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Earlier Letters to the Editor

County workday celebrations and park calendars

Posted 12/26/13

EDITOR:

While reading the article about the upcoming events to celebrate Platte County's 175th "birthday," two things caught my eye.

First, the upcoming birthday event starts at 11 a.m. -- right in the middle of a day when most folks will be at work. Granted, it's vacation time for the kids, but many adults will still be making the usual trek to work.

Second, those attending get a new Platte County Parks and Rec calendar. I can't help but wonder where the funding for said calendar came from -- the half cent sales tax, perhaps?

So let's see: a party on New Year's Eve, held during the regular workday, with a location convenient to Platte County employees, complete with refreshments and New Year's gifts, and most likely all of it paid for by the "county," i.e. taxpayer.

Hmmm...

--Laura Deatrick
Platte City

 


Some thoughts on Duck Dynasty controversy

Posted 12/26/13

EDITOR:

The following is my letter to A & E Network for removing Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. You can send your comments to aefeedback@aenetworks.com

To whom it may concern:
It is very disappointing to hear you have removed Phil Robertson from your show for speaking the truth. I agree that speaking frankly about the physical acts of homosexuality takes all the allure and mystique out of the immoral behavior, however, getting the truth to people who embrace this lifestyle is essential to exposing the sin.

Homosexuality is not some new behavior that has suddenly sprung upon the scene but is as old as recorded history appearing in the book of Genesis. The place? That was Sodom. The outcome was less than desirable then and is less than desirable now. The Bible in the first chapter of Romans denounces homosexuality this way, "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil- mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." ROM 1:26-32 NKJV

So you see, God doesn't accept the sin but calls the sinner to repentance: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 1 Peter 3:9 NKJV

I think you will find more people supporting Mr. Robertson than siding with immoral, sinful behavior.

Blessings.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


A spending spree going on at Park Hill

Posted 12/20/13

EDITOR:

Have you seen the old movie, Trading Places? A small timer, played by Eddie Murphy, suddenly finds himself with access to someone else's millions, and he goes on quite a spending tear. He lacks the wisdom or experience to understand his new-found situation. Of course, it's all a bet by his wealthy benefactors who sit back and watch the grand experiment.

New superintendent Scott Springston was brought in from a small district in Kansas and now has access to Park Hill's millions. It appears that he has gone on quite a spending streak, too.

Just this past year he spent $800,000 on the “penthouse,” remodeling the district’s central office, which was updated just five years ago.

Stop by Park Hill central office and ask to see the new board room—lavish. If you have time, go down and take a look at the new technology department break room—very Silicon Valley.

And apparently Dr. Springston's “benefactors,” our elected board members, gave their approval. So now we're all paying to watch how this gamble plays out.

Now the superintendent wants parents, patrons and business owners to fund a tax increase in April. I, for one, already know how this story ends.

I urge Park Hill NEA, PTA district council and taxpayers to VOTE NO when the board “rubber stamps” their new superintendent's request for a tax levy in April.

--Jim Dunn
Park Hill parent and retiree

 


Platte County R-3's Annual Report contains some fiction

Posted 12/12/13

EDITOR:

By now most Platte County R-3 patrons should have received their Annual Report from the school district. Everyone take it out and have a good look. Not sure if it is supposed to be Fact or Fiction.

Last year in The Landmark, it was pointed out that the high school students have finished below state averages the past two years in Algebra I EOC (End Of Course) exams, yet the 2013 Annual Report under "College and Career Readiness" shows the high school students with a respectable 68.9% passing above basic for 2013?

According to several websites and DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education), this score should actually be 56% for the high school.

Of course the other three courses the district did poorly on--like Geometry, Algebra II and US History--were not listed wrong, they were just left completely off the Annual Report. As they used to say on Saturday Night Live "How Convenient.”

If you look under the "Student Performance" section of the report, it does not even show how grades 9 thru 12 did at all. Only grades 3-8 are listed.

Items were listed like Attendance Rate and Student Demographics, which helped to fill the page up. If the District has the audacity to list wrong scores or only the ones they do well on in the annual report, what else are they leaving out?

Here's one: a budget of over $43 million with 3715 students, that works out to $11,574 dollars spent per year per student. $8,934 is listed on the report as they did not include debt, capital expense etc...

The $8,934 listed by the district is a direct comparison to other districts from the DESE website. The thing they failed to mention is that our debt is almost twice that of the average Missouri schooll district.

So that $10 million left off on the Annual Report is about $5.4 million at the average Missouri school district.

Here's another: Did you know the enrollment growth projections all dropped substantially for the district since last year? Of course you didn't, unless you compared this year’s report to last year’s. It was not mentioned anywhere in the report. Seems like that would be pretty important in the Annual Report since the major push to the papers and public the past two years has been district growth.

Did you know Rising Star enrollment is down about 20% since 2011? Well below capacity.... not mentioned either.

Teacher pay is listed as their base pay on the Annual Report not the "total pay" listed on the DESE website, which is about $1,500 higher. And the list goes on and on.

If you are blinded by the districts "I feel good" about the schools marketing plan, than stop reading now. If your eyes have been opened and you want to see more of how our district is actually doing, you can look at the detailed breakdown with web links and copies of the items mentioned above at Plattecountyr3facts.com.

If a public company such as Apple did its yearly report and only pointed out i-Phone sales were up 80% while not listing that i-Pad sales were down 20%, or just flat out manufactured numbers, everyone would blow a gasket and they would be sued by thousands. How is this any different?

--Kirby Holden
Platte County

 


Please, no tax increases in Platte County

Posted 12/12/13

EDITOR:

Thank you for the excellent article on the potential Park Hill tax increase by Valerie Verkamp in a recent issue of The Landmark.

We just returned from being out of town for a couple of weeks and are catching up on news from The Landmark and around. When I read Park Hill asking for a tax increase again, to say the least I was upset.

Taxes are a way of life BUT time for education, the local and federal government to back off and give all of us a break.

Every time I pick up the paper or go online I see some part of government asking for more money. How about them cutting back and staying within their budget and no increase?

We everyday Americans must do it every time they raise taxes on us....It's like ‘Oh They Can Afford It, it's only $37.00 a year and then $55 then $75, then $122 ( and this is only on the value of a $200,000 house)..and on and on.

I understand the "want" for many additional things such as teacher training, security, phone systems, push button classroom door locks ,security cameras, etc., etc., etc.
They say they are looking at other areas to raise the funds also, BUT we know their first thought is taxes.

I suggest look at all other areas, raise what you can and work that into the budget and do what you can and leave the taxpayers alone....we are all struggling and cutting back. Maybe we should ask for a tax decrease that would help all taxpayers? What an idea?
Give money back to the taxpayers rather than take and take and take. School board, live on the budget you have!

I pay more than my share of taxes and support our schools and appreciate the Park Hill School, system but there comes a time we all have to tighten our belts and live within our means and not ask our citizens for more and more and more. Instead, just do with the same amount of dollars you have or raise the funds other than with more taxes or fees.

No more tax increases in Platte County, please.

Give us a break at least until our economy gets better and more folks can get jobs and maybe some of them get some salary increase.

Folks are struggling and do not need more tax increases in any area.

--Charlie Poole
Parkville

 


Zoning board members' advice should be heeded

Posted 12/12/13

EDITOR:

I am outraged that our county has lost a valuable, talented, and hard working Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission member, David Rainey.

The work these people do takes a huge time investment. They are under-rewarded and often unappreciated, in fact, many don't even know they exist. And after they carefully review a request for a zoning change and make a recommendation based on the regulations, zoning ordinances, and land use plan, their wise counsel should be heeded.
I understand our county commissioners have the final say. However when the board has indicated not once but twice, and not divided but unanimously that a particular development does not meet the requirements, to have a single county commissioner ignore all their research and findings is a slap in the face.

Jason Brown is arrogant. Mr. Rainey, I can't blame you for your resignation and I'd like to say publicly that I do appreciate you, and everyone on that board for your time and energy. It is pathetic our county has to lose your valuable services over the likes of Jason Brown, a career politician who would not know the meaning of "public service" if someone opened Webster's Dictionary for him. He's the one who should be leaving, not you.

My guess is that Mr. Rainey is fed up with small-minded county politics. But should he decide to run against Jason Brown on any ticket, I know he will have mountains of support.

Mr. Rainey, you have proven your integrity, something Mr. Brown will never have.

God-speed to you sir, whatever your future endeavors. My thanks to you, and to all the men and women who serve on the planning and zoning board.

--Sue Lange
Platte County

 


Concerns aren't NIMBY attitudes

Posted 12/12/13

EDITOR:

I'm typically not one to 'rock the boat' so much, and I'm pretty good at looking at all sides of issues and seeing opposite points of view.

How do I express myself knowing that anything I say against the Chapel Ridge development will automatically be filed under 'NIMBY' and generally dismissed? I guess I'd have to go with a version of: “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”

Just because I live next to this planned development doesn't mean I am irrational and I don't have valid concerns.

There is something seriously wrong with Jason Brown's 'yes' vote. I mean seriously wrong. How, with two sets of unanimous votes against, and one commissioner no vote, can one man determine the fate of so many people who will be negatively affected.
I guess I am more naive than I realized. I believed in the system. I believed with so many concerns expressed by the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission, and the concerns raised by Beverlee Roper, that this plan would be dismissed. There has not been a vote that goes against planning and zoning unanimous decisions in the last 20 years, as far as I can find.

I know people have researched Jason Brown's contributors list and have found that the majority of the Chapel Ridge development team have contributed to his campaign. Again, silly me, I thought it was still his job to be impartial and just review the facts, realize how exponentially dangerous the traffic will become, and that the gradual change in density requirements in the Land Use Plan were not even close to being met.

I can go on and on and bore you with the reasons my family moved out here. I can tell you that we invested everything we had and more than we had to be in this beautiful place - I'm not talking about the house, but the area. Blah, blah, blah - I can see your eyes glazing over as I type.

Please just don't dismiss our concerns as selfish NIMBY attitudes. Really - come out here - look at what we are talking about. I'll personally give you a tour!

Thanks for your time.

--Cindy Loelkes
Parkville

 


This was an ill-conceived plan

Posted 12/12/13

EDITOR:

This letter is in regards to the proposed Chapel Ridge Development where zoning changes were requested from R-80 to high density.

Duane Soper, thank you for removing your vote for the proposed Chapel Ridge development because you had conflicts of interest. This seems a very fair thing to do.

Beverlee Roper, thank you for your vote of no on this development called Chapel Ridge. You were present at other meetings, you obviously did your homework on the project and you had the best interests of the citizens of Platte County.

Jason Brown, you made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that you knew how passionate we were and urged us to remain calm. You could have saved us 5+ hours at the meeting and said you were going to vote yes. It didn't matter to you the emails, letters, phone calls (even though your voicemail was 'full'), the countless slides, photos and drawings shown on the big screen. This was clearly an ill-conceived plan from the start. The plan did not adhere to any of the Platte County Land Use Plan.

So money really does talk! Your campaign contributions from Platte Valley Bank who is financing this debacle, the developer, the builders, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, realtors and all the others in construction bought you. You gave them this poorly planned project when it could have been planned so much better. Watershed and roads should have been addressed and corrected before a shovel of dirt is turned.
Mr. Brown, you advised reducing the 18 homes along Coutrywood's Nevada Street to 10. You also wanted to add 10 feet to the north border. You smiled and looked like you thought everyone in the room would jump on this. We were speechless and sickened. You in reality looked like a puppet up on the throne saying carefully chosen words that your political contributors told you too.

Talk about putting lipstick on a pig!

--Rita and Byron Aust
Kansas City
in Platte County

 

 


Insensitivity in the sports world

Posted 12/12/13

EDITOR:

It has been a bad week for Kansas City's reputation in the sports world.

On Sunday morning, a Sonic in south Kansas City posted some racially insensitive remarks on a sign towards the Chiefs’ opponent, the Washington Redskins, that was offensive to Native Americans.

Later in the evening, Jack Harry, while doing his show on channel 41 used the word Gayhawks as an offensive term describing the Kansas men's basketball team. Channel 41 and Harry then exacerbated the issue by denying that he said it, even though the clip had already spread like wildfire on social media. And during the Chiefs’ game, The Landmark's Chris Kamler made equally derogatory comments about Native Americans on his Twitter account @TheFakeNed. He then defended those comments and took shots at people who called him on it.

I certainly believe in free speech. But businesses and media outlets have a responsibility to be more careful and more thoughtful when it comes to hate speech, regardless of what they are referring to. Sonic has tried to clean up the mess their employees made, Channel 41 says they stand behind Jack and I am sure Kamler will take some shot at me for writing this letter. But let us hope we can get through this next week without any more racist or homophobic diatribes from local fast food restaurants or media outlets.

--Chris Wallingford
Platte City

 

 


When it comes to the county's golf course, it's time for adults to step in

Posted 12/8/13

EDITOR:

This letter is in follow up to previous letters regarding Shiloh Springs Golf Course from the June 26 and July 10 editions of The Landmark.

My premise for researching Shiloh was that as a government business enterprise fund providing non-essential services, its revenues should cover all costs including debt service. As use of Shiloh is contingent on paying fees, it is not the same as other parks in Platte County.

In the time since my last letter, I reviewed available county audited financial and budget reports dating to 1993 and the 1993 Shiloh NID documents, spoke with the current COP bond trustee, made inquiries on legal language and discussed key issues with county officials. The 1993 Shiloh NID represented the first major debt expansion in the 1990's. As noted in a separate letter, county debt breached $85 million in 2005 under the stewardship of former Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight.

The more significant items from the 1993 NID debt offering are:

1. Shiloh was owned and developed by Gary Martin, a local architect and builder, and sits on 123 acres of land. The project was 40% complete when the county funded the $3.8 million NID. The NID debt did not require taxpayer approval. NID proceeds were used to pay off bank debt with the remainder put into escrow for construction and development.

2 . The county leased the property from Martin Investments, a partnership of three Martin brothers, including Gary Martin, who in turn were to operate Shiloh. The lease required the land to be used "solely as a golf course." The lease term was 20 years, the same duration as the NID debt, with annual rental payments sufficient to cover the NID assessments.

3. In the event of default or non-renewal of the lease by the County, the property and improvements would be ceded to Martin Investments.

4. The lease included an option for the county to purchase Shiloh from Martin Investments for $1.6 million, or $13,000 per acre. The county's purchase option could be exercised only if the NID debt was paid in full.

The University of Missouri Extension farm land values table shows that average land values were $774 in 1993, $1,750 in 2005 and $3,100 in 2013. There was no information indicating regarding what the Martins had invested in the property.

However, if the golf course could not operate profitably, the golf course improvements would have little or no value to a future buyer. The option purchase price was a 17 times multiple of average raw land values, a price that would appear to assume either substantial investments or profitable operations. The county purchased Shiloh in 2005 by issuing $4,395,000 in COP debt, which debt also did not require taxpayer approval, and which transaction included payment of the $1.6 million.

By my calculations, through 2012 the County has expended in excess of $10 million on Shiloh (net operating losses plus debt service). When the 2005 COP bonds are paid off in 2018, Shiloh will have cost Platte County $14 million.

The 2014 auditor recommended budget shows a loss of $87,000, the result of using unrealistic revenue assumptions. The auditor projects 2013 revenues at $536,000, the lowest in history, and then budgets 2014 revenues at $709,000. A similar actual/budget spread is evident in the past three years. Trailing four year revenues average $560,000.
Why do the parks director and auditor propose fictitious revenue budgets? I estimate a 2014 loss closer to $250,000. None of these losses include the $447,000 annual debt payments.

I previously proposed that the county shut down Shiloh. Absent Shiloh immediately becoming profitable, which it can't since revenues continue to decline, I stand by that proposal. I noted that the provisions of the 2005 COP allows the county to cease operations if Shiloh becomes uneconomical. To that end, I spoke with the current bond trustee and county officials and sought input from my own independent legal counsel. County officials obtained their own legal input.

The county's legal counsel stated that they believe the COP documents require the facility to be operated as a golf course. My legal counsel stated that based on the legal language and construction of the applicable provisions, the county can cease operations if economic conditions severely impact the county's financial position. County officials have relayed their intention to rely on their legal counsel's beliefs. In my experience, you are more likely to prevail on legal matters when your attorney relies on the actual document language.

Further to the economics, I had a discussion with the bond trustee as the county fears the trustee may declare the county in default of the bonds if Shiloh ceases operations. As I suspected, because bond payments have always been made timely, the bond trustee was not aware of the financial condition of Shiloh. Further, to my recall, the trustee has never visited the facility. And while the trustee was not able to discuss with me alternatives for dealing with Shiloh, it was clear that the trustee would not require Shiloh to be operated at significant loss when the source of bond payments is entirely unrelated to the operation itself. The trustee said that imposing such a requirement would be punitive.

Upon relaying my findings to county officials, it was indicated to me that they would arrange a meeting with the bond trustee to further discuss options on Shiloh. Over three months have now passed and there is no indication that any such meeting will occur.
There is an easy way to deal with closing Shiloh. Taking the steps below would eliminate legal interpretation issues, default concerns, bond trustee influence, and the requirement to maintain the property, and put the matter of Shiloh squarely on the plate of the county commission.

1. As of Dec. 31, 2013, the balance of the 2005 COP will be $1,965,000. Interest due through 2015, the date the bonds can be called, totals $149,510. The final bond payment of $439,500 is held in escrow by the bond trustee. Thus, $1,665,010 is needed to pre-refund the COP debt.

2. The parks fund holds reserves for future maintenance approximating $1.68 million. I confirmed with a county official that these funds could be used to prepay the COP debt.

3. By pre-refunding the debt, the county can take complete control of Shiloh by Jan. 31, 2014, the final date the budget has to be approved by the county commission.

4. The balance of COP debt service payments scheduled for years 2014 to 2018 totaling $2,071,000 can be directed 100% to the parks reserve fund.

5. Shiloh can be put up for sale. Absent a fire sale, proceeds to the county could be up to $1 million, which amount can be used to strengthen the parks reserve fund.

6. Assuming the above, no other contributions and interest earnings, the parks reserve fund would approximate $3.2 million by 2018, almost 90% more than the current balance.

Why use all of the reserve fund to take over Shiloh? Because the reserve fund can be quickly replenished. If someone suggests the reserve fund is needed in 2014, it would imply there are problems not being disclosed.

Over the past several months, a number of reasons have been offered to not close Shiloh, ranging from the requirement that it has to be operated, that it should be a park, and perhaps the best of all, that it provides an amenity to northern residents. Spread the wealth. Candy for everyone.

Brian Nowotny, the business manager of the current $7 million annual parks tax revenue stream, might be more appropriately titled The Candy Man. Sammy Davis Jr. did it best. You've heard the tune and probably know the words, but the lead in it says it all: “What kind of candy do you want / Sweet choc'late /
Choc'late malted candy / Gum drops / Anything you want / You've come to the right man.”

The park tax started in 2001. Through 2012, the county has collected over $73 million. The $1.68 million reserve fund represents a savings rate of 2.3%. By comparison, the county will spend $10.8 million in just interest alone to fund the two community centers and Shiloh. And since this debt is not openly offered to Platte County residents, none of this interest may stay in the county. Platte County can't afford this style of business management or these financing schemes.

The park tax sunsets in 2020. Does anyone believe $1.68 million is sufficient to preserve the county's parks investments and cover related administrative costs into perpetuity? Shiloh alone would deplete this reserve in seven years.

The county commission and Mr. Nowotny continue to spend like there will be no end to the parks tax. But who wants to force their constituents to come off their sugar highs? The county commission needs to change course to avoid what is a disaster in the making.

Shiloh's facts and financial cost to the county are indisputable. While history says that Mr. Nowotny and the county commission will dawdle, pander, and approve fictitious budgets, the responsible decision would be to close the financial drain. If the county commissioners don't have the ability or fortitude to address a significantly unprofitable non-essential operation, what will they do when faced with issues of critical importance relating to essential needs and services?

Taxpayers should take note that county commissioners and the county's legal and financial advisors not only once, but twice, skirted taxpayers to issue debt and create what could end up being a $14 million drain on county resources.

Skirting taxpayers on debt issuance is the reason we need state statute changes to require voter approval for any sizeable transaction that will be classified as long term debt by the Government Accounting Standards Board.

On a final note, I don't know and have nothing against the Martins and wish them only the best. I have no way of knowing how this deal worked out for them. Shiloh's terms were clearly disclosed and agreed to by the 1993 county commission and the transaction was approved by a Missouri state auditor.

Shiloh is a perfect example of what can happen when elected officials undertake major initiatives without voter approval, without a proper level of due diligence and assessment of downside risk, and when decisions are made using unrealistic budgets.

It's time for adults to enter the building and cease the gum drops and chocolate.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville


 


Tired of wolves in sheep's clothing

Posted 12/8/13

EDITOR:

Was the decision what many expected? I don’t know about that, but it certainly was what Jason Brown and the Mertz team agreed on upfront. Just how far ‘up front’ is yet to be learned but will surely be found out.

