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Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor


Grill will be among the intriguing stories to follow in 2007

Posted 12/28/06

Hope all Between the Lines readers had the merriest of Christmases.

Mine was fine and dandy, thanks for asking.

******

Here at Missouri's longest-running newspaper, the giving doesn't stop after the holiday. On the contrary. The Landmark is the gift that keeps on giving 52 weeks a year.

But you already knew that. That's why you're reading us right now. Welcome home.

******

Want a heads-up on what will be some of the top news stories to follow in the early weeks of the new year?

While the City of Platte City continues to be engulfed in its involuntary annexation effort and the legal battles accompanying it, as the only paper that covers the entire county, The Landmark won't forget to look to southern Platte to help readers follow a few intriguing situations. Here's the first one:

Jason Grill, 27, will take office as the 32nd district state representative serving southern Platte County in January. As exclusively reported in The Landmark last week in a fair and balanced front page report using only the basic details from more than 30 pages of police reports on the alleged incident, allegations of sexual misconduct on election night were made against Grill. A 22-year-old woman told police Grill forced sexual contact upon her inside her vehicle in a Zona Rosa parking lot at 2 a.m. Though the woman--whom Grill had just met earlier in the evening--later told police that her recall of some details is "hazy" and she won't pursue charges, the situation has made Grill the buzz of the state capitol for all the wrong reasons. The buzz isn't happening because anyone is convicting him or charging him with a crime, but because of the questionable judgment that was shown by placing himself in a position where such an accusation could even have been made.

In order to become the effective bi-partisan lawmaker he has said he intends to be, Grill now has some self-imposed obstacles to overcome. If he hopes to be taken seriously and become more than a one-term wonder, he will have to build trust among his colleagues and constituents.

******

A second intriguing story to follow from south of Barry Road? Tom Hutsler's campaign for the Parkville Board of Aldermen.

In a previous run two years ago, Hutsler was defeated by 16 votes by Deborah Butcher in Ward 1. The two are back for a rematch.

You've been reading about Hutsler quite often in your Landmark recently due to his proposal calling for relocation of the rail track (make that tracks, as one more from BNSF is on the way) in downtown Parkville to the south of his English Landing development. Critics say his proposal, among other things, would eat up too much of the English Landing Park.

Hutsler is an active community volunteer and a successful entrepreneur. He's the kind of person who gets things done, and really doesn't seem to mind that he ruffles a feather or two in the process. His ability to think outside the box makes a lot of people within the city hall establishment more than just a bit nervous. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Fascinating situation. I have no idea who will prevail, but I do know we'll keep you posted on what should be a humdinger of a spring election season in Parkville.

******

A third attention-getter from 'down south' involves the long-pending misdemeanor criminal charges against attorney Michael Gunn, former Platte County counselor. In a story that has been exclusively followed by The Landmark (you may have noticed a pattern here), Gunn is accused of assault on a female process server. The incident took place more than a year ago, on Dec. 1, 2005 at the Gunn, Shank & Stover law firm, Kansas City in Platte County, and the charges are being handled in Kansas City Municipal Court.

Gunn, 61, for several years under previous county commissions served as Platte County's legal counsel for planning and zoning issues. He is charged with assault and with resisting police who were called to the scene. Police said they had to spray Gunn with mace three times during the course of his arrest.

He is scheduled to appear in court this Thursday, Dec. 28 at 2:30 p.m. but don't hold your breath. He has already been granted continuances in the case on four different occasions. Perhaps his legal strategy is to delay the case until witnesses start developing Alzheimer's.

******

Followers of the Platte County political scene will want to be on notice that Friday will be a big day at the administration building.

Those officeholders successful in the November election are scheduled to be sworn in at 11 a.m. This includes Recorder Gloria Boyer, Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight, County Clerk Sandy Krohne (more on her later), Collector Donna Nash, Auditor Siobhann Williams, and Prosecutor Eric Zahnd.

A reception will follow.

These things are normally a good time with the public officials in a relaxed atmosphere. If your schedule permits, I encourage you to attend.

******

Sandy Krohne announced Tuesday she will be unable to attend the public swearing-in ceremony on Friday due to a death in the family. Instead, she was scheduled to take the oath of office administered by Judge Lee Hull on Wednesday in front of family, close friends and staff members.

(Ivan Foley won't be sworn in but he's accustomed to being sworn at. Take your best shot via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Christmas comments; A Lamar moment; and more story problems

Issue dated 12/21/06

In the spirit of Christmas, Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks will soon announce his intention to annex the North Pole.

******

After I lampooned the amount of media coverage his impending death was receiving earlier this year, I fear that on Christmas Eve I will be visited by the ghost of Buck O'Neil urging me to do a reverse home mortgage with James B. Nutter and Co.

*******

Wow. What a Landmark Christmas party last Friday. Hollywood is calling for the movie rights.

Thanks to the many special guests, and more importantly, the devoted readers who took part in the reindeer games. What's most satisfying to us as hosts is the way folks have turned it into a stay-while event to partake in hot food and fellowship. It's not just a quick come-and-go holiday sugar rush.

******

Platte City's obsession with what seems destined to be another unsuccessful annexation attempt continues to get more and more expensive for Joe Taxpayer.

Spending your money on failed ventures doesn't seem to be bothering Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys. On Tuesday night they approved hiring more legal help to assist their apparently overmatched team of Williams and Campo.

Williams and Campo's charge to the city has been in the neighborhood of $190 per hour. The additional hired gun employed this week will hit taxpayers at the rate of $245 per hour.

How much are the boys going to spend on this nightmare?

How can they in the future come to the voters with a straight face and say the city has financial needs when they are spending this kind of money on an annexation effort that seems destined to fail?

******

With his unfortunate passing last week, pundits are chiming in with their favorite Lamar Hunt story. Let me add some meaningless chatter to the personal clutter by telling of my only one-on-one encounter with the Chiefs owner.

It was the fall of 1998. I was going through chemotherapy for Hodgkins disease at the time. Never one who enjoys sitting still for any length of time, I awoke one rainy Sunday morning determined to take advantage of a sideline photography credential and go cover the Chiefs game that day vs. San Diego. Alone. Just to prove I could.

So I'm standing on the sideline prior to the game and rain is pelting the stadium. Sensing someone standing over my right shoulder, I turned around to be face-to-face with Lamar Hunt. Caught off guard for just a second, I mumbled my way through a greeting. Showing the humble nature you've heard so much about, he then engaged me in conversation.

Turn and look at all those umbrellas in the crowd. It's very colorful, all the different shades of umbrellas. I think that would make a really neat picture," he said.

"You're right, Mr. Hunt, it would," I said, and I turned to shoot a few photos of the crowd and the aforementioned colorful umbrellas while he continued to politely chat me up.

Of course in 1998 The Landmark printed only in black and white, so the colorful site wasn't going to do a whole lot for my purposes. But I didn't tell him that. After all, this was Lamar Hunt. If a guy like that gives you an idea, you do it and figure out any flaws in the plan at a later time.

Again, not an exciting story. . .just one more example of the humble nature of a powerful and wealthy man. Not something found all that often in today's society.

******

Reviving a topic at the tail of last week's column, it's time for more story problems. Between the Lines has obtained a copy of the Los Angeles, California High School proficiency exam. Give it your best shot.

1. Ramon has an AK-47 with a 30-round clip. He usually misses six out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Ramon attempt before he has to reload?

2. Leroy has two ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8-ball to Antonio for $320 and two grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what is the street value of the rest of his hold?

3. Raul wants to cut the pound of cocaine he bought for $40,000 to make a 20% profit. How many ounce bags will he need to make to obtain the 20% profit?

4. Desmond gets $200 for a stolen BMW, $150 for stealing a Corvette, and $100 for a 4x4. If he steals one BMW, two Corvettes and three 4x4's, how many more Corvettes must he steal to have $900?

5. Pedro got six years for murder. He also got $10,000 for the hit. If his common law wife spends $100 of his hit money per month, how much money will be left when he gets out?

6. If an average can of spray paint covers 22 square feet and the average letter is three square feet, how much tagging can be sprayed with three eight ounce cans of spray paint left over?

7. LaShaunda is a lookout for the gang. LaShaunda also has a boa constrictor that eats five rats per week at a cost of $5 per rat. If LaShaunda makes $700 a week as a lookout, how many weeks can she feed the boa on one week's income?

8. Tyrone knocked up four girls in the gang. There are 20 girls in his gang. What is the exact percentage of girls he knocked up?

9. Marvin steals Juan's skateboard. As Marvin skates away at 15 mph, Juan loads his 357 Magnum. If it takes Juan 20 seconds to load his piece, how far away will Marvin be when he gets whacked?

(Platte City's Board of Aldermen wish you a Merry *#@!!$% Christmas and Happy *@$%!* New Year! Send email to city hall's least favorite columnist at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Aldermen in the Christmas spirit; Landmark party time

Issue of 12/14/06

What better sign of the season than a little Christmas cronyism at Platte City's city hall?

Now sprinkled with profanity.

*******

A quick public service announcement:

When you get a chance, sit down at your computer and surf to www.annexationfacts.com. It's a new web site that takes a look at Platte City's current involuntary annexation effort. It's complete, it's well-thought-out, well-designed and includes some video commentary from folks with opinions on the annexation effort.

It's a must-see. Very professionally done. Kudos to whomever put all the work into it.

*****

Aldermen Jim $#!% Palmer and Lee Roy @%&* Van Lew have filed for reelection in Platte City.

Put earmuffs on the kids.

******

Anxiously awaiting the updated special guest list for The Landmark Christmas party? Thought so. Hang on, the list is coming.

The party is this Friday, Dec. 15 from 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn, located at 1201 Hwy. 92 in Platte City. Come on, you know where it is. Complimentary food and beverages are provided by The Landmark in this open to the public shindig. The Comfort Inn this year is graciously donating use of the conference room and dining area.

The food will be catered by Smokebox BBQ.

******

Platte City aldermen meetings now rated PG-13.

******

On to the special guest list, which continues to grow and will expand even after this issue has gone to press.

Most recent confirmations include:

Longtime Between the Lines pal Todd Graves, former county prosecutor and U.S. Attorney now in private practice in Kansas City; Attorney Jean Maneke, one of the state's most recognized authorities on the Sunshine Law who represents the Missouri Press Association in open meetings and open records issues; State Sen. Charlie Shields; Platte County R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst; Landmark room mother Cora Barton and her hubby Cecil; Patricia Stinnett, R-3 school board member; Bob Shaw, local attorney and R-3 board member; Lisa Pope, county assessor; Sandy Krohne, county clerk; Frank Offutt, former Platte City mayor; Brian Nowotny, Platte County parks director; Daniel Erickson, Platte County planning and zoning director; official Between the Lines hair stylist Victoria Lynn; Sprint public relations dude/ local chamber of commerce board member Randy Knox; Unite's public relations specialist Joann Lawson; Tom Robinson, spokesperson for Kansas City Power and Light; Susan Brown, power plant opponent; Jeff Roe, well-known political consultant; several members of Congressman Sam Graves' staff including chief of staff Tom Brown, deputy chief of staff Melissa Goss, and staff members Buffy Smith, Shawna Pauley, Ben Butler, and Shawn Graybill; and Platte County Pachyderm Club PR man Lee Valentine.

*******

The above fine folks are recent additions to the early list that included Platte County Commissioners Betty Knight, Jim Plunkett and Tom Pryor; newly-elected county auditor Siobhann Williams; former Landmark sports media columnist Greg Hall; current Landmark columnist Brian Kubicki; reporter Stacy Wiedmaier, who is the reason The Landmark has the best coverage of southern Platte County; Landmark legal counselors Scott Campbell and John Cady; photojournalist Not-So-Wild Bill Hankins, who will be autographing copies of his Landmark People hard-cover book; political power broker and Landmark pal Jason Klindt, back from Montana after nearly leading Conrad Burns to comeback win for U.S. Senate (does he have some stories to tell); county director of administration Dana Babcock; Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor; Quint Shafer, Weston city attorney; Dave Rittman, Parkville alderman; Platte County Pachyderm Club president Lee Pedego; and Jason Grill, newly-elected 30th District state representative.

******

Landmark staff members will be on hand to meet and greet the public. Joining your humble host will be office manager Cindy (Miss Christmas) Rinehart; office assistant Kristine (There's no place like the YMCA) Pearson-Pixler; assistant editor Dave (The sober bartender) Kinnamon; and ad sales guru Eric (I love my biceps) Lewis, who has been bulking up big-time in the company weight room and as a result has been placed in charge of party security. Eric believes if his biceps get any bigger he may need a permit to carry those guns. He's also mighty proud of a tattoo he just had installed on one of his upper arms. I fear he may try to show it off.

******S

Let's close this week with one of those story problems we used to see on our math exams in school. Here's your question:

Platte City has six aldermen. Four of them want annexation. They don't +#1@#(% know why. They just +#1@#(% do. How many aldermen have lost touch with planet Earth?

(Email your answer, and your best story problem, to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Another embarrassing turn of annexation events for Platte City

Issue of 12/7/06

Every time I'm working in the 110-year-old Landmark building late into the evening like I did this Tuesday and nearly every Tuesday for that matter, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a female reporter who worked for us several years ago. While working alone late one night here in the office, this young lady swore she saw an apparition walk from the back office area and disappear into the bathroom.

She also showed me the outline of a face she found in the detail of the grain of the wood on the floor. She accused me of drawing the face into the wood as a joke. The face spooked her a bit.

At any rate, the young reporter was convinced the ol' newspaper office is haunted. I told her not to be afraid, the "ghost" was probably former Landmark owner/editor Max Jones just dropping by to check on things.

******

If it weren't so sad, this would be laughable.

The latest legal challenge to the newest Platte City annexation attempt is now on the books. If the simple allegation made in the plaintiffs' petition proves to be correct--that the city failed to notify them as property owners within the annexation area of the impending land grab attempt--it is another embarrassing act of incompetence at city hall.
It's bad enough having a good ol' boy network in place at city hall. Having an incompetent good ol' boy network is a sitcom in the making.

Platte City can't even notify property owners within the annexation boundaries. It's a (supposedly) simple statutory requirement.

I told you a couple of weeks ago this newest annexation effort was just a train wreck waiting to happen. The folks at city hall better be bracing themselves for another crash.

******

Stop the madness.

If the annexation effort ever gets to the ballot box--and at this point with the comedy of errors being displayed by city hall and its highly paid consultants, I'm not sure it will ever get that far--I see no way it will ever get the two-thirds majority approval that would be needed from combined voters in the city and annexation area.

Again, it's time for city hall to blow up the annexation effort and move on to something more worthwhile. Get a sewer line to the area screaming for development on the east side of I-29. Open that area up to development, get some commercial activity going there that will generate tax revenue for the city.

For the folks at city hall, it's time to get over the obsession with annexation. The community is laughing at your every screw-up. It has become a running joke. You're embarrassing yourselves.

*******

No further proof is needed. It's time to blow up the good ol' boy network at city hall. Voters take note: Platte City would benefit from the following elected officials being defeated the next time their names appear on the ballot: Dave Brooks, George McClintock, Bill Knighton, Jim Palmer, and Lee Roy Van Lew.

It's time to break up the rock group known as Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys. I'll hate it, because these fellas make for some great column fodder, but I'm willing to take one for the betterment of the community.

Once defeated by voters, I suppose Mayor Dave and the Boys could eventually do a reunion tour of sorts, maybe meeting twice a month for a couple shots of moonshine and a poker game in somebody's garage, where they could reminisce about the good ol' days when they were in power at city hall taking care of their buddies, holding illegal meetings and drooling over attractive females who opposed annexation.

Mayor Dave could break out his ball cap with the word "mayor" emblazoned across the front. He could still refer to himself in the third person. The four aldermen could still, for the most part, sit there like bumps on a log or be led around like puppets on a string.
See, life in forced retirement for these guys would be much the same as things are now. . . well, minus the paycheck from the taxpayers, of course.

******

Much of the public continues to be skeptical about the future of the proposed Shoppes at North Gate development slated for the I-29 and HH Hwy. intersection at the northern entrance to Platte City. Construction of the project, which was approved for public assistance in the form of tax increment financing (TIF), was originally supposed to begin last March. Construction of anything, or even demolition of existing structures, still sounds a long way off, based on a conversation I had with developer Bill Rabius last week, though Rabius still waxes positive about the entire project.

"We continue to talk to prospective tenants and pad purchasers. We continue to get questions. . can you do this, can you do that. Some spaces have not had enough parking per pad. We continue to talk to them and make alterations to fit their needs and are moving toward getting contracts and leases," Rabius, of the development firm Cox-Rabius, told me Friday.

But Rabius said there are no commitments thus far. And the developers still have not purchased the motel that sits on the site of the proposed retail center, which Mayor Dave Brooks one time claimed would be a development that "looks like Zona Rosa."

"We'd sure like to be building (this coming) spring, but we don't have a firm timeline," Rabius commented.

Some folks recently noticed that one of the signs promoting the upcoming development has been taken down at the site. Why? Several reasons, Rabius says.

"The picture portion of the sign was peeling and fading. And the picture portion was no longer accurate, since we have made changes to the proposed design. The sign itself wasn't looking good and the owner of the motel thought the sign's presence was hurting his business," Rabius said. "So we took it down and hope to get it more accurate and back up sometime in the future."

(Come back every week for more ghostly goodness in Between the Lines. And send your best ghost story to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

Plunkett says he'll seek another term; Brown interested

Issue of 11/30/06

It was long thought Jim Plunkett would only serve one term as a Platte County Commissioner. Not because he would get defeated in a bid for reelection, mind you, but because Plunkett has a thriving construction business and the general thought was he wouldn't want to spend more than four years away from it playing county commissioner.

Forget the thoughts of Plunkett being a one-termer. He has come to the decision he will run again in 2008.

"At one time, I didn't know whether I would have the energy for it," Plunkett told me this week. "But I do."

In just two years on the job, Plunkett has become one of my favorite elected officials of all time. The reason why? He doesn't care whose feathers he ruffles. Democrat or Republican, if Plunkett sees a wrong, he will point it out and try to make it right. Let the cards fall where they may.

I love that approach. . . and a majority of the voters do too, in my opinion.

Plunkett's approach to his job has not always placed him in the good graces of the Platte County Republican stronghold. Some staunch party leaders wish Plunkett wouldn't do things like question the Republican sheriff about fuzzy budget numbers or question the Republican auditor about $195,000 discrepancies. They would much rather Plunkett only question Democrats.

Plunkett doesn't care. .. .he truly wants to do the right thing, not necessarily what is popular with the movers and shakers of the Republican party. He is his own man. The world of public service needs more people like him.

******

Who will be most upset Plunkett has decided to seek a second term? It might be State Rep. Jason Brown, who insiders are telling me had the inside track at seeking Plunkett's seat had the commissioner decided to step away after one term. Brown, of course, is in Iraq and unavailable for comment. Not to be denied, I turned to ol' Between the Lines pal John Elliott, a good friend of Brown's who has been very active in Brown's campaigns.

"If Jim doesn't seek reelection, it would be a great opportunity for Jason to come home (work close to home in Platte City as opposed to the statehouse in Jefferson City)," Elliott said.

So what if Plunkett does run again?

"Then it wouldn't be a great opportunity," he chuckled.

******

Sources say Brown and Plunkett had a sit-down last week before Brown left to complete his tour of duty in Iraq. It was a feeling-out process, with Brown asking whether Plunkett intended to step aside for him in two years. That's when Plunkett told him no, and made it known he will have his name on the ballot in 2008.

So, does Plunkett anticipate a challenge in the Republican primary from Brown?

"That's a tough question. I don't know," Plunkett said.

Brown and Plunkett share many of the same conservative values. It's tough to imagine Brown deciding to challenge Plunkett. That's assuming Plunkett remains a financial conservative, and there is no reason to believe he will ever be anything but.

"I can't see any reason why anybody would want to have that fight," a GOP insider told me this week.

******

A Between the Lines salute goes out to Officer Chris Stackhouse of the Platte City Police Department for his work in making the arrest of the three relatively infamous Band Aid robbers, a trio of bandits who allegedly pulled off up to seven bank robberies in this region by handing notes demanding money to bank employees.

Stackhouse, who has put in about seven years on the Platte City police force including the past year or so as the motorcycle officer, used information being phoned in by an off-duty Highway Patrol employee to track the location of the minivan carrying the suspects as they headed into Platte City after allegedly pulling off their final heist in southern Platte County.

Interestingly, the suspects apparently had a hard time deciding whether they wanted to pull over willingly when Stackhouse was on their tail. "They actually stopped in the turn (at the 92 Spur at Tracy), then hit the gas. They pulled over to the shoulder then hit the gas a couple more times before finally stopping for good," Stackhouse told me this week.


What was the attitude of the alleged felons as Stackhouse approached the vehicle? "They were like 'what's going on, why did you stop me, acting innocent," Stackhouse said. He first dealt with the driver, a female, and after she was handcuffed he took into custody the passenger in the front. He then spoke into a PA microphone demanding any other passengers to exit the vehicle. The third suspect then appeared from underneath a rear seat. They were unarmed, at least on their person. "The FBI seized the van, what they found I don't know," Stackhouse said.

******

More guest confirmations for The Landmark Christmas party: Dana Babcock, director of administration for Platte County; your three county commissioners--Betty Knight, Tom Pryor, Jim Plunkett; newly-elected county auditor Siobhann Williams; Greg Hall, former Landmark sports media columnist of legendary proportions; columnist Brian Kubicki; Lee Pedego, president of the Platte County Pachyderm Club; Jason Klindt, political power broker who is now back from Montana after nearly helping Conrad Burns pull off what would have been a monstrous comeback in the nationally-watched Senate race in that state; many more announcements yet to come.

The party is Dec. 15 from 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. No invitations needed--the public is invited to come enjoy complimentary food and beverage.

(It is hoped we can find at least three wise men in attendance at The Landmark party. You be the judge. In the meantime, send your email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

Plenty to be thankful for, thanks in part to annexation effort

Posted 11/22/06

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's one of my favorite holidays. A time to relax, break up the normal work routine a bit, get caught up with some family and friends, and of course enjoy plenty of meaningful football, all the while pausing to give thanks for the many benefits of life in America.

******

This year, why not give a special thanks to four Platte City aldermen and other original colonists who settled this great country?

******

What was the greatest thing before sliced bread?

******

I need to take a moment to clarify an item from last week in regard to the City of Platte City's legal expenses related to its annexation effort.

As reported here, the city since May has expended $62,000 toward annexation. Of that amount, $31,000 has gone toward legal fees, but not all of that has ended up in the hands of Chris Williams, the city's annexation attorney. Of that $31,000, around $12,000 has gone toward settling the Sunshine Lawsuit that brought down the first annexation effort. The attorneys for plaintiff Harold Coons were paid a total of $12,300 by the city, including $3,750 to Bob Shaw and $8,572 to co-counsel Murphy, Taylor and Siemens.
This means of the $31,000 that has been spent by the city on legal work, roughly $19,000 of that amount has gone to Williams.

As stated last week, $19,024 has been paid from taxpayer funds thus far to annexation consultant Richard Caplan; $4,800 has gone to engineering and mapping firms; $4,342 has been paid to the Platte County Citizen for annexation-related legal notices; nearly $1,300 has gone to cover election costs for an election that never occurred; more than $1,000 has gone toward postage; and $175 has covered miscellaneous expenses.

******

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

******

Some things I'm thankful for, well, other than the obvious of family, good friends, good health:

Free elections.

Elected officials, willing to serve. .. and willing to be second guessed and critiqued by those of us who make a living doing so.

Dave Brooks--never before has one man provided so much material for one columnist. My only challenge is to not go to the well too often.

Readers. God bless you.

Laptop computers.

Wireless networking.

That Vegas vacation waiting for me in March.

Reliable sources.

Music. All types.

Fried chicken. Colonel Sanders is the man.

Steak, juicy with pink center, no sauce.

A Thanksgiving night game at Arrowhead, where a Between the Lines entourage will be to cheer the Chiefs to victory over the Broncos.

An office staff that knows how to work hard. . .and how to have fun in the process.

****

LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers running back, just told a TV audience that he looked up to legendary running back Jim Brown while growing up.

News flash: Jim Brown quit playing in 1965. I was two years old. Tomlinson wasn't even old enough to be an alleged victim of stem cell research.

******

When they pan to the broadcast booth to show Al Michaels and John Madden on camera during Sunday night football games, why do they both insist on so demonstratively talking with their hands? They do it with such exaggerated motion that it looks very contrived (I'm showing off, that's a fancy word for fake).

It's not like their subject matter is so deep the audience isn't going to understand it without the hand jives.

*****

Sometimes I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

******

Speaking of football, it's tradition during Thanksgiving week to have as our Pigskin Picks guest contestant a member of The Landmark family. This year the honor goes to Kurt Foley, high school sophomore son of the publisher. Kurt performed the Years Ago column duties for most of the fall while his sister Alyssa was busy with volleyball activities. Kurt has now relinquished the column-gathering duties back to Alyssa while he competes in basketball. In the spring, I expect I will have to referee an argument between them to see who "gets" to write the column at that point.

******

Just now getting started on contacting special guests for The Landmark public Christmas party set for Friday, Dec. 15 at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. The gathering will run from 4-8 p.m.

On the early confirmation list thus far are newly-elected State Rep. Jason Grill of Parkville; Dave Rittman, Parkville alderman; Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd; Quint Shafer, attorney for the City of Weston, who confirmed on election night by saying "only if you put my name in the paper;" and hotshot defense attorney and official Landmark legal counsel Scott Campbell of Platte City.

Many more to come.

(Shoot the bull with this Thanksgiving turkey anytime at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

For the sake of the taxpayers, it's time to stop the annexation charade

Posted 11/16/06

Platte City's mayor and aldermen really need to stop the annexation charade. This whole farce has reached the point it's tough for me to take it seriously any longer as a hard-core news story. I'm this close (I just realized you can't see me--picture your fingers one inch apart) to only covering this topic in full parody mode from now on.

Whether it happens in the courtroom where countless legal challenges are already being planned, or at the ballot box where a 66.6% majority will be needed for passage at a second election, there's no doubt in my mind the city's proposal is going to crash and burn once again. It's a train wreck waiting to happen. It's a Monty Python episode playing out right before our eyes.

Why are they continuing to waste everybody's time? More importantly, why are they continuing to waste taxpayers' money?

******

I am convinced the mayor's reasoning for pursuing involuntary annexation is all about ego and power. The city administrator's reasoning is dollar signs.

But here's the kicker: I'm of the opinion a few seasoned aldermen are being motivated to continue to beat the annexation drum simply because of the attention the process is bringing them from attractive females who actively oppose the idea. I watched a senior citizen-aged alderman engage in a close-to-the-vest conversation with one such female during a break at Tuesday night's annexation hearing. As I watched the conversation from afar and observed the body language, it hit me: There's no other place in the world that old feller would rather be right now.

That's right, the older dudes are loving this. They're getting attention from an attractive young female who under normal circumstances wouldn't bother to look their direction or give them the time of day. After the break was over, I half expected this ol' boy to go back to the table and make a motion for another meeting to be held tomorrow night.

My advice is for annexation opponents to have only their male, ugly and most verbally aggressive members approach the aldermen in private discussion from now on. Putting an attractive female out front is actually working against what they're trying to accomplish.

******

Getting back to the topic of the city wasting money on what is destined to be another failed venture.

Public records available from city hall show that Platte City has already spent nearly $62,000 on annexation since May of this year. That is an unbelievable waste of money, folks.

So, who have been the recipients of the disbursements from the annexation slush fund? Glad you asked.

To this point, $31,300 has been paid by the city to annexation attorney Chris Williams. Over $19,000 has gone to annexation consultant Rich Caplan. Engineers and mapping firms have received $4,800. A whopping $4,342 has gone to the Platte County Citizen, widely-considered the official Brooks-Moody propaganda machine, for the printing of annexation legal notices. (Zero annexation-related publications have been sent to The Landmark, by the way, just in case you needed proof the boys at city hall like to play politics with your tax money.)

