Trade is a job creator, not a job killer
Congress will soon vote on the United States' updated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
This much-needed update, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, will create jobs, open up new markets for U.S. businesses, and strengthen ties with two of America's most important allies.
Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer are both smart legislators. They know the path to victory in 2020 runs through moderate districts. In the recent midterm elections, my party flipped 40 House seats in Republican strongholds like Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma by promising policies that tangibly improve the lives of middle-class Americans.
USMCA is one such policy. Public support for the trade agreement has increased significantly since U.S., Canadian, and Mexican leaders finalized it last year. A new survey found Americans favor ratification of USMCA by a 4-to-1 margin.
The deal promotes a fair, rules-based trade environment that would help
American workers flourish.
Consider how the pact would help farmers. USMCA eliminates some of the barriers that prevent American farmers from selling poultry, eggs, and dairy products in Canada. American farms already employ almost 3 million people. That number will grow if Congress ratifies the agreement and enables farmers to export more food to our northern neighbors.
Or consider how USMCA would boost wages for workers in the auto industry, which supports over 7 million U.S. jobs. To receive duty-free treatment under USMCA, 75 percent of a vehicle's value must originate in North America, up from the current 62.5-percent requirement under NAFTA. This change would create more jobs at auto-parts suppliers.
USMCA also requires nearly half of all car parts to be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. That provision would ensure American manufacturing workers earn strong wages.
This deal has the strongest labor provisions of any U.S. trade agreement in history. It requires all three countries to protect labor rights recognized by the
International Labor Organization. It also makes it easier for Mexican workers to form unions and collectively bargain. That'll help American workers by raising wages and benefits in Mexico -- thereby making it less attractive for U.S. companies to shift production and operations to our southern neighbor.
And USMCA would make it easier for America's 30 million small businesses to access the Canadian and Mexican markets. The deal reduces the regulatory and tax burden on certain American exports. For small e-commerce firms in particular, this could have a transformative effect on their business.
USMCA will support the growth of current and future U.S. industries. Ratifying the pact would show voters across the country that Democrats prioritize the needs of hardworking Americans. That message will resonate come 2020.
What about books with opposing views?
Just reading your Between the Lines column (May 22 issue entitled DISAGREEMENT AMONG PUBLIC SERVANTS IS NOT A BAD THING) and
particularly the part about the Mid-Continent Library Board action.
It seems that any opposing viewpoint can get a board member kicked off the board (and maybe even put into stocks like in medieval days).
Does this also apply to the books in the libraries? Will the board be removing all books that happen to oppose their views?
Native Platte Countian
Newspapers and their value
Back in the day, as they say, the local one-sheeter newspaper was the lifeblood of a community, large or small. During war years, stories from around the world were wired in to noisy presses in news offices clad in the heady, nostalgic scent of printers’ ink.
In the 50s and 60s in Nebraska, I could read in my hometown newspaper that Natchel Rzeszotarski got stung by bumblebees while fixing fence in the north forty. Editors recognized the significant responsibility of trust the township placed in getting the news ---big news and not so big.
Publishers have to be accountable to their readership for investigation and accuracy. They know citizens will be calling them out for failing the truth.
Reporters have access to newsmakers that we do not. Newspapers can demand transparency in government as reporters probe for truth-in-
governing. Editors are responsible for their content; for assuring the stuff that gets published is worthy of the printed page.
Today, we’re letting some of our small-town newspapers languish in red ink, opting to find out what’s going on in the city and in the world around us through snippets and sound bites and breaking news on 6 o’clock television broadcasts. We count on Facebook to learn what’s going on in our communities. We’re bombarded with nefarious and vague reports of un-truths, half-truths, fake-truths and “truthy-truths” when we naively bite at the click-bait of various social media hacks.
The Kansas City Star is struggling. The bundle of pages in the dew-covered plastic bag at the end of the driveway is getting smaller and smaller. The Star begs its readers to subscribe on-line. But if most of us do that, what happens to the jobs that produce a ‘paper-paper?’ Can the 4 a.m. newspaper delivery guy drop off a couple
quarts of milk instead?
Now for the good news: Congratulations to The Landmark, Ivan Foley and his team for 154 years of uninterrupted service to Platte County in this challenging publishing environment. The editor, advertisers and a county full of readers have kept this newspaper thriving as it delivers local human-interest stories and critical government news that we won’t find sandwiched between “Judge Judy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
Even if we don’t have time to read the hometown weekly page by page, our citizens’ responsibility to subscribe can at least be an insurance investment that our critical newspapers will survive.
Again, hats off and high fives to The Landmark.
Weston street issues need addressed
Since the City of Weston has new leadership, I have some advice and most of the folks in Weston will agree. The elected officials of Weston own it to themselves and the city citizens to take a trip out Middle Road to the city property line, turn around and come back to Weston. When city streets get in this condition, there is absolutely no excuse for it and this city responsibility is
This situation is not about city workers; it is entirely about city elected officials.
While the city is addressing this ongoing issue, someone in city management can call the highway department and have it address the entrance to Bless Park which is also a joke and the highway department's responsibility.
Neglect is never a good policy, nor is trying to avoid bridge issues, which is not a
good campaign add.
The city workers do a very good job; most of the issues come from elected officials giving the appearance of not knowing where the problems are or not reacting to the problems.
Restoring Parkville's parks after flood
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a letter from Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston to citizens of Parkville)
On March 23, the Missouri River crested at its highest level since the Great Flood of 1993. The river flooded English Landing and Platte Landing parks and the water remained in the park for several days. City crews worked around the clock to assure the safety of our residents and businesses. While we are sad the flood damaged portions of the park, we are grateful that it spared businesses in downtown Parkville.
Our parks are designed for floods, and we know they will recover. We are also mindful that other areas outside of Parkville have seen much worse damage, including people losing their homes, businesses, and farms. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as they recover from this devastating disaster.
