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Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor



Written 7/22/14

It’s Platte County Fair week, which means the 98 degree high on Tuesday--the fair’s opening day this year--should not have come as a shock to you. Though let’s be fair, the rest of the week Mother Nature appears primed to take it relatively easy on us. Forecasted highs for Wednesday through Saturday are 84, 82, 94 and 91. Not too shabby, all things considered.

And remember how pleasant the weather was during last year’s fair, in particular on that Saturday? It’s like the longstanding tradition of blazing hot temperatures for the fair is in jeopardy. Global warming alarmists take note.

If you’re at the Demo Derby Wednesday night, watch for driver Max Van Fosson taking part in the smash ‘em up thrills in a car proudly sponsored in part by your favorite newspaper. If my memory and my math are correct, this is the third consecutive year Max will be behind the wheel of a derby car with The Landmark’s name on the side. Obviously we’re hoping for a grand showing but the only pressure we’re putting on Max is to survive unscathed. It’s very doubtful the old ‘87 Lincoln he’s driving will escape unscathed, however. Cheer him on.


Things get dangerous for elected officials when they lose a sense of self-awareness. It also gets dangerous when elected officials don’t get out among their constituents, the taxpayers who pay the bills, and interact with the “common folk.” It behooves the elected to get “off campus” on a regular basis, if you will. Losing touch with the people you’re serving is a way to fall out of favor and eventually look silly at the polls.

I say all this with an eye to the Platte County R-3 School Board. They’re all good people. They all want the best for the school district, obviously. There are no bad guys or gals in the bunch. But spending priorities and spending decisions can be examined and fairly critiqued. That’s not personal. That’s how public service works.

Kirby Holden, a patron who came within a whisker of being elected to the board in April, does an effective job of analyzing some R-3 issues in his letter on this page. Spending has increased even though the challenges presented in 2012--including some situations the district painted as immediate challenges at the time--have yet to be addressed. The district is using trailers for classrooms at two schools, though multiple R-3 employees have told me privately they believe some trailers were brought in more for political theater than out of an actual pressing need for space.

Perhaps some hard lessons from the April 2012 tax levy issue have not been learned. The issue was defeated 55-45%. A 10% spread in an election is not close. Some high level school officials and the district’s media puppet at the time immediately blamed the loss on something they termed “outside influences,” as if truckloads of illegal immigrants had been brought up from the Mexican border to vote against R-3’s tax hike. The reality is the reasons for the defeat were very close to home and dealt with things like patrons questioning the priority of recent spending decisions, patrons questioning the size of the proposed tax hike, and patrons questioning the believability of the projected enrollment numbers the district was tossing out at the time (to be fair, the district has come back a little closer to earth in its more recent projections).

School boards typically like to be “team” organizations. That happens at many schools, not just at R-3. Why so many school board members think they have to become a part of “groupthink” instead of analyzing issues for themselves is a concept I don’t understand and never will. School board members were elected individually, not as a group. They should vote and serve constituents the same way. It might not make you the most popular person at the board table, but doing the right thing isn’t always easy or popular.

Accountability and improvement occur when someone is willing to make the comfortable uncomfortable. Based on how close Holden came to getting elected in April, it’s obvious many voters don’t believe that’s happening right now at R-3.


The county’s most heavily watched DWI case has yet to be filed. Mary Robinson, who serves as human resources director for Platte County and is wife of county auditor Kevin Robinson, was arrested at a DWI checkpoint being conducted by the sheriff’s department in Platte City on June 27. Authorities say her blood alcohol content was .174, which is more than twice the legal limit.

As we’ve reported earlier, Eric Zahnd, county prosecutor, said his office would hand that case off to an outside prosecutor to avoid the appearance of any conflict. Judge James Van Amburg has named the office of Cass County Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Hensley to handle the case.

Hensley, I’m told, is chair of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ DWI and Traffic Safety Best Practices Subcommittee and has a good record of innovation and successful prosecution in DWI cases. Robinson has hired Matt Morris, who is a former assistant prosecutor in Zahnd’s office, as her attorney.

The police report is in the hands of the prosecutor. No case has yet been filed but it is not a stretch to say many eyes--inside the county complex and outside-- are glued to see how this one plays out.


You’ll want to check out the latest jail committee story on our front page to stay in tune with that topic. The committee seems zoned in on coming up with a recommendation that calls for using the basement “futures” area of the jail, which is a solid plan considering that was the intended use of the cavernous area when first constructed in the mid 1990s. Of course keep in mind the committee’s scope of power is to make a recommendation. Any course of action will eventually be decided upon by the county commission. Based on many of the discussions I’ve been present for, the committee seems to have little to zero interest in recommending anything similar to the $21 million 315-bed expansion that was proposed by Goldberg Group in conjunction with Weber and Associates after a jail study was completed.

Also of note, and this is important because it could squash any sense of urgency for action, the average daily population of the jail is now at around 120 inmates for the month of July. It peaked at around 150 in October of 2012 and was at around 140 at this time last year but is now on a downward trend, at least for the time being.

This fact provoked a couple of what I think are insightful and interesting comments at Monday night’s meeting. Gordon Cook, a county resident who is not on the committee but who has sat in on many sessions and studied a lot of the numbers, remarked: “You don’t want to build a jail based on spikes (unexplained upticks in average daily population numbers).”

And Jim Roberts, committee chairman, near the end of Monday’s meeting said that when the committee was initially formed he “thought there was a bigger demand quotient” in numbers that would be shown to be driving the push for a major jail expansion.

(It’s 2014 and technology is a great thing for media and the news consumer. Check it out on Twitter @ivanfoley)




Written 7/16/14

Let’s start this week with a tale of two different approaches.

While it appears some opponents at Parkville have likely scared away a potential QuikTrip/McDonald’s joint development proposal near the intersection of Hwy. 45 and Hwy. 9, Platte City is embracing its relationship with QuikTrip and McDonalds--and embracing the sales tax revenue that each creates for the city.

As exclusively reported in The Landmark last week, Platte City has convinced the Missouri Department of Transportation that the state agency should make a priority of a project to significantly improve the intersection of Hwy. 92 and Kentucky Avenue on the back side of QuikTrip and McDonald’s. Platte County Presiding Commisisoner Jason Brown, a former state representative who is no stranger to pressuring MoDOT, also took part in a recent meeting with the state agency, as did some private landowners in the area of the project, including QT officials and McDonald’s owners. The result is that MoDOT has agreed, and construction of an extension of Kentucky Ave. up the back slope behind QT and McDonald’s should happen as early as next spring. It will be a joint project with Platte City, MoDOT, and private landowners participating in a cost-share approach to create a four-way intersection at Hwy. 92 and Kentucky (the intersection near CVS, if you need a reference point).

The immediate benefit will be a relief of some of the major traffic congestion that occurs from the I-29/Hwy. 92 interchange along Prairie View Road in front of McDonald’s and QuikTrip. If you’ve ever been in that area, particularly at certain times of the day, you know what a mess it is.

The future benefits could be fruitful as well. QuikTrip is hinting to city officials that once the interchange is completed, the company is looking at building a bigger and better QuikTrip at that location. Word is QT would keep the existing store in operation during the construction of the new one.

McDonald’s has also hinted to the city that it intends to expand at its current location once the Hwy. 92 and Kentucky Ave. intersection is improved.

Though the traffic congestion at that QT/McDonald’s corner has been a headache, there’s no denying that QT’s presence has been a great economical thing for Platte City. This has happened despite warnings of societal doom and gloom, predictions of the infiltration of hookers (by an opposing media member back in the day) and concerns of an AIDS breakout (a statement by car dealer Sonny Hill back in the day) if the convenience store chain would be allowed to build in Platte City.


Some defining lines have now been clearly drawn in the race for presiding commissioner. On the topic of taxes, Ron Schieber is saying “no new taxes.” Jim Plunkett is saying “I’ll look at all available options.”

Schieber’s “no new taxes” approach in his campaign seems to be resonating with voters, if the letter at right is an indication. It also seems to be irritating someone who does not like Schieber, as many of Schieber’s yard signs have been vandalized the past two weeks. Each time, the vandals have taken aim at the “no new taxes” portion of a Schieber sign.

At any rate, the tax talk sounds like a clear difference between the two leading candidates (Russ Wojtkiewicz is also in the race).

For Schieber, if revenues aren’t matching expenses his approach is to cut expenses. Or, as he has been describing it while on the campaign trail, “belt tightening.”

Plunkett, on the other hand, said at a Pachyderm Club meeting earlier this spring that he would favor raising the property tax levy to pay for the emergency radio system. (By the way, that’s the $10 million expenditure that Plunkett failed to address with a plan for repayment during his previous time on the commission, and instead he promoted the renewal of a half cent park tax that ignored the current and future needs of law enforcement).

Schieber’s comment on taxes at the July 3 Pachyderm Club meeting was this: “I don’t like property taxes. They are only paid by county residents. Under a property tax, people traveling through don’t pay their fair share for services. No, I will not support an increase in the property tax levy. We need to empower employees. If properly led and inspired, they can come up with the cuts that are necessary. We can come up with a way to pay for the $10 million radio system that has been neglected and come up with a way to stabilize the budget and eventually give raises.” He then took it a step further than just opposing a property tax increase by saying “no new taxes.”

Plunkett sounds open to a pretty significant expansion of the county jail. “It is my understanding that Platte County will need to increase its jail size by 200-300 (inmate beds) in the next 10 years,” Plunkett told me in a phone interview last week, without mentioning his source for the “need” for a 200-300 bed expansion. “The important factor is how we would pay for this,” Plunkett said. While indicating again he would look at all available options for funding, Plunkett said he wants to see what the jail committee comes up with in the way of a recommendation.

Schieber, in response to a question about the jail at the most recent Pachyderm meeting, was more specific on the topic. “I believe we’ll eventually need a jail expansion but before we make that decision we need a lot more data. I believe some of the population projections (put out by the county commission earlier this summer) are way overstated. We need to look carefully at this, let the jail committee do their work. At this time I am not convinced the jail expansion is necessary right now.”

As for priorities if elected, Schieber responded this way:

“Restoring trust to the presiding commissioner’s office would be my number one goal. Also, start doing 2-5-10 year budget planning so we’re not in a place where $10 million radio projects are kicked down the road. A restructuring of the sales tax. The people spoke on the parks tax and we need to respect that. But we need to be preparing to restructure that tax in the future so we can pay for what I would consider top priorities like law enforcement. What I can tell you is that if the people of Platte County--if they knew we had a $10 million hole in our budget for something like emergency radios--they would have liked an opportunity to restructure that park tax (when it was renewed in 2009),” Schieber said.

Plunkett, in our phone conversation last week, said his priorities would be “long range financial planning, transparency and accountability.”

As for development issues, both candidates have criticized the handling of the recent Chapel Ridge proposal. Schieber said at Pachyderm Club on July 3 that a forthcoming development proposal for Hwy. 45 and K should be stopped. Plunkett, in response to questions on southplattecountyvoice.blogspot.com from homeowners in that area, has said “If the traffic count would exceed what the road can safely handle, the application must be denied.”

More from the two candidates as the Aug. 5 election draws near.

(To get more Between the Lines between print editions, follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find him on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and at 252 Main St. in downtown Platte City near what someday might be a big-ass prison)



Written 7/9/14

Platte City area residents, here’s a conversation you may have a few years from now when while traveling throughout the region.

Stranger: “So, what part of the state are you from?”

Platte City resident: “Platte City.”

Stranger: “Platte City. I think I’ve been there. Isn’t that the place with the big-ass prison in the middle of its downtown?”

Platte City resident: “Um, yeah.”


Have you ever wondered how the county’s money-losing golf course got its name? The Landmark reported on this in June of 1994 as the course was being constructed. I came across some of information about the early days of Shiloh over the weekend while doing a little office cleaning in anticipation of The Landmark’s 150th anniversary celebration coming this fall.

At the Shiloh Springs construction groundbreaking event, it was announced that none of four entries in a golf course naming contest had been selected. Instead, the name Shiloh Springs was selected by a golf course oversight committee and the county parks board. County officials said the name “Shiloh Springs” derives from the Biblical Shiloh which was a place of relaxation east of Bethel. The golf course is located off of Bethel Road (see what they did there?).

The Biblical connection seems fitting since it would take an intervention of Biblical proportions for Shiloh to ever become a break-even operation.


Another interesting point from June of 1994. The parks board reported that 75 cents of each round of golf played would go to county parks and benefit future projects.

Remember, Shiloh was opened several years prior to the formation of the county’s half cent sales tax for parks. Nowadays, Shiloh milks hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of park tax money each and every year--money that could be spent on other projects more beneficial to the county and residents as a whole.

In a future issue, we’ll have more on Shiloh’s sorry financial situation, its latest annual loss numbers, and its continuous ridiculously-overstated annual operating revenue projections made by current county auditor Kevin Robinson. Robinson is one of the few golfers actively using Shiloh on a regular basis, so if you think you’re catching whiff of a conflict possibly playing into his blue sky projections, you may just be right.


To be graphically and financially accurate, we should print the Shiloh story in red ink.


So the Platte County Pachyderm Club held a candidate debate among the three presiding commissioner candidates Thursday night. Less than 40 people were in attendance, and if you don’t count the candidates themselves, sitting elected officials, current candidates and county employees, that number would drop to less than 30.

This begs a couple of questions, the most obvious being: What the heck has happened to the Pachyderm Club? It hasn’t helped the once vibrant organization that its reputation has become one of being a RINO club, which for those who may not know is an acronym for Republican In Name Only. If it wants to become relevant again, the club needs to shed itself of that reputation. It also could better market itself and better advertise its meetings.

If not, just pull a Todd Akin and shut that whole thing down.


The Pachyderm Club “debate” Thursday turned out to be not as meaningful as it could have been since candidate Jim Plunkett was not present. Plunkett’s absence was explained by his daughter/campaign manager Andrea Plunkett as being due to the fact the daughter of a close family friend had taken seriously ill earlier in the day. So with that out of the way, here are some of the more notable moments that occurred.

•Candidate Russ Wojtkiewicz made a few controversial statements that will likely hurt him at the polls. The first is that he said he favors raising the county property tax levy, while saying he believes a property tax is a fairer taxation system than a sales tax. That seems to go against widespread views on taxation and certainly goes against the position taken by Ron Schieber, who was adamant in that he is not in favor of raising the property tax levy. Schieber took it a step further than just the property tax levy. “No new taxes,” he said.

Plunkett, though not present on Thursday, earlier this spring in answer to a question at a Pachyderm meeting indicated he favors raising the tax levy to pay for the emergency radio system, according to multiple people who were present that night. (A call for Plunkett to get his answers to questions that were posed at Thursday night’s meeting had not been returned by deadline, so stay tuned for that in future issues).

•Wojtkiewicz, speaking about the county’s golf course, let fly with a thought that’s not in tune with history. “We need to decide what to do with Shiloh. I don’t believe it has ever been given a fair shot at being run properly to make a profit.” This statement simply is not accurate. The county has rebooted its approach at Shiloh a couple of times in marketing and management and the golf course continues to lose money--and not just a bit. There is no longer a “let’s give Shiloh a fair shot” in the arsenal. Those attempts at salvation have tried and have failed miserably.

•Ron Schieber said: “I believe this election is about trust. I want to bring trust back to the presiding commissioner’s office.”

On the proposed jail expansion issue:

•Schieber: “Tough issue. I know there’s a committee studying that right now. I believe eventually we’ll need a jail expansion but before we make that decision we need a lot more data. I believe some of the population projections are way overstated. We need to look carefully at this, let the committee do their work. At this time I am not convinced the jail expansion is necessary right now.”

•Wojtkiewicz: “I want us to make sure we have the plans in place for expansion so that a judge in the future does not order the county to start sending prisoners out to another county.”

•Schieber said the recent Chapel Ridge development situation was not handled properly by the county commission, in particular by the presiding commissioner. Schieber also said he believes an upcoming proposal for a mixed-use development near the same area at Hwys. 45 and K should be stopped.

(Don't want to wait for more Between the Lines? Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and Facebook. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or visit 252 Main St. in Platte City)



Written 7/1/14

Today I accidentally tuned to a country radio station. Kinda liked it. I may need an intervention.


Thinking of humbly running a tribute ad to myself. So if you have any comments you’d like to make about myself please send them to myself for publication. But please keep this quiet because I want to surprise myself.


I’m not a park planner, but my untrained park planning eye sees a serious need for some shade at Platte Landing Park. I’m thinking some trees would be a nice addition in phase two.

This is not meant to belittle phase one, which consists of $2 million of tax money spent on a half mile concrete road, a boat ramp and two dog fences.


A loyal Landmark reader in Arizona sent me some interesting information about the cost of fire trucks. This became an issue locally in recent months when the Central Platte Fire District board on a 2-1 vote decided to spend $650,000 on a new pumper truck without even taking bids. Here’s the email from this former Platte County resident:

“Here in Arizona, there was controversy about buying a fire truck in a Phoenix area city. They ended up paying $484,000 for a new truck with bells, whistles, lights, sirens, and about every other option you could imagine. And a lot of people thought $484,000 was too high! But of course the Platte County truck may have beverage service, reclining seats, and some other things that the Phoenix truck doesn’t have.”


In another news update, you’ll recall last week that our front page story by Valerie Verkamp detailed that the Park Hill School District had spent $14,000 on surveys of voters and staff after its tax increase question was overwhelmingly defeated in the April election.

The results of the survey, to no one’s surprise other than to whoever thought a survey was needed, showed the opposition came primarily due to the fact the price tag was too high.

