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July 28, 2021

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Friday, July 2, 2021

Mayor Appoints Schoolbus-Following Guy to the (School) Budget Advisory Committee

 

By Linda Kellen Biegel

Here at The Mudflats we did a post not long ago about an incident discussed during an Anchorage School Board Meeting. It seems that Bob Griffin, a twice-failed candidate for the school board, was pulled over by the police. Here is the explanation in the words of School Superintendent Carol Comeau at that meeting:

Carol Comeau — I have no idea what he said or what he’s doing. I do know that shortly after the election he was following the bus route of one high school, middle school and elementary school and the bus driver didn’t know who this white male driving the car was [so he] called dispatch. They reported it. A police officer came and stopped him and the bus. He [Griffin] wanted to know what was wrong. The police officers talked to the bus driver. The bus driver says, “I don’t like the fact that somebody in the same car is following me on all three routes. I don’t know who he is and we’re very concerned about this. This is one of the major signals of a pedophile or someone who is going to snatch a kid.” So, the police officer talked to him and explained basically the same thing and that [he] should have notified somebody at some point that [he] were going to do this. He [Griffin] said, “Don’t you recognize me? I just ran for the School Board.” The police officer didn’t recognize him and said, “Be that as it may, it’s not a good idea for you to be following school buses because when we hear about it, that’s the first thing we suspect” — that someone is going to snatch a kid or is a pedophile.

Mr. Griffin claimed to be doing “research” on how many children were actually riding the busses. However, he didn’t do the more statistically accurate method of counting the kids while they were getting on the busses at the individual schools. Of course, that would involve actually coordinating with the Anchorage School District rather than furtively following the busses around.

Last night, the Anchorage Assembly voted along partisan lines to put Mayor Sullivan’s appointee, Bob Griffin, on the Municipal Budget Advisory Committee.

Bob Griffin has run for Anchorage School Board (and lost) twice. Both times he was promoted openly by Mayor Dan Sullivan…this last run included personal donations from Sullivan and his wife. His campaigns were notable for the amount of questionable information he presented as “truth”. It took time and resources in order for the Anchorage School District to refute the falsehoods.

This appointment confirms how far Mayor Sullivan is willing to go to “get his way”…including appointing someone with, in the very least, incredibly poor judgment.

This appointment also confirms my fears regarding why the Budget Advisory Committee and the School Budget Advisory Committee were combined as part of Sullivan’s most recent attack on transparency. Last year, Mayor Sullivan was thwarted in getting a controversial character, Dave Bronson, on the School Budget Advisory Committee. The public was concerned that someone so partisan would have influence over the School District budget. Now that the word “School” has been removed, Bob Griffin was appointed without a whimper.

The good news: Something can still be done if we do it before 5:00 pm!

If one of the Assembly members who voted for Mr. Griffin can be RESPECTFULLY convinced to vote against him before 5:00 pm this evening, there can be a move for reconsideration and Bob Griffin’s appointment could be overturned.

Those Assembly members who voted for him are:

Ernie Hall (Assembly Vice-Chair) — HallE@muni.org
343-4115 (voicemail)
562-2088 (office)
561-6018 (fax)

Debbie Ossiander (Assembly Chair) — OssianderDA@muni.org
529-6356 (cell)
688-2308 (home)
343-4113 (voice mail)
688-2338 (fax)

Bill Starr — StarrWE@muni.org
350-5481 (cell)
694-5060 (home)
343-4313 (fax)

Adam Trombley — TrombleyAR@Muni.org
830-0378 (cell)
343-4120 (voicemail)

Jennifer Johnston — JohnstonJ@Muni.org
346-1087 (home)

Chris Birch — BirchC@muni.org
346-3265 (home)

Since time is of the essence, a phone call or a call combined with an email (as most of these folks have day jobs) is the best way to go. If you wish to email the entire Assembly at once, here is the address: WWMAS@muni.org

Thank you for your support of Anchorage’s school children!

