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by Ivan Foley

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Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor


There's something to be said for winter weather

Posted 12/31/08

This year for the first time ever, I got a flu shot. So I’m shaking hands with every sick person I meet just to see if it works.

******

Many sarcastic thanks to whichever one of you ordered the freezing rain and light snow to welcome me back into town Saturday after a week spent in a much warmer climate.
In reality, though it was nice to soak up some sun in the dead of winter, it did seem odd to be celebrating Christmas in 82 degree weather. I do like the change of seasons we get here in the Midwest. It seemed surreal to be playing volleyball on the sandy beaches in Florida on Christmas Day, in temperatures so warm I had to go shirtless (sorry for the visual, and my apologies to anyone on the beach who wasn’t wearing shades that day).

******

Never say never. Ten years ago had you asked me if I thought I would ever go parasailing, I would have laughed. Never been that fond of the water, never been that fond of heights. But on Dec. 22 at the exact same time that your dedicated newspaper staff was mailing out last week’s award-winning issue back here in Platte County, Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley and I were parasailing in tandem, soaring to a height of 400 feet above the water in the Gulf of Mexico.

And you know what? It really wasn’t all that frightening. I actually was more on edge on the plane ride home on Saturday when we hit some heavy turbulence in the not-so-friendly skies.

******

First daughter Lindsey is now married, having been hitched to Eric Lewis under a gazebo in the sand at a bed and breakfast along Holmes Beach, Fla. on Friday.

You might think the hard part is over. Not so fast. Now I’m busy trying to organize a Father of the Bride bailout plan to present to Congress.

******

Speaking of bailouts, have you seen the tongue-in-cheek car advertisement making its way around the internet? The wording goes something like this:

“You wouldn’t buy our crappy cars. So we’ll be taking your money anyway. The Bailout. Coming this January.”

Then below in smaller print is this:

“You probably thought it was smart to buy a foreign import of superior quality, with better mileage and resale value. Maybe you even thought that years of market share loss might prod us into rethinking our process and redesigning our products with better quality in mind. But you forgot one thing: We spend a crapload of money on lobbyists. So now you’re out $25 billion, plus the cost of your Subaru. Maybe next time you’ll buy American like a real man. Either way, we’re cool.”

The ad closes with the logos of GM, Chrysler and Ford. Below the logos is the following tagline:

“We’re the Big Three. We don’t need to compete.”

Classic.

******

When we got back in town on Saturday, I found a collection of notes the family dog had written while we were gone. Seems Buddy, an 18-pound West Highland White Terrier, had done some deep thinking in his quiet time. He had written a few random thoughts to God. Or maybe he printed these off the internet, who knows. Anyway, here’s a sampling of Buddy’s thoughts:

Dear God: When I get to heaven, can I sit on your couch? Or is it the same old story?

Dear God: Dogs can understand human verbal instructions, hand signals, whistles, horns, clickers, beepers, scent IDs, electromagnetic energy fields, and Frisbee flight paths. What do humans understand?

Dear God: More meatballs, less spaghetti please.

Dear God: Am I guaranteed to go to heaven if I promise not to sit in the middle of the living room and lick myself?

Dear God: If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad dog?

Dear God: When I get to heaven, may I have my testicles back?

******

Will he or won’t he?

Platte City Alderman Andy Stanton, one of my favorite voices of fiscal conservatism, has yet to file for reelection. I called him Tuesday morning to get a feel on which way he is leaning, but the topic on his mind wasn’t the city race. It was property taxes. He was getting ready to walk up $5,000 in property taxes due to the county collector, with roughly 65% of that going to Platte County R-3, he said.

A run for school board is not out of the question.

******

Deb Hammond, former administrative assistant under Kathy Dusenbery when Dusenbery was mayor at Parkville, told me she was disappointed over last week’s year-in-review article. She said our summary of the year’s headlines didn’t give enough detail about her eventual separation agreement with the city when her position was eliminated after a controversy that started with allegations--never publicly proven--of “incorrect” time sheets. Hammond told me on the phone the investigation by a human resources firm “exonerated” her.

I’d love to give you all the gory details of the findings from that investigation, but the city of Parkville has refused to release any. But to give a little more information than what is typically done in a year-in-review article, here’s a good portion of the statement that was released by the city after that separation agreement was reached last February. Basically, it uses a lot of words to say nothing:

“This decision (to eliminate Hammond’s position) is not the result of any allegations or findings of wrong-doing and the issue of timesheets is a closed matter,” the statement says at one point. “The parties agree that this agreement is not to be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing by either party (Hammond or the city),” the statement adds.

There’s the added “detail.” Did we learn anything. . .other than the fact taxpayers have yet to be told what was or was not going on with the use of their money?

(Probe the mind of Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


The process had flaws, but the result is just fine

Posted 12/26/08

All of us at The Landmark wish nothing but the best to you and your family this holiday season. Take a minute to pause and reflect on the true meaning of the season, as well as on the year just past and the new one about to begin.

Taking a deep breath and a moment to “do some thinking” about the important things is something we all--this columnist included--should get in the habit of doing more often. The world is a busy place and there is a tendency to get caught up in all of it. So take a moment to catch your breath and enjoy some quiet time. It’s something I’m going to try to train myself to do more often in the new year.

******

I’m penning this column on Friday night, but by the time you read this I will have escaped for some time away from the office. In fact, in my 26 years at the state’s oldest newspaper I’ve never been away for so many days at a time. Those close to me can’t believe it’s happening--You’re actually going to leave The Landmark for more than a day or two?--but it’s true. It’s also true I’m having separation anxiety. But I’m getting over it, thanks to the fact there’s a talented staff on board to keep things under control.

The several days away from the hustle and bustle will culminate with the wedding of oldest daughter, Lindsey, in Florida. Lindsey, a recent graduate of Missouri Western State University, is tying the knot with Eric Lewis, whose name you may recall from our staff listing a couple of years ago--he was an ad salesman for The Landmark during his days at Mo. West. Eric is now in the Air Force and will soon be stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, good news for your publisher, who tends to also get separation anxiety when the kids get too far away.

Anyway, with the combination of Christmas, my absence (wait, who will sweep the floor while I’m gone?), and the great flexibility allowed in our print schedule, we decided to send this thing to press and mail on Monday this week. It gives everyone a chance to grab their newspaper and digest Platte County’s best news coverage and commentary in plenty of time before Christmas.

******

The process was full of some goofy activity--such as attempted CIA-like secrecy, at least one gathering behind locked doors going against open meetings provisions in state law, a quivering board president asking for a security guard, the same board president making weird accusations that The Landmark caused a “commotion” on the night the successful candidate was going through his second interview--but I like where the search for the next Platte County R-3 superintendent ended. I like Mike Reik.

And I like the salary he will be earning. By deciding on a pay of $125,000 annually, the R-3 School Board has shown a heretofore-well-hidden fiscally responsible side. Proof we should never give up hope, I guess. It saves the district at least $40,000 from what the current superintendent is earning.

Frankly, I didn’t know a whole lot about Reik on a personal level until the aforementioned “Commotion Night.” On Commotion Night, reporter Alan McArthur and I were enjoying a 45-minute conversation with Reik while the school board met behind closed doors and the board president was apparently daydreaming of ways he could try to take public focus off of his locked door meeting. I found Reik to be extremely intelligent, extremely friendly, and extremely entertaining with a sharp sense of humor. That’s how you score points here in Between the Lines. That night, I asked him if we could take his picture. After all, well over a year ago The Landmark had already reported Reik would be the next superintendent. I was confident in my sources and nothing was happening on Commotion Night that was changing my impression, so we wanted to get his picture ready for the announcement. “I don't mind if you take my picture. You don’t want me by the TVs, do you?” he joked, referring to my recent columns opposing those fancy Sony flat screens installed in every administrator’s office. Later, we good-naturedly went back and forth about my criticism of the automated lighting that is in place in administrators’ offices in the district’s new Taj Mahal (central office). I say it’s a waste of tax dollars. He claims it will actually save money. I declare myself the winner of that argument. But I digress.

This kind of give-and-take is what thick-skinned professionals do. Not once during the friendly but disagreeing discussion about TVs and automated lighting did Reik ask for a security guard. Nor did he accuse Alan and I of causing a commotion.

The conversation on Commotion Night even steered to his days working for the entertaining principal Ray Mahowski at Barry School. We even tackled the hard-hitting issue of college basketball. All the while, Reik proved to be an engaging figure, someone able to carry on a civil conversation with a newspaper columnist who doesn’t share some of his views. That’s not easy for some folks. My early impression is that Reik can handle the scrutiny that will come with the position just fine.

******

The same sources who well over a year ago told me that Mike Reik would be hired as the new superintendent are now telling me that privately, R-3 school board members were a little surprised and disappointed that only 18 people applied for the opening. Maybe some potential applicants were already hearing what I was hearing--that Reik was the man, and didn’t bother to waste time by applying.

******

As Austin Powers might say, please allow myself to clarify. . . myself.

Oops, I just reread my description last week of R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst’s new grandbaby. I said the baby weighed 8 lbs., 20 oz. Of course a real mathematician realizes this would actually mean the baby weighed 9 lbs., four ounces. What I meant to say last week was that the baby weighed 8 pounds and was 20 inches long. Another screw-up like that and I will be firing myself.

******

Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart was instrumental in getting a benefit account set up for large-hearted Woody Grutzmacher, well-known Tracy resident displaced after a fire destroyed his home last week. Donations can be made to the account at Platte Valley Bank. The guy would never ask for help, but he could use it right now. The city of Tracy can help by getting off his back about having a “dangerous structure,” at least until he’s had time to get his world organized again.

(This column is often a dangerous structure and therefore has no doubt been targeted by the city of Tracy. Email the dangerous owner at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Some leaders stand tall during 'commotions,' others cut and run

Posted 12/18/08

I’m recruiting George Bush for The Landmark’s dodge ball team. If you can dodge a shoe, you can dodge a ball.

******

Yeah, how about the gumption shown by our fearless president, hanging tough in the face of flying shoes? Even Dems have to admit that was an impressive performance by George W. in the face of a “commotion.”

******

It’s the Christmas season, so expect a couple weeks worth of columns displaying peace, love, joy, and that kind of stuff. At least that’s what I’m telling myself at the moment. I do reserve the right to change my mind if elected officials or other public figures get careless.

I just came to the peace, love and joy conclusion as I started to pound out this week’s column. After all, I’ve rearranged Bob Shaw’s furniture to the point he’s quivering like Don Knotts and calling in security guards. Heck, I’m almost feeling sorry for a guy clearly overmatched in his role as school board president. I said almost.

The trick to this peace, love and joy column theme will be to bring you fine folks a message of peace, love and joy without putting you to sleep at the same time. Admittedly, peace, love and joy aren’t my specialties. And let’s be real. . .if they were, you wouldn’t be reading.

Anyway, I’m taking the holiday hospitality cue from my publisher buddy at the Savannah Reporter, the entertaining Guy Speckman, who also spends a lot of time spanking public figures for misdeeds. Guy calls it his “be nice in December” routine.

Will northwest Missouri survive if Guy and I decide to be nice at the same time? Only time will tell.

******

The long-awaited final step in the renovation of the exterior of the 131-year-old Landmark building is scheduled to get rolling late this week. That’s right, those arched windows that will fill the openings in our second story are scheduled to be going in this weekend as The Landmark continues its investment in the Platte County community and in downtown Platte City specifically.

We’re excited about the project and hope you like the “new, old fashioned” look of the original brick. We’re confident you’ll like the look of the new, large and energy efficient glass when our trusty window man and his loyal crew are done.

And yes, this means a before, during and after photo display of the project, as well as some detailed history of The Landmark building and the newspaper itself, will be appearing in these pages real soon. Thanks to all who have helped make it possible, which includes all of you reading this right now.

******

My pal and fellow Landmark columnist Brian Kubicki, an admitted Purple Kool-Aid drinker, disagree on this one.

K-State’s rehiring of Bill Snyder as its head football coach just three years after he “retired” from the post is an act of desperation. Yes, Snyder performed one of the most amazing turnarounds in sports history when he built the K-State program from the ruins into a national contender. But let’s not forget a couple of things. Don’t forget in his final few years there his Wildcats weren’t very good and even some ardent Cat backers weren’t sad to see him step away. They named the football stadium after him and everything was supposed to be peachy. The new coach, Ron Prince, didn’t have as much success as many of the alumni would have liked so now they turn back to Snyder, hoping for a return to better days.

K-State and Snyder caught lightning in a bottle once. Good luck catching lightning in a bottle twice. Especially when the bottle is now 69 years old. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Uh, oh, was that a positive segment?

******

Dr. Mark Harpst, Platte County R-3 superintendent, is now a grandpa. His daughter, Heather, gave birth to 8 pound and 20 inch Elise last Thursday in Michigan. Baby and mother are doing well, says the R-3 leader.

Harpst hopped on a plane Thursday to high tail it to Michigan as his daughter was in labor. He said he arrived about 30 minutes after the baby was born.

******

Landmark thoughts, prayers and a sincere offer of help go out to the friendly and eccentric Woody Grutzmacher, a giant-hearted fellow battling health problems whose home in Tracy was virtually destroyed by fire Tuesday. It’s the least we can do for a man who ends every single one of his fast-talking phone calls with the phrase: “Ivan, I love ya.”

******

I need to take some space to thank all of you who attended The Landmark’s annual public Christmas party at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. Turnout again was good for the four-hour event, and as usual traffic was the heaviest between the hours of 5-6, which makes sense, as many folks choose to drop in on their way home from work.

A public thank you to primary party planner, Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart. Thanks also to Kristine Pearson Pixler and oldest Between the Lines daughter, Lindsey, who were instrumental in preparing and decorating the party rooms. A huge thank you to Landmark reporter Alan McArthur and Hall of Fame photojournalist Bill Hankins, who busted their tails in helping Cindy and me with the clean-up after they both had also spent several hours greeting guests.

And a huge word of appreciation to Brady Rodgers, owner of the Comfort Inn, for donating use of the conference room and dining area. Brady also purchased some new room decorations just in time for our party--like that huge and beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the corner of the room and some of the table centerpieces.

Thanks also to special guests Chris Stigall of KCMO Radio 710 AM and Hearne Christopher, popular former columnist for the Kansas City Star. By the way, Hearne and I are engaged in negotiations that will hopefully bring him to the pages of your Landmark in the very near future.

Of course let it be known that Hearne, like your humble publisher, does not own a journalism degree, so I will have to run his potential employment by future county commissioner Kathy Dusenbery for her official stamp of non-approval.

(Always happy to hear somebody loves him, the publisher can be reached via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


School board leader fighting paranoia at taxpayer expense

Posted 12/11/08

One of my favorite days of the year is almost upon us. The Landmark’s annual “come one, come all” Christmas party is this Friday at the Comfort Inn, 1201 Hwy. 92 in Platte City. The public is invited to join us anytime between the hours of 4-8 p.m. for some barbecue, appetizers and popular beverages. It’s a good time for yours truly and for the entire Landmark staff and our stable of columnists, as we give a little back to the community and at the same time are able to connect with readers on a personal level throughout the evening.

Each year I like to share the background on this event for new readers. This annual party started in the mid-1990s as a very small and very informal gathering of buddies in the back of The Landmark office. On a Friday evening near Christmas, I would invite my pals John Elliot and Todd Graves, and a few wise men from Wells Bank who I think were searching for a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, over for a quick beverage as we solved the world’s problems--real and imagined--while standing around the antique printing equipment. Each year by word-of-mouth the attendance would slowly grow, and eventually the decision was made to take this thing to the next level with some public promotion. We then moved the party to the upstairs of The Landmark office for two years, but quickly outgrew that spot as well. In 2003, for the first time we took the party off-site to the Comfort Inn.

We’ve added a couple special guests this year in Chris Stigall, morning radio talker on KCMO 710 AM, and Hearne Christopher, the most popular columnist in the Kansas City Star before they dropped him in their most recent round of labor cutbacks. Other special guests will include former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, Platte City Alderman Andy Stanton, and a herd of other elected officials. It would be easier for me to list which of your public officials won’t be there rather than to try to name the ones who will. Of course all your Landmark columnists, with the exception of (the too cheap to buy a plane ticket home) CK Rairden, will be on hand. Platte County’s Hairstylist to the Stars, Victoria Lynn, will tender beverages. See you Friday.

******

Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt is making an excellent choice in appointing Aaron Jung to the board of aldermen to replace Todd Sloan, who has moved out of the city. Jung is a fiscal conservative with previous experience on the board. He thinks along the same lines as fellow conservative Andy Stanton, who really has become an effective leader on the board of aldermen. Kudos to Offutt for a fine choice (it’s been an extremely smooth first year for the mayor) and kudos to Stanton, Jung, and fellow aldermen Tony Paolillo and Debbie Kirkpatrick for being excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars.

******

Anybody who tries to defend the Platte County R-3 School Board’s recent action of meeting behind locked doors (and really, is anybody even trying to defend it?) is going against the very principles on which this country was founded. Government conducted behind locked doors won’t fly. Don’t forget that school board members are required to receive 16 hours of training once elected. Are we to believe basic Sunshine Law principles are not covered in that training? No way with a straight face can board members claim they didn’t know of the locked door situation, in particular when you realize the school board members had to be “let in” through the locked doors on the night in question. The fact they had to be “let in” by someone already on the inside would seem to make it obvious that any arriving members of the public would find the doors locked. To their credit, at the next open meeting/executive session after our story came out last week, the board decided to follow the law and had the doors unlocked for the public.

In regard to last Monday night’s meeting, John Cady, attorney for the school district, told me: “The door was locked inadvertently. It had been locked by a custodian for security purposes. It will not occur again.”

Cady is a good man and a good attorney. But the word “inadvertently” doesn’t apply in this instance. Inadvertent means unintentional. The board secretary told us the door is locked (intentionally) every night at 6 p.m. Last Monday night, it was locked as usual at 6 p.m. even though a board meeting was about to occur at 6:30. Because it was locked, board members themselves had to be allowed in by someone already on the inside--and this didn’t send up a red flag that they were about to hold a meeting behind locked doors? In my mind, their attorney’s choice of words when he says it “will not occur again” is very telling. When someone tells you a situation “will not occur again,” it is generally assumed the act has been recognized to have been done in the wrong.

******

Paranoia. R-3 school board president Bob Shaw seems to be suffering from it. And he’s having R-3 taxpayers fund his treatment. You’ll see in a front page story that Shaw singlehandedly ordered a paid security officer to start attending board meetings. He admits he has no idea how much it will cost the district. He refuses to answer whether he consulted with other board members before making the decision.

In response to my questions about the need, Shaw fell into a state of disproportionate paranoia. He accused The Landmark of trying to “eavesdrop” on a closed session of the R-3 board last Thursday night. “Well, you all had your noses pressed up against the window,” he actually said at one point, sounding a bit like a toddler caught with his hand in the taxpayers’ cookie jar.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. What we have here is a board president still embarrassed over holding a meeting behind locked doors earlier last week, which goes against provisions in the state Sunshine Law, so instead of admitting the mistake he is shooting at the messenger. As for his accusation, reporter Alan McArthur and I both attended last Thursday’s executive session meeting. For the first 45 minutes while the board was behind closed doors, we stood around the secretary’s desk in the middle of the lobby outside the conference room, chatting openly with amicable assistant superintendent Mike Reik, who sat at the desk. After Reik was called into the room for an interview, from 10-15 feet away from the door while standing on the far side of the secretary’s desk I shot a couple photos of Reik through a five or six inch-wide window.
No board members were even visible from that angle. The only time sounds were heard from the room was when there was an occasional eruption of laughter. Apparently those closed meetings can be funny stuff. Maybe that’s why they hold so many of them.

Now, what’s really funny is the portable stanchions Shaw ordered be brought in as a barrier around the outside of the closed session door for Tuesday’s meeting were placed more closely to the door than Alan and I stationed ourselves last Thursday night.
Really, if the board felt “eavesdropping” was going on last Thursday wouldn’t they have stepped outside to ask us to give them some space? Does the new multimillion dollar central office with its Sony flat screen TVs have security cameras on its second floor that would show where the press was hanging out that night? Most importantly, the district just spent millions of dollars on a new central office and it was designed in such a way they feel they need to pay a security officer to monitor the public during their closed sessions? This is fiscal responsibility?

(Send an email to Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Humility is the only thing lacking in new R-3 building

Posted 12/4/08

It’s fourth down and seven in the closing seconds with the game on the line. KU quarterback Todd Reesing, all five foot nothing of him, scrambles wildly to avoid pressure before lofting a jump pass into the arms of a receiver running open beyond the MU secondary. Game winning touchdown.

Immediately, two thoughts went through my mind.

1. I can’t believe that just happened.

2. I wonder how many F-bombs Jason Grill is dropping right now.

******

Chip Sherman, who was a very successful Platte County Pirate head football coach for 20 years, turned around the Salina (Ks) South football program in one season, finishing 8-3 this year and qualifying for post season play. Two of those losses came to powerhouse Hutchinson, including the playoff loss. The other defeat was to a playoff team, Derby, in a higher class. Wow.

“It was fun to see if we could step into a place that had been in a down cycle and turn it around,” Sherman told me when he stopped in The Landmark office ten days ago. He also dropped a hint that he’d like to get a gig back closer to this area. There could an opening at one of the Johnson County schools that might be a good fit.


******

Clear your calendar for next Friday night’s Landmark Christmas party, an open to the public funfest that will feature Smokebox BBQ and beverages, compliments of the newspaper. It’s our way of giving back and also allows readers to connect on a personal level with the folks who bring you Platte County’s only truly countywide community newspaper.

Hope you’ll drop by to enjoy some food and fellowship with newspaper staffers, our columnists and special guests like KCMO 710 AM radio personality Chris Stigall, former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, and many other local dignitaries. This year we’re encouraging everybody who has been a regular guest to bring along a friend or family member who has never been to one of these events. Again, the party is next Friday, Dec. 12 from 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. See you there.

******

I’ll say a couple of things about the Platte County R-3 School Board: When they build a Monument to School Administrators, they really build a monument. And when they close a meeting, they really close a meeting.

More on the building of the Monument to School Administrators--also known as the new District Education Center and also known as the school district’s Taj Mahal--in a moment. More importantly, see our front page story detailing how the board was conducting a meeting with the outside doors to its new Taj Mahal locked to the public, which is a serious no-no per that public right-to-know legislation known as the Sunshine Law.

As Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association points out in our story, it’s an obvious Sunshine Law violation. School board members can take a deep breath--here at The Landmark, we’re more interested in promoting responsive and open local government than we are in battling the arrogance of the elected by means of a lawsuit. Of course, we say that with the assumption the board will learn from this obvious mistake, and we hope any other governmental entities who may be operating with the same carelessness and elitist attitude will also take note.


******

Oh, the irony.

Bob Shaw, president of the R-3 School Board, successfully sued the City of Platte City for a Sunshine Law violation a couple of years ago. Something tells me Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys will be snickering when they read how a school board under Shaw’s leadership--through ignorance, arrogance, apathy, or a combination thereof-- ignored, assaulted and/or abused the Sunshine Law.

******

Unbelievable has been the level of response to last week’s stream of consciousness in which I chastised R-3’s leadership for flat screen televisions in administrators’ offices and other bells and whistles on which taxpayer dollars were wasted in furnishing the new District Education Center. In a future column I will share some of the comments and emails that have been sent my way from readers on this topic.

This new building is way over the top in its extravagance. If you haven’t taken a walk through the new Taj Mahal just yet, I highly encourage you to do so (providing they will unlock the doors for us little people).

Check out the flat screen televisions in the offices of all three administrators. Check out the lighting system that automatically kicks on if you walk into a dark office. And you won’t be able to miss the shrine of 8” x 10” framed photos of every school board member and every administrator literally staring you in the face as you walk in the front door. It is overwhelming. It’s a “look at us, we’re important” scene normally reserved for presidents, movie stars or the Pope. Is this necessary? And if so, can’t we at least put their photos in a more discreet location rather than staring Joe Taxpayer in the face the second he walks in the door?

Trust me, the only things lacking in the new Taj Mahal are fiscal responsibility and humility.

******

Big time spenders of school money often choose to defend their liberal ways by saying the dollars are spent “for the kids.” I challenge everyone to walk through this Monument to Administrators and School Board Members and report back to me what is “for the kids.”

******

The Taj Mahal even has the most top of the line air cleaners mounted high on the walls. Every so often the air cleaners shoot out a little puff of room deodorizer, apparently to cover up an aroma of arrogance.

******

Here’s what we know.

1. The R-3 school board chooses to eat meals and snacks in front of the public during many of its meetings.

2. The school board was conducting at least one meeting with the public improperly locked out of the building.

3. The school board displays a wall of their own 8” x 10” framed glamour shots inside a structure built entirely with public money.

Elitism out of control. Refresh me, whose money are they spending?

(Order an 8” x 10” glamour shot of the publisher via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. Supply extremely limited.)


Feast on these notable nuggets this Thanksgiving

Posted 11/26/08

Brace yourself for a holiday week streaming column of consciousness. You never know what’s coming next. Because I don’t know what’s coming next.

******

Why do the Platte County R-3 School Board members, administrators and others sitting at their front table eat during their public meetings? Doesn’t Miss Manners teach us not to eat in front of others?

Heck, I feel guilty if a customer walks in while I’m scarfing down a sandwich at my desk. I would really feel awkward if I indulged myself in a virtual buffet while conducting public business in front of a public audience that isn’t enjoying the feast.

If it’s a good idea to enjoy a meal while conducting a public meeting, why don’t other elected boards throughout the county do it? At minimum, it’s weird. More accurately described, it’s extremely rude.

I know we’re all busy, but board members should find time to eat before the meeting or wait till afterward rather than feeding their faces during open session. At least that’s what Miss Manners would say.

******

If you believe that the price of gasoline in this country is dictated by nothing more than simple supply and demand (and if you do, have a good time sitting on Santa’s lap this Christmas and I’m sure you’re looking forward to that springtime visit from the Easter Bunny) then you must be convinced the demand for gasoline has fallen off the table. I mean, there must be practically zero cars and trucks traveling our highways, right? How else can you explain the fact prices have fallen from more than $4 per gallon in July to less than $1.50 in November?

Please. Don’t ever again try to hit the public with that sixth grade economics lesson as a method of explaining gas price gouging. Gasoline prices always have and always will be driven by market speculation--and more importantly, market manipulation--much more than they are driven by simple supply and demand. The last few months are proof of that, as if we needed any further evidence.

******

Times might be tough in the Kansas City area economy. There are job losses, increased numbers of home foreclosures, retail stores are closing, etc. It’s safe to say in tough economic times like these, we need public leaders who are fiscally responsible, correct? Look no further than Platte County R-3, where those fiscal watchdogs have a close eye on your money. . . as they send it out the door.

The fiscal watchdogs at R-3, the folks who have so many tax dollars at their disposal they felt compelled to put carpeting on a football field, are at it again. They just overpaid for a private building and took it off the tax rolls, meaning those lost assessed valuation dollars need to be made up somewhere. Then when they went to remodel the overpriced building to create a Taj Mahal type central office, they kept a close eye on your tax dollars again by installing flat screen televisions in the offices of every administrator. And another flat screen in a lobby area. And it appears another flat screen is bound for the wall of the board meeting room. I’m not a completely unreasonable soul, so I can understand one flat screen in the building. But five or more? One in every administrator’s office? Why is that a necessity? What’s next, tanning beds and a putting green?

And did we really need motion-activated lights in the administrators’ offices, so that when they walk into the room the lights automatically kick on? Is there something wrong with the more traditional and cost effective light switch technology? Or don’t they have time to flip a switch?

Yes sir, R-3 leadership is giving taxpayers the kind of fiscal management we need in tough economic times. You might even say it’s an award-winning performance.

******

With these kinds of recent fiscal decisions under their belts, don’t be surprised if these fiscal watchdogs decide to pay the new superintendent they will soon be hiring more than the $165,000 per year they are overpaying to the current leader.

No, don’t be surprised if they do. But do reserve your right to be outraged.

******

As purveyors of truth and justice here in Between the Lines, we occasionally have to point out when others have tried to present counter arguments but badly miss the mark in the process. Such is the case with our own Russ Purvis, chair of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee and The Landmark’s left side of the aisle columnist. Russ this week says in my weekly work of genius in our last issue that I missed the mark on a couple things about State Rep. Jason Grill. You’ll recall I discussed that in light of Grill’s three very public and very embarrassing behavioral incidents over the past two years, it wasn’t all that surprising to see 600 people chose to cast write-in votes against him at the Nov. 4 election. Russ says I missed on this, and Russ points out that Grill “received more votes than any other Democratic candidate running for state representative seat in Missouri.”

Memo to Russ: Grill was running unopposed, so winning that “title” is kind of like winning a contest to determine the tallest midget. Secondly, Russ points out 800 people cast write-in votes against Sheriff Dick Anderson. Memo to Russ: Unlike Grill, the sheriff’s name appeared in a county-wide race. Grill only faced voters in a portion of the county. That’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Russ also defends his state representative by saying Grill “works hard.” No one ever said he doesn’t work hard, and really, isn’t that what he was elected to do? While Grill works hard, the problem is that he seems to play even harder.

Russ then predicts Grill will continue to serve the state “for years to come.” Doubtful. A better bet is that if he decides to run for State Senate in two years, Grill will be defeated in the primary election within his own party. Either of two area Democratic state representatives, Martin Rucker or Ed Wildberger of St. Joseph, would take out Grill in a Democratic primary for State Senate. Grill, remember, serves in a Republican-heavy district. Republican voters aren’t likely to step over to participate in a Democratic primary in great numbers. Rucker or Wildberger will have more district-wide Democratic support. And Grill will have more time to drop F Bombs at MU football games.

(Send your suggestion for an R-3 board meeting menu item to the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Dems, GOP and Landmark all on a mission

Posted 11/21/08

Who says Democrats and Republicans can’t unite for a good cause? It’s happening right now, with two of your Landmark columnists leading the way.

You will see in their weekly columns on page A-3 of The Landmark that Russ Purvis, chairman of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee, and James Thomas, chair of the Sixth District Republicans, have challenged one another in a benefit drive for Hillcrest Transitional Housing. Purvis issued the challenge from the Democratic side. Thomas and the local Republicans then jumped in as willing participants.

For those who may not be aware, Hillcrest provides temporary housing and food to the homeless, but the key is participants must be working or actively looking for work. Those benefitting from the program must go through financial management and budget counseling to develop skills that should help them avoid future financial difficulties.

So the local Democrats and the local Republicans will be collecting non-perishable items--and also checks--from now until The Landmark Christmas party on Friday evening, Dec. 12, 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn. In addition to canned goods, other items needed include boxed meals, paper products, laundry detergent, etc.

Items can be brought to The Landmark Christmas party, dropped off at The Landmark at 252 Main Street in Platte City during normal office hours from now through Dec. 12, or dropped at the Hillcrest Thrift Store, 6520 NW Prairie View Road, Kansas City in Platte County. It’s not mandatory to do so, but if you choose, mark your donations with a “D” for Democrat or “R” for Republican, if you wish to have your donation counted in the competition between the two political parties.

As Thomas explains in his column this week, if you prefer to give money, Hillcrest will use it to purchase perishable items. Checks can be made payable to Hillcrest Transitional Housing.

Get more details in the columns written this week by Purvis and Thomas. Email them with questions at russp842@yahoo.com or jamesiiiandsandra@kc.rr.com, or if you can’t reach either of those two gentlemen give me a buzz at 816-858-0363 or email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and I will do my best to aid the process.

******

Another thing in the works here in Landmark Land is a reception for our Hall of Famer, Bill Hankins. As you’ll recall, Bill was enshrined into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame in October in a ceremony held in Washington, Mo. Bill’s wife, Marcia, is hosting a local reception for her award-winning hubby in Platte City on Friday evening, Dec. 5 at daCapo’s Teas and Eatery in downtown Platte City.

