Earlier Letters to the Editor
Hawley says he’ll take on McCaskill
Erin and I have been thinking a lot about the future and the path our country is on.
But D.C. looks a lot like the past. Even after the last election, the career crowd in Washington keeps on doing the same old thing.
Claire McCaskill is a part of that crowd. She's been in D.C. forever, and she doesn't represent Missouri.
We know too many people who can't get a job. If they've got a job, they can't get a raise to improve their lives and take better care of their families.
Erin and I have decided we have to do something about it. That's why, next year, I'm running for the U.S. Senate.
This wasn't our plan, but Missourians deserve a change. Farmers are hurting. Healthcare costs and taxes just keep climbing.
Claire McCaskill has turned her back on the people of Missouri. It's time for a new direction.
If you agree, I'm asking you to join me. This will not be easy, and it's going to feel like an uphill battle at times. But all the most important fights do.
We need a change in Washington, and that has to start here in Missouri.
Fed up with the NFL
The NFL can kiss my behind.
I hope the entire NFL enterprise utterly collapses. A mass withdrawal from a rejection of the NFL.
Should the taking a knee folly--telling us ‘you’re a bunch of racists, America!’--spread to baseball, basketball, etc. may the entire professional sports franchise utterly collapse. May there be a mass turning away, a mass rejection.
It wasn’t enough that our obsession with filling our sports stadiums kept us from filling our streets to support cops. No, we had to let leftist football players protest us.
This will not be a suppression of First Amendment freedom but rather a loss of interest, a loss of affinity, a loss of identifying with.
Screw the NFL.
Concerned about road maintenance
More than five years ago the Platte City Special Road District destroyed the tubing at the driveway at 16035 N. Winan Road and removed it. At the time I was told they were out of the correct tubing and installed one of probably six inches.
At the time there was only a Wick Storage building. Several times I asked when the correct tubing was going to be put in and the answer was always the same. I will check on it. Never an answer back.
Last year I built a home there. With the rain we have had, my driveway serves as a ditch. Again recently I asked Frank Offutt, manager of the special road district, when this was going to be taken care of. He came back with an answer: “Your drive was grandfathered in. I will check.” Absolutely nothing. The first house was built here in 1862 and the present house was built here in 2016. You better believe it is a grandfather.
Last winter I had to drag dead tree limbs off the road. Right now there are dead limbs just north of my driveway on the west side of the road, ready to fall with wind, rain or snow. This tree is about quarter mile south of my house and it was reported. The tree is still there and more if it is dying. Will there be dead limbs on the road that cause a wreck?
This has become one of the busiest roads with people coming down from northern Platte County, Clinton and Buchanan counties, going to the airport and businesses in that area. They can go straight across Hwy. 92 and not have to make a turn.
Banks have not been mowed. There are cracks so wide grass and weeds are growing in them. Where is our road tax money being spent?
Winter is coming so something needs to be done now.
Rural Platte County
Low hunting fees have big benefits
For many Missourians, autumn is a time of family gatherings. Thanksgiving is the most obvious occasion, but for thousands, hunting season also serves as an opportunity to spend time with parents, children, extended family, and those friends who might as well be part of the family, too.
Fortunately, Missouri's fee burdens on the hunter are among the lowest in the country, and that's an important point to make now that bow season has opened.
For management purposes those low fees mean more hunters, and more hunters means more opportunities to control deer and other animal populations. For families, lower costs mean more opportunities to spend quality time hunting together.
It's true: When government is smallest, freedom is greatest.
Good luck to our hunters.
Director of Government
The superintendent's residency status
The Park Hill School District takes residency very seriously. Ask anyone who has tried to enroll a student with only a real estate or builder's contract in hand. There are very specific guidelines that prevent families from, say, renting an apartment in-district and continuing to live elsewhere.
At times, the district even dispatches security staff to neighborhoods or apartment complexes to ensure compliance with the general standard that a student “lay his head on a pillow every night” within school boundaries. While it can seem heavy-handed, district leaders feel strongly that students' families should be fully--and financially--invested in supporting our schools.
So it's fair to question if this same standard is applied to the superintendent; past practice certainly establishes precedent. Dennis Fisher, who commuted as an assistant superintendent, sold his long-time family home in Liberty and moved to Park Hill when he took the job. Scott Springston transplanted his family here from Kansas. But current superintendent Jeanette Cowherd's residency is less clear.
When contacted for clarification, school board president Janice Bolin acknowledged that it is a board expectation the superintendent live in the district. And while it appears Dr. Jeanette Cowherd has rented an apartment in our area, a quick check of the public tax records reveals she continues to own and maintain a half-million dollar two-story home in Johnson County, Kansas. Where would you suspect she puts “head to pillow” most nights—a two-bedroom apartment or her upscale Johnson County home?
Other than the obvious hypocrisy, this is a problem for several reasons.
While this arrangement may meet the “letter” of this condition of employment, it clearly violates the “spirit” of it. As former superintendent Gayden Carruth once reminded her administrative team, leading schools is a full-time, 24/7 responsibility. People want to see you at little league games, exchange pleasantries at church and bend your ear at the grocery store. It's not enough to “talk the talk” by telling the Rotary Club what a wonderful district it is in which you work; parents and patrons want to know you “walk the walk” by genuinely committing to the area. It's one of the things communities have a right to expect when they pay a quarter-million dollars a year to a superintendent.
When proposing bond and levy initiatives, it is generally accepted that advocates for these tax increases will share in the financial burden for the overall good, and the superintendent serves literally as the face of these efforts. If, in fact, Dr. Cowherd maintains a home in Kansas while renting an apartment in Missouri, thousands of her real estate tax dollars benefit Johnson County schools and amenities rather than supporting Park Hill schools and Platte County programs.
I believe most voters assumed their superintendent was investing in our schools in the same way she asked them to do so last April.
Finally, the superintendent's residency is relevant because she was paid to move to Park Hill. Board president Bolin acknowledged that Dr. Cowherd was given a $5,000 stipend for “moving expenses.” This money should be used to offset the cost of relocating one's family and buying a house in the school district upon hire; it shouldn't be a “sack of cash” bestowed as yet another financial perk of the job. I would challenge current board members to ask for documentation of moving expenses and require this money be re-paid if it was used to furnish part-time living quarters and not to truly relocate Dr. Cowherd's family home to our area.
In my correspondence with Mrs. Bolin, I asked what percentage of the time Jeanette Cowherd lives at her apartment in our district. I wasn't provided an answer.
When it comes to the superintendent's investment in Park Hill, I think our community deserves some answers.
Inflation of superintendent pay is a problem
At the end of last school year, Park Hill Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd got a nice pay increase, even though she was already the highest paid government employee in Platte County.
Dr. Cowherd makes more than our circuit court judges, more than the sheriff or commissioners, more than the county prosecutor. Other than a handful of big district superintendents around the state, she's one of the highest paid government employees in Missouri.
Jeanette Cowherd is paid more than the Missouri Supreme Court chief justice, more than the parole board chairman, even more than Gov. Eric Greitens. And it isn't even close. The Park Hill superintendent is paid tens of thousands more than any of them every year.
School board members will argue that superintendent salary is simply a reflection of the market, like big league ball players making millions of dollars based on the economics of the game and the availability of talent.
The difference, of course, is that school leaders are paid with public tax dollars not private business investments. There are no TV/radio contracts or shoe endorsement deals to supplement district coffers. Superintendent salary increases are dollars, plain and simple, that could be used to support teachers, students and learning.
And let's be honest. While every district tries to make a superintendent search look like the selection of a new chief of neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic--contracting with headhunters, posting in national professional journals and flying in potential candidates from out of state--it really isn't “brain surgery.” In my experience, most districts have a handful of school leaders who could readily step in to do these jobs and more times than not one of them is hired to do it. After months of focus groups, surveys and interviews, “seeking input from stakeholders and constituents,” the school board ceremoniously declares the “best and brightest candidate was right here in our own district after all!” It's a disingenuous and expensive charade.
Just a few years before she was hired as superintendent, Jeanette Cowherd wasn't leading a Fortune 500 company or publishing academic articles/books on educational best practices. She was handling student discipline and supervising ball games as the assistant principal at Park Hill South High School. Necessary and valuable work but hardly specialized expertise or experience that would justify the doubling or tripling of her salary in her new position as superintendent.
I'd propose an easy fix. The superintendent's pay increases should be the same as those received by the highest paid teacher. This should be a fixed dollar amount and not a percentage since the latter creates ever-widening disparities in actual earnings for teachers and district leaders.
The excessive inflation of superintendent salaries is a problem that needs to be addressed by communities across the state. Park Hill School Board members can use their position and reputation to set the example by creating more fair and fiscally-responsible limits on superintendent compensation. Excellent candidates will still be attracted to Park Hill because they want the same quality of life opportunities for their families that drew all of us here—great schools, safe neighborhoods and abundant community resources.
Public school staff are government employees; it is inexplicable that the superintendent of our local district is paid $40,000/year more than the governor of our state. Parents, patrons and taxpayers need to stand up and be heard by offering comment at school board meetings, calling individual board members or speaking out in other public forums. We need to demand our district tax dollars are used as intended--to benefit the many and not merely to enrich the few.
Removal of a monument
As someone who has had direct family members sacrifice greatly for our communities and the preservation of our supposed liberties during the American Revolution, Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War, it was with great concern that I read about the Kansas City government's upcoming removal of a Veteran Monument on 55th and Ward Parkway.
The monument, which was recently vandalized, is a memorial to the women who served their country by sacrificing for their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons who fought in a bloody war waged all throughout our communities in Missouri. As an individual who has studied local 19th century history and am well read on the subject, I can also point out that it's a fact that some of these women were even killed for their service. But without any kind of vote by the community (that I'm aware of), the solution to the UDC's request to move the monument to safety is to instead remove it from public view. On taxpayer dime, no doubt. Yeah, land of the free.
What's so concerning is that, in this Orwellian campaign of eradication and censorship, facts are often lost because of a poor or outright biased understanding of history. Not to mention the outrageous hypocrisy of politicians claiming to support veterans and women's rights, then turning around and hiding away monuments dedicated to them.
At the very worst it's erasing history: The history of all people. This includes the documented cases of African American, Native American and Hispanic veterans who fought and sacrificed on the side of the South, and who these monuments also seek to remember. Why is it that today there are so few veterans organizations or rights groups speaking up for these people who served their communities during one of the most terrible wars our country has experienced?
The truth, in my opinion, is that these monuments are not racist nor are the people who support them. This should go without saying but in this time of gestapo-like tactics from those who would use these issues to raise funds and secure power for themselves, it needs to be said. These monuments were placed as a means to honor the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who suffered and died through attacks by a brutal and aggressive enemy. Most of these people owned no slaves, and as there was no "third" option to align themselves with, ended up fighting in order to receive some kind of justice during a conflict where voter rights were stripped, freedom of the press was lost, freedom of religion was denied, men and boys were shot on their doorsteps under martial law, and women and children of all races were left to starve as their homes were torched.
Our communities once understood the lessons of history, and the hardships and horrors that the Civil War time period wrought upon us all. They worked to come together the best that they could after years of bloodshed, hatred and intolerance. Perhaps we should try to do the same today.
Note: for more information, please see The Real Lincoln by Tom DiLorenzo, The War Between the States by John J. Dwyer, Black Southerners in Confederate Armies by J.H. Segars and Charles Kelly Barrow, Quantrill in Missouri by Paul R. Petersen, Paxton's Annals, The Half Not Told by Preston Filbert, The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas E. Woods, the Antifederalist Papers or When The World Ended, the Diary of Emma LeConte.
Independent thinkers needed at R-3
As your front page story last week talked about Platte County R-3 debt, I thought it might be easier for people to see the problem with some basic numbers.
There are 520 school districts in the state of Missouri and according to the most recent verified budget numbers from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary education, NONE, ZERO ZIP, NADA have more debt per student then Platte County R-3.
This includes a district in St Louis that has grown by 5,000 students in the past 10 years while R-3 has grown by only 1100 in that time. Another area district, Grain Valley, has grown by 1200 in that same time period and shows less than half the debt of R-3.
Why use debt per student for a comparison? No district is exactly alike so you divide the number of students into total district debt and it gives you a good number to compare to others.
Out of those 520 districts, R-3 also leads in percentage of debt that is financed by lease purchase, with 28% of R-3 debt being unregulated by the state as mentioned in your article.
Unregulated lease purchase debt is renewed yearly which comes with yearly paperwork, yearly fees and you are unable to piggyback on the state of Missouri’s very high bond rating. So you have to use R-3's lower bond rating (even lower when doing a lease purchase) which typically means a higher interest rate.
The district that I mentioned with growth of almost 5,000 students only shows 1% of their debt as lease purchase. Grain Valley show zero percent. See a problem?
By Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik's logic
in your article, costs constantly go up so you need to use creative financing to secure items immediately. According to Reik’s logic, this means we should probably go ahead and take on more debt now to build a new high school along with any other purchase we can think of. I mean, in 10 years it will cost twice as much, right?
Apparently this school board can see into the future and seems to know something 519 other districts have not figured out yet. 519 other districts not spending $800-$1,000 per student per year on interest. That's right , R-3 is spending $800 per student on interest only.
The R-3 district is like a college student who has maxed out his/her line of credit so they get a credit card at a higher interest rate and buy items they don't need but really, really want and then try to convince their parents it actually saved them money.
What are the items R-3 really wanted that caused this large debt not related to capacity challenges? 3,000 computers, $5 million for the administration building, $5 million for energy upgrades, replacing lighting that still has loans from previous upgrades, $600,000 in school funds and property for tennis courts, of course the swimming pool, the turf on the football field and the big one, one new R-3 employee for every 4.5 new students.
That's about $250,000 plus per year in salaries and expenses for every new classroom added in the district the past five years.
Board President Sharon Sherwood mentioned in the article the district was looking at slowing down on hiring. I would hope so because at this rate before long everyone in the county may work or have a relative that works in the district. Keep in
mind the district enrollment only grew by 40 students last year.
If you wanted to complain about the debt, or district administration to a board member in private how are you to do it? Every single district that surrounds PCR3 (and all others I checked) lists an email address or a phone number to communicate with their school board members. At R-3 you have to send all communication through the administrative office for review before it is forwarded on.
So say someone wanted to report they saw a district administrator ticketed for going almost 80 mph in a 55 mph zone in his SUV on a school bus route. Currently the only way you could report that is if the information is sent to that administrator’s office.
So what happens now? That ticket ends up on my desk, like multiple other items people are concerned with.
Does that sound right to you? Shame on you, R-3, for being one of the only districts that does not allow the voting public direct communication with its elected officials.
Its very simple to fix, you assign your board member a school email address and post it on line. Seems to work for everyone else. Why exactly has it not been done?
Intelligent, independent thinkers are needed for the PCR-3 School Board. The next school board election will be in April. Please start thinking now about running if you would like to help with some of the problems listed above. The end of the year will be here before we know it.
Rural Platte County
There's another KCI plan
One of the many “'Listening Sessions” on the new single terminal airport at KCI was held Monday, July 10. The assembled citizens assumed that the city council would be listening to us. Instead, it was a lecture. We were told about all the benefits we would get from a new one-box single terminal.
Burns & McDonnell assured us they had everything under control and that we taxpayers would not be paying for it.
The director of marketing and air service named his Powerpoint 'Listening Session.’ We listened. He presented a one-box 'single terminal.’
Two members of the business community (Chamber of Commerce and A Better KC) tried to make the case that with a new state-of-the-art terminal, new businesses would come to Kansas City. I regret to say this but people don't bring a business to an area because of its airport. How about creating an environment tax wise that would invite new business?
Attendees were given an index card for a question, cards were collected at random and the moderator decided due to time constraints that no one could speak to his question.
Five members from the city council were up next. Four of them stated:
•The original roll-out to voters of a single terminal in 2011-2012 was ill advised.
•We've spent over $400,000 on legal fees (for a project the voters have not approved).
•I was against it before I was for it.
•We lengthened the bidding process to allow others (besides Burns & McDonnell) to submit bids.
The only dissenting voice from the council was that of Teresa Loar, second district, sidelined by being asked to go first. Her plain and simple comment: “We have put the cart before the horse. First should come the vote of the people, and then the plans to develop.”
To their credit, the five council members in attendance stated that voters would be able to see all the proposals before they vote on the one chosen by the selection committee. Let's make sure the voters agree to having a new airport first.
At a previous meeting, 80% of citizens stated preference for the current configuration.
For one third the cost ($335 million), Terminal A could become state-of-the-art with all the upgrades on the wish list. Yes, there's another plan to vote on.
Residents and visitors alike appreciate the convenience. Law enforcement would continue to have ease of access since they are close to any call for assistance.
Amenities for travelers would be provided by doubling the current width to include shopping, restaurants, and bathrooms.
Although the city council and Burns & McDonnell are moving ahead with a one-box single terminal, it is not their decision. It is our decision.
Vote NO. There's a NO in November.
in Platte County
The freedom of opportunity
Thomas Jefferson is arguably the most important person in American history.
He executed one of our biggest ever land deals, he forged alliances with foreign powers that were critical to the survival of our union, and his philosophies on liberty and self-governance became central tenants of the U.S. Constitution.
But of all his accomplishments, perhaps most important was when he put down these 55 words in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
On this, the anniversary of our independence, Jefferson's words remain as true today as they were 241 years ago. The guiding principle of this experiment in representative democracy is that our government derives its powers from those it governs.
We still adhere to the beliefs that all men are created equal. Regardless of our occupation, wealth, background or origin, we all have the same freedom of opportunity, and the decisions of those in government can never change that.
On this July 4th, we must remember the role we all have to play in preserving our freedoms. Otherwise, as President Reagan said, “One day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Enjoying her weekly Landmark
Just want you to know how much I look forward to The Landmark arriving in my mailbox every Thursday.
Love your column and opinions by Hearne Christopher, Chris Kamler and Brian Kubicki. Keep up the good work.
Incidentally, I canceled my subscription to the Kansas City Star after 40 years. It’s a joke.
Thank you and your staff for keeping us informed in Platte County.
More specifics on the location of Drydale
Regarding a recent article in The Landmark: “The Death of a Lawman” on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. I think that I may be able to give more information on the location of Drydale. My maiden name was Poss. I was born in 1933 and grew up on a farm about a mile south of Stillings along what is now called Kisker Road.
According to what I remember, my parents when referring to Drydale said it was located quite near where the railroad bridge came across the Missouri River from Leavenworth into Missouri, west of Stillings.
They would have had reason to remember the location, as an uncle of my father had a business in Drydale for a time--a saloon, I would imagine.
in Platte County
REAL ID compliant driver's licenses
Missourians will soon have the option to obtain a driver's license that is compliant with the federal REAL ID Act. The bill I sponsored passed out of both the Senate and the House last week and is now on its way to the governor for his signature. The legislation will require the state revenue department to issue REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses and identification cards to those who want them. Compliant licenses will be needed to do things like board airplanes and enter military bases and federal buildings.
Passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, The REAL ID Act was designed to enhance security procedures by establishing new minimum standards for driver's licenses. Missouri responded to the requirements by passing a state law in 2009 to protect the private information of Missouri citizens by prohibiting the Missouri Department of Revenue from complying with the federal act. Because of this law, current Missouri driver's licenses are not compliant with the federal standards and were set to no longer be valid at airports and federal facilities beginning in 2018.
With the legislation approved this week, Missourians will now have the option to obtain a federally compliant driver's license. The bill will also allow individuals with a non-compliant driver's license to obtain a compliant version at no additional cost. However, even with the change, it will take the Department of Revenue as long as two years to make the new REAL ID-compliant licenses available. In order to allow people to travel and access federal facilities, the state will seek a waiver from the federal government to allow existing identification to continue to work until the new IDs are attainable.
For Missourians who do not want to comply with the REAL ID requirements because of privacy concerns, the legislation will allow them to request the existing style of Missouri identification that is not compliant with the federal act.
For those who want or need the federally compliant driver's license, the bill will establish safeguards so that any additional data gathered is used only for purposes of issuing the identification. One provision would ensure the source documents to obtain an ID are stored on a server that is not connected to the Internet in order to prevent hacking of the database. The bill also includes criminal penalties for misuse or unlawful access of personal data.
Other changes made in the bill will require the legislature to revisit the issue in the event the federal government changes the REAL ID Act, and will repeal the section entirely if the federal government ends the program.
The bill is designed to provide a reasonable solution that will ensure Missourians aren't burdened with having to get alternative identifications to access federal facilities or to visit family members on military bases. The legislation gives Missourians the freedom to decide whether to obtain identification that is compliant with REAL ID.
Law Enforcement Appreciation Day
On Saturday, May 20, over 30 area law enforcement agencies will hold a Northland Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in English Landing Park in Parkville.
There is no charge for the event and it is open to the public. Activities will include lunch with a cop, car seat inspections and installation, child fingerprinting and photo ID kits, bicycle rodeo, vehicle and watercraft displays and more.
The event is scheduled to take place from noon to 4 p.m. The event will be dependent on weather and there is no “rain date” for the event.
The event is being coordinated by the Platte County Sheriff's Office, the Parkville Police Department and the Kansas City Police Department.
I want to thank all of the law enforcement agencies and community organizations that have agreed to participate in the event.
This event is a great opportunity for citizens to interact with a variety of law enforcement agencies and officers that work throughout the Northland and our region. There will be activities for kids and adults, it should be a fun day.
Platte County Sheriff
It's public service not self service
As of this writing, dozens of important bills sit idly before the Missouri Senate, and if the past is indicative of future behavior, most if not all of these bills will die when the legislative session soon closes. Those bills include labor reforms, ethics reforms, tax cuts, education improvements, and countless other items of primary importance to the people who elected these senators.
To be clear, senators have had time to literally sing "Kumbaya" to one another on the Senate floor and filibuster the reading of the Journal; they haven't had time for actual priorities important to the public.
The barrier here has not been ideological gridlock--self-described conservatives hold a supermajority in the chamber--but shameful and selfish behavior by a handful of senators more interested in settling personal scores than carrying the People's business to enactment.
You didn't get on a committee? No one likes your bill? Grow up.
The Senate would be well-served to be reminded they're engaged in public service, not self-service. Stop complaining. Start doing the people's business.
Director of Government
Police officer goes above and beyond
I am writing to publicly express my gratitude to the Platte City Police Department, specifically Sgt. Levi Riley.
As I was driving on I-29 in a rental car, the rear passenger side tire blew out. I managed to get off highway onto the exit for Platte City.
The rental car company said it would be two hours before they could get someone to help me. They called the Platte City Police.
Sgt Riley responded. He didn't feel it was safe for me to wait the two hours and made the decision to change the tire and put on the spare.
Afterwards, he followed me along the highway, to the end of his jurisdiction, making sure I was safe to drive with the spare.
Thank you, Sgt. Levi Riley!
McCaskill on why she holds town halls
When my mom was alive, she would sometimes travel with me to public town halls I held across the state.
She sometimes introduced me by saying, “I call this the dog and pony show—I'm the dog, and she's the pony.”
My mom—never at a loss for something sharp and witty to say—raised me in rural Missouri. And one of the many things she passed on to me was the value of never forgetting where you came from, and the idea that when you're in public service, to never be afraid to let folks chew on you and tell you what they think.
After all, I represent all Missourians, whether they voted for me or not. And I'm in this for them.
The values my mom taught me have never left me during my time in the Senate. It's those values that've led me to hold public town halls with Missourians—including eight public town halls across Missouri last week.
When I announced these town halls, some colleagues in Washington questioned why I would choose to travel to the rural counties won by the other party in last year's election—often by a large margin.
For me, it was a no-brainer. I was humbled by the election, and think I owe folks in every corner of Missouri my time and respect, whether they agree with me or not.
I heard from Missourians concerned about the opioid epidemic and about losing their health care, or seeing their costs increase. I talked about my work to combat sex trafficking, and my investigation into the price of prescription drugs.
I talked with military veterans about ensuring they get the benefits they've earned, and I talked with kids and teachers about the importance of quality education and affordable college tuition.
I was asked about the Syria missile strike, and about my thoughts on the President's proposed budget cuts, which would disproportionately punish rural Missouri by slashing drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
Thousands of Missourians were able to share their thoughts directly, in-person. And more importantly, I was able to hear your thoughts, your concerns, and your ideas.
After all, how can I be the best fighter for you in Washington if I don't listen to what you want me fighting for?
I'm planning more town halls this year that'll take me to other parts of the state to keep on listening.
Unlike when my mom served on the city council in Columbia, Missouri, today there are lots of ways for politicians to avoid having public town halls. Facebook, telephone town halls, and other way to connect online have made it easy. And those tools are perfectly fine—the more ways to connect with folks the better.
But there's no substitute for public, in-person town halls, where any Missourian can show up. There's no substitute for meeting with Missourians face-to-face, no substitute for giving you the opportunity to tell me publicly how I'm doing, and what you'd like to see me doing differently.
That's why I'll keep at it. Because it's the honor of a lifetime to hear from you and fight for you in the U.S. Senate.
Opposed to charter school expansion
HB 634 will allow charter schools to be operated in any school district in which at least one school building has received a score of 60% or less on its annual performance report. The League of Women Voters opposes charter school expansion because:
·Public charter schools are not held to the same standards as traditional public schools.
·Charters are not accredited by MO Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education
(DESE) and public charter schools are required to have only 80% of school faculty certified.
·Public charter schools are not required to serve their “fair share” of students who take more resources because of challenges like special needs and homelessness.
·Charters are governed by non-elected public elected boards; however, they operate public funded schools.
·2016 data shows of the 35 Missouri charter schools, 20 charters met only 75% of state accountability standards. Six charters
met less than 50% of those standards.
The LWV of Missouri calls for the defeat of HB 634. Our resources should be put into traditional schools that educate all children. Contact your Senator in Jefferson City.
--Donna Hoch and Linda Smith
League of Women Voters
Kansas City/Jackson, Clay and
Our military must remain strong
We live in a dangerous world. That's undeniable. But it doesn't mean there aren't steps the United States of America can take to make the world a safer place.
Last week more than 80 people were murdered in a horrific chemical weapons attack on the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. On Thursday night, the United States launched a targeted strike on the airfield in Syria from where that chemical attack was launched.
Our response makes clear that the United States is committed to preventing international war crimes and that we strongly condemn the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially against innocent civilians. I will continue to support any effort to ensure the Assad regime is held accountable for that atrocity.
It's critical for Congress to work with the President and the Pentagon to craft a prudent and responsible path forward in
Syria. And that's why it's so important for America to continue investing in our military, ensuring it remains the strongest and most well-equipped force for good in this world.
Last month I joined a bipartisan majority in the House in helping to pass the Department of Defense Appropriations for 2017. But as the Senate stalls on this desperately needed bill, the House Armed Services Committee is working to ensure our military gets the long-term funding they deserve.
Plain and simple, a short term budget would be devastating to our men and women in uniform.
Without it, we would be leaving our military vulnerable at a time we can least afford it. We would break faith with service members and their families, cutting pay and delaying deployment announcements until the last minute.
Without it, we would be shrinking our military even further – doubling down on the cuts our armed forces suffered through
under President Obama.
And without a real defense appropriations bill, the Air Force would be unable to retain pilots; the Navy would be unable to deploy ships to Europe and the Middle East; and the Marine Corps will run the risk of having too few munitions to respond to a crisis.
A fundamental responsibility of the federal government is to ensure our military remains the strongest on earth. And part of that is doing everything possible to support the men and women who risk their lives to serve our country. As your Representative and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, that will continue to be my top priority in Washington.
The benefits of domestic energy
The United States leads the world in the production and refining of oil and the production of natural gas. I think it is important to consider the benefits of that status in relation to geopolitical and national security issues.
Our allies depend on us as a reliable alternative for oil and natural gas as opposed to other nations that do not share our values and which are less stable. In January of 2016, the U.S. began freely trading crude oil after Congress lifted the decades-old ban that had far outlived its usefulness. As a result, the number of nations buying American crude oil has risen to 22.
