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Earlier Letters to the Editor


Test score comparisons not favorable for R-3

10/15/14

EDITOR:

In last week’s Landmark, reporter Stephanie Eaton looked at the Platte County R-3 test scores for several subjects. I won’t go into detail about them all but I would like to point out a "fractional truth" in the explanation as to why 65% of all PCR3 students who take the 8th grade state required math MAP exam can’t pass it.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik said that he can't compare test scores because many districts do not test in Algebra I at the eighth grade level. He insinuated that since R-3 has more students taking the Algebra I exam (more than other districts) that leaves the students who perform poorer in math to take the Math MAP exam so our scores are lower.

Here are the numbers with a comparison to Park Hill. At Barry School, only 21 of our 8th graders took the Algebra I exam and they scored 100%. The other 70% of the class then took the Math MAP test and scored 38.5%, second lowest of all area schools.

At Platte City Middle School, 101 8th graders took the Algebra I exam, scoring 93%. The other students took the MAP math exam and scored 30.1% the lowest.

Can you compare this to other area districts? Of course you can. We compare ourselves to Park Hill in all areas from salaries to sports so let’s look at their scores. 218 eighth graders took the Algebra I test at the Park Hill Middle schools and scored 97.6% at Congress and 100% at Lakeview.

For the 8th grade math MAP score they had a 59.6% at Congress and a 66.4% at Lakeview, a 62.3% average, compared to PCR3's 33.4%. Almost twice as many Park Hill 8th graders scored higher on the MAP score and the others scored higher on the Algebra I test.

Kearney tested 311 students in Algebra I (majority of 8th graders), the other kids then scored a 40.6% on the MAP Math test. 90 more students tested in Algebra I than PCR3 and Kearney is a slightly smaller district.

By percentage, Kearney tested the most eighth graders in Algebra I with Smithville the lowest testing only 23.

Ten area middle schools were looked at for this letter, from NKC to North Platte. The ONLY district that did not test Algebra I at the eighth grade level was North Platte. Of the 10 looked at, the lowest score by 7% in Math Map testing was PCR3.

Even if you pull the numbers through and assume all of the 8th graders who took the Algebra I test would have passed the Math MAP test, we would have still ranked 5th (PCMS) and 8th (Barry) out of nine schools with Lakeview, Congress and New Mark at the top.

Overall, the Park Hill school district scored 15% higher in Algebra I than PCR3, 82.7% to R3's 67.3%.

This info and much more is available at Schooldigger.com. Find your school, click on the test score tab and use the drop downs to navigate. The site also tells you how many students took the test and school sizes.

By the time you read this the R-3 school board meeting may be over, as it is this Thursday night at 6;30. From what I witnessed last year (when the scores were also lower) there will be Power Point slides comparing schools from outside the area Mehlville, Webster Grove and Kirkwood were used when unlike the majority of Missouri school districts in 2013 these three did not even test upper level math at their high schools. 520 districts to choose from and we don't compare ourselves to districts that test in the same subjects as us?

Platte County High School, which scored below state averages in three of the eight areas tested, if like last year will not even be talked about. Administrators will talk about our lofty goals, "reaching for success" and how hard everyone is working.

The school board will congratulate everyone for great presentations, look no further into the problem and next year we will be doing it all over again unless something changes or the scores are now as low as they can possibly go in these subjects. I hope I am wrong.

If you are in Park Hill School District, congratulations. From what I just looked at you are doing very well academically at both the middle school and high school level. Some of the best scores in the state.

PCR3 has improved in American History, English II, Biology I and Government at the high school level. English I has stayed about the same the past three years. It’s those three subjects which are all intertwined that seem to be the problem--Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry.

The school board is going to have to get to work. In 2015, Missouri requires ALL students to be proficient in Algebra 1. Platte County R-3 will no longer get a pass.

--Kirby Holden
Rural Platte County

 


Alderman's behavior is 'inexcusable'

10/15/14

EDITOR:

This is a follow-up letter to the one I wrote two weeks ago concerning the drunk-driving arrest of alderman and Mayor Pro-tem of Parkville, Marc Sportsman. To date he has not resigned for (allegedly) being drunk and driving near a school, nor has any other alderman asked him to resign or even speak on the subject. This is an unfortunate and unacceptable situation.

But, the focus of this letter is on another Parkville alderman whose recent actions also call for her resignation. Alderman Kendall Welch recently berated and mocked members of Main Street Association and our executive director. This berating took place at last week's CLARB (Community Land and Recreation Board) meeting in which Alderman Welch attempted to embarrass me and our executive director by pulling out non-approved, non-published minutes to illustrate that we were misrepresenting a portion of this year's Downtown Christmas celebration.

Alderman Welch obtained these minutes in a deceiving manner from our Main Street secretary. The minutes showed no such deception on our part and even substantiated everything we had said.

Again, this type of unethical and deceptive behavior from one of Parkville's aldermen is disgusting and deplorable. As an alderman, you should be supporting downtown initiatives, not calling Main Street officers and harassing them.

Welch contacted at least three officers and tried to get them to say they did not support the initiative. Which is not true. According to our minutes of the meeting we voted on, the initiative passed unanimously.

Alderman Welch, your behavior goes beyond the bounds of decorum that is expected from a public official. Your faint-hearted attempt to pull off a “gotcha” moment was at the very least unethical and at the worst possibly unlawful. Don't you have better things to do as a representative of Parkville, such as discussing the resignation of one of your fellow aldermen who (allegedly) drove drunk near a school? How about the financial mess Parkville is in with an overinflated budget due to excessive spending and a commitment to a bond issue you had no business obligating our citizens to?

Alderman Welch, as I recommended to Alderman and Mayor Pro-tem Marc Sportsman after he drove drunk, it is time for you to resign for your dishonorable behavior. Being a bully in front and behind the scenes seems to be a pattern with you. You tried to shove a single payer trash service system down our throats a few years back and were rightly rebuked by Parkville citizens.

In last week's meeting, I even sensed that the members of the CLARB board were embarrassed by your inexcusable and elitist behavior. You and Alderman Sportsman can start rebuilding credibility to a beleaguered city government by doing the correct thing and resign immediately.

Downtown Parkville needs support, not backroom politics or unprincipled behavior by our elected officials.

--Tom Hutsler
Parkville

 


Amendment 3 is bad for children

10/15/14

EDITOR:

I am voting no on Amendment 3.

This horrible change to the Missouri Constitution would require more testing of our students. Currently, our students take 26 “high-stakes tests” between third grade and twelfth grade.

If Amendment 3 passes, it would require more testing of every subject. Our children would go from 26 tests to 240 + tests. The cost to the state would be roughly a half a billion dollars. That half a billion dollars would be paid by us, the taxpayers.

Amendment 3 is bad for the children of Missouri.

--Paula York
Librarian
Weatherby Lake

 


Support tax cuts not handouts

10/8/14

EDITOR:

When the Missouri legislature returned to the Capitol last month, legislators decided not to override Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes of a wide array of tax incentives, passed at the end of the regular session.
The governor had said the tax breaks--which he called “Friday Favors” -- would have bled millions from state and local coffers to the benefit of a variety of special interests.

His concerns were well-founded, and both the governor and the legislature that sustained his vetoes deserve credit for ultimately rejecting these tax breaks.

Tax incentives can be understood as an admission that the government's tax burdens are too high.

If the economic environment is “ripe” for incentives, then it is also ripe for broad-based tax cuts.
Indeed, tax cuts--not tax breaks--are what the legislature should pursue in 2015. By rejecting revenue-hemorrhaging handouts this year, the legislature kept the window open to substantive tax cuts next year.

I hope they seize the opportunity they've created.

--Patrick Ishmael
Senior Analyst
Show-Me Institute

 


Edgerton votes apparently don't matter

10/1/14

EDITOR:

An open letter to all the citizens of voting age in Edgerton, Missouri. If I told you that our constitutional right to vote in our own community had been secretly taken away from us, what would your response be?

I hope, and I believe, it would be outrage. Yet that is exactly what has happened to us.
During our annual Pioneer Days celebration, “someone” posted a notice on our American Legion hall where we vote, stating that Edgerton citizens could no longer vote in Edgerton, but must now go to Dearborn. Citizens of Ridgely must now go to Hoover to vote.

Who made this decision and why were the citizens of Edgerton not notified of this well in advance of the upcoming November election?

This is nothing short of some local Platte County politicians once again infringing on our rights as American citizens to express our freedom to choose candidates of our choice or vote for amendments of our choosing.

Fortunately, an Edgerton citizen spotted this notice and informed many of us what was happening. It didn't take long to organize other neighbors to seek out answers about who and why this decision was made.

Calls were made to Platte County officials and a meeting was hastily called by a Chris Hershey of the Platte County Board of Elections at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon, knowing that most people, including our mayor, wouldn't be home from work yet.

However, several residents did attend, and asked him why this decision was made, and most of his answers to us were, “I'm really not comfortable with that.”

He told us Edgerton didn't have enough workers to man the voting booth. I believe this to be an absolute lie. As a lifetime resident of Edgerton, I have never gone to vote where there weren't an abundance of volunteers working. He told us we could apply for absentee ballots, but it was time consuming and the ballots have to be submitted six weeks before the election. I lost my temper at this point and stood up and told him, in effect, nothing we say or do matters at this point as far as the November election is concerned. Edgerton votes do not matter.

As I walked home from the meeting I was seething. This is not Iraq or Afghanistan. This is Edgerton, Missouri, in the United States of America, and we are not absent.

--Marie Daniel
Edgerton

 


Sportsman should resign his position

9/24/14

EDITOR:

It is with much disdain that I read the article regarding Marc Sportsman, Parkville alderman and mayor pro-tem about his run-in with the law. I am very upset that he is continuing to drive drunk in this day and age. That anyone would do that is quite disconcerting considering all the evidence of the ramifications of loss of life and tragic endings when one drives drunk.

I hope he is receiving help from professionals for his drinking and driving problem. Most drunks that drive are repeat offenders and I can only assume that his behavior is no different from most drunk drivers.

This behavior is offensive for anyone, but is even further unacceptable from a public official, a supposed leader in our community as an alderman and mayor pro-tem of the board. Our elected officials should be held to a much higher standard in all aspects of their life. Mr. Sportsman has lost his right to represent Parkville in an ethical and moral manner. His actions, by driving drunk, constitute the worst type of conduct and he should immediately resign.

Further, his putting the resignation burden on the mayor and fellow aldermen is completely deplorable. This is made worse by his attitude when another Parkville elected official had the same charge levied against him several years ago. Mr. Sportsman led the band for this public figure to resign and that person had the guts to step down, which was appropriate in that case, and is proper in this case of Mr. Sportsman's drunk driving episode .

Considering the higher standard that Mr. Sportsman has recently called for from other public entities and individuals it is unacceptable to me that Mr. Sportsman do anything but immediately resign his office as an alderman and the mayor pro-tem of Parkville. His conduct of driving drunk near a school and in our neighborhoods is contrary to any ethical and behavioral standard set by our society today.

Mr. Sportsman you messed up, you made a grave error in judgment by driving drunk and now is the time to step up like a man and take the consequences. You no longer have the trust of the people of Parkville and you no longer deserve the support or respect of your fine constituents. You are not a reliable representative that should be able to pass judgment on the issues that Parkville is facing today.

Mayor Pro-Tem/Alderman Sportsman, step down, quit, resign; these are simple, straightforward recommendations that you should accept without complaint. You don't need to put the mayor or your fellow aldermen in a position to tell you to do the right thing. They probably don't want to make that decision for you. I am not sure any of them have the fortitude to make that call, anyway. You have been very vocal in the past when this has happened to others and you have been extremely loud lately about even the “appearance of impropriety” for Parkville officials.

Marc Sportsman, heed your own words and hand in your notice. Being embarrassed is not enough to satisfy the appropriate actions in this case. You should be humiliated and contrite in every bone in your judgmental body. It's time to judge yourself with that higher sense of standards you speak of for others. Your moral high ground is now a valley that you are languishing in with regret.

Parkville no longer wants you to sit in judgment of its citizens, financial well-being, or our future.

--Tom Hutsler
Parkville

 


Change direction of Houston Lake at election

9/24/14

EDITOR:

The August city council meeting had a lively debate between seven residents and Houston Lake's Mayor Mike Hallauer about the spillway bridge.

It concluded with Mayor Hallauer promising to invite a bridge expert from the county to the next meeting. I give praise to Mayor Hallauer's response to the public outcry over what seemed to be a hasty decision by him and the city council.

As promised, Greg Sager, director, Platte County Public Works, was at the Sept. 8 council meeting.

He handed out copies of the MoDOT bridge inspection report from earlier this year. The structure ratings are listed on the back. He read each of the applicable line items and explained the terms that bridge inspectors use.

I will number them as they appear in the “structure rating” section. All of the numerical ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

“…even if the deck and superstructure were 10s it would still be rated low, because it is a one-lane bridge and has a two-lane road coming from either direction."

[58] Deck--On our bridge the deck is rated on any rotting or splintering of the cross-member timbers and runners. 6 - Satisfactory

[59] Superstructure--On our bridge the superstructure would be the I-beams that support the timbers. 8 – Very good.

[60] Substructure this would be the pillars, footings, and everything else that is underneath the I-beams. 7 – Good condition.

[61] Channel protection. He praised the spillway protective device that we constructed a couple years ago. 8– Protected devices stable

[113] Scour Assessment. Scour is an assessment of how vulnerable a bridge is to flash erosion of abutments and piers due to flooding. 8 – stable for calculated observed

Platte County Landmark journalist Valerie Verkamp was at the meeting and quoted Sager's explanation of [67], [68],
“The structure evaluation is rated a 2—basically intolerable— and the sufficiency rating on a scale from one to one hundred is rated 40.10%," said Sager. "The formula MoDOT uses to rate the bridge and come up with that sufficiency rating takes into consideration a lot of different factors. But the reason this particular bridge will never be rated high, even if the deck and superstructure were 10s it would still be rated low, because it is a one-lane bridge and has a two-lane road coming from either direction (Sept. 10, 2014, The Landmark).

Sager summed up the overall condition of the bridge, “'All in all, the structure is in good shape,” said Sager. “We have some bridges rated much lower'” (Verkamp, Sept. 10). He also said, “With proper maintenance this bridge could last 10 to 20 years.”

For further information on this meeting and the city council’s stand on the issue: http://www.plattecountylandmark.com/Article11881.htm

The gates that are intended to close this bridge have already been delivered; there have been no public announcements about its future. If the city’s reasoning for closing the bridge is because it cannot stand up to the increased traffic count, it is unwarranted. Residents discussed the possibility of placing speed bumps on the dam according to minutes of the Oct. 14, 2013 city council meeting.

“Another solution to traffic control would be closing the dam to traffic. Pedestrians only was also discussed" (City of Houston Lake Official Minutes of the Council Meeting. 2013, October 14).
Traffic control? Are you kidding me? This all started because we can't control the speed of the traffic over the bridge?

We can change the direction of Houston Lake on Election Day. (April 8).

References

City of Houston Lake Official Minutes of the Council Meeting. (2013, October 14) Public Discussion. Retrieved from http://houstonlake.net/files/hlcc-2013-10.pdf

MoDOT (2014, August 25). MoDOT Bridge Inventory and Inspection System, Non-State Structure Inspection Report. [Design No. 2045001]. Structure Rating.

Verkamp, V. (2014, September 10). Inspector says bridge is good. The Platte County Landmark. p. 1. Retrieved from http://www.plattecountylandmark .com/Article11881.htm

--Chuck Stone
Houston Lake

 


Sign him up for The Landmark

9/24/14

EDITOR:

Please sign me up for your newspaper.

Also as part of the offer, please send the Kansas City Renaissance Festival tickets to me in the attached envelope.

Thank you for this offer.

I have been buying your paper about once a month. I’m glad to get it weekly now.

Thank you.

-- Owen McCauley
Parkville

 


Problems with Fairpoint

9/17/14

EDITOR:

Another fiasco.

Fairpoint Communications closed their satellite office in Platte City.

Makes one wonder why when you call their 903 number it takes 15 to 20 minutes before you get to talk to anyone, then it takes another 10 minutes or so for the next person to answer.

They are now promoting an upgrade which I subscribed to because my original box failed.

I have spent several minutes trying to make the new system work to no avail.

Went to bed Friday evening with both televisions working. Woke up Saturday with no signal.
Finally, today I got some response. I told them to come pick up their gear and cancel my account.

This will take place tomorrow.

--Lee Roy Van Lew
Platte City

 


Jumping on board The Landmark

9/17/14

EDITOR:

Over the past month I have noticed that your newspaper represents independent and professional journalism in its highest form. Therefore, I’ve decided to subscribe. I understand that you are running a new subscriber special at the reduced rate of $20.

I have enclosed a return envelope so that you can send me the Renaissance Festival tickets. You can use the above address as the billing and delivery address.

--Charles E. Stone
Houston Lake

 


The county's 'Oh crap' moments

9/17/14

EDITOR:

There's always a reason why…

There's always a reason why elected officials raise our taxes. There's a pending crisis; there's a special need; there's looming disaster. Raising taxes on taxpayers is the easiest, quickest and least contested way to add spendable dollars.

