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Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

HERE'S HOW R-3 WILL QUIET ITS IN-HOUSE CRITICS
Written 4/27/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Nights this time of year are great for my normally limited sleeping pattern. No furnace needed. No air conditioner needed, though I sometimes turn it on anyway just because I can. Having the AC switch at our fingertips is what makes America great, my friends.

Just know that I’m taking a break from this great sleeping weather to punch out this column. Yup. I’m out here workin’ for ya.

******

The Missouri Department of Transportation has “scoped” the I-29 and Hwy. 92 interchange for improvement, according to Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt.
It’s not always a good thing to be scoped. One time I was scoped before the anesthetic had kicked in. That was not a good thing, trust me on that.

But in this case, being scoped is good news. In MoDOT terms, once a project is on their books as “scoped,” the road improvement usually happens within 60 months. Yes, that’s five years. But in the world of government bureaucracy, five years feels like tomorrow.

Exactly how MoDOT will improve the interchange has not yet been decided. And no, being scoped does not mean funding has already been set aside for the project. But the work is on their radar. Keep your fingers crossed.

******

QuikTrip’s plans regarding building a new store at its current site in Platte City are in the ‘it’s almost time to get serious’ stage. Expect some new QT construction activity in Platte City in 2017, I’m told.

QT officials have indicated to the city they are confident the existing store will stay open during construction of the new one in the same general location. It will be fascinating to watch how they work the parking lot traffic while that’s going on.

******

So in one night, the Platte County R-3 School Board spent $2.25 million. The positive is it doesn’t sound like much if you say it fast.

******

Spending $2.25 million in one night. It’s like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

******

Platte County R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik in an interview this week said he doesn’t know the amount of the school district’s debt per student because “knowing this information serves little, if any” purpose.

This is either:

1. A line of BS.
2. A fireable offense.

******

The above quote is Reik doubling down on a statement he made during the levy increase election campaign last spring. In a presentation to a city subcommittee that night during which Reik unsuccessfully sought an endorsement, Ron Porter, alderman at the time, asked Reik to address the topic of the district’s significant debt.

Reik responded with a now infamous remark that in his opinion the amount of a school district’s debt “is irrelevant.”

******

I doubt the school district’s creditors consider the debt irrelevant.

******

There is some quiet and a little not-so-quiet unrest among some staff members within the school district about many of the district’s recent spending decisions. This of course will be denied by administrators--who often mistakenly think The Landmark has no sources working inside the district--but it is real.

My guess is you can now watch for Reik and other administrators to actively push for a significant pay raise for teachers in the coming months. As we all know, current school board members rarely, if ever, offer any significant resistance to administrators’ ideas--all the board members are good people but there are no strong personalities with the tummy for a fight--so this will go through.

A significant salary hike for teachers will be the administration’s way of quieting the in-house critics of their spending choices. After all, who wants to publicly criticize the boss who just worked to get you a nice pay raise?

It’s a pattern that has been followed previously. And it’s further evidence that public spending begets more public spending.

It’s a vicious cycle.

******

Remember when Dr. Mark Harpst was the superintendent at Platte County R-3? Some of us thought he was on occasion a little too anxious to spend money. Maybe we didn’t realize how good we had it. Compared to the way things are now, Harpst looks like Ebeneezer Scrooge.

******

By the way, I ran into Harpst at the Royals season opener earlier this month. It looks like retirement is treating him well, he appeared happy and healthy. He said he is playing a lot of golf. And his public relation skills are still on point, as they always were. We didn’t always agree on issues but Harpst’s personality was such that the disagreements were handled politely and with no lingering animosity.

(Get animosity-free Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and email Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SOME OF THE HWY. 92 'CONCEPTS' MIGHT DRIVE YOU TO DRINK
Written 4/20/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. We’re here to serve.

******

Speaking of insurance--what, we weren’t?--word on the street is the boys and girls at Platte County Farm Bureau would like to sell the building they own at Fourth and Main Street across from City Hall. You know the building, right there at that oddly-designed, kind of three-way, maybe five-way intersection at the top of Main Street. It must be a five-way because I’ve always thought a three-way would be more exciting than that.

Anyway, word was circulating a couple of weeks ago that Farm Bureau was getting ready to sell the structure to the City of Platte City. I asked Mayor Frank Offutt about it as we sat in the front row of the audience and quietly shot the bull during a recent subcommittee meeting. The mayor at the time knew nothing of any Farm Bureau building talk.

But things have since changed. City officials have now confirmed for me that Platte County Farm Bureau has contacted City Hall and offered to sell the building to the city. Asking price? $199,900.

No word yet on whether the city has an interest.

******

The Highway 92 Corridor Study meeting held Monday night at the DNR-violating Shiloh Springs Golf Course was interesting.

Well, kind of interesting. In a fairy tale kind of way.

There were lovely color-coded maps. Some out-of-the-box thinking. A touch of nonsensical thinking (like closing the current southbound I-29 ramp that is easily accessible from downtown). Lots of talk of roundabouts. Lots of roundabouts. Like, the consultants have a mad crush on roundabouts. Like, let’s put a roundabout at Second and Hwy. 92, another at Fourth and 92, maybe another at Prairie View and 92, and maybe two more near I-29 and 92.

Hell’s bells. Are we planning a highway or a carnival ride?

Lots of conceptual talk. Lots of talk about redesigning intersections and doing this and doing that, adding lanes, a little talk about maybe knocking out businesses to add park area, adding sidewalks, adding trails, even a trail under the Hwy. 92 bridge at Tracy.

The only things not offered were pretty, pretty ponies, free college tuition and dolphin rides on the Platte River.

Maybe those came later. I left right before they were going to start doing some kind of group project with Monopoly money. I apologize for my early exit. After thoughts of what these “concepts” might cost taxpayers started dancing in my head, I swore I heard a Bud Light calling my name from a frosty mug.

*******

The good news is there were only about 15 people at the session so Shiloh’s polluted septic system enjoyed a reprieve.

******

In a somewhat bizarre note in the local news world this week, reporter Alan McArthur tells me a newly-elected alderman at Parkville missed her first meeting/official swearing-in ceremony Tuesday night. Tina Welch, elected as a ward one alderman earlier this month, was not present and there was no announcement made as to any reason for her absence.

You’d think that date would have been marked on her calendar.

******

Gardening season is upon us, or at least soon will be. If you’re into that sort of thing, you should be reading the weekly thoughts of our Garden Guy columnist George Weigel. You can find his column this week on page B-2.

******

I may need to start editing George’s column more closely. I just noticed this week he wrote a sentence that says: “Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches.”

Hey now. Any more talk like that and we’ll have to start mailing The Landmark in a brown wrapper.

******

I apologize if that sentence gave some of you the urge to smoke a cigarette.

******

Chris Kamler, our Rambling Moron columnist on page 3, received some potentially exciting news in the past few days. It seems some Korean film producers are considering making a movie based on Korean Royals fan Sungwoo’s visit to Kansas City in 2014 during which the Royals won 10 in a row and took over first place.

You’ll remember Kamler wrote a book on the topic entitled The Silence, The Series, and The Season of Sungwoo. Portions of Kamler’s book would be adapted into the screenplay. The caveat, as Kamler is quick to point out, is that this isn’t a movie that a U.S. audience would ever see. Though a majority of the movie would be shot here in KC, the film would be shown in theaters in Korea, which means we would have to organize quite The Landmark watch party to go see this thing.

Anybody in? A long plane ride to Korea with Kamler and Foley? Might be a tough sell.

******

If this comes to fruition, who do you think should play the role of Kamler in the movie? I think Kevin James would be perfect. Other suggestions: Jonah Hill, Louie Anderson, Melissa McCarthy, Rosie O’Donnell.

(Don’t wait seven days for your next Between the Lines fix. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


SOMETIMES FILING A LAWSUIT IS NOT THE SMARTEST MOVE
Written 4/13/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. The column hasn’t missed a week since 1999 so let’s get through this and keep the streak rolling.

******

We live in a very lawsuit-happy society. That’s not breaking news, it has been that way for quite some time.

Have you ever known somebody to file a suit and later on perhaps wished they had never filed that lawsuit? It has been known to happen occasionally. Read on for what might be an example.

******

Since neither side is talking in any detail about why the jury trial that was supposed to happen this week was pulled from the docket, we’re left with trying to read the tea leaves and speculate as to what happened in the Ron Stone wrongful termination lawsuit vs. Casey’s.

Reading the latest document filed in the case by attorneys for Casey’s corporate office (details in our front page story--warning, if you’re easily offended by salty language, there is some spice in there) it appears Casey’s felt confident in its defense. The corporate office seemed to have some ammunition at its disposal if the case had proceeded to trial.

At least that’s my initial reaction. What say you?

******

I’m going to guess that the men and women at Casey’s corporation are not feeling like “a bunch of dumbasses” today.

******

Stone’s lawsuit alleged that he had sustained damages in the form of lost income and “garden variety emotional pain.”

Sounds like there may have been some hot peppers in that garden.

******

Don’t forget the next step in the Hwy. 92 corridor study is coming soon.

The Hwy. 92 corridor study is for the stretch of highway from Bethel Road on the eastern outskirts of Platte City west into Tracy. Next step in the process is the second meeting seeking public comment and input. That meeting will be Monday evening beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Shiloh Springs Golf Club.

The draft documents developed during the first round of public input are scheduled to be available for review soon on the city’s website at plattecity.org.

******

Remember how we cautioned that the bureaucrats should not be getting too excited over Platte County’s early sales tax revenue numbers that were jumping off the chart about a month ago?

Yeah. About that.

The newest report is cooling some jets of the big spending types. After four months of receipts, the county’s combined sales/use tax revenues are down by half a percent from this time last year.

The monthly totals have been known to fluctuate wildly in recent years. Normally it’s about six months into the year before you can get somewhat of a good read about local economic activity.

As of now, no revenue growth for the county.

******

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is calling out the U.S. Postal Service for its use of “emergency suspension” authority to close down some Missouri post offices, potentially circumventing the standard process that requires input from communities that would feel the effects of a closure. “I recently became aware of a number of post offices in Missouri that were closed via ‘emergency suspension’ and never reopened,” McCaskill says, who added she is concerned that these closures are leaving communities adversely affected.

Good for her.

While we’re at it, I’m calling out the postal service in zip code 64152 in southern Platte County for delivery issues that happen too often. The Landmark’s experiences with the postal service are generally positive, and let me emphasize the local folks in the Platte City Post Office go above and beyond to meet our needs and I’m sure the needs of other high volume mailers who ship via that office.
But in zip code 64152, there are some residents who often mention to us their problems with frequently slow delivery of their mail.

What gives?

It has me flirting with the idea of contacting the office of Congressman Sam Graves. When widespread delivery issues hit this area in general and this newspaper specifically about a dozen years ago, Graves’ office jumped into action, working diligently to put heat on the postal service to clean up their act. It was amazing how much more efficient and consistent the delivery service became when the postal folks knew the congressman’s office was tracking the situation daily.

(Call out the publisher on Twitter @ivanfoley or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHEN YOU CAN'T TRUST YOUR ENGINEER'S NUMBERS
Written 4/6/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Help yourself to that couch. Let’s get your session started.

******

To me, the word “pants” remains the funniest sounding word in the English language.

******

“Sphincter” is also a funny word.

******

Let’s add “manhole” to that list.

******

Our final Bracket Battle standings are in this issue. Cliff Northern of Dearborn is our winner. Cliff wins $100 and bragging rights throughout the county, should he choose to rub it in the faces of the other 165 or 170 of us who played along.

My bracket died a painful early death for the second year in a row. Next year I’m asking a random elementary school kid to make my picks.

******

Valerie Verkamp, assistant editor, did the heavy lifting for The Landmark in the bracket contest this year. She finished in fourth place. I’m starting to think Valerie watches a lot of college basketball.

******

You know you’re wondering. And I know you’re wondering. That’s why I asked.
What’s the timeframe for the improvement coming to the Hwy. 92 and Kentucky Avenue intersection in Platte City, more commonly known as the back door entrance to QuikTrip and McDonald’s?

“The short answer is we anticipate a June-November construction period. The (aldermen) will consider a contract for the city component of the project at its April meeting. MoDOT/Highway Commission are scheduled to award their component in early May. The project has a required completion date of December 2016,” says D.J. Gehrt, city administrator.

******

City of Platte City officials publicly indicated Tuesday night they’ll be taking a look at their engineering services, including examining the option of making a change in provider, in the near future. This on the heels of two recent major projects coming in more than $400,000 above what the city engineer had estimated the project would cost. And that’s a swing and a miss of $400,000 on each project, total swing and miss of more than $800,000.

Gehrt, in response to questioning from concerned citizen/former alderman Andy Stanton at a meeting Tuesday night, admitted the aldermen have let him know they want to study options for future engineering services after current projects are completed.

******

“We practice good government.”--Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt.

Duly noted.

******

I’m not sure if the above unprompted quote was in reference to looking at making a change in engineering services, but it could have been.

******

Pants.

******

Platte City has been using the engineering of SKW, which apparently stands for So Krazily Wrong.

******

Sphincter.

******

Lots of interesting statistics and info in the front page story about Platte’s ranking as the second healthiest county in the state. Nice ranking for the county and an informative story. Give it a read.

******

Manhole.

******

According to the study, Platte has a healthy number of excessive drinkers, and I’m not just talking about the county HR department.

The aforementioned study shows Platte County’s ranking in the alcohol category is above average, or below average, depending on how you want to interpret the numbers.

In some city circles the county has a bit of a reputation of being alcohol-ingesting country. Now there is at least one “study” that seems to back that up. According to the findings of this study, 18 percent of adults in Platte County report they engage in binge drinking or heavy drinking. That’s two percent higher than the state average and one percent higher than the national average.

This means if you’re in a room of five people and you feel like the other four are not heavy drinkers, you’re the heavy drinker.

(Try Twitter @ivanfoley as an alcohol substitute, though warning, it may drive you to drink)

 


IT'S NOW CLEAR THAT ANOTHER COUNTY PROBLEM WAS KICKED DOWN THE ROAD
Written 3/30/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Can you tell by the size of the past couple of editions we’ve been a little busy?

This feels like an appropriate time to say thank you to our readers and advertisers for making The Landmark the largest paid circulation weekly in Platte County.

It’s our privilege to serve you. We love the way you anticipate the arrival of your newspaper each and every week.

******

Let’s get started with a reminder that next Tuesday is an important day around these parts. It’s local election day for city positions and issues such as the vehicle sales tax question (in Platte City and in Parkville) and also school board races.

Platte County voters turned out in droves for the presidential primary a couple of weeks ago, racking up a turnout of 44%. While it seems unreasonable to expect that type of showing next week, give it a shot.

******

In a nutshell, the vehicles sales tax on the ballot in Platte City and Parkville is designed to keep a level playing field for local car dealers. If the question is passed with a yes vote, customers buying an auto from an out-of-state dealer would pay a lower sales tax rate than they would buying from a local dealer.

Also, a yes vote would mean less income for the two cities in regard to sales tax revenue.

The ballot question is worded a bit strangely. Be sure you understand what a “yes” vote means and a “no” vote means so you don’t end up marking the opposite choice of what you intended.

For more info on the question, check out the letter to the editor at right from Frank Offutt, Platte City mayor.

******

Speaking of Platte City, we need to talk.

Have you noticed a pattern in the two most recent major projects undertaken by the city? Engineer’s estimates of projected costs. It’s like someone is throwing a dart at random numbers on a wall.

Let’s review.

The bids for the eastside sewer project. This project, appropriately named, consists of running a sewer line under I-29 to serve the city’s east side between the Hwy. 92 and HH exits. The city says its engineer’s estimate was $781,000. The lowest bid came in at $1,139,000. That’s nearly $400,000 above what the engineer had estimated.

Then last week it was announced the bids for the Hwy. 92/Kentucky Avenue work near QuikTrip and McDonald’s came in at $445,000 over what the city’s engineer had estimated.

Listen, $400,000 here and $400,000 there and pretty soon you’re talking real money. . .

What gives? Are the city’s engineer estimates an actual thing or just a pie in the sky number somebody is intentionally low-balling to get all parties on board with the proposal? Then when bids come in way above the estimate, by that time everybody has committed, at least mentally, to doing the project.

Maybe word has gotten out for bidders to ignore Platte City’s estimates when putting their proposals together. Maybe when it comes to Platte City projects, the feeling in the government service industry is go ahead and bid that thing high because the city has shown a willingness to overpay.

Whatever the case, it’s time to take a step back and analyze the situation. Some taxpayers are starting to fear their money is being overspent at a ridiculous level.

******

The city’s engineering estimates are missing as badly as the county’s estimated income for the golf course. Is the county auditor moonlighting for Platte City?

******

Speaking of the county golf course, on our front page is a story detailing repeated notifications from the Department of Natural Resources to the county about compliance issues with the Clean Water Act. It seems problems with the golf course’s septic system have been noted for nearly a decade. County commissioners during the past decade-- assuming they’ve been kept up to date on the matter by the head of the parks department during that time, which may or may not be an accurate assumption--haven’t taken any steps to rectify the situation.

Since 2007 the county has violated, pushed to the limit, ignored and tap-danced on the last nerve of state inspectors and state regulations in this matter. The can has been kicked down the road. Here we are in 2016 and the county finds itself still needing to pay for a solution to put an end to the abusive things it has been doing to the Clean Water Act and potentially a nearby tributary.

Environmentalists who might have supported the course’s existence in the past can’t be happy now. Many supporters of the course are outdoorsy types who don’t take water pollution lightly.

It seems very likely leaders at the county through the years were ignoring the problem because they knew fixing it would make the financial books at the golf course look even worse than they do and increase the level of taxpayer scrutiny of the course.

******

It’s funny. There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to Shiloh. Regular users of the course (and lord knows there haven’t been enough of you) generally think it’s a community asset. Non-users of the course think it has been a major waste of tax dollars.

Anytime the financial troubles at Shiloh are reported there’s a segment of folks who take the observation personally. Mention that Shiloh is a money-losing operation and they act like you’ve just insulted their mother.

Relax, folks. This isn’t personal. A golf course is an inanimate object. We’re not hurting its feelings by pointing out that over the years millions of county tax dollars have been flushed down the Clean Water Act-violating toilets out there.

(Between the Lines tries not to violate your toilets and definitely won’t violate the Clean Water Act. Catch Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley or find him on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram)

 


THAT QUIKTRIP
BACK DOOR CAN’T GET
HERE SOON ENOUGH
Written 3/23/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines, where we watched so much basketball last weekend I’m seeing buzzer beaters in my sleep.

******

The November presidential election is still six or seven months away and already I think The Landmark has set a record for most editorial cartoons aimed at one candidate.

Cartoonists have found a gold mine in material dealing with Donald Trump’s bluster. It’s like Beverlee Roper on a much larger scale.

******

I for one don’t mind that the project to create the back entrance to Quik Trip/McDonalds and the four way signalized intersection at Hwy. 92 and Kentucky Avenue in Platte City is coming in a little over the projected budget. Okay, it’s more than a little, but still. . .

Have you been up there at around the noon hour lately? I don’t hit that area as a lunch spot very often these days since I’ve been weaning myself from fast food. But on Tuesday at the lunch rush I was having a craving for a McRib so I headed that direction. Mistake. And not just because the McDonald’s drive-thourgh dude said McRibs are off the menu again (what’s up with that, Mickey D’s?). No, it was the traffic that reminded me of another good reason to avoid fast food. Good grief.

The line of semi-trucks trying to leave the QT parking area, plus the line of trucks that had already exited and were waiting at the stop light at Hwy. 92 and Prairie View was ridiculous.

Instead of trying to get out of McDonald’s and turn onto Prairie View from there, I’ve noticed at least one motorist after making his way through the McDonald’s fast food lane has developed the habit of driving through the QT parking lot just in front of their gas pumps to reach the exit on the northern most portion of the QT lot, then turn left on Prairie View from there and head back to his office.
I doubt QT and its gas pump customers appreciate this added parking lot traffic so I won’t mention the motorist by name. But his initials are Ivan Foley.

******

Looking for the early standings in our Bracket Battle? You’ll find them on page A-5.

If you’re like me and your predicted champion has already been defeated, your chances of winning are smaller than Donald Trump’s hands.

******

As reported last week on your Landmark’s front page, Platte County voters preferred Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary. As you know by now, statewide the majority of Missouri voters went for Trump and Hillary Clinton by very narrow margins.

I find it kind of fun to look at the precinct breakdown in Platte County to see if there are pockets of wide support for any candidate in particular areas of the county. I don’t have room to list them all but here are some of the precincts and which way voters leaned:

Platte City: GOP--Cruz 42%, Trump 41%. Democrat: Sanders 51%, Clinton 48%. There were 573 Republican ballots cast; 333 Democrat ballots cast.

Weston: GOP--Cruz 44%, Trump 36%. GOP ballots cast: 571. Democrats: Sanders 53%, Clinton 45%. 333 Democrat ballots cast.

Seven Bridges precinct just south of Platte City: GOP: Cruz 40%, Trump 36%, with 1,112 ballots cast. Democrats: Sanders 54%, Clinton 45%, 397 Democrats voted.

Parkville: GOP--Cruz 36%, Trump 34% with 1,077 Republican voters. Dems: Clinton 52%, Sanders 48%, with 571 voters.

Houston Lake precinct (polling place at Wexford Place): GOP--Cruz and Trump both pulled 37%. Trump had four more votes. There were 782 Republican ballots cast. Democrats: Sanders 51%, Clinton 49%, with 665 Democrats voting.

Riverside: GOP: Trump 41%, Cruz 40%, with 498 voters. Democrats: Sanders 56%, Clinton 44%, with 444 Democrats voting.

Par 4 precinct (the polling place is the Walnut Creek Clubhouse): GOP: Cruz 42%, Trump 34%, with 760 voters. Democrats: Sanders 58%, Clinton 42%, with 513 voters.

Lake Waukomis: GOP--Trump 40%, Cruz 26%, with 213 Republican voters. Democrats--Clinton 55%, Sanders 44%, with 158 Dem voters.

Weatherby Lake: GOP--Trump 40%, Cruz 32%, with 413 GOP voters; Democrats--Clinton 54%, Sanders 46%, with 288 Democrats voting.

If you’re interested in seeing which way your neighborhood precinct leaned and it’s not in the above list, go to the Platte County Board of Elections website to see if you can find it there.

******

Since I promised you last week I would get it in the printed edition for those of you who disown the Internet where my picks were posted at contest deadline last Thursday, here is my bracket that you’re up against in your quest to win a Landmark one-year subscription. It’s not the disaster it was last year but it’s still far from pretty.

First round predictions: Kansas, Uconn, Maryland, Cal, Wichita State, Miami, Iowa, Villanova, Oregon, Cincy, Baylor, Duke, UNI, Texas A&M, VCU, OU, NC, Providence, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, West Va, Wiscy, Xavier, Virginia, Butler, Purdue, Iowa State, Seton Hall, Utah, Syracuse, Michigan State.
Sweet Sixteen: Kansas, Cal, Miami, Villanova, Oregon, Baylor, Texas A&M, OU, NC, Kentucky, West Va, Xavier, Virginia, Purdue, Utah, Michigan State.
Elite Eight: Kansas, Miami, Oregon, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Xavier, Virginia, Michigan State.

Final Four: Kansas, Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan State.

Champion: Michigan State. (ugh).

(Undaunted by his champion being knocked out in the first round, the publisher is pushing forward in his attempt to top as many of you brave prognosticators as possible. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


PROOF THAT PROJECTIONS ARE ONLY PROJECTIONS
Written 3/16/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Spring is almost here. It’s time to act like summer and walk like rain.

******

We had a couple of March rainstorms and now look at your lawn. If it’s like mine it’s ready for a trim.

Yes, it’s time to start mowing again, you guys. Enjoy.

******

Observers of the Clay County legal scene tell me Shawn Blair, who was the defense attorney for Jeremy Ray in his child porn possession case in which he incredibly received a sentence of probation with no jail time, apparently has become the popular attorney of choice for defendants accused in sex crime cases in that county.

Blair is a former Clay County assistant prosecutor. When he is not serving as a defense attorney and working to get deals for confessed child porn offenders, he is the municipal judge for the city of Platte Woods.

*****

Trick question. The answer might surprise you, based on some hype that has gone on the past couple of district-wide elections.

How fast is the Platte County R-3 School District growing?

The answer is not very.

Here is an apples-to-apples comparison of enrollment numbers from the past two years. These are legitimately-sourced numbers. The numbers for 2014-15 were given to the school board by school administration in September of 2014. The numbers for 2015-2016 are the numbers that were sent out in the district’s newsletter.

Total enrollment for district 2014-15: 3911 students.

Total enrollment for district 2015-16: 3949 students.

That’s a growth of 38 students total at the district’s seven schools. That’s less than one percent growth in a year’s time.

******

How does that compare with enrollment projections the district distributed a few years ago when officials were busy trying to convince the public a new school was needed?

On the high side, R-3 officials were expecting total enrollment to be 4625 by now. Let me give you the low number, also, to be completely fair. On the low side, R-3 officials were projecting enrollment to be a minimum of 4022 by now.

They missed on the high side by a ridiculous amount.

They missed on the low side by 73 students. Not as ridiculous as the high side number, of course, but still. . .a pretty hard miss.

When you significantly overstate a number that your paperwork described as a “low growth model” it’s still an embarrassing miss.

Or perhaps was not a sincere estimate in the first place.

******

More numbers.

The up-and-down of Platte County’s monthly sales tax collections rolls on. Last year it took about six months for the wild roller coaster ride in monthly totals to settle into a rhythm. This year looks to be the same.

The first two months of collections in 2016 were not good. After February, the county’s total in sales and use tax revenue compared to the first two months of 2015 was down by 8.5%.

But the March collections are in and show a spike. So now through the first three months of 2016 compared to the first three months of 2015, the county’s collections of sales/use tax general revenue are up by 7.23%.

Remember there were wild fluctuations in monthly totals early in 2015 and at the end of the year there was nothing dramatic to report--collections had increased by only a little more than one percent over the previous year.

******

You’re looking for my picks that you have to beat in our Bracket Battle to win a free Landmark subscription, am I right?

Well, keep looking. We’re adding to the drama this year.

Switching it up a bit, if you will.

You won’t find my bracket in this column today but instead you need to go to my social media outlets to find it. I’ll post my bracket on Twitter (@ivanfoley) and Facebook (um, Ivan Foley) by 11 a.m. Thursday morning, which is the deadline to enter our contest.

If you don’t do Twitter or Facebook, slide to the Between the Lines link at plattecountylandmark.com Thursday and I’ll have my bracket posted there as well.

And if you’re really old school and don’t do the internet at all, two things: 1. Rethink that strategy. 2. I’ll have my bracket picks in next week’s printed edition.

******

This is the first year I can remember the tournament’s play-in games, which are usually duds among teams generally seen as having no chance to advance further, having a potential impact on my bracket picking strategy. That’s another reason I’m holding the unveiling of my bracket until 11 a.m. Thursday.

The good news is that when I post it, the posting will be done in a matter of seconds--not strung out over the course of two hours like the CBS selection show Sunday evening.

(When he’s not doing yard work, you can find Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. Still use your phone as a phone? Call him at 816-858-0363)

 


IT'S A WEEK OF QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS AND MORE QUESTIONS
Written 3/9/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Nice of you to drop in.

******

The word that Costco plans to build one of its warehouse retail stores in the Northland is good news. Sadly for Platte County, the proposed store will sit just across the county line into Clay County, so Clay, not Platte, will benefit from the sales tax revenue generated at Costco.

******

The donation of 80 acres of land by the developer to Platte County R-3 as a site for a new school or two down the road is also a nice touch by MD Management.
Not saying the intentions are not pure, but one thing to keep an eye on is whether a Tax Increment Financing district is eventually sought for the planned development near that location, and if so whether R-3 will oppose it. It’s always a possibility the donation came as an effort by the developer to make nice with R-3 in hopes that if/when a TIF district or other tax incentives are sought the school district will not fight it with aggression.

******

The talk of a Sam’s Club coming to Platte County in the area of Hwy. 152 and Green Hills Road at this point continues to be talk with no construction action. One source usually in the know on these matters tells me not to expect any action at that spot from Sam’s Club in the year 2016. But never say never.

******

I’ve done a little more digging on this one.

Remember the JRay’s child porn case in Clay County we talked about shortly after Valentine’s Day? The one where the defendant, Jeremy Ray, a Clay County resident who owned and operated JRay’s Restaurant and Bar in Platte City at the time of his offense, got a sweetheart deal that you would never see in Platte County.

Curiously, Ray was able to avoid any prison time. He was sentenced to five years probation for felony possession of child porn. A crime to which he confessed.

“That is the lightest sentence I have seen for that type of charge,” a veteran defense attorney told me.

And the action continues to be a buzz of conversation around Platte County legal circles. I wish I had a bucket of fried chicken (extra crispy, please) for every time someone has mentioned the topic to me the past three weeks.

Anyway, just to name names because it is appropriate to do so under these interesting and confusing circumstances, the judge in the case was Shane Terril Alexander. The judge is a former assistant prosecutor for Clay County. The Clay County assistant prosecutor who handled the case is Kate Noland. Court documents indicate Noland sought the minimum five year prison term for Ray, which if that’s the case even her minimal recommendation was ignored by the judge. Ray’s defense attorney was Shawn Blair, who is also previously an assistant prosecutor for Clay County.

So the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney in the case all are/were former assistant prosecutors for Clay County.

No prison time for a confessed child porn possession offender. I ask this question for the many law enforcement people who have asked it of me: What the hell?

******

The image situation at Edgerton is even worse than I thought.

Last week in recounting all the horrible homicides (six) that have occurred at or near Edgerton in the past few years, I mentioned that the recent quadruple homicide occurred at a residence just outside the Edgerton city limits. Let me be corrected on that. Actually, the Denham property is inside the city limits of Edgerton, according to James Snook, former mayor there.

“The Denham property is inside the city limits as they voluntarily annexed in,” Snook tells me. “The Denham property abuts the Staley Snook property, which also abuts the original city limits.”

There you go. A town with a population of 550 people has had six homicides in the past three and a half years within its tiny city limits.

What’s going on over there?

******

If you’re a registered voter, don’t forget to head to the polls next Tuesday, March 15 for Missouri’s presidential primary.

And remember, “none of the above” is not on the ballot.

******

Another question heard recently:

“Will you be doing your bracket contest again this year? You really got kicked last year.”

Please. You know me better than that. A kick to the groin only improves my focus.

Hey, we’ve been doing this contest for 20 years, so a lemon of a year was bound to happen at some point, wasn’t it? That’s the only way to explain my “fifth from the bottom” finish in 2015. That’s the way the system of mathematical odds works. I think. Honestly I’m not that sure about math.

On second thought, maybe it was the eenie meenie miney mo method of picking teams that I used last year. It was worth a shot. Didn’t work. New plan this year. Flexibility is the key to happiness, you know.

So get ready for some serious bracketbrawl this year, boys and girls. I’m gonna be your hoops daddy. My picks are gonna go nuclear.

(Foley occasionally goes nuclear on Twitter @ivanfoley. Or find him being environmentally conscious on Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


MOVIES THAT MAKE MY MUST-SEE LIST; AND EDGERTON'S STRUGGLES
Written 3/2/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. I saved you a seat.

******

I need to step up my movie game.

All winter I’ve kept a running list in my head of movies I want to get out to see. You know, see a movie the old-fashioned way by actually hitting the theater on Barry Road, grabbing a large popcorn, smothering it with waaay too much of that movie theater butter and gorging myself while watching a show.

It hasn’t happened--yet. And the movies that are on my list have likely moved out of the theater by now and on to NetFlix or Redbox or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

The movies (in no particular order) that are on my list of “I wanna see that:”

1. Creed. It’s another entry in the Rocky series. The first couple Rocky movies were great. The 60 or 70 made since then--not so much. This one I’ve been told is good. Thus, it’s on the list of Foley’s Flicks.

2. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Someone whose opinion I trust told me this is the best movie they’ve ever seen. I hope to verify soon.

3. 50 Shades of Black. This is actually the movie that’s tops on my crush list. It’s a goofball comedy, a spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey. It stars Marlon Wayans, one of the infamous Wayans Brothers comics. Love those guys. I was fortunate enough to see two of them at the comedy club at Zona Rosa a few years ago--so funny.

I want to watch this movie right meow.

4. The Big Short. It’s about a group of guys who made a fortune on the pending economic collapse of America when the economy was about to tank in 2008. A Wall Street guru recognized early on that a number of sub-prime home loans were in danger of defaulting and bet against the housing market.

My only worry about this movie is that I will really have to concentrate to follow all the angles. This can be a problem for me. In my free time I don’t like to concentrate--it feels too much like work. I want to be entertained and make smartass comments. But I’m gonna give it a shot.

******

There is a “For Sale By Owner” sign in the window of the Farley Law Office building at the corner of Third and Main in downtown Platte City, right next to The Landmark.

If you’re looking for a piece of commercial property, check it out.

You would have fantastic neighbors.

*****

You saw the story on this topic on our front page last week.

Kudos to Adam McGinness, member of the Platte County R-3 School Board, for voting no on what sounds like a questionable use and timing of $5.1 million for an energy program that allegedly will offer the district some savings “if the district uses the buildings as we said” over the course of the next 20 years. There is also a kickback of $380,000 in the form of a one-time payment upon completion of the project.

Meanwhile, under a lease-purchase agreement, the district will make annual payments of $476,939 over 15 years. My math shows $476,939 times 15 is more than $7.1 million.

So that $5.1 million investment is actually a $7.1 million investment. We have to subtract, of course, that $380,000 kickback and those alleged savings that will occur “if the district uses the buildings as we said” over the next 20 years.

At best, it seems fair to describe the eventual payback as “marginal.”

Yes, R-3 is taking on an additional several more million dollars of debt. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this approach. Remember, Platte County R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik said in a public meeting last year that he feels the amount of a school district’s debt is “irrelevant.”

McGinness cast the right vote on this issue.

Finally, an R-3 board member not afraid of going against the “group think” approach. Excellent job.

******

Check out the wise quotes from David Jones in Alan McArthur’s article in this issue about the Parkville aldermen rejecting bids for a park restroom project and you’ll understand why I’m sad to see Jones leaving the board soon. He brings an experienced voice of government service and common sense. I’m not sure Parkville realizes what an asset he has been/could be in the future.

******

Strange things seem to be happening in northeastern Platte County.
Does Edgerton still have a chamber of commerce? If so, it has some work to do.

Edgerton is a city with a population of 550 people. Small towns aren’t normally known for deaths by homicide. But it has become a trend at Edgerton.

Two sisters were murdered in a home in Edgerton in the summer of 2012. Four members of a family were killed by homicide near Edgerton 10 days ago. That’s six homicides in or near the small town in less than four years. Yikes.

Plus there was the bizarre situation of the escaped cons racing through Edgerton and pointing a gun at the then-mayor of the town a few years ago. James Snook, quick and nimble afoot as he is, refused to get in the truck and instead made a mad dash for cover behind a vehicle.

It’s like the Wild, Wild West over there.

(Sometimes it’s like the Wild, Wild West on Foley’s Twitter feed @ivanfoley. You can also track him down on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, or email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


TELEVISION NEWS JOURNALISM ISN'T WHAT IT SHOULD BE
Written 2/24/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines, where things have been non-stop since last we talked.

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Often it’s not what they say it’s what they don’t say.

That is a truism sometimes forgotten in the news gathering business. I was reminded of this on Saturday morning at the first press briefing after the shocking quadruple homicide near Edgerton.

Two items stuck out at me during that press briefing. Both factors seemed to race right past the gaggle of alleged television journalists who were there.

1. I asked if all the victims were found inside the house. Authorities declined to answer the question. That’s fair enough. It was--and is--a very fluid, very active investigation and I respect that. But remember, it’s often not what they say it’s what they don’t say. When they declined to answer, I immediately said to myself: “Self, at least some--if not all--of these homicide victims weren’t inside that burning house.”

Apparently the TV folks didn’t pick up on this. The TV pretty boys and girls in nice clothes and makeup apparently didn’t realize the importance of the question asked by the unshaven newspaper guy who had hurriedly showed up at the scene in jeans and a Royals pullover, dressed as if he intended to be doing yard work instead of journalism on that Saturday morning.

All weekend every TV news channel continued to report the deaths as a four-fatality house fire being investigated as a homicide. Yes, the situation was being investigated as a homicide but at no time did authorities say the bodies were inside the home and at no time did they specifically say deaths were caused by fire.
The TV news folks were doing a lot of incorrect assuming. But they were impeccably dressed while doing so, so there’s that.

2. At that hastily-called press briefing Saturday morning, I overheard the TV people asking the sheriff when their news choppers would be allowed to fly over the scene. Obviously The Landmark doesn’t have a news helicopter (we’ll try to work that into next year’s budget) so I was unaware that air space above the scene had been restricted until the TV peeps started whining about it. Upon hearing this, I was more convinced than ever that some, if not all, of the bodies were outside the home. The restricted air space order had been put into place because authorities didn’t want the bodies to be filmed from the air. The TV journalists, the very folks affected by the restricted air space order, never put two and two together on this.

Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, apparently.

Of course, I shouldn’t just pick on the TV people over this. The Kansas City Star was also at the scene on Saturday and yet all weekend continued to refer to the situation as four people killed in a house fire being investigated as a homicide.

******

While driving away from Saturday morning’s press briefing my cell phone rang. It was a source, not connected to law enforcement, who has always been accurate with information. The information this source was telling me--through the intermittent cell phone signal that occurs while traveling those back roads--confirmed my speculation above. And then some.

On Sunday afternoon I went back to the scene, able to get much closer this time. I won’t get into details but based on some things that happened during my visit there I was more confident than ever in the information I had speculated on and acquired the day before.

The Landmark was able to officially confirm much of the info Sunday night. We busted out the information on our social media sites ahead of the press conference that the sheriff and the prosecutor held Monday afternoon.

******

Important to remember as you think about this story:

While officials have said the bodies were set on fire, at no point have officials said the cause of death was by fire. They haven’t said that it wasn’t. But they haven’t said that it was. By design, they aren’t being specific.

Remember, officials have only said the medical examiner has determined cause of death to be by homicide.

I’ve been too busy doing Landmark stuff in the past day or two to notice how the TV stations are reporting it now. Have they yet made the distinction?

******

I guess in a long-winded way what I’m trying to say is that when a big story breaks in Platte County, The Landmark is the outlet you need to look to first.

We’ll give you the most trusted angle on the news.

******

It is with sadness we report that Jack Swaney of Platte City, the father of Anne Swaney, the Platte County High School graduate/Chicago journalist who was murdered in Belize last month, passed away Tuesday night. Jack had been hospitalized the past few weeks. More on his death--and his life--in next week’s Landmark.

Our condolences once again to the Swaney family.

Two things will always come to mind when I remember Jack Swaney: 1. A 1985 road trip with him to a Pirate football playoff game. 2. The phone conversation I was fortunate enough to carry on with him a few days after his daughter’s tragic death in January.

Quite an interesting, fun, opinionated guy. He will be missed by many.

(You don’t have to wait a week to get Between the Lines. Follow us on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope and YouTube. Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SOMEBODY GOT A
SWEETHEART DEAL
FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
Written 2/17/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Let’s focus and finish.

******

You’re getting spring fever, aren’t you? Me too. Maybe the 70 degree temperatures the weatherman says are headed our way this week will help cure our ills.

******

This is getting to be a medical emergency. Somebody bring me fried chicken, stat.

******

Perhaps the most bizarre story this week involves a (now former) Platte City business owner who confessed to the crime of felony possession of child pornography.

Despite his confession of guilt, it appears the man, Jeremy Ray, who owned and operated JRay’s Restaurant and Bar in Platte City, got a sweetheart deal during Valentine’s week from the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office and the Clay County court system. As you’ll see in our front page story, Ray gets off with five years probation.

This sentence is a head scratcher. Maybe it was sealed with a kiss. I’ve been in the news game many years and I can’t recall anyone convicted--with a confession, mind you--of possessing child porn being able to avoid prison.

The judge in the case was Shane Terril Alexander. The defense attorney was Shawn L. Blair of Liberty.

So I ran the scenario by a respected, veteran defense attorney in Platte County.

This attorney’s response after looking at the court documents?

“That is the lightest sentence I have seen for that type of charge.”

My thought? That would never happen in Platte County. Valentine’s week or not, prosecutors and judges in Platte County don’t let sweetheart deals like that one happen on child porn cases.

Ray is fortunate he was a Clay County resident for his criminal activity.

******

It doesn’t matter if you agree with his politics or not, something we can’t disagree on after watching Donald Trump in action in debates is that the man is extremely quick-tempered and thin-skinned.

Those aren’t ideal traits for a man in a leadership position.

******

They could have saved some money in legal fees.

Opponents of the Chapel Ridge residential development in southern Platte County, which was approved by the county despite vocal opposition, have lost again in their court challenge against the county.

As we opined in this column when the shaky legal case was initially filed, that lawsuit was doomed from the start. Its defeat was confidently predicted in this column, and I don’t even watch Judge Judy.

As expected, the case lost at the circuit court level. Opponents, for some reason, then decided to appeal. Recently the appeals court upheld the circuit court’s decision and in the process I’ve been told the appellate judges took the opponents’ attorney to the woodshed on a variety of items.

The opponents are good folks. But they spent some dollars on their unnecessary ride through the legal system that could have been better spent elsewhere.

*****

Platte County doesn’t need a bigger jail but maybe the location of the current jail could use some better signage.

This became evident once again Saturday morning as I was at work here in the luxurious confines of our 140-something-year-old Landmark building at our 151-year-old newspaper. I hadn’t been here long, in fact hadn’t yet had time to unlock the front door when I heard someone fiddling with the knob. I acquired a sight line on the door just in time to see a young woman with a toddler in her hands. She had a stressed look on her face. She couldn’t see me standing toward the rear of our office and when she discovered the door was locked she immediately headed west down the sidewalk at a rapid pace. Concerned about that look I had seen on her face, I hurried to the door, opened it and looked west. By that time she was halfway down the Main Street sidewalk. I hollered to ask if she needed something. It was cold that morning with a bitter wind. She was dressed in pajama pants and slippers. The toddler was wearing a coat but his face was red from the cold. I’m not sure how long the woman had been walking around trying to find an open door.

“I’m looking for the Platte County Jail. My GPS has taken me three different places,” she said. I gave her verbal directions and then walked with her halfway down Third Street toward the jail until I was confident she knew exactly where to go.

It’s not the first time a downtown Platte City business at off-hours has been visited by someone looking for the jail. I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s not ideal for the lost visitor, and while I’m not opposed to meeting new people in a situation that might result in a column piece like this one, some business owners don’t consider the “lost jail visitor wandering aimlessly around downtown” situation a good thing.
It might be time for the county to explore the idea of some visible signage guiding out-of-towners to the location of the jail. Not necessarily a sign at the intersection of Third and Main but maybe a highly visible “hey, the jail is this way” kind of sign at the driveway entrance to the county complex off of Third Street. Just a thought.

******

Sometimes my GPS takes me three different places before I realize where I’m going with this column.

(Get Between the Lines at your leisure, at least whenever he decides to tweet, on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley occasionally entertaining himself on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or catch him at that blue desk in The Landmark office)

 


ARE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS SUPPOSED TO BE THIS FUNNY?
Written 2/10/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Let’s dispel with this fiction that Between the Lines doesn’t know what it’s doing. It knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s undertaking a systematic effort to change the way you read opinion pieces. . . or something.

******

My pick in this column that Carolina would win the Super Bowl matches the quality of the other two NFL picks I made here this season. A perfect 0-3, which qualifies me to take Mike Carey’s job at CBS.

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And let’s dispel with this fiction that Mike Carey doesn’t know what he is doing. He knows exactly what he is doing. . .

Nah. He doesn’t.

******

I’m not sure how many, if any, of the candidates in either party would turn out to be good leaders of the free world but I will say this presidential campaign has already been the most entertaining one in my lifetime.

My son and I watched the Republican debate the other night and I can’t tell you how many times we made wisecracks and laughed out loud during the three hours of political puffery. It was more entertaining than any Saturday Night Live episode. Between Marco Rubio going full robot and Chris Christie going full WWE by swinging a verbal steel chair at the backside of anyone he talked about. . . .my side was hurting. Things were so bizarre Donald Trump actually looked like the mentally grounded one. That takes some doing.

Are presidential campaigns supposed to be this funny? I’m not sure. But I’m loving it.

******

Now for the Democratic town halls. First, why do the Democrats prefer to hold a “town hall” instead of a debate? Is that the kinder, gentler approach? Maybe to them “town hall” means there can be no tough questions, because you know, hey you can’t get all radical at a town hall. Is this all part of a systematic plan to wussify America? Like, “hey you there with your hard-hitting question at this here town hall, what do you think this is, a debate? Take your fact-based questions and get the hell out of here.”

******

And why is Bernie Sanders always yelling? He sounds like Mr. Stress. Bernie needs to inhale the calming aroma of lavender Essential Oil. Or maybe get more fiber in his diet.

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Jeff Roe is the campaign manager for Ted Cruz. I’m old enough to remember when Roe was winning tax increase elections for Platte County R-3.

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Have you noticed the popular RedPlum coupon books are now inserted every week in The Landmark? Yes, check it out. Clip and save.

This is just one more reason why you no longer need the Sunday Kansas City Star.

And another reason The Landmark is the largest paid circulation newspaper in Platte County.

******

Filing will begin soon for the countywide elections set for later this year.
Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections, says filing for county candidates will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 8 a.m. Will there be a line of candidates waiting for the door to open at the election office that morning?

Maybe.

Filing will close on Tuesday, March 29 at 5 p.m.

If you’re a veteran of this process, you know the two main days to keep an eye on are the opening day and the final day. Typically that’s when a majority of the action will happen.

The offices up for grabs this year are:

First district county commissioner, currently held by Beverlee Roper; second district county commissioner, the spot currently held by Duane Soper; assessor, currently held by David Cox; public administrator, currently held by Toni Clemens; sheriff, currently held by Mark Owen; and treasurer, currently held by Rob Willard.

******

What is known about the races coming up this year? Some folks have made their intentions clear. Duane Soper is not running for re-election, he says. John Elliott, a longtime active background participant in the local election process, has said he will be filing for Soper’s second district commission spot.

Dagmar Wood, another person who has worked in the background of Platte County politics for several years, has said she will be filing for the first district commission seat currently held by Roper. Most folks seem to be assuming Roper will be seeking reelection but to my knowledge she has yet to make a public announcement to that effect.

Willard will be running for reelection as treasurer. Owen will be seeking reelection as sheriff. Both will be seeking their second terms. Clemens is not running for reelection for public administrator.

The primary election is Aug. 2. Voter registration deadline for that August vote is July 6.

******

So the February sales tax/use tax receipts for Platte County are in. An early negative trend continues.

After two months of collections, the total sales tax revenue in 2016 compared to this time last year is down by 6.22 percent. The amount of use tax revenue is down by nearly 14 percent.

The important number for the county’s general revenue fund is the combined total of sales tax and use tax revenue. After two months in 2016, the combined sales tax/use tax revenue total is down by 8.92 percent.

Hmm.

(Get Between the Lines at your leisure on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THIS COLUMN HAS NUMBERS BUT THERE WILL BE NO MATH
Written 2/3/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Join me as we live rent-free in the minds of the politicians.

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According to the numbers The Landmark has gathered, crime is down everywhere in these parts.

In the last few months we’ve reported criminal prosecutions in Platte County fell by 14 percent in the past year; criminal offenses in Platte City dropped by 12 percent from the previous year; violent crimes and property crimes worked by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department have dropped significantly since 2012; and the jail population the past many months has been running well below what it was a couple years ago.

With this information in mind, the public has many reasons to be confused when anyone at the county starts talking jail expansion.

******

Are you loving the price of gasoline right now?

As of Wednesday morning, the price at the QuikTrip in Platte City, which we’ve been told is the busiest QT in the Kansas City region, is listed at $1.39 per gallon.

Yes, please.

******

Every Monday a report from GasBuddy.com arrives in my email. GasBuddy.com is known as the premiere source for real-time local gas prices. It was developed in an effort to provide consumers access to current gasoline prices in their local market. Users can find and share gas prices with fellow drivers, often saving money at the pump by doing so.

In their Monday email, GasBuddy said gas prices in Kansas City have fallen 5.4 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $1.45 on Sunday. The national average is $1.80 per gallon.

That price is 17.6 cents lower per gallon than a month ago. The national average has decreased by 20 cents per gallon during the last month and is 25 cents per gallon lower than it was this time one year ago.

I found this historical summary interesting. GasBuddy says over the past six years, gas prices in Kansas City on Feb. 1 have looked like this:

2016: $1.45 per gallon; 2015: $1.87 per gallon; 2014: $3.00 per gallon; 2013: $3.37 per gallon; 2012: $3.10; and 2011: $2.89.

******

If you have a place to stockpile some gasoline now priced at $1.39 per gallon--and I’m sure you do, right?--it might be a good time to do that. Many analysts seem to think the price will be heading upward fairly soon.

“Crude oil prices have rebounded back above $30 per barrel the past two weeks and with more talk of an organized cut in oil output between some of the world’s largest producers there may be more upside potential in the future, should those talks pan out,” said Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“For now, due to a lag time from rising oil prices, gasoline prices in many areas may continue to drift lower but don’t be caught by surprise if in a few weeks they move higher. Refiners have already begun some winter maintenance. While supply of winter gasoline is abnormally high, once that inventory is liquidated I fully expect gasoline prices to march higher,” DeHaan added.

Hey, let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

******

While those with an agenda to push continue to brag up the potential of the Twin Creeks areas as a local Utopia coming soon, to me the best economic news in Platte County doesn’t have anything to do with Twin Creeks fantasies or consumer activity (more on consumer activity in a second).

The best economic news in my opinion is that the unemployment rate in Platte County as of November had dropped to 3.3 percent. That’s down from 4.8 percent unemployment in Platte County in 2014.

That’s a nice improvement and worthy of a celebration. The Twin Creeks sideshow for now is just background noise.

******

Now for an update on consumer activity in Platte County.

Remember last year when the county’s sales tax revenue reports early in the year showed crazy growth? A couple of the officeholder bureaucrats in the county administration building were licking their chops, anticipating an enhanced revenue stream that they could spend. Then a funny thing happened. Soon those monthly reports started showing significant drops in the sales/use tax revenue, and the year ended with revenue basically flat--up by only one percent.

This year, the start is much different. Whereas last year’s early reports were positive, the January sales tax revenue number is bad. The general sales tax revenue for Platte County in January is down by more than 11 percent. The use tax revenue is down by nearly four percent.

Combined, the county’s general sales tax/use tax income for the month of January is down by nine percent compared to January of 2015. The January revenue numbers reflect consumer activity from November. Apparently there was not a lot of early Christmas shopping going on in Platte County.

Now, just as we advised last year not to get giddy over those positive early numbers, we’ll advise not to overreact to the negative January figures. Things may--and probably will--bounce back soon. The February report should be out later this week. We’ll keep you posted.