We are also positioned to supply other nations with U.S. produced natural gas which
could assist them in the reduction of carbon emissions, just like we have seen here at home. Natural gas for U.S. electricity generation has reduced our carbon emissions to levels not seen in more than two decades. The Department of Energy projects that America will become a net energy exporter sometime in the mid-2020's because of declining oil imports and increasing Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) exports.
Congress and the Trump administration have signaled support for policies that will support the leadership role of energy production. We are not only well positioned to support our military with the vital energy resources needed to ensure the protection of our country, but to assist key allies with those resources. This transition to energy
production leadership means that conflicts which have been a concern of military conflicts in the past will no longer be a factor in our nation's security.
By encouraging domestic energy development, building necessary infrastructure, and removing export delays and barriers, we can ensure the economic, environmental, geopolitical and security benefits of U.S. exports reach their full potential.
--Sen. Wayne Wallingford
Missouri State Senate
Government workers deserve protections
Earlier this year state legislators passed right-to-work legislation to great fanfare. For the private-sector workers affected, the law promises greater flexibility and control over their jobs and their money. But legislators should not stop there; government workers deserve similar protections to those enjoyed by their private-sector counterparts.
That's why worker empowerment legislation for government-sector employees is so important. This bundle of reforms would protect the paychecks of government workers; truly empower them to choose their union and monitor its spending (or choose no union at all); and let the public see the negotiations and contracts that their tax dollars ultimately pay for.
These are common-sense reforms that put power back in the hands of our government employees, and I hope that rather than stopping with right to work, legislators will keep this year's labor reform momentum going. Government workers deserve as much.
Director of Government Accountability
The Show-Me Institute
'No tax increase' doesn't mean there is no cost
It means more than posting information on a website or answering specific questions from a constituent. Transparency is communicating clearly and understandably so that people can make informed decisions.
It has become popular for school districts to promote “no tax increase bond” issues, like the one proposed on the April ballot in Park Hill, with a smile and glib assurance no one's taxes will increase. But make no mistake. When a district asks for over $100 million dollars in bond revenue, that money will be paid by local taxpayers.
By way of example, let's say you have a car loan you're about to pay off. You're excited about the extra money you'll have each month, but a few months before you do, the dealership offers to help “extend” your loan. You can get more money to trade in
your old car and get a new one. And with NO INCREASE in your monthly payment—just an extension of an additional three years of your current loan.
“No tax increase” language is little more than a clever marketing campaign for the continuation of a current tax rate that was due to expire. It is, in truth, a “no tax RATE increase bond.” The inherent assumption is, “If you haven't missed that money up to now, you're probably willing to do without it for a while longer.” It does NOT mean there is no cost to taxpayers.
As a school board candidate, I've been asked if I support the proposed bond. My simple answer is that I trust the parents, patrons and taxpayers to do what's right for children and schools in this community. It isn't a dodge. Park Hill voters have consistently “gotten it right,” including multiple tax issues that passed over several decades and the most recent levy that failed
in 2014. With the latter, the district has since moved forward with nearly every project and initiative they claimed they needed money to implement (e.g., one-to-one computers, technology infrastructure upgrades, safety improvements). In retrospect, it didn't feel very honest—or transparent.
Should you vote for the upcoming bond? I'd encourage you to extend our “car loan” if you want to get something newer and nicer for the community or if you accept district projections that we're outgrowing our current “ride” and need something bigger.
But don't take on this obligation because you've been led to believe it comes at no cost.
There is no free ride.
REAL ID is a privacy goldmine
On the calendar for a vote -- SB 37 and HB 151-- REAL ID on driver's license. The vote is imminent.
REAL ID bills are a privacy goldmine for the government. The recent massive CIA data breach and the National Security breach in Congress for criminal access to the nation's most sensitive data have just happened. What makes you think the DMV will keep iris scans and personal biometric data safe on the chip of your new driver's license?
Alert: call your state rep and senator to tell them to vote NO on SB 37 and HB 151.
Some legislators would like to scare us into giving up our privacy by saying we won't
be able to fly without the REAL ID fix. Citizens know that better options exist. We can drive across the states without having to show all our data at each state line. Why do we need REAL ID to cross state lines if we're in the air? The TSA has not yet announced all the alternatives they will accept to allow us to fly. Military bases accept alternate ID, listed on their web site, other than the proposed REAL ID.
If these bills pass, we will have to get a birth certificate for a new driver's license. Get it for yourself instead of for the DMV. Privacy matters.
Missouri passed a law in 2009 protecting our personal information. In 2012, 75% of Missourians ratified an amendment to our state Constitution that protects electronic
data from search and seizure. Yet the following year, the DMV illegally compromised the personal data of Missouri residents by giving the Dept of Revenue access to concealed carry data, and the DOR sent it off. Will the DMV keep your personal data safe? Will those who ask for your driver's license for verification protect your data?
Tell your state senator and representative that data integrity matters (note recent CIA and National Security data breaches). Vote NO on REAL ID for driver's licenses.
Misinformation from R-3 is out of control
I was surprised this past week to open my Platte County R-3 School District newsletter Treasures to find that the district has almost completed the eight court tennis facility and stated it cost the taxpayers "less than $200,000" while incorrectly insinuating that contributions of $82,500 and $117,500 were included in this number.
The actual cash cost so far to R-3 for the courts is over $300,000 plus the former Rising Star Elementary building.
If you add in the lost money in the trade of the Rising Star Elementary School for a donation of just $82,500, a building which was owned by the taxpayers and according to the district was appraised in late 2014 for $405,000 you are actually looking at a real cost of over $600,000 in R-3 dollars. Plus over $150,000 of additional funds came from your taxes paid to the city and county.
The Treasures publication states the tennis facility is valued at $750,000. I would hope so because if you throw in the donations and grants received to build these courts on top of that $600,000 you come up with a total cost of almost $1.1 million and that is not counting the land.
How do you get to $1.1 million when we were told in 2013 four courts would cost just $225,000 and four years later we spend over a million dollars for eight?
I could not find where any bids were taken for the work and the district accepted 25 cents on the dollar for taxpayer owned real estate.
The Platte County R-3 School District accepted grants from the city so the courts can be used by anyone and guess what, upkeep on tennis courts is one of the highest priced items in the sports world for the amount of people that actually use them.
Court resurfacing costs from $4,000 to $8,000 each and is done every four to eight years, depending on use. And don't forget about the nets and the Windscreen that will need replacing. (The district paid $2,420 just to get the school logos on the windscreen!)
Upkeep is now your baby, R-3 taxpayers.
This is one small example how a district of this size gets over $100 million in debt.
All of this information above was presented to the school board. If I can keep track of the actual cost, why can't administration and the school board?
The Treasures number was low by over 30%. Maybe it was because they spread the expenses out over three different jobs hoping no one would keep track?
More misrepresentations (lies?) from the district. Just like when the same district publication told us that the football field hardness was tested yearly for safety.
After requesting the actual test I found that in fact it was not tested yearly and the year previous to the 2015 levy vote it was not tested at all, as it had failed the test the previous year.
Testing just happened to have been requested the year it failed by the person who then received the new turf contract with the high bid. Then a change order was added on for over $35,000 to this same person signed off on by Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik.
Just like the publications emailed to me recently from the district showing students receiving honorable mention at a tournament when this award did not exist. Along with statements from another stating "our kids who placed finished well within the top 10%" when in fact none of them did and several mentioned were almost last.
I am not anti-tennis court, I am anti-misinformation.
If students do poorly at a tournament just congratulate them for participating. You don't have to make up awards. It only taints the award for those who really do place at an event.
But the goal at this district is not to be correct, the goal is to continue to make everyone feel good about finances and academics with information that may not be true.
And it is getting worse. Misinformation from the district is out of control.
At this point they know most patrons will not speak up and district administration has a large email and mailing list, allowing them to disseminate incorrect information to thousands with no retribution. It appears the school board is paying no attention.
What can you do?
Vote this April and vote for anyone who is not currently on the school board.
The two incumbents running, Lenora Miles and Sharon Sherwood, both former educators, have 15 years combined on this board and I have not found a single NO vote from either one on anything ever presented to them.
Yes votes on raises, turf, four-wheelers, pools, etc.
The ballot will state "vote for three" but you do not have to. If you vote for three you only dilute the ballot.
If you want someone new on the board, vote for that one person only. That one vote will count.
The incumbents will always have an advantage in an April election as many only turn out to vote if it affects them.
R-3 employees are the largest voting bloc in an R-3 election.
In a previous election, Sharon Sherwood actually sent out emails using employee district email addresses insinuating "more progress" was needed with "compensation.”
What more will it take to get you and your friends to the voting booth next month?
If you want to see information used for the numbers in this letter it will be posted at www.plattecountyR3facts.com.
Rural Platte County
Wetland at Parkville would bring problems
I want to comment on the proposal to flood and create a wetland adjacent to the dog park and planned ball fields at Platte Landing Park at Parkville.
There is already a significant mosquito problem in the dog park. The pests that I kill while walking my dogs at the park during the summer are the largest I have seen in Missouri. During the recent warm spell in February my dogs and I were chased hundreds of feet by a swarm of mosquitoes.
My husband's family owns a pond and hungry insects are encountered hundreds of yards away. He assures me they are from the pond and have plagued the area for over 50 years. This pond is about three miles from Parkville.
There is no reason to believe a wetland in this area will not produce a significant insect problem. After Parkville has expended significant resources making this area a center for recreation it does not seem like a good idea to expose people to potential infection from Encephalitis, West Nile, or Zika.
Every summer we are warned to drain standing water to fight disease. Why would we want acres of standing water?
Kansas City in Platte County
Advocating for pay equity legislation
Here I sit at my kitchen table gathering my IRS materials together. April 15 not only marks income tax day, but how long a woman must work to gain equity with men for the same work. That's more than a quarter of the year. On average, women who work full-time earn about 80 cents for every dollar a full-time male worker earns.
Over a worker’s lifetime (47 years), the total estimated loss of earnings of women compared to men are $700,000 for a high school graduate, $1.2 million for a college graduate, and $2 million for a professional school graduate. That's a lot when 40% of households with children include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family.
As I get ready to retire, I know my retirement savings and benefits are significantly less due to salary discrepancy.
American Association of University Women (AAUW) advocates for strong pay equity legislation, regulation, and enforcement to protect employees and assist employers. Legislation to guarantee and protect pay equity is long overdue.
AAUW Kansas City
Expect more desperate measures
A statement in your article about Parkville's Brush Creek and Brink Meyer Road NID limited obligation bonds (B2 NIDs) was spot on: “Construction moved forward with the hope of future development.”
The city could have reigned in spending after 2008 like almost every other developer. But that didn't fit with the progressive agenda. Besides, the bonds were secured, or so they thought.
From the 2015 audited financial statement footnotes: "As a result of the judicial foreclosure default judgment.....on May 24, 2016....the City acquired the property.....With the sale, all past, current and future Brink Meyer Road and Brush Creek Drainage NID special assessments due......were "cleared"......the principal portion of the special assessment receivable of $4,427,331, net of the estimated property value of $1,600,000 resulted in $2,827,331 being charged to expense."
In early 2014, I questioned city officials about a disclosure in the June 2013 semiannual report, which reads as follows: "NID debt payments are funded by special assessments on the NID properties, but may be considered a contingent liability of the City." I told the city they had it backwards; the recoverability of the assessments was the contingent factor.
The city's response: “There is a non-tax revenue source securing these limited obligation bonds. We will keep this in mind for the next report.”
The June 2016 semiannual report states:
"NID debt payments are a valid and legally binding indebtedness of the City payable from special assessments on properties benefitted by the improvements."
Even after the city foreclosed on a property and cleared the assessment receivable, thus proving its 2013 semiannual report disclosure inaccurate, city officials continued to make an inaccurate disclosure.
"You don't understand this debt." Circa 2008 statement made to me by a city official when I questioned the original 2006/2007 B2 NID debt.
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” Yogi Berra.
In theory, the B2 NIDs are limited obligations secured by a non-tax revenue source. In practice, these obligations are not limited and the security is a promise to pay.
While the city does a number of things well, police and streets come to mind, on balance sheet, debt and financial risk management matters, they have an abysmal record. Long aided and encouraged by progressives and municipal financial advisors, the city has operated on theory without adequately assessing the underlying risks, assuming they ever understood the risks.
The city now owns 35% of the Brush Creek NID tracts. Annual debt payments on the B2 NIDs run to 2034.
In follow up to my Landmark letter to the editor dated Dec. 7, 2016, the increase in the allocation of administrative expenses from the general fund to the sewer fund for 2017 is
now making more sense. Not that the method itself makes sense. Certain of the underlying assumptions are bogus and the calculation method has errors.
The administrative allocation to the sewer fund for 2016 was $103,500. The new target administrative allocation from the general fund to the sewer fund is $365,644. Using 2016 B2 NID numbers from your article, the 2017 shortfall in debt payments versus collected assessments is $396,083. Is there anyone who believes the debt payment shortfall and the new target administrative allocation being so close is coincidence? The increase in the shortfall from 2016 to 2017 is because the permanent financing completed in 2014 deferred principal payments to 2017.
Also in early 2014, city officials concocted a scheme to sell the sewer system to generate funds to pay the oncoming B2 NID debt. That scheme was quickly debunked as it would have significantly increased sewer rates.
With a portion of assessments receivable having vanished, Parkville's residents will be paying the debt, whether through higher taxes, decreased services or increased sewer rates.
Expect more ridiculous and desperate measures.
REAL ID is bad for freedom, privacy
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR;: This writer asked us to share her letter sent to State Rep. Kevin Corlew of Platte County.
TO REP. KEVIN CORLEW:
You are quoted that REAL ID allows us to obtain photo ID. How interesting to hear the assertion that this is what the bill is about. We know it's not.
Did your 2017 survey mention anything about photo ID? Or producing original documents for the DMV to scan to prove you are who you say you are? Of course we'll get to take our originals home with us. Will the
DMV share our copied originals with the country? Of course. What does that do to privacy?
You seem glued to a deadline rather than to your constituents, who do not want to give up their privacy for freedom to travel. You say we have the freedom to choose. If REAL ID passes, the government gives us permission to travel. Or not.
How long before those who opt out will be required to join in, or be rounded up?
When will you decide the rights of the people you are supposed to serve are more important than the government wanting a national ID? History tells us that when the
government controls our travel, they will have checkpoints to ask, "Papers, please."
Is this what you want? Are you on the side of more regulation, or freeing us from it? Whose side are you on?
Do what is honorable for We the People. Please pull back your REAL ID bill, HB 151.
Are we supposed to comply to the government rules, or do we set the rules for the federal government? What does state sovereignty mean?
Concerned for freedom.
Snowden 'a gift to Trump' is fake news
Stories in the press say that Putin is going to give Snowden to Trump as a "gift.” It comes from "intelligence sources” and it's all fake news.
Our intelligence community are not only liars but they aren't even good liars. And when you think things through it's rather obvious.
Snowden was Obama's obsession, not Trump’s. Why would Putin even think that Trump was interested in Snowden? I would think that Trump would rather have a bottle of Vodka or sexy Russian spy to sleep with than someone who exposed America's illegal activities. It doesn't make sense.
Our intelligence community is out of control. Instead of learning what's going on in the world they just make stuff up. They are
expressing their personal hatred of Snowden for exposing their illegal activities.
Heads should roll in the intelligence community. Their behavior borders on treason.
Protect and support Israel
The United States has no stronger ally in this world than Israel. I strongly believe that global security – particularly that of the United States and our closest allies – depends on the presence of democracy and stability in the Middle East.
Israel is a pillar of that stability. And it's why I've always supported every means necessary to protect and support Israel during my time in the House of Representatives.
America was the first country to recognize Israel as a state in 1948. Since then, our nation's relationship with Israel has not wavered, anchored by strong and mutually beneficial military, cultural and financial partnerships.
Last Congress, I co-sponsored the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, which passed the House and was signed into law late in 2016. The bill expands a number of critical partnerships with Israel, including enabling the transfer of military equipment between our two countries, offering assistance for the Iron Dome missile defense system, and promoting cooperation in energy, water, science, homeland security and agricultural interests between the U.S. and Israel.
I believe that it is imperative to continue strengthening our relationship with Israel, particularly in the face of new and significant security threats across the globe. By confronting those challenges in the Middle East together, we can help ensure the safety of the American people as well as that of our allies around the world.
As your representative, I will continue to push for more serious actions that support Israel. That includes always protecting them against acts of aggression coming from the Iranian regime or any other unstable Middle East actor, and doing whatever possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The fate of freedom and democracy everywhere in the world depends on it.
A lack of confidence in county auditor
I am a native of Platte County. I just read your “Between the Lines” column about the new county budget. In a word, APPALLING!!!
As I understand from your column, Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson was specifically asked about the payment for the radio system over two weeks prior to the final version of the budget being prepared. Then at the last possible minute, he admits a
mistake and says the payment was NOT accounted for.
I have been in local government for over 40 years and have been faced with budget ups and downs due to the economy. Those are things that cannot always be predicted, yet must be dealt with when they occur. It seems that this is not the case here, but what happened is just plainly negligent or incompetent.
Either way, this incident results in a lack
of confidence in all of the financial reports coming from the auditor.
Maybe Mr. Robinson needs to take some time off of his current job and take a course in basic budgeting for local governments.
Litchfield Park, Az
Drain the Renewable Fuel Standard
Incoming President Donald Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" is getting an early test from one of his closest friends.
Billionaire investor and Trump confidant Carl Icahn is requesting changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal law requiring gasoline manufacturers to incorporate renewable fuels into their blends. Coincidently, Icahn would reap massive financial rewards from the "fix."
Trump must push back. If truly committed to ending crony capitalism, he should end the RFS entirely. The policy has failed to help the environment or the economy and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Icahn's proposal centers around the definition of "obligated parties," which is the term for the entities required to blend in renewables. Currently, obligated parties are limited to petroleum refineries and importers. And the volume they have to add in steadily increases; in 2017, they'll be required to blend 19.28 billion gallons, nearly a 1.2 billion -gallon increase over 2016.
If the refiners and importers exceed the required blend, they're rewarded with "credits." Those credits can then be sold to other refiners and importers.
Today, companies along the supply
chain -- like marketers and gas-station chains, which don't produce the gasoline blends -- are exempted. But under Icahn's proposal, such companies are required to purchase a set amount of credits annually.
Icahn claims the market for these credits is broken, rife with "manipulation, speculation, and fraud."
He's correct that the price of these credits has spiked. The average cost of a credit has jumped from one penny in 2012 to nearly a dollar today. Icahn's proposal expands the definition of "obligated party" to include virtually every firm along the supply route, moving the obligation to include local fuel distributors.
All Icahn really wants is a handout. He's an investor in CVR Refining, a mid-size refinery that is an obligated party. The company must spend hundreds of millions of dollars on credits, and its stock has plummeted 60 percent over the last three years. Removing CVR from the obligated party definition would slash expenses and net Icahn a massive windfall while those that invested to comply with the law are left in a less competitive position and the smaller companies are burdened with having to comply with the RFS.
The solution isn't faux reform; it's repeal. The RFS costs taxpayers $2 billion annually -- and it hasn't accomplished
The goal of the RFS was to reduce dependence on foreign oil. That goal has been realized, but only because of innovative drilling techniques like fracking that have opened swaths of oil reserves .Consequently, our daily oil production has jumped from six million to nine million barrels. Meanwhile, cars are becoming more fuel efficient. Imports have steadily fallen.
Ethanol, the most popular renewable fuel, comes from corn. Nearly 40 percent of the national corn crop has been dedicated to ethanol production. That has driven up demand for corn that goes into cereal, syrup, and countless other basic food items. Those products have become more expensive. It's estimated that the RFS has increased the consumer price index for food by 25 percent.
The RFS is exactly the kind of ill-conceived policy that Trump promised to end. He needs to look past his friendship with Icahn, reject Icahn's phony reform, and work with Congress to dismantle the RFS entirely.
Taxpayer Protection Alliance
School spends $13k on meals for tech staff
As a career educator, I worked to support students, teachers and schools, and as a taxpayer, I am dedicated to the use of public funds to provide the best for all three. I want to live in a community where we make children and education the highest priority.
My experience in public schools taught me district leaders need to clearly and regularly communicate an expectation for focused, strategic use of funds. In the absence of this carefully-developed message and culture, waste and misspending become not only inevitable but commonplace.
After the most recent tax levy proposal was defeated several years ago, Park Hill leadership appears to have pushed “all in” in implementing a technology initiative. Former district colleagues have expressed alarm at the amount of money and resources devoted to the technology department in the months following the failed tax increase.
Instead of hiring more teachers, paraprofessionals or special educators, the district has devoted personnel resources to technology, a department which has grown significantly over the past several years resulting in a corresponding increase in spending.
The technology department has received unprecedented access to
resources, not only for computers, infrastructure and software (much of which isn't yet working effectively), but for many questionable, if not clearly inappropriate, expenditures.
With the burgeoning staff there was a new-found need for transportation, and thousands of dollars were spent renting vehicles, raising some questions about whether these were always being driven exclusively for district business. Eventually the technology department was allowed to buy vehicles; the most recent expenditure was this past summer when the school board approved a request for three vans at a cost of $70,000.
However, the most egregious area of spending for the technology department has been food. District records reveal providing meals for technology staff has become quite common, with multiple payments to restaurants such as Hooters, Bravo, Smokehouse BBQ, Panera, Abuelos, Stone Canyon Pizza, at a cost of thousands of dollars. District leaders approved of the expense—they created the dedicated line item titled “food for meetings.” But often “meetings” meant little more than staff working late. Our district has paid to keep technology staff well-fed; last year alone this department spent nearly $13,000 for food, exceeding their $8500 budget by over 50%.
Why does this matter? First, because it's inequitable. Teachers, coaches and
music directors routinely grab fast food or “brown bag” meals, at their own expense, for their many hours beyond the school day. I don't think we need to routinely pay for adults' meals, but if we're going to do it, let's start with these hard-working, dedicated folks. Second, it highlights the issue of priorities and decision-making. When the music teacher at Park Hill HS asked for funds to replace a broken sound system during the musical last year, the answer from central office was “no money available.” This repair was eventually made through a Go Fund Me campaign launched by staff, something which is utterly inexcusable given ample district resources. Finally, this all matters because our tax dollars are for KIDS—kids' needs and kids' learning. No building PTA or booster club should be scrambling to pay for field trips, school supplies or activity equipment while this type of spending is taking place at central office.
It's time for the school board and district leadership to re-evaluate excessive allocations and wasteful practices that appear to have become routine. And it's time for teachers, parents and patrons to question and “push back” when district spending seems misaligned with our shared values and goals.
To laugh or cry at Weatherby Lake?
I don't know whether to laugh at or cry for those poor people in Weatherby Lake and other areas under the KCI "flight path” (see “Weatherby Lake influencing KCI flight paths,” Dec. 21 issue of The Landmark).
They didn't know airplanes would be flying overhead when they bought their homes? They had no clue when they signed on the dotted lines that airplanes can be loud? Really??
They're victims of circumstance, I'm sure. They must have all lived there since
before the early 70's when KCI began operation. What's even funnier is that they've convinced themselves, their neighbors, and money-hungry attorneys that their real concern is "safety" and that they want to help airplanes avoid the Canadian geese.
Well, guess what, regardless of how much they think of their respective neighborhoods, the driver for Canadian geese flight patterns is not their neighborhood ponds, it's the Missouri River. The corps of engineers could drain those pontoon boat playgrounds and the
bird issue around KCI would not change one iota. Not one. I mean, has anyone noticed the size of the lake at KCI?
But, alas, like so much of the rest of this society who refuses to take responsibility for their own decisions (like buying a house near an airport), I'm sure their efforts make them feel good.
Things to know about the bond package
Starting this week, you will hear a lot of discussion about a G.O., or general obligation, bond package that voters will be asked to approve in April.
Conversation is starting now because it's a significant investment, but one that signals our commitment to a making Kansas City a world-class city for years to come.
When I took office in 2011, the city faced around six billion dollars in 'deferred maintenance.’ That's billion, with a “B.” Simply put, our infrastructure needs as a city had been kicked down the road for too long.
These are dollars that fix or maintain roads, bridges and sidewalks, along with making curbs ADA compliant. This kind of investment updates city facilities to be more energy efficient, and makes neighborhoods better equipped to handle flooding. We use these funds to maintain the infrastructure our city relies on, and to make sure we're planning wisely for future generations.
So as the conversation here at City Hall
begins this week about what the GO bond package will entail, I want to lay out a few things every Kansas Citian should know about this debate:
1. We must build accountability and transparency measures into the plan that give our residents confidence they will see a strong return on this $800 million investment and will know where their money is going.
2. The GO bond package should be strategic. Facts and data should guide our thinking. Not politics or a old ways of thinking that carve up investment with little regard for future planning.
3. We must take a comprehensive approach to our infrastructure needs. We need roads (that are designed for vehicles, bikes and feet), bridges, sidewalks, capital improvements to city facilities, and flood control improvements. We cannot ask Kansas Citians to approve a plan that does not adequately address all of those basic infrastructure needs.
4. Every part of our city has basic infrastructure needs. Kansas Citians have
my word that I will not support a GO bond plan that does not improve every single corner of our community.
When I ask my community members for their support on something like this, I do not take it lightly. My days in the Marines taught me a lot about loyalty, hard work and a sense of duty. I'll carry those lessons with me each day as I make my way across the city this winter and spring to talk with you about this important step we can take, together.
Let's keep in mind the type of city we want to be in five years, 10 years, 20 years and beyond.
Let's keep our commitment to the next generation of Kansas Citians by maintaining the things that make our city a great place to live, work and raise your family.
Let's do this, Kansas City.
Sewer hikes and accounting shenanigans
The 2017 Parkville City Budget was released Friday night. The first reading and likely approval will have occurred by the time you read this letter.
Excluding transfers, 2017 general fund revenues are 1% lower than 2016 and 1.5% higher than 2015. 2017 general fund expenses are 15% higher than 2016 and 24% higher than 2015.
Included for 2017 are: 1) across the board salary increases; 2) a 46% increase in retirement contributions; 3) $2.4 million in debt financing for Highway 9 improvements; 4) $317,500 allocated to emergency reserves to cover the NID debt ticking time bombs otherwise known as Brink Meyer and Brush Creek; 5) a 10% increase in sewer fees; and 6) lots of fluff.
Don't expect any challenges to this budget. You should expect unanimous approval and some back slapping to acknowledge the efforts of city staff.
Regarding the sewer budget, the plan that was now isn't, as "unplanned" expenses are eating into working capital reserves. I recall that former City Administrator Lauren Palmer said that 3% rate increases would be sufficient for years to come. The 2017 budget recommends a 10% rate increase, and even that leaves a working capital balance below the city's so called target.
Of real concern is the allocation of general fund expenses to the sewer fund. The board is so desperate to find money to fund its pet projects, it hired Springsted Incorporated to devise a calculation to allocate more general fund expenses to the sewer fund. Springsted recommends allocating $365,644 or 10.7% of 2016 general fund expenses to the sewer fund.
A number of years ago, I questioned this allocation but didn't pursue it. Now I wish I had. I seem to recall it starting at $50,000 or $75,000.
Sprinsted's recommended allocation amount includes direct costs of $106,249 said to be incurred within the general fund plus overhead costs of $259,396 to arrive at the total allocation of $365,644. Included in overhead are things like the time for the receptionist to take your phone calls, time for staff to post on social media, police department costs, and management time to define policy goals and direction. After reading the Springsted report and the budget report, I am left wondering how anyone can come up with the justifications for these allocations and keep a straight face.
Staff opted to limit the 2017 allocation to $150,000. How generous of them. The budget report goes on to recommend annual increases of $15,000 for five consecutive years to bring the total allocation to $225,000 in 2022.
Unfortunately, there are errors in both the underlying assumptions and the calculations. One of the key errors is the 18% ratio applied to sewer fund costs to calculate the overhead charge.
To illustrate, instead of using actual sewer costs, assume sewer costs are $20,000,000. Then assume general fund expenses of $3,600,000. Using Springsted's method, the 18% overhead ratio is applied to $20,000,000 and yields $3,600,000. The city would then allocate $3,600,000 of general fund expenses (i.e., 100%) to the sewer fund.
