Monday, April 06, 2009

The Wallace Line: Private Funding Sought for Science Center

Not that you didn’t hear about this before . . .

I hate to say it. I really do. No, really I hate to say this thing that I hate to say. The thing that nobody wanted to listen to me about. The thing that . . . oh H-E-double-hockey-sticks . . . I was RIGHT as RAIN about.

In this afternoon’s FortBendNow, out comes David Wallace with the bombshell that I thought would have been delivered in about, oh . . .say, three weeks from now.

“We have had talks with private businesses and institutions that have expressed interest in the possibilities of forming collaborative partnerships to help fund the center. If we could move in that direction, we believe the center could be funded without any need to raise taxes, or take away resources already allocated for other district purposes.”

So let me translate.

In order to fund the construction of the proposed Fort Bend ISD Global Science and Technology Center, the district is looking for external sources and “collaborative partnerships.” That is, the plan is that no public funds will be involved in the construction of this center. No money to buy copy paper, no money to buy textbooks will be used to fund this “Taj Mahal.”

Gee, no kidding.

So my read of Ms. Bhuchar’s comments and cautions to her opponent had some degree of validity after all.

Why, a reader wrote in the comments section to the blog posting in question, would the district construct a “sales pitch” to the public if they already had the funds lined up?

Why indeed. Maybe they didn’t, and the feasibility study was conducted to find out if they would have it. Or maybe the “red herring” was well-played. Who knows what the truth is.

One thing is for sure, with this announcement coming out one month before Election Day rather than one week before, we will all now get to witness how or whether there is a realignment in argument. My question, asked in the previous blog is still timely:

“My question, then, is this: if the funding is found, and the Global Science and Technology Center is planned and built with this private sector funding, is there any further objection to the project? Private sector funds in this case would never be used to buy textbooks, copier paper, or pay salaries of teachers. These funds are donated with the express purpose of seeing this thing gets done.”

So the question remains: is there any further objection to the project?

And if there are now new objections to the project, where were they before?

Are we willing to look a gift horse in the mouth? Even if the gift horse will have to be called the Taj MaSchlumberger? The Fluorapalooza?


Anonymous said...

So, simply speaking, were the taxpayers overreacting without due cause? Particularly, since, now, it has been revealed a "not to worry" attitude should prevail because this will be a privately funded project and so all is well. Do we dare rejoice or should we be suspect? Uhmmmm---I wonder.

Hal said...

No, Anon. Given what has gone on in the past, taxpayers naturally assumed that they would be asked to fund this. What else had they to go on?

So were they overreacting? No, not given the history. But this whole thing simply smelled different, and then given the cryptic comments of Trustee Bhuchar, I suspected there was more to this.

So, again, I ask the question: if this is going to be privately funded, are there still objections to be raised or is it that instead we are simply all going to stand around waiting for the other shoe to drop?

And how long do we wait?

And to what good end?

Anonymous said...

If we can find private funding for a taj majhal, what purpose will it serve. Who will use it?, is it any more functional than before.

You can put perfume on a pig, its still a pig !!!

Hal said...

What do you care, Anon? You and every other taxpayer are not paying for it, now, are you? Since when does anyone care about what goes on day-to-day at Fort Bend ISD? You can say you do and think you mean it but that is just far from the truth, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

"That is, the plan is that no public funds will be involved in the construction of this center. No money to buy copy paper, no money to buy textbooks will be used to fund this “Taj Mahal.” Hal

Actually, they've been saying this all along, that some private-public partnership would take place much like the center built in Virginia beach, but the claims that public bond money won't be touched or that somehow a promise has been made not to touch the fund balance (surplus fund) is false. Not only that the district will have to pick up operating expenses of the facility when/if it is built. They've been very careful not to make such a statement about the funding breakdown half if you've been following the releases. As a matter of fact all that has happened is Jenney punted the ball to Wallace, his side-kick who now is saying almost verbatim the exact same thing Jenny and Sonal have been saying.

AND what about the FBI investigation into the bribes by one of the vendors in another district that the chronicle carried, but no other local sources did? Ethics doesn't count?

AND WHAT WE DON'T HAVE ONCE anyone on the board asking the right question or looking out for the public good in this project. NEXT, we should look at the near 10 million dollar budget deficit and ask ourselves, as Cain, Carreon and Albright have, IS THE TIMING correct. REMEMBER, Jenney came in under a board promising to reduce spending and taxes, but accomplished neither and actually increased our taxes WITH A RECORD BOND PASSAGE IN '07. This bond was marketed by the same special interest insiders that usually pick our board candidates (except this time).

So the question we should be asking is the timing right, why haven't they put this on the ballot for the public to approve, why has Jenney been able to increase spending (and his own salary several times) while representing another position in the open?

The REAL question is: Is the public paying attention to the card tricks? Some are, but many, many aren't.

Oh, btw half, did you see the GREAT news? Cain and Albright garnered the teacher federation endorsements and support (financial and other wise) as well as our group and other local grass-roots organizations (FBISDreform, FBISDWatch, FBISD Justice, FBemployees, CRD, etc.). I guess grass-roots can still have an impact on large district races after all.

