Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Code of Conduct - Proposed Changes and Approved Changes

At the last meeting of the full board, we voted (5-1) to make specific amendments to the existing Code of Conduct rather than accept the changes proposed by administration. In the past week, the board has received a few e-mails arguing that we should have adopted the proposed changes. Unfortunately, the description of what happened and why has been incomplete at best, so I am posting my thoughts on making the motion to amend the existing code rather than adopt the administration's proposal. 

The full video of the discussion is on-line, starting c. minute 10:30 on the video clock. If you have seen selected cuts on other blog sites, I suggest that you watch the entire discussion and decide what did or did not happen for yourself:

I also encourage you to read the respective codes. The substantive difference between the proposed new version that was rejected and the modified existing code that was approved and will be in place in August, is the degree to which student and family rights are articulated. The existing code is much more explicit about the right to due process and the steps involved in a suspension or expulsion.

I am particularly concerned that the proposed new version glosses over constitutional protections. Some have argued that they need not be articulated because students are inherently protected by the constitution. Having read many expulsion transcripts over the past five years, I find that students from families with high levels of education and/or the resources to hire a lawyer are indeed protected by the constitution. Students, families, and advocates for students, who are not at those levels of privilege are far less likely to understand their rights and far less likely to be able to defend themselves against the charges. I believe that is a problem. Printing specific rights is not a guarantee of protection, but it is far better than vague language saying that students can talk to an unidentified someone if they think they are being treated unfairly.

The existing code was last revised in the past 3 years, with an eye toward creating consistency in treatment across schools and demographic groups. The board had identified significant disparities in outcomes without guidelines for discipline at the respective levels of offense. Again, the students perceived as "good" kids tended to get breaks and less severe discipline, especially when their parents and lawyers could muster letters of support from prominent members of the community. Students who did not appear, and who had no one appear on their behalf at the hearing, tended to get the harshest punishment. The demographics of those two different outcomes was a serious concern. The current system mitigated, but did not completely eliminate those disparities.

Two years ago, we were asked to give more flexibility to principals and the superintendent in recommending expulsions. Since then, we are again seeing some cases dismissed because the students "didn't understand the seriousness of their actions." Other students, at times with lesser offenses, are recommended for expulsion. Would anyone care to place a wager on the hue and socioeconomic status of each group?

As imperfect as it is, the current system has been a significant step forward in leveling the field when it comes to the most serious levels of discipline. There are elements of the proposed changes that would be a step backward. I wish that I could say that we have not seen shocking disparities in the flexibility that was created two years ago. That is not the case. For that reason, I made the compromise motion to make amendments to fix known problems in the code without adopting the entire package.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

About those property taxes and the MMSD budget gap...

I recently wrote this response to TJ Mertz's blog on the newly-discovered shortfall in state aid to the Madison Metro School District. It places the gap, and the WSJ article on the gap, in perspective. At least it provides my perspective on where we are and what is likely to happen next.

TJ, before you fall into trashing James please be aware that, as is the case with every board member, James learned of the gap from a reporter. Not from the district. He was asked to comment, as was I, and probably every other board member that the reporter could reach, to comment specifically on raising taxes.

With no information on the gap or administration's proposed response, I suspect that James responded the way most of us would. When we voted to set the preliminary budget, the board majority was very concerned about raising taxes above the amount approved in the 2008 referendum. We managed to put positions - notably for Occupational Therapy Assistants - back into the budget despite administration's efforts to use them to solve the budget gap that we knew about. We also managed, as you are well aware, to assure that 4K students in the Allied Drive area will have 4K in their neighborhood. We did both of these things without raising taxes; instead, we made choices about how we use existing resources. I can guarantee you that those solutions did not come from the pollster who offers tax raises without the larger context. But you know that, too.

James' answer reflects that approach, although it is not reflected in the answer that was printed. You can stop bashing him.

When we were setting the preliminary budget (which we received a mind boggling 10 days before we were asked to vote on it), many of us asked questions about the state budget and our level of confidence in the numbers that we were using. We were assured that these were highly vetted and developed numbers. Apparently not so much, but we were not alone in our surprise. It is surprising that the first knowledge that we (board members) had was when a reporter called.

