Promise questions with answers

We mentioned we emailed Craig Malin with some questions. He has answered the questions so we will include them in this post. Here they are as they were emailed to me-

Davenport Promise Questions & Answers
November 25, 2008

Some have told me that the Mayor and City Council didn’t follow the appropriate procedures when they placed the Promise on the ballot. If this is true, will the Council be taking corrective action and set another date?
The Council vote on placing the Promise on the ballot was appropriate. While there was a motion to call the question, this typically is not voted on but, rather, is an indication that a Council member would like to move on to a vote on the main motion. Deputy Clerk Holocek recorded the vote as such (and no Council member indicated a separate vote was required). I asked Corporation Counsel Warner about this and his reply includes the following:
“It’s an interpretation under Robert’s Rules which we know is only a guide. I checked with Jackie about how she recorded it the next day. Jackie recorded it as a vote on the main motion. It’s a practice of the Council to not vote on calling the question unless some actually insists – you can call it practice or custom or you can consider it acquiescence on the call the question statement. I don’t believe Council was confused about what they were voting on as I did not hear a single elected official question it on the floor; which to me clearly demonstrates their intent as to what motion was being voted on.”

Why are there no actual minutes from City Council meetings available
to the public?
Minutes are available on the City’s website. Just click on “minutes” in the Document Center section on the City’s homepage and then select from more than 750 documents in reverse chronological order.

Why was only Kalamazoo used in the Upjohn study? Couldn’t Pittsburg, Denver, or El Dorado, Arkansas been added?
Kalamazoo was used for a few reasons. The main reasons are that the Kalamazoo Promise is the longest running local government bounded program in existence and Kalamazoo is, in many ways, more similar to Davenport than Pittsburgh, El Dorado or Denver. Secondarily, the Upjohn Institute has been studying the Kalamazoo Promise almost since its inception and has the most complete amount of information about the Kalamazoo Promise.

Can Davenport withstand 10+ years of capital budget shortfalls if the worst case scenarios of the study prove correct?
If by worst case, the question refers to the full range of scenarios modeled in the Upjohn analysis, yes. The worst case modeled by Upjohn has an $11,507,705 capital budget funding challenge (spanning ten years, averaging $1.2 million per year). The average annual capital budget plan is just under $40 million, so this would be manageable by the means outlined in Finance Director Guard’s presentation to the City Council on Nov. 12. If by worst case the question refers to some hypothetical set of circumstances that would be a problem with or without a Promise program, that is difficult to address with any specificity. The local option sales tax has been a historically growing revenue source (there are a few years where it dips year to year but these are the exceptions, not the rule) and the City has made good use of this resource in twenty years and thus the magnitude of funding challenge has been mitigated somewhat. The essential question tested by the Upjohn Institute is whether Davenport citizens would get a better return on their investment with a partial reallocation of the local option sales tax to the Promise program and the essential answer, in all modeled scenarios, is yes.
In the best case scenario of high school graduation, Davenport will still be under the Iowa average.

Would measures be taken to raise the graduation rate?
A range of measures are and would continue to be undertaken to both improve the graduation rate and the academic preparedness of Davenport School District students. I’ll forward your question on to Supt. Almanza for a more detailed reply, but I will note the Kalamazoo Promise has substantially increased graduation rates in Kalamazoo, especially for some (the Kalamazoo Gazette reports a 43 percent increase in graduation numbers for African American students). For every student, one of the critical transformations the Davenport Promise may bring forth is a focus in the earliest years of a child’s life that completion of high school opens the door to the full range of post high school options. It is one thing to believe or hope this is the case. It is another thing, entirely, to know there are options beyond high school, and have this known throughout the entire community.

The Upjohn study was based on a 2.5% inflation rate, and a tuition rate increasing the same. It also states if tuition rates outpace inflation it will lower the impact of the Promise drawing new people to the city. How will the skyrocketing cost of tuition affect response to people moving here?
A few responses here. First, the amount of local option sales tax which may be dedicated to scholarships would be capped by the referendum. So there is no “blank check” for the program, at least from the public sector side. Whether private or foundation sector resources could fill a gap is to be determined, but is not unlikely. Secondly, there has been discussion (and some evidence of success in Kalamazoo) that a community’s “buying power” with a Promise program can be leveraged with nearby universities to obtain admissions at less than full tuition rates. Again, this is yet to be determined but would be a strategy employed by the managing foundation. Thirdly, from a technical perspective, the Upjohn analysis is based on the dollar amount available to existing and new residents, not the percentage of tuition paid. The comment regarding tuition cost increases is well taken, but the Upjohn Institute’s basis for projecting the number of people moving into Davenport due to the Promise is based on – as you might expect from research economists – the net present value of the potential scholarship amount.

