Week of February 18

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Messages which absolutely need to be seen today due to time constraints or breaking news. Remember to check the"new answers" link for the most active topics. This topic will run for a week, and then we will start a new dated "urgent" file.

-- Anonymous, February 18, 2001



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, February 20, 2001, Champaign, IL


The United States Department of Justice recently revealed that the University of Illinois refused its offer to hear and mediate the Chief Illiniwek controversy that has been a focus of dispute on the Urbana-Champaign campus for the past twelve years. In response to the condemnation of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools of the University's lack of institutional integrity in dealing with the issue of its race based mascot, the University Board of Trustees reaffirmed its support for Chief Illiniwek and simultaneously announced it would hold a 'dialogue' to get popular input.

It was at that time, Kenith Bergeron of the Department of Justice Community Relations Services, Region 5, Chicago, offered their services to the University. "The function of our office is to help resolve issues of race, color and national origin as mandated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and to help prevent the escalation of racial and ethnic tension, incidents, or civil disorder. The Chief controversy on the Urbana campus appeared to us to clearly fall within our jurisdiction and so we offered our services to the University," said Bergeron.

"We believe that the neutrality of our office would allow opposing parties to come together on this issue," explained Bergeron. "The Department of Justice services are provided free, without cost."

The Justice Department, without cost to the University, would have provided a process, a forum, and if need be, independent mediation, where all relevant parties would have been heard. This offer was refused by the University's Trustees, who subsequently identified and contracted with former Judge Louis Garippo to oversee their 'dialogue' process. It was obvious that the University wanted to maintain tight control of this process.

"We decided to let their dialogue run its course while continuing to monitor the process," said Bergeron.

When the Garippo report came out this Fall, it was clear that it was not thorough, accurate, or independent, but provoked further controversy. It was at that time the Department of Justice again approached the University and again offered its services.

"The Board appears to have received what it bought and paid for," said Cyd Crue, president, of the Illinois Chapter of the National Coalition On Racism in Sports and the Media. "We believe that a meaningful resolution cannot be reached until the Board has frank discussions that include those who advocate ending the Chief tradition. In our view, this has not yet taken place and we remain acutely concerned about the potential for further confrontation."

"This episode is unfortunate in many ways," said UIUC Swanlund Professor of History Frederick Hoxie. "It is now plain that the Trustees were never interested in a real dialogue. If they had been, they would have taken the offer of the Justice Department. Rather than taking a positive step towards the creation of a healthy discussion of how best to embrace the value of diversity on this campus, the Board devised an extremely expensive strategy that has neither improved the campus atmosphere nor moved us closer to a resolution. "

Debbie Reese, graduate student and president of the UIUC Native American Student Organization, Red Roots, stated, "I believe the Trustees want to keep their fake Indian. In doing so they deny the campus the enriching educational opportunities that can occur when Native Americans enter into meaningful dialogue with fellow students. In light of this, I'm not surprised the Trustees rejected the offer from the Department of Justice."

Professor May Berenbaum, Swanlund Professor and Head of the Department of Entomology, concerned by this news said, "By turning down an offer for independent oversight of its dialogue, the Board of Trustees seriously compromised its status as an honest broker of intellectual exchange. It's not just about the money--it's about credibility, and it seems that an extraordinary opportunity was missed for reasons that were not clearly articulated."

"What an appalling waste of student and taxpayer dollars. I hope that the Board does the right thing and retires the Chief soon. We have too much to lose, not least of which is the impact of all this on recruiting a new Chancellor for the Urbana campus," said UIUC Professor Vernon Burton, 1999 Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year.

This was not the first time the Trustees refused independent mediation of the Chief issue. In November, 1998, UIUC Professor Stephen Kaufman raised this option with University President James Stukel, who brought the proposal to the Trustees. No reason was given for the Trustees refusal to engage in a professionally mediated independent discourse at that time. Responding to this new revelation from the Justice Department Kaufman said, "To maintain control and direct the process to the outcome they sought, the Trustees have squandered hundreds of thousands of student and taxpayer dollars. It's a shame they didn't take this opportunity to have a credible review of the issue. The North Central Association remains very concerned about the mascot issue on the Urbana campus and it is not likely that they are going to be taken in by the charade of the 'dialogue' staged by the Board. What this translates into with regard to the academic accreditation of the UIUC campus remains to be ! determ ined."

For further information contact: Cyd Crue, 217-355-6757 Stephen Kaufman: 217-333-3521 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ {ref: MASCOT ILLINOIS }

Seems to have some relevance to our old DOJ contact in onteora. Tobe

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2001

Here's an abridged timeline of correspondence about the mods and the buses especially for Meg. This is culled from factual letters and material on file at the OCS district office and FOIL'ed.

Modulars and Transportation at the Bennett and Phoenicia Schools


The modulars at Bennett and Phoenicia were owned by a corporation named Associated Construction Concepts (ACC) and have reportedly been transferred to an individual named Mr. Eratt who was the principal owner of that corporation.

A history of the leases and arrangements and board correspondence is revealing:

The first lease ran three years from 7/94 until 6/97 and cost the district $258,000 or $86,000/year.

The second lease ran from 9/97 until 8/00 and was for $132,000 or $44,000/year.

The latest lease agreements were in the following stages of negotiation when the talks broke down. The first lease offer, at this stage, was for 5 years at the rate of $31,104/year. This was built into the previous lease agreement and had to be exercised 9 months before that lease expired.

It was voted upon and unanimously approved by the Onteora Board of Education on 11/15/99 and to be effective on 9/01/00. But at Mr. Doan's urging, a disclaimer was added to the motion in order to assure the board that ACC is legally capable of doing business with the district. The disclaimer stated that approval of the lease was "subject to proof of legality that the lessor (ACC) is capable of doing business with the school district".