Other expenditures include nearly $1,300 involved in pulling the previous attempt off the November election ballot after the Sunshine Lawsuit exposed the city's illegal disregard for the public's right to know, nearly $1,100 for postage costs, and $175 for miscellaneous expenses.

******

It's on.

A date has been nailed down for the annual Landmark Christmas party, an open-to-the public hootenanny that will feature complimentary food and beverages courtesy of your favorite newspaper. This year's bash will take place on Friday, Dec. 15, and we're working on a new twist or two to add to what has become the county's most talked about holiday hoedown.

Comfort Inn of Platte City will again be the location. Brady Rodgers, owner of the Comfort Inn, has graciously offered up the conference room and kitchen area of the hotel to us at no charge this year.

"It's our way of blessing the community. Your party is tasteful and neat, and I want to do my part by donating the conference room and helping any way I can," Brady told me this week.

Good stuff. Brady stepped forward with his offer without being asked to do so, and his generosity is noteworthy and sincerely appreciated. The ownership and staff at the Comfort Inn have always gone out of their way to accommodate our needs for the party.
Many details about the gathering are still being assembled, such as the dinner menu and exact time of day, but what is known is that award-winning photojournalist Bill Hankins will have a table set up and be ready to personally autograph copies of his impressive hard-cover book entitled "Landmark People." Feel free to bring your copy or purchase one from Bill the night of the party.

Now we'll get to work confirming special guests and will keep an updated list rolling in this column. If you're one of the usual suspects and want to drop me an email to let me know you'll be here, feel free to do so. If not, I'll be chasing you down real soon.

******

Did Brady just say our party is tasteful? I'm sorry but I'm not taking the blame for that.

(Got a guest you'd like to see crash the Christmas party? Send your suggestion to Platte County's Journalistic Santa at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Williams' first challenge; and absentee counts are a precursor

Posted 11/9/06

Wow.

What an election. Two county races determined by less than 1.26%. Sandy Krohne continues to be the incumbent who just won't go away despite organized efforts to unseat her. Several of famed campaign czar Jeff Roe's candidates, including Sandra Thomas and John DeStefano, go down to defeat. Sandra Thomas can't carry her home county in the race for state auditor.

Where do we start?

******

Siobhann Williams benefited--but perhaps not as much as may have been expected--from the anti-Sandra Thomas rub that was going against her opponent, Ruby Maline, who had served as Thomas' deputy. Williams is your new Platte County auditor, winning by 170 votes in an extremely tight race that will get a recount if Maline desires and goes through the proper channels in asking for one.

"I worked awfully hard. I was surprised it was that close," Williams told me Wednesday morning.

I agree. I thought the tidal wave of ant-Sandra sentiment, which seems to be particularly strong in the southern part of the county, would allow Williams to coast to a wider margin of victory over Maline, a sweetheart of a person and a capable auditor's office employee for several years. Much of the anti-Thomas sentiment apparently did not stick to Ruby, which I think surprised some folks. Either way, the voters were going to end up with a capable auditor, in my opinion, as both Williams and Maline had the credentials to handle the job.

"It's going to take some time and some energy to get the office back up to speed," Williams said, referring to the fact Thomas has been away from the office so much during her statewide campaign, leaving an added work load for Maline. "There has to be some things behind because of that," Williams pointed out. "There will be no major changes until I first see where things are. I will make it the most efficient office it can be," she added.

******

Williams' biggest challenge, in my view, will be to prove she can remain independent of influence from the county treasurer's office. Treasurer Bonnie Brown served on Williams' campaign committee. The auditor must be able to be independent and folks will be watching to see what happens with Williams and Brown working so closely together. Williams, in her defense, claims she will actually be more independent than Maline would have been, pointing out that many Republican officeholders gave support to Maline's campaign.

******

The other amazingly close race featured a 1.26% margin of victory for Republican Gloria Boyer over a strong challenge from Democrat Jennifer Wilmot. Wilmot is telling folks to expect a recount, but if you read our front page story you'll see a recount being ordered in her race will take some doing because it falls out of the realm of a less than one percent margin of victory. Wilmot will have to give reasonable cause for a court to believe there were errors of omission or commission if she wants to pursue the recount. Maline, however, could easily get a recount ordered in her 170-vote loss to Williams, should she so choose, because it was a race decided by less than one percent.

*******

Many readers find the precinct-by-precinct breakdown of how the votes tallied an interesting document to peruse. Check out that information on page A-5.

It's interesting to see which areas of the county leaned which direction in various races.

*******

Betty Knight only defeated Roger Sullins by 60% to 40%. I say only because Sullins never really put any effort into the campaign. Betty was saved this year because factions of her own party mercifully called off the dogs and let her slide by unopposed in the primary last August. Had they gone after her in with aggression like they did against a couple of commissioners two years ago, Betty likely would be joining former commissioners Michael Short and Steve Wegner in post-political life.

******

A trio of Landmark staffers arrived at the board of elections shortly after 7 p.m. and the absentee vote totals were handed to us. I'm of the opinion that in most elections, you can get a good barometer for how the night is going to go simply by viewing the results of the absentee ballots . . . and that proved true in this case. By looking at those absentee numbers at about 7:10 p.m. it was clear Sandy Krohne was in for a good night, Talent and McCaskill were going to run neck-and-neck (only one vote separated them out of 2,000 absentee ballots in Platte County) and the races for auditor and recorder would be extremely tight. Maline led Williams by two votes in the absentees and Boyer had gathered only 28 more absentee votes than Wilmot.

Absentees indeed were a true indicator on Tuesday in Platte County.

******

Long but successful night for Gloria Boyer on Tuesday?

"When I finally got to bed I slept like the dead," she told me.

******

And speaking of long nights, what about for Siobhann Williams?

"Today I'm going to be a couch potato. That was premeditated," she said Wednesday morning.

*******

I'll second Siobhann's motion for some down time without politics at the forefront. I need a few hours to shave, get a haircut, maybe tuck in my shirt, get my oil changed, clean my desk, shop-vac the historic Landmark office, finish a painting project I started last weekend, and then dive head-first into whatever the next big news story proves to be.

(Email your thoughts on what the next big news story might be to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Following the money often a revealing trip down the campaign trail

Posted 11/2/06

With Election Day less than a week away, I made a trip to the Platte County Board of Elections to follow the money. By that I mean I wanted to take a gander at the campaign finance reports filed by the folks seeking to represent you in elected office.

Following the money is always an interesting angle. Presumably, the more campaign donations a candidate can generate, the better the chances at success on Election Day.
Here are some of the highlights of a Between the Lines look at your candidates' latest financial reports, which represent numbers "eight days out" of the election.

COUNTY CLERK'S RACE: Problems for Sandy Krohne. The Democrat incumbent filed a report that lists a negative balance in her cash on hand. I asked the folks at the board of elections if this is possible. "No, a candidate cannot have a negative balance," Wendy Flanigan, director for the board of elections, told me Wednesday morning. Flanigan then got on the phone with Krohne to let the candidate know there are problems with her paperwork. Krohne will have to file an amended report. "She may have incorrectly listed some information dealing with her fundraiser," Flanigan said. Bottom line is that Krohne has practically no money left to spend in the closing days. Krohne told Flanigan she has $9 in her campaign bank account.

Challenger Rebecca Rooney is sitting in a prettier financial picture. Rooney's report listed over $4,800 in money on hand as of Monday. Rooney has spent $9,600 so far on the campaign, while Krohne has spent $7,800.

COUNTY COLLECTOR'S RACE: Incumbent Donna Nash, Republican, lists $1,569 in cash on hand. She has spent nearly $9,300 on her campaign thus far.
Democratic challenger Betty Reavis has $3,430 on hand. She has spent $4,766 on the election thus far. This seems to indicate Reavis has plans to do a mailing in the final days, which could give her a boost but it would still be a shock if Reavis is able to upend the incumbent, who seems to enjoy widespread support.

COUNTY RECORDER'S RACE: Gloria Boyer, Republican, has only $530 on hand as the election approaches. She has spent $5,300 on her election effort thus far, including $4,500 on a mailer.

Democrat Jennnifer Wilmot has nearly $3,000 on hand, enough to do some targeted campaigning. A potential troubling detail for Wilmot is that she has only expended $800 on what has been a stealth campaign effort thus far. She has cash to spend in the closing days, but will it be enough to overcome a slow start?

PRESIDING COMMISSIONER: Quite a contrast. Republican incumbent Betty Knight has plenty of green in the bank. Her eight-day-out report lists more than $15,000 in cash on hand. She has spent just over $10,000 on her campaign thus far.
Challenger Roger Sullins, Democrat, has only $861 on hand and has burned only $1,600 on his campaign.

COUNTY AUDITOR: This is turning into a potential problem race for the Republicans, who currently hold this office. Ruby Maline, chief deputy for current auditor Sandra Thomas, is running against Democrat Siobhann Williams as Thomas campaigns for state auditor.

Maline has spent $5,200 on her campaign thus far, but now lists only $59 in the "money on hand" line. Expect some Republicans with extra cash to come to Maline's financial aid here in the final hours.

Williams has spent $8,600 on the campaign to this point. She still has more than $5,900 available in cash, plenty of resources to gain some momentum in the closing days.

Interestingly, however, Williams has been busy loaning her personal money to her campaign committee. She loaned her campaign $2,500 on Oct. 24 and then loaned another $1,500 on Oct. 26. Williams' campaign treasurer is Bonnie Brown, county treasurer, a potential cause for concern to some voters who may prefer the auditor and treasurer not be quite so friendly. In some voters' minds, a little tension between offices forms a built-in check-and-balance system.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE, 30TH DISTRICT: Incumbent Republican Jason Brown has spent roughly $44,000 on his re-election effort thus far. He has more than $46,000 remaining in the bank and sadly one Iraqi bullet remaining in his lung. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict your mailbox will be full of Brown campaign material from now till Tuesday. Brown has also had voter awareness raised with all the recent media coverage of his injury in Iraq and his return home.

Democratic challenger Jared Welch is a well-qualified, well-organized opponent who has spent $39,000 on the campaign and has $20,000 in the kitty.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE, 32ND DISTRICT: If campaign finances are the key to winning elections, the Democrats will wrestle this seat away from the Republicans. It's currently held by Susan Phillips, who is prohibited from running again due to term limits.
Republican John DeStefano has expended $75,000 thus far in the race to represent southern Platte County. He has $21,500 remaining in the coffers.

Democrat Jason Grill, a Between the Lines favorite who graced us with his presence at last year's Landmark public Christmas party, narrowly lost to Phillips last time around. Grill has spent a whopping $125,000 on the race, and still has nearly $27,000 on hand.

(Take a revealing trip into the mind of Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Brooks continues to impress Brooks; Analyzing the county races

Posted 10/26/06

It's World Series week, so I'm writing this column with my left hand lathered in a mixture of pine tar, resin, dirt and spit.

Now try to hit my curve.

******

Platte City's extremely lengthy aldermen meeting Tuesday night (it pushed two hours) was a microcosm of the Dave Brooks administration. Big on ceremony, self-importance and attempted cronyism but not much in the way of substance.

Maybe that's why I found it so entertaining.

******

The latest classic quote from Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks--words of colloquial wisdom we've come to dub Brooksisms--was uttered at Tuesday night's meeting of the aldermen. As you know, some of my favorite Brooksie quotes come when he refers to himself in the third person. He didn't exactly do that Tuesday, but he came mighty close. When talking about more than $1 million in grant money coming toward Platte City from MoDOT, Brooks muttered this classic:

"Don't tell me that this board and this administration don't get things done. We do. Congratulations to all of us."

*******

There you go. As you go about your business today, be sure to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Be sure to say it out loud so others can hear you.

******

The one nice thing about egotists is they don't talk about other people.

******

Platte County political races this year are interesting, if for no other reason than the Democrats actually decided to participate in the reindeer games by placing a candidate in many of the open spots (no Democrat candidate for prosecutor, however, which I'm sure is appreciated by incumbent Eric Zahnd).

The local Dems have put together a decent list of candidates for the most part. Here's a Between the Lines look at the contested spots:

COUNTY AUDITOR: Democrat Siobhann Williams will face Republican Ruby Maline. Through political association, Williams is tied closely to Democrat treasurer Bonnie Brown, who recently fell out of favor with some folks when her office knew about a $195,000 discrepancy on the county books for months before bringing the matter to the attention of other county officeholders. Despite this negative, Williams appears to be a qualified and capable candidate, as does Maline, who has worked for 10 years as a deputy auditor for Sandra Thomas. Maline was left in a tough spot during the recent bookkeeping fiasco, abandoned without help from the statewide campaigning Thomas for much of the time to shoulder the media scrutiny of what turned out to be an embarrassing time for all involved. To her credit, Maline can say there is no one who has more experience or knowledge of the current office. Republicans are trying desperately to hold onto this office, Democrats trying to take advantage of a chance to gain a seat.

COUNTY RECORDER: This race is wide open as the incumbent, Democrat Ida Cox, is stepping down and headed for log cabin retirement in Colorado. Cox's top deputy, Gloria Boyer, is actually running on the Republican ticket. Like Maline, Boyer can say no one has more experience or knowledge of the current office. Democrat candidate in this race is Jennifer Wilmot of southern Platte County. Wilmot, it appears, is focusing her campaign efforts in the south part of the county, because her presence in the north has been of the diaphanous variety.

PRESIDING COMMISSIONER: Republican incumbent Betty Knight, it is anticipated, will not have much trouble winning reelection to a fourth term. Knight has taken on a new personality--in my opinion, an improved personality--since the 2004 election of fellow current commissioners Tom Pryor and Jim Plunkett. Knight seems to be more in touch with the taxpayer and the common person than she did when serving with previous commissioners.

But give Roger Sullins and the Democrats credit for providing opposition. Sullins, who works for the Farley Special Road District, says he is most proud of the fact he has never run for political office.

COUNTY COLLECTOR: Donna Nash is an entrenched Republican incumbent who quite often goes unchallenged by a Democrat opponent. Not this year, as the Democrats have awoken from their slumber. Betty Reavis, the Dems' nominee, is a very likable person but faces what appears to be an uphill battle to try to unseat the popular Nash.

COUNTY CLERK: The most intriguing of the county-level races, in my opinion. About a month ago I would have said the Democrat incumbent Sandy Krohne was going to have little trouble getting elected to a fourth term. Krohne puts in a lot of time at her post and generally is well-received on the campaign trail by the public. She has in the past enjoyed crossover support from some Republicans, but that well may have run dry. Many Republicans formerly crossed party lines to support Krohne because they knew she wasn't afraid to challenge previous ego-driven county commissions. But the current commission has a taxpayer-first, not me-first, approach to governing and seems to have a broad base of support, meaning more Republicans will likely "stay home" to vote for their own party this time around. The GOP candidate is Rebecca Rooney. Rooney's campaign, in my view, picked up steam lately when she started focusing more on job performance and qualification issues and less on personality differences between the two candidates. She is smiling more and nipping less and it seems to be working for her.

Tough race to call.

(Ivan Foley would like to congratulate Ivan Foley for using a couple words never before seen in a Between the Lines column. Send your congratulations to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Now the city can't deny it wanted to avoid voters

Posted 10/20/06

Where's the beef?

Wendy's in Platte City is history. The fast-food chain's stay in town was short-lived. The business, located near the Running Horse Road and Hwy. 92 intersection, has been shut down, presumably because not enough of us were enjoying their hamburgers ordered just the way we like them. Boards have gone up on the windows and the sign has already come down.

That's a high traffic location for an empty building and not the kind of welcome mat you like to see greeting visitors. Hopefully a new commercial operation will be able to go in at that site in the near future.

The situation provides more ammo for the crowd of folks who believe the city of Platte City needs to be concentrating more on taking care of what it has instead of trying to expand its geographic borders by three-fold through an aggressive unfriendly annexation effort.

******

Most impressive part of the Platte County R-3 Homecoming parade through downtown Platte City last Friday? The Pirate marching band's rendition of "Carry On My Wayward Son," a classic song originally done by the rock group Kansas. Good stuff.

******

If you're a sports fan, hope you caught the second half of the Monday Night Football game. It was something special, as the undefeated Chicago Bears overcame a 20-point second half deficit. The miraculous angle is they did it without scoring an offensive touchdown, getting two TD's on fumble recovery returns by their defense and another on a punt return for a touchdown.

It was one of those incredible NFL games that only comes along once every five or 10 years, and offered a memorable sports-watching moment for yours truly and my 15-year-old son as we were chillin' in the living room in the late evening.

******

What is the deal with the guests opening a four-game lead in our Pigskin Picks contest? To avoid defeat for all Landmark columnists, I've got to do a better job finding guest contestants who know very little about football. Perhaps Herm Edwards.

******

The Landmark recently put in a Sunshine Law request for basically everything that was sought in discovery by the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit against the city. Of course the city did not have to turn over documents it claims are covered by attorney/client privilege. . .not surprisingly, no documents were made available to us that showed communication about the meeting that raped and pillaged the state's open meetings law on June 7. Call me a skeptic but I have a feeling there were some pretty interesting email communications that were conveniently not provided to the newspaper.

******

Perhaps the most interesting public document we acquired from Platte City through our Sunshine request is an email that provides positive proof the city designed its annexation boundaries to avoid areas of heavy voter population. This point has been widely alleged by annexation opponents and repeatedly denied by some city officials as recently as last Wednesday night outside city hall when alderman George McClintock was the latest to enter the spin zone under intense questioning from Bill Brown, a resident of the annexation area.

"We're not afraid of voters," McClintock said.

But an interesting email communication obtained by The Landmark proves otherwise. In an email sent on Feb. 13 from city administrator Keith Moody to Shannon Porter, an Automated Information Mapping System (AIM) employee contracted by the city to assist with its annexation mapping, Moody writes (and I'll put the incriminating portion in bold print):

"I would like you to do another annexation maps (sic), modify the map that you show Scenario A and B as follows: 1. Look at expanding the boundary of Scenario A to include undeveloped land in the Scenario B areas. Basically we want to avoid areas that will have voters in them. Include the islands of unincorporated area into the boundary calculating for Area A. "

Bingo. There's your proof the city intentionally designed annexation boundaries to avoid voters in an obvious effort to make the annexation election easier to win. Case closed. Time to stop the BS.

******

Also of note in public documents we studied is this tidbit. Did you know the city originally had an Area C in its plans for annexation? Area C would have consisted of about 1,600 acres and would have taken in the residences of such notable annexation opponents as Bob Shaw, Trish Stinnett and Dana Babcock, as well as the Lakes at Oakmont subdivision. Area C was eliminated as a proposal in an email from Keith Moody to the mapping person on April 26. Apparently too many voters.

******

Another interesting piece of information we uncovered is this one, which dates all the way back to April of 2005. In a memo to the mayor and board of aldermen that month, city administrator Keith Moody wrote: "I would expect that the lasting effect of proceeding with the annexation will be that you will see candidates file for your elected position during the annexation process as well as following the annexation process. They will have support of those who are opposed to the annexation. In short be prepared for a well-organized campaign against your reelection should you support the annexation questions."
Smarter words have never been written at city hall.

(Several public officials have already tried to annex the scrolling neon message sign in The Landmark's front window, but so far we've been able to resist all efforts at a hostile takeover. Read the sign next time you're downtown . .. and email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Auditor candidate makes pledge of safer schools; John Denver chimes in

Posted 10/12/06

 

Why did giant camels die off? Ancient camels as tall as elephants once roamed the Syrian desert. Their demise puzzles scientis

Don't worry, that's not really my column topic. I was just doing some reading of the headlines on Yahoo.com when I realized it was past deadline to crank out a column.

******

Now I'm reading a copy of People magazine I found lying around the homestead. I turn to the "Insider" page and start reading the Hollywood scoop about celebrities. Here are some of the celebrity names highlighted in bold print: Minnie Driver. Criss Angel. Lisa Rinna. Scott Speedman. Keira Knightley. Rupert Friend. Mischa Barton. Brody Jenner. Cacee Cobb.

What do these folks all have in common?

I've never heard of any of them.

Either this was an "Insider" page of B-List celebrities or I have been spending way too much time confined to The Landmark office.

******

Feeling a need to recharge my political batteries for the final weeks as we head toward the November election, I have spent the past four or five days going out of my way to avoid those political functions and canned gatherings that are good for glad-handing but really provide no news value to readers. If you are a candidate or a staunch supporter of such and care enough to have noticed my absence the past few days, don't take it personal. In mental self defense mode to avoid political burnout, I have tried to boycott all things political since my last such event, which was the Pachyderm Club to hear Congressman Sam Graves last Thursday.

With that self-imposed respite out of the way, I'm back in the saddle and ready to guide this Landmark thoroughbred down the home stretch.

******

Democrat candidate for state auditor Susan Montee issued a press release this week saying she has a plan for improving safety in Missouri schools. Her plan is to audit implementation of the 10-year-old Missouri Safe Schools Act, which she says was written with flexibility to fit the unique needs of individual school districts.

The reaction of her opponent to Montee's pledge to make schools safer?
"She has as much to do with that as she does investigating Mark Foley's IM account," said Jeff Roe, consultant for the Sandra Thomas campaign.

******

The best part about Roe's quote is that he said it in a kinder, more civil manner.

******

It goes without saying our thoughts and prayers go out to wounded state representative Jason Brown, who as the world knows is now back home in Platte City after being shot while serving our country in Iraq.

*******

Readers occasionally like to contribute to the effort here in Between the Lines. One reader put his thoughts on the recent City of Platte City Sunshine Law fiasco to music. Kind of.

Imagine the late John Denver singing about that (damn) Sunshine Law. Here's how it might go, at least according to this Between the Lines reader who doesn't want public credit, should any be deserving, for his work:

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on others looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you a June day in 2006
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way

Missouri Sunshine makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes makes me ethical
Sunshine on elected officials looks so lovely
Sunshine always provides moral guidance (doesn't rhyme but gets the message across)

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for Sunshine laws all the while

******

Platte City's newest annexation proposal has the city bringing into its mighty municipal limits the residence of popular Platte County Commissioner Jim Plunkett.

Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys might want to proceed with caution. (Like that would ever happen). They may be annexing the next mayor of Platte City.

(Ivan Foley has a friend who says John Denver must have been a really bad golfer because on the day of his passing he put two balls in the water. Plagiarize a John Denver song and send it to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Star columnist borrows style; and Roe reacts to trash talking

Posted 10/5/06

You'll catch me saying this with the arrival of every fall season. It's time to get out and take a drive around Platte County or perhaps wheel your way up Interstate 29 between here and St. Joseph and take in the beautiful colors as the leaves have begun their annual turn. Good stuff.

Should make for nice scenery if you're headed to the Applefest at Weston this weekend.

******

No Sunshine Law violations at the City of Platte City yet this week.

It's still early.

******

I'm wondering if the Royals would have already fired manager Buddy Bell and would be searching for his replacement right now if Bell hadn't developed his health situation recently. New KC general manager Dayton Moore may feel like he is caught between a rock and a hard place, knowing he needs to make a move in the best interests of the ball club yet not wanting to come off as callous toward Bell, who recently had a cancerous growth removed from his tonsil.

******

It's amusing to me to notice that Jeffrey Flanagan, a sports columnist for the KC Star, has "adopted" the style previously used by former Landmark/Star/Pitch sports media columnist Greg Hall. Flanagan is using quotes from sports media folks followed by his own opinions in his Monday columns now, using the exact same format with the italic font and columnist's initials for the editorial commentary that Hall's columns featured in The Landmark.

Flanagan is proof that if you have no style, you must borrow style from someone else.
You would think the Star would at least run the 10-year-old mug shots of Hall as a tribute to the originator. Maybe they were too concerned about taking up space reserved for another Buck O'Neil bedside update. "Breaking news from the KC Star. . . 95-year-old man near death!!"

Shocking. Absolutely shocking.

******

What makes it even more amusing to me is I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that Flanagan was a major playah hatah toward Hall's popularity when GH was penning his journalistic goodness. Now Flanagan is trying to adopt the style and approach he once allegedly detested.

Judging from Monday's column, he has a long way to go for his comments to get the reaction that Hall's knowledge and biting humor reached on a consistent basis.

******

Got an email Tuesday from Rick Kindhart, assistant executive director of the Missouri State High School Activities Association. Kindhart says there is a player at Nevada High School who has been drop-kicking extra points this season. Kindhart wants to know when was the last time this happened in the state of Missouri and is any other team doing this? Can anyone remember a high school football player using this method to convert PATs instead of the traditional snap to the holder?

******

I've never drop kicked an extra point but on Tuesday afternoon I was tempted to drop-kick reporter Dave Kinnamon's computer after it caused us fits. I think I could have bounced that thing off the sidewalk in front of The Landmark and drop kicked that sucker down to Ronnie Pine's barber shop. With plenty of hang time.

******

There will be no Jason Grill vs. John DeStefano public debate/forum sponsored by The Landmark. DeStefano wanted questions to be prepared and forwarded to candidates in advance.

What a snoozefest that would produce. Canned answers don't give the public a true view of the candidate and his ability to think on his feet and react to situations on the fly. It would be a waste of The Landmark's time to put together such a scripted scene. If you've been to one of those type forums, you know what I mean. The canned approach is an insult to the intelligence of voters, in my opinion.

Grill, to his credit, was willing to take unrehearsed questions.

"I get questions every day, some are nice, some are not very nice. I'm open to any questions you might ask," Grill said. "I want to do these things (forums). I think we need to do these things. If you're going to be state rep you need to be able to answer these questions."

******

There are unconfirmed reports that some trash-talking is taking place in at least one of the campaigns for Platte County office. As always, readers here in Between the Lines can expect us to gather the reaction of experts to specific news events. With that in mind, I sought out the reaction of well-known political consultant Jeff Roe on this topic. Roe's take on the alleged trash talking at the county level?

"In this era of kinder, more civil politics, it's unfortunate that some campaigns get into mean-spirited name calling," he told me.

*******

Sandra Thomas, Platte County auditor and the GOP candidate for state auditor, will be the featured speaker at a meeting of the Platte Republican Association this Friday evening at the Granfalloon off of Barry Road. Attendance at the PRA meetings has been hurting; maybe the appearance by Thomas will generate some interest.

Membership is still growing in the Platte County Pachyderm Club, another Republican organization. President Lee Pedego reports the club now has 139 members, making it the fifth-largest Pachyderm club in the country after just one year of existence.

(Ivan Foley attempts not to promote political name-calling, but admits it can be good column fodder when it happens. Call the publisher names via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

City leaders shoot themselves in the foot; State rep candidate once had Blind Date appearance

Posted 9/28/06

Our lead story this week comes as no surprise to anyone who has read The Landmark since the Platte City aldermen held a 'we could tell ya, but we'd have to kill ya' secretive meeting back on June 7. It also comes as no surprise if you're a regular reader of our website at plattecountylandmark.com, where we first broke the story last Friday.

Make no mistake, Platte City deciding to pull its annexation issues off the November ballot rather than continuing to fight the lawsuit alleging the city violated the Sunshine Law on June 7 is in effect an admission of guilt. When the settlement is finally approved by the court, expect to see the city having to pay thousands of dollars to cover plaintiff Harold Coons' legal fees. You don't do that unless you know you're guilty. Also, you don't start talking settlement right at the time discovery documents--potential evidence--are due to be turned over. That's another indication of an extremely guilty conscience.

Need more proof? Not surprisingly, more proof is coming from Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys themselves. In a strange press release issued Tuesday night mayor Dave Brooks is quoted as saying:

"I know many people in Platte City are disappointed to see a technical glitch slow the progress of our developing community."

That's just one sentence but it is extremely revealing in a number of ways.

No. 1: The mayor's comment indicates there was a technical glitch. He's talking about the Sunshine Law legal action. If he admits there was a glitch, he has to be admitting the city once again spit on the open meetings law and once again showed disregard for the public's legal right to know.

