860 Harold Place, future district headquarters
  • 860 Harold Place, future district headquarters
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The district hopes to turn a profit on three pieces of property it owns by making them “shovel ready” for high-density residential developments. One property, located on Third Avenue, was put on the market; July 31 was the final day of the bidding process.

The district did not receive a single bid — even though it paid the City of Chula Vista $82,000 in “entitlement fees” (for plan reviews, zone changes, and the like) and paid the consultant group E2Manage Tech $247,500 over the past three years to ready the three properties for market.

The asking price for the Third Avenue property was $7 million. According to Sweetwater’s Asset Utilization Plan (or, the plan to offload the district’s property and acquire new property), the profit from the sale was supposed to be $6 million.

The Reader queried the district about the future of the property. On August 9, Nadege Johnson, Sweetwater’s grants and communications manager, responded via email: “The district plans to place the Third Avenue property on the market again. At this time, it is still to be determined, however it may be as early 2015.”

Johnson also averred that the district has studies to support the asking price, and that the next price tag is “yet to be determined.”

A related and equally thorny problem is that the district is acquiring new administration offices. Buying the new offices on 860 Harold Place in eastern Chula Vista, hinges on the sale of the three properties. In the meantime, the trustees voted to pay a hefty lease for Harold Place.

According to the district’s Asset Utilization Plan, the lease payment will be funded in part by “Community Facilities Districts,” which is to say, Mello-Roos taxes. (School districts and municipalities often fund school infrastructure projects with Mello-Roos revenue, which is essentially an extra property tax.)

When the Reader queried the district about using this funding for the new district office, Johnson answered, “Several CFD [community facilities district] mitigation agreements allow for funding of an administration center.”

There have been a number of complaints from Sweetwater parents about the fact that Mello-Roos schools appear to be deteriorating even though the fees continue to be collected from the residents. At the July meeting, Sweetwater trustees approved a 2 percent raise in Mello-Roos fees.

The fact that Mello-Roos monies could be diverted from school sites to a new district headquarters might not sit well with Sweetwater parents, especially because in August, many of Sweetwater’s Mello-Roos–funded schools opened with impacted classrooms, insufficient seating, insufficient books, and with students being housed in portable classrooms.

There’s one more twist to Sweetwater’s worrisome real-estate stratagem.

A nonprofit land trust, California Trust for Public School, holds the title to the district’s L Street property. The nonprofit’s CEO, Marc Litchman, sent a letter August 7 to interim superintendent Tim Glover, in which he implores the district to do the right thing with the L Street property. He wants to see the district use the property for educational purposes rather than high-density housing and commercial development.

Here is an excerpt from Litchman’s letter:

“Should this property be sold, as currently envisioned by District staff, it will have a catastrophic effect on District finances — so staggering it might be considered by legal and regulatory authorities as an illegal and unconstitutional gift of public funds. By ‘buying high and selling low’ the only interests served will belong to the speculators paying the District pennies on the dollar for prime property. If somebody is going to eat $25 million dollars in losses caused by the recent real estate recession, it shouldn’t be Sweetwater school children or South County taxpayers.”

The specter of a lawsuit appears to be raised when a bad real-estate deal might be considered “a gift of public funds.” In fact, Litchman’s letter concludes, “Make no mistake, the road we’re on is dark and dangerous; rife with peril and litigation. We’ve got a way out that rebuilds community and credibility AND provides the funding needed to meet the District’s objectives.”

Litchman also sent a Notice of Default to interim superintendent Tim Glover and to the bonding company for the L Street property on August 7. In the letter, he asserts that the district has failed to fulfill its contractual obligations with California Trust. He argues, “We do not have the desire, ability or legal status to support speculative real estate developments.” He says the district’s actions pose a threat to the trust’s nonprofit status and “undermine the tax-exempt nature of the bonds.”

A search of board documents shows there will be a board workshop on facilities and asset utilization on August 14 at 10:00 a.m.

