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Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor


Written 2/25/15

Congressman Sam Graves came walking into The Landmark office Friday afternoon carrying his lunch, which was a bag of fast-food from Sonic. Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen dropped in our office Tuesday afternoon and commented he was on his way back to his office and had lunch sitting in his car. “What are you eating today?” I asked. “Sonic,” was the answer.

Sonic. The official restaurant of public officials headed to The Landmark.

(That was an unpaid Between the Lines mention of Sonic. By the way, Sonic, I endorse your drinks. Your food? I endorse your drinks).


Always question projections of explosive enrollment growth. Especially at a time when a school district has a potential ballot question/tax increase proposal on the horizon.

We saw this play out in 2011 and 2012 when projections of rapid and enormous growth in student enrollment at Platte County R-3 were making the rounds. Those projections have proven to be incorrect. So incorrect, in fact, that the district has trashed those earlier numbers and toned down its most recent predictions of growth to a level less likely to trip the crazy meter.

Now a similar disease has struck at the Park Hill School District. The Landmark was at a meeting of the Park Hill School Board in December when it was remarked the district has grown by about 150 students per year over the past 30 years.

That was December. This is February. The tone at Park Hill has changed in recent weeks, not surprisingly at a time when the district is now pushing the need for a major facility expansion (see last week’s front page). Park Hill has said it expects its enrollment will “plateau” at 13,000 students. But when? Based on the established growth trend of 150 students per year, that level would be reached about the year 2030.

But in a recent district newsletter, Park Hill is now saying the district “will increase by an additional 2,000 students over the next few years.”

Say what? I understand that “few” is a very vague term (and vague is likely the reason proponents chose to use it), but many reasonable people would define “few years” as three or four, at tops five, correct?

If that’s the case, Park Hill is now projecting a growth rate of as high as 666 students per year.

Are you kidding me? That seems the stuff of fairy tales, fantasies, and revenue projections at the county golf course.

We do know of a common denominator involved in those earlier wildly incorrect growth projections made at Platte County R-3 and the new ones being made at Park Hill. The common denominator is that there has been input in developing those projections by the architectural firm Hollis and Miller. That is not to say the Hollis and Miller firm is intentionally inflating numbers. . .but it is fair to report the connection and say “hmm.”

Architects make good money off of the construction of large, new, expensive buildings, am I right? Just checking.


When Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent at Platte County R-3, said at last week’s meeting of the Platte City Economic Development Subcommittee that he considers the amount of debt per student “irrelevant in determining the fiscal health of a school district,” you knew there was going to be some blowback. And deservedly so.

Even one of the biggest government bureaucrats around, first district Platte County Commissioner Beverlee Roper, has been known to preach repeatedly against public debt. “Debt equals slavery. Always remember that,” she said in a public meeting earlier this year.

Check out the letter to the editor on this page for the first return volley against Reik’s comment.


My guess is that if R-3 had a very low amount of debt per student, proponents of the proposed tax increase would be touting that as a very positive sign of the district’s fiscal health and past financial management practices. But since the district has a high load of debt on its books, the message is “debt per student is irrelevant.”

Flip it and reverse it.


Call it Fifty Shades of Landmark Columnists.

After many hours of thoughtful deliberation (in other words, in a 30-second conversation that consisted of yelling to each other while walking out separate doors of a building), Chris Kamler and I have decided upon a date, place and time for his book signing event in Platte County.

As you may have heard, Chris has authored a book that will be available Friday, March 13. You’re welcome, America.

His book is about the Kansas City Royals and that Korean dude who flew in during the Royals’ magical 2014 season. The book is entitled: The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo.
Geez, that title has a lot of words. I’m already tired. This thing better have some pictures in the early pages or I’m going to need a shock collar to get through it.

We’ll have more details about this mild-mannered freak show we’re calling a book signing in future Landmarks. For now, mark your calendar for Friday, March 27. The plan is to set up shop on the sidewalk in front of The Landmark office that Friday afternoon, maybe around 2-ish or 3-ish, and hang out through the early evening hours. We aspire to catch foot traffic from both the Owens Lee Hull Jr. Justice Center and the Pool Hall, with the hope being that borderline nut jobs and some slightly boozed-up folks will be more likely to buy a book. Privately, we also hold out hope that the Pool Hall will offer us some type of “refreshment” when we’re done “working.”

We’ll have the official Landmark Newspaper Plinko board set up for anyone willing to give it a whirl. If you don’t know what The Landmark Plinko board is, check out a recent picture posted on my Facebook page. It’s like a vertical maze. In short, you’ll drop a disc down a board filled with long-ass nails sticking out as obstacles, and if your disc lands in the winning slot at the bottom of the board you’ll get a free copy of Chris’ book. Chris is a highly-trained beauty pageant judge and a born-again virgin, so if you’re female and decently attractive--in other words, if you’re female--he’ll sign it for you. He’ll also sign the book.

Boom shakalaka.

(When he isn’t smoking crack with the creators of school enrollment projections, Ivan Foley can be found on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 2/18/15

You’ve read stories in this fine newspaper about crimes occurring at Platte County hotels in what is known as the KCI corridor along Interstate 29. Thugs are breaking into vehicles and stealing items in what the police call smash-and-grab crimes. It goes in spurts. But the major concern now? Things are getting more violent.

Last week’s event that you saw on our front page featured gunshots when perpetrators fired at a person who had spotted someone in his pickup in a hotel parking lot. The man ran toward his truck. Suspects--police say there were four black males involved--opened fire at the witness through the windshield of the suspects’ stolen Mercedes. A stray bullet traveled through a first floor hotel room window and struck a sleeping guest in the leg.

The silver Mercedes the suspects were traveling in had been stolen from Overland Park, Ks. It was recovered near 82nd and Troost in Kansas City, unoccupied, obviously with holes in the windshield.

The injury to the sleeping hotel guest was not life-threatening, but wow. This is getting nuts. A smash-grab-crime is one thing. A series of smash-and-grab crimes with multiple shots fired is quite another.

“I take this personally. It pisses me off,” said Major Roger Lewis, division commander of the North Patrol Division for the Kansas City Police Department, about the rising number of crimes in the KCI corridor. Lewis made the comment Friday morning while addressing a group of hoteliers in a meeting called for the purpose of talking about the recent criminal activity that has occurred on and around their properties. Your humble Between the Lines columnist sat in on the update.

Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen was also there. He tried to take some of the potential heat off of KC police by saying: “It’s a partnership. I own it, too.” It’s the aggressive nature that these crimes seem to be taking that is most concerning, not just in the corridor but all over the county. “I read your paper. It seems like the incidents are getting more violent each week,” the sheriff told me later.

Yes. And thanks for reading.

So what is prompting all the vehicle break-ins at hotel parking lots? The sheriff didn’t really want this part out there, but I think it’s important for the public to know how the criminals are thinking. The more public knows the better steps they can take to protect themselves and their property. Even Major Lewis admitted that sometimes police “get too possessive” of information. Confirmed. I wish I had a buck for every time this newspaper has had to put a verbal squeeze on law enforcement spokespeople to get basic public right-to-know information from them.

These smash-and-grab criminals are looking for guns. Sure, a laptop or some other electronic device might be a good “get” for them, but these guys are looking to steal firearms. That’s why the type of vehicles most often hit are pickups and SUVs--vehicles most often driven by folks who would have a weapon inside. Airport hotel lots are often the targets because of park-and-fly customers. Think about it. A guy parks his truck at a KCI-area hotel before catching a plane.

What’s one thing he knows he can’t take to the airport? His gun. It gets left in his vehicle parked in the hotel lot.


There are 30 hotels in the North Patrol Division of the Kansas City Police Department. Last week’s incident is evidence that crime in the KCI corridor “has risen to a new level,” Major Lewis told the hotel managers. “Stress to your staff that they call 9-1-1, that they do not confront suspects.”

Wiser words may never have been spoken. No sense taking a chance on needing to dodge gunfire. There’s not always a positive outcome.

If hotel staff members are debating whether a situation warrants a call to 9-1-1, that’s when they need to call 9-1-1, Lewis said.


And it’s not just hotel crimes hitting the KCI corridor. Zona Rosa has seen a tremendous rise in shoplifting incidents. One night last week, Lewis said, a clothing store in Zona Rosa was hit with a $10,000 loss in one shoplifting incident. I’m not sure how somebody gets away with $10,000 in one night of shoplifting, but police say it happened.

Sheriff Owen backed up the KC police official’s concerns about shoplifting in the corridor. Owen says since the public transportation bus stop was put in near Wal-Mart on Barry Road shoplifting in that area has seen a marked increase.

So public transportation, the lack of which is cursed by economic development officials who blame it in part for a perceived shortage in available workforce, has its downside in the law enforcement arena.


What happens now? Kansas City police and the Platte County Sheriff’s Department have formed a task force to study the issue of crime in the KCI corridor and what steps can be taken by law enforcement to prevent incidents and to solve the ones that do occur. The task force held its first meeting last week. We’ll keep you posted.


FYI, Lewis mentioned the Kansas City Police Department’s North Patrol division leads the Kansas City metro area in the number of vehicles stolen while the engine is running with the doors unlocked.

Consider stopping that habit.


Does the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee realize the owner of the consulting firm they hired has compared their election campaign to O-rings under a toilet? That can’t be a good analogy for their cause, can it?


A reader sent me this question: If the Platte County R-3 proposal is so great why do they need a nationally-known political consultant to make their case?

That’s a legitimate thought to ponder.


As an update, the R-3 campaign committee’s hiring of Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies consulting business has now been confirmed by multiple sources in a position to know. The only sources declining the opportunity to confirm it are the official spokespeople for Axiom and the campaign committee.

By the way, I’m still waiting on that return phone call from Jeff. . .


If anyone from the campaign committee denies they’ve hired Axiom by telling you they’re using a consulting firm by the name of Candidate Command, be aware that Candidate Command is simply the name of the mailing arm of Axiom Strategies. Axiom and Candidate Command are the same company.

(Stay Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and follow Landmark escapades at Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 2/11/15

It has been proven many times that politics can make for strange bedfellows.

Word on the street is that the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee will be using a political consulting firm in an effort to help it pass the proposed 43-cent tax levy increase in the April 7 election.

The political consulting firm that has been contacted by Quality Platte County R-3 Schools? None other than Axiom Strategies. As in Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies/Candidate Command.

At first blush, this seems like an odd marriage. Axiom Strategies has built a name for itself by fighting against things like tax increases, not in favor of them. Roe is known as a ruthless, no-holds-barred campaign guru.

Laura Hulett, deputy treasurer for the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee, would not verify whether the committee has hired a consulting firm. But sources tell me that Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent, was in contact with Axiom officials back in December.

Two weeks ago I reached Roe on his cell phone to ask him whether his company has struck a deal to assist the R-3 pro-tax group. Roe was in Texas that day, a state where he is spending much time in helping to guide the likely presidential campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Roe told me he didn’t know if his company has a deal in place with the R-3 pro-tax committee. Frankly, he probably didn’t know at the time. Axiom is a very successful multimillion dollar company now with a national presence and a lot of irons in the fire. A local school tax levy campaign is small potatoes in Roe’s world, as he let me know in our phone conversation.

“What makes you think I would know that?” Roe asked me.

“I thought you were the man who would know everything about Axiom Strategies,” I said.

“Would you know what brand of O-rings are under your toilet?” he asked rhetorically, some might say arrogantly.

“No, but my toilet isn’t bringing in millions of dollars,” I said.

These are the types of conversations that two guys who generally don’t give a crap have with one another. There is no such thing as a dull conversation with Jeff Roe. I’ve known him for years, like him, don’t always agree with him but enjoy watching him work and respect the tremendous amount of success he has enjoyed doing the job he loves. We both were on the speaking panel that roasted then-U.S. Attorney Todd Graves. We both were on the speaking panel that roasted radio hot shot Chris Stigall. That could be an indication that we have some similar personality traits.

We ended our conversation with Roe saying he would check with his people to see if indeed Axiom/Candidate Command is working in conjunction with the R-3 pro-tax committee. He said he would check it out and get back to me. That was two weeks ago. I’m still awaiting that return contact.

Interpret that however you’d like. I know how I interpret it.


If you take some time to digest the situation in its entirety, let’s not be totally shocked by the alleged partnership of R-3 pro-taxers with the normally anti-tax firm of Axiom. Not only did it have an ill-advised, poorly-timed proposal it was trying to sell, but to make matters worse R-3’s pro-tax increase campaign was outfoxed and unprepared in 2012 when its levy question was hammered by voters 55-45%. It makes sense for supporters to want to be better prepared this time around. The question is, will the campaign have enough contributed money available to throw to Axiom for the firm to do the campaign any good? Axiom can work wonders but it takes significant dollars, not chump change, to put its recommendations into action.

Meanwhile from Axiom’s point of view, 2015 is not a major year for elections. Axiom has a staff to keep busy. It is a business operation, after all. If a firm better known for anti-tax increase stances suddenly is helping to promote a 43-cent tax hike, that’s more than likely strictly a business decision than it is a “we believe this proposal is a good one” decision. Money talks, in most cases.

Axiom did work for a Kansas City zoo tax proposal not too many years ago, so this wouldn’t be the first time it has consulted on the pro-tax side of an issue.


Some changes are coming to the county clerk’s office, apparently.

Sources inside the administration building say Nancy Armstrong, new county clerk, has disposed of at least one of the employees she had inherited from previous clerk Joan Harms. The firing happened late in the day last Thursday, I’m told.

And the bad news, sources say, was not delivered by Armstrong. Apparently Mary Robinson, the county’s work hard-play harder human resources director, drove the elevator from her basement office up to the clerk’s office on the first floor to do the hit. Armstrong had walked out of the office, apparently so she wouldn’t have to see the carnage she had ordered.

“I think she (Mary Robinson) likes firing people,” one person inside the building told me.


Check out the coverage of a couple of important local business stories on our front page this week by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp. Dairy Farmers of America announces it is moving out of Platte County the same week that Valerie was already doing a feature story on efforts the Platte County Economic Development Council makes to retain existing businesses in the county. Great inside info in both stories.

And what about the gunfire outside a Platte County hotel after a witness approached three black males who were allegedly performing smash-and-grabs upon vehicles in the parking lot?

Be safe. If you’re going to approach suspects in a parking lot at 3 a.m. be sure you have the ability to run zigzag.

(Zigzag with Foley throughout the week on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook. Occasionally you’ll catch him on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, phone 816-858-0363)



Written 2/4/15

No matter how hectic a day I might be having, when I see someone about to walk in the front door of the local license bureau office I realize my day isn’t so bad after all.


I’ve been doing a lot of people watching lately. Gotta say I think a reality show or video podcast based on the adventures of the attorneys and defendants who enter the hallowed halls of the Owens Lee Hull Jr. Justice Center--more commonly known as the Platte County Courthouse--would be a riot.

There are some interesting-looking dudes and dudettes doing business at that location every day. Each one has a story. Actually, I’m certain each one has many stories. And each one could be a story, if you get my drift.

This sounds like the subject of a future Kamler/Foley Rambling Morons videocast, filmed pantsless in the snow.


Kansas City-area community centers are throwing out vending machines and switching to healthy food snack options, so from now on you’ll have to sneak in your own Twinkies and Ho Hos.


Some of the early reaction by county commissioners to the four proposals for Shiloh Springs Golf Course that came in from potential management firms is fascinating. See our front page story for more details, but I’ll summarize some of the highlights that hit me while sitting in on their discussion Monday.

Beverlee Roper, first district county commissioner, must have had a good night’s sleep the night before because she actually seemed focused and on point for most of the Shiloh discussion. A couple of times she actually sounded like the promising 2012 candidate Roper instead of the hugely disappointing officeholder Roper. Well, except the part where she announced for no apparent reason that she went to college with the daughter of the mayor of Punxsutawney, Pa.

Other than that Groundhog Day reference which thankfully was ignored by the other two commissioners, Roper made some common sense comments and observations, which means by next meeting she’ll be ready to run from the stances she took this week.

Roper pointed out it looks to her that Shiloh was designed postage stamp style on a piece of property, rather than flowing in a more unlimited manner that a golf course designer probably would have liked. Like many of us with no emotional investment in the sport of golf, Roper doubts Shiloh will ever make money. “Is it possible for that course to ever make money? I don’t think anybody is going to take a chance on it, with all the other courses around and with the way it was laid out to begin with,” Roper said. Roper also was strong in expressing her desire to have the county explore the idea of selling the Shiloh property to a developer rather than mandating it be kept as a golf course.

Duane Soper, second district commissioner who is a golfer and user of the Shiloh course, countered that he thinks Shiloh can one day make money. He also said he does not want the county to sell Shiloh, using the defense that taxpayers have already spent $10 million over the years at the golf course. I’m not sure the idea of continuing to throw good money after bad is a thought that will be applauded by many taxpayers, but Soper has some emotional feelings for Shiloh and today isn’t the day to beat him up for that since he could be on the verge of losing a friend.

Now is the time to start focusing on ways to cut losses, move on and get rid of the annual financial drain. Maybe Gary Martin’s proposal is the way to do that. Martin wants to run Shiloh by aligning a group of investors to operate the course as a non-profit for a few years, then mentions he would make a $1.2 million offer after three years to buy the course from the county.

There’s a lot of studying that will need to be done to sift through the gory details of Martin’s proposal, but my first reaction? Ding-ding-ding. We may have a winner.

If in three years Martin holds true to that offer I say sell it to him. But remember, a lot can change in three years--saying you’ll buy it in three years for $1.2 million and actually cutting a check for $1.2 million three years from now are two entirely different things.

Martin pledges to keep Shiloh open to the public. That fits the wishes of Soper and others like him who don’t want the course to go away. It allows the county to get out of the golf course business.

And here’s another benefit, especially for supporters of the parks department who may not be avid golfers. Getting rid of Shiloh frees up many $$$ that can be used on other park projects, projects that wouldn’t be developed by private industry. The private sector has done a fine job of handling golf courses in Platte County in recent years. Getting Shiloh off the county parks department books would free up tax dollars for other amenities and services not offered by the private sector. That’s what government is supposed to be doing, anyway.

Just a thought.


The larger cities in Platte County have some well-funded police departments. If you’re unhappy with police services in your local municipality, any shortcomings shouldn’t be because of lack of funds being designated to the department.

As you’ll see in our story inside this issue, Parkville and Platte City have police budgets that amount to an expenditure of $229 per resident.

That’s pretty solid. But nothing compared to the city of Riverside, home of Argosy Casino.