It’s an open-to-the-public reception that will run from 5-9 p.m. Should be fun. See you there.

******

How about a Landmark Christmas party update? (And by the way, do you think we have enough going on around here?). The party--mark your calendar if you still haven’t--is set for Friday, Dec. 12 from 4-8 pm. at the Comfort Inn in Platte City.

The menu for our annual open-to-the-public Christmas celebration has been established. It will be catered again by our friends at the Smokebox BBQ. More details on the special guest list, the beverage babe, and the reindeer games in upcoming issues.

******

Platte County Republicans are still muttering about missing their chance to oust Democratic incumbent treasurer Bonnie Brown at the recent election. It appears the GOP really underestimated how vulnerable Brown was this election cycle.

Her Republican opponent, political newcomer Michael McCormick, ran what basically amounted to a stealth campaign and yet was defeated by only a 53-47% margin. McCormick, who some GOP insiders say wasn’t receptive to what were intended to be helpful campaign ideas and suggestions, could have knocked off the incumbent with a more aggressive battle plan.

Brown was just two years off of a controversy surrounding some “unaccounted for” funds in a situation that escalated into a war of she said/she said between Brown’s office and the office of Sandra Thomas, auditor at the time, and neither side really stepped forward to accept full responsibility for the awkward bookkeeping situation.

In four years when she is back on the ballot, Brown’s role in the “unaccounted for” funds controversy will be ancient history in voters’ minds. And expect Brown to be more aggressive in her own reelection campaign four years from now than she was this year. She seemed to put her reelection effort on autopilot and it worked out fine for her. Don’t expect her to be nonchalant next time.

The Republicans, in other words, have now lost the element of surprise over Brown. An opportunity missed for the local GOP.

******

State Rep. Jason Grill, Democrat in District 32 serving southern Platte County, was re-elected without an opponent on the ballot. It is interesting, however, that nearly 600 people took the time to write in a vote against him. Normally, those of us who watch these types of things don’t pay attention to a handful of write in votes being cast. But 600 is more than a handful. It sends a statement that at least some folks are paying attention. No question Grill’s three public behavioral incidents over the past two years (a rape allegation on his election night in 2006 by a woman who filed a police report before declining to pursue charges, and two less-than-flattering behavioral incidents at college sporting events that became public discussion) sparked some level of backlash.

Still, it seems the young Democrat will always enjoy a strong core of support in his district. When Grill--who has made no secret that he would like to enjoy a long career in politics--seems destined for difficulty is when he attempts to expand his reign beyond the friendly confines of southern Platte County. Grill once told an area magazine publisher he would like to be governor someday. And we can assume he has an eye on Washington, D.C., because you’ll recall at the recent MU vs. Nebraska football game he was proclaiming to fans in his section that he already is a Congressman and loudly encouraged some of them to take advantage of photo ops with him.

With background material like that already in the tank, I would imagine the Sam Graves’ take-no-prisoners campaign machine would salivate at the thought of a Grill vs. Graves race for Congress, don’t you?

And if he chooses to climb the ladder a little more slowly and shoot for a seat in the state senate once Charlie Shields is forced out by term limits in two years, Grill will have to run through a tougher audience than the one he is playing to now. Northern Platte County and all of Buchanan County in all probability wouldn’t be nearly as forgiving.

(Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Hearne Christopher, give me a buzz;
Some editorials miss the mark

Posted 11/12/08

So I was reading a magazine article the other day (yeah, it happens). The general topic was daily human conversation, and it focused on how many people work a lie or two into their talks with friends and family on a regular basis. The article quoted a man who was continually identified as “an expert on lying.”

First, how does one become an expert on lying? And is it a good thing to be promoted as an expert on that topic? And hey, how do we know this guy really is an expert on lying? Maybe he was lying to the magazine about the whole thing.

For about 48 hours after reading the article I fell into a paranoid state, thinking everybody I met and engaged in conversation with was jerking my chain. I even wondered if I was lying to myself about having read such an article.

Don’t worry, I’m almost healed. Now I think only about half the people I talk to are lying. The other half are thinking that I think they’re lying, so they’re actually telling the truth to confuse me.

******

More bad news for the Kansas City Star.

In the third round of job cuts in less than five months, the Falling Star on Monday informed about 50 more employees that they were being canned. That means about 20% of the Scar’s work force has been let go in recent months. Among those sent packing was the Scar’s most informative and entertaining columnist, Hearne Christopher. Hearne is an avid Landmark reader, and since I don’t have his cell phone number and I’m guessing his Star email address is no longer active, this column is the only way I know how to effectively communicate with the man. Here we go:

Dear Hearne:
It is sad that the out-of-touch leaders at the Star didn’t recognize what they had in your material. Call me. Would love to have you write a weekly column for The Landmark. As you know, The Landmark has a history of taking wildly popular former KC Star columnists who irritated their snooty bosses on a regular basis and working them into our lineup (think Greg Hall). Let’s keep your successful gig going. I’ve heard you don’t have a journalism degree, which is beautiful because we both know how that irritates the heck out of the elitist-types (think Kathy Dusenbery).

Anyway, your courage to step out of the box in your reporting and commentary is a perfect fit for what we do here at The Landmark. (Remember the day we chatted at Harrah’s and you noted the same thing to me about Hall?)

Hearne, don’t delay. Call me at 816-858-2313, 816-858-0363 or email me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. Let’s do this.--Ivan

******

Coincidence or bad karma?

Also canned in the Star’s continuing meltdown was liberal-leaning editorial cartoonist Lee Judge. Judge’s firing came just a few days after he was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club. Geez, here’s hoping the Pachyderms never ask me to speak. I’d kinda like to hang around awhile longer.

******

As its financial woes continue, the Falling Star this week said it will pursue a possible sale and lease-back of that $200 million glass-enclosed printing plant pavilion it built just two years ago. Is that extremely bizarre or is that simply another example of “creative financing?” Who do they think they are, the city of Parkville?

******

Speaking of Parkville, as you know that city is contemplating whether to enact an ordinance to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. This week, the English Landing Elementary School PTA checks in with an opinion. The PTA this week unanimously passed a resolution that supports the proposed smoking ban, Kelly Seymour, co-president of the group, tells me. “After reading so much about the business owners and smokers and their opinions on this matter, I thought it might be refreshing for the community to know how families feel about this issue and how it affects our children,” Seymour said. “Our voices are also relevant and resonant.”

******

Here are some excerpts from a fascinating editorial recently in The Cass County Democrat Missourian newspaper in Harrisonville, where former Platte City administrator Keith Moody is now employed as that city’s administrator. The editorial appeared right at the time of Moody’s hiring, in the paper’s edition dated Oct. 16. Check this out:

“Indications are that Moody can be many of the things the public has asked for, including customer friendly, public-oriented and interested in public opinions,” the editorial says.

I’m sorry, I just laughed out loud. Was it Opposite Day in Harrisonville? Come on, Moody has his strengths, but they all are in the area of numbers. His biggest weaknesses in Platte City were the exact things the editorial writer tries to paint as his strengths. While here, Moody was the opposite of customer friendly, the opposite of public-oriented, and the opposite of interested in public opinions.

“Those who have met him also say he will present a more relaxed management style,” the editorial continues.

Wow. I’m gonna stop there. No sense in piling on.

******

Not to be outdone, the Falling Star also had an editorial that was badly off target. In a Platte County election summary, a Falling Star editorial read: “Kathy Dusenbery should lead the charge to improve transit in the county, something she talked about during her campaign.”

Really? Dusenbery promoted transit during her campaign for first district county commissioner? Guess I dozed off from August through November and missed all that. What we do know is that in a snafu that went unattacked by her opponent, Dusenbery initially was quietly talking in favor of the misguided light rail proposal that would have taxed Platte Countians while giving Platte County virtually nothing. She then quickly and quietly changed her tune, likely at the urging of campaign advisor/presiding commissioner Betty Knight. I guess you could say Dusenbery was for light rail before she was against it.
Apparently that’s what a self-proclaimed “consensus builder” does.

(Pile on Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Platte County Democrats have to be disappointed

Posted 11/06/08

I kicked on the central air units at the homestead on Sunday evening. It’s the first time I can ever remember running the air in the month of November.

That’s an observation, not a complaint.

******

I spent Monday night calling all the liberals I know, telling them the election had been postponed until next week. Either I don’t know enough liberals or not enough of them bought the story.

******

For those in the audience who believe things can’t get any worse, buckle your seat belt. Let’s talk about that again in two years during the next round of Congressional elections. The prediction here is that by that time, the political pendulum will be ready to swing back the other direction.

******

It was a big night for the Democrats on the national stage with the election of President Hope and Vice President Change.

Locally, things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Democratic party. Russ Purvis, chair of the local Democratic Central Committee and a left-side of the issue columnist for your Landmark, has to be scratching his head at how badly his party performed at Tuesday’s vote. Let me explain.

It was a huge year across the nation and across the state for Democrats, so common sense tells you that momentum would trickle down the ballot to the local level, right? It didn’t happen. And let me say, it convincingly didn’t happen.

The Dems’ strongest local candidate heading into the election was assumed to be incumbent treasurer Bonnie Brown, seeking her third term as treasurer and running against a political newcomer and relative unknown quantity in Republican Mike McCormick, who ran what amounted to a passive campaign. So this smelled like an easy victory for the Democrats, probably something in the 60-40 range, right? Not so fast. Brown was victorious, but only by a margin of 53-47%. Wow.

“If the Republicans had any kind of candidate, they would have defeated Bonnie,” one longtime local political observer who leans to the right confided to me Wednesday morning. Agreed. Not only that, but had McCormick been more aggressive and worked a plan a little sooner, he may have been the Republican to pull the upset.

More evidence of struggles for the local Democrats can be seen in the first district county commissioner race, which by the way is a contest that was going to make me happy either way. Had the conservative Democrat won, I would have been happy in feeling a sense of victory for the taxpayers of this fine county. Since the emotional and often reactionary Republican with a journalism degree won, I can now look forward to angry phone calls and bizarre comments from her that result in easy column material. Some weeks, this Between the Lines piece just writes itself, you know what I’m saying? I look for this to happen at least three or four times in the coming year. I may be having flashbacks to the good ol’ days with Mayor Dave. But I digress.

Bill Quitmeier, Democrat, lost to Kathy Dusenbery by about 10% points. If there was ever a year that a Democrat was going to grab that southern district county commission seat, this was the occasion when things were stacked in the Dems’ favor. The Dems had a legitimate candidate running against a GOP candidate who has a background in public service, but who also has vulnerabilities in many areas that could have been exploited. Didn’t happen--the GOP won this, maybe because Dusenbery was riding the coattails of an amazingly strong showing across the county by fellow Republican Lisa Pope, who won reelection to the office of assessor with 60% of the vote over Democrat Marcena Fulton.

******

A quick-hitting opinion of the week:

I’m a firm believer that Jim Plunkett’s presence on the county commission the past four years has made a better presiding commissioner out of Betty Knight. Define “better” as more conservative in spending matters and more down-to-earth in personality matters.

******

How about the absolute spanking Kay Barnes, Kansas City’s Queen LaTIFa, received from Sam Graves?

This is a seat the national Democrats had targeted and thrown a ton of money into in hopes of knocking off an incumbent Republican. Barnes outspent Graves by more than a 2 to 1 margin. It’s believed to be the first time Graves has been outspent by an opponent. Didn’t matter, it was his most impressive victory to date.

And it’s now time for all the faint-hearted to stop complaining about Graves’ aggressive campaign approach every two years. Criticize it all you want, you can’t deny that it works. Since his approach “ain’t broke” don’t expect anybody to try to “fix it” anytime soon.

******

Ran into longtime Between the Lines pal/former Platte County Prosecutor/former U.S. Attorney/current nationally known private practice attorney Todd Graves at his brother’s victory gathering at the Embassy Suites Tuesday night. Big brother Sam showed Todd some love in his victory speech in a room crowded with supporters and TV cameras.

“My brother Todd is one of my closest advisors. I talk to him all the time. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to pull this off,” the Congressman said about his younger brother, who seemed to be going for the Brett Favre look by sporting a three-or-four day growth of stubble.

******

I asked Todd Graves if he would once again be willing to be at the top of the list of special guests for The Landmark’s annual public Christmas party, as has been the case since the beginning of the world as we know it. Told the party will occur on Dec. 12, Graves had a minor complaint: “Hey, you used to run the date by me before you made a decision,” he said.

“That’s when you were somebody,” I told him.

******

Another confirmed special guest? Sam Graves’ campaign manager, Jason Klindt, who used to be promoted here as this area’s most eligible bachelor. No longer. Klindt has made a catch, we’ve heard. Will he bring evidence?

(Catch the columnist via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Political big-timers continue to milk the print media

Posted 10/31/08

Tis the season to mark your calendar for the annual Landmark open-to-the-public Christmas party. This year’s ho ho hoedown will be Friday, Dec. 12 from 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. The public is invited to come enjoy food, drink, and fun, all courtesy of your favorite county newspaper.

More on the menu, special guests, and special activities as the date draws closer. If you’ve been to previous parties, you know this event is a shouldn’t miss shindig. If you’ve never been, come grab a bite, say hi to your Landmark staff and visit with friends and area dignitaries. A good time guaranteed or double your money back.

******

It’s late October in an election year, which means much of the public is in the mood to gripe about all the political ads filling up TV screens and radio airwaves. I love the political battlefield--and if it’s not a Sunday afternoon, I’m probably not in front of the TV anyway--so it doesn’t bother me as much as it does a lot of folks.

One thing that does bother me? I hesitate to even mention this, because I don’t want to sound like I’m greedy and self centered (hey, who just yelled bingo!?). I have a feeling I’m not the only newspaper publisher who feels this way. County candidates, of course, smartly choose to advertise themselves in the weekly print media. But it bothers many of us in the industry when the sitting officeholders/candidates for statewide office or candidates for Congress come to town and their “people” contact the weekly newspapers begging us to come meet and greet the candidate, do an interview, give them some free pub and an open opportunity to get their message out. And then where do you see their advertising dollars go when the campaigns get rolling? TV and radio, and to a lesser extent trashy direct mailings, though that former hotbed seems to be headed for the same graveyard where the dot com industry now resides.

Think about it: Where do voters turn for their local political coverage? It sure as heck isn’t the TV and radio. So why do aforementioned “big timers” at the state and national level insist on advertising almost exclusively in the electronic media while ignoring the newspapers they so desperately count on for free pub throughout the year?

Maybe the only way for those of us in the print media to combat this is to start boycotting the “big timers” when they call wanting news coverage. If you think America has an uninformed electorate now, how bad would it be if those of us who buy ink by the barrel started collectively saying no to providing free coverage when the political big wigs pay visits to our respective communities?

******

Of course there are some exceptions to the above-mentioned scenario. Democrat Nancy Boyda upset incumbent Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun two years ago by advertising heavily in weekly newspapers in that district. And Mike Gibbons, Republican candidate for Missouri Attorney General, has an advertising insert in many weekly newspapers across the state this week, including The Landmark.

By the way, The Landmark endorses Mike Gibbons. Not because he chooses print media for advertising, but because of his productive background in the legislature, his pledge to get tough on cyber crime, and his history of fighting for the taxpayer.

Remember, he was the state senator who brought us the quality legislation known as Senate Bill 711, which now prevents backdoor tax increases from those greedy taxing entities (and let’s not name names, by now regular readers of this column space already know who the culprits were) who never wanted to roll back their tax levies to prevent a windfall from unsuspecting taxpayers.

Win or lose next Tuesday, from this chair Gibbons will always be seen as a hero to the taxpayers. Here’s a guy who deserves some of that free pub.

******

Predicted voter turnout in Platte County? How about a whopping 79%. That’s according to Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections. Flanigan said she is basing her guesstimate on the heavy flow of absentee voting already taking place and on the number of people who have called the election office “making sure they are registered to vote.” Polling places across the state will open at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m., except in the St. Louis area where the polls will stay open just as late as the Democrats see fit.

And speaking of being registered to vote, did the people from Barack Obama’s pet organization known as ACORN submit any “bad” registered voters to Platte County? Yes they did. “About 25,” Flanigan said. Most of those contained “bad addresses, addresses that were not in Platte County,” Flanigan says.

******

Looking for a suggestion on the two most important races on the ballot at the county level next Tuesday? The Landmark recommends Republican Jim Plunkett for second district county commissioner and Democrat Bill Quitmeier for first district county commissioner.
Plunkett has been a tremendous asset to the three-member commission over the past four years. Numbers are his strength and he has helped massage the county budget and has been the leader in keeping a tight rein on spending. The trait in Plunkett that I admire the most is that he really doesn’t care whose feathers he ruffles--he does what he believes is in the best interests of the county taxpayers.

Quitmeier is the stronger choice in district one, though both candidates are good-hearted people who have done some good things as public servants. Quitmeier is more fiscally conservative and more level-headed than his overly-emotional opponent, who occasionally plays fast and loose with facts and is prone to frequent moments of hyperbole. Quitmeier’s Democratic roots would also bring some level of balance to the commission alongside Republicans Betty Knight and Plunkett. Quitmeier will face a challenge in trying to overcome the significant campaign war chest his opponent has compiled.

******

Looking for a safe and fun event for the kids on Halloween this Friday evening? Try running them by the Cash Saver grocery store in Platte City by 6 p.m. to take part in the store’s annual costume contest. Judging will begin promptly at 6 p.m., store owner Mike Rowland says. It’s the store’s 18th annual contest and it’s open to ages infant to 12.

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


Charlie Shields for president in four years

Posted 10/24/08

I don’t want to say the guy lacks the experience for the job--wait a minute, yes I do--but four years ago, Barack Obama was in the state senate of Illinois. Today, if you believe the polls (and by the way, this year more than any other in recent memory seems a dangerous one to trust the pollsters) he is less than two weeks away from being elected your next president.

The fact that just four short years ago Obama was a state legislator got me thinking: Could such an almost frightening meteoric rise to the top of the political mountain happen again?

This would be like our area’s state senator, the honorable Charlie Shields, becoming the Republican nominee for president in 2012 and knocking on the door of the White House. Nothing against Charlie, who has a list of nice accomplishments in the legislature, but would you be comfortable with Shields taking his state senate career and parlaying that into the Oval Office in four years? Well, with perhaps a short stint in the U.S. Senate in between?

I guess this is proof that in the fickle world of American politics anything is possible. I don’t know about you but right now I am envisioning Charlie Shields matching the crowd size Obama supposedly attracted during a speech at the Liberty Memorial, where I heard reports of 50,000 people in attendance, then another report there were 60,000, and even a third report that the crowd was 75,000. I think the same folks who do the crowd counts at the annual Platte City Harley rally must be counting heads (and fingers and toes) at the Obama rallies. But I digress.

Charlie Shields needs to start working on his presidential stump speech. He should mention the word change. He needs to start speaking very eloquently in vague generalities. He should mention the word change. He should talk about spreading the wealth. He should mention the word change. He should propose a potential class war in which he’ll take more money from the rich and spread it among those at the lower income levels. He should mention the word change. He should write a couple of autobiographies. He should find a running mate who will commit verbal gaffe after verbal gaffe. And when he’s done with all that, he should mention the word change.

I wonder if Charlie Shields has ever been a community organizer?

******

Landmark reporter Alan McArthur and I have spent the bulk of this week interviewing candidates whose names you’ll see on the ballot in local races on Nov. 4. You’ll find features on every contested local race in next week’s Landmark. Several hundred sample copies of next week’s issue will be mailed as The Landmark does its part to ensure Platte County has an informed electorate. Then be sure to catch our Nov. 5 issue for detailed results, comments from the winners and the losers, and experienced editorial analysis of all the local action.

Should be fun.

******

Those detailed interviews of candidates thus far have been quite enlightening, interesting and at times entertaining. As an example, consider this exchange we had with Mary Ann Baier, Democrat candidate challenging incumbent Jason Brown in the 30th District state representative race. Baier is 79 years old, but she says voters should not be concerned about her age.

“I have good genes. My grandfather lived to be 96. We don’t believe in dying,” she said.

******

Every candidate in every contested race in this fine county has responded to our request for an interview with one exception. Michael McCormick, Republican candidate for county treasurer, has not yet returned three phone calls to his home. Hey Mike, the newspaper that is read and trusted by more voters than any other paper in the county is calling you. It might be a good idea to pick up the phone.

*******

Typically, though by no means always, the better-financed candidate will win these local races. Here’s a peak at the campaign bank accounts for the contenders from documents on file at the Platte County Board of Elections. All amounts reflect data as of Sept. 30.

SECOND DISTRICT COMMISSIONER: Incumbent Jim Plunkett had received $20,390 in donations for this election. He still had $13,642 on hand.

His opponent, Democrat Chuck Rankin, had raised only $1,237 for this election and had just $159 on hand.

FIRST DISTRICT COMMISSIONER: Democrat Bill Quitmeier lists having raised $13,232.Of that amount, he lists $6,760 still available.

Republican Kathy Dusenbery has raised $44,018 and a journalism degree. She has $10,726 on hand.

COUNTY TREASURER: Incumbent Democrat Bonnie Brown has raised $9,163, of which $2,000 was a loan from herself to her campaign. She has $1,618 on hand.

Republican Mike McCormick has raised $2,246. He has $219 remaining and at least three phone calls to return.

COUNTY ASSESSOR: Incumbent Republican Lisa Pope has raised $7,766. She lists $6,518 remaining.

Her Democratic challenger, Marcena Fulton, has raised $8,169 but of that amount has only $1,847 remaining.

******

Here’s a public response to those readers who have asked for an update on my previously-reported scheduled colonoscopy (and by the way, what’s wrong with you people?).

The procedure went down last Friday. I’m happy to report everything came out just fine at the end.

(Reach Ivan Foley, officially now the campaign manager for Charlie Shields for President, via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Jason Grill's response drawing fire from Poplar Bluff CEO

Posted 10/17/08

Hello. I’m Gary Pinkel, and I approved this message.

It’s fourth down, my team has the ball about six inches away from the opponent’s goal line. I have the most potent offense in the Big 12, one of the most potent in the country. My quarterback is Heisman-caliber. It’s the opening drive of the game. My defense isn’t all that great, but even if we don’t make it we’re going to have the other team pinned at their goal line. We’re playing a team that can score points in bunches, so it’s going to take several touchdowns to win this game. You know what I’m gonna do? That’s right. I’m gonna kick a field goal. Yeah, let’s go up 3-0.

*******

Wow. Was that one of the most bizarre coaching decisions of the college football season or what? Pinkel showed absolutely no confidence in his high powered offense. The Oklahoma State defense grew a truck load of confidence from Pinkel’s concession. Sure it was early, but the bizarre decision set the tone for the remainder of the battle. The rest is history. I’m still stunned.

******

For at least the third time in the past two years, the name of Jason Grill, state representative for the 32nd District of Missouri which includes southern Platte County, is on the tongues of fellow politicians and political observers for less-than-flattering reasons. A CEO in the health care industry who says he was offended by Grill’s behavior in a recent public setting is seeing to that. The offended, Michael Burcham, CEO of Poplar Bluff Medical Partners in Poplar Bluff, has fired off emails and phone calls to several highly-placed politicos across the state, drawing attention to his letter to the editor in The Landmark last week and Grill’s response to it. Burcham says he did so because he found Grill’s response to be an “arrogant slap in the face.” Burcham says at least one of the Democratic leaders he has communicated with about the incident--Sam Page, a state representative who is the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor--has since communicated with Grill about the situation. I put in a call to Page to see if he would verify this, and his campaign spokesman answered this way: “I wouldn’t see him (Page) commenting on that right now. We’re in the middle of a race for lieutenant governor. We’re trying to stay above the fray,” said Bret Bender, spokesman for the Page campaign.

In case you missed last week’s episode of Grill Gone Wild, here’s a quick rundown: the Poplar Bluff man and his wife sat in the same section as Grill during the MU at Nebraska football game and they say they were offended over Grill’s behavior that evening. Burcham says Grill used extremely offensive language. “Every other word was the ‘F’ word. And to my wife, there is no more offensive word in the English language,” Burcham said this week. Burcham says Grill made what he judged to be demeaning and reprehensible comments about women, including ex-girlfriends. Burcham says Grill made comments about his constituency and poor pay. At one point, Burcham says Grill even handed a camera to Burcham’s wife and said: “Take my picture with these people, I’m a Congressman.”

A Congressman? A state representative was really telling people sitting next to him that he is a Congressman? “Yes, he did,” Burcham says. Grill declined to comment on all these specific accusations when I questioned him about it again this week. Burcham also says Grill had friends near him in the stands who were acting as “a posse of fools,” who he claims shook their fingers in Burcham’s face and told him to “shut up” when he expressed concern over Grill’s alleged behavior. Grill also answered this with a “No comment” when I asked him about it on Tuesday.

Grill offered an explanation in last week’s Landmark that Burcham found less than satisfactory. Grill said he had already apologized to Burcham. Some readers, Burcham included, believe Grill’s response attempted to blame Burchams for being Nebraska fans sitting among MU fans. Grill also said Burcham had taken some of Grill’s comments “out of context” in the course of what he called “a major college football game atmosphere.”
“You can’t take ‘F’ bombs out of context. You can’t take vulgar comments about women out of context,” Burcham told me this week after he had read Grill’s response.

That’s an excellent point that even the most ardent Grill supporters can’t effectively dispute. “Out of context” is a favorite phrase public officials like to toss around when they are alarmed by the public reaction to their comments. Grill isn’t the first politician to ever use that phrase in self-defense mode. He won’t be the last. I’m also going to state the obvious: Though it’s accurate to say the public expects elected officials to be held to a higher standard, we’re all human. Most of us have made comments around others that we later wish we hadn’t made. But most of us, once we’ve been asked to refrain because others are finding our comments upsetting, will immediately stop. Perhaps if that had that been done, the rest of this soap opera could have been avoided.

******

Please, it’s getting late in the game. Can we get a debate lined up between first district county commissioner candidates Bill Quitmeier and Kathy Dusenbery? Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

My sense is that Quitmeier is the more fiscally conservative candidate who is picking up steam in this race. My other sense tells me that Kathy Dusenbery has a journalism degree. But I guess you’ve already heard her say that.

I know of two efforts that have been made to line up a debate between these two. Both efforts have failed. Bill Quitmeier has said he is ready and willing. Kathy Dusenbery appears not to be ready and willing, though let it be known she does have a journalism degree. And she has lots of important friends . . .captains of industry, one might say.

Come on, Kathy, let it happen. After all, journalists are supposed to support the idea of open government. And that includes an open debate of the issues.

******

Here’s more political analysis you just won’t find anywhere else:

Did you know when you try to say Quitmeier and Dusenbery at the same time it comes out Quisenbery?

(Drop “F” bombs on the publisher in person or via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Now Swaney talking Pig Latin; Moody in controversy again

Posted 10/10/08

So the developers of the proposed high density housing project known as Lake at Tomahawke Ridge say they will file a lawsuit against the county after being denied an application to put 600 homes on 300 acres along an already unsafe stretch of roadways?

The saga continues.

And a new piece to the puzzle is added this week as landowner/developer Hal Swaney told our reporter he may consider raising pigs on the property now that his proposed high density project has been denied again. Well there you go, that’s a new way to win friends and influence people. Many of us have been around long enough to remember that Swaney and some friends more than a decade ago proposed a concentrated hog farming operation near Camden Point that drew much opposition and never came to be. The hog market later took a major downturn and Camden Point area residents often joked they did Swaney a financial favor by fighting his proposal so aggressively. Perhaps Tomahawke neighbors are doing Swaney a financial favor by helping defeat a high density development at a time when the housing market is going/has gone south.

Many of us have also been around long enough to remember that Swaney was one of the leaders in the ag business who, at the time the county developed its land use plan, argued for the county to preserve its rural charcter and argued that the county needed to protect farmers’ rights to, simply put, farm in a growing county. Now that he’s ready to retire, Swaney’s outlook has changed. He wants to be a developer now, so at this point in time he’s not all that crazy that his property is within a rural policy area as designated by the county’s land use plan.

Anyway, the county’s planning and zoning staff sternly recommended denial of the development. The county’s planning and zoning commission overwhelming rejected it. The county commission voted 2-1 against it. Neighbors overwhelmingly oppose it.

I wrote in this space months ago that reasonable minds must take control in this one. The Tomahawke proposal as it currently exists is simply too high density for the area in which it is proposed because of the additional load it would place on already dangerous roadways and the additional load it would place on other infrastructure.

Certainly developers have the right to pursue a lawsuit. But even if they win in a court of law, they will never win in the court of public opinion on this one. Or in the court of common sense.

******

I thought Betty Knight, presiding commissioner, did an outstanding job running Thursday’s Tomahawke appeal hearing, by the way. That thing had the potential to look like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Knight provided structure and kept everyone focused on the points at hand. Excellent job.

And Jim Plunkett, second district county commissioner, continues to show why he is at the top of the list when it comes to my most admired elected officials over the past twenty years or so. Plunkett always does what he thinks is right for the county and its people, never letting his decisions be influenced by the politics of the day or by those who may be in a position to dump money into his campaign. He stays above the typical political BS and for that he deserves our respect.

******

In our front page story you’ll notice the city of Platte City is still considering going to a four-day work week. Ouch. I wouldn’t want to be the person in charge of answering phones for aldermen if this thing gets approved. My sense of the public’s feeling on this is that Average Joe and Jane Taxpayer are strongly against this idea. They see it simply as a way for employees to walk away with a three-day weekend every week.

Initially this idea was floated when gasoline prices were soaring at $4 per gallon. Gas is “down” to $2.87 per gallon locally, so the sense of urgency and the ability of a compelling argument being made that a reduction to a four-day work week is needed to help save on city fuel and energy costs doesn’t seem to hold as much water as it did back in July or August. Residents also seem to be in the mood for more city service time, not less. The prediction here is that, while employees will be thrilled, aldermen will take a public relations beating if they approve this deal.

******

Keith Moody can’t catch a break. Of course there may be a reason for that.

The Kansas City Star over the weekend reported that Moody was on the verge of being hired by Harrisonville to be that city’s new administrator. Not so fast, Falling Star. Moody’s potential hiring hit a snag Monday night when only four of the town’s eight aldermen voted in favor. Five votes were needed. Three were opposed to the motion, four in favor and one member was absent.

One of Harrisonville’s aldermen, Gary Kidd, has been outspoken in his opposition to Moody. “The man isn’t right for Harrisonville. I don’t want Mr. Moody,” Kidd told The Cass County Democrat Missourian newspaper. Kidd went on to encourage the newspaper and colleagues to do a Google search on the Internet to access information about Moody’s service to Platte City. In other words, read The Landmark’s web site.

I put in a call to Kidd on Tuesday to see if he would care to elaborate on his opposition to Moody’s hiring. As of deadline I have not received a return call.

******

It’s extremely early in the process and more details will need to be studied, but at first blush I don’t see a major need to oppose Bill Mann’s request to have a proposed development voluntarily annexed into Platte City. The land in question sits just outside the current city limits, so obviously we do not have a case of leapfrog development.

And any observers who are anticipating the city will fight the request simply because it is Bill Mann--developer of the Platte Valley Plaza--doing the asking, are seriously misinformed. The two city officials who constantly wanted to fight with Bill Mann over issues in the Plaza are both gone now. Those two city officials were Dave Brooks and Keith Moody.

******

Moody left city hall at the end of August. By mid-September a developer is seeking a voluntary annexation of a proposed major development into the city. Coincidence? I’m gonna say no. Seems like further evidence that the previous board of aldermen pulling the trigger on Moody’s tenure was the right thing to do.