Comments

comments

Comments
47 Responses to “Mayor Appoints Schoolbus-Following Guy to the (School) Budget Advisory Committee”
  1. FYI — it’s still not too late, actually. If it becomes “too hot” for him to be on the Committee, changes could be made.

  2. marlys says:

    “where are we going & why are we in this handbasket?”
    *~~~would have called Trombley, hell all of ’em, but got word too late:(

  3. mike from iowa says:

    LKB and AKM you need to go to the mountains and get focused. Then go to the source and cleanse your spirits and be as one with Nature. Then I would suggest you return and kick some serious butt,with renewed vigor.

  4. ks sunflower says:

    BTW, kudos to Linda for writing a splendid post and being another one whose voice is to be treasured!

  5. Bob Griffin says:

    Hey Linda,

    Just need to set the record straight, because many of the details you reported are incorrect.

    Based on a tip from an ASD insider about inefficiencies in the school bus system, a group of individuals from the Municipal Taxpayer League (not the Alaska Policy Forum) did a brief three day long observation of the ASD transportation system (of which I was one member). I also interviewed the ASD Chief of Transportation, Steve Kalmes and toured the Tudor Bus Barn part our this brief investigation.

    Our tipster indicated that the school bus system was being underutilized and run inefficiently and that the ASD maintains 40-60 more school busses than it needs to make the required number of runs with 10% spares . Much of that claim appears to be true based on our observations and interview, but a more extensive audit of a larger sample size needs to be conducted to confirm the extent of the inefficiencies.

    The 84 passenger bus that I observed in Eagle River picked up a total of 14 students during the route. When the bus arrived at Gruening Middle School and the students disembarked, I walked up to the contract driver and identified myself by name and explained what I was doing and who I was working for. When I asked the driver if 14 students was the normal load for this particular route, he responded that he “didn’t know” because he was a, “replacement driver for that route”. The normal driver had called in sick.

    Two days later, while I was standing in front of Gruening gathering more data on the number of student disembarking from busses in the morning, a school security officer walked up and asked me what I was doing. I identified myself, and explained my purpose for being there. She didn’t seem bothered by my activity, but radioed it in and left. About 10 minutes later two APD units arrived and the officers asked what I was doing. I identified myself and explained my purpose. The “do you know who I am” conversation never occurred. The officers didn’t seem bothered when I explained what I was doing. They promptly left and I continued to record the number of students disembarking from the busses.

    I am happy to report that school officials at every location we conducted observations were all alert enough to always question our presence.

    • First off, I know it was Alaska Policy Forum because I got confirmation…from David Boyle of Alaska Policy Forum. When I called him and said I’d heard his group was working on a study (count) of kids riding the buses, he acknowledged that he was. I then stated that I’d heard APF was working with Bob Griffin, and he said, “Yes.” It wasn’t until I recounted the story of you following the bus that he tried to backtrack within that same conversation and only denying that you were actually working FOR them.

      As for the rest of your “story,” let’s be clear…are you saying that the Superintendent of Schools Carol Comeau and the Anchorage Resource Officers involved (aka Anchorage Police) who provided her with the information are lying? Are you saying that the Superintendent did so during an Anchorage School Board Meeting that she knew was being recorded? If you are, please state that for the record because I’d sure like to see it. Knowing your modus operendi, I’m absolutely sure that the account as stated during the Anchorage School Board Meeting on May 23rd was the truth. I also have no doubt that you are attempting your traditional method of using half-truths and misinformation to obfuscate the facts.

      By the way, nowhere in your account do you deny following the school buses. On what planet is that an appropriate…or even accurate…way to do research?

      • Bob Griffin says:

        Linda,

        You’re a very skilled writer and passionate advocate for your point of view. Though I think you would be even more persuasive if you didn’t drag out the ad hominem cannon quite so often. Hopefully, we’re both trying to achieve the same thing; better educational outcomes for our kids.

