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Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

THE AFTERMATH OF MANIPULATION AT FERRELVIEW

11/6/19

It’s official. The Paseo is back to being The Paseo, thanks to 70 percent of the voters in Kansas City on Tuesday.

By a vote of 8-4, the Kansas City council had officially changed the name in January. Had anyone ever really started calling it Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard?

Happy that voters saw the light on the silliness.

******

Remember several years ago--in one of the silliest decisions in recent history--when two of the then-county commissioners took formal action to officially rename the Platte County Courthouse as the Owens Lee Hull, Jr. Justice Center?
I wonder how that question would turn out if submitted to voters.

Honestly, I think we already know the answer to that.

******

I don’t want to say I told you so but I’m going to hint at it just a bit.

Remember when the sheriff’s department moved in on some alleged illegal activity at the Village of Ferrelview regarding the sale of a couple city-owned vehicles? I do.

I remember intimating in this column space that in my opinion authorities were buddying up to the wrong people inside Ferrelview City Hall. I remember writing that the voice I trusted inside there was that of Mickey Vulgamott, who was city treasurer at the time.

Anyway, charges were officially brought against then-board of trustee member Russell Wilson for allegedly getting an inside deal on the purchase of a city vehicle. Now those charges have been dropped.

“The testimony of key witnesses, as recorded in depositions taken in this case, differs substantially from their initial statements to investigators, rendering the state unable to proceed with prosecution. Accordingly, the State of Missouri, by and through Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blake C. Sherer, hereby dismisses this case,” wrote Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd in a recent notice of dismissal submitted to the circuit court.

The witness--or witnesses--recanting his/her original statements was not Mickey Vulgamott. Vulgamott’s deposition matched what she had told the detective in the investigation. There may have been some new ground covered in her deposition on things the detective didn’t ask in his investigation because perhaps the detective thought he knew it already.

There was manipulation and telling of untruths going on at Ferrelview City Hall. Embarrassingly for investigators and prosecutors, the side that was being manipulative is the side the investigators had buddied up to.

Eventually that all came out in the wash. Charges against Wilson have been dropped.

What a waste of time and money, not to mention the bad publicity Wilson unjustly received as a result of charges from an investigation that it turns out was part fantasy.

******

Hats off and major kudos to Jayce Tingler, recently named the new manager of the San Diego Padres.

Tingler, age 38, is a graduate of Smithville High School and reportedly still makes a home in Smithville.

Tingler was born and raised in Smithville. At Smithville High School, Tingler played baseball and set the school scoring record in basketball. His mother, Diana, was girls basketball coach at Smithville High, while his father, Steve, coached basketball at West Platte.

Tingler played baseball at Mizzou and was drafted in 2003 by the Blue Jays. He never advanced beyond Double-A. He became the hitting coach for the Rangers’ Dominican Summer League team in 2007, then took over as the DSL manager for the 2008-09 seasons. Tingler also managed the Rangers’ Arizona League team in 2010. In all three seasons as manager, his teams made the playoffs. Tingler was promoted to coordinator of instruction of the Rangers’ Arizona and Dominican Republic operations in 2011. The following year, he became Texas’ minor-league field coordinator, and supervised on-field instruction for minor-league players.

Tingler also was in charge of organization for spring training and instructional league. In 2015, Tingler joined the Rangers’ coaching staff as field coordinator and outfield and base-running coach, a job he held for two years before working as an assistant to the general manager from 2017-18. This past season, he was their major-league player development field coordinator.

******

Following up on last week’s report about Platte County R-3 wanting to charge someone over $700 to fill a Sunshine request for emails in the Chad Searcey situation: It seems it gets worse.

“$700 is chump change compared to what they quoted me in 2013,” says Kirby Holden.

In 2013, Holden put in a Sunshine request to R-3 for emails that appear in a keyword search of emails from Dr. Michael Reik or Dr. Mike Brown to board of education members. Holden wanted emails that contained the terms “Kirby Holden,” “Holden,” or his website “plattecountyr3facts.com.”

Platte County R-3 officials told Holden such a search for documents would require a payment of $2,700.

“We estimate the time and expense required to respond to your request includes approximately 25 hours of professional staff time at an hourly rate of $82 and 25 hours of clerical time at an hourly rate of $26, for a total of $2,700. The final cost attributable to you may be more or less than this estimated amount,” Vicki Diggs, R-3 custodian of records, told Holden in a response dated July 18, 2013.

Good grief.

(There’s no $2,700 paywall for Between the Lines. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley, find him on Facebook or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THE NEW TREND: A VIRTUAL PAYWALL IN FRONT OF PUBLIC DOCUMENTS

10/30/19

The City of Parkville isn’t the only local tax supported entity getting a bit ridiculous in the handling of public records. It’s time to add Platte County R-3 School District to that list.

We mentioned a while back that we had put in a request for the separation agreement Platte County R-3 had reached with the mad tweeter, Dr. Chad Searcey? You’ll remember it as the deal where Searcey was paid $275,000 in taxpayer money just to go away after he engaged a school shooting survivor on Twitter by sending pictures of himself and his kids shooting guns.

R-3 claims the separation agreement is a personnel document. We find this curious because we have in the past had no trouble acquiring separation agreements that other school districts--most notably Park Hill--have reached with employees. Seems strange that R-3 is the only district we have encountered that refuses to release a copy of a separation agreement. R-3’s stance certainly sends the message that there is something in that separation agreement that the district does not want out for public consumption.

And I’ve mentioned there are attorneys--including the attorney for the Missouri Press Association--who argue that R-3’s stance on this is not in line with the Sunshine Law. We’ve been encouraged to file a complaint with the office of the Missouri Attorney General.

Now we learn The Landmark isn’t the only party trying to gather public information on the Searcey situation. An “anonymous” Sunshine request was recently made to R-3 seeking “any and all emails in the possession of the school district from June 12, 2019 to July 1, 2019 that contain the name of Chad Searcey or any variance of the name Chad Searcey.” The timeframe mentioned is when the Searcey tweeting controversy broke.

Platte County R-3’s response is interesting, and not in a good way.
“Due to the nature of your request, time and expense is required to research and prepare the records. Your request will require the district to navigate through approximately 1,500 email messages in the district’s possession sent or received during the period specified in your request. Each of these messages must be reviewed by Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mike Reik, for the identification and redaction of privileged and/or protected information that does not constitute an open record. The research and review time for your request is five hours of executive administrative time at $105.51 per hour, one hour of technology staff time at $48.10 per hour and five hours of clerical time at an hourly rate of $26.72 for a total of $709.25.”

And the district makes it clear it won’t begin searching until the $709.25 is received.

So what we have here is a tax supported entity in essence creating a pay wall, basically holding public records hostage by using the district’s highest paid employee to allegedly review emails and decide what is protected info and what isn’t. With technology at its disposal--you know, electronic search features and such--it seems highly unlikely that $700 is a reasonable fee. What it feels like is the $700 is a deterrent to furnishing public records. A virtual pay wall.

And the district doesn’t want to search any alternate spellings of the name Searcey. Let’s be honest, it is a name that is often misspelled into Searcy or something similar.

“Please be advised that a portion of your request, as written, could be far too expansive for the district to provide a response. Since it would be impossible to determine all the variations of the name of Chad Searcey, please be advised that we will use search criteria of “Searcey” when capturing email messages,” R-3 says in response to the request, though the district does add a sentence that says “if this is not acceptable, please provide further specification,” with a kicker “if additional time is required due to further specification, we will advise accordingly.”

The R-3 response letter, signed by Vicki Diggs, custodian of records, closes with:

“Once I am in receipt of your payment of $709.25 as outlined above, we will begin to compile the requested records for you. We anticipate it should take us no longer than 14 business days to comply once payment is received.”

*******

A little breaking news on Wednesday morning: The petition drive to force a state audit of the City of Parkville is officially underway. The first person to sign the petition is a woman who was told by Mayor Nan Johnston during a public meeting last year: “I don’t have to let you speak at all.”

*******

I can’t tell you how much I want Nan Johnston and her quick temper to run for county commission sometime in the future. Imagine the fun.

******

Hey, remember a couple of months ago when I quoted one of the oil market experts as saying we would be seeing gasoline at less than $2 a gallon by Thanksgiving? It could still happen, but it has a ways to go over the next four weeks to get there. Prices in Platte County this week are hovering around $2.26 per gallon. That’s about 15 cents per gallon less than a month ago, so things are trending in the right direction.

According to the website GasBuddy, the average price in Kansas City is $2.30 per gallon. Last year at this time it was $2.58.

******

They need you.

Have you ever given consideration to being a worker at the polls on Election Day? If you have a little time on your hands--or the opportunity to make time--give it some thought. The Platte County Board of Elections is in need of poll workers as everyone is gearing up for a high energy election year in 2020. “We’d like to get a little head start on recruiting election workers,” Chris Hershey, one of the directors at the board of elections told me last week. And with that in mind, an application has been placed on the board of elections home page at plattemovotes.org.

Pay for workers goes like this: election judges--$115; supervisory judges $140. There is also a training class for which workers are paid $25.

So what do the poll workers do? They must attend the poll worker training class. They must arrive at the polls by 5 a.m. to help set up for voting. They check in and issue ballots to voters. They close the polls at 7 p.m. (later if voters are in line at 7 p.m.). And they account for ballots and pack up supplies. For more information on how this works, call the Platte County Board of Elections office at 816.858.4400 or email platte@sos.mo.gov.

(Get Between the Lines at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley and search for Foley on Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH LISTENING TO OPPOSING VIEWS

10/23/19

Welcome back to Between the Lines. The ink is black. The page is white. Together we learn to read and write.

******

Platte County Commissioners sure missed a chance to do something wise when they failed to name David Park as one of the members of their self-called “blue ribbon” 11-member committee to study the county’s sales tax structure.
Park, a Democrat, as you’ll recall challenged Ron Schieber in the presiding commissioner race in 2018 and gave the incumbent a run for his money. Park pulled more votes in Platte County than any Democrat has in the past decade, falling to Schieber by a margin of 53-47%.

In 2020, Park will be running for second district commissioner, a seat currently held by John Elliott.

Anyway, Park has been critical of the county commission’s stated intention to cut back on funding for capital improvement projects in the county parks department. In other words, Park is in favor of continuing to expand parks and recreation facilities parks capital improvements. This is probably why he didn’t get asked to serve on the committee, even though there is no citizen in the county who has more closely followed every move of county-related activity the past couple of years. Park has developed a pretty vast working knowledge of what’s going on inside the walls of the county facility.

In addition to that, it’s often politically beneficial to appoint an “adversary” to these types of committees. Sometimes it opens doors--and minds--to a lot of things, including potentially softening some criticism and creating an opening for productive dialog on both sides. Extending an olive branch is not a bad thing. Even if nothing substantial or positive comes from it, such a move is interpreted as an open minded and classy thing to do.

I recently asked Park if the county commissioners ever reached out to him about potentially serving on the advisory committee. His response: “No, they didn’t. I was not surprised though. I would not have supported the recommendation they are seeking.”

The “recommendation they are seeking,” of course, is in reference to the commissioners stated desire to cut the park sales tax rate, which currently sits at a half cent.

A missed opportunity. Current county commissioners just haven’t shown a lot of interest in hearing viewpoints that are not already aligned with their own. It really shouldn’t be painful to give air time to opposing viewpoints. But apparently it is.

******

The discussion over school start times at Park Hill is fascinating stuff. I don’t have personal skin in the game but I will chime in with this observation: 7:15 a.m. is too early to be starting school for any age.

Just my two cents.

Carry on.

******

A 7:15 a.m. start time makes me appreciate the small town school I attended. For all my school years there the school day ran roughly 8:15 to 3:15, give or take five minutes on either side.

******

Thinking back to the school days of former Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley, who by the way is recently married, living in Manhattan, Kan. and working on a master’s degree in environmental policy. I don’t want to say Kurt was reluctant to wake up on school days but it would have taken nothing short of a terrorist attack to get him out of the sack in time for a 7:15 a.m. start time.

And frankly there’s no guarantee that would have worked, either.

******

Pistachios are the bomb. I just finished another bag while writing this column. Those things are like crack.

I mean, I’ve never smoked crack. But I would imagine it’s as addictive as eating pistachios.

******

Interestingly enough, there are plans in the works for the former Kmart shopping center in Platte Woods.

The Kansas City Star reported last week that the former Kmart shopping center has new owners who have plans to redevelop the site. A local investment group recently purchased the 104,490 square foot center on NW Prairie View Road west of I-29 at 72nd St. The investment group had long owned the land the building sits on but recently purchased the center from Sears Holding Corp. as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

A representative from the owner told the Star that the plan is “to renovate all those shops, make it nice and pretty and up to date.” The plan is to fill the center with “high profile, mixed use type users including entertainment, retail, restaurant and hotel,” the Star reported.

I’m not necessarily doubting the plan, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting on that one. We’ve all heard some aggressive development plans that never came to fruition. Remember when the west side of the I-29 and Hwy. HH exit in Platte City was going to become the “next Zona Rosa” as described by some (at least one) local elected official at the time about 15 years ago or so? That never quite came to be. Those plans quickly withered.

Anyway, Kmart had occupied about 84,180 sq. ft. of the space at Platte Woods. Several smaller tenants still operate on the north end, including Tasty Thai and Big Bowl Pho.

(Get a Big Bowl of Between the Lines right here each week. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley, find him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


STATE AUDITOR ALREADY GETTING CURIOUS ABOUT PARKVILLE

10/16/19

Things are getting more interesting at the City of Parkville.

As you’ll see in a story elsewhere in this issue, another official complaint in regard to lack of transparency/Sunshine Law has been filed with the Missouri Attorney General.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Representatives from Citizens for a Better Parkville have already held discussions with the office of Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway. And word is the auditor is getting very curious. Maki and others have received a high level of engagement in early talks with the state auditor’s office.

“They (the auditor’s office) want to sit down with us and go through all the open records requests that have been made. They want to know what the attorney general is aware of, what is he not aware of. And they want to be included in every open records request going forward,” says Jason Maki of the citizens group.

Citizens for a Better Parkville, a political action committee, has indicated it is giving city officials a chance to directly request a state audit. This polite angle is the result of some confident statements put out last spring by Mayor Nan Johnston, who wasn’t shy about saying she would “welcome a state audit.” The citizens group is giving Nan a chance to make good on that statement.

Maki says if the city has not made a request for the state audit by November then the citizens group will begin the petition process and start soliciting the necessary number of voter signatures to force the state audit. The PAC is organized and ready, if necessary, to begin that process, Maki says.

******

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Don't look now but cold and flu season will soon be upon us.

With that in mind, kudos to the Platte County Health Department for conducting another series of free drive-thru flu shot clinics in the county. This is really a cool and convenient service. And you can’t beat the price.