Since then, we have had a good deal of purple prose about what happened. The only option offered was to raise taxes. I suspect that some of us will be looking at a number of alternatives based on staff responses to a survey asking what we could do without and what we absolutely need to succeed. There are some big neon arrows in the frontline responses. None of those are reflected in the budget that administration brought forward. (I note that some board members don't find the line item budget to be very helpful in shaping their opinions; I tend to find the line item budget to be very helpful in thinking through ways to solve real problems like OTA services and K4 that actually reaches our poorest students).

It is reasonable to expect that staff responses to the budget survey of last spring will be reflected in solutions that come from the board as we set the final budget and tax levy in October.

Between now and then, we will we working to get through the smoke and mirrors that were used in the preliminary budget and the dance of the seven veils that we will surely get in administration presentations on the budget. It may be that raising taxes is the truly the only option. But until there has been a full discussion based on verifiable information, I will not be committing to one course of action or another in fixing this hot mess.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Response to the ACLU on Single Sex Charter Schools

Thank you for writing.

Please be advised that there is a companion proposal for a single sex school for girls that will complement the proposal for a single sex school for boys.

While your points are well argued, I respectfully point out that the families
whose children are not being served by Madison schools, don't have the luxury of theoretical arguments about the finer points of law. They need schools where there (sic) children can succeed and be encouraged to produce academic excellence. They needed such schools yesterday and have not succeeded in achieving such schools within the Madison public school system.

For that reason, I will support the Madison Prep proposal as long as district
fiscal liability is limited in the final contract.

At this time, there is no formal or final proposal. Only a preliminary document
and a request for the opportunity to apply to DPI for a planning grant. I will
support the application for a planning grant for the purpose of working out the details and developing a financial plan for the school.

I will do so because the children who the Urban League proposes to serve are real and need real opportunities. The Urban League and its community propose to address those needs. I intend to support such efforts.

Lucy Mathiak

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Might Hope To See in High School Reform

Right now I am struggling to get my head around what the proposed high school reforms are or are not, what problems they are intended to address (TAG? achievement gap? readiness for life after high school? other?), the many interpretations of what is proposed, and whether the proposed reforms would be effective in achieving any of the stated purposes.

In an interesting twist, this process has brought me back to my own personal wish list of what I would like to see in comprehensive high school reform. I believe that any one of the items on the list would make a real difference and in ways that are compatible with DPI requirements and national standards.

My thinking is informed by sources that are predictable and others that may not be obvious but are equally important: personal observation, years of listening at parent meetings and testimony to the school board, numerous national studies and commentaries, and what I have learned from my highly skilled colleagues who work with undergraduate programs at UW-Madison.

In some ways, the debates over the proposed two-strand system, the fate of electives (which I want to keep), consistency across the four high schools, college preparation, national standards, etc., are less important to me than the basic expectations and requirements for the students who enter and graduate from our schools. Without changing those things, I believe that we will be confined to tinkering around the edges without touching some of the fundamental expectations that students will confront after graduation.

I believe that we could make a serious dent in the achievement gap, address long standing dissatisfaction with academic opportunities and challenges, and move toward rebuilding Madison's reputation for schools that draw people to invest in homes in our metro area and neighborhoods by truly making the changes - vs. planning to study and eventually implement changes -  to address the items that are on this list:

1.  Increase opportunities for advanced study at all grade levels, whether it is part of an AP curriculum or other courses developed and taught at a higher level with or without special labels. Then remove the unmovable obstacles that keep students from participating.

This is not rocket science. We have advanced classes with waiting lists every year. It makes no sense to me that the students are on waiting lists to take advanced courses when there are enough students to fill a section. They will be taking an English, or math, or science, or social studies class. There is no extra pay for teaching advanced courses, so why not have the class taught at the highest level when there is demand? What is lost by meeting student need and interest?

Does a label matter? In my experience as a Purgolder parent, there were classes that were not listed as advanced classes but were taught by faculty who delivered advanced content, challenge, and expectation that rivaled and in some cases surpassed classes labeled TAG. There were classes labeled as TAG that delivered an advanced experience (Mr. DuVair's TAG biology was definitely college level work), and others that delivered extra homework at a basic high school level. East's Calculus AB and BC classes do not carry a TAG or Honors designation. But students who complete those courses successfully are well prepared to pass the AP exams and to succeed at the college level.

The point is that it isn't the designation as AP, TAG, IB, or Honors that makes a course advanced. It is the content, expectations, and work of skilled teachers who have a passion for challenging and preparing their students for future work.

