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I’ve owned the domain name for a while now, but was pretty happy with the free hosting on WordPress and never bothered setting up the blog at www.beyondrightfield.com .
Having the blog on my own domain allows me to do a lot more with it, like advertising. Yes, I have been asked a couple of times this year about putting up an ad or two on the site and one day may actually do that, especially with the school board and fall elections coming up.
It also allows me to customize the site easier, although I’m not sure how much more of that I will do.
When I was young, my dad worked three, sometimes four jobs so he could feed his wife and 5 kids. We didn’t know we were poor until years later. My mom to this day can pinch two nickels together and come up with a quarter, a feat that still impresses me. While my mom and dad aren’t rich by any means, they are very comfortable in their retirement. When it comes to her kids or grandkids, my mom will splurge and not care of the costs, but if she is buying something for herself…watch out, she’ll dicker with the salesman at Walmart if you give her the chance.
The City of Keller has almost $9,000,000 in the bank, but yet they refuse to use some of that money to offset the TIF. They have departments that could be cut and not cause service reductions, but they choose not to do it. Instead, they insist on refinancing some of the bonds on the TIF at a overall cost of nearly $3,000,000. They need to take a lesson from my mother. Just because they have the option, doesn’t mean they need to continue with this plan.
Jim Carson and I considered putting forth a petition effort, to let the citizens of Keller have a voice on this issue. The City Attorney rendered a decision that Keller didn’t have to consider a petition effort in this case, and a long conversation with the AG’s office led us down a similar path. While other lawyers have told us they believe both the City Attorney and the AG’s office are wrong, it would cost us at least $15,000 to take the City to court to enforce the petition. A sum that neither of are willing to spend.
In the end, it is another example of what my mother calls the Cool Hand Luke Syndrome. I fight against the powers that be, because they are the power, only to lose in the end. Randy Leake, a commenter on this blog and a friend believes that our effort has helped to open the eyes of some Council members to the fact that serious cuts to the budget need to happen. A victory of sorts, but still a losing battle.
I guess I will never give up the fight, never be able to just live my life with the apathy that is so much a part of our society. Some days I wish I didn’t feel the need to read the paper or the blogs, that I would be such a happier person if I was oblivious to what goes on around me. Maybe one day when I retire to an island in the South Pacific, but not anytime soon.
And for those of you who have asked, my dad’s health continues to improve. He has a release date of April 29th from the Hospital. They are working him hard in rehab every day and he is regaining his strength in his left side. He continues to be in great spirits and has started a complete reorganization of the Rehab Unit….well, he’s at least trying.
I’m behind trying to get stuff done at the office so I can get out of here and head north, so I will repost a blog article I wrote about him last year. Happy Birthday man, see you tomorrow.
I am one of five boys, all of us have very different personalities and talents. I’ve written in passing about my oldest brother Rich who is the publisher of a blog and daily column entitled Capitolfax. He also has a weekly column that is in over 150 newspapers and another column in the Chicago Sun Times. The subject of his writing is Illinois Politics and he is an expert on the subject. When one of the Chicago TV stations needs to bring in a talking head to explain what is going on in Springfield, they usually call my brother.
But, he still is my brother. I see him in a different light than most people, I remember him as a kid, as a college roomate and during his years when he struggled to make a living. I moved away from Illinois while I was a very young man and don’t get to see my family or spend quality time with them as often as I should. A couple of weekends ago as you readers know, he invited me to come to Chicago and watch a Sox/Rangers game. He belongs to an organization that owns a block of tickets behind home plate at Cellular One Park and he bid for the tickets in the first round of their yearly auction to make sure we had good seats.
He picked me up from the airport and had a few words to say as I was decked out in my Rangers gear, saying that he wouldn’t protect me from the throngs of Sox fans. I laughed knowing we weren’t sitting in the outfield and the people that tend to sit behind home plate aren’t usually the ones to hit you in the back of the head with a beer bottle. It was a great game, Danks vs. Millwood. Great pitching, good defense and a fast moving game on a night that would be considered winter for my thin blooded body.