Now we learn of an interesting connection to Patron Insight, the firm Park Hill hired to conduct those surveys with the obvious results.

Remember Dennis Fisher, the former Park Hill superintendent? He’s on staff at Patron Insight.
Fisher, you’ll recall, is the superintendent whose salary/benefits package was actually determined to be much larger than the district had publicly reported. In Jan. of 2013, The Landmark reported Fisher’s total salary/benefits package totaled a whopping $453,968. That’s after the district had been reporting Fisher’s salary at $243,500.

Very interesting. The Patron Insight web site describes Fisher’s position there as “partner, technology guru and avid golfer who sits on a bank board. Another guy who wears a lot of hats, Dennis directs our school services leadership program, Project Lighthouse.”

Jim Dunn, a former administrator at Park Hill, says the connection isn’t a surprise to him.

“I brought this issue up at a board meeting a couple of months ago. I thought it was a little improper that we’re spending district funds to a business that Dennis Fisher works for after such an outrage over the salary we all discovered he was making in his final years. Seems to me that the taxpayers of Park Hill have paid Dennis Fisher enough,” Dunn told me this week.


A group of downtown Platte City merchants, property owners and other interested parties have been meeting in recent months in what is termed a Main Street Committee at the Platte City Chamber of Commerce. Last week’s session focused primarily on the parking challenges downtown, particularly in the Third Street to Fourth Street block of Main and primarily occurring on heavy days for the courtrooms at the Platte County Courthouse.

Several thoughts were cussed and discussed, and as D.J. Gehrt, city administrator explains, there are no easy answers to the problem. Elevated parking near the area would be too expensive. Parking restrictions such as a time limit would come with enforcement expenses and challenges. Building a parking lot too far away from the affected area isn’t going to help because people wouldn’t use it.

The quickest, most helpful step would be for the county to make sure it is being a good neighbor by strongly encouraging its employees--and not just county employees but perhaps more importantly the state employees who work in the court system--to park in the county employee lots or on the side streets.

That approach was brought forward several years ago in discussions at the county level, but I’m not sure the power(s)-that-be inside the courthouse at the time took a fancy to the polite request. Downtown folks are hoping that perhaps now, with a new face or two in key positions, there might be a higher spirit of cooperation in this matter coming from the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center.


Some informal discussion at the downtown meeting centered on the county’s proposal to triple the capacity of the jail located on the county’s complex. Um, not a popular proposal with the Main Street minds.

Going from a 150-bed jail to a nearly 500-bed jail is quite an increase in scope. In addition to some additional tangible challenges that could arise from it, the mood seemed to be “Who wants downtown Platte City to be known as the home to a massive-sized jail?”

As one attendee remarked: “150 beds is a jail. 500 beds is a prison.”

It’s tough to disagree.

(Agree or disagree with the publisher on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also argue with Foley in his downtown Platte City office or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Or catch him listening to country radio)


Written 6/25/14

Welcome back to another episode of Between the Lines. This one was written while trying to recall what Jason Grill’s occupation was before he became an Internet-funded sock maker.


Running shorts are the new yoga pants.


Most of the guy readers are going “right on!” while some of the female readers are thinking “what the heck is he talking about?”


Park Hill School District spent $14,000 on surveys that showed the main reason their laptop levy failed miserably is that patrons thought it was too steep a price to pay. Most of us could have told them that for free.


The grand opening for Platte Landing Park on Saturday was a good time.

Platte Landing Park is a three word phrase for “a long concrete road to a boat ramp and dog park.”


I am entertained by the fact some local bureaucrats who have supported every local sales tax, no matter how ill-conceived or short-sighted for the county, are now on social media fighting the proposed statewide transportation sales tax.

I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m not saying they’re right. Just saying it is entertaining to watch.

Grab your popcorn.


This week’s meeting of the jail advisory committee was less intense than last week’s, which resembled an episode of Cops.

One of more enlightening moments came early on. Beverlee Roper, first district commissioner, was present to hand the committee a scare tactic report from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office. Nixon is putting out information sheets that predict Platte County would lose $2.8 million in annual sales tax revenue if some “tax cut” legislation takes effect. Of course Roper never took the time to question any of the info being spread by the Democrat governor in response to Republican-led legislation. That would require anti-bureaucratic behavior, which I’m not sure is in Roper’s DNA. Instead, Roper let fly with this quote, auditioning for an Oscar: “This causes a breathlesss moment in the hearts and minds of county commissioners.”

Oh, my. Hold me.

Fortunately, State Rep. Ken Wilson was present. He advised Roper and the committee to be “guarded” and “cautious” and “skeptical” of the governor’s numbers. “It’s politics. The governor is going to stand behind his numbers until the veto session is over,” Wilson said.

A member of the committee then asked Roper what the county’s total budget is. “I don’t know off the top of my head” was Roper’s response. Another question from a member of the committee was asked of Roper. What’s the county’s operating budget? “I wouldn’t guess. Gordon Cook probably knows.”

This would be funny if it weren’t sad. OK, it’s still funny.

Gordon Cook, by the way, is an accountant who lives in Parkville. Landmark readers are familiar with his name because he has penned many spot-on letters to the editor in The Landmark about financial matters involving various taxing agencies, including the county and city of Parkville. Roper, in her campaign in 2012, communicated with Cook about financial matters involving the county. Based on the way Roper’s liberal method of governing has not matched her conservative campaign message, my guess is that the two are no longer politically close, but that’s not important to the point of this story. Cook was at Monday night’s meeting.

Cook, as usual, was correct with his information when Roper’s lack of knowledge concerning the most important job function for a county commissioner (the budget) forced her to deflect attention to someone else. Cook said: “Do you mean aggregate budget? Around $60 million.”

Boom. It’s $62 million, to be technically correct, as Cook later pointed out, but the point is Cook’s answer was right on target. Roper, the person taxpayers are paying $65,000 annually to know such things, was clueless to even render a guess.

That’s embarrassing. It’s another example of how those of us who pushed Roper’s campaign in 2012--and yes, I’m in that group--made a mistake by doing so.


In our front page story, you’ll see that previous county commissions haven’t always been respectful of the area known as “futures” in the jail. Basically, “futures” is the jail basement that was the targeted area for growth when the current jail would be ready for expansion. You know, like say, about now.

So what have previous county commissions with Betty Knight and cohorts at the helm done with “futures?” They’ve used it as storage space for loads of county documents from a variety of county offices. And years ago they made the decision to put the HVAC equipment for the upstairs jail housing unit in there.


Not exactly some long-term thinking.

Other than in planning for an abundantly expansive system of parks and trails, not a whole lot of significant thought went into long-term planning with long-term funding solutions in the Betty Knight years for the county. Look no further than the challenges facing county law enforcement in regard to emergency radio debt and the treatment of the “futures” area of the jail to see evidence of that.

Thanks for reading.

(Follow Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or find him with boots on the ground in the office he owns at 252 Main St. in historic downtown Platte City)



Written 6/18/14

If you follow me on our social media outlets of Twitter and Facebook (and if you don’t, you’re missing out on getting the entire Landmark experience), you know that The Landmark’s distribution specialist Jesus Lopez-Gomez recently was in New York City. He and his girlfriend were there for an audition to appear on the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A great time was had, by all accounts, in the Big Apple. But an Elvis impersonator was awarded the gig.

To be clear, Jesus and his girlfriend still have desires to be millionaires, it’s just that if it happens it won’t be because of the game show.


A former educator emailed me with an interesting observation. He says the Platte County High School non-faculty coach charged with murder should be a shocking wake-up call for school administrators to pressure faculty members into filling assistant coach positions. The point being that a faculty staff member who serves as an assistant coach is more easily held accountable than a non-faculty assistant coach who just strolls into the school for practices and games and has not been “vetted” with the practice teaching experience, all those courses on educating the child “which I normally deride as merely a test of a candidate’s patience,” the former educator writes. The thought is that a non-faculty assistant coach might have the attitude of “who gives a flip if I behave inappropriately, it’s not like my whole career/future is at stake.”

In encouraging faculty to serve as assistant coaches the approach could be “You will make yourself more valuable to the district,” this former educator maintains. Or raise the stipend paid to assistants to make the assistant positions more attractive to faculty members, he says.

All good points. And surely R-3 and other schools are doing appropriate and thorough background checks into their non-faculty assistants, at least we hope.

Something to think about.


There’s some awkward and amusing irony in the fact the committee assigned to come up with a recommendation on the future of the Platte County Jail got into a loud and angry dispute among themselves right in front of three law enforcement officers (see front page story).

Maybe they wanted to give the sheriff a reason to increase the average daily jail population.

Or maybe they wanted to extend the jail tour to a longer term event.

More likely they’re strong personalities struggling with how to play nice with others.


I’m not a big fan of tax abatements but I am a big fan of the fact the old Ramada Inn hotel west of I-29 near Tiffany Springs will be renovated into luxury apartments.

Back in the day it was a prime spot. But for a few years now the place has looked like the Bates Motel.


Following up on last week’s column topic in regard to projected population in Platte County. You’ll remember, Beverlee Roper, county commissioner, recently preached to the jail committee that the “city of KC anticipates 80,000 people in the next 15 years will be moving to Platte County” thanks to sewers going into what is known as the Second Creek Watershed area. Then Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, tried to trump her by saying “over the course of the next 15 years there could be as many as 90,000 people living in that area south of I-435, east of I-29 and west of Hwy. 169.”

Here in Between the Lines, we’ve been known to be a bit skeptical about blue sky projections. It is the duty of the watchdog press, after all, to be skeptical in the appropriate situations--which is almost any situation. So for two weeks we’ve been trying to confirm that these blue sky numbers were really being putting out by the city of KC.

Answers finally came this week when I spoke with Kyle Elliott, the Northland planner for the city of Kansas City. Elliott’s department views the Northland as one land mass and doesn’t specifically break down projections in Clay and Platte separately. But here is what he clarified. Kansas City projects that when total buildout has occurred in the areas known as the First Creek Watershed and the Second Creek Watershed, the population in those areas could be 85,000 to 90,000.

“That’s at total buildout, with every last piece of land built,” he said.

So what time frame are we looking at for total buildout? Elliott’s answer was “30-50 years.”
And, mind you, not all of that is in Platte County, Elliott confirmed for me. “The majority of the First Creek Watershed is in Clay County and the majority of the Second Creek Watershed is in Platte County,” he explained.

To be fair, let’s point out that Second Creek is by far the larger of the two watersheds. There are 9,900 acres in Second Creek primarily in Platte County, 4,600 acres in the First Creek primarily in Clay County.

Most of the development in those areas--an estimated 75 percent or more-- will be residential, planners say.

To summarize, here’s the bottom line: The projections spoken by county commissioners at the June 2 meeting do not match the projections that the city of KC Northland planner is on record as saying.

The differences are: 1. The commission was taking the combined projected population growth for areas in Platte and Clay and indicating it was all going to happen in Platte; and 2. More importantly, the commissioners had the timeframe at 15 years while city of Kansas City officials are on the record as saying the timeframe is 30-50 years.

Huge difference.

Clip and save this column.

(Between the Lines is open 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or visit him at 252 Main St. in historic downtown Platte City)



Written 6/13/14

Happy Father’s Day. Who’s your daddy?


One of the best pieces of news this week? Dumb and Dumber 2 starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels will be in movie theaters in November.

Count me in.


You know those security questions you sometimes get when setting up accounts on certain web sites? They throw out questions they’ll ask you in case they ever need to verify your identity or password, etc. For the ‘name your favorite movie,’ my choice is always Dumb and Dumber.

Just throwing that bit of information out there. Now you hackers--you know who you are, don’t make me name names--have a head start.


By the way, you can watch the movie trailer for the new Dumb and Dumber right here: http://screencrush.com/dumb-and-dumber-2-trailer-jim-carrey-jeff-daniels/


Thinking of starting a new monthly feature that we’ll call “Shopping with the fire board.”
In that feature, we’ll highlight the needless items the Central Platte Fire District has decided to purchase that particular month. As one observer noted in an email to me: “They always seem to be ‘needing’ something whether they really ‘need’ it or not.”

Well stated.

This month’s “we don’t really need it but we need it” item is backup pager(s). Find the article by Stephanie Eaton in this issue.


After handing out information to the nine-member jail advisory committee that included what appear to be some wildly over-the-top population projections early last week, county officials were backing off those numbers a few days later. Well, at least the sheriff’s department has backed off of them. “We believe the more conservative projections using past population trends to be the more accurate figure,” Cpt. Erik Holland said on Thursday at another meeting of the jail committee. Some jail committee members had called BS on earlier population figures presented to them. Those projections--get this--estimated the county’s population will increase by 183,750 people over the next 10 years. You read that correctly. The jail study said: “Due to increased housing developments, it is projected that Platte County will experience an increase of 75,000 households in the next 10 years. This would result in a population increase of 183,750 over 10 years or an average of 18,375 per year. This represents a population growth of approximately 287.5 percent over 10 years or an average annual population growth of 28.75%.”

Good grief. How ridiculous. Adding in the 92,000 population the county has now, that projected growth would mean a population of 275,000 in Platte County in the year 2024. Where would these people be coming from? And where are they going to work?

By Thursday, the sheriff’s department was ready to dial down the rhetoric and get more realistic with the committee. It handed out another version of its consultant-driven jail study that said this: “The U.S. Census Bureau shows the county annual population growth at less than 2%. While there is some speculation regarding community population growth, there was no immediate data available that would indicate a significant increase in population.”

When pressed by the committee for an answer, Cpt. Holland said the conservative “less than 2%” annual growth rate is the version he and Sheriff Mark Owen believe to be more accurate.


I haven’t yet checked in with the county commissioners to see if they are ready to backtrack from the nutty numbers they were spewing at the initial jail committee meeting on June 2. As reported here last week, county commissioners sounded higher than a kite. “The city of Kansas City anticipates 80,000 people in the next 15 years will be moving to Platte County, in addition to the 92,000 we have now,” Beverlee Roper, first district commissioner, told the jail committee. Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, took it even further. “Over the course of the next 15 years there could be as many as 90,000 people living in that area south of I-435, east of I-29 and west of Hwy. 169.”

Really? Did the city of Kansas City really say that? Is anyone at the city of Kansas City actually making those kinds of projections for the Platte County area of what is known as the Second Creek Watershed?

This week, your intrepid Between the Lines columnist took his search for answers to the city of Kansas City. The answer? I can’t find anyone there who wants to own that claim. At least not yet. My request for information is now in the hands of Chris Hernandez, the deputy director of communications for the city manager’s office in KC. On Wednesday morning as The Landmark headed to press, Hernandez, a respected former television journalist, said he was still trying to track down any pertinent information in regard to population projections and will be getting back to me.

What we can tell you with certainty is that the Kansas City Business Journal in 2012 quoted city of Kansas City officials as saying this: “The city estimated that the Shoal Creek area and the First and Second Creek Watersheds combined could draw an additional 75,000 to 100,000 residents during the next 50 years.”

Oops. Note the differences. First, the Business Journal reports the city of KC as saying the First and Second Creek Watersheds combined could attract 75-100k. The First Creek Watershed is in Clay County, we’ve been told. Only the Second Creek Watershed is in Platte County. Secondly--and this is the most important difference--the Business Journal reports the city of KC says that combined growth will occur over the next 50 years. That’s five-zero. Not the next 10 years. Not the next fifteen years. The next fifty years.

That is a long, long way from the fuzzy math that the three county commissioners were spewing last week.

So what happened? How did the county commissioners get so far out there in embarrassingly deep water with these projections? Was somebody at the county told the phrase “50 years” but incorrectly heard it as “15 years?” And did someone at the county mistakenly believe all the watershed growth is projected to be in Platte instead of shared with Clay?

Hard to say but it would be wise for the county commission to get a grip on this and get some realistic numbers. On Wednesday morning, Hernandez, the communications guru from the city of KC, sounded genuinely concerned when he asked me if Platte County is conducting all of its planning off the “90,000 population growth over the next 10-15 years” figure the commissioners are touting.

That’s a question only the county commissioners can answer at this point.

Let’s see what happens next.

(See what happens next on Twitter @ivanfoley or follow Foley on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube)



Written 6/4/14

I attended the first meeting of Platte County’s jail advisory committee Monday night. This nine-member citizen committee, as you know by now, was appointed by the county commission to study future needs for the county jail and law enforcement center. A recent study recommended the county add what sounds like a whopping 315 beds to the county’s current 153 bed capacity. Doing the math, that would mean a 468-bed jail in the heart of Platte City.

At its initial meeting, the committee first heard some remarks from county officials, including the three commissioners, the sheriff, the prosecutor, and a couple of Platte County Circuit Court judges. It took less than 20 minutes for the boogeyman to be identified. You might be surprised to learn the boogeyman isn’t human. The boogeyman is the notorious Second Creek Watershed.

“As we speak, there are sewers being put in what’s called the Second Creek Watershed off of Hwy. 169,” said Beverlee Roper, first district commissioner. “The city of Kansas City anticipates 80,000 people in the next 15 years will be moving to Platte County, in addition to the 92,000 we have now.”

Fellow commissioners Jason Brown and Duane Soper jumped right in. It was a full court press that more than hinted big time population growth--basically double the current population--is coming to Platte County in a short amount of time. Brown, normally the most level-headed of the three commissioners when it comes to sorting through potential BS, took it a step further than Roper.

"Over the course of the next 15 years there could be as many as 90,000 people living in that area south of I-435, east of I-29 and west of Hwy. 169. A city the size of Gladstone will be jammed into that area,” Brown said.