No. 2: Many people are disappointed? Who is he talking about? The four aldermen who voted for annexation? I like to think I'm pretty well connected with public opinion, and I get no sense of an overwhelming support among city residents for this extremely aggressive and potentially expensive annexation effort. I'm getting more of a sense of overwhelming satisfaction from folks who are tired of seeing the city getting away with ignoring the state's open meetings law and operating as a private board of directors instead of as a public body elected by and paid by the good people of Platte City.

No. 3: Again, the mayor refers to the public's right to know as a "technical glitch." This would be funny if it weren't so sad. The city's top elected official considers his constituent's right to be made aware of what's going on at city hall a technicality. This proves he still doesn't get it. He still hasn't learned that he and the board can't continue to operate in the dark. This is scary. Something tells me this won't be the last time the city violates the Sunshine Law.

******

Let's all assume the city intends to come back with another annexation effort fairly soon (as early as February?) and don't' be surprised if it's the exact same proposal. In the meantime, it's time to start digging into how much money the city has spent--and is continuing to spend--to just get this issue to the ballot box, let alone how much it will cost residents of the city to help fund the increases in staff and infrastructure needed to provide services to the proposed annexation areas.

And let's not forget that some of the landowners Platte City is interested in annexing would much rather do a friendly annexation with the city of Tracy. Tracy's involvement may have become more of a possibility as a result of Platte City's action Tuesday night.

******

My phone rang Wednesday morning with word there's a group of Platte City folks now considering a recall petition against the mayor and certain aldermen based on their activities on this issue.

It will be interesting to see if this potential action grows legs.

******

Jason Grill, Democratic candidate for state representative in District 32 serving southern Platte County, once appeared on the cable TV show Blind Date. That's what his opponent's people want you to know. Grill admits to appearing on the show, where two people are set up on a blind date paid for by the TV folks, but says there is nothing embarrassing about his appearance, which occurred six years ago when he was 21-years-old and working as an intern at the White House.

"Some of the people that go on the show are outrageous. I didn't do any of that stuff. They wanted young professionals and they picked me," Grill told me this week, assuring readers that he doesn't have a Paris Hilton-type sex tape floating around.

But Jeff Roe, a consultant for Grill's Republican opponent John DeStefano, thinks it's still an embarrassing situation for the young Democrat. "I think it's an embarrassing moment for a person who wants to represent 34,000 southern Platte Countians. In his very recent history, he has participated in a dating show. That's not what people look for in leaders. It's no longer the era of 'if it feels good, do it.' He should at least show some remorse that he did it," Roe said Wednesday morning. "A dating show isn't something that represents the values of Platte County."

An ironic twist to the story? DeStefano's son, also named John, is a good friend of Grill and in fact auditioned to be on the Blind Date show as well. The younger DeStefano was working in Washington D.C. as an intern for a Congressman at the time. "He didn't get picked," Grill said.

Roe's reaction to the son of his candidate participating in the audition? "That would be relevant if Jason was running against John's son. He's not. He's running against an adult who doesn't participate in fraternity boy antics. We expect more from our leaders. State representative is a serious role with a serious responsibility."

Back to Grill: "This is just another example of DeStefano's high-priced political consultants wanting to talk about anything but the issues in this election. I've challenged my opponent to several debates and he has refused them. My moderate message is resonating with Republicans and Democrats."

But bottom line: How did the date go? "Horribly," Grill said. "As soon as I talked to her I knew I wasn't interested."

(Ivan Foley hasn't forgotten. .. his blog entitled Political Pipeline is coming soon to plattecountylandmark.com. In the meantime, email him your tips at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Sunshine in my eyes; a no-nonsense judge; the murder story

Posted 9/21/06

As if we really needed further proof, the recent sudden drop in gasoline prices confirms what we've often opined in this column space: Gasoline prices are the result of speculation, manipulation, and politicalization (I think I may have pulled a George Bush and invented a new word right there) and not of simple supply and demand economics.

You'll have to take your high school economics basic principle of supply and demand and apply it somewhere else. It simply isn't relevant in the oil market.

******

The pace will move quickly in the Sunshine Law court case against the City of Platte City.
In a story we first reported at plattecountylandmark.com just hours after the court hearing, Platte County Circuit Court Judge Lee Hull okayed the plaintiff's request for an expedited schedule in court Friday morning.

Platte City's mayor and aldermen held a special meeting Tuesday night in executive session, likely to discuss "strategy" in their defense of the open meeting violation that is alleged against them. By the end of the business day this Friday, city officials are to have written discovery provided. That written discovery is to include documents and electronic correspondence related to the development of the agenda for the meeting of June 7, which is the meeting alleged to have violated the law. All relevant communications between city officials must be turned over in the discovery.

Man, will that be some interesting reading for all parties to peruse.

Depositions of mayor Dave Brooks, city administrator Keith Moody and the city's special annexation attorney Chris Williams will be held the week of Oct. 2.

It's on.

******

One thing left undeniable after sitting in on the court hearing is this: Judge Hull tolerates little nonsense. The city's attorney, Paul Campo, told the court the city considers the plaintiff to have "sandbagged" the city and the court by waiting until after the annexation ordinances had been passed to file their allegations of a Sunshine Law violation.

Judge Hull quickly remarked: "I don't consider the court to be sandbagged by the filing. If the ordinances hadn't been passed, we wouldn't be here, would we?"

******

Outside the courtroom, Campo wasn't ready to let it go, repeating for reporters that he felt the plaintiff intentionally delayed in challenging the legality of the June 7 special meeting.

"They had 90 days to file it. They waited until the 11th hour."

Here's an appropriate answer to that. "So what?"

There was no need for the plaintiff to file the petition until the city went forward with its intent to annex. And if Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys hadn't (allegedly) abused the open meeting law to begin with--or had they backtracked and started over after it was publicly pointed out they had (allegedly) violated the law--they wouldn't find themselves a party to this litigation right now.

Again, nobody should feel sorry for the folks at city hall over this. They bulldozed their way into this uncomfortable situation.

******

I want to publicly thank photojournalist extraordinaire Bill Hankins for representing The Landmark at the Missouri Press Association convention over the weekend at Lake Ozark. Bill traveled home with several awards from the annual Better Newspaper Contest (see front page).

We decided to toss an entry into the Best News Story category this year and are humbled by the honor of being awarded the top spot for a news article that appeared Sept. 15, 2005 about the murder of Steve Sandoval of Platte City. If you're interested in re-reading it, the story can be found archived on our web site at www.plattecountylandmark.com/Article10158.htm

I remember vividly the details surrounding the composition of that story. Foremost in my mind are two trips out to the site where Sandoval's body was found on an abandoned outer road alongside Interstate 29 just south of Platte City. I received verbal directions from a law enforcement source on how to find the spot, and drove out there late on a Monday evening as the sun was setting. I drove to the end of that abandoned road, got out of my car and spent several minutes examining the scene where a man's life had been taken just a couple days before. It was an eerie feeling standing out there alone at the site of a murder as darkness was setting in. It gave me such a feel for the story I drove back out again the next day, in brighter light this time, so as to not miss any details. I credit those trips to the scene for having a positive impact on the ability to develop details for the story.

Quite obviously a journalist is only as good as his sources, and I credit a source close to the investigation who was only willing to speak on a pledge of anonymity. That source helped me piece together facts for the story that went above and beyond what could be found in any other media account of the case. An interview with a cousin of the victim also was extremely beneficial.

******

If you run into Landmark advertising sales dude Eric Lewis, former top-notch football player in his high school days at Blue Springs, ask him how he's doing in his fantasy football league this year. Speaking on a condition of anonymity, I will tell you Eric is 0-2 after his team--known as Da Bears--was soundly drubbed by his boss's team--known as the Clown Suits--on Sunday.

I'll keep you posted on the fantasy league standings just as long as I remain in the lead.

(Feel free to keep Ivan Foley updated on your fantasies and fantasy leagues at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Harold Coons is bigger than the Beatles; Clarifying 'grassroots'

Posted 9/14/06

I'm officially declaring Harold Coons, a Platte City resident who is bringing the Sunshine Law court case against the City of Platte City, as a great American hero.

Any private citizen who stands up for the public's right to know as strongly as Coons is doing right now is deserving of the rock star status he is gaining in some circles of the community.

Harold Coons is bigger than the Beatles ever were, at least from our seat here in Between the Lines.

******

I must admit I'd love to be a fly on the wall when Dave Brooks, Platte City mayor, is forced to give his deposition in the Sunshine lawsuit.

I'm betting this time Dave won't refer to it as "that damn Sunshine Law."

******

What's up with the Platte City pro-annexation committee trying to claim its group has "grassroots" support?

When the leaders of the pro-annexation committee are two former aldermen in Ron Porter and John Andre, and the committee treasurer is Olin Miller, who draws a $150 paycheck each month from the city for his duties as cemetery sexton, how can you claim you have a grassroots movement?

Combine this with the fact that the only speakers at a recent annexation public hearing who talked in favor of the action were a few folks who sit on the city planning and zoning board, and you start to understand the optimism the anti-annexation folks have about getting the ballot question kicked in the grass in either November or February, should it get that far.

There seems to be no "common" folks stepping forward to publicly proclaim their support of annexation. . . only folks who have or have had a vested interest in the action. There's a word or two for that type of support, but "grassroots" isn't one of them.

******

When the lights go down in the city. . .

Many townsfolk at Dearborn are mad as heck, or something like it, and they don't want to take it anymore. So they're ready to vent their frustration with frequent power outages by the city's main electric provider, Aquila. A special meeting of the Dearborn Board of Aldermen will discuss the frequent power blinks with a representative of Aquila next Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., providing the lights are on at city hall.

"I expect a crowd four or five times the capacity of city hall. There are so many people upset," Frank Downing, Dearborn's fearless mayor, told me this week.

Bring your candles and flashlights, just in case.

******

Crowd size seemed to be down this year at the End of the Trail Festival in Platte City, which was a smashing success in year number one, a borderline flop in year two, bounced back to decent status from a crowd standpoint last year, but took a step back in attendance this year. That's my naked eye observation from the standpoint of an unbiased observer who has been at all four festivals. My observation is not based on inflated crowd estimates by city reps or rose-colored observations by others.

At Tuesday night's aldermen meeting, the mayor attempted to paint the event as a rousing success for vendors, but that's what the mayor does. Hyperbole in such matters is his trademark. I spoke with two vendors at 7 p.m. on Saturday who were extremely disappointed and frustrated with the lack of business the festival was bringing to their booths.

Let's hope for a rebound year next fall. Some optimistic observers point out there will be more Harley riders in the area next year with a special 10-year anniversary at the Harley plant near KCI allegedly in the works, so maybe that will mean a significant increase in attendance at Platte City's festival.

******

Crowds and fun weren't a problem at Parkville's festival last Thursday evening. More than 1,000 people attended the Taste of Parkville food/drink event in the Farmer's Market area at the bottom of Main Street. The atmosphere was great and the weather conditions were perfect on a very comfortable fall evening for the event. The Landmark was one of the corporate sponsors for this event, so paint me biased should you so choose.

Folks with hearty-sized appetites, like yours truly and Landmark news hound Dave Kinnamon, put a hurtin' on some of the vendors' food supplies while enjoying the evening visiting with newsmakers and readers.


As the old saying goes, a good time was had by all.

******

Jason Grill, aggressive young Democrat candidate for 32nd district state representative in southern Platte County, was visiting with potential voters at the Taste of Parkville on Thursday.

Grill reinforced to me that he anxiously wants to debate his Republican opponent, John DeStefano. So much so that I've informed Grill The Landmark will attempt to set up a forum for the two candidates, providing DeStefano is willing to take part.

The olive branch is being extended. We have tentative plans in place and will be putting them into action if and when we get a confirmation from DeStefano that he's willing to take part in such an event sponsored by this newspaper, the widely-recognized leader in Platte County political coverage.

"The voters will have a clear choice in this election. I'm a moderate, but my opponent is an extreme radical right wing Republican. I believe he would be a rubber stamp for Matt Blunt," Grill told The Landmark last month.

(Be a part of the Between the Lines grassroots movement by emailing the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

Hankins gets a book deal; Sunshine lawsuit sends a message

Posted 9/7/06

The price for a gallon of gasoline has dropped as low as we've seen it in quite some time, down to $2.45 locally. Either the Republicans are getting nervous about the November elections or Dick Cheney accidentally shot another hunting partner.

It's a welcome break from the $3 range, but will it last? And should we really feel like we're catching a break when just 13 months ago the price was around $2.15 per gallon?

******

It's an exciting time here at The Landmark. Our award-winning photojournalist Bill Hankins has compiled a collection of his highly popular Landmark People features into hard-cover book form, and the attractive publication is for sale in our downtown Platte City headquarters or by mail.

Most Landmark readers are quite familiar with Bill's work. His Landmark People pictorial-stories have appeared in our newspaper four or five times per year over the past several years. He also has provided the best high school sports pictures around during that time, building relationships with the athletes and their families in the process. On top of that, the retired journalism instructor is simply one of the finer people you'll ever meet. He has a deep understanding of what community journalism is all about and, on a personal note, has become a trusted sounding board for me.

I'll never forget the first day Bill came walking into The Landmark office carrying a layout of a feature he had photographed and written about Eddie Highlander of Bud's 66 station in Platte City. Bill, a northern Platte County resident, introduced himself and explained to me his background in journalism. He said he was a fan of The Landmark's style of coverage. A professional relationship and friendship developed, Landmark People features soon became commonplace and he later volunteered to start shooting high school sports for us. Since that time, he has garnered 25 awards for his work in the annual Missouri Press Association's Better Newspaper Contests.

His book is an impressive piece of work. Stop by our office to flip through it and I have a feeling you'll be moved to buy a copy. Cost is just $20 or get a discounted price of $14 per book if you take out a new subscription or renew your current Landmark subscription. To order mail orders must add $5 for postage and handling. Email your name and address to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and we'll get the process started.

We'll work out the details of a book signing event in the coming weeks.

******

I must admit I'm proud of Platte City resident Harold Coons for having the vigor to file suit against the City of Platte City for what, in my opinion, was an obvious violation of the Sunshine Law on June 7.

I'm also proud to point out The Landmark broke the story of the city's apparent Sunshine Law violation in our June 8 and June 15 issues. Three newspapers, including one daily paper, were covering the events surrounding that special meeting on June 7 and The Landmark was the only publication to point out the city failed to follow the normal public notification requirements of the meeting and the agenda items.

It's good to see a Platte City resident was pushed to act upon his right-to-know being violated. The Landmark has reported upon several occasions over the past few years where the city has assaulted, abused, molested and ridiculed the public's right-to-know. Finally, others have had it with the unnecessary nonsense. Coons' action should be enough of an attention-grabber to put a stop to it.

And I must emphasize the words should be.

******

Honestly, if the court rules against the city of Platte City in the pending litigation, nobody should feel sorry for the boys at city hall.

I thought the city's high priced annexation attorneys would have picked up on some hints that were dropped in a June 15 editorial. That's the issue in which we quoted the state's most noted expert on the Sunshine Law, Jean Maneke of Kansas City. Maneke represents the Missouri Press Association in matters dealing with open meetings and open records. I explained to her how the events surrounding Platte City's questionably legal special meeting went down on June 7. Maneke's comment, readers might recall, was to the effect that she couldn't see how any court would find the city had legally followed all the requirements of the Sunshine Law on that day.

Platte City, at that point, would have been wise to backtrack and start over, doing things the right way with proper public notification. Whether due to apathy, ignorance or ego, city hall instead bulldozed its way forward, apparently under the questionable advice of high-priced lawyers who allegedly specialize in annexation matters.

Once the annexation issues were placed on the ballot at an alderman meeting last week, aggrieved citizens knew it was the prime time to file suit. The suit asks the court to declare as void the annexation steps taken to this point due to the alleged open meeting violations that occurred when the annexation bills were first read on June 7. Such action would pull the annexation questions off the November ballot and essentially force the city to start the process over.

******

Proponents of Platte City's annexation effort finally filed paperwork with the Platte County Board of Elections last Friday, three days after annexation opponents had filed their papers. The proponents are known as Citizens for Platte City's Future. Ron Porter is listed as chairman, John Andre is co-chair and Olin Miller is treasurer.

******

Hats off to developers Cox-Rabius for cutting weeds and brush that had painted an unsightly picture at the site of their TIF project at I-29 and HH in Platte City. MoDOT has been repaving an exit ramp at that location and may have received credit for the clean-up near the roadway, but city administrator Keith Moody told me this week the developers had the work done. Signs have also gone up promoting the upcoming development and indicating tenant space is available.

The city, meanwhile, is awaiting a sewer capacity analysis from the developer's engineers, Moody told me.

******

Fall means the return of Pigskin Picks, the weekly battle of Landmark columnists, sponsors and special guests trying to act like football prognosticators. Check it out by clicking here.

This week's special guest is self-anointed stud muffin Dave Stewart of Metro Sports Television/WHB Radio.

(The sun always shines at The Landmark, where you can reach the publisher with a sunny disposition at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

The Pipeline cometh; and McClintock stuck in a Catch 22

Posted 8/31/06

Labor Day traditionally signifies the start of the fall election campaigns, and The Landmark is ready to kick this thing off in high style.

Beginning soon on our web site at www.plattecountylandmark.com, I'll be posting a blog entitled "Platte County's Political Pipeline."

As opposed to many traditional blogs, The Pipeline won't be written by some partisan hack spewing vinegar at his opposing party in questionably-relevant fashion, but instead will be an unbiased mix of news and commentary on anything and everything going on in the wide, wide world of politics. We'll touch on items as local as Platte City's annexation, to the countywide races, the state campaigns, and even the national scene.

The Pipeline will be updated as the need arises, at a minimum of once per week, though as things get into high gear I expect multiple postings each week. You'll be able to access The Pipeline by clicking on a link on the front page of our site.

Pipe will begin being laid next week, if not before. Check the web site in the coming days for the Pipeline icon.

Pipeline news tips can be emailed to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

Let's get this party started.

******

So Platte City's annexation proposal will make its way onto the November election ballot. Let the campaign strategy and the legal challenges begin. This thing has the potential to be a significant revenue-producer for attorneys on both sides of the issue.

Opponents, as you'll see in our front page story, have filed a committee at the Platte County Board of Elections. Their first financial report won't be due until Oct. 15, but it's safe to assume this group will be raising funds to help in the campaign to attempt to reject the annexation effort at the November--or if needed, February--ballot box.

"The purpose of the committee is to educate the voters on all the issues involved in this annexation and not just the issues the city wishes to emphasize," Bob Shaw, a Platte City attorney serving as spokesperson for the group, said Wednesday morning.

Will the group have fundraising efforts? "I can't comment at this time," Shaw said.

Should it choose to partake in fundraising efforts, the committee shouldn't have to look far for donations. Several big-time developers and landowners are strongly opposed to the city's effort to quadruple the size of its current land area.

Involuntary annexations such as this one are normally successful because the municipality can crush the opposition when it comes to resources. But Platte City's opposition has plenty of resources. The playing field on this one is virtually level.

This should be fascinating to watch.

******

By the way, board of elections officials confirmed for me that the opposition committee known as Platte City Area Citizens for Responsible Growth is the only committee dealing with the annexation issue that has filed paperwork.

Interesting. Former aldermen John Andre and Ron Porter have announced they have a committee in place to support the annexation effort, and according to at least one published report, have started taking donations. But they have no paperwork on file.

******

The only way to explain Platte City Alderman George McClintock's bizarre voting pattern at Monday night's special annexation meeting is to speculate that McClintock is worried about a potential conflict of interest being brought to the forefront.

McClintock first abstained on a vote to bring the annexation topic to the table for discussion and a final reading. He then proceeded to vote yes on all succeeding roll calls/final readings.

So why the abstention? "I knew we had enough votes to bring it to the table so I just abstained. That was it," McClintock told The Landmark during a sit-down interview.
Not exactly a strong explanation. When asked if he fears he may have a conflict of interest due to the fact his wife serves on the Platte-Clay Electric board of directors, (Platte Clay is currently in line to provide utility service to much of the area set to be annexed by the city, but that could possibly switch to the city's franchise holder, Aquila, if annexation is approved), McClintock said no. He said there is no conflict because his wife, Shirley, "is not an employee" of Platte-Clay.

Some opponents, however, seem extremely anxious to point out McClintock's wife does sit on the utility's paid board of directors. So anxious it makes one wonder if some legal challenge is being pondered.

******

It needs to be understood that without McClintock's yes vote on Monday night, the city's annexation effort would have come to a screeching halt. Four yes votes are needed to pass an ordinance, and with Aaron Jung voting no and Kenneth Brown abstaining due to his employment connection with Platte-Clay Electric, there were only four aldermen remaining with potential yes votes. Had McClintock abstained on the vote to place the measure on the ballot, it would have failed for a lack of support from a majority of the six member board.

Jung was voting yes on motions to bring the issues to the table for discussion, then voting no on the final readings. He voted prior to McClintock the first time around, and the speculation is McClintock then took that opportunity to abstain. Later when he realized Jung was voting no on the ordinances themselves, McClintock was forced to vote yes or the annexation effort would have died a quick death. From his point of view, apparently he had no choice, because an abstention would have meant the issue couldn't have passed due to lack of majority. As it played out, his yes vote got the issue on the ballot, but it may have opened the city up to being challenged on a possible conflict.

McClintock was in a Catch 22 Monday night. I'm speculating the fact he abstained the first time around is a sign he has this potential conflict of interest issue in the back of his mind. Had Jung been voting yes on the ordinances, the smart money says McClintock would have been abstaining to avoid any legal questions.

(Don't forget to send your political news tips and thoughts to the Pipeline Pontificator at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

It's time to accept facts, recommendations and move

Posted 8/24/06

So the external auditor's report came in last Thursday, basically signalling the end to the search for $195,000 in "unaccounted for" money in Platte County's general ledger. The Landmark broke the story on our web site at 7 p.m. last Thursday night, and the story has since found its way into daily newspapers and television newscasts across the state.

Read the gory details in our front page articles and you'll gain a better understanding of the blame game. Problems centered on incorrect postings by the auditor's office, and the review notes problems were also caused by an overall lack of communication between the offices of Democrat treasurer Bonnie Brown and Republican auditor Sandra Thomas.

As discussed here in previous columns, Brown knew she was unable to properly reconcile the bank statements with the county's general ledger for several months and failed to tell anyone about the problem. That lack of disclosure falls squarely on Brown. What the external audit noted, in basic terms, is that the reasons for Brown's inability to reconcile the accounts were primarily errors in entries posted by the auditor's office, and that falls squarely on Thomas.

There's really no sense sugarcoating it or trying to shove fault onto a previous county commissioner or the external auditor, as Thomas has attempted to do in recent days. Instead of dodging the facts, here's my best advice to all involved: Accept the findings, admit mistakes were made, follow recommendations of the external auditor, improve communication between the offices, and come up with a game plan that will keep Platte County out of this uncomfortable position in the future.

The taxpayers deserve at least that much.

******

Between the Lines readers are a creative bunch. Check out this thought emailed to me last week by a reader who has been following the Platte County bookkeeping fiasco:

"Maybe we should just close the auditor's and treasurer's offices and let the cost savings cover the amounts that would come up missing."

I laughed out loud when I first read it. Then I realized it makes some sense.

******

Kudos to the City of Platte City for scheduling a street sweeping project this weekend.

It's a nice program that helps keep the local roadways attractive and will spruce things up a bit for Mayor Dave Brooks' and Alderman George McClintock's pet project, the End of the Trail motorcycle rally on Sept. 8-9.

******

The good but apparently free-spending folks on the newly-formed Southern Platte County Ambulance District are finding out the hard way that since The Landmark expanded its coverage area southward a few years ago, there's now a media outlet serving as a taxpayers' watchdog south of the Barry Road equator.

Reporter Stacy Wiedmaier's front page story last week exposed the fact the new board was giving serious consideration to establishing its maximum tax levy right off the bat. Our report that hit the streets late Wednesday was obviously accurate, because the board meeting's minutes that came out on Friday stated the same thing. Nonetheless, the report was denied by at least one board member during the group's next meeting held on Friday. This board member then went on to attempt to make derogatory comments about The Landmark's style of coverage during Friday's meeting.

Ah, spoken like a free-spending liberal who got caught with his hand in the government's cookie jar. Gotcha. The Landmark is not only inside this guy's head, we're rearranging the furniture.

Yes, welcome to the big time and welcome to the public spotlight, Mr. Fred Sanchez.

Lesson number one, Fred, is when you're spending public dollars, be prepared for your decisions and comments to be scrutinized. If you'd like to avoid such, spend your personal money to finance the ambulance district. Until then, every financial decision you make is going to be probed with a microscope by the only Platte County media outlet willing to go where no media outlet has gone before.

As you continue to use taxpayers' bucks to build your dynasty, we'll make sure the public is aware of the cost of your dynasty's construction. Keep reading.

******

A salute to Kathy Dusenbery, mayor of Parkville, for having the intestinal fortitude to appear at the South Platte Ambulance board meeting and state her disapproval of their tax-and-spend ideas. You may not always agree with Dusenbery's point of view, but you've got to appreciate her spunk.

******

Claire McCaskill's campaign for U.S. Senator--apparently with some pride--distributed a press release this week touting an endorsement from veteran country singer Willie Nelson. I enjoy some of his music, but Nelson is known for smoking weed and has a history of alleged tax evasion. Is his endorsement something to brag about? It would have been more beneficial for Claire to encourage ol' Willie to endorse Jim Talent instead.

******

Best of luck to the City of St. Joseph as it renews its push to bring the Chiefs training camp to that neck of the woods. The two main reasons for the Chiefs moving their training camp to River Falls, Wis. about 15 years ago were the close proximity to other team's training camps for scrimmaging purposes and the allegedly cooler weather. Both of those factors can now be discounted, as the Vikings are the only team still training anywhere nearby. And as for the weather, forget it. I was there three weeks ago for a three-day visit and each day the temperature either approached or topped 100 degrees with thick humidity. Maybe it's Al Gore's global warming at work, but whatever the case, you'll never convince me the late summer weather is any more pleasant in River Falls than it is in St. Joseph.

(Ivan Foley is determined to tick off free-spending liberals everywhere. Contact him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


A tribute to high school English students everywhere

Posted 8/17/06

As I was driving home from the Platte City annexation meeting late Tuesday night, a black cat had planted herself in the middle of the highway, her Bette Davis eyes fixated on my headlights while she stood there in a trance-like state of paralysis as my Ford Taurus approached at a speed of around 70 miles per hour. I did the humanitarian thing, of course, by trying to straddle the cat between the tires, hoping she would survive if she was at worst dinged by the undercarriage.

'Twas not to be. Miss Kitty finally decided to make a run for it, darting to her left as my car was virtually on top of her. Just that quickly I could sense my tire making contact with something other than the road. It made kind of a squishy sound.

I'm attempting to notify her next of kin.

******

At the annexation meeting, Mayor Dave Brooks asked me if I could make "at least one nice comment about us."

I can and I will. I thought the mayor and aldermen did a nice job of not making any outlandish statements at the annexation public hearing. Mayor Dave stuck to a written script. None of the aldermen said a word.

Good coaching. Maybe that $50,000 consultant fee didn't go entirely wasted.

******

Like a columnist with a short attention span (and that's my self-portrait) my mind is wandering across a variety of fields today. Will Platte City be successful in quadrupling the size of its city limits? Will opponents to the annexation effort be able to expose the city's allegedly fuzzy math on figuring costs to provide services? Will the new South Platte Ambulance District board of directors really seek the maximum tax levy right out of the gate? Will the county's external auditor have the stones to tell us who screwed up and why in the county's bookkeeping fiasco? Would Jack Jackson have won the GOP state auditor's race if his plane had hit one more deer? Is TiVo everything it's cracked up to be?

My limited brain capacity is on overload.

But let's forget most of that stuff or now, because it's back to school time. Dreaded by many students, anticipated by some parents.

In honor of back-to-school, it's time to dig into that Between the Lines file folder marked "Hey, this might make a decent column topic sometime" and pull out some stash I've been saving for the appropriate week.