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Comments

anniej Aug. 12, 2014 @ 7:05 p.m.

Is there no end to the MADNESS?

We were looking for hero(S) when the County Board of Ed arrived, unfortunately they failed to listen to the warnings and CHOSE instead to listen to Ed Brand and Tom Calhoun. ONCE AGAIN, WE THE TAXPAYING COMMUNITY WERE RIGHT, but that brings us little satisfaction; and, we are left STILL LOOKING FOR HEROS.

According to Ed Brand the CFD's would be needed for the new east side school the District plans on building - so why are we spending them(CFD's) on a new District Office and the build out that will be needed. When Tom Calhoun spoke of the new District office initially, for some strange reason he failed to share that CFD monies would be used.

All of this money spent on entitlements, and THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME. A search on Board Docs will reveal we have paid for the entitlement process SEVERAL times, and so it will be again.

Students at Eastlake are in need of books, they are in need of a proper chair to sit in - IPADS for the 9th graders barely being used as the teachers have not been trained - but hey we need to get our priorities straight Tom Calhoun will have a brand new office with a brand new chair to sit in and E2ManageTech will, in my opinion, undoubtedly walk away with 33% of the profits from the property sales. It is all about priorities, and, WE the taxpaying public nor our STUDENTS are their priority.

Allow me to ask - WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH???????

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Missionaccomplished Aug. 12, 2014 @ 8:10 p.m.

Wait, I remember a number of posters writing that "it's finally all over" after Doc Brand was shown the door!!! No, it's certainly NOT over.

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Visduh Aug. 12, 2014 @ 8:34 p.m.

His removal was not the end; at best it was the "end of the beginning." The district will have to live with his, and Gandara's, bad moves for a very long time. And while this interim board has to be better than the old board, it isn't showing any leadership and any inclination to repudiate the prior regimes. As I've suggested all along, those COE board members aren't looking for work or challenge or reform. Sinecure is more like it.

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anniej Aug. 12, 2014 @ 8:23 p.m.

Missionaccomplished - guilty, as charged.

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eastlaker Aug. 13, 2014 @ 12:02 p.m.

I am no expert, but I believe it means that the property or properties would be considered to be in a position to proceed with a building project as permits and utilities and street access are in place. So there would be a higher value on a property being "entitled" vs. merely being a piece of property without any permits, access or utilities. Anyone, feel free to correct me or add to this.

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Sjtorres Aug. 12, 2014 @ 9:36 p.m.

Can you believe the board and the administration agreed to RAISE Mello-Roos taxes 2% every year, indefinitely! And then they refuse to provide any itemized accounting of the spending.

State Law requires that Mello-Roos funds only be spent on "real property" i.e. Buildings and facilities. So how come SUHSD is allowed to break this law??

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eastlaker Aug. 12, 2014 @ 11:28 p.m.

To answer your question--because no one in authority calls Sweetwater on all their irregularities. The general public calls them on it, the Bond Oversight Committee calls them on all sorts of things. The big kids haven't come out to play...so nothing has stuck. More's the pity. Meanwhile, the students of Sweetwater and the taxpayers of Sweetwater are getting robbed. And all the communities of this school district are being grossly short-changed.

It is horrifying and tragic, because there are young people who will not have the future they should have. Because the money is going off in mysterious directions--with, apparently, no concern of the County Board of Education, the State Board of Education, or any local, state or federal authorities who are charged with maintaining the law.

Ed Brand always said he had friends everywhere, so maybe he does. Personally, I can't imagine why anyone would want to be a friend of anyone as dishonest as Ed Brand. But then, I am not inside all the deals.

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WTFEd Aug. 12, 2014 @ 10:32 p.m.