Uh, oh. When politicians talk like this, it’s time to grab your wallet.

If you’re thinking you’ve heard this before it’s because you’ve heard this before. The same types of things were being said about the I-29 corridor when KCI Airport was built in the early 1970’s. It was nearly 20 years later before growth of any significance started to occur.

And remember a few years ago when Platte County R-3 was planning its tax levy increase vote that was eventually hammered by voters? School officials at that time were using this Second Creek Watershed boogeyman approach. Some wild enrollment projections--projections that have since been tapered quite a bit by the school district itself--were being tossed around with this Second Creek Watershed getting the credit/blame for the anticipated astronomical growth.

“That area is almost all in the Platte County R-3 School District. It will likely mean a second high school,” Brown said. Soper, apparently auditioning to be the next Mike Reik, took it a step further. “If not a third high school,” Soper quickly interjected.

Oh, my. Hold me. I’m nearly frightened to the point of wetting myself. I mean, with the population of Platte County about to double, the committee should immediately vote to recommend building the biggest, most bad-ass jail that taxpayer money can by and then adjourn so the county can get started on this pronto, am I right?


And county officials made it clear this isn’t just about a place to keep the bad guys. The good guys need more room to, they told the panel. The committee was told the prosecutor’s office has no remaining space. And, the committee was told it won’t be long until another division needs to be added to Platte County Circuit Court, which currently has five judges but we’re being told that a need for a sixth could be on the horizon. It was stated that in the next five to 10 years there will be a need for a sixth judge/sixth division in Platte County Circuit Court (see our front page article for more on this).

If you’re thinking you’ve heard that before it’s because you’ve heard that before. I’ve covered a few political rodeos. I was first told that Platte County would “soon” be needing a sixth judge way back in 1995. That was 19 years ago.

Nothing in this approach is really surprising. This often happens when political entities appoint citizen committees. There is an end result that the politicians want to reach. The committee is expected to help get them there and to give them a political crutch to lean upon. It’s fun to watch.


In a few words, Between the Lines can summarize for you what it means that the county commission has “restored” the county property tax ceiling to 35 cents: Basically nothing. At least not yet.

Don’t be confused into thinking Monday’s action, which was taken as a result of some paperwork snafus committed by the county on documents submitted to the state auditor’s office over the course of the past three years, affected your tax bill. An entity’s taxing ceiling is not the same thing as its actual tax rate. The county’s action this week restored its tax ceiling, it did nothing to affect the rate of taxation you’re paying on real estate and property. But this is where the “at least not yet” comes in.

The county tax rate, currently at one cent, is established by the county commission every September. Until Monday’s action, the commission did not have the authority to raise the current one cent levy even if it so desired. Monday’s action gives the county commission some flexibility to increase the property tax rate in September, which I’m guessing is an attractive option to at least two county commissioners. Bob Shaw, county counselor, estimates that once all recoupment and reductions to the ceiling are completed under the state’s formula for doing so, the county’s tax ceiling will settle somewhere between three cents and 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
If that’s the case, then in September the county commission will have the ability, if it so desires, to raise your property tax rate anywhere from one cent to the 3-10 cent range.


One not-so-fun note to report this week. The Landmark’s longtime spokesdog Buddy--an 18-pound purebred West Highland White Terrier occasionally referenced in this column, featured in a few cartoons drawn by Matthew Silber and who even had his own Twitter account--died this week.

The Bud Man, an 18-pound Westie, had taken up residence with daughter Alyssa and her husband Todd in St. Joseph shortly after their marriage last summer. Buddy was killed in an attack by a pit bull while on a walk with Alyssa and Todd several blocks from their home Monday afternoon. Buddy was on a leash for his walk and in fact was being held by Todd after the couple could see the pit bull approaching in a sprint that started more than a block away. Buddy was ripped from Todd’s arms by the pit bull while Alyssa grabbed and held the couple’s other dog, an Australian Shepherd puppy. The important thing is that no humans were seriously hurt in the attack. Buddy died a hero.

Buddy was 14 in human years, which according to the dog age calculator for Westies at Pedigree.com, made him about 72 in human years. His hearing had slipped a bit and he couldn’t make leaps onto beds and couches with ease like he used to back in the day, but generally he was in good health.

The owner of the pit bull has been cited by St. Joseph officials for not having tags for the dog, no leash, expired shots, bite of a human, and destruction of a domestic animal. Animal control officials tell us the pit bull has been classified as a vicious animal, for what it’s worth.

RIP Buddy.

(Rest in peace 24/7 while checking Twitter @ivanfoley)




Written 5/28/14

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally seen as the unofficial start of summer. That being the case, it’s time to look ahead to what you can look forward to on the local news scene in the summer of 2014.

The number one summer story, I’m guessing, will turn out to be the three-person race for the Republican nomination for presiding commissioner of Platte County. This race will decide who serves as presiding commissioner for the next four years starting Jan. 1, 2015 as there are no Democrats on the ballot (color me shocked).

In the field, as you know, are Jim Plunkett, a former two-term second district county commissioner who had a solid first term as a fiscal conservative but whose second term took some strange twists and turns; Ron Schieber, a state representative who like Plunkett has a record that can be scrutinized by opponents and by voters looking to decide which way to lean in this race; and Russ Wojtkiewicz (pronounced Walk-a-Witz), who can lay a pretty solid claim to being the most fiscally conservative of the bunch, particularly since, unlike the other two, he has no past political voting record at which arrows can be slung.

Should be a fascinating campaign. We’ll stay on top of it for you.


Another interesting news development you’ll be reading a lot about this summer will be the meetings of the county’s jail advisory committee. This nine-person board will begin meeting next week to start studying the needs and options available to the county as it looks to the future of the existing jail facility. Some of the names of the folks who were chosen to serve on the committee are not well known commodities, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means the public won’t know what to expect. I was excited to see the names of three people tagged to be on the committee who can safely be described as fiscal conservatives and independent thinkers. Those three folks are Dagmar Wood, Jacque Cox and Jeff Watson. All three are intelligent and have excellent critical-thinking skills and will be confident in their own abilities. You won’t see any pressure from the powers-that-be influencing these folks, I’m fairly confident of that.


The good folks on the jail advisory committee are going to have to wade through the waters of varying agendas from officeholders at the county level. The committee’s aim should be to sift through the BS that’s going to be tossed its way--just like there is in all such committee endeavors, see the Platte County R-3 community committee as a most recent example--and decide to recommend what is best for the county and its taxpayers as a whole.

The best way to approach it would be to tackle it this way: When it comes to a county jail/judiciary facility, let’s find out what the county needs are for now and into the foreseeable future. Let’s not be led by what some county officeholders wants are for now and into the foreseeable future.

Recognizing the difference between wants and needs will be the most important assignment for the committee in this process.

Let’s watch it unfold.


Downtown Platte City. There’s no law that says the sidewalks have to be rolled up every night and every weekend.

Do you enjoy live music? Better question, do you enjoy live music by Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders?

You’re in luck. The best place to catch Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders doing their thang and yes, I just said thang, might be in historic downtown Platte City.

Outlaw Jim and his Benders will be performing in beautiful downtown Platte City twice in the coming months. The first time is just around the corner. On Saturday, June 28, an event being dubbed Platte City Main Street Days will take place that day and into the evening, with the Pool Hall as the driving force.

And as we’ve mentioned before, Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders will be back in downtown Platte City to serve as your live entertainment on Friday, Oct. 3 when Scott Campbell Law Office and The Landmark Newspaper team up for a downtown hootenanny. Scott has dubbed our event The 3/150, which are numbers to note his law office’s third year on Main Street and The Landmark’s 150th year of publication. There will be music, food and beverages available that night, and other stuff that will be dreamed up as we go along.

But back to the Pool Hall’s June 28 event. The day begins with motorcycle ‘poker run’ as a fundraiser for the Platte City Police Department’s Shop with a Cop program. Kickstands go up at 1 p.m. and the ride will include stops at Chaz 325 restaurant, Worth Harley Davidson, the Bunk House, Trex Mart and back at the Pool Hall. You must register by June 14. Call Sarah at 816-858-9989 for more details.

Enjoy some safe family fun on Main Street from 3-6. The street will be blocked off, because if it weren’t it would mean unsafe family fun. Activities will include kids karaoke, hot rods, a dunk tank, a bike wash, sno-cones, popcorn, a bounce house for kids and those who want to be kids, plus the Platte City Pool will be open to the public for a free swim. Shops on Main Street will be open as well.

That evening, from 8-11, Outlaw Jim and his gang will crank out music so good it should be against the law. A 50/50 raffle will be held, with the drawing on stage at 9 p.m. You’ve got to be present to claim the cash.

Come have some fun this summer and fall in downtown Platte City.


By the way, surprise. You may have noticed this issue of The Landmark came at you a day earlier than normal. You probably shouldn’t get used to that.

(You can get used to Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find Foley on Facebook, on Instagram, on Snapchat, and on YouTube. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, phone him at 816-858-0363, or harass him in person at 252 Main Street, Platte City. Or all of the above.)



Written 5/21/14

We go for years without talking about the locations of police stations. Suddenly this week it’s appropriate to talk about two at the same time.

Days appear to be numbered for the old black and yellow Kansas City Police Department North Patrol headquarters building along Barry Road. The unique coloring of the structure made it kind of an eye-catcher on a trip to Metro North, back when a trip to Metro North was a thing.

The building, located just across the county line into Clay County, is 38 years old and the KCPD says it has outgrown the structure, and the department says there are other problems with the building, outlined in Valerie Verkamp’s front page story.

So, the North Patrol station, affectionately known by some as the “bumblebee station” for its paint colors, will be replaced. What happens to the city-owned old structure once the police make the move will be up to the City of Kansas City, obviously.

The location choice for the North Patrol’s new headquarters was determined on Tuesday. KCPD folks tell The Landmark the chosen site is in Platte County near the airport, at the 112th Street exit along Interstate 29. The new police station will be constructed on the west side of the interstate not far from a Kansas City fire station.

A goal for the KCPD is to have the station in a highly visible location to the public. I can’t yet picture how ‘highly visible’ that site will be to the general public, but perhaps another creative paint job will make it that way.

My guess is some of the hoteliers in the KCI Airport corridor, who have at various times suffered through sprees of parking lot crimes, will appreciate the fact the North Patrol station will be in their neck of the woods.

Kansas City has indicated its target construction cost for the new station is $9 million. Completion, we’re being told, should occur in 2016.


Meanwhile, do you like the Platte City Police Department being located on Main Street? Whether you do or you don’t, get used to it. It sounds like the department isn’t going anywhere for a while.

No, don’t expect the Platte City Police Department to be back in its former space inside the Civic Center anytime soon. In fact, it could be quite a while yet until the city has a solution to that part of the building, which was evacuated by the department after radon gas was detected and structural problems were uncovered. “There is no inexpensive and quick way to get (the police department) back in the Civic Center,” D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, said recently at a public safety committee meeting. “The floor joists are not structurally sound. All the interior walls are going to have to come out.”

So, the city will be extending the current lease it holds on its temporary location at the corner of Fourth and Main for another year--at least. Don’t be surprised if the department’s stay on Main lasts longer than that.

“It’s functional, but it’s very, very crowded there,” Gehrt said.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Carl Mitchell, police chief, chimed in.


Remember to send in your memories of any person, place, event, or thing in Platte County over the past 150 years in an email to us for publication in our soon-to-appear Landmark Memories section. Writers whose entries are chosen for publication will receive a commemorative Landmark coffee mug noting the newspaper’s first 150 years.

As of this writing, we have already received a couple of submissions that you’ll be seeing in print soon in a special section of the paper. For those who appreciate local history, the feature will make for interesting reading.


Mark Harpst has been hired as interim superintendent at West Platte. This could mean Mike Reik is next in line for the job there.

Seems more likely than at Liberty, anyway.


Looking for a Memorial Day event to attend?

Olin Miller, cemetery sexton and organizer of the annual event, says there will again be a program sponsored by VFW Post 4055 and the City of Platte City at the Platte City Cemetery. The program will be held at the corner of Fourth Street and North Street at the main entrance to the cemetery. The program will start at 10 a.m. on Monday May 26. Ret. Colonel Thomas Wakefield of Platte City will be the speaker. Others participating will be Boy Scout Troop 351, VFW Post 4055 and Mayor Frank Offutt. Also, the Platte City Lions Club will be hosting a pancake and sausage breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. on the opposite corner.

The local VFW Post, with the assistance of the Lions Club and descendants of the veterans, will install approximately 425 American flags to honor the veterans buried in the Platte City Cemetery.


The Landmark this week announces this year’s winner of The Landmark English Award. The $250 cash prize from the newspaper is given annually to the top English student at Platte County R-3 High School. The winner is chosen by a faculty panel at the school.

This is the 33rd consecutive year The Landmark has presented the award. This year’s winner is Sam Danley. In addition to the $250, Sam has been presented with a certificate--suitable for framing--that includes the notorious autograph of your Landmark publisher.

Here is the complete list of winners, from first to most recent:

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.

(Stay Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, phone 816.858.0363, or catch personal appearances at 252 Main St., Platte City)




Written 5/14/14

This issue of The Landmark marks a notable event for the newspaper and for anyone with an interest in and appreciation for local history.

It’s Volume 150, Issue Number One of this newspaper. That means this issue marks the start of The Landmark’s 150th year of continuous publication.

Obviously I have a biased interest in this topic, but 150 years of never missing a week cranking out an issue chronicling the events of Platte County seems pretty darn impressive. Keeping in mind The Landmark began publication at a very volatile time in our nation’s history--just a few short months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln--can you imagine all the outside challenges that had to be overcome to keep the uninterrupted publication streak alive? World wars never stopped The Landmark. Civil unrest never stopped The Landmark. The Depression and other periods of economic downturns never stopped The Landmark. Weather never stopped The Landmark. Equipment breakdowns. Illness among staff. The list of challenges could go on and on.

Despite all the challenges, for a century and a half an issue of The Landmark has been served to a consuming public each and every week. I’m going to say that’s not too shabby.

One hundred fifty years. And we’re not even tired.


It would not be technically correct to call this The Landmark’s 150th “birthday.” Remember, birthdays begin 12 months into your life. Humans are not one on the day you are born. In contrast, newspapers are one when born (Volume 1), not zero. The paper won’t be “150 years old” until a year after the 150th anniversary of its founding. Confusing, perhaps, but accurate.

What this occasion marks is the beginning of The Landmark’s 150th year. It is the 150th anniversary of the paper’s founding.

Not surprisingly, we already have a plan in place for the 150th “birthday” 12 months from now. We think you’ll enjoy it.


We hope you’ll take a few moments to read the compilation of the 150-year history of The Landmark in this issue. We’ve scanned in a few pictures of The Landmark building, its people, and its special events. The quality of the reproduction of a scan might not be as sharp as it would be if using the original photos--but as you might imagine it’s tough to find original photos from 100 or more years ago. Later this week we’ll be posting the story and historical photos on our web site at plattecountylandamrk.com.

The scanned photos, I feel certain, will be sharper on your computer than they are on newsprint.

One of my favorite photos we’ve scanned and used on the front page is the one taken around 1900 of the interior of The Landmark. Except for the pot belly stove, much of that interior has not changed, am I right? I can even identify a type case cabinet or two in that photo that is still in our office today. Very cool.

A variety of sources assisted in putting together the telling of the story of The Landmark. One of the best sources I came across was the Centennial Edition of The Landmark published in 1965 by Lucile Jones and family, longtime owners of the newspaper. A historical account in that issue didn’t contain a specific byline, but at the end of the story was a long dash with the initials D.P.J.

Knowing members of the Jones family, it seems safe to assume D.P.J. is Dorothy Pauline Jones, a daughter of Lucy. Dorothy is also pictured as being a member of The Landmark office staff in 1965.
Another source of information for us is the Missouri State Historical Society in Columbia. A recent phone call to their office put me in touch with a very helpful reference specialist by the name of Erika Van Vranken, who went above and beyond. She found the earliest copy of The Landmark that the state has on file. It is the Jan. 5, 1866 issue. Volume I, Number 14. That means it was the 14th issue of The Landmark to be circulated. I had hoped to come across the very first, but. . . 14th is a nice consolation.

By the way, if any of you have a copy of the very first Landmark dated Sept. 28, 1865 lying around the house, contact me and we’ll make a deal.

Anyway, Erika at the Missouri State Historical Society deserves a promotion or a pay raise or both. After she wasn’t happy with the way the 1866 issue scanned, she took it to another level. “Today I tried scanning the Landmark newspaper pages on a different machine and I’m much happier with the results. Although, as the newspaper was some 130 years old at the time it was filmed (onto microfilm in the 1990s), the images are not at all perfect,” she wrote to me. She then scanned all foru pages of that Jan. 5, 1866 issue at 600 dpi and attached large file images.

In a future issue of The Landmark, we will be printing all four pages of that 1866 issue on a full size page. We think you’ll enjoy reading many of the items and compare the writing styles and news of the day to modern day journalism. Fascinating stuff. So stay tuned for that in a future issue, thanks to our friends at the Missouri State Historical Society.


The Landmark very much appreciates and thanks Frank Offutt, mayor of Platte City, for issuing an impressive proclamation declaring May 14, 2014 as Landmark Day in Platte City. We will display the proclamation--which is not your normal 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper but rather a professionally framed 19” x 25” document that we will display with pride in the historic Landmark office.

