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Ivan's picture
Between the Lines

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

 
 

 

 
 
A PUBLIC RELATIONS TRAIN WRECK ON THE HORIZON FOR INVESTIGATORS

Posted 12/29/11

Well, heck, it’s time to say goodbye to 2011. Here at Between the Lines headquarters, we kind of hate to see it go. With some head-scratching developments in the closing days--for instance, golf carts set to be allowed on the mean streets of Parkville, more questionable weirdness within the judicial system regarding that high profile DWI case that was on our front page last week--things were just starting to get fun.

At any rate, loyal readers, 2012 won’t bring a lack of topics. It’s a big election year, both on the national stage and locally. As always, there will be plenty to be cussed and discussed right here in this column space.

Between the Lines is locked and loaded, ready to inform and entertain our loyal list of readers and advertisers. Bring it, Baby New Year.

******

As you’ll see on our front page, a 21-year-old woman was stabbed to the point of suffering life-threatening injuries in Ferrelview early this week. As we go to press, we’re being told the woman’s condition is still life-threatening. The level of violence involved in the stabbing, I’m told by a source, was “extreme.”

Here’s a bit of info that will come as no surprise to regular readers: the Platte County Sheriff s Department is saying basically nothing about this case. It’s their familiar cloak and dagger approach to the release of basic information. You know, the same approach they’ve used in the unsuccessful murder investigation into the death of Alissa Shippert, the young Platte City woman found savagely attacked on the bank of the Platte River inside the Platte Falls Conservation Area last summer. Her murder remains unsolved, even though much of the public is aware of whom the top “person(s) of interest” has been.

So how is that top-secret approach with information working out for the sheriff’s department? Not well. The local media--and some, though certainly not all--members of the community have been extremely patient with the department’s secretive approach. Criticism of the sheriff’s department for its inability to solve the case has been present, but it has been a relatively quiet criticism. The longer the Shippert case goes unsolved, and the longer the sheriff’s department stays mum on even basic facts of violent cases like the one at Ferrelview, the higher the chance that criticism of the sheriff’s investigative unit is going to become louder and more widespread.

Don’t be surprised, for instance, if big market media members eventually arrive to do features on the Shippert case and any others that remain unsolved. There would be no way to spin it as a positive for the department--correctly or incorrectly, the major media pieces will make the investigators appear to be a bumbling group. The lack of information shared with the public isn’t going to do the department any favors.

If circumstances don't change, it’s not hard to see a public relations train wreck coming.

Here’s hoping the Shippert case and this week’s stabbing at Ferrelview get solved before the local investigative unit becomes widely known for what it can’t do instead of what it can do.

******

Remember last week’s big story--Parkville’s aldermen pulling a ‘what the hell?’ kind of move by approving the operation of golf carts on its city streets effective March 15?

Promoters of the idea apparently think it is a cute way to promote Parkville, supposedly to enhance the image of the town in a unique way.

Anybody think that has been accomplished so far?

Feedback received by The Landmark to our coverage and editorial of the action since last week has been 100% against the city’s move. The communication we’ve received--through email, letters to the editor, social media outlets Twitter and Facebook--has all been opposed to the bizarre choice to allow golf carts to be driven at speeds less than 25 miles per hour on city streets that have speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.

So how is this enhancing Parkville’s image? Ignoring the most important element of governing--securing public safety--is enhancing your town’s image? Making your city the subject of tongue-in-cheek letters to the editor and the butt of jokes is enhancing the town’s image?

The jokes will continue. But all kidding aside, the ordinance needs to be repealed before something other than feelings get hurt.

******

We’ve tried to reach Chris Fisher, the brainstorming Parkville alderman who is an attorney by day and by night an elected alderman who now crafts ordinances for the very board on which he serves. That’s fascinating in and of itself. Fisher drafted the ordinance allowing golf carts. The Landmark has a couple of follow-up questions for Fisher, but he hasn’t yet returned our calls. We’ll cut him some slack. Maybe he’s out of town. Or maybe he’s too busy crafting his next ‘thinking outside the box’ piece of legislation.

Meanwhile, there is a quote readers need to be aware of from Alderman Jim Brooks, who voted in favor of the golf carts on streets idea. Brooks has been quoted as saying: “The issue I see is that we will feel bad if somebody gets in an accident and we’ll say ‘oh gosh, we let them do that.’ But we can’t get involved in legislating people’s behavior.”

Um, what? I need to read that again. An elected alderman--who has made himself a candidate for mayor this spring--says that government “can’t get involved in legislating people’s behavior.”

Really? I don’t like Brooks’ chance of winning any political debates. If Brooks truly believes that government ‘can’t get involved in legislating people’s behavior,’ he would lose a debate to any middle school civics class student. Apparently Brooks believes we’re still living in the days of the Wild West.

*****

Here are a couple of important links you need to check out on the web as you think about this golf cart ordinance. This one takes you to a video of golf cart ridiculousness: http://tinyurl.com/3upqulo

And this link will take you to a tragic story of a victim of a golf cart accident and pleas from the family: http://tinyurl.com/cxa8c9l

(Stay on top of ridiculous ordinances and other Platte County news by following Twitter.com/ivanfoley or email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com )


THERE'S A REASON OTHER CITIES DON'T ALLOW THIS

Posted 12/23/11

To get in the Christmas spirit, I’m composing this column while riding in a one-horse open sleigh. But not on a public street.

******

Chestnuts may be roasting on an open fire, but in the past week I’ve developed a crush on a nut of a different name. Pistachios.

I’ve been eating pistachios like they’re going out of style. Or at least I was until Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart warned me that pistachios are heavy in calories, with about 700 calories in a cup, she says. How many pistachios can a guy squeeze into a cup?

Though pistachios may be high in calories, there is some good news to go along with my new favorite snack. And this has to be true because I found it at pistachiohealth.com, and we all know everything on the internet is 100% accurate:

Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease,” says pistachiohealth.com

That’s good enough for me. I’m staying hooked. At least for now.

******

Well, we had to wait until just a few days until the year was over, but finally it came. Platte County’s most bizarre political decision of 2011? Parkville’s elected aldermen take home the prize in this category with Tuesday night’s vote to allow golf carts to be driven on city streets beginning March 15.

When I first heard this, I thought it was a joke. Hence the inspiration for the cartoon-like graphic accompanying our front page story on this topic. The only thing more ridiculous than a cartoon graphic appearing in a hard news story is Parkville allowing golf carts to traverse the same narrow, hilly and often poorly sight-lined streets as cars and trucks weighing thousands of pounds.

I better watch my language--especially with the holiest of days upon us--but what in the wide wide world of sports is going on here? Can anyone provide us one piece of evidence that suggests that allowing golf carts to be driven on city streets is good for general public safety?

There are good folks on the other side of this issue, folks who have done a world of good for Parkville and want the best for the city. We get that, we understand that, we appreciate that. But what’s at stake here is too important to ignore. There is no justifiable reason to pass a measure that puts human safety at risk simply because good people with good intentions are asking the city to do so.

Let’s not even get into the potential legal liability the city might be opening itself up to. And let’s not even talk about how people tooling around on city streets in golf carts will give the impression to outsiders that Parkville is some sort of retirement community. The stance being expressed here is in no way personal. The Landmark’s strong opposition to this is solely because it is a serious public safety issue. How is it a good idea to have slow-moving, open sided golf carts--containing passengers who will not be required to wear seat belts or helmets-- sharing the road with vehicles weighing thousands of pounds driven by surprised travelers who don’t like to share roadways with something as narrow as a bicycle, let alone something as unusual as a golf cart?

Alderman Marc Sportsman, the only voice of reason on this topic (and that makes two meetings in a row Sportsman has been an intelligent voice of opposition against bizarre measures passed by his fellow aldermen--keep up the good work, Sportsman), summed it up this way: “Golf carts are built for golf courses. They have brakes on the back wheels and they’re top heavy. They are great on the golf course, but I don't know how great they are mixed up in traffic.”

Credit to Sportsman for his tact and the politically-correct way he expressed his opposition. Some of us couldn’t have been so subtle. Here’s a Between the Lines interpretation of what Sportsman was actually saying to his fellow aldermen: “Ladies and gentlemen, have you lost your freaking minds?”

Alderman Chris Fisher, an attorney in his day job, wrote the ordinance, which is interesting in itself. Parkville has a city attorney, and even though it is in the middle of transitioning from its current city attorney to a new one, why is an elected alderman crafting ordinances? Why did the current city attorney only receive his copy of Fisher’s ordinance a couple of days before the meeting? What’s the hurry in passing this eye-opening ordinance before it can be properly reviewed by either the current city attorney or the incoming new attorney?

Even one of the proponents of the ordinance, the respected Jim Allen of the Parkville EDC, who with his connections to the highly successful The National is no stranger to golf carts, appeared to try to encourage the board to approach this issue at a cautious pace: “Certainly from our perspective, sooner is better than later, but not in the context of cutting off debate or having a full or open discussion of what is best for the community,” Allen said at Tuesday night’s meeting. Minutes later, the aldermen passed the ordinance anyway.

So much for allowing time for a full debate or discussion.

Fisher, the alderman who wrote the ordinance, had this to say: “When I started talking to people about this, there was a lot of discussion about establishing Parkville from anywhere else. There is certainly not another city in the Kansas City area that allows this.”

To his credit, Fisher is correct on this much: There is no other city in the Kansas City metro area that allows golf carts to be driven on public streets. There’s a reason for that. The reason is because it’s a crazy-ass idea.

As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

Let’s hope this ordinance gets overturned before a golf cart does.

******

Golf carts on public streets? Those things aren’t even safe inside a contained environment like a football stadium. For proof, enter this address in your web browser and watch the You Tube video: http://tinyurl.com/7j2qrxn

(Just wait till somebody starts texting while driving a golf cart on Hwy. 9 from downtown to the Parkville Commons. For a safer experience, follow Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


DOWNTOWN PARKVILLE AND PARKVILLE COMMONS EACH SCORE A HIT

Posted 12/17/11

For the third time in six weeks, on Monday night I came within a few feet of hitting a deer while traveling 70 mph on Interstate 229 near St. Joseph.

As he appeared in the illuminated beam of my headlights, this latest large-sized deer did not seem a bit intimidated by the fact thousands of pounds of metal were headed directly at him at a high rate of speed. He calmly stood there in the middle of the lane, oblivious to it all. I think he was sending a text message.

******

Monday was a productive day for me. Won a $10,000 bet with Mitt Romney that Chiefs coach Todd Haley would be fired this week.

******

Quite often in the world of economic development, retaining what you have is just as important as acquiring new. Parkville’s downtown can now celebrate retaining a major business presence in the form of the decision by the company known as eShipping to remain in English Landing. Not too many weeks ago it appeared the business, with around 40 employees operating out of its downtown Parkville location, would be moving--in worst case scenario, perhaps out of Parkville altogether, and under another scenario, to the Parkville Commons. Instead, Chad Earwood, chief executive officer and founder of eShipping, and landlord Tom Hutsler of English Landing were able to negotiate a deal keeping eShipping, a business that specializes in transportation management and consulting as well as software development, in the downtown district.

A recent press release from the Parkville Economic Development Council announced eShipping’s decision to remain downtown. In that release, Earwood said: “We wish to specifically thank the Parkville Economic Development Council, Jim Allen of the Parkville Commons and The National, and members of the community in helping us make the decision to stay in downtown Parkville. I personally look forward to working with Jim and others, including Park University, as we work together to tap the unlimited potential of Parkville.”

When I called Earwood to learn more about his business and his decision to remain downtown, he also praised some of the downtown folks, like Hutsler and Kevin Heaton of Stone Canyon Pizza, for their work downtown. “Tom worked with us really well on putting something together. He has been great to work with since I’ve been here,” Earwood told me.

Heaton, by the way, this week officially stepped into the world of politics, filing to seek the Parkville alderman spot being vacated by Jim Brooks’ decision to run for mayor.
Stone Canyon and other downtown restaurants no doubt are thrilled to keep the 40 employees of eShipping reporting to work downtown. After all, those 40 folks do eat lunch somewhere each day.

Earwood, whose company also has employees based in cities like Dallas, Denver and St. Louis, said his Parkville company had considered moving to Riverside, North Kansas City and briefly looked at Gladstone. He was encouraged when the Parkville EDC and Mayor Gerry Richardson approached him. “Jim Allen from The National came and spoke to me as a unified front. A group came to my office, including the mayor, and said ‘Let us help you navigate this a little bit.’” While at one point it was being publicly hinted the business was headed to the Parkville Commons, apparently the newly negotiated deal with Hutsler helped seal the deal to stay downtown. “There really isn’t one reason we chose downtown over the Commons,” Earwood said. “From an altruistic point of view, we would like to be part of helping downtown and assist by being there,” he told me.

Parkville Commons, meanwhile, will also be boosted in the near future. Allen, in the EDC press release, announced that a building to house a primary health care provider will be constructed on the last outparcel--set to be purchased by Northland Expansion LLC. Other new construction projects are underway near Parkville Commons, including a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, a new animal hospital, and a new office building for a Parkville area dentist.

******

A little research by ace Landmark reporter Valerie Verkamp this week uncovered what I think is an interesting tidbit of information: the mayor’s position at Parkville earns an annual compensation of $14,400. The mayor’s position at Platte City, meanwhile, earns $6,600 annually.

It’s interesting. Worthy of some thought. Draw your own conclusions.

*****

The one result that I certainly hope does not come from reporting the above fact is that Platte City officials believe their elected folks are underpaid and decide to double the salary. You know, as the result of some study that was done.

******

Don’t you love it when bureaucrats defend pay raises for government workers by saying a study of salaries of government workers in other entities justified the decision to pay more?

Who did that study? Somebody on a public payroll.

To taxpayers, the bureaucrats justifying their decision to give double digit salary increases by saying a study shows it was needed is lame and is part of an endless cycle of excuses to not get a handle on localized government spending.

******

Salute to those who came out to The Landmark’s annual open to the public Christmas party Friday at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. Turnout was fantastic and, to steal a line from some of those ‘who visited whom’ personal columns from The Landmark of years gone by, a good time was had by all. You’ll get more on the party in a future column or by following along on Twitter and Facebook.

(24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley, this publisher plays his drum for you. Pa rum pa pum pum)


BASED ON RAISES, APPARENTLY THERE ARE NO BUDGET CHALLENGES

Posted 12/10/11

As reported in this space last week, the city administrator position in Platte City is making $85,000. That’s the salary of the new guy, DJ Gehrt, who comes into his post with 10 years experience.

Is $85,000 too high? Too low? Just about right?

While you’re pondering those questions, consider this: The $85,000 is a growth of more than 13 percent over what the position was making just three years ago. Yes, Jason Metten, was earning $75,000 when he started three years ago and that had risen roughly 7% to $80,000 by the time Metten left at the end of his three year contract several months ago.

No matter how you slice it, 13 percent growth in pay for a particular position in three years time sounds a bit excessive in the current economic climate (unless you’re the city of Parkville--keep reading for more on that).

Look at it this way: If that trend continues, three years from now the city administrator in Platte City will be hauling in $96,000 per year.

Wow.

******

Remember, if you are in the group that believes government salaries are too high, don’t blame the men/women taking home the checks. This is America, each of us has the right to earn as much as his or her bosses are willing to pay. The blame, if you feel like any is deserved, falls on elected officials who make the final decisions on salaries for government workers. That’s whose feet eventually must be held to the fire on this topic.

Somewhere along the line in government, an annual raise in employee salaries became like a rite of passage, something given without a lot of substantive thought or evaluation. The start of a new year doesn’t automatically mean a pay raise for folks in the private world, why does it so often feel like an automatic thing in the world of government?

There’s no law that requires a pay raise just because the calendar has turned the page into a new year.

Decisions on salaries need to be based on more than just the passage of time. Matters such as economic conditions, value of the position to the overall function of the operation (each and every job has a maximum value, to continue to pay beyond that level is fiscally irresponsible), and job performance evaluations must be factored in.

Nothing is guaranteed in life--raises for government workers should be earned, not assumed.

******

Along similar lines, you’ll notice in this issue that Platte County has decided taxpayers will absorb a 10 percent increase in health insurance benefit costs for its employees. What will this very significant hike in employee benefit costs mean when the county makes a decision on employee raises for the coming year? Taxpayers will know soon enough. Budget talks for 2012 are well underway.

******

On our front page, you’ll notice some employees at the City of Parkville are receiving sizeable salary hikes for 2012. I feel confident in saying the percentage increase for several positions will raise some eyebrows.

The city administrator at Parkville gets a 7% pay hike up to $83,000, and many of the percentages go up from there: the police chief gets a 10% bump to $77,000; a police captain gets a 15% increase to $60,000; and a community development secretary gets a 21% increase to $28,000. Other positions are receiving raises ranging from 2% to 12%.

Keep in mind, as you’ll also see in our story, the city is using part of a trust fund to finance its 2012 budget. That method was opposed by Alderman Marc Sportsman.

Mayor Gerry Richardson’s defense of the use of trust fund money in creating the 2012 budget was that the trust fund’s board of trustees would be supportive of the move because the trust fund will earn more money from the city paying interest on any loans than it would from a simple savings account. What this means, if the mayor’s words are accurate, is that the city is borrowing money to support its 2012 budget. Is this good business?

I did get a chuckle out of reading the observation from the city administrator saying she was relieved that the city did not have to “lay off” any city employees in the making of the 2012 budget. So on one hand the city administrator feared there may have to be staff cuts, yet in the final budget many double digit raises are being given? Huh?

Taxpayers are going to find that more than a little confusing.

******

Feel free to come join the fun at The Landmark’s annual open-to-the-public Christmas party this Friday, Dec. 9 from 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn, 1201 Hwy. 92 in Platte City. Come enjoy food and beverages provided by The Landmark and take advantage of the opportunity to chat with newspaper staff and columnists like Greg Hall, Brian Kubicki, Hearne Christopher, James Thomas, and our newest addition Chris Kamler, better known as the infamous FakeNedYost on Twitter. Heck, you can even say hello to Platte County’s most fired upon publisher if you get the urge.

The good folks at Nick and Jake’s this year have generously provided us with 10 gift certificates valued at $15 each that we’ll be giving away as door prizes. Also in the prize department, The Landmark will be holding drawings for two tickets to several Mizzou Tiger home basketball games.

Cindy “Miss Christmas” Rinehart, as is always the case, has been the official party planner for the event, assisted by our official beverage gal Janine Moore, anxious to display her drink-serving skills, while ace reporters Valerie Verkamp and Pam Rooks, as well as the venerable Bill Hankins, will be chatting up the room. Security and handwriting analysis will be provided as needed.

The atmosphere is loose. You may as well come have a good time because a good time will be had whether you’re there or not.

(Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


NEW ADMINISTRATOR SNARES HIMSELF A FINE CONTRACT

Posted 12/1/11

We’ve all been there. Nothing ruins a Thanksgiving more quickly than your pet wallaby getting loose and causing a ruckus in the neighborhood.

I hate when that happens.

******

DJ Gehrt, the new city administrator for Platte City, is coming on board with some high public praise from his new bosses and others who are familiar with him professionally.
After looking over the details of his employment agreement, it looks like Gehrt has negotiated himself a contract matching the high regard in which those mentioned above are holding him. So his first move has been a personal success.

Gehrt’s starting salary is $85,000. That strikes me as high for a city the size of Platte City (realistic population figure being around 4,000). In my mind, it didn’t seem like too many years ago Keith Moody was making in the low 60’s in the position now held by Gehrt. But a little Between the Lines research shows the starting salary for Jason Metten, hired by Platte City three years ago, was $75,000. By the time he left at the end of his three-year contract, Metten was being paid in the range of $80,000. Metten had three years experience as a city administrator when he was hired here. Gehrt served 10 years as administrator at Plattsburg. Gehrt will be subject to a merit review after one year of service, and an increase in his salary and/or benefits will be determined by a majority of the board of aldermen.

According to the employment agreement, the city tossed a bone to Gehrt to attract him to the job. At the signing of his contract, Gehrt was immediately credited with 15 days of vacation leave. Thereafter, his vacation and sick leave shall be accrued at the same rate as other city employees who have six years of employment (10.67 hours per month). Gehrt is also provided five days of personal leave each year. The leave is on a “use it or lose it” basis.

Some other highlights of Gehrt’s contract, as outlined in the front page story by reporter Valerie Verkamp: 1. In lieu of a $250 per month vehicle allowance, the city will directly deposit $250 per month into a deferred compensation plan for Gehrt. Additional mileage reimbursement may be paid for travel outside the state or “extraordinary amounts of travel within the state.” That reimbursement is subject to prior board approval. The city will not provide a vehicle for his exclusive use. 2. The city will pay $500 per month into a supplementary retirement plan for Gehrt, in place of medical insurance. 3. Gehrt agrees to establish residency within the city limits within 60 days after the municipal election on April 3, 2012, and shall continue to reside within the city during his employment. The city will pay him $1,500 in moving expenses.

Obviously, if Gehrt lives up to the high praise his superiors are leveling upon him and delivers efficient customer service with a smile it can be argued that the contract will be worth its financial weight.

Best of luck to the new guy.

******

Jason Metten, former city administrator in Platte City, still has plans to open a business or two locally. In a recent conversation, Metten told me things haven’t moved as quickly as he initially anticipated but the process is in motion.

******

A team to help lead the promotional efforts to pass the 60 cent tax increase that will be on the ballot for Platte County R-3 has been assembled. Leading a group known as “The Right Choice for our Kids” campaign will be Doug Gutshall of Platte Valley Bank and Carey Rolofson, former school board member. It can’t be argued that Gutshall and Rolofson both know a lot of folks--young and not so young--within the district, so they could lead an effective effort.

The group has announced an informational meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Platte Valley Bank conference room in Platte City.

“The purpose of the meeting is to share with you information about the Platte County R-3 School District’s efforts to meet our community’s academic expectations and growing student enrollment via placing an issue on the April ballot,” said an email recently circulated to “key stakeholders.”

“This meeting will provide insight on the district’s plans, including a new elementary school, an addition to Pathfinder, technology, maintenance and security needs just to name a few key pieces,” the note to key stakeholders concluded.

The district’s 60 cent tax increase proposal comes just a few months after the school board committed roughly $2 million toward an Olympic-style swimming pool project at the Platte County Community Center in Platte City.

******

A noted contribution to Twitter this week comes from a guy using the handle @thechrisarmy. Here’s what he had to say:

“Sluts have ruined the lower back tattoo for good Christians like myself that want to love God and show a little tail bone art.”

******

Also on Twitter, @fakenedyost (Chris Kamler, Rambling Moron, page 3) provided this analysis of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show that aired on national television Tuesday night:

“The Victorias Secret show only lasted 8 minutes for me.”

(Get Platte County’s best commentary, breaking news about kangaroos and wallabies, and an occasional chuckle 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


SOMETIMES THINGS GET A LITTLE CRAZY, EVEN IN THE COURTS

Posted 11/25/11

Can it get any busier at your ol’ Landmark newspaper than it has been during this shortened week? The last few days have been hectic, but we love it.

Despite the craziness, we’re hitting the streets a day early, as we traditionally do during Thanksgiving week. This gives our readers a chance to have their Landmark in hand prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. We never want to make you wait for the good stuff.

You’ll find this issue packed with enough information to meet your news fix and enough advertising to help you decide where you want to pursue your shopping and dining desires over the long holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite times of the year, as once we’ve put in the extra time it takes to have the paper on the streets a day early, we’re able to catch our breath for a bit.

Enjoy your family time this weekend.

******

Add another name to the rumor mill for potential candidates for Platte County Sheriff. Cpt. Erik Holland’s name is now making the rounds, along with Cpt. Mark Owen, current Gladstone police officer William Willoughby, and Bob Zubeck of Platte City, who is retired from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

It’s going to be a fun election season in 2012.

******

Please read our front page story detailing some of the rulings made by a judge in what--in large part as a result of those rulings--has become a high profile and controversial DWI case.

We watch and cover a lot of court cases--including DWI-related hearings--here at your ol’ Landmark. The decision by Judge Gerald McBeth to, at the request of the accused, disallow the county prosecutor from representing the department of revenue in a case where a DWI defendant has petitioned to not lose his driver’s license after refusing a breath test is a first for our eyes. Add to that the judge’s next decision, which was to not allow the department of revenue staff counsel to represent the department of revenue, and it has become one of those cases that raises an eyebrow or two. The judge instead insisted upon conducting his own self-described “diligent” search for a special prosecutor, and you’ll read his choice in the front page article.

The most common reaction when folks read the story, I think, will be something along the lines of, “Huh?”

It does seem odd that a DWI case has taken on a circus-like atmosphere. So can every other DWI defendant in Platte County now expect to have the prosecutor removed from the driver’s license hearing process just for the asking? So can every other DWI defendant in Platte County also then expect to have the department of revenue be denied the chance to have one of its staff attorneys represent the department? These are legitimate questions.

Vernon County is home to the outside judge brought in to hear the cases related to the DWI charge against Jim Boggs, a well-known attorney in Platte County who has served on the Sixth District Judicial Commission, a board that is heavily involved in the selection process of judges in this district.

Maybe Vernon County does things differently in DWI cases. All we know at this point is that McBeth’s decisions have caught some attention here in McPlatte County and your McLandmark will be here to let you know how the court of appeals writ panel views the prosecutor’s McChallenges to those McRulings.

******

That last paragraph has me craving a McRib.

******

Close to home, thanks to the efforts of noted NBCActionNews (KSHB-TV Channel 41 to us old-timers) investigative reporter Russ Ptacek, former Clay Couny auditor William Norris now faces criminal charges. Norris resigned earlier this year after Ptacek’s investigation into nude photos and a secret felony background.

Channel 41 reports that prosecutors have charged Norris with a felony for “false swearing” in a candidate form where he claimed he had not been convicted or pled guilty to a felony. Norris is also charged with “tampering with computer data” in connection to nude photos of a woman the TV station found in his Photobucket.com account.

Fascinating story, worthy of taking note. The link to Ptacek’s report is http://tinyurl.com/6tpxvcp

******

To whom did I run into at halftime of the Northwest Missouri vs. Missouri Western football playoff game on Saturday in St. Joseph? None other Keith Moody, former city administrator for Platte City.

He looks, for the most part, the same as he did a few years ago when he was let go by Platte City, maybe a tad less hair. I was 90% sure it was him but still verbally verified it before extending for a handshake. He said he had accompanied a couple of buddies, NWMU grads, to the game.

We talked for several minutes. My intent was to stick with lightweight personal chatter, but before I knew it the conversation had drifted to in-depth matters like tax abatements and such, which brought back memories of all those times at deadline where I’d have him on the phone trying to wrap up a conversation so I could complete my story. I often asked a co-worker to slap me in the face once I got off the phone with Moody, just to restart my day.

As you know we had our philosophical differences in his time at Platte City, but our visit was cordial. Moody is now the city administrator at Harrisonville, a town of about 10,000 people.

(You can’t always slap Foley, but you can always follow his 24/7 reality show at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WINTER MONTHS SHAPING UP AS BUSY NEWS TIME

Posted 11/18/11

This just in: Justin Bieber is not my father.

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So the big small-college football rivalry gets fired up again this weekend when Northwest Missouri State’s Bearcats face the Missouri Western State University Griffons in a first round playoff game to be played at the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility, err, Spratt Stadium on the MWSU campus in St. Joe.

Just a couple of weeks ago, MoWest pulled off an impressive upset over the more highly-ranked Bearcats. It obviously was a ground-shaking result, as the Griffons topped the Bearcats in the afternoon and that night the St. Joseph area felt earthquake tremors.

Barring an earthquake this Saturday, the prediction here is that the Bearcats acquire some revenge in the playoff battle. The pre-game trash talking between some fans of the two area schools is in full form.

Leading local Bearcat fan Bill Brown already has his ticket to the super showdown. He dropped by the office on Monday to show it off. I snapped a picture of it and posted it on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/ivanfoley, and some good-natured back and forth between opposing fans began.

Expect a big crowd for the battle royale in Joe Town on Saturday.

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Even though the holidays are quickly approaching, you’ll want to keep an ear to the local news scene. While you’re concentrating on cooking turkeys and Christmas shopping, your Landmark staff will be hard at it staying on top of the news you need to know.

What’s coming up?

Believe it or not, it will soon be election season. Filing for local school board and city council positions gets rolling in December. After the first of the year, the county election season becomes the focus with several countywide positions up for grabs this year, including both associate county commissioner posts, sheriff, assessor (filling the unexpired term after the death of Lisa Pope, winner will serve for two years), treasurer, and public administrator.

There never seems to be a dull election cycle in Platte County. The Landmark will be all over it, as always, whether or not any candidates want to take off the gloves.

And, as usual, we’ll be keeping our journalistic eyes on happenings going on in the courts in Platte County. Every once in a while there’s a head scratching development in the courts that deserves further review from the news-consuming public, kind of like the NFL coaches throwing a red challenge flag. We’ll be there when it happens.

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If you’re in the mood for holiday spirit events, don’t forget the Platte City holiday lighting ceremony in historic downtown Platte City on Thanksgiving Eve. Zona Rosa has its holiday lighting hoedown this coming Saturday evening. A little bit later on your holiday calendar of Platte County events is the annual Parkville Christmas on the River bash, set for Dec. 2.

And as previously warned, your annual open-to-the-public Landmark Christmas party is Friday, Dec. 9 from 4-8 at the Comfort Inn in Platte City.

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Time for some housecleaning items:

Next week, your Landmark will hit the streets a day earlier than normal. As is usually the case, we’ll be printing on Tuesday during Thanksgiving week, which means most subscribers will have a hot copy of The Landmark in their hands prior to the Thursday holiday.

If you have a news item or an ad you’d like in next week’s issue, get your information to us no later than noon on Monday.

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This week, The Landmark is excited to welcome an addition to our stable of columnists appearing on page A-3. It’s the man who has made a name for himself--well, a name for his Twitter handle anyway. It’s FakeNedYost, known in real life as Chris Kamler. Kamler’s off-the-wall and often hilarious approach on Twitter caught my attention months ago. You’ll recall back in the summer, Landmark intern Jared Speckman featured Kamler in a front page story that detailed the massive following FakeNedYost has developed on Twitter.

I’m encouraging Chris--who is a Northlander and whose brother is a taxidermist in northern Platte County--to bring his irreverent Twitter style to his Landmark column. His initial column tackles the issue of common sense. Next week? He’ll have some thoughts on Platte City’s selection of Casey’s General Store as its Business of the Year.
Chris also has a video-streamed internet show and a web site. Follow his stuff at ramblingmorons.com.

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It hit me that I’ve never given a Between the Lines mention to our gardening expert, columnist George Weigel. This guy can handle all your lawn and garden questions and problems. His column is a weekly feature in your Landmark and has made George known around these parts as simply The Garden Guy.

Apparently The Garden Guy needs to tell me how to keep from killing mums. I’ve pretty well assassinated a pair of previously good-looking mums I picked up less than a month ago. These things have been on life support for the past couple of weeks and after giving them a lookover when I entered the office this morning, a decision on whether to pull the plug will be made in the next day or two.

(Never pull the plug on Twitter.com/ivanfoley, your 24/7 home of the best news, commentary and fun in Platte County. You’ll get hooked.)


THIS IS NO TIME FOR RINOS; AND HAS PIRATE FOOTBALL PROGRAM LOST ITS SWAGGER?

Posted 11/11/11

It’s never too early to start thinking about The Landmark’s annual public Christmas party. Go ahead and mark your calendars--this year’s shindig will be Friday, Dec. 9. We’ll be making some subtle changes in the plans for the evening just to keep things fresh and delicious. One thing we haven’t changed is the location: Brady Rodgers and the other fine folks at the Comfort Inn in Platte City are providing their conference room and kitchen area once again. The party will run 4-8 p.m. Come join us for some food, beverages, conversation and fun.

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Did you feel the earthquake Saturday night about 11? Tremors were felt in this area from a quake centered in Oklahoma. It caused a buzz of conversation in cyber space. Check out my Twitter account or Facebook page for a photo of the earthquake ‘damage’ caused at the Northland home of Twitter star Fakenedyost. I feel left out because I felt nothing.

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Voters in the Liberty School District on Tuesday rejected the idea of a 43 cent tax levy increase to pay for school improvements, 52% to 48%. Something tells me the folks at Platte County R-3 were watching this result with great interest, trying to get a feel for how the public is viewing the idea of tax increases in this economic climate.

R-3 is anticipating a tax levy hike being on the ballot in April. School officials are said to be busy trying formulating a plan that promises tax-funded gifts for every area of the district--both geographically and interest wise--in hopes of attracting a positive audience.

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I hope you noticed that Clay County shoppers will have to pay the zoo tax, as voters in that county barely passed the 1/8th cent sales tax by roughly 400 votes, 51% to 49% on Tuesday.

Fiscal conservatives, now is the time to praise the fact we have Jason Brown as presiding commissioner. Platte County already has the highest sales tax rate around. Had Brown’s predecessor still been in office, there is little doubt that not only would the zoo tax have appeared on the ballot in Platte County, but also that the other two commissioners would have also acted like RINOS and worked hard to try to pass the thing, much like they did the $82 million park sales tax overkill in 2010.

Under Brown’s fiscal leadership, the county commission never let the process get that far. Nice job.

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What will Platte County’s budget look like in 2012? The process is well underway. Kevin Robinson, county auditor, is forecasting an increase in sales tax revenue in 2012. He is estimating that sales tax receipts will increase by 2 percent over 2011. Also, he is estimating an increase in use tax receipts of .3 percent. It remains to be seen whether the three county commissioners will agree with Robinson’s economic forecasting.

On the flip side, Robinson says that various fees and other revenue sources from the collector and the recorder of deeds are forecasted very similarly to 2011, while several of the sheriff’s grants are down or have been eliminated. Robinson also said the county clerk is predicting less revenue with a decrease in the purchase of liquor licenses and other permits.

Robinson has drafted two proposed budgets for the commission to consider. One of them includes a three percent raise (referred to as a cost of living adjustment) for county employees (employees, not officeholders). The second proposed budget does not include the cost of living adjustment for employees.

The auditor explains that the 2012 proposed budget, which is now available for your viewing pleasure on the auditor’s page at co.platte.mo.us, reflects reductions in utilities and telephone expenses. “With advancing technology, the county is able to reduce these expenses with the implementation of motion detectors, energy efficient lighting, and consolidating voice and fax lines or pursuing voice over the internet services,” Robinson said.

We’ll follow the process over the next several weeks.

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Has the Platte County Pirate football program lost its swagger? Has the fan base gone a bit soft? At least one in-tune unbiased observer says yes. Guy Speckman, publisher of the Savannah Reporter, made some interesting observations in his column following Savannah’s recent victory over the Pirates in Platte County. It’s an insightful read:

“The Savannah football win over Platte County was exciting for any local football fan and maybe a little sweeter for long-time followers of Savage football. Even the best of teams in years past could not bring down the mighty Pirates. The Pirates of the mid-1990s were on a state championship tear that made MEC opponents wilt.

“Former Platte County coach Chip Sherman had Pirate teams with some serious swagger and weren’t afraid to show it when they planned a Savannah team that had never defeated them. During that time period, Platte County won 52 straight games at one point and Sherman had an overall record of 94-6. Even more interesting to this observer was the change in the program over the years. While Platte County still has its suburban yuppie aura, their football program has less swagger than years gone by.. They now run the spread offense which lends itself to a “softer” form of football.
“Secondly, their fan base was mild compared to the Savannah legion. A blind man would have had trouble determining whose field the teams were playing at on Thursday night. One Platte County fan made a huge fuss during the game over the Savannah students standing to cheer on their Savages. Savannah administrators were even called to the stands to try to placate the offended Platte Countian. The story made me reminiscent about Sherman’s Pirate teams that blocked our players’ entrance onto Savage Field during the 1990s in pre-planned defiance of our typical entry through the center of fans. I guess what comes around goes around.”

(Follow the process of all kinds of commentary in the making 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


EVER WONDER WHAT'S BEING SAID IN THOSE SIDELINE CONVERSATIONS?

Posted 11/4/11

So Buddy, the official news hound for The Landmark Newspaper, is a Westie. If you’re a dog lover who knows anything about Westies, you know they sometimes struggle with skin allergies at certain times of the year. Buddy is fighting that struggle right now.

The Bud Man has a prescription allergy pill and we’re also periodically giving him a Benadryl to help fight the itching and scratching. Yes, the Benadryl makes him sleepy, just as it does those of us with two legs. And yes, Buddy is a smart dog who is well aware of the side effects. He’s normally an active fella who doesn’t really care to be sleepy, so how do we get him to take his meds? You gotta hit him with his weakness.

