Some pullout quotes:
Carole Dorn-Bell (former Olentangy communications director): "I must have cut list."
Joel Gagne (Avakian and Associates, a consultant to Olentangy and New Albany): "The time for some political pain is way overdue in [New Albany]."
Paul Fallon (Fallon Research, a consultant of Olentangy and New Albany): "Candidly, I also think you should attempt to cull some private campaign fund dollars to have the ability to test questions in the survey that you do not want to be subjected to the Sunshine Law, because they are publicly-funded."
Some things to keep in mind: Dorn-Bell worked for Olentangy at the time she was (obviously) advising New Albany. Soon after this email string, Dorn-Bell left Olentangy for a position at New Albany. Then, after the New Albany levy, Dorn-Bell took a job with ... get this ... Avakian and Associates. Funny how these things just work out.
Note how they all use personal email addresses to skirt sunshine laws. That is until Dorn-Bell blows her own cover with a cut and paste reply. It makes me wonder what else is going on outside of public view.
I wonder if any of this is legal -- 'cause it sure ain't ethical.
I also wonder if the folks in New Albany like the fact that they were played by some highly-paid consultants.
Note: I'm not certain if Paul's off-site coffee invite is for taxpayers (read last line below). It may just be for tax consumers. Give him a call on his private line to find out.
The full email string.
Thursday, April 24, 2008 9:35:41 AM
Subject: Re: Third point
From: Carole Dorn-Bell
To: Joel Gagne,
Paul Fallonscastle.firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
My first thought is "ask Hilliard if not having a cut list worked for them." Second, they have to. I must have cut list. Unless people can see how it affects them, forget it. I can provide loads of anichdotal evidence on that one. Third, the board has to -- early on -- come up with the list so that people can see there are no sacred cows. The list is the list. And they have to stick with it. I'll be talking with Castle today. I'll relay my thoughts on Paul's email. Now, the board is a different story.
I think Paul’s third point is critical. The time for some political pain is way overdue in NA. The fact they are considering a levy without unveiling a cut list is astounding to me. I sense that the political will to do this weak from both Steve and the BOE. This point is going to have to be hammered to them if we are going to get it through, they just do not do this in NA and they have to start. Thoughts?
Avakian and Associates
From: Paul Fallon
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2008 18:17:11 -0400
Cc: 'Joel Gagne'
, 'Carole Bell'
Subject: Private Campaign Notes
Steve and Brian,
Here is a collection of various observations and ideas that I want to share with you privately, because I think that they have important implications for how the upcoming campaign will be waged, and are largely political in nature. Moreover, while the focus group findings speak for themselves, and the subsequent overview summarizes them very succinctly, there are some points of political sub-text that I want to call to your attention. They are listed in no particular order, because I think that they are all equally important.
First, although in the Information Age it is almost axiomatic for people to complain about the woeful amount of communication they are getting from under-funded public entities – in part, because the volume and frequency of information is so great, that many people sub-consciously filter what they allow to get through -- the problems in your District appear to be much more serious. I suspect that the District has not been communicating effectively or consistently, and, possibly, lacks a coherent plan to inform the public. An immediate need is to conduct a communication audit and analysis to determine what needs to be done better and differently! Like a campaign, special emphasis needs to be placed on reaching people by breaking them
down into various sub-groups, rather than using consolidated methods to communicate with the entire public using broadcast mediums (which are clearly inadequate and, possibly, fragmented in your District).
Second, the past campaign was, I suspect, defeated because, simply put, it failed to congeal into a specific idea or vision. Every winning campaign “is about something” and my review of the information and articles sent to me, as well as the comments of the focus groups respondents, indicate that a coherent theme never emerged in the past campaign. It will be important to cede some authority to Joel, because he can distill all of the various aspects and ideas into a single concept.
Third, a vaunted effort must be made to demonstrate what has been done, or is being done, to use existing resources to solve problems and maximize existing space. This will assure the voting public that, when you do ask for operating money, it is genuinely needed. It will also obliquely reinforce the premise there is a serious problem that will require public support of a bond issue to pass. Even in affluent New Albany, it appears that voters want to know more about austerity measures that are being taken – perhaps to be assured that the District is not being cavalier with its money.
Fourth, because the credibility of the institution (including, I suspect, the Board of Education) is somewhat embattled, it will be important to get outside third parties to endorse what you are doing by taking an oversight role in the process and vouching for your plans. Although it may open some old wounds for him, track down George Tombaugh, who was the former superintendent in Westerville, to ask him how we repositioned his campaign after 3 successive losses. Although he bristled, the shift of emphasis away from him and towards a blue ribbon panel of business leaders gave the District’s levy request external credibility that was pivotal.
Fifth, it is time to start mentally preparing to answer the question of what will be done differently. Since the public has said “no” once – rather emphatically! – it is critical to justify the decision to go back on the ballot with a similar request by demonstrating that new policy and program decisions frame this ballot request in a different context. That is, although the money requested may be essentially the same, the District’s new policies, programs and austerity measures are different enough to warrant reconsideration.
Sixth, the decision about whether to seek a property tax levy or income tax in order to raise operating revenue will be a political calculation that cannot be made with survey data alone. Working on a multitude of school funding issues in a variety of different circumstances, I have learned that such campaigns often fail because they implode due to dissension from internal constituencies. Given the hostile environment that exists due the economy, the challenges you face will be formidable enough without having to cobble together support from groups such as influential opinion leaders who have the gravitas, incentive and means to deter support for an issue that they oppose. As you are considering what type of mechanism to promote, it is crucial to carefully consider what political actions could be taken to destabilize support for your issue. While I do not recommend capitulating at the first sign of resistance, I do think it is important to
have a lucid, and sobering, understanding of the obstacles to success before any campaign is undertaken, so that sound and pragmatic decisions can be made.
Lastly, unless something has changed, I still anticipate conducting the survey in mid-May. Please advise me immediately if you are having second thoughts about timing. I will also need to know if there are any political developments that change your thinking about what revenue mechanism, or mechanisms, you think the Board will put before voters in November, so we can test them in the survey. Candidly, I also think you should attempt to cull some private campaign fund dollars to have the ability to test questions in the survey that you do not want to be subjected to the Sunshine Law, because they are publicly-funded.
After you have read this, seek out Joel’s opinions and advice about these observations and ideas. He may feel differently, and have better advice, which I would not be inclined to disregard. You have a complex situation that is quite treacherous, and the insight you gain from collaboration will help you overcome the challenges that the District faces in the coming months.
If you have any questions about this, feel free to call me. I will be in the office all day on Thursday and Friday of this week, and can be reached on my private line at 614-297-7090. I would also be glad to meet off-site over coffee, if you want to talk in more detail.