Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Redstone Room Promise Meeting (Part 1)

I attended the QCTimes debate on the Davenport Promise last night, and came away fairly disappointed. I was disappointed in the format, which Mark Ridolfi admitted was more like an editorial board interview. I understand that they don't want it to turn into a screaming anti-Promise mob, but I would have liked to see more of the written-down-and-submitted questions read by the moderator. The other thing I was disappointed in was the quality of both sides' representatives. Ken Croken is a little too snarky, and Mark Nelson said some completely bizarre things. Unfortunately for the Pro-promise side, Croken didn't really capitalize on those. Another odd thing was how much Mark Nelson referred to the UpJohn study as a source despite frequently saying that it was junk. If you say something is worthless, don't constantly quote pieces of it that happen to support your side.

The main problem with the anti-Promise folks is that they're being led by a band of Libertarians. I have nothing against that party, but of course Libertarians would oppose an expansion of government! A lot of them, even possibly their hero Ron Paul, would like to see public schools go away altogether, so having them argue the against side put a spin on things that I don't think fits the population. The fact is Davenport does not elect a lot of Libertarians, so I would suspect that that isn't what the public wants right now. If we wanted to be Texas, and have lower taxes and fewer services, we'd vote in that direction. It doesn't seem that we do. I know I don't. At one point Mark Nelson said that if this was passed, the people would like it too much to ever vote to get rid of it. What??

Many times during the debate, Mark Nelson showed that he really could care less what happens to Davenport public schools. At one point he pointed out how nice our private and parochial schools are. That's great (actually I don't think they are) if you've got parents willing to send you to those, but many students do not. I guess in the market-based system that they're just out of luck.The absolute worst thing that Nelson said all night was that taking money from the "city pocket" to help the "school district pocket" doesn't make sense. He flat out said they never relate to each other. I'm sorry Mark, but they absolutely relate when the tax bill comes and they're both on there. Let's say the city passes this, and as he so often repeated, it never "breaks even" for the city. If the Promise brings in enough students that the school district stops raising their share of the property tax, that would more than even out the money that the city loses. The school district gets a much bigger share of our property taxes than the city, and will have to keep raising them if enrollment continues declining. Even if you send your kids to Assumption you have to pay for Davenport public schools.

There ARE reasons to oppose the Promise. I have serious concerns about the capital projects that will be delayed, even if it only affects Centennial Park and Prairie Heights Park. I don't like the idea that we're trading something that I believe in, city parks, for something that is a risk, the Promise. I'd honestly rather see an additional 0.3% sales tax used for the Promise than to have it taken away from the capital budget. Of course, considering how much resistance this has hit, I can only imagine the reaction to a new tax. The other thing that I could use against the Promise is their completely screwed up study that they had done. It ended up hurting the Promise's case more than helping it. Whether it was skewed towards the city's desires, or just badly done, the idea that the city is going to fail without the Promise is wrong. However, the idea that the Promise is going to ruin the city is also wrong. I would have preferred to see a non-Libertarian argue against the Promise based on the actual issues, rather than their ideological beliefs that the government shouldn't do anything. At the end of the night, I felt like, "If this is the best you guys can do to argue against it, this thing might pass after all."

Coming later: What happened when Opt4Better was asked what "better" is. Also, Bill Lynn the "expert economist", and the No folks conspiracy theories.


Pho3niX said...

QCI - Thanks for the post. I agree that Mr. Croken is probably not the best Promise champion... I think any of the several dozen parents that have voiced their support at recent ward meetings would have more impact on the fence-sitters... if, as you point out, there are really any left.

Unrelated, but FYI - St. Ambrose is having a meeting Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Rogalski Center for their neighborhood. Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

QCI-It comes down to your point of the 3% tax raise for the program. There are people such as you who are for raising taxes for things other the basic city services. And those of us who do not want taxes raised for theses things. (Or in the case of the promise, capital projects cut). I could move to Chicago, pay very high taxes and have lots of nice things. But I prefer to live here and have basic services. It is a philosophical difference.I make a very good salary and spend my money here. Why do 'tax raisers' want to dive me & my money out of town?

Anonymous said...

Most of us can't afford to move to Chicago even if we wanted to, and we'd like to have the best quality of life possible, especially when it comes to the education of our children.

QCI's right: why is anyone shocked that a Libertarian group is leading the charge against this? Philosophically, they wouldn't Libertarians if they didn't!

The real question is how likely is it that their point of view is shared by the majority of a widely Democratic community.

