a sales tax referendum that would be used to help our schools.

A referendum which would have the side benefits of increasing property values, improving neighborhoods, creating jobs, attracting businesses and stopping or at least slowing flight to the suburbs. 

Instead of asking the mayor and his team why they were to abandon their responsibilities, the reasons they were elected, they were encouraged to ask the school board a never ending series of questions most of which had been answered.

Somehow they were also able to ignore the financial entanglements of the civic council with charters and the mayor and that’s probably because they were entangled with them as well.

From the Times Union,

Warren Jones received a phone call from Sam Mousa, then Mayor Lenny Curry’s soon-to-retire chief administrator. What followed was a conversation he’d later say “blew him away.”
Jones and his school board colleagues were struggling to convince the City Council and Curry to allow a half-cent sales tax referendum on the November ballot that would bankroll sorely needed improvements to the district’s aging schools. Jones said Mousa had a few suggestions: Hire Mousa and an unidentified business partner to lead the effort. Push back the referendum to 2020. Promise charter schools an upfront $150 million payment if the sales tax were to pass.
Weeks later, Mousa revealed his partner to be Tim Baker, Curry’s close confidante and chief political strategist, during a meeting with the School Board’s chairwoman Lori Hershey. After the meeting, Mousa sent her an official proposal for their services, which included creating a prioritized list of projects that would be paid for by the sales tax and “one-on-one” political advocacy of the plan, which requires approval from the City Council and Curry.
The Times-Union reported last week that Mousa and Baker were seeking as much as $450,000 to help the school board overcome the daunting political barriers they face at City Hall.
When we first learned about this we thought it happened after Mousa left City Hall and then it was still hinky because he approached the district just a few days after his retirement. Now that we know the process started when he was still with city hall we should all find that unacceptable. Also how is this not illegal?
Then does anyone think he did this without Curry knowing? To quote Vizzini, inconceivable.  
We have an employee and confidant of the Mayor strong arming the district for 150 million dollars on the behalf of the mayors mega donors, while trying to secure a going away windfall for themselves.
This is who is in charge of where we live. You know what is really sad, I doubt the mayor’s allies on the city council will care. They don’t mind being dupes, I hope though that the city does.

You too can get blocked from Scott Wilson’s Facebook page. (draft)

After explaining how school districts work and answering some of his already answered questions, City Council president Scott Wilson blocked me on Facebook. So I thought if you too wanted to be blocked I would give you some suggestions how and here is the thing toy don’t have to rude either, just using facts, evidence and appealing for decency should do it.

I would start by pointing out to him that the school board does not work for the city council, and just because a corrupt or incompetent junior lawyer working on behalf of the mayor and the civic council opened the door, it didn’t mean that he had to go through it.

You could talk about all the important issues on the City Council’s plate, Coastline drive, the murder rate, the Landing, Firehouse number 5, that have had zero public input.

If you wanted to you could mention his relationships to pro charter donors. Now I don’t think Wilson has been bought off. I think his disdain for public schools is in his DNA but it’s always fun to mention who he takes money from and how their interests more than the city’s are served by his actions.

You could answer his questions or explain how google works so he can get the answers himself. If he was just following the story in the Times Union, or would go to the DCPS site most of the answers are there. Throw in asking why he hasn’t, that might get you blocked.

How about pointing out how old our schools are and how much they need and how it would help children. On second thought don’t bother he’s not moved by facts, evidence or decency.

Then you could explain about charters, how dozens have failed in Duval and hundreds across the state. That they aren’t the end all be all that their supporters claim that they are.

Yep any of those should do it.

What Scott Wilson is doing is reprehensible and I urge you to tell him, just know you may only be able to do it once.

Image result for scott wilson on twitter jacksonville fl

Scott Wilson attacks DCPS in an op-ed to the Times Union.

Scott  Wilson attacked the district in an op-ed, the link is below.

This is a letter I wrote to the Times Union, I would encourage everyone to write them a letter exposing Wilson as well. 

Scott Wilson complained in an op-ed that the school board had not had a meeting in his city council district. I think it’s embarrassing that we have a city council president that doesn’t understand how school districts work. In case like Wilson you didn’t know 2 city council districts combine to form one school board district. In this case city council districts 4 and 5 combine to make school district 3, and people were invited on several occasions to discuss the schools there.