Now that I am retired (or am I really?) I a bit out of touch but I have to tell you this is just about the biggest boondoggle possible. Calhoun what a patsy and lap dog for Ed. He has to go now. He attempts to be a master of bureaucratic doublespeak. Remember who is carrying the water now for the District. I saw what Calhoun did and it is despicable. Everybody knows he is a liar. Government has no reason to do this kind of speculation. Sweetwater can not get out of its own way. Check your history on Mello Roos it was set up as a way fund infrastructure improvements for new development post prop 13. A District Office Building is not what Mello Roos is all about. Please Board of Ed put a stop to the madness. Do not be buffaloed by a liar.

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Sjtorres Aug. 13, 2014 @ 5:27 a.m.

It is illegal to move Mello-Roos funds out of the CFD they were collected from. Local "agreements" cannot obviate the state law. Also, Mello-Roos taxes cannot be used for salaries, bonuses, iPads, etc. Only facilities in the CFD they were raised from. Mello-Roos funds cannot be co-mingled with other District monies. Schools within a CFD cannot have a lower budget (per pupil) than other (non CFD) schools in the District as that is a form of illegal laundering of Mello-Roos funds. Blatant disregard for the law in this matter is very troubling. Any candidate for the SUHSD Board needs to completely explain where they stand on these matters. Especially the annual tax increases.

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Bvavsvavev Aug. 13, 2014 @ 7:16 a.m.

There are 18 CFD's within Sweetwater. Each CFD has its own Mitigation Agreements that spell out how the funds can be used. The earlier CFD's, like for Eastlake I and II specify the funds can only be used for schools and infrastructure. The later CFD's allow for admin buildings and other non school and infrastructure uses. The problem has been the district had placed all the money in one account, then lent the money to other district funds like the general fund, cafeteria fund, etc. They are required to pay interest back to the fund on money borrowed, but it is questionable if they have repaid the full amount owed. The district has raised the mello roos tax by 2% every single year. Most taxpayers don't notice because its about a $40 increase per household. They are allowed to do so. The issue here is that some CFD's are funded and paid at about 180% meaning we have repaid almost double of the amount initially issued but the district continues to charge us. We need to be more vigilant about the CFD's, requesting documents and holding the district accountable for how the money is spent.

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anniej Aug. 13, 2014 @ 7:22 a.m.

Bvavev..... - am I correct that CFD 1 is the largest pool of money?

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Bvavsvavev Aug. 13, 2014 @ 7:33 a.m.

Anniej yes. At last count it had about $16 million. One other CFD, i forget which has about the same amount.

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Bvavsvavev Aug. 13, 2014 @ 7:43 a.m.

As an example of what the district does, according to the July 2014 financials, they owe the mello roos fund $20 million loaned to the general fund, and $3 million loaned to the cafeteria fund. Since May 2013, they have lent the general fund $126 million! If it weren't for the mello fund, the district would not have enough money to operate!!

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erupting Aug. 13, 2014 @ 7:44 a.m.

People from Eastlake are definitely getting the short end of the stick. A hike in their Mellos,over crowding in their schools, not enough books or IPADS for the students,and open boundaries with no relief in sight. The interim board is continuing to make decisions that are not for the betterment of our district. Why they continue in this manner is beyond reason,especially when they could have taken care of day to day business and waited for our new board to be seated. I heard there is a mtg.tomorrow morning at 10:00am about the property,conveniently timed for the publics attendance. I guess they can't do evenings when working people are able to attend and voice their views. Same old methods just a different board. I heard there is a group of Eastlakers who are researching how to secede from the district.

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anniej Aug. 13, 2014 @ 7:45 a.m.

Sjtorres - you raise an important point "any candidate for the SUHSD Board needs to completely explain where they stand in these issues". AND,,, how are we to find out?

Looking over some of the ballot statements one might scratch their head with query wondering just what am I reading - a couple in particular were nothing more than back slapping of what 'they', the writer, believe they have accomplished in their life - complete with more than a tad of s t r e t c h I n g......... Failure by one to report a FPPC letter that was received - no I do not have a PI license, it is right there on the Internet - Google is a great resource. 'Teacher' title with no certificate? Hmmm! Then, there are the interesting relocations of a couple of them just before they filed. I am sorry didn't we just work hard to get rid of like kind? Guess some see SUHSD Board seat as their ticket - looking to use vs serve STILL.