Every year, English teachers from across the USA can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays, or so the legend goes. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. As we salute high school English students everywhere, here are some of the winning entries:

•Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

•His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

•He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

•Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

•She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and he was room- temperature Canadian beef.

•She had a deep throaty laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

•He was as tall as a six foot, three inch tree.

•The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

•McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

•From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.

•Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

•John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

•The hailstones leaped from the pavement, like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

•He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

•Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

•The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

•The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

•He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

•The ballerina rose gracefully and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

(Ivan Foley covers Platte County like dew on the grass on a humid August morning. Or something like that. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

 

Platte County bookkeeping
situation has become
a comedy of errors

Posted 8/8/06

Just when you thought it wasn't possible, Platte County's bookkeeping fiasco turned even more bizarre on Friday afternoon when Sandra Thomas, Platte County auditor and state auditor candidate, sent out one of the strangest press releases you'll ever see.

I'm sure you've seen those movies where cops are standing by the scene of a major catastrophe and are trying to clear passersby from the area by saying: "Move along, folks, move along. There's nothing to see here."

That's basically what Thomas' email said, or at least tried to say. One would have to be pretty naive to fully consume the goods being spewed by Thomas and county treasurer Bonnie Brown in that press release. It was an attempt to try to take public attention away from the train wreck that has occurred in Platte County's bookkeeping ledger while Thomas closed out the final days of a campaign for the Republican nomination for state auditor.

Strangely, Thomas has gone from first denying any involvement or knowledge of the screw-up to suddenly trying to claim she rode in on a great white horse, found the discrepancies, checked the oil, kicked the tires, shook hands, kissed babies, and saved the world.

******

Friday's press release, in a word, was ridiculous.

Thomas and county treasurer Bonnie Brown claim the discrepancy in the books, where the bank was saying Platte County has $195,000 less than the county books show, has been found. "Finding problems like this are exactly why we perform an annual audit. No money is missing or ever was missing. The problem was caused by simple clerical errors made in the preparation of the bank reconciliation. These errors have been identified and corrected."

Wow. The Between the Lines BS meter is jumping off the charts.

No money was missing? Again, this is semantics, as we've discussed previously in this column space. When for 10 months you can't account for $195,000, you have "missing" money that needs to be accounted for. That doesn't necessarily mean anything was stolen, and no media outlet to my knowledge said the money was stolen or that there was any wrongdoing of any type. What has been said in this column space all along is that there are legitimate questions of competency and of disclosure.

Does it take 10 months and a $2,500 special external audit to find "simple clerical errors?" If it does, then we do have some major simpletons in charge of our tax dollars.

The county commission had to hire an external auditor to take care of a process that should have been completed in-house by county officials.

******

One glaring piece of the press release that is certainly humorous is that Brown and Thomas contradict one another. Thomas' quote says the problems were clerical errors. Brown says it was a matter of "accounting adjustments that have been identified."

Well which is it? Or is it none of the above? The outside auditor, who likely is sorry he ever agreed to play the role of Platte County's financial proctologist, is mysteriously not quoted in this declaration of independence.

Lordy, Brown and Thomas couldn't even keep from contradicting one another in their own bogus press statement. That's when you know you're watching a circus act.

******

Poor county treasurer Bonnie Brown. Sweet person. But she simply doesn't get it.

First, she fails to see that the county bank accounts are properly reconciled for 10 months. Then she tries to cover the confusion by asking the presiding commissioner to authorize the use of $195,000 from general fund reserves to balance the ledger. Now she speaks this bizarre quote as her claim to fame, as if she has been absolved of any blame in this comedy of errors: "It just confirms that there has been no wrongdoing in the treasurer's office and there is absolutely no money missing."

So there was no wrongdoing. Nobody ever reported there was. There certainly was some shoddy work. How can a treasurer and/or county auditor lose track of $195,000?

Even worse than that, there is this major issue of disclosure. Brown is the only one claiming to have had knowledge of the $195,000 discrepancy for months, so why did she not report it? If it wasn't the fault of her office, as she now claims, why not tell the auditor's office about it? As you'll recall, the deputy auditor says the auditor's office knew nothing of Brown's problem reconciling accounts until July. Until then, it apparently was Brown's little secret.

Deputy auditor Ruby Maline last week told The Landmark that if Brown had brought the matter to her attention when Brown first was unable to reconcile the bank accounts, Maline could have found the problem and the public mess could have been avoided.

Brown is portrayed to be grinning like the cat that just ate the canary. She thinks because there is no "wrongdoing" in her office that she escapes without scrutiny.

Hello, Bonnie? Is there anybody home?

We expect our public officials to be law-abiding citizens, don't we? If we didn't, we could just pick our next county treasurer from a police lineup.

Most folks assumed all along nobody in Brown's office had walked out the door with $195,000 stuffed in their pockets. What taxpayers are concerned about are issues of competency and disclosure. Why did the mistakes occur in the first place and why did Brown wait for months to let anyone know her office was unable to reconcile the bank accounts?

It's inexcusable and embarrassing, no matter how Brown, Thomas and their supporters try to spin it.

Will the public ever be able to trust the numbers spewed from the treasurer's office? How many other special outside audits will we have to pay for to find other mistakes?

Care about your tax dollars? I recommend you ignore the suggestion to "move along, move along, there's nothing to see here." With Brown now desperately trying to pass all blame to Thomas, and with Thomas now on her way to the general election for state auditor, don't look for this issue to die anytime soon.

(Ivan Foley would love to get back to telling jokes and commenting on lightweight matters like stiltwalkers, football and BS meters, but as long as duty calls he'll continue representing readers who can't get enough inside information about the anal probing of Platte County's finances. Email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Who is next to be tossed under the bus?

Posted 8/3/06

The saga of the missing--I'm sorry, "unaccounted for"--money at Platte County continues. As you see in our front page story, the county has now made the decision to spend money to find money. Auditors and the county treasurer have identified the parks and rec fund as the alleged source of the discrepancy, but are still working out the details on how to properly account for the "unaccounted for" funds.

"It's a timing issue in the recording of activity" is how a bizarre memo from county treasurer Bonnie Brown and deputy county auditor Ruby Maline explained the discrepancy, saying that vendor payments to contractors had been made while reimbursement from bond proceeds was in waiting, throwing Brown's understanding of the bank balances into a confused state. So confusing that Brown didn't want to draw it to anyone's attention, and in a July 12 meeting with presiding commissioner Betty Knight asked that the discrepancy be covered by using general fund reserves so that the county could get out yearly financial statements. It was a move that would have tossed the issue under the rug. Knight, to her credit, balked at that suggestion and called for a meeting with the entire county commission.

In any event, the 'necessity' to pay the outside auditor an additional $2,500 on top of his original fee of $50,000 for the year is another kick in the gut for Platte County taxpayers.
There are so many angles of this story just screaming for some Between the Lines commentary, we better get right to it. Fasten your seat belts.

******

Should we have seen this coming?

Comments made by Chris Dalton, treasurer Bonnie Brown's opponent in the 2004 election, may now show Dalton to be a prophet. Check out these quotes from Dalton that appeared in the Oct. 28, 2004 issue of The Landmark, one week prior to Brown's defeat of Dalton in that year's general election.

•"Currently, a check can be made, printed and signed without the treasurer being in the office and I have a problem with that."

•"You need three signatures in order to pay certain funds and the current treasurer (Brown) isn't doing that all of the time. That was noted in the outside auditor's report in 2002."

•"I want to reconcile all the accounts."

Wow. Of course to be fair, Brown wants to reconcile all the accounts too. She's just having trouble doing it.

Based on the way matters are unfolding, Dalton may have been on to something. He just didn't get his message out to enough voters. Now, we're all paying the price. Even if the $195,000 discrepancy is discovered, the entire event has called into question Brown's competency as treasurer, has exposed her desire to keep a significant discrepancy from public view, and has cost taxpayers at bare minimum an extra $2,500. Bare minimum.
A Between the Lines phone call to Brown for comment on this matter has not been returned, which could be an indication Brown's next charity function is the Duck and Run.

******

Supporters of Brown--or more accurately--detractors of Platte County auditor Sandra Thomas are now busy trying to make sure the county auditor's office gets as much blame for the screw-up as the treasurer's office is receiving. An article in the Wednesday morning KC Star was full of Thomas detractors piling on for her absence in recent months and trying to give her at least partial blame for the lateness in discovery of the case of the "unaccounted for" $195,000.

Fair enough. When a major bookkeeping mess like this grabs headlines, it's pretty commonplace for a lot of people to get thrown under the bus.

But as numerous sources confirm, it's the treasurer's duty to reconcile the bank accounts to the general ledger (remember, the problem is the bank says the county has $195,000 less than the county treasurer's records show the county having). That makes it tough to point a finger at the county auditor too strongly unless you're simply trying to throw stones in her path to higher office.

Thomas, basically a no-show in her office since filing to run for state auditor, should have sprinted back to the administration building when this problem came to light, if for no other reason than to show concern for the situation. She really hasn't done herself any political favors by staying away the entire time.

With Thomas gone, her top deputy Ruby Maline has been forced into the limelight, signing strangely worded cover-your-ass memos with Brown and speaking to the press when really Thomas should have been stuck with those chores. In an interview this week, I gave Maline a chance to comment on the position Thomas' absence has placed her in.

"As far as being put into the limelight, it's true I wouldn't be the one talking to you if Sandra were here," Maline told me.

Next question: So do you feel Sandra has thrown you under the bus?

"(Insert uncomfortable laughter here). .. Our staff is qualified to handle those situations."

******

Maline, a candidate for the auditor post being vacated by her boss, said since the office prior to this point had never been assigned the task of double checking the treasurer's reconciliation of monthly bank balances, the auditor's office knew nothing of the problem until July 12. Brown knew about it many months prior. That's what casts Brown in a very unfavorable light.

******

So will Maline's run for county auditor take a major hit because of this situation? Not likely. And here's why. Maline's Democratic opponent in the November election will be Siobhann Williams. Do you know who Williams' campaign treasurer is? It's none other than Bonnie Brown.

Oops.

When the campaign heats up in the fall, neither side is likely to want to talk about this fiasco.

(Talk about a tightwad, try to grab a loose penny in front of Ivan Foley and you'll pull back a bloody stump. Negotiate a settlement with him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Charity work is nice, but can you find our money?

Posted 7/27/06

The scandal--and let's not mince words, when you cannot account for $200,000, we officially have a scandal on our hands--at the Platte County Administration Building is painting county treasurer Bonnie Brown in a bright shade of incompetency.

That's best case scenario. Based on her lack of communication over the missing money, a situation the treasurer has known about for months, many of her fellow elected officials are painting her as deceptive. It's tough for anyone to argue against that perception at this point.

The Landmark went out of our way to give Brown a chance to defend herself on this issue. After she failed to return phone calls, reporter Dave Kinnamon made a personal visit to Brown's office for a polite chat to give her a chance to tell her version of the missing funds. (Wait, we're finding the politically correct term is "unaccounted for." Sorry, but when I can't find some of my own personal money for months, I consider it missing. When public officials can't find taxpayers' money, apparently it's not missing, it's simply "unaccounted for." If a public official can't find one of his or her children for several months, I guess that child wouldn't really be "missing" . . .the child is simply "unaccounted for.")

Anyway, despite our extremely polite and extremely persistent efforts, Brown declined comment, thus finding a way to make a bad situation potentially even worse. Now, readers are free to draw their own conclusions without any input from Brown's mouth.

******

By all accounts, treasurer Bonnie Brown is a good-hearted person. That's not even an issue at this point.

Brown spends a lot of time being involved in community organizations. She never met a Chamber of Commerce, or Rotary Club, a TIF panel or some charitable cause she didn't like or couldn't kill some time in. Under the previous county commission, she would always show up at every ribbon cutting imaginable. It was like she was the self-anointed fourth commissioner. She seems to take great joy in participating in those kinds of activities.

That's all well and good and I suppose commendable, though let's not lose sight of the fact that quite often when she's attending Rotaries or Chamber of Commerce activities she's doing it on the taxpayers' time and dime.

Brown admits the problem of unreconciled county ledgers and bank account balances (simply put, the bank shows the county taxpayers as having $200,000 less than Brown's office shows us having) dates all the way to September of last year. In the meantime, she has still been going to Rotaries, Chamber meetings, and other non-essential events. Most of us would have been working night and day trying to find the "unaccounted for" funds.

More important than the desire to participate in community causes is the county treasurer's ability to be a person who can keep track of public money. It's not necessary for a county treasurer to be Mother Teresa. It is necessary for a county treasurer to keep accurate accounts of taxpayer funds and immediately report any discrepancies.
Right now, that ain't happenin', and every taxpayer should be up in arms about it.

******

"Had I known we were short $200,000, I would have suggested more budget cuts last winter," Jim Plunkett, second district commissioner, told me this week.
Excellent point.

You know who did know last winter that the county was $200,000 short? Treasurer Bonnie Brown.

You know who last winter knew the county, according to bank records, has about $200,000 less in reserves than the county thought it had, and failed to tell anyone? Bonnie Brown.

You know who was one of the officeholders whining the most about budget cuts last winter? Bonnie Brown.

That's the real kicker.

******

Had Brown let other officials in on her little secret of being unable to account for $200,000, can you imagine the budget cuts that would have been justified? Is this why she kept the screw-up quiet?

In public life, quite often it's not the mistake that does you in, it's the cover-up. This mistake has been covered up and swept under the rug for months by Brown's office. Instead of minimizing damage by drawing it to the attention of other county officials and to the public early-on, Brown chose to let this thing drag out to the point it has reached scandalous proportions.

Even if the numbers are reconciled after a forensic audit, will the public ever feel it can trust the numbers produced by Brown's office?

Her political future is in major peril. Her only hope is that voters have short memories and that two years from now the public forgets this ever happened.

Something tells me her opponents won't let them forget.

******

I'm off to Chiefs training camp in River Falls, Wisconsin this Friday through Sunday. Trust me, it won't be all play. Along the way I'll be checking every roadside ditch for the county's missing $200,000.

Starting Friday night, you'll want to click here for some notes, quotes and nonsensical observations from River Falls throughout the weekend.

(If Ivan Foley over loses $200,000 in public money, he'll let you now immediately. In the meantime, keep in touch with him while he's working in River Falls: ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Willard reaching out to stilt walkers; What's up with mandated pre-pay for gasoline?

Posted 7/20/06

Ending days of speculation, Jeri Willard has announced her intention to vote for her husband, assistant Platte County Prosecutor Rob Willard, for state representative in the 32nd District that serves southern Platte County.

"Although my picture appeared (next to) an ad for Jason Grill, and I have voted for some Democrats in the past, I've decided to vote for my husband Rob on Aug. 8 and Nov. 7," Jeri Willard said in remarks emailed to The Landmark this week.

Jeri's back was prominently featured next to an ad for Jason Grill in The Landmark's preview of the Platte County Fair last week. Also shown in the candid photos from previous fairs next to the Grill ad was former Platte Republican Association President Joe Vanover, a little kid and a guy on stilts. Vanover said he also is leaning toward supporting Willard. The little kid remains undecided. The guy on stilts could not be reached for comment.

"I am proud to welcome Jeri to my campaign," Rob Willard said in a written statement to Between the Lines. "This shows that support for my campaign runs deep--and I vow that I will get the endorsement of the Stilt Walkers of Missouri."

******

You may or may not have heard, but Weston was mentioned during the TV game show Jeopardy show back on May 22. No contestant could provide the appropriate question for the jeopardy statement. This may not be the exact wording, but the gist of the moment went like this:

Statement: Located near a spring at Weston, Missouri, it is the oldest facility of its type still in operation.

Question: What is the McCormick Distillery.

******

City of Kansas City officials this past week showed in their eyes government should just keep getting bigger and more intrusive.

The KC powers-that-be have passed a new ordinance mandating prepayment of fuel at gas stations in that fair city. It's one of the most ridiculous examples of government needlessly sticking its nose into the private business sector that I've seen in awhile.
Under the ordinance, customers must either pay at the pump with a credit or debit card or prepay in the station or convenience store before pumping. Stores also have the option to issue cards allowing customers to fill up and then pay, a practice I'm told Quik Trip uses.

Businesses in KC that do not comply would not have their business licenses renewed when they expire. City fathers say the purpose is to prevent drive-offs, a crime that happens when folks do the equivalent of a restaurant-style dine and dash.
No word yet on whether KC will make you pre-pay for your next pizza.

******


Last year, KC police said, there were 1,104 gas drive-offs in KC. The cost of taking those reports was--and judging from my past experience at gathering cost information from some law enforcement agencies, I suggest taking this estimate with a grain of salt--at around $26,000.

That's the bad news. The good news is that while KC police were on the scene investigating drive-offs, there were no armed robberies at said convenience stores. And income from doughnut sales spiked.

******

The KC City Council passed the ordinance on a unanimous vote with no discussion, the Associated Press reported. I'd like to say I'm surprised by that, but I can't. The libs in KC have always believed government needs to put its nose everywhere, including telling filling stations the manner in which they must collect payment from their fuel customers.
The AP news story quoted a man by the name of Dennis Carter, who owns several gas stations. Carter said businesses should be able to decide whether to require prepayment. Amen, Rev. Carter. Preach on.

Leave it to an entrepreneur in the private sector to be able to easily understand what the bureaucrats can't.

Customers coming in only to pay for gas are less likely to purchase other items, which is where the convenience stores make their biggest profits. In addition, there's the competition factor. Other cities in the metropolitan area do not have mandatory prepay. Customers who normally fill up in KC now may hit the suburbs.

Gas station customers are quite often all about convenience. Make things less convenient for your customer, and there's a good chance you'll lose your customer.

I'm a perfect example of that. I go out of my way to patronize gas stations who do not mandate pre-pay. I used to have a favorite fuel stop right here in Platte City where I filled up three times a week. At today's prices that's about $115 in a week's time. Yes, gas stations love me.

This particular convenience store not too long ago started mandating pre-pay. Nothing personal, but I no longer buy my gas there. To me, fuel stops are all about convenience.

Pre-pay is a pain in my southerly region.

My $115 a week, $460 a month now goes elsewhere, often to Trex Mart in Tracy or Trex Mart in Camden Point, two locations who have resisted the pre-pay movement.

Apparently there aren't many punks pulling in there to fill their tanks and drive off without paying.

I'll continue to patronize the places who resist the punk and liberal-driven pre-pay requirement. Call me a rebel.

*****

Sandra Thomas, Platte County auditor running for state auditor, picked up an endorsement in recent days from Margaret Kelly, former state auditor. Thomas, currently running third in the polls in the five-person race for the GOP nomination, hopes the endorsement will help boost her campaign. With 39% still undecided, she is running third in polling behind Jack Jackson with 19%, John Loudon 17%, Thomas 10%, Mark Wright 8% and Al Hanson 7%. That poll was taken June 19-22.

(Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or pumping gas at any area filling station)

 


 

Quiet heroes are the best heroes; BS meter working just fine

Posted 7/13/06

Hats off to a few silent community servants this week.

On a Sunday afternoon trip to the plush offices of your Landmark, as I drove down Main Street I noticed Mary Ann Brooks, Betty Fryrear, Joyce Snyder and maybe a couple others cleaning up Platte City's Main Street. The ladies were sweeping, picking up leaves and debris, etc. in an effort to brighten the square.

And they did it all without fanfare. They had no idea they would be recognized for their behind the scenes efforts. You gotta love it. . .quiet heroes are the best heroes.

This little note is probably more recognition than they even desire. Thanks ladies.

******

Who has been doing the planting and maintenance on those impressive flower boxes located in various spots along Platte City's Main Street?

That's what I asked downtown cleaner-upper Mary Ann Brooks when I ran into her Tuesday night.

Her answer? The Platte City Area Development Association, which has become kind of a forgotten club in town since they no longer have an active public relations presence of any kind, paid $1,000 for the service, she told me.

It's a nice club project deserving of praise.

******

Check this out you guys.

I've got a new invention. It's a BS meter. I enter printed words into my BS meter and it kicks out a translation that tells you what the writer was really thinking when he penned his thoughts.

This thing is just like truth serum, without the injection.

I tried out my new toy on an editorial that appeared in last week's issue of another area newspaper. What follows are quotes from that column in regular type followed by the BS meter translation in parenthesis. Here we go.

•There are some people who are never happy. About anything. And they especially do not like having to play by somebody else's rules. They think they are the only overtaxed, overworked and under-appreciated people on the planet. (Translation by the BS meter: I never met a tax I didn't like. And hey, nobody is more under-appreciated than me).

•If a public official deserves whitewashing, I don't have a problem being first in line with the paintbrush. (BS meter: As long as that public official is Jim Plunkett or Tom Pryor).

•Many come to me with their problems and ask me to do something about it. (BS meter: Those poor schmucks are better off whizzing against the wind. No way I'm bucking the establishment).

•Most of the time, it's the same old song and dance--somebody done them wrong and by the heavens above, somebody has to pay. I don't have much patience for that nonsense. (BS meter: Little patience and even less desire to do the fair and balanced journalistic legwork it takes to cover those kinds of stories. Especially if it's Platte County Fair week or Pirate season).

•One such persecuted person owns a business on Running Horse Road. (BS meter: That darn Rick Clark. . .he doesn't advertise in my paper so I'm going to take some cheap shots at his business now. I still can't believe he kicked me out of his store the last time I was up there trying to sell him an ad. Doesn't he know I live in Platte City and that means he should only advertise with me regardless of the quality of my journalism?)

•I heard last week that his latest crusade against the City of Platte City concerns drainage issues near his property. (BS meter translation: I read this exclusively in The Landmark. I've been scooped again and I'm ticked about it).

• Just chalk it (the drainage issue) up to the latest in a long line of disputes he has had with the city and his neighbors ever since he opened his doors years ago. (BS meter: It's easy for me to be judgmental since it's not my property that's turning into Lake Lotawata. But how dare Rick Clark question the gospel preached by Dave Brooks, Keith Moody, etc. To me, it's perfectly OK if a neighboring business shoots stormwater directly onto Rick Clark's property, because as previously stated, Rick Clark does not advertise with me. But if any of my neighbors ever shoot their stormwater onto my property, forget I wrote this because do you honestly think I'm going to pay to fix a problem that my neighbor and the city codes should have prevented? Of course not. I grew up in this town and I think Mayor Dave told me the city codes specifically state you can't do that to someone who grew up in this town).

•Heck, this guy even complains about a neighboring bank's fundraiser walk for juvenile diabetes, which requires the closing of Running Horse Road for a few hours one Saturday morning out of the year. (BS meter: If I owned a retail store, would I mind if the city closed down my street on one of my busiest days of the year? Yes I would. But I can't support Rick Clark's argument because Dave Brooks told me not to. And did I mention Rick doesn't advertise with me?)

•This is a classic example of the exact opposite of what I believe should be the mantra for every area business owner. "Ask not what the community can do for you, but what you can do for your community." (BS meter interpretation: I hope no one remembers how city tax dollars used to go to the local Chamber of Commerce to hire an assistant director who also worked part-time selling ads for my newspaper. She sometimes sold ads for my newspaper while making her rounds for the Chamber, all the while being paid with the taxpayers' dime. I saw that as productive multi-tasking, but some folks saw that as a way public money was subsidizing my business. It was a good gig for a couple years until Joe Carroll, Steve Wegner and a couple other alert Chamber board members became aware of the situation and put a stop to it).

•The Platte City community does not owe (my newspaper) anything. (BS meter: Well, at least not for the time being. With that previously sweet city/Chamber deal, we've drained enough public funds for awhile.)

(Test your own BS meter on Between the Lines and send the results to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Political profundity at Parkville parade; Thomas/Graves link

Posted 7/6/06

I've made an executive decision, which fortunately my very-able staff here at The Landmark allows me to do on occasion.

The executive decision is that I'm heading to Chiefs training camp in River Falls, Wisc. later this summer for a few days of loafing. . . err, I mean attending practices and covering the local pro team in their first camp under new head coach Herm Edwards.

I'll make a few whimsical observations, snap some pictures, arm wrestle Rufus Dawes, swat mosquitoes and maybe even use my traveling laptop to post a Chiefs-style blog from River Falls on our popular web site at plattecountylandmark.com.

It will be the first time I've been to training camp since the summer of 1997. The Chiefs worked their way to a 13-3 record that season. Let's see if my trip brings good luck to the 2006 edition.

******

Speaking of the Chiefs, Bill Grigsby, who in his prime was a familiar voice on Chiefs' radio broadcasts and who now hangs on to what is basically a ceremonial post with extremely limited air time on the pre-game show, was the parade announcer at Parkville's Fourth of July ceremony. As you know this is a big election year, which means summer parades are full of candidates and their supporters. Grigsby apparently delivered a little too much political commentary for at least one candidate's taste.

A press release from State Senate candidate David Mason took ol' Grigs to task, taking issue with an alleged comment made by the Prince of Parkville. Mason claims Grigsby commented that Mason would raise taxes because he is a Democrat. Mason wasn't pleased, emailing a reaction to several major news outlets, including your Landmark.

"Missouri has been operating in the red since the Republican tax cut of 2001. Most people of the 34th district want schools, colleges, and the needs of people with disabilities, sick children and seniors, and state workers adequately funded. But the legislature must first look at corporations that pay no tax, corporations that use unfair loopholes to avoid income and sales taxes, finding and stopping provider-based Medicaid fraud, and fair value for use of the citizens' mineral rights and natural resources. Combined with a new income tax schedule (the first in over 50 years), many taxpayers would pay the same or less state taxes. I am conservative with the people's money," Mason wrote in his release.

******

The only thing I like better than the government being conservative with my money is the government keeping its hands off my money.

I'll be conservative with it on my own, thank you very much.

******

State auditor candidate John Loudon, currently a close second in the polling behind Jack Jackson in the Republican primary, will be speaking at the Platte County Pachyderm Club meeting Thursday night in Parkville. As we referenced here previously, it's interesting that Loudon is bringing his message to the home county of fellow state auditor candidate Sandra Thomas, who is currently fourth in the statewide polling.

In a recent phone conversation with Thomas, I asked her about a political blog based in St. Louis which basically chastised her for being "too close," if you will, to Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves.

"I don't think being close to Sam is a burden. He has been a great congressman. I can't think of anybody better to have backing you than Sam Graves," she told me.

"The 'Sam' connection in northwest Missouri is awesome. It's extremely helpful when I go visit communities," she added.

"I'm getting a lot of very positive feedback. Most people understand the state auditor needs to be a CPA," Thomas said, adding when people choose a private accountant they wouldn't trust "a test pilot or career politician. . . they want a CPA."

******

A blonde wanting to earn some extra money decided to hire herself out as a "handywoman" and started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighborhood. She went to the front door of the first house and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.

"Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch," he said. "How much will you charge me?"

The blonde quickly responded, "How about $50?" The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage. The man's wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband: "Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?"

The man responded, "That's a bit cynical, isn't it?" The wife replied: 'You're right. I guess I'm starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we've been getting by email."

A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money.

"You're finished already?" the man asked.

"Yes," the blonde replied, "and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats."
Impressed, the man reached into his pocket and handed the $50 to her.

"And by the way," the blonde added, "it's not a Porch, it's a Lexus."

(Offer to paint Ivan Foley's porch, but not his Taurus, via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Family handled tough situation with class; and pointless ponderings

Posted 6/29/06

Ah, another summer holiday on the horizon means more time spent firing up the grill for steaks and ribs and shrimp.

Sure glad my pants are inflatable.

******

State Treasurer Sarah Steelman is diligently working to attempt to return millions of dollars worth of unclaimed property to its rightful owners. To that end, select newspapers around the state--The Landmark included--are publishing lists of owners of said unclaimed property.

Check the list of Platte County residents with unclaimed goods printed in this issue of The Landmark on pages B-9 through B-11. You could be a winner.

*******

I noticed the name of Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks on the list of people with unclaimed property. I think it's his copy of the Sunshine Law.