I also find it troubling, that during his community meeting he didn’t stand up for our schools. When they asked him about the lottery he could have said, that money really doesn’t go to help pubic schools anymore and instead goes to scholarships. When they said they didn’t want to pay more taxes, he could have explained that it would cost the average person a dollar fifty a month and that the money was needed (something he has said repeatedly). Furthermore when they asked why should they contribute since they didn’t have children in school, he could have pointed out that a high quality public education system benefits everyone whether they have children attending or not and when somebody said the district needs to do a better job educating our children he could have pointed out the district was less than one percentage point away from an A. He could have explained those things but he choose not too. Though since he obviously doesn’t understand how school districts work he may not have known those things either. 

He says all he and the city council want are answers to questions. It’s my personal opinion he and the city council are holding out so a handful of their rich donors with charter school interests can get a bigger cut of the referendum but I have some questions for him. Whats the plan for the Landing? How come there have been zero community meetings about it. Whats the plan to address the murder rate which is now 20 percent higher than our previous high? What’s the plan for Liberty Street, the road collapsed over 4 years ago and now the project is millions over budget and years behind schedule. Whats the plan for the iconic firehouse number 5. If the city is going to spend millions to acquire it shouldn’t there be a plan? 

It seems to me that Wilson and the city council have enough on their plate without trying to usurp the authority of the school board  

I want to answer two of his questions, most of which have already been answered repeatedly. The school board wants to have the vote this fall because it will save 5 million dollars, speed up the implementation of safety measures for our schools, slow wear and tear on our most needed projects and who knows what public school hating Tallahassee will pass this upcoming session. Then the reason some schools are being replaced while others are being refurbished is based on their needs which were determined in a comprehensive study that the district did. I didn’t have to have personal meetings with the superintendent and school board to learn those things. All I had to do was read the Times Union.

But if we are being honest the city council isn’t really interested in answers.

Rory Diamond’s day job pays six figures, his night job involves robbing children

Rory Diamond’s day job is working for K9 for warriors. A service program that pairs up dogs with service members suffering from PTSD. I think this is a great cause, I think we should do all we can for our veterans. Rory is also pretty well compensated for his job taking home 217,000 dollars according to their most recent tax returns.

I hope people realize there is big money in non-profits. The Y guy takes home 330,000. Trey Csar when he worked for JPEF managing a dozen people took home 159 grand. Darryl Willie made six figures running the local TFA office too.

Sure non profits are important, though some are more important than others, but teachers are important too and I guaranty you 95 percent of them work harder and longer than Mr. Diamond.

Maybe I am a bit jaded, I will start my 19th year as a teacher this Wednesday and I won’t make 50,000. A teacher on my step 12 years ago had about six grand more in buying power than I do now.
Salaries and spending on education in Florida have gone backwards over the last decade.

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It’s really a travesty, we should all be embarrassed.

Veterans are important and should be taken care, but our children are important and should be taken care of too. How doesn’t Diamond get that?

You know I probably wouldn’t care that Diamond’s day job pays him 217k, I want everyone to do well, but the thing is he is fighting against giving children what they need and deserve and despite his day job, that is unacceptable.

Him being a well off white guy fighting against children, many of who are minority and poor getting what they should, kind of sticks in my craw too.

The stunning tone deafness of Rory Diamond

On Facebook Mr. Diamond posted that he was very disappointed the federal government was interfering with a project for veterans. Um does that sound familiar to anyone? Diamond is holding up our schools that have serious needs from being fixed. He is standing in the way of children getting what they deserve and need. Hypocrisy level 10

Disabled veterans suffering from PTSD. Most importantly, these dogs are helping keep our heroes alive. Yet, each year we go and meet with the House Veterans Affairs Committee staff and each year they find a new way to say “No.” This past week, we sat down with the Majority and Minority staff and, again, they said “No.” No to Service Dogs for veterans with PTSD. No to our mountain of evidence that these dogs are saving lives. Instead, they told us to wait, wait, wait. Wait until 2020 or 2021 until after the VA completes a study to tell us what we already know. The VA has spent tens of millions of dollars and over ten years “studying” what one of the 550 K9s For Warriors graduates can tell you (and our rigorous and privately funded, peer-reviewed hard science studies) in ten seconds—the dogs work. We can’t afford to wait any longer, we are losing at least 20 veterans a day to suicide. Please ask your member of Congress to support the PAWS Act HB 3103. And, a huge thank your to Congressman John Rutherford, Gil Cisneros, and Michael Waltz for not giving up on our American heroes. PLEASE SHARE! Let’s work together to MAKE our government work for our veterans. PLEASE SHARE far and wide.
He wrote the House Veterans affair committee keeps finding a way to say no, why that sounds familiar as well and Diamonds is one of the worst as he asked dozens of questions that he could have found the answers to on-line in an attempt to derail the special referendum. 
Wait, he tells our children and schools, wait wait wait. Well our schools can’t wait any longer either.