(Talk Pig Latin with Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Tomahawke story about
to reach its climax

Posted 10/3/08

At this writing, we’re just hours away from what may or may not be the final chapter in the local planning and zoning saga known as the Lake at Tomahawke Ridge. The very controversial, very high density proposed subdivision has been on the minds of residents in the area of Hwy. 92 and Winan Road about four miles east of Platte City since January, when word of the plan became public through an article in your Landmark.

The proposal was shot down handily by the county’s planning and zoning commission after being strongly recommended for denial by the county’s professional planning and zoning staff. In the past few weeks, developer Tim Dougherty and landowner/apparent developer Hal Swaney have tried to aggressively defend their proposal in a public poison pen battle royale that has taken place in letters to the editor.

Expect Dougherty and Swaney to once again recruit many plumbers, electricians, phone company representatives, builders, etc. to come sit in on Thursday’s 2 p.m. appeal hearing to be held in front of the Platte County Commission as they try to convince folks there are members of the general public who support their proposal. The common denominator among this crowd is that there is potentially a buck or two for them to make off the deal.

Opponents, meanwhile, have stated their case effectively and rationally for months. Let’s see how it plays out on Thursday. Get there early if you want to find a seat before those in the building trades industry grab them all.

******

Obvious, isn’t it, how perspectives can change based on how the outcome will affect one’s pocket book?

Interesting, isn’t it, that many of the same Farm Bureau folks who say they support this high density housing proposal in a rural area are the same folks who several years ago argued that the county should do all it can to preserve the rural character of its landscape?

Funny how, when some farmers get closer to retirement age, suddenly the argument of preserving the rural character of the county isn’t quite as important as “let me put 600 homes on 300 acres because I have the zoning in place to do it.”

******

And some of the same folks who support this high density proposal by saying every landowner should have the right to do whatever he chooses with his land--and by urging the public not to ‘lock the gates’ to newcomers--are the same folks who opposed an inner city church’s proposal to put in a day camp several years ago in the same general neighborhood. Am I the only one who recalls that argument and recalls who were some of the outspoken opponents to that proposal?

******

Our popular Democratic columnist Russ Purvis is on assignment this week (that’s code for I’m really not in a position to give away info on what he’s doing), so filling in for him on the left side of our editorial page on A-3 is Susan Montee, Missouri state auditor.
Our thanks to Russ for lining up a quality fill-in. Purvis returns next week.

******

Chris Stigall, morning talk show host on 710 AM, will be the guest speaker for the Platte County Pachyderm Club Thursday night with a topic of “media bias.”

Stigall, as I’ve mentioned here previously, is often an outspoken critic of the Kansas City Star. I’m anxious to discover if he will be as outspoken about the Falling Star in this public appearance as he often is on the radio or whether he will tone it down a bit. We’ll let you know next week.

******

Speaking of the Falling Star, the carnage continues.

Two weeks ago, the Star let loose 65 more of its finest employees, which means there are lot of folks with journalism degrees standing in the unemployment lines.

About half of those 65 were part of a voluntary separation program, the other half were victims of an involuntary separation. Read between the lines on that one.

The Falling Star’s sports section fell victim to some of the cuts, and deservedly so. Gone are the likes of Mechelle Voepel and Bob Luder, which as one Landmark reader pointed out to me in an email, is a great American tragedy. After all, now where are we going to get our WNBA news and the latest on Winnetonka High?

Apparently still on the payroll is environmentally-friendly columnist Bill Graham, whom I bumped into at the Platte County parks and rec open house Tuesday night. Bill is the only Northlander who has hugged more trees than Susan Brown.

******

Tired of being mistaken for a replacement team from the 1987 players’ strike season, somebody in the Chiefs’ upper managment forced overmatched head coach Herm Edwards to play Damon Huard at quarterback, and on the other side of the ball the defense actually played with intensity in an upset win over Denver on Sunday.

A fluke or a sign of things to come? A fluke. No question.

This franchise is a mess right now. Herm and general manager Carl Peterson both need to be shown the door. The extremely dysfunctional Raiders beat us this year, folks. No, they didn’t beat us, they dominated us. They embarrassed us. At Arrowhead.
Enough said.

******

Project update:

Visitors to the downtown metropolis of Platte City may have noticed the repainting of the front of the 1860’s-era Landmark building is now complete. And though I mentioned a couple weeks ago I was leaning toward a tan or beige--and even had purchased the paint to go that route-there was a change of heart. Once my loyal sidekicks and I had primed the building, we took a liking to the whitewashed appearance. So the white primer was topped with two coats of white paint for a clean and fresh look. To go with a black and white newspaper theme, the front door is now painted black.

And you may have noticed our freshly painted sign is in place, now mounted high on the building. The talented folks at Commercial Waterproofing of Parkville, who also did the tuckpointing of the brick, repainted and hung the sign.

Next up: Those aluminum clad, full-arch windows. Four of them are on order to go in the second story. Pictures and more information coming soon.

(The Landmark is black, white and read all over. Email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Friends don't let friends self-destruct

Posted 9/26/08

Welcome to all the new readers--and those who have renewed your weekly ticket to journalistic goodness-joining us this month during The Landmark’s half price subscription special. It’s been several years since we’ve run this special and response has been impressive. The deal ends at 5 p.m. next Tuesday, Sept. 30. Call us at 816-858-2313 to jump on board.

******

After he is let go by the Chiefs within the next year or two, Herm Edwards will never again be a head coach in the NFL. What he and Carl Peterson are doing to this franchise is disrespectful to the fans. Carrying it a step further, it’s disrespectful to the NFL as a whole. No league wants such low-caliber of play permeating its ranks. It’s simply not good for the sport.

******

Frank Offutt, Platte City mayor, has things going his way. He has enjoyed a smooth first five or six months in his second go-round as mayor. A new city administrator is in place, road and traffic signal improvements are on the way to the Platte Valley Plaza, and now a developer pledging 140 or so new homes wants to be annexed into the city. On top of that, Offutt was honored to be invited to hear General David Petraeus, commanding general of the coalition forces in Iraq, speak at Fort Leavenworth earlier this week. Gen. Petraeus gave a special lecture on leadership to the General Staff and Command College inside the Eisenhower Lecture Hall at the Lewis and Clark Building at Fort Leavenworth.

******

Dear Friends of Kathy Dusenbery, candidate for first district county commissioner:

It’s time for an intervention. Gently take Kathy by the hand, put your arm around her. Tell her everything is going to be okay. Your candidate needs a hug.

Dusenbery called me last Friday. No surprise there. She often calls after there has been something in the paper that examines her political record. I’ve come to expect it. Heck, in some twisted way I’ve come to enjoy it. She’s a good person, so it doesn’t bother me to feel like I’m her therapist. But during last Friday’s call she was in a state of mind that went beyond my therapeutic powers. After all, I’m not a trained psychologist, I just play one in this column.

As you’ve noticed, Gordon Cook, an accountant and a resident of Parkville, has been writing periodic letters to the editor to The Landmark. Cook has said nothing out of line, focusing on politics and leaving personal issues out of it. His letters, which he always backs up with documentation and sources for his numbers, have been aimed at pointing out what he and others believe is an unfavorable tax-and-spend record Dusenbery accumulated during her time as alderman and mayor at Parkville.

When Dusenbery called on Friday, her voice was at first shaky. My first impression was that she was on the verge of tears. Then she sounded distracted by someone in the background. Then she went through an angry spell. Then a defiant stage. Then a calm, composed and cordial minute or two. Then another angry phase. It was like I was talking to Kathy and an evil twin at the same time.

Paging Dr. Phil.

In our phone call, Dusenbery was critical of Cook on a personal level, which I must say is more than Cook has ever done to Dusenbery. In all his conversations with me, Cook has focused on Dusenbery’s record. Not once has he written or said anything negative about Dusenbery on a personal note. Then Dusenbery went in to “shoot the messenger” mode by attacking me. Don’t worry, it’s cool. This road has been well-traveled. “Go get a journalism degree, Ivan,” Dusenbery said, pointing out she allegedly has a degree in journalism. Never one to shy away from a debate of the issues, this of course opened the door for me to respond. I acknowledged that I’ve heard she has a journalism degree. “And how has that worked out for you, Kathy? I’ll put my career in journalism up against your degree in journalism anytime,” I responded. (For the record, Dusenbery for a very brief time co-owned a very small newspaper that tried to cover a very small portion of southern Platte County. Her career as a newspaper publisher had a lifespan shorter than that of a Hollywood romance. . .without the appeal and notoriety. To those who don’t know better, Dusenbery often tries to pass herself off as some sort of master of journalism. She should save those conversations for the country club circuit. The truth is the paper she once co-owned never gained an audience and has long been defunct. Sadly, both of its readers were despondent when the end came).

My response seemed to frustrate Kathy and her evil twin even more. “Ethics, Ivan, ethics,” was their next muttering, which I found odd coming from someone previously found guilty of a campaign ethics violation. If, as Kathy and her evil twin believe, publishing letters that question the spending record of a former mayor is a violation of journalistic ethics, then somebody please alert journalism professors everywhere because we indeed have breaking news.

Anyway, dear friends of Kathy Dusenbery, it’s time for that intervention. Come on Betty, come on Michael, come on Merrill, come on Lee. Pull Kathy aside into a room with soft music and softer walls. Speak quietly but firmly. Ask her to use her inside voice. Help her help herself. She’s teetering on self-destructing her own campaign. Remind Kathy that in all likelihood she’s still going to win this race because she’s running against a candidate who can’t or won’t recognize the fact that times have changed and winning a countywide race requires raising--and spending--large amounts of cash.

Friends of Kathy, it’s time to get your candidate mentally prepared for the remaining five or six weeks of this campaign. And while you’re at it, explain to her how it’s possible for an entity to actually be raising taxes while it keeps its tax levy the same. I’m finding out she has no clue on this and a variety of other specific governmental topics. However, on the positive side, once she has been elected I firmly believe you’ll have no trouble getting her to show up for ribbon cuttings and other photo ops.

******

Does all this journalism make my butt look big?

(Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Frustrated developers speaking out; Landmark renovation project

Posted 9/19/08

We get letters. Ah, do we get letters. More so than normal this week. Be sure to check out page A-10 for some letter-to-the-editor spillage from this page.

******

Some of that letter spillage deals with the controversial Lake at Tomahawke Ridge high density development proposed for Hwy. 92 at Winan Road east of Platte City. You’ll want to flip to page A-10 if this topic is close to your heart. The developers are starting to get more personally and publicly involved in the fray, no doubt frustrated that the majority of public sentiment has been strongly opposed to their plan.

By the way, the developers’ appeal of the planning and zoning commission’s denial of the development will be heard by the Platte County Commission on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. Good seats are still available.

******

It’s been awhile since I first gave you the news about the project we have underway on the exterior of the 139-year-old Landmark building in downtown Platte City. Time for an update on the topic that has occupied time and space in the heart and mind of your publisher for the past few months.

Those of you familiar with the structure know the brick exterior at some point in its history had been painted by previous owners, no doubt because it was easier and less expensive than re-tuckpointing the brick.

So when workers from our friends at Commercial Waterproofing of Parkville showed up in July, the first chore was to power wash the building in an attempt to remove as much of that paint as possible. The high pressure wash removed much, but not all, so two or three applications of a chemical stripper followed (which also explains why you saw some of the paint on the lower part of the building disappear). Then grinding of the old mortar between the bricks followed. After that came an understandably time-consuming tuckpointing job, followed by a sealant being applied to the brick.

We’ve also knocked out a fourth arched window opening, an opening that had been bricked shut somewhere along the line when a closet was built in the second story. On order now are four large, fullly-arched windows that will be installed in those second story openings. My trusty window man tells me the aluminum-clad arch top glass should be arriving for installation in late November or early December. That’s when an already noticeable difference in the appearance of The Landmark front will become a dramatically different appearance.

In the meantime, what you’ll notice next will be the return of our “The Landmark” sign featuring black on white lettering. It is being repainted as we speak and hopefully will be mounted soon. Our pal Steve Evanoff from Steve Evanoff Construction says he will soon be arriving to replace some of the wood around the street-level picture windows, through which you can see an old Linotype machine and three impressive mums office assistant Kristine and I are trying desperately to keep alive.

And also soon, you’ll notice Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley (though he doesn’t know it yet--hey, Kurt, don’t plan anything on your weekends till further notice--there, now he knows it) and his old man scraping, priming and painting the wood and metal portions of the lower part of the building. We’ll be changing the color from its current green shade to a shade of beige. At least that’s the plan right now. We reserve the right to change our minds. If you’re in the downtown area on a weekend and happen to see Kurt and I hard at work, feel free to grab a brush and join the fun. It doesn’t pay much, but some boom box tunes and some smart-alec banter will be provided free of charge. Who knows, we may create such a noisy distraction the Park Hill School Board will decide to hold a meeting on our sidewalk.

Photos have been and will continue to be taken all the way throughout this process. When all is said and done we’ll run a full color feature in this fine newspaper, showing a before and after look of the project. We’ll also be sharing some of the interesting history we’ve uncovered about what is one of the oldest buildings in Platte City. If you’ve got a soft spot for local history, we think you’ll enjoy it.

******

We’re proud to announce The Landmark brought home five awards from the Missouri Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest last weekend. Alan McArthur, the Boy Wonder of Local Journalism, brought home third place in the Best News Story category for his piece about the less-than-stellar attendance record of a local school board member. And Bill Hankins, as has become tradition, brought home first place in Best Feature Photo and two third places, one in the same Best Feature Photo category and another for Best Photo Package (never question The Landmark’s package), and The Landmark earned an honorable mention for Best Special Section photographed by Hankins.

******

Hankins, by the way, will be inducted into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame in Washington, Mo. on Oct. 16. Good seats are still available.

Reporter Alan McArthur and I will be co-piloting a large RV-style party train across this great state in hopes of safely arriving at Hankins’ induction ceremony. Good seats are still available.

******

Don’t tell Bill because I don’t want to make him nervous about his acceptance speech, but I’m going to secretly shoot some home video of his induction ceremony and we’ll put it on our web site. It will be Bill Hankins, unplugged and unedited.

******

I’ve got a colonoscopy scheduled next month. Good seats are still available. Video coming to our web site on pay-per-view basis. It will be Ivan Foley, unplugged and unedited.

******

The Pigskin Picks feature is back on your Landmark sports page again this football season. Find it on page B-2 this week.

Last week I told all my friends--both of them--that the play of the week was Tampa Bay -7 over Atlanta. If only we were in Vegas or if only there were a legal way to make a wager in this part of the country, I told my buddies last week, I would be willing to drop a couple dollars on Tampa. In last week’s Pigskin Picks feature, I predicted Tampa to win 24-9.

Final score of the game on Sunday? Tampa 24, Atlanta 9.

(Ivan Foley can be found at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or shooting more video for The Landmark’s web site)


Elected officials shouldn't hide behind hired staff members

Posted 9/12/08

Here we go again, thanks for joining us for another episode of Between the Lines. Let’s get this party started.

******

Platte County’s Pirates, known for years for an explosive offense and for winning football games at an amazingly consistent rate, are off to an 0-2 start and have yet to score a touchdown.

If this doesn’t get turned around in a hurry we all need to be good caretakers of our Pirate fanatic friends. You know the ones I’m talking about. Do everything you can to keep them away from sharp objects and tall buildings. It’s our duty to take care of our fellow man. Remember, country first.

******

Speaking of country first, John McCain and Sarah Palin were in KC early this week and our former Landmark intern, Andrea Plunkett, had a chance run-in with the pair at the President’s Hotel. See our front page for a photo. Check out some home video of the encounter on our web site at plattecountylandmark.com later this week.

Yes, our web site has gone multimedia. Always the cutting edge leader in local journalism.

******

Andrea Plunkett, by the way, will be at the vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden next month. Watch for coverage in The Landmark.

******

Park Hill’s School Board, the group who likes to hold public meetings in the middle of a crowded restaurant during the breakfast hour, still has no clue how to handle press coverage from folks who aren’t willing to kiss their feet or other body parts. You’ll notice in our front page story the board asked questions of the applicants who want to be appointed to the open board spot. One of those questions was: “If approached by the media, how would you handle it?” Most of those being interviewed answered that they would defer comment and encourage the media to contact the school district’s communications director.

What? Park Hill still doesn’t get it. Memo to school board members: You are elected officials. The voters elected you to serve them. You need to answer to your constituents. You do that by answering to the media. You don’t do that by gutlessly deflecting comment to a paid school district employee.

Park Hill patrons should be outraged that this kind of avoidance is accepted and apparently encouraged. Park Hill’s school board members need to start showing some intestinal fortitude. They are in danger of becoming known as a laughingstock of wannabes who want to be viewed as leaders while actually hiding behind hired staff. That’s a spineless approach to public service.

******

Other questions likely asked by the Park Hill School Board as they interviewed applicants who want a seat on the board:

1. Are you willing to publicly misinterpret Senate Bill 711 and blame that piece of legislation if we decide we need a tax increase?

2. What is your favorite menu item at the Corner Café?

3. Can you think of other busy places and odd times we can hold a public meeting to avoid press scrutiny?

4. Do you have any knowledge or expertise in sewers, other than flushing a toilet?

5. Would you be willing to grab press packets from the media and rip out pages we don’t want them to see?

******

It was promoted by propagandists to be the best yet. Its chief organizer, known to occasionally engage in outbursts of hyperbole, said it is outgrowing downtown Platte City since its numbers are in danger of swelling “past 10,000.”

Please. Combined attendance for both days didn’t reach 500. Locals in attendance were extremely few and far between. There were only about 25 motorcycles in the parade through town. Sure it was hurt by periods of rain on Saturday, but attendance wasn’t much better the previous two years without rain. Combine the lack of attendance with the premature gusto the organizers like to employ in shutting off downtown streets well in advance of the necessary time required for setup, the lack of family-friendly activities, etc., and I don’t think there will be any riots of protest from the locals if the chief organizer, former Mayor Dave Brooks, decides the rally has “outgrown” downtown.
It really is nice that an attempt is made for a community event. Platte City could certainly benefit from a true festival once or twice more per year. But a motorcycle rally isn’t capturing the hearts of the community.

******

The Platte River Bridge on Hwy. 45 near Farley has come under much scrutiny by area residents and in media reports over the past year or so. But Missouri Department of Transportation officials still insist the suspect-looking structure is safe.

“Our state bridge engineer has been to the bridge recently and agrees that it can remain open,” Beth Wright, district engineer for MoDOT, told resident Florene E. Schlueter in a recent letter. Wright wrote the note in response to correspondence of concern sent to her by Schlueter.

The 75-year-old narrow bridge was mentioned in a review of bridges in The Landmark last year. It was featured in a Channel 4 report recently. A recent Landmark editorial cartoon was aimed at the bridge’s deteriorating condition. Schlueter says that cartoon was photocopied and is plastered all over Farley now.

Wright says the bridge is inspected annually for safety and structural integrity. “If it was determined during an inspection that the condition of the bridge would no longer support the existing traffic, we will take immediate action,” she wrote to Schlueter.

But in the next sentence she leaves room for doubt.

“We are currently reviewing whether there is a need to reduce the weight limit/load posting for this particular bridge,” the MoDOT district engineer writes.

Hmm. Seems odd that she assures the public the bridge is completely safe in one sentence and then says they are in the process of seeing if the load limit needs to be reduced. That has hints of being a contradiction to me. Some of the nearby residents still aren’t convinced. They tell me if they see one vehicle already crossing the bridge, they will stop in advance and let that vehicle exit the bridge before driving on there themselves. I guess that’s what you could call a self-imposed load limt. We’ll have more on this situation in future issues.

(Test Ivan Foley’s load limit with an email to the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Park Hill not used to Landmark's style of journalism

Posted 9/5/08

Here we go, time to crank out a column while wishing I had a dollar for every time Fred Thompson cleared his throat during his speech to the Republican convention.

******

You’re about to see why the life and times of Park Hill school officials would be so much simpler if The Landmark wasn’t around. I’m certain those Park Hill folks are starting to wish The Landmark was a participant in the growing trend of lazy, butt-kissing journalism. We’re not.

Yes, recently Park Hill’s school board and administrators have done a couple of odd things. Things that go unreported by lazy, butt-kissing reporters and slide by without editorial comment by lazy, ass-kissing columnists. Landmark readers, to their credit, don’t tolerate either of those. Nor do we ever want them to.

There are several things that concern me about recent actions at Park Hill, but for now let’s focus on two recent incidents. Number one, there is an opening on the Park Hill School Board, and the board is in the process of selecting a person to fill that spot. It came to our attention, mainly by listening in on public conversations, that at least some board members wanted their deliberations about candidates to fill the spot to be held behind closed doors. When the board decided to form a subcommittee to sort through a list of 18 candidates, reporter Alan McArthur politely asked if the meetings of the subcommittee would be open to the public. Alan has worked at The Landmark long enough that he already knew the correct answer to the question he was asking. He just wanted to find out if anybody at Park Hill knew the correct answer. The correct answer, of course, is that such a meeting must be open to the public. But that’s not the way board president John Thomas initially answered Alan’s question. “No, I don’t think it will be,” Thomas said, before Park Hill’s communications coordinator Nicole Kirby quickly stepped in to say the matter would be researched and assured us the committee meetings would be run in accordance with Sunshine Law regulations. In other words, the meeting would be open. They said they would notify us of upcoming committee meetings. They didn’t. Alan found out about it by searching their web site.

But the fun didn’t stop there. The meeting was set for 7 a.m. on a Friday. But that’s only half of it. The chosen meeting site was the Corner Café in Riverside. You heard it right. . . Park Hill chose to hold a public meeting of three board members and the superintendent at one of the busiest morning cafes in the Kansas City area. What a joke. Call me paranoid, but I’m gonna say they chose such a time and place in hopes it would deter the press from attending. Their plan almost worked. The lazy, butt-kissing journalists didn’t show. But much to Park Hill’s chagrin, I’m sure, The Landmark did. Reporter Alan McArthur showed up at the Corner Café Friday morning. He chatted with Superintendent Dennis Fisher in the lobby of the restaurant. When the three board members arrived and the restaurant employee asked how many would be seated at the table, Fisher answered four. As in three board members and himself. Another not-so-subtle hint, wouldn’t you say? Or did Fisher really think that a reporter was just hanging out chatting with him at the café at 7 a.m. by coincidence?

Anyway, Alan was mentally primed and had been prepped for such a situation. Undaunted, he pulled up a chair next to the uncomfortable board members and superintendent to take in the circus act--oops, I mean the meeting. Yes, three board members and the superintendent ate breakfast at a noisy, crowded restaurant while talking through the process of choosing a board member. Alan’s report on the session can be found here. It includes everything but a critique of the food, as the working journalist declined to order.

******

Let’s move on to the proposal by Park Hill to run a sewer line through/near the property of about sixteen landowners. The proposal is being met with opposition. The topic has been discussed in a couple of executive sessions. Minutes from those closed sessions were included in about five “press packets” placed out for consumption at the board meeting last week. The minutes were actually approved by the board during the course of the meeting. But immediately after Thursday’s meeting, two press members present were asked to hand over their packets briefly. When the packets were returned to the press, our Alan McArthur noticed pages of the closed session minutes had been removed. But other members of the public by that time had already left the room with other copies of the “press packets,” so The Landmark was able to recapture the super secret documents. Of course Park Hill didn’t know this, so just for fun, we put in a Sunshine request to school officials seeking the closed session minutes they had swiped from us. They declined to hand them over, saying the minutes can be withheld due to “legal action, causes of action or litigation,” blah blah blah.

No need to fight them over that questionable declaration as we have recaptured the minutes. If we were a lazy bunch of fanny huggers at The Landmark, we wouldn’t tell you what those super secret minutes say. Or I could ask you to show up at the Corner Café at seven o’clock on a Friday morning where I’d read them to you. Instead, here they are now:

From the July 31 closed session: “Dr. Kelly said he is still communicating with folks about the sewer line at Union Chapel. He said he held an open meeting at Union Chapel at the end of May. He said they contacted landowners and said we would meet with them one on one. He said they discussed the cost of easements. He said meetings began Aug. 5. He said the majority of the meetings are scheduled for next week. He said he would be going with Jim Rich, Debbie Webb, and a Lutjens engineer to walk the property. He said there has been some media pieces in the papers. He said more information will be available after the meetings. Dr. Fisher said they met with Jason Brown because some of the landowners had a meeting with him. He said he was honest with us and he has talked to the Platte County Sewer District. Dr. Fisher said Brown is not our enemy in this, and he understands sewers and that it flows downhill. He said he wants us to over communicate with the people. He said Dr. Kelly has put forth a good faith effort.”

From the Aug. 14 closed session: “Dr. Kelly said there is potential for eminent domain regarding the Union Chapel sewer. He said they have met with some of the landowners. He said he received a letter from an attorney saying they want no dialogue with us. Dr. Fisher said the sewer district has the responsibility to work with the eminent domain. He also said the (sewer district board) reviewed the draft and gave us a thumbs up this afternoon. Dr. Kelly said it will be presented to the board in a few weeks.”

(Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


More trouble in paradise; and the Chamber's pickle

Posted 8/29/08

Ah, look. A Falling Star. This might be a good time to make a wish.

The KC (Falling) Star delivered more bad news to its employees and to what’s left of its readership on Monday. Seems The Falling Star is now offering buyouts to most of its full time workers and is saying an “involuntary reduction” (that’s code for mass firing) could be on the horizon.

Wow. I sure didn’t see this one coming, did you?

The buyout program going on now at The Falling Star follows the “elimination” of 120 employees in June. That “elimination” affected about 10% of The Falling Star’s work force. Those reductions had followed an earlier voluntary program put into place last November, when 24 Falling Star employees accepted the chance to cut and run.

And all this comes as the Falling Star’s parent company is implementing a one-year wage freeze beginning Sept. 1.

A bizarre, illogical, liberally-linked deal to throw an extra Sunday paper in some yards hasn’t slowed the bleeding and in fact has brought ridicule from folks who don’t want another dead tree rotting in their driveway.

The Falling Star doesn’t need a Band Aid. It needs a tourniquet.

I feel badly for the employees. I don’t feel badly for the folks who have guided the Falling Star into the galaxy it currently resides.

******

And the news gets worse.

A Platte County merchant who occasionally advertised in the Star was told by his Falling Star ad rep that the newspaper now outsources some ad design jobs to India. That’s right, India.

If that’s true, I’m guessing the India portion of the Falling Star’s work force won’t be affected by this latest staff reduction.

******

Barack Obama was in St. Louis--oops, I mean Kansas City--this week. He missed a perfect chance to give an “I can save the economy” speech inside that shiny new building that houses The Falling Star. The half-empty surroundings would have been the perfect backdrop.

*******

I wish I could say the reason the leadership of the Platte City Chamber of Commerce allowed its meeting to be hijacked by a developer (see front page story) upset with anyone who opposes his ill-advised high density housing project in a rural area is because chamber officials are too busy promoting some upcoming local events like the Tour of Missouri bike race coming through town on Sept. 8. But I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve received more information on Platte City’s role in the Tour of Missouri from a Parkville alderman than I have from the Platte City Chamber of Commerce.

A chamber of commerce should be a public relations machine. This chamber has never fully grasped that concept.

This isn’t the first time chamber leadership has allowed itself to be placed in a pickle. The literature drop by the developer has just a hint of a funny smell. Hopefully the aroma passes quickly. If it doesn’t, expect more comments on this topic in the future.

*****

You may recall that the developer’s own traffic study indicates at least 40% of traffic from his proposal will head south on Winan Road and down Interstate 29, not toward Platte City. How are Platte City merchants going to see a significant benefit from that? Not to mention the fact the development would be located four miles from any Platte City business, putting it nearly as close to Smithville as it would be to Platte City.

I guess what I’m saying is I seriously question the level of beneficial economic impact the developer is touting. What I, and most reasonable observers, don’t question is the tremendous load this high density development would place on an already dangerous stretch of roadway.

Remember, the developer’s roadway improvements would only be turn lanes and the like near the development. Other than the turn lanes near the development, there would be no other improvements made to Highway 92, and no significant improvements to Winan Road. The developer’s arguments don’t carry a lot of merit, which is why the planning and zoning board kicked it 6-2, and why the county commission would be foolish to overturn that decision on appeal.

There’s a reason this plan has been vilified. That reason is because the plan sucks. Such a high-density project is completely inappropriate for the area in which it is proposed, for reasons of public safety. Boast and exaggerate all you want about proposed economic impact, but it won’t overshadow the importance of public safety. Common sense needs to prevail on this one.

******

I think the Platte City portion of that Tour of Missouri bike race should be named the Tour de Frank.

In honor of Mayor Frank Offutt, of course.

******

Hey, former Mayor Dave Brooks recently had a riverbank erosion project named in his honor, why shouldn’t Offutt get a bike race?

******

Some Platte City area merchants tell me they are darned tired of youngsters using their parking lots and other privately-owned concrete covered areas for skateboarding. Most of the complaining merchants are along Running Horse Road and have wide open spaces that the skateboarders are finding attractive. One business owner even told me he has seen parents pull up in cars, drop off their teens and their skateboards and drive away, in essence using his parking lot as a public park/recreation area.

Hey kids (and some parents, apparently), I’m sure the business owners sympathize with you in your struggle to find a place to skateboard. But the answer isn’t to invade private property to do it.

******

This just in from local political sources: The reason the Kathy Dusenbery-Bill Quitmeier debate at the Sept. 4 Pachyderm Club meeting won’t happen is because Dusenbery’s advisers--who include former county commissioner Michael Short--don’t want her going toe-to-toe in too many public speaking contests with Quitmeier, who is a trial attorney. They fear the results wouldn’t be pretty.

(Vilify Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


College basketballs' biggest names; A rift among local Dems

Posted 8/22/08

They say the NBA is about the players. College basketball is about the coaches.

So true. Which is why, for a college basketball junkie like myself, Monday’s hangout session (they call this work?) at The National, the scene golf club located in the rolling hills of Parkville, had me feeling like a kid at Christmas. I had a blast getting up close and personal with many of the biggest names in college basketball. See photos on pages A-1 and A-12.

The famous folks were on hand to participate in the first-ever College Basketball Experience (CBE) Celebrity Golf Classic. It was a fundraiser for the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Funds will directly support the operation of the CBE and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in downtown Kansas City.

Some of the highlights your Between the Lines columnist observed from two hours of hanging around the clubhouse and golf course:

•Bill Self, head coach of the national champion Kansas Jayhawks, stuck out his hand and greeted Mike Anderson, head coach of the rival Missouri Tigers. The exchange was initiated by Self. “Hi Mike,” Self said as the two ran into each other while preparing to jump into golf carts at the tournament’s start. Anderson openly accepted the hand shake but did not offer any congratulations to Self for winning the title. Of course, maybe he has already done that. Of course, maybe he hasn’t.

•I didn’t recognize Nolan Richardson, former national champion himself when he was at Arkansas, until I heard his voice. Richardson has slimmed down considerably since his coaching days. He has also grayed considerably, but don’t we all. I wanted to watch Richardson tee off just to see if it would turn into 40 minutes of hell. In his all-white outfit, unique hat and goatee, he looked like a guy with a secret recipe ready to open his own fast food franchise.

•Gene Keady, former longtime coach at Purdue, was another face I hadn’t seen in quite a while and didn’t place until I heard his distinctive speaking style.

•Dana Altman, head coach at Creighton, was quiet and unassuming. He reminded me of the shy kid at the first day of school. He hung close to his former boss at K-State, Lon Kruger, who is one of my favorite people to follow in college coaching because I can remember watching him as an all-conference guard for K-State back in the early 70’s. Kruger, after coaching at K-State, also spent time at Illinois and in the NBA coaching ranks before landing his current gig at UNLV.