Because Commissioners Beverlee Roper and Duane Soper were unable to adjust their mental mindset concerning Platte County's jail and federally mandated radio problems, Roper spearheaded another tax add-on. Because Park Hill School Board didn't like their tax levy increase being voted down, they've decreed a property tax increase.

The largest tax increase in United States history is the Affordable Care Act, where a U.S. president and both houses of Congress voted in ObamaCare.

Roper and Soper are raising our property tax from 1 cent per to 6 cents per $100 assessed evaluation, which amounts to a 500% tax increase. And, there's always a reason why.

A major economic driver is being overlooked by these “Tax and Spend” representatives. Whenever THEY take money out of a wage earner's pocket in taxes, THEY take away personal spending power, causing personal sacrifice. Has anyone noticed the number of company closures in Platte County? Please watch for vacant store fronts and listen to people talk about job loss.
The Roper and Soper 500% increase in new Platte County property taxes, coupled with new school tax increases, doesn't look like much, but it becomes unwarranted tax increases.

Our family annual income is set, but sometimes we experience a financial “OH! CRAP!” moment. Some major event occurs outside our budget: an air conditioner breaks, a health issue arises, the house needs painting, there's a car wreck, a lightning strike burned down the barn, etc. When an unexpected disaster strikes, we have to tighten our belts and manage our income to solve the new crisis. We become creative in finding solutions for this pressure point. Actually, every wage earner learns to be realistic about spending and budget priorities.

Unfortunately, our Platte County Commissioners view each crisis as unique, choosing their quick and easy fix for meeting the county's “OH! CRAP” moments. They simply smile, blame someone else, deny facts, ignore economic outcomes, and then vote to raise every owner's real estate taxes.

It's obvious these two commissioners are calloused about personal hardships or business failures within our fine community.

--Lee Valentine
Platte County

 


County bond transactions have a bad odor

9/12/14

EDITOR:

I want to clarify an interest expense number I have been using in previous letters regarding the $21,015,000 par value Special Obligation Bonds issued in December 2011. These bonds provided financing for the expansion of the Community Centers in Parkville and Platte City.

$4,742,894 of interest will be paid over the life of these bonds based on applying the coupon rates (the stated interest rates) to the par values of the bonds. After reviewing the bond documents, the true interest is $3,329,067. However, there is more to this transaction.

Part of the bond proceeds was used to pay the remaining $1.1 million balance of the 2003 Platte County Resource Center Certificates of Participation (COPs). This debt was historically paid from the general fund. The final two payments on these COPs were due in 2012 and 2013. This COP payoff was funded by issuing the 2011 bonds at a premium, meaning the coupon interest rates were higher than the then market interest rates.

When taking into consideration the issue premium, the county actually borrowed $22,428,826, not $21,015,000 as represented in issued press reports. The total proceeds were allocated to underwriter discount ($189,135), issue costs ($144,600), the 2003 COPs ($1,091,841) and the expansion project ($21,003,250). But there is more.

Two $550,286 transfers, for a total of $1,100,572, were made from the general fund to the parks fund in each of 2013 and 2014 to repay the $1,091,841 COP payoff made in December 2011. The difference of $8,731 is presumed to be interest.

Do we know the commission's intent with the initial funding? Was there intent to move general fund debt into parks? Or was the general fund simply borrowing from the parks fund? And if the general fund can borrow from parks to pay for building debt, why can't the general fund borrow from parks to pay for radio debt? Is there a requirement to pay interest between funds? Is there a policy in place regarding interfund borrowing?

Other comments and concerns:

•The $21 million funding for the community centers had to be expended within three years. As I have previously noted, part of the financing could have been paid from annual cash flow. Who required this cash to be immediately available? How much interest cost could have been avoided?

•The bonds are not callable. As such, even if the county had funds available for prepayment, or if interest rates declined, the county has no ability to change the financing structure or cost.

•The county's general obligation bonds are rated by Moody's at Aa2, two notches below the highest possible rating of Aaa. The 2011 bonds are rated A1, two levels below Aa2. The Moody's letter states the lower rating reflects "the risk of non-appropriation and the essentiality of the projects financed." Doesn't that make a point? Financing non-essentials costs more. For a comparison, using the effective interest rates obtained by Liberty MO Water for bonds issued in December 2011, which also carried an A rating, the interest on $21,015,000 par value is over $1 million less.

•The current commission is concerned about a rating downgrade if they lower the Parks tax to 3/8 of one percent. Moody's has already made clear their view of these bonds. Further, the Moody's letter outlines factors that would change the county's rating. Why does the commission and its attorney insist on keeping communications about ratings under client/attorney privilege?

•The public notice of the issuance of these bonds was printed only in the Kansas City Star. Why was notice not printed in any of the local Platte County newspapers? No one at the county knew the reason for this omission.

•How much should it cost to issue A1 rated privately placed bonds using substantially the same form of documents as have been used for years and with the same underwriter and attorneys? With underwriter and issue costs totaling $333,735, how closely is the commission looking at costs?

•Details of issuance costs totaling $144,600 are not contained in the documents. Why not? My request for details is unanswered as of this letter.

•How do we know the underwriter discount (.9% of par value or $189,135) as well as the bond interest rates are competitive when the commission doesn't invite anyone else to bid on the deal?

•The certification of the interest rate calculations was completed by a CPA firm in Denver, CO.

Are there no Missouri CPA firms qualified to do this?

The documents state that a portion of the bonds would be available for purchase by the public. I was not aware and nobody I have asked was aware that these bonds were available. When told the interest rates and asked if they would have liked to own these bonds, the answer I receive without exception is "yes." But does anyone think the commission wanted the average person to know they were borrowing from the parks fund to pay general fund debt, that they were borrowing funds in 2011 for expenditures being made in 2013 and 2014, or that their non-essential borrowing is more expensive?

Now consider the debt explosion that occurred while Betty Knight was presiding commissioner. Would the public have tolerated that had they been given the opportunity to own bonds issued by the county during that period?

The 2011 bonds were privately placed by a financier who is a former county commissioner. How difficult is it to sell A1 rated bonds issued by a county with one of the highest per capita incomes in the state of Missouri? The tax effected rate on the longer dated bonds approximates 6%. The bonds are insured. I own bonds. Selling these bonds is a slam dunk.

This bond offering and the related transactions have a bad odor. And like sales taxes, enough is enough. If we, the citizens of Platte County want to protect the county's reputation, we need elected officials who won't engage in these type of transactions. The August election was a good start.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Park tax should be cut back for radios

9/12/14

EDITOR:

It is amazing that three individuals can sit down and raise taxes. These individuals knew about the upgrades on the radio system for the county sheriff when two of them were elected and you know who they are.

Now they have voted 2-1 to raise property taxes. Why did they or their former board members not wake up and see that this radio system was ordered by the federal government. Did they think if they ignored it that it would go away?

Now when it comes time to cough up a whole bunch of money to make the upcoming payment, they vote 2-1 to raise the property tax levy by five cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

There was talk about changing the tax rate for parks and turning that money over to the radio fiasco. This would be a good move. Parks has had a tremendous expansion over the last few years and should be cut back.

--Lee Roy Van Lew
Platte City

 


Attracting Google Fiber should be priority

9/5/14

EDITOR:

In last week's Landmark article concerning Dan Demory and Mike Kearns trying to get the Platte City Economic Development Subcommittee interested in attracting Google Fiber to our area, the tone of the article makes it sound like our city administrator, DJ Gerhrt, is whining in that “Google is not really interested in talking to Platte City” and that “United Private provides the same amount of speed.”

First of all, I would suggest that Gerhrt and the subcommittee be more aggressive and do what it takes to get Google interested in us instead of giving up. I suspect Gerhrt and our economic subcommittee do not realize the impact this could have on Platte City.

Second, “United Private,” actually Unite Private (took me a while to find through Google) only provides service to schools, governments, hospitals, and so on, but not to our homes, so implying that we already have the same high speed services available is inaccurate.

I urge the Platte City Economic Subcommittee and residents to make this a high priority. Affordable gigabit speeds such as what Google provides attracts folks in Information Technology and related “work from home “ businesses. These kind of high income jobs/earners would only benefit Platte City. It's the kind of thing that can make a person in this field choose one city over another when deciding where to move to next.

--Robert Goen
Platte City

 


Why close the Houston Lake bridge?

8/27/14

EDITOR:

Four months ago our elected officials at Houston Lake voted unanimously to close the bridge over the dam spillway (front page story, Aug. 20 issue of The Landmark).

They made this decision based on the claims of a few residents, who say that the bridge is “wearing out.” Mayor Mike Hallauer stated that it would cost a million dollars to rebuild it. That is a scary figure. But wait – the bridge is still safe right now.

These are the facts. Every two years the bridge gets inspected by the state. The last inspection listed the deck as good, the superstructure very good, the substructure: good, and the channel: very good. Because it is a one-lane bridge, the inspector listed the structure and deck geometry as a high priority for replacement.

The structure and deck geometry statement is not referring to the condition of the bridge. It is on there because it is a one-lane bridge. It has been on the bridge report since the day it was rebuilt in the 90s. So why close it now?

Alderman Phil Otte seems to think that closing it will somehow extend its life. During a city meeting, he asked the residents, "Do you want to leave the bridge open all the time and then have to close it in a year, or would you like to close it now and have it available during snowy winter days for about four years?”

I do not understand this logic. Traffic doesn't deteriorate wooden bridges as much as ultraviolet rays and moisture. It is my understanding from secondary sources that a bridge will deteriorate faster with little, or no traffic crossing it. Bridges are like houses: with little or no use they deteriorate quickly.

Maybe the bridge will be unsafe in a year, or four years, or longer. Right now it is a picturesque and welcoming sight, and I think we should preserve that before putting up some unsightly gates.
The bridge will be more of a liability to Houston Lake while closed than it will be with automobile traffic going over it.

Please don't ask me why I want it open. I ask you: Why do you want to close it before its time has come?

--Chuck Stone
Houston Lake

 


What we've learned about the county's situation

8/20/14

EDITOR:

I attended the Aug. 14 meeting of the Platte County Commission wherein future parks commitments and reallocating a portion of the parks tax to law enforcement were discussed. Here is what we learned.

$8.4 million. That's how much in capital projects the parks department calculates will not be completed if the proposed tax reallocation is passed. And to anyone who wants to take away from parks funds, be advised that parks was promised $140 million and the residents of Platte County want parks. Law enforcement will have to find its own cheese pile.

Commissioner Beverlee Roper says decisions are hard. And for her, I agree that they are. Ms. Roper's governing is like that of a captain on a rudderless ship. She finds a current and proclaims to have control of the ship and sight of her destination, until the current changes. It is impossible to predict what Ms. Roper will decide regarding the proposed tax reallocation.

Commissioner Duane Soper does not want to take funds from parks. He can't say no to anyone, so his solution is to raise taxes. At least he is consistent in that regard.

Mr. Soper now wants another outsider who knows nothing about Platte County to study the jail issues. He didn't like the recommendations of the experts he commissioned and he doesn't like the report of the citizen committee he appointed. I suggest he have the county auditor produce some jail data. Soper seems to believe data prepared by the auditor. If Mr. Soper is looking for an answer to the jail issues, he should read the jail report. Hint: WSKF.

Commissioner Jason Brown wants to put the matter before the people and without raising taxes. He understands the consequences of government having too much of your money.

We learned that Riverside residents value park trails more than anything else. Perhaps Riverside residents need some enlightening on the core responsibilities of county government.

We were told by Parkville officials that attempting to take funds from parks is dishonest. This comes from a city that lied in 2004 about its city hall and who in recent years has been less than honest about its NID debt problems.

One person in attendance told the commission to raise his property taxes and leave the parks tax alone. I was later told that person was a parks board member. Never mind disclosing a direct conflict of interest before making public statements.

We learned that the parks board has no idea what its future maintenance costs are. When asked how they intended to fund those, we were told that future maintenance would be a matter for future commissions. I marvel that 14 years have gone by without the parks board giving appropriate consideration to future maintenance on the parks infrastructure they built.

I could be more sympathetic to the parks board's need for $8.4 million if the parks board was exercising good stewardship, but this board will have squandered close to $3 million on Shiloh Springs Golf Course and close to $5 million for interest on debt that could have been avoided. And as I recently learned, the parks board has granted tens of thousands of dollars to schools. When did schools become parks?

The parks board's current plan includes holding $7 million in reserves by the end of 2020 to cover future maintenance. What maintenance that will cover we don't know, because they don't know. I always supported the idea of a maintenance reserve, until now. I have no confidence that future commissions or any future Parks board will leave maintenance funds in place absent a legal restriction.

My suggestion: starve the beast. Spend the $7 million planned for reserves, add a few belt tightening decisions, and you quickly get to $8.4 million. Then leave the matter of future maintenance to future commissions and parks boards. This means that the proposed tax reallocation can be put on the ballot for voters to decide and current parks supporters can still have their parks.

I doubt the commission will propose anything that resembles a reasonable business solution. If the commission proposes raising your taxes to appease everyone, plan on voting against it. Then focus on 2016 when Commissioners Roper and Soper will be up for reelection.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Jail committee's idea deserves support

8/20/14

EDITOR:

On Aug. 4, the volunteer jail committee, appointed by our county commissioners, reported to them after finishing their summer sessions evaluating the current and future needs of our police forces. The recommendations were: 1) the need for basement jail space in the future, 2) the lack of sufficient space in the prosecutor's office, 3) the need for more space for evidence storage, and 4) the need for consistent funding for the short-wave band emergency radios, currently on lease.

In August 2009, a special one-ballot question was placed on the ballot. It cost the county $50,000 for that ballot question in an off-year cycle. Voters were not given or understood the full fiscal situation of the county at that time. They were asked if you would like more of your money to go to county parks. The voters agreed. At the same time, the commissioners knew there was an unfunded federally mandated requirement for law enforcement radios. It was not on the ballot. In our opinion, their priorities were out of balance. Safety and security should always be the top priority of government. Protecting citizens and pro-active crime prevention is paramount. Five years later, we are still left with the problem of how to fund these radios and other law enforcement necessities, as the revenue from the parks tax continues to grow.

The jail committee made various funding recommendations to cover these shortfalls. The most reasonable recommendation, in our opinion as fiscal conservatives, is to realign a portion of the park sales tax to cover the law enforcement requirements. Currently, the park sales tax is a half cent. The proposed ballot measure recommended by the jail committee would be in two parts. Part A would repeal 1/8 cent from the parks tax. Part B would reallocate that 1/8 cent to county law enforcement. As a result, 3/8 cent would still go to enhance our parks. The current parks sales tax would not go up, but remain the same half cent it is today until it sunsets in 2020.

This would allow our law enforcement agencies to obtain their long-awaited priority for a planned funding source for the federally mandated radios and other capabilities without raising our taxes.
In last week’s edition of The Landmark, our Platte County cities of Platte City, Parkville, and Smithville were rated as some of the safest communities in Missouri. This is not by accident. Our county is safe and secure because we have very dedicated, hard working law enforcement personnel and agencies despite the fact they need additional funding. They need our support.

Call and email the county commissioners to put this realignment of our tax dollars on the November 2014 ballot. Let the voters decide if they think law enforcement should be our top priority and be fully funded, instead of simply raising our taxes in a lagging economy. We think voters will make the right decision, if they are fully informed on the issues. Don't delay. Our commissioners need to hear from you by Friday, Aug. 22 because there is an Aug. 26 deadline to put this on the ballot.

Their phone number is 816-858-3334 and email addresses are:
jbrown@co.platte.mo.us
beverlee.roper@co.platte.mo.us
duane.soper@co.platte.mo.us

--Mike & Janet Stark
Platte City

 


Park tax realignment is a novel idea

8/20/14

EDITOR:

If you are like me, the “big picture” about constructing a new Platte County jail gets confusing--the issue is to build a big new one or not to build anything. Now there is a web link where the jail committee posted recommendations. It's a direct source allowing you to learn about the committee alternatives:http://www.co.platte.mo.us/docs/commission/2014/Jail_Committee_Report_07-31-14.pdf.

A lot of frustration stems from the '09 special election to renew the one-half cent Platte County park tax for another 10 years. Less than 5,000 residents voted on this tax, which delivered many millions of tax dollars dedicated to only build and maintain bike trails, horse trials and park facilities.
Some members on the new jail committee believe reallocating a small portion of the $140 million park tax money for Platte County law enforcement would solve some of the county's financial problems. The committee recommends 25% of the park tax funds be reallocated over the next six years (approximately $12 million) be reallocated for Platte County law enforcement as well as the currently unfunded federally mandated radio system. Their web site shows the percentage of impact, when diverting some tax money from the overall parks budget.

Further, the committee encourages our county's three commissioners vote to place this idea on the regular November ballot. The intent would not overturn original money for the park tax. Rather, the measure would allow voters to decide to reallocate a portion of the park tax for a short duration. A proposed ballot measure has two separate parts:

Part A would repeal a limited portion of the Park Tax:

Part B would reallocate that given percent toward county law enforcement.

