A COUPLE OF SUGGESTIONS FOR TUESDAY'S ELECTION; AND RECALLING JULY 25, 1980
From 7/28/10 issue
Yes, it’s hotter than blazes and yes, there’s not an overabundance of contested races on the ballot, but don’t forget to head to the polls next Tuesday, Aug. 3 to cast a ballot.
For the complete list of candidates and issues on the summer menu, see the election legal notice on pages B-3 and B-4 in this issue of your Landmark. Some of the highlights? A contested GOP primary for state senate between Rob Schaaf and John DeStefano and a contested Republican primary for U.S. Senate between Roy Blunt, called Bailout Blunt by some groups who question Blunt’s conservative credentials, and Chuck Purgason. In another Republican primary, Allen Icet, whom I interviewed last Sept. 11 when he dropped by The Landmark office, will square off against Tom Schweich of St. Louis for state auditor. On a smaller scale, there are some contested races for party central committee posts, including one involving our own columnist, James Thomas. Let it be known I heartily endorse James C. Thomas in his quest to retain the seat in the high profile position of sub-committee district 32-1 on the Platte County Republican Central Committee.
As far as issues go, the most interesting one is Proposition C, which in essence gives Missourians the chance to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the idea of Obamacare. Don’t be confused on this one--a yes vote on Proposition C is a vote against Obamacare. The yes vote is the only sensible way to go.
Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt’s one-hour meeting rule was violated, assaulted, raped, pistol-whipped and tasered Tuesday night. The 7 p.m. board of aldermen session, which the mayor has indicated should never run longer than one hour, didn’t end until about 9:40 Tuesday night.
Media types and regular audience members are still thankful Tuesday’s length is the exception, not the rule.
My iPhone 4 arrived on Monday. Don’t ask me how I like it. It’s still enclosed in the UPS box in which it arrived. It just seemed like too big a task to tackle until after deadlines for this week’s paper had been assaulted, raped, pistol-whipped and tasered.
So my iPhone orientation starts Thursday. A report will be forthcoming once I’ve learned to do more than call and text with it.
An Ozone Alert was officially issued for the Kansas City region, warning us that the air quality was going to suck on Wednesday. To be honest, I never used to pay attention to these sorts of indicators. But the older I’ve gotten--which certainly beats the alternative, by the way--the more affected I’ve become by environmental allergies. For those with allergies or other breathing challenges, these air quality alerts actually can be a bit meaningful. I didn’t realize it at the time but that headache from hell that struck me Tuesday afternoon was probably a result of the air quality already heading south.
This has become a long way of saying that I’ve discovered an over the counter product that can help with some of the resulting symptoms. It’s called Sinus Buster, a nasal spray I happened upon on a recent trip to Walgreens in Platte City. Sinus Buster promotes itself as an “all natural nasal spray.” Its all natural ingredients? Capsaicin pepper. That’s it.
Capsaicin is the active natural chemical that puts the heat in hot peppers. Think pepper spray. Think pepper spray used for riot control (cheaper than tasers) and personal defense. This stuff is pretty powerful and isn’t for everybody, perhaps only those of us who are congested and suffering from a headache from hell.
Have you ever crammed a jalapeno up your nose? Neither have I, but if I had I would imagine the sensation would be similar to what this burst of spray gives. This stuff will make your eyes water. It won’t just make tears form in your eyes, I mean it will make water run out of your eyes. It’s a little freaky the first time or two you use the stuff. But it works.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I just play one in this column. Check with your physician before using, even though I didn’t.
Our Other Voices feature printed below this column takes a look back at a moment in Landmark history. It was 30 years ago this week, and obviously it remains a painful memory for a lot of us. I’ve always thought former Landmark owner/publisher did a fine job in her tribute to my dad back in 1980. Mrs. Jones, by the way, passed away in 1998.
At some point in the future I’ll do a more thorough account, but for now I’ll briefly pass along a couple of lasting impressions. July 25, 1980 was a Friday. I was 17 and had come home from work at the family-owned newspaper and printing plant, showered and was pumped about an upcoming night out to a St. Joe drive-in theater with friends. Mom-- who to this point had spent her adult life being a busy wife and mother of seven kids--and I were the only ones at home. I was standing in my bedroom, staring at the closet, picking out a shirt when the phone in the kitchen rang. The house was quiet, so I was able to hear the uptight tone of voice my mom was using. She hung up the phone and said a chaplain at a St. Joseph hospital had called to say Dad had “gotten sick” on the way home from Platte City. I told her to jump in the car, I would drive.
About halfway through the 15-minute drive, she said: “I wonder why the chaplain would call me instead of Lester (my dad’s friend who was with him that day) calling me.” I avoided the question, fearing that I knew the answer and didn’t want to say it aloud. I’ve grown to be convinced she knew the answer as well, and in a motherly way was simply trying to prepare me for any shock that might lie ahead. The hospital at the time was in the downtown St. Joe area, and feeling a sense of urgency, I ran a red light(s) on the way. As mothers do, Mom chastised me for it, even at that moment. It was a sign of the strength she would continue to show for years, despite the fact she was about to become a widow at the age of 45.
By now you know the news that was waiting for us at the hospital. For me, it meant it was time to become a man at the age of 17. On a larger scale, it meant the beginning of some challenging times that would see everybody contribute in a way larger than some ever imagined, performing some tasks we never expected we’d be performing at that early point in our lives. I now love all aspects of the news business, but it wasn’t all that enjoyable during that time of transition.
It’s not a situation to be wished upon anyone, but I firmly believe everyone who goes through an experience like that eventually becomes a stronger person for having done so.
(Bust Ivan Foley's sinuses via email to email@example.com or settle for signing up to follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)
A TIME TO PAUSE
This week marks the 30-year anniversary of the sudden death of Dwayne Foley, age 50. Foley, Landmark publisher and publisher of two other weekly papers at the time of his July 25, 1980 fatal heart attack, had purchased The Landmark in November of 1979 from Lucy Jones. Mrs. Jones penned the following remarks about Foley in The Landmark issue the week after his death:
Newspaper people seem to grow a bit immune to shock, as through the years they write and work with all kinds of tragic incidents, including sudden death. But sometimes the shock really hits home, and that is the time when words do not flow from the pen so easy and there is nothing you can do to help. That is what happened to us last Friday evening when we received the report of the death of Dwayne Foley.
Foley and his long-time friend, Lester Shalz, left The Landmark office just about 5 p.m. after having been to Kansas City for supplies. He seemed in good spirits and talked about plans for the next paper--the last thing we expected was for him to suffer a fatal heart attack before he reached his home and family, much less that this newspaper would be printed without his guiding force.
Dwayne Foley was a master newspaperman--not just an editor but a printer, reporter, writer, Comp-IV operator, linotype operator, press man, repairman--and most of all he loved people and had a terrific sense for spotting news. He was never too busy to visit with a friend or miss an opportunity to make a new friend.
He had been in the newspaper business all of his life and knew both the letterpress and the newer offset operations. He purchased his first newspaper, The Wathena Times at Wathena, Kan., in 1959. Several years later he purchased the Horton Headlight at Horton, Kan., then last November he purchased The Landmark.
He was a typical country editor with a sincere desire to help the town and its people any way he could with his newspaper. His philosophy of a weekly newspaper focused on the news of that community, not competing with dailies, but always seeking local news.
We first met Foley during a Landmark crisis when we needed someone to run the flatbed newspaper press to help get The Landmark in the mail when Roland Giffee was ill. When we called him for help he did not hesitate a minute, just “Yes, I'll be there to help you just as soon as we finish printing the Times.”
He was our kind of people. We have lost an immeasurable amount of newspaper knowledge in all phases of the business, but he leaves a great heritage in the vast amount of teaching he has given to all those who have worked with him, especially to his children, who have learned the trade from him.
Foley easily developed a confidence with new friends as well as old--he was always your friend, never betraying your trust. A lot of secrets he knew were never printed because of his deep sense of obligation and compassion.
Foley liked Platte City and its people. He learned to know a lot of people here in the short time he had to spend at The Landmark. He had high ambitions, plans and expectations for the growth of The Landmark as well as Platte City.
We are grateful for the years we knew him and that we could call him our friend. Our memories include dozens and dozens of stories in which only Foley could see the light side and an amusing portion in complicated incidents he had encountered.
He leaves giant footsteps in the sands of time made during his half century.
‘Lines from Lucy’
Aug. 1, 1980 issue of
A CITY HELD HOSTAGE; AND WHAT'S THE BIG STINK ABOUT?
Just to let you know, I’m declaring this Weird Analogy and Metaphor Week here in Between the Lines.
Why? Because it sounds like fun.
Wow, a lot going on. There are so many different directions the column could go this week even I don’t know where it’s headed. Thoughts are tumbling in my head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
My Between the Lines analysis of the Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night in regard to the delay in voting on the proposed board of directors for the Old Towne Market Community Improvement District:
Mayor Gerry Richardson showed a lack of a spine in delaying a vote on the topic, using the excuse that Alderman Jeffrey Bay was absent. Please. An alderman is absent, life and the business of running a city must go on. Is the city going to be held hostage every time an alderman is a no-show? That’s about as weak as it gets.
Alderman Marc Sportsman sounds spiteful. Most folks with knowledge of the inner workings of Parkville politics truly believe Sportsman’s goal is to do whatever it takes to keep Tom Hutsler, his nemesis from that hot dog vendor issue--long forgotten by almost everyone except those directly involved--off the CID board. There’s really no sense in trying to pretend otherwise.
Alderman Jeffrey Bay shows a bit of arrogance in asking that a decision on a particular agenda item be delayed until he can be present to vote on it. Bay was elected to serve the people. He knows when the regularly scheduled meetings are held. If a particular agenda item is that important to him, he should find a way to get his snappily-dressed ass to the meeting. Everybody is busy, everybody has tough choices to make as to how we spend our time. Running for alderman meant you really should find a way to be free the first and third Tuesday nights of every month. On those occasions you can’t make it, it’s over the top to ask for special favors from those who do. This is city hall, not a country club.
Come on, gentlemen, good governing is all about common sense. It isn’t brain science or rocket surgery.
Do you ever long for the good ol’ days when First District Platte County Commissioner Kathy Dusenbery would have public meltdowns on Twitter? I sure do. The meltdowns were a little bit shocking at first, but they kinda grew on me, to tell you the truth. The entertainment value was priceless.
We will always have our rough moments, but Kathy herself has kinda grown on me. It’s like she is a colony of E Coli and I’m room temperature Canadian beef.
Uh oh, taxpayers in the Central Platte Fire District might be well-advised to grab our wallets. Between the Lines sources recently spotted two of the three fire board members--Paul Regan and Stanley George– having breakfast with developer/landowner Bill Mann.
A briefcase with documents was also present. I’m guessing a copy of the Sunshine Law wasn’t one of the documents.
The firemen were said to have a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for awhile. Or maybe the kind of hungry look you get when you’re bound and determined to whiz away thousands of tax dollars on an unnecessary burn tower.
Let’s hope not. Stay tuned.
