As you may have read recently, City Council has been discussing our contract with Waste Connections, the company that has provided your weekly trash pick-up service since 2002. Though their contract still has five years remaining, the company asked council to consider waiving the competitive bid process to give them an additional five years. When … Continue reading Trash Talk
The following, which can be verified online in the FY2000 finalized City of Oak Ridge Budget, provides a brief history of a project that was forced upon our citizens in spite of vehement protest twenty years ago and for which we are still paying heavily. In 1995, the City of Oak Ridge issued $6.2 million … Continue reading The Centennial Golf Course: A Model for Failure
Sixteen years ago, Partners for Progress successfully lobbied the city to spend over $15 million of your (the taxpayer) money to launch a major development on the West End of Oak Ridge. The promises were enough to make people starry eyed. There was to be a picturesque subdivision of nearly 4,000 homes along with an industrial complex that, when … Continue reading Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now
Please consider voting for my friend Anne Garcia Garland for City Council. Though we come from different ends of the political spectrum, Anne and I work very well together to ensure transparency and accountability. I respect her beyond words for being a woman who stands solid on her convictions. You can vote for her with … Continue reading Vote for Garcia Garland for City Council – She won’t sell out
Did you know that most of our local elections have historically been decided by less than 20% of our population? In fact, one of the biggest financial decisions ever made in our city’s history - the high school renovation project - was determined by only 11% (3,198) of our residents. A number of factors have … Continue reading 2014: The Year That Oak Ridgers Take Back Their Government
To the Editor: I misspoke during our August 11th city council meeting and wish to make a public correction. Per a recent article in the Oak Ridger, I stated that “We pay the Chamber of Commerce $275,000 per year, compared to Farragut who pays $7,000 per year to be a member of their chamber.” While … Continue reading Letter to the Editor of the Oak Ridger: Correction of my statement about the Chamber of Commerce
A lot of incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, information has been disseminated to the public regarding the FY2015 city and school budgets. Such inconsistencies compound citizen frustrations as they begin to feel the impact of both bodies’ decisions. I would like to offer some clarification along with supporting resources which are hyperlinked below. First, let me … Continue reading Afterthoughts on the 2015 Budget Discussions
My last in-depth analysis of the school budget was in 2011. It's interesting to see what has changed and what hasn't. You can read for yourself here. Dr. Borchers and Members of the Board of Education: I have reviewed your budget proposals and would like to share my thoughts for consideration in your final deliberations. I … Continue reading 2015 Oak Ridge School Budget Alternatives/Considerations
Mr. Watson, I commend you for your willingness to reduce spending in your formulation of the FY2015 City Budget. This approach is essential to making Oak Ridge more attractive to prospective residents and businesses. As you know, Oak Ridge has the third highest city/county property tax rate in East Tennessee at $4.74. What you may … Continue reading 2015 City Budget Recommendations
Since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Oak Ridge Schools and the Oak Ridge Police Department (ORPD) last August, a number of significant safety improvements have occurred within our schools including physical security upgrades, leadership adjustments and increased police presence. As you may know, this time last year, we had only … Continue reading March 2014 Oak Ridge Schools Safety Update
NOTE: The Oak Ridge City Council will hold a special non-voting meeting on February 27, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at the Municipal Building to discuss the high school debt resolution as well as a request received by the BOE on 2/26/14 to approve an amendment to their annual budget in the amount of $1.75 million. … Continue reading The Oak Ridge High School Debt Chronicles – How a $40 Million Project Will Cost Taxpayers Over $126 Million (So Far)
On September 9th, your City Council will likely vote to approve additional water/sewer rate increases. When combined with the last two increases, the average user’s bill will have spiked 62% in just 34 months. Subsequently, should council adopt the fully proposed schedule through 2019, most residents and businesses will be paying double what they were … Continue reading Why It Will Cost Even More To Flush & What You Can Do About It
I will post the referenced materials (the memo from the chief of police, the FERPA communications and documentation on the ousted principal) shortly. If you are one of the parents, school staff or students, past or present, that has experienced the problems I've referenced, please contact Russel Langley at firstname.lastname@example.org. ---------------------------------------------------- Dr. Borchers, Shortly after the … Continue reading Open Letter to Dr. Bruce Borchers, Oak Ridge Superintendent: Protect Our Students and Teachers
During our May 13th May 16th and May 28th meetings, the Oak Ridge city council will determine your property tax rate for the next year via our annual budget. Our decisions will directly affect your personal finances. Of greater consequence, however, we will establish our city’s competitive position. Currently, Oak Ridge has the third highest property … Continue reading Because Every Penny Counts