As we middle aged, Platte County males might say, "That dog doesn't hunt." It doesn't take an accounting background to know that something is amiss.
Consider me skeptical, but Parkville residents will recall that water rates from Missouri American Water were decreased earlier this year. I suspect that city officials had internal discussions to the effect that residents could afford a higher sewer rate with water being less expensive. For those unaware, Parkville's per gallon water rate before the decrease was one of the highest in the state of Missouri.
Regardless of how old this allocation is, it is an unapproved tax increase. And regardless of stated intent, it is double dipping and a deceptive means to raise revenues. Understanding costs to better manage resources is one thing; using that to increase charges to residents is quite another. Does anyone really believe that allocating receptionist time is justifiable?
I suppose you have two choices. One, you can say it doesn't amount to much and ignore it. Or two, you can think about the message being sent by being silent and allowing your board to assess you on the basis of an erroneous calculation and an accounting shenanigan. If you choose to ignore it, expect more of the same in other areas.
I recommend you contact your aldermen and the mayor. Don't wait for the public hearing on Jan. 17, 2017. Tell them you don't agree with the administrative allocation. Tell them if they need funds for projects, to do it with clean accounting.
For 2017, there is more than enough fluff in the general fund budget to absorb the “overhead.”
Don't let the board try to confuse you with cost accounting. It's obvious they don't understand it.
Hospital rules are too strict
I am concerned that hospital rules are too stiff. People who have smoked all their lives find it very difficult to not have a cigarette, especially at such a stressful time. They will do just about anything to have one, even if it means leaving the hospital at one's own risk of losing his or her life.
The staff at Saint Luke's Northland Hospital did give my wife a nicotine patch but it did little to curb her urge to smoke. I feel like they should have either let her step outside or offered her some medication to take the edge off.
With that being said, she chose to leave the hospital and within 10 minutes of arriving home her condition worsened. She was white as a ghost (no pun intended for this was Halloween night) and again lost a great deal of blood. After calling 9-1-1, I rushed her back to the ER.
I'm not putting down the hospital, but I am
questioning the procedures that are in place.
Just because that's what the rules say to do doesn't necessarily make it right.
May God bless the emergency room staff, as I know they have a very difficult job to do. Thanks to all the hospital personnel who helped get my wife back to being healthy.
You can thank a veteran for that
Election Day should be a time for Americans to celebrate, to reflect on what the right to vote really means for all of us. Regardless of the outcome of any single election, the fact that each of us has a choice, a say on the path our government takes in the future, is something no one in this country should take for granted.
But as consequential as Election Day was, America observed an even more important day last week. Friday was Veterans Day, a time to step back and think about why we are fortunate enough to live in a country that guarantees all of those freedoms.
That process we completed on Tuesday-- the democratic election that allowed all of us the opportunity to select the people who represent us in government--you can thank a veteran for that.
You can thank a veteran for the right to freely express yourself in America--the right to protest, the right to free press, and the right to practice whatever religion you want. None
of those persists without the men and women who have risked everything to serve and protect the country we love.
We officially honored them for that last Friday, on Veterans Day. But the sacrifices they made for this country affect all of us every day, and we can never forget that.
Why Platte County R-3 has high debt
Platte County R-3 projects for this past year are nearing completion so as the district is starting its release of information for what it has spent. I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the actual numbers pulled from their reports.
Football Field Re-turf: Not only did they use the high bid for the project but the school board also spent over $100,000 of "unbudgeted" tax dollars. Total for the re-turf project cost to date $471,330, which is almost equal to the cost of the initial installation.
Tennis Courts: This past week I received a school district publication stating the courts cost the district "less than $200,000.” This looks wrong. Expenses for the courts were tough to keep track of as district administration spread the information over several different change order sheets presented to the school board. Expenses for the tennis courts were added to the "Kentucky Ave Project,” new school project and "county campus improvements.”
Every project, including the turf, had its own spreadsheet except for the tennis courts. To date the published cost for the eight court project has been over $740,000
and as far as I can find none of the work was publicly bid.
Remember in 2012 the levy increase that was voted down included four tennis courts we were told would cost $230,000. Earlier this year Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik raised the amount to $250,000. With $740,000 now being spent, over $260,000 appears to have come directly from district funds and not included in this amount is the trading of Rising Star Elementary and acreage in Platte City to get the funds to finish the project. Rising Star Elementary, built and maintained with tax dollars, then was traded for $82,000 to pay for about the cost of a single tennis court.
Another troubling item is the fact that going back to May I could find where none of the district expenses for the tennis courts have shown up under "unbudgeted expenses" with the monthly invoice report. So either the bills for the courts were mixed in with the facilities expenses for the other school projects--which is wrong--they have not been paid yet or they were actually budgeted, which would mean this was not a grassroots project started just this year as we were led to believe.
Engineering Fees: About two million dollars ($2,000,000!!) is the amount
engineering companies have invoiced the district so far for this summer’s projects. That is engineering only and does not include the general contractors’ fees. I guess that $10,000 donated to "Kids First" to get the levy passed in 2015 was a good investment for these guys.
Energy Upgrades: Earlier this year a $5 million loan was approved to do energy upgrades at the district. A cost analysis was done and presented to the board. What was not included in that analysis was the fact the district is still currently paying for a several hundred thousand dollar lighting upgrade passed in 2012 that does not have a break even date until 2018.
Lights from the 2012 upgrade were replaced again this year but we are still paying for the 2012 loan and in several cases the loan for the initial installation. Three loans one light fixture!
Remember these items when you see the district’s debt numbers, currently the highest in the state at over $20,000 per student. This is how it happened.
Library doesn't deserve tax increase
Mid- Continent Public Library (MCPL) President Trent Skaggs recently made public statements about my opposition to the proposed 25% tax increase (Proposition L) for MCPL. After reading his statements, I was pleased to see that he confirmed almost every point I made in my opposition letter to this proposed tax increase. And as expected, his argument for more taxes is largely based on emotions.
Mr. Skaggs provided no indication that MCPL wants to live within its means, that being the $897 million they will receive over the next 20 years. He also says nothing about why MCPL has lost so much money over the past six years.
Again, how does an entity with a known
source and amount of revenue and predictable costs lose money? Answer: if the MCPL board was on top of things, it wouldn't.
Perhaps the most ridiculous statement was that the library provides space for organizations such as AARP, whose main purpose is political lobbying. I find it almost comical that Mr. Skaggs believes providing facilities at no cost to a political lobbying organization is a necessary library function.
He then goes on to state that $4.03 is returned for every dollar of taxes. That also was one of my main points; providing free things is not a basis for measuring the value of a library.
Mr. Skaggs notes the effort of the board and staff in deriving the 25% tax increase. No facts and no evidence. Translation: "Trust us."
Best of all, Mr. Skaggs states that the cost is "an additional $22.80 per year" for the average homeowner. Like any public spender, after they have fleeced you for $100, they claim that you won't miss another $25.
Think of this as if you were a banker. A bank doesn't loan money to someone who doesn't demonstrate an ability to use resources wisely and operate within constraints. MCPL hasn't expressed a willingness to do that.
And for that reason, they don't deserve any more tax dollars.
Vote NO on Proposition L.
Library needs more funding
A public library system is a basic community service. Thousands of people of all ages rely on libraries for books, magazines and newspapers, computer and internet use, special children's program, and free classes.
Can you imagine a community where these things are either not available or limited?
On the Nov. 8 ballot, Mid-Continent
Public Library is asking for a levy increase in order to continue providing essential library services. This is known as Prop L.
Mid-Continent Public Library has a good track record of providing service but population growth, building maintenance, technology and the need for new branches all take more funding.
The League backs long term, assured, stable and adequate funding for library services. Mid-Continent's past record and
well considered plans for the future all justify a levy increase that will be the first in 33 years.
The League of Women Voters endorses Proposition L as a clear YES vote.
--Linda Vogel Smith
League of Women Voters
Tax dollars wasted at Park Hill
In March, 2014 I wrote an editorial, printed in this newspaper, urging Park Hill district patrons and staff to vote “no” on a proposed tax increase. I feared a glut of tax dollars being wasted on a computer initiative when the district had shown little ability to successfully manage the demands of technology in recent years. At the time, I challenged teachers to consider a number of factors:
·If you have struggled to help a class of kids when the wireless connection (or email or software program or. . .) didn't work, and you long ago gave up hope of getting meaningful, “real time” tech support to fix the issues —.
·If you can't imagine how district infrastructure is going to handle 10,000 additional computers when it has never functioned consistently and effectively—.
·If you've struggled through the adoption and implementation of a technology-based program (e.g., Digits), and couldn't get a common sense fix for the myriad of technical problems—.
Taxpayers wisely rejected the measure but district leaders decided to move forward with their initiative anyway, spending millions of dollars over the past three years on digital infrastructure, software, devices and staffing. In fact, some within the district
report the technology department has been given a “blank check” to spend with unprecedented access to funds and lack of oversight.
Recently, Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd sent an email message to all staff, acknowledging significant problems with district technology. She assured teachers of the “commitment to resolve ongoing issues with technology and to reduce the impact. . .on instructional time.”
Not only has this initiative failed to make good on the promise of enhanced opportunities for teachers and students, it is negatively impacting teaching and learning.
The problems are significant, widespread and affecting even the most basic technology functions. In her memo, Dr. Cowherd addresses problems with WiFi connectivity and “black screens.” She goes on to address unresolved problems with “LanSchool,” a software program purchased for grade K-8 schools. And the superintendent acknowledges serious problems with “touch screens” on the expensive, newly-purchased computers provided to 6-12 grade students. If you recall, these computers (over $700 each) were purchased for all high school students at a cost of over $2.5 million this year.
Chromebooks, purchased by many other districts for their kids at $150/each, are looking very attractive right now. Not only would they have been more cost effective, but these less-complicated devices would
likely have been easier to bring online and maintain.
District leaders have had three years to get this right, so who's responsible for this wasteful debacle? The academic services team who relentless advocated for this initiative? The technology department who has been unable to make it work? The superintendent who followed her predecessor down the same misguided path, or the school board members who nodded and “green- lighted” every step throughout this process? Someone should be held accountable when election and contract decisions are made in the spring.
In what other business environment today can you imagine email, WiFi, computers or needed software not working consistently and effectively?
There is no pleasure in saying, “I told you so.” I hoped with public scrutiny and years to prepare, the district would check and double-check to ensure all systems were “go” before launching this effort.
In the next few months district leaders will again be asking voters to approve a tax increase. It will be hard to vote “yes” when there is clearly no one leading with the experience and skill needed to wisely manage the budget or successfully implement a significant, district-wide initiative.
More on the Dirty Shame Saloon
This letter is in response to Keith Myers’ recent letter bashing the Platte County Fair and the good people that are involved with it. Keith only gives partial truth to support his opinion and then defends it with false accusations with no evidence. In this letter I will dispel everything he wrote.
Keith states that the Fair and the Dirty Shame Saloon have the Confederate Battle flags waving in every direction. FALSE. Prior to Keith's first op-ed last year, there was one Confederate flag hung and it had been there before Keith was born. lt was removed and a historical Camden Point battle flag with ties to the local area is hung on the north side with an American flag from the Civil War era below which a placard of its history is posted. Funny how he did not mention that in his piece.
Another fact that he failed to mention is there are five military flags and a Merchant Marine flag hung in the Dirty Shame. They also have placards posted below each flag with its history. The saloon has Old Glory hanging high above, as well. Funny how he did not mention that, either.
The flag in question now is the one hanging from the center of the saloon around the ceiling fan, he called it a disgrace and people found it insulting to include veterans. FALSE. Though it may once have been a flag, the stars were cut away and the rest is currently hung and it actually accents the decor of the saloon.
I volunteer at the Saloon each year and am myself a veteran and I have yet to hear anyone offended by its presence. He also stated that veterans find the flag insulting, which is further from the truth. Keith wants you to believe he actually talked to veterans and assumes that "they'' have a collective mind. This writer is a retired Army veteran with multiple tours of combat and I can guarantee you that myself and the other veterans that I know do not find anything about the Fair and the Dirty Shame Saloon offensive than do some find country music or tractor pulls offensive.
Keith also failed to mention that many wearing of the Confederate flag memorabilia and waving of the Confederate flag comes from a few of the African-American citizens. We can assume no one made them wear it and that they are proud of their Southern heritage and want everyone in the saloon to know that. Anyone that attended the fair and had a beer at the Dirty Shame will tell you that they witnessed all races and genders proudly supporting attire with both the American and Confederate flags, as well as a few Union Jacks from some visitors from across the pond.
I can tell you that I volunteer my time at the Dirty Shame and have witnessed all this personally. I see a diverse crowd that attends the Dirty Shame and no one is offended by the decor of the saloon. Many veterans are there and do not find the place insulting.
The truth is that the fair is a fun week for the citizens of Platte County. The citizens that attend the fair are diverse. I have been to the fair for over 10 years and have witnessed only three altercations, none of them provoked by the Saloon nor its appearance. The security is great and the law enforcement is present, engaged, and noticeable.
In closing, I find Keith to be insulting to the citizens of Platte County. He is short sighted and in company of very few. He is one voice and the Fair committee was respectful and unbiased to Keith and all the Platte County citizens they serve in their research, consideration, action, and review of the Shame following his concern.
He only caused frustration and undeserved attention to the fair committee when it didn't respond as he believed they should. Everyone should be asking, what has he done for the community? His country?
I wrote this letter because in Keith’s letter there was only one side told about the Platte County Fair. There are great people that work hard year round to ensure they put on a great fair and it is all volunteer.
Praise for the sports festival
The second annual Platte County Youth Sports Festival held recently at Zona Rosa warrants a commendation for the folks who inspired this idea.
Clubs, organizations and businesses ranging from lacrosse to soccer to martial arts showcased their programs and in one location showed off the incredible variety of activities available to Platte County citizens.
After attending the inaugural event last year, we participated as an exhibitor this year. The growth in just one year in terms of size, variety and attendance is impressive and a credit to the county staff and the Platte County Sports Commission volunteers who made it happen.
Besides kudos for the festival, the Platte County Sports Commission website deserves mentioning as well. During the dozen years my daughters played youth sports I never came across a resource as valuable as this one. If only it existed a few years ago!
Do yourself a favor and check out http://www.plattesports.com. In one location you can find a variety of youth sports organizations, and website and contact information for each. Parents will appreciate this resource when searching for the club or league most suitable for their child.
It's clear that, more than most places, Platte County understands the importance of recreational opportunities in providing a high quality of life for its citizens. While other county governments don't quite “get it,” Platte County seems to be the exception.
Vote against Amendment 3
As a second generation farmer, I am all too familiar with taxes and regulations that begin with noble intentions and end with unintended consequences. Take for instance the troubling provisions contained in Amendment 3-the “Raise Your Hands for Kids” measure which receives 90% of funding from out-of-state interests. These are the same interests seeking to raise taxes on smaller competitors in order to gain increased market share.
This inequitable proposal does not raise taxes across the board on tobacco products, companies nor manufacturers. My questions is, why does the proposal single out certain entities for an almost 750% increase while only raising taxes by a fraction of that amount for their own companies?
In addition to the flawed and unfair taxation provisions, this proposal would add language to the state constitution relating to the funding of “emergency services” for women, drawing the ire of folks in the pro-life community, such as myself. When you factor in opposition from education and health-related entities, groups traditionally supportive of increased tobacco taxes, it becomes apparent how problematic this flawed proposal is.
I began farming 45 years ago and raising tobacco is what helped my family survive the farming crisis in the 1980s. This proposal is harmful to farmers such as myself.
This November, I encourage fellow members of the Missouri Farm Bureau and all Missourians to oppose Amendment 3's troubling provisions.
Library needs to control its spending
In 2013, Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) changed its vision statement from "MCPL will be the portal for life-changing resources" to "MCPL will provide the best library experience in the United States." That message also states, "...we will continue to provide the traditional with the innovative..."
Two years later, the 2015-16 budget message states that the combined effects of inflation and the Missouri Hancock Amendment have impaired purchasing power and restricted revenue growth. It states that these factors as well as "tax diversions and abatements" create serious budget stress. MCPL expresses no concern for those paying taxes who have been equally impacted by inflation and a lack of real wage growth.
The voter approved Hancock Amendment, which limits growth in government, seems to be working as intended. To MCPL, it is an obstacle. And is it not interesting that MCPL claims a right to taxes "that the voters approved and the levy should provide" on properties that would likely not exist if not for tax abatements?
This is an entity with a defined source and known amount of revenue. It should be next to impossible to lose money. For the six years 2005 to 2010, tax revenues were $227 million and what I term operating profit was $15 million. For the six years 2011 to 2016, MCPL incurred a loss of $6 million on tax revenues of $240 million. Tax revenues declined in 2010 and may be growing slowly, but the problem is spending. If MCPL doesn't have the discipline to control spending, there is no amount of money that is going to satisfy them.
I was unable to determine the basis for MCPL's proposed 25% tax increase (Proposition L – an eight cent tax increase over the thirty-two cent tax per hundred dollars assessed valuation) other than a “trust us” statement and the Capital Plan. MCPL provides no other data.
MCPL states that a NO vote will result in reduced maintenance, no expansion, crowded spaces, decreased outreach and reductions in digital resources. Implying that assets will deteriorate without a tax increase is irresponsible. Responsible business owners adapt to a changing business climate. And they don't overspend a known revenue stream.
MCPL states that a YES vote means new buildings, expansion of services and hours, faster internet, services for small business owners, increased investments in materials, digital books, movies and music, research tools, informational databases, online instruction for every age, and so on. In other words, lots of "free stuff" as well as services that appear to compete with the private sector.
MCPL's Capital Plan calls for public meeting spaces, new auditoriums (when did auditoriums become a library function?), drive-thru service windows, new food venues, free computers for loan, among other items. In MCPL's vision of the future, when you check out a book you may be asked, "Would you like fries with that?"
Using a 20 year period and 1% annual asset growth, the value of Proposition L is $227 million. That is money redirected from your personal savings to an activity that is non-essential and by MCPL's own admittance, "challenged by how to measure success" in an industry "that struggles to show value and worth."
MCPL currently collects taxes of $41 million annually. Using the same parameters as above, the current tax rate will generate revenues of $894 million over 20 years. If the tax increase is approved, MCPL's tax revenues will exceed $1.1 billion over 20 years.
One would think $894 million would be sufficient, but as noted above, MCPL overspends.
The Capital Plan totals $86 million: $10 million for minor remodeling and maintenance, $4 million for renovations, $62 million for new and replacement buildings, and $10 million for inflation. The component costs are based on round numbers per square foot: $100, $200 and $300, depending on type, in addition to $50 for consultants and furnishings. The plan states, "All costs are opinion only."
Round "opinion" numbers like these should be used to start a discussion. They should never be presented as a basis for approving more taxes.
To estimate population growth, MCPL uses Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) forecasts. Landmark readers will recall that for the 2014 Platte County new jail proposal, the then Platte County commissioners were projecting exponential population growth based on MARC forecasts. In the end, those projections were proven to be farcical.
MCPL's Capital Plan also uses the term "exponential growth" and estimates population growth of 125,000 from 2010 to 2020 and every ten years thereafter. According to data obtained from MARC's website, actual population growth in the three MCPL counties from 2000 to 2010 was 73,000 and from 2005 to 2015 was 77,000. Forecasts should bear some resemblance to actual results. Where are those other 50,000 residents hiding?
I would also note concerns related to the ability of the pension plan to achieve projected asset returns and other post employment benefits, which are unfunded and have increased from $1.0 million in 2010 to $3.4 million in 2016. How much of the proposed tax increase will be redirected to retirement obligations?
This tax increase proposal looks suspect. How was the $.08 increase derived? Where is the projection?
The library system, if it is to be supported, needs to change. I like traditions, but those are by choice and they are mine to fund. The traditional library system resembles steam driven locomotives. Taxpayers should not be asked to fund outdated delivery systems or the free stuff MCPL desires to provide based on some squishy utopian vision. MCPL needs to narrow its focus, manage for sustainability and manage profitably. It does not need more money to do that.
The MCPL board wants you to vote based on emotions. Don't do it. This vote is not about the additional $22 or $38 per year on your tax bill; it's about the $227 million more that MCPL wants. Don't give it to them. Boards like MCPL's can never get enough of your money.
On Nov. 8, vote NO on Proposition L.
Amendment 3 will hurt farmers
Regarding: Missouri Amendment 3
As a farmer, I am very familiar with taxes and regulations that put a real “damper” on the state and U.S. economy.
Taxing a select few places a real burden on a select few and is unjust to say the least.
Most of these “select” taxes get so lost in the state (and national) revenue, they never end up going where they are intended to go. A good example, as proof, is the Master Tobacco Settlement that found revenue going everywhere it wasn’t supposed to go by each state and at the national level.
Amendment 3, a tobacco tax scheme designed to raise taxes on cigarettes $1.27
per pack, is endorsed by what I will refer to as “big tobacco.” In many cases, “big tobacco” has turned its back on the U.S. tobacco producer, and chosen to purchase cheap, lower priced tobacco overseas, much like low paying “sweat shops” in the manufacturing business overseas.
“Big tobacco” has done the U.S. farmer no favors, much like the U.S. labor force has been treated with the manufacturers leaving the U.S. for cheap labor, less regulations, and fewer taxes. “Big tobacco” like many manufacturers, chooses the easy way out, leaves us here to suffer the consequences, whether consumers or workers, and ship products back to the U.S., maintaining their profit margins while the rest of us suffer through theirdecisions.
A trip to Richmond, V.A. to watch imported tobacco be unloaded from overseas is available to doubters.
This tobacco tax, if passed, will be a tax increase in Missouri of 747%, be a job killer, possibly provide “emergency services” for women, send public dollars to private schools, get lost as originally being “for the kids,” and penalize small tobacco companies which “big tobacco” wants in order to keep and gain market share.
Vote no on an unjust tax that will affect U.S. farmers, U.S. workers, your friends, consumers, and small “grass roots” tobacco companies.
Eliminating 'Moves' funding is a mistake
Thursday Governor Nixon eliminated funding for the Missouri Moves cost share program. This program provided cities and counties with local match funding for much-needed transportation projects.
MoDOT had reserved 2/3 for road and bridge projects and 1/3 for multimodal projects, such as those benefiting Missourians who walk, bicycle, and use public transit.
This type of funding is much needed in Missouri. In FY 2015, Missouri invested just 9 cents per resident in public transportation. Before Missouri Moves, Missouri had invested no dedicated state transportation funding in walking or bicycling.
This puts us out of step with neighboring states--all of whom are investing far more in transit, bicycling, and walking--and with the needs of our residents.
Missouri Department of Health data shows that nearly half Missourians have no sidewalk at all in their neighborhoods. Over 3/4 have no safe place to bicycle in their community.
A broad coalition of citizens and groups have been working for more than two decades to address this problem and create flexible state transportation funding that can address the transportation needs of all Missourians.
In 2016 we saw Missouri Moves passed with bipartisan support by both houses of the Missouri legislature. It was the first state transportation funding source to take this "total transportation" approach--providing funding to meet the transportation needs of all Missourians, whether they drive, walk, bicycle, use public transportation, or do all of the above.
Cities across Missouri are hungry for this type of funding and citizens support it.
The response to Missouri Moves proved this--more than half of applications received by MoDOT included transit, bicycle, pedestrian, or other multi-modal elements.
That is why it is so disappointing to see Governor Nixon completely eliminate this new and innovative program--and without creating or even proposing any alternative.
When taxes are cut, programs must be cut proportionally. But two small tax cuts do not require the wholesale elimination of an important program that will benefit all Missourians. We urge Governor Nixon to restore Missouri Moves funding and we urge all of our elected officials to prioritize much-needed funding for public transit, bicycling, and walking in Missouri.
Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation
Memories of Tomahawke
Congratulations on the Gish award.
We are so lucky to have you in our community. Ever since the Tomahawke mess, we have gotten to know you via your editorials and appreciate your dedication and hard work.
Today, so few "say it like it is" that it is a standout when one does.
Thanks for every day you spend keeping us informed.
--Terry and Adrienne Glaeser
Rural Platte County
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lake at Tomahawke Ridge was a high density housing proposal that was presented about eight years ago east of Platte City along Hwy. 92 near North Winan Road. Many neighbors, including the Glaesers, vigorously opposed the developer’s proposal and The Landmark also editorialized against it. The county eventually denied the developer’s application.
County fair has taken 'exclusionary path'
You can put lipstick on a pig but at the end of the day it's still a pig. The same can be said for the Dirty Shame Saloon at the Platte County Fair. Adding "museum" to its name does not make the beer hall, open four days a year, a museum. The naming gymnastics is just a thinly veiled ruse so that some members of the fair association can promote their outdated and misguided ideas such as a display of the Confederate flag. At a time when the fair should be striving for inclusion and engagement with all residents of the county without regard to race, creed, color, politics, religion or sexual preference it has taken an exclusionary path with racist, vulgar and unpatriotic displays in the Dirty Shame.
If placed in a real museum setting, with context, the Confederate "Stainless Banner" could provide a lesson in the county's history. But in the beer hall, surrounded by alcohol-fueled revelers, the flag comes across as a symbol of intolerance and the continuation of white supremacy. Writing about the Confederacy, its vice-president Alexander H. Stephens penned in 1861: "its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." While slavery fell with the Confederacy, white domination as outlined in Stephens' cornerstone speech, has carried forth for over a century through Jim Crow laws, segregationists and hate groups such as the Klu Klux Klan. The Klan's website currently sells over 125 items emblazoned with images of the flag. To state the obvious, this clearly puts the fair in bad company.
I can hear the cries now about taking down the flag. "It's political correctness run amok." "It's heritage, not hate." But the trouble is, it is heritage AND hate. The two cannot be divorced. It costs the fair nothing to be sensitive to African Americans and others offended by its display. Its removal, in fact, would benefit the fair by encouraging more attendance by people of color, few of which could be found on the grounds in recent years. The flag has never been an official part of the fair and should never be.
Nearby, above the dance floor is a "museum" exhibit that is not fit for any civilized society. A mannequin simulating a sex act is pressed up against the hindquarters of a sheep. Perhaps this display of bestiality is intended to be a lonely Confederate soldier finding comfort on the battlefield?! Added to this is a desecrated American flag whose remnants, the star field, have been cut away and tacked to the ceiling.
The vile displays in the Dirty Shame Saloon are an embarrassment to me, they are an embarrassment to the fair and they are an embarrassment to decent people everywhere. Including, I would presume, fair sponsors such as the Platte Valley Bank, the Bank of Weston, Wells Bank, Budweiser and others. The fair should be a celebration of what's good in our county with wholesome, family-friendly entertainment and exhibits. It should be a gathering place for young, old, black, brown, white, gay or straight from all walks of life.
I'm reminded of a quote I once heard that I'll paraphrase here: "It's one thing to open the door while it's quite another to welcome people in." For the fair to thrive for the next 150 years it needs to do more than open the door each year. It needs to provide an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion. It needs to be sensitive to the changing world, encourage diversity in all its forms, including the ranks of the Fair Association itself, and give a heartfelt welcome to everyone entering the gates. The first step in this process involves the fair's leadership removing the racist, vulgar and unpatriotic displays in the Dirty Shame Saloon.
County leader at odds with library district
The Platte County Commission recently received a resolution from Consolidated Library District No. 3, commonly known as the Mid-Continent Public Library, to place a 25% tax increase on the ballot this November. The tax increase of eight cents would increase our library tax from 32 cents to 40 cents or about $1.9 million per year in Platte County alone. Forever!!!
For perspective, the library tax increase alone exceeds the current county levy of six cents. When you look at your real estate or personal property tax bill, you will see where the library tax falls in relation to the other taxing districts.
So who makes this decision? There are 12 appointees (not elected) to the library board, four from each member county (Platte, Clay, and Jackson.) I immediately called one of the Platte County appointees, Nancy Kraus Womack, to pose a simple question. What in the world are they thinking? Nancy informed me that she was the only member of the library board to oppose the resolution to increase the tax. Thank you, Nancy. (One member was absent and one chairman abstained but supports the tax).