According to information gathered by DJ Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City, Riverside’s police budget equates to $1,006 per resident of Riverside.

Maybe that’s what former Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks meant when he used to say: “Riverside has more money than God.”

(Come see us again next week right here in The Landmark, where a week’s worth of news and fun is still just 50 cents. In the meantime, get information and shenanigans on Twitter @ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)



Written 1/28/15

As your Landmark heads to press Wednesday, we’re being told the thermometer will hit 70 degrees later this afternoon. Love it.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind having to kick my pickup into four-wheel drive at least once this winter. Just for fun.


The falling price of gasoline is hovering around $1.75. Finally the price of gas is lower than my high school grade point average.


I’m not wearing a belt today. Feeling all gangsta.


The Quality Platte County R-3 Schools committee, the campaign organization promoting passage of the 43-cent tax levy question on the April ballot, is already at work. Based on some questions they’ve posed in an online survey, it looks like the Vote Yes side has determined its magic number is 2,000, as in they believe it will take 2,000 yes votes for the issue to pass.

In 2012, Platte County R-3’s levy increase proposal was soundly defeated 55% opposed to 45% in favor. The vote tally was 1,835 against and 1,486 in favor.

Here is one of the questions the committee lists on its survey. “The Fail Safe ‘Yes’ Advocates Committee will need 400 members to get 5 yes votes each for a total of 2,000 ‘yes’ votes. Would you be willing to recruit additional members to the Fail Safe ‘Yes’ Advocates Committee?”


It’s interesting to note that an original filing of “statement of committee organization” with the Missouri Ethics Commission in November by the Quality Platte County R-3 Schools organization listed the school’s street address as the election committee’s address. That November filing listed the committee’s address as being the same as the school’s offices, 998 Platte Falls Road in Platte City.

Maybe that was not seen as a good idea. An “amended” statement of committee organization filed on Tuesday of this week lists the address for Quality Platte County R-3 Schools election committee as 16120 NW 126th Terrace.

We will assume that’s a Platte City address, though the paperwork does not list the city, state or zip. That same address on NW 126th is listed as the address for the organization’s treasurer, Vic Perrin.

Deputy treasurer is listed as Laura Hulett, who is employed as a public relations person by the school district.


Missouri Ethics Commission finally posted a copy of the agreement it reached with the Park Hill School District after Park Hill was found to have committed an ethics violation (see Landmark front page in Jan. 14 issue) in last year’s laptop levy campaign that was hammered by voters 61% opposed to only 39% in favor.

Some of the highlights we noticed in the details include:

1. Park Hill was actually fined $1,000 but most of that fine was “stayed” under the agreement. Park Hill pays a fine of only $100 “subject to the provisions” of the agreement. If the district commits any further violations within a two year period , then Park Hill will be required to pay the remainder of the fee. It should be noted this is not a lot of $$, but it sends a message that leadership at the district is not living up to ethical standards in elections. This is never good for an administrator’s job security nor for the district as a whole in trying to win over the hearts and minds of the taxpaying patrons it serves.

2. Under the deal, Park Hill must adopt a procedure that, in the future, the superintendent or his designee will review all publicly-funded informational items related to ballot issues prior to distribution.

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the ethics commission says Park Hill crossed the line into advocacy by using the phrase “In order to prepare our students for 21st century college and careers” in front of the words “the Park Hill School District is asking voters to approve a levy increase on April 8.”

The ethics commission says Dr. Scott Springston, superintendent, “had access to these materials prior to their distribution to the public but did not review the portion of the materials now at issue.”


Conditions were a little weird covering President Obama’s trip to the region Thursday. As you know by now and can see on our front page, the president came to Lawrence for a speech at Kansas University.

I don’t know who was in charge of deciding in what setting this speech would be held, but it turned into a barn-like event inside what they called the Anschutz Sports Pavilion. Yes that sounds indoors, I understand, but there were doors open on the backside of the audience next to the media tables. Not just any doors. Double garage-sized industrial doors--which allowed a pretty damn crisp wind to blow through on a cold day. And keep in mind because of the security factors involved in presidential visits, the media must be set up and in place for a couple of hours in advance of the speech. So, yes, assistant editor Valerie Verkamp and I were basically locked in a deep freeze for hours that day.

I heard one media member whining that “I left my gloves in the car.” He said this while wrapped up in his winter coat while wearing a hat and scarf. Yes, I said the guy was wearing a scarf. Remember, we were at KU. Mr. Yuppy was actually lucky. Your Landmark editor, crazily thinking, you know, that the president would be speaking in normal indoor conditions--in other words, not with an Alaskan wind blowing on the media tables--didn’t even wear a coat into the place.

And that’s not the end of it. The restrooms that day? Porta potties. A set of porta potties for the public, one designated porta potty for the media. Set up outdoors. In the freezing-ass cold. At least someone had taped a letterhead with the presidential seal on it on the door of the media’s porta potty (a unisex porta potty, pity the poor ladies, this thing had been abused if you know what I mean) to add a touch of class. Or something.

This was my fourth time covering an Obama appearance in the KC area, Valerie’s third. “I think this is the last time,” Valerie said in a shivering tone through tense and partially frozen lips.

Yeah, she said it. But I’m not sure she meant it. My guess is we’ll be back again the next time a president, Obama or otherwise, comes to the area. Just not to the aforementioned KU sports pavilion.

(No matter your weather or restroom conditions, you can always reach out in a Between the Lines kind of way to Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook and Instagram. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 1/21/15

Tuesday night I headed to City Hall in downtown Platte City for a meeting of the economic development subcommittee.

These various Platte City subcommittee meetings, while often newsworthy, are also often very short. This is a reporter’s dream. Give me a meeting that is not time-consuming yet has some news value in it and all is right with the world. It’s a reporter’s version of “tastes great, less filling.”

Tuesday nights are crunch time at weekly newspapers. That’s not a newsman complaining, that’s a newsman giving you some inside skinny into a typical workweek schedule. Despite the 87 other things I needed to be doing at the time, I headed down there anticipating--hoping for is probably a more accurate description--a 30-minute meeting, tops. No such luck. On this night we could forget the less filling part.

We did get to hear a presentation from Bo Woodruff about AMVETS’ fundraising efforts to acquire a tankchair, which is a heavy duty off-road wheelchair. Of course since we featured Bo and this topic on the front page a couple of weeks ago, Landmark readers are well aware of this topic. It sounds like a cool and worthy community project and we certainly hope it is successful.
If you’re wondering how acquiring a tricked out wheelchair for community use winds up being tagged as an economic development discussion, join the club. It did seem like an odd setting for Bo’s fine presentation, but apparently the city leadership believes every potential topic for the full board of aldermen needs to be vetted by some subcommittee. Apparently the economic development committee was the most convenient victim.

The feds are worse but even local government has layers and layers of bureaucracy. I think somewhere this is mandated in the constitution.

While I strongly support the acquisition of the contraption, hope the fundraising effort is successful, and agree the wheelchair would be beneficial to local disabled persons, I would not anticipate a flood of new economic activity being generated because of it.

Next on the agenda for the economic development subcommittee was an item dealing with shredding of older city documents. I don’t want to bore you with details on this, and can’t because I don’t have any. The discussion went something like this: “Blah blah blah, old records, old documents, a lot of old liquor licenses, blah blah blah. Yeah, let’s destroy them.” The end.

Probably a worthy project. I would even help with this. I like to shred stuff. I also like to pop bubble wrap, but that’s another story.

This seemed like another strange item for an economic development focus group. Maybe I’m the silly one here, but I’m not anticipating a flood of economic activity being generated by the committee’s decision to shred old documents.


All was not lost. On Tuesday night there was at least one piece of newsworthiness to come out of that hour of our lives that we’ll never get back.

Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt let it be known that the city turns 175 years old in 2015 and there will be some kind of celebration--or at least an observance of some sort--tentatively set for Saturday, July 4. Duly noted.

The mayor also informed the economic development subcommittee that an anchor from the USS Platte, a former fleet oiler vessel, is available to the city. The USS Platte was a Navy vessel that carried cargo and bulk fuel to battle groups. After the mayor’s presentation about the 13-ton anchor from the aptly named USS Platte--which has been out of commission since 1999--being available, the committee recommended the city spend the $3,000 to have the big-ass anchor shipped here from New Orleans. It will require a crane to unload and place the massive object, and Absolute Crane of Platte City can do that for $800, the committee heard.

The mayor indicated the anchor will be placed in the city’s small park next to the Platte River at the foot of Main Street, which has a name but most of us only know it as the small park next to the Platte River at the foot of Main Street.

“And Platte City will be anchored for the next 175 years,” Offutt predicted.

More on this as the big day--and the big anchor--draws near.


A reader called with a great question. “Dear Handsome and Charming Editor, what is the cost of this book by Chris Kamler that you keep pimping? I want to buy a couple of autographed copies at his book signing.”

Okay that might not have been exactly how the question was worded, but you get the drift. It hit me that I didn’t have the answer at the time. Now I do.

Chris Kamler’s book when it comes out in March will cost $18.99. He is selling autographed versions online for $28.99, but maybe he’ll offer them cheaper at the book signing we’re planning to host somewhere in Platte County.

Memo to Chris: I know we haven’t yet set a date for your March book signing in Platte County. Please duly note the dates of the Big 12 Tournament and let’s not schedule your book signing to conflict with those days. I’m planning on having a nasty cold that weekend and will be unavailable.


It has been great to have the skills of assistant editor Valerie Verkamp back on The Landmark news beat the past couple of weeks. If you missed her byline there for a bit, it’s because Valerie was enjoying a winter-time tropical vacation to an undisclosed location.

While at the beach, Val was stung by a jellyfish not once but twice. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that her boss back at The Landmark ordered the attack by the squishy fish assassin as some sort of payback for leaving him temporarily overworked.

(Get your Between the Lines fix 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley and catch Foley when you can on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or if you still believe in telephones, call him at 816-858-2313)



Written 1/14/15

Occasionally it becomes time to clean out my news notebooks, review those sticky notes attached to my desk and place any news nuggets into this column space before I forget to get them distributed to the fine readers of this newspaper.

This feels like one of those weeks, so we’ll do some of that right now.


It will be very interesting to see the “agreement” that the Park Hill School District is signing with the Missouri Ethics Commission after the ethics agency has ruled the school district crossed the line from informational to advocacy during its tax levy increase campaign last spring.

I did get a kick out of the way a Park Hill newsletter distributed last week tried to spin the news that the district had been found in violation. The newsletter worded it this way:

“The Missouri Ethics Commission found that most of the communications the district produced about the levy were informational and did not cross the line into advocacy.”

That’s what you call putting a positive spin on a negative situation. That’s what PR people are paid to do, I suppose.

The school’s newsletter continued:

“When we communicated with the community about the levy, we believed we were carefully following the law about elections, which says we can only use public funds for information, not advocacy.”

And then I found this next sentence very interesting:

“We are grateful that our agreement with the commission provides more guidance for us and for other districts so we can be sure not to make any mistakes.”

The last sentence seems to indicate Park Hill believes other school districts do similar things and haven’t yet been called on the carpet for it by the ethics commission. That may be true but of course that’s not an excuse for crossing the line.

Remember at Platte County R-3 in 2012 when volunteers for the Vote Yes campaign were handing out Vote Yes cards on school grounds in the parking lots at the schools on election day in support of a tax levy increase question? And the Vote Yes committee at that time was also using the Platte County R-3 central office as a collection/drop-off point for their contact lists, etc. R-3 officials at the time told me they didn’t see this as a violation. Something tells me the folks at the ethics commission may have advised them to handle that a little bit differently.

We’ll know more once we’ve seen the “agreement” being penned between the ethics commission and Park Hill, but early indications are school districts should take the Park Hill ruling as a message that they need to be more careful about staying on the “informational” side and not crossing over to “advocacy” side. It’s flat wrong to use taxpayer funds and taxpayer property to campaign for something that not all taxpayers are in favor of, quite obviously. Both the Park Hill levy question and the R-3 levy question were soundly defeated despite the alleged crossing of the line into advocacy.

Let’s see if the lines of separation are a little clearer during the R-3 campaign this spring.


Dining options in downtown Platte City have been sliced considerably with the unfortunate closing of Chaz 325 the first of this month. The restaurant, located across from the courthouse, has received decent reviews in community conversation. A sign on the door says that “due to a death in the family” the business is closed until further notice. The sign was posted two weeks ago, which is fueling speculation that the closing might be more than a temporary thing.


Kevin Robinson, the county auditor who many sources have confirmed likes to refer to himself as the county’s chief financial officer while he is slurping wine at political events, couldn’t answer my question directly but through some Between the Lines deciphering of Robinson’s code it appears the 1.5% employee pay increase across the board and additional $87,000 to go toward sheriff’s department officers will cost taxpayers about $306,000 in the 2015 budget.

Based on our email exchanges during which he went to great lengths to avoid directly answering any question I asked him, Robinson is in a butt hurt kind of mood. Robinson seems bothered that the county commission’s proposed budget had significant changes from his recommended budget. That must have been a blow to the auditor’s wine-friendly ego. It’s almost as if he’s not really the county’s chief financial officer.

In addition to lowering some of his revenue projections, commissioners went with a 1.5% employee pay hike instead of Robinson’s recommended 3%. This resulted in the auditor’s feelings being hurt and, with his wife still on the county payroll thanks to some friendly DWI prosecutors, also resulted in a 1.5% lowering of Robinson’s potential household income.

For the record, someone might want to give the auditor a memo that, by statute, commissioners are the chief budget officers for the county.


Platte City’s water system is pretty leak-free, comparatively speaking. It was reported at a public works subcommittee meeting last week that the city’s system loses 9% of water. By “water loss” they mean unaccounted for water that leaks out of the system before making its way to customers.

Leaks develop in lines underground in every system known to man.

“Below 10% loss is considered a well-operating system,” DJ Gehrt, city administrator, tells me.
The city will continue to perform a leak check program to reduce the rate of water loss even further, Gehrt indicated.


Lt. Al DeValkenaere is observing his sixth year with the Platte City Police Department. The experienced and multi-talented DeValkenaere has had a positive impact on the local police department.

From a media point of view, I can tell you he is easily accessible and transparent with public information, in stark contrast to some previous local police officials who treated public information like it was CIA-classified.

(If you get Between the Lines separation anxiety before next week’s issue hits the streets, head to Twitter.com @ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivan.foley)



Written 1/7/15

How was your New Year’s holiday?

I’m easily entertained, so one of my highlights was a game introduced to me by Kurt Foley, former Landmark facilities manager now Washburn student/Topeka banking magnate. The game is known as Cards Against Humanity. It’s a multiplayer game using cards. It is available as a free download that players can print off to create their own cards and also available to purchase in published hard copy. Being the high rolling banking tycoon that he is, Kurt has the published hard copy. This game is very politically incorrect, so if you are faint of heart or are easily offended this game isn’t for you. If you like to turn a phrase and realize that the game cards are just words on cards not meant to be taken seriously, this game might have you laughing until your sides hurt. It did me.

To start the game, each player draws 10 white "answer" cards. One randomly chosen player begins as the Card Czar, and plays a black "question" card. The Card Czar reads the question out to the group. Each player answers the question by passing one white "answer" card, face down, to the Card Czar. The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers, reads them out loud in a humorous fashion, and picks his favorite. Whoever played that answer gets to keep the Black Card as one Awesome Point. After each round, a new player becomes the Card Czar, and every player draws back up to 10 cards. Hearing the often politically incorrect answers being read aloud is a hoot.

The development of Cards Against Humanity originated from a successful Kickstarter campaign, the same type of campaign our man Chris Kamler used to fund his upcoming book. Cards Against Humanity has received acclaim for its simple concept backed up by its satirical, mature content. Its title references the phrase "crimes against humanity” to reflect the nature of its content.

Again, if you’re easily offended, don’t play this game. If you’re not, you’ll get many laughs. Good times.


Our Rambling Moron columnist Chris Kamler has a book coming out, with a tentative release date of early March. His book is titled The Silence, The Series and The Season of Sungwoo. As you likely know, the book is centered upon the most recent Royals season--with the incredible post-season that it was--and the adventures of Sungwoo, a resident of Korea and a Royals superfan who made the trip to America to see his beloved team in action. Chris has been kind enough to share a draft of his book with me. Let me confirm a most important bit of news: my name gets mentioned. Which of course means the book is worth purchasing.

Once the book arrives, watch this newspaper for a book signing event The Landmark will help host somewhere in Platte County, with Chris available to put his autograph on books, babies and body parts.


For more information about his book, I stole this update Chris Kamler posted on his Facebook page. If you want to stay up to date, follow him on Twitter @TheFakeNed or befriend him on Facebook. Here’s the update from the mouth of your favorite Royals book author:

“Hey everybody, I owe you a book update! Well, I just now sent the draft manuscript (even I'm talking like an author now) to the final editor for his final edits. That should be back early next week. Then I give it one final once over and "lock" the book.

“We're also working on the cover art, which should be done in the next couple of days, hopefully.

“Behind the scenes, I'm getting some things like accounts created at Amazon so I can sell the book and some accounting things set up.

“All of this is leading up to a March 1 drop date for the book. I still have to get confirmation for that from the printers - but we are ON TARGET at this point.

“I've had a number of folks read through the mostly finished book. The reviews have been pretty positive so far. There may even be a few laughs and a few tears. (Kind of like the Royals season.)
“I cannot thank everyone enough for their help. From the Kickstarter backers to those of you who have expressed interest in the book when it comes out in March to those of you helping with pictures and artwork and editing. It has taken a village to make this thing and I'm just so blessed to have all of you helping.

“Stay tuned. I'll let you know what the book cover looks like here FIRST.”


Parkville hasn’t yet filled its open alderman spot. The board will continue to operate in player down mode for another week or two.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established Doug Wylie as the favorite to get the appointment. We’ll keep you posted.


Giving across-the-board COLAS to government employees is like handing out participation ribbons.


Hope you’ve noticed our new columnist, the distinguished Paul Wilson, on page A-3. Paul’s often light-hearted angle is to give you a glimpse of the Weak in Review. Yes, that’s spelled weak. It’s an off the wall look at some of the recent news highlights and lowlights. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Paul is a former Sprint refugee who is now a freelance writer, artist, bon vivant, man about town, consultant to world leaders and, like all Landmark staffers, a friend to the common man. Paul lives in the Kansas City metro area. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

(You can find Foley at 252 Main in Platte City or on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook at facebook.com/ivan.foley, and if he’s getting in touch with his feminine side, on Instagram and Snapchat. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 12/30/14

This week marks the one year anniversary of that not-so-thought-out move by the current Platte County Commissioners to rename the Platte County Courthouse the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center.