•Frank Martin, K-State’s current head coach, was on hand. He’s a pretty physically imposing character. Same for Greg McDermott, head coach at Iowa State, who towers above most others in the coaching biz.

•And I enjoyed meeting and watching the charismatic Stu Stram, son of Chiefs’ legendary coach Hank Stram, now president of The National Golf Club. He seems perfectly molded for his position. Stu is extremely gifted at schmooze. It was a pleasure just watching him work the crowd. This guy should run for office.

******

Okay, hold your excitement. That proposed Kathy Dusenbery--Bill Quitmeier debate won’t happen. At least not at the Sept. 4 meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club. There seems to be a bit of controversy as to why it won’t happen. Quitmeier’s people say they were primed and ready, that the proposal had been discussed and met favorably by themselves and by some Pachyderm Club representatives. But Mike Maasen, prez of the Pachys, told me something different this week. “The debate was only a concept created by Jim McCall (campaign manager for Quitmeier),” Maasen told me in an email.

McCall sees it differently. He didn’t know the event wasn’t going to happen until The Landmark told him about the Pachyderm Club president’s remarks. “I called Mike Maasen. He hasn’t returned my call. I think it’s kind of funny they were all ready to do it and then all of the sudden not. Maasen and Lee Pedego (one of the founding fathers of the Pachyderm Club) were ready to do it,” McCall said. So did they ever officially invite Dusenbery to take part and if so what was her reaction? I can’t get a clear answer on that one for your inquiring minds. “I don’t know if they ever asked Kathy,” McCall told me.
On Tuesday, my call to Dusenbery’s cell phone went unanswered and, as I’m finding out is quite often the case, her voice mailbox was full and unable to accept another message. Kathy needs to get in the habit of hitting delete occasionally.

******

Russ Purvis, a Platte County attorney who moonlights as an unpaid Landmark columnist giving you a Democrat’s perspective on all matters political, will remain chairman of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee. Purvis, whose common sense column presented in an entertaining writing style has become wildly popular with folks on both sides of the political aisle, last week survived challenges to his perch atop the county Democrats from Pauli Kendrick and Sharon Aring. I’m going to go ahead and target Fred Sanchez, a Democrat committeeman who is the poster child for the scattered remains of liberalism in Platte County, as one of those who was working behind the scenes to stir up challenges for Purvis. But I’m guessing Sanchez will plead innocent.

What’s the deal? Platte County’s Democratic Party was laughed at and dismissed as virtually non-existent until Purvis took the reins. He gave the local Dems some new blood and a much-needed shot of energy. Just a few short years ago, Platte County Republican leaders weren’t shy about cracking jokes and snickering about their Democratic counterparts. Hey Dems, the Republicans don’t laugh out loud--at least not publicly--about you any longer. Give Purvis credit for bringing professional respectability to your party.

Maybe Purvis’ column, which features honest reflection and not complete partisanship, is ruffling the feathers of a few hard core southpaws within the party. By the way, had Purvis been replaced as chairman, his column would still be here. The column opportunity goes with Purvis--it’s not an opportunity presented automatically to whomever is chair of the local Democratic committee. Just in case that’s what the fight is about.

******

Bureaucratic bad boy Fred Sanchez requested a sit-down meeting with me, he said, to “humanize” himself and his views. That meeting was set for 4 p.m. last Friday. I highly anticipated the chat. Knowing how Fred likes to spend other people’s money, I locked away my wallet. I had a tape measure, needle and thread, and sewing machine ready to roll just in case I needed to stitch him a clown suit. I had a copy of the recent back door tax increase legislation handy so we could properly celebrate it. My goal was to get through the meeting without Fred hitting me with a tax increase. No worries. He didn’t show.

Of course this means I’ll quit pointing out his absurdity now.

(Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


A vote in favor despite lack of an acceptable traffic study?

Posted 8/15/08

It’s after 11 p.m., do you know where your planning and zoning commissioners are?

Geez, do these folks have a thankless job or what? Good grief. These community-minded men and women deserve to have their salary doubled. Wait, zero times two is still zero. What the hell, let’s triple their salary.

******

I respect them for their service and all the study time they put into controversial issues. But I still can’t for the life of me figure out how two planning and zoning commissioners voted in favor of a high density subdivision (Lake at Tomahawke Ridge, see front page) going in more than four miles from basic consumer services in an area where high density certainly doesn’t fit the neighborhood. Not to mention, the staff report recommending denial was about as scathing a criticism of a proposed development as you’ll ever see.

What really confounds me, however, is that two commissioners voted in favor of the development knowing full well that the developers to this day still haven’t turned in an acceptable traffic study to the county planning and zoning staff. The county engineer announced Tuesday night the developer’s traffic study “still has issues” and has not been accepted by staff.

So how can a zoning commissioner vote in favor of a project that has yet to submit a required traffic study? Had it passed, would they have allowed other developers in the future the opportunity to get by without a traffic study being accepted? Seems an irresponsible vote to make.

******

Here’s your Parkville ethics update.

You remember the ethics complaint filed against Kathy Dusenbery during the April election at the City of Parkvile? Dusenbery, in her final day(s) as mayor, forwarded a campaign email from Gerry Richardson, a candidate for mayor. Dusenbery’s signature line on her email identified her as mayor and listed her city hall contact information. It was ruled a violation by the Parkville Ethics Commission, but that same commission recommended Dusenbery not face any punishment for the action.

A complaint on the incident was also filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The state commission on Aug. 4 issued a letter on the matter. That letter states the following:

“From the facts presented, the commission voted to close this case with a letter reminding Kathryn Dusenbery of the laws and local ordinances related to her capacity as a public official and in all manners in which she identifies herself as a public official.”

******

Woody Grutzmacher, Platte County’s fastest talker, called me a few days ago. I never am bothered by a phone call from Woody, but I can’t really tell you everything he said. It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s just that he talks so rapidly quite often I don’t know what language he’s speaking. Woody said something to the effect that he is in charge of soccer signups for a league catering to kids ages six and up that will play games at Platte Ridge Park.

I remember him asking if I would help him publicize the soccer signups. The words Thursday, Friday and Saturday were heard. Something about signups being held at the old Platte City Middle School entryway on the grounds of Platte County R-3. Whatever that means.

Need better explanation? More details? Call Woody yourself at 858-5165.

******

Interested in following the race for first district Platte County Commissioner? You may want to pencil in a date on your calendar. It’s all but a done deal, the insiders are saying. Republican Kathy Dusenbery and Democrat Bill Quitmeier have been invited to take part in a debate of sorts in front of the Platte County Pachyderm Club on Sept. 4.

******

Fall isn’t far away, my friends, and I’m pumped about it. From my perspective, the weather we get in this part of the country during the time from mid-September on through October just can’t be beat.

One of my favorite events of the fall season is the annual Taste of Parkville gathering, where many of the fine restaurants in and around Parkville bring their goods to the downtown Farmers Market area at English Landing Park. A ticket purchase earns you the opportunity to taste the goodness from each of the participating restaurants. Proceeds go to help fund the annual Parkville Christmas on the River celebration.

This year’s Taste of Parkville? Sept. 4. The Landmark is once again on board to be one of the corporate sponsors. More on this event in the coming weeks. Hope to see you there.

******

Yes, with a proposed political debate and the Taste of Parkville, Sept. 4 is shaping up as a fine way to kick off the fall season in Platte County.

And don’t look now but the first Sunday of the NFL season is Sept. 7. I’m gearing up.

*****

Another early fall highlight? On Sept. 8 the Tour of Missouri bike race will come through Platte City/Platte County. More on this as the event draws closer. And a plan to rededicate the improved Harrel Ferrel ball park at Fourth and Hwy. 92 in Platte City is in the works for that same afternoon. It’ll be a busy day in Platte City.

******

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Former Mayor Dave’s pet project, the annual Harley rally, is on again this year, though the city isn’t footing the bill this time. It’s a project being planned by an outfit known as Primeflight, with Former Mayor Dave’s fearless guidance, no doubt.

I noticed in their press release organizers are claiming that the rally, set for Sept. 5 and 6 this year, has become an international event. I can’t tell you the basis for that claim. Maybe there will be some stray Siamese cats in attendance.

(Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


How did those endorsements work out for Hulshof?

Posted 8/8/08

The endorsement of some alleged local Republican heavyweights didn’t do a whole lot of good for Kenny Hulshof in Platte County. Congrats to Hulshof for grabbing the Republican nomination, but as you know Sarah Steelman put a whoopin’ on him in Platte County by a count of 53% to 39%. In politics, 14% percentage points isn’t a beating. It’s assault and battery.

So who were some of the local Republican heavyweights publicly endorsing, supporting and/or cheering on Hulshof? I won’t mention any names but their initials are Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight, Republican Central Committee Chairman Jim Rooney, and Pachyderm Club founding father Lee Pedego.

Hulshof may want to meet with these folks and ask them to be a little quieter in their endorsements next time around.

******

With the heat index at 110 degrees, I stuck some ice in my underpants and headed out to the Royals game Monday evening.

Why? Because I hadn’t taken the youngsters to a Royals game all summer. And maybe because sometimes I just like sticking ice in my underpants.

******

It’s been a longstanding tradition in Major League Baseball for the players to scratch themselves openly, right there on the field in front of thousands of fans in the stands and hundreds of thousands watching them on television. But now even some of the umpires are doing it.

What makes a guy decide that’s the proper venue to play a quick game of pocket pool?

Maybe the commissioner of baseball needs to get a handle on these guys getting a handle on themselves. It’s giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “national pastime.”

******

The dozens of folks who have shown up at neighborhood meetings in opposition to the proposed high-density development known as Tomahawke are no doubt excited to learn that the county planning and zoning staff is recomending denial of the developer’s preliminary plat (see front page). But that doesn’t mean the opposition should relax, says their attorney, Rob Willard.

“It’s absolutely still important for the people to come out. It’s critical for the planning and zoning board to see the public sentiment about this. A crowd of constituents is hard to ignore. If you live in that area and you love your home, you have to be there Tuesday night,” Willard told me this week when I called him for reaction to the recommendation.

And what about the media spin war being waged by the developer’s attorney, Chris Byrd, who has been saying that the county has no legal right to turn down the preliminary plat application as long as a checklist of basic requirements has been met? “To say the planning and zoning board has no authority eliminates the need for a planning and zoning board in the first place. They are a check-and-balance in the process. If that were the case, somebody sitting at a computer could enter that information and the computer would spit it out. The folks on the planning and zoning board represent the best interests of the people of Platte County and are the people’s voice. You can’t just ignore that. Because of that discretionary nature, you can’t just ignore what they say.”

Somebody yell amen.

******

I know he’s simply trying to pass off his opinion as fact in an effort to intimidate a volunteer planning and zoning board, but it is time that Chris Byrd’s claim be refuted by somebody at the county. Apparently sensing that, Daniel Erickson, planning and zoning director, went out of his way in his recommendation of denial to spell out, from the county’s point of view, why the planning and zoning board does indeed have the power to expand upon that checklist of minimum--and let’s emphasize the word minimum--requirements that must be met for a preliminary plat application to be approved. Erickson’s recommendation is much more detailed and more strongly worded than the normal recommendation you’ll see in these matters. He is to be commended.

And, here’s the Between the Lines bottom line. One of the basic responsibilities of government is to protect the health and welfare of its citizenry. Approving a high-density housing project along two already-dangerous stretches of roadway at Hwy. 92 and Winan would be irresponsible. We’ve all heard the term “blood on your hands.” The Tomahawke development would increase Hwy. 92 traffic to a level at which the Missouri Department of Transportation has previously said the highway would need to be widened to four lanes. And MoDOT says widening the highway to four lanes is not anywhere on the horizon, due to a lack of priority funding for such a project.

In the eye of the public, who would be held responsible for the potential human traffic carnage that would result if the development is allowed to proceed simply because the developer has met a checklist of minimum requirements? Common sense has to come into play here.

I hate to go all Johnnie Cochran on you, but: ‘If the plan doesn’t fit, you must make it quit.’

******

The only two taxing entities who seem to be having a hard time coming to grips with SB711, the new legislation that prevents back door tax increases due to increased property values after reassessment, are the Park Hill School Board and the South Platte Ambulance District Board of Directors.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, Fred Sanchez serves on both those boards. I’m thinking Sen. Mike Gibbons, sponsor of the legislation, would be happy to arrange a session during which he could explain SB711 to these allegedly confused taxing boards.

(Endorse or oppose Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


The New Guy's personality a better fit? Quitmeier the conservative

Posted 8/1/08

If the Platte City Board of Aldermen’s goal was to find a new city administrator whose public personality would be different from that of current administrator Keith Moody, they may have succeeded. I called Jason Metten, The New Guy, Tuesday afternoon for a 10-15 minute get-to-know-you session.

He seems outgoing. Very well spoken. Enthusiastic. Confident without being arrogant. He has a degree in communications, and it seemed to show during our conversation. One of the criticisms of Moody down through the years has been a perceived lack of people skills. My early impression of Metten is that his skills in that department are better.

Metten, age 31, will become Platte City’s administrator on Sept. 1, coming here after serving for three years as the administrator in Hawarden, Iowa, a town of about 2,600 people in northwest Iowa. He said he hopes to arrive in Platte City a few days ahead of Sept. 1 to talk to Moody, whom he has not met. “And I need to find a place to live and figure out how it’s all going to work,” Metten said, explaining he has a wife and two children. His wife is a registered nurse.

I asked him the big question, the one I know all Landmark readers would have asked him if you had the chance: Was there any hesitation before accepting the job based on the fact Moody was fired?

“No, no hesitation at all. The only hesitation was because I like it in Hawarden (pronounced Hay’-warden),” he told me. “I kind of wanted to be here to see some projects through. But there is no good time to leave because other projects are always going to be coming along.” He said he knows there are “challenges and differences of opinion” on the Platte City Board of Aldermen, “but that exists on every board.”

That’s a very mature assessment of the situation, in my opinion. If Metten is able to display an ability to accept constructive criticism without being overly offended by it, it will put him ahead of the game of his predecessor, who had his strengths but also had his weaknesses, with a lack of public relations skills and a thin skin among them.

Metten said he hasn’t really had a chance to study Platte City’s situation in detail or view city facilities, but did say he has seen enough of the city to realize the capital improvement projects have been quality stuff. “It’s all very impressive. It’s my opinion that it’s a well-run city,” he said.

The New Guy says he’s anxious to arrive on the scene and start meeting some folks. I’m guessing most folks in Platte City are anxious for a new era.

*******

It has become clear that in the general election for first district county commissioner coming this fall to a neighborhood near you, Democrat Bill Quitmeier will be able to stake a claim as the most fiscally conservative candidate in his race against Kathy Dusenbery. Yes, I’m jumping to the conclusion that Quitmeier and Dusenbery will win next week’s primaries. Honestly, I don’t think that’s a major leap to make.

Before the election cycle started, many observers felt Quitmeier might be too far to the left to win a general election in Platte County. That early impression--and I was in that category initially but now believe Quitmeier will have a shot at winning in November--no doubt came from Quitmeier’s consistent harping on environmental issues, green space, and his history of representing clients who opposed development proposals. But once you’ve studied his political history--like Dusenbery, he is a former mayor of Parkville-- and listened to him speak on spending issues, you may come away with the belief he sincerely values a tax dollar.

Dusenbery, meanwhile, in her primary campaign has been using phrases indicating she views the county becoming “more progressive.” Uh, oh, the phrase “more progressive” makes a lot of us nervous when it comes from the mouth of a politician. Many elected officials think the only way to be “more progressive” is to spend more of your money and issue more public debt. History shows a desire to be “more progressive” often results in bigger government. As pointed out in a letter to the editor in this fine publication last week, Parkville’s debt load increased substantially during Dusenbery’s time as mayor. It can be argued--and if it is argued, I look forward to hearing it--whether other financial missteps were made during her tenure, but what can’t be argued is that the city’s debt load more than tripled under Dusenbery’s watch. Don’t be confused--we’re not talking about whether or not a particular fiscal year’s budget was balanced or not, we’re talking about debt load being carried on the shoulders of the taxpayers. And in the case of Parkville’s new city hall, that debt load was increased without voter approval.

Voters in Platte County have a history of saying enough is enough when it comes to increasing the size of government and increasing public debt. Think back to the Republican primary of 2004, when two incumbent county commissioners who had presided over a period of what I’m sure they felt was “more progressive” activity were defeated by Tom Pryor and Jim Plunkett. Michael Short and Steve Wegner were defeated by their own party in large part because voters didn’t like the rate at which their county government was growing and the rate at which the public debt load was increasing.

Bottom line is that what we could be hearing in the fall campaign is a Democrat (Quitmeier) sounding a lot like a Republican while painting his Republican opponent (Dusenbery) as the candidate who likes to play fast and loose with your tax money. Should be fun to watch.

******

Have you noticed the only area newspaper talking about a drop in circulation and revenue is the Kansas City Star? Are you familiar with The Falling Star? That’s the left-leaning institution recently forced to eliminate 120 employees. That’s the outfit talking about an alleged downturn in newspaper readership and ad revenue across the industry. Recent developments indicate The Falling Star is issuing a public cry for help that goes something like this: “Take our newspaper. Please.”

Here’s evidence The Falling Star’s advertising and readership decline is a statement about its own product rather than a statement about the newspaper industry. This just in from the Missouri Press Association: Missouri newspapers now reach more than 3 million homes. That’s a five percent increase from 15 years ago.

Perhaps it’s time for The Falling Star to start speaking for itself. Please don’t drag the rest of us down with you.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


It's time for an update on things worth knowing

Posted 7/24/08

The annual Platte County Fair is underway now through Saturday at the fairgrounds, and organizers are anticipating another solid turnout. Rick Hill, president of the Platte County Fair Board, told me this week he doesn’t expect the high cost of gasoline will hurt fair attendance.

In fact it could be argued the high gas prices will help fair attendance. Since we need to take out a second mortgage to fill our gas tanks, many more locals may in fact be enticed to take advantage of nearby entertainment options like the four-day fair.

Here’s hoping attendance is good. And the heat isn’t too overbearing.

******

Opening night activities at the fair were getting underway just as this issue of your Landmark hit the streets. The opening night always includes the crowning of the queen. But you don’t have to wait till next week’s paper--check out our web site at plattecountylandmark.com on Thursday morning for a photo of this year’s winner.

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If you’ve been to downtown Platte City over the course of the past several days you may have noticed the restoration project underway on the front of the 139-year-old Landmark building. Much more on this adventure--including photos of the work as it progresses and a detailed history of one of the oldest buildings in downtown--in future issues as the project moves forward. The goal is to return the front of this local landmark (yes, The Landmark is also a local landmark with a lower case “l”) to much of its original look. Not that there are many folks still around from 1869 to recall the building’s original appearance.

In the meantime, I apologize for the construction activity taking up a few cherished downtown parking spots directly in front of our building. Trust me, we’re fully aware that parking spots in downtown are like gold. But it’s just for a short time and all in the name of progress.

We hope you’ll like our building’s improved front look when all is said and done.

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The building housing the newspaper has been around since 1869. The Landmark itself, widely recognized as the oldest active newspaper in the state, has been around since 1865. The Landmark began publication in Weston on Sept. 28, 1865, just five months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and has been published without interruption since that date.

The paper moved to Platte City in 1871. The Landmark has been in its current location at 252 Main St. since 1889.

I know I’m biased, but every time I pause a moment to digest all of that all I can say is “Wow.”

******

Revisiting the scenes and events from Bonnie and Clyde’s 1933 tour stop in Platte County was interesting over the weekend. See our front page, as well as page B-1 for information and photos of the local event.

Again call me biased--and by the way, that’s what a columnist is supposed to be--but the best written history you’ll find about the Red Crown shootout between local lawmen and the notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde appeared in The Landmark in 2003. You can still find the four-part series by surfing to this area’s most popular media web site at www.plattecountylandmark.com/local.htm

You’ll find the series linked at the top of that web page. It was written by Mark Vasto, Landmark reporter at the time, and includes much information you’ll want to know if you’re a student of local history.

Surf to plattecountylandmark.com whenever the mood strikes. No cover charge. No closing time. No dress code.

******

Hats off to the Wall Street Journal columnist who penned one of the most astute and to-the-point political editorials I’ve read recently. Her work was so good I’m convinced she could write for The Landmark someday.

You’ll see most of her column printed elsewhere on this page in our Other Voices feature. For the full version as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal, click here. It's good stuff.

******

In case you’re wondering about the heavy-on-the-numbers letter to the editor in this issue, rest assured the man producing the data knows of what he speaks. Gordon Cook is a certified public accountant who has compiled mounds of financial information pertaining to the City of Parkville. I know because he was glad to present it to me and go over it in detail. It’s how we spent our Friday afternoon.

******

Oldest Between the Lines daughter, Lindsey Rae, in June received her degree from the physical therapy assistant program at Missouri Western State University. This spring she completed a six week clinical at Saint Luke’s on the Plaza in Kansas City (during which time she made the second story pad of your Landmark office her home), and then completed another six-week clinical at a facility in Tennessee. She’s now working at that facility in Tennessee, though she claims a desire to head back to the Midwest in the not-too-distant future. Her parents are proud of her.

And we’re also proud of those Landmark kids Bill Hankins and Debbie Dance-Uhrig. Hankins, our award-winning photojournalist whose work you see in these pages on an almost weekly basis, has been elected to the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame. I can’t wait to crash his induction ceremony in October. I’m going to photograph it with one of those disposable cameras.

Meanwhile, Uhrig, our cooking columnist the past few years who got her start with The Landmark and successfully marketed herself into a syndicated deal, has just accepted a sweet gig at Silver Dollar City. Details elsewhere in this issue.

(You probably won’t find Ivan Foley at Silver Dollar City. You definitely won’t find him in the Hall of Fame. But you can email his sorry ass at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Tracy primed for retail explosion; GOP race an easy study

Posted 7/17/08

Over the weekend I discovered my new favorite summertime experience. It’s the banana split blast at Sonic. All the flavorful ingredients of a banana split blended into a tasty treat. The bad news is that if I get hooked on these things I may gain 75 pounds by Labor Day.

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While on the hard-hitting topic of banana splits, don’t quote me on this (can a newspaper man ever say that?) but I think Wednesday is half price banana split day at Dairy Queen.

*****

Hey, and I also have found the best item on McDonald’s menu. It’s the Big and Tasty burger. That’s combo item No. 4 when you’re ordering locally. Some good eatin’.

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And here’s a little tidbit if you find yourself in the drive through lane at KFC. Ask for seven pieces of dark meat. You can get into it for just over $5, considerably cheaper than other multiple piece offerings they try to guide you toward. The seven piece item of which I speak is not shown on their menu--you must ask for it by name. Not to sound paranoid, but I think they were trying to keep it a secret from me.

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Why do I sound like such a connoisseur of fast food? Hope my doctor isn’t reading this.

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The humble and tiny burg of Tracy--best known for its political in-fighting and as the site of the Platte County Fair--could be on the verge of a development explosion of relative proportions.

Developer Bill Mann is proposing a commercial development just west of Interstate 29 in Tracy. Among the businesses in the plan: a truck stop of 12,000 sq. ft. with a 40 seat restaurant; retail space of 20,000 sq. ft. with 10 employees; an antique store with 15,000 sq. ft. and six employees; a warehouse of 40,000 sq. ft. with 20 employees; and a body shop with 6,000 sq. ft. and eight employees.

And if you want to dream a little bit, a hotel site is listed as “optional” in Mann’s plan for his ground near the interstate. The hotel, if it happens, would have 120 units and would sit on three acres.

Mann’s development would be known as Tracy Highlands. Remember, Mann is the guy who kicked off much of Platte City’s development in the 1990’s with the project known as the Platte Valley Plaza near I-29 and Hwy. 92.

Studies are currently underway to determine the impact Mann’s Tracy Highlands project would have on sewer needs and capacities in Tracy and Platte City. Tracy’s wastewater is actually pumped to Platte City where it is treated by that city’s sewer plant. In order for the new area to be served by Platte City, the current agreement between Platte City and Tracy for sewer treatment service would need to be amended. A formal request, specifying the expanded boundary, will need to be made by Tracy to Platte City, so says Keith Moody, the fired-but-not-really-fired city administrator for Platte City.

Platte City is not expected to act on such a request until the impacts on its sewer collection system have been assessed.

******

Many of your candidates for statewide office continue to make campaign stops in Platte County. One of my personal favorites, Sen. Mike Gibbons, author of the legislation designed to end back door tax increases that simply occurred upon you every time your home’s value increased after reassessment, is in Platte County today (Wednesday) and will be dropping by your Landmark office anytime. He is a Republican candidate for state attorney general.

On Thursday, Sarah Steelman, state treasurer and the Republicans’ best candidate for governor, will be in Platte County to do an informal meet-and-greet at the home of John and Julie Elliott. See The Landmark next week for information and photos on the visits from Steelman and Gibbons.

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Why is Steelman the best Republican candidate for governor? It’s pretty simple. As a state senator and now as state treasurer, she has an unmatched record of standing strong against powerful special interests and powerful politicians. That’s why you see so many members of the so-called “establishment,” both locally and across the state, supporting her opponent, Kenny Hulshof.

The quality I admire the most about Steelman--and as you know from previous columns there are many-is that she doesn’t care whose feathers she ruffles. She’s a fighter who doesn’t play the usual political games.

If you’re a casual political observer looking for a simplification, look at it this way: If he wins, Hulshof is going to feel an obligation to repay a bunch of political favors. On the other hand, Steelman won’t owe the good ol’ boys and girls a thing.

You gotta love that.

******

So why am I not busy talking about my upcoming trip to Chiefs’ training camp, my annual July excursion to the great north? Because I’m not going.

River Falls, Wisc. is my usual destination this time of year, a trip combining business and pleasure. But there will be no training camp adventure for this NFL fan this year, nor did I renew my season tickets. I’m taking a pass until Clark Hunt sees the light and removes Carl Peterson as general manager. The Chiefs are gonna stink this year, folks.

******

Photo pages from recent events have been popular hits on our web site in recent days. Pictures from the recent Platte County Pachyderm event featuring Steelman, Hulshof and local faces can be found at: http://plattecountylandmark.com/KansasCityPicturepage7-9-08.htm.

Want to see pictures from the Platte City July 4th festival? Go to http://plattecountylandmark.com/PlatteCityPicturepage7-9-08.htm.

Or from Parkville’s Independence Day celebration? Surf to http://plattecountylandmark.com/ParkvillePicturepage7-9-08.htm.


(If you can’t treat him to a banana split, at least email the publisher your tasty thoughts at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Local establishment caters to Kenny; Graves on gas

Posted 7/11/08

I’m liking the early returns on this “merger” of Aquila and Kansas City Power & Light. As you probably know by now, power company Aquila is being acquired by Great Plains Energy and will operate under the KCP&L brand.

Aquila has many customers in this area. Count your Landmark office among them. Last Thursday, representatives from KCP&L and Aquila paid a visit to our office for a quick chat about the merger. While they were here, I happened to mention that an electrical line that runs across the top of our building and serves our neighbors to the east had sagged dangerously low. If a person stepped out the rear door of our second story loft onto the landing at the top of the stairs, one could practically reach up into a full stretch and make contact with the power line. Not the safest of situations.

Two hours after that brief conversation, Aquila personnel had been out to look at the situation and I had already received two follow-up phone calls from company officials. The next business day they were back and ready to raise the electrical line to a safe height.

One of the knocks against Aquila in the past has been slow response time to customer requests. Not this time. This thing was handled in impressive fashion, very quickly and very professionally. Kudos.

******

Thoughts and observations from Thursday night’s Pachyderm Club meeting, which featured a debate between county commission candidates Kathy Dusenbery and Jeff Jones and speeches by gubernatorial candidates Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof:

•Jones, in a letter to the editor you’ll see on this page, says he found Dusenbery to be rude during the debate. I was there. I saw no evidence of that. I saw Dusenbery being Dusenbery. There may have been a smug look on her face a time or two as Jones was speaking, but I didn’t see random acts of rudeness. Some folks dig her personality, others not so much. As for Jones’ letter itself, the version you’ll see printed has undergone some serious editing by yours truly as he initially included some claims and accusations that could not be verified. Most, if not all, the other matters he touches on in his love note to Kathy you have seen reported at one point or another here in The Landmark, and Jones is certainly entitled to his own interpretation of the issues. Some of the topics may be breaking news to others in this business, who by now should be used to getting scooped when it comes to coverage at city halls in Parkville and Platte City. But Landmark readers--including Dusenbery herself, who was quoted in many of the related stories on the topics mentioned by Jones--have seen the issues covered in these pages. Apparently Jones is a Landmark reader, also. Welcome aboard. No reader left behind. Or rudely turned away.

•What is up with so many of the establishment Platte County Republicans publicly showing open support for one Republican over another Republican at an event held by a Republican organization? I found that a little bizarre. Most of your establishment local Republicans weren’t shy about favoring Hulshof over Steelman. What’s odd is that a couple of the folks doing that are the same folks who came back from the state Republican convention in Branson complaining to me about how they found it inappropriate for Sen. Kit Bond to endorse Hulshof at the state convention. You know who you are. Don't make me name names.

•Obviously things have gone so well in Congress over the past few years it’s only natural that so many local Republican leaders would want Hulshof to bring that fine record of success to the governor’s office.

•One establishment Republican who favors Hulshof did admit to me that Hulshof can be summed up as a “cookie cutter candidate.” So true. He speaks in generalities. He has the typical Republican answer to the typical campaign questions. Yawn. I’m sure he’s an intelligent guy with a grasp of many issues, but beyond that, something about him is reminiscent of that nerd we all knew--and occasionally taunted--in high school. Don't pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Because you do.

*********

The door to your Landmark office swung open at about 12:30 Tuesday afternoon and in walked Sam Graves, your Sixth District Congressman. Dressed in blue jeans and a casual shirt, Graves--looking as relaxed as I’ve ever seen him--was alone and was eating a giant cookie from a local restaurant where he had just held a chat session with local officials.
He agreed to sit down and take a few quick questions from your always-ready columnist.

Q: Whose fault is it that gas is $4 per gallon?

A: The extreme environmental lobby. We need to Americanize our supply. All federal land--except for parks--should be opened up for exploration. We know it’s in ANWR. We know where it is in the Gulf of Mexico. We need to go after it. It’s not going to take years for it to have an effect on the market. It’s a futures exchange, that’s how it’s traded. Just the talk of increased supply will send a tremor through the market and you would see the price go down.

Q: Is gasoline price gouging going on?

A: If there is we have passed legislation that allows the attorney general at the state level to be able to investigate it and to allow the Justice Department to look at OPEC. Is there manipulation going on in the market by OPEC? Darn right there is. They are keeping supply at a certain level even when demand rises. That’s price manipulation.

Q: You support the use of ethanol. How do you respond to critics who say that ethanol is driving up the cost of food?

A: Buy ethanol to take a crack at the oil companies. It cuts into the oil companies’ market share. What’s raising the price of food is the price of fuel. Everything in this country has to move. It’s not ethanol raising the price of food. Ethanol is keeping the price of gas down by 30 cents right now.

Q: You are often criticized for being perceived as a friend to Big Oil. How do you respond?

A: Look at my record on ethanol and biodiesel. That’s why big oil doesn’t like me because I hammer away at them on alternative fuels.

Q: Why should voters choose Sam Graves over Kay Barnes?

A: I represent my district in Washington D.C. I don’t represent Washington back to my district. This is my home, it’s always been my home. She didn’t cite the Northland as her home until she started running for Congress.

And as quickly as he had arrived, he was gone, as a staffer walked in to remind him they had a plane to catch. Just another day at your Landmark office.

(Email Ivan Foley any hectic day at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Consumer alert! Avoid these fireworks this holiday

Posted 7/3/08

Weather forecast for the Fourth of July? A pleasant 82 degrees.
Ah, now that’s a refreshing change for Firecracker Day. Enjoy it safely.