As I dug into the process, I found some disturbing information. Under the law, it appeared, at first glance only, that the Platte County Commission would be required to put this massive tax increase on the ballot. In a meeting with library district personnel, they were very quick to point out that Missouri Statutes state that after the commission receives the resolution from the library board, the Platte County Commission “shall order that the proposed tax increase in the rate of taxation be submitted to the voters.” I sincerely appreciate the service of our appointees to the library board. However, that an appointed board can mandate tax policy is very disturbing. That needs to change.
Digging further, I found more disturbing news. The ballot language in the resolution did not meet the statutory requirements. You see, part of the tax increase will be used to build new buildings, a one-time expenditure. Under the statutes, taxes for new buildings must be a separate tax through a separate ballot measure and must include a 10-year sunset. Not a forever tax. By the way, the word “shall” is also used in this section of the law. But when I pointed this out to the library district, they disagreed and said that they feel they can do the forever tax. They cited some obscure loophole in the way the statute is written. I'm not buying it and neither should the taxpayers.
One last very important point is that this tax can be passed by a majority of the cumulative vote of Platte, Clay and Jackson County. So even if the majority of Platte County voters voted “no”, we will still have to pay the tax if it passes by more votes in the other counties.
The library district personnel and their attorney have also stated that this is the way it has been done in other areas of the state, like St. Charles County last year, and that they do not understand why this is getting so much scrutiny. There are three answers to their question. Although I know the taxpayers of Platte County can figure out the answers on their own, I am going to give them to you. First, this is Platte County not St Charles County. The second answer comes from my mom on many occasions when I was young. Are you going to jump off of a building just because all of your friends are doing it? And, three, I ran on, and was elected to, protect the interests and tax dollars of Platte Countians.
The commission had a meeting this week with library district personnel and three of our four appointees to the board to try to come to some sort of amicable resolution to this problem. Our appointees are open to new discussion and possibly reconsidering the vote on this resolution as the library district attorney and/or director failed to share all this information with the board before its vote. However, that would involve getting the Clay and Jackson County appointees on board with this reconsideration. I'm told that this could be a real uphill battle since the deadline for getting this on the November ballot is Aug. 30 and the library district appears to be very determined to put a tax increase before the voters, with all the loopholes. As Nancy Kraus Womack said in the meeting Monday, “I'm not an attorney but I can read what the statute says.” I'm with Nancy on this one.
The library district's attorney has indicated that there may be some other legal maneuvering to make sure this is on the ballot in Platte County, including a legal action against the county.
I for one will not be voting to put a tax on the ballot that includes loophole language and a forever tax increase. In fact, I will not be voting to put any tax increase on the ballot for the library district.
Park Hill out of touch with fiscal values
Several years ago, the Park Hill School District proposed a tax levy increase with a goal of using a large portion of the revenue generated to purchase computers for every student. Voters overwhelming rejected the measure. However, in the months and years following the vote, district leaders nonetheless chose to invest in thousands of new computers. In doing so, they exposed their initial claim, mistaken at best and flatly misleading at worst, that additional tax funds were ever needed to support this initiative. In short, wise voters clearly made the right decision in rejecting the call for new taxes.
This year, individual laptops are being issued to all Park Hill high school students. The expense is a lesson in obscene government waste. Rather than choosing relatively inexpensive Chromebooks or even moderately-priced laptop options, the district purchased individual computers at a cost of over $700 each. These devices boast far more features (e.g., digital stylus, touch screen, tablet conversion) and power than is needed to provide students with reasonable access to technology. District staff have confirmed the total cost for this most recent purchase of laptops for high school students—over $2.5 million.
I believe that most people in our school community, like myself, support the idea of putting technology in students' hands, and no one is suggesting digital literacy isn't a critical skill in today's world. But this can be done at reasonable cost. By way of analogy, I also fully support providing transportation for children to and from school, but I don't believe we should replace buses with hundreds of minivans so our kids have a “more authentic suburban experience.”
Not only have district leaders moved forward with this huge expenditure funded by tax dollars, they are helping themselves to parents' wallets as well. With expensive computers placed in the hands of their children, parents are being offered “optional” insurance if devices are stolen or damaged. With memories of kids' damaged/lost textbooks and a district-provided list of frightening, costly repairs (e.g., touch screen display--$472, system board--$592), most parents feel little choice but to pay $50 for insurance and an additional $50 deductible per claim. One could reasonably expect that a certain number of these computers will malfunction due to no fault of students. Who pays for these repairs or replacements?
And who is making the repairs on this horde of thousands of individual student computers? The district technology department. And who pays the salaries of these technicians? The taxpayers. Then who is collecting money from the insurance company for repairs? Once again, the district technology department.
In short, it appears the school district is “double-dipping,” using our tax dollars to fund a technology department and then collecting additional insurance payouts for computer parts and repairs through insurance premiums and deductibles paid by families.
I've asked district leaders if they believe these additional charges are proper or even legal. In her response, Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd equated these costs with fees for band instruments, athletic equipment, or even damaged textbooks. Of course, involvement in courses like music or extracurricular programs such as sports are optional. And textbooks are more durable, less susceptible to damage and less expensive to repair.
District leaders have chosen to indenture families to a computer as costly as some people's rent/mortgage payment and then demand these same families be responsible for its care, repair or even replacement.
Park Hill board members and district leaders seem to be growing more and more out of touch with the fiscal values and financial constraints of the families and community they serve.
At R-3, it's all about the money
Here they go again. Another round of pay raises for the employees of the Platte County R-3 School District simply because it is a new school year. In our stagnant economy, it seems like the only folks getting salary increases are public and government employees and these increases come on the backs of all taxpayers.
Everyone needs to understand that teachers automatically get salary step increases each year, as a result of years of service and or education levels achieved. Some also receive stipends. The district does not call step increases “pay raises,” but you and I would. When the board of education approves an annual pay raise, it is in addition to the step increases already programmed. Pay raises adjust the entire salary schedule. You could say it's the gift that keeps on giving. As a result, many teachers can get two pay raises each year.
At July's school board meeting, I asked what metrics the district used to determine the size of these raises. The answer I overheard at the meeting did not surprise me. An administrator said the increase is based on how much the superintendent is “able to levy.” In other words, if the voters approve a tax increase for the district to build a new school (as they did in April 2015) you should expect them to launder a lot of that money into pay raises and they are.
In 2012, concerned citizens defeated the school district tax levy increase. They were stunned. For the first time in recent history, the voting public refused to support the school district’s lofty demands.
As a partial consequence, the school district “froze” annual step increases for three years. However, I learned at the school board meeting that two years of step increases have already been paid back. One school board member had the audacity to ask if the district would be paying interest on those payments.
Do you see what is going on here? It's all about the money. There is little sacrifice as long as it involves other people's money. Meanwhile, the school district's debt load with interest exceeds $90 million.
If you extrapolate out to 12 months the average school teacher's base pay in Platte County R-3 ($53,037) as reported by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, they would make over $70,000 a year, excluding benefits and stipends. That's very fair pay for the “average” teacher.
For the last four years, they received annual pay raises, several equal to or exceeding 3%, in a struggling economy with cost of living increases much lower than their raises.
If you are frustrated by this, take the time to attend a school board meeting. You will notice the board of education never says “no” to the administration. You will observe the decisions of public sector “servants” who sometimes seem more concerned about their pocketbooks than yours.
I could draw comparisons to the failure of progressive education reforms, the greedy teacher's unions, public-private partnerships enmeshed in conflicts of interest and tennis courts voted down by the public but I won't.
I will just say, it's your money and once they get it, you have no say in how it is used “for the kids.”
Remember this the next time they come back to you for another tax levy increase.
- Janet Stark
Salary info given to R-3 board incomplete
In last week’s article on the Platte County R-3 pay raises my short speech to the school board was misinterpreted by your reporter. The point I was trying to make was that once again misinformation is being given to the public and the board by district administration. It has been a busy summer for the district, from lies about the turf and tennis court expenses to this newest manipulation.
For the third straight year the salary information given to the board by Rob Gardner has failed to mention that our teachers are not just competitively paid but in fact are the second highest paid teachers in Kansas City of the 15 districts looked at, next only to Park Hill.
The information provided by Dr. Gardner fails to list the fact that all three of the districts shown to pay teachers more than PCR-3 either have more years of service or more teachers with higher degrees.
Both of these items step the pay level up significantly. Lee’s Summit teachers have an average of 15 years of service compared to R-3’s 12.9 and 83.9% of Park Hill’s teachers have a Master’s or higher while R-3 sits at 76.3%.
Park Hill is also one of the highest performing districts academically in the state while R-3 is not. These are pretty important items to leave out of your salary presentation to the board.
When you do surveys and ask the public if they want "competitive" pay for their teachers the answer is a given, of course we do. Who would answer no?
The question would then be, what is competitive pay? In the eyes of Dr. Mike Reik the answer is to compete with the highest pay of any area school. That's tough to justify when your academic performance has been lacking, so you leave that out along with important items like years of service and hope no one catches it.
It is hard to compare R-3 to Park Hill, Lee’s Summit or Blue Springs when they have so many more teachers making $2,000 to $5,000 more due to having a masters or higher.
Smithville which has an average pay of 12% less than R-3 maintains their teachers and academically performs about the same as R-3. Kearney teachers make less than R-3 staff and 5% more have higher degrees, along with almost three more years of average service, which means three more years of step increases.
Kearney High School has also been a Blue Ribbon awarded school an actual state award you don't have to pay for.
So it is possible to maintain a quality staff in suburban KC without having to constantly one up everyone on pay year after year whether deserved or not.
When asked at the board meeting how pay was decided, Dr. Gardner said a set amount is in the budget yearly for raises then "Team Platte County," made up of 23 employees, decides how it is divided up. The board then votes unanimously as always and it’s a done deal.
It is now possible for a teacher in PCR-3 to make almost $100,000 per year with the current pay and stipend schedule. That’s about $30,000 more than the average household income in Platte County. Households of which most inhabitants work 12 months.
It is pretty easy to see why R-3 superintendents are paid less than other area districts as pointed out in your article. This example of how they do their jobs shows they may still be overpaid.
Rural Platte County
Wood is the right choice in the first district
Dagmar Wood is running for first district county commissioner. If you would like to be represented by an officeholder who cares about you keeping your hard earned money in your pocket as much as you care, then I highly encourage you to vote for Dagmar in the upcoming Republican Primary Aug. 2.
I have known Dagmar for over 20 years. While I have known her to be very sagacious, what I observed as a member of an ad hoc jail committee was nothing short of spectacular. We were presented with a plethora of information that at first appeared overwhelming and seemed to point to a looming crisis concerning the current jail. Within a few days Dagmar had vetted the sources of the information, checked the veracity of the data and cut straight to lucid recommendations that were strictly based on research and facts.
She wasn't concerned about her audience or if any political oxen might get gored. What she was concerned about was what was best for each taxpayer in the county as opposed to what a few thought would be best for a few.
She even recommended the county ask for their money back from the “consultants” that had fed the committee such grossly inaccurate data.
Had Dagmar been on the commission during the past 15-20 years many, if not all, of the financial issues the county is dealing with now would be nonexistent.
Please join me in voting for Dagmar Wood for first district Platte County commissioner on Tuesday, Aug. 2. It will be a positive vote for the county and for your pocket.
A pro-patient update needed
Imagine?you got a nasty cut that needed stitches while you were?vacationing in Florida. Would you be concerned that you wouldn't be able to see a Missouri-licensed doctor?
Probably not. Whether the doctor was based in Florida or some other state, most of us would be confident in the care we'd receive. Indeed, an M.D. from another state is trained pretty much the same way as an M.D. here.
That's why for the benefit of patients, Missouri should reform its medical licensing laws and allow more licensed, out-of-state doctors to serve Missouri patients without undue government interference.
More doctors available to Missouri patients should mean greater access not only for some of our most under-served communities, but for all Missourians. I hope policymakers will consider pursuing this pro-market, pro-patient update to our laws.
Director of Government
Tennis courts will be a source of pride
On behalf of the Platte County Tennis Court Committee, I would like to express much appreciation and gratitude for the recent collaboration among the Platte City Parks and Rec Board, the City of Platte City, and the Platte County School District to secure the remaining funding needed to construct eight tennis courts on the R-3 campus.
This commitment to expand the complex from the original four courts will now provide adequate space to allow full team practices, home meets, and even district tournaments. When the high school teams are not utilizing the facility, it will be available for public use, with opportunities for lessons, tournaments, youth programming, adaptive tennis instruction, and even pickleball.
As a committee, we are aware of the time and effort that went into making this project a reality. Thanks go to the Platte County R-3 School Board and administration for listening to and taking seriously the concerns of a large group of students, parents and community members. Without their willingness to modify the original plans and look for creative solutions to support our tennis team's needs, a resolution for the space dilemma would not have easily been found.
I also want to recognize the Platte County Park Department's contribution to the project in the form of a grant that was awarded toward the construction of the first four courts. Together, these public entities—the city, the county, and the school district--have cooperated and made possible a project that could not otherwise have been completed in so timely a manner.
The new tennis court facility will be a source of Pirate pride and will benefit our kids, our school, and our community for many years to come.
Thanks to all who have committed to making the eight court tennis facility a reality.
Priorities of the parks department are off
"How important do you think it is for Platte County to make maintenance and safety at parks and recreational facilities our number one priority?"
This is a survey question that is asked in Platte County's 2009 Park System Master Plan. The citizens' response: 92% Very Important, 8% Somewhat Important. The results of this study were used to advocate and to ultimately receive the voters' approval for the renewal of the county's half cent parks, recreation and stormwater sales tax.
But now there's a problem. The park department's expenditures and savings reflect a different priority than that of the voters. My perspective on this issue is based upon my 34-year career of professional parks and recreation management experience, including 13 years of service as the assistant director of the Platte County Parks Department. I assisted with the writing of the county's updated parks master plan, and I had the pleasure of working with park supporters, park board members, municipal leaders and many other citizens.
The county's park tax is not intended to be a playground for building personal legacies. These funds belong to the citizens and must be managed with accountability. Our park system must be responsibly maintained according to the citizens' wish. This is exactly why I support Dagmar Wood (1st District) and John Elliott (2nd District) for the Platte County Commission. They will provide much needed stewardship of our parks system through a fiscally responsible plan. They will do this by holding themselves and the parks department officials accountable.
I applaud Presiding Commissioner Ron Schreiber for instructing the parks department to produce an estimate for annual maintenance costs. The department estimates that it will cost $2 million per year to maintain the parks system. But to-date the department has saved an insufficient amount of funds totaling $3.4 million.
This “savings” will not even cover two years of maintenance. A deep hole has been dug for us to climb out.
Lack of accountability and mismanagement of our park funds has put our parks system at risk. Designing and building parks, trails and recreational facilities is intoxicating but the parks department wanted to avoid the maintenance hangover.
A park project is not a "complete" project unless it can be maintained.
Partnerships between the county, municipalities and organizations are critical and a worthwhile pursuit, but as evident by the $2 million a year maintenance cost projections, partnerships are not a 100 percent guarantee for a sustainable park system.
Dagmar Wood and John Elliott will be responsible stewards of our park system and they will hold accountable themselves and the parks department officials to ensure that our parks, trails, green space and recreational facilities are exceptionally maintained and safe for all Platte County citizens to enjoy for many years to come.
I ask that you join me in supporting Dagmar Wood and John Elliott for the Platte County Commission.
Pokemon Go can be dangerous
The real world can be a dangerous place to Pokémon Go as police across the nation are quickly discovering, with the gaming app suddenly becoming a new concern for traffic, crimes and even robberies.
Pokémon Go is an entry into the mobile space, now available for a free download on Android and iOS.
Pokémon Go uses your phone's GPS and clock to detect where and when you are in the game and make Pokémon "appear" around you (on your phone screen) so you can go catch them.
As you move around, different and more types of Pokémon will appear depending on where you are and what time it is. The game encourages users to walk around their homes, neighborhoods and surrounding areas to search for and 'catch' Pokemon that appear on their phone screens.
Do NOT use Pokémon GO mobile gaming apps while driving.
If you spot a Gyarados or other character in your next door neighbor's pool, the very fact that you can see it on your map means you can tap on it from exactly where you are. It's not necessary to enter private residences or buildings to catch them. Know where you are when you are playing. Be respectful of other people's property and space while using the app. Be keenly aware of private property and boundaries. Trespassing is illegal.
Players are urged to be aware of their surroundings while walking around in public. Don't get so engrossed you aren't aware of your surroundings or where you’re walking.
In the St. Louis area over the weekend, four teens are accused in multiple armed robberies in which they allegedly used Pokémon Go to target their victims, according to the O'Fallon Police Department. Be careful when sharing your location with strangers through the app.
Parents, treat Pokémon Go like any kind of outdoor activity with your children. Don't leave them alone while they play and make sure they are secure.
Supreme Court blocks Obama's amnesty
Late last month, the Supreme Court decided to block one of the many executive orders President Obama has issued during his time in office. The Court ruled what all of us already knew- Obama can't just hand out amnesty to 4 million illegal immigrants.
The ruling was a win for the Constitution and for our entire legal system. But more than that, it was a win for American workers and everyone who's followed our immigration laws. These are the people hurt the most by amnesty.
Regardless of the reason they are here, illegal immigrants are just that- illegal. They take from our welfare system, contribute to overcrowding at public schools, and push down wages for Americans.
Politicians that support amnesty have made the problem worse. Amnesty provides an incentive for people to cross our borders and live in America - despite the fact that it's against the law - with the hope that they'll eventually become citizens anyway.
Poor border defense hurts too. That's why I have always supported building a fence along the entire southern border and increasing the number of border patrolmen stationed there.
I'll continue fighting for resources that strengthen our border and make it harder for people to cross over into the U.S. from Mexico.
There is no reason why we should be encouraging immigrants to come here illegally. It punishes everyone who follows our laws, it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world, and it is a huge drain on our budget. I have always opposed amnesty in every form. And I always will.
The county's technology system
On June 10, the auditor's office released the first of two audit reports stemming from a scam and loss of county funds.
The first audit report focused on the electronic wire payment made by the treasurer on Friday, May 27, the result of a spoof e-mail scam.
The audit report provided the citizens with critical information and assurance of:
1. The fraudulent wire transfer of $48,220 was an isolated incident,
2. Banking interests are secure and each of the accounts were reconciled to the general ledger balances, and
3. The county's procedures are compliant with state statutes, as they were derived directly from the statutes, and have undergone internal and external scrutiny and testing without issue or findings.
If procedures had been followed, the wire would never had been released and the request would have been determined to be fraudulent. Releasing the wire was the sole action of the treasurer.
On July 5, the auditor's office released the second audit in response to the scam, an internal examination of the county's Information System (IS) practices, risks, and threats. With the growing number of cybercrime incidents in the public and private sector, an audit similar to what was completed had been anticipated in 2016. The scam elevated the importance of completing the audit and examining the county's IS processes to ensure, at minimum, most common risks are mitigated and sensitive data is secure.
The IS audit report provides citizens with critical information and assurance of:
1. Common cyber security issues are monitored and resources are in place to mitigate risk and exposure to internal and external threats,
2. The county has electronic media/internet policies and the county's level of compliance with the policies,
3. Reasonable steps are in place to ensure the protection of citizens' and employees sensitive information.
The IS audit identified areas for the county to strengthen its processes and practices. The audit further confirmed the current county IS procedures would not have prevented the wire transfer from occurring. The county's electronic media policy defines approved use of county equipment, which is to be used strictly to conduct county business. The wire transfer was perceived by the treasurer as county business and, therefore, does not violate the county's electronic media and internet policies. Releasing the wire was the sole action of the treasurer.
The auditor's office works to ensure the proper use of public funds and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Platte County government by performing a variety of audits. The audits examine financial accountability, waste, opportunities for fraud, and whether county entities are achieving their purposes and operating economically and efficiently.
The two audits along with other reports are available on the auditor's office page of the county website. Questions or comments from citizens are welcome and encouraged.
--J. Kevin Robinson
Platte County Auditor
Gun control won't stop radical Islam
More gun control is not going to stop radical Islamic terrorism.
Absolutely no one who loves this country and values human life wants to see what happened in Orlando recently happen ever again. It was terrible and tragic and disgusting. Our prayers are with everyone affected by the attack, especially the families of the victims.
The terrorist attack in Orlando was everything we associate with radical, hateful groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
But more gun control isn't going to stop this evil. And new laws that impact the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans are not going to end radical Islamic terrorism.
We need to find new ways to weaken groups like ISIS. We have to cut off their finances and stop them from coming into this country. And we must do more to prevent people from being radicalized by foreign terrorist organizations.
But the spectacle that took place in the nation's capital recently would do none of those things.
The so-called “No Fly, No Buy” bill would not have prevented Omar Mateen from doing what he did in Orlando. He was not on the No-Fly List when he purchased the firearms he used in the attack, and every single person “sitting in” at the U.S. Capitol knew that.
Anti-gun liberals treat every crisis or national tragedy as an opportunity to push their agenda on the American people. This is no different. And no scare tactic will make me support the unconstitutional gun laws they want us to live under.
Radical Islamic terrorism is the root of the problem we're facing. Everyone in the federal government has to do a better job of finding ways to contain and destroy the groups that promote this evil. But nothing anti-gun liberals are proposing would stop it. And they know that.
Guns are not the problem
The Obama administration will take advantage of every crisis to advance its anti-gun agenda. No one has ever been killed by a gun that did not have a human hand wrapped around it. Guns do not kill people; people kill people. There is no such thing as gun violence. Violence flows from the evil natures of unredeemed men.
Any effort to ban so-called “weapons of war” or assault rifles is nothing more than a precursor to banning all semi-automatic firearms. The average liberal elitist knows very little about firearms, since most of them don't own one. They don't understand how to use them or the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic. Their politicians would like the uniformed public to believe all assault rifles are machine guns. Banning assault rifles is the first step towards confiscating semi-automatic handguns, shotguns, and hunting rifles. It's a foot in the door.
What really fuels the violence problem in our country? I believe it starts with our government. They gave guns to Mexican drug cartels during Operation Fast and Furious in a failed effort to justify gun control across Texas. They refuse to do anything about inner-city violence where dozens of young black-Americans are shot and killed every weekend across the country. By the way, these cities are all run by Democrats.
They release minority drug-offenders from prison before their sentences are completed, many of whom committed crimes with guns. They shame our police officers. They refuse to fully enforce gun laws already on the books, especially if it means an illegal immigrant may go to jail. They don't secure our borders. They don't let the FBI monitor mosques.They don't allow our military commander's to execute decisive operations against terrorists. They refuse to use the word Islam and terrorist in the same sentence but have no problem giving billions of dollars to Iran, the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world. They disdain our ally Israel, abandoned our hard-fought gains in Iraq, and implemented failed policies in the Middle East that gave rise to ISIS. They believe the global warming hoax is a bigger threat than Islamic terrorism. They blame America for the problems in the world.
I don't directly blame our government for the deaths in Orlando any more than I blame a gun. However, the government’s first and foremost responsibility is to protect us. In my opinion, they are failing at this Constitutional duty in favor of political correctness and faux social justice initiatives. In many instances, they trade our security for votes.
I am a proud, lifetime member of the NRA. You have heard it before – to stop a bad guy with a gun it takes a good guy with a gun. No one should be denied their Second Amendment rights without due-process. Why do we resist any effort at gun control? The answer is simple. Guns are not the problem. Democrats will shamefully use any crisis to block gun ownership. They believe they will never realize their progressive utopian dreams as long as the law-abiding public is armed. As the former president of the NRA, Charlton Heston, once said while brandishing his rifle overhead: “Out of my cold dead hands!”
The fox guarding the chicken coop
I am very upset over the “mistake” of our county treasurer, Rob Willard.
In my estimation, he is incompetent to watch over the county's money. Not only that, he does not know how to follow office procedures. If he had, we wouldn't be in this mess.
They have recovered a little over half of the money; however, what does that do to the operating budget for the rest of the year? How will that affect our bond rating? When Willard was campaigning, he promised to “safeguard and protect our money.” It's probably going to cost us more money now. Do you think this is the definition of his promise?
This is more than a “mistake,” this is using the county's money without permission and as such, should be grounds for termination. If this “mistake” were made by a Democrat, what do you think the outcome would have been?
Everyone who knows me knows I am a Democrat. There are more like me in our county – if I were able, I would be a write-in candidate in November; however I do not have the education to be Platte County's treasurer. But, there is someone out there who can. Step up – we need you.
Who ever heard of the fox guarding the chicken coop?
Labor reformers running out of patience
Late last week the administration and the Department of Justice sent letters to over 100,000 school districts across this country mandating that transgender individuals be allowed in restrooms of their choice. That means men in women's restrooms, locker rooms, and yes, in showers.
By the 2010 census, only one in 2400 identify as transgenders. The transgender community claims one in 300. Take your pick. Either way, we are saying that .003, 3/10's of one percent to as little as .0004, 4/10,000's of the population is dictating the bathroom rules for the rest of us. Ludicrous.
This administration is claiming that restricting school bathrooms to a single sex somehow violates Title IX, which is a federal financial aid program/non-discrimination law used primarily for women's sports. If you believe that, then I will start driving on the left side of the road because I feel like I'm British today. Both policies are equally ridiculous and dangerous.
Already two states have refused to abide by this perverted, immoral mandate, Texas and North Carolina. Attention U Haul, your business is about to grow exponentially.
Can we, the people, allow this administration to force us to give up the sex education of our vulnerable children to confused individuals who believe God made them incorrectly? The answer is an absolute NO! Are we ruled by a king or a Constitution? It is time to defy this dictate and institute civil disobedience.
For starters, call your school's superintendent's office and tell them that you do not want your child scarred for life by this misguided federal mandate. For Platte County R-3, 858-2822. For West Platte R-2, 640-2236.
Next, call your representative and senator and demand that they put a lawful stop to Obama's overreach. The main switchboard number for the Capitol is 202-224-3121. Ask for your representative or senator by name.
This is a diversion of this administration to advance the LGBT agenda which in itself is allowing two percent of our population to rule. Folks, it is the rest of us who are accepting this politically correct agenda to proceed. By accepting this we are tacitly advancing a cause which few of us believe in. Intolerant you say?
I think if we tolerate this, we have lost any sense of right and wrong. As a side note, Target has lost over $4 billion of market value since allowing unisex bathrooms. We can thank the American Family Association for calling for a boycott of Target.
As for me, if a crossdresser goes into a bathroom with my wife, my adult girls, or my granddaughters, he has much more to be concerned about than emptying his bladder.
Here's the bottom line (no pun intended), you get to pee where your plumbing agrees!
Accountability should be stressed at R-3
The Platte County R-3 School Board and its leader Dr. Mike Reik need to take a step back and review their spending habits. $2.25 unanimously approved? Hard to believe without at least one board member having questions when the R-3 school district debt
shows to be among the highest of any school district in the state.
I live in St. Joseph and our school district has gone through many changes due to spending of taxpayers’ monies. FBI probes as well as state audits are not anything your district would want.
Every citizen needs to be informed.
Children of the district need to be considered before voting on lavish spending.
Again, may I stress the importance of accountability to the taxpayers, teachers and children of your district.
--Beverly J. Nelson
R-3 taxpayers are subsidizing pre-school
Looks like last week’s front page article in The Landmark woke some people up.
Questions I have been asked about the R-3 debt load are: How did this happen and what can we do about it?
Here are a few examples of how, in addition to what has been pointed out on the plattecountyr3facts.com website. The district has a tuition based non-state required pre-school, Great Beginnings. Tuition is $2,300 per year. Tuition has been $2,300 per year since opening in 2008. The classes for the 30 plus tuition-based students are held in a portion of a $4.8 million building and the teachers (2) pay alone for the classes is somewhere around $70,000.
Tuition for the preschool does not even cover the cost of the instructors let alone the building, maintenance or administration costs.
If you use Platte City area preschool square footage costs and allow for administration cost you the taxpayer are subsidizing each preschool student to the tune of $1,000 plus per year. At a minimum it has cost the district (taxpayer) about 1/4 of a million dollars since Great Beginnings has opened.