My point, we do not need Board members who will continue to do what has been/is being done to us now? NO! We need Board members who will have the guts to stop this run away PROPERTY TRAIN.

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Sjtorres Aug. 13, 2014 @ 1:20 p.m.

Anyone know of any candidates willing to repeal the automatic annual tax increases?

4

Chris_Shilling Aug. 13, 2014 @ 1:46 p.m.

With all of the issues that Bvavsvavev has pointed out I do not even think we should be considering increases.

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anniej Aug. 13, 2014 @ 1:38 p.m.

Mr. Justino Martinez: As a candidate, I am wondering if you would share your opinion on SUHSD using public tax dollars to support a Charter school?

Thank You

8

oskidoll Aug. 13, 2014 @ 3:24 p.m.

What a travesty Brand and his co-conspirators have vested on the people of the South Bay. They have cheated and stolen their way through the public coffers, breaking all the rules and laws that govern prudent management along the way. A pox on all their houses. May the FBI truly investigate these criminals and their financial records and double dealings. God help the people of South County as they try to unravel the trail of evil deeds and to right the ship. Anniej is so right...all the candidates for the board need full vetting. It would be a good idea for those who have been so involved in exposing the travesty to develop a check list of issues on which the candidates should be questioned thoroughly before the election.

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DanaToogood Aug. 13, 2014 @ 3:40 p.m.

I’m a candidate for Seat 2, Bonita/Hilltop area. You are right - all candidates need to weigh in on these issues. My thoughts: What a mess! The newly elected LOCAL trustees will need to sort this out and the current appointed board needs to quit making decisions with long term implications for the taxpayers in this community. We need better accounting practices (stop commingling funds) and to follow the law regarding the use of Mello Roos funds. Sweetwater needs to demonstrate to taxpayers they can use their current level of funding wisely, before increasing it. To start with, get enough chairs in the classrooms yesterday! Time to elect an all new board of trustees with integrity!

4

anniej Aug. 13, 2014 @ 5:29 p.m.

REMINDER - meeting at the District TOMORROW 10:00 am to discuss 'facilities' code for PROPERTIES.

HOPEFULLY AS MANY CANDIDATES AS POSSIBLE WILL ATTEND - however, it is 'short' notice, and no doubt being held in the morning in hopes that many community members (who are out working to pay the increased Mello's) will not be there to hold Mr. McCann accountable. And what of Tom Calhoun, he has been negotiating this mess, he and Ed Brand.

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johndewey Aug. 13, 2014 @ 6:20 p.m.

anniej: Your question to candidate Mr. Martinez regarding public monies spent on charter schools is excellent and should be answered by all candidates. Furthermore, I think the voters should know which candidates, if any, will stand and vote for preserving our public school system with all of the protections guaranteed by the California Ed Code, instead of allowing schools to operate outside of the law.

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anniej Aug. 13, 2014 @ 9:56 p.m.

Johndewey - there are many questions that need to be answered by the candidates. I am concerned that the knowledge base for some/several of the candidates will be based on info shared from friends like John McCann and Ed Brand.

To those candidates that are new to the issues, and new to the comments of anniej, I am a pretty direct person - a question I have been dying to ask is WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE PAST 5 YEARS? Now this is not directed to the few of you who have attended Board meetings and spoken out, but for the other candidates.

This time around the community must do a better job than they have done in the past. We must truly vet our candidates - on ALL OF THE MAIN ISSUES. No longer should we simplify by voting Party or PAC - we MUST EACH do our own homework and MUST vote on the integrity and abilities of each person running in our individual areas. Ask yourselves WHO IS MY CHOICE REALLY, DO I REALLY KNOW?

7

Sjtorres Aug. 13, 2014 @ 10:58 p.m.