His weakness? Cheese curls. Even if he watches us stick one of those small allergy pills inside a cheese curl, he still can’t resist the orange colored treat, even when he knows it will soon make his body very heavy.

It’s quite a brilliant strategy.

By the way, Buddy is still on Twitter. Though he has been virtually silent on the Twitter front for a few months, he is making plans to pick up the pace. Apparently some thoughtful tweets are coming into his head as he lies around in a Benadryl coma.

Follow him at Twitter.com/landmarkbuddy.

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Organizers of the Platte City Holiday Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving Eve want you to know that Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be making their appearance at the Platte County Courthouse that night, and not at the Central Platte Fire Station. Early news releases, including one appearing on page B-1 of this week’s Landmark, refer to the fire station as the location for the jolly couple. Organizers right before deadline this week let us know the fire department is no longer taking part and that the location for Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be the courthouse. Take note of that if you’re bringing the little ones to downtown Platte City that night.

The fire department was helping get in the holiday spirit last week. Several folks went “hmm” when they noticed the large taxpayer-owned aerial fire truck being used to help string lights on privately-owned buildings downtown.

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Remember when Twitter was just catching on as a useful news tool and entertaining mechanism for both insightful and tongue-in-cheek commentary? Remember all the haters who poked fun at Twitter for, let’s face it, the feminine-sounding name?
That was then. This is now. Even the haters are being forced to admit they’ve been missing out and have joined the Twitter world. About time. You can resist technology for a while and even bad mouth it if you like, but the end result is when you do that it makes you look out of touch.

I don’t want to mention names, but the initials of two of the most recent Twitter converts are my friends and former Twitter-haters Jason Klindt, well known political operative, and world-known conservative talk radio personality/Landmark columnist Chris Stigall.

Follow these guys on Twitter now. Just the interaction the three of us will have should keep you entertained.

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If you’re offended by someone recanting a conversation that contained foul language, stop reading now. Catch you back here next week. Have a nice day, thanks for reading.

For those of you still with me, football-watching fans all realize by now that Chiefs games feature a lot of bombs being dropped on the sidelines. I mean F-bombs. Even untrained lip readers have noticed head coach Todd Haley drops F-bombs like Hiroshima. Lately, quarterback Matt Cassel and others have started firing back some of their own F drops on Haley. Any adults who don’t know what the letters FU and STFU stand for, ask your teenage sons for clarification before reading the rest of this report. Good to go? OK, let’s carry on.

Remember 12-15 years back when I would cover some Chiefs games from the sideline and report back to you some of the observations picked up from that excellent positioning? I don’t do that these days, basically because I ain’t as young as I used to be and don’t have the desire--or back strength--to stand up for four hours straight. Fortunately, there is someone working the sidelines in a certain capacity who occasionally shares inside info with a mutual media friend. This person’s identity will not be revealed so this person can remain in good standing. But the following conversation this person picked up during Monday night’s exciting Chiefs win is worth sharing.

From here, I’ll let our source tell the story.

“At the end of the first half, Haley tried to start calling the plays. He looked at his card as the play clock was winding down. Cassel was yelling, (quarterback coach) Jim Zorn was yelling, hell, even (backup quarterback Tyler) Palko was yelling. Finally, Haley calls play 62, literally says ‘just F’n run 62.’ With the play clock at seven seconds and Dwayne Bowe on the wrong side of the field, Cassel snaps it, waits a few heartbeats and then launches the ball 15 yards out of bounds. This is when the fun starts. Cassel starts screaming FU to Haley, Haley screams back ‘STFU, everyone knows 62.’ Cassel says ‘You really think D-Bowe F’n knowns 62, FU.’ As Haley’s screaming FU back to Cassel, Zorn gets into Haley’s face, literally one inch away, and screams at him: ‘Don’t you ever do that to me again.’ I truly thought Zorn might mount up right there. Not sure exactly what Haley did, other than say FU, which is common practice at Arrowhead (just ask that poor bastard Pendergast, the defensive coordinator two seasons ago)”

Just thought Between the Lines readers might get a kick out of hearing some of the talk that goes on along the sideline during an NFL game. Hope you enjoyed the insight.

(For breaking news and occasional smart-mouth commentary, with fewer F bombs than a Chiefs game, follow Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR HAS OBSERVATIONS ON BABY LISA

Posted 10/28/11

Yes, Chiefs coach Todd Haley is starting to look like a homeless man. Our quick-witted and entertaining sports media sound bite columnist Greg Hall the other day referred to him as Hobo Haley.

I echo the following thought of Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki when it comes to Haley’s ragged appearance, his oversized clothes, faded and dirty-looking ball cap and apparent fear of a razor. Who cares?

You know what? If the coach and his Chiefs beat the Chargers on Halloween night at Arrowhead my thought is more and more folks will be talking less about Haley’s less- than-pretty appearance and more about the Chiefs being in first place.

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Remember the transmission line KCP&L is going to construct between its new generation plant at Iatan and a Nashua substation? A lot of landowners who are concerned about the line crossing their property I’m sure remember. KCP&L officials made the rounds through the area last week, including dropping by The Landmark for a public relations visit. They showed a map outlining several possible routes for the transmission line that are still under consideration. Company spokespersons insist the goal is to impact as few folks as possible. A final decision on the route could be made about 90 days from now, we’re being told. In the meantime, a lot of landowners in rural northern Platte County are on edge.

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The story of missing Baby Lisa, as you know unless you’ve been hiding in Todd Haley’s shower, is a Northland case that has gone national. She’s the missing 10 month old, and though the case is not inside the county of Platte, any story that close and compelling enough to capture a national audience deserves some mention in your Platte County Landmark.

I won’t rehash many of the case details here, because if you’re following the situation you’re already well aware. With so many unanswered questions and so many aspects that, as they say, just don’t make sense, it seems an appropriate time to have a conversation about it with a trained set of eyes. This week I interviewed Ron Rugen of Rugen Team Investigations of Kansas City. Rugen is a state-licensed private investigator who is on the board of the Missouri Association of Private Investigators.

The obvious question, to start: Any chance the baby is still alive? “There’s a chance but things just don’t add up. First of all, you have a guy prancing around in public with a half clothed baby at 12:15 and another at 4 a.m. Those don’t tie together well. How far away was the person, was the object he was carrying animate or inanimate, is the description of the person seen in any way similar in size to Debbie’s (Baby Lisa’s mother) brother. I’m not accusing the brother, just mentioning questions that have to be asked,” Rugen said.

And by the way, Rugen nailed that one. He made that comment about wanting to learn more about what the brother knows to me on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, word was circulating that the police are taking steps to interview the brother again.

As for the witness reports of a man carrying a baby down the street: “You don’t always see what you think you see. If there was hanky panky involved, was it somebody taking the baby and disposing of the body?” Rugen remarked. “This situation is a mess. It’s starting to wear people (the public) out. If it comes out that a member of the family had something to do with this, a lot of people will feel resentful and upset because everybody has tied their emotions to this. Kansas City people really care.”

Rugen, who worked in the media--we have a mutual media friend who connected us--prior to becoming a private investigator 17 years ago, has been outside the house chatting with media members several times during the past three weeks, suggesting questions that they can then ask police. He has watched most of the coverage. He has some energy invested in it. He noted that the mother seems to be a person who wants a lot of attention, while the dad is “kind of the whipped father or husband.” Rugen finds it interesting--ok, strange--that the parents have been so eager to talk to national media but not the local media.

Rugen mentioned other angles that the police have no doubt thought about and covered but those of us in the general public may not be as in tune with, such as: “Where was the baby when the mother was out buying wine? Did the person she was drinking wine with (described as a neighbor) ever see the baby that evening? The person with whom the father was working as an electrician at the Starbucks that night--does he know anything? Is there a trash receptacle near that Starbucks? You just have to ask those things. I’m sure the police have done this,” Rugen continued.

And what about the report that a cadaver dog ‘hit’ on the floor of the mother’s bedroom for the scent of a deceased human? Trained officers have said that while the cadaver dogs may fail to detect the smell of human decomposition about 30 percent of the time, they generally don’t alert when nothing is there. One possible exception is when human waste is present.

What a sad, frustrating and compelling case. We’ll be checking in with Rugen on this situation and others for expert analysis. He has an interesting tidbit about the arrival of investigator Wild Bill Stanton from New York (remember him? He’s now back in NY) I’d like to share if we can work it in a future issue.

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What do you think of the job Steve Young of the KCPD is doing as spokesperson to the media on this case? You’ve seen him everywhere, being grilled on local and national news. My opinion is the guy is doing an outstanding job, staying composed and patient with the questioning, even when appearing with such drama queens as Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Rugen agrees.

“He’s answering the questions without compromising the investigation. I’m not sure I would want Steve’s job. I’m sure his stress level is pretty high right now,” Rugen said.

(The stress level is never too high for you at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


JASON BROWN STRONG AT SALARY COMMISSION MEETING

Posted 10/22/11

Welcome back to Between the Lines, where we always try to make it a pants poppin’ good time.

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Strong performance by Platte County Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown at the salary commission meeting on Monday (see front page story). His back-up band in this performance consisted of Jim Plunkett and Joan Harms, but it was clear this shutdown of any potential pay increase for the county’s elected positions was being led by Brown.

Landmark readers have been along for the ride as the newspaper has covered many of these salary commission meetings over the years. These things rarely disappoint as far as news and entertainment value. Monday’s session had its typical salary commission moments, which means there were bizarre and apparently unexpected legal questions as well as political positioning from those on all sides of the issue.

Bob Shaw, county counselor, was hit with so many legal and procedural questions he was sifting through state statutes, Roberts Rules of Order, an issue of Lawyers Weekly, and--by the time it was over--maybe a drink menu from the nearest saloon.

But back to the day’s strong performance by Brown. After the group had approved a motion 8-3 (with Brown, Jim Plunkett and Joan Harms voting no) to give the county commission authority to grant a cost of living increase to officeholders, Brown went into action.

First, Brown in essence called for a vote on this motion: There shall be no pay raise for county elected positions. Some folks like to claim there are two aspects to an elected official’s salary--base pay and then any COLA. This is crazy. A salary increase is a salary increase, it doesn’t matter to the taxpayer whether it’s sugar-coated as a ‘cost of living adjustment.’

So Brown’s first motion was clear: No pay raise for officials. It passed 9-2, with Sheriff Dick Anderson and Recorder Gloria Boyer the only two who apparently would have liked to have seen a salary hike for the elected posts. Terry Edwards, public administrator, voted yes to Brown’s motion, but a day later confessed to me she actually thought she was voting the other way. The way the motion was worded apparently confused her. She thought her yes vote meant she would support a pay increase, she told me Tuesday.

Next, Brown wanted to get down to the gnat’s behind. Even though the group had earlier passed a motion to give the county commission authority to decide the fate of a potential COLA increase for the elected folks, Brown didn’t want that decision to leave the room. He wanted to put every officeholder on the spot--would you favor a COLA for officeholders? In other words, Brown was doing taxpayers and voters a huge favor here. His purpose was to get everybody in the room on the record. Smart move.

“What we do in those salary commission meetings really does matter. It comes down to perspective. It gives an indication what our governing philosophies are. I wanted to make sure it was very clear--you’re either for doing this or against doing this,” Brown said when I interviewed him later.

So Brown’s second motion called for no COLAs to be given to officeholders positions. His goal of getting everybody on record with their thought process was accomplished. Here’s how that result came in. Voting yes (remember, a yes vote means no COLAs) were Brown, Plunkett, Kathy Dusenbery, Gloria Boyer, Sheila Palmer and Harms. Voting opposed (in other words, these folks would have supported officeholders getting a COLA) were Anderson, David Christian, Bonnie Brown, Kevin Robinson, and Edwards.

There are the important votes of record. If these positions are important to you, duly note them. And then thank Brown for putting folks on the record.

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All the county officeholders looked healthy at Monday’s meeting. Plunkett was sporting a nice facial tan. I’m jealous. Unlike a couple of the GOP presidential contenders, Plunkett doesn’t strike me as the tanning bed type so I’m guessing he has been getting some sunshine while working his real job or maybe vacationing in natural rays. The sheriff, as always, was strong on procedural issues and points of order. Christian, the assessor who has lobbyist experience in Jefferson City, also seemed to be in tune with the ins and outs of procedure, as did former state rep Jason Brown. Early on, Dusenbery gave a welcome fiscally conservative reminder to the group that the county has a major expense coming up in the form of a switch to a digital emergency communications system. Dusenbery later, however, seemed to get unnecessarily frustrated with what Jason Brown was doing. I’m not sure she was savvy enough to realize at the time what Brown’s commendable agenda was. Edwards did a good job running the meeting, no easy task with so much positioning going on inside the room.

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Time for the political speculation game to begin. As reported last week, Sheriff Dick Anderson is retiring at the end of his current term. He has been sheriff since January of 1997.

So a new era will begin. Who will be stepping up to run? It’s early for anyone to come out and announce, but it’s never too early for the speculation game to start.
A couple of names are already hitting the speculation cycle. Bob Zubeck of Platte City, a retired officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, is one of them. Zubeck confirmed to me Tuesday night that he has been approached about running.

“A couple of folks have reached out to me. I’m listening, I’ll just say that. I am humbled by the interest,” he said. “At this point I’m listening to what their concerns are.”

Zubeck retired at the age of 55 on Aug. 31 after 26 years with the highway patrol and a total of 34 years in law enforcement.

This name has been hitting the speculation circles for months now: William (Willie) Willoughby, a Gladstone police officer. Willoughby in the early to mid-1980s was a police officer in Platte City. Another name getting mentioned as a possibility is current sheriff’s department captain Mark Owen.

We’ll keep you posted.

(Get your local breaking news and some occasionally unconventional commentary 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley.)

 

SHERIFF: UNSOLVED MURDER IS A 'LOCALIZED CASE THAT'S ALL ABOUT LOCAL PEOPLE'

Posted 10/14/11

At about 4 p.m. last Thursday I received word from sources that Platte County Sheriff Dick Anderson had told folks inside his department he would not seek a fifth term as sheriff. With my speaking engagement set to begin about an hour later at the Platte County Pachyderm Club, I resisted the urge to send out the news by Twitter or Facebook, choosing instead to give those who would show up at the public event some breaking news.

The thing that makes this biz such a buzz is that circumstances change in a heartbeat and you’ve got to be ready to adjust on the fly, and that’s what happened here. At 5:15 p.m., the sheriff’s office was distributing an email announcing Anderson’s decision. Fifteen minutes after that, the sheriff was walking into the room where the Pachyderm Club was about to meet. Having not yet seen the email that was waiting on my phone, I asked the sheriff if he had an announcement to make to the crowd that night. He said that he did. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a fascinating night of law enforcement discussion in front of an intimate crowd at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Zona Rosa.

It was as open and forthcoming as I have ever seen the sheriff as he and I engaged in a question and answer session for much of the presentation.

Read on for a few of the highlights.

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Let’s face it, it’s been a rough summer for law enforcement in Platte County. An unsolved murder. A questionable relationship between a sheriff’s department captain and a local tow/collision company that provided services to the county, just to name a couple of problems the sheriff has been dealing with.

So did any of this play a role in the sheriff’s decision to retire at the end of his current term? He said no to this when I asked him Thursday night.

I then brought up the topic of the unsolved murder of Alissa Shippert, 22, of Platte City, the Casey’s General Store employee who was found murdered in the Platte Falls Conservation Area on June 1. There have been no arrests and public frustration has grown. Maybe it was the relaxed setting of the room at O’Dowd’s or maybe it was the fact he had just announced he won’t be running again. Whatever the case, the sheriff opened up like I’d never seen him open up before.

“We have a very viable investigation continuing. We have very good leads to follow up on,” Anderson said. “That case is far from over with.”

The sheriff even went on to address one of his personal critics on the case. Not mentioning the critic by name--though anyone in tune with current events knows he was referring to Ron Canaday, a retired Kansas City Police Department captain who went on to serve as police chief in Platte City after retiring from KC--the sheriff said this: “There was an opinion expressed by a retired captain for the Kansas City Police Department that this investigation should have been handled in the beginning by the Metro Squad. I completely disagree with him. For one thing, his experience with homicides--his stories notwithstanding--is extremely limited,” Anderson said.

Zing. This is what a Landmark presentation at a Pachyderm meeting gets for you. This was great fun and extremely informational. With a little prompting from The Landmark podium, there was more welcome free thought to come from the sheriff. Let’s continue.
“We did call in for help in the first few days and had them follow our direction and strategy (as opposed to calling in the Metro Squad, who would have provided the direction those first few critical days). We got help from the water patrol, the highway patrol, Platte City police, the FBI, a variety of other people,” Anderson said about the murder case.

The sheriff continued: “This was an extremely intense investigation for a couple of weeks. We eliminated many suspects. (The victim) had a lot of friends. Not all of her friends were of the savory type. There are a number of people who were possibilities. We have eliminated some, but we have not eliminated some. This is a localized case. This is all about local people.”

I found the quote “this is a localized case” that is “all about local people” intriguing. After all, there are two schools of thought prevalent in the community. One school is that many folks have convinced themselves they know who did it. The other school of thought is that this young lady was killed by someone passing through and the case will never be solved. So does the sheriff’s quote mean the department believes the killer is local, and what is the sheriff’s level of confidence that this case will be solved?

“It’s my practice not to answer hypothetical questions,” the sheriff replied, the only time throughout the night he denied the chance to give a straight-up answer.

For the record, I’m not sure the question as it was posed fits the definition of hypothetical.

More from my back-and-forth exchange with the sheriff next time.

******

I’m not a doctor, but occasionally I do play one in this column space. I don’t save lives, though I’ve been accused in advance that this week I will make a claim that I have. So here’s the story.

Well-known Platte City resident Woody Grutzmacher called Monday morning explaining some personal dire straits that he was in and asked if he could stop by. Several minutes later he came stepping his way into our office at a fast pace (anyone who knows Woody has no trouble picturing this). After a few minutes of speaking about his original purpose for the visit, Woody announced he thought he might be having a heart attack. Woody has been known to have moments of drama, but nonetheless Dr. Foley immediately handed him an aspirin, a bottle of water, and a comment that he might want to get checked out by a health professional. He then bolted out the door.

Early Tuesday morning, Woody called Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart to say that he did end up at the hospital in heart attack mode not long after leaving our office.

"I think the aspirin saved my life,” he told Cindy. “But don’t tell Ivan. He’ll want a medal or something.”

******

I don’t screen my calls or refuse visitors, but if you do think you’re having a heart attack please call 911 or seek medical assistance before calling me or dropping by for a visit.

(Miss a moment, miss a lot. Follow Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


SCHOOL SURVEYS PATRONS ABOUT A TAX INCREASE WHILE SPENDING $2 MILLION ON POOL

Posted 10/7/11

Platte County R-3 School District, on the heels of deciding to spend what will end up being in the neighborhood of $2 million on an Olympic-style swimming pool, is now conducting a survey of district patrons to take their temperature about a potential tax increase building project.

The phone survey of about 400 households has been going on at least two or three weeks and is likely done by now. Results will be discussed at this month’s meeting of the school board. The survey, which based on some of the comments I’ve heard from those who’ve received a call, includes some boasting about R-3 while asking if the survey respondent would be receptive to the idea of an increase in the tax levy to fund a building project, reported to be a new elementary school.

“It targets registered voters. We’re sampling using the Gallup criteria. About 25% of those surveyed will be south of KCI, 75% north of KCI, which mirrors the population spread in our district,” Superintendent Mike Reik said last week when I called to ask him about it.

Sounds like R-3 patrons can expect a tax-increase lease purchase proposal to be on the ballot in the spring. The district does not have the bonding capacity available to ask for a bond issue, so its vehicle of finance for its next building project will be lease-purchase, Reik said. The vote for a bond issue would require 57% majority approval. On the other hand, a lease purchase proposal with a tax increase will only require simple majority.
More on the survey results when information becomes available.

******

You’ll find details in a story elsewhere in this issue about Platte County’s newest Taj Mahal--also known as the West Platte Fire Station, hosting an open house this Sunday. This tax-funded large and impressive brick castle (perhaps with solid gold fire poles and gold-plated toilets?) is impossible to miss as you make a leisurely drive along Hwy. 45 in Weston. It will be open for tours on Sunday. Please wipe your feet before entering.

******

On Monday night, the screen on my cell phone lit up showing I’d just received an incoming text message from a long lost former Platte Countian who is now a North Carolina resident. My ol’ buddy Shaker Pepper had fired a missive, which always creates immediate curiosity. The emotions in a text from Shake can be anything from sad (like the June day he texted word that his dad Ed had passed away) to hilarious (like the late night texts sent during March Madness, when a perhaps favorite-beverage-induced state of mind had him waxing emotionally about our distant yet tight friendship over 29 years while we were cracking wise about the basketball games playing out on our televisions half a country apart).

Before this starts to sound like a love story, let me get on with it. I popped open the text message to read this note from Shaker: “What u think about Hank, Jr.” I had no idea where this was headed, as I had been encamped at my desk up to my ears in Platte County news and up to this point was unaware of singer Hank Williams, Jr.’s comments on Fox News earlier that day (which by the way are the topic of Chris Stigall’s column on page A-3.) So Shaker emailed me a link with video of Hank’s appearance. Why media folks constantly feel the need to be asking celebrities their political thoughts is beyond me. What also struck me is how Hank, Jr. (whose music sucks, by the way) seemed to be uh, well, the interview was very early in the day so surely he was sober, right?

Despite a very awkward and uncomfortable choice of words and delivery style, a decent point or two did Hank make. Shaker agreed. “He has some real points here. And I don’t care if he was totally impaired in this interview or not,” Shaker texted, and then added the classic line: “He was screwed up but making sense. Kind of like me at the Platte County Fair.”

******

After years of covering a game every Friday night for this fine newspaper throughout the 1980s and then into much of the 1990s, I admit I eventually became burned out on high school football. Burned out at least as far as attending more than one or two games a season. My one high school football game this year will come Friday night when the Maryville Spoofhounds travel to Savannah to play the Savannah Savages in a game pairing two heated northwest Missouri rivals. Why am I picking this as my ‘make a public appearance’ high school game of the year? Personal connections, really. Todd Shifflett--a senior at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville and the boyfriend of daughter Alyssa Foley, also a Bearcat senior--coaches wide receivers for the Maryville High School Spoofhounds. And then, of course, there is a Savannah connection with my publishing pal Guy Speckman of the Savannah Reporter. I have ties to Maryville. I have ties to Savannah. That means the game should end in a tie. This just in: It won’t.

Speckman previewed the game this way in his Savannah paper last week: “The game against Maryville stacks up on paper as a game for the ages. Savannah has a strong team and Maryville looks to have reloaded their machine this year. Last year, Savannah made history by beating the Spoofhounds in Maryville and I suspect that has not gone unnoticed or forgotten in Maryville. Throw in the fact that Savannah coach Mark Cole is a former coach for Maryville’s head coach Chris Holt and you can feel the pressure building. You can expect the boys in green to show up with a chip on their shoulder. Combine that with the homecoming activities in Savannah, featuring the best parade in Missouri, and you have a collision of epic proportion.”

******

Hope you’ll come see your Landmark staff in action as the publisher speaks and the staff harasses him at the meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club this Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Zona Rosa. We’ll talk politics and current events while insulting one another.

(If you can’t catch the publisher cracking wise--and unwise--at the Platte County Pachyderm Club, follow along at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


ATTORNEYS NOT HAPPY; GENERAL FUND MONEY; COME MEET LANDMARKERS

Posted 9/29/11

City of Parkville is looking for a new city attorney, and Mayor Gerry Richardson and other city leaders have made it clear that they want to go big-time. And by big-time, I mean they are saying they want a large--I mean a really large--law firm. You know, not one of those one-or two- attorney law firms that, you know, have done this type of thing for years in Platte County and are quite capable of doing the job at a reasonable price.

Let’s just say Parkville’s insistence to look at the huge out-of-county firms isn’t being absorbed so well by some lawyers in Platte County. Scott Campbell of Platte City--no relation to current Parkville city attorney Jack Campbell--is one of those not happy about it. Campbell’s firm, Cady and Campbell, did not apply for the job at Parkville, so he isn’t being shy about speaking out on this topic. At least he wasn’t that way Monday. Maybe Campbell, very active in the Platte County Bar Association, was caught at a weak moment. The normally reserved “no comment” Campbell unleashed this bombshell quote to me:

“Why does it take a boutique law firm to represent a small community that’s too big for its britches, funding itself on fudge shops and floral boutiques that aren’t open on weekends?” Campbell said.

Ouch.

******

This just now official: There will be no zoo sales tax election in Platte County in November.

Yes, after the Platte County commission declined to place the 1/8 cent sales tax proposal to a vote of the people, you recall correctly that the Friends of the Zoo filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order it placed on the ballot. But apparently the zoo friends didn’t get legal necessities in place to expedite things with the judge because nothing was announced by the end of the day Tuesday, which was the deadline for the matter to make the November ballot. “There is no way it can be on the November ballot now,” Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections confirmed to me Wednesday morning. Not even by court order, should the judge side with the zoo folks. A hearing on the matter isn’t scheduled until December, according to court records.

The counties of Clay and Jackson will vote on the tax in November. Platte and Cass counties declined to put the question to voters.

******

As reported last week, Platte County R-3 will be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million from its general fund on a swimming pool partnership with the county at the Platte County Community Center North. To clear up some misinformation floating around, the general fund is the same source of money from which teachers’ salaries are paid. While it’s true there is a Teachers Fund account at R-3, the money that is transferred into that Teachers Fund comes from the general fund. Let’s say it again: General fund money is the source for dollars that go into the fund called Teachers Fund, from which teacher salaries are paid. So to say that the general fund does not fund teacher salaries is an incorrect statement.

I’m not certain who is creating and circulating the misleading information to the contrary, but just know it doesn’t matter. The Landmark will cut through the BS for you.

******

Great times are ahead as The Landmark staffers take to the road for a couple of exciting meet and greet events in the coming week.

First, we’re excited to announce The Landmark is taking part in the effort to raise funds to assist with the clean-up and restoration of the high-water damaged English Landing Park in downtown Parkville. The big-time Parktoberfest celebration on Saturday in the Farmers Market at the end of Main Street in Parkville will feature a booth staffed by your Landmarkers. We’ll be giving away Mizzou football tickets, tickets to the Renaissance Festival, and tickets to the Kansas City Zoo. Come by to say hi and put a face with the names you see on our staff listing, and more importantly put your name in the drawings for this free stuff. We’ll also have sample copies of The Landmark and will be accepting orders for subscriptions from new as well as existing readers. Most importantly, for every subscription sold that day, The Landmark will give 20% of the purchase price to Friends of the Parkville Parks to go toward the work at the park.

The weather forecast looks great. Live music will be part of the fun. Come on out and enjoy a fall Saturday in a relaxed setting, win a prize or two, and help support the English Landing clean-up and restoration effort. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

See you there.

******

Your Landmark-style fun won’t end at Parktoberfest. Our newspaper staff will be back mixing with readers at the Thursday, Oct. 6 meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club. The club has been brave enough to ask me to speak at next Thursday’s monthly gathering, which will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Zona Rosa.

We’ll have some type of promotional giveaway ready for you at this event as well, so come out for the chance at some free stuff even if the speaker doesn’t excite you.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, a Pachyderm, an elephant, or an ass, this event is open to all. Drinks and appetizers begin at 5:30. Cost--which includes a drink and appetizers--is $12 for members and $15 for non-members. As always, the more you imbibe the better the speaker will be.

I noticed the Pachyderm Club in its press release urges folks to come “hear Foley discuss current issues affecting Platte County.” Um, ok, but let’s not limit ourselves. Between my Tourette’s and my Attention Deficit Disorder, the only thing I guarantee is that we’re going to get off topic. We’ll talk all levels of politics, hit other current events, take some questions from the audience, and then if time allows I’ll do a fork-bending demonstration while playing the spoons.

If that fails, I’ll assemble a wooden ship inside a glass bottle while playing the ukulele.

(With an inseam measurement just the right size for his britches, the publisher is a gadabout who can be found at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


PLATTE COUNTY GETS THE BETTER OF SCHOOL; BOXING GETS THE BETTER OF ITS FANS

Posted 9/23/11

Hope you enjoy another episode of Between the Lines, while looking forward to all those Olympic-class swimmers that will be developed at Platte County R-3 now that the school is putting a cool couple million bucks toward an Olympic-style pool.

******

To be brutally honest, the Platte County Commission clearly out-foxed the Platte County R-3 School District on this “natatorium” project (hey, when you’re spending $5.4 million on a swimming pool, you’ve got to call it something besides a swimming pool to help justify the expense, right?).

Think about it. Thanks to the renewal of a bloated half cent sales tax for parks--and really, can anyone now dispute that the half cent should have been cut down to a quarter cent or even eighth cent tax--the county has more money than it can possibly spend on meaningful parks and recreation projects over the next 10 years. This is evident by the simple fact the county’s 10 year plan for parks and recreation included things such as mountain bike trails, kayak trails, and horse trails. I often refer to these things in a comical way, but let’s be clear--what makes it comical is that mountain bike trails, kayak trails, and horse trails were actually all listed in the county’s 10-year plan to spend that $82 million park tax.

Humor is often found in reality. The reality is these crazy things were actually listed in the written plan as potential future park projects by the county. No one is making this up.

Now, the county has caught so much grief for listing such ridiculous items as park goals my guess is you’ll never see any of those things happen Well, maybe mountain bike trails, since some higher ups at the county like to pedal two-wheelers. But I seriously doubt you’ll ever see the county spend park tax money on kayak trails and horse trails, so we got that going for us. Selfishly, I can’t lose either way, because if they do I’ll have enough column fodder to last a lifetime.

But I digress.

The point here is that the county has $82 million projected to come in over the next 10 years for parks. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the county parks tax could have afforded to build an 8-lane Olympic-style pool at the Platte County Community Center North without a nickel’s worth of help from R-3. This is an oversimplification obviously, but $82 million minus the $5 million for a fancy swimming pool only leaves Platte County with roughly $77 million to whiz away on over-the-top fun stuff over the next 10 years.

But the county commissioners somehow convinced the school district that in order to be able to build this $5.4 million luxury, they’d need oh, about 30% or $2 million out of R-3 taxpayers. The majority of the school board, because fulfilling everybody’s wish list is what school boards like to do, thought that sounded like a great deal.

Fleeced. And fleeced just ahead of the likelihood of presenting R-3 taxpayers with a tax increase proposal in the spring.

It’s no wonder county commissioners speak in glowing terms about this partnership. On the other side of the coin, the fact that even the son of one of the veteran R-3 school board members who voted in favor of the pool expenditure has made public comments criticizing the school for the move should tell us all we need to know.

Government spending leads to more government spending. The cycle never ends.

*******

Here’s your Between the Lines definition of a progressive. Progressives are important-feeling folks who like to spend other people’s money on extravagant projects and then put their names on a plaque to praise themselves for doing so.

The end.

******

With apologies to Elton John and his unforgettable lyrics to Norma Jean, it’s time the public bid farewell to the political career of Platte City Alderman Charles Cook. Cookie, as he is fondly known to many, finally resigned last week, more than a year after a woman says he grabbed himself below the waist and took political transparency to a whole new level.

Goodbye, Charles Cook. You lived your (political) life like a candle in the wind.

******

I’m not sure who the speaker is going to be at the next meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club, but I’ve heard the night is going to be epic.

******

If you are one of the poor souls who paid $70 or more for the pay-per-view fight between Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz on Satuday night let’s hope you learned your lesson.

Big-time professional boxing has become soap opera for guys. Nothing more. This (stuff) ain’t real.

Like many of you, thanks to the beauty of the internet I was able to watch the controversial final round via what appeared to be video shot with someone’s cell phone. Talk about scripted. I mean, what better way to enhance the likelihood of a rematch--which would mean millions more dollars for the boxers, for the promoters, for the TV folks, etc.--than to have a controversial ‘the ref ain’t looking’ ending where evil boxer pops nice guy boxer upside the head after nice guy boxer tries for the third time to do some kind of strange-loving man hug on evil boxer, an embrace more fitting for a Promise Keepers convention than a boxing match.

If male soap operas are what you want, keep buying those pay-per-view boxing matches. Just don’t fall for the trap that what you’re seeing is pure athletic competition. What you’re seeing is a skirmish break out during the filming of an episode of The Young and the Restless.

(There’s never a pay-per-view charge to be informed and entertained at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


WHILE HINTING AT TAX HIKE, R-3 READY TO INVEST IN SWIM POOL

Posted 9/15/11

Let me just say Hearne Christopher has outdone himself this week with his newest KC Confidential column that you can find each issue (well, when Hearne remembers to email it to me) on page A-4.

Fascinating topics by the always-in-the-know Hearne this week.

******

Kudos to Landmark photojournalist Bill Hankins, already a member of the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame, on his induction into the Oak Park High School Hall of Fame last week. Hankins taught journalism at Oak Park for many years and has former students scattered throughout the world of journalism in these United States of America.

Bill becomes the second Landmarker to be installed into the Oak Park Hall of Fame. Our “Straight from Stigall” columnist on page A-3--conservative talk radio superstar Chris Stigall--is an Oak Park grad who was inducted into the Oak Park Hall of Fame a year or two ago.

Speaking of Stigall, as you know he is working his morning radio show craft in the major market of Philadelphia these days. A recent media report out of Philly indicates Stigall and his show are adapting quite well. Read this report online at http://tinyurl.com/3jty8kr

******

So what is Jason Metten, the recently departed city administrator of Platte City, up to these days? I wondered the same thing. So I buzzed his cell phone this week.

“Talk to me again in about 30 days, things might be a lot more interesting,” Metten told me.

Right now, his limited liability corporation owns a restaurant in Chillicothe, about 100 miles from here. It’s called The Catfish Place, located in an 8,000 sq. ft. structure with a large basement and a large garage at 1030 East Birch in Chillicothe. “Everybody on my mom’s side of the family has been forced into the antiquing business, basically to store a house full of (old stuff). I’ve told myself I’m not going into the antiquing business, so the restaurant building serves as a future location to store my mom’s stuff someday. In the meantime, I’m paying the rent with the restaurant,” Metten said. “It’s a catfish buffet. There’s a general manager. I’m completely hands-off.”

He says he is also staying busy “helping my folks in Des Moines and doing contract work here or there.” Metten dropped hints of hoping to eventually have some business interests much closer to his Platte City home. Stay tuned.

******

You’ll find the list of awards your Landmark won in the Missouri Press Foundation’s annual Better Newspaper Contest in a news story inside this issue. Judges from the Virginia Press Association picked the winners this year. We’re most proud of the general excellence award, as it values the overall quality of the news, editorial, and advertising content of each newspaper.

Also, the prize awarded for the editorial pages that serve as the bread and butter of what we do is another proud honor. Perennial winner Bill Hankins earned several awards in his categories, and I’m extremely proud and happy for our outstanding cartoonist, Matthew Silber, for bringing home the gold in the category of editorial cartoons.

A huge thank you to our readers and advertisers for your continued support of The Landmark in helping make this newspaper the widely recognized industry leader in the now far-reaching world of local journalism.

Agree or disagree with the editorial positions espoused here, we’re always grateful you care so much about what goes into one of the oldest continuously published newspapers west of the Mississippi.

******

As you know, thanks to every consumer who pays sales taxes in the county, Platte County has an overabundance of parks and recreation funding and is constantly looking for ways to spend your money on stuff that could be classified as “wants” as opposed to “needs.”

One of the newest ideas in place to get rid of all that park and rec cash? A $5.3 million natatorium (that’s a fancy word for an indoor swimming pool) at the Platte County Community Center North in Platte City.

Well, they say $5.3 million. At an estimated price tag of $5,360,000, it’s actually closer to $5.4 million, but when you get above $5 million, what’s another $40,000 to $100,000 among friends, right?

The idea is to build an eight-lane 25-yard competitive swimming pool. It will have “a diving component,” seating for spectators, team locker rooms and parking areas, etc.
Platte County R-3 School District is also wanting to get in on this fun way to spend. The school, in documents prepared in advance of the R-3 board of education meeting set for Thursday night, is prepared to pay $1.4 million (it’s actually $1.358 million, but I went and ahead and properly rounded up this time to tick off the bureaucrats) toward the project. Those numbers do not include financing and interest costs. It looks like annual payments for as long as 20 years could be made by my quick review of the documents.

In addition to the $1.4 million, the school--assuming this is approved, and let’s be real, documents likely would not have already been prepared unless all involved are confident of approval by the board--will make a $25,000 annual “operational user fee” payment to help “offset the county’s or the county’s operational partner’s maintenance and operational costs for the Natatorium,” according to the proposed cooperative agreement I’ve had a chance to view.