Quick, how many times in conversation over the past year have you heard someone refer to the courthouse as the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center? I can count the occasions on zero hands. Which might tell you something about how wise and effective that decision was.


Your Platte County Board of Elections office isn’t going anywhere. At least not for a while.
The board of directors for the election office has signed a five year extension of its current lease of its current building in Platte City, located at 2600 NW Prairie View Road. There are still two years left on the current lease, so it looks like the office location is now set for the next seven years. The building is owned by Platte Valley East, better known as Bill Mann. Price tag on the lease is $8,787 per month. That includes items like snow removal and lawn mowing.

Had there been talk of relocating?

“We had looked at other options in Platte City. We even looked at potentially buying, but the prices were really high and we ended up staying where we are,” Wendy Flanigan, a director for the board of elections, told me recently.

Depending upon whom you talk to, there may have even been some behind the scenes thinking that maybe the board of elections should be moved to the Platte County Resource Center. Would seem to make sense. The county owns the Resource Center. And reports indicate there is space in that county-owned building available for “rent.” The county is responsible for 51% of the general operating funding for the board of elections, so something tells me the county might have been willing to make them a deal.

“Not really,” Flanigan said when I asked if there had been any consideration by the election board to relocating to the Resource Center--which is in the city limits of Kansas City in Platte County east of I-29 not far from KCI Airport.

“I think we like our location in Platte City, the county seat,” Flanigan said.

The board of elections has been located at its Prairie View location in Platte City since 1999. Prior to that it occupied space in the lower level of the county administration building in downtown Platte City.

Flanigan didn’t go there, and I didn’t waterboard her over it, but sources in a position to know say a big reason the board of elections didn’t look at the Resource Center as an option--even though the rent would have been affordable, if not free, since it seems very unlikely the county would have charged rent to itself--is that board of elections employees wanted no part of paying the one percent earnings tax to the city of Kansas City.

The real “bosses” are the four members of the governing body that oversees the election board--Betty Knight, Jim Everett, Marvin Ferguson, and Diane Pepper. As the presiding commissioner in office when the county acquired the money pit known as the Resource Center, Knight in particular should have been in tune with the financial advantages the county could gain by moving the board of elections office there. Everett is the chair of the board, so I called him for comment. He basically had none. “I would refer you to Chris (Hershey) and Wendy (Flanigan). They did the research and came up with a recommendation. It is my recollection the least expensive and most effective location was the current location,” Everett told me this week. I had already talked to Flanigan. So my next call was to Hershey, the other director for the board of elections.

Why not the Resource Center? “Location, access to voters. And we have a garage door here that allows us to load and unload for elections,” Hershey said. Of course the location and access to voters stance can be argued based on what part of the county you’re referring to--voters in northern Platte County would have easier access to the Platte City location, but for voters in the central and southern part of the county the Resource Center would be the location with easier access.

Next question for Hershey: What would have been the cost savings to taxpayers if the elections office moved into the county-owned space? “We didn’t discuss anything about a rent price. We never had any discussions with county commissioners,” he said.

That’s a concern. Why not at least ask about a potentially rent free spot? “It’s my understanding that the last time around it wasn’t presented as a rent free option,” Hershey said. According to Hershey’s timeline, that would have been under a previous county commission. If Hershey was given accurate background info (Flanigan is away from the office this week and unavailable to verify), the county commission of several years ago was going to charge rent to the board of elections, in essence collecting rent payments from the agency that it is operating from its own general fund? The county wanted to distribute money to the board of elections for operating expenses and then collect it back as rent? What would be the advantage of that? The county wanted to charge rent to itself?

Seems bizarre. And seems very unlikely, although keep in mind some previous county commissions did make occasional bizarre decisions.

The more likely scenario this time around--I want to believe if for no other purpose than for reasons of common sense--is that the county would have offered a virtually rent free spot, saving hassle and saving taxpayers the $100,000 per year they’re paying to occupy Bill Mann’s property.


The board of elections general operating budget is $554,000. Of that, 51 percent is supplied by the taxpayers of Platte County through the county’s general fund. That’s $282,500 per year. The other 49 percent of the board of elections operating budget--or $271,460--is paid for by the city of Kansas City.

So could the county have saved about $8,800 per month in rent--$105,600 per year--if the board of elections would relocate to the Resource Center? Unfortunately we may never know.

Maybe there would have been no acceptable deal reached. Maybe the election folks would have decided the Resource Center isn’t big enough for them (but let’s be honest, there seems to be plenty of wasted space in their current location). Maybe the county would have said it doesn’t want to tie up the Resource Center space for the board of elections (seems unlikely).

But you can’t argue that there at least should have been serious discussions on the topic. Sadly, discussions never even got started. The board of elections folks like being in Platte City--where there is no earnings tax. Any potential savings to taxpayers be darned.

(Can’t wait till next week’s paper? Get your Between the Lines fix anytime on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 12/23/14

Remember our story about her felony DWI being reduced to a misdemeanor? Congrats to Mary Robinson for finding a Christmas gift in the court system. Merry Christmas, Mary. Yes, I was going to write an expose on this topic. But come on, it’s Christmas. Besides, if you read our story last week and connect the dots, you know the inside skinny without me having to spell it out for you in detail.

I will say this: It’s not Mrs. Robinson’s fault some lazy/indifferent prosecutors made it possible for her to avoid potential jail time, maybe even with a wink of an eye and the turn of a cheek. Maybe they think they’re doing her a favor. They aren’t. Nor are they doing society a favor. The innocent public, the very folks the court system is supposed to protect and represent, are put at risk when repeat drunk drivers are handled with kid gloves. Disagree? Talk to someone who has had a family member killed by a drunk driver. They’re not hard to find.

Will Mary learn from this after escaping comparatively unscathed in the punishment phase? Studies show those who avoid significant punishment quite often end up back in the same spot.


Special prosecutors in Platte County have a track record of being anything but special. It’s getting to the point of absurdity. Somebody in the system thinks the public is stupid. It’s time to let them know you’re not.

Someone needs to demand professionalism and end the clown show. Let’s call on Eric Zahnd to do it. It’s time for Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd to start recommending special prosecutors who will take the job as seriously as he does and not be overcome with indifference or the playing of political games.

There have been three high profile cases of Platte County employees accused of serious crimes in the past few years. All three situations turned into a joke. Special prosecutors were appointed in those three cases. Only once did a charge of any type come out of it--and that was the reduced charge/plea deal reached with Robinson when laziness and/or indifference in the office of the Cass County prosecutor took priority over doing the right thing. Remember the special prosecutor in the investigation of a Platte County Sheriff’s Department captain who was (allegedly) doing all kinds of funny stuff with public property and public funds? The special prosecutor in that case--which, by the way, was the notorious Cass County Prosecutor’s Office--decided “Yeah, it looks like some crimes were committed, but the statute of limitations has expired.”

Hmm. In comments to The Landmark, some members of the legal community who read the investigative reports strongly disagreed with that conclusion by the special prosecutor. Then, most recently, a special prosecutor was appointed (this one from Clay County) to look at the case of the missing money from the treasurer’s office. No charges filed. One area prosecutor looked at the reports and told me this: “That’s a case that my office would have filed.”

But alas, no charges. The “no charges” decision, by the way, almost kept the incident from ever being known to the public. Maybe that was the goal. Eventually The Landmark got wind of the missing money and put in a Sunshine request for all the investigative documents.

Then as you read last week, the special prosecutor (those alleged public servants from Cass County again) failed to acquire “triple authentication” (is that like the double secret probation in Animal House?) on one of Robinson’s previous DWI convictions in New York. This in essence means she has only two documented DWI’s. It takes three to qualify for a felony. The special prosecutor could have kept trying. The special prosecutor could have kept waiting for New York to produce the properly notarized documentation. It seems likely the prosecutor could have sent back specific instructions to New York with an example of exactly how the prosecutor needed that particular DWI record “tripled authenticated” and then proceeded with felony charges.

The special prosecutor’s office could have explained why they filed a felony charge in the first place if it didn’t truly have the documentation to back it up (remember, the special prosecutor’s office had told The Landmark during the long delay prior to the filing of the felony that the delay was due to the office waiting on documentation from another state--when that documentation came in, the office would know how to “stage” the charges against Robinson, we were told).

Platte County has an image problem that needs some attention. Right now the public perception is that county employees accused of crimes are getting special treatment. You know what? It’s possible that’s because county employees accused of crimes are getting special treatment.

Correctly or incorrectly, it has created an embarrassing image problem for the county.


Between the Lines again this year was fortunate enough to intercept some letters to Santa from some of your public figures. (For those of you with believing hearts, like the guy last year who called to ask if these were actual letters, here’s a disclaimer: This is what we call a parody. Not real.)

Hey Santa, has Christmas been triple authenticated? Because if not, it didn’t really happen.

Can you do me a favor and dim the lights on your sleigh? So many lights. Police lights. Media lights. Bar lights. Mug shot lights. Bud Lights. I think it’s lights that give me headaches.

Santa, have I told you how much I love my job? Especially after work on Fridays. About .174 of me enjoys Friday nights more than anything.

It’s been a crazy year for me. A courtroom is a funny place, Santa. The other day Judge Rex acted tough and told me I was “this close” to being inside the jail. I think he was saying I would be on the next county jail committee. I’m still not sure if he was joking or serious, but I smiled just in case the cops were taking another picture.

What a year, Santa. Lots of county checks. One county checkpoint. Letters from my home state of New York. Some of them notarized. Some of them not. I like the ones that are not.

Santa, I know Mrs. Robinson (coo coo ca choo) has been a little naughty so if you don’t bring me a gift I totally understand. I already got a present from the court. Look at this ankle bracelet. I glued some rhinestones to it. Really blings up my Christmas outfit. Kevin says if I keep wearing expensive jewelry he’s going to have to recommend another raise for county employees.

There’s something weird about this bracelet, though. When I get into the eggnog it sets off alarms. One time the cops came and I told them if they didn’t like it they could take it up with the boys in the Cass County prosecutor’s office. You gotta love those Cass County guys. I could just pinch their cheeks. It’s cute how they think they’re real prosecutors.

Sometimes when Kevin is asleep I strap my bracelet to his leg. Then I head out to Tanner’s. Then to Maria’s. Then to that bar in Weston. Then back to Maria’s. Then to Dana’s. Then to Duane’s. Then back to Tanner’s. It’s like the circle of life.

One time while Kevin was wearing my special bracelet my probation officer showed up in response to an alcohol alert. Kevin was working on golf course income projections. Oh well, such is the life of the county’s watchdog. And that’s what my Kevin is. Sometimes I tell him “Bark with me if you’re my dog!” And then we both bark and spill our wine.

Love you, Santa. In fact, I love everybody right now. Cheers!

--Mary Robinson
Platte County HR Director
Wife of County Auditor Kevin



Written 12/17/14

He’s all about that raise, ’bout that raise.

Kevin Robinson, your elected Platte County auditor, is recommending a three percent increase in county employee salaries in his proposed 2015 county budget. This would mean a three percent pay increase for his household, as his wife is the county’s human resources director who was originally charged with felony DWI but who reached a plea deal to a misdemeanor charge Wednesday morning.

Legal fees aren’t getting any cheaper, apparently.


For now, read our front page story on the Mary Robinson plea deal. Then read it again. Absorb it. Next week we’ll talk about it here.

Might want to tune in for that one.

There’s also a chance that Between the Lines again this year has intercepted some letters to Santa from your local public figures. A parody will ensue.

Yes, you’ll be busy with Christmas next week but don’t let that make you miss out on reading your Landmark.


Robinson--Kevin this time, not Mary--claims the raise in employee salaries is necessary because the county is experiencing all kinds of employee turnover. Really? I haven’t noticed many new faces inside the administration building. Maybe the new employees are coming to work disguised as the old employees.


It’s a stretch to say the county overall has a high occurrence of employee turnover. BREAKING NEWS: It doesn’t. At least not inside the clerical offices.

The one department that does seem to experience turnover is the sheriff’s department road patrol. The pay for officers on the streets is often higher at the smaller cities in the county than it is for the sheriff’s department deputies, sadly, and so some move on to greener pastures. Who can blame them?

That’s a problem that can be addressed by devoting more funds to the men and women putting their lives on the line to protect the public. No need for a sweeping across the board pay increase for every clerical employee, most of whom are happy with the benefits of their positions or they wouldn’t remain.

Just saying.


Here’s hoping Ron Schieber, incoming presiding commissioner, will be immune to the bureaucratic brainwashing those inside the administration building are going to try to lay upon him soon. Don’t look into the light, Ron, don’t do it. If you want a friend, get a dog.


Chiefs safety Eric Berry has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you follow your publisher’s postings on Facebook, you know that I mentioned this is the same type of cancer that I fought several years ago. And you know that I’m predicting that Berry will make a full recovery.

In July of 1998 I went in for surgery to remove a knot in my neck. Hodgkin’s lymphoma was the diagnosis. Four months of that late summer/fall was spent undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. The doctors felt that if the early response to treatment was good, there was about an 85-90% chance I would still be around five years later. I remember a couple of days after my first chemo treatment running my hand over some knots in my neck and others in my collar bone area and noticing shrinkage. It was the only time in my life I’ve been happy about experiencing shrinkage.

It has now been 16 years that I’ve remained cancer-free. After five years of no return, the Hodgkin’s lymphoma was considered cured, though doctors were quick to point out that the treatment itself makes a patient more susceptible to other cancers later in life. And they let me know the chemotherapy drugs have been known to be hard on a person’s heart, which sometimes results in a patient who has defeated the disease not living to be a ripe old age.

The point I want to get across, Chiefs fans and those standing strong with Eric Berry, is that a young, otherwise healthy and determined Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient has a good chance to make a full recovery. I’m confident Eric Berry will do that. And I think he will play football again.


Edgerton voters can rejoice. The city gets its polling site back for the April election. No more driving to Dearborn to vote. At least not in April. After that? Too early to say.

Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections, says five Democrats and six Republicans from Edgerton have been trained as poll workers for April. They needed at least three in each party. They got it with a couple to spare.


I promised you more inside analysis and background info about Shiloh Springs, the county-owned golf course, from Jim Kunce, the former Platte County Parks and Recreation Department assistant director. Here goes: It seems at one point, Brian Nowotny, parks director, approached some county employees about the possibility of them doing a “buyout” of the golf course. According to Kunce, Nowotny--ever the bureaucrat--painted a picture of a no-risk factor for the potential operators. The risk, Nowotny implied to them, would still be carried by the taxpayers who own the golf course.

“Nowotny approached me and the Shiloh managers (Brian Silcott and Mike Shriner). In the scenario Nowotny presented, the employees could put together a bid to do something such as operate, lease or purchase the golf course. I told Nowotny that I wouldn’t be interested because I wouldn’t invest my personal money into something that I was certain would not be a successful venture. Silcott and Shriner were more enthusiastic than I was--at least at the time. Nowotny even asked Silcott if he thought he could get a bank loan for the venture,” Kunce says. “I don’t recall the exact details, but during the discussion there was some covnersation about the employees not wanting to assume all of the financial liability if the plan didn’t work out. Nowotny said that a “catch-net” type of clause would be worked out in an agreement, basically the “taxpayer catch-net,” Kunce tells me.

I called Nowotny to ask him if indeed those conversations had taken place. “I can’t remember specifically, it could have come up. But there was never a formal offer. It’s possible it came up in conversation,” Nowotny said.

“They could not remain as county employees and be the operators of the golf course at the same time, that would be made clear,” Nowotny went on to say.

Of course the most interesting part of this is that Nowotny basically proposed to them a no risk venture, as Kunce tells it, with all of the major financial risk falling on the backs of the taxpayers.


(Let Between the Lines handle your risks on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley)



Written 12/10/14

Welcome back to The Landmark, the local newspaper that does the heavy lifting.


Before I forget, let me mention that our Rambling Moron columnist Chris Kamler is writing a book about the Royals recent incredible season and the visit from Korean fan Sung Woo. Probably some other great stuff in it as well. Hoping he mentions my name at least once, for instance.

Anyway, he is still accepting donations to publish said book. For more information on how you can take part in his Kickstarter fundraising, go to thekcpost.com/book.


Kids, it’s my professional opinion that if you want to lose weight the best way is to cut out fast food.

In July of 2013 I weighed 179 pounds. Since that time I’ve cut waaaay back on my trips to fast food restaurants and rarely drink a soda pop. On Tuesday morning I stepped on the digital scale. The scale said, “Hey, one person at a time.” Actually, the scale said 162 pounds.

Down 17 pounds. And the best part is I’m doing it with the same amount of exercise that I’ve always done. In other words, you know, almost none, other than climbing stairs around the house and walking from The Landmark office to the Platte County government complex to check on public officials’ DWI arrests, budget miscalculations and missing cash.


Speaking of budget miscalculations, I present to you Kevin Robinson, Platte County auditor.

Hells bells.

You may remember last year when we lampooned Robinson for what we said was a ridiculous revenue projection for Shiloh Springs, the county-owned golf course. Robinson projected 2014 operating revenue at Shiloh would be $709,000. Want to know what the actual operating revenue for the golf course came in at? $478,000.

Robinson missed it by 33 percent.

If that’s a BAC it would be written as .33.


The 2014 operating revenue total for Shiloh is actually down by $5,000 from the previous year, which means that not only did the golf course not experience the growth explosion projected by Robinson, it actually went backward.

I talked to Jim Kunce, former employee of the Platte County parks department who was let go in a “restructuring” by parks director Brian Nowotny earlier this year. Kunce tells me that upon seeing the crazy growth projection forthcoming in the 2014 budget, Shiloh staff confronted Nowotny about it. Kunce said both he and Brian Silcott of the Shiloh staff told Nowotny that it didn’t make sense to project such high revenues, particularly if the county was interested in putting the course operations/ownership out for bid. “We thought it was bad business to overinflate revenue potential and then come up short at the end of the year because somebody interested in bidding will look at the books and see all of the red. Nowotny just gave us a shrug of the shoulders and didn’t provide any reasoning. I do know for certain that the FY 14 revenue projection that was adopted was not made by the Shiloh staff,” Kunce said this week.

Which means it was made either by Robinson, an avid Shiloh golfer himself who doesn’t want to lose his private taxpayer-funded play area, or a combination of Robinson with input from Nowotny.

Either way, what a professional embarrassment.