Our city crews have spent the past week assessing damaged areas and have begun the cleanup effort. Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and State Emergency Management
Agency toured the parks and are compiling a damage assessment, which will be used to make a request for federal disaster assistance. Such assistance will provide Parkville with the financial resources needed to help recover from the disaster. During the last major flooding event in 2011, the city was reimbursed for costs related to flood fighting, clean up, restoration of damaged facilities, and for new mitigation projects including the construction of the McAfee Street Bridge over White Alloe Creek.
While we are still assessing the damage and developing a plan of action, we do plan on opening portions of the park as soon as possible. We appreciate the patience of residents and ask they keep out of areas not yet cleared for their safety. Debris needs to be removed and some amenities such as benches and pavilions need to be cleaned of any river contaminants.
The dog park is badly damaged and the crushed stone on the trails has been washed away. We are examining options for temporary facilities for the dog park and the re-routing portions of the trails while damaged areas are being repaired. Areas where heavy silting occurred will require the
removal of truckloads of sandy deposits so that grass can be reestablished.
The city intends to commit the financial resources needed to restore the park as quickly as possible. We believe most of these costs will be reimbursed by FEMA. No funds from the recently approved parks sales tax will be used for park restoration. These funds are reserved for future improvements to the parks. We are also aware the river levels are forecast to remain elevated through the summer and will consider this when prioritizing areas for restoration.
I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from our residents and the generous offers to volunteer to help clean up the park. We will keep you posted on when this help is needed. The city’s parks are a jewel of the community and the volunteer spirit of our residents is a testament to the wonderful community we all are part of. I commit to you that the city will do its best to restore the park as soon as possible for the continued enjoyment of our residents.
Mayor of Parkville
Climate change deniers
I wonder why your commentator (Brian) Kubicki finds it necessary to use derogatory terms when it comes to talk about people who care about the environment in an otherwise very informative report? He calls them "enviro-whacko groups.” I can think of a number of negative descriptions for climate change deniers, but do not think it is helpful to apply them.
If Mr. Kubicki's predictions about the
use of coal come true, then the planet is in for a very rough ride, which will kill millions of people.
By the way, it is interesting a certain segment of the population denies the science behind climate change warnings, yet the very same people accept medical science going to doctors, rely on agro-chemical sciences when they use fertilizers and pesticides, defend bio-science in regards to genetically engineered plants and even animals, trust the physical sciences when they use airplanes and other modes of transportation etc.
Why this selectivity concerning the sciences? Could there be a different motive behind such distrust in climatology? Is it conservative political loyalty or is it the acknowledgment that we would have to change our economic system and way of life if much of that global warming is caused by man?
Why no term limits for the legislative branch?
Imagine: 80% of the people you work for disapprove of the job you're doing. A mere 20% think you're doing okay. Your CEO notices and becomes aghast. Your misbehavior and divisiveness create a hostile work environment, yet somehow, magically, you're not fired. Instead, you're rewarded with a six-figure salary, a quality pension, and the best health insurance plan money can buy. Boy oh boy, you've got it made! Game. Set. Match.
If you think I'm talking about a corporate fool or a buffoon who embodies The Peter Principle, which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence,” think again folks. I'm describing our Congress of the United States where apparently you can suck at your job and still keep it!
Yep! You heard that right. Congress's approval rating hovers at roughly 20% according to a recent Gallup Poll, and yet the rascals continue to get elected and re-elected.
Articles I and II of our Constitution provide guidelines for how long both the legislature and the presidency can remain in office, capping the term of the “leader of the free-world” at eight years. If the president can be shipped out of office after eight years, why not apply term limits to the legislative branch? There is historical precedent for Congressional term limits. In fact, from 1990 to 1995, 23 states imposed
term limits for both representatives and senators until the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in U.S. Term Limits, Inc v. Thorton.
Strict constructionists argue the Constitution is set in stone and need not be altered. “If it ain't broke don't fix it.” Others, however, view the Constitution as a living document that the Founders understood could and should be amended when appropriate. When it comes to term limits for Congress, I reckon it's time.
In a Gallup Poll from January 2013 – the most recent national survey on the subject that I could find – 75% of people said they would vote for a term-limits law if given the chance. That belief is not out of line with one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson.
While Jefferson did not attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when he reviewed Madison's notes on the Constitution he responded, “The feature I dislike, and greatly dislike, is the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office.”
Jefferson's words were spot-on then and they're spot-on today. According to the Congressional Research Service's Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2019, “the average tenure of Representatives has increased from approximately three years during the early 1880s to approximately nine years in the most recent Congress.” One thing is certain Houston, we have a problem: career
politicians. And let's be frank: career politicians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of staying in Washington well past their prime.
My dad taught me an early rule in life: Keep It Simple, Stupid. My proposal is just that - commonsensical.
Members of the House could serve a maximum five two-year terms, for ten years total, while Senators could serve a maximum of two six-year terms, for a total of twelve years.
This proposal makes elected officials truly responsible to their constituents. It emphasizes the necessity of pragmatic policymaking, it frees legislators to work for the people rather than dialing for campaign dollars, and it provides an avenue for fresh, new ideas to enter our democracy. Likewise, it could alleviate the cynicism in Washington that elected officials are bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists since their political careers will come to an end. In essence, term limits may very well “drain the swamp.”
Call me naïve, but I echo Jefferson's sentiment that “by throwing the rascals out from time to time, they will remind government that it exists to serve us—not the other way around.”
Missouri 6th Congressional
County commissioners want taxpayers to pay for their mistakes
Pot of Gold.
Every one of us should take note of the people and organizations opposing the half cent sales tax for the purpose of capital improvements to county property.
First, the EDC, the Economic Development Council would not support it by failing to garner a “second” to the motion of support. Next, the lead Democratic organization in Platte County urged a “NO” vote on the tax. Finally, the Platte County Republican Central Committee refused to take a stand saying, “let the voters decide.” That is a strong rebuke to a Republican Commission.