******

I have a great deal of admiration for the professional way Bob and Patty Bennett handled the entire situation surrounding their daughter Katie's request to graduate early and be allowed to return for commencement ceremonies next spring at North Platte High School.
Patty Bennett took the lead as media spokesperson for the couple and consistently expressed herself and her views in an intelligent and respectful manner. Husband Bob is equally calm and quite capable of handling what turned out to be a media spotlight. He expressed himself quite eloquently on Newsradio 980 KMBZ one recent Wednesday when the issue was a topic on one of their morning shows. Neither Patty nor Bob let a tense situation get to a personal level, and I'm not sure many of us thrust into that situation would have been able to do so.

It's my belief the Bennetts' recent action has and will continue to bring about positive changes in the operation of the North Platte schools and school board procedures. The district for some time has desperately needed guidance in handling public relations and this recent controversy made that fact more apparent than ever before.

Nice job by some folks who weren't afraid to step into the limelight under trying circumstances.

******

Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight threw out the ceremonial first pitch in softball action at the new Tiffany Hills Park.

My educated guess is that Betty's pitch started out far right, then about halfway home drifted over to the left, then swayed back to the right before landing somewhere in the middle.

******

I may poke a little fun at Betty on occasion but once again I will profess my unending love and respect for the way she can charm folks in a downhome kind of way.

If she would only bake me some cookies again.

******

Long separated by cruel fate, Betty and I are now like two star-crossed lovers racing toward each other in an imaginary grassy meadow like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at a speed of 35 mph.

******

Don't try to over-analyze this stuff. It will only frustrate you needlessly.

******

Rush Limbaugh was detained for three hours after authorities found a bottle of Viagra in his bag at a Florida airport. One more hour of being held up by Viagra and Limbaugh would have needed to seek immediate medical attention.

******

I have an old friend who swore the stuff didn't work so he made his way to the bathroom and flushed his Viagra. Now his toilet seat won't stay down.

******

Early polling numbers are in for the race for the GOP nomination for state auditor and they are definitely indefinitive.

A survey of 800 likely voters conducted by Research 2000 released last Saturday shows that 19% said they prefer Jack Jackson, 17% said they'll vote for John Loudon, 10% preferred Sandra Thomas, 8% like Mark Wright, 7% prefer Al Hanson, and 39% answered "Who the hell are these people?"

******

For a safe Fourth of July celebration, remember this list of don'ts:

Don't apply ice directly to any burn unless it is very minor; don't touch a burn with anything except a clean covering; don't remove pieces of cloth that stick to the burned area; don't try to clean a severe burn; don't break blisters; and don't serve Uncle Rico's Mexican buffet too close to the fireworks.

(Email this Yankee Doodle Dandy at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

An inquiring mind wants to know; Loudon will invade Thomas' turf

Posted 6/22/06

If I were fortunate enough to be granted an interview with the local high school lunch clerk charged with possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute, here are some of the questions I would ask:

1. In your duties as lunch clerk, did you ever bring brownies to school?

2. At social occasions, do you ever get the munchies?

3. Was it your idea to discontinue the drug resistance education program at the school?

4. Do you know anything about human growth hormones, 'cuz I just looked at my gut and I think I may have been poisoned with some.

5. How many fingers am I holding up?

6. Word problem, please show your work using charts, graphs and leafy substances: If it takes ten tokes for Tim to get totally trashed, but only two tokes for Tom to get titanically tanked, how do you know when you're one toke over the line?

7. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?

******

State Sen. John Loudon of Chesterfield is one of the candidates in a crowded race for the Republican nomination for state auditor. He'll be in Platte County to speak to the Platte County Pachyderm Club, and then will host a fundraiser at The National Golf Club in Parkville immediately after his speaking engagement.

Normally, it's not an incredibly huge story that a candidate for state office would come to Platte County to speak or extract some political capital. What makes it a little more interesting in Loudon's case is that one of his opponents is Platte County's own Sandra Thomas. Loudon is coming to Thomas' home turf for a speaking engagement and to raise some cash. Loudon is said to be tight with Michael Short, former county commissioner who is not exactly a friend of Thomas or her husband James, noted local political activist. Short is a leader in the Pachyderm Club and likely helped arrange the speaking engagement. (Also of note: Platte County Commissioner Jim Plunkett is longtime friend of Loudon. What makes that interesting is that Short and Plunkett really have no use for one another, yet they have a mutual friend in Loudon. Politics really does make strange bedfellows.)

Anyway, my point--and I do have one--is that I was able to reach Thomas on her cell phone Tuesday to get her reaction to Loudon bringing his campaign to her home turf.

"I don't know that I have any reaction to it. I think when folks meet him they'll understand why they should vote for me," Thomas quipped.

******

What about the whispers around the Platte County Administration Building that Thomas has been a virtual no-show in her office since filing for state auditor? After all, earlier this year during budget time she strongly hinted the staffing cutbacks would hurt her office's ability to keep up with the work load, and now her office has basically lost a full time employee--that being Thomas, who critics say hasn't been in the office since. . . well, since no one knows when.

"I'm still doing my job. Folks who need to contact me about anything they have questions about know how to reach me. I have been actively involved in my office every day. I can do almost anything from home that I need to do and even out on the road I am in contact (with her office.) Anybody at the county can send me an email or call me and I'll respond," she said.

She defends the situation by basically saying she can be productive without physically being in the office. "I don't think we've missed a beat," she said of her county office in her absence.

Still, the political rumor mill is hot with reports that at least one of Thomas' opponents plans to attempt to use her extended absence from her county duties against her in the state campaign. It will be interesting to see if it's an issue that resonates with voters.

******

City officials still tell everyone it's a done deal and proceeding nicely, but the Shoppes at North Gate TIF project at I-29 and HH in Platte City has shown no signs of construction. Remember, by now Mayor Dave was supposed to be riding on the back of the first bulldozer brought in to demolish existing structures.

Reports circling in the business community indicate the developers have yet to purchase the Travelodge motel at the site. In the meantime, some Platte City residents are buzzing about the way the city seems to be in no hurry to enforce its ordinance against weeds in the TIF zone. It is growing wild with an impressive but unsightly crop of brush.

******

More Platte City TIF talk. This is directly from a memo from city administrator Keith Moody to the aldermen, dated June 12:

"North Gate TIF--The developer has confirmed that it is possible to gravity sewer from KC Bobcat to a gravity sewer existing at the intersection of Vine and Vine View. They will be assessing the flow capacity of the sown stream sewer system to determine if there is enough capacity to serve the redevelopment site as well as KC Bobcat."

Wow. Shouldn't we have already had all the details about sewer capacity nailed down before the TIF was approved?

******

Nothing new to report on the speculation that Ilse Smith is contemplating giving up on a race against Eric Zahnd for prosecutor. It's just days away from being too late for her name to be pulled off the ballot, even with a court order. Smith is still dodging phone calls.

Zahnd, meanwhile, is continuing to operate as though the race is in high gear. "I'm continuing to go door-to-door and do everything else to win reelection and continue to look forward to spreading the word about the good things we've been able to do over the past several years," he said Tuesday.

More insight into Smith's effort--or lack of it, if that's the case--will be known when the next campaign finance reports are due on July 15.

(Inquire of the publisher via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

City lacks respect for law that ensures your right to know

Posted 6/15/06

 

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have named their baby girl Shiloh.

Apparently she has 18 holes and will cost Platte County taxpayers millions of dollars.

******

Did the City of Platte City learn anything from the failed annexation debacle of three years ago? In terms of realizing it needs to develop a more detailed plan for services and actually be able to provide landowners something they're not currently getting, perhaps. But when it comes to handling this whole annexation process without violating the intent of the state's open meeting laws, I don't think so.

Case in point are the details around last week's special meeting at which the city announced its intention to annex about 6,500 acres. On Tuesday of last week, the city properly posted notice more than 24 hours in advance that a special meeting would be held. Only one item was listed on the special meeting agenda, an item designating certain streets for boulevard status.

But that's where the proper public notification stopped and the games began. At 1 p.m., just four and a half hours prior to the meeting, the city sent notice of additions to the special meeting agenda. It listed a couple of bills and resolutions, but strangely, never provided the normal one-sentence description of what those bills and resolutions would deal with. This immediately had the distinct aroma of road kill being cooked by Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys. In a short amount of time, The Landmark was able to confirm through multiple and various sources that annexation was the top secret item on the city's 'we could tell ya but we'd have to kill ya' agenda.

With this knowledge in hand, at about 2:30 that afternoon I visited city hall to ask city administrator Keith Moody for information about the mysterious agenda items. I never said a word about annexation, and simply asked Moody whether he felt it was proper to amend a special meeting agenda just a few hours prior to the session, and whether it was appropriate to list bills and resolutions without listing the topic of those proposed bills and resolutions. He declined to give explanation or offer more information, saying only that a press conference would be held at 3:30 p.m. and my questions could be dealt with at that time. I asked if he would have an attorney present at 3:30. He answered affirmatively.

I never had to ask my question at the press conference, as it was obvious Moody had already told the attorney, Chris Williams of Lee's Summit, that questions regarding proper notice had been raised. The city's high-priced (see this week's front page story for details on that) attorney specializing in annexation matters opened the press event by explaining why the city had been so secretive. He said the city chose to go the undercover route for competitive reasons, explaining that annexation law dictates the first city to introduce and approve an intent to annex certain areas has first rights to annex that particular property.

Later, I found out some landowners in one of the areas Platte City intends to annex had been in discussion with the City of Tracy about possibly being annexed by that municipality. It would appear a slightly paranoid Platte City contingent didn't want some apparently slick operators at the metropolis of Tracy to beat them to the punch on this one.

Or at least that was their story.

In any regard, the high-priced lawyer's explanation for the failure to follow normal public notice in regard to holding a special meeting is quite shaky and likely would not survive a court challenge, according to Jean Maneke of the Jean Maneke Law Group of Kansas City. Maneke is widely regarded as the leading legal expert on the Sunshine Law in the state. She represents the Missouri Press Association in matters dealing with the state's open meetings and records laws.

"They must cite good cause as to why normal proper posting of the meeting could not have been done," Maneke said this week after I explained the city's strange actions to her. "They've got to provide good cause as to why they couldn't include that in the original notice."

When told the reasons given by the city's special legal counsel for failure to follow the normal posting procedure, Maneke didn't hesitate in her reaction.

"That's not good cause. I don't think any court would find that to be good cause," said Maneke, who has 25 years experience representing clients in matters dealing with media law.

******

While I had the mind of Maneke on the other end of the phone, I also queried her as to whether or not annexation is an allowable topic for a secret (executive) session. After all, Platte City has announced this detailed plan of annexing two huge tracts of land totaling nearly 6,500 acres, and I can't recall our newspaper--which with extremely rare exception has a representative present at every meeting--ever hearing any part of this plan discussed in a public session.

"Could (the city) argue that annexation is potential litigation? I would take the position that it's not, because the city doesn't have a real threat that somebody is about to sue them," Maneke said.

At least not yet, anyway.

******

Oops. That's already two strikes against Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys in this at-bat. Let's see if they keep whiffing.

******

What's up with that map the city provided of the proposed annexation areas? It may be the only map you'll ever see issued by a government entity that identifies no streets or other points of reference.

Was it simply incompetence or another attempt to confuse and withhold proper information from the public?

By the way, you'll be able to find that color-coded map on our web site at plattecountylandmark.com real soon. Whether you'll find it useful depends on how well you can navigate as the crow flies.

Or you could go down to city hall, ask for a map and ask them to explain why they didn't take the time and effort to make the land areas more easily identifiable.

(Navigate your way to Ivan Foley's desk via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

Back in my day, unwritten school policies just disappeared

Posted 6/8/06

A blind man makes his way to a bar stool and orders a drink. After sitting there for awhile, he yells to the bartender: "Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?"

The bar immediately falls quiet. In a deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says: "Before you tell that joke, sir, I think it is only fair, given that you are blind, that you should know five things:

1. The bartender is a blonde girl with a baseball bat. 2. The bouncer is a blonde "biker girl." 3. I'm a 6' tall, 175 pound blonde woman with a Black Belt in karate. 4. The woman sitting next to me is a blonde and a professional wrestler. 5. The lady to your right is blonde and a professional wrestler.

"Now, think about it seriously, mister. Do you still wanna tell that joke?"

The blind man thinks for a second, shakes his head and mutters:

"Nah, not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."

******

This North Platte early graduation/walk at commencement story, which first broke a couple of weeks ago in The Landmark, has been gaining region-wide media attention.

A couple of thoughts on this:

1. Allowing Katie Bennett to graduate early and then walk with her graduating class at commencement in May would not break from any written North Platte policy. School officials have been unable to produce for us any written policy that says an early graduate cannot walk at commencement. We all know unwritten, in other words verbal, policies can be twisted in any fashion the powers-that-be choose to twist them at the time of the twisting.

It would be tough for anyone to argue that a policy with the potential to create as much controversy as this one should be written, not verbal. Written policies tend to stand the test of time. .. unwritten policies are easily manipulated in a case-by-case basis.

Back in my day, unwritten policies just disappeared.

2. As you see in our front page story, Superintendent Dr. Francis Moran has apparently changed his stance on a couple of issues since this story first broke. In earlier interviews with The Landmark, Moran insisted that denying the early graduate the chance to walk with her class had nothing to do with a loss of state funding the school will encounter after she graduates at semester. Last week a couple of school board members went on record with The Landmark as saying that money certainly was a role in the matter. This week Moran now agrees with those board members and says finances play a part in these types of decisions.

In addition, Moran now has told the girl that he will recommend to the board that she be allowed to graduate at semester and allowed to walk with her class at graduation in May. If so, this will match the policy that appears on the North Platte web site as it links to policies suggested by the Missouri Consultants for Education, but will apparently go against previous practice at North Platte in Moran's time there.

Confused? No doubt.

3. I praise Moran and the school board for their ability to adapt and admit a mistake, if in fact Moran proceeds with a recommendation to establish a written policy allowing early graduates (not just this particular graduate, but all future early graduates) to walk at commencement if they so choose. This will be a major sign of professional growth for Moran and the board if they show they are willing to be open-minded enough to admit their unwritten policy stance was quite shaky, and they deserve respect for their willingness to adapt. That hasn't always been the case at North Platte in Moran's time there.

Commencement is a ceremony for graduates. A graduate is a graduate, whether that student met graduation requirements in December or in May. It's that simple. Or at least it should be.

******

Not saying that legal action was on the horizon, but would that unwritten policy have stood up to a court challenge? Something to think about. Maybe Moran and the board did think about it.

******

Watching the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday morning for the new city hall to be constructed at Parkville took me back in time. When Tony Borchers of River North developers, the folks who have brought us The National golf complex and the impressive new Parkville Commons commercial development, stepped to the podium, I couldn't help but reflect on the growth of Borchers as a person in the time that I've known him.

I remember covering Borchers when he was a standout football player for Doug Hedrick's Platte County Pirate football teams in the mid-to-late 1980s. Back in those days it was my job to cover the team, a task which put me on the sidelines for every game. I can specifically remember one game where Borchers, playing defensive line at the time, was getting ticked that the Pirates' D was being upstaged by the opposing team's running game. Borchers delivered a tail-chewing to a teammate, in no uncertain words telling that particular teammate where he needed to be and the effort he needed to be delivering. "I'm getting tired of doing your damn job for you," Borchers yelled in a voice that clearly carried to the sideline that night. He went on to play some college ball at Northwest Missouri State University.

My next memory of Borchers is when he worked in the Platte County Planning and Zoning Department in the mid-to-late 1990s. Borchers eventually became P&Z director and as such it was his duty to stand at the microphone in county commission meetings and deliver staff recommendations on change of zoning proposals. He would close every thumbs-up summary with this line: "Staff respectfully recommends approval of this request."

Now, among other duties, he's delivering groundbreaking speeches for a highly respected development firm. Kinda cool.

(Ivan Foley has an unwritten policy to criticize unwritten school policies. Send your written thoughts on unwritten policies to him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

School board members need a memo; County candidate dropping out?

Posted 6/1/06

Memo to school board members at all area school districts:

Your superintendent works for you. You don't work for him. You are his boss. You and your constituents pay his salary. You give him guidance. You set policy, he sees that it is carried out. You are elected to be district leaders and district spokespeople. You have this responsibility to the people who voted you into office.

If your superintendent is controlling you or intimidating you, you are failing in your elected duties as a school board member. Grow some stones or step away from your position.

******

The political rumor mill in Platte County is running hot with this gem: Ilse Smith is giving serious consideration to dropping out of her race against incumbent Eric Zahnd for Platte County Prosecutor.

The two are scheduled to square off in August in the Republican primary. There is no Democrat in the race, so the GOP primary is basically for all the marbles. But it may not turn out to be no race at all, if the speculation about Smith becomes more than speculation. Sources close to the Smith camp are hinting to me she is feeling a lot of pressure about the upcoming race and her heart may no longer be in what promises to be a tough summer on the campaign trail.

Multiple phone messages left for Smith by yours truly have gone unreturned. A relative answering her phone last Thursday said Smith was wrapping up a vacation and would return my call in a couple of days. On Tuesday I tried again and was told by the same relative---who by the way is always extremely polite--that my message was still duly noted and that my call should be returned shortly. Still waiting.

In order for Smith's name to get taken off the ballot at this late juncture, she would need to file action to do so in Platte County Circuit Court. The request would be granted by the court, but the lateness of the action is getting to the point where it may cost Smith some bucks to reimburse the Platte County Board of Elections for costs incurred. By the end of this week or early next week the process of printing ballots is expected to begin and "a fairly substantial" cost of reprinting ballots could be assessed to Smith, according to election officials.

Smith's sudden shyness is surprising considering the aggressiveness with which she had started her campaign. I detailed for you several weeks ago the salty attitude and verbal bullets Smith directed toward Zahnd at a Platte County Pachyderm Club speaking engagement in early May. It was a signal this is going to be a rugged campaign. . . and now that realization seems to be hitting home with Smith, who may no longer want any part of it.

******

On the heels of all the talk in last week's issue about school officials admitting to a drug problem at the Platte County High School, The Landmark this week has discovered an interesting curriculum note. Platte County R-3 no longer has a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in place. The program was formerly operated at the middle school level. That's according to Terry Hart, principal at Platte City Middle School, whom I called to ask about the matter this week. Hart said the DARE program at R-3 disappeared a couple of years ago and there are no plans to bring it back at this time.

Hart said the program was cut "due to funding." He said the Platte City Police Department formerly supplied the police officer to come instruct the program. The police department and school district no longer have such an arrangement.

This begs a couple of questions. 1. A funding issue? Hard to imagine the R-3 district being so strapped for cash it couldn't afford to fund an anti-drug program on its own. And remember, the school already has its own school resource officer (SRO) in place. Maybe this is the angle Dick Modin, school board president, is pursuing by asking the superintendent for a job description for the SRO. If the SRO isn't helping with drug resistance education, what the heck does he do? 2. Let's hope R-3 isn't trying to blame the local police department for the lack of a DARE program. There is money for funding at R-3, as proven by some curious spending decisions made over the course of the past year or so. It's a matter of priorities and where the school board decides to spend its money.

With the admitted drug problem at the high school, it would seem a good time to re-establish a DARE program.

******

The controversy over whether to allow an early graduate to walk at commencement in 2007 remains a point of controversy at North Platte this week. North Platte Superintendent Dr. Francis Moran is citing an unwritten school policy allegedly followed consistently over the past 15 years as the reason against allowing a pregnant student who intends to graduate at semester from walking with her class in the May ceremony.

But apparently Moran's and the school board's confidence in that policy is being shaken. Amid criticism---justified in my opinion--coming from some district patrons, Moran this Friday morning wants to meet with the young lady and her parents to try to work out a compromise of sorts.

This could be interesting. Some folks are pledging to show up outside the district offices as a show of solidarity for the student while Moran meets with the family this Friday morning at around 6 or 6:30 a.m.

*******

There could be many opportunities for Between the Lines groupies--and you know who you are--to catch a road show as we take this circus act out and about among the good people of northwest Missouri. Public appearances are possible Thursday at the Touche night club in Parkville for the Platte County Pachyderm meeting; Friday night at Houlihans restaurant for the Platte Republican Association gathering or maybe a cameo appearance at Weston to take in the community theatre production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown; Saturday morning at 10 a.m. we're planning to crash the groundbreaking for a new city hall in Parkville; Saturday night I'm scheduled to be a scholarly attendee at the Ramada Inn in St. Joe for my 25-year high school class reunion and at some point in there if I'm not too tired I may catch a nap at my desk.

(DARE to be a Between the Lines groupie by emailing the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Recognizing the school drug problem is the first step to a cure

Posted 5/25/06

Hats off to some members of the Platte County R-3 School Board for their willingness to publicly acknowledge there is a drug problem at the high school in Platte City. As you'll note in reporter Dave Kinnamon's front page story, board members Dick Modin and Karen Wagoner both talked openly about the drug problem at a public meeting last week.

Awareness of the drug problem isn't news to most of us who follow community events with a close eye. I started writing this column in 1993 and I can tell you every Platte City police chief in that timeframe (with the exception of current chief Richard Sayles, as we have yet to broach the subject) has made this comment to me, and I'm paraphrasing here: "There's a major drug problem at that high school. The school won't admit it, but there is."

Perhaps school officials were previously of the belief that if they didn't talk about it, the problem didn't really exist. Or maybe it's simply that in any walk of life--and I especially think this is true at schools where those on campus are constantly surrounded by fellow humans whose world, like their own, revolves primarily around campus life--that sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. In other words, problems that are right at our feet can best be seen from a distance.

But last week's screaming headline news about an R-3 high school secretary facing felony charges of using and distributing marijuana from her home in Weston may have guilted R-3 leaders into publicly talking about the problem for the first time. It definitely made the problem much harder to deny or ignore.

School officials insist the secretary wasn't dealing the drugs on school grounds, but even if that's the case there's no denying that her job certainly put her in daily contact with a potential clientele base.

******

Now that the problem has been officially recognized, the question becomes what can be done about it. That's a matter the school board apparently wants to begin dealing with fairly quickly. Last week Modin asked the superintendent to provide a job description of the school resource officer, suggesting the SRO position could be doing more to help weed out drugs at the school. Random drug testing of students was briefly mentioned, though that sounds overly expensive and overly intrusive to me.

A technique I've seen used--and perhaps R-3 has done this in the past, but if so it would seem they need to do it more often--is to bring in drug-sniffing dogs for random walk-throughs on school property. Let the acute-sniffing canines do their thing at random times around lockers and around vehicles in the parking lot. I've seen random drug dog searches performed at school districts a lot smaller and with a lot less money than R-3.

It's a possibility worth investigating.

******

Yes, drugs in schools are a problem everywhere. But that doesn't mean we should like it or accept it. That's why it is refreshing to note that addressing a drug problem has come to the forefront of school board discussions at R-3. Perhaps priorities are getting back in order after a time period where some of us thought things were getting athletically out of whack.

What's a greater priority, getting drugs out of the high school or talking about what conference the school sports teams are going to play in? What's a greater priority, getting drugs out of the high school or worrying about whether the middle school sports program should be interscholastic or intramural? What's a greater priority, getting drugs out of the high school or spending half a million bucks on fake grass for the football field? What's a greater priority, winning more games or making sure student-athletes who use drugs are dealt with severely?

Do we really want Jailhouse Rock to become the official school song? Are we headed for a time when Cheech or Chong can be elected student body president?

Modin and Wagoner should be commended for showing the intestinal fortitude to openly talk about the problem. Keep that backbone strong as the search for a solution--or at least a better deterrent--begins. And let those of us in the local business community know what we can do to help you fight the fight.

(You're free to use your copy of The Landmark any way you see fit, but we prefer you not use it to roll your Mary Janes. Email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Talk about stamina; and this local crime beat becoming a full time job

Posted 5/18/06

This week we're proud to announce the presentation of the annual Landmark English Award, given to a top writing student at Platte County R-3 High School. The winner is selected by a faculty panel at the school.

It's the 25th year we have given the award, which includes a $250 cash scholarship to the winner from the newspaper.

Here's your complete list of winners from the original to the 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 (who later became a Landmark employee, now an R-3 teacher); 1995: Kerry Durrill; 1996: Jamie Knodel; 1997: Laura Donald; 1998: Christa Fuller; 1999: Alison Miller (later became a Landmark employee); 2000: Alison Coons; 2001: Valerie French; 2002: Devon Paul; 2003: Tara Gutshall; 2004: Elizabeth Anderson; 2005: Anne Mullins; and 2006: Branson Billings.

******

Well it's been a week for season finales on your television screen. Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal and others are showing their final new shows of the season, in fact Denny Crane (William Shatner) and friends are closing out the season in high definition on my tube as I write this.

Here at The Landmark, we're in the midst of a season finale of our own. This is the last issue for year number 141 of Platte County's longest lasting newspaper. Those of you good with numbers have figured out that means next week we'll start year number 142.
Those of you really good with numbers can do the math with me. At 52 weeks per year over 141 years, that's now 7,332 consecutive (that's in a row) weeks of continuous (that means non-stop) publication.

******

Wow. More than 7,300 weeks of rapid-fire publication. Every now and then I like to lean back in my chair inside The Landmark's historic yet trendy offices and ponder that thought.

Then I tell myself to get my butt back to work or the streak will end.

*******

More than 7,300 weeks of uninterrupted publication. And we're not even short of breath.
Must be all that time I spend on the treadmill fine tuning this Herculean body.

******

Former Landmark ad sales guru Heidi McCoy, affectionately known as Dog (or Dawg, if you prefer the urban spelling) around the office, has become a proud mama. Heidi and hubby Kyle, who is employed by Green Ridge Farms of Platte City, became the parents of a daughter born April 29 at Heartland hospital in St. Joseph.

Maely Ann McCoy was born at 9:28 a.m. and checked in at 6 lbs., 11 ounces. She was 20 inches long. Dog says the young one does not yet have a nickname, and she does not like my suggestion of "Puppy."

Heidi has decided to be a stay-at-home mom at least for a while, so after an aggressive nationwide search that left no stone unturned, this week we are able to introduce our new ad sales guru.

Lori Carey comes to us with a background in the biz, having previously sold advertising for a publication in Excelsior Springs. Call or drop in to say hi to Lori. . .if she doesn't chase you down first.

******

What an odd sight in a Platte County courtroom Tuesday. Present were the two students accused of making threats of violence against staff and fellow students at the school. Also present was one of the high school secretaries, not so spiffily dressed in jailhouse orange (at least she was sporting school colors), after an arrest last week on drug-related charges.

Bizarre.

*******

Speaking of the students accused of making threats at Platte County High School, one of the accused's attorneys has added an interesting twist to the topic we speculated upon in this column space last week.

Brian Costello, attorney for Trevor Fattig, told The Landmark it's his understanding Platte County R-3 school officials have been contacting both Amos’ and Fattig’s family members daily and having the family members come to the high school to get the boys’ homework.

If so, this would seem to indicate they are still considered students in good standing.

******

Costello also said his defense strategy will be to question the prosecution's witnesses, who are five students at the school. "I want to talk to the five kids and find out what they have to say. My understanding is that they all have a different story to tell," Costello told the media.

******

Check out a new column this week by new Landmark reporter Super Dave Kinnamon. The work of art, Cinnamon Toast, can be found on page A-4 of your printed version of The Landmark this week.

See if Cinnamon Toast helps fulfill your hunger for commentary, Landmark style.

(Ivan Foley thinks he looks good in orange but would not look good in jailhouse orange. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



 

Is that love in the air or did someone just open a can of worms?

Posted 5/11/06

Ahh, love is in the air.

At least it is for Platte City Administrator Keith Moody, till now a lifetime bachelor.

Moody will tie the knot with his gal pal of the last few years in a ceremony to be held May 20 in a garden at Loose Park in Kansas City.

Anybody at all familiar with Moody knows he is extremely protective of his private life, so I think I caught him off guard this week when I called to quiz him about his approaching nuptials (and let's be honest, is there anything more private than a guy's nuptials?)