More from Kunce about Shiloh in next week’s column.


One of the most entertaining (to me) newsmaker interviews I’ve conducted in a long time was the Tuesday night phone conversation I had with Rene Solomon, the now former county employee who became the focus of law enforcement’s investigation into the missing cash at the county treasurer’s office. No charges will be filed, as you see in our front page story.

I put off my phone call to her until the end of the evening for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I really wasn’t expecting her to take the call and if she did I basically expected a quick “no comment” that I would add to my story and that would be a wrap.

The good news is Solomon did not give me the expected “no comment” phrase. The “bad” news is I was able to acquire so many interesting quotes that I had to reconfigure my story late into the night. It was a good problem to have, not gonna deny.

Have I said lately how much fun this job is? I get paid for this?


By the middle of the phone call, this person who I thought was not going to say a word had answered all of my mentally prepared questions, but as a journalist you never want to end an interview when the interviewee is still speaking freely, especially one under the circumstances described in our front page story. So I shifted gears.

“So were you one of Mary Robinson’s drivers after her DWI?”

Sources inside the administration building have told me that Solomon is a friend of the Robinsons and had sometimes driven Mary Robinson to work after Robinson’s much publicized DWI troubles. I was trying to confirm. Solomon asked me to repeat the question. So I did. She didn’t say yes. She didn’t say no. “That has nothing to do with my situation,” she said.


I’ll give credit to Rob Willard, county treasurer, for taking action in a personnel matter that faced his office. Willard had the spine to take some action after his employee--according to the police report--allegedly eventually started avoiding detectives as they conducted an investigation into missing cash. There was no waiting by Willard. And the (now former) employee is not even charged with a crime. Willard didn’t tuck tail and play scared.

We can’t say the same for the county commission, which is still allowing a top level employee--one charged with a felony and described in court papers as “a danger to the community” by her arresting officer--to draw a full paycheck and benefits without meaningful disciplinary action to this point.

Commissioners have embarrassed themselves in the handling of the HR director’s situation.

(Stay up to date throughout the week on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Facebook.com/ivan.foley)



Written 12/3/14

I’ve got a new black leather jacket. It’s lined with sheepskin, which makes me baaaaaad.


As we’ve mentioned here previously, many of the good residents of Edgerton have been upset with the closing of their election polling site, which forced Edgerton voters--many of them elderly--to drive to Dearborn to cast their ballots at the November election. A lack of people willing to serve as election judges for the Edgerton site was given as the reason.

Will the Edgerton polling site be reinstated for the April election? According to Wendy Flanigan, a director for the Platte County Board of Elections, we’re about to find out.

Flanigan says officials will have the answer to that after a Dec. 10 training session for election judges. “We’ve sent out information to people who indicated to us they’d be willing to serve. We’ve heard back from two people to say they will be attending the Dec. 10 training session,” Flanigan told me in a recent conversation.

The site needs three Democrats and three Republicans to work on election day. But officials need more than three people qualified, as available back-ups are also needed. “We would like to train 4-6 people of each party. We’re okay on the number of Republicans. We need Democrats,” Flanigan said.

The training session will be held at the Platte County Board of Elections office in Platte City. Those interested can call the election board at 858-4400 for details and more information, or simply show up that day.

Edgerton residents have been making calls and sending letters to all potential sources of help, including elected officials like State Rep. Ken Wilson, who has vowed to do everything he can to help get the polling site reopened. Some residents believe the election board has an ulterior motive in closing the Edgerton location, though it hasn’t been made clear what they think that ulterior motive is.

We’ll keep you posted via an update after the Dec. 10 poll worker training session.


Time for a reprint of the first district commissioner’s manifesto about tax increases, or as I like to call it, Ramblings from Roper.

This is the political spin, selective memory issues, and maybe a bit of revisionist history piece that Beverlee Roper sent to some constituents recently justifying (or at least attempting to, in her mind) the decision made by Roper and Duane Soper to raise the county’s property tax rate by five cents per $100 of assessed valuation. I prefer just to run this example of Roper’s insecurity without comment, because Between the Lines readers are intelligent and if you’ve been paying attention to her first two years in office you’ll be able to catch the aroma of BS in certain areas on your own.

So here goes:

“Yesterday most of you received your Platte County Tax Statements and may have noticed an increase in the "County" portion of the bill from last year. Of the $4,067.67 total I owe for my house, $24.82 is the "county levy", or much less than 1% of the total (in fact 0.61319% of the total). Last year I paid $4.14 to the county, so this year my bill increased by $20.67.

“Duane Soper and I voted to increase the tax while Jason Brown voted 'no'. Why did we do such a thing? Because of a DEBT incurred prior to our tenure that must be paid -- for the Motorola emergency radio system the former County Commission acquired by Order dated December 23, 2011 (lease-purchase agreement order attached). The Motorola debt payment costs the county $1.2 million per year. Note on page 3 of the order that Auditor Kevin Robinson signed off that funds were available. At the time several million dollars remained in a fund earlier paid by KCPL for its Iatan building permit that were used to pay the past 2 years of Motorola payments and the payment due in 2015. The account is now played out. Kevin approved the 2011 contract because the commission has the legal authority to raise the county levy enough to cover the $1.2 million annual DEBT. A "cent" increase in "county-speak" is worth about $225,000, so we raised the levy by 5 cents to cover the DEBT.

"Some in the county complained that our parks tax should be raided to pay for the radio debt, but other DEBT, previously incurred, prevented the discussion. On April 16, 2012, the prior County Commission encumbered the remainder of the 10-year parks tax by signing a contract with JE Dunn for the improvements to the two community centers, funded by non-recourse DEBT - meaning county bonds were sold with only the half cent sales tax used for collateral. If the collected tax in the designated period failed to cover the DEBT, the bondholders would lose with no legal recourse against our county. One can only imagine the bond market's unhappy reaction to a unilateral 25% reduction in the only funding stream available to pay the debt. Legal and financial repercussions would be sure to follow.

The Presiding Commissioner suggested that the annual county budget be "slashed" by $1.2 million to cover the $1.2 million annual debt he authorized, but no specifics were suggested. For $24 per year allocated from my house in Weatherby Lake, slashing the superb sheriff's department and courts (by far our most expensive departments except public works that is protected in part by a 3/8 cent road sales tax) is not necessary. The prior commission had already taken the slash and burn approach while at the same time incurring millions in debt that would require hard decisions in the future. (Political contributions to politicians from Motorola - on a federal level - and JE Dunn - on a local level - should be scrutinized.)

This is the reason I was encouraged to run for office: to take responsible action. The decision we made is responsible. Not once in the almost 2-years that I have served on the Commission has Platte County incurred one additional cent in DEBT. None. In fact, next year we will pay off the Shiloh golf club bonds early.

Please accept my apology for the length of this email, but hopefully you now fully understand why the county portion of your tax bills is a bit larger than last year in dollars. The County Commission has NO CONTROL over the other taxing jurisdictions on your tax statement. This year I will pay $2,302.35 to the Park Hill School district. While I am delighted to live in a top-5 public school district in Missouri (per U.S. News & World Report), it would be wonderful if dog training could be included for those of us with only 4-legged children. Arf!

Questions? 816-868-3595. Please feel free to call or stop by the house.

Thanks! Bev"

(Get a Between the Lines manifesto 140 characters at a time on Twitter @ivanfoley, or email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube)




Written 11/26/14

The Royals’ Alex Gordon will flip on the Plaza lights Thanksgiving night, unless the third base coach stops him 90 feet from the switch.


The video of the scene in Ferguson the last night looked like a joint meeting of the Tracy/Dearborn/Houston Lake boards of aldermen.


It’s no coincidence Platte County’s sales tax revenues are up significantly in the same year JC Penney started inserting their weekly advertising flyers in The Landmark.


Your latest update on the felony case against alleged multiple DWI offender Mary Robinson, the director of human resources for Platte County. After preliminary appearances in Platte County Associate Circuit Court in the courtroom of Judge Quint Shafer, Robinson’s case now advances to the Division I circuit courtroom of Judge Thomas Fincham. That’s the typical nature of events for felony cases. She is scheduled to be arraigned in front of Fincham on Dec. 18.

I wasn’t in the courtroom for Robinson’s most recent appearance in front of Shafer, but someone who was there says Robinson’s attorney made a comment in open court to the effect that he expects the case to be resolved on Dec. 18.

If that’s accurate, it’s an indication Robinson might be ready to enter a plea on Dec. 18 and could have her sentence decided on that day. We’ll keep you posted.


John Elliott, a longtime active conservative on the area political scene, has announced he will run for district two Platte County commissioner in 2016. That seat is currently held by Duane Soper. Soper, according to Elliott, has let it be known he will not be seeking reelection, which is nice.

My guess is Elliott’s name would have been on the ballot either way, but it was a courteous move on Elliott’s part to check with the incumbent before announcing his intention to seek the position.

Both Elliott and Soper are Republicans, for what that’s worth in local politics these days.


Elliott will be a solid candidate and if elected, an officeholder who will stick to his fiscally conservative ways and won’t be swayed by the peer pressure that seems to affect so many who have entered the administration building. He has made a widely respected name for himself as a very successful political strategist and campaign manager for the past 20 years.

No matter what might happen with the seat currently held by Beverlee Roper in 2016, Elliott coupled with Ron Schieber, the incoming presiding commissioner who takes office Jan. 1, could set the agenda and change the business as usual ways. A pairing of two true fiscal conservatives on the commission at the same time is something that hasn’t happened in a while and would be fascinating to watch.


Most insiders I spoke to recently--which was prior to Elliott’s public announcement over the weekend--are expecting Roper to seek reelection in 2016. “She likes feeling important,” is how one insider put it. Those same insiders expect that if she does put her name on the ballot, Roper--whose performance in office has been nothing like the taxpayer watchdog candidate she portrayed herself to be--almost certainly will draw an opponent from the more fiscally conservative arm of the local Republican party.


A day after most folks received their county tax statements in the mail, Roper distributed a note trying to explain why some taxpayers may have noticed their tax bill is higher. Roper spent a page and a half, plus an attached document, “explaining” her decision to vote in favor of a five-cent levy increase at the county this year.

The rambling manifesto contains much political spin and some convenient selective memory issues.
I don’t have room to print the entire letter in the column space today, but will give you the chance to dissect it in its entirety in a future issue. If you’ve been paying attention to how the past couple of years have been playing out at the administration building, I think you will find her words to be slightly entertaining revisionist history.


After a legal challenge by opponents was unsuccessful and now apparently exhausted, as predicted here that it would be, preliminary work is moving forward in the controversial Chapel Ridge high density housing development in southern Platte County.

I’m sure Brian Mertz, developer, feels like it took a long time for this day to come.


Since they’re sitting with a record of 7-4, it’s accurate to say that I’ve missed my pre-season prediction on the Chiefs. The week before the regular season started I guessed the Chiefs would be a 6-10 football team. A few days after a season-opening loss to Tennessee, I wrote that my prediction of six wins looked way too generous. I’ve never been happier to miss on a prognostication.

But just when things were looking really rosy, the Chiefs went to Oakland and laid an egg last Thursday. Now division leading Denver comes to KC Sunday night in what is a huge game for the Chiefs. Win that one and a drive to the playoffs is back on track. Let’s see if a rocking Arrowhead Stadium can help push KC to a win over the Donkeys.

(You never have to wait a week for more Between the Lines. Get it 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 11/19/14

You may have noticed in last week’s issue that my buddy Chris Kamler, our Rambling Moron columnist on page 3, is away on special assignment. Chris being the lightning rod for attention that he is--and deservedly so--that announcement has prompted all kinds of wild speculation across the internet and beyond.

Don’t want to brag, but I am aware of the nature of Chris’ special assignment. I could tell you but I’d have to water board you, and nobody wants that.

It’s really not all that exciting. Pretty sure it involves building something with Legos while at the same time organizing his collection of Teen Beat magazines.

He’ll be back with Rambling Moron freshness next week. Or the week after, depending on how in depth he’s getting with those magazines.


We’re a week from Thanksgiving--or Tanksgiving, depending upon your beverage of choice on the holiday.

Thanksgiving traditionally means two things around the ol’ Landmark. It means next week we’ll be printing on Tuesday instead of Wednesday so that our readers can get their hands on the news and Black Friday ads well in advance of the holiday.

Thanksgiving also means I am craving a piece of fresh pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. Deliver one of those to the office and you never know, we may be able to negotiate a free lifetime subscription to The Landmark. Just sayin’.


The front page story by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp on just-released inmates who (allegedly) commit crimes and find themselves almost immediately back in custody is interesting and brings to light part of the reason so many Platte City business owners and residents would be opposed to the idea of expanding the current county jail population to the size of a regional prison.

It also reminds me of a few instances when some just-released former guests of the county jail have dropped in The Landmark after normal business hours. Our office at 252 Main is a stone’s throw from the detention center’s front door. The Landmark office must look warm and inviting. Or maybe they’ve heard the publisher has a soft heart.

Often when I’m working alone in the office after 5 p.m. I don’t bother to lock the doors. Given our proximity to the jail, this may or may not be the smartest move, but I seldom shy away from a good adventure. My reasoning is that worst case scenario, no matter the outcome The Landmark is going to get a heck of a story if things go south.

The most recent instance was a few months ago when a young female came walking in our office one evening. She didn’t immediately announce that she was a just-released former resident of the detention center but there were clues to that effect, the most obvious being she asked if she could pull my hair and call me Shirley.

Then she asked to use the phone and all doubt was removed. She said she wanted to call her mom in Kansas City. So I offered her use of the phone at the front desk. She made herself at home by taking a seat at the front desk and having about a 20-minute phone conversation, apparently with her mother, a conversation that at times didn’t sound all that friendly. After she hung up the phone she proceeded to give me details about how she had ended up in jail. The details were fuzzy and one-sided but the story involved what sounded like taking her mother’s car without permission. About that time I think my guest sensed I was getting bored with the conversation. She asked if there was a place she could hang out while she waited for a ride that may or may not be coming. Always looking to promote local businesses, I gave her directions to the Pool Hall, just a few doors down.

You’re welcome, America.


On the dark side this week, bad guys don’t take a holiday. In fact, bad guys often get jiggy with it during the holiday season. That seems to be the case in a portion of Platte County from about the I-29 and 72nd Street area south to 52nd Street, according to an alert distributed by the Kansas City Police Department’s North Patrol Division this week.

The North Patrol division was hit with a rash of burglaries from Nov. 10 through Nov. 16. The area heaviest hit was from 72nd Street to 52nd Street, and NW Waukomis and Helena, specifically.

Possible suspect vehicle, police say, is a maroon four door Saturn with Missouri license plates occupied by at least one male, perhaps more than one male.

Be on alert. And if you have information about any of the crimes, call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS. In the sense that you can help solve crimes just by being observant, every man carries a badge.

One helpful tip offered by police is that you should break down all boxes for curbside recycling. In other words, if you get a new TV, X-box computer or expensive electronics, don’t advertise it to the criminals.


Hard news update:

Mary Robinson--the Platte County human resources director charged with felony DWI after multiple previous convictions in another state and a June DWI charge here in Platte County--in a court appearance on Tuesday waived her preliminary hearing. Her next court appearance is scheduled to be an arraignment, where formal reading of the charges are held. That court appearance is set for mid-December.

It’s looking like this thing will drag on beyond the Christmas holiday. That’s likely by design on the part of the defendant for several reasons, not the least of which is to eliminate the potential of having to spend the Christmas season behind bars.

(Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley, email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandark.com, call him at 816-858-2313, or use his phone at 252 Main Street in downtown Platte City)



Written 11/12/14

Remember when Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen was anxious to get into a contractual arrangement with the City of Kansas City to house some of Kansas City’s prisoner population? The sheriff desperately sought a contract and considered it an incentive for pursuing a new jail, an idea that has been placed on the back burner.

Interestingly, on Wednesday morning the City of Kansas City announced it is entering into a partnership with Jackson County. The deal calls for the Jackson County Detention Center and Regional Correction Center to house KC detainees.

So is this the deal for prisoners that the Platte sheriff was wanting? Seems likely.

Kansas City officials seem pretty darn thrilled to be getting rid of prisoner responsibility which makes me think it’s a good deal for Platte County that no deal was struck between Platte and KC.

“I’m very glad to see this agreement coming to fruition,” says Darryl Forte, KC police chief. “Few major city police departments nationally continue to run detention operations, and I have been advocating for our department to get out of the jail business since before I was chief. This will increase officer availability and provide a safe and updated facility for inmates,” the chief added.
Sly James, mayor of Kansas City, chimed in with this remark Wednesday morning: “This agreement makes good business sense for Kansas City and will benefit the budgets of our taxpayers in the long run.”


Have I mentioned lately that there’s a Dumb and Dumber 2 movie, starring the original cast of characters, about to grace the big screen? It hits theaters this weekend.

I’ll be taking an extra pair of gloves. Because, duh, we’re in the Rockies.


Ready for the holiday season? It’s almost here.

Looking for the announcement about this year’s Landmark open to the public Christmas party?

Keep looking, it’s harder to find than those hidden Christmas presents you would search basement corners, cracks and crevices for as a kid. Don’t act like you don't know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, the Santa Claus of Journalism and his fine staff just got our party on for The Landmark’s 150th Anniversary open house in October and I won’t be asking the staff to crank out all the work that goes into hosting another public gathering so quickly.

Look for the Christmas party to make its return next year. Oh, and Merry Christmas, just in case I forget to say it six weeks from now.

Here’s hoping Platte County can survive a December without a Landmark Christmas party. It hasn’t gone without one since the ’90s.


Lisa Bjustrom has announced she will be retiring from her paid position with the Central Platte Fire District.

Bjustrom, the fire district’s treasurer/CPA/wannabe fourth board member/critic of the idea of bidding out public services/critic of Andy Stanton/critic of Ivan Foley/critic of anyone else who promotes the idea of fiscal responsibility for the Central Platte Fire Protection District, has announced she is retiring from that position in January. Bjustrom says she has worked for the fire district for 22 years.

We have different views on the proper way to conduct business with taxpayer money but in all seriousness I want to take this opportunity to commend Bjustrom for her years of service to the district. The board no doubt will miss her attention to detail. Meanwhile, I will miss her ill-advisedly chiming in on board discussions at inappropriate times.

Indications are the board will be asking district secretary Jacy Anderson to take over part of Bjustrom’s duties, as well as getting a little more help from the company that currently handles the department’s payroll.