Some folks connected with the school have long hinted at a desire for something like this--as far back as the timeframe when the district was spending money to install fake grass on its football field--so none of us can claim to be shocked by this development. The expense itself and the timing of the expenditure can both rightfully be questioned, especially considering Platte County R-3 is hinting that it will be asking for a tax increase in conjunction with its next bond issue, expected to be on the ballot in the spring.

I made this comment at the time the excessive half cent, $82 million park and rec tax was being pushed by the libs in 2009 and I’ll say it again: Government spending begets more government spending. That’s what we’re seeing here.

(What you can see 24/7 is the best, fastest, and most complete local news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


WITH THIS KIND OF ENTERTAINMENT, WHO NEEDS TO GO TO THE ZOO?

Posted 9/10/11

As you’ll see in our front page story, this Kansas City zoological district sales tax issue--apparently now headed for the courtroom--is getting entertaining. I’ve seen monkey poop fights better organized than this.

Much of the story right now seems to be in a state of acid reflux, but here’s what we can tell you so far.

*Some legislation passed by the state in 2010 authorizes the creation of a Kansas City Zoological District. Some folks, most notably the group known as Friends of the Zoo, are now asking for a 1/8 cent sales tax to be passed by voters in Jackson, Clay, Cass and Platte Counties to help fund “zoological activities.” Truth be known, here at Between the Lines headquarters we’re getting a lot of zoological activity just by watching the politics involved.

*Jackson and Clay Counties have agreed to put the proposed sales tax on the ballot in November. Cass County and Platte County commissioners have declined the chance to do so, indicating they have no intention of monkeying around with such a proposal. “I’ll jealously defend Cass County’s budget before I’ll give money to a bunch of chimpanzees,” Brian Baker, one of Cass County’s commissioners, told the Democrat Missourian newspaper last week.

I don’t know Brian Baker. But I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

*This zoo tax is so silly it even has some of the not-so-conservative types hopping away from it like frightened kangaroos. For instance, a lot of us never thought we’d see the day where Kathy Dusenbery, a self-proclaimed progressive, declined the chance to support a feel-good tax like this, but here we are. Either Kathy is desperately trying to win friends with the fiscally conservative faction of the Republican party or a friend pulled her aside and used a flow chart and picture drawings to explain the current political climate to her.

*Let’s just be thankful Jason Brown, a true fiscal conservative, is presiding commissioner right now. If a less conservative type were leading the commission, something tells me at least one of the associate commissioners would have been swayed to suddenly become a “let’s do it for the children and all the animals’ children” Friend of the Zoo. After all, remember just two summers ago both associate commissioners were unabashed supporters of an $82 million bloated and extremely excessive tax--in an off-year high cost special election--for fun stuff like horse trails, butterflies and double rainbows as the economy was headed south.

******

That’s all the animalistic talk I can handle for one edition. We’ll likely have more zoo tax coverage next week. I’m putting former-paralegal-turned-Landmark-court-reporter Valerie Verkamp on top of the lawyerly aspects of the battle.

This will allow me to relax more comfortably and have fun with it from here in my cage filled with peanuts.

******

Here’s a shout of praise to the city leaders at Parkville for finally coming to their senses and realizing it’s time to remove the three-month-dry barrier of protection from the non-flood that threatened its Main Street. Kudos to Mayor Gerry Richardson. After a somewhat naive comment from new alderman Chris Fisher, who didn’t want the sandbags removed until the Corps of Engineers gave its blessing, Richardson last Wednesday said what should have been realized and stated long ago: The Corps of Engineers was never going to tell the city it’s okay to issue an “it’s all clear” announcement.

******

You gotta admit it’s been an interesting past few months from a prosecutorial standpoint around these parts. For instance, turn to the front page to read Platte County Sheriff Richard Anderson’s details of the results of that personnel investigation of his former captain Steve Johnson and then explain to me how some kind of criminal charges were not filed by the special prosecutor. Most of us can recite cases where crimes were charged with less evidence of funny stuff.

Add this to the recent crash where one fire truck turned in front of another fire truck, sending five people to the hospital--two for an extended stay--and causing half a million dollars in damage to public property with not so much as a traffic citation issued.

Then on the flip side of the prosecutorial soft approach was a perhaps too aggressive manner recently used when the county prosecutor’s office delivered a ‘you’re the subject of a criminal investigation’ letter to a frustrated Parkville businessman who was wanting sandbags moved to allow potential customers better access to his business properties. I’m not at all saying the businessman was in the right if he in fact started to remove a portion of the sand wall. But a subtle phone call from the prosecutor would have had the same positive effect on the situation without trying to publicly embarrass a businessman whose only interest was in protecting his livelihood after it became obvious to anyone with common sense that the Corps of Engineers was never going to tell the city it’s okay to stop acting like it's Armageddon.

It indeed has been an interesting summer.

*******

The long hot summer is over, and we know this because the NFL season kicks off this weekend. You’ll see our Pigskin Picks feature is back, making its season debut in this issue.

The NFL actually gets rolling with one game Thursday night. The league has created a tradition of a mini Super Bowl type atmosphere for its Thursday night season opener. Big-name musical acts are invited to the opener, some performing outside the stadium, some inside.

This year’s Thursday night opener is New Orleans at Green Bay. Among the bands invited to perform at Lambeau Field is Maroon 5. Obviously the NFL believes nothing says “now get out there and kick some ass” quite like the mellow tunes of Maroon 5.

(Catch the mellow tunes of the publisher 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


NOTES, QUOTES AND UNPAID ENDORSEMENTS

Posted 9/2/11

It appears local conservatives--and even the Republicans who pretend to be conservatives--are already fired up about the 2012 election season.

Last week’s Reagan Ranch Day event in Platte County (see back page of this section for more information) drew a tremendous crowd of 650 people.

Enthusiasm and turnout should not be a problem for the fiscally conservative crowd when Election Day arrives in 2012. As was the case in 2010, the prediction here is it will not be a good time to be on the local ballot as a Democrat or a RINO.

******

As reported here a few weeks back, Republican Rob Willard has already announced his intention to be a candidate for Platte County treasurer. Potential candidates for other positions are hitting the rumor mill, and we’re taking names here at Between the Lines headquarters. It won’t be long before some of the folks whose names are making the rounds will be getting a phone call to measure the level of validity to the rumors of their potential candidacy.

Platte County positions up for grabs in 2012 include sheriff, first district commissioner, second district commissioner, treasurer, assessor, and public administrator.

******

Steve Johnson, former captain of the road patrol division of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, will escape the filing of any criminal charges over his work with a collision and tow service that performed work on the sheriff’s fleet of vehicles overseen by Johnson. While the special prosecutor says no criminal charges will be filed, Johnson’s work with the tow company--which at the time of his suspension was described by leadership within the department as an ‘inappropriate business relationship’--may ‘give rise to the appearance of impropriety and may have merited internal discipline,’ the special prosecutor acknowledged.

It’s a break for Johnson, who could use one at this point. Johnson’s friends haven’t been shy about telling the media that Johnson is battling a very serious illness. His wife, Lynn Johnson, fire chief (correction, now more accurately being described by her employer as the ‘administrative’ fire chief) at West Platte Fire Department, has also had a summer under the gun due to criticism of her department’s action at a fatal fire on July 4.

This week’s announcement by the special prosecutor in Steve Johnson’s personnel probe no doubt came as a welcome relief at the Johnson residence.

******

I have four, count ‘em four, tickets to the Mizzou football home opener this Saturday against Miami of Ohio. The seats are in Section S, row four, count ‘em four, seats 1-4, count ‘em four.

My Labor Day weekend plans revolve around two kids coming home from college and a 9-month-old grandson coming in from Whiteman Air Force Base to be wrestled with by his young granddaddy, so I won’t be using these MU tickets.

If you’re a Mizzou fan and are interested in talking turkey on these puppies, contact me ASAP.

******

We would be crushing them in this spot had they decided otherwise, so to be fair it’s time to praise the boards of education at both Park Hill and Platte County R-3 for their decisions to keep their district tax levies the same as last year.

It made a lot of us a little nervous when both districts announced pay increases for employees recently. The fear was that the attitude would lead to a tax levy hike. At least the levies will remain level.

It’s not cause for a major celebration, but it is worthy of an atta boy and atta girl to those who made the decision.

******

Many of you--and this columnist as well--were a little taken aback by the cost per square foot price of the renovation going on at the Platte County Prosecutor’s office in the courthouse. The total price tag is $427,000 for the renovation of 3,710 square feet, which breaks down to a per square foot cost of $115.

It should be pointed out the cost does include items such as new heating and cooling equipment and renovating the bathrooms to the point of making them ADA compliant. Glen Rogers Construction of Lee’s Summit, the lowest of seven bidders by about $16,000, was awarded the contract. The initial contract was for $407,306, but a change order has already increased the cost by $20,000.

Other bidders in addition to Glen Rogers, from lowest to highest, were Yarco Construction, Bruner Construction, Julius Kaaz Construction, Excel Construction, Heartland Construction, and AB Bradley Construction.

One supporter of the prosecutor’s renovation is noted local defense attorney Scott Campbell, a frequently-mentioned-in-this-column-space connection in the legal field and by his occupation a frequent visitor to the third floor offices of the top law dogs in the county.

“While I’m generally against capital expenditures while the economy is failing, the prosecutor’s office certainly deserves to be renovated,” Campbell told me this week.

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Unpaid endorsement alert: Have a vehicle with yellowed, oxidized headlight lens covers? My kids did. I ordered that Fast Brite Lens Restore polish from one of those As Seen on TV commercials. I did this on a whim while half asleep in the recliner and was skeptical, but this stuff worked like a charm on the kids’ older vehicles. It makes an amazing difference in the amount of light now illuminating the road ahead. Give it a shot.

(Give news, commentary and fun a shot 24 hours a day/seven days a week by following Between the Lines-style information at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)

 

 


IF THE PROSECUTION NEEDS TO COME FROM OUTSIDE, SHOULDN'T THE INVESTIGATION?

Posted 8/26/11

Random thoughts: If it’s appropriate for an outside prosecutor to be brought in to determine whether charges are filed against a former sheriff’s department captain (and I agree that’s an appropriate move), why wasn’t an outside prosecutor brought in to determine whether citations/charges should be issued in the crash of two Central Platte Fire Department trucks?

If all our public protection agencies work closely together (and I agree they do), shouldn’t we always have outside agencies brought in to make impartial judgments on these types of situations?

And along those same lines, if we need an outside prosecutor to study whether charges are filed as the result of a personnel probe in the sheriff’s department, shouldn’t an outside agency such as the Missouri State Highway Patrol have been brought in to conduct that investigation? I realize the sheriff says Cass County helped with the probe, but sheriff’s folks also have acknowledged the Platte and Cass County departments enjoy a friendly working relationship. Wouldn’t a state-run investigation have given the appearance of a completely impartial probe, more so than one conducted primarily by the sheriff’s department itself?

And if the sheriff’s department and the volunteer heroes on local fire departments work closely together at scenes of public protection--which we know they do--shouldn’t the Highway Patrol have also been brought in to conduct the investigation into the crash of two Central Platte Fire Department trucks instead of the sheriff’s department?

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

The specific observation being made here is that there seems to be a lack of consistency into how these situations are being handled. Public confidence in the outcomes of these situations would grow if that approach were cleaned up.

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An investigation is underway to determine if the television in The Landmark office can get any channel other than Fox News. Developing.

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As drama queens go, there can be none bigger than Megyn Kelly on Fox News. Not sure I’d wanna be a member of a trapped audience in the Megyn Kelly household during dinner-time discussions. Her daily program from noon to 2 p.m. has more over-the-top dramatic influx than any news show on the tube.

I will concede the point, however, that she is attractive.

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There is absolutely no truth to the rumor the city of Parkville has ordered a three month evacuation of its downtown due to the earthquake on the East Coast.

******

Parkville may, however, examine the possibility of acquiring an earthquake-proof portadam for the bottom of Main Street. Bid specs would require that the portadam not only be immune to quakes, aftershocks, and temper tantrums, but also be able to survive three months of not being touched by water. Developing.

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Here’s the inside skinny on the employment contract for Pam Windsor, who has been brought in to serve as Platte City’s interim city administrator while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

Windsor will work five days per week and will be compensated $6,333 per month. She will also be reimbursed for personal automobile use while on duty at the rate of 55 cents per mile. Windsor’s initial contract calls for her to work through Dec. 2, though at that time the city has the option to extend her employment for an additional four weeks, which would run through Dec. 31.

The city will not be providing any employment benefits such as paid vacation, paid sick leave, retirement, health insurance, etc.

Either party may terminate the agreement with two weeks written notice to the other. The city, of course, could terminate employment without notice and without payment if the employee fails to comply with provisions of the employment agreement.

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You’ll read elsewhere in this issue that the Platte County Commission will be holding its twice-monthly administrative sessions at the Platte County Resource Center after giving up its second floor meeting room at the Administration Building in Platte City to the prosecutor’s office from now through the end of the year. The reason? The prosecutor’s third floor offices in the county courthouse are being renovated.

According to Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, the cost of the renovation of the prosecutor’s offices, covering 3,710 square feet, will be $427,000. If my math is correct, that equals a cost of about $115 per square foot. Glen Rogers Construction of Lee’s Summit has been awarded the contract to perform the work.

Of that $427,000 total, roughly $200,000 will be paid for using fees collected by the prosecutor’s office in its work on cases involving bad checks and folks’ failure to pay state income taxes. The remaining cost of the renovations, roughly another $200,000, will come from the county’s general fund.

“I think it’s good to use money taken from people who violate the law in place of tax money whenever possible,” Zahnd said when I asked him about the renovation work this week.

Among other things, work will include turning some unfinished space in the old law library and turning it into usable space. The bathrooms will be made ADA compliant, new heating and cooling systems will be installed, sound control of the walls and other privacy features will be enhanced to improve confidentiality of discussion of sensitive matters. A conference room is being added. The third floor is the final portion of the courthouse to be renovated, county officials say.

(Renovate your life by following Between the Lines at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


SHERIFF HAS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IN PUBLIC RELATIONS

Posted 8/19/11

Is it just me or does it seem like the month of August always lasts about six weeks?

Can we get to fall and some football soon, please?

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You may not like the way your 401(k) looks right now after the recent plunge, but let’s have a mini celebration for the drop in prices at the gas pump. I found gas for $3.19 a gallon on Monday--still inflated but much better than the outrageousness we’ve been dealing with in recent months. A recent report by the AP said that analysts regard high gas prices as one of the biggest drags on the economy. No kidding. That would be because it cuts deeply into the amount of disposable green folks find inside their wallets.

******

When the dust settles from the recent turmoil in regard to a personnel investigation about certain alleged policy violations--and perhaps a lack of policies in certain important areas--this much seems clear among yours truly and many fellow members of the media: The sheriff really needs to take steps to improve his department’s communication efforts with the public. I’m sure the sheriff realizes that open and forthright communication with the media is an important aspect of the job of his department, he just hasn’t made it a priority. The media is his best liaison to the people who are paying his salary and funding his department.

The public doesn’t just want to know what the heck is going on in the county’s largest law enforcement agency, it has the right to know. Providing little information, vague information, or being slower than necessary to respond to requests for basic information at a time when a personnel investigation--a probe that may or may not have a criminal element to it--is not the best way to win public trust.

The media can be an elected official’s best friend or worst enemy. Most often, the direction that relationship heads is determined entirely by the officeholder’s own actions. Right now, the sheriff’s public relations efforts are frustrating to some in the media--and therefore to the public.

******

The folks at FEMA are in Platte County. Two reps from that governmental institution dropped in The Landmark office Tuesday, asking for help in getting the word out that they are in the area and wanting to assist anyone negatively affected by this summer’s manmade flood (here’s lookin’ at you, Corps of Engineers).

If the disaster has caused damage to your home or vehicle, a loss of wages, or you just want to hassle the FEMA folk, call my newest, bestest friend Pat Whitt of FEMA. She’s in Platte County but the number you can most quickly reach her is an out of area cell at 571-732-6870.

That’s my public service announcement for the week. Who says Between the Lines lacks compassion?

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Add another well-known “celeb” to the long list of readers of your local Landmark: Scott Pioli, general manager of your Kansas City Chiefs.

Remember that story on the Three Guys in a Garage radio show on Sports Radio 810 WHB that intern Jared Speckman penned for us a couple of weeks ago? It seems the article was read and enjoyed by Pioli.

Jay Binkley, one of the hosts of the There Guys in a Garage show, said on the air Monday night that when the hosts ran into Pioli in the hallway at Arrowhead the other night, Pioli told them he had read the article that appeared in The Landmark.
I know Jared had a great time writing that feature. He joined the boys in studio for their show a time or two while researching the story, and on at least one occasion the Garage Guys put Jared on the air. The intern is now back to his day job of going to school at William Jewell, where he serves as one of the stud linemen on the football squad there.

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There are so many places I need to be this Saturday that I have no idea where I’ll end up. There’s a Michael Reagan event sponsored by local Republicans; nationwide conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, who was courageous enough to have me as a guest on his program a year ago, is in nearby Adrian, Mo. for a “Take Our Country Back” event; Landmark cartoonist Matthew Silber invited me to a Nullify Now event on the Plaza; Parkville Days will be in full swing; St. Joe has its annual Trails West Festival; and a friend of daughter Alyssa will be tying the knot. All of this and more happens on Saturday, Aug. 20.

I’m currently in the process of cloning myself, though I’ve heard if I do that too often I could go blind.

******

The 2012 county campaign cycle is now underway, thanks to the announcement by Republican Rob Willard that he will seek the office of county treasurer. Willard, a former assistant prosecutor under Eric Zahnd, says he will file for the position currently held by Democrat Bonnie Brown.

Brown says she will be retiring at the end of her term next year, after 12 years in the treasurer’s office. Brown told me last week she has been telling friends and employees of her plan to retire “for a while now.” When I let her know word of her plan had not yet reached the ears of your Between the Lines columnist, she said: “I guess we don’t run in the same circles.”

Truer words may have never been spoken.

Brown says that while neither of her assistants are interested in seeking the post, she has been trying to recruit a candidate. “I’ve been trying to talk to banker friends to let them know I’m not running,” she said Friday.

Other county positions up for grabs next year in addition to treasurer will be the two associate commissioner spots, the assessor, sheriff, and public administrator.

(Run in the publisher’s circle on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and search him on Facebook)


AT MINIMUM, ASSESSOR GUILTY OF A LIBERAL WAY OF THINKING

Posted 8/14/11

So what about the county assessor situation, as reported in The Landmark last week? You’ll recall David Christian, new assessor who replaced Lisa Pope in May following her cancer-related death in March, finds himself in a bit of hot water after handing out payroll “bonuses” to employees in the office. Bob Shaw, county counselor, provided a legal opinion to the county commission that the bonuses were illegal. Christian later used his personal money to refund the county coffers $11,000. Still, the matter was passed on to the prosecutor to review. Prosecutor Eric Zahnd’s office will determine whether criminal charges are deemed necessary. In a phone conversation Monday, Zahnd told me he has not established a timeline for a decision.

Jason Brown, presiding county commissioner, says he advised Christian, whom he has known for several years, against giving the bonuses. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Brown, who to his credit has been all over this situation from the start, said again this week. “Legal or not, I just don’t think taxpayers will agree with the idea of giving bonuses to the very people who are out there assessing property and (potentially) raising their taxes in the process (through placing a higher assessed value on that property),” Brown said this week.

Whether Christian deserves to be charged with a crime can be debated, but what is clear is that he made a political policy blunder that will likely cost him any chance of winning an election. Who knows, maybe he had no intention of running anyway.

His thought-process for giving the money away to employees is an example of the bigger epidemic going on in our taxing entities across this country. Instead of letting taxpayers pocket the savings that occurred while an officeholder was not being paid, Christian saw that as money that normally would have been spent. In his mind, that justified giving the money away to a staff that had long been trained to handle duties in the assessor’s absence anyway.

It’s a typical free-spending approach used by tax-supported agencies almost everywhere. The “if we budgeted it, let’s go ahead and spend it” approach really needs to end.

******

Reports out of Joe Town--wait, does anyone other than a few longtime St. Joseph residents still refer to the city as Joe Town?--indicate attendance at Chiefs training camp is down noticeably this year. Theories for this vary depending upon whose viewpoint you’re listening to, and our sports sound bite columnist Greg Hall has an excellent piece on this in his Off the Couch reports at plattecountylandmark.com.

Number one reason, at least in my way of thinking, has been the oppressive heat. It’s been an absolutely brutal summer in that department. There aren’t many folks who are bigger NFL fans than this guy, but the older I get the less capably I’m tolerating extremely hot and humid conditions. Heck with it. I’d rather get my Chiefs training camp updates from guys like Hall and other media folks on Twitter than go have sweat soaking through my clothes for two hours.

It is ironic that in the two years the Chiefs have been in nearby St. Joseph I have yet to attend a practice, yet when they held camp in River Falls, Wisc. there were almost annual road trips made to that destination. It became a traditional late summer weekend getaway.

Maybe that’s the deal. Maybe St. Joe is actually too close for a lot of Chiefs fans, many of whom would prefer to turn a trip to training camp into a more methodical getaway rather than “a let’s see if we can find time after work to jump in the car and head to St. Joe” kind of experience.

At any rate, the Chiefs’ first pre-season game is Friday night, which means Friday is officially the day sports fans in this area quit paying attention to the Royals. As if they hadn’t already.

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A couple of weeks ago, Jason Metten, city administrator for Platte City the past three years, announced he will be leaving the position at the end of this month to seek a job in the private sector.

Metten will be missed. He has a lot of positive skills, but the thing I’ll remember most about Metten is that he brought a polite, friendly, more open atmosphere to the office of city administrator. That approach was desperately needed in a community that had grown weary of quite the opposite approach from Metten’s predecessor. It wouldn’t be a stretch to also credit Metten’s demeanor for helping to further fine-tune the commendable PR skills of the mayor, who has taken on a more “man of the people” style during his current reign. It seems excellent communication skills are often contagious.

Best of luck to Metten in whatever field he decides to pursue.

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Your Between the Lines law enforcement update for the week: Captain Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department says the personnel investigation into the situation surrounding the suspension and eventual retirement of veteran road patrol Cpt. Steve Johnson could be wrapped up within “a week or two.” But, he stressed, “there is no firm timeline because a lot of factors can come into play in an investigation.”
Expect more thoughts on that situation here when solid info from the probe is made available.

Speaking in general terms and not necessarily specifically to the Johnson situation, my initial thought at this point is to give credit to Sheriff Dick Anderson for seemingly holding his guys to an admirable standard of avoiding the appearance of potential conflicts and avoiding any business transactions that might not have a clean aroma. Longtime readers of this column space know I haven’t always agreed with the sheriff on some of his budgeting desires and have concerns about the ability of the media to extract public information from incident reports in a timely manner, but it can’t be argued that Anderson has created a sense of professionalism in the department since he arrived on the job after the 1996 election. At least from the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be a “good ol’ boys” system in place.

(This has been your weekly Between the Lines session. Follow daily news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


MEMBERS OF ELECTED BODY TEXTING ONE OTHER AT MEETINGS: COOL OR NOT COOL?

Posted 8/6/11

Hey, please remind me never to serve as a volunteer for one of those “here’s how a police dog catches the bad guys” demonstrations.

******

Ever had this happen to you?

Pulled into one of those quick oil change places the other day. A guy roughly my height, maybe an inch or two taller than I am, comes out to meet me, asks if I want the full service oil change. Then, of course, he gets in my car and drives it no more than 30 feet into the work bay.

After the oil change is complete, I get in the car to drive away and discover the driver’s side electronic seat control has been adjusted to the point it was better suited for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Damn near fell backwards when I sat down in the thing.
Not sure but I think even the rear view and electric side view mirror angles had been changed.

I realize even the fellas workin’ at the oil change joint deserve decent working conditions, but was all this really necessary to drive my car about 10 yards into the work bay?

Kinda took all the convenience out of that convenient oil change on the way to work.

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Slow economy? What slow economy? Many of the folks running your taxing entities don’t believe it’s a reality.

What is it with government agencies continuing to give salary increases to their employees while the private sector and typical hard-working families--who can’t mandate their revenue supply through that process known as taxes--slash expenses and budget their way through a sluggish economy? This is unreal.

The latest culprit is the Platte County R-3 School Board, who last week awarded what amounts to an average 3% raise for administrators and teachers. And support staff at R-3? They’ll get a 5% raise.

Slow economy? Your tax-supported entities apparently feel immune to it. They continue to reach inside your wallet.

The Platte County Republican Central Committee publicly chastised the Park Hill School Board for awarding pay increases to employees. Will the local GOP take a public stance on R-3’s decision?

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A patron of the North Platte School District approached The Landmark recently with concerns that members of the school board there appeared to be texting among themselves during the course of a recent board meeting during discussion of certain topics.

Of course there is no hard evidence that this is happening. If it is happening, is it illegal?
Recently, I put the question to Jean Maneke, Sunshine Law specialist for the Missouri Press Association. There is no easy answer.

“The question is, are they having conversations with more than a quorum? Are these messages going within a quorum of them? If so, then that becomes public information. If they are texting each other one at a time, if one person texted enough people to constitute a quorum, it could constitute (as an improper meeting) under the wagon wheel theory,” Maneke said, just thinking out loud during the course of our phone conversation.

It’s a tough situation. Legal or illegal, it should not be seen as acceptable for members of any public body to be holding private discussions in that manner, especially during the course of a meeting where decisions are supposedly being made in a very public way.

“It’s another example of how public body officials are looking for a way to get around the law,” Maneke said.

There’s an easy way for everybody to avoid potential legal discussions on this issue. Is it too much for the public to ask that its elected officials simply not engage in private communications among themselves on policy decisions? Save those talks for the public meetings. And those discussions should be spoken, not texted.

They weren’t elected to “talk” amongst themselves.

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Some folks like to say you can’t fight city hall. Most avid Landmark readers know better--many of you have fought city hall or some other government agency at one point or another. That’s one of the reasons you enjoy The Landmark.
Kevin Blacksher of Blacksher Trash Service that serves Parkville is one of the most recent examples that you can fight city hall. He helped rally public opposition to the recent proposal to mandate recycling under some form of “one-hauler” system. He called recently to graciously thank this newspaper for its coverage of that topic in Parkville. The day Blacksher called, city officials in Gladstone were set to discuss a similar proposal, where reportedly some opposition was coming forward in Happy Rock.

“This Parkville thing has reinvented the idea that you can get government to listen to you if you make enough noise,” Blacksher said.

******

Really not sure why, but many Between the Lines readers enjoy occasional updates in our series we’ve grown to call Grill Gone Wild. Jason Grill is the former state representative for southern Platte County. He had multiple behavioral incidents that put him in the spotlight while in office. He was edged last November by Ron Schieber.

What’s new with Grill these days? He campaigned long and hard for Mike Burke in this year’s Kansas City mayoral election. Burke lost, and as a result, he had no cushy job at KC City Hall to offer Grill. Also, friends of his say even though Grill is an attorney, he really doesn’t want to be. He has been applying for jobs in the public relations field. But most recently? A split with his girlfriend. The split was her idea, a person close to Grill says. “Some friends thought they would marry. I hoped for his sake they would,” says the Grill friend. Grill’s ex-gal pal has a position in PR/marketing with something called Sporting KC, which I’m told is a team affiliated with something called soccer.

(The end. Well, until next week. In the meantime, follow along at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


COULD THE SHIPPERT MURDER INVESTIGATION USE SOME HELP?

Posted 7/31/11

Instead of asking “Is it hot enough for ya?” how about this:

Is anybody else dreading opening that next electric bill?

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Readers are never left hungry after devouring an issue of The Landmark, and this week is no exception. We have a murder, the uncovering of alleged illegal substances at a Platte City business, the resignation of a city administrator, the suspension of a veteran law enforcement officer, pay raises dished out by another tax-supported institution, and so on and so on.

Sadly, one thing we’re not able to report is an arrest in the now two-month old murder investigation into the death of Alissa Shippert, 22, of Platte City. The Casey’s General Store employee was found on the bank of the Platte River inside the Platte Falls Conservation Area on June 1.

As is usually the case, I brought up the investigation in my weekly phone call to Cpt. Erik Holland, the handler of media inquiries for the sheriff’s department. Holland said there is nothing new to report. The longer that’s the case and the more often the public hears that there’s nothing new to report, the frustration and fear that the case will never be solved grows among the community.

That being the case, would it be beneficial if the sheriff’s department asked for assistance from outside agencies? What about calling in the well-known Metro Squad, made up of a team of special investigators from law enforcement agencies throughout the region?

“That was discussed in the beginning of this investigation,” Holland responded when I asked him about the possibility. “In the beginning we were working with a few different agencies and the case at the time didn’t rise to the level of being a Metro Squad case.”

Holland said there are certain factors surrounding a case that must be met before the Metro Squad can be called in. “But I couldn’t tell you what they (those factors) all are.”

He simply said the Shippert investigation “didn’t qualify.”

Fair enough. But if the possibility exists that the local guys can use some help, let’s hope they won’t be shy about asking for it. The victim’s family, friends and the general public deserve that much. If and when this case gets solved, it can’t, won’t and doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

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Hey, there’s great news at the blue desk that serves as Between the Lines headquarters inside the historic walls of The Landmark’s headquarters at 252 Main St. in beautiful downtown Platte City.

The statewide Better Newspaper Contest award winners have been announced. We’re proud to say The Landmark has been notified that it will receive nine--yes, that’s nine--awards this year. That’s nearly twice as many as any other Platte County newspaper. In fact, it’s nearly twice as many as all the other county newspapers combined.

I thought about giving you fake modesty right now but I just can’t.

The Missouri Press Association asks that newspapers not list their specific awards until after the statewide convention in September. Not wanting to shake the fine folks at the MPA, The Landmark will abide by their request. We will tease them, however, by saying The Landmark is a winner in the category recognized as judging the overall excellence of a newspaper. And these Landmark editorial pages you peruse each week are statewide winners in multiple categories. Also, don't be surprised in September if a certain cartoon guy--whose work you know and love--is a winner. Of course it goes without saying that our Missouri Hall of Fame photojournalist will grab some honors.

Pats on the back and cool iced tea from me to the entire staff. We’re proud to produce a newspaper of which our readers can be proud.

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West Platte Fire Protection board of directors is scheduled to meet tonight (Wednesday), with a likely topic being the department’s much-scrutinized response to the fatal fire at Old Geezer’s Mantiques on July 4. A home video shot for the first 12-14 minutes of West Platte’s arrival at the fire, while shop owner George Treese was losing his life inside the structure, has raised some questions about the sense of urgency and plan of attack used by the early arriving firefighters. And when I say sense of urgency, I don’t mean their arrival time. West Platte’s fire chief says her department was on the scene within six minutes of receiving the call, which is commendable. What is not commendable is the lack of urgency shown by the early arriving firefighters once they were on the scene.

The video remains posted on my Facebook page. Scroll down to the July 14 entry.
Ted Wilson of Weston made some excellent points in a public setting last week. Wilson explained that he ran for the fire board in April of 2010 and applied for an open seat on the board in July of 2010. He said his reason for wanting to be on the board was his concern about the staffing of the department. In a letter to the Weston Chronicle, Wilson said: “What needs to be done is a thorough review of board policies and how the fire district is managed performed by an independent entity not associated with West Platte or any other area fire department. Particular attention should be paid to the fact that other area departments are able to attract, train and retain volunteers and West Platte cannot.”

Wilson wrote what I thought was a most excellent point when he said that it would be a terrible mistake for the fire board to “sweep everything under the rug, defend the department’s actions and act like everything is OK. This is what has been done in the past and you see where we are now.”

Bingo.

It’s easy for elected officials--and even easier for some in the media--to pretend that everything is fine. Hopefully the light The Landmark’s coverage has helped shed on this situation, coupled with the common sense approach touted by people like Ted Wilson, will encourage the fire board to take concerns seriously and make positive adjustments.

(Random acts of journalistic justice are performed on a daily basis at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Follow along.)


LESS-THAN-CAREFUL DRIVERS WILL TAKE NOTE OF THIS

Posted 7/22/11

Kim Carnes, the raspy-voiced leggy blonde who was the singer of the smash hit “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes” 30 years ago as I was graduating high school, turns 66 today.

Say it ain’t so. All these years while I was growing older I thought Kim Carnes was staying the same age.

******

Good news for less-than-careful drivers in Platte County: You can be involved in a head-on crash while driving more than four feet left of center and escape without a criminal charge or traffic ticket of any type.

The precedent has been set.

For good measure, damage in the thousands of dollars to public property and injuries to five people still mean you’re in the clear of a criminal infraction.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of this information, see the front page story about the crash of the two Central Platte fire trucks. One truck was being driving 4’6” left of center at time of impact. No charges, no traffic tickets.

******

Strange. The motoring public has always been under the impression that every driver has a legal responsibility to maintain control of his vehicle at all times.

Apparently under some up-till-now little known traffic law in Platte County, if your vehicle is four and a half feet left of center you are still considered to be in control of your vehicle.

A lot of drivers will be filing away this tidbit of knowledge for future reference.

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Even if, as some like to claim, this crash occurred on a blind curve (it didn’t, I was at the scene, the crash was beyond the alleged ‘blind curve’), that doesn’t change the facts uncovered by the sheriff department’s crash team, which show Engine 94 to be 4’6” across the center line at the time of impact.

Breaking news: If you’re driving four feet left of center, you’re driving four feet left of center. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a blind curve or a perfect straightaway.

******

Consider this: Vehicles pass one another coming from opposite directions on alleged ‘blind curves’ every day. What would you guess, 99% of them do not crash head-on?

You know why? Because 99% of the time neither driver has his vehicle 4’6” left of center.

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A former fighter of many fires, now retired, stopped in The Landmark office to view the video of the West Platte Fire District’s response to the blaze in which a downtown Weston businessman perished on July 4. Owner George Treese of Old Geezer’s Mantiques called 911 from inside the structure before succumbing to the fire.

The video can be viewed on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/ivanfoley. As remarked here last week, the video shows West Platte firefighters with no sense of urgency as they arrive on the scene of a fire where they know--or should have known, as the dispatcher’s over-the-air call had advised--a person was inside. A sense of confusion would be a better description of the firefighters’ reaction.

The veteran firefighter watched the video at my desk. About five minutes into the 12 or 14 minute video--after confusion, hesitancy, and problems getting water on the fire were evident--this man’s comment was: “It has been a circus of errors so far.”

Later in the video, after mutual aid from Central Platte’s department has arrived on the scene and the plan of attack takes on a form of effectiveness and competency, the veteran firefighting leader remarked: “West Platte’s guys are doing a good job of staying out of the way.”

West Platte spent many minutes unsuccessfully getting water on the fire, either from the hydrant or from its truck. Even without water, there should have been a rescue effort of a human life attempted.

“At minimum, the first two guys should have attached themselves to one another and got down on their bellies to see how far they could get into the building” in an attempt to locate and rescue the man known to have been inside, this veteran firefighter told me.

If you haven’t watched the video, do so. But be forewarned. It’s uncomfortable to watch the hesitancy and confusion by the early arriving firefighters while knowing that a man inside the building is losing his life.

******

The Humane Society advises that in periods of excessive heat alerts like the one we’re in right now, you should treat your pets the same you would treat yourself.

So that means tonight my dog will sweat his ass of while working in the yard and then he and I will both be sucking down a large Pepsi float while chilling in the living room recliner with the Royals game on TV and the air conditioner running full blast.

******

Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong is due at Stanford and Sons Comedy Club in Kansas City Aug. 12 and 13. Local authorities destroyed those thousands of marijuana plants just in time.

******

Good seats for the July 30 roast of radio personality Chris Stigall at Tiffany Greens Golf Club are still available. You’re invited to come see if any of us doing the roasting can humble the man in any way, shape or form. Reservations can be made by calling 816-248-4248.

If you don’t make it out to see this in person you’ll have to wait for the full length motion picture. Or the reality TV show, whichever comes first.

(You never have to wait a week for more Between the Lines. Follow the daily commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or befriend Foley on Facebook)


FIRE RESPONSE LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED; STIGALL PRIMED FOR ROAST

Posted 7/14/11

Next year’s Major League All-Star Game is in Kansas City, folks. I’m pumped about it, but I’m just hoping next year’s game is more attention-holding than Tuesday night’s snoozefest from Arizona. A boring contest coupled with some DirecTV outages because of a storm blowing through at the time made it tougher than ever to absorb the smugness that seeps through your television every time Fox broadcaster Joe Buck calls a game.

The Royals’ representative, rookie pitcher Aaron Crow, didn’t even get in the game for a chance to balk in the winning run.

