IT'S NOT ALWAYS SUNNY IN PLATTE COUNTY PARKS
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.
(Get exciting news and commentary 24/7 on Twitter @ivanfoley)
THE LOCAL POLITICAL SCENE CONTINUES TO INTRIGUE
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
GET READY TO GET BUSY,
PARKVILLE NEEDS YOU
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)
MORE ABOUT THE
CONSULTANT’S JAIL IDEAS;
AND HOLDEN IS A POSITIVE
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)
SO MANY CELLS COULD BE A TOUGH SALE
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)
IN POLITICS, IT'S BEST NOT TO ASSUME ANYTHING
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)
CRAZY COMMENTS ALWAYS MAKE FOR A FUN NEWS WEEK
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
NICE THOUGHT, BUT THERE
WERE BETTER WAYS TO HONOR
A RESPECTED RETIRING JUDGE
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).
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