As you’ll see in a story on the front page of this week’s Landmark by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp, Houston Lake’s city fathers continue to push for the idea of building a new bridge at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money to replace a bridge that an inspector says is good to last another 20 years with proper maintenance.

It sounds like the mayor at Houston Lake is fine with the idea of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money for a not-really-needed bridge since he says the money would not be coming from city coffers. The mayor says it would come from the county, an indication he is eyeballing other public funds, including the county sales tax for roads that was renewed by voters last year. The mayor apparently seems to be in favor of spending a very large amount of everybody’s tax dollars rather than spending a small amount of city dollars for routine maintenance.

Quick, what’s that smell? Could it be the aroma of arrogant bureaucracy?

Somehow I don’t think when voters from across the county stepped into the polling booth to cast their ballot on that road tax they were thinking: “You know what? I better vote for this because Houston Lake is going to want to replace a bridge that an inspector says is good for another 20 years.”

Talk about abusing the system.


Are you a country music fan? If so and you’re interested in attending a Travis Tritt concert at Ameristar Casino on Friday night, hit me up. I may be able to line you up with some freebies.


Good news on the local economic front. Platte County’s general sales tax receipts are up by 10% over this time last year. That’s impressive. But the overall revenue growth isn’t quite that strong, as use tax receipts have declined this year. As we’ve said here many times, the important total is the combined sales tax/use tax revenue total for the county that hits the general fund. That number is up by 5.9% from this time last year, which is still an impressive growth rate.

The latest numbers reflect merchant activity through the month of September. The October merchant activity, which will include any boost created by the Royals’ post-season success, will be reflected in the number that come out a month from now. Anxious to see that figure.

(Watch Foley figure on Twitter @ivanfoley, Facebook.com/ivan.foley, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and any other social media outlet that pops up in the near future. If you’re still into old-fashioned email, that works, too: ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 11/5/14

Dumb and Dumber 2 starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels comes out next Friday, Nov. 14.
Can’t tell you how excited I am about this, which tells you something about my maturity level.


Somebody failed to make this clear. In more ways than one.

Hey DirecTV, your ESPN Full Court basketball package telecasts games that are not in high definition. What the hell? Who’s the genius that came up with this idea?

I’m squinting at the TV and still can’t make out numbers on uniforms or tell whether the ball has gone through the net. This must be what the world looks like in the eyes of an HR director on a Friday night.


DirecTV, I’m not sure we can still be friends. This is 2014 and you want me to pay extra to watch basketball in blurry standard definition? What’s next, you gonna sell me a fax machine or give me a free AOL CD?


A hot new chick is coming to Platte County.

Yes, Chick-fil-A is headed to Barry Road. It will be opening at the spot formerly occupied by the Lone Star Steakhouse near the AMC Barrywoods Theatre parking lot.

Chick-fil-A is an American fast food restaurant chain headquartered in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, Georgia, specializing in chicken sandwiches. Between the Lines fast food savants give the Chick-fil-A sandwich rave reviews.

Andy Gallawa, who will be owner/operator of the Barry Road Chick-fil-A, tells me the plan is to be open in early December. The old steak house building is gone and a new Chick-fil-A building is going up.

As opening day draws near, Gallawa says the hiring process is underway. A hiring trailer is set up in the parking lot at the site of the future restaurant. The restaurant will be bringing a significant number of new jobs to Platte County, as Chick-fil-A will be hiring 70-75 employees, Gallawa says.

Applications are being taken at the site 9-5 Monday through Friday. Potential applicants can go to snagajob.com and search Chick-fil-A for job descriptions and other pertinent information.

A couple of suits from the corporate office are in town to help Gallawa prepare for the grand opening. Chick-fil-A does what they call a First 100 event in connection with the grand opening of every new location. At this event, the new restaurant’s first 100 eligible customers will win free Chick-fil-A for a year.

People have been known to camp out the night before a Chick-fil-A First 100 event, hoping to be part of the First 100 to get the free Chick-fil-A for a year. Not kidding.


So last week we talked about a settlement between Platte County and a former Platte County parks department employee who was fired in February. Jim Kunce, who had been assistant parks director, was fired by director Brian Nowotny in February. Kunce had been with the department for a dozen years and never had a poor performance review. Nowotny indicated to Kunce he was being fired as part of a department “restructuring.” Sources have indicated to us that Nowotny had been trying to get rid of Kunce for years, as there seemed to be some philosophical differences between the two. After initially indicating he would not seek any kind of action for the firing, Kunce changed his mind and hired an attorney “due to some after-employment situations that have taken place,” he told this newspaper in a July interview.

The recent settlement ends any potential lawsuit. Public documents indicate the county’s insurer, Midwest Public Risk, paid Kunce $4,500 as part of a settlement. No liability is admitted. The signed agreement has a clause prohibiting Kunce and his attorneys from disclosing details of the settlement (if they were to violate that, Kunce would have to pay the county/insurer $1,125).

Unless a court order is obtained, per state law tax-supported entities must release this “confidential release and settlement” information with employees if requested, and The Landmark did request it last week.

The law requiring the public disclosure makes perfect sense considering the insurance policy that covers the check written to Kunce is paid for with tax dollars.


So let’s keep the part about these “confidential agreements” legally being public information in mind. As an at-will employee, Kunce was discarded at a cost of only $4,500. I have a strong feeling you’ll be seeing more of these at the county in the near future.

It may be two years down the road when Duane Soper and/or Bev Roper will be gone, but there is no doubt in my mind some high level, high salaried employees/department heads at the county should be preparing to dust off their resumes. $4,500 would be a bargain price to pay to cut some of the top-heavy payroll types who have become too comfortable at the county.

Clip out this column and put it in your desk drawer. A little over two years from now let’s look at it again.


My guess is they will deny it if you ask them, but Platte County R-3 officials had to be watching with curiosity as the Smithville school district proposed a tax levy ceiling increase of 79 cents at Tuesday’s election. It was defeated by a count of 55% to 45%. Like Park Hill’s most recent tax increase proposal, which went down 60% to 40%. Like Platte County R-3’s most recent tax increase proposal, which went down to defeat 55% to 45%.

Anyone noticing a pattern here?

(Find Foley on the tweet machine @ivanfoley. Catch him, if you can, making cameo appearances on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube or email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 10/29/14

Lemon-lime is the best flavor of Gatorade. If you think differently I’m not sure we can still be friends.


You know you can’t quit until it’s won.

The amazing post-season run of your Kansas City Royals continues and will be wrapping up with Game 7 of the World Series as the ink is drying on this issue of your Landmark tonight (Wednesday).

As covered on our front page by assistant editor Valerie Verkamp, the team’s success has been a boost to the business climate in KC, including right here in the Northland. The hotels around KCI are reporting extremely high levels of occupancy, and you’ve no doubt noticed all the Royals-themed apparel flying off the shelves at retailers. Add in the dollars generated at the restaurants and sports bars, and this should be creating a healthy windfall in the sales tax revenue accounts in Platte County. At least that is the hope.

At last report, Platte County had been having a decent sales tax revenue year. Numbers distributed by Rob Willard, county treasurer, the first week of October show receipts in the combined total of sales/use tax revenue thus far in 2014 to be up by 5.4% from this time last year.

Digging deeper into the numbers, sales tax receipts are up by 9% from last year, but the use tax revenues are down by one percent. Combining the two, which is the important bottom line, the total sales/use tax receipts are at the 5.4% growth.

A good measurement of the economic activity being generated by the Royals post-season run here in the month of October won’t be known locally for a while. Most merchants typically send in their sales tax receipts at the end of each month, then the state distributes those funds back to the governmental entities a month later. What that means is the activity you’re seeing in October will be reflected in the sales tax totals reported to the public in the first week of December. I’m anxious to see what those numbers will show.

We’ll keep you posted.


While we’re talking sales tax receipts, the half cent countywide sales tax dedicated to parks and recreation is on pace to bring in $8.225 million in 2014.

That’s not a misprint. That’s $8.225 million for fun stuff.

And it could end up being more, what with the good fall weather and the Royals’ impact yet to be shown in the numbers. Park tax receipts through the first week of this month were up by 7.3% from this time last year.


Watch next week’s issue for a full page of articles and color photos dedicated to the Royals post-season success from our baseball expert Chris Kamler. Should be fun.


Remember Jim Kunce, the Platte County parks department assistant director who was fired by Brian Nowotny, county parks director, in February?

Kunce tells me he has reached a settlement with the county and there will be no court action.

“The matter was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties, who have agreed to refrain from discussing the terms of the resolution,” Kunce told me when I reached out to him last week.

Your Between the Lines interpretation of that comment is that Kunce has received a cash settlement to go away quietly.

“Moving forward, I’m excited to continue my 30-year career in the public parks profession,” said Kunce, who is now working for Missouri State Parks. “I’m also appreciative of the emotional support that has been given to me and my family.”

Kunce, age 50, was fired despite the fact he had received nothing but positive performance reviews in his time with the county. His position paid $54,178 annually. In an interview with The Landmark in February, Kunce said Nowotny told him that “restructuring” the department was the reason for the dismissal. Kunce hired an attorney, Joe Eischens. In a July interview with The Landmark, Eischens said the county told his client the dismissal was in tune with the county’s at-will employment policy, under which an employee can be fired with or without cause. “But they can’t do it if one of the reasons for doing so is the person’s age or a disability, for instance,” Eischens said.

Without getting into specifics, in a July interview Kunce said he started to think more seriously about pursuing recourse against the county “due to some after-employment situations that have taken place.”


The analysis from sources inside the building is that Kunce was fired because Nowotny “didn’t like him” and felt threatened by some work-related stances and opinions taken by Kunce.

So what it sounds like here is that we have a case of a longtime employee who has never been accused of anything improper or illegal and has never had a bad performance review being let go over personalities.

Meanwhile, the county human resources director continues to be gainfully employed and drawing a full paycheck and benefits on the backs of taxpayers despite the fact she has multiple drunk-driving convictions and is now facing a felony charge for another DWI arrest.

Some things are very hard to explain, are they not?

(What’s never hard to explain is how to get your Between the Lines updates at your convenience: on Twitter @ivanfoley. At your own riske, you can also search for Foley on Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and YouTube)



Written 10/22/14

Remember that time last winter when a couple of juvenile students broke into the Platte County High School and performed a ridiculous amount of criminal vandalism inside the facility? One of the things the criminals painted on a wall was the phrase “Algebra sucks.”

Now we’ve learned the high school’s test scores for Algebra I rank quite low in comparison to Algebra I scores of students from similar districts.

Just sayin’.


By all accounts the salute to veterans event hosted by the Mid-Continent Public Library was an outstanding event on Saturday.

I’m told the crowd wasn’t as large as one would hope it would be for a pretty large scale salute and display of military-related information and equipment. Reports of a small crowd are a bit disheartening, though really not all that surprising based on the fact the advance publicity for the event was far from overwhelming. I learned of the event only three days in advance, and that was due to the keen awareness of our assistant editor Valerie Verkamp.

Many of the branches of the Mid-Continent Public Library do an outstanding job of informing local media of their upcoming activities. Unfortunately, the Platte City location is not one of those branches.

No matter the organization, sticking an event calendar on your organization’s web site and thinking that’s all the effort you need to put into promoting your activities to the community is not going to get desired results. It’s needed and nice, but that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. The web is a complementary tool for an organization like the tax-funded library. But when it comes to promoting important events, depending on the web to get word out--especially to the demographic that is going to be attracted to a veterans salute--there needs to be a little more direct outreach to patrons and to the media.

Kudos to the library for hosting a fine recognition event and kudos to those who attended.


Speaking of web sites, every now and then I like to remind Landmark readers who follow the wide world of sports and the sports media that our man Greg Hall writes an outstanding five-day-a-week column called Off the Couch that you can find at plattecountylandmark.com.

Hall pulls no punches and, like all of our columnists, is terrific at nailing observations that otherwise might go unnoticed. Check out his stuff several times a week. You can also follow Greg on Twitter @greghall24. And if you haven’t already, go ahead and hit the follow button on our other Landmark personalities on Twitter, including Chris Kamler as @TheFakeNed, Brian Kubicki as @bkparallax and your publisher typecast as @ivanfoley.


As you all know our Kansas City Royals are in the World Series for the first time since winning the title in 1985. The Royals dropped game one to the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night in Kansas City. KC needs a bounceback victory tonight (Wednesday) or the sphincters will start to get really tight for the local team and fans following this best of seven game series.

If the Royals do come back to win this series let’s all refrain from a drunken hill-jumping, gravestone-bumping drive through the Platte City Cemetery.


Monday morning’s Platte County Commission didn’t produce much in the way of anything newsworthy. Perhaps the most interesting portion of the meeting was the opening prayer delivered by Pastor Rusty Savage of the First Baptist Church of Platte City.

Was there a specific message being sent to the county commissioners by his words? Only the reverend knows for certain. It probably won’t come as a shock when I say that I’m not an expert on scripture or interpreting such, but I can accurately report what was said and let you make up your own minds.

Rev. Savage quoted a couple passages of scripture, then remarked directly to the commissioners:

"It makes me understand that you all have a responsibility to the people that elected you to this office and also makes me understand that sometimes you have a responsibility beyond the particular demands from the people that put you in this office. Part of the reason you’re here is because people trusted you to make the right decisions even at times when it might be unpleasant for you or for them. With that in mind I want to pray for you.”

Interpret the remarks any way you’d like, or don’t interpret them at all. I interpret the comments and the timing of them as a reference to the commission’s action--or lack thereof--in regard to dealing with the personnel situation involving the county’s human resources director. As we’ve pointed out previously, the HR director continues in her normal job status, drawing her taxpayer-funded paycheck even though she has multiple previous DWI convictions and now faces a felony DWI charge--and possible prison time--for an alcohol-related arrest in late June.

There is a good segment of the Platte County community surprised that those aforementioned problems to this point have not led to some kind of action from the county commissioners in regard to one of their highest level employees.

Again, interpret however you’d like. But the “unpleasant for you or for them” portion of the reverend’s remarks was the clincher in my mind on the topic being referenced.

Regardless of whether you believe the personnel matter is being handled properly, there is nothing about the HR director’s situation that has cast the county in a positive light. Impressive that a local church leader--at least in my mind--felt it was time to reference it publicly, even if indirectly.

(Email Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and follow him on Twitter @ivanfoley)




Written 10/15/14

As you’re reading this, Mary Robinson, the human resources director for Platte County who is charged with felony DWI after multiple arrests and convictions for drunk driving, is still drawing a full paycheck and full benefits from at your expense while awaiting word on her potential prison time.

Raise your hand if you think this is okay.


Don’t look now, but this whole deal about the election polling site at Edgerton being closed has caused a ruckus countywide.

In case you missed this topic a few weeks ago, the Platte County Board of Elections has made the decision to move the polling place for Edgerton voters. The good folks at Edgerton, many of them elderly, will now have to travel to Dearborn to cast their ballots on election day. Some Edgerton residents are not happy--my telephone line can confirm this--and now they have enlisted some political help in their fight to get the polling place reopened.

To review, the board of elections says the decision was made because it simply can’t find people willing to work the polling site at Edgerton. And that has been the case for a while now, election officials say.

“We were finding it quite difficult to staff the polling site at Edgerton for some time. We had been asking election judges from south of Barry Road to make the drive up to help staff the poll site. It came to a head this election when we could not identify judges of one particular party affiliation to work this site,” explained Wendy Flanigan, director for the board of elections, in a recent note to Edgerton city officials.

State Rep. Ken Wilson has pledged to put his efforts into getting the decision reversed. And now the Platte County Republican Central Committee has joined the fray. The Republicans have passed a proclamation advising the election board to reopen the Edgerton site.

I love a good proclamation, what with all of its usage of the word “whereas” and such. Frank Offutt, mayor of Platte City, is quite skilled at writing these things. But the GOP committee did a pretty fine job of penning one. It’s not exactly the Declaration of Independence. It’s more like a “live free or die” update for the Edgerton voters. Here’s the resolution:

WHEREAS, the people of Edgerton, Missouri, have a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote without undue hardship, and

WHEREAS, the Platte County Board of Elections has decided to close the Edgerton Polling site for the November 4, 2014, general election, purportedly because of a lack of election judges, and

WHEREAS, the Mayor of Edgerton and the Chairman of the Edgerton Chamber of Commercehave informed this committee that at least ten citizens of Edgerton, Missouri, both Republican and Democrat, have applied to serve as election judges and obtain any required training as soon as possible, and

WHEREAS, an Edgerton voter would have to travel approximately 20 miles roundtrip to vote at Dearborn, Missouri, the location of the alternative polling site, and

WHEREAS, the Platte County Republican Central Committee is firmly committed to the right of all citizens to vote.

It is therefore RESOLVED, that the Platte County Republican Central Committee urges the Platte County Board of Elections to reconsider it decision in light of the hardships that decision is placing on the voters of Platte County and maintain a polling site in Edgerton, Missouri, for November 4, 2014, general election.


BREAKING NEWS: Mary Robinson just cashed another paycheck funded by you. And if her mug shot is any indication, she was smiling while doing so. She thanks you for your generosity.


Back to the Edgerton debacle. While political pressure is being applied to reverse the decision, Edgerton folks probably shouldn’t be holding their breath that any reversal of course is going to be made prior to the November 4 election. The official stance being taken by the Platte County Board of Elections at this point is “ballots have already been assigned” for the November election so “we can’t do that.”

At the risk of making an oversimplified analysis of the situation, it sounds like Edgerton voters are screwed.

Well, at least for November. But never say die. Edgerton residents should keep up the good fight for future change.


Memo to Houston Lake residents: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Your chains are being pulled. It’s like a magician telling you to watch his right hand while his left hand is busy doing the tricky stuff.

The damn bridge is fine. A state inspector told you so. The county public works director says it will last another 20 years with routine maintenance.

Don’t let your elected leaders distract you from the real issue. Right now, the debate over whether to maintain the current bridge or build a new one (what?) is meaningless and nothing but background noise. The real issue is whether the Houston Lake community wants a bridge there at all. Some at City Hall are obviously miffed that a recently opened road to a nearby subdivision has created additional vehicles traveling through Houston Lake as a shortcut to gain interstate access.
If the decision is to keep the bridge open, then the obvious answer based on inspection reports is to perform simple routine maintenance and you’ve got a fine structure for another 20 years.

If the answer is no, the people of Houston Lake don’t want the traffic, then there’s no need to do maintenance or have a panic attack over funding for a new bridge. Don't want the traffic? Shut that whole thing down. No worries about dollars for maintenance or new construction.