It would seem Jason was in contact with the developers leading up to a ‘proposal’ in which Mr. Brown suggested a few changes…as if those minimal changes made any difference to the fact that the proposal was and still is against the land use plan. This despite the fact that he did not return one phone call, letter, or email from the opposition the entire time, going so far as to tell Rob Schaaf that he wanted to remain neutral in order to grant a fair hearing. In a pig’s eye!

The planning and zoning board members unanimously voted twice to turn it away, even Ms. Roper, the first district commissioner, who has less experience in these matters, was able to read the land use plan and determine that this development did not fit in the area. But Jason, who wasn’t there when the current land use plan was created (I know because I was there), thinks that he knows better than all the wisdom of all our planning and zoning board members with all their years of experience. Such arrogance!

According to sources who were there, Brown showed up at the meeting with one goal in mind, get to the point so he could cast his ‘yes’ vote. And knowing that Soper had recused himself for a conflict of interest, Brown was well aware he was going to cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the development. Where was the ‘fair hearing’?

Jason Brown had a clear conflict of interest. Platte Valley Bank is helping to finance this operation. Not coincidentally PVB (both as an entity and numerous individual employees) contributed heavily to Jason’s campaign for presiding commissioner. His campaign funding received the largest percentage of donations from the construction and the development industry, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Jason Brown owed people big time and I’m betting this is likely just one of many payoffs to come unless someone stops him. And he will do the same thing when he gets his next big chance at an even higher office.

I’d also like to point out to all you Tea Party people that your darling candidate, who calls himself a Republican but drew huge support from the Tea Party, is as corruptible as you have always accused the Democrats of being. The only difference is who the favors are bestowed upon.

Numerous residents will have their homes devalued. Persons along Hwy. K will eventually lose their homes to widening. The cost to taxpayers for that one side-effect alone will far outweigh any benefit in tax revenue from this debacle. Mertz and his associates will make a killing on everyone else’s investments in surrounding property because their homes will bring up the value on his cheap houses of ticky-tack. And there’s Jason, enabling it all. Everyone in this county, regardless of political affiliation should be chasing Jason Brown out of town before he does any more harm to their investments.

I am one Republican voter who will never, ever vote Republican again for any office at any level as long as the GOP continues to support Jason Brown. I’m tired of wolves in sheep’s clothing. His career needs to end now.

--Sue Lange
Platte County

 

The agreement with Iran is a bad deal

Posted 11/28/13

EDITOR:

Well, well, well. Heard much about Obamacare over the past weekend? I didn't think so. Because the news has been centered around the agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, with war protester John Kerry as the lead negotiator, with Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a bad deal, a very, very, bad deal.

So, what does the western world get in exchange for allowing Iran to continue to operate their current centrifuges used to enrich uranium and releasing $7 billion in frozen assets? Iran opens some sites up to inspection and limits the type and amount of enriched uranium they can produce! In other words they DON'T GIVE UP ANYTHING! But…

This deal takes the focus off the terrible law and the non-functioning web site called Obamacare. If this administration needed anything, it needed to divert America's attention away from this misguided law and enlist the willing media to talk about something else, anything. It worked. Now all that needs to happen is for America to forget about 5 million of its own that have had their insurance cancelled and the deception is complete…until next fall. That's when the postponement of the employer mandate expires and employees at large companies will have their policies “adjusted” to meet the standards set by Obamacare. Premiums go UP, deductibles go UP, co-pays go UP, and if Obama can unilaterally change the enforcement dates for signing up until after the 2014 elections, the country will blow UP.

I have talked with numerous people that don't like Obamacare because of what they hear on Fox but they either work for a “big” company or are on Medicare and didn't notice any change or only a small change as they signed up for next year's benefit package so what's the big deal? IT'S PART OF THE DECEPTION! Force a small percentage to enroll now and next year will not be a total disaster. But a hurricane doesn't go from calm winds to 135 mph winds instantly. It is gradual, but once passed, the devastation is still left behind. That will happen with Obamacare. And if you don't believe me, just use simple math.

Insurance is used to spread the risk among a large group with the insurance company betting that they can make enough from premiums to offset losses. They do this using actuarial tables, or historical data predicting the future. So, if you force insurers to cover everyone regardless of risk, and tell the insurer that the premiums must be the same for everyone, and that you have to include coverage for things that cannot possibly happen (men getting pregnant), it all gets plugged into the tables and wa-lah! Out comes the higher premiums, much higher.

Meanwhile back at the nuke talks, the deception and alchemy of this administration is beyond parallel! They say, “Make the deal for 6 months, by then America will be swimming, camping, playing baseball, soccer, etc., and we can do whatever we want to then. No one will be watching.”

Please get involved. This is not about me getting frustrated and angry. The whole thinking population of America must act. Call and write your congressman and senator.

And in 2014, VOTE!

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


Appreciating the veterans

Posted 11/8/13

EDITOR:

The members of Smithville American Legion Auxiliary 58 would like to express our sincere appreciation for the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces.

Thank you for serving this great country. Thank you for protecting us. Thank you for the security we have and feel here at home. We know you sacrificed much for your country and all of us. And though you may no longer wear the uniform, we know you're always on call to serve and protect the freedom and security of the United States of America.

The American Legion Auxiliary supports and honors the sacrifice of those who served by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military and their families, both at home and abroad. We invite everyone to pause today to remember those who have fought for our freedoms. Thank you to all who have so bravely protected us.

Learn more about the American Legion Auxiliary at www.ALAforVeterans.org.

--Amy Edwards
President
Smithville American Legion
Auxiliary Unit #58

 


Elections have consequences

Posted 11/8/13

EDITOR:

Feeling left out?

Do you find that you don't understand what the big deal about Obamacare is all about? Why all the uproar? After all, some are going to be affected by any new law or change in an existing law. But hey, it doesn't affect me so I'll just keep on playing video games, going to concerts, watching football, stay in the union (they got an exemption from Obamacare with the debt ceiling increase), or whatever else I'm doing. In fact, I'll be just fine. Well…

Remember the “employer exemption” from Obamacare? Well, that means that your employer provided healthcare doesn't have to provide maternity care for the husband, doesn't have to provide for nursing home care for the 30 somethings, doesn't have to provide birth control for men, and more importantly the employer doesn't have to pay a penalty! In 2015, estimates are that 90 million employer provided plans will be ineligible because they don't meet Obamacare minimums. “The Departments' mid-range estimate is that 66% of small employer plans and 45% of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013,” wrote the administration on page 34,552 of the Register. Plus, beginning in 2015 (1 year exemption) the employer must pay a non-deductible penalty if: 1) they don't offer insurance ($2000/employee with the first 30 exempt) or 2) the insurance they offer doesn't meet the minimum standards ($3000). This is called the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment. You can read about this at: http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-employer-mandate.php. It's very captivating reading, sorta like the dictionary. I worked with the Federal Aviation Regulations most of my life and always found it very entertaining that the first word in the FAR's was “except”! But I'm chasing rabbits.

Now, let me put this in Bubba terms so that folks like me can understand it. Let's pretend we are buying shoes. First, everyone is going to be wearing size 20. There's a lot of shoe there that you don't need but everybody gets the same size. Sorry, son.
Now, here's where it gets complicated so all you Bubbas stay with me. There aren't enough cobblers (not a reference to web site designers) to make all those shoes. Well then, we'll only force a few million to wear these shoes in 2014. We can deal with a relatively small number of complaints now and maybe it won't affect the 2014 elections. Yeah, that sounds great! Make it happen, Mr. Sulu. Call Barry, he'll approve anything.
In 2015 we can stick it to the rest of the country and they won't be able to say anything because they will have let it go for a full year already. Email Kathy and tell her not to worry about Web Design for Dummies, just force cobblers to make size 20's. We can have some wingtips, some lace up's, and some loafers, aaaaaah we'll call them plate-a-dumb, sliver, and broke. Here comes the train! Wait! Wait! The track isn't finished!!
Elections have consequences.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


County constitution is a bad idea

Posted 10/31/13

EDITOR:

A fourth attempt is now underway against us in Clay County to alter the structure of our county government. This time, hiding in the Trojan Horse of a "constitution,” are consequences that we Clay County voters must reject on Nov. 5. Here is just a sample.
The current commission will be replaced by seven part-timers on stipends to oversee a county budget exceeding $70 million.

When the "constitution" is to be interpreted, the presumption will not be in favor of the people, rather "... powers under this Constitution shall be construed liberally in favor of the county."

To make things worse, current Clay County laws that "interfere" with the new "constitution" are repealed. This opens and can only encourage rampant growth of power within our county's political class.

We Clay County voters will lose control over those who manage our county's funds. Our right to elect the fiscal stewardship positions of assessor, collector, treasurer and auditor will be taken from us, the voting citizens. Instead, politicians will select those who fill these vital positions. Remind you of Washington's unelected czars? This is especially curious [and dangerous], regarding the auditor who must be as independent as possible. Talk about conflicts!

These un-elected, appointed fiscal managers of the county's funds will not be required to be bonded, have errors-omissions insurance, and will have no salary caps.
Incredibly, the "constitution" expressly allows Clay County government to participate in private projects with private corporations and "share in the responsibilities and costs.”

What's missing? How about sharing in the profits!

Some of the "constitution" is unintelligible. For example, a Missouri felon could not hold office, but a convicted murderer from Montana or arsonist from Arizona could. Another example, county offices would be abolished on Nov. 6, but the officeholders are to remain in office until next May. How? The "constitution" just did away with the offices.
To our Platte County neighbors: On Nov. 5th, we in Clay County will do our very best to stop this mistake. But if we can't, be careful, something like this could be coming your way next.

--Ronald Thiewes
Kansas City

 


A Missouri Frightfest

Posted 10/31/13

EDITOR:

For those of us who like a good old-fashioned scare, this time of year is a real (trick or) treat. Halloween stories of ghouls, goblins and ghosts make for a fun annual tradition, safely delivering in fiction what would be truly frightening in fact.

Yet while it does not wear a hockey mask or carry a cleaver, Missouri state government is a scary story in its own right. Today, the state spends taxpayer money at a rate of almost $800 a second, and if the fate of last year’s tax cut is any indication, it’s more likely that this spending will rise than fall. In fact, if some legislators have their way, next year the state will throw billions more into an already-broken Medicaid program. The state seems to be just like the creature from the 1950s horror film, “The Blob” – growing and covering Missourians in new regulations and burdens as it goes along.

Instead of feeding The Blob, the legislature should take a different approach and return power to the People – through tax cuts and other free-market, people-powered reforms. The Blob was defeated when people united to turn back its growth; defeating big government will require a similar commitment from Missourians.

--Patrick Ishmael
Policy Analyst
Show-Me Institute

 


Knight took debt up to $80 million

Posted 10/24/13

EDITOR:

I would like to offer a correction to a number you have been using in regard to Platte County debt incurred during the period in which Betty Knight served as presiding commissioner. You recently stated that number was $60 million, which was compared to the debt in 1992, so I am using that year as the base. I believe Ms. Knight was first elected presiding commissioner in 1994.

Based on available audit reports (I am missing a couple years), debt at year end 2005 totaled $85,627,231 in comparison to $891,047 at year end 1992, an increase of 9,510%.

On a per capita basis, debt at year end 2005 was $1,050 in comparison to $14 at year end 1992, an increase of 7,321%. During this same 1992 to 2005 period, Platte County's population grew 30%.

As of Dec. 31, 2012, Platte County debt totals $61,834,239, or $672 per capita. These amounts do not include the emergency radio debt obligation, which is in excess of $10 million.

I just want you to give appropriate credit to the former commissioner, as I believe such credit is due. Regardless of which debt increase ratio you choose, that level of increase is quite an accomplishment.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Developer not 'saving' the county

Posted 10/11/13

EDITOR:

Brian Mertz, developer of the planned Chapel Ridge subdivision, using TV and newspaper interviews, and even letters to the editor, has described himself as a self-proclaimed benefactor to Platte County; a long time resident, a home-grown boy who just wants to make a living and help the county with it's needs. He's indicated, too, that this is his livelihood, his money, on the line. The property owners of the would-be-Chapel-Ridge development, have referred to the opposition as "vigilantes" and bullies. Okay, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They are not, however, entitled to their own facts.

So let's review these facts:

1) Mertz (or someone on his team) took the original logo used on their website and Facebook page to promote Chapel Ridge, from an unrelated development in North Carolina. That entity has since contacted him and forced him to change it.

2) Mertz has repeatedly appeared on web-based forums whose only purpose is to find investors for pre-completed properties. Selling single family rental properties before they are even built is not about investing in our county's future, it's about grabbing a cut off the top and cutting out fast. His comments indicate a pattern of building lower-cost homes next to very high value homes, artificially raising the value of his units while decreasing those surrounding it. His comments also indicate a "get in and get out" action plan, leaving others to deal with the fall out.

3) Tiffany Estates, a relatively new development of his, is already on the 'downhill slide' in terms of appearance and maintenance and by no small coincidence, all but two of these 18 homes are owned by persons who don't live there, essentially they are rental properties inside of only a few years.

4) Mertz repeatedly uses the term "gross density" and indicates the number of houses will be 2.65 per acre. But the real density, after you take out the land that must be allowed for roads, green space, etc, is 5-and-some-change-per-acre.

Mertz can say whatever he wants about himself. If his support team writes enough letters, they may all begin to believe it. But the facts, ladies and gentlemen, tell a different tale. In my opinion he's not an honest man; honest men don't take other people's art work (or associate with those who do), and they don't deliberately misrepresent the truth about how many houses will be placed on a single acre. If there is nothing wrong with what he's building and where he's building it, then just spit out the actual number of houses per acre and quit trying to morph it into something that "sounds better.”

While it is true that he is an investor of sorts, he is not investing in the betterment of Platte County, he is investing only in his pocket, and the pockets of friends. I don't have a problem with that either, but let's "tell it like it is.” Don't pretend that he's somehow 'saving' the county,” as if this county doesn't have good developers who can make a decent profit by putting R40 and R25 homes where they belong.

And as to that hometown boy whose life savings is at risk? We have investments to defend too. If the rest of us, who have invested huge sums in our properties and the maintenance thereof, get burned by the soon-to-be-rental-district that gets parked next to us, or if people along K Highway get forced out of their homes for the eventual widening that will surely follow, you can bet Mertz doesn't care. He'll get his and then cut and run along to the next project regardless.

I have to ask, is that what what "good people" do? I don't think so. Brian Mertz is a lot of things, but he is hardly the victim here.

--Sue Lange
Parkville

 


The Social Security 'Ponzi Scheme'

Posted 10/11/13

EDITOR:

I just read the article by your columnist James Thomas and I must say, I was very upset.

Since I paid into Social Security, from my earnings since I was 20 years of age, and am now 72 years of age, this is money that is mine - I earned it. Now, if you are saying it is a Ponzi scheme, are you contributing to it?

As far as I know, Ponzi schemes are illegal, therefore you (and I) have been guilty of this scheme. I have not given the government permission to use my money in any way they choose; it belongs to me and was meant to help me in my "golden years" (now that's a laugh!!!) and had no say about it.

You speak of the trillions of dollars we owe. Is any of the "borrowing" of my money included in that figure? Why not?

I don't remember when it started to be "borrowed" but I think it is time to start paying it back. I don't care if you are a Republican or Democrat, which I am, but don't you think our elected officials should stand up like big boys/girls and admit they are stealing my money? Unfortunately, I am not going to hold my breath on that one.

Our country is still the best place to live in the world. However, why do we continue to give our money to countries that don't even like us, or help us in our own disasters? Katrina, Sandy, just to name a few recent disasters.

Also, why do we allow foreign countries to buy our land? We now are allowing foreign countries to buy up to 1% of our agricultural land in Missouri. I am getting off target here, can you tell I'm upset?

My husband worked for TWA and one year for American; when we were in Switzerland in the late 70's, I wanted him to bid for a job in Geneva. You know what he said? Unless you are a Swiss native (born there) you cannot own land, property, or work there (unless you are a foreman or supervisor).

I think we should do the same and keep our jobs here at home - maybe then our grandchildren won't have their money used in a Ponzi scheme.

--Sharon Aring
Platte County

 


Nothing contingent about NID debt

Posted 10/6/13

EDITOR:

One wonders just what is going on in Parkville city hall.

Last week, the board claimed that a cost estimate change by the Platte County Board of Elections caused them to do an about face and cancel a November special election. If changing the mayoral term to three years was so critical to the city's long term needs, what does a few thousand dollars matter? Instead, they stomp their feet and blame the election board for their own faulty decision process.

That was just after the same board was told that the county commission was scaling back their park plans, which also prompted foot stomping and curt words. Never mind that this board sees no problem spending over one half million dollars annually on office space when they could spend less than half that amount. Someone else should pay for Parkville's parks.

This is the same board who thinks new paint, banners and plants are going to save downtown Parkville. If they really have a vested interest in downtown, they should sell city hall and move their offices to downtown. That would generate traffic and help the downtown businesses, and allow the current property to be converted to commercial use to generate tax revenues for them to waste on something else non-essential. I would fully support a big bonus for the new city manager if she could get this done. She can prove she is worth every cent of her current salary.

This is the same board who pats themselves on the back for running a fiscally sound city. Never mind that they double count expenses in the budget, find room for that city hall cost, and have $8 million in NID debt related to west end properties on which interest continues to accrue and which interest they have never paid. Theoretically, NID debt is paid by the ultimate homeowners through assessments. However, in this case, there aren't any homeowners to assess. Parkville taxpayers are directly liable for this NID debt.

The city's recently released 2012 audited financial statements show $7,855,000 of temporary NID debt for Brush Creek and Brink Myers Road. In 2012, $548,281 was expended for these two projects, including $145,000 of capitalized interest. That amount is on top of $480,157 spent in 2011, including $245,000 of capitalized interest. The audit report states that the city is building its Emergency Reserves Fund to prepare for possible shortfalls in assessments. I specifically inquired about this debt in February 2013 and there was no indication that reserves were being held or increased for this debt. Also, at that time, there was no budget summary document as required by state statute.

The city’s June 30, 2013 semi-annual statement shows NID debt is now $9,880,000, which is the result of another refinancing. The semi-annual statement footnote states “NID debt payments are funded by special assessments on the NID properties, but may be considered a contingent liability of the City.” This footnote is in direct conflict with the audit report footnote, which states, “The faith, credit and resources of the City are irrevocably pledged for principal and interest on the notes if the assessment are inadequate to support annual debt payments.”

The debt is on the city’s balance sheet; there is nothing contingent about it. Either the board doesn’t understand what constitutes a contingent liability or this is a misrepresentation by the board.

I watched the Dec. 18, 2012 board meeting video where the budget was approved (starting at the 11:45 mark). Sean Ackerson, then interim city administrator, said the emergency reserve is a “rainy day fund…,” but made no mention of NID issues. Mayor Jim Brooks said there are some “…future issues regarding economic development incentives that may cost us a bit of money…,” but made no mention of NID issues. Alderman Jim Werner commented “for the record” that the city's budget reserve goal was typical and that “…given some of our exposure, it probably makes sense to drive that fund higher… ” and that “the city was doing as well as any city in the area.”

Perhaps the board would like to revise the 2013 budget disclosures and official statements. This debt is other than temporary and Parkville taxpayers should take notice of what appears to be an intentional failure by the board to fully disclose the facts.

Maybe we now know part of the reason for the foot stomping and the thirst for taxes. Recall that in April 2013, Parkville voted down the board's request for additional use taxes.

Oh what a tangled web is being weaved.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Area would benefit from Chapel Ridge

Posted 9/27/13

EDITOR:

The Chapel Ridge "controversy" vacillates between ludicrous and hypocritical, depending on the argument of the hour. It's probably the best example of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) activism I've ever seen. Or at least the best example of using trashy yard signs in the right-of-way to make a point.

When I was first made aware of the protest movement, I was confused on the area in question. I could not understand how anyone could hold up the K Highway corridor as some model of development. It's a convoluted mess of differing home sizes, setbacks, and angles. I'm not certain where the argument the properties are as valuable as suggested, nor that they would be harmed by adding more valuable homes nearby.

One word I would never use for the area is "rural.” The presence of trees and road kill does not constitute rural. The "rural" lots of one to three acres that the critics trumpet are silly. No one who truly appreciates conservation and wildlife would presume to think that's good land management for anyone but people. People who like to mow three acre lots.

Home lots as proposed are popular and efficient as evidenced by the many subdivisions in Platte County and the metro in general.

The proposed development is set near new roundabouts and multi-lane highways. It dumps traffic into developed retail and commercial corridors. I have a hard time thinking of a better area to develop to take advantage of the millions of dollars of improvements. What other part of the county has a better location to develop that would benefit Parkville and Platte County immediately?

It is particularly galling that an area that holds itself to be staunchly conservative (as judged by the those popular little signs) is against an economic development that brings construction jobs, families with good incomes and valuable tax revenue. But, when it affects THEM, out come the calls for government regulation and the lawyers. What happened to supporting the businessman and letting the market decide? I thought conservatives were "tired of letting government pick winners and losers"? Pot, meet kettle.