Face it, anyone who attended the “education” shows found they were attending the jail study presentation over and over. I attended the jail study program at the commission's meeting in January. I attended two of the road shows. I was expecting to hear how they planned to allocate and finance a $65 million pot of gold at the end of the cell-block rainbow.
But what we heard was another jail study presentation. The sheriff and his deputies gave a good presentation but, in each case, they were being used by this commission as a buffer to deflect the conversation away from the real question, “How are you going to finance this project?”
After 45 minutes at the Weston meeting and 58 minutes at the Platte City meeting covering projected jail needs, the commissioners begin to talk. We learn, after much coaxing that $19-20 million will be used for financing! How can that be?
And, to add tax on tax, the half cent park tax scheduled to expire in 2020, will be split, according to Commissioner Ron Schieber, and presented for approval in 2020 to fund staff and maintenance of the 380-400 bed facility with a vacant portion suitable for another 150 beds for future expansion! Taxes don't go away under this commission.
Earlier this year the commissioners, by their public statements and actions, managed to lower the county's credit rating to junk bond status. If you didn't know,
Zona Rosa was sold to a new management company. There was a shortfall in the bond payment and the county was expected to pay the difference. The county via the commissioners did not make the payment. There is ongoing litigation, the outcome of which will not be known until after the election.
It is almost a certainty that the “no new taxes” commissioners will not be in office when this pot of gold is being spent. That's unfortunate, I believe they are good people. With the vague objectives outlined by the current commissioners, a new commission would likely decide the fate of the pot of gold at the end of the cell-block rainbow.
And don't be swayed if you receive a glossy flyer in the mail featuring county officials urging a “yes” vote. The commission wants us to trust them. They have betrayed our trust and now want us, the taxpayers, to pay for their mistakes.
Vote NO on the jail tax.
County proposal is pot full of cash tax
For those wondering about the proposed “jail” sales tax, I urge you to carefully read the ballot language and understand the facts. I attended the Parkville forum on Saturday. Below is what I noted.
The presentation spoke about jail issues only and nothing regarding financing. In fact, not one commissioner presented. Not until the Q&A session was it revealed that the commission intends to use debt at some point and that $20+ million of the $65 million is for interest. The jail cost was stated at $41 million. Applying some simple math, $20 million for interest doesn't compute. The Q&A session noted that the current jail facility was financed in the 1990s with a five year sales tax.
We also learned that there are other capital needs such as roof repairs on existing facilities. Why was the presentation limited to the jail and other details excluded?
A second issue is the cost of operating this proposed expanded jail facility.
General funds currently are not sufficient to support the sheriff's staffing projections or the additional costs of operating an expanded jail system. Also needing attention are the current poor office accommodations of county prosecutors.
The commission then noted their intent to place on a future ballot a reallocation of the current half cent parks tax that expires in December 2020. A portion of the current parks tax is to be allocated to law enforcement with the remainder to parks. I.e., there is no plan for decreasing sales taxes.
A third issue is the ballot language, which reads in part: “…for the purpose of capital improvements, including without limitation the construction of a jail expansion and improvements to the existing jail and other county facilities.” There are three issues
here. First, use of the funds is not limited to a jail facility. Second, a future commission could be voted in and use the funds however they wish. Third, nothing in the ballot language requires funds to be set aside for future maintenance.
On a side note, it was stated that the current parks system and community centers require $2-3 million annual maintenance. This was never considered by previous commissions nor the parks board, even though concerns were voiced at various times. The parks board irresponsibly spent funds without considering future maintenance costs. I don't know if that was intentional or otherwise. The point is that voters are now being presented with a proposal to build a $41 million jail facility without a means of funding operations or maintenance, including maintenance of current facilities which appear to have been ignored for years. As I stated at the meeting, this is the cart is before the horse.
A fourth issue is the Garnos expert report. Apparently, there is an 80+ page report forthcoming that no one has seen. This is unacceptable as one of the conditions of expert work is the opposing expert's rebuttal of that detail report. The opposing experts in this case are you and me, the voters.
A fifth issue is the continued proliferation of sales taxes in local municipalities to fund improvements. Parks sales taxes; CID sales taxes; Kansas City's 2% food tax; and so on. This works when taxes have sunset clauses, but many don't, which means the total sales tax rate creeps upward.
Also noted by the sheriff were changes in court processes due to video technologies as well as the impact of state and federal rules. I have a concern with building a large facility assuming static conditions. While that is always risk, the current proposal is like building a mall with several anchor stores
and hoping for tenants. Is there an option is to build one anchor store at a time? Will court and process changes make it viable to consolidate operations with other jurisdictions?
Regarding other jurisdictions wanting Platte County to fund a jail hotel, has the commission sought financial guarantees from those jurisdictions? Why should Platte County residents be solely responsible for the total cost?
I can empathize with the sheriff and his situation, including the inability of the Missouri state legislature to fund public defenders, which seems to also be impacting current occupancy levels. But that doesn't mean Platte County residents should throw $65 million into a pot and hope that this and future commissions spend wisely. Further, the commission and the sheriff shouldn't ignore the sentencing rule changes soon coming into effect.
Back to the matter of getting the horse before the cart: I prefer the commission first get the public to properly fund operations and maintenance, including all existing facilities. They can then address future expansion with a more restrictive ballot proposal. If that means the sheriff has to continue juggling rooms and occupants and have prisoners sleep on cots or the floor or three to a room until this is resolved, so be it.
In less than six months, with no broad public input, and based on an expert's opinion and report that no one has seen, voters are asked to approve a “jail” tax. As worded, this is not a jail tax, it's a pot full of cash tax.
I appreciate the work these commissioners have done, but they can do better.
Vote No on this capital improvements sales tax.
County commission should slow down, stop digging
As a reader about Platte County and in particular about the commissioners comments on the current situation, I am baffled at this moment. I just read Between the Lines in The Landmark dated March 13, 2019 and immediately lots of questions came to my mind. And many of them are along the same lines that you express in your column.