The Platte City clinic, conducted outside the Platte City Middle School, in particular proved to be very popular. A line of cars formed ahead of the scheduled 11 a.m. start time on Monday so officials began the clinic early. I arrived about 10:40 and activity was already underway. It was scheduled to run till 2 p.m. but the pre-set amount of vaccine was gone well in advance of that.

In Platte City, 250 shots were administered, which is the maximum amount the health department had available for the drive-thru event. On Thursday at Riverside, 226 shots were administered, health department officials tell me.

******

Ruh-roh. This might not go as smoothly as the commissioners expected.
As you know by now, the Platte County Commission has appointed an 11-member committee to study the sales tax structure. Apparently this is their idea of “public input.”

Specifically, the county’s half cent sales tax for parks expires in December of 2020 and it’s time to decide what level of tax will be sought in renewal. And the county commissioners have made it very clear they want to cut the amount of the half cent park tax and also create a sales tax dedicated to law enforcement.

As word was initially leaking out about the formation of this committee and some of the names of folks who were going to serve, it seemed the commission was naming a small group of friendlies who would basically provide an echo chamber for the commissioners. They may have quietly received a little criticism about it, because some late additions to the committee have made the roster interesting. There are some folks on the team with strong personalities, not likely to be easily swayed. For example, Gordon Cook, an accountant from Parkville, got a great point across Monday night during the first meeting of the group. Sandra Thomas, committee chair and personal friend of the county commissioners, indicated she’d like to be done with committee meetings by the end of the year. Cook thinks if things are done the right way it will take longer than that.

“With all due respect, if we’re looking to be done by the end of the year you’re looking for approval of an answer that’s already on the table,” Cook said.

Well, hello. Maybe these meetings aren’t going to be a snoozefest after all.

******

Let’s talk Chiefs.

The team’s got a few problem areas, as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve watched the past couple of games.

Thursday night KC is at Denver in a nationally televised stand-alone game against the Broncos. It’s bounce back time. I’m predicting the KC defense puts up a rare good performance in this one and the Chiefs get a victory, covering the three point spread.

If I’m wrong on this, I’m counting on many of you to shoot me a message telling me what an idiot I am. Don’t let me down.

******

Andy Reid is an intelligent guy, a high level coach, and I’m glad we have him in KC with the Chiefs.

But he often seems to develop brain cramps when working under pressure. We’ve seen it numerous times with clock management at the end of the half or more importantly at the end of games. We’ve also seen it with some head-scratching play selection calls on crucial drives late in games.

It is possible for a person to be extremely intelligent, extremely detailed with game plans, have top-notch skills in advance scheming and yet not be a calm and strong thinker in pressure situations. The first doesn’t always guarantee the second.
Andy needs to appoint a trusted assistant to be talking in his ear during pressure times of the games. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

To hell with ego and pride, get a trusted voice in your ear during hectic times. That’s good advice in any walk of life, not just coaching football.

(Get drive-thru Between the Lines thoughts on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and find Foley on YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram)

 


THESE DAYS, THERE'S SOMETHING NEW ABOUT OLD SPICE

10/9/19

Let’s start at the beginning. As in Old Spice’s beginning.

Available in stores since 1938, Old Spice after shave had long been associated with the past. And also long associated with, shall we say, older gentlemen. Think back to the time you first smelled it: an older dude was sporting the fragrance, correct? I can remember catching whiff of the original fragrance in the early 70s when my dad would splash some on after finishing up with his morning shave.

But as most of us know, Old Spice reinvented itself in recent years, basically saving the brand. It all seemed to change around 2008, when Old Spice and Wieden + Kennedy kicked off a new campaign, Old Spice Swagger body wash. The Swagger completely transformed the face of the Old Spice brand, as well as its customers.

Old Spice, my friends, swaggerized itself.

Though I’m still an Irish Spring bar of soap guy, I also pick up a bottle of Old Spice Swagger body wash and put it to use. Unless I’m rushed for time in the morning shower, after rinsing off the lather from that Irish Spring bar of soap I follow it up with Old Spice body wash as a finishing product. Kind of like buffing off the Turtle Wax on your car.

I apply this topical layer of body wash while shampoo or conditioner sits in my hair. Killing two birds with one stone. Multitasking. Showering smarter not harder.
By now you might be thinking I’ve put too much thought into the whole showering process. You might be right.

******

But let’s get back to the scent itself. After the Swagger fragrance had become such a hit for Old Spice, the marketing guys and gals at the company came up with other offshoot scents, but most of those names I can’t specifically recall. Occasionally I’d try one of the newer fragrances, think nah, then go back to Swagger.

Give me the swag.

Or at least that’s how I felt until recently. Somebody start a drum roll please, because this is the part of the column you’re going to want to clip and save. Put the clipping in your wallet. Read it again before you do your shopping for personal grooming. Send it off in a letter to yourself. Tattoo it on your arm.

Here we go:

There’s a new Old Spice body wash fragrance out now. I saw it on the shelf at a local Walgreens recently. Yes, I do my toiletry shopping at Walgreens because I’m loaded and enjoy paying double what I could pay somewhere else for body wash, deodorant, shampoo and such.

Not really. I do my shopping for those kinds of items at Walgreens because there’s a Walgreens conveniently located along my drive to work. It ain’t cheap but it is convenient.

But I digress.

The new Old Spice body wash fragrance I’m referring to is known as Captain Scent of Command. At the risk of overstating things, this is a life changer, you guys. I’m not familiar with slumps but if some of you are slumping this could be a slump buster. It’s that good.

Recently I wanted to give a new body wash a try. That’s when I saw Captain Scent of Command and grabbed a bottle. Loved it. Soon went back to Walgreens and grabbed two more. When I was down to only one extra bottle, I walked to the Old Spice rack at Walgreens wanting to pick up another Captain Scent of Command. Guess what? None left. I hope Walgreens will be restocking it soon or I’ll have to find a new place to pay through the nose for toiletries.

I’m not surprised it has become hard to find. Captain Scent of Command smells like the bold determination it takes to stare down the open ocean and laugh. Captain Scent of Command will allow you to save small animals using only your man scent. Captain Scent of Command gives heart to the weak while striking fear in your enemies. Captain Scent of Command is so easy to use you might accidentally wash with it and only later realize your man-nificence. It is both timely and timeless. It is a force to be reckoned with. It will leave you scented from head to toe in glory. You’ll like it so much you’ll change your ring tone to the Old Spice theme.

Give it a try. Thank me later.

You’re welcome, America.

******

Here’s another public service announcement: Don’t look now but it will soon be flu season.

The drive-through flu shot clinics are coming soon, courtesy of the Platte County Health Department. I hit the one in Platte City last year and was impressed with how easy, quick and painless this was. What a convenient service.

See an ad on page A-10 for specific details but I can tell you the drive through flu shots are available in Riverside on Thursday, Oct. 10 and in Platte City on Monday, Oct. 14.

******

If needed, the group known as Citizens for a Better Parkville is gearing up to conduct a petition drive to force a state audit of the City of Parkville. And with all the funny stuff surrounding transparency and other issues in recent months, who can blame them?

I say “if needed” because the group has let it be known it would rather the city request the state audit on its own. You may recall the often angry Mayor Nan Johnston several months ago publicly said she would welcome a state audit. Now’s her chance to do so.

If not, Citizens for a Better Parkville has indicated it would pursue a petition drive beginning around early November.

A Facebook page known as ParkvilleAudit has been formed. A posting on the page on Monday of this week said “the initial paperwork to request a petition audit was filed this morning with the Office of the Missouri State Auditor.”

We’ll do our best to keep you posted as developments warrant.

(The Scent of Between the Lines can be found on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook. Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THAT TIME WHEN HOLLYWOOD MOVIE-MAKING CAME TO PLATTE CITY

10/2/19

Downtown Platte City. Also known as East Hollywood.

Say what?

Forty-five years ago this month, in October of 1974, a movie was being made in the streets of historic downtown Platte City. The movie, known as “Bucktown,” starred Fred Williamson, a former player for the Kansas City Chiefs. Some of you will remember Williamson had a brief stint--in fact, a very brief stint--as the third man in the booth on Monday Night Football telecasts.

But in 1974 Williamson was starring in a movie with scenes filmed in Platte City. Bucktown is essentially a police story, a small town drama focusing on one man’s fight against crime and corruption. It was directed by Arthur Marks, who was the producer of the Perry Mason television series for 10 years.

The female star in Bucktown was Pamela Grier (more on her later, she has a bit of a fascinating background).

Scenes for Bucktown were filmed in and around the Platte County Courthouse, the Platte County Jail (the county jail back then looked nothing like the one today, keep in mind), and on Main Street.

Heck, even the back door of The Landmark building was worked into the movie. That’s right. On Monday night, Oct. 14, 1974, a scene was filmed in back of The Landmark office. In the movie, the back door of the newspaper office was portrayed to be the door of a saloon. I feel like our back door kind of got typecast in that role, as it hasn’t been asked to appear in any movies since then. Hollywood producers, please hit me up.

This is cool stuff: For a scene in Bucktown, a wall was built just east of the Platte County Jail for an armored car to drive through in an escape scene. According to the Oct. 18, 1974 edition of The Landmark, other scenes for the movie were filmed along the Platte River, in Leavenworth and in Kansas City.

Here’s the best part: Thanks to the internet, you can watch Bucktown anytime at your leisure. Just go to YouTube and enter Bucktown in the search box. You’ll see a choice pop up labeled “Bucktown 1975 Full Movie.” Click on it. The movie runs one hour, 16 minutes.

You’re welcome, America.

******

Pam Grier, the actress who starred in Bucktown alongside Fred Williamson, has a fascinating story. Grier moved to Los Angeles in 1967, where she was initially hired to work the switchboard at American International Pictures (AIP). She is believed to have been discovered by director Jack Hill, who cast her in his women-in-prison films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s “blaxploitation” movies, playing bold, assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill's Coffy (1973), in which she plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers. By appearing in the movie Coffy, Grier is considered to be the first African-American female to headline an action film. In his review of the movie Coffy, noted critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its believable female lead. He noted that Grier was an actress of "beautiful face and astonishing form" and that she possessed a kind of "physical life" missing from many other attractive actresses. Grier subsequently played similar characters in the films Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby, and Friday Foster (both 1975).

In later years, Grier turned to television. She had a recurring role on Miami Vice (I loved that show) from 1985 to 1989 and made guest appearances on Martin, Night Court, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

In her personal life, Grier was linked with basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabaar from 1969-71 in a relationship that began when the player was still known by his original name of Lew Alcindor. Soon after they began dating, Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He proposed to Grier, but gave her an ultimatum to convert to Islam. He reportedly told her "If you don't commit to me today, I'm getting married at 2 this afternoon. She's a converted Muslim, and she's been prepared for me.” Grier said, “I think I’ll pass,” and Jabaar got married later that day.

By the way, I’m paraphrasing those conversations. Full disclosure: I wasn’t actually there, just so you know.

Grier later was linked romantically with comic Freddie Prinze (Chico and the Man) from 1973-75, but that ended due to her concerns about Prinze’s depression and drug addiction. She is reportedly one of the last people the troubled Prinze spoke with before he fatally shot himself in 1977. Grier was in a relationship with star comedian Richard Pryor from 76-77, according to her memoirs.

Grier is still alive and apparently well at age 70. In recent years she started the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center with the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. The purpose is to teach people about organic gardening, health and nutrition.

******

Bucktown producer Arthur Marks is still alive. He is 92 years old and living in LA.

******

Finally, our movie’s star Fred Williamson is also still kicking at age 81. I’m old enough to remember his short stint in the booth on Monday Night Football when in 1974 he was initially chosen to replace Don Meredith. It was immediately clear this deal wasn’t going to work. Williamson was used on a few pre-season broadcasts but was quickly declared awful in the booth by ABC and he was replaced at the start of the regular season by Alex Karras. Williamson had played four season for the Raiders and three for the Chiefs, including on their Super Bowl I team.

Never shy, Williamson posed nude for Playgirl magazine in 1973. Williamson became an actor much in the mold of star running back Jim Brown. He acted alongside Brown in films such as Three the Hard Way (1974), Take a Hard Ride (1975), One Down, Two to Go (1982), Original Gangstas (1996) and On the Edge (2002). He later became a director and is still working today. During the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, Williamson frequently appeared on television as a spokesman for King Cobra malt liquor ("Don't let the smooth taste fool you.")

(Don’t let the smooth taste of this Between the Lines fool you. Things can get salty on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Landmark Live. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THE BATTLE FOR TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT NEVER ENDS

9/25/19

Happy fall, everybody.

October, the month that brings my favorite weather of the year, begins next week.

Let’s get this.

******

Another week, another lack of Sunshine situation at the City of Parkville.

Now it has come to light that the city did not follow the usual public notice posting for a meeting of aldermen ‘workshop’ held on Aug. 16. Notice was not placed on the city’s web site as is the normal practice but instead notice was only placed on a window at City Hall and at the site of the meeting, Platte Valley Bank.

I can’t even write about this without laughing. What is going on inside the minds of these folks? Certainly not open and transparent government.

Keep in mind the city is--and was at the time of the Aug. 16 shenanigans described above--already under investigation by the Missouri Attorney General for alleged Sunshine Law violations concerning public records.

Joe Parente, city administrator for Parkville who has a checkered past at a previous employer concerning the handling of public records (Google his name), confirmed the notice of meeting was not listed on the city’s website and instead was only posted at City Hall and at the bank because “it’s what the city has chosen to do.”

As the kids say these days, LOL. The chuckles are keeping me from mustering the concentration to even analyze this in a serious light. I guess all we need to know is “it’s what the city has chosen to do.”

Anyway, the group whose complaints to the attorney general prompted the state investigation has contacted the attorney general again with new information about the city’s attempt to hide the August workshop meeting from the public. So the plot thickens.

You can read the story on our front page for reaction from the citizens group and from the attorney for that group.

******

Oh Nan, Nan, wherefore art thou, Nan?

Meanwhile, Nan Johnston, the normally very outspoken, occasionally sarcastic and often quick-tempered mayor of Parkville who had staff tell The Landmark to end our decades-long practice of dropping complimentary copies of the newspaper at City Hall each week, continues to be hard to find. As we detailed here last week, she skipped out of three recent public appearances that she would normally be expected to attend--including the most recent meeting of the board of aldermen. Still getting reports that some Kansas City television media folks are looking for her.

In addition to the attorney general’s investigation of the city for alleged Sunshine Law violations, Johnston’s campaign committee is under investigation by the Missouri Ethics Commission for allegedly accepting illegal corporate contributions and for suspicious reporting activity.

Johnston’s whereabouts are becoming fodder for some residents at Parkville. So much so that a Top 10 List of “Reasons Nan Johnston Hasn’t Been Seen” is circulating. I won’t list them all here but will give you a few.

A few of the Top 10 Reasons Nan Johnston Hasn’t Been Seen:

*Last seen driving heading out of the area with a truckload of Landmark newspapers.

