SAFE TRAFFIC FLOW DOES NOT REQUIRE A BUNCH OF CAR STOPS
Platte City will keep its current headquarters for the local popo at Fourth and Main, at least for a couple more years, while efforts to find a new police headquarters building and/or construct a new building get rolling.
There’s your police facility update for now. But what about the department as a whole since the recent hiring of Joe Wellington as new chief? Glad you asked. Here are some words from Wellington, as written in a report to aldermen in conjunction with the most recent public safety subcommittee meeting.
“We are continuing to evaluate the department as a whole, with the goal of providing excellent service to the community while becoming more efficient,” Wellington says. “The booking procedures have been streamlined for city charges and the warrant procedure is being reviewed as well. Some procedures are court mandated and that is being discussed with Jennifer Fain (of the city attorney’s office).”
I like Platte City’s approach to traffic enforcement and traffic flow. That approach involves fewer car stops. Here are some comments from the new chief about that.
“Traffic enforcement actions continue to trend well below prior results without having a negative impact on the volume of motor vehicle crashes,” Wellington said.
The numbers show traffic stops in Platte City are down 31 percent compared to this time in 2018. Traffic citations are down 26 percent and warning citations are down 48 percent.
The folks at a place called QuoteWizard by Lending Tree have ranked the fittest and fattest states in America. Our apparently skinny friends at QuoteWizard say Missouri is ranked number 42, in other words Missouri is considered one of the most overweight states.
So basically they’re calling us a bunch of fatties. Sticks and stones, you guys, sticks and stones. I for one will not be intimidated. Pass me that slab of ribs.
Mississippi, Kentucky and Texas were ranked as the top three fattest states. Of course, Texas. They say everything’s bigger in Texas, which is probably just a myth pushed by Texas cowboys.
Tutera will open a $55 million state of the art senior living community at Tiffany Springs. And 55 million sounds like a lot of cash until you realize it’s still $10 million less than the county commission wanted to spend to double the capacity of a jail that’s not full.
We’ve been sprinkling in some good ideas for summertime fun in various articles in your Landmark the past few weeks and will continue to do so, including a list of the Zona Rosa free summer concert series, promoting the recent Wings Over Weston, and this week the focus is on Weston winemaking and the Weston WineFest set for Saturday.
Oh, and don’t forget Fox4 will be doing its morning show in downtown Weston this Friday.
Weston is a good day trip anytime, but the town really gets to hopping the days of special events like WineFest.
Speaking of day trips, your Between the Lines travel writer recently took a Saturday afternoon excursion to check out downtown Excelsior Springs. Here is my review: Don’t waste your time.
Speaking of travel advice, the website known as GasBuddy has ranked the cleanest gas station restrooms in each state. Who gets top ranking in Missouri? You might guess QuikTrip. You would be wrong. Ranked as the place with the cleanest gas station restrooms in Missouri are those Hy-Vee fuel stations.
There’s knowledge you can use on your next road trip.
There will be a free concert series on the front lawn of the Platte County Courthouse again this summer. Look for some musical acts in that location the second Saturday of June, July and August. The musical fun runs from 7-9 p.m.
Landmark Live, the videocast you can find on our Facebook page at Platte County Landmark, returns this week. You don’t have to watch but it’d sure be cool if you did.
This Thursday night’s show will feature my co-host Brad Carl and I talking, well, talking insurance and the insurance biz with the always-fun Brandon Tritten and other good folks from JBLB Insurance. JBLB is the former Olin Miller Insurance Agency, across from The Landmark office in beautiful downtown Platte City.
Tune in for an update on the new peeps and some insights into the business of insurance. You might think insurance doesn’t send chills down your spine but hold on. Office manager Cindy Rinehart says Brad and I have a knack for making any topic weird. I think she meant that as a criticism but we took it as a compliment.
Then next Thursday, May 23 the Landmark Live goes on the road for a live broadcast from what the hotel folks are calling “Party on the Patio” at the KCI Marriott. Please send good thoughts and positive vibes to the innocent souls with the Marriott, they know not what they do. Apparently somebody at the Marriott once said “we wish you guys would do a Landmark Live here sometime.” Be careful what you wish for. On that night, my long lost pal Chris Kamler and I will be reuniting on camera for the first time in several months. I don’t wanna say things will get wild but Chris and I will be snorting Smarties and throwing back pink lemonade shooters.
(More Between the Lines can be found on Facebook at Platte County Landmark, on Twitter @ivanfoley or catch up with Foley on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email email@example.com)
TV SHOWS, ELECTRIC CARS, BANKING NEWS AND A PARKS TAX SQUEEZE
This issue officially marks the start of The Landmark’s 155th year of weekly publication. This newspaper has never missed a week of hitting the streets with the local news even through times of war, weather, staff sickness, mechanical challenges, etc. Kind of mind boggling when you stop to think about it. Some details on The Landmark’s long history can be found in a story that starts on the front page.
It would be easier to write a column if the words didn’t have to make sense.
I spent an hour on the treadmill last night. Next time I might plug it in.
If you’re looking for a little excitement in person or maybe parked in front of your television set, the Fox4 morning show will be making a couple of appearances in our area. The Fox4 morning crew of Mark Alford, Abby Eden, Nick Vasos and company will be in Weston next Friday, May 17. Then the Fox4 crew will be back in this neck of the woods to do a show in Platte City on Friday, July 26.
Meanwhile if you want some fake TV, Landmark Live will be back on your computer and cell phone screens very soon. We’re strapping on our fanny packs and taking this sideshow on the road. We’ve been invited out to do shows from JBLB Insurance Group in Platte City and also from the KCI Marriott later this month. Details coming soon on our Facebook page at Platte County Landmark.
Got an electric car? Here’s a jolt for you.
According to the folks at City Hall in Platte City, Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative has signaled its intention to install what would be the first electric vehicle (EV) charging station in the city. It appears Platte-Clay will place the charging station at the Platte City branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library, in the library’s west parking lot. No word yet on the time frame for installation. Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt said he salutes PCEC and the cooperation of the library “in making this major step toward encouraging EV opportunities for our citizens.” The city will hold a ribbon cutting and photo op at the charging station when things are ready to get electrified.
Let’s break some news from inside the local banking industry.
Word has been circulating on the street--and it’s good word, as I’ve confirmed it with sources in a position to know--that Central Bank of the Midwest is going through all the necessary application and regulatory approval process as it intends to acquire BankLiberty.
I’m told Central Bank of the Midwest’s planned acquisition would be of the entire BankLiberty system in the Northland, including of course the local branch in Platte City. If the application and all the regulatory stuff proceeds without a hitch, the ownership change is expected by year’s end, if not before.
Do you travel on 72nd Street near I-29 in Platte County? You’re about to notice some likely irritation followed by better traffic flow. The City of Kansas City will be improving 72nd Street from I-29 east to Overland Drive. That’s a mile long stretch of roadway to undergo about $3.7 million worth of improvements.
The work will include widening of the traffic lanes, installing some turning lanes, new storm sewers, new water line, lighting, and pavement markings. “It’s a pretty straightforward project,” Bob Heim, public works director for Platte County, told me.
The improvements should help improve traffic flow through that stretch, which has a tendency to bottleneck at certain times of the day. Roughly $1.3 million of the $3.7 million will come from Kansas City’s portion of Platte County’s 3/8th cent road sales tax revenue. Around $2.3 million is put forth by the City of Kansas City, with some of that being reimbursed by a federal grant, Heim explained. “It’s a big money shuffle,” he said.
A groundbreaking for the project is planned later this month. It is anticipated a majority of the improvement work will be completed this construction season, though some final touch-ups could spill into 2020.
So, with the half cent county park tax set to expire at the end of 2020, when is the county commission planning to put a renewal of some type on the ballot? That question was asked by David Park, community activist and avid parks supporter, of the commission during Monday’s meeting. He addressed the question openly to all three commissioners. It was interesting to see that John Elliott, second district commissioner, was the commissioner who spoke in response. Take that as an indication that Elliott is the commissioner who is calling the shots on this topic.
Elliott spoke very slowly and while looking down. It almost appeared as if he was reading portions of his answer from prepared notes, likely realizing the question was soon to come up after the recent pounding of the jail sales tax.
“I would assume that will be sometime next year,” Elliott began. “We’ve employed a financial advisor to help us figure out what the proper tax structure is for the county that will appropriately fund our core county functions, and of course the first of those is law and order, our sheriff’s department, our prosecutor and our courts,” he said. Insert kind of a strange long pause here. “But until that work is done we’re not prepared to say when something will be on the ballot.”
Park pushed the issue a bit more: “You’re looking also at property taxes for a restructure?” he asked.
Elliott then brought up the pending lawsuit over the Zona Rosa bonds, in which the county is asking the court to rule that county taxpayers will not legally be on the hook to cover the one percent Zona sales tax revenue shortage to make payments on the Zona Rosa bonds. “No. Well, yes and no. Until we know about Zona Rosa we’ll not know about what our property taxes will look like. Because if we lose that deal then property taxes are going to have to be doubled just to make the payment.”
I’ve mentioned in this column previously that it seems obvious the county commission’s intent is to put a significantly reduced park sales tax on the ballot as late as possible, as close to the 2020 sunset as possible, with the intent being to squeeze parks supporters. With that late timing the commission will try to corner park supporters into voting in favor of reducing the current half cent park tax to an eighth or quarter cent sales tax. The commission will make it clear that park supporters have the option to approve the reduced park tax prior to the sunset or the entire tax will go away.
So park supporters need to be putting some pressure on county officials to bring a ballot question to voters as early as possible. That won’t be anytime in 2019, according to Elliott.
“Is it safe to say you’ll have nothing on the ballot in 2019?” Park asked. “That’s a safe assumption,” Elliott responded.
(Get more from the publisher on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
LET'S NOT CLOSE OUR MINDS TO THIS PICKLEBALL THING
How about a little of this and a little of that as we roll ourselves through another week?
Are you or anyone you know interested in buying a fancy glass building near the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City? If so, contact the Kansas City Star. It seems the Star’s press pavilion located at 1501-1649 McGee Street is in need of a buyer. The glass production facility, with eight floors above ground and one below, is on the market. Asking price? A cool $31 million.
Thirty one million sounds like a lot of cash until you realize it’s only about half the amount the Platte County commissioners were wanting to spend on a new jail. (Still blows your mind, doesn’t it?)
The Star press pavilion was constructed to house the newspaper operation’s presses and other related printing facilities. Remember the terrible timing? The building went up just as the economy was crashing and things were about to take a sharp southerly turn for the daily newspaper biz. The unique-looking glass building was designed for printing presses, not as office space for editors and reporters and such, but times have changed and there have been major cutbacks at the Star. I recently asked Hearne Christopher, a Landmark contributing columnist who years ago was the most well-read columnist in the Star, where the Star staffers are operating now.
“They are indeed located in a little annex in the glass printing press pavilion, carved out on the southwest corner. It was never intended to serve as an office but they made it work,” Hearne says.
More information about the status of the Star press pavilion was gleaned recently from David Hudnall, editor of the Pitch. In a blog posting, Hudnall wrote:
“I've long assumed the Star's big, green printing plant downtown will eventually be sold and converted into luxury lofts called ‘The Newsroom’ or something, and it appears that day is drawing closer. The building is on the market for $31 million, though any deal would require retaining the Star as a tenant on a long-term lease.”
A couple of things here. Hudnall describes it as green glass. Others describe it as blue glass. Properly identifying colors is often out of my comfort zone so I will defer to those more skilled at it than I.
Also interesting is that if you purchase the building for $31 million apparently you still have to retain the Star as a tenant. Not sure how that would work if someone really wanted to convert that huge collection of glass into luxury lofts, but I guess anything is possible.
Meanwhile in Platte County, The Landmark continues to hum along in its 1869 building that the newspaper has called home since 1899 in downtown Platte City.