THE PROBLEM This month, the Oak Ridge City Council will establish your property tax rate for 2014 via the approval of our annual city budget. And though it appears that taxes will remain flat, our excessive spending levels are unsustainable and continue to hinder our ability to compete with surrounding communities. In spite of all … Continue reading Strategizing a Path to Prosperity
The topic of city council’s work session this month was Economic Development. Since the city manager’s initial presentation to council on the subject in January, the two most heavily funded organizations (of the Economic Diversification Fund) have made multiple attempts to persuade council to continue funding them at nearly the same levels as in the … Continue reading Changing the Game of Economic Development in Oak Ridge: Part 2
Since I first published this article, council has increased sewer/water rates multiple times and is poised to do so again in 2016. To date, rates, on average have increased by over 100% for water and by approximately 135% for sewer. The following has been submitted to all local newspapers for publication: Last month, Oak Ridgers … Continue reading The Rest of the EPA Mandate Story/Final Plea to My Fellow Councilmembers
There’s no nice way to spin it: the results of our city’s bad decisions for the past decade are catching up with us. In addition to having high debt and property taxes, our sales tax revenues continue to decline, we are exporting over $727 million per year in DOE payroll* and we have a comparatively … Continue reading Changing the Game of Economic Development in Oak Ridge
I submitted the following to the Oak Ridge City Council in an effort to explore alternative funding of the EPA mandated changes in our sewer system. Upon learning of an error, I've made a correction regarding ownership of the Chamber of Commerce building. ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT - As suggested by Trina Baughn 1/14/2013 … Continue reading ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT
Both before and after the election, thousands of you shared your thoughts with me about the upcoming vote for our next mayor. And while preferences varied, there was one unifying thought about who should NOT be elected as mayor. Many of you shared your concern that Tom Beehan’s power far exceeds that which is allowed … Continue reading Time for a Leadership Change
As is to be expected during an election, there are false rumors circulating about my candidacy. Given the nature of these rumors and the unfounded fear that some have expressed, I would like to set the record straight. First, I support our schools. So much so that I have fought time and time again to … Continue reading Quashing Rumors
My opponents have repeatedly stated that we have a “revenue problem.” They do not see our debt as a problem and believe that the solution is to simply increase revenue. Translation: They want MORE of your money. The truth is, revenues aren’t down. They are actually up by $55Million for the last 10 years. The … Continue reading Does Oak Ridge Have a Revenue Problem or a Spending Problem?
At under 45 minutes, this month’s city council meeting may have been the shortest meeting they’ve ever held. While it was a nice change from the normal 3 hour meetings, I wonder why council didn’t take the opportunity to discuss anything of significance given our city’s various, not to mention serious, problems. After all, they … Continue reading Twenty Four Years of Payments and Decades More to Go!
The future of Oak Ridge is entirely dependent upon our ability to attract new residents and businesses. To do that, we must first acknowledge an unspoken truth: Outsiders view Oak Ridge as being too expensive. We MUST work to change that. Oak Ridge MUST become competitive. Why do people say that it costs so much … Continue reading How Can We Compete?
My friends over 50 often ask me, “Why won’t more young people get involved in solving our city’s problems?” My friends that are closer to my age often tell me, “Oak Ridge just isn’t what it used to be.” While I hope that people of all ages will read on, I am particularly addressing this … Continue reading To My Fellow Gen X & Y Oak Ridgers
It's been over a week since I originally wrote this and given everything that has occurred since, it seemed inconsequential and I didn't want to bother posting here. But then I think back to the original impetus behind this particular piece and I realize how the current scandal (the principal's mysterious dismissal at WillowBrook 3 … Continue reading Sausage or Haggis?
NOTE: The email from the city manager as well as his proposed resolution that I referenced are included at the end of this post. A majority of council have indicated that they will not approve the resolution that I referenced in the following column/post. This begs the question: Now what? Council should absolutely stand their … Continue reading More of the Same – Column Update, Contact Info and City Manager Letter & Resolution
Last week, the Oak Ridge Board of Education (BOE) chairman, Keys Fillauer, responded to one of my columns that asked of our schools, “Are we getting what we’re paying for?” Rather than address our problems, Mr. Fillauer lamented, “Why would I want to move to a place where all I read is negativity?” Since we … Continue reading Post-Haste
Every year here in the ‘Ridge, we play a little game I like to call, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money!” Around late spring/early summer, the school administration and BOE round up some folks with pitchforks and torches and march down to city hall. They demand that the city give them mo’ money than the … Continue reading $937,091? Pfffft. No Big Whoop.