******

After some extensive consumer research, I’ve come up with a list of five special fireworks you may want to avoid this Fourth of July.

THE MATT BLUNT BLASTING PACK: This special package, advertised as family friendly, features kind of a pretty boy wrapping. But most folks who bought into this explosive are still waiting for the bang. The fuse will burn for up to four years with no positive result. And if you light this thing too close to your laptop it will delete all of your emails.

THE HANMAN HAILSTORM: This locally-produced device works best if you stick some cash in an overpriced milk jug, detonate the sucker and watch the money fall from the sky. If you pack it full of Benjamins and safely detonate it somewhere near the governor’s mansion you could be awarded a license bureau.

THE MOODY MISSILE: You can fire this contraption but it won’t go anywhere.

THE SANCHEZ SMOKE BOMB: This firework panders to those who like hot air and government waste in liberal doses. By the time the smoke clears your tax bill has gone up 30%.

THE BACK DOOR BOB BULL SPREADER: Specifically designed for the timid Fourth of July celebrators who are easily frightened and would rather do some holiday reading, this package consists of an eight-page dissertation by a local school board president trying to claim that school tax revenues have not benefitted from reassessment. Comes complete with a set of boots.

******

I spent some time traveling Interstate 29 on Saturday. Gasoline in Platte City was selling for $3.95 per gallon. In St. Joseph on that same day it could be pumped for $3.76 per gallon.

I’ll let you explain that. Because I can’t.

******

If you haven’t caught a Between the Lines public appearance in recent days, why not? This traveling road show has been to county commission meetings, Tracy Board of Aldermen, Parkville Board of Aldermen, Platte County R-3 School Board, multiple Platte City Board of Aldermen meetings, a signing ceremony for state legislation, and had a brief cameo at a county planning and zoning commission session.

Who says summer is a slow time in the news biz? You won’t hear anybody at The Landmark talking such garbage.

We’ll be back on the road soon. There’s the great debate (well, a debate anyway) on the agenda for Thursday night at the Platte County Pachyderm Club between Kathy Dusenbery and Jeffrey Jones, candidates for county commissioner. And oh yeah, a guy named Hulshof who is running for governor will be there as well. Then this weekend track me down at either--or both--of the Independence Day celebrations to be held in Parkville and Platte City.

******

I enjoyed the heck out of the bill signing ceremony held Tuesday at a residence just outside of Platte City by Gov. Matt Blunt and Sen. Mike Gibbons. Longtime readers know this column has long been an advocate of many of the changes that will be put into place in regard to reassessment’s effect on your property tax bill, with Gibbons even placing a phone call to our office last fall after reading some of our editorials on The Landmark’s web site.

Gibbons and other GOP leaders last fall started talks to come up with a plan to stop those “back door tax increases” that entities formerly placed upon folks by not rolling back tax rates to account for the property value increases. Let’s be honest, school districts--including Platte County R-3--have been some of the biggest abusers of this tactic. In reassessment years, their assessed value often goes up dramatically. Schools brag about keeping their tax levy the same, but when the assessed value increases without the levy being rolled back, the result is a hefty tax increase.

This new legislation--and you’ll want to read our front page story that includes an in-depth look at the topic with quotes from state and local leaders--is designed to put an end to that. Those of us at The Landmark were thrilled that state leaders picked Platte County as the site to sign this piece of important legislation.

As I wrote in this space several weeks a go, taxpayers should rejoice over this new legislation.

******

Remember the property at I-29 and HH at the northern entrance to Platte City that was designated as a TIF zone and was proposed to be the Shoppes at North Gate retail center? Yes, the site Former Mayor Dave said would become “the Zona Rosa of Platte City?” Well, they’ve never publicly admitted it, but developers Dina Cox and Bill Rabius have obviously given up on the dream. The property is now listed for sale on a Kansas City realtor’s web site. The asking price? $600,000 for the seven and a half acres.

******

A reader pointed out that I left you hanging with my most recent update several weeks ago on daughter Alyssa and her post high school plans. At last report, I told you she now will attend Highland Community College on a math and science scholarship and I mentioned she was trying out for the dance team there. The outcome? She made the team and will be dancing at home football and basketball games.

Alyssa and her high school-senior-to be brother Kurt, both of whom you’ve seen working around the newspaper office--recently returned from a nine-day Fellowship of Christian Athletes mission trip to New Mexico with their mother along as one of the chaperones. The group spent their time shingling a roof, putting on siding, and cutting down trees, you know, the same kind of stuff they do around home all the time.

Another big highlight for facilities manager Kurt, who now stands a couple hairs over 6’ tall, came when he did a two-handed dunk on the basketball court. The rim was set at nine and a half feet, six inches shy of regulation height, but still quite an accomplishment. He has the moment recorded on video--on his cell phone. Ask him for a showing.

(Dunk the columnist via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Will the mood swing once again at City Hall?

Posted 6/27/08

Two of the most recent Final Four--the four folks left in the running to be Platte City’s next city administrator--have dropped out. The candidate from Kansas City says he has read the media reports and wants to pull out (in other words, he didn’t think he was going to get the job anyway), and a candidate from a large city in Florida, where dollars come a bit easier, appears to think the money would not have been enough for her.

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“We had 40 resumes submitted (before the city hired a consultant to help with the hiring). There’s no reason we couldn’t have done all this ourselves and Moody would have been gone by now.”

That’s your quote of the week from the very quotable Andy Stanton, Platte City alderman. And he’s right. Stanton is quick to remind folks it was a split vote among the previous board/mayor to hire the consultant group known as Organization Consultants headed by Robert Saunders.

“Ron Stone, Todd Sloan and the ex-mayor pushed for Saunders to do it,” Stanton recalls, and recalls quite correctly, I might add.

******

Remember when he was “fired,” Moody’s severance package included an offer to work as late as the end of July. That’s a month away.

Is it just me or is anybody else starting to think Moody will still be here after July? As bizarre as the way the city has handled this “firing,” I won’t be surprised if eventually Moody--who apparently isn’t being overwhelmed with other job offers on the open market--is offered the Platte City position back, accepts, and does a happy dance in front of City Hall.

That would be a nightmare for a lot of Platte City residents who weren’t sorry to see him asked to leave, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if it happens. Some of the thought processes that go on at about half that board table never cease to amaze.

******

City Hall in Platte City now has information that confirms what has been rumored for months. Walgreen’s has contacted city officials about building a store at the site that now houses the Mexican restaurant known as Rancho Grande near the busy intersection of Interstate 29 and Hwy. 92. “We have received contact from Walgreen’s concerning the site of a new store at the Rancho Grande site. Plans are to construct a new building on that lot,” reads a memo to aldermen from Keith Moody, the fired-but-still-working city administrator.

What will happen with Rancho Grande if/when they sell out to Walgreen’s? Dunno. There have been two longtime rumors in the circuit, one had the Mexican place acquiring the now-vacant site of the former Wendy’s building, the other rumor is Rancho will be done for good in Platte City.

Now the newest rumor? Rancho Grande has eyes on doing business at The Legends at Village West by the race track in Kansas City, Kan.

Take it all for what’s worth. Heck, by the time the ink is dry on this Landmark you may be hearing another rumor.

******

Fresh word is a new Kentucky Fried Chicken has its eyes on a site in Platte City, on the lot south of the aforementioned old Wendy’s property. A group wanting to construct a standalone KFC on that property has been in contact with City Hall. Platte City’s current KFC is located inside of the Conoco Gas Mart.

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Andy Stanton, my favorite protector of the public’s right to know and now ardent crime fighter.

After his Tuesday night board of aldermen meeting, Stanton did a quick drive down the end of Main Street toward his business. Along his way he spotted two young boys carrying a notable ol’ Coca Cola sign up the street, one of those reproduced round Coke Buttons, about two foot in circumference. Unusual, yes. But what made it even more eye-catching was the fact the sign belongs to Stanton.

Your do-everything alderman quickly pulled over to ask the boys, politely I’m sure, why they were carrying that sign and from where had they acquired such? The sign had been resting at a high point behind Stanton’s place of business, at least until the young lads decided to take it for a walk.

Cops were called and the two 12-year-olds were sprayed with mace, tickled with night sticks, handcuffed to a light pole, and injected with truth serum.

Not.

But the cops did arrive on the scene and called the boys’ parents, and perhaps juvenile authorities as well. But, my friends and future juvenile delinquents, this is further evidence that crime doesn’t pay.

******

Been to the new Tiffany Springs Market Center yet? Home Depot, Best Buy and Target are among those going in just east of I-29 in Platte County. Can you say increased sales tax revenue?

*******

For the third time in this column space I will report that rumors in education circles throughout the region indicate that current assistant superintendent Mike Reik will be offered the post when Platte County R-3 gets around to hiring Mark Harpst’s replacement this winter. And for the third time I will report folks at R-3 whom I ask about this deny that scenario is a foregone conclusion.

But isn’t it going to look kinda funny if the R-3 school board continues to go through the time and expense of an across the country search and then offers the job to somebody sitting across the room?

(You never have to search far to find this columnist. Invite him into your home, stalk him at his office, or simply email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Ex-mayor lives; Summer sports; and The Falling Star

Posted 6/19/08

Welcome back to The Landmark, with an information pipeline so strong it angers, frustrates, and embarrasses the competition.

You know you love it. That’s why you’re back here for more.

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Visual evidence that Former Mayor Dave is still alive and apparently well can be found in this issue of your Landmark in our Faces ‘n’ Places feature. Former Mayor Dave was spotted in downtown Platte City Monday morning and your Landmark paparazzi was able to grab a quick photo of The Man Who Used to be King. It appeared Ex-Mayor Dave was having a pow-wow with persons who will be involved in the planning of this year’s motorcycle rally in the downtown metropolis.

I did not see the spirit of Evel Knievel but I’m wondering if he and the ex-mayor shared a beverage afterward and talked about happier times.

******

Ex-Mayor Dave’s appearance on Main Street prompted a dozen stray cats to grab themselves and run away in a frenzy.

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Give the readers what they want. That’s our goal here.

So many of you have asked for it, we're giving it to you. Now at our web site at plattecountylandmark.com is an icon to click that will take you immediately to every entry in the Dave’s Diary series we had running here in Between the Lines back in the spring election campaign. To view it, click here.

It’s like one-stop shopping. But you won’t have to spend $4 a gallon gasoline to get there.

******

Really, is there anything more boring than the summer sports scene?

There’s the just-completed NBA finals. Snooze city. The NBA isn’t a team sport anymore, if it ever was. If I want some one-on-one in my life I’m not going to look for it on the basketball court. And an indoor sport running until mid-June? What’s next, baseball in January?

Then there’s golf. I guess golf is okay as a spectator sport unless there is some paint I can watch dry or grass I can watch grow. Or a Joe Posnanski column to read.

Which leads us to Major League Baseball. Granted, baseball has its moments, if you have the time to sit around and wait for them. That can take hours. Or days. Or if you’re a Royals fan, years.

But never fear, The Landmark breaks up the summer sports doldrums this week with Bill Hankins’ annual top-notch photographic review of the 2007-08 sports seasons at Platte County R-3. It’s everything you need to know about the R-3 sports seasons wrapped up in one collectible package. In addition to award-winning photos, you’ll find comments by players and coaches, along with statistical highlights.

To the legions of local newspaper readers who prefer their high school sports coverage to be kept in its proper perspective, concise and to the point without being overblown beyond the point of relevancy, this is your section.

******

Kansas City’s daily newspaper, dubbed the Falling Star by my favorite local radio talk show host Chris Stigall, has announced it is laying off 120 employees, or about 10 percent of its work force. Management says the layoffs are due to dramatic reductions in revenue due to “increased competition in a changing media landscape and the current economic downturn.”

I’d like to hear more about that increased competition. Isn’t the Star still KC’s only daily newspaper? Could it be their problems are more due to the fact the Star often seems to be out of touch with its pool of potential customers? The Star’s editorial side is far more left-wing than the majority of its reader base, in my opinion.

I hate to kick a liberal-leaning institution when it’s down, but I confess it is a little enjoyable to watch the meltdown. This is a daily newspaper that several years ago had its legal team send me a fax, threatening a lawsuit if The Landmark’s sports media columnist at the time didn’t stop giving commentary about one of the Star’s sports columnists. I guess the Star figured it had cornered the market on opinions. Regular Landmark readers know their baseless threat didn’t stop our man Greg Hall from continuing with his hard-hitting editorial comments.

Then two years ago, a Star editor called me to express his displeasure with the way I was covering the race for Platte County prosecutor. Sounds like a joke, but this is true. Seems the editor was upset that we had the stones to run a story that he was afraid to touch.
Apparently he couldn’t decide whether he was angry or just flat embarrassed. Our phone conversation--which he initiated--apparently overwhelmed him. He hung up on me.

And the Star still has a left-leaning, tree hugging columnist in its Northland bureau whose editorials are often obviously written--poorly so--in response to something he has read in The Landmark.

In this business, anytime you get your competitors publicly irritated, you know you’re doing something right. I hope that guy doesn’t fall victim to the “increased competition.”

(Been scooped? Express your irritation and frustration in person, by phone or by email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Fireworks a day early? And how about this plan to save the airlines?

Posted 6/13/08

Will there be fireworks a day early in Platte County? Very possibly.

The Missouri governor’s race will come to Platte County on the eve of the Fourth of July when Kenny Hulshof makes a stop at the monthly meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club. Also on the invitation list is his opponent in the Republican primary for governor, Sarah Steelman. Hulshof has confirmed attendance, Steelman has yet to indicate. It will be a quite interesting evening if organizers can get both in the same room right here in the county of Platte.

Also at the same Pachyderm meeting, expect some potential fireworks when the two Republicans fighting for their party’s nomination in the first district race for Platte County commissioner will debate. Kathy Dusenbery and Jeffrey Jones will spar. Don’t know about a full explosion but I’m definitely expecting a few sparks to fly.

******

Did the city get used and abused? Maybe not abused, but certainly it wasted some time.
The search for a new city administrator in Platte City must continue after the first person offered the job has turned it down (see our front page story packed with good info, including a comment/no comment from the man offered the position). The current city administrator at David City, Neb., Joseph Johnson, was offered the post but declined after pondering the situation over the weekend. Money seemed to be the deciding factor, even though Johnson would have ended up with a financial package about $10,000 more per year than he is reportedly making at his present job. So was he just using the local offer to sweeten his current salary at David City? That’s purely speculation. But quite possible.

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Another week, another lawsuit filed by Jim Bowers, this area’s official litigation-happy attorney for developers. We exclusively reported recently that Bowers’ firm is suing the county commission and the county planning and zoning commission over the denial of a preliminary plat for Beverly Plaza. Bowers claims the county can’t deny a preliminary plat if a developer has met all the county’s subdivision requirements. Hmm. If he wins this case why do we even need a planning and zoning commission? Heck, why do we even need a paid planning and zoning department? Just have a list of rules and regs and if they’re met, some office secretary can sign off on the application, I guess.

Now Bowers’ firm is suing the county commission for not approving a zoning change that would have allowed rezoning for a proposed subdivision in southern Platte County known as Brentwood Parc. Developer Jim Owens wanted to develop a higher density residential development, higher-density than surrounding properties. Bowers claims the county is a bunch of bad dudes because the current zoning “does not allow an economically reasonable use of the property.”

Huh? It’s the county’s responsibility to make sure Owens can make enough profit off the property he owns?

From this chair it appears Bowers’ lawsuits blow seven different kinds of smoke. Does he really believe this stuff? Is he taking his clients for a financial ride? Or did he back himself into a corner with all the pre-decision lawsuit threats? Judges will have to decide. Hold on to your shorts because victories by Bowers would cause ripples--no, waves--across the state. Court hearings on Bowers’ trio of lawsuits begin in August.

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I’m liking this plan to place a cell tower at Harrel Ferrel park in the heart of Platte City. Anybody who has ever lost cell signal after turning off of Hwy. 92 and heading toward downtown should feel the same way. There is a definite hole in cell coverage in midtown Platte City. There are certain days I can’t get a cell signal while sitting at my desk here in historic downtown. Head up to our second floor and coverage is consistently inconsistent.

This is 2008. It shouldn’t be happening in our high tech world. Kudos to the city for negotiating a package with a cell company that will also pay at least $1,200 a month to the city’s parks department. Nice job.

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One of the exciting things about this gig is that I never know what I’m going to find each day when I pop open my electronic mailbox. Check out this transmission from an alleged Between the Lines reader.

Hey Foley
I’ve got a plan on how to save the airlines.

Dump the male flight attendants. No one wanted them in the first place.

Replace all the female flight attendants with good-looking strippers. What the hell, they don’t serve food anymore, so what’s the loss?

The strippers would at least triple the alcohol sales and get a party atmosphere going in the cabin. And every businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women.

Because of the tips, female flight attendants wouldn’t need a salary, thus saving even more money.

Terrorists would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt, and the airline industry would see record revenues. This is definitely a win-win situation if we handle it right. A golden opportunity to turn a liability into an asset.

Why didn’t Bush think of this?
--Bill Clinton

(Email Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Opponents find success while doing the Tomahawke Chop

Posted 6/6/08

This week, gasoline went up to $3.85 per gallon at many outlets in Platte County. On the bright side, that’s still cheaper than a gallon of milk.

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If the price of milk gets any higher a lot more folks are going to become lactose intolerant.

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A couple of quick but important updates from around the wide, wide world of local politics.

The City of Platte City appears to be on the verge of hiring a new city administrator to replace the (kind of) fired Keith Moody. Moody has been allowed to remain on the job until the end of July or until 30 days after a replacement is hired, whichever comes first. Aldermen will meet in a special closed session Friday evening, and word is the hiring of a new administrator could come as early as that meeting. Rumor has it the leading candidate is an applicant from Nebraska.

The other important municipal update is that the state auditor has announced it has received verification of enough valid signatures on the petition requesting a state audit of the sewer and water funds of the City of Tracy. The petition was circulated by former mayor Brenda Ferguson, and fought by the current board of aldermen. Score this victory for Ferguson, who was ousted in the April election by Rita Rhoads. Ferguson as said she wants the audit so that bookkeeping records from one administration to the other “can be clarified.”

Estimated cost for the audit, which must be covered by the city, is from $10,000 to $20,000. The state is expected to start the process within three to six months, and once it gets rolling the audit could take as long as six to eight months to complete.

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Destined to replace the Politician Formerly Known as Mayor Dave as the most lampooned local public servant in this column space, South Platte Ambulance District board member Fred Sanchez let fly with this bizarre quote at a meeting last week. While talking about the new legislation designed to prevent entities from capitalizing with a revenue windfall in reassessment years (that’s a nice way of saying a backdoor tax increase), Sanchez said: “This legislation is meant to pander to the taxpayer.”

Hey Fred, like that’s a bad thing? So you think the public would prefer legislation that pandered to the big-spending bureaucrats?

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Have you driven southbound on Interstate 29 near the Dearborn exit lately? MoDOT is having the bridge over the creek there repaired. For now, the right hand lane is closed and a good portion of the left hand lane is infringed upon by the closing. I’m not kidding, that left hand lane is so narrow a driver could reach out and touch the bridge railing. Don’t have your arm resting outside your car window as you drive through. You may pull back a bloody stump.

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The recently resurfaced and this week repainted Main Street in downtown Platte City is a nice upgrade. Good job, city hall.

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Developers of the proposed Tomahawke Ridge high density housing subdivision, which was pulled off the table afer county planning and zoning staff smartly said it would recommend denial based on factors ranging from non-compliance with the county land use plan to concerns about traffic safety, are saying they will come back with a new but similar proposal that meets the current zoning for the property. Developers say as long as they meet all subdivision requirements, the county will have a legal obligation to approve their preliminary plat application. But that argument is the basis of a lawsuit filed by a different developer who was denied a preliminary plat for Beverly Plaza even though he met all subdivision requirements. The issue will have to be decided by the courts.

If the Beverly Plaza developer is unsuccessful in his lawsuit, the developers of Tomahawke wouldn’t seem to have much of a chance coming back with another high density proposal. After all, they will still face the same concerns from staff of land use plan non-compliance and the traffic/road safety issues.

******

By the way, what a fine job by the opponents to the Tomahawke proposal. They organized themselves and studied the proposal from all angles, dissected the questionable developer-funded traffic studies and put heat on the planning and zoning staff to really examine the proposal in depth.

And a salute to the planning and zoning staff at the county for giving an unbiased recommendation. Under previous regimes, the county’s planning and zoning department often seemed to be nothing more than a puppet device working primarily to help developers push projects without a whole lot of in-depth analysis of the impacts on neighborhoods. Times have changed for the better.

(Pander to taxpayers in general and Ivan Foley in particular with an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Blunt wants to distance himself from Hanman and the dairy probe

Posted 5/30/08

A new feature makes its debut in The Landmark this week. Faces 'n' Places, featuring photos from random events around Platte County, can be found this week on page A-12. Consider it a society page without the elitism. Be sure to smile for The Landmark camera when you see us out and about.

Also in this week’s issue you’ll find award-winning photojournalist Bill Hankins’ latest feel-good three-page feature. Featured subject is Aaron Cooper, a North Platte High School student who has accomplished great things despite the fact he was born without the middle fingers on each of his hands. This Landmark People feature serves as Section C this week.

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Some of the photos you’ll see in our Faces and Places section were taken at the ribbon cutting at one of Parkville’s newest businesses last week. Ginza Japanese Steakhouse is now open for business in downtown Parkville, which now has yet another fine dining option.

I enjoyed my visit with the owners of the Japanese restaurant, but I’m guessing they weren’t understanding everything I was saying. And I can guarantee you I was not grasping everything they were saying in response.

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Can anybody out there claim a Dave Brooks sighting? If so, please send me an email or give me a buzz. I haven’t seen the Politician Formerly Known as Mayor Dave since the April election.

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And whatever happened to that city hall watchdog group Former Mayor Dave told the media he was going to form? When the dogs are away the un-neutered cats will play. Former Mayor Dave should realize that better than anyone.

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My phone rang about 3 p.m. on Friday. Rich Chrismer, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s top spokesman, was on the line. Chrismer claimed The Landmark’s top story last week needed a correction. That story--the one about a rural Platte City man being named in a federal probe into alleged price manipulation in the milk industry--was picked up nationwide via that handy tool known as the Internet. It obviously grabbed the governor’s attention.

The article mentioned that rural Platte City man Gary Hanman, former head of the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), is part of the probe into the alleged milk price manipulation. Our story pointed out Hanman, who lives on a ranch just south of Platte City, has been a big-time contributor to many Republican candidates for office, including Blunt. Our article then said Blunt had rewarded Hanman for his financial efforts by awarding him the operation of the Platte City License Bureau fee office after Blunt was elected. We all remember what a controversy some of Blunt’s assignments of those fee offices caused.

Chrismer called to say I was wrong, that Hanman was not awarded the contract. Chrismer--and the governor’s--stance is purely based on semantics. The contract agent for the Platte City License Bureau was announced by Blunt’s office in 2005 as being Sandra Davis. True, Sandra Davis is not Gary Hanman. But what the governor’s office didn’t volunteer--and hoped that I, and therefore you, wouldn’t know--is that Sandra Davis is the daughter of Gary and Shirley Hanman.

So just as Gov. Blunt rewarded the loyalty of his friend Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd by naming Zahnd’s wife Tracy as a contract agent for a fee office, just as Blunt rewarded our mutual friend former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves by naming Graves’ wife Tracy as a contract agent for a fee office, the governor rewarded Hanman for his contributions by naming his close relative Sandra Davis with a financially lucrative fee office. So a correction is needed? Maybe in a technical sense, certainly not in a logical one. But since the governor requested it, let me make a clarification. Let me clarify that instead of rewarding Hanman directly, the governor rewarded a Hanman relative.

The fact Hanman and his relative have different last names helped make the connection a little more difficult for those outside of GOP circles to see, but it is widely acknowledged by local Republican insiders that the operation of the local fee office was a prize given to Hanman. The Landmark has traced at least $15,000 given to Blunt from Hanman and other DFA members since 2003. So is the general public to believe the awarding of a local fee office to Hanman’s relative is a coincidence? Draw your own conclusions.

The governor’s office probably would have been better off not making that phone call on Friday. Had the call not been made I wouldn’t be talking about the Blunt-Hanman connection again this week. It would have fallen off a lot of folks radar screens by now. To the general public, does it really matter if the awarding of the operation of the fee office was done in the name of the now 74-year-old Hanman or in the name of his daughter? Blunt isn’t going to gain any public respect by claiming the assignment went to a Hanman relative rather than to Hanman himself.

Did the governor order the request for a correction or did Chrismer pick up the phone and make the call on his own? I guess an argument could be made Chrismer didn’t know Davis is a relative of Hanman. In his defense, Chrismer didn’t come on board Blunt’s staff until 2006, well after the fee office appointment had been made. But it’s hard to believe Blunt himself didn’t realize the Hanman--Davis direct link.

Either way, Friday’s phone call from Chrismer is clearly an indication Blunt is going out of his way to distance himself from Hanman and the federal dairy industry probe to which Hanman’s name is tied.

(Award Ivan Foley a fee office via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Gettin' milked? And not a good week for school boards

Posted 5/22/08

Ignoring the suggestions of the naive types who say the price of gasoline in this country is dictated only by that basic high school economics philosophy known as supply and demand, I have long maintained the price of gas has more to do with market speculation and manipulation than supply and demand.

With a federal investigation--by the way, it’s a probe with local ties, as reported on our front page--continuing in the dairy industry, at some point relatively soon we may be able to say the same about the price of milk.

******

Taxpayers can rejoice.

A bill that will work to prevent taxing entities from collecting a windfall due to reassessment made its way through the state legislature last week and now will be sent to the governor for his signature.

The legislation was pushed by Senate Leader Mike Gibbons, a Republican from Kirkwood and a confessed reader of this column on the worldwide web who called out of the blue to discuss his ideas prior to making his proposal, passed the state legislature last week.

“The days of taxpayers getting hit with tax increases because of reassessment are over. We’re protecting taxpayers from being taxed out of their homes and businesses,” Gibbons said.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 711, mandates that all taxing jurisdictions, regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling, must roll back their tax rate to counter reassessment increases. Currently, only taxing jurisdictions operating at their tax rate ceiling are required by Missouri’s Constitution to roll back to protect taxpayers, leaving taxing jurisdictions operating below their ceiling to approve back door tax increases with no legal recourse. As regular readers of this column space are aware, some of the biggest abusers of this previous loophole have been school districts.

“Taxing boards must now roll back their tax rates,” Gibbons said.

The bill also requires that taxpayers receive a projected tax liability along with their reassessment notices. All counties must do this starting no later than 2011. Gibbons’ bill also increases the Senior Citizen Property Tax Credit award from $750 to $1,100 for homeowners and expands eligibility for homeowners, not renters, up to an income of $30,000 for singles and $34,000 for married couples at a cost of about $5.8 million.

“These changes protect taxpayers, while the early notice and extra assistance will help everyone better prepare for the taxes they owe come December,” Gibbons remarked.

An excellent, and much needed piece of legislation. A salute to Gibbons and company for getting it done.

******

Another thorn was stuck in the side of local school board members and administrators on Friday when the state legislature approved a bill that gives tax incentives to developers of city-owned land around KCI Airport. Supporters of the bill--including yours truly--say it has the potential to create facilities and create jobs. Platte County R-3 leaders had aggressively and unsuccessfully campaigned against the bill. As a payment in lieu of taxes, R-3 will receive nine cents per square ft. of a building’s footprint. Park Hill is scheduled to receive 10 cents per square ft.

“I was very disappointed that certain administrators went out and told homeowners that their taxes will increase (as a result of this bill). I think they were being disingenuous,” State Rep. Tim Flook of Liberty, one of the backers of the bill, told the Kansas City Star this week.

Aggressive testimony against the bill in Jefferson City by R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst was criticized by several lawmakers for being “over the top.”

******

The ethics commission for the City of Parkville ruled Kathy Dusenbery, now former mayor, acted improperly while she was still mayor in forwarding a campaign piece for mayoral candidate Gerry Richardson. But the commission says in its opinion no punishment is necessary. Though she says it was sent from her home computer, the email contained Dusenbery’s signature as mayor with the city hall phone number.

In actuality, Dusenbery does not escape completely unscathed. The finding of the commission that her action was improper cannot be spun as a positive. And the negative attention the situation has focused upon her may cause some voters to take a second look at the field of candidates in her race for first district county commissioner. It’s certainly not a make or break topic in what will be a long campaign, but it could force some voters who were leaning her direction to give the race a second thought.

******

As we told you two weeks ago, Peter Rasmussen is this year’s winner of The Landmark English Award, a $250 scholarship given to the top English student at Platte County R-3 as determined by a faculty panel. The Landmark started giving this award in 1982 to help foster an interest in the English language among students. The complete list of winners, starting in 1982 to present: Natalie Parrett, Tamera Jones, Shane Lee Zembles, Amy Deterding, Chaundra Crawford, Sherry Stanton, Rebecca Ann Brown, Lisa Pancake, Jennifer Fowler, Jennifer Donnelli, Tyra Miller, James Davis, Megan Boddicker, Kerry Durrill, Jamie Knodel, Laura Donald, Christa Fuller, Alison Miller, Alison Coons, Valerie French, Devon Paul, Tara Gutshall, Elizabeth Anderson, Anne Mullins, Branson Billings, Kelsie Blakley and Peter Rasmussen.

(Milk Ivan Foley via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Whatever happened to NorthGate? And the Quitmeier slant

Posted 5/16/08

No physical signs marking the site of a future home of any development. No visual signs of any progress. Can we officially kiss goodbye to the pipe dream that was known as Shoppes at NorthGate, the tax increment financing project that was slated to go in at I-29 and Main Street, the northern entrance to Platte City?

It’s been nearly three years since the site was designated as a TIF area for the proposed retail center. The developer never even got as far as to purchase the motel that still remains in operation there.

Remember when the politician formerly known as Mayor Dave-- God rest his political soul--once proclaimed this development would be the “Zona Rosa of Platte City?”

In the words of Lloyd Bentsen, I’ve been to Zona Rosa. Zona Rosa is a friend of mine. That intersection, sir, is no Zona Rosa.

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Remember the wife-husband development team of Dina Cox and Bill Rabius? Known as Cox-Rabius Development LLC, these folks were going to bring national retailers to I-29 and Main Street. Or so we were told.

When other media outlets were kissing the developer’s feet back in the fall of 2005, The Landmark always posed hard questions about the TIF proposal. This week I left voice mails on every phone number I could find for my old friend Dina. While Bill was always extremely polite, calm, cool and collected when I would interview him in regard to Shoppes at North Gate, Dina was a different story. She liked to get combative with me whenever she read anything in The Landmark that in any fashion questioned the feasibility of her proposal. Dina didn’t like questions. She did like tax breaks, pipe dreams and anyone who kissed her backside.

Dina, by the way, has yet to return any of my calls at press time.

******

You can still read about the stealth project known as Shoppes at NorthGate on a web site that probably needs to quit taking up space on the Internet. Surf to northgateplattecity.com.

I’ll give you some of the highlights. It reads: “The Shoppes at NorthGate, a $17 million, 7.5 acre, 55,000 square feet open air retail center will be the new front door to Platte City and the northern gateway to the growth explosion of Platte County.”

City administrator Keith Moody is quoted as saying: “This is the kind of development Platte City has been waiting for.” And this isn’t on the web site, but remember when Mayor Dave, in his ususal tone, once publicly proclaimed in The Landmark: “I told Dina I want to be on the back of the bulldozer when they start knocking those old buildings down.”