Moody will be exchanging vows with the granddaughter of legendary sports stadium groundskeeper George Toma. I'm guessing the landscaping at Loose Park will be extremely well-groomed by May 20.

So, is the wedding open to all of Moody's friends and fans, including his. . . admirers. .in leadership roles with the Platte City Chamber of Commerce?

"It's an invitation type of event," he told me, though he quickly pointed out Loose is a public park so it's assumed just about anybody and everybody will have the right to catch a glimpse of the city's 37-year-old chief bean counter delving into holy matrimony. "But we do have (the garden) reserved," he said.

Moody is in the process of selling his condo and he and Mrs. Moody will reside in a house he had built in the Estates of Platte Valley.

It is expected they will plant some seed, fertilize appropriately, keep the shrubs trimmed, mow every fourth day and live happily ever after.

******

Say it with me: Nuptials.

Beautiful. I have a new favorite word.

******

Ahh, love is in the air. . .well, maybe not so much.

There was a closed session held on the topic Monday night, and obviously anybody and everybody who was behind the closed door is not talking, but unofficial word circulating among a variety of sources is that conflicting opinions might be getting a little dicey among district officials as Platte County R-3 deals with the after-effects of the Columbine-style threats allegedly made by a pair of students last month.

So what might be the cause of differing opinions among some school officials? I'm speculating that some may want the suspects expelled from the district now, while others want to wait for the court system to complete its handling of the case. Sources inside the high school indicate that at least one of the suspects has asked for his homework to be provided to him. Does this mean the suspects are still considered students in good standing?

Other whispers indicate some district leaders are bothered by information that was revealed in court papers filed with the case and printed in this newspaper. Those court papers allege that one of the suspects, Trevor Fattig, in a January counseling session with the school district's hired social worker drew a CD cover depicting a school shooting as his "expression of life."

Some high level district officials could be miffed that communication of that drawing did not make its way to all levels of district hierarchy (perhaps to the school board, for instance?). . . and maybe to other authorities. . .at the time the drawing was done last winter.

Stay tuned.

******

All that plus last week's news that soda pop sales and a much ballyhooed financial donation from the soda folks could be hampered by an agreement involving all the major cola companies who want to focus on furnishing only the healthier drinks to help combat childhood obesity?

No one can deny there are some interesting "what if" issues in play right now at R-3.

******

Ahh, love is in the air . . .well, maybe not so much. Part II.

I took the traveling Between the Lines road show to Parkville last Thursday night, where The Landmark was the only media outlet to witness the first public whizzing match between the two Republican candidates for county prosecutor. They each spoke, as did other Republican candidates for other county offices, at a meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club at the Touche night club.

Incumbent Eric Zahnd pointed out his opponent, Ilse Smith, used to be one of Zahnd's biggest supporters and in fact hosted his kickoff fundraiser for his reelection. Then she applied for--and did not get--a job in his office. Suddenly, she was throwing her name in the hat to run against him.

Smith answered by saying she decided instead of working for the prosecutor, she wanted to be the prosecutor. She went on to belittle Zahnd for what she termed "the worst jury trial record" in county history, including some losses in trials on crimes against children. She claimed Zahnd is using his involvement in the war against cyber crimes as "a diversion" to take attention off his alleged failure to take felony cases to trial in recent months.

Smith's comments raised the ire of Miller Leonard, a former Zahnd assistant who was in the audience. Leonard loudly and longly verbally objected to Smith's comments. As Pachyderm Club President Lee Pedego repeatedly asked "Mr. Leonard, do you have a question?" and just as I was wondering whether Leonard would become the next Platte County attorney to be restrained by the use of mace, he finally calmed down.

Smith definitely cast the first significantly negative stone so now you can bet anything and everything is fair game from this point. The gloves are off. Smith won't in good faith be able to paint herself as a victim of 'negative' campaigning, as Zahnd's opponent four years ago attempted to do.

There is no more vigorous campaigner than Eric Zahnd, so anybody with a feel for politics knows a strong response will be forthcoming. It's just a matter of when and with how many pounds of torque.

Be sure to strengthen your tummy muscles before you settle in to watch this race.

(Mace your publisher via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

The 'what if' game has arrived; Manipulating the legal system

Posted 5/4/06

Save yourselves.

Run, don't walk, away from any movie theater showing the alleged horror flick known as 'Silent Hill.'

Awful is too kind a word for this disgrace to the movie industry. A plot line that is both confusing and ignorant at the same time, combined with questionable acting (the actress playing the female cop is particularly baaaaad) that had me snickering through what was billed as "an edge of your seat" thriller added up to an expensive waste of time. If I hadn't plopped down $7.50 a ticket and spent another $10 on a large popcorn and drink, I would have walked out less than halfway into this snoozer.

It depresses me to think I'll never get those two hours of my life back.

******

I know what you're thinking. .. ah, the movie couldn't have been that bad. Foley is using hyperbole. Let's go see it and judge for ourselves.

Don't do it. If you must, at least wait until it hits the $1 movie house. Or wait for it to come out on video and rent it dirt cheap. It's my duty as a consumer watchdog to tell you this thing is crap.

******

I don't want to say The Landmark told you so. But we did.

The breaking national news on Wednesday morning is this: America's largest beverage distributors--including PepsiCo, the soft drink company that pledged to pay Platte County R-3 $31,000 per year over the next 10 years with R-3 allegedly using the money to help fund its installation of field turf at the football stadium--have agreed to halt nearly all sales of sodas to public schools. It's a step that will remove the sugary drinks from vending machines and cafeterias around the country. The companies will work to implement the changes at 75 percent of America's public schools before the 2008-09 school year and at all public schools by the 2009-2010 school year.

The companies have agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools. Only diet sodas will be sold to high schools.

Under the agreement, high schools will still be able to sell low-calorie drinks that contain less than 10 calories per serving, as well as drinks that are considered nutritious, such as juice, sports drinks and low-fat milk. (I'm guessing that low-fat milk option isn't a big seller in the high schools vending machines, how about you?)

While the industry says sales of healthier drinks have been on the rise in recent years, regular soda, averaging 150 calories per can, is still the most popular drink among students, accounting for 45 percent of drinks sold in U.S. schools in 2005, according to a national report.

Anyway, regular readers will recall last year we talked about this health-kick effort and the negative effect it could possibly have on the R-3 deal with Pepsi. We said the trend had already hit some states and it would soon be coming to schools here in Missouri. Some R-3 officials practically chided us for bringing the possibility to public consciousness, calling it "playing a what if game."

Well, it's no longer "what if." It's here. As we reported last year, there is a clause in the contract with R-3 that allows Pepsi to bail out if the health wave brings regulations or policies that negatively affect sales in the schools.

How exactly this week's news will affect Pepsi's 10-year pledge of $310,000 remains to be seen. What is less in doubt is that the R-3 public relations machine will be cranking out the propaganda in full force, downplaying the nationwide deal made by the American Beverage Association. I fully expect that we'll soon be hearing from R-3 headquarters, where some of you have noticed the sun always shines and everything is always good and nice and never a problem exists, that the news will have "little, if any" effect on the money pledged to R-3.

There will be a desperate effort to spin this into a positive. Heck, maybe Pepsi will feel so guilty about it they'll double the donation to R-3 and a domed field with sky boxes will be the next "cost neutral" proposal.

Strictly for the good of the band and the PE classes, of course.

******

I'll reprint what an alert reader from Texas told me last year during the field turf controversy at R-3, as the $31,000 per year for 10 years deal with Pepsi was being analyzed. Texas is one of the states that had already eliminated the unhealthy drinks and snacks from its schools.

"They (R-3) will never get their money," the reader from Texas predicted.

******

Word is circulating in legal circles that Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd is quite, uhh, disturbed, shall we say, about the maneuvering that ended with a DWI charge and leaving the scene of an accident charge against former Riverside municipal court judge Charles McKeon being heard in Kansas City Municipal Court instead of in circuit court (see our front page story).

An indication that Zahnd is piping hot could be that he gave his statement on the topic to me in writing. . . possibly worried that if he talked off the top of his head he may say something he would later regret.

Another indication authorities are ticked off is the rumbling I'm hearing that the alleged drug possession case being built against McKeon has been placed on the fast track. Authorities are waiting on results of crime lab work before a decision on charges is made. I'm hearing charges could now be coming sooner rather than later.

And if the public perception is that McKeon manipulated the court system, I would expect some less-than-happy folks involved in the judicial process if he is charged and eventually found guilty of further criminal activity.

Start watching this case with great interest, if you haven't already been doing so.

(Manipulate the publisher via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



When it comes to gas prices, Bush asleep at the political wheel

Posted 4/26/06

After months of being oblivious to the topic even while public outrage has been building to a boiling point, a stumbling and bumbling President George W. Bush finally acknowledged this week he should try to save the political lives of his Republican colleagues by at least recognizing the fact gasoline prices are causing hardship on American families and consumers. Unless an effective solution is found--even if it is a temporary solution, say, a solution that lasts from now through November--a political price is going to be paid for the ridiculous prices Americans are paying at the gas pump.

That political price is likely going to be paid by Republican Congressional candidates in November's mid-term elections.

******

Dick Morris, a syndicated columnist who is a former adviser to Bill Clinton but later became a staunch Bush supporter in his war on terror, summed it up best in a column that appeared in an area daily paper on Saturday. Morris said this: "Bush has truly become the Republican equivalent of President Jimmy Carter, out of control, dropping in popularity, unable to resume command."

Bingo.

Sadly, I don't even think Bush realizes how bad things have become in regard to his public perception. Any Republicans on the ballot in November better be prepared to run on their own merits. This isn't the time to be riding the coattails of a president who often seems clueless on the domestic issues that common Americans find important.

History has shown Americans will vote with their pocketbooks. A recent CNN poll finds 69% of Americans say the high gasoline prices have caused them financial hardship. Justified or not, Bush and Republicans are going to get the blame for this, in large part because the public perception is that this administration is in bed with the big oil companies.

It could be a rough November for the GOP.

******

The high gasoline prices have much less to do with supply and demand and much more to do with market speculation and manipulation. Oil companies are so large that just one can manipulate prices in a given market.

An example of legal manipulation of the market is the way the oil companies have declined to increase refinery capacity in the U.S. Holding down refinery capacity in the U.S. helps keep gasoline prices up. More money for your friends at big oil.

Blame the lack of refineries on the tree huggers and environmental restrictions if you like--and there's justification to place at least part of the blame there--but that's a little tough to swallow when you see oil companies posting record profits (that's profits, not gross sales, my friend). First quarter profits for the country's three largest oil and gas companies have been reported at $16 billion, up 19% from last year.

The money is there. Big oil has simply chosen to spend a good chunk of it on lavish financial packages for its executives instead of expanding refinery capacity.

******

Tony Snow of the Fox News Channel is being introduced this week as the new press secretary for President Bush. I'm waiting for Snow to claim his press conferences will be fair and balanced.

******

Latest on the old Interurban railroad car controversy at Dearborn? Historian David Short, who originally purchased the car in 1990 and helped bring it to Dearborn in 1993, told the city he still has conditional ownership in the car. City officials said fine, then please get the dilapidated piece of junk out of our city limits within 30 days. Whether Short will have it moved or whether he will simply allow the city to dispose of it for scrap remains to be seen. Mayor Frank Downing told me Wednesday morning that a man from Troy, Ks. has expressed interest in acquiring the car for scrap. Either way it looks like the car within 30 days will be a real part of Dearborn's history.

Alderman Gary Bomar had been the lone Dearborn alderman still wanting the city to try to refurbish the old railroad car. Bomar even claimed the aldermen had voted to name the new city park under construction as the Interurban Park. Not so, says Downing, who has researched all minutes of city meetings since 2004 and found no record of such a vote. To Bomar's chagrin at a special meeting last Wednesday, the board voted to name the new facility Dean Park, the same name the old park carried. Obviously this will save on the cost of new signage.

Bomar, by the way, got up from his chair and walked out of the meeting after getting into a disagreement with Alderman Bill Edwards over park matters.

Never a dull moment at Dearborn. I love these guys.

******

It has been brought to the attention of Platte County Clerk Sandy Krohne that her office made a distribution error last year when handing out railroad and utility tax revenues to several school districts whose boundaries are within Platte County. The flawed handouts of the 2004 tax year revenue took place in early 2005, but the error wasn't caught until the North Kansas City School District noticed a significant change in its distribution amount when the 2005 checks arrived in early 2006.

The incorrect distribution gave too little money to Platte County R-3, West Platte and North Kansas City. Too much of the railroad and utility tax money was awarded to Park Hill and Smithville. Corrective measures are being taken, after a sit-down meeting between Krohne and school representatives recently.

It will be necessary for Park Hill and Smithville to send their overpayments back to the county collector. Park Hill will be returning $33,500 and Smithville will be sending back over $17,000. That returned money then will be correctly distributed to R-3 in the form of a nearly $27,000 check, to North Kansas City in the amount of $15,700 and to West Platte in the amount of $8,000.

"It was an error and it had to be fixed. I didn't see that there was any other option," Krohne told me this week.

(Share your pain at the pump story with Ivan Foley via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Train whistles blowing at Dearborn? And 'fair and balanced'

Posted 4/20/06

I'm a conservative who believes much of the national media carries a liberal slant, so why is it getting harder and harder for me to watch the more conservative Fox News channel and actually believe I'm getting news without a spin of its own?

******

Warning bells are sounding after the Dearborn's Board of Aldermen voted last week to scrap an old Interurban Railway car that had been given to the Dearborn Community Betterment Association about 13 years ago. Nothing has ever been done with the car, which sits at the city's sewer plant and by all accounts is in a quite deteriorated condition. Some folks are tired of seeing it sit and rot. "It makes our sewer plant look bad," Alderman Bill Edwards said last week.

Alderman Gary Bomar was out of town dealing with a family matter and not present at last week's meeting when the vote to get rid of the old railroad car was made. He seems less than pleased, you might say, firing off this email on the topic to The Landmark last week.

"For the record, I am vehemently opposed to the action of scrapping the rail car. I will do everything I can humanly do to stop this callous disregard of historic property. I am not alone in this sentiment. The decision was made in my absence, otherwise the motion probably would not have been made.

"There will be input from as far away as Texas before they can act on their ARBITRARY & THOUGHTLESS decision to scrap a piece of history. I opposed the previous Board’s attempt to sell it many years ago, I wasn’t on the Board then. Now I am and they had to do this one while I was not present. Go figure! The rail car may not be important to the current sitting board save one but I guarantee you, it is important to our children and grandchildren!"

Bomar, who is the alderman in charge of parks, went on to claim the whole theme of the new park going in at Dearborn is centered on the old Interurban Railway.

Hmm. After a lull in the argumentative mood, it now seems like things might be getting back to normal at Dearborn board meetings. When it comes to the old railroad car, the word "scrap" could have more than one meaning.

******

Some shaking up is going on in the cabinet of President George W. Bush, including but not limited to the resignation of press secretary Scott McClellan and the giving up of policy portfolio by top Bush adviser Karl Rove.

Amid declining poll numbers that are reaching the point of embarrassment, obviously the Bush administration could use a shot of any kind of momentum. It remains to be seen whether any of these moves will provide a kick.

Republican Congressional candidates going before voters in mid-term elections this November have to be quite concerned about being associated too closely with a president who is nosediving in the polls. The stage seems to be set for the Democrats to make some serious inroads, if the often hapless Dems ever figure out how to take advantage of the many chinks in Bush's armor.

******


Fair and balanced?

One person who is being considered as replacement for Bush press secretary McClellan is FOX News’ Radio host Tony Snow. Snow, who hosts “The Tony Snow Show,” once served as a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush.

Who knows whether Snow will get the job, but just the fact his name is even being considered does give ammunition to critics who already lampoon the network as being outstanding apologists for the Bush administration.

******

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots a fellow hunter and chooses Fox News' Brit Hume to lob him softball questions in his only exclusive interview after the event. President Bush loses his press secretary and one of the candidates to replace him is Tony Snow of Fox News.

Even open-minded conservatives like this strikingly handsome publisher are starting to chuckle at this whole fair and balanced claim.

Will we ever see Bill O'Reilly address this in his no-spin zone?

******

Another reason I'm having trouble watching Fox News without cringing is the way Neal Cavuto's afternoon show consistently finds ways to apologize for some economic indicators that paint the Bush administration in a bad light. For instance, the topic of fuel prices came up during Cavuto's show Tuesday. Analysts on the show were speculating crude oil could rise to $100 per barrel and gasoline could shoot up to $5 per gallon.

To this, Cavuto unleashed this ridiculous gem that should land him a spot in the Apologists Hall of Shame: "Even if it does reach $5 per gallon, that's still less than the price of gasoline in France."

Hey Neal, how about a point of relevancy? In other words, good luck finding someone who gives a damn.

I'm sure that knowledge of the price of gas in France will be of great comfort to Average Joe American as he is fighting back tears at the gas pump this summer.

******

Campaign finance information on file at the Missouri Ethics Commission shows Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas, who as you know is running for state auditor, has $182,000 on hand in her campaign account as of March 31. Of that amount, $150,000 has come from a personal loan she has given her campaign.

(You can still reach Ivan Foley while he is taking extreme comfort in the high price of gasoline in France at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Dissenting opinions can be a healthy thing; The new Dearborn mayor

Posted 4/13/06

Alleged threats of violence coming from the R-3 High School, a former employee suing Platte County, a difference of opinion between the city and the chamber, there's a potential historic railroad car controversy at Dearborn. . . all very newsworthy items deserving of commentary.

But come on, we're overdue for some goofball, childlike humor in Between the Lines. So here goes:

Three mice are sitting at a bar after the funeral of an Illinois mouse who had been killed by an 80-year-old lady with a broom. The three mice are trying to impress each other with stories about how tough they are.

The Wisconsin mouse throws down a shot of bourbon, slams the empty glass onto the bar, turns to the Iowa mouse and says: "When I see a mousetrap, I lie on my back and set it off with my foot. When the bar comes down, I catch it in my teeth, bench press it 20 times to work up an appetite, and then make off with the cheese."

The Iowa mouse orders up two shots of tequila, drinks them down one after the other, slams both glasses onto the bar, turns to the Wisconsin mouse and replies: "Oh yeah, when I see rat poison, I collect as much as I can, take it home, grind it up to a powder and add it to my coffee each morning so I can get a good buzz going for the rest of the day."

The Texas mouse finishes the beer he has in front of him, let's out a long sigh and says to the other two: "I don't have time for this BS. I'm going home to have sex with the cat."

******

Must say I'm impressed with the report from the Platte County R-3 School Board reorganizational meeting held at 7 a.m. Wednesday. (The burning question: Why in the world 7 a.m.?)

I'm impressed that there was a split vote in the matter of choosing a board president for the next year. Dick Modin was reelected to the post by a narrow 4-3 vote over Bob Shaw (see front page).

Who serves as board president isn't nearly as important or as healthy a sign to R-3 patrons as the fact there was a split vote.

This could be an indication that board members are no longer married to the "let's always put on a happy face" attitude in the meeting room. If so, that's a healthy thing for anyone who believes in open and honest public debate of school issues.

There's nothing wrong with civil disagreement on any school board. That's why there are seven positions.

Though they were in the minority, the votes and actions of Shaw, Trish Stinnett and Dave Holland will go a long way toward earning the respect of those who want their elected officials to always speak their minds and true feelings. Nice job.

******

Frank Downing, Jr. has taken the helm of what can be a wild and wacky ship at the city of Dearborn. Called "Junior" by those who know him, Downing has grabbed the reins from Josh Linville, who declined to run for reelection as mayor. At the age of 81 years young, Downing handled his mayoral duties in spry fashion at his first meeting Monday night. It's not like he hasn't done it before. . .Downing previously served as mayor of Dearborn from 1981-86. He also had a nice run as the planning and zoning director for Platte County.

His experience will be a benefit to the city.

******

Frank Downing, Jr. was one of the first contacts I made when I started working at the ol' Landmark in 1982. In his position with the county planning and zoning department, he was a source of background information for me at that time as I began to familiarize myself with the inner workings of the people and places of Platte County. We could often be spotted lunching together at some of Platte County's finest diners back in those days.

******

From the "Whatever happened to?" department, let it be known former Platte County Commissioner Steve Wegner is still around. Got an invitation in the mail to an open house to be held April 20 at a new business known as Realty World Northland KC, to be located in the Kennedy Building west of the Platte City Post Office. The invitation is signed by Wegner and he is listed as broker/owner.

******

After having consistent and aggravating problems with my desktop computer over the past couple months (the darn thing always wanted to act up and re-boot itself right at deadline time, imagine that) I have trashed that two-year old E-Machine desktop and have decided to go portable. I invested in a Compaq Presario laptop a few days ago and with the help of Landmark technical guru Cindy Rinehart now have it fully loaded and connected to our six-station network here at Platte County's oldest newspaper.

Sure, the portability of the new laptop will be a nice feature, but another advantage I've found is that when I'm working at my desk I now have plenty of room for my ample brain power to operate.

No more cramped space from a bulky CPU and monitor. A nice advantage for a guy with claustrophobic tendencies. My apologies to readers for not doing this sooner because who knows what additional journalistic goodness I could have cranked out had I previously enjoyed this additional space for my intuitive cells to operate.

(Reach your publisher and his traveling laptop at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Time to spray roundup on the spring election season; bracket winner cashes in

Posted 4/6/06

Welcome back to Between the Lines, where the commentary is so stimulating you'll need to think about baseball just to maintain control.

******


You may have already realized that on Wednesday of this week at two minutes and three seconds past 1 a.m., the time and date was 01:02:03 04/05/06.

If you slept through it, shame on you. It was one of those scintillating moments that won't ever happen again.

******

If there is a busier time in the weekly newspaper business than that short burst between gathering election results and putting the paper to bed, I have yet to find it. And I'm not sure I want to.

Kudos to new Landmark reporter Dave Kinnamon for hanging with me into the wee hours. Dave joined our staff last week to replace journalism diva Kim Fickett, who has moved back to her home state of Iowa.

Dave, a graduate student at UMKC, brings plenty of newspaper experience to his new position with The Landmark. He is a former managing editor of The Star-Herald in Belton and was a reporter for the Constitution-Tribune at Chillicothe. He also formerly served as an advertising sales account executive for the St. Joseph-News Press.

******

Hats off to all candidates--the winners and the also-rans--for taking part in the election process this spring. It was good to see competition develop in many of the open seats this year. That's a sign that there are really many folks with a sincere desire to make a difference.

******

Here's hoping now that he's back in office for two more years, Dave Brooks will continue to grace these pages with quotes that are too good to miss. It's been well-documented that the mayor and I over the course of the past couple of years have been on the opposite sides of several issues, but I can't deny having Dave in office has been good for my readership. I guarantee that he doesn't intend to, but I must confess Mayor Dave helps me sell newspapers when he occasionally lets fly with some off-the-wall quotes.


The Brooks quote machine is already off and rolling for another term. Here are some of my favorite recent ''Brooksisms:"

During the election campaign: "Vote for me because when I win, we all win."

After Tuesday night's election results: "The people have spoken--that Dave Brooks has done a good job the last four years."

You gotta love it when a small town mayor pulls a Bob Dole and refers to himself in the third person. Local politics can't get much better than that, folks.

And Dave's comment on his administration's accomplishments: "One word. . . quality."

******

Remember, think about baseball.

******

There is one item on the city's current agenda on which the mayor and I can agree. I do hope the mayor and his board of aldermen, which will now feature two younger voices in Kenneth Brown and Aaron Jung, will continue to exert an effort to make the local chamber of commerce an even more effective organization. True, the chamber membership numbers seem to be growing, but is that because of effective leadership or simply a product of the local business growth?

The city, as requested by the chamber board, should put together a written list of conditions attached to the $10,000 in public money the city has been giving to the chamber annually. One of those conditions might include a suggestion that the executive director enroll in charm school, or at least learn to fake a pleasant demeanor at all times.

It also might include a suggestion that when new or existing chamber members are approached, they be approached with the attitude of "Here's what the chamber can do for you" instead of "What can you do for the chamber?"

Two minor suggestions but it's often the little things that can go a long away in recruiting new businesses to continue to fuel the local economy.

******

Congratulations to the winners in the Platte County R-3 School Board race. Incumbents Karen Wagoner and Dick Modin virtually sleepwalked their way to victory, which is relatively easy to do in a school board race when there is no hot button issue raised by challengers. Incumbents can sleepwalk. Challengers can't.

The closest thing to a hot button issue was raised by Greg Henson, who claims there is a textbook shortage at the middle school even while the school enjoys "a world class weight room." This is at least the second straight school board election in which the alleged textbook shortage has been raised. Successful school board candidate Patricia Stinnett raised the issue in her campaign last year. After getting on the board, Stinnett apparently was later convinced there is no shortage. Yet Henson in his campaign interviews maintained teachers at the middle school will vouch for the shortage.

It would benefit R-3 to have a discussion on this topic in an open school board meeting and lay the issue to rest one way or another. If there is a shortage, what can be done to address it? If there is no shortage, openly prove the fact to the public and all school board members.

One way or another, will somebody put the issue to rest?

******

It's time to announce our bracket contest winners for 2006. First place and $100 goes to Sue Shultz of Platte City, who was the only person in the entire field to correctly tab Florida as the national champ. Impressive stuff. Sue finished with 156 points.

Second place goes to Todd Mick of Platte City, a previous champ who this year takes home the $50 second place prize with his 138 points. Third place prize of a free one-year subscription goes to Ron Nelson of Platte City with 136 points.

(Text book shortage? Ivan Foley is living proof you don't need them anyway. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Moderates making a push for control of Republican Central Committee

Posted 3/30/06

How about the flurry of late activity at the Platte County Board of Elections on the final day of candidate filing Tuesday? Fun stuff.

First, incumbent prosecutor Eric Zahnd gets a challenge, but not from the Democrats who had been hootin' and hollerin' against him for the past four years. Zahnd's challenger is a fellow Republican and (former?) friend who in the not-too-distant past actually hosted a campaign fundraiser for the incumbent prosecutor. Ilse Smith runs a law firm from her home. She applied for a job in the prosecutor's office late last year and Zahnd chose to hire another applicant. Smith says the application process opened her eyes to things that bothered her about the prosecutor's office. Zahnd has taken the high road, declining to publicly paint Smith's candidacy simply that of a disgruntled former job seeker. See our front page story for comments from both Smith and Zahnd on this bizarre twist.

******

Perhaps the biggest surprise came just minutes—more accurately, seconds—before filing deadline when Republican Rebecca Rooney placed herself in the political spotlight by throwing her name in the hat against three-term incumbent Sandy Krohne for county clerk. Rooney had mentioned the possibility of her candidacy in passing conversation among friends in recent weeks, but her decision to go through with the filing process wasn't made until the last minute. Her paperwork was being processed by the good folks at the board of elections as the clock ticked near 5 p.m.

Rooney seemed determined to make her presence felt by firing a volley toward the incumbent. "With all the budget fuss, I figured I could do better. I don't like people sticking it to the taxpayers. I don't think in that kind of office you need to ask for more from the taxpayers."

Ouch.

Reached Wednesday morning, Krohne said she will respond but the response will come later. More pressing matters were requiring her attention this week, she said.

******

Here's insight you won't get anywhere else: Looks like the internal battle is on among Platte County's Republican party in a big way.

More fascinating than watching the Republicans vs. Democrats at the local level—because, let's face it, the Democrats are trying but still haven't created enough progress to make that an interesting watch party—is observing the internal battle among Platte County's Republicans. And make no mistake, after looking at the filings for the Platte County Republican Central Committee, there is no doubt the group of Republicans who like to call themselves the "moderates" are aggressively going after many seats on the central committee, which in the past couple of years has been controlled by the more conservative wing of the party.