Offutt is a lifetime Platte City resident who appreciates local history as much as anyone, making the proclamation even more meaningful. We returned the nice gesture as quickly as we could by presenting the mayor with a Landmark 150th Anniversary coffee mug.

You’ll soon see photos of the exchange, which could be called Monday Morning with the Mayor, on my Facebook page and perhaps on our website as well.


While penning The Landmark history I needed no sourcing help from 1979 to present day. That was written from firsthand experience.

The photos from the 1979 open house where the sale of the paper by Lucy Jones to my dad, Dwayne Foley, bring back some memories for me. Again, the original photos are nowhere to be found, so we scanned in the newspaper copy and have printed those scanned photos on page A-7 of this issue.

I was a 16-year-old high school kid who skipped classes that afternoon to attend that Landmark event. Other than Mrs. Jones and Roland Giffee, Landmark pressman, when that afternoon began I knew no one else in the room. It was my first time meeting the now legendary Mayor Truman Glenn. I remember meeting Laverne Taulbee, local historian who is now my Facebook buddy, for the first time on that day. I don’t remember being introduced to him on that day, but Judge Lee Hull was also on hand, as he presented a retirement gift to Giffee. Also, I recall meeting banker Wells Hull, one of the few local folks my dad had the opportunity to get to know well in his short time here.


A future column will share some of my memories of the two men who have influenced the current Landmark style of journalism. The two men were very different personalities, to put it mildly, with very contrasting approaches to this business, but I learned different traits from each and incorporated a bit of each of their styles into my own. I have a picture of each of them on the bookshelf next to my desk and try to take a few seconds each day to look them in the eye, because it’s important to never forget your roots. Those men are my dad, who passed away when I was 17, and veteran newsman Clay McGinnis, who became a fatherly-influence when I showed up for work here at The Landmark two years later.

In the meantime, we’ll keep cranking out the news. Thanks for reading.

(Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 5/7/14

Confirmed: Marcus Simms sports a spectacular set of dreadlocks.


Last week turned into a public relations challenge, I’m sure, for Mike Reik, superintendent at Platte County R-3. As The Landmark was reporting that Reik had unsuccessfully sought the recent superintendent’s opening at Liberty, a non-faculty assistant freshman boys basketball coach for the Platte County High School--the aforementioned Marcus Simms--was being arrested by authorities after being connected to a bizarre crime scene. Authorities say the coach’s reported girlfriend was found dead and the coach was said to be running around the scene--and eventually fleeing the scene--naked, distraught, and covered in blood.

It was the second time in the past year and a half that Reik has had to deal with a PR nightmare surrounding a school employee, with the other being the high school principal arrested on a charge of patronizing prostitution in the fall of 2012.

I'm sure it's days like that. . . and days when he seems to have been baited into overreacting to a minor “incident” at a school board meeting involving a respected patron. . .and days when he thinks about the 55-45% kicking his proposed school tax levy increase took at the polls in 2012 . . .that prompted Reik to tell me, perhaps jokingly, perhaps not, that “95% of the time” he is happy in his job at R-3.


As I mentioned last week, there’s nothing at all wrong with an employed professional doing some job searching anytime he so desires.

Having said that, it’s safe to say reports of Reik seeking the Liberty position I’m sure came as a surprise to some of the most ardent Pirates, who until now may have thought this is Reik’s dream job and that he would never be looking to leave on his own accord.

Those not so solidly in Reik’s camp, meanwhile, will wonder what has been accomplished in Reik’s time at R-3 that he thinks would’ve given him a realistic shot at a job at a much larger Liberty district.


Prior to the beginning of the April school board meeting at Platte County R-3, patron Andy Stanton said he approached the board meeting platform where board members are seated and quietly asked board member Julie Vanover a question. “When can we expect a pay raise for teachers, now or later?”

Stanton was referring to campaign emails that candidates Vanover and Sharon Sherwood sent to R-3 staff members insinuating that staff members are underpaid. Each of the respective candidates insinuated salaries would be a focus in their time in office, if reelected.

Stanton says Vanover quickly replied: “That’s not what I said.” Stanton’s reply, he says, was: “Sure you did. You and Sharon both said it.” And he walked away.

Stanton says he left the meeting room and was having a nice chat with the principal of his son’s elementary school in the hallway. Stanton says he was taken aback by what happened next.

He says Mike Reik, superintendent, and Mike Brown, an assistant superintendent, came “walking out of the meeting room like stormtroopers and cornered me like I’m some sort of criminal.” Stanton said Reik told him that he can’t be approaching board members. He encouraged Stanton to Google the term “guns at meetings” or something similar to that effect, before adding: “Not that we think you would ever bring a gun or do anything like that.” Stanton said he was so caught off guard by their tone that he asked the men if they would like him to leave the meeting. He was told he was not being asked to leave but was reminded of protocol, etc.

Point made. In somewhat dramatic fashion. Even school administrators love drama, apparently.

In our conversation last week, Reik said he was in the room when Stanton approached the table “but it was not my focus.” He referred to eyewitnesses, meaning he doesn’t consider himself an eyewitness.

Reik said he would describe Stanton’s approach to the board platform as “aggressive.” Stanton says no way. “I didn’t even raise my voice. I certainly don’t feel like I was aggressive in any way. I don’t know where they’re getting this ‘aggressiveness’ from,” Stanton says.

For some accurate context, Stanton is a sitting elected official who has respect in many circles. This bothers a few folks who don’t share his fiscally conservative views, but it is true, the ballot box proves it. Stanton is an elected member of the Central Platte Fire Board.

By the way, do you know the Central Platte Fire Board member who has worked to try to bring civility and decorum to fire board meetings? That would be Andy Stanton. The other two board members, one of whom incidentally is a Platte County R-3 employee, haven’t matched Stanton’s efforts in trying to run a civil meeting. Stanton understands. A gentle reminder never hurts any of us, but history shows that Stanton understands the necessity of decorum.

Prior to serving on the fire board, Stanton was elected to two terms on the Platte City Board of Aldermen. He has never lost a contested public election. He has had a couple of close victories, but never lost. Meanwhile, Mike Reik has had his name associated with one school election issue--and it lost handily.

Stanton has supporters who appreciate the way he has worked with taxpayers in mind in each of his elected positions. He is not a criminal. He has no history of making threats or being violent. He is a soft-spoken in conversations. He doesn’t smile much, but he has a sense of humor and often says humorous things without cracking a smile. This might confuse some folks or make others who aren’t used to his style uncomfortable.

There’s no need for anyone to try to be an alpha male and end up causing more of a scene than the original ‘incident.’ Politely, firmly and in a discreet fashion tell Stanton that the school board prefers not to be approached at the platform. And that should be the end of the story.

Not only was the administrators’ reaction that evening too strong by some accounts, but then Reik followed it up with a registered letter to Stanton in which there was more drama. The letter said, in part, “if this disruptive and non-compliant conduct is repeated, you will not be permitted to attend Board of Education meetings.”

Seems a bit over the top.


Here’s a question to ponder. The problem, we’re being led to believe, isn’t really what Stanton said it’s that he allegedly approached the board platform “in an aggressive approach.”

So, would there have been the same amount of drama from the board and administrators if Stanton or anyone else had walked to the platform in an aggressive approach and said, without raising their voice: “Julie, will you please work to see that our underpaid teachers are compensated more appropriately?”

I think we all know the answer to that.

(Aggressively follow The Landmark publisher on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, on YouTube, and on SnapChat. Aggressively email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or aggressively call him at 816-858-0363. Aggressively visit him at 252 Main St., Platte City)



Written 4/30/14

Sources in the field of education are saying Mike Reik, superintendent at Platte County R-3 since 2009, was one of the 27 applicants for the superintendent’s job at Liberty. Recently, Liberty announced it has hired Jeremy Tucker, the current superintendent at Logan-Rogersville near Springfield, to take over Liberty Public Schools effective July 1.

Reik, prior to joining R-3 as an assistant elementary school principal in 2001, was a first grade teacher at Liberty.

Reik isn’t confirming that he applied, but in a phone conversation with me on Tuesday he danced around several opportunities to give it a clear denial. He joked by saying that several times he has “been given that job by folks not in a position to give that job.”

“I have every bit of a challenging job here. Don’t believe everything you hear on the street,” he said, adding he is happy in his current job and pointing out that his wife was born and raised here. He did confess certain jobs will always have some level of attractiveness to educators in general.

“So is that a ‘no, I didn’t apply?’” I asked him.

“That’s not a ‘no, I didn’t apply,’” Reik answered.

He then thought for a brief moment and said: “The best quote I can give you is for jobs like that, they come looking for you.”

I’ll let readers interpret Reik’s remarks however you choose to interpret them. I’m not here today to interpret his words.

What I will tell you is the sources telling me that Reik was an applicant at Liberty are the same sources who told me well in advance that Reik would be the one to get the superintendent’s job at R-3. And these are the same sources who provided the tip that enabled The Landmark to be the first media outlet to report the story that a Platte County High School principal had been arrested for patronizing prostitution. So these sources have a track record of providing information that’s on target. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have bothered asking Reik about it.

If Reik didn’t apply for the Liberty job, he obviously had the chance to make that perfectly clear--but didn’t. And if he was one of the 27 folks to throw their name in the hat, good for him. I’ll never begrudge a person for looking at ways to advance in their chosen profession. I admire any person who has passion for their work and a drive to advance.

Whether Reik was hoping to land the Liberty job really makes no difference in the point of this piece. The point to be made is this: Superintendents are hired professionals who come and go for a variety of reasons. While the hired guns come and go, the patrons--and the school district--always remain.

Ownership of a school district--and this commentary applies to any school district, not just Platte County R-3--lies in the patrons and taxpayers of that district. The voting public elects board members to serve the patrons and the wishes of the electorate. Board members then are charged with providing leadership and are supposed to be the ones setting the mission of the district and providing goals for school administrators. Too often, some school boards lose focus and act like they are there to work for the administrators. Fact is, it’s the other way around.

This situation serves as a good reminder of that fact.


Here’s a shout out to the Platte City and Barry Middle Schools for their production of Hairspray Jr. The show is getting rave reviews from several Landmark readers who have said they were extremely impressed with the production.

“The kids did a fantastic job. We ended up going both nights,” one R-3 parent told me. “There are some devoted staff members at the middle school to take on that production. I hope those staff members are still there when my kids hit middle school,” a parent of R-3 elementary age students said.

Kudos to all involved.


Later this year, The Landmark will note the beginning of its 150th year of serving Platte County. As you may or may not know, The Landmark is one of the oldest newspapers in the state, having been published weekly without interruption since the closing days of the Civil War in 1865.

There will be some special activities to note this newspaper’s big anniversary in the coming weeks and months. The first special activity we’re ready to talk about in detail is the publication of “Landmark Memories.” These articles will be submissions from you, the readers. In 500 words or less, tell us stories from your family’s history anytime over the past 150 years. Share family stories about the wars, the Depression, farming in the early years, experiences in one-room schools, maybe time spent folding papers at The Landmark years ago (I’ve heard from many of you who remember doing this) or any family or community events that happened as recently as last year. This is your chance to share some specific memories and get your words in print.

Each writer whose memories are chosen for publication during The Landmark’s 150th year will receive a commemorative Landmark coffee mug (see the ad on page B-1). The high quality mugs, which are emblazoned with photos of The Landmark building and some of our old-time newspaper equipment, are the brainchild of--and courtesy of-- Bill Hankins, our Missouri Hall of Fame photojournalist.

Email your “Landmark Memories” to us at news@plattecountylandmark.com or drop them by our office at 252 Main Street in downtown Platte City. Subject title of your email should be Landmark Memories.

Call us at 858-0363 if you have questions. Or call us if you just want to chat, for that matter. There’s always room here for the lonely.

Don’t forget, another event we’ll have in conjunction with our 150th anniversary celebration is a downtown street party, dance and open house held in cooperation with Scott Campbell’s Law Office on the first Friday evening in October. Live music by Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders. Mark your calendars.

(Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also follow Foley on Facebook and YouTube, email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, or call him at 816-858-0363)



Written 4/23/14

Longtime readers of this column have heard me say this before. Municipal courts often deserve to be the butt of jokes. Many city courts are often more interested in dollars than they are in carrying out any semblance of reasonable justice.

Municipal courts are sometimes the place where certain cases mysteriously disappear without explanation--think back to the case of the Platte County High School principal who was charged with patronizing prostitution in a case that was later dropped without explanation by the Kansas City municipal prosecutor despite the fact, according to the police report, the sting was recorded on video.
After Kansas City Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe was charged in Riverside Municipal Court with possession of marijuana in November, I wrote in Between the Lines that week that readers shouldn’t be surprised if something “mysteriously happens” in Bowe’s municipal case.

As you’ll see on our front page, here’s what we now know: Bowe’s attorney and the Riverside city prosecutor reached a plea agreement. Bowe’s case didn’t magically disappear but the marijuana charge disappeared when Bowe pled guilty to lesser charges of “defective equipment” and “littering.” Bowe paid fees and fines totaling $610 as part of the action.

Riverside prosecutors are saying Bowe was treated like any other first time offender of a similar crime in their court. Even if that’s the case, there’s just something that feels “not right” to a good portion of the public about that.

A defendant being allowed to plea down a speeding ticket or some other moving violation to a “defective equipment” seems reasonable for a driver with an otherwise clean record. A defendant being allowed to plea down a marijuana possession charge to “defective equipment” and “littering” just seems. . .wrong.

If marijuana has truly become the equal of defective equipment then it might be time to seriously consider wiping the current marijuana laws off the books.


Hats off to the Northland Regional Ambulance District for caring enough about its taxpaying public to issue a formal request for bids on milling and asphalt resurfacing at the ambulance station.

Here’s looking at you, Central Platte Fire District. People are starting to look your way and are realizing it is very reasonable to expect responsible procedures when it comes to spending of all tax dollars.

Eventually, even the sun sets in paradise.


This just in: Brandon Gutshall is still a member of the Platte County R-3 School Board, and if last week’s meeting is any indication of things to come, he could become an effective voice.

Someone asked me recently whatever happened to Gutshall. I said he is still on the school board.

“Really? I didn’t realize that,” was the response.

Elected in 2012, to this point Gutshall has been happy to be a part of the “just go with the flow” mentality at R-3 meetings. But that changed, at least temporarily, last week when Gutshall asked some high-quality questions and made intelligent remarks about Superintendent Mike Reik’s proposal to take mowing responsibilities for the Platte City campus out of the hands of R-3 employees and hire an outside firm at a proposed cost of around $25,000. After questions and concerns were raised by Gutshall and fellow board member Gary Brown, Reik pushed to have the matter tabled rather than let it come to a vote. That’s an indication that Reik didn’t want a split vote upsetting the normal atmosphere of rainbows and unicorns, even though some folks in attendance had already been pleasantly surprised and truly impressed by the questioning performed by two school board members.

Kudos to Gutshall and Brown. Agree or disagree, more discussion regarding administrators’ proposals is always a good thing, not a bad thing.


Kirby Holden, who came up 41 votes short in his bid to be elected to the R-3 school board on April 8, says he has filed a formal complaint with the district on the topic of two incumbent school board candidates who Holden says sent mass campaign emails to R-3 staff members at their school email addresses. Holden alleges the action violated at least five school district policies. Holden has started his process at the local level, issuing a written complaint to Superintendent Mike Reik. Where Holden takes it from there, if anywhere, is anybody’s guess.


What’s the strange odor around certain parts of the county?

It’s not another tax-supported entity making $650,000 purchases without seeking bids, though that would certainly contribute to any suspicious smell.

The odor in question seeped across Platte City beginning last Thursday night/ Friday morning. I first caught a whiff Friday morning while stepping out of my truck in The Landmark driveway. My initial reaction was to check the tight spaces between some of the nearby buildings, thinking perhaps an animal had crawled there and died or perhaps an intoxicated human had left a present there the night before. I found evidence of neither and went on with my day. About an hour later, my phone and email inbox was lighting up with remarks from folks doing business near Running Horse Road and Hwy. 92 on the south side of town.

“What is that smell? Customers are coming in saying the odor is everywhere and are checking their shoes!” one manager of a business near the intersection of Running Horse and Hwy. 92 said.
So I stepped out front of our building onto historic Main Street. Wow. The odor I had earlier believed to be confined to the back alley was very present in the open air on Main. I emailed DJ Gehrt, city administrator, to see if city officials knew the source of the stink that was now being reported by multiple folks. Gehrt said my question was the first notice he had received and that the city would investigate. A few hours later Gehrt said city public works crews had checked random manholes, lift stations and the sewer plant and could eliminate any chance the odor was sewer system related. Some Platte City residents continued talking about the odor on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend. “Man, it's bad all over town. We can't even sit on our back deck without feeling sick,” wrote a Twitter user who lives in northern Platte City.

Remember in the late spring/early summer of 2012 when The Landmark ran a front page story by ace reporter Valerie Verkamp about hoteliers complaining of an awful smell permeating the area around KCI? That was the summer KC was preparing to play host to the Major League All Star Game and hoteliers and Convention and Visitors Bureau folks were worried the awful smell wasn’t going to be a nice welcome for visitors. Turns out the source of the smell at that time was determined to be manure-based fertilizer applied to farm fields in the KCI corridor. Unless someone has a better answer, the best explanation for the smell hitting Platte City recently is likely the same manure-based fertilizer to farm fields in the I-29/I-435 corridor.

No evidence of any foul smells in the air as The Landmark heads to press Wednesday morning.

(Stay in touch with all things Platte County 24/7 via The Landmark’s unmatched social media presence on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 4/16/14

A catch phrase that rings true is one used by the National Federation of Pachyderm Clubs. It reads like this: "We get the government we deserve, not the one we wish for."