I did perform a slight but somewhat exciting renovation project in here on Saturday. I wanted to move my desk about four inches to the west, just to keep my wheeled chair from often rolling onto an un-level section of flooring. In order to move this monster-sized old desk by myself without straining my milk, I had to first pull out a double sized drawer packed with about 37 years worth of files.
When I pulled out that drawer its wooden bottom collapsed, which made me say a word not fit to print. It also was a sign it was time to get rid of many of those old files. Which I did. But only after spending too much time reading and reminiscing about some of the old local news topics those files contained.
Once I get started reading about past local events it’s tough for me to stop. If you’re a history buff you can relate. If not, you’re wondering what kind of a nut does that. On a Saturday afternoon, no less.
I must ask, what is this pickleball thing of which you speak? Admittedly, I used to chuckle at the mere mention of the name but now I’m reaching the curious stage.
You hear about folks of all ages playing it. The internet says anyone from age eight to 80 can play, so most of us fit into the target demographic. There’s even a place in North Kansas City called Chicken N Pickle that has gained in popularity, known as being a unique spot for food and fun. I’ve yet to patronize the place but I take a long gander at it every time I drive by. It’s reported to be a wood-clad, chicken-centric joint with a patio, rooftop bar and pickleball courts. I like chicken, I like patios and I like rooftop bars, so even if it turns out I don’t like pickleball the place is still hitting three out of four for me.
So what is pickleball? Leave it to a highly trained investigative journalist like myself to get to the bottom of this. Thankfully the internet is a wonderful thing. I’m starting to think the internet might just catch on. Thank you, Al Gore.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net. A pickleball game is normally played to 11 points and must be won by 2. You can only score a point while serving. The serve must be hit with an underhand swinging motion and the ball contacted below the hips. When hitting the serve, the server must be behind the baseline and serve into the adjacent service box as is done in tennis. You only get one serve, kids, and if the ball is hit out of the court, into the net or into the no-volley zone (also called the kitchen) it is a side out. The center line, side lines and baselines are considered “in” on a serve but if the ball lands on the no-volley line it is a side out. If the ball hit the net and goes into the service box it is a “let” and the server maintains the serve. You only score points while serving.
Those are the basics. Color me intrigued. Sounds like something we can somehow incorporate into a future Landmark Live. Stay tuned.
(Talk pickleball with Foley via email to email@example.com or track him down on Twitter @ivanfoley or on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
PLATTE COUNTY R-3 TARGETING 2021 FOR NEXT BOND ISSUE
Back at the Between the Lines grind while wondering what borderline insane proposal the Platte County Commission will come up with next.
The best sleeping occurs on nights when you don’t have to run either the furnace or the air conditioner, would you agree? In other words, we’ve had some decent sleeping weather lately. My eyes are getting heavy just thinking about it.
Back to the Platte County Commission for just a moment. After I jokingly commented that I’m kind of missing writing about a nutty $65 million jail tax idea every week, I received this advice from a friend: “Just sit tight. They’ll pull another crazy-ass stunt if you lighten up.”
You may have heard the NFL draft is later this week. Oh wow, someone hold me till the storm passes.
I love NFL football but I don’t get the in-depth fascination so many diehards have with the draft. Yawn.
I’d rather watch grass grow. Or soccer. Sorry, sometimes I get those two confused.
After meeting for a little more than two years, a long range facility planning committee for the Platte County R-3 School District has come up with a final recommendation it will present to the R-3 board of education soon. The planning committee included some R-3 staff members and some members of the community, though it is clear some community participants stopped going to the meetings. Speculation is a good number of the community participants casually dropped out of the process after coming to the conclusion the plans are drafted by the school’s administration and the “committee” is simply a smokescreen to steer the board under the mask it was community input that drove the plan.
Anyway, here is what we know at this point. The long range plan is for a bond issue for facility improvements to be placed in front of R-3 voters in the spring of 2021, so roughly two years from now. School officials are emphasizing that 2021 is a potentially moving target, and that target can be adjusted at any point based on an annual review of conditions that include relevant growth, financial and facility data.
A letter from Jay Harris, executive director of operations for the Platte County R-3 School District, says that the committee will recommend these items to be included in the district’s next bond issue:
•A new 600-student middle school located on the district’s 80-acre property at Hwy. 152 and Platte Purchase Road (with the potential for this building to be expanded to an 800-student building in future years).
•The conversion of Pathfinder Elementary and Barry School to kindergarten-fifth grade elementary schools.
•The next phase of Platte County High School’s master plan renovations. Details of areas to be renovated will be determined after a design review process with architect/engineering team.
•Districtwide upgrades with the primary focus on safety/security improvements and technology enhancements.
The 2021 projected timeline “is contingent upon our growth projections and financial analysis remaining consistent with our current information, and is intended to be a no tax levy increase bond issue,” Harris writes in his letter.
Harris notes that district leadership along with Long-Range Facility Plan Task Force members will conduct an annual review of conditions to determine if any adjustments to this plan are warranted. The indication is the annual review process will consist of two meetings, one in November and one in March, to review relevant information.
Thank you to those who continue to tune in for our Landmark Live escapades. For the uninitiated, Landmark Live is a videocast my buddy Brad Carl and I do via our Facebook page. And if you haven’t yet hit “like” on The Landmark’s Facebook page, you need to go do that right now. Find us by searching Platte County Landmark on Facebook.
We’re tickled pink that Landmark Live, which was launched in September of 2017, continues to attract viewers. Recently in reviewing the analytics provided to us by Facebook, we’ve noticed a subtle change in the demographics of our viewers. For the first 15 months of Landmark Live, our viewership was dominated by the female gender, with numbers most often around 65% female, 35% male.The female audience rarely went lower than 60%. Who knows exactly why. Could be the topics. Brad and I like to think it’s because of the sex appeal of the hosts.
But recently female-male numbers have started to change a bit. We’ve done seven episodes thus far in 2019 and have noticed a growing number of men are starting to tune in. Hi guys, welcome to the party, where you been, you’re late. What gives? Could be the topics. We’ve been heavy on jail talk lately. In this case it’s not the sex appeal of the hosts.
Here in chronological order is a list of the seven Landmark Live episodes in 2019, the number of viewers and the gender breakdown of the audience:
The Todd Graves Episode: 5,001 viewers, 54% women, 46% men.
The Patty Farr RE/MAX Episode: 5,395 viewers, 53% women, 47% men.
The No More Blurred Lines Episode, guest Kirby Holden: 5,084 viewers, 53% women, 47% men.
The Current Events Episode with guest David Park: 3,316 viewers, 53% men, 47% women. The first time ever a Landmark Live show garnered more men viewers than women.
The Jailhouse Rock Episode, with Kirby Holden returning as a guest: 3,826 viewers, 53% women, 47% men.
The Two Guys Riffing Episode: 3,028 viewers, 53% women, 47% men.
The Jail Tax Autopsy Episode, guest David Park: 4,084 viewers, 52% men, 48% women. Only the second time in Landmark Live history there were more male than female viewers.
(Snooze your way through the NFL Draft with Foley via Twitter @ivanfoley or find him napping on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Also catch him on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
OFFICIALS NOT ANXIOUS
TO SHARE THEIR RESPONSE TO THE
ALLEGATION THAT THEY DON’T SHARE
Less than three months after his death, former Landmark editorial cartoonist Matthew Silber is being honored by having some his work featured in a display at the Ben Ferrel Platte County Museum located in downtown Platte City.
Now through May 31, the museum will feature the display entitled Hardship to Hope: A Story of Platte County in Art and Artifact. The display highlights regional events and themes as portrayed in artwork by Matthew Silber. The scenes are accompanied by descriptive facts from Silber’s book entitled Platte County’s History Illustrated. For the museum display, the scenes have been enlarged and paired with a variety of artifacts to include some related to the Civil War. Silber was a Civil War buff and participated in several Civil War battle re-enactments through the years.
Lisa Wittmeyer, curator at the museum, says the combination of art with objects makes history more relatable for visitors.
“We are reminded that personal stories create our collective history. What happens in our region also gives us greater insight into our nation’s history and we try to show this, especially with the Civil War period,” she said.
Wittmeyer said the display honors Silber, who died unexpectedly at his home at the age of 41, for his contributions to an understanding of local history.
The museum, located at 220 Ferrel Street, is open every Thursday and Friday from 1-4 p.m. A special open house for the display is set for Sunday, May 5 from 1-4 p.m.
We’ve talked about this on our social media sites and on Landmark Live, but it occurred to me this week I had not yet mentioned our new cartoonist here in Between the Lines.
You may have noticed local cartoons started reappearing in The Landmark last month after an absence of several weeks in the period of time after Matthew Silber’s death. And by the way, Matthew’s contributions to the newspaper over the past decade will never be forgotten.
Our new artist goes by the pseudonym of Zonk. He asked that we protect his identity based on the nature of his job here in Platte County. We’re thrilled to have the Zonkster sharing weekly contributions with Landmark readers. Good times are back in town.
Zonk began his Landmark career in much the same way Matthew Silber began his--by walking in our front door and saying, “Hey, I do some drawings, want me to send some cartoons to you and you can tell me what you think?”
Some notable legislation proposed by a local state senator is making its way through the legislature.
Tony Luetkemeyer, Republican of Parkville, wants state law to mandate that all statewide officeholders in Missouri can serve only two terms of office. His proposal would impose the same two-term limit of service on the state’s lieutenant governor, attorney general , secretary of state and auditor that currently applies to the governor and state treasurer. The senate by a vote of 31-3 passed Luetkemeyer’s legislation on Tuesday and now the legislation heads to the House of Representatives.
“This measure brings consistency to the law and will stop statewide officials from becoming career politicians,” Luetkemeyer said.
The resolution would require a statewide vote to amend the constitution. Voters would be asked to approve the measure in a November 2020 election. Terms that have begun by the four currently unrestricted statewide officeholders prior to the law’s enactment would not count toward the new limits.
“It’s important that citizens have an opportunity to serve in statewide office but people should not be making a career out of public service. I believe that term limits are a healthy thing for our democracy and are emphatically supported by voters,” Luetkemeyer added this week.
Under current law, the governor and state treasurer may serve no more than two four-year terms, but the terms of other statewide officeholders are unlimited. Members of the state legislature can serve eight years in the House of Representatives and eight years in the Senate.
Isn’t it ironic?
The Missouri Attorney General asked the City of Parkville to respond in writing to a complaint against the city for city officials’ alleged reluctance to properly comply with the Sunshine Law, which as we all know is the state’s open meetings and records standard.
In recent days the city submitted its response to the allegations that the city doesn’t properly share public records upon request. The Landmark this week asked for a copy of the city’s reply to the attorney general. We would love to tell you what the city said in its response but so far city officials are not willing to publicly share their response to complaints that they don’t willingly share public information.
That kinda says it all, doesn’t it? I am chuckling.
(Feel free to share and share alike with The Landmark on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Find Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, as well as on Landmark Live, the newspaper’s videocast on Facebook. Email email@example.com)
A NEW PROPOSAL WOULD NEED MAJOR TWEAKING, MAYBE SOME NEW PLAYERS
It’s time to review some local history as the autopsy is completed on Platte County’s failed $65 million sales tax increase to more than double the size of the current jail. As you know, the half cent sales tax was crushed with 62% of voters against. It wasn’t just dead on arrival, the funeral required a closed casket.
Some of the proponents--yes, there are a few out there--have been quick to point out that the tax used to construct the current jail took two tries to be passed.
While technically that’s true, there are some major differences. For one, the jail tax that was eventually passed in 1996 was much different than the original one that was kicked by voters in 1993. And, the three commissioners who had put forth the ’93 proposal were no longer around when the 1996 jail tax was approved. That’s probably not a coincidence.
So let’s jump in a time capsule and take a flight back to when the effort to build the present jail began.
The year was 1993. A special election was called in June of that year for a half cent sales tax proposal. But here’s an important difference in that 1993 proposal and the 2019 proposal: the proposed ’93 tax had no sunset clause. Can you imagine building a jail with a tax that will run in perpetuity? That alone would be reason for voters to reject it. Supporters pointed out that not only would the proposal build a jail but all monies brought in by the tax would go to law enforcement, so then- Sheriff Tom Thomas could add road patrol officers, etc.