If the February figures are as bad as the January numbers, it might be time for the budget decision-makers at the county to take notice.

(Take notice of Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley or email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


LAZY JOURNALISTS CONTINUE OVERHYPING THE TWIN CREEKS IMPACT
Written 1/27/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. It’s not perfect but it’s perfect for you.

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Yes, I know I’m 0-2 on NFL predictions in this column space this season. But Carolina will win the Super Bowl.

If you don’t believe me just watch.

******

Maybe pay your mortgage with that Carolina pick.

Maybe not.

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I buy Frosted Flakes in bulk.

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Because I eat Frosted Flakes in bulk.

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As you peruse this issue, you’ll notice a couple of things. We have an exclusive report on how the number of violent crimes in Platte County has gone down compared to three years ago.

You’ll also notice in this issue that the apparent new local crime of choice is to run from the cops. Typically that doesn’t end well for the bad guys. And gals.

*******

It’s comical how so many members of the mainstream media keep propping up the ridiculous projections of explosive population growth in the Twin Creeks area. Twin Creeks is the area bordered by I-29 on the west, I-435 on the north, Hwy. 169 on the east and Hwy. 152 on the south. It covers 15,000 acres.

The Landmark first exposed those projections as fantasy nearly two years ago. Lazy journalists continue to spout the Twin Creeks projections as fact instead of exposing it for what it is--moist dreams and unattainable projections of big-government and high taxation types. Some taxing entities (here’s looking at you, Platte County R-3) have already used Twin Creeks’ over-the-top projections as the boogeyman lurking in the shadows when they spout the “need” for a higher tax levy to fund pet projects. The Platte County Commission in the summer of 2014 was using Twin Creeks’ projections as a reason the county was proposing building a county jail the size of Texas.

The most recent news outlet to employ this rainbows and unicorns style reporting is something called NORTH Magazine. Allen E. Dillingham, listed as publisher of NORTH Magazine, recently penned a column in which he said this: “With a projected build-out of 20 plus years, 75,000 new residents will call the area home and this new tax base will create millions of dollars for KCMO. Twin Creeks and the Northland will be the economic engine driving Kansas City, Mo.”

You can’t be serious.

I don’t know the man but I’m sure Dillingham is a great guy with good intentions in his written words. He’s wearing a suit and tie in his column picture so we know he’s a snappy dresser. He probably owns many leather-bound books. But there seems to be no independent research being done at NORTH Magazine. It sounds like his column is a direct quote from a developer’s public relations piece or a government worker’s job-protecting memo.

It’s important to understand that in the world of making projections anybody can say anything about anything. It’s a projection. A projection is an opinion. In many cases, a projection is a heavily biased, self-serving opinion. People who should know better start talking about projections as if they were cold hard facts without taking a minute to realistically think through whether or not the projection is even a reasonable possibility.

In regard to projections at Twin Creeks, when I interviewed folks in the planning department at the City of Kansas City in the summer of 2014 even they were already backing off the “75,000 people in 20 years” lunacy.

I wrote this when we exposed how it would be virtually impossible due to a variety of factors--including the economy, some demographic indicators and lack of places for that many people to find jobs, among other reasons--for that kind of growth to occur so quickly at Twin Creeks and I’ll write it again. There may eventually be 75,000 residents living in the Twin Creeks area, but the vast majority of folks who are old enough to read this right now won’t be around to see it.

******

Dagmar Wood of Parkville, who was a key player on the jail committee that slowed down an over-eager group of county elected officials who were pushing an immediate jail expansion in 2014, has announced she will be running for first district county commissioner this summer in the Republican primary. That’s the spot currently held by Beverlee Roper.

Let’s assume Roper will be running for reelection. For me, this campaign will be the gift that keeps on giving. I’m giggling like a school girl.

It will be the “just the facts” approach of Wood vs. the magical fairy dust, scattershot approach from Roper. Grab your popcorn.

“I’m excited,” Wood told me last week. “I am running because the county needs some common sense solutions. We need to prioritize essential services like public safety, roads and bridges and prosecution. We need to quit kicking our issues down the road for other people to deal with. We need to have a maintenance plan for parks. We have just fed money into the park system without a plan for how we’re going to maintain it.

“We’re talking track records and issues. I hope voters see there is a need for more common sense fiscal decisions being made at the county level. When you look at the track record you can see that I’ve had a history of recommending solutions that steward the taxpayer dollars well.”

( Ivan Foley can be found stewarding Twitter @ivanfoley. Reach him by phone at 816-858-0363 or email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


HERE'S A MEMO FOR PLATTE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICERS
Written 1/20/16

Here’s a sincere Between the Lines memo to Platte County Sheriff’s Department employees. Don’t forget that the two county commissioners--Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper--who on Monday morning were busy telling you how much they want to financially take care of law officers are the two commissioners who in 2014 refused to allow voters a chance to realign the county’s sales tax structure to allow for a dedicated law enforcement tax.

A dedicated law enforcement tax would give the county the financial means to financially take care of law officers.

Don’t be fooled by the words of the elected. Pay attention to their actions. Those are often two different things.

The message spewed by some elected officials often changes depending upon which crowd happens to be sitting in front of them at the moment.

******

Sincere condolences to the family and friends of Platte City’s own Anne Swaney, murdered last week in Belize.

Praise and thanks to Jack Swaney, Anne’s father, for agreeing to a compassionate phone conversation with me about Anne so we could include some thoughts from him in our front page story. It wasn’t easy for him, obviously and understandably.
To tell you the kind of person Jack Swaney is, by the end of the talk he was giving life advice. “Hug your kids every day,” was his message in a nutshell.

******

I didn’t know Anne Swaney, other than vaguely recalling running into her at Wells Bank a time or two when she worked there one summer, but know her father Jack a little bit. In my “still a puppy” days at The Landmark back in the early 1980’s I covered the local high school sports beat and Jack was close to the school and its athletic programs, so we occasionally had conversations. I remember also showing up to photograph a Boy Scout event that he was helping lead and had encouraged me to attend.

Then in 1984 the Platte County Pirate football team was playing a state playoff game at Lexington. I reached out to Jack looking to catch a ride, and ended up riding to and from Lexington that night with Jack, Don Wingate, and I’m pretty certain there was a another man in the car with us that night but for the life of me cannot remember whom it was.

I recall the conversations in the car that evening being dominated by strong opinions and often entertaining thoughts being expressed by Jack Swaney.
Jack has always liked to try to pull my chain a little bit, and on his most recent visit to The Landmark a few months ago to renew his subscription he told me: “Even the Republicans don't like you now.”

Good stuff.

******

Expanding on a point we touched on briefly in this column space last week:
If you stop to think about it, we shouldn’t be surprised the recent self-proclaimed nationwide search Park Hill School District supposedly conducted for its new superintendent resulted in the job being awarded to a person already serving in that position on an interim basis--the person who has already worked in the district in one capacity or another for a decade. That person is Dr. Jeanette Cowherd.

After all, the last time Park Hill did that whole “nationwide search” thing and offered the job to a newcomer, the district eventually found itself in an embarrassing situation. Dr. Scott Springston ended up in a “separation agreement” after an alleged “health situation” proved to be, at least according to a police report filed by his wife who called police to their home in a domestic situation several weeks prior to his “separation” from Park Hill, related to alcohol.

Picking Cowherd was a safe choice. The district didn’t want to find itself getting embarrassed again so quickly. The board members probably feel as if they know Cowherd by now and if there was anything to embarrass the district they probably assume it likely would have come out by now.

******

We’ll talk about this more in a future column, but when Platte City voters head to the polls to decide on that vehicle sales tax on out-of-state purchases being continued or discontinued, be sure to think opposite. Because of the way the ballot language is worded, a “no” vote will mean the tax continues. A “yes” will mean the tax gets killed.

So no means yes and yes means no.

Think opposite.

*******

This is a true story. A couple Landmark readers brought in the clipping to show me.

In a newspaper in Hendersonville, Tenn., an obituary appeared for a man named Thomas Crockett Herbert, Sr. He passed away Nov. 19, 2015 at the age of 76.
In his obituary in his hometown newspaper, here was the message:

“Visitation will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at West End United Methodist Church from 12:30 until 3 p.m. with a memorial service to follow. In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton.”

******

Just so there is no confusion, I am not a CIA agent.

Hoping this message gets out there so the next time I’m at the airport no 44-year-old females will want to take their fists to my head.

(Whether or not you work for the CIA, you’ll want to keep up with Between the Lines. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


THE COURTHOUSE PARKING MYSTERY HAS BEEN SOLVED
Written 1/13/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. I’m here to serenade you. Stop me if I get off key.

*****

I’ve made one NFL prediction this season in this column. I missed it. So I’ve made a decision. I will not be telling you which team I’m picking to win the Chiefs vs. New England playoff game.

But I will tell you which team I’m not picking. I’m not picking New England.

******

That show is still on the air? I’m sorry, but no matter how sad your compelling life story might be, after the TV show Undercover Boss has been on the air this many years if you’re getting fooled by your employer dressed in some funky disguise then your ass should be fired on the spot.

******

It’s a cruel, cruel world. But I feel like I’m having a good hair day, so it’s all good.

******

And then along came Jones.

Last week I mentioned there are rumblings about a potential candidate stepping forward to challenge Nan Johnston in the mayor’s race at Parkville. Shortly after last week’s paper had hit the streets I was able to catch up to that potential candidate. If you follow my social media postings you already know who it is. If you don’t, it’s David Jones, current Ward 3 alderman.

Jones tells me: "I've had a lot of people call me and meet with me face to face. I can't confirm that I'm running but I've talked with a lot of people."

Jones is a former mayor of St. Joseph.

That Jones is considering diving in isn’t a total surprise to Between the Lines. You may recall back in March after attending a board meeting in which the mayor was continuing her silly fight with the downtown Community Improvement District, I commented that Johnston seemed a little uneasy anytime Jones spoke.

If I have permission to quote myself I will do so. Ok, I just gave myself permission to quote myself.

Here’s what I wrote in the March 18 Between the Lines:

“The eye test says Alderman David Jones might be interested in running for Parkville mayor next year. The eye test also says the current mayor squirms a bit in her chair when Jones speaks up at meetings.”

Boom.

******

Kids, do not attempt that kind of advanced analysis without proper parental guidance. I am a highly-trained, highly-experienced people watcher.

******

Wait. There’s more. That March 18 Between the Lines column was a doozy. I must have remembered to take my meds that day.

Here’s something else from that same column:

“The Between the Lines eye test says the dockets in the courtrooms at the Sixth Judicial Circuit at the Platte County Courthouse apparently are not all that crowded these days. Why would I say that? Check out the ample parking space available on Platte City’s Main Street at most hours of the day. Many more open spaces than a year or two ago. What gives? Are there fewer criminals? Are the new judges more efficient? Whatever the reason, if we can effectively judge the caseload of the courts by the number of cars parked out front, the caseload has decreased noticeably. Something to stick in the back of your mind for more in-depth studying if talk of “we need more facilities and another judge” starts back up again.”

Boom. Nailed it.

When the county prosecutor--as he is mandated to do by state law--gave his annual report to the county commission in late November, it was revealed that the number of criminal cases being prosecuted in Platte County dropped by 14 percent in the previous 12 months.

*******

So much for the argument--presented to me by a couple of folks, and you know who you are, don’t make me name names--that the increase in the number of open parking spaces on Main Street near the courthouse was only due to the fact that some county employees had been encouraged to start parking elsewhere. That could be a small piece of it. But the bigger reason for all those open spaces is that criminal cases are down by 14%.

******

Did I mention I’m picking opposite of New England?

******

I think the best thing Jeanette Cowherd had going for her in landing the permanent superintendent job at Park Hill is that she is not Scott Springston.

******

Got an email today from one of those self-promoting security firms that said it has ranked Weatherby Lake as one of the 10 safest cities in Missouri. I was taken aback for a bit, reflecting on the multiple police reports that have been generated from incidents at or near the Springston home over the past 12 months. Then I read closer to see that the firm’s ranking of Weatherby Lake in the top 10 “safest cities” only studies burglary reports. That explains it.

(No Stranger Danger here. Make Between the Lines your weekly safe zone. Follow the publisher on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube)


THIS IS WHERE THE COWBOY RIDES AWAY
Written 1/6/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. If you ever left. Some of you never leave. You just sit there in your comfortable chair all week waiting for the next issue of The Landmark to arrive.

And that’s ok. We’re out here working for you.

******

Filing deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. for city council and school board positions, you guys. Let’s get some action rolling. Too many uncontested races thus far. Apathy can be a dangerous thing. Time to step it up a notch.

I’m hearing a little chatter about a possible candidate jumping in against Nan Johnston in the Parkville mayor’s race, but other than that the buzz is fairly quiet. Park Hill School Board will have some contested races, so we’ve got that going for us. Beyond that, it might be a quiet spring on the city/school political front.

******

Do not read my next sentence.

*****

You little rebel. I like you.

******

My cell phone rang in the early evening on New Year’s Eve. The caller ID flashed the name of Jason Brown. “Ah, that must be one wild-ass party,” was my first thought. Sort of. Kind of. Not really.

It’s official. Jason Brown has left the building. The former public works director for Platte City/then state representative/then county presiding commissioner has moved to southern Missouri. He has purchased a ranch not far from Ava, Mo. where he will continue to raise cattle.

Brown called to give me the news as the moving trucks were backed up in the driveway of his Platte City home, which is within walking distance of the downtown square. Oh, and his home will be for sale fairly soon, so if you’re in the market for a new residence keep that in the back of your mind.

Oh, and he’s keeping his subscription to The Landmark because he still follows the local news scene very closely.

“Keep The Landmark coming. 2016 is going to be a fun year in Platte County,” Brown said.

******

Also, Brown of course has resigned his post on the Platte County Regional Sewer District Board of Directors. So if you’ve always dreamed of being on a sewer board--and let’s be honest, who hasn’t-- now’s the time to flush whatever else you’re doing and make a run to the county commission to ask for that appointment.

******

One good thing about the area to which Brown is moving? There is virtually no planning and zoning there.

Freedom and adventure.

******

Brown told me the next time I make one of my trips to Table Rock Lake to give him a call and drop by the ranch. He thinks I won’t. Which means I will.

This summer, check social media for pictures of me ropin’ and ridin’ my pony on a cattle drive.

******

Contrary to urban legend, Brian Nowotny, parks director for Platte County, does not have an employment contract.

At least that was the official response presented to me last week when I put in a Sunshine request for any and all contracts or “letters of agreement” regarding Nowotny’s employment with the county.

“Per Brian Nowotny, county parks director, he was hired without a contract or written agreement” was the official county response to my request.

This should put to rest misinformation that has been spread inside the administration building for years. Multiple former county employees have informed me they had been told Nowotny worked with a contract. The human resources office at various times over the years had also indicated the same misinformation to some county employees, I’m told.

And I can recall a specific phone conversation several years ago with a second district county commissioner in which I was personally told Nowotny had a contract with the county. In a moment of weakness, I took that commissioner at his word without asking for a copy of the alleged employment agreement.

Not sure why the misinformation was spread and an urban legend was allowed to grow over the years. Maybe it was done to try to keep any heat off of Nowotny, who prefers to be the Teflon man.

An at-will employee is much easier to dispose of than one working with a contract.

******

Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, made clear his displeasure that Kevin Robinson, county auditor, had included an increase in the county’s contribution to the county employee retirement fund known as LAGERS in the auditor’s recommended budget. Robinson put that in his recommended budget, according to Schieber, without the county commissioners--who are the budget authorities for the county--having discussed the issue. “I can’t support that,” Schieber said in the county’s budget hearing this week.

The fact that Schieber was irritated to the point he made a public remark about it is not a positive sign for the county auditor. Publicly, Schieber is as polite a leader as you’ll ever find. If he makes a public comment indicating dissatisfaction with another county official’s action, that’s a sign he ain’t real happy, folks.

Something tells me the days of Robinson running unopposed for county auditor are over. Expect an opponent in 2018.

Had an opponent stepped forward in 2014 Robinson would have gone down to defeat, so politically speaking he is living on borrowed time, anyway.

((Your don't neeed to be living on borrowed time to keep up to date with The Landmark publisher. Follow Foley at your leisure on Twitter @ivanfoley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN PLATTE COUNTY IN THE YEAR 2016?
Written 12/30/15

Well, here we are. It’s cold and flu season and this is the final Between the Lines for 2015. Don’t get all teary-eyed on me.

******

How was your Christmas? I bought myself a vacuum. It really sucks.

******

Speaking of Christmas, the Christmas Eve subscription special conducted by your journalistic Santa was a huge success. My phone, my phone, my phone was on fire.

More than 30 new subscribers jumped on board this runaway freight train known as The Landmark during the $13 special from 9:30 to 2 on Christmas Eve, and scores of others of you renewed your subscription at the half off rate during that time. Heck, even a half dozen or so of you came walking in the door. On Christmas Eve, no less.

The tremendous response was fun but it kept me from getting any other work done that day. My plan was to write the May-August portion of our Year in Review article while occasionally dealing with a phone call. Fat chance for this Santa.

I’ve made an executive decision that if we do this next year I’m gonna need a little elf to come help cover the phones.

******

Admit it, you were anticipating one of those “Here’s what is going to happen in Platte County in 2016” columns, weren’t you?

I’m no prophet, I don’t practice Scientology and I’m not operating on inside information but if I were a life coach I would suggest about 12 months from now these folks will want to start freshening up their resumes:

Dana Babcock, county director of administration.
Mary Robinson, county human resources director.
Brian Nowotny, county parks director.

******

Thankfully, they seem to be learning to ignore the recommendations made by Kevin Robinson, county auditor/bureaucrat.

The county commission’s proposed 2016 budget isn’t perfect by any means but I do applaud the commission for finally having the foresight to start socking away some cash for future law enforcement needs. This is likely at the urging of Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, who talked about the need to do this type of thing during his campaign for office in 2014 when he crushed Jim Plunkett.

See details on the county proposed budget on our front page.

******

The part of the county budget that still makes no sense is the “cost of living adjustment” being given across the board to all employees. A one percent cost of living raise is in the budget for everybody at a time when there is zero inflation.

This screams more: “Hey employees, we are nice guys, we hope you like us, here’s a government handout” than it does of any real need to keep up with the cost of living.

*****

Let’s talk a little more about inflation. Apparently only our local government entities believe there is some. The federal government disagrees. The feds are allowing no benefit increase this year for retirees because there has been no increase in the cost of living.

A financial newsletter sent to Between the Lines headquarters this week went into some specifics about what it calls “real world inflation.” It seems there is none. As in zero.

Well, unless your primary method of transportation is a 26” mens bicycle.

Here’s what I mean:

The cost of gasoline is DOWN 24.3 percent in the past year. The cost of a gallon of milk is DOWN 14.5 percent in the past year. The cost of a pound of ground beef is DOWN 4.5 percent in the past year. The cost of electricity is unchanged. The cost of a pound of white bread is DOWN by nearly one percent in the past year.

But the price of a 26” mens bicycle at Wal-Mart has gone UP by 6.1 percent in the past year. Damn you, Wal-Mart. I was getting ready to take up cycling. . .

Maybe the local government employees getting those cost of living increases drive bicycles to work. That seems to be the only reasonable explanation at this point.

*****

Financial analysts are even breaking it down by regions of the country. In the Midwest, the consumer price index from June of 2014 to June of 2015 fell by .7 percent. That’s nearly a one percent DROP. That’s the opposite of an increase.

******

This is the last issue for a column from our TV newsman Eric Burke. Be sure to check out his farewell piece on page 3.

It was enjoyable having the TV news guy in our pages the past few months. After he texted asking me to call him before I read his column this week, we had a phone chat in which we engaged in a conversation fitting for the Mutual Admiration Society.

I enjoyed the fact Burke asked if he could continue to get a free copy of The Landmark mailed each week to his home. “If not, I’ll pay for it,” he said. Of course as a past contributor, he’ll continue to get a freebie as long as he’s willing to receive.

That he still wants to be on the list was a compliment. Burke’s dad is a newspaper publisher in another state, so he knows a thing or two about the business.

“The Landmark is the most fun newspaper I’ve ever read,” he said.

Burke won’t be writing but he isn’t riding off into the sunset. We’ll still be engaging in ridiculousness with him on Twitter and something tells me he’ll be lining up The Landmark to “cover” some rides and events related to his new gig as the public relations director for Worlds of Fun.

Best wishes to a good guy.

(Get a Between the Lines update at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley or choose to find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


THIS COLUMN IS MY GIFT, IT'S THE LEAST I COULD DO, REALLY
Written 12/23/15

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Come, they told you. Pa rum pa pum pum.

******

Neapolitan pizza is coming soon to a southern Platte County location near you. See page B-1 of this issue of The Landmark for all the details.

I’m pretty pumped about it. Mostly because I love all kinds of pizza. The specialty Neapolitan pizzas are the bomb. Also because it gives me another chance to write about food, which either fascinates or annoys my buddy Chris Kamler, I can never tell which for certain.

*******

Speaking of food, thanks to the many Landmark readers who dropped by this month with holiday gifts of candy and nuts.

Gifts are not a necessary act but please know that we do appreciate you letting us know you appreciate the work of this newspaper.

******

Merry Christmas.

This has become a Christmas Eve tradition the past few years. While the rest of the staff gets the day off, I’ll be in the plush confines of The Landmark office for a portion of the day on Christmas Eve working ahead for the holiday. So we may as well make it worth it. Make my phone ring. While I’m here, I’ll be selling Landmark subscriptions for half price. Yes, for the lucky amount of $13 I’ll sell you a one-year subscription to The Landmark, Platte County’s finest and largest paid circulation newspaper. Call 816-858-0363 between the hours of 9:30 and 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve and I’ll hook you up.

No rain checks. This deal ends Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. when I’ll grab my Christmas nuts and head out the door.

******

Drum roll, please.

Time to announce our winner in that front page “What is this? Take a guess” photo contest a couple of weeks ago.

The zoo animal in question was a hippo. I would type out the entire word but I’m not sure how to spell it. Obviously a lot of Landmark readers do love your animals, as a veritable plethora of you emailed in the correct answer. This morning (Wednesday) we held the official drawing. Cindy Rinehart, office manager, pulled the winning name from a box containing every correct entry.

The winner of the $20 gift card to the Boulevard Grill inside the Four Points by Sheraton near KCI and a one-year subscription to The Landmark is Chris Wallen of Platte City.

Congrats to Chris. We’ll have more contests like this in the future. Watch my Facebook page for details and such.

******

Hey, there are school board elections coming up in the spring. Platte County R-3 could use some candidates in its school board race, folks. Park Hill has two openings and on the first morning of filing there were already four people who had put their names on the ballot. There are two openings at Platte County R-3 and as of the first morning there had been one candidate file, an incumbent.

Is there that much more parental interest in what goes on at Park Hill than there is at Platte County R-3? It’s starting to feel that way.

If you’re interested in following Platte County R-3 news a good source is plattecountyr3facts.com. Some of the latest work by that website is available for your holiday weekend reading inside an ad you’ll find on page A-5 of this issue of The Landmark.

******

Here’s a Between the Lines musical review.

The best song out there right now is “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth.

Do a YouTube search for it. Thank me later.

******

Puth is the young guy who had the hit tune “Marvin Gaye” earlier this year.

******

Puth is a word that sounds dirty but really isn’t.

******

If you’re going to the gym three or four nights a week and you’re still squishy around the middle consider asking the community center for a refund because those two things should not be happening at the same time.

******

Disclaimer: I’m hardly a fitness expert. And this is going to sound like a not-so-humble brag. But in July of 2013 I weighed 179 pounds. Today I weigh 159 pounds.

Here’s how many trips to the gym it took to drop 20 pounds and tone things up: zero. Here’s how many dollars were spent on community center memberships: zero.

A reduction in portion sizes. A reduction in fast food consumption. A reduction in soda pop intake. Avoiding elevators, taking the stairs. A nightly in-home exercise routine of push-ups and planks.

If the gym isn’t working, give Foley’s Fitness a try. The program is free.

******

Sure, he has been one of my favorite players in recent years but count me among the apparent few who believe the Royals should just move on from Alex Gordon.
Yes, Gordon keeps himself in great shape but Father Time is undefeated. Gordon is a descending player. At this point you’d be paying him for what he has already done instead of what he can do for you in the future.

Let some other team overpay Gordon. He deserves a nice overinflated contract. But it doesn’t have to come from the Royals.

Spoken by a season ticket holder who would be fine with KC spending that money on other needs.

(When he isn't avoiding the gym, Foley can be found on Twitter @ivanfoley. Search for him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


CITY HALL SHOULD LET DOWNTOWN ORGANIZATIONS DO THEIR THING
Written 12/16/15

Hang with me, let’s get through this. It’s been a crazy news week and a hectic morning. I picked a bad time to quit sniffing glue.

******

On Monday, The Landmark enjoyed hitting the retirement reception for Edward Olson, hanging up his badge after 40 years on the force at the Parkville Police Department. By all accounts spoken that day, a good man and a good officer.

******

Speaking of 40 years, has Monday’s reception ended yet? Pretty sure I was feeling the onset of bed sores.

I don’t wanna say Kevin Chrisman, police chief, enjoyed playing the role of emcee but I’ve seen Congressional filibusters that took less time. In addition to enjoying police work, Chrisman also enjoys a microphone.

To his credit, Chrisman is quick humored and more entertaining than long-winded politicians. So we had that going for us.

******

So, what about the latest drama affiliated with Parkville City Hall’s relationship with its downtown community? It seems to be a continuing pattern.

We’ve touched on it in this column space previously, not only since Nan Johnston has been serving as mayor but also under a previous mayor or two. For some reason, whoever is sitting in the mayor’s chair can’t help trying to carry significant influence over organizations like the Main Street Parkville Association and the Parkville Old Towne Community Improvement District.

That’s not the way the system is designed to work. The merchant organizations are not direct functions of city government. They are their own entities. It’s not the place for politics. At least it’s not supposed to be.

Johnston denies she led a “coup” to replace the leadership inside the Main Street Parkville Association. Many members of the association disagree. Johnston told me it doesn’t matter to her who is in charge of MSPA but I’m not convinced, as in the next breath she openly talked about how she had been hearing so much “disappointment” with the past MSPA leadership.

The posturing that took place at last week’s meeting was so unsettling to a representative of a state organization who was in attendance the organization killed a $40,000 grant that was headed to the Main Street Association. That’s embarrassing. And it’s a shame.

There are reports Johnston and Troy Wilson, ousted MSPA chairman, have previous differences of opinion. The story goes Johnston had proposed the idea that MSPA should be responsible for maintaining downtown infrastructure such as street lights and sidewalks. The story goes Wilson rightfully balked at that idea, pointing out those are items to be handled by city government.

Whether there is 100% accuracy in that background story is irrelevant at this point. What is relevant is that City Hall seems to be overly interested in having direct influence over who holds leadership positions in both the MSPA and in the CID.

It smells of an ego and power thing. It has never been a good look for any previous mayors who tried to force change in those organizations and it’s not a good look for the current mayor, either.

Focus on running the city. Let the downtown organizations do their thing.

Everybody work together for the greater good.

Sounds simple but it’s easier said than done, obviously.

******

I told you this has been a nutty week. Here’s more proof.

Eric Burke, our newest Landmark columnist whose work you’ve been seeing on our Opinion pages for the past few months, had a scary experience Sunday night. Burke was working his “real” job as a television news reporter for KCTV-5. He and his cameraman were sitting in a news truck when they were robbed at gunpoint. Three people opened up doors to the van and demanded “everything.”

That’s the bad news. The good news is it gave Burke a hard-hitting topic for his column this week. Check it out on page 3.

You may have noticed Burke’s column topics to this point have been of the soft ice cream variety. That’s not the way I kick-started Between the Lines back in the day. I suppose Burke’s light topic approach for a newcomer is not all bad. After all, it takes a while to introduce yourself to readers and lay the groundwork for any heavy-hitting stuff that might come later. And Burke recently had become a stay-at-home dad, which may have softened his edge somewhat.

Not gonna lie, fellow columnist Chris Kamler and I privately have each chided Burke for some of the squishy topics he has chosen for his column. I guess what I’m saying is that Kamler and I are not All-American guys. At least not in our columns. Burke might be.

So I’m very glad to know Burke can show some fire. Apparently it takes some punk-ass flashing a gun at him for it to kick in.

Based on his previous columns, when I started reading his description of how the crime took place this is what I expected to hear:

BAD GUY SHOWING GUN: “Give me everything! Give me everything!”

BURKE: “Hey young fellow, no need to get angry. I’m just sitting here reflecting on life’s little moments. Do you have kids?”

BAD GUY SHOWING GUN: “Give me everything! Give me everything!"

BURKE: "Calm down. If you’re looking for something to be mad about there’s a local mall charging folks to see Santa. Can you believe that crap?”

BAD GUY SHOWING GUN: “Give me everything! Give me everything!”

BURKE: “Listen, how about you join me over at my house tomorrow? We can hang some Christmas lights. Watch an episode of Ellen. Maybe some HGTV. I’ll make a cheesecake. We can sip some cocoa. But we gotta wrap it up early. I’ve got a school dance to hit with my daughter.”

******

Having some fun with you, Burke. Glad you’re ok. Proud of you for screaming an expletive at the bad guy. You passed the initiation.

(Get occasional expletives from Ivan Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley or find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)


GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO STOP GIVING MONETARY PARTICIPATION RIBBONS
Written 12/9/15

Take it from a fearless fast food adventurist. The new Culver’s in Platte City gets a thumbs up.

I gave it a shot one day last week, ordering their fried chicken dinner. Went with the four piece, my friends, because it’s fried chicken and there’s never been a fried chicken whose ass I couldn’t kick.

Three of the four pieces were fantastic. The fourth piece--a very large breast--was a little dry. But that’s okay. I’ve always been more of a leg man, anyway.

******

Just FYI, my chicken run to Culver’s does not mean I’ve given up on Platte City getting a KFC restaurant back in this marketplace. Remember if KFC does come back, I’m gonna need some help from the rest of you to keep them around this time. I can’t support the entire franchise by myself, you guys. Eating chicken is a team sport.

******

Also, let’s keep pushing for a Long John Silver’s to hit this local fast food empire. A convenient place for your favorite newspaper publisher to run get some shrimp and hush puppies at least once a week would be pretty sweet.

I don’t ask for much. But a man has to eat.

******

Let’s have a little fun. And you can win a couple nice prizes.

Check out the front page picture taken by Valerie Verkamp at the Kansas City Zoo entitled “What is this?. . . Take a guess.”

Give us your guess on what type animal that is. All correct responses will be entered into a drawing to win two great prizes, including a $20 gift card to Boulevard Grill inside the Four Points by Sheraton in Platte County near KCI, as well as a free one-year subscription to The Landmark.

I often brag The Landmark has the smartest readers. Show us your animalistic smarts.

Email your guess to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

Deadline for your entry is Dec. 23.

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Remember the not-too-long ago days when there was a push underway for a major addition to the Platte County Jail? It was a proposed addition so large the facility would have resembled a state prison, not a county jail.

Yes, a prison-sized jail in downtown Platte City. Lovely.

Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed. At least at the time. Later some exploration into expanding the “futures” area (basement) of the jail got underway and apparently continues to this day.

It might be time to slow the roll on that “futures” expansion talk as well.

Why slow the roll? Obvious reasons, really. I’ve been paying attention to the jail population. It has been running steadily in the 117 to 127 range for months. Capacity is around 153.

The other obvious reason, and just as important as the current population, is last week’s revelation right here in The Landmark that criminal prosecutions in Platte County are down by 14% in the past year. Unless there’s some kind of criminal fairy magically dropping bad guys into the jail cells, fewer prosecutions will mean fewer inmates.

Any sense of urgency in regard to expanding the jail is being fueled only by someone’s imagination.

******

As you’ll see in Gordon Cook’s letter to the editor on this page, we have evidence of another local government agency using the term “cost of living adjustment” to describe raises it is about to give.

The county is proposing a 1.5% COLA to its employees. The City of Parkville is budgeting a 2% raise and referring to it as a COLA.

Stop the madness.

Stop misleading the public by calling these things COLAs. They’re raises. Raises not based on performance. Raises not based on any cost of living index or any hard economic numbers. These raises are simply based on the passage of time.

These raises are monetary participation ribbons.

There is no inflation. The cost of living is not on the rise. The federal government is making no inflation adjustment this year. Zero.

But the county of Platte wants to. The City of Parkville intends to.

As Gordon Cook, an accountant, so aptly points out in his letter: “Perhaps Parkville employees are unique in the fact that only they are experiencing 2% inflation.”

Perhaps. But Platte County employees are unique in the fact that only they are experiencing 1.5% inflation.

These raises aren’t cost of living adjustments. They’re raises being handed out for no other reason than the calendar is turning. Tell it the way it is.

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Final numbers are in. Platte County’s combined sales tax/use tax income, which is the main source of revenue for the county’s general fund, rose by 1.2% in 2015.

The number had some crazy fluctuations throughout the year, you might recall. The first four months of collections, for instance, showed growth that had the bureaucrats salivating, no doubt contemplating pet projects and huge pay raises.
Then reality started to set in. The numbers for five of the eight final months of the year declined. At the end of the year, the number finished basically flat compared to last year, though a news release sent out by Platte County Treasurer Rob Willard was worded like the 1.2% growth was a great accomplishment worthy of a countywide celebration.

By the time I was done reading his press release I was wondering if Rob had donned a cheerleading skirt. That wasn’t a pretty sight to imagine. . .

(You won’t catch the publisher in a cheerleading skirt but he does use conditioner on his hair. Get more from Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


DROP IN CASE FILINGS COMES AT AWKWARD TIME FOR PLATTE COUNTY PROSECUTOR
Written 12/2/15

Hope you had a great, long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Yes, the cold and wet weather sucked but still . . .hope you had a good one.

******

I guess my prediction of the Dallas Cowboys getting a win on Thanksgiving didn’t exactly pan out, did it? Maybe it’s a good thing we aren’t doing the Pigskin Picks this year.

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Much of the rest of this column will be spent talking about numbers. Don’t be scared, this isn’t a math quiz. Keep reading. Together we can do this.

You may not think it by reading the police blotter featured in this fine newspaper each week or by checking out the numerous crime stories that dot our pages, but it seems crime in Platte County might actually be trending downward. At least one set of numbers indicates such.

Each November, the prosecuting attorney of the first class counties in Missouri not having a charter form of government are by state statute required to make an annual report to the county commission. In that report, the prosecutor must state the number of misdemeanors and felonies occurring within the county that have been prosecuted by him or his assistants the preceding year.

The Landmark got its hands on this year’s report. We were surprised to see a 14% drop in the number of criminal cases prosecuted compared to the previous year. We weren’t the only ones surprised. Even the prosecutor seemed a bit taken aback by the significant decline.

Here are the totals for the past two years reporting periods:
Felonies (2015 reporting period): 478
Felonies (2014 reporting period): 556
Grab your calculator. Punch in those numbers. Down by 78 felony cases in one year.

Misdemeanors (2015 reporting period): 2,408.
Misdemeanors (2014 reporting period): 2,781.
That’s a drop of 373 misdemeanors.

Totals (2015): 2,886.
Totals (2014): 3,337.
That’s a decline of 451 in the number of criminal cases filed by the county prosecutor’s office. A drop of about 14%.

For the decline in misdemeanors, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd cites the continuing fall in bad check cases as the primary reason. Fewer and fewer people are writing checks these days. Debit cards, credit cards and electronic banking are how shoppers roll these days. Fewer checks written means fewer bad check cases for Zahnd’s office. “Next to none” I think is the way Zahnd described the number of insufficient funds cases his office prosecutes in this technological day and age.

As for the drop in felonies, Zahnd doesn’t have a clear explanation. He says he is happy to see the reduced number but really has no explanation for it. What he will say is that he is not ready to draw any major conclusions from one year’s worth of data. “It could be a blip.”

The timing of the report that shows an unexpected drop in criminal cases comes at a bit of an awkward time. As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Zahnd in his 2016 budget request is asking county commissioners to approve a $4,000 salary increase for each of his nine full-time assistant prosecutors and a $2,000 salary increase for his one part-time assistant.

No word yet on how the county commissioners are reacting to the request or how this new information being reported by The Landmark might impact their way of looking at the request. No one is saying assistant prosecutors are overpaid, but a significant pay increase at a time when the criminal case workload has shown a 14% drop sets up a bit of an awkward public relations scenario.

It’s another interesting aspect of the 2016 county budget talks to keep an eye on.

******

While criminal cases are down, the number of traffic citations being run through the county prosecutor’s office has increased. Traffic tickets typically aren’t a time consuming thing for county prosecutors, however, even Zahnd admits that. “Those tend to be the most straightforward and easiest-to-resolve cases,” he said in our conversation this week.

That’s an honest statement from the prosecutor. If we want to take it a step further, it might even be fair to say many traffic ticket cases resolve themselves.
Traffic cases are not required to be shown in his annual report. Zahnd pointed out the number of traffic cases rose in the past year from 3,265 to 4,027. So traffic tickets are up 23%.

******

As always, you’ll want to check out the letters to the editor on this page. Proof once again that The Landmark has the smartest readers.

The letter from Mike Stark expands on an opinion we’ve expressed in this column space previously--how employees in the public sector often expect a raise just for the simple fact that the calendar has turned to a new year. I’ve never understood this. The simple passage of time doesn’t mean an automatic pay raise for folks in the private world but many public sector workers seem to think an annual pay increase is guaranteed in the constitution.

Also, the fact Platte County refers to pay increases for its workers as a cost of living allowance is an inaccurate term for the county to be using. In the real world, a cost of living increase is a number based on actual economic data such as the consumer price index. That’s not the case at the county, where what those folks call a COLA is an arbitrary number based on nothing related to the consumer price index or other economic data but instead is just a number the county seems to pull from the sky.

The fact every employee gets a raise regardless of performance is also a thing that needs to stop in the public world. The county’s annual proposed raises, for instance, are not based on performance evaluations but instead are proposed as “across the board.” Pay increases should be evaluated individually, not handed out like a participation ribbon.

If raises are deserved based on performance and a growing economy means money is there, by all means reasonable salary increases should be an option. But giving raises solely on the fact we’ve turned some pages on the calendar is not good governance over public funds.

(You can always get more Foley more often on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


REMEMBERING WELLS HULL;
BREAKING BLACK FRIDAY
DOWN TO A SCIENCE
Written 11/24/15

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome back to Between the Lines, where you get journalism the way pilgrims intended it to be.

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Like many others, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Wells Hull, a Platte City business icon, last week at the age of 85. You can read his obituary on page A-5.

Wells was president of Wells Bank for many years and was a behind-the-scenes influential person in many ways. I admired the guy immensely for his business and financial knowledge and his calm yet firm demeanor. My dad owned The Landmark for only about six months before he died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1980 but in those six months one of the Platte City people he made a connection with was Wells Hull. Wells on several occasions recalled for me a few conversations the two of them had. They were similar in many ways, which is probably why I was drawn to Wells’ personality and trusted his judgment.

Wells had an ornery sense of humor, which he seemed to enjoy sharing with me quietly and straight-faced, giving the impression to anyone who may be watching from across the room that the conversation was very serious when in fact the discussion was quite the opposite.

A time or two in this column space through the years I’ve shared a brief story about a few words of advice that a wise man gave to me many years ago. Those previous occasions when I’ve told you the story I never identified the wise man. That wise man was Wells Hull.

I won’t share the exact nature of the conversation or the decision being pondered at the time he offered his counsel on that day but I will tell you his advice was very simple and yet very effective. His advice was this: “Just don’t panic.”

The conversation stuck with me. From that day forward those words became my adopted mantra. Those words apply to any situation in life.

For that--and for those ornery conversations--I’ll always remember Wells Hull.

******

Your Landmark is on the streets a day earlier than normal this week so that our readers can take a gander at those great deals our advertisers have lined up for you on this Thanksgiving weekend.

I was going to say Black Friday deals. Then it hit me that the special deals advertised in your Landmark start much earlier than Friday.

For instance, as you’ll see in its ad on page B-1, the Zona Rosa shopping district has deals starting Wednesday evening in what they call their Orange Wednesday event.

Once you get past the Zona ad on page B-1, don’t miss the heavy advertising inserts from JCPenney (the skid carrying those inserts when they arrived at The Landmark weighed 1,300 pounds). JCPenney’s deals start Thanksgiving Day at 3 p.m., which means perhaps as I’m flipping on the television to watch the Dallas Cowboys knock off the Carolina Panthers (yes, I’m calling my shot--that’s the only NFL play I’ve given you all year, as you’ve noticed we have no Pigskin Picks feature this season so I’m sure you’ve missed my NFL knowledge) undefeated season, many of you shopping addicts will undoubtedly be heading to the Penney’s store at Tiffany Springs.

Next to the JCPenney inserts inside this Landmark you’ll find a Cabela’s insert that the more outdoorsy readers will find attractive. Looks like Cabela’s Black Friday doorbuster deals begin at 5 a.m. on, you guessed it, Black Friday. Get there early, I noticed the Cabela’s ad says five hours only.

As if the above deals aren’t enough, also inserted in this issue is a coupon booklet for household items from Procter and Gamble.

The P&G booklet has $63 worth of coupons in it. An annual subscription to The Landmark costs only $25.92. Let’s do the math. I’m going to go out on a limb and say your annual subscription is well worth it.

******

So with all this Black Friday talk, let’s break it down to a science. Sort of.
To help consumers maximize their savings this Black Friday, the consumer website WalletHub surveyed 8,000 deals from 30 of the biggest retailers in the United States in their Black Friday ads.

WalletHub says it identified the retailers offering the largest advertised discounts for each product category. Here is some of what the consumer site says its research shows.

The retailer where you can get the largest average discount? Gotta love this one, because it’s a Landmark advertiser. It’s JCPenney, where the average discount on their Thanksgiving weekend deals is 68% off.

Boom shaka laka.

Next up? Kohl’s. This one is good news for your Between the Lines columnist, also, because most of what you see your Between the Lines columnist wear comes from either JCPenney or Kohl’s.

By now I’ve got your curiosity up and you’re wondering which other retailers are near the top of the discount list this weekend. Right? Gotta tell you the list includes a few I’ve never heard of, though in a moment of real confession let me say I’m not really a professional shopper.

Here are the 10 best places to find savings, plus the average amount of discount by each:

1. JCPenney 68.0%.
2. Kohl’s 66.7%
3. Stage 63.9%
4. Groupon 63.7%
5. Belk 59.5%
6. Macy’s 56.0%
7. Kmart 50.1%
8. Panasonic 47.0%
9. Fred Meyer 45.3%
10. Office Depot and Office Max 42.8%

(While he’s happy to guide you to the best deals, chances are you won’t find Ivan Foley shopping on Black Friday. Reach him by email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SAVE ME A
SEAT ON THE
KANSAS CITY STREETCAR
Written 11/18/15

It is weird that I’m looking forward to riding the Kansas City Streetcar?
Cut me some slack. I grew up in a little town with no stoplights. To me, this streetcar looks like something out of those Jetsons cartoons. I don't just want to ride, I want to drive that thing.

******

I really do think the streetcar, detailed in a front page story by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp, will bring more people to downtown Kansas City.

And it will help give KC a bit of a hip, modern, up-to-date kind of feel in its downtown district. The city’s downtown area has been running behind in that ‘up-to-date’ department for quite some time.

******

Hold onto your hotsie.

What about those rumors that QuikTrip has given up on coming to Parkville? Have the hopes and dreams for those of us who think a cool, clean, modern, sales tax generating QT would be a good thing for the southeast corner of Hwys. 45 and 9 been dashed?

The rumors are inaccurate.

So sayeth Sean Ackerson, assistant city administrator and community development director for the City of Parkville.

Landmark reporter Alan McArthur was at the Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night and says Ackerson reassured the aldermen that QT has purchased the property in question. And the respected convenience store chain has also submitted a final development plan for the site, Ackerson told city officials.

The final plan was originally scheduled to go before the city’s planning and zoning commission on Nov. 10 but was delayed. Ackerson said a special meeting could be held on Monday, Nov. 23 if the QT reps are ready with details. If the special meeting is not held on Monday then the plan will go before the city’s planning and zoning board on Dec. 8.

The project apparently ran into some snags because of timing for construction work to begin. Ackerson said the existing layout of the property presents some challenges. The work would begin with some grading on the site before KCP&L can move its utility lines, then more grading to remove some water lines currently on the property. Then there will be more excavating to install new water lines before the final grading work can be completed.

Parkville allows initial grading work to begin on a site before the development plan has been approved.

When completed, the QuikTrip will have an entrance roadway along Hwy. 9 shared with the BankLiberty location and another entrance along Hwy. 45 at Julian Drive. QT has proposed another right-in and right-out-only entrance to the west of Julian Drive.

******

Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson recommends a 1.5% across the board pay increase for all county employees in 2016.

Curiously, Robinson’s recommendation for a 1.5% salary hike for everybody, plus $4,000 raises for each of the nine full time assistants in the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office, comes despite the fact the revenue streams that make up the county’s general fund are flat. Through the first 11 months of 2015, county income from the general sales tax and the use tax is down by half a percent compared to the first 11 months of 2014.

As for Robinson’s recommendation, color me not shocked. If you’ve been paying attention, I hinted a few weeks ago you could expect another recommendation for a raise from the auditor who loves to spend other people’s money. That has been his method of operation. And now we must bring you the important reminder that the auditor’s wife is a county employee (HR director) who works under the supervision of the county commission, so when the auditor makes a recommendation for a pay increase for county workers he is in fact making a recommendation for an increase in his household income. Something seems a little juicy about that, but the majority of the county commission has long closed its eyes to the ridiculousness of that situation and other issues with its HR department.

Last year, Robinson recommended a three percent across the board cost of living increase (COLA) for county employees. When push came to shove, even the two county commissioners who through friendship covet Robinson’s input (Duane Soper and Bev Roper) apparently thought that was nuts. The amount of the raise was cut to 1.5% in the county’s final budget. Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, voted no on the 2015 budget, in part because of the across the board pay raise.

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Meanwhile, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says part of the reason he is asking for a pay increase for his assistant prosecutors is due to a proposed Department of Labor rule that would set the minimum salary for exempt employees at $50,400. An exempt employee is one to whom no overtime or comp time is mandated under labor laws. Currently that minimum amount for exempt employees is $27,000.

The prosecutor starts new assistants out at $46,500. The prosecutor currently has five full time assistants who make less than the key $50,400 amount being proposed by the Department of Labor for exempt employees. This means that under the proposed new labor rule, those five would be eligible for overtime pay and/or comp time.

So in recommending the $4,000 salary increase for the low end of his scale, Zahnd said he would like to also compensate the rest of his full time assistants with an equal $4,000 salary increase. Current salaries of his assistants range from the $46,500 on the low end to $100,500 for his top assistant. In addition, in the recommended budget one part-time prosecutor would receive a $2,000 salary increase.

We’ll see how it all plays out over the next several weeks. The county commission will review the auditor’s recommended budget and has the power, of course, to make changes. The commission is the final budget authority for the county. A budget hearing will be held in January.

(See how Between the Lines plays out 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)

 


WHAT IF YOU HELD
A MEETING AND
NOBODY CAME?
Written 11/11/15

Tuesday evening I hit the public meeting hosted by the City of Platte City and its marketing/planning partners in regard to the 300 acres of undeveloped property on the east side of Interstate 29 between Hwy. 92 and Hwy. HH. The purpose of the meeting was to invite public comments, suggestions and recommendations for future uses of the property.

Gotta tell you, it was a lonely night.

The press was there. Some city officials were there. The marketing firm reps were there, as were representatives from the Platte County Economic Development Council and the Platte City Chamber of Commerce. Other than that? About three actual members of the general public. And I may be overstating it by 33%.

Granted, more could have been done to promote Tuesday night’s powwow (I found it listed on the city’s web site), but it seems likely the strategy at getting public input needs to change. Maybe an online survey? It was mentioned by a presenter that about 100 invitations had been mailed in advance of Tuesday night’s event. Let’s just say the return on investment for those invitations wasn’t good.

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At the meeting, there was a presentation by Jim Harpool of RH Johnson Co., a Kansas City commercial real estate firm specializing in retail brokerage, management and development services. Harpool did present some interesting perspective on things. For instance, on a national scale over the last 10 years, 50% of retail sales growth has been in e-commerce (online sales). Over the last five years, he says, 100% of retail sales growth has been in online sales. This is changing the way retailers are thinking. “All retailers are trying to develop an integrated platform that coordinates brick and mortar and e-commerce. Very few big box tenants are expanding,” Harpool says.

So, I would not expect a big box store coming to the east side of I-29 at Platte City. Let’s not waste time and effort chasing a pipe dream.

Most expansion on a national scale, Harpool says, is happening in the form of restaurants. No surprise, really, as we’re living in a dining out kind of world. In fact, excuse me for a minute while I run to the local Dairy Queen before finishing this column.

OK, I’m back.

Platte City Chamber of Commerce officials say they often hear from residents a desire for Platte City to have a chain sit-down family casual restaurant, like a Cheddars, for instance. Sounds nice and the thought is making me hungry again, but could Platte City sustain such a restaurant? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t consider sustainability a guarantee if it were my money being invested.

Other opinions that have been expressed to chamber officials include the thought that Platte City could use a bowling alley and/or an entertainment center playhouse, similar to a Dave and Buster’s type thing.

Hmm. Bowling alleys are finding a tough go of it in much larger markets than Platte City. To me a bowling alley sounds like a financial gutter ball waiting to happen, but hey, I’m just a smartass who writes a newspaper column.

******

With a large retail center seeming an unlikely possibility for east of I-29, what are the more realistic scenarios? With Platte City’s proximity to KCI Airport, the thought of an upscale hotel seems a possibility. And light industrial usage seems more realistic than retail. Perhaps something similar to the Riverside Horizons area. Warehouse type users.

Alicia Stephens of the Platte County EDC says she has shown the property for light industrial usage but topographical challenges on the property and whether Platte City really wants a lot of truck traffic are concerns. She quickly pointed out, however, if light industrial usage creates a couple hundred jobs at the location, the community would be much more receptive to that truck traffic.

Jobs bring population growth. Population growth then brings retail growth.
It’s a circle of life kind of thing, you guys. Don’t get woozy on me.

******

Harpool also mentioned other potential uses for portions of the 300-acre tract as being medical facility-related, senior housing, and perhaps an independent living type facility.

Residential wise, there is the possibility that the backside of the property--the area furthest to the east--would make a great location for some higher end homes. The area on the eastern edge of the site features some pretty terrain/views, we’re told. Platte City, according to the U.S. Census, has no homes valued at more than $300,000. Perhaps that could change, it was mentioned by at least one person in attendance.

Of course there are other potential residential uses east of I-29, including single family homes more family-friendly priced than $300,000. Also, multi-family dwellings would be another option.

In a chat with your not-so-humble columnist after the meeting, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt said the ideal vision is to save the corridor portion (highway frontage) of the 300 acres for commercial activity. Not residential. “The second and third tier areas could be residential, but ideally the corridor needs to be saved for commercial uses, whether that’s light industrial or retail,” the mayor emphasized.