Basically it means if you’re not voting and participating in the election process, that can be a dangerous thing. This slogan comes to mind when I think of the Central Platte Fire District and its publicly-elected board of directors.

First, a brief history. Until Andy Stanton was elected to one of the three spots on the board of directors, spending decisions in the department were rarely, if ever, questioned. When Stanton came on board and asked tough questions about spending proposals, it was a rude awakening to the firefighters and to other board members. They viewed (and still do) any and every question as a personal insult and reacted in an always defensive and often angry manner. Their attitude is one of disbelief that any spending idea would be questioned. They seem to have this attitude for three reasons: 1. “We’ve always done things this way.” 2. “We’re in the business of saving lives.” 3. “We’re volunteers.”

So, of course, Stanton immediately started getting pushback and the monthly board meetings became ugly. I’ve categorized their meetings as less organized than a monkey poop fight. That’s putting it as mildly as I can put it. Other descriptions I’ve heard used by people who sat in on a raucous fire board meeting include: “a screaming match,” “most heated meeting I’ve ever sat through,” “wild,” and “like an episode of Jerry Springer.”

Regan, as chairman of the fire board, either has no idea or no interest in running a meeting that can have a calm and civil discussion of the issues. When Mike Ashcraft came on board as the third member after the death of Junior Coons, Stanton and Ashcraft, who at the time also saw the need to professionalize the meetings just a tad, were able to put some procedures in place to quiet things down a bit. Stanton had been on this from the start, pointing out that the board was putting itself in a position of getting caught in Sunshine Law violations for reasons that included voting on items that were not listed on the meeting agenda.

Things improved significantly for a short time. Meetings, which always feature several firefighters in the small room, became more civil. Then old habits slowly started to return. The district’s bookkeeper, whose tongue is sharper than her pencil, started firing off unnecessary opinions on matters not directly related to her position. One meeting night, I’m told the district attorney even reminded her that she works for the board and is not a member of the board.

At last week’s meeting when Stanton had questions about the need for a new fire truck and the process (lack of bidding, which is another topic for a different column) being used by Regan and Ashcraft to purchase the truck, I’m told the ‘less organized than a monkey poop fight’ atmosphere returned in full force. I was covering election results that evening and not present at the fire board session (instead of personally covering every meeting, lately I’ve been sending a reporter to cover some of these because I thought my absence might actually help calm some of the quick-to-anger types in the room--silly me), but we did have a reporter on hand.

I’m flattered to hear that once again this newspaper in general and your humble columnist in particular were mentioned during part of the “discussion.” I do enjoy the verbal flares that Regan and some firefighters often throw at yours truly during their meetings. This newspaper doesn’t naively and carelessly close its eyes at the fire district’s often carefree handling of decisions involving the spending of taxpayer dollars. Some folks associated with the department seem to be offended by that. It’s fine, they have the right to be offended. We’ve cut them much slack by not yet reporting in detail on additional spending and procedural items that would offend many taxpaying members of the public, instead choosing to allow the fire board time to clean things up a bit. We’ve been diligent but fair. My prediction is those same people will continue to be offended in the future. Their reactions will never affect our decisions on coverage and commentary.

In the next few days I’ll find time to listen to the audio recording of last week’s meeting and perhaps be able to provide more specifics in a future column. For now, I would encourage members of the public to attend a Central Platte Fire Board meeting anytime in the future. The board meets the second Tuesday night of every month, 7 p.m. at the fire station in downtown Platte City.

You only live once.


In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know about last week’s fire board meeting. The board voted 2-1 to purchase a $650,000 fire truck. They did this without seeking competitive bids, even though there was nothing to lose and the potential for much to gain by following a bid process.

One of the highlights of the meeting was Regan, the fire board chairman, letting fly with this quote when defending his decision to not seek bids. This is scary in more ways than we have room to cover here:

“We need to buy the best equipment for our people. They are risking their lives. The people out in the public ain’t. They might be financing it, but they ain’t out there giving their lives up.”


Ashcraft’s vote to buy a $650,000 fire truck without a competitive bidding process came on the same night it was determined he had been re-elected by voters.

Remember, we get the government we deserve, not the one we wish for.


A Park Hill patron says he has filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission against the Park Hill School District for what he believes were inappropriate uses of “taxpayer dollars, staff, students and other resources in violation of Missouri Revised Statute 115.646.”

Josh Blackman, of Kansas City in Platte County, says he put the ethics complaint in the mail last Friday. He enclosed two district “Connection” newsletters mailed by the school. “The newsletters are extremely pro-levy, unnecessarily frequent, and immediately preceding the vote. The Park Hill School District used taxpayer dollars to fund them and several other newsletters in part that promoted the levy,” Blackman says.

He also cites several district-produced videos, quoting extensively from one featuring Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston. Also in his complaint, Blackman says school board member Matt Pepper chaired a campaign committee known as Citizens for Park Hill Levy. “This is a clear (coordinated) effort between the district and the committee. Mr. Pepper was also found on election day at one of the polling places handing out materials in support of the levy.”

The ethics commission generally stays mum on any potential investigation until it has determined whether the complaint is legitimate. As we learn more we’ll pass it on.

(Get Between the Lines updates at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 4/9/14

The outcome at Tuesday’s local elections may or may not have been to your liking, but the important thing is that you’re paying attention. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.


Kirby Holden, a political newcomer, gave an uphill battle a strong effort on Tuesday but fell less than 50 votes shy in his effort to land a spot on the Platte County R-3 School Board. On the bright side for Holden, his mental state will be helped by the fact he won’t be spending time being outvoted 6-1 at board meetings. His web site plattecountyr3facts.com has done a tremendous amount for raising awareness of needs of the district and keeping administrators and their numbers honest. His efforts along that line will be a better use of his time over the next year, not only because it’s better than beating his head against a 6-1 wall at a monthly meeting, but because it will help shed continued light on areas the district can improve effectiveness and transparency.

I caught up with Holden Wednesday morning to get his reaction. He makes a valid point in stating that nearly 49% of voters marked him on their ballot, meaning nearly half of R-3 voters have some level of dissatisfaction with the district. Holden’s showing is especially impressive considering you can rest assured he received very few, if any, votes from the many R-3 employees who are voters.

“The results show 1518 people voted, of these I received 741 votes. That means 48.8% of the people voted for a person who is a strong critic of the current administration and board. I only missed the third spot on the board by 48 votes, just 201 votes off of the current sitting board president. That's a miss by less than five votes per polling site,” Holden said Wednesday morning. “If the board does not get its act together before the next election, I will run again and do a better job of getting the word out.”


How about the way the Park Hill laptop levy was crushed at Tuesday’s election? 61% opposed to only 39% in favor. There’s no doubt the excellent points brought to light in letters that appeared in this newspaper by Jim Dunn, former Park Hill administrator, had some effect in pointing out holes in the proposal and questioning the proposed program, its potential effectiveness, and its need.

Also, kudos to Chris Seufert, the only Park Hill board member who questioned the proposal and made his opposition known at a January board meeting and in an extensive interview that was published in The Landmark. Seufert, who did not seek reelection on Tuesday, was the only board member in touch with constituents on this one.


The butt whooping Park Hill’s tax increase took at the polls makes the decision by the Platte County R-3 School Board to not put a tax increase on the ballot this year look even smarter than it did when I praised it here several months ago.

Voters across Platte County have sent messages in recent proposed school tax increases. Park Hill’s proposed 32-cent levy hike was smashed 61-39%. In 2012, Platte County R-3’s proposed 60 cent tax levy increase was squashed 55-45%.

It’s going to take some work--and probably a better economy--to get a significant property tax levy passed. Due to a variety of factors, these are different times for Mr. and Mrs. School Board Member. The days of tossing just any tax increase on the ballot and expecting it to be approved without organized opposition are over. If your proposal seems over the top, expect a strong fight.


To me, this quote from the Park Hill superintendent sounds like a man in denial.

“I would like to see more people engaged in the process by voting,” said Dr. Scott Springston after learning of Tuesday’s levy election results.

Oh my. Be careful what you wish for, Doc. Do you know how hard it is for a school tax levy issue to get defeated in an April election? Mighty hard. The anti-tax crowd typically isn’t motivated in a spring election.

Do you know who is motivated to go vote in April elections? Groups like PTAs and other organizations directly affiliated with the school who are prodded to do so by the district, teachers and administrators, district employees and their friends and families. That’s what the “no” vote has to overcome. Put that levy proposal on a heavy turnout ballot, like in an August primary during a countywide election or a November ballot in any even-numbered year, and the Park Hill proposal would have been trounced even worse than it was.


In our front page story, you’ll see that the meetings of the Central Platte Fire Board have returned to the riot level of 12-18 months ago. Once again these things have become less organized than a monkey poop fight. More on this embarrassing turn for the worse in future columns.


Dr. David Lowry is our Bracket Battle winner. You’ll remember last week I noted that the local pediatrician was in the lead but in looking at the rest of his bracket I predicted the good doctor would not finish on top. Well, that all changed on Saturday in an exciting day of Final Four action featuring unexpected results. Congrats to Dr. Lowry. He gets $100 (which he has chosen to donate to the Kansas City Humane Society--he insisted his winning check be made out directly to those folks) bragging rights, a free one-year subscription to The Landmark, and did I mention bragging rights?


Have you been paying attention to the news in Between the Lines? Take this little Between the Lines quiz to see if you’re in tune.

1. Pat Daly, facilities manager and self-proclaimed HVAC expert for Platte County, became a household name last fall after the temperature in the county’s meeting room reached heat stroke levels. How hot did Between the Lines say it got in the room that night?
A. 187 degrees.
B. 287 degrees.
C. 387 degrees.
D. Kate Upton.

2. Between the Lines told you that Boon Lee, Park Hill School Board member, let fly with a head-scratching quote at a board meeting when promoting the district’s laptop levy increase proposal. What did Boon say?
A. “If you like your laptop you can keep your laptop.”
B. “Fred Sanchez is packing heat.”
C. “We have to spend like we can't afford it, but we've got to work like we can't afford not to have it.”
D. “This proposal is a Boon-doogle."

3. Bev Roper, county commissioner, is now shown on the Between the Lines YouTube channel leading a sing-a-long to which tune?
A. Free Fallin’
B. Sexy and I Know It
C. Socially Awkward and I Don’t Know It
D. Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch

(Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)


Written 4/2/14

Please take the time to head to the polls for city and school elections on the ballot next Tuesday, April 8.

Local government has always been important, and in times like these when families are watching their dollars very closely, financial decisions made by the local elected are more important than ever.

Remember, elected officials work for you. You don’t work for them. Head out to the polls next Tuesday to make choices on whom you want to hire.


At Platte County R-3, I’ve been told there is a little bit of confusion circulating by the way the ballot is worded. The ballot says “vote for three.” To be clear, ballots in other school districts are worded the same way, so this isn’t something specific to R-3.

Anyway, that wording is somewhat misleading. There are three positions open, but you don’t HAVE to vote for three. You can vote for UP TO three. If you vote for just one or vote for just two, your ballot is still good and will get counted.

In fact, if there is one candidate you feel more strongly about than the others, you’re better off simply voting for that one particular candidate. No sense in upping the vote totals for the other candidates--it could mean your guy or gal doesn’t get in.


Speaking of the race for Platte County R-3 School Board, the interview that candidate Kirby Holden gave this newspaper (see front page story) is filled with some of the most frank and straightforward remarks you’ll ever read from a local candidate. Holden leaves no doubt where he’s coming from, and you’ve got to appreciate his straightforward approach. I’ve said it before: Holden has a tremendous mind, is great at research, and would be a tremendous asset to the board in particular and to the district as a whole.

Of this much I’m certain: A discussion to take an auditing bid that is 26% higher than a competing bid would have included some candid input from Holden. He won’t have a problem questioning recommendations from administrators. Taxpayers will find Holden’s presence in the decision-making process at R-3 very refreshing.


Similar comments apply to the Central Platte Fire District Board of Directors race. A voice for fiscal accountability would be brought to the board by Rusty Townsend.

Townsend’s opponent, current board member Mike Ashcraft, is being widely supported by firefighters. Certainly firefighters have the right to support the board candidate of their choice, there’s nothing wrong with them exercising that right. But as a taxpayer if you want clear distinction and checks and balances between the decision-makers (the board) and the workers (the firefighters), take note.


RIP Ivan Foley’s bracket.

Looking for the Bracket Battle standings? The entire list of entries and everyone’s score can be found on page A-7.

My pal local pediatrician Dr. David Lowry currently sits on top of the standings, but glancing at the remainder of his bracket makes me think the good doctor won’t finish in first. I have no room to critique anyone’s bracket this year. My total right now is 114 points and I can say with confidence that a lot of you are going to be able to claim a free one year subscription to this fine newspaper after next week’s final standings are published.


How close were we to seeing a contested GOP race for county auditor? Very close.

After two potential challengers to incumbent Kevin Robinson in the days close to deadline stepped away from the opportunity to run to instead focus on their private businesses, I’m told a last ditch recruitment effort was made to a third person very close to deadline. And by very close to deadline I mean within the last two hours until the close of filing, which was 5 p.m. last Tuesday.

The potential candidate who was being recruited--a person with great business sense and impeccable character who would make a great elected official in the future--called me 45 minutes prior to deadline to pick my brain on a personal level. One of my thoughts was to encourage this person to give consideration to a different, more influential office in the future rather than to jump into a race for auditor at the last minute. Let’s face it, under normal circumstances the county auditor has some, but not a tremendous amount, of influence. The influence by Robinson over the course of the last two years has simply been magnified because two rookie associate county commissioners have (not so wisely) leaned on him. If these were normal circumstances with experienced and confident county commissioners in place, the auditor doesn’t have that much real effect. Well, other than to make ridiculously inflated projections of golf course revenue and to consistently recommend raises for all county employees in an economic downturn.

Besides from a selfish point of view, if Robinson were to get beat, whose financial projections would we be able to have some fun with here in Between the Lines?

Anyway, had this person been given a longer period of time to consider the race, including time to successfully phone the spouse to talk it out, it’s likely we would be seeing a contested auditor’s race.
I think you’ll see this person on a countywide ballot in the not too distant future, just not for auditor. But that’s a decision only this person can make after a deliberate thought process of more than a couple hours.


Once in a while I lose myself in the moment and get excited about this year’s Kansas City Royals. Then I remember Ned Yost is manager. Ned’s stubbornness and his awkward in-game decisions probably cost the Royals 8-10 victories a year. Case in point was Monday’s season opener.

Episode 2 of the summertime comedy Nedly is today in Detroit at 12:08 p.m. Related note: Who from the Tigers made the decision to start their games at eight minutes past the hour? Like a more common 12:05 or 12:10 wouldn’t be good enough? Nope. Game time is 12:08. This makes me laugh.

Obviously I’m easily entertained.

(You can sometimes get easily entertained on Twitter @ivanfoley. His best stuff normally posts at eight minutes past the hour.)


Written 3/26/14

Looking for the Bracket Battle standings? The entire list of entries and everyone’s score can be found on page A-5. For some reason, Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart asked me to remove her from the standings list. Check closely to see if I honored her request.


Here’s the best way to summarize what the final day of county candidate filing means: There’s a three-person race for presiding county commissioner; there’s a two person race for county clerk; and taxpayers can look forward to four more years of overstated revenue projections and wet-dream analysis on the financial status of the county’s golf course by auditor Kevin Robinson.

Which means you’ll never be at a loss for news.


Dave Brooks, former mayor of Platte City, told me Tuesday that he will run as a write-in candidate for mayor against Frank Offutt at the April 8 election. Brooks said he was out of town during much of the filing period and didn’t get his name on the ballot. He has registered as a write-in candidate with the Platte County Board of Elections, he said.

More on this next week.


This “separated at birth” observation was sent to me by a Landmark reader: Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg and Platte County R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik.

Dead on. Check it out next time Hoiberg’s team is on your TV screen.


Hope you enjoy the outstanding photos by The Landmark’s Doug Baldwin from Royals Spring Training in Arizona. Look for these and possibly more on my Facebook page. The Landmark is your local paper large enough to get credentialed by Major League Baseball.


Jets are being cooled across the county on a couple of proposed actions. Let’s take them one at a time

Here we go:


Things are slowing down considerably in Parkville’s recent flirtation with the idea of selling its sewer system to the Platte County Regional Sewer District.

“I was expecting your call this week. I don’t really have new information to share,” Lauren Palmer, city administrator, told me on the phone Wednesday morning, before proceeding to share significant new information.

“We were expecting to have the final report on that cost-benefit analysis this week, but we intentionally slowed (the firm doing the analysis) in their work to give us a chance to do more evaluation,” Palmer said.

The biggest piece of news to come to light is this: The city’s legal counsel has concluded the sale of the sewer system would require approval of the voters. And not just a simple majority. The sale would require 2/3 voter approval.

“That’s a steep hill to climb,” Palmer acknowledged.

No kidding. Especially when the sale of the sewer could--let’s stop kidding ourselves and use the word ‘would’ here--bring higher sewer rates to Parkville residents. Palmer, and perhaps other city officials, aren’t ready to fully admit that the transaction would mean higher sewer rates for its residents. But that stance is starting to look a little silly. Dan Koch, executive director of the proposed buyer of the system, says the acquisition would definitely mean higher sewer rates for Parkville residents who are currently served by the system. Also indicating the transaction would cause higher rates is something called basic math. Algebra has not yet checked in with an opinion, but algebra sucks, so its opinion is irrelevant.