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With the disappearance of incumbent Republican Tom Pryor from the first district county commissioner race, Democrat Bill Quitmeier has come up with an interesting angle. He’s appealing to the Republicans who were solidly in Pryor’s corner but are now basically without a candidate to support.

“Although I am running as a Democrat, I feel I am the most conservative candidate,” Quitmeier told me this week, an obvious shot at Kathy Dusenbery, presumed to be the leading Republican candidate. Dusenbery is in the midst of fighting an ethics violation charge--and have you noticed that twice in the pages of The Landmark she has admitted that while she was still mayor of Parkville she forwarded the political piece for mayoral candidate Gerry Richardson that included her mayoral signature, so what’s left to investigate? A decision on any punishment should be all that’s left to be debated, but I digress--and according to Quitmeier, she recently held a fundraiser at a beautiful home in Riss Lake where attendees were taken via limousines. Quitmeier referred to it as an “elite fundraiser.”

Quitmeier pointed out that Dusenbery early on had slammed Pryor “about being lazy and so forth so we thought we would talk to those people.” He recently sent a letter to former backers of Pryor, including some developers. “I’m basically a conservative Democrat. I think I’ve got some Republicans who are going to support me,” Quitmeier said.

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Your publisher’s little girl--and one of your loyal Landmark interns--graduates high school this weekend. Alyssa will take that first major step into the real world on Sunday. The cute, diminutive and shy little girl who held onto my leg with a tear in her eye and didn’t want to let go a couple of days when I would drop her off at kindergarten has grown into an outgoing, confident and beautiful young lady who sought and held leadership positions her high school years, from being selected to National Honor Society, to being the leading server and setter on her volleyball team, to performing halftime dance routines at football and basketball games with a dance team known as the Jazzy Cats, to serving as a leader in her local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. You can tell I am unashamedly proud.

You’ll recall around Christmas-time I wrote Alyssa had decided to attend Northwest Missouri State University. As is every high school senior’s prerogative, she has had a change of heart--and a change of intended major. She now intends to pursue a career as an x-ray technician and will start that educational process with one year at Highland Community College. She’ll also be trying out for the dance team at Highland, with that audition set for Friday. In addition to school responsibilities, Alyssa has worked as a receptionist at Fantastic Sam’s hair salon in St. Joseph the past several months. You’ll see her in The Landmark office this summer.

Two Foley kids down, one more to go. Landmark intern/facilities manager Kurt will be a high school senior in the fall.

(Send a virtual Kleenex, he may need it, to the publisher via email to
ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


I've got nothing against Will Ferrell, but...

Posted 5/9/08

All alone with my occasionally-frightening thoughts, a laptop computer and a much needed caffeine-filled can of Mountain Dew, I will fearlessly crank out a column so the oldest continually operating newspaper in this fine state can have another issue hit the streets.

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Are you wondering if Tom Pryor wishes he had remained in the race for first district county commissioner?

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I’m wondering if the Platte City Board of Aldermen is ready to get down to business. Due to the nostalgia found in the final days of Mayor Dave’s reign, the subsequent election and the pomp and circumstance of a new administration being sworn in, the aldermen haven’t really held a meaningful session since March.

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Memo to Platte City aldermen: It’s time to get serious about finding a new city administrator. Keith Moody was fired in January. This is now mid-May. Of course I realize Moody--in one of the most bizarre management decisions you’ll ever see--has been allowed to remain on the job, so it’s not like the office is sitting empty, but it’s time to pick up the pace a bit and let this ship sail forward with new leadership.

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Going above and beyond the headlines, as we like to do here at The Landmark, be sure to check out the fascinatingly-detailed story with quotes from the major players on the history of Parkville’s ethics ordinance on our front page. Reporter Alan McArthur dug into city records, including memos, minutes and quotes from the year 2005 when the now-controversial law was crafted to bring you the most comprehensive look at the topic you’ll find anywhere in the media.

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A newcomer to the Platte County business community approached me this week and in the process of an introductory conversation paid The Landmark quite a compliment. The businessman said he has heard from numerous people that The Landmark is the “most important” media outlet in Platte County.

In the course of the weekly hustle and bustle to meet those always-present deadlines and taking phone calls from public officials whose feathers have been ruffled, I don’t often stop to think about such things. But I took that remark as one of the most flattering comments ever to be bestowed upon this journalistic juggernaut.

Thanks for reading.

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Matthew Silber, a North Platte High School grad and a 1999 graduate of Central Missouri State University, has come on board as an opinion page cartoonist for The Landmark. You saw his first submission dealing with Weston’s dog defecation ordinance last week.

Silber has been in graphic arts for about eight years. He says he has always enjoyed drawing and making things. He and his wife, Dawn, have a three-year-old son. They enjoy reading, discussing political and theological issues, playing X-Box 360 and are avid sci-fi geeks. They attend Northland Baptist Church.

Got a suggestion for a future cartoon topic for Silber? Send it to news@plattecountylandmark.com and it will get passed on to him.

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Platte City police officers might be watching too many movies.

While scanning the police blotter, we came across a police report of vandalism at a city park/ball field. Local police listed the scene of the crime as Will Ferrell Park.

There’s no doubting Will Ferrell is a fine comedic actor and a lot of us loved him on Saturday Night Live, but Platte City has yet to name any parks after him. The correct name of the park is Herrel Ferrel Park, named after a civic contributor to the Platte City community years ago.

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We’re proud to announce this week the presentation of the annual Landmark English Award, given to a top writing student at Platte County R-3 High School. The winner is selected by a faculty panel at the school. It’s the 27th year we have given the award, which includes a $250 cash prize from The Landmark and an award certificate containing my nearly legible autograph. This larger-than-large program was created to help foster an interest in the English language among R-3 high school students.

This year’s winner is Peter Rasmussen. He was set to receive the award Wednesday evening as this issue of The Landmark headed to press.

Watch for more--including a list of all previous winners--in future issues of your Landmark.

(Email the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Here's what Sarah Steelman should be talking about

Posted 5/2/08

I loved the picture on page B-6 in last week’s Landmark of new Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt greeting Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon in Jefferson City. Talk about a contrast in physical appearance. It looked like one of the Keebler elves shaking hands with the Jolly Green Giant.

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Jay Nixon is a big guy. Of course they say the camera adds 10 pounds. There must have been 15 cameras on him.

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Just wanted to take a minute to say that I’m proud of Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight for her vote to uphold denial of the Beverly Plaza preliminary plat, despite the threat of a lawsuit by the developer, whose legal counsel just happens to be a friend/supporter of Knight. Nice job, Betty Knight.

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The Republicans’ best choice for Missouri governor was in Platte County on Tuesday afternoon, in an appearance exclusively and quite happily covered by your Landmark. Sarah Steelman gave a talk about illegal immigrants before a small gathering in the Platte County Administration Building.

I don’t know how far talking about illegal workers will take her in her effort to defeat Congressman Ken Hulshoff for the GOP nomination for governor. Since Hulshoff is a member of the least popular governmental body in our nation’s history, there are several ways to attack him. I wrote in this space 18 months ago that eventually somebody is going to take a political bath over the high price of gasoline in this country. I think the political bath is going to be taken by many incumbent members of Congress (though let it be known I believe Sam Graves has the rural strength to overcome it in his race against Kay Barnes). If I were Steelman, in every stump speech I would tie/blame Hulshoff and Congress for the soon-to-be $4 per gallon price at the pump. Common folks will respond to that. Everybody is paying it. Nobody is liking it. Somebody has to take the fall for it. Hulshoff could be the first casualty, no matter how little he has to do with the anger motorists feel when they fill their tanks.

If she hammers Hulshoff and Washington’s inability to effectively deal with this energy issue every day from now till August, Steelman will capture the Republican nod.

Hell, she’ll probably capture it anyway. Who the heck is Ken Hulshoff? I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the front door. He may be a Congressman but outside his district, how many people know anything about him? I don’t, and I’m allegedly in the news biz.

Steelman’s statewide name recognition and her opportunity to tie Hulshoff to Washington’s failed policies will be two major strengths in her effort to win the nomination. I think she takes him out.

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By the way, I like to claim The Landmark long ago was the first media outlet to notice Steelman was an attractive candidate. There have been some late comers to the party, particularly Guy Speckman, normally sharp-eyed and sharp-witted publisher of the Savannah Reporter. In his weekly column, Speckman recently noted the positive aspects Steelman brings to the governor’s race, as if he was the first journalist to note said attributes. Au contraire, Mr. Speckman. Over the past four years Steelman has visited The Landmark office a few times. We broke this scoop. Find your own.

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By the way, Steelman gave me one of those quick friendship-type hugs on Tuesday. Will this prevent me from providing unbiased coverage of her future campaign stops here? Maybe, but I refuse to be ashamed. Take that, Guy Speckman.

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A penny for your thoughts?

After putting forth a major propaganda effort and spending what has to be thousands of dollars in legal fees and lobbying time, the Platte County R-3 School Board can boast that it has twisted the City of Kansas City into upping the ante on the KCI tax deal.

Yes, the offer from the city of KC has climbed all the way from eight cents per square foot of a building’s footprint in the abated area up to nine cents per square foot. That’s still less than the 10 cents per square foot that Park Hill--without the drama and the legal bills--will be getting.

Was it really worth all the histrionics, money spent in legal fees and lobbying time by the superintendent, and some unflattering attention to gain one cent per square foot? I don’t see how.

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Kansas City’s original offer was eight cents per square foot. The R-3 superintendent said this would be “devastating” to the school district. The school board president said lawmakers owed the school district an apology after the superintendent was publicly criticized for what some critics claimed was over-the-top testimony against the proposal in Jefferson City.

So eight cents was insulting and devastating but nine cents brings an agreement in principle? What’s up with that?

Propagandists and cheerleaders may try to spin it, but no way R-3 can claim victory in this one. In fact they come off looking a bit silly.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Stanton is a leader on the right track;
R-3 power play to fail?

Posted 4/25/08

It’s been kind of ugly around the ol’ Landmark office this week.

Ace reporter Alan McArthur was under the weather and out of the office on Monday. He was back at the grindstone on Tuesday, but then the flu bug hit your publisher Tuesday morning in a big way. At one point Tuesday I was sure I would have to get better before I could die.

Is it just me or does the flu feel more powerful when it strikes you in the spring or summer months rather than in the dead of winter? This thing literally knocked me off my feet most of the day Tuesday, kept me basically comatose in a pool of sweat through the night and I’m still battling a fever and body aches as I try to crank out a column Wednesday morning. I’m taking a break every few minutes to apply a cold cloth to my forehead in hopes my thoughts can stay somewhat sane. When I’m running a fever, I have a habit of mindlessly repeating lines from old movies. I think I do it as a way of trying to convince myself I really don’t feel so bad. Or maybe it’s just because I can’t carry on a normal conversation so I end up talking only to me, myself and I.

Anyway, I caught myself speaking lines from the goofball comedies Mr. Deeds, Dodge Ball and The Ladies Man as I tossed and turned throughout the night. Weird.

I apologize if anything inappropriate makes its way into the column this week. But then I guess it wouldn’t be the first time.

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Be sure to check out the four-page section in this issue of The Landmark devoted to the attractions, amenities and restaurants of Parkville. The Parkville News, as the paid advertisment section is called, is put together by some hard-working merchants in the quaint southern Platte County town and is available exclusively though The Landmark. It will be a regular feature and will serve as Section C in your Landmark.

The production shows excellent foresight by a group of merchants in expanding the visibility and market area for their services and products. These folks are on the ball.

******

Andy Stanton, a Platte City businessman and alderman whose $500 donation to Platte Countians for Tax Relief funded a day-before-election post card mailing urging opposition to the Platte County R-3 bond issue, is rightfully proud of his efforts. Stanton told me this week he has received nothing but “atta boys” from people on the street applauding his move.

Demanding accountability for spending decisions is nothing to be ashamed of. Stanton is on the right track. Give the man credit. He has more stones than any other local elected official in recent memory.

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Platte County R-3 may be the lone soldier still actively trying to oppose State Rep. Jason Brown’s House Bill 1836, which would allow tax breaks to encourage development on Kansas City-owned property surrounding KCI Airport. Park Hill’s school board last week voted to table a resolution outlining the district’s concerns with the proposed legislation. While R-3 officials have made comments to the effect this legislation “would have a devastating effect” on the district and even claimed the R-3 district “deserves an apology” from lawmakers, Park Hill officials are saying, hey, this might not be so bad after all. A lot has changed in the past couple of weeks, including tying some language in the proposal to the proposed Bombardier Aerospace aircraft assembly plant.

Dennis Fisher, the Park Hill superintendent, told the Kansas City Star this week “We’re conceding that development of the airport needs some kind of economic incentive. We just want it to be fair.”

Excellent comment. Very fairly worded. The Bombardier proposal would mean $2 million a year in taxes for Park Hill and would spark economic activity and residential growth in the district.

From here, it appears R-3 isn’t going to win this battle. With much of the language of the bill cleaned up to ease the school district’s concerns, Park Hill is putting off vibes that it may accept 10 cents per square ft. of a building’s footprint through the lease agreements from Kansas City. R-3 has been offered eight cents. If indeed Park Hill is willing to accept 10 cents it would make sense for R-3 to grab the offer of eight cents while it’s still on the table.

You never say never in politics, but R-3 could very well have lost its attempted power play. Looks like eight cents is their best hope.

******

It was pretty easy to see the fix was in when the R-3 school board went to elect “new” officers at its reorganizational meeting. Bob Shaw, president for the past year, obviously had nailed down the details of his reelection with certain board members prior to Thursday’s meeting. In previous years, Shaw has told fellow board members he doesn’t want to even be nominated for president unless he knows he has the votes to get it. Nothing like a fighter, huh?

So when Shaw was immediately nominated by Mary Temperelli--who last year voted against Shaw and was previously on the opposite side of him on some issues, at least back in the days before Shaw became board president and went through the neutering process that comes with it--you knew it was a done deal. The backdoor conversations had been held.

Shaw no doubt was reelected on his record of accomplishments over the past year. That record includes a 14% tax increase and a 10% drop in bond issue approval rating.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Fallout and follow-up to the local spring elections

Posted 4/18/08

Time for some spring election follow-up and fallout. If you’re not into local politics, be patient. Things will slow down for a bit real soon. I think.
But man I love this stuff.

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I read in the KC Star over the weekend that Mayor Dave Brooks, soon to be former Mayor Dave, will be attending Platte City aldermen meetings along with a new “watchdog group” that will monitor new mayor Frank Offutt’s administration.

Well, there you go. Just what any city needs. . . a former public official who the courts ruled violated the state’s open meetings law now serving as a watchdog for the people.
I envision great things, don’t you?

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Will neutered cats play a role in Mayor Dave’s watchdog group?

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The good news about Mayor Dave insisting on continuing to play a public role despite the fact voters overwhelmingly rejected him is that our Dave’s Diary feature can be dusted off from time to time.

Thank you, Dave.

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Will new mayor Gerry Richardson at Parkville work to improve that city’s reputation for being CIA-like secretive? Richardson and I had a phone conversation Wednesday morning in which I told him I hope that will be the case. It would sure improve the city’s image.

Our conversation came on the heels of a somewhat strange telephone encounter I had with the Parkville city clerk earlier this week. I called her to ask for the names of the folks serving on the Parkville ethics commission. She stammered a bit and then asked that I put my request for said information in writing.

Huh? I didn’t realize this was sensitive stuff. I’ve been covering cities in Platte County for more than 25 years and can tell you this is the first time I’ve been asked to put a request for routine public information into written form. It’s not like I was asking for altered time sheets, DNA, or medical records. Though make no mistake, I get the impression the next time I ask for routine information the clerk will at minimum ask me to submit a urine sample.

Instead of the matter being handled in a simple 30 second phone call between the clerk and myself, this thing took on all the drama of an act of Congress. It featured a written email exchange, and at my request all city officials were carbon copied. Did it really need to turn into a public display in which the city clerk ends up being dressed in a clown suit?

Later when he called our office, even the Parkville city attorney told our staff he thought the clerk’s request was a bit over the top. Maybe the clerk simply misunderstood my question. Heck, I would have been glad to repeat it if that was the case.

At any rate, this episode further fuels the impression that Parkville city hall has an atmosphere more like that of a private club than a taxpayer-funded institution. Hopefully Richardson will work to improve the city’s impression of openness. Right now they don’t even try to fake it.

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Are you getting a kick out of watching the R-3 public cheerleading squad being outraged at the fact a last-minute opposition group sent out a last-minute opposition post card (How dare they? Do they really have the First Amendment right to do that?) against the school’s bond issue proposal. As you read in The Landmark last week, the bond issue passed with 68% of the vote. Impressive at first blush, but not so impressive when you consider last year’s bond issue passed with 78% approval. That’s a drop of 10% in one year. And all the opposition apparently did was a last minute low-budget post card.

Hmm. I’m guessing that--more than anything else--is why the cheerleading squad is in a tizzy.

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Of course it is worth mentioning that the group who sent the mailer was late in filing an eight-day out campaign report and didn’t declare in advance it would be active in the R-3 election. This prompted a complaint letter from the Platte County Board of Elections to the Missouri Ethics Commission. I acquired a copy of the letter and with all due respect to the fine directors of the board of elections, their complaint reads like it was written by an offended president of the PTA rather than one penned by an election official. I asked Wendy Flanigan, one of the directors, when was the last time the board of elections wrote such a complaint letter. She said she couldn’t tell me, indicating it had been a long time. Perhaps never? Draw your own conclusions.

At any rate, shame on the group’s organizers for not handling their paperwork the right way. That wasn’t cool.

Jail time? Death penalty? Public neutering?

Nah. But at minimum they could be kicked out of the Quarterback Club. Or they could be forced to apply the cocoa butter prior to R-3 administrators’ tanning bed sessions. Or forced to carry the clubs for the superintendent on his next golf outing.

(For multiple reasons, Between the Lines is always penned sans a cheerleading skirt. Thank the columnist via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


War hero Jason Brown drops a bomb aimed at Jason Grill

Posted 4/10/08

You might think the spring election results--with some analysis-- would lead off the column this week. It won’t. Instead I’ll lead with a bomb dropped by local war hero Jason Brown.

Yes, leading off the column are a couple of news nuggets I picked up by dropping in on the Platte County Republicans’ March to Victory event Thursday night at O’Dowd’s in Zona Rosa.

Nugget No. 1: State Rep. Jason Brown, Republican serving District 30, is going after State Rep. Jason Grill, Democrat serving District 32 in southern Platte County. Going after him very aggressively, I might add.

Speaking in a tone bordering on angry, Brown held up a copy of a newspaper from December of 2006 that contained an article detailing a police report filed by a young woman who accused Grill of rape on the same night Grill had won election to his state post. After filing the police report, the woman later declined to pursue charges against Grill.

Brown said Republicans need to work to get Grill defeated. “Not because he’s a Democrat. But because he’s not a good person.”

Wow. Even allowing for party differences, those are some mighty strong words being tossed by one state representative at another. I put in a call to Grill seeking comment but had not yet heard back at deadline.

Brown said it’s not whether Grill did or did not commit sexual assault on that night. “He shouldn’t have put himself in a position where those accusations could have been made,” Brown remarked, further adding he intends to be active in helping any Republican candidate who steps forward against Grill. “I will do anything and everything necessary. He doesn’t represent our values here in Platte County.”

Brown asked how many in the crowd of about 70 Republicans live in the 32nd district. About half the folks raised hands. “I need your help in the 32nd district. If you raised your hand you are responsible for what you get in November,” Brown told them.

Wow. Talk about a speech that went for the jugular. There was no verbal reaction from the crowd while Brown spoke, so it was tough to judge the overall reception to his fiery words. The room included a few Republicans who I feel comfortable in saying have been closet supporters of Grill.

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Nugget No. 2: The Republicans do have an opponent in the race against Grill. Well, sort of. That candidate--Abby Olson, a former Republican Central Committee member in Clay County who moved to Platte County in June--spoke Thursday night and let another bomb drop when she announced she simply filed to hold a spot on the ballot. She would prefer to step aside and let another Republican be selected to run in her place. That decision will have to be made by May 18. “I’m in a fight to support whoever chooses to run,” Olson said.

Olson would happily withdraw as soon as possible, which would allow the 32nd district Republican legislative committee to select a replacement candidate to put in against Grill. The search is on for that replacement candidate.

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I don’t want to pile on during his time of mourning so will avoid the temptation to do a post-election Dave’s Diary. I do wonder, however, what Dave Brooks will now do with all those “Mayor” hats he owns.

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I think the only person surprised by the outcome of Tuesday’s mayor’s race in Platte City was the mayor himself.

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Hats off to Mary Ann Brooks, Dave’s wife and frankly his best asset, for the tireless work she put in supporting her husband during the closing days of the campaign. She could be seen going door-to-door, without Dave, over the weekend. It also looked like her handwriting on some of those last-minute homemade yard signs that cropped up around town in the closing hours of the campaign.

She is a special person and is to be commended for the way she conducted herself as the First Lady of Platte City the past six years. She, in fact, would have made a stronger candidate for mayor than her husband.

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Dropped in at the residence of Frank and Mrs. Offutt late in the evening Tuesday for our first post-election conversation. The new/old mayor looked exhausted after a long day of working the polling site but touched on a couple of topics, not the least of which is the continuing search for a city administrator to replace the supposedly-fired Keith Moody. Of course the mayor only has verbal influence in such matters, which are determined by the majority of the six member board.

And speaking of the board of aldermen, looks like Andy Stanton will continue to have some like-minded company on the panel. Tony Paolillo is of the same political ilk as Stanton, and my best guess is that we will find Debbie Kirkpatrick will be the winner over Jim Palmer when write-in votes are counted in Ward 3. Kirkpatrick also is politically in tune with Stanton’s conservative way of thinking, based on candidate interviews conducted by The Landmark.

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Voters did the right thing by overwhelmingly re-electing Trish Stinnett to a seat on the Platte County R-3 Board of Education. Stinnett is the lead--and often lone--fighter on the board and her continuing service is essential for proper taxpayer representation.

Meanwhile at the city of Parkville, based on the way voters rejected the candidacy of Tom Hutsler, residents will continue to get the status quo. That means a lot of executive sessions, secret investigations, and strange and unexplained personnel situations.

In America, we have the right to decide upon our leaders, which means in the end we get the government we deserve. The Parkville voters have spoken. They have no problem with secrecy. Dangerous.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Some predictions, some endorsements
for Tuesday's vote

Posted 4/7/08

Spring Election Day 2008 is just hours away. Time for a quick Between the Lines rundown of some of the candidates in the higher-profile races.

PLATTE CITY MAYOR: From a columnist’s point of view, the last six years have been a great ride. Dave Brooks’ self-absorbed performance as mayor—with an ego that prevents him from seeing the many mistakes he has made—has created some effective Between the Lines copy since 2002. Mayor Dave and his close friends despise your favorite columnist for exposing the emperor. Unknowingly, Mayor Dave has been my best subscription salesmen since he stepped into the mayor’s office in 2002. Truthfully, I will miss him for the ease with which his presence afforded me many last-minute column topics.

My feeling is it’s all about to end, and if so somebody please keep Mayor Dave away from sharp objects and tall buildings Tuesday night. Brooks’ opponent has stepped forward with a well-organized campaign this time. Frank Offutt's yard signs are everywhere and his newspaper ads were eye-catching and straightforward. Brooks has tried hard in recent days to catch up, going so far as sticking up some hand-written signs in some areas around town--on the city’s right of way, of course, which is against city code. Dave’s signs look like ransom notes. Somebody call the local police department and let them know it appears there have been multiple kidnappings in town.

At any rate, if and when he pulls off the victory, Offutt’s next challenge will be to stay humble and bring open public communication to city hall.

PARKVILLE MAYOR: Effective government needs a system of checks and balances. Parkville’s city hall right now does not have that. Tom Hutsler would bring that to the table if he is elected mayor. Folks inside city hall view Hutsler as an outsider. The sitting aldermen—including Hutsler’s opponent Gerry Richardson—are way too comfy in running what some view as a private club. The city ordered an investigation into an employee, hired a human resources firm after incorrect timesheet allegations surfaced, then refused to tell the public the results of that investigation. Instead, the employee, the city administrator and the mayor have all headed for the door. The folks financing the investigation are left with no knowledge of what kind of funny stuff was going on. Misdeeds on the taxpayers’ time and dime are generally not well accepted by a public that is paying attention. Let’s see if enough people in Parkville are paying attention to their city government. If so, Hutsler will be the next mayor. If not, super-secret executive sessions and investigations will continue to be the norm.

TRACY MAYOR: Brenda Ferguson has been a good mayor for this tiny little city just across the Platte River from Platte City. She deserves reelection over a write-in challenge from Rita Rhoads, current alderman. Ferguson has worked tirelessly to promote progress, especially in the form of friendly annexation.

PLATTE CITY ALDERMEN:

Ward One: This is the position drawing the least attention of the Platte City aldermen races. Why? Neither candidate is strong. Marsha Clark has proven to be basically a puppet for Mayor Dave in her short time on the board. Marquis is a former local police officer whose main campaign theme has been to propose to build a skate park for kids. Whoopee. Take your pick, neither likely to ever be an effective officeholder.

WARD TWO: Tony Paolillo, Mike Walsh and Ron Porter are in the running for this spot to replace Ken Brown, who chose not to seek re-election. Paolillo, the youngest of the three, has been saying all the right things for the anti-Dave crowd, which should work to his advantage. Mike Walsh sought the mayor’s spot two years ago and describes himself as “just a regular guy.” Walsh is also a confessed fan of the Dave’s Diary series that has appeared in Between the Lines, which scores him some brownie points here. Ron Porter helped lead the disastrously unsuccessful and expensive involuntary annexation effort, which is enough for most folks to look elsewhere for leadership. Paolillo might be the odds-on-favorite to win but he and Walsh may split the anti-Dave votes and give Porter a chance to sneak in.

WARD THREE: Jim Palmer and Debbie Kirkpatrick are the announced write-in candidates with no names on the ballot for this spot being vacated by Aaron Jung. Kirkpatrick is by far the better choice. She has the business experience and is in touch with the younger crowd as opposed to the retired Palmer. “I am not one to step back, I like to get into issues,” Kirkpatrick told The Landmark. Palmer, a former alderman who like Porter supported that disastrous involuntary effort, was nothing more than a rubber stamp for Mayor Dave.

PLATTE COUNTY R-3 SCHOOL BOARD: There are five candidates for three open spots. It is imperative that Patricia Stinnett be reelected. She is the only true watchdog on the current seven member board of education. Others seem to be content to place blind faith in a lot of issues and personalities—Stinnett does her homework and asks the right questions. Deanna Hon, a newcomer, seems to have the potential to step onto the board and give Stinnett some help in the watchdog department.

PLATTE COUNTY R-3 BOND ISSUE: This has been a lukewarm issue. Most folks either don’t know about it or don’t care. R-3’s advertisements promoting it featured endorsements mainly from school board members, teachers and PTA parents. Kinda goes without saying those folks would support it, doesn’t it? Last year’s bond issue passed with 78% of the vote. Prediction: Despite the lack of bang-the-drum support, it’s impossible to envision this one not passing with the Music Parents Association and PTA moms getting out to vote, as it needs only 57% majority.

NORTH PLATTE R-1 SCHOOL BOARD: Best candidates in my opinion? Jon McLaughlin has attended most of the board meetings over the past two years. He supports implementation of the A+ program, an excellent program that would give something back to the R-1 taxpayers and serve its successful students well. George Hoeffner also seems to be a solid candidate. He serves on the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission. He says he would focus on the district’s aging facilities and the need to keep up with technology.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Dave's Diary displays pre-election jitters

Posted 4/4/08

Time once again for our fictional update into the mind of Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks, my favorite third-person candidate for reelection. Once again, enter at your own risk.

Friday, April 4: Dear Diary: Hello, it’s me. Dave Brooks. The  mayor. You can call me Dave Brooks or you can call me The Mayor. Just don’t call me Mr. Brooks. That guy was a killer in a Kevin Costner movie.  Dave Brooks doesn’t kill. I’m a doer of good deeds. I’m a people person. Just ask me, I’ll tell you. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Diary, I’m as nervous as a stray cat in a back alley in Dave’s Town. Election Day is just a few days away. I’ve been busy putting up my yard signs. I’ve issued myself executive privilege that allows me to place my signs in the right of way on city streets. I noticed Frank Offutt is obeying the rules of ethics and that kind of stuff by only putting his signs on private property, off of the right of way. I don’t have to obey that kind of stuff cuz I’m the full-time mayor of Platte City and the part-time voice of God. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Time for me to start thinking about what might happen if Frank Offutt actually wins this election. Dave Brooks will be out of a job. Dave Brooks will need something to occupy my time during the normal 169 hours per week. My mind could go stale. I wonder if Offutt will start some kind of Adopt-a-Former-Mayor program? I could be his co-mayor. Note to self: Ask Keith Moody if this is allowed under city code.

I had a guy tell me the other day that if I lose I should move to another town. He suggested Dave Brooks drive to Peculiar and run for office there. I don’t know why he picked that town. But this does have a certain ring to it: “Dave Brooks—Your Peculiar Mayor.” Yeah. I kinda like that. But the commute would be expensive with gas at $3 per gallon. God doesn’t even want to drive to Barry Road at those prices.

It’s not easy being Dave Brooks, let me tell you. Diary, my mind is kind of wandering here. If I do get beat as mayor of Platte City, am I still the official Mayor of Earth? I don’t know the answer to that. Note to self: Ask Keith Moody.

I don’t know why the people would want to vote me out. Look at all the projects I have taken credit for? How can these be ignored? Plus, I’ve neutered more cats than any mayor in the history of Platte City. There should be a plaque installed on a Main Street sidewalk to that effect. It’s the least this town could do for me. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

I’m really hoping Ron Porter and Jim Palmer win back seats on the board of aldermen. I love those guys. Can I annex them onto the board? Note to self: Ask Keith Moody.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ron and Jim and Dave Brooks are all elected? We could have the Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys Reunion Tour! Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Till next time, remember to vote for Dave Brooks because when I win, we all win.


Hutsler's attitude needed; The dark of Knight; Bye bye PRA

Posted 4/2/08

Like it or not, you’ll get more Between the Lines goodness than normal this week. Check out our website at plattecountylandmark.com and click on the Between the Lines tab on Friday of this week and Monday of next week. I’ll have the newest episode of Dave’s Diary posted there on Friday. Then on Monday I’ll give you some final editorial comments on the upcoming city and school board candidates before voters go to the polls next Tuesday.

And by the way, get our updated basketball bracket contest standings to the right of this column.

*****

Tom Hutsler is the better choice in Parkville’s race for mayor. City hall at Parkville needs some new blood, a personality not afraid to shake things up a bit and let the sun shine in. Parkville has more closed sessions than any city of its size that I can ever recall. Some folks close to the situation claim there is a good ol’ boy--and girl--network in place there and Hutsler is pledging he will step into open things up. The way the city paid for a human resources firm to investigate time sheet allegations against a former employee--and then declined to publicly disclose the results of that investigation--is inexcusable and embarrassing. The employee in question, the city administrator, and the mayor at the time are--or soon will be–gone, as apparently is the taxpayer money used to pay for that super-secret investigation.

It’s time to clean things up a bit. Staying the course by electing a current alderman who sat through the secret sessions without publicly pressing for openness won’t get it done. Hutsler’s presence would be a start to better protecting the public’s right to know at Parkville.

******

Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight gave a dramatic performance Tuesday morning. I sat in on the county planning and zoning staff monthly meeting with county commissioners that day. It was the third time this year I’ve been to one. It was the first time Knight has actually been present.