The goal is to master plan the entire 300 acres, which would require the city working closely with the owner of the 260 acres that the city does not own. The private owner should be happy to do that. After all, the private owner seems to be in a potentially beneficial position based on what the city is doing.

D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, and the mayor use the term “cracking the egg” for future development. The city’s current project of installing sewer service to the east side of I-29, they hope, is the move that will “crack the egg” to development occurring. If/when that happens is anybody’s guess at this point.

For now, let’s stay calm and swag on.

(Crack the egg on Foley’s Twitter account @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


TAKE A DAY OR TWO TO CATCH YOUR BREATH, YOU DESERVE IT
Written 11/4/15

It’s the talk of the region. And for good reason. It’s even getting mention in national newscasts.

The parade and rally to celebrate your World Series champion Kansas City Royals on Tuesday drew an unbelievable crowd. City officials are estimating the crowd of people who converged upon the city’s downtown area at 800,000.
There will be doubters who pose questions about the crowd estimate, and that’s fair. I’m not in a position to argue with that estimate. I was in the middle of it. It’s tough to get a perspective on much of anything while standing in a mass of humanity. Seeing the photos taken from the sky was the best way to get a grasp of just how many people were taking part in the celebration.

From the vantage point where I camped myself at 9th and Grand I could see a few people in trees. There were people who climbed on top of the bus stop canopy to get a better line of sight. They were eventually instructed to get down by authorities who obviously feared a collapse or a tumble. That worked for a bit, but a short time later another crowd of folks had perched themselves on top of the same canopy. If you politely left a bit of personal space between you and folks standing next to you that personal space was quickly sucked up by more pedestrians. People just kept coming. And coming. It was an endless stream.

But it was very much worth the trip there and I was thrilled to breathe in the experience of a Kansas City celebration for the ages. I had skipped out on the 1985 parade. Had I known I’d have to wait 30 years for the opportunity to attend another one I may have made more of an effort in ’85. If the Royals make us wait another 30 years between championships something tells me I won’t be at the next one.

******

One thing that would have helped is if the players would have been perched on high-rising floats or something similar. I realize Chevrolet no doubt dropped some sponsorship money to someone for the right to have all the Royals in the back of individual Chevy pickups. Money talks and helps pay the costs of a parade, I’m sure.

But it created a situation where it was tough for many folks to get a view of their baseball heroes. Some of the players stood up in the back of the pickups, which helped make them more visible to more parade-goers, but others did not. If you were in the crowd lining the streets and were 15 or more people deep in the crowd, good luck getting a visual. At least you can say you were there to feel the excitement and perhaps catch an occasional glimpse.

******

To get more of your Royals World Series fix, you notice the coverage starts on the front with Chris Kamler words and photos. Check page A-8 for a couple more parade photos from Valerie Verkamp and Alan McArthur.

Be sure to check Kamler’s feature “The K Replay” on page B-2 for a great summary of each of the five World Series games.

All great stuff.

******

And hey, Royals fans, take a moment to thank yourselves for your contribution to this year’s team. Don’t undersell how much your unwavering support--and crowd noise--helped inspire these guys to a great result.

Now it’s time to catch your breath. Take a day or two to yourselves. I’m serious. It was enjoyable but it wasn’t easy, right? I mean there were games that ran late into the night. You stayed up. You cheered. You bit your nails. You screamed, either at the TV or while seated in the stadium. You fought traffic. You paid ticket prices. You bought Royals merchandise. You kept wearing that favorite shirt. You put up with the emotional trauma of viewing Johnny Cueto’s awkward bed selfies on his Instagram page. Maybe you held off getting a haircut until this championship was won. You know, so not to spoil the mojo.

See? There was some stress involved for not just players and the coaches and other team officials, but also the fans. “I feel like I need to sleep for 30 days,” one lifelong Royals fanatic told me this week.

Give yourself a little me-time over the next couple days, Royals fans. You deserve it.

******

While most of us are still hopped up on the goofball over Kansas City’s world championship, and rightly so, the prison population epidemic in Missouri and its costly effect on taxpayers and families continues to be on my mind and on the minds of some readers, as evidenced by the letter to the editor at right.

Some numbers and statistics jumped out at us while assistant editor Valerie Verkamp was working on her recent in-depth front page story on the topic and we’ll get into those in a future Between the Lines. Prison population has been a topic mentioned by presidential candidates. Obviously it’s a complicated situation with no simple answer. But as a society we need to start taking the topic more seriously and studying the options that might be out there to help deal with the problem.

******

The topic of some high profile names who sent support letters for a confessed sexual abuser of a child is marinating throughout Platte County. See the front page story on Darren Paden being sentenced to 50 years, and within that article you’ll see a list of names of some of the folks who sent letters of support to the court for the defendant. It’s unsettling, for certain, in particular to see former public servants and names of folks associated with a school district to not be shy in support of a confessed child sex offender. Kudos to Eric Zahnd, prosecutor, for drawing attention to the bizarre level of support shown from some influential names even after it had been explained to them that the man had confessed to the crimes against the child.

(Get Between the Lines at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)

 


WITH THE NATION’S
EYES UPON US, TECHNOLOGY
TURNED FICKLE IN KC
Written 10/28/15

The nation’s eyes were on Kansas City Tuesday night for Game 1 of the World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets. Kansas City is known as a technological epicenter, right? I mean, aren’t I right in saying that?

After all, Kansas City is joining four other cities worldwide as a Core Smart City, “opening yet another door to breakthrough technological opportunities,” says a release this week from the office of Mayor Sly James.

Kansas City is the only North American city designated as an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Core Smart City, joining Casablanca, Morocco, Guadalajara, Mexico; Trento, Italy, and Wuxi, China. The Core Smart City designation, we’re told, means Kansas City joins an elite community that shares successes, lessons learned and best practices more broadly and will enable the city to amplify its expanding leadership in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

“Joining this elite group of technologically driven cities is both a recognition of our achievements to date and a signal of greater things to come,” James said in the press release.

So with the nation watching Kansas City this week, technology is letting us down. Twitter was ablaze Tuesday night during World Series Game 1 as many GoogleFiber customers throughout the KC metro complained of a service outage that occurred right as the game was starting. The outrage was real. And it was spectacular.

Don’t believe me? Check out GoogleFiber customer Chris Kamler’s Twitter posts during the outage. His rant was epic. You can find Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed. I would say that if you’re easily offended don’t follow his account, but if you’re easily offended you should probably stay away from Twitter altogether.

National media personalities started tweeting about the fact many Kansas City Royals with GoogleFiber were unable to watch their team on the biggest stage for several innings. Yes, news of our technology fail went national.

As if the GoogleFiber untimely loss of service wasn’t enough, I also heard from Time Warner customers who had television service outages just as Game 1 was getting rolling. To add to technological nightmares, the Fox network broadcast of the game had several glitches throughout the contest, including a complete loss of signal for a time when juice was out from the generator-powered production truck.

I noticed KCP&L was brilliantly quick to post on its social media outlets that the Fox outages had nothing to do with KCP&L, pointing out the television production trucks are powered by generators. “We’ve had no outages or service problems,” KCP&L proudly and wisely stated to the world.

By late Tuesday it seemed some form of normal had been restored to the local technological world. GoogleFiber seemed to have its problems under control. The Fox broadcast signal returned, which allowed KC fans to get back to hating on announcer Joe Buck. Things seemed right with the world.

Then Wednesday morning the technological demons struck again. As you know, Wednesday morning is Landmark final deadline/production time. To say we rely on the internet in this business is an understatement. Wednesday morning is also the normal time that I quickly compose a weekly stream of consciousness, also known as a Between the Lines column. I had a couple of planned topics that I wanted to do some internet research on for comment this week. So much for that. You’ll have to wait till next week for those, um, profound thoughts.

As you may or may not have guessed, our pages are transmitted to the printing plant over the internet. So imagine the creative language I may or may not have been using when, at about 9:30 a.m., our internet service went down.

Ah, technology. Love ya better when you’re not being a diva.

******

Hey, did you know Qdoba Mexican Eats is opening a location at 9300 NE Barry Road, Kansas City?

I didn’t either. At least not until their representatives came walking in the door with a spread of chips and dips and set up a sample table at our front desk. Nice, unexpected treat. The food was fantastic, by the way.

I don’t want to troll for free eats, but anytime any of you other fine restaurants out there want to come walking in our door around lunchtime with some free samples you won’t be turned away.

Qdoba, by the way, is “the fast-casual brand known for its 3-cheese queso and free hand-smashed guacamole on entrees.”

The Barry Road location, which will officially open on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 10:30 a.m., is the first of several Qdoba restaurants that will open in the Kansas City area in the coming months.

Qdoba says it also offers catering for groups of 10 or more.

******

Hats off to the Platte County Democratic Party for hosting a very deserving Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Sharon Aring and Kathy Bray on Saturday at the KCI Hilton.

Valerie Verkamp, Landmark assistant editor, and I were happy to attend and take in the festivities while providing news coverage of the worthy event.

You won’t find a nicer gal than Sharon Aring, by the way, so we were more than happy to take in the sights and sounds of her induction while getting a chance to visit with some friendly folks in the crowd of 60 or more who attended the luncheon. Jim McCall of Parkville did a fine job as master of ceremonies. Pauli Kendrick of Weatherby Lake, chair of the Democratic Central Committee, was also a driving force behind the success of Saturday’s event.

(At your own risk, get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)

 


BE VERY THANKFUL IF YOU
GOT A SWEETHEART DEAL
ON MULTIPLE DWI CHARGES
Written 10/21/15

Take some time to read the in-depth front page article by Landmark assistant editor Valerie Verkamp on the ridiculous rate of growth of the female prison population in the state and what this means for taxpayers.

What it means is $$$.

******

It’s interesting to note state officials say the largest reason for the crazy growth rate of female prisoners is drug/DWI offenders.

So I guess anyone who has received a sweetheart deal on felony DWI charges in court and avoided prison time for multiple DWI offenses should really be counting their lucky stars.

Know anyone?

******

Dear Major League Baseball:

You know I love you. Why you gotta treat me this way?

Scheduling Games 4 and 5 of the American League Championship Series at 3 p.m. on a weekday? On a Tuesday and a Wednesday? Don’t you know those are the two busiest days of the week in this gig we call the weekly newspaper biz? What the hell?

My staff members get a little bothered when they notice me standing by the television instead of helping crank out this fine newspaper. It’s like they expect me to chip in or something.

I don’t understand it, and when I say “it” I mean MLB scheduling Royals playoffs games in the middle of the working day and my staff expecting me to help them work while a game is on. Am I Superman or something?

Come on, MLB, please do better next time.

******

Here’s your update on a nut we cracked open last week. The Platte County Salary Commission, which is comprised of your elected county officials, will meet to discuss salaries of elected officials (their own salaries, basically, though keep in mind any increase in salary can’t take effect until after the next election for each position) on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 3 p.m.

Last week the elected folks wanted the county attorney to be present for the meeting, which is a sign somebody in the room wants to adjust the salaries (never mind that the county is in a period of zero tax revenue growth). Because to simply meet to say “let’s leave salaries where they are” would not require advice from the attorney, correct?

Let’s see if someone’s desire to “adjust” salaries is spoken on Nov. 5, or if the fact that the public has been made aware of this will cool jets.

******

I don’t understand any public servant pushing for a pay raise in an elected spot. Public service is a pretty simple concept, really. If you’re not willing to work for that pre-established rate of pay for however long you wish to seek to continue to hold that position then don’t seek the job in the first place. If you feel like you can make more money than you’re currently making off the taxpayers, then go get a job in the private sector. The world doesn’t need more career politicians.

******

Speaking of things going on at the county, I noticed the infamous Platte County Human Resources Department, which the county commission allows to be led by a multiple-time convicted drunk driver, is advertising for a new employee. The HR office’s ad for the position says HR “is searching for an energetic payroll professional with a passion for serving others.”

Serving others what, exactly? Rum and coke?

******

But I’m getting a bit away from my original thought when I started on this topic. You might remember in January of 2014 The Landmark ran a front page article exposing the fact that only one county employee inside the Platte County Administration Building would be getting a pay raise in 2014. County employees had been told there would be no increase in their pay for that year, but when The Landmark looked at the proposed budget the salary line in the human resources department had increased by more than 10 percent. We started asking questions and were able to confirm that the payroll professional under HR director Mary Robinson, wife of Kevin Robinson, county auditor, would be getting a 10.5% pay hike while other county employees got nothing.

Jason Brown, presiding commissioner at the time, voted against the budget because of this. Associate commissioners Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, personal friends of the Robinsons, endorsed the 10.5% pay increase for the HR worker under Mary Robinson. The implication was that in order to keep this employee the county really needed to increase her pay significantly.

So they did. And here we are less than two years later and the position is open again. So much for throwing taxpayer dollars at someone with the understanding they’re going to be around a while.

Proof that money isn’t everything when it comes to job satisfaction and longevity.

No sense falling for that next time. The “we need to raise employee salaries to avoid turnover” is a boogeyman argument.

******

Every year you’ll hear bureaucrat types like the county auditor tell you the county has a high rate of employee turnover. Kevin Robinson makes an annual speech pushing for an employee pay raise, probably in part because his wife is an employee and therefore his household income gets a bump.

But saying the county has a high employee turnover rate is just not factual, at least not for the work force in the clerical jobs inside the Platte County Administration Building. When you cut through the bureaucratic BS, you understand that most of the positions inside the administration building are cushy from the standpoint of low stress, many government holidays and a solid benefits plan.

And, as proven to be the case with the HR employee, even giving a pay raise of 10.5% does not guarantee that employee is going to be around longterm.

(Get the Between the Lines boogeyman on Twitter @ivanfoley or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SALARY COMMISSION IS GOVERNMENT 'ACTION' AT ITS WORST
Written 10/14/15

It was a clown show.

It was government “action” at its worst.

I hope they felt a little embarrassed by how it went down because I felt embarrassed for them. If they weren’t embarrassed then we’ve got even bigger problems.

The Platte County Salary Commission, which is comprised of your elected county officials, met on Tuesday afternoon. Well, kind of.

After convening as they do every two years for the purpose of reviewing the salaries of the elected positions, your elected county officials decided they would not hold any discussion and quickly adjourned. Immediately after a roll was taken and a chairman elected (Gloria Boyer, recorder of deeds), it was suggested in the form of a motion by Kevin Robinson, county auditor, that the salary commission adjourn and reconvene at a later time with Bob Shaw, county counselor, present.

To review, the salary commission meets once every two years. With only one thing on the agenda. And they screwed it up before it even started.

This begs a few questions. Why was Shaw not asked beforehand to be present? The meeting had been scheduled and published well in advance. It’s not like this was a surprise. We could speculate there were more dastardly reasons behind the sudden decision to adjourn (maybe I’ll save that for a future column), but let’s assume they did it simply because someone was asleep at the wheel and forgot to request Shaw’s presence.

More importantly, if you’re going to leave the salaries of the elected officials alone--in other words, turn down the chance to increase pay for the positions--why do you need your attorney there? Common sense says it would take zero legal advice to leave salaries the way they are. And if it does take legal advice to do nothing, man, do we have some clowns in charge.

The answer to all this, of course, is that someone in the room doesn’t want to leave salaries alone. In other words, somebody (perhaps more than one person) in the room wants to propose raising the salaries of the elected positions.

Since Robinson was the one to quickly request waiting for the presence of the attorney, say it with me now: Hmmm.

******

There’s a new judgeship opening in Clay County. And 14 people want the job.

Clay County is the Seventh Judicial Circuit. Another Clay County Associate Circuit Judge position was recently created by the Missouri General Assembly.
Of the 14 applicants for the position, four are women and 10 are men. There are no minority applicants. Eleven of the applicants work in the private sector and three work in public sector. Average age of the applicants is 48.

Some of these names may sound familiar. Here are the 14 folks seeking the job:
Angela Atkinson, Timothy Flook, Harry Jenkins, Patrick Kenney, Brian J. Klopfenstein, Molly Lauber, David McCollum, Thomas McGiffin, JeanneMarie McNabney, Jeremiah Morgan, James Ralls, Kelly Ruark, Steven Salmon and Douglas Wemhoff.

The Seventh Circuit Judicial Commission will meet to interview the applicants on Monday, Oct. 26 at the Clay County Courthouse in Liberty. Interviews will start at 9 a.m. and conclude at about 4:30 p.m.

The public is invited to attend and observe the interviews. Immediately after the interviews are completed, the commission will meet to select the names of three applicants to send to the governor. The governor is then expected to make a selection from that list of three finalists.

******

Clay County is getting another judge but have you noticed the talk that Platte County will need another judge/judge’s quarters in the near future has quieted?
The topic of a “future need” for another judge came up at the first meeting of the Jail Committee last year. That was at the same meeting where some ridiculously inflated county population projections were spewed by county commissioners in attendance. Those population projections--fueled by enthusiasm and fantasy more than reality and facts--were eventually shown to be rainbows covered in sugar and spice.

******

So the Kansas City Northland media was sent an alert Tuesday morning from the City of Riverside. The alert had an important announcement concerning scheduling for Riverside Municipal Court. The media alert read like this:

“Riverside Municipal Court for Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. has been canceled. All cases have been rescheduled to Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.”

This got to me thinking: Why cancel a municipal court session? Is the judge sick? A freakish snowstorm coming?

Nah.

Then it hit me. The municipal judge at Riverside is Mark Ferguson. Ferguson is a noted sports fanatic. I’ve seen him at multiple Royals games, among many other sporting events. And you know what else is happening Wednesday night in these parts? The deciding game in the American League Division Series between the Royals and the Houston Astros.

I don’t feel like I’m going out on a limb here to say Ferguson was headed to the game and this forced Riverside’s wheels of justice to come to a screeching halt. Unless the courtroom was going to be moved to the parking lot at The K, Riverside’s judge was going to be very unavailable Wednesday night.

The “bad guys” in Riverside caught a temporary break thanks to the Royals.

(Get his clown show 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Periscope. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, call him at 816-858-0363 or drop in for a visit at 252 Main Street, Platte City)

 


SCHOOL MADE RIGHT CALL ON NAMING OF NEW BUILDING; AND REMEMBERING FRAN
Written 10/7/15

It’s MLB playoff month. You may have noticed your Landmark staff includes several Royals fans. In fact, I think all of us are. Well, maybe with the exception of office manager Cindy but we’re working on getting her to think about baseball. At least occasionally.

So despite the fact playoff thoughts are dancing in my head, I’ll press on to try to coherently complete this Between the Lines column prior to ALDS action coming to Kansas City Thursday and Friday. Hang with me.

******

Apparently your Landmarkers aren’t the only people infatuated with the Royals. The 2015 television ratings for Royals games are in, and the team’s telecasts on Fox Sports Kansas City averaged an all-time high 12.3 household rating, the best for any MLB team on a regional sports network since 2002.

Kansas City is crazy about this team, folks.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to jump on board.

******

The right choice was made.

Credit to the Platte County R-3 School Board for avoiding naming the school district’s new elementary school being constructed in Platte City after Tina Zubeck. The district has chosen the name Compass Elementary instead.
Zubeck was a loyal and productive employee for the school district and fantastic community supporter for many years. But the practice of naming public buildings after individuals offends many folks in the community. A quiet uproar (and yes, I know it sounds like a contradiction to describe something as a quiet uproar but that’s what it was) developed when the Platte County Commission foolishly renamed the Platte County Courthouse the Owens Lee Hull Jr Justice Center nearly two years ago. Jason Brown, then presiding commissioner, abstained from the vote but associate commissioners Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper pushed it through.

People were ticked. I couldn’t walk anywhere in downtown Platte City without someone stopping to bend my ear about it. This newspaper editorialized against it, you may recall. In fact, the cartoon lampooning the decision by our toon man Matthew Silber won first place in the Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest in the category of best editorial cartoon.

Out of respect to Hull, a retired judge, there weren’t public displays of outrage but trust me, there was quiet outrage.

Maybe the R-3 school board got the message. Whether or not the regrettable decision to rename the Platte County Courthouse played a role in the school board’s decision to avoid tagging an individual’s name to its new elementary school is not known, but it is known the board made the right call. Indications are the board might instead focus on an individual room inside the school bearing the name of Zubeck.

So kudos to the school board on this one.

Now if they can get busy on those declining test scores and overinflated growth projections. . .

******

She was always prim and proper. Always dressed to the nines. Always polite. Always friendly and helpful. Always a kind word. Always a sweet disposition. Always a twinkle in her eye when she spoke, often a wink with that smile.

I’m speaking of Fran Durham, who served as Platte County Treasurer for 19 years. Fran passed away on Sept. 9 just a few days shy of her 92nd birthday.
The diminutive Democrat--she was around five feet tall, my best guess--was one of the first local officials I got the chance to know a little bit when I started this gig at The Landmark at the age of 19 way back in 1982. I arrived in Platte County not knowing a soul. Fran went out of her way to make me feel comfortable as I strolled through the Platte County Courthouse on the news beat. The treasurer’s office in those days was on the first floor of the courthouse (this was before the county administration building was constructed, of course) on the left side as you walk down the corridor upon entering the building. I would make my reporting rounds in the courthouse every Friday afternoon, sticking my head in the door of nearly every office to see if anyone had anything newsworthy. The byproduct of that, of course, was the chance to get to know the elected officials and to punish them into getting to know me a little bit, whether they really wanted to or not.

Many elected officials cringe when a reporter comes in the door. Fran always welcomed me openly and invited me to sit down for a chat. I eventually learned to call on her if I needed help identifying a contact person or needed direction on sources for a particular story.

On those Friday afternoons when I would drop by her office, in her high-pitched, folksy and charming voice she would often ask “Well, Ivan, whatcha gonna be up to this weekend?”

I just did the math. In 1982 Fran would have been 59 years old. Here she was taking the time to talk to 19 or 20 year old kid--admittedly a suave and debonaire kid, but still a kid--and actually take an interest in what I was doing outside of my job, a job that at any time could have me nosing around in the job performance of her office or a dozen other things that journalists sometimes poke their way into. I respected her for that. Immensely. And I got such a kick out of her downhome, small town charm. In 1984 she appeared at my wedding. I had no idea she was coming.

In later years Fran served a brief time as an alderman at Dearborn and occasionally would drop by The Landmark office. She was still prim and proper. Still dressed to the nines. Still had that sparkle in her eye, even during an occasional conversation in which I could tell she was having a little trouble processing things to their fullest, a condition that happens to all of us if we live long enough.

Rest in peace, Fran. Still think of you often.

(Get Between the Lines--and plenty of Royals playoff talk--every day on Twitter @ivanfoley and if you dare, chase Foley down on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


COUNTY REVENUE NUMBERS
SHOULD LEAD TO VERY
CONSERVATIVE SPENDING
Written 9/30/15

Back in the Between the Lines saddle after spending Thursday through Sunday in North Carolina having a great visit with the oldest daughter, her hubby and their two little ones.

We were there four days. Rained every day. All day. Never saw the sun. Mother Nature must have known I was coming.

Thankfully our hosts provided all the entertainment I needed because my sexy swim trunks, packed for an intended trip to the beach, never got out of the suitcase.

******

What is your general feeling about the local economy? If you’re thinking there isn’t much movement one direction or the other over last year, local consumer spending indicates you’re spot on.

There’s a new report due out in about a week. So maybe the news will be better at that time. For now, not so much.

The most recent report on Platte County sales and use tax revenues shows zero growth year-to-date from last year. In fact if you want to be technical, it shows a drop of one-tenth of one percent. This should lead to some very conservative spending by your county officials in 2016. Emphasis on the word “should.”

The general sales tax/use tax revenue year to date is $9.98 million. That reflects general sales tax growth of 1.5% but use tax decline of 3.2%. The general sales tax and use tax revenues all go into the county’s general fund.

Revenues in earmarked taxes are up. The park tax revenue is up by 5% over last year at this time. The road tax also shows a 5% growth.

Updated numbers coming soon.

******

Speaking of updated numbers, here are some interesting ones from a recent DWI checkpoint conducted by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.

During a DWI checkpoint conducted Saturday, Sept. 5 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Hwy. 92 and Prairie View Road in Platte City, a total of 732 vehicles were checked. Five arrests were made for suspicion of DWI.

Five arrests out of 732 drivers checked. That’s not a high percentage. In fact, that’s like seven-tenths of one percent.

I guess there are a couple of ways to look at this. One way--and this is the way most law enforcement people prefer to view it--is to say this is evidence that DWI checkpoints are working to help stop drunk driving before it starts. I tend to fall into this category. I do believe the checkpoints serve as a deterrent, at least to some extent.

The opposite way to look at it, and I often hear from people with this opinion, is to view numbers like this as proof DWI checkpoints have become a waste of law enforcement resources as well as an unnecessary hassle placed upon 99% of drivers.

******

Congratulations to my favorite local Democrat, Sharon Aring, on her selection for the Platte County Democrat Hall of Fame.

A well deserved honor. For many years, Sharon has been a tireless worker for her political party in Platte County.

See a story on our front page for more details.

******

Hey. The Major League Baseball playoffs start next week. Do you have your tickets for the Royals’ first series?

The Royals will have homefield advantage, at least in the American League Divisional Series, which is set to begin next Thursday, Oct. 8. Though they still have a (very) outside shot at gaining the top seed in the American League, if the season ended today the Royals would be the No. 2 seed and would face off against the Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. That series will be a best-of-five game format, with the first two games in KC on Oct. 8 and 9. Exciting times for baseball fans. Let’s face it, based on the way the Chiefs have looked the past couple of weeks Kansas City sports fans need the baseball playoffs to begin pronto.

By the way, be sure to check out Chris Kamler’s Chiefs Briefs report in Section B for more on the Chiefs, as well as his K Replay each week for Royals summaries. Good stuff.

******

ESPN has confirmed the 30 for 30 special on Sungwoo, the Royals fan who turned into somewhat of a good luck charm for the team last year, will air on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. Thursday night, Oct. 1.

Another airing is scheduled for Oct. 12, 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

In addition, the documentary that features our man Kamler in several scenes will be available online beginning Oct. 7 on grantland.com and espn.com.

The network says it is looking to add other airings of the special around Royals playoff games (either before or after) in October.

Don't forget we have Kamler’s book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, on sale in The Landmark office for only $20. It makes for a great gift for the Royals fan in your life.

******

Can’t go to the playoff games? Try hitting a playoff rally to be held at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 6. The event, being called the “Take the Crown Rally,” is free and open to the public.

Parking gates to the sports complex will open at 10 a.m. that day with gates to The K opening at 11:15 a.m. From 11:45 to 12:15, Dayton Moore, general manager, and Ned Yost, manager will be taking part in a press conference shown on the Crown Vision inside the stadium. At 12:15 the rally hosted by Fox Sports Kansas City’s Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler will begin. From 1 p.m. to 2:15 the Royals will take batting practice on the field and player interviews will be shown on Crown Vision.

((Reach Foley--preferably not during a Royals playoff game--by email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, follow him on Twitter @ivanfoley, find him on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat or hanging out in his office at 252 Main St., Platte City)


DON’T MISS THE
SUNGWOO SPECIAL; THE
SPIN DOCTORS
Written 9/23/15

 


IT'S A WEEK OF QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS AND MORE QUESTIONS
Written 3/9/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Nice of you to drop in.

******

The word that Costco plans to build one of its warehouse retail stores in the Northland is good news. Sadly for Platte County, the proposed store will sit just across the county line into Clay County, so Clay, not Platte, will benefit from the sales tax revenue generated at Costco.

******

The donation of 80 acres of land by the developer to Platte County R-3 as a site for a new school or two down the road is also a nice touch by MD Management.
Not saying the intentions are not pure, but one thing to keep an eye on is whether a Tax Increment Financing district is eventually sought for the planned development near that location, and if so whether R-3 will oppose it. It’s always a possibility the donation came as an effort by the developer to make nice with R-3 in hopes that if/when a TIF district or other tax incentives are sought the school district will not fight it with aggression.

******

The talk of a Sam’s Club coming to Platte County in the area of Hwy. 152 and Green Hills Road at this point continues to be talk with no construction action. One source usually in the know on these matters tells me not to expect any action at that spot from Sam’s Club in the year 2016. But never say never.

******

I’ve done a little more digging on this one.

Remember the JRay’s child porn case in Clay County we talked about shortly after Valentine’s Day? The one where the defendant, Jeremy Ray, a Clay County resident who owned and operated JRay’s Restaurant and Bar in Platte City at the time of his offense, got a sweetheart deal that you would never see in Platte County.

Curiously, Ray was able to avoid any prison time. He was sentenced to five years probation for felony possession of child porn. A crime to which he confessed.

“That is the lightest sentence I have seen for that type of charge,” a veteran defense attorney told me.

And the action continues to be a buzz of conversation around Platte County legal circles. I wish I had a bucket of fried chicken (extra crispy, please) for every time someone has mentioned the topic to me the past three weeks.

Anyway, just to name names because it is appropriate to do so under these interesting and confusing circumstances, the judge in the case was Shane Terril Alexander. The judge is a former assistant prosecutor for Clay County. The Clay County assistant prosecutor who handled the case is Kate Noland. Court documents indicate Noland sought the minimum five year prison term for Ray, which if that’s the case even her minimal recommendation was ignored by the judge. Ray’s defense attorney was Shawn Blair, who is also previously an assistant prosecutor for Clay County.

So the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney in the case all are/were former assistant prosecutors for Clay County.

No prison time for a confessed child porn possession offender. I ask this question for the many law enforcement people who have asked it of me: What the hell?

******

The image situation at Edgerton is even worse than I thought.

Last week in recounting all the horrible homicides (six) that have occurred at or near Edgerton in the past few years, I mentioned that the recent quadruple homicide occurred at a residence just outside the Edgerton city limits. Let me be corrected on that. Actually, the Denham property is inside the city limits of Edgerton, according to James Snook, former mayor there.

“The Denham property is inside the city limits as they voluntarily annexed in,” Snook tells me. “The Denham property abuts the Staley Snook property, which also abuts the original city limits.”

There you go. A town with a population of 550 people has had six homicides in the past three and a half years within its tiny city limits.

What’s going on over there?

******

If you’re a registered voter, don’t forget to head to the polls next Tuesday, March 15 for Missouri’s presidential primary.

And remember, “none of the above” is not on the ballot.

******

Another question heard recently:

“Will you be doing your bracket contest again this year? You really got kicked last year.”

Please. You know me better than that. A kick to the groin only improves my focus.

Hey, we’ve been doing this contest for 20 years, so a lemon of a year was bound to happen at some point, wasn’t it? That’s the only way to explain my “fifth from the bottom” finish in 2015. That’s the way the system of mathematical odds works. I think. Honestly I’m not that sure about math.

On second thought, maybe it was the eenie meenie miney mo method of picking teams that I used last year. It was worth a shot. Didn’t work. New plan this year. Flexibility is the key to happiness, you know.

So get ready for some serious bracketbrawl this year, boys and girls. I’m gonna be your hoops daddy. My picks are gonna go nuclear.

(Foley occasionally goes nuclear on Twitter @ivanfoley. Or find him being environmentally conscious on Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


MOVIES THAT MAKE MY MUST-SEE LIST; AND EDGERTON'S STRUGGLES
Written 3/2/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. I saved you a seat.

******

I need to step up my movie game.

All winter I’ve kept a running list in my head of movies I want to get out to see. You know, see a movie the old-fashioned way by actually hitting the theater on Barry Road, grabbing a large popcorn, smothering it with waaay too much of that movie theater butter and gorging myself while watching a show.

It hasn’t happened--yet. And the movies that are on my list have likely moved out of the theater by now and on to NetFlix or Redbox or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

The movies (in no particular order) that are on my list of “I wanna see that:”

1. Creed. It’s another entry in the Rocky series. The first couple Rocky movies were great. The 60 or 70 made since then--not so much. This one I’ve been told is good. Thus, it’s on the list of Foley’s Flicks.

2. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Someone whose opinion I trust told me this is the best movie they’ve ever seen. I hope to verify soon.

3. 50 Shades of Black. This is actually the movie that’s tops on my crush list. It’s a goofball comedy, a spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey. It stars Marlon Wayans, one of the infamous Wayans Brothers comics. Love those guys. I was fortunate enough to see two of them at the comedy club at Zona Rosa a few years ago--so funny.

I want to watch this movie right meow.

4. The Big Short. It’s about a group of guys who made a fortune on the pending economic collapse of America when the economy was about to tank in 2008. A Wall Street guru recognized early on that a number of sub-prime home loans were in danger of defaulting and bet against the housing market.

My only worry about this movie is that I will really have to concentrate to follow all the angles. This can be a problem for me. In my free time I don’t like to concentrate--it feels too much like work. I want to be entertained and make smartass comments. But I’m gonna give it a shot.

******

There is a “For Sale By Owner” sign in the window of the Farley Law Office building at the corner of Third and Main in downtown Platte City, right next to The Landmark.

If you’re looking for a piece of commercial property, check it out.

You would have fantastic neighbors.

*****

You saw the story on this topic on our front page last week.

Kudos to Adam McGinness, member of the Platte County R-3 School Board, for voting no on what sounds like a questionable use and timing of $5.1 million for an energy program that allegedly will offer the district some savings “if the district uses the buildings as we said” over the course of the next 20 years. There is also a kickback of $380,000 in the form of a one-time payment upon completion of the project.

Meanwhile, under a lease-purchase agreement, the district will make annual payments of $476,939 over 15 years. My math shows $476,939 times 15 is more than $7.1 million.

So that $5.1 million investment is actually a $7.1 million investment. We have to subtract, of course, that $380,000 kickback and those alleged savings that will occur “if the district uses the buildings as we said” over the next 20 years.

At best, it seems fair to describe the eventual payback as “marginal.”

Yes, R-3 is taking on an additional several more million dollars of debt. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this approach. Remember, Platte County R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik said in a public meeting last year that he feels the amount of a school district’s debt is “irrelevant.”

McGinness cast the right vote on this issue.

Finally, an R-3 board member not afraid of going against the “group think” approach. Excellent job.

******

Check out the wise quotes from David Jones in Alan McArthur’s article in this issue about the Parkville aldermen rejecting bids for a park restroom project and you’ll understand why I’m sad to see Jones leaving the board soon. He brings an experienced voice of government service and common sense. I’m not sure Parkville realizes what an asset he has been/could be in the future.

******

Strange things seem to be happening in northeastern Platte County.
Does Edgerton still have a chamber of commerce? If so, it has some work to do.

Edgerton is a city with a population of 550 people. Small towns aren’t normally known for deaths by homicide. But it has become a trend at Edgerton.

Two sisters were murdered in a home in Edgerton in the summer of 2012. Four members of a family were killed by homicide near Edgerton 10 days ago. That’s six homicides in or near the small town in less than four years. Yikes.

Plus there was the bizarre situation of the escaped cons racing through Edgerton and pointing a gun at the then-mayor of the town a few years ago. James Snook, quick and nimble afoot as he is, refused to get in the truck and instead made a mad dash for cover behind a vehicle.

It’s like the Wild, Wild West over there.

(Sometimes it’s like the Wild, Wild West on Foley’s Twitter feed @ivanfoley. You can also track him down on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, or email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


TELEVISION NEWS JOURNALISM ISN'T WHAT IT SHOULD BE
Written 2/24/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines, where things have been non-stop since last we talked.

******

Often it’s not what they say it’s what they don’t say.

That is a truism sometimes forgotten in the news gathering business. I was reminded of this on Saturday morning at the first press briefing after the shocking quadruple homicide near Edgerton.

Two items stuck out at me during that press briefing. Both factors seemed to race right past the gaggle of alleged television journalists who were there.

1. I asked if all the victims were found inside the house. Authorities declined to answer the question. That’s fair enough. It was--and is--a very fluid, very active investigation and I respect that. But remember, it’s often not what they say it’s what they don’t say. When they declined to answer, I immediately said to myself: “Self, at least some--if not all--of these homicide victims weren’t inside that burning house.”

Apparently the TV folks didn’t pick up on this. The TV pretty boys and girls in nice clothes and makeup apparently didn’t realize the importance of the question asked by the unshaven newspaper guy who had hurriedly showed up at the scene in jeans and a Royals pullover, dressed as if he intended to be doing yard work instead of journalism on that Saturday morning.

All weekend every TV news channel continued to report the deaths as a four-fatality house fire being investigated as a homicide. Yes, the situation was being investigated as a homicide but at no time did authorities say the bodies were inside the home and at no time did they specifically say deaths were caused by fire.
The TV news folks were doing a lot of incorrect assuming. But they were impeccably dressed while doing so, so there’s that.

2. At that hastily-called press briefing Saturday morning, I overheard the TV people asking the sheriff when their news choppers would be allowed to fly over the scene. Obviously The Landmark doesn’t have a news helicopter (we’ll try to work that into next year’s budget) so I was unaware that air space above the scene had been restricted until the TV peeps started whining about it. Upon hearing this, I was more convinced than ever that some, if not all, of the bodies were outside the home. The restricted air space order had been put into place because authorities didn’t want the bodies to be filmed from the air. The TV journalists, the very folks affected by the restricted air space order, never put two and two together on this.

Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, apparently.

Of course, I shouldn’t just pick on the TV people over this. The Kansas City Star was also at the scene on Saturday and yet all weekend continued to refer to the situation as four people killed in a house fire being investigated as a homicide.

******

While driving away from Saturday morning’s press briefing my cell phone rang. It was a source, not connected to law enforcement, who has always been accurate with information. The information this source was telling me--through the intermittent cell phone signal that occurs while traveling those back roads--confirmed my speculation above. And then some.

On Sunday afternoon I went back to the scene, able to get much closer this time. I won’t get into details but based on some things that happened during my visit there I was more confident than ever in the information I had speculated on and acquired the day before.

The Landmark was able to officially confirm much of the info Sunday night. We busted out the information on our social media sites ahead of the press conference that the sheriff and the prosecutor held Monday afternoon.

******

Important to remember as you think about this story:

While officials have said the bodies were set on fire, at no point have officials said the cause of death was by fire. They haven’t said that it wasn’t. But they haven’t said that it was. By design, they aren’t being specific.

Remember, officials have only said the medical examiner has determined cause of death to be by homicide.

I’ve been too busy doing Landmark stuff in the past day or two to notice how the TV stations are reporting it now. Have they yet made the distinction?

******

I guess in a long-winded way what I’m trying to say is that when a big story breaks in Platte County, The Landmark is the outlet you need to look to first.

We’ll give you the most trusted angle on the news.

******

It is with sadness we report that Jack Swaney of Platte City, the father of Anne Swaney, the Platte County High School graduate/Chicago journalist who was murdered in Belize last month, passed away Tuesday night. Jack had been hospitalized the past few weeks. More on his death--and his life--in next week’s Landmark.

Our condolences once again to the Swaney family.

Two things will always come to mind when I remember Jack Swaney: 1. A 1985 road trip with him to a Pirate football playoff game. 2. The phone conversation I was fortunate enough to carry on with him a few days after his daughter’s tragic death in January.

Quite an interesting, fun, opinionated guy. He will be missed by many.

(You don’t have to wait a week to get Between the Lines. Follow us on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope and YouTube. Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SOMEBODY GOT A
SWEETHEART DEAL
FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
Written 2/17/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Let’s focus and finish.

******

You’re getting spring fever, aren’t you? Me too. Maybe the 70 degree temperatures the weatherman says are headed our way this week will help cure our ills.

******

This is getting to be a medical emergency. Somebody bring me fried chicken, stat.

******

Perhaps the most bizarre story this week involves a (now former) Platte City business owner who confessed to the crime of felony possession of child pornography.

Despite his confession of guilt, it appears the man, Jeremy Ray, who owned and operated JRay’s Restaurant and Bar in Platte City, got a sweetheart deal during Valentine’s week from the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office and the Clay County court system. As you’ll see in our front page story, Ray gets off with five years probation.

This sentence is a head scratcher. Maybe it was sealed with a kiss. I’ve been in the news game many years and I can’t recall anyone convicted--with a confession, mind you--of possessing child porn being able to avoid prison.

The judge in the case was Shane Terril Alexander. The defense attorney was Shawn L. Blair of Liberty.

So I ran the scenario by a respected, veteran defense attorney in Platte County.

This attorney’s response after looking at the court documents?

“That is the lightest sentence I have seen for that type of charge.”

My thought? That would never happen in Platte County. Valentine’s week or not, prosecutors and judges in Platte County don’t let sweetheart deals like that one happen on child porn cases.

Ray is fortunate he was a Clay County resident for his criminal activity.

******

It doesn’t matter if you agree with his politics or not, something we can’t disagree on after watching Donald Trump in action in debates is that the man is extremely quick-tempered and thin-skinned.

Those aren’t ideal traits for a man in a leadership position.

******

They could have saved some money in legal fees.

Opponents of the Chapel Ridge residential development in southern Platte County, which was approved by the county despite vocal opposition, have lost again in their court challenge against the county.

As we opined in this column when the shaky legal case was initially filed, that lawsuit was doomed from the start. Its defeat was confidently predicted in this column, and I don’t even watch Judge Judy.

As expected, the case lost at the circuit court level. Opponents, for some reason, then decided to appeal. Recently the appeals court upheld the circuit court’s decision and in the process I’ve been told the appellate judges took the opponents’ attorney to the woodshed on a variety of items.

The opponents are good folks. But they spent some dollars on their unnecessary ride through the legal system that could have been better spent elsewhere.

*****

Platte County doesn’t need a bigger jail but maybe the location of the current jail could use some better signage.

This became evident once again Saturday morning as I was at work here in the luxurious confines of our 140-something-year-old Landmark building at our 151-year-old newspaper. I hadn’t been here long, in fact hadn’t yet had time to unlock the front door when I heard someone fiddling with the knob. I acquired a sight line on the door just in time to see a young woman with a toddler in her hands. She had a stressed look on her face. She couldn’t see me standing toward the rear of our office and when she discovered the door was locked she immediately headed west down the sidewalk at a rapid pace. Concerned about that look I had seen on her face, I hurried to the door, opened it and looked west. By that time she was halfway down the Main Street sidewalk. I hollered to ask if she needed something. It was cold that morning with a bitter wind. She was dressed in pajama pants and slippers. The toddler was wearing a coat but his face was red from the cold. I’m not sure how long the woman had been walking around trying to find an open door.

“I’m looking for the Platte County Jail. My GPS has taken me three different places,” she said. I gave her verbal directions and then walked with her halfway down Third Street toward the jail until I was confident she knew exactly where to go.

It’s not the first time a downtown Platte City business at off-hours has been visited by someone looking for the jail. I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s not ideal for the lost visitor, and while I’m not opposed to meeting new people in a situation that might result in a column piece like this one, some business owners don’t consider the “lost jail visitor wandering aimlessly around downtown” situation a good thing.
It might be time for the county to explore the idea of some visible signage guiding out-of-towners to the location of the jail. Not necessarily a sign at the intersection of Third and Main but maybe a highly visible “hey, the jail is this way” kind of sign at the driveway entrance to the county complex off of Third Street. Just a thought.

******

Sometimes my GPS takes me three different places before I realize where I’m going with this column.

(Get Between the Lines at your leisure, at least whenever he decides to tweet, on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley occasionally entertaining himself on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or catch him at that blue desk in The Landmark office)

 


ARE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS SUPPOSED TO BE THIS FUNNY?
Written 2/10/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Let’s dispel with this fiction that Between the Lines doesn’t know what it’s doing. It knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s undertaking a systematic effort to change the way you read opinion pieces. . . or something.

******

My pick in this column that Carolina would win the Super Bowl matches the quality of the other two NFL picks I made here this season. A perfect 0-3, which qualifies me to take Mike Carey’s job at CBS.

******

And let’s dispel with this fiction that Mike Carey doesn’t know what he is doing. He knows exactly what he is doing. . .

Nah. He doesn’t.

******

I’m not sure how many, if any, of the candidates in either party would turn out to be good leaders of the free world but I will say this presidential campaign has already been the most entertaining one in my lifetime.

My son and I watched the Republican debate the other night and I can’t tell you how many times we made wisecracks and laughed out loud during the three hours of political puffery. It was more entertaining than any Saturday Night Live episode. Between Marco Rubio going full robot and Chris Christie going full WWE by swinging a verbal steel chair at the backside of anyone he talked about. . . .my side was hurting. Things were so bizarre Donald Trump actually looked like the mentally grounded one. That takes some doing.

Are presidential campaigns supposed to be this funny? I’m not sure. But I’m loving it.

******

Now for the Democratic town halls. First, why do the Democrats prefer to hold a “town hall” instead of a debate? Is that the kinder, gentler approach? Maybe to them “town hall” means there can be no tough questions, because you know, hey you can’t get all radical at a town hall. Is this all part of a systematic plan to wussify America? Like, “hey you there with your hard-hitting question at this here town hall, what do you think this is, a debate? Take your fact-based questions and get the hell out of here.”

******

And why is Bernie Sanders always yelling? He sounds like Mr. Stress. Bernie needs to inhale the calming aroma of lavender Essential Oil. Or maybe get more fiber in his diet.

******

Jeff Roe is the campaign manager for Ted Cruz. I’m old enough to remember when Roe was winning tax increase elections for Platte County R-3.

******

Have you noticed the popular RedPlum coupon books are now inserted every week in The Landmark? Yes, check it out. Clip and save.

This is just one more reason why you no longer need the Sunday Kansas City Star.

And another reason The Landmark is the largest paid circulation newspaper in Platte County.

******

Filing will begin soon for the countywide elections set for later this year.
Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections, says filing for county candidates will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 8 a.m. Will there be a line of candidates waiting for the door to open at the election office that morning?

Maybe.

Filing will close on Tuesday, March 29 at 5 p.m.

If you’re a veteran of this process, you know the two main days to keep an eye on are the opening day and the final day. Typically that’s when a majority of the action will happen.

The offices up for grabs this year are:

First district county commissioner, currently held by Beverlee Roper; second district county commissioner, the spot currently held by Duane Soper; assessor, currently held by David Cox; public administrator, currently held by Toni Clemens; sheriff, currently held by Mark Owen; and treasurer, currently held by Rob Willard.

******

What is known about the races coming up this year? Some folks have made their intentions clear. Duane Soper is not running for re-election, he says. John Elliott, a longtime active background participant in the local election process, has said he will be filing for Soper’s second district commission spot.

Dagmar Wood, another person who has worked in the background of Platte County politics for several years, has said she will be filing for the first district commission seat currently held by Roper. Most folks seem to be assuming Roper will be seeking reelection but to my knowledge she has yet to make a public announcement to that effect.

Willard will be running for reelection as treasurer. Owen will be seeking reelection as sheriff. Both will be seeking their second terms. Clemens is not running for reelection for public administrator.

The primary election is Aug. 2. Voter registration deadline for that August vote is July 6.

******

So the February sales tax/use tax receipts for Platte County are in. An early negative trend continues.

After two months of collections, the total sales tax revenue in 2016 compared to this time last year is down by 6.22 percent. The amount of use tax revenue is down by nearly 14 percent.

The important number for the county’s general revenue fund is the combined total of sales tax and use tax revenue. After two months in 2016, the combined sales tax/use tax revenue total is down by 8.92 percent.

Hmm.

(Get Between the Lines at your leisure on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THIS COLUMN HAS NUMBERS BUT THERE WILL BE NO MATH
Written 2/3/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Join me as we live rent-free in the minds of the politicians.

******

According to the numbers The Landmark has gathered, crime is down everywhere in these parts.

In the last few months we’ve reported criminal prosecutions in Platte County fell by 14 percent in the past year; criminal offenses in Platte City dropped by 12 percent from the previous year; violent crimes and property crimes worked by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department have dropped significantly since 2012; and the jail population the past many months has been running well below what it was a couple years ago.

With this information in mind, the public has many reasons to be confused when anyone at the county starts talking jail expansion.

******

Are you loving the price of gasoline right now?

As of Wednesday morning, the price at the QuikTrip in Platte City, which we’ve been told is the busiest QT in the Kansas City region, is listed at $1.39 per gallon.

Yes, please.

******

Every Monday a report from GasBuddy.com arrives in my email. GasBuddy.com is known as the premiere source for real-time local gas prices. It was developed in an effort to provide consumers access to current gasoline prices in their local market. Users can find and share gas prices with fellow drivers, often saving money at the pump by doing so.

In their Monday email, GasBuddy said gas prices in Kansas City have fallen 5.4 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $1.45 on Sunday. The national average is $1.80 per gallon.

That price is 17.6 cents lower per gallon than a month ago. The national average has decreased by 20 cents per gallon during the last month and is 25 cents per gallon lower than it was this time one year ago.

I found this historical summary interesting. GasBuddy says over the past six years, gas prices in Kansas City on Feb. 1 have looked like this:

2016: $1.45 per gallon; 2015: $1.87 per gallon; 2014: $3.00 per gallon; 2013: $3.37 per gallon; 2012: $3.10; and 2011: $2.89.

******

If you have a place to stockpile some gasoline now priced at $1.39 per gallon--and I’m sure you do, right?--it might be a good time to do that. Many analysts seem to think the price will be heading upward fairly soon.

“Crude oil prices have rebounded back above $30 per barrel the past two weeks and with more talk of an organized cut in oil output between some of the world’s largest producers there may be more upside potential in the future, should those talks pan out,” said Patrick DeHaan, the senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“For now, due to a lag time from rising oil prices, gasoline prices in many areas may continue to drift lower but don’t be caught by surprise if in a few weeks they move higher. Refiners have already begun some winter maintenance. While supply of winter gasoline is abnormally high, once that inventory is liquidated I fully expect gasoline prices to march higher,” DeHaan added.

Hey, let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

******

While those with an agenda to push continue to brag up the potential of the Twin Creeks areas as a local Utopia coming soon, to me the best economic news in Platte County doesn’t have anything to do with Twin Creeks fantasies or consumer activity (more on consumer activity in a second).

The best economic news in my opinion is that the unemployment rate in Platte County as of November had dropped to 3.3 percent. That’s down from 4.8 percent unemployment in Platte County in 2014.

That’s a nice improvement and worthy of a celebration. The Twin Creeks sideshow for now is just background noise.

******

Now for an update on consumer activity in Platte County.

Remember last year when the county’s sales tax revenue reports early in the year showed crazy growth? A couple of the officeholder bureaucrats in the county administration building were licking their chops, anticipating an enhanced revenue stream that they could spend. Then a funny thing happened. Soon those monthly reports started showing significant drops in the sales/use tax revenue, and the year ended with revenue basically flat--up by only one percent.

This year, the start is much different. Whereas last year’s early reports were positive, the January sales tax revenue number is bad. The general sales tax revenue for Platte County in January is down by more than 11 percent. The use tax revenue is down by nearly four percent.

Combined, the county’s general sales tax/use tax income for the month of January is down by nine percent compared to January of 2015. The January revenue numbers reflect consumer activity from November. Apparently there was not a lot of early Christmas shopping going on in Platte County.

Now, just as we advised last year not to get giddy over those positive early numbers, we’ll advise not to overreact to the negative January figures. Things may--and probably will--bounce back soon. The February report should be out later this week. We’ll keep you posted.

If the February figures are as bad as the January numbers, it might be time for the budget decision-makers at the county to take notice.