2. Restore West's 9th and 10th grade honors courses. 

This is pretty self-explanatory. Embedded honors do not cut it for a sufficient number of students to make it worthwhile to restore courses that were in place until just recently. It just seems a lot easier and less expensive to return to a system that worked rather than spending time and energy researching and then implementing something new.

2. Conform MMSD policy and practice to meet or exceed DPI standards at all grade levels, and particularly in regard to graduation requirements.

Toward the end of Art Rainwater's term as superintendent, I met with a group of social science teachers at East who had a number of curricular concerns. The one that blew my mind was the (correct) observation that board policy and district practice on high school graduation requirements do not meet State Statute 118.33, DPI standards or WI Administrative Code (which are pretty minimal to begin with).

Particularly problematic is the following escape clause in current policy:
"Failure of a required course by a student can be made up through the selection of another course within the same academic discipline."

Although WI Administrative Code specifies the curriculum required to receive a high school degree  and does not provide for substitutions, failure to pass one or more of the minimum academic requirements listed below is no barrier to receiving a degree for MMSD students.

Section PI 18.03, Wis. Admin. Code

PI 18.03 High school graduation standards. (1) COURSE REQUIREMENTS. Beginning September 1, 1988, a board may not grant a high school diploma to any pupil unless the pupil has:

(a) Earned a minimum of 12.5 credits in grades 9 to 12 as follows:
  1. Four credits of English which incorporate instruction in written communication, oral communication, grammar and usage of the English language, and literature.
  2. Three credits of social studies which incorporate instruction in state and local government.
  3. Two credits of mathematics which incorporate instruction in the properties, processes, and symbols of arithmetic and elements of algebra, geometry, and statistics.
  4. Two credits of science which incorporate instruction in the biological sciences and physical sciences.
  5. 1.5 credits of physical education which incorporate instruction in the effects of exercise on the human body,health-related physical fitness, and activities for lifetime use.
(b) Earned, in grades 7 to 12, at least 0.5 credit of health education which incorporates instruction in personal, family, community, and environmental health.
I raised the issue with district administration at that time, the superintendent and assistant superintendent agreed that there is a problem, and assured me that the policies and practices would be reviewed and brought into alignment with state requirements. That has not happened. I have asked for follow up each year since then, without success.  Until that is fixed, students can graduate from our high schools without the basic skill sets envisioned in state policy.

4. Guaranty that ALL middle school math teachers are proficient in algebraic reasoning and other skills necessary to prepare students to master the high school math and science curriculum.

In June 2008, the Board of Education received the report of a Task Force convened to evaluate the math curriculum in MMSD schools. The report recommended several steps to strengthen math education. Of these, Finding 1 came through as mission critical:

Finding 1: The single most important step that the MMSD Board of Education can take in support of improved student achievement in mathematics is to align district goals, policies, and resources in ways that result in a mathematics teacher workforce well prepared in the content of mathematics and in the techniques of teaching mathematics. This issue is especially critical in grades 5 to 8.
The report further states:
The section on Instruction and Teacher Preparation discusses the need for additional mathematics content-based pre-service instruction and in-service professional development for MMSD mathematics teachers. (emphasis added)
The adequacy of teacher preparation is a significant problem that cannot be solved without a substantial investment in mathematics content-based professional development and a change in hiring priorities at the district level.
Supporting and enforcing efforts to implement this recommendation would make a significant difference to all students. Although financial resources have been devoted toward this end, much of the work has been redirected to focus on how to teach rather than addressing the content proficiency called for in the report. As a result, a small number of teachers are participating in the courses developed to address content readiness, but this is far from the committed district engagement required to provide students with the math skills that are foundational to success in high school math and science courses.

5. Teach students to write using complete sentences, correct spelling and standard grammatical conventions.
 There is a lot of variation in the amount of writing required in the array of high school courses available to students. My personal observation includes everything from a teacher who gave assignments designed to help students who would one day take an SAT writing test, to an English composition teacher who showed a lot of movies in class and gave no writing assignments.

Having helped young people work on personal statements for job or college applications, and working in an environment where writing is an underpinning of success, I feel safe in saying that it is impossible to over emphasize writing. With all due respect, the picture drawing and crafts projects will not help someone who must articulate their ideas and their aspirations if they cannot put sentence to paper in clear English.