******

On Tuesday, The Landmark was provided a copy of that soon-to-go viral 12-14 minute home video of the Fourth of July fire that claimed the life of George Treese, owner of Old Geezer Mantiques in downtown Weston. To say the response and early actions of West Platte firefighters is disappointing is an understatement. I was embarrassed for those guys and can fully understand why friends and family of Treese may want to be raising some questions about the quality of response.

Let’s review some of the basic facts here. It was around 6 p.m. on the Fourth of July. I heard the fire call come across the police scanner. The dispatcher gave the details, including the fact that a person “may still be inside” the building. Lynn Johnson, West Platte Fire Department chief, boasts that her department arrived on the scene within six minutes and had the fire “knocked down” in 30 minutes.

Okay. Nice that you can quote those numbers, chief. But what about the human life that was being taken during that time? After West Platte firefighters arrived on the scene, the video shows absolutely no sense of urgency on the part of the early arriving firefighters. Were they not aware the call for help had come from inside the building? Weston Police Chief Terry Blanton last week told me the fire call had been made by Treese himself from inside the building. Treese even told dispatchers which door help should come through.

The video shows there’s a lot of standing around by some West Platte firemen, who seemed to be unaware of the seriousness or puzzled by what approach to take. There was trouble getting water to start flowing through the hose. Maybe they were simply convinced--rightly or wrongly--that they should not enter that smoke-filled building to try to find Treese. Or maybe they were scared to do the job they’ve signed up to do.

A former Central Platte firefighter called me this week to say that West Platte’s fire department in the past has been notorious for waiting on Central Platte to show up on a mutual aid call to do the heavy lifting, so to speak. The video, a copy of which is now in The Landmark’s possession and posted on my Facebook page, seems to back up that claim.

Hell, if a call came into Central Platte’s cowboys about a structure fire with a person still in the building, I’d be worried the sense of urgency would be so great they’d crash four trucks on the way. But I would not be worried that any firefighter on Central Platte would hesitate to enter a burning building if at all possible, knowing there was a chance a human life could be saved. West Platte’s guys stood around like they were smoking a brisket and getting ready to crack open a Bud Light.

******

You can bet this topic--and a discussion of the video-- will come up later this month at a meeting of the West Platte Fire District board of directors. The Landmark will be there.

******

And what about that new West Platte Fire District headquarters building along Hwy. 45? Criminy, have you seen that thing? Looking at the exterior, it is far and away the most luxurious structure in the city of Weston. All brick. Huge. It’s like a government-funded castle. Are the toilets gold-plated in that place?

All I can say is don’t let the Platte County R-3 school administrators see the new West Platte fire building. They’ll be jealous and will want a new Taj Majal of their own.

******

Hot shot radio mega-star Chris Stigall, formerly one of us little people here in the Kansas City market but now a big fish in the big pond of Philadelphia, will come bouncing his way back to our area soon.

As you’ll see on our front page this week, somehow the folks at an outfit called the Missourians For Conservative Values convinced Stigall to allow himself to be roasted at a fundraiser set for July 30 at Tiffany Greens Golf Club. I don’t know anything about the sponsoring Missourians For Conservative Values political action committee, but when I heard proceeds from this no-holds-barred cage match will go to something called the Show Me A Conservative election fund, I could not turn down their invitation to take part as one of the roasters.

Some of the ads for this event say “join us as we roast and toast” Chris Stigall. Listen, I don’t know who’s planning on handling the toasting end of things, but I was specifically asked to be a roaster. I didn’t get the memo about toast. So I’ll be a good soldier and plan to do as I was asked. Something tells me bulldog political strategist Jeff Roe--it’s never a good idea to get crossways with that man--will take a similar approach.

Fatherly figure Jack Cashill may spend his speaking time deconstructing Obama or trying to peddle his book of the same name. I don’t know money man Chris Butler, host of a financial show on KCMO 710 AM, but hope to be able to ask him for some stock tips. Greg Knapp, who took over Stigall’s morning slot at KCMO 710 when Chris left for the big payday, will also be on hand. A lot of Landmark readers have told me they enjoy Knapp’s show. This will be my first visit with the new guy.

Most of the toasting, I’m guessing, will come from the soft-hearted Paige Powers, former news anchor during Stigall’s show and a longtime friend of the former man-of-the-people now man-of-the-hour.

Please join us for a night of fun and friendly barbs. I just hope the room at Tiffany Greens will be large enough to hold all the egos.

(Get smart remarks and news 24/7 from Ivan Foley at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and friend him on Facebook. Or don’t.)


MURDER CASE FRUSTRATING TO PUBLIC, AUTHORITIES

Posted 7/8/11

The public is getting frustrated by the lack of an arrest in the murder of Alissa Shippert. The investigation, now starting its sixth week, has prompted rumors--some which may contain bits of truth, others that likely contain no truth at all--but no charges. The slow release of information about the case back in its early days caused some frustration directed at the sheriff’s department, and the apparent lack of progress in the case has fueled that feeling among some folks.

It could be the detectives are running into dead ends. Or it could be they know where they’re headed, just working methodically to dot some i’s and cross some t’s. Or it could be the truth is somewhere in between.

Maybe I’m reading too much into one comment spoken to me by Cpt. Erik Holland this week. All I know is that I am choosing to take this as a positive. In my weekly call-in to the captain, I asked about any new leads or new information. That question led basically nowhere, so I followed it up and Holland offered this much: “They’re still looking at a person of interest.”

That comment can be taken a number of ways, anywhere from being basically meaningless to perhaps meaning authorities feel like they have their suspect in their sights.

Regardless of how one interprets it, let’s hope the person who committed the despicable crime is eventually captured and prosecuted to the fullest extent.

******

Some things never change. Bureaucrats and big government types have always sought cushy positions. And apparently, The Landmark has always been around to expose them for it.

Let me explain.

Robert Eckert of Platte City, history buff and longtime member of the Platte County Historical Society, occasionally drops by The Landmark office to supply me with historical nuggets he comes upon during his research. This week, he furnished me with a quip from The Landmark. More accurately, the March 13, 1922 issue of the Chillicothe Constitution newspaper had quoted the editor of The Platte County Landmark from a piece entitled ‘Where the tax money will go.’ The Landmark’s 1922 comment went like this:

“The job hunters are on the trail of positions early, applying for places as clerks, stenographers, etc. at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates are already receiving applications. Most of the applicants are from Jefferson City and from those who have for many years known nothing else save some soft job to be awarded by state officials. They are chronic feeders at the public pie counter.”

You gotta love it. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

******

Major breaking news. Well, kinda.

Buffy Smith of Platte City, field representative for Congressman Sam Graves, is a new momma. Buffy and hubby Matt are the proud parents of Kathryn (Kate) Ann Smith, born Saturday, June 25, 10:33 p.m. at Liberty Hospital. Kate checked in at seven pounds, four ounces, and 19.5 inches long.

Buffy’s absence from the congressman’s office means the field rep duties now will be handled by Jason Klindt, who also is Graves’ communications director. Upon intense media questioning, Klindt says the doubling of his duties has not resulted in the doubling of his salary.

It’ll take some doing for Klindt to live up to Buffy’s quality of performance as field rep, which Klindt likes to describe as “extremely adequate.”

******

Apparently the rumors are getting, pardon the pun, fairly ridiculous.

The Platte County Fair is fighting rumors that this year’s fair has already been canceled, rumors that this year’s fair has been moved to later in the year, rumors that this year’s fair will be hot (wait, that’s not a rumor), etc. Truth is, according to fair board president Howard Prost, no changes in schedule or location are planned, at least not yet.

As you know, the fairgrounds can be victimized by flooding during years of high rainfall, and now obiously in years of bad Missouri River management by the Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless, the fair is set to go on just as originally planned. I’ll let Prost tell you:

“All plans are on to run the fair as scheduled. However, we are told the fairgrounds will most likely be under water at some point in July. If this occurs, we are looking at several options of how to run the fair: streamlined on the original weekend? Moved to the last weekend of August? Moved to an alternate location? All options are on the table, but the current plan is that THE FAIR WILL HAPPEN, ON THE FAIRGROUNDS, AS SCHEDULED: JULY 20-23!”

And hey, you know when a guy puts it in all caps and adds an exclamation point, he really means what he says, right?

******

Independence Day will forever prompt a bad memory for the survivors of a Weston man who tragically perished Monday night. Sincerest sympathy to the family of George Treese, who was killed in a fire at his place of business in downtown Weston the evening of July 4. Treese lived in the back portion of his Old Geezers Mantiques shop at 540 Main. Investigators say Treece called in the fire, even telling authorities which door to come in, but apparently had no path to escape before being overcome by smoke inhalation.

******

The July 4 fire at Weston is just another example of why you need to be following The Landmark on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. We were the first media outlet to break the news of the blaze. A bit later while others were incorrectly reporting there were no injuries, The Landmark was sending out a tweet stating this newspaper was getting reports the fire had claimed a human life. About that time I was messaged by a Kansas City television reporter saying: “My station is sending me out there based solely on your tweet.”

Turned out to be a wise move by the station honcho.

(Do what the news bosses and news junkies do. Follow The Landmark at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook)


TOM HUTSLER DESERVES AN ATTABOY; CHANGE NEEDED AT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Posted 7/2/11

Tom Hutsler, chairman of the Parkville’s Fourth of July event, is an outspoken person. There’s nothing wrong with that--in fact, it’s a positive. Outspoken folks who aren’t afraid to deliver strong opinions are smart enough to expect some blowback. It’s a given that comes with the territory. The pushback comes in a variety of ways, but the experienced ones accept it as the nature of the business.

Hutsler, who has been through a tussle or two, got a little pushback from certain folks who wanted to criticize the decision for Parkville’s Fourth of July event to partner with Riverside to help pull off this year’s festival. It is a bit surprising to me that there was some criticism of the work that Hutsler, Carol Kuhns and others put in to forge the partnership. With flood waters still at bay but still providing a potential threat to a long-by-now sandbagged downtown Parkville, there really was no way the Fourth celebration could go on as usual. The partnership Hutsler and the gang created with Riverside and Park Hill South High School was nothing short of a perfect alternative.
“Sure, Main Street Parkville Association is about downtown Parkville, but we’re about the community as well,” Hutsler said when I asked him about it this week. “The whole theme is we’re giving back. We didn’t want to cancel. We want to keep the tradition alive.”

Any criticism of the MSPA partnering with Park Hill South High School for the carnival events and for the fireworks viewing seems misplaced. Students from Parkville attend Park Hill South, after all. More importantly, it’s 2011. This isn’t a geographically segregated society. Business services and community involvement and support are not--and should not--be limited by geographic boundaries or lines of residency. To think otherwise in this day and age is about as small-minded as one could get.

Kudos to Hutsler and his committee for pulling this thing off under trying circumstances in a challenging summer.

******

As expected, Platte City’s Board of Aldermen renewed its $10,000 wasted investment in the arrogantly and ineffectively-led, membership-losing organization that is the Platte Chamber of Commerce. On the bright side, cutting the $10,000 check to this ineffectively-managed chamber is better than using 10,000 taxpayer dollars as kindling at the next chamber weenie roast. But not by much.

We can argue all day over whether a city should be using tax dollars to directly fund a chamber of commerce. Despite the convoluted info supplied by a public relations bureaucrat from KCP&L, it’s not common for cities--especially one the size of Platte City--to be forking over $10,000 annually to a chamber of commerce. Typically doesn’t happen, folks. Parkville doesn’t do it.

What also doesn’t happen--or at least shouldn’t happen--is for a membership-losing organization to be raising membership fees while giving raises to its ineffective staff. A better use of the money that’s being spent on staff pay raises would be to send each chamber staffer to a month’s worth of charm school. Chamber leaders are supposed to be salespeople for the business community, always asking what the chamber can do to assist entire business community. This chamber’s often-abrasive method is to approach a business to ask: What can you do for the chamber?

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how much money the city gives to the current chamber. As a Platte City alderperson told me after Tuesday night’s meeting--an alderperson who voted in favor of giving the $10,000 by the way--the problem isn’t so much the money, the problem the public has with the chamber is the staff. Bingo. That’s kinda what we’ve been talking about in this column for a couple of weeks now. It was refreshing to hear an alderperson say that. It would be more refreshing if the alderperson had the intestinal fortitude to say it publicly instead of whispering it to me after the meeting is already adjourned.

The worst-kept secret among chamber members--and by the way, The Landmark has been a member of the Chamber since 1979, longer than any other media outlet-- is that the executive director and a few other chamber leaders have an inner clique to whom they like to cater. It’s like junior high or high school all over again. Talk privately to representatives from various industries--they’ll tell you the chamber has favorites that it caters to in every industry. Those in the loop already know this. Not only is this a childish practice, but more importantly it is completely unacceptable to allow chamber staff to play games of favoritism while taking $10,000 from the taxpayers to help them do so.

So the bottom line is this chamber leadership is not using your money efficiently or wisely, and on top of that they continue to whiz down the backs of some folks while trying to convince them it’s raining.

Nothing will be any different until leadership at the chamber is changed. Executive director Karen Wagoner’s abrasive and arrogant method of operation may be starting to catch up to her. Showing up as Wagoner’s posse of support at Tuesday night’s meeting were only the public relations suit from KCP&L and a local attorney who is an unabashed political liberal. That may not be a good sign.

Membership in the chamber is down by four percent. There are rumblings in the ranks that several more members are ready to drop from the rolls. There are whispers that a focused group would like to form a new organization if the chamber doesn’t move from this rut. Change is needed. Next year, aldermen can force that change by requiring it as a stipulation before handing over $10,000 in taxpayer cash.

******

Here’s a thought to ponder.

If the city is going to continue to give $10,000 of our general public tax money to the chamber of commerce, then the city should require that the chamber allow the general public to have direct input in selecting future boards of directors. Require that future boards have at least a couple non-traditional members from the taxpayer member base as opposed to traditional direct-dues paying members. In other words, taxpayers should get board members separate from the fanny-kissing back-scratching crowd.
It’s the least the city could do after having started the bad practice of subsidizing non-governmental organizations. Though the city may claim its $10,000 is going to only economic development, let’s be real. All the money is going into one chamber pot. Every tax dollar helps the chamber fund ridiculous and arrogant decisions, such as the one to raise salaries of staff while memberships are dropping.

It’s an upside down world.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook and follow his rants and whimsical remarks at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


CHAMBER'S DIRECTION SPARKING SOME NEGATIVE FEELINGS

Posted 6/25/11

Every time I hear the hit song Rolling in the Deep by Adele, I get the urge to strap on a pair of assless chaps and gallop bareback on a fast horse, swinging the whip from one side of the pony to the other.

Okay, before you pull my man card, let me clarify I was just kidding about the assless chaps. But the rest of that is dead-on.

A galloping pony just seems to fit the beat in the chorus of that song. I even motioned my way through a dance to that effect when the song came on the radio last week while our staff was mailing papers. Daughter Alyssa and office manager Cindy both gave it a thumbs down, though truthfully I think they’re just jealous of my moves.

****

Sarah Steelman, former state treasurer who now is hoping to be the Republican nominee to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012, was in Zona Rosa for a meeting Tuesday afternoon. She came walking in the front door of The Landmark unannounced (and let it be clear we’re bragging, not complaining). Oh sure, the conversation could have focused on politics if we wanted, but there was a more important item to address: She’ll be the featured speaker when the Savannah Reporter celebrates its 135th birthday. That celebration will be Thursday, July 7, from 3-5 p.m. in the Savannah Reporter parking lot, which I’m speculating is a fine parking lot paved in silver and gold.

Anyway, I’ll be there for the shindig on July 7. You know who else will be there? Some dude playing live music. More importantly, also on hand will be Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who is a Savannah native. Zahnd will be the first of three or four speakers that day, with Steelman batting clean-up in that department.

Publisher Guy Speckman and staff of the Reporter will be serving weenies, which will give it kind of a Platte City Chamber of Commerce feel.

Let’s load up a bunch of Landmark readers and make Guy buy another pack or two of ball park franks that day.

******

As we opined here last week, it seems a very inappropriate time for the Platte City Chamber of Commerce to be raising membership dues by $25 across the board, at all its various levels of membership. The chamber has already dropped in members by 4% from this time last year, and if the scuttlebutt I’m picking up is accurate, they were going to lose some more even before the rate hike was announced. A fee increase in a down economy is likely to push even a few more out the door.

At least that’s how most business folks would see it. The minds at the chamber apparently see it differently. Karen Wagoner, the highly compensated executive director for the chamber, told reporter PJ Rooks that cutting services might have been an option, “but in a down economy, I don’t think cutting services is the answer.”

Huh? Someone explain that logic to me. The economy is down. Business for the chamber is down. And the answer is to spend more instead of cutting expenses (payroll, perhaps?) This sounds like a typical free-spending liberal approach to government, and since the chamber annually receives $10,000 in taxpayer cash, let’s call it what it is.

Accountability needs to come into play here. We can criticize Wagoner for being very Keith Moody-like in her handling of folks whom she doesn’t view as part of her inner circle, and we can criticize Wagoner for lacking the kind of captivating personality it takes to be an effective salesperson for the local business community. Both of those criticisms, in fact, if we were to make them (and I’m pretty sure I just did), would be valid. But the real problem is over the last several years the chamber has had a timid board of directors who let Wagoner run the show without questioning her approach.

The abrasive style is divisive to those in the community--and within the chamber’s own membership base--who have no interest in kissing up. As evidenced by the way the chamber is run, either board members are intimidated by Wagoner for whatever reason, or the board members simply just want “chamber of commerce board member” to appear on their resume and have no interest in making tough decisions, so they let the director run the show.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. The board is supposed to be the boss. The director is supposed to answer to the board. At Platte City, the chain of command has been turned upside down for years. It’s so blatantly obvious that many folks in the community chuckle about it. But no board member wants to do anything to change it, apparently. Again, Wagoner isn’t to blame for this. Hey, if an employee can intimidate her bosses into giving her anything she wants and let her run roughshod, that says more about the bosses than it does the employee.

The chamber won’t reach its full potential as an organization until this approach is corrected.

******

Since the chamber wants to spend more while losing members, it’s time to take a hard look at its budget. Of the proposed $125,000 in income projected for 2011-12, nearly $80,000 of that will be spent on salaries and benefits for the chamber’s staff. Wagoner is full time, and there are two paid part-time employees. All three of the employees get an IRA benefit. Wagoner also gets a life insurance policy benefit. The chamber has lost 4% in memberships but it will spend 2% more on salaries and benefits in the coming year than it did last year.

If you have an interest in this topic--say, for instance, you’re a member of the board of aldermen who will be voting on whether to approve another $10,000 in taxpayer cash (which is something no other area chamber receives--it is a sign of a bizarre world that Platte City’s chamber receives taxpayer funding) you should take time to study the chamber’s proposed budget.

To me, it looks like Wagoner is overstating projected income. For instance, she is budgeting for membership staying at 250. Only time will tell, of course, but that could be very wishful thinking. She is also budgeting $2,000 in income from selling advertising on the chamber web site, which by the way will be redesigned this year at a cost of $6,000, with $3,000 coming from KCP&L. More importantly, look through the expense lines. As anyone with experience in budgeting knows, the easiest places to cut are the areas where the largest expense occurs. That area is salaries. No cutting going on there. In fact, the opposite.

It’s no wonder there is talk around town of a new progressive economic development organization forming. More on that if it becomes a reality.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook and follow his running commentary 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


EVERY ACTION BRINGS A REACTION; A TALE OF TWO CHAMBERS

Posted 6/17/11

Kids, I don’t mean to brag, but I can make my left big toe pop anytime I want just by moving it.

******

Every action brings a reaction.

That’s what happened at Parkville in recent days. Last week the town was abuzz with flood preparation that seemed to be taking place with the highest sense of urgency. Officials put out calls for volunteers to help with sandbagging the lower level of downtown. Responding to cries for help that a quaint corner of the world might be ending as we know it, hundreds of caring people showed up. Some of the media, of course, played it up like property and human life were already in grave danger. A possible reason for that could be because they were given that impression by those who were making the calls for help. Calmer heads, of course, realized this is a potential flood, not a potential tornado. Those who have previously dealt with situations like this realized that floods don’t drop out of a cloud at a moment’s notice. Typically there is time to prepare in an orderly manner. No need to lose control of our bladders over it.

As of early this week, TV news crews were still doing some morning reports standing by the wall of sandbags. In the background of the camera shots, downtown looked deserted. Because it was.

It seems the urgent action--and perhaps it would never be fair to go so far as to call it an over-reaction, because a lack of any preparation in situations like this could end up making one look like a dumbass--caused an unwanted reaction. Consumers throughout the area had read, heard, seen the news coverage and were aware of the warnings being put out by local officials. The general belief among shoppers and diners became that the entire landscape in and around downtown Parkville was a freaking disaster area, best to be visited only by folks with fresh Tetanus shots and haz mat suits.
Late last week, there were even erroneous reports circulating that many businesses had already closed out of fear they would end up as part of a scene from Underwater World, that bad Kevin Costner movie America has done its best to forget.

So some damage control came into play this week. The same folks who had contacted the media requesting disaster preparation help were now contacting the media for help in getting this message out: “Hey, downtown Parkville is open for business.”

The Parkville Chamber of Commerce, to its credit, is now buying advertising promoting the town’s business district and letting consumers know that Parkville and most of its merchants are still open for business and they would love for you to come visit.

No updated Tetanus shot or haz mat suit required.

******

We’ll be taking this Between the Lines traveling circus out on the speaking circuit over the next few months. Details coming soon.

One place we won’t be able to take the road show is the KCI Rotary Club. The invitation from the KCI club had to be turned down. Seems their meetings are at noon on a Wednesday. Around here, we’re kinda tied up at noon on Wednesdays. Something to do with a newspaper deadline. Very thankful to have received the invitation, however, and sent word that if their meetings are ever moved to a different time, we’ll gladly do our best to provide oratory excellence.

******

So while the Parkville Chamber of Commerce is spending money to promote its merchants, what is the Platte City Chamber of Commerce up to these days?
Well, they’ll be grilling wienies this Thursday.

Oh, and they’re raising membership fees.

Membership count in the Platte City Chamber is down four percent from last year. The board of directors response to this slide? Raise membership fees into the club.
Now maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t sound like a winning business model. Most businesses when faced with a decline in activity, in fact, would cut rates, not increase them. But this isn’t real business. This is chamber leadership that at times appears to be in love with itself. This is a chamber that isn’t shy about asking--and receiving--$10,000 in taxpayer money from the city of Platte City each year. And yet, when faced with declining membership at the same time it says its expenses are increasing, what is the response?

Obviously, there are two choices. The chamber board has decided to try the easy way out by asking for more money from its members. The more fiscally responsible thing to do in a down economy, of course, would be to cut expenses. But that would take some tough decisions. Heck, somebody’s feelings might get hurt if somebody’s hours in an overstaffed office had to be cut . And we sure wouldn’t want that, would we?

Adam McGinness, at least until Thursday when his term is set to expire, is president of the chamber board of directors. I caught up with McGinness by phone this week. He is unapologetic about the board’s decision to hike its membership fees. It’s a dangerous approach in this business climate. It borders on being a display of out-of-touch arrogance. Last year, there were 260 memberships. This year, 250.

Is the board concerned memberships will drop even more with the higher fees?

“That wasn’t a big concern. We’ve all been a part of it long enough. . . most people that don’t renew are people who have gone out of business,” McGinness said.

Ah, I’m not so sure about that. I recall writing an editorial last year after being contacted by a spokesperson for a group of business owners who were making an organized effort not to renew their chamber memberships. Chamber leaders at the time publicly denied they were losing membership numbers. Now, the chamber admits it is down by four percent in members but says it is because of folks who have gone out of business. Hmm.

Regardless, this much is certain: Since the chamber annually receives $10,000 in taxpayer cash to help run its operation, it needs to make sure it is as fiscally-responsible as possible. And since it receives tax dollars, the chamber should make a concerted effort to promote all businesses in the city, not just those who have paid a membership fee.

Something tells me this topic will come up again. There are many more angles to be pursued if it does.

(Befriend Ivan Foley at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or follow his daily musings on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Send email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


GRAVES ANXIOUS TO CHEW ON THE CORPS; SCHOOL TAX ALERT

Posted 6/17/11

The temperature is high yet the water level is higher. At least it is in Parkville and some other areas of Platte County.

As you’re well aware by now, Parkville is in the middle of a massive flood preparation effort, with thousands of sandbags being filled to prepare for predicted conditions that will place English Landing Park underwater and threaten at least the lower portions of the city’s Main Street in its historic downtown.

It ain’t fun and games. But fun and games are part of the problem, according to Congressman Sam Graves. Graves for years now has been hammering on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the way it regulates the flow of the Missouri River. Last week, the Corps announced it would increase the volume of water being released from dams along the river to historic levels. The Corps says the problem began last year with record snowfall and was made worse this spring by heavy rains in the upper basin. The release will likely force water over the top of levees throughout Missouri. “It could cause the type of flooding we haven’t seen since 1993,” Graves said.

Part of the problem, Graves told me in a phone conversation on Monday, is that the Corps worries too much about upsetting the recreational activities of folks up north. “Reservoirs are designed for flood control. Originally, the Corps would deplete them in the winter time and have storage space when spring rains came. Anymore they don’t want to upset anybody by lowering levels too much because (recreational boaters have) docks in the water. They try to hedge themselves and only try to lower it as much as they think is needed. Then they say they weren’t expecting it to rain that much. . . they said the same thing last year,” said Graves with obvious frustration in his voice.

“The interesting thing is this year, they have so much water up there they’re not letting anybody on the lakes because the levels are too high. They can’t ever get it right,” he told me. “We go through this it seems like every single year. Let’s not worry so much about people’s docks out of the water and worry about more serious things.”

“We’re gonna have to change the way they manage the river. This is just ridiculous,” he said.

Preach on, Brother Sam.

Graves extended an invite to the head honcho of the Corps of Engineers to come tour some of the local flood-threatened areas this week. On Friday, one of the top dogs--though not the top dog--joined Graves and Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins on a tour that Graves hopes will help the Corps “better understand how their decision impacts landowners in Missouri and Kansas.”

That’s good news. But the bad news is it is probably too late to do anything to help prevent flooding this year.

******

With the imminent high water in areas of the county and the investigation into the mysterious murder case near Platte City, now more than ever you’ll want to stay abreast of local news updates by following The Landmark on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley

We’ll also occasionally post updates on Facebook.com/ivanfoley, but for breaking news you’ll always get it first at our Twitter page. It’s a must to follow us there if you want to be on top of the latest news and commentary.

******

Separated at birth?

I mentioned last week Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harmon and former Platte County Commissioner Michael Short appear to be twins. One of the ‘separated at birth?’ submissions sent to me by a reader this week was this one: “I’ve never met (Landmark columnist) Brian Kubicki in person, but when I was looking at the Nick and Jake’s photos on page A-10 last week, I thought for a brief moment that Hearne Christopher was standing next to Jeff Foxworthy.”

Bingo. We’ve talked about that one in the office many times. Check last week’s issue or the pictures on our Facebook page if you didn’t catch the Kubicki/Foxworthy resemblance the first time around. It is striking.

*******

One more separated at birth sent in by a reader this week. “How about (former Platte City Mayor) Dave Brooks and Kid Shelleen, which is Lee Marvin’s character in Cat Ballou?”

I’m not familiar with Cat Ballou, so this one is left in the hands of loyal Between the Lines readers. Do we have a valid separated at birth observation here?

******

Shameful that Park Hill is talking a possible tax increase just a couple of months after selling its patrons on a “no tax increase” bond issue passed by voters in April. See PJ Rooks’ story on the tax talk at Park Hill in this issue.

So what about at Platte County R-3? Is a tax hike on the horizon? Does not look like it, according to a conversation I had with R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik on Tuesday.
“I think we’re fine budgeting for flat (keeping the tax levy the same),” Reik said. Flat was a common word in our conversation. Assessed valuation within the district “will be pretty flat,” Reik said. Preliminary assessed valuation numbers for the Platte County portion of the school district suggest very little growth, he said, with only about $3 million worth of new construction.

But as for a tax increase? Not likely, Reik said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at. But it all comes down to after (tax appeals are heard) and the Hancock Amendment adjusts our (tax) ceiling.”

Stay tuned.

******

I have fascinating information on a new way a local entity’s governing body may be using to try to circumvent the Missouri Sunshine Law. I’ll share that with you next week. . .unless breaking news changes it all.

Until then, stay dry. And stay alert.

(Always working, always on. Twitter.com/ivanfoley, Facebook.com/ivanfoley, ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


147 YEARS OF DEFENDING
THE CAUSE OF
THE PEOPLE

From 6/1/11 issue

Separated at birth.

Every time I see Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harmon on the tube he reminds me of former Platte County Commissioner Michael Short.

******

Got your own ‘Separated at birth?’ observations? Send them to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and I’ll work them in this column space.

******

A great crowd turned out Thursday night for the Patio Kickoff party at Nick and Jake’s-Parkville presented by The Landmark.

A good time seemed to be had by all. The accommodating staff at Nick and Jake’s took great care to make everyone feel at home, at one point scrambling to gather more tables and chairs for the folks who filled both levels of the impressively-designed and decorated new patio area.

The live music provided by Sean McNown, one of Kansas City’s best acoustic solo guitarist/vocalist, was outstanding, even prompting a few unexpected dance moves. For photo coverage of the event, check out page A-10 of this issue. You can view even more pictures of the fun at Facebook.com/ivanfoley.

If you haven’t befriended me yet on Facebook, you’ll want to do that if for no other reason than to view some of the dance move photos.

******

Several Landmarkers made it out for the Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff, which is the first of many joint events on the horizon between the cornerstone business at Parkville Commons and the cornerstone of Platte County journalism.

KC Confidential columnist Hearne Christopher and secret date spent a good deal of time visiting with attendees. Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki and his surgically repaired Achilles tendon toughed it out and seemed to have a good time, as did our Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Famer Bill Hankins. Landmark interns past and present, including newcomer Jared Speckman, took in the atmosphere. Office manager Cindy Rinehart and I arrived at 6 p.m. and grabbed spots on the patio. By 7 p.m. I was getting texts from other arrivals at the Nick and Jake’s lobby saying “they’re telling us the patio is full.”

The classy furniture, the impressive landscaping and the overall atmosphere will make the Nick and Jake’s patio a perfect spot to unwind on a summer evening.
Great turnout, great fun. Make plans to join us the next time The Landmark and Nick and Jake’s team up for an event.

More details coming soon.

******

Guess how many elected officials from the city of Parkville showed up to say hi at The Landmark/Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff?

The first 10 people to tell me the right amount--and the names of the Parkville elected who showed--will earn a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. Email your answer to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

******

He may not know it until he reads this, but new intern Jared Speckman, after hitting a home run with his first story (city administrator takes issue with Chamber survey--May 18 issue), will now be branching off into a sports theme for his next couple of stories, which will be of the human interest variety.

That’s what we call a tease.

******

A couple of weeks ago, The Landmark noted the beginning of its 147th year of consecutive weekly publication. With that in mind, it seems an appropriate time to look back at this newspaper’s beginning. Talk of the early days of The Landmark is a fascinating local topic.

Here’s a bit of what the fine editor of The Landmark wrote 140 years ago, way back on Sept. 29, 1871, as The Landmark was beginning its seventh year of publication:

“The establishment of a Democratic paper in this part of Missouri was even then, though the last rebel army in the country had surrendered three months before, an undertaking attended with great danger. Only a little more than a year before that, the Platte County Sentinel, a paper published in this city, by as true a Union man and patriot as ever breathed, had been destroyed by the soldiers, instigated by some Radical members of the Union League, because of its bold and manly denunciation of the thieving and robbery then perpetrated under the cloak of “loyalty.” And even as late as October 1865, when the first (issue) of The Landmark appeared, the office was threatened with destruction, and one prominent member of the Union League, a Radical “loyalist,” publicly proclaimed his readiness to assist in throwing the office into the river.

“The Radicals had entire control of all the public patronage. Every county office, save that of Probate Judge, was held by appointment from Fletcher under the ousting ordinance. Business was paralyzed and many people were even afraid to have a Democratic paper in their house, for fear some Radical thief or ruffian should make it a pretense for robbing or insulting him.

“Nevertheless, The Landmark flourished. Precious little of the public patronage did it get, but it defended the cause of the people and they sustained it liberally. It was shortly enlarged from a seven column paper and was, some months ago, again enlarged to its present size. Six years ago it was supported by the people because they wanted a Democratic organ. They support it now because they need it and must have it if they would know what is going on in the county.”

How many times over the past 147 years has local history repeated itself? The Landmark’s 147 years of uninterrupted publication is proof you can never go wrong defending the cause of the people. Making the comfortable uncomfortable ruffles some feathers, but that’s what defending the cause of the people is all about.

(Help defend the cause of the people by following the adventures of a Landmark publisher at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


IT'S A WEEK FOR PARTIES ON THE PATIO, A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT WAYS

From 5/25/11 issue

 

Made a trip to the Power and Light District (or as a guy I know jokingly refers to it, the Power and White District) over the weekend.

I’ve decided the PBR Bar is the Platte City Pool Hall on steroids.

******

With the utter devastation in Joplin caused by the massive tornado Sunday night, it seems an appropriate time to salute and mention the work of some area emergency responders.

One responder that should be mentioned is the Riverside police officer in a fight for his life after being hit by lightning in Joplin. He was part of a contingent of 12 Riverside city employees who had responded to the call for assistance in that area after the tornado left a damaged city in need of some assistance in a variety of ways. Check our front page story for details on the Riverside officer’s incident.

In Platte City, two police officers bravely handled a situation Tuesday morning that could have had a tragic ending. Officers James Tharp and Mike Reilly responded to a call of shots fired to find a man on the porch of a residence, armed with a rifle. In a suicidal state of mind, the man pointed his weapon at the officers and wanted them to kill him. Fortunately, the man’s gun jammed and the officers were able to end the situation peacefully. A witness close to the scene told me the situation was “extremely tense.”

Proof that even “small town” police officers never know what they’re getting themselves into when they respond to any situation. There really is no such thing as a “routine” call.

******

There’s no such thing as a “routine” week at The Landmark. But so far this week I have not had a loaded weapon pointed at me. To my knowledge.

******

Live music. Good food. Happy hour prices all night long. And Landmark personalities on hand.

Hey, what more could you ask for? Well, within reason.

They had me at live music. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

Join us Thursday night at Nick and Jake’s restaurant and bar in Parkville when The Landmark and the popular cornerstone of the Parkville Commons development team up for a special night. It’s the Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff event. See the color ad on page A-12 for more details.

The ‘need to know’ stuff is this: The Landmark is presenting the Nick and Jake’s-Parkville Smoking Patio Kick Off. Live music from acoustic guitarist Sean McNown from 7-10 p.m. on the brand new patio. As you read in Hearne Christopher’s Landmark column weeks ago when Nick and Jake’s announced plans for the partially enclosed patio--ventilated, heated and air conditioned with comfortable living room type furniture (described as California, Phoenix, Scottsdale-looking patio furniture).

This is going to be a good time. Join me and other Landmark personalities Cindy Rinehart, Greg Hall, Hearne Christopher, Landmark interns past and present, maybe Hall of Fame photographer Bill Hankins, Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki, and others as we help Nick and Jake’s celebrate the opening of what will prove to be a popular addition to its already-fine atmosphere.

Looking for a good time and a way to jump start the upcoming long holiday weekend?

We’ve got the answer. Hope you’ll come have some fun with us and the friendly folks at Nick and Jake’s.

******

Landmark office manager/staff meteorologist Cindy Rinehart has been on my case for years about my laid back attitude toward weather warnings. She is a weather afficionado with a caring heart who graciously lights up my cell phone with text alerts about everything from a tornado warning to a thunderstorm watch, from potential high water to Katie Horner developing a nagging cough.

I kid. Because I can. I have a column. Cindy doesn’t.

When severe weather threatened our area Saturday night, my cell phone lit up with a text from Cindy. “I think it’s just a thunderstorm warning,” I texted back. A couple seconds later the tornado sirens were going off in my neck of the woods. Huh. Maybe it could be more than that.

As guys do, I stepped out the front door to give the sky a viewing. Nothing seemed extremely ominous. After a quick trip to the basement to make sure there was a clear path and plenty of room in what has been designated the “take cover and prepare to kiss your ass goodbye” area, it was back to the main floor. I felt a desire for some popcorn. And I began pouring Pepsi into an ice-filled glass. It was time to go sit on the deck and watch the storm roll in.