In closing, one only needs to look to the east at Clay County. Platte County has benefitted greatly in the recent decade from the decline of Clay County. Stalled residential and commercial development ran a fast growing county off the rails. Though Clay's issues are many, the rhetoric of a small, but loud, group of NIMBY's helped derail development.

There is a population in Platte County hell bent on following that failed model. I hope the political leadership in Platte County has the vision and fortitude to represent all the people of Platte County.

If not, it's a good time to invest in small yard sign sales.

--Jeff Owen
Kansas City in Platte County

 


Praise for Riverside police

Posted 9/27/13

EDITOR:

My wife and I are sure glad that the Riverside Police Department was faster in responding to our need than I was in sending this letter.

Recently, my wife and I went to Lawrence, Kan. to pick up a boat that my boss purchased. Just after we crossed over into Missouri on our way back to Bloomington, Ill., we had a blow out on the boat trailer. Being I have a heart problem and it was over 90 degrees outside, my wife wouldn’t let me change the tire.

While we were in the process of trying to figure out what we were going to do, officer Major Chris Skinrood and officer Corey Sanders showed up. They provided us with water to drink and contacted the Missouri Highway Assist Unit, which changed our tire for us at no charge.

We want to thank these officers and the State of Missouri for their assistance as I’m sure that they do not get the praise they deserve.

--Ron and Marlene Gregory
Bloomington, Ill.

 


Rezone land to way it is actually used

Posted 9/20/13

EDITOR:

On Sept. 10 the county's planning commission met and listened intently to both sides of the Chapel Ridge development. They asked pertinent questions. When it was said and done, they came to the only conclusion they could: it doesn't fit in the area as proposed.
They made the right decision for the right reason and they should be commended. The job they do is demanding and time consuming, and they are dedicated to the assignment. Everyone in this county should be grateful to the individuals who are 'on the job' overseeing the rational development of our county resources.

That said, there are some serious flaws in how our county goes about encouraging development that probably need to be examined and improved. Doing so could save a lot of people, developers and citizens alike, an awful lot of time, frustration, money, and aggravation.

When updating the land use plan in 2010, it was specifically recommended that land should be rezoned according to how it is actually used. One reason the developer claimed that Chapel Ridge was "in compliance" was that there were areas nearby that were zoned R7, and there were. But they were not adjacent and they are not developed to R7 specifications in any case.

If land is built to R80 or R25...why isn't it zoned R80 or R25? Accurately zoning the land we already have developed gives us a better picture of where 'gradual steps down' need to occur. In this way a person does not have to 'guess' at what is appropriate. We should automatically "rezone" areas that are developed to reflect how they are truly built out. It's way past time to correct existing zoning.

Second, it appears that our ordinances require developers to put together plans, like the watershed study, based on out-of-date publications. That's not fair to anyone. How is it our ordinances and requirements are behind on standards? We need to examine the process we use to ensure we keep up to date in that respect.

Third, we need our planning and zoning office to be helpful, but sometimes the most helpful thing a person can do is point out when a plan is not likely to be accepted. It was absolutely clear by the county's own published traffic shed study that K Highway is already over utilized and can, in no way, sustain the added traffic. People at the P&Z office know, or could have known this. They should have withheld recommendation of approval until the development was re-scaled accordingly.

Finally, one specific recommendation of the Platte Profile team was that developers meet with people in the area to discuss the plans. I served on that team. The intention was that neighbors and developers would iron out differences in advance, get the compromises in place, and then move forward. Instead, what happens is the developers spend all kinds of money designing their plans only to find out too late that the residents strongly oppose it.

The P&Z office needs to encourage developers to get neighbors involved early in the game.

These things just make sense.

--Sue Lange
Parkville

 


The church and the Boy Scouts

Posted 9/20/13

EDITOR:

I am responding to a article posted in last week’s Platte County Landmark entitled "Local church opposes Boy Scouts’ new policy."

“To be a ‘Boy Scout’ — even that phrase is a metaphor for all that’s good,” said Jay Mechling, an American studies professor at the University of California at Davis who wrote a history of the Scouts.

Last week I read Jon Denney’s self- serving article that he submitted regarding Mount Zion Baptist Church deciding not to renew the Boy Scout Charter after year end 2013.
I believe the article Denney submitted is a grave injustice to the local Scouting community. Mount Zion's lack of faith in, and respect for, the local Scout troop leaders is appalling.

Denney states that the church was left with no choice, but to not renew the Charter because of policy changes that the Boy Scouts of America had made. I have been made aware of several Southern Baptist Churches that have elected to renew their Boy Scout Charters. The Boy Scouts have agreed, “Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youths of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.” The Scouts continue to support abstinence and duty to God.
Yes, Mount Zion is being viewed as the big bad church that kicked the local Boy Scouts to the curb.

I am a former Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 714 and intend to re-enroll in Boy Scouts. I will not forsake or abandon them when they need help.

--Jon McLaughlin
New Market

 


A new scouting alternative

Posted 9/20/13

EDITOR:

A 6,000-member Southern Baptist church in North Carolina has announced plans to end its 60-year sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop in light of the Scouts' vote in May to admit open homosexuals to membership. So says Baptist Press. But, are they abandoning the boys? Absolutely not!

They are starting a troop with Trail Life USA. That's the new organization for “biologically male children under the age of 18.” Simply having to state that on their web site speaks volumes about our current society, but that's another editorial. Their website also states “…we affirm that any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program.” I think that's a good idea. So does the Bible.

There is much support for Trail Life USA where boys can experience outdoor adventure with degrees of advancement that will mesh very closely with what a boy may have already earned through the Scouting program. Remaining with the Scouts will tacitly promote the acceptance of homosexuality which many prefer not to support. Their goal is to be up and running by January 1, 2014 when the new Scout policy takes effect. You can learn more about Trail Life USA at www.traillifeuse.com.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


Ask questions about master plan

Posted 9/12/13

EDITOR:

Thanks to The Landmark, I found out about the Parkville visioning meeting (Downtown Master Plan) last week.

Although I adore the charms of downtown Parkville, I also believe in progress and improvements. So, I went to see how the balance of progress and preservation of the historic area might be accomplished.

I was disappointed that the topics were limited to a few items that were pre-determined by the consultants in charge, but tried to give input on the high-density housing, signage and bike trails that were on the agenda. The questions seemed to focus on the details and not the bigger-picture questions that I had.

Early in the process I asked "Who is paying for this development plan?” They wrote it down, but didn't answer the question.

On the bike trail discussion, I mentioned that I am all for bike trails, but I would have to know if someone's private property might be taken to make room for the trail. (That "concern" didn't make it onto the flip chart.) I agree that the traffic pattern in and out of downtown Parkville could be improved, but would like to know whose business may have to be declared "blighted" for that to happen.

It is very easy in Missouri to designate a building or an area as "blighted,” and it is very expensive for a property owner to fight. Definitions of blight include "any improved area within the boundaries of a redevelopment area located within the limits of a municipality in which 50% or more of the structures in the area have an age of 35 years or more." Mo Statute section 99.805 (That fits downtown) And "an area which, (has) a predominance of defective or inadequate streets..." (that may fit downtown, too)

I am NOT saying that anyone wants to or plans to declare downtown Parkville a blighted area. I would just like us to slow down, ask questions and look at what new plans for Parkville might include, and what strings might be attached. Then we can determine whether the improvements are beneficial to Parkville as a whole.

--Abby Olson
Parkville

 


Developer urges neighbors to look past emotions, look at facts

Posted 9/6/13

EDITOR:

I am the developer of the proposed Chapel Ridge single family subdivision in Southern Platte County.

For the last few weeks I have listened to and read the false rumors being spread by the opposition to my development. The opposition likes to tell people that the area will be forced to connect to sewers, costing each home owner at least $25,000; that I am putting in low income, government subsidized apartments; that Kansas City will seek to annex them, and the lies go on and on. There is fear and hatred being spread, pitting neighbors and friends against each other.

Let me set the record straight. I was born and raised in Platte County. I live, work and raise four beautiful children with my wife in this community. The same community where one of Chapel Ridge's most vocal critics and his wife take photos of my 10-year-old child while he enjoys the carnival at Parkville days. The same community where I am threatened with fist fights when the project's opponents see me in public. The community in which I have received phone threats that I will be destroyed.

This is the community I love, filled with passionate people. But don't confuse passion for hate and intimidation. What are you afraid of? Your neighbors call me and tell me they are in support of the project, but are scared of your retaliation.

The subdivision sits just north of the 45 Hwy roundabout, on K Hwy. I have volunteered to improve K Hwy. when no one else has. If I was the greedy bastard I've been called, I would do the least amount of work required. That's not the case. I am doing offsite road improvements to better the community which also support the project.

My activity has already sparked the interest of another community neighbor to ask if he can improve K Hwy in front of his land. Private investment in public improvements is for the public good.

My subdivision will give almost $1 million over its life to the Park Hill School District to reimburse it for the sewer line they are installing. It will give the same to the water district, which will help stabilize rates in its service area.

Community fishing ponds, walking trails, playgrounds, dog park, swimming pools, community garden, and more will be built. All private money, privately maintained at no cost to the county citizens living outside of this community. Isn't this what we need more of? The whole time giving millions in taxes, creating hundreds of jobs, and pumping money into our local economy with no TIF, no NIDs, CIDs, or other public funds.

Your children and the children in Chapel Ridge will go to the same school. They will be friends. They will grow up playing on the same sports teams, asking if their friend can come over after school, or spend the night. They will ride their bikes on Chapel Ridge trails, fish in its ponds, swim in its pools, explore in its woods. They will have birthday parties in its clubhouse, play on its parks, and everything else young children do. Please look past the emotions of today, and look at the facts of tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear the rezoning and preliminary plat of this subdivision.

Then after that, the county commissioners will hear it.

The process will run its course. As it does, lets try and be civil. I'm not famous… you are not paparazzi. This is Platte County, a great place to call home. Let's not soil its good name.

--Brian Mertz
Unincorporated Platte County

 


Developer has integrity

Posted 9/1/13

EDITOR:

After reading the letter from Sue Lange regarding the proposed Chapel Ridge Development in last week’s issue of The Landmark, we would like to add our perspective on Brian Mertz as a developer.

We purchased a home from Brian in April, 2012 in the Brookfield subdivision in Platte City. In the Fall of 2011, we had contacted him regarding building a home which was handicapped-accessible.

Brian gave us a couple of proposed home plans, then worked with us to modify one of the plans for our particular needs. The end-product is exactly what we wanted. It includes a no-steps entryway, no-steps garage entry, one-level main living area, and handicapped shower with wrap-around grab bar and temperature control.

All doorways are 36 inches and it is an open floor plan with no hallways.

Brian has been extremely easy to work with during and after the sale. He responds quickly to requests and is frequently seen in the neighborhood working with contractors and families. In our opinion he is a man of honesty and integrity.

We would unreservedly recommend Brian to anyone wanting to build a new home.

--Ronald and Alice Montgomery
Platte City

 


Making government leaner

Posted 9/1/13

EDITOR:

A candidate vying to be president of the United States once said: “For three long years I have been going up and down this country preaching that government – federal, state and local – costs too much….we must abolish useless offices. We must eliminate unnecessary functions of government. We must consolidate subdivisions of government and, like the private citizens, give up luxuries which we can no longer afford.”

You’ll likely be surprised to know that that man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the year was 1932. But you’ll probably agree that the prescription he offered remains the same even today. It seems that every week there’s a new story of wasteful spending, unethical behavior, or abuse of power on the part of the federal government.
One of the ways House Republicans have been working to address these activities is by passing legislation that removes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from enforcing any part of Obamacare, requires Congressional approval of regulations that cost more than $100 million, and prohibits agencies from wasting taxpayer funds on excessive and lavish conferences.

These and other bills were passed recently during the House’s “Stop Government Abuse” Week. They are part of Congress’s effort to clamp down on an out-of-control executive branch.

Additionally, the federal government simply has too many duplicative and inefficient programs. That’s why I have introduced legislation called the IMAGE Act, to force federal agencies to eliminate and consolidate these initiatives.

Just like 80 years ago, the time is ripe for the federal government to abolish useless offices, eliminate unnecessary functions, consolidate subdivisions, and give up luxuries it can no longer afford.

--Congressman Sam Graves
Sixth District

 


Mediocre test scores continue to haunt Platte County R-3 Schools

Posted 8/24/13

EDITOR:

I wanted to compliment Matthew Silber on his column in last week’s Landmark on the changes in education. Mr. Silber makes some great points as to the many different things that guide our education system other than just money and government involvement.

Any taxpayer of Platte County would be hard pressed to think it was anything other than money that drives our standards in the local Platte County R-3 school system. When was the last time you attended a meeting or read an article distributed or held by PCR3 that was not totally focused on the need for funds, future and present? A quick review of all articles I could find show almost all talk of impending doom due to the "watershed areas,” growth and the slashing of money from the state.

Of the 520 school districts in Missouri approximately 80% have a lower levy than R-3 and at least one half of all area schools have had growth comparable to ours or larger growth than Platte County. I have come to realize there will never be enough money for our education system according to the people that run (ruin?) it. I wonder at what time in the late 1900s did this mindset start? My guess is it will be closely related to the rise of the teachers union.

Any sane person can see from Mr. Silber’s column education is not just about money. If it was, things would have been corrected 30 years ago. A multitude of other factors have to be addressed from kids’ and parents’ attitudes to teachers, administrators and a sheep-like board of education.

While this current drive for money goes on by our administration, there is no detailed comment from them as to how or why our high school students are testing lower in Algebra I, Biology and English for the past four years, 22% lower in Algebra.

The last reported History scores were lower than the state average and Algebra was a whopping 10% lower. http://www.greatschools.org/missouri/platte-city/1563-Platte-County-High-School/?tab=test-scores

I would like to challenge our school leaders and board of education members to spend a little more time on education this school year and a little less on how they need more money to get their job done. Do like the rest of us and spend money on what's needed, not on what you want or whose votes you want to buy (R-3 is the largest employer in the area with raises for all employees this year).

Superintendents in most school districts have just become full time fundraisers-- that's all you hear them talking about. R-3 is no different. The political affiliation of our local school administration is not represented by red, blue or orange but by green.

If things are so bad in our district financially, with "deferred maintenance,” no classroom space and the need for new roofs as reported in the school board meetings and levy information given out by the district how is it we always seem to have the money to give large salary increases (past two years pay increases) to teachers who are already some of the highest paid in the state and highest in the area when you look at years of service? Give raises if earned but for heaven’s sake fix your buildings first and at least show me as a taxpayer our kids are getting smarter due to how you spend our money when you constantly want more.

The state mandated "Comprehensive School improvement Plan" (Pirate Pathways first) is now in its sixth year. I have read it. Among other things it has the goal of a 5% increase in some test scores per year. I found no mention of what happens if these goals are not met. I guess then you have a community meeting to discuss the Comprehensive School improvement Plan Community meetings. I do expect the next reported scores for 2013 to be better, as they cannot get much worse.

When you read things as stated in The Landmark by Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik several months ago that our "communication arts scores had the highest increase of all area schools," it sounds good but without details this could be for fifth graders and it could be we were at the bottom and could only go up. It is time for details from the district when spouting general information such as this.

While test scores for 5th graders are great to look at, I don't think a college or employer will care what my kids’ scores were seven years before they graduated.

Most citizens are not going to pay any attention until our current situation affects their pocketbooks but how long do you think that will be when it was already reported last year by the "Falling Star" and this year by The Landmark that Platte County R-3 ACT scores were in the bottom half of all area schools?

If you are looking to purchase a home in a given area a simple Google search now brings up information most home purchasers never knew before about the local school’s academics. I can tell you with the exception of a couple of schools--Siegrist and PCMS-- that search does not shine a great light on our district and no matter how much PR is put out by the district about the great atmosphere at our schools, these mediocre test numbers are going to catch up with us.

Maybe it is time we learn a little from the 1884 one room school house and use this knowledge to help run our district and teach our kids.

--Kirby Holden
Platte County

 


A $500,000 canopy at Park Hill

Posted 8/24/13

EDITOR:

I am amazed that Park Hill administrators can justify $500,000 for a canopy over the soccer stands, designed to protect soccer fans from foul balls from the baseball field.
Fans behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium are well-protected from foul balls by netting. Wasn't there a less-expensive solution than building a roof?

Wouldn't that money have been better spent on classrooms or inside the classrooms? How about supplies and salaries for teachers, or ballistic whiteboards to protect students from armed intruders?

Where was the oversight on this expenditure?

--Rich Ford
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


Chapel Ridge is about greed

Posted 8/24/13

EDITOR:

In the battle over what to allow and what not to allow in the way of development in Platte County, one thing never ceases to amaze me: the lengths someone will go to in order to convince people that they are “good guys” and “just want what's best” for others and the county, discounting completely their own benefit as though it doesn't matter.

Take the proposed Chapel Ridge subdivision for example. On several occasions the developer, Brian Mertz, has indicated his 'affordable' housing might even be great for the handicapped.

Really? Mr. Mertz, the area you propose to stuff your homes into does not support any services! It's somewhere between three and five miles to a gas station that might also qualify as a convenience store, and more than five miles from the nearest drug store, department store, or grocery store. There is no bus service to the area and no professional services in the area.

Now, don't get me wrong, we all are very satisfied with that arrangement in fact, that's why we all bought into the area. We are prepared to shoulder the burden of distance. But how did you think someone who, let's say for example has a handicap that prevents them from driving, would be able to make their home in the middle of nowhere?

I don't object to a man making a profit; I do object to the scheme of hiding behind the term “affordable” and “handicapped” in an attempt to make this look like anything other than what it is.

So how about we call this what it is? This is greed. You want to stuff as many cheap houses as you can, with as little cost to yourself as possible, where said houses don't belong, creating an area you personally would not live in. Had you wanted to live in high density housing you could have bought into any one of the neighborhoods along Barry Road. Instead, you chose to live in Weatherby Highlands. No one there would accept this subdivision you are proposing, why should we?

The proposed development would lower all the surrounding property values, impose undue traffic hardships, bring with it the demand for more stores in the area to service your home buyers, and generally wreck the countryside that so many of us were attracted to. We understand development will come to the land. We have the reasonable expectation that it will be tasteful, in keeping with surrounding properties, and not ruin the investments we've made in our homes. Chapel Ridge as proposed meets none of those criteria.

I urge the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commissioners as well as the Platte County Commissioners to see through the charade, call this for what it is: inappropriate at best, and deceitful representation at worst, and either way, vote “no.”

--Sue Lange
Parkville

 


We need congressmen to lead

Posted 8/24/13

EDITOR:

Our country is now hanging over an uncertain zone between freedom and total tyranny from an unrestrained government. While many things concern me, the most critical is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

The most intelligent among us have not been able to interpret this new law. Nancy Pelosi was partially right when she promised we'd see what's in it after it passed. We have found at least a dozen new taxes and we can see rampant fraud since the administration is not planning to verify eligibility requirements for the subsidies that kick in on 1/1/14.

Increased insurance rates and less medical care are already happening. Of course, to settle us down out here in middle America, House members campaigned on the promise that, if it passed (which it did), they could just withhold the funds to implement it and the issue would be solved.

Well, we believed them, sent them back to Washington and, now, here we are!
Article I, Sec. 7 of the US Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power of the purse; a tool our forefathers knew we'd need if a future administration overstepped their constitutional bounds. After the August recess, they will vote for or against the Continuing Resolution that funds ObamaCare.

If this is defeated, it will temporarily defund the government including ObamaCare but, only temporarily, until the president can put forth a new Continuing Resolution that does not include ObamaCare.

My congressman, Sam Graves, says he doesn't know how he will vote on this. Since no Town Hall meetings are scheduled in his most populated counties (Clay and Platte) before this vote, it is really difficult for citizens to be heard.

I mean no disrespect to Graves’ local staff but calling his office, receiving a form letter in return on an issue of such grave (no pun intended) importance, just doesn't seem to cut it right now.

This is our last chance. If this Continuing Resolution passes, we effectively guarantee socialized medicine. We will be forever stuck with a major entitlement that has zero chance of repeal. We need our congressman to lead, to fight and to stand for us.

I am asking Graves to vote NO on the Continuing Resolution.

Representation. Isn't that why we keep returning him to Washington?

--Susan Phillips
Platte County


The benefits of the tax cut bill

Posted 8/24/13

EDITOR:

As vice chairman of the ways and means committee, I was able to review HB253 and the works that went into the final bill.

I believe that the more we empower our citizens with the wealth that they work so hard for the more they will invest in our state. The more money they get to keep and spend rather then send to the state to hold for them, the more revenue we as a state will see in return.

From the time the governor vetoed our tax cut proposal on June 5 to the present day, he has traveled the state to engage in a relentless assault on the efforts of the Republicans to lower the tax burden for all Missourians.

This bill boils down to that one key issue, which I believe resonates with Missourians from all walks of life: that the people know best how to spend their money, not the government. And we want to lower their tax burden so that they get to keep more of it.