The ink was barely dry on last week’s column in which I talked about that horrific stench along Interstate 29 about a mile south of the Dearborn exit before tipsters were able to point me in the right direction for solving the mystery behind that disgusting odor.
The smell is difficult to describe, but I’ll do my best. If you have kids, think back to the dirtiest diaper you’ve ever changed. Ok, now multiply that times three. Then guys, take your mind back to that aroma from the football locker room on a Friday after a week’s worth of two-a-day practices in the heat of August. Multiply that by two. Now think of slowly driving past a crowded hog lot on a steaming hot summer day. Add all those smells together, carry the one and we’re just about there.
In other words, it’s bad. Especially when it’s wet and the air is heavy.
Sgt. DJ Hedrick of the Missouri Highway Patrol tells me that a tractor trailer left the roadway in that area about midnight on July 1. The driver was cited for drunk driving. The load shifted forward and busted out through the front of the trailer. About that load: It’s a powdery substance that was in bags. It’s known as DL-Methionine. It’s commonly used as a dog and cat food additive. Part of its purpose is to keep dog urine from burning brown spots in lawns after your puppy drains his radiator on your grass.
Some of the bags of the white powdery substance split open and the DL-methionine has leeched into the soil. Three weeks after the accident, the stench still stands strong.
Davis Towing Service of Platte City did the initial clean-up as best it could under the circumstances. Luke Davis tells me the smell wasn’t bad the night of the accident. “When it’s dry, it’s fine. It’s when it gets wet that it stinks,” Davis says. All sources say it’s not a dangerous material, not a threat to human health. But it’s certainly not a pleasant experience for motorists. Sgt. Hedrick says the patrol is still getting complaints about the odor. So is the Missouri Department of Transportation.
My frequent phone contact at MoDOT, Kerri Lewis, community relations specialist for District 4--whom I have never met and in that regard we are like two hummingbirds who have also never met--tells me MoDOT is considering forcing some action to have the problem further addressed. Options might include turning the soil, or perhaps having lime placed on top of the affected area.
There you have it. Mystery solved. Stench remains.
(Ivan Foley would tell you what will be in next week’s column but even he has no earthly idea until the keyboard starts getting punched. In the meantime, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ivanfoley)
I-29 TRAVEL PROMPTS SOME THOUGHTS; AND SOME SPEAKING ADVICE FOR THE PREZ
From 7/14/10 issue
According to a resolution passed by the NAACP during its convention this week in Kansas City, those of us involved in the Tea Party movement are a bunch of racists.
Remember, if you were one of the 5,000 folks at that Tax Day Tea Party rally on the lawn of the Liberty Memorial last year, you are a racist. That’s according to an organization that by its name identifies itself as being only for people of color.
I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
Kinda shocked. I thought the NAACP would be holding its convention at the fairgrounds in Platte County next week during the 147th annual county fair.
About that conversation-starting billboard along I-29 just north of the Dearborn exit in Platte County. You know, the one that used to say Marxist. It now says Narcissist.
A large, one word message.
Any guesses as to at whom the billboard is aimed?
John DeStefano of Platte County, candidate for state senate, reminds me of former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil. Without the crocodile tears.
More I-29 news and notes. Have you driven north on I-29 near Dearborn lately? If so, you may have noticed a powerful stench about a mile south of the Dearborn exit. What the hell is that? The strong, almost nauseating smell has been there a couple of weeks now. My first instinct was that there must be a dead deer or other animal rotting just out of sight. But unless we have a dead zoo animal or two--maybe a herd of dead elephants lying in the brush--the stench is too strong and lasts for too great of a distance to be a rotting carcass, in my opinion.
Maybe there is a collection of farm chemical run-off standing in the ditch. Remember several years ago when atrazine in the water supply was a problem in that part of the county?
We’ve identified a situation, but I don’t have an answer. When my deadline-heavy schedule slows today, it may be time for a phone call to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to see if they have any interest in trying to solve the puzzle.
Landmark reporter PJ Rooks and I personally covered President Barack Obama’s appearance in Platte County on Thursday. PJ took notes, I took pictures. It appears The Landmark was the only Platte County media outlet with the stuff to get personally credentialed by the White House.
After skipping a President George W. Bush appearance in our coverage area several years ago, I figured it wouldn’t be good for me to miss out on this appearance to Platte County by a president. It doesn’t happen all that often. Bush’s appearance came on a Tuesday when I was swamped and as a result it was covered for us by Cindy Rinehart, office manager, and our intern at the time, Danielle Hillix. Figuring there would not be a better day for me than a Thursday and figuring I shouldn’t keep sneezing at chances to be in the same room with a president of the United States, I went through the credential process for Obama’s visit.
It was interesting to be in attendance. But the 13-minute message Obama delivered at Smith Electric Vehicles– a company, by the way, that received millions and millions of dollars in grant money from the alleged stimulus--wasn’t all that interesting. It was the same ol’ Obama approach. Blame Bush. Try to claim the stimulus worked. Both of those ideas are becoming a tougher sell as time passes.
Somebody wake me when that tired refrain ends.
If I were an advisor to Obama (anybody see that happening in the near future?), here would be a suggestion I would make: Stop speaking to crowds with your chin perched so highly in the air. Your body language puts off an air of arrogant disregard for the very folks you are trying to reach with your message. Sir, as your polling numbers show, people don’t positively respond to someone talking down to them. Keep your head level.
Sorry, soccer moms and little soccer tikes, but the recent World Cup tournament has confirmed for me once again that soccer sucks as a spectator sport.
I gave it a try, I really did. But I’m getting sleepy just talking about it.
In the interest of full soccer disclosure, I must let it be known The Landmark facilities manager has ordered a couple of those annoying vuvulezas off the internet.
Listen as we’ll be blowing those annoying stadium horns someday soon in downtown Platte City. I’m thinking we can use those things as a less-expensive-yet-just-as-efficient replacement for the downtown weather siren.
So I’m going high tech soon. I have ordered the much-ballyhooed iPhone 4. It’ll be my first iPhone. Personally I don’t grasp all the hoopla around it, but techno geek friends tell me I should prepare to be amazed. They expect my pace of tweets on The Landmark’s Twitter page to really pick up steam once my iPhone arrives.
Once it has been taken for a test drive, I’ll let you know if it meets the official Ivan Foley Seal of Approval.
(Check for local news and get the publisher’s opinions each and every day at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)
AN AIR BASE WITH A COLORFUL HISTORY; AND RECOVERY SUMMER?
From 7/7/10 issue
My buddy, the recently-hitched Aaron Rinehart, son of Landmark office manager Cindy and hubby Mark Rinehart, works for NASA.
Next time we speak, I’ll be asking Aaron if he has been following NASA’s stated mission of making Muslims feel better about themselves.
Israeli soldiers who can dance. This struck me as hilarious and is absolutely my favorite internet video of the week. Check it out. Go to http://tinyurl.com/2869wle
Mentioned here last week that son-in-law Eric Lewis, stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, would be deployed last Saturday. He was. He is now on duty in Kuwait at the Ali Al Salem Air Base. The base is situated about 23 miles from the Iraqi border. The airfield is owned by the Kuwaiti government, and the U.S. Air Force continues to maintain a presence alongside its Kuwaiti Air Force counterparts. The base hosts several U.S. Air Force tenant units, including the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. Their mission is in support of Iraqi Freedom. Their main task is to refuel, repair and provide general support for aircraft in transit to Iraq.
Ali Al Salem Air Base has an interesting history. In 1990, the base was the first to be overrun by Saddam Hussein’s troops. Fighting at that initial battle lasted for less than 30 minutes as most of the Kuwaiti military chose to flee rather than face almost certain defeat. A small number of Kuwaiti regulars, staff officers and the base general stayed to fight. Upon discovery by the Iraqi military, the Kuwaiti general was hanged from the base flagpole by Saddam’s troops. Some folks say new flagpoles have since been installed, however as of a couple of years ago the original pole where the hanging occurred was still standing.
Another interesting tidbit about Ali Al Salem Air Base: Prior to 1990, the French, under contract, built large reinforced concrete hardened aircraft storage bunkers for the Kuwaiti Air Force there. The French told the Kuwaitis that the structures were impenetrable. After Iraq took over the base, the impenetrable claim was proven false. U.S. and allied forces in the opening hours of Desert Storm punched through the concrete bunkers. The Kuwaitis and the French are still involved in legal battles over the “impenetrable” clause of the contract.
Eric’s departure, understandably, comes as a strain upon Between the Lines first daughter Lindsey. Eric flew out commercially from KCI around 7 a.m. Saturday. Friday night, during a loud and long fireworks display on the base at Whiteman, one of Lindsey and Eric’s two dogs jumped the four ft. high fence in their back yard and has not been seen since (Breaking news: Just learned ‘Chief’ is now back from his deployment!). More importantly, Lindsey, who works as a physical therapist assistant in nursing homes in Holden and Warrensburg for a company by the name of Rehab Choice, Inc., is nearly four months pregnant with the couple’s first child. Eric will not be back from his deployment in time for the little one’s arrival in December. Adding to all of this, of course, is the constant safety worry that comes with a family member being deployed to that portion of the globe.
So the stress level for Lindsey is running a bit high at present. It’s not an easy situation, but if there is ever a determined young lady who could handle it, she is one. Those folks who think The Landmark publisher can be persistent, headstrong--maybe a bit stubborn at times--should get to know the Between the Lines first daughter.
Some leading Democrats, including the one who will be in Platte County on Thursday, earlier referred to this as the Summer of Recovery, or Recovery Summer. The message, they said at the time, is that the economy is bouncing back. Of course pundits and politicians on the other side of the fence point to numbers that disprove that belief, including the still high unemployment rate in this country.
Locally, the latest economic news is good. Sales tax receipts received by Platte County in the month of July are nearly 17% ahead of this month last year. Pretty impressive, but Siobhann Williams, county auditor, doesn’t expect that kind of off-the-chart performance to continue. “I don’t expect us to keep sales tax revenues coming in at that level,” she said this week. The revenue received in July is actually a reflection of sales made by vendors during the month of May. The delay in reporting, of course, is due to the time necessary for the forwarding of sales tax receipts by vendors to the state and then the state redistributing the funds to the various taxing entities.
So what caused the spike? “I can’t think of any particular thing that was going on in May to make it happen. It tends to fluctuate month to month, so it’s really hard to say,” Williams said. A look at the numbers backs up Williams being less than certain such a positive trend will continue. For example, county receipts in May were 18% ahead of May 2009. Then receipts in June were down by 8% compared to June of 2009. Fluctuation, indeed. Year-to-date, the county is 3.5% ahead of sales tax collections compared to this time in 2009. Not bad. The county commission, in its budgeting, projected zero sales tax growth this year. Williams had projected a 2.5% growth.
County use tax collections are down by more than 15% compared to this point in time last year. That is not unexpected, and in fact is better than the county had projected. County officials were anticipating a 20% drop in use tax revenue. In the important category of combined sales and use tax collections, the county is down by 4.5% compared to this time last year. That’s better than expected. County officials projected a decline of 7.5% in combined sales and use tax collections.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Terry Riley, 81, of Platte City last week. Riley, known as ‘TR’ or ‘Ol’ Reliable’ by some of his buddies, served as a Platte City alderman for 13 years back in the day. He was an interesting, colorful fellow with a soft speaking voice. I didn’t always agree with his words, but his observations were always worth my time. Very community-minded and an Eagle Scout as a lad, TR was a big time football fan of the MU Tigers and the Platte County Pirates. Sympathy to his family and friends.