The 2019 plan had a sunset and still got trounced. Note the difference.
The 1993 plan was criticized--and rightfully so--on many fronts, including for providing what appeared to be “unlimited funds” for law enforcement. The plan seemed a bit vague. Sound familiar? It was reported the idea would build a 180-bed jail. A cost estimate was floated of $14 million for the 180-bed facility. In 1993, the jail in use by the county at that time housed 38 prisoners. So the proposal would have increased capacity by nearly five-fold. Platte County has had some good law enforcement leaders, but I’ll say this: when they ask for something, they aren’t shy about asking for the moon.
The 1993 plan was put forth by a county commission comprised of three Democrats: Carol Tomb, presiding commissioner; Scott Spangler, first district; and Chuck Reineke, second district. The 1993 plan with no sunset and with voters seeing it as too expensive and too big was defeated with 63% against.
That’s a very similar result to last week’s 62% against. But the 1993 plan actually had pockets of support throughout the county, receiving majority support in eight precincts: Northmoor, Parkville, Par IV, Platte Hills, Weatherby Lake, Waldron, Hampton East and Ferrelview.
Compare that to the 2019 plan last week which received majority support in zero precincts. That embarrassing fact tells--or at least should tell--present day county commissioners they have a lot of work to do. They have no pockets of support to build on if they want to toss something like this on a future ballot. Bringing back the same plan--or something close to it--would be a waste of time and a waste of taxpayer money.
The week prior to the 1993 election on the half cent sales tax to run through eternity, The Landmark invited Sheriff Tom Thomas to pen a piece in favor of the tax. Invited to pen some thoughts in opposition was Max Hunt, a former second district commissioner. The late Max Hunt, by the way, was one of my favorite county commissioners in my 37 years here at The Landmark. He was known for down-to-earth talk and a common sense approach to government. He was easy to understand when interviewing for articles, and he didn’t try to avoid topics with fancy phrases and words. He just said what was on his mind.
Hunt had some great points in his opposition piece. Here is some of what he wrote in 1993: "Regardless of what you call the half cent sales tax or what you spend the money for, the proposed jail is going to cost the taxpayers $24 million (20 years at $1.2 million a year). How long will it be before Platte County will need a 180 bed jail? Using the present rate of growth the number of citizens per cell at the present time it will take 78 years for Platte County to reach the 224,260 residents needed to justify a 180 bed jail.”
And Hunt continued: “I question how crowded the present jail is. According to a recent news release, Platte County spent $70,000 boarding inmates to other facilities, however the 1993 county budget reveals the county collected $120,000 in 1992 from other jurisdictions for boarding their prisoners in our jail.” Then he added this: “I believe cost estimates are extremely high. Jackson County estimated $30,000 per bed for their proposed facility. The Platte County plan is going to cost $80,000 per bed.”
And, to get back to present day for a moment, an argument can be made that the current jail isn’t nearly as crowded as county officials have painted the situation. Jail population Wednesday morning was 144, and 15 of those are ICE rent-a-bed inmates who are only there because the county wants the income. Boot out ICE and you’re down to 129. Add in the fact new court rules about incarcerating suspects not considered dangerous or flight risks go into effect in July, and the jail population is nowhere near an emergency basis. The jail has 180 permanent bunks and portable bunks (known as ‘boats’) are put into use if/when the need arises.
The county commission’s own jail consultant, after all, predicts jail population to rise by only seven inmates per year.
What does all that mean? It means we are likely a lot closer to the assessment Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd made on Landmark Live a year ago than we are to the assessment the sheriff and county commissioners are trying to sell the public on. A year ago Zahnd made the comment that “a decade from now we’re probably going to be out of space.”
There’s plenty of time to come up with a more reasonable, more fiscally responsible and better thought-out ‘plan’ than the one that was put in front of voters last week.
On a related note, with elections for both associate county commissioner spots coming up in 2020, last week’s convincing outcome no doubt invigorated potential opponents of the two current associate commissioners. That had to get the attention of John Elliott and Dagmar Wood. If they say it didn’t, they’re either not being truthful or they’re more out of touch than any of us could have imagined.
To wrap up the 1990’s history topic for today, the current jail was eventually built with a half cent sales tax with a six year sunset that was passed by voters in 1996 under a county commission of Betty Knight, Michael Short and Diza Eskridge.
The facility was presented to voters as a $13.75 million project with 145-beds, and with roughed-in space that in the future could house an additional 96 beds.
Present day county officials, citing changes in inmate classification and segregation rules, in effect have deemed that 96-bed “futures” area is now not an option for housing inmates.
(Email Ivan Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org)
SOME OBSERVATIONS CAN BE MADE FROM JAIL TAX RESULT
Platte County’s wildly over-the-top $65 million jail sales tax increase proposal was bludgeoned by voters on Tuesday.
A very public and very decisive reprimand is out of the way. It’s time for the county commissioners to go stand in the corner and think about what they’ve done.
Voters didn’t just ‘kind of oppose’ the county commission’s proposal. They curb-stomped it. A 62% opposition number is a butt-kicking by any stretch of the imagination.
And it took place at a very low turnout non-November election. You know, the kind of election this group of commissioners said they would never use to try to pass any issue. They did try it. And their proposal was ripped to shreds in an election with only 16% voter turnout.
Imagine the depths of defeat the $65 million tax increase would have received in a 70-80 percent turnout election, which is typically the turnout in November elections in Platte County. I would guess the 62% opposed would have been closer to 75% opposed.
There were zero precincts in Platte County where a majority of voters approved the county’s $65 million half cent sales tax. Think about that. The county commission’s plan was favored in zero precincts. It’s hard to lose that badly even if you’re trying. That’s when you know you got caught trying to serve the public a turducken.
In fact there weren’t any precincts where it even came close to getting majority approval. The closest was Weatherby Lake, where voters opposed it 54-46%. An eight percent margin really isn’t considered close in politics these days.
Some precincts waxed the boondoggle in mind-blowing fashion. Weston voters opposed it by a margin of 81-19%. Camden Point voters gut-punched it 80-20%. Hoover chimed in at 77-23%. South of Platte City in the Seven Bridges precinct, where I vote, it was trounced 73-27%. Platte City roasted it 66-34%. And so on and so on.
Even normally tax-friendly communities like Parkville kicked it in the fanny pack. Parkville voters wanted no part of it by a 60-40% margin.
Voters on Tuesday issued an edict upon this county commission. It wasn’t pretty.
The current county commission has lost the business community. The current county commission has isolated ardent parks supporters. Even a segment of the law enforcement voting bloc wasn’t happy the commissioners were attempting to spend $65 million on a major jail expansion before addressing needed salary adjustments for law enforcement personnel and prior to having a plan in place to pay for operations of the prison palace they were proposing to build.
The county commission has some fences to mend before it can effectively move forward. A first step would be to indulge in some humble pie and recognize that it would be beneficial to engage the public and gather public input in an effort to address problems. That’s a far better approach than egotistically throwing a proposal on the ballot without any advance public input to better alternatives.
Intentionally or unintentionally, this group of commissioners has made a habit of displaying an attitude that they are considerably smarter than the public they serve. That’s an approach not likely to get you far. It’s also a mindset that at least 62% of voters called them out on.
A Platte City voter on the Saturday before the election made this comment to me: “They (the county commissioners) are trying to cram this down our throats.”
Hopefully the county commission has learned that’s the type of reaction you get when you don’t seek public input in developing solutions. Again, members of the general public are much smarter than this group of commissioners seem to give them credit for being.
There are some other basic observations that can be made based on how this went down. One observation is that the county commissioners obviously overestimated their own political popularity. It’s likely they also overestimated the political influence of the sheriff, who is a good person and a good cop. But when it comes to spending $65 million of the public’s money, facts, common sense and financial sense matter more to the taxpayers than simply seeing that a personable sheriff with a downhome personality wants it. What department head wouldn’t want new facilities and new stuff for his department? That’s the way things are inside any political entity.
Some attempted scare tactics in the final couple weeks of the campaign, when county officials tried to drift away from their previous message of “the jail is crowded” to “the jail is unsafe” didn’t resonate with most voters, though I’m sure some bought into it. Holes had been shot in the “the jail is overcrowded” argument. When the first of the county’s public education sessions was held at Parkville on a Saturday morning, it was attended by about 25 people who weren’t ready to buy what the county was selling. In short, that session was a bloodbath for the commissioners, and wasn’t very pleasant for the sheriff. “That was a long meeting,” Owen said when it was over. He may have been talking about the fact it lasted two hours. More than likely he was also feeling it was long because the public was giving plenty of pushback.
So commissioners knew they had to try a different approach. In future presentations the focus went away from “the jail is overcrowded” and out came a presentation closer to “the jail is nasty and unsafe and we’re all going to die if you don’t approve this” dog and pony show. The public is smart enough to know that nasty-looking showers that need maintenance, have rust and other issues are not situations that developed overnight. Those types of problems fall more under the umbrella of maintenance and operations than they do reasons for an alleged emergency need to spend $65 million to expand the jail by 200 beds.
Most common folks don’t go buy a new home when their bathrooms need remodeled. In other words, there are solutions to that whole “the showers are nasty” and similar concerns rather than spending $65 million and adding 200 beds. If the commission doesn’t think so, I encourage them to hold public input sessions and listen to suggestions from members of the taxpaying public. I feel confident more reasonably priced solutions are out there.
Members of the voting public are not stupid. They proved it on Tuesday.
(Get more Between the Lines on Facebook at Platte County Landmark and on Twitter @ivanfoley. Email email@example.com)
DON'T REWARD BAD GOVERNING, VOTE NO ON COUNTY COMMISSION'S BOONDOGGLE
This spring election season in Platte County has had a little bit of everything. Don’t turn away too long, you’ll miss something.
The City of Parkville is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office over alleged Sunshine Law violations. No two ways about it. That is, unless you listen to the word speak put out by the city. Joe Parente, city administrator for Parkville, took issue with The Landmark’s use of the word “investigating” when discussing the matter. The city’s stance is that this is a “review” by the attorney general and not an “investigation.” He says the AG is “reviewing” not “investigating.”
Geez, play word games much, Joe? Ok, let’s play.
I asked Parente for a copy of the attorney general’s letter sent to the city. My reading of the letter leaves me very comfortable with the newspaper’s use of the word “investigating.” The AG’s letter states, among other things, that the “review” may result in enforcement action against the city under state statute. There is nothing in the letter that indicates a “review” is something different from an “investigation.” When a “review” can bring statutory enforcement action, in the minds of most reasonable people that’s an “investigation.”
I reached out by phone to Casey Lawrence, director of Sunshine Law compliance in the Missouri Attorney General’s office, but was told he is out of the office until next week.
By the way, I noticed the City of Osage Beach has also received one of those “review” letters from the attorney general’s office. What word did the Springfield media use in reporting it? “Attorney General investigating City of Osage Beach for alleged Sunshine Law violation” is the headline on ky3.com.
Remember, the election on the proposed $65 million jail tax in Platte County is Tuesday. Get out to vote. Vote no.
If you’ve been reading this column over the past few months you know my opinion is that this is a bad plan that is too vague, too expensive, considerably larger than necessary in its scope, and poorly timed in several ways, in particular considering the county commission has trashed the county’s credit rating, which will drive financing costs through the roof.
Read Jim DeJarnatt’s letter to the editor at right. He nails it. Some of his best points include his remarks that three county commissioners who have already betrayed our trust are now asking us to trust them again. Thanks for asking, commissioners, but personally I’ll take a pass on trusting you with a blank check on 65 million of our dollars. What say you?
“They (the county commissioners) want us (taxpayers) to pay for their mistakes,” DeJarnatt says.
That is a perfect summary of this situation. This entire situation has been a lesson in bad governing. Don’t reward bad governing. If you do things will only get worse. Vote no on this boondoggle.