*In hiding after hiring a hit man on Ivan Foley.

*Attending an economic summit with Kathy Dusenbery, sponsored by The Squad, on how to tax everyone to death.

*Maxed out city’s credit card at economic summit, thumbing her way home.

*Taking an anger management course with Alderman Marc Sportsman.

*Hired by NBC to write the next sarcastic episode of Saturday Night Live.

*Locked herself in her office at City Hall, shredding documents.

******

Interesting letter to the editor at right from Kirby Holden. Holden reveals that he had meetings with the state auditor’s office concerning some activity with finances at Platte County R-3. Holden points out he was told by the state auditor’s office that other patrons within the district had called the state auditor with concerns, as well. “I was told (by the state auditor’s office) during that meeting that several things probably needed to be looked at within the R-3 district.” He says he was told that by two key people within the state auditor’s office on two separate occasions.

No audit of R-3 has been performed. The auditor’s office prefers that a petition process be used to force an audit, even though the state auditor’s office does have the power to audit a school district without a petition.

Interesting.

*******

Speaking of Platte County R-3, you may be wondering about our request for a copy of the “separation agreement” reached between the district and the mad tweeter Dr. Chad Searcey. You’ll recall our story announcing that $275,000 of your tax dollars are being paid to Searcey mentioned we had put in a Sunshine request for a copy of the separation agreement. R-3 is declining to provide a copy, which seems strange because we’ve acquired separation agreements from other school districts in the past without the least bit of pushback.

“The separation agreement with Dr. Searcey is considered a closed personnel record pursuant to Missouri Statute 610.021(3),” the school district says in a letter sent to me dated Sept. 5.

There are attorneys who disagree with R-3’s legal interpretation on this matter. So that’s where we are.

(Stay up to date on all this and more by following Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and hit like on Platte County Landmark on Facebook. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


PARKVILLE CITY HALL HAS
OFFICIALLY BECOME
A CLOWN SHOW

9/18/19

I’ve been holding off on making this declaration because you never want to be too quick with something like this. But it’s time.

The leadership at the City of Parkville has officially become a clown show. The clincher came this week when the city placed on its board of aldermen agenda the destroying of public records. Apparently suddenly they are too tight on space to house some of these documents.

Nothing weird about this, right? Wrong. The proposed action comes at a time when the city is under investigation by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office for allegations it has violated the state’s open meetings and records law.

So you’re under investigation by the attorney general for alleged public records violations and you decide now would be a good time to destroy some public records? Who in their right mind thought this would be a good idea?

You can’t make this stuff up.

*******

Even if what the city wants to do is legitimate, the “optics” of this paint the city in a bad light. In the eyes of those who appreciate open and transparent government, city officials may as well have tattooed the word “guilty” across their chests.

******

Wisely, the board of aldermen had second thoughts about this and after the item had been placed on the agenda aldermen got cold feet on the issue.

Attorneys for the Citizens for a Better Parkville contacted the city with concerns, not surprisingly. And the fact the city heard from the state attorney general the day of the meeting might have influenced the eventual decision to delay the destruction. You can bet an idea this preposterous raised some eyebrows at the agency currently investigating the city for Sunshine violations. Upon seeing the item on the Parkville agenda, The Landmark had reached out to the attorney general this week and received this comment from the AG’s office:

“It is the attorney general’s position that the City of Parkville cannot destroy any records that are subject to the Sunshine complaint or required to be retained under their retention policy.”

******

Let’s not pretend it’s a coincidence that Mayor Nan Johnston was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting. It’s very possible she was hiding in the back room, avoiding the media spotlight. The buzz is that even the Kansas City television media--often not exactly the most aggressive group of folks in the business--has started to read up on the funny stuff going on at Parkville and some TV news folks had indicated a desire to be present on Tuesday night.

Johnston has skipped out on at least three public appearances since The Landmark brought to light her campaign committee is being investigated by the Missouri Ethics Commission for possible illegal activity. She was a no-show at a recent Legislative Breakfast at the KCI Marriott, was not present on Thursday at a meeting some city officials held with downtown Parkville business owners, and was a no-show at the aldermen meeting Tuesday night.

******

And how about Alderman Marc Sportsman, who was leading the meeting Tuesday night while Johnston was hiding behind the curtain? Sportsman often seems a baby step away from a temper tantrum, which gives him a similar personality to the mayor. Sportsman appears to blame The Landmark and the group known as Citizens for a Better Parkville for the shadiness the city has put on display in recent months.

“In light of the constant harassment of the city, we know how it’s going to be spun. . by the local newspaper,” Sportsman said of the city’s proposal to destroy public records.

First of all, thank you to Sportsman for officially declaring The Landmark the local Parkville paper of record. I mean, we already knew it and you already knew it, so it’s nice of the city to acknowledge it and inadvertently throw a compliment our direction in the process.

Curiously, city officials no longer want us to drop off complimentary copies of The Landmark at Parkville City Hall. Wonder why that is?

So Sportsman blames the watchdogs because city officials already under investigation for Sunshine violations had the bright idea to destroy some public records while that investigation is still ongoing? That’s quite a leap in logic by the short-tempered one.

For Sportsman to claim the city is being harassed on any level is beyond ridiculous. That’s a combination of ignorance and arrogance, which is always a dangerous combo. People asking their local public officials to be open and forthcoming are asking for good government and for their elected representatives to act responsibly and transparently. That’s good citizenship. It’s hardly harassment.

“It’s too bad Sportsman thinks citizens exercising their rights to view public records amounts to harassment,” says Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville.

Maki gets it. No one at City Hall seems to get it. Which explains why two different state agencies are investigating activities connected to the City of Parkville.

(Get more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SOMETIMES THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD DANCE MOVE

9/11/19

Had a battle with arch enemies on Saturday.

I headed to Riverside for the Park Hill South High School homecoming parade, getting there early with time to kill. So I opted to swing by our news rack at one of the local Riverside hot spots to empty the coins.

At the Corner Café, I unlocked the padlock and opened the back side of the machine to be met with several less than pleased wasps. They weren’t happy that I had interrupted whatever it is they were doing in there. I successfully dodged that first wave of incoming attack bombers by quickly backing away a few steps.

When the immediate danger had passed, I went in for a closer look. After initially being confused as to why there would be so many wasps with no nest in the visible area, some further scientific study allowed me to locate the home of these killers. There was a nest on the underside of the news rack’s back panel. Those sneaky bastards. They’re not the brightest dudes but apparently they do understand that war is the art of deception.

Noticing the nest and noticing several of the terrorists still gathered upon it, I needed to mentally regroup. It was time to assess the situation and develop some strategy.

Not being a county employee and not being inside a county building, I was not carrying a firearm. No pistol, no shotgun, no AR-15. I was warm but I was not packing heat.

So I needed a weapon. I was not even armed with any Hot Shot spray or anything of that ilk. After all, it’s not often I open one of our news racks and encounter a swarm of aggressive insects.

Looking around for options, I grabbed the padlock. It was one of those long-necked locks, which gave me an idea. I extended the neck on that lock to its longest point. I then swung the lock, like a very miniature baseball bat, at the nest.
Unfortunately I didn’t make good contact the first attempt. Using a baseball analogy, it was kind of like hitting a foul tip at the plate. The first swing accomplished nothing other to irritate more wasps, and another dive bomber traveled in my direction. I reacted with a head bob and weave, kind of a Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope move. Another disaster avoided, at least for the time being.

By this time a few spectators had formed outside the restaurant. Had I known this was going to go down, I would have sold tickets. Or taken it to Facebook Live.
I noticed the spectators were remaining at a safe distance. I also noticed they weren’t offering any tips or offering to help. They were more interested in keeping this a spectator sport. Kind of like watching a train wreck.

It was time to take my second swing of that padlock. Determined not to miss again, I kept my eye on the target and gave it a whirl. Made good contact this time. It was a direct hit. The nest went flying off the underside of that back cover and toward the front door of the restaurant.

For a second or two I was proud of myself. Then I quickly realized there were consequences to be dealt with. There were more soldiers inside that nest who came flying out of their bunker.

Multiple wasps were now flying at me in full-on attack mode. I had no choice but to dance like nobody was watching.

In a span of about 15-20 seconds, I spontaneously broke out every Michael Jackson dance move I could remember. Except for the crotch grab.

I started with the robot. Kind of a frozen-in-time stance, with slow and deliberate movement. Wasn’t working. The wasps kept coming.

So I went into the Michael Jackson anti-gravity deep forward lean. This helped me dodge two of the attackers who, confused by this rarely seen dance move, flew behind my head.

More kept coming.

So I went into the Michael Jackson spin. Then the circle slide.

Success. There had been no stings as of yet, and by this time I was feeling it, getting caught up in the moment. Kind of sewing my oats, if you will.

It was time for the MJ kick. This scared off one of the low flyers. I followed it up with the Michael Jackson toe stand. Don’t remember that one? Google it. There really was no tactical advantage gained with this move, at this point I was just showing off.

One enemy remained in flight. If you’re familiar with Michael Jackson videos, you can probably guess which maneuver I saved for the grand finale. Having dodged so many aggressive fighters, I celebrated by dancing the moonwalk, figuratively rubbing it in the face of the final wasp, who seemed to be on some sort of reconnaissance mission.

Somewhat miraculously, I escaped this ordeal unscathed.

Not all heroes wear capes, you guys.

******

They say this is a new beginning for the Platte City Rotary Club.

If you’re like me, you might be saying: “I didn’t realize Platte City had a Rotary Club.”

I guess there is such a thing. Though it isn’t dead, I get the impression it might have recently been placed on life support and is now trying to revive itself. New members are welcome, I’m told.

This week as The Landmark was going to press, the club was holding a Tuesday noon meeting at Tanner’s, hearing from Julie McCoy and how Rotary International makes a difference in your community.

For the month of September, the Platte City Rotary Club will meet again on Sept.17.

Beginning in October, the club will meet the first, third and the fifth Tuesday of the month. The club says it has a goal to build membership and “provide informative speakers and fun opportunities to make a difference in Platte City.”

(Get Between the Lines updates on Twitter @ivanfoley and find Foley on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


BEING A VICTIM OF 'FRIENDLY FIRE' IS A CONCERN INSIDE COUNTY BUILDINGS

9/4/19

It has been a few weeks since Mayor Nan Johnston and crew told The Landmark to please stop delivery of a few complimentary copies of the newspaper to Parkville City Hall. It was a courtesy practice we had carried on for 17-18 years and something we have always done at multiple public buildings in the county, long before Nan Johnston fired her first spittle upon the Missouri Sunshine Law or composed her first angry email about press coverage.

I bring this up because it occurred to me without a copy of The Landmark in City Hall somebody better tell Nan her campaign is under investigation by the Missouri Ethics Commission. She might not know.

******

Time to update your scorecards.

1. The Missouri Attorney General’s office is investigating the City of Parkville over Sunshine Law complaints.

2. The Missouri Ethics Commission is investigating the Parkville mayor’s campaign committee over alleged illegal contributions and suspicious reporting activity.

3. The mayor seems preoccupied with trying to start a whizzing match over press coverage.

Other than that, things are going swimmingly at Parkville City Hall.

******

Platte County R-3 taxpayers, per a deal brokered by the Platte County R-3 School Board, are paying $275,000 of their hard-earned tax dollars to a principal to just go away.

That’s the financial meat and potatoes in a “separation agreement” reached between R-3 and Chad Searcey, the principal at Compass Elementary. Searcey, you’ll recall, is the school administrator who displayed questionable judgment in tweeting a picture of himself and his kids shooting guns to David Hogg, noted school shooting survivor who is now a gun control activist. Searcey had been placed on paid administrative leave in June after sending the tweet. The separation agreement was reached last week.

Point of emphasis: Let’s not mix the topics. Searcey’s political views about guns are not the topic. What is the topic is the judgment shown by an elementary school principal in sending a tweet featuring guns--and kids shooting guns--to a school shooting survivor. I get that it’s all hip these days to criticize the media, and there are times it is deserved, but this situation received international news coverage for legitimate reasons.

Let’s also not confuse the topics by saying Searcey’s personal tweets are protected by the First Amendment. This isn’t a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment protects you from having your speech prohibited by the government. The First Amendment does not mean your employer is prohibited from taking action against you because of your speech.

R-3’s employee handbook, in fact, has a section that states:

“Employees should note that all social media communication sites (even personal) can fall under the staff conduct board policy and can be included in your evaluation and used as grounds for disciplinary action.”

So there you go. Twitter douchebaggery is not protected at R-3.

Based on the district’s policy, R-3 had a right to fire Searcey. Don’t know why the R-3 school board felt a $275,000 payment from taxpayers was needed, other than they probably did not want a legal fight.

This is proof that it’s easy to pay people off to make your life easier when you’re using other people’s money to make the payment.

******

I’m guessing there are much better ways for our local educational system to spend $275,000.

******

Foley’s guide to getting into political debates on social media:

Step 1: Don’t.

******

In some circles, there has been negative buzz around the county about it and at least one Platte County employee isn’t at all happy about the county commission’s policy of allowing employees (those who have a concealed carry permit) to carry firearms into the administration building. He let his frustration be known at Monday’s county commission meeting.

Bob Schmidt, who said he works part-time for the county in planning and zoning, parks, facilities, and as an accounts payable clerk, said it should be the county’s responsibility to provide a safe and secure working environment. Employees shouldn’t have to feel like they need to provide their own security, he indicated.
Schmidt pointed out there is nothing in the county’s personnel policy about firearms. “Can (employees) carry a pistol, a shotgun, an AR-15? What are the rules?”

Schmidt said had he known this was the policy he might not have started working at the county and knowledge of the county’s policy--which was recently expanded to allow public works employees to carry in the building and also when they’re working in the field--has him wondering if he wants to continue working for the county. A military veteran, Schmidt said with employees having the right to carry firearms he is very worried about “friendly fire” within the county buildings.
From the buzz we’ve picked up in the last couple of weeks here in Between the Lines, we can tell you there are other folks working inside the building who share in Schmidt’s concern, they just haven’t taken their concerns public, for whatever reason.

Schmidt said he would like to see the county reinstate a security checkpoint at the entrance to the administration building, a system that was discontinued about a decade ago.

Schmidt’s concerns came in the public comments portion held toward the end of the commission meeting, which by the way ridiculously lasted nearly two hours on Monday (more on that at a later time).

Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, indicated to Schmidt the commission would have discussions about the lack of firearms wording in the personnel policy and also have discussions on the suggestion of a return to a security checkpoint at the entrance to the administration building. Only time will tell if Schieber’s response is sincere or if it was more of a “thank you for coming, have a nice day.”

(Thank you for reading and have a nice day. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


EXPECT GASOLINE AT LESS
THAN $2 PER GALLON
BY THANKSGIVING

8/28/19

This Labor Day weekend, look at the price on your local gas pump. It will be the lowest you’ve seen it on Labor Day since 2016.