QCI makes an excellent observation of how odd it is that the "No" group often cites the study they claim to be irrelevant to support their own argument. HUH? Are you kidding me?

To me, the Promise is worth trying because even in the worst case scenario, you end up reversing it some day, yet thousands of kids were able to attain a greater education. Boo-hoo. Lesser things have had more money poured in to them.

It's worth a shot. Not only could it be a good economic booster, but it's a chance to give our kids another advantage in what's becoming an increasingly difficult world to be competitive in.

That's worth investing in to me.

Tory said...

I wanted to weigh in on here with a mea culpa about part of the story (there will also be a correction in the Quad-City Times Thursday). In a section about whether the program will pay for itself, I fully intended to paraphrase Croken saying that Finance Director Guard's spread sheet indicated it would be paid for in 7 years. However, in the course of editing that sentence to add in the part about Guard's 20 years of experience with the city, I (stupidly) also changed the 7 to a 20.

Also, regarding anonymous at 8:42 a.m. - the program as presented does NOT include any tax increase. It includes a re-allocation of an existing tax. The city administrator has said it will be able to continue increased infrastructure development even if Promise passes. Nelson countered that governments break those types of promises routinely and cannot be trusted to not raise taxes elsewhere.

As both speakers at the event last night said, it now up to voters to decide who is more credible.

pioneer98 said...

One thing I wish people would understand: no one is ever in favor of raising taxes, but if Davenport continues to lose students and population, then taxes are going to have to be raised to maintain the same level of services no matter what. I hope QCI is right that the city of Davenport can grow even without the Promise.

I've also run into anti-Promise people who say that the Upjohn study is garbage, but then cherry pick a few facts from it that they agree with. It's kind of funny and sad. "The whole study is garbage! Oh, except for this...and this...and that..."

Anonymous said...

I look at this from a different perspective. I should say that I don't consider myself an "againster" by any means, and that my opinions usually parallel QCI's fairly closely. Also, I'm a big proponent of education-- I don't think it gets nearly the attention it deserves, and I feel that teachers should be paid more for their efforts. Who doesn't want the best and brightest teaching their kids?

All that being said, my instinct tells me that this is a losing proposition. For one thing, I can't escape the logic that parents should be responsible for their kids' college educations. It wouldn't kill me if the Promise were adopted; as a single taxpayer who lives within his means I'm pretty much used to subsidizing other people's kids and bailing out whatever entity needs bailing out this week. So I'm used to that.

What disturbs me is that this has been tried exactly nowhere else in the country (Kalamazoo has private participation). So I'm left with one of the following two conclusions: 1.) Davenport's city administrator has devised a forward-thinking and ingenious method to grow the population that no other city has had the audacity or sagacity to attempt, or 2.) Other municipalities know/sense/realize/fear something about this type of scheme that seems to have escaped the notice of our bumbling city administrator. Applying Ockham's Razor to this dilemma, it seems clear that other cities have not done this for a reason...a reason that Craig has apparently failed to grasp. And if the Promise does fail, it's quite likely that he would be long gone before we knew that it was a failure, thus escaping any accountability.

I could certainly be wrong, and I'm sure I'm not as well read as QCI and others on the particulars of this program. I'd be the first to admit it hasn't been high on my priority list. It just seems to me that if you want to have people move to your city, you should probably concentrate on the more fundamental issues like decent infrastructure and reducing crime. Frankly, if someone were to move here based solely (or even largely) on the basis of a free college education for their kids, I'd be a little concerned about whether that were the type of people we were looking to attract.

Anonymous said...

Do Pioneer or QCI consider that their talking points for supporting the promise mirror exactly the propaganda that has been released by its sponsors?
No critical thinking ability

QuadCityImages said...

It makes sense that each side would end up using similar arguments, because they're the best ones for each side. However, I disagree that I don't have any arguments of my own, considering that I haven't heard anyone else questioning why its ok for taxpayers to fund 12th grade but arbitrarily not ok to fund 13th grade.

Anonymous said...

Half to admit that I'm a bit selfish when it comes to Davenport's tax monies. Doesn't it seem odd that those folks that take their children out of Davenport schools like Malin has chosen to do, ship them to Bettendorf and PV also will gain from this? It is my understanding that the schools receive $5500. per student in state money yet those kids at North Scott (Dav Pub School System) and those from Buffalo, Blue Grass and other surrounding areas that choose to send their kids to West are not included. That's lost money to our schools! Smells fishy.