(When he isn't busy helping Muslims feel better about their world contributions to the fields of math and science, Ivan Foley works as owner/publisher of this fine newspaper. Feel better about yourself by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following his daily observations at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)
FAREWELL, VIETNAM; JULY 4 NEWS BLASTS; DIZA WAS A DANDY
From 6/30/10 issue
Welcome back to Between the Lines. Light fuse and run for cover.
Well, here it is, just a few days before the Fourth of July, which means Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley and your favorite publisher will be heading to the area fireworks outlets to stock up for a bang-em-up holiday.
On our Fourth of July menu will be colorful displays, powerful aerial bombs (long fuses preferred), several large packs of small caliber explosives to be ignited simultaneously, a nice selection of large caliber stand-on-their-own-merits explosives, and a couple of black market artificial limbs that we’ll keep on ice. Just in case.
Gives us street cred.
Credit to the good folks at the Missouri Department of Transportation (their friends call them MoDOT) for the quick and timely fashion in which they completed the new Hwy. HH bridge over Interstate 29 at Platte City. It opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, which featured a wide-brimmed-hat-wearing Frank Offutt, mayor of Platte City.
The old HH (that’s Main Street to locals) bridge was in dire need of replacement, in my opinion. It had many rough spots, which at one point led to colorful former Mayor Dave Brooks to remark that the bridge was “like Vietnam.”
I’m not sure ex-Mayor Dave has ever been to Vietnam, but let’s not get lost in the details. You get the picture.
The original bridge was built in 1959 and had faced multiple closures for emergency repairs in recent years. MoDOT says the bridge serves just over 1,000 vehicles per day. Cost for the new structure is about $1.1 million, broken down by MoDOT to be $290,000 for “roadway items” and $785,000 for “ the actual bridge replacement.” State officials say the new bridge was able to be put on the replacement schedule earlier than otherwise would have happened because of stimulus money (Between the Lines sidenote: I thought the stimulus was about job creation? So how many jobs is this new bridge expected to produce?)
Anyway, the new overpass was completed well ahead of schedule. Early on, the public was told the bridge likely wouldn’t be ready until the end of July. That target date was later moved ahead to July 4. It opened June 25.
Way to get ‘er done.
Memo to the fine folks at the new ALPS store, the official grocery store of Between the Lines: Please expect my presence again in your store during the July 1-3 meat sale you have advertised on page B-1 of this week’s Landmark. Please stock plenty of those KC Strips you’re advertising for $3.88 per pound. My grill is screaming to taste some of those bad boys.
A few other Fourth-of-July-style notes and observations:
•Son-in-law Eric Lewis, husband of Between the Lines first daughter Lindsey, will spend his Fourth of July weekend being deployed. He’ll leave Whiteman Air Force Base, soon to be bound for the Kuwait/Iraq border. Some of you may remember Eric from his days selling ads at The Landmark in 2006-07. He leaves Saturday for a six month deployment. Coincidentally, this is also birthday weekend for the young man, who is an Independence Day baby.
•A special Independence Day illustration from The Landmark can be found on page C-4. It was created by Bill Hankins, our Hall of Fame photojournalist. Also check out Bill’s photos and statistical wrap-up of the Pirate sports year in Section C. Scrapbook material for the young.
•This seems a good week to start a series of editorial cartoons focused on the history of Platte County by Landmark cartoonist Matthew Silber. We introduce the series this week with Matthew’s piece on this page, and it will take off from here. His historical cartoon each week will appear somewhere in the paper, while he continues his weekly page 2 and page 3 work for us.
“I do think there is great interest in the history of the county, as well as seeing how politics and human nature haven’t changed a whole lot through the years,” Matthew says. His series starts with a look at noted local historian William Paxton. Much of Silber’s inspiration for the cartoon series comes after his reading of the well-known Paxton’s Annals. Watch for a depiction of local history each week from now until we tell you to stop watching for it.
Deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Diza Eskridge, former county commissioner for the second district of Platte County, who passed away Tuesday. Diza was first elected commissioner in 1994 and served until 2000.
Diza’s political views didn’t always agree with those espoused here, but she was always pleasant to speak with, always had a kind word for everybody. She was something you don’t always find in a politician--she was a genuinely nice person. She, in fact, was nice and pleasant during a local political time when there was often a lack of civility in the county administration building. Her sense of humor was refreshing. She was so pleasant, in fact, I often got amused when I would interview her on the phone about a sensitive political topic. “You know I can’t talk about that,” she would tell me. This usually prompted a wisecrack from me, after which she would often let out a laugh and then proceed to talk my leg off about the very subject she had just told me she couldn’t talk about.
In that regard, she was refreshingly honest.
The world could never have enough folks with a heart as good as the one Diza possessed. She will be missed.
(Keep your fingers in a safe place this weekend. And safely follow the publisher on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or blast an email to him at email@example.com)
EGOS SOMETIMES GET IN THE WAY OF COMMON SENSE
From 6/23/10 issue
Welcome back to Between the Lines, a weekly stream of fiscally conservative consciousness. Bureaucrats and lovers of big government are cautioned to enter at your own risk.
Time for a quick trip down memory lane. Be calm, this is a test of your recent memory.
Remember in the last episode of Platte County Human Ridiculousness, a running comedy-drama playing exclusively in the uncontrolled pages of your Landmark, a fired worker in the county’s human resources department had been awarded unemployment. Kendra Montgomery, who originally was targeted by the county to play the role of scapegoat in this series but who may be on the verge of turning into the star, had appealed the state’s earlier ruling denying her unemployment. Montgomery won her appeal after a day-and-a-half of testimony in what county commissioner Jim Plunkett referred to as “probably the longest unemployment hearing in the history of the state of Missouri.” The reason Montgomery won her appeal is what is most fascinating. The appeals tribunal noted there was conflicting testimony given. Whom did they believe? The appeals tribunal made it clear whom they did not believe--the county’s star witness.
“It is further found that the testimony of one of the employer’s witnesses, the payroll specialist (LeAnna Fannon), was not credible,” the appeals tribunal wrote in its ruling.
If Fannon’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she is the HR worker who has filed accusations of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, hurt feelings, a bruised ego and loving gazes against Siobhann Williams, county auditor.
And oh, by the way, Fannon listed Montgomery as a witness when Fannon filed those claims. Fannon says Montgomery saw the county auditor peering at Fannon through a window. Montgomery says Fannon’s claims against the auditor “are false.”
Some folks speculate that the county commission’s hard feelings toward Montgomery began when she did not back up Fannon when interviewed about those accusations against auditor Williams. As you know, the county commission is not the least bit fond of the auditor.
Anyway--and hang with me here because this thing has more inner-connections than an Arkansas family reunion and could end up lasting longer than a Catholic wedding--the unemployment reversal is another shot to the heart of the county’s case. It was the second time the county has come out on the losing end against Montgomery. You’ll recall that following an investigation by the sheriff’s department, the county prosecutor declined to press criminal charges against Montgomery, who was fired last fall after being accused of falsifying time sheets. The county claims this alleged falsification resulted in Montgomery receiving more than $2,200 in unwarranted vacation time, medical leave and comp time.
So despite being batting zero for two against the pitching of Montgomery, the county has continued to take the field in a civil lawsuit against her. Does it really make any sense for the county to continue an expensive legal battle over $2,200? After a day and a half unemployment hearing, many hours and dollars going to legal fees and other expenses, the county no doubt has already spent more than $2,200 of your money trying to collect $2,200 that may or not have been improperly taken (law enforcement authorities obviously lean to the “may not” choice.)
This makes no fiscal sense. But sense, it seems, has already been tossed out the window. It seems now it’s all about ego. What other reason could there be when you’ve already lost two battles against a former employee and the testimony of your star witness has already been ruled as not credible by a state agency? What is the common sense reason to continue an expensive public whizzing match over $2,200?
Montgomery to this point isn’t budging and has filed counterclaims against the county. She alleges the county is pursuing a civil case against her out of retaliation for using her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and because she was named as a witness in Fannon’s discrimination, harassment and ‘don't look at me that way’ claim against the county auditor. Montgomery says the county interfered with her right to take reasonable leave for her physical therapy due to a serious health condition and interfered with her right to restoration of her employment by terminating her after she took FMLA leave.
So last Thursday, all parties gathered in the courtroom for the latest hearing in the county’s civil case. Among those present was Mark Jess, a successful litigator in employment-related cases, having won large monetary decisions for his clients in previous cases in Platte County. Jess won’t get paid unless his client wins. I realize it’s dangerous to do so, but I would assume that’s a sign that he wouldn’t be this deep into it if he wasn’t fairly confident of a positive outcome for his client. Also present was Matthew Gist, an attorney for the county’s insurance company. Also present was Robert Harold Shaw, county counselor, whose taxpayer-funded meter was running.
The judge in the case is the newly-appointed Dennis Eckold.
Montgomery has requested a jury trial. I don’t blame her. The public feedback I hear while out and about tends to favor Montgomery’s argument over the case being stated by the other side. Many folks tend to agree with the credibility assessment made by the unemployment tribunal.
It’s possible the county commission may not have a grasp of the true public perception of this entire HR situation. Elected officials and bureaucrats often surround themselves in a friendly environment full of people telling them only what they want to hear. That may or may not be what’s happening here.
A jury trial--which the court anticipates could last for an incredible five days-- is scheduled to begin Dec. 6. The county wants to spend more of your money covering more legal expenses in a five day trial over $2,200. When they hear this, taxpayers won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Of course, a December trial means this case won’t be put to rest until after the November election. That ballot will include a choice for county auditor between incumbent Williams and Kevin Robinson, who is the county commission-pushed candidate. Robinson is the husband of the county’s HR director. In a future column, I’ll offer some thoughts on why the county is probably thrilled to have this issue remain undecided until after that November vote.
(Harass the publisher via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or track his daily news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)
THESE ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE HAVING WITH THE TRUTH
From 6/17/10 issue
The only line of defense you’ll hear against the stance I’m about to take is the usual head-in-the-sand approach of: “But these guys are volunteers, it’s not right to criticize.” So let’s start with the mandatory disclaimer: As much as anyone else, The Landmark appreciates Central Platte’s volunteer firefighters, we respect, admire and are grateful for what they do. The firefighters themselves have done a fine job, a great public service. But the management of the district--led by a publicly elected board of three--deserves some scrutiny. After all, that’s public money (yours and mine) they’re spending. Let’s not forget Central Platte does have a tax levy. Don’t believe me? Look at your last tax statement from the county.
Now to the main event. This problem can’t be ignored, tip-toed around, or treated with kid gloves any longer. For me, that stopped earlier this week when The Landmark discovered the Central Platte Fire District board of directors has been less than truthful with its facts and figures in regard to its fiscally reckless proposal to build a burn tower for training purposes at Farmers Lane and HH Hwy.