Indeed, the students who need to learn to read for comprehension and then write coherently about their responses are the students most in need of being encouraged to read a book (rather than offered a book on tape) and then being taught to write. Really write. Not invented writing. Really write. Not spoken word. Words on paper that anyone can understand.

6. Make a compelling case for consistency and then truly implement consistency across the board if that is going to be a rationale for homogenizing the curriculum in our high schools.

The value added by making high schools consistent (read uniform) still hasn't been explained in a compelling manner, so I may be missing something. I note that the district equity policy states that all schools should be equally desirable, not all schools should be identical. If there are issues of consistent standards and quality, then yes, let's address that. But creating the Stepford School District just seems odd in a city as stubbornly individualistic as Madison.

I confess that I am fascinated to learn whether MMSD truly means consistency when it would mean that all high schools would have a planetarium and biotechnology program OR Memorial would lose those special programs. When it means that LaFollette would lose its four block system in order to be consistent with the other schools. And so forth.

The area where I would like to see consistency is in opportunity. A few years back, when East's new principal cut the foreign language program from 3 to 2 languages, I looked into what other schools offer. There is no comparison. The issue was not demand or class size -- the eliminated German program had enrollments comparable to the other high schools. And it is odd that the three other high schools have several languages, including American Sign Language, Latin, Mandarin, and Japanese, while East has Spanish and French.

For families concerned about highly competitive college applications, the lack of opportunity may well be a factor that would make East less desirable than others.

Friday, October 15, 2010

High School Reform

Although I will be posting on other aspects of the high school reform debate, I want to share an e-mail from administration to teachers that has been posted elsewhere on the internet.  Two aspects of the message are striking and require some thought on my part, particularly since I only recently saw the e-mail:

1) The tone seems to contradict the messages delivered in the administration's reorganization plan and elsewhere re. a new emphasis on decision-making processes that include significant input from front-line (e.g. work with students) staff.

2) Nowhere does the message discuss approval by the Board of Education, yet a significant curricular change cannot be implemented (at least openly) without discussion and approval by the board. While some may have forgotten that the board is a legally elected governance body, I fear that I am just that pain in the neck board member who sees that truth as fundamental to the governance process.

So, with those two observations, this is what teachers received in their e-mails:

October 12, 2010
Dear High School Staff:

We are writing to you today to ask you to take a moment to read about something that we think is of vital importance to the district, to meeting the needs of all of our students, and to closing the achievement gap swiftly and surely.

When we embarked on our journey with the Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) grant we knew that we do a great job with many students and we struggle with many others. The achievement gap remains in stark contrast to all of the things that we do so well.

We are saying that now is the time to think anew and differently about these issues. It is crucial that we come to grips with the fact that this gap means so much more than a yearly data comparison. What the continuing gap means, unless directly addressed, is that we will remain party to raising a segment of our population who will not have the skills to pursue adult lives that are self determined.

We currently have an opportunity to effect change that we cannot squander. The $5.2 million dollars given to MMSD through the SLC grant by the U.S. Department of Education has opened the doors to a real discussion about today’s students and tomorrow’s needs. We have taken full advantage of the last two years to talk, learn how to collaborate, and have dipped our toes in the waters of change.
But, we should no longer be lulled by our past successes. We should be made restless and uneasy by our graduation rates, our disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates, and by our state’s first place status nationally in incarceration rates of African American males.

So we are writing to you to inform you that we will undertake a systemic shift in the way we address learning opportunities at the secondary level. (emphasis added) We are asking you to digest a plan that responds to both the accelerated students and those who struggle. We ask that you suspend cynicism of past endeavors that forecast, in your mind, failure, and our tendency to remain static.

We sincerely suggest that this could be everyone’s finest hour.

We have long believed, and still do, that Madison has the capacity needed to eliminate the achievement gap and serve our accelerated students well. We will be sharing details of this idea with you soon, but we wanted to foreshadow that there is a true urgency attached to this conversation.

Your past work as teacher leaders, as innovation team members, and as critical consumers of professional development, will hold you in good stead as we ask you to move into this discussion.