During discussion about the proposed Beverly Plaza development, which was given a thumbs down by the county planning and zoning board a few weeks ago and awaits final action by the county commission, Knight pretended to be scared out of her gourd by a threat made by legal counsel for the applicant. Attorney Jim Bowers has been hinting lawsuit against the county ever since the planning and zoning board made its recommendation. Bowers maintains that as long as an applicant has the necessary zoning and has met all other requirements on a county checklist, requests by a developer to use the ground in compliance with the existing zoning must be approved. I’m not sure it’s quite that simple, but Bowers is claiming it is and Knight seems ready to cave. “I want our attorney to review the case law (mentioned by Bowers) very carefully. Because Bowers is asserting that plat application has to be approved” based on the fact necessary zoning is in place and a checklist of county subdivision requirement has been met.

Wow. Knight normally has a very strong-willed “ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do” attitude. Remember, this is the same officeholder who with one “yea” vote gave herself a significant pay raise a couple years ago while one commissioner was out of town and the other was voting against. Knight normally doesn’t back down easily, but she seems ready to throw in the towel on this. Why? In my opinion, a couple things are coming into play here. I checked her list of past campaign donations. Jim Bowers is on it. So is a female who shares the same last name and address as Bowers. Does Knight feel obligated? Possibly.

But also coming into play is Knight laying the groundwork for a future vote in favor of the controversial Lake at Tomahawke Ridge proposal east of Platte City. Knight has many friends and contributors involved in that one. Also in that case, the developer already has the existing zoning and is asking for an overlay that would allow smaller lot sizes and more flexible setback requirements. So if Knight goes on record for overturning the Beverly Plaza decision by saying she feels bound by the legal threat made against the county, she then has laid the groundwork for voting to allow her friends’ Tomahawke proposal to go through without it looking like she is playing favorites.

Funny thing, though, is that both Beverly Plaza and Tomahawke go against Knight’s much-loved county land use plan. She’ll have trouble explaining that one away with a straight face. And if Knight, previously the land use plan’s greatest defender, starts favoring projects that run afoul of that document, she’ll have trouble defending a decision to spend thousands of dollars to update the land use plan, which is something county officials have indicated they are considering. Why update the thing if the county commission isn’t dedicated to following it? And why have a seven member planning and zoning staff on the payroll if all a developer has to do is have existing zoning and meet a checklist of requirements? Hell, let’s save some tax dollars and eliminate 80% of the zoning staff. And why have a planning and zoning board comprised of dedicated volunteers who unselfishly give hours of their time contemplating development applications? These are questions Knight is going to have to answer.

Knight is being overly transparent on this one. She has two years to go on what might be her final term in office. She is in danger of leaving a legacy as being a county commissioner who worked for her contributors at the cost of the good of the common folk.

******

The Platte Republican Association--home of First Fridays for the past many years--is disbanding. At least that was initial word I received and confirmed it with a call to Josh Linville, president of the organization. Linville then called me back a couple days later--in fact right before deadline this morning--to say some club leaders had a quick change of heart and the PRA intends to only disband temporarily through the election season.
I’m not buying it. . .call me shocked if the PRA ever returns in its current form. PRA members will begin meeting with the larger Republican group in the county, the Platte County Pachyderm Club. “We’re going to be one big group again. I’m thrilled,” said Linville in our initial conversation. “I’m tired of the divisiveness. We all stand for the same thing.” Linville said the parties who “caused” the perceived split in the Republican party about four years ago “may have moved on.”

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Political stunts; busy summer ahead; bracket standings

Posted 3/26/08

Warning, I may seem even more disoriented than normal. My laptop computer--the mother ship of everything Landmark--basically crashed Tuesday afternoon. Short of the office burning to the ground, that’s as bad as things could get at deadline.

******

It’s 10:30 Wednesday morning. I think the pomp and circumstance of Dave Brooks’ mayor’s report, which started at 7 p.m. Tuesday, should be wrapping up about now.

******

Of course if you weren’t at the Platte City Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night you don’t know what I’m talking about. Let’s just say that Mayor Dave was overly full of himself and his alleged accomplishments on Tuesday, which not coincidentally was the final meeting before folks head to the polls on April 8.

Mayor Dave’s report featured an appearance in the meeting room by Dave’s motorcycle riding friends and reps from Fort Riley who have become fans of the mayor’s Adopt-a-Soldier program. Brooks did everything but wrap himself in an American flag in his “mayor’s report” that ran from 7 p.m. until 8:20. I’m not kidding--he took the stage for that long.

Ridiculous. I was somewhat surprised the aldermen let him get by with that without calling him out for wasting everybody’s time on an extremely weak and pointless political stunt.

******

I guess if Freedom Riders and Fort Riley soldiers suddenly become Platte City registered voters Mayor Dave will have a great shot at winning reelection.

******

I’m here to tell you it’s going to be an extremely busy summer and fall around your ol’ Landmark. I’m basing that statement on the fact there will be so many contested county and state political races for us to stay abreast of.

There will be two August primaries--one for the Dems and one for the GOP--both dealing with the first district county commission seat being vacated by Tom Pryor.
Then in November we’ll have contested races for the first district commission seat, the second district commission post, assessor, and treasurer. And let’s not forget about the state representative races, where both Jason Brown in district 30 and Jason Grill in district 32 will have opponents in November.

I can’t wait for the posturing to begin. It won’t take long, trust me. As always, The Landmark will be your best source to break the campaign war stories.

******

Next week we’ll have features on the important spring elections featuring city and school board candidates. You won’t want to miss the pre-game show prior to the April 8 vote.

******

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock and missed all the publicity, by now you know the story of how the daughter of Susan Brown, The Landmark’s favorite tree hugger, was first denied the right to compete in the National Spelling Bee after a registration glitch by folks at North Platte but now--after help from folks ranging from Congressman Sam Graves to talk show host Ellen Degeneres (never thought I’d use those two names in the same sentence) the young Brown girl will be allowed to compete in the National Bee in May. All I can say is that when you’ve pissed off both Sam Graves and Ellen Degeneres, you know you’ve screwed things up.

There’s really no coherent thought here I just wanted you to know I was aware of it. Reminds me of my days as a spelling bee contestant. I was a frequent winner at the county level, and in eighth grade advanced to the Kansas State Spelling Bee in Topeka. In the first round, I misunderstood the word pronounced to me by a mush-mouthed gentleman announcer and spelled a word that--I quickly learned--wasn’t the one he had pronounced.

I was forced to take a seat. Didn’t get a second chance. I’m thinking Morgan Brown will take full advantage of her second chance--a chance that is well-deserved, by the way.

******

First two rounds of the NCAA Tourney are in the books and trusty Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley has completed the grading of the more than 100 entries in our annual bracket contest. Here are the top 10 or so at this point:

Daryl Grame, Irvin Reineke, Katherine Mick and defending champ Lori Meyer have 96 points; Steve Manville, L. Whitmore and Linda Foley have 94 points; Deana Anderson, Charles Glotzbach, Jory Mick, Steve Sampsell, Ed Highlander and Sue Palm have 92 apiece.

Don’t see your name in the leader board? Don’t be discouraged. These contests are won or lost in the later rounds when correct picks count for many more points than they did in the early rounds.

Remember, everybody who finishes with a higher score than your publisher gets two years worth of free subscriptions to your Landmark.

Your handsome publisher--who picks UCLA to beat North Carolina in the final--right now has 86 points. All four of my Final Four teams are still alive and I have 11 of the Sweet 16.

******

Normally I do a min-rant like a fourth grade teacher about folks not putting names on their bracket contest entries. This year I have a new complaint: sloppy penmanship, kids. If you want us to print your name in the paper correctly, please write your name neatly on your entry. If we can’t read your handwriting, all bets are off.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Tomahawke has obstacles;
Bracket bustin' time

Posted 3/19/08

Will the proposed high density housing development known as Lake at Tomahawke Ridge make it to the table for the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission next month?

It’s still on the agenda for the April 15 meeting at this writing, but it does have some obstacles to overcome in order to be heard. Last week, Daniel Erickson, director of Platte County Planning and Zoning, sent a letter to Sam Aylett of Sam’s Survey Company, who is working for the developer, detailing a list of 31 changes that need to be made to the preliminary plat before the zoning board will hear the application. Those changes need to be made and a revised plan submitted by noon on March 31 before the application can be heard on April 15.

Results of last week’s planning and zoning commission meeting--during which two development proposals were recommended for denial by the board--may not have been encouraging to the Tomahawke developers, who are asking for a much higher density development in a rural area than either of the two that were rebuked by the board last week.

******

If you’re reading this before 11 a.m. Thursday, hurry and fax your NCAA basketball bracket to 816-858-2313, because it’s time for our annual Bracket Battle, with the winner getting $100. Please remember to put your name on your entry--you have no idea how many folks fax me a bracket without identifying who is making the picks. It’s tough for you to win that way because those things go in the trash.

Anybody finishing with a better score than your strikingly handsome publisher wins a two-year subscription to The Landmark. Watch the standings for our contest each week in this column space.

Here’s what you’re up against. My predicted winners:

FIRST ROUND

East Regional--North Carolina, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Winthrop, St. Joseph’s, Louisville, Butler, Tennessee.
Midwest Regional: Kansas, Kent State, Clemson, Vanderbilt, USC, Wisconsin, Davidson, Georgetown.
South: Memphis, Oregon, Temple, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Stanford, St. Mary’s Texas.
West: UCLA, Texas A&M, Drake, Connecticut, Purdue, Xavier, West Virgina, Duke.

SWEET 16

North Carolina, Notre Dame, Louisville, Tennessee, Kansas, Clemson, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Memphis, Temple, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, Connecticut, Xavier, West Virginia.

ELITE 8

North Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Georgetown, Memphis, Texas, UCLA, West Virginia.

FINAL FOUR

North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, UCLA.

CHAMPIONSHIP

UCLA 77, North Carolina 73.

******

After taking a dramatic pause, our almost-weekly, barely fictional feature known as Dave's Diary, starring the never dull thoughts of Dave Brooks, barely mayor of Platte City, returns with renewed vigor. I’m channeling inside the mind of Mayor Dave at this very instant. Time to let the emperor take the stage.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20: Hello, Diary. Dave Brooks here. Perhaps you've heard of me. I'm kind of a big deal. People know me. You wanna know why? I’ll tell you why. I'm the full time mayor of Platte City, part-time voice of God.

I had a talk with Keith Moody today. Keith and I talk often. That's how stuff gets done around here. Keith must have been joking with me. I asked him what day it was and he said “Dave Brooks, today is Maundy Thursday.” I like how he calls me Dave Brooks. But I had to ask him, 'Well which is it Keith, is it Monday or is it Thursday? You're confusing the hell out of me.' Then he explained to me that Maundy Thursday has something to do with Easter. I think he said it's the Easter Bunny's birthday. I dunno, Keith kinda talks over my head sometimes. That guy is so smart. We should double his severance package. I'm sure sorry the aldermen almost fired him. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

In addition to the 169 hours a week I work as mayor, I’ve been busy on the homefront. I've cleaned the heavy brush/small forest out of my yard. I like to do that every couple years. Spruce things up before Election Day, if you know what I'm saying. Hey, I heard that ass from The Landmark went to Las Vegas last week. Haven't heard how he did but I hope he lost a lot of money, his pride, his self-respect and his left testicle. He never does Dave Brooks any favors. That's why Dave Brooks often glares at him when he's sitting in the audience at Dave Brooks’ meetings. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Diary, I vetoed the trash ordinance but those crazy aldermen overrode my veto. I’ll show them. This week I’m going to veto Spring. That will hurt Aaron Jung’s landscaping business. Next I’m going to veto the use of foreign cars in Platte City. That will hurt Andy Stanton’s business. Then I’m going to ask our fine city attorney--man, I love that guy--if he can draft an ordinance that allows only one hardware store in Dave’s Town. Boom, there goes Rick Clark! Then I’m going to ask our fine city attorney if he can draft an ordinance that allows only one newspaper in Dave’s Town. Boom, there goes that ass from The Landmark! Then I’m going to ask our fine city attorney to draft an ordinance saying if you don’t live in Plate City you can’t own a business in Platte City. Boom, there goes 75% of our business community. Whew, Dave Brooks carries a mighty sword. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

All this deep thinking has worn me out. I need a nap. It’s Easter weekend so a lot of the little people are headed off to church. But Dave Brooks will avoid that hornet’s nest. Sometimes God gets upset when he thinks Dave Brooks is trying to compete.
Till next time, I’m outta here. Gotta pick up a present for the Easter Bunny. Remember, vote for me because when I win, we all win!

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Planning and zoning board brings it strong on Tuesday night

Posted 3/12/08

Mandated pre-pay at the pump could be coming soon to a small city near you.
At least one City of Tracy aldermen is pushing for the mandated pre-pay to be instituted at all gas stations within the city limits--that would be the KCL Trex Mart store in Tracy. The topic is scheduled to come up at the city board meeting later this month.

Patricia Neville, manager at the KCL Trex Mart in town, says the store adamantly opposes the proposal. She said the store prefers to be able to continue to give customers the option of pumping before they pay. She says the alderman pushing the proposal has indicated he would rather have Tracy’s police department focusing on other things than taking reports of gas drive-offs.

But is it really a problem for Tracy police? Neville says she has record of calling police to report a drive-off only 10 times in 2007. Less than once a month. She claims the Tracy police department doesn’t feel that ratio causes a burden on officers. Neville says store officials intend to show up at the city meeting to express their displeasure with the idea.

Many convenience stores in larger markets have gone to mandatory pre-pay. Some large municipalities require it. Tracy hardly qualifies as a large market or a large municipality. I’ve written in this column space previously about my dislike for mandated pre-pay, and specifically mentioned my habit of purchasing gas at the store in Tracy because of their current policy of allowing pump before you pay.

Many convenience store owners will tell you going only pay-at-the-pump is cost-prohibitive in the competitive gasoline market, a market that in large part is driven by convenience.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the metropolis of Tracy.

******

Don’t forget to get your NCAA Basketball bracket to us by next Thursday, March 20 at 11 a.m. The Landmark hosts the biggest, best and longest-running public bracket battle in Platte County. You know the drill. Clip a bracket out of the daily papers or snatch one off the Internet and fax it to us at 816-858-2313 or email it to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com by deadline.

The bracket will be announced this Sunday evening on CBS Television.
Check out Brian Kubicki’s column for his predictions on the Big 12 tournament being played this week in Kansas City. Kubicki seems to be running a practice lap for your Landmark columnists’ bracket battle.

******

Interesting news to come out of the meeting of Hoover area residents last Thursday night as they did their bi-weekly gathering to oppose the proposed 680 home development known as Lake at Tomahawke Ridge. Several pieces of new information, most from the mouth of MoDOT’s cocky cowboy Norm Beeman, came forth. Here are a couple of highlights (for more see front page story):

•MoDOT has a long-range plan to widen Hwy. 92, basically to three lanes (a center turn lane). Of course, Beeman basically admitted it could be another 20 years before that happens. It’s not in the department’s five year financial plan, and as Beeman pointed out, the agency prefers to spend its money “where people are getting slaughtered.”
Not enough slaughtering yet going on along Hwy. 92, apparently.

•Beeman says the average home with the average number of children generates about 10 traffic trips per day. Wow. That would mean this development would create increased traffic in that area of 6,800 cars per day. That’s an increase of 6,800. . .don’t forget that’s in addition to the traffic already traveling that area. That’s an overwhelming amount for an already dangerous roadway with rolling hills, limited sight distances, and far too narrow pavement.

“It’s an issue of safety, first and foremost,” said attorney Rob Willard, who along with Miller Leonard has been retained as legal counsel by neighbors opposing the development. “As a former prosecutor, I can tell you the number of cases dealing with traffic fatalities would increase. I’m not with the prosecutor’s office anymore, but with my training and experience I know what they would have to go through. This is just a nightmare waiting to happen. We would wake up from that nightmare when it was far too late to do anything about it,” Willard told me this week.

******

I sat in on more than three hours of the five-hour Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday night. It was interesting. Two controversial developments were voted down (recommended for denial) by the commission and will now be passed on to the county commission. Find more details on an inside page.

Eight planning and zoning commission members were present for Tuesday’s meeting. I was impressed with the level of questions the board members asked. Member David Picco particularly had a very strong evening, asking pointed questions and making some interesting remarks in the process. Some of Piccos’ best moments I noted as being:

•On the Beverly Plaza proposal, where a developer is non-specific about what types of businesses might go in his plan, Picco asked: “How can they do a traffic study without knowing what the uses are?”

•When told MoDOT had signed off on the traffic study for Beverly Plaza, Picco noted: “MoDOT approves a lot of stuff that seems dumb.”

•In another pointed remark about traffic studies (and what a joke those developer-funded things have become), Picco said: “For the audience, it seems like these guys with these traffic studies don’t know what they’re doing.” He said the county is in the process of trying to tighten the guidelines on traffic studies. “We intend to make them study things other than ‘how quickly can I get through an intersection?’” In other words, safety needs to become a priority for studies, not just convenience.

Amen. Nice job by Picco and his fellow board members Tuesday night.

*****

Mayor Dave’s Diary takes a week off but comes back next week with an extended episode.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


It's tough to sympathize
with R-3 on this one

Posted 3/5/08

Can you believe it? It’s March. Ranks right up there on my list of favorite months of the year. Longtime readers know I have a college basketball fetish that gets fed this time every year. Check out the story on the front page to get the inside skinny on this year’s Landmark Bracket Contest, Platte County’s original, biggest and most fun public pick ‘em event. Win the deal and you get $100. Or simply beat my score and win two years worth of subscriptions to Platte County’s only county-wide newspaper. Yeah, I’m questioning your fanhood.

******

Here’s your update on the State Rep. Jason Brown vs. Platte County R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst verbal wrestling match. They continue to spat over Brown’s proposal to abate a warehousing development on City of KC-owned property at KCI. Brown says it’s about job creation, as 50 new jobs would be gained for the area under the first building phase. In the spirit of hyperbole and over-the-top dramatics, Harpst last week actually said the proposal would have “a devastating effect” on the district and its patrons.

Watching this argument play out has been quite entertaining to me. So I asked an outside observer to chime in. Judge Mills Lane (Let’s get it on!) was unavailable, so I put in a call to State Sen. Charlie Shields and asked him to weigh in. Shields agrees with Brown on the side of tax abatement and job creation. And remember, Shields is known as one of the most education-friendly politicians in the state. He is a past member of the Mid-Buchanan School Board. “From my viewpoint, I’ve always talked about the area around the airport and the I-29 corridor as a big priority for me. This is one little piece of that and is a step in the right direction. It’s all about job creation. I’m as pro-education as they come, I’ve been involved in schools all of my political life but at some point you have to do what’s right for all citizens and move an issue like this forward.” Shields says he believes R-3 can negotiate payments in lieu of taxes that would be fair. Chris Byrd, attorney for the city of KC, told me that both R-3 and Park Hill have made counter-offers to the city’s initial offer of 8 cents per square foot. The city is contemplating the offers at this time, Byrd said Tuesday.

But back to Shields. “The ability to grow the entire region and area will be beneficial. If you can develop ground around KCI it should contribute to the growth of the region. Secondary businesses on private ground in that area will go in and will pay property taxes, which ultimately would benefit the school district,” Shields explained. “If it was a residential development with 100 new houses, that would be different.”

I must side with Brown and Shields on this one. The school is getting zero tax dollars from this property right now. That’s zero as in nothing. As the state convincingly argues, you can’t lose what you don’t have. And the 50 new jobs created by the first building will actually be located within the Park Hill School District, not R-3. “I don’t see any way this could be devastating to the district. It will have no impact on the number of students,” Shields told me Tuesday.

As a general rule, I’m opposed to tax abatements. But if you’re ever going to do one, the place to do it is on ground that was purchased with Federal Aviation Administration money and therefore is not allowed to be sold to private interests. The developer in this case would only lease--not own--the property, even the above-ground improvements. And on Harpst’s comment that this would be financially devastating? Please.

It’s tough for a lot of taxpayers to shed a tear for R-3 right now. The school board over the past few years has made some questionable spending decisions. The district has spent millions in the toy department for fake grass on the football field. The district is spending millions to buy and rehab a building into a bus barn and an early childhood center (which will compete with private enterprise). The district is significantly overpaying its superintendent compared to schools of similar size. The school district failed to significantly roll back its tax levy in a reassessment year last summer, hitting taxpayers up for a 14% backdoor tax increase in a move the board president claimed was a “tax cut.”
Ouch. And yet school officials want to dramatically sniffle about this relatively insignificant proposal? They’re fighting for what they believe in. But don’t expect many taxpayers to be rushing for a box of Kleenex.

******

Time once again for Dave’s Diary. It’s a weekly fictional look into the busy mind of Mr. Brooks, mayor of Platte City. Enter at your own risk.

Wednesday, March 5: Dear Diary. Hello darkness, my old friend. Dave Brooks has come to talk with you again. Spring is in the air. That's not necessarily good. You wanna know why? I'll tell you why. It means Dave Brooks is closer to having the reign of his kingdom challenged by Frank Offutt. It also means it will soon be mowing season, and my neighbors will be screaming about the height of my grass again. So I keep my grass several inches taller than anybody else, what's the big deal? It helps prevent water runoff and soil erosion. I like to think of it as Dave Brooks’ personal rain garden program. I am the environmentally-friendly mayor of Earth. And that's all I've got to say about that.

Dave Brooks' campaign picked up a big-time endorsement this week. Keith Moody and I were able to have a meeting with the spirit of Evel Knievel. I hadn't spoken with him since he stumbled through my Harley rally a few years ago. This week we got together and through frequent gulps of Budweiser (by him, not me, as Dave Brooks doesn't drink), Evel said he heartily supports the Dave Brooks for Mayor campaign. He said my campaign is going beautifully. But I suppose beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder. Evel said if I win the election I should jump the Platte River in my old pickup. The one with the Nebraska plates. Evel jumped on his Harley and revved his engine, but I warned him never to do that in Dave's Town because my police now have a decibel meter. That decibel meter is so sensitive it picks up the sound of my heart pounding when Aaron Jung and I argue at public works committee meetings. And that's all I've got to say about that.

That ass at The Landmark says it is time for March Madness. What does he mean? I'm mad at him 12 months out of the year. I don't need a special month for that. And madness? Hah. I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

Till next time, Diary, remember to vote for Dave Brooks because when I win, we all win. Now let’s go neuter some cats.


(Abate Ivan’s taxes and neuter his cats via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Brown-Harpst relationship tested; Zoning vs. land use

Posted 2/27/08

I’ve said before it’s often cheap entertainment watching public officials get into spats. We have one brewing between local State Rep. Jason Brown and the leadership at the Platte County R-3 School District.

Check out Alan McArthur’s front page story about Brown co-sponsoring a bill that would bring tax abated development within the boundaries of the R-3 district near KCI. Brown wants it to pass in the name of job creation. R-3 wants what it believes is fair payment from the proposed development to help fund operations necessary to educate new students who might be brought to the area by the development. Board members are upset, among other things, because Brown proceeded with this without a little forewarning. Also, behind the scenes some apparently hard feelings have emerged between Brown and Superintendent Dr. Mark Harpst over R-3’s decision in the past to negotiate and accepting cash payments in lieu of taxes to the district on other projects. Brown reportedly told one school board member in a phone conversation that Harpst negotiating such payments for the district is “evil and hypocritical.” I’m assuming he means he believes it is evil and hypocritical to the process of promoting economic development incentives.

Hmm. In the past Brown and Harpst have put forth a front that they genuinely are fond of each other. Harpst, as we all know, views himself as a master at public relations and takes pride in his ability to get along with anyone and everyone. While that’s an admirable goal for Harpst, most of us realize it’s only possible in fairy tales.

Anyway, this behind-the-scenes disagreement between the two might be fun to watch. Harpst, a.k.a. Dr. Evil, is in Jefferson City this week testifying in opposition to Brown’s bill.

******

There seems to be a whole lot of confusion about Platte County’s Land Use Plan. The land use plan, as many readers know, spells out suggested uses for land areas throughout the county. The problem is the land use plan doesn’t always agree with how particular tracts of land are zoned. For instance, a tract could be designated as a rural area by the land use plan yet be zoned for multiple family residences.

This conflict between the plan and zoning is coming to the public forefront right now because a proposed 680 home development planned at Hwy. 92 and Winan Rd. about four miles east of Platte City would be a major step away from the suggested plan.

In a recent telephone interview with Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight, I asked her in general terms about the land use plan.

“It has seemed to work well. It isn’t something that I feel strongly about. We need to look to see if good things have happened or if it’s something we’ve had trouble with.”

Hmm. Time for some analysis. What I have witnessed while sitting in public meetings goes against Betty’s claim in her second sentence. She is the one commissioner who, during zoning discussions, almost always asks the question: “How does this fit into the Land Use Plan?”

Interesting that Knight seems to be shying away from her previous track record as this controversial development proposed by some of her campaign contributors looms on the horizon. Knight went on to say: “People didn’t want the county going in and rezoning their property. The land use plan is a concept, not something that we were going to go in and make you rezone property to fit that land use.”

I’m confused. If zoning isn’t going to conform to the land use plan, why spend thousands and thousands of dollars and waste hours of staff time developing a plan? Let’s be honest, the reason the county doesn’t go in and rezone property to fit the land plan is because it would create political pressure on people like Knight.

Doing the right thing isn’t easy. The right thing to do would be to take steps to have zoning match your land plan. If you don’t, you end up with areas of what is known as “spot zoning,” where a 680 home development on only 300 acres can actually be proposed in an area designated for 10-acre lots. Current county commissioners should develop some intestinal fortitude and do what’s right for neighborhoods instead of always doing what’s right for the deep pockets of developers.

*****

Here’s the newest entry in our weekly feature known as Dave’s Diary. It’s a barely fictional look at what’s going on inside the noggin of Dave Brooks, barely mayor of Platte City, in advance of his April 8 reelection effort.

Wednesday, Feb. 27: Dear Diary. Me again, Dave Brooks, writing notes to my best friend, Dave Brooks. I'm a little down today. We had a meeting last night. Aldermen voted to do away with the city's commercial trash dumpster service. It was due to some kind of ugly rumor that private haulers could do it a lot cheaper than my city could. Does it really matter? Don't people realize that trash service provided by Dave's Town is worth a lot more than trash service provided by somebody else? Why can't people understand that? God must love stupid people. He made so many. And what's up with these aldermen? Sometimes I think the gene pool could use a little chlorine. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Listen, Diary, I've heard my opponent Frank Offutt does not keep a diary. This is another reason to vote for Dave Brooks. I think Offutt is jealous because the voices only talk to me. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

So yeah, Diary, I'm a little down right now, but it won't last long. Dave Brooks will put on his orange “Mayor” ball cap. Dave Brooks will then jump in his old pickup, the one with Nebraska license plates, and cruise down streets normally reserved for the little people in Dave's Town. I'll feel like a common man again, like I did before I started this six-year reign over my kingdom. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

I need to focus on the bright side right now because I’m hearing there are three, maybe four people who are considering voting against me in April. My Adopt-a-Soldier program is going very well. It’s going so well that I think I’ll adopt a highway and maybe two Russian orphans. Let’s see Offutt try to match that act of human kindness and compassion for which Dave Brooks is widely known! Whew! I still got it. Sometimes I have to force myself to go to sleep just so these ideas will stop flashing in my head. Good night, Diary. Remember, vote for me because when I win, we all win! And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Hot ‘n’ juicy nuggets on the local political scene

Posted 2/20/08

Here’s your local political scoopage for the week, the kind of inside skinny you always get first in The Landmark:

•The rumor mill says Marcena Fulton, for the past several years an assistant under Sandy Krohne in the county clerk’s office, will run for Platte County Assessor against incumbent Lisa Pope. If in fact she chooses to run, an announcement could come as soon as tonight (Wednesday) at the Democrats’ Project Change event in Parkville. Fulton was on her way back to Platte County from a trip to Florida when I tried to reach her for comment Wednesday morning.

•Alderman Todd Sloan seems to have gladly accepted the role of being Mayor Dave Brooks’ top henchman on the Platte City Board of Aldermen. Recently, one of Sloan’s roles has been to deliver messages from Mayor Dave to various aldermen. Instead of picking up the phone and giving his words of wisdom and attempted intimidation himself, Brooks’ new tactic is to have Sloan deliver the words.

•Word on the street is that Brooks did pick up the phone and call the division manager from Quik Trip after he appeared at last week’s session about trash rates in Platte City. Tone of the conversation from the mayor is said to have been less than cordial. Apparently Mayor Dave just can’t understand why a businessman would complain about paying three times more for trash service in Dave’s Town than he’s paying in other locales. That’s not hard for most of us to figure out. It is hard for Mayor Dave to comprehend. Mayor Dave likes to promote himself as a friend to business. When the mayor tries to intimidate businessmen into swallowing their tongues about high trash rates, is that considered business-friendly?

•Will he or won’t he? It appears no resume has been submitted yet from State Rep. Jason Brown in the pool of applicants to be Platte City’s next city administrator.

•We exposed recently that developers proposing the destined-to-be controversial 680-home “neighborhood” along Hwy. 92 and Winan Road are campaign contributors to incumbent first district county commissioner candidate Tom Pryor. The same developers have also given to Betty Knight, presiding commissioner, in her previous campaigns.

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Hope you’re enjoying the work each week of The Landmark’s two newest columnists, Democrat diehard Russ Purvis and Republican right guard James Thomas. Next week the pair will square off in their first point/counterpoint session. The topic? The Missouri Court Plan, which is the current process used for selecting judges in Missouri courts. Catch the boys each week on page 3.

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Missing her byline? Stacy Wiedmaier, on-the-rise reporter for your Landmark the past couple of years, has been recruited to join the staff of the Desert Sun, a daily newspaper in Palm Springs, Calif. Stacy, who has already moved to the left coast, will graduate from Park University in May with a double major in journalism and broadcasting. We’ll miss her.

******

Time for the latest episode of Dave’s Diary, a clear look at the often times not-so-clear thought process of Dave Brooks, mayor of Platte City. Remember, this diary is fictional. Much like Dave’s recall of his time in office.

Wednesday, Feb. 20: Hello, Diary, it’s me, Dave Brooks. Part-time voice of God, full time mayor of Platte City. You wanna know why Dave Brooks should be reelected? I'll tell you why. In fact today seems a good day to remind the little people of all the good things Dave Brooks has done as mayor. No. 1: Dave Brooks has cleared City Hall of arrogance. I've done a mighty fine job of this. Nobody helped me. Did it all on my own. No. 2: I attracted a new library to Platte City. Dave Brooks did this all on his own. Sure, I know Mid-Continent Library has its own tax levy and its own board of directors who make these kind of decisions, but this new library just wouldn't have been built in Platte City if it weren't for Dave Brooks. Don't ask me how I know this, I just do. No. 3: Heartland Clinic never would have come to Platte City if it weren't for me. Just ask me. I did this. I went to the folks at Heartland and I said 'Look, gentlemen (I always say gentlemen even when there are ladies in the room), despite my best efforts, people are still getting sick in Platte City. We need a clinic. Please will you build one in Dave's Town?' They agreed with my forethought. They said without me they never would have realized illnesses occur in Platte City. Credit to me, Dave Brooks. No. 4: I'm bringing a new Price Chopper to town. Yes, I did this. Forget AWG or Paul Bresette (I always thought his name was Leo), this idea was totally mine. Well, mine and Keith Moody's. Nobody would have got the ball rolling if Keith and I hadn't held meetings and talked about food. Without Dave Brooks, those guys at AWG never would have realized that people in Platte City need to buy groceries. Credit Dave Brooks for making this happen. No. 5: Dave Brooks is responsible for development of a pocket park at the end of Main Street. Never mind that the Main Street Association and Olin Miller have been the driving forces behind this. Clearly it wouldn't be happening without Dave Brooks. Again, don't ask me how I know this. I just do. No. 6: I am working with Senator Sam Graves (I always refer to him as Senator, though somebody else told me he is a Congressman. Whatever, I'm Dave Brooks and I'll call him whatever I want) to secure federal funding to fix a sewer problem at the Platte River. I like to say it's a potential sewer problem. Though I guess the EPA saw it as more than potential when they wrote us a letter a few years ago telling us to stop allowing poopoo to flow into the river. God bless Sam Graves. Sam and I could really be buds but I think some of his people are tight with that ass at The Landmark. No. 7: I have continued the capital improvements program (CIP). I'm sure it will be pointed out that the CIP was started by my opponent Frank Offutt back in 1998. But as I like to say, it's not who started the job, it's who's finishing it. That would be Dave Brooks.