The website known as GasBuddy predicts a national average of $2.55 per gallon this Labor Day, which is down about 30 cents from last year at this time and yes, it’s the lowest priced Labor Day since 2016 when the national average was $2.20.

While the national average might be $2.55 per gallon, here in Platte County most outlets are priced considerably lower than that, at around $2.29 per gallon.

And there’s even better news on the horizon, everybody. GasBuddy estimates that by Thanksgiving, stations in Missouri will be selling gas for less than $2 per gallon.

“The transition back to cheaper winter gasoline begins in just two weeks while demand for gasoline is also set to begin a seasonal downturn,” the experts at GasBuddy are saying.

One downside to lower gas prices is if you have an investment portfolio it sometimes takes a hit. Oil production royalties and such sometimes are a big part of many folks’ investment plan, which means the lower gas prices often translate into a downturn on those types of investments.

******

Speaking of money and such. . .

The local retail sales economy is basically flat. According to numbers released by the office of Rob Willard, treasurer for Platte County, so far in 2019 the county general sales tax revenue is up by only half a percent. Perhaps more telling is that the combined general sales tax and local use tax revenue is actually down by one percent.

The general sales tax income and the local use tax revenue both go into the county’s general fund, so the combined total is the one most observers generally consider to be the most important number to follow. And with four months of totals still to come in for 2019, that number is down by about one percent.

Nothing to jump off a cliff about. It’s just interesting to keep an eye on the revenue numbers.

******

Presumably because the club doesn’t want/can’t afford to continue the upkeep, the Platte City Lions Club is giving up its building.

Yes, the Lions Club is donating its meeting clubhouse, located on North Street across from the Platte City Cemetery, to the City of Platte City. The city officially accepted the donation this week, with the city officially set to take possession on Oct. 1.

Under terms of the agreement, the city becomes the owner of the property and will be responsible for operating, maintaining and renting the building out for public use. The Lions Club will be allowed to conduct bi-monthly meetings and up to five other annual events at no cost for the next 25 years.

The city will provide the Lions Club with a secured storage closet and use of one dedicated refrigerator, although the Lions Club will be responsible for replacement of the refrigerator when needed. In addition, the city says the Lions Club can continue to use and maintain the outbuilding structure on the property, subject to releasing the city for any claims related to the use.

It’s important to note the agreement does not prevent the city from demolishing or relocating the structure, except that the city will be required to provide the Lions with similar space in any replacement facility. In other words, keeping the property in its current form may not be in the city’s long range plan.

City officials say they anticipate annual operating expenses for the building to run about $4,000. The city anticipates getting about $1,500 to $2,000 in annual rental income.

Platte City says it will have about $2,500 to $3,000 in one-time expenses related to the property transfer transaction.

******

You’ll recall we told you a while back that Central Bank of the Midwest was in the process of acquiring BankLiberty. The deal is done. Central Bank of the Midwest has sent notification to BankLiberty customers that “on Aug. 1, Central Bancompany completed the acquisition of BankLiberty. This partnership will bring more products and services, as well as an extended network of more than 150 branches to the Northland.”

The deal involves all BankLiberty locations, including the multiple branches in Platte County.

“In the next few months we will begin the process of merging our banking systems. Until then, nothing will change with your accounts or services and BankLiberty will continue to serve your banking needs as they have for more than 60 years,” Central Bank of the Midwest has told BankLiberty customers.

******

It’s potentially notable that the Platte County R-3 School Board has a closed session on the agenda for later this week. Could the topic of Chad Searcey be on the agenda?

You’ll recall Searcey is the Compass Elementary principal who was placed on paid administrative leave after sending a controversial tweet to noted young gun control activist/school shooting survivor David Hogg. Searcey responded to a post by Hogg encouraging Congress to fund research on gun violence by tweeting pictures of himself and his sons shooting and holding guns. Searcey later deleted the tweet and also posted an apology to Hogg but by that time Hogg had already retweeted the picture sent by Searcey.

The school district placed Searcey on paid administrative leave and that is where he has remained since that action in June, drawing a check for not working. The district recently assigned an interim principal in Searcey’s absence.

Stay tuned.

(Follow Foley and The Landmark on Facebook--hit like on Platte County Landmark--and on Twitter @ivanfoley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THIS GOVERNMENT RECOMMENDATION MIGHT BLOW YOUR MIND

8/21/19

Check this out. The federal government never ceases to amaze us, really.
Energy Star, the federal program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy has some tips for beating the heat. Allegedly.

Energy Star recommends that in order to reduce costs and energy usage, all of us should be setting our thermostats as high as comfortably possible through the summer.

Well that part sounds reasonable. The phrase “as comfortably possible” makes perfect sense. But then the train starts to derail. Like, completely off the tracks. Hang on for this:

•Energy Star recommends when you’re home hanging around the house you should set your thermostat at 78 degrees.

•Energy Star says if you’re spending the day away from home, turn your thermostat up to 85 degrees.

•Finally, Energy Star recommends setting your thermostat at 82 degrees.
My reaction? Ain’t happenin’.

Here’s a question: How drunk was the guy who wrote these recommendations? I hope his friends see that he gets the help he needs. Or beat his ass till Creed gets popular again.

There’s no way those guidelines are going to allow us to comfortably survive a Missouri summer of heat and humidity. They’re just not. Nan Johnston’s got a better chance of winning Miss Congeniality.

Set the thermostat at 85 degrees while you’re at work? In the middle of a typical summer around these parts? That’s nuts. Your home will never get cooled down in time for you to sleep comfortably, especially if your bedroom is on the upper floor of the home.

Set the thermostat at 78 when you’re hanging around the house? Um, sure, if you don’t mind your shirt sticking to you. Is this a test to see how well your deodorant is working?

But the biggest violation of common sense is the last one: Set your thermostat at 82 degrees when you go to bed? Right. Maybe if you’re gonna sleep naked on a bed of ice.

Who the heck can sleep at 82 degrees? Especially after you’ve had the room temperature at 78 for the day. If you like the room to be warmer when you’re trying to sleep than when you’re just hanging around the house, you’re different than 98 percent of other humans. Just saying.

Come on. These suggestions are too nutty to even experiment with, I’m sorry. The thermostat in my home has not been above 72 degrees all summer. And rarely that high. In fact, let me give you the Foley Comfort Index: thermostat at 69 during the day. Bedtime? I go full blown gangster. Drop that thing down to 66. Get the sleeping area nice and cool. And dark, of course. It works.

Throw that government study in the trash. Or to be environmentally friendly, toss it in the recycling bin.

Either way, if you want to be “as comfortable as possible,” you’ll need to disregard that silliness.

*******

Don’t forget the annual Parkville Days festival is this weekend.

******

Won’t it be ironic if there is sunshine for Parkville Days?

*******

Don’t pretend you didn’t get it. You got it.

******

Here’s one of the biggest takeaways from the in-depth story about the local housing market by our Valerie Verkamp on this week’s front page. Renters, if you think you can’t afford to buy, you might be thinking wrong. Meet with a lender or two, maybe a realtor or two, and find out more about the loan possibilities that are out there. It may be much more financially feasible for you than you think. There are loans available that don’t require much of a down payment. In fact, they’re telling us there are some loans nowadays that will finance 100% of the purchase price. It’s a far cry from the days when lenders wanted 20 percent down.

******

Another thing that hits home from the article is that the lower-priced houses in Platte County don’t stay on the market long. Home prices are up--and continuing to rise--and inventory remains low. This creates a feeding frenzy when lower-priced homes go on the market. If you’re looking to buy and see one you want, you need to jump on it quickly.

******

Sure, Strouds at Oak Ridge Manor has good fried chicken. But if you haven’t tried their gizzards, you’re missing out. Best thing on the menu.

*******

So KCP&L is slowly taking on its new brand name. In case you haven’t heard, the company is becoming known as Evergy.

Evergy. Congrats to whatever third grade focus group came up with that.
Not a big fan of the name. But hey, if calling it Evergy will get us fewer power outages and no rate increases, I’m all in.

******

More on this at a later time, but here’s your heads up that the greatest comic on the internet is coming back to Platte County. Our man Donnie Baker, who you met through this column space last October, will be performing at the Improv in Zona Rosa later this fall.

In the meantime, follow his Facebook page for those moments you need some laughter in your life.

(Follow Foley on Facebook, on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Instagram, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for videos. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


PUTTING OUT AN ALL POINTS BULLETIN FOR KC WOLF

8/14/19

Check this out. The federal government never ceases to amaze us, really.
Energy Star, the federal program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy has some tips for beating the heat. Allegedly.

Energy Star recommends that in order to reduce costs and energy usage, all of us should be setting our thermostats as high as comfortably possible through the summer.

Well that part sounds reasonable. The phrase “as comfortably possible” makes perfect sense. But then the train starts to derail. Like, completely off the tracks. Hang on for this:

•Energy Star recommends when you’re home hanging around the house you should set your thermostat at 78 degrees.

•Energy Star says if you’re spending the day away from home, turn your thermostat up to 85 degrees.

•Finally, Energy Star recommends setting your thermostat at 82 degrees.
My reaction? Ain’t happenin’.

Here’s a question: How drunk was the guy who wrote these recommendations? I hope his friends see that he gets the help he needs. Or beat his ass till Creed gets popular again.

There’s no way those guidelines are going to allow us to comfortably survive a Missouri summer of heat and humidity. They’re just not. Nan Johnston’s got a better chance of winning Miss Congeniality.

Set the thermostat at 85 degrees while you’re at work? In the middle of a typical summer around these parts? That’s nuts. Your home will never get cooled down in time for you to sleep comfortably, especially if your bedroom is on the upper floor of the home.

Set the thermostat at 78 when you’re hanging around the house? Um, sure, if you don’t mind your shirt sticking to you. Is this a test to see how well your deodorant is working?

But the biggest violation of common sense is the last one: Set your thermostat at 82 degrees when you go to bed? Right. Maybe if you’re gonna sleep naked on a bed of ice.

Who the heck can sleep at 82 degrees? Especially after you’ve had the room temperature at 78 for the day. If you like the room to be warmer when you’re trying to sleep than when you’re just hanging around the house, you’re different than 98 percent of other humans. Just saying.

Come on. These suggestions are too nutty to even experiment with, I’m sorry. The thermostat in my home has not been above 72 degrees all summer. And rarely that high. In fact, let me give you the Foley Comfort Index: thermostat at 69 during the day. Bedtime? I go full blown gangster. Drop that thing down to 66. Get the sleeping area nice and cool. And dark, of course. It works.

Throw that government study in the trash. Or to be environmentally friendly, toss it in the recycling bin.

Either way, if you want to be “as comfortable as possible,” you’ll need to disregard that silliness.

*******

Don’t forget the annual Parkville Days festival is this weekend.

******

Won’t it be ironic if there is sunshine for Parkville Days?

*******

Don’t pretend you didn’t get it. You got it.

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Here’s one of the biggest takeaways from the in-depth story about the local housing market by our Valerie Verkamp on this week’s front page. Renters, if you think you can’t afford to buy, you might be thinking wrong. Meet with a lender or two, maybe a realtor or two, and find out more about the loan possibilities that are out there. It may be much more financially feasible for you than you think. There are loans available that don’t require much of a down payment. In fact, they’re telling us there are some loans nowadays that will finance 100% of the purchase price. It’s a far cry from the days when lenders wanted 20 percent down.

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Another thing that hits home from the article is that the lower-priced houses in Platte County don’t stay on the market long. Home prices are up--and continuing to rise--and inventory remains low. This creates a feeding frenzy when lower-priced homes go on the market. If you’re looking to buy and see one you want, you need to jump on it quickly.

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Sure, Strouds at Oak Ridge Manor has good fried chicken. But if you haven’t tried their gizzards, you’re missing out. Best thing on the menu.

*******

So KCP&L is slowly taking on its new brand name. In case you haven’t heard, the company is becoming known as Evergy.

Evergy. Congrats to whatever third grade focus group came up with that.

Not a big fan of the name. But hey, if calling it Evergy will get us fewer power outages and no rate increases, I’m all in.

******

More on this at a later time, but here’s your heads up that the greatest comic on the internet is coming back to Platte County. Our man Donnie Baker, who you met through this column space last October, will be performing at the Improv in Zona Rosa later this fall.

In the meantime, follow his Facebook page for those moments you need some laughter in your life.

(Follow Foley on Facebook, on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Instagram, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for videos. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 

 


PUTTING OUT AN ALL POINTS BULLETIN FOR KC WOLF

8/14/19

We haven’t mentioned the county jail in quite a while.

In case you’re curious, the number of inmates in the Platte County Jail as of Wednesday morning is 166. Typically the county is holding about 15 ICE inmates on a rent-a-bed basis, so around 151 actual county prisoners.

Last year at this time--which is when all the over-the-top new jail proposal stuff was getting kicked off in the public domain after apparently being talked about less-than-publicly by commissioners prior to that--the county jail population was higher than that.. One year ago this week the jail population was listed at 190, which is 24 prisoners more than now, or about 15 percent higher than present.

Keep in mind summer is typically the time when jail populations are at their highest point. The bad guys get active in the summer months.

You’ll recall jail capacity is listed at 180. Temporary beds (called ‘boats’ by jail staff) are used when needed.

So to repeat, the jail has 24 fewer prisoners than a year ago today.

Draw your own conclusions. Or don’t. Just providing the information.

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The first day of school can often feel unique. Even a little weird, I suppose.
Park Hill School District is experiencing a little bit of drama on the first day of classes today (Wednesday).

The district is opening a new middle school this year, Walden Middle School on 56th Street, Kansas City in Platte County. As finishing touches on the new building are still being done, school officials spread the word that students would not be able to use the second floor of the building on opening day because the City of Kansas City had not yet issued a temporary occupancy permit for the stairs leading to the second floor.

School officials said the district is working closely with Kansas City officials throughout the process and hope to get the matter resolved as soon as possible. Staff at the school was said to be working on a plan for that would include students “continue learning uninterrupted and are safe.”

And just as we headed to press late Wednesday morning came this word from Dr. Jeanette Cowherd, Park Hill superintendent:

“We knew that all the structures at Walden were safe, and inspectors had confirmed that they were ready for students. However, we found out late yesterday that there was a documentation issue and we found out this morning which documents we needed to get stamped. This applied to the stairs to the second floor, so we kept all students on the first floor until we could get the documents stamped and get confirmation from the city of Kansas City. We received permission to use the stairs at 10:29 a.m.”

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The Cops and Kids event in downtown Platte City was a good time Tuesday night. It looked like attendance was struggling a bit compared to previous years, especially early in the evening, which could have been in part due to the heat and humidity but more likely due to the fact a school registration/meet the teacher type thing was going on in the Platte County R-3 School District from 5-7 p.m. The Cops and Kids activity ran from 5 till about 8:30.