When asked about the shortfall Dr. Mike Reik said he felt that preschool is an important part of learning and felt the "small subsidy' was worth it.
I cannot find where any of this has been voted on by the board. Preschool is important which is why my kids went. I did not know I was paying for other people’s kids to attend preschool.
Preschool is important but only subsidized if using the district’s daycare. R-3 in turn lists these students as an enrollment number in the district newsletters, leading to inflating the district’s growth number. Preschool is not mandated by the state only for kids with special needs.
Park Hill’s tuition-based preschool clearly states on its website that tuition covers all costs of the program. Not so with
Dr. Reik said they had an empty room and it helps to "normalize' the state mandated day care. There are already non special needs kids in their classroom who have free tuition. So why not charge enough to cover the costs like other preschools? Why no increase in tuition for eight years?
Is that a good way to handle your taxes? This has been going on while R-3 has had Budget Cutting Committees, levy increases, roof leaks and increases in parking and lunch fees.
More examples: Paxton is getting a half million dollar makeover to prepare it for use by the high school. They are using the entire school, which had over 400 students but now will only have 10 standard classrooms for the high school, only allowing about 210 students using the district’s "functional capacity" calculations. Not enough to even cover projected growth by 2018.
So what happens in 2018 when you are told it is overcrowded again? And your new levy funds? $1.5 million in change orders for construction projects and additions so far in the past three months, including a new parking lot at the high school not mentioned as a possible project in information from the district during the last levy election.
The "Kids First" flyers my household received prior to the election said levy money would not be spent for "unnecessary additional facilities" (source: DON'T BELIEVE THE LIES, April 2015 Kids First mailer, Quality R3 Schools, Vic Perrin Treasurer).
Your Platte County R-3 District is in debt to its eyeballs, PERIOD.
Last year’s audit said they spent $1.5 million more than was budgeted.
How do you fix it? The obvious answer would be to replace the superintendent with someone who understands how to stretch a dollar, but remember he does not spend money in most cases without the permission of the school board.
A superintendent is pretty much a paid fundraiser, about everything they say and do
is to convince you that your district/school is wonderful and performs at the highest level but needs more room, needs more security, more technology upgrades, more pay for teachers and staff (that makes their life easier). And here is the biggest thing: NO ONE but the superintendent really understands what is most important for your kids and that usually involves giving them more, wait for it........MONEY.
It is the superintendent’s job to ask for funds for projects and the school board’s job to hold that in check. What we are missing at PCR-3 is that last part.
There must be a special class for school administrators where they learn to say things like "Knowing this information (on debt) serves little utility" and the quote from R-3 School Board president that "districts have different debt loads at different time.” Of course they do, which is why my numbers are based on the budget posted every year by every district in the state of Missouri and sent to Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
It only "serves little utility" when they don't want you to comprehend how high that debt is. Comments like this are meant to make you think there is something you might be missing when you are not.
Every project and program at a school can be justified as it is "for the kids" but at some point the board has to start saying NO until some of the old debt is paid off.
Everyone can quietly continue to sit and complain about the district’s performance, afraid of retribution on your kids or grandkids (which is what they bank on) or you can start talking to your school board members about their continued spending sprees.
If you don't speak up the debt will just continue to grow after the current superintendent and board are long gone. But we will still be saddled with the taxes to cover their unneeded "innovative" projects and "small subsidies.”
Rural Platte County
Platte-Clay's proposed bylaw change
I am writing to alert customers of Platte Clay Electric Cooperative (PCEC) about a proposed bylaw change to be voted on at the May 12 annual meeting.
Article IV, Section 4 currently specifies that the board of directors must appoint a nominating committee at least 30 days before Director elections. The committee must then select nominees at least 20 days before the election. Members may nominate
their own candidates at least 15 days beforehand.
The proposed change leaves the first two deadlines as is, but moves the third to at least 70 days before the election. This means that members must make their nominations up to 40 days before the nominating committee is even appointed, and up to 50 days before the nominees are actually chosen.
While nominations from the floor are still allowed in both cases, the proposed bylaw
change, if approved, would severely curtail members' ability to nominate alternative candidates. As the first two deadlines are left intact, I can see no legitimate reason to change the third.
As such, I strongly encourage PCEC customers to attend the annual meeting and vote against this proposal.
Former local principal says hello
How are you doing, Ivan? I was in contact with Laura (Hulett) at Platte County R-3 and she gave me your email. How fortunate I am that you are still at the newspaper.
I wish to let you know that I am blessed to have known you and worked with you while in Platte City.
You were such a valuable ally to Platte City Elementary School and Annex. I have many pictures and articles in my treasure chest that you wrote and printed in the newspaper. Occasionally I will look at them and remember great times interacting with you and talking with you.
It is with much fondness that I remember you. I have the article you wrote about me framed and hanging on a wall in my house. That was such a wonderful article and one that I truly treasure.
I hope all is well with you and that life has treated you kindly. You are a very special and unique person. I will always treasure the memories of you and what you did for the children and teachers at Platte City Elementary and Annex while I served as principal there.
May God bless you daily and fill your life with happiness and joy.
Platte City Elementary
Fracking brings jobs, cuts energy costs
Despite clear evidence that hydraulic fracturing can safely extract oil and natural gas from previously unreachable deposits, attacks on "fracking," as it's known, have grown harsher.
At a recent Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton said that under the restrictions she'd like to impose, "I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place."
Bernie Sanders was even blunter: "No, I do not support fracking." When the moderator pointed out that even many Democratic governors do, Sanders said they were just wrong.
With their blind opposition, elite Democrats and other environmental activists are endangering America's economy -- and ignoring science. Fracking -- or, injecting fluid into shale rock to extract oil and natural gas -- is an enormous boon to American workers. And it's safe.
Let's imagine the America of Clinton and Sanders -- an America without fracking.
Thanks to fracking, in 2014, America became the world leader in oil and natural-gas production. For the first time since 1970, we only import a quarter of the oil we use. In the America of Clinton and Sanders, the United States will again become dependent
on foreign sources of energy.
From 2007 to 2012, fracking jobs grew 40 percent while the rest of the private sector grew at a 1 percent annual rate. Fracking currently supports about 2.1 million jobs. In the fracking-free America of Clinton and Sanders, those jobs are gone.
American households gained on average $1,200 from fracking in 2012, thanks to increased income from reduced energy costs. These same households could save $3,500 annually by 2025. In the America of Clinton and Sanders, incomes will decline and energy prices will rise.
From 2012 to 2025, fracking will provide $1.6 trillion in tax revenue to the American government - enough to cover the current federal deficit for almost three years. In the fracking-free America of Clinton and Sanders, government will be starved of an important source of revenue.
The oil and gas industry adds hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation's GDP annually, and natural-gas exports are a big plus on the ledger of America's trade deficit. In fracking-free America, the economic contraction will run hand-in-hand with a ballooning trade deficit.
Yet Clinton and Sanders have condemned natural gas development and production. But it's dangerous to attack proven energy sources of electricity for the
pursuit of renewables that can't meet our energy needs.
In the fracking-free America of Clinton and Sanders, we'll have to get by on less electricity and live with rolling brownouts like the kind California endured in the first decade of this century -- and almost suffered again in 2014.
Why the hostility to fracking? Many claim it contaminates water. But studies by key federal agencies show fracking is safe. In a systematic review of the evidence, the EPA "did not find evidence" that fracking had "led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States."
Like any energy technology, fracking must be employed with care. But there is no reason to ban it, as Sanders would, or regulate it to death, as Clinton would.
Fracking creates jobs, generates tax revenue, reduces the cost of energy, and results in lower greenhouse-gas emissions. The risks to local environmental conditions are minimal and can be addressed with reasonable regulation. The fracking-free America of Clinton and Sanders is an America that is much poorer economically and no better off environmentally.
--Tom Borelli, Ph.D.
"No" vote on car sales tax aids city
The April 5 Platte City municipal election includes a city resident only ballot measure to decide the fate of the city sales tax on out of state vehicle sales.
After discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and local automobile dealers, I urge voters to vote “No” on this ballot measure.
A “No” vote supports a level playing field for Missouri (and local) business; a “No” vote maintains the current revenue supporting Platte City services; and, a “No” vote results in an equal sales tax rate for everyone who owns a car, truck, trailer or boat.
The purpose of this ballot measure is to correct a technicality in state law. For nearly 50 years, Missouri local governments, including Platte City, collected sales tax on all motor vehicle sales. In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the sales tax was valid only for motor vehicles, boats, motors and trailers purchased from Missouri dealers; the same items purchased out of state (but registered in Missouri) were no longer subject to sales tax but could be charged an equivalent use tax.
For Platte City and other communities (such as Parkville, Gladstone and North Kansas City) who do not charge a use tax, the ruling meant that vehicles purchased from an out of state dealer would pay a lower tax than vehicles purchased from a car dealer located in Missouri, This ruling created an unfair playing field against Missouri car dealers, reduced city revenue and resulted in some vehicle owners paying a higher tax rate to maintain local streets than others.
The state legislature subsequently acted to delay enforcement of the court order to provide cities an opportunity to ask their citizens to fix this tax problem by voting on whether to continue the decades old practice of charging the same tax rate for all vehicles, boats, motors and trailers regardless of whether or not the purchase occurred in Missouri or out of state.
A “No” vote on the Platte City out of state vehicle issue will maintain the existing tax rates on all motor vehicles. A “No” vote will not increase taxes or add any new City revenue. A “No” vote will maintain a level playing field for Missouri car and boat dealers, including the three dealerships located in Platte City, a “No” vote prevents special tax treatment for a small group and ensures everyone pays the same vehicle sales tax.
Local car dealers have invested in Missouri and invested in Platte City. A “No” vote protects them by treating all vehicle sales equally whether that sale occurs in Missouri or in any other state. A “No” vote maintains existing city revenue. Platte City strives to provide high quality services including streets maintenance, snow plowing, police, parks while maintaining low property taxes and a low cost of living. A “No” vote maintains the tax revenue that funds our high quality service.
Tax policy should be fair and equal for all taxpayers. A “No” vote ensures that everyone who uses city streets pays the same vehicle tax rate as everyone else.
All residents are encouraged to take the time to vote in the Tuesday, April 5 municipal election. If you do vote, consider voting “No” on the Platte City out of state vehicle sales tax ballot measure.
Contact D. J. Gehrt, city administrator at 858-3046 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Sierra Club endorses KC earnings tax
On Tuesday, April 5 voters in Kansas City will decide whether to retain the current city earnings tax.
The Sierra Club is recommending a “YES” vote on Question 1 to retain the earnings tax. The earnings tax generates more than $240 million in revenue for the city, and makes up 40% of the general fund dollars.
The earnings tax also supports environmental programs that improve the health and quality of life of Kansas City residents and visitors. The general fund supports curbside recycling and recycling center programs and energy efficiency investments in city buildings. It also funds the Office of Environmental Quality in Kansas City, an office whose core mission is maintaining and improving the environment.
The Sierra Club is launching a grassroots campaign to support the earnings tax to counter Missouri Mega-Donor Rex Sinquefield. Sinquefield has contributed $1.8 million to the Anti-Earnings Tax campaign in St. Louis City and Kansas City.
As a city resident who recycles and wants to see our city succeed, I see the benefit of the earnings tax. I will vote YES on Question 1 on April 5.
The Sierra Club has released a report focusing on environmental programs supported by the earnings tax and the importance of a healthy city center.
The Sierra Club, Missouri Chapter is a grassroots environmental group with more than 8,000 members in the state of Missouri.
Monitoring the visa overstay bill closely
In reading the information Congressman Sam Graves, Sixth District, provided regarding enforcement of Visa Laws in the March 16 Landmark, it appears that the salary of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be withheld unless or until the Department does it's job tracking down all immigrants living here on an expired visa. This is identified as H. R. 4726. Preventing Illegal Visa Overstays Act that Representative Graves recently proposed.
This is exciting information! This bill must be monitored closely, it may give many of us frustrated citizens the boilerplate instructions that will enable us to withhold the salaries of all the Representatives and Senators of the United States. Kudos to Representative Graves for bravely taking a significant action against non-performance.
We just have to hope the current GOP position regarding delay of selection of the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States will enable Representative Graves to push this through the House and Senate very quickly.
Please, please do not tell me this is an early April Fools Joke. It does seem too good to be true.
--Carol A. Clopton
in Platte County
Visa laws should be better enforced
There are nearly 12 million immigrants living in this country illegally; drawing welfare benefits, sending their children to public schools, and pushing down wages for American workers.
And while liberal politicians and poor border protection have contributed to illegal immigration numbers, the problem extends well beyond amnesty and open borders.
Last week in Kansas City we saw the tragic consequences of the failure to enforce immigration laws. Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for making sure all immigrants temporarily living in the U.S. do not overstay their visas. To make that possible, the department is required to use a process known as biometric exit tracking at all domestic air, sea, and land ports.
But in many cases DHS fails to fulfill its responsibility, and in others it ignores the requirement entirely.
On Thursday I introduced a bill to change that. H.R. 4726, the Preventing Illegal Visa Overstays Act, will withhold the Secretary of DHS' salary until the department does its job and tracks down all immigrants living here on an expired visa.
DHS' failure to follow biometric tracking laws adds millions to the illegal immigrant population. Congress examined this issue in a hearing earlier this year, where it was estimated that as many as 40% of all people living in America illegally are here on expired visas.
If we don't enforce visa laws, we basically have open borders. DHS has got to take advantage of the technology and resources we have to keep illegal immigration numbers down, and my bill will make sure that happens. It's not just a matter of economic security, it's a matter of national security.
Releasing terrorists is not a security plan
Since September 11, thousands of young men and women have given their lives to defend America. We've spent so much in the war against violent Islamic extremism, and we continue that fight to this day.
That's why it's so disturbing to see the Commander in Chief jeopardizing all that our military has worked for just to fulfill a campaign promise.
Last week, President Obama announced his plans to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, which is used as a prison for terrorists that have tried to harm American soldiers across the globe.
The President says closing Gitmo is a matter of national security. But if Obama wants to close the prison, it means he would have to let the terrorists go free back to their home countries, or transfer them to bases on U.S. soil. Either way, closing Gitmo does more to threaten national security than strengthen it.
The Pentagon recently announced that 13 sites in the U.S. would be considered for relocation of current prisoners, with Fort Leavenworth in Kansas expected to be among them. Last summer, representatives from the Pentagon toured Fort Leavenworth's Disciplinary Barracks for that very reason.
But Obama's plans directly violate standing U.S. law. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has prohibited the transfer of detainees from Gitmo to American soil for the last few years, and Obama has signed each of those bills into law.
Moving terrorists to U.S. soil does not make Americans safer. It's not only the wrong plan, it's an illegal plan. And as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will continue to fight against it.
Union says Menards should pay more
I was pleased to read there was significant job growth in Platte County during 2015 (see Job Growth Came to Platte County in 2015, front page of The Landmark, Feb. 3, 2016). Unfortunately, the Menards development which is expected to open next year near Green Hills Road may only provide low wage employment.
Menards pays its employees extremely low wages-- often $10 per hour -- or less. Ask them if you doubt me. Because Menards pays low wages its workers are often forced to rely on Medicaid, Food Stamps or other public assistance to meet their basic needs. So Menards is receiving a public subsidy: Platte County taxpayers are forced to subsidize the employees because Menards fails to pay a living wage.
Menards, whose revenue is approximately 7.9 billion dollars (Forbes, 2013), can afford to pay their employees a fair wage and take the burden off the taxpayer. Menards should immediately adopt a $15 per hour minimum wage rate--which is being demanded by workers across the United States--to bring a needed raise to their employees and reduce taxpayer subsidies to Menards.
Local 153, Office and Professional Employees International Union is particularly concerned by the company's anti-worker behavior and we have filed several Unfair Labor Practice Charges against Menards at Region 18 of the National Labor Relations Board.
Platte County should demand Menards provide a sustainable living wage.
Senior Business Representative
Local 153, OPEIU
Office and Professional Employees
New York, NY 10011
Platte County has lost a political giant
Platte County lost a political giant last week with the death of Barbara Cooke. No. Barbara wasn't particularly tall. In fact, she was rather short. And she wasn't rich, powerful or famous. And she never held any elected office, unless you consider her several decades of service as a committeewoman on the Platte County Republican Central Committee as an “elected office.” However, she was the matriarch of the Platte County Republican Party.
Barbara was a Republican in Platte County before it was “cool” to be one. She used to joke that they used to be able to have a meeting of all the Republicans in Platte County in a closet. And, the Democrats so dominated the political process that you kind of needed to meet in a closet so no one knew that you were a Republican. She was on the front line of the uphill battles where most elections were decided in the Democrat primary and if there was a Republican candidate on the November ballot he or she didn't really stand much of a chance. But that didn't stop Barbara from trying to help the Republican win.
Although Barbara was an adamant Republican, she was not all that ideological. When the Republicans finally rose to dominance and a war broke out between the liberal Republicans and the conservative Republicans, I know she was disappointed. Just like she was even more disappointed when the conservatives started fighting with each other after defeating the liberals in the party.
Barbara was always a faithful donor but she was not personally a big donor. However, she was amazing at getting a whole bunch of people to make donations both large and small to the party's efforts. She was also the queen of raffle ticket sales and of staffing the headquarters.For decades Barbara personally sat at the headquarters and coordinated volunteers to be there.
As Barbara got older (she was actually near 70 when I first met her 20+ years ago), she couldn't drive at night. So, Timothy Thompson and I frequently shared the responsibility of picking her up and taking her to the 7 p.m. meeting of the Republican Central Committee on the first Monday of the month. Of course, that meant her driver also had a “date” when a small group of us went to dinner after the meeting. It was kind of inconvenient sometimes, but on this sad occasion I fondly recall those extended evenings spent with Barbara and wish I had done it more.
Barbara had many activities outside the Republican Party. She had a loving family. She did a variety of charitable work, including the Platte County Eleemosynary Society. She touched many lives through these activities but our paths mostly crossed in Republican activities (or when she would sell me tickets to a charitable event).
There was a gathering in memory of Barbara at the Coves (South) Club House on Monday. That was a particularly fitting location. It used to be the primary venue for political fundraisers for Republican candidates and the annual Platte Republican Association Christmas Party.
Although a physically small woman, Barbara was a giant in Platte County Republican politics. She was friendly to everyone who came to a Republican event. She was more about the party than any sort of “brand” of Republican. She volunteered almost daily at the Republican headquarters. She got many others to make financial contributions to the party. She found numerous volunteers to work alongside her. Barbara was the matriarch of the Platte County Republican Party and she will be deeply missed.
--James C. Thomas III
Progress on reforms at state
After years of fruitless discussion, the General Assembly appears ready to pass legislation to ensure our elected officials represent their constituents' interests while they're in Jefferson City-- not the special interests that regularly call the Capitol home. From lobbying reforms and transparency measures to gift restrictions and campaign finance changes, the list of issues being debated, and the seriousness with which they're being debated, is a vast improvement over past reform attempts. Indeed, prospects are good that the chambers will send real ethics legislation to the Governor this year, and if they do, it will be a great success for supporters of good governance.
Kudos to the legislators from both sides of the aisle who are leading this effort. I hope they are successful.
Why does Platte County R-3 even need a school board?
Why do we have a school board at Platte County R-3?
Over the past four years there have been approximately 1700 individual votes from board members with only one vote against anything proposed by district administration.
During that time the seven member board has voted about 240 times, if you figure an average of five votes per meeting. Every item voted on has passed. During this time taxpayers have paid thousands for yearly trips to Tan-Tar-A for many board members and administrators, along with training sessions and dues for the Missouri School Board Association. Other expenses would include the time our paid employees spend with our board in sessions, travel, food, training etc.
So why have a board? The obvious reason should be for checks and balances but as you can see that's not needed anymore, as R-3 administrators only propose items that are perfect and always needed, according to the R-3 School Board.
School board is an unpaid position. Why are the current members serving if they want to make a difference, as many claim, but then rubber stamp approval for all items while academics goes down and R-3 debt and spending is now some of the highest in the state? We now spend over $11,000 per student per year at R-3 with interest on the debt taking up about $1,000 of that per student.
Once again this year there will be no board election at PCR-3 as only the two incumbents are running again. The board is now currently made up of four individuals who have not had to run against anyone due to lack of interest: Gary Brown, Lori Bogart, Steve Goettling and Adam McGinness.
Board vice president Adam McGinness, who just signed up again, has now served for six years and I could not find a single “no"
vote from him, not one.
Out of these four board members I found only the one "NO" vote. (A vote regarding the purchase of a new four wheeler).
For those who have asked, I would love to have run again for the board but if I was elected due to the way board policy is written you have to go along with how the majority votes and I would be unable to voice my opinion on any items disagreed with afterward. Watching the district and keeping taxpayers informed via the "facts" website of factual, complete district information has done the students more good than casting the occasional "NO" vote. Wish I could do both but I doubt you'll see them changing this policy. LOL.
Park Hill just had five people sign up for two open board spots, R-3 has not had more than three sign up for over three years. Do you think there is a correlation since Park Hill School District has been repeatedly beating R-3 in academics during this time period?
R-3 has a first time school superintendent, are we to believe everything he has proposed is correct? After all, everything he has proposed has been passed almost unanimously?
Dr. (Mike) Reik was so new when starting this job the previous superintendent was paid for about a year to help him out. He must have done a great job as we now have only "YES" votes for everything and yet Dr. Reik can't seem to get hired at any other district, even though he has tried.
Why can’t he get hired elsewhere? What could the other board have been looking at? My guess is the same things I look at, information your school board pretends to ignore.
How is it so many parents from R-3 can fill the gym for a wrestling match or for a student archery exhibition but seem to have no interest in district finances or academics? Academic matters are how their kids will ultimately make their living. I don't think R-3
has produced any professional wrestlers, football players or archers. If parent participation is any measure these three seem to be what is most important.
Why does it not bother people that R-3 has one of the lowest performing Special Education programs in the state, the lowest ACT scores in the area?
And do taxpayers not care that the board just passed a half million dollar change order for Compass Elementary construction? A $500,000 change order that was not mentioned in the "Board Highlights" emailed to parents this past week. If not affected directly is it easiest to just stick your head in the sand? That's the way it looks.
Per the December meeting district policy now dictates that for students who may be failing a course the district can "delay" administration of the state EOC exams until they retake the course a second time. If used, how can we now measure how PCR-3 students are performing against other districts? You can't, but it could falsely increase our scores against those districts, allowing PCR-3 to tell you how much they have improved. Much like when the district dropped several high school EOC exams this past year, exams given by Park Hill and others. Not a word at the school board meeting from any board member on this test information.
So why? Why pay for the thousands of dollars for travel, dues and training for a school board that rubber stamps everything put before them? My suggestion is to keep the state happy by pretending we have a school board but never meet and then use the money we save to buy more large orange foam fingers for the sporting events. From what I have seen, they are more useful to the students.
Rural Platte County
Cruz has a problem on citizenship issue
As some of you may know, I spent hours with Lt. Col. Terrance Lakin while he was in the Detenion Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, visiting twice a week until his release on May 13, 2011. Dr. Lakin challenged Obama's eligibility for president and was court marshaled, discharged, and sentenced to six months in the Ft. Leavenworth prison.
Some of you may have read the Constitution, specifically Article II, Section 1, paragraph 5 which I will partially quote: “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution,…”
The term “natural born citizen” only appears under the qualifications for president. For representatives and senators, the Constitution only requires that the individual be a citizen by birth or naturalization, seven years for House members, nine years for a Senator.
The addition of “Citizen…at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…” was necessary because we were a new nation and someone running for office of President may not have had BOTH parent citizens.
The term “natural born” has not been adjudicated, but the Supreme Court in the 1875 case, Minor vs. Happersett, involving a Missouri woman seeking the right to vote, in the majority opinion written by then Chief Justice Waite, attempting to understand the writers of the Constitution did give his opinion, although refusing to argue the point. Here is what he said:
“The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also.”
So Justice Waite relied on the understanding of the law at the time of the writing of the Constitution, that a natural born citizen was the offspring of two citizen parents. Logical.
Along comes Obama. Obviously Obama is not a natural born citizen as given by Chief Justice Waite in 1875. Obama's parents were not both citizens. One was from Kenya. The problem lies with the courts and their refusal to hear any case involving Obama's eligibility on the grounds of “no standing,” whatever that means, essentially that the plaintiff wasn't affected by what he, the plaintiff, was arguing.
So, what's good for the gander is certainly good for the goose.
But Cruz, although I like him, his positions, and his disdain for Obama, has, in my opinion, a problem. He had only one parent that was a citizen and he was not born in the United States or its protectorates, that is unless Canada will admit that the US is their overseer, which I genuinely doubt. He is best suited for attorney general which I hope will happen. That would straighten out much of the Obama mess.
Incidentally, Justice Waite did not grant “Mrs. Virginia Minor, a native born, free, white citizen of the United States, and of the State of Missouri,…”, the right to vote. Women's suffrage would wait a few more decades. The 19th Amendment was ratified August 18, 1920.
It's time for change at Park Hill
The Park Hill School Board's decision to spend $28,000 on a superintendent search was an unnecessary and wasteful use of taxpayer dollars. It appears the board was never serious about finding an outside candidate since they chose an insider with little experience to fill this important district role.
Don't blame the consulting firm. I'm sure they brought in precisely the types of candidates they were asked to pursue. Criteria were set by the board before the “headhunters” even opened the application/search process.
We need only look at other successful districts to see the type of experience and expertise we should have expected in a superintendent. When Shawnee Mission needed new leadership they chose Jim Hinson, who led Independence Schools for years. This past spring, Blue Valley recruited Todd White from North Kansas City as they prepared for some administrative transitions. Center School District hired Bob Bartman, former Missouri DESE commissioner, who helped in the renaissance of their struggling schools. Even former Park Hill boards provide a
blueprint of success. Gayden Carruth, arguably one of the district's finest superintendents, had years of experience in districts in several states and was found with the help of a consulting firm in the late 1990s.
Do Park Hill school board members expect us to believe, once again, there are NO candidates, after conducting a "national search," who have 10+ years of experience actually leading a suburban school district of 10,000 students with a proven track record of success?
Instead, this board chose a candidate who has few of the requisite skills of the position:
·No direct experience/expertise with district finance
·No direct experience/expertise with bond/levy issues
·No direct experience/expertise with business or community development
·No direct experience/expertise in statistical or data analysis
·No experience leading a district or even a school
And for this, to use a baseball analogy, Park Hill is going to pay Zack Greinke money and hope a 20-win record miraculously develops from an unproven prospect? With salary and benefits, the new superintendent
will make nearly a quarter of a million dollars next year. A high-caliber district like Park Hill, which is attractive to prospective candidates for its history of excellence and generous compensation package, should have easily secured a proven “ace.”
Jeanette Cowherd is a fine person with good communication skills and a knack for looking you in the eye and making you a believer when she says things like “trust” and “best practices” and “what's best for kids.”
But while she is personable, Jeanette doesn't have a proven record as a superintendent; it's entirely different sitting in the “big chair” than sitting beside it.
Perhaps that's the point. I suspect some on the board prefer a superintendent who follows orders and doesn't exercise an independent sense of direction and purpose. Unfortunately, that's not the leadership Park Hill needs heading into the next decade.
I'd urge district patrons to remember the wasteful spending and questionable decision-making when school board elections and bond/levy issues come around.
Folks, it's time for some real change.
Look out for Joe Biden
The Democratic National Committee made its real and well-aimed move yesterday. Vice President Joe Biden gave an interview to CNN. He was dressed in full power gear. He spoke firmly and carefully.
Hillary is about to get indicted. She will drop from the Democratic race. Poor Bernie can't win the South or West.
Enter our Uncle Joe. No taint from campaigning. High favorability rating. He inherits all of Clinton and Sanders’ structure. He has Obama’s structure and followers...
Equals: President Joseph Biden.
Expand worker freedom
Imagine you only had one chance to vote for president—after that, the president served for life, with an impeachment as the only way to put a new face in office.
That wouldn't be right. So why is it any different with unions?