Way to go guys/gals! Stop sounding like a neocon HE. You didn't sound that way before the last national elections, but suddenly?

Anonymous said...

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but politicians often lie. As a matter of fact it is very safe for the former mayor to lie because he keeps no real property or cash reserves in his name having been sued quite a few times.

Are we forgetting his history on the council? They created a whole new ethics code after one of his big building projects surfaced with the cities involvement. Kinda funny though watching Hal defend him.

Anonymous said...

If they do indeed get the money from only private sources, why not send it through the education foundation so that it could be used in the classrooms, rather than as another monument poorly timed and executed during crisis? Nothing has changed.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone actually believe that if community members hadn't spoken up that they would be pushing so hard, or at least say they are pushing so hard for private funding?

Hal said...

Note: a commenter here actually left a comment that they submitted to FortBendNow, but crossposted to this site. That won't do. Please restrict your comments to arguments made here.

Doing otherwise is just not polite.

Hal said...

OK I'll take these one at a time.

#5: [too verbose to repost] No, they have not been saying this all along. Matter of fact if you look here you see that the "Wallace Line" (as I call it - anyone get the joke yet?) was set forth "in an apparent attempt to quell continued opposition" over cost of the project.

Ethics count, but is not germane to the discussion. The FBI investigation is a red herring. Argue the matter on its merits. Will science education be served or not?

"why haven't they put this on the ballot for the public to approve." Obviously they haven't because of the "Just say NO to education" crowd out there. Those who find fault with anything to keep their money from going to the education of their kids (or to fulfill their own political agendas).

The FBEF endorsement was a no-brainer. That Glover got a pass surprises no one.

#6 "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but politicians often lie."

If the discussion is going to devolve into "all politicians lie" then we need not continue here, right?

Assume the money comes through for the construction of the thing. Now what do you think?

#7 "If they do indeed get the money from only private sources, why not send it through the education foundation so that it could be used in the classrooms"

Because the deal is to buy and build a "Taj Mahal," not textbooks and toilet paper. If I were going to donate $25 million I would want to have a say in how it is spent.

#8 "Does anyone actually believe that if community members hadn't spoken up that they would be pushing so hard, or at least say they are pushing so hard for private funding?"

Possibly, but I suspect that they already knew how much public outcry there would be. I certainly did and mentioned that to them in my note that I submitted when they were accepting public comment.

Anonymous said...

How could anyone support a project like this during times like these?

Hal said...

Actually, how could anyone not given the notion that private enterprise is giving to the public sector rather than the other way around - a far less common phenomenon during times like these.

Unless . . . unless someone can come up with objections that don't deal with personal political agendas, distrust of all people in politics, or downright cussedness.

These exist, mark my words, but no one has mentioned them. I personally have some reservations on this thing but I intend to keep them between myself and the district, which received them during the public comment period.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why some people don't get it. Jenney at the initial public meeting on this and interviews stated he didn't know how they were going to pay for this but stated that some sort of private-public partnership may be in the offing. Regardless if they contribute 1 or 2 million from private sources that will still leave the BULK coming from either the "fund balance" (surplus from past bond debt) or the 2003 or 2007 bonds (this proposal was not included in either bond proposals the public voted on so in effect they would be "slipping" the bonds--changing their intentions. In effect lying to the public).

NOW half, please bare with me because you conveniently keep ignoring not only the cost to build it, but the impact ongoing operations will have on the "operations budget" which directly impacts teacher and other employee salaries and our property taxes directly (as does the debt service portion of the OP-budget). So yes, even assuming they get the level of support they are claiming, it will have an impact on the district budget and direct instructional needs of our children for YEARS to come.

Please pay attention and stop selectively viewing and publishing responses. That is what totalitarian regimes do and poor editors.

Anonymous said...

I want BOT members who will strive to re-establish priorities.

Why are FBISD coaches the highest paid employees at their respective schools? I know this is not unique to FBISD.

Why did we pay for clothing for coaches? Do we pay for clothing for other teachers? I was at a Little League baseball game and it was a bit chilly for the fans in the stands. Except for the Elkins Baseball Coach's wife who was warm and snug in her Elkins parka.

Hal said...

That is one of the issues that should be discussed, and one of the issues that the feasibility committee should attack. The cost of owning the facility. My guess is that they will use existing staff to support it, but there are costs involved in running it.

And that's how you do it, Anon. Speak to the issues here and not in response to a commenter on another website. That is just poor form.

Oh, and about editing; here are the rules: keep it clean, keep it civil and stay on topic. If you want to see your words on the internet tubes and don't want to follow those simple guidelines, go write your own blog.

And I hope you'll excuse me for not "baring with you."

Thomas_Grudge said...

I'm just a little confused at who is saying what. I know who hal is, but what about the rest of you? Can you all use your real names or are you worried about something?

Hal said...

It's easier for these folks to stay anonymous, Thomas. I would use the Blogger rule that commenters not be anonymous but that would certainly cut down on the comments, and half the sport of running a blog.

Is that your real name, Thomas?

Thomas_Grudge said...

No it isn't, my real name is Bee Grudge, but you'd make fun of me for that one.