Tell the commissioners to take care of deputy pay before spending millions on a massive prison expansion that seems destined to be used as a jail hotel to import someone else’s problems.
At some of the recent “education sessions” put on by county officials who want a $65 million sales tax increase, Sheriff Mark Owen has speculated the recent Supreme Court announcement that effective July 1 courts in Missouri will stop jailing suspects who are not considered dangerous or a flight risk will actually increase jail populations by resulting in failure to appear warrants. The sheriff’s stance is getting chuckled at by some observers.
“That’s some creative math,” one legal observer told me last week. “Failure to appear for a non-violent crime is not likely to result in incarceration,” under the new rules, was the comment. Let’s see how it plays out.
Along those lines, remember the retired federal agent I’ve mentioned has been assisting in keeping an eye on jail population for The Landmark the past several months? I’ve heard from him again. He is able to “scrape” information from the sheriff’s jail population list, including information on what alleged crimes the suspects are being held, bond amount, arresting agency, etc. After studying those types of details on the inmates, the retired federal agent offered a prediction on what effect the new court rule will have on Platte County’s jail population. He predicts a 23 percent drop in Platte County jail inmate population. “That’s a conservative estimate,” he said.
Platte County’s jail population Monday morning was 146. The sheriff has said he is renting beds out for 15 ICE inmates, so the county prisoners would number 131. Subtract 23% from 131 and that number would be down to about 101 actualy county inmates.
Remember, jail capacity is 180.
At 101 inmates, the jail would only be at 56% capacity. The county commissioners’ very own hired jail consultant says the county is only adding about seven inmates per year. Somebody tell me again why we need to rush to add 200 more beds?
And don’t forget, the number of felony crimes committed in Platte County actually fell by three percent in 2018.
If the sheriff has felt for years his jail is overcrowded and we need an immediate expansion he apparently wasn’t sharing that alleged problem with Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd. We had Zahnd on our Landmark Live show as a guest on Feb. 1, 2018, just 14 months ago. I asked Zahnd his opinion on future needs for a jail expansion. Here was Zahnd’s answer:
“I will tell you there’s going to be a day when we’re going to have to expand the size of the county jail because I believe this county is going to continue to grow. Do I think that day is today? No. I don’t think we need to build a jail today, we’re not going to need to build a jail tomorrow. But we need to be planning now for the fact that a decade from now we’re probably going to be out of space.”
So Zahnd’s short answer was we’ll need more jail space 10 years from now. His analysis of the situation was just 14 months ago. To watch that video, go to https://bit.ly/2HSr5ms and fast forward to about the 26:30 mark. For your convenience I’ll also repost the video on our social media outlets soon.
(For more Between the Lines, go to Platte County Landmark on Facebook and watch the Landmark Live videos on that Facebook page. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
COMMISSIONERS ARE TRYING TO HIDE BEHIND THE SHERIFF
Two more weeks of jail tax talk before the election. Hang in there. Stay alert and stay in tune with what’s real and what’s part real/part fantasy. Somebody has to keep those in power honest. Or as honest as possible.
If there is one thing that became clear at Saturday’s first “education session” (an egotistical term employed by our commissioners, who didn’t want to hold public input sessions before putting together a ballot proposal and instead prefer to hold sessions after they’ve come up with a plan to “educate” us lowly peasants) is that if this ‘jail tax’ passes you can forget about any tax decrease or “tax neutral” from this commission. And remember, these are the folks who, when they wanted your votes while running for office, promised things like “no new taxes” and “lower taxes/higher accountability.”
Ron Schieber was one who specifically mentioned “no new taxes” when he ran for office. Kiss that stance goodbye. John Elliott, second district commissioner, in his campaign coined the phrase “lower taxes/higher accountability” and we have seen neither in his first two years in office. Dagmar Wood, first district commissioner, talked about, at worst, holding the tax rate steady and improving transparency. Insert laughter here.
If passed, this new half cent tax will be followed up next year with a proposal to realign the current half cent park tax, likely with 1/8th cent for parks and 3/8th cent for law enforcement operations necessary to run this new prison-sized jail in downtown Platte City. Let’s do the math. Anybody see a tax decrease? Anybody see a “neutral” approach? A new half cent followed by renewal of an existing half cent, just with a portion of that existing half going to law enforcement. That doesn’t equal neutral.
Schieber proved recently he is quick to use the term “lying” when talking about folks who disagree with him on handling of the Zona Rosa bond situation. The only problem is no one has actually heard the alleged lies of which Schieber spoke. I’ll use more restraint than Schieber and avoid using the term “lying” when talking about his new position on taxes, however, we can clearly see a discrepancy between what Schieber promised taxpayers when he wanted our votes and what he is proposing now.
Why are the county commissioners trying to hide behind the sheriff in these public presentations regarding the county commission’s tax proposal? This is the county commission’s proposal, not the sheriff’s. The sheriff didn’t put this new tax on the ballot. He doesn’t have the legal ability to do so. This tax proposal is the property of the county commissioners. They’re trying to hide behind the sheriff, possibly believing that the public will be less likely to toss tough questions at the sheriff than at them.
The commissioners are the ones wanting your $65 million and will be in charge of spending it. They should at least have the tummy to take the lead in the public presentations. Declining to do so shows an embarrassing lack of accountability and fortitude.
County commissioners are scheduled to be the speakers at a meeting of the Platte City Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. At least that’s how its listed on the agenda. Will the commissioners try to hide behind the sheriff and make the sheriff do the speaking at that event?
Adding to that, the chamber event comes just days after the public became aware that first district commissioner Dagmar Wood said the business community is “perpetuating lies” in regard to the Zona Rosa bond situation.
Good times. Awkward good times.
Here’s the most succinct summary of the county’s court case against the trustee of the Zona Rosa bonds. Win or lose, the outcome isn’t going to have any immediate impact on the county’s bond rating, which is now in junk status. That’s according to financial experts we’ve talked to on the subject, who say it will take years for the county to earn back its good rating. One expert compared it to a private person filing bankruptcy. There’s no chance that good credit rating is coming back overnight, no matter how the pending court case turns out.
So if the county loses the case, it has destroyed its bond rating in advance of wanting to spend $65 million. And if the county wins the case, it still has destroyed its bond rating in advance of wanting to spend $65 million.
The county’s jail ‘expert’ predicts county jail population will rise by seven inmates per year. Of course that projection was made before the Supreme Court announced new rules about courts will stop jailing suspects not considered dangerous or flight risks, which seems destined to lower jail population trends.
Let’s say the jail population does rise by seven per year. Platte County rents out at least 15 beds to house ICE inmates. Kick out the 15 ICE and you’ve bought yourself two years to better study more reasonable options.
Just another logical reason that, despite what the county commissioners and sheriff are trying to sell the public, there does not need to be a sense of urgency about the jail at this time.
Are Platte County commissioners paying attention to the outside world?
President Donald Trump: Has thrown his weight behind a plan that would reduce some prison sentences for convicted drug criminals. Gov. Mike Parson: “I am absolutely not in favor of building more prisons. Alternative sentencing is the wave of the future.” (By the way, the governor is a former sheriff). State of Missouri: “Let’s consolidate two existing prisons and invest the savings in wage increases for the corrections officers.” Also in the state of Missouri, there are efforts to decriminalize marijuana. That’s not going to happen right away but you can certainly see the train coming. Missouri Supreme Court Justice Zel Fischer: “Too many people can’t afford bail for low-level offenses and can lose their jobs while (in jail) waiting for trial.” Beginning in July, courts in Missouri will avoid jailing people awaiting trial who are neither a danger to the public nor a flight risk but simply too poor to afford cash bail. Beginning in July courts must first consider non-monetary conditions for defendants’ release. Judges will still be able to set bail, but only at the amount necessary to ensure either public safety or to ensure that the defendant will appear again in court. It was recently reported that this method dropped jail populations by 30% in at least one test county.
Meanwhile, the Platte County Commission wants a 400-bed county jail and a $65 million tax increase to pay for it. Commissioner Dagmar Wood even wants the sheriff’s department to pursue people who have outstanding warrants for misdemeanors and traffic violations. I’m not kidding. Next thing you know Wood will be proposing the death penalty for parking tickets.
And remember, the tax you’re voting on April 2 does NOT give raises to deputies and does NOT provide revenue to operate the prison the commissioners are proposing to build.
The commissioners are trying to govern by their own ideologies and not by awareness of state and national trends, common sense and business sense.
(For more analysis of local issues, watch Landmark Live on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email Ivan Foley at email@example.com)
DAGMAR WOOD SAYS BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS PERPETUATING LIES ABOUT ZONA BONDS
Did you see in the Kansas City Star on Thursday that the City of Kansas City is planning to build a 150-bed jail? Several interesting points about this, a couple which I’ll quickly touch on here and others we’ll talk about on Landmark Live on Facebook Thursday night with David Park, who is now retired after several years working for Kansas City.
The most striking point is that Kansas City says it can build a 150-bed jail for about $8 million. Compare that to Platte County’s proposal for a 200-bed jail addition for anywhere from $43 million to $50 million. Wow. What gives?
I noticed Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen said on Facebook below our post about Kansas City’s jail proposal: “Did some checking on this and it’s not comparing apples to apples.” He did not elaborate.
The sheriff is a good dude and a good cop, but I’m not sure there are enough apples-to-apples in the entire Midwest to justify the county spending $35-$42 million more for 200 jail beds than Kansas City is paying for 150 jail beds.
This eye-opening revelation is in line with what several government folks have quietly said to The Landmark since the county’s estimated jail construction costs came to light. The feeling around the government community among those with experience with jail construction is that Platte County would be overpaying for its proposed project, and not just by a little.
In the words of Desi Arnaz: “Lucy, I think you’ve got some ’splainin’ to do.”
Another interesting point: Kansas City says it’s jail construction “would take more than six months” to complete. That’s a considerably shorter time frame than Platte County is saying its jail project would take. In a meeting with area mayors last week, the sheriff commented it would be “two to three years” before the first new jail bed is ready to be occupied.
Either the county will have a much slower construction process than the city or the county is overstating things in order to push a doomsday agenda designed to scare the public into voting a certain way.
Last Wednesday seemed to be a strange day for Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner for Platte County.
Schieber and I exchanged greetings and a handshake prior to the start of a meeting of the Platte County Mayors Council that morning. In a brief and polite exchange, he acknowledged my opposition to the proposed $65 million jail tax. Then he quietly said something interesting.
“If I was sitting on the outside of this thing I’d probably be right with (you). If I was sitting on the outside,” he said to me.
I responded: “If three Democrats were proposing this, you know you would be opposed to it. You know you would.”
“Ok, but I’m not on the outside now,” he said.
The exchange was very brief but there’s potentially a lot to unpack here. Is Schieber’s heart not totally in this $65 million proposal he and the two other commissioners put on the ballot? His comment hints at that, does it not? If it’s something he would be opposing as a member of the general public, why is he supporting it in his role as county commissioner? Is he not as emotionally invested in this massive proposal as the two associate commissioners?
Maybe it’s notable to point out Schieber did not attend two recent Platte County EDC-related sessions in which a subcommittee showed it did not support the proposal when it failed to second a motion that would have endorsed it. Schieber also did not attend the next day when the full EDC board took no action to bring the matter to the table.
Of course Schieber can explain his absence any way he likes. His absence at those meetings isn’t necessarily important. What is important is that the comment he made above gives you a candid look inside his head.
Late in the meeting with the mayors, Schieber lost his junk when the topic of the Zona Rosa bonds and the resulting tanking of the county’s credit rating came up for discussion. A borderline over-the-top rant began after he was trying to deflect questions from a couple of mayors about potential financing costs of the proposed jail addition. Ron’s rant went like this: “Here’s what I will tell you. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what the trustee is demanding from the county, misinformation coming from people who originate these bonds, people who buy these bonds and sell these bonds, about what the demands are on the county.