To our government employees—people like teachers and firefighters— union representation looks a lot like a lifetime appointment. These workers don't get to vote for their union each November. And some unions came to power so long ago that today's workers have never had a chance to weigh in on the matter.
I've heard a lot of debate in recent months about what it means to expand worker freedom. Well, giving employees a vote expands worker freedom.
Our government employees deserve to have their voices heard through regular union elections. That's something we should all be able to support.
Betrayed by Sam Graves
After declaring in a Nov. 2, 2015 weekly newsletter “…the root of our problems – too much spending in Washington,” Congressman Sam Graves votes to spend more borrowed money.
Missouri's 6th District Representative (I use that term loosely), Sam Graves, has betrayed us by voting on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in favor of a $1,100,000,000,000 spending bill, affectionately known as Omnibus.
Here’s what Graves wrote in his Nov. 2 newsletter:
“Budgets are about priorities. The federal budget has to provide for our military men and women, protect Social Security and Medicare, and it must show that we are serious about getting control of the national debt.
“This past week, the House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015, setting spending for the federal government through next year. This budget includes some positive reforms, but it raises the debt ceiling without cutting nearly enough spending in return. I could not support the debt ceiling increase or the overall budget.
“The national debt has grown at an unacceptable level over the past six and a
half years. We simply cannot continue raising the debt ceiling without addressing the root of our problems – too much spending in Washington. This bill increases discretionary federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years, and it fails to address the fiscal crisis facing Social Security and Medicare, the two biggest drivers of our debt.
“All in all, this budget is more of the same, kicking the can down the road on the serious issues we face as a country. Instead, we need real reforms that will put our economy and the debt on a sustainable path going forward.”
As with other Obama giveaways, if you spent $1 million a day, let me repeat, a DAY, since Jesus' birth you wouldn't even come close to spending that much. Do the math. Over $350 billion left over. Talk about the lottery.
Ninety five conservative representatives voted NO. Names like Trey Gowdy, Dr. John Fleming, Louie Gohmert, Bob Goodlatte, Tim Huelskamp, all conservatives. He would have been in good company. My suspicion is Graves cared more about his committee chairmanship than the country.
Here's a short list of what Graves voted FOR:
•Full funding of Planned Parenthood – after heinous videos and national outrage
•Hike overall spending by another $50
billion (add 9 zeros)
•Full funding of Oama's plan to bring in thousands more from mostly Muslim countries – after Paris, and closer to home, San Bernardino attacks
•Funds Obama's Global warming Paris promises
•Funds snooping into your email, phone, internet activities without a warrant
•Approves H2B visas to take more jobs from Americans
•Funds sanctuary cities for criminals – commonly called illegal aliens
Shall I go on?
Someone out there must rise up to oppose Graves in 2016. I'll help your campaign.
But, it's not all bad. Graves got to go home for Christmas.
And that's not all, presidential candidate Rubio, who proclaimed on Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 he was going to do everything he could to slow down the approval process . . .didn't show up for the vote. Put a Marco by his name and then scratch it off your conservative list…and presidential contenders.
Incidentally, Blunt also voted FOR the spending bill…and got to go home for Christmas.
Parkville Political Theatre
The Bard would have given a hefty “thumbs up” for the drama that unfolded at the last membership meeting of the Main Street Parkville Association on Dec. 9. The illustrious Mayor Nan Johnston and her minions perpetrated a coup that was absolutely textbook in sleaze and sliminess.
While 99% of the populace couldn’t care less about this meeting and its results, one has to look at the leadership displayed and wonder who is running the asylum.
To clarify what Main Street Parkville Association (MSPA) represents and who they are: They are a group of Parkville specific volunteers who give of their own time and in many cases money to facilitate many of the popular festivals (Brewfest, Parkville Days, and Christmas on the River etc.) along with monthly “cruise nights” during the warm months that are held during the year in Downtown Parkville. To say the business owners are eclectic is an understatement. However such an atmosphere is part of the charm and puts the Downtown area as a “rose amongst the thorns” insofar as shopping venues in the Northland region. Because of the dated infrastructure, any updates can be costly and a real bone of contention between the City of Parkville and the merchants as to who is responsible for the upkeep of that infrastructure.
The Dec. 9 meeting was the MSPA annual meeting where a slate of officers is elected by the MSPA membership. Printed ballots are handed out to attendees as they arrive. The ballot had Troy Wilson as returning chairman, Alisha Blackwelder as vice-chairman, Art Brown as secretary and Susan Smith as secretary.
For Wilson's part, he had guided MSPA through a year for the most part without a full time executive director. He kept expenses below budget and all festivities and Downtown activities were very successful for the calendar year. This a tribute to a sacrifice of his time and some outstanding volunteers. He worked tirelessly on obtaining a needed grant for the Downtown Parkville area (more on that later) which was finally obtained. He was voted the “Volunteer of the Year” by the MSPA membership at the annual gallery of trees banquet earlier in the month. Sounds like a real dog, doesn't he?
The drama unfolds when Marsha VanDever, the residing honcho of the Parkville Area Chamber of Commerce, asks Alicia Blackelder who is on the ticket as a vice-chair if she would like to be the chairman instead. Very interesting. As several prominent MSPA members noted a few days later, why is the chamber carrying the city's water? It really is a bad look for you, Marsha. Alicia had told the current chair, Troy Wilson, the day before these elections she was fine with this appointment as a vice-chair. It was felt she could “learn the ropes” from the committee for a year and then run for the 2017 chair. Sounds good. She had been a decent liaison to MSPA for Park University from her position with the university as a “partner” with MSPA (same relationship with the chamber).
Suddenly, Blackwelder has an epiphany and after coughing up a half-baked explanation of “well that might be nice-don't want to stab Troy in the back (really?) but if it is the will of the group.” You get the drift; she wanted to say yes but she didn't know how. So the motion is made and seconded to elect her as chairman. You could see the knives coming out of the sheaves. Ballots were passed out and ta-da—Blackwelder is chairman. Congratulations.
The writer of this piece can see this is a nest of snakes perpetrating this grease fire and promptly takes his name off the ballot as secretary. Another minion is promptly moved on the ballot from treasurer to vice chair. At this point it is a miracle Wilson is still alive with all the knives in his back, but the real grand finale comes in the person of Chris Collins, a vice-president at Capital Federal Savings.
After leaving the ship last summer as a member of the aforementioned MSPA as their organization chair due to a flap with the bad hire of an executive director, he starts to make his presence known again. To Ed Bradley, BankLiberty, Troy Wilson, Tom Hutsler at English Landing and this writer, he was approached about being the 2016 association treasurer. To all parties, he gives a hearty “just don't have the time.” Suddenly at this meeting he also has an epiphany and declares to all “why sure” when nominated for the treasurer’s position.
By the way, all denials were within the days leading up to this bloodletting. In a true “et to Brute” moment (this is Shakespeare, after all) he shoves his knife between Wilson's seventh and eighth rib from the back to complete the carnage by accepting the nomination.
TO CONCLUDE—if you're with me this far you will want to know what all of this means. Wilson had made as a cornerstone of his chairmanship an affiliation with the Missouri State Main Street Connection group to get Downtown Parkville on a better growth track. This group has had a tremendous track record in working with Missouri communities with historic downtowns like Parkville improve their marketing and improve their brand. This was a very important grant for the merchants of Downtown Parkville. After several months of dialogue, the Main Street Parkville Association was awarded a $40,000 grant.
The liaison for this group was at this meeting. After watching this fiasco, he reported all of this to their management group located in Branson. The result--in a letter to Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston and Troy Wilson, Missouri Main Street Connection Executive Director Gayla L. Roten basically states that (I’m paraphrasing) “there is too much dysfunction between the MSPA and the City of Parkville to proceed with rewarding this grant and it is therefore pulled off of the table.”
No kidding. Nice job, Nan.
FINAL WORD--Mayor if you weren't behind this then why were you seen writing in names on your ballot before the meeting even started? Sloppy Nan, really sloppy. At a time sewer rats are more popular then politicians you perpetuated the stereotype of the politician everyone loves to hate. Deceit, the “Quick & Slick” approach, a behind-the- scenes hatchet job. You did it all, Nan.
Point is you had the votes. Just introduce the slate you wanted, browbeat your stooges to show up and vote for your ticket and all would be well with the world. It may not have been popular with many of the merchants but it would have shown a modicum of decency and class to do so and quite honestly in the arena of common sense it would have been the right thing to do.
I mean, you knew who you were running against for mayor and won fairly and squarely. Guess that was a little out of your reach, huh Nan?
TO HER MINIONS—Nice job, guys, you should be pleased. The merchants lost a very important grant, you have a stooge for the mayor as the MSPA chairperson and the treasurer will say anything to anybody at any time. You pitted merchant against merchant, creating a real toxic brew of animosity as events transpired. Not a bad day's work. Should be quite a year.
The Bard would be pleased.
Main Street Parkville
Secretary for 2015
Mayor is degrading dowtown volunteers
I'm sorry I wasn't at the Main Street Parkville Association meeting to vote on officers.
I believe the merchants of downtown Parkville felt that Troy Wilson had been a good chairman and he would have good support with his new slate of proposed officers.
What I don't understand is why anyone would want to be chair of any organization, without having any previous experience with that organization. I wish the new board well, as they have the responsibility of a $300,000 budget. They are in the position to represent all of the merchants of Historic Parkville. They have the heavy job of selecting the best marketing and advertising campaign to promote Downtown Parkville. They have the burdensome job of sponsoring the largest well-attended festivals in the Northland: Parkville 4th of July Festival and Parkville Days and Christmas on the River.
I have been involved with the MSPA program since its inception in 1994. I have served as chair and vice-chair for several years. I have also been chair of Parkville Days over 20 years, chair of 4th of July Festival over 20 years. I have been a volunteer with Christmas on the River and chaired the event several years. I have served as committee chair of economic development, committee chair of design and volunteered on the organization committee and served as chair of promotions committee which oversees marketing and advertising and the numerous festivals MSPA sponsors. I have volunteered with the Brewfest Committee since its inception. Someone needs to explain to me why anyone would want the job of chairman so much that they felt they had to crucify the individuals and merchants that they are there to represent.
There can only be one reason why this could happen: an outside political agenda.
The mayor of Parkville has spent a majority of her term in office degrading the downtown public volunteers that she is there to represent. She has tried unsuccessfully to uproot the downtown nine member CID board.
The mayor will not recognize the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (POTMCID) board as a legal board, yet she has no problem coming to the Downtown CID asking for grants for public projects.
The mayor needs to support the residents and merchants of Historic Parkville and not micromanage us out of existence.
The sign of a good leader is one who is willing to work with all for the good of all.
City doesn't really want budget input
I recently spent time reviewing the 2016 Parkville proposed budget and made an email inquiry to the city on Dec. 1, the day of the board meeting. One would think I insulted the Queen.
The response from Alderman Marc Sportsman: "Thanks for your inquiry. Over the last 3-4 months, we have had four budget work sessions that were publicized and open to the public. I hope that next year you will be able to attend these sessions so that your concerns could be addressed much sooner."
The facts are that four work sessions were held between Oct. 20 and Nov. 17, a period of four weeks.
The response from City Administrator Lauren Palmer stated that many of my concerns were discussed at the four budget work sessions.
So what caused this stir from city officials? Simple observations in the form of:
1. 2016 recurring general fund revenues are increasing by 2.7% and 2016 general fund operating expenses are increasing 16% over 2015.
2. Is there a time and cost allocation calculation to support the transfer from the general fund to the sewer fund? On the surface, the amount appears arbitrary.
3. Salary budget increases of 10% and higher seem to be inconsistent with recurring revenue increases of less than 3%.
4. The 2016 salary schedule states that it includes all employees, yet it appears to exclude the community development director and the city administrator.
5. Why is the board being presented with a budget document that doesn't disclose all staff costs?
6. Last year's budget included a 1.4% COLA and .5% merit adjustments. If the salaries reflect market rates, why are 2% across the board COLA adjustments necessary?
As suggested by Ms. Palmer, I took time to review the minutes of the four work sessions.
Oct. 20: The session started at 8:54 p.m. and ended at 10:24 p.m. How convenient. This is when staff raises were supposedly discussed, which may explain the starting time.
Oct. 27: The board approved work session minutes stated that this meeting started at 4:10 on Oct. 20. That must be why I and others missed it. This second session started before the first one.
Nov. 2: clicking on the link for Minutes returned the message, "File WSMinutes110215.pdf not found!" Consequently, I can't determine the timing of this meeting.
Nov. 17: I hope the board will excuse me for this one as I was preparing to leave town for a family funeral.
More specifically to Oct. 20, I found nothing in the work session documents (or any other) or minutes supporting a 2% COLA adjustment. Readers are likely aware that the federal government is making no 2016 inflation adjustment for retirees. Perhaps Parkville employees are unique in that only they are experiencing 2% inflation.
In regard to Ms. Palmer's response, she noted:
•“The sewer allocation study was completed several years ago…..the allocation is not arbitrary.” As of this letter, I have not received the allocation study she says exists.
•“The only purpose of the salary schedule is for the board to grant authority to adjust pay rates.” One may wonder how the board can approve salaries if they don't know how those salaries comprise the departmental budgets, including increases of $51,600 for COLA and merit raises. As of this letter, I have not received a complete salaries schedule. While some staff may deserve a raise, those paying the salaries might want to know who they are.
•“You will find in the work session materials examples of how we used metrics to justify various budget recommendations.” I was unable to find what I would consider metrics schedules or charts. Perhaps we have different ideas on metrics.
One item of interest from the work session packets: "She (Ms. Palmer) said based on the current revenue the only way to complete more projects was to determine how to get more revenues......"
Parkville residents, you have been warned. If you would ask whether any of the aldermen look at the budget as an outsider and without bias, you would likely find that they are just as invested in the budget as city staff. Once inside city hall, the money becomes theirs.
As Ms. Palmer noted, "Following adoption of the budget by the Board of Aldermen, staff will prepare the official budget document which will include much of the supporting analysis that was part of the prior work sessions.”
Translation: It's too complicated for you to understand, so we will tell you what we did after we are done and the budget is final.
What Mr. Sportsman really meant to say was, "Thanks for the inquiry, but we don't want any input."
Memories of Wells Hull
I just finished reading your tribute to my father, Wells Hull, in your Between the Lines column. I am tearfully laughing because I know the look he had on his face when he was handing you some of his very dry sense of humor. I also am pretty sure that he told me more than once to "not panic.” I'm not so quick of a study, I had to hear it several times!
The past year my dad was becoming more frail daily but he went to three home Mizzou games with me in Columbia this fall. He was not pleased with the Tigers’ performance this year. He didn't mince words on the way back to PC.
He drove down to my house near Parkville almost daily. My neighbor would text me that "a guy in a green Cadillac is sitting in your driveway honking his horn.” I didn't always see or hear him if I was on the other end of the house. His comment to me when I asked him why he was honking was that I had not answered my cotton-pickin’ phone.
I will continue to live back here now after being out of state for over 30 years. It is the right time to be here.
I miss my dad a lot. Thanks for your thoughts. I laughed and spent time with good memories this morning because of your column.
--Beth Hull Smith
Park Hill's expensive pursuit of award
Park Hill has excellent staff and schools, and I count my time as a principal and district administrator here as one of the high points of my professional career. Like many others, our family moved into the district so our children could benefit from the great teaching and learning opportunities.
However, during my tenure and later in retirement, I have been puzzled by the district's relentless pursuit of the Missouri Quality Award (MQA), since it doesn't appear to be an achievement based merely on a review of merit and excellence. Park Hill's involvement with the Excellence in Missouri Foundation, who administers this award, is an arduous and costly partnership, requiring a tremendous investment of financial and human capital. When district leaders bragged in 2009 that Park Hill was the only Missouri school district to receive the MQA recognition, what they failed to tell the public was most districts have neither the disposable funds nor the inclination to divert resources away from schools to a program largely utilized by private business.
So how much is too much for a school district to spend on a program like MQA? $10,000? $50,000? It might surprise taxpayers to learn the district has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this initiative over the years for membership fees, training, site visit fees and a myriad of less obvious but equally costly items.
For example, when an assistant superintendent or principal travels across the state to serve on a week-long review for a private business, who do you suspect pays his/her salary and hotel/travel expenses—the business or the school district? The answer is the school district.
In short, taxpayer dollars intended for schools are used to promote the success and profitability of private industry. And during any time of absence, the district is without the leadership and expertise of those most needed to guide educational progress or make critical decisions in a time of emergency or crisis.
One has to wonder if winning this award has anything to do with an organization's involvement in the Excellence in Missouri Foundation. Past and present Park Hill administrators have served in leadership roles, including interim superintendent Jeanette Cowherd, who is listed on the foundation's website as one of their current board members.
The last time the district won the Missouri Quality Award, nearly 100 staff were transported to Tan-Tar-A for expensive, plated dinners to celebrate the honor; records reveal the district spent a whopping $85 per meal and another $2,300 for bus transportation.
I worked at central office at the time and didn't make the trip; I felt then, as I do now, it was obscenely costly and self-congratulatory, especially during a time of financial belt-tightening.
Unlike Park Hill, most school districts in our state can't imagine trying to justify $85/person meals for an awards banquet, much less tens of thousands each year to participate in the MQA program. Now that the district has won again, patrons might want to find out if leaders plan to celebrate in similar style on the taxpayer's dime this time around.
In 2009, the superintendent and select administrators were given additional “performance pay” beyond their contracted salaries after being credited with the success of the review/award process. The fact that custodial staff, cafeteria line workers, administrative assistants or teachers were not aware of or included in these types of monetary incentives for the district's success lacks a certain transparency and reveals a “top down” philosophy contrary to the very principles of the quality improvement model.
I suspect school board members and district leaders plan to approach voters again soon for a bond or levy initiative. Until recently, I have always been happy to support public education with my tax dollars; test scores, graduation rates and positive parent perceptions all attest to the high quality of the our schools. But I expect district leaders to spend each dollar wisely and with a singularity of purpose—direct support of teachers, students and classroom instruction. A costly recognition program, $85/person plated dinners and exclusive bonuses for themselves suggest that Park Hill leaders don't quite understand how these types of decisions appear unwise and misguided to the taxpaying public.
Sadly, I can't support a bond or levy effort until they do.
The salaries in our public schools
Recently, the federal government announced there is no cost-of-living adjustment for 2016 because there was no inflation in 2015.
Prices for commodities they track either remained the same or went down. For example, the price of gas is down from the previous year. This means that federal retirees, retired military, and all seniors receiving social security checks will not see an increase in their 2016 checks. This sounds fair to me.
However, there is another segment of our society that typically receives annual pay raises. They are our public school teachers and their administrators. These raises are in addition to the annual step increases in pay they receive for each year of service and for successive education levels. Here is a little secret you may not know. The days of the underpaid public school teacher are gone. The teachers unions and school boards have solved that problem and that's fine. Teachers and administrators deserve fair pay.
But today, there appears to be an entitlement mentality growing within many our nation's public school systems. Sometimes it seems it is more about the money than it is about the kids. Districts lack realistic prioritization systems and are reluctant to settle for second-best. It's easier for them to propose a local tax increase. They lack the desire to realistically measure teacher performance and school boards make decisions behind closed doors, inaccessible to the tax-paying public, before they block-vote in their public meetings. In many cases, there are retired school employees on the boards who have a vested interest in all decisions.
If you extrapolate out to 12 months the average school teacher's base pay in Platte County R-3 ($53,037) as reported by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, they would make over $70,000 a year, excluding benefits and stipends. That's very fair pay for the “average” teacher.
For the last four years, they had annual pay raises, several equal to or exceeding 3%, in a stagnant economy. At Park Hill, there was a superintendent whose total compensation was over $450,000 the year he departed, as reported by The Landmark in 2013. Do you realize that's on par with what the President of the United States makes?
How does a school district determine its employees deserve a raise? What is the logic for an increase in pay? Could they show us the metrics they used? I doubt they could. We know these pay raises are completely arbitrary and designed to garner favor and maintain support. Raises have nothing to do with job performance. If they did, not everyone would get one.
I have a partial solution. Teacher and administrator pay raises should be tied to the federal cost-of-living adjustment (teacher unions will never allow a raise to be tied to performance). If inflation goes up, they get a corresponding annual raise. If inflation remains zero, their base pay remains unchanged. Since it is based on the rate of inflation, it is completely fair and we now have a measurable metric.
We hear a lot about economic fairness these days. Let's start applying it at the local level to help the patrons who pay personal property and real estate taxes which fund those ever-growing school salaries. For the 70 percent of registered voters who failed to vote last April, you can ponder this as you pay your higher tax bill for 2015.
Ask questions before signing petitions
I love our local farmer's market. It's a great place to get fresh produce, see friends and – sign a petition? Fortunately (or unfortunately) anyplace where large groups of people gather you are going to find people collecting signatures for ballot initiatives.
“The initiative petition process gives Missouri citizens the opportunity to directly participate in our democracy. The secretary of state's office is charged with overseeing this process and certifying proposed petitions for the ballot.
“Any registered Missouri voter can sign an initiative petition... on petition pages that contain the official ballot title and the full and correct text of the proposed measure.” (Make Your Voice Heard, Missouri's Initiative Petition Process – Jason Kander, Secretary of State; page 2)
So, when you are approached by someone who seems to have a great idea and wants you to sign a petition, what you should know and do before you sign? Here are a few ideas.
·Know The Law – Every petition must clearly state the Ballot Title and have attached to it a copy of the fiscal note, which will tell you how much it is going to cost the state (YOU!) and the FULL AND CORRECT TEXT of the legislation the ballot initiative supports.
·Beware the “Presentation” – You are going to be offered a very simple reason to sign the petition that is going to sound really attractive. Before you sign:
•ASK TO SEE THE FISCAL NOTE. Are you OK with the cost? Remember, you are going to help pay for this. If so, then
•ASK TO SEE THE FULL AND COMPLETE TEXT. If it is short, sweet and you understand it, then go ahead and sign if you support the issue. If it is longer than a couple paragraphs, or you do not understand what it says you probably should not sign it. Ask for a copy. Take it to someone who can help you understand it. Remember, initiative petitions in the State of Missouri change the Constitution. They are very difficult to change once passed.
•Watch out for high pressure. Do you ever get angry when you hear of legislators who vote for bills they have not read? Then why would you sign a petition to change our State's Constitution without reading it. If the petitioner says, “This will likely be your only chance to sign,” then turn around and run.
I am thankful that we, as citizens, have the initiative petition process available to us as a tool we can use when the government will not hear us. Let's be sure we use this tool responsibly and with great care. We have to live with the consequences of its use.
--S. Nick King
District 17-- Liberty
Support for child molester is chilling
I had a lengthy letter all typed and ready to send in last week regarding Darren Paden, his crime, and his supporters. I had a hard time staying objective, and with The Landmark's deadline rapidly approaching I decided to wait a week and see if my perspective changed at all.
Well, it is a week later and my perspective has changed. I am even angrier than before. What kind of world do we live in where an elected official who has prosecuted countless criminals in our county is questioned on his actions after successfully prosecuting a pedophile diagnosed by a psychologist appointed by the defendant's own attorney?
KMBC-TV reports Paden's attorney John O'Connor would like us to believe Prosecutor Eric Zahnd did the public a disservice by releasing the names of the individuals who either spoke or wrote letters on his client's behalf. He states, "This will absolutely have a chilling effect on any individual who wants to write a letter in support of a criminal defendant in the future...”
Chilling effect? In response to that, I submit that observing former and present school district employees, church officers, and “respected” community members publicly supporting an admitted and professionally diagnosed child molester will have a chilling effect on every abused child in the four-state area who is looking for a safe adult to turn to. If a child can't turn to a school teacher or a church member, even after we have spent decades educating kids about the importance of “telling someone” and reinforcing the idea that these people and those places are safe havens full of adults worthy of their trust, who can they turn to?
As to the “outing” of the supporters, what is the problem? I, as most of us (I hope this still holds true) were taught, if you open your mouth, stand behind your words. Do the supporters lack the conviction necessary to stand behind their statements and letters with the spotlight turned on? If so, maybe they should have kept their mouths shut to begin with. Are they embarrassed because their names and words have not only been reported across our nation but also overseas? Do they fear for their privacy or possibly even their jobs?
Well guess what? I am offended that my county and my state are being ridiculed and sullied. Dearborn equates to Platte County for folks in the Kansas City metro area, and to the entirety of Northwest Missouri for folks living farther away.
It has been speculated in various nationally distributed and widely read publications that based on the widespread support of a sexual predator at the expense of his victim, that Dearborn (and Platte County in general) is full of sexual miscreants of all varieties and residents must be complicit with the crime.
Former dean and present professor of the University Of Missouri School Of Law was reported as saying he didn't see anything clearly unethical about Zahnd's actions. He noted, however, that Missouri's Rules of Professional Conduct say prosecutors should refrain from making extrajudicial comments that "have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused." How the hell can anything heighten the public condemnation of an adult man that molests an innocent child for 10 years beginning at the age of five? THE AGE OF FIVE!
This whole nauseating episode will only begin to fade after Paden's son Anthony has his day in court. If the evidence proves the younger Paden is guilty as charged, I am sure we will be subjected to more tales of good deeds that somehow are supposed to lessen the permanent damage perpetrated on a child. Until then we will continue to be regaled with the creative spins conceived in the minds of those trying to reconcile the heinous actions of a self-confessed child predator with the familiar face of a hometown hero.
Creative spins might be effective for assuaging guilt for taking part in the further victimization of an already abused child, but none of the arguments designed to explain away his guilt that I've heard so far hold water. If the perpetrator was in fact coerced into a confession, why did he plead guilty two years later? If he was under duress during interrogation, why did he not exercise his right to an attorney? If he was innocent and wanted to tell his side and clear his name, why did his attorney continue the case for two years? Why would a prosecutor with a record like Eric Zahnd's choose to prosecute a case that would undoubtedly be widely publicized if it was lacking in evidence and wasn't a near-sure conviction? I'll tell you why, regarding the coercion story, that dog don't hunt.
Once the supporters accept the facts, they can then re-direct their concern for the convicted man's safety in the system. Believe it or not there is, albeit twisted, an “honor among thieves” in the federal penitentiary system. Child molesters hold a very special place in that culture.
I'll finish by saying thank you to Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd and his assistant prosecutors Myles Perry and Chris Seufert for removing a criminal from our midst.
And to Paden's victim, thank you for speaking up and for not giving up in spite of how you have been treated. If you had kept the “secret” he would still be free, and someone else's kid might now be his victim.
I will keep you in my prayers, young lady.
Appreciative of The Landmark
EDITOR AND ESTEEMED STAFF:
This letter is to convey our sincere thanks for the Renaissance Festival tickets we received for subscribing to The Landmark Newspaper.
Although we had participated when the Renaissance Festival first opened in the late 70’s, we hadn’t been for a few decades.
With the tickets we received we were able to take our three “tweeny” grandchildren, two who had never been. We were blessed with great weather and were amazed at how much the festival had expanded. It must be twice the size from when we were there last there. Beautiful costumes, attentive participants, all kinds of crafts and collectibles made for an enjoyable day.
The kids liked the zip line, the bouncy bunge cord trampoline and the jousts. The only drawback was how expensive everything, including food and drink, has become. It was a rare opportunity for us to participate as a family, which made it extra special.
Now I look forward to the weekly editions of The Landmark. Recently I had to give up my subscription to the Kansas City Star, the price had escalated from mind-boggling to mind-blowing.
Time marches on, change is the only thing we can really rely on, so I just have to change my habits and find new ways to look at the news. It makes your efforts appreciated that much more.
Keep up the good work.
--Carol A. Clopton
Kansas City in
Female prison population epidemic
I am writing in response the Oct. 21, 2015 article about the exploding female prison population in Missouri. This was a great awareness piece for an epidemic happening across the United States. The number of women going to prison is increasing at astronomical rates. As mentioned in the article, this growing prison population impacts the families in our Missouri communities and increases the financial burden for taxpayers.
