Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 14 Council Meeting

I’m sorry I did not post after the Council meeting on the 14th, but I left town very early the next morning.  There were two items of interest on the agenda.  The first was the issue terminating the agreement with the developer on the Sapphire Project.  That was a student housing project on Center St. and Hosak.  This project was approved two years ago and never got off the ground due to lack of funding.  The city paid the developer to demo some ghetto apartments that were on the land in question, but funds were never available to start construction.  In the last moments the developer produced a financier to start the project, but it was too little too late.  The Council voted 9-0 to cancel the agreement.  I was never in favor of this project because it allowed 172 students per acre.  I stated at the time that I would not allow 172 dogs in an acre of land much less students.  I was the only no vote as I recall.

The second item was the request by the Athos Academy (Bardin & Bowen Rds) to increase their student count from 1206 to 1416.  The residents were concerned because of the increase in traffic.  I spent 4.5 hrs. watching traffic from 7-8:30 and 3-4:30 on three separate occasions.  I took this issue seriously and came away with the fact that after each green light interval the traffic queues were empty.  I drove the area and found that travel was manageable and acceptable.  So traffic was not the issue for me.  The issue was trustworthiness.  You see the school had an agreement with the city to operate at 1206 students.  They didn’t honor that agreement for one day.  They opened the school with over 1300 students.  At the time of their request they were operating in the 1390 range of students.  So residents were not telling the truth about the traffic and school management didn’t uphold the agreement with the city.  What finally blew me off the fence was a letter from the school’s attorney stating that they were in full compliance with state statutes and only had to comply with certain numbers of teacher to student levels.  The ratios were K-8th grade 1 teacher for 28 students and 9th-12th grade 1 teacher for 34 students.  Now the school employs 78 teachers so if you do the math, the school could go to over 2300 students according to their lawyer and be within the guidelines of the Commissioner of Education’s rules for Charter schools.   In defense of the school, they stated that they would bus any number over 1200 students in an effort to ease traffic concerns.  But since I could not trust them to comply with the 1206 number, I certainly couldn’t trust them to maintain their word concerning the proper number of students to bus.  That is the reason that I voted no on this issue.  The issue was denied 5-4.  When asked how they could regain my trust in the future, I simply stated that they should operate within the confines of the original agreement with the city and readdress it as we see what the impact it is on the community.

Of note also, there was a Reinvestment Zone established for General Motors.  The reason for the RZ is to establish an abatement, should General Motors decide to make an investment of $1.2 billion in the Arlington Plant.  I believe that this abatement will be approved at the next Council meeting, setting the table for GM’s decision.

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