As I think back to all of the news and discussions of the jail project, I just wonder “what is really behind the perceived need for more jail beds?” Before some people want to dump buckets of information on my head, I have already read all the public materials available on the jail capacity study (or maybe I should say “studies”). The info just doesn't make sense to me that more jail beds are needed.
But IF they are needed, aren't there options for providing jail beds besides a very expensive addition to the jail?
Oh and by the way, I have not read anything about the increased operating costs, including staffing, utilities, maintenance, etc.
Then along comes Kansas City with an urgent need to build more jail beds and seem to be promising to build them at much less cost than Platte County. How can they do that? Are the construction costs in Platte County a lot higher ?
Then in your column you mention a discussion with a couple of commissioners that include a discussion of Zona Rose bonds. I realize that the failure to make a payment on the bonds is an issue and has a resulting impact on issuing bonds for a new jail, but it seems to me that the commissioners are just overwhelmed with these issues. Perhaps they should slow down, deal with each issue in a rational manner, and as it is often said when faced with too many problems, just “Stop Digging.”
Just a lot of questions in my mind.
Platte County Native
Creekside will move Parkville forward
There has been much discussion regarding the Creekside Development Project, and we would like to set the record straight.
The development is founded on a smart, thoughtful and comprehensive master plan put forth by the city of Parkville in 2009, and this development meets every element of that plan.
We, of course, understand there will be differing viewpoints and opinions regarding our development. And those critics are certainly within their right to voice those opinions. However, we feel compelled to ensure the facts and overarching benefits are understood by all residents – accurately and comprehensively:
1. The Finances – Parkville Will Benefit Greatly:
· There are no upfront costs to the city or other taxing jurisdictions, and no city-backed bonds will be issued.
· We, the developers, are investing more than $300 million in Parkville's future. We are taking the risk, not the city or its taxpayers.
· The city currently pays a $430,000 annual obligation for Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) bonds on this land. In the mid 2000s, the city installed infrastructure, including sewers and pump stations, in anticipation of a planned development. When that development fell through, the city was left with the bill. The Creekside Development will eliminate this $430,000 annual burden on the city.
· Park Hill schools will receive a net benefit of over $4 million for the incentive investment in the development.
· The city of Parkville and Platte County will each receive more than $550,000 ($1.1 million total) in new sales tax revenues annually.
· All in all, the city and other local taxing
jurisdictions will receive more than $6.9 million annually in property, sales and hotel occupancy taxes after the TIF term.
· Parkville taxpayers will be relieved of debt burden from Brush Creek and Brink Meyer NID bond payments, including saving $315,000 in annual transfers from the General Fund.
· These funds can then be used for capital improvements in Parkville, maintaining an Emergency Reserve Fund balance, and no extension of the temporary tax levy will be required from 2024 to 2034. Property taxes to Parkville citizens will be reduced when current 2004 COP debt is retired.
2. The Opportunities – Parkville and Surrounding Residents Will Benefit:
· More than 4,000 construction job years will be created. Job years equate to the number of jobs created multiplied by the number of years the jobs will remain active.
· More than 750 permanent jobs will be created. Both of these job creation numbers are very positive numbers for our community.
· Vacant land will be transformed into a vibrant mixed-use development, generating tax revenues where none existed before.
3. The Amenities – Breathing New Life Into Our Great City:
· A tournament-quality youth baseball facility will call Parkville home and will bring visitors with disposable income into our city to stay and spend at our local restaurants and shops.
· Reputable hotel brands (not motels, as some have falsely stated) will call Parkville home.
· Market-rate multifamily apartments and affordable single-family homes will help stabilize our community and bring new residents and young families into our city. In fact, with single-family homes around $300,000, we are setting the lowest starting price point in Platte County.
Let's talk incentives. We are pursuing and leveraging four distinct incentives – TIF (Tax Increment Financing), CID (Community Improvement District), TDD (Transportation Development District) and Chapter 100 Bonds. A project of this size and scale in Parkville cannot come to life without them.
The incentives we are pursuing are lower than what other developments have asked for and received around Parkville. For example, 50 percent of property taxes will be used for eligible reimbursable project costs for the first 10 years, increasing to 65 percent in years 11 to 17, then 75 percent for the final five years. Most other projects ask for 100 percent out of the gate.
We have worked very closely with the Park Hill School District and other taxing jurisdictions to ensure all parties' best interests are being met. Making only 50 percent of the property taxes eligible as reimbursable project costs over the first 10 years will allow these districts to have the funds to continue providing their excellent services to our community.
This project will move Parkville forward. The facts are clear and the benefits are real. Mayor Nan Johnston and the board of aldermen are entrusted with ensuring Parkville continues to move forward. As stewards of the city's master plan developed in 2009, they have an obligation to bring this vision to life. The Creekside Development meets or exceeds every aspect of that plan.
Please visit ParkvilleForward.com to learn more about the development and how it will set the community on a positive path forward for all of us, for generations to come.
We are not outsiders. We live here too, and we love Parkville as much as you do.
Together, we will move Parkville forward.
Global warming is all about control
Several weeks ago, in The Landmark, I read a letter to the editor that attempted to make a case for what liberals now call climate change, formally known as global warming. All across this country, in school districts and universities, our children receive indoctrination on the perils of climate. Many simply assume it is scientific fact. I disagree. Since the climate does change, I still prefer to use the original term: global warming. For me, this term is the foundation of a political agenda designed to control our lives.
Enter the Green New Deal at a cost between $52 and $94 trillion dollars over 10 years (Hot Air, Feb. 26, 2019). Does anyone proposing these policies have any idea how big a trillion is? Well, I do. Here is the easy math: there are one trillion seconds in 32,000 + years of time. Once the average person understands this cost, how could any reasonable person vote for a politician that
wants to spend on this level? Your average confused Democrat will say: tax the rich. Today, the top 1% of income earners pay 38% of all federal income taxes collected. That’s significant. Just for grins, the bottom 50% of income earners pay only 3% of all federal income taxes collected. The rich already pay their fair share.