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Uh oh. Somebody messed up.

KC Wolf, Chiefs mascot, was a no-show for Cops and Kids. No immediate explanation. And the city had pre-paid.

Let’s count it as the first miscue of the 2019 season for the Chiefs. On the positive side, the team made few mistakes in the first preseason game the other night.

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The dunk tank was fun. Maybe a slightly bruised tailbone but no major injuries. Not even any hurt feelings.

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Speaking of butthurt.

For about 17 or 18 years, each week a representative from The Landmark has hand delivered about five complimentary copies of that week’s newspaper to City Hall in Parkville.

This week, an underling at the city called to let us know “they” don’t want us to do that anymore. For several reasons, this seems like a strange request from public officials inside a public building. Especially considering a few times over the years when delivery of the free papers was not made we received a call from City Hall asking why the papers didn’t show up.

I’m sure the request to stop the complimentary delivery has nothing to do with Mayor Nan Johnston’s recent decision to be offended by less than positive news coverage. Right?

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Frankly, I’m a little disappointed the “stop dropping a free paper here” request didn’t come in the form of an angry email carbon copied to 500 confused recipients.

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This just in: Landmark Live will be broadcasting from Parkville the weekend of Parkville Days.

You might think we’re doing that just to rearrange the mayor’s furniture. Kind of a “tell us where you don’t want us and we’ll be there” kind of thing.

Nah. That’s just an unintended consequence.

(More Between the Lines type updates on Facebook at Platte County Landmark and on Twitter @ivanfoley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SURE, LET'S TALK ABOUT SARCASM, SUNSHINE AND DUNK TANKS

8/7/19

Not to boast, but I feel like I know a thing or two about sarcasm and feel like I’m pretty good at spotting it.

So my favorite part of the letter to the editor on this page is the part where the letter writer takes issue with our headline last week that referred to Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston’s responses to our questions as “sarcastic.” The letter writer suggests referring to those responses as “sarcastic” was editorializing in a front page headline.

Let’s analyze that for a second. If Johnston’s comments were not sarcastic, it would mean the mayor was really being serious when she said this:

“We want to take away ALL the parking on Main Street to punish the owners of buildings we do not like. We only invited those property owners we knew would agree with this plan and do not want any public input on this because, well…. This is what we do here in Parkville as you have widely reported. If we get too much pushback on taking away parking on Main Street, we will close the public parking lot as well.”

Hmmm. You can’t have it both ways. Either Johnston was being sarcastic or she really does want to punish the owners of buildings she does not like. If it’s the former, the headline is factually accurate. If it’s the latter, we have an even bigger story than the one that reported on the mayor getting sarcastic.

The headline and story actually did Johnston a favor by pointing out to readers her comments were sarcastic rather than reporting them as fact.

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Don’t know that I’ve said it lately but I love this job.

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Maybe someday I’ll write a sarcastic column about sarcasm.

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Wait, now I’m starting to confuse myself.

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It has been nearly two months since a Sunshine Law request was made to the City of Parkville for “all public records and communications stored on any of the city officials private email servers.”

To date, Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville says he has not received any indication from the city if it plans on acting upon it, rejecting it, etc. “All we have received is an informal and brief email from the city attorney indicating they received our request,” Maki says.

“It’s our position that the city should produce these records because it has a legal duty to do so; production would be consistent with public policy and emerging practice in regard to Sunshine Law compliance; and production would be consistent with the city’s stated and codified intent to operate beyond ethical reproach,” Maki said.

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Nothing new from the state attorney general’s office on its review (investigation) into Sunshine Law compliance by the City of Parkville. As we’ve mentioned previously, the attorney general has put a lockdown on the city’s responses to the inquiry, not releasing the information for public consumption just yet, which is interesting in itself and possibly an indication that the AG is taking what the city has called “a review” very seriously.

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I made my once a year trip to Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph on Friday. Some odds and ends observations from that morning:

*Marcus Kemp, second year wide receiver, was having an awful time on Friday. I counted at least four dropped passes in the short time I was watching the receivers go one-on-one against defensive backs. It prompted some fan sitting in the bleachers to yell to Kemp: “Come sit over here.” Brutal. It was so bad Nan Johnston wrote an angry email about it, carbon copying the entire National Football League.

I did see video from the next practice, held Saturday, in which Kemp made a nice grab and turned it into a touchdown. So maybe he redeemed himself. But if coaches decide Kemp isn’t fit for the final roster, that case of the dropsies in the Friday practice will rank up there as one of the reasons they lack confidence.

*Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was on target and looked confident as heck. No surprise.

*Jody Fortson, No. 1 in your program but not yet in your heart, is very tall. And he’s from somewhere called Valdosta State. That’s all I got.

*Receiver Sammy Watkins was having a good day. So was rookie receiver Mecole Hardman.

*I continue to be intrigued by third year defensive player Tanoh Kpassagnon, listed as a linebacker this year. He is 6’7” tall and continues to show flashes of someday being a standout. Of course I said that last year, too. Hoping this is the year.

*Off-season acquisition Tyrann Mathieu, the safety known as the Honey Badger, looked strong and as aggressive as you’d expect with a nickname like that. Expect good things.

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Mike Reik and Ivan Foley are the confirmed participants at this time. Sure, you might think I’m talking about a beefcake convention. But actually it’s a dunk tank for charity.

Don’t know why I said yes when the Platte City Police Department asked me to sit on the suspended seat over the dunk tank they’ll have at Tuesday night’s Cops and Kids event. But I did. That means you’ll have the chance to throw a ball at a target and, if you’re lucky enough to hit it, apparently it drops me into some kind of tank full of water. At least they’ve told me it’ll be full of water. Better verify that before I assume the position.

Look for me sitting in the danger seat sometime around 6 p.m. on Platte City’s Main Street Tuesday night. I’ll be the guy with a floatie around his waist wearing a nose plug, a shower cap and flippers.

Come throw your fastball. At this point let’s emphasize you throw at the target, not at the person in the dunk chair.

Give it your best shot. It’s for a good cause. We might take this deal live on Facebook.

(Dunk Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and get more on Facebook at Platte County Landmark, on Twitter @ivanfoley or find him in the office at 252 Main in Platte City)


SEEING ROCKETMAN; BUILDING AN ARC; AND TALKING TECH

7/31/19

Ahh, cooler temps. Love it. It’s Wednesday morning, it’s overcast, it’s 69 degrees and there’s an extra bounce in my step, not gonna deny it. Fall isn’t far away.

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Have you seen this summer’s hit movie “Rocketman?” It’s described as “an epic musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Sir Elton John’s breakthrough years.”

It doesn’t disappoint. Great look into the background of the music man, including his uncomfortable childhood. There is a hard to watch scene or two but the music alone is reason enough to check it out.

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Elton John, by the way, marked a milestone in his recovery from his addiction troubles this week. The artist is nearly 30 years sober. “Rocketman” detailed many of the excesses in his life.

Elton John is now 72 years old, in case you were wondering.

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Please keep the mental state of Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston in your thoughts and prayers. There’s a lot of arcing going on up there.

******

By the way, an arc flash happens when electric current flows through an air gap between conductors.

******

I don’t know about you but I’m starting to get the hint Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston doesn’t take kindly to less than positive news coverage or less than positive reaction by anyone to her administration. When she gets upset at the media posing simple questions or others who don't agree with her actions and processes, Johnston gets on her computer and sends out angry mass emails, even carbon copying people who have absolutely nothing to do with whatever topic has flipped her switch. She’ll carbon copy random county officials, random city workers, various business owners, the dog catcher, the milkman, the mailman, the pizza delivery boy and the cable guy. Everybody but her therapist, apparently.

Some folks call this type of action “building a mob mentality,” intended to try to intimidate. And maybe intimidation is her intention. But I consider it more like the insecure high school cheerleader who gets her feelings hurt then tries to rally her friends to also be mad at whoever it is that hurt her feelings. It’s like Nan is living out one of those campy teen movies from the 1980s.

So I’m gonna go slide into some Jordache jeans and perm my hair.

******

Or maybe I’ll tie a sweater around my neck and play the role of the preppy douchebag villain.

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No one likes to admit when they’re wrong but I’ve got to do it right here. I never thought we’d see a local elected official get consistently more unhinged than Kathy Dusenbery in her days of temper tantrums and tirades.

I stand corrected.

And it is glorious.

******

Cooler-than-normal temperatures made for a darn fine time at the Platte County Fair this year. There was a good crowd for opening night last Wednesday but I’m guessing the largest crowd was Friday, which was demo derby night. Cars were backed up on I-29 leading to the Tracy exit. Cars were also backed up on Hwy. 92 through Platte City on the way to Tracy. I haven’t seen fair traffic like that in years.

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We had a good time doing a Landmark Live show from the fair on opening night. More than 7,200 viewers, which either means folks were anxious for fair info or they were simply excited to see the on-screen debut of office manager Cindy Rinehart.

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It seems like there almost isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear of an internet outage such as Facebook, Google, Delta, etc or data breaches such as Equifax causing destruction and frustration.

That being the case, the guest on our Landmark Live this Thursday night will be Aaron Rinehart, a nationally recognized figure in the field of cybersecurity.

Rinehart, a 2001 graduate of North Platte High School, has spent his career solving challenging tech problems for organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and the Department of Defense. Now he is founder and chief technology officer at a Silicon Valley startup called Verica. He and his co-founder pioneered the application of a concept called chaos engineering while at Netflix and UnitedHealth Group.

Rinehart has been a featured speaker at several media conferences, most notably the National Press Club. He has been interviewed and quoted in various publications, including Huffington Post, Dark Reading (not totally familiar with it but I’m guessing it’s not that magazine some of us would keep under our beds in middle school) and MarketWatch. He is in the area this week for a speaking engagement at Cerner.

And if his last name sounds familiar it’s because, yes, he is the son of Landmark office manager Cindy.

(Want more Between the Lines? Follow Foley on Twitter and Facebook, watch Landmark Live videos on Facebook and YouTube, or email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SCHOOL MUST BEGIN LATER NEXT FALL--YOUR THOUGHTS?

7/24/19

Let’s get this column done. It’s Platte County Fair week and those krautburgers aren’t going to eat themselves.

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Think the school year starts too early in August? You’re in luck. Starting next year, schools in Missouri will be mandated to begin the school year a week later than most districts have been in recent years.
A bill passed by the Missouri state legislature and signed this month by Gov. Mike Parson will require that schools start “no earlier than 14 days before the first Monday in September.”

I’ve been doing some ciphering. I took off my shoes and socks, carried the one, found a square root or two, inverted a couple of fractions and by my calculations that means Aug. 19 would be the earliest Missouri schools could start this year.
That’s if the law took effect this year. Which it doesn’t, kids, don’t get excited. This new green new deal doesn’t go into effect until 2020.

So an Aug. 19 start date would mean what? Well by comparison, this year Park Hill starts classes on Aug. 14. Platte County R-3 begins Aug. 15. So a difference of four or five calendar days for the two largest districts in our coverage area.

Reaction has not been all that positive in certain circles. The teachers union didn’t want the change, we’re hearing. A representative for the National Education Association, a major union representing teachers, has been quoted as saying: “Different parts of the state have different needs. And schools should start based on the educational needs of the students in the school district.” Some folks suggest there will be problems in trying to match high school schedules with college schedules for students who take dual credit courses. Others say districts will have to redo their entire school calendar.

Proponents say the change will help Missouri’s tourism industry by giving families an extra week for vacations in August. “June and July are so busy for families,” said State Rep. Brad Pollitt when the bill was being signed in the governor’s office. “When August gets here and we’re going back to school the first day of August, it doesn’t give families real opportunities to take their families on vacation.”

Please allow me to go into old man mode for a moment and say things like “when I was a kid” and “back in the day.” Here goes. When I was an elementary school kid, summer was June, July and August. School started after Labor Day and got out in late May. Of course my school had no air conditioning back then. Well, other than in the principal’s office, and don’t ask me how I know that. So starting school Aug. 14 in a building with no air conditioning would have been cruel and unusual punishment. There also would have been very little actual learning getting accomplished.

In my later school years, school start date became the last week of August, in the middle of that week, meaning we had three or four school days before Labor Day. I can remember my dad, who had been a school board member in the late 60s in my hometown, lamenting that “they should go back to starting after Labor Day. Very little learning gets done when it’s so hot in the classroom.”

He was right about the limited concentration in hot conditions, of course. But again, that’s back in the days before schools were air conditioned. Times have changed.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that school districts in today’s world schedule so many days off during the course of the school year, which extends the school calendar. That wasn’t the case--as we older folks like to say--back in the day. Once the school year got rolling, there wasn’t nearly as much down time for the wide variety of reasons--some legit, some that seem intentional to conveniently create three or four-day weekends and such--you see today.

Anyway, your thoughts on the mandated later start date? Feel free to shoot those to us at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

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You get a double dose of Landmark Live this week. A show tonight (Wednesday) from Opening Night at the Platte County Fair, then another show Friday morning to coincide with the Fox 4 morning show being in town to focus on Platte City.

Read our front page story for details of Fox 4’s broadcast. In short, their show will be going live from the Platte County Fairgrounds in Tracy (which seems a bit odd for a show focusing on Platte City, but hey, I’m not the Fox 4 program director). While it would seem more fitting for Fox 4 to be set up somewhere in the downtown square to fully focus on things that make Platte City unique, we’ll take what we can get in the way of free publicity, am I right?

Landmark Live will be out at the fairgrounds Friday morning to go live while Fox 4 is there. We’re thinking sometime around 8 a.m., but we’ll keep you posted. Watch our social media outlets, specifically Facebook at Platte County Landmark, for updates on what time we’ll be rolling.

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Here’s a little inside skinny into Fox 4’s schedule for their show Friday morning, courtesy of producer Emily Burggraf. Check out the behind the scenes notes, including how to pronounce the mayor’s name.

Maybe you’ll want to plan your watching schedule based on this. Or just set your DVR and catch the whole thing. And you’ll want to catch Landmark Live that morning on our Facebook page:

7:30 a.m. -- Anchors chat with Mayor Frank Offutt {Pronounced OFF-it}
7:45 a.m. -- Meteorologist Garry Frank chats with a member of the Central Platte Fire Protection District (Still need name)
8:00 a.m.-- Anchors chat with Angie Mutti / Platte City Chamber of Commerce
8:30 a.m.-- Anchors chat with Chief Joe Wellington & Sgt. Mike Mand
8:38 a.m. -- Meteorologist Garry Frank chats with Platte County HS Dance Team (followed by a performance into commercial break)
9 a.m.-- Anchors chat with Mayor Frank Offutt {Pronounced OFF-it}
9:10 a.m. -- Potentially Anchors chat with members of the Cheer Squad
9:20 a.m. -- Meteorologist Garry Frank chats with a member of the Central Platte Fire Protection District (Still need name)
9:50 a.m. -- Meteorologist Garry Frank chats with Drum Line & Cheer Squad (followed by performance into commercial break).

