Saturday, January 26, 2008

Debunking the District's propaganda.

The January 24, 2008 letter is an interesting, albeit unsophisticated attempt at pulling wool over the eyes of taxpayers. Because the blog firmly believes in honest and constructive engagement in issues that matter to our community, we will clarify the contents of this recently promulgated ejectumenta.

First, for the record, the blog is not saying that the contaminated property should not have been purchased. Sure, we question the wisdom behind even considering the location, but if we assume for a moment that the location and its potential traffic implications can be overcome, the real issue to ponder is the price that was paid.

There is no doubt the site is contaminated. I was in the room when every one of the District's consultants and their legal counsel agreed the site should not be purchased because of the contamination. I reviewed the documentation regarding the site at Raskin's office in Kirkland. I poured over the evidence of contamination and reviewed a lot of the documents on behalf of the District, prior to pulling AMEC and Reid Middleton into the process. In fact, along with my supervisor, I assembled an inventory of reports and findings held by Raskin prior to selling the site to the District. It was this summary that was provided to the District's consultants that allowed them to more fruitfully obtain the reports necessary to effectively study the site. That study resulted in the recommendation that the site not be purchased.

"All appraisals were done by certified, licensed appraisers." This is factually correct but it does not reveal who selected the appraiser or for which party the appraiser was working.

"All of the negotiations and aspects for this purchase were reviewed with district legal counsel and technical consultants, as well as with the Board of Directors." This is factually correct but it does not reveal the position taken by these technical consultants nor is there a single member of the Board qualified to effectively evaluate the aspects of this purchase.

"One rumor that has persisted about this property,... is that it was contaminated." We have never made any claim that the site "was" contaminated. Our position from the very start of this process has always been that the site "is" contaminated. Anyone saying that the site "was" contaminated would be spreading a rumor, because "was" implies past tense and factually the site is currently contaminated.

"As part of our review of the property prior to purchase, our consultants evaluated the soil and determined the risk of contamination should not preclude purchase of the site." Okay, this is a lie. But if you allow the District to be creative with their interpretation of what they pay people to tell them, there is still a problem. This risk of contamination should not preclude purchase of the site... if the sale price was less than three million dollars.

"We negotiated for the seller to pay for insurance to address any soils issues that might arise during construction." First, the seller's premium for this coverage would not be expensive if no actual construction or earthwork was to take place during the seller's period of coverage. The insurance provider was more interested in the manner of construction to determine real exposure to paying on the policy. If you don't dig more than a few feet, and avoid known hot spots, you could limit the amount of exposure to contamination. The fact the District even sought insurance for contaminated soils proves they were convinced of an elevated chance of liability.

"...since we recently completed demolition of the old school and grading of the property, and in the course of this work no contamination was found." The District was not looking for contamination and did not aggressively test while grading was taking place. Modern construction techniques allow for development on contaminated soils. The fact that such development occurs does not erase the existence of contaminants.

"The Department of Ecology also was asked recently to review all the data, and confirmed there are no contamination issues to be dealt with on the site." This is factually correct, but it was a member of our blog team that initiated contact with the Department of Ecology. Ecology has no data for the site because the District and the previous owner, MJR Development, did not provide the results of their environmental evaluation. Their process for investigating situations like these is currently underway. When we have updated information, the blog will provide it to our readers.

The District's drivel regarding the need to relocate to a site further from the commercial core of Alderwood Mall is not being challenged by the blog. We are concerned, however, that the City of Lynnwood, in their insatiable quest for sales tax revenue, is happily prepared to overlook regulatory issues to expedite the District's departure from the current bus barn location.

"The [D]istrict is ever mindful of how precious the use of public funds is for any and all transactions." Would someone kindly explain to me how the District would allow the piano transaction with Seattle Piano Gallery to move forward. It was a violation of public trust to craft the scheme in the first place and then matters worsened when Marla handed a $40,000.00 check to her friend from Rotary. The evidence is clear that the District's regard for public resources is an illusion.

The District goes on to make certain that everyone is clear about the source of the funding to buy this contaminated piece of property. The funds "came from the capital projects budget and not the general fund." Every dime in the District's pocket belongs to the public and should be spent with the highest regard for the appropriate use of public funds.

"Certainly, if the property owner would have sold the property for less we would have purchased it for less." I suspect if the seller would have demanded more, Marla would have found a way to buy it at any price.

"However, we do not control the sale price..." The District has absolutely no comprehension of basic economic principles. The buyer always controls the selling price. Without a willing buyer, nothing sells. The seller only controls the asking price. Pick up a text book.

The District goes on to describe adversarial condemnation. Remember, Marla, I am well aware of the fact that Raskin asked the District to pursue this option. As far as the process "requir[ing] another appraisal to be entered into a court proceeding where the value/price would have been established", I cannot help but shake my head. Does the District actually believe that another appraisal would have been higher than $5,600,000? What would have happened if that third appraisal came back less than the District's appraisal?

"The Board determined that an adversarial condemnation action would have been contrary to our mission of being fair in how we work with people in our community, including property owners." Michael Raskin of MJR Development lives in Medina and works in Kirkland. How is he a person in our community? What about treating district taxpayers fairly? Raskin made a disgustingly obscene amount of profit on this transaction and avoided having to pay to remediate the contamination. District taxpayers will be paying that tab later.