        I wasn’t there for your phone conversation with David Boyle so I can’t comment on what you heard. I did discussed the tip about school bus system with David (he is also a volunteer for the Municipal Taxpayers League) and he also accompanied me to the meeting to the meeting with Steve Kalmes. I’m not sure what relevance it has, — APF or MTL. The results of these non-scientific observations were never released to the public.

        I’m not sure of the reason for the inaccurate details of the school board version of the encounter with the APD. I don’t think anyone at the school board meeting was trying to tell a version that was intentionally incorrect. It might have just gotten distorted in a second/third-hand account. Maybe you could go to the APD and interview the officers and the contract bus driver and the Gruening security officer and get confirmation from the first-hand sources and find out where the break-down in communications occurred. For the record: The May 23rd school board account of what happened contained many errors. I do not believe these errors were malicious or intentional. Everything I’ve said would be pretty easy to verify from the other people who were actually there.

        As for the bus route I observed: This particular bus was a Gruening Middle School run. It idled for 22 minutes in the parking lot of the Eagle Rivet Wal-Mart along with three other busses before starting its run along Kantishna Drive in Eagle River. The 84 passenger bus picked up 14 students before arriving at Gruening. The trip took about 14 minutes. I was trying to get a feel for how often the busses stopped and how many students were picked up at each stop. That’s not something that can be done without observation.

        The observations conducted were a small sample size. More extensive observation are planned for later after the ASD has an opportunity to implement changes. This topic will surface at a School Board meeting in the future. We didn’t feel the urgent need to publicize our findings and unnecessarily embarrass the ASD without giving them an opportunity improve.

    • beth says:

      “I also interviewed the ASD Chief of Transportation, Steve Kalmes and toured the Tudor Bus Barn part our this brief investigation.” — Bob

      Is there a spreadsheet (I’m assuming it’s in a spreadsheet format) from Mr Kalmes showing what busses are assigned to what routes? An accounting (for planning purposes) of the total number of transportation-needing students on a given route in a given year, and a correlating accounting/assignment of the size (passenger-wise) bus needed to accommodate that number? Anyone know? beth.

      • Bob Griffin says:

        Beth,

        The ASD has 310 busses and 238 routes. That means only 76% of our bus fleet operating on any given day. Traditionally, bus systems need about 10% spares for maintenance contingencies. That means the ASD is unnecessarily maintaining 48 busses than it needs to accomplish its mission. In addition, it appears that because of low passenger utilization rates for the buses, many of the 238 routes may be able to be combined, further reducing the number of busses required.

      • beth says:

        Bob – is the “it appears that because of low passenger utilization rates for the buses, many of the 238 routes may be able to be combined,” [conclusion/statement] reached through observation/your study, or through actual crunching of the numbers by Mr Kalmes, et.al.?

        And of those 48 busses “ASD is unnecessarily maintaining,” do you happen to know the passenger size(s) of them? What about the age of the fleet? (Obviously, the older the fleet, the more ‘spares’ are going to be needed to pick up the slack when one goes out of service.)

        Also, are you comparing what ASD is doing re: its bus fleet, with what other AK cities/towns are doing with theirs, or with what US cities/towns, overall, are doing with their school bus fleets? beth.

  6. AKMuckraker says:

    Sully’s term is up next year. And it should be noted that the supposed “progressive’ Ernie Hall voted with the Mayor on this one. The voters were duped. Matt Claman got trounced because progs were petulant that Matt threw his hat in the mayor’s race last time and sliced the pie into too many pieces. Nevermind the fact that Claman voted right almost every single time. And now, we’ve got a Trojan Horse in the Assembly and we are paying the price. And so will our kids. When will the supposed bastion of progressive values that is Anchorage wake up and start getting pissed? Good progressives get voted out, don’t run, stand apathetic, or flee the state. More than a little discouraged today.

    • All I Saw says:

      Jeanne –

      You can’t help people that don’t want to be helped.

      This progressive learned that the hard way.

      D.

    • ks sunflower says:

      Alaska and Kansas both need more people like those in Wisconsin. They don’t tricked more than once. They get and stay angry and fight to set things right.

