Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Will home schooled and private school students benefit from Akron's sewer plan? Watch for yourself.

My first day back to work after a 10-day hiatus .. and thanks to those of you who emailed that you missed "Have I Got News For You". Nice to know my blog is well-received. I've missed writing.

My day consisted of a feature on the Firearms Computer Training program that the Sheriff's Office uses in its training bureau. It's a story that adds depth to how our local police officers train for life-and-death on the street. Since I last worked, we've had the APD shooting of a father-of-12 who was armed outside his home, and we've also had the killing of a Twinsburg officer during a traffic stop. (More on both shootings later this week)

At 1:30 p.m., our desk called to say that Mayor Plusquellic had called a 3 p.m. news conference for a major announcement. Now considering DP had already held one morning news conference, I couldn't understand the need for an encore -- so it was either a developing news story that couldn't wait or it was a topic that couldn't be discussed at the morning news get together.

Turned out to be the latter.

If you haven't yet heard, DP announced today that he intends to put the sewers-for-scholarships plan on the November ballot. The idea is to lease the city sewer system for $200-$400 million dollars that would then be used to pay the college bills of Akron high school grads to attend the U of Akron.

Got that much?

While the city is promising a full menu of details in the coming weeks, the two details DP promised today were as follows:

  1. The ballot language would include a clause that caps what the lessee could charge us for our sewer rates.
  2. The 100 or so employees whose jobs would be flushed would be offered jobs elsewhere within the city at a comparable pay rate.

Now .. there's a zillion questions that follow .. and you should know that the media hit DP with a lot of them ... to the tune of about an hour ... but none of the specifics were released today. Questions like: "what if my child only attends 10th-12th?" or "what if my son wants to take a year off and then begin the program?" still need to be addressed.

I had my handy-dandy mini-cam with me .. so I let it roll as I asked the Mayor about what the plan means to Home School kids .. and to Akron students who attend private high schools.

One media outlet has already reported that only Akron Public High School graduates can use the program .. which is incorrect. Here's what the Mayor actually said about it:

The grassroots group that submitted petitions looking for a charter amendment that requires voting on the sale/lease of any city utility is sure to respond to the proposal .. especially since DP called them "Scarerists" ... as in rhyming with "Terrorists" .. claiming that the group spreads misinformation and wants to scare folks away from the plan.

As a community, it's hard to react until we see the bullet points in the plan. How much will my sewer rate really go up compared to how much benefit we could see as a community? Are we really protected if this leasing company does a crappy job with our crap?

I have a lot of questions on this one .. and hopefully many will be answered in the next few weeks as the campaign strategy moves forward.

And while it may not be perfect, it's good to know that city hall is working "outside the bowl" to find a creative plan that addresses the high cost of education and may also bring more new families to town while creating a landscape to keep Akron's brightest living here for years to come.

So .. let's begin the discussion.


Anonymous said...

Oh poo!! (no pun intended) I do not have sound on my computer and am wondering what DP's comments were about private/homeschooled kids. Can you shed some light?


Village Green said...

There's no such thing as "free" college tuition. Somebody is going to be paying for it. I suspect that it will be we the people. I'd rather keep a public utility system and pay an extra free-college-tuition tax. If that makes me a "scar-er-ist" well too darn bad.

Anonymous said...

Well we might as well continue selling off the assets - what is the difference ? Lots - who will the company answer to ? Voters ? I highly doubt it . Is there that many job openings in Akron or any city ? 100 jobs is alot of vacancies to have . Is the city losing money on the system ? If so then it is the politicians job to right the ship . How will rates be regulated and by who ? How long is the contract and who or how is maintenance to be done and the updating of equipment and who watches over that so they do not whack it up big time ? Collect the money , do minimum repairs and walk away with the money after like 25 years . This is as bright as the ODOT looking into selling the turnpike . By the way I am - zebra69 on the wkyc.com blog list .

Eric Mansfield said...

sorry for your speaker challenges ..

when I asked the Mayor about whether home schooled or private school students will be included, he said that the committee is "working on it" and that he hopes to be able to provide a plan that will make all Akron students happy ..

Now .. I can't really read between the lines on this, but DP certainly elludes to making sure there are $$ for both APS and non-APS students ... whether it's the same percentages, I don't know yet .. but the community should know what was really said on that part because it affects a lot of other families beyond APS ...