Fiscal watchdogs have long maintained that the fire board likes to play fast and loose with your money. Now we know they like to play fast and loose with the facts, as well. You’ll recall that the fire board’s ignorance--whether feigned or real--in the setting of their own tax levy was exposed earlier this year. You’ll remember when Stanley George, chair of the fire board, and the district’s secretary both tried to explain the Central Platte’s huge tax hike by saying: “We have nothing to do with that. The state tells us what our levy has to be.”
That untruth was exposed in this column space in January. It wasn’t hard to expose. Anyone with a knowledge of the workings of local government knows this either was a case of embarrassing ignorance on the part of Central Platte officials or a foolish attempt to get away with a public lie. You’ll recall a simple call to the state auditor’s office in January blew their line of BS away. “We don’t set the levy. That is the authority they (local board members) have,” Allison Bruns, director of communications for the state auditor’s office, told this columnist at the time. Bruns confirmed the auditor notifies the county clerk what the maximum levy can be for entities like the fire district. Depending on how many of your dollars it wants to spend, the fire board can set the levy at that maximum or choose a lower rate.
Advance the calendar about six months. Apparently the fire board has not yet learned it doesn’t pay to spew half-truths and untruths to the public. Its pattern of dishonesty continued in the recent proposal to build a $300,000 to $400,000 training tower (also known as a burn tower). Fortunately, their proposal was shot down by the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission last week, so taxpayers for the moment have been spared from this fiscally careless proposal. What is worth talking about this week is that the arguments the fire board presented in stating its case for the tower were full of inaccuracies and untruths. Some fact-checking by The Landmark this week caught fire district officials red-handed in a boat-load of untruths. So many untruths and half-truths, in fact, I’m not sure I have enough space to get to all of them in one week. So many, in fact, that at one point during an interview being conducted by reporter PJ Rooks, fire board member Paul Regan angrily declared that if we printed any of the information being discussed he would “never talk to anybody from The Landmark again.”
Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, Regan’s words got us shaking in our shoes. The entire Landmark staff is now hunkered down in the crawl space below our office floor where we’re curled up in the fetal position, sucking our thumbs. Will someone--not you, Mr. Regan--please drop us down a bit of food and water?
Anyway, you’ll recall those of us who are against Central Platte spending up to $400,000 on a burn tower believe the better option is for the department to simply rent the tower already owned by the neighboring South Platte Fire Department. Central Platte, you’ll recall, offered up a truckload of excuses as to why this was not feasible. Let’s take a look at what Central Platte said, and then a look at what is reality. You’ll notice a pattern here.
•Central Platte: “They (South Platte) want $2,000 every time we go down there to train,” Regan said at last week’s planning and zoning meeting.
The reality: That number is wrong. Richard Carrizzo, fire chief at South Platte, tells The Landmark that if a department brings its own fire truck, the cost is only $850 for an entire day of training.
Central Platte: “They’ve (South Platte) got it leased out pretty regularly and it just doesn’t work with our times,” Regan said. “We’re volunteers. We would need to do the training on evenings and weekends.”
The reality: Again, this is bull. Carrizzo tells The Landmark there are many, many open dates. “It’s available whenever. We have 13 days that have contracts between now and the end of the year. We rent it anytime, evenings, weekends. We even do our own training in the evening. Our tower sits unused 80% of the time,” Carrizzo said.
Hmm. What this means, Mr. Regan, is that other than those 13 days already contracted, the burn tower is just waiting for you to reserve it.
Central Platte: “We will lose our (impressive) insurance rating if we don’t build a burn tower,” Regan told The Landmark.
The reality: Memo to Paul Regan: Central Platte earned its current insurance rating without a burn tower. You’re not going to lose that rating for not building something you never had to earn that rating.
Central Platte: “They (South Platte) want $2,000 every time we go down there to train.”--Paul Regan.
The reality: The same quote was used above, different angle this time. Above, we exposed the $2,000 figure as being bogus. This time, we asked the question: So how many times has Central Platte rented the South Platte facility? “We started renting our facility in 2003 and since then we have received no rental revenue from Central Platte for rental of the tower,” the South Platte fire chief tells us. In other words, Central Platte has not even bothered to use the training tower in its neighboring district.
And let’s keep in mind Central Platte already spent $60,000 to purchase the land where it wanted to place its own tower. The fire board wasn’t business-minded enough to make the purchase contract dependent upon the district being able to acquire the needed permits to build its tower. Another inexcusable move.
The list of Central Platte BS and inaccuracies could go on, but that’s all for this week. If another burn tower proposal is on the horizon, here’s hoping members of the fire board inject themselves with some truth serum before taking the public stage.
(Inject the publisher via email to email@example.com or get his daily observations on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)
GOOD RIDDANCE TO TAXPAYER-FUNDED BIKE RACE
From 6/9/10 issue
Having trouble getting comfortable today. Either I’ve tacked on a couple pounds over the past few weeks or this pair of slacks shrunk while hanging in the closet.
Allow me to draw your attention to our Other Voices feature on page A-2 of our printed edition. It’s where we reprint excerpts from other editorials we think you’ll find interesting.
Last week before getting all caught up in the fun of local Democrats throwing a fit about a conservative using his constitutional right of free speech, I had intended to author some remarks about Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to put a halt to the goofy Tour of Missouri event that some tree huggers and some RINOS for the last few years had proclaimed as some kind of economic savior for the state. (At your discretion, insert your own chuckle or mouth-gaping yawn right here).
Please, the only thing more ridiculous than the state using tax dollars to fund a damn bike race would be for some taxing entity to dedicate $80 million to parks, bike trails and horse trails during an economic downturn. No government officials in their right fiscal minds would propose such a thing. Would they?
Anyway, I’m glad I waited, because my thoughts would not have been as eloquent as those of my pal Guy Speckman of the Savannah Reporter. His words in our Other Voices feature are worthy of your time.
I’d like to renew my lifetime subscription to the Savannah Reporter right now.
And to think it took a Democrat governor, of all things, to put an end to this Tour of Missouri ridiculousness. There’s proof that fiscal conservatism--and common sense--can cross party lines.
Sure, bicyclists are gonna get their tight little spandex shorts all up in a bunch, but you know what, that sounds like a personal problem. Good grief, in the name of Peter Kinder, it’s time for people everywhere to stop expecting taxpayers to fund your leisure activities. We’ve got bigger problems, folks.
My praises to Nixon for a common sense decision.
While handing out praises, it’s time to shoot some kudos in the direction of the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission for its intelligent handling of the Central Platte Fire District’s request to build a $300,000 burn tower for training purposes east of Platte City.
Ace Landmark reporter PJ Rooks has a very detailed account of the meeting, which ran well into the night, in our front page story. Bottom line is that the proposed burn tower, at least for the time being, is toast. While the planning and zoning commission’s focus and reasons for denial have nothing to do with how much it would cost the district, many Central Platte taxpayers are celebrating the planning and zoning decision for fiscal reasons.
Hey, I admire and have the utmost respect for Central Platte and its dedicated volunteer firefighters. Those guys are great. But in the excitement of operating a first class volunteer department, let’s also not lose sight of the idea of responsible spending of tax dollars. Let’s not get into a toy-measuring contest against the South Platte Fire District, who already has a training tower that can be used by other departments. Let’s not turn this into a battle of two spoiled rich kids trying to see who can acquire the cooler possessions.
One neighbor to the site of the proposed burn tower may have spoken the feeling of a lot of silent taxpayers when he said these words at Tuesday night’s planning and zoning meeting :
“What I see is a little fire department that's got way too much of our taxpayer dollars.” That’s a quote from resident Rick Smart.
I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
Speaking of volunteers, Larry VanFosson, parent in the Platte County R-3 district and soccer fan, offered his photography talents to this newspaper to shoot the second day of the state soccer tournament. Check out his quality work in color on page C-4.
Our award-winning Hall of Fame photojournalist Bill Hankins was able to handle the opening day at state, and you’ll see his top-notch photo layout on page C-1. We had this soccer Final Four double teamed.
Nice job, and many thanks.
I must be in a giving mood this week, huh? Better get in line while the gettin’s good.
Another giving of thanks goes out to those talented techno geeks who made it possible to place video and high quality audio of my recent appearance on the nationally syndicated Rusty Humphries radio show on our web site. If you wanna check it out, links to it are included in the Between the Lines column from last week now posted at plattecountylandmark.com
If you have Facebook, you’ll not only hear the audio but you’ll also be able to see the video of Rusty doing the interview. He has a studio webcam recording his show and it’s fun to watch his facial expressions while we’re talking. You’ll also catch him puffing on a cigar. To view the video with static-free audio of that segment, go to your Facebook account and then search Platte County Republicans. I’m told it’s posted on their Facebook page.
I guess that’s proof Facebook isn’t just for high school girls. All this time I thought it was.
(Facebook is good for the teeny boppers, but real men of media use Twitter. Find proof of that at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Still scared? Simply email the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org)
SOMETIMES, THIS COLUMN JUST WRITES ITSELF
From 6/2/10 issue
The person at the next desk just advised that I should quit reading the latest update at TonysKansasCity.com and start cranking out a column for this week’s paper.
Ah, there’s the pressure of that Landmark 146 years of continuous publication thing staring me in the face again.
Somebody last week asked me when was the last time there was an issue of The Landmark that did not contain a Between the Lines column. The year was 1999.
As columnist James Thomas says this week, we get up, go to work, solve our problems.
This feels like it will be a two cans of Mountain Dew Wednesday morning. Late to bed, early to rise. Somebody told me that’s not what makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Fortunately, I gave up on that a long time ago.
Do you think it’s a bit ridiculous for the Central Platte Fire Department to be spending $300,000 on a training tower? I certainly question the need, particularly when a neighboring department already has a so-called burn tower that surely could be used under some type of cooperative agreement.
I know some of you out there also question the expenditure, because you have communicated the message privately. But some opponents are no doubt afraid to run the risk of being painted as unappreciative of the local volunteer firefighters and first responders by publicly speaking against the spending. My guess is the private opposition will be loud, the public opposition will be minimal. Let’s see if opponents bring sticks to the fight or pillows to the fight. Or whether there will be a fight at all.
Hope you caught my guest appearance on the Rusty Humphries national radio show Tuesday night. If you didn’t, spank your own butt right now. Now pause then repeat. Again. Now stop. A little harder this time. Good.
Rusty’s producer called me Tuesday afternoon after having read last week’s column and the letter to the editor from the Platte County Democrat Central Committee. He asked if I had contact info for Pauli Kendrick, who signed the letter complaining about the fact Rusty Humphries’ event was held in the Park Hill South High School auditorium. They wanted to invite Pauli to come on the show to verbally state why she was offended by the situation. After contacting Pauli, the producer called me back to say Pauli refused to come on the show. He asked if I would be willing to come on to discuss the Democrats’ attempt to create a controversy out of the situation. Later in the day before going on Rusty’s show, I was able to block my number and finally get Pauli to accept my call. She weakly answered some questions about the Dems’ lame protest, saying things like: “I think that the conversation and the evening was certainly not anything (the Democrat central committee) appreciated hearing,” and “Things happen that we have no control over and we often like it to be different so sometimes we just want to talk about it, maybe that’s it.”