My guess, based on the reaction to phone calls and emails received here at Between the Lines headquarters, is that there is a very slim chance 2/3 of Parkville voters would check yes on the question.
In a memo to aldermen this week, Palmer said the city will be taking its time to analyze all the pros and cons of the potential multi-million dollar deal to determine if it has adequate merit to even submit to voters. In our conversation, Palmer said if it does go to voters it wouldn’t be until November at the earliest or more likely next April. “Now that we know it requires voter approval, we’re not feeling the same urgency that we were before,” she told me.

Palmer says though the deal was originally proposed as a potential solution to retire about $5 million of Brush Creek Neighborhood Improvement District debt, “the city is not considering that as a factor in the sewer analysis. The city is evaluating the sale on its merits completely independent of the Brush Creek NID obligation,” Palmer said. This comment has just a hint of BS to it, so I asked Palmer to expand. She said it means the city will evaluate the potential deal from a standpoint of “are there operating efficiencies to be gained?”

In the meantime, the city will proceed with the limited general obligation bond financing for the Brush Creek NID, anticipating a bond sale in May or June. Assessments will be collected--or at least attempt to be collected--beginning in December.

Stay tuned. But don’t be surprised if this proves to be the beginning of the end of the city’s proposed deal with PCRSD.


As noted here recently, jets continue to cool significantly in the county’s push for a $21 million expansion of the county jail and new sheriff’s department offices. In a development that comes as a surprise to the sheriff, apparently some on the county commission have suddenly started to question whether the daily jail population shows a true need for expansion. There are some political angles and outside influences at play here. The two associate commissioners, Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, are tight with presiding commissioner candidate Jim Plunkett, who, while supporting the half cent sales tax for parks and fun stuff, wasn’t exactly an advocate of spending money on major law enforcement projects during his time as district two commissioner.

This puts Roper in an interesting spot, as she has in the past publicly mentioned the county should propose a law enforcement sales tax. She made that comment at an audio-recorded January 2013 meeting with road district officials in which she and Soper successfully pushed for putting the road sales tax back on the ballot at its 3/8 cent level instead of devoting a portion of it to law enforcement needs. Roper asked for support of the road district officials when the county came back to voters for law enforcement funding.

Maybe her position has “evolved.”

(Having withdrawals? Twitter @ivanfoley is the place to go for more Between the Lines observations)



Written 3/19/14

Sad news from the Platte County Administration Building, where self-proclaimed HVAC expert Pat Daly has announced his pending retirement as facilities manager.

Daly became somewhat of a legend around these parts after the temperature in the meeting room for a crowded planning and zoning session last fall reached about 287 degrees. People resorted to bringing in their own ice-filled coolers and bottled water just to survive. It was like a Red Cross disaster scene. Think Hurricane Katrina without the flood.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

The next day Daly angrily responded to my questions with an epic temper tantrum in which he, among other things, declared himself an HVAC expert. The result was a Between the Lines column that took on a life of its own.

Though we can now look forward to more consistent temperatures in the county administration building (in more ways than one), Between the Lines is going to miss you, Pat Daly. We wish you nothing but pleasant days, cool nights and cold bottles of water in your retirement.


One day this winter after it was announced the county buildings were closing during a major snowstorm, a clever Landmark reader sent this out via Twitter: “Will the meeting room be open as a warming center?”


Your fearless Platte County Commissioners, never shy about tackling problems head on, have announced they intend to declare the pawpaw as the official county tree.

Finally. I mean, how long has the public been demanding an official county tree? Especially one with that unique pawpaw shape. These things are so ugly they’re cute. Kind of. Not really.

Have you seen a pawpaw? Google images for a pawpaw. I can’t decide if it looks more like a twig or a berry.


During an event dubbed “PawPaws for Platte!” at Platte Ridge Park, the county commission will make the official tree declaration at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, April 5. Seedlings of these native trees will be given away. Ukelele players will strum “Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch.”

Don’t miss this event. It’s the kind of day only an $80 million park tax can bring you.


Filing deadline for county offices is next Tuesday, March 25. The only contested race to this point is Jim Plunkett vs. Ron Schieber for presiding commissioner. There is still some talk on the streets questioning whether Plunkett is in the race to stay. To my knowledge, Plunkett hasn’t given any indication of dropping out, but still the speculation is out there. It’s probably because late last year Plunkett told folks he wasn’t running, then in January he announced he was running and in February he filed. That kind of positioning creates natural skepticism.

I’ve also been told at least one more Republican is giving serious thought to entering the presiding commissioner race.

Still no action to this point from what’s left of the Democrat party.


The Central Platte Fire Board has been asked and is considering buying parkas for all its firemen. Total cost would be $7,000.

Just thought you should know.


It’s Bracket Battle time. If you’re reading this before 11 a.m. on Thursday, you’ve still got a chance to get your entry to me. Winner gets $100, everyone who scores better than yours truly gets a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. Email your bracket to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or fax it to 816-858-2313. Or you can always drop it by our office at 252 Main St., Platte City.

With so many potential free subscriptions at risk, you can bet I’ve spent hours upon hours studying all the teams in the days after the bracket pairings were announced on Sunday, right? Yeah, something like that.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the bracket you’re up against. Good luck. Remember, if you get off to a slow start, don’t sweat it. These contests are won or lost in the later rounds due to a scoring system that rewards later round victories with more points than early rounds. (I say this because I’m known for getting off to a notoriously slow start).

FIRST ROUND WINNERS: Florida, Pitt, VCU, UCLA, Ohio State, Syracuse, Stanford, Kansas, Virginia, George Washington, Harvard, Michigan State, Providence, Iowa State, St. Joseph’s, Villanova, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, San Diego State, Baylor, Creighton, Oregon, Wisconsin, Wichita State, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Louisville, Tennessee, Duke, Arizona State, Michigan.

SWEET SIXTEEN: Florida, UCLA, Syracuse, Kansas, Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State, Villanova, Arizona, San Diego State, Creighton, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Michigan.

ELITE EIGHT: Florida, Syracuse, Michigan State, Villanova, Arizona, Creighton, Louisville, Duke.

FINAL FOUR: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville.

CHAMPIONSHIP: Michigan State 74, Louisville 68.


Follow the standings as the contest progresses. We’ll print every entrant’s name and score each week here in your Landmark, and provide updates and some commentary at plattecountylandmark.com and on my Twitter @ivanfoley and on my Facebook page.

Get settled in near a TV during the games and let’s have some trash-talking fun.

(Get news, information and entertainment at all hours of the day and night on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 3/12/14

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back in Jason Brown’s decision not to seek reelection is when the anti-Chapel Ridge crowd caught him trying to take more than 20 items through an express checkout.


The other day I bumped into a member of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee. Yes, apparently there still is one.

I asked this person if there are any Democrats considering stepping forward to run for any of the open countywide offices in 2014.

“No, not at all. Nothing. Nobody is even thinking about it, to my knowledge.”

Just as well. A candidate filing as a Democrat has basically zero chance of being elected in Platte County these days. That’s why for the last couple of election cycles, a few folks who are Democrats at heart have become Republicans on paper just for the sake of having a shot to win. And one or two have been victorious.


But Democrats filing as Republicans hasn’t been the biggest sideshow.

In 2012 we had Beverlee Roper fooling the public--including this columnist--into thinking she was a small government fiscal conservative. During her campaign, Roper talked about basic government functions and said she would demand transparency of what she at the time agreed was an over-funded parks department in the county.

You’ll remember in her campaign, she painted herself as a former federal government lawyer who had worked in tune with the values of the Reagan Administration. Her campaign website even featured a video of her with Reagan.

Though she filed and ran as a Republican, she has not so quietly told a lot of people she is a Libertarian. Really? Libertarians generally prefer small government and political freedom and are skeptical of governmental authority. Does that sound like the Roper we have come to know? Not even close. Roper has governed like a person who loves layers of bureaucracy, a pandering type who believes government should try to be all things to all people.

Roper campaigned as a female Ronald Reagan but has governed like a female Jimmy Carter.


Second district county commissioner Duane Soper seems to be getting a pass from most people because, quite frankly, not anyone I know expected much out of him. Though he filed as a Republican, most observers in tune with the local political landscape were of the opinion he leaned more Democrat than Republican going into this thing. Soper is a nice guy who has his heart in the right place. By most accounts, he decided to run for office because it sounded like a noble thing to do. Generally speaking, nice guys who are worried about what their friends think of their political decisions don’t make good elected officials. The old saying “In politics, if you want a friend get a dog” rings true.

Unlike Roper, who painted one picture and delivered another, Soper ran on a vague “good guy” platform and has governed in vague “good guy” ways, doing things like supporting the road tax in its entirety because of his road district background and jumping full force without public input into naming the county courthouse after a longtime family friend.

It’s not good government and it’s not strong leadership, but it’s not a surprise.

I don’t know of anyone who is busy planning campaign strategy to use against Soper if he seeks reelection in 2016. On the other hand, strategists and those who are feeling they were misled by Roper’s campaign statements are licking their chops thinking ahead to a potential Roper run for reelection.


Keep your eyes on how the county’s $21 million jail proposal plays out. Have you noticed things have become very quiet around this topic all the sudden? After The Landmark ran the pretty architectural design drawings of the proposal on the front page several weeks ago, one of the most-often asked questions I’ve heard is this one: “Why are new sheriff’s department offices being included in the (proposed) addition to the jail?’

Good question. It’s one of many good questions that will need to be answered if the proposal actually gets traction. Perhaps the idea is dying on the vine.


If only Platte County had a larger park tax everything would be fine. Can we get that park tax raised from half cent to a full cent next time?

Unicorns for everybody.


Ready for The Landmark’s annual basketball Bracket Battle?

Selection Sunday is just days away. Once you’ve filled out your bracket, email it to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or fax it to The Landmark at 816-858-2313. If you prefer, drop it by the historic Landmark office in historic downtown Platte City just two doors down from the historic Platte County Courthouse.

Top scorer wins $100. Most importantly, anyone and everyone finishing with a higher score than yours truly wins a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. See the article in this issue for all the details.
We’ll tally the scores after each round of the three-week tournament and print the standings in the newspaper. We’ll also have the standings available for review at plattecountylandmark.com and on Twitter @ivanfoley and on my Facebook page.

Good luck. Let’s have some fun with the madness that is college basketball in March.

(Get your local news, notes, observations, and commentary as it happens on Twitter @ivanfoley, or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)




Written 3/5/14

Some housekeeping items:

No. 1: Our left winger--and proud of it--Aimee Patton told me this week she can’t keep up with the load and is giving up her weekly piece that had appeared on page 3. We wish her nothing but the best.

I think she’s moving on to become a community organizer.


We enjoyed offering a view that was an alternative to most of the other editorial pieces you’ll find in this politically conservative publication. Aimee had some spunk and was a fun gal to visit with, as those of you who took the time to chat with her at our Christmas party discovered.

Aimee is giving up the weekly commitment--and it is a commitment, these projects don’t write themselves--because she’s busy with a new job. In addition to her new job, she’s also writing for something called Midwest Voices. Going to confess that I’ve never met anyone who knows what Midwest Voices is. It sounds like it might be something about voices from the Midwest. But I’m just guessing.

At any rate, I’ll put out some feelers to see if we can land another lefty to take Aimee’s former spot on page 3.


Housekeeping item No. 2: Make plans to enter the biggest, baddest, longest-running and most prestigious bracket contest around. The Landmark’s annual Bracket Battle gets underway in a couple of weeks when the NCAA Basketball Championship pairings are announced. You can find all the gory details about how to enter and what you can win in a detailed article elsewhere in this issue. But here are the basics: Finish with the highest score, you win $100. The best part: Simply finish with a higher score than yours truly and you’ll win a year’s subscription to The Landmark. We’ll tally the standings and print everybody’s score as the contest moves along. When it’s done, if/when your record is better than mine, you’ll need to call us at 816-858-2313 or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com to claim your prize.

Should be a good time. Our cast of characters that includes Chris Kamler, Brian Kubicki and Greg Hall will all be playing along for you to compare your hoops knowledge. Have some fun and take a shot at beating your favorite columnists--and the publisher, too.


Hey, have you seen the promotional video that Kansas City put together as part of its package to attempt to lure the 2016 Republican Convention? I think it’s excellent. If you haven’t seen it, take a couple of minutes to give it a watch and let me know what you think. Here’s a link:



As you’ve read in The Landmark, the cost-benefit analysis of a potential deal by the city of Parkville to sell its sewer system to the Platte County Regional Sewer District is underway and should be wrapping up in a matter of days.

In the meantime, we’ve had some fun in Between the Lines the past couple of weeks poking at some Parkville city officials who have been running around town telling their residents there will NOT be a rate increase to city sewer customers if the sale goes through.

By doing some simple math (simple math only, because Algebra sucks) and some existing rate comparisons, we’ve been telling you to expect a rate increase.

But enough of my own conjecture and analysis. Let’s go right to the source. Dan Koch, executive director of the Platte County Regional Sewer District, confirmed my point of view in a phone conversation this week. Here’s how the conversation went down:

So Dan, some aldermen are saying they expect rates for their citizens to decrease. If the deal goes through, can Parkville sewer customers expect their rates to go down? His answer: “No.”

His answer wasn’t even “maybe.” There was no “well, if this happens or that happens.” His answer was a quick and decisive “no.”

Now, Platte County Regional Sewer District does serve a section of homes that lie within the Parkville city limits. Those homes are primarily in The National and the newer phases of Thousand Oaks, Koch said. Those homes--who are already PCRSD customers, not Parkville customers--will see a rate decrease. The reason for that is with the acquisition of Parkville’s system, the PCRSD would widely expand its customer base and the PCRSD would be able to lower its rates to its customers based on an expanded customer base.

“I would anticipate the acquisition would mean lower rates for our current customers, but not down to what Parkville’s current rates are,” Koch said.

So to summarize, here’s the deal: If you live in Parkville and are served by the city’s sewer system, the city’s sale of its system will mean higher rates for you. If your aldermen are telling you differently, ask them to specifically tell you how they’re reaching that conclusion. Because that’s not what the math shows to be possible and it’s certainly not what the would-be new owners of your sewer system are telling us upfront.

We’ve been told the average customer in Parkville uses 4,000 gallons of water. The city’s monthly sewer charge for 4,000 gallons is $34.26. Meanwhile, the Platte County Regional Sewer District’s monthly charge to treat 4,000 gallons is $41.22. Doing the math, it means the PCRSD’s rates are currently 20% higher than the city’s on 4,000 gallons.


Here’s something else you can be upset about, Parkville residents: The Landmark has come across some of the feel-good promotional material that was distributed by the county when it was engaged in the feel-good half cent park tax renewal in 2009. Do you recall how many dollars of that park tax renewal it was said would go toward your Platte Landing Park project? You supported the tax that was promoted by county commissioners at the time based on a figure that didn’t come close to being accurate. Those May 2009 information sheets put out by the county in the form of a Park System Master Plan showed Parkville would get $2.75 million for Platte Landing Park. As it turns out, when it came time to hand out the dollars, Parkville was given only $1.5 million.

The park tax was promoted to be renewed at a half cent by the 2009 county commissioners, who chose not to warn the voting public about other higher priority expenses ahead, such as mandated emergency radios, jail concerns and other law enforcement needs.

Imagine that. A feel-good tax promoted at the expense of basic county services ended up not living up to its feel-good promises.

Sounds like a two-handed pie in the face of voters and taxpayers.

(Always stay ahead of the game on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 2/26/14

Word is spreading that there will soon be a new episode of the Rambling Morons videocast featuring Chris Kamler and yours truly.

Plans call for the Rambling Morons to gather next Wednesday night, March 5, at CarSmart, which is Ted Heater’s car lot in the Northland. There’s a chance we may even go live with this broadcast on Kamler’s internet sports radio station at kansascity.ourcityradio.com.

Whether live or recorded and then uploaded to YouTube later, you can bet the Rambling Morons will be touching on, perhaps even parodying, many topics and issues familiar to Platte Countians and loyal Landmark readers.

Follow the Twitter accounts of @chriskamler @ivanfoley @ramblingmorons and @thefakened for updates as the March 5 show draws near.


Uh, oh. There’s trouble in paradise.

We’re learning that internally, the Platte County Parks Department isn’t exactly the smooth sailing ship much of the feel-good tax crowd would have us believe.

At the top layer of the department, overly funded by a half cent sales tax, there has been some uncomfortableness. Some apparent differences of philosophy. While the decision of parks director Brian Nowotny to fire assistant parks director Jim Kunce (see our front page) is being framed as a “restructuring,” insiders are telling me there’s more to it.

Without telling them that Kunce had been let go, I approached several sources with the news I had heard that Nowotny plans to “restructure” the parks department. One person had it nailed without knowing what major event had already unfolded.

“That probably means he (Nowotny) is going to fire Jim Kunce. He has been trying to get rid of Jim for years,” one insider told The Landmark this week. According to this person, who worked in a position to know both men, Nowotny felt bothered, even intimidated, by Kunce’s willingness to be open and straightforward with the higher-ups at the county. Nowotny prefers a more sugar-coated way of working things to his advantage when it comes to dealing with his superiors. “When (Nowotny) doesn’t get what he wants, somebody pays, often in a passive-aggressive way,” the source says.