Tax revenue is used by the Department of Corrections to run facilities and house inmates. Studies done throughout the history of corrections has shown that locking up criminals does not produce “corrections” in their behavior. Unfortunately, because of the high cost of housing the large number of inmates in the system, money is not available to provide quality programs that bring real change to criminal behavior. This is evident when looking at the recidivism rate (return to prison rate) of 43 percent for female offenders. This figure was in the Missouri Department of Corrections profile of offenders.
I am the founder and director of Beauty for Ashes Ministry. Our program, Beauty for Ashes Reentry, is a solution to these concerns. We are a privately funded program in the women's prison at Vandalia, Mo. Our program is open to any woman incarcerated by the state. Any offender in the state's other women's prison at Chillicothe who is accepted into our program is moved to Vandalia to serve their time on the Beauty for Ashes wing of the prison.
Our program works! This is proven by our drastically reduced recidivism rate of less than 10 percent. This figure was included in the 2014 Missouri Reentry Process Report to the governor.
There are many reasons why our program works. Most importantly, we are a faith-based program. Research done by Byron Johnson of Baylor University, author of "More God, Less Crime," proves that the recidivism rate for inmates who successfully complete a faith-based reentry program drops to 13 percent.
Another key to our success is our gender-responsive program. Most programs offered throughout the Department of Corrections have been designed for the majority male population. Female offenders arrive through different pathways and with different needs than their male counterparts. As The Landmark article mentioned, many find their way into the system through drug use and drug-related crimes. For most, drug use is way of medicating past trauma and abuse at the hands of loved ones. In Beauty for Ashes Reentry, we spend quite a bit of time addressing the issues of trauma in a way that brings healing to these hurts. We also have courses that teach the women how to have healthy relationships within their families and marriages. In addition, we emphasize cognitive behavioral therapy. It is important for these women to learn a new way of thinking that is pro-social and productive.
While the Department of Corrections is a big fan of our program because we provide a solution to the explosive female prison population, it can't financially support us because we are faith-based. Fundraising for a prison program is not easy. Many people feel that prisoners are getting what they deserve. It is the last place that some people want to invest their money. As can be seen by our recidivism rate, however, the return on investment speaks for itself. We are saving tax dollars by providing a program that brings “correction” to the Department of Corrections. Many of our members are successfully transitioning back into communities and returning to their roles as mothers, equipped to raise their children in a way that breaks the incarceration cycle.
If readers would like to find out more about how they can become a part of a solution to this explosive population problem in Missouri's prison system, they can visit our website at www.bfa-ministry.org.
There's more to the city's financial story
The City of Parkville is patting itself on the back for its recent decision to refinance the 2006 Certificates of Participation. Those unaware of history may applaud this move, which as proposed will yield $93,000 annually in expense savings. And while I agree with the move to refinance with Commerce Bank, assuming the calculations, there is more to the story.
Parkville's financial problems, which I have been writing about since 2008, stem from the mismanagement of the Brink Meyer Road and Brush Creek Sewer neighborhood improvement district projects (NIDs) and the 2005 board decision to take on substantial debt to build a new city hall.
Debt totaling $6,275,000 for the two NIDs was first issued in 2007. That debt obligation was $9,538,000 as of December 2014. Collections on the first year's assessments (2014) were 64% for Brush Creek and 0% (zero) for Brink Meyer Road. Consequently, the city is facing NID debt payments through 2034 without a full source of recovery. In addition, the city structured the permanent NID debt such that principal payments don't commence until 2017, thus kicking the pain to the future. The city has stated in certain public filings that NID debt is a contingent liability. The facts have proven otherwise.
In 2004, the board of aldermen solicited and received voter approval for a 20 year tax levy in order to make numerous improvements, including rehabbing the existing city hall and installing quiet train horns in downtown. As it turned out, the 2004 board lied to voters about their degree of due diligence on both projects. And as revealed in the 2005 board minutes, the board's allocation of $1 million for rehabbing city hall was completely arbitrary.
Debt of $2.75 million was issued in 2004 and was to be repaid by the 2004 levy increase. In 2005/2006, the board built a new city hall and issued bonds of $6,405,000 to fund the cost of the new building, neither of which was approved by voters.
The 2005/2006 board actions to build a new city hall and issue more debt were a violation of the public trust. Mayor Nan Johnston and the current board now intend to use the 2004 levy to fund contingency reserves for the NID debt payments, something never intended when the levy was approved. With this move, she and the current board will also violate the public trust. Further, the 2004 levy expires in 2025, but the board intends to present to voters at its expiration a “no tax increase” ballot measure to provide a source of funds for the NID debt payments through 2034.
The board could use the revenues from increased real estate activity and other sources to fund the NID debt payments. It could also limit staff pay increases, which are proposed to increase 3% in 2016. Instead, it eagerly eyes increased revenues as a source for funding pet and fluff projects, including those partially funded with "free money" from agencies such as MARC.
I wonder if the board has considered that the free money may have ties to federal mandates, some of which could prove distasteful to the city and its residents.
Absent Parkville's misuse of the 2004 voter authority and mismanaging the two NID projects, the city would be swimming in money. This city exemplifies why the Missouri legislature needs to change the statutes in regard to certificates of participation being used for special purpose assets. The single best way to constrain this abuse is to define long term debt according to Governmental Accounting Standards. The legislature should also review statutes that allow for runaway NID debt.
Once again, city officials proclaim their financial prowess to the unknowing. They and the board propose bearing no pain while taxpayers suck up the costs. Apparently, city officials believe Parkville residents are swimming in money for them to use at will.
Remembering Fran Durham
I just read your lovely tribute in The Landmark about my aunt, Fran Durham (Between the Lines column, Oct. 7 issue).
You described her perfectly. She was always dressed “to the nines” and you never, ever saw her without her high heels.
She was the shortest person in a tall family. She was a special lady and you captured her personality in your article.
She was my father’s “little sister” and they were very close so I was fortunate to get to spend time with her throughout the years.
Thank you so much for your heartfelt tribute to my aunt.
Being an outsider is an advantage
Ok, is it just me? I have been wanting to get rid of career politicians for most of my adult life. It has been clear to me that neither Congress nor the President produce anything. Nada. Zilch. Zip. The best they can do is create an atmosphere where things like jobs will grow. The jobs will be created by industry, private industry.
Along come several citizen candidates who want to make America great again. One actually says that. And what do the career politicians try to do? Of course, destroy them, embarrass them, discredit them, ambush them. I can almost see them in a smoke filled back room, pot bellies (not stoves), stogies between clenched teeth, scheming how to get rid of them so their sweet little money machine isn't disrupted. “Boys, if we don't hold office, we lose our influence. Donors don't want to talk to people with no power, who can't send government contracts their way or can't write laws that will be favorable to their businesses. We gotta stop these outsiders.”
So, along come Trump, Carson, and Fiorina, outsiders. I like outsiders. They aren't weighed down with all the IOU's shouldered by career politicians. And Trump, well, he doesn't owe anyone anything. He is financing his own campaign, and winning. Oh how the career guys hate this. He says what he thinks. No PC here. He has several multi-million dollar companies and a net worth north of $5 billion. Carson, well, he separated conjoined twins. Not many can understand that one especially since they were joined at the head! Fiorina, she combined HP and Compac, got crossways with the board of directors, was replaced but not before garnering a $40 million severance package. You be the judge of Carly.
My point is, all three have made their mark. They are not dummies. If elected they will surround themselves with knowledgeable people, experts in specific areas where they themselves are lacking. They aren't military experts, you say? Do you honestly think the current golpher-in-chief is? He gives the orders and if his subordinates don't agree, they are fired. Knowledgeable generals forced out, social engineering civilians are placed in high level positions, our military mocked by foreign governments, “deals” made with our sworn enemies (only this time it is nuclear), LGBT agenda advanced to the detriment of recruiters.
No, this current guy is no military genius. So for me, I'll take an outsider. And they all have agreed to term limits, eight years. We should be so lucky with McCaskill, Blunt, and Graves, but I digress.
Mandatory unionization not to blame
A paid advertisement in last week’s edition of The Landmark noted the coincidence of Representative Kevin Corlew not supporting the last efforts in Right To Work legislation, and Missouri being "#47 Ranked Economy in the U.S." and that our state's unemployment exceeds the nation's average.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Jan. 23, 2015, however, Missouri's percent of unionized labor is 8.4%, Kansas is only a percent lower at 7.4%, Iowa is 10.7%, Nebraska is 14.4%, and Kentucky at 11%. Curiously, except for Kentucky, these neighboring states have Republican governors.
If Missouri economically lags other states, especially neighboring ones, I suspect that this disadvantage is not attributable to some outlandish union percentage in the Missouri workforce - proof is simply lacking.
Missouri does have issues - critical ones which should be addressed, and in my opinion, they greatly eclipse unionization. Just a few: infrastructure in dire need of repair and replacement [ride I-70 lately?], draconian tax and regulatory structures, the subtle and silent encroachment of Agenda 21 attitudes, Common Core and other educational experimentation, urban areas rife with criminality, possible tort reform, metro versus "out state" interests, and on and on.
Blaming mandatory unionization as the genesis of Missouri's economic woes is stumbling down a blind, empty alley. But that version of the blame game is easier, and possibly more emotionally soothing for some, than confronting the real and critical issues holding us back.
-- Ron Thiewes
Problems with the Kansas City Star
Hearne Christopher’s criticism of the Kansas City Star (Hearne’s KC Confidential column on appears on page A-4 of The Landmark each week) is spot on.
The once four-star newspaper is doing everything it can to lose the remaining everyday newsprint readers it has left.
Case in point. I recently moved back to southern Missouri where I was born. I was raised in KC so the Star has been my source of news, sports and puzzles since I was in junior high in the early 1970s.
I got a subscription to the Star 2.5 months ago when I moved home. The monthly rate with mail delivery is $57 per month.
To my surprise my paper was delivered the same morning it was published. That is until Monday, Sept. 28. No Sunday or Monday paper. This went on for nine more days. I called twice to no avail, every day but Saturday, since their no delivery phone line is closed.
The foreign-accented, hard-to-understand operator I was talking to first told me my bill wasn’t paid. I was actually paid up until Nov. 1. They then said it was the fault of the U.S. Postal Service. This was not the case. After their initial responses, the only daily response was that all the papers were now in the mail. Not hardly.
On Monday, Oct. 5 I called again. this operator told me they have had problems upgrading their mail delivery system. The truth.
I just wonder how many more readers they lost due to incompetence or just plain disrespect for the remaining newsprint customers.
Thank you to Dave Brooks
On Friday, Veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, The Cold War, The Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new VA outpatient clinic in Platte City.
Missing were kudos and special recognition due our former mayor Dave Brooks, who was largely responsible for getting the word out and for having organized the pre-ribbon cutting program.
Our Platte County R-3 High School band provided patriotic music and the program recognized our veterans. Also expressing appreciation and support of our veterans and community, Platte Valley Bank generously provided food for those in attendance.
The program included the donation and raising by VFW Post 4055 of a more appropriately sized flag for the clinic, which was specially ordered by one of their members, Cory Ball.
I personally want to thank former Mayor Dave Brooks for his ever-faithful and demonstrated recognition and gratitude for our military and for the service of our veterans.
We all want to see this VA clinic be a place where they will receive well-earned services with the respect due them.
Hillary Clinton's email scandal
I have dealt with classified information my entire military career. I had a Top Secret clearance.
It has been proven Hillary Clinton received and transmitted Top Secret and Secret information over a private email system just like the one you and I have at home. It's very probable that hostile foreign intelligence services hacked into her non-secure server and have copies of her email files.
If you're an upper-level manager for the government, you typically have two authorized computer terminals. One is for unclassified “For Official Use Only” material and one is for classified material at the Secret level. To view Top Secret information, you must go into a special secure vault. Operational email communications between very senior military or government personnel normally go over classified .mil or .gov computer systems. This is done to avoid the inadvertent disclosure of classified information over an unclassified system.
For Ms. Clinton to willingly use a private network and server for daily communication, as the Secretary of State, is nothing short of criminal.
Everyone should understand the reasons for a Top Secret caveat. The material you view is not always what makes a document Top Secret. What usually makes a document Top Secret is the source or how we got the information.
For example, a U.S. spy takes a picture of a new Russian missile system in the Soviet May Day parade. The picture becomes Top Secret. It's not Top Secret because it shows a new missile system. It's Top Secret because we want to protect the identity of the operative who took the picture on that day at that moment.
Ms. Clinton received Top Secret email pictures over an unclassified home computer system. Therefore, it must be assumed that intelligence sources were compromised, which could result in exceptionally grave damage to the United States and the future deaths of Americans. However, the most damning consequence of her actions is this: she is subject to blackmail. If a hostile foreign intelligence service has her emails, is it possible at some future time they could threaten her by revealing compromising information? Yes, it is.
This very situation alone makes her completely ineligible to be president. The country cannot take the risk. The pesident of the United States can in no way be subject to blackmail by our adversaries.To knowingly or unknowingly transmit classified information over an unsecure means is a violation of the law. Ms. Clinton should be prosecuted for divulging classified information, as was General Petraeus, and so should every Obama administration official who sent her emails.
Everyone knew she had a private.com email address, but no one had the guts to tell her she was in violation of her own policies and federal regulations. Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted.
Keeping hunting fees lows
Deer and turkey season have begun, and a hearty good luck to all the Missouri families continuing their traditions this fall and winter.
Residents of the Show-Me state have long supported the outdoors, whether through wildlife management or by enjoying the countless lakes, rivers, forests and more that our great state has to offer. Missouri is all the better for it.
As to hunting season in particular, hats off to the state for ensuring that hunting permits and fees remain affordable. The laws of economics suggest, and real life confirms, that if government makes something expensive to do, chances are good we'll have less of it.
High fees imposed on the hunt would make continuing family traditions and managing the state's wildlife populations more difficult. The state and its residents both benefit from keeping these burdens low. Kudos to them both.
Sheriff responds on speed enforcement
This letter is in response to a letter to the editor that appeared in the Sept. 9, 2015, edition of The Landmark.
As a starting point it is important for the citizens to know that the Platte County Sheriff's Office does not approach traffic enforcement with an eye towards revenue generation. Our concern is reducing the threats posed by speeding.
Speed limits are set by a city, county or the state based on the type of area they are posted in. In this case this area is a residential area with a steep hill crest. There are children playing in the area and numerous vehicles entering or exiting from
private driveways on to this roadway with an extremely short line of site. Speeds any faster than the posted speed limit do not adequately allow for a safe entrance or exit from these driveways.
In addition there is a very sharp curve where numerous vehicles have left the roadway due to excessive speed.
The reason the letter writer observed several Platte County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicles in the described area enforcing the posted speed limit was due to a number of citizen complaints that we received about speeding vehicles on that roadway and in the adjoining residential housing area.
South Crooked Road is a high motor vehicle accident location. Since September
of 2013, the sheriff's office has worked 26 accidents along Crooked Road.
On the topic of low speed limits for revenue generation: Tickets issued by the Platte County Sheriff's Office are State of Missouri traffic citations and are the same as issued by the Missouri Highway Patrol. Neither the Platte County Sheriff's Office, nor the County of Platte, retain any of the fine money. The fines are paid to the State of Missouri Fine Collection Center or the court and distributed to area schools.
--Mark S. Owen
Sheriff of Platte County
Food truck craze is 'a wonderful thing'
The food truck “craze” is a wonderful one! I hope Platte City embraces it.
I'm remembering “Free Show” nights in the summers....always Saturday, I think, on the lawn of the Platte County Courthouse. While there were no food trucks, David Fisher manned the popcorn machine (the same one my daddy ran when he was in high school), and quite often the town-ladies provided homemade ice cream....the REAL stuff that they made while you watched.
People came in from other towns and it was a festive, wonderful time.....now, only a memory.
So what does that have to do with food trucks? Well, Phoenix is a food-truck-friendly city and workers in the city have a choice of many different types of food on any day of the week.
Then, there are food-truck-“festivals” where they are lined up and you can “eat yourself around the world.” Yeah, hot dogs and hamburgs and, of course, tacos are available, but why eat the ordinary when you could try an Asian-Fusion lunch or an African Veggie Stew!
I've read that the city does license the owners and I think I read that they are “assigned” specific streets and days they'll be there.....and there's an app for that!
Platte City's backbone has always been to support small businesses, so it's really a no-brainer. More jobs, more business for Platte City.
Platte City, my hometown, will always have a place in my heart!
PS: And perhaps the Pool Hall should have their own no-alcohol and smoke-free food truck. More business, more jobs.
--Brenda Giffee Grabowski
Low speed limits being used to generate revenue
For many years we have been subscribers to The Landmark and appreciate the coverage of community issues that affect local citizens.
We support law enforcement officials, but the excessive use of the 20 to 25 mph zones in the Parkville area by the county and the city for issuing tickets is not about safety. Instead these are used for revenue.
The intersection of Hwy. 45 and S. Crooked Road leads to a dangerous curve that should have been corrected when the Tom Watson Parkway was developed. Instead the site has long been used for collecting money. This past week, for example, five Platte County officers were all at the site at the same time issuing tickets. When driving from the southeast, drivers arrive at the intersection by coming down a steep hill and must brake continually to hold any vehicle at 25 mph.
Recently more 25 mph signs have been posted near the site as the only safety improvement. Money was just spent on a new signal light only for the use of the new Engaged Companies’ employees and guests. Many people from surrounding communities refuse to drive in the Parkville area because of its reputation as a speed trap. People definitely avoid shopping in Parkville because of this. The reality is sad both in the downtown area and nearby county roads.
Missouri deserves better than "right to work"
Working families' lives are on the line. If the Missouri legislature votes to overturn Governor Nixon's veto of so-called “Right to Work,” Missouri could see a $5 billion loss annually in wages and tax revenue.
The writer of a previous letter to the editor on this topic, Mr. Stark, advocates for “Right to Work,” but he fails to acknowledge the true toll it would take on Missouri's middle class families. “Right to Work” is a policy that's being pushed by out-of-state CEOs and corporations that ship jobs overseas to increase their profits. It could mean lower wages, less benefits and less workplace safety for workers.
Seven of the 10 poorest states in the country have so-called “Right to Work” laws. Missouri deserves better.
I'm proud of our area elected officials including Senator Ryan Silvey and Representatives Kevin Corlew and Galen Higdon who stood with working families against so-called “Right to Work” this year. I hope the rest of the Missouri legislature stands with working families instead of those of out-of-state CEOs and corporations.
-- Bill Campbell
Kansas City in Platte County
‘Not completely correct’ info from Platte R-3
Once again in the past two weeks the Platte County R-3 School District has sent out information on another award that our school board has won.
Information was sent out in the Treasurers mailer to parents and press releases were put out for the local newspapers. According to the release, the R-3 Board was recognized as an "Outstanding Board of Education" and 22 districts applied for this honor.
Once again, not completely correct information. I guess they did not read my letter on their last awards fiasco just a few weeks ago.
A quick email to the Missouri School Boards Association, who gives out the award and they reported to me only four districts applied for the "Governance Leadership and Accountability" award, which is what R-3 received.
Out of the 158 eligible districts for the award only four bothered to fill out the application. Of the four applicants, two awards were given, to PCR-3 and Festus school districts.
The "Teaching Learning and Assessment" award had the most recipients. These awards were given based off of your application information so I took a look at what the R-3 board turned in. You will be interested to know that according to the application, Platte County is currently "exploding in the housing industry" and "we chart low, medium, and high projection of foundational information. As the years progress, we are learning that our projections are dead-on."
That's right, they said DEAD ON.
I went back through the paperwork we were all given for the 2012 election and the community meetings in 2013. The projections for enrollment for an exploding housing boom are shown to be over by almost 600 students. Enough students to fill one new school.
So they get an award virtually no one applies for and feel the need to fudge to even do that. Maybe they think 600 off is "dead-on," which might help explain some of the math issues at our schools.
The rest of the application deals with the Baldrige "Plan-Do-Study-Act" process the students and staff are currently working with along with a multitude of other board activities. The bond issue community meetings are mentioned as the board members attend to "support the issue and superintendent as the tough questions are fielded."
Some other highlights are phrases like "to become better at being us" and of course "the use of data as a flashlight vs. a hammer.”
If you want to know what has happened to the district academically over the past five years to allow, as the application states, only "most" of the scores to improve you will want to read the entire application. It appears everything revolves around focus groups, strategic leadership, processes, data analysis and meetings.
What happened to allowing good teachers to teach and spend time in the classroom?
There is a link on www.plattecountyR3facts.com if you want to read the entire application. A note of warning: you may want to put on boots as it gets pretty deep.
Rural Platte County
Medicaid expansion is failing patients
The U.S. Supreme Court's latest ruling on Obamacare has brought the issue of American health care into sharp focus yet again, and nowhere is that focus more warranted than on our country's broken Medicaid program.
Along with exploding the cost of private health insurance, Obamacare bent the cost curve up on Medicaid. A recent report issued by the program's administrators found that the cost of Medicaid will nearly double over the next decade, to just shy of a trillion dollars per year. New enrollees were supposed to cost less to insure than those already in the program; instead, the expanded population costs far more than we were told. Rather than draw down unnecessary emergency room use, evidence suggests Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is making the ER problem worse.
Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is failing patients and taxpayers. Now is the time to demand reform and reject doubling down on this broken status quo.
Director of Government
Same-sex marriages make common sense
Please note: I am a “fiscal conservative”/Republican. This is different from a Conservative Republican, who is a somewhat different voter. So, my long-time support of same sex marriage is quite different from the usual opposing Constitutional or religious arguments.
To me, same sex marriages make common sense. First, any adult has the responsibility to make adult decisions: sharing time and expenses with a significant other is a reward by itself.
Second, two adults’ commitment to each other reduces social issues, violence and drama, and provides stability.
Third, economic benefits derived from heterosexual marriages become available to same sex married couples. This benefit translates where community businesses, taxing units, as well as charities will gain added monies from their multiple incomes.
Finally, I am watching for their divorce rate. Having gone through a divorce, same sex partners should experience the same legal/financial hassles as everyone else.
Fair is fair.
Missouri needs to be a right-to-work state
Right-to-work supports individual freedom and liberty. Missouri needs to be a right- to-work state. Today, there are 25 right-to-work states in the Union. Hopefully, this September, Missouri legislators will override our liberal governor's veto threat and make Missouri the 26th right-to-work state.
There are many reasons to be a right-to-work state. Twenty-two of the top 25 economically performing states in the U.S. are right-to-work states. Right-to-work states saw 10% more growth than non-right-to-work states from 2003 to 2013. During this same period, the state of Missouri ranked 42nd in overall economic performance. President Obama's home state of Illinois is ranked 46th. Who wants to be associated with that kind of record? As they say, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the societal damage inflicted on middle class workers, jobs, and our state economy by liberal politicians and union bosses who don't want to lose their control and power.
We want workers to be able to take home their full pay checks and not be forced to pay union dues and agency fees that are spent to advocate political causes for which the worker disagrees. Supporting right-to-work is pro-choice, pro-worker, pro-jobs, and pro- family. Don't let the union shadow bosses intimidate their membership. The union leadership fears right-to-work because it means they will lose their exorbitant six-digit salaries and their political influence. Union officials don't like voluntary dues, but workers and voters certainly do.
We need right-to-work to break the strangle-hold public sector unions have on politicians and the taxpayer. No workers should be forced to join a union only to see their dues laundered through the union and back into Democratic Party coffers to help elect liberal policy makers who insist on raising our local, state, and federal taxes over and over again. Let's break this unconstitutional cycle of corruption and greed.
If you're a forced union member, you can be assured that every conservative legislator in our state government wants you to take home more of your hard-earned pay check. They are on your side because right-to-work means more businesses will come to Missouri. That means more jobs, more economic growth, more revenue for our state, and more individual freedom. Right-to-work is simply the right thing to do for Missouri. Contact your Platte County state legislators--Senator Rob Schaaf, Representatives Nick Marshall, Ken Wilson, Kevin Corlew, and Galen Higdon-- and tell them to support this legislation. Let's all tell the greedy union bosses where they can go, if they oppose worker choice and worker rights.
For a fee, schools can buy almost any award
This past week The Landmark reported that the Platte County R-3 school district had received yet another award, the Meritorious Budget Award. In May of last year the district reported in their publication "Treasures" that they had indeed applied for this award along with the Missouri Quality Award. In the May 2014 “Treasures,” we were told this about the awards: "While recognition would be wonderful, it is also unlikely for first-time applicants."
An odd comment considering the organization that oversees this Budget Award shows there were 131 applicants in the 2013/14 school year and of those at least 122 received the award.
So you send out award information to the parents pretending to be humble and just looking for input then months after you receive the award you knew you were probably going to get anyway you present it at the school board meeting to be sure it is seen in the local paper. Why wait months? About the same time this Budget Award was received the Missouri Quality Award came back with this feedback about the districts finances:
4.1a(1) - While PCSD reports its fund balance and monthly budget versus actual to its Board of Education, other key short- and long-term budgetary and financial measures are not systematically monitored and analyzed. Developing an approach to create and monitor such measures may enhance PCSD's financial stewardship and address its strategic challenge of operating with increased efficiency.
7.5a(1&2) - Many of the results for PCSD Budgetary, Financial, and Market Results have no trends or the trends are adverse.
This information was not presented to the school board as the Meritorious Budget Award was. Tough to give yourself one award saying your budget process is awesome while these comments are reported by another. Just wait awhile, no one will remember.
Here is the kicker: the Missouri Quality Award cost the taxpayers over $10,000 dollars to apply for. The Meritorious Budget Award cost about $600. The organization that provided the Budget Award, the ASBO or Association of School Business Officials International (not to be confused with MOASBO the Mo Association of Business Officials, don't worry R-3 is members of both) has several other awards you may see in the future. The "Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting,” the "Eagle Award" for visionary school management and of course the illustrious "Pinnacle Award" for outstanding practices and procedures.
There are so many awards from different organizations with prestigious sounding names that can be applied for by school administrators it is almost unbelievable.
For just a small fee any district can have an award for almost anything that includes words like Meritorious, Pinnacle, Quality and of course Excellence.
Are any area public schools getting REAL state and national awards without fees? Yes, recently those have been going to Blue Springs, Park Hill, Basehor, Kearney, Blue Valley and Lees Summit.
While looking on line I did see an award for transparency, I wonder if R-3 can buy that one?
Rural Platte County
Be wary of installation of electric ‘smart meters’
Be very wary of any electric company or cooperative attempting to install a so-called “smart meter” on your home. Smart meters are just one more component of Sustainable Development or Smart Growth under the guise of United Nations Agenda 21. Although they will be advertised as an energy efficiency and energy saving device, in reality, their ultimate purpose serves to control our lives.
Wireless smart meters are able to conduct two-way communication. Your current digital meter can only communicate one way. Old analog meters must be physically read. Smart meters are five times more expensive than digital meters and last three times less as long. Although utility companies will tell you they are measuring your energy consumption more accurately, in 80% of the homes with smart meters, electric bills have gone up. Currently, there are 36 million homes in the United States with smart meters. By the end of 2015, the number is expected to be 65 million.
Smart meters are able to communicate with every so-called “smart” device in your home, gathering consumption rates and times of operation. They then report this information at 15 minute intervals to a Neighborhood Area Network or NAN, which then reports to the utility company. It is all done wirelessly over the internet. It is real-time surveillance of your family's lifestyle; your family is being “electrically profiled.” There are safety, health, and privacy issues with these devices.
Smart meters are a proven fire hazard. For example, in Pennsylvania, there were 27 house fires or serious overheating incidents. In Oregon, 70,000 smart meters were replaced due to fire risk. In Florida, 10,000 meters are being replaced due to fire risk. In Canada, there were eight home fires in 2014 resulting from overheating smart meters.
Smart meters emit radio frequency radiation. This radiation is similar to that emitted by a cell phone. Although more studies are being done, experts are urging caution when using wireless devices, as they reassess the health affects for certain cancers and electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Even though these studies are controversial and on-going, we need to know, conclusively, if these devices are dangerous to our children and other family members.