(Take notice of Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley or email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


LAZY JOURNALISTS CONTINUE OVERHYPING THE TWIN CREEKS IMPACT
Written 1/27/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. It’s not perfect but it’s perfect for you.

******

Yes, I know I’m 0-2 on NFL predictions in this column space this season. But Carolina will win the Super Bowl.

If you don’t believe me just watch.

******

Maybe pay your mortgage with that Carolina pick.

Maybe not.

******

I buy Frosted Flakes in bulk.

******

Because I eat Frosted Flakes in bulk.

******

As you peruse this issue, you’ll notice a couple of things. We have an exclusive report on how the number of violent crimes in Platte County has gone down compared to three years ago.

You’ll also notice in this issue that the apparent new local crime of choice is to run from the cops. Typically that doesn’t end well for the bad guys. And gals.

*******

It’s comical how so many members of the mainstream media keep propping up the ridiculous projections of explosive population growth in the Twin Creeks area. Twin Creeks is the area bordered by I-29 on the west, I-435 on the north, Hwy. 169 on the east and Hwy. 152 on the south. It covers 15,000 acres.

The Landmark first exposed those projections as fantasy nearly two years ago. Lazy journalists continue to spout the Twin Creeks projections as fact instead of exposing it for what it is--moist dreams and unattainable projections of big-government and high taxation types. Some taxing entities (here’s looking at you, Platte County R-3) have already used Twin Creeks’ over-the-top projections as the boogeyman lurking in the shadows when they spout the “need” for a higher tax levy to fund pet projects. The Platte County Commission in the summer of 2014 was using Twin Creeks’ projections as a reason the county was proposing building a county jail the size of Texas.

The most recent news outlet to employ this rainbows and unicorns style reporting is something called NORTH Magazine. Allen E. Dillingham, listed as publisher of NORTH Magazine, recently penned a column in which he said this: “With a projected build-out of 20 plus years, 75,000 new residents will call the area home and this new tax base will create millions of dollars for KCMO. Twin Creeks and the Northland will be the economic engine driving Kansas City, Mo.”

You can’t be serious.

I don’t know the man but I’m sure Dillingham is a great guy with good intentions in his written words. He’s wearing a suit and tie in his column picture so we know he’s a snappy dresser. He probably owns many leather-bound books. But there seems to be no independent research being done at NORTH Magazine. It sounds like his column is a direct quote from a developer’s public relations piece or a government worker’s job-protecting memo.

It’s important to understand that in the world of making projections anybody can say anything about anything. It’s a projection. A projection is an opinion. In many cases, a projection is a heavily biased, self-serving opinion. People who should know better start talking about projections as if they were cold hard facts without taking a minute to realistically think through whether or not the projection is even a reasonable possibility.

In regard to projections at Twin Creeks, when I interviewed folks in the planning department at the City of Kansas City in the summer of 2014 even they were already backing off the “75,000 people in 20 years” lunacy.

I wrote this when we exposed how it would be virtually impossible due to a variety of factors--including the economy, some demographic indicators and lack of places for that many people to find jobs, among other reasons--for that kind of growth to occur so quickly at Twin Creeks and I’ll write it again. There may eventually be 75,000 residents living in the Twin Creeks area, but the vast majority of folks who are old enough to read this right now won’t be around to see it.

******

Dagmar Wood of Parkville, who was a key player on the jail committee that slowed down an over-eager group of county elected officials who were pushing an immediate jail expansion in 2014, has announced she will be running for first district county commissioner this summer in the Republican primary. That’s the spot currently held by Beverlee Roper.

Let’s assume Roper will be running for reelection. For me, this campaign will be the gift that keeps on giving. I’m giggling like a school girl.

It will be the “just the facts” approach of Wood vs. the magical fairy dust, scattershot approach from Roper. Grab your popcorn.

“I’m excited,” Wood told me last week. “I am running because the county needs some common sense solutions. We need to prioritize essential services like public safety, roads and bridges and prosecution. We need to quit kicking our issues down the road for other people to deal with. We need to have a maintenance plan for parks. We have just fed money into the park system without a plan for how we’re going to maintain it.

“We’re talking track records and issues. I hope voters see there is a need for more common sense fiscal decisions being made at the county level. When you look at the track record you can see that I’ve had a history of recommending solutions that steward the taxpayer dollars well.”

( Ivan Foley can be found stewarding Twitter @ivanfoley. Reach him by phone at 816-858-0363 or email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


HERE'S A MEMO FOR PLATTE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICERS
Written 1/20/16

Here’s a sincere Between the Lines memo to Platte County Sheriff’s Department employees. Don’t forget that the two county commissioners--Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper--who on Monday morning were busy telling you how much they want to financially take care of law officers are the two commissioners who in 2014 refused to allow voters a chance to realign the county’s sales tax structure to allow for a dedicated law enforcement tax.

A dedicated law enforcement tax would give the county the financial means to financially take care of law officers.

Don’t be fooled by the words of the elected. Pay attention to their actions. Those are often two different things.

The message spewed by some elected officials often changes depending upon which crowd happens to be sitting in front of them at the moment.

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Sincere condolences to the family and friends of Platte City’s own Anne Swaney, murdered last week in Belize.

Praise and thanks to Jack Swaney, Anne’s father, for agreeing to a compassionate phone conversation with me about Anne so we could include some thoughts from him in our front page story. It wasn’t easy for him, obviously and understandably.
To tell you the kind of person Jack Swaney is, by the end of the talk he was giving life advice. “Hug your kids every day,” was his message in a nutshell.

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I didn’t know Anne Swaney, other than vaguely recalling running into her at Wells Bank a time or two when she worked there one summer, but know her father Jack a little bit. In my “still a puppy” days at The Landmark back in the early 1980’s I covered the local high school sports beat and Jack was close to the school and its athletic programs, so we occasionally had conversations. I remember also showing up to photograph a Boy Scout event that he was helping lead and had encouraged me to attend.

Then in 1984 the Platte County Pirate football team was playing a state playoff game at Lexington. I reached out to Jack looking to catch a ride, and ended up riding to and from Lexington that night with Jack, Don Wingate, and I’m pretty certain there was a another man in the car with us that night but for the life of me cannot remember whom it was.

I recall the conversations in the car that evening being dominated by strong opinions and often entertaining thoughts being expressed by Jack Swaney.
Jack has always liked to try to pull my chain a little bit, and on his most recent visit to The Landmark a few months ago to renew his subscription he told me: “Even the Republicans don't like you now.”

Good stuff.

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Expanding on a point we touched on briefly in this column space last week:
If you stop to think about it, we shouldn’t be surprised the recent self-proclaimed nationwide search Park Hill School District supposedly conducted for its new superintendent resulted in the job being awarded to a person already serving in that position on an interim basis--the person who has already worked in the district in one capacity or another for a decade. That person is Dr. Jeanette Cowherd.

After all, the last time Park Hill did that whole “nationwide search” thing and offered the job to a newcomer, the district eventually found itself in an embarrassing situation. Dr. Scott Springston ended up in a “separation agreement” after an alleged “health situation” proved to be, at least according to a police report filed by his wife who called police to their home in a domestic situation several weeks prior to his “separation” from Park Hill, related to alcohol.

Picking Cowherd was a safe choice. The district didn’t want to find itself getting embarrassed again so quickly. The board members probably feel as if they know Cowherd by now and if there was anything to embarrass the district they probably assume it likely would have come out by now.

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We’ll talk about this more in a future column, but when Platte City voters head to the polls to decide on that vehicle sales tax on out-of-state purchases being continued or discontinued, be sure to think opposite. Because of the way the ballot language is worded, a “no” vote will mean the tax continues. A “yes” will mean the tax gets killed.

So no means yes and yes means no.

Think opposite.

*******

This is a true story. A couple Landmark readers brought in the clipping to show me.

In a newspaper in Hendersonville, Tenn., an obituary appeared for a man named Thomas Crockett Herbert, Sr. He passed away Nov. 19, 2015 at the age of 76.
In his obituary in his hometown newspaper, here was the message:

“Visitation will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at West End United Methodist Church from 12:30 until 3 p.m. with a memorial service to follow. In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton.”

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Just so there is no confusion, I am not a CIA agent.

Hoping this message gets out there so the next time I’m at the airport no 44-year-old females will want to take their fists to my head.

(Whether or not you work for the CIA, you’ll want to keep up with Between the Lines. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


THE COURTHOUSE PARKING MYSTERY HAS BEEN SOLVED
Written 1/13/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. I’m here to serenade you. Stop me if I get off key.

*****

I’ve made one NFL prediction this season in this column. I missed it. So I’ve made a decision. I will not be telling you which team I’m picking to win the Chiefs vs. New England playoff game.

But I will tell you which team I’m not picking. I’m not picking New England.

******

That show is still on the air? I’m sorry, but no matter how sad your compelling life story might be, after the TV show Undercover Boss has been on the air this many years if you’re getting fooled by your employer dressed in some funky disguise then your ass should be fired on the spot.

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It’s a cruel, cruel world. But I feel like I’m having a good hair day, so it’s all good.

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And then along came Jones.

Last week I mentioned there are rumblings about a potential candidate stepping forward to challenge Nan Johnston in the mayor’s race at Parkville. Shortly after last week’s paper had hit the streets I was able to catch up to that potential candidate. If you follow my social media postings you already know who it is. If you don’t, it’s David Jones, current Ward 3 alderman.

Jones tells me: "I've had a lot of people call me and meet with me face to face. I can't confirm that I'm running but I've talked with a lot of people."

Jones is a former mayor of St. Joseph.

That Jones is considering diving in isn’t a total surprise to Between the Lines. You may recall back in March after attending a board meeting in which the mayor was continuing her silly fight with the downtown Community Improvement District, I commented that Johnston seemed a little uneasy anytime Jones spoke.

If I have permission to quote myself I will do so. Ok, I just gave myself permission to quote myself.

Here’s what I wrote in the March 18 Between the Lines:

“The eye test says Alderman David Jones might be interested in running for Parkville mayor next year. The eye test also says the current mayor squirms a bit in her chair when Jones speaks up at meetings.”

Boom.

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Kids, do not attempt that kind of advanced analysis without proper parental guidance. I am a highly-trained, highly-experienced people watcher.

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Wait. There’s more. That March 18 Between the Lines column was a doozy. I must have remembered to take my meds that day.

Here’s something else from that same column:

“The Between the Lines eye test says the dockets in the courtrooms at the Sixth Judicial Circuit at the Platte County Courthouse apparently are not all that crowded these days. Why would I say that? Check out the ample parking space available on Platte City’s Main Street at most hours of the day. Many more open spaces than a year or two ago. What gives? Are there fewer criminals? Are the new judges more efficient? Whatever the reason, if we can effectively judge the caseload of the courts by the number of cars parked out front, the caseload has decreased noticeably. Something to stick in the back of your mind for more in-depth studying if talk of “we need more facilities and another judge” starts back up again.”

Boom. Nailed it.

When the county prosecutor--as he is mandated to do by state law--gave his annual report to the county commission in late November, it was revealed that the number of criminal cases being prosecuted in Platte County dropped by 14 percent in the previous 12 months.

*******

So much for the argument--presented to me by a couple of folks, and you know who you are, don’t make me name names--that the increase in the number of open parking spaces on Main Street near the courthouse was only due to the fact that some county employees had been encouraged to start parking elsewhere. That could be a small piece of it. But the bigger reason for all those open spaces is that criminal cases are down by 14%.

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Did I mention I’m picking opposite of New England?

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I think the best thing Jeanette Cowherd had going for her in landing the permanent superintendent job at Park Hill is that she is not Scott Springston.

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Got an email today from one of those self-promoting security firms that said it has ranked Weatherby Lake as one of the 10 safest cities in Missouri. I was taken aback for a bit, reflecting on the multiple police reports that have been generated from incidents at or near the Springston home over the past 12 months. Then I read closer to see that the firm’s ranking of Weatherby Lake in the top 10 “safest cities” only studies burglary reports. That explains it.

(No Stranger Danger here. Make Between the Lines your weekly safe zone. Follow the publisher on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube)


THIS IS WHERE THE COWBOY RIDES AWAY
Written 1/6/16

Welcome back to Between the Lines. If you ever left. Some of you never leave. You just sit there in your comfortable chair all week waiting for the next issue of The Landmark to arrive.

And that’s ok. We’re out here working for you.

******

Filing deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. for city council and school board positions, you guys. Let’s get some action rolling. Too many uncontested races thus far. Apathy can be a dangerous thing. Time to step it up a notch.

I’m hearing a little chatter about a possible candidate jumping in against Nan Johnston in the Parkville mayor’s race, but other than that the buzz is fairly quiet. Park Hill School Board will have some contested races, so we’ve got that going for us. Beyond that, it might be a quiet spring on the city/school political front.

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Do not read my next sentence.

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You little rebel. I like you.

******

My cell phone rang in the early evening on New Year’s Eve. The caller ID flashed the name of Jason Brown. “Ah, that must be one wild-ass party,” was my first thought. Sort of. Kind of. Not really.

It’s official. Jason Brown has left the building. The former public works director for Platte City/then state representative/then county presiding commissioner has moved to southern Missouri. He has purchased a ranch not far from Ava, Mo. where he will continue to raise cattle.

Brown called to give me the news as the moving trucks were backed up in the driveway of his Platte City home, which is within walking distance of the downtown square. Oh, and his home will be for sale fairly soon, so if you’re in the market for a new residence keep that in the back of your mind.

Oh, and he’s keeping his subscription to The Landmark because he still follows the local news scene very closely.

“Keep The Landmark coming. 2016 is going to be a fun year in Platte County,” Brown said.

******

Also, Brown of course has resigned his post on the Platte County Regional Sewer District Board of Directors. So if you’ve always dreamed of being on a sewer board--and let’s be honest, who hasn’t-- now’s the time to flush whatever else you’re doing and make a run to the county commission to ask for that appointment.

******

One good thing about the area to which Brown is moving? There is virtually no planning and zoning there.

Freedom and adventure.

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Brown told me the next time I make one of my trips to Table Rock Lake to give him a call and drop by the ranch. He thinks I won’t. Which means I will.

This summer, check social media for pictures of me ropin’ and ridin’ my pony on a cattle drive.

******

Contrary to urban legend, Brian Nowotny, parks director for Platte County, does not have an employment contract.

At least that was the official response presented to me last week when I put in a Sunshine request for any and all contracts or “letters of agreement” regarding Nowotny’s employment with the county.

“Per Brian Nowotny, county parks director, he was hired without a contract or written agreement” was the official county response to my request.

This should put to rest misinformation that has been spread inside the administration building for years. Multiple former county employees have informed me they had been told Nowotny worked with a contract. The human resources office at various times over the years had also indicated the same misinformation to some county employees, I’m told.

And I can recall a specific phone conversation several years ago with a second district county commissioner in which I was personally told Nowotny had a contract with the county. In a moment of weakness, I took that commissioner at his word without asking for a copy of the alleged employment agreement.

Not sure why the misinformation was spread and an urban legend was allowed to grow over the years. Maybe it was done to try to keep any heat off of Nowotny, who prefers to be the Teflon man.

An at-will employee is much easier to dispose of than one working with a contract.

******

Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, made clear his displeasure that Kevin Robinson, county auditor, had included an increase in the county’s contribution to the county employee retirement fund known as LAGERS in the auditor’s recommended budget. Robinson put that in his recommended budget, according to Schieber, without the county commissioners--who are the budget authorities for the county--having discussed the issue. “I can’t support that,” Schieber said in the county’s budget hearing this week.

The fact that Schieber was irritated to the point he made a public remark about it is not a positive sign for the county auditor. Publicly, Schieber is as polite a leader as you’ll ever find. If he makes a public comment indicating dissatisfaction with another county official’s action, that’s a sign he ain’t real happy, folks.

Something tells me the days of Robinson running unopposed for county auditor are over. Expect an opponent in 2018.

Had an opponent stepped forward in 2014 Robinson would have gone down to defeat, so politically speaking he is living on borrowed time, anyway.

((Your don't neeed to be living on borrowed time to keep up to date with The Landmark publisher. Follow Foley at your leisure on Twitter @ivanfoley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN PLATTE COUNTY IN THE YEAR 2016?
Written 12/30/15

Well, here we are. It’s cold and flu season and this is the final Between the Lines for 2015. Don’t get all teary-eyed on me.

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How was your Christmas? I bought myself a vacuum. It really sucks.

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Speaking of Christmas, the Christmas Eve subscription special conducted by your journalistic Santa was a huge success. My phone, my phone, my phone was on fire.

More than 30 new subscribers jumped on board this runaway freight train known as The Landmark during the $13 special from 9:30 to 2 on Christmas Eve, and scores of others of you renewed your subscription at the half off rate during that time. Heck, even a half dozen or so of you came walking in the door. On Christmas Eve, no less.

The tremendous response was fun but it kept me from getting any other work done that day. My plan was to write the May-August portion of our Year in Review article while occasionally dealing with a phone call. Fat chance for this Santa.

I’ve made an executive decision that if we do this next year I’m gonna need a little elf to come help cover the phones.

******

Admit it, you were anticipating one of those “Here’s what is going to happen in Platte County in 2016” columns, weren’t you?

I’m no prophet, I don’t practice Scientology and I’m not operating on inside information but if I were a life coach I would suggest about 12 months from now these folks will want to start freshening up their resumes:

Dana Babcock, county director of administration.
Mary Robinson, county human resources director.
Brian Nowotny, county parks director.

******

Thankfully, they seem to be learning to ignore the recommendations made by Kevin Robinson, county auditor/bureaucrat.

The county commission’s proposed 2016 budget isn’t perfect by any means but I do applaud the commission for finally having the foresight to start socking away some cash for future law enforcement needs. This is likely at the urging of Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, who talked about the need to do this type of thing during his campaign for office in 2014 when he crushed Jim Plunkett.

See details on the county proposed budget on our front page.

******

The part of the county budget that still makes no sense is the “cost of living adjustment” being given across the board to all employees. A one percent cost of living raise is in the budget for everybody at a time when there is zero inflation.

This screams more: “Hey employees, we are nice guys, we hope you like us, here’s a government handout” than it does of any real need to keep up with the cost of living.

*****

Let’s talk a little more about inflation. Apparently only our local government entities believe there is some. The federal government disagrees. The feds are allowing no benefit increase this year for retirees because there has been no increase in the cost of living.

A financial newsletter sent to Between the Lines headquarters this week went into some specifics about what it calls “real world inflation.” It seems there is none. As in zero.

Well, unless your primary method of transportation is a 26” mens bicycle.

Here’s what I mean:

The cost of gasoline is DOWN 24.3 percent in the past year. The cost of a gallon of milk is DOWN 14.5 percent in the past year. The cost of a pound of ground beef is DOWN 4.5 percent in the past year. The cost of electricity is unchanged. The cost of a pound of white bread is DOWN by nearly one percent in the past year.

But the price of a 26” mens bicycle at Wal-Mart has gone UP by 6.1 percent in the past year. Damn you, Wal-Mart. I was getting ready to take up cycling. . .

Maybe the local government employees getting those cost of living increases drive bicycles to work. That seems to be the only reasonable explanation at this point.

*****

Financial analysts are even breaking it down by regions of the country. In the Midwest, the consumer price index from June of 2014 to June of 2015 fell by .7 percent. That’s nearly a one percent DROP. That’s the opposite of an increase.

******

This is the last issue for a column from our TV newsman Eric Burke. Be sure to check out his farewell piece on page 3.

It was enjoyable having the TV news guy in our pages the past few months. After he texted asking me to call him before I read his column this week, we had a phone chat in which we engaged in a conversation fitting for the Mutual Admiration Society.

I enjoyed the fact Burke asked if he could continue to get a free copy of The Landmark mailed each week to his home. “If not, I’ll pay for it,” he said. Of course as a past contributor, he’ll continue to get a freebie as long as he’s willing to receive.

That he still wants to be on the list was a compliment. Burke’s dad is a newspaper publisher in another state, so he knows a thing or two about the business.

“The Landmark is the most fun newspaper I’ve ever read,” he said.

Burke won’t be writing but he isn’t riding off into the sunset. We’ll still be engaging in ridiculousness with him on Twitter and something tells me he’ll be lining up The Landmark to “cover” some rides and events related to his new gig as the public relations director for Worlds of Fun.

Best wishes to a good guy.

(Get a Between the Lines update at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley or choose to find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


THIS COLUMN IS MY GIFT, IT'S THE LEAST I COULD DO, REALLY
Written 12/23/15

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Come, they told you. Pa rum pa pum pum.

******

Neapolitan pizza is coming soon to a southern Platte County location near you. See page B-1 of this issue of The Landmark for all the details.

I’m pretty pumped about it. Mostly because I love all kinds of pizza. The specialty Neapolitan pizzas are the bomb. Also because it gives me another chance to write about food, which either fascinates or annoys my buddy Chris Kamler, I can never tell which for certain.

*******

Speaking of food, thanks to the many Landmark readers who dropped by this month with holiday gifts of candy and nuts.

Gifts are not a necessary act but please know that we do appreciate you letting us know you appreciate the work of this newspaper.

******

Merry Christmas.

This has become a Christmas Eve tradition the past few years. While the rest of the staff gets the day off, I’ll be in the plush confines of The Landmark office for a portion of the day on Christmas Eve working ahead for the holiday. So we may as well make it worth it. Make my phone ring. While I’m here, I’ll be selling Landmark subscriptions for half price. Yes, for the lucky amount of $13 I’ll sell you a one-year subscription to The Landmark, Platte County’s finest and largest paid circulation newspaper. Call 816-858-0363 between the hours of 9:30 and 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve and I’ll hook you up.

No rain checks. This deal ends Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. when I’ll grab my Christmas nuts and head out the door.

******

Drum roll, please.

Time to announce our winner in that front page “What is this? Take a guess” photo contest a couple of weeks ago.

The zoo animal in question was a hippo. I would type out the entire word but I’m not sure how to spell it. Obviously a lot of Landmark readers do love your animals, as a veritable plethora of you emailed in the correct answer. This morning (Wednesday) we held the official drawing. Cindy Rinehart, office manager, pulled the winning name from a box containing every correct entry.

The winner of the $20 gift card to the Boulevard Grill inside the Four Points by Sheraton near KCI and a one-year subscription to The Landmark is Chris Wallen of Platte City.

Congrats to Chris. We’ll have more contests like this in the future. Watch my Facebook page for details and such.

******

Hey, there are school board elections coming up in the spring. Platte County R-3 could use some candidates in its school board race, folks. Park Hill has two openings and on the first morning of filing there were already four people who had put their names on the ballot. There are two openings at Platte County R-3 and as of the first morning there had been one candidate file, an incumbent.

Is there that much more parental interest in what goes on at Park Hill than there is at Platte County R-3? It’s starting to feel that way.

If you’re interested in following Platte County R-3 news a good source is plattecountyr3facts.com. Some of the latest work by that website is available for your holiday weekend reading inside an ad you’ll find on page A-5 of this issue of The Landmark.

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Here’s a Between the Lines musical review.

The best song out there right now is “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth.

Do a YouTube search for it. Thank me later.

******

Puth is the young guy who had the hit tune “Marvin Gaye” earlier this year.

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Puth is a word that sounds dirty but really isn’t.

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If you’re going to the gym three or four nights a week and you’re still squishy around the middle consider asking the community center for a refund because those two things should not be happening at the same time.

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Disclaimer: I’m hardly a fitness expert. And this is going to sound like a not-so-humble brag. But in July of 2013 I weighed 179 pounds. Today I weigh 159 pounds.

Here’s how many trips to the gym it took to drop 20 pounds and tone things up: zero. Here’s how many dollars were spent on community center memberships: zero.

A reduction in portion sizes. A reduction in fast food consumption. A reduction in soda pop intake. Avoiding elevators, taking the stairs. A nightly in-home exercise routine of push-ups and planks.

If the gym isn’t working, give Foley’s Fitness a try. The program is free.

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Sure, he has been one of my favorite players in recent years but count me among the apparent few who believe the Royals should just move on from Alex Gordon.
Yes, Gordon keeps himself in great shape but Father Time is undefeated. Gordon is a descending player. At this point you’d be paying him for what he has already done instead of what he can do for you in the future.

Let some other team overpay Gordon. He deserves a nice overinflated contract. But it doesn’t have to come from the Royals.

Spoken by a season ticket holder who would be fine with KC spending that money on other needs.

(When he isn't avoiding the gym, Foley can be found on Twitter @ivanfoley. Search for him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


CITY HALL SHOULD LET DOWNTOWN ORGANIZATIONS DO THEIR THING
Written 12/16/15

Hang with me, let’s get through this. It’s been a crazy news week and a hectic morning. I picked a bad time to quit sniffing glue.

******

On Monday, The Landmark enjoyed hitting the retirement reception for Edward Olson, hanging up his badge after 40 years on the force at the Parkville Police Department. By all accounts spoken that day, a good man and a good officer.

******

Speaking of 40 years, has Monday’s reception ended yet? Pretty sure I was feeling the onset of bed sores.

I don’t wanna say Kevin Chrisman, police chief, enjoyed playing the role of emcee but I’ve seen Congressional filibusters that took less time. In addition to enjoying police work, Chrisman also enjoys a microphone.

To his credit, Chrisman is quick humored and more entertaining than long-winded politicians. So we had that going for us.

******

So, what about the latest drama affiliated with Parkville City Hall’s relationship with its downtown community? It seems to be a continuing pattern.

We’ve touched on it in this column space previously, not only since Nan Johnston has been serving as mayor but also under a previous mayor or two. For some reason, whoever is sitting in the mayor’s chair can’t help trying to carry significant influence over organizations like the Main Street Parkville Association and the Parkville Old Towne Community Improvement District.

That’s not the way the system is designed to work. The merchant organizations are not direct functions of city government. They are their own entities. It’s not the place for politics. At least it’s not supposed to be.

Johnston denies she led a “coup” to replace the leadership inside the Main Street Parkville Association. Many members of the association disagree. Johnston told me it doesn’t matter to her who is in charge of MSPA but I’m not convinced, as in the next breath she openly talked about how she had been hearing so much “disappointment” with the past MSPA leadership.

The posturing that took place at last week’s meeting was so unsettling to a representative of a state organization who was in attendance the organization killed a $40,000 grant that was headed to the Main Street Association. That’s embarrassing. And it’s a shame.

There are reports Johnston and Troy Wilson, ousted MSPA chairman, have previous differences of opinion. The story goes Johnston had proposed the idea that MSPA should be responsible for maintaining downtown infrastructure such as street lights and sidewalks. The story goes Wilson rightfully balked at that idea, pointing out those are items to be handled by city government.

Whether there is 100% accuracy in that background story is irrelevant at this point. What is relevant is that City Hall seems to be overly interested in having direct influence over who holds leadership positions in both the MSPA and in the CID.

It smells of an ego and power thing. It has never been a good look for any previous mayors who tried to force change in those organizations and it’s not a good look for the current mayor, either.

Focus on running the city. Let the downtown organizations do their thing.

Everybody work together for the greater good.

Sounds simple but it’s easier said than done, obviously.

******

I told you this has been a nutty week. Here’s more proof.

Eric Burke, our newest Landmark columnist whose work you’ve been seeing on our Opinion pages for the past few months, had a scary experience Sunday night. Burke was working his “real” job as a television news reporter for KCTV-5. He and his cameraman were sitting in a news truck when they were robbed at gunpoint. Three people opened up doors to the van and demanded “everything.”

That’s the bad news. The good news is it gave Burke a hard-hitting topic for his column this week. Check it out on page 3.

You may have noticed Burke’s column topics to this point have been of the soft ice cream variety. That’s not the way I kick-started Between the Lines back in the day. I suppose Burke’s light topic approach for a newcomer is not all bad. After all, it takes a while to introduce yourself to readers and lay the groundwork for any heavy-hitting stuff that might come later. And Burke recently had become a stay-at-home dad, which may have softened his edge somewhat.

Not gonna lie, fellow columnist Chris Kamler and I privately have each chided Burke for some of the squishy topics he has chosen for his column. I guess what I’m saying is that Kamler and I are not All-American guys. At least not in our columns. Burke might be.

So I’m very glad to know Burke can show some fire. Apparently it takes some punk-ass flashing a gun at him for it to kick in.

Based on his previous columns, when I started reading his description of how the crime took place this is what I expected to hear:

BAD GUY SHOWING GUN: “Give me everything! Give me everything!”

BURKE: “Hey young fellow, no need to get angry. I’m just sitting here reflecting on life’s little moments. Do you have kids?”

BAD GUY SHOWING GUN: “Give me everything! Give me everything!"

BURKE: "Calm down. If you’re looking for something to be mad about there’s a local mall charging folks to see Santa. Can you believe that crap?”

BAD GUY SHOWING GUN: “Give me everything! Give me everything!”

BURKE: “Listen, how about you join me over at my house tomorrow? We can hang some Christmas lights. Watch an episode of Ellen. Maybe some HGTV. I’ll make a cheesecake. We can sip some cocoa. But we gotta wrap it up early. I’ve got a school dance to hit with my daughter.”

******

Having some fun with you, Burke. Glad you’re ok. Proud of you for screaming an expletive at the bad guy. You passed the initiation.

(Get occasional expletives from Ivan Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley or find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)


GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO STOP GIVING MONETARY PARTICIPATION RIBBONS
Written 12/9/15

Take it from a fearless fast food adventurist. The new Culver’s in Platte City gets a thumbs up.

I gave it a shot one day last week, ordering their fried chicken dinner. Went with the four piece, my friends, because it’s fried chicken and there’s never been a fried chicken whose ass I couldn’t kick.

Three of the four pieces were fantastic. The fourth piece--a very large breast--was a little dry. But that’s okay. I’ve always been more of a leg man, anyway.

******

Just FYI, my chicken run to Culver’s does not mean I’ve given up on Platte City getting a KFC restaurant back in this marketplace. Remember if KFC does come back, I’m gonna need some help from the rest of you to keep them around this time. I can’t support the entire franchise by myself, you guys. Eating chicken is a team sport.

******

Also, let’s keep pushing for a Long John Silver’s to hit this local fast food empire. A convenient place for your favorite newspaper publisher to run get some shrimp and hush puppies at least once a week would be pretty sweet.

I don’t ask for much. But a man has to eat.

******

Let’s have a little fun. And you can win a couple nice prizes.

Check out the front page picture taken by Valerie Verkamp at the Kansas City Zoo entitled “What is this?. . . Take a guess.”

Give us your guess on what type animal that is. All correct responses will be entered into a drawing to win two great prizes, including a $20 gift card to Boulevard Grill inside the Four Points by Sheraton in Platte County near KCI, as well as a free one-year subscription to The Landmark.

I often brag The Landmark has the smartest readers. Show us your animalistic smarts.

Email your guess to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

Deadline for your entry is Dec. 23.

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Remember the not-too-long ago days when there was a push underway for a major addition to the Platte County Jail? It was a proposed addition so large the facility would have resembled a state prison, not a county jail.

Yes, a prison-sized jail in downtown Platte City. Lovely.

Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed. At least at the time. Later some exploration into expanding the “futures” area (basement) of the jail got underway and apparently continues to this day.

It might be time to slow the roll on that “futures” expansion talk as well.

Why slow the roll? Obvious reasons, really. I’ve been paying attention to the jail population. It has been running steadily in the 117 to 127 range for months. Capacity is around 153.

The other obvious reason, and just as important as the current population, is last week’s revelation right here in The Landmark that criminal prosecutions in Platte County are down by 14% in the past year. Unless there’s some kind of criminal fairy magically dropping bad guys into the jail cells, fewer prosecutions will mean fewer inmates.

Any sense of urgency in regard to expanding the jail is being fueled only by someone’s imagination.

******

As you’ll see in Gordon Cook’s letter to the editor on this page, we have evidence of another local government agency using the term “cost of living adjustment” to describe raises it is about to give.

The county is proposing a 1.5% COLA to its employees. The City of Parkville is budgeting a 2% raise and referring to it as a COLA.

Stop the madness.

Stop misleading the public by calling these things COLAs. They’re raises. Raises not based on performance. Raises not based on any cost of living index or any hard economic numbers. These raises are simply based on the passage of time.

These raises are monetary participation ribbons.

There is no inflation. The cost of living is not on the rise. The federal government is making no inflation adjustment this year. Zero.

But the county of Platte wants to. The City of Parkville intends to.

As Gordon Cook, an accountant, so aptly points out in his letter: “Perhaps Parkville employees are unique in the fact that only they are experiencing 2% inflation.”

Perhaps. But Platte County employees are unique in the fact that only they are experiencing 1.5% inflation.

These raises aren’t cost of living adjustments. They’re raises being handed out for no other reason than the calendar is turning. Tell it the way it is.

******

Final numbers are in. Platte County’s combined sales tax/use tax income, which is the main source of revenue for the county’s general fund, rose by 1.2% in 2015.

The number had some crazy fluctuations throughout the year, you might recall. The first four months of collections, for instance, showed growth that had the bureaucrats salivating, no doubt contemplating pet projects and huge pay raises.
Then reality started to set in. The numbers for five of the eight final months of the year declined. At the end of the year, the number finished basically flat compared to last year, though a news release sent out by Platte County Treasurer Rob Willard was worded like the 1.2% growth was a great accomplishment worthy of a countywide celebration.

By the time I was done reading his press release I was wondering if Rob had donned a cheerleading skirt. That wasn’t a pretty sight to imagine. . .

(You won’t catch the publisher in a cheerleading skirt but he does use conditioner on his hair. Get more from Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


DROP IN CASE FILINGS COMES AT AWKWARD TIME FOR PLATTE COUNTY PROSECUTOR
Written 12/2/15

Hope you had a great, long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Yes, the cold and wet weather sucked but still . . .hope you had a good one.

******

I guess my prediction of the Dallas Cowboys getting a win on Thanksgiving didn’t exactly pan out, did it? Maybe it’s a good thing we aren’t doing the Pigskin Picks this year.

******

Much of the rest of this column will be spent talking about numbers. Don’t be scared, this isn’t a math quiz. Keep reading. Together we can do this.

You may not think it by reading the police blotter featured in this fine newspaper each week or by checking out the numerous crime stories that dot our pages, but it seems crime in Platte County might actually be trending downward. At least one set of numbers indicates such.

Each November, the prosecuting attorney of the first class counties in Missouri not having a charter form of government are by state statute required to make an annual report to the county commission. In that report, the prosecutor must state the number of misdemeanors and felonies occurring within the county that have been prosecuted by him or his assistants the preceding year.

The Landmark got its hands on this year’s report. We were surprised to see a 14% drop in the number of criminal cases prosecuted compared to the previous year. We weren’t the only ones surprised. Even the prosecutor seemed a bit taken aback by the significant decline.

Here are the totals for the past two years reporting periods:
Felonies (2015 reporting period): 478
Felonies (2014 reporting period): 556
Grab your calculator. Punch in those numbers. Down by 78 felony cases in one year.

Misdemeanors (2015 reporting period): 2,408.
Misdemeanors (2014 reporting period): 2,781.
That’s a drop of 373 misdemeanors.

Totals (2015): 2,886.
Totals (2014): 3,337.
That’s a decline of 451 in the number of criminal cases filed by the county prosecutor’s office. A drop of about 14%.

For the decline in misdemeanors, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd cites the continuing fall in bad check cases as the primary reason. Fewer and fewer people are writing checks these days. Debit cards, credit cards and electronic banking are how shoppers roll these days. Fewer checks written means fewer bad check cases for Zahnd’s office. “Next to none” I think is the way Zahnd described the number of insufficient funds cases his office prosecutes in this technological day and age.

As for the drop in felonies, Zahnd doesn’t have a clear explanation. He says he is happy to see the reduced number but really has no explanation for it. What he will say is that he is not ready to draw any major conclusions from one year’s worth of data. “It could be a blip.”

The timing of the report that shows an unexpected drop in criminal cases comes at a bit of an awkward time. As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Zahnd in his 2016 budget request is asking county commissioners to approve a $4,000 salary increase for each of his nine full-time assistant prosecutors and a $2,000 salary increase for his one part-time assistant.

No word yet on how the county commissioners are reacting to the request or how this new information being reported by The Landmark might impact their way of looking at the request. No one is saying assistant prosecutors are overpaid, but a significant pay increase at a time when the criminal case workload has shown a 14% drop sets up a bit of an awkward public relations scenario.

It’s another interesting aspect of the 2016 county budget talks to keep an eye on.

******

While criminal cases are down, the number of traffic citations being run through the county prosecutor’s office has increased. Traffic tickets typically aren’t a time consuming thing for county prosecutors, however, even Zahnd admits that. “Those tend to be the most straightforward and easiest-to-resolve cases,” he said in our conversation this week.

That’s an honest statement from the prosecutor. If we want to take it a step further, it might even be fair to say many traffic ticket cases resolve themselves.
Traffic cases are not required to be shown in his annual report. Zahnd pointed out the number of traffic cases rose in the past year from 3,265 to 4,027. So traffic tickets are up 23%.

******

As always, you’ll want to check out the letters to the editor on this page. Proof once again that The Landmark has the smartest readers.

The letter from Mike Stark expands on an opinion we’ve expressed in this column space previously--how employees in the public sector often expect a raise just for the simple fact that the calendar has turned to a new year. I’ve never understood this. The simple passage of time doesn’t mean an automatic pay raise for folks in the private world but many public sector workers seem to think an annual pay increase is guaranteed in the constitution.

Also, the fact Platte County refers to pay increases for its workers as a cost of living allowance is an inaccurate term for the county to be using. In the real world, a cost of living increase is a number based on actual economic data such as the consumer price index. That’s not the case at the county, where what those folks call a COLA is an arbitrary number based on nothing related to the consumer price index or other economic data but instead is just a number the county seems to pull from the sky.

The fact every employee gets a raise regardless of performance is also a thing that needs to stop in the public world. The county’s annual proposed raises, for instance, are not based on performance evaluations but instead are proposed as “across the board.” Pay increases should be evaluated individually, not handed out like a participation ribbon.

If raises are deserved based on performance and a growing economy means money is there, by all means reasonable salary increases should be an option. But giving raises solely on the fact we’ve turned some pages on the calendar is not good governance over public funds.

(You can always get more Foley more often on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


REMEMBERING WELLS HULL;
BREAKING BLACK FRIDAY
DOWN TO A SCIENCE
Written 11/24/15

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome back to Between the Lines, where you get journalism the way pilgrims intended it to be.

******

Like many others, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Wells Hull, a Platte City business icon, last week at the age of 85. You can read his obituary on page A-5.

Wells was president of Wells Bank for many years and was a behind-the-scenes influential person in many ways. I admired the guy immensely for his business and financial knowledge and his calm yet firm demeanor. My dad owned The Landmark for only about six months before he died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1980 but in those six months one of the Platte City people he made a connection with was Wells Hull. Wells on several occasions recalled for me a few conversations the two of them had. They were similar in many ways, which is probably why I was drawn to Wells’ personality and trusted his judgment.

Wells had an ornery sense of humor, which he seemed to enjoy sharing with me quietly and straight-faced, giving the impression to anyone who may be watching from across the room that the conversation was very serious when in fact the discussion was quite the opposite.

A time or two in this column space through the years I’ve shared a brief story about a few words of advice that a wise man gave to me many years ago. Those previous occasions when I’ve told you the story I never identified the wise man. That wise man was Wells Hull.

I won’t share the exact nature of the conversation or the decision being pondered at the time he offered his counsel on that day but I will tell you his advice was very simple and yet very effective. His advice was this: “Just don’t panic.”

The conversation stuck with me. From that day forward those words became my adopted mantra. Those words apply to any situation in life.

For that--and for those ornery conversations--I’ll always remember Wells Hull.

******

Your Landmark is on the streets a day earlier than normal this week so that our readers can take a gander at those great deals our advertisers have lined up for you on this Thanksgiving weekend.

I was going to say Black Friday deals. Then it hit me that the special deals advertised in your Landmark start much earlier than Friday.

For instance, as you’ll see in its ad on page B-1, the Zona Rosa shopping district has deals starting Wednesday evening in what they call their Orange Wednesday event.

Once you get past the Zona ad on page B-1, don’t miss the heavy advertising inserts from JCPenney (the skid carrying those inserts when they arrived at The Landmark weighed 1,300 pounds). JCPenney’s deals start Thanksgiving Day at 3 p.m., which means perhaps as I’m flipping on the television to watch the Dallas Cowboys knock off the Carolina Panthers (yes, I’m calling my shot--that’s the only NFL play I’ve given you all year, as you’ve noticed we have no Pigskin Picks feature this season so I’m sure you’ve missed my NFL knowledge) undefeated season, many of you shopping addicts will undoubtedly be heading to the Penney’s store at Tiffany Springs.

Next to the JCPenney inserts inside this Landmark you’ll find a Cabela’s insert that the more outdoorsy readers will find attractive. Looks like Cabela’s Black Friday doorbuster deals begin at 5 a.m. on, you guessed it, Black Friday. Get there early, I noticed the Cabela’s ad says five hours only.

As if the above deals aren’t enough, also inserted in this issue is a coupon booklet for household items from Procter and Gamble.

The P&G booklet has $63 worth of coupons in it. An annual subscription to The Landmark costs only $25.92. Let’s do the math. I’m going to go out on a limb and say your annual subscription is well worth it.

******

So with all this Black Friday talk, let’s break it down to a science. Sort of.
To help consumers maximize their savings this Black Friday, the consumer website WalletHub surveyed 8,000 deals from 30 of the biggest retailers in the United States in their Black Friday ads.

WalletHub says it identified the retailers offering the largest advertised discounts for each product category. Here is some of what the consumer site says its research shows.

The retailer where you can get the largest average discount? Gotta love this one, because it’s a Landmark advertiser. It’s JCPenney, where the average discount on their Thanksgiving weekend deals is 68% off.

Boom shaka laka.

Next up? Kohl’s. This one is good news for your Between the Lines columnist, also, because most of what you see your Between the Lines columnist wear comes from either JCPenney or Kohl’s.

By now I’ve got your curiosity up and you’re wondering which other retailers are near the top of the discount list this weekend. Right? Gotta tell you the list includes a few I’ve never heard of, though in a moment of real confession let me say I’m not really a professional shopper.

Here are the 10 best places to find savings, plus the average amount of discount by each:

1. JCPenney 68.0%.
2. Kohl’s 66.7%
3. Stage 63.9%
4. Groupon 63.7%
5. Belk 59.5%
6. Macy’s 56.0%
7. Kmart 50.1%
8. Panasonic 47.0%
9. Fred Meyer 45.3%
10. Office Depot and Office Max 42.8%

(While he’s happy to guide you to the best deals, chances are you won’t find Ivan Foley shopping on Black Friday. Reach him by email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SAVE ME A
SEAT ON THE
KANSAS CITY STREETCAR
Written 11/18/15

It is weird that I’m looking forward to riding the Kansas City Streetcar?
Cut me some slack. I grew up in a little town with no stoplights. To me, this streetcar looks like something out of those Jetsons cartoons. I don't just want to ride, I want to drive that thing.

******

I really do think the streetcar, detailed in a front page story by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp, will bring more people to downtown Kansas City.

And it will help give KC a bit of a hip, modern, up-to-date kind of feel in its downtown district. The city’s downtown area has been running behind in that ‘up-to-date’ department for quite some time.

******

Hold onto your hotsie.

What about those rumors that QuikTrip has given up on coming to Parkville? Have the hopes and dreams for those of us who think a cool, clean, modern, sales tax generating QT would be a good thing for the southeast corner of Hwys. 45 and 9 been dashed?

The rumors are inaccurate.

So sayeth Sean Ackerson, assistant city administrator and community development director for the City of Parkville.

Landmark reporter Alan McArthur was at the Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night and says Ackerson reassured the aldermen that QT has purchased the property in question. And the respected convenience store chain has also submitted a final development plan for the site, Ackerson told city officials.

The final plan was originally scheduled to go before the city’s planning and zoning commission on Nov. 10 but was delayed. Ackerson said a special meeting could be held on Monday, Nov. 23 if the QT reps are ready with details. If the special meeting is not held on Monday then the plan will go before the city’s planning and zoning board on Dec. 8.

The project apparently ran into some snags because of timing for construction work to begin. Ackerson said the existing layout of the property presents some challenges. The work would begin with some grading on the site before KCP&L can move its utility lines, then more grading to remove some water lines currently on the property. Then there will be more excavating to install new water lines before the final grading work can be completed.

Parkville allows initial grading work to begin on a site before the development plan has been approved.

When completed, the QuikTrip will have an entrance roadway along Hwy. 9 shared with the BankLiberty location and another entrance along Hwy. 45 at Julian Drive. QT has proposed another right-in and right-out-only entrance to the west of Julian Drive.

******

Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson recommends a 1.5% across the board pay increase for all county employees in 2016.

Curiously, Robinson’s recommendation for a 1.5% salary hike for everybody, plus $4,000 raises for each of the nine full time assistants in the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office, comes despite the fact the revenue streams that make up the county’s general fund are flat. Through the first 11 months of 2015, county income from the general sales tax and the use tax is down by half a percent compared to the first 11 months of 2014.

As for Robinson’s recommendation, color me not shocked. If you’ve been paying attention, I hinted a few weeks ago you could expect another recommendation for a raise from the auditor who loves to spend other people’s money. That has been his method of operation. And now we must bring you the important reminder that the auditor’s wife is a county employee (HR director) who works under the supervision of the county commission, so when the auditor makes a recommendation for a pay increase for county workers he is in fact making a recommendation for an increase in his household income. Something seems a little juicy about that, but the majority of the county commission has long closed its eyes to the ridiculousness of that situation and other issues with its HR department.

Last year, Robinson recommended a three percent across the board cost of living increase (COLA) for county employees. When push came to shove, even the two county commissioners who through friendship covet Robinson’s input (Duane Soper and Bev Roper) apparently thought that was nuts. The amount of the raise was cut to 1.5% in the county’s final budget. Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, voted no on the 2015 budget, in part because of the across the board pay raise.

******

Meanwhile, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says part of the reason he is asking for a pay increase for his assistant prosecutors is due to a proposed Department of Labor rule that would set the minimum salary for exempt employees at $50,400. An exempt employee is one to whom no overtime or comp time is mandated under labor laws. Currently that minimum amount for exempt employees is $27,000.

The prosecutor starts new assistants out at $46,500. The prosecutor currently has five full time assistants who make less than the key $50,400 amount being proposed by the Department of Labor for exempt employees. This means that under the proposed new labor rule, those five would be eligible for overtime pay and/or comp time.

So in recommending the $4,000 salary increase for the low end of his scale, Zahnd said he would like to also compensate the rest of his full time assistants with an equal $4,000 salary increase. Current salaries of his assistants range from the $46,500 on the low end to $100,500 for his top assistant. In addition, in the recommended budget one part-time prosecutor would receive a $2,000 salary increase.

We’ll see how it all plays out over the next several weeks. The county commission will review the auditor’s recommended budget and has the power, of course, to make changes. The commission is the final budget authority for the county. A budget hearing will be held in January.

(See how Between the Lines plays out 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)

 


WHAT IF YOU HELD
A MEETING AND
NOBODY CAME?
Written 11/11/15

Tuesday evening I hit the public meeting hosted by the City of Platte City and its marketing/planning partners in regard to the 300 acres of undeveloped property on the east side of Interstate 29 between Hwy. 92 and Hwy. HH. The purpose of the meeting was to invite public comments, suggestions and recommendations for future uses of the property.

Gotta tell you, it was a lonely night.

The press was there. Some city officials were there. The marketing firm reps were there, as were representatives from the Platte County Economic Development Council and the Platte City Chamber of Commerce. Other than that? About three actual members of the general public. And I may be overstating it by 33%.

Granted, more could have been done to promote Tuesday night’s powwow (I found it listed on the city’s web site), but it seems likely the strategy at getting public input needs to change. Maybe an online survey? It was mentioned by a presenter that about 100 invitations had been mailed in advance of Tuesday night’s event. Let’s just say the return on investment for those invitations wasn’t good.

******

At the meeting, there was a presentation by Jim Harpool of RH Johnson Co., a Kansas City commercial real estate firm specializing in retail brokerage, management and development services. Harpool did present some interesting perspective on things. For instance, on a national scale over the last 10 years, 50% of retail sales growth has been in e-commerce (online sales). Over the last five years, he says, 100% of retail sales growth has been in online sales. This is changing the way retailers are thinking. “All retailers are trying to develop an integrated platform that coordinates brick and mortar and e-commerce. Very few big box tenants are expanding,” Harpool says.

So, I would not expect a big box store coming to the east side of I-29 at Platte City. Let’s not waste time and effort chasing a pipe dream.

Most expansion on a national scale, Harpool says, is happening in the form of restaurants. No surprise, really, as we’re living in a dining out kind of world. In fact, excuse me for a minute while I run to the local Dairy Queen before finishing this column.

OK, I’m back.

Platte City Chamber of Commerce officials say they often hear from residents a desire for Platte City to have a chain sit-down family casual restaurant, like a Cheddars, for instance. Sounds nice and the thought is making me hungry again, but could Platte City sustain such a restaurant? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t consider sustainability a guarantee if it were my money being invested.

Other opinions that have been expressed to chamber officials include the thought that Platte City could use a bowling alley and/or an entertainment center playhouse, similar to a Dave and Buster’s type thing.

Hmm. Bowling alleys are finding a tough go of it in much larger markets than Platte City. To me a bowling alley sounds like a financial gutter ball waiting to happen, but hey, I’m just a smartass who writes a newspaper column.

******

With a large retail center seeming an unlikely possibility for east of I-29, what are the more realistic scenarios? With Platte City’s proximity to KCI Airport, the thought of an upscale hotel seems a possibility. And light industrial usage seems more realistic than retail. Perhaps something similar to the Riverside Horizons area. Warehouse type users.

Alicia Stephens of the Platte County EDC says she has shown the property for light industrial usage but topographical challenges on the property and whether Platte City really wants a lot of truck traffic are concerns. She quickly pointed out, however, if light industrial usage creates a couple hundred jobs at the location, the community would be much more receptive to that truck traffic.

Jobs bring population growth. Population growth then brings retail growth.
It’s a circle of life kind of thing, you guys. Don’t get woozy on me.

******

Harpool also mentioned other potential uses for portions of the 300-acre tract as being medical facility-related, senior housing, and perhaps an independent living type facility.

Residential wise, there is the possibility that the backside of the property--the area furthest to the east--would make a great location for some higher end homes. The area on the eastern edge of the site features some pretty terrain/views, we’re told. Platte City, according to the U.S. Census, has no homes valued at more than $300,000. Perhaps that could change, it was mentioned by at least one person in attendance.

Of course there are other potential residential uses east of I-29, including single family homes more family-friendly priced than $300,000. Also, multi-family dwellings would be another option.

In a chat with your not-so-humble columnist after the meeting, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt said the ideal vision is to save the corridor portion (highway frontage) of the 300 acres for commercial activity. Not residential. “The second and third tier areas could be residential, but ideally the corridor needs to be saved for commercial uses, whether that’s light industrial or retail,” the mayor emphasized.