We're to the point we need a class action lawsuit against the District regarding the illegal components of the "mitigation agreements."

5

eastlaker Aug. 14, 2014 @ 6:12 p.m.

Could we compare the illegal list to the legal list and see which one is longer?

5

Jmbrickley Aug. 13, 2014 @ 11:22 p.m.

Seriously folks... time to start thinking of a new school district. One comprised of the CFD areas. Time to keep our money where it belongs. We can no longer rely on Sweetwater to do right by us "Eastsiders."

4

anniej Aug. 14, 2014 @ 4:19 p.m.

Thank You to the candidates who were able to attend the Special Meeting and Closed Session this morning into this afternoon. It was nice to get to know you and hear your views.

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eastlaker Aug. 15, 2014 @ 8:51 p.m.

There is a question I keep hearing, but I never hear an answer. It has to so with agreements and developers...and that 1/3 of proceeds/profits going to private individuals.

Once again, I am no expert on anything, but it makes me wonder why it is that a question that has been asked for the past 4 - 5 months is so difficult to answer. Is it because no one wants to go on record with the answer, because that answer will be so disturbing to the public?

How can it be that any public entity can give away that kind of money? Especially when there has been land speculation with our public money already--that should not have been taking place.

As a change of pace, I have a joke for all of you...How many pieces of property does it take for Sweetwater to build an administrative headquarters?

I don't know, but it looks like an infinite number, especially since there is still wheeling and dealing over the plans for the bus lot...taking over one from the city, but we will be parking more buses, so...."we are looking at adjacent pieces of property..."

Yes, there it is, the infinite scheme of property acquisition, brought to you by Sweetwater.

Can we please just get honesty from start to finish? Can the public be informed completely about all this? We don't want to keep hearing about things when it is too late to do anything about them.

7

anniej Aug. 17, 2014 @ 12:30 a.m.

Eastlaker - lets see the home for the District office was

1- suppose to be on Third Avenue, that is why we traded our land where the Veterans home is now located

2- then it was Third Avenue

3- then when 'the gandara' came to town he used our money for drive by appraisals for property on the Mile of Cars ( with Board approval )

4- now it is Harold Place

Since, the monies are to be used for 'facilities' - I have a novel idea, let's remember our schools are facilities and spend the money on improvements on them -

And,,,,,, who was on our Board the majority of the time ALL OF THIS WAS GOING ON- why none other than Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa

8

eastlaker Aug. 17, 2014 @ 8:05 a.m.

This list is so ridiculous! And it doesn't begin to include all the property that this district is paying for (can't say "owns", because of some of the technical arrangements due to those pesky rules about superfluous properties needing to go out to bid to other educational entities!!!).

So, tell me again because I get so confused--where does L street fit in with this?

6

anniej Aug. 17, 2014 @ 12:40 a.m.

JmBrickley - while you know 'I love ya' - allow me to remind you of those Board members that lived on the east side of the 805 who pilfered the Mello's - Jim Cartmill, John McCann, and Arlie Ricasa. While Lopez lives east of what many call the great divide she voted against and questioned the Mello borrowing. And what of THEIR choices of superintendent?

Is 805 the marker? All of this east vs west side nonsense reminds me of the old days and all of the talk about 'south' of Main Street, then it was 'south' of L street and 'west' of Broadway. And here I thought we were just plain old neighbors.

8

jerrythomas Aug. 18, 2014 @ 10:25 a.m.