People are reporting and going to community meetings and lying about what has been demanded of the county. It goes way past ‘we just want last year’s payment.’ There’s a lot of people out there saying ‘if they just would have paid last year’s payment everything would be fine.’ Quite frankly that is BS. People are out there lying. They (the trustee) are declaring default and trying to obligate the county not to just make this payment but to obligate this county to make every payment from here on out. People are out there lying about what the trustee has demanded of the county.”
At this point, if you’re thinking: “Um, wut?” I’m right there with you. But Schieber wasn’t done.
“They think they can put a lot of community and political pressure on a governing body to make a payment that they’re not obligated to pay. And that’s BS. This is a good time for me to dispel the misinformation, no, the lies that are out there about what the trustee is demanding.”
Then, just when you thought things couldn’t get weirder, associate commissioner Dagmar Wood chimed in with this: “And those lies are being perpetuated by our business community.”
Goodness. Again, there’s a lot of things to unpack here. The easiest one to unpack is Wood’s comment about the business community. Accusing business folks in the county of perpetuating lies is no small thing. Relations between commissioners and many in the business community were already strained. Wood’s comment seems destined to make things worse, not better.
As for Schieber’s accusations, has anyone heard these alleged lies he alleges are being spread? Granted, I could be missing something, but I’ve followed this issue closely and I’ve yet to hear anyone say or anyone report that if the county had only made the December payment the entire debt risk would go away and everything would be fine and dandy. What I have heard people say, and understandably so, is that they are surprised that if the commissioners planned to bring a $65 million jail/building project to voters and knew they would be needing some financing, why did they not take the steps necessary to protect the county’s credit rating in the meantime? As in, why did they make public comments that endangered their credit rating and why did they not make that December payment? That’s a valid criticism and totally different than the scenario Schieber described.
It was all very strange. Much like the timing of this proposed jail tax.
(Get more Between the Lines on Facebook at Platte County Landmark, where you can watch episodes of Landmark Live. The show goes live on Facebook Thursday nights at 6 p.m. and videos remain on Facebook for viewing at your leisure. Email Ivan Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org)
ELECTED OFFICIALS PLAYING BUSINESS WITH GOVERNMENT FUNDS
A big thank you to the 5,000 or so of you who have watched our Landmark Live episode from last week on our Facebook page at Platte County Landmark. We talked local current events including schools and school testing, the proposed $65 million jail tax and bond ratings.
It was our first episode in crystal clear high definition video, thanks to the folks at Spectrum. It’s a major upgrade in the video quality from what we were previously getting from CenturyLink. Like a night and day difference. Not only is the quality better, the price is much better as well.
Just know this: If you’re in or near downtown Platte City and you’re using CenturyLink, you’re not getting near the internet speed that you’re paying for.
Contact me if you want to hear details about how the switch has improved our service and significantly lowered our monthly fee at the same time.
Congratulations to Theresa Wilson, member of the Ferrelview Board of Trustees, on the not guilty verdict in her bench trial on a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from an alleged incident that occurred shortly after she had adjourned a meeting in front of a rowdy crowd inside Ferrelview City Hall in November of 2017. Some of us familiar with both sides of the political divide at Ferrelview were surprised the charge was ever filed by the prosecutor’s office. As I wrote in Between the Lines on March 7, 2018 shortly after the charge was filed against Wilson: “I’ve read probable cause statements submitted by police in other cases that seemed much more convincing that a crime had been committed and yet no charges were filed (a situation involving a now-former county public works director comes to mind). So as a neutral observer I’m anxious to see how this one plays out.”
Obviously Judge Dennis Eckold, also, wasn’t convinced that an assault had occurred. It’s unfortunate the filing of the charge meant that Wilson had to spend a year of her life getting her name cleared in a situation that sounded a bit ridiculous from the start.
As has been reported in The Landmark several times since Jan. 31, the Central Platte Fire District is in need of two new members for its three-member board of directors. The unusual situation has resulted in Platte County Circuit Court being responsible for making the appointments.
On Friday, legal counsel for the fire district entered a request with the court that a three member panel consisting of the remaining board member, the fire chief and the deputy fire chief be allowed to conduct interviews and make recommendations to Judge James Van Amburg on the appointments.
The problem with having that three member panel involved in potentially choosing the two new board members is it might be a bit like putting the foxes in charge of the hen house. Other than when Andy Stanton served, the fire board and department leaders--all good people with good intentions, mind you--have a history of getting a bit gung-ho in making spending decisions without much advance analysis. They’ve also been known to get a little loose with the Sunshine Law.
Having a committee interview applicants and make recommendations to the judge isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but forming a committee that also includes three or four taxpayers not so heavily involved with the department would seem to level the playing field a bit.
Just a thought. This isn’t really anything to pound the table about. The judge would not be bound by any recommendations made by a committee, so maybe all will end well regardless.
Others in the region are chiming in on Platte County’s somewhat bizarre and bizarrely-timed proposal of a $65 million sales tax increase to more than double the size of the county jail.
Here are comments made by Guy Speckman, publisher of the Savannah Reporter, in last week’s issue of the Reporter:
“Interesting jail developments in this part of the world. Two area counties are pushing forward with new jail plans. Platte County, to the south, is trying to vote a new jail and Clinton County is holding hearings regarding a location for a new jail in their community. Clinton County is a major client of the Andrew County Jail. Platte County counts the immigration services, ICE, as one of its major clients.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I get nervous when government people start playing business with government funds. A new jail in Clinton County could have repercussions in Andrew County, since the “business” model locally is to rent out space to other counties to support the operation. The same debate is on in Platte County where they are using the same “quasi government-business” theory that more room is better because of the “rent potential.”
“All this government-business theory espoused by elected officials with no personal skin in the game makes me queasy.”
Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen complains that the jail is overcrowded (though there are some of us who question the legitimacy of his position, particularly if the rent-a-bed prisoners are removed from the equation). Then the Missouri Supreme Court announces that starting in July courts will avoid jailing people awaiting trial who are neither a danger to the public nor a flight risk but simply too poor to afford cash bail. It’s a move that will no doubt lower populations in county jails. Twice now in public settings I’ve heard Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen complain about the new policy announced by the head of the Supreme Court.
Sorry, but when you complain about a problem then immediately complain about one of the solutions to that problem before it even takes effect your credibility can take a bit of a hit. Even when you’re a sheriff. It gives the impression you don’t really want the problem to be solved by any means, or at least by any means other than spending $65 million of taxpayer money.
(Get more Between the Lines on Facebook at Platte County Landmark, on Twitter @ivanfoley, and follow Foley on YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. Email email@example.com)
BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS BALKING AT THE COUNTY'S JAIL TAX PROPOSAL
Many folks in the business community have some concerns and do not support Platte County’s half cent sales tax increase proposal, which would raise about $65 million, most of which would be spent on a major expansion of the county jail.
Last week came some obvious proof that many in the business community are not embracing the half cent jail tax (don’t get caught up in the county commission’s game of calling it a ‘capital improvements’ tax, let’s call it what it is--it’s a new $65 million half cent sales tax to expand the jail by two or three times what’s there now).
Let’s talk about the reaction the proposal received when the commissioners showed up hoping to get an endorsement from the Platte County Economic Development Council (EDC) public policy committee on Thursday. Two cities--Parkville and Platte City–were also there, looking to get an endorsement for their respective issues on the April ballot. Parkville is proposing a half cent sales tax for parks, Platte City has two ballot issues, one for $3.2 million in general obligation bonds for acquiring, constructing and furnishing facilities and $2.5 million in general obligation bonds for streets/sidewalks/bridges improvements.
At the meeting, a motion was made to endorse the issues of all three entities--the county and both cities. That motion died for lack of a second. Here comes the telling part: The follow-up action was a motion to endorse the ballot issues by Platte City and Parkville. That motion was then approved by the committee, of which about 15 members were present.
Notice the difference? When the jail issue was listed as part of a motion for approval, the motion died for lack of a second. When the jail issue was removed from the equation, the sailing was smooth for Platte City and Parkville.
Clearly the committee had no interest in endorsing the jail tax issue. And that trend continued the next day when the full EDC board of directors declined to even bring the county’s proposal to the table for a vote.
“It was not a knock on the sheriff,” Ed Ford, a member of the EDC public policy committee, an attorney and former city councilman for Kansas City, told me this week “Basically there is some concern with the way the county commission has handled the Zona Rosa bonds. There seems to be a disconnect between going to the voters with a capital project while that bond situation is unresolved.”
As we know, the county commission’s decision not to cover the shortfall in bond payments for Zona Rosa parking garages has tanked the county’s bond rating into junk status. Which makes their subsequent decision to put a jail tax on the ballot right now very strange indeed.
Ford said the EDC group has concerns over the financing end of the county’s proposed jail project. “They would either have to do junk bonds or private financing and it did not appear they have any private financing lined up. And pay as you go, I’m not even sure what that means. . .do you stockpile money for 7-8 years until you have enough to build something? That (the financial piece of it) was the concern of at least some of us.”
We’ve mentioned many times previously in this column space the county commission’s lack of having their details together on the proposed jail project. They haven’t told the public exactly where it would be built on or near the current county footprint, exactly how big it would be, how it would be financed, and whether they plan to expand their jail hotel business beyond 20 or so ICE prisoners they currently have. (Here’s a hint: If they tell you that’s not in the plan, take their verbal answer with a grain of salt. What else are they going to do with so many empty beds?).
Lack of specifics didn’t work in the commission’s favor during the presentation last week to the EDC, some folks in the room told me. While the cities of Parkville and Platte City showed up with printed information detailing their proposals, the county did not offer any written details of their plan. That’s embarrassing in itself.
Commissioners John Elliott and Dagmar Wood were there representing the county commission. Sheriff Mark Owen and Major Erik Holland were also present.
As anyone who has paid attention to these types of things for years is aware, if an economic development group does not openly endorse your tax proposal then you have a very bad plan. There are few groups more friendly to the concept of taxes than EDC type groups. The fact they didn’t want any part of it speaks volumes.
Maybe they don’t want to hurt the commissioners’ feelings. I noticed a couple folks at the EDC are trying to verbally tiptoe around last week’s rejection of the jail tax issue and are trying to frame it as “it wasn’t really an up or down vote on the county’s proposal,” but don’t let them play word games with you. They can say whatever they want but the facts are this: When the county’s proposal was included with Platte City’s and Parkville’s for a vote of endorsement, the motion died for lack of a second. When the county’s issue was removed from the motion, Platte City’s and Parkville’s questions received a thumbs up. That is absolute proof the EDC wanted no part of the county’s boondoggle.
A front page story helps explain the rule change coming in July to Missouri courts, including Platte County, that will quite likely lower the population in the Platte County Jail. Cass County put the rule change into effect ahead of the state, and we’re told the population in the Cass County jail dropped from 180 to 120. That’s a 33 percent drop.
If Platte County experiences a 33 percent drop, based on the jail population last Thursday of 146 prisoners, the number of inmates would drop to 98. If you subtract the ICE inmates, the number of actual county prisoners would drop to about 85. So if the proposal passes the county will have a monstrous facility, with three times more empty beds than occupied ones, and a pile of new debt for taxpayers.
And Platte City will be known as the town with a massive prison in the heart of its downtown.
Enjoy. Or not.
(Get more by watching the Landmark Live video on our Facebook page at Platte County Landmark. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
BIZARRE THOUGHT PROCESS AT THE COUNTY; AND PARKVILLE'S SUNSHINE REQUEST DRAMA
Which one of these seems out of touch with the current environment in our state and our country:
President Donald Trump: Has thrown his weight behind a plan that would reduce some prison sentences for convicted drug criminals.
Gov. Mike Parson: “I am absolutely not in favor of building more prisons. Alternative sentencing is the wave of the future.” (By the way, the governor is a former sheriff).
State of Missouri: “Let’s consolidate two existing prisons and invest the savings in wage increases for the corrections officers.”