The goal is to master plan the entire 300 acres, which would require the city working closely with the owner of the 260 acres that the city does not own. The private owner should be happy to do that. After all, the private owner seems to be in a potentially beneficial position based on what the city is doing.

D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, and the mayor use the term “cracking the egg” for future development. The city’s current project of installing sewer service to the east side of I-29, they hope, is the move that will “crack the egg” to development occurring. If/when that happens is anybody’s guess at this point.

For now, let’s stay calm and swag on.

(Crack the egg on Foley’s Twitter account @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


TAKE A DAY OR TWO TO CATCH YOUR BREATH, YOU DESERVE IT
Written 11/4/15

It’s the talk of the region. And for good reason. It’s even getting mention in national newscasts.

The parade and rally to celebrate your World Series champion Kansas City Royals on Tuesday drew an unbelievable crowd. City officials are estimating the crowd of people who converged upon the city’s downtown area at 800,000.
There will be doubters who pose questions about the crowd estimate, and that’s fair. I’m not in a position to argue with that estimate. I was in the middle of it. It’s tough to get a perspective on much of anything while standing in a mass of humanity. Seeing the photos taken from the sky was the best way to get a grasp of just how many people were taking part in the celebration.

From the vantage point where I camped myself at 9th and Grand I could see a few people in trees. There were people who climbed on top of the bus stop canopy to get a better line of sight. They were eventually instructed to get down by authorities who obviously feared a collapse or a tumble. That worked for a bit, but a short time later another crowd of folks had perched themselves on top of the same canopy. If you politely left a bit of personal space between you and folks standing next to you that personal space was quickly sucked up by more pedestrians. People just kept coming. And coming. It was an endless stream.

But it was very much worth the trip there and I was thrilled to breathe in the experience of a Kansas City celebration for the ages. I had skipped out on the 1985 parade. Had I known I’d have to wait 30 years for the opportunity to attend another one I may have made more of an effort in ’85. If the Royals make us wait another 30 years between championships something tells me I won’t be at the next one.

******

One thing that would have helped is if the players would have been perched on high-rising floats or something similar. I realize Chevrolet no doubt dropped some sponsorship money to someone for the right to have all the Royals in the back of individual Chevy pickups. Money talks and helps pay the costs of a parade, I’m sure.

But it created a situation where it was tough for many folks to get a view of their baseball heroes. Some of the players stood up in the back of the pickups, which helped make them more visible to more parade-goers, but others did not. If you were in the crowd lining the streets and were 15 or more people deep in the crowd, good luck getting a visual. At least you can say you were there to feel the excitement and perhaps catch an occasional glimpse.

******

To get more of your Royals World Series fix, you notice the coverage starts on the front with Chris Kamler words and photos. Check page A-8 for a couple more parade photos from Valerie Verkamp and Alan McArthur.

Be sure to check Kamler’s feature “The K Replay” on page B-2 for a great summary of each of the five World Series games.

All great stuff.

******

And hey, Royals fans, take a moment to thank yourselves for your contribution to this year’s team. Don’t undersell how much your unwavering support--and crowd noise--helped inspire these guys to a great result.

Now it’s time to catch your breath. Take a day or two to yourselves. I’m serious. It was enjoyable but it wasn’t easy, right? I mean there were games that ran late into the night. You stayed up. You cheered. You bit your nails. You screamed, either at the TV or while seated in the stadium. You fought traffic. You paid ticket prices. You bought Royals merchandise. You kept wearing that favorite shirt. You put up with the emotional trauma of viewing Johnny Cueto’s awkward bed selfies on his Instagram page. Maybe you held off getting a haircut until this championship was won. You know, so not to spoil the mojo.

See? There was some stress involved for not just players and the coaches and other team officials, but also the fans. “I feel like I need to sleep for 30 days,” one lifelong Royals fanatic told me this week.

Give yourself a little me-time over the next couple days, Royals fans. You deserve it.

******

While most of us are still hopped up on the goofball over Kansas City’s world championship, and rightly so, the prison population epidemic in Missouri and its costly effect on taxpayers and families continues to be on my mind and on the minds of some readers, as evidenced by the letter to the editor at right.

Some numbers and statistics jumped out at us while assistant editor Valerie Verkamp was working on her recent in-depth front page story on the topic and we’ll get into those in a future Between the Lines. Prison population has been a topic mentioned by presidential candidates. Obviously it’s a complicated situation with no simple answer. But as a society we need to start taking the topic more seriously and studying the options that might be out there to help deal with the problem.

******

The topic of some high profile names who sent support letters for a confessed sexual abuser of a child is marinating throughout Platte County. See the front page story on Darren Paden being sentenced to 50 years, and within that article you’ll see a list of names of some of the folks who sent letters of support to the court for the defendant. It’s unsettling, for certain, in particular to see former public servants and names of folks associated with a school district to not be shy in support of a confessed child sex offender. Kudos to Eric Zahnd, prosecutor, for drawing attention to the bizarre level of support shown from some influential names even after it had been explained to them that the man had confessed to the crimes against the child.

(Get Between the Lines at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)

 


WITH THE NATION’S
EYES UPON US, TECHNOLOGY
TURNED FICKLE IN KC
Written 10/28/15

The nation’s eyes were on Kansas City Tuesday night for Game 1 of the World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets. Kansas City is known as a technological epicenter, right? I mean, aren’t I right in saying that?

After all, Kansas City is joining four other cities worldwide as a Core Smart City, “opening yet another door to breakthrough technological opportunities,” says a release this week from the office of Mayor Sly James.

Kansas City is the only North American city designated as an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Core Smart City, joining Casablanca, Morocco, Guadalajara, Mexico; Trento, Italy, and Wuxi, China. The Core Smart City designation, we’re told, means Kansas City joins an elite community that shares successes, lessons learned and best practices more broadly and will enable the city to amplify its expanding leadership in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

“Joining this elite group of technologically driven cities is both a recognition of our achievements to date and a signal of greater things to come,” James said in the press release.

So with the nation watching Kansas City this week, technology is letting us down. Twitter was ablaze Tuesday night during World Series Game 1 as many GoogleFiber customers throughout the KC metro complained of a service outage that occurred right as the game was starting. The outrage was real. And it was spectacular.

Don’t believe me? Check out GoogleFiber customer Chris Kamler’s Twitter posts during the outage. His rant was epic. You can find Kamler on Twitter @TheFakeNed. I would say that if you’re easily offended don’t follow his account, but if you’re easily offended you should probably stay away from Twitter altogether.

National media personalities started tweeting about the fact many Kansas City Royals with GoogleFiber were unable to watch their team on the biggest stage for several innings. Yes, news of our technology fail went national.

As if the GoogleFiber untimely loss of service wasn’t enough, I also heard from Time Warner customers who had television service outages just as Game 1 was getting rolling. To add to technological nightmares, the Fox network broadcast of the game had several glitches throughout the contest, including a complete loss of signal for a time when juice was out from the generator-powered production truck.

I noticed KCP&L was brilliantly quick to post on its social media outlets that the Fox outages had nothing to do with KCP&L, pointing out the television production trucks are powered by generators. “We’ve had no outages or service problems,” KCP&L proudly and wisely stated to the world.

By late Tuesday it seemed some form of normal had been restored to the local technological world. GoogleFiber seemed to have its problems under control. The Fox broadcast signal returned, which allowed KC fans to get back to hating on announcer Joe Buck. Things seemed right with the world.

Then Wednesday morning the technological demons struck again. As you know, Wednesday morning is Landmark final deadline/production time. To say we rely on the internet in this business is an understatement. Wednesday morning is also the normal time that I quickly compose a weekly stream of consciousness, also known as a Between the Lines column. I had a couple of planned topics that I wanted to do some internet research on for comment this week. So much for that. You’ll have to wait till next week for those, um, profound thoughts.

As you may or may not have guessed, our pages are transmitted to the printing plant over the internet. So imagine the creative language I may or may not have been using when, at about 9:30 a.m., our internet service went down.

Ah, technology. Love ya better when you’re not being a diva.

******

Hey, did you know Qdoba Mexican Eats is opening a location at 9300 NE Barry Road, Kansas City?

I didn’t either. At least not until their representatives came walking in the door with a spread of chips and dips and set up a sample table at our front desk. Nice, unexpected treat. The food was fantastic, by the way.

I don’t want to troll for free eats, but anytime any of you other fine restaurants out there want to come walking in our door around lunchtime with some free samples you won’t be turned away.

Qdoba, by the way, is “the fast-casual brand known for its 3-cheese queso and free hand-smashed guacamole on entrees.”

The Barry Road location, which will officially open on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 10:30 a.m., is the first of several Qdoba restaurants that will open in the Kansas City area in the coming months.

Qdoba says it also offers catering for groups of 10 or more.

******

Hats off to the Platte County Democratic Party for hosting a very deserving Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Sharon Aring and Kathy Bray on Saturday at the KCI Hilton.

Valerie Verkamp, Landmark assistant editor, and I were happy to attend and take in the festivities while providing news coverage of the worthy event.

You won’t find a nicer gal than Sharon Aring, by the way, so we were more than happy to take in the sights and sounds of her induction while getting a chance to visit with some friendly folks in the crowd of 60 or more who attended the luncheon. Jim McCall of Parkville did a fine job as master of ceremonies. Pauli Kendrick of Weatherby Lake, chair of the Democratic Central Committee, was also a driving force behind the success of Saturday’s event.

(At your own risk, get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)

 


BE VERY THANKFUL IF YOU
GOT A SWEETHEART DEAL
ON MULTIPLE DWI CHARGES
Written 10/21/15

Take some time to read the in-depth front page article by Landmark assistant editor Valerie Verkamp on the ridiculous rate of growth of the female prison population in the state and what this means for taxpayers.

What it means is $$$.

******

It’s interesting to note state officials say the largest reason for the crazy growth rate of female prisoners is drug/DWI offenders.

So I guess anyone who has received a sweetheart deal on felony DWI charges in court and avoided prison time for multiple DWI offenses should really be counting their lucky stars.

Know anyone?

******

Dear Major League Baseball:

You know I love you. Why you gotta treat me this way?

Scheduling Games 4 and 5 of the American League Championship Series at 3 p.m. on a weekday? On a Tuesday and a Wednesday? Don’t you know those are the two busiest days of the week in this gig we call the weekly newspaper biz? What the hell?

My staff members get a little bothered when they notice me standing by the television instead of helping crank out this fine newspaper. It’s like they expect me to chip in or something.

I don’t understand it, and when I say “it” I mean MLB scheduling Royals playoffs games in the middle of the working day and my staff expecting me to help them work while a game is on. Am I Superman or something?

Come on, MLB, please do better next time.

******

Here’s your update on a nut we cracked open last week. The Platte County Salary Commission, which is comprised of your elected county officials, will meet to discuss salaries of elected officials (their own salaries, basically, though keep in mind any increase in salary can’t take effect until after the next election for each position) on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 3 p.m.

Last week the elected folks wanted the county attorney to be present for the meeting, which is a sign somebody in the room wants to adjust the salaries (never mind that the county is in a period of zero tax revenue growth). Because to simply meet to say “let’s leave salaries where they are” would not require advice from the attorney, correct?

Let’s see if someone’s desire to “adjust” salaries is spoken on Nov. 5, or if the fact that the public has been made aware of this will cool jets.

******

I don’t understand any public servant pushing for a pay raise in an elected spot. Public service is a pretty simple concept, really. If you’re not willing to work for that pre-established rate of pay for however long you wish to seek to continue to hold that position then don’t seek the job in the first place. If you feel like you can make more money than you’re currently making off the taxpayers, then go get a job in the private sector. The world doesn’t need more career politicians.

******

Speaking of things going on at the county, I noticed the infamous Platte County Human Resources Department, which the county commission allows to be led by a multiple-time convicted drunk driver, is advertising for a new employee. The HR office’s ad for the position says HR “is searching for an energetic payroll professional with a passion for serving others.”

Serving others what, exactly? Rum and coke?

******

But I’m getting a bit away from my original thought when I started on this topic. You might remember in January of 2014 The Landmark ran a front page article exposing the fact that only one county employee inside the Platte County Administration Building would be getting a pay raise in 2014. County employees had been told there would be no increase in their pay for that year, but when The Landmark looked at the proposed budget the salary line in the human resources department had increased by more than 10 percent. We started asking questions and were able to confirm that the payroll professional under HR director Mary Robinson, wife of Kevin Robinson, county auditor, would be getting a 10.5% pay hike while other county employees got nothing.

Jason Brown, presiding commissioner at the time, voted against the budget because of this. Associate commissioners Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, personal friends of the Robinsons, endorsed the 10.5% pay increase for the HR worker under Mary Robinson. The implication was that in order to keep this employee the county really needed to increase her pay significantly.

So they did. And here we are less than two years later and the position is open again. So much for throwing taxpayer dollars at someone with the understanding they’re going to be around a while.

Proof that money isn’t everything when it comes to job satisfaction and longevity.

No sense falling for that next time. The “we need to raise employee salaries to avoid turnover” is a boogeyman argument.

******

Every year you’ll hear bureaucrat types like the county auditor tell you the county has a high rate of employee turnover. Kevin Robinson makes an annual speech pushing for an employee pay raise, probably in part because his wife is an employee and therefore his household income gets a bump.

But saying the county has a high employee turnover rate is just not factual, at least not for the work force in the clerical jobs inside the Platte County Administration Building. When you cut through the bureaucratic BS, you understand that most of the positions inside the administration building are cushy from the standpoint of low stress, many government holidays and a solid benefits plan.

And, as proven to be the case with the HR employee, even giving a pay raise of 10.5% does not guarantee that employee is going to be around longterm.

(Get the Between the Lines boogeyman on Twitter @ivanfoley or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SALARY COMMISSION IS GOVERNMENT 'ACTION' AT ITS WORST
Written 10/14/15

It was a clown show.

It was government “action” at its worst.

I hope they felt a little embarrassed by how it went down because I felt embarrassed for them. If they weren’t embarrassed then we’ve got even bigger problems.

The Platte County Salary Commission, which is comprised of your elected county officials, met on Tuesday afternoon. Well, kind of.

After convening as they do every two years for the purpose of reviewing the salaries of the elected positions, your elected county officials decided they would not hold any discussion and quickly adjourned. Immediately after a roll was taken and a chairman elected (Gloria Boyer, recorder of deeds), it was suggested in the form of a motion by Kevin Robinson, county auditor, that the salary commission adjourn and reconvene at a later time with Bob Shaw, county counselor, present.

To review, the salary commission meets once every two years. With only one thing on the agenda. And they screwed it up before it even started.

This begs a few questions. Why was Shaw not asked beforehand to be present? The meeting had been scheduled and published well in advance. It’s not like this was a surprise. We could speculate there were more dastardly reasons behind the sudden decision to adjourn (maybe I’ll save that for a future column), but let’s assume they did it simply because someone was asleep at the wheel and forgot to request Shaw’s presence.

More importantly, if you’re going to leave the salaries of the elected officials alone--in other words, turn down the chance to increase pay for the positions--why do you need your attorney there? Common sense says it would take zero legal advice to leave salaries the way they are. And if it does take legal advice to do nothing, man, do we have some clowns in charge.

The answer to all this, of course, is that someone in the room doesn’t want to leave salaries alone. In other words, somebody (perhaps more than one person) in the room wants to propose raising the salaries of the elected positions.

Since Robinson was the one to quickly request waiting for the presence of the attorney, say it with me now: Hmmm.

******

There’s a new judgeship opening in Clay County. And 14 people want the job.

Clay County is the Seventh Judicial Circuit. Another Clay County Associate Circuit Judge position was recently created by the Missouri General Assembly.
Of the 14 applicants for the position, four are women and 10 are men. There are no minority applicants. Eleven of the applicants work in the private sector and three work in public sector. Average age of the applicants is 48.

Some of these names may sound familiar. Here are the 14 folks seeking the job:
Angela Atkinson, Timothy Flook, Harry Jenkins, Patrick Kenney, Brian J. Klopfenstein, Molly Lauber, David McCollum, Thomas McGiffin, JeanneMarie McNabney, Jeremiah Morgan, James Ralls, Kelly Ruark, Steven Salmon and Douglas Wemhoff.

The Seventh Circuit Judicial Commission will meet to interview the applicants on Monday, Oct. 26 at the Clay County Courthouse in Liberty. Interviews will start at 9 a.m. and conclude at about 4:30 p.m.

The public is invited to attend and observe the interviews. Immediately after the interviews are completed, the commission will meet to select the names of three applicants to send to the governor. The governor is then expected to make a selection from that list of three finalists.

******

Clay County is getting another judge but have you noticed the talk that Platte County will need another judge/judge’s quarters in the near future has quieted?
The topic of a “future need” for another judge came up at the first meeting of the Jail Committee last year. That was at the same meeting where some ridiculously inflated county population projections were spewed by county commissioners in attendance. Those population projections--fueled by enthusiasm and fantasy more than reality and facts--were eventually shown to be rainbows covered in sugar and spice.

******

So the Kansas City Northland media was sent an alert Tuesday morning from the City of Riverside. The alert had an important announcement concerning scheduling for Riverside Municipal Court. The media alert read like this:

“Riverside Municipal Court for Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. has been canceled. All cases have been rescheduled to Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.”

This got to me thinking: Why cancel a municipal court session? Is the judge sick? A freakish snowstorm coming?

Nah.

Then it hit me. The municipal judge at Riverside is Mark Ferguson. Ferguson is a noted sports fanatic. I’ve seen him at multiple Royals games, among many other sporting events. And you know what else is happening Wednesday night in these parts? The deciding game in the American League Division Series between the Royals and the Houston Astros.

I don’t feel like I’m going out on a limb here to say Ferguson was headed to the game and this forced Riverside’s wheels of justice to come to a screeching halt. Unless the courtroom was going to be moved to the parking lot at The K, Riverside’s judge was going to be very unavailable Wednesday night.

The “bad guys” in Riverside caught a temporary break thanks to the Royals.

(Get his clown show 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Periscope. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, call him at 816-858-0363 or drop in for a visit at 252 Main Street, Platte City)

 


SCHOOL MADE RIGHT CALL ON NAMING OF NEW BUILDING; AND REMEMBERING FRAN
Written 10/7/15

It’s MLB playoff month. You may have noticed your Landmark staff includes several Royals fans. In fact, I think all of us are. Well, maybe with the exception of office manager Cindy but we’re working on getting her to think about baseball. At least occasionally.

So despite the fact playoff thoughts are dancing in my head, I’ll press on to try to coherently complete this Between the Lines column prior to ALDS action coming to Kansas City Thursday and Friday. Hang with me.

******

Apparently your Landmarkers aren’t the only people infatuated with the Royals. The 2015 television ratings for Royals games are in, and the team’s telecasts on Fox Sports Kansas City averaged an all-time high 12.3 household rating, the best for any MLB team on a regional sports network since 2002.

Kansas City is crazy about this team, folks.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to jump on board.

******

The right choice was made.

Credit to the Platte County R-3 School Board for avoiding naming the school district’s new elementary school being constructed in Platte City after Tina Zubeck. The district has chosen the name Compass Elementary instead.
Zubeck was a loyal and productive employee for the school district and fantastic community supporter for many years. But the practice of naming public buildings after individuals offends many folks in the community. A quiet uproar (and yes, I know it sounds like a contradiction to describe something as a quiet uproar but that’s what it was) developed when the Platte County Commission foolishly renamed the Platte County Courthouse the Owens Lee Hull Jr Justice Center nearly two years ago. Jason Brown, then presiding commissioner, abstained from the vote but associate commissioners Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper pushed it through.

People were ticked. I couldn’t walk anywhere in downtown Platte City without someone stopping to bend my ear about it. This newspaper editorialized against it, you may recall. In fact, the cartoon lampooning the decision by our toon man Matthew Silber won first place in the Missouri Press Association Better Newspaper Contest in the category of best editorial cartoon.

Out of respect to Hull, a retired judge, there weren’t public displays of outrage but trust me, there was quiet outrage.

Maybe the R-3 school board got the message. Whether or not the regrettable decision to rename the Platte County Courthouse played a role in the school board’s decision to avoid tagging an individual’s name to its new elementary school is not known, but it is known the board made the right call. Indications are the board might instead focus on an individual room inside the school bearing the name of Zubeck.

So kudos to the school board on this one.

Now if they can get busy on those declining test scores and overinflated growth projections. . .

******

She was always prim and proper. Always dressed to the nines. Always polite. Always friendly and helpful. Always a kind word. Always a sweet disposition. Always a twinkle in her eye when she spoke, often a wink with that smile.

I’m speaking of Fran Durham, who served as Platte County Treasurer for 19 years. Fran passed away on Sept. 9 just a few days shy of her 92nd birthday.
The diminutive Democrat--she was around five feet tall, my best guess--was one of the first local officials I got the chance to know a little bit when I started this gig at The Landmark at the age of 19 way back in 1982. I arrived in Platte County not knowing a soul. Fran went out of her way to make me feel comfortable as I strolled through the Platte County Courthouse on the news beat. The treasurer’s office in those days was on the first floor of the courthouse (this was before the county administration building was constructed, of course) on the left side as you walk down the corridor upon entering the building. I would make my reporting rounds in the courthouse every Friday afternoon, sticking my head in the door of nearly every office to see if anyone had anything newsworthy. The byproduct of that, of course, was the chance to get to know the elected officials and to punish them into getting to know me a little bit, whether they really wanted to or not.

Many elected officials cringe when a reporter comes in the door. Fran always welcomed me openly and invited me to sit down for a chat. I eventually learned to call on her if I needed help identifying a contact person or needed direction on sources for a particular story.

On those Friday afternoons when I would drop by her office, in her high-pitched, folksy and charming voice she would often ask “Well, Ivan, whatcha gonna be up to this weekend?”

I just did the math. In 1982 Fran would have been 59 years old. Here she was taking the time to talk to 19 or 20 year old kid--admittedly a suave and debonaire kid, but still a kid--and actually take an interest in what I was doing outside of my job, a job that at any time could have me nosing around in the job performance of her office or a dozen other things that journalists sometimes poke their way into. I respected her for that. Immensely. And I got such a kick out of her downhome, small town charm. In 1984 she appeared at my wedding. I had no idea she was coming.

In later years Fran served a brief time as an alderman at Dearborn and occasionally would drop by The Landmark office. She was still prim and proper. Still dressed to the nines. Still had that sparkle in her eye, even during an occasional conversation in which I could tell she was having a little trouble processing things to their fullest, a condition that happens to all of us if we live long enough.

Rest in peace, Fran. Still think of you often.

(Get Between the Lines--and plenty of Royals playoff talk--every day on Twitter @ivanfoley and if you dare, chase Foley down on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


COUNTY REVENUE NUMBERS
SHOULD LEAD TO VERY
CONSERVATIVE SPENDING
Written 9/30/15

Back in the Between the Lines saddle after spending Thursday through Sunday in North Carolina having a great visit with the oldest daughter, her hubby and their two little ones.

We were there four days. Rained every day. All day. Never saw the sun. Mother Nature must have known I was coming.

Thankfully our hosts provided all the entertainment I needed because my sexy swim trunks, packed for an intended trip to the beach, never got out of the suitcase.

******

What is your general feeling about the local economy? If you’re thinking there isn’t much movement one direction or the other over last year, local consumer spending indicates you’re spot on.

There’s a new report due out in about a week. So maybe the news will be better at that time. For now, not so much.

The most recent report on Platte County sales and use tax revenues shows zero growth year-to-date from last year. In fact if you want to be technical, it shows a drop of one-tenth of one percent. This should lead to some very conservative spending by your county officials in 2016. Emphasis on the word “should.”

The general sales tax/use tax revenue year to date is $9.98 million. That reflects general sales tax growth of 1.5% but use tax decline of 3.2%. The general sales tax and use tax revenues all go into the county’s general fund.

Revenues in earmarked taxes are up. The park tax revenue is up by 5% over last year at this time. The road tax also shows a 5% growth.

Updated numbers coming soon.

******

Speaking of updated numbers, here are some interesting ones from a recent DWI checkpoint conducted by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.

During a DWI checkpoint conducted Saturday, Sept. 5 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Hwy. 92 and Prairie View Road in Platte City, a total of 732 vehicles were checked. Five arrests were made for suspicion of DWI.

Five arrests out of 732 drivers checked. That’s not a high percentage. In fact, that’s like seven-tenths of one percent.

I guess there are a couple of ways to look at this. One way--and this is the way most law enforcement people prefer to view it--is to say this is evidence that DWI checkpoints are working to help stop drunk driving before it starts. I tend to fall into this category. I do believe the checkpoints serve as a deterrent, at least to some extent.

The opposite way to look at it, and I often hear from people with this opinion, is to view numbers like this as proof DWI checkpoints have become a waste of law enforcement resources as well as an unnecessary hassle placed upon 99% of drivers.

******

Congratulations to my favorite local Democrat, Sharon Aring, on her selection for the Platte County Democrat Hall of Fame.

A well deserved honor. For many years, Sharon has been a tireless worker for her political party in Platte County.

See a story on our front page for more details.

******

Hey. The Major League Baseball playoffs start next week. Do you have your tickets for the Royals’ first series?

The Royals will have homefield advantage, at least in the American League Divisional Series, which is set to begin next Thursday, Oct. 8. Though they still have a (very) outside shot at gaining the top seed in the American League, if the season ended today the Royals would be the No. 2 seed and would face off against the Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. That series will be a best-of-five game format, with the first two games in KC on Oct. 8 and 9. Exciting times for baseball fans. Let’s face it, based on the way the Chiefs have looked the past couple of weeks Kansas City sports fans need the baseball playoffs to begin pronto.

By the way, be sure to check out Chris Kamler’s Chiefs Briefs report in Section B for more on the Chiefs, as well as his K Replay each week for Royals summaries. Good stuff.

******

ESPN has confirmed the 30 for 30 special on Sungwoo, the Royals fan who turned into somewhat of a good luck charm for the team last year, will air on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. Thursday night, Oct. 1.

Another airing is scheduled for Oct. 12, 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

In addition, the documentary that features our man Kamler in several scenes will be available online beginning Oct. 7 on grantland.com and espn.com.

The network says it is looking to add other airings of the special around Royals playoff games (either before or after) in October.

Don't forget we have Kamler’s book, The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo, on sale in The Landmark office for only $20. It makes for a great gift for the Royals fan in your life.

******

Can’t go to the playoff games? Try hitting a playoff rally to be held at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 6. The event, being called the “Take the Crown Rally,” is free and open to the public.

Parking gates to the sports complex will open at 10 a.m. that day with gates to The K opening at 11:15 a.m. From 11:45 to 12:15, Dayton Moore, general manager, and Ned Yost, manager will be taking part in a press conference shown on the Crown Vision inside the stadium. At 12:15 the rally hosted by Fox Sports Kansas City’s Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler will begin. From 1 p.m. to 2:15 the Royals will take batting practice on the field and player interviews will be shown on Crown Vision.

((Reach Foley--preferably not during a Royals playoff game--by email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, follow him on Twitter @ivanfoley, find him on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat or hanging out in his office at 252 Main St., Platte City)


DON’T MISS THE
SUNGWOO SPECIAL; THE
SPIN DOCTORS
Written 9/23/15

Obviously I need to get out more.

Monday night’s adventure with Sungwoo and crew was my first trip ever to Union Station. That’s hard to believe, I know, especially coming from a history junkie.

It was impressive. Very cool. I’ll be back when there’s time to enjoy it.

******

Sungwoo Lee is an impressive individual. Always extremely polite, humble and unassuming. That was on display again at Monday night’s premiere of the 30 for 30 documentary that features the South Korean super fan of your Kansas City Royals.

He handles every question with class, despite the fact you can tell the English language is still not always easy for him. He is careful to gather his thoughts before he speaks and despite the fact English isn’t his native tongue, his words often come out in eloquent fashion. Kind of like Chris Kamler and I communicating on Twitter.

******

And speaking of our man Chris Kamler, he had a major part in Sungwoo’s trip to Kansas City last August and his sexy (kinda) face has a significant role in the documentary that you’ll be able to watch on ESPN next month.

To play the role of film critic for a moment, let me say I think everyone in this region will be thrilled with the production. Particularly entertaining to me was the way Josh Swade, producer, spun some humor into the story, especially in the portion of the film that features him traveling to South Korea to try to persuade Sungwoo’s bosses to allow the Royals’ good luck charm to return to KC for the World Series last October. A couple of deadpanned remarks by Swade to the Korean bosses made me laugh out loud.

And of course there are a couple of scenes that might produce a tear or two.

Good stuff. Set the DVR.

******

While the specific air date for the Sungwoo special has not yet been set for ESPN, Kamler has a little inside info that is interesting.

“It’s currently listed on the TV listings for 10 p.m. on ESPN 2 on Oct. 1. So I’m working on trying to confirm that,” Kamler told me Tuesday.

So there you go. Scroll to your onscreen television listings for Oct. 1 when you can. See if the Sungwoo special is listed for 10 p.m. on ESPN2. If it is, stay up late. You won’t be disappointed.

******

If you miss the TV airing, you’ll be able to check out the Sungwoo special on the Internet at espn.com and grantland.com beginning Oct. 7.

******

The numbers report for Platte County R-3 School District continues this week. You’ll recall in last week’s episode, we shared the information that R-3’s enrollment this year is far, far short of projections made just two years ago when district officials were pushing the tax levy increase for building projects. The projections of fast growth, no doubt, created a sense of urgency in some voters but now we learn those projections were not close to being accurate. R-3’s enrollment this year is up by only 55 students from last year, a growth of only 1.4%.

This week’s numbers report focuses on the most recent ACT scores for Platte County High School. When compared to districts bordering R-3, the scores are not positive. In fact the scores were low enough that it prompted a very rare public admission of a “setback” from the normally “everything is rainbows and unicorns” Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent.

Platte County High School’s average composite ACT score is 21.7. That is equal to the state average but well below other area school districts. Here is a comparison:

Park Hill South 24.3
Park Hill High School 23.5
Kearney 22.8
Smithville 22.8
North Platte 22.3
West Platte 22.3
Staley 22.1
Kansas average 21.9
Missouri average 21.7
Platte County R-3 21.7

Some area Kansas schools:
Blue Valley 25.4
Lawrence 23.6
Basehor 22.9
Lansing 22.8
Leavenworth 21.9

The reaction from Platte County R-3 officials came inside a district email to parents. School officials everywhere have become spin doctors when it comes to the topics of test scores and enrollment projections. They’re going to keep doing it until they get called out on it. Keep in mind that just because a doctor’s lips are moving it doesn’t mean the words are gospel. It’s not being disrespectful to question everything.

“PCHS has consistently scored above the state average so the 2015 scores are below our expectation. This is a single data point that we will analyze to determine opportunities for improvement,” said Dr. Mike Brown, assistant superintendent for academic services. That’s probably where the quote should have ended. But then there was a sentence of spin. “However a single data point does not constitute a trend.” Maybe not a trend, at least not yet, but it certainly constitutes a negative data point.

Here are remarks from Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik in that same email to parents. “In spite of this temporary setback, I remain confident in the direction of Platte County High School,” Reik said. Credit to him for referring to the scores as a setback. But you can’t really term the situation “temporary” until you see how future scores come in. Until then, “temporary” is an opinion, not a fact. Reik then followed that comment with a mandatory sentence of spin taught in superintendent school. “This performance is heavily contrasted by sustained improvement in ACT scores prior to this year along with positive trends in end-of-course exams.”

I do enjoy the field of education’s spin doctors. The wordplay doesn’t just happen at R-3, it happens in other districts, too. These guys engage in so much doublespeak they make politicians jealous of their skills. But just as in sports where you are what your record says you are, in standardized academic testing your scores are your scores. The numbers don’t lie.

(Get a prescription to cure spin on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope or at his desk blankly staring out the window)


PLATTE COUNTY R-3 ENROLLMENT 'GROWTH' FAR SHORT OF PROJECTIONS
Written 9/16/15

D.J. Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City, spoke the phrase “out the ying-yang” during an economic development subcommittee meeting Tuesday night. He mentioned an economic development program the city has going and how he prefers to keep the regulations for it to a minimum instead of having regulations “out the ying-yang.”

Fantastic. That was one of my dad’s favorite phrases and I must admit I’ve used it in conversation many times over the years.

Gotta love Gehrt’s attitude. He sometimes lets it fly with no filter. I find it refreshing.

*****

Normally here in Between the Lines we shy away from public education issues. There’s a reason for that. Unless there is some kind of controversy stirring, public education is often a sleepy topic. You know this. I know this. No need to pretend otherwise. When it comes to public education discussions, readers generally don’t give a rat’s ass.

But a couple of aspects of public education that are fascinating to watch are enrollment numbers and student test results. So we’ll spend some column inches on those matters.

First, enrollment numbers. As you know, we’ve been known to have a little fun with enrollment projections some area school districts generate. School officials everywhere, not just in Platte County, like to put out wild enrollment projections as a way to panic taxpayers/voters into approving bond issues, increasing tax levies and approving building projects.

At Platte County R-3, in campaigns for tax increases patrons have consistently been told by school officials that R-3 is one of the fastest growing districts in the state. But is it? The district-wide enrollment number right now is 3951. That’s only up by 55 students over last year’s 3896. That’s an increase of only 1.4%. Not exactly an explosion of growth.

It’s also way off from projections that were made just two years ago. In 2013, members of the R-3 Community Advisory Committee were given enrollment projections that showed 2015-16 enrollment would be 4022 on the low side and 4625 on the high side. The “median” enrollment projection was 4269.

So to be fair, let’s use the median number of 4269. The district’s projection made just two years ago is off by 318. It’s hard to be off by that much in just two years time, isn’t it?

To be even more fair, let’s use the lowest projection number the district put out two years ago for 2015-16. The current enrollment is still 71 students less than the lowest number district leaders could imagine that it would be just two years ago. Swing and a miss.

Now let’s get crazy. Look at the number R-3 was putting out on the high side. Their info in 2013 said enrollment for 2015-16 could be as high as 4625. The actual number is 3951. Oops. Missed it by 674. Just a bit outside.

******

MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing results for all Missouri schools were announced recently. Here are how the school districts in Platte County performed in each subject matter.

The number you see is the percent of students scoring at a proficient or advanced level. The rankings in order by subject matter:

Engligh/Language Arts: West Platte 75.8; Park Hill 73.3; North Platte 73.1; Platte County R-3 68.5.

Mathematics: Park Hill 62.7; North Platte 58.2; West Platte 55.7; Platte County R-3 53.5.

Science: Park Hill 74.4; North Platte 70.7; Platte County R-3 68.3; West Platte 52.8.

Social Studies: Platte County R-3 84.5; Park Hill 80.2; North Platte 73.7; West Platte 61.7.

******

Quick analysis of the above scores? You can see the numbers as well as I can so I’m about to state the obvious.

Park Hill looks very solid in every category. Platte County R-3 must have a very good social studies program but has problems with math (think enrollment projections) and its English scores are the lowest in the county. West Platte is strong in English, struggling with science. North Platte is in the middle of the pack among county schools in every category.

******

Let the spin begin. As Guy Speckman, publisher of the Savannah Reporter, pointed out in a recent editorial in his paper, public schools and their lobbyists often complain that test scores “are not an accurate representation of school performance.” Huh?

As Speckman so eloquently says: “So let me get this straight, an industry that spends its days gauging performance based primarily on test results now says that you can’t gauge their performance on a test. Bahahahahahahaha.

“Yes, teachers and administrators don’t mind telling little Johnny that he is ‘failing’ based on his results on their tests but you can’t say schools are failing based on the test designed to measure overall school performance.”

Great point.

******

Kudos to the law offices of Scott Campbell and Jacob Pruett for putting together a fine downtown block party on Platte City’s Main Street Friday night. The weather was fantastic, by far the best conditions for any of these downtown shindigs Campbell and friends have put on in the past. And the turnout for this one was amazing. The addition of food vendors seemed a popular move, with the barbecue food truck in particular doing a squealing business. The band, Rivertown, was a huge hit, cranking out a nice variety of country sounds. Good reviews had been heard about the group from their shows at area casinos and other venues, and they did not disappoint. Thanks to Campbell, Pruett, their staffs and all other sponsors (The Landmark was happy to be one), as well as to all the folks who came out for a good time in downtown Platte City.

Some positive things are happening downtown all the sudden. Next up is a Ladies Night event Sept. 24, sponsored by the Platte City Chamber of Commerce. See the ad on page A-8 of this issue of The Landmark for more details.

(Get Between the Lines out the ying-yang on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram)

 


OF PACHYDERMS, HOT DOGS, ERIC BURKE AND BLOCK PARTIES
Written 9/9/15

Last summer after attending a meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club at which a debate was held between candidates for presiding commissioner, I remarked in this column about the small attendance, noting that other than the candidates and their immediate “people,” the number in the crowd was unimpressive. The Pachyderm Club, a vibrant organization in its first five or six years of existence that has become irrelevant over the past five or six years, either needs a shot in the arm or should just “shut that whole thing down,” I wrote after that meeting.

Here we are a year later and guess what? There are discussions to that effect, according to the notice promoting their Sept. 3 meeting.

“Please join us at the September club meeting to vote on whether the club should continue and discuss the path for the future of the club,” read the emailed notice.

No word yet on how that went. Maybe nobody showed up.

******

Beautiful job, Platte City. You turned out in droves.

The turnout for the hot dog cart in downtown Platte City last week was nothing short of impressive. Eric Hoel of KC Dogs started setting up his cart around 11 a.m., was serving his first customer at around 11:15 and had sold out by 12:45 p.m., well ahead of the advertised closing time of 1:30. Obviously the overwhelming turnout was more than he expected. He had used his appearance at the Riverside Food Truck Friday event as a guide for his anticipated turnout in Platte City. Downtown Platte City acted like it was starving for another food option at the lunch hour. That’s because it is.

Hoel told me he sold 170 hot dogs in his hour and a half of activity. He also sold varying amounts of bratwursts and drinks like soda and water.

That turnout was enough to convince him to come back this week. He will again be operating at the southwest corner of Fourth and Main this Thursday, Sept. 10 from 11-1:30, this time with more stock--and a helper to assist in shortening the line time.

******

The showing was enough to create conversation about reaching out to other food trucks to come into downtown Platte City. A taco truck would be a hit, based on the talk that was circulating on the square last Thursday.

Reaching out to other food trucks would seem to be a good job for someone at the Platte City Chamber of Commerce.

******

I’m happy to announce we have a new columnist joining our stable of animals.
Eric Burke, former television news reporter for Fox 4 in Kansas City, is your newest Landmark talking head. He will be on page A-3 each week, spewing opinions and such while showing off his pretty mug shot in a piece we’ll call Off the Beat.

Burke worked for Fox 4 from March of 2002 till March of this year. During that time you probably caught him on your TV screen reporting on breaking news and daily events, as well as an occasional feature piece, including one on some guy named Chris Kamler.

Burke became Fox 4’s “go-to” reporter for breaking news by virtue of a network of sources in the law enforcement community. Believe it or not, he came to my attention on this fascinating thing we call Twitter, a social media outlet embraced by guys like Kamler and yours truly. We interacted occasionally on there, and a couple of years ago while he was in town reporting on a local crime story, Burke and his trusty cameraman Jerry came bursting through the front door of The Landmark office unannounced. Personalities matched. Shenanigans ensued. Sarcastically dramatic photos of “news guys” were taken near the newspaper vending machine on the sidewalk in front of our building. That’s the day I filed away the observation that Burke might someday be a good fit for The Landmark’s opinion pages.

After recently hearing he had morphed into a stay-at-home dad, I thought this might be a good time to reach out to Burke with the offer. Hard core negotiations ensued, negotiations in which he asked for nothing and I offered twice that much.

“I’m excited. Thanks for the opportunity,” Burke said.

So here we go. We hope you enjoy.

******

Friday night is Block Party night in downtown Platte City. See the front page story for more details, but basically all you need to know is that it is free and fun.

A country concert by Rivertown. I’m told Rivertown starts performing at 6 p.m. and will let fly with the tunes until 9:30 p.m.

Food options will include barbecue and a hot dog cart. A beer garden sponsored by the Pool Hall. Shaved ice. Free popcorn. Free cotton candy. And more.

It’s thanks to the efforts of the law offices of Scott Campbell and Jacob Pruett, with special contributions tossed in by Re/Max House of Dreams--Patty Farr, the City of Platte City, NS Farms, Inc. and The Landmark Newspaper.

******

Don’t have your copy of the Royals-based book by our man Chris Kamler? You need to come by The Landmark office to get one. We just received another fresh shipment of The Silence, The Series & The Season of SungWoo.

Your copy can be purchased in our office for only $20.

Another bit of exciting news? Kamler says the book is now available for Amazon Kindle readers, for you crazy types who like to read books on your handheld devices.

Getcha some.

(When he’s not on Twitter @ivanfoley, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram or Periscope, you can find Foley patronizing a food truck on the courthouse square. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


PLATTE CITY SHOULD EMBRACE, NOT FIGHT, THE FOOD TRUCK CRAZE
Written 9/2/15

The City of North Kansas City is embroiled in a battle over food trucks. Many consumers, including but not limited to the younger generation, want them and embrace them. Some established businesses in that city, not eager to face competition, are not as excited about the food trucks.

As a working stiff in downtown Platte City for the past 33 years who, yes, eats lunch every day, I say this: Dear North Kansas City, if there are any food trucks you don’t want please send them in the direction of downtown Platte City. And make it snappy.

There are at least two sides to every discussion, obviously. But here’s what we know: In downtown Platte City the dining options are, in fact, only a dining option. Singular. Not plural. That singular place being the Pool Hall.

And let’s be honest, there is a good segment of the population that is never going to go into the Pool Hall. I’m sure the Pool Hall folks know this. This isn’t breaking news to them. Alcohol, you know. Some folks don’t want to be around it. That’s their choice. Also, cigarette smoke. Many folks, yours truly included, aren’t crazy about being in tight quarters where cigarettes are being enjoyed by fellow customers. It’s your choice to smoke, it’s your choice to allow smoking in your establishment. I’m fine with that. I just choose to avoid cigarette smoke whenever possible.

So to a good segment of the population, there are zero dining options in downtown Platte City. Enter the possibility of this food truck thing catching on here, at least to some extent.

We first mentioned in a column two weeks ago a food truck might go over well in downtown Platte City. There are, in fact, about 300 people who work at the Platte County complex, which includes the administration building, the county courthouse, and the sheriff’s department. Not all 300 are there at the same time but the vast majority of them are. And you know what? I’ve heard that most of those 300 feel the need to ingest food at some point during the day.

Why not try to keep many of these hundreds of workers in downtown Platte City? Lord knows downtown isn’t exactly booming. Anytime you can keep folks who are already here from fleeing downtown during the course of a day that’s a good thing. After all, there are a couple other businesses downtown they can frequent while they’re out and about. There’s a couple antique stores. A flower shop. A bank. A pool hall. Etcetera, etcetera.

The good news, confirmed by DJ Gehrt, city administrator, is that Platte City currently has no specific regulations (also known as hindrances) in place for food trucks. All the food truck operators need to do is acquire a health department permit and a city business license. That’s what Eric Hoel of KC Dogs has done. Check our front page story and you’ll see KC Dogs will be serving customers in downtown Platte City at Fourth and Main on the courthouse square, this Thursday, Sept. 3 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

My fear is suddenly somebody at City Hall will start thinking too much and want to develop a punch list of pain-in-the-butt regulations for food trucks. That would be a mistake. If Platte City is ever going to make its downtown relevant again, it needs City Hall to be business-friendly.

That includes having a welcoming attitude and an open mind about wiener wagons and other food trucks.

******

Here’s hoping KC Dogs has a good turnout Thursday. The operator has indicated he will be open to making a return engagement if so.

I’ve heard from a naysayer or two--there are closed minds in every crowd, that’s what makes the world go round--but the majority of the initial conversation on the square has been very positive.

“I’m thinking if one food truck succeeds others will follow,” one county elected official told me in a conversation this week.

“I’m in,” said one of the Platte County Circuit Court judges, who happened to pass by while I was engaged in a conversation about the topic with Greg Crader, head of security detail at the courthouse.

And this email came in from a 20-something Between the Lines reader: “I would eat lunch every day at the KC Dogs cart if I lived in Platte City. Food trucks always have the best food. I ate at a taco truck in Iowa last week. It was awesome.”

Town squares with little commercial activity need to think outside the box and be open to unique concepts. Downtown Platte City should embrace, not fight, the food truck craze.

******

What the heck, let’s go ahead and make most of this column about downtown Platte City.

The downtown Platte City law offices of Scott L. Campbell and the downtown Platte City law offices of Jacob A. Pruett continue to expand the plans for next Friday night’s block party on the courthouse square.

As you may have heard, and if you haven’t you’ll want to check out the ad on page B-4, a free concert and block party is coming Friday, Sept. 11 from 5-9:30 p.m. The fun will take place between Third and Fourth Streets in front of the courthouse on Main and will feature the popular country band Rivertown. Other highlights include barbecue from Porters Pig Shack, a beer garden provided by the Pool Hall, and an Arctic Shaved Ice truck. In addition, now we’ve learned there will be free popcorn and free cotton candy available, thanks to Patty Farr of Re/Max House of Dreams. I’m hearing there may even be some fancy cars brought in for a fancy car display.

In addition to the efforts of the fine lawyers listed above, contributions to the event are being made by Re/Max House of Dreams/Patty Farr, the City of Platte City, NS Farms, Inc., and The Landmark Newspaper.

******

Todd Graves, former Platte County Prosecutor and former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri and former annual special guest at your Landmark Christmas party, has been named the 2016 “Lawyer of the Year” for Kansas City, Mo. by The Best Lawyers in America within the practice area of regulatory enforcement litigation. Only one attorney is selected per practice area in a community for the annual honor. Graves, a Platte County resident who turns 50 next week, was also included among the attorneys recognized in Best Lawyers 22nd edition in the practice area of white collar criminal defense. Graves is a partner in the nationally-known law firm of Graves Garrett.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements or on how much I kiss any of their asses in this column.

(Hungry for more? Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. Find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, YouTube and Snapchat. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


HOT DOGS TO THE RESCUE!!??
Written 8/26/15

Ask and you shall receive. Perhaps.

Remember my column last week about how a hot dog cart on the courthouse square would be a good thing for downtown Platte City? This email just popped in as I was typing my column this morning. Great timing.

Ivan

I am Eric from KC Dogs. KC Dogs is a hot dog cart that serves Nathan’s all beef hot dogs and brats. I always bring chips, soda, and water as well.

I was told there might be a need serving the town during lunch by the courthouse. I googled your column. I would be happy to come up there on Thursdays (maybe Fridays too, if busy) for lunch and serve everyone. I have my Platte County food permit and am ready to go.

Email me back your thoughts and any contacts I might want to call to get the word out. Of course an ad or any marketing you can put in The Landmark would be great, too!

Eric
kcdogs.com

******

Ok, my dawgs, it’s time to help spread the word of KC Dogs willingness to serve. Let’s get the hot dogs rolling in downtown Platte City at least one day a week. We’ll keep you posted on this epic developing story.

******

My love letter to the fall season continues this week. And deservedly so. I mean, cool temperatures, cool small town festivals and events, NFL football around the corner and playoff baseball in Kansas City on the horizon.

Gotta love it.

And hey, the leaves haven’t even started to turn. If you think I’m giddy now just wait till that happens.

******

I don’t know how they do it, but the city known for its festivals continues to pull off success after success in that department. Pretty amazing considering nearly all of the work is performed by volunteers.

The crowds were large and the fun was larger at the annual Parkville Days celebration over the weekend.

“I think that’s what makes Parkville stand out--the sheer number of people who volunteer,” Nan Johnston, Parkville mayor, told me this week after the smoke had cleared from another successful festival.

Tom Hutsler, one of the leaders of the sponsoring Main Street Parkville Association, had told me basically the same thing Sunday afternoon as we chatted on the festival grounds.

“It (downtown celebrations, festivals and events) is what we do,” Hutsler said, surveying the throngs of folks walking past the many vendors. And then he added my favorite quote of the week:

“This is our best Sunday crowd ever. I credit the full page ad in The Landmark,” Hutsler remarked.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

******

The Landmark was happy to take part in Parkville’s time capsule ceremony Saturday afternoon as part of Parkville Days. The city accepted donations to the capsule from a variety of organizations, and the capsule will now be buried near the city’s downtown Spirit Fountain. It will be opened in 2049 on Parkville’s 200th anniversary.

Despite my best efforts to recruit some other very capable Landmark staffers to handle the honor with more style and grace (I won’t mention any names but here’s looking at you, Valerie and Cindy) I was on hand to take part by presenting The Landmark’s contribution to the capsule. Items this fine newspaper dropped in the capsule include The Landmark’s 150th anniversary issue, some recent issues heavy with Parkville and Park Hill news, a copy of Landmark cartoonist Matthew Silber’s illustrated history book of Platte County, and an official Landmark 150th anniversary coffee mug.

If you’re around in 2049 be sure to be on hand for the unveiling of that time capsule. Try to let me know how it goes.

******

Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele is just guessing at this point. There is no self-confidence.

Hoping this doesn’t burn us in October.

******

Now you’re waiting for word on the next Riverside Food Truck Friday event? Me too. Here it is.

Riverside’s Food Truck Court makes its return this Friday, Aug. 28. You can grab lunch from a food truck in the Horizons Business Park located off of Hwy. 9 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Find it in an open lot west of Horizons Parkway and 39th Street. Eric from KC Dogs will be there.

Search Riverside Food Truck Court on Facebook for more info, such as which other trucks will be on hand.

******

No word yet on whether downtown Platte City will officially get in on this food truck movement sweeping the country. But all is not lost for the courthouse square. Scottapalooza is on the way.

Yes, a free concert and block party will hit downtown Platte City on Friday, Sept. 11, thanks primarily to the law offices of Scott L. Campbell. Thus the event is known in some circles as Scottapalooza.

Rivertown will be the musical entertainment, and this happening country group should be a crowd pleaser. I’m told the group performed last weekend at Ameristar Casino to rave reviews.

The Sept. 11 party gets rolling on Main Street as soon as the sidewalks are rolled up at 5 p.m. The fun lasts until 9:30 p.m.

There will be barbecue, a shaved ice truck, and a beer garden by the Pool Hall. Maybe a hot dog cart? Don't miss the fun, this type of thing doesn’t happen in Platte City every day.

(Follow Foley, who hopes to soon be a proud consumer of Nathan’s hot dogs on the courthouse square, on Twitter @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Periscope. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 

 


THIS COLUMN CONTAINS WORDS YOU'LL SELDOM HEAR
Written 8/19/15

It’s mid-morning on a Wednesday in mid-August and the temperature is in the upper 50’s. I can handle this.

******

Is there any chance Park Hill can get its money back from the search firm that sent former Superintendent Scott Springston this direction? A disaster of embarrassingly epic proportions and the legend isn’t dying, apparently.

******

Sometimes the best comedy is hidden in a crime story, so if you’re into humor never pass up the opportunity to read those articles pretty thoroughly. The quotes from the alleged bad guys are quite entertaining, like the guy this week who told sheriff’s deputies that he is a cage fighter and he might just eff them up.

He was taken to the ground.