We all send our fair share to the state for operating expenses. And that's fine, however if the people had this revenue to spend we would not need to send thousands of dollars back each year to those that overpaid.

These Missourians would, for the most part, spend this windfall on everyday items and the state would have received the sales tax with no obligation to send this money back.
While the governor may want to throw out terms like reckless, it is hard to rationalize how such a term can apply to a bill that has so many safeguards in place. What he fails to mention with every new line of partisan political rhetoric he spews is that HB253 phases in our tax cuts slowly and carefully over a period of 10 years.

If we break the governor's own numbers down, we see that HB253 would give the state an additional $14.9 million dollars in FY2014. This is based on projections of an additional $7 million from the use nexus change in the bill as well as an additional $51.8 million from the tax amnesty provision.

On the other side, revenues would be decreased by $5 million with the cut to the corporate income tax rate; $20.7 million due to the individual income tax 1K deduction; and $18.2 million from business income tax 50% exclusion. In total that gives a net of nearly $15 million.

If you look at Fiscal Year 2015, and again if you use the governor's own numbers, you see that revenue would decrease by $101.5 million. But remember, we can't reach that point unless revenues increase by $100 million. So the worst case scenario, and let's be honest the governor is using worst case scenarios, would leave us at a state of being revenue neutral with this bill in year two.

If you want to rally people behind you use their children, true or not, threaten their child’s future and see what happens. We, in Jefferson City, have placed thousands of dollars over the requested figure towards our children's education. Also understand that we believe our revenues will grow at a far greater rate than the minimums required to enact each step of the tax cut.

Please understand that these efforts have been vented in committees over the past years. Then again on the house floor. Many hours of deliberation have gone into this bill.

We hold Missourians in the highest regards and know they are the best hope for our future as a state thank you.

--Galen Higdon
State Representative
District 11


Land alterations and pollution

Posted 8/16/13

EDITOR:

I am writing this letter to express my concerns with the proposed zoning change to high density for the Chapel Ridge Development. While I understand there are many immediate economic factors to be considered, there are also other factors which are not as readily apparent. The zoning change and subsequent development will have long lasting effects on many aspects of the surrounding land and should be carefully deliberated. I am presenting the following list of environmental factors which should be taken into account before a final decision is made. As a former wildlife rehabilitator, I am familiar with the impacts of continuing development on the suburban/rural fringe. These factors include land alterations and pollution.

Land alterations include the removal of non-native plants in land leveling for construction which are essential for providing wildlife habitat and managing storm water runoff. Using non-native plants for landscaping can decrease the existing biodiversity of the land. Platte County is home to both plants and animals which have been identified by the Missouri Department of Conservation as endangered. Maintaining large, open green spaces is essential to fostering a healthy, diverse population of indigenous animals. Many residents have chosen this area for the opportunity to enjoy the native wildlife. Reducing these areas forces animals into smaller habitats, where involvement with humans can be detrimental to both human and animal.

According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Parkville already ranks as No. 7 in the state for deer/car crashes based on 2011 accident data, with Platte County ranking as one of the top seven counties. All of the counties listed in this report are associated with major metropolitan areas.

The introduction of such a high density subdivision with the increased traffic would also increase various types of pollution, which include an increase in light pollution from development street lights and headlights. Many residents enjoy being able to view the night sky in Platte County by either telescope or naked eye and see more stars than are visible in the highly urban/suburban areas of the adjoining counties. Platte County is the only county in the metro which still shows areas not as affected by light pollution.

Noise pollution can have a damaging effect on the health and quality of life for all creatures. Animals depend on an acoustical environment for survival; human sound elements mask the natural environment. For humans, excess noise can cause stress and interrupt sleep patterns. This would be especially detrimental to those living near the entrances to the subdivision. This additional noise would not be due only to an increase in cars, but construction noise well as vehicles needed to maintain the population (delivery vehicles, school buses, trash trucks, etc.).

Based on the above concerns, I am requesting that the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission carefully consider the entirety of effects which this subdivision, if built as currently proposed, will incur for all residents of this area of Platte County and vote no. This choice will affect both human and animal alike. As the preceding evidence indicates, all of nature interconnects, and one change affects multiple layers, much as a stone thrown into a pond has a ripple effect. This zoning change and subdivision are the stone that is being thrown into this area of Platte County. I am sure the members of the commission are aware that once this subdivision is built it cannot be undone, and the distinctiveness of this area will be gone forever.

This is a pivotal decision to make—to turn Platte County into just another typical bedroom community as so many areas are in the surrounding metro area, or to preserve the uniqueness of Platte County as a legacy for future generations.

--Erin Meredith
Parkville

 


About the governor's veto

Posted 8/16/13

EDITOR:

The governor’s veto claims that the Second Amendment Protection Act nullifies federal firearm restrictions. That is not what the bill says.

At Section 1.320.3 the bill says that any federal restrictions which infringe on the Second Amendment are invalid.

Under the US Supreme Court’s rulings in the Heller and McDonald decisions, such restrictions are already invalid. The bill endorses this view and may be years late but does not create the Constitutional crisis claimed.

The veto also claims that the bill violates a newspaper’s right to publish the names of hunters, something which would normally require the hunter’s consent. The bill prevents mass publication of gun owner information. This has been done by some newspapers as part of a “hate your neighbor” campaign.

Gun owners have a Constitutional right to privacy which this bill protects.

--Kevin L. Jamison
Attorney at Law
Gladstone

 


Chapel Ridge good for the developer only

Posted 8/9/13

EDITOR:

The rat I smelled many years ago when Park Hill School District decided to install public sewers has reared its head finally.

There is a proposed new development called " Chapel Ridge" that will dump 378 homes on postage stamp-sized lots right next to large-lot homes. The traffic it will generate will empty from two points onto K highway and another onto 76th Street, which will then dump out onto K or cut through Country Woods estates and empty onto Hwy. 45.

I served on the Platte County Profile Committee that helped to develop the Land Use Plan, which this proposed subdivision violates on numerous counts. In the meetings to develop the land use plan, it was noted that there is no "affordable" housing in the area. Well, this development will not address that. The starting price of $280,000 on average per home, (as suggested by Brian Mertz the developer) is not "affordable" by most standards. Therefore, his development neither meets that goal, nor does it meet the standards laid out in the land use plan.

Why then is it even being recommended?

Ironically, the only "affordable" housing in the area is up and down K Highway, and those homes will be the first to get swallowed up by eminent domain when time comes to widen Hwy. 45, which thanks to this development will be very soon.

The developer, with the help of a bogus traffic study, insists that his responsibility is only to widen a small section to allow a turn lane into his subdivision. Does he think all the cars his subdivision generates are going to evaporate after they exit his development?

The travesty is this: the developer will have gotten his money and long be gone. The taxpayers will have to pay to widen K Highway road to accommodate the traffic his development caused.

But the WORST price will be paid by the homeowners on K who will lose their homes to a (by then) "condemned status" market value, which will not be enough to buy another home anywhere in most parts of our county. These people will get nothing, but they will bear the full burden of this development.

Now tell me again why this development is good for anyone but the developer?

--Sue Lange
Parkville

 


Keep the IRS out of health care

Posted 8/9/13

EDITOR:

Washington has simply gotten too big, too bloated, and too intrusive in our everyday lives. That’s why this past week, the House of Representatives passed a package of bills designed to rein in excess, punish abuse, and hold bureaucrats accountable.

Among the bills approved by the House are ones to end lavish government employee conferences, allow the IRS to fire employees who engage in political targeting, and limit the size of federal employee bonuses. Many of these commonsense bills were passed unanimously.
But the one that will have the biggest impact for you and your family is the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act. Under Obamacare, the IRS is charged with ensuring you purchase health insurance under the individual and employer mandates, and collecting a variety of new taxes included in the law.

That means the agency would have to hire new employees and have access to sensitive personal information, raising new privacy concerns given the recent scandal where employees targeted individuals and organizations based on their political beliefs.

It’s time to say “enough is enough” to the IRS. This simple, two-page bill will avert a coming disaster by preventing the agency’s involvement in the enforcing or implementing any portion of Obamacare.
The bottom line is, the IRS has already proven it is unwilling or unable to fairly enforce our laws. We don’t need an army of IRS employees subjecting you to more abuse, targeting, and harassment in your health care decisions.

--Sam Graves
Congressman
Sixth District

 


School should be politically neutral

Posted 8/1/13

EDITOR:

During my attendance at recent Platte County R-3 School Board meetings, I observed several legislative updates on the agenda. At the last meeting, the superintendent addressed several pieces of Missouri state legislation. He spoke specifically about House Bill (HB) 253 and recommended that our state representatives support Governor Nixon's veto of the bill. He told the audience they should ask their representatives to vote against over-riding the veto and encouraged attendees to contact the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association and watch for “critical alerts” to activate “grass-roots” efforts. HB 253 is the bill that cuts business and individual state income taxes and returns money to the taxpayers.

Is it proper for local officials, funded by taxpayers, to advise individuals on how they should tell their representatives to vote?

It is my understanding our schools, just like our military, should remain politically neutral in public. As a recipient of our tax-payer dollars, I believe the school district should be apolitical. Instead, it appears they are trying to use position and privilege to publicly influence school board members, teachers, parents, and even students, all who were present at the meeting.

I am not politically naive. I know the teachers unions give huge sums of money to the Democrat party and favor any and all tax increases. They love big government control and I can only imagine it is anathema to them to return taxes to the taxpayer.

I am grateful our Republican leaders in both the House and Senate instituted conservative budget controls that result in $800 million to be returned to the taxpayers. We are all living in difficult times as families struggle with higher gas and grocery bills. Many folks still do not have good jobs or are only working part-time. Every dollar counts to seniors, single moms, and people paying their mortgage or saving for college. I am happy to get a tax return and commend our state legislators.

Perhaps our schools have become so “progressive” they are no longer sensitive to the needs and sentiments of their “patrons.”

I recommend our school board no longer discuss legislative updates in their meetings, if they are unable or unwilling to give both sides of the argument. If they continue, then I insist equal time be given to a member of the community that holds the conservative or opposite point of view.

--Janet Stark
Platte City

 


Government overreach is very real

Posted 8/1/13

EDITOR:

Move along folks, nothing to see here. Trust me. I'm from the government and I'm here to help. And why shouldn't Missouri share your information about concealed carry permits? The federal Government would never target one group over another in their taxing agency. And of course you know we'd NEVER ask your phone company to access everyone's phone calls. Don't you know there are laws to protect you from things like that?

Missouri's HB 361 is one such law, signed by Governor Nixon in 2009. It makes it illegal for Missouri bureaucrats to participate in the Federal Real ID Act of 2005 thus protecting Missourians' personal, private information.

In spite of those laws, Governor Nixon's state agencies are playing free and loose with our personal data. But in hearings before a special Missouri House committee this week, state bureaucrats are claiming that it's only a coincidence that the new system they implemented is the same as the federal Real ID program.

Really?

Was it coincidence that DOR, through federal Real ID grants, purchased new "biometric" photo equipment and contracted with a group outside Missouri to prepare Missouri drivers licenses and ID cards.

And was it a coincidence that Governor Jay Nixon, in a 2010 letter, was thanked by Janet Napolitano, Director, Dept. of Homeland Security for "....comply[ing] with the Real ID act of 2005 and its implementing regulations.."?

And then we have the White River National Blueway. Governor Nixon vetoed SB 265; a bill that could have prevented implementing Agenda 21 in Missouri – an enormous federal government overreach such as the Blueway designation. But, as reported by the AP: “Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed a pair of bills that he says would have imposed new mandates on governments to solve problems that don't exist.”

Imaginary? Problems that don't exist? Sure, like Real ID wasn't a problem back in 2009.

What is this Blueway you ask? Nothing more than a 17.8 million acre federal regulatory nightmare launching a new approach to land and water use management. Nothing to see here. All imaginary problems. So imaginary that the presiding commissioners of 17 counties in the affected blueway area unanimously signed a resolution to reject the designation.

These problems are real. Government overreach is VERY real. It is the duty of our elected officials to protect our rights and secure our liberties.

Call your Missouri representative and senators today. Demand they vote to override Governor Jay Nixon's veto of SB 265.

--Todd I. Skelton
Missourians Against
Agenda 21
Lebanon, Mo.

 


Memories of the Platte County Fair

Posted 7/26/13


EDITOR:

A few weeks ago I was speaking with my brother Bud and sister-in-law Elsie Reineke about their trip out to Southwest Colorado to visit Jan and me, in September. Somehow we got off the subject and started talking about the Platte County Fair, the upcoming Sesquicentennial fair in July; then we began reminiscing about the Centennial fair in 1963.

One early memory was allowing our beard to grow to commemorate the100th Platte County Fair.

My brothers “Bud,” “Dink”, and I were employed to build homes in the new Platte Woods subdivision east of Parkville. After a couple of months, the rumor got around the construction site that we were “Amish” as our blue denim shirts and stew hats were most convincing. At that time Bud was 35, Dink, 33, and I was 20.

One memory that prevailed for me was painting a large portrait--a nude of a “hefty lady” that was hung over the bar wall at the “Dirty-Shame Saloon”...

---David Lee Reineke
Colorado

Memories from Irvin Guy Reineke

In addition to David's painting “The Face on the Bar Room Floor” was painted by Coco Babcock and Barbara Whitters; it was the first year of the “Dirty Shame Saloon.” Local musicians Charlie Horton and Tom Ode entertained us with country music.

My wife Elsie and our two sons, Ryan and Kevin, like many other fair-goers, wore dated attire; Elsie hand made a flowery long dress and bonnet. The men wore black slacks, white shirts with bow ribbon ties, suspenders and derby hats depicting the dress style of the earliest fairs.

The foremost appeal to fair-goers was the Historical Pageant portraying early settlers to the Platte County area in the early 19th century evolving to the Atomic Age. There were hundreds of Platte Countians who worked weeks in preparation for the event; building a stage, special props, and the cast working diligently on their performing parts. Moreover, several people worked back and off stage during the event creating a most professional production.

An off-stage crew probably had the most fun yet dangerous task to explode dynamite giving real affect when the atom bomb was exploded central stage. The explosion was a surprise-shock to all in the stadium. What was startling the dynamite was less than 50 feet from the stage.

I remember the grandstand seemed to move and continued to hear the old timbers cracking and popping for several seconds. Our sons were most somber for several minutes after the blast. After some time the crowd quieted down and the pageant continued. The fair attendance increased substantially each evening in anticipation of the “Atom Bomb.” .

As the family and I were observing the old steam engine a small plane came across the smoke-filled air, clouds, and blue sky; out of the plane comes a small tumbling speck. Soon a giant striped pansy flower shaped parachute opens with a dangling human attached. I though hey I'd better get a picture of this. So I took my 35 millimeter Argus out of the leather case and knelt to stabilize my trembling body and shot away taking in as many activities as possible.

After getting the photos back from Sharpe's drug store, Elsie and I were most thrilled with the images. In 2005 I showed David the 2”x3” picture; he said “let me work with that photograph.” A few months later he gave me an 11” x 14” framed photograph. By using Photoshop he was able to remove cracks, stains and restored intensity to colors. I entered the photo in the 2007 Platte County Fair artist contest and received a blue ribbon. David entered the photo in a artist contest in Cortez, Colorado and I won an honorable mention and $50 prize.

--Irvin Guy Reineke
Platte County

 


Shiloh Springs is a golf park

Posted 7/26/13

EDITOR:

Regarding Shiloh from a Platte County resident/Platte City resident/taxpayer and yes, golfer.

If we had a choice of where tax dollars went what a great world it would be. I pay taxes to the school district, I don't want to, I have no kids in the school system any longer, and when I did, it failed my daughter by not helping to protect her while she was at school forcing me to move her to another school district. Yet we understand that those taxes are to help maintain our education foundation for our community regardless of personal feelings.

In addition, my tax dollars went towards walking trails, utilized by a few in the community, mostly people walking their dogs so as to keep their own yards clean.

What about the tax dollars going to the YMCA, a community center which my guess will also be utilized by a small percentage of residents when it is all said and done.
My tax dollars going to Shiloh I view no differently than my tax dollars going to the other parks in the county, as my family and I view Shiloh as a Platte County park, our park of preference. Because that is where we play together, as a family.

On Saturday, my daughter and I decided to take a drive to check out the other parks in our county, what we discovered was:

Barry Platte Park is a sports park where you can play baseball, softball, volleyball, take a walk on the trails or play in the playground. Platte Purchase Park; same thing it is a sports park, with trails and a playground. Platte Ridge Park; sports park, playground, oh and a fishing pond. Barry Platte Park; same, a sports park.

These parks are rarely utilized except for the sport in season.

Well guess what, Shiloh is a sports park, too. And there were more people out enjoying Shiloh than at the other parks when we went there Saturday. Maybe if they added a baseball diamond, a shelter and a playground you would leave it alone. Even if they were empty and not utilized.

Yes, the clubhouse needs a face lift and has some energy issues, that to me is the worst of it. Also the food there is really, really good. Burgers are excellent.

Twelve years ago I played Shiloh for the first time and was disappointed in the fairways and the greens, they have come a long way to improve the course from what the county received when they took it over. As a tax payer I see Shiloh as the best value for my tax dollars in this county.

Shiloh golfers represent a variety of residents, kids/families/local business owners, employees from those businesses, etc. All of which pay taxes to our community.
In relation to the other comments:

·I am a hard working person with two jobs who takes time to play a round of golf like any hard working person would who plays soccer, tennis, softball, baseball, football, volleyball, etc. And I do it with my kids! Quality family time.

·Bottom line is this; most parks are NOT utilized by more than a small portion of their residents, but they serve a purpose in the community by giving options to the community.

·I don't know about the left hand comment, ridiculous, my guess is that person needs to straighten out their slice/hook.

– Micheale Hensley
Platte City

 


Home occupation permit is wrong

Posted 7/18/13

EDITOR:

Well, someone in our county is at it again.

In a nutshell, the county planning and zoning office has issued a "home occupation" permit to a family to run a lawn sprinkler and maintenance business out of their home, smack-dab in the middle of a residential area, right next to The National no less. The problem is, it's disruptive to the neighbors; there are large numbers of vehicles on the property, and there are employees coming and going. It's not what we want potential buyers to see when they enter our neighborhood, and it is not what we want to come home to after working all day. We bought large-lot houses in an area zoned residential, not commercial.

The operation is in violation of the county definition of a home occupation which states: "an occupation or profession which is clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the unit for dwelling purposes". The owners built a garage to operate out of that is larger than the home itself. They still cannot contain all their equipment within, so they have an entire fleet of vehicles that remain on the equally large drive, along with trailers and such. Obviously living there is secondary to running a business, based on the percentage of space used for each.

The county definition of a home occupation goes on to state, "...which is conducted entirely within the main or accessory building...and no external storage of materials or equipment shall be permitted." I pointed out to the director of the planning and zoning office that multiple vehicles, as well as trailers and sometimes equipment were routinely stored external to the garage. The response I got was that "if something is on a trailer, we don't consider that outside.”

To a rational mind, if a trailer is out of doors, so are the things that are on the trailer. It would have been comical if it hadn't come from someone as sharp as Daniel Erickson, director of planning and zoning, is generally known for being.

One neighbor reported the numerous cars and trucks coming and going. This neighbor was told that after a week of watching, they (P&Z) never saw all the vehicles. P&Z then stated they had run the plates (on the vehicles they supposedly never saw?) and all of them were licensed to the owners or the business.

There are two persons known to be of legal driving age in that home. There have been in various combinations, at any given time, between four and six white trucks, two black passenger pickups, a red car, a silver SUV and a dark passenger car, to name a few. Regardless of who they are licensed to, two people cannot drive more than two vehicles at a time, which means employees are operating the rest. In the letter issuing the permit to the owners, the P&Z office stated, "it is our understanding that no employees will be coming to and going from" the property. Another clear violation.

I've written to both our 1st District Commissioner (Beverlee Roper) as well as (Presiding Commissioner) Jason Brown regarding this. I never received so much as the courtesy of a reply.

Ms. Roper did presumably drive by and take pictures, but according to her it didn't look different than any place in her Weatherby Lake home. All I can say is she didn't go by when I leave for work or when I return home, or possibly Weatherby Lake has turned into a public parking lot in recent years.

Another neighbor inquired about the business, only to be told there was no business being run on the property. This was after the permit to operate a home occupation had been issued! The silly answers and excuses we've gotten so far are insulting, but I find this deliberate attempt at deception most disturbing. And all this is just a sample of the nonsense we've been given when we've asked about this 'business' that shouldn't be here.

It boils down to a homeowner, intent on avoiding the legitimate cost of doing business, running an inappropriate business out of his home instead of leasing space in a commercially zoned area. Normally planning and zoning would not allow this. In fact, one has to wonder why the county would 'favor' any business person, while making others incur the costs associated with their business.

Daniel Erickson (county planning and zoning director) has worked hard to restore a reputation of fairness and honesty to that department after his predecessor left, and he's much too smart for the excuses we've been given. One has to wonder, what is really going on here?