Nowotny, citing personnel reasons, declined to discuss specifics with me in regard to what went into his decision to release Kunce, who has already found work in a temporary full time post with the state parks department. He said only: “Jim made a lot of good contributions to projects over the years and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Kunce, despite being caught off guard by his dismissal after a dozen years on the job, was not in a mood to openly criticize anyone this week. But can we read anything into the comments he did make? You be the judge.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable trying to describe the difference of philosophies between Brian and me. My philosophy is very community-focused. I don’t think that Platte County parks should be a place to build a personal legacy,” Kunce said. He then added: “I don’t think using public tax dollars as a playground to build my own ego is the right thing to do.”

Asked to expand, he simply said: “I’m not speaking on behalf of Brian. I’m just stating my opinions on how I conducted my business.”



We’ll be closely following the story The Landmark reported on last week about the city of Parkville considering selling its sewer system to the Platte County Regional Sewer District. The sale would be the city’s way of escaping the $5 million of Neighborhood Improvement District debt the city has on the books for the Brush Creek NID, where there was expensive construction of sewer service to an area that has yet to develop. Some property owners in the NID have had their properties foreclosed upon, which means a severe lack of sewer assessments being paid. There is only one active business, a convenience store, located in the Brush Creek NID. This has left the city on the hook to potentially be handcuffed with mountains of debt payments.

A study is being done by an outside firm to analyze the potential deal with the sewer district. A key question to be answered will be: What will this mean to sewer rates for existing Parkville residents?
I can tell you this: Parkville aldermen behind the scenes are telling people they think a deal would mean rate decreases for city residents. I can also tell you this: If they truly believe that, Parkville aldermen are living in a fantasy world consisting of nothing but parks, boat ramps, and golf carts.

Run the numbers, run some comparisons. Just unofficially eyeballing some preliminary numbers here at Landmark headquarters, it appears rates for Parkville residents could go up anywhere from 12% to perhaps somewhere in the 70% range, depending upon the number of gallons used. Low volume users would see the highest percentage increase.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch this situation unfold.

But remember, Parkville residents, your aldermen are expecting your rates to go down.

You might want to clip and save this piece.


Major kudos to Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt for putting together a terrific sales pitch to organizers of the Missouri Photo Workshop. Largely due to the efforts of the mayor--who gives an assist to Bill Hankins, The Landmark’s Hall of Fame photojournalist who broguht the idea to the mayor’s attention, and to a lesser extent a task force the mayor put together to help make the sale--Platte City has been chosen as the host city for the 66th Missouri Photo Workshop in September.

Our front page story has all the details. Check it out.

And plan to come meet the 40 photographers from all over the world who will converge upon Platte City in September. Who knows, they may even choose you or someone you know as the subject of their photojournalism project.

It will be an excellent way for stories of Platte City and Platte County to be shown through pictures.

Exciting stuff.

(Get exciting news and commentary 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 2/19/14

Hockey is where it’s at. Well, Olympic Hockey is where it’s at this week. I enjoy hockey for about 10 days every four years.

That overtime match last Saturday between USA and Russia, decided in exciting shootout fashion, wasn’t exactly the 1980 Miracle on Ice but it was pretty close. The United States has advanced to the quarterfinal round, with that game being played today as The Landmark is hitting the streets. A victory would advance the team to the semifinal round on Friday. The gold medal game is Sunday.

Check it out.


In case you missed it earlier, here’s my analysis of the Chapel Ridge opponents vs. Platte County lawsuit in a nutshell: Less than a snowball’s chance.


Hats off to the Platte City Police Department for its quick work in solving the break-in/theft/vandalism at Platte County High School.

Kind of amazing what those juvenile suspects must have been thinking as they (allegedly) terrorized the inside of a school that they know has security cameras rolling. Even without cameras, the ‘whodunit’ behind an act like that almost always comes out in time.


Police say the suspects wrote/spray painted “Algebra sucks” while painting some graffiti on the school’s interior.

So really, all police had to do to solve the crime was find two high school students who think Algebra sucks.


A report circulating in the community, thanks to high school students, is that the case was broken wide open when one of the 16-year-old students/suspects wore the same clothing to school that was worn by suspects seen in the widely-distributed security video.

Big, if true.


Visual learners will want to check out some of the newest information posted at Kirby Holden’s website, plattecountyr3facts.com, to see a helpful illustration of the difference in how Platte County R-3 publicized a forecast of significant enrollment growth from a study done in 2010 to a later study that projects enrollment growth to be significantly less.


The 2014 Platte County political scene continues to get more intriguing. State Rep. Ron Schieber of southern Platte County told The Landmark on Friday that he’ll be running for presiding commissioner. That makes him the second announced candidate for that office, with former second district commissioner Jim Plunkett spreading word last month that he’ll be filing.

In all this, what is still not known is whether incumbent Jason Brown will be seeking reelection. Brown has yet to make a public announcement of his future plans. Filing opens next Tuesday, Feb. 25, so things will start happening soon.

Schieber brings with him solid credentials as a fiscal conservative. He has a broad base of support, is very effective in one-on-one discussions with voters, and has never had trouble raising campaign money. In other words, he will be a formidable candidate.

If Schieber, Plunkett and Brown all end up in the race, it will be a match of three political heavyweights and fascinating to watch.


I was able to sit down with Schieber on Saturday to listen to some of his observations and stances. His remarks will resonate with fiscal conservatives, and that’s a good sign for a man about to run in a Republican primary.

Some of the highlights of my conversation with Schieber included his comments about the jail situation in particular, but more importantly long range planning and tax issues in general.

“I’m not a real fan of putting a tax out there. That should be the last resort. Once you have a tax, even if it has a sunset, those are easy to extend,” he said.

Furthering our conversation on general terms and not speaking to any specific issue, Schieber said: “I’m an idealogue when it comes to taxes and regulation. As an idealogue, I realize we still have to govern. You don’t always get what you want but maybe you can negotiate something that’s not quite as taxing and not such a burden on the taxpayers.”

As for tax issues:

“The people expect us (their elected officials) to know the ins and outs and what the options are. If we put something on the ballot, it’s got a pretty good chance of passing. So I think the people need options and need to know what the other options are before we put stuff on the ballot. We’ve seen in our own county, taxes get put on, then they sunset, then they get extended. . .I just think we have to do more long-range planning for fundamental services,” he remarked.

That’s a stance that makes a lot of sense.


So, Parkville’s plan to deal with the impending doom of $5 million in Neighborhood Improvement District debt in the Brush Creek NID at the west end of the city is to sell the city’s sewer system to Platte County Regional Sewer District.

It’s an interesting scenario. And probably the city’s only feasible way out of a mess.

Obviously, PCRSD believes taking over the city’s sewer system and serving the city’s 5,500 residents will be a profitable business acquisition or it wouldn’t even be considering the deal. It will be fascinating to watch this unfold, as details on the purchase price and the effect the transaction will have on sewer rates for customers inside Parkville’s city limits will eventually be known. The early analysis is that the sale could mean (considerably?) higher sewer rates for Parkville residents.

Don’t touch that dial.

(Occasional sense is made on Twitter @ivanfoley. Or you can email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 2/12/14

Big 12 Conference basketball this season is absolutely insane. If you haven’t spent some time on these cold winter nights watching a Big 12 game or two, you’re missing college basketball at its finest.

I’m reserving a spot at the Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center March 12-15. There should be some great games on tap.


And yes, you can count on The Landmark holding its annual Bracket Battle contest when the field is announced for NCAA March Madness. You’ll get a chance to win a year’s subscription to this fine publication by finishing with a higher score than yours truly.

Better start doing some homework.


What’s it gonna take for Kansas City to be successful in getting a bid together in its effort to host the 2016 Republican National Convention?

Apparently one of the things it may take is more available hotel rooms. As you can see in our front page scoopage by Valerie Verkamp, KC is running short of available hotel rooms at this point, though a push is ongoing for existing hotels to make more rooms available to convention-goers. We’ll keep you posted.


If you follow The Landmark’s large social media presence on Twitter and Facebook--and if you don’t, you need to jump on it because it’s news and entertainment in real time--you know we’re excited that JCPenney has signed on as a long-term Landmark advertiser. You saw their inserts for the first time in last week’s issue and will see them in many more, including this week with a doorbuster ad that features savings of up to 60% Friday and Saturday.

Just in case you didn’t realize, your nearest JCPenney is right here in Platte County at Tiffany Springs. Shopping there helps generate sales tax revenue that is the economic engine for your county government.


Speaking of county sales tax revenue, the latest sales tax report is out and it’s a mixed bag. On the positive side, year-to-date general sales tax revenue is up by 4.5% compared to this time last year. That’s the good news.

But more importantly, the overall report is not so rosy. Remember, county general operations are funded by a combination of sales tax revenue and use tax revenue. While the sales tax dollars are up by 4.5%, the use tax--basically a tax on purchases made out of state--numbers are down by 11.8%. Combining the two numbers, the total sales and use tax collections year-to-date are 2.4% below what they were at this time last year.

“Negative numbers (when it comes to revenue) are never good,” Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, quipped this week.

Yikes. It’s still early and things could change, but damn, the county auditor looks pretty silly right now.
So much for that growth in county revenue that Kevin Robinson, county auditor, had predicted. You’ll recall in November, Robinson said he was forecasting an eight percent growth in use tax collections for 2014. He was forecasting an eight percent growth. After two months, the use tax collections are down by nearly 12 percent which means right now, Robinson’s forecast is off by 20 percent.

To be that accurate, he may as well have closed his eyes and thrown a dart at a number on the wall. Maybe that’s what he did. Remember, this is the same auditor who tells us that revenues at the county-owned golf course are going to rise by 33% this year.

To be fair, Robinson forecast a one percent growth in general sales tax collections. So far those collections are up by 4.5%. But most observers expect that number to come back down to Earth, in light of the bitterly cold weather this area has been experiencing in January and so far into February. Remember, due to the lag from the time that retailers collect the sales tax, then send it in to the state, then the state sends the money to the county, the February numbers reflect consumer purchases that were made in December. The March receipts will reflect consumer activity in January, the April receipts will reflect consumer purchases in February.

In other words when you read the county’s monthly report, keep in mind the numbers are two months behind the consumer activity.

“I’d read the sales tax numbers with a guarded optimism. January’s bitter cold will take a toll on the March report,” said Rob Willard, county treasurer, this week. “And use tax is still lagging.”


I have high hopes for David Jones, a candidate for Ward 3 alderman at Parkville. Jones, who became a Parkville resident a couple of years ago, is running unopposed for the seat currently held by Chris Fisher.

Why do I have high hopes? Jones is the former mayor of St. Joseph. He served as mayor of that city of 77,000 people from 2002 to 2006. One of the city’s major accomplishments during that time was the development of a major retail center known as the Shoppes at North Village.

You know what Parkville--with millions of dollars of west end Neighborhood Improvement District debt staring it in the face--needs to be concentrating on? Attracting development. That’s going to be the ticket to saving the city from financial embarrassment.

And you know what else? Jones is already aware of this, and the NID debt was the first thing he mentioned when discussing Parkville’s future in a phone conversation I had with him this week. I anticipated I would have to bring up the NID issue. I didn’t. It’s already in the forefront of his mind, which is a great thing. To this point, I’ve had the impression leaders at City Hall in Parkville have been more interested in whistling past the graveyard.

“I feel the NID is the top priority. I really do. You’ve got to find a way to pay that back and find the right development that benefits the community in the right way without doing things to hurt Parkville’s character,” Jones said.

“I have experience with infrastructure--doing it in a way that it doesn’t hurt the taxpayers while still being able to attract developers,” Jones said.


The April election can’t get here soon enough. Get ready to get busy, David Jones. Parkville and its 5,500 residents need your experience.

More from my conversation with Jones in future columns.

(Get ahead of the game by following Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and finding him on Facebook)



Written 2/5/14

How’s your Polar Vortex this morning?


By most accounts, the major snowstorm that hit the area much of the day Tuesday and into the very early hours of Wednesday dropped anywhere from 8-12 inches of snow in the area. Making it even more fun was the fact some winds accompanied the storm, creating significant drifting.


Refresh me, are alarmists calling this Global Warming or Climate Change? Somebody help, I’m confused as to which term I’m supposed to get more panicked about.


The county closed offices at 2 p.m. Tuesday as the storm was getting grumpy and then waited an hour later than normal to open offices Wednesday morning. Kudos, I have no problems with that level-headed, concerned-but-not-panicked approach.

I think officials at Platte County handled their reaction to the conditions perfectly, though their naming the blizzard The Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Geez Criminy was a bit over the top.


We’re keeping an eye out for upcoming county commission discussions over future jail expansion possibilities. As The Landmark exclusively reported last week, a study by consultants and architects resulted in some pretty pictures of a possible $21 million expansion of the current jail on the county’s existing ‘footprint’ at the government complex along Third Street in Platte City.

As we reported last week, the proposal calls for 315 beds to be added to the current 154-bed capacity facility. That would be 469 beds total. Doing the math, that’s tripling the current capacity.

Seems excessive, which leads me to speculate the county would get in the rent-a-cell business to other area jurisdictions, including, perhaps, Kansas City and/or Jackson County.

The architectural drawings I’ve seen show the future jail addition being constructed primarily on what is now an employee parking lot to the west of the existing jail. It shows a new sheriff’s department headquarters on the lower floor of that new construction, with two floors of new jail housing on top of the new sheriff’s department, with the existing jail remaining where it is.

We’ll keep you posted on discussion and any new developments.


For those who chose Kurt Foley to win this year’s Landmark Pigskin Picks contest--and you know who you are, don’t make me name names--you’ve won a free three year subscription to The Landmark.

College boy Kurt edged your Landmark publisher by one game in our annual stab at picking the winner of every NFL game played throughout the season. It’s the second consecutive winning year for our Washburn student, bank employee and (very) occasional Landmark facilities manager. Last year he edged Brian Kubicki by one game.

Final standings for your Landmarkers: Kurt Foley 176-90-1; Ivan Foley 175-91-1; Greg Hall 172-94-1; Chris Kamler 164-102-1; and Brian Kubicki 162-104-1.

I’m proud to say we stack up very well compared to the sports writers at the Kansas City Star who cover this stuff for a living. Only one Star sportswriter did better than your top two prognosticators at The Landmark.

Kansas City Star standings: Terez Paylor 182-84-1; Sam Mellinger 174-92-1; Jeff Rosen 170-96-1; Vahe Gregorian 167-99-1; and Randy Covitz 162-104-1.

We’ll do it again next fall. In the meantime, if you picked Kurt, three years of Landmark journalistic adventures are coming your way.


The interesting thing I’ve noted about the discussion between Kirby Holden and Dr. Mike Reik (see front page story), superintendent at Platte County R-3 Schools, is that Holden’s information turns out to be accurate. The school never says that Holden has distributed inaccurate numbers when it comes to the school’s projections of enrollment growth.

I mentioned in this column space many months ago that I’ve known Holden for five or six years and can tell you he takes his research seriously. He is not some off the cuff radical--he is a bulldog who gets accurate information and drives home his points using common sense along with that accurate information. His web site, plattecountyr3facts.com, is a wealth of information with statistics and analysis that sometimes paint a different picture than what we may be used to seeing and hearing.

His most recent revelation, made in a letter to the editor here last week, is that Platte County R-3’s growth projections have dropped dramatically. A 2010 enrollment study had much higher numbers of enrollment projected by the year 2018 than the most recent study this past year. The district’s projected rate of growth has lowered by at least 800 students, about 50 classrooms, by the year 2018.
He also pointed out last week that the five school buildings in the northern part of the R-3 district this year have a total growth of one student--that’s one student--over last year.

Every patron should thank Holden for bringing helpful information to the public’s attention. District officials, who are busy planning a 2015 tax levy increase vote that will be based on needs they’re tying to projected growth, weren’t exactly going out of their way to broadcast the fact that growth projections have dropped significantly. I’m not saying they were hiding that information under a rock, but I am saying it wasn’t being openly broadcast in the fashion the previous study had been.


Holden has made himself a candidate for Platte County R-3 School Board in the April election. He is an intelligent person who does research and asks tough questions of those making decisions that impact the community. His inclusion on the board would be a positive for the district, and certainly would make board meetings more interesting.

(Ignore the Polar Vortex at your door and warm yourself with Twitter @ivanfoley)




Written 1/29/14

Take precautions, you may have heard there’s a stomach virus going around.


I’m confirming based on the fact that at 5 o’clock this morning I found myself on the floor in the hallway bathroom hugging a toilet. And while it’s a nice enough toilet, I’m normally not that attracted to it.

That’s all you need to know, really.


The Between the Lines column began in 1993 and hasn’t missed a single week for loyal readers since 1999. So we’re not gonna let a little stomach bug keep us down, am I right?

Now let’s stop talking and get through this so I can go lay down before it’s time to mail papers this afternoon.


Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt, who has become a well-rounded public servant with expertise in many areas, is excited about the fact there are several community events that will brighten up Main Street--specifically the courthouse square--during 2014.

“It appears that Main Street will have eight to nine events this year,” the mayor said recently.

The mayor didn’t go into specifics in our brief exchange on the topic, but I’m guessing there will be some music/movies on the courthouse lawn during the warm weather months, perhaps the return of the Ladies Night that was held for the first time this past September, and other similar events.

It’s cool that City Hall is getting behind the effort to liven up the downtown square after normal business hours.


One of the downtown events the mayor is referring to will involve an open-to-the-community celebration of The Landmark’s 150th year of continuous publication.

Yes, later this year The Landmark will note its 150th anniversary. That’s a lot of newspapers, a lot of deadlines, a lot of dead trees.

Our downtown celebration will actually piggy-back on an event with our friends and fellow downtown merchant at The Law Offices of Scott Campbell, whose staff had jump started planning a celebration when it was decided to combine the two sideshows into one.