      Am I holding my breath for Kansas? Nope – am not suicidal.

    • ks sunflower says:

      P.S. You are allowed to feel down about this, but please don’t give up. You are one of the few bright lights Alaska has, and your voice is sorely needed.

      In fact, you lift us all up – all across the country and even abroad. So let yourself grieve over the stupidity and apathy of those who will not learn, will not think, and will not vote for their own best interests. Maybe it’s just a maturation process. Alaska is a young state with plenty of newcomers who aren’t very sophisticated. If they don’t wise up, maybe their kids will (if the GOPTP doesn’t destroy the public school system – realizing as I say this that that is primary warning of this post).

    • I get you totally on that sentiment, but not giving up.

  7. SME says:

    Not only do we need to keep Griffen off the board we also need to get rid of Sullivan. He’s a menace in his own right.

  8. ks sunflower says:

    I wish I lived in Anchorage just to be able to raise my voice (respectfully as you request) against this rather analytically-challenged man. However, the person who really needs to is Mayor Sullivan.

    I asked this several times, but haven’t yet noted an answer: when is Sullivan’s term up?

    • Dori says:

      Not soon enough! He just keeps on making decisions like this one to the detriment of our community….I think he should be removed from office.

    • John says:

      April of 2012 is when he will run for re-election, and probably win. Unless enough people start pushing back. Or he runs for Senate or Governor.

      • ks sunflower says:

        OMG – Governor Sullivan — that would be total disaster for Alaska— Senator Sullivan would be a disaster for the nation. If people want to elect him for something, maybe Mayor isn’t all that bad — though sewer king would be more apt.

        • Millie says:

          When are voters going to realize that Republicans are a menace on the local, state and national levels. Just look at Anchorage, Alaska and the mess our national Congress is in. Thank God, we have such a smart, smart President….he’ll wip their asses!!

  9. lisa says:

    Good grief, somehow this is just scary. What is wrong with this man? Has anyone looked him up on the Alaska Courts Index for past offenses?

  10. AlaskanAmber says:

    I just got off the phone with Ernie Hall and he didn’t seem to know anything about this situation. I guess it shows how much research they do into the people they are appointing.

  11. I See Villages From My House says:

    This is what happens when you don’t get involved in your community, you get whack-jobs with delusions of grandeur holding sway over things that indirectly or directly affect your daily life. If I lived in Anchorage, I would make such a stink. This is pitiful and disgusting!

  12. CorningNY says:

    I suppose having the bus driver, say, COUNT the kids who rode his bus would’ve been a little too easy. ‘Cause it’s just so much fun to follow a school bus around all morning. Sheesh. This guy is not qualified for ANY position just based on his lack of brains and common sense.

  13. John says:

    Two years ago Griffin (as part of the three person Anchorage Policy Forum) attempted to compare ASD’s budget to three other school districts to show that Anchorage was overspending. He failed miserably, making so many middle school level analytic errors that one has to wonder how he will be at all useful on a budget review committee. One of the errors was failing to recognize the difference between budgets and actual spending. One of the districts he looked at had overspent their budget by $100 million. Comparing their spending to ASD’s spending was very different than comparing the two budgets, especially since ASD has never overspent its budget, and usually underspends.

  14. Dagian says:

    Holy bat guano. So instead of prosecuting the creep, they HIRED HIM?

    That was NOT a study. A study would have a research proposal, a committee to approve it, strict protocols to be followed and this one in particular would have had the full knowledge and participation of the school district PRIOR to him ‘just doing it’. He would have been ON the school buses after having taken any number of ethics classes AND a background check.

    This guy needs to be arrested & jailed. I’m a little surprised that the real researchers in various places in Alaska aren’t going bonkers. Or maybe they are!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Heck, the school district probably has daily, annual etc. statistics on who rides the school buses. Afterall, they have to plan routes and optimize the use of the buses. All he really had to do is talk to the transportation department.

  15. Cassie Jeep says:

    So I guess being a creepy stalker doesn’t mean you’re unemployable.

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