(Get your Between the Lines fix on Facebook and Twitter, where you can find The Landmark publisher @ivanfoley. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WILL LOCAL PRINCIPAL BECOME EX-PRINCIPAL AFTER CONTROVERSIAL TWEET?

7/17/19

Remember the international uproar over a tweet sent by a local elementary school principal to David Hogg, Florida school shooting survivor? You likely do. The school principal responded to a tweet by Hogg in which the young gun control activist encouraged Congress to fund research on gun violence. The principal’s response to Hogg was a tweet with a picture of himself and his young sons shooting and holding guns, with a hashtag caption that read #Merica.

The man who sent the tweet, Dr. Chad Searcey, is principal of Compass Elementary School in the Platte County R-3 School District. Still. At least that’s still officially true as of this writing.

Sources say Searcey currently has zero personal belongings inside his office at the school. Reportedly he--or someone--cleared everything out last week. And other sources, who describe themselves as “friends” of Searcey, have mentioned Searcey has told them his days with the school district are over.

I put in a call to Dr. Mike Reik, superintendent at R-3, earlier this week. I mentioned that Searcey has told folks he is no longer employed with R-3. “I can’t comment on that,” Reik said. “He is still on paid administrative leave. We’ll give an update (to media and the public) at any time there is a development.”

Asked if a development could be happening at the R-3 school board meeting set for this Thursday, Reik said: “I do not anticipate any development to be ready by Thursday’s meeting.”

Pressed a bit further, Reik added that Searcey “is still getting a paycheck and is still an employee of the district.”

Is all this an indication that lawyers are involved? Lawyers are almost always involved at some level in situations like this one.

So there’s an update. Clear as mud? Sounds like something might be in the works. And with the fact that Searcey’s office is reportedly lacking in personal belongings, and the fact that some of his friends are talking like he is out the door, it sounds like winds of change could be blowing.

Of course, let’s not pull a Searcey and jump the gun, so to speak. Stay tuned to The Landmark and our social media outlets for anything more definitive, either an announcement of Searcey’s departure or an announcement that he is back in the saddle.

******

Reik said July is normally an off-month for R-3 principals, who operate on an 11-month contract. The off month, Reik said, is “typically the last week of June to the last week of July.”

He said Dr. Kimberly Archer, assistant principal at Compass, has had things under control during Searcey’s stint on administrative leave.

******

Giddy up.

It’s time for the Platte County Fair, and for the second straight year the fine folks at the fair have asked us out to do a Landmark Live show on opening night. We’ll go live from the fairgrounds next Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on our Facebook page, which you can find by going to “Platte County Landmark” on the popular social media outlet.

Listen, this could be interesting for a lot of reasons. Let me mention a few. Number one, both of my fellow crazies who alternate as my co-hosts are likely unavailable on that night (Brad Carl out on an amateur bowling tour, Chris Kamler hobbling after knee replacement surgery). So this may be the time we finally get office manager Cindy Rinehart to agree to come on camera. I’ve urged her to bring a cowgirl hat and boots because we’re tossing her on the mechanical bull that will be operating in the Platte Purchase Building.

I’ve mentioned before that Cindy normally doesn’t read this column for several days after it comes out, if at all. She’s always busy doing 'Cindy things' or whatever. So let me talk to you privately for a moment: Will you do me a favor and shoot Cindy an email right now? Make it short, sweet and to the point. All you have to type in the email is this: “Looking forward to seeing you ride the bull on Landmark Live!”

This will be great fun. Her email address is cindy@plattecountylandmark.com.
Everyone who sends her an email gets entered in a drawing for a free season pass to this year’s Platte County Fair. I’m not kidding.

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There may actually be two Landmark Live shows coming your way from the Platte County Fairgrounds. It’s possible we’ll be out there next Friday morning, July 26 at the same time as the Fox 4 morning show is doing its live broadcast, which will focus on Platte City that day as part of its Zip Trip series.

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A Fox 4 film crew was in downtown Platte City on Tuesday morning to shoot some video pieces that will be sprinkled into their live show from the fairgrounds on July 26. I understand at some stops a news reporter actually accompanied the cameraman (Eli Broomhall) and producer (Emily Burggraf), but in their stop at The Landmark we saw no signs of the reporter. Maybe he was having a rough morning. Or maybe it wasn’t in his contract. Anyway, don’t forget to watch the Fox 4 morning show next Friday, or if unable to watch it live set your DVR.

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Pretty sure Fox 4’s goal is to get as many viewers as some of our recent Landmark Live shows have brought in on Facebook. Here’s a summary of recent numbers:

Landmark Live, Party on the Patio from the KCI Marriott: 7,900 views. One of my favorites in our two years of doing this, mainly because of the somewhat bizarre randomness that ensued when Chris Kamler and I grabbed a drink and hit the “start live video” button. Viewers were 60% men, 40% women.

Landmark Live with Greg Hall, KC sports media critic talking about the Kevin Kietzman controversy: 6,837 views on Facebook and an additional 475 views on YouTube, totaling 7,312. Viewers were 81% male, 19% female.

Landmark Live from the new Patty Farr RE/MAX location: 4,756 viewers, 58% women, 42% men.

(Check out some random shots of Fox 4 at The Landmark on our Facebook page soon. Follow Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and find him on Facebook. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


IT WASN'T YOUR AVERAGE MORNING AT THE DMV

7/10//19

It’s one of the things I like about this newspaper gig. I was sitting at my desk mid-day Tuesday, thinking to myself: “Self, this has been kind of a slow news week.”

Next thing you know comes word of a shooting outside the Parkville DMV by a woman who wasn’t happy with the wait time. Listen, we’ve all been frustrated at the DMV. Wait time at the DMV is as expected as death and taxes. But firing a gun in response to the situation seems a little extreme to me. (Interesting sidenote: court records The Landmark has looked at indicate the woman was been ticketed three times in recent years for failure to register a vehicle. Apparently she really hates these trips to the DMV).

Then a bit later Tuesday we got a tip of trouble for a Parkville police officer, charged with domestic assault and firing a weapon in a neighborhood just a bit outside the city limits of Platte City. The officer is now a former officer, having resigned on Monday after being arrested and charged over the weekend.

Never a dull week. Even when you’re starting to think it’s headed that way mid-day on a Tuesday.

******

Tom Hutsler is a longtime business owner/property owner in downtown Parkville. If you’re a longtime reader of The Landmark, you probably recognize his name as a longtime friendly acquaintance of the Between the Lines column. Hutsler was at the DMV when the shooting incident detailed on our front page went down.

Hutsler, to his credit, took an active role in preventing the situation from turning into something worse than it was. That he did so is not a surprise to me. I’ve known him for 15 or 20 years and can verify for you that Tom Hutsler has never been shy about scrapping--verbally or otherwise--when he feels the need.

I caught up with Hutsler via phone after the incident. Here is how the situation played out from his point of view.

“I went there with my 12-year-old son, Tommy. We had waited in line 20 minutes when I realized I had brought the wrong paperwork, so we left and came back an hour later. The lines were just as long when we came back. There were about 50 people in there,” Hutsler says.

When they returned inside the DMV, there was a very aggressive woman at the counter. She had apparently cut in line. “She was cussing, upset, making a lot of comments, including one comment about it being a matter of national security, she needed a second ID,” Tom explains. He said this went on for several minutes before somebody else in line remarked to the effect he had heard enough and “told her to shut up.” Hutsler says an employee headed to the back, apparently to call police. The suspect then said “I’m sure you’re calling the police,” and headed to the door, but before she left the building made a comment to the effect of “you haven’t seen the last of this.”

Hutsler says he told his son to stay in the line, while Tom followed the woman out the door. He said the woman walked outside, pulled a gun out of her bag and shot into the landscaping island. He said he only heard one shot, others have said there were two shots fired. “If there were two it had to be in very quick succession, I only heard one,” he says. Hutsler then engaged the woman in conversation, which distracted her as well as bought time for police to arrive on the scene. “I told her she wasn’t coming back into the building. She asked who I was. I said ‘you don’t want to know.’ She stopped in the middle of the street, then walked to her car. I got in my truck and pulled it to an area between her car and the building,” Hutsler says.

About that time, a man appeared on the sidewalk holding a pistol. Hutsler says he asked the man if he was an off-duty police officer. The man responded yes, he was an off-duty KCPD officer. For about four or five minutes, Hutsler and the off-duty officer stood behind Hutsler’s truck and watched the woman, who was in her car at the time. The off-duty officer was communicating with police dispatch.

“She then decides to get out of her car and the off-duty officer (with pistol drawn) started walking toward her. He ordered her on the ground. She asked who he was. I think he identified himself. She wasn’t following his orders to get on the ground,” Hutsler recalls.

So with the off-duty officer’s weapon trained on the woman, Hutsler approached the woman, who jail records indicate is 5’10” and 190 pounds. “I wrapped her up and took her to the ground, sat her on her butt,” Hutsler said. “She was crazed, out of control and upset. I didn’t know what she was going to do.” The off-duty officer asked her where the gun was, she said it was in her bag. After several minutes, police officers arrived on the scene, handcuffed the woman and found her weapon in the bag, Hutsler says.

What would have happened had Hutsler and the off-duty officer not been there?

“I believe she had every intention of going back in there. I wasn’t going to let her back in. There were 50 people in there, including kids. My son was in there. I won the war of words with her,” Hutsler told me.

Hutsler said he believes the off-duty officer had been in the DMV at the time the lady was getting verbal with staff, but is not sure. “And I don’t know if he had his weapon with him while inside or if he had gone out to his vehicle to get it.” Hutsler’s first sighting of the off-duty officer is when he saw the man standing on the sidewalk with pistol in hand.

“I’m glad the off-duty officer was there and glad he was armed. She didn’t even listen to him so who knows what she was going to do?” Hutsler said.

******

So what happened inside the DMV office while all this was going on outside?

“They said when they heard the shots they ordered everybody behind the counter and locked the doors,” Hutsler says.

Tom says one of the DMV employees told him while she was taking a hiding position behind the counter “a young boy came flying over the counter” and she pulled him in close to her. It was Hutsler’s son.

“It was a very hectic morning,” Hutsler summarized.

That’s a bit of an understatement.

(Get more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHETHER IT'S A 'REVIEW' OR AN 'INVESTIGATION,' IT'S INTERESTING

7/3//19

Potentially interesting update concerning the Missouri Attorney General’s involvement in Sunshine Law complaints against the City of Parkville. As you’ll recall, the attorney general’s office is looking into complaints the city has been less than open and responsive in regard to requests for public information from interested citizens, specifically involving requests filed by Citizens for a Better Parkville.

The update is this: a recent request for open records made to the office of the attorney general looking to get copies of communications between the attorney general and the City of Parkville regarding the possible Sunshine Law violations by the city and the Parkville Economic Development Council was denied by the attorney general. In denying the request, the attorney general’s office cited the statute that says it is authorized to keep closed records that are involved in “legal actions, causes of litigation involving a public governmental body and any confidential or privileged communications between a public governmental body or its representatives or attorneys.”

Simply put, it is possible this is a sign that the attorney general’s “review” of actions by the City of Parkville may reach the litigation stage. Perhaps this ‘review’ is not as mundane as city officials have previously painted it. As you’ll recall, city administrator Joe Parente, in a game of semantics, has insisted this is not an “investigation” but a “review.”

Let’s keep an ear open for any potential developments on this.

******

Huge shout out to our ol’ pal Greg Hall for joining us in a special episode of Landmark Live Monday night to discuss the dismissal of Kevin Kietzman from Sports Radio 810 WHB for comments he made about the family of Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

Hall, who many of you remember as a sports media sound bite columnist for The Landmark several years ago, has been closely following the Kansas City sports media scene for about 25 years, and for a time worked for Kietzman and WHB, so he was the perfect guest to have on for this topic. Hall has never been shy about giving strong opinions so his appearance is a must-watch. Check out the video on our Facebook page.

******

Looking forward to spending time with the Platte County Federated Women’s Democratic Club, who have graciously reached out to invite me to their meeting set for Monday, July 8 at the Platte County Resource Center.

We’ll be talking about the importance of weekly newspapers, weekly newspapers’ role in politics, community issues and government oversight, the First Amendment, writing letters to the editor and basically anything newspaper-related. There will be a question and answer session, which is always my favorite part of these type shindigs. I’d rather spend time in the question-and-answer format addressing specific topics the audience has on its mind rather than stand up there carrying on about items that may not be keeping the attention of a captive audience.

The meeting starts at 5:30 and I’m told they’ll push me to the front of the room at 6 p.m. If you’re in the club or want to be in the club, hope you’ll come out for some conversation and fun.

*******

If time allows, I’ll grab a ukelele and strap a harmonica around my neck and play them both at the same time. Then I’ll do some chain saw art before closing by assembling a ship inside a bottle.

******

Update, because I know some of you are wondering: Chad Searcey, principal at Compass Elementary School in the Platte County R-3 School District, remains on paid administrative leave for his unfortunate choice of a Twitter response to a young school shooting survivor.

******

If you’ve got an extra dollar or two in your pocket and are feeling generous this Fourth of July holiday, here’s a potential idea.

After a recent theft of meat and other frozen foods from a warehouse freezer, City Union Mission is asking for community support to make up for the loss and ensure minimal disruption in their ability to serve meals to hungry guests. Last Thursday, thieves disabled an alarm on a large walk-in freezer located in a mission warehouse on 8th Street in Kansas City. While only $500 worth of frozen meat was taken, the door was left open, spoiling the remaining contents valued at more than $50,000, City Union Mission officials say. The freezer itself was also damaged during the vandalism and is not functioning properly.

Mission officials say they immediately reported the incident to the police and say they now urgently need the community’s generosity to restock their freezer shelves.

“As you can imagine, we are heartbroken by this tremendous loss of food, which would have been used in the nearly 400 nutritious meals we serve each day to hungry individuals and families,” said Dan Doty, executive director. “But as always, we know our Kansas City community will step up to meet this pressing challenge and to ensure those in our care are not impacted by this unfortunate event.”

I’m told monetary donations are most efficient as they allow the mission to purchase the specific meats and other food products needed and also to repair the broken freezer. Financial gifts can be made online at cityunionmission.org or mailed to 1100 E. 11th St, Kansas City, MO 64106.

(Get more Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley or find him on Facebook and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


LET'S TALK ABOUT MY NEW SIDE HUSTLE: HAVE TOOLS, WILL TRAVEL

6/26/19

I’m thinking of starting a small side gig, you guys. Let me explain.

It’s Monday night and I’m driving home from work. Apparently my day had gone too well because I’m thinking when I get home I’ll flip on the television to check on the Royals game. You know, to subject myself to something tragic, ugly and horrible. Just for funsies.