This celebration will take place on Main Street the evening of Friday, Oct. 3. There will be a band (Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders) cranking out excellent music. There will be food and beverages. Rumor has it other merchants in the downtown--such as the Pool Hall--will have a role in this shindig.

We’ll have the historic Landmark office at 252 Main open for walk-through tours that night, with the old-time machinery, handset type, and those antique typecase drawers in a display that would make Ben Franklin--and former Landmark publisher Max Jones--feel at home.

Save the date of Oct. 3. More info in the coming months.


It was a little weird last night watching the president pull out his cell phone and snap a selfie during his State of the Me-yun address.


Las Vegas oddsmakers say the chances of Chapel Ridge opponents winning their lawsuit against Platte County are less than my chances of keeping down a large meal today.


Holy heck, the numbers presented to the county commission this week in regard to a proposed expansion of the current jail are not pretty. In fact, they’re downright frightening. See our front page story for more details.

Consultants recommend adding 315 beds. That’s adding, not total. The 315 would be added to the 154 beds already in place, which if my math is correct, would mean 469 beds.

That sounds. . . high.

Here’s another number that sounds high: The price tag is estimated at $21 million. Somebody call the cops.

So many cells could be a tough sale for the county when it reaches out to taxpayers for some funding.

We all know $21 million doesn’t grow on trees. It grows in the county’s park tax fund.


Just another reminder of what a terrible governing mistake was made by the 2009 county commission of Betty Knight, Kathy Dusenbery and Jim Plunkett. Instead of providing far-sighted leadership to constituents, the commission at that time took the easy way by guiding voters to renew the park tax at a half cent instead of developing and proposing a plan that would have cut the park tax to a quarter cent while directing a quarter cent for law enforcement needs.

The passage of time--and issues like emergency radios and jail needs--has only made it more evident what a mistake that was.


And that mistake was doubled down by a later county commission, specifically commissioners Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, last January.

Roper and Soper had only been on the job a few days when they rushed into pushing renewal of a 3/8 cent road tax instead of taking a deep breath and studying the opportunity to direct a portion of that sales tax to assist with law enforcement needs. You know, like, maybe this thing called a jail and that thing called emergency radio debt.

So here we are.

(Twitter is where you can head for a Between the Lines fix between issues of the printed newspaper. Get it @ivanfoley)



Written 1/22/14

It was mentioned in last week’s column to expect some questioning of Park Hill’s proposal for a 32-cent increase in its tax levy. The impetus for the proposed increase is a technological program that, among other things, would put a laptop in the hands of every student.

Already the debate is underway in a district where many patrons have rarely questioned expenses. As eventually happens, times and economic conditions change and more folks begin to realize every proposal does not automatically deserve a ‘yes’ without some tough questions and a thorough examination of priorities and needs.

Jim Dunn, as a former teacher and administrator in the Park Hill district, is able to examine the question from a unique angle. Read his commentary by clicking here:

We’ll have more from the ‘yes’ side and the ‘no’ side on the Park Hill issue as the April election draws near. For now, I encourage you to give Dunn’s commentary a read.


Time for a quick informational item, because the more you know. . .
Central Platte Fire Board members at a meeting last week indicated they’ll be investigating the possibility of buying a new pumper truck this year. Paul Regan, chairman of the three member board that also includes Andy Stanton and Mike Ashcraft, said the district has four pumper trucks and one aerial truck. The model years of the current pumpers are 2012, 2007, 2005, and 1986. Regan said the aerial (sometimes called a boom or ladder truck) is 14 years old.

The process is in its preliminary stages, and board members indicated they’ll be attending an expo in Columbia next month to take a look at some of the new models. Larry Bigus, fire chief, estimated at last week’s meeting that a new pumper truck could cost anywhere from $600,000 to $700,000.

Regan said once a truck is ordered it takes several months for it to be built and delivered. Fire officials indicated if a new pumper is purchased the department would dispose of the 1986 model, perhaps to a small rural department.


I’m not an attorney, but occasionally I like to play one in this column. That being said, of this much I’m certain: Anybody can file a lawsuit. Not everybody can win a lawsuit.
Listen, there are good people on both sides of the Chapel Ridge opponents vs. Platte County lawsuit. Everybody has the right to their opinion on the issue and certainly everyone has the right to file legal action when they think they’ve been wronged. In last week’s Landmark, we devoted nearly half a page of space to the opponents’ attorney, Bill Quitmeier, outlining the case against the county. Based on his comments in that article, Quitmeier seems to have built his case on the fact he believes Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, is something similar to Satan.

“I think Jason Brown thinks he is king.”

“I feel Jason Brown turned his back on the seven on the commission and his fellow commissioner.”

“Jason Brown sold out to Platte Valley Bank. He does not want to bite the hand that feeds him.”

Got it. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Quitmeier and some Chapel Ridge opponents won’t be supporting Brown in any future elections. But court cases are decided on the law, not political opinions. My guess is if you start spewing political opinions in the courtroom, you’re going to irritate a judge, not win him over.

Later in the article, Quitmeier tried to get into legalities with his comments, but even then didn’t exactly nail it. Some of his other comments: “This is a slap in the face to all who developed the land use plan.”

That point, even if you believe it to be true, can be countered by the fact the land use plan is not a legally-binding document. So if your magic bullet to win a legal battle is based on your contention the county didn’t follow a plan that is not a legally-binding document. . . .I don’t know that I like your chances.

Quitmeier later made reference to the fact he believes Brown violated the Sunshine Law by ‘conjuring up’ amendments to the Chapel Ridge plan. There’s no bigger defender and supporter of the Sunshine Law than this newspaper in general and this columnist in particular. When the smoke clears, I think what will be discovered is that those amendments were discussed in a properly posted and properly noticed meeting that included Brown and fellow commissioner Beverlee Roper.

We’re all human and occasionally emotion gets the best of all of us at some point in time. Hopefully the good people spending their hard-earned money in this legal fight truly believe they have solid legal grounds--not just political opinions, hurt feelings or negative emotions--on which to stand.

Maybe they do and we just don’t know it yet. Maybe Quitmeier has better bullets in his legal arsenal and just isn’t showing them at this point.

Or maybe he’s using somebody else’s money to fight an expensive legal battle based on little more than emotion and political opinion. Only time will tell.


It’s important to keep a grounded approach in the world of politics and not let emotions rule the day. Heck, if politicians start letting emotions dictate their actions, before you know it they’ll be giving 10 percent salary increases to friends and naming public buildings after people.

But I digress.

The grounded approach political observers should take this week is in regard to the potential Jason Brown vs. Jim Plunkett race for presiding commissioner. It’s exciting to think about, because if it happens it will be a battle of experienced public servants who each would have the ability to run a well-funded campaign.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Brown hasn’t yet announced whether he is running. And even though Plunkett issued a news release indicating he is going to run, that’s not a guarantee. Just a few months ago in an interview for this column, Plunkett said he had no plans to run.

We’ve also seen that even after a candidate files, there’s no guarantee they’re going to stay in the race. Chris Fisher, Parkville alderman, originally filed for reelection before withdrawing last week. Not too many years ago, Sherri Plunkett, Jim’s wife, announced as a candidate for a state representative position and had started a campaign before deciding to end her bid. Those things happen.

The point is, while it’s fun for all of us to speculate, filing doesn’t even open until Feb. 25. It’s far too early to assume anything.

(It’s safe to assume you can keep up with Between the Lines 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)



Written 1/15/2014

One of the things I like best about The Landmark is that every week, every day in fact, is different. We just never know where the events of the day are going to take us, mentally or physically.

So what’s been happening this week? It’s been a week of crazy comments in the local news world.


This week, Dwayne Bowe told a Kansas City radio station that he was “profiled” by Riverside police when he was ticketed for speeding and charged with marijuana possession in November.

How can you think about this and not be entertained? This sounds like parody material for an upcoming episode of our Rambling Morons podcast.

Bowe was driving through Riverside. It was late at night, which of course means it was dark. He was (allegedly) driving 48 in a 35. When the officer approached the car, he detected an aroma of marijuana. According to the report, Bowe admitted to the officer he and friends had “smoked a little while waiting at the (downtown) airport.” Marijuana was found in a search of the car.

So was Bowe profiled?

Well, it depends on how you define ‘profiled,’ I suppose. Sounds to me like Riverside police officers ‘profile’ vehicles traveling at 48 in a 35.


Next up on the topic of crazy comments we have Parkville Alderman Nan Johnston, whose public remarks on this Vikings water situation (see front page) have been all over the map. One meeting, she’s really mad at the Vikings. Then at a later meeting (a Vikings rep is in the room) she sounds much more mellow on the issue. Then with the Vikings absent at a this week’s meeting, she’s back to being mad. Then a few minutes later within the same meeting, she implies it’s all this newspaper’s fault.

Slow down, Nan, by the time we make note of your mood it has already changed. Sybil is jealous of Nan’s personalities.


Let’s go to the tape. Here are Nan’s quotes in the order in which they occurred:

•At the Nov. 4 meeting where the city--not the newspaper--first raised the topic of the Vikings being on the receiving end of free water, Nan said: “It really pisses me off, quite frankly, because (the Vikings) are using taxpayers’ money and they have no right to do that.”

•At a meeting Nov. 25: “I do want to give the Vikings a clear name.”

•In the middle of a meeting Jan. 13: “I have a little bit of a non-trusting factor (when it comes to the Vikings).”

•Toward the end of the meeting Jan. 13: “The newspaper made it seem the Vikings did something sneaky.”

So to summarize, Nan was against the Vikings before she was for them. And then she was against them. And then she was for them.

And by now that has probably changed.


Meanwhile, The Landmark’s reporting on this topic has been an accurate depiction of the facts as they have come to light and an accurate recording of public comments as they have been made. Our lone editorial (Nov. 27 issue) on the matter said there was blame on both sides, pointing out that “this mystery draws attention to the fact somebody at City Hall has not been minding the store” and criticized the city for “not being anxious to thoroughly address it. Both sides look silly.”


Two more quick thoughts on the Vikings water topic.

1. The club has agreed to pay restitution for past water usage, which in itself is an admission of guilt. A person or organization doesn’t voluntarily pay restitution without that being seen as an admission they were in the wrong.

2. The amount of restitution Vikings club officials told The Landmark the city administrator has mentioned is $1,000. This is a ridiculously low amount. That’s an insult to the taxpayers who have been paying to water a football field for a community organization. City officials should do some old-fashioned math and come up with a more accurate figure. The club has been watering a football field about three days a week for four months a year for a decade. If you’re looking for a somewhat accurate level of reimbursement, $1,000 isn’t going to scratch the surface, folks.


Park Hill will be asking for a 32-cent increase in its tax levy at an April election to implement a program that calls for every student in the district to get a laptop computer. In the meantime, expect some patrons in the district to be asking some tough questions.

In fact, the questioning started at Thursday night’s meeting (see front page story) and the topic has already generated a letter to the editor on this page.

One of my favorite comments to this point came from one of my Twitter followers, who tweeted this: “If laptops made kids smarter, mine would be geniuses. I will be voting no.”


Continuing with the theme of interesting quotes this week, we turn to Thursday night’s Park Hill School Board meeting. Board member Boon Lee, who by the way seems like a great guy, always polite, let fly with a couple I want to reprint here:

•“We have to spend like we can't afford it, but we've got to work like we can't afford not to have it.”

Honestly, I’ve listened to that remark, then read it in print 20 times or more trying to make it compute. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m still not sure how to interpret it.

“As I evaluate whether or not to do this, I look at the sense of obligation we have to our kids. Yes, we don't have all the data to prove that laptops or other devices work, but remember 250 years ago the school system decided to use textbooks. Back 250 years, there were controversies whether textbooks were effective. Today, we don't question why we spend $800,000 to $1 million in the Park Hill School District for textbooks. So hopefully in a few years we will get to the point where we don't question why we need devices for the kids. It will just become part of their learning tool.”

I have run that one through the Between the Lines logic meter multiple times. I’m not sure that’s going to amount to a catchy campaign approach.

Compute the news and commentary as it happens on Twitter @ivanfoley



Written 1/8/2014

Well, here I am, sitting in the Ivan Foley No BS Building catty-corner from the Jack Coots Bank Vault in the middle of the Ronnie Pine Business District cranking out another Between the Lines column.

Thanks for reading.


Ahh, there’s the Owens Lee Hull Justice Center.

I’m old enough to remember when it was the Platte County Courthouse.


If the Platte County Commissioners tell you they aren’t getting negative vibes about the decision to permanently attach the name of the retiring judge to the courthouse, then they are either being less than straight with you or they truly do live sheltered lives in a capsule of bureaucracy.

Been to any local cafes lately? Taken a walk up and down Main Street? Wow. It’s still the buzz more than a week after it happened. Folks aren’t going to start a letter-writing campaign because they don’t want their reaction to be misinterpreted as disrespecting the judge. But wow.

Last week I mentioned the behind-the-scenes feedback when a previous county commission attached the name of former sheriff Tom Thomas to the new sheriff’s department (technically, it’s named the Tom Thomas Law Enforcement Center, thanks to then-commissioners Betty Knight, Michael Short and Diza Eskridge. You’ll notice Thomas’ name does not appear anywhere outside the building, only in the lobby. Reaction at the time caused the commissioners to cool their jets a bit). So I’m not at all surprised about the negative reaction in most circles by last week’s move. Heck, my ears were set on fire by a respected, normally quiet, very civic-minded longtime resident as I walked away from last week’s ceremony. It was then I knew that if this very civic-minded person was so strongly opposed to it, the county has a PR problem on its hands.

And let’s be clear, the negative vibes are no disrespect to the good judge himself. The negativity is from attaching the name of any local taxpayer-paid public official--doesn’t matter whom--to the historic structure that is an iconic symbol of Platte County, its history and a general picture of strength for which the county and its people stand.

Now when you’re out of town and mention that you live or work in Platte County and someone says, “Oh, I remember seeing the Platte County Courthouse on the square” you can correct them by saying “You mean the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center.”

Naming the courthouse in the judge’s honor is one of those ideas that probably sounded good on the surface when it was kicked around inside the insulated walls of the government building. But had county commissioners stepped outside those walls and sought some honest feedback from the community before proceeding with the move, I think they may have settled on something a little less drastic.

How about renaming the jury deliberation room inside the courthouse in honor of the judge? How about settling for his picture and a plaque inside the lobby? How about renaming the judge’s chambers in honor of the longtime judge? Maybe dedicating in his name the courtroom in which he served?

Anything like that would have been very appropriate and very fine.

But renaming the courthouse? To a lot of folks, it comes off as cheesy, patronizing, and condescending, all at the same time. At minimum, it seems disrespectful to other longtime judges who have served, are serving and will serve in the future.


He had an accomplished career and has served the public well. Please be clear that I respect Judge Hull as much as the next guy. He deserves major kudos and respect for a job well done.

But you may have noticed there have now been two days in the last few months at the government complex dedicated to celebrations of Hull’s service. When’s the next one? And if the next one is gonna be outdoors again, can we do it on a warmer day?

There have been two ceremonies filled with pomp and circumstance and praises and speeches and blessings and congratulations and ministers and cake and handshakes and hugs and kids singing and bands playing and forced laughter and Color Guards and more hugs.

It’s like somebody at the county is having separation anxiety.

Hey, you guys gonna be ok? Do you need us to send in grief counselors?


I applaud the decision by the Platte County R-3 School Board to delay bringing a tax increase vote to the public until 2015 instead of this April. It’s the right move.

It does make it clear that the 2012 proposal was bloated and overflowing with an alarmist mentality. In essence, the district will have waited three years to put the same ‘needs’ back on the ballot for voters. That’s a sign those needs weren’t nearly as immediate as voters were being led to believe in 2012. Voters were justified in turning that proposal down by a 55-45% margin.


Platte County’s budget hearing was certainly interesting. It featured Duane Soper, second district commissioner, going into elementary school tattletale mode at the end, criticizing Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, for not attending some of the budget meetings with various officeholders, while Soper praised himself for attending every one of those meetings. Kudos to Soper for keeping a chair warm during those meetings. Beyond that, I’m not sure he accomplished anything worthy of a celebration.

Honestly, can you blame Brown? There are portions of this budget that clearly have the Soper/Roper Tax and Spend trademark, so Brown was probably asking himself why he should beat his head against the wall at multiple meetings on the topic. Clearly Brown was aware of the details of the budget on which he was outgunned by a 2-1 margin. He likely knew very early in the process that he was going to vote no on the final proposal.

Since Soper attended every budget meeting with every department head and Roper said she attended all but one, they should be willing to take full ownership of this budget. Let’s be honest, portions of this budget are the stuff of fairy tales. For instance, does anybody in their right mind believe revenue generated by operations at the county golf course is going to increase by 33 percent? That’s what this budget projects.

Plugging in phony revenue numbers is a way to avoid having to make spending cuts at a golf course that is losing $700,000 in taxpayer dollars each year. Keep in mind the $700,000 is what taxpayers are losing at the golf course. The county is spending more than that on the golf course when you include expenditures needed just to keep the doors open.


Here are some names to watch for in the future in Platte County. At least until we run out of taxpayer-financed buildings and monuments to name after ‘good dudes who have served the county well.’

The Bob Shaw Administration Building.

Brian Nowotny Park.

Duane Soper Golf Course.

Betty Knight Trail (check the closets, Betty probably already had the plaque made for this one before she left office).

(Get commentary while it’s hot on Twitter @ivanfoley)