Isn't this a novel idea asking Platte County voters for their in-put about spending their tax money?

Plus, you could send your thoughts to the county commissioners about the best way to spend our millions in tax money for the benefit our entire county.

--Lee Valentine
Platte County

 


Parks board, parks director running the county

8/13/14

EDITOR:

I attended the Platte County Commission administrative meeting held on Aug. 6 at which the recently submitted jail committee report was discussed. I left this meeting with a number of concerns, the foremost being who is providing leadership in the county.

As readers are likely aware, I assisted the jail committee in analyzing the data it received from county officials and other parties. The foundation for the committee's work was an expert report requested by the commission whose conclusions were based on data provided by county officials. Not only were the population projections wildly inaccurate, but historical jail population data the committee obtained from the sheriff's office was noticeably absent from the expert report. One has to wonder.

During this meeting, the commission expressed concerns about the jail committee's proposal to allocate 25% of the current parks sales tax to law enforcement. The proposal calls for both revised taxes to sunset in 2020, the same date the current parks tax sunsets.

The jail committee report projected that the parks tax in its 20 year duration will generate in the range of $140 million, and is recommending that $12 million or 8.8% of that $140 million be allocated to law enforcement, but only with voter approval.

If one considers that the parks tax generated less than $5 million annually in the initial years of its first 10-year duration and apply simple math, the original projected parks tax total receipts might have been in the range of $50 million. At the 2009 renewal, receipts for the first 10 years could have been projected at $59 million as annual receipts were approaching $7 million. Again, applying simple math, the second ten year period could have been projected at $70+ million, so the total 20 year period receipts could have been projected at $130 million.

The jail committee report conservatively shows that after the reallocation, parks tax receipts for the 20 year period will approximate $128 million. Yet some parks supporters are crying foul. It's like parks supporters won a $140 million Powerball but complain that others held winning tickets.

The commission is concerned about changing the parks tax approved in August 2009. That ballot item was passed 54% to 46% with 2,667 yes votes, representing 4.36% of the then 61,231 registered voters.

The 2009 county commission failed in its duties by doing nothing to educate voters on the county's law enforcement needs and the radio mandate and by not offering voters any input on a funding solution.

The 2014 commission seems to be following the same footsteps. Instead of taking a proactive approach to this issue, this commission seems resigned to bowing to park trails and debt financed swimming pools.

At last Wednesday's meeting, we heard about phone calls from those opposed to taking funds from parks as well as the need to understand all future parks promises made to residents. In this same discussion, Sheriff Mark Owen noted ongoing staff turnover problems due to uncompetitive compensation. I reiterated the jail committee's findings that prosecutor staff had to work in ridiculously sized office cubicles inside a single congested room. At the same time, it was hard not to notice that our part time commissioners enjoy by comparison lavishly-sized offices with an adjoining conference room that comfortably seated over a dozen people.

Ultimately, the commission suggested making a deal. That "deal" would require Sheriff Owen and Prosecutor Eric Zahnd to meet with Brian Nowotny, parks director, to see if they could convince Nowotny to forgo some of his parks tax revenue for the benefit of law enforcement.

It was at that point that it became obvious who was running the county. It's not the commission, who by statute is elected to represent voters and act as a quasi-CEO. It's the parks board and Mr. Nowotny who rule the roost.

The county has no choice but to fund the radio lease. The commission at this point has limited options, the most likely of which appears to be raising the property tax levy from $.01 to at least $.05 as each $.01 increase will generate approximately $250,000, enough to cover annual radio lease payments of $1 million.

As we approached the end of the meeting, I sat there wondering. Here is a commission willing to unilaterally raise property taxes without any voter input but who at the same time is unwilling to give voters any opportunity to voice their opinion on alternatively funding law enforcement.

You, the voters, should be the voice in this decision. But you won't be if the commission doesn't act immediately. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. on Aug. 26. Contact your commissioner today. Tell them you want the parks tax reallocation as proposed by the jail committee on the November 2014 ballot.

Leadership requires courage and this commission needs help finding theirs. If you don't act, know that the parks board will continue running your county at the expense of your safety and security.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


County law officers may soon need to call 9-1-1

8/13/14

EDITOR:

Help law enforcement now before they have to call 9-1-1.

Your review of the Platte County Commission's tax and spend decisions in 2009 (July 30 Between the Lines column) was very thorough so there is no need to revisit that. I would like to pick up with the August 2009 special election.

For some reason the half cent parks renewal election warranted a special election. Yes, special election, something that usually occurs to fill a state legislative or congressional seat or like a “special news bulletin” back in the day of five TV channels when something really big happened. A common characteristic of a special election is that it has only one item on the ballot and the originating entity picks up the entire cost of that election and in this case Platte County was out an estimated $50,000.

I don't know why it could not have been on the November 2008 General Election ballot when 46,789 people voted, the August 2010 Primary Election ballot when 12,777 people voted or the November 2010 General Election ballot when 31,462 people voted. All of these had greater turnout because they are regularly scheduled elections. People know we vote in April on municipal and school issues (although sometimes limited), even-year Augusts in primary elections and even-year Novembers in general elections. Who votes in odd-year August elections? Well almost no one.

To be exact, 4,940 people, or 8%, voted in that “special election” and only 2,667, or 4%, voted yes for the renewal. So let's see, 2,667 people out of 61,231 registered voters voted to spend another $70 million on parks, and without knowing about the impending $10 million federal radio mandate (which originated under the Bill Clinton administration!). The county commissioners who put this parks renewal on as a special election knew but didn't bother telling us. I guess that was truly a “special election.”

Please don't get me wrong here, I am not upset with the folks who voted yes. Our current situation is not their fault. We were presented with the opportunity to continue buying nice deck furniture without being told about the impending termite problem.

Last week, the jail study committee appointed by the commission to study the short and long term needs of the county's jail, judicial, and prosecutorial facilities as well as options for funding, if required, presented its recommendation to the commission. The reason this committee was convened in the first place was because Sheriff Mark Owen indicated a need in the not too distant future for additional beds. So now in addition to an unfunded $10 million federal radio mandate we learn that the sheriff will need additional beds at the jail and the prosecutor needs additional working space to prosecute the growing number of inmates in the jail. The jail committee believes all this can be addressed for around $12 million.

So where do we get $12 million?

1) A tax increase. In the past two years, Platte County voters have defeated three school levy increases and a state transportation sales tax and just elected a no-new-taxes presiding commissioner. Only Nancy Pelosi would consider this.

2) Budget cuts. The majority of the county's general revenue goes to law enforcement. Cut law enforcement to fund law enforcement? Might make sense to Nancy Pelosi.

3) More debt. How would it be repaid? That's the point here, we don't have revenue to pay for more debt. Nancy Pelosi would sign the loan documents to find out what's in them.

4) Realign existing sales taxes. Or put another way, realign our priorities. $12 million is 9% of the total amount parks is expected to receive when the tax sunsets in six years. Nancy Pelosi would never consider this.

I'm asking the current commission members to do the right thing by presenting the facts about our situation to the voters this November and let us decide if we want to help our sheriff and prosecutor by shifting $12 million from parks to law enforcement. And I'm asking the voters to do the right thing by encouraging them to do this and to vote yes if they do.

--John Elliott
Platte County

 


Platte County farmers dodged a bullet

8/13/14

EDITOR:

Whew! That was close…

As Missouri farmers breathe a sigh of relief, Platte County farmers are grateful that they dodged a bullet and are left scratching their heads as to why their neighbors failed to pass Amendment 1 (failed 53% to 47%). With big bright orange “Yes for Amendment 1” signs sitting on farms all across Platte County, voters either thought farmers didn't understand what they were supporting; felt the amendment wasn't needed; or were swayed by the opponents' campaign scare tactics.

Missouri doctors don't have a constitutional amendment that gives them the right to practice medicine; nor do Missouri electricians need an amendment to install, support and repair the state's energy grid. So why do farmers need an amendment to do what they do? Answer: because there is a political machine in this country that is bound and determined to shut down animal-agriculture threatening farmers and consumers alike.

They are convinced that the farm to table practices in this country are wrought with abuse, so are determined to enact such onerous regulations as to make meat production cost prohibitive or better yet eliminate the meat counter at every grocery store in the country all together. They wrap their agenda in threats of foreign intervention (Missouri already statutorily limits foreign ownership of agricultural acreage in the state and imports/exports are already highly regulated); gruesome meat processing photos (again, regulations are already in place that govern humane domestic meat production practices) and little doe-eyed kitties and puppies (for emotional effect). They lobby hard and heavily fund efforts to shut down the meat supply chain from production to processing to retail across this country. While we are an omnivore species (consuming plant and animal protein), they certainly have the right to forego meat. But that does not give them the license to abridge the rights of American families to grill a burger or bake a chicken casserole to put on the family dinner table.

Missouri, as do most agricultural states across the country, already have a highly regulated meat supply chain. But that's not enough; there will continue to be more efforts to undermine animal agriculture and meat processing showing up on ballots in years to come. So I pray that next time you aren't so easily swayed by scare tactics of foreign threats or heart-tugging images of abused domestic animals. And if you need help understanding what the ballot initiative is truly about…ask a farmer, they can tell you what's really going on.

--Kay Folck
Platte County

 


Commissioners have fallen into the same mold

8/6/14

EDITOR:

I just read your weekly “Between the Lines” column in the July 30 issue about the county commissioners involvement in the jail expansion discussion, park tax changes, and paying for law enforcement radios.

It seems to me that these commissioners have fallen into the same mold and pattern as many other elected officials. They have a wrong perception of their job. They seem to think that everything they do should address these priorities:

1. Don't do anything to keep themselves from being re-elected.

2. Only make decisions based on what their close friends recommend.

3. Never let the facts get in the way of following priorities 1 and 2.

I am not privy to the reasons why some commissioners might not like the sheriff, but what does that have to do with making sure that the deputies and other public safety people have good communication systems? And now, they are “up against the wall” with a payment due on the communication system. Alternatives have been proposed to pay for the communication system, but the commissioners don't want to even try to put them on the ballot because some of their friends don't want it to be on the ballot.

So, are these friends OK with their public safety people using outdated radios?

Governing is all about making choices. Good governing is about sometimes making tough decisions that not everyone likes, but are the proper thing to do.

--Ken Martin
Litchfield Park, AZ

 


Political parties are moot; give me motocross

8/6/14

EDITOR:

I purchased the July 30 issue of the Landmark because it had fair motocross pictures on the front and I was looking for some race coverage. Sadly, the pictures were the extent of the coverage. Not to squander my fifty cents, I took a stroll through the rest of the paper.

While I was entertained by most of the tinfoil hat columnists, I was a bit taken aback to read a column by James Thomas and his gleeful declaration of success at, “Driving the Democrats from every elected office in Platte County.” Aside from the hubris of a statement such as that, I believe it perfectly symbolizes the toxicity of the current political climate.

Being a “Democrat” or “Republican” isn't like a religion or gender (well, for most people). Especially at the municipal and county level, party dynamics ideally should be largely moot. A candidate's position on pay for county employees, zoning, bonds, and all the other mundane aspects of local governance are vastly more important to residents and have little to do with national political ideology.

The remainder of the column reinforces my point. Comically, Thomas seems to miss the point that people being a Democrat or Republican isn't something you ARE but an affiliation. Reasonable people take varying positions depending on the issues and the candidates. A candidate claiming any party should be vetted based on their position rather than a arbitrary label. Of course, that would deprive the local political gurus of their power in anointing the true conservative; the ultimate badge on the Republican scorecard. Apparently.

I like to choose county candidates from either side of the aisle based on their ability to lead, their solutions to county issues, and their ability to build consensus and move the county forward. As a politically moderate Platte County voter, I'm normally left with a couple folks arguing over who is the “real” conservative on a primary ballot for elected offices. While some view this political cannibalism as preferential, I find it a myopic situation which dissuades fresh candidates from filing for office. To quote one of America's greatest leaders, as well as a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, “Too often men who believe in moderation believe in it only moderately.”

In summary, for the 152nd Platte County Fair, please include more detail on the fair event results. It would be greatly appreciated.

--Jeff Owen
Platte City

 


The rest of the story on forum absences

7/30/14

EDITOR:

The rest of the story.

Just want to fill in some blanks. Jim Plunkett ran a quarter page ad in this newspaper last week in which he shared that Ron Schieber didn't attend two forums. So far, truth. But here's the rest. The first was a big dinner where the candidates did not debate but rather stated their reasons for running. Schieber had a previously scheduled church function, however, his representative was at that event.

The second was a debate on a Thursday evening, May 1. Schieber was fulfilling his elected duties in Jefferson City, probably fighting for the same issues that Plunkett supports, only at a state level, and couldn't get to the event.

What the ad fails to mention is that Plunkett missed the third event, a Pachyderm event, but sent his representative. A fourth candidate forum was proposed by the Platte County Republican Central Committee but Plunkett couldn't attend so it was scrubbed.

Very misleading, Jim. The gander and the goose ring a bell?

So I ask you, if you print information that can easily be fact checked and find that it is only half the truth, is that the type of integrity that we need for the next presiding commissioner? I talked with one county resident who said, “Oh, it's just politics.” I respectfully disagree.

And if that doesn't raise questions in your mind, The Kansas City Star, the Left's mouthpiece, just endorsed Jim Plunkett for commissioner and cited Schieber's vote for a statewide tax cut as one reason for endorsing Plunkett. Really? Voting for lower taxes is a reason to support the other candidate?

I'll take NO NEW TAXES over a Star endorsement every time. I'll bet the Plunkett campaign won't even use that endorsement.

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


Vote no on the transportation sales tax

7/30/14

EDITOR:

The proposed Missouri Transportation Sales Tax for an additional .75% sales tax is a sad statement on the condition of Missouri government and those running it. An essential requirement for safety, security and commerce can only be adequately funded by yet another new tax. Is this the best they can do?

If this tax passes, sales tax rates in certain Kansas City areas will exceed 10%, with some areas exceeding 11%. Add to that the 2% food establishment tax under the Kansas City Convention and Tourism Regulations that is paid by everyone living here.

The State of Missouri 2013 financial report shows that the largest outlays are for Human Services and Education, which combined are 11 times the amount spent by MoDOT. MoDOT's 2013 financial report shows that over 8% is spent for interest expense. The mentality of “wants” versus needs plus the cost of debt is very expensive.

Missouri, like so many governmental entities, needs to get its house in order, get out of debt, and focus on needs. More taxes means more government. If this ballot item passes, what will stop state leadership from shifting funds currently directed to roads to another political "want?"

I am not opposed to better roads or paying for roads, but there comes a time when enough is enough. We are taxed enough. Send a message to Missouri's leadership. Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 7, the Transportation Sales Tax.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Turn away from your candidate if. . .

7/23/14

EDITOR:

Two years ago, I wrote a letter endorsing a county commissioner candidate because I was dissatisfied with the then incumbent. That turned out to be a mistake as that commissioner has failed to operate under the principles espoused during the campaign. Endorsing a specific candidate is not the purpose of this letter.

The best predictor of future performance is past behavior. I encourage you to vote for the candidate who will address the priorities of the county, cease the financial shenanigans of previous commissions and properly allocate resources to the real priorities of the county.

Which candidate will cease funding Shiloh Springs Golf Course? Through 2013, Shiloh has cost Platte County $8.6 million. 2013 revenues were 47.5% (less than half) of 2001 and the 2013 operating loss was ($376,000), a whopping 78% of revenues; add to that debt payments of $448,000.

I outlined the solution for Shiloh in a November 2013 letter. Keeping Shiloh open by approving an intentionally fictitious budget was a cowardly and juvenile act of the current commission and would be of any future commission.

Which hat will the candidate wear when they show up for commissioner meetings? Business experience means nothing if the candidate can't distinguish wants from needs, believes that raising taxes to balance a budget is being fiscally responsible, or believes they have the authority to issue non-voter approved debt.

Which candidate will cease the practice of issuing long term debt using the financing shenanigan known as “annual appropriation certificates of participation" (i.e., non-voter approved debt)? Several significant capital projects were completed by previous commissions using certificates of participation. The 2003, 2004 and 2005 commissions precipitated a debt explosion; some of those debt issues are still being paid today. Those commissions knew they were skirting taxpayers. We need a commissioner who will end these shenanigans.

Which candidate's priorities are aligned with the core priorities of the county? The top priorities of the county should be safety and security, roads and infrastructure and basic services. Which candidate believes the only method of addressing these needs is through a tax increase while turning a blind eye to unnecessary expenditures?

Which candidate can tell you about the revenue sources, expense components and debt of the county? If your candidate doesn't understand the budget, how do expect them to manage the county?

If your candidate carries a fiscal conservative banner but has a history of tax increases or funding non-essential activities, turn away. If your candidate has effected or supports annual appropriation certificates of participation as a way to avoid you having input on long term debt issuance, turn away. If your candidate won't defund unnecessary and non-essential expenses, turn away. If your candidate believes new taxes are needed without an offset of existing taxes, turn away. If your candidate can't talk intelligently about the county's finances, turn away.