In order to achieve these lofty progressive goals, there is a dirty little secret: you could never tax the rich enough; there are not enough of them. The only way to implement such costly programs is to tax the middle class. The middle class will be the primary bill-payer.
Back to global warming. Global warming has nothing to do with temperatures. Global warming is all about control. All of these scary climate predictions are based on computer models programmed by university professors and scientists that clearly have a progressive agenda focused on proving their arguments and maintaining their lucrative grants at taxpayer expense. These models
typically predict 20 to 30 years or more into the future, so no one can really challenge their findings. They are fools to believe man can control the earth’s climate.
Man-made global warming is an utter lie. The climate is always changing and hence, temperatures change too. We have no control over the climate. Global warming policies and agendas like the Green New Deal are seductive ways for the government to infiltrate every aspect of our lives. We have an entire generation or more of young people being seduced by these lies and scare tactics. Yes, I am a climate denier. I prefer to worship the creator rather than the creation. I like this scripture in Genesis 8:22: While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
City of Parkville needs discipline, not new taxes
I moved to Parkville in 1994. It wasn't until after the 2004 election that I started following the city's affairs. In 2006, Alderman Brian Atkinson and I exposed the city's incompetence in running the Riss Lake grinder pump system. Soon thereafter, I investigated the new city hall and the related COPs, which were never discussed when the city promoted the 2004 tax levy increase. Numerous financial missteps have followed, the latest being an attempt to impose on residents a new parks sales tax.
Note: COPs (certificates of participation) are in fact debt disguised as a sale and year to year leaseback of assets through an obscure interpretation of Missouri statutes. This deceptive form of financing is used to circumvent the Missouri constitutional requirement of a 4/7 voter approval to issue debt. Anyone wondering why the rating agency analysts are screaming about the Zona Rosa COP debt only need understand that those same analysts told the buyers of that debt that there was virtually no risk of nonpayment. There is in fact a lot of risk since repayment requires an annual budget allocation to cover up the scheme.
The city claims this new park tax revenue will be $500,000 annually, which implies no increase in sales. Therefore, the first lie is that the city predicts future resident and business growth, but no sales tax growth. This same ploy was used on Platte County voters almost 20 years ago. What started as county park tax revenues of $4+ million annually grew to $9+ million. Until recently, Platte County set aside not one dime for future maintenance. There is nothing in the city's website regarding funding future maintenance, which implies their intent to “kick the can.”
In the meantime, in looking at the master plan, something obvious is missing: adequate parking. They even eliminate some vital downtown parking. Simply brilliant!
The proposed parks tax will create another pot of money for the city to squander. Untold is that the city will have available $317,500 annually once they rid themselves of the NID debt related to The Meadows at Creekside development.
As long as the city took care of streets, police and basics, I have overlooked the minor mismanagement. But this group is now getting greedy. Those behind the scenes pushing for endless change don't care about your taxes or your costs. The best thing the rest of us can do it to treat them like children—limit the candy.
The current sales tax rate in the city's shopping areas ranges from 8.1% in downtown to 10.1% in Parkville Commons.
The park tax would add another .5%. (Don't forget the county wants to add another .5%.) Mayor Nan Johnston has stated in newly disclosed emails that there is a limit to how much people are willing to pay in sales tax. If sales taxes increase to 11.1%, people may shop elsewhere. Voters should compile the taxes paid to the city on utilities, phone lines, cell phones, property, etc. It is revealing.
The city has a history of spending mismanagement. Now they give new businesses tax breaks irrespective of how it impacts long standing local businesses. My favorite hardware store, P&G, just went out of business. Who's next?
In 2018, the city added a new 1% community improvement district (CID) tax in Parkville Commons to fund Highway 9 improvements. The parks tax would be on top of this. These CID funds are controlled by the city.
In 2017, city staff conducted a salary survey that showed staff salaries were below “averages” identified. The city raised staff salaries in 2018. Here's a better method for managing salaries: they are too low when staff starts walking out for higher pay elsewhere. Raising salaries because some “expert” says you should is a bureaucrat's way of bilking the public.
In 2016, the city began allocating an increasing amount of General Fund expenses to the Sewer Fund in order to siphon money into a contingency fund for the Brush Creek and Bring Meyer Road NID debt (below). The city hides behind a flawed elementary calculation created by its financial advisor.
In 2007, the city issued NID debt for Brush Creek and Brink Meyer Road (BCBM). When the economy imploded, the city kept spending and adding debt. The initial funding was $6,275,000, although there are indications the amount should have been much less, and ballooned to $9.5 million in 2014. Interest alone now exceeds $4.0 million. During this period, the city forced numerous property owners into loan default and took possession of the properties. Certain banks forfeited property. City officials, who couldn't manage something as simple as grinder pumps, were out of control on a multimillion dollar project.
This colossal management failure has hindered the city for over a decade. For years, the city lied, denied and mislead about the BCBM debt. It put the city into technical insolvency. Former city manager Lauren Palmer foolishly defended the city's position that this debt could be considered a contingent liability.
In 2014, panic set in as the city had no solution for the BCBM debt. They proposed
selling the sewer system to pay the debt. The sewer “business” is a cost recovery system with no future profits. The net present value of all future operations is zero. The city actually believed they could sell something with zero value to pay $9 million in debt. They even paid their financial advisor $13,500 to study this.
In 2004, voters approved a 20 year tax levy to fund $2.75 million for numerous projects. Those of us around then are still waiting on two of the city's promises: cleaning up the Mill Street corridor in downtown and quiet zone train horns. $310,000 was budgeted for Rush Creek erosion control (i.e., rocks on the banks)—the city spent $1.1 million. $1 million was budgeted for rehabbing the then city hall—the city instead spent $4.1 million to build a new city hall after issuing an additional $3.7 million of unapproved COP debt. In total, the city spent $6.4 million when voters approved only $2.75 million.