The front page of the January 25th edition of the Oak Ridger presented an interesting juxtaposition of news. One article informs the public that the Oak Ridge School Board and Administration intends on pushing the city to fund an “emergency capital repair project” in the amount of nearly $700K to fund structural repairs at Woodland … Continue reading Step 1: Get Mad
The following is directed to the Oak Ridge Schools Administration and Board of Education and shared with the citizens of Oak Ridge: In 2004, Oak Ridgers residing in Anderson County generously voted to increase the local sales tax rate from 2.25% to 2.75% in order to fund the high school project. The verbiage of that … Continue reading High School Debt Payment 6 Months Past Due
****Links and contact information integrated within this post and to the left*** December is, by far, my favorite month and this year is no exception. I have many reasons to be excited about Christmas, but I’m also finding many reasons to be excited about the future of Oak Ridge. At times, it’s far too easy … Continue reading Do You See What I See?
You have an outstanding bill of $13,701. It is your household’s share of our city’s debt and for as long as you live in Oak Ridge, it is the minimum you will owe, regardless of any payments made.Unlike you, the City of Oak Ridge (your loan co-signer for nearly $200 million) does not have a … Continue reading Make Payment Payable To
On August 8th, city council unanimously approved a resolution to pay $15,000 to an architectural and engineering firm to study the need for the construction of a new Senior Enrichment Center. The City of Oak Ridge website has a time table posted entitled “Projected Schedule for New Senior Enrichment Center.” According to the Recreation and … Continue reading Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right on Senior Center
This week, city council selected Chuck Hope to fill Tom Hayes’ vacated seat. I applaud Chuck on his win and thank the city for giving me the same opportunity to apply. I share the following statement I made before city council with the public because I intend to expand my focus in the coming year towards … Continue reading Refocusing
Honorable Mayor and Members of the Oak Ridge City Council -I humbly submit my resume for consideration to serve on city council. I am an eleven year resident of Oak Ridge, a qualified voter, a property owner and an active participant in local affairs who is heavily invested in the long-term survival of our city. … Continue reading Statement of Interest in Vacant City Council Seat
For the Oak Ridge schools' 2012 budget, the Board of Education is requesting a 7.32 percent increase in funds from the city, $1,059,171 more than last year.However, it is critical that we maintain, not increase, funding, given the serious state of our economy, our extremely high tax rate, and the overwhelming level of debt we … Continue reading Recommended Adjustments to the OR BOE 2012 Budget
It's that time of year again. I submitted this prior to last night's public forum and was very encouraged to hear some board members took my suggestions, along with others, seriously. Public interest and feedback appears to be at an all time high. That's a very good thing.Oak Ridge School Board Members:With regards to the … Continue reading Proposal for ORSB FY2011 Budget Adjustments
A few years ago, a child was struck by a motorist while crossing the turnpike from Oak Ridge High School. Last year, I monitored that area and observed numerous motorist violations that put students and adults in danger. Frequently, vehicles would come within inches of hitting students. During my 2 month stint in 2007 as … Continue reading Observer LTE on RLCs
On July 14th at 7:00p.m., the OR School Board will vote on extending the superintendent’s contract length and on a possible salary increase. Dr. Bailey was hired in 2002 and his current contract runs through 2012. According to the terms of his contract, the board is under no obligation to act on his contract until … Continue reading Your Attendance and Attention, Please
Early Voting ends Thursday, May 28, 2009 @ Emory Valley Center (for both Roane and Anderson County) 10 am to 6 pm Polling Hours for Election Day, June 2, will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ******************* Having been actively involved in school issues for the last few years, I’ve listened to and studied this … Continue reading Get Out And Vote!
I submitted the following to the ORSB this evening. The formatting isn't as pretty as it should be, but it's been a very long day, so this is what you get.------------------------------------RECOMMENDATIONS Propose that all staff be afforded a 1% pay raise in lieu of a step increase and that the school system forego the $135,000 … Continue reading Proposal for the ORSB FY2010 Budget Adjustments
http://www.oakridger.com/stories/121307/opi_225055606.shtml“Oak Ridge Schools only care about the best of the best.” “Unless you are super intelligent or a superstar on the football team, you are nobody in Oak Ridge Schools.” Have you ever heard statements like these? Have you ever said them yourself? Have you ever had an experience that supported such opinions?Generalized statements like … Continue reading LTE 12-13-07 How well are we meeting the needs of the overall student population?