Anyway, the result was a fun 12 minute segment on Rusty’s show, which is heard on more than 250 radio stations across the country.
For those who missed it, if you have a Facebook account check out the video of my segment on Rusty's show by clicking here. Listen to just the audio from the interview by clicking here.
Speculation in some political circles was that last week’s redonkulous letter from the Democrats wasn’t actually penned by Pauli Kendrick but instead by Fred Sanchez, who would have a double role in this matter since he is a member of the Park Hill School Board and a member of the Democrat Central Committee. Kendrick, however, denies that Sanchez penned the letter and told me Sanchez in fact had very little input on it. She said the main input (and you’ll get much more on this topic when you listen to the audio from the segment on Rusty’s show) for the letter came from high school and college-age Democrats. I can actually believe that, based on the naivety in the tone of the comments. Anybody have a grasp of the First Amendment? Anybody understand the consistent rules for using public buildings? Anybody recall that Park Hill allowed President Obama’s speech last fall to be fed into the school and teachers and parents were quite fairly given the choice of ‘opting out’ their kids from hearing the message? Remember, no one was forced to attend Humphries’ event. Tickets were sold, no golden invitations were sent. Attendance was completely optional.
Anyway, longtime readers know that Fred Sanchez and I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship: I love the column copy he inadvertently supplies me, and I’m sure Fred hates my column. In the sense of fairness, I emailed Sanchez on Tuesday seeking comment.
Checking to see if you as a member of the Democrat Central Committee would like to comment further on the topic of your letter to the editor last week in regard to the Rusty Humphries show being held at Park Hill South High School. I thought as a school board member as well as a central committee member you might have a unique perspective that you would like to share. If you'd like, you can email an answer or give me a call. Thank you.--Ivan Foley
He responded shortly before 10 p.m., just a few minutes after my radio spot with Rusty, also heard on the worldwide web, ended. Appears he was listening.
Sir, I am currently out of the country. No, not Arizona. Yes, perhaps my view is rather unique as my responsibilities as an elected official sworn to a duty to children out weigh any political or personal commentary I may have to offer. I will give you this. The 1st amendment has more cheese than holes. May God continue to bless this country's foundation of free speech and certainly your right to entertain.-- Federico
(Between the Lines has more cheese than holes. Contact the columnist at email@example.com or follow his daily adventures at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)
PLEASE TALK YOUR LIBERAL FRIENDS DOWN FROM THE LEDGE
From 5/26/10 issue
Wow, the liberals are really agitated this week. You know what that means? Life is grand.
Great show put on Friday night at Park Hill South High School by nationwide radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, one of the founding fathers of conservative talk radio and your brother from another mother.
About 350 to 400 folks made their way into the school auditorium to see a show that was opened by The Landmark’s very own Chris Stigall. Stigall, when he is not penning his Landmark column, does a show each weekday morning on KCMO Talk Radio 710 AM. He warmed up the crowd before Humphries took the stage for some entertainment-based political messaging.
Humphries--and rightly so--rails against big government, government bailouts, and the Obama administration’s move toward a socialistic society. Some of the more important points Humphries impressed upon the crowd:
•“Our country is in great peril at this time. Our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are all in jeopardy right now.”
•“This, I believe (the fiscally conservative, Tea Party movement) is the second American Revolution and I'm proud of it.”
•He is open minded enough to also pass blame to George W. Bush and a crop of RINOS (Republicans in Name Only--Platte Countians are familiar with this concept). “I didn’t like a lot of what Bush did. Bush started it (the idea of government bailouts) in the spring of 2008.” Obama and Co. have continued and expanded that initial bailout model.
“We have soaring deficits and Obama continues to lead with a socialist glove.” He referenced the United States becoming the “United Socialist States of America.”
•The charges of racism--either stated or implied by the liberals against the conservatives and the Tea Party movement–are hogwash. “It’s not racist to judge a man based on his policies,” Humphries emphasized.
•Another Humphries observation: “We are living in a European style socialist welfare state.”
•As if there were any doubt about what to expect among the crowd who had purchased tickets to hear his presentation , Humphries removed that doubt with this line early on: “If you’re a liberal here tonight, I am going to offend you.”
•Humphries, always a capitalist and not a socialist, was selling Tea Party-themed T-shirts. He was clear about where the profits are going. “The money goes to the Hands Across My Wallet Foundation,” he told the crowd.
•I was impressed with his musical ability and singing voice. He writes and performs his own musical parodies. The man has some talent.
Check out the Platte County Democratic Central Committee’s letter to the editor by clicking here. Go ahead, read it now, if you would please. I’ll sing to myself till you get back.
(Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door).
Ok, so what did you think? I had two quick reactions when I read their letter. No. 1, the letter is written as if members of the Democratic Central Committee were in attendance. If they were, I didn’t spot them, and if they were, were they watching the same show I was? Because I missed the divisive, negative and offensive parts of the show they referenced. Heck, I didn’t sense any divisiveness or negativity from the crowd. Sounded to me like those in attendance were all on the same page. And No. 2: Where were the Democrats with a protest letter last fall when President Obama was piping a speech into public schools? Shouldn’t the local Democrats have been protesting that as an improper use of school facilities?
Bottom line is this: Nobody was forced to show up Friday night. Folks had the choice to attend or not attend Rusty Humphries’ event. He’s a nationally-known figure. There was no doubt which political direction the content was going to lean. The Democrats crying foul after the event, which was highly-publicized in advance, is a lame attempt to grandstand.
If the liberals actually had an entertaining and successful commentator to bring in, I’m sure the Park Hill School District would follow the usual rules in allowing use of a taxpayer-constructed auditorium.
For the record, I called Pauli Kendrick, chair of the local Democrat party, to see if she would like to comment further on this topic. She has declined to return my phone call.
Should I be surprised?
Check out the detailed look at the local economy in PJ Rooks’ front page article. Interesting numbers from various cities throughout the county. It’s as in-depth a look at the economy from north to south in this county as you’ll find.
And speaking of the economy, Platte City’s numbers should get a boost starting this week with the opening of Doug Sharp’s ALPS (Always Low Prices Store) grocery store in the former Cash Saver location at Hwy. 92 and Marshall Road.
The store’s opening today (Wednesday) has been much anticipated by many local consumers who understand there is value in the idea of capitalistic competition and who applaud new businesses that attack a venture without taxpayer assistance of any kind.
While visiting backstage with Rusty Humphries Friday night, I was introduced to Mark Muller. Who’s Mark Muller? He’s the brother of nationally syndicated radio host Mancow Muller. Mark Muller, who isn’t the least bit shy about sharing his conservative political viewpoints, also recently garnered nationwide attention when his car dealerships (in Butler and Nevada, Mo.) offered a voucher for a free AK-47 with the purchase of a truck.
Left-leaning news network CNN did an interview with Muller on the topic, and tried desperately to shame him for the promotion. Muller proceeded to stitch an intellectual clownsuit on the news anchor conducting the interview. It’s one of the most entertaining videos you’ll find on You Tube. Check it out, here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/mo8prf
(Also not shy about sharing his political viewpoints, the publisher can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can help tick off the liberals and RINOS by following him on Twitter at twitter.com/ivanfoley)
IT HAS BEEN A WEEK OF INTERESTING OCCURRENCES
From 5/19/10 issue
It’s The Landmark’s 146th birthday this week. One hundred forty six years old and still amazingly fresh and delicious.
Several interesting occurrences at the county of Platte this week. Let’s get right to them:
•Interesting occurrence No. 1: Cheryl Thorp ‘retires’ as director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau with no prior public indication. County officials are telling us it was “totally Cheryl’s decision to step down.” However, it is interesting to note a restructuring of the department occurred immediately upon Thorp’s exit. Despite Thorp’s exit, Jim Plunkett, second district county commissioner, tells me there will be no additions to the payroll. Thorp’s executive director title will be taken by Jennifer Goering. A volunteer now will step in to assist Goering in the office.
So was this surprisingly quick to the public eye move totally up to Thorp? She says yes, the commissioners say yes. In the sake of fairness, let’s take them at their word. Many sources this week say the money-saving move to not replace the salary saved with Thorp’s departure is a precursor to Jason Brown’s assumed arrival as the new presiding commissioner next year. Brown, sources are hinting, would not have been a huge advocate of the past level of spending in the CVB. Cutting some payroll in that department can now be credited to the current commission instead of the fiscally conservative Brown. No matter who wants to take credit, I applaud the county for looking to save some payroll dollars in this department.
This conjecture, of course, assumes that Brown would win the general election campaign he will be running against Democrat Bobby Kincaid in November. Always dangerous to assume, but there’s no question Brown enters that campaign as the favorite.
•Interesting occurrence No. 2: Last week, the advance agenda for Monday’s county commission meeting listed Kathy Dusenbery as acting presiding commissioner for the meeting (Betty Knight, presiding commissioner, was absent). Later, an amended agenda came out listing Jim Plunkett, second district commissioner, as the acting presiding commissioner to lead Monday’s meeting.
Hmm. Some type of internal power struggle? Plunkett says no.
“The girls in the commission office that it would be good experience for Kathy,” Plunkett says in explaining the first public agenda. Plunkett says Dusenbery later came to him to say: “You’re the senior, why don’t you just do it?” So he did.
Was Dusenbery upset about it? All parties are saying no. Perhaps this is just a coincidence, but I can tell you the emotional Dusenbery, after being relatively calm for many weeks, has been especially testy on her Twitter page this week. Maybe time is approaching for me to again fire up that offer of free Dr. Phil sessions.
•Interesting occurrence No. 3: Valerie McCaw will not be reappointed to the Platte County Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees. “We’ll keep her on for the next two to three weeks until we make a decision on a new executive director, just because of her experience as an engineer. She’ll know a lot of the right questions to ask during the interview process,” Plunkett said upon my asking this week.
Their stated desire to make a change in this spot is a good move by the county commission. As has been opined here previously, McCaw was tied too closely to the past executive director. It’s time for a fresh approach.
Cheryl Thorp is an extremely pleasant person and The Landmark wishes her the best in retirement. I had a somewhat fascinating conversation with her over the phone Monday evening, during which I learned she has a special needs son and some still-kicking parents whom she’d like to spend quality time with in her retirement “while I still feel good,” she said.
Thorp then unsuccessfully tried to turn the interview tables on me. “This is the first time you’ve called me at home. This is a cell phone number. How did you get this number?” Never intending to answer, of course, I politely dodged the question the first time. Then she asked again. And then one more time. Sources are always protected, so she did not receive an answer. It was, uh, cute--for lack of a better word--the way she wanted to push the issue.
Then she hit me with this one: “In all the years I never did get a (mailed) invitation to The Landmark Christmas party.”
Big day on the horizon for Pastor Paul Buschmann and one of my favorite congregations in Platte County. The good folks at the Hoover Christian Church east of Platte City will play host to former KU basketball star Wayne Simien on Sunday, May 30. Simien, now actively engaged in a ministry, will speak at both of the Hoover Christian services that day. Services will be held at 8:30 and again at 10:30 that morning. Then, Simien and his wife and three children will be guests at a fellowship meal hosted by the church following the 10:30 service.