The city hall component was all a lie, but that's how this group operates. It doesn't take a financial genius to understand why they clamor for parks money. Further to the 2004 levy, the board has already discussed a 2024 “no tax increase” ballot item.
Instead of gouging current residents for more taxes while giving tax breaks to outsiders, the city could favorably impact both residents and visitors by installing quiet zone train horns. Downtown would likely experience a growth boom. But there is no money for this because they have squandered so much elsewhere.
Now, back to the $317,500 of contingency funds the city currently allocates from the General Fund to pay the BCBM debt on the proposed Meadows at Creekside development. Assuming this development, the city has a means for collecting assessments to pay the debt, which means $317,500 is available for parks.
The city doesn't need more taxes; it needs discipline; and to stop lying. Remind the mayor and aldermen of the unfulfilled promises from 2004 (two of them still hold office - Sportsman and Rittman). Ask why they keep piling up non-voter approved COP debt and avoiding voters. Ask why they use faulty accounting techniques to artificially inflate sewer rates. Ask why they lied and misled the public for years about the looming BCBM NID debt disaster.
Under proper guidance and stewardship, the city will have enough revenues for parks.
Parkville should vote No on Proposition P.
Vic Abundis to run against Sam Graves
Perhaps more than ever, America's economy is not working for all. While wealth is concentrated in the hands of very few, middle-class Americans wake up daily worried about how they're going to pay their bills.
As a public school teacher for fifteen years, I share their worries. I grew up believing in the American Dream, and I cherished its idealistic message. But under the burden of the 2008 housing crisis, I faced my toughest economic decision: continue the struggle to fight for my home, or have enough money to survive.
Owning property, whether a house or a farm, gives people a steadfast and powerful belief that they've reached the American Dream. Home ownership symbolizes our most significant values that our Founding Fathers prized—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We proudly proclaim to our children that owning a home is the best investment they will ever make.
Losing my home to foreclosure provided me with an eye-opening experience that left me bruised and humbled. What I learned is that three college degrees from highly regarded universities and a good paying job as a public school teacher in one of the best school districts in Missouri was not enough income to make ends meet. Good ole Sallie Mae was not going to let me off the hook for my student loan payments, so regrettably I had to let the home that I worked so hard to attain go into foreclosure.
I'm sure many citizens in Platte County and throughout the Missouri 6th Congressional District know what it's like to walk in my shoes. FDR once wrote, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide for those who have too little.” America at its best has always been a country that takes care of the least among us.
America at its best is a country that never passes to the other side when we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho because all lives matter.
That's why today I'm announcing my
candidacy for the 6th Congressional District of Missouri. I'm running to help make the economy the central issue in the 2020 election because as Americans we all value the dignity of work.
I'm running against Sam Graves as the Democratic nominee because I'm tired of representatives in Congress giving tax cuts to the wealthy and serving the interests of corporate lobbyists while the people across northern Missouri suffer economically. I'm running because I believe tariffs against China aren't helping Missouri farmers make enough money to support their families, but are rather hurting our rural economy and hindering job growth and investments in our rural communities. I'm running because I believe a person who lives on a teacher's salary has more in common with the folks of northern Missouri than an incumbent whose net worth is 3.5 million dollars.
For 18 years, Sam Graves has served in Congress. While 18 years gives anyone experience, 18 years also causes a man to lose the common touch of his constituents' needs leaving him incapable of understanding the problems Missouri families face every single day such as putting food on the table, paying the mortgage, and finding affordable healthcare for the young and elderly.
Eighteen years causes a man to make alliances with corporate PACs that helped him raise $1,695,130, for his last election, but it's hard to imagine the vales of corporate PACs align with the values of Missouri families in the 6th Congressional District.
Sam Graves has 18 years of experience in Washington DC, not in Missouri. He left the Show-Me State 18 years ago, and he's forgotten his roots while he spends quality time catering to corporate tycoons like Berkshire Hathaway and Northrop Grumman. He has plenty of dirt under his cleats when it comes to partisan politics and building relationships with corporate PACs, ultimately making him an expert at what the rank and file of his party wants, rather than what is good for the people of Missouri.
As a teacher, I've learned that you need to meet the needs of all students: honors
students and vocational tech students; children from high socioeconomic families and those families whose child is on a free or reduced lunch. Relationships matter. People matter. For 14 years, I've built relationships with students, teachers, and parents in Platte County because I believe all of Christ's children deserve a champion who believes in them.
My promise to the fine citizens of the Missouri 6th Congressional District is simple—I will listen to you, the farmer, the teacher, the single mother, the veterans, the emergency service personnel, the elderly, the poor, the rich—regardless of what my party tells me I need to do because I so deeply honor my Catholic faith and Christ's calling that “whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”
Politics does not need to be vitriolic and divisive. The quest for a more perfect union begins by electing public servants who serve the people for as Lincoln reminded us at Gettysburg, ours is a nation of the people, by the people, for the people.
I stand ready to go to Washington to do the people's work and cultivate common sense policies that work for all the citizens of northern Missouri.
Missourians know that where there is unity, there is always victory. The abundance of America should be for all, not the few. The abundance of America is the abundance of opportunity which politicians in Washington along with their K Street lobbyists have monopolized for far too long. The abundance of America should be for all, and I pledge to serve the citizens of the Missouri 6th Congressional District with a keen awareness that all people matter. Fellow Missourians, the time is now for honest representation, and every day I go to work for you I pledge to follow Mother Teresa's guidance to “do small things with great love.” I humbly ask for your support.
Missouri 6th Congressional District
Sunshine is your fundamental right
For government to be of, by and for the people it must be out in front of the people.
The theme for Sunshine Week 2019 is simply, “It’s your right to know.” The reason it’s your right to know is that it’s your government.
From the courthouse, to the statehouse to the White House, it is your right to know what government is up to.