******

Gotta admit, I’m a fan of this lunchtime food truck trend hitting in this area and all across the country, apparently.

Riverside held a cool Food Truck Friday event last week in the Horizons Business Park that was well attended. As I was walking with camera in hand toward the lot housing the food trucks, I was kindly greeted by Riverside Mayor Kathy Rose.

“This is a good turnout. I’ve got to admit I wasn’t expecting much,” I said to the mayor. It was intended as a compliment, not a slight, as I really thought this might be one of those ideas that sounded good on paper but not look so hot in reality.

As it turned out, reality looked pretty pleasing for a first time event.

The mayor gave a wry smile. “Don’t underestimate me,” she said, while explaining the reasoning behind the move (see front page story for details) and praising the staffer who led the way to put it together.

******

Can we get a food truck in downtown Platte City, at least occasionally? Other than the Pool Hall there really is no dining option here in mid-town, unless you come walking in The Landmark office and swipe something out of my mini-fridge. And good luck with that. Try to reach into my mini-fridge too often and you’ll pull back a bloody stump, my friend. I’m a trained cage fighter. Haven’t lost to a cage yet.

******

How about a mobile hot dog cart somewhere in the downtown Platte City square? At least once, maybe twice a week?

Anybody with me? How about you folks who work at the county complex, what say you? Think about it. Tax revenues are flat so you may not be getting raises. Hot dogs are cheap.

I’m guessing the profit/loss math on the hot dog stand may not work out long term for the operator. But I would totally dig it, totally patronize it, and totally feel like a hipster doing it.

******

Clip and save this column. You don’t often get a chance to read this comment in Between the Lines: I agree with county commissioners Beverlee Roper and Duane Soper.

Yes, in the split vote on the dog kennel issue, place me on the side of the two associate commissioners, which puts me on the opposite side of Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner.

Check out the detailed front page story by ace assistant editor Valerie Verkamp on this topic.

******

D.J. Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City, in promoting the idea behind the grant program the city is developing to assist homeowners and business owners with property improvements, points out that there is not a home within the city limits of Platte City with an appraised value of more than $300,000. Kind of a surprising stat.

Platte City’s assessed valuation of real estate is around $64 million. Parkville, meanwhile, has more than $200 million in assessed valuation, a pretty stark contrast considering the cities aren’t that different in terms of population size.

Platte City’s population is estimated at 4,800 and Parkville’s is 5,900.

******

Guy Speckman, the insightful publisher of the Savannah Reporter, nailed it in a column last week about the Missouri Department of Transportation.

You know all those ridiculous traffic backups you’ve been experiencing on area highways, including the fustercluck just north of Platte City at the twin bridges on I-29? Speckman opines that those backups don’t really bother MoDOT. The agency turns them into complaints about money. Boom shaka laka. Here’s what Speckman wrote, in part, about MoDOT’s pattern of behavior:

“I don’t trust the motives of MoDOT higher ups. As they have been denied funding in the past decade, the organization has become a runaway train of government abuse of power. All you have to do is watch the news and see how quickly they are to throw an official MoDOT spokesman out at the most recent bridge closing lanes shutdown or lack of maintenance and they basically say: ‘We’d love to help but the legislature and the people won’t give us anymore money.’ Yet, they have enough time to tell us they can’t help you because we can’t help them. I’m not sure that’s their job: We give them tax money and they fix our roads as best they can for as little as they can, is my interpretation of their job.

“The Platte River bridge closures seem to fit nicely in the new MoDOT attitude. There is little to no traffic mitigation efforts. It is basically the ‘lane is closed, deal with it’ traffic control effort. What happened to the days of awarding night work contracts or detailed detour plans to lessen the impact of needed repairs? I traveled the path on Saturday of this week and hit standstill traffic, while no work was being done and little traffic control was in place to help guide drivers, many of whom are simply passing through and would not be familiar with the area and potential detour routes.

“I’m tired of government agencies that operate on our hard earned money that use the same money to punish us and hide behind the ‘you won’t give us more money’ argument. If they want that argument then I want to talk about the waste that you and I see daily from this bloated organization.”

(Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and search for Foley’s follies on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Periscope)


NOW THAT WE'RE GOOD AGAIN, LET'S TONE DOWN THE CIRCUS ATMOSPHERE
Written 8/12/15

After last week’s Republican presidential candidate debate, Megyn Kelly of Fox News, one of the moderators for the clown show, said she “won’t apologize for good journalism.”

That’s understandable, but will she apologize for bad journalism and for being a shill for the Republican party?

******

You hear a lot of folks say it every year. “Wow, where did the summer go. It seemed to fly by.”

I don’t have anything against summer, but I’m not summer’s biggest fan. In fact, I hate to break it to you, summer, but you’re my least favorite season.

Fall tops my list. By far. The temps and the views are spectacular. Spring is second. Winter is third. Summer? Nothing personal, but somebody has to finish last.

The good news is fall is now within striking distance. Fall weather and fall activities are the best. Let’s get the fall party started.

******

This is going to sound like an old man screaming “get off my lawn,” but one thing I’d like to see the Royals do now that the on-the-field product has vastly improved is to cut down on the carnival barking that goes on inside the stadium at the end of every half inning. Do we really need so much verbal stimulation while at the ol’ ballpark? After all, loud noise is a stress creator, the experts say. It’s no wonder so many kids today have Attention Deficit Disorder.

Baseball is a slow-moving sport in a slow-moving time of year and part of the attraction is you can actually carry on a conversation with those around you during a ball game. That’s hard to do when the young lady who serves as the in-stadium announcer is screaming into her microphone describing whatever game show type event is going on between innings.

Less of that, please. This is Major League Baseball not the Family Feud.

Occasional silence from the PA system isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Can we get a little chill time between innings? A lot of us won’t hate it.

******

And Star Wars Day at the K? My buddy Chris Kamler vehemently disagrees with me but to this activity I say hell to the no.

Maybe I shouldn’t be that harsh. I suppose Star Wars Day is a beneficial public service for guys who don’t often make it out of their mom’s basement. With proper sunscreen, a little time outdoors can be a health benefit.

But come on, KC, let’s be selective about picking promotional days. These aren’t the old Royals. We’re defending American League champions now, for crying out loud. The team can draw crowds without goofy gimmicks, right?

Save silly sideshows like that one for when the Royals start sucking again.

******

You may have heard the law offices of esteemed attorneys Scott L. Campbell and Jacob A. Pruett of downtown Platte City are putting together a night of activity on Main Street.

On Patriots Day, Friday, Sept. 11 those two gentlemen and their very capable staffs are sponsoring a downtown block party that will feature a live band, a beer garden, and some barbecue.

The event will start at 5 p.m. and run till 9:30 (at least). The good stuff will be happening between Third and Fourth Streets on Main.

The musical entertainment this year is the band known as Rivertown. Beer garden provided by the Pool Hall. Barbecue by Porters Pig Shack.

Special contributions to the event are being made by Patty Farr’s Re/Max House of Dreams, the City of Platte City, NS Farms, and something called The Landmark Newspaper.

Check it out for a night of fall fun.

******

Some not so surprising news to come out of the Central Platte Fire District.
The company that writes the fire department’s workers compensation insurance says it won’t be renewing the district’s policy. To be clear the company is not canceling Central Platte’s coverage but it is refusing to rewrite the policy.

If you’ve paid attention to the headlines over the past four or five years this really comes as no shock. There have been some incidents.

Over the past five years, the fire department has averaged $117,000 per year in claims on its workers compensation policy.

This deal was a money loser for the insurance company. So the company is firing the fire district as a client.

All is not lost. Apparently there is one other company in Missouri that writes workers comp policies for volunteer fire departments and that company will be picking up Central Platte. No word yet on at what rate.

******

Uh oh. The tax revenue numbers for Platte County aren’t getting any better. The numbers for August sales and use tax collections are down four percent when compared to the August reporting period from last year. Those collections go into the county’s big account, the general fund. This is the second consecutive month numbers have been down. In July the numbers were down 18% from the July collection of last year.

Do we now have a trend? Maybe. This the first time the numbers, previously a wildly volatile thing, have been down for two straight months.

What it means now is that for the year, the sales and use tax collections are exactly flat from last year. Zero growth.

This is a far cry from earlier in the year when the numbers were showing a growth of about 12% and those county officials who like to spend your money were licking their lips. Some were dreaming of big pay raises and new toys.

The budgeting process for 2016 at Platte County is going to be fascinating to watch. We’ll keep you posted.

(Get wildly volatile Between the Lines updates on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also search for Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

COUNTY COMMISSION NEEDS TO STEP IT UP REGARDING TRANSPARENCY
Written 8/5/15

I’m past deadline and need to get this page put to bed. So you’re getting a train-of-thought column.

In other words, things are normal.

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Chiefs training camp has opened at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Remember when this used to be a bigger deal than it is now? Remember when this was the highlight of the late summer ’round these parts?

In other words, remember when the Royals weren’t any good?

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It looks like Andy Reid, Chiefs coach, lost some weight. It looks like Andy McCullough, Royals beat writer for the Kansas City Star, found it.

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You need to get busy with a plan on how you’re going to acquire Royals playoff tickets this year without maxing out your credit cards.

They’re making the post-season for the second year in a row.

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Oh, wait. Look what just popped into my inbox.

“The Kansas City Royals are pleased to announce an exclusive ticket package for the remainder of the 2015 season that includes postseason ticket priority for every potential 2015 postseason game played at Kauffman Stadium, including the World Series. Through the plan, fans will be able to purchase any 10 of the remaining regular season home games at a discounted rate, plus make a deposit for 2016 season tickets.”

The team says fans taking advantage of this limited time offer will receive postseason ticket priority after current season ticket members are assigned seat locations. The Royals say that due to the increased season ticket fan base in 2015, this 10-Game Stretch Pack offer will be the only way for fans to ensure postseason ticket priority.

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Internet Explorer sucks.

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There is water under the screen of my iPhone. This is less than ideal.

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Why is it that the Platte County Commission, a local government agency with a full time information technology department at its disposal, can’t provide an electronic packet of public information on its web site in regard to each agenda item of a commission meeting?

It really is an important transparency issue. The cities of Platte City, Parkville and Riverside, to name a few, as well as the school districts of Park Hill and to a lesser degree Plate County R-3, are excellent at providing this type of information to taxpayers. Yet the county, again with a fully-funded IT department and with a full time “director of administration,” doesn’t do it.

Smells of either laziness or a lack of a desire to be transparent. Or both. Either way, this problem should be fixed. I would suggest the county take a look at the City of Platte City’s web site, click on the link labeled “packet” for every public meeting and see how the city handles information pertaining to each agenda item. Then go to Parkville’s web site and see how they handle it. That’s how it should be done. These “small” cities are kicking the county’s ass when it comes to providing pertinent public information regarding items of public business.

There are no acceptable excuses for the county not to be providing that service when entities without the IT resources and staff that the county has are doing it all the time and doing it quite well.

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There were some mildly amusing moments at the county commission meeting the other day during discussion of whether or not to raise the 911 tax rate. Every comment and question by Beverlee Roper, first district county commissioner, led observers to believe Roper favored raising the rate to acquire more revenue. But then when it came time to call the roll, her vote was to keep the rate the same.

“I think the 1.5% is fair,” she remarked seconds before the roll call vote, even though nothing she had said or asked during discussion up to that instant indicated she felt that way.

It seemed a bit bizarre. But bizarre is normal for the first district commissioner.

It’s almost as if Roper really, really wanted to raise that 911 tax rate but didn’t because she envisioned it being used against her in a “tax and spend” campaign piece in 2016.

If that’s the case, she’s too late. That horse left the barn a long time ago.

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It was also mildly amusing to hear Duane Soper, second district commissioner who favored raising the rate from the current 1.5%, say more than once that “voters approved it at 2%.”

That’s kind of correct. But not exactly correct.

What is exactly correct is that voters approved a MAXIMUM of 2%. The county commission sets the rate every year. The county commission does not have to set it at 2%. The county commission cannot set it any higher than 2%. They have the option to set it lower.

Soper opined that the 911 tax rate was lowered to 1.5% by a previous commission “for political reasons.” Well, there are political reasons why Soper keeps saying “the voters approved it at 2%” when in fact that’s not exactly correct and as if that automatically means the rate should never be anything lower than 2%.

Some of you may have already figured out where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, be patient. We’ll get into it in a future column.

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If you’re interested in some free tickets to the Clint Black concert Friday night at Ameristar Casino, hit me up. If you don’t I might have to go. And nobody wants that.

(Don’t overthink it because he sure won’t. Hit Foley up via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or on Twitter @ivanfoley)


INDICATIONS ARE
THESE JUDGES
ARE MORE EFFICIENT

Written 7/29/15

Welcome back to Between the Lines. Bark with me if you’re my dawg.

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Remember when Tuesdays used to be an extremely heavy court day at the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center? Remember those Tuesdays you couldn’t find a parking spot on Platte City’s Main Street due to all the courthouse activity?

Here’s some not-so-breaking news: for months there has been plenty of parking available on Platte City’s main drag on Tuesdays and most every other day of the week.

After much unscientific Between the Lines study and observation, I’ve come to the conclusion the current set of judges in place at the Platte County Circuit Court are more efficient than the previous roster.

Kudos to the guys and gals in the black robes. They seem to have found a way to effectively streamline things.

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Also, I glanced at the Platte County Jail population this week to see only 117 residents listed. Capacity is 153.

Might be time to cool the jets about an immediate need for jail space.

Just sayin’.

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I see some panic pushers and hyperbolists are at it again in regard to the alleged population explosion that they claim is going to happen in the area known as Twin Creeks in the Northland.

In case you’re not yet familiar with the fairy tale, once upon a time some bureaucrat opined that now with the first sewers completed near there, the Twin Creeks area--generally north of Hwy. 152 and east of Interstate 29 in Platte and Clay counties--is going to explode into some kind of heavily-populated Utopia.

The latest glorified piece I’ve read appeared in the Kansas City Business Journal in early July. The BJ article promotes the theory that Twin Creeks will eventually be home to as many as 85,000 people.

Wait, didn’t a lot of this population projection information get exposed as fallacy last summer in articles published in The Landmark? Why yes, yes it did.

Sure, I guess Twin Creeks could someday be home to 85,000 residents. Also, tonight I might get hit by lightning and monkeys might fly out of my ass.

To be fair, I guess someday Twin Creeks could be home to 85,000 residents. I just doubt anyone old enough to be reading this right now will be around to see it.

Anyway, something called the Twin Creeks KC Task Force, comprised of public and private entities with an interest in the 13,000 acres of land and therefore an interest in overstating things, recommends spending about $330 million in the coming decades to build new roads in the area.

The BJ even claims developers “plan to build hundreds of single-family homes in the area as soon as this year.”

Really? As we’ve asked previously, where are the folks who would reside in these “hundreds of homes as soon as this year” going to find work?

According to the BJ, the task force prioritized three projects needed to ensure the area’s success: a new bridge over I-29, upgrades to Northwest 108th Street throughout the area and upgrades to N. Platte Purchase Drive.

“Paying for the new roads will be challenging,” the BJ article states in a sentence that is the most accurate point in the story.

Alicia Stephens, executive director of the Platte County Economic Development Council, is quoted in the BJ saying Platte County will be “looking under every rock” for money.

Here’s a news flash. “Looking under every rock” for money is pretty much standard operating procedure for government officials. The problem is they want to look under your rocks, not their own.

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Kansas City Councilman Ed Ford jumped into the middle of the hyperbolic fray in the BJ article with a remark that every school administrator will love to repeat over and over again, regardless of whether there is any sense of realism to it. Ford is reported as saying that “as many as six high schools” will be needed in the Twin Creeks district.

The bureaucrats are in total spin mode. Hold on to your wallets, guys and gals.

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In Platte City, results of the city’s most recent citizen satisfaction survey are in, and not looking too shabby, actually. The 2015 survey method was a combination of mail and home contact with randomly selected Platte City residents. A seven page survey was mailed to a random sample of households with follow-up phone contact. A total of 313 surveys were completed.

The most recent survey prior to the 2015 poll was done in 2012, so comparing the results can be fun and interesting. For this week, let’s focus on the positives. Major positive trend areas for the city in regard to citizen satisfaction ratings, with the upward percentage of satisfaction gained since 2012:

Effectiveness of city manager/appointed staff: +17%.
Elected official leadership: +16%.
Appointed boards/commissions: +15%.
Overall effort to prevent crime: +13%.
Snow removal: +12%.
Animal control: +11%.
City’s communication to residents: +11%.
Visibility of police in retail areas: +10%.

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One thought: D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, has to be thrilled about that top figure. He could have a bargaining chip in salary negotiations.

(Between the Lines keeps it coming 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. Find Foley at 252 Main, Platte City in the plush Landmark offices or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Between the Lines by Ivan

IT'S NOT EXACTLY CHRISTMAS IN JULY AT THE COUNTY COMPLEX

Written 7/22/15

It’s not exactly Christmas in July at the Platte County Administration Building.
That’s because the latest sales tax revenue numbers are in and the report is not pretty. I’m guessing the negative downturn in the July sales tax revenue report has cast a bit of a dark cloud over the early 2016 budget proceedings that are underway. In other words, the folks who enjoy spending your money more easily than they would spend their own are having to slow their wish lists for 2016, at least for the time being.

What’s that, you might ask, there are some folks at the administration building who enjoy spending your money? Yes, there are a few. I won’t name names but their initials are Kevin Robinson, Mary Robinson, Beverlee Roper and Duane Soper. Those are some of the folks who were likely getting a little slobbery when tax revenues were coming in at a rate of 12% above last year’s pace.

Let’s not start a negative panic over the newest numbers. There have been up/down swings in revenue numbers throughout the year. Some folks say it’s the fault of the Missouri Department of Revenue’s collection practices. Some folks say it’s caused by businesses who don’t send in their sales tax collections in a timely manner--perhaps skipping one month then catching up with a double payment the next month.


While it’s not prudent to start a panic just yet, let’s not automatically assume the numbers are going to bounce back in strong fashion, either.

Taxpayers have a right to--and should--get very nervous when budgeting authorities start assuming revenue growth. Assuming the money tree is going to grow is a dangerous thing.

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So just what are those new sales tax revenue numbers? I’m glad you asked.
Through seven months of collection in 2015, Platte County has shown virtually zero growth in its combined general sales tax/use tax collections. When I say virtually zero growth the number is actually a growth of four-tenths of one percent.

The newest numbers show that in the month of July, the general sales tax collection fell by 12% in comparison to July of last year. The July use tax collection figure fell a whopping 28% compared to July of last year.

July collections reflect consumer activity in the month of May. Apparently folks weren’t spending a lot of dollars in Platte County in May.

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What I find interesting is that despite the fact general sales tax collections are flat, the collection numbers for the designated half cent sales tax for parks and the 3/8th cent sales tax for roads are showing growth of 4.6% over this time last year.

The parks tax has already generated $5 million this year. If the growth rate is at 4.6% at year’s end, the parks tax will bring in a total of nearly $8.7 million in 2015.

Wow.

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You’ll be hearing and reading much more about this in the near future, but by now you’re probably aware that on Tuesday an airport study group consisting of airlines officials and consultants hired by the city of Kansas City are recommending that Kansas City International Airport become one new single terminal airport. That option is favored by the study group over the option of renovating the existing terminals.

In a move that some say surprised city officials, the study group claims the new terminal would actually be a cheaper option than renovating the existing facility. A spokesman for Southwest Airlines said a renovation project would cost more than $1 billion while a new terminal would cost “significantly less than that,” though no dollar figure was spoken for public consumption. Imagine that.

Some of us had been led to believe that the airlines really weren’t all that interested in seeing a new KCI Airport be constructed. Tuesday’s report indicates otherwise. The study group recommends tabling any ideas for renovations and instead advises the city to focus on building a new single terminal airport. The group says convenience, security and affordability were the primary factors in its recommendation. Under the idea, a new single terminal would be built on the site of the current Terminal A, which is not being used.

Word is that a final, more detailed recommendation from the airlines/consultants won’t come until next spring. City officials have said that Kansas City residents will eventually have to vote on the issue, to approve bonds to fund any major airport improvements.

Mayor Sly James, no doubt more recognizable in these parts after a selfie he took with me at a meeting of the Northland Democratic Club in June went viral (that’s code for I posted it in my social media outlets), is already touting the fact that no city tax revenues are used in airport financing. The funding for a new airport would come from airlines, some federal grant dollars, and fees paid by travelers using the airport.

Your thoughts?

Like a lot of folks, I love the extreme convenience of the existing KCI and will miss that aspect if a new single terminal airport is constructed. But I also don’t mind if Kansas City wants to invest in the Northland--a part of KC that has received the short end of the stick for many years--particularly when that investment won’t come directly via tax dollars.

I’m hardly a frequent flyer. Once, maybe twice a year tops for me, so a new airport isn’t exactly going to significantly impact my travel budget. Those of you who will feel the brunt of added user fees at KCI understandably may not be as excited about the potential of a new airport being constructed in Platte County.

Either way, we’ll get the chance to talk plenty about it in the coming months.

(Separation anxiety? You can get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and by finding Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THE CITY UNDERSOLD ITS STEAMBOAT ARABIA CEREMONY JUST A TAD

Written 7/15/15

Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt excitedly announced one day last week that the early phases of work to extend a city sewer line to the area marked for development east of Interstate 29 is underway. The good mayor referred to the beginning of that work as “another historic day” in Platte City, and in a way that might prove to be accurate so I won’t have some fun with it.

Hopefully sewer extension eventually leads to the development growth east of I-29 that has been spoken of/dreamed about by just about everyone who has occupied City Hall in the past 30 years or so.

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I’ve been giving this some more thought. You’ve heard me mention that it would be nice to get a Long John Silver’s in Platte City. Another idea, and I don't care if it happens east of I-29 or whether it happens in the existing service area: can we get a KFC back? I feel like my frequent cravings for fried chicken were personally keeping Platte City’s previous KFC in business. I couldn’t do it on my own, you guys. If KFC comes back try to help me out next time.

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Here’s what is coming. The Mexican restaurant known as El Maguey will be opening in the former JRay’s location in Platte City in the strip mall behind CVS (Platte Falls Road).

This means competition for Maria’s in the Mexican food department. The liquor license for El Maguey was recommended for approval by the Platte City Public Safety Subcommittee earlier this month.

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I’ve never been to the Arabia Steamboat Museum, but I’m putting it on my to-do list after attending the Parkville marker ceremony the other day. Very interesting stuff.

And by the way, for some reason Parkville really undersold its Steamboat Arabia ceremony. With some proper promotion that thing could have taken on a life of its own. The story behind the sinking of the ship and its discovery on the Kansas side of the river across from Parkville in the late 1980’s is a fascinating tale. The interest in it is shown by the fact the museum in the City Market of Kansas City draws about 80,000 visitors per year, according to David Hawley, one of the guys who dug up the sunken ship in 1988, 132 years after it went down in the Missouri River at Parkville.

When I say Parkville undersold the ceremony, in addition to a pretty soft effort at promoting it in advance was the fact there were no shuttle vehicles running from the park entrance down to the site of the marker. It was a walk of about three-fourths of a mile, not convenient for anyone and particularly not convenient for the older folks who attended--or would have attended knowing that an air conditioned comfortable ride to the location was going to be provided.

I didn’t really mind the walk, you know, because I’m not. . . old. But I will say a heads-up that a significant hike was going to be part of the day’s activities would have prompted me to wear different shoes than the Crocs I was sporting that day.

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The Kansas City minimum wage issue is fascinating to watch. As you see in the detailed front page report by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp, the Kansas City council is expected to vote Thursday on a compromise proposal written by Mayor Sly James office. The current proposal would boost the minimum wage from $7.65 to $8.50 an hour on Aug. 24, then increase it to $9.15 by Jan. 1, 2017 and then 65 cents per year to $13 an hour by 2023.

Companies employing more than 15 workers and with more than $500,000 in gross revenue would be required to pay the city minimum wage or face fines. Opponents of the move are vowing a legal challenge, so we likely haven’t heard the last of this story for quite some time.

Meanwhile on the other side of the state, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is said to be sponsoring a compromise measure that would raise that city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2020. A previous proposal to raise the minimum wage in St. Louis to $15 an hour died in committee, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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An alert from our friends at the Kansas City Police Department this week, as thefts from autos continue to be a pattern in the Northland near Cookingham and Hwy. 169 neighborhoods. Since June 23, many cars have been broken into in the listed areas. “In some cases, cars have been left unlocked with valuables in plain view. If you have information regarding these crimes, call 816-474-TIPS or the KC Police North Patrol at 816-437-6222,” police tell us.

Police say the best way to prevent theft from your auto is to always keep valuables out of sight. Never leave cell phones and chargers, briefcases, suitcases, small electronic devices or loose change in your car in plain view. Secure them every time, police urge.

The police news release also mentioned that everyone should keep their GPS units out of sight. If you still have a GPS, I have some breaking news for you: you don’t need one. Use the navigation feature on your smartphone.

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If you’re a frequent traveler of Interstate 29, MoDOT wants us to give you advance notice of some upcoming work. The twin bridges on I-29 over the Platte River just north of Platte City will be the site of some construction progress and reduced traffic lanes very soon. The northbound bridge area on I-29 will be reduced to one 11-foot lane of traffic while work is done on that bridge from July 27 to Aug. 15. The southbound bridge area of I-29 will be cut to one 14’6” lane while work is being performed on that bridge from July 29 through Aug. 17.

You’ve been forewarned.

(Get Between the Lines updates as needed on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THIS DEAL IS
ALL ABOUT
BUYING SOME TIME

Written 7/8/15

Had an interesting conversation the other day with a gentleman who had studied the contract that Platte County for some as of yet unknown reason entered into with Kemper Sports to manage the county-owned golf course known as Shiloh Springs. Shiloh is losing money. It’s going to continue to lose money. Kemper isn’t going to save it. The county assumes all the risk, Kemper will reap any rewards.

So what was the point of this deal with Kemper?

The guy made an interesting comment that stuck with me and succinctly summarized the situation: “I think it’s just a way for everybody to buy some time.”

Reflecting on that conversation, you know what? I think this cat nailed it. He may not even realize yet just how spot-on that comment was.

I’ve been giving that angle some thinking. What follows are my thoughts on why “it’s just to buy some time” seems very accurate.

Here’s what some of the major players gain from the county’s deal with Kemper.

*Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner who campaigned on the wise platform of selling the golf course, probably sees this as a chance to buy a couple years of time until a second commissioner who feels the same way he does comes on board. In the meantime, the contract helps calm some of the voices of the small-but-dedicated crowd that wants Shiloh to remain in the county’s hands no matter how many hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs taxpayers each year. That crowd might think it has won Schieber over and has convinced him that the golf course is an asset that needs to be preserved. My gut feeling is if/when Schieber gets a like-minded thinker on the commission those folks are going to be disappointed.

*Duane Soper, second district commissioner and an avid golfer and avid supporter of Shiloh, benefits from the contract because it helps calm his political supporters/fellow golfing crowd. Soper has told folks he isn’t running for reelection in 2016. This contract will still be in place when he steps away. He will have served four years without having to make a hard decision about Shiloh. When the time does come for a bold decision to be made concerning the golf course, guess what? He gone.

And people can still be talking about what a nice guy he is.

*Beverlee Roper, first district commissioner. Roper has no guiding principles of governing so analyzing the reasons for her actions is kind of a pointless endeavor. She has morphed into a sideshow to be observed for entertainment purposes only. Roper is the socially awkward cheerleader who heaps an embarrassing amount of praise upon whichever county department head happens to be speaking at the time. She’ll gauge the political temperature of every room before coming down on the side of the majority opinion in the room at that particular time. In other words, while Roper likes the idea of keeping Shiloh now, if suddenly the political winds shift and it becomes convenient for her to slide to the other side, she won’t hesitate to do so. Don’t believe me? Clip and save this column.

*Brian Nowotny, parks director. A contract that will be in place for at least two to three years buys Nowotny some peace of mind about Shiloh. If things at Shiloh continue to go into the financial crapper-- and let’s be honest, they’re going to-- Nowotny can point to this contract and say it’s not the fault of his department. This contract takes any potential heat about Shiloh’s red ink off of him. And a few years from now, Nowotny will likely be ready to get the heck out of Dodge. If a future commission changes the method of operation of the county parks department from one of acquisition and development to one of maintaining what has already been established, it’s tough to see Nowotny sticking around. Using somebody else’s money to acquire a boat load of ground and developing parks and trails and getting your picture taken at ribbon cuttings is sexy, exciting, and ego-stroking stuff. Scaling back to a maintenance mode? Not so much. About the time the county’s contract with Kemper is up, guess what? He gone.

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Quick shout out to Sgt. Jerin Almond of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. Almond is stepping away from his role as the deputy public information officer under Cpt. Erik Holland for the sheriff’s department due to a transfer within the sheriff’s office.

With Almond, the department had a good one in that role. He was always open and very accessible to The Landmark and we appreciated all his work to help us keep the public informed.

Hopefully Almond’s soon-to-be-named replacement will be equally as effective in that spot.

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My buddy and fellow Landmark columnist Chris Kamler wants all Landmark readers to know you’re invited to an official All-Star Game Watch Party on Tuesday, July 14 beginning at 6 p.m. at Kelly’s Westport Inn.

Kamler says there will be drink specials, giveaways, lots of fun and the chance to visit with some of the bad-ass gangstas from Royals Twitter.

There will also be some mystery involved, as you never know whether Chris will be wearing pants.

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Kamler’s column on page A-3 this week dealing with former KCTV-5 weather gal Katie Horner is a fun and accurate read. Check it out here.

Reading his column reminded me of the time I appeared in a Channel 5 weather promo for Horner’s weather coverage. It was March of 2010 when a crew from the station came walking in The Landmark’s front door, apparently looking to recruit some visual hawtness to appear on camera. This was at the point that Channel 5’s consultants had advised them to tone down Katie’s weather coverage histrionics, so the goal of the promo filmed that day was to push the new idea of a kinder, gentler style by the easily-freaked-out Horner.

They didn’t trust me to say appropriate words about Katie but instead asked me to stand in front of The Landmark office holding a sign. The sign was blank at the time we did the filming, they used computer graphics to later place words on it. Maybe they thought I looked younger than my years, as the message they put on the sign ended up being some kind of reference to how the weather might impact my son’s Little League game. My son was 19 at the time. Youth baseball games were no longer on my mind.

Kamler’s column inspired me to do a YouTube search of that Channel 5 promo. Found it. If you’re bored: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8gAmua_r5k

(You can catch Foley, still waiting on those royalty checks from Channel 5, on Twitter @ivanfoley or follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


KC POLICE NORTH PATROL READY TO BREAK GROUND

Written 7/1/15

With fan voting closing Thursday night, your Kansas City Royals currently have five players who would start the All-Star Game as the vote tallies stand at this time. The All-Star Game is set for Tuesday night, July 14 in Cincinnati. With so many of the hometown boys in a position to make the team, the mid-summer classic should be fun to watch this season.

In addition to the five Royals currently leading at their positions, three others are in second place. So keep on voting, folks, up to 35 times per email address, give or take.

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I like to think I was All-Star worthy as the pitcher in coach-pitch ball. Pretty sure I led the league in strikeouts.

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Remember you guys, there’s no “I” in team. Unless I’m doing your typing, in which case you’ll notice random letters showing up everywhere.

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One more DWI and Jim Boggs becomes Platte County HR director.

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Here’s the first of a couple of updates this week from our friends at City Hall in Kansas City.

The groundbreaking for the North Patrol Division Police Station, to go in at 10000 NW Prairie View Road, Kansas City in Platte County along I-29 near the 112th St. exit, will be Friday, July 17 at 9 a.m. The Landmark’s Valerie Verkamp was the first to break the story about North Patrol’s intention to build in Platte County well over a year ago.

City of Kansas City and Kansas City Police Department officials will join community leaders in turning the first shovel of dirt as the construction phase begins for the new North Patrol police headquarters building. This building will replace what is known because of its coloring as the old bumblebee station near Metro North.

No word yet on whether the new building will resemble any kind of insect.

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Also, City Hall in Kansas City wants to reminds its residents that it is illegal to use, possess or sell fireworks in the city of Kansas City. Call the city’s non-emergency number at 816-234-5111 to report incidents.

“We get a lot of calls about fireworks this time of year, so officers will respond as available,” says Paul Burkhalter, community interaction officer for the North Patrol Division, which is a nice way of saying go ahead and call but don’t hold your breath waiting on the good guys to get there.

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Bad news for Nan Johnston, mayor of Parkville, in her ongoing battle with the board of directors of the Parkville Oldtowne Community Improvement District. The mayor and some members of the board of aldermen have worked for quite some time in an attempt to change the leadership on the CID board. They seem to be specifically focused on trying to remove Tom Hutsler and John Kuhns. Their attempts to impose their will on the CID continue to fail because the law is on the side of the CID, which is a voter created district with its own tax levy, a one cent sales tax in the downtown business district.

At a meeting last week, Hutsler was re-elected chairman of the CID board and Kuhns was re-elected treasurer. In addition, some by-laws changes the mayor had indicated she wanted to see will not happen.

Hutsler explains why.

“The original petition that was approved by voters to create the CID cannot be changed. Some of those things would include the amount of the sales tax, the boundaries, etc. Anything that was not part of the original petition can be altered, but almost everything the mayor wanted was part of the original petition,” Hutsler says. “She wants control. She has no control.”

Hutsler describes Johnston’s obsession with trying to impose her will upon the CID as “beyond ridiculous.” And he’s right. We’ve stated in this column space previously this is a war the mayor is not going to win, so she may as well quit attracting the negative attention.

Johnston isn’t the first mayor to fight the CID board and lose. Gerry Richardson tried similar tactics when he was in office, always with the same failed result. Jim Brooks, the mayor before Johnston, seemed to wisely leave the CID board alone for the most part.

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If you haven’t glanced at the calendar lately, let me inform you that Saturday is the Fourth of July. Several of your local communities are holding Independence Day celebrations.

My observations tell me Platte City’s celebration this year is a special one for Mayor Frank Offutt. The mayor seems to be extremely proud of the city having secured a 13-ton anchor from the decommissioned Navy vessel the USS Platte. The anchor is placed at Settler’s Crossing Park at First and Main in downtown Platte City. It will be dedicated in a special ceremony the mayor is hosting at 10 a.m. on the morning of July 4.

To say the good mayor has shown a lot of enthusiasm for this anchor is an understatement. I half expect Frank to cuddle up next to the thing over the next few nights to protectively babysit the behemoth before Saturday’s big ceremony.
The ceremony will include the U.S. Army Band, the U.S. Navy Color Guard, a plaque dedication, and free ice cream for everybody.

I’m in. You had me at ice cream.

It’s also free swim day at the Platte City pool, on its last leg in its last summer of existence.

A fireworks show will close out Platte City’s celebration around 9:30 p.m. at Pirate Stadium at Platte County High School.

(Let Between the Lines be your beast of burden. Get more on Twitter @ivanfoley. Or you can find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and at dedication ceremonies for 13-ton anchors)

 


EVEN NATIONAL
PUNDITS ARE TELLING US
GOLF IS A DYING INVESTMENT

Written 6/24/15

In news that will surprise no one, several weeks back a for sale sign appeared in the yard of the Weatherby Lake home of Scott Springston, the former superintendent at Park Hill who resigned after a personnel investigation by the district. I haven’t given the place a drive-by recently so who knows, by now maybe a buyer has already been found.

Waiting for my Between the Lines eyeballs in Weatherby Lake to give me an update. Stop slacking. You know who you are, don’t make me name names.

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If you haven’t yet heard, this is the last summer for the Platte City Swimming Pool. The city’s park board has decided to end the financial drain and shut that whole thing down.

The closing makes financial sense. More attractive options for swimmers are available. Attendance has declined significantly at the Platte City pool in recent years while maintenance and necessary improvement costs have not declined, if you know what I’m saying.

Sure, there will be some families--most likely those living within a close radius of the pool--who will be very unhappy about the closing.

But let’s categorize this one as a positive sign. Local government can’t be expected to be all things to all people.

******

Hey, Platte City park board, instead of closing it why didn’t you hire Kemper Sports to run your money-losing swimming pool? What the hell is wrong with you guys??

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Talking about a unit of government deciding to stop the financial bleeding at a taxpayer-subsidized recreational outlet by choosing to shut it down would be the perfect time to work in a comment about the county’s golf course.

But I won’t.

Oops. Maybe I just did.

******

Troubles facing the sport of golf are a cover story in the just-released July-August issue of Mens Journal.

“Golf’s Bleak Future: Can the Game Survive” is the teaser line splashed on the cover of the magazine. The story, a captivating read, goes into great detail about the significant decline in the popularity of golf and the effect it is having on courses nationwide.

The magazine remarks that golf “is expensive, difficult and demands the kind of time most people only get when they go on vacation--or retire. From the dried up fairways of Southern California to the vacant course-side condos on the Carolina coast, we survey the sport’s demise.”

The article points out that “a golf course in America closes roughly every two days.”

Ouch, golf-lovers. That’s gonna leave a mark.

“The challenges golf faces are myriad, from millennials lacking the requisite attention span for a five-hour round, to an increasingly environmentally-conscious public that’s reluctant to take up a resource-intensive game played on non-native grass requiring an almond-farm’s worth of water, to the recent economic crisis that curtailed discretionary spending,” says the Mens Journal story written by Karl Taro Greenfield.

As the article points out, when you combine the game’s cost with the fact that golf is perceived as alienating to everyone but white males--Augusta National, home of the Masters and perhaps the most famous golf club in the world, didn’t accept black members until 1990 and women until 2012--it’s no wonder young people aren’t flocking to it.

******

Little known fact: Since 2008, Tiger Woods and I have won the same number of major tournaments.

And you thought golf wasn’t my thang. . .

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Oh, and that newest issue of Mens Journal? This thing is a must-read, you guys. To be honest, I’m not much of a leisure-time reader. In this job I read all day long so when I’m not working the last thing I want to be doing is reading. Or golfing.
Some of the other stories in the July-August Mens Journal that you’ll want to check out include Summer’s Best Red Wines, Essential Beach Gear, Low and Slow Grilling, and 3 Supplements Every Man Needs (be honest, that one really grabs your curiosity, am I right?).

No spoilers. Go get the mag.

******

As we mentioned last week, once again the county is looking at ways to expand the county jail. The county commission has agreed to pay an architectural firm around $70,000 to study ways to expand the jail, including but not limited to, mind you, the basement area.

•Never mind that the jail population is routinely at 120 to 125 in the 153 bed facility.

•Never mind that just last August a jail committee recommended no expansion because in the committee’s opinion there was “no current need to justify expanding the county jail.”

•Never mind the fact the commissioners spent $70,000 without letting the public be entertained this year by a jail committee spewing personal insults at each other for much of the summer.

I’m really pissed about that last one. Those columns wrote themselves.

******

The internal push to expand the jail seems to be coming from a couple of occasions when the inmate population spiked at 170 for a very short time. This would be like building an expensive addition onto your home just for that one weekend of the year you have some old high school buddies dropping by for an overnight game of drunken poker and stuff.

(Additional helpings of Between the Lines are available between meals on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram or in a van down by the river)

 


GOLF DEAL SPARKS A NEW DRINKING GAME

Written 6/17/15

Foley’s handyman tip for the day after installing one over the weekend: If you’d like more water pressure in your shower, never underestimate the difference that a new, free-of-hard-water-mineral-deposits shower head will make.

Night and day.

******

Somebody call the cops.

That’s my initial reaction after reading the entire contract between the Platte County Commission and Kemper Sports in regard to Kemper taking over management of the county-owned golf course.

On second thought, no need to call the cops. This dance was consensual.
It looks like Kemper bent the county commissioners over a table. There may even have been some gentle hair pulling involved.

Disappointing. Since the commissioners wanted to appease the “let’s have a golf course no matter the cost to taxpayers” crowd that appeared at the March county commission meeting, the county would have been better off to simply keep the status quo. That would have been a better situation than the one that takes effect July 1.

The best thing about this contract is the ending. No, I don’t mean the final paragraph. I mean the best part will be when the contract ends.

Unfortunately under terms of the deal the county can’t get out until Dec. 31, 2017.

Should have kept management operations in-house, at least for a couple more years until there is a change or two in a county commission seat that may or may not lead to a bolder decision.

As things stand now, the county has agreed to pay a management firm to come help the county lose money. Which seems weird. I think the county was doing a fine job of losing money on its own.

All risk is on the county in this contract. Zero risk to Kemper. Why would Kemper not want to do this deal?

Read the front page story for more details. In addition, get a copy of the contract from the county clerk’s office and read it for yourself. Better yet, send an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and I will forward it to you.

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All is not lost, however. For those who enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage, or for those who may wish to start boozing it up after reading the contract, there’s a new drinking game to come out of the county/Kemper deal.

Kemper seems destined to be the winner. Just like in the contract.
But before we get to the game, let’s start by saying the commission has replaced its hired management of the golf course with Kemper Sports. So basically the county commission fired the parks board.

Secondly, does the county commission not realize this hiring out of the management of Shiloh has been tried before? If it had worked the first time the county never would have taken over management of the course.

But now, more importantly, on to the new local drinking game:

•Kemper will manage Shiloh but has no financial risk. Kemper pours itself a drink.

•If the budget is wrong or Kemper erred, they get to make up a new budget. Kemper pours another drink.

*If it rains a lot, Kemper gets paid regardless. Kemper pours another drink.

•The county is at risk for the liquor license. Kemper gets to tend bar. If drunks file suit or if Kemper over-serves the county’s HR director, the county is at risk. Kemper pours another drink.

•Kemper gets a 15% bonus if revenues exceed some made-up number. Kemper pours another drink.

•The county is obligated for all expenses, maintenance and capital costs as well as the employees keeping up the course. Kemper says forget the glass, just give me the bottle.

Game over.

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Let me say once again--because there is at least one of you out there who, based on your hate-filled emails nearly every time this topic comes up, still doesn’t get it--I have nothing personal against golfers. I simply don’t feel local government should be subsidizing a golf course when privately-owned golf courses are readily available.

It’s not personal. We just have different views on how government money should be spent. We also have different views on what is good entertainment and a good use of our personal time. Nothing wrong with that.

You like golfing. I’d rather be spreading weed-and-feed on my lawn.

You like golfing. I’d rather be pulling weeds out of my landscaping.

You like golfing. I’d rather watch YouTube videos of a cat doing yoga.

See. We’re not so different.

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Just when you thought we might be able to enjoy a summer without talk of an imaginary need for expansion of the county jail, it’s baaack.

Check out the extremely detailed report by Valerie Verkamp, Landmark assistant editor, on our front page for the newest developments in the continuing saga.

Less than a year after a county commission-appointed jail committee found there was “no current need to justify expanding the county jail,” the county commission has hired a firm at a cost of $56,000 to $70,000 to look for ways to expand the county jail.

This is the world we live in.

Last August the jail committee based its stance of no need to expand on the fact the average daily population was 119. Capacity of the jail is listed at 153.

I looked up the jail population on Wednesday morning. It was 125. I’ve been checking it occasionally, assuming this topic was eventually going to come up again by the crowd that is hell-bent on getting a bigger jailhouse. I’d say that 119 ADP from a year ago is still about right.

Sure, there have been a couple times where population ever-so-briefly spiked above capacity. But does that justify an expansion? I’m not even sure it justifies considering spending $50,000 to $70,000 for an architect to study the options.
But seldom does business sense get in the way of government sense.

(Get more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley or find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 

 


THIS REALLY ISN'T TOO MUCH TO ASK, IS IT?

Written 6/9/15

Hey, I know we have a treasure trove of fast food places already, but can we get a Long John Silver’s in Platte City?

If nothing else, mates, can that get worked into the development plan east of I-29? I mean, if we’re gonna spend $400,000 more than we thought for sewer service can we at least get some fried fish out of the deal? Asking for a friend.

Ok, you caught me. Not really asking for a friend. Asking for my hungry self.

Fried fish and hush puppies. I want.

******

When it comes to activities, Parkville is the little engine that could. And does.
It seems there is almost always something going on there, at least on the weekends. I was reminded of this once again on Saturday morning as I ended up covering three cool community events all being held within a stone’s throw from one another.

My intent was to hit the National Trails Day activities being held at Platte Landing Park Saturday morning from 10 to 12. Rain--imagine that-- threatened the fun, but I headed there anyway.

I’m glad I did. As it turns out, I was not only able to snap some photos of the Trails Day action but on my way out of the park stopped to enjoy a little time at a car show being held in the parking lot near English Landing Park, then sauntered over to the Farmers Market pavilion to snap a couple of photos and buy some homegrown goods.

Productive day from a newsman’s perspective and also just an enjoyable slower-paced time to start the weekend.

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One of the next good time events on the calendar at Parkville is the annual River Jam celebration of jazz, blues and fine arts. It’s coming up in about 10 days, on Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20 at English Landing Park. Admission is free.
Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy some fine music along the banks of the Missouri River. Let’s hope the river stays within its banks between now and the time of the festival.

For more information on the River Jam, see their advertisement on page B-1 of this issue of The Landmark.

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If music on a larger scale is your thing, the Rolling Stones are coming to KC on June 27 for a concert at Arrowhead Stadium. The band’s Zip Code tour will take them to 15 different cities in North America, with Kansas City fortunate enough to be one of the stops.

The younger crowd is probably more excited to learn that Ed Sheeran is the opening act for the Stones that night.

By the way, The Landmark is the local paper big enough to bring you advertising from the Rolling Stones. See their ad on page A-8.

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You may have noticed something different at the gas pump in recent days. Not in a good way.

The price of gasoline in Kansas City has risen 10 cents in the past week, averaging $2.56 per gallon as of Sunday. This compares with the national average of $2.76 per gallon.

Including the increase in the past week, the prices in KC are 91 cents lower than the same day one year ago but are 24 cents higher than a month ago.

Meanwhile, the national average has increased nine cents per gallon during the last month and stands 90 cents lower than this day a year ago.

Despite the recent rapid rise in prices, at least one analyst believes things are about to get better for the consumer.

“While some states did indeed see increases over the last week, I remain optimist after OPEC’s meeting last week to keep oil production unchanged that we’ll soon see relief spreading across more of the country,” said Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst for the website GasBuddy.com.

“The percentage of stations selling gasoline over $3 per gallon has declined over the last week, while the percentage of stations selling under $2.50 per gallon has also declined. This leads to less variety in gas prices, yet motorists can still stand to save on their next fill-up by locating those hard-to-find stations offering a much lower price on gasoline,” DeHaan said.

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Halfway through the year, the revenue collections for Platte County are up by five percent over this time last year. Rob Willard, Platte County treasurer, said this week the combined total sales and local use tax revenues that go into the general fund are at $6.56 million.

Broken down, general sales tax revenue is up 3.7% and use tax income is up 7.4%, Willard said.

As we’ve mentioned here previously, there have been some wild fluctuations month-to-month throughout the first half of this year. But six months is a large enough sample size, one would think, to come to the conclusion that the local economy is generally a bit better than it was a year ago. Tossing out the often wild and confusing use tax revenue trends, on which no one ever has a grasp, the general sales tax income being up by 3.7% percent is a good sign. It’s not huge growth, but at least trending in the right direction from 12 months ago.

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As you’ll see elsewhere in this issue, Amerisports Brew Pub inside the Ameristar Casino now has the largest indoor television in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The screen is 30 ft. wide x 10 ft. deep. And after being invited out for a special unveiling ceremony on Friday, The Landmark can confirm the picture is of excellent high definition quality.

Put this TV on your to-do list when you’re looking for a place to watch the next big game on your sports calendar.

(Between the Lines should always be on your must-view list. Get the column in print once a week and follow daily updates on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


VACATION PLANNED?
ADD TO THE EXPERIENCE
BY DRIVING, NOT FLYING

Written 6/3/15

The price tag for getting sewer service to Platte City’s long-targeted area for development east of Interstate 29 is going to cost taxpayers about half a million bucks more than originally estimated.

Surprised? Not really. I’d be more surprised if a public project actually came in under budget.

I’ve been trying to keep an open mind about this whole situation, because like most everyone else I wouldn’t mind seeing Platte City’s business community grow.

Also, we really should not be surprised that the increased price tag doesn’t seem to be swaying city officials’ resolve to move ahead with the project as soon as possible. Development east of I-29 has been on the minds of folks who have moved in and out of City Hall at various times in my 33 years here at your Landmark.

The feeling at City Hall is that it will be easier to attract development to the area if the sewer is already in place, rather than trying to sell potential development with the words “if you commit to coming we’ll commit to getting sewer service to you.”
City officials, after acquiring around 40 acres east of I-29 a year ago, have seemingly reached the point of no-return. This thing could turn out to be the greatest thing the city has ever seen. Or it could turn into a boondoggle.

And the reality of it is that it could be many years from now before the public is able to judge whether the move has been a success or a failure. Sewer service and other infrastructure can be put in place and the land could still sit vacant for years. We’ve seen that happen in other places in our lifetime. Or, infrastructure can be put in place and a major development boom starts over there. We’ve seen that happen in other places, too.

For now, the city has the pedal to the metal. I’m sure they’ll feel a lot better about things if/when they get a commitment from a tenant.

******

It’s vacation season.

Check out Hearne Christopher’s column on page A-4 (and by the way, you should be checking out his column each week--always unique material. One reader describes it as like opening up a package on Christmas morning because you never know what’s going to be in it) for some thoughts on road tripping instead of flying on your trip out of town.

Hearne’s point is a good one--the road trip by car can open your eyes to a lot of things. He talks about some of the rules of the road being different in various states, such as truckers in Florida not being allowed in the left lane and the Tennessee highways mandating that you must have at least two people in a car or be on a motorcycle to use the left lane. I will second his motion on that. I’ve learned that a long trip by car, while obviously not as convenient time-wise as plane, can actually increase the vacation experience. Getting a chance to see the countryside as you travel is a plus for me. Not to mention not having to deal with the TSA hassle at the airport.

Some of the most vivid memories I have of a vacation trip to North Carolina last summer come from the 20-hour drive. Just last week we took a trip to Nashville. A 9.5 to 10 hour drive seemed easy.

Road tripping. Consider it for your next vacation instead of air travel. You might be surprised.

******

Before you head off on vacation, remember to grab a copy of The Landmark to take with you. Then snap a photo of a notable spot on your trip with a copy of The Landmark displayed in the picture. Send us that picture along with some information about who/what/where/when for the cutline and we’ll feature you in our Landmark On the Road. Email your picture and information to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

You may have noticed Rob Willard’s picture in front of the White House in a recent Landmark on the Road. This week we have Landmark assistant editor Valerie Verkamp and her husband Brad shown on their recent trip to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC on page C-1.

You’ll also notice some copies of the historic Landmark made it to historic Wrigley Field in Chicago with Chris Kamler and 10,000 of his closest friends. In a future issue I’ll try to place a Landmark On the Road photo from my Nashville excursion.

Join the fun.

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Speaking of summertime recreation, the Platte County Health Department sent out a press release this week focusing on “healthy swimming habits at pools.” The release went a long way in reminding me why I quit swimming in public pools about 15 years ago. After a string of health conditions--sore throats, upper respiratory infections of some type--that always seemed to hit shortly after swimming in a public pool, I swore off the practice. I was never a big swimmer anyway so it’s not like my life has been adversely affected by the decision.