-- Sue Lange
Parkville

 


Make statement via postage stamp

Posted 7/18/13

EDITOR:

Just for grins and giggles, what if people concerned with their government's actions of late were to go to the post office and purchase the US Flag series of stamps.
And what if they were to affix those stamps upside down on their letters and parcels. In the language of stamps, an upside down stamp is an affirmation of love.
Under US Code, the flying of the US Flag upside down is a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. I hope people would understand I love my country but am genuinely distressed. Nahhh!!!

--Roy Hollis
Rural Platte County

 


Shiloh's flaws are beyond fixing

Posted 7/11/13

EDITOR:

This is a follow up to my letter two weeks ago regarding Shiloh Springs Golf Course's 2012 operating results. Since that time, I was able to obtain the 2005 certificate of participation (COP) debt offering documents.

Select information extracted from these 2005 documents follows:

1. The financial data shows that revenues peaked in 2001 at $1,016,000. That results in a 45.3% revenue decline to 2012. I had earlier stated that revenues peaked in 2007 for a decline of 25.8%.

2. Using the new financial data, the County sunk almost $8 million into Shiloh from 2000 to 2012.

3. Shiloh was constructed in and leased from Martin Investments in 1993 at an annual cost approximating $500,000 per year for 20 years. At the same time, the County issued $3,795,000 NID bonds, due in 2013, which were to be paid from assessments against the property.

4. The county had primary liability for the NID bonds. The offering document states, “Annual rent payments…..…included funds to pay the annual Assessments.”

5. The county had an option to purchase the property for $1,600,000 in conjunction with the repayment of the $3,795,000 NID bonds. In 2005, the county exercised that purchase option.

6. In 2005, new COP debt of $4,395,000 was issued with final payment due in 2018. In this transaction, the county, as owner, leased the property to UMB Bank, as Trustee, in a 25 year lease, for $10. UMB Bank then leased the property back to the County in a 13 year lease purchase agreement, subject to annual appropriations by the county, to pay the COP debt. The lease to UMB and the lease from UMB both terminated upon full payment of the COP debt.

7. $2,240,000 of the 2005 proceeds was used to pay off the NID bonds.

8. The COP debt was insured by Assured Guaranty, who in the event of default by Platte County, had full recourse against Platte County for all debt payments made and expenses incurred by Assured Guaranty.

9. The earliest date in which the COP debt can be paid in full is December 2015. (The county has the option to pre-refund the debt, however, current interest rates don't make that option feasible.)

10. Under the 1993 lease, the County agreed to operate the property as a public recreational facility. The 2005 COP debt covenants state, "....the County will have no obligation to operate.……..replace or renew any element or unit of the Project...........which becomes uneconomical to the county because of............change in economic or business conditions...."

11. The offering document states, "...revenues have not been adequate to provide funds to the county to pay all of the annual rent payments under the 1993 lease or to set aside reserves to pay the purchase option price. Such funds have been provided by transfers from the general fund and from funds provided from a parks sales tax approved by voters in 2000."

12. UMB purchased all of the COP debt certificates, which it could then sell in the normal course of its business.

Some questions arise from reading the documents.

·Did taxpayers have a voice in the 1993 decision to enter into the 20 year Shiloh lease or NID debt?

·What financial risk did Martin Investments have under the 1993 lease? Why were taxpayers funding the NID debt assessments to the benefit of Martin Investments?

·What provision in the 1993 lease allowed the county to avoid lease payments through 2013?

·Were Shiloh's problems vetted by the 2005 Platte County Commission prior to purchasing Shiloh?

·On what basis were parks tax funds diverted to an enterprise that should be self sustaining?

·Why was COP debt used instead of a bond offering that would require 4/7 voter approval?

·Did taxpayers have any voice in the 2005 decision?

·Why was the COP debt sold exclusively to UMB? If Platte County residents are paying the debt, why aren't they given an opportunity to purchase the bonds?

What becomes apparent when reading the COP documents is that this 2005 transaction was constructed using the same "creative financing" used by Parkville to build its new City Hall, the funding for which was being arranged at the same time and completed in 2006. This "creative financing," which uses an annual lease, subject to annual appropriations, to fund long term debt for a single purpose specialized facility may not be a literal violation of Missouri statutes, but it is certainly a violation of the intent of the statutes. Reading the offering document also reminded me of the numerous sales tax layers and debt layers heaped on Platte County taxpayers.

Absent a Missouri legislator taking on the COP statute issue, I hope Platte County voters are wising up to the financing shenanigans used by elected officials to bind taxpayers to long term debt without taxpayers having a voice. In addition, debt should always be issued with reasonable prepayment options and leases should always have termination options. To do otherwise serves only the interests of the underwriters and insiders on the other side of these transactions.

I suspect the 2005 Platte County Commission purchased Shiloh hoping the economy would correct its deficiencies. That hope now gone, the Shiloh problem is now sitting at the feet of the current county commission. They can cover their eyes and keep hoping for a miracle that isn't going to happen, which will appease select constituents, or they can properly address it by putting lime on dead rats and sealing a rat hole that has swallowed millions of Platte County taxpayer dollars. Closing Shiloh might inconvenience some golfers and it may temporarily put some staff out of work, but at some point, the county commission has to face the reality of an operation that has never made an annual profit and whose fundamental flaws are beyond fixing.

The county has no obligation to operate Shiloh. The county commission does have an obligation to use tax monies wisely. Continuing to operate Shiloh is not a wise use of tax monies. This is such an easy decision. Shut down Shiloh.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Development east of Interstate 29

Posted 7/11/13

EDITOR:

Regarding development east of I-29 along HH Highway.

Is the city getting the cart ahead of the horse? HH Highway is a narrow roadway with no shoulders. If this project should happen, what will the state require for improvement?
By the same token, the ramps at the HH interchange are not adaptable for ingress and egress of vehicles much bigger than tandem axle trucks. Sure, Pratt Trucking uses the access, but it is not a situation that requires constant ongoing usage of the Knighton Street access to HH Highway.

This issue needs to be presented to the citizens of Platte City and show that the feasibility of the project is feasible.

We know that KC Bobcat wants a larger area to continue with its business. Is this a possible method to appease them?

I am totally in favor of development east of I-29 and south of HH Highway to 92 Highway. But the city and the voters need to be in accordance with one another. Let’s not just leave the proposed development up to the mayor and the board of aldermen. Let’s not just jump into an item that could overwhelm all taxpayers in Platte City.

--Lee Roy Van Lew
Platte City

 


Close the golf course, sell the land

Posted 6/27/13

EDITOR:

Platte County Parks Director Brian Nowotny's comments in last week's Landmark regarding Shiloh Springs Golf Course's 2012 operating results caught my attention.
I highlighted the financial problems of Shiloh in a letter to the editor in the Jan. 27, 2011 edition of The Landmark.

Of Shiloh's 2012 operating loss of $333,000, Mr. Nowotny said, "It's certainly not a unique situation to Shiloh Springs to be in a negative situation and be challenged with grounds and cost recovery."

Indeed it isn't. As the manager of the parks tax fund, he knows that Shiloh is a rat hole that he and the Platte County Commission continue to throw parks tax money into despite its hopelessness.

Calling 2012 a rough patch is misleading and denying the facts. Shiloh has been operated under and financially supported by the parks tax fund since 2003. As a government enterprise fund, Shiloh should be expected to recover all costs, including capital costs, through fees and charges.

Shiloh's revenues peaked in 2007 at $749,000. Revenues have been declining since 2007 and hit an historic low of $556,000 in 2012, a 26% decline.

In the 10 years 2003 to 2012, operating expenses have averaged $858,000 and for 2012 totaled $889,000, the second highest level in this period.

Shiloh has never come close to being profitable.

The 2013 year is budgeted to lose another $308,000, which does not include the $450,000 annual debt payment. In its 10 years under the parks fund, Shiloh has consumed $6 million. No sane business person would continue to operate Shiloh.

Shiloh has been funded by every county commission. If the commissioners would read the 2009 Shiloh Springs Strategic Plan Update, it would be obvious that the golf course has flaws and deficiencies dating to its original design. That document also includes the following statement, "Because of these factors, and because ultimately, the Shiloh Springs Golf Club's golf course design will not be competitive in future golf course markets, an argument could be made that the county commission should get out of the golf business altogether."

Despite Platte County being the third highest county in per capita income in the state of Missouri, Shiloh's revenues are declining. The county commission is failing to recognize a flawed concept, that economic conditions have changed, and that the population mix isn't supporting Shiloh.

They need to accept the debt as a sunk cost and stop the bleeding. In situations like this, astute business owners adjust, mitigate damages, and preserve assets.

My recommendation in 2011 was to cease operations and sell the land. Now 30 months later, that recommendation stands. There has never been a better time to sell.
I would also recommend Mr. Nowotny be more forthcoming in any future statements.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Confederate Decoration Day

Posted 6/27/13

EDITOR:

Thank you to reporter Matthew Silber for his unbiased article in The Landmark recently about the Confederate Decoration Day at Higginsville.
We try to preserve accurate history, help present day veterans (collected last year $3,000 to send 10 vets on the Honor Flight) and provide scholarships.
We were impressed with your article.

--Karen Ptacek
Parkville


Retiring judges are praised

Posted 6/27/13

EDITOR:

I have appeared before countless judges in multiple venues. Judge Lee Hull and Judge Abe Shafer are both outstanding jurists: their judicial evaluation scores fail to tell just how excellent they both are as judges.

Platte County has been well served by their service. It is a shame that Missouri law requires their retirement when they turn age 70. I wish them both a happy and well-earned retirement.

--Miller Leonard
Golden, Colo.


IRS is a partisan organization

Posted 6/7/13

EDITOR:

It is time to get rid of 90% of the IRS and save millions of dollars in operation costs and employee salaries. Fire them all, well most of them. The organization is corrupt.

In recent days we have seen the illegal intimidation tactics used against the Tea Party, Jewish and Christian organizations, conservative businesses, and individual patriots who dare speak out against the corrupt Obama administration. Name the topic: Fast and Furious weapons to drug cartels, Black Panther voter intimidation, the Benghazi cover up, illegal seizure of AP and Fox reporter phone records, and now the IRS targeting scandal.

As they say, you just can't make this stuff up. The liberal dream of a utopia on earth collapses under the weight of human imperfection, lies, and a complete lack of leadership.

Now that we have eliminated most of the IRS, how do we get taxes? Some think a “fair tax” is the solution. The fair tax is really a consumption tax; it is a tax on the things we purchase. However, the fair tax would not remain fair. Can you imagine if liberals came to power, the tax on a solar panel would be 2%, while the tax on a handgun would be 50%? It simply would not work. There would be too many lobbyists in Washington DC lobbying for different tax rates to protect their political interests. Over time, it would completely break down.

Here is the solution ─ a flat tax. God only requires 10%, so that is all I am recommending we give the feds (plus, you still have to pay state and local taxes). The 10% tax rate should not permit any deductions, to include charitable contributions.
This allows conservative Christian pastors to finally take a stand and speak out on political issues like the liberal churches already do. You would still need a Constitutional amendment to hold the tax rate at 10%. If you did not have that, the party who loves to spend other people's money (OPM) would fight tooth and nail to get back on the path to the socialist utopia I discussed earlier. You cannot make a tax code any simpler than this.

I am not against taxes. However, I am now against the IRS; they are a partisan organization. Our federal taxes need to be spent on a strong national defense, internal security, some infrastructure, and a minimalist government like our founding fathers intended. That is what the Constitution allows.

--Mike Stark
Platte City

 


Fire department audit is a good thing

Posted 5/31/13

EDITOR:

In almost 30 years the Central Platte Fire Department has never been audited. Every government entity ought to be sifted through as a preventive measure to corruption; audits are healthy.

The audit being done at the fire department is expensive, but as a taxpayer I find it is money well spent to prevent, halt, or correct excessive spending, etc.

Other governments are audited, so why the offense to audit the fire department? I say offense because some are resentful, but that's because it was not their idea. You may know that all is well with the fire department, but it is a healthy practice in this country to prove it via the audit. Why has it taken almost 30 years to get one done?

Meanwhile, many taxpayers are so thankful to those few at the fire department for surrendering to being more transparent, more accountable, and more professional all around. You few are wise indeed.

Still, there's resistance in the area of cell phone and vehicle usage, crafting an agenda using more specific standards, having the right person craft the agenda, and behaving respectfully during meetings.

Being corrected is an opportunity to be humble. The process of correcting the fire department has not been easy, but some have chosen to self correct.

For those not so flexible, what was so good about the 20-30 year old way of doing things? It seems to have meant spending money because it is available, hiring persons or companies without bidding the job out, using the fire house to store personal items, and getting stuff.

It seems the truth about serving a city has not been told: one must be willing to be inspected now and then, to be held to the rules, and be prepared to change. Basically, "Search me, I have nothing to hide. In fact, I've done well and can prove it."

Gentlemen, because you did not correct yourselves, it is being done for you. When inspection is not your own idea, it offends greatly.

Hats off to those who are man enough to be humble and truthful.

--Kelly Goen
Platte City

 


Those darn roads

Posted 5/31/13

EDITOR:

If Platte County voters believed they solved all funding our roads and bridges problems by voting to renew the road tax, they will get a surprise.

A report by the Society of Engineers gave Missouri's roads and bridges a D-minus grade. An estimated $3.6 trillion is needed for the nation; the report condensed several pieces of data.

This report by the Society of Engineers underscores the need for serious, professional analysis of Platte County roads and bridges. The quick-fix guesstimate provided by our newly elected county commissioners appeared so easy and simple. Unfortunately, no one actually knows the precise conditions of bridges and roads; no one actually knows the county's future needs for new roads and bridges to accommodate expansion.

As a voter, I asked for a need-based infrastructure study prior to any call for road and bridge taxes. I wasn't opposed to the road tax, but I wanted facts and figures concerning present and future needs.

I do not gamble, but I'll bet within two years Platte County voters will get asked again for additional tax monies for roads and bridges

Of course, these same county commissioners and road commissioners will trot out their soft sell; they will preach their sing along, get along gospel of “trust me, follow me, because I know best.”

--Lee Valentine
Platte County

 


Cat-egorically denied

Posted 5/23/13

EDITOR:

Re: “Cats back in the news . . . call it irony . . .”

No, call your editorial BS. I own the building located at 355 Main Street in Platte City and occupied it for years as my law office until I mostly retired, then leased the building to a construction company.

Yes, I have an empathy for cats and maintain a sanctuary for cats that are considered to be “unadoptable” where they are not cooped up in a cage and receive care and attention for the duration of their life. Cats never occupied my building and the construction company did not maintain cats on the premises either.

A friend of mine called and asked if I had read your editorial, which I had not as I don’t take The Landmark because of your news “reporting” and editorials such as this one. Being concerned of the allegation of an odor in the building, I called Chief Carl Mitchell, who assured me that there is no odor in the building and no one from his department has indicated that there is an odor of any kind.

Chief Mitchell took your editorial as a humorous jab at him. I don’t. Get your facts straight before you commit your musings to print.

--M. A. THALMAN
Gower

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Landmark stands purrfectly behind Between the Lines musings and meowsings. Thanks for reading/not reading/reading while pretending you’re not reading.)

 


School's information is incorrect

Posted 5/23/13

EDITOR:

Three weeks ago a Platte County newspaper, which was not The Landmark, ran a front page article on Platte County R-3 with some incorrect information in it on district finances. A letter to the editor was sent to that paper--and then later after the letter did not run--an email with contact information as to where the correct information could be verified, DESE, MH&EFA and Greg Bricker the George K Baum employee who presented the information at the meeting which the article was based on.

That other paper has yet to run the letter or any retraction of the information by the district or the paper. It appears the school district is given free rein to publish anything they want without the information being verified by that paper.

Clearly if you want unbiased, fact-based coverage of anything related to Platte County R-3, you will need to read The Landmark to get it.

I read the statement below at the last board of education meeting last week.

Dear School Board Members

“As you are aware over the last month several items have been pointed out on the website PlattecountyR3facts.com that show misleading or false information that has been given to the Platte County Tax payers over the last several years through meetings, school flyers the media and as recently as the CAC meeting April 29.
These items include:

1, Wrong information listed on 2012 school "annual report" showing Schoolmatch award information. 29 schools instead of 2.437 listed as having received this award nationally.

2, Schoolmatch criteria changed on the District website from actual criteria used by Schoolmatch "not so rigorous as to intimidate their children" changed to "Competitive in academic test scores and academically solid".

3, Bond rating information: "Only 15 as good as or better" used in all speeches and given to all media outlets is wrong. This has led the taxpayers of the district to believe that Platte R3 is one of the top 15 financially managed districts in the state when in fact it is not.

4, Teacher pay in information supplied as recently as last week is listed as $51,235 when this is the Scale pay from 2011-12 school year and the raise for this year is not included or clarified.

5, PCMS and Barry are recognized on the district website as having been recognized as being in the "Top Ten Highest Performing Schools in the State". This is an old award from seven years ago and needs to be removed or clarified so that residents will know that the award is not current to the schools now and in fact no longer exist.

6, From the district website and literature "The Platte County School District prides itself on High Academic expectations and results" High Expectations cannot be argued with, but results is used in conjunction with an award that more than 50% of all other school districts receive. According to Webster's definition of "high" this does not put you "above all others" and so High Results should not be used until the district is able to raise its academics at all schools or just report the schools in the district that do meet High or Lofty academic standards.

7, From School website under "choose our district" The R-3 Schools have achieved the highest honor of academic distinction in the state of Missouri by earning the classification of "High Performing District" since inception. Platte County R-3 has repeatedly received a perfect 14 out of 14 score on the Annual Performance Report by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education. The district is proud of excellent facilities and the opportunities for students as a result of "strong voter approval" on bond issues, the most recent being in 2008 for $7.95 million dollars. The district's reputation continues to grow as one of the best school districts in the state as evidenced by its recognition for outstanding student performances, exceptional leadership including board, administration and staff honors, and the wonderful support of a caring.. . Several things wrong with this, "repeatedly" received 14 out of 14. "facilities" (trailers, rising star?) and Last levy not mentioned under "strong voter approval.”

Your own surveys show that 82% of people get their information from the Internet on the district, along with 70% from district newsletters. This alone should tell you how important it is that the information is kept up and is correct.

At the last CAC meeting when asked informally if the "Top Ten" information could be corrected on the website Dr. Reik stated "I don't even know where that is at on our website and if I did we just don't have the manpower to correct all of the old information and keep the website up to date" I could understand this except when Dr. Martin left last year the district managed to erase every trace of his existence in Platte County almost immediately. From the comment by Dr. Reik compared to the actions it looks as if the District has the ability to react to negative information almost immediately but cannot do the same when the information makes the district look good but is incorrect.

Many people make financial decisions based off of the information listed by district websites and mailers, right now someone could be trying to decide if they should move into the Park Hill District or Platte R3 due to the education they want their kids to have. The information listed above could be what leads them to possibly make the wrong decision. From the information put out by the Platte R3 district you would think that we are financially in better shape than almost all districts, have academic test scores in line with all of the best schools and have received many coveted awards for this. You make it public how happy with the districts parents are with the district parent surveys but I do not see the same information immediately made public when the student surveys come back poorly on a school or teachers.

Please consider this the formal request to change the information above. You will also be receiving a certified letter at the district office listing the same. I hope that within two weeks a press release is issued to the papers listing the items that have been incorrectly reported in the papers due to the districts information. The district website should also be updated to show the retraction of information or clarification of what is listed that is incorrect. I expect the same enthusiasm should be given to getting the correct information out as was given to giving out the wrong information.

No matter who provided you the information listed above ultimately it is the districts responsibility to verify and see that it is correct before using it to promote itself, so blaming this wrong information on others or acting like it is insignificant will not be acceptable.

While I am personally very unhappy with how the "Distinction in Performance" award is portrayed by the district you have pushed it to the limits as to making it into something it clearly is not but you have not yet used it in a way that is totally untrue. If you want to continue to promote it, I would hope you would at least list the amount of schools that receive it as other districts do so people realize it is not an exclusive award as the district leads you to believe.”

If you have been to any of the community meetings you would have heard how maintenance on our schools has been delayed due to budget problems, ACT scores are staying about the same as they have for the past 8 years and one of the worst items was the student survey from last fall showing : (2,449 Respondents)

Only 39% of Students in HS think there is "good communication between teachers and students,” a drop of 20% from middle school.

Only 29% think " teachers connect what students are learning to my world.” A drop of 27% from middle school.

Only 37% think "my teacher tries to meet my individual needs as a learner" a drop of 24% from middle school.

Only 50% think "teachers in my school care about me" a drop from 78% in middle school.

Parent surveys are great and that is what we hear the most about but the difference between what the students think and what the parents and teachers think is large. Teachers are at 90% (strongly agree) on "I routinely differentiate instruction to meet the needs of individual students.” Compare that to the students responses.

If you are trusting all of the local papers to give you the correct information on our school district, you may not be getting all of the information, only what the district wants you to see. A good example would be the much publicized "watershed district.”

If you want to see actual growth numbers, go to the growth page on PlattecountyR3facts.com and look at the numbers and website links.