Every deliberation by city council, county commission, the General Assembly or U.S. Congress is the people’s business.
Every penny spent by local, state and federal government is your money. Every document held in the halls of government belongs to you.
Transparency is not, or at least should not be, partisan.
Access to government meetings and public documents should never be arduous or even controversial.
Government derives all of its powers from the public and is answerable to the public. It is unfortunate state and federal laws are needed to protect the public’s right to know.
Of course, we know those laws are needed and more often than not must be leveraged by people requesting even the
most basic information from elected and appointed officials.
No branch of government should exempt itself from freedom of information laws and no person in government should seek to circumvent those laws.
Accessing government information and attending deliberative meetings should simply be viewed as democracy in action and not as an adversarial relationship between the governing and the governed.
Access laws are not media laws. Every person should have free and open access.
The right to know is not only an American right, it is fundamentally right.
Government secrecy that goes beyond national security is fundamentally wrong.
So records custodians at city hall, the county courthouse, with the public school system or at the state capitol must not bristle when a person asks for public records. The records requestors are simply asking for a copy of what belongs to them already.
Records requestors should not create an unnecessarily hostile relationship when making requests.
A records request and fulfillment should be a basic, and ordinary, transaction between government and the public it serves.
City council, county commission, the
board of education, the General Assembly and its committees should not balk at the public’s right to attend meetings and should not look for every excuse to retreat into an executive session or closed door meeting.
Attending meetings, sitting in on deliberations, understanding not only what decisions are reached but how those decisions are reached are all things which are simply basic American rights, fundamental to living in an open and free society.
In our politically charged, polarized, vitriolic climate there is very little conservatives and progressives can agree on.
The public’s right to know is one thing that everyone, both in and out of government, both left and right leaning, and at the local, state and federal levels, should agree on.
We are the government. The government is us.
It is, therefore, everyone’s fundamental right to know what government is, and is not, doing.
Valdosta, Ga. Daily Times
Green new disaster
Sometimes you read something that makes you think it must have come from a satire website. I had that experience last week when I read about a plan that said we could save the planet if we just replaced or upgraded every building in the United States and "get rid of airplanes and farting cows!" It turns out it wasn't a joke or a bad dream, it was the “Green New Deal.”
The plan is an actual resolution that is being offered up by some of the new liberal members of Congress to deal with climate change. However, upon further review, the plan is just a framework to completely reshape our country into something unrecognizable.
In addition to putting a stop to bovine flatulence, the plan wants the government to pay for healthcare, jobs, wages, housing, food, college and even “guarantee economic
security to those unwilling to work.” That's right, according to the “Green New Deal,” if you don't want to work, you should still get paid. The only thing green about this deal is the amount of money that you and I are going to have to shell out to pay for it.
It's no surprise that a price tag hasn't been put on the plan and there is no proposed method to pay for it. However, some of the same representatives that put this forward have also proposed incredibly high tax rates of 70% and above. Essentially, if you're willing to work and you're successful, you should pay for the people who aren't. According to the plan, all of this will result in “shared prosperity.” What it will actually result in is “shared poverty.”
The “Green New Deal” is just a grab bag of policies that no sane or successful country should or would adopt. Don't think for a second, though, that bits and pieces of the proposal won't try to find their way into other
pieces of legislation. We've fought hard in the past to keep economically disastrous policies that affect our food, transportation, electricity and other basic needs from becoming law and it looks like we have a fight on our hands again.
While it is true that a heifer with an upset stomach isn't particularly pleasant to be around, the “Green New Deal” stinks way worse. While being done under the guise of saving the planet, it is intended to remake our economy and our nation. Thankfully, most of what's been proposed can't even be discussed with a straight face. However, we must remain vigilant to ensure that outlandish proposals like this don't become serious legislation.
-- Sam Graves
Saving the Saturday mail delivery
There was a time in America when one of the only methods of communication was by mail. Since 1912, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has served as a lifeline for Americans, specifically in rural areas.
With the advent of the internet, things have changed. We can communicate wherever we are with the click of a button. Some say that means the Postal Service should reduce services like six-day delivery.
While we may not depend on mail delivery to communicate like we used to, we depend on it for other things. Imagine the issues that could arise if the mail wasn’t delivered six days a week.
Let's say you've ordered a package and expect to receive it in two days but because there is no Saturday mail delivery, you won’t get it until Monday. Unless Monday is a holiday, in which case you won’t get it until Tuesday. That two-day delivery just became four. Most people I know, myself
included, get frustrated if a package isn’t delivered right away.
Or, maybe you have prescription medication that has been mailed to you – waiting an additional day or two just isn’t going to cut it. Many folks who need that medication are unable to travel long distances; delivering it to their door at an affordable cost as soon as possible is critical.
This affects small businesses, too. Many of the most successful businesses in rural areas depend on the Postal Service to deliver the items they’ve ordered, or ship the products they’ve made, in a timely fashion.
In northern Missouri, Saturday mail delivery is still critical to our success and necessary for our way of life.
Recently I helped introduce bipartisan legislation to express the sentiment of the House of Representatives that six-day mail delivery must be preserved. I introduced a similar bipartisan bill in 2017 with 258 co-sponsors. Not much is bipartisan in Washington anymore, but keeping six-day
mail delivery certainly has broad support.
There is no doubt that the Postal Service needs to make some major reforms to remain a viable service. It’s not good government to maintain the status quo if it is leading to major financial issues. However, there are plenty of ways to reform the USPS without eliminating Saturday mail delivery. That won’t fix the problem; it will only make it worse.
It’s important that the USPS right their financial ship. However, doing so at the expense of rural America should not be an option.
The USPS needs to take all necessary measures to make sure that we still see mail delivery on Saturdays in North Missouri.
Kind in a world that sometimes isn't
Thank you for your Between the Lines column about Matthew Silber.
Matthew was a grade below me in high school and we attended the same youth group every Sunday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. He was soft-spoken, polite and a good friend to all.