You know his project may be a great one, but the tone deafness of this guy is deafening.

Could somebody teach Rory Diamond about google? The answers to most his questions are easy to find.

I am going to try and answer all of the city council’s questions no matter how ridiculous, frivolous or already answered.  My answers will be in bold.

• Council Member Rory Diamond, District 13 

1. How much money do you expect the proposed 1⁄2 cent sales tax to generate over 15 years? Aside from the new proposed sales tax, how much money will the District receive from local property taxes for facilities and maintenance over the next 15 years? What is the total cost of the District’s Master Facilities Plan? Assuming the total collected from the 1⁄2 cent sales tax and local property taxes for facilities and maintenance over the next 15 years exceeds the cost of the District’s Master Facilities Plan, what specifically will be done with the excess funds? Um that’s four questions, or 4 more than I am told you asked about the Landing. The district has said it will raise 1.2 billion dollars, their current budget is online so maybe look at it and multiply by 15. They have this thing called google where I found this, and Florida is 46th in education funding there won’t be money left over.

2. Please provide a breakdown by City Council District as to how much the District will spend in each Council District in the next two years and then in each Council District after the execution of the entire Master Facilities Plan. See the link above as for how much they will spend in each district, they will spend nothing extra if the referendum is not put on the ballot, and Greene has announced it’s safety first for all schools and then based on immediate needs. 

3. Looking at District provided data, since the 2013-14 school year, student enrollment by District managed schools has declined each year by more than 1,000 students. When looking back over the past 10 years, enrollment has declined by over 800 students per year. Yet, the current Master Facilities plan is predicated on an average decline of 268 students per year over the next ten years, and Superintendent Greene stated at the Council Rules Committee on July 16th that there would be no decline in enrollment in District managed schools over the next ten years. First, is the above analysis incorrect and, if so, how is it incorrect? Second, if this analysis is generally correct, how does the District justify these enrollment projections? Third, does the District’s Master Facilities Plan take into account the proposed new IDEA schools? If not, how will the District adjust for these new seats? That’s 4 questions, Greene is looking at the growth of the city when making projections and I would guess the fact the city must be getting closed to be maxed out on charter schools. Furthermore in Manatee County the migration to charters reversed after the referendum was passed.

4. How many total students attended public charter schools in Duval County in 2018-19 and how many attended schools operated by the District (neighborhood schools, magnets, alternative schools, special education centers)? What is the enrollment projection for 2019-20? You know all this is online right? Go to the DCPS site and look it up. It’s hard to believe you are this lazy in your day job. 

5. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, what was the total value of all state and local revenues received for capital projects for schools and facilities directly operated by the district (not including public charter schools)? Included in this total would be proceeds from local capital improvement property taxes, any PECO distributions from the state, and any other state/local tax revenues. What are the specific sources of each of these revenues? Do you expect those revenues from these sources to increase or decrease for the 2019-20 school year? And, by how much? Their budget is online, man come on. The per student allocation went up slightly.  

6. For the 2018-19 fiscal year, what was the total value of all state and local revenues received for capital projects, for Duval’s charter schools? Included in this total would be proceeds from local capital improvement property taxes, any PECO distributions from the state, and any other state/local tax revenues. What are the specific sources of each of these revenues? Do you expect those revenues from these sources to increase or decrease for the 2019-20 school year? And, by how much?  The state allocated 158 millions for charters in PECO funds, zero for public schools. It;s also irrelevant how much money they got to the tax referendum

7. It appears the Duval County School Board (along with others) lobbyied for the passage of HB 7055 that, as you know, allowed Florida school districts to save money on construction costs. After receiving the flexibility that it sought, why does the Duval Master Facility Plan prohibit the ability to leverage the potential cost savings that were sought through HB 7055? Of the $1.9 billion of anticipated spending in the District’s Master Facilities PLan, how much might be saved if the District prudently applied the flexibility offered in HB 7055, and avoided the most costly, inefficient and/or outdated aspects of State Requirements for Educational Facilities? House bill 7055 was a train bill that added a few good things to a bill loaded with bad things. It’s amazing that the city council wants to construct schools on the cheap, do you skimp in your day job? Regardless Greene has said multiple times they would use the new standards when appropriate.