The county in the aggregate is extracting more than enough from taxpayers. Proper identification of county priorities and allocation of county resources is the problem with Platte County.

Do your homework. Ask the questions. Vote wisely.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Boyer would take clerk's office to next level

7/23/14

EDITOR:

There are Republican candidates running for county seats this Primary Election, Aug. 5.
Some are true to their party, working hard to forward the party's platform and have previously given of their time, energy and treasure to help fellow Republican candidates. Robert Boyer is such a patriot.

This man came forward years ago out of duty to his county and conservative beliefs. He is not looking for a “job.” Robert Boyer is fulfilling his commitment at the local level where he lives.
Robert Boyer serves as the vice chair for the Platte County Republican Central Committee.

Entrepreneur, educated, and a leader in Platte County, this candidate steps into the race for county clerk because of character. Robert's computer/technology background in multi-level design and data storage to rigorous state standards will take the county clerk's office to the next logical level of recordkeeping, licensing and reporting.

The other candidate for clerk ran for treasurer and lost two years ago. Treasurer is a different job. Which job is she qualified for?

-Joan Harms
Platte County Clerk

 


R-3 school board needs to question superintendent

7/23/14

EDITOR:

This past week our Platte County R-3 School board met and without a public presentation passed another increase in pay for all staff for the upcoming year. Several times after the vote which passed unanimously (like all votes), I heard Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik talk about pay having been frozen for several years. So I looked back at the previous years presentations for salary recommendations and this is some of what I found. There are also other increases not included here.

2011/12: 2.7% Increase for Certificated Staff not on Schedule; 5% Increase to all Classified Staff. Full paid insurance from $4,944 per person to $5,592 per person.

2012/13: 2.7% Increase for Certificated Staff not on Schedule; 2.7% for Classified Staff.

2013/14: 2% Increase for Certificated Staff not on Schedule; 2% Increase on average to all certified staff.

2014/15: 3.59% Average Increase for Certified Staff on Schedule; 3.59% Increase Certified Staff not on Schedule; 5.12% Average increase for Classified Staff

Payroll and benefits are now up by more than $2.5 million dollars during this four year period while student enrollment has gone up 297 students according to the Dept of Secondary Education website.

I believe Dr. Reik and his assistants are "Certified staff not on a schedule.” If that's the case their pay will increase by 10.99% or in Dr. Reik’s case over $15,000 by 2015.

The average Platte County household income went up about $3,000 during this period. The past year our district has spent close to $500,000 with just one architect firm Hollis and Miller on different studies and projects most of which are not even currently funded, all of this from a district that had to have a Community Budget Cutting Committee to try to find ways to make ends meet we were in such dire straits a little over a year ago.

All of this spending while we are using trailers at two schools for classrooms. Have you seen our really nice swimming pool ($195,000 per year)?

In the power point from the June board meeting talking about the tentative budget, you will see this statement to justify the new expenses:

"Platte County R-3 School District is a district with a tradition of excellence. We pride ourselves on our accomplishments. Our commitment to continuous improvement has created a vision for the future. The district has received a 91.1% on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Annual Performance Report. Strong financial management allows Platte County R-3 School District to maintain our tradition, establish points of pride, and create an ambitious vision." (What does this last sentence even mean?)

Doesn't 91.1% sound great? Especially after that "excellence" comment. It's not great, it is mediocre at best. If I compare our 91.1% to the other 12 districts used in the pay comparison presentation to justify the new salary increases, PCR3 is dead in the middle with these six districts having substantially higher APR scores than us. That's how low these state standards are.

Park Hill 97.5%
Blue Springs 97.9
Lees Summit 96.1
Kearney 95.0
Liberty 93.6
and Grandview with 93.6%, which looks like is the only school listed that now pays teachers more than PCR3 when you factor in years of service and percent with upper degrees.

Dr. Reik talked about how we have not hired much due to fiscal constraints and need to catch up. The budget for next year has 17 new full time positions at a cost of $850,000. A look back at the past budget presentations shows we have actually now hired more than 48 new certified positions since 2012 while enrollment is projected to grow only 403 students during this four year time period.

Once again the AA bond rating came up in the budget presentation. Here's the quote.

"Maintaining healthy fund balances have contributed to a strong bond rating which provides the District with favorable interest rates on general obligation bonds. The District's bond rating was determined by Standard and Poor's to be “AA.” This stand-alone bond rating has been assigned to only a small percentage of Missouri school districts."

They are correct, we are one of the only districts in the state dumb enough to not "piggy back" on to the state’s bond rating of AA+ like the majority of districts in the state do (over 300), as it gives them a lower interest rate than us and they don't have to pay to get a bond rating.

Being able to make this "stand alone" statement costs our district thousands of dollars a year but it sounds good.

Folks, it is not just about how the money is being spent. It is how the information is being presented to us and the board and no one on our school board taking the time to question any of it. The vote for the newest salary increases took less than six minutes with virtually no conversation.

If raises are deserved great, give them to everyone if we can afford it but don't manipulate information to get what you want because you know no one is going to check any of what is presented or, in this case, not presented.

It is a trend that seems to continue from the current school superintendent and it won’t stop until people start to get fed up with the misinformation or you start to hold your school board accountable. They alone are supposed to be policing the job our administrators are doing and how our $45 million in tax dollars is being spent and not saved for any future growth.

Both school power points are on the district website and I will have a link at PlattecountyR3facts.com.

Here is the website to the DESE information if you would like to check the other information listed in this letter. http://dese.mo.gov/

--Kirby Holden
Rural Platte County


Opposed to transportation sales tax

7/23/14

EDITOR:

Constitutional Amendment No. 7, a regressive tax, creates the largest tax increase in Missouri's history. Missouri's families are already hard pressed to pay their bills during this period of slow economic recovery; adding to their burden at this time is wrong. Missourians on fixed incomes, seniors and the elderly, and those with low-incomes are hardest hit.

Taxation based on everyday essentials like clothing, transportation, energy and housing are regressive. As a household's income rises, even significantly, the tax collected remains the same. So as a proportion of available expenditure, the tax burden falls far more heavily on households with limited incomes. For people in the bottom fifth of the earnings distribution, the ratio of benefits to taxes is almost three times as high as it is for those in the top fifth.

The state/local sales tax rate in Missouri is already one of the highest in the nation (14th). Should the transportation tax be approved, Missouri will have the 7th highest sales tax rate in the nation. Passage will be bad for business, as it will pose a great burden on local retailers, and create a further incentive for consumers to avoid sales taxes by making purchases online or in other states.
It is unfair that the trucking industry will pay practically nothing while they benefit most from the transportation tax and do the most of the damage to our roads. According to the Missouri Freight Study, 55% of Missouri's truck traffic by tonnage has neither an origin nor destination in Missouri.

The drive-through trucking industry needs to share in the cost especially because MoDOT's largest road project from this sales tax increase will be to rebuild I-70.

--Pauli Kendrick
City of Weatherby Lake
Platte County

 


Happy with Schieber's 'no new taxes' pledge

7/16/14

EDITOR:

Plunkett a shoe-in? Maybe not. “NO NEW TAXES” is rather compelling.

After reading Mr. Foley's report on the Pachyderm Club's “debate,” the defacing of Mr. Schieber's signs, and getting an email invitation to attend the “debate,” I simply couldn't resist. Here goes.

The invitation to the Pachyderm Club's candidate forum was not to me personally but to anyone who wanted to PAY! $15 or $18 as I recall. Really? I can't come and listen or ask a question without having a drink and snacks? That's like paying to listen to the school board candidates give their reasons for wanting to be pummeled by district patrons for three years! No thanks.

I would like to ask a couple of questions, though, and the Platte City Chamber of Commerce is hosting a free, ah, I mean, a more fiscally conservative community event on Tuesday, July 29 from 4-6 p.m. at the NRAD office behind Jeff's True Value Hardware. Hope to see you there.

From my vantage point driving around “up north,” I didn't know anyone else was running for presiding commissioner besides Jim Plunkett. The Plunkett campaign has done a great job of putting up signs. But Mr. Ron Schieber has struck a nerve with many people. He also wants to be “our commissioner” but is taking a targeted approach to winning our vote, NO NEW TAXES. I like that.

So, I called Mr. Schieber, left a message, and HE CALLED BACK, the next day! We talked for a few minutes and my main question was can you do that, the NO NEW TAXES thing? A very concise, thoughtful answer was given even with the $10 million boondoggle radio upgrade. How you ask? Some shared belt-tightening, which for once won't mean that everyone in the county gets what they want (more money) and Mr. Schieber believes we are being taxed enough already.

Again, I like that.

Experience wise, the two are evenly matched with both having held elected positions. Hopefully they have both gotten over the scourge of an elected office, the insidious building of an ego, a false one I think. It will take fortitude in the face of friends, neighbors, and county sheriffs, to say NO to more requests for dollars and projects.

Mr. Schieber has shown a consistent record of fiscal conservatism at the state level as district representative. I don't personally know any of the candidates, but for me, NO NEW TAXES speaks volumes. And apparently it does with supporters of the opposition, also, judging from the defacing of Mr. Schieber's campaign signs.

So, Mr. Schieber's sign is going up in my yard. How about yours? NO NEW TAXES sound good to you?

--Jim DeJarnatt
Weston

 


The Obamacare numbers

7/16/14

EDITOR:

I have comments on Congressman Sam Graves' recent letter to the editor concerning Obamacare's premiums.

The percentage increases in the letter are certainly noteworthy. But where did they come from?

“A new report” is the source of this information. What report was that? Comparisons in costs are made between pre-Obamacare and post-Obamacare. What are the variables between the figures? Were the coverages the same in both instances? For example, did the post-Obamacare coverage have a $100 deductible and the pre-Obamacare have a $1000 deductible?

Percentage changes can be hard to evaluate without some reference point of the values being compared. For example, XYZ Widget reports its sales have increased by 300%. What they didn't mention is that actual sales increased only from one widget to four widgets.

The examples quoted are for 27 year old males who I would guess have the among the lowest premium rates of any age and sex example. They would be expected to have a high percentage increase due to the initial low cost of their insurance. A increase in their rates could calculate as an 271% increase while the same premium increase for a 64 year male diabetic would calculate out to a much smaller increase. Of course, the coverage must be identical to be able to compare these premium numbers at all.

What about comparisons of premiums of a 43-year-old woman or a 73-year-old man? I hope we are not naïve enough to think that premiums will go down for every group of various ages, sex and current health.

The percentages given in Congressman Graves' letter indicate that something changed but it is impossible to tell what or if the change is significant without the background information. This means that no conclusions can be draw regarding the merit of Obamacare based on the information presented. Always check the figures when studies, surveys or statistics are used for political purposes.

--Ken Hunt
Kansas City
in Platte County

(Editor’s note: Ken Hunt is a member of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee)

 


Health care made more expensive

6/25/14

EDITOR:

I reaffirm my support for fully repealing Obamacare after a new report was released showing how the law is making health care more expensive.

Aside from Obamacare's ongoing dysfunction and delay, the added costs and burdens being forced on Missourians are a major cause for alarm. What we are seeing in Buchanan County and the greater Kansas City area are some of the biggest premium increases in the country. The President even promised that Obamacare would lower premiums for the middle class.

This pattern of broken promises creates more confusion and damages our trust. The only way to truly prevent more skyrocketing premiums and dropped coverage is to fully repeal a law that is far too flawed to stand as law of the land.

The study, which looks at data from 3,137 counties around the country, indicates that Obamacare increased 2014 individual-market premiums by an average of 49%. From 2013-2014, Buchanan County had the largest average increase for men than any other county in the nation at 271%.

Specifically among 27-year old men, the study indicates premium increases of 411% in Buchanan County, 242% in Atchison County, 219% in Platte County, 38% in Adair County, 38% in Marion County, 219% in Clay County, and 36% in Pike County.

--Sam Graves
Congressman
Sixth District

 


Happy that Plunkett is running

6/18/14

EDITOR:

I was glad to hear that Jim Plunkett would run for presiding commissioner when he announced this spring. I appreciate Plunkett's approach to government. He was in office to serve, not to get a paycheck. In fact, Plunkett recently reiterated his promise to not take any contributions from individuals or companies that do business with the county. It was a promise that he kept during his eight years as second district commissioner and pledged to keep during his campaign for presiding commissioner.

I'll be there for Plunkett on Aug. 5. He's the type of leader that we need in Platte County.

--Dana Ashley
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


Identifying some old photos

6/11/14

EDITOR:

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Peggy Wagers Bloss and I live in St. Joseph. I grew up in New Market and still go to church there. Many years ago (early 50s) I wrote the New Market News column for your paper and other area papers. When I married in 1955 my mother, Georgia Wagers, took over. The paper this letter is written on is paper your newspaper sent in 1989 to be used for this purpose.

What I am writing about concerns some old photos that are in my possession that I would like to find some family member to give them to. I am fairly certain the photos are of people from the Platte County area. Two of the photos have names written on them — Opal Scott and Harve Lawless. The largest picture is a wedding picture and the girl looks a lot like Opal Scott. I had the thought that perhaps your paper might be interested in publishing these pictures or at least mentioning these two names to see if any remaining family members remember them. Judging from the clothing I believe the wedding gown was from 1800s.

You may not be able to help me but before I destroy these pictures I wanted to try one more time to find a family member. I took them to the Dearborn High School Reunion and the oldest member there did not recognize them. Thanks for any help you can give. I really enjoyed the years I wrote the news. It was a good opportunity for a teenager.

--Peggy Bloss
St. Joseph

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone with information that may help in this matter can email The Landmark at news@plattecountylandmark.com.

 


Free fishing weekend

6/4/14

EDITOR:

The annual Free Fishing Weekend in Missouri is coming up June 7 and 8, 2014. This weekend allows anyone to fish in Missouri without a permit, trout stamp, or daily use tag. It is a great opportunity to get out and try fishing for the first time or get back into it if you haven't fished for a while. Any other time of the year, Missouri residents between 16 and 65 years old and all non-residents 16 years and older would be required to have a valid fishing permit.

On Saturday, June 7, Platte County Parks and Recreation and the Missouri Department of Conservation will host a free fishing clinic from 10 a.m. to noon. The clinic will be held at the fishing pond at Platte Ridge Park. The park is located at 17130 371 Hwy, Platte City, MO 64079, if you would like to punch it into your gps.

The pond is on the backside of the park behind the ball fields.

There will be fishing poles, hooks, and bobbers available for use if you don't have your own. Worms will also be provided for bait. You are more than welcome to bring your own equipment and “lucky lure” if you would prefer. There is no need to RSVP. Just show up and stay as long as you like.

If you have any questions about this event or conservation in general, please call me at (816) 244-0702. If you observe a wildlife violation, you can call me directly or call Operation Game Thief at (800) 392-1111. You can remain anonymous and rewards are possible.

--Aaron Post
Conservation Agent
Mo. Department
of Conservation

 


 

The Obamacare numbers

7/16/14

EDITOR:

I have comments on Congressman Sam Graves' recent letter to the editor concerning Obamacare's premiums.

The percentage increases in the letter are certainly noteworthy. But where did they come from?

“A new report” is the source of this information. What report was that? Comparisons in costs are made between pre-Obamacare and post-Obamacare. What are the variables between the figures? Were the coverages the same in both instances? For example, did the post-Obamacare coverage have a $100 deductible and the pre-Obamacare have a $1000 deductible?

Percentage changes can be hard to evaluate without some reference point of the values being compared. For example, XYZ Widget reports its sales have increased by 300%. What they didn't mention is that actual sales increased only from one widget to four widgets.

The examples quoted are for 27 year old males who I would guess have the among the lowest premium rates of any age and sex example. They would be expected to have a high percentage increase due to the initial low cost of their insurance. A increase in their rates could calculate as an 271% increase while the same premium increase for a 64 year male diabetic would calculate out to a much smaller increase. Of course, the coverage must be identical to be able to compare these premium numbers at all.

What about comparisons of premiums of a 43-year-old woman or a 73-year-old man? I hope we are not naïve enough to think that premiums will go down for every group of various ages, sex and current health.

The percentages given in Congressman Graves' letter indicate that something changed but it is impossible to tell what or if the change is significant without the background information. This means that no conclusions can be draw regarding the merit of Obamacare based on the information presented. Always check the figures when studies, surveys or statistics are used for political purposes.

--Ken Hunt
Kansas City
in Platte County

(Editor’s note: Ken Hunt is a member of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee)

 


Health care made more expensive

6/25/14

EDITOR:

I reaffirm my support for fully repealing Obamacare after a new report was released showing how the law is making health care more expensive.

Aside from Obamacare's ongoing dysfunction and delay, the added costs and burdens being forced on Missourians are a major cause for alarm. What we are seeing in Buchanan County and the greater Kansas City area are some of the biggest premium increases in the country. The President even promised that Obamacare would lower premiums for the middle class.

This pattern of broken promises creates more confusion and damages our trust. The only way to truly prevent more skyrocketing premiums and dropped coverage is to fully repeal a law that is far too flawed to stand as law of the land.