My storm-watching party continued for a decent amount of time. But then a few rain drops started hitting me. Eventually the popcorn started blowing out of the bowl. That was the last straw. It was time for the party to end. Fortunately, the storm passed without the need to ever assume the full “this is serious s#=!” position.

After seeing video of the destruction in Joplin, my normally carefree attitude toward weather alerts should change.

******

You may have noticed last week on page A-10 we announced the winner of this year’s Landmark English Award, given to a top writing student at Platte County R-3 High School. The winner is selected each year by a faculty panel.

We’re proud to say this is the 30th year The Landmark has presented this award. The prize is a $250 cash scholarship from this newspaper and an award certificate--suitable for framing--that includes my valuable autograph upon it.

Here is the complete list of winners, from first to most recent:

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; 1995: Kerry Durrill; 1996: Jamie Knodel; 1997: Laura Donald; 1998: Christa Fuller; 1999: Alison Miller; 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; 2011: Sean Carder.

(Catch up with Ivan Foley 24/7 at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


IT'S AN ANIMALISTIC WEEK AT THE LANDMARK

Posted 5/20/11

Welcome to Between the Lines. Relax, it’s only kinky the first time.

******

On Tuesday, Christopher Fisher, an attorney who resides at The National, was selected as a new alderman at Parkville, filling the worn shoes left by the nomadic Jeffrey Bay.

As of Wednesday, the new alderman still lives at The National, having not yet moved to a Section 8 apartment in Gladstone.

******

Been watching a lot of the Fox News Channel lately. I’ve decided what that network needs is more commercials encouraging everyone to buy gold. I mean, one “buy gold” message every 10 minutes just isn’t enough to drive the message home.

******

Daring Landmark reporter PJ Rooks breaks the story this week of an outbreak of creepy-looking snakes at a creek near a park in Weston. PJ spent some time there bravely waiting for some of the scaly creatures to show themselves in order to add some photographic charm to her front page story. It was like an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, with me playing the role of that old dude who narrated the video while safely tucked away from danger as PJ placed herself in harm’s way, traipsing around with potentially venomous reptiles. Good times.

She did such a great job with this story we’re now expanding PJ’s role as a full fledged wildlife reporter. Got snakes? Call PJ. A raccoon terrorizing your garage? Call PJ. Hot on the trail of a mountain lion? Call PJ. Going bear hunting with a switch? Call PJ. You’ve seen the ghost of Marlin Perkins? Call PJ.

******

Sure, PJ may have danced with snakes, but let it be known that in a daring light-of-the-moon raid, I bravely climbed a tall step ladder to eliminate a nest full of noisy and loose-boweled birds who had nested themselves behind the wooden cover to the attic fan in the back of the historic Landmark building.

It was a mission that required immense testicular fortitude. It was an operation that required advance planning based on years of covert intelligence-gathering. I had waterboarded the daddy sparrow several months ago.

Upon gaining entry into their compound, I gave the birds proper warning. It appeared one had wrapped himself in an explosives-filled suicide jacket. All refused to surrender.
I’ve decided not to release the photographs. We’re bigger than that. But trust me, you won’t see those birds walking this Earth ever again.

The world--in particular my car’s paint job and the top of my head--is now a safer place.

******

If this were Fox News it would be time to insert a “buy gold” commercial right here.
Just know that Between the Lines, like gold, has never been worth zero.

******

The investigation into the head-on crash of two Central Platte Fire Department pumper trucks continues. As we all know by now, the two trucks crashed near the driveway entry of a residence that had reported a fire. Five firefighters were hurt. Two were treated and released that day, another came home later last week and two others as of Tuesday remained hospitalized (see our front page story for all the details).

The sheriff’s department is still investigating the crash. It is interesting that some revisionist history seems to be hitting the “word on the street” department. For instance, some folks seem to be insisting that the trucks crashed on the bend of a blind curve and some ‘word on the street’ folks seem to be insisting that both trucks had already passed the driveway.

As you’ll see by our exclusive photos posted at Facebook.com/ivanfoley, The Landmark was able to get very close to the point of impact. To say the crash occurred on the bend of a blind curve is not accurate. There are curves aplenty on that stretch of roadway, but to refer to the place of impact as a blind curve is taking some liberties. Also, for anyone to infer that the crash did not block the driveway entrance raises some questions in logic. If that were the case, why did the mutual aid unit from Camden Point have to access the house by going into a neighbor’s drive then maneuvering its truck across pastureland to get to the site?

While the public is grateful for all the things emergency responders do for it, respectful of the men and women who serve and praying for a quick recovery for all, a trusting public also wants the same level of investigation into any public vehicle accident that would be done if the accident had involved private vehicles.

******

It’s The Landmark’s 147th birthday. As soon as this issue hits the streets, I’m off to Queen Victoria’s for some manscaping, just in case I’m dared to jump out of The Landmark’s birthday cake wearing only a cowboy hat and a steel guitar. Strategically placed, of course.

 

(Befriend Ivan Foley--somebody has to--on Facebook and follow him at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WHEN THE WOUNDS HAVE HEALED, CONCERNS NEED ADDRESSED

Posted 5/13/11

Waiting in a not-so-fast line at the fast food drive-up window? Turn your car’s engine off. Gasoline is like gold these days.

I’ve even developed the habit of shutting the engine off while letting the automatic car wash do its thing to the Grand Prix. We’ve got better things to spend our money on than nearly $4 a gallon gasoline, right?

******

Here at Between the Lines headquarters, we’ve noticed that Parkville Mayor Gerry Richardson bears a physical resemblance to children’s television legend Mister Rogers. He even has similar facial expressions. Richardson’s expressions during a recent TV news probing by KSHB’s Russ Ptacek looked like a Mister Rogers whose sphincter had suddenly become really, really tight.

Facebook pictorial coverage of this important “separated at birth?” discovery coming soon to Facebook.com/ivanfoley

******

Monday’s tragic accident involving the two large pumper trucks for the Central Platte Fire Department is certainly sad. Appropriately, our first thoughts right now must be with those men who were injured in the head-on crash, as well as their families as they go through this difficult time. As you’ll read in our front page story, the most seriously injured of the two are Larry Bigus and Kent Pine, who both remain in intensive care. Pine is said to be in good spirits. Pine and I chat occasionally--including exchanging barbs on Facebook--so I can tell you I’m not surprised by his positive attitude.
Bigus’ son, Mike, told me Tuesday night that his dad “isn’t talking much” but indicated with a smile “that’s the way he is.”

In previous editorials over the years, I’ve consistently stressed that the volunteer firefighters should be considered local heroes. They are. It takes a special personality to respond to fire calls, accident scenes, medical emergencies at all hours of the day and night on a volunteer basis. It takes a certain “cowboy” or “hero” personality. Nearly all guys out there know what I’m talking about, because nearly all of us in the male species have it to a certain extent. Pretty sure that’s where the phrase “boys will be boys” comes from.

******

As longtime readers know, at times in the past I’ve had questions for the elected board members of multiple area fire departments. While doing so, I’ve never questioned the dedication and intentions of the rank and file firefighters. I have, you’ll recall, from time to time through the years posted concerns about the speed at which the Central Platte fire trucks often roll through a crowded Main Street while responding to a call.

But mostly my questions for the board have dealt with financial decisions. Some of the board members, quite honestly, don’t understand the whole tax levy concept, for instance. As longtime readers also know, some of the elected leaders of the fire department have proven to be very sensitive to my questioning.

Their attitude at times in the past seems to have been that since this is a volunteer department, there should be no questioning. Sorry, that’s not the way it works. As long as volunteer fire districts continue to tax the public, the public’s watchdogs are going to have questions. Deal with it. It’s part of the job you signed up for when you put your name on the ballot. If you don’t want questions, don’t serve in a public office and don’t spend public money. It’s a pretty simple concept, really.

I offer up the above information because folks privately are already raising serious questions about Central Platte’s driver training and driving habits. Let the shock from this most recent accident settle a bit, then those questions and concerns need to be addressed in a very serious and very public manner. The Landmark has received many comments via phone calls and emails since Monday’s accident. All are concerned with the firefighters’ condition and praise their dedication to service. At the same time, more than half are critical of the fact Central Platte has a recent history of serious accidents and, frankly, want some attention to be spotlighted on the way drivers of emergency vehicles can place the responders themselves in danger, as well as endanger the lives of other motorists, bystanders, and endanger public property.

Tell us that insurance covers all damages if you’d like, and that’s fine, but who’s paying the hefty bill that comes along with that insurance and in reality aren’t we really talking about a larger point?

As you’ll read in our front page article, this is the second life-threatening crash Central Platte vehicles have been involved in during the past two years. The other accident involved a Central Platte pickup allegedly crossing the center line and striking a motorcyclist on HH Hwy. near Bethel Rd. The really sad part of that one? The truck was responding to a grass fire, of all things. The motorcyclist suffered lifelong injuries and the matter is still the topic of a civil lawsuit.

Anyone who thinks these aren’t legitimate concerns is wearing blinders or rose-colored glasses. There’s a problem here and it needs to be addressed.

Granted, accidents happen, and not just in Central Platte. Dearborn’s fire department, you’ll recall, had a fatality in an accident not too many years ago. But this shouldn’t be passed off as ‘just one of those things.’ We’re talking human lives being put at risk. Quick response to potential life-threatening calls is an absolute priority, but certainly not worth putting the lives of the responders and additional members of the general public at risk in the process. Back to this topic when the heroes have healed. Thoughts, prayers and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to all affected by Monday’s tragedy.

******

One of the best pieces of advice I received from a wise man in my younger days? “Never panic.”

Very simple words. Much easier said than done, of course, and when I find myself in any stressful situation I take a moment to pause, thinking back to that conversation many years ago. Panic only leads to making a bad situation worse.

Wise advice, indeed--no matter your occupation and no matter the level of “emergency” you’re facing.

(Follow breaking news and get timely observations at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


TWITTER CONTINUES TO ROCK WHILE THE HATERS HAVE GONE SILENT

Posted 5/5/11

So here we are, holed up in the highly-fortified Situation Room at Between the Lines headquarters, cranking out yet another edition of Platte County’s only relevant newspaper while running intelligence-based operations throughout every public agency in the county.

It’s a big job. But somebody’s got to do it.

******

Unless you’ve been living in a cave--which is exactly what most of the world had assumed he was doing--you know by now that Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind the horrific 9/11/01 attacks on our country, was shot and killed by Navy SEALS in a beautifully executed military operation Sunday. It was a monumental achievement for our country’s military and intelligence agencies.

Bin Laden was killed in what the Associated Press describes as “an intense firefight in a daring raid at his hideout in Pakistan.”

For years, former President George W. Bush had insisted “we’ll smoke him out of his cave.” Turns out, bin Laden’s “cave” was what is described as a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan. So much for that visual of bin Laden living the life of a hungry, goat-loving criminal on the run from cave to cave throughout the hills of a sparsely populated area. Turns out he was hiding in plain sight, not far from a Pakistani military university, in fact.

Credit to President Obama for the ballsy decision to use a team of about 24-40, depending upon which account you hear, highly-trained tactical specialists to conduct the successful raid on bin Laden’s hideout after years of intelligence methods had tracked him to that location.

******

The killing of Osama bin Laden puts an end to the nearly 10-year search and puts egg on the face of some pundits who had boastfully and ridiculously made the claim to “mark my words” when they wrote, while trashing former President George W. Bush: “Obama bin Laden will never, ever be found.”

Don’t make me name names. You know who you are.

******

The social media outlet Twitter was the place to be Sunday night as the killing of bin Laden leaked out. Sources on Twitter were all over the situation well before the news was available on that thing known as a television. Folks, if you haven’t become a Twitter buff just yet, you really need to, particularly if you’re a news junkie. And the comedic entertainment value of Twitter is priceless if you’re following the right people.
Remember a couple of years ago when The Landmark became the first county media outlet to break into the Twitter world? Doubters joked at the social media site’s name--and rightfully so--and some proclaimed you wouldn’t find them on Twitter. Guess what? Now they’re on Twitter.

You know who you are. Don’t make me name names. I won’t rub your face in it. Enjoy the news and entertainment Twitter can bring you in short 140-character bursts.
The Landmark is approaching 600 followers on Twitter, at least three times more than any other Platte County media outlet. It’s time for you to create a Twitter account and start following the news and fun at Twitter.com/ivanfoley

******

My favorite former Platte City alderman, fiscal watchdog Andy Stanton, is gone from the board of aldermen, but thanks to a gentle push from Mayor Frank Offutt, Stanton is now a member of the Platte City Parks and Recreation Board.

Parks board members should brace themselves for some questioning. Every public entity needs at least one fiscal watchdog on its board of directors. The Platte City parks board now has one.

This could be fun.

******

My publishing buddy Guy Speckman of the Savannah Reporter called one day last week. It seems the Reporter is holding a birthday celebration soon (I think the Reporter is now 135 years old) and it seems Guy is looking for a speaker for some kind of kegger he is holding in the town square (or some damn place, I’m fuzzy on the details right now but trust me, I’ll be there). Anyway, his choices for speaker had been narrowed to Sarah Steelman and Jim Talent. He called to ask my opinion.

Yes, apparently he was having doubts about whether the smoking hot Sarah Steelman or the pasty white, monotone-voiced Jim Talent would be the better choice to attract a crowd.

As of now I’m still calling Guy my friend, but one more moment of indecision like that and we’ll have to hold hearings on whether to pull his man card.

******

Speaking of birthdays, The Landmark’s is coming soon. This beast turns 147 in a couple of weeks. That’s gonna make for a well-lit birthday cake.

It also means we’ve already started discussions on how we’ll celebrate The Landmark’s 150th in a few years. It will involve the entire community. More details being developed periodically here in The Situation Room.

******

Cabela’s joins your list of loyal Landmark advertisers this week, with a 16-page flyer inserted in this issue. Many more such ads from Cabelas are ahead. As word of this has spread, it’s become clear to me we haven’t heard this much buzz about a new advertiser among our readers in quite some time. Proudly, The Landmark has a lot of red-blooded, gun-lovin’, gone-fishin types in our database. Enjoy the Cabela’s deals--and be sure to clip and use those coupons in the flyer.

(Follow Ivan Foley on Facebook, at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or simply call him with your man card questions)


SO, WHY SHOULD LEGAL NOTICES APPEAR IN THE NEWSPAPER?

Posted 4/29/11

Just got back from a Tuesday night meeting of the Platte City Board of Aldermen. Gotta say it. Those meetings just aren’t gonna be as much fun without the notable and quotable alderman Andy Stanton on the board.

Will any of the current aldermen step forward and become quotable? Please consider it, because right now the city of Parkville is stealing all of the media thunder.

******

Well, let’s not forget at least one Platte City alderman will be back in the news soon. Alderman Charles Cook’s trial on a misdemeanor allegation of exposing himself while wearing a banana hammock is set for mid-May.

More on this in the coming weeks.

******

I don’t generally spend much time or column space writing about the newspaper industry as a whole. There are several reasons for that. The biggest reason is I’m too busy cranking out an issue of The Landmark each week packed full of news and commentary more important to the majority of our readers.

Another reason is that some of the problems of the newspaper industry are overstated. For instance, many weeklies are doing just fine, thank you very much. Many dailies are not. Another reason I tend to avoid the topic is that it’s my opinion some of the problems of the daily newspaper world have been self-inflicted, and I don’t want to defend an entire industry with one broad brush. As an example, while it’s true the Kansas City Star is not the only daily newspaper to hit hard times during this economic downturn, it’s my belief some of the Star’s problems are due to the fact it is out of touch with a majority of its readers--or should I say its potential readers.

But I digress. This is not headed in the direction of being a commentary about the Star. This is a commentary on legal notices and why they should be placed in printed newspapers. From time to time, postings on the Internet will argue against the continued placement of governmental legal notices in printed newspapers. These postings are usually written by some guy blogging late at night while clad in his underwear, working from a dark corner in his mom’s basement.

One such blog, something called Wall Street Pit, recently tried to make the argument that newspapers only lobby for the continued placement of governmental legal notices in newspapers for the money the papers make off those legals.

This stance made me chuckle. Anyone familiar with The Landmark’s bid rate to print legal notices for the county of Platte knows why I’m laughing.

“The truth is that the newspapers are the ones placing money before public access,” the Wall Street Pit writes, implying that newspapers in essence are taking some sort of bribe or kickback when they are paid by governmental entities to print legal notices.
Needless to say the Wall Street Pit’s posting drew a negative reply from newspaper folks. Kent Ford, an editor with the Missouri Press Association, did an excellent job crafting an intelligent and common sense response to the self-professed pundit.
Here is much of Ford’s response:

“Missouri Press Association regularly opposes legislation that would move public notices out of newspapers. We encourage our member newspapers to do the same. When they do defend required newspaper public notices, we suggest they not ignore the obvious — they get paid for it.

The truth is, public notices printed in newspapers are a bargain.

Here are some of the usual reasons we state for requiring published public notices:
*Not everyone can get online, and getting online is not free.

*Public notices in newspapers promote citizen participation in government.

*They provide a permanent, unalterable, unhackable record of government action.

*Notices in newspapers go to the people rather than requiring people to go to dozens of government websites to check to see if something they need to know is going on. Not everyone reads the local newspaper, but when an important public notice appears, word gets around — quickly!

*Maintaining public notices on websites is not without cost, so the claim of reducing expenses doesn’t fly.

*Public notices give elected officials rock solid evidence that they are doing the public’s business in public. (How much is that worth? Plenty, especially in times when trust and faith in government at all levels hovers around zero.)

*Archiving of printed newspapers has been going on for a long time. It’s cheap and easy. Nobody understands yet how to archive websites efficiently and economically.

*But we also point out that all the other businesses in town get paid for the goods and services they provide to local government agencies. The grocery store on the corner doesn’t give free food for those in the local lockup. The service station on the edge of town doesn’t change the oil in the sheriff’s car for nothing or fill the tanks of school buses with free fuel.

*Paying to have public notices printed in newspapers is not a bribe or a kickback or a subsidy. It’s payment for goods and services rendered.

Revenue from publishing public notices helps newspapers pay their bills, meet payroll and stay in business. People understand that, particularly those down at the chamber of commerce.

Legislatures all over the country are considering moving public notices from newspapers to government websites. The arguments for newspaper notices and against online notices are many. The best argument for online notices is false. Printed public notices are a bargain, and posting public notices online would not be free.

And there’s this: Like the Missouri Press Association, newspaper associations all across the country are creating public notice websites to aggregate on a single website all notices placed in newspapers by all government agencies in the state. Why create more government bureaucracy duplicating something that’s already being done by a non-government organization?”

(Follow Ivan Foley’s blog-like entries--made while fully clothed--on Facebook and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


LONG AGO, BAY WAS GIVEN A WINDOW TO LEAVE

Posted 4/22/11

Up and at ‘em early this deadline day after a good night’s rest. I slept more soundly than an air traffic controller.

******

Alderman Jeffrey Bay finally resigned at Parkville.

Bay, as most everybody in Parkville knew but only Bay and Parkville Mayor Gerry Richardson didn’t want to acknowledge, hasn’t really been a Parkville resident for quite some time (see our front page story for more details). So what motivated him to hold on to that seat, and what motivated Richardson not to push one of his favorite aldermen for a resignation? Only those two guys can answer that. Good luck trying to get a straight answer. I posed the question to Richardson in a phone interview just minutes after hearing Bay had finally caved to growing media pressure and tendered his resignation. Richardson gave me a well-fertilized answer to the effect that he had no proof Bay no longer lived in the city.

Please. Richardson and Bay are political bedfellows. The public is often blind, but never stupid. Richardson knew. Others did too. The Landmark reported it months ago. Bay refused to return our phone calls to address the question, which is an indictment in itself. If Bay was actually still living in Parkville, why not answer The Landmark’s simple questions: Are you still a resident of Parkville? If so, what is your address?

Bay didn’t want to answer those questions. He didn’t want to give up his seat. Obviously, Richardson wasn’t anxious to see Bay have to step away. Thanks to tips we were receiving from friends and non-friends of Bay, The Landmark reported months ago that Bay’s primary place of residence appeared to be in an apartment complex that he owns in Gladstone. At last check, Gladstone was not inside the city limits of Parkville. But that’s where family friends of Bay told me they would drop off kids who were spending time with Bay’s child. That would seem to be a pretty good indication that’s where the man was living, wouldn’t you say?

At any rate, The Landmark’s level of reporting should have been enough to guilt Bay into resigning and guilt Richardson to the point he should have pressed the alderman for a resignation. Neither happened. I guess in order to develop a guilty conscience, one first must have a conscience. I’m wondering if there is a political conscience present in the pair.

The good ol’ boy and good ol’ girl atmosphere at Parkville is getting rocked. Two veteran incumbent aldermen did not seek reelection this April. Now Bay is resigning. Meanwhile, a Channel 41 investigative news crew has been digging into some behind the scenes activity at City Hall. So Bay and Richardson have watched themselves on the television news. And now, a Parkville businessman/civic leader is filing ethics complaints against both Bay and Richardson in regard to the ‘handling’ of Bay and the way Bay continued his voting duties as an alderman while he was no longer a legal resident of the city.

With Channel 41 still probing paperwork at Parkville, things are getting uglier, with the resignation of an accounts payable clerk and the city administrator placed on paid leave. Anybody still believe Richardson recently hired a public relations firm to help explain the construction-based traffic challenges into downtown Parkville? I fully believe Richardson wanted some PR help because he knew some bad news was on the horizon. The worst of which could still be yet to come.

******

The automatic igniter on my propane grill has stopped working, so I’ve been lighting it by hand with a match stick. Is this wise? Should I be dressing in a fire suit?

******

Laptop computer crashed last week, the igniter on the grill has quit, and one of the central air conditioning units didn’t want to kick on during a recent test run on a warm day. All things mechanical in my world seem to be in a state of rebellion right now. Not that you necessarily care. The thought just ran through my mind.

******

Hey, try out one of those new gourmet hot dogs at your local Sonic. I like the Chicago style dog, loaded with good stuff like relish, tomato, jalapenos, and even a pickle. It’s good eatin.’ I’m not normally a huge fan of Sonic food items, but these new style dogs they’re featuring hit the spot. And if you tire of fried chicken at the local Church’s--where the spicy style lives up to its name-- try their shrimp. It’s tasty.

******

More lifestyle randomness. Got a problem with foot pain such as plantar fasciitis? Step on one of those Dr. Scholl’s machines featuring foot mapping technology. I saw one at an area Wal-Mart and went through the awkward measurement process, which features on-screen instructions telling you where to step, when to lean this way, when to lean that way, etc. While you’re looking like a dork, the machine is mapping the pressure points of your feet and finishes by recommending which orthotic insert you should purchase to stick in your shoes.

As a sidenote, during my experience a lady in a Catholic schoolgirl-type short skirt appeared behind me. Don’t get too excited, guys, this is starting to sound like the plot of a late night show on Cinemax, but it’s not. The overly-friendly lady struck me as the groupie-type who perhaps had just pulled an all nighter on the bus of her favorite Crunk band--and hadn’t bothered to shower afterward.

Anyway, the lady seemed fascinated by the foot mapping machine and was so juiced up that she actually found my recommended product, excitedly grabbed it off the shelf and handed it to me. She then made a virtual sprint toward the store’s exit. I paid for my purchase and walked to the parking lot. I checked my car’s back seat before I got in.

The point of the story is these orthotic inserts are a worthy investment. The inserts aren’t cheap--mine were $50--but have drastically cut back on the foot pain that had been irritating the Jeffrey Bay out of me.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or sneak up on him at Wal-Mart)


WHISPERS FOUND RIDING ON THE WIND FROM PARKVILLE

Posted 4/15/11

It’s like a Shakespearean Tragedy.

It has been one of those weeks when technology--the tool that has allowed those of us in the media to do so much more in less time than ever--has not been a friend. It’s also a reminder of why I so badly despise having to get a new computer.

My laptop, perhaps my closest non-human friend in this big bad world, crashed and died early Monday afternoon. The Landmark’s world has not been the same since. Sure, with on-staff technological expert Cindy Rinehart at my side an emergency run to Best Buy resulted in a replacement being purchased, but that’s just the beginning of what amounts to a major switchover of data, files, contact lists, reloading all the necessary software applications, etc. It’s a major project. One of the young guys on the Geek Squad at the Tiffany Springs Best Buy, whose name was Justin--was masterful at pulling off important info from the crashed laptop and we appreciate his talent and willingness to put a rush on our needs.

As deadline hits, the new laptop and its Windows 7 operating program are having some major conflicts with a couple of the more important programs we employ to bring you the news each week. Thusly, your displaced publisher is working on an old desktop against the back wall of the office, feeling out of place and much less productive than normal.

Hopefully after this paper hits the streets, the post-deadline slower pace of the week will be conducive to getting the new electronic beast up and running and by next week, the output will be faster and bulkier than ever before. At least that’s the plan.

And just in time. Sounds like the upcoming weeks could be quite newsworthy. Read on.

******

Whispers are in the wind at the city of Parkville. And it’s not all peaches and cream.
Word on the street indicates that a Kansas City television news investigative reporter has been doing some digging into several topics at City Hall in Parkville. You’ve read in The Landmark recently how Mayor Gerry Richardson has indicated he’d like to enlist the services of a public relations firm to help with such chores as better informing the public about traffic changes caused by downtown bridge construction. My speculation is that Richardson’s desire to have a public relations firm at the ready might have more to do with what’s about to break if/when this investigative reporter’s findings hit the airwaves.

Richardson, at last week’s aldermen meeting, reported that he had been in contact with a public relations firm and has agreed to spend $2,500 at an hourly rate of $25 per hour to obtain what was described as “much needed” advice in the area of public relations. Richardson went on to say that the city’s legal firm would actually hire the public relations firm and the city’s legal counsel will bill the city for the public relation services. Having the PR firm tied so closely to the city attorney’s office further fuels my speculation.

Followers of Parkville City Hall also noticed that a couple of incumbent aldermen did not file for reelection this year. Just burned out, or wanting to step away before some bad news potentially hits? If word of some snooping by the TV station has reached my ears, you know darn well all the players within City Hall are aware of it.

Burning question, of course, is what exactly is the television news hound uncovering, or at least attempting to uncover? It’s unconfirmed at this point, but don’t be surprised if you eventually hear stories of allegations of inappropriate purchases (not necessarily involving elected officials, if this story has legs it may or may not be aimed at an employee). Also, don’t be at all shocked if you hear more about a topic The Landmark reported on months ago--that Jeffrey Bay, alderman, may not actually be a resident of the city. In fact from the feedback we get here in Between the Lines, the only person in Platte County who believes Jeffrey Bay still resides in Parkville might be Jeffrey Bay.

We’ll see what, if anything, becomes of the time the TV news guy has put in.

******

Last week’s column closed with a quick reference to Kathy Dusenbery’s “let’s all go out and talk positively about Shiloh,” the county-owned, tax money-losing golf course. I rhetorically asked if county commissioner Dusenbery was wearing a cheerleading skirt at the recent county-hosted infomercial designed to convince taxpayers that whizzing away public money on a golf course is a great idea.

Seeing that in last week’s issue, a dedicated Between the Lines reader quickly sent me an email saying: “Now I know what next week’s cartoon (top center of this page) is going to be.”

How did he know that?

******

Excited to tease you with the announcement that The Landmark will be teaming up with Nick and Jake’s restaurant/bar/grill in Parkville. A still-in-the-works partnership is expected to feature Landmark personalities hosting special events at the wildly popular restaurant, which is seen as the cornerstone of the Parkville Commons Development near the intersection of Hwys. 9 and 45.

Tentative plans call for Nick and Jake’s to begin offering a low-priced Landmark lunch special on certain days.

Nick and Jake’s will soon be unveiling its outdoor partially enclosed smoking patio. The interior of the restaurant has gone to entirely non-smoking.

More on the partnership and future mutually-promoted events between The Landmark and Nick and Jake’s in future issues.

******

Another big announcement: Jared Speckman, son of Savannah Reporter publishing guru Guy Speckman, will be joining The Landmark staff as a summer intern beginning next month. Jared, currently a junior at William Jewell, will be putting his vast reporting skills to work at various events and meetings.

(When he isn’t busy with his ear to the ground catching sounds from Parkville, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, friended on Facebook, or followed at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


TAXES ARE DESIGNED TO PROVIDE SERVICES NOT AVAILABLE OTHERWISE

Posted 4/7/11

This is crazy. We’re five games into the season and the Royals are still above .500. Should we go ahead and order those playoff tickets??

******

Gotta say I had the most fun a guy can have at a Royals game on Sunday. Grabbed the fam and headed out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, with excellent seats 10 rows behind the dugout suites on the Royals side of the field. KC jumped ahead early, then blew the lead, then rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie and finally won the thing in the 13th.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had that much fun at the ol’ ball park. Head out to a game one of these nice warm days or evenings soon while the Royals are, uh, still in the hunt for something. If you can avoid trips to the overpriced concession stands, Royals games really aren’t an expensive outing in comparison to many other entertainment options.

******

Sad news hit Platte County last Thursday morning when word spread of the death of Lisa Pope, county assessor. She had bravely battled cancer--it started as lung cancer, even though she had never been a smoker--for several years.

Lisa was elected county assessor in 2004 after working as chief deputy in that office for many years. Though it pays well these days--as do all the county elected spots--assessor is one of those thankless positions to hold. The vast majority of attention or feedback an assessor receives is of the negative variety from property owners who feel the assessed value of their property hasn’t been fairly appraised.

Despite the public relations challenges of being an assessor, The Landmark always found Pope to be an open and honest interview. While some elected officials will feed you a line or dodge questions or employ semantics in their answers, that wasn’t the case with Lisa Pope. She always seemed to be straightforward and honest, not interested in playing political games with assessments or word games with the media. She seemed to be a good-hearted person who wanted to do the right thing. It was impressive and encouraging to run into Lisa while she was going through her treatments--impressive in that she almost always looked chipper despite her diagnosis and nasty treatment regimen. The last time I remember running into her was at an October political event, and under the circumstances she was facing she looked stunningly healthy, to the point I put my arm on her shoulder and told her how good she looked.

A sweet person who will be missed.

*******

Check out our front page story on Lisa Pope’s passing to get all the details on how the vacant position of assessor will be filled.

Meanwhile, let the rumor mill begin to churn out a list of possible applicants for the opening. One name already being whispered as possibly having interest? Longtime county clerk Sandy Krohne, Democrat, who was defeated in the Republican tidal wave last November by Joan Harms.

So is Krohne truly interested?

“I’ve thought about it. But not at this time. That’s not where I need to be,” Krohne responded via phone.

Another natural name to hit the rumor mill eventually might be Democrat Marcena Fulton, who served as Krohne’s chief deputy in the county clerk’s office for many years and who unsuccessfully ran against Pope in 2008. A call to Fulton had not been returned as of press time.

******

Conservatives didn’t get a good result in the KC earnings tax election on Tuesday. Conservatives, however, did get a good result in one of the Park Hill School Board posts, where David Cox topped current board member Fred Sanchez and some also-rans.

Longtime Between the Lines readers will recall that Sanchez, in his posts as school board member, South Platte Ambulance District board member, and member of the Democratic Central Committee, has been exposed as one of the most liberal (and possibly most out of touch) elected officials Platte County has ever seen.

His defeat is good for the causes of conservatism and fiscal sanity.

******

Speaking of fiscal sanity, a public infomercial was held last week to present all the good things about the taxpayer funded money-losing play area known as Shiloh Springs Golf Course. I boycotted the meeting after seeing the press release that came out promoting it. It was easy to see based on the wording of that press release that the county wasn’t really interested in a serious discussion about the financial drain this course has been on the taxpayers of the county. Side note to libs: it doesn’t matter if the tax money to fund the play area comes from property taxes (it doesn’t) or from the county’s bloated $82 million park sales tax (it does), the bottom line is it is tax money being spent on unnecessary play stuff that is readily available in the private sector. It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find a privately-funded golf course in this area, why do taxpayers need to be providing another one, especially when the golf business just ain’t what it used to be? Tax dollars are designed to go for services that wouldn’t otherwise be readily available. Golf is readily available in a lot of privately-funded places, folks.

******

Rah rah, sis boom bah.

The most ridiculed quote to come from the Shiloh golf meeting will prove to be this one from Kathy Dusenbery, first district county commissioner:

“I can see there’s a lot of passion for this course and that’s good for us to see as we work on budgets,” she said. “That should be the message tonight -- everybody goes out and let’s talk positively about Shiloh.”

Did Kathy bring pompons to the meeting?

Was she wearing a cheerleading skirt?

There you have it folks, the key to fixing the money drain that is Shiloh Springs is for all of us to talk positively about the tax money it is losing for us.

(Send your best cheer to the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or follow his daily actions at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


LOCAL ECONOMIC NUMBERS MORE DOWN THAN UP RIGHT NOW

Posted 4/1/11

How’s the economy?

Platte County Commissioners, after looking over the sales tax revenue numbers received the first week of March, aren’t exactly in a boasting mood about the local economy. That’s in contrast from what happened when the February numbers came in. Those February receipts were 47% above the receipts from February in 2010. This prompted Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, to quickly jump on social media (I think the Obama White House calls it socialized media) outlets Twitter and Facebook to boast about how great things were economically, while thanking the fine people of Platte County for their support.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this isn’t the first time Dusenbery has been a little bit reactionary on a topic. It’s a personality trait that often makes her a topic in this very column, and for that we can be thankful. But I digress.

And digress is exactly what the March sales tax receipts did. March receipts are down a whopping 37% from a year ago.

Ouch. So much for the boastful posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, let’s not pull the opposite of a Dusenbery and overreact negatively to this. I don’t believe the sky is falling.

While the March numbers show a37% drop, the year to date receipts aren’t quite that bad. Combined totals of the county’s sales tax revenue and its use tax revenue show the county is behind almost 12% from this time a year ago. That’s bad, but it’s not a negative 37% bad, if you follow my drift.

March receipts reflect sales that were made in January. Remember, we had bad weather in January, several significant snowfalls. A couple of days the snow was so bad (well, kinda) that the county closed its doors to allow its employees to spend the day shopping, obviously a strategic move designed to try to boost the local economy.
Some folks like to say factors like cold and snow don’t really affect economic numbers. I disagree. It’s not only a physical detriment to folks who might normally get out to do some shopping or eat at a restaurant, it’s also a mental detriment as well. Are you more likely to have a positive outlook on the future of the world in general--and thus more likely to open up your pocketbook–when it’s 20 degrees and a cold wind is blowing or when it’s 70 degrees and sunny?

Spring traditionally brings optimism. Just ask the Royals.

******

Differences over a new labor deal between the unionized employees of the Northland Regional Ambulance District and the district’s board of directors have apparently been solved after some mediation. It was mentioned at last week’s NRAD board of directors meeting that a new pact calls for a 45 cent per hour raise for most employees.
Somehow this bit of news has been overshadowed by a recent land acquisition made by the NRAD board. Perhaps you’ve heard about that.

******

The political fortunes of Jason Grill, former state representative for southern Platte County, took another hit last week. Grill sent out a late-in-the-game email blast to thousands of folks, throwing his support behind Mike Burke in the Kansas City mayoral race. Burke, despite walking hand-in-hand with such “progressives” as Grill and Dusenbery, was waxed in last week’s election by Sly James, 54% to 46%. For what it’s worth, Burke did run strong in his home area in the Northland.

Political observers are now wondering aloud what Grill will do. He obviously gambled on getting a schmooze job with Burke and it didn’t pan out. It doesn’t seem likely James will ask him to take a cushy position at City Hall after that email blast in favor of Burke.

We noted here a couple of weeks ago that Grill, who is an attorney but apparently doesn’t want to be, has been applying for positions in the areas of public relations and advertising. He has not yet parlayed his looks and his desire to party into a high level job in either field.

******

Don’t forget to head to the polls on Tuesday when local cities and school boards will be filling spots on their respective boards.

There aren’t many contested races. For instance, no spots on the Platte City Board of Aldermen are contested and there are only three candidates for three open spots on the Platte County R-3 Board of Education.

But in the Park Hill School District, as you’ll see in our front page story on their candidate forum held Tuesday night, there is some competition. Park Hill--just like Platte County R-3 and, honestly, just like nearly every public education body out there--could use a shot of fiscal conservatism from board members who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions of the hired and highly compensated administrators. Three candidates at Park Hill who would have the knowledge, the common sense and the stones to do that are Chris Seufert, Timothy Thompson and David Cox.

Each is worthy of your vote if you’d like some voices of fiscal common sense to be heard on your school board.

******

You’ll want to check out the updated standings in our Bracket Battle on page A-4. With so many upsets in this year’s tourney, many of the brackets entered have been shot. As things stand now, I would be giving away around 30 one-year subscriptions to this fine newspaper based on the fact there are about 30 of the 169 of you who entered ahead of me in the standings.