Many of the "moderates" are active members of the Platte County Pachyderm Club. The moderates have tossed some candidates in central committee races for seats currently held by the more conservative folks. In subdistrict 32-5, for instance, there likely is no more conservative committee member than Dagmar Wood. She'll be opposed by Alexandra Denise Kuebler, daughter of Candy Kuebler, active in the Pachyderm Club. Rob Sweeney is also a "moderate" candidate for the male position in subdistrict 32-5. Former county commissioner Michael Short put his name on the ballot for central committee post in subdistrict 32-3. Mark Ferguson jumped in for district 32-4. Lee and Carolyn Valentine will provide opposition to conservatives in district 30-4. Cherie Pedego, wife of Pachyderm president Lee Pedego, filed in district 30-1. Joyce Yost filed in district 30-2. Jim and Rebecca Rooney, considered moderates, are the only candidates for the subdistrict 29 posts.

Look out. The "moderates" are attempting a coup of the Republican Central Committee. This will be just as interesting as watching the officeholder elections. We'll keep you posted here in Between the Lines.

******

Unless it's a year with a hot public issue, such as the installation of field turf, school board elections often fly under the radar. This year's race at Platte County R-3 seems to be attracting little, if any, attention, other than some rumblings I'm hearing from folks who wouldn't mind seeing Karen Wagoner politely asked to leave the table.

Wagoner is seeking her third term. She was first elected by folks who believed she would become a leader on the board, but some of her former supporters aren't shy about stating their discontent. Wagoner, detractors believe, is comfortable being a follower instead. She has settled into a role of being one who prefers the status quo and tends to be led by the administration instead of the other way around. My personal observation about Wagoner is that in her role as Chamber of Commerce executive director, she has been combative with those not in her immediate support group while in her role as school board member the common perception has been she is a passive go-with-the-flow type. She would be doing the public a better service if she reversed the attitude she brings to those two positions, in my opinion, doing fanny-kissing with the chamber and getting feisty while at R-3 board meetings.

I've always had the opinion that every public board needs at least one rebel, so to speak, a member who isn't afraid to question anything and everything, a member who isn't afraid to go against the status quo and think outside the box. Many observers will tell you the current R-3 School Board seems to be lacking this type of role player. If you're looking for a rebel among this year's field of candidates, based on the comments made in interviews printed in last week's Landmark, your best bet would seem to be Gregory Henson.

******

With only Final Four weekend remaining, here are the leaders in our annual NCAA bracket contest: Luke Mason 134 points, Shelby Buckler 130, Todd Mick 128, Sue Shultz 126, Ron Nelson 126, Whitney Stubbs 126, Anna Nutt 120, Jacob Hardie 120, Randy Knox 120, Randy Meers 118, Rebecca Rooney 118, Kinsey Barton 118, Steve Sampsell 116, Helen Stiffel 116, and Sherry King 116.

Among the columnists and special guests, the scoring is done. Dave Stewart is your winner with 118, followed by CK Rairden at 114, Brian Kubicki 112, some guy named Foley 106, and Greg Hall 98.

(The Landmark is hands down Platte County's most popular newspaper among rebels. Contact the head rebel at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)



 

Democrats are MIA; Thomas on the verge?; and a chamber debacle

Posted 3/23/06

Platte County Democrats, where are you? With filing deadline now less than a week away, the local Democratic party seems to be falling short once again in its effort to field candidates for important county offices.

The Dems have yet to toss anybody in against incumbent Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight. And how about their inability to find a candidate to challenge incumbent Prosecutor Eric Zahnd? Remember early in Zahnd's career when he was having trouble winning jury trials? The Democrats were all over him, screaming that voters had made a mistake in choosing Zahnd over Tammy Glick. The implication was that Zahnd would be very vulnerable when he sought re-election. Yet, as filing deadline rapidly approaches, there aren't even any names of possible Democratic challengers making the rumor mill. It's bad when a party can't find any candidates. . .it's worse when the party can't even hint that it has some folks at least considering the possibility.

This was supposed to be a comeback year for the Platte County Democrats. So far it looks like it will be anything but.

*******

Speaking of the political rumor mill, it's still hot with unconfirmed reports that Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas will file for state auditor, likely on the final day of filing next Tuesday. A variety of sources are saying Thomas has made the decision to seek state office, with at least one person telling me the word came directly from Thomas' mouth this week. Thomas at this writing seems to be running shy of the media and has made no formal announcement, other than to say she is ready to "move on" after serving as county auditor the past 12 years.

******

Some Republican power brokers at the state level would love for Thomas to put her name on the ballot for state auditor, if for no other reason than to help U.S. Senator Jim Talent pull votes from females who might otherwise cast a ballot for Talent's opponent, Claire McCaskill. Females often are a tight voting bloc. The theory is that the presence of a Republican female on the statewide ballot could help prevent Republican females from crossing over to vote for Democrat McCaskill in her race against Talent.

The Talent-McCaskill race is expected to be close to the end (see Landmark Journal on page A-4 for more on this).

******

Amid scuttlebutt that city fathers and the chamber leaders may be at odds once again, I took the opportunity to sit in on a board of directors meeting for the Platte City Chamber of Commerce last Friday morning. There was plenty of discussion about the city/chamber relationship and plenty of defensive verbal positioning from a couple of chamber board members who seemed to take it very personal that the chamber's hired executive director, Karen Wagoner, could actually be subject to public scrutiny (more on that a little later). But really the only newsworthy item to come out of the meeting is this: The chamber board will ask city aldermen to list in writing what the city's expectations are from the $10,000 annual donation.

Chamber President Joe Carroll says Mayor Dave Brooks has told him he believes the chamber is still important and a viable part of the community, and that the mayor still supports the city making an annual contribution to the chamber in the amount of $10,000. Brooks, however, is not sure he has the support of his board of aldermen on that topic, Carroll said at Friday's meeting. Alderman Ron Porter serves on the chamber board of directors and will speak the chamber board's request to the aldermen. "We need to know our target before we can hit it," said Randy Knox, chamber board member.

Losing the $10,000 annual contribution from the city wouldn't spell death for the chamber, but it would cause some cuts. "We would have to cut some (staff) hours," Carroll told me.

******

I know it's human nature for all of us to get a little defensive when we are the subjects of criticism, even if the criticism is of the constructive variety. Still, chamber board members and the chamber executive director should be conscious of the fact they are charged with spending public money--and in the case of the executive director, being paid with public money--and therefore the public has every right to critique job performance.

It's no secret some folks at city hall have gotten sideways with Wagoner. There is no angel at that party, let me tell you. It is widely known that folks at city hall can be combative and vindictive when they don't get their way. More surprisingly and possibly a lesser known fact to the community is that Wagoner can be equally as combative and vindictive toward those not in her inner circle. . . not exactly the type of behavior you expect to see from a person hired to be the community's ambassador of good will.

The city of Platte City has every right to raise questions, especially in light of the significant $10,000 contribution made on an annual basis. The aldermen certainly at times have appeared to be an out-of-touch bunch on some topics, but they still have the duty to protect the city's interests and raise questions when necessary. Their concerns should be considered legitimate by folks at the chamber and the chamber board must be open-minded enough to take an honest and hard look at the job performance of the executive director and make any decisions necessary to address potential concerns.

******

Leaders in The Landmark bracket contest after two rounds: defending champ Anna Nutt is tied for first along with Randy Knox at 96 points. Others near the top include Bob Bennett, Todd Mick and Rebecca Rooney with 94 apiece; Daryl Grame, Chris Hardeman, Mark Harpst and Sue Shultz at 92 each; and Jacob Hardie and Ryan Nichols at 90.

Brian Kubicki currently leads in the columnist category but his edge could be in jeopardy as two of his Final Four are already gone. Check back next week for a more detailed look.

(Is Foley trying to hide his bracket score? Get him to reveal his paltry number by sending a request to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

How about Graves for attorney general? And the battle begins

Posted 3/16/06

Congratulations and good luck to the North Platte girls basketball team as they head off to the Class 2 Final Four Thursday and Friday in Columbia. The balanced attack of the Lady Panthers is led by 6'3" Michelle Anderson, who has signed to play Division I ball with Drake of the Missouri Valley Conference.

I've known the Anderson girl—always referred to as Little Sly within the walls of The Landmark—since she was a kindergartner. Her mother, Sylvia, had two stints of employment at this newspaper, starting out as a reporter in 1993 and coming back several years later as advertising sales rep.

Sylvia is only 6'1" so I have no idea where her daughter gets all that height.

******

I've never made a secret of the fact that the connection between Todd Graves and this columnist runs a little deeper than the normal "public figure and member of the media" relationship. It's a friendship that developed in his time as county prosecutor and we've stayed in touch on a fairly regular basis. I've told the story many times of how what has become the biggest public Christmas party in Platte County developed its beginning when Graves, John Elliott, yours truly and three wise men from Wells Bank enjoyed a holiday beverage in the back of the historic Landmark office. Graves' annually has been the special guest at each of the succeeding Landmark public Christmas parties, not forgetting us little people even after President Bush anointed him U.S. Attorney.

"Are you sitting down?" was how Graves began the conversation when he called last Thursday to let me know he would be announcing his resignation as U.S. Attorney the next day. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel momentary panic. . . like maybe someone I knew was in trouble with the feds. . .or maybe the IRS had told Todd they didn't like the looks of my tax return. . . or maybe Todd's brother Sam had been accidentally shot while hunting with Dick Cheney.

******

Todd Graves says now that he is stepping away from his federally-appointed post he can become more active in state, local and national politics. And he plans on doing so in a very big way, doing most of his work behind the scenes.

I'm ready to start the public recruiting process to get Graves to launch a campaign for Missouri Attorney General in two years. Current AG Jay Nixon has plans to run for governor in 2008, which would leave the attorney general post open.

Graves for state attorney general may not be as far-fetched as some might think. If it happens, remember you heard it here first.

******

I'm ripe for the picking in The Landmark's bracket contest this year. It's been one of those hectic weeks at the ol' newspaper office, one of those weeks where anything that could go wrong has gone wrong. . . which occasionally happens to everybody in every profession, I'm sure. Thusly (which is fast becoming one of my new favorite words), I have spent zero time getting into the ins and outs of bracketology the past few days. As an example, I'm making my picks while looking at a bracket that doesn't even identify for me where the various games are being played. If I do any good at all in the contest this year, let's call it luck and not attribute it to hours of study time.

Having gotten all that BS out of the way, here are my picks round-by- round.

FIRST ROUND WINNERS: Duke, George Washington, Syracuse, Iona, West Virginia, Iowa, California, Texas, Memphis, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Kansas, Indiana, Gonzaga, Marquette, UCLA, Connecticut, UAB, Washington, Illinois, Michigan State, North Carolina, Seton Hall, Tennessee, Villanova, Wisconsin, Nevada, Boston College, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, South Alabama, Georgetown, Ohio State.

SECOND ROUND WINNERS: Duke, Syracuse, West Virginia, Texas, Memphis, Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, Villanova, Boston College, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Ohio State.

ELITE EIGHT: Duke, Texas, Kansas, UCLA, Connecticut, North Carolina, Villanova, Ohio State.

FINAL FOUR: Texas, UCLA, Connecticut, Villanova.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Texas vs. Connecticut.

CHAMP: Connecticut.

******

As the bracket contest moves along, you'll get the chance to compare your scores to the scores of Landmark columnists and a couple of special guests. Special guests include Dave Stewart of Metro Sports and Greg Hall, the former popular sports media columnist for The Landmark, the Star, the Pitch and anybody else who didn't mind fighting off the legal threats his material would bring. One of my favorite memories of GH's time with The Landmark was the day my fax was smoking with a detailed legal threat from one of GH's former employers. Yes, the Star's attorneys actually strongly hinted at pursuing legal action if GH didn't quit picking on certain members of their sports department. That fax brought tears to my eyes. Of course those tears were from side-splitting laughter. The threat must have worked because I told GH to quit writing about the Star's guys. . .at least until our next issue. But I digress.

Columnist CK Rairden is on the verge of being disqualified from our reindeer games as he turned in an incomplete entry. CK filled out his bracket to the Final Four but then stopped. I'm guessing he was interrupted by the need to write an apology piece for the Bush White House. CK will soon pen an essay telling us that a huge federal deficit and extremely high gas prices are good for the American economy. But I digress.

He still has time, but I must note that big-time celeb Dave Stewart has yet to get his entry to the plush Landmark offices. I'm confident Dave's entry will be on its way just soon as he is done blow drying his hair and manicuring his nails. But I digress.

The point—and I do have one—is that only Hall and Brian Kubicki thus far have fulfilled all the requirements for entry into this category of the contest. Here are the highlights of their brackets:

HALL: His Final Four are Duke, Kansas, Connecticut and Georgetown. He has Connecticut winning the championship over Duke. KUBICKI: Brian's Final Four are Duke, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Boston College. He has Duke facing North Carolina in the title game with North Carolina winning it all.

(Email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Gas prices, television shows, the governor, and radio gigs

Posted 3/9/06

Call it coincidence, but remember what happened to the price of gasoline the first few days after Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter? The price fell to $1.86 per gallon, then took a 23 cent jump to $2.09 the day the victim was released from the hospital.

Today, the price hovers near $2.30 per gallon.

My car is running on fumes. Does Cheney have any hunting trips planned?

******

Best comedy on network television? My TV watching opportunities are extremely limited, but the one sitcom I make an effort to catch is Two and a Half Men. Every episode has some good laughs. Check it out on Monday nights at 8 p.m. on CBS.

******

Similarly, Boston Legal is the network drama worth watching. It combines a heavy dose of humor with its drama on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. William Shatner and James Spader are a great combo in that one.

******

Governor Matt Blunt was as relaxed as I have ever seen him during last week's visit to the Platte County home of James and Sandra Thomas. He was so at ease he dusted off a version of an old joke and presented it well:

"Christopher Columbus was the first liberal. He didn't know where he was, didn't know where he had been, didn't know where he was going and paid for the whole thing with somebody else's money."

******

Yes, the governor was behaving like a man who fully realized he was surrounded by a friendly crowd. He moved around the impressive Thomas' h home visiting with supporters before and during last Thursday night's event. He chatted and seemed poised throughout, like a politician who fully realizes he doesn't have to face the voters for more than two years.

This is the third time I've had personal contact with the governor and as I said, this is as comfortable as he has ever appeared. And I'm not just saying that because he complimented the designer tie I was sporting, a patriotic Republican-themed garment presented as a gift by a Democrat friend.

******

At the prompting of State Sen. Charlie Shields, Gov. Blunt noted the presence of Rachelle Brown, wife of State Rep. Jason Brown. As exclusively reported in The Landmark two weeks ago, Brown has been called to duty in Iraq by the U.S. Army Reserves. He reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina last week and will soon be on the ground in Iraq.

"Let's keep Jason in our thoughts and prayers, and work to ensure that he comes back to his real job," the governor said, referring to the fact Brown will be running for reelection while stationed in Iraq.

******

Somebody at the Kansas City Star has apparently taken up residence inside the young governor's head. I've been at two stump speeches by Blunt twice in the past month and on both occasions he has mentioned the less-than-flattering press he receives, and has specifically mentioned the Kansas City Star.

The insinuation is that the press is not letting the public know the good things his administration is doing. He wants Republicans to be aggressive in spreading the word of successess.

"We need to tell our story in an aggressive way. I'm grateful for your help."

******

At this writing, no further news has yet to come from the camp of Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas. You'll recall The Landmark was first to break the story (you've noticed that seems to happen with great frequency) that she will not be seeking reelection as county auditor and is considering a run for state auditor. She has not yet filed for state auditor nor made any formal announcement of her plans. . . nor returned my phone call yet this week, come to think of it.

She did tell me at her home last Thursday that she called Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight to squelch the rumor that she was considering a run against the incumbent commissioner, a fellow Republican.

******

Enjoyed a visit with a former (and occasionally present) Kansas City radio personality at the governor's appearance Thursday night.

I heard the sound of a familiar voice coming out of the mouth of the person standing behind me just inside the front door. Shortly after we had both checked in and applied our name tags, Chris Stigall walked over and introduced himself.

Stigall is a former radio disc jockey who got his start in radio through contact with former radio funny man Randy Miller, back when Stigall was in high school and Miller was the man in KC morning radio. Stigall later served a stint as a summer intern with the David Letterman television show in New York. He came back to KC and has had gigs with 101 The Fox, Hot Talk 1510 AM, and 97.3 FM. His most success came with 101 The Fox, where he held down the morning drive show slot for a couple of years.

So what's he doing now? Occasionally filling in as a substitute host on talk radio station 710 AM "when somebody is sick or on vacation," he says. More often, he's a field rep for Congressman Sam Graves, working out of the Liberty office.

And, I discovered we have a mutual friend. Stigall is a buddy of Landmark pal Jason Klindt, the former director of communications for Congressman Graves who recently headed off to Montana to be director of communications for U.S. Senator Conrad Burns.

******

Jim Rooney of Weston was elected new chair of the Platte County Republican Central Committee on Monday night. It's a thankless job.

Should we congratulate him or send him a sympathy card?

(Send a sympathy card to the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

Will she or won't she?; Basketball brackets and dancing with stars

Posted 3/2/06

Let me get started by saying that I will not be a candidate for Missouri State Auditor.

******

Sandra Thomas is either running for Missouri State Auditor or she simply is so flattered by speculation that she doesn't want the conjecture to end.

I'm guessing it's the former, but hey, I've admitted to being wrong once before.

If it were me and I had made the decision to step away from politics, I would choose to be up front with the good folks and say I'm stepping away from politics. That way I'm going out on a positive note by being candid with the public. Leaving a good taste in voters' mouths enhances the possibility of a well-received return to public life at a later date, should one so desire.

But if I wanted some publicity to help stimulate a run for higher office, I would increase the amount of attention coming my way by playing it coy. And maybe have the governor come in for a visit.

******

The public, by the way, is invited to a reception in honor of Gov. Matt Blunt at the James and Sandra Thomas home Thursday night, March 2. The home is located at 5920 NW 96th Terrace. A general reception begins at 6 p.m.

In a conversation this week, James Thomas assured me they'll be prepared to handle the crowd and didn't want me to shy away from giving the public advance notice of the event.
I'll be there just in case you can't. If anything newsworthy happens, look for a report on the front page of The Landmark's popular web site at plattecountylandmark.com ASAP.

Technology is a beautiful thing.

******

Time for some housecleaning from last week's column.

Remember how I reported that I had been told by one of the lucky folks directly involved that the winning Powerball players from Platte County R-3 School District had won $100,000 to be split nine ways? Imagine my surprise later last week when the Lottery sent out an official news release detailing that the prize money was $200,000.

Was I sold a bill of goods by a winner wanting to downplay the amount? Or was it an honest mistake on the winner's part?

The winner assures me this week it was an honest mistake. Trust me, if I ever win the lottery, I'll be able to quote you the exact dollar amount. Most winners, I assume, would be able to report the accurate amount within $100,000.

In any event, the actual amount each of the winners will receive comes to $15,778 after taxes. And, after being fed incorrect information and seeing their names splattered all over the AP wire, now I don't have a problem listing the winners' names for Landmark readers. Here they are:

Rebecca Stallard, 42, Platte City; Tamara Judds, 47, Lake Waukomis; Carla Johnson, 43, Edgerton; Steven Myers, 54, Overland Park, Ks.; Kelli Buckler, 45, Dearborn; Jonna Anderson, 48, Dearborn; Charles Siler, 54, Weston; Coleen Johnson, 33, Kansas City; and Daniel Stevens, 46, St. Joseph.

Six of the winners are R-3 teachers, three are R-3 maintenance workers. The winning ticket was purchased where I buy my occasional Powerball entry. . .the Trex Mart convenience store in Tracy.

******

Selection Sunday will soon be upon us. And with it will come The Landmark's 10th annual NCAA basketball bracket contest.

First place prize money this year is $100. Entry is free and limited to one per person. Contestants of all ages are encouraged to take part.

Bracket pairings will be announced on Sunday, March 12. To enter The Landmark's contest, fill out a copy of the bracket (clip one out of the daily papers or print one off of the many Internet sites that will have them), predicting winners for every tournament game. Any lines left blank are counted as a loss. As a potential tiebreaker, write in how many points you believe will be scored in the championship game.

There are several ways to get your entry to us. The most popular way in the past has been via fax to 816-858-2313. Entries can also be emailed to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, dropped by our office at 252 Main Street in downtown Platte City, or mailed to PO Box 410, Platte City, Mo., 64079. Entry deadline is 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 16. Be sure to write your name and phone number on your entry.

Weekly updates on the standings of the contest will be reported right here in Between the Lines. Those who enter will be able to test their prognosticating skills against yours truly and Landmark columnists Brian Kubicki and CK Rairden. And again this year I'll see if we can force Metro Sports' Dave Stewart to serve as a mild-mannered celebrity contestant.

Points will be awarded as follows: Two points for each correct first round pick; four points for second round winners; six points in the third round; eight points in the fourth round; 10 points in the fifth round; and 20 additional points if you correctly choose the tourney champion.

******

Got a confession to make: I got hooked on the Dancing With the Stars TV show the past several weeks. It wrapped up on Sunday when Drew Lachey (brother of Nick Lachey, best known for being the former Mr. Jessica Simpson) was declared the winner.

Not sure how I got hooked on the show. Maybe it was that attractive tall blonde who consistently got rave reviews from the professional judges but who apparently didn't get enough call-in votes from the viewing public.

Or maybe my obsession with the show was simply due to the fact I was in awe of the superior dance moves these alleged amateurs were performing. I've always admired that kind of talent, because when it comes to dancing I am overly Caucasian.

(Dance with the publisher via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


Majerus better suited for AD at MU; More on the accidental hunter

Posted 2/23/06

I can't help but tell you we are quickly approaching one of my favorites times of the year. I'm a recovering college basketball junkie and the madness of March and its conference and NCAA tournaments gets the blood pumping in my physically imposing physique.
I'll be forcing basketball talk and bracket pools upon the helpless females in the office. The veterans have learned to accept it. The newcomers will in time.

******

The biggest game of the Big 12 season will happen Saturday night when Kansas travels to Texas with the conference title almost certainly riding on the outcome.

I have a commitment to be at the Missouri Western basketball game Saturday night, so I'll need a volunteer watching the KU-Texas game on the tube to call my cell phone periodically with scoring updates. This is serious stuff.

******

As a guy who tends to cheer more often for the Jayhawks than the Tigers, I kinda like all this talk about Mizzou possibly hiring former Utah coach Rick Majerus.

Before MU hires Majerus, they may want to further study other options. Mizzou needs a coach with a high energy level, one who is an outstanding recruiter. In Majerus, you would be getting neither of those attributes.

In addition, do you remember the extremely boring, slow-down style of play his Utah teams often displayed? Maybe I'm wrong (that did happen once before) but I'm not sure the Mizzou fan base would exactly be dancing with excitement as Majerus' teams walked the ball up the court against teams like Texas and Kansas.

And the bigger question might be whether Majerus' heart would be completely into coaching. He stepped away from the Utah job for health and personal reasons. He took the USC job for about one day last year before changing his mind. Not exactly encouraging signs.

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I don't know if he'd be interested, but the better role for Majerus at MU would be in the position of athletic director. He could possibly excel in those duties and at the very least would bring instant credibility back to an athletic department that has turned into a three-ring circus.

It's time for Mike Alden, who always has reminded me of a slick used car salesman, to step aside as athletic director. Send Gary Link to fire him.

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There are lucky lottery winners in the Platte County R-3 School District. Lots of rumors are floating around out there about the amount won, etc. but here's the story as told to me this week by one of the parties involved (some of the winners prefer to keep their privacy for personal reasons, so no names will be used in this report).

Six R-3 teachers and three R-3 maintenance workers combined on a purchase of some PowerBall tickets last week. One of the tickets was a $100,000 winner, which will be split nine ways. If my math is correct, that's more than $11,000 per person. Before taxes, of course.

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My pal and Landmark columnist CK Rairden and I had an interesting email exchange this week. CK continues to lambast the national press for what he believes was overexposure on the Dick Cheney hunting accident. I say the media was justified for extensively covering the story, particularly in light of the fact Cheney's folks waited 20 hours for the news to be publicly announced. Remember in situations like this one, it's not so much the event itself that causes public relations pain, it's the silly attempt at manipulating the timing and telling of the story.

CK correctly cites a Rasmussen poll that indicates only 27% hold the view that the Dick Cheney hunting accident raised any serious questions at all. I'll agree with that. It was an accident and though some carelessness was involved, it really doesn't raise any serious questions, at least not in my mind.

But from that information, CK draws the conclusion that the public basically didn't care, that they reacted with a "collective yawn." I must loudly disagree with my fellow columnist on this one. Again, to say that only 27% thought the shooting raised serious questions I would say is accurate. To suggest that the same poll result subsequently means only 27% of Americans “cared” about the shooting is very flawed reasoning. You can care about the event for its news value without believing it "raised serious questions." What I can tell you is that nearly every person I ran into last week was talking about the incident. To me, that's a pretty good sign it was a story resonating with the public.

When a vice president fires a shot that strikes another human being, it is an event that will be referenced in the history books in years to come. I can't be convinced that it wasn't worthy of significant news coverage.

As a result, I'm considering CK an apologist for the administration on this issue. And at least on this particular issue, I'll play the role of apologist for the national press in general. . .a role you won't see very often from this conservative columnist.

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Just a guess, but something tells me if Al Gore accidentally shot a man it would be fodder for at least four consecutive CK columns.

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Sure, the White House press corps can be an out-of-control bunch, but you've got to be careful in trying to apply criticism and disgust of that group in a blanket manner across the entire media landscape.

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The Rasmussen polling outfit may want to take a survey on this question: Would you rather live in a land where there is government without a free press or a free press without a government?

(Have your own lively email exchange with the publisher. Send your missive to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Face it, this isn't your normal hunting accident; Taste these future headlines

Posted 2/15/06

I noticed the price of gasoline went down this week. Don't get overly excited. I bet this happens every time the vice president shoots somebody.

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I guess Dick Cheney really is a political head hunter.

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In honor of the vice president's hunting prowess, I'm digging out a photo of yours truly with the vice president a couple years back at a political fundraiser in Kansas City.

Notice the mischievous grin by Cheney. Notice the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. Cheney had just whispered that he wanted to take me hunting.

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Next time Cheney goes hunting, will Homeland Security put the public on orange alert?

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You just know the Democrats are bragging that yes, Al Gore may be an idiot, but at least he never shot anybody.

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The vice president of the United States accidentally shoots a hunting partner and the MU team's radio announcer is sent to fire the school's basketball coach. . . can the news world get any more bizarre this week?

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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It's disheartening to watch many GOP leaning political pundits—and by the way, I've made no secret that I lean strongly to the right—try to downplay the Cheney hunting accident. By all means I've been a supporter of the current administration, but come on. .. you've got to allow journalistic principles to take over in times like these.

Sorry, Bush and Cheney apologists, this story is legitimate and deserving of every bit of media attention it is receiving. Sure it was an accident, but in nearly every accident there is at least a little bit of carelessness involved, as was the case here by both Cheney and the victim. (All hunters know that the victim should have announced his presence back to the pack of hunters. . . and all hunters know that Cheney should not swing around and fire without looking at what was in his line of fire. All hunters should be aware of where others are at all times.)

No, my friends, anybody trying to downplay this story is letting his or her partisan politics get in the way of an unbiased observation of the facts.

On top of that, admit it, to a degree it's simply entertaining as hell. Unless of course, you're the shooting victim. And it goes without saying that if the victim's health takes any further turns for the worse, this story quickly downgrades from being entertaining to simply being sad.

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News is defined as "the unusual."

Is there anything more unusual than this? I mean, on how many occasions in your lifetime has the vice president of the United States accidentally shot somebody?

Be an apologist if you prefer, but this story isn't going to fall out of public consciousness anytime soon. Don't forget, we haven't even yet heard from the victim, who reportedly will be hospitalized for another week. When he gives public comment, no matter how watered down his thoughts will be, this thing will be shoved right back into the limelight.

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From the Between the Lines email box: A reader has forwarded me a list of future headlines from the year 2029. Here are some of the highlights:

•Massachusetts executes last remaining conservative.