Houston Lake officials are really making this much more confusing and more difficult on its residents than it needs to be. Which seems to be a trait of government officials everywhere.

Keep it simple. Don’t fall for the BS. Stop the madness.

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



Written 10/8/14

A loss for the Platte County Sheriff’s Department is a gain for the Riverside Police Department.
Deputy Katie Mendoza, one of the best officers in the sheriff’s department, has left the county and is now a police officer for the city of Riverside in southern Platte County. The pay scale was the deciding factor in her decision to make the switch, Mendoza told me (remember this the next time the parks vs. law enforcement funding issue comes up--the county park tax will bring in $8.2 million this year for fun stuff but the county can’t pay its good cops enough to keep them on the department).

The Mendoza household is full of law enforcement authority. Her husband, Steve, remains on the force with the sheriff’s department.

Katie Mendoza had a knack for being in the middle of the action during her time with the sheriff’s department, whether it was making notable DWI arrests, being involved in the car stop of a suspect in a murder case, and other newsworthy incidents too numerous to mention. She definitely has a natural feel for police work. Her uncanny ability to be in the middle of the action happened with such frequency that anytime a noteworthy law enforcement event had taken place I assumed I would be seeing her name on the police report. I mentioned this to Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor, one time in casual conversation about law enforcement matters.

“She is a really good cop,” I remember Zahnd saying.

Without question.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Mendoza’s approach to policing is that she doesn’t care who you are. No special favors. Everybody gets treated the same. Want a couple of examples? A few years ago she arrested the then-municipal judge at Weston for DWI. She is also the deputy who arrested co-worker Mary Robinson, the county’s human resources director, at a DWI checkpoint this summer when the HR director was driving with a blood alcohol content at more than twice the legal limit. Allegedly. That arrest led to a felony charge for Robinson after a check of her driving history uncovered a history of three previous DWI arrests in another state.

And just to prove good cops can come in small packages, I will tell you that Katie Mendoza is barely five feet tall and weighs 105 pounds.

Riverside is getting a good one.


Yes, you’re still wondering what your county commissioners are going to do with the HR director who is facing potential prison time for a felony DWI. (Note: Let’s keep in mind Mary Robinson’s case is being heard by recently appointed Judge Quint Shafer, who is quickly and unfortunately building the reputation as the softest judge this side of the Mississippi. Some of the bad guys have already taken note and are begging for their cases to be moved into Shafer’s courtroom--more on this in future issues).

It was interesting to note that Robinson, I’m assuming wearing some of her court-required alcohol-detecting jewelry, was in the meeting room for the county commission session this week (see front page story). It’s the first time I’ve noticed her in the room since her arrest in late June. Her recent absence from the commission meetings is a far cry from the days Mrs. Robinson would sit on the front row next to her good friend Dana Babcock, county director of administration, and giggle like teenage girls in a tickle fight.

The reason Mrs. Robinson was there on Monday, one can correctly assume, would be to give her report on the county employee health benefits recommendation. She has been the one to give this presentation to the commission in previous years, you know, because it is in her job description. Only this time she didn’t give the presentation. You know who did? Her husband, Kevin, the Platte County auditor. Kevin Robinson tried to justify he was the one giving the presentation by making some lame reference to the fact he serves on something called the “benefits review committee.”

Right. Once again, the Robinson family apparently believes the public is clueless.

The reason Mr. Robinson and not Mrs. Robinson was standing at the microphone is because they knew it would draw more attention to the female Robinson’s pending criminal matter and the fact the county commissioners have yet to show any spine. The commissioners, needlessly intimidated by games lawyers like to play, have yet to deal with their high profile/high level employee and her repeated problem with alcohol-related driving arrests and potential prison time ahead. Maybe the commission thinks this problem is just going to go away.

It was interesting that at one point Mrs. Robinson made a one-sentence statement about the health benefits recommendation from her chair. Normally, almost to the point of ridiculousness, no one in the audience is allowed to make any kind of comment without being asked to step to the microphone. If you’ve ever been to a meeting you know exactly what I’m talking about. If anyone--anyone at all--makes a statement from the audience they are immediately stopped in their tracks and told to step to the microphone to provide their name for the record, and then they give their comment.

Interestingly, Mrs. Robinson was not asked to step to the microphone to repeat her comment. Apparently someone was worried it was going to turn into picture day.


Thanks to all who attended The Landmark’s 150th anniversary open house Friday afternoon/evening. The tours were a good time, as I was pleasantly surprised by how many folks were interested enough to ask specific questions and to hear detailed explanations of how the old time printing equipment worked and the history behind each piece of machinery. It was a fun night with some great conversation.

Unlike the outdoor portion of the 3/150 event that was hampered by the unusually cold weather that rolled in that evening, we had a large crowd visiting through our office the entire four hours. Though it was chilly outside, the heat from the crowd inside our office (or the hot air being spewed by the host) meant we kept the air conditioner running on high the entire evening. The county’s former facilities manager could have learned a thing or two.

There’s a picture or two inside this issue and we’ll try to post more on Twitter or Facebook in the coming days.

(It’s called a weekly but The Landmark is actually a daily published once a week. Follow the adventures 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 10/1/14

Don’t forget this Friday, Oct. 3 is the day of The Landmark’s 150th anniversary celebration. We hope you’ll join us at our office at 252 Main Street on Friday from 4-8 p.m. for tours, light refreshments, conversation and fun. We’ll cut a special 150th anniversary cake around 4:30 or so. Platte County Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown will be around to help us do the honors.

A street party will run from 6-10:30 in the 300 block of Main, sponsored by Scott Campbell Law Office. Live music by Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders. A beer garden area run by the Pool Hall. Food specials at the Pool Hall. Hot dogs furnished on the street by Jake Pruett Law Office from 6-8 p.m. Get all the details in a front page story.

The forecast calls for a good time.


Houston Lake city officials continue to dance around their intentions and reasoning behind a vote by the board of aldermen to close a spillway bridge in their community. The bridge to date remains open, despite the earlier vote by the board to close it. Many residents want the bridge to stay open and have let their voices be heard via a petition drive.

Remember the Sept. 10 issue of The Landmark in which Valerie Verkamp, Landmark assistant editor, detailed the discussion from a Houston Lake Board of Aldermen meeting regarding the status of the 104 ft. wooden bridge? As Greg Sager, county director of public works told city officials at that meeting, an inspection by the Missouri Department of Transportation shows the condition of the bridge to be “good” and if properly maintained it will last at least 10 if not 20 more years. In a follow-up discussion I had with Sager the following day, his opinion was strongly leaning toward the bridge lasting another 20 years with proper maintenance.

So there is no structural reasoning behind the desire to close the bridge. You would never know this from minutes of recent Houston Lake board meetings or hearing some of the comments made by the mayor and others. Minutes from the board’s August meeting state:

“It was noted by Mayor Hallauer that the spillway bridge was not built to handle the amount of traffic that it endures since Jeffrey Lane was opened to traffic from Brenner Ridge (Landmark editor’s note: this is a housing development just outside Houston Lake. Remember this topic, it’s important in analyzing the unnecessary drama). The timber substructure is wearing out and the day is coming when the city will have no choice. The liability to the city is a major concern.”

This has been proven to simply be incorrect. Sager says the added traffic is not harmful in the least. And the MoDOT inspector’s report lists the bridge substructure to be rated a 7 out of 10. The inspector notes a 7 indicates “good condition.” So the day may in fact be coming when the substructure wears out, but according to the inspector and Sager, that day is about 20 years off.

Why is the city trying to create panic and a state of emergency? As for liability, why should anyone at the city be in a panic attack over liability for a bridge that has been rated to be in good condition?

There’s even more silliness in the minutes from that Aug. 11 meeting. The full court press to create a false sense of panic and urgency continued.

“The county public works director informed the mayor that to replace the bridge the cost would be approximately $1 million. The county would provide 50% of that which leaves the city with a cost of $500,000. With 125 homes in Houston Lake, that would mean a cost to each household of $4,000.”

Let’s dissect that paragraph. First of all, if the experts say the bridge can last another 20 years there is no sense to even be talking about the cost to replace it. Are those prices going to be relevant in 20 years? More importantly, the bridge doesn’t need replaced. The inspector’s report tells you that. The county public works director confirms it.

Even if those minutes were factually accurate, why the crazy reference to the new bridge “would mean a cost to each household of $4,000 to each home?” The minutes make it sound like city officials will be going door to door demanding that each household hand over $4,000 from their bank accounts to pay for a new bridge. That’s not how it would work. That’s another BS attempt to create alarm and panic among residents.

Sager has told city officials that federal dollars allocated to the county through something called the bridge replacement and rehabilitation (BRO) program could fund up to 80% of the project. The remaining amount, Sager said, could be paid by a “local cash match or through the use of soft-match credits.” And those soft match credits aren’t even real dollars. “What those soft match credits allow us to do is use more of the BRO funds to make up that 20%.”

Now add in the fact the city of Houston Lake has already accumulated $130,000 by participating in the county’s 3/8th cent road sales tax for the past decade, plus the fact the city will earn a similar amount from that sales tax over the coming 10 years and you can see there is no need for panic.

Even if the bridge needs replaced. Which it doesn’t. And won’t for about 20 years.


So why such a sad case of misdirection from certain city officials? Why would someone want to close a bridge that’s in good condition?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the unstated goal. Somebody at City Hall doesn’t like the fact there is additional traffic coming through Houston Lake now that Jeffrey Lane has been opened to that housing development just outside Houston Lake. Shutting down the bridge would stop that traffic flow.

City officials should just say that--be honest with your reasons. Present both sides of that argument to your residents and come to a decision. Don’t mislead your residents into thinking you have an unsafe bridge on your hands. Don’t try to scare your residents into thinking that if the bridge stays open every household in town is going to have to hand over $4,000 in cash. That’s ridiculous and shameful. Some Houston Lake officials need to be called out for this.

By the way, Houston Lake residents, the next municipal election is set for April. Might want to mark that on your calendars.

(You don’t have to wait till next week’s issue for more Between the Lines. Get updates 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 9/24/14

More than 40 photographers taking part in the prestigious Missouri Photo Workshop have descended upon Platte City this week. There will be a public display of the photographers’ work on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Platte City Middle School. It will be worth your time.

If you’ve been out and about any at all in recent days, chances are you have encountered or seen at least one, if not dozens, of these camera-toting folks. The Landmark’s door was revolving Monday morning with photographers coming in to pick our brains for potential ideas for their features. Some of the names I tossed at them as potential subject matter included Ron Pine, Carl Myers, Keith Myers, Bill Hankins, Brady Testorff, Hal Swaney, Eric Zahnd, and Gary Oberdiek. There may have been others but I can’t recall. Things were happening in such fast and furious fashion it felt like happy hour at the Platte County HR department.


Speaking of the Platte County HR department, what is taking so long for the Platte County Commission to react to the fact that Mary Robinson, the human resources director who is one of the county’s highest level employees, is charged with a felony? Do you know of any other public entities who employ an accused felon at a high level position?

It’s a question we’re getting from readers on a regular basis. What is taking so long for Platte County commissioners to react to the fact that one of their highest level employees has three driving under the influence convictions from another state and is now charged with her fourth, this one coming while she was driving the streets and highways of Platte County with a blood alcohol content that authorities say was more than twice the legal limit.

How has a charged felon--and let’s be honest, it’s going to be tough to claim innocence when you’re caught red-handed at a DWI checkpoint--been able to keep her job? In fact, how has she been able to avoid any type of meaningful discipline to this point?

Rubbing it in the faces of the people who pay her salary--that would be the taxpayers--she has not made any kind of public apology for criminal behavior. In her mug shot taken the night of her arrest, she was smiling like a teenager at a sleepover, perhaps a sign that she thinks being booked for drunk driving by the sheriff’s department is a time for yukking it up with fellow county employees.

Everything about this situation is a bad look for the county.

Remember when a successful candidate for presiding commissioner said during his campaign that it is time to restore public trust at the county complex? Maybe this is the type of thing he is talking about.


Sure, Robinson has lawyered up. She has hired a criminal defense attorney and an employment attorney. So what? Robinson can hire all the lawyers she wants. She’ll never win in the court of public opinion.

Doesn’t it seem likely that most well-intentioned folks charged with felony DWI would be more worried about getting professional help for an obvious problem and finding a way to reduce impending jail time than lawyering up in an attempt to keep a job funded by the taxpayers?

If the county commission’s delay is “to let the legal process play out,” let’s call that what it really is--that’s a game for lawyers. When it comes to drinking and driving, there isn’t a gray area, especially for a high level employee making a nice living ($62,000 per year) from the pockets of taxpayers.

The general public doesn’t judge someone for drinking. We all have our faults and we all have our vices, and if any of us tries to claim otherwise we’re not being truthful with ourselves or others. But the public--and the law--does take issue with drinking to excess and then endangering others by getting behind the wheel of a car.

If you’re drunk, don’t drive. Designate a driver. Call a cab. At $62,000 a year, you can afford a taxi ride.


Have you ever seen a conviction in a felony DWI case where the offender does not get sentenced to jail time? I have not.

Which begs the question: if Robinson is still on the payroll when convicted, how is she going to fulfill her duties to the county while behind bars? Use vacation time?


Watch this Robinson case carefully. Based on phone calls to our office, I know many of you already are. Here are a couple of pieces of information to keep in the front of your mind as you watch how the case unfolds.

The special prosecutor is the office of Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley. This is the same special prosecutor who took a look at some wrongdoings inside the Platte County Sheriff’s Department back in 2011. Hensley’s final report indicated that yes, there had been some wrongdoing, but she said the statute of limitations had expired, preventing any successful prosecution of the dastardly deeds. Many of us in the general public, including this columnist, went ‘hmm.’ There seemed to be plenty of recent wrongdoing in regard to bidding and use of taxpayer dollars that likely could have been prosecuted with a more aggressive approach. I remember having a lively, open-to-the-public discussion with then-Sheriff Dick Anderson on this topic during my presentation to the Platte County Pachyderm Club in October of 2011. While the discussion was lively, interestingly the sheriff at no point said that he disagreed with my stance.

Also of particular interest is the fact Robinson’s felony DWI case is in the courtroom of Judge Quint Shafer, a former defense attorney who is the newest judge in Platte County Associate Circuit Court. I like and respect Shafer as a person, have had many cordial and respectful conversations with him and was happy to see him appointed to the bench. But the early reports are coming in on some of his rulings and they’re not all that positive, at least if you’re on the side of fighting bad guys. There are already multiple documented instances where Shafer has gone soft on bond amounts and/or reduced bond amounts for what many law and order folks would consider criminals who didn’t deserve leniency.

What does all this mean? It means it will be fascinating to see how the Robinson case concludes. Get your popcorn ready.

(Grab your popcorn and head to Twitter @ivanfoley or have your buttery fingers type an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 9/17/14

There’s an uproar brewing in Edgerton. It’s not often we get to talk about Edgerton in Between the Lines, is it?

Let’s give Edgerton some ink this week. It seems the Platte County Board of Elections has created some excitement in the tiny burg in northeastern Platte County. The decision has been made to move the polling place for Edgerton voters to Dearborn. Stated simply, this means when Edgerton residents go to vote, they’ll have to travel to Dearborn to cast their ballots. It’s not sitting well with the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce. (Yes, Edgerton has a Chamber of Commerce. Apparently.)
There were 17 guests at the chamber meeting Tuesday and reportedly all were upset by the polling site change.

The reason for the move?

“We were finding it quite difficult to staff the poll site at Edgerton for some time. We had been asking election judges from south of Barry Road to make the drive up to help staff the poll site for quite some time. It came to a head this election as we could not identify judges of one particular party affiliation to work this site,” explains Wendy Flanigan, director for the board of elections, in a note to Edgerton city officials.

All voters in Edgerton’s precinct will now vote at the Dearborn United Methodist Church. “We will be sending out a letter and new voter identification cards with the change information two weeks prior to the election,” Flanigan says.

Some of the upset folks have contacted State Rep. Ken Wilson, who has told them he will look into the matter to see if anything can be done to stop the change.

Stay tuned.


Meanwhile, it’s all rainbows, unicorns and happy stuff in Platte City, you guys.

Platte City is about to become a happening place.

Well, not that there isn’t always something happening in the county seat, but things are going to get kicked up a notch over the next few weeks in the activity department.

It starts this weekend when 43 photographers from all corners of the U.S. and 13 foreign countries converge upon Platte City for the 66th annual Missouri Photo Workshop. They’ll also be accompanied by around 70 support people, so hey, you’ll be seeing some “strangers” in town. And some of them might be carrying cameras. An open to the public dinner will welcome the photographers and the MU staffers on Sunday at a practice field on the Platte County R-3 campus. The field is along Hwy. 92 across from QuikTrip. You’ll know it when you see it. The welcome dinner will run from 5-7 p.m. and includes free hot dogs, so come on out for a free meal, in particular if you can offer the photographers an idea for their picture-taking adventures. The workshop photographers will pick a local subject or topic and spend the week photographing that subject.

Mayor Frank Offutt and his task force chairman Jen Snider, city administrator DJ Gehrt and others have done a terrific job of getting the city ready for this week long MU Photo Workshop. You’ll see my name listed on the task force but I haven’t really done anything other than show up/look pretty at a few meetings and blast some announcements about the event in this newspaper and on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

It’s kind of a big deal to host one of these, so kudos all around. And also a tip of the hat to The Landmark’s own Bill Hankins, who first suggested to the mayor the idea of Platte City pursuing hosting the workshop.

One more thought on the workshop: Many of these college kids will need bicycles for their method of transportation while traveling throughout a 10 mile radius to photograph their subjects. Do you have a bicycle you could lend to the cause? If so, contact City Hall at 858-3046.


Another event ready to roll is the 2nd annual Ladies Night on the Square in downtown Platte City. This shindig is next Thursday, Sept. 25 from 5-8 p.m. and will feature more than 50 vendors lining Main Street.

Many of the vendors are geared to women, not surprisingly, but the event is open to all. Last year’s event drew a good-sized crowd and with more vendors this year should be even better. For more information, contact Angie Mutti at the Platte City Chamber of Commerce, 858-5270 or angie@plattecitymo.com.

Many of the downtown shops will be open that night, including The Landmark. We’ll be offering those new Landmark subscriptions for just $20, with four free tickets to the Renaissance Festival as an added incentive.


And don’t forget the 3-150 Street Party coming to downtown Platte City on Friday, Oct. 3. Sponsored by Scott L. Campbell Law Offices and The Landmark Newspaper, this thing will be bigger than the Beatles. Or at least bigger than me singing the Beatles on karaoke night.