The study, which looks at data from 3,137 counties around the country, indicates that Obamacare increased 2014 individual-market premiums by an average of 49%. From 2013-2014, Buchanan County had the largest average increase for men than any other county in the nation at 271%.

Specifically among 27-year old men, the study indicates premium increases of 411% in Buchanan County, 242% in Atchison County, 219% in Platte County, 38% in Adair County, 38% in Marion County, 219% in Clay County, and 36% in Pike County.

--Sam Graves
Congressman
Sixth District

 


Happy that Plunkett is running

6/18/14

EDITOR:

I was glad to hear that Jim Plunkett would run for presiding commissioner when he announced this spring. I appreciate Plunkett's approach to government. He was in office to serve, not to get a paycheck. In fact, Plunkett recently reiterated his promise to not take any contributions from individuals or companies that do business with the county. It was a promise that he kept during his eight years as second district commissioner and pledged to keep during his campaign for presiding commissioner.

I'll be there for Plunkett on Aug. 5. He's the type of leader that we need in Platte County.

--Dana Ashley
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


Identifying some old photos

6/11/14

EDITOR:

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Peggy Wagers Bloss and I live in St. Joseph. I grew up in New Market and still go to church there. Many years ago (early 50s) I wrote the New Market News column for your paper and other area papers. When I married in 1955 my mother, Georgia Wagers, took over. The paper this letter is written on is paper your newspaper sent in 1989 to be used for this purpose.

What I am writing about concerns some old photos that are in my possession that I would like to find some family member to give them to. I am fairly certain the photos are of people from the Platte County area. Two of the photos have names written on them — Opal Scott and Harve Lawless. The largest picture is a wedding picture and the girl looks a lot like Opal Scott. I had the thought that perhaps your paper might be interested in publishing these pictures or at least mentioning these two names to see if any remaining family members remember them. Judging from the clothing I believe the wedding gown was from 1800s.

You may not be able to help me but before I destroy these pictures I wanted to try one more time to find a family member. I took them to the Dearborn High School Reunion and the oldest member there did not recognize them. Thanks for any help you can give. I really enjoyed the years I wrote the news. It was a good opportunity for a teenager.

--Peggy Bloss
St. Joseph

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone with information that may help in this matter can email The Landmark at news@plattecountylandmark.com.

 


Free fishing weekend

6/4/14

EDITOR:

The annual Free Fishing Weekend in Missouri is coming up June 7 and 8, 2014. This weekend allows anyone to fish in Missouri without a permit, trout stamp, or daily use tag. It is a great opportunity to get out and try fishing for the first time or get back into it if you haven't fished for a while. Any other time of the year, Missouri residents between 16 and 65 years old and all non-residents 16 years and older would be required to have a valid fishing permit.

On Saturday, June 7, Platte County Parks and Recreation and the Missouri Department of Conservation will host a free fishing clinic from 10 a.m. to noon. The clinic will be held at the fishing pond at Platte Ridge Park. The park is located at 17130 371 Hwy, Platte City, MO 64079, if you would like to punch it into your gps.

The pond is on the backside of the park behind the ball fields.

There will be fishing poles, hooks, and bobbers available for use if you don't have your own. Worms will also be provided for bait. You are more than welcome to bring your own equipment and “lucky lure” if you would prefer. There is no need to RSVP. Just show up and stay as long as you like.

If you have any questions about this event or conservation in general, please call me at (816) 244-0702. If you observe a wildlife violation, you can call me directly or call Operation Game Thief at (800) 392-1111. You can remain anonymous and rewards are possible.

--Aaron Post
Conservation Agent
Mo. Department
of Conservation

 


Health care made more expensive

6/25/14

EDITOR:

I reaffirm my support for fully repealing Obamacare after a new report was released showing how the law is making health care more expensive.

Aside from Obamacare's ongoing dysfunction and delay, the added costs and burdens being forced on Missourians are a major cause for alarm. What we are seeing in Buchanan County and the greater Kansas City area are some of the biggest premium increases in the country. The President even promised that Obamacare would lower premiums for the middle class.

This pattern of broken promises creates more confusion and damages our trust. The only way to truly prevent more skyrocketing premiums and dropped coverage is to fully repeal a law that is far too flawed to stand as law of the land.

The study, which looks at data from 3,137 counties around the country, indicates that Obamacare increased 2014 individual-market premiums by an average of 49%. From 2013-2014, Buchanan County had the largest average increase for men than any other county in the nation at 271%.

Specifically among 27-year old men, the study indicates premium increases of 411% in Buchanan County, 242% in Atchison County, 219% in Platte County, 38% in Adair County, 38% in Marion County, 219% in Clay County, and 36% in Pike County.

--Sam Graves
Congressman
Sixth District

 


Happy that Plunkett is running

6/18/14

EDITOR:

I was glad to hear that Jim Plunkett would run for presiding commissioner when he announced this spring. I appreciate Plunkett's approach to government. He was in office to serve, not to get a paycheck. In fact, Plunkett recently reiterated his promise to not take any contributions from individuals or companies that do business with the county. It was a promise that he kept during his eight years as second district commissioner and pledged to keep during his campaign for presiding commissioner.

I'll be there for Plunkett on Aug. 5. He's the type of leader that we need in Platte County.

--Dana Ashley
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


Identifying some old photos

6/11/14

EDITOR:

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Peggy Wagers Bloss and I live in St. Joseph. I grew up in New Market and still go to church there. Many years ago (early 50s) I wrote the New Market News column for your paper and other area papers. When I married in 1955 my mother, Georgia Wagers, took over. The paper this letter is written on is paper your newspaper sent in 1989 to be used for this purpose.

What I am writing about concerns some old photos that are in my possession that I would like to find some family member to give them to. I am fairly certain the photos are of people from the Platte County area. Two of the photos have names written on them — Opal Scott and Harve Lawless. The largest picture is a wedding picture and the girl looks a lot like Opal Scott. I had the thought that perhaps your paper might be interested in publishing these pictures or at least mentioning these two names to see if any remaining family members remember them. Judging from the clothing I believe the wedding gown was from 1800s.

You may not be able to help me but before I destroy these pictures I wanted to try one more time to find a family member. I took them to the Dearborn High School Reunion and the oldest member there did not recognize them. Thanks for any help you can give. I really enjoyed the years I wrote the news. It was a good opportunity for a teenager.

--Peggy Bloss
St. Joseph

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone with information that may help in this matter can email The Landmark at news@plattecountylandmark.com.

 


Free fishing weekend

6/4/14

EDITOR:

The annual Free Fishing Weekend in Missouri is coming up June 7 and 8, 2014. This weekend allows anyone to fish in Missouri without a permit, trout stamp, or daily use tag. It is a great opportunity to get out and try fishing for the first time or get back into it if you haven't fished for a while. Any other time of the year, Missouri residents between 16 and 65 years old and all non-residents 16 years and older would be required to have a valid fishing permit.

On Saturday, June 7, Platte County Parks and Recreation and the Missouri Department of Conservation will host a free fishing clinic from 10 a.m. to noon. The clinic will be held at the fishing pond at Platte Ridge Park. The park is located at 17130 371 Hwy, Platte City, MO 64079, if you would like to punch it into your gps.

The pond is on the backside of the park behind the ball fields.

There will be fishing poles, hooks, and bobbers available for use if you don't have your own. Worms will also be provided for bait. You are more than welcome to bring your own equipment and “lucky lure” if you would prefer. There is no need to RSVP. Just show up and stay as long as you like.

If you have any questions about this event or conservation in general, please call me at (816) 244-0702. If you observe a wildlife violation, you can call me directly or call Operation Game Thief at (800) 392-1111. You can remain anonymous and rewards are possible.

--Aaron Post
Conservation Agent
Mo. Department
of Conservation

 


About the school transfer legislation

5/28/14

EDITOR:

If you were a parent who lived in a failing school district and lacked the means to move, what would you do? Would you think about the opportunities you wanted most for your child? Should the opportunities be the same for the rich and poor communities?

The Missouri House passed legislation designed to empower parents in struggling school districts to choose a better life for their children. Senate Bill 493 aims to improve performance in struggling school districts through increased tutoring, enhanced early reading programs, and extended school days. It also gives the State Board of Education flexibility to take-over failing schools in failing school districts, and requires the State Board to proactively help struggling school districts improve test scores and other results.

Most importantly, the bill gives parents the freedom to choose the best school for their children. Under the current transfer law, every student in an unaccredited district is permitted to transfer out-of-district. This ignores the fact that not all schools in unaccredited districts are the same. In fact, some schools in unaccredited and provisionally-accredited schools are excellent or, at least, accredited.

SB 493 limits the right to transfer to those students who attend unaccredited schools. But it then opens a variety of options for parents. First, students in unaccredited schools are given the option to transfer to an open seat in an accredited school within their own district. After those seats are filled, students may transfer to any public school in the same or an adjoining county, to a charter school within their district of residence or, in St. Louis or Kansas City, to a private non-sectarian school near their home.

Certainly there are criticisms against proposals to provide poor parents who can’t afford private school tuition or to move to a better neighborhood with the freedom to send their children to private schools with public funds. In SB 493, we amended the private option to assuage all of those criticisms.

First, critics claim the option is unconstitutional. We fixed this potential problem by limiting the option to only those schools which are allowed to receive public funding under the Missouri and United States Constitution. The Blaine Amendment to the Missouri Constitution prohibits any public money from going to schools controlled by a religious denomination. As a result, parochial schools are eliminated from the program.

Second, critics claim the private option for St. Louis or Kansas City would harm education funding in the rest of the state. We fixed this potential problem by limiting funding for the private option to in-district funds. Under SB 493, the private option excludes state money.

Third, critics claim private schools will cherry-pick students for academic or athletic prowess. SB 493 strictly prohibits the transfer board from considering academic success, athletics, or poverty status in making school assignments.

Fourth, critics claim a private option would just lead to children who would otherwise be in private schools, siphoning money away from public schools. Despite the fact that this criticism treats private school parents and children as second-class citizens unworthy of equal benefits from their taxes, SB 493 requires students must have actually attended an unaccredited school before they are eligible to transfer.
Fifth, critics claim a private option is not fair because private schools are not subject to the same rules and regulations as public schools. We fixed this problem with an amendment to require all private schools which choose to receive transfer students to abide by every state statute and regulation that applies to public schools. Under this amendment, private option schools must give transfer students the same state assessment tests that are given to students in traditional public schools, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will produce an annual performance report on the private option schools as it does for traditional public schools.

Sixth, critics say it’s not appropriate to spend public money on private institutions when taxpayers voted for levies to go to public institutions. This argument ignores the fact that the state spends approximately $8 billion a year on Medicaid, much of which goes to private medical facilities. The House version of SB 493 deals with this criticism by subjecting the private option to a local vote. Before any student is allowed to transfer to a private school, it must be approved by the voters of the failing district at a general election.

With these changes, SB 493 addressed every substantive criticism against similar “private option” legislation that I’ve heard from defenders of the status quo in failing districts. But it’s still not enough, and it’s easy to see why: individual freedom is scary for people in power. Regardless of the issue in the capitol, those who hold power fight desperately to keep it.

By allowing transfers from unaccredited public schools to nonsectarian private schools, SB 493 would allow children in poverty the opportunity to attend some of the same schools as the children of privilege. This seems right to me.

--Ken Wilson
State Representative
12th District

 


Small businesses don't need bureaucracy

5/21/14

EDITOR:

Every small business throughout the country is a story of someone’s hard work, a good idea, or a plan to make life better for their family. Many succeed, some don’t. We should respect the courage, risk and sacrifice required to build a business. One of the purposes of National Small Business Week (which was held May 12-16) is recognition of that effort, but there’s more to it. We should examine policies that are helping and hurting small business and make the appropriate changes to encourage their growth because our economy hinges on their success.

Small businesses are responsible for about half the nation’s economic output, and when it comes to jobs, small firms have an outsized impact. Small companies comprise about half of all private sector jobs in total, and lead the way in job creation with 60-to-80 percent of all new jobs, depending on the year. All told, small firms can take credit for 65 percent of jobs created over a recent 17-year span, according to the Small Business Administration.

It’s fair to say that if small businesses are thriving, then the economy is likely to be healthy. If small businesses are struggling, then the economy is not strong.

Over the past month, the latest economic information has been a mix of good news and bad. The unemployment rate has fallen, but a closer look shows far too many Americans leaving the workforce. Moreover, the economy slowed to a mere 0.1 percent growth last quarter. Throughout the very slow recovery of the past several years, the economy has never really roared back or created jobs at the pace the country needs.

Small businesses are a major part of the solution for jobs and growth. When small firms grow, the benefits spread throughout the economy. The irony is that these businesses are often treated by Washington as though they are part of the problem. During the last five years, small businesses have faced numerous roadblocks to growth, including mounting federal regulations, higher taxes, economic uncertainty, and burdensome requirements from the health care law.

As one Connecticut small business owner, Dan De Clercq, commented to the Small Business Committee through our interactive website Small Biz Open Mic, “Since ObamaCare became a discussion in 2008, our yearly premium has doubled from 113k to 220k presently. Plus our deductibles and co-pays have increased to obscene levels. Eliminate or halve my corporate income taxes, help bring my company-sponsored health care back to normal levels and I'd hire four more people.”

Dan’s not alone in his experience. A recent NFIB study shows that ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Tax will cost the economy up to 286,000 jobs, and 57 percent of those jobs would be from small businesses. Over the past five years, the cost of new regulations on the American economy has spiked by $73 billion annually. The Administration has issued a burdensome 157 new major rules, each with economic costs of $100 million or more. This government power grab is predictably not leading to robust economic growth.

Despite the state of the economy, the U.S. Senate continues to ignore nearly 40 growth and jobs bills passed by the House. These bills range from reducing red tape to ensuring access to affordable energy.
Small businesses are widely supported by Americans, but they could use some more common-sense from Washington. The nation’s 28 million small businesses don’t need new bureaucracies or more government control; they need the administration to get out of the way so they can grow.

National Small Business Week is a great time to say “thank-you” to a small business in your neighborhood and “shop small.” I also believe this week is a great reminder that if Washington is going to talk-the-talk then Washington needs to get serious about a small business growth agenda that is going to back up that rhetoric.

--Sam Graves
Congressman
Sixth District

 


Tax cut is a baby step of progress

5/14/14

EDITOR:

As an organization that has helped lead tax reform efforts in Missouri for many years, the Show-Me Institute was pleased to see the legislature take a baby step of progress with the passage of last week's tax cut.

Make no mistake — this is a very modest tax reduction, and smaller than we had preferred. But this tax cut serves as a mile-marker on the path of greater reforms.

Indeed, thanks to the hard work of countless supporters of the free market, the pathway for tax reform is now opening wide. Policymakers are finally recognizing that the words “free market” actually mean something . . . and that free markets actually matter.

We believe this tax cut is just the first step on the road to enduring, people-empowering tax reform in this great state. We look forward to the future, and we hope you will join us on our journey to make our state even better.

--Patrick Ishmael
Policy Analyst
Show-Me Institute Kansas City, MO

 


A national sales tax is the answer

4/30/14

EDITOR:

Time magazine published an article this week exposing the fact that $1 million dollars in bonuses was paid out to IRS employees who owed back taxes. I'm pretty sure if I owed back taxes the IRS would be knocking on my door and threatening to garnish my wages.

Why are IRS employees treated differently? It seems the all too familiar reason is that they work for the government and the government treats "their own" differently. If you are ever audited by the IRS - you are guilty until proven innocent and often the best course of action is to simply roll over and pay whatever they ask. That's state sponsored extortion. It doesn't matter if you are right or not - it will cost you more in time and money to try to prove you are right. With a tax code approaching 80,000 pages, that's pretty much impossible.

It is time to eliminate the IRS and the oppressive income tax and switch to something that is simple, fair and visible. Something that is easy to administer, easy to comply with and difficult to cheat. That solution is the FairTax. A national retail sales tax with no tax on the basic necessities of life. No IRS, no income tax and millions of new jobs.

You can learn more at www.hr25taxreview.com.

--James R. Donnell
Cameron Park, CA

 


Pandering and denial won't serve the students

4/16/14

Platte County R-3 Staff,

As a board member, I am dedicated to the success and care of our students, and to the teachers and support staff who work with them. We must provide to our students the resources necessary to guarantee optimal learning experiences, and our teachers must have the teaching resources to meet the needs of each student. Teacher recognition and compensation are issues that we are addressing, but more progress is needed to care for our teachers and support staff appropriately. I will make every effort to see that we continue to strive to provide fair and reasonable compensation.

While we face our challenges, I can say without hesitation that we have the best schools in the area, and thanks to your efforts we continue to become even better at being us, making this a great place for our Pirates!

I am asking for your vote on April 8th! Also, if you agree that I am a good choice, please encourage others to vote for me.

Thank you!
Sharon Sherwood

Dear teachers and staff,

I am contacting you to ask for your support in the upcoming School Board election April 8.
· I believe in fiscal responsibility so money can go towards our biggest district expense…salaries.
· I advocate for keeping small class sizes as we grow so you have a manageable workload.