An hour in the life of an intersectionBetween 7:10a.m. and 8:10a.m. every school morning, about 8 children cross through or walk along the intersection of Robertsville Rd. and Illinois Ave. That number can somewhat vary from morning to morning as there are at least 10 others who cross periodically.During this same hour at this same … Continue reading OCT 11, 07 LTE
Have you got an hour a day to spare? How about an hour a week? O.K. then, 1 hour a month? Call me an idealist, but I believe that’s really about all it would take to solve one of our most pressing problems. I am referring to our children’s safety in route to and from … Continue reading Initial Public Appeal
Because the school funding campaign has already begun with the numerous articles about the need for a new preschool (and you can bet a new administration building will be thrown in again as it was a few years ago), I decided to respond to the articles recently run about how enrollment is up and how … Continue reading Aug 23, 07 LTE (Observer) School Attendance and Spending
It has been said that the details of the Fellner case are of no one’s concern but those directly involved. I beg to differ. Here are just a few folks who have a vested interest in its outcome (aside from the accused and the accusers). Anyone who yelled about the fireworks this year - if … Continue reading Aug 23, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) – Fellner
Should City Council inquire about specifics in the OR School Budget?There have been a lot of public statements made that our City Council has “no business” even looking at, let alone questioning, specific line items in the School Budget. For the life of me, I cannot understand the basis of this belief. Our City Charter … Continue reading Jul 20, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) City Council’s Obligation
After having received a substantial increase in funding from council and having received $1.9 million unexpected dollars from the state’s new BEP plan, the OR School Board still cites insufficient funding for the 2007/2008 school year.On July 11, 2007, the school board held a work session to discuss the $1.9 million BEP funds. Their attached … Continue reading Jul 16, 07 Submission to City Council – BEP Discrepancies
For many years now, the Oak Ridge School Board has requested additional funding from the City Council while inferring that our schools are in jeopardy. While certain members have indicated that they do not desire “to pit one city service against another” year after year, this is exactly what has happened. When council cannot meet … Continue reading Jul 5, 07 LTE (Observer)/Jun 28, 07 Statement to ORSB
With the signing of the new BEP by Gov. Bredeson last week, the OR School Board has indicated that the Oak Ridge Schools will receive $1.9 million additional dollars for FY2008. This amount will more than cover the $140,000 cited shortfall as well as the reinstatement of the bus transportation previously cut to students living … Continue reading Jun 18, 07 LTE (appr) / Email to ORSB RE: Return of Funds to CC
I've sent the following to all members of the school board. I believe I know the answer, but wanted to be certain that I understood correctly. Maybe this is something everyone but me had already understood, but, then again, maybe not. ORSB Members, In my continued quest to understand the budgeting process and thus, participate … Continue reading Jun 3, 07 Email to ORSB – Confirmation of No Intent to Reinstate Transportation in 08
There’s a lot of uncertainty in our city’s future and our struggle to find answers continues. We lack a consensus on what factors are essential to our vitality. I don’t claim to have the answers as to what those factors may be, but I do know that increased taxes and increased debt DO NOT make … Continue reading May 31, 07 LTE (Observer) – The Big Picture – Pre Election
Oak Ridgers you just got played. In a quick phone call to Oak Ridge School Board member, Dan DiGregorio, I asked if the board intended on reinstating the transportation for the 2007/2008 school year that had been cut last year. His response was “No, I just don’t see any way that we could do that … Continue reading May 28, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) Oak Ridgers Get Played
Loudest to be heard at expense of others As an educated, school-supporting, taxpaying citizen of Oak Ridge with children in the Oak Ridge School System, I am voicing my OPPOSITION to the proposed property tax increase to be voted on May 21st. Do I support our schools and our educators? Yes — as I’ve stated … Continue reading May 18, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) Opposition to increased Property Tax
OR CAFÉ did an excellent job of highlighting how excellent our schools are in their recurrent spot in the Oak Ridger last week. However, I fail to see how this meets their goal of promoting informed decisions by citizens and city leaders. Surely they are not crediting money over parent, teacher, and student efforts for … Continue reading Jun 06 LTE (Oak Ridger) 2nd Address to CAFE
My family moved to Oak Ridge 6 years ago in large part because of the excellent school system we’d heard about. Since then, ORSD has met or exceeded our expectations in almost every way. As a parent and a citizen, I appreciate any effort that is made on behalf of children when it comes to … Continue reading Nov 9, 06 LTE (Oak Ridger) – 1st Response to CAFE