Missouri Supreme Court Justice Zel Fischer: “Too many people can’t afford bail for low-level offenses and can lose their jobs while (in jail) waiting for trial.” Beginning in July, courts in Missouri will avoid jailing people awaiting trial who are neither a danger to the public nor a flight risk but simply too poor to afford cash bail. Beginning in July courts must first consider non-monetary conditions for defendants’ release. Judges will still be able to set bail, but only at the amount necessary to ensure either public safety or to ensure that the defendant will appear again in court. The new rules will also say judges can only order defendants to be jailed before trial without bail or other conditions for release if they determine that’s necessary for safety reasons. A similar “no bail” system was implemented in Cass County and lowered that county’s jail population by 60 inmates.
Platte County Commission: “We are proposing a $65 million tax increase because we want to more than double the size of our county jail. This week there are only about 140-145 county prisoners in our 180 bed jail--subtracting the 15 or 20 ICE inmates we like to house to put money in our coffers--but we’d like you to believe the facility is in an emergency state of overcrowdedness because we can’t put Joes in with Janes and stuff like that. We can’t tell you exactly where we’re going to build this facility and we can’t tell you how we’re going to finance it since we recently tanked the county’s bond rating. This proposal will NOT increase wages for law enforcement personnel. Yes, our plan is very non-specific on design, exact size and even location of our new prison so you’re just going to have to trust us that the secrets we’re keeping from you are really, really good for you. And yes we know felony crimes in the county actually dropped by three percent last year. But hey, we want our names attached to a legacy of some sort. What could go wrong? We don’t like to hear alternative thoughts so maybe we’ll just put some information on our web site sometime before the April 2 election.”
The county commission’s position sounds like a Saturday Night Live spoof.
Considering things like the above and more, the timing and lack of business acumen behind the county’s proposal is gaining credence for a theory first presented in a letter to the editor by Jim DeJarnatt of Weston. Jim mentioned it seems a lot like the commissioners (and we could safely add the sheriff) seem awfully anxious to build a monument that will have their names on it.
Remember, these were the county commissioners who campaigned on themes of no new taxes, lower taxes, talked about how government should be run debt free as often as possible, etc. etc.
It’s almost like once these folks got into office they suddenly realized nobody gives you a plaque for being fiscally conservative. But you do see plaques all the time in new buildings.
The unfortunate circus involving the City of Parkville’s handling of public records requests by Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville continues. Some of the newest details pertaining to the city’s desire to charge the group $19,000 for public records are particularly concerning.
The $19,000 bill for total alleged costs, which were accrued in under 28 days and came only after the city was referred to the state attorney general for failure to comply with the Sunshine Law, are nearly seven times greater than all the work the city has done in the previous four months, Maki said. He added that 49 percent of the amount the city is seeking to collect comes from attempting to bill a private citizen for the city attorney’s time, which Maki’s attorney points out is not legal.
Also interesting is that according to the proposed billing by the city, Joe Parente, city administrator, accounts for nearly half of the work not associated with the city attorney. Parente allegedly spent 106 of his 129.5 total hours working on the Sunshine requests in January. Why is the highly compensated city administrator personally spending so much time handling open records requests? In particular after the city says it engaged an outside information technology (IT) firm to assist with identifying and producing responsive records.
While the city administrator has interestingly been heavily involved in combing through the records, the proposed billing info shows the official city custodian of records has only done 13% of the total work. The custodian of records is supposed to be the primary responsible party for these requests and responses, not the city administrator.
The city administrator being so heavily involved in the process raises an eyebrow or two, to put it mildly. What exactly is he doing that these requests require so much of his focus?
Maki says this: “According to the city administrator, a third party IT provider searched for and provided the electronic records in the requests. If the city administrator is doing anything other than copying those records onto portable USB drives then something is amiss as the mayor and aldermen already have the city attorney reviewing the files to determine what is/is not required by law to be disclosed. Who is directing the city administrator’s efforts? Are they providing him criteria for possible additional censorship and withholding?”
The raising of an eyebrow or two becomes the raising of a red flag when you take into account Parente’s somewhat checkered history of handling public information. At a previous job, he was accused of destroying public records. At that time, he worked as a county administrator in Madison County, Illinois, population 270,000 people. He now works as a city administrator for Parkville, population of about 6,500.
To read about the allegations against Parente at his previous employer, Google the phrase “Joe Parente allegations of public records destruction.”
(Get more Between the Lines by following Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Platte County Landmark on Facebook. Email email@example.com)
CITY OF PARKVILLE THROWING SHADE ON SUNSHINE LAW
Reasonable charges for filling Sunshine Law requests are one thing. But entities should not be using requests for public information to 1. make money off of it; 2. charge a fee so high it discourages future records requests from the public. 3. quote a fee so high so high the requestor will drop the request.
Call it throwing shade on the Sunshine Law. It seems the City of Parkville seems determined to throw shade. See the front page for details.
It appears the city is trying to set up a $19,000 pay wall of sorts, which could be an indication there’s some fire in those five Sunshine Law requests the city has yet to fulfill for Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville. In particular, the request for call logs and call records of elected officials and staff seems to be sending some at City Hall into flip-out mode. This would seem to be a good time to recall that some city officials allegedly made phone calls to certain Parkville businesses telling them to remove Citizens for a Better Parkville signs from their businesses last fall.
“The city is required to maintain these records and make them available to the public. The costs of transparent government should not be this high. They are either totally incompetent and inefficient or they are intentionally trying to get me to stop making any new requests and discourage citizens from making public records requests in the future. Either is unacceptable,” Maki said this week.
“I’ve already paid them $5,300,” Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville told me this week. Now the city is indicating it will want $19,000 more, Maki says. “They think they have the right to bill me after the fact,” he said.
“They are enabled by law to charge me 10 cents per page,” Maki said. “I have received 8,020 unique records. Assuming each of them is three pages in length, which is generous, that translates to $2,406. I’ve already paid them more than twice that.”
Then Maki brings up another valid argument.
“They don’t have to charge at all if releasing the data is in the public interest. Transparency is absolutely in the public interest.”
Watching the video of last week’s Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting, Alderman Dave Rittman said he was “frustrated” that certain public records were being published or discussed in the media without the aldermen being given advanced notice.
“Why would they be frustrated by transparency unless they had something they want to remain hidden from the public?” asks Maki. “I’m just trying to get to the relevant facts of things.”
It seems possible this disagreement over transparency could eventually lead to some legal action filed by Maki and/or Citizens for a Better Parkville. Theoretically speaking, legal action could lead to every elected official and some staff members being deposed by Maki’s legal team. Those depositions would certainly have the potential to be interesting and newsworthy.
Anybody else watch the video of last week’s Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting and think the 10-minute portion where the Sunshine requests were discussed was staged, with pre-determined questions and answers likely rehearsed in advance by the mayor, city administrator and a couple of aldermen?
We’ve seen better acting in Saturday morning cartoons.
Speaking of interesting, in a bizarre timing of events the three-member board of the Central Platte Fire District is down to one living member. No quorum means the board can’t meet to approve the paying of bills, payroll, etc. so the district’s legal counsel has filed a motion for that action to be approved by the circuit court.
And the circuit court will be officially appointing qualified applicants to fill the two spots created with the recent deaths of fire board members Paul Regan and Stanley George, who died within hours of one another on Jan. 31.
“What are the odds of that happening?” remaining board member Mike Ashcraft asked out loud when he stopped in The Landmark one day last week.
If you’re interested in getting an appointment to the board, be sure to read the front page article to learn the proper steps to follow to express your interest. There’s also a detailed legal notice on the topic published in this edition of The Landmark.
There was a huge turnout for the family visitation and funeral of Matthew Silber at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Edgerton on Saturday morning. Matthew was The Landmark’s editorial cartoonist who died unexpectedly on Feb. 3.
Matthew’s wife Dawn told me she could answer a question or two about Matthew that I posed in my column last week. One of those questions was why he chose The Landmark as the spot he wanted to submit cartoons. The answer was he knew the freedom to express himself and his opinions would be allowed here.
Dawn tells me Matthew said to her: “Ivan lets me get by with a lot.”
(Get by with a lot via email to Ivan Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on social media outlets on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)
He left us too soon. They say the good ones often do.
To say we’ll miss Matthew Silber, The Landmark’s editorial cartoonist whose clever artistic work you’ve been able to enjoy on this page since 2009, is an understatement. Sure, we’ll miss his contributions to our coverage but more importantly we’ll miss his friendship. We’ll miss the magical way he would take an idea for a cartoon and meticulously add tweaks and features that made it even better than could have been imagined in the initial thought process. Matthew had a knack for observing details and creatively working them into his graphic designs, which truly were a work of art. His work often took a complicated topic and broke it down into simple terms, most often with some humor sprinkled in.
Even on those occasions that we had talked about the desired direction of that week’s art, I very much looked forward to clicking open his weekly emails containing his cartoons because I never knew exactly what was inside. In fact, the weeks I had a general idea of what was coming were often the weeks I looked forward to receiving his cartoon the most because I anticipated he would take one of my non-specific, half-baked ideas and turn it into something top notch.
And many Landmark readers had become fans of his work. One frequent emailer never referred to Matthew by name but instead referred to him as Toon Man. “Toon Man knocked it out of the park,” was a message I received on more than one occasion. Matthew always appreciated any feedback. When I passed along a compliment we had received about his recent cartoon concerning the R-3 school board election filings, he responded with a note to the effect of: “It’s always good to know people are paying attention to the cartoons.”
His work eventually came to be recognized by peers in the industry. He won multiple awards in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in the category of editorial cartoons. Matthew never got overly excited about anything during our conversations but I do remember sensing some real joy from him the year his cartoon entries won first, second and third in the statewide contest. Even the humble Matthew thought that was pretty cool.
While his tall frame could cast a long and imposing shadow and his cartoons by design were loudly to the point, real-life Matthew was anything but. He spoke softly and politely. As many deep thinkers are, he was conversationally quiet but get him on the right topic and he would school you with historical facts and a unique perspective that you’d probably never previously considered. Matthew loved history and was particularly fascinated with the Civil War time period. I never really asked him why the Civil War intrigued him so, but I came to assume it was because Platte County in general was a hotbed for activity during that time, as was his hometown of Camden Point. Civil War buffs, after all, are familiar with an event called the Battle of Camden Point.
I often wondered, but absent-mindedly never specifically asked him, what prompted him to approach me in 2009 to ask if he could start submitting editorial cartoons to The Landmark. I guess I figured we’d always have time for that conversation at a later date. That’s the danger in feeling like we’re all going to live forever. This just in: we’re not.
Maybe what attracted him to The Landmark was similar political viewpoints about tax dollars. Maybe what drew him here was The Landmark’s history. The newspaper was established in the closing days of the Civil War, maybe it was simply The Landmark’s ties to Matthew’s favorite era that brought him to us. No matter the reason, The Landmark and its readers were blessed by his desire to grace us with his work. His final cartoon, which he sent to me Friday afternoon, is at top right of this page.
In 2010 and 2011, Matthew created a series of 65 illustrations that depicted moments in Platte County’s history. We ran one each week in The Landmark. Matthew later compiled those into book form and the colorful and informational paperback was published by the Platte County Historical Society.
Over the past several months he had taken a joyful interest in creating cartoons pertaining to the county commission’s obsession with a jail expansion. I recently said to him, only half jokingly, that maybe the jail tax talk will go on so long by the time it’s over he’ll have enough illustrations on the topic to fill another book.
I think a small book would have happened. Who knows, it still might.
Matthew called The Landmark office one day last week. His father-in-law, Daniel Lemasters, had passed away and Matthew wanted to know if we still had time to get it in the paper. Unfortunately the call came just after deadline. So the obituary for Matthew’s father-in-law is in this week’s issue. Sadly, tragically, so is Matthew’s.
On Sunday afternoon Matthew was at home with his son, Josiah, 14. Matthew’s wife, Dawn, was not home at the time, she was assisting at her mother’s, still dealing with the aftermath of the death of Dawn’s father on Jan. 28. The funeral for Dawn’s father had been Saturday.