Matthew's parents are wonderful people, full of kind words for everyone. Anytime a crisis, illness, surgery and/or death has taken place in our family (and there have been many), Rick and Mary have been wonderful to send a card with a word of encouragement. They brought all of their boys up to be kind in a world that sometimes isn't.
When we think of a Christian family that truly loves and cares about others, the Silber family is who we think of. Our hearts ache for their loss.
Thank you again for your kind words about Matthew.
Chiefs fan not a Hearne fan
You should find someone else to fill space (write a column) in The Landmark other than Hearne Christopher, Jr.
I have been a Chiefs fan since Day One in K.C. To say our fans are the worst is simply showing his ignorance.
Yes, we had some attendees (NOT
fans) throw some snowballs at the game (HORRIBLE) and Coach Andy Reid chastised them and told them to stop. At least they weren't batteries compliments of our nemesis the Raiders.
The person responsible for the laser has been found and banned from any Chiefs game. They are NOT a fan either. They may face other charges too. Justice
And you could only find one newspaper in Florida who doesn't like our barbecue?
Fan No. 1
Praise for Parkville Road District
I have a lot of things I gripe about, but in truth it's best to count my blessings.
I was traveling east to Clay County on 68th Street, before Highway 169, Friday afternoon and as the sun finally warmed everything up it was very pleasant. However, returning west on 68th Street there is about half a mile of asphalt that has
been decimated by the snow plows.
It's worse than a washboard and driving through it guarantees you will have to get an alignment. Or maybe dental work. Awful.
So it made me think about my roads. Every time it has snowed, the Parkville Special Road District is out and working, no matter the hour or conditions. They do a stellar job of road protection, also.
I have been looking around, and see no potholes, small or large. That says a lot about their expertise in running snow plows and minimizing damage. So I shout out to them my sincere appreciation and thanks. Good job, guys.
--Carol A. Clopton
Kansas City in
A prison palace monument to the county commission
If you haven't read Between the Lines by Ivan Foley in the Jan. 23, 2019 issue of The Landmark, it is a great primer for the tax question being placed on the April 2nd ballot. Pick up a copy. Please educate yourself before going to the voting booth. Here's why.
1) “…we just spent a half million dollars on one community center to replace a humidifier”…“a half million dollars on a community center and swimming pool would give every one of our law enforcement a $3000 a year raise.” Commissioner John Elliott, Jan. 14, 2019 County Commissioners’ meeting, check the tape.
OK. Then why are our commissioners proposing a capital improvement tax which does not address the pay scales for Platte County Sheriff Deputies? Sheriff Mark Owen has attended commission meetings where he has stated the need for deputies' salary increases because he is losing employees to adjoining jurisdictions which pay more. The deputies get trained in Platte County and then leave for higher pay. It is pure hypocrisy to make a statement like this and then not address it.
2) “Current state and county sales tax rate is 5.6. The county sales tax rate is currently 1.375, which is 25% of the total. If the capital improvement sales tax passes, the county rate will be 1.875 which is 31% of the total but only through 12/31/25 when it expires.” Commissioner Elliott.
Be sure to look closely at this one. A 36% tax increase is proposed for something, we haven't been told specifically what. Probably for a prison palace but who knows. The ballot measure as proposed reads, “…imposed for the purpose of capital
improvements, including without limitation the construction of a jail expansion and improvements to the existing jail and other county facilities?” It is a wide open question. Yes, I know, it is for 6.25 years. But when was the last time we had a tax decrease?
3) “$65,625,000 is our estimate. This is sales AND use tax. I highlight AND because all use tax currently received goes into general revenue and used for GR purposes-not for the purpose of the tax. With this tax, we will begin weaning GR off of use taxes.” Commissioner Elliott
I don't know about you, but I don't want to give $65 million to a group of commissioners who have run on the premise of “no new taxes.” Commissioner Schieber even put on his campaign mailings last fall that he had upheld his campaign promise of “no new taxes.” Oh my. The only reason he could say that was because the commission's hastily designed tax for the fall election ran into so much head wind that a ballot measure couldn't be put together. His intent was and is to raise taxes for a prison palace monument to this current commission.
When asked about using bonds to build the jail, here's the response I received.
4) “We will not fully know the answer to this question until the judge rules on our declaratory judgment on May 24.” Commissioner Elliott
Whoa! Isn't that after the election date of April 2, 2019? And won't the judgment simply state what they already know, that the county is not legally bound to pay the shortfall?
There was a rather poor showing for the jail study presentation at the commission's regular meeting. Part of the problem, the jail
study revealed, was the length of stay which has increased dramatically in the last three years. When questioned about this, the commissioners said it was due to a lack of public defenders. Public defenders are provided by the State of Missouri. This was confirmed by Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd, who was present at the meeting.
My thought is for the commissioners to make a trip to Jeff City to speak to the newly elected state senator and chair of the judiciary committee, State Sen Tony Luetkemeyer. All of us can help the commission and the prosecutor by calling Luetkemeyer's office at 573-751-2183 and telling him we need more public defenders to clear out the backlog at the county jail. Call today. Flood his office with calls.
The final item is the park tax, currently at half cent, set to expire in 2020. At least two of the commissioners, Schieber and Elliott, have suggested reducing that to 1/8 cent for park maintenance and redirecting the remaining 3/8 cent portion to law enforcement. I'm assuming this would include personnel issues as well as capital improvements. While they are waiting for the new ballot measure of 1/8 -3/8 split to be introduced, they could get design, location, and specifics in place to “sell” the need. This tax would have to be renewed in 2020 but from our current position it would not be a tax increase.
As for parks, there is 92 acres m/l currently under cultivation that the county owns at Spratt Rd and P Hwy just east of Weston. Why would we want or need a county park there when there is a state park on 45 Hwy., also just east of Weston? Sell that county owned land. I'm sure very, very few people even know that was a park board purchase.
It's a thumbs down for me on this new tax.
For earlier letters to the editor click here