But when I turn on the television there’s a blank screen with some message to the effect of “no satellite signal.” Unfortunately this is a message that has been appearing on my screen too often lately. When pulling into the driveway I had noticed the grass had been cut that day, so immediately I knew what had happened.

I own a townhome in a maintenance-provided community, which means there’s a lawn service company that shows up once a week, typically on Mondays, to mow the grass and whatnot. Twice in the past month and three times in the past year the mowers have struck the pole that holds my satellite dish. The impact knocks the dish out of alignment, resulting in that “no satellite signal” message. DirecTV may as well change the message to read “you have no satellite service but your lawn looks amazing.”

Listen, since the mowers come during the daytime when I’m at work I don’t know exactly what’s going on. But to hit a dish mounted on a pole out in the great wide open takes a certain amount of skill, shall we say. These guys must be driving blind or driving drunk or driving high. Starting to think I should stay home on Mondays because apparently I’m missing a hell of a party.

Heck, every Monday the lawn crew and I could slam a few cold ones on my back patio, jump on one of those stand-up mowers and travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, knocking out satellite service to half of Platte County. Like a frat party with power tools.

But I digress. Let’s get back to what led to my idea for a side gig. . .

******

So I called DirecTV to report my “no satellite signal” problem, knowing full well what had happened. This time the “bump” into the pole holding the dish must have been pretty severe, as it was clear to the naked eye that the dish was cockeyed compared to how it looked the night before. I know this because the night before while chilling on the patio my eyes had been drawn to the dish via a significant deposit left by a bird who obviously suffers from bowel control problems. The dish on Monday night was sitting at a different angle, by a few inches, than it had been on Sunday night when I made the medical diagnosis on said bird.

Anyway, DirecTV tells me they can get a technician out to the scene. That’s the good news. The bad news is the earliest opening for a technician is July 2. Wait, July 2? That’s eight days from the time of my call. I was not tickled pink by this development. I expressed frustration to the representative on the phone. She said that’s the best she can do. I again expressed my frustration, perhaps with a little more angst this time. I remember politely but firmly saying things like “this is 2019” and “this is beyond ridiculous,” and “a company with the resources of DirecTV should not need eight days to solve this problem” and various other blah blah blah. The rep repeats this is the best she can do. I ask to speak with a supervisor.

Fifteen minutes later a supervisor gets on the phone. I repeat my talking points. He says he understands my frustration, that he is a consumer too, and various other blah blah blah. Says he’ll do some checking and call me back in an hour or two.

If you’re like me, when a person from an outfit as large as DirecTV says they’ll call you back you’re a little skeptical. I was a little skeptical. And not really in the best of humor at this point. What to do? I reminded myself, as I had said to the folks at DirecTV, that this is 2019. So I headed to YouTube and searched “how to adjust satellite dish for DirecTV.” I watched a four-minute video made by a guy who said he does this for a living. His video showed which bolts on the dish to loosen in order to move the dish up and down, which ones to loosen if you need it to go left or right, which bolts you can probably leave alone. He used a big word that sounded like azimuth and some other weird celestial angular terms, some whatnot and such. But I got the drift. I picked up what he was puttin’ down.

He showed how to access, through the menu feature on your remote, what screen to go to in order to display your satellite settings, and advised to take a half inch wrench and your cell phone out to the dish while another person stays by the TV screen with their cell phone to let you know how the settings are changing while you’re outside adjusting the dish. This guy’s satellite signal strength was coming in at 95%. He said that was a great number to hit.

Determined to get this project done without waiting eight days, and realizing that since I had no TV reception at the time there was no way I could make the situation worse, I headed to my garage. I grabbed a half inch wrench that was buried in the bottom of my tool box and trekked out to the satellite dish located in the back yard commons area, or as the lawn service guys probably call it “party cove.”

I correctly eyeballed that I needed to move the dish more left and right than up and down, which helped me determine which bolts to loosen, and within seconds as I carefully moved the dish my partner in satellite repair sitting in front of the main TV in the house was telling me via cell phone that the signal strength reading had gone from zero to 96%. Boom. I firmly tightened all the bolts. Tightening the bolts must have moved the dish just a hair because signal strength fell by one to 95%, but heck, that’s what the expert was getting in his home so I knew I was good.

There ya go. Project complete. The whole repair process took three minutes, tops. Not even kidding. I’d spent more time finding the wrench than I did adjusting the satellite. Walked in the house to see crystal clear HD picture on both televisions. In celebration, I mentally flipped the bird to DirecTV and their eight-day waiting time and service call fees. That was an okay feeling, not gonna lie.

So this is my idea for a side gig. Has your satellite dish been knocked out of alignment? Want it fixed sooner than eight days? My half inch wrench and I are at your service. Call me. Have tools will travel.

(Find Foley feverishly adjusting satellite dishes throughout Platte County or just find him on Facebook and Twitter. Or chase him down via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


THE GOOD NEWS: DISCOVERING A USE FOR APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

6/19/19

As a follow-up to my comments last week about some of the less- than-pleasant aspects of summer, let me say I acquired a reaction to poison ivy on the back of one of my legs over the weekend. It’s like the gods of summer were intentionally coming after me.

That’s the bad news. The good news is I found a mighty fine home remedy. Apple cider vinegar, you guys. Put apple cider vinegar directly on your skin at the site of poison ivy outbreaks. Do it and watch the magic happen. You might smell a little funny for a bit but it’s worth it.

Try it the next time poison ivy gets you. You’re welcome, America.

******

Congrats to Quinton Lucas, who at age 34 has become the youngest person elected mayor of Kansas City in at least a century. In what may have played a larger role than people realize, Lucas has an engaging personality and seems to connect with people in a much easier way than his opponent Jolie Justus. It will be interesting to watch Lucas evolve in his role as mayor.

******

Quickly on the topic of Chad Searcey, principal at Compass Elementary at Platte County R-3 School District: The school district’s suspension of Searcey does not violate his First Amendment rights, as some folks on social media are incorrectly claiming.

Sure, Searcey has a First Amendment right to free speech, as do all Americans. But Searcey’s employer also has rights.

The First Amendment protects you from having your speech prohibited by the government. It does not mean your employer is prohibited from taking action against you because of your speech/actions.

You can read details about the firestorm Searcey’s recent action on Twitter created in a front page story. Watch our social media outlets in the coming days for any possible updates on Searcey’s situation.

******

Next election for county offices in Platte County is not until 2020, but it’s not too early to start talking about it. One candidate has already let it be known he’ll be in the race for a county commission spot. David Park, Democrat, has said he will be running for the second district commissioner spot currently held by John Elliott.

You’ll recall Park ran for presiding commissioner in 2018, losing to incumbent Ron Schieber but drawing 47% of the vote in the process, the best showing by a Democrat in Platte County in a decade.

Park was handing out campaign cards at a recent public event in Platte City.
“I will ensure our tax dollars are used efficiently and appropriately to deliver essential services at a level that we expect and deserve,” the card says on the front. On the back side of the card, Park sais he will “protect essential county services” and will:

*Support services such as law enforcement, road maintenance and parks

*Improve transparency and citizen input (he can go places with this one, as the current county commission likes to go to breakfast on Friday mornings but has shown zero serious effort in gathering citizen input in developing plans for the county’s future)

*Eliminate wasteful spending.

*Issue contracts based on qualifications and cost, not politics.

*Implement strategic planning.

*Initiate use of performance measures.

The card guides those interested to check out his web site at park4platte.com.

*****

Hey, guess what? The county commission is now requesting bids on a project that will make repairs to the floors and walls in a shower in the county jail.

This is interesting. Remember, in the closing days of their campaign for a $65 million jail sales tax, the county commissioners suddenly starting telling us a big reason we needed to vote for the jail expansion was the current jail showers were in bad condition. Wait, who knew such a thing could be fixed without a new $65 million sales tax? Amazing!

Imagine, a new idea of doing routine maintenance and repairs instead of building new stuff. What a concept!

I gotta tell ya, these county commissioners are thinking outside the box. Brilliant!

******

Platte County will be taking bids to purchase a new metal detector/x-ray machine used for security screening at the entrance to the county courthouse. I’m wondering if the new x-ray machine will be able to find details that were absent in the failed jail expansion plan.

******

One of the things I forgot to mention in last week’s listing of less than pleasant things about summer? Those public swimming pools and water parks aren’t always as clean as many of us assume they are.

Swallow that public pool or water park water at your own risk. Ever heard of crypto? The CDC says diarrhea outbreaks have doubled in just a few years as there were at least 32 known outbreaks due to crypto contamination in pools or water parks in 2016, while there were only 16 cases in 2014. Do we even want to know how many there were in 2018? Probably not. That’s not 32 people infected. That’s 32 outbreaks that affected multiple individuals, including 352 in the state of Arizona alone. The parasite can survive for as long as 10 days even in chlorinated water. Swallowing a single mouthful of water is all it takes for someone to fine themselves knotted up with stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea that can last up to two to three weeks, says the CDC.

I guess what I’m saying is bring on fall.

(Find Foley avoiding public pools or find him on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


IT'S SUMMER AND SUDDENLY I'M A LITTLE BORED

6/12/19

It’s summer and suddenly I’m a little bored, honestly. Quick, somebody do something. Entertain me.

******

Well here’s something. Monday night the planet Jupiter was so close to the earth we were told we could see Jupiter and its moons with nothing but binoculars. At least that’s what some scientist was saying. Or maybe it was Bryan Busby, not sure, I was half asleep and not really paying attention.

I grabbed some binoculars and stepped outside. Sure enough, I could see Jupiter. At least that’s my story. Honestly I don’t know what the hell I was looking at. It was some distant sparkly thing in the sky. Could have been the light on somebody’s ceiling fan about three miles to the south. But sure, Jupiter. That’s what it was.

Anyway, that was fun. I’m just happy I didn’t see Uranus.

******

I’m like several paragraphs into this non-award winning column and still a little bored, honestly.

******

Oh well, it’s summer and we’ve got nasty-ass hot and grossly humid weather to look forward to. So we’ve got that going for us.

Ahh, summer. Hot and sticky days where your deodorant is running down your arm by mid-morning. The aroma of human body odor to catch your attention as you walk through crowded public places. Hot heads with short tempers getting even hotter headed in the heat. Pesky mosquitoes, including the one that gets in the house and buzzes around your ear just as you’re trying to fall asleep, so you spend the rest of the night scratching body parts that don’t even itch yet.

******

Ahh, summer. Creepy June bugs. Painful sunburns. Crappy Royals baseball. Weeds. Poison ivy. The annoying guy in the neighborhood shooting off fireworks in the middle of the night. Every neighborhood has that guy, I think it’s mandated in the constitution. Or your HOA covenants. Trust me on this. If you think your neighborhood doesn’t have that guy then you’re probably that guy.

******

Ahh, summer. Where ya been? How soon ya leavin?

******

Things are starting to look up but frankly I’m still a little bored.

******

Maybe what we need is a good celebrity sighting. When was the last time you saw a celebrity in Platte County? Unless you guys are out there keeping secrets from me, I feel like we’re getting short-changed in the celebrity sighting department.

What gives? Are they boycotting us? What did we ever do to them to deserve the cold shoulder?

On a recent Landmark Live, we asked one of the management peeps at the KCI Marriott to give us the name of a famous person or group that had stayed at the hotel. After much contemplation, her answer was Bernie Sanders.

I rest my case. Lordy, do we need a slump buster in the celebrity sighting department.

******

Would you speak to a famous celebrity if you randomly bumped into them? And if so, what would you say?

I was thinking about this the other night. I know, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about weird stuff. It’s a blessing and a curse. Mainly a curse. It’s how the idea for Landmark Live was born. I apologize.

Like if I bumped into Mick Jagger I’d say: “I know it’s only rock-n- roll but I like it.”

If I bumped into Billy Joel, I’d be all like: “Man, what are you doing here?”

If I bumped into Paul Simon I’d get kind of a creepy crazy look in my eye and say: “Hello darkness, my old friend.”

If I bumped into Rihanna I’d give her some who’s-your-daddy swag and say:“You wanna find love in a hopeless place?”

If I ever bump into Sting the go-to line will be “I’ll be watching you.”

When I bump into Britney Spears: “Hit me baby one more time.”

If I bumped into Taylor Swift: “Why you gotta be so mean?” (If you have followed my personal Facebook page for several years you know this is one celebrity I have actually met, and she was super nice, not mean. But I’m still gonna say it. Gotta break the ice somehow, guys.)

******

Yeah, suddenly it’s summer. But I’m not as bored now.

******

Well, that’s it for me. Gonna take my horse to the old town road and ride till I can’t no more.

(Even when he’s bored, even when it’s summer and he’s sweaty, you can get more from Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley or on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Or try to catch him staring at Jupiter, not your Uranus. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHAT Y'ALL DOIN' ON SATURDAY NIGHT?

6/5/19

If you’re in or close to Dearborn and looking for some action on a Saturday night I’ve got just the spot for you.

Dearborn city officials will be hosting a town hall chat at 6 p.m. Saturday. The topic? Raising chickens.

Discussion during the chat will focus on “rescinding the ban to allow chickens within the city limits,” the city says.

This is awesome. In a weird sort of way. I mean, if you’re into chickens. And town hall meetin’s on a Saturday night.

Hot time in the city. Runnin’ wild and lookin’ pretty.

******

A posted public notice says the chicken meeting is to be held at the Dearborn Community Center. Kind of surprised it’s not being held on somebody’s front porch, honestly. Put the mayor and aldermen in a porch swing. You know, to set the mood for some informal discussion. Kind of create some ambiance, if you will.

******

By the way, don’t expect coverage of the chicken meeting in next week’s Landmark. Not sure what my Saturday night activity will be but pretty sure I won’t be spending it performing journalism at a town hall meeting about chicken farming.

Just sayin’. Not being judgmental. To each his own. You be you. I’ll be me.

I don’t have an interest in conversing about raising chickens on a Saturday night but I would fight to the death for Dearborn’s right to do so.

******

If somebody decides to bring bucket loads of KFC to the chicken meeting I reserve the right to reconsider.

******

Best song on the radio right now? My answer is “Cool” by the Jonas Brothers. Check out the song and video on YouTube.

You could argue with me that it’s the best. But you’d be wrong.

******

Electrifying.

If you’re looking for a place to charge your electric car--and who isn’t?--you’ll soon be able to do so in the parking lot between the Mid-Continent Public Library and the Platte County Community Center (YMCA).

It will be the first-ever electric vehicle charging station to be installed in Platte City, thanks to Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative. Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt will be on hand for a ribbon cutting when the charging station is unveiled on Monday, June 10 at 10:30 a.m.

******

How big of an impact will last week’s court decision on the Zona Rosa bond case have across the state? Depends on whom you talk to. Some experts I’ve asked think it could have a big impact, others say not so much.