Chula Vista Is a city destroying itself if it approves the Sweetwater Union High School District application for a rezone and entitlement process for the building 135 townhomes, called the COVE, at the current district office and bus garage on 5th st. near Oxford St. The city has already approved another SUHSD 162 residential housing project on a third of an acre and calls it the COLONY at 435 Third Ave, in downtown Chula Vista. These projects diminish their surroundings with overwhelming bulk, bland design and are crony-socialism. The Sweetwater Union High School District was impacted by excessive corruption and incompetence. The best we can do now is to fight for a holding action, hoping that we can keep things from getting worse till the election. The Corruption is uniquely reprehensible in a school system because it violates the first principle which we learned in elementary school: GOVERNMENT IS THERE FOR THE PEOPLE. We want to thank the interim trustees for your responsible efforts to fix the Sweetwater Union High School District mess, however the only information we have been receiving about these Chula Vista SUHSD real estate projects[ July 21 meeting for building 135 townhomes at the current district office and bus garage on 5th st.} is confused, vague, conflicting or incomplete. Also there should be no tradeoff of the public good for private gain by any individual, companies or public official. Why is the Sweetwater School system allowing a favored real–estate operator to excessively enrich himself through the use of school property? Where is the environmental impact study the impact of the proposed project will have on the neighborhood traffic parking and economic problems in this most congested area of Chula Vista on local people and businesses? We hope the new SUHSD interim trustees and city council will fulfill their obligation to the south bay area quality of life and focus on their responsibility to the children’s education and future. Chula Vista is going to have 200,000 more people in 15 years and SUHSD needs this land. Stop with these short–sighted financial disaster boondoggles. The failure of the horrendous leadership of the responsible oversight and justice system to stop the systematic and institutionalized corruption is destroying public confidence in the Sweetwater Union High School District and requires the city Council and school trustee inclusive leadership, due diligence, transparency and courageous integrity. The sale of public land to a private citizen with no debate in the School Board and City Council is a moral issue. Are ethics and morality a worthless product in political life in Chula Vista today?

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eastlaker Aug. 18, 2014 @ 12:33 p.m.

There is enormous truth in what you have to say. If you have not already, please write, email or call Interim Superintendent Glover and the Sweetwater board members and state exactly to them what you have stated here.

They need to hear the true thoughts of this extended community, and know the weight of the opinion of this community.

We cannot be pushed aside again and again, in favor of certain real estate interests...who are these people who have such control over our tax and bond monies??

Why is it so impossible to control this process??

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oskidoll Aug. 18, 2014 @ 11 a.m.

An important element in the real estate shell game perpetrated by Ed Brand and others was to seemingly ignore the state law that requires public property to be formally declared 'surplus' in a public hearing. At that time, members of the public would have an opportunity to weigh in on the decision before the board made the declaration identifying the property as surplus and declaring intent to sell. I believe other public agencies would have first chance to acquire such 'surplus' properties.

However, that was not to be in Sweetwater. Whatever shell the properties have been hidden under, and whatever manipulations were made in their title to avoid the public process is part and parcel (pun intended) off the shysters' intent to avoid the mandated requirements. I believe any action on the three real estate parcels should be declared 'null and void' until the law is correctly and properly followed.

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jerrythomas Aug. 19, 2014 @ 9:07 p.m.

Bonnie Dumanis was successful in going after the grass eaters, Sweetwater Union High School District public officials, who have exhibited a lack of ethical principles and integrity. They are responsible for great harm to many of the Sweetwater Union High School District programs and student access to R.O.P. workforce education programs. She should now go after the meat eaters. She should look into the real estate financial disasters that lack transparency and educational budget shenanigans. The most intensive investigation of corruption ever undertaken in the United States was carried out by the Knapp commission in the early 1970s. The commission was in response to the revelations supplied to the local press by two outraged New York policeman Frank Serpico and David Durk, who found a pervasive pattern of corruption. It was not a case of a few “rotten apples”. The commission did distinguish between degrees of corruption. It classified the corruption into two groups – MEAT EATERS and GRASS EATERS. The “meat eaters” were the truly aggressive who sought to squeeze every possible advantage from their position. The “grass eaters” took a much milder approach, confining themselves to accepting gifts, discounts, meals, and other favors. The grass eaters were the real problems. Their minor corruptions created a tolerance that allowed the worst activities of the meat eaters to flourish. Now is the time to go after the meat-eating culprits who have taken the educational nourishment from the children and community.

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