Pastor Paul tells me congregation member Ben Harris has a connection with Simien that helped facilitate the event. The public is invited to attend either service.
Don’t forget national conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries will be in Platte County Friday night for a show at Park Hill South High School. It starts at 7 p.m. and will be opened by Landmark columnist/KCMO 710 AM talk radio host Chris Stigall. Tickets will be available at the door or in advance at greendragons.org.
Enjoyed a recent phone interview with Humphries and since that time we’ve exchanged additional calls and emails. In a future column, I’ll share some of his comments on the national political landscape. You’ll hear his take on folks such as Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, and get some off-the-cuff humor as well.
(Tickets for more of this columnist are always available at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or via email to email@example.com)
CHECK OUT PUBLIC EMPLOYEE SALARIES AT THIS SITE
From 5/12/10 issue
I can remember as a pup anxiously awaiting the first time I would need to shave this allegedly handsome face of mine. These days, shaving is ranked just above shoe shopping and getting a colonoscopy on my list of favorite things to do.
We’re proud to say for the 29th straight year, The Landmark is giving a cash award to the top senior English student at Platte County R-3 High School. This year’s winner, as you’ll read elsewhere in this issue, is Kelsey Boeding. She gets $250 from The Landmark and a fancy (no cheap imitations here) certificate signed by the R-3 principal, the faculty head of the R-3 English department, and yours truly.
It’s been fun to continuously offer this award and watch the development of the fine students who have garnered the honor. Here’s that list of prestigious winners, which reads like a past/present list of Who’s Who among this area’s young people.
1982: Natalie Parrett. 1983: Tamera Jones. 1984: Shane Lee Zembles. 1985: Amy Deterding. 1986: Chaundra Crawford. 1987: Sherry Stanton. 1988: Rebecca Ann Brown. 1989: Lisa Pancake. 1990: Jennifer Fowler. 1991: Jennifer Donnelli. 1992: Tyra Miller. 1993: James Davis. 1994: Megan Boddicker (became a Landmark employee and then an R-3 teacher). 1995: Kerry Durrill. 1996: Jamie Knodel. 1997: Laura Donald. 1998: Christa Fuller. 1999: Alison Miller (later became a Landmark employee). 2000: Alison Coons. 2001: Valerie French. 2002: Devon Paul. 2003: Tara Gutshall. 2004: Elizabeth Anderson. 2005: Anne Mullins. 2006: Branson Billings. 2007: Kelsie Blakley. 2008: Peter Rasmussen. 2009: Hannah Rickman. 2010: Kelsey Boeding.
Occasionally in these pages we give the Falling Star a hard time. This week, I’m gonna sing its praises for doing something that is not in its typical method of operation. Is this a fluke or is the Star actually showing a desire to become the watchdog that media outlets are supposed to be? My guess is the former, but I digress.
Normally an apologetic type when it comes to big government and a promoter of big spending, the Kansas City Star actually provides an excellent tool for taxpayers on its web site. Platte County taxpayers, you’ll want to take note of this. You can now log on to the internet and go to a site to see the salary of your favorite, or least favorite if you have one, county employee/elected official. I talked about this on my Twitter page over the weekend and many of you have already told me you checked it out. The web address you need is this: http://tinyurl.com/3xs6h9h
Go there. Enter the name of a county employee. Or if you’d rather, enter a position at the county. Or, you may find it more convenient to search by department.
Some of the salaries are eye openers. And keep in mind, county employees--as first district commissioner Kathy Dusenbery likes to point out--have not been given a raise the past two budget years. I guess Dusenbery’s point means a couple of things. No. 1, depending upon your point of view, the credit or blame for these salaries should then go to county commissioners Betty Knight and Jim Plunkett, who have been in office longer than the two years Dusenbery has served. And No. 2, if some of these salaries seem inflated to you in 2010, imagine how inflated they were two years ago.
A few of the salaries that jumped out at me as being, in my opinion, a bit disproportionate, shall we say:
Greg Sager, public works director, earns $77,700. I have found Sager to be an honorable, hard working, trustworthy fellow. But should the public works director be earning about $6,500 more than the county sheriff? No.
Brian Nowotny, parks director, earns $77,600. See above. Nice guy, but this expenditure is ridiculous. Don’t get me started on the county’s bloated parks department. That was a topic all last summer when the county pushed its $80 million park tax. I encourage taxpayers to search the salary database by clicking the parks department. Take a gander at how much the county is spending on payroll in this department. You might start to squirm in your chair--and perhaps realize why the county commission wanted an $80 million tax instead of something more reasonable.
Dana Babcock, director of administration, earns $62,600. Color me surprised. Talking about the position and not the person, is anyone clear on what exactly a director of administration is supposed to do? Babcock is a good person, devoted Landmark reader, fun gal with a sharp sense of humor, and unfortunately a notorious call screener, which is unnecessary in this position. Over the past six years in the many times I have phoned her extension, I can count on one hand the number of times she has picked up the phone live. Normally the call goes to voice mail and she will eventually call back (though my last voice mail was left after 4 p.m. on April 27 and has yet to be returned--things must really be busy in that office). Does she fear for her safety or something? Hell, I take unscreened calls on the fly every day. Honestly, I have found it easier to get U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Senators, U.S. Congressmen, judges, and nationally-syndicated talk radio hosts on the phone than it is the county director of administration. Just sayin’.
Mary Robinson, director of the much-maligned--and rightfully so-- human resources department, earns $57,000. Don’t know her well, but Mrs. Robinson (coo coo ca-choo) seems like a nice enough person. She just started in November, you’ll recall, after she and her husband-owned firm conducted a “performance audit” of the HR department. Her husband, Kevin, has since filed to run for county auditor, which if successful would put the entire Robinson household on the county payroll.
Those are just a few numbers that jumped out at me. Do your own perusing and let me know what you think.
Intended to give you some Rusty Humphries info and humor in this spot but have carried on too long. I still have time to do it next week prior to his May 21 event at Park Hill South High School. Check back.
(Get breaking news, local updates and some occasionally whimsical editorial observations from the publisher at twitter.com/ivanfoley)
A YOUNG CONSERVATIVE LANDS A BIG NAME FOR LOCAL SHOW
From 5/5/10 issue
Happy Cinco de Mayo. Strange how it falls on May 5 again this year.
I wasn’t there, but multiple Landmark readers are telling me our very own Chris Stigall, the man of KCMO 710 AM talk radio fame who has branched out into print media with his kick-ass weekly column here in the pages of this fine newspaper, was the real rock star at the Sarah Palin event Saturday at the Independence Events Center.
Should we start speculation of a future Palin-Stigall presidential ticket?
Our man Stigall will be back in the shared limelight on May 21 when nationally-syndicated radio talk show host Rusty Humphries comes to Park Hill South High School for an event sponsored by the Green Dragons The Green Dragons, by the way, are a Missouri nonprofit corporation organized to promote the conservative values of America’s Founding Fathers.
While the Green Dragons are sponsoring the event at Park Hill South, the event is being hosted by the Park Hill South High School Republican Club. It is the brainchild of Park Hill South student Alexandra Olson, whom I’ve met at various political events around the county over the past year or two. Alexandra’s mother is Abby Olson, member of the Platte County Republican Central Committee. Readers may recall I’ve promoted Abby Olson as a sharp-minded, well spoken conservative who I think would make a great political candidate in the future.
Anyway, young Alexandra, who was the driving force behind formation of the Republican Club at her high school, wanted her club to conduct an event to help promote conservatism. The idea of inviting a nationally-known speaker came to her. Price tag, of course, was bound to be an obstacle--at least the club thought--until Humphries made an offer to do it for basically nothing to help promote the conservative cause.
“I’m really excited about being there,” Humphries told me during an exclusive phone interview this week. “I love promoting KCMO, but this isn’t a radio station promotion, this isn’t anything but an event to help a group of adults and kids who are trying to become conservatives learn more about conservatism and politics in America. We’re going this as fundraising for their group. I’m more excited about this event than any other event I’ve done in a long time,” he added. “You want to talk grassroots, this is it.”
Humphries, who spent time at Q-104 radio station in Kansas City in the late 1980s as the producer of the popular Randy Miller radio show, was lively and entertaining during our 30 minute phone conversation. The guy is a fearless, outspoken American. A front page story featuring many more of his comments will be in next week’s Landmark.
But back to the story of the young girl who got the ball rolling on this May 21 event. “For a shy kid, she really surprised me,” Abby says about her daughter Alexandra, who aggressively pursued a list of national conservatives, not giving up when she learned the fee for some of the hot shots might be as high as $15,000 to $20,000. She emailed Humphries, who made the young girl’s dreams come true by saying ‘I’ll work with whatever budget you have, I’d love to help.’
Now that’s pretty cool.
“Rusty has been so sweet to us,” Abby Olson told me Tuesday. “He has been promoting this event on his show.”
She wasn’t kidding. As I was plugging away on this column shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday with Humphries’ show on the radio behind me, Humphries in fact was promoting his Park Hill South appearance, even guiding the audience to where they can buy tickets.
Stigall will do about a 15-20 minute Chris Stigall-trademarked rant to start the show. Then, some high school kids who are headed to the military will be honored. After that, it’s all Humphries. He’ll launch into his musical parodies and some entertaining story-telling and a conservative political message.
“I’m a fun political entertainer. I think they’re going to have a good time. Maybe they all won’t agree with me, but they’ll understand the issues better,” Humphries told me.
In next week’s front page article, we’ll touch on Humphries’ early days in radio (some now-famous radio names started under him), his early work with Rush Limbaugh, his scary moments with terrorists and death threats, and his thoughts on some of the conservatives in the news, including Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.
We really shouldn’t be surprised the developers of the proposed high density subdivision known as Lake at T omahawke Ridge are continuing their legal battle against Platte County. The recent very short and very non-specific court decision by Judge Charles Curless, apparently a man of few words, almost forced the developers into filing an appeal.
Again, no one has been a stronger opponent to the high density proposal than this columnist, but the judge’s lack of explanation in his decision was an embarrassment to the process. An appeal is warranted if for no other reason than to get a panel to give some sort of legal basis for the ruling.
Next controversy at a Platte County Planning and Zoning meeting might be a proposal by the Central Platte Fire Department to build what is known as a burn tower for training purposes near the intersection of Hwy. HH and Farmers Lane east of Platte City. I’m already hearing complaints from neighbors not crazy about the project for reasons of location, and from taxpayers in the fire district not crazy about the project for reasons of questionable need and fiscal responsibility. The proposal is scheduled to go before the planning and zoning commission on June 8. Stay tuned.
(Stay in tune with the publisher on Twitter at twitter.com/ivanfoley or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
WILL ANOTHER CHANCE FOR PROGRESS GO DOWN THE TOILET?
Welcome to another ride aboard your local paper of record. As you’ll see on our front page, it’s been a good week for some (think Kendra Montgomery, Timber Park Sewer Company), and a not-so-good week for others (think LeAnna Fannon in particular, county HR department in general, Michelle Wilson).