It was after the game that prompted me to write this entry. We headed downtown Chicago to the Hyatt Regency to sit in what they call the Big Bar to watch the Blackhawks Hockey game and talk politics with a couple of his friends. He invited three Republicans to come meet us, I guess because he felt I would have a better time with them than the Democrats he is known to pal around with. My brother isn’t the lefty he once was, you know, paying taxes and all that has changed him a little, but he is far from a card carrying Republican. He has become very balanced in his writing and some of the big shot Democrats in the state would tell you he has to be a right winger because of some of his columns.
So here we were, sitting in a bar with three very influential Republicans in the State of Illinois talking politics (Yes, I am aware, there are only 12 Republicans in the state). The topic was the upcoming Senate Campaign for Obama’s old seat, and whether or not this particular candidate would run for the Republicans, and who would run on the Democratic side. The conversations were completely off the record, so I can’t go into what was said, but it was fascinating to say the least.
The deference given to my brother made me chuckle at times, because, you know….he is still just my brother. While he was away from the table I was telling the story about how all my brother’s names begin with the letter “D”…..and one of the participants stated the obvious…my brother’s name is Rich. I had to explain to them that yes, his given name is Richard after my father, but as a kid he was Dickie.
No matter how much of a big shot he is today or will become after he writes his Blagojevich book, when he goes back to Clifton, Illinois to visit family, he will always be Dickie.
This was sent out to all KISD employees. Thanks to the reader that sent it along:
Subject: MESSAGE FROM DR. V REGARDING BUDGET ISSUES
To my fellow Keller ISD employees,
Welcome back from Spring Break! I hope you all had a safe and relaxing week off and are ready to get back to the home stretch of the 2009-10 school year. I know these last two months make up what is typically the busiest time of the year, but remember it’s also a very important time of the year with TAKS testing, end-of-the-year events, and trying to squeeze every last bit of knowledge into the heads of our students before they head out for the long summer break.
While most of us are focusing on wrapping up this year, many administrators as well as our Board of Trustees are already focused on the following school year. Of particular importance this time of year is the process of putting together next year’s budget. This process is always a precarious one, but as you all well know, the past few years have been some of the most difficult financial years our school district has ever faced. This year is certainly no different.
We continue to spend less per student than all but one of the 33 districts in the State of Texas that are comparative in size to ours. In fact, an independent study of the 200 largest districts in Texas found that we are the 12th most efficiently managed, meaning we do more with less than just about any other district in the state. This is certainly a credit to our exceptional faculty and staff and the support of our parents and the community to go above and beyond to educate KISD students.
Unfortunately, as the costs of doing business continue to rise, we continue to get the same state funding per student ($4,823) that we have for the past four years due to the target revenue put in place by the State Legislature in 2005. Though this legislative action has caused problems for responsible districts like us that have a history of efficient spending, the solution does not lie with the State government. The State of Texas is already looking at a budget gap of $11 billion with only $10 billion available in its rainy day fund, and all State agencies have been asked to cut 5% from their budgets. Needless to say, we won’t be getting any additional funds from the State any time soon.
Keller ISD administrators and I are currently working with the Board of Trustees to consider all possible solutions to our upcoming budget issues. Among these is a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) which would allow the Board to ask voters to raise the district’s maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate from the fixed $1.04 per $100 in appraised home value up to the statutory maximum of $1.17. An increase to the statutory maximum would provide approximately $16 million in new revenue for the district and would solve any deficit budget issues for at least 2 or 3 years.
Without the TRE we could continue to make budget cuts. Budget projections show that right now we’re facing an $8 million shortfall in addition to maintaining all the reductions from the past two years and with no salary or benefit adjustments for 2010-11 included. This would mark the third consecutive year of making dramatic cuts, as we continue to grow and as costs continue to rise.
An additional option to address our financial issues is the possibility of the Board declaring a financial exigency which would facilitate a reduction in force (RIF). This would allow the district to reduce the district workforce if necessary.
No final decisions have been made at this point, but everything is a possibility and I wanted to make you aware of some things that may be coming in the near future. Know that you have a district administration and a Board that supports you and believes you are doing a great job educating our students at levels higher than ever. While we all have to look ahead to the coming year, it is my hope that all of you will remain focused on our district’s mission: The community of Keller ISD will educate our students to achieve their highest standards of performance by engaging them in exceptional opportunities.