The 3/150 party celebrates Campbell’s third year in business on Main Street and The Landmark’s 150th year of continuous publication.

The fun on Oct. 3 will begin with an open house at your historic Landmark newspaper office. You can come hang out with us and tour our office from 4-8 p.m. Come see the printing press that was installed in 1899--that’s 115 years ago--and remains in place today. View a Linotype machine, some small job presses, some handset type and the unique typecase cabinets that still line the walls. We’ll have light refreshments inside.

The street party portion of the evening kicks off at 6 p.m. and runs until 10:30 p.m. There will be a beer garden on the street operated by the fine folks from the Pool Hall. The Pool Hall will also have food specials. Hot dogs and chips will be provided by the Jacob A. Pruett Law Offices from 6-8 p.m.

A highlight will be the live band, Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders, providing the kind of tunes one would expect at a 3/150 party. They’ll be set up between Third and Fourth Streets on Main.

Should be a great time. Come join us for some fun.

(It’s an open house party 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



Written 9/10/14

As usual, there is a lot happening on a variety of topics. So let’s get right to it.


Did you see the Chiefs season opener? After hearing so many folks predicting anywhere from nine wins to 11 wins for the 2014 Chiefs, now you know why I was so pessimistic in my analysis in this column in our Aug. 27 issue when I wrote. “I hate to be a Debbie Downer but the Chiefs look like a 6-10 team to me. A few months from now I may be shown to have been generous in calling for six wins.”

No more evidence is needed. I was generous in calling for six wins. They’ll be closer to three than to six.


When will the media honeymoon end for John Dorsey, now in his second year as general manager of the Chiefs? What has he accomplished thus far that inspires confidence? He has been somewhat of a Teflon man as far as the KC media is concerned, but it’s time for that to change. Dorsey’s first two drafts have been unmitigated disasters and his decisions on whom to sign and whom to let go during free agency have been equally puzzling.


Speaking of unmitigated disasters, the Kansas City Star.

As far as Northland news consumers are concerned, the Star over the past several years has become more of a history book than a newspaper. Their staff reductions have basically left them a non-player in the news coverage business in this market. When the Star does try to catch up to items that have long ago been reported by The Landmark, they do it using staffers who are short on experience and short on background knowledge of the topics they’re asked to tackle. This was never more evident than in a piece in Wednesday’s Star entitled “Still wanted: A way to fund more jail beds in Platte County.”

The Star tried to cover the jail committee topic more than a month after jail committee meetings had ceased. Meetings that, it should be pointed out, were never attended by any Star representative. That becomes painfully obvious based on the general tone of Wednesday’s story.

James Roberts, the jail committee chairman who went berserk on fellow committee members by launching into a tirade that was filled with personal insults while resigning and storming out of the room (see The Landmark’s July 30 issue for blow-by-blow quotes from his public meltdown) and commissioner Beverlee Roper are heavily quoted in the Star’s article.

In the Star, Roper went to great lengths to criticize Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, and the committee for undertaking what she said was not “a logical process,” referring to Brown's signing of the radio lease and the committee's recommendation to ask voters to realign a portion of the park tax to go toward law enforcement. Roper then said that she and fellow associate commissioner Duane Soper were the responsible ones by raising property taxes. Yes, she really said that.

Brown’s preferred option for making radio payments, in light of Roper’s and Soper’s refusal to pursue realigning existing sales taxes, would have been to cut general fund spending. Roper and Soper can and do disagree with that option, obviously, and in their two years on the job have consistently chosen to grow government and increase taxes. But for either Roper or Soper to imply Brown never had a plan is inaccurate and disingenuous. Disagreeing with an option doesn’t mean that option doesn’t exit. Browns' preferred options have ranged from realigning existing sales taxes to cutting general fund spending. Roper and Soper don't like those choices. They prefer raising taxes.

Roberts makes the accusation in the Star that the jail committee’s appointment was a move by Brown to get rid of the park tax. That theory has a lot of holes, not the least of which is that the formation of the jail committee was the idea of Soper, not Brown.

As for her allegation that the jail committee did not follow a “logical process,” Roper should be reminded of her own statements on June 23 to the committee, in which she explained the task the committee was being asked to perform: “There is no preconceived agenda. This is a solutions committee,” Roper said that night.

Or how about that meeting where Roper admitted she didn’t know the total county budget?

Or how about the fact that of the three committee members appointed by Roper, two couldn’t finish the job. One (Don Breckon) resigned early after publicly remarking that he was overwhelmed by the depth of information he was being asked to review and another (Roberts) couldn’t get a grip on his temper on multiple occasions and eventually disengaged, firing unnecessary personal insults on his way out the door.

Or how about the fact that Roper helped present insanely inaccurate population data to the committee?

Or how about the fact that Roper and Soper failed to obtain from the sheriff the daily jail population data the committee obtained, data that blew to pieces what little credibility there was in the expert report?

It’s time for Roper to tell us again who is logical and responsible.


In regard to last week’s topic of dog parks after deaths of two puppies who had visited the new canine public restroom at Platte Landing Park in Parkville, Lauren Palmer, city administrator, reached out to say that Parkville’s city ordinance prohibits dogs under four months of age from entering. So dogs are no longer considered puppies after four months? According to the Parkville ordinance, apparently not. “Midwest Public Risk (liability insurer for the city and county) issued a risk prevention advisory for dog parks that recommended dogs under four months of age be prohibited inside dog parks,” Palmer said. Palmer also says she has little hope that any information of value would be gleaned from soil samples taken at Platte Landing Park. She said she has been told by experts on the topic that because the cause of the doggie disease dysautonomia is unknown, researchers have no idea what to test for.

The common sense best advice Between the Lines can offer any dog owners who still have concerns? I think back to the words of a veterinarian quoted in last week’s Landmark, who said: “Parisitologists I have met don't take their dogs to dog parks.”


Mark your calendar for Friday, Oct. 3.

That’s the late afternoon/evening we’ll be celebrating The Landmark’s 150th year of publication with an open house and downtown street party on Main Street in Platte City. The event is also a celebration for the law offices of Scott Campbell, observing its third year on the square. Thus, the celebration has been tagged 3/150. There will be a Landmark open house with tours and refreshments. There will be a street dance with a live band, which is always better than a dead band. There will be food and beverages available on the street. There will be fun to be had.

Hope you’ll join us. More details coming.

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



Written 9/3/14

Dog park paradise can be more like dog park parasite.

So say the veterinarians who know about these types of things.

Two deaths of puppies who had visited the new dog park at Parkville’s Platte Landing Park have prompted a couple of suggestions from those with knowledge about dog parks and doggie health. The first suggestion--which seems to make a lot of sense--is to not allow puppies into the dog park, given that the very young doggies are more susceptible to disease than the adult canines.

Secondly, perhaps an in-depth study of soil samples of the dog park is needed to help determine whether there is any correlation between the two puppy deaths and the soil inside the Platte Landing dog park. City officials are denying any correlation. A soil study could help calm concerns.


If there is a soil problem inside the dog park, don’t be surprised if Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston employs her favorite trick of approaching county commissioners with her hand out, asking for more countywide sales tax dollars going to solve a Parkville problem. Johnston in the past month alone has lobbied for leaving an excessive county park tax levy untouched and lobbied for more in the way of county road tax money to help pay for a Hwy. 9 corridor study in her city. Previously, Parkville officials have quietly approached the county to see if the county had any way to help them financially with that overwhelming Neighborhood Improvement District debt for the sewer system at the west end of town.

I’ll say this about Parkville’s new mayor, she isn’t shy about asking for financial help. You can decide whether that’s an attractive trait.

To heck from building within. To heck from working to grow tax revenue from within her own city. To heck with finding a way to make that QuikTrip or McDonald’s proposal work. To heck with expanding her city’s borders ahead of proposed developments to help grow revenues. Parkville’s mayor is finding that it’s easier to simply come to the county to ask for more and more of the countywide sales tax pie.

Hey, whatever works, I guess. The whining and begging approach seems to be working just fine for Johnston. There’s no need for her to stop until the handouts from the tax and spend types come to an end.


There are no restrooms at Platte Landing Park, by the way. To be more clear, there are no restrooms for humans at Platte Landing Park.

There is a lovely, extremely long concrete road. There is a seldom used boat ramp. In fairness, we were told the boat ramp was needed for Homeland Security, so I should acknowledge that Platte County has not come under a terrorist attack since that boat ramp was put in.

There is a dog park that allegedly could be tied to the deaths of two puppies. But there are no restrooms. And no shade.

More handouts will be needed soon, obviously.


In regard to the Hwy. 9 corridor study for which Parkville just begged for and received another $15,000 in road tax money from the county: Has anyone at Parkville City Hall stopped to think about what it is going to take to widen Hwy. 9? It would call for the taking of a considerable amount of private property from residences and businesses for right of way.

Instead of looking to attract development and thereby grow its own revenues, Parkville officials tucked tail and quickly ran when some neighbors opposed a proposed QuikTrip/McDonald’s combination at the intersection of Hwy. 45 and 9. I’m guessing some opposition to significant private property acquisition for a potential widening of Hwy. 9 is going to be much more forceful. Does anybody at Parkville City Hall have the tummy to deal with that? Will the mayor be checking to see if there is some kind of financial handout available to help with mental anguish?


It’s not a stretch to say that many public officials in the southern part of Platte County expect more and more in the way of handouts from the financial pie created by the countywide sales taxes due to the fact the northern part of the county has the golf course. You know, the golf course that loses about $750,000 in county park tax money each year. The golf course that cannot attract nearly enough players.

The folks down south aren’t stupid. They see the drain that the golf course is on county sales tax coffers and they want some of that $$$$$$.

And really, can we blame them for that line of thinking? Just another reason to sell the golf course and stop the bleeding.


It’s time for your batcrap crazy quote of the week. No surprise here, it comes from Beverlee Roper, first district county commissioner. Roper is her own worst enemy. The more she talks the more she exposes herself as being uninformed, ill-informed, misguided, and at times completely off the rails on matters on which she has been elected to make important decisions. This is why during any event at which Roper is present, The Landmark’s voice recorders are engaged. You’re welcome, America.

Her quote this week came in response to a taxpayer at Tuesday’s county commission meeting questioning Roper and fellow commissioner Duane Soper’s idea to raise the property tax levy to pay for the emergency radios. The taxpayer asked when the radio system would be paid off.

“The radios will never be paid for because it’s a lease,” Roper said.

Um, say what?

So Roper thinks the $1.2 million annual emergency radio lease payments will run from now through infinity? Man, that would be a hell of a deal for Motorola, would it not?

Soper, who has been Roper’s partner in crimes of taxation and growing government, uncomfortably felt the need to step in to clear the air. “There are seven years left on the radio payments,” Soper said quietly and politely, trying not to draw attention to the fact Roper had just stepped in it. Again.

For the record, the equipment will be owned by the county after those seven remaining years of lease payments.

(Once you pay for your copy of The Landmark, you own your copy of The Landmark. No never-ending leases here. Until next week, follow Foley on Twitter or Facebook)



Written 8/26/14

Wow. Remember when the summertime news cycle was slow and your local media types could kind of put it on cruise control for a few weeks?

Yeah. Those days have been gone for a while now.

It has been a bit of a crazy summer in Platte County. Your Landmarkers have been kept hopping. And we’re perfectly fine with that.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind getting a chance to lighten the tone of this column a little more often. If only the tax and spend bureaucrats would behave themselves so we could do that.


Looks like property tax bills will be going up this year. As reported by The Landmark last week, Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, your associate county commissioners, have indicated they’ll be voting in favor of raising the county’s property tax levy considerably. The county’s current levy is one cent per $100 of assessed valuation. Soper and Roper want to raise it by five cents to a total of six cents. Their mission, they say, is to use that money to generate the $1.2 million emergency radio payment. They say they’re doing this in part to stop the practice of previous county commissions of “kicking that can” down the road.

It’s a good time to point out that Roper and Soper have themselves been guilty of kicking that same can. Let’s not forget that.

Those two have turned down previous opportunities to address the emergency radio payment through methods that would not have required a tax increase. In their first month in office in January of 2013, the two associates ignored the suggestion by Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, that the county rewrite its 3/8th cent road tax proposal to put a minor portion of it toward law enforcement/radios. Then this summer, Roper and Soper both declined to endorse the jail committee’s proposal to ask voters to realign the park tax from half cent to 3/8 cent for parks and 1/8th cent for law enforcement.

So Roper and Soper are choosing the route of new taxes over at least two previous options of realigning spending priorities without a tax increase.


Roper’s stated reason for opposing the jail committee’s idea of placing a park tax realignment question on the ballot was that there just was not enough time to study the issue and let the proposal go through a public vetting process. The jail committee’s idea was publicly presented Aug. 4. A vote to place it on the ballot was needed by Aug. 26. There are 22 days between those two dates.

Roper took office on Jan. 1, 2013. On Jan. 22, 2013, Roper voted to place the road sales tax renewal on the ballot. Let’ s do the math. There are 21 days between those two dates.

So if you want to get technical, Roper’s road tax renewal ballot language had less time to be “vetted” than the park tax realignment question would have had.

Kind of makes her reason for opposing the realignment proposal sound disingenuous.


It looks like Platte County isn’t the only taxing entity getting the itch to raise taxes. Park Hill School District sounds primed to do the same, which means if you own property in the southern part of the county, look out, you’re going to get it from at least two directions.

Park Hill, coming off a thumping of a proposed 32-cent tax levy increase by voters in April, is proposing to raise its tax rate from $4.92 to $4.95. A public hearing is scheduled on the topic Thursday night.


Gotta say I’m a little disappointed that Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt has not manned up to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that I issued to him on Facebook.


If you’re not currently a Landmark subscriber, now is the best time to jump on board. New subscribers not only get a discounted price of $20 but we throw in four free tickets to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival on top of that. The Ren Fest tickets--available while supply lasts--are more than an $80 value by themselves. This is a popular promotion so don’t hesitate to get in while we still have tickets in the prize vault.

Current subscribers can jump in on the discounted price of $20 for a year’s subscription, though the festival tickets are for new subscribers only.

To take advantage, drop by our office or simply call 816-858-0363.


How about those Royals? As of this writing (mid-day Tuesday), the Royals hold a 1.5 game lead in their division. Yes, if the season ended today the Royals would be in the playoffs. For those of you born after 1985, let me explain that playoffs are those things the good teams get to do every so often.


Here’s your hot sports take for the week from Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart, who follows sports about as closely as I follow reality TV:

“I don’t watch baseball and even I can tell you the Royals are going to blow it.”

Ouch. An unusually harsh analysis from Miss Christmas.


I’m feeling more positive about the Royals than I am about the Chiefs right now. I hate to be a Debbie Downer but the Chiefs look like a 6-10 team to me. Much of the media talk is centered around how shaky the Chiefs offense could be with such a makeshift offensive line, but to me the defense has even more concerns. The secondary is unquestionably awful and the front seven will prove to be vastly overrated. People seem to be forgetting the Chiefs pass rush late last season all but disappeared. Blame it on injuries if you’d like but I think there was more to it than that.

A few months from now I may be shown to have been generous in calling for six wins.

(The Landmark is always generous on Twitter @ivanfoley)



Written 8/20/14

Mark your calendars for Friday, Oct. 3 for what is known as the 3/150 Street Party in downtown Platte City.

It’s called 3/150 because it note the third year on Main Street for Scott Campbell Law Offices and the 150th year in business for The Landmark Newspaper.

Come join us. There will be a little something for everyone. From 4-8 p.m. The Landmark will be hosting an open house inside our historical office at 252 Main. Come view some old time--some as far back as the 19th century--printing equipment. You’ll see Linotype machine, an 1899 (yes, 1899, that’s not a typo) flatbed press that printed out each issue of The Landmark from 1899 to 1979, some handset type, some of the old type cabinets, and much more. We’ll have light refreshments and friendly conversation, some Landmark 150th anniversary coffee mugs if some are still available for purchase at that time. It’ll be good family fun and even perhaps, dare I say, a chance to learn a thing or two about the history of newspapering (is newspapering a word? It is now).

The street party portion of the evening will run from 6-10:30 p.m. on Main Street between Third and Fourth Streets. This is the part of the evening that is Scott Campbell’s specialty because when you hear the words street party you automatically think Scott Campbell, am I right? There will be live music by the fine band of Outlaw Jim and the Whiskey Benders. There will be no open fires this time around, in contrast to the party Scott hosted a couple of years ago. The no open flame policy makes city officials and the local fire department very happy.

Hot dogs and chips will be provided by Jacob A. Pruett Law Offices. If an adult beverage appeals to you, a beer garden will be in place, thanks to the Platte City Pool Hall. The Pool Hall will also be having food specials throughout the night.

We’ll have more on this as the event draws near. Hope you’ll join us.


There’s a phone scam making the rounds. Callers portraying themselves to be with the IRS are phoning people in an effort to gather identifying information, etc. Do not fall for this. The IRS says if it needs to contact you, its first method of communication is through the mail, not a phone call.

Residents in Platte County and other surrounding areas have reported this occurrence. Be on alert.


So many behind the scenes aspects of being in the media entertain me immensely. For instance:
Houston Lake aldermen talk to the media on behalf of the city when it’s about a pleasant topic, such as how life is wonderful at a lake community (recent Kansas City Star article). But when the topic has the chance to be a bit controversial, such as the potential closing of a bridge at the lake, suddenly those same aldermen decline comment by saying that the mayor is “the voice of the city.”

So, to clarify, aldermen are willing to be the voice of the city when they can say that things are wonderful but when the topic turns to something that has many residents a bit stirred suddenly those same aldermen decline comment on the basis that the mayor is “the voice of the city.” Got it.

And the mayor? For now, he’s avoiding us on this one, too. Longtime readers of The Landmark won’t be surprised to hear that this only increases our level of curiosity about the behind the scenes aspects of this story.

The really fun part? Unless these folks are going to stop making public appearances and stop holding their required public meetings, the avoidance game eventually has to end.

A trip to a Houston Lake Board of Aldermen meeting is suddenly on my bucket list. Who knew?


Also helping entertain me this week: Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson’s remarks at the Aug. 4 commission meeting where the jail report was issued. Robinson spoke just long enough to say that he had offered his services to the committee but he never heard back from them. He sounded surprised. His ego was showing bruises. And just think this occurred the day before his good friend Jim Plunkett was waxed in the presiding commissioner race.