Technology is a great thing.
So the high tech geeks on paid staff have shown me how I can hear the local police scanner activity on my laptop. Pretty cool and convenient. Wherever I have my laptop and an internet connection, I can listen to the police calls being dispatched to and from the Platte County communications center. No longer do I have to be sitting at my desk within earshot of the police scanner.
I could tell ya more but I’d have to kill ya.
We’ve shared some of the horror stories in dealing with the “Who do you think you are asking for information?” types at the Platte County Regional Sewer District. This is the agency, remember, that has asked for a new “request for record inspection” every time anyone walks in--or emails, or calls--seeking to take a peek at public documents. This is the agency, you’ll recall, that I’ve told you demands the public to, in writing, “provide as specific a description as possible of the record(s) you desire to inspect. Including record titles, dates, and the names of city agencies or departments which produced or hold the record(s).”
Filling out such a form is not required under the terms of the Sunshine Law, so it’s ridiculous for a public service entity to carry on this way. It is embarrassing that the PCRSD board of trustees has allowed this kind of egomaniacal policy to take hold. Sadly, not all the out-of-control egomaniacal behavior left the agency when Chuck Reineke resigned. One would think an embattled board and its legal counsel would have a better understanding of how to win friends and influence people. Some don’t. But I digress.
So this week, there was a piece of easy information I needed from the PCRSD. Experience told me this very simple request would turn into an act of Congress if I went through the normal game. So instead, I sent the PCRSD records custodian (poor gal, it’s not her fault her bosses sometimes make her behave like the KGB) this note in writing:
“Please consider this an official request for public information per the Missouri Sunshine Law. Please provide for The Landmark a list of current members of the Platte County Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees. With that list, please also provide the beginning service time of each particular board member. Also, please provide the date each current board member's term of service is scheduled to expire. This information can be emailed to me, or if you'd prefer, I can pick it up at your office. Do not bother faxing me one of the Platte County Regional Sewer District "request for record inspection forms." One is not requested nor is it required under the law. I realize old habits are hard to break so if you have already grabbed one of those forms to send to me, feel free to place it in the PCRSD trash can or any other place the PCRSD may find comfortable.
“This email suffices as an official request for public information per the Missouri Attorney General's office.
“Thank you for your help and thank you for your public service.”
The new approach seemed to work. Just a couple hours later, Deb Hammond, who seems to be the board member most aware that the PCRSD has an image problem it desperately needs to improve, sent me the information I had requested. Kudos to her. Here is the info on board members’ terms of office.
Chairman Lewis Sanders--reappointed 5/31/2007, term expires 5/14/2012; Vice Chair Deb Hammond--appointed 4/27/2006, term expires 5/14/2011; Treasurer Valerie McCaw--appointed 9/20/2006, term expires 5/14/2010; County Commissioner Jim Plunkett--appointed 7/23/2009, term expires 5/14/2013; Aaron Jung--appointed 11/5/2009, term expires 5/14/2014.
As you noticed, McCaw’s term expires in just a couple of weeks. Will she be reappointed to the seat by the county commission? Truthfully, let’s hope not. After sitting in on most of the board’s most recent lengthy meeting, I became convinced from her defensive comments that McCaw is still in love with the heavy-handed method of operation that was instituted by the recently resigned executive director Chuck Reineke. If the county commission is serious about initiating positive change at PCRSD, it would be best if McCaw is thanked for her past service but then asked to find another hobby. It will be interesting to see how the county commission handles this. McCaw is a former county employee who recently ran for election to the Park Hill School Board. She finished a very distant sixth out of eight candidates. Her poor showing was not surprising, as the sewer district’s heavy-handed ways have ruffled a lot of feathers in that part of the county.
Constituent service is an area that has long been a strength of Congressman Sam Graves and is one of the major reasons he is consistently reelected with relative ease. From personal experience, we can tell you his office has been on top of things each and every time this newspaper has needed assistance in dealing with a federal agency.
After patiently battling folks at the United States Postal Service for spotty delivery to some Kansas City addresses, we’re calling on help from Congressman Graves’ office. Upon our request, his office is now representing The Landmark in talks with the honchos at the USPS in an effort to get to the root of the problem. Some customers in zip code 64152 seem to often be affected by slow delivery, despite the fact we have met every new rule, regulation, deadline and higher rate the post office has slapped upon us.
We’ll let you know how this plays out. In the meantime, if you have a Kansas City address and are not getting your Landmark in the mail in timely fashion on Thursdays, let us know and we’ll put what is called a “publication watch” on your paper. I’m confident that with the Congressman’s help, this problem will be solved in short order.
(Follow his news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or put him in your crosshairs via email to email@example.com)
PUBLIC SEWER DISTRICT DOESN'T UNDERSTAND 'PUBLIC SERVICE'
Friendly reminder to all you intelligent basketball prognosticators who kicked me in the Bracket Battle. Most of you have already called or emailed to claim your two years worth of free subscriptions. For those who have not yet done so, remember you need to contact us by April 30 to let us know where you would like your free subscriptions sent.
As much as it pains me to publicly display my place in this year’s standings, I am doing so again this week just to the right of this column. If you see your name on the list above me and have not yet claimed your winnings, do so ASAP.
As you’ll see in a front page report, the tie vote in the election of Weston alderman in ward one was broken with a drawing of playing cards at Weston City Hall Friday evening. I was there for the quick and painless drawing of the cards, snapped a couple of photos, visited with the winner briefly and hit the road, not giving the unique situation another thought. That is until Monday.
On Monday, I was contacted by a Weston resident who also was in attendance for the drawing. This person says in watching the shuffling of cards, a troubling observation was made.
“When the cards were being shuffled, you could see the bottom card each time they were shuffled. The bottom card was the ace,” the audience member tells me. “Everyone in the audience noticed as well as the two candidates. So when the cards were laid out on the table the winning candidate picked the ace. Of course had the other candidate picked the first card, he probably would have reached for the ace as well,” this audience member told me.
Hmm. Interesting. A couple of points to address.
You’re no doubt asking why your sharp-eyed publisher didn’t catch this. The answer is that during the entire time the cards were being shuffled and being drawn, I had my face in the viewfinder of my camera, shooting photos. My ears were still taking notes on what was being said, but obviously my eyes were concentrated on framing the subjects in the viewfinder. This intense concentration--hey, it’s what I do--kept me from giving any particular notice to what cards may or may not have been identifiable during the shuffling process.
Secondly, if the candidates themselves could clearly view a card (especially an ace), why didn’t one or both of them bring this to the attention of the shuffler prior to the drawing? I sincerely doubt Kim Kirby, city clerk and on this night the official dealer of cards, would have been offended by one of the candidates or anyone else in the audience calling attention to the fact that a card was visible. In particular if I were the candidate scheduled to draw second and felt like an ace was clearly visible to everyone, I would have let out a holler before the shuffling was done.
Anyway, the night ended as quickly as it had begun. There were no harsh words or harsh feelings made apparent. All parties seemed to be in decent humor when it was over, though you know it’s tough to lose an elected position on the basis of the luck of the draw. Even the non-winner, Patrick Farnan, left with a consolation prize--he took home the deck of cards.
It’s not ideal, obviously, but personally I don't have a huge problem with a tied election at the city level being decided by a drawing of cards, or a coin flip for that matter. There is a significant financial issue at play. The city would have had to shoulder the entire cost of a special election. And let’s be honest, while every elected position is important, it’s not likely the safety and well-being of the community was going to rest on which of the tied candidates won the contest.
The Weston witness disagrees with me, albeit in a friendly way. “Elections should always be held,” was the witness’ comment to me.
Here’s what it’s like ‘enjoying’ a Royals game on the tube this season, particularly for those of us who don’t often have the time to sit down and watch a game from beginning to end.
Game comes on. Royals take what for most teams would be a comfortable lead. You step away from the TV to tend to errands--or as is the case with me on this most recent occasion--you go back to concentrating on work. A few innings later, you turn your attention back to the game. You notice the Royals’ bullpen has come in to toss gasoline on a fire. KC is behind. Other team brings in their closer. Game over. You say curse word. The end.
The Landmark’s Twitter presence, already enormous, has expanded. The often-talked-about Buddy The Landmark News Dog now has his own Twitter page and is giving his views on the news, his personal life, community happenings and other (somewhat) important matters in his typical whimsical way. Follow him at Twitter.com/landmarkbuddy
Can making a request for routine public records at the Platte County Regional Sewer District get any more ridiculous? Good grief. I’m finding out every time--as in every time--anyone requests public information, the sewer district requires the requester to fill out a form listing their name, address, phone number, and a specific description of what public record the person would like to “inspect.” Keep in mind most requests are for extremely mundane stuff, like minutes of meetings. It’s not like we’re asking to see someone’s medical records, personnel file, or documents sensitive to national security, for pete’s sake. But wait, it gets better. They also ask the requester on the form to “include record titles, dates, and the names of city agencies or departments which produced or hold the records.”
What the hell? I can’t even tell you what the final part of their last sentence means. For an entity that really could use a makeover in the PR department, this is borderline insane. When the simple becomes complex, it’s no wonder a lot of people cringe anytime they share stories of past dealings with the sewer district.
Chuck Reineke’s resignation as executive director will turn out to be a plus for PCRSD, and the county commission is to be commended for subtly--or perhaps not so subtly--helping to craft that move. But major changes in what should be simple procedure are still needed to get the district into a user-friendly mode and improve the district’s image.
(Get into user-friendly mode by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or following him on Twitter at twitter.com/ivanfoley)
JUDGE CHOOSES ROAD LESS TRAVELED; MORE FLUSHING BY SEWER BOARD?
The court decision on Tomahawke is the right one. Longtime readers of this column have known for more than two years this newspaper’s editorial stance on the controversial high density housing proposal. With that in mind, clearly the judge’s decision to side with the county in the lawsuit brought by the developer is the ruling we had been hoping to hear. A decision in favor of the developers, who claimed the county commission had no legal authority to legislatively deny the subdivision because the developers--at least in their opinion--had met all the subdivision regulations, would have had potentially far-reaching effects in all corners of the state. So the judge’s decision was the safest one available in respect to keeping local jurisdictions in a position to make important judgment calls on such matters.
The decision itself is applauded here in Between the Lines. But what is with the lack of any explanation by Judge Charles Curless of Barton County for his ruling? It’s tough to find fault with the plaintiffs’ frustration at Curless’ lack of public reasoning behind his decision.
The judge’s written ruling was delivered in this fashion: “After considering the pleadings, evidence and arguments of counsel, the court finds that judgment should be entered on both counts of the petition in favor of defendants and against plaintiffs.”
After two years of public cussing and discussing, after hours upon hours of trial preparation by attorneys on both sides of the case, after boxes of documents were prepared and submitted as evidence for the court to allegedly study, the public is treated to a judge’s decision that offers no basis for his opinion? That’s lame.
If an editorial writer offered up opinions without explaining the basis for those opinions, he or she would be rightfully attacked for practicing lazy journalism. Truth be told, there are lazy journalists. Truth be told, there are lazy types in all professions.