--Kirby Holden
Platte County

 


The superintendent's salary hike

Posted 5/17/13

EDITOR:

In the May 8th, 2013, Landmark, the front page story revealing the Park Hill School District superintendent’s renegotiated contract with a year extension, including an 11% raise, grabbed my attention. The board of education is going right down the same path taken during Dennis Fisher’s seven year tenure.

This new deal with Scott Springston bothers me for several reasons, the first of which is when hired, he and the current board agreed to terms based on a three year contract. What has changed over the last 12 months justifying he gets that significant of a raise? From my perspective, nothing.

As a parent of a child in the district, it does not appear anything really changed other than the names of administrators filling positions. Dr. Springston says he is working to make the district more transparent. As you highlighted in your between the lines column of the same issue, there were challenges in getting the information needed to write the article. Such a struggle to gain information does not sound like more transparency. I have also not seen any change as to what is happening in the classroom, other than a push to the horrendous Common Core State Standards, but that is another issue.

The second reason the new deal bothers me is Springston is getting an 11% raise. My question here is how much of a raise are the teachers and other classroom personnel receiving? I was not able to find this information, but I am confident it is nowhere near 11%. In addition, I do not know of anyone working in the private sector who got anywhere even close to an 11% raise.

The third item bothering me is the high raise reveals the board of education is not acting in a manner consistent with effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. If the board is willing to give the superintendent such a significant raise after less than one year of service, what else are they willing to spend money on that does not affect the quality of education our students receive?

Administrative spending does not improve learning and retention in the classroom and does not help to prepare students for either college or career.

It is important to remember that we, the taxpayers, are the ones who will pay this additional $32,829 next year without seeing any improvements in the level of education our students receive. It is time to run our school district in a fiscally efficient and effective way, while providing our students a world class education. The goal of education must be to ensure we are doing what is necessary to prepare our students for a successful future.

--Josh Blackman
Platte County

 


Praise for Graves' editorial

Posted 5/17/13

EDITOR:

I am a small business owner living in Maryland and a former Platte County resident (Platte County High School graduate, Class of 1960).

As the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, becomes the law of the land in annual incremental steps, there have been a lot of newspaper articles and discussions here in the Washington, D.C. media.

Of note is the concern about “affordability” as expressed by two retiring senators who previously supported the law. Both Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-WV) are backing off their support. Baucus calls it a “huge train wreck” coming in the implementation and Rockefeller said the law is “beyond comprehension.”

Probably the best summary editorial commentary I have read lately in the local media was written by your Missouri Rep. Sam Graves. You can find it at WashingtonTimes.com where it was printed yesterday. Rep. Graves summarizes the various discussions I have seen and also the ones mentioned above. The federal government is about to spend millions on a “PR campaign” to inform all of us citizens of the value of the law.

You do well in Missouri to have such an articulate and candid representative in Congress. Rep. Graves is a frequent contributor of editorials. I only wish that my local Maryland representative had such concern for the affordability by both small businesses and individual citizens.

--David R. Gust
Major General
U.S. Army Retired
Brookeville, MD

 


Kudos to county law enforcement

Posted 5/17/13

EDITOR:

In 2006 after 16-years of employment I left the Platte County Sheriff’s Department to further my career in the private sector. I often read up on Platte County events, as I still consider it my home.

Since Sheriff Mark Owen’s election recently, his office has successfully made a significant narcotic trafficking seizure and now the safe capture of two escaped inmates. Work like this takes a great deal of skill and teamwork.

It’s worth noting that when Sheriff Owen was a deputy, he was involved in the arrest of an escaped inmate from the US Penitentiary in Leavenworth.

Congratulations to the deputies of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office and other assisting police agencies. I look forward to hearing more of your successes in the future.

--Kevin Anderson
Galveston, Tex.

 


R-3's claims not always accurate

Posted 5/10/13

EDITOR:

Last week at the Citizens Advisory Council meeting, Greg Bricker from George K. Baum (the district’s bond consultant) attended and let the participants know that Platte County R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik had been giving out the wrong information on how many schools have an AA bond rating or better. Bricker said this was due to his supplying the wrong information to the district.

Dr. Reik and the district have been reporting that "only 15 schools have as good as or a better rating than the Platte County R-3 school district.” Mr. Bricker confirmed at the meeting that schools that use the Missouri Direct Deposit program all have a better rating than Platte R-3.

The direct deposit program used to allow the districts to not pay the "cost of issuance" or pay the up to 2% cost of the bond amount for the rating. The state picked up this amount, which is the reason a lot have used it. Currently the cost for the rating is still paid for by the state and if you go through the program you are guaranteed an AA+ rating, better than the AA rating Platte County currently has.

I spoke with the MH&EFA (Missouri Health and Education Financial Authority) this week and was told that in the past two years 319 school districts have used this program, 170 three years ago.

At the meeting, Mr. Bricker also told us that four schools as mentioned on Plattecountyr3facts.com have a AAA rating along with 15 schools that have an AA rating or better. So instead of 15 districts having the same or better rating as the district has told us, the number is actually over 350 (out of about 520).

The Missouri direct deposit program does not always mean you have a district with bond rating problems, districts use it for several different reasons not the least being you get an AA+ bond rating which comes with a lower interest rate.

Secondly, the only fact disputed so far on the website Plattecountyr3facts.com by the district has been the tax levy information. If you did not know it, the amount a taxpayer pays to support his district not only comes from the local levy but also from several sources, including the sales tax that sends money back to the districts under Proposition C.

R-3’s current tax ceiling is 3.8903 with the .9600 debt (previous capital bonds) service added in it takes R-3’s Unadjusted Tax rate to 4.8503 with 4.5288 being the adjusted tax rate. This is the number the district puts on its literature. Prop C tax dollars make up the difference between the two (.3215).

If we roll back "waiver" the Prop C dollars in an election the district, can charge up to the tax rate ceiling of 3.8903 plus the .9600 debt ceiling (previous capital bonds), the district will still get the Prop C dollars and it will be a "voluntary rollback" should they decide to not use the full amount to the ceiling.

This is complicated, but as a taxpayer you are currently paying more than the 4.52 levy reported by the district in taxes to support your district, that is if you ever purchase anything in the state of Missouri.

A quick check shows that very few districts are doing a voluntary rollback but are using the full amount to the ceiling and keeping the Prop C dollars. 445 districts in Missouri currently have a full waiver of Prop C, 40 partial and 35 with no waiver, including Platte County R-3.

Of 14 local Missouri schools, Platte R-3 has the highest debt per student of $20,765. The next closest is Liberty with $14,662 the lowest was Belton with $8,736. Over $891 dollars per student per year goes to just pay the interest on our debt in Platte R-3.

Plattecountyr3facts.com will be adjusted accordingly to show this information.
If you want to check some facts about the district, here are a couple. I received a flyer from the district saying that Platte R-3 school district "was recognized as one of only 29 school districts to receive the What Parents Want Award from SchoolMatch, a national firm specializing in rating K-12 schools by using auditable data."

This led me to believe we were one of 29 schools in the nation to receive this award, that's what it says. Here is the truth about this award: More than 2,400 schools received this award nationally and the criteria for the award has even been "adjusted" on our website compared to what it says on SchoolMatch.com to make it sound better.

When the district reports it has two middle schools both recognized for being in the "Top Ten Highest performing schools in the state relative to MAP scores" as they do under "Awards and Recognition” on the district website, this led me to believe we had two of the top ten middle schools in the state "currently.” That's what it says and that would be correct if this was 2006 and then it would be stretching it a little, since Barry was from earlier in the century.

Dr. Reik made the statement at the CAC meeting that the district does not have the manpower to keep the website up to date. We do have the manpower to change the "Distinction in Performance" award (over 300 schools get this one) every year, which is two lines above this statement on the website.

I think it is time we realize as we move forward the information we are being given by our local school district needs to be verified and looked at a little closer.

--Kirby Holden
Platte County
plattecountyr3facts.com

 


Gays and the Boy Scouts

Posted 5/2/13

EDITOR:

Calling all Scout leaders and national representatives.

If anyone is listening in Scouting, how do "morally straight" and any form of open homosexually have a scintilla of compatibility? Please overwhelmingly vote down this outrageous proposal to allow openly gay Scouts into the program.

You MIGHT gain some donors but you will lose the Scouting program and most loyal Scouting parents. Please be circumspect and logical.

Homosexuals are less than 2% of the population. If you pass this proposal you are contributing to and accelerating the loss of family values in a time when they need to be strengthened, not dismantled.

You have already won this battle in court. Don't let political correctness blind you.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


 Get our state out of Common Core

Posted 5/2/13

EDITOR:

A few weeks ago in the Platte County Treasures, a school district flier sent out by Platte County R-3, an interesting article appeared entitled Common Core State Standards or CCSS. It would be beneficial for all parents with children and educators in our public school system to begin doing some research on this agenda.

This is what I am discovering: CCSS is an effort to create a national curriculum immersed in social justice concepts that has its roots in international education systems. I believe it's a stealth take-over of our schools and a “one size fits all” approach to education. If you have ever heard of the retired University of Chicago education professor and unrepentant Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers of 1960s infamy, you will find him a leading advocate of this concept. If Bill Ayers supports CCSS, should you?
I understand the benefits of standardization as a former career soldier. Standardization can be a good thing for the right reasons. The problem with standardization of education for children lies not in how the information is presented but what information is presented and who selects the materials to be taught. CCSS takes most of that authority away from the states and local school boards and gives it to the federal government aligned with private associations and non-profit progressive organizations in Washington, D.C. which developed the standards. Over time, each state will give up control of their curriculums.

The federal government used $4.3 billion of stimulus money in 2009 to reward states who were most committed to the CCSS agenda; but they failed to give states, their legislatures, and their citizens' time to evaluate the CCSS before having to commit to them. Many states succumbed to the arm twisting in order to receive Race to the Top grant money.

The exact costs to implement CCSS are unknown, but the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates it to be around $389 million; it could be higher. Another major concern is the amount of personal student data collected for any non-educational purposes without the prior written consent of an adult student or the student's parents. The intent is to maintain data on all students from kindergarten through college, at the federal level.

The research I have done to date shows that some of the CCSS reading materials have an anti-Christian tone and discuss subjects like: social justice, environmental justice, multi-culturalism, and Darwinism, all elements of the today's progressive liberal agenda. Will equal time be given to readings that conservatives would support like: the Christian foundations of our country, capitalism, using our God-given natural resources wisely, American exceptionalism, and intelligent design? Other questions we need to ask are how this affects families who want to home school and how will it affect our private Christian schools?

I would encourage everyone to contact your state legislators and let them know you are very concerned about the path we are on. I want them to support legislation to get our state out of the Common Core. Explain to them you want local control with no further federal intrusion into Missouri education. No where in the U.S. Constitution does it say the federal government should or can be involved in education.

A battle is brewing for the minds of our children. That battle has been on-going since the mid-1960s, but it is intensifying. Our children are not common. I intend to continue my research into CCSS because this agenda appears to teach our children WHAT to think and not HOW to think.

--Mike Stark
Platte City

 


Analyzing the Park Hill outcome

Posted 4/12/13

EDITOR:

The dynamics of the recent Park Hill Board of Education election symbolizes why I love my country and I am willing to die for her.

(If you’re not interested in my analysis or gloating please move on to another page.)
Specifically, I am honoring the First Amendment and I am praising Mr. Edward Stephens. Mr. Stephens is an avowed white supremacist. I consider Mr. Stephens to be my "frienemy.” He is bright, articulate, with exceptional speaking ability, possesses a post graduate degree, is well-dressed and manicured, and dedicated to his belief system. More than I can say for some. Over the last year he and I have met and communicated by phone.

The feeling of mutual respect and willingness for both of us to listen and consider our positions was refreshing. He and I are on the extreme opposite poles of political thinking yet he and others like him are essential for me to affirm my beliefs and ensure I am not entwined in “group think.”

There was one conversation we had in which he inferred he would consider my suggestions for his success in the April school board race. My answer was to the point “apologize publicly” and “win redemption from the voter.” His answer was “I can’t and I won’t.”

Add courage to his resume. The first time he ran he was shredded to bits in the media and the administration at the time began to show signs of balding and stress at the prospect of his candidacy. In April 2012 he gathered just over 280 votes from 5,000 cast. At the time I had fun doing the post mortem analysis in terms of where his votes came from. The answer? Na. Ain’t going to tell you. However, the lion’s share of his votes in 2012 did not come from where you think. They came from the upscale parts of the district--you know, where the educated and the deer and the antelope play.

This time in 2013 he tripled the number. God bless him. Here’s my point. What blessings do we deserve after being born in a country where Mr. Stephens can participate in the discussion of the people’s business in the public square and where the people he is talking to can say no? ALL WITHOUT A SHOT FIRED!

The most distasteful part of my experience on the Park Hill Board of Education was perhaps the intolerance, unwillingness and the inability to listen and integrate an opposing view. The foundation of that era was built on sand and the result was what you saw April 2, 2013.

So, Mr. Stephens, this is your "frienemy" Mr. Sanchez congratulating you on participating in America and what she is all about. Free speech, tolerance, understanding, discussion not argument and a freedom to tell you “you’re wrong.” You see, the Constitution has more cheese than holes.

Side bar: Can’t help it! Regarding the board of education race. The decision rendered upon the detractors and critics of the recent and current board was not provided by me… {A ranting, vindictive, tax and spend liberal, long haired narcissistic show boat, line creek loudmouth, Hispanic know-it-all and former school board member}. The coup de grace was from the ultimate authority, the voter.

Their message was loud and clear. Nothing was close. No horse shoes or hand grenades. No question. The win was decisive, authoritative, and overwhelming in each and every race.

--Fred J. Sanchez
Platte County
Former Park Hill
School Board member


Bureaucrats want to keep the money

Posted 4/12/13

EDITOR:

Getting a majority of Platte County voters to go for that road tax renewal wasn’t too surprising. What was quite surprising was our newly elected county commissioners not requiring a 2013 Impact Study. What they and voters bought were paid bureaucrats wanting to keep undefined tax money to spend ad hoc.

In 1893, a cowboy named Clark Stanley, who called himself “The Rattlesnake King,” sold a Snake Oil Liniment that was reputedly “good for man and beast.” To me, that pitch sounds similar to various Platte County officials saying, “Just pass it. We’ll spend the tax money wisely.”

Wonder if the voters really knew everything inside the road tax package, such as there was a $20 million bond deal in their “yes” vote?

Did voters believe this renewal of the road tax is a cure-all elixir so no future projects can ask for more tax monies?

-Lee Valentine
Platte County

 


Miffed about North Platte mistake

Posted 4/4/13

EDITOR:

As a parent and former teacher of North Platte R-1 School District, I recently read through the district boxholder newsletter which is published periodically throughout the year. The most recent edition of this newsletter highlights the candidates seeking a position for the school board.

The honor roll for the junior high and high school is also published in this edition, and I am writing this letter to the editor to express my dissatisfaction, as many members of the freshman class were not included on this list of honor roll students.

Some might think this is trivial and a minor oversight, however this is the tip of the iceberg of incidents demonstrating a lack of professionalism within many avenues of the North Platte administration. We boast many exceptional teachers in the district, however, the lack of proofreading oversight for this mistake is inexcusable. The administration and the staff expect nothing but perfection from the students, yet when an oversight of this magnitude is noticed, the administration simply asks the parents to simply forgive the oversight as they are overworked, stretched to extremes, or it was probably a technical error…the excuses are always numerous and always expected to be forgiven, yet when a student makes mistakes major steps of discipline must be executed and the student’s grade suffers significantly.

This isn't the first time an oversight of this magnitude has been noted in our family. This is the second or third time our son's name has been omitted from the honor roll and his picture, along with several of his classmates, was also omitted from the yearbook. I will note their principal at the time worked diligently with the yearbook publisher to correct this, however it shouldn't have occurred if the yearbook had been properly proofed.
My question to the North Platte administration is simply, who is in charge of proofreading articles before they are printed and who is in charge of proofing the yearbook before it goes to press?

I truly hope the administration (the superintendent and the school board members, since this publication came from their office) will do nothing less than send a personal letter of apology to each of the students whose names were omitted from this honor roll, and write a formal letter of apology to be published in the local papers. These students are diligent in their work and so few are equally rewarded for their efforts. To see this as a minor oversight is inexcusable.

Many other issues or simple oversights in our district have silently gone by the way side, however as a parent of a member of the Academic Bowl team I feel more staff and administration should/could represent the district during these events. The knowledge of these students is impressive, however goes completely unnoticed. For the first time ever the Academic Bowl team and the FBLA chapter hosted the first annual trivia night for North Platte. The students were excited about the event and had planned the event since late November. The group was asked to take a back seat to the girls basketball team due to unforeseen events of the weather, their district playoff game being rescheduled for the same night as the planned Trivia night, and the administration postponed the Trivia night for a week later. I will say the night was well attended, however the Academic Bowl kids don't get the respect they should. As we travel to other schools for these events, there are typically many administrative type personnel in attendance of the event, however, no tie/suit wearing administrators at North Platte.

I have had the pleasure of visiting with the high school principal concerning the omission of the honor roll names and he has corrected this issue on the school's web site. Thank you for this. I have also been in contact with the superintendent via email, and he will get back with me once he has had a chance to visit with the staff involved. Hopefully this oversight will be corrected in a professional manner.

I for one wish to congratulate all the students making the honor roll distinction, and those whose names were omitted: Andrew Roberts Offutt, Callie Pataluna, Kailey Pike, Abigail Poepping, Austin Reynolds, Hanna Rice, Blake Smith, Kaleb Tolbert, Sydney Wagle, Brock Wenzel.

Thank you.

--Becky Wenzel
North Platte Parent

 


A burden on free speech

Posted 4/4/13

EDITOR:

One of the primary charges of a state legislator is to support the Constitution and, thus, the First Amendment rights of his or her citizens. That is why the legislature’s interest in protecting the paychecks of public employees is heartening.

Currently many of Missouri’s unionized public employees have to “opt-out” of having dues removed from their paychecks that would be used for union political activities – activities with which many employees may disagree. Yet, these free speech dollars should presumptively be the employee’s, not the union’s. The present system has this backwards.

A modest reform that would allow employees to instead opt into directly paying for union political activities would be a wise one. Let employees donate to political causes as they see fit, and let unions compete for those dollars like everyone else.

--Patrick Ishmael
Policy Analyst
Show-Me Institute

St. Louis, MO

 


Let the road sales tax expire

Posted 3/29/13

EDITOR:

Platte County citizens are being asked to renew a 3/8 cent sales tax for roads this coming Tuesday, April 2.

This is a tax that can and should be left to expire so as to make financial room for citizens to pay for the more immediate needs facing the county and frankly, to pay off county debt. The 3/8 cent roads tax also does not deserve to be renewed nor do the agencies at the county level deserve to win our renewed support. This sales tax is charged to and collected on all citizens of Platte County as well as welcome outsiders doing business in our county, yet, not all of the county benefits from this tax.

Unincorporated southern Platte County does not receive any revenue from the roads sales tax. That of itself is unfair and a good reason to vote no on Tuesday. Another great reason to vote no is that the county commissioners who voted affirmative to place the tax on the ballot either don't have facts straight or refuse to let truth and facts stand in the way of an agenda. According to our very own county treasurer's records, 50% of the 3/8% road tax revenues are distributed to Road District #1, Farley and Weston Special Road Districts and "Other County Projects.” In fact, two-thirds of that 50% go to "Other County Projects.” Interesting to lump almost $2 million per year into a generic fund.

The other 50% of the 3/8 cent road sales tax goes to municipalities within our county, with $1.7 million going to Kansas City out of the $2.6 million collected in 2012.

Following Kansas City, the largest benefactors are Parkville with just $200,000 in 2012 of that $2.6 million, Platte City got $196,000 and Riverside got $151,000 (what is the gambling tax revenue paying for??).

Understandably, Parkville and Platte City would love to see the tax renewed as would all our county municipalities. And coincidentally, Weatherby Lake stands to lose nearly a $100,000 per year in roads money if the tax is not renewed. Surely there is not a conflict with Commissioner Roper to make sure her neighborhood maintains this revenue, is there? The same could be said for Commissioners Soper and Brown as Platte City municipality receives over $150,000 annually via the tax. Though to be fair, I believe Commissioner Brown voted against renewing the tax as proposed.

Who doesn't benefit from the sales tax? Parkville and Platte City Special Road Districts, that's who. In these districts, money levied on our property taxes goes to operate and maintain our roads in these two districts. This is the way taxation should work - tax only those who receive the benefit of the tax revenue.

The Parkville Special Road District is renowned for excellent roads, excellent maintenance and superb winter weather policies and operation. Our district is one locally controlled governmental agency that works. Let's examine the county's record with respect to promises made to roads and infrastructure. In 2002 when the road tax was proposed, many in the outlying county were promised that with their support, roads would be paved. In the corridor north of Hwy 152 and I-435 these promises were ignored until those citizens demanded the promises be fulfilled. But even now, once these citizens leave the roads maintained by Parkville Special Road District as they drive north, they soon realize how pitiful and negligent the county behaves with the lack of good roads and winter weather conditions. Thus, the reward of renewing the tax is undeserved. The citizens need to be able to reserve that money to pay for the unfunded mandate of $10 million dollars worth of new public safety radios that the commission has kicked to this administration to resolve and pay for starting this year.