This all should be handled at the state level with a small percentage of state taxes taken from your tax return banked for those kids attending all public and private schools in Iowa. The amount covered would be pro-rated to the school years attended. Heck, nobody would know the difference, just a little bit less back on your return.

I would feel a bit more comfortable voting if the Promise was slanted more towards those attending Davenport schools.

Anonymous said...

You support the davenport promise based on your acceptance of the conclusions from the Upjohn Institute study. That study has been rightly questioned about serious gaps in its methodology and reasoning. You have yet to offer a good rebuttal as to why you think the study is credible and as to why you support its conclusions. In short you have failed to convincingly explain your own arguments as to why you think the Promise is a good idea. So yes, I am concerned that you don't have any arguments of your own.
As to your statement, "considering that I haven't heard anyone else questioning why its ok for taxpayers to fund 12th grade but arbitrarily not ok to fund 13th grade," I would respond that this statement by itself does not constitute an argument.

QuadCityImages said...

I do not take anything from that study. I highly doubt you can find a quote from me using any figures from the study. I probably put as much trust in it as you do.

I like the Promise program because it makes sense to me. I do think the Promise would attract some new residents, because that seems like common sense to me. If someone is trying to decide between Cedar Rapids, Rockford and the QC, and we have free college, and they don't... I think we win. I do accept the figures that our school district has lost students over the last several years, so it seems obvious we have room to take in new students.

My issue with the 12th - 13th grade barrier is that people are making too big of a deal over moving an arbitrary line. I don't see regular letters to the editor from people complaining about having to pay for other people's kids to go to high school, yet with college its a big deal for some reason. Fifty years ago high school wasn't the norm like it is today, but over the years it became accepted that kids needed to finish high school. Now its becoming accepted that kids need to finish college, yet its funded entirely differently.

Anonymous said...

Dear QCI,

Schools of Urban and Regional planning exist because things like the Promise are actually not able to be understood by simple "common sense" reasoning. There is no credible evidence to suggest that the program will do what it says it will. There are a lot of other incentives/disincentives out there for potential migrants to the city, college tuition may not be the deciding factor for the numbers identified in the Upjohn study. The study, relying as it does upon rational choice economic theory (libertarian economics) does little to explore these other incentives, it is by many standards a travesty of scholarship. Its methodology is crudely based on comparisons with other communities whose similarities to our own have not been properly investigated. Its epistemology relies upon a dilettantish understanding of rational choice economics, and does little to question the applicability of that theory. Whether the promise will actually end up attracting folks to Davenport is far from certain. Without a good study we don't know.

I am not arguing that we as a society should not fund college education for our children. I agree that a BA has in many ways replaced the high school diploma. However, that is not the question before voters. The issue of free education is best debated at the level of the state government, the entity that provides that education, not the city.

What we are being asked to decide is if the city should fund college scholarships as an economic development tool. Whether this is a good investment is at this point unknown. Certainly we are hemorrhaging children from our schools at an alarming rate. But is this the right solution? Alternative programs have neither been researched or proposed; a shortcoming which is a travesty of the democratic process, and indicative of the opacity of the decision making process of those setting the agenda.

City staff have clearly not been entirely forthcoming about the long term effects of the program upon budgeting. If the Upjohn study is wrong, the serious temporary shortfalls in tax revenue may never be recouped. Even now, at a time of catastrophically low sales tax income the proposed reallocation may not be enough to fund the program as it has been proposed.

These are all serious issues that have not been duly vetted by the Promise proponents. I find it irresponsible to proceed with such a serious realignment of our city's revenue sources without proper diligence.

Sincerely, your anonymous antagonist,
John McCluskey

Anonymous said...

If a person is choosing between Cedar Rapids, QC, or Rockford, they will go where the jobs are. Until Davenport and the surrounding region start attracting good-paying jobs, this area will always lag behind in population growth no matter how many socialized freebies might be offered. Responsible adults just aren't going to uproot their family and move to Davenport without a job so they can score free college for their children. They need a job FIRST to move here, and many people who already call this area home are having difficulties finding work. To date, I've not seen one valid explanation on how Promise will create and retain brand new lucrative jobs for the Davenport area. Merely having a few thousand people move here for a government handout is not a sure-fire means to create decent employment opportunities.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the last poster. If the jobs in Davenport are nonexistent who are we going to attract. Many of the major companies in the Quad Cities are laying people off. In the country we're on a downward spiral. Until the economy gets better I don't see how the promise program could work. First and foremost we need good paying jobs to attract families that will pay taxes. Unfortunately the only people I see that would be moving to Davenport are low income. That means there would be more of a tax burden on our area, not new tax payers.

