West Chester Will Fight Anything: What makes a good community successful

I’ve discussed this Community Foundation deal set to take place at the location of the old Lakota Union school on Cincinnati Dayton road before. The proposal is to build a Boys & Girls Club at the site offering all day kindergarten for Lakota students—which is a fancy way of saying that it’s a full-time babysitting service funded by the taxpayers for residents of the Lakota schools district. In spite of the $40,000 that Lakota spends each year on the change agent Jeffery Stec to build public support for the union fees the public education employees extract from the tax payers each year, the school board has partnered up with the socialite Patti Alderson and former No Lakota Levy advocates to build a consensus within the community toward future school levies. The next levy is due to take place around 2017. With all the money spent, it just wasn’t enough to hire a progressive cheerleader from Cincinnati—other deals had to be made to keep public opinion in favor of the school system to over 50%. It’s a bit of a shell game going on behind the Boys & Girls Club at the proposed location. Everyone gets something out of the deal, even the tax payers who want to use the free babysitting service—except for a majority of the tax payers who end up paying for the whole enterprise. For them they are supposed to buy into the seemingly good intentions of the Boys & Girls Club mission to replace the parenting of young people with a progressive leaning education centered on altruism.

What is interesting is not that bandits, thieves and social parasites behind the issue, it’s the opinion of some who advocate on their behalf which I couldn’t help but notice in the comments section of the latest Journal News article on the matter, seen below. I’m certainly not one who demonizes builders and developers. I see those occupations as a creative enterprise. I am a fan of the Liberty Way developments and I love the Union Center Blvd developments. But I like to see a resistance that forces those developers to be either better in their presentations, or cleverer in what ends up finally built. Resistance is the key to good management. Those who do resist are not bad people or impediments to progress. Politicians have a tendency to lay down to developers because it is those type of businessmen who tend to contribute to political campaigns hoping that at some time in the future government will get out of their way to allow them to make some money. That leaves the private citizen as the natural counterbalance between these two forces that are needed to maintain good government. It is because of the many private citizens in and around West Chester that there are so many good things happening in one of the most affluent areas of Ohio. Yet the below comment was left on the mentioned article and illustrates a sad belief to the contrary.

You have to love West Chester. They will fight anything. Over the years, the community has fought a community Rec Center, a 1,000,000+ sf upscale Steiner development on Cin-Day (Yes, the same one building in Liberty), a YMCA, the schools, a new Kroger, a Christian school, sidewalks, bike paths and a Boys/Girls Club. Sounds like a great place to live.

http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/group-aims-to-stop-demolition-of-former-school/nmSWq/

In the article Danielle Richardson and the West Chester-Union Twp. Historical Society, essentially propose to the Lakota school district to buy the old school for the cost of $1—to clear it off their books and turn it over to someone else to manage. The Historical Society has an interest in the century old school building to maintain the image of Old West Chester as a hub of tradition to remember the roots of what made the area great to begin with. If everything that is built is new, then the roots will be lost forever of what attracted people to West Chester in the first place. If there is nobody challenging all these projects, such as the commenter above, everything that makes West Chester great would be lost forever—and changed into something else. For Lakota, which is a very progressive government organization—that is their intended goal on a social level—to change the behavior of the community at large, so their actions must be met with resistance. That’s why they hired Jeff Stec at a rather expensive cost to “change” the minds of the public toward support of a tax payer funded institution. New members of West Chester by their own destructive predilections want to change things into what they left behind. If everything is new and there is no sense of history, then they can feel equal to the people who have lived in West Chester for years. It’s a natural weakness that comes from the type of people who transfer to various locations around the nation. They are rootless by nature, so often have a tinge of jealousy toward those who do have a sense of belonging to a community or family.

An example of this is in Danielle Richardson herself, she is the person at the center of the “chicken” controversy which continues to boil in front of West Chester Trustees. Farms and chickens are part of West Chester’s history and some traditional value toward that memory needs to be made to accommodate that vintage sentiment. New money moved into West Chester and wants to think that the entire community is the Weatherington Country Club. It makes for some good back slapping over drinks to brag about pushing all the hillbillies out of West Chester with all their furry creatures. But, in doing so they destroy the nature of their very investments—which makes no sense, because they improperly value the wrong attributes of a society. West Chester attracted all the great investment it has now, chickens, goats, cows and all—and the old Union school is part of that—and they have value. If the image is allowed to change, then West Chester will become just another community that rises to greatness, and then falls once change agents transform the area into something that future generations despise. Because in thirty years when the new Boys & Girls Club building is old, and all the people who constructed it are dead and gone—nobody will want to preserve all the cheap construction that looks new in 2015, but will look out-dated in 2030. And where will that leave West Chester?

When Randy Oppenheimer from Lakota announced in April 2014 that a joint agreement between the district and the club to operate an all-day kindergarten program on the site was evolving and they were seeking public input—Lakota put Jeff Stec on the case in the form of three public Community Conversations that were held in June to garner public input. Pro levy school types showed up to listen to the paid change agent, but anti-tax people generally stayed home knowing what Stec was. His job was not to garner input—it was to change minds. It’s the old Saul Alinsky Delphi Technique trick talked about over the years—only dressed up with some new terminology. Lakota does not want to make a deal to preserve a piece of their history, they need to make a deal that pulls levy supporters and anti-levy supporters together, so they are using the Boys & Girls Club for that reason. Lakota to do the right thing should do as Randy suggested, and that is auction off the property. If the people who want to build the Boys & Girls Club are really interested in developing the property, they should pay for it without an alliance with government assistance to get premium property dirt cheap—and see what the market value the project will garner in the free market. If that happened, minds would change rapidly into a different direction. It would be my guess that the Historical Society would have more value for the property than the proposed Boys & Girls Club, unless Patti wants to cover the costs herself—which she could do. That would be the best way to proceed.

But to the people who think like the commenter in the Journal News article, they are missing many elements to the story. What makes West Chester great is not rubber stamping all the side-walk proposals, the YMCAs, Libraries, and Krogers, its in fighting for a standard of living that makes our community a—brace yourself—“community.” A community is more than a bunch of buildings and socialites who want to be remembered for their charity, or a school that wants to throw money at their out of control labor union, it’s about people, their history, their chickens and the connection to the past that gives a place a sense of grounding—even to those who move from far away seeking something of substance to fill their lives with meaning. West Chester is good because it has a vigilant population that will fight for its history mixed with a nice conservative base of finance that will make new things for people to enjoy. It takes resistance to offer proper management and an honest government that can make the best decisions possible. And in West Chester there are plenty of those types—and we are lucky to have them.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

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