By this time next week our $100 first place winner will be announced and everyone who finished with a better score than yours truly can start contacting our office to claim your free subscription. Enjoy.

*******

See this Quick Response code (similar to a bar code) in the corner of my column? There’s also one on our front page. Scan that thing with your QR reader on your camera phone. The code on the front page will take you to The Landmark’s web site home page, and this one takes you to my column on the web.

Technology is a great thing, huh? More on this in future Landmarks.

(You can scan his quick response code and email Ivan Foley anytime at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


NRAD'S QUESTIONABLE LAND DEAL HAS BECOME REGIONAL STORY

Posted 3/25/11

It wouldn’t be appropriate to let the week get by without a tip of the cap to all the firefighters and other first responders who bravely battled tough circumstances at the fatal High Pointe Apartment Complex fire on Saturday.

Job well done. Saturday’s fire was the third notable blaze to which Central Platte Fire Department had responded in a week.

As you’ll see in an article in this issue, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt is planning a special open house event at City Hall on Friday to honor the local heroes.

You can see more of our pictures from the fire at Facebook.com/ivanfoley.

******

Saturday’s fire is the latest in a string of bad luck incidents spread out over three decades at High Pointe. Prior to Saturday’s blaze, other sad incidents at High Pointe being recalled by longtime residents this week are Building F at the complex sliding down the hill in the 1990s and the tragic accidental death of a man working in the swimming pool area of the clubhouse.

******

Have an interest in what’s happening with your tax dollars that go to support the county’s money-losing golf course? You might want to attend a public forum set for Wednesday, March 30 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the banquet room at Shiloh Springs Golf Course. You’ve read many reports in this newspaper over the years about how Shiloh Springs has been a major drain on the pocketbooks of taxpayers. Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, earlier this year suggested a public forum be held to explain to residents the financial challenges faced at Shiloh and to listen to any ideas presented by the public.

A press release that came out of the parks department earlier this week presented next Wednesday’s forum as being some sort of showcase event for the facility. That’s really not the approach that Dusenbery used when she first brought up the idea of hosting a public forum. Dusenbery’s public comments about the forum consisted mainly about the financial challenges at Shiloh. Upon seeing the rosy tone to this week’s press release, I phoned Dusenbery to see if the focus of this public event had changed. She says that in her mind, she still wants finances to be the main topic of discussion.

“It’s no fun getting the monthly numbers from Shiloh. They’re not great,” she told me.
Dusenbery added: “I want to hear legitimate alternatives. Do you pull the plug and keep making bond payments on it? The golf industry as a whole is going backward, not forward. I believe we should start looking at different alternatives and discussing the future past the bond payments (which she said are set to end in a few years).”

Could be an interesting meeting. Or it could be another fluffy county parks department infomercial. Time will tell.

******

So did you put an entry in The Landmark’s bracket contest? You’re not alone. A record number of you did. A few, in fact, tried to enter more than once, which is a no-no. Another one or two of you submitted only about half a bracket. When the dust had settled, we counted 169 valid entries, easily topping the previous record of 126 set last year.

If the contest ended today, 34 of you would be ahead of me in the standings and thereby would be qualified for one year of free information and entertainment in the form of a Landmark subscription. But don’t get giddy--my bracket still has balls.

Veteran bracket battlers know this much: These contests are won--or lost--in the later rounds. See the complete list of standings of the 169 entrants on page A-4 of this issue. Any complaints about your score--or the spelling of your name (some handwriting of names was uh, less than stellar, shall we say)--contact official scorekeeper Rian Babcock at rian@plattecountylandmark.com

******

The controversy over the ridiculous land deal approved by the Northland Regional Ambulance District board of directors continues to pick up steam. As Landmark readers well know, NRAD paid $175,000 for three acres of land at I-29 and Camden Point from its own board president Kevin Rawlings. Less than a year earlier, Rawlings had purchased the entire 35 acre tract for $130,000 from an Overland Park man. That’s right. Rawlings bought 35 acres for $130,000, then several months later sold three of those acres to NRAD for $175,000. Do you think he came out alright on his investment?

The troubling part is that Rawlings serves on a board that in its long range plan developed more than two years ago had identified I-29 at Camden Point as being the ideal location for NRAD to locate a future ambulance facility. For anyone at NRAD to deny that Rawlings knew of that long range plan is simply dishonest. He is the board president--how could he not have known? In his initial interview with me on the topic several weeks ago, Rawlings acknowledged how the district years ago had pinpointed I-29 at Camden Point as an ideal future location. After the story hit the paper and public outcry started to grow, Rawlings and some of his cohorts have tried to change the story a bit to claim that Rawlings had no idea when he bought the property less than year ago that NRAD might be interested in that location. But the change of tune is too late. That horse already left the barn.

At least one NRAD patron says he is filing a complaint with the state ethics commission. Interestingly, I’ve received emails from folks at the state capitol who want background info on this situation. The story has gone regional, catching the eye of investigative news reporter Ryan Kath of Channel 41, who filed an excellent report on the topic Monday. Kath’s report (and he graciously credits The Landmark in several places in his report) was later praised by the wildly popular media watchdog web site bottomlinecom.com, which will further advance the audience of this fiasco. You can view Kath’s report on the internet by going to http://tinyurl.com/4n574hg (I made that link green because that's the color of the money now in Rawlings' pocket).

Bill Edwards, former alderman at Dearborn and lifetime Platte County resident, summed it up this way at Monday night’s NRAD board meeting: “This is one of the shadiest things that I’ve ever seen done in Platte County, that he (Rawlings) went and bought that property after he knew they were looking for land.”

I’ve yet to hear anyone offer a satisfactory argument against that opinion.

(Help shine light into the shade with an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


WHY IS CUTTING BACK SO HARD TO SAY? BRACKET BATTLE RAGES

Posted 3/18/11

As you know, we occasionally engage in sarcasm here in Between the Lines. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my favorite headline of the week comes from the satirical newspaper known as The Onion. The headline?

“Factual Error Found On Internet.”

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You’ll notice this version of Page 2 is missing an editorial cartoon from our talented graphic artist Matthew Silber. You’ll be able to find Matthew’s cartoon on my Facebook page and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley.

The topic? The collective bargaining discussion at Platte County R-3.

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Public disgust over the Northland Regional Ambulance District’s purchase of three acres for $175,000 from the president of its board of directors continues to grow. Channel 41 of Kansas City was in town on Wednesday researching the issue for a potential story on its newscast. I’m told the TV guys decided to make a personal visit to town with cameras rolling after repeated calls to some of the main NRAD players in this controversy went unreturned.

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For reasons I don’t quite understand, it’s tough for the new presiding commissioner to put into words but the facts are this: the Platte County Commission is cutting back on the number of administrative sessions it holds. See our front page for full story.

Traditionally held on a weekly basis, indications are now the commission will be going to an every-other-week meeting schedule. Brown won’t confirm it, dancing around the simple and harmless question posed to him this week by our trusty reporter PJ Rooks.

“We’ve gone from three last month to two this month and they’re every other week on the 14th and 28th. If that will be the same schedule next month, I don’t know because we haven’t set anything in April yet. Next month we could have two, we could have three, we could have four. We could have any number of them.”

Wow. Talk about a convoluted answer. And disingenuous.

The buzz in political circles the past couple weeks has been that the commission has decided to cut back to just two meetings per month. Even one of Brown’s fellow commissioners told The Landmark that’s the plan. Why Brown gave us a wordy answer that danced all over the calendar I have no idea. Turning the simple into the complicated is a specialty for some politicians.

“We’re going to be efficient and do what we need to do to get through these economic times,” Brown said.

So cutting back on the number of county commission administrative sessions is a money-saving move? Exactly how is that? County commissioners work on a salary ($60,000 to $65,000). Are they taking a salary cut as a result of cutting back on administrative sessions?

I like Jason Brown and many of his conservative views on the world, but some of his public comments to the press in his first three months have been head-scratchers. Some of his words might make good stand-alone political sound bites, but when you place them into their proper context they don’t pass a test of logic.

Some folks will be bothered by the commissioners cutting back on the number of times they make themselves available to the public via an administrative session, and that argument has merit. Listen, it’s not the end of the world to me if the commissioners want to cut back to every other week. But at least be honest about the intention and the reason why.

I quit sending a representative of The Landmark to cover every session back in 2009 after Betty Knight and Co. had turned the meetings into nothing but a weekly political infomercial. Each meeting seemed to feature some type of Power Point presentation about a particular county department that obviously was just a scream to the media to “give us some good press on this.” If it wasn’t the Power Point that the commission wanted to stress to the press on a particular day, then it was an obviously planned political statement made by a commissioner in the “unscheduled comments” portion at the close of the meeting.

It was a waste of time for me or anyone on my staff to sit through the fluffy Power Point presentations--and The Landmark will never be in the business of being a PR machine for unchallenged political statements made by the elected--so I stopped sending a Landmark representative unless we knew there was a particularly newsworthy item on the agenda.

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Hey. It’s time to show off your March Swagness.

Get your entry in our Bracket Battle for your chance to win $100 in cool cash and become a local media star via all the publicity you’ll be getting in the pages of your Landmark. Plus, if you beat my score, which was easy to do last year, you’ll get a free one-year’s subscription to this fine newspaper.

My overall analysis of the tournament? I think the much ballyhooed Big East Conference will have a disappointing tournament and prove to have been an overrated league. I have zero Big East teams in my Final Four.

After much study and preparation (Between the Lines BS meter just sounded), here are my picks:

First round winners: Ohio State, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Xavier, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee, Arizona, Texas, MU, Connecticut, Temple, San Diego State, Kansas, UNLV, Richmond, Louisville, USC/VCU, Purdue, Florida State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Butler, K-State, Belmont, Gonzaga, BYU, UCLA, Florida.

Sweet Sixteen: Ohio State, Kentucky, Xavier, North Carolina, Duke, Texas, Connecticut, San Diego State, Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, K-State, Gonzaga, Florida.

Elite Eight: Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke, San Diego State, Kansas, Notre Dame, K-State, Florida.

Final Four: Ohio State, Duke, Kansas, Florida.

Championship: Duke 75, Kansas 71.

(Follow the contest standings each week in the paper or at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Email the swaggalicious Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


WHAT'S NEW WITH GRILL? AND HEADS NEED TO ROLL AT NRAD

Posted 3/11/11

A lot of you have been struggling with cold and flu symptoms as of late. Shortly after recently boasting about having a healthy winter season, I’ve been hit with some kind of congestive bug. I’ve put so many drugs in my system this week I’m starting to feel like Charlie Sheen. Without the psychotic flipouts.

At least not yet. It’s still early.

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I must have sounded like dead man walking earlier this week. On Monday, my buddy Greg Hall couldn’t get off the phone fast enough during a conversation. Usually when Hall and I make connection, much shooting of the bull ensues. GH cut it short, perhaps fearing my condition was so contagious it would work its way through the phone lines. I’ll be seeing him at the Big 12 tournament later this week. I hope he lets me talk to him.

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From Charlie Sheen to Jason Grill. Insert your own joke here.

When last we heard from Jason Grill, former state representative who liked to tell strangers at college football games that he was a Congressman, he had just been shockingly (to him) defeated by Ron Schieber in the November general election for the District 32 state representative.

Then the whispers started that Grill might look at running against his fellow “progressive” pal Kathy Dusenbery in 2012, when it is assumed Dusenbery will seek to renew her cushy position as first district county commissioner. But 2012 is further on up the road. What’s Grill going to do in the meantime? Glad you asked.

Trusted Between the Lines sources say the Grillmeister has been looking at some public relations and marketing jobs. Grill is an attorney, but if he’s looking at jobs in PR and marketing it seems safe to say he considers his law degree more of a showpiece than something he actually intends to use.

Grill has been seen hanging around development lawyer Mike Burke, one of the two candidates to survive the crowded race in Kansas City’s mayoral primary election. Burke and Sly James advanced to the upcoming general run-off, and the fact Grill is hanging on the sleeve of Burke could be an indication the former state rep, who liked to promote a playboy type image, could be hoping for some type of appointment and an office job at City Hall if Burke is victorious.

But James seems to be the mayoral candidate picking up momentum at this point, which could mean Grill is still job hunting after the spring election.

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You can get into town but you can’t get out. That will be the case soon in Parkville. Well, you’ll still be able to get out. It just won’t be as easy.

The Hwy. 9 bridge work near the Parkville Post Office will enter the next phase of construction on March 21. This will involve reducing traffic flow temporarily to one-way into Parkville on westbound/northbound Hwy. 9 (more simply stated, traffic coming from Riverside). There will be no southbound/eastbound traffic allowed at the bridge. In other words, if you want to leave Parkville and head south toward Riverside, forget trying that route. In order to get there, you’ll have to leave the downtown Parkville area, travel north on Hwy. 9 to Tom Watson Parkway and then head over toward Interstate 29.

Officials want to make it clear that traffic will not be allowed to detour through Park University property. They must be really serious about this, because in the informational item they sent to me they put the word NOT in all caps. Just like that. That’s bad-ass tough talk right there.

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As public scrutiny was building, Northland Regional Ambulance District rushed to close that land deal with its board president one day last week. As you know from our previous reports and editorials, NRAD purchased three acres of land from NRAD board president Kevin Rawlings at I-29 and Camden Point for $175,000.

Wow. As we’ve explained, this deal puts off an odor. For more thoughts from the public on the matter, check out comments made on my Facebook page. Rawlings and friends are getting ripped for this, and deservedly so.

The whispers have been out there for weeks that the Bank of Weston would have sold NRAD property across the interstate at a more reasonable price than what NRAD paid to its board president. NRAD officials, however, declined to seriously pursue negotiations with the bank.

Whatever happened to the old public service adage that if it looks bad and smells bad, don’t do it? Apparently that’s not the motto at NRAD. The board NRAD deserves all the criticism it is getting for this careless and questionable use of tax dollars.

Heads need to roll over this. Rawlings--and his fellow board members who supported this fiasco--need to draw some opposition the next time their names are on the ballot. And promptly be voted out of office.

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The field is chosen Sunday and the NCAA basketball tournament starts next week, and I’m in full ‘promote the hell out of our bracket contest’ mode here in the paper, on Facebook and on Twitter. Top prognosticator will pry $100 from my cold hands.

Anyone who earns a better score than I do gets an equally sweet deal--a free one year subscription to this fine newspaper.

You’ll also be trying to earn bragging rights over all your Landmark personalities, including not only your favorite publisher but Rian Babcock, Greg Hall, Brian Kubicki, James Thomas, Russ Purvis, CK Rairden and our trusty facilities manager Kurt Foley.
Here are the important details: Your bracket entry is due at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 17. Fax that sucker to The Landmark at 816-858-2313 or email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com

If you’re a stickler for details on scoring, etc., see our front page article for complete rules.

(When he isn’t looking for ways to sell ground to NRAD, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and befriended on Facebook on Twitter)


NRAD PRESIDENT GETS TOP DOLLAR; SOME HUMOR IN SHEEN'S SADNESS

Posted 3/3/11

Is it narcissistic of me to think that huge “Narcissist” billboard along I-29 at Dearborn is aimed at me?

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Credit to them for trying to spark some growth.

Platte County commissioners this week unveiled an incentive plan they hope will spark some construction activity in the unincorporated areas of the county. The county will waive building permit fees for the next six months (with some exceptions, see your dealer for details).

Hey, if the county did business under the same method of operation as the board of directors of the Northland Regional Ambulance District, you would now see county officials start new construction on their own private property while the waiver is in progress.

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The uncomfortable--some might say slightly nauseating--land deal between the Northland Regional Ambulance District board of directors and the president of the same board of directors is about to be wrapped up. As detailed here last week, NRAD is paying $175,000 for three acres owned by NRAD board president Kevin Rawlings at I-29 and Camden Point. “The survey is done, we’re just trying to get with the title company to do the closing,” Tom Taylor, director of NRAD, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I talked to a businessman who is in a position to be familiar with land values along the I-29 corridor. NRAD is not having an appraisal done on the property it is buying from Rawlings at a cost that relates to roughly $58,000 per acre. Widely held public opinion is that NRAD is overpaying for the property, and not just by a little bit. The businessman with whom I spoke says land at I-29 and HH near Platte City--a more coveted area than Camden Point-- has a market value of about $29,500 per acre. And how about a highly visible, valuable area like near the I-29/I-435 intersection (close to the old Farmland building)? Sources say value in that area is $50,000 per acre, still less per acre than the price NRAD is shelling out at Camden Point.

Wow.

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Time to bring you up to date on some happenings around the ol’ Landmark.

New this week on page A-4 you’ll find The Landmark’s Take on Tinseltown. This weekly feature, on the same page as Hearne Christopher’s not so confidential report on what’s happening in and around Kansas City, you’ll find some quick hitters on topics related to the rich and famous. This will be a weekly compilation of news, notes, quotes and opinions about what’s going on around Hollyweird.

No better time to start this, really, what with the country’s fascination with the almost daily flip-outs by actor Charlie Sheen, star of what I’ve said before is my favorite show on television, Two And a Half Men. I’ve enjoyed the comedic work of Sheen in movies as well as his work on the TV sitcom, so to see him go through these repeated meltdowns is sad.

Whether it’s a good or bad thing that so many Americans have an interest in what goes on with our country’s movie and television stars’ private life can be debated, but what can’t be denied is that the general population’s appetite for this information is insatiable.
We’ll do our little part to help you get your Tinseltown fix right here in the heart of America. Talented Landmark staffer Rian Babcock will head up the gathering of information for this feature, and you can anticipate some occasional dangerous drop-ins from yours truly.

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Yes, Charlie Sheen has been all over the television news shows. You gotta love how so many of the networks TV news shows promote their conversations with Sheen as “exclusive” interviews. In the news biz, normally the word “exclusive” means you have garnered access to something that no other news outlet has. So how is that I can turn on a channel and watch an “exclusive” interview with Charlie, then hit my remote and find another “exclusive” interview with Charlie taking place on a different network? How can so many outlets claim “exclusive” when they’re all talking to the same Charlie Sheen?

Just wonderin’.

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We all have our demons, I suppose, though most of us don’t have them to the extent that Charlie Sheen has them right now. It’s hard to envision any other outcome other than a tragic ending to life for Sheen at this point, with so many of his problems self-induced due to problems with apparent substance abuse.

In the meantime, I confess to being entertained by some of the crazy words to come out of his mouth. For instance, Sheen was asked after one of his weekends of bizarre behavior and apparent heavy drug use: “Why did you take so much cocaine?” Sheen’s answer was: “Well, I didn’t just take it. I had to pay for it.”

Now that’s a funny response.

I don’t condone Sheen’s addictions or actions. But his awareness--in spite of all the brain cells he has needlessly wasted-- that humor works in almost any situation is commendable.

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Another of the more entertaining Charlie Sheen interview moments took place years ago, long before his recent meltdowns. Legend has it Sheen was asked about his alleged habit of paying for female ‘company’, shall we say. The interview was years ago, so I’m paraphrasing here, but it went down something like this:

Interviewer: “Charlie, you’re a good looking guy with a lot going for you, why do you need to pay women to have sex with you?”

Sheen: “I’m not paying them to come have sex with me. I’m paying them to leave.”

(When he’s not watching Charlie Sheen’s meltdowns, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


KC WILL LOSE ITS FUNK; AMBULANCE DISTRICT DEAL RAISES EYEBROWS

Posted 2/24/11

So don’t tell anybody, but I think I’m developing a crush on this singer/dancer named Rihanna. In back-to-back weeks, her voice and moves caught my ears and eyes on the Grammy Awards show and at halftime of the NBA All-Star Game.

Guys, if you haven’t checked out this performer, Google her or YouTube her right now. You’ll thank me later.

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Personally, I’m a little saddened to see that the time of Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser at city hall will be coming to an end. Funk, whom I had the opportunity to interview and visit with on several occasions over the past few years, was an engaging character. I didn’t always agree with his views, proposals or stances on certain topics, but he seemed to sincerely believe he was doing what he felt was the right thing in his hope to better the city. I respect the man for that.

Funk and his office staff should also be commended for reaching out to the Northland and particularly Platte County during his time in office. That’s something that had not happened often--or at least to this extent--under previous Kansas City mayors.

Funk’s office folks often picked up the phone to contact this newspaper when items of interest to residents of Kansas City in Platte County were happening at city hall. He held several neighborhood forums in Platte County over the past few years, where he often talked about his efforts to improve basic services provided by the city while taking any and all questions from those in attendance. These types of things don’t typically draw large crowds unless there’s a particularly controversial topic at hand, but still it shows an elected official’s willingness to reach out and stay in contact with his constituents. Funk did not seem to shy from that aspect of the job.

Of course, the obvious is that Funkhouser was despised by many of the liberals at some Kansas City media outlets, which is another reason I’ll hate to see him go. To say he was a lightning rod for criticism is an understatement. Some of that, of course, he brought upon himself.

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OK, so all this hubba hubba and whispering about the Northland Regional Ambulance District’s deal to pay what on the surface seems to be a steep price to purchase land from the president of the NRAD board of directors is understandable. I’m not saying there is anything illegal about what is going down, but again, what is legal to do with public resources is not always what is right to do with public resources. NRAD is buying three acres from its board president at $175,000. No appraisal of the property’s value has been performed.

I had a 20-minute telephone conversation on Tuesday with Kevin Rawlings, the NRAD board president/landowner involved in this public relations circus. From that conversation, here is what we know, and Rawlings did not dispute any of these facts:

1. For two years, NRAD has been looking for land for a more centralized location for its northern station. According to Tom Taylor, district director, it was made known the district’s ideal location would be the intersection of I-29 and the Camden Point exit (where I-29 intersects with Hwys. E and U).

2. About one year ago--April of 2010, according to county records--Rawlings purchased 35 acres on the west side of the I-29 exit at Camden Point.

3. Somewhere over the course of the past two years, a district official had made an inquiry into land on the east side of the interstate at Camden Point. NRAD was told the land was not being offered for sale, but according to NRAD officials, the “realtor” indicated the “value” of the land would be $225,000.

4. In December of this year--several months after Rawlings had purchased the property on the west side of that intersection--NRAD published a “request for proposals” in The Landmark. The wording of that request for proposals seriously limits the pool of possible bidders in such a way it is almost humorous. The specs insisted the proposed property “must be at least two acres, fronting blacktop, within 2200 feet of I-29 at exit 25.” Kinda limits the pool of potential bidders, doesn’t it? Especially when NRAD officials openly say they already had knowledge that the property on the east side of that interchange was not on the market.

5. Rawlings says he was hoping for other proposals to come in. He indicated to me that he didn’t submit his proposal until very late in the process, though strangely the public notice does not list a deadline for proposals to be submitted. He says he didn’t know there were no other proposals in hand when he threw his offer into the mix.
The public can--and will--read the facts in the matter and draw its own conclusions. Rawlings states his case in our front page article.

No money has yet changed hands, as a survey to nail down exact boundary lines is underway. Have concerns? The best advice might be to let your voice be heard. The NRAD district office phone number is 858-4450. The ambulance board holds monthly meetings--normally on the third Monday night of the month at 7 p.m. at the district station in Platte City--though this month’s meeting is tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.

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There are two teachers unions with staff members at Platte County R-3: the National Education Association (NEA) and the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA). Which of the two unions will emerge to be the lead collective bargaining agent for R-3 staff? It’s still early in the process, but eventually staff members will hold an election to choose from one of the two unions to speak on their behalf on terms of salaries and working benefits.

NEA may feel it has the inside track on winning that election. I speculate on that simply because some NEA representatives will be speaking to the R-3 school board Thursday in a work session to update the board on the process from their point of view. This whole new collective bargaining in Missouri approach is bringing a cautious approach from the R-3 school board. “What it requires on our behalf is study and deliberate action,” Superintendent Mike Reik told me.

“I appreciate the input MSTA and NEA have given. I think it’s all well intentioned. In the end, we’ll figure out where we need to be as a district, keeping the best interests of our kids at heart,” Reik said.

(Collectively bargain with the publisher via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


I DON'T WANT TO START A PANIC, BUT THE INTERNET IS NEAR CAPACITY

Posted 2/18/11

Is the internet in danger of reaching overload status?

Sounds like a joke, right? I mean, we all assume the internet has a capacity of infinity and beyond. A story in the New York Times on Monday tells us otherwise.

According to the New York Times article, in 1976 the best minds at the U.S. Department of Defense had to make a judgment call: How much network address space should they allocate to an experiment connecting computers in an advanced data network? They debated the question for more than a year. Finally, with a deadline looming, a man named Vint Cerf decided on a number--4.3 billion separate network addresses, each one representing a connected device.

First, I thought Al Gore said he invented the internet? His name is not mentioned in the New York Times article. I’m guessing Al is ticked.

“It was 1977,” Cerf told the Times. “We thought we were doing an experiment.” You can’t blame the poor guy. Who knew this thing would become a monster? There are 4.3 billion addresses, but there are 7 billion people on this planet. And many people have more than one IP address. The Internet Protocol addresses are a unique set of numbers assigned to each web site, computer, game console or smartphone connected to the internet.

Bottom line is that these days the internet is about to max out. Experts say within 12 to 18 months--or maybe sooner--every one of the 4.3 billion IP addresses will have been assigned and the internet as it exists today will have reached full capacity.

But never fear, the techno geeks are here. Thank God for nerds. We all should feel bad for picking on those guys back in school. They often save our collective asses. I'm glad they don’t hold grudges.

Nerds saw this problem coming years ago and the transition to a new system is on its way. Known as Internet Protocol version 6, this new standard will support a “virtually inexhaustible” number of devices, experts say. Of course the next question--and one you’ll no doubt be hearing more about soon, kinda like the Y2K scare of over a decade ago--is will the two IP systems be compatible?

Let’s don’t panic. I’m not gonna lose sleep over it. We’ve got 12-18 months. Those science geeks with the greasy hair and thick glasses we made fun of in school will figure it out.

I’m feeling guilty as hell right now. Nerds, I always loved you guys.

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Don’t worry, folks, I really think we’re starting to win this war against winter.

Temperatures in the 50s, 60s and a forecast of a possible 70 degree day on Thursday means we have hope.

Here are the key dates, in Foley’s World, to surviving winter. Feb. 14-Better known as Valentine’s Day, but forget the fact it’s observed as a manufactured holiday primarily anticipated by the female gender. On the Foley calendar, Feb. 14 is a significant date because traditionally if we get a significant snow after this date, we can mentally handle it with no problem. Why? Because more frequent days above freezing means the snow won’t hang around long.

Second most important date in surviving winter, of course, is March 1. In my world, March 1 is a mid-major holiday. In fact if we were a government office, I would order The Landmark closed on that day every year for no justifiable reason and politicians would call me Ferris Bueller.

March 1 means we’ve already survived the worst the winter is going to bring us. It means, again, any significant snow doesn’t hang around long. Most importantly, it means college basketball takes the spotlight. Longtime readers of this column space know what that means. You’ll find The Landmark’s office television tuned to college basketball. We don’t have one of those flat screen LCD high definition televisions in our office like the fortunate administrators at Platte County R-3, so I’m a little jealous in that regard, but any TV with a college hoops tourney game on it is a good TV.

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By the way, we will be doing our annual public Bracket Battle contest again this year in conjunction with the NCAA tournament. Details coming soon. My hope is that I’ll have a better score this year. Readers hope I don’t. Anyone with better luck than I have at picking games wins a free subscription, remember.

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Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley and your favorite publisher already have our March Madness trip for the season planned. Last year we hit the semifinal night of the Big 12 tourney, where we were robustly entertained by not only the quality of basketball but also by some old dudes in the row behind us giving unintentionally humorous commentary as the action unfolded on the court. Two weeks later, we spent a weekend in St. Louis at the regional finals of the NCAA tourney, then a week later attended Opening Day for the Royals.

This year we’re definitely hitting the Friday night semifinals of the Big 12 tourney (seats in the eighth row of the lower level, please don’t ask how much I paid) and have toyed with the idea of heading to Tulsa for early round games of the NCAA.

Spring isn’t far away, folks. Catch the fever.

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So word at the coffee shop is that the Northland Regional Ambulance District wants to pay what many observers are calling an extremely inflated price for some property owned by one of its board members at the southwest corner of the Camden Point exit along Interstate 29. I guess it pays to have connections. We’ll be taking a look at--and possibly having some fun with--this topic in future issues. Doing what’s legal with public money and doing what’s right with public money are often two different things. The public can eventually decide if the situation passes the smell test.

(See if this publishing nerd passes the smell test with an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, or follow his daily antics on Facebook and Twitter. No friend left behind.)


IDEA BY PURVIS DESERVES SUPPORT; JUDGES GET MORE BUCKS

Posted 2/11/11

Just curious: When you see one of those glossy, full color 2011 Platte County parks calendars floating around the community, does it make you feel better about funding an $82 million toys tax during an economic downturn?

I know it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

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While on the subject of tax dollars, is it an appropriate time for pay raises for state judges? Apparently a majority of the state legislature believes it is.

According to the web site courthousenews.com, Missouri state judges will get a pay raise. The salary hike doesn’t take effect until July of 2012, but it is coming.

Circuit court judges (in Platte County, circuit court judges are Lee Hull and Abe Shafer) will get a raise of around $6,500. This will move their salary to $127,020 effective July 2012. That’s an increase of about 5.4%.

Associate circuit court judges (in Platte County, these are James Van Amburg, Thomas Fincham and Dennis Eckold) will see a pay hike of nearly $7,500. The increase will put their salary at $116,858. These numbers are an increase of about 7%.

Missouri Supreme Court judges will get more than a $10,000 increase, going from $137,034 to $147,591. This mean’s the judges at the state’s highest court will be getting a hike of almost 8%.

According to courthousenews.com, the raises were a point of contention for legislators. Supporters claimed the raises are needed to keep good people on the bench and to stop an exodus to higher paying jobs. Opponents argued, unsuccessfully, that the state could not afford the $5 million price tag the raises carry.

When was the last time state judges got a raise? According to courthousenews.com, that was in July of 2008, when a 3% raise was given.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pay for Missouri judges ranks in the middle nationally.

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Are snow days built into the judges’ calendars and pay schedules?

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Have a history of sinus trouble or sinus infections? Invest in some of those low-cost cool mist humidifiers. I’ve purchased three of those puppies this winter, keeping one in each of the rooms where I spend the most time. If you’ve been in The Landmark office this winter, you’ve spotted one at work right in front of my desk. It’s been like discovering gold, baby.

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Landmark columnist Russ Purvis has an idea whose time has come.

Regular readers know the great lengths The Landmark has gone to promote the idea of smaller, smarter government. If you support this movement, be sure to read The Inconvenient Truth column by Purvis on page A-3. Russ, an attorney in Platte County, is a former Democrat who now refers to himself as an Independent. He has a solid idea that we hope will gain support. Purvis is now leading the effort to reform what he refers to as “Missouri’s ineffective and inefficient House of Representatives.” He has filed a petition to place a proposed amendment to the state constitution on an upcoming ballot. The amendment would greatly reduce the size of the state’s house of representatives, cutting the number of state representatives from 163 to 103.

Amen to this.

As you’ll read in Purvis’s column, the size of Missouri’s house of representatives is ridiculous. Missouri has more state representatives than much larger states like Texas and Califronia, for instance. Cutting the number of state representatives by 60 results in an immediate “hard cost” savings of $1.8 million annually just in salaries of the elected. Add in other factors like the reduction of staff members and benefits, and the savings will grow considerably. Purvis says the cost savings will climb to the range of $3 million to $5 million per year.

Read more of his thoughts on this topic in his column, including the reason why the state’s size of the house is so out of proportion.

A lot of us talk often of reducing the size and scope of government. Purvis is rolling up his sleeves and organizing an effort to do something about it. Let’s help him out. To learn more about the proposed amendment and what it will take to get it on the ballot--or to offer your help--contact Russ Purvis at 816-842-4357 or email him at russp842@yahoo.com

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The lawsuit the county brought against Kendra Montgomery, a former employee in its human resources department, has not gone away, despite the county apparently wishing that it would. The county has dropped its portion of the suit, but that doesn’t prevent the former employee’s counter legal claims from being heard. It’s a fascinating story that only The Landmark has followed for you.

As a sidebar to that same situation, the sexual harassment/discrimination lawsuit filed by LeAnna Fannon--who remains employed in the county’s human resources department--against former auditor Siobhann Williams and the county is slowly making its way through the legal system.

Williams has filed a motion to “enforce discovery” that is scheduled to be heard Thursday of this week in front of appointed judge Gerald McBeth. We’ll be keeping you posted on that case as it progresses.

(Pay Ivan Foley more if you wish but don’t judge him--ah, what the heck, judge him anyway while following him at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WEATHER NERDS
GETTING IT MORE RIGHT
THAN WRONG THESE DAYS

Posted 2/4/11

Uh, we’re in the middle of a snownami, a snowpocalypse, a snowmageddon, snOMG, with all kinds of white stuff moving around in all of Ol’ Man Winter’s huffin’ and puffin’.

And The Landmark carries on. Since 1865.

******

You know, we’ve got to give the weather nerds credit this year. They are actually nailing most of their forecasts.

In past years, it seems quite often when they warned us days in advance that “the big one” was coming, the storm would fizzle out and we’d end up with flurries or minimal accumulations. Not this year. The weather geeks are warning us well in advance that big storms are coming--and they are.

Improved skills or just dumb luck?

******

So, the snowgasm cleared out The Landmark office somewhat earlier than normal on Tuesday, always one of the longer days around a weekly newspaper, with some staffers heading home to file their work from magical devices known as computers, while yours truly remained encamped at the historic Landmark office. This left me alone with just my computer, the office TV, the office refrigerator which my appetite quickly cleaned out, and a big double picture window seat to something resembling a huge snow globe.

There was limited human interaction from walk-in traffic (it gets that way during heavy snow, FYI) and fewer than normal phone calls, as Time Warner decided to have phone/internet outages for most of the workday. The result of all this? I spent much of the day talking to myself.

So in other words, I guess it was like any other Tuesday.

Co-workers can tell you stories about how I will break out into unanticipated shouts of nonsensical phrases throughout the course of the typical day. Office manager Cindy Rinehart has diagnosed me with some kind of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Columnist/office assistant Rian Babcock refers to it as my Tourette’s.

Call it what you will. I call it breaking up the day.

******

Let’s also take a moment to praise Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, for recovering from that initial panic decision to close the county buildings a few weeks ago before what turned out to be about five or six inches of snow. Recent storms have been of greater accumulation and the county’s reaction has been more reasonable--the buildings for the most part have remained open. Of course a more understandable early closing occurred Tuesday of this week as the heaviest part of the snowquake was about to hit. County administration building shut down at 2 p.m. that day. I’m told the judicial courthouse shut ‘er down at noon.

Official snowfall total at KCI during Tuesday’s Blizzard of Oz was nine inches.
Here it is Wednesday morning, and the blowing and drifting snow overnight has the county administration building closed for the day. And the wheels of justice have not only slowed at the courthouse, the wheels have stopped turning altogether, as the courthouse is shut down for the day as well.

Again, this is a more understandable closing situation than the one of Jan. 10 when the new presiding commissioner hit the panic button at 7 a.m. preceding a storm that only totaled five or six inches with no drifting and relatively mild temperatures that day.

******

This week’s storm notwithstanding, this thought does cross the mind: What would happen if the private businesses that generate the sales tax revenue that fund local governments shut down as quickly and easily as some of the government offices do?

******

We wish him well but at the same time we hate to see him ride off into the sunset, gun packed in holster.

Captain Frank Hunter is retiring after 26 years with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. Hunter in recent years became the primary public information officer for the department, which of course means he was the main contact for those of us in the media. Hunter in his early days as media contact point at times was overly tight-lipped, but we seemed to grow more comfortable talking with each other in time and overcame some early communication issues. Over the past few years our phone calls always included some laughs, and I can recall enjoying a long personal conversation with him for an extended time at a swearing-in of county officeholders a couple of years ago.

Best wishes to the ol’ captain.

******

Ace Landmark reporter Pam (PJ) Rooks has an excellent and informative article on page A-5 of this issue about the challenges facing road crews for area cities and the county during this winter’s many snow events. Her article includes a look at the physical and fiscal challenges the heavier than normal snowfall has placed upon some of the crews.

Overall, I’m giving the city of Platte City a top notch grade for its work this winter, at least in the very visible downtown area. If there are complaints coming from any of the neighborhoods, they haven’t reached the ears of The Landmark.
Nice job under trying circumstances so far this winter, folks.

(Send your evaluation of the weather nerds and the snow removal troopers to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. And follow the Between the Lines three ring circus at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


BAD CHECKS ARE BAD AND THEY'RE DOWN SO THAT'S GOOD, RIGHT?