QuadCityImages said...

John @ 10:24,

While I agree that the UpJohn study is flawed, I don't know that I would put much trust in any study of this issue. There are far too many variables involved in whether the Promise would be the tipping point that would convince them to move to Davenport. Aside from a large-scale survey of people across the country and across all demographics, I don't believe that cost benefit analysis can predict people's reaction to this idea relative to their preconceptions of the Quad City area. Looking at Kalamazoo's data is applicable in my opinion, because the funding source shouldn't vastly change the results of the program. Still though, they beat us to this, and I would imagine there would be diminishing returns for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th versions of the Promise. Its a risk, and I accept that. Sometimes risk have to be taken.

To the previous 2 posters,
You would be surprised how many young professionals pick a place to live first, and then find a job. Many in-demand careers allow this, especially the medical industry. If you go to's forums there are hundreds of threads started by people trying to decide what city to settle in. Many of them are looking for a place to LOOK for a job. Despite all the doom and gloom, Davenport does have jobs. Our unemployment is lower than much of the country, so it shouldn't be surprising if someone were to look at our area. However, convincing older generations that how "hip" a city is actually matters to both young professionals AND employers is an uphill battle. I'm hoping to do a post on it someday.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone wants to get a college degree and spend the night on a box year in year out as a security guard blogging away on the employers time.

Anonymous said...

"Young professionals" dont have school aged children, and if they do, they are likely preschool or elementary aged and its not likely this program is going to be around long enough to be used by their children. I'm sorry but as a young professional, I would never choose to move to Davenport without a job -- and just looking at recent help wanted/job postings it isnt looking attractive as a professional.

Anonymous said...

Many times during the debate, Mark Nelson showed that he really could care less what happens to Davenport public schools.

The phrase is "couldn't care less."

When you say someone "could care less," you're saying they do in fact care (at least a little).

The Pedant

Anonymous said...

So this "Promise" is all about making Davenport hip? You know what is really hip? Having a city government that can perform basic functions (like street repair, dealing with crime, decent mass transit, etc.) instead of using tax money to fund socialist Utopian pipe dreams. You can have all the progressive policies you want, but if people don't feel safe walking or driving the streets, I doubt the "hipness" of the Promise is going to make them forget how Davenport is failing at basic services.

Then there's the issue of jobs. Most young people don't want to put nuts and bolts on a combine or weld parts of a Howitzer together. Until the Quad City area can attract jobs that are appealing to the young crowd, very few of them will choose to move here. How does "The Promise" propose to bring in those types of coveted jobs?

Pho3niX said...

To: 8:56 Anon poster,

While it's true that we enjoy the ability to open-enroll our kids wherever we want... the examples that you cited of individuals "choosing" to send their particular kids to Bett or PV... or to West, for that matter are garbage! That's just the school districts that they live in. And you REALLY don't want to battle over moving school district boundaries... then you'd really be in for a fight! Please at least try to understand the issues before you post.

What the Davenport Promise COULD do is reverse the trend of open-enrolling OUT of the Davenport school district to the surrounding districts... more precisely, to get those that LIVE in Davenport but are located in another school district to send their kids to Davenport schools... and YES that would mean over $5500 per student from the State pumping into Davenport Schools instead of elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Pho3nix, I beg to differ. I way I had read it is that those living in Davenport choosing to send there children out of Davenport schools to Bett and PV will benefit from the Promise. But those who live outside city limits sending their kids to Davenport schools are not eligible. I feel those who choose not to belong and take pride in Davenport should not benefit from Davenport. Plain and simple. This is my only real bitch with the Promise.

QuadCityImages said...

I don't like that part either. I don't even understand why areas of Davenport are in other school districts in the first place.

Anonymous said...

QCI - It should be a "no brainier", go to Davenport schools and receive tuition assistance. Those going to Bettendorf and PV do that on their own accord and choose not to receive assistance. Something tells me this was written in for Malin's advantage.
Though I still believe The Promise is a good idea, I wish there could have been more public input or even a straw vote taken at meetings on how this was put together. If so, there wouldn't have been so much opposition.

Signed Walnut.

Anonymous said...

Another Davenport One success story: A DavenportOne gift certificate program has ended abruptly because the Ohio business that administered the program has ceased operations.