“It could be huge. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these type (appropriation) contracts out there for a variety of items,” one expert told me, including things like lease purchase agreements for major pieces of equipment, certificates of participation for things like recreation centers, etc. “It’s a commonly accepted practice. Everything has been issued without a vote of the people. Is this going to cause potential lenders to not be as willing? If I’m lending money I might be concerned,” now that governments fully realize they have the legal right to walk away from the debt.

Of course if they do walk away, or even talk of walking away, look what it does to your entity’s credit rating. And despite the Platte County Commission’s hopes the court decision will fix the county’s rating, most observers say it’s not likely to happen for quite some time (see front page story for more details).

Another expert told me the statewide impact could be minimal.

“Savvy bond buyers already knew the appropriation language was in there,” this expert said. The law doesn’t mandate payment from the taxing entity so the market reaction “is to pummel the entity’s credit rating. That’s all they’ve got on you,” this expert remarked.

It’s a good example of why government should not be backing private developments. If the Zona lawsuit increases costs of credit on those deals maybe that’s a good thing.

While some observers feel certain UMB will appeal the circuit court’s decision, others told me this week they are not so sure. A circuit court decision is considered an “unpublished” opinion, while an opinion rendered by the court of appeals would be “published” and potentially have greater impact. In other words, an appeals court decision could have a greater negative impact on the appropriation bonds industry than the circuit court decision, so UMB may decide to leave it alone. We’ll know within 40 days.

******

The $32-40 million county commissioners claim this court ruling could potentially save taxpayers over the years sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s still $25 or $30 million less than the commissioners wanted to spend on a jail.

******

Of course what it all means to Platte County is the county commissioners should not be considering any major building projects in the near future. The cost of borrowing will be extremely high because of the credit rating status.

That’s why it was borderline insanity for the county commissioners to recently propose a $65 million jail. Voters were smart to scissor kick that thing in the gizzard.

Let’s hope the commissioners are over their infatuation with spending tens of millions of dollars on a questionable project at a time when their credit rating is in the tank. It would be an expensive price to pay just for a plaque with their names on it.

(Scissor kick Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. Get more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley or on Facebook at Platte County Landmark)

 


KUDOS TO THE KANSAS CITY TV WEATHER PEEPS

5/29/19

Thankfully Platte County escaped the night of the twisters on Tuesday evening with no tornado touchdowns reported here. It was a crazy weather night, however, with KCI Airport shutting down for a time. Airport customers were guided to parking garage tunnels for shelter as reports of a tornado headed in that direction from the Legends area of KCK were coming in. Areas like Parkville and Houston Lake were reported to be in the potential path, forcing residents to take shelter in their basements and other safe spaces. Thankfully the winds had lessened considerably by the time the storm hit Platte County, and lifted and skipped over the Parkville/Riverside areas before apparently reforming in Clay County shortly afterward. We were lucky here, folks.

Throughout it all, I thought the TV weather people of Kansas City did a fine job informing and warning the public. Some of us--yours truly included--like to poke fun of the weather peeps for often being over-the-top dramatic and too quick to be the alarmists in the room, but on Tuesday night the men and women of TV news were in the business of trying to save lives and they did a fine job of it.

Kudos to our friends in the TV news biz. Now let’s hope the crazy weather pattern that we’re in settles down so in a few weeks we can get back to poking a little good-natured fun at them.

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We have heard reports of folks in Platte County finding tornado debris in their yards, likely from the twister that hit the Linwood, Kan. area. The reports including the finding of old time family photos, etc.

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Following up on a piece in last week’s column about the Mid-Continent Library Board trying to put the smackdown on any board members who dare to question the voting majority, at one point over the Memorial Day weekend I took off my shoes and socks and did a little math. Since the library board is in charge of spending millions upon millions of dollars, why should there not be room for open discussion and open disagreement among board members?

Let’s calculate some per capita MCPL expenses in Platte County. We start with noting that Platte County’s population (per the Mid-American Regional Council) in 2015 was 96,434. In 2018 it was 102,985, a 6.8 percent increase. Next look at library taxes collected from within Platte County. In 2016-17 that amount was $7.6 million. In the preliminary 2019-20 MCPL budget, that revenue is at $11.6 million, a 53 percent increase from 2016-17. So, per capita library taxes in 2016-17 were $79, while the budget for 2019-20 is $113, a 43 percent increase.

You’ll recall the library district in 2016 won voter approval for a tax increase from 32 cents to 40 cents. It even won voter approval within Platte County. The point of today’s remarks is not to hammer on voters for approving the tax. The point is to make people aware of how many millions of dollars the library board is responsible for, and with those kinds of discretionary spending decisions to be made it is ridiculous to try to put a lid on an open and honest discussion of priorities.

Keep in mind library tax revenues will continue to increase as the tax base within the district continues to grow and the library continues to assess at the maximum rate regardless of need.

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A ruling is expected very soon in the lawsuit over Platte County’s potential responsibility to cover financial shortfalls in the Zona Rosa parking garage bonds situation. No matter which side “wins” in this ruling, don’t get too excited. Legal experts are telling me to expect the matter to advance to the court of appeals no matter which way the initial decision from Judge James Van Amburg comes down.

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When I drove to work Tuesday morning the price at the local gas stations was $2.47 per gallon. On the way home, which is of course when I decided to take the time to stop and fill up the tank, the price had risen to $2.59. Was there some kind of world crisis going on in the desert that day?

I filled up one vehicle at the Platte-Clay Electric Coop station--my favorite local fueling stop--at the $2.59 price, then was in a different vehicle just a bit later in the evening and noticed the price on a large sign out front at the Minit Mart still $2.47. I quickly pulled in, thinking I had found a bargain. But when I approached the pump I noticed the price set on the pump itself had been changed to $2.59 while the sign that drew me in still read $2.47. Hmm.

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By the way, the music playing over the speakers while you pump gas at the Platte-Clay Electric fuel station along Hwy. 92 in Platte City is fantastic. I’m assuming it’s provided off a satellite feed. Great stuff. Makes the pain at the pump a little easier to stomach.

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The annual Memorial Day ceremony held at the Platte City Cemetery drew a nice crowd on pretty pleasant weather day. Some of my favorite comments from featured speaker retired U.S. Army Col. Andrew Shoffner included: “Your presence here today reflects an effort to make sure that those who have gone before us and have fallen in battle did not die in vain. I mention battle because this nation does not take the act of going to war lightly. The reason is simple: even the shortest war is costly. And that cost is measured in treasure and blood. The treasure is the nation’s financial wealth but the blood is the most precious commodity of all: the nation’s youth and the future of this great country.”

To view an album of photos from the ceremony, go to Platte County Landmark on Facebook.

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Our Landmark Live episode broadcast from the patio of the KCI Marriott was a good time on Thursday. After eight months of not being in the same place at the same time, it marked a reunion for my old pal Chris Kamler and yours truly, which meant the immaturity level was off the charts. With around 6,000 views, it has been our most-watched episode of this calendar year.

Sometimes we do educational shows on business topics and get 3,000 views. Other times we show up at a public party, grab a drink, hit the “go live” button and start saying whatever ridiculous things pop into our heads and get 6,000 views.

Message received, Platte County. We get you. We see you. You want sophomoric humor and immaturity. I feel confident we can deliver the goods.

(View Landmark Live videos on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Get more from Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley, on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


DISAGREEMENT AMONG PUBLIC SERVANTS IS NOT A BAD THING

5/22/19

I’ve heard of attempting to verbally neuter board members or privately chastising members who may not want to march in step or sing in unison. But this is getting goofy.

The Mid-Continent Public Library Board this week officially adopted a board policy that threatens board members who don’t sing in tune with the choir with removal from their position.

I’m not kidding.

A policy that reads as such was adopted Tuesday night:

“The board will act as a group and speak with one voice. Actions adopted by the board will be supported by the entire board,” the policy reads. It goes on to say:

“Although never anticipated, board members who knowingly and repeatedly violate the Board Governance Style could prompt a hearing as outlined in RSMO 182.640(3) that can include removal from the Library Board of Trustees.”

LOL. I can’t even type the words without chuckling. It reads like some kind of communist manifesto. Thankfully there’s no mention of a firing squad.

Why are some governmental bodies–like so many school boards and like this library board--afraid of public discourse among members? Open and honest discussion promotes individual thought and individual thought promotes creativity and new ways of thinking. Open and honest public discussion among members, yes even members with a minority viewpoint, helps capture the attention of the public and lets the outside world get more than one look at the issues and choices facing board members. All of this is healthy. When did this become a bad thing?

It’s interesting to note that the four Platte County members of the library board voted against this silly policy. But they were outnumbered. All board members from Clay and Jackson counties voted to approve. Reading between the lines, this tells us that it is one or hopefully more of the Platte County delegation on the board that is not afraid to ask questions and provide a differing viewpoint.

Apparently until the newest members from Platte County showed up, nobody on the three-county library board asked tough questions. Making some folks uncomfortable apparently prompted this.

So this is now board policy. Ridiculous.

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2019 is an odd numbered year and thus is a real estate reassessment year, which means many taxpayers in the county could be receiving--or have already received--a notice from the Platte County assessor letting them know their home values have increased. With the real estate situation in Platte County continuing to be very much a seller’s market, it’s safe to say there are many homes slated for an increase in appraised value by the county.

It’s a good idea to read these notices carefully, lots of important information and numbers are included. Be sure to look on the back of your notice for some useful information. There’s a chart on the back that will show you how much the change in value will mean in terms of actual tax dollars you’ll owe when your next tax bill comes due on Dec. 31. Of course the numbers are based off the most recent tax levies of the various public entities. A change in those levies later this year would affect the projected amount due, so keep that in mind.

If you disagree with the value the county has placed on your home, there is a process in place to appeal the county assessor’s number. That appeal process and how to get it rolling is explained right there on your “notice of change in assessed value of real property.”

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As you may know, the Park Hill School District is considering some changes in its school start times. Nothing for the start of the next academic year, mind you, as that plan was recently scrapped. But as part of a new and renewed process, the district has formed a “sleep and start times” study group. Sleep research is part of the process the district hopes to use in an ultimate decision for start times of various age groups of students.

On the topic of sleep, I was reading the postings of a guy on Twitter the other day. He was passing on some tips from his sleep doctor. Here are some of those helpful tidbits from this guy’s sleep doctor:

*However many hours you’re awake, sleep for half the amount you were awake that day. For example if you were up 16 hours, get 8 hours sleep.

*No caffeine after 2 p.m. (Good luck with that, probably not gonna happen for me).

*No alcohol three hours before bed.

*Don’t smoke.

*Eat healthy.

*Exercise between 5-7 p.m. (Is this time frame a reasonable expectation for a lot of people? If so, I want your job).

*Set the temperature at 65 degrees when sleeping. (I can relate and much prefer a too cool room over a too warm one. My winter time thermostat setting is 66, so close to the recommended 65 number. Might be tough to keep room temp at 65 degrees in the middle of a Missouri summer, unless you don’t mind your electric bill spiraling through the roof).

*Use dim lights before bed. (Seems obvious now but I had never consciously considered this one).

*Have your room be muted or neutral colors. and have a plant, scenic painting and family photos in your room. (Sounds like a cool decorating idea but not sure what difference this is going to make for sleep, since my room will be dark and I plan on having my eyes closed).

*Loose clothing while sleeping or nude. (No comment).

*No electronics in bedroom. (Yeah, right. Not gonna happen. I work in media).

And this one wasn’t listed by the sleep doctor but for best results my sleeping room needs to be dark. Not kinda dark. Not mostly dark. Dark. And I want no early morning sun creeping in. I’ll throw a blanket over the window if I have to. It’s a gangsta move. I ain’t playin’.

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Baseball managers wear baseball uniforms to work so I wonder if a sleep doctor wears jammies to work. Makes the same amount of sense.

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I’d love to be a sleep doctor treating a patient who is a visual learner. I’d say ‘stand there and watch, here’s how you do it’ then I’d crawl into a bed and sleep my ass off for eight hours.

(Play along with Foley on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Landmark Live videocast on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SAFE TRAFFIC FLOW DOES NOT REQUIRE A BUNCH OF CAR STOPS

5/15/19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


TV SHOWS, ELECTRIC CARS, BANKING NEWS AND A PARKS TAX SQUEEZE

5/8/19

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.

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It would be easier to write a column if the words didn’t have to make sense.

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I spent an hour on the treadmill last night. Next time I might plug it in.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


LET'S NOT CLOSE OUR MINDS TO THIS PICKLEBALL THING

5/1/19

How about a little of this and a little of that as we roll ourselves through another week?

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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?)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.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

4/24/19

Back at the Between the Lines grind while wondering what borderline insane proposal the Platte County Commission will come up with next.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


OFFICIALS NOT ANXIOUS
TO SHARE THEIR RESPONSE TO THE ALLEGATION THAT THEY DON’T SHARE

4/17/19

Very cool.

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.

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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.

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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?”

Awesome.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


A NEW PROPOSAL WOULD NEED MAJOR TWEAKING, MAYBE SOME NEW PLAYERS

4/10/19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


SOME OBSERVATIONS CAN BE MADE FROM JAIL TAX RESULT

4/3/19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


DON'T REWARD BAD GOVERNING, VOTE NO ON COUNTY COMMISSION'S BOONDOGGLE

3/27/19


This spring election season in Platte County has had a little bit of everything. Don’t turn away too long, you’ll miss something.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


COMMISSIONERS ARE TRYING TO HIDE BEHIND THE SHERIFF

3/20/19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


DAGMAR WOOD SAYS BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS PERPETUATING LIES ABOUT ZONA BONDS

3/13/19

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


ELECTED OFFICIALS PLAYING BUSINESS WITH GOVERNMENT FUNDS

3/6/19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS BALKING AT THE COUNTY'S JAIL TAX PROPOSAL

2/27/19

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


BIZARRE THOUGHT PROCESS AT THE COUNTY; AND PARKVILLE'S SUNSHINE REQUEST DRAMA

2/20/19

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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


CITY OF PARKVILLE THROWING SHADE ON SUNSHINE LAW

2/13/19

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. You can also find him on social media outlets on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)

 


MATTHEW SILBER

2/6/19

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


COUNTY COMMISSIONERS HAVE ADOPTED THE NANCY PELOSI WAY OF THINKING

1/30/19

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.

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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 chris@somuchshrinkage.com.

******

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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and find him on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube)

 


YOU DON'T OWE THE COUNTY COMMISSION ANYTHING

1/23/19

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.

 


LOCAL AMBULANCES
WERE A LITTLE LESS BUSY
IN THE PAST YEAR
Written 1/16/19

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).

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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
Written 1/9/19

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.

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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.

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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:
http://transparency.abetterparkville.com

*******

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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


WHEN IT COMES TO JAIL POPULATION, MAYBE IT'S TIME TO FOCUS ON 'WHY'
Written 1/2/19

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 ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 

 

 

 

Between the Lines by Ivan
For earlier Between the Lines columns click here
 
 

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