Yes, I'm Dave Brooks and I'm running for mayor. Vote for Dave Brooks because when I win, we all win. Unfortunately that includes that ass at The Landmark.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Character, safety of rural area placed in jeopardy

Posted 2/13/08

If you get a few moments, jump in your car and drive to Winan Road and Hwy. 92, about four and a half miles east of Platte City.

Please, carefully drive that tight, shoulder-less, hilly stretch of roadway with a couple of already dangerous intersections in place. After you’ve done so, answer this question: Would you pop over one of those hills, look down upon the Winan Road intersection, glance to the north and exclaim to yourself: “Hey, this looks like a great place to build 680 homes!”

Apparently developer Tim Dougherty would. Apparently property owner Hal Swaney would. But my guess is a majority of the rest of us won’t think it looks or sounds like a grand--or safe--idea.

******

Notice the results of the Platte Profile survey found on your Landmark’s front page. Top concerns by respondents are road and bridge safety and traffic flow. Approval of a 680-home development in an area designed by the county’s land use plan as a rural policy area would only add to those problems.

******

Also as the proposed 680-home development known as Lake at Tomahawke Ridge relates to it, note in the results of the Platte Profile survey that county residents really aren’t seeing a need for more affordable housing. This goes against what developer Tim Dougherty has been promoting as he touts his Tomahawke Ridge idea.

Dougherty is painting himself as sort of the Robin Hood of local developers, a guy willing to do one for the little people. “These are homes for young families, not rich people,” he has said.

This begs a couple of questions. Homes will start at $160,000. Number 1, as a letter-writer this week points out, is that considered affordable housing for a young family? And No. 2, is there a need or desire for more of this type housing? According to the county survey, there doesn’t appear to be.

I’m hearing more cries for preserving the rural landscape of the county than I am for crowding 680 “affordable” homes on 300 acres (actually more like 150 acres when area designated for green space within the development is subtracted).

******

Speaking of green space inside of developments, another development in which Dougherty is involved is having trouble keeping its green space used for the purpose it was designed. This week, Gale Cantu, codes coordinator for Platte County, sent a letter to the Hills of Oakmont Homes Association, Inc.--of which Dougherty is a board member, according to papers on file with the secretary of state’s office--requesting that debris, junk and parked vehicles be removed from a green space area within 30 days. “Or we will be forced to send a violation notice,” the letter from Cantu states.

Cantu explained that if after 30 days the area has not been cleaned up, the association will get another 10-day window to take care of the problem. After that 10-day period, the codes coordinator will take pictures of the scene and present the information to the prosecutor’s office if the problem has not been properly handled. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor, she says. “It would be a violation of the zoning order,” Cantu told me this week.

******

What follows is the second installment of Dave's Diary, a barely fictional look at the thoughts of Dave Brooks, barely mayor of Platte City.

Thursday, Feb. 14:
Hey there, Diary, it's me, Dave Brooks. Finally, a moment away from all the nut bags. It’s so great to be alone with me, myself and I.

I'm excited because I want to share a special Valentine's poem I've written. Here it is: 'Roses are red, violets are blue, I love Dave Brooks, and Dave Brooks does too.'

I wanna tell you, poetry is hard stuff. It took me six hours to write that. But I can't take all the credit. Keith Moody actually wrote the first two lines. He said he was glad to help and only asked for another $36,000 in his severance package for doing it. God bless Keith Moody. I fear this city will crumble when he's gone. Thank God the city will still have Dave Brooks.

Anyway, the extra work on my Valentine message means I will spend 86 hours on the job as mayor this week. That’s the kind of work load that would drive a lesser man to drink. This is why I tell people you can't have a full time job and be mayor. In fact, I suggest we make that a city ordinance. . . you got a job, you can't be mayor. Period. End of story. This would forever limit my field of potential opponents to retired folks and homeless people.

We will have to talk more about this later because right now I need to get to work on some unfinished projects before Frank Offutt tries to steal my throne. Number 1, I propose that the city spend $30,000 or $50,000 or whatever it takes to build a really nice “Welcome to Dave's Town” sign as you come into the city from the east. I suggest a life-sized sculpture of Dave Brooks. Marsha Clark says she wants a cannon. Maybe we could combine Marsha's idea with mine. Maybe place a Dave Brooks sculpture alongside a cannon aimed at the testicles of a statue of an un-neutered cat.

Brilliant! You gotta admit it would send a message about what is important in life: Dave Brooks and sterile cats. Another problem solved by Dave Brooks. I am an idea machine. I've got lightning in my brain. It’s no wonder I am the official Mayor of Earth!

Hey Diary, I just came up with a cheer to use in my reelection campaign. Maybe the Kitty Cat ladies will chant this at all my rallies. It goes like this: “Don't mess with the best cuz the best don't mess, don't fool with the cool cuz the cool don't fool. GO DAVE BROOKS!!”

Whew! Till next time, remember to vote for Dave Brooks, because when I win, we all win! Love, Me
.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


First installment of Dave's Diary;
Bad timing for Pryor

Posted 2/6/08

In a Between the Lines exclusive, I have been able to use my extensive mind-reading powers to obtain entries into the diary being kept by Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks as he embarks on his campaign for reelection. Each week from now till Election Day, somewhere on this opinion page I’ll bring you the latest entry in the barely fictional feature known as Dave’s Diary. Here we go:

Saturday, Feb. 2, 9 a.m.:
Dear Diary: Hello, it's me, Dave Brooks. I've come to talk with me again. You wanna know why? I'll tell you why. Because Dave Brooks is the only one smart enough to understand Dave Brooks. Well, Keith Moody understands Dave Brooks, because he's smart like Dave Brooks. But soon Keith and I won't be talking as frequently so it's just gonna be Dave Brooks talking to Dave Brooks on these teardrop-stained pages.

I can't wait to step outside today, Diary, you know why? I'll tell you why. Because today is Groundhog Day, which means if Dave Brooks sees his shadow the people of Platte City get six more weeks of outstanding governmental leadership.

If I don't see my shadow I bet that guy at The Landmark will say I violated the Sunshine Law again.

This whole seeing your shadow thing is so easy for me. I guess some people don't realize that Dave Brooks is the decider on whether or not the sun shines in Platte City. On the days Dave Brooks wants sunshine, Dave Brooks just gets up really early and places the sun in the sky. That's all there is to it. Really, who do people think puts the sun in the sky? OK, some folks might say God but Dave Brooks thinks God is too worried about avoiding traffic on Barry Road and paying $3 a gallon for gasoline. Dave Brooks knows that if God rode a Harley he would save money on gas. Dave Brooks will mention this to God in our next conversation.

But enough talk about religion, Diary, it is distracting me from my primary goal. Today Dave Brooks is kicking off his campaign for reelection as mayor of Platte City. That guy at The Landmark is such an ass. He says I consider myself the official Mayor of Earth. So wrong. I just want to be mayor of Platte City and several miles beyond. It is my calling. The people need me. I'm confident. I'm smart. I'm confident that I'm smart. I could sell an ice box to an Eskimo. And gosh darn it, people like me. I know they do because I told me so.

Anyway, my old political nemesis Frank Offutt wants to steal this job from me. Frankly, Offutt (Hah! See what I did there? Dave Brooks just made a joke. Did you get it? Frankly Offutt. . . as in Frank Offutt? I kill me!) doesn't stand a chance. I beat Offutt in 2002 because people were tired of arrogance at City Hall. If there's one thing Dave Brooks can say it is that Dave Brooks has cleared City Hall of arrogance. And Dave Brooks did that all on his own. Dave Brooks. . .the eliminator of arrogance! That should be my campaign slogan.

No, here is a better campaign slogan. “Vote for Dave Brooks, because when I win, we all win!”

That's it. I'm going with that one, Diary. Till next time, God Bless Dave Brooks!!

******

From the rumor mill:

Jason Brown, state representative from Platte City, is being mentioned as a potential candidate to be the new city administrator in Platte City. I talked to Brown by phone from the state capitol Wednesday.

“Where did you hear that? There are more rumors that surround me,” Brown said. But he then acknowledged he had heard the report as well. Any truth to it? “My resume has not been submitted to the City of Platte City.” But will it be by the Feb. 29 application deadline? “I don’t have it set to email to them,” he said.

That’s not a no.

******

What is Bob Shaw, Platte County R-3 School Board president, doing holding a public sit-down with all the folks who have filed as candidate for school board? He did it last week at a meeting that didn’t get properly noticed to the media (see front page). At best it seems an attempt at grandstanding. At worst it seems an inappropriate attempt to intimidate and control future board members. It would be one thing to call them privately and offer any background knowledge, but to call them into a public setting--with the superintendent alongside--smells like an attempt to intimidate and control. Either way it was a bizarre move by a board president who in the past year has spent too much time trying to play nice with his former philosophical adversaries on the board and not enough time leading the board in the direction of doing what’s in the best interest of his constituents--a role he seemed to relish prior to becoming board president.

******

Zoning controversies will be the norm over the next couple months in Platte County, as you see in our front page story. Not necessarily good timing for Tom Pryor, first district commissioner who is running a contested primary in August and if successful will face a Democratic opponent in November. Critics of Pryor, an appraiser by trade, have hammered on him for the appearance that he is politically in bed with developers. His list of contributors includes many builders and developers. So it will be very interesting to see how he responds to concerns by neighbors of a couple of those controversial zoning matters on the horizon.

I can tell you the folks east of Platte City near Hoover--where a developer is proposing 680 homes on 300 acres along Hwy. 92-- took major exception to Pryor’s quote in this column space last week when he said: “I don’t think 680 homes would be a detriment to a two-lane freeway.”

Wow. My email and voice mail boxes became full when that one hit the streets. Folks are taking issue with a narrow, hilly, shoulder-less stretch of Hwy. 92 with bad sight lines being referred to as a “freeway.”

Coming soon in this space: The role of Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight and her legacy in regard to some upcoming zoning matters.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Aldermen give it away for Moody; Tomahawke talk

Posted 1/30/08

Welcome back to another news-filled episode of The Landmark, soon to also be known as The Weekly Adventures of Alan and Ivan.

Pull up a chair. Got some things I want to get off my chiseled chest.

******

Take a front page gander at the extremely friendly severance package the Platte City Board of Aldermen handed out to Keith Moody, fired city administrator, at the close of a nearly three hour closed session Friday night. Wow. If the city treats its terminated employees this well, imagine how great the employees in good standing must have it.

Moody--once again showing he is apparently smarter than most of the people he works for--figuratively took five aldermen, the mayor and the city attorney to the woodshed, made them drop their pants and left welts on their back sides.

The public hasn’t seen a fleecing of this magnitude since Bill and Hillary grabbed the fine China on their way out of the White House.

******

Five aldermen should be flat out embarrassed by their vote on this severance deal for several reasons (don’t know that I have room to touch on them all but will try). Only Andy Stanton cowboyed up and voted against this travesty, a travesty carried out with taxpayer money. Let me get as far as I can with this, as there are a number of angles that need to be explored.

No. 1, Moody through the years in interviews with this newspaper maintained he was an at-will employee who worked without a contract. This is technically true. He did have what is termed an employment agreement. This document--which was okayed in 2002 by city leaders who included then-mayor Frank Offutt and then-alderman Dave Brooks (remember those names, both are on the ballot at this year’s mayoral election) spelled out things like a $200 monthly car allowance for Moody, how often he would get salary reviews, etc. There also was a clause that said in the event he was terminated without cause, he would be due six months salary and benefits. This is where the confusion starts.

When the board voted to fire Moody last week, obviously they had cause to do so. Shall we list some possible justification? How about ineffective leadership? How about inadequate public relations skills? How about failure to procure a successful annexation? How about the city violating the Sunshine Law on his watch? Do we need to list more. . .because there are more. The point is evidence of any legal or ethical wrongdoing wasn’t really needed. Obviously the board had cause because they chose to fire him without a replacement ready to step in.

But somehow, aldermen became convinced they didn’t have justifiable cause to can the man. Who did that brainwashing? Aldermen I spoke with indicated it was city attorney Keith Hicklin. Aldermen also told me Hicklin made no mention of Moody’s employment contract during last Tuesday’s closed session in which they discussed firing Moody. This begs the question is Hicklin working in the best interests of the board of aldermen or in the best interests of Keith Moody? No wonder Moody didn’t bring an attorney with him to Friday night’s negotiations. Hicklin was there for him. And the city was paying the bill.

If you can’t trust your attorney to give you background info about an employment agreement in particular and confident advice in general, a change needs to be made. If aldermen have another pink slip up their sleeves, they need to slide that one in the direction of Hicklin. And please don’t try to tell the public you need “cause” to pull that one off.

Regardless, paying $36,500 to rid the city of Moody’s bad public relations is a good investment . . if the giving had stopped there. But it didn’t. Unless he chooses to leave for another position or until 30 days after the city hires his replacement, Moody can work and draw full salary and benefits way up until July 31. And then on July 31, the city agrees it still will pay him the $36,500 and pay his benefits for another six months.
Keith, can we get you anything else? Perhaps a city computer or two? Some office furniture? A Bud Light?

This is like firing your limo driver but letting him continue to drive you around for six months. And then after six months you give him the car.

******

As you know Mayor Dave doesn’t like to talk to me. Doesn’t matter. I can read his mind. I think I proved that in a December column when through osmosis I was able to extract from his brain his letter to Santa Claus.

Very soon, possibly as early as next week, right here in this space we’ll begin a series known as Dave’s Diary. It will be a fictional peek into the daily diary of Mayor Dave as he sets off on his campaign for re-election as the official Mayor of Earth.

I’m thinking you won’t want to miss it. Dave is too.

******

Developer Tim Dougherty--one of the parties with a 680-home development known as Lake at Tomahawke Ridge proposed at Hwy. 92 and Winan east of Platte City in what at this point is designated a rural policy area--has seemed to take a bit of exception to my report last week about his recent financial contribution to the reelection campaign of Tom Pryor, first district county commissioner. Tim Dougherty and Kathy Dougherty of the same address, and Hal Swaney, a landowner of the site for the proposal, each gave the maximum allowable $325 to Pryor in late December. Three weeks later the Tomahawke Ridge development proposal became public. I’m not saying any special favors are being sought. I’m just giving you the undeniable facts backed up by Pryor’s campaign finance reports.

So will those donations create a conflict for Pryor and prevent him from voting on the destined-to-be-controversial matter if and when it comes up for county commission approval? “No, it won’t,” Pryor told me when I called him Tuesday. “I would still feel comfortable voting on that. Nobody has asked me for any favors.”

His thoughts on 680 homes potentially going in at that location?

“I don’t think 680 homes would be a detriment to a two-lane freeway.”

Hmm. Lots of folks who live near there disagree. Stay tuned.

(Email Ivan at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

Aldermen do what's best; Development idea raises questions

Posted 1/23/08

Relax, your mandatory seven day waiting period is over. Time for another episode of Between the Lines.

******

Crazy news has been breaking. Need to catch my breath. I sure picked a bad week to quit amphetamines.

******

Haven’t seen our main photography man Bill Hankins at many high school sporting events lately? There’s a reason for it. Bill is just now getting his strength back after a bout with pneumonia. He’s getting stronger day-by-day and is expected to be back in action for tonight’s (Wednesday) Jam the Gym event when the Platte County Lady Pirates play host to the Savannah Savages.

“I kinda hate to give up my anti-inflammatory drug, but since it is a steroid I don’t want to have to testify before Congress,” Hankins told me.

No roid rage here.

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Two quick trains of thought on the action taken by the Platte City Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.

1. Congratulations to the four aldermen who stepped up to the plate and made a move that is in the best interest of the city. As has been opined in this column space before and spoken by many folks in the general populace, it is time for a change in the city administrator’s chair. These four aldermen did what other previously elected aldermen had only hinted they would do. Nice job for making a tough but necessary decision in order for the city to move forward.

2. Best of luck to Keith Moody in future employment. We rarely saw eye-to-eye on many topics, but on a personal basis, Moody seems to be a decent fellow who does what he believes is best. He accomplished some resume-building items in his time with Platte City. But 12 years is too long, too much time to make enemies in a position of city administrator. In the long run, Platte City will be better because of this move. And depending upon how he handles it, Moody will have the opportunity to gain from it as well.

*******

Having said that, I do think it is bizarre--and more than a little bit dangerous--to allow a “fired” employee to continue to run your city. It would be best for all parties--particulary best for the city--to get the settlement details worked out and make the separation complete as quickly as possible. Frankly, I’ve never heard of a high-level executive being canned and still being allowed to show up for work and run things.

As I said, that’s potentially dangerous water in which the city is treading.

******

As for talk of a severance package, let’s not get too crazy here. Moody himself has told me he works without a contract and is an at-will employee. At-will employees can be fired at anytime for virtually any reason with no severance package. It’s human nature to want to play the role of nice guy but here’s hoping city fathers keep the best interests of the city and the taxpayer in the front of their minds.

******

Six hundred homes are being proposed at Hwy. 92 and Winan four miles east of Platte City. See our front page for the gory details.

I’ve eyeballed the site and frankly have a hard time envisioning 600 single family homes squeezed into the location. Apparently it can be done but it appears it will definitely qualify as high density housing. No one is opposed to well-planned growth, but my guess is that there will be some questions raised from the neighborhood, especially in light of how the Hoover area reacted to a proposed lumber yard at a site not too awfully far from where this major housing addition is proposed.

This situation will be fascinating to watch. Of particular note is that the proposal for the site does not fit the county’s land use plan. In past public meetings I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen county commissioner Betty Knight in particular be a stickler for following that land use plan.

Also, when reviewing recent donations to the reelection campaign of first district county commissioner Tom Pryor, I noticed that at least two players in this proposal are listed as very recent financial contributors to Pryor’s reelection effort. The name of Tim Dougherty is listed as giving a $325 donation to Pryor on Dec. 27. Kathy Dougherty, listed with the same address as Tim Dougherty, also gave $325 on that same date, according to Pryor’s paperwork. In addition, Hal Swaney, who currently owns the land on which the 600-home development is proposed, gave $325 to Pryor’s campaign on Dec. 31.I’m not implying that any special consideration is being sought. After all, lots of developers have donated to Pryor. It’s just a notation of fact that jumped out at me when I reviewed Pryor’s list of contributors this week. Like it or not, those are the facts and the public has the right to know. That’s why campaign contribution lists are open to the public. Everybody does--or should--understand the process.

As for the development, it starts with an application to the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission but county commissioners Pryor, Knight and Jim Plunkett will have the final say on whether the proposal eventually gets the go-ahead from the county.

******

I hate to brag--what am I saying, no I don’t--but did you notice I continue to nail NFL playoff predictions in our Pigskin Picks section. Two weeks ago I predicted New England to beat Jacksonville 31-20. Final score? An exacto: New England 31-20. Two weeks ago I predicted the Giants to upset Dallas 23-20. Final score? Giants pulled the upset 21-17. Then over the weekend I predicted the Giants to upset Green Bay 23-20. Final score? Another exacto: Giants 23, Green Bay 20.

Better tune in for my Super Bowl pick next week.

(Reach The Landmark’s Jimmy the Greek via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Equal opportunity apparently
not in style at North Platte

Posted 1/16/08

Unlike the crack dealer who fled the Platte County Courthouse halfway through his trial, I promise you I’ll be here for the duration of this column. My bail bondsman told me so.

******

What’s up with North Platte hiring a junior high school principal without even posting the position as being open? The process followed by the North Platte School Board was small town and inappropriate for a taxpayer-funded institution. District officials are defending the move by saying it’s only a suggested “policy” to post open positions, not a mandated “regulation” to do so.

How ridiculous. Why have any policies if you’re just going to pick and choose the ones you’re going to follow anyway? We all know right from wrong. It’s wrong for a taxpayer funded institution to fill a position without posting it. Such a posting ensures equal opportunity for all--including qualified folks from within the school district--to apply. Filling a spot without posting the opening smells of cronyism. It also smells to me like the board was more interested in hiring a new girls basketball coach who, oh by the way, will spend time as junior high principal when he isn’t designing plays.

Nothing personal against the man who was hired for the job. Maybe he’s qualified and maybe he’ll go on to do a bang-up job. But would he have been the best, most qualified applicant if the job had been publicly posted? The world will never know. Apparently North Platte board members don’t believe in performing due diligence. All of which means North Platte’s leadership has done a disservice to its patrons and its staff.
It’s another public relations snafu for a district that just went through an embarrassing policy controversy when it initially tried to prevent a pregnant student from taking part in graduation ceremonies in 2006.

******

As badly as I missed that Virginia Tech pick in the Orange Bowl, at least I can brag about my NFL playoff picks over the weekend.

You may have noticed in last week’s Pigskin Picks, I forecasted a 31-20 win by New England over Jacksonville in an AFC contest. Final score? New England 31, Jacksonville 20. Then in an NFC game, the Giants were my pick to upset top-seeded Dallas. I predicted a 23-20 Giants upset. Final score? Giants 21-17. Not as on target as my New England choice, but evidence enough to say I was dialed in.

Ah, some much-needed public redemption after misfiring on the picking of Virginia Tech.

******

During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the director how do you determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

“Well,” said the director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No,” said the director. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

******

What has been the key to the early success of the two-and-a-half year old Platte County Pachyderm Club? The local Pachyderm Club, which promotes the Republican Party and its ideals, has grown into one of the largest in terms of membership in the country.

The keys? In my opinion two things. No. 1, the leadership of one of the club’s founding fathers, Lee Pedego. In addition to helping organize the club’s birth, Pedego took on the role as first-ever club president before relinquishing that role a month or two ago. He actively promoted the club as truly being open to all--it wasn’t treated as a country club. No. 2, and Pedego had a role in this as well (and he’s had some help from others along the way), the club has been able to line up an impressive list of speakers in its short lifetime.

Honestly, getting an interesting speaker is the key, at least for me. I make the decision on whether to attend any club meeting based solely on who’s sharing the knowledge that evening. Platte County Pachyderms have hosted a state representative debate, hosted the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, five state senators, a former lieutenant governor, Sen. Kit Bond’s staff, Gov. Matt Blunt’s staff, and Congressman Sam Graves himself. Pretty impressive lineup.

Pedego now has handed the club reins to new prez Mike Maasen. Maasen’s comment to members in a recent mailing? “Let’s make Pachyderm Club a positive force in our community.”

It’s well on its way. Nice job by a lot of people.

******

Uh, oh, the war is on.

Word of the upcoming ‘Jam the Gym’ night being planned for Wednesday, Jan. 23 by the unbeaten Platte County Lady Pirates basketball team has reached the hometown of that night’s opponent, Savannah Savages. How word got there I’m not sure. I didn’t realize the worldwide web could reach Savannah. Savannah Reporter newspaper publisher Guy Speckman in a column published last week took a couple shots at Pirate fans and urged Savannah fans to show up early at PC’s ‘Jam the Gym’ night. He is begging Savage supporters to arrive by 5:30 p.m. for the 6:45 p.m. varsity game start time. He also is urging Savannah fans to sit on the Pirates’ side of the gym.

OK, time for some countermeasures. First of all, let the Savage fans get here as early as they want. Last time I checked there were no hitching posts in front of the high school so they’ll spend hours trying to decide where to park their horse and buggy. Secondly, let’s make Savannah fans walk through metal detectors to get in the gym. Their large belt buckles will set off the alarms multiple times, slowing down their entry time considerably. I think the game could be over by the time they get seated.

See you Wednesday night.

(Email Ivan Foley and the horse he rode in on at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


This speech would clinch
the race for mayor

Posted 1/9/08

Got a call from a buddy reminding me about my prediction on the Virginia Tech vs. KU bowl game last week. As you’ll recall, I suggested calling your friendly neighborhood bookie and investing in Virginia Tech minus 3.5 points over KU.

OK, not a good prediction. Tell that to my buddy. He says he lost his house, his truck, his wife, his dog and even a little bit of his self-respect. Yes, it’s a scene reminiscent of a Country Western song.

I guess it’s too late to apologize.

******

From this vantage point, it’s easy to nail down what will be the key to victory in the race for Platte City mayor. Whether any candidate will have the stones to act upon this guaranteed path to victory can be debated. It’s highly doubtful either of the two candidates currently in the race has the tummy for it. But this strategy would be goof-proof.

The first mayoral candidate to come out with the following public platform will be a guaranteed winner. The successful candidate’s key to victory speech would go something like this:

“If elected mayor, I promise to use my position as a bully pulpit to encourage the board of aldermen to dismiss the current city administrator. We need some new blood at the top, some new ideas, a more welcome attitude at city hall, an administrator who wants to cooperate, not dictate, an administrator who understands the path to successful growth (insert the word annexation here if you like) is a path of friendliness, not a path of involuntary actions, intimidation and costly court battles.”

There you have it. Two sentences is all it take s for victory in this race. Guaranteed.

******

We covered this topic in a Between the Lines episode several months ago. City Administrator Keith Moody, I’m sure, is a good guy in his personal life. I wish him the best in future employment. He’s had some resume-building accomplishments in the past decade or so as city administrator. But it’s time to move on. Due to his public relations shortcomings, in my estimation he has disenchanted 75% of the Platte City population. The other 25% just haven’t had the need to deal with him yet.

It has reached the point where folks will oppose just about any measure put forth by city hall if they believe Moody has a hand in pushing the proposal. For instance, it seems extremely clear a large-scale annexation effort will never be successful as long as Moody is in his post. He has made too many enemies in the areas the city has targeted for possible future expansion.

It would be best for the city--and for Moody professionally--for the two to part ways. Perhaps the city administrator has come to realize it as well. Word on the street is that Moody over the past several months has begun looking at other opportunities, including one at a city in Clay County. If he indeed has been searching, as the rumors say, he has yet to be successful in finding other employment.

If he is looking to move on, The Landmark sincerely wishes him the best of luck. For best chances of professional success, we would suggest a job search a little farther away than Clay County. Negative news from some of his exploits here is likely common knowledge there.

*******

Lisa Pope, continuing to work and be productive while undergoing treatments for lung cancer, told those of us in the crowd at the Platte Republican Association meeting on Friday night that she fully intends to seek reelection as county assessor in 2008.

******

I popped in at the Platte City Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night. Notable nuggets for me at a rather mundane gathering included noticing the meeting room has the fresh scent of new carpeting. And a salute to Mayor Dave for leading the meeting despite battling what appeared to be a bout with a nasty cough and head cold.

******

As you know, The Landmark keeps high school sports in its proper perspective, so it takes something special to get the topic on my radar.

Platte County’s Lady Pirates quietly are off to a 11-0 start on the hardwood. The problem is not many folks seem to be noticing, at least as far as attendance at games indicates. This being the case, a special effort to “Jam the Gym” with fans is being made for an upcoming home game against Savannah. The Lady Pirates, ranked fifth in the state in Class 4, will host the Savages on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Savannah is a good team, so expect some scratchin’ and clawin’. I’m particularly intrigued that the game against Savannah has been targeted as “Jam the Gym” night since I am an avid reader of Savannah media mogul Guy Speckman’s Savannah Reporter. As such, I can share with you that some of the Savannah folks have a little Pirate envy in them. Guy personally has field turf envy. He’s on a campaign to bring field turf to Savannah. He says their football field can’t even get goal posts that stand straight. He complains that the Savannah school district is run by tightwads.

Tightwads leading a school district? That’s a concept we’re not used to. Maybe if we swap a couple R-3 spenders for a couple Savannah tightwads both districts would end up with a happy balance.

But I digress.

The point is team officials want a large and boisterous crowd in the bleachers on Jan. 23. To prove what a a big deal this is, even I’m gonna do my best to get there. The varsity game should tip-off around 6:45 that night. Let’s jam the gym and send the Savages home with an increased level of Pirate envy.

(Ivan Foley supports the home teams but doesn’t look good in a cheerleading skirt. Send your game fashion tips to him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


Foley's fantastically fearless forecast features future fun

Posted 1/3/08

It’s New Year’s Day and I think the wind chill is around 185 degrees below zero. What better to do than sit in the recliner in front of the tube, with football on the screen and the laptop in its appropriate place?

Time to set sail with this year’s virgin voyage of Between the Lines.

******

What’s in the local forecast for 2008? You’ve come to the right place. Stay tuned for predictions spliced into this column.

******

While watching Mizzou in the Cotton Bowl game vs. Arkansas, we heard that Tiger football coach Gary Pinkel is a Harley Davidson enthusiast.

With Evel Knievel now residing in daredevil heaven, could Pinkel be a future special guest at a Mayor Dave HOG rally?

Providing there is another Mayor Dave HOG rally, of course.

******

I predict it would be a wise move, if it’s your kind of thing, to call your friendly neighborhood bookie and tell him you want Virginia Tech -3.5 in the Orange Bowl Thursday night.

******

Carl Peterson has announced he will return as President/General Manager/Arrogant Ass of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.

In a related development, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt has announced he will begin a search for a hot dog and a bag of nuts.

******

“We have a plan and it’s being implemented,” Peterson told the Associated Press on Monday.

I’ve heard Peterson make this statement to various Kansas City media outlets over the past few weeks. What amazes me is there is never a follow-up question from any of the media that asks: “So, Carl, what exactly is that plan? Was that plan to go 4-12? Was that plan to lose nine straight games?”

Peterson always gets a free pass. Can somebody tell me why?

******

I predict at some point in 2008 Mayor Dave will say something really bizarre.

Ah, that’s too easy.

******

“We’re devastated. But we’re not discouraged,” Carl Peterson told the Associated Press.

Huh? Can a person be devastated without being discouraged?

I don’t think so. In my mind, first you get discouraged and then when things get worse, you become devastated. But maybe it’s just me.

******

“Clark is as discouraged as any of us,” Peterson is quoted as saying a bit later in the same Associated Press story.

Wait a minute. Didn’t he just say they’re not discouraged?

Shouldn’t the reporter have pointed out to Carl how he just contradicted himself?

******

“We know where we’re going and what we’re going to do,” Peterson said to the Associated Press.

Again, no follow-up question asking him to pin down what exactly it is that they’ll be doing.

Was this lazy journalism, gutless journalism, or both?

The AP story was written by Doug Tucker.

******

I predict at some point in 2008 I will stitch an oversized clown suit for Fred Sanchez, the most bizarre-talking member of the often bizarre-behaving South Platte Ambulance District board of directors.

Give me brownie points for waiting this long.

******

After a disappointing past year--which started with a court-winning bang but ended with a whimper as he defended tax increases and promoted bureaucratic ways--I predict a political righting of the ship in 2008 by Bob Shaw, former noted defender of the public good. I predict he’ll get back on the side of light, truth and taxpayer justice in ‘08.

******

I predict The Landmark will not be able to endorse a second term for Gov. Matt Blunt. If so, this would be the second consecutive governor’s election for which your conservative-leaning newspaper has acknowledged there is a better choice.

******

I predict that Keith Moody--Platte City’s administrator with chameleon-like abilities--will be forced to change his colors once again after the April election.

******

I predict that next week in this space you’ll read the key to victory in at least one contested April vote.

(Never discouraged and certainly never devastated, you’ll get weekly Between the Lines interpretations from the publisher. Email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


 

 

 

 

ivan@plattecountylandmark.com