Archive for the ‘Open Records’ Category

Common Core Educational Standards-Good Or Bad?

Monday, March 10th, 2014

March 10, 2014

Common Core Educational Standards-Good Or Bad?

 

This is a subject that I consider more important than even pension reform. This will determine the educational level of our children and grandchildren and the future of our country both economically and from a freedom standpoint.

What Common Core purports to do is set a uniform school curriculum across the country leading to uniform testing and higher standards. What it is fact will do, if fully implemented, is take local control out of the hands of local school boards and particularly out of the hands of parents.

In my 10 years of “OPEN RECORDS ADVOCACY” I have come to the opinion that the most difficult people to get open records information from is local school bureaucrats, starting with the old Memphis School System and now the new Shelby County School bureaucracy which acts much like the old City of Memphis School bureaucracy.

This coming Friday evening Mrs. Karen Lamoreaux (Arkansas) will speak from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at White Station Church of Christ, 2nd floor, 1106 Colonial Road. Listen to her in a short youtube video as she took apart the local school board.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZEGijN_8R0

Please try to be there and learn what she is doing in Arkansas and nationwide.

This is a person who knows what is going on and we need to listen to her and take local action on our own school board. I feel her frustration as it is very difficult to get through the bureaucracy and get results.

Within the last few months I asked the Shelby County School System for the following information.

“I would like to have access to and view all data requests regarding data that the school system is collecting on the students. I would like to know if this data is requested and collected from the students directly without parental involvement or if the parents are requested to furnish this information or data and if this information is voluntary or required of the students or parents.

Their answer was the following.

“Your request is not granted because it is not understood.”

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Flying In Or Out Of Memphis

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

March 4, 2014

Flying In Or Out Of Memphis

Yesterday I sent a letter to the editor of Commercial Appeal and it was published. It is shown below. As I read some of the reader comments to the letter, I was criticized for not being supportive of the new parking garage and for the future of Memphis. Believe me I want Memphis to grow and succeed and to get its fiscal house in order. Last week I asked for financial reports from the airport authority and while they were not published on the internet, they did send me electronically a huge list of Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs), a recent S&P credit rating report and lots of other information. All of this should be on their website but currently is not posted.

Here is some of the relevant data.

In the year 2000 we had 10.6 total passengers. In 2007 we had about the same numbers of total passengers. In 2013 we had 5.5 million passengers. Yet in 2001 they were planning the three story parking garage addition. In 2007 they stated in the CAFR that the new garage would proceed at a cost of $70 million dollars. Forward to 2009 and read the Memphis Business Journal article (more…)

Paying With Tax Incremental Financing

Monday, January 6th, 2014

January 6, 2014

 

I spent the month of December trying to get answers to the following questions.

1)    How many tourist development zones (TDZs) have been approved by the state of Tennessee, the date of approval and a map or designation of the zones?

2)    For those zones that are approved, how much is the base sales and use tax amount from which the incremental amount of taxes will be distributed?

3)    How much incremental taxes have been received each year since the inception of the TDZ zones?

4)    On what have the incremental taxes been spent?

I asked these questions of the City of Memphis and have again and again been promised answers. I know that during the Christmas season it is hard to get action. I also asked the first three questions of the Tennessee Department of Revenue and did get some answers from them. I have attached a schedule of distributions to municipalities for qualified tourism development zones by fiscal years earned. Also I received a similar schedule for sales tax allocation for sports authorities such as the NBA facility in Memphis and the minor league baseball facility in Memphis. This is interesting information and you will see that Memphis received $13.2 million in FY 2011-12 for the only TDZ zones we currently have approved (downtown) and $1.9 million for the Arena and zero for the baseball facility in 2012.

I received further clarification from the state concerning the rules on TIF distribution as shown below.

Mr. Saino,

 In an attempt to answer your question related to the 1.9 million. The 1.9 million dollars was paid to the city of Memphis / Shelby County as a separate payment each month as the sales tax dollars for the Grizzlies is collected. The information of zero that you have relative to the Redbirds is incorrect the amount paid to the Memphis Redbirds foundation was $586,282.41. These amounts are after we take the ½ percent for education off the top of the collections.

In calculating the TDZ we do back the amount of these sports authorities off of the collections for that year in determining the growth to apply.

So in the year we are looking at the overall collections for state sales tax was $ 750,776,304.38(this figure includes food) we reduce that amount by the amount of total state sales tax collections relative to the sports authority which was $2,722,845.30 (please remember the figures are different because this is before the ½ percent for education is calculated).

That net number $748,053,459.08 is compared to the same data as the previous year to determine the overall growth in the area.

This growth is then applied to the base to create the current base in the 2011-12 year the base was $34,215,152.17. The TCA reads the TDZ will benefit from the amount collected within the TDZ area that was above the base. The amount collected in the zone for state sales tax was 50,352,645.09 ( we adjust this number by the ½ percent for education) Giving a net collections of $46,156,608.12 then we add the food sales tax collections within the TDZ area which was $176,729.12. Those two figures combined total net state sales tax collections $ 46,333,337.24. This is the amount compared to the base and the TDZ receives the above and beyond in this case it was $12, 118,185.06. The local portion of the sales tax is calculated under the same basis.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

 

I still want to know how this money is applied to our debt which I expect the City of Memphis to answer.

 

Now it is my understanding that the City of Memphis is asking for a second TDZ zone for the Fairgrounds project. The question is this. IS THIS A SOUND WAY TO FINANCE BIG PROJECTS LIKE BASSPRO, FAIRGROUNDS, PINCH DISTRICT AND ON AN ON?