Julie Vanover,
PCR-III School Board Member

EDITOR:

What you just read were parts of emails sent by Platte County R-3 School Board President Sharon Sherwood and board member Julie Vanover from their private email addresses to the Platte County R-3 email staff addresses several days before the election.

What it looks like you have here is a current school board president sending out a note to one of the largest voting blocs (over 500 employees plus spouses) in the county basically saying she thinks they are underpaid and underappreciated and she will help correct this.

Mrs. Vanover suggests we have "fiscal responsibility" so we can pay salaries. Not pay down debt or handle growth, but “salaries.”

Funny, I read nothing about their obvious issue with compensation and salaries in their interviews with the newspapers.

No doubt these emails to R-3 staff were also read on "taxpayer" time as they were sent to R-3 email addresses.

School administrators were included in the Sherwood email. I will assume they knew about it and as far as I know no action was taken to correct what seems like an obvious problem.

Do school officials want all candidates for any public office sending emails to their (our) employees?
I just posted part of another email that was circulated by our previous school board president on my website Plattecountyr3facts.com about the election and will do the same with these.

My favorite line from Mrs. Sherwood in the email is "we continue to become even better at being us.” This must be the new way we set our standards as Schooldigger.com now ranks our Platte County R-3 High School as # 170th out of 521 in the state. That is below Smithville #82, Park Hill #88, North Platte #36 and West Platte #120. Are these schools in our area, Mrs. Sherwood?

Lets not compete, let’s just "be good at being us.” Not much competition there. Can’t wait for the kids to get their first job or college interview and be asked about their performance in school. "I was really good at being me" will make a great reply.

Workplace morale heads down: 70% of Americans feel negatively about their jobs, Gallup study shows--June 24th 2013 daily news.

I am sorry if Mrs. Sherwood thinks our staff feels unappreciated. From a quick Google search, it appears most people are not thrilled in their jobs. I think they call it "going to work" for a reason.

All you can do as a manager is set guidelines for employees, pay them a competitive pay and expect them to meet your standards. Private sector jobs do not recognize employee performance publicly at any level close to what we see from the schools.

The new Malcom Baldrige method being used by the district to try to force improvement actually started in the private business sector. Why should this thought process with staff be any different since they are currently copying a business model for improvement in other areas?

One thing I have found over the last year is that there are bad medical doctors, bad sales people and bad workers in all fields but according to the R-3 administration there are no bad teachers. They say poor student performance is due to bad parents, growth, bad students, growth, lack of money, growth and high free and reduced lunch percentages (did I mention growth?), but never the teacher.

We do have many great instructors and staff at R-3 but you cannot convince me all are great when I look at our current performance and the past 10 years of very little turnover. I don't think low morale and performance can be blamed on pay when our certified staff makes more than 10% above the state average.

If they want pay as high as Park Hill our teachers will have to get higher degrees. The Park Hill staff makes more due to this. 8% (about 50) of the Park Hill certified staff members have a master’s or higher degree compared to PCR3.

This information was not brought up at last year’s salary increase presentation by Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik or Mrs. Sherwood, and now after seeing these emails I know why.

Pandering is the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal.

Pandering and denial will accomplish nothing for our students. Our obvious academic issues must be addressed by school leadership not ignored for the sake of self promotion. Did you read anything even remotely close to what is pointed out in the above emails in the paper two weeks ago from these candidates?

Remember these emails the next time you are asked for more tax dollars to support our schools, as I don't see any major concern in either email for the Platte County taxpayers that pay the bills.

Thank you to those who supported me in last week’s election. The information above should give you an idea of how tough it will be to earn a spot on this board if you are a candidate who expects real results, transparency and is unwilling to pander for votes.

We did well, getting very close to a spot. I did not realize while my campaign was paying for mailers we could have just used an email list from the district and sent the information to school employees’ workplace. I thought those staff email addresses were for student-related communication. Rookie mistake.

Every candidate for every office in the future should know these 600 email addresses are available at the district website and it must be ok to send election material to them at work since the district has said nothing.

Do not forget to mention higher salaries, easier work load, compensation, recognition and salaries when you send your campaign piece to the R-3 email address list.

I am now going to go "get better at being me."

--Kirby Holden
Rural Platte County

 


Bids should be used for the public's benefit

4/16/14

EDITOR:

Went to the fire board meeting last week with four other warm bodies.

For the record: Paul Regan, fire board chairman, told the taxpayers to fire him if we did not like his or the board’s decision to buy this new $700k fire pump truck without a bidding process.

He also stated that he was not legally obligated to take bids on this particular issue.

He concluded with saying that it’s up to the board to make decisions like this because the people voted him in.

My plea with this board:

1. Remove emotion and focus on your obligation to the public.

2. Remember that aside from protecting our constitutional rights, you are to vigorously protect our $$$.

3. Act like there is very little money to spend and you’ll FIND ways to lower costs and avoid debt.

4. Do not rely so heavily on opinion but focus on facts you discover or know.

5. Board member Andy Stanton’s diligence to conserve the public’s money should NOT be an offense, look past his style and let him be the balance to the emotion this board has.

We do need and trust experienced folks, but it is ill-advised to not verify a political figure.

Bids are to be used by the board willingly and at every opportunity as a tool on the public’s behalf. Bids help keep things verified, and curbs emotion. Bidding when you don’t have to means you hold that process as very valuable.

Why do the taxpayers expect a bidding process no matter how small the item or contract? Bids typically drive a price down. Those in high positions at the Pierce company must be giddy about the emotional blindness the Central Platte Fire Department is experiencing, and that board members Paul Regan and Mike Ashcraft actually fought against the process, totally forgetting they do not HAVE to accept the lowest bidder, but can choose a bidder for other reasons.

What a story the salesman must have regarding this pumper sale: “Their C.P.A. kept saying they have the money and the credit, and since they like us so much, they didn’t even do a bid – what a hoot!!”

I bet the president of Pierce bids out every single item possible because he knows the value of that process. Even homeowners use the bidding process to drive costs down. The pumper purchase is a fine example of emotion, personal opinions clouding logic, and the purchase signifies a severe breach in the commitment to conserve the public’s money.

Noteworthy: I had to leave the meeting early, but the board allowed me one more statement. How honorable! For all that’s wrong with this and various departments, the fire board allows the taxpayer to speak (respecting time, content, and language).

For it to be said the meeting was a monkey poop throwing mess is completely out of turn. What is wished for those attending the meetings – another gag? The exaggeration and description is hurtful to everyone’s reputation there, and suggests removing free discussion. The only person that seemed combative (face-making, head wagging, huffing, and side inputs) was Lisa Bjustrom, the fire district’s CPA. On the other hand, the district’s secretary was 100% professional, calm, and neutral 100% of the time. The personal moment between Ashcraft and Stanton was spot on, and short lived. Is that worthy of a low description? While I may question and object to their form of politics, I commend and applaud the fire board’s willingness to consider the voter’s voice.

Ever hopeful, still grateful.

--Kelly Goen
Platte City

 


Obamacare rebrand is lipstick on a pig

4/16/14

EDITOR:

As this year’s Missouri legislative session approaches its end, one of the biggest issues before our representatives is whether they will reform the state’s broken Medicaid program, or whether they will expand it under Obamacare. They should choose reform, period. Missourians have made it clear again and again that they reject the health law passed in 2010. That rejection comes from a sound philosophical, fiscal, and moral basis, as Obamacare not only failed to fix the problems of American health care, but doubled down on them, to the detriment of millions.

Rebranding Obamacare in Missouri as a health care “transformation” is just lipstick on a special interest pig. Legislators should know better.

--Patrick Ishmael
Policy Analyst
Show-Me Institute

 


On the global warming scare, follow the money

4/9/14

EDITOR:

Many call it settled science; I call it a convenient lie.

It was once called man-made (anthropogenic) global warming; now it is called climate change. Carbon dioxide emissions are the supposed culprit.

Since it has been scientifically documented there was no appreciable planetary warming in the last 16 years, there had to be an appropriate name change. We all know the climate changes, right? That way any so-called anomaly in the weather can be attributed to climate change. How convenient. If it's hot, the problem is climate change. If it's cold, the problem is climate change. If we have a hurricane, it must be due to climate change. All the environmental leftists, to include Al Gore, and the media are running from the term global warming.

Speaking of Al Gore, who produced the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, he lives in a mansion (20 rooms and 8 bathrooms) located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, which consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service. I prefer to call this lauded documentary A Convenient Lie. It's convenient because a whole generation of people and educators have been duped into believing a fanciful fabrication, which has become very profitable for those involved in the global warming industry.
Follow the money. The global warming scare perpetuates government funding for grants to university professors in bed with radical environmentalists, who manipulate climate models to produce the conclusions they want. As a result, more tax dollars are funneled to additional bogus research projects. It funds carbon credit scams, which make millions of dollars for green energy shadow bosses who want to stifle corporate production, fossil fuels, and real energy development.

Additionally, billions of our tax dollars have been wasted by our government funding bankrupt renewable energy boondoggles like: Solyndra ($527 million), ECOtality ($96 million), Abound Solar ($60 million), Fisker Automotive ($139 million), A123 Systems ($132 million) and the list goes on and on. Finally, it's a redistribution of wealth scheme that wants to take money from rich nations and redistribute it to lesser developed countries in the guise of economic fairness and social justice.
I could look at this from a Christian perspective and say these environmental alarmists are nothing more than earth worshipers. They prefer to worship the creation rather than the Creator. God tells man to subdue the earth and take dominion over it. He punished nations in the Bible for worshiping nature. I like to say I am a conservationist; I am not an environmentalist. I define the terms this way.

Conservationists love trees. Environmentalists love trees more than people. You get the point.
However, let's look at this from a slightly more scientific perspective. Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas. It is a small part of the atmosphere, yet it sustains all life on earth. It is not a pollutant; it is food for plants and trees. Plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide, and through the photosynthesis process, release oxygen which we breathe.

Over 31,000 scientists have signed a petition organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine stating that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide will in the foreseeable future cause catastrophic heating of the earth's atmosphere.” You never hear this in the main-stream media, because to them it is “settled science.”

Well, it is not. Every shred of so-called evidence for man-made global warming comes from climate models. Let's apply a little common sense. If your local TV weather-person can't predict an accurate forecast two weeks from now, how can we believe climate models that span 30 years? You can't.
I believe many of these models are manipulated by agenda-driven scientists who tweak the results to support their flawed theories. This was recently substantiated by the disclosure of hacked emails generated by the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit between climatologists who appeared to admit to each other they had manipulated climate data in an attempt to suppress critics.

Just like United Nations Agenda 21, Common Core State Standards, Sustainable Development, and all of the progressive left's agendas, the ultimate goal of global warming alarmism can be summed up in one word: control. The elitists and academics who approve of these mandates believe big government knows what is best for us and we are not smart enough to run our own lives. These liberal belief systems have led our country into its current mess.

Don't buy the climate change lie. Our earth will be here just as long as God wants it around and we can all learn to be good stewards of His creation without the hysteria and ridiculous government controls.

--Mike Stark
Platte City

 


Park Hill no longer needs your yes vote

4/2/14

EDITOR:

Great news—our school district no longer needs your vote for a proposed tax increase!

The USS Park Hill has dramatically shifted course and is now navigating toward the smoother waters of fiscal responsibility and transparent communication. The distress signal issued to parents and taxpayers has been lifted and replaced with a more composed message in recent weeks.

It appears that school safety is NOT, after all, contingent on the passage of this levy. After the last board meeting, a significantly-revised press release noted “the district will fund the safety improvements from our regular budget but the April 8 levy will allow us to kick-start the projects to finish them sooner.”

In short, district leaders are acknowledging that there is no crisis and that they have the money needed to make some adjustments to safety plans. Not sure what they mean by “kick-start”—I'll be discouraging my kids from telling me they've saved up for a new iPod but would like some money from me to “kick-start” their purchase. Sounds mostly like district leaders are apologizing for “crying wolf” and using school safety as a marketing strategy. I believe they're an earnest and well-meaning bunch--apology accepted.

It appears district administrators now believe they can implement the technology initiative successfully without additional funding, too. Friends and colleagues in Park Hill tell me the superintendent has quietly communicated that they will proceed with the FLiP initiative regardless of the levy outcome, and he's asked his leadership team to begin “battening down the hatches” of their respective budgets.

That is precisely the right thing to do and not surprising—months ago the district leased 2500 of the needed 10,000 laptops they plan to distribute to kids. If this effort is rolled out judiciously, there is no reason, short of wasteful financial diversions, that our kids can't have access to the recommended technology. Only time will tell if it will be used in ways that truly impact teaching and learning, as promised.

Now that the manufactured crisis has subsided, it is critical board members and district administrators turn their attention to the real dangers that threaten successful passage of our district into the next decade. A meaningful school option for alternative or suspended students, full funding for remediation programs like Smart Start and summer school that help kids with greatest need, district-wide implementation of anti-bullying programs like Olweus, equitable wages, training and benefits for support staff on par with those of their certified colleagues, and a fair and rigorous education for all kids regardless of zip code. No need to loosen the life rafts, but navigating these waters will require “all hands on deck.”

VOTE NO on April 8th for the tax increase proposed by the Park Hill School District. Now that the fog has lifted, let's put this issue behind us so we can all begin our focus on more important challenges ahead.

--Jim Dunn
Former Park Hill
Administrator

 


Back to basics program, not laptops, needed

4/2/14

EDITOR:

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Park Hill Superintendent Dr. Scott Springston speak about the upcoming levy question coming up on the April 8th ballot.

Of course, Dr. Springston and his group of student spokespersons expressed how great the new Future Learner Project is going to be if the levy passes. As it was explained, this program will offer ongoing technology based education to students in an effort to make them more likely to succeed in a job market that is becoming more technologically oriented. According to Dr. Springston, talks with local businesses revealed a desire for future employees to be tech-savvy and have a good working knowledge of computers and technology.

To pay for this program, the school is asking the district residents to pick up the tab in the form of a levy. Like many other school projects and programs this idea sounds good in theory, however there is a bigger problem at hand here that the Park Hill district and many other districts are overlooking.

As I see it, tech-savvy students are not the problem. Most kids know their way around computers and technology quite well, but what they don’t know how to do is read and write. I am reminded of this fact every time I review a job application from a recent high school or even a college grad. To say that many of them are appalling would be putting it nicely.

Instead of a technology training program that costs taxpayers a great deal of money, how about a back-to-basics program that forces students to master the basic skills of communication, math, science and history with very little or no additional cost to the district taxpayers? I suppose that would be too simple and not progressive enough.

The second issue with this levy is that they have tacked on upgrades for school safety. This is a trick right out of the politicians’ playbook. Tie school safety onto anything and it is hard for the public to say no.

I must say that I will probably end up voting for this issue but not because I think that a Future Learner Program is the way to go, or I think that the safety in the district is derelict. (Truth be told, Park Hill has one of the best security systems and protocols of any local district.) I will vote for this because it is my opinion that the district has already made up their mind about the program and they will implement it no matter if they get the levy or not. The difference will be the funding. They will either fund the program with taxpayer money or they will take it from somewhere else in the district, like faculty and staff salaries. I would much rather pay for an unnecessary program than potentially risk the salaries of the great teachers and district workers that we have.

Just food for thought!

--Trevor J. Ballard
Parkville

 


Consider ‘no’ on Park Hill laptop levy

3/26/14

EDITOR:

I'd like to extend this “open letter” to Park Hill teachers and staff. I know that the district marketing machine is now in full swing, and you have no doubt been inundated by district administrators with newsletter highlights, video segments, and staff meeting presentations in favor of the upcoming levy issue. These are, of course, only “informational” and in no way intended to influence you to vote “yes” for this tax increase.

I won't presume to tell you what to do—that's an individual decision each of us makes in the privacy of the voting booth. But as you weigh your vote, I would ask that you simply CONSIDER NO.

If you have struggled to help a class of kids when the wireless connection (or email or software program or. . .) didn't work, and you long ago gave up hope of getting meaningful, “real time” tech support to fix the issues —CONSIDER NO.

If you know your students and suspect most will quickly grow uninterested in a district-provided laptop with significant restrictions on software, downloads and Internet accessibility—CONSIDER NO.

If you can't imagine how district infrastructure is going to handle 10,000 additional computers when it has never functioned consistently and effectively—CONSIDER NO.

If you've struggled through the adoption and implementation of a technology-based program (e.g., Digits), and couldn't get a common sense fix for the myriad of technical problems—CONSIDER NO.

If you've watched as millions of dollars have been wasted on “quality” initiatives that have never impacted your job as a teacher or support staff —CONSIDER NO.

If you saw, for months, a blank television screen in your school's office where recorded security camera footage was supposed to be monitored, and thought, “I hope to God nothing bad happens before the district gets its act together” —CONSIDER NO.

If you are appalled to learn the superintendent recently spent $47,000 remodeling the board room at central office for meetings held a few hours each month when this money could have been put to good use purchasing educational technology for classrooms—CONSIDER NO.

If you are a parent or taxpayer in the district but don't believe you're obligated , as an employee, to blindly support every initiative and tax increase proposed by district administrators—many of whom don't live in this school community and will never pay a penny out-of-pocket for this tax increase—CONSIDER NO.