Within the courtroom, it’s understood that judges do what judges want to do. Perhaps the judge was fearful that any details he laid out in his decision could be used by the developers as the grounds for an appeal. Even if that’s the case, the public deserves to know on what legal basis the decision was reached. The public and the involved parties certainly deserve more depth of reasoning than what was offered.
Note to fellow sports fans: If you catch yourself watching more than an hour of any televised golfing event, it might be time to get a life. If you catch yourself listening to golf coverage on the radio, seek professional help immediately.
At least one member of the Platte County Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees--Deb Hammond, vice chairman--has pledged further changes in the district. What kind of changes--whether it be in personnel, method of operation, or all of the above--is not yet clear.
What is clear from this chair is that anybody who was tied at the hip with the previous director should move on voluntarily or be shown the door. To gain the trust of what has been in a lot of ways an abused group of district patrons/ratepayers, a clean slate is needed. Change--especially changing long-term personnel or legal counsel--always scares some people. But that doesn’t mean it should be fought. In a lot of situations, such as this one, change is a necessary “evil” for an entity to regain the trust of the public it serves.
The public will soon get to see if the sewer district board of directors has the gumption to make other moves, or whether they’re just blowing smoke up our manholes.
I’m not gonna lie, occasionally it’s nice to be noticed for hard work. After all, my boss is such a tightwad there’s no way he’ll give me a raise, so I’ll take reward in some other fashion.
The popular blog site known as Tony’s Kansas City, or more accurately tonyskansascity.com, over the weekend listed yours truly in the top five of his latest power rankings for members of the Kansas City media. Your humble publisher was listed by Tony as the third most powerful member of media in the Kansas City metro area.
The web site says the rankings are "compiled according to scientific TKC polling and market research data and it's a weekly comprehensive guide to powerful local people, their moves and their relative worth as humans.”
No other Platte County media members made the list.
For the story, go to http://www.tonyskansascity.com/2010/04/tkc-weekly-power-rankings.html
Am I more surprised that I made the list or more surprised there were two Kansas City media members above me?
If you’re not following The Landmark on Twitter, spank your own butt right now. You’re missing out.
You’ll get news, notes, quotes, unusual observations and occasional sarcasm, all delivered by yours truly in 140-character messages. It’s not a repeat of items in the paper but rather a supplement to all the journalistic goodness you’re getting here in the printed edition.
Around 250 of you have signed up as followers. The rest of you are either trolling the site ‘secretly’ (there’s a lot of that going on) or depriving yourselves of knowledge and potential entertainment. Check it out at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and tell both of your friends to do the same.
Big Landmark Twitter development/announcement coming soon. Become a Twitter follower ASAP.
New information and updated analysis on the mess in Platte County’s Human Ridiculousness department coming soon. Also, we’re busy tracking the first scandal of the 2010 election campaign. Don’t miss your next appointment with The Landmark.
Contact Ivan by email at email@example.com or stalk him on Twitter at twitter.com/ivanfoley
THE REAL ELECTION FUN STARTS SOON; BETTER SALES TAX NEWS
This allergy season has the makings of a bad one. Last night I sneezed so hard I pulled a groin muscle. Fortunately it was my own.
Waiting for the outcome of the Tomahawke lawsuit? Join the club.
Attorney Chris Byrd, who represents the developers of the proposed high density subdivision, told me this week he is under the impression a ruling could be handed down by the judge within 30 days. Arguments were heard a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking of Tomahawke, folks close to that situation will recognize the name of Norm Beaman, formerly of MoDOT, on the letter to the editor to the right of this column. His note is worthy of a read.
Deservedly so, Tony Paolillo was reelected to the board of aldermen in Platte City at Tuesday’s popularity contest. Paolillo, whose wife serves on the Platte County Republican Central Committee, has proven to be a solid alderman with a track record of fiscal conservatism.
That being said, Ron Porter, defeated by Paolillo, served the city well years ago as an alderman, and was always my favorite member of the local hit rock group Mayor Dave and the Sunshine Boys. Porter ran against Andy Stanton and lost by only one vote last year. This time around, though he lost by about 20 votes, he still showed he has a core of support. Lee Roy Van Lew, another member of the Sunshine Boys, has not been able to acquire a base of support in repeat runs and was handily defeated by Charles Cook for another alderman post.
The more eventful local elections are on the horizon countywide for August and November.
For example, Siobhann Williams will be challenged by Kevin Robinson in the race for county auditor. I’m not sure but I think I just saw both of them peering at me lovingly through a window.
Economic turnaround locally? Don’t know that anyone is calling it that just yet, but there is some positive news to report.
There’s a bright spot in the new sales tax receipt numbers for Platte County. General sales tax revenue for the month of April (which represents sales made to consumers during the month of February) shows an increase of 7.6% from this month one year ago.
For the year, general sales tax receipts have increased by 1.2% from where they were a year ago at this time. Not bad in a tough economy. County officials had projected basically no increase in sales tax revenue in 2010. Of course it’s still early in the year so we’ll have to see if the growth is sustainable.
As expected, use tax income is down by 19.6% thus far in 2010. Combined total income from the sales tax and use tax is down 7.6% from this time a year ago.
What would spammers be spamming about if Viagra and Cialis had never been invented?
So I hit Opening Day for the Royals on Monday. I really don’t know why. Oh yeah, I remember now. It’s because I’m a fan of the stadium experience. As far as the product on the field, it seemed to resemble the same disaster of the past several years.
The stadium staff seemed to handle the overflow crowd fairly well. My only complaint was that at about an hour and a half before game time, the traffic into the parking lots seemed to be backed up more than it should have been. The team shouldn’t have been surprised by the turnout and therefore I expected smoother sailing into a parking spot as opposed to half an hour or more of inching forward. But all in all, the only rough part of the day was the 8-4 loss to the Tigers.
Don’t get down just yet, Royals fans, there still are 161 more games to go. Plenty of time to get further depressed.
This year’s Bracket Battle has come to a close. Our winner--John L. Steffel--and the complete final standings for our record number of entries can be viewed in the column on the far right of this page. Thanks to all who played along--even the many of you who finished above me and thereby have won two years worth of subscriptions to this award-winning publication.
Remember, if you got the best of me you must contact The Landmark by April 30 to claim your two years worth of subscriptions and tell us where to send your freebies. Contact us by phone at 816-858-2313 or send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of you have commented on seeing those KCTV-5 weather promos that include Rian Babcock, Landmark ad sales rep, and yours truly. There’s a 30 second version of the commercial as well as a 60-second. Rian is in both, while my pretty face only appears in the longer version.
It is cool to see Roger and Rosie Wade of Platte City in the same promo. The station has played the promos quite often over the past week and they are still getting air time. If you haven’t yet seen it, check out the 60 second commercial spot on YouTube by going to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8gAmua_r5k
Once again, our thanks to Mark Olson, senior promotion producer for Channel 5, for asking us to take part.
(Follow the daily adventures of your favorite publisher on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley, or email him at email@example.com)
PLEASE PASS THE SOAP; AND THE LANDMARK MAKES ITS CHANNEL 5 DEBUT
Another column of news, notes, quotes and whimsical observations while wondering why The Lake at Tomahawke Ridge folks picked Tim Dougherty to be their front man.
Mistakes have been made on both sides in what has been a two year battle. But that one was a head scratcher from the start.
This thing has more inner connections than an Arkansas family reunion.
Kevin Robinson of Platte City has filed to run for county auditor against incumbent Siobhann Williams. You’ll remember Robinson’s firm--People Wise--had been hired by the county commission to conduct a performance audit on the county’s human ridiculousness (HR) department last fall after Williams announced she was doing a full body cavity search on HR for alleged screw-ups regarding payroll and health insurance issues. Williams also alleged the county commission and the director of administration were not being cooperative in submitting information that would assist in her probe. Robinson’s wife, Mary, at the time was working for his People Wise firm and was a primary ‘auditor’ for the commission-hired probe. At the end of that ‘investigation,’ the county commission hired Mary as its new HR director. Now Kevin wants to become auditor, in a move that if successful could in effect stop the auditor’s office internal probe of what is now his wife’s department.
Got all that?
Potential conflicts galore?
You decide. I do suspect all the tag teaming will give many voters the urge to take a shower.
Can’t get enough courtroom drama in Platte County? For a full dose of detailed coverage on the arguments in the Lake at Tomahawke Ridge development court trial, check out the story by new Landmark reporter PJ Rooks.
Has there ever been a more quiet spring election season locally? Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide the outcome of city and school races. The pre-game attitude of voters--and let’s be honest, of some of the candidates themselves--seems to be one of boredom. Voter turnout next week could be embarrassingly low.
There is a Ward 3 alderman spot open on Tuesday in Platte City. It is to fulfill a one-year unexpired term. No candidate names will appear on the ballot for this seat, though Kelly Goen, 43, recently declared herself a write-in candidate.
A movement is afoot to write in the name of John Higgins, who currently holds the position but did not file. Reports to Between the Lines worldwide headquarters are indicating Higgins would agree to fill the remaining year if he is elected, though obviously he is not campaigning.
Okay, so the NCAA Tournament has kicked my butt in our Bracket Battle. Somehow I feel I am not alone. I’ve been doing brackets since I was about age 10. Can never remember another time when I correctly picked zero--as in zero--Final Four teams.
My buddy Woody Grutzmacher left me a voicemail on Monday drawing my attention to the fact my picks aren’t doing so well this year. Guess he thought I hadn’t noticed.
Anyway, the standings for Platte County’s largest media outlet bracket contest are below. Congrats to all of you above me who will be able to claim your prize of two years of free Landmarks. And the war is still being waged for the top prize of $100.
Sorry to say, but head coach Frank Martin of K-State got a little intimidated by all the national media cameras focused his direction during the NCAA tournament. It seems he became really conscious about the way his fire and brimstone attitude was coming across to a nationwide audience, and he held back on the “F bombs” while pacing the sidelines. His players against Butler on Saturday looked like they could have used a wake-up call in the form of a patented profanity-laced tirade from the coach. It never came. His Wildcats as a four point favorite were sent packing by a lesser opponent.
If you watch KCTV-5 over the coming weeks you may see a familiar face or two. Mark Olson, senior promotion producer for Channel 5, was in downtown Platte City on Monday filming spots promoting the station’s newly-discovered calmer approach to weather events. Reports in media circles indicate Channel 5 intends to dial down weather gal Katie Horner’s previously hyperventilated approach to tornado watches, etc.
Landmark ad sales rep/office assistant Rian Babcock and yours truly agreed to be filmed in a couple of the Channel 5 weather promos. Rian’s spot was filmed near the bottom of Main Street, with the camera facing east. My lights/camera/action experience was, not coincidentally, shot directly in front of The Landmark building.
Pretty sure Rian’s spot will make the airwaves, as she is more camera- friendly. Mine is more likely to end up on the cutting room floor.
Let us know if you happen to catch a glimpse. Read more about the experience at twitter.com/ivanfoley
(Ivan Foley can be reached prepping for a non-descript TV career by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his daily surprises on Twitter at twitter.com/ivanfoley)
For earlier columns click here