Sunday, March 22, 2015

Boundary Adjustment Sense and Nonsense

At Tuesday's school board meeting, board member Glenn Miller presented the case for exchanging some land with the Beaverton School District. This was based on the recognition that through oddities of historical chance, our district serves land that is adjacent to highly developed areas of Beaverton, but miles away from major population concentrations in Hillsboro. In contrast, another area near the Beaverton/Hillsboro border is owned by BSD but adjacent to land we just purchased for a new school. It seemed to me like a sensible and reasoned proposal that could save us significant money in the long run.   But due to the fact that Glenn discussed it outside the meeting with a local developer, Ed Bartholemy, and with the county commission chair, Andy Duyck, fellow school board member Janeen Sollman accused Glenn of some kind of ethics violation. This charge was unwarrented, ridiculous, and utterly offensive.  Why do I say this?

First, anyone can meet with Glenn, and he has been continually accessible to everyone in the community.  You know what it takes to get a meeting with Glenn? One email or phone call. If you have substantial information that invalidates the argument for the land exchange, talk to him yourself! Janeen tried to paint this as some kind of secret backdoor access for Mr. Bartholemy, when in fact any concerned citizen can bring this up with Glenn. (By the way, her implication that Mr Bartholemy gave Glenn a campaign donation was incorrect: Glenn's campaign was primarily financed by several thousand dollars out of his own pocket .)

Second, as a member of the Long Range Planning subcommittee, Glenn is directly responsible for researching and discussing district planning issues between regular board meetings. The mere existence of this subcommittee indicates that such discussions are expected. And personally, with the regular meeting agendas being fully packed, I am very grateful to Glenn for taking so much of his personal time to research these issues offline before bringing concrete proposals to the main meetings.

Third, in cases where other districts or government bodies are impacted, it makes perfect sense to have offline discussions with members of those bodies.  Sure, when it comes time for details of a concrete proposal, each body will have its formal discussions and votes. But without such preliminary chats to feel out the feasibility, it is possible that lots of public meeting time will be wasted on one board when the issue is a non-starter on another.

In short, Glenn has sacrificed many hours of his own time to do preliminary research on an important planning issue, one which is controversial but, if carefully handled, could result in millions of long-term dollars ending up in our classrooms instead of in transportation expenses. Yes, a particular developer might have an interest here, but he has been given no more access to board members than every citizen in the community has. Rather than slinging mud at Glenn, we should be praising his diligence and personal sacrifice, which may very well result in significant gains for the education of Hillsboro's children.

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure: the Washington County Business Council, of which Mr Bartholemy is a member, did donate to my 2013 campaign. However, I was on record supporting the boundary change long before thar.