Finally, the most concerning issue is privacy and how information can be used to control us. I believe the data collected by your smart meter will eventually be analyzed to change the way you live and your lifestyle. Could this information be shared or sold to third parties for consumer research purposes? In the future, could the government use this data to support energy rationing? Will the utility company have the authority to tell you that your appliances are not energy efficient or that you are using too much electricity? Will they be able to control the electricity coming into your home if you don't comply with “government-established” energy efficiency standards? The potential is now here for a great loss of freedom and liberty. As long as I pay my bill, it is no person's business how much electricity I use.
Call your state legislators and tell them Missourians want a user privacy rights bill passed that allows us to opt-out of smart meter installation and not pay the electric company a penalty or monthly “extortion fee.” We, as consumers, want the option to control the collection of our personal data and how it is used. We don't want one more government-imposed program designed to control our lives because liberal elites and radical environmentalists think we use too much energy.
Descendants of Civil War veterans say thanks
To Olin Miller, The Platte County Landmark, and the People of Platte County:
On behalf of The Sons of Confederate Veterans, I wish to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude for the honor you extended to the descendants of the Confederate Veteran of The Civil War by recognizing the Confederate Veteran during your Memorial Day ceremony at Platte City Cemetery.
I was fortunate to be forwarded a copy of your May 27 issue of The Landmark with the photo showing the display of the Confederate Battle Flag in tribute to the fallen Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. As a descendant of nine Confederate Veterans myself, it is indeed gratifying to see the sacrifices made by the Confederate Veterans and their families being recognized today.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans are grateful to Olin Miller for his presentation and tribute to the memories of the fallen soldiers. We are also grateful for the support shown by the people of Platte County and their desire to preserve history and truth for our children and our posterity.
Major Thomas J. Key Camp #1920
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Separation of church and state not in constitution
It would be interesting to know how many people believe the phrase “separation of church and state” is in the U.S. Constitution. Unless you are a so-called low information voter, you should know the phrase is not there.
So where did it originate? The phrase was first used in a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. At that time, the Baptists were concerned the federal government would establish a state-sponsored denomination like there was in England. Jefferson was assuring them that no single Christian denomination would become a national denomination in our country. The operative word is Christian. There was no discussion about other religions. It was understood that America was a Christian nation.
With the passing of time, liberal Supreme Court judges used this phrase to pervert the actual meaning of the First Amendment to our Constitution. One of the first victims of this decision was the American student. In 1947, in the case Everson vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled there was a separation of church and state in the First Amendment.
Since that ruling, the fabric of our public education system began to unravel. For example, in 1962 the court ruled that voluntary prayer in school is unconstitutional. In 1980, the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the Ten Commandments to be displayed on classroom walls. In 1985, the court ruled it unconstitutional to have an opening or closing prayer at a graduation ceremony.
Since 1962, there has been an increase in divorce, violent crime, urban poverty, unwed birth rates, and abortions. Is there a connection? Ironically, one of the only statistics that decreased since that time was our kid's SAT scores, causing the test scale to be “re-centered.”
My question is this. What changed in 1962 that negated the first many years of U.S. history which permitted prayer and the Ten Commandments in public schools? I can come to only one conclusion. Humanism replaced Christianity as the religion of our land. Man, not God, has become the object of worship. This historical revisionism has led to anti-Christian sentiment, moral relativism, social justice initiatives, affirmative action, multi-culturalism and diversity training, radical environmentalism, situation ethics, and failed big-government programs. These principles of progressive government are influencing public education to its great detriment.
People may not like what I am about to say, but it is supported by historical fact. Our founding fathers wanted government out of religion, but they expected religion to be in government and also in education. Not just any religion, but the Christian religion. Other religions could worship freely in America, but the country was to be governed and educated using Biblical principles.
I'll conclude with a quote from the Northwest Ordinance, approved in 1789 and signed by George Washington: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Our founding fathers knew that schools were the proper places to teach religion, morality, and knowledge.
Liberalism, leftist politicians, and activist judges have corrupted this truth. Do you think you could find an average high school or college student today who could explain the significance of the Northwest Ordinance? I seriously doubt it.
Celebrating those who shape lives
We all had a teacher from our childhood who pushed and inspired us to become who we are today. Those who challenged us to work harder, dream bigger, and reach our full potential. Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden famously said that “the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” I couldn't agree more.
Last week, we celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Week. Every year, this is a time to pay tribute to those across the country who have dedicated their lives to educating children and preparing them for successful and productive lives.
America is home to about 4 million elementary and secondary teachers, those who deserve our admiration and appreciation not just during this special week, but in every week throughout the year.
Last Friday, I introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives honoring teachers and all of those who have dedicated their lives to education. These men and women have earned the respect of their communities for their commitment to our children, and their tireless work should make all of us proud.
Our education system is constantly evolving, and our teachers, principals and staff face new and different challenges every day. Working to prepare students for successful college and professional careers, the daily strains of managing a classroom and ensuring school safety are constant.
Our children are our nation's future. This resolution is a simple way for the United States Congress to say 'thank you' for everything teachers do to make that future brighter.
Major school reform at half the cost
The 1993 court ruling by Cole County Circuit judge Bryon Kinder still exists today as follows: "The system of public schools in Missouri is a state system, not separate district systems."
Then why are all 522 Missouri Public School Districts still existing today as separate school district systems?
If all of the 522 school districts are abolished, there would be no more unequal school district property taxes to pay, no more school district superintendents to pay, no more school district school board elections, no more school district bonds to pay, and no more state-wide 1 cent sales tax for education to pay that funds school districts.
Each of the 2200 separate public schools and principals that are within the 522 school districts are already monitored by the Missouri DESE, the state school superintendent and the state school board.
Each public school can operate separately, like New Zealand public schools do, with an elected board of trustees of parents at that public school only.
Missouri has about 13 in a classroom and California has about 26. By eliminating about ½ of Missouri teachers and about ½ of classrooms to match California's 26 in a classroom, about ½ of education costs can be eliminated in Missouri.
Missouri alone can equally fund each of the public school student's education by about $8,000 each, per year, from 25% of the Missouri budget (constitution mandate), the lottery and gaming revenues.
California voters passed statewide bonds for school building needs. Missouri can do the same.
---Ronald E. Levy
St. Louis County
It’s about an ideology of hate and death
Christians are being slaughtered across the Middle East. Our President refuses to use the term Islamic terrorism for reasons no one can explain and makes deals with Iran. Our country and the world are facing a diabolical enemy with plans for world conquest and subjugation. We must be able to name and define our enemy. Since I have already named the threat, let me better define it.
Not all Muslims agree with the actions of the radical terrorists. That said, if there are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world and only 10 percent of them agree with the radicals (Pew Research says it is higher), there are 140 million people on this earth who have no problem murdering “infidels” or directly supporting those who do.
I find it troubling when Islamic groups try to convince us the word jihad only means an “inner struggle.” That is not supported by the teachings of the Koran. Jihad, in the Koran, is clearly a commandment to subjugate unbelievers and convert the world to Islam. Even the word Islam means submission or surrender. You probably heard Islam referred to as the “religion of peace.” You will be surprised to find out I agree. Islam will be a religion of peace once radicals forcibly convert the entire world to Islam, make any remaining unbelievers pay a tax to exist, or simply kill those who don't believe. At that time, when the entire earth is under Islamic rule, they will say the world is now at “peace.”
There is a teaching in Islam that everyone must understand. In most faiths, it is a sin to lie. This is not true in Islam. Under the Koranic doctrine of al toqiah, a Muslim is permitted to lie to or deceive an infidel if it furthers the cause of Islam. This is why you must be suspicious of any comments made by Islamic talking heads in the news or on TV. It is also why we cannot trust any nuclear deal made with Iran.
Iran is a Shiite country. Iran is also well on its way to getting a nuclear weapon. Many Shiites believe in the messianic return of the 12th imam whom they call al-Mahdi. They also hate Israel and believe the Mahdi will not return until the Jewish nation is eliminated and the world is in chaos. Do you see the problem here? The Obama administration, apparently, does not. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon and launches it against Israel, their mortal enemy, they firmly believe it will hasten the return of the Mahdi who brings peace and establishes a world-wide Islamic caliphate. This is a very dangerous prophetic interpretation our government is not considering. Do we want to take the chance this struggle is all about politics and diplomacy and not about a twisted apocalyptic view of future events that could lead to a nuclear show-down?
Finally, we are not simply fighting a political ideology as many progressives want us to believe. We are fighting religious zealots who want to forcibly impose their way of life on the entire earth. In Islam, there is no distinction between religion and politics. They are one in the same. The radicals fully believe Koranic teachings justify their actions. From their perspective, there can be no such thing as radical Islam; there is only Islam. As the Islamist president of Turkey once said: “Islam is Islam; there are no modifiers.”
Let's hope most Muslims want to live in peace; if so, they are not our enemy. Our enemy is the spirit behind a religious belief system that teaches hatred. This struggle is not about jobs. It's not about poverty. It's not about disenfranchised youth. It's not about Guantanamo Bay or Abu Graib prisons. It's about an ideology of hate and death that wants to control the world through fanatics who think they are doing their god's bidding.
It's time to abolish the IRS
As another April 15 passes with our tax code as confusing as it's ever been, Washington must use this opportunity to highlight our desperate need for tax simplification.
According to the IRS, Americans spend over $168 billion and 6 billion hours each year complying with the tax code. The real impact of the tax code on Missouri families and small businesses, however, is not specific to any day or season. Small businesses make tax-related decisions throughout the year that impact nearly everything they do, from planning budgets to hiring new employees.
Just this year, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance found that nearly half of all small businesses will spend $5,000 preparing federal taxes, and 27 percent will reportedly spend over $10,000.
But perhaps what's worst of all, the IRS is now responsible for enforcing Obamacare. The IRS already has too much control over our lives. Given the recent controversy over its targeting of conservative political groups, it has a dangerous lack of oversight as well. It is clear to me that we need tax simplification in this country now more than ever.
That is why I am a co-sponsor and ardent supporter of the Fair Tax Act. This tax simplification proposal would essentially eliminate the IRS and our tax code entirely, replacing it with a pro-growth national consumption tax. The Fair Tax promotes freedom and economic opportunity, ensuring that small business owners can focus on helping our economy grow, not complying with the IRS.
Small businesses and individuals alike are put at a huge disadvantage when asked to comply with a tax code that even accountants now struggle to understand. Please know that as your representative in Congress, I will continue to support the Fair Tax and push for tax simplification as a top national priority.
Ethics reform important for maintaining integrity
One of the House of Representatives’ priority issues for the session passed another hurdle this week when the House members passed SB 11. SB 11 is the bill that reforms ethics, specifically, the lobby gifts and revolving door.
In years past, representatives have taken their seat in office with the highest integrity and every intention to represent the people to the best of their ability which most still do. Ethics reform is important to maintaining the integrity we Missourians hold dear.
Accepting lobby gifts is not new in Jefferson City, however, some reporting is not accurate. If you had coffee and a lobbyist picks up the bill, often times a report will reflect the whole or an equal portion split between parties. This means the ethics report could show $50 when I ordered a cup of coffee that should have been $2. The legislation proposed would cap lobby gifts for legislators. This means the legislator would not be able to get more than a meal which is all most really get anyway.
The other big issue and a new trend among a handful of legislators is to take new positions before their term has ended. This practice has left state seats open and people in the state without representation.
The House of Representatives would like to solve the problem of folks who lack representation by making sure a cooling off period is in place for legislators who have the desire to become lobbyists.
When the legislation went to the House floor, the issues were debated once again. The issues against the legislation were mainly folks happy with the current laws.
A few hurdles are required for SB 11 before becoming law. The bill is in conference committee where the legislators from the House of Representatives and Senate will have to agree to changes. With four weeks of session, this should not be a difficult task. The conference committee was appointed yesterday.
In the event that the bill passes with conference committee changes, it will be placed on the governor's desk for his consideration.
--State Rep. Ken Wilson
New toys don't make better students
I write today because I have been following the Platte County R-3 efforts to extract more money from the R-3 taxpayers, even as the district's income from various sources exceeds that of most school districts.
School representatives constantly use “the children” as the reason for needing more money, but the money spent is on “stuff,” not students. The school district should think of the children's education as its only focus. Tennyson, not tennis courts, should be a priority. Sciences are an ever-growing field; labs already devoted to this should be used. Math, history, and properly spoken and written English should be an imperative. Considering that colleges and universities must offer courses in pre-algebra and remedial courses for those students wishing to obtain a higher education, shouldn't this problem be the concern of high schools?
The school districts never fail to mention that when my generation went to school, others were paying the taxes for our education. True, our grandparents and parents were funding our learning. There is however, one major difference. Our parents and grandparents were never asked to fund tennis courts, Olympic-sized pools, huge stadiums with/without Astroturf, scrolling marquee signs which cost thousands of dollars--just some examples. Not one of these items will help our students climb up from the low rankings held in global comparison to other students.
I understand that one school in the southern portion of R-3 has temporary buildings to house classrooms. I don't understand how a new building in Platte City would alleviate another school's overcrowding. Pretty buildings with all of the newest toys in them are created to stroke egos and do not produce better students. As for having state-of-the-art buildings, let me say that the high school I attended used a “re-purposed' prison; and we had a terrific education within those walls.
One avenue to fund the frills could be to ask for businesses to donate funds. Some businesses have already done so-but sadly, only because they are ready to help spend the money of those living inside this school district. This district’s campaign committee has spent thousands of dollars (which this district says it doesn't have) on campaign consultants and about $30,000 on surveys; this should make taxpayers in this district question what is going to happen to any other money the district may obtain.
Teacher says R-3 is on the right path
As an educator in the Platte County R-3 school district, I would like to offer my support to Dr. Mike Reik and the Platte County R-3 School District. I have taught in this district for 12 years and this is my 19th year as an educator.
During my time in the Platte County School District, I have witnessed much change. I was hired as a 5th grade teacher at Barry Elementary school in 2003.
Twelve years ago, there were only two of us teaching 5th grade at Barry, now there are five. That is an increase from about 50 kids in 5th grade to about 125.
I remember the first year I administered the MAP test. I had no idea what I was doing and there was very little follow through regarding the results of the test. Ultimately, during that time in my career I was allowed to teach what I wanted, when I wanted. I did not worry about my test scores. The results did not influence what I taught. The MAP test was just something I had to give.
Fast forward 12 years, I don't even recognize the teacher I was during that time period. When Dr. Reik became superintendent, it was very apparent that as a district we needed to work harder to stay current with proven best practices. Suddenly, PCR-3 teachers were learning so many new things. We gained knowledge about Professional Learning Communities (PLC's), Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop, Response to Intervention (RTI), Quality Classrooms, Data Walls, Data Notebooks, Standards Based Grading and the many technological advances that had been made over the years. During this learning period, Dr. Reik was not our favorite person, he was being blamed for putting so much on our plate; but my MAP test score increased 22%.
I have taught 19 years. I have a Masters of Education. I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. I am currently working on my Reading Specialist degree. I am able to do this because I have the support of the current administration, and I have the desire to better myself in these ways for the betterment of my students, your children. Education is constantly changing. Staying current is key. Thanks to Dr. Reik, we are on the right path. Are we there yet? No…but when I reflect on where we started and where we are now…I am PROUD to say I am a Platte County Pirate.
I am amazed at the many patrons that believe we don't really need a new building….I now teach at Paxton, next year we will have 10 teachers teaching 5th grade. If you are unsure about our need for a new school, I would encourage you to walk through one of our buildings, especially during lunch time. There are districts in the Kansas City Metropolitan area that are land locked. Growth cannot occur in these districts because there is no land to be had. Platte County is FAR from that. The residents that believe voting down this issue will stop growth in Platte City are fooling themselves. People from all over the metro move to Platte City. Why? Because contrary to what some patrons say and believe, we have a very good school district. Growth cannot be stopped. Growth predictions are guesses. That is a fact. But it is so much more effective to be proactive as the growth comes, because we know it will come. Trends have already shown us that, and land is available.
I know I speak for many of my fellow Platte County R-3 teachers when I express my frustration with the claims about how overpaid we are. The claims state that, PCR-3 teachers continue to get raises, and if the district needs more space raises should be cut. I have read that money could be found by cutting teaching jobs to help pay for this new building. When Dr. Reik became the superintendent, he walked into an existing salary scale that he did not create.
Three years during his administrative term, the district had a salary freeze. Teachers did not advance for years of service. However, the district did still honor educational raises. Just last year, the salary scale was adjusted. Across the board, teachers will be receiving an annual 1.5% raise. If PCR-3 teachers decide to spend our own money and pursue graduate level steps, we have the opportunity to move another 1.5% for every eight graduate level hours we earn. Last year, Dr. Reik wanted to grant teachers one year back from the years we were frozen on the scale. The board agreed that this would be a good faith opportunity to show the PCR-3 teachers that the administration wants to gain and retain the best quality teachers. On average we received a little over a 3% raise. The inflated raise percentage shown to the general public is inflated because we are fortunate to have teachers that are trying to better themselves; teachers that are going after advanced degrees.
Boundary lines seem to be another concern with patrons. I have heard patrons say that they want their child to be able to go to a school with all of their friends. They do not want the district broke in half, because then half of their friends would be going to one school and the other half would be at the other school. Just because all the students are currently housed in the same building, does not mean they actually see each other. We have nine sections of fifth grade this year. That means the kids have a one in nine shot of being with their friends. We have two teams. Four classes are on one team and five are on the other. The kids have a 50/50 shot of being on the same team as their neighborhood best friend. I seldom even see the students on the other team. We don't have lunch together, or recess together. We can't even go on field trips together because there are so many of us. We have a little over 200 students in Paxton's 5th grade.
I agree that the majority of the growth is happening in the south side of the district. However, the south side of the district is not large enough yet to constitute building a second high school; therefore all of those students will still be headed to Platte City in ninth grade. Building a new K-5 building will allow the high school to absorb Paxton. This has the potential to benefit so many.
Please show that you too are proud to be a Platte County Pirate and vote YES on April 7th. We need you…the kids need you…your community needs you.
5th Grade Teacher,
Paxton Elementary School
Board member says the future is now
“Kids First” is more than a campaign slogan for the upcoming ballot issue facing the voters of the Platte County R-3 School District levy issue on April 7. While this slogan has been challenged by the group against the ballot issue, “Kids First” has always been the primary focus in our district. Obviously kids are the reason our districts exists and decisions are based on what is best for kids. If it is good for kids, we must find a way to do it. Sadly, we are being challenged by a negative campaign led by people who appear to have no experience in, nor knowledge of, operating a school district.
The students of our district, present and future, are in need of adequate facilities. Presently, some teachers do not have a classroom but must travel from room to room to hold their classes, thus causing teachers to be displaced for those periods. Our elementary class sizes are approaching capacity with many already at capacity. This cannot improve without more space. Trailers are currently in use at our schools to create more classrooms. As a former principal who in some years had students attending classes in trailers, I was constantly aware that these were not a good learning environment for students and created unique safety concerns. Traveling time between the main building and trailer results in a loss of instructional time. Placing students in a situation where security is compromised is unsafe but unavoidable when trailers must be used. Trailers are expensive to lease and set up, including the cost of decking, skirting, and connecting to the internet, phones and security systems. Thousands of dollars had to be spent to provide classroom space using trailers as a result of the defeat of the 2012 levy proposal. More trailers will definitely be in our immediate future if we are unable to provide building space through the passage of this levy. This is not a possibility but a simple fact.
The opposition has been critical of financial decisions made by the administration and board over the years. Our board has a legacy of being financially responsible. I can tell you that great consideration is employed when decisions are being made, and yes, we do put “Kids First” in all decision-making. Our vision, mission and values are engrained in our actions and thoughtful consideration is given to every issue. If it is good for kids we must find a way to do it.
The opponents of this levy began as a group who opposes tax increases. More recently, the focus appears to be have moved away from tax increase concerns. While the “tax” word is used occasionally, the greater emphasis is on utilizing incorrect or manipulated data to cast doubt on the integrity of those charged with running the district, thus taking attention away from the needs of our students and staff. Discrediting district officials seems to be at the forefront of their efforts. Please do not allow this to detract from the important task at hand.
Passage of the proposal will result in more classroom space, shorter bus rides, and fewer transitions. The new elementary school, the addition to Pathfinder Elementary, and the repurposing of Paxton Elementary will be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2016 if the levy passes. Classroom additions at Pathfinder Elementary will allow some classes from Barry to move to Pathfinder, alleviating some of the crowded conditions at Barry School. Crowded conditions at the high school will be alleviated with the repurposing of Paxton Elementary for high school use. Currently students on the elementary campuses at Platte City have three transitions: Rising Star (kindergarten) to Siegrist (grades 1-3) and to Paxton (grades 4-5). With the new configuration, students will be in the same building from kindergarten through grade five. This will eliminate the need for students to have to become familiar with new surroundings, special area teachers, cafeteria procedures, office personnel, etc. three times during their elementary career. Bus loading will occur at one building each for elementary schools, rather than at three buildings thus, saving time in the length of the bus rides. Kindergarten students will no longer have to change buses on the main campus, a necessity that has been concerning to me from a safety standpoint for years. Are these improvements all good for the kids? Certainly. Everyone benefits.
As a board of education member, a grandparent of children in this district, a proud graduate of Platte County R-3 and a patron of this district I seek your support for the levy issue. Classroom space is needed now, and the need will increase significantly as our enrollment inevitably grows. We must act to create adequate space for the students we have enrolled today and to build what is needed for future growth. We have undeniable immediate needs. The future is now and we must put “Kids First” by voting yes on April 7.
Platte County R-3
Board of Education
Hallways at the high school overcrowded
Voters in the Platte County R-3 School District will be asked to consider a 43-cent levy issue on April 7. The board of education approved an election for a tax levy question to be placed on the ballot at the Dec. 18 meeting. This levy could potentially be extremely beneficial for staff and students throughout the district.
Since the last district bond issue was passed in 2008, district enrollment has increased by more than 900 students. The current district enrollment is 3,888 students. The district's estimated enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year will be 4,230 students. Currently five of the school district's buildings are over capacity, including Barry School, Pathfinder Elementary and the high school with a significant amount of overcrowding.
According to the school district's website, the question will appear on the ballot as follows: Shall the Board of Education of the Platte County R-3 School District be authorized to increase the operating tax levy of the district by $0.43 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation for a period of 20 years for the purpose of constructing, renovating, improving, furnishing and equipping school facilities, including; a new elementary school to be located in Platte City on property the district currently owns, additional classrooms and a multipurpose room addition to Pathfinder Elementary School, and renovations necessary to convert Paxton School to serve Platte County High School students? If the levy is approved, the adjusted operating tax levy of the district is estimated to be $3.9766 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.”
A yes vote for the levy would provide $29 million in funds for an expansion project. The project's main focus is on eliminating capacity issues through new facility construction, expansion, current facility repurposing and facility closure. With the rapid increase of the student population within the district, the levy would provide a more spacious environment for students; a spacious environment that is much needed.
There are three parts to the expansion project: repurpose for Paxton Elementary to become a part of the high school, build a new K-5 elementary school and expand Pathfinder Elementary. Adding Paxton to the high school would accommodate the continuous growth of the student body. Building a new K-5 school allows for the closure of the 60-year-old Rising Star, currently serving as a kindergarten, and the repurposing of Paxton. The expansion of Pathfinder would add 14 classrooms, a multipurpose room and increase the student capacity by 280 students, relieving Barry School from overcrowding.
Hallways in the high school are overcrowded with students. It is difficult to make it from the north end of the school to the south within the six minute passing period. Students are forced to push and shove themselves through the hallways due to the overcrowding. Adding Paxton to the high school would spread out classrooms, along with students, allowing more room during passing periods.
Another reason to consider the levy is because of the other benefits Paxton provides. The elementary school is already supplied with lockers, a gymnasium and a lunch room. This would allow students to have their own lockers. The extra lunch room would spread out students and reduce the wait for food. The gymnasium at Paxton would allow for more physical education classes for high school students.
If the levy does not pass, schools throughout the district will become overcrowded and fail to accommodate the entire student population. Without this levy, more trailers will soon have to be placed due to overflowing classrooms. Though trailers can provide an ease to overcrowding at a relatively low cost, there are many disadvantages to these classrooms. The trailers at the high school cannot fit as many students as the normal classroom can. Desks have been cramped together to try to allow more students into the trailer, which has only added on to the overcrowding. Also, there are no bathroom units in or by the trailers, forcing students to walk back inside the school. This can take up to 10 minutes of class time, just to go to the bathroom. The additional classrooms have reduced some overcrowding, however they are not a permanent solution.
Another reason to pass this levy is because of the current condition of Rising Star. The 60-year-old school is currently in poor shape. It would take around $500,000 to repair damaged roofs and pipes throughout the school. This is not a proper learning environment for the kindergarten students. Not passing the levy would ultimately take money from the district on a project that is not worth it. Tearing down Rising Star is a better option for our students. There is no point to put this sum of money into a lost cause. Paying the money solely on the kindergarten is like putting a new engine in a 20-year-old car. The time has come the close the school and build another.
Raising taxes on the property owners in the district is a controversial topic. For instance, for a homeowner of a $100,000 house would have an $82 tax increase for the whole year. A house that has a value of $300,000 would end up with a $246 tax increase. This is a significant tax increase, however there are positives to the levy. The amount of the levy increase being sought is 17 cents lower than the 60 cent increase sought in 2012. This levy focuses completely on the over capacity of the district, unlike the last levy question which proposed improved tennis courts and maintenance. Also, the district has provided a sunset provision, which means the tax will expire in 20 years.
If the voters in the district pass this levy, the building projects are planned to be finished by the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
There are issues of trust and accountability at R-3
Taxes rarely if ever go down and taxes never go away. Does a sunset clause mean there will be no additional tax increases until it has expired? No, a sunset clause does not guarantee that. New tax increases can be proposed before the expiration. A sunset clause is a tactic to make you think there is an eventual end to the over-taxation.
The current school tax levy proposal Platte County R-3 has a 20-year sunset clause. True, at the end of 20 years that tax will stop, but only a fool would believe it will not be replaced by a new tax. Remember, taxes never go away and you can bet they will go up unless you do something to stop it.
Here is another tax calculation to consider. If you permit a local tax increase, do you realize you pay more than once? First, your real estate and property taxes go up. Second, any business that suffers a tax increase passes it on to the consumer. You are going to pay more for their products and services. That is how a business usually absorbs a tax increase. The only other options are reducing employee compensation or layoffs. You, the taxpayer, end up paying for the increase over and over again.
America does not have free public education. You pay for public education through taxation over your entire lifetime, as long as you own real estate and personal property. For this reason, the tax paying public must be very sure that local administrators and school boards are fully accountable to the voters. I am disturbed when companies and organizations make donations to support a school tax levy question in hopes of benefitting directly from the passage of the ballot initiative. Follow the money. This may not be illegal, but in my opinion, it is a conflict of interest. Some will argue it's ethical because it's legal, but in government parlance it's actually a “pay to play” arrangement. This scenario is again playing out in our school district as we debate the new tax increase.
Is there a reason the proposed tax levy is less than it was in 2012? My first thought is the school district was disingenuous with us the last time around. The district was obviously asking for more money than they really needed. As a result, can we fully trust what they are saying now?
They say the new tax revenue of $29 million will only pay for a new building, classrooms, and other renovations. How do they plan to fund the new building's operating costs over time? Could it be they intend to propose another tax increase in the near future to cover those costs? Simple logic would tell you the answer is probably yes. If they get a new building, who would want to deny them the money to maintain it?
None of us are against public education. Many of our contemporary educators, judges, and politicians forget the primary reason a system of public education was established by the first American settlers in 1642. It was to prevent illiteracy and give the common man the ability to read the Bible and apply its teachings to civil governance. Unfortunately, as a nation, we have drifted a long way from those founding precepts. It's time to get back to the basics of education.
For some, public education is big business, people profit from it, and school boards rarely if ever say no to the administration. Schools get very comfortable budgeting for anything they want, like pay raises, but they are not willing to budget for what they really need. For those things, it becomes easier to raise your taxes.
Yes, our taxes are high, but the real issue is how our past tax dollars have been prioritized and spent.
In the end, the district's reasons for raising our taxes are clouded by issues of trust and accountability.