Posted 1/28/11

How about the snow sculpting ability of local teacher Disa Rice photographed on the front page? Rice and her “cool” work might be worthy of a future Bill Hankins’ Landmark People feature.

******

Heads up, motorists.

You know the off-ramp from Interstate 29 at the HH exit into Platte City? The speed limit for a large portion of that long off-ramp has recently been lowered. How do I know this? A generous Platte City police officer warned me about it one morning this week.

Speed limit on that stretch of roadway had been 55 mph ever since Barack Obama created Earth (what, he did, didn’t he?). Until recently. The city of Platte City asked the state to lower the limit in that area, and the state complied. Starting at the Vine Street crossing, speed limit on that off-ramp is now just 40 mph.

There is a sign in place, to which I was obviously oblivious. Thanks to the officer for kindly drawing the change to my attention.

******

Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2012. As you know, that’s the spot currently held by Democrat Claire McCaskill, one of President Obama’s closest senate friends and allies (though something tells me Claire might try to run from that connection when the campaign gets rolling).

Shortly after voting last Wednesday evening in favor of repealing the debacle known as Obamacare, Graves spoke to the media outlet Roll Call by phone about why he’s considering challenging McCaskill.

“Because I think it’s a huge opportunity, just a huge opportunity, and when you look at some of Sen. McCaskill’s votes when it comes to health care and stimulus and things like that, she’s completely wrong for the state,” Graves told Roll Call.

Graves indicated he has been considering a campaign against Claire since the result of the November midterm elections were known. That’s when his supporters started gauging his interest.

McCaskill is viewed by most observers as one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2012.

So is Graves serious about this or is he just floating a trial balloon? Too early to say. He is extremely popular in his home district but a statewide race is a different animal. Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman kicked off her campaign for the senate seat in early December, coincidentally just a few days after she sent your Between the Lines columnist a message on Facebook asking me “How ya been?” I then sent her a message asking “What’s up with you?” She then said “Thinking a lot about senate.” To continue the play-by-play, I then messaged Sarah: “That would be awesome, would love to see you go for it. Let me know if I can get some exclusive interview time on that topic.” A few days later her announcement was splattered all over the media. I’m still waiting on her answer to my request for the interview. It’ll get here, I’m sure.

Anyway, former Sen. Jim Talent is rumored to be considering a bid as well. Nice guy, but Talent needs to step back. No charisma, already lost to McCaskill once, not a candidate who really can energize folks. Former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner is also taking a look at the race after losing her bid to become Republican National Committee chair recently.

******

I’m not an attorney but I occasionally try to play one in this column. Thusly (trying to sound all lawyer-like), I am sometimes treated to a copy of the publication known as Missouri Lawyers Weekly. On the Dec. 27 cover of that tabloid is a feature story about the significant drop in the amount of bad check fees being collected by prosecutors. Featured prominently in the story is Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor.
As part of resolving criminal bad check charges, people pay a fee of $25 if the check’s value was less than $100, and up to as much as $75 if the check or a series of them was worth $250 or more.

The number of bad checks being written across the state is down. Way down. This is a sign that crime is being crushed and should be celebrated as such, right? The article almost painted Zahnd as lamenting the fact bad check writing is fast becoming a thing of the past.

“Missouri Lawyers Weekly didn’t put this in the article: Bad checks being down is a really good thing because that means merchants aren’t being ripped off. Does it mean that Platte County faces some additional budget pressure because we have used back check funds to fund operating expenses? Sure,” Zahnd said in a phone conversation with me this week.

Reasons for the drop in the number of bad checks, Zahnd explains, are factors such as the increased usage of debit cards and electronic checking procedures by merchants that allow them to determine in real time whether the person has enough funds in their bank account to cover the amount of the check being written.

Zahnd has seen his office’s bad check fees fall by nearly half: From more than $60,000 in 2006 to just over $35,000 in 2010. State law generally allows prosecutors to use the fund as they see fit. Zahnd says he has used the fund for office supplies and other operating costs, but his big goal with the money is to help fund a renovation of his office, including plans to turn a storage area into a private conference room. Zahnd has in the past said there is a problem in finding private quarters for his staff to meet with crime victims in the prosecutor’s office.

A solution? Legislation is being proposed that would allow prosecutors to collect on “general” restitution cases, for example in property theft cases. Zahnd explains: “Let’s say someone steals a $300 computer from you. We collect the $300 restitution for you and collect a fee for doing so.”

We’ll have more on the proposed legislation--and more on Zahnd’s effort to get the office improvements made--in future issues.

(There’s never a charge when Between the Lines catches a grenade for ya, or collects restitution. Email the leader of this protection agency at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or follow him at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


TIME FOR THE ELECTED TO FOLLOW MARCHING ORDERS

Posted 1/21/11

It’s Wednesday morning. The weather forecast is for 4-8 inches of snow by Thursday, which is potentially a bigger storm than the one last week that caused panic attacks at the county buildings.

Question of the week: Will Jason “Ferris Bueller” Brown be ordering Platte County offices closed?

******

Well, filing deadline for city and school board positions up for grabs this spring has come and gone. Sadly, Platte City will be losing the services of a staunch fiscal conservative. Alderman Andy Stanton has decided not to seek reelection after serving two terms.

I attempted to reach Stanton Wednesday morning after Tuesday night’s filing deadline but couldn’t catch him. I did speak with him earlier in the week, and he expressed frustration at being on the short end of some split discussions at the city over fiscal matters the past couple of years. Sounding like he at times feels like the Lone Ranger, Stanton indicated there doesn’t seem to be much fiscally conservative help on the current board of aldermen.

Just as Trish Stinnett has been on the Plate County R-3 School Board, Stanton has been a taxpayer watchdog at the city. His persistent questioning of the bureaucratic types aservice needed on governmental boards. A lot of taxpayer waste can flow by undetected without the bold types like Stanton around to ask questions and shine light.

Some voters and taxpayers may not realize it, but they’re losing a friend at city hall. The board will be weaker without Stanton’s presence.

******

Snow is expected to start around noon today.

Bueller? Bueller?

******

Platte County’s proposed budget is on the streets. I’ve been told it’s online, as well, and while that’s nice, I prefer to do my budget reading the old fashioned way, so I picked up a copy from the office of auditor Kevin Robinson on Tuesday. I must have been the first one to do so, because the auditor’s staff had to run make a copy.

Anyway, the proposed numbers are interesting.

Columnist James Thomas in his piece on page A-3 goes into details of what Commissioners Jason Brown and Jim Plunkett had to say to the Platte County Republican Central Committee at a meeting Monday night, so you’ll want to check out James’ column.

Some of the basics are this: The county is proposing to cut general revenue spending in 2011. According to auditor Robinson’s budget message, the 2011 budget reflects about a 2.5% decrease in revenues from the 2010 budget. The change in revenue from 2010 actual revenue numbers to the 2011 budget is a decrease of 4.6%.

Some belt tightening, obviously, is needed at the county, and the commissioners told the central committee this week that all officeholders played nice and were willing to work to find ways to help cut spending.

According to Robinson, sales tax revenues for 2011 are projected to drop by about 5%. Use tax revenue is also expected to decline, he says, to the tune of about 10%.

Property taxes provide only about 5% of the county’s general fund revenue in 2011. Sales tax revenue accounts for about 66% of county general fund revenue. Other revenue sources are the use tax, special fees, etc.

The fact no public squabbling has emerged--no whining has yet hit my phone line from any officeholder upset by cutbacks-- is possibly a sign that a message has been clearly received by the elected from the people they serve. The people have spoken. They want smaller government, low taxes. It’s time for the elected to follow through on the marching orders issued to them by their bosses.

******

Damn, I just busted that county-issued rubber band that held my copy of the proposed county budget together. I hope the budget stretches farther than the rubber band did.

******

The weatherman on our office television just said there is the potential for significant snow.

Bueller? Bueller?

******

So what is Siobhann Williams, former embattled county auditor, up to these days? Glad you asked. I wondered the same thing.

“I’ve actually been out of town, working on an audit,” Williams told me Wednesday morning in a phone call I made while trying not to wet my pants over this forecasted snowstorm (Bueller? Bueller?).

Williams declined to say for whom she is auditing, saying only that she is working in the “private field.”

“While I was out of town I kept up on the news from the county by watching your Facebook page,” she told me, obviously stroking my journalistic ego. “I couldn’t believe they shut down the offices and the courthouse.”

So what about those rumors Williams will end up working for Clay County in some capacity, perhaps in a newly created financial advisor position?

At this time, that appears to be nothing more than political rumor.

“Nobody has approached me about that,” she said.

******

Remember, if we do get some snow, take all the necessary precautions.

Bueller? Bueller?

(Hold your water and ride the storm out with Ivan Foley on Facebook, at Twitter.com/ivanfoley, or send a panic-stricken email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


COUNTY CONTRIBUTES TO WUSSIFICATION OF AMERICA

Posted 1/13/11

The life and times of Charles Cook made its way back to a courtroom Tuesday as the drama surrounding the criminal charge of exposing himself continues. Cook, a Platte City alderman and an employee of Empire Gas, is accused of exposing himself inside his pickup as he gave a ride home to a 37-year-old female employee of a local grocery store.

As exclusively reported in our front page, Cook is seeking a jury trial and a date for the action has been set for April 4. Meanwhile, Cook’s attorney has been trying to take a deposition from the alleged victim. Apparently a couple of dates for the deposition have been set but for whatever reason the actual event has not yet taken place.
According to court records examined by The Landmark, a subpoena for the upcoming deposition was served to the alleged victim recently at the grocery store. Do you know where she was served? At the meat counter.

I couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, I could, but truth is often more entertaining than fiction.

******

Ever wanted to tip a state trooper? You’ll get your chance next week. While the tip money won’t get you out of a ticket, it will go to a good cause.

On Monday, Jan. 17, Sgt. DJ Hedrick and some other Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers will be working at the Country Cookin’ Café in Platte City. The law and order dudes will be washing dishes for tips and donations to the Missouri Special Olympics athletes and the athletes’ families. They’ll be performing their chores from 8 a.m. to noon at the restaurant at 524 Branch St. (Hwy. 92).

“We contacted the owner of the restaurant (Tammy Berry of Weston) to assist us with this effort. We are calling the fundraiser ‘Tip a Trooper.’ We’ll be taking orders, filling coffee cups, washing dishes and visiting with customers,” Sgt. Hedrick tells me. “I think it will be fun. The officers will be on their own time, but just wanted to do something and give back to the Special Olympics athletes.”

Cool idea. Check it out if you get the chance .

******

In office for less than two weeks, Jason Brown, new presiding commissioner for Platte County, had an early opportunity to make a statement of strong leadership this week. He failed. In fact, his action can be seen as a contribution to the continued wussification of America.

By 7 a.m. Monday, Brown ordered county offices closed for the day. Some snow had fallen and more was on the way. There were no strong winds blowing that day (remember, the winds didn’t arrive until overnight on Monday). The temperatures were not at all brutal. And yet we’re shutting down county government for the day?

I was shocked by Brown’s tail-tucking move. The guy is a war hero who reportedly still has a bullet in his body from his time in Iraq, so there’s no questioning his personal bravery. But this public folding in one of his first moves as commissioner is extremely disappointing. At a time when voters are longing for strong leadership at all levels of government, instead Platte County taxpayers were treated to typical mamby-pamby bureaucratic BS.

Shutting down government for a day due to five or six inches of snow (official snowfall total reached seven inches at KCI, but remember some of that fell after the “work day” was complete)? Can anyone really defend this with a straight face?

I mean, I know Brown’s staunchest conservative supporters are saying things like “the decision to close reduced expenses” and “the less they’re at work the better for the public,” but come on. The expense reduction of closing the county on a snowy day is borderline fantasy, and even so, Brown didn’t order the closing to try to reduce expenses. In fact, if you look at our front page story, Brown says: “I don’t think we docked anybody’s pay for having the building closed.”

So much for the saving money argument apologists are wanting to use. Brown just killed that argument all by himself. Well, maybe there were fewer toilet flushings that day, but other than that. . .

Based on reaction from followers on my Facebook page, I’m not the only one who was shocked that the need was felt to shut down the county. Instead of making a statement to the public that “there’s a new sheriff in town” and we’re gonna toughen up the attitude and demand some accountability from those drawing a public paycheck, Brown went soft. Instead of sending a message that we have a strong new leader, the message we received was one of retreat and surrender. I fear the next thing you know Brown will be falling in love with horse trails and rainbows.

Privately-owned firms across the county still conducted business as usual during Monday’s storm. County employees aren’t expected to show for work when five or six inches of snow hits the area? And we’re supposed to trust these folks to handle a real challenge?

Right now, the weak-kneed types are winning the war.

******

I asked Pam Rooks, reporter, to contact Brown to do a story on his decision to close down the county. One of his more interesting quotes, in addition to the one above about no employees’ pay being docked by the closing, was this one: “It was in the best interest of safety and common sense.”

So does that mean those owners of private firms who did open for business on Monday were displaying a lack of common sense? “I’m not passing judgment on anybody,” Brown told me when I asked him about it Wednesday morning.

Brown also says in the story that the weather Monday was “bitterly, brutally cold.”
Huh? No it wasn’t. As I made the drive to work that day (yes, The Landmark was open for business, in case you were wondering) the outside thermometer in my car said it was 27 degrees. I comfortably shoveled snow from The Landmark’s sidewalk without wearing gloves or a hat. Hell, at one point I looked across the street to see attorney Lyle Odo shoveling his walk while not wearing a coat.

No, brutally cold was Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when temperatures plummeted to zero. Amazingly, the county did open for business Wednesday morning.

(Sometimes the little decisions create a big picture. Follow big picture analyst Ivan Foley on Facebook and Twitter and email him at ivan@stopthemambypamby.com)


FAST FOOD OPTIONS
GROWING, AS IS POLITICAL
DRAMA AT COUNTY LEVEL

Posted 1/7/11

Landmark columnist/former 710 KCMO talk radio host Chris Stigall is now on the air, big-wigging in the city of Philadelphia. He has already been featured on at least one TV station in Philly. Check out this link to see that interview of our man Stigall with what appears to be some TV diva in the city of brotherly love: http://tinyurl.com/27fl5uf

Stigall is scheduled to resume his Landmark column next week. Well, unless he has already forgotten us little people.

******

Good news on the local fast food front in Platte City. Church’s Chicken seems to be getting very close to being open inside the Conoco station at Running Horse Road and Hwy. 92, in the spot formerly occupied by KFC. If Church’s keeps its tables clean and minimizes the fly count inside, this will be an upgrade. Frankly, I’m a big fan of Church’s. I took part in two tailgating trips to Arrowhead in the fall and both times stocked up with 24 pieces of Church’s chicken from their St. Joseph location.

In other news, sources in the know are saying that Wendy’s has contacted the city of Platte City in regard to building permits and intends to reopen in the same buildng it operated from a few years ago, along Running Horse Road just south of where Church’s Chicken will be.

******

I’ve noticed something about this federally mandated narrowbanding of emergency radio communications equipment and its purported financial impact on Platte County. When this was first brought to the public’s attention, county officials said the switchover could cost as much as $18 million. After a couple of months, county officials started tossing around the projected cost as being $13 million. Now the number being spoken by those connected with the situation is “down” to $10 million, as you’ll see in John Elliott’s column on page 3.

I think we’re onto something here. Let’s just keep talking about this mandate for months and see if we can get the financial impact down to the range of a fiscally manageable figure, shall we?

******

Changes are happening, as expected, at the Platte County Administration Building. One of the early eye opening moves has been made by Joan Harms, new county clerk. Harms, a Republican, has hired former Clay County Presiding Commissioner and former Clay County Clerk Tom Brandom to work on her staff. Harms, as first reported here weeks ago, elected not to keep any of former clerk Sandy Krohne’s people on staff in a transition period. Instead, she has raised some eyebrows among her own supporters with the hiring of Brandom, a Democrat who was often a point of controversy in his time at Clay County. This will be interesting.

In other news from the administration building, Cherie Warren, one of the top staff members for defeated auditor Siobhann Williams, has found employment in the office of new Clay County Auditor William Norris. There are also unconfirmed reports--and at this point that’s all they are--that Siobhann Williams could end up working for Clay County in some capacity, perhaps in a role as a newly created financial analyst/advisor of sorts.

In addition, one of Williams’ former employees in Platte County, Justin Kuder, is reported to be coming back to Platte County to work under new auditor Kevin Robinson. Kuder quit during the audit of 2008.

A fascinating game of musical chairs in local government has begun. We’ll stay on top of it for you.

******

What will be the most fascinating aspect of watching the new county commission of Jason Brown, Jim Plunkett and Kathy Dusenbery at work? It will be watching a battle of wills. Let me explain.

Brown is by far the most fiscally conservative of the three. Plunkett got off to a fiscally conservative start in his tenure, then for whatever reason ventured off the beaten path with his outspoken support of the $82 million parks, trails and rainbow tax in 2009. He burned some bridges with the conservative plank of the Republican party during that time and really hasn’t enjoyed the kind of widespread support he was getting up until that point. Both Brown and Plunkett are strong personalities who publicly will be respectful of each other but privately are very aware they are supported by two very different camps of the Republican party. So will Plunkett become more conservative now that Brown is the top dog or will Brown go soft and allow the more moderate approach that Plunkett has taken in recent years to influence him? And will Plunkett, should he decide to run again in 2012, be challenged by a more conservative candidate within his own party? I’d say the chances right now are good, but 2012 is a lifetime away in the world of politics. Who’s to say Plunkett will have a desire to run again, and if he does, between now and then will he have returned to his conservative roots to the point he won’t face a challenge from the fiscal watchdogs?

Then, of course, there’s Dusenbery. Dusenbery when first elected described herself as a progressive, which as you know is an elected official who likes to spend someone else’s money. She spent the summer of 2009 spouting off to and publicly getting into whizzing matches with anyone who questioned the need for $82 million in additional parks and rec taxes. How smart would it have been for the county to cut that half cent sales tax for parks in half, which would have allowed room for a quarter cent sales tax for law enforcement (think mandated narrowbanding of emergency communications) to be put in place without an overall negative impact on county taxpayers?

In any event, Dusenbery in recent months has tried to get chummy with the more conservative branch of the Republican party. Whether she made the first step in that direction or whether the conservatives first started courting her, I’m not sure. But what I can tell you is that Dusenbery now seems to badly want to be embraced by the conservatives, whereas a year or year and a half ago she openly ridiculed the conservative branch of the local GOP.

Heck, I’m a local political junkie so I’m getting excited just talking about all the behind the scenes drama that is already taking place. The next year is going to be a fascinating one at the county administration building. Let’s get this party started.

(Party with Ivan Foley on Twitter, Facebook or by email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


IF THE PROSECUTION NEEDS TO COME FROM OUTSIDE, SHOULDN'T THE INVESTIGATION?

Posted 8/26/11

Random thoughts: If it’s appropriate for an outside prosecutor to be brought in to determine whether charges are filed against a former sheriff’s department captain (and I agree that’s an appropriate move), why wasn’t an outside prosecutor brought in to determine whether citations/charges should be issued in the crash of two Central Platte Fire Department trucks?

If all our public protection agencies work closely together (and I agree they do), shouldn’t we always have outside agencies brought in to make impartial judgments on these types of situations?

And along those same lines, if we need an outside prosecutor to study whether charges are filed as the result of a personnel probe in the sheriff’s department, shouldn’t an outside agency such as the Missouri State Highway Patrol have been brought in to conduct that investigation? I realize the sheriff says Cass County helped with the probe, but sheriff’s folks also have acknowledged the Platte and Cass County departments enjoy a friendly working relationship. Wouldn’t a state-run investigation have given the appearance of a completely impartial probe, more so than one conducted primarily by the sheriff’s department itself?

And if the sheriff’s department and the volunteer heroes on local fire departments work closely together at scenes of public protection--which we know they do--shouldn’t the Highway Patrol have also been brought in to conduct the investigation into the crash of two Central Platte Fire Department trucks instead of the sheriff’s department?

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

The specific observation being made here is that there seems to be a lack of consistency into how these situations are being handled. Public confidence in the outcomes of these situations would grow if that approach were cleaned up.

******

An investigation is underway to determine if the television in The Landmark office can get any channel other than Fox News. Developing.

******

As drama queens go, there can be none bigger than Megyn Kelly on Fox News. Not sure I’d wanna be a member of a trapped audience in the Megyn Kelly household during dinner-time discussions. Her daily program from noon to 2 p.m. has more over-the-top dramatic influx than any news show on the tube.

I will concede the point, however, that she is attractive.

******

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor the city of Parkville has ordered a three month evacuation of its downtown due to the earthquake on the East Coast.

******

Parkville may, however, examine the possibility of acquiring an earthquake-proof portadam for the bottom of Main Street. Bid specs would require that the portadam not only be immune to quakes, aftershocks, and temper tantrums, but also be able to survive three months of not being touched by water. Developing.

******

Here’s the inside skinny on the employment contract for Pam Windsor, who has been brought in to serve as Platte City’s interim city administrator while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

Windsor will work five days per week and will be compensated $6,333 per month. She will also be reimbursed for personal automobile use while on duty at the rate of 55 cents per mile. Windsor’s initial contract calls for her to work through Dec. 2, though at that time the city has the option to extend her employment for an additional four weeks, which would run through Dec. 31.

The city will not be providing any employment benefits such as paid vacation, paid sick leave, retirement, health insurance, etc.

Either party may terminate the agreement with two weeks written notice to the other. The city, of course, could terminate employment without notice and without payment if the employee fails to comply with provisions of the employment agreement.

******

You’ll read elsewhere in this issue that the Platte County Commission will be holding its twice-monthly administrative sessions at the Platte County Resource Center after giving up its second floor meeting room at the Administration Building in Platte City to the prosecutor’s office from now through the end of the year. The reason? The prosecutor’s third floor offices in the county courthouse are being renovated.

According to Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, the cost of the renovation of the prosecutor’s offices, covering 3,710 square feet, will be $427,000. If my math is correct, that equals a cost of about $115 per square foot. Glen Rogers Construction of Lee’s Summit has been awarded the contract to perform the work.

Of that $427,000 total, roughly $200,000 will be paid for using fees collected by the prosecutor’s office in its work on cases involving bad checks and folks’ failure to pay state income taxes. The remaining cost of the renovations, roughly another $200,000, will come from the county’s general fund.

“I think it’s good to use money taken from people who violate the law in place of tax money whenever possible,” Zahnd said when I asked him about the renovation work this week.

Among other things, work will include turning some unfinished space in the old law library and turning it into usable space. The bathrooms will be made ADA compliant, new heating and cooling systems will be installed, sound control of the walls and other privacy features will be enhanced to improve confidentiality of discussion of sensitive matters. A conference room is being added. The third floor is the final portion of the courthouse to be renovated, county officials say.

(Renovate your life by following Between the Lines at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


SHERIFF HAS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IN PUBLIC RELATIONS

Posted 8/19/11

Is it just me or does it seem like the month of August always lasts about six weeks?

Can we get to fall and some football soon, please?

******

You may not like the way your 401(k) looks right now after the recent plunge, but let’s have a mini celebration for the drop in prices at the gas pump. I found gas for $3.19 a gallon on Monday--still inflated but much better than the outrageousness we’ve been dealing with in recent months. A recent report by the AP said that analysts regard high gas prices as one of the biggest drags on the economy. No kidding. That would be because it cuts deeply into the amount of disposable green folks find inside their wallets.

******

When the dust settles from the recent turmoil in regard to a personnel investigation about certain alleged policy violations--and perhaps a lack of policies in certain important areas--this much seems clear among yours truly and many fellow members of the media: The sheriff really needs to take steps to improve his department’s communication efforts with the public. I’m sure the sheriff realizes that open and forthright communication with the media is an important aspect of the job of his department, he just hasn’t made it a priority. The media is his best liaison to the people who are paying his salary and funding his department.

The public doesn’t just want to know what the heck is going on in the county’s largest law enforcement agency, it has the right to know. Providing little information, vague information, or being slower than necessary to respond to requests for basic information at a time when a personnel investigation--a probe that may or may not have a criminal element to it--is not the best way to win public trust.

The media can be an elected official’s best friend or worst enemy. Most often, the direction that relationship heads is determined entirely by the officeholder’s own actions. Right now, the sheriff’s public relations efforts are frustrating to some in the media--and therefore to the public.

******

The folks at FEMA are in Platte County. Two reps from that governmental institution dropped in The Landmark office Tuesday, asking for help in getting the word out that they are in the area and wanting to assist anyone negatively affected by this summer’s manmade flood (here’s lookin’ at you, Corps of Engineers).

If the disaster has caused damage to your home or vehicle, a loss of wages, or you just want to hassle the FEMA folk, call my newest, bestest friend Pat Whitt of FEMA. She’s in Platte County but the number you can most quickly reach her is an out of area cell at 571-732-6870.

That’s my public service announcement for the week. Who says Between the Lines lacks compassion?

******

Add another well-known “celeb” to the long list of readers of your local Landmark: Scott Pioli, general manager of your Kansas City Chiefs.

Remember that story on the Three Guys in a Garage radio show on Sports Radio 810 WHB that intern Jared Speckman penned for us a couple of weeks ago? It seems the article was read and enjoyed by Pioli.

Jay Binkley, one of the hosts of the There Guys in a Garage show, said on the air Monday night that when the hosts ran into Pioli in the hallway at Arrowhead the other night, Pioli told them he had read the article that appeared in The Landmark.
I know Jared had a great time writing that feature. He joined the boys in studio for their show a time or two while researching the story, and on at least one occasion the Garage Guys put Jared on the air. The intern is now back to his day job of going to school at William Jewell, where he serves as one of the stud linemen on the football squad there.

******

There are so many places I need to be this Saturday that I have no idea where I’ll end up. There’s a Michael Reagan event sponsored by local Republicans; nationwide conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, who was courageous enough to have me as a guest on his program a year ago, is in nearby Adrian, Mo. for a “Take Our Country Back” event; Landmark cartoonist Matthew Silber invited me to a Nullify Now event on the Plaza; Parkville Days will be in full swing; St. Joe has its annual Trails West Festival; and a friend of daughter Alyssa will be tying the knot. All of this and more happens on Saturday, Aug. 20.

I’m currently in the process of cloning myself, though I’ve heard if I do that too often I could go blind.

******

The 2012 county campaign cycle is now underway, thanks to the announcement by Republican Rob Willard that he will seek the office of county treasurer. Willard, a former assistant prosecutor under Eric Zahnd, says he will file for the position currently held by Democrat Bonnie Brown.

Brown says she will be retiring at the end of her term next year, after 12 years in the treasurer’s office. Brown told me last week she has been telling friends and employees of her plan to retire “for a while now.” When I let her know word of her plan had not yet reached the ears of your Between the Lines columnist, she said: “I guess we don’t run in the same circles.”

Truer words may have never been spoken.

Brown says that while neither of her assistants are interested in seeking the post, she has been trying to recruit a candidate. “I’ve been trying to talk to banker friends to let them know I’m not running,” she said Friday.

Other county positions up for grabs next year in addition to treasurer will be the two associate commissioner spots, the assessor, sheriff, and public administrator.

(Run in the publisher’s circle on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and search him on Facebook)


AT MINIMUM, ASSESSOR GUILTY OF A LIBERAL WAY OF THINKING

Posted 8/14/11

So what about the county assessor situation, as reported in The Landmark last week? You’ll recall David Christian, new assessor who replaced Lisa Pope in May following her cancer-related death in March, finds himself in a bit of hot water after handing out payroll “bonuses” to employees in the office. Bob Shaw, county counselor, provided a legal opinion to the county commission that the bonuses were illegal. Christian later used his personal money to refund the county coffers $11,000. Still, the matter was passed on to the prosecutor to review. Prosecutor Eric Zahnd’s office will determine whether criminal charges are deemed necessary. In a phone conversation Monday, Zahnd told me he has not established a timeline for a decision.

Jason Brown, presiding county commissioner, says he advised Christian, whom he has known for several years, against giving the bonuses. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Brown, who to his credit has been all over this situation from the start, said again this week. “Legal or not, I just don’t think taxpayers will agree with the idea of giving bonuses to the very people who are out there assessing property and (potentially) raising their taxes in the process (through placing a higher assessed value on that property),” Brown said this week.

Whether Christian deserves to be charged with a crime can be debated, but what is clear is that he made a political policy blunder that will likely cost him any chance of winning an election. Who knows, maybe he had no intention of running anyway.

His thought-process for giving the money away to employees is an example of the bigger epidemic going on in our taxing entities across this country. Instead of letting taxpayers pocket the savings that occurred while an officeholder was not being paid, Christian saw that as money that normally would have been spent. In his mind, that justified giving the money away to a staff that had long been trained to handle duties in the assessor’s absence anyway.

It’s a typical free-spending approach used by tax-supported agencies almost everywhere. The “if we budgeted it, let’s go ahead and spend it” approach really needs to end.

******

Reports out of Joe Town--wait, does anyone other than a few longtime St. Joseph residents still refer to the city as Joe Town?--indicate attendance at Chiefs training camp is down noticeably this year. Theories for this vary depending upon whose viewpoint you’re listening to, and our sports sound bite columnist Greg Hall has an excellent piece on this in his Off the Couch reports at plattecountylandmark.com.

Number one reason, at least in my way of thinking, has been the oppressive heat. It’s been an absolutely brutal summer in that department. There aren’t many folks who are bigger NFL fans than this guy, but the older I get the less capably I’m tolerating extremely hot and humid conditions. Heck with it. I’d rather get my Chiefs training camp updates from guys like Hall and other media folks on Twitter than go have sweat soaking through my clothes for two hours.

It is ironic that in the two years the Chiefs have been in nearby St. Joseph I have yet to attend a practice, yet when they held camp in River Falls, Wisc. there were almost annual road trips made to that destination. It became a traditional late summer weekend getaway.

Maybe that’s the deal. Maybe St. Joe is actually too close for a lot of Chiefs fans, many of whom would prefer to turn a trip to training camp into a more methodical getaway rather than “a let’s see if we can find time after work to jump in the car and head to St. Joe” kind of experience.

At any rate, the Chiefs’ first pre-season game is Friday night, which means Friday is officially the day sports fans in this area quit paying attention to the Royals. As if they hadn’t already.

******

A couple of weeks ago, Jason Metten, city administrator for Platte City the past three years, announced he will be leaving the position at the end of this month to seek a job in the private sector.

Metten will be missed. He has a lot of positive skills, but the thing I’ll remember most about Metten is that he brought a polite, friendly, more open atmosphere to the office of city administrator. That approach was desperately needed in a community that had grown weary of quite the opposite approach from Metten’s predecessor. It wouldn’t be a stretch to also credit Metten’s demeanor for helping to further fine-tune the commendable PR skills of the mayor, who has taken on a more “man of the people” style during his current reign. It seems excellent communication skills are often contagious.

Best of luck to Metten in whatever field he decides to pursue.

******

Your Between the Lines law enforcement update for the week: Captain Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department says the personnel investigation into the situation surrounding the suspension and eventual retirement of veteran road patrol Cpt. Steve Johnson could be wrapped up within “a week or two.” But, he stressed, “there is no firm timeline because a lot of factors can come into play in an investigation.”
Expect more thoughts on that situation here when solid info from the probe is made available.

Speaking in general terms and not necessarily specifically to the Johnson situation, my initial thought at this point is to give credit to Sheriff Dick Anderson for seemingly holding his guys to an admirable standard of avoiding the appearance of potential conflicts and avoiding any business transactions that might not have a clean aroma. Longtime readers of this column space know I haven’t always agreed with the sheriff on some of his budgeting desires and have concerns about the ability of the media to extract public information from incident reports in a timely manner, but it can’t be argued that Anderson has created a sense of professionalism in the department since he arrived on the job after the 1996 election. At least from the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be a “good ol’ boys” system in place.

(This has been your weekly Between the Lines session. Follow daily news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


MEMBERS OF ELECTED BODY TEXTING ONE OTHER AT MEETINGS: COOL OR NOT COOL?

Posted 8/6/11

Hey, please remind me never to serve as a volunteer for one of those “here’s how a police dog catches the bad guys” demonstrations.

******

Ever had this happen to you?

Pulled into one of those quick oil change places the other day. A guy roughly my height, maybe an inch or two taller than I am, comes out to meet me, asks if I want the full service oil change. Then, of course, he gets in my car and drives it no more than 30 feet into the work bay.

After the oil change is complete, I get in the car to drive away and discover the driver’s side electronic seat control has been adjusted to the point it was better suited for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Damn near fell backwards when I sat down in the thing.
Not sure but I think even the rear view and electric side view mirror angles had been changed.

I realize even the fellas workin’ at the oil change joint deserve decent working conditions, but was all this really necessary to drive my car about 10 yards into the work bay?

Kinda took all the convenience out of that convenient oil change on the way to work.

******

Slow economy? What slow economy? Many of the folks running your taxing entities don’t believe it’s a reality.

What is it with government agencies continuing to give salary increases to their employees while the private sector and typical hard-working families--who can’t mandate their revenue supply through that process known as taxes--slash expenses and budget their way through a sluggish economy? This is unreal.

The latest culprit is the Platte County R-3 School Board, who last week awarded what amounts to an average 3% raise for administrators and teachers. And support staff at R-3? They’ll get a 5% raise.

Slow economy? Your tax-supported entities apparently feel immune to it. They continue to reach inside your wallet.

The Platte County Republican Central Committee publicly chastised the Park Hill School Board for awarding pay increases to employees. Will the local GOP take a public stance on R-3’s decision?

******

A patron of the North Platte School District approached The Landmark recently with concerns that members of the school board there appeared to be texting among themselves during the course of a recent board meeting during discussion of certain topics.

Of course there is no hard evidence that this is happening. If it is happening, is it illegal?
Recently, I put the question to Jean Maneke, Sunshine Law specialist for the Missouri Press Association. There is no easy answer.

“The question is, are they having conversations with more than a quorum? Are these messages going within a quorum of them? If so, then that becomes public information. If they are texting each other one at a time, if one person texted enough people to constitute a quorum, it could constitute (as an improper meeting) under the wagon wheel theory,” Maneke said, just thinking out loud during the course of our phone conversation.

It’s a tough situation. Legal or illegal, it should not be seen as acceptable for members of any public body to be holding private discussions in that manner, especially during the course of a meeting where decisions are supposedly being made in a very public way.

“It’s another example of how public body officials are looking for a way to get around the law,” Maneke said.

There’s an easy way for everybody to avoid potential legal discussions on this issue. Is it too much for the public to ask that its elected officials simply not engage in private communications among themselves on policy decisions? Save those talks for the public meetings. And those discussions should be spoken, not texted.

They weren’t elected to “talk” amongst themselves.

******

Some folks like to say you can’t fight city hall. Most avid Landmark readers know better--many of you have fought city hall or some other government agency at one point or another. That’s one of the reasons you enjoy The Landmark.
Kevin Blacksher of Blacksher Trash Service that serves Parkville is one of the most recent examples that you can fight city hall. He helped rally public opposition to the recent proposal to mandate recycling under some form of “one-hauler” system. He called recently to graciously thank this newspaper for its coverage of that topic in Parkville. The day Blacksher called, city officials in Gladstone were set to discuss a similar proposal, where reportedly some opposition was coming forward in Happy Rock.

“This Parkville thing has reinvented the idea that you can get government to listen to you if you make enough noise,” Blacksher said.

******

Really not sure why, but many Between the Lines readers enjoy occasional updates in our series we’ve grown to call Grill Gone Wild. Jason Grill is the former state representative for southern Platte County. He had multiple behavioral incidents that put him in the spotlight while in office. He was edged last November by Ron Schieber.

What’s new with Grill these days? He campaigned long and hard for Mike Burke in this year’s Kansas City mayoral election. Burke lost, and as a result, he had no cushy job at KC City Hall to offer Grill. Also, friends of his say even though Grill is an attorney, he really doesn’t want to be. He has been applying for jobs in the public relations field. But most recently? A split with his girlfriend. The split was her idea, a person close to Grill says. “Some friends thought they would marry. I hoped for his sake they would,” says the Grill friend. Grill’s ex-gal pal has a position in PR/marketing with something called Sporting KC, which I’m told is a team affiliated with something called soccer.

(The end. Well, until next week. In the meantime, follow along at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


COULD THE SHIPPERT MURDER INVESTIGATION USE SOME HELP?

Posted 7/31/11

Instead of asking “Is it hot enough for ya?” how about this:

Is anybody else dreading opening that next electric bill?