Matthew, by all accounts seemingly healthy, laid down for a nap on the couch. He had his cell phone with him. His mother-in-law tells me Matthew had communicated via text message with a family member around 4:40 p.m.
At some point after that, Josiah noticed his dad still on the couch and tried to wake him up. He couldn’t get a response. Josiah, whom I’ve met a few times through the years and can verify has always seemed mature for his age, immediately dialed 911. He then ran to summon a neighbor for help. Matthew could not be revived. Josiah dialed his mother’s cell phone number. Dawn was already on her way home when the call came in. Showing that aforementioned maturity, young Josiah told his mother only: “Mom, you need to come home.”
Matthew Silber died Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. He was just 41 years old.
(Landmark publisher Ivan Foley can be reached via email at email@example.com)
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS HAVE ADOPTED THE NANCY PELOSI WAY OF THINKING
Nine weeks until our three “no new taxes” county commissioners hold an election to ask us to sign a $65 million (or more) blank check for a jail expansion.
The commissioners haven’t yet bothered to tell us where the jail expansion will be, how big it will be, how much it’s going to cost, method of financing, how much any financing costs are expected to be, what’s the plan to cover increased operational costs, whether they’ll be importing even more of somebody else’s criminals to fill all that empty jail space we’re going to have, etc. etc. etc.
Other than that, they’ve really nailed this thing down . . .
I’ve covered the county political scene a long time. This is the first time the public has been asked to vote on a plan that’s a secret.
Sorry, Joe and Jane Public, apparently you don’t get to learn the plan unless you know the secret password.
It’s like we have three Nancy Pelosis in charge at the county telling us: “You’ve got to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.”
It’s worth repeating to yourself from now until election day that this proposed half cent jail sales tax does nothing to address the biggest current need in the sheriff’s department. The biggest need is better pay for deputies. Money from this proposed capital improvement tax does not go to salaries for deputies. By law, it cannot.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (their friends call them MoDOT) says their crews find themselves discussing the pothole problem much earlier this year. Potholes are a natural result of the freeze/thaw cycle that happens throughout winter but this year seems to be more extreme than usual, MoDOT says.
And it’s not just MoDOT roadways that are affected. Private roads are victims as well. For example, how about those extremely deep and wide potholes just inside the entrance driveway at the Platte City Post Office? Proceed with caution to avoid knocking your car’s alignment out of whack.
I noticed online that Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt was fielding questions about the post office pothole problem. The mayor quickly and politely pointed out the post office sits on private property and the roadway in question is not a city street. You might mention your concerns to post office staff so they can pass their concerns along to the owner of their private drive. A short temporary solution to close a pothole is often a cold asphalt mix but a long term fix--a hot asphalt mix--typically isn’t effective until roadway temps rise and remain above freezing. MoDOT said this week the short term fixes are failing to hold for very long.
“This has been a tough season for our roads,” said Susan Barry assistant district engineer for MoDOT. “We have some extreme temperatures and our snow season started three months ago, so we’re seeing a lot of recurring potholes that just won’t hold the temporary patch.”
Potholes form when temperatures warm up during the day but continue to be cold at night. The rain and snow from winter leave moisture that seeps into cracks and joints in the pavement. When temperatures drop, the water freezes and expands the pavement. This expansion causes the pavement to bulge and crack. When cars drive over the bulging pavement it eventually causes chunks of pavement or asphalt to pop out.
Let’s be honest, you knew the Chiefs season was over when the Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime.
Over the weekend, Landmark columnist Chris Kamler donned a Speedo to go running into a lake as part of the Polar Plunge. RIP Chris Kamler’s testes.
All of us at The Landmark would like to apologize to any innocent bystanders whose eyes may have been exposed to Chris’s exposure.
Medical claims for bleeding retinas can be sent directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Landmark Live is back in action Thursday night, when Brad Carl and I take our circus act to the new location of Patty Farr’s RE/MAX House of Dreams at 303 Marshall Road in Platte City.
We’ll be broadcasting live from 6 p.m. to about 6:30-ish or 6:45-ish, as Patty and friends will give our viewers a tour of the new digs and we’ll talk about the local real estate market and whatnot and such.
“We’ve given the new place some bling,” Patty says, and we’ll give her the chance to show it off during our telecast on Facebook at the page known as Platte County Landmark.
Patty’s place will be hosting an open house and a Platte City Chamber of Commerce After Hours event from 4:30-7 p.m. that night. You’re invited to come tour the new location and meet the agents. Food, drinks, and networking.
Pretty sure you’ll be able to find Brad Carl and I networking near Patty’s ice cream machine.
(Network with Ivan Foley via email at email@example.com and find him on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube)
YOU DON'T OWE THE COUNTY COMMISSION ANYTHING
Just a reminder to keep things in the proper perspective for this spring election.
What do I mean by that?
You don’t owe the Platte County Commission--or any other of your elected officials, school boards, city officials--anything. They work for you. You don’t work for them. They owe you a detailed explanation. You don’t owe them one. Let’s never lose sight of who is the boss (that’s you) and who is the employee (that’s them).
Specific to the county, commissioners owe you a detailed explanation of what they’re proposing to do, why they’re proposing to do it, where they’re proposing to do it, how they’re proposing to do it, and how much it’s going to cost.
Don’t accept generalities and vague answers. Generalities and a lack of specifics should be enough to cause you to vote no.
If the ballot question passes, you’re paying the bill. You deserve the details.
A word to the wise, these commissioners occasionally like to play word games. They’ve been known to say “we didn’t say that” even after they say things.
After their up-to-that-point secret plan was exposed in The Landmark last summer and a headline read “Commission pondering 510-bed jail, tax increase,” one of the commissioners actually stood up in a public setting and gave a reaction that advanced the idea of “fake news” when in fact there was nothing fake or incorrect about it. Apparently at least one commissioner wanted to take the position that adding 330 beds to a 180 bed jail didn’t mean they were pondering a 510 bed jail. Maybe commissioners thought the general public isn’t smart enough to do the math.
In their world of word games, they were pondering a 330 bed jail addition to an existing 180 bed jail, not pondering a 510 bed jail. Hmm.
Let’s add 330 to 180. That would equal a 510 bed jail. Nothing fake about that. What’s fake are disingenuous word games by folks we trust to do better.
And as it turns out, what’s fake are the “no new taxes,” “lower taxes, higher accountability,” and “increased transparency” promises current commissioners made to you when they wanted your vote at the polls.
With a $65 million sales tax increase question now is the time to hold your elected county officials accountable. You may notice to this point it’s an extremely vague plan, questionable in its immediate need, and does nothing to address what many folks say is the most immediate problem in the sheriff’s department. The most immediate need in the sheriff’s department is higher pay for deputies.
The half cent sales tax revenue for a new jail can’t legally be used to increase pay for officers. Don’t incorrectly assume that it does.
Per the ballot language, the half cent sales tax and the $65 million it will bring in is only for capital improvements. Salaries are not capital improvements and therefore revenue from this tax will NOT go to better pay for deputies.
For the sheriff’s department, the proposed new $65 million tax is only for a massive and expensive new jail.
Be on your toes for potential county official doublespeak, contradictions, and broken promises. Ask questions. If they sense you’re opposed to their proposal they’ll try to flip the script by asking you questions, they’ll ask you if you have a better solution. If you have an idea speak it, but don’t feel pressured. Tell them it’s not your job to come up with a solution, that’s what you hired them to do.
If you’re not into confrontation, you don’t even have to tell them which way you’re leaning. Either way, never let any elected official try to question you like you’re on trial. The duty to explain is on them, not you.
You don’t have to convince them their proposal sucks (deep down, they probably already know their plan is questionable, otherwise they would have opened it up to public forums and public input prior to putting it on the ballot). See if they can convince you there is an actual emergency need and that this plan is the best way--and the best time--to address it. When public officials are wanting $65 million of your tax money, don’t make their job easier. Make it harder. Don’t let them put you on the defensive. You put them on the defensive. See above about who’s the boss.
If you’re not into confrontation, that’s ok, you don’t even have to call them out. Some of you might be friends with the commissioners and don’t want to burn a personal bridge. That’s fine. Do your talking via that confidential vote you cast on April 2. They don’t even have to know how you voted.
Rather than doing their own talking, this commission would prefer to lurk in the weeds, hear you talk and then try to convince you that your belief about their plan is wrong and accuse you of having bad info. This is the opposite of how the process is supposed to operate. Make them do the talking.
Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, says the commission will do an “education campaign” on the ballot question. He wasn’t specific. And really, those types of public forums should have been held to gather public input before a plan was put on the ballot, not afterward.
They’re wanting $65 million of your dollars, primarily for a jail for which the immediate need can be fairly questioned. They’ll tell you a recent jail study says it’s needed. Fact is the most recent jail study didn’t even use the accurate current jail capacity (it used original capacity of 151 when actual number of beds is now 180) when spewing present and future needs. At minimum, that’s what can fairly be called manipulating information to fit a narrative.
Fact is the county commission didn’t even ask the recent jail study to explain why the jail population has increased. Therein lies the problem. Remember, felony crimes in Platte County actually declined three percent in the past year. Let’s figure out why the jail count is supposedly up and see if the problem, if there is one, can be solved through other means.
Let the commissioners do the talking. Then feel free to pick apart their words with your vote.
Another thing: this proposal is not the sheriff’s baby. By law, it can’t be. The sheriff doesn’t have the power to put an issue on the ballot. Only the county commission can do that. This is the county commission’s proposal. Don’t let them try to pass off ownership of the plan. Don’t let credit or blame be handed off to the sheriff. This proposal is the property of the county commission.
How about some Sunshine on a cold winter’s day?
Interesting note. The group known as Citizens for a Better Parkville sent the exact same Sunshine Law request for documents to the City of Parkville and to the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (CID) for documents pertaining to interactions between the two entities form the year 2014 to present. The requests were identical and were sent on the same day.
The responses were quite different.
The City of Parkville responded by saying it needs $500 cash up front with an earliest commitment date of one month from receipt of cash. The CID said it will provide the records at no charge in two days.
The city has a staff of more than eight and a budget measured in the millions. The CID has a staff of one and really no measurable budget.
WERE A LITTLE LESS BUSY
IN THE PAST YEAR
Interesting tidbit from a recent conversation with Scott Roy, the executive director of the Northland Regional Ambulance District (NRAD).
Roy says transports by the ambulance district were down by five percent in the year 2018. Transports are described as a run in which NRAD ends up taking a person to the hospital for treatment.
Roy said he was surprised by that falling number, especially given the growth in the district’s service area. “Our public education is working. People are being safe out there,” he said.
The Northland Regional Ambulance District Headquarters and Education Center are in Platte City at 1000 Platte Falls Road.
NRAD says it provides three Advanced Life Support Paramedic Ambulances 24 hours a day, 7 days a week “to provide the highest possible level of emergency medical care to everyone who lives or works within, or travels to or through our ambulance district.” The district’s ambulances are stationed in Platte City, Camden Point and Smithville. The Camden Point station is located just north of E Highway and Interurban Road. The Smithville station is on Richardson Road, just west of 169 Highway (south of the Smithville Post Office).
To summarize, Platte County’s number of felony crimes dropped by three percent in the past year and the number of local ambulance transports dropped by five percent in the same time period.
So don’t panic. Not all is doom-and-gloom in the world of local public safety.
The Chiefs are one win away from advancing to the Super Bowl. Can you believe it?
In Saturday’s divisional playoff win against the Colts, Kansas City’s defense looked like a different outfit than the one that has been overrun most of the season. The win catapulted KC into the AFC Championship game set for Sunday night at Arrowhead against the New England Patriots. It’s the most successful quarterback of all time (Tom Brady) vs. the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the league’s phenom and presumed MVP. If the Chiefs win, consider it a proverbial passing of the torch, if you will.
Oh yeah, the forecast calls for temps hovering around single digits for Sunday night’s battle. Don’t offer to give me a free ticket, it wouldn’t matter. I’d rather be watching this one from the comfort of a warm couch.