There will be plenty of room for your voice as we move forward, but the parameters will be clear. Educational research clearly shows that true change needs to be systemic and implemented with fidelity. Research also shows that defining student outcomes is the science of teaching. The art of teaching still rests with you, the individual

Dan Nerad Pam Nash
Superintendent Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools

Thursday, October 14, 2010

West - Two Issues in a Perfect Storm

The parent complaint to DPI over MMSD's failure to comply with WI laws on Talented and Gifted education have combined with administration's recent proposal to create more consistency across the four major high schools, to create a perfect storm of controversy at Madison West. Within the past 24 hours, allegations that the proposal eliminates all electives have spawned a number of calls and e-mails to the Board of Education, a FB page (Walk-out Against MMSD School Reform) promoting a student walk out on Friday, and a YouTube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zgjee-GmGI created to protest the elimination of electives.

As a board member, I have a somewhat different take largely because I know that allegations that the proposal to standardize core high school curriculum is not a product of the DPI complaint. Anyone who has watched MMSD operate, would probably agree that nothing is put together that quickly (the complaint is less than a month old), especially when it involves a proposal. 

I also just received the proposal a day or so ago. In full disclosure, I did not take advantage of the briefings conducted for board members who met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent individually or in pairs. I'm a certifiable pain in the neck and thought that any presentations should be made to the board as a whole in an open board or committee meeting, but that is just my issue.) I am just beginning to read and think through what is being proposed, so have no firm opinion yet.

This is what I have said to people who have written. Perhaps it will be of interest to you, too:

Thank you for taking the time to write. I hope that what I am about to say is helpful to your understanding of the proposal and the process as I understand them at this time.

First, the proposed curricular changes are not related to the DPI complaint re. failure to comply with state law on TAG programming.

Earlier this week, I received a copy of a proposal (attached) to establish more consistency in curriculum offerings across the four major high schools. At this time it is only a proposal. It is my understanding that administration would like the board to approve the proposal in November. At this time, board members are asking questions about the document, and specific details regarding what implementation would mean. I have not yet asked my questions, but expect to do so in the next week.

Earlier today, administration indicated that the proposal does not, or is not intended to, alter, standardize, or eliminate electives in any of the high schools.

As I read the proposal, I will be looking closely at that issue. I am the mother of East graduates with very different academic strengths and experiences. Both sons took excellent electives - at times the same classes taught by the same teachers. Both had wonderful experiences and learned a lot. Many of these electives were developed by specific teachers, and taught with particular expertise by those teachers. My personal belief is that our high schools would lose a great deal were those classes to be eliminated.

Again, it is my understanding that electives are to continue and that other parts of the curriculum are the focus of any changes. As I prepare for board decision-making on high school curriculum, I will continue to look at this issue.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two Edgewater TIF votes in One Week? Oy.

On Monday, the MMSD school board will cast the votes that will direct my vote on the Joint Review Board. On Wedneday evening, the Joint Review Board will vote on whether to accept or reject the proposal to expand TID #32 in order to loan $16 million to the proposed Edgewater project.

What IS This Obscure Little Committee?

Called an 'obscure committee' by the Wisconsin State Journal, The Joint Review Board is in fact a legislatively mandated committee that gives all affected taxing authorities a vote on whether to forego property tax revenues in order to invest in TIF projects. (For those of you who want to know more, the Department of Revenue has an on-line manual that is very helpful in explaining everything you would need or want to know about the TIF process.)

The Joint Reveiw Board is composed of: Gary Poulson, former alder and citizen member, chair; David Worzala, Dane County Treasurer representing Dane County, Roger Price, representing MATC, Dean Brasser, City of Madison Comptroller representing the City of Madison, and me, representing Madison Metropolitan School District.

Will the TIF Pass?

TIFs and TIF expansions have typically moved forward with a unanimous vote in support. This time around, anything could happen. While there is intense political pressure to approve the TIF, in a slam dunk process, the proposal has generated mounds of analyses by all sorts of groups, and in the end has created more twists, turns, and spin cycles than Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

This past week, MMSD administration Administration recommended that the Board direct my JRB vote against the TIF Proposal and it is reasonable to expect that the board will vote in this way. Ed Hughes has written about his reasons for casting a reluctant vote to reject the proposal, and my thoughts that the TIF would be a bad deal for Madison's public schools have been on record for some time. There are five other opinions and votes among board members, but it is very possible that the group will come together to direct me "just say no" to expanding TID #32 when the JRB meets on Wednesday.

But the MMSD vote is just one among the five votes cast by members of the Joint Review Board. Whether the other review board members believe that the propsal is a good deal from the perspective of their taxing authorities and constituents will be known on Wednesday.