•Supreme Court rules punishment of criminals violates their civil rights.

•Congress authorizes direct deposit of illegal political contributions.

•Couple petitions court to reinstate heterosexual marriage.

(When hunting, you shouldn't swing on a bird if it gets too far to either side of you. But you can always flip Ivan Foley the bird via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

Bullets already flying at Cowboy Klindt; There's a heavy load on local wheels of justice

Posted 2/10/06

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, age 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, he would say: 'Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait.'" Kevin turned to his younger brother and said: "Ryan, you be Jesus."

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It sure hasn't taken long for former Congressman Sam Graves' staffer and Landmark friend Jason Klindt to shake up the liberals in his new home state of Montana.

As we told you here a couple of weeks ago in an exclusive piece of journalism goodness later picked up and dispatched across these great United States by a news agency known as the Associated Press, Jason Klindt left Graves' staff after three years on the job to accept the position of director of communications for the reelection campaign of U.S. Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. Klindt's arrival in the land that time forgot, which I picture occurred with him carrying a six shooter while riding atop a white horse, has prompted the Montana libs to shake in their open-toed cowboy boots. Do a Google search on Klindt's name and you'll be able to read all kinds of Internet comments about him from liberal groups in Montana.

The Great Falls (Montana) Tribune, in addition to getting a comment or two from Klindt himself, called back to Missouri seeking some background info on our man Jason. They talked with two candidates who came up embarrassingly short in their efforts to unseat Congressman Graves in recent years. Here is an excerpt from that article in the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune. We'll pick it up midstream:

"Meanwhile, Burns' campaign has hired an out-of-state spokesman with a reputation as a political street fighter. Jason Klindt comes to Montana from Burns' home state of Missouri, where he worked for Republican Congressman Sam Graves.

'I'm very excited to be here," said Klindt, who is the second out-of-state operative hired recently by the Burns campaign. 'I think we're going to try to counter a very slick and aggressive media campaign by the Democrats that's full of smears and lies.'
But two Democrats who ran unsuccessfully against Graves in Missouri said the word 'aggressive' should be applied to Klindt.

'God help you guys,' said Cathy Rinehart, who ran against Graves in 2002 and accused Klindt of assault.

Both Rinehart and Charlie Broomfield, who ran against Graves in 2004, said Klindt startled them at campaign appearances by leaping at them and taking photographs and then melting back into the crowd.

'He came up to me in the middle of the night—it was cold, it was dark, it was icy—and he flashed a camera within a foot of my face,' Broomfield said. 'I talked to the prosecutors, and I could have brought charges. And today, I wish I had.'

Both Broomfield and Rinehart said they called police about Klindt, and Rinehart actually filed a complaint, but nothing came of it, she said."

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Wow, there you have it. Jason Klindt once assaulted Charlie Broomfield with a flash bulb. Wonder if Charlie is still seeing spots.

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Don't laugh, I suppose burn by flash bulb can be a serious thing. Maybe Charlie's eyes show up red in all his pictures now.

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Between the Lines has learned that in a separate incident on another dark, cold, icy night, Klindt assaulted Broomfield by frowning at him. Prosecutors briefly considered charging Klindt with hurting Broomfield's feelings but were themselves frightened by his steely gaze.

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In his final days here before heading off to Montana, friends and co-workers of Klindt presented him with a cowboy hat at a going-away party held at the Power Plant Restaurant and Brewery in Parkville. Klindt is getting good use out of the gift, he told me in an email this week, adding:

"You will be proud to know that I am wearing my hat, have cowboy boots and a belt. I'm like John Wayne, but less attractive to women."

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A Jan. 23 Kansas City Star article detailed how a Jackson County legislator, Sen. Matt Bartle, is proposing a bill that would create a new judgeship position for Jackson County at the Independence courthouse. That article talked about an alleged heavy caseload in Jackson County as the reason another judge is needed there. Jackson County has a caseload of 3,200 cases per judge.

This had to be curious news to circuit court judges in Platte County. There is no public outcry for adding another judge to the bench here in Platte, even though the caseload significantly exceeds the caseload per judge in Jackson County. Platte County courts handle about 3,800 cases per judge, the highest number of cases per judge in the state and 600 more per judge than Jackson County.

So, how does Platte County do it without a cry for more judges and without complaints of a heavy backlog of cases? That's a question I posed this week to Platte County Associate Circuit Judge Gary Witt.

"Mostly we can keep up because we have a history of all of our judges getting along very well and working very closely together. If one judge is gone, others figure out a way to get that judge's docket heard in his absence," Witt said. "Our benches work together. No judge is too good or too bad to do any cases." As an example, Witt explained that Presiding Circuit Court Judge Owens Lee Hull has been known to come down to hear traffic cases in Witt's absence.

That doesn't mean Platte County will always be able to get by with five judges. It currently has three associate circuit judges in Witt, Daniel Czamanske, and Jim VanAmburg, and two circuit judges in Hull and Abe Shafer.

"Of course it will be up to the legislature, but it won't be too long before we're in need of one. Part of the problem is we don't have any (courthouse) space for one. We would need another courtroom and chambers," Witt explained.

For the record, circuit court judges are paid $108,000 per year.

(Ivan Foley is doing his part to relieve the local caseload by working hard to keep his ass out of court. Critique his efforts via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

The real numbers just don't support your local sheriff

Posted 2/2/06

When a government official doesn't get the dollar amount for salaries he requests, but still gets more than his department needed last year, is that a cut?

Not in my world. How about yours?

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Platte County Sheriff Richard Anderson claims those mean Platte County Commissioners have cut his budget to the point that it "signifies a setback in law enforcement to Platte County. The budget will have serious shortages to law enforcement. The number of arrests will go down, the number of drunk drivers arrested will go down."

But one month into the new budget year, it's hard to sympathize with the sheriff's attempts to send the public into a frenzy over the fact commissioners cut some individual salary lines in his budget. The human resources department at the county, which handles payroll disbursements, tells The Landmark the sheriff still has 121 employees. That's the most his department has ever had. In other words, one month into the tighter budget year, the sheriff has not needed to cut any staff. In fact, and this is a real kicker, not only has the sheriff not cut any staff, he in fact has authorized 2.5% cost of living increases to everyone in his department. Remember, the county commission funded 2.5% COLAs for employees who would remain after the alleged staff cuts.

As pointed out in the front page article, when the total payroll amount the sheriff spent in January is multiplied by 12 to acquire an estimated payroll dollar figure for the entire year, it still comes in under the total amount the commissioners have placed in his salary line.

The only sensible conclusion I can draw from this is apparently there really isn't a budget crisis in the sheriff's department. Apparently there was plenty of lard in the sheriff's budget last year, so much so that this year's "cuts" may not affect his staffing levels at all.

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So if he's not really feeling a staffing pinch, why is the sheriff so busy crying wolf to the local media and showing up on your TV set complaining about the alleged reductions in his staff?

My guess is that two things are at play here. No. 1, the sheriff has an FBI background. The FBI isn't used to being told no when it asks for increases in funds it says it needs to fight the bad guys. This rejection thing is new to the sheriff and he doesn't like it.

No. 2, I believe the sheriff isn't so much looking to win this battle. He might be looking to plant the seed for a whole different war of sorts. I believe the sheriff at some point will publicly pose the idea of a dedicated countywide sales tax for law enforcement, maybe a half cent sales tax that will bring in revenue to help get his department to the level he would like to see. All this rhetoric about an alleged budget crisis wreaking havoc upon his department (still fully staffed, where's the havoc?) is his way of prepping the public and fellow county officials for a proposal to call for a law enforcement tax.

Hmmm. Platte County already has one of the highest sales tax rates around. Will the public go for another tax? I'm getting way ahead of myself here, because obviously no proposal is on the table yet from the sheriff (his comments when I asked him about the topic are coming soon in this column, don't peek) but maybe, just maybe, if the county is willing to let that ridiculously greedy park sales tax fall off the books when it sunsets at the end of 2010 or early 2011, voters may look with an open mind at a law enforcement tax. If not, there will be a tough audience.

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So, what about it, sheriff, are you dreaming of a dedicated law enforcement tax for Platte County?

"I don't know enough about that process to even comment at this point. Even if I did, I would have to speak to the commissioners first before springing it on them in an article," the sheriff told me Tuesday.

"My thought at this point is there is a need to provide a fund, a stable, predictable, reliable fund that funds the general critical function of government. It's an important need in Platte County, however that is brought about."

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As more and more areas of the unincorporated parts of the county are annexed by cities, the geographical area for which the sheriff's department is responsible for patrolling gets smaller and smaller. Yet the sheriff's budget and his budget requests continue to grow. Sure there are expected expenses that will have an inflationary rise each year, but don't expect the leopard to change his spots. Anderson is a lifelong government employee, unlikely to ever become a leader in a tax-slashing movement designed to relieve the taxpayers of any unnecessary burden.

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The sheriff may regret that he has gone so public with his displeasure over this budget situation. As stated earlier, he has been all over the media claiming his department will have to cut 11 people in order to make his salary line work. I firmly believe a deeper look at the numbers we present in our front page article shows that the sheriff hasn't exactly been accurate with the claims he has been making in open meetings, on your television screen, and in other newspapers.

Facts can be stubborn things. The facts don't support any claims of devastation and a threat to public safety.

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Deep into the front page story on the sheriff's situation are some interesting quotes from commissioners and the sheriff over the sheriff's decision to pull the security checkpoint from the front of the administration building. Be sure to check those out for entertaining reading.

('Support Your Local Sheriff' is one of Ivan Foley's all time favorite Westerns. Though he doesn't support the sheriff's wild claims of budget death and dismemberment, he does support the fight against bad guys, especially any bad guys who want to take out their aggression against newspaper publishers. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


 

Expecting a change at NRAD; 'The Bachelor' leaving the Platte County area

Posted 1/27/06

Brace yourself. After two days of fighting a flu bug followed closely by two consecutive days of sinus-induced migraines, I'm penning what I'm sure would have otherwise normally been a classic column while hopped up on so much medication and Mountain Dew that it may cause my comments to be so severely scattered I'll make a Brian Kubicki column seem like lucid patterns of thought.

At least that's my story. And I'm sticking to it. For now.

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Pants.

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I'm not a betting man—wait, who am I kidding, yes I am—and my feeling is the odds are against Bill Bishop coming back as executive director at the local ambulance district (see front page story).

Yes, reading Between the Lines, I'll be surprised if Bill Bishop ever returns from his "administrative leave" with the Northland Regional Ambulance District. Why? At one point in a series of questions I posed this week, an official with NRAD told me they'll be sending out a press release in regard to the situation fairly soon.

Hmm. Think about it. Would there be a need to send out a press release that says: "Bill Bishop has returned from his administrative leave."

No, I would anticipate the press release will detail how NRAD and Bishop have parted ways. No confirmations, just an educated guess at this point.

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NRAD has some sales pitching (that's probably not acceptable grammar, but I'm medicated and it's deadline time so please forgive me, I know not what I do) to undertake if it hopes to pass its tax levy question this spring. A 10-cent levy question took a beating last August. So what do you do when a 10 cent increase gets kicked to the curb by voters in August? Well, isn't it obvious. . . you turn around and ask for a 15-cent increase in April.

Not sure that makes a lot of public relations sense, but again, I'm heavily medicated right now.

Read about the most recent audit report on our front page and you can see the district has a need to take care of some in-house financial operations before it can truly hope to gain the financial trust of voters. NRAD officials say appropriate steps for improved operations and a tighter ship are being taken. I'm just not sure there's enough time to gain the voters' confidence in time for the spring vote.

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Sphincter.

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Sticky note attached to my computer monitor Wednesday morning:

"Ivan: Chip Sherman called, 7:58 a.m. He said there isn't any big news.--Cindy."

There's the latest update in our weekly Chip Sherman watch.

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There's an idea for a new feature. . . .I'll start printing the contents of every sticky note left on my desk.

This could be dangerously fun.

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Don't hate the player, hate the game.

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One of The Landmark's favorite people in the political biz is leaving. Jason Klindt, director of communications for Congressman Sam Graves the past three years, has accepted a position as director of communications for the reelection campaign of U.S. Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. Klindt starts Monday in Billings, Montana, where his home for now will be a Super 8.

"I'm not sure how they found me," Klindt told me, saying he was called out of the blue by the Burns people. His primary job for Burns will be to "remind voters what the senator has done for the state of Montana." Burns has served three terms as senator and is seeking his fourth. The senator is originally from Gallatin, Mo., Klindt said.

"I'll miss getting to work with someone who is such good public servant as Sam Graves. No one represents constituents better or does a better job of getting out and understanding the problems and challenges of his district like Sam Graves does," Klindt said Wednesday morning.

He'll also miss Platte County. "Platte County has become my second home. I really have enjoyed the people, the places and certainly The Landmark in my time here and I'll miss all of those things," he said.

It wouldn't be appropriate for him to be a clown in his dealings as a spokesman for a congressman, so Klindt often hides his keen sense of humor. We've had a lot of fun with him at various functions and on his drop-in visits to the newspaper.. He was annually a special guest at our Christmas party, is considered the kid brother I never had, and we even dubbed the 28-year-old as Platte County's Most Eligible Bachelor.

His message to the ladies he leaves behind? "They had their opportunity and now hearts are breaking all across Platte County," he said with just a hint of sarcasm.
But in this topsy-turvy world in which we live, never say never. Klindt is leaving the door ever-so-slightly ajar for a return. "Maybe it's in the cards that I'll get to live in Platte County again someday. So maybe this isn't goodbye but just see ya later."

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Be sure to check out our new columnist on page B-3.

(Ivan Foley has secretly wanted to live the life of political high roller Jason Klindt. Comfort the columnist at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Liberal reaction is entertaining;
and Kearney's take
on the Sherman rumors

Posted 1/19/06

I have a confession to make.

In the aftermath of the Platte County Commission's recent decision to cut spending rather than to raise taxes, I must admit I have found myself being entertained by the reaction of the bureaucrats and liberals in the county administration building and the media.

Along with Landmark journalism diva Kim Fickett, I sat through an hour and a half of complaining from at least three officeholders who are still smarting over not getting all the bells and whistles they wanted in their 2006 budget. Again, nobody with a heart likes to see another person's job get cut. But there is a responsibility issue at play here, and this county commission met its responsibility to taxpayers by holding the line on the tax levy and making expenses balance with revenues. In the process, 13 county staff positions will be affected either by elimination or reduction from full to part time.

It doesn't sit well with officeholders who have come to expect a little fat in their budgets. One officeholder has even admitted that during budget talks with the county commission, officeholders actually consider their requests "wish lists." This is an indication they're typically asking for funding over and above the amount they truly believe is necessary to run their departments.

The commission's recent action sends a message. Times have changed at the administration building. If an officeholder is asking for potatoes and gravy but it can be proven the department can operate effectively and efficiently on potatoes alone, then potatoes without gravy is what you're going to get.

When tax revenues are flat, there should be no complaining when "wish lists" are not met. That's the bottom line.

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Second District County Commissioner Jim Plunkett made a great point this week. Plunkett pointed out the county's budget is up $5 million over the past five years; obviously that's equal to $1 million per year increase in spending. And some bureaucrats apparently feel an increase of a million bucks a year in spending still isn't enough.

In the interest of the taxpayer, at some point the line has to be drawn. Enough has to become enough. Wish lists need to get tossed. Excess staff has to be cut. It's the only way government spending will ever be brought under control.
From a taxpayer's point of view, if we can't get this accomplished at the local level, how can we ever expect it to be accomplished at the federal level?

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If taxes and tax breaks are of interest to you, be sure to read the article entitled "'More fair' plan in place for paying off new bridge" on page A-3. Tucked inside this article you'll get an explanation as to how the cost of the new Humphrey's bridge will be spread over road-tax collecting entities in the county, instead of just coming from county road district No. 1 (Platte County Public Works).

It also explains how previously, taxpayers all across the county were footing the bill for development incentives known as TIFS in place in Kansas City, Parkville and Riverside. Now, those entities awarding TIFS will see the TIF payments come out of their own personal share of road tax funds instead of coming off the top of gross road tax collections.

It's the only fair way to do it. As an entity, if you give the TIF, you pay the cost of the tax break. Sounds right to me.

Platte City residents need to take note that this means the City of Platte City's road tax collections will be used to make the TIF payments for the Shoppes at North Gate when it gets rolling.

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In terms of volume, he never seems to have much to say, but Parkville Police Chief Bill Hudson is becoming one of my favorite interviews for the way he says simple things in a homespun way. In describing the incident last week where a man threatened to have explosives at Park University (in a story that first appeared on our web site last week and is on page A-6 of this issue), Hudson said "a strange fellow wandered in and made himself at home in the president's office."

That may not sound like an exciting use of terminology to you, but keep in mind most law enforcement agencies would have given me a statement like this: "A male subject appeared and while in the office of the president. . . ".

With Hudson, I got: "A strange fellow wondered in and made himself at home." In the sometimes mundane world of fact gathering, Hudson's homespun style tickled my ribs.

While on the same topic, Hudson followed that up with this quote at the Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night: "The man had taken a shine to one of the women who worked for the university."

Taken a shine? I love it. I haven't heard that phrase since watching the old Hee Haw TV show back in the 70s.

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Here's the skinny on the continuing "will he go or will he stay?" saga of Platte County Pirate Chip Sherman's flirtation with other high school football coaching jobs.

Sherman did interview with Kearney last week. He is interested in the job. Kearney lists him as a candidate, but it's not a done deal.

"It's still a wide open proposition," Chris Belcher, superintendent of schools at Kearney, told me Wednesday morning. "No offers have been made. We're very pleased with the quality of candidates we had apply."

Belcher said Kearney will be interviewing eight candidates for its open spot. Four of them, including Sherman, are current head coaches.

"We have three more interviews this week. We will finish the interview process on Friday," Belcher said. A decision could be reached in a couple of weeks, if not sooner, he indicated, but emphasized even at that he's not sure when an announcement would be made. The school board won't meet again until sometime in February. "Timing is always critical to do it appropriately and professionally," Belcher remarked.

Belcher said a Kearney publication has indicated the job is Sherman's. "It's not a done deal and that's far from the truth at this point," he told me, before adding: "Over the years, Chip has always had an interest in Kearney. His interest has been there awhile."

(Reach Ivan Foley via email at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


State rep race already getting rolling; and is Elvis on the county payroll?

Posted 1/12/06

Here we go with another week of random notes, quotes and sometimes meaningless chatter while wondering what in the world Platte County Auditor Sandra Thomas thought she would gain—either politically or professionally—by her failure to have a statutorily required budget document available to the public at the time she had publicly pledged.

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Best of luck to Chip Sherman, the highly successful Platte County Pirate football coach since 1988, wherever he decides to coach next season.

Sherman dropped by The Landmark Tuesday afternoon to chat and we reflected on the changes that have taken place both at the school and here at the newspaper since the first time we met 18 years ago.

"Back then you were the sports editor, the entertainment editor and the front page guy," he reminded me. "Times change, huh?"

Yes. And I had more hair back then.

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Sherman expects a decision on his future within the next week. His flirtations with and job offers from Shawnee Mission Northwest on the Kansas side and Class 4A Kearney in Missouri have become very public knowledge.

Though he emphasized nothing is concrete, my feeling after our conversation is that he is leaning toward coaching somewhere other than Platte County next year. . . it might just be a matter of finalizing where that "somewhere else" will be.

Check out the interview he had with Landmark journalism diva Kim Fickett this week and see if you read his comments the same way.

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Wow, is there some competition among the various Platte County Republican clubs or what?

As reported here recently, the newly-formed Pachyderm Club has already grown to be the ninth ranked club in America as far as number of memberships at 122. Apparently this caught the eye of the folks in the Platte Republican Association (PRA), because turnout for the PRA's First Friday event at Houlihans Restaurant was a whopping 65-70. That's about three times more than normal for First Friday, and more than the 45 or so the Pachyderm Club had for its First Thursday gathering last week.

There is at least one drawback to the increased crowd. I arrived at Houlihans about 6 p.m, about 30 minutes into the hour and a half event and by that time the appetizer trays had been cleaned out by hungry attendees who were more prompt than your favorite publisher.

So for my $5 entry fee I gained only the opportunity to hear speakers Rob Willard and John DeStefano espouse thoughts and feelings about their upcoming primary battle for the 32nd District State Representative race. The 32nd district serves southern Platte County. Current rep for that area, Susan Phillips, is prohibited from seeking reelection due to term limits.

Acoustic quality in the meeting room provided to the club wasn't the best (to be more exact. . .it sucked) so I couldn't catch every word that was said. Willard's speaking voice boomed more loudly than DeStefano's, so I can better report upon what the assistant Platte County prosecutor had to say. Much of what I heard struck home with me and reinforced comments made in this column space.

Willard said he believes government should focus on basic priorities such as education, infrastructure and public safety. "Everybody else has to get in line," he said. He carried it a step further, bringing up the issue of state government getting involved in funding stadium improvements to places like Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadium, which house the Chiefs and Royals, respectively.

"I'm a Chiefs fan like everybody else. But Mr. Hunt (owner of the Chiefs) and Mr. Glass (owner of the Royals) are going to have to get in line. And frankly, they have to get to the back of the line."

Amen.

Not sure how those comments impacted State Sen. Charlie Shields, who was in the audience. Shields has a cozy relationship with the Chiefs and has been a proponent of state funds going toward stadium improvements.

******

While Willard and DeStefano battle it out for the Republican nomination for the 32nd District State Representative position, waiting for them on the Democratic ticket in the general election will be Jason Grill, who lost an extremely close race to Phillips two years ago.

Grill is getting into fundraising gear. He'll host an event Monday night at Tomfooleries in Zona Rosa. People from all over the Kansas City metro area are getting together to watch the first MU-KU basketball game of the year on ESPN's Big Monday. Co-hosting the event with Grill will be Jared Welch, a Democratic candidate for the 30th District state representative post currently held by Jason Brown of Platte City.

"It is a fundraiser, but there is no charge for the event. We would like to raise money, but at the same time build interest and a buzz about the two state rep races," Grill told me recently. "We believe both elections will be close in 2006. We're trying to do something different from your typical political fundraiser. I think everyone in attendance will have a good time."

The Grill-Welch event starts at 5:30 p.m. Tipoff for the basketball game is 6 p.m.

******

That lifesized cardboard cutout of Elvis Presley you'll see pictured with Platte County Recorder Ida Cox in this issue has ties to The Landmark.

The cardboard Elvis, who is volunteering his time to work in Cox's office after recent budget cuts, spent the last few years of his life tucked away in a Landmark closet. He ended up with us after Ida brought him as her date to a Landmark Christmas party held in our upstairs in 2001 or 2002.

We never got a nickel's worth of work out of him here. . . and the jelly doughnuts always seemed to disappear.

(Send your thoughts on county budget cuts or Elvis cutouts to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Here is fiscal conservatism at work as commissioners make the right call

Posted 1/5/06

As a taxpayer, I love it when a government agency is managed like a private business. It doesn't happen often, which I guess is why I find this week's action by the Platte County Commission so refreshing.

I've often expressed the following commentary in this column space and I'll do it again. Government is too big. Government offices are overstaffed. In the world of government, bigger doesn't mean better. More staff doesn't always mean better customer service. Having excessive staff on the governmental payroll doesn't do the public any favors.

With revenues less than previously expected, Commissioners Jim Plunkett, Tom Pryor and Betty Knight had some tough choices to make. The county will face increases in costs in areas such as liability insurance, workers' compensation and health insurance. It is also believed that costs will rise in other areas over which the county has no control, such as utilities, for instance. (Have you checked your home heating bill lately? Imagine the utility costs on county buildings).

Commissioners are obligated to make expenses balance with revenues. They did it by cutting back on excessive staff. Nobody likes to see another member of the American work force lose a job or be cut from full time to part time. But accepting a position in a government office is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. When revenues aren't keeping up with expenses, the taxpayers are not obligated to pony up more cash just so Suzy Secretary or Checkpoint Chuck can keep their jobs if the revenue isn't there to fund those positions. It's not a personal decision, it's a business decision.

Taxpayers will appreciate it. Liberals and lovers of big government will see it as a crime. Any liberal who previously claimed not to understand the definition of fiscal conservatism should understand it now. The decisions made by the commissioners are fiscal conservatism in action, my friend.

Did I mention how refreshing this is?

These kinds of cutbacks and tough financial decisions happen in private business all the time. Normally in government, when posed with the question of whether to increase revenue (that means increasing your taxes) or to decrease expenditures, too often the choice is made to increase revenue (that means increasing your taxes).

I praise the current county commission for taking the road less traveled. Did I mention how refreshing this is?

The tax-and-spend crowd is up in arms. The liberal media will be up in arms. One liberal scribe already made this comment within earshot: "If the county commission knew they were going to look at eliminating jobs, why didn't they raise the tax levy?"
Hello. County officials' first responsibility is to make wise spending decisions with hard-earned tax dollars. Their priority should not be to guarantee jobs to loyal cronies, jobs that I think you'll see the county can operate quite effectively without.

I've covered Platte County government for 23 years and have never seen a step as bold as this one. I applaud commission newcomers Jim Plunkett and Tom Pryor, and holdover Betty Knight who has jumped aboard the fiscal conservatism bandwagon. In recent years as county revenues skyrocketed, so did county expenses. Offices that formerly worked with an officeholder and one or two other staffers suddenly had three or four. The county commission's office staff and expenditures from 1994 to last year grew at a rapid pace. The sheriff's budget in the past decade has grown at an enormous rate. The auditor's office staff has grown, the treasurer's office staff has grown, among others. Was the staff growth out of a true and consistent need? I have my doubts. In my opinion, some of the positions being eliminated were only there because of officeholders who are not around to put in a full 40 hour work week.

When 2006 is done, what I think you'll see is that the county will have operated just fine with these staff reductions. The general public will not see a drop off in customer service. The lives of Platte Countians will not be placed in an unnecessary risk due to the fact the sheriff's salary line item has been cut by 5%.

The belief here is that the county officeholders will survive Black Tuesday just fine.

Taxpayers will appreciate walking into some county offices and seeing all employees hard at work. If upset officeholders truly will have their staffs stressed to the max with this reduced salary budget, as some of them are saying, there should never be a time when the public walks into a county office to find employees playing computer games or engaging in needless socializing.

******

Since The Landmark was the only media outlet in attendance at Tuesday's officeholders meeting during which the staff reductions were announced, you're going to get information here you won't get anywhere else. Information such as which officeholders were the most shocked by the news, which ones displayed a liberal tax-and-spend attitude, etc.

The reactions of three officeholders stood out to me. Auditor Sandra Thomas, whose office staff had grown to the level of two full time employees plus the auditor herself, was obviously taken aback by the news. This comes as interesting since the auditor for years has painted herself as a conservative. Apparently it's okay to be conservative with other offices, but when the county commission wants to get conservative with the auditor's budget, that's not a good thing. Thomas' staff will be cut from 2 full timers down to one full time and one part time. If I'm in Thomas' chair, I'm feeling lucky the cuts weren't deeper. They could--and likely should--have been.

Treasurer Bonnie Brown revealed a definite tax-and-spend attitude. Brown said she would rather raise taxes than cut what basically are questionably-needed positions. Hmmm. That's a bureaucratic attitude that will not be embraced by a majority of taxpayers.

And of course Sheriff Dick Anderson never met a public dollar he wouldn't spend. I like Anderson as a person. We've had our disagreements on issues over the past 10 years, but it's always stayed professional. Anderson lambasted the previous county commission for never, in his opinion, giving him enough money to run his sheriff's department. Now he's upset with the current commission for the same alleged crime. Anderson, who retired from the FBI before being elected sheriff, has spent his adult life on the government's payroll. He has made a career out of collecting and spending public money. Those types of folks typically don't value a public dollar on the same level as Joe Taxpayer.

(Try to slash Ivan Foley's budget via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


For columns from 2005.

 


 

   

 

ivan@plattecountylandmark.com