"On behalf of the Board of Directors and district, we thank you again for your interest and support." That is rather presumptuous. We have been forced by district management to support MJR Development in their quest to develop more wineries and condos in Woodinville.

Mark Zandberg
Executive Director of Blog Content Development


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the point by point explanation--it's fun to read! One question: what is contaminating the soil? Maybe you wrote about that in a previous entry--but I don't know the answer.

Anonymous said...

I still cant get over the fact that the district actually sent home a mailing in response to all of the issues that the blog has brought forward.

I seriously hope they have a lot of postage in their budget. Something tells me that there are going to be alot more letters like that one going out in the coming months!

Anonymous said...

These sound more like they are Marla's words channeled through Nick. They are beginning to draw the lines of their defense, and this appears alongside recent School Board comments regarding this blog and the District's "official" responses to it. These demonstrate that you are beginning to get to them. Let us hope so. District employees remember, simply because it is coming from an "official" source certainly should not make it comforting and does not mean it is true! Challenge everything and everyone. Trust only your own wise sensibilities. The information on this blog is far more convincing than this letter of discouragement.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a worker bee who is just trying to contribute to a positive experience for the good the students here by paying my taxes. I trust the District to act prudently. Unfortunately this issue is very unsettling. I find myself looking at the District's management with a little more skepticism every day now. This entire murky issue must seem like a bad dream them. How much longer can they continue the cover-up?

Costs;I did go on line to check the seemingly high cost of the property. Tax parcels 00619500000700 and 00619500000800 were purchased in 2001 for a combined cost of +/- $1 million and sold to the District for $5.6 million in 2005 according to the Snohomish County Assessors Office.

It is obvious that Mr.Raskin is a fair superior negotiator to any of the District's staff. If the District intends to liquidate more property (our children's inheritance) I would like to see them open a real estate office and hire Mr. Raskin to run it. Of course Marla's services will no longer be needed.

Second, what are the chances of the contamination affecting ones health at the new site? Costs aside, we "own" it now and need to insure that the site is "clean" If it costs more money so be it but the site ultimately needs to be safe. Is this going to be Lynnwoods' version of Love Canal? Nick needs to publish the original soil contamination test results for all to read. Nothing less than the data Mark describes here will do.

Bottom line, who under the Districts umbrella is going to step up and take the lead irregardless of the consequences and get this mess cleaned up? I expect to see some heads roll and soon, starting at the top.

I intend to monitor the ESC blog site and until I see a more positive direction I will be voting NO on future bond issues. I would suggest others do the same.

Anonymous said...

This blog is killing the corrupt at the top. I know this first hand. So keep throwing straights. The administration will not be able to sustain. Have a nice day Marla! Your thugs downstairs gave me some good input the last couple of weeks. And quit your crying by the way.

Anonymous said...

I wish they could be more specific in their "defense". Yes, let us see the evidence and the details not just this - take my word for it - empty explanation from Nick.

They still overpaid at least 2 million dollars for this property and have not justified the reason for this. If it is contaminated, as it appears to be, what are the future plans. Credibility can only come through honesty.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Edmonds School District and I did not receive a mailing mentioned here on the Blog. Can Mark publish the information, please? Thank you for this well-written article; as always, Mark is one brilliant human being! said...

The District main website is down, so you can only get it here. You can find the letter as a link in the first line of this entry.

Thank you for your kindness and for reading the blog.

Also available on until we roll out our new blog-inspired clothing line.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, where are these people. I never see them anymore. Oh where, Oh where, have they gone,Oh thats right their all exempt employees. That means they don't have to be at work all 8 hrs. This school district is a joke. The state needs to look in to some of this crazy stuff going on. PORN, NOT WORKING A FULL SHIFT. said...

The District did not email the notification out to parents. They mailed it. Parents started receiving it on Monday afternoon.

The cost to produce this flyer and mail it to all district parents was more than $125 for every year Marla has been alive.

You do the math.

Anonymous said...

I am intersted in the PORN KING not working a full 8 hour shift; I understand that his wife took a leave of absence, and am wondering if she ever returned to work. I wonder what these two have in mind for themselves, perhaps at tax payer's expense. Hmmmm......

Anonymous said...

Did'nt the district do a SEPA review?
Did'nt the district do a review of a PORN out break at the warehouse?
Did'nt the district do a review of the guy at the warehouses time?
Did'nt the district do anything?
Where have all the good leaders gone?
Waste of taxpayers money down the drain!

Anonymous said...

If SEPA is an acronym for Supervisor Expects Porn Always, then yes a SEPA review has been completed. I heard some time ago that he was going to live in Hawaii. Did he ever go?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the PORN KING situation; they "swept it under the rug", just as they do in situations they do not want address. The story goes that they did not have enough evidence to pursue the matter further, so he still comes in as he "sees fit" and collects a pay check every month at tax payers expense. His wife took a leave of absence from her job, paid of course, when she should have been at work covering for another employee who had a life threatening situation at home. These are the type of employees that are hired at the ESD while other dedicated employees are "let go" becasue they do not "fit the mold", so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Upper management knows he is a liability. His ride is coming to a end. He says yes fairly well, he's just brought too much negative attention their way, and they're tired of carrying him. There is light at the end of the tunnel for the guys over there. Hang in there. Keep doing a great job.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is that the flyer mailed to parents cost more than $7,000.00.

Anonymous said...

I never believed the letter nick mailed out. Thank you for setting things straight.