Dr. James Veitenheimer
Keller ISD Superintendent
I’ve gotten a few emails and text messages asking about my dad, so I thought I’d give an update on the blog. He is home from the hospital but failed his driving evaluation. He will begin physical therapy in the next couple of days and has a lot of work to do to get back to dancing around the room
It will be news to them when they read this but I may drop in on them this weekend. I have a trip I need to make to KCMO to bring some materials to a job and will more than likely continue the trek north to see him. I may then go spend a few hours with 89 year old mother who has moved back to her little house from the nursing home. More than likely about 2000 miles of driving in three days, but I’m young enough to pull it off.
Last night I attended the City Council Meeting, well…some of it. I sat in the hall most of the night as there was three other P&Z Members at the meeting watching the KISD Bus Barn presentation. As I was the one that got the evil eye from the City Attorney, I waited patiently outside so I could give my presentation on the TIF. I knew it was a very uphill battle to convince the Council to see things my way as they had their minds made up. Councilman Holmes did invite me up afterwards to clarify a few things and it turned into a mini debate and I think I handled it well. The Council did end up voting to refinance the bonds and, in my opinion throw $2.7 million down the crapper.
Councilman Thompson took issue with my use of the word immoral on a reply here on the blog to Randy Leake. If you didn’t follow the blog, you wouldn’t know who he was directing it at, but it was pretty evident to me.
im·moral (i môr′əl)
I disagree with Councilman Thompson. I do and will continue to have an opinion that throwing $2.7 million of taxpayer money down the toilet so you don’t have to make serious cuts to a governmental budget is immoral. Councilman Cawthra also lectured the citizens on how it was OK to refinance your house to pay for such things as your car payment or other bill as an analogy to justify his vote in favor of the refinance. Doesn’t he read the paper or watch the news? This is the same behavior that put our country in the financial situation we are in and I thought he was in finance. Councilmen Brown and Baker I believe have a firm grasp that hard decisions on staffing levels will need to be addressed going forward. I don’t know how much support they will gain from the other council members when it comes to layoffs, but I think they went a long way towards convincing Councilman Holmes. I think Thompson will never agree to it, as he made a statement that layoffs equal service reduction.
The City Manager made a statement that was a little over the top. He stated that this council in the last two years has held the line on spending by passing budgets that had the smallest increase in spending in the history of Keller. I just so happened to be sitting next to a former City Councilman from the early 90’s that informed me that there was a two year period in Keller during the time he served that they actually cut spending. Compare that to an increase of 3.6% in 2008-09 and a 0% increase in 2009-10. That’s why it is dangerous to use such phrases as “in the history.” I realize that the City Manager was trying to deflect some of my remarks about the out of control spending in Keller over the last decade and a half, but I know I could easily pull budgets from previous recessions in Keller and show multiple years of budget cuts. The late eighties in Texas massacred City Budgets, large and small. What is happening today in California and Florida are the same things that happened in Texas during that time period. We saw actual large drops in residential and commercial real estate values and it killed city budgets.
It became very apparent to me and anybody that watched the meeting of the fact that the Council put the cart before the horse by approving this refinance before they even started to work on this year’s budget.
On another note, the citizens from the neighborhoods affected by the gentleman that cut the top off his hill to build a playground showed up during persons to be heard. Let me tell you, they were heard loud and clear. They called the City Council out for not responding to multiple emails to them and to the nearly packed house you could sense the discomfort of our elected leaders. I think in the future that they will not be ignored as they have been the last four months. If they are, I was told by one resident that they would continue to come back and address the issues in public for all to see. Good for them.
When it comes to Baseball, I got word from Terry Barker through a text message that the Indians got whipped last night by Grapevine. Seems they allowed 8 runs in the first inning and fought from behind all night ending up losing 11-8. I was hoping that the meeting would be short enough to catch the end of the game, but it was midnight when I finally left for home last night.
On a positive note, I did get to meet the new reporter for the Keller Citizen. She informed me that they are still reading the blog over there and using the site for story ideas and to feel the pulse of the City.
I’m operating on about 2 ½ hours sleep this morning, so if this is rambling, I apologize. My second cup of coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.