If you feel fortunate to work in a great district like Park Hill, but have, at times, thought taxpayers would be upset by the waste you've seen around you—CONSIDER NO.

As a district employee, I asked questions and challenged practices but often felt I didn't get meaningful answers or solutions. Now all of us have a way to be heard that can't be ignored.

CONSIDER NO as you vote on the upcoming Park Hill District tax increase.

--Jim Dunn
Former Park Hill
Administrator

 


Demand public input on proposed sewer deal

3/12/14

EDITOR:

Once again, the Parkville board of aldermen goes down a path of a major financial transaction, avoids the public, and attempts to present an image of being in control of a situation spiraling out of control.
The city's latest charade is to sell the sewer facilities to pay the Brush Creek NID debt. I probably spent less time analyzing this transaction and its impact on sewer rates than city staff did preparing the various documents to hire outside experts. Perhaps they knew the outcome would not be favorable to sewer customers. And since their real motive is to rid themselves of the NID debt, better to dress a pig for auction than to show the real pig.

This proposed transaction is a smokescreen and a shell game. It is an attempt to hide the cost of a high risk annexation and NID development project inside sewer rates, which would serve as a cover-up of yet another failed board initiative.

The Parkville board won't admit it, but there is panic inside City Hall. It wants a definitive agreement before June 1, 2014. This means that in a period of less than 90 days, the board will have investigated, evaluated, and agreed to transfer to a third party assets that have been under city control for decades, if not longer. All without any request for public input.

Last week's Landmark presented significant background and facts. Additionally:

•Under the 2006 Cooperative Agreement between Parkville and PCRSD, Parkville assumed 100% of the debt risk while PCRSD assumed no debt risk. After being approached by PCRSD, Parkville assumed 100% of the cost ($13,500) for an expert report. Who is negotiating for Parkville?

•Parkville failed to disclose in the 2013 budget the degree of risk on this NID. After having been called out on the matter, they changed their disclosure for the 2014 budget.$317,000 is being added to reserves in 2014 to bring the reserve to $1.4 million.

•The annual debt service on the $4,935,000 NID, assuming a 20 year term and 3% annual interest, approximates $330,000. Ignoring any collectible assessments, Parkville essentially has sufficient tax revenues to service the NID debt. This transaction is not necessary.

•PCRSD is burdened with significant long term debt, which is the reason for their high fixed charge per customer of $26.22 in comparison to Parkville's $11.86. To fund the purchase, PCRSD would have to issue debt for 100% of the purchase price, adding more debt to an already debt burdened balance sheet. In addition, debt issued by PCRSD may carry an interest rate 50% higher than Parkville due to PCRSD not being rated.

•Assuming PCRSD paid an amount equal to the NID debt, substantially all of Parkville's customers will see their rates increase, some by more than 100%.

An underlying assumption being made by those involved is that the sewer assets of Parkville have a marketable value. In fact, there is none. This is a flawed assumption. Sewer charges are nothing more than a cost recovery mechanism. There is no “profit” in municipal sewer charges as any excess of revenues over costs is used to offset future costs. If there is no future profit, there is no market value to be determined. The only value in a municipal transaction is the cost of assets being included in the service charges. This does not require an outside expert report.

Consider yourself the buyer. Would you pay $5 million for an asset when the only amount you can generate in return is the $5 million you paid? On its own, this is ludicrous.

A further significant concern with the proposed transaction is that it would allow Parkville to free up hundreds of thousands of dollars of excess contingency reserves so the board can continue spending at will on unnecessary pet projects. Parkville generates significant excess tax revenues because it taxes everything that moves (read the second bullet point above again). In spite of excess revenues, the board has the gall to attempt to play a shell game with $5 million.

Parkville residents should be incensed. Call your alderman and the mayor. Stop this transaction and demand some input. There is more at stake than individual user sewer charges.

--Gordon Cook
Parkville

 


Opposed to development east of I-29

3/12/14

EDITOR:

Your position, pro or con, on the “long coveted” development east of I-29 is unknown to me. My position is decidedly con, for the following reasons.

Platte City is a decidedly unique community within the Kansas City metropolitan area. Unlike all the other periphery communities to KC, Platte City lacks the plethora of brand name box stores and morass of seething shoppers. The “un-likeness” is the very beauty of its situation. All of the shopping and dining opportunities available in the KC area are a mere 10-minute drive to Zona Rosa.

Meanwhile, small town advantages still apply to Platte City, and a trip to the country begins just across the HH overpass.

When noses are counted for expansion east of I-29, the outcome is predictable from thousands of preceding examples throughout the country. The developers will come, hungry with fervid anticipation of the money to be made and total disregard for any results save the profits in their pockets. The city’s officers will slobber all over themselves, and the developers, in an effort to please the big money. Even the mini-me Donald Trumps of the world have the power to awe the Offutts of the pastures. The politicians will see dollar signs, and parks named after them.

The majority of citizens will be only casually aware of the background details, lulled by expectation of their own Walmart, and oblivious to the loss of their current instant big city access and simultaneous remoteness.

The promise will be more jobs, a rising rate of development (a euphemism disregarding precise, accurate description), an increased tax base (erroneously suggesting taxes will go down), and a plethora of only positive results.

For too long, the paradigm has been that only growth can stave off decay. How about a new paradigm stressing maximizing what exists? Pursue development of quality within the existing structure instead of quantity of the structure. The false promise of “new” is a consequence of pursuit of “better.” New, or more, is not a guarantee of better.

Instead of bankrolling developers in acquisition east of I-29, how about spending those dollars on projects improving and protecting existing development, thereby really obtaining “better” for existing citizens?

--Stu Ostrander
Platte County

 


Park Hill using 'safety' to manipulate voters

3/5/14

EDITOR:

Safety and security are basic human needs. But safety and security of our children are among the highest priorities of any parent or community.

I am always dismayed when the issue of safety is used to manipulate others. But I am deeply troubled when a school district, entrusted with the safe care of our children, “plays politics” with the issue.

In an effort to raise money to fund a technology initiative, the Park Hill School District has tacked on some safety upgrades to a proposed tax increase. District leadership is telling parents and patrons they need money to make necessary upgrades to improve the safety of our schools. In reality, they have simply chosen to spend millions of dollars on other projects. District administrators decided not to come to voters to approve $800,000 in spending on central office remodeling or a $500,000 canopy over the soccer stadium; they had little confidence that these would make for a “sexy” marketing campaign.

Instead, they've decided to tell our school community, “If you don't approve a tax increase, safety might be impacted. And none of us wants that, do we?”

Imagine telling an older parent, “Mom, I got your car inspected and they said you need brakes. But I decided to wait to get these fixed until I could ask if I'm going to be 'well-represented' in your will.”
Those with the means and responsibility to protect others should never wait to do the “right thing”—they should act with a sense of intention and urgency.

If Park Hill district leadership is aware that safety issues need to be addressed in our schools, I implore them to take action immediately, using available reserve funds, if necessary. Failure to act now, regardless of the levy outcome, would be nothing short of negligence. I can only hope that no tragedy befalls any of our schools or students because of the inaction of those we've entrusted to keep them safe.

I encourage parents to contact the school district (816-359-4000) to tell school leaders to act immediately to make recommended safety improvements. And if you attend the school board candidate forum at Park Hill High School on March 24th, at 6:30 pm., ask those seeking election how they would take action to address these safety issues if voters decide not to subsidize this costly technology initiative through a tax increase.

--Jim Dunn
Former Park Hill
Administrator

 


Ron Schieber made the right move

3/5/14

EDITOR:

This is in reply to Sue Lange’s letter to the editor in last week’s issue of The Landmark.

Ms. Lange, I can understand your personal choice of one candidate over another for Platte County's Presiding Commissioner. But, keeping Park Hill School fixed to a septic system rather than hooking into the city's sewer system seems like 1960 ecology.

Thanks for pointing out that Ron Schieber voted to move our school into the 21st century.

Then, your editorial noted this septic deal was some sort of deception. But, wouldn't the awful results have been from school plugged toilets and flooded bathrooms of foul sewage? Old septic systems leak; modern sewage systems work better with larger populations.

Further, I am a taxpayer shelling out tax dollars for our Platte County schools. Would you please provide cost/ratio data demonstrating how “our kids suffer?”

No doubt the teachers union wants more tax revenues to spend; no doubt political experts and special interest groups will spend lots of promotional monies to get your programs. How much more taxes will they cost me?

Please note: both candidates are really good, but your assertion that “our kids suffer” does not match with Park Hill’s high educational ranking in the state.

--Lee Valentine
Platte County

 


County doesn't need a rubber stamp

2/26/14

EDITOR:

So Ron Schieber wants to become presiding commissioner of Platte County,
just like Jason Brown did? Well now, if that isn't just what this county needs, another career politician wanting a government funded salary, (whopping $65,755 as of 2011), without sacrifice from his family.

I admire a family man but we need an employee who is able to earn that money. That wasn't Jason and it's not Ron, either.

I'd like to remind voters out there that Ron Schieber served on the Park Hill School District Board of Education during what has to be one of the most egregious spending boondoggles of the century, the Union Chapel Interceptor Sewer. That's right folks; he was one of the board members who voted to put in gravity fed sewers to solve a problem that could have been fixed for a million dollars less.

I spent countless hours researching the problems and goals the school indicated they wanted to accomplish. I found numerous errors and flaws in the solution they were presented with. First and foremost was the idea that MoDNR was forcing them to install sewers. This was simply not true.

Admittedly their septic tank was aging but the bulk of their problems stemmed from abuse and lack of proper maintenance. The fact is that system they claimed was 'on its last legs' back in 2008 is still operating within proper effluent guidelines today and was recently recertified by the MoDNR to continue to operate. They did not need sewers then and to this day still do not.

I went to meetings and wrote letters pointing out the deception and discrepancies. It fell on deaf ears. I contacted outside experts who proposed alternative cheaper solutions, and was still ignored. Not one lazy person on the school board at that time, including Mr. Schieber, took it upon him or herself to read the facts or research them independently. With $1 million at stake, that's a travesty.

As a result, our kids have suffered. In recent years they been unable to get new text books, and currently they can't get new computers. I have no respect for anyone who sat on the PHSD school board at the time of the Union Chapel Sewer decision. By voting to install that sewer, every one of them, Mr. Schieber included, contributed to the fiscal challenges the school now faces. He has proven that his priorities are confused and he hasn't got the stomach for the hard choices.

Platte County needs someone who will take time to research the facts, rather than rubber stamp whatever the administration puts in front of him. We've had enough of that already with Jason Brown.

Mr. Schieber's track record on the PHSD board of education makes it very clear: he's Jason Brown II and he is not the person we need.

--Sue Lange
Platte County

 


There is an agenda behind the green mask

2/19/14

EDITOR:

Have you heard of the United Nations (UN) Agenda for the 21st Century or Agenda 21? You probably have not. That term is purposely not used in the United States. You may be more familiar with terms like Sustainable Development or Smart Growth. It is important that every patriot understand this global plan that is being implemented locally across our nation and the consequences for our liberty and freedoms. This is not a partisan issue and we will all feel its impact. It is time to expose what is behind the “green mask.”

Background. In 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro UN Earth Summit, the U.S. and 178 other nations signed onto the action plan to implement sustainable development across the globe. The UN called it Agenda 21. The chairman of the summit is quoted as saying the current lifestyles of the affluent middle-class that involve high meat intakes, use of fossil fuels, appliances, home and work-place air conditioning, and suburban housing are not sustainable. The plan also cites the affluence of Americans as being a major problem which needs to be corrected. It calls for lowering the standard of living for Americans so people in poorer countries have more. In 1993, the plan began implementation in the U.S. by the President's Council on Sustainable Development. By 2002, a legislative guidebook was written which defines the blueprint for every city, county, and state to implement Agenda 21 in America.

Purpose. Although dissenters can be expected to be labeled conspiracy theorists, the purpose of Agenda 21 (Smart Growth) is quite simple: control. The ultimate goal is to move people out of the suburbs and rural areas and into the cities or so-called islands of human habitation. This opens up the rural areas to become wilderness, wetlands, etc. Smart Growth has three pillars: environment, equity, and economy, in that order. The environment or ecology is listed first because it drives Agenda 21.

From the agenda's perspective, human population and private property ownership are a blight on the earth. These factors drive climate change, consume scarce natural resources, and tend to concentrate wealth among the very few. As a result, a “balance” between man and the earth must be achieved. The economy is considered last because it is the least restraining factor when it comes to “saving the planet.”

Finally, equity or social equity is a redistribution of wealth from the rich nations or people to the poorer nations or people. All of this is implemented for the common good to advance social justice. The rights of the individual are sacrificed for the rights of the community or collective. Heard that term before?

How. Across the nation, in large cities and small towns, identical programs are being rolled out. Land use restrictions (eminent domain), ordinances reducing energy use, smart meters, school programs, and candidate training are designed and implemented without your vote. You may be invited to city visioning meetings, but the outcome is decided before you ever enter the room. Your taxes at the federal, state, and local level are supporting this. This dramatic revolution in private property rights will extend into every facet of our lives: education, energy, food, housing, and transportation.

Follow the money. This rescue mission for planet earth carries a huge price tag. Besides being subsidized by our property taxes, your state and county may only receive federal transportation and housing dollars if they agree to Smart Growth initiatives. Sustainable redevelopment programs will steal property tax dollars. Public-private partnerships will emerge and redevelopment corporations will make billions of dollars from government-mandated Smart Growth projects. The model is to think globally, plan regionally, and act locally. For example, Platte County is already a member of the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) made up of 9 counties and 119 cites with a vision for “creating sustainable places.”

Do your own internet research on this topic. This is not a conspiracy theory; it is a conspiracy fact. What is going on in your community? Attend local county and school meetings; get involved. Tell our politicians we don't want Agenda 21 in Missouri. Your ears should perk up when you hear code words like: sustainable, vibrant, connected, green, bikable, walkable, wildlands, regionalization, climate change, Common Core, balancing, mixed use, mass transit, smart meters, visioning meetings, blight, sprawl, and eminent domain.

Be forewarned, there is an agenda behind the green mask. A great web site, believe it or not, for information is: www.DemocratsAgainstUNAgenda21.com

--Mike Stark
Platte City

 


Chapel Ridge lawsuit irrelevant

2/19/14

EDITOR:

Jason Brown and his surrogate(s) are in the local papers declaring that his Chapel Ridge vote was not "for sale!" This isn't the first time such declarations from Mr. Brown have been necessary.

In 2012, Jason Brown voted to give the lucrative community centers expansion project to JE Dunn, even though there were several lower bids (for construction management services). The county acknowledged that they received 10 bids for the project and all were quality bids. JE Dunn's bid was $350,000 over the low bidder—almost 40% higher.

After questions arose regarding the bid, Brown was forced to acknowledge in the press that he had been placed on the Dunn payroll for two 6-month stints including the six months he was campaigning for presiding commissioner. He stayed on their payroll until being sworn in as commissioner.

He was also forced to acknowledge that Dunn had hosted a fundraiser for him and given contributions to his campaign.

Chapel Ridge is not the only time Brown has put himself in the middle of an ethics controversy, it's merely the latest. The debate over what can be proven in court by the Chapel Ridge attorneys is irrelevant for Mr. Brown's political future, should he decide to seek re-election. His political future will be decided in the court of public opinion and Chapel Ridge was the last straw.

--Jon Miller
Kansas City
in Platte County

 


Left wages war on poor with minimum wage push

2/19/14

EDITOR:

The Road to Washington may be paved with good intentions, but good intentions don’t always translate into good policy. Just ask the millions of Americans who liked their health insurance plans, were told they could keep them under the Affordable Care Act, but recently found out they’ll be losing them. Ronald Reagan once said that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language” are “I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” Those words are as true today as they have ever been.

Our government’s tendency toward crushing kindness is a big reason why Americans should resist the push to raise the minimum wage. We’re often told our collective compassion compels us to increase it, and on the surface, the idea sort of sounds good. No one gets rich with a minimum wage job, and we all want to help one another. But increases to the minimum wage do not help the poor as some might think.

First, most minimum wage earners don’t actually live in poverty. Two-thirds of minimum wage earners come from households making at or above 150 percent of the poverty line – in other words, they’re not technically considered poor – and just more than half of minimum wage earners are 25 years of age or younger. And more than 60 percent of those young people are still in school.

Second, the number of people paid the minimum is not especially high. Today, less than five percent of hourly workers are paid the minimum. Among all U.S. workers, minimum wage employees constitute just three percent of the American workforce. Not only are relatively few people being paid the minimum technically in poverty; relatively few people are being paid the minimum at all.

Moreover, the general consensus among economists is that minimum wage hikes are ineffective at fighting poverty. Christina Romer, who led President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, openly conceded in the New York Times last year that there were questions about “whether a higher minimum wage will achieve better outcomes for the economy and reduce poverty.” Romer even panned the idea that a hike in the minimum wage would be a sort of economic “stimulus.”