Is there a plan B if the number of new residents don’t meet expectations?
I haven’t heard of a specific “Plan B”. But neither the Davenport Promise nor any other successful strategy is a “set it and forget it” initiative. Successful cities continuously improve across all aspects of their operations and throughout the entire city. I have every expectation Davenport will continue this approach. The Davenport Promise does appear to have the potential to be a breakthrough, game changing strategy, creating growth through a community wide focus on education and workforce improvement. There are any number of other Plans A – Z already at work in the organization and community, and we’ve made good progress on many fronts. Whether the Davenport Promise is another plan the City can employ for economic development is, appropriately, in the voter’s hands.

On an unrelated note, why did the City website have so many dead links over the weekend; and why were the City Council updates stopped?
On the dead links question, if you give me a specific example, we’ll take a look at it. I cruised around the site this morning and, after clicking on a few dozen links without hitting a dead one, gave up. On the Council Update question, I put the Update on hiatus for two principal reasons. First, the current Council is fully accessible by e-mail. Many informational items that used to be communicated in the Update are now communicated faster by e-mail. Second, I made a deliberate effort to step back a bit and let the current Council take the lead, as good Councils are more than able to do. I’m just the hired help around here. I’ll do what is necessary for Davenport’s success, but I have no need or inclination to lead on policy matters in the community.
Those two things said, I’ve been asked by quite a few folks (including Council members) to restart the weekly Council Update, and suspect I’ll take a crack at doing so over the Thanksgiving break.

Have a great T-day.

Comments on this or anything else are welcome.

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9 Responses to Promise questions with answers

  1. cruisin2 says:

    I didn’t comment in the post because of it’s length. The “call the question” answer is troubling to some of us. A friend said “just because you’ve done something a certain way all along doesn’t make it right”. At the least the City Councils actions in this regard are unprofessional. We don’t want to think about worst case.

  2. I could be wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure that the city code or state constitution don’t specify that cities use Roberts Rules of Order, which is after all, just a book providing suggested ways to run legislative assemblies. So just because something the city does doesn’t match that book’s interpretation of a particular phrase or rule doesn’t necessarily make it illegal, unprofessional or unethical. However, if there are rules specifying how “calling the question” is supposed to work in the city code, and they don’t follow them, that could be a big deal.

  3. cruisin2 says:

    QCI,
    Anybody could be right in this City. Thing is I’ve looked at Robert’s Rules, the House rules, the Senate rules, the law in the state, and 4 dictionaries, and all these say the City Council is doing it wrong. So we don’t know if they’re all wrong, or all somehow don’t apply to our city, kind of like when Chief Bladel lowered the crime rate.

  4. Crruise says:

    could you ask Malin for the LOST reciepts for the last 24 months so we can see which direction revenue is going.

  5. cruisin2 says:

    Crruise,
    We’ve just emailed some questions to Mr. Malin and that was one of them. When we get a reply, we’ll post it.

  6. anonymous says:

    If you watch the tape of the meeting closely, it is obvious that at least two people didn’t know what they were voting on, that being the mayor and the corporate council.

    You can bet that most of the aldermen didn`t understand that they were voting on the main motion after Gluba clearly states that the vote is on `call the question,` but it would be difficult for any of them to speak up and say that they didn`t understand and be ridiculed by other councilmen, or look foolish in front of the large crowd that night, and the 1000’s that watch it on the city cable channel. Nobody likes to look a fool. Malin can’t expect aldermen to be any different.

  7. anonymous says:

    Depending on who`s numbers you listen to, Promise should bring 500 to 1200 new students into our current system. Do the current buildings have enough excess capacity to handle this, or would new buildings have to be built? Same with teachers and school administrators. Wouldn’t more need to be hired so that class size doesn’t greatly increase?

    New school buildings and more teachers are expensive. City staff says our taxes won`t increase, but what is to keep the school levy from skyrocketing?

  8. cruisin2 says:

    anonymous,
    We think that if they’re going to make the motion, they should do it properly. Perhaps one of them will look it up during the holiday. We kinda like to see the deer in the headlights look once and a while.

    anonymous,
    According to the Superintendent of Schools, there won’t be a problem. We can’t think of anything about this program that isn’t going to end up costing us something.

  9. Nuckin'_Futs says:

    Vocabulary Lesson For Wednesday:

    Malinomics: Davenport’s answer to fuzzy math.

    ;)

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