Despite the fact my swimming skills are limited, I do love time on the water. If I don’t get to motor around a lake on a pontoon or a jet ski a couple of times per summer then I start to get water sport withdrawals.

But anyway, back to the guiding words sent out by the health department. To give you a hint of what’s to come, the press release contains words like “poop” and “diarrhea” and “vomit.”

Hey, if you’re a fan of public pools, keep doing what you do. I’m not here to change your mind. I’m just here to pass along the tips offered by your local health department.

Bulleted in bold are some of the tips the health officials mentioned, followed by my editorial comments on each:

•Don’t pee or poop in the pool.

This is a game changer for me. Nothing kills a party buzz like the unexpected appearance of a Baby Ruth.

•Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.

If you’ve never wondered if someone in that crowded pool you’re swimming in has just overindulged at the taco bar then you’re a better person than I am.

•Shower before you get in the water.

Good advice that I’m guessing is rarely followed by a majority of swimmers. Not judging, but let’s be honest. Not everyone showers with the same frequency or effectiveness, if you know what I’m saying.

•Don’t swallow the water.

After reading the first three tips this one kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it?

(Between the Lines is a weekly public service in print, with more available 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley)

 


LOCAL INFORMATION
MADE MEMORIAL DAY
SPEECH A WINNER

Written 5/26/15

Have you noticed how quiet things have been lately in the way of news from the offices of the Platte County Commission?

By this time we may have lulled the commissioners into thinking we’re not paying attention.

******

The Platte City Police Department headquarters, currently located on Main Street, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The city has signed a two-year ease extension with the Mary Ann Thalman Trust to occupy the property at the corner of Main and Fourth Streets, specifically 355 Main St.

The spot, which contains about 2100 square feet, includes a parking lot behind the building. The city will be paying rent of $1,485 per month from now through April of 2016, then the rate goes up slightly to $1,500 per month from May 1, 2016 through April of 2017.

I’m okay with that, especially if it prevents the city from spending public dollars to build a municipal government Taj Majal somewhere else in town.

******

Tip of the cap to Olin Miller, local insurance agent/local historian/former cemetery sexton for his fine work as speaker at the Memorial Day observance held Monday at the Platte City Cemetery.

I found Miller’s words and information about happenings that occurred in this area during Civil War days fascinating. Often a Memorial Day speech can have a generic theme and be a bit sleepy at times, but Miller’s approach in localizing the topic for the day kept my attention. His information brought home just how unsettling and dangerous those times were for Platte City residents.

If you’ve never attended the local Memorial Day tribute to the fallen, put it on your calendar for next year even if you have to delay your mid-day barbecue a bit.

******

You may have noticed on the front page last week The Landmark announced the latest winner of an award the newspaper started way back in 1982. We’re proud to say that for 34 years now, The Landmark has presented a monetary scholarship and a certificate to a graduating senior at Platte County R-3 High School. The $250 cash prize this year was presented to Abagale Godfrey. Each year the winner is chosen by a faculty panel at the school.

The complete list of winners of The Landmark English Award:

1982: Natalie Parrett; 1983: Tamera Jones; 1984: Shane Lee Zembles; 1985: Amy Deterding; 1986: Chaundra Crawford; 1987: Sherry Stanton; 1988: Rebecca Ann Brown; 1989: Lisa Pancake; 1990: Jennifer Fowler; 1991: Jennifer Donnelli; 1992: Tyra Miller; 1993: James Davis; 1994: Megan Boddicker; 1995: Kerry Durrill; 1996: Jamie Knodel; 1997: Laura Donald; 1998: Christa Fuller; 1999: Alison Miller; 2000: Alison Coons; 2001: Valerie French; 2002: Devon Paul; 2003: Tara Gutshall; 2004: Elizabeth Anderson; 2005: Anne Mullins; 2006: Branson Billings; 2007: Kelsie Blakley; 2008: Peter Rasmussen; 2009: Hannah Rickman; 2010: Kelsey Boeding; 2011: Sean Carder; 2012: Brian Geran; 2013: Hailey Godburn; 2014: Sam Danley. 2015: Abagale Godfrey.

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A couple of weeks ago The Landmark noted the beginning of its 151st year of consecutive weekly publication. With that in mind, it seems an appropriate time to look back at this newspaper’s beginning. Talk of the early days of The Landmark is actually a fascinating topic if you have any kind of interest in local history.

Here’s a bit of what the fine editor of The Landmark at the time wrote approximately 144 years ago, way back on Sept. 29, 1871, as The Landmark was beginning its seventh year of publication:

“The establishment of a Democratic paper (Foley’s note: for the first 125 years of its existence The Landmark was known as a newspaper with editorial views that most often aligned with the Democrat party) in this part of Missouri was even then, though the last rebel army in the country had surrendered three months before, an undertaking attended with great danger. Only a little more than a year before that, the Platte County Sentinel, a paper published in this city, by as true a Union man and patriot as ever breathed, had been destroyed by the soldiers, instigated by some Radical members of the Union League, because of its bold and manly denunciation of the thieving and robbery then perpetrated under the cloak of “loyalty.” And even as late as October 1865, when the first (issue) of The Landmark appeared, the office was threatened with destruction, and one prominent member of the Union League, a Radical “loyalist,” publicly proclaimed his readiness to assist in throwing the office into the river.

“The Radicals had entire control of all the public patronage. Every county office, save that of Probate Judge, was held by appointment from Fletcher under the ousting ordinance. Business was paralyzed and many people were even afraid to have a Democratic paper in their house, for fear some Radical thief or ruffian should make it a pretense for robbing or insulting him.

“Nevertheless, The Landmark flourished. Precious little of the public patronage did it get, but it defended the cause of the people and they sustained it liberally. It was shortly enlarged from a seven column paper and was, some months ago, again enlarged to its present size. Six years ago it was supported by the people because they wanted a Democratic organ. They support it now because they need it and must have it if they would know what is going on in the county.”

******

How many times over the past 151 years has local history repeated itself? The Landmark’s more than 150 years of uninterrupted publication is proof you can never go wrong defending the cause of the people.

Making the comfortable uncomfortable ruffles some feathers, but that’s what defending the cause of the people and the people’s right to know is all about.

(You may have noticed The Landmark came at you a day earlier than normal this week. Foley has strapped on his boots and saddled up the horses for a Between the Lines cattle drive to Nashville. Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Periscope)

 


PRIORITIES AND BUCKET LIST ITEMS

Written 5/20/15

So I pulled up outside of the Park Hill School District central office Thursday night in advance of the school board meeting. It was the first regular session meeting since the news of the district’s superintendent scandal. And let’s not argue about the use of the term “scandal.” When a police report accuses your superintendent of having a drinking problem, when police get called to his home by his wife on at least one domestic disturbance call, and when there is a “personnel investigation” preceding your superintendent’s sudden exit, we have ourselves a scandal.

The parking lot was packed. Unusual. The thought that at least some of those patrons had showed up to sit in on the meeting as a show of interest and concern over what had been going on inside the walls of the district’s highly paid hierarchy crossed my mind.

I walked into the office and toward the board meeting room. The room was overflowing with people. Some could not make it into the door of the room. All chairs were filled and some folks were standing along the outer walls shoulder to shoulder. From the doorway, your humble newspaper publisher made eye contact with Nicole Kirby, the district’s communications director, as I was doing the “excuse me” walk through a mass of humanity to get into the room. Nicole waved me in, not that I wasn’t going to enter anyway. Once in the room I tried to slide my way along the wall toward the press table, which required more “excuse me” remarks and some bumping of bodies that could not be avoided. What I’m trying to say is the room was extremely crowded.

So, everybody was there because of the recent superintendent mess, right? Ready to take a closer look at how things operate at the executive level of the district, where millions of tax dollars are invested, right?

Not hardly. Not even softly.

The crowd was there because a truckload of students were being honored as part of a recent district art festival. When the art festival recognitions were over, the room nearly cleared out completely.

Because priorities, apparently.

******

We don't get the government we pay for. We get the government we deserve.
Another way to say it is when the cat’s away the mice will play.

******

If you follow our adventures on Facebook and Twitter, you know that on Monday we debuted a new Landmark feature. It involves the newspaper surprising loyal Landmark readers on a special day in their lives with a drop-in visit. What’s that, just a drop-in visit from your Between the Lines columnist is not enough? What if he’s bearing gifts?

Gifts are what we had when we did the first “They Say It’s Your Birthday” feature for a reader at her place of employment Monday. She was greeted with a Landmark coffee mug, two tickets to Schlitterbahn water park, and she didn’t turn down two tickets to a Chippendales show at Ameristar Casino. Of course we took a selfie to post on social media, because a selfie seems mandatory in these types of situations.

Know of a Landmark reader who you’d like to see get a surprise visit? Drop me an email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

******

I’m toying with the idea of providing a live internet video broadcast of these drop-ins.

Periscope is a live streaming app that allows us to broadcast to all my Twitter followers any kind of content through real-life videos. If you miss the live broadcast, the video remains available to watch at your convenience for a period of 24 hours.

A couple other ideas for upcoming video broadcasts include action from The Landmark mailroom on Wednesday afternoons as we’re inserting and bundling papers for distribution. Other behind the scenes looks at The Landmark operation will come with time.

In a more lighthearted manner, I’m headed to Nashville for a few days late next week. The plan is to give you a video look at some of the adventures from the Music City. You may even get some video drop-ins of the road trip in progress. That’s if my traveling partners don’t mind being a part of the show.

So if you’re not yet following @ivanfoley on Twitter, fix that. Also, go ahead and download the Periscope app on your smartphone and find us on there.

******

You may have already seen the photo on social media. I had a real thrill at the Royals vs. Yankees game Saturday night in Kansas City. Sure, that’s the one game of the three-game series that the Royals lost, but the most important thing to happen that night occurred in the early innings of the game.

Here’s how it went down:

Sitting three quarters of the way down the left field line and back into the deeper section of seats (Section 213, Row EE to be exact) didn’t seem to be the likeliest of places for a foul ball to head. But it did.

Lorenzo Cain smacked a deep fly toward left that he pulled way foul. Fortunately, I was paying attention. The ball took off in a speedy and majestic flight in our direction. And it just kept coming. My first thought was it wasn’t quite going to reach us. But it just kept coming. I never took my eyes off of it. It just kept coming. It seemed to be getting bigger. It just kept coming.

This thing was coming in hot.

Anticipating that I might have a play, I stood up, not caring that when I did my smartphone took a tumble to the concrete at my feet. It soon became apparent the ball was going to be over my head and just a bit to my left. So as it was sailing beyond me, I turned my back to the field and took a couple of steps toward the aisle. My seat was the third one in the row--fortunately the first two seats were unoccupied at this moment because Platte County Treasurer Rob Willard and his son had gone to ride the outfield merry-go-round or something.

Knowing the ball was coming in hard and fast, I was anticipating a ricochet off the hands of whichever fan had first crack at it. And that’s what happened. Across the aisle and three rows behind me, a man dressed in a Yankees shirt put out his hands in an attempt to snag it. He would fail. The ball caromed toward me, taking a bounce off the concrete. Using good fundamentals (remember to set a good fielding example for the Little Leaguers in the crowd, you guys), I stuck out both hands. After the bounce, the ball came in low and I scooped it up.

My first reaction was to be an attention ho and raise the ball above my head in a brief celebration, just in case the TV cameras had followed the flight of the ball into the stands. After a quick second with my souvenir raised high in the air, I remembered that I’m a grown-ass man and probably should go back to acting like one.

Not going to lie, it was a Bucket List moment for me. Because I’m a lifelong baseball fan and part dork.

Hoping to get a chance to meet Cain someday and have him autograph it. Then we’ll put it in a case and have it on display in The Landmark office.

Right now? It’s at home in my underwear drawer among the boxers and briefs.

(Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THE SCHOOL BOARD COULD REALLY USE A WATCHDOG RIGHT NOW

Written 5/13/15

The best song on the radio right now? It’s entitled Take Your Time and it’s a country tune by Sam Hunt.

I’ll plan on performing that one at the next Landmark karaoke night at Dirk’s.

Good seats are still available.

******

Speaking of concerts and music and seats and such, I’m giving away several tickets to the Little River Band performance set this Saturday night at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City. Hit me up if you’re interested, 816-858-2313, ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

******

After taking a couple years off from those types of opportunities, the Between the Lines traveling circus is getting primed to hit the road again. If your club or organization wants a hawt and cheeky speaker to kill some time talking about the news biz, local politics, current events and whatever else comes to mind, shoot me an email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

Already looking forward to an event with the Platte County Federated Republican Women in October.

******

If a lesson was learned that lesson didn’t seem to stick in the minds of the district’s elected leaders for long. In this week’s focus on the ongoing situation at the upper levels of the food chain at the Park Hill School District, let’s review recent history. It’s time for a trip down Memory Lane in regard to Park Hill’s compensation of its top administrative position.

You may remember in January of 2013, The Landmark broke the story that the district had been routinely reporting the salary of previous superintendent Dennis Fisher to be $243,500. But that figure only included Fisher’s base salary of $239,500 plus a $4,000 doctoral stipend. As we went on to report in the pages of The Landmark at that time, Fisher’s actual compensation package was valued at an eyebrow- raising $454,000.

Fisher’s compensation included things like an additional $40,000 in bonus money for the district meeting certain requirements. And Park Hill taxpayers paid an additional $98,000 to Fisher’s pension in 2011-12 alone. Also, Park Hill taxpayers handed over $50,000 to Fisher in benefit maintenance, which was purported to be the equivalent of a 401K plan. In reality, it was cash that Fisher was given and he was free to use it in any manner of his choosing.

Add in benefits for such items as a health plan, dental, vision, life, disability, family health, family dental, family vision, Medicare, vehicle allowance and the grand total of Fisher’s compensation package in 2011-12 was $453,968. He became referred to in some circles as the Half a Million Dollar Man.

School officials were somewhat embarrassed when this came to light. Some board members at the time, including Fred Sanchez, admitted to us even they had no idea Fisher was making that kind of bank. “Over the years, I never knew for certain as it was most difficult to follow the pea under the shells,” Sanchez told me in 2013.

As The Landmark was breaking this news to the public, school leaders at the time implied a promise of improved transparency. Also implied was the intent to use better restraint when it came to compensation packages of Fisher’s replacement, the now somewhat infamous Dr. Scott Springston.

But did that really happen? You be the judge.

Springston’s first year of compensation was this: Base salary of $184,000. He received an additional $20,000 for “benefit maintenance” and earned $15,000 in bonus money for the district meeting certain standards. That brought cash payout to $219,000. On top of that, the district paid about $65,000 into Springston’s pension that year. Including health benefits, his total compensation package amounted to $303,617. Because this was $150,000 less than Park Hill had invested in Fisher the year before, many in the public deemed Springston’s deal reasonable.

But by looking at the numbers in Springston’s contract for this year, one can see that things quickly returned to the ways of old. Springston’s base salary this year was $213,725, about $30,000 higher than it was two years ago. But there’s more. The district will pay about $70,500 into his pension this year. His contract included an annual $20,000 payment for “benefit maintenance” to be used at his discretion. Other district paid benefits, including health and life insurance, long-term disability and contributions to Medicare are valued at $28,500. His contract called for a $4,000 rider annually for a doctorate degree. In addition, the district paid him a monthly automobile allowance for local use of a personal vehicle in the amount of $800 per month, $9,600 per year. This brings Springston’s total compensation package to more than $346,000.

So the man with a $303,000 compensation package in 2013 had already been bumped up to $346,000 in 2015. That’s a gain of $43,000 in what had been a couple of rocky years.

You’ve cat to be kitten me right meow.

******

Springston’s time at Park Hill featured multiple bumps in the road, so it’s not clear what school board members were seeing that made them feel justified in significantly increasing Springston’s compensation.

Maybe it was that ethics violation he committed in the failed technology tax increase campaign. Maybe it was the way voters verbally abused his FLiP tax levy idea. Or maybe someone has an addiction to raising administrators’ salaries.

Most evident in all of this is that the school board at Park Hill could benefit from a watchdog-type among its members. One who will dig into details, ask questions, keep a close eye on the superintendent and provide a transparent view to the public.

Is there a watchdog on the board? There doesn’t seem to be, at least not yet.

Time will tell.

(Be a Between the Lines watchdog early and often on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram)

 


WHEN DID THE
PARK HILL BOARD
KNOW IT HAD A PROBLEM?

Written 5/6/15

Royals fans, enjoy these moments.

The regular season games the final couple of months of last season and through the first full month this season are more exciting than regular seasons of the 1980s.

Don’t let anybody fool you with talk of those Good Ol’ Days being better. They weren’t nearly as exciting. There were exciting moments, certainly. Some exciting performances, no doubt. And the of course the team had George Brett, a Hall of Famer with a flare for the dramatic. But other than some battles with the Yankees, regular season baseball was never this exciting in 1980 or 1985. In terms of day-in and day-out excitement, those days don’t compare to what the franchise is going through right now, on and off the field, inside and outside the stadium.

In those “glory days,” there were a lot of lazy afternoon or lazy evening games played by cool professionals who when they won made it look routine and when they lost looked like they were disinterested. Nothing close to the tension, suspense and never-say-die youthful enthusiasm this bunch displays. Opposing teams look at this Royals squad as a group will beat you and piss you off at the same time. I like that.

Sure, KC grabbed the ’85 World Series title, and all of us who remember it like it was yesterday are thankful for that and will long cherish that October run. But as far as regular season baseball? I’ll take these days over the former glory days anytime.

Now, if only this group can get to the World Series again--and close the deal.

Enjoy these times, Royals fans. This is a great ride.

******

Word is we’re going to be hearing some weird, not as rosy revenue reports when the May sales tax collections for Platte County come in. As we mentioned a few weeks ago while reporting the use tax collections in the month of April were up by 133% from the month of April 2014, the up-and-down weirdness in the collection/distribution patterns by the state department of revenue continue. One month the revenue comes in over-the-top strong fashion and the next month you might see a surprising drop compared to the same time a year ago.

A month ago the combined sales/use tax collections for the county--money that goes into general revenue--was up by 14% from this time a year ago. The buzz is that the May receipts will drop that 14% number considerably.

The inconsistency is funky. And comes without a plausible explanation from the powers-that-be.

******

Some follow-up thoughts in bullet point style on our exclusive story in last week’s issue of the personnel investigation and police report that preceded the resignation of Dr. Scott Springston as superintendent of the Park Hill School District. By the way, the articles detailing the above can now be found on our website at plattecountylandmark.com.

•Praise to the school district central office staff (Opal Hibbs, school board secretary, is custodian of records) and its legal staff for its assistance in dealing with multiple requests for public records from The Landmark. Their response was always professional and almost always immediate, or as immediate as possible. Same goes for our dealings with the Weatherby Lake Police Department. Very prompt and professional.

•Did the school board know about the police report before last week’s Landmark and if so when did it know? The fact the school unanimously renewed Springston’s contract in March--just a few weeks after his wife had filed a detailed police report alleging what certainly should have sparked some red flags for the school board--indicates either the board didn’t know or did know and simply chose to view things through rose colored glasses. The police report says: “Mrs. Springston indicated that when Mr. Springston got home from work he was intoxicated.” His wife’s remarks in the police report hint that Springston may have been drinking on the job.

I would ask Boon Lee, school board president, the question of “when” the school board learned of the police being called to Springston’s home but my faith in getting a straight answer out of Lee isn’t at a high level. Remember as of last Tuesday night he was still telling me there really wasn’t a “personnel investigation” and that term was simply verbiage the school attorney recommended be used in the closed session minutes. I feel safe in calling BS on Boon Lee’s explanation.

•Interestingly, I’ve heard from multiple sources that Springston had applied for the job of superintendent at Fort Osage in Independence earlier this year. One source says some board members eventually got wind of it and Springston initially denied it to them. Hard feelings reportedly ensued between Springston and at least some board members. I would ask the school board president the question of “if” the school board knew of Springston’s alleged pursuit of the Fort Osage job but my faith in getting a straight answer out of the board president isn’t at a high level. Remember as of last Tuesday night he was still telling me there really wasn’t a “personnel investigation” and that was simply verbiage the school attorney recommended be used in the closed session minutes. I feel safe in calling BS on Boon Lee’s explanation.

•There are a couple of theories surrounding the timing of the “personnel investigation” that preceded the resignation of Springston. As you noticed, the domestic disturbance police report in which Springston’s wife told police that Springston “has issues with alcohol” and “the littlest amount of alcohol will make him violent, which has been increasing lately” was made at 4:09 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 24. The “personnel investigation” isn’t publicly noted until April 7, which just happened to be election day for school board incumbent Matt Pepper.

One theory is conspiratorial. The conspiracy theory is that the school board intentionally kept things quiet until election day so as to not hurt the reelection campaign of Pepper, who had been a devoted Springston supporter.

The other theory--I tend to subscribe to this one more than the other, unless we are able to uncover more info--is that some kind of happening(s) at the workplace triggered a “personnel investigation.” You’ll notice in the closed session minutes that Opal Hibbs, who is not only the board’s secretary but also Springston’s secretary, leaves the room instead of remaining to take minutes, as would normally be her role. That could be an indication she was a witness to something connected to this “personnel investigation.”

•Public educators with a history of being bad at their jobs or having personal problems that affect their job performance are often allowed to “resign” without those problems becoming public knowledge. Those educators then simply move on to another school district where officials have no knowledge of those previous situations, and that educator then becomes some other school district’s problem.

School boards everywhere have shown they simply want their problem child administrators to go away without matters embarrassing to the district getting exposed, and school boards commit taxpayers to pick up the tab to help the problem administrators go away quietly.

For the betterment of the public educational system, stop that madness.

(Email your publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and find him on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook)


THERE WERE TOO MANY
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
AT PARK HILL

Written 4/29/15

Who knows what will happen when the fingers start hitting the keyboard, but my inclination at this moment is to keep the column a bit shorter than normal this week.

As you can see on our front page, we’ve been a little busy getting our journalism on.

******

We smelled something fishy. We know some of you did, too.

I touched on this in last week’s column. The manner in which the “health-related resignation” of Dr. Scott Springston as superintendent at Park Hill came down was fueling speculation. Let’s be honest, the explanation and information put out by the school board wasn’t making a whole lot of sense. This week we can tell you with certainty that the Park Hill School Board was not being entirely forthcoming with the public.

Longtime readers of The Landmark have seen this movie before. When we get the impression a public official or a public entity is being less than forthcoming or less than truthful with the people being served, it tends to agitate your Landmark staff members and inspire us to get to the truth. That’s what a journalist is supposed to do. And that’s what the public deserves.

You might remember our work in uncovering the reason a Platte County High School principal suddenly resigned a few years back. Our digging uncovered a police report of his arrest on a charge of soliciting prostitution.

We’ve been busy the past two weeks chasing the truth in this Springston story. In the past few days, through chasing public records via Missouri’s Sunshine Law, we’ve pieced together much of the story for you, and it’s found on our front page.

There is likely more to come.

******

Something tells me if both parties--the school board and Springston--had this to do over again they would be more forthcoming with information. Leaving many unanswered questions to a situation involving so many public dollars and such a high level public figure motivated us to do some digging. In our office, we call it “checking our traps” which simply means we’re checking in with all of our old sources, anyone who might be in a position to be a new source, and checking every public record that might lead us to a clue to help our readers--who have a right to know--get the information they deserve from the public entity they mightily fund with their tax dollars.

Our initial suspicions of “there’s more to this story” were confirmed when we acquired minutes from closed school board sessions. There was mention of a “personnel investigation” prior to Springston’s resignation. Somewhat amazingly, Boon Lee, board president, in a phone conversation I had with him at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, was still downplaying the term “personnel investigation” as nothing more than “verbiage” suggested by the school board attorney. Lee insisted there really was no “investigation,” which if true (it wasn't), begs the question as to why the board would use that term in their official minutes. Apparently they were assuming no media outlet would ever put in a Sunshine request for those documents. They assumed incorrectly.

When I continued to press for an explanation of the term “personnel investigation,” Lee said he would have Nicole Kirby, the school’s director of communications, or Linda Salfrank, the board’s attorney, contact me first thing Wednesday morning with more of an explanation as to why the term was used. About 9 a.m. on Wednesday, my cell phone rang with Kirby on the other end. I assumed she was calling to follow up on my discussion with Lee. Instead, she said she was calling on a different topic and was unaware of my conversation with Lee. When I relayed to her what Lee had told me about there not really being an “investigation,” she seemed surprised that the board president had taken that stance. That, of course, was another red flag.

Thirty minutes later The Landmark acquired a police report for which we had put in an open records request earlier this week. In reviewing public records in recent days, we had noticed a reference to the address of the Springston home on a police call log from the month of February. The police report from that trip to the Springston home by the Weatherby Lake Police Department, detailed in this story, may go a long way to filling in some blanks for you on the Springston resignation.

(Got a news tip? Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or call 816-858-0363. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. He’s coming soon to Periscope, so brace yourself)

 


THERE'S IRONY IN THE AIR SURROUNDING SPRINGSTON'S DEPARTURE

Written 4/22/15

While there seems to be a pattern of businesses, including some large employers, leaving the KCI corridor for greener tax pastures offered by the state of Kansas in Wyandotte County, there is some good news on the local economic front. The good news comes in the form of sales tax collections in Platte County, where general sales tax collections are up nearly 11% in the first four months of 2015 when compared to the first four months of 2014.

Use tax collections are up 20% over the same timeframe, though I would advise some caution in analyzing that total. Use tax collections are a strange animal that no one seems to understand--not the folks at the county and even some folks at the state. For instance, the collection for the month of April was up 133% over the month of April a year ago. Sounds like some bookkeeping weirdness/freakish timing of collections more than a sustainable trend.

Nonetheless, the county’s combined total of sales and use tax collections, which is used as general revenue, is up 13.9% over this time last year. That can only be interpreted as a good thing.

******

Which direction will Park Hill head in its search for a new superintendent after the unexpected resignation of Dr. Scott Springston last week?

Time will tell. Based on a conversation this week with Boon Lee, president of the Park Hill School Board, it seems the board is leaning toward naming an interim superintendent to serve through the 2015-2016 school year. A permanent leader would then be hired to take over for the 2016-17 school year.

“Two months is too short a time” to find a permanent replacement, Lee told me in a phone conversation Tuesday night.

That comment would explain why there has been no real sense of urgency coming from school board members in the past week. There seemed to be no rush to get a replacement search process rolling immediately by holding another special meeting, instead waiting for the topic to come up at this week’s regular board meeting set for Thursday night. Now we know why. The consensus of the board, according to Lee, is to go the interim route through June 30 of 2016.

The “acting” superintendent who will serve from now through June 30 of this year is Dr. Jeanette Cowherd who was already on staff as an assistant superintendent. In our conversation, Lee clearly referred to Cowherd as “acting” superintendent rather than “interim” superintendent.

******

It will be interesting to see how widespread Park Hill gets in its search for a new superintendent this time around. Will the district do a nationwide search or will it hire from within? Or will it do a nationwide search and then decide to hire from within?

Springston’s hiring, you’ll recall, ruffled some feathers of a group of patrons loyal to previous superintendent Dennis Fisher. That group wanted one of Fisher’s assistants, Mark Miles, to get the job. Miles is now the superintendent of the Indian Hill Exempted Village School District in the state of Ohio.

******

And if you follow Platte County R-3, I’m sure it has crossed your mind whether Dr. Mike Reik will apply at Park Hill. Never say never. Granted, that would be a major step up in size of school district being served, so it’s questionable whether Park Hill leaders would want to go that direction. It would mean an improved pay scale for Reik. R-3 lists Reik’s salary at $144,910 for 2015-16. His contract states he is guaranteed at least a three percent raise and as much as an eight percent raise for the 2016-17 school year. Park Hill listed Springston’s salary at $213,725.

Think Reik is at home and happy at Platte County R-3? He might be. But folks thought that last year, too, and many observers--including some members of the R-3 school board--were caught off guard when we exclusively reported in this column last year that Reik had applied for the Liberty superintendent’s job. At the time the most notable thing on his resume was a defeated levy question. Now he has a successful levy question on his resume.

******

There is plenty of irony in the fashion that Springston left his position at Park Hill. The superintendent who came in pledging transparency is leaving under a cloud of secrecy, with no public comment to the community he served and avoiding any questions from the media on his way out the door.

As we reported and discussed last week, the reason for his resignation is being given as “health-related.” Those words can tug at all the human emotions, understandably. As I said last week, The Landmark wishes nothing but the best for Springston health-wise and professionally.

Keep in the back of your mind that “health-related” is a very general term that can mean or not mean a number of things. There seems to be no indication from anyone close to the situation that Springston is facing any kind of life-threatening health situation. Many folks facing a health situation would take a leave of absence and keep the health benefits coming rather than quit a job.

Not necessarily saying it is happening in this situation, but keep in mind “health-related” is a term that can be used to provide convenient cover for officials who don't want to answer questions. If he wanted to talk to try to end any public speculation on his reasons for leaving Springston has certainly had that opportunity. We don’t have a private phone number for him, so last Tuesday I drove to his Weatherby Lake residence to see if he wished to make a comment, because every newsmaker in these types of situations deserves the opportunity to be heard if he or she so chooses. As I neared the home I spotted him standing at a doorway on the lower level drive. He and a young man, who I presume was his nearly 19-year-old son, then entered the residence right before I pulled into the upper driveway. But my subsequent knock and ringing of the doorbell went unanswered, obviously by choice. Neighbors have seen him quite actively doing yard work at his residence within the past few days.

There is no requirement that he comment, of course. At the same time he is a smart man who has to realize that silence is only going to fuel speculation that there is something more than a “health-related” situation at play. For what it’s worth, the chatter coming from some sources in the field of education is that a major reason for his departure isn’t health-related. Lips typically get looser on these types of situations with the passage of time.

In the meantime, one thing we can tell you with certainty is the man who pledged transparency is employing his right not to talk about this one.

(Get Between the Lines transparently on Twitter @ivanfoley)

 


ABOUT THAT
LUDACRIS CONCERT; AND
TRANSPARENCY AT PARK HILL

Written 4/15/15

How about those Royals?

Running with the success of last year’s post-season, Kansas City’s baseball team is off to the best start of any team in Major League Baseball, sitting at 7-0 as of this writing on Wednesday morning.

This group is fun to watch. They are hitting with power and sit at or near the top of MLB in runs scored. Good times. At least so far. Every baseball fan knows the season is a long one and there are going to be tough stretches for every team, but right now this team is as entertaining as those Kamler-Foley Rambling Moron podcasts back in the day.

Get out to the ball park and take in a game while the team is hot and the weather is cool. The Royals have a home series vs. the Oakland A’s Friday through Sunday and it’s my goal to get out there.

******

I’ve come to the conclusion every neighborhood in the Midwest has a guy with a loud exhaust system on his pickup who leaves for work at 4 o’clock every morning. And he wants the whole neighborhood to know he’s leaving for work at 4 in the morning.

Am I right or am I right?

I think this is mandated in certain areas of America. Check the fine print in the rules of your homeowners association.

******

If you follow my social media accounts, you know that I hit the Ludacris concert in St. Joseph on Saturday night.

Yes, your 50-ish Landmark publisher, who enjoys most every style of music you can throw at him, hit a concert put on by Ludacris. Or as Landmark assistant editor Valerie Verkamp so aptly put it: “Ludacris. What’s that?”

Ludacris is a rapper. He’s no Eminem, but he is a rapper. His best rap years are behind him, I grant you that. He’s probably better known now for his role in the Fast and Furious movies. But a ticket to the event was only $15 and as a show of support for the group selling tickets and trying to support the idea of a concert at St. Joseph’s often-deserted Civic Arena, I was in.

Regular readers know that I’m an avid people-watcher. I can confirm for you the crowd at Ludacris was small but interesting.

One highlight of the night: The entry gate featured the most aggressive pat-down I’ve ever received. This came via a female who wasn’t a bit shy in going about her business. This gal should work for the TSA. She insisted that “everything” come out of my pockets and asked me twice to unbutton the windbreaker-type jacket I was wearing. Only somewhat taking this seriously, I pulled keys and change out of my front pockets and unsnapped my jacket down to the bottom button, after which she grabbed hold and tried to unsnap it herself. When she couldn’t immediately get it, she reached her hands inside my jacket and did an aggressive reach-around of my chest and back, then pulled her arms out of my jacket and performed a reach-around on my jeans, where she could feel that I hadn’t pulled something out of my left back pocket. By this time a crowd of young people standing in line behind me had started watching what must have looked like the opening act at Bazooka’s, and I could hear one young female exclaim: “Look at her grabbing that guy’s @$$!”

“Is that a wallet?” the security lady asked me with both of her hands on my backside. “Yes, that’s a wallet,” I smirked, never offering to pull it out because you know how protective I am of my wallet.

Just when I was starting to think I might need a victim’s advocate she waved me on through.

******

We wish nothing but the best health-wise and professionally for Scott Springston, who resigned as superintendent of Park Hill this week just a month after having his contract extended through the year 2018.

District officials tell us there is no buyout or “payoff” of Springston’s contract, which indicates this is indeed a voluntary resignation.

It is the duty of the press to gather what is the public’s right to know, and along with that comes the duty to ask the questions that members of the public would want to ask the newsmakers if they had the chance to do so. The obvious question in the Springston situation, which is being presented as a “health-related” resignation, is this: Why would a person facing a health situation leave a good job and give up the paid health benefit instead of taking a leave of absence and keeping a health benefit in place during that time? Springston, obviously, could answer that question directly, but he isn’t talking.

That part of this situation does not make sense, at least not yet. Maybe it will become clearer with time and as more information comes out. These types of things typically become clearer with time as lips eventually get looser.

“Health-related” can mean a variety of things, from the very serious to the middle level of serious to the not-so-serious. Take this for what it’s worth, but at no point in any conversation The Landmark had with district elected officials this week--and we reached out to every single one of them--were we given the impression that the “health-related matter” is life threatening.

Again, our sincere best wishes for better health and happier days to Springston.

******

So how did the board members perform with the media in this time of “breaking news” happening at their district?

Overall, not too shabby. Boon Lee, new board president, was readily accessible when I buzzed his cell phone about 9 p.m. Monday night. Bart Klein was conversational and as open with as he could be under the circumstances. Matt Pepper seemed to be avoiding us most of the day Tuesday, but to his credit did finally call us back late Tuesday night after a couple of emails and two voicemails, the latter in which I politely chastised him for initially directing questions to the district’s hired PR person. Janice Bolin returned our call, as did new board member Karen Holland. Even Allison Wurst, who served on the board until last week’s reorganization, returned The Landmark’s call requesting comment.

So which names are missing? The names of veteran board members Todd Fane and Susan Newburger. Both went into hiding, apparently, which is not a good look in a district that in recent years has been pushing the idea of improved transparency.

(Get Between the Lines as often as you like on Twitter @ivanfoley and follow the antics on Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. Coming soon on Periscope)

 


ROE'S WORK GUIDES R-3 VICTORY; THE SEVEN BRIDGES PRECINCT

Written 4/8/15

For the win:

Without nationally known Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies working for the “vote yes” campaign, the Platte County R-3 tax levy increase was defeated 55% to 45% in 2012.

Three years later with Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies and its subsidiaries working for the vote yes side, a Platte County R-3 tax increase question was passed 55% to 45%.

Not a coincidence.

Quality Platte County R-3 Schools, the campaign committee promoting passage of the tax, on its last report with the Missouri Ethics Commission showed a total of $36,000 on hand to promote the tax increase. Updated calculations as of earlier this week show $32,000 had been spent with Roe’s companies.

That qualifies as a big-money election.

In 2012 when its tax was defeated, R-3 leaders sharply criticized what it called “political consultants” and “outsiders” for influencing the outcome. I’m guessing we won’t hear that message again anytime soon.

******

Remember the Jan. 28 Between the Lines column? The gist of it was this: The Quality Platte County R-3 Schools campaign has identified 2,000 as the number of yes votes that will be needed to pass the tax levy increase question. Here’s a quote from that column:

“The Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee, the campaign organization promoting passage of the 43-cent tax levy question on the April ballot, is already at work. Based on some questions they’ve posed in an online survey, it looks like the Vote Yes side has determined its magic number is 2,000, as in they believe it will take 2,000 yes votes for the issue to pass.”

Did you notice how many yes votes the levy question received on Tuesday? 2,037 in Platte County.

Bingo.

Two weeks after reporting that the magic number had been identified, in a Feb. 11 Between the Lines column we broke the news that nationally known political consultant Jeff Roe and his Axiom Strategies/Candidate Command/ Remington Research operation had been hired by the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools campaign. Putting two and two together it quickly became clear where the vote yes side had come up with the 2,000 number--from the operation of a well-respected political consultant.

Roe, who is in Texas working on the presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, in a telephone interview I had with him on Feb. 11 compared the R-3 election campaign to “O-rings under a toilet” on his level of priorities.

Agree with him or not, there’s no denying Roe is very accomplished at a couple of things. 1. Winning elections. 2. Making money.

Not always in that order.

******

If you were watching The Landmark’s Twitter feed Tuesday night as we were reporting the election results instantaneously--if not sooner--you know the R-3 levy question was only separated by two votes with one precinct remaining to report. That precinct was Seven Bridges at the south part of Platte City. That precinct has a history of being a little more “relaxed” than some other local precincts when it comes to its outlook on tax-and-spend issues.

At least that’s how I would politely describe the Seven Bridges precinct. Another election observer put it more bluntly:

“Seven Bridges is our California,” he said.

******

What a bracket. One of the finest performances in our 19 or so years of this big-time contest known as The Landmark Bracket Battle.

Who had the impressive bracket? Daniel Bunge, a sharp-minded third grader at Siegrist Elementary School and the son of Brad and Kerri Bunge of Platte City. Daniel told me this is the first year he has entered The Landmark’s contest. He said he filled out his Landmark bracket at the home of a friend and that he also filled out a bracket at home. “I took the one at home more seriously,” he said. “He won the contest at home, too,” said his father.

As you’ll see in the final standings published elsewhere in this issue, Daniel finished with a total of 232 points. For his performance, Daniel earns $100 in cold hard Landmark cash. His dad drove him to The Landmark office Tuesday night to collect his winnings and pose for a picture. The tournament wrapped up Monday night when Duke defeated Wisconsin in the championship game.

Daniel correctly picked all of the teams that would make the Elite Eight, correctly picked all that would make the Final Four, and had Duke over Wisconsin in the championship game.

Around 110 of our total 170 entries incorrectly predicted a Kentucky championship. There were about 22 entries picking Wisconsin and around 11 who correctly predicted a national title for Duke. No other schools were in double digits.

Finishing second in the Bracket Battle is Brenda Sinclair with 194 points. Coming in third is Nic Blaha with 191. Brenda and Nic, if you’re reading this and I haven’t yet made contact with you, come get your prize. Both Sinclair and Blaha get a free copy of Landmark columnist Chris Kamler’s new book The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo.”

But guess what? Everybody who entered this year is getting the opportunity to claim a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. That’s because the entry of your Landmark publisher sucked. Correct picks on my bracket were harder to find than a fiscal conservative in Seven Bridges.

I finished near the bottom this year, so close to the bottom in fact that I’m extending the offer of a free one-year subscription to every single person who submitted an entry. If you entered, claim your subscription by calling the newspaper at 816-858-0363 or emailing ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. You must contact us with your name and give us your mailing address for your one-year subscription by June 1, 2015.

Daniel was a fun interview and a gracious winner. Thanks to all who played. We’ll do it again next year.

(Don’t wait till next week. Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, or strolling pantsless along the beaches of Seven Bridges)

 


LOADED WITH CASH
AND A CONSULTANT,
VOTE YES SIDE FIRES SHOTS

Written 4/1/15

Wow, has the campaign involving the proposed 43 cent tax levy increase at Platte County R-3 become active. And it has actually become a little nasty in the past few days. Somewhat surprisingly, the nastiness has come from the pro-tax crowd. Quality Platte County R-3 Schools paid for a massive mailer campaign that referred to “lies” of the opponents. “Lie,” much like “hate,” is a very strong word that many level-headed folks try to avoid using.

But there it was in big, bold, all caps letters on an 8.5” x 12” flyer on expensive card stock. “Opponents of Platte County R-3 will use misleading rhetoric and out-of-context statistics to try to convince you your kids don’t need this proposal to pass. Don’t believe the lies.”

Goodness. That seems like a silly, overly personal overreaction, especially in light of the fact the flyer doesn’t list any specifics about what information from opponents has been a “lie.”

If you have to scream “lies” without getting specific, then it could be your proposal has some holes and wasn’t carefully crafted to prevent “rhetoric and out-of-context statistics” shaking the fiber of your mental well-being.

No matter the outcome, it’s not exactly a positive campaign road that proponents have chosen. In addition, the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools Committee has made this a big-money race, using donations from R-3’s vendors, most from outside the school district boundaries, to raise around $36,000 to spend to promote the tax. Most of that is being spent with Axiom Strategies, Candidate Command, and Remington Research, all three of which are companies belonging to noted political consultant Jeff Roe.

As of last Friday, the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools Committee had already spent $24,000 with Axiom and its subsidiaries. This from the side that has been critical of the use of “political consultants” in local races.

******

What will be the voter turnout on Tuesday? Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections, told me on Tuesday that 400 absentee ballots have been cast to this point. That’s the number that were cast in the 2014 spring election when voter turnout was 13 percent. In the 2013 spring election at which the county road tax renewal was on the ballot, turnout was about 15.5 percent.
Letters to the editor, by the way, can be found on this page, page A-3, and page A-8.

******

You’ll want to read assistant editor Valerie Verkamp’s front page story for details, but let me say the dynamics inside the Park Hill Board of Education meeting room became unusually interesting last week when two board members opposed the direction of the district’s long-term facilities plan proposed by Dr. Scott Springston, superintendent, and other administrators.

The split vote ended at four board members in favor to two opposed, with board president Susan Newburger conspicuously absent from the rare meeting in which there was conflict in the room.

The two no votes came from Janice Bolin and Allison Wurst, both of whom expressed concern about doing away with the sixth grade center concept. Wurst is on her way out of office, not seeking re-election in next week’s school board election, so perhaps that fueled her willingness to speak out openly and aggressively.

Either way, it was a welcome thing to see some open debate at a school board meeting, with open questioning of a proposal being put forth by administrators.

Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.

******

Baseball fans, it’s almost Royals season. Your team is defending American League champions. Are you pumped?

We’re getting excited about it here at your ol’ Landmark. It started with plenty of Royals talk on the sidewalk last Friday when we hosted a book signing event for noted author Chris Kamler, known as @TheFakeNed on Twitter and that columnist you read each week on the top right of page A-3. Thanks to all of you who dropped by that day and chatted with Chris, especially to those who purchased his book “The Silence, The Series & The Season of Sungwoo” for the bargain price of $20.

We have copies of his book for sale now within the cozy confines of your Landmark office at 252 Main Street in historic downtown Platte City. Cash or checks made out to Chris Kamler are accepted methods of payment.

Getcha some.

*****

The return of Major League Baseball means the return of Kamler’s The K Replay, a weekly feature that catches you up on Royals highlights each week throughout the season. This week’s piece, which you can find on page B-4, offers Kamler’s prediction for the team’s 2015 record.

On another Royals note, you may have heard that team oficials are asking fans to help select the sixth inning song to be played inside The K at each home game. Sixteen popular songs that received the highest vote totals in last season’s contest have been selected for the bracket style battle that will begin on Opening Day April 6 and run through May 6. Here are the 16 songs in the contest:

April 6: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey vs. Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway; April 8: I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas vs. I Want You to Want Me by Cheap Trick; April 9: Small Town by John Mellencamp vs. Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi; April 17: Summer of ‘69 by Bryan Adams vs. Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks; April 18: I Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty vs. Get Down Tonight by KC & The Sunshine Band; April 19: Old Time Rock and Roll by Bob Seger vs. I Want to Rock and Roll All Night by Kiss; April 20: Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash vs. Louie Louis by The Kingsmen; April 21: Twist and Shout by The Beatles vs. Centerfield by John Fogerty.

Don’t Stop Believin’ is the defending champ. My favorites out of the other possibilities would be I Won’t Back Down, I Want to Rock and Roll All Night, or I Want You to Want Me.

What would be your choice? Voting takes place by text from fans within the stadium on each of the above dates. Let’s see how this plays out. Winning song will be revealed May 6.

*****

Hey, I’m making a late push in the Bracket Battle standings. Well, kind of. I think I’m like fifth or sixth from the bottom now. But look out, there are around 60 of you who did not pick Kentucky to win it all, so if the Wildcats do claim the title I will likely be sailing past several more of you. Final Four round wins are worth 15 points and the championship game is worth 30.

Final standings will appear in next week’s issue.

(Get your election results Tuesday night on Twitter @ivanfoley and find your publisher on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


MARY IS STILL AROUND
AND STILL SPEAKING
FROM AN IVORY TOWER

Written 3/25/15

Anybody else think springtime rains and cool temps make for good sleeping conditions? This weather has had a relaxing effect on me. I’ve been sleeping like a baby.

This despite the fact that after two rounds my basketball bracket is the stuff of nightmares.

******

Feeling so inspired by the spring weather that I may take up exercise. I think I’ll get the treadmill out of storage. And then hang clothes on it.

******

Wichita State hammered Kansas in a round of 32 game on Sunday. For the rest of the tournament KU fans will have to rock out with their Hawks out.

******

You have noticed we’re getting many letters to the editor lately, with several of them dedicated to the upcoming tax levy increase election at Platte County R-3. Among those chiming in on the discussion this week is Mary Temperelli, former longtime member of the Platte County R-3 School Board. Temperelli lectures what she feels must be an intellectually-challenged voting public by saying that only your school administrators and your school board members are smart enough to figure out what is best for Platte County R-3.

That’s an ivory tower viewpoint that shows a dangerous disconnect with the real bosses of the district, that being the patrons/taxpayers.

It’s elitist. It’s condescending. It’s rude. On top of that, it’s simply false.

There are plenty of voters who can and do interpret the data and the financial condition of the district and come to intelligent conclusions. Of course those conclusions are different than the conclusions Mary and highly paid administrators come to, so in the minds of the elitists, the public “just doesn’t understand.”

Many voters were turned off by an elitist attitude by R-3 in the 2012 failed levy election. If you thought the attitude of the leadership had changed since then, Temperelli’s letter is an indication that things just might be the same this time around.

******

To take Temperelli’s letter a little further into the woodshed, I enjoyed the part where she says: “We will not be swayed by political activists who make it their job to create dissent to achieve their alarmist, extremist agenda.”

As reported here many weeks ago, Quality Platte County R-3 Schools hired Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies, one of most successfully aggressive, in-your-face political consultant groups in the USA, to help run its pro-tax campaign. If there was ever a time a for the pro-tax crowd to avoid talking about the influence of political activists on a local election, this should be that time.

Too late.

******

Things are happening in and near the tiny burg of Platte Woods in central Platte County, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the place to be. Dirk’s Bar and Grill has reopened under new ownership. One of the new owners is Landmark pal Mike McCartney, whose voice you hear when you attend Royals games. The Royals PA announcer and partners have spruced up Dirk’s a bit, including installing many brand spanking new televisions to create an enhanced sports bar atmosphere.

Dirk’s was recently host to an event honoring The Landmark’s very own Chris Kamler, a celebrated author of baseball books and accomplished wearer of sweater vests.

In another noteworthy Platte Woods nugget, as you see on our front page L.C.’s Hamburgers is getting ready to reopen. The extremely popular “grilled onions in your burger” joint has been closed since a fire last summer.

And also at Platte Woods, that Landmark newspaper vending machine in front of the Dollar General store sells copies of weekly journalistic excellent at a rapid fire pace.

Lots of folks going there early and often.

******

Speaking of noted author and man-about-town Chris Kamler, the somewhat lovable @TheFakeNed on Twitter, he’ll be at The Landmark office this Friday for a book selling/signing/giving away party with yours truly. A good time will start at 4 p.m. If the weather is nice we’ll be set up on the sidewalk, harassing foot traffic headed to Taco Night at the Pool Hall. If weather is not cooperating we’ll be inside the luxurious Landmark office.

We’ll have The Landmark Plinko board ready for action. Take a spin to see if you can win a book, a free subscription to The Landmark, or a Landmark 150th anniversary coffee mug. Of course Chris will have copies of his book “The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sung Woo,” based on last year’s magical season for your Kansas City Royals, available for purchase at a cost of $18.99. If you smile he may sign it at no extra charge.

Come see us on Friday. We’ll be having fun. You might as well, too.

******

Last week Kamler’s book opened at No. 28 on Amazon’s list of “baseball books.” This week it’s No. 1 on Amazon’s list of “baseball books with the word SungWoo in the title.”

******

What’s in a name?

The 13-ton anchor from the Navy vessel the USS Platte is now on the grass at the small park at the bottom of Main Street in Platte City. This means less mowing but more weed eating for the parks department.

Remember when I said nobody knows the name of the small park at the bottom of Main Street? Somebody from the city then reminded me the name of the place is Settler’s Crossing Park. But last week in announcing the arrival of the anchor, the city sent out a press release in which the park was referred to as Settler’s Landing Park.

So which is it? Is it Settler’s Crossing or Settler’s Landing? Either way, I win the debate. Nobody knows the name. City Hall isn’t even sure, apparently. So The Landmark will just continue to refer to it as “that small park at the bottom of Main Street.”

(Get your book signing swag on for Friday and feel free to talk trash on Foley for his bracket. Follow Twitter @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)

 


PUTTING THE EYE TEST
TO WORK ON
SOME LOCAL ISSUES

Written 3/18/15

The eye test. You hear that term quite often this time of year when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is making choices for at-large berths into the men’s college basketball championship tournament. Certain teams are said to pass--or fail--the “eye test” of their season-long performance.

More on the NCAA tournament a bit later in this column. (Yes, if you don’t yet have your bracket entry in The Landmark’s contest, hurry. You have until 11 a.m. Thursday).

In the meantime, here are some observations using the Between the Lines eye test on items of local interest:

•The Between the Lines eye test says the dockets in the courtrooms at the Sixth Judicial Circuit at the Platte County Courthouse apparently are not all that crowded these days. Why would I say that? Check out the ample parking space available on Platte City’s Main Street at most hours of the day. Many more open spaces than a year or two ago. What gives? Are there fewer criminals? Are the new judges more efficient? Whatever the reason, if we can effectively judge the caseload of the courts by the number of cars parked out front, the caseload has decreased noticeably.

That's something to stick in the back of your mind for more in-depth studying if talk of “we need more facilities and another judge” starts back up again.

•The eye test of the jail population also indicates things have slowed down. As of this writing early Wednesday, there are 123 inmates in the Platte County Jail. Capacity is listed at around 151.

•The eye test says Mayor Nan Johnston isn’t going to win the public whizzing match she continues to engage against Tom Hutsler and others on the board of Parkville’s downtown taxing district, known as the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District. Unless the city has evidence of wrongdoing--which it apparently does not have at this point, despite some occasionally unsavory accusations--Nan should let this one go.