The problems don’t end there. Consider that even the most stalwart minimum wage advocates aren’t trying to raise the wage to $150 per hour, or $100, or $75.

Why? Because proponents know that as they force the cost of labor up increment by increment, the cash that businesses have to pay for labor will remain about the same – forcing employers to raise prices for consumers, cut back on the number of people the company employs and the hours they work, or some combination of the two.

The awful truth embedded in this fight, which is rarely mentioned, is that there will be collateral damage among the low-skilled and the poor as a consequence of these wrong-headed policies.

How many jobs are boosters willing to destroy in their quest to increase the minimum wage? What level of government-imposed suffering is acceptable to them?

Human compassion compels us to promote policies that support job creation, not policies that undercut it. The problem of poverty in this country would be best addressed by making jobs more available — not making jobs more scarce.

And I could compare today’s $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage to past levels – I could remind proponents that the first federal minimum wage instituted in 1938 was the equivalent of $4.07 today, and that the inflation-adjusted average since is actually below the current wage – but that’s not even close to the best argument against their plans.

A minimum wage hike is a bad idea because it hurts the very people we should be helping. Isn’t that reason enough to oppose it?

--Patrick J. Ishmael
Policy Analyst
The Show-Me Institute

 


Enrollment projections need to be continually updated

2/5/14

EDITOR:

This letter is in response to Mr. Holden's "letter to the editor" printed on January 29.

While we are happy to provide a response for The Landmark as requested, we have no intentions of making it common practice to speak with a patron through the local media. We welcome patrons to contact district leadership with questions and/or concerns. We have policies and procedures in place to assure patrons are able to seek answers to their questions. We take great pride in serving the public and look forward to speaking with caring community members.

The general assertion in the Jan. 29 letter suggests information is being manipulated and/or withheld by district leadership in an attempt to fool members of the public. In reality, the public has been routinely presented with the most current and best information available to the district. The Citizens Advisory Committee is no exception. The enrollment projections shared with the committee were the most current available and provided the CAC with part of the necessary information to consider growth management options.

Enrollment projections will need to be continually updated for our foreseeable future because the useful life of such a study is relatively short due to our rapid growth and perpetually changing factors such as the state of the economy and housing market trends. Whether considering the projections in 2010 or 2013, the implications are relatively consistent: continued growth and overcrowding. To focus on differences in the two studies that will naturally vary over time, would be to focus on the wrong information which could prove costly to our students and our taxpayers. We encourage you to contact members of the CAC to determine their opinion of our integrity and if their opinion has changed due to the presence of an updated study. In the interim, here are a few more points to consider:

•Our reported capacity numbers did, in fact, change after determining a scientific method was needed to calculate and report capacity. Prior to this, district leadership used numbers that were provided by past administrations. It should be noted, that through this process some buildings increased capacity and some decreased capacity. Overall, net capacity increased as a result of this process……hardly an effective strategy for overstating need. More importantly, we know how our buildings are being used and that, above all, tells us that overcrowding must be addressed.

•Growth and capacity, which appear on the surface to be substantially more concerning at Barry and Pathfinder, can be misleading if you ignore our community created Long Range Plan. The LRP calls for the closure of Rising Star and the eventual annexation of Paxton School by PCHS which removes space for almost 600 students at the elementary level. Consequently, capacity is concerning at both ends of the district at the elementary level if we intend on addressing overcrowding at PCHS in the coming years. You may also recall that a boundary line study is intended to follow an election to maximize the use of all facilities. Our Long Range Plan was created by community members from North and South and is designed to take care of all kids throughout the district.

In closing, we welcome questions regarding information we share with the public and rationale for strategic decisions. We are more than prepared to field such inquiries and would consider the opportunity a gift. Simply put, if ignoring growth and overcrowding was a viable strategy we would gladly share this good news with the public. Unfortunately, this would only cost taxpayers more and prove detrimental to our students.

Respectfully submitted.

--Dr. Michael Reik, Superintendent
--Gary Brown, Board of Education
and Citizens Advisory Committee


Platte County R-3 School's growth projections have lowered significantly

1/29/14

EDITOR:

Over the past two weeks the Platte County R-3 Board of Education has emailed and published an open letter to the patrons of PCR-3 School District on why they are waiting another year to ask us for a levy increase.

First, I was a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) that is mentioned in the board’s letter and mentioned so many times by the board and Dr. Mike Reik.

I want to point out the 16-member committee was given the "old" 2010 enrollment study numbers to work with. This would not be a big deal, but the difference between the high numbers in this study compared to the low numbers of the 2013 study just completed are around 1200 students lower.

That's right, 1200 or about 50 classrooms lower by 2018.

We (the CAC members) were not told a new study was being done or that the current numbers were much lower than the projections we were working with.

This year according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website, the five schools located in the Platte City area had a total growth of 1 (one) student, while the southern two schools increased by 52.

Barry and Pathfinder Schools need help now. Instead you have a "natatorium" (swimming pool) at a cost of over $1.3 million and $25,000 per year while those kids are in trailers. The study we were given showed growth of 150 to 200 students.

One other thing that seemed out of line was the capacity numbers we were given in the CAC for each school. The information presented to the CAC and the board by administration showed lower capacity numbers than what was listed in the studies.

Rising Star Elementary has had more than 200 students several years in the mid 2000's. It is currently down to 166 students, but the capacity given to us for Rising Star was 175. Why? Other information from the district shows its total capacity of 184 and 189.

The CAC was given a maximum student capacity at Siegrist of 550 but in the current study it is 596. Paxton was off by 15, Barry School numbers given to us were 71 lower.

Of the seven schools looked at, two were the same with only Paxton being higher in capacity as to what was given to us to make our decision on how the district should proceed with its growth.

Why would PCR3 administration want to show lower school capacity numbers to the group of people trying to decide for the community if we should try to fund a new school or not? We should have had the most up to date numbers. Things that make you say hmm.

Remember, the CAC presentation to the board and the new study were done just months apart.

Please do not continue to push the CAC findings off on us anymore. I was in the group of 15 and we were dealing with flawed enrollment information, the most important information I needed to base my recommendations on how to handle growth.

One last thing I found humorous was the statement in the letter from the board that "Overwhelmingly, patrons are generally supportive of expanding our facilities" then listing support from a recent survey at 59% (+ or - 5%). The same survey was done before the last election and showed support at 54% (+ or -5%). Then the levy was defeated 56 to 44%. So much for slanted surveys paid for by the taxpayers.

Here is an excerpt from the most current survey:

“In looking back at the 2011 study, $114 a year was the lowest of the three tax levels presented then, whereas it is the highest this year. In 2011, the results were 54% combined “strongly favor/favor.” This means that the results this year – for this tax level – are statistically identical to the results in 2011.)” --Patron Insight 2013 Fall Survey.

The lack of student growth in the northern part of the county along with this comment from the most recent survey most likely shows the real reason we will not see a proposed levy until 2015.

Get ready for lots of marketing this year from the district on anything done in the water. Documentation is included with this letter showing all of the information above.

---Kirby Holden
Platte County

 


Common Core means a federal takeover of schools

1/29/14

EDITOR:

A few months ago I submitted a letter to the editor concerning Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Since then, I attended two local presentations, both presented by educators with multiple advanced degrees, one a PhD. Each have heightened my concerns. Although its proponents will swear the states had input developing the standards, this is completely untrue. As a matter of fact, when Governor Nixon unilaterally agreed to accept federal funding in June 2009, standards were not even developed. The Missouri Board of Education had no review or input. Under a Missouri revised statute (160.514.2), the law states that teachers shall be used to develop standards. It did not happen.

This should be of concern to students, parents, teachers and administrators alike. Our CCSS English and math standards were developed by the Federal Department of Education and the National Governor's Association in cohort with progressive private organizations like Achieve, with lots of funding from familiar personalities like Bill Gates. Most of the states “sold their souls” to get millions of dollars in Race to the Top stimulus money and signed contracts to adopt Common Core standards sight-unseen. Now, many states and their legislatures are having second thoughts.

What are some of the real dangers of CCSS? First, it violates our state Constitution by removing local control of education. CCSS is wrongly named. It should be called: Common Core Nationalized Standards. In actuality, it begins a federal take-over of our school systems. Second, it permits non-educators to politicize our education system. As the science and social studies components are added to the reading and math modules, you can probably guess what agendas will be included. I assure you from what we have seen so far, it will not have a conservative leaning or world-view. Third, there will be a massive student information collection and tracking effort fed into a national-level database.

Follow the money. Many of the major supporters of CCSS will make billions of dollars implementing the program by selling new books and computers to every child. In addition, the database can be shared with chosen corporations and agencies that benefit from knowing a person's habits, emotions, opinions, educational potential, family history, etc. It will even keep record of a student's disciplinary actions. All of this data will be tracked “cradle to career.”

I closed my first letter to the editor by stating I fear the government is trying to teach our children what to think and not how to think. I can now add another caveat to the CCSS morass. CCSS is not designed to produce a nation of thinkers; it is designed to produce a nation of workers. Does this scare you? It should.

Please start your own internet research on this topic. Attend local meetings and seminars. Inform your school board members. Many other Common Core consequences require exploration: lowering standards, cost, testing, technology replacing teachers, the impact on private schools and home schooling, etc. Get informed and don't believe all the spin you hear from the government. It is time for voters in Missouri to register their disapproval to state representatives, senators, and the governor. Missouri legislators are beginning to take notice. For our children and our state, we should all want Missouri out of Common Core.

--Mike Stark
Platte City

 


Park Hill patrons: Don't let sentiment cloud your judgment on levy question

1/24/14

EDITOR:

Good schools serve as a pillar of any community, and great teachers touch our kids' lives in amazing ways. But school districts are government agencies, and without an active and vigilant electorate, they are prone to misdirected and wasteful spending. As parents and taxpayers, it is important not to let sentiment and positive regard cloud our judgment or deter our oversight.

For example, the Park Hill School District spent nearly a half million dollars on a canopy to cover the bleachers in the soccer stadium at the same time that they were fundraising in the community to pay for Smart Start, a summer program designed to help remediate struggling learners. Sadly, kids' learning is the very mission of the district and should have been the moral imperative and spending priority.

The Park Hill central office administration and school board have been working for months to determine the best time to “hit up” voters for a tax increase. They say without millions of new tax dollars, they simply can't prepare our children for the future.
In reality, they've spent millions in taxpayer funds on technology infrastructure and new devices in recent months. A review of school board approval and spending records reveals the following expenditures in just the last year:

·$220,000—wireless infrastructure improvements (January, 2013)

·$100,000—new electronic employee management system (April, 2013)

·$552,000—new technology department office construction and upgrades (May, 2013)

·$306,000—561 new desktop computers (May, 2013)

·$59,000—two new vehicles for use by district technicians (May, 2013)

These costs don't include the tens of thousands of dollars spent to fly district staff around the country for professional development or other “soft costs” (e.g., salaries, classroom leave, substitute pay) associated with teacher training for various technology initiatives. Nor do these reflect the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to create new instructional and support staff positions focused on technology usage in the district this past year. In short, Park Hill is gearing up to spend millions more in taxpayer dollars, and they are counting on the trust and generosity of a community who has rarely said “no” when asked for money.

We all want to support our children and our schools. But being a good parent sometimes means doing the right but difficult thing—and the same is true of a good taxpayer. Overindulgence and entitlement are unattractive and unhealthy, in kids and in government. It is time to kindly but firmly say “no” in April to a Park Hill tax increase.

--Jim Dunn
Former teacher and
school administrator

 


Editor 'sounds like a liberal'

1/24/14

EDITOR:

I read your Twitter post about how we need more Qwik Trips and lots of rooftops (such as Chapel Ridge) because Parkville is in deep trouble financially. Your line of reasoning escapes me.

We here in the county did NOT run up Parkville's debt. We here in the county did not benefit from Parkville's expenditures that got them into so much debt. We owe Parkville nothing, and certainly should not have to forfeit years of savings invested into large lot housing so we could escape the city, only to have the city forced on us to fix Parkville's budgetary problems.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility, the buzz-word-phrase of the Tea Party that you champion? How do you figure that persons who did not run up the debt (and can't vote in Parkville, thus had no say) should suffer loss in order to free those who did?

I've seen you say and do a lot of noble things. Your steadfast support for Jason Brown when he's clearly in the wrong with regard to Chapel Ridge is admirable as a friend even though misguided as a journalist.

But the idea that county residents should bail out Parkville because her citizens failed to keep check on their duly elected leaders? With all due respect, you're starting to sound like a liberal there, Ivan, and hypocrisy is unbecoming of you.

--Sue Lange
Platte County

EDITOR’S NOTE: I admire Ms. Lange’s spunk but question her reading comprehension. Ms. Lange is arguing against a position that was never taken nor implied. Judge for yourself. The Jan. 16 posts dealing with Parkville’s financial future are still available for public viewing at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. The posts are free market observations and do not state nor imply anyone should ‘bail out’ Parkville from the Neighborhood Improvement Debt it faces. Thanks for reading.

 


New legislative session begins

1/24/14

EDITOR:

The 2014 legislative session began on Jan. 8. It was mostly a day of formalities, but before the week ended several bills were referred to committee and now the real work can begin for the second regular session of the 97th General Assembly.

While January marks the start of a new year, it also marks the beginning of our task to craft and pass legislation that protects citizens and prepares Missouri for the 21st century. Approximately 500 bills already have been filed by the House of Representatives and Senate. If history is an indicator, nearly 2,000 bills will be filed by springtime and most will fall to the wayside when the session ends in May.

This year I have several priorities. Reforming certain tax credits that annually wreak havoc on the state budget is near the top of my list. As senators have sought tax credit reforms for several years in a row, this year may see a break in the logjam with the help of Missouri’s governor. Also related to tax policy, the General Assembly plans to revisit legislation that would provide a modest cut to the state income tax. I intend to support such a measure.

As the state unemployment rate steadily goes down, Missouri’s tax revenues will be up this year. Many special interests will be anxious to spend those tax dollars. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will work closely with legislators and staff to monitor the spending of what is expected to be hundreds of millions of new dollars in the state budget. I don’t want a single dollar misspent.

As a physician, I take seriously the ongoing challenge of ensuring quality health services are available in Northwest Missouri and throughout the state. I’m currently working with representatives in the House to jointly propose a healthcare package intended to remove barriers to the free market, while reducing the role of government at the same time. I’m convinced we can lower the costs of healthcare if we can get government and special interest groups out of the way. My hope is that the Legislature will come to a consensus on what is best to reduce medical costs.

If you have any questions about the upcoming session, you can visit the Missouri Senate website (www.senate.mo.gov), where you can review legislation, keep track of important dates, and review hearing schedules for Senate and House committees. If I can be of assistance or can answer any questions, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-2183.

–State Sen. Rob Schaaf
District 34

 


Park Hill should 'suck it up'

1/17/14

EDITOR:

The Park Hill School District is at it again - asking for more money after spending $500,000 for a soccer stadium canopy, so spectators would not get hit by errant foul balls from the baseball field.

I've been denied a pay increase for the 5th time in 6 years, because I'm a public servant and times are tough. I don't have the spare change the Park Hill Schools want - suck it up and absorb it in your budget.

They should have been forced to choose between this and the stupid soccer stadium canopy, and we'd see the importance of this newest idea. Quoting this from an email sent out by the district:

“The ballot will ask voters for authorization to increase the levy by 32 cents, but the board plans to only take half of that amount from 2014-2016. Because we are implementing FLiP slowly over several years, the district will not need the full amount right away, and the Board has a history of only taking what we need and no more. Park Hill's levy is lower than most other districts in the area, ranking 11 out of 12. For the owner of a $200,000 house, this will mean an increase of $61 a year for the first two years, or $5 a month. After that, it could mean up to $122 a year, or $10 a month.”

--Richard Ford
Kansas City in
Platte County

 


Others deserve tax relief that was offered Boeing

1/8/14

EDITOR:

Missouri lawmakers have returned to Jefferson City this month with a jam-packed agenda in tow. One issue that has the potential to dominate all the others in 2014 is the issue that dominated 2013 – tax relief.

That fact came into sharp focus over the last month. Just weeks before Christmas, the Missouri Legislature decided to play Santa to Boeing with nearly $2 billion in tax incentives – that is, your money – to attract about 8,000 jobs. The state’s plan didn’t work; Boeing decided to manufacture its 777X in Washington as planned, rather than bring those jobs here to Missouri. Throughout this process, the Show-Me Institute heavily criticized the push to deliver special tax benefits to a single, powerful company.
But the legislature’s quixotic quest for the Boeing project has produced something remarkable: it has put practically every legislator in the state, including many who opposed last year’s tax cut, on the record as supporting a tax cut as a way to boost growth.

If the Missouri House can vote 127 to 20 for a handout for one company, shouldn’t those 127 legislators support tax relief for the rest of Missouri’s entrepreneurs? If not, what makes Boeing more deserving of tax relief than the family businesses in our communities? Expect those questions to be answered in the coming months.

--Patrick Ishmael
Policy Analyst
Show-Me Institute

For earlier letters to the editor, click here


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Earlier Letters to the Editor