Why Reject the Proposed Amendment to TID #32? 
Or, the Giant Sucking Sound Coming From the Shores of Lake Mendota

There are many reasons to take a pass on this investment opportunity. The most obvious have to do with the financial impact of deferring tax revenue from the existing and highly successful properties in the district. Adopting the amendment means that the district will stay open longer, and that the taxes on the rising values in those properties will be used to pay off the $16 million loan to the Edgewater project. (The Edgewater project will not generate the revenue to pay back the loan on its own. That is why it cannot be a separate project or an anchor for a project.)

On the eve of the vote, the biggest issue for me relates to proponents claims of increased property values, jobs created, and revenue that will be generated by loaning $16 million to Edgewater.

I believe that credible information has come forward in recent weeks that casts serious doubt on the revenue projections claimed in the developer's documents. That information creates two key problems, that are, for me, consistent with the criteria for deciding the TID and, for me, cast the expansion as a very risky public finance move if it goes forward.

1)Will hotel revenues and property taxes come in at the levels projected in the proposal? Setting aside the questions raised by Edgewater developers' use of projections that are out of whack with any Madison area hotels, Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel, or Kohler's prestigious American Club, we have the cautionary experience of the gap between projections and actual revenues generated through the proposal that helped to finance the Monona Terrace Hilton. According to a recent Cap Times article using research conducted by local resident John Jacobs:
The resolution from 1998 projected tax revenue from the hotel of $536,422 in 2002, increasing to $682,479 in 2009. In reality, the Hilton paid $434,237 in 2002 and $421,899 in 2009, and most recently saw its assessed value drop from $20.4 million in 2009 to $18.8 million for 2010.
In the absence of either numbers that align with the local (or regional premiere) hotel market, or arguments and data that support a case for much higher returns than might be expected locally or nationally, it is hard to believe that the project will yield anything close to the returns that are being promised in the proposal.

2) My second red flag has to do with hotel, occupancy rates, and the impact of occupancy rates on hotel room tax collections and property values for hotels. Simply put, I suspect that adding more hotel rooms to a market that is rumored to be at less than 60% occupancy, could do more harm than good. 

I apologize in advance if I am getting my understandings scrambled. But. To the extent that hotel property values are linked to occupancy rates, lower occupancy creates translate into lower property values. It seems to me, then, that adding hotel rooms in a market that already has more rooms than guests, adds to -- rather than alleviates -- problems of lower occupancy rates.

In my thinking, then, the risk is that adding the hotel rooms creates two related risks: 1) that the Edgewater will have an occupancy rate that is low enough to keep its property values below the levels projected by developers, and, 2) that the refurbished Edgewater will exacerbate low occupancy rates at other hotels, to the extent that it draws guests away from other hotels that already are struggling with low occupancy.

The "If you build it they will come" Phenomenon Is Unlikely to Work Here

I'm still trying to get my head around the argument that we have a critical need for more hotel rooms, especially for the conference and convention market. I know what the recession has done for business travel; as a state employee, I am aware of how budget cuts have gutted travel for government employees. Indeed, there have been times when state employees were prohibited from traveling even when using gift or grant dollars.

So the arguments that we needed a big big luxury hotel to attract conventions didn't quite align with what I've seen, experienced, and heard from friends in the private sector. A recent column by Mike Ivey, also Cap Times, reassured me that I wasn't just a naysayer. Titled, Recession Taking a Toll on Alliant Center, Monona Terrace, the article begins:
Madison's two major convention venues are feeling the pinch of the recession.
Both the Dane County-owned Alliant Energy Center and the city-owned Monona Terrace have seen revenues fall sharply over the past year, forcing officials to juggle their budgets and hold the line on staffing.
 And it gets gloomier from there.

So, What are the Odds...?

In full disclosure, I need to say that I am fiscally cautious. I am not opposed to TIF, and believe it can be and has been a very positive tool for local economic development.

But I also feel the responsibility of choosing wisely on this one. Choosing poorly is more than a little "uh oh" and then you move on. Choosing poorly raises the specter of living with an investment that yields poor returns, takes longer than expected to recover investment costs, and, in this case, possibly yielding unanticipated negative consequences for the local economy.

That doesn't feel very good.

There may be circumstances where such a high risk proposal would look appealing. But this isn't one of them. Maybe one of the people who keeps writing to me about the money that I can help them to recover would like to invest in this one?