8. In the District’s Master Facility Plan, two brand new schools (New 6-8 at Chaffee Trail, New K-8 at Southeast Duval County) are both estimated to cost precisely $38,677,260. What is the anticipated enrollment capacity at each school, and how were these cost estimates derived? Have you seen this? It would probably answer your legitimate questions, though just so you know it has been online for months.

9. In the Master Facility Plan and in planning documents posted on the OurDuvalSchools website, there are several schools to be constructed for a price of $28,198,000. Sheffield, Southside Estates, Pickett, Pearson, and Livingston all have this price tag (demolition costs may vary for each site, but the core construction costs looks to be $28,198,000 for each). What is the anticipated enrollment capacity at each school, and how were these cost estimates derived? Is this a real question? They base enrollment projections on students who live and attend schools in the area.  The cost is probably what an elementary school of that size is going for.

10. What was the method or formula used to estimate the costs to address facility condition issues at each school? Presumably, the condition of the school, the size of the school and some “cost per student” factor is included? Please explain.  Once again they have had this online for months,

Rory Diamond could have spent ten minutes and googled most of the answers to his questions. He is either lazy or incompetent and sadly he is not alone.

Councilman Al Ferraro thinks the lotto is still a thing

I am going to try and answer all of the city council’s questions no matter how ridiculous, frivolous or already answered.  My answers will be in bold.

• Council Member Al Ferraro, District 2 

1. How much money do you receive from the Florida Lottery? Do you receive any other funding like the lottery? Um what? What has happened to lottery funding is well documented? Asking about the lottery is pretty ignorant and irrelevant at this point. 

2. What has the money been used on? irrelevant, the lottery hasn’t been a real contributor in a decade. 

3. How many administrators per student? List 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010, 2019? Irrelevant, though we see what you are trying to do their, administer shame the district. Since 1980 we have increases in testing, taking care of ESOL and ESE kids and a whole host of mandates from the state. We undoubtedly have more now than we did then.

4. What is the budget for non-teaching staff? What has been spent on non-teaching staff in 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2019? Irrelevant, but since Florida is 46th in education spending you can rest assured it hasn’t been enough.

5. What is the administration’s percent of growth in the last 20 years? Irrelevant and isn’t this the same as question 3?

6. What percentage of the monies from the 1⁄2 cent sales tax would go to charter schools? Money won’t be distributed on a percentage basis but on a needs basis. Isn’t that how it should be distributed.

7. Projection and funding streams don’t line up. Please explain? Probably because one is a projection.

8. Enrollment, where is it going public schools or charter schools? There are multiple projections out there. Do you have access to google or a Times Union subscription?

9. How does the debit service work for or against the city? The city and the district share the same debt service guy, shouldn’t you ask them?

10. What school s will be worked on first and who will be last? Greene has said phase one is safety, phase two will be based on school needs. Don’t worry though there is plenty to pick from.

I almost stopped after he asked questions about the lottery, sadly his questions didn’t get much better.

Scott Wilson asks questions that have been answered over and over again. Shouldn’t we expect more from the city council president?

I am going to try and answer all of the city council’s questions no matter how ridiculous, frivolous or already answered.  My answers will be in bold.

• Council President Scott Wilson, District 4 

1. Can you explain how similar schools have different plans? Why is one a rebuild and another that appears to be in the same or maybe better condition is a rehabilitation? Is the data available to the public? Yes data is available to the public and has been for months. Plans are developed around a schools needs.

2. What data was provided to change the plan from the original plan? The plan is 1,2 billion over fifteen years, that serves 113 thousand children and 14 thousand staff. Details are going to change frequently. Then unlike the city they worked hard to involve the community.

3. Where do you find the funds to operate a campaign to win in November 2019? Do you expect opposition? Yes they expect opposition from you and the civic council. I have a thousand dollars ready to donate but with 70 percent of the city already behind it I think they will be okay.

4. Out of the 20 community meetings were there meetings held in every city council district? Were council members invited to attend the 20 meetings? Individually invited? I couldn’t say but open source reporting says they were. 

5. What city council districts have schools being completely closed? Are the schools being closed due to low enrollment numbers or for other reasons? A plan has already been outlined. This info has been out there for months and I bet most council persons don’t know what all the schools in their districts are.

6. Where schools are being closed down is there a process to notify the community? Will there be public hearings on those changes prior to voter approval? The district has worked diligently to get the public involved or you know the antitheses of what the council does. One hearing about the landing, public comments at the end of meetings after decisions have been made? 

Most of those questions have been answered, repeatedly.  It shouldn’t be the boards responsibility to spoon feed the council.