•The eye test says Alderman David Jones might be interested in running for Parkville mayor next year. The eye test also says the current mayor squirms a bit in her chair when Jones speaks up at meetings.

•The eye test says Platte County’s Parks and Recreation Department has enough money to finance many toy departments. Collections for the half cent sales tax for parks are up 14.6% over this time last year. Do you know how much money the park tax will generate this year if it ends 14.6% ahead of 2014? It will bring in $9.5 million for the toy department. It is unbelievable that there are still folks who want to fight when it is suggested the rate be cut slightly to allow a portion of that half cent sales tax to fund more basic services, such as law enforcement.

This is evidence that once you’ve experienced a sugar high it’s tough to willingly give it up. It’s also evidence that some folks want government to be all things to all people.

******

It’s Bracket Battle time. Don’t be the only cool kid who isn’t taking part. You can feel the peer pressure, can’t you?

If you’re reading this before 11 a.m. Thursday, there’s still time to make your picks and be somebody. It’s your chance to win $100 of Ivan Foley’s money, which as regular readers know is a well-protected asset. Fax your bracket to 816-858-2313, email it to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or drop it by The Landmark at 252 Main Street in the heart of Platte City’s downtown. There’s room to park in front of the courthouse, if you so desire.

Here’s the deal. Top bracket score gets $100. Second place gets an autographed copy of Landmark columnist Chris Kamler’s new book The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo. Third place gets a copy of the same book.

And here’s the best part: everyone who finishes with a better bracket score than yours truly earns a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. That’s a $25.92 value.

I may or may not have a prize lined up for the person with the worst score. I’m not giving any details on this--or even guaranteeing that a prize for lowest score will be available--because I don’t want someone intentionally tanking. If you’re going to be a winner for being awful I want you to be legitimately awful. If past performance is any indication, Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart is considered among the front runners to come in last, but if that happens any potential prize will go to someone else.

Here, my friends, is the bracket you’re up against in your effort to win a free Landmark subscription. For the scoring system we use and other contest details, see the front page article. Basically, our contest is won or lost in the later rounds because later round victories are rewarded with more points than the early rounds.

Without further delay, read ’em and weep:

FIRST ROUND WINNERS: Kentucky, Purdue, Buffalo, Valparaiso, Texas, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Kansas, Wisconsin, Oregon, Wofford, North Carolina, Mississippi, Baylor, VCU, Arizona, Villanova, North Carolina State, Northern Iowa, Louisville, Providence, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia, Duke, St. John’s, Stephen F. Austin, Eastern Washington, SMU, Iowa State, Davidson, Gonzaga.

SWEET SIXTEEN: Kentucky, Buffalo, Texas, Wichita State, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Baylor, Arizona, Villanova, Northern Iowa, Providence, Virginia, Duke, Stephen F. Austin, Iowa State, Gonzaga.

ELITE EIGHT: Kentucky, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Baylor, Northern Iowa, Virginia, Duke, Gonzaga.

FINAL FOUR: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Virginia, Gonzaga.

CHAMPIONSHIP: Kentucky 72, Gonzaga 58.

******

You’ll be able to follow the standings as the contest progresses. We’ll print every entrant’s name and score each week here in your Landmark, and will provide updates and commentary throughout the tournament on Twitter @ivanfoley and on my Facebook page.

Grab a snack and your favorite beverage and settle in near a TV during some of the tournament games. And feel free to have some trash-talking fun.

(Get your Between the Lines fix on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


HELP WANTED: INTERPRETER NEEDED, MUST SPEAK ROPER

Written 3/11/15

Help Wanted: Between the Lines is currently taking applications for an interpreter. Must speak Roper.

If hired, your first assignment is to interpret this email sent out recently by Beverlee Roper, first district county commissioner in Platte County. Roper fired off the email to a circle of friends and alleged supporters, at least one of whom wanted to be sure that I saw it. It’s a note of support for Teresa Loar, candidate for city council in Kansas City, but that’s not the part that needs interpreting. The portion of the letter that needs explanation deals with some bizarre remarks Roper makes about development potential at KCI Airport.

Here in its entirety is the all-over-the-map email Roper sent. If you can interpret this into a common sense summary, you’re hired. All of it is a bit of a head-scratcher, but of specific need for interpretation is the part dealing with particulate and noise and gasses and stuff being “a unique and attractive” benefit:

“Over the last two years, I have worked with the superb Ed Ford, who has served KC as a councilman-at-large. He cannot run again and he must be replaced with a person who has a proven history devoted to Kansas City, particularly the Northland. I have come to know Teresa Loar, who years ago while she served on the KC Council brought crops and grazing to thousands of acres at the KCI airport that had laid idle. While the terminals need maintenance, they consistently rank at the top of airport satisfaction surveys. Let’s fix what’s broken, not what is not! The 10,400 acres represent ground that provides a great opportunity for industry--”real” jobs. Manufacturing “widgets” sold for more than their cost of production always creates prosperity in the geographic area where such plants are located. The airport presents two unique and attractive benefits for companies: 1) by law no real estate tax can ever be assessed (!) and 2) the federally-permitted next door neighbor pours particulate, gasses and incredible noise in the air every 5-10 minutes and floats on jet fuel and ethylene glycol (antifreeze). Teresa understands the prosperity-generator potential at the airport and will work with the county to pursue it. Please put Feb. 24 from 6-8 p.m. on your calendar and meet Teresa at Trezo Mare. Thanks! --Bev.”

******

By now you’ve probably seen the “informational video” being circulated by Platte County R-3 in regard to its upcoming 43-cent tax levy increase proposal on the April 7 ballot.

According to a list of paid expenses recently approved by the school board at Platte County R-3, taxpayers of the school district paid $2,050 to Swish Creative of Blue Springs to produce what is listed as an “informational video on the ballot issue.”

You can decide whether the video is informational or promotional. Either way, if you’re a taxpayer to the Platte County R-3 district you helped pay the tab.

******

Heard an interesting observation recently by someone in regard to the wild and crazy growth projections school districts like Park Hill and Platte County R-3 have been spouting recently. This observation came from the Line Creek Loud Mouth blog, a blog not known for conservatism, by the way. The Loud Mouth was referring specifically to Park Hill’s growth projections when he said: “All in all, I would be very skeptical of student growth projections. It has taken six years for the housing market to recover and the trend for the next generation is marrying later and not having more than one kid. Is the historical level of growth realistic given this demographic change underway or the amount of future buyers for our existing large single family housing stock within the district?”

When even those observers on the left side of the aisle are questioning projections of exploding enrollment, you know the school districts have a bit of a credibility problem on their hands.

******

Guy Speckman, publisher of the Savannah Reporter, has been on a roll with observations about public school spending, hitting home runs on a weekly basis. Here’s what Speckman wrote last week about administrator salaries in public schools. It is golden. Hang this on your refrigerator and read it before you vote on any school tax increase:

“Wowza! Did you see those administrator salaries at the St. Joseph School District? Anyone that thinks public education is not a train off the financial tracks is simply ignoring the facts that are in front of us every single day. Public education insiders were quick to totally destroy the last education reform issue on the ballot, and probably for good reason. Yet I don’t see these same insiders promoting any plans that will curtail the squandering of millions of dollars on public education waste that has been created nationally, regionally and locally.

“The systems have become a top-heavy hierarchical system that pays people as managers yet gives them little to no management responsibility. We pay people administrative salaries, yet give them menial job tasks that could be done by far less expensive employees.

“Everyone wants to stand behind ‘it’s for the kids’ philosophy, even while each and every school district in this country wastes millions of dollars annually. Personally, I don’t think it is ‘for the kids’ any longer and those St. Joseph salaries and stipends are a peek at a growing trend of what this is about.”

Nailed it.

******

Fill out your college basketball tournament bracket after the field is announced this weekend and get it to me for your chance to win $100 and/or a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. Details in our front page article.

Good luck, you’re going to need it this year. I’m feeling hot, hot as in my picks are going to go nuclear kind of hot.

******

The book entitled The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo by our man Chris Kamler becomes available this week. We’ll have some available for purchase in The Landmark office, 252 Main Street, Platte City. And remember we’ll be hosting the author to an on-the-sidewalk book sales/signing event the afternoon of Friday, March 27 in downtown Platte City. Also, Chris is hosting a book launch party this Friday night, March 13 at Dirk’s bar and grill in Platte Woods. Danny Boi, morning co-host on 96.5 The Buzz, will be DJ’ing into the wee hours. Follow Chris on Twitter @TheFakeNed for updates and whatnot.

(For Between the Lines updates and whatnot follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, call the hotline at 816-858-0363 or just come walking into his office)

 


SEEMS A GOOD TIME
FOR THE ELECTED TO DO
SOME SELF-EVALUATING

Written 3/4/15

Supporters of a QuikTrip at Parkville? Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

Yes, a QT proposal is back at the city of Parkville. This time, there is no McDonald’s included in the site plan for the intersection of Highway 45 and Highway 9.

So how will the new proposal be received? Who knows. Parkville--home of golf carts legalized as street vehicles, parks, nature areas, parks, nature areas and did I mention parks--can be a bit quirky when it comes to proposed development.

While many of us see an intersection of two state highways and think that would be a great place for a revenue-generating, respected public-serving entity like a QuikTrip, many folks at Parkville see an intersection of two major highways and think that would be a great place to plant a pawpaw tree or build a tribute to the hummingbird.

******

I hope you’ve been paying attention to the mess involving the St. Joseph School District. If you haven’t been following it, Google the topic and do some reading. Read the contents of a blistering state audit that was just conducted on that school district. Some things in there will anger you, frustrate you, amaze you, and most of all should put you on alert.

Oh, and there’s more than just a scathing state audit facing some folks within the St. Joseph School District. There is also reportedly a criminal investigation, being conducted by the FBI, underway.

As Guy Speckman, publisher of the Savannah Reporter, wisely says in his column in our Other Voices item on this page, it should be a wake-up call for all local governments and the elected officials who serve on governing bodies.

It’s time for those who serve on boards to stop nodding heads in agreement at every proposal placed in front of them and start asking some tough questions of those who serve underneath them. It’s called doing your job. You were elected to lead, not to be led by the paid professionals on staff at whatever public entity you’re serving. Realize that the paid professionals don’t have the same level of ownership in your entity that you do. Realize that those paid professionals you may have come to believe will always be there are often thinking of their next step on the career ladder, the next job that they may see as bigger and better. It’s your job as an elected official to look out for your local taxpayers and patrons because your paid professional is looking out for number one. To think otherwise is naive.

Take ownership in your elected position. Grasp the reason why you are there. Don’t just list the elected position on your resume and think warming a seat at meetings is all you need to do. You were elected to be an independent thinker. You were elected to be unafraid.

If you’re not any of these things, it’s time to re-evaluate. Because you’re doing it wrong.

******

Did you know the St. Joseph School District had been using the same auditing firm, Westbrook and Company, that Platte County R-3 has used for years? Why do I mention this?

Westbrook and Company, according to reports in the St. Joseph News-Press, had been giving the St. Joseph School District an A rating in its audits. Do you know what rating the state auditor gave the St. Joseph School District? A “poor” rating. In fact, it was the lowest rating in Tom Schweich’s tenure as state auditor.

How does that happen? How does the firm hired by the school district rank the district’s fiscal examination as an “A” while an independent state audit says “this thing is the biggest mess we’ve ever seen?”

Use your imagination.

So should Platte County R-3 patrons be concerned?

Based on what I’m about to remind you, there would seem to be reason to at least put this topic on your radar. Employees who work at management levels inside school districts and other units of government often develop friendly relationships with particular firms. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not necessarily a good thing, either.

In a story we did last April, The Landmark reported that Platte County R-3 had re-hired Westbrook and Co. to perform the district’s audit each of the next three years. The Platte County R-3 School Board, at the urging of Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik, selected Westbrook even though Westbrook was the higher bidder for the job.

That’s right. The district chose an auditing firm with a price 26% higher than an equally qualified bidder.

The three year cost from Westbrook and Company will be $40,755. The three year cost from the other bidder, Marr and Company, would have been only $32,250. That’s considerable, in particular when Reik admitted “both were good quality firms.”

Reik explained he used a rubric to determine which company was the best firm to meet the needs of the district. I’m not sure what that rubric consists of, or even what a rubric is exactly, but according to Reik “experience” was considered to be the most important criteria when looking at which company to hire. At the time of the selection process, Reik said: “I think Marr is a quality firm, but they have two big districts they work with and that is pretty much it. Westbrook has a reputation as a leader in the school auditing business.”

Maybe that’s accurate. Or at least maybe it was accurate at the time. But Westbrook’s reputation is no doubt taking some hits after what has been revealed in St. Joseph.

In that same Landmark article from last April in discussing why he recommended taking Westbrook over the lower bidder, it was reported that Reik said Westbrook officials are very helpful. “He said the Westbrook firm is there working with school district officials even when they are not providing auditing services to help answer any question school officials have,” according to that article. “Dr. Reik said it is Westbrook’s thorough audit and helpful attitude that makes them the company many school districts turn to for their auditing needs. ‘They are very well known for being thorough in the auditing services,” Reik said.

Hmm. Based on the St. Joseph School District’s experience, it might be time to re-evaluate some things like longstanding relationships with particular firms, not only in the field of auditing but in other service categories. Change can be inconvenient for some staff members but overall change is a good avenue of protection for patrons and taxpayers. Particularly in a case like this one, where a change would also have meant saving significant taxpayer dollars.

(Catch more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and follow Foley at Facebook.com/ivan.foley and on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


A COMMON DENOMINATOR
IN LOFTY ENROLLMENT
GROWTH PROJECTIONS;
FIFTY SHADES OF COLUMNISTS

Written 2/25/15

Congressman Sam Graves came walking into The Landmark office Friday afternoon carrying his lunch, which was a bag of fast-food from Sonic. Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen dropped in our office Tuesday afternoon and commented he was on his way back to his office and had lunch sitting in his car. “What are you eating today?” I asked. “Sonic,” was the answer.

Sonic. The official restaurant of public officials headed to The Landmark.

(That was an unpaid Between the Lines mention of Sonic. By the way, Sonic, I endorse your drinks. Your food? I endorse your drinks).

******

Always question projections of explosive enrollment growth. Especially at a time when a school district has a potential ballot question/tax increase proposal on the horizon.

We saw this play out in 2011 and 2012 when projections of rapid and enormous growth in student enrollment at Platte County R-3 were making the rounds. Those projections have proven to be incorrect. So incorrect, in fact, that the district has trashed those earlier numbers and toned down its most recent predictions of growth to a level less likely to trip the crazy meter.

Now a similar disease has struck at the Park Hill School District. The Landmark was at a meeting of the Park Hill School Board in December when it was remarked the district has grown by about 150 students per year over the past 30 years.

That was December. This is February. The tone at Park Hill has changed in recent weeks, not surprisingly at a time when the district is now pushing the need for a major facility expansion (see last week’s front page). Park Hill has said it expects its enrollment will “plateau” at 13,000 students. But when? Based on the established growth trend of 150 students per year, that level would be reached about the year 2030.

But in a recent district newsletter, Park Hill is now saying the district “will increase by an additional 2,000 students over the next few years.”

Say what? I understand that “few” is a very vague term (and vague is likely the reason proponents chose to use it), but many reasonable people would define “few years” as three or four, at tops five, correct?

If that’s the case, Park Hill is now projecting a growth rate of as high as 666 students per year.

Are you kidding me? That seems the stuff of fairy tales, fantasies, and revenue projections at the county golf course.

We do know of a common denominator involved in those earlier wildly incorrect growth projections made at Platte County R-3 and the new ones being made at Park Hill. The common denominator is that there has been input in developing those projections by the architectural firm Hollis and Miller. That is not to say the Hollis and Miller firm is intentionally inflating numbers. . .but it is fair to report the connection and say “hmm.”

Architects make good money off of the construction of large, new, expensive buildings, am I right? Just checking.

******

When Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent at Platte County R-3, said at last week’s meeting of the Platte City Economic Development Subcommittee that he considers the amount of debt per student “irrelevant in determining the fiscal health of a school district,” you knew there was going to be some blowback. And deservedly so.

Even one of the biggest government bureaucrats around, first district Platte County Commissioner Beverlee Roper, has been known to preach repeatedly against public debt. “Debt equals slavery. Always remember that,” she said in a public meeting earlier this year.

Check out the letter to the editor on this page for the first return volley against Reik’s comment.

*******

My guess is that if R-3 had a very low amount of debt per student, proponents of the proposed tax increase would be touting that as a very positive sign of the district’s fiscal health and past financial management practices. But since the district has a high load of debt on its books, the message is “debt per student is irrelevant.”

Flip it and reverse it.

******

Call it Fifty Shades of Landmark Columnists.

After many hours of thoughtful deliberation (in other words, in a 30-second conversation that consisted of yelling to each other while walking out separate doors of a building), Chris Kamler and I have decided upon a date, place and time for his book signing event in Platte County.

As you may have heard, Chris has authored a book that will be available Friday, March 13. You’re welcome, America.

His book is about the Kansas City Royals and that Korean dude who flew in during the Royals’ magical 2014 season. The book is entitled: The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo.
Geez, that title has a lot of words. I’m already tired. This thing better have some pictures in the early pages or I’m going to need a shock collar to get through it.

We’ll have more details about this mild-mannered freak show we’re calling a book signing in future Landmarks. For now, mark your calendar for Friday, March 27. The plan is to set up shop on the sidewalk in front of The Landmark office that Friday afternoon, maybe around 2-ish or 3-ish, and hang out through the early evening hours. We aspire to catch foot traffic from both the Owens Lee Hull Jr. Justice Center and the Pool Hall, with the hope being that borderline nut jobs and some slightly boozed-up folks will be more likely to buy a book. Privately, we also hold out hope that the Pool Hall will offer us some type of “refreshment” when we’re done “working.”

We’ll have the official Landmark Newspaper Plinko board set up for anyone willing to give it a whirl. If you don’t know what The Landmark Plinko board is, check out a recent picture posted on my Facebook page. It’s like a vertical maze. In short, you’ll drop a disc down a board filled with long-ass nails sticking out as obstacles, and if your disc lands in the winning slot at the bottom of the board you’ll get a free copy of Chris’ book. Chris is a highly-trained beauty pageant judge and a born-again virgin, so if you’re female and decently attractive--in other words, if you’re female--he’ll sign it for you. He’ll also sign the book.

Boom shakalaka.

(When he isn’t smoking crack with the creators of school enrollment projections, Ivan Foley can be found on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


KC POLICE OFFICIAL
SAYS HE IS ‘PISSED OFF’
ABOUT KCI CORRIDOR CRIME

Written 2/18/15

You’ve read stories in this fine newspaper about crimes occurring at Platte County hotels in what is known as the KCI corridor along Interstate 29. Thugs are breaking into vehicles and stealing items in what the police call smash-and-grab crimes. It goes in spurts. But the major concern now? Things are getting more violent.

Last week’s event that you saw on our front page featured gunshots when perpetrators fired at a person who had spotted someone in his pickup in a hotel parking lot. The man ran toward his truck. Suspects--police say there were four black males involved--opened fire at the witness through the windshield of the suspects’ stolen Mercedes. A stray bullet traveled through a first floor hotel room window and struck a sleeping guest in the leg.

The silver Mercedes the suspects were traveling in had been stolen from Overland Park, Ks. It was recovered near 82nd and Troost in Kansas City, unoccupied, obviously with holes in the windshield.

The injury to the sleeping hotel guest was not life-threatening, but wow. This is getting nuts. A smash-grab-crime is one thing. A series of smash-and-grab crimes with multiple shots fired is quite another.

“I take this personally. It pisses me off,” said Major Roger Lewis, division commander of the North Patrol Division for the Kansas City Police Department, about the rising number of crimes in the KCI corridor. Lewis made the comment Friday morning while addressing a group of hoteliers in a meeting called for the purpose of talking about the recent criminal activity that has occurred on and around their properties. Your humble Between the Lines columnist sat in on the update.

Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen was also there. He tried to take some of the potential heat off of KC police by saying: “It’s a partnership. I own it, too.” It’s the aggressive nature that these crimes seem to be taking that is most concerning, not just in the corridor but all over the county. “I read your paper. It seems like the incidents are getting more violent each week,” the sheriff told me later.

Yes. And thanks for reading.

So what is prompting all the vehicle break-ins at hotel parking lots? The sheriff didn’t really want this part out there, but I think it’s important for the public to know how the criminals are thinking. The more public knows the better steps they can take to protect themselves and their property. Even Major Lewis admitted that sometimes police “get too possessive” of information. Confirmed. I wish I had a buck for every time this newspaper has had to put a verbal squeeze on law enforcement spokespeople to get basic public right-to-know information from them.

These smash-and-grab criminals are looking for guns. Sure, a laptop or some other electronic device might be a good “get” for them, but these guys are looking to steal firearms. That’s why the type of vehicles most often hit are pickups and SUVs--vehicles most often driven by folks who would have a weapon inside. Airport hotel lots are often the targets because of park-and-fly customers. Think about it. A guy parks his truck at a KCI-area hotel before catching a plane.

What’s one thing he knows he can’t take to the airport? His gun. It gets left in his vehicle parked in the hotel lot.

******

There are 30 hotels in the North Patrol Division of the Kansas City Police Department. Last week’s incident is evidence that crime in the KCI corridor “has risen to a new level,” Major Lewis told the hotel managers. “Stress to your staff that they call 9-1-1, that they do not confront suspects.”

Wiser words may never have been spoken. No sense taking a chance on needing to dodge gunfire. There’s not always a positive outcome.

If hotel staff members are debating whether a situation warrants a call to 9-1-1, that’s when they need to call 9-1-1, Lewis said.

******

And it’s not just hotel crimes hitting the KCI corridor. Zona Rosa has seen a tremendous rise in shoplifting incidents. One night last week, Lewis said, a clothing store in Zona Rosa was hit with a $10,000 loss in one shoplifting incident. I’m not sure how somebody gets away with $10,000 in one night of shoplifting, but police say it happened.

Sheriff Owen backed up the KC police official’s concerns about shoplifting in the corridor. Owen says since the public transportation bus stop was put in near Wal-Mart on Barry Road shoplifting in that area has seen a marked increase.

So public transportation, the lack of which is cursed by economic development officials who blame it in part for a perceived shortage in available workforce, has its downside in the law enforcement arena.

******

What happens now? Kansas City police and the Platte County Sheriff’s Department have formed a task force to study the issue of crime in the KCI corridor and what steps can be taken by law enforcement to prevent incidents and to solve the ones that do occur. The task force held its first meeting last week. We’ll keep you posted.

******

FYI, Lewis mentioned the Kansas City Police Department’s North Patrol division leads the Kansas City metro area in the number of vehicles stolen while the engine is running with the doors unlocked.

Consider stopping that habit.

******

Does the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee realize the owner of the consulting firm they hired has compared their election campaign to O-rings under a toilet? That can’t be a good analogy for their cause, can it?

******

A reader sent me this question: If the Platte County R-3 proposal is so great why do they need a nationally-known political consultant to make their case?

That’s a legitimate thought to ponder.

******

As an update, the R-3 campaign committee’s hiring of Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies consulting business has now been confirmed by multiple sources in a position to know. The only sources declining the opportunity to confirm it are the official spokespeople for Axiom and the campaign committee.

By the way, I’m still waiting on that return phone call from Jeff. . .

******

If anyone from the campaign committee denies they’ve hired Axiom by telling you they’re using a consulting firm by the name of Candidate Command, be aware that Candidate Command is simply the name of the mailing arm of Axiom Strategies. Axiom and Candidate Command are the same company.

(Stay Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and follow Landmark escapades at Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


DO YOU KNOW WHAT BRAND OF O-RINGS ARE UNDER YOUR TOILET?

Written 2/11/15

It has been proven many times that politics can make for strange bedfellows.

Word on the street is that the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee will be using a political consulting firm in an effort to help it pass the proposed 43-cent tax levy increase in the April 7 election.

The political consulting firm that has been contacted by Quality Platte County R-3 Schools? None other than Axiom Strategies. As in Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies/Candidate Command.

At first blush, this seems like an odd marriage. Axiom Strategies has built a name for itself by fighting against things like tax increases, not in favor of them. Roe is known as a ruthless, no-holds-barred campaign guru.

Laura Hulett, deputy treasurer for the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee, would not verify whether the committee has hired a consulting firm. But sources tell me that Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent, was in contact with Axiom officials back in December.

Two weeks ago I reached Roe on his cell phone to ask him whether his company has struck a deal to assist the R-3 pro-tax group. Roe was in Texas that day, a state where he is spending much time in helping to guide the likely presidential campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Roe told me he didn’t know if his company has a deal in place with the R-3 pro-tax committee. Frankly, he probably didn’t know at the time. Axiom is a very successful multimillion dollar company now with a national presence and a lot of irons in the fire. A local school tax levy campaign is small potatoes in Roe’s world, as he let me know in our phone conversation.

“What makes you think I would know that?” Roe asked me.

“I thought you were the man who would know everything about Axiom Strategies,” I said.

“Would you know what brand of O-rings are under your toilet?” he asked rhetorically, some might say arrogantly.

“No, but my toilet isn’t bringing in millions of dollars,” I said.

These are the types of conversations that two guys who generally don’t give a crap have with one another. There is no such thing as a dull conversation with Jeff Roe. I’ve known him for years, like him, don’t always agree with him but enjoy watching him work and respect the tremendous amount of success he has enjoyed doing the job he loves. We both were on the speaking panel that roasted then-U.S. Attorney Todd Graves. We both were on the speaking panel that roasted radio hot shot Chris Stigall. That could be an indication that we have some similar personality traits.

We ended our conversation with Roe saying he would check with his people to see if indeed Axiom/Candidate Command is working in conjunction with the R-3 pro-tax committee. He said he would check it out and get back to me. That was two weeks ago. I’m still awaiting that return contact.

Interpret that however you’d like. I know how I interpret it.

******

If you take some time to digest the situation in its entirety, let’s not be totally shocked by the alleged partnership of R-3 pro-taxers with the normally anti-tax firm of Axiom. Not only did it have an ill-advised, poorly-timed proposal it was trying to sell, but to make matters worse R-3’s pro-tax increase campaign was outfoxed and unprepared in 2012 when its levy question was hammered by voters 55-45%. It makes sense for supporters to want to be better prepared this time around. The question is, will the campaign have enough contributed money available to throw to Axiom for the firm to do the campaign any good? Axiom can work wonders but it takes significant dollars, not chump change, to put its recommendations into action.

Meanwhile from Axiom’s point of view, 2015 is not a major year for elections. Axiom has a staff to keep busy. It is a business operation, after all. If a firm better known for anti-tax increase stances suddenly is helping to promote a 43-cent tax hike, that’s more than likely strictly a business decision than it is a “we believe this proposal is a good one” decision. Money talks, in most cases.

Axiom did work for a Kansas City zoo tax proposal not too many years ago, so this wouldn’t be the first time it has consulted on the pro-tax side of an issue.

******

Some changes are coming to the county clerk’s office, apparently.

Sources inside the administration building say Nancy Armstrong, new county clerk, has disposed of at least one of the employees she had inherited from previous clerk Joan Harms. The firing happened late in the day last Thursday, I’m told.

And the bad news, sources say, was not delivered by Armstrong. Apparently Mary Robinson, the county’s work hard-play harder human resources director, drove the elevator from her basement office up to the clerk’s office on the first floor to do the hit. Armstrong had walked out of the office, apparently so she wouldn’t have to see the carnage she had ordered.

“I think she (Mary Robinson) likes firing people,” one person inside the building told me.

******

Check out the coverage of a couple of important local business stories on our front page this week by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp. Dairy Farmers of America announces it is moving out of Platte County the same week that Valerie was already doing a feature story on efforts the Platte County Economic Development Council makes to retain existing businesses in the county. Great inside info in both stories.

And what about the gunfire outside a Platte County hotel after a witness approached three black males who were allegedly performing smash-and-grabs upon vehicles in the parking lot?

Be safe. If you’re going to approach suspects in a parking lot at 3 a.m. be sure you have the ability to run zigzag.

(Zigzag with Foley throughout the week on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook. Occasionally you’ll catch him on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, phone 816-858-0363)

 


DING DING DING,
WE MAY HAVE A WINNER

Written 2/4/15

No matter how hectic a day I might be having, when I see someone about to walk in the front door of the local license bureau office I realize my day isn’t so bad after all.

******

I’ve been doing a lot of people watching lately. Gotta say I think a reality show or video podcast based on the adventures of the attorneys and defendants who enter the hallowed halls of the Owens Lee Hull Jr. Justice Center--more commonly known as the Platte County Courthouse--would be a riot.

There are some interesting-looking dudes and dudettes doing business at that location every day. Each one has a story. Actually, I’m certain each one has many stories. And each one could be a story, if you get my drift.

This sounds like the subject of a future Kamler/Foley Rambling Morons videocast, filmed pantsless in the snow.

******

Kansas City-area community centers are throwing out vending machines and switching to healthy food snack options, so from now on you’ll have to sneak in your own Twinkies and Ho Hos.

******

Some of the early reaction by county commissioners to the four proposals for Shiloh Springs Golf Course that came in from potential management firms is fascinating. See our front page story for more details, but I’ll summarize some of the highlights that hit me while sitting in on their discussion Monday.

Beverlee Roper, first district county commissioner, must have had a good night’s sleep the night before because she actually seemed focused and on point for most of the Shiloh discussion. A couple of times she actually sounded like the promising 2012 candidate Roper instead of the hugely disappointing officeholder Roper. Well, except the part where she announced for no apparent reason that she went to college with the daughter of the mayor of Punxsutawney, Pa.

Other than that Groundhog Day reference which thankfully was ignored by the other two commissioners, Roper made some common sense comments and observations, which means by next meeting she’ll be ready to run from the stances she took this week.

Roper pointed out it looks to her that Shiloh was designed postage stamp style on a piece of property, rather than flowing in a more unlimited manner that a golf course designer probably would have liked. Like many of us with no emotional investment in the sport of golf, Roper doubts Shiloh will ever make money. “Is it possible for that course to ever make money? I don’t think anybody is going to take a chance on it, with all the other courses around and with the way it was laid out to begin with,” Roper said. Roper also was strong in expressing her desire to have the county explore the idea of selling the Shiloh property to a developer rather than mandating it be kept as a golf course.

Duane Soper, second district commissioner who is a golfer and user of the Shiloh course, countered that he thinks Shiloh can one day make money. He also said he does not want the county to sell Shiloh, using the defense that taxpayers have already spent $10 million over the years at the golf course. I’m not sure the idea of continuing to throw good money after bad is a thought that will be applauded by many taxpayers, but Soper has some emotional feelings for Shiloh and today isn’t the day to beat him up for that since he could be on the verge of losing a friend.

Now is the time to start focusing on ways to cut losses, move on and get rid of the annual financial drain. Maybe Gary Martin’s proposal is the way to do that. Martin wants to run Shiloh by aligning a group of investors to operate the course as a non-profit for a few years, then mentions he would make a $1.2 million offer after three years to buy the course from the county.

There’s a lot of studying that will need to be done to sift through the gory details of Martin’s proposal, but my first reaction? Ding-ding-ding. We may have a winner.

If in three years Martin holds true to that offer I say sell it to him. But remember, a lot can change in three years--saying you’ll buy it in three years for $1.2 million and actually cutting a check for $1.2 million three years from now are two entirely different things.

Martin pledges to keep Shiloh open to the public. That fits the wishes of Soper and others like him who don’t want the course to go away. It allows the county to get out of the golf course business.

And here’s another benefit, especially for supporters of the parks department who may not be avid golfers. Getting rid of Shiloh frees up many $$$ that can be used on other park projects, projects that wouldn’t be developed by private industry. The private sector has done a fine job of handling golf courses in Platte County in recent years. Getting Shiloh off the county parks department books would free up tax dollars for other amenities and services not offered by the private sector. That’s what government is supposed to be doing, anyway.

Just a thought.

******

The larger cities in Platte County have some well-funded police departments. If you’re unhappy with police services in your local municipality, any shortcomings shouldn’t be because of lack of funds being designated to the department.

As you’ll see in our story inside this issue, Parkville and Platte City have police budgets that amount to an expenditure of $229 per resident.

That’s pretty solid. But nothing compared to the city of Riverside, home of Argosy Casino.

According to information gathered by DJ Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City, Riverside’s police budget equates to $1,006 per resident of Riverside.

Maybe that’s what former Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks meant when he used to say: “Riverside has more money than God.”

(Come see us again next week right here in The Landmark, where a week’s worth of news and fun is still just 50 cents. In the meantime, get information and shenanigans on Twitter @ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)

 


LOOKS LIKE 2,000 IS CONSIDERED
THE MAGIC NUMBER

Written 1/28/15

As your Landmark heads to press Wednesday, we’re being told the thermometer will hit 70 degrees later this afternoon. Love it.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind having to kick my pickup into four-wheel drive at least once this winter. Just for fun.

******

The falling price of gasoline is hovering around $1.75. Finally the price of gas is lower than my high school grade point average.

*******

I’m not wearing a belt today. Feeling all gangsta.

******

The Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee, the campaign organization promoting passage of the 43-cent tax levy question on the April ballot, is already at work. Based on some questions they’ve posed in an online survey, it looks like the Vote Yes side has determined its magic number is 2,000, as in they believe it will take 2,000 yes votes for the issue to pass.

In 2012, Platte County R-3’s levy increase proposal was soundly defeated 55% opposed to 45% in favor. The vote tally was 1,835 against and 1,486 in favor.

Here is one of the questions the committee lists on its survey. “The Fail Safe ‘Yes’ Advocates Committee will need 400 members to get 5 yes votes each for a total of 2,000 ‘yes’ votes. Would you be willing to recruit additional members to the Fail Safe ‘Yes’ Advocates Committee?”

******

It’s interesting to note that an original filing of “statement of committee organization” with the Missouri Ethics Commission in November by the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools organization listed the school’s street address as the election committee’s address. That November filing listed the committee’s address as being the same as the school’s offices, 998 Platte Falls Road in Platte City.

Maybe that was not seen as a good idea. An “amended” statement of committee organization filed on Tuesday of this week lists the address for Quality Platte County R-3 Schools election committee as 16120 NW 126th Terrace.

We will assume that’s a Platte City address, though the paperwork does not list the city, state or zip. That same address on NW 126th is listed as the address for the organization’s treasurer, Vic Perrin.

Deputy treasurer is listed as Laura Hulett, who is employed as a public relations person by the school district.

******

Missouri Ethics Commission finally posted a copy of the agreement it reached with the Park Hill School District after Park Hill was found to have committed an ethics violation (see Landmark front page in Jan. 14 issue) in last year’s laptop levy campaign that was hammered by voters 61% opposed to only 39% in favor.

Some of the highlights we noticed in the details include:

1. Park Hill was actually fined $1,000 but most of that fine was “stayed” under the agreement. Park Hill pays a fine of only $100 “subject to the provisions” of the agreement. If the district commits any further violations within a two year period , then Park Hill will be required to pay the remainder of the fee. It should be noted this is not a lot of $$, but it sends a message that leadership at the district is not living up to ethical standards in elections. This is never good for an administrator’s job security nor for the district as a whole in trying to win over the hearts and minds of the taxpaying patrons it serves.

2. Under the deal, Park Hill must adopt a procedure that, in the future, the superintendent or his designee will review all publicly-funded informational items related to ballot issues prior to distribution.

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the ethics commission says Park Hill crossed the line into advocacy by using the phrase “In order to prepare our students for 21st century college and careers” in front of the words “the Park Hill School District is asking voters to approve a levy increase on April 8.”

The ethics commission says Dr. Scott Springston, superintendent, “had access to these materials prior to their distribution to the public but did not review the portion of the materials now at issue.”

******

Conditions were a little weird covering President Obama’s trip to the region Thursday. As you know by now and can see on our front page, the president came to Lawrence for a speech at Kansas University.

I don’t know who was in charge of deciding in what setting this speech would be held, but it turned into a barn-like event inside what they called the Anschutz Sports Pavilion. Yes that sounds indoors, I understand, but there were doors open on the backside of the audience next to the media tables. Not just any doors. Double garage-sized industrial doors--which allowed a pretty damn crisp wind to blow through on a cold day. And keep in mind because of the security factors involved in presidential visits, the media must be set up and in place for a couple of hours in advance of the speech. So, yes, assistant editor Valerie Verkamp and I were basically locked in a deep freeze for hours that day.

I heard one media member whining that “I left my gloves in the car.” He said this while wrapped up in his winter coat while wearing a hat and scarf. Yes, I said the guy was wearing a scarf. Remember, we were at KU. Mr. Yuppy was actually lucky. Your Landmark editor, crazily thinking, you know, that the president would be speaking in normal indoor conditions--in other words, not with an Alaskan wind blowing on the media tables--didn’t even wear a coat into the place.

And that’s not the end of it. The restrooms that day? Porta potties. A set of porta potties for the public, one designated porta potty for the media. Set up outdoors. In the freezing-ass cold. At least someone had taped a letterhead with the presidential seal on it on the door of the media’s porta potty (a unisex porta potty, pity the poor ladies, this thing had been abused if you know what I mean) to add a touch of class. Or something.

This was my fourth time covering an Obama appearance in the KC area, Valerie’s third. “I think this is the last time,” Valerie said in a shivering tone through tense and partially frozen lips.

Yeah, she said it. But I’m not sure she meant it. My guess is we’ll be back again the next time a president, Obama or otherwise, comes to the area. Just not to the aforementioned KU sports pavilion.

(No matter your weather or restroom conditions, you can always reach out in a Between the Lines kind of way to Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook and Instagram. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHEN BUREAUCRACY
HAPPENS, SOME NIGHTS
ARE LIKE THIS ONE

Written 1/21/15

Tuesday night I headed to City Hall in downtown Platte City for a meeting of the economic development subcommittee.

These various Platte City subcommittee meetings, while often newsworthy, are also often very short. This is a reporter’s dream. Give me a meeting that is not time-consuming yet has some news value in it and all is right with the world. It’s a reporter’s version of “tastes great, less filling.”

Tuesday nights are crunch time at weekly newspapers. That’s not a newsman complaining, that’s a newsman giving you some inside skinny into a typical workweek schedule. Despite the 87 other things I needed to be doing at the time, I headed down there anticipating--hoping for is probably a more accurate description--a 30-minute meeting, tops. No such luck. On this night we could forget the less filling part.

We did get to hear a presentation from Bo Woodruff about AMVETS’ fundraising efforts to acquire a tankchair, which is a heavy duty off-road wheelchair. Of course since we featured Bo and this topic on the front page a couple of weeks ago, Landmark readers are well aware of this topic. It sounds like a cool and worthy community project and we certainly hope it is successful.
If you’re wondering how acquiring a tricked out wheelchair for community use winds up being tagged as an economic development discussion, join the club. It did seem like an odd setting for Bo’s fine presentation, but apparently the city leadership believes every potential topic for the full board of aldermen needs to be vetted by some subcommittee. Apparently the economic development committee was the most convenient victim.

The feds are worse but even local government has layers and layers of bureaucracy. I think somewhere this is mandated in the constitution.

While I strongly support the acquisition of the contraption, hope the fundraising effort is successful, and agree the wheelchair would be beneficial to local disabled persons, I would not anticipate a flood of new economic activity being generated because of it.

Next on the agenda for the economic development subcommittee was an item dealing with shredding of older city documents. I don’t want to bore you with details on this, and can’t because I don’t have any. The discussion went something like this: “Blah blah blah, old records, old documents, a lot of old liquor licenses, blah blah blah. Yeah, let’s destroy them.” The end.

Probably a worthy project. I would even help with this. I like to shred stuff. I also like to pop bubble wrap, but that’s another story.

This seemed like another strange item for an economic development focus group. Maybe I’m the silly one here, but I’m not anticipating a flood of economic activity being generated by the committee’s decision to shred old documents.

******

All was not lost. On Tuesday night there was at least one piece of newsworthiness to come out of that hour of our lives that we’ll never get back.

Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt let it be known that the city turns 175 years old in 2015 and there will be some kind of celebration--or at least an observance of some sort--tentatively set for Saturday, July 4. Duly noted.

The mayor also informed the economic development subcommittee that an anchor from the USS Platte, a former fleet oiler vessel, is available to the city. The USS Platte was a Navy vessel that carried cargo and bulk fuel to battle groups. After the mayor’s presentation about the 13-ton anchor from the aptly named USS Platte--which has been out of commission since 1999--being available, the committee recommended the city spend the $3,000 to have the big-ass anchor shipped here from New Orleans. It will require a crane to unload and place the massive object, and Absolute Crane of Platte City can do that for $800, the committee heard.

The mayor indicated the anchor will be placed in the city’s small park next to the Platte River at the foot of Main Street, which has a name but most of us only know it as the small park next to the Platte River at the foot of Main Street.

“And Platte City will be anchored for the next 175 years,” Offutt predicted.

More on this as the big day--and the big anchor--draws near.

*****

A reader called with a great question. “Dear Handsome and Charming Editor, what is the cost of this book by Chris Kamler that you keep pimping? I want to buy a couple of autographed copies at his book signing.”

Okay that might not have been exactly how the question was worded, but you get the drift. It hit me that I didn’t have the answer at the time. Now I do.

Chris Kamler’s book when it comes out in March will cost $18.99. He is selling autographed versions online for $28.99, but maybe he’ll offer them cheaper at the book signing we’re planning to host somewhere in Platte County.

Memo to Chris: I know we haven’t yet set a date for your March book signing in Platte County. Please duly note the dates of the Big 12 Tournament and let’s not schedule your book signing to conflict with those days. I’m planning on having a nasty cold that weekend and will be unavailable.

******

It has been great to have the skills of assistant editor Valerie Verkamp back on The Landmark news beat the past couple of weeks. If you missed her byline there for a bit, it’s because Valerie was enjoying a winter-time tropical vacation to an undisclosed location.

While at the beach, Val was stung by a jellyfish not once but twice. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that her boss back at The Landmark ordered the attack by the squishy fish assassin as some sort of payback for leaving him temporarily overworked.

(Get your Between the Lines fix 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and catch Foley when you can on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or if you still believe in telephones, call him at 816-858-2313)

 


TAXING ENTITIES SHOULD
TAKE NOTE OF ETHICS RULING; COUNTY AUDITOR IN A
BUTT HURT KIND OF MOOD

Written 1/14/15

Occasionally it becomes time to clean out my news notebooks, review those sticky notes attached to my desk and place any news nuggets into this column space before I forget to get them distributed to the fine readers of this newspaper.

This feels like one of those weeks, so we’ll do some of that right now.

******

It will be very interesting to see the “agreement” that the Park Hill School District is signing with the Missouri Ethics Commission after the ethics agency has ruled the school district crossed the line from informational to advocacy during its tax levy increase campaign last spring.

I did get a kick out of the way a Park Hill newsletter distributed last week tried to spin the news that the district had been found in violation. The newsletter worded it this way:

“The Missouri Ethics Commission found that most of the communications the district produced about the levy were informational and did not cross the line into advocacy.”

That’s what you call putting a positive spin on a negative situation. That’s what PR people are paid to do, I suppose.

The school’s newsletter continued:

“When we communicated with the community about the levy, we believed we were carefully following the law about elections, which says we can only use public funds for information, not advocacy.”

And then I found this next sentence very interesting:

“We are grateful that our agreement with the commission provides more guidance for us and for other districts so we can be sure not to make any mistakes.”

The last sentence seems to indicate Park Hill believes other school districts do similar things and haven’t yet been called on the carpet for it by the ethics commission. That may be true but of course that’s not an excuse for crossing the line.

Remember at Platte County R-3 in 2012 when volunteers for the Vote Yes campaign were handing out Vote Yes cards on school grounds in the parking lots at the schools on election day in support of a tax levy increase question? And the Vote Yes committee at that time was also using the Platte County R-3 central office as a collection/drop-off point for their contact lists, etc. R-3 officials at the time told me they didn’t see this as a violation. Something tells me the folks at the ethics commission may have advised them to handle that a little bit differently.

We’ll know more once we’ve seen the “agreement” being penned between the ethics commission and Park Hill, but early indications are school districts should take the Park Hill ruling as a message that they need to be more careful about staying on the “informational” side and not crossing over to “advocacy” side. It’s flat wrong to use taxpayer funds and taxpayer property to campaign for something that not all taxpayers are in favor of, quite obviously. Both the Park Hill levy question and the R-3 levy question were soundly defeated despite the alleged crossing of the line into advocacy.

Let’s see if the lines of separation are a little clearer during the R-3 campaign this spring.

******

Dining options in downtown Platte City have been sliced considerably with the unfortunate closing of Chaz 325 the first of this month. The restaurant, located across from the courthouse, has received decent reviews in community conversation. A sign on the door says that “due to a death in the family” the business is closed until further notice. The sign was posted two weeks ago, which is fueling speculation that the closing might be more than a temporary thing.

******

Kevin Robinson, the county auditor who many sources have confirmed likes to refer to himself as the county’s chief financial officer while he is slurping wine at political events, couldn’t answer my question directly but through some Between the Lines deciphering of Robinson’s code it appears the 1.5% employee pay increase across the board and additional $87,000 to go toward sheriff’s department officers will cost taxpayers about $306,000 in the 2015 budget.

Based on our email exchanges during which he went to great lengths to avoid directly answering any question I asked him, Robinson is in a butt hurt kind of mood. Robinson seems bothered that the county commission’s proposed budget had significant changes from his recommended budget. That must have been a blow to the auditor’s wine-friendly ego. It’s almost as if he’s not really the county’s chief financial officer.

In addition to lowering some of his revenue projections, commissioners went with a 1.5% employee pay hike instead of Robinson’s recommended 3%. This resulted in the auditor’s feelings being hurt and, with his wife still on the county payroll thanks to some friendly DWI prosecutors, also resulted in a 1.5% lowering of Robinson’s potential household income.

For the record, someone might want to give the auditor a memo that, by statute, commissioners are the chief budget officers for the county.

*****

Platte City’s water system is pretty leak-free, comparatively speaking. It was reported at a public works subcommittee meeting last week that the city’s system loses 9% of water. By “water loss” they mean unaccounted for water that leaks out of the system before making its way to customers.

Leaks develop in lines underground in every system known to man.

“Below 10% loss is considered a well-operating system,” DJ Gehrt, city administrator, tells me.
The city will continue to perform a leak check program to reduce the rate of water loss even further, Gehrt indicated.

******

Lt. Al DeValkenaere is observing his sixth year with the Platte City Police Department. The experienced and multi-talented DeValkenaere has had a positive impact on the local police department.

From a media point of view, I can tell you he is easily accessible and transparent with public information, in stark contrast to some previous local police officials who treated public information like it was CIA-classified.

(If you get Between the Lines separation anxiety before next week’s issue hits the streets, head to Twitter.com @ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


CARDS AGAINST
HUMANITY GENERATES
SOME BELLY LAUGHS

Written 1/7/15

How was your New Year’s holiday?

I’m easily entertained, so one of my highlights was a game introduced to me by Kurt Foley, former Landmark facilities manager now Washburn student/Topeka banking magnate. The game is known as Cards Against Humanity. It’s a multiplayer game using cards. It is available as a free download that players can print off to create their own cards and also available to purchase in published hard copy. Being the high rolling banking tycoon that he is, Kurt has the published hard copy. This game is very politically incorrect, so if you are faint of heart or are easily offended this game isn’t for you. If you like to turn a phrase and realize that the game cards are just words on cards not meant to be taken seriously, this game might have you laughing until your sides hurt. It did me.

To start the game, each player draws 10 white "answer" cards. One randomly chosen player begins as the Card Czar, and plays a black "question" card. The Card Czar reads the question out to the group. Each player answers the question by passing one white "answer" card, face down, to the Card Czar. The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers, reads them out loud in a humorous fashion, and picks his favorite. Whoever played that answer gets to keep the Black Card as one Awesome Point. After each round, a new player becomes the Card Czar, and every player draws back up to 10 cards. Hearing the often politically incorrect answers being read aloud is a hoot.

The development of Cards Against Humanity originated from a successful Kickstarter campaign, the same type of campaign our man Chris Kamler used to fund his upcoming book. Cards Against Humanity has received acclaim for its simple concept backed up by its satirical, mature content. Its title references the phrase "crimes against humanity” to reflect the nature of its content.

Again, if you’re easily offended, don’t play this game. If you’re not, you’ll get many laughs. Good times.

******

Our Rambling Moron columnist Chris Kamler has a book coming out, with a tentative release date of early March. His book is titled The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo. As you likely know, the book is centered upon the most recent Royals season--with the incredible post-season that it was--and the adventures of Sungwoo, a resident of Korea and a Royals superfan who made the trip to America to see his beloved team in action. Chris has been kind enough to share a draft of his book with me. Let me confirm a most important bit of news: my name gets mentioned. Which of course means the book is worth purchasing.

Once the book arrives, watch this newspaper for a book signing event The Landmark will help host somewhere in Platte County, with Chris available to put his autograph on books, babies and body parts.

******

For more information about his book, I stole this update Chris Kamler posted on his Facebook page. If you want to stay up to date, follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed or befriend him on Facebook. Here’s the update from the mouth of your favorite Royals book author:

“Hey everybody, I owe you a book update! Well, I just now sent the draft manuscript (even I'm talking like an author now) to the final editor for his final edits. That should be back early next week. Then I give it one final once over and "lock" the book.

“We're also working on the cover art, which should be done in the next couple of days, hopefully.

“Behind the scenes, I'm getting some things like accounts created at Amazon so I can sell the book and some accounting things set up.

“All of this is leading up to a March 1 drop date for the book. I still have to get confirmation for that from the printers - but we are ON TARGET at this point.

“I've had a number of folks read through the mostly finished book. The reviews have been pretty positive so far. There may even be a few laughs and a few tears. (Kind of like the Royals season.)
“I cannot thank everyone enough for their help. From the Kickstarter backers to those of you who have expressed interest in the book when it comes out in March to those of you helping with pictures and artwork and editing. It has taken a village to make this thing and I'm just so blessed to have all of you helping.

“Stay tuned. I'll let you know what the book cover looks like here FIRST.”

******

Parkville hasn’t yet filled its open alderman spot. The board will continue to operate in player down mode for another week or two.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established Doug Wylie as the favorite to get the appointment. We’ll keep you posted.

*****

Giving across-the-board COLAS to government employees is like handing out participation ribbons.

******

Hope you’ve noticed our new columnist, the distinguished Paul Wilson, on page A-3. Paul’s often light-hearted angle is to give you a glimpse of the Weak in Review. Yes, that’s spelled weak. It’s an off the wall look at some of the recent news highlights and lowlights. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Paul is a former Sprint refugee who is now a freelance writer, artist, bon vivant, man about town, consultant to world leaders and, like all Landmark staffers, a friend to the common man. Paul lives in the Kansas City metro area. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

(You can find Foley at 252 Main in Platte City or on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook at facebook.com/ivan.foley, and if he’s getting in touch with his feminine side, on Instagram and Snapchat. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

FOR EARLIER COLUMNS, CLICK HERE.