 

Look at some of the other cities like Chattanooga and Sevierville that went down this same path. In one report there was the following statement.

 

*Chattanooga received no state sales tax distribution in 2007 because taxable sales fell below their pre-TIF level. Several businesses left the designated area.

 

Also Sevierville has had problems with paying for their debt by this method. So the assertion that there is no risk for tax incremental financing is not true. At the very least the City of Memphis should provide a detailed analysis showing the expected amount of incremental sales tax expected from the TDZ needed to pay the debt and tell the public and the taxpayers the truth about their downside risk if the expected sales tax revenue does not materialize.

The Arrogance of the School System

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

November 7, 2013

 

I sent the attached open records request to the Shelby County Board of Education addressed to the records custodian. I got the answer shown in the attachment. Since then I have called twice and have gotten no return call. I then sent an email to Jennifer Collins and requested that she put the documents at the front desk a week ago Friday which I would pick up with a check. In the email I said if that was not possible to let me know. I arrived Friday morning and there were no documents and they could not get Ms. Collins on the phone. Also I was not allowed into the general counsel’s office in contradiction to the Tennessee open records law. I snail mailed the check and I finally received some documents about the books by return snail mail rather than by electronic mail. This cost them $2.32 to mail them.

 

The arrogance of these people is amazing. They don’t think they work for the taxpayers. They get this attitude by watching what goes on in Washington DC. Nothing really has changed since the consolidation. It seems to still be the Memphis School System. Obviously (more…)

What Is In The School Books?

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

October 17, 2013

I have been in contact with a very active group of people in Nashville about common core, school books and material and data collecting. Following is part of a recent email from this Nashville group about a great success they had in reviewing school books and reporting on what is actually in these books. I have recently sent an open records request to the new Shelby County School System requesting access to books, book lists and data collection. I have not yet heard back from them on this request. I will keep you informed on this request. Eventually I will get access to these books, pamphlets, material and data collection. At that point I will need help to review and report as did the Nashville group. It is a big job but are the kids worth it? Please let me know if you are up for the work.

 

This report came from Dr. J Lee Douglas, Nashville.

 

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Memphis 2020 Growth Plan “Investing In The Future”

Monday, September 9th, 2013

September 9, 2013

 

Strategic Five-Fiscal and Management Plan

 

I have been reading through the huge five year City of Memphis Management Plan prepared by the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and the PFM Group involving Rick Masson and V. Lynn Evans.

 

It is fascinating and full of information. It will take me some time to digest it. As I do I will let you, the tax paying public, share in the (more…)

A Woman’s Perspective On The Achievement School District

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

August 8, 2013

My name is Joe Saino and I am President of memphisshelbyinform.com, a 401c3 non profit dedicated to keeping the public here in Shelby County informed and keeping public records open to you, the taxpayers. It is a big job and I am always looking for help. Well I have made a connection with an outstanding young woman and I will let her own CV speak for her.

Anne Grosvenor

I am originally from Indiana and moved to Memphis area in 2000.  I have BS and PhD in Chemical Engineering and work locally in a sales role for a manufacturing company.  I am married with two children.   Protecting the future of my children and their peers is the foremost reason for my interest in political issues and fiscal policy.  I hope to encourage people to be more involved and better informed on how their government operates and how it affects them.    Ultimately, we need to understand that if we want the kind of freedom that America has promised citizens and immigrants for generations, we have to work for it.

Here is her first article on memphisshelbyinform.com and I hope for many more. Thanks Anne.

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Are your satisfied with your evening news source?

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

July 111, 2013

Memphisshelbyinform is a non-profit information and investigative organization composed of concerned citizens and taxpayers. It has the task of monitoring and reporting in depth on Memphis and Shelby County governmental activities and expenditures and educating the public on their efficiency, transparency and honesty.

I have followed this principle for many years and have had some success in informing the public about what is going on in local government. However I believe that many of our local problems are caused by actions at the national level. I have seen trust in government at all levels fall to a very low level. People no longer believe that government has the best interest of our nation as its (more…)

Identifying Free Speakers

Monday, July 30th, 2012

July 30, 2012

I was shocked to read of the subpoena filed on behalf of the Shelby County Commission seeking to find the names of those who commented on Commercial Appeal articles about school consolidation. It appears that some County Commissioners are trying to build a case based on racial attitudes.

Well my name is Joe Saino and I am here to say that the great majority of parents want the best education for their children and that (more…)

Behind Closed Doors

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

Today the Tennessee Senate will consider Senate Bill 2207 as shown below. This is a bill that the Governor wants to be able to negotiatate how your tax money will be spent to entice a company to come to Tennessee instead of the other 49 states or maybe going to China.

I am a long time advocate of open records as is Ben Cunningham as mentioned in the CA article today on this subject. Ben is a friend and is responsible for the Nashville not being able to raise their property taxes without the voters being able to say Yes or No. I wish we had such a provision here. Also Frank Gibson, Tennessee’s leading advocate for open records, is also against these bills. Even the CA wants open records in most cases.

There is another bill shown below, SB 1168, which is the bill wanted by the local chamber of commerce to close the doors and records on giving away our tax money. You only need to look at the Electrolux deal to see what a bad idea that is. I ask you to oppose both of these bills in the name of open records and against closed door deals with our tax money.

 

SB 2207

Public Records – As introduced, classifies as confidential the due diligence materials submitted by a company to the department of economic and community development; confidentiality applies until such time as the provider of the material no longer requires its confidentiality.

 

SB 1168

Public Records – As introduced, authorizes a local government’s legislative body to designate certain records as proprietary information, and thereby not subject to public records law.