I don’t know if there is an easy way to say this but the reason Robinson never heard back from the committee is likely that the committee members know Kevin Robinson. They read the paper. Robinson has spoken in favor of raising taxes, always promotes raises for county employees, has favored increasing staff at the administration building, etc. In short, he is a big government person.

On top of that, many of Robinson’s financial projections during his tenure have been wildly inaccurate. His operating budget revenue numbers for the golf course have been the stuff of fairy tales and have been justifiably ridiculed.

The reason the committee never reached out to Robinson is that they don’t trust his big government principles or his work. Other than that, nothing personal.


I've talked this proposed park tax realignment topic to death in recent weeks, so this week’s analysis of that subject will be short. The new point to be made is that the crowd that is so bent on not having park tax revenue reduced by one-eighth cent may regret not being a little more willing to compromise on the issue and allow the question to go in front of voters.

A new angle came to light on Tuesday when Bob Shaw, county counselor, mentioned in an administrative staff meeting that county commissioners have the legal ability to reduce the park tax with a simple commission vote. That’s right. Shaw says a 2-1 vote of the county commission at any point could reduce the half cent park tax, including the option of reducing by more than one-eighth.

Oops. Why this hasn’t been publicly revealed previously is somewhat of a mystery, since this topic has been around for a few years. So the park tax can be cut by two commissioners rather than by a majority of thousands of voters heading to the polls? Hmm. Things are suddenly very, very interesting.

Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner-elect, campaigned on the issue of realigning the park tax. It’s doubtful tax happy Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, the two associate commissioners with whom Schieber will be serving in 2015 and 2016, would vote to reduce the park tax, but remember both Soper and Roper will be up for reelection in 2016. Do you like the chances of both of them being reelected? Based on the overwhelming success Schieber enjoyed while running on a platform of no new taxes and realigning the park tax to direct a portion toward law enforcement, it’s tough to see the track records of the two associate commissioners holding up well in a 2016 campaign.


Things are always interesting, occasionally fascinating on Twitter @ivanfoley



Written 8/13/14

I don’t want to say his department is overfunded but county parks director Brian Nowotny rides a unicorn to meetings.


Step back in time. Here’s the gist of a 2009 phone conversation I had with Dana Babcock, director of administration at Platte County. Some folks may not realize it, but not only is Babcock director of administration she also is a close personal friend and close--if not the closest--political advisor to Jim Plunkett. She serves in the same roles to current commissioner Duane Soper.

Anyway, in 2009 Babcock and other close friends and neighbors of Plunkett (you know who you are, don’t make me name names) lobbied him hard, encouraging him to keep the park tax renewal question at half cent instead of directing any of it to other county needs. Our conversation took place after Plunkett had voted to keep the park tax ballot question at half cent. For context, let me say Babcock and I regularly had newspaper publisher/county representative phone conversations in those days about issues facing the county. Those background conversations no longer take place, which I’m certain you do not find surprising. These days Babcock chooses to have her telephone conversations with the liberal media outlets.

“You’ve ruined Jim’s political future with his vote on this park tax question,” I quietly said to Babcock in 2009, being brutally honest, which might be one reason we no longer have those conversations.

“No, I think Jim’s going to be fine,” Babcock told me.

Jim may be fine. But his first political race since that decision didn’t turn out so well for him.


Last week, county commissioner Beverlee Roper made a comment or two that indicated she actually may be considering giving the voters the opportunity to realign the park tax. Apparently seeing some political writing on the wall at last week’s election--at which Ron Schieber steamrolled through the presiding commissioner’s race on a platform of no new taxes and realigning the half cent park tax to give an eighth cent to law enforcement--opened Roper’s mind to reevaluating the county’s priorities that were flipped upside down by the 2009 county commission of Jim Plunkett, Betty Knight and Kathy Dusenbery.

If Roper suddenly finds an interest in placing the park tax realignment question on the November ballot it is a sign that she intends to seek reelection in 2016. Let’s look again at last week’s results. Schieber’s message of no new taxes and resetting spending priorities took Plunkett to the woodshed. Based on her tax and spend mentality in her first two years in office it may already be too late for Roper to salvage a reelection, but if she fails to work to give voters the opportunity to realign the park tax it’s safe to say her chances of reelection will go from below average to virtually non-existent.


Of course with Roper you never know what stance you’re going to hear on any particular day. She has a tendency to pander to whatever crowd she is sitting in front of at that moment. When it comes to bluster, Roper is the female Ron Burgundy.

If you have an awareness of local political history, you already know that the first two years of her tenure have been a fraud based on the message she delivered during her campaign. Remember her platform to voters in 2012? Roper was going to be a watchdog over the park tax revenues. Roper was going to end the practice of the county entering into debt to fund projects, instead saying the county would operate “on a cash basis.” Roper was going to be a fiscal conservative.

Roper has become the parks department’s biggest cheerleader. When parks director Nowotny speaks about his projects at commission meetings Roper smiles and stares at him like a teenager with a high school crush. She has never made good on her promise to provide monthly printouts of every parks department expenditure. In January of 2013 while speaking in front of a room full of road district representatives, she favored keeping the road tax at 3/8th cent while asking them for help in the future when, in her words, the county will need to come back to the voters for a new sales tax, this one going to law enforcement. She declined the chance to rewrite the roads tax to divert some of that sales tax to law enforcement. She has, at various times, spoken in favor of raising the property tax levy.

The Beverlee Roper who has served the past two years isn’t the Beverlee Roper voters heard campaigning in the summer of 2012.


At a meeting on Monday, Roper said she read the parks department’s 10-year master plan, a document that was developed in 2009, over the weekend. “I did find some very interesting things in this.”

Wait. So Roper has been championing every move made by the parks department over the past two years without having taken the time to read what is in the department’s master plan? This is leadership?

“If you take a look at this you will see how much effort went into this. Hour upon hour upon hour,” Roper said Monday.

Um, okay. A sincere shout out to those who gave of their time. Kudos to you. But the document is a parks plan not the United States Constitution. Is Roper insinuating a plan can’t be modified just because like-minded thinkers spent time following the parks director’s lead at a handful of public meetings?

A plan is called a plan for a reason. It’s not a binding document. A long range plan is like a long range weather forecast. It’s fun to look at and think about, but if you assume it’s written in stone you’re likely to be disappointed.

Circumstances change in all aspects of life. Ten-year park plans included.


I wonder if Roper got to the part of the 10-year plan that talks about building canoe trails and horse trails in Platte County.

We can laugh. But those things are actually in the plan.

Oh, the things that can be done with an embarrassment of riches.


Some folks in the parks crowd over the course of the past couple of years have liked to say “respect the will of the voters” referring to the 2009 low turnout/expensive special election, at which four percent of the county’s registered voters said yes to keeping the tax at half cent. The travesty about 2009 is that the county commission at that time declined to reveal to voters that a multimillion dollar unfunded emergency radio mandate was coming at them. The then-county commission declined to inform voters that other law enforcement needs were on the horizon. In the background, the then-county commission liked to play political games against then-Sheriff Dick Anderson.

So now that voters have all the facts and funding needs placed in front of them, let the voters speak their desire at the ballot box in November. Then “respect the will of the voters” who have not had pertinent information withheld from them by their elected officials.

Get Between the Lines 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley



Written 8/6/14

Time to interpret the outcome of Tuesday’s election, at which Ron Schieber not only won but was victorious by an overwhelming margin. An eleven percent victory in a political race is a thumping. If you’re a fan of better prioritizing spending and eliminating political games, this is a win for you. If you’re a fan of big government, you favor increased taxes and you prioritize an overabundance of amenities above basic government services, or if you are a taxing entity thinking of proposing a tax increase to voters in the near future, then Tuesday was a sad day for you.


Schieber campaigned for presiding commissioner on a bold platform. It is the right platform. No new taxes. Realign the park tax to pay for the $10 million emergency radio debt that other commissions have kicked down the road. Sell the golf course. There’s no need for a jail expansion right now. End the political games of special elections for one-issue tax questions (think park tax 2009).

These are all very solid, sound, common sense, fiscally conservative stances. Because he knew there are pockets of voters who disagree with each one of those stances, it was a gutsy strategy for Schieber. Win or lose, you’ve got to admire that. It is admired even more when you see that it paid off in a big way.


So the candidate who campaigned on no new taxes, realigning the park tax and selling the golf course wins by 11 percent. Message sent.


Schieber would have won by more than 11 percent had this just been a two person race with Jim Plunkett. The third candidate in the race, Wojo, was pulling votes from Schieber for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is they are members of the same parish.


Some of the folks who were sent a special delivery by voters on Tuesday include several people already in office at the administration building. A message has been written on the wall. If you’ve been paying attention and are familiar with the players you don’t need me to name names. But I will anyway later in this paragraph. There is a message in Tuesday’s results for those who have been speaking in favor of growing the size of the county’s footprint, growing county government in general, speaking in favor of a higher property tax levy, fighting efforts to realign a tax for amenities to put a small portion of that to a basic government service like law enforcement, defending fairy tale golf course revenue budgets and the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year at the golf course, etc. Those folks would include associate county commissioners Beverlee Roper and Duane Soper, sheriff Mark Owen and county auditor Kevin Robinson. There are likely some bruised egos in that bunch today.

Another bruised ego will be that of Betty Knight, former presiding commissioner, who wasn’t shy about supporting Plunkett and who continues to falsely claim on social media that the park tax cannot be realigned. Roper and Soper were in Plunkett’s camp. Soper even gave a significant amount of dollars to Plunkett’s campaign. Robinson, for reasons known only to him, fancies himself a financial guru and has boasted that he is the top advisor to Soper and Roper. Robinson was known as “Plunkett’s man” when Robinson was recruited to run for auditor in 2010. Robinson has spoken repeatedly in favor of raising taxes. Owen has favored building an empire in the form of a county jail that would be the size of a regional prison.

Again, a friendly but firm note was sent by voters. It remains to be seen whether the note will be received.


The jail committee advises the county commission no expansion is needed at this time. This is after an earlier proposal worked up by a consultant for a 315 bed addition to the existing 154-bed capacity for what would be a whopping 469 capacity regional sized prison. So what is the reaction of Sheriff Mark Owen? Does he feel like a kid with no gifts under the tree on Christmas morning?

“I don’t really have a reaction. I’m listening to the recommendation that was made to the commission and trying to analyze some of the stuff that might be issues down the road,” the sheriff said when I caught up with him by phone Tuesday afternoon. The sheriff wanted to emphasize that he appreciates the work and research put in by the jail committee. “I commend them for doing the job that they did and the research. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be yet. I don’t agree with them or disagree with them, I’m just trying to sort through everything at this point,” he said. Owen said while the committee recommends finishing the futures (basement) of the jail when expansion is needed, “I don’t know if that’s going to be sufficient,” citing some peaks in jail population over the past 24 months. “We peaked at 170 inmates last year. At the time of the transition of judges we were at 100 or 102. Today we’re at 126. They (the committee) came in at a point when things were dropping. It’s those spikes in population that hurt us. I’ve got to have room for those people,” he said.

A jail is considered full at 85% of capacity by a guideline put in place by a national federation. Because, you know, that’s government math. “It’s not a hard-written rule,” Owen concedes. But those times when the jail is at 100% capacity and regulations require different levels of segregation for various levels of inmates, it becomes a game of chess or checkers trying to piece together room, the sheriff explains. “When you get to 100% then obviously there is no place to move the checkers,” Owen said.

The jail committee recommends the county have nothing to do with a housing contract to accept Kansas City municipal inmates. Owen, in conversations with The Landmark earlier this year, really supported this plan. So is he disappointed in that aspect of the committee’s recommendation? “I think there was an opportunity there. But I’m not disappointed. If you go to the taxpayer to build an expansion the chance was there for Kansas City to pay several million dollars toward that expansion that would not have been passed back to citizens of the county,” Owen said. The committee said it wants no part of a deal with KC because “housing inmates of KCMO brings inherent risks as well as placing a financial burden on Platte County that is unnecessary. In addition, the KCMO inmate population could result in bringing in undesirable visitors to Platte City.”

The sheriff says he sees the need to start working toward some type of expansion. “It is not a (quick) solution. It takes time to figure out where you want to go, how many beds you need, the processes for architects and funding, and then you’ve got construction time. It would be 2-3 years down the road before you see another bed. I was trying to get out in front of this. I don’t want to kick this down the road and be in a position where we are hauling people all over the place (to be housed in other jails).”

As for the committee’s idea to give voters the chance to realign a portion of the half cent park tax to allow 1/8th cent to go toward law enforcement, Owen said he has no reaction. “Quite honestly I haven’t looked at it yet. I think the committee did their due diligence. They tried to do what they thought was right. I’m not for (their recommendation) and I’m not against it. I’m not disappointed and I’m not excited. It is what it is.”

(Get excited on Twitter @ivanfoley. It ain't what it ain't)



Written 7/29/14

Grab a handle and hold on. I’ll try to summarize the latest from the jail advisory committee. I won’t focus on the personal in-fighting in this column space, though you’ll want to read our front page story to get up-to-date on the latest monkey poop fight that took place Monday night. You might laugh. You might cry. You will be entertained.

The committee, in looking at the more recent average daily population trends of the jail after a spike in 2012, questions whether any type of jail expansion is even necessary at this time. If an expansion is needed, the committee believes there should be plenty of space in the basement of the jail--known as the futures area--to handle the load for the next several years.

“We believe there could be room for at least 40 beds down there,” Jacque Cox, committee member, said Monday night.

The committee was also tasked to come up with financing options for any expansion. So some members have been working toward that goal. The financing portion of the problem can be solved by realigning the county’s current half cent sales tax for parks and directing one fourth of that half cent--that would be one-eighth cent--to law enforcement.

This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. It has been talked about in this column space for years. In fact, right here in Between the Lines we long ago told you the county commission comprised of Jim Plunkett, Betty Knight, and Kathy Dusenbery made a colossal mistake by not presenting voters with the option of rewriting the park tax renewal in 2009 to direct a portion of the tax to law enforcement needs. I’ve covered Platte County politics for 32 years. It is the worst governing decision I’ve seen in that time. It’s why law enforcement in Platte County--with $10 million of emergency radio debt from a mandated project that Plunkett, Knight, etc. knew was coming but failed to come up with a funding stream--is in a financial crunch right now.

Eric Zahnd, county prosecutor, in early 2012 during a general fund budget crunch discussion, proposed to the county commission of Plunkett, Dusenbery and Jason Brown that the county commission look at rewriting the parks tax. The commission wanted no part of it, primarily for political reasons but also stating it couldn’t be done because bonds to expand two community centers were backed by the park tax.

But does that argument about the bonds really hold water? No. Not if only one fourth of the current half cent park tax is redirected. Gordon Cook, an accountant who lives in Parkville, has helped the jail committee in recent weeks by running some numbers.

Platte County’s park tax brings in $8 million annually. Redirecting one fourth of that, $2 million, to law enforcement leaves plenty of money in the parks fund. Of the remaining $6 million per year, about $2.5 million would cover the community center debt payments. $325,000 would cover the golf course’s operating losses (ouch). Another $450,000 would cover the debt payments on the golf course (double ouch). That leaves $750,000 for parks administration and nearly $2 million in spendable cash for parks each year.

It’s very feasible. But will it happen? Not likely. It would take county commissioners with some stones to present two needed ballot questions to voters. We don’t have three county commissioners with stones right now.

The first ballot question would ask voters to rewrite the park tax. If that question passed, the second question on the same ballot would ask the realigned portion be directed to law enforcement. The second ballot question only becomes relevant if the first question is approved.

Jason Brown, outgoing presiding commissioner, might have the stones but he didn’t seem to want any part of it in early 2012 when Zahnd pressed the issue publicly. Brown might be more open minded to the thought right now.

But that’s where hope ends, as I see it. Duane Soper, second district county commissioner, has no desire to make anyone upset with him. Soper amazingly is in denial that Shiloh Springs is in the financial mess that it’s in. When presented with Shiloh’s sorry numbers recently, he reportedly said “that can’t be right.” He was then told the numbers he was being shown were taken directly from the county’s audited financial statements. He’s probably still in denial. It could be because he golfs there. It could be because he is personal friends with Kevin and Mary Robinson and county auditor Kevin golfs there. It could be because he only looks at the fictitious revenue budgets the county auditor projects every year at budget time to try to make the golf course seem less of a financial albatross.

And Beverlee Roper, the third commissioner, ran on the idea that she would be a watchdog over the $8 million of annual parks revenue but instead has become lapdog and head cheerleader for the effective but bloated department. By the way, Roper campaigned against Dusenbery on the grounds that Dusenbery was nothing but a lapdog and head cheerleader for the effective but bloated parks department. Remember that? What a country.

No matter how you slice it, this all goes back to the late spring/early summer of 2009. Knight, Plunkett and Dusenbery held the county’s financial future in their hands. A major part of the inside story is that Knight and Plunkett, who both had a penchant for getting into political drama, consistently had quiet but real disagreements with then-Sheriff Dick Anderson. Anderson would have openly welcomed the commission deciding to devote a portion of the half cent sales tax for parks to law enforcement during that 2009 special election. Neither Knight nor Plunkett wanted to do anything that would make Anderson happy.

So it didn’t happen. And here we are.


It’s not that anyone despises parks. Parks are a nice attraction and a major quality of life attribute for Platte County. $8 million a year for 14 years or so will do that for you.

It’s just that when it’s necessary to go searching for budget relief you follow the money. You have to go to where the greatest number of dollars are. In Platte County, the highest revenues are in the parks department. That’s not being personal, that’s not looking to “raid” parks. Taking $2 million for a priority government service like law enforcement from an $8 million revenue stream for fun stuff is not an act of stealing. It’s an act of common sense.

“It’s a solution that doesn’t hurt anybody,” Jeff Watson, jail committee member, said Monday night. And he’s right.

Galen Dean, jail committee member, said he would oppose the idea of making that recommendation. “I don’t think it will pass,” he said. Dean said he does believe there is too much money going to county parks but he said a lot of people in Platte County like it that way. “I’m not a fan of that much money going to parks. I wasn’t even here (when the tax began),” he said.

Would it pass? Maybe. Times have changed. The county commission of Plunkett, Knight and Dusenbery had not explained the coming need of the unfunded emergency radio mandate to voters when the park tax language was untouched and renewed by a 54-46 percent count in August of 2009. Elected leaders weren’t leading.

It would take a full blown effort from county commissioners with the tummy to explain to the public why it is necessary and why it is the smartest, most cost-effective solution for taxpayers.

The tummy part. The stones part. That’s why it won’t happen.

(Get tummy and stones 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)



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 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)