The Davenport program offered “D1 Dollars,” which were gift certificates that could be redeemed at 200 participating businesses.

Pho3niX said...

4:45 - While not talked about much, there ARE those that live in Bettendorf that send their kids to Central so that they'll learn in a more diverse environment... without any financial incentive to do so. BTW - Why should The City of Davenport pay Bettendorf residents with it's tax revenue?!? Sure, Bettendorf residents will be PAYING for Promise if they shop in Davenport, but they don't get to vote on it, now do they?!?

QCI - School district boundaries have a LOT to do with I-80 and I-74... I'm not sure that there's a district in the State that has kids intentionally crossing an interstate to get to school.

Anonymous said...

Pretty amazing. Davenport One hires an Ohio business that goes under. Amazing.No business in Davenport can do the job, I guess. Nothing the staff at D-1 can do. Incredible really. Maybe next time they can hire QCI.

QuadCityImages said...

Do we have a lot of gift card/gift certificate companies in Davenport?

Some of you guys get upset about weird things. I bet DavenportOne's offices are cleaned by vacuum cleaners that aren't made in Davenport either!

Anonymous said...

Pho3nix - Unbunch your panties and re-read my previous posts. Those very few "diversity" minded folks that claim to send their kids to Davenport schools for the mix and not because of their kids being kick out of Bettendorf schools are in the same boat as those living in Buffalo, Blue grass, Walcott, LeClaire, Riverdale, Princeton, Long Grove and Eldridge. And it's not right that they are excluded because they don't live in Davenport but send their kids to a Davenport School. What's also not right is those who choose to send their kids to schools outside of Davenport reaping from The Davenport Promise. Please pay attention.

Pho3niX said...

So, when my kid works hard to get accepted by a good school so she can get the tuition assistance... and gets into Harvard, lets say as a result... she shouldn't get the Promise $$$ to go there?!? Ridiculous.

Oh, and maybe those who live in all of the towns you listed should move to Davenport... kinda the point, really.

Anonymous said...

Pho3nix - I believe it is your duty as a parent to help your children choose the right path in life. Play the card as they lie.

Again, I said it wasn't fair that those who choose Davenport schools but live in outer towns aren't able to receive from the Promise. Like most of the naysayer's , no matter what is said, you don't listen, always looking for a fight.

QuadCityImages said...

I must say that I agree, at least to an extent, with 10:40 on the kids from outside Davenport city limits who go to Davenport schools.

I understand that the city doesn't want to give an incentive for living outside the city, but its still unfortunate.

Pho3niX said...

... and while I also tend to agree that it's unfair to those in the Davenport district that don't LIVE in Davenport, there is NO anonymous benefactor stepping up to the plate here to help the entire school district. Maybe someday someone can chip in half a million to help those kids once Promise is proven efective?

10:40 - Your card-playing analogy (although poorly played) would apply to your gripes as well...

Promise is not a perfect fit I admit, but it's SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

once promise is proven effective. ha!

Anonymous said...

Promise, while being the high-profile issue of discussion, is not the only matter in the referendum coming up. Promise alone would be enough for me to vote no, but by piggy-backing in sales-tax monies being poured into the bottomless-pit demands of fire and cops for more toys and fancy facilities, my NO-VOTE has been totally assured.

Pho3niX said...

/yawn/... Don't you Libertarians have a forum of your own to lurk on?

FYI - We're way behind the national average for police employees per 1,000 population. Check the most recent UCR data page on the FBI site and you'll see that the national average is around 2.3 officers/1,000 pop. and the midwest average for cities our size is 2.0/1,000 pop. Davenport is somewhere around 1.4 officers/1,000 pop. Think about that the next time you complain about "bottomless pits". It's amazing what they can do with the force they have, frankly... and to be accredited at the same time is just miraculous.

Anonymous said...

Feenix, what your brain sees really isn't what your eyes send it, is it! Just like the other posters, I have to point out that what you responded to is not something I wrote.

To wit: ". . .bottomless-pit demands of fire and cops for more toys and fancy facilities,. . ."

Or maybe you just get your jollies by throwing out statistics. Does look impressive.

Pho3niX said...

OK. Then substantiate your remark of "...bottomless-pit demands..." - of what do you speak. Sounds like a gross generalization to me...

Anonymous said...

This is what blogs do, generate informal discussion, and of course argument. Hardly forums for organized debate with presentations or footnoted references.