Further, the radio issue will not magically be permanently resolved after 10 years but we, you and I, will have to tax ourselves to pay for another 10 years and another 10 years after that and so on. There is also the matter of our jail being filled to near capacity as our county grows and the surrounding urban metro area discovers quiet Platte County as a target for crime and finds we convict and put away our perpetrators. The solution here is not to tax the entire county but only enforce collection in the jurisdictions which benefit from a 3/8 cent sales tax for roads or better yet, defeat the overall county sales tax this Tuesday, April 2 and let each benefitting entity put a 3/8 cent sales tax on their ballots in November of 2014 to provide their infrastructure revenue.

We must in this country change the ideology to tax everyone else so that a small entity can play "keep up with the Joneses" but return to the sustainable fact of "if YOU want it, YOU pay for it.”

Vote NO to renew the 3/8 cent sales tax for roads and vote NO for any new bonds. The county needs to become debt free and with discipline and proper fiduciary governance, can operate with cash on the revenues it now generates.

--Russ Wojtkiewicz
Southern Platte County

 


Vote no on new taxes and bond issues

Posted 3/29/13

EDITOR:

In the last couple of weeks, I have talked to a lot of people about our tax situation in Platte County.

In discussing this subject with both residents and business owners, I have found only one person who is in favor of continuing the roads tax. Patrons want to know the planned use for this money.

One bridge in Edgerton, the Clark Avenue Bridge, needs to be repaired desperately or the road will be closed. My question is why aren't they doing this project right now? The rest of the road planning is a wish list for "super roads" and putting more money into road districts that were already doing well without the special tax.

How many of us would like a multi-million dollar savings account to use as the desire moves us?

VOTE NO ON NEW TAXES AND BOND ISSUES.

--Barbara Carney
Platte County

 


A desire for better planning

Posted 3/29/13

EDITOR:

Platte County has experienced a phenomenal growth in the last two decades and as a result, our roads and bridges have not been able to keep up. Thus the backbone of our plan was “improvement" not “maintenance.” I have seen wonderful improvements throughout the entire county from bridges to intersections to roads.

I believe all of the taxing districts that received funds have done a wonderful job with the extra taxes they received from our transportation plan. Kansas City receives the most revenue because of its population in our county and has constructed improvements in our county that would not have been possible other wise i.e.: Barry Road & I-29. The county has a mechanism in place to monitor and track improvements and expenditures, and citizens can actually see and use the improvement.

I am opposed to using any of the new taxes for “maintenance.” Why: Tracking the funds. Every taxing district already has a revenue stream for operating their roads but lack revenue for improvements. Monitoring and tracking maintenance expenses is almost impossible. Can you imagine if we gave $16 million to Kansas City for maintenance?

The commission (Knight, Short & Wegner) spent two years developing the Roads Transportation Plan. We meet with the school districts, road districts, cities and several civic organizations to get their input. We held two public meetings to gather citizen concerns and improvement wishes. The main work was done by a task force of citizens to help guide the details that we would present to the citizens. As a result we were able to present a concise plan that had accountability built into its structure. When the plan was completed, the commission voted unanimously to accept the plan and recorded the plan for all the public to read.

The lack of planning should be laid at the feet of the previous commission. They were either lazy or did not wish to put a new plan together to present to the voting public. We desire better planning.

--Steve Wegner
Platte City

 


Connecting the dots in Park Hill races

Posted 3/29/13

EDITOR:

“Its' called a campaign for a reason, its war!”

Connecting the dots between former Park Hill School District Superintendents Fisher/Carruth et.al and past and current elections is extremely difficult.

Try nabbing a drug lord in the middle of a drug deal; it's impossible. That's why they are drug lords; they're smarter than the average drug dealer.

We know a particular leader is involved in anything by inference, popularity, resources, history, logic, modis operandi and Deep Throat clandestine “off the record” statements.
Good journalism provides credible information. Opinion on the other hand is just that, an opinion. This is my opinion based on credible “anonymous sources.”

Situation here is no one is willing to go on the record. Perhaps the price of disloyalty would be too much bear.

Cartels work that way.

Here's what we know.

As any given election seems to be “the most important,” this one coming is one final effort for what former school board member John Thomas has called “taking back the board.”

There are two factions going head-to-head.

1. The majesties' army of self righteous indignants, administrative rulers, and herders of cats. They are well-funded, organized, and include household names among the rich, famous and powerful of the school district.

2. A rag tag group of five elected officials and their supporters that is guilty of treason. This dog did not respond when the tail wagged and they hired a superintendent that was not of the royal blood line.

Picture Braveheart…these 5, (there are 3 left), could understandably say, “There are so many.”

The election of 2011 saw a political miracle. Janice Bolin won her race by a substantial margin, actually a huge margin. How? Not doing a thing really as campaigns go. No door-to-door knocking, minimal signs, minimal internet, no mailer, no discernible organization plus she had lost the Park Hill National Education Association endorsement that year to everyone's surprise. However, she hit the Powerball and miraculously her name was placed first on the ballot, plus she had the superintendent's muscle behind her in the guise of a 10,000 piece mailer promoting the “NO TAX INCREASE BOND ISSUE.”

As it happened, there was only one board member’s signature, Janice Bolin. A free mailer of 10,000 pieces that would have cost others thousands. None of the other board members were asked to sign.

Imagine this, what would you think if Ivan Foley registered as a Democrat? That's how mind boggling her substantial victory was.

The structure and foundation of the administrations' rule was beginning to crumble about this time.

Fast forward. New superintendent, new county commissioner, angry people, and the cost of tar and feathers went sky high. There are now a lot of election time vendettas.
There have been public displays of loyalty to the ex-superintendent to the point of being embarrassingly obvious. At the Banneker fund raising breakfast, past and current board members and district fund raisers were sitting at Dennis Fisher’s table at his invitation.
Most recently at the teachers’ annual retirement breakfast, candidates Scott, Goodwin, Burr and Woodward were reportedly escorted by you guessed it, Dr. Dennis Fisher.
Deep Throat who commented to me on the condition of anonymity, said that Fisher and his buddies are extremely busy for what's being called THE SLATE. THE SLATE promises to have a very nice mailer coming soon to your house. The money used and the name of the printer will unfortunately not be known until after the election. There is a sitting board member whose family business is printing.

Well, there you have it.

With rain in the forecast; the turnout April 2 will probably be dismally low. A handful of people will determine the outcome of this most important election.

Hey kids, keep your fingers crossed as the grownups play war.

WHO SHOULD WE VOTE FOR?

Who should we vote for the BOE? There are essentially 3 races: one, two and three year terms. The 3-year post has 2 open seats, the 1 & 2 year each have 1 open seat. I am humbled for your trust in my opinion and judgement. I thank you and recommend the following leaders:

1 year seat, CHRIS SEUFERT (Asst. Prosecuting Attorney), with the carnage and violence in our schools of late, his expertise is vital and essential. He is also on the side of transparency… a true advocate for the safety and education of our children.

Two-year seat, without question, MATT PEPPER. He brings a perspective not yet seen on the board. As a former reporter predominantly covering stories about Park Hill, he's in the "know." He is business- oriented having his own business in real estate. BUT! HERE IS HIS REAL VALUE… He is a 2005 Park Hill graduate with honors, bright, articulate, and with a definite feel for the skills it takes to work within the culture of board dynamics.

Three-year seats, again without question, SUSAN NEWBURGER and TODD FANE, vice president and president, respectively. Why? For continuity and leadership. It's virtually impossible to drive a car in forward motion without rear-view mirrors. Herein lies the value of good board dynamics: the ability to listen, govern and lead all within a historical perspective. Most importantly you must choose them for their BACKBONE, INTEGRITY and COURAGE to withstand the noise and pressure of a rowdy and loud self-ingratiated MINORITY and stand up for the welfare of the majority, staff, taxpayers and our greatest assets… the children. Having served with both, I can attest to their leadership skills and fair-minded perspectives, even when we didn't agree.

--Fred Sanchez
Former Park Hill
Board Member

 


Vote against the first big tax gulp

Posted 3/25/13

EDITOR:

One big problem with many elected officials is they believe they are the sharpest knife in the drawer. But experience shows that governments over spend, and always want more of our tax monies. Our current county commissioners are no exception, because they want this 3/8th cent 10-year old road tax renewed.

There are many reasons to vote “NO” on the road tax renewal on Tuesday, April 2:

1.Platte County voters' originally approved this 10-year tax increase for specific highway purposes. They were told it would expire with a date certain.

2. Here is a major concern. If the road commissioners have new road projects or other maintenance goals, then they can propose a new targeted road tax, rather than piggy backing on an old tax plan.

3. Ten years ago, voters gave the commission tax monies to complete a list of roads that would get upgraded and bridges to replace. A decade of spending and fixes on these projects is plenty to meet very old objectives.

4. If you own just one car, you currently pay three different road taxes: personal property, federal/state fuel tax, and the 3/8 cent road tax.

Be warned: we voters will face another, but necessary new tax issue in August!

Because of a federal mandate, Platte County entered an emergency radio contract of approximately $10 million. As of now, there are no dedicated funds to pay for our new $10 million radio system, and it is a must-do.

Two Platte County commissioners are newly-elected with their personal aspirations and ravenous appetites. So, take immediate action by voting against the first big tax gulp.

Next, please share this bad news taxation information with your Platte County e-mail contacts, personal friends and neighbors.

Voting “No” on renewing the road tax is the responsible thing to do.

--Lee Valentine
Platte County

 


Don't raise our taxes

Posted 3/25/13

EDITOR:

Concerning the renewal of the Platte County sales tax for transportation on the April 2 ballot, I must ask: What transportation improvements are proposed for the next 10 years? What transportation improvements were proposed during the first 10 years of the tax but not completed? If the majority of improvements have been completed, why is there a need for another 10 years of the same tax?

Why haven’t the commissioners invited a discussion on how the estimated 50 million tax dollars will be spent?

As I contemplate these questions, I am also considering the federally mandated emergency radio debt of over 10 million the county has incurred with no funds appropriated for. I understand an additional tax, be it sales or property, will be placed on the already burdened taxpayers to pay for this debt. The taxpayers I have talked with do not want any additions to their tax bill.

Do we need another ten years of a transportation tax or can we pay off the radio debt?
Don’t raise our taxes.

--Jane Scheckel
Kansas City in Platte County

 


Reject Parkville's use tax proposal

Posted 3/25/13

EDITOR:

The Parkville Board of Aldermen wants voters to approve a 1.5% use tax on the April 2. Voters should reject this as there is more than enough money coming into city hall. After some inquiries and reviewing the 2013 budget, the board should be embarrassed for even suggesting this tax.

Parkville's problem hasn't changed; it has too much debt. Until the board openly acknowledges this and deals with it, voters shouldn't give them another dime.

The main elephant in the room is, well, the room. City hall has been crushing city finances ever since bond financiers and developers convinced the 2004 elected board to build a city hall they couldn't afford. Payments don't end until 2027, by which time the building will need major maintenance. Any astute businessman would recognize the problem and deal with it. Instead, the board attempts to sell residents paintbrushes and white paint.

The 2013 payment on city hall is $463,000, or 14.4% of general revenues, about double what most businesses would allocate to rent. If the police are relocated out of a prime retail/office area, what remains is meeting space and general office space for fewer than 20 employees. Rent can be cut by over $200,000. It's time to end the "creative financing" experiment deceptively put in place by the 2004 board.

Another elephant, which is not in the budget, is on the west side of town. $6,275,000 of neighborhood improvement district (NID) debt was issued in 2007. Interest on this debt has never been paid. Instead, interest and financing costs are added and compounded. The debt now totals $7,710,000, with interest running. The board has repeatedly "kicked the can". One could claim this is a form of insolvency. Who is liable for the debt? Parkville residents of course; over $4,000 per household. While the board recently made assessments for a portion of this debt, collection is another matter.

A former elected official told me in 2008 that there is no risk on this debt. Is this the reason the board wants yet more money?

And what does the board do when their heads are in the sand on major finance problems? They hire somebody to ask us how we like our sidewalks. Professor Higgins (The Music Man) came to town and sold the board on a $156,000 Livable Communities Study. Pick an hourly rate, but a blended fee rate of $225 equates to 695 hours of time. Viewed another way, the mayor and all eight aldermen could spend every minute of every two hour board meeting for 19 months discussing this issue. What do they not now know that could possibly take 695 hours to learn?

Always be suspicious when a government entity tells you the budget process went smoothly. Budget processes are by design a means to identify and eliminate unnecessary expenses. The process should be painful if the details are being appropriately challenged. Below are some of my findings after reviewing the budget.

·The board said the proposed use tax will provide core funding for expenses, including street maintenance. However, street maintenance is paid for by separate transportation taxes that generate about $800,000 annually. These taxes appear to be more than adequate to cover annual operating expenses of $645,000 and periodic equipment costs. The city started 2013 with a transportation fund surplus of $113,000.

·The Administration budget includes a reserve appropriation of $250,000. However, there are unspent project funds going back to at least 2011. Further, the transfer out of the Projects fund is $280,000, meaning that $30,000 of prior reserves is being spent on current operating expenses. This is called rearranging the deck chairs.

·The Brink Meyer retaining wall project includes a contingency of $111,700. The city recovered $1 million and budgeted another $200,000, for a total of $1.2 million. The base project is budgeted at $914,000. This wall collapsed in 2009. Isn't three years long enough to get a firm cost estimate for a retaining wall?

·The board increased the administrative charge to the sewer fund from $75,000 to $100,000 to cover administrative overhead and the cost of billings, which it assumed in 2012. However, the sewer fund budget includes costs for salaries, postage and printing totaling $25,133 that were not in the prior three years' numbers. This appears to be duplication.

·The budget includes a city administrator salary of $105,000 and a community development position with a salary of $75,000. Adding in benefits and related costs of 25% means a total of $225,000 for two positions. Are two executive level positions necessary for a town of 5,000?

·$30,000 is budgeted for Miscellaneous Obligations? The budget states this is for "miscellaneous settlements and obligations." This is what is known as lack of disclosure.

·Another contingency reserve of $11,500 is included in the Administration budget.The budget states this is for "unexpected and unbudgeted purchases."

·Channel 2, the editor's favorite, is budgeted at $34,950.

·Legal fees average over $100,000 annually. If I recall correctly, there are now two attorneys at some board meetings. Is this necessary?

·There was no budget summary available as required by state statute. If the budget process went so smoothly, why isn't this document available?

The Parkville board, after approving a budget that in my view has layers of fat, that has various contingency reserves, that includes two executive level positions for a small city, that spends excessively for office space, among other issues, believes it needs to milk its residents for more money. And they wonder why the NID debt burdened property is still not developed.

Potential homeowners and small businesses are savvy enough to look at tax layers and other hidden costs when they relocate. Another tax layer is not going to encourage development. More homes and businesses on the existing empty properties, which would contribute under the numerous tax layers already on the books, are going to produce far more revenue than this 1.5% tax. Mayor Jim Brooks and the aldermen need to tighten the city belt and take legitimate steps to clean up the debt mess left by previous boards, at which point they could probably reduce tax rates.

Upon my initial inquiry about the use tax, I was told by an elected city official: "We have been missing out on these taxes." A follow up question yielded: "Everybody else is getting this." What is it that causes otherwise successful people, once elected and sitting around a table in a building both paid for by the public, to believe they have a right to confiscate the private property of others? The board has problems it needs to address.

Giving the board more to spend isn't the answer. Rejecting the proposed 1.5% use tax is.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Don't end the Prop C rollback

Posted 3/25/13

EDITOR:

We are all “For the Kids.” We know a good school attracts families and businesses. I hope every person living in the Platte County R-3 School District supports our schools and wants the best education for the children. Some think the education standards can be raised by increasing school taxes. Others take a more tempered approach and are not enamored with higher taxes, government over-spending, and excessive debt. Many of these individuals don't see any correlation between higher taxes and improved academic achievement. Today, families are having a tough time making ends meet. We need to achieve a balance between local taxation, education goals, and debt.

As of June 2011, our school district was $79,292,607 in debt (Westbrook & Co. Independent Auditors' Report). I cannot find the exact debt as of March 2013, but I would like the school district to show the public their current debt and the plan to reduce it without going to the taxpayers first. The voters should know this information, especially if the school wants more of our hard-earned money through a future permanent tax levy increase.

In addition to our property taxes, one of the many ways our schools are funded is through Proposition C, Missouri's one-cent sales tax, approved by voters in 1982. Did anyone have a hard time understanding the question placed on the ballot in April 2012? Did you notice it was the district's desire to “fully eliminate” the Prop C Rollback? Why is eliminating the Prop C Rollback so important to the school? If you are a concerned taxpayer or a business owner, you do not want to eliminate the rollback clause. I'll try to explain, although it's been difficult finding any information that doesn't require a lawyer to interpret.

To the best of my understanding, the Prop C Rollback allows the property tax rate to adjust up or down annually depending on the state sales tax collections sent to the district. For example, as sales tax collections increase, the property tax rate decreases and vice versa. This limits local government spending and taxation as the tax base expands. The Prop C rollback is a benefit to taxpayers and businesses. Had the voters said "Yes" to the ballot language last April, we would eliminate the requirement for the district to “rollback” or reduce our property tax rates when sales taxes revenues are high. Said another way, elimination of the Prop C rollback is an irrevocable increase in the operating tax levy. This all sounds confusing, but it is very important to understand.

I applaud the recent outreach efforts Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik and the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) has made to the voters. I and many others participated in this effort. In the local media recently, Devon Bradley, CAC co-chair asked: "Do we take the previous question back to voters as it is or do we make some changes to it?" Well, I hope this letter helps answer that question. The voters must decide for themselves, but for me, any attempt to “fully or partially eliminate” the Prop C Rollback in a future ballot question will get my NO vote.

--Janet Stark
Platte City

 


Vote no on the sales tax April 2

Posted 3/17/13

EDITOR:

Are all those roads upgraded and bridges replaced in Platte County now that the 10 year tax plan is coming to an end in September?

Ten years ago the commissioners drew up a list. Now they want another 3/8 cent sales tax (on the April 2 ballot), without showing us a list. If this tax passes, they can spend the money however they want for 10 more years.

As costs go up, groceries, gas, you name it, my budget gets tighter. Especially for those of us on a fixed income, we are pinching pennies. Additionally, because of a federal mandate, the county has an emergency radio contract of approximately $10 million with no dedicated funds to pay for it. This funding is not considered in the proposed roads tax. So ANOTHER TAX will be coming in August.

How about letting our local government know that we are onto their plan, and STOP THE SPENDING. Vote NO to the tax on April 2.

Tax and Spend is not the way we want our government to run, especially with an outstanding bill of $10 million that isn’t covered.

If we have elected new commissioners with wisdom, they will prioritize, cut, line-item-veto, and find a new solution to pay the radio bill, before asking us for free money so they can spend it.

Vote no to the tax on Tuesday, April 2.

We can do better, together.

--Rita Wiese
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


Park Hill teacher missed the boat

Posted 3/17/13

EDITOR:

I am a resident of Clay County Missouri. I am also a regular reader of The Landmark, and even though I do not pay any taxes to the Park Hill School District I was appalled at the response of a Park Hill District teacher to your reporting on the superintendent's salary.

I applaud your work. I only wish that I had a paper of record over here in Clay County to do the work that you do on a regular basis in Platte County.

I am also a public school teacher. To say that I was fascinated at Ms. Dozier's response in the Feb. 27 issue of your paper is an understatement. One of the biggest problems we face as teachers is that the public, especially the conservative public, does not trust that we are responsible with their money. The superintendent's salary that was exposed plays right into and confirms that perspective.

Frankly, I was offended at the size of the superintendent's salary. I do think that a superintendent should be well compensated, but there is no rational justification for a $454,000 compensation package that includes a luxury car.

If I was a patron in Park Hill, I would be asking even more questions. Like, why does Liberty have 784 more students than Park Hill, but yet have an average teacher's salary that is $10,947 less? Or, why is the annual cost per pupil in Park Hill $875 more than Liberty? (All data based upon 2012 information on the DESE website.)

What Ms. Dozier fails to understand is that when districts are this irresponsible with funding it harms public education as a whole. As teachers we should only defend our districts and school boards when they behave appropriately. This was not such a case and should have been exposed for all the public to see.

--Andrew Palmer
Kansas City in
Clay County

 


Hold local officials accountable

Posted 3/17/13

EDITOR:

As a conservative taxpayer, I will always be suspicious of any proposed tax increase.
The government has a very bad record when it comes to spending other people's money, especially at the federal level. Not all taxes are bad and they are needed primarily in the areas of national defense and public safety. However, the temptation to raise taxes is almost irresistible for government because political agendas put people in power that have the ability to vote for more spending, which usually requires higher taxes.