You know the Chiefs are going to be able to score considerable points against the Patriots, they always do. The question will be which version of the Chiefs defense shows up, the version we saw most of the season or the version we saw against the Colts? If it’s the latter, we can all look forward to watching our local team in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
Exciting times for football fans in the region. We’ve waited a long time for this, Kansas City.
But hey, if you want someone to try to whiz on your Chiefs fandom, Hearne Christopher is here to take care of that. Check out Hearne’s comments in the Other Voices section on this page. Hearne probably played the role of Scrooge in Christmas plays as a kid. . .
One week away from a decision by the county commission on whether there will be a law enforcement tax and/or jail tax question on the ballot in April. Nothing firm to report as of yet but the opinion of many folks, based on reading of the tea leaves, is that the county will have some sort of ballot question(s) to announce next Tuesday. Stay tuned.
Had an email exchange one day last week with Bill Garnos, the consultant who performed the most recent jail study for Platte County.
Garnos said that his study included an extensive effort to verify and document the actual number of ICE detainees in the Platte County Jail, so that they could be excluded from the analysis of the county’s own inmate population trends and excluded from the development of his inmate population projections.
“The purpose of the jail population study is to provide an objective and independent assessment to provide transparency and documentation, and to provide a more data-driven means for determining the county’s future jail facility needs,” he wrote.
As noted here previously, the current jail was designed with a total of 154 beds. Major Erik Holland, in an August interview with The Landmark, said 26 additional beds were installed in 2014-15, which increased the capacity to 180. He said the department identified space in particular cells where the square footage was such that it allowed for “an additional bunk here, an additional bunk there.” Holland went on to say: “We identified space inside the current facility where we could add additional bunks and had the DOC (Missouri Department of Corrections) construct those bunks for us and we installed them.”
Based on Holland’s comments, it’s important to note those additional 26 are described as bunks, not the temporary “boat” type accommodations you sometimes hear referenced by county officials. As an example of the confusion and conflicting information that can come out of the mouths of the electeds, recently one county official described to me those 26 beds as temporary bunks. As you can see above, that’s not the way Holland explained it in August.
Holland said when the jail population goes over the 180 capacity, the department is able to place temporary bunks--those often described as “boats”--on the floor.
“Our preference is not to have people in temporary bunks,” Holland said in that August interview.
Conveniently, or not conveniently depending upon your point of view, in latest talks and study calculations the stated capacity of the jail often is reverted back to 151 instead of 180. They say they do this “because when that jail was built it was originally designed for 151 beds.” They’re not wrong about that, it’s just that saying the current capacity is 151 is not exactly accurate. This is similar to school systems who tend to conveniently adjust to a reconfigured “capacity” of school buildings when they’re trying to make a case for new building projects.
Garnos says the current county jail, at 180 beds, is “maxed out” in all areas and has been operating at inmate levels well beyond that. (Current jail population as of Monday night was listed at 170 on the sheriff’s web site.)
“It may not be a good analogy but it’s like running a car continuously at its maximum speed. Parts wear out faster and the car simply won’t last as long,” Garnos said.
(Get more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and at Platte County Landmark on Facebook)
COMMISSION TIGHT-LIPPED ABOUT POTENTIAL APRIL JAIL QUESTION
Frankly, I’m a little stunned Landmark Live earned zero awards at the Golden Globes Sunday night. We gotta do better.
Will the county commission be placing a jail tax issue on the ballot in April? Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, says “we don’t know yet,” which might be code for “we know but we’re trying to be coy about it.”
I don’t know whether they will or they won’t, but by two weeks before the ballot deadline one would think the commissioners would have made a decision and be confident about publicly expressing its intentions. If the commission isn’t confident in its decision why should voters be confident?
Placing a tax question on an April ballot would break one of their main campaign promises, but I guess you could say that train has already left the station anyway.
Schieber did say the county commission has not engaged in any further talks with Kansas City or any other agency about renting out bed space in a potential new county jail. “I’d rather not do that. I would like to find a way to do what is constitutionally required, nothing more and nothing less. Part of that has to be getting rid of the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) prisoners,” Schieber said.
There are on average 18 ICE prisoners per day in the Platte County Jail. Schieber said by getting rid of the ICE prisoners, the county would buy nearly two more years of projected jail population growth, as a recent study projects a growth rate of 10 prisoners per year. But if the ICE deal goes away the county seems to want a dedicated law enforcement sales tax to help make up the loss of income from the ICE bed rentals.
Schieber is a little less guarded when talking about the future of the county parks tax. I asked him when he anticipates a vote on a renewal of the county park tax.
“It’s not up until 2020. I don’t see us putting it on a ballot until 2020,” he said. And commissioners have openly indicated the proposal they intend to submit to voters will feature a proposed park tax lower than the current half cent.
“There will be an extension (submitted to voters),” John Elliott, second district commissioner, said during Monday’s session, pointing out that the county has invested about $140 million into a park system that now needs to be maintained. But Elliott reiterated that the extension will not ask for a half cent. Early indications have been that the commissioners favor proposing to voters a park tax as low as 1/8th cent.
So far, four candidates have filed for two open spots on the Platte County R-3 School Board. Here’s hoping the four who have signed up are able to resist any external--or internal--pressure to bow out. School district administrators in the past have shown they favor holding no school board elections, and have been known to gently “encourage” some candidates to drop out of the race after filing. They apparently use the premise it would save the district money not to have to hold a board election.
Why not let voters, not the administration, choose the school board? If more than two candidates remain in the race an election on April 2 is necessary. It will be interesting to see if anyone mysteriously steps aside this year, which is what happened a year ago.
If you’ve been following the Parkville development story, you’ll want to check out the site that has links to many communications to/from the city about the plan. Consider it a deep dive on a quest for open government.
Find ‘Transparency’ at:
If you caught our pre-season football special broadcast live and in color from Tanner’s Bar and Grill in Platte City in early September, you know each of your humble Landmark Live hosts and special guest Jay Binkley of 610 Sports made Super Bowl champion predictions. I must not so humbly say I am the only one who still has his predicted champion alive. My preseason pick was the Saints will be the Super Bowl champs. Our man Chris Kamler predicted the Packers, who did not make the playoffs. Co-host Brad Carl and Binkley both went with the Vikings, who did not make the playoffs.
On the other side of the coin, my prediction on the Chiefs was not very accurate. I tabbed the Chiefs at 8-8. As you know, Kansas City ended the regular season with a record of 12-4 and the number one seed in the AFC.
Earth-shattering announcement. There will be no Landmark Bracket Battle this year, ladies and gents. I’ve made an executive decision based on a desire to save my sanity in the month of March.
The grading of those hundreds of brackets each year has forced my late nights into early mornings for the final time. I love the tournament and the competition but this guy is too old to be staying up half the night marking x’s on your missed picks and updating the standings of my fellow bracketologists. I’ll actually be able to enjoy watching the games this year without the dread of long nights spent grading brackets occupying the back of my mind.
It’s been well over 20 years, kids, since we kicked off this contest, which at first featured about 12 or 15 of us who worked on or near Platte City’s Main Street. The free-to-enter bragging rights battle eventually grew into monster-like status, like a professional athlete on steroids.
Anyway, I’m choosing to make this announcement in January mainly because I’m figuring if I put it in writing I won’t be tempted to change my mind when the adrenaline of March Madness starts flowing in the spring.
While I’m 100 percent certain there will be no more “send me your bracket” contests in which I must personally grade every entry, there is still an outside chance we will host a free-to-enter Landmark contest online where a computerized gizmo can do the scoring. While the online version would eliminate the personal interaction between us--which was the goal and the most awesome part about our annual battle--it would still give us a little sense of competition. If we do form an online contest we’ll let you know in print and on our social media platforms in March.
(Get more from Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley. You can also find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
WHEN IT COMES TO JAIL POPULATION, MAYBE IT'S TIME TO FOCUS ON 'WHY'
It’s NFL playoff time. Will this be another one and done post-season appearance for the Chiefs? Let’s hope not. Kansas City, where the league’s most dynamic quarterback resides, will play host to a playoff game next weekend on Saturday, Jan. 12.
I’d feel better about things if the Chiefs actually had a defense. A playoff caliber football team is not going to come into Arrowhead and gift Kansas City turnover after turnover like the awful Raiders did last Sunday.
Anyway, Kansas City’s long suffering NFL fans have waited patiently for a Super Bowl. The Chiefs won the 1970 Super Bowl, which is before many of you reading this were even born. I was six, almost seven, and really the only thing I can remember about that game is my dad jumping up off the couch when Otis Taylor made a remarkable touchdown catch/run and the Chiefs pulled off the upset over the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings that year.
Who would have thought in 1970 that this many years later KC fans would still be thirsting for another Super Bowl?
Can this team do it? Maybe, we all like to dream, but the Chiefs defense is so liquid-like the odds seem stacked against them.
Some folks have already offered comments and feedback to us regarding the recent jail study proposal by a consultant hired by the Platte County Commission. A lot of the comments focus on the lack of attention on the word “why?” As in, why is the average length of stay in the jail increasing? While it’s important to know that inmates are staying longer, it’s even more important to know why are they staying longer? Perhaps that’s a problem that can be addressed more effectively than by simply building a state prison-sized county jail.
Also the numbers of ICE prisoners (the county rents bed space to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners) were included in jail population figures by the consultant, which helps to skew the uptick in prisoners. If the county doesn’t have to house them, why include it other than to show how the facilities are being used? There aren’t any comments in the study relative to courts, the legal system, and impact of changes as it impacts the average length of stay (ALOS).
And regarding ICE, what happens if the feds change how that is done and the need for that space and the revenue that comes with it goes away? We know the answer to that one.
As for general population projections, as we’ve seen in the past trying to predict population growth beyond 10-15 years is mathematical gymnastics. Faulty predictions. First the area has to have available jobs to attract continued population growth. Who are the potential employers 10 or 15 years from now?
Also, the number of felony case filings is interesting to watch. You’ll notice the county’s general population is in an uptrend but the total crime count isn't changing (in fact, in the past year there were three percent fewer felony cases filed in Platte County than the year before), which goes against a narrative that county officials push when they say: “The overall crime rate isn’t going up but the number of serious crimes is going up.” The latest numbers don’t support that narrative.
These are just a few thoughts that are getting tossed around in the community as we head into decision time for the county commission. If the commission wants to put a jail proposal on the ballot in April, they’ll need to get certified ballot language to the Platte County Board of Elections by Jan. 22. That’s just a few short weeks away.
Still waiting for the new Platte City QuikTrip store?
Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt said this week that QT is requesting a temporary occupancy permit to open its new store in Platte City. The mayor says Thursday, Jan. 10 is the date listed on the application to begin operating the new store, which is on the same footprint as the current store along NW Prairie View in Platte City.
You’ll be able to tell which building is the new one when you get there.
Shoutout to the loyal Landmark reader who popped in the office one day last week to ask why we never talk about the new QT opening up soon. At first I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.
This surprised me because we have mentioned the new QuikTrip so often in print and on our social media outlets that I personally felt like we were going overboard with it, and here is at least one reader saying we haven’t talked about it enough. I could only chuckle in slight amusement. It’s funny how individual readers perceive coverage of various topics. I feel certain there are other readers who think the new QT coming to Platte City has been covered ad nauseam. I guess this is more proof it’s impossible to keep everybody happy, my friends.
I mean, to an extent the new QT is big news and worthy of coverage, which it has been given multiple times by The Landmark and other outlets. But when a privately-owned business keeps changing its targeted opening date it’s really up to that privately-owned business to get the word out about that ever-changing target date. It’s not the local media’s job to become a large privately-owned corporation’s public relations team. After all, QT isn’t exactly a mom and pop general store in need of free pub from the local newspaper.
Either way, thanks for reading and keep that feedback coming.
Don’t know if you’ve heard but the new QT in Platte City is scheduled to open Jan. 10.
Just as an FYI, though, I wouldn’t chisel that in stone.
(Find Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and email him at email@example.com)
Between the Lines by Ivan
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