Discrepancies that called into question ACC's ownership of the modulars and ACC's ability to do business in NYS were the reasons for this disclaimer.

Meanwhile, on 11/19/99, the Onteora board requested and received from Eratt a 2-month extension for the District to exercise its option to renew the lease. On 2/29/00 Onteora sent a letter to Eratt stating it's intention to renew the lease on the condition that NYS tax leins were to be met by ACC.

In subsequent correspondence, Mr. Eratt, through his lawyer, claimed that ownership of the modulars would be transferred to him, from ACC. An 8/23/00 letter from the law firm of Donaghue, Thomas, Auslander and Drohan, representing the Onteora Central School District, stated that the lawyer for Mr. Eratt has proposed entering the lease agreement with Mr. Eratt who will be acquiring title to the modular units from ACC. Mr. Eratt also offered to indemnify the District for any claims or tax leins against the modulars. The District law firm researched this issue andwrote that the NYS Tax Department stated that while the tax leins would not be lifted as a result of the transfer of ACC to Mr. Eratt, the party who would bear the burden of satisfying the lein would be Mr. Eratt, the prospective owner, and not the District, as Tenant. The Onteora BOE had a Workshop Meeting on 9/11/00 and Mr. Doan submitted a document entitled exhibit "A" that states, "I do not think that we should not review the lease for another 5 years (sic). The overcrowding condition at Bennett lends a sense of urgency to address this problem within the very near future. Whatever our conclusion is, it will probably not include the use of these units as a way of reducing overcrowding."

The Onteora Board responded to Mr Eratt on September 22, 2000 by requesting that:

Mr. Eratt provides the district with a corporate resolution showing that Eratt has acquired title to the modulars from ACC.

Mr. Eratt provide the District with a performance bond or escrow account in an amount sufficient to restore the property on which the modulars have been installed in to it's original condition should the parties not renew the lease.

The District is provided with Mr. Eratt's residence address and SS number so the District can send him a 1099 form.

Mr. Eratt provides the District with proof that Mr. Eratt has clear and marketable title to the modulars. And to notify Mr. Eratt that the District will be conducting a title search to verify title on the modulars.

Mr. Eratt's lawyer responded on 9/27/00 by claiming that Mr. Eratt has "no problem providing indemnification for any claims regarding ownership..." and that Onteora's objection regarding Mr. Eratt's ownership of the buildings is "without standing". "The fact that ownership of the building has transferred from Mr. Eratt's corporation to him personally is of no consequence to your client" (Onteora). The letter from Eratt's lawyer further stated that Mr. Eratt did not object to Onteora's "request for a reasonable extension of the lease deadline and that this deadline and a more than a reasonable extension is long past". "Your client's delay has prevented my client from removing the units to another customer as now school has begun". And "Mr. Eratt has authorized me to take whatever action is necessary to effectuate return of the units".

Mr. Eratt further proposed the "only three viable alternatives" as follows:

Remove the units within 60 days or Pay $40K for the remainder of the school year and Eratt will remove them in June, 2001 or Renew the lease for 3 years at $31,000 per year.

Throughout all of the history of the leases, the Onteora School district had the option of purchasing the modulars. It was available, and stipulated in the lease, in 1999, for $120,000 but subject to voter approval.

Transportation Costs

The estimated cost of moving the Bennett kindergarten alone and busing those students to West Hurley and Woodstock will require two bus runs estimated, conservatively, at a cost to the district of $50,000 - $60,000. The cost of transporting the kindergarten students from the Phoenicia School to Woodstock and West Hurley would be conservatively estimated to be $50,000 - $60,000 per year. (A single bus run is approximately $25,000- $30,000 per year at Onteora)

If the decision is made to transport all the kindergarten students from Phoenicia and Bennett to Woodstock and West Hurley in 2001, the transportation cost alone is estimated to be over $100,000 per year. Mr. Grehl, head of the Onteora transportation department, has provided and supported these approximate figures.

The cost, in 2001, of the Bennett and Phoenicia modulars for a three-year lease is $31,000 per year as offered in the last lease negotiation with Eratt. The plan to bus the kindergarten students from Bennett and Phoenicia will cost the Onteora taxpayers an additional $69,000 per year.

As suggested at the last meeting on buildings, the shortest time frame to get NYSBOE approval and to build an addition on any of the schools is, at a minimum, 1 years after voter approval. The election is mid-May, 2001. Any addition to either Bennett or Phoenicia would not be complete until mid-November 2002. The transportation costs for this period of time would amount to approximately $130,000 whereas the cost of renting the modulars at $31,000 per year would be $93,000 for a 3-year lease but minus the cost we have already incurred for this year would bring the actual cost to $62,000 for 2 years. This would still save the district $68,000 in transportation costs during the time of construction if the modulars were kept.

Construction also requires voter approval. If the voters do not approve a capital improvement bond, at least the classrooms are available for the students by keeping the modulars which by the above analysis proves to be less expensive than bussing to Woodstock and West Hurley.

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2001

Suki and I went to the championship basketball game last night, Onteora girls vs Rondout. No cheerleaders, just one momentary "Go Indians," but mostly exhortations of "Go Onteora" or "Go Red." Uniforms don't have "Indians" on them, just Onteora, though some new t-shirt designs for sale both had Onteora Indians written on them, but only as text. There were some large red styrofoam hands with "Go Onteora" on the raised pointer finger. One boy had ripped that finger off, attached it to a string and had it as the feather of an "Indian head-dress." I was rather appalled by the Onteora crowd behavior, one jerk kept screaming "mental midget" as the Rondout shooters were aiming, and there were some concerted sounds to throw shooters off too. Joe Vanacore came in around 9-ish, I do hope the board meeting was over by then.

-- Anonymous, February 23, 2001

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