The average taxpayer must hold local, state, and federal governments accountable. Unfortunately, we have one political party that wants to lower taxes and one that wants to raise them. I admit this effect is less at the local level, but it still exists. Part of this challenge comes from the unionization of workers who receive taxpayer dollars. Before you get upset, let me explain. I don't hold the public union workers at fault. I hold the union leadership at fault. They are the ones who take the “mandatory” union dues from membership and funnel large portions of it back into political parties and campaigns who support their agendas. This helps to elect those political officials who then turn around and vote to raise taxes and the cycle repeats itself.

Many times these tax increases are focused on salaries and benefits that exceed the private sector averages. What is really troubling is that many of these public union bosses are making large 6-digit salaries from “laundered” tax payer money.

You can see now why taxpayers and voters must be very wary of all tax increases, due to conflicts of interest. Again, I am not saying all tax increases are bad. However, as a former federal employee, I can assure you that when the profit motive is not a factor in the operation of your “business,” there is always waste because it is so easy to spend money that does not impact your bottom-line. I mention the federal level here, but this is a problem at the local and state levels too.

We must be watchful and politely challenge every proposed tax increase. We must hold local officials accountable and respectfully demand they show us their prioritized spending requirements, their prioritization of cuts, and their current debt.

We cannot afford to fund 100% of anyone's agenda in today's economy. Good budgeting reaches a balance between cost and benefit. The challenge for the local taxpayer is to “see the books” and expect our officials to be completely honest with us

They will always have the upper-hand. Typically, they will be better educated then we are, know the exact details and requirements of their job, and have insider's information not available to the public. Our job is to engage and ask the tough questions.

Let's start doing that at all levels of government.

--Mike Stark
Platte City

 


Base school's image on transparency

Posted 3/8/13

EDITOR:

Since the declaration by Justice Louis Brandies that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman” open records laws at all levels of government have been referred to as “sunshine laws” and passed with the intention of keeping government open and honest. Combining sunshine laws with the freedom of the press can provide a critically important check on inappropriate government behavior.

Last week in a letter to the editor, a reader of The Landmark expressed that she felt that The Landmark’s unveiling of certain activities by the board of education and administration of the Park Hill School District “portrayed the district in an unwarranted negative light.” This is exactly the type of bureaucratic lockstep thinking that perpetuates the type of inappropriate activities that were brought to light.

The blame was placed by the reader on the beams of disinfectant and not the actions of the board and administration that were being exposed. While I agree there is a negative light, the source of the negative light is the light reflecting off of the actions of the board of education and administration and not the sunshine which exposed such actions.

The reader seems to have entirely missed the point of The Landmark’s coverage when she irrelevantly points to the press coverage of another district. The issue at hand has to do with the Park Hill district’s lack of transparency in its actions as well as providing incomplete and inaccurate information in response to a sunshine request and has nothing to do with the compensation package of another district.

Even if her point had been relevant, her response is nothing more than the district’s well-loved tactic of justifying its own behavior by pointing to the behavior of others, which is simply relative accountability.

Perhaps the reader would prefer that the taxpayers of this district remain in the bliss of darkness regarding the actions of the district. However, I believe every parent, taxpayer, and staff member of the district is concerned about the image of Park Hill. This image must be based on truth and transparency and not merely a façade of shiny awards and misdirection.

To ensure the image of the district is what we desire it to be, the board of education and administration must be held to a standard that is higher than the standard of: “They did it too!”

--Timothy J. Thompson
Park Hill Graduate and Parent
Kansas City in Platte County

 


Park Hill NEA playing politics

Posted 3/8/13

EDITOR:

The Park Hill National Education Association (PHNEA) endorsed Jeff Goodwin for the board of education.

Susan Newburger, the incumbent who is a former teacher at Park Hill South and along with her husband Michael are respected civic contributors throughout the community, was thrown under the bus.

Newburger was one of the five who voted for Dr. Scott Springston as superintendent of Park Hill. While his selection was marred with controversy and hysterics, staff members, teachers and patrons are now voicing their opinions that the relationship between the current administration and the teachers has improved since Dr. Springston took charge.

Transparency is at its height. The administration’s contract that PHNEA fought to be published is now finally side-by-side with the teacher’s contract on the website. Also, something as simple as a superintendent’s signature on all negotiated contracts is now policy. The teachers have respect and a voice and they know it.

Relationship with the human resources department under Dr. Bill Redinger has turned around. Teachers say there is now open communication and collaboration. Unlike the past, they are not adversaries and there is no more intimidation. The teachers are now associates and can take ownership in the success of the district as they partner with the administration.

So, shouldn't someone who was partially responsible for this renaissance receive the support of PHNEA? Instead, PHNEA decided to play politics and back Goodwin.
Jeff who? Volunteering for district activities or school committees, or some kind of service usually precedes the gift of election to the board. He has done nothing. Nothing, nothing at all in the service to the district. He was anonymous until after the selection of Dr. Springston. He has never attended a board meeting prior to the selection of Springston. He hasn’t earned it.

Here’s the deal: Goodwin's wife is a teacher for Park Hill and sat in on the board candidate interviews. She also sat in on the deliberation of the candidates. How do you keep a teacher from talking a few of her colleagues into joining a 10-15 member panel to influence an important decision for Park Hill? This behavior behind closed doors is exactly what the prior administration was all about and PHNEA hated it.

Despite the fact that the decision made by Newburger and four other board members has advanced PHNEA's mission, "to advocate for the rights and interests of students and our members," she was left in the cold. PHNEA gets an F.

I mean, OMG who can relate better to the teachers than a former teacher? There's a strong probability that PHNEA will not bat 100% this election with this one. Hmm, the last two years hasn’t played out well for them either. Perhaps a political consultant is in order. Or a class in common sense. You take care of your friends 101.

This time, the PHNEA has erred big time by playing politics and they know better. Last year, Bev Vogt out of the clear blue, this year, a teacher’s husband? Let’s see…there’s the old conflict of interest card.

This April, I encourage each staff member to ask yourself a question before you cast your vote. Do you believe Park Hill is a better place to work? If the answer is yes, then you know what to do. Give yourself an A.

A clarification: I have not spoken with Ms Newburger for months nor do I intend to. Half the time we never agreed on things when we served together. I am only expressing what I believe to be right and just.

A voice for the redistribution of common sense and intelligence.

--Fred J. Sanchez
Former Park Hill
School Board member
Platte County

 


Hold the line on Medicaid expansion

Posted 3/8/13

EDITOR:

The voters in Missouri spoke against ObamaCare and its expansion by 70% in 2010 and yet, across party lines, our legislators are considering doing just the opposite.
About 900,000 people in Missouri are currently on Medicaid but with the offer of “free” money from Washington, another 300,000 would be added. This influx of money that is promised to fully-cover the expansion will expire in 2016. At that time, Congress will begin to send less and less and Missouri will be billed more and more to cover the expanded Medicaid.

Sure, when the amount we receive from Washington is reduced, we could cut education or something else but our elected officials rarely, if ever, have the courage to cut anything. The easiest and likely result will be an attempt to raise taxes. I’m contacting both my state representative and senator to ask them to please hold the line on any Medicaid expansion.

After all, the money they’re discussing is actually mine.

--Susan Phillips
Platte County

 


Park Hill in a 'negative light'

Posted 3/1/13

EDITOR:

I would like to address your article published in The Landmark on Feb. 6, 2013, regarding the transparency of the Park Hill School District.

As I was reading your article, images of Boss Pendergast's devious political machine swirled through my head: shady dealings in dark restaurants and tit for tat nepotism negotiations. You supported the view that the Park Hill School District's budget process in regards to salary is filled with dubious, fraudulent, or even illegal dealings. The accusations you presented are serious and may have ill effects on the future of the district.

To prove your point you included interviews from two people; one of whom is a former (school board) member who brought a gun to a school board meeting. There were no interviews with current teachers, administrators, or patrons. There were no statements from former Superintendent Dennis Fisher. There were no indications that any attempts were made to reach Fisher; this seems like a responsible reporting goal since there were allusions to the fact that Fisher may have been involved in violating the Missouri Constitution. There was no mention that Fisher had spent more than 30 years in the education profession, more than a decade of which was in Park Hill. There was no mention of an interview with Dr. Kelly, the current superintendent of business and technology in the district. There was no mention that the Park Hill School District has been awarded the Meritorious Budget Award for five consecutive years.

In The Landmark article, I did not notice any reporting of any other similar school district's superintendent's salary and benefits package. As reported in the Columbia Tribune in 2008, “the Parkway School District pays Superintendent Robert Malito a base salary of $200,715 and contributes $2,500 a year for a tax-sheltered annuity. Malito is allowed $4,000 in travel expenses. The district also pays premiums on a $350,000 life insurance policy.” Again, this was in 2008, and the Parkway School District is similar in size and demographics to the Park Hill School District.

Although I admire your gumption in uncovering a meaty story, I feel your energies would be more beneficial if they were used in more thorough and unbiased research and reporting. This article portrayed the district in an unwarranted negative light.

--Angela G. Dozier
Kansas City
(Teacher at Park Hill)

 


Get serious about spending cuts

Posted 3/1/13

EDITOR:

A letter to Rep. Sam Graves:

You know Sam, the people in your district are getting rather put off by you and your cronies directing this country through crisis management. You and your bunch have had two years and now an additional two months to deal with the idea of automatic cuts known as sequestration.

It is obvious to anyone that balances their checkbook that cuts must be made. It is also obvious that you and your cronies that deal with OPM (other people's money) have little or no respect for tax money. The House controls the purse strings, and not one of you have the fortitude to do what is right and that is to cut spending. You are afraid of your own economic shadow. Both parties have voted for higher spending and this president is very appreciative of that. You, as a member of the House, have the ability to cut spending and do what is right for the country. And it is impossible to do it in one week.

You can begin with farm subsidies which seem to be a pet project of yours, but you can continue with foreign aid, stop sending aid to North Korea and Iran when they won't feed their own people. Medicare and Medicaid must be revamped. How about cell phones for welfare recipients? I think that could be eliminated. Or take the 1% approach. Cut everything 1% each year. Make it a real cut, not just reducing the amount of increase by 1%.

If you need more help balancing your checkbook, give me a call, I put my number on your form. If you need help balancing the federal checkbook, give me a call on that one, also. Cuts are not going to feel good but for the 20 million or so Americans currently out of work, it seems only fair.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


Stand against expanding Medicaid

Posted 3/1/13

EDITOR:

Expanding Medicaid is a case study of what is wrong with politics in America.
Gov. Nixon says his proposal to expand Medicaid would provide health coverage to additional Missourians over the next three years at no cost to the state. Nixon said they will cover 100 percent of the costs for calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016.

He is implying that expanding Medicaid will not cost us any money the first three years and then only a small percentage after that.

Well, it depends on what the meaning of the word is is ... or in this case, us and they.
“Us” would be those who live off of the government – not the recipients of Medicaid – but the federal and state bureaucracies that thrive by expanding their client base.

“They” implies the federal government, that the federal government will pay and it won’t cost you or me anything. Gov. Nixon has fallen for one of the classic blunders of deception.

The most famous is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia” but only slightly less famous “Never use the Modern Greek Political system as your mentoring guide.”

The reality is Missouri taxpayers still pay for 100% of the Medicaid program, but first run that money through the most inefficient federal bureaucracy prior to the money coming back to Missouri.

The whole concept should be abandoned based on that inefficient model alone, but then if you look at Medicaid in a close analysis; it is a terrible health care system that many doctors won’t participate in.

Fortunately some Missouri lawmakers such as House Speaker Tim Jones are publicly opposing Medicaid expansion. We need more strong solid voices backing up the speaker. Please ask your Missouri state representative and senator to stand strong against expanding Medicaid.

--Paul Hamby
Maysville

 


Raising taxes not a solution

Posted 2/14/13

EDITOR:

I understand that the Platte County budget was passed with a 3% pay raise for county employees. This is short of a 5% raise recommended by Auditor Kevin Robinson, whose county employee spouse also benefits from the increase.

Seems like a nice arrangement. I’d be happy with a 3% pay increase, after the economic state we’ve endured in the past decade. Raises covering increased cost of living have been rare and unfortunately most of us are down 2% as of January.

It doesn’t make it easy for the average citizen to help maintain and grow the economy with consumer spending if our government continually demands tax increases. Let’s hope our new commissioners are being responsible with our tax money and realize that raising taxes is not a good solution for an ill conceived budget.

--Bryan Ivy
Platte City

 


Acknowledging the students

Posted 2/14/13

EDITOR:

I have a point of contention with our middle school's lack of public acknowledgement of the students in the 7th and 8th grade accomplishments. They publish all of the high school students making the Principal's Honor Roll, the "A" list, etc. However, there is nothing said about the future high schoolers and their accomplishments. I am a proud grandmother and just learned that my grandson, Ethan Ventress who is in the 7th grade, was selected to the National Junior Honor Societey. They will have a ceremony at the school recognizing his and others’ accomplishment. I think this is great because they didn't have a National Junior Honor Society when my two daughters were in school.

When my daughter, Kelly, was in high school, she was selected to the National Honor Society her sophomore year. They had a very unique ceremony (which they don't have anymore) in which the student selected was tapped on the shoulder by his/her sponsor and given a rose. It was all unknown to the student, and their parent(s) were there to witness this "tapping" ceremony. I believe they are recognized for their achievement by letter. I know my grandson learned this way.

I think our schools need to do a better job of acknowledging the excellent students we have and what they are doing. Usually we just hear who brought a gun to school or something else of an unsavory nature.

Let us be proud of our students and their families in a positive way! Let us be proud of our teachers. Everyone likes to read about his/her son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter and NOT just for the sports!

--Sharon Aring
Platte County

 


It's a right-to-privacy issue

Posted 2/11/13

EDITOR:

I was just informed that a prescription drug monitoring bill was introduced into the Missouri House of Representatives (HB 347). I am dismayed that this is coming up again after Senator Rob Schaaf was able to filibuster it last spring. I am against having this database, which will contain every person who gets a controlled substance in it.

I understand Missouri is one of the last states to have this. I say it is time for Missouri to take a stance against taking away a citizen's right to privacy. Why do we continue to take away a law abiding citizens right to privacy because some people want to circumvent laws and abuse the system? I will agree that a database would make my job as a pharmacist easier in identifying pharmacy hopping/doctor shopping drug abusers, but I am not willing to sacrifice my privacy for that. There are other ways of keeping these people from getting controlled substances without having our names put into one more database that could be hacked.

What if one of these people stole your identity to obtain controlled substances and you had to get a prescription for a legitimate reason and you can't have it because you have a history of doctor shopping? People who doctor shop and pharmacy hop usually use other names or some variation of their real names.

Some arguments that I have heard for this database are to keep controlled substances out of the hands of our young people. I ask you, how does a database keep young people from obtaining controlled substances? Those kids that are selling controlled substances in high school are getting them illegally in the first place.

I have an example that actually happened at my pharmacy. The grandson was picking up his grandmother's pain medication for a hip replacement and was keeping it for himself. He actually had her calling and requesting for refills. We were eventually suspicious of this person because of the behavior that he exhibited and he was caught. He wouldn't have been in the database, she would have been. There have also been many times when people who have chronic pain had it stolen from their house by relatives or friends of their children.

As far as laws, I have had many people arrested in my 19 years as a pharmacist for passing fraudulent prescriptions. Guess how many I have had to testify against? Zero! It is so difficult to get these people and when we do nothing is done. What good is a database going to do? It won't stop those willing to break laws to get them. That kid that was stealing from his grandmother? Nothing happened to him.

So what do I think should be done to curtail some of this drug using? Limit refills on controlled substances. Right now a doctor can give someone 6 months of medication. Limit how soon a controlled substance can be refilled. Now it is up to the discretion of the pharmacist and the doctor on how early a prescription can be filled. At our pharmacy, we don't allow anyone to get a controlled substance any earlier than 2 to 3 days before the patient would be out of medication without getting an okay from the doctor, but not all pharmacists are as diligent.

We don't need another database to put in legitimate patients’ names.

--Tammy Thompson
Kansas City in
Platte County

 


Average households can't take it

Posted 2/1/13

EDITOR:

Thank you for your views last week on the county commission’s plan to renew the sales tax for the road district and the lack of a need for the new Tahoe at the fire department.
ALL elected officials need to wake up and realize that we are in a slump as far as household income in Platte County and they need to help, not make it worse.

Last year, The Landmark reported that household income is down 5% in Platte County in 2011 according to the Census Bureau. That's from over $65,441 in 2009 down to $61,863 in 2011. A loss of almost $300 per household per month.

As reported this week in the Falling Star, according to the Federal Reserve from 2007 to 2010 the average American family's net worth dropped almost 40%. This has erased almost 18 years of savings and investments. People are dipping into their retirements to pay their daily bills at an alarming rate.

Commissioners, if you must meet with the various boards before making a decision on the budget now is the time you do it to let them know they need to find ways to cut.
Yes, I wish we had endless dollars to buy new emergency vehicles every year, have a student to teacher ratio of 1 to 1, give each student a laptop computer, have smart boards in every classroom, repave every road every year and give everyone raises every year but guess what? We can't. The stats above show the average household cannot handle it any longer.

My mother, who lives on a fixed income said it best this weekend. She said she can't vote for anymore raises for anything as everyone has continued to ask for more from food to taxes and all of those little increases have added up to one big number, finally getting to the point that you just can’t handle anymore when your income has not increased at all or gone backwards.

I bet there are a lot of people in Platte County in this same situation and it would be really nice if all of the elected officials at all levels would try to recognize this and tighten their belts until this downturn in the economy has passed.

We cant seem to get it done on a national level but maybe we can start locally.

--Kirby Holden
Platte County

 


A life, not lifestyle, decision

Posted 2/1/13

EDITOR:

If Dec. 7, 1941 will be infamous for Japan, then Jan. 22, 1973 will be infamous for the United States of America.

55 million+ abortions have been performed since Roe v Wade, killing off factory workers, teachers, business men and women, and yes, even politicians. The overwhelming majority would have been taxpayers. They cry out from the grave but Congress, the Supreme Court, and yes many of us turn a deaf ear.

When will America wake up and make it a life decision instead of a lifestyle decision?
All reading this are thankful their mother chose life.

The headline story today shouldn't be Obama, but Colin Kaepernick, the sensation of the San Francisco 49'ers. His birth mother, a single mother of a bi-racial child, chose life and adoption rather than terminating her child. This child has done quite well, thank you.

Ponder, if you will, who else we, yes WE because WE tolerate this insanity, have aborted, killed.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


No longer a redneck state?

Posted 1/24/13

EDITOR:

I recently read the NRA’s Institute of Legislative Action list of celebrities, journalists and national corporations who have directly supported anti-gun organizations [Daily Caller 3/1/2012].

It surprised me to see that more than half on the national corporation list are from our own state of Missouri. The list includes American Century; Multi Cinemas (AMC) Entertainment; BJC Health Systems; Blue Cross Blue Shield; Earthgrains; General American; Hallmark Cards; Health Midwest; James B. Nutter; KC Chiefs; KC Royals; Mallinckrodt; Silver Dollar City; Site Oil; Southwestern Bell Telephone; Sprint PAC; SSM Health System; St. Louis Rams; St. Louis University and Unity Health.

Not to ruin anyone’s day, but could this mean we are no longer a redneck state?

--Susan Phillips
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


You're funding your own retirement

Posted 1/11/13

EDITOR:

Let's talk about the Social Security tax going back to 6.2% from 4.2%.

I paid Social Security taxes all my working life...the full amount. When BO gave a "tax holiday" of 2%, I called my Congressman (Graves 202-225-7041) and asked if all the people paying in less to Social Security (immediate reward) would have their benefits reduced by a similar amount at retirement (long term reward). The answer of course was no.

So, everyone got a tax "cut" and benefits. But now that they have to start paying for their own retirement they are up in arms about a supposed "tax hike.”

Even conservative news stations are portraying this as a tax increase. Most, if not all, of the complainers would never save for their own retirement anyway and we would then be supplying welfare checks for them in their "golden years.”

This "immediate reward" at the expense of the "eternal" is too alluring. Hogwash!
Republicans have tried to change the Social Security system to provide an incentive to save for the future. But Democrats demonize, denounce, denigrate, and demoralize anyone who would so brashly suggest we should plan for our future. And they win the argument because most would rather have fast food in three minutes than a sit-down dinner at home that might take three hours.

Sometimes elected leaders must "lead" instead of follow the polls. Most parents know that a child left to their own devises will soon be totally unruly. The Bible puts it this way, "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." Pv 29:15

It is time for Congress to do what is right rather than what is popular. I'll give them two years.

So let's stop all the talk about a tax hike on the working class. You are saving for your own retirement. If you don't like Social Security, come up with a plan to improve on it and a method of funding it (saving), submit it to your senator or congressman, and follow it through the system to its completion.

Oh, my mistake! That requires thinking and that would take time away from our iPads, Kindles, Game Boys, etc.

Never mind, my Droid is ringing.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Earlier Letters to the Editor