******

Readers are never left hungry after devouring an issue of The Landmark, and this week is no exception. We have a murder, the uncovering of alleged illegal substances at a Platte City business, the resignation of a city administrator, the suspension of a veteran law enforcement officer, pay raises dished out by another tax-supported institution, and so on and so on.

Sadly, one thing we’re not able to report is an arrest in the now two-month old murder investigation into the death of Alissa Shippert, 22, of Platte City. The Casey’s General Store employee was found on the bank of the Platte River inside the Platte Falls Conservation Area on June 1.

As is usually the case, I brought up the investigation in my weekly phone call to Cpt. Erik Holland, the handler of media inquiries for the sheriff’s department. Holland said there is nothing new to report. The longer that’s the case and the more often the public hears that there’s nothing new to report, the frustration and fear that the case will never be solved grows among the community.

That being the case, would it be beneficial if the sheriff’s department asked for assistance from outside agencies? What about calling in the well-known Metro Squad, made up of a team of special investigators from law enforcement agencies throughout the region?

“That was discussed in the beginning of this investigation,” Holland responded when I asked him about the possibility. “In the beginning we were working with a few different agencies and the case at the time didn’t rise to the level of being a Metro Squad case.”

Holland said there are certain factors surrounding a case that must be met before the Metro Squad can be called in. “But I couldn’t tell you what they (those factors) all are.”

He simply said the Shippert investigation “didn’t qualify.”

Fair enough. But if the possibility exists that the local guys can use some help, let’s hope they won’t be shy about asking for it. The victim’s family, friends and the general public deserve that much. If and when this case gets solved, it can’t, won’t and doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

******

Hey, there’s great news at the blue desk that serves as Between the Lines headquarters inside the historic walls of The Landmark’s headquarters at 252 Main St. in beautiful downtown Platte City.

The statewide Better Newspaper Contest award winners have been announced. We’re proud to say The Landmark has been notified that it will receive nine--yes, that’s nine--awards this year. That’s nearly twice as many as any other Platte County newspaper. In fact, it’s nearly twice as many as all the other county newspapers combined.

I thought about giving you fake modesty right now but I just can’t.

The Missouri Press Association asks that newspapers not list their specific awards until after the statewide convention in September. Not wanting to shake the fine folks at the MPA, The Landmark will abide by their request. We will tease them, however, by saying The Landmark is a winner in the category recognized as judging the overall excellence of a newspaper. And these Landmark editorial pages you peruse each week are statewide winners in multiple categories. Also, don't be surprised in September if a certain cartoon guy--whose work you know and love--is a winner. Of course it goes without saying that our Missouri Hall of Fame photojournalist will grab some honors.

Pats on the back and cool iced tea from me to the entire staff. We’re proud to produce a newspaper of which our readers can be proud.

******

West Platte Fire Protection board of directors is scheduled to meet tonight (Wednesday), with a likely topic being the department’s much-scrutinized response to the fatal fire at Old Geezer’s Mantiques on July 4. A home video shot for the first 12-14 minutes of West Platte’s arrival at the fire, while shop owner George Treese was losing his life inside the structure, has raised some questions about the sense of urgency and plan of attack used by the early arriving firefighters. And when I say sense of urgency, I don’t mean their arrival time. West Platte’s fire chief says her department was on the scene within six minutes of receiving the call, which is commendable. What is not commendable is the lack of urgency shown by the early arriving firefighters once they were on the scene.

The video remains posted on my Facebook page. Scroll down to the July 14 entry.
Ted Wilson of Weston made some excellent points in a public setting last week. Wilson explained that he ran for the fire board in April of 2010 and applied for an open seat on the board in July of 2010. He said his reason for wanting to be on the board was his concern about the staffing of the department. In a letter to the Weston Chronicle, Wilson said: “What needs to be done is a thorough review of board policies and how the fire district is managed performed by an independent entity not associated with West Platte or any other area fire department. Particular attention should be paid to the fact that other area departments are able to attract, train and retain volunteers and West Platte cannot.”

Wilson wrote what I thought was a most excellent point when he said that it would be a terrible mistake for the fire board to “sweep everything under the rug, defend the department’s actions and act like everything is OK. This is what has been done in the past and you see where we are now.”

Bingo.

It’s easy for elected officials--and even easier for some in the media--to pretend that everything is fine. Hopefully the light The Landmark’s coverage has helped shed on this situation, coupled with the common sense approach touted by people like Ted Wilson, will encourage the fire board to take concerns seriously and make positive adjustments.

(Random acts of journalistic justice are performed on a daily basis at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Follow along.)


LESS-THAN-CAREFUL DRIVERS WILL TAKE NOTE OF THIS

Posted 7/22/11

Kim Carnes, the raspy-voiced leggy blonde who was the singer of the smash hit “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes” 30 years ago as I was graduating high school, turns 66 today.

Say it ain’t so. All these years while I was growing older I thought Kim Carnes was staying the same age.

******

Good news for less-than-careful drivers in Platte County: You can be involved in a head-on crash while driving more than four feet left of center and escape without a criminal charge or traffic ticket of any type.

The precedent has been set.

For good measure, damage in the thousands of dollars to public property and injuries to five people still mean you’re in the clear of a criminal infraction.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of this information, see the front page story about the crash of the two Central Platte fire trucks. One truck was being driving 4’6” left of center at time of impact. No charges, no traffic tickets.

******

Strange. The motoring public has always been under the impression that every driver has a legal responsibility to maintain control of his vehicle at all times.

Apparently under some up-till-now little known traffic law in Platte County, if your vehicle is four and a half feet left of center you are still considered to be in control of your vehicle.

A lot of drivers will be filing away this tidbit of knowledge for future reference.

******

Even if, as some like to claim, this crash occurred on a blind curve (it didn’t, I was at the scene, the crash was beyond the alleged ‘blind curve’), that doesn’t change the facts uncovered by the sheriff department’s crash team, which show Engine 94 to be 4’6” across the center line at the time of impact.

Breaking news: If you’re driving four feet left of center, you’re driving four feet left of center. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a blind curve or a perfect straightaway.

******

Consider this: Vehicles pass one another coming from opposite directions on alleged ‘blind curves’ every day. What would you guess, 99% of them do not crash head-on?

You know why? Because 99% of the time neither driver has his vehicle 4’6” left of center.

******

A former fighter of many fires, now retired, stopped in The Landmark office to view the video of the West Platte Fire District’s response to the blaze in which a downtown Weston businessman perished on July 4. Owner George Treese of Old Geezer’s Mantiques called 911 from inside the structure before succumbing to the fire.

The video can be viewed on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/ivanfoley. As remarked here last week, the video shows West Platte firefighters with no sense of urgency as they arrive on the scene of a fire where they know--or should have known, as the dispatcher’s over-the-air call had advised--a person was inside. A sense of confusion would be a better description of the firefighters’ reaction.

The veteran firefighter watched the video at my desk. About five minutes into the 12 or 14 minute video--after confusion, hesitancy, and problems getting water on the fire were evident--this man’s comment was: “It has been a circus of errors so far.”

Later in the video, after mutual aid from Central Platte’s department has arrived on the scene and the plan of attack takes on a form of effectiveness and competency, the veteran firefighting leader remarked: “West Platte’s guys are doing a good job of staying out of the way.”

West Platte spent many minutes unsuccessfully getting water on the fire, either from the hydrant or from its truck. Even without water, there should have been a rescue effort of a human life attempted.

“At minimum, the first two guys should have attached themselves to one another and got down on their bellies to see how far they could get into the building” in an attempt to locate and rescue the man known to have been inside, this veteran firefighter told me.

If you haven’t watched the video, do so. But be forewarned. It’s uncomfortable to watch the hesitancy and confusion by the early arriving firefighters while knowing that a man inside the building is losing his life.

******

The Humane Society advises that in periods of excessive heat alerts like the one we’re in right now, you should treat your pets the same you would treat yourself.

So that means tonight my dog will sweat his ass of while working in the yard and then he and I will both be sucking down a large Pepsi float while chilling in the living room recliner with the Royals game on TV and the air conditioner running full blast.

******

Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong is due at Stanford and Sons Comedy Club in Kansas City Aug. 12 and 13. Local authorities destroyed those thousands of marijuana plants just in time.

******

Good seats for the July 30 roast of radio personality Chris Stigall at Tiffany Greens Golf Club are still available. You’re invited to come see if any of us doing the roasting can humble the man in any way, shape or form. Reservations can be made by calling 816-248-4248.

If you don’t make it out to see this in person you’ll have to wait for the full length motion picture. Or the reality TV show, whichever comes first.

(You never have to wait a week for more Between the Lines. Follow the daily commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or befriend Foley on Facebook)


FIRE RESPONSE LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED; STIGALL PRIMED FOR ROAST

Posted 7/14/11

Next year’s Major League All-Star Game is in Kansas City, folks. I’m pumped about it, but I’m just hoping next year’s game is more attention-holding than Tuesday night’s snoozefest from Arizona. A boring contest coupled with some DirecTV outages because of a storm blowing through at the time made it tougher than ever to absorb the smugness that seeps through your television every time Fox broadcaster Joe Buck calls a game.

The Royals’ representative, rookie pitcher Aaron Crow, didn’t even get in the game for a chance to balk in the winning run.

******

On Tuesday, The Landmark was provided a copy of that soon-to-go viral 12-14 minute home video of the Fourth of July fire that claimed the life of George Treese, owner of Old Geezer Mantiques in downtown Weston. To say the response and early actions of West Platte firefighters is disappointing is an understatement. I was embarrassed for those guys and can fully understand why friends and family of Treese may want to be raising some questions about the quality of response.

Let’s review some of the basic facts here. It was around 6 p.m. on the Fourth of July. I heard the fire call come across the police scanner. The dispatcher gave the details, including the fact that a person “may still be inside” the building. Lynn Johnson, West Platte Fire Department chief, boasts that her department arrived on the scene within six minutes and had the fire “knocked down” in 30 minutes.

Okay. Nice that you can quote those numbers, chief. But what about the human life that was being taken during that time? After West Platte firefighters arrived on the scene, the video shows absolutely no sense of urgency on the part of the early arriving firefighters. Were they not aware the call for help had come from inside the building? Weston Police Chief Terry Blanton last week told me the fire call had been made by Treese himself from inside the building. Treese even told dispatchers which door help should come through.

The video shows there’s a lot of standing around by some West Platte firemen, who seemed to be unaware of the seriousness or puzzled by what approach to take. There was trouble getting water to start flowing through the hose. Maybe they were simply convinced--rightly or wrongly--that they should not enter that smoke-filled building to try to find Treese. Or maybe they were scared to do the job they’ve signed up to do.

A former Central Platte firefighter called me this week to say that West Platte’s fire department in the past has been notorious for waiting on Central Platte to show up on a mutual aid call to do the heavy lifting, so to speak. The video, a copy of which is now in The Landmark’s possession and posted on my Facebook page, seems to back up that claim.

Hell, if a call came into Central Platte’s cowboys about a structure fire with a person still in the building, I’d be worried the sense of urgency would be so great they’d crash four trucks on the way. But I would not be worried that any firefighter on Central Platte would hesitate to enter a burning building if at all possible, knowing there was a chance a human life could be saved. West Platte’s guys stood around like they were smoking a brisket and getting ready to crack open a Bud Light.

******

You can bet this topic--and a discussion of the video-- will come up later this month at a meeting of the West Platte Fire District board of directors. The Landmark will be there.

******

And what about that new West Platte Fire District headquarters building along Hwy. 45? Criminy, have you seen that thing? Looking at the exterior, it is far and away the most luxurious structure in the city of Weston. All brick. Huge. It’s like a government-funded castle. Are the toilets gold-plated in that place?

All I can say is don’t let the Platte County R-3 school administrators see the new West Platte fire building. They’ll be jealous and will want a new Taj Majal of their own.

******

Hot shot radio mega-star Chris Stigall, formerly one of us little people here in the Kansas City market but now a big fish in the big pond of Philadelphia, will come bouncing his way back to our area soon.

As you’ll see on our front page this week, somehow the folks at an outfit called the Missourians For Conservative Values convinced Stigall to allow himself to be roasted at a fundraiser set for July 30 at Tiffany Greens Golf Club. I don’t know anything about the sponsoring Missourians For Conservative Values political action committee, but when I heard proceeds from this no-holds-barred cage match will go to something called the Show Me A Conservative election fund, I could not turn down their invitation to take part as one of the roasters.

Some of the ads for this event say “join us as we roast and toast” Chris Stigall. Listen, I don’t know who’s planning on handling the toasting end of things, but I was specifically asked to be a roaster. I didn’t get the memo about toast. So I’ll be a good soldier and plan to do as I was asked. Something tells me bulldog political strategist Jeff Roe--it’s never a good idea to get crossways with that man--will take a similar approach.

Fatherly figure Jack Cashill may spend his speaking time deconstructing Obama or trying to peddle his book of the same name. I don’t know money man Chris Butler, host of a financial show on KCMO 710 AM, but hope to be able to ask him for some stock tips. Greg Knapp, who took over Stigall’s morning slot at KCMO 710 when Chris left for the big payday, will also be on hand. A lot of Landmark readers have told me they enjoy Knapp’s show. This will be my first visit with the new guy.

Most of the toasting, I’m guessing, will come from the soft-hearted Paige Powers, former news anchor during Stigall’s show and a longtime friend of the former man-of-the-people now man-of-the-hour.

Please join us for a night of fun and friendly barbs. I just hope the room at Tiffany Greens will be large enough to hold all the egos.

(Get smart remarks and news 24/7 from Ivan Foley at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and friend him on Facebook. Or don’t.)


MURDER CASE FRUSTRATING TO PUBLIC, AUTHORITIES

Posted 7/8/11

The public is getting frustrated by the lack of an arrest in the murder of Alissa Shippert. The investigation, now starting its sixth week, has prompted rumors--some which may contain bits of truth, others that likely contain no truth at all--but no charges. The slow release of information about the case back in its early days caused some frustration directed at the sheriff’s department, and the apparent lack of progress in the case has fueled that feeling among some folks.

It could be the detectives are running into dead ends. Or it could be they know where they’re headed, just working methodically to dot some i’s and cross some t’s. Or it could be the truth is somewhere in between.

Maybe I’m reading too much into one comment spoken to me by Cpt. Erik Holland this week. All I know is that I am choosing to take this as a positive. In my weekly call-in to the captain, I asked about any new leads or new information. That question led basically nowhere, so I followed it up and Holland offered this much: “They’re still looking at a person of interest.”

That comment can be taken a number of ways, anywhere from being basically meaningless to perhaps meaning authorities feel like they have their suspect in their sights.

Regardless of how one interprets it, let’s hope the person who committed the despicable crime is eventually captured and prosecuted to the fullest extent.

******

Some things never change. Bureaucrats and big government types have always sought cushy positions. And apparently, The Landmark has always been around to expose them for it.

Let me explain.

Robert Eckert of Platte City, history buff and longtime member of the Platte County Historical Society, occasionally drops by The Landmark office to supply me with historical nuggets he comes upon during his research. This week, he furnished me with a quip from The Landmark. More accurately, the March 13, 1922 issue of the Chillicothe Constitution newspaper had quoted the editor of The Platte County Landmark from a piece entitled ‘Where the tax money will go.’ The Landmark’s 1922 comment went like this:

“The job hunters are on the trail of positions early, applying for places as clerks, stenographers, etc. at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates are already receiving applications. Most of the applicants are from Jefferson City and from those who have for many years known nothing else save some soft job to be awarded by state officials. They are chronic feeders at the public pie counter.”

You gotta love it. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

******

Major breaking news. Well, kinda.

Buffy Smith of Platte City, field representative for Congressman Sam Graves, is a new momma. Buffy and hubby Matt are the proud parents of Kathryn (Kate) Ann Smith, born Saturday, June 25, 10:33 p.m. at Liberty Hospital. Kate checked in at seven pounds, four ounces, and 19.5 inches long.

Buffy’s absence from the congressman’s office means the field rep duties now will be handled by Jason Klindt, who also is Graves’ communications director. Upon intense media questioning, Klindt says the doubling of his duties has not resulted in the doubling of his salary.

It’ll take some doing for Klindt to live up to Buffy’s quality of performance as field rep, which Klindt likes to describe as “extremely adequate.”

******

Apparently the rumors are getting, pardon the pun, fairly ridiculous.

The Platte County Fair is fighting rumors that this year’s fair has already been canceled, rumors that this year’s fair has been moved to later in the year, rumors that this year’s fair will be hot (wait, that’s not a rumor), etc. Truth is, according to fair board president Howard Prost, no changes in schedule or location are planned, at least not yet.

As you know, the fairgrounds can be victimized by flooding during years of high rainfall, and now obiously in years of bad Missouri River management by the Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless, the fair is set to go on just as originally planned. I’ll let Prost tell you:

“All plans are on to run the fair as scheduled. However, we are told the fairgrounds will most likely be under water at some point in July. If this occurs, we are looking at several options of how to run the fair: streamlined on the original weekend? Moved to the last weekend of August? Moved to an alternate location? All options are on the table, but the current plan is that THE FAIR WILL HAPPEN, ON THE FAIRGROUNDS, AS SCHEDULED: JULY 20-23!”

And hey, you know when a guy puts it in all caps and adds an exclamation point, he really means what he says, right?

******

Independence Day will forever prompt a bad memory for the survivors of a Weston man who tragically perished Monday night. Sincerest sympathy to the family of George Treese, who was killed in a fire at his place of business in downtown Weston the evening of July 4. Treese lived in the back portion of his Old Geezers Mantiques shop at 540 Main. Investigators say Treece called in the fire, even telling authorities which door to come in, but apparently had no path to escape before being overcome by smoke inhalation.

******

The July 4 fire at Weston is just another example of why you need to be following The Landmark on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. We were the first media outlet to break the news of the blaze. A bit later while others were incorrectly reporting there were no injuries, The Landmark was sending out a tweet stating this newspaper was getting reports the fire had claimed a human life. About that time I was messaged by a Kansas City television reporter saying: “My station is sending me out there based solely on your tweet.”

Turned out to be a wise move by the station honcho.

(Do what the news bosses and news junkies do. Follow The Landmark at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook)


TOM HUTSLER DESERVES AN ATTABOY; CHANGE NEEDED AT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Posted 7/2/11

Tom Hutsler, chairman of the Parkville’s Fourth of July event, is an outspoken person. There’s nothing wrong with that--in fact, it’s a positive. Outspoken folks who aren’t afraid to deliver strong opinions are smart enough to expect some blowback. It’s a given that comes with the territory. The pushback comes in a variety of ways, but the experienced ones accept it as the nature of the business.

Hutsler, who has been through a tussle or two, got a little pushback from certain folks who wanted to criticize the decision for Parkville’s Fourth of July event to partner with Riverside to help pull off this year’s festival. It is a bit surprising to me that there was some criticism of the work that Hutsler, Carol Kuhns and others put in to forge the partnership. With flood waters still at bay but still providing a potential threat to a long-by-now sandbagged downtown Parkville, there really was no way the Fourth celebration could go on as usual. The partnership Hutsler and the gang created with Riverside and Park Hill South High School was nothing short of a perfect alternative.
“Sure, Main Street Parkville Association is about downtown Parkville, but we’re about the community as well,” Hutsler said when I asked him about it this week. “The whole theme is we’re giving back. We didn’t want to cancel. We want to keep the tradition alive.”

Any criticism of the MSPA partnering with Park Hill South High School for the carnival events and for the fireworks viewing seems misplaced. Students from Parkville attend Park Hill South, after all. More importantly, it’s 2011. This isn’t a geographically segregated society. Business services and community involvement and support are not--and should not--be limited by geographic boundaries or lines of residency. To think otherwise in this day and age is about as small-minded as one could get.

Kudos to Hutsler and his committee for pulling this thing off under trying circumstances in a challenging summer.

******

As expected, Platte City’s Board of Aldermen renewed its $10,000 wasted investment in the arrogantly and ineffectively-led, membership-losing organization that is the Platte Chamber of Commerce. On the bright side, cutting the $10,000 check to this ineffectively-managed chamber is better than using 10,000 taxpayer dollars as kindling at the next chamber weenie roast. But not by much.

We can argue all day over whether a city should be using tax dollars to directly fund a chamber of commerce. Despite the convoluted info supplied by a public relations bureaucrat from KCP&L, it’s not common for cities--especially one the size of Platte City--to be forking over $10,000 annually to a chamber of commerce. Typically doesn’t happen, folks. Parkville doesn’t do it.

What also doesn’t happen--or at least shouldn’t happen--is for a membership-losing organization to be raising membership fees while giving raises to its ineffective staff. A better use of the money that’s being spent on staff pay raises would be to send each chamber staffer to a month’s worth of charm school. Chamber leaders are supposed to be salespeople for the business community, always asking what the chamber can do to assist entire business community. This chamber’s often-abrasive method is to approach a business to ask: What can you do for the chamber?

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how much money the city gives to the current chamber. As a Platte City alderperson told me after Tuesday night’s meeting--an alderperson who voted in favor of giving the $10,000 by the way--the problem isn’t so much the money, the problem the public has with the chamber is the staff. Bingo. That’s kinda what we’ve been talking about in this column for a couple of weeks now. It was refreshing to hear an alderperson say that. It would be more refreshing if the alderperson had the intestinal fortitude to say it publicly instead of whispering it to me after the meeting is already adjourned.

The worst-kept secret among chamber members--and by the way, The Landmark has been a member of the Chamber since 1979, longer than any other media outlet-- is that the executive director and a few other chamber leaders have an inner clique to whom they like to cater. It’s like junior high or high school all over again. Talk privately to representatives from various industries--they’ll tell you the chamber has favorites that it caters to in every industry. Those in the loop already know this. Not only is this a childish practice, but more importantly it is completely unacceptable to allow chamber staff to play games of favoritism while taking $10,000 from the taxpayers to help them do so.

So the bottom line is this chamber leadership is not using your money efficiently or wisely, and on top of that they continue to whiz down the backs of some folks while trying to convince them it’s raining.

Nothing will be any different until leadership at the chamber is changed. Executive director Karen Wagoner’s abrasive and arrogant method of operation may be starting to catch up to her. Showing up as Wagoner’s posse of support at Tuesday night’s meeting were only the public relations suit from KCP&L and a local attorney who is an unabashed political liberal. That may not be a good sign.

Membership in the chamber is down by four percent. There are rumblings in the ranks that several more members are ready to drop from the rolls. There are whispers that a focused group would like to form a new organization if the chamber doesn’t move from this rut. Change is needed. Next year, aldermen can force that change by requiring it as a stipulation before handing over $10,000 in taxpayer cash.

******

Here’s a thought to ponder.

If the city is going to continue to give $10,000 of our general public tax money to the chamber of commerce, then the city should require that the chamber allow the general public to have direct input in selecting future boards of directors. Require that future boards have at least a couple non-traditional members from the taxpayer member base as opposed to traditional direct-dues paying members. In other words, taxpayers should get board members separate from the fanny-kissing back-scratching crowd.
It’s the least the city could do after having started the bad practice of subsidizing non-governmental organizations. Though the city may claim its $10,000 is going to only economic development, let’s be real. All the money is going into one chamber pot. Every tax dollar helps the chamber fund ridiculous and arrogant decisions, such as the one to raise salaries of staff while memberships are dropping.

It’s an upside down world.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook and follow his rants and whimsical remarks at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


CHAMBER'S DIRECTION SPARKING SOME NEGATIVE FEELINGS

Posted 6/25/11

Every time I hear the hit song Rolling in the Deep by Adele, I get the urge to strap on a pair of assless chaps and gallop bareback on a fast horse, swinging the whip from one side of the pony to the other.

Okay, before you pull my man card, let me clarify I was just kidding about the assless chaps. But the rest of that is dead-on.

A galloping pony just seems to fit the beat in the chorus of that song. I even motioned my way through a dance to that effect when the song came on the radio last week while our staff was mailing papers. Daughter Alyssa and office manager Cindy both gave it a thumbs down, though truthfully I think they’re just jealous of my moves.

****

Sarah Steelman, former state treasurer who now is hoping to be the Republican nominee to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012, was in Zona Rosa for a meeting Tuesday afternoon. She came walking in the front door of The Landmark unannounced (and let it be clear we’re bragging, not complaining). Oh sure, the conversation could have focused on politics if we wanted, but there was a more important item to address: She’ll be the featured speaker when the Savannah Reporter celebrates its 135th birthday. That celebration will be Thursday, July 7, from 3-5 p.m. in the Savannah Reporter parking lot, which I’m speculating is a fine parking lot paved in silver and gold.

Anyway, I’ll be there for the shindig on July 7. You know who else will be there? Some dude playing live music. More importantly, also on hand will be Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who is a Savannah native. Zahnd will be the first of three or four speakers that day, with Steelman batting clean-up in that department.

Publisher Guy Speckman and staff of the Reporter will be serving weenies, which will give it kind of a Platte City Chamber of Commerce feel.

Let’s load up a bunch of Landmark readers and make Guy buy another pack or two of ball park franks that day.

******

As we opined here last week, it seems a very inappropriate time for the Platte City Chamber of Commerce to be raising membership dues by $25 across the board, at all its various levels of membership. The chamber has already dropped in members by 4% from this time last year, and if the scuttlebutt I’m picking up is accurate, they were going to lose some more even before the rate hike was announced. A fee increase in a down economy is likely to push even a few more out the door.

At least that’s how most business folks would see it. The minds at the chamber apparently see it differently. Karen Wagoner, the highly compensated executive director for the chamber, told reporter PJ Rooks that cutting services might have been an option, “but in a down economy, I don’t think cutting services is the answer.”

Huh? Someone explain that logic to me. The economy is down. Business for the chamber is down. And the answer is to spend more instead of cutting expenses (payroll, perhaps?) This sounds like a typical free-spending liberal approach to government, and since the chamber annually receives $10,000 in taxpayer cash, let’s call it what it is.

Accountability needs to come into play here. We can criticize Wagoner for being very Keith Moody-like in her handling of folks whom she doesn’t view as part of her inner circle, and we can criticize Wagoner for lacking the kind of captivating personality it takes to be an effective salesperson for the local business community. Both of those criticisms, in fact, if we were to make them (and I’m pretty sure I just did), would be valid. But the real problem is over the last several years the chamber has had a timid board of directors who let Wagoner run the show without questioning her approach.

The abrasive style is divisive to those in the community--and within the chamber’s own membership base--who have no interest in kissing up. As evidenced by the way the chamber is run, either board members are intimidated by Wagoner for whatever reason, or the board members simply just want “chamber of commerce board member” to appear on their resume and have no interest in making tough decisions, so they let the director run the show.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. The board is supposed to be the boss. The director is supposed to answer to the board. At Platte City, the chain of command has been turned upside down for years. It’s so blatantly obvious that many folks in the community chuckle about it. But no board member wants to do anything to change it, apparently. Again, Wagoner isn’t to blame for this. Hey, if an employee can intimidate her bosses into giving her anything she wants and let her run roughshod, that says more about the bosses than it does the employee.

The chamber won’t reach its full potential as an organization until this approach is corrected.

******

Since the chamber wants to spend more while losing members, it’s time to take a hard look at its budget. Of the proposed $125,000 in income projected for 2011-12, nearly $80,000 of that will be spent on salaries and benefits for the chamber’s staff. Wagoner is full time, and there are two paid part-time employees. All three of the employees get an IRA benefit. Wagoner also gets a life insurance policy benefit. The chamber has lost 4% in memberships but it will spend 2% more on salaries and benefits in the coming year than it did last year.

If you have an interest in this topic--say, for instance, you’re a member of the board of aldermen who will be voting on whether to approve another $10,000 in taxpayer cash (which is something no other area chamber receives--it is a sign of a bizarre world that Platte City’s chamber receives taxpayer funding) you should take time to study the chamber’s proposed budget.

To me, it looks like Wagoner is overstating projected income. For instance, she is budgeting for membership staying at 250. Only time will tell, of course, but that could be very wishful thinking. She is also budgeting $2,000 in income from selling advertising on the chamber web site, which by the way will be redesigned this year at a cost of $6,000, with $3,000 coming from KCP&L. More importantly, look through the expense lines. As anyone with experience in budgeting knows, the easiest places to cut are the areas where the largest expense occurs. That area is salaries. No cutting going on there. In fact, the opposite.

It’s no wonder there is talk around town of a new progressive economic development organization forming. More on that if it becomes a reality.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook and follow his running commentary 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


EVERY ACTION BRINGS A REACTION; A TALE OF TWO CHAMBERS

Posted 6/17/11

Kids, I don’t mean to brag, but I can make my left big toe pop anytime I want just by moving it.

******

Every action brings a reaction.

That’s what happened at Parkville in recent days. Last week the town was abuzz with flood preparation that seemed to be taking place with the highest sense of urgency. Officials put out calls for volunteers to help with sandbagging the lower level of downtown. Responding to cries for help that a quaint corner of the world might be ending as we know it, hundreds of caring people showed up. Some of the media, of course, played it up like property and human life were already in grave danger. A possible reason for that could be because they were given that impression by those who were making the calls for help. Calmer heads, of course, realized this is a potential flood, not a potential tornado. Those who have previously dealt with situations like this realized that floods don’t drop out of a cloud at a moment’s notice. Typically there is time to prepare in an orderly manner. No need to lose control of our bladders over it.

As of early this week, TV news crews were still doing some morning reports standing by the wall of sandbags. In the background of the camera shots, downtown looked deserted. Because it was.

It seems the urgent action--and perhaps it would never be fair to go so far as to call it an over-reaction, because a lack of any preparation in situations like this could end up making one look like a dumbass--caused an unwanted reaction. Consumers throughout the area had read, heard, seen the news coverage and were aware of the warnings being put out by local officials. The general belief among shoppers and diners became that the entire landscape in and around downtown Parkville was a freaking disaster area, best to be visited only by folks with fresh Tetanus shots and haz mat suits.
Late last week, there were even erroneous reports circulating that many businesses had already closed out of fear they would end up as part of a scene from Underwater World, that bad Kevin Costner movie America has done its best to forget.

So some damage control came into play this week. The same folks who had contacted the media requesting disaster preparation help were now contacting the media for help in getting this message out: “Hey, downtown Parkville is open for business.”

The Parkville Chamber of Commerce, to its credit, is now buying advertising promoting the town’s business district and letting consumers know that Parkville and most of its merchants are still open for business and they would love for you to come visit.

No updated Tetanus shot or haz mat suit required.

******

We’ll be taking this Between the Lines traveling circus out on the speaking circuit over the next few months. Details coming soon.

One place we won’t be able to take the road show is the KCI Rotary Club. The invitation from the KCI club had to be turned down. Seems their meetings are at noon on a Wednesday. Around here, we’re kinda tied up at noon on Wednesdays. Something to do with a newspaper deadline. Very thankful to have received the invitation, however, and sent word that if their meetings are ever moved to a different time, we’ll gladly do our best to provide oratory excellence.

******

So while the Parkville Chamber of Commerce is spending money to promote its merchants, what is the Platte City Chamber of Commerce up to these days?
Well, they’ll be grilling wienies this Thursday.

Oh, and they’re raising membership fees.

Membership count in the Platte City Chamber is down four percent from last year. The board of directors response to this slide? Raise membership fees into the club.
Now maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t sound like a winning business model. Most businesses when faced with a decline in activity, in fact, would cut rates, not increase them. But this isn’t real business. This is chamber leadership that at times appears to be in love with itself. This is a chamber that isn’t shy about asking--and receiving--$10,000 in taxpayer money from the city of Platte City each year. And yet, when faced with declining membership at the same time it says its expenses are increasing, what is the response?

Obviously, there are two choices. The chamber board has decided to try the easy way out by asking for more money from its members. The more fiscally responsible thing to do in a down economy, of course, would be to cut expenses. But that would take some tough decisions. Heck, somebody’s feelings might get hurt if somebody’s hours in an overstaffed office had to be cut . And we sure wouldn’t want that, would we?

Adam McGinness, at least until Thursday when his term is set to expire, is president of the chamber board of directors. I caught up with McGinness by phone this week. He is unapologetic about the board’s decision to hike its membership fees. It’s a dangerous approach in this business climate. It borders on being a display of out-of-touch arrogance. Last year, there were 260 memberships. This year, 250.

Is the board concerned memberships will drop even more with the higher fees?

“That wasn’t a big concern. We’ve all been a part of it long enough. . . most people that don’t renew are people who have gone out of business,” McGinness said.

Ah, I’m not so sure about that. I recall writing an editorial last year after being contacted by a spokesperson for a group of business owners who were making an organized effort not to renew their chamber memberships. Chamber leaders at the time publicly denied they were losing membership numbers. Now, the chamber admits it is down by four percent in members but says it is because of folks who have gone out of business. Hmm.

Regardless, this much is certain: Since the chamber annually receives $10,000 in taxpayer cash to help run its operation, it needs to make sure it is as fiscally-responsible as possible. And since it receives tax dollars, the chamber should make a concerted effort to promote all businesses in the city, not just those who have paid a membership fee.

Something tells me this topic will come up again. There are many more angles to be pursued if it does.

(Befriend Ivan Foley at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or follow his daily musings on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Send email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


GRAVES ANXIOUS TO CHEW ON THE CORPS; SCHOOL TAX ALERT

Posted 6/17/11

The temperature is high yet the water level is higher. At least it is in Parkville and some other areas of Platte County.

As you’re well aware by now, Parkville is in the middle of a massive flood preparation effort, with thousands of sandbags being filled to prepare for predicted conditions that will place English Landing Park underwater and threaten at least the lower portions of the city’s Main Street in its historic downtown.

It ain’t fun and games. But fun and games are part of the problem, according to Congressman Sam Graves. Graves for years now has been hammering on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the way it regulates the flow of the Missouri River. Last week, the Corps announced it would increase the volume of water being released from dams along the river to historic levels. The Corps says the problem began last year with record snowfall and was made worse this spring by heavy rains in the upper basin. The release will likely force water over the top of levees throughout Missouri. “It could cause the type of flooding we haven’t seen since 1993,” Graves said.

Part of the problem, Graves told me in a phone conversation on Monday, is that the Corps worries too much about upsetting the recreational activities of folks up north. “Reservoirs are designed for flood control. Originally, the Corps would deplete them in the winter time and have storage space when spring rains came. Anymore they don’t want to upset anybody by lowering levels too much because (recreational boaters have) docks in the water. They try to hedge themselves and only try to lower it as much as they think is needed. Then they say they weren’t expecting it to rain that much. . . they said the same thing last year,” said Graves with obvious frustration in his voice.

“The interesting thing is this year, they have so much water up there they’re not letting anybody on the lakes because the levels are too high. They can’t ever get it right,” he told me. “We go through this it seems like every single year. Let’s not worry so much about people’s docks out of the water and worry about more serious things.”

“We’re gonna have to change the way they manage the river. This is just ridiculous,” he said.

Preach on, Brother Sam.

Graves extended an invite to the head honcho of the Corps of Engineers to come tour some of the local flood-threatened areas this week. On Friday, one of the top dogs--though not the top dog--joined Graves and Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins on a tour that Graves hopes will help the Corps “better understand how their decision impacts landowners in Missouri and Kansas.”

That’s good news. But the bad news is it is probably too late to do anything to help prevent flooding this year.

******

With the imminent high water in areas of the county and the investigation into the mysterious murder case near Platte City, now more than ever you’ll want to stay abreast of local news updates by following The Landmark on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley

We’ll also occasionally post updates on Facebook.com/ivanfoley, but for breaking news you’ll always get it first at our Twitter page. It’s a must to follow us there if you want to be on top of the latest news and commentary.

******

Separated at birth?

I mentioned last week Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harmon and former Platte County Commissioner Michael Short appear to be twins. One of the ‘separated at birth?’ submissions sent to me by a reader this week was this one: “I’ve never met (Landmark columnist) Brian Kubicki in person, but when I was looking at the Nick and Jake’s photos on page A-10 last week, I thought for a brief moment that Hearne Christopher was standing next to Jeff Foxworthy.”

Bingo. We’ve talked about that one in the office many times. Check last week’s issue or the pictures on our Facebook page if you didn’t catch the Kubicki/Foxworthy resemblance the first time around. It is striking.

*******

One more separated at birth sent in by a reader this week. “How about (former Platte City Mayor) Dave Brooks and Kid Shelleen, which is Lee Marvin’s character in Cat Ballou?”

I’m not familiar with Cat Ballou, so this one is left in the hands of loyal Between the Lines readers. Do we have a valid separated at birth observation here?

******

Shameful that Park Hill is talking a possible tax increase just a couple of months after selling its patrons on a “no tax increase” bond issue passed by voters in April. See PJ Rooks’ story on the tax talk at Park Hill in this issue.

So what about at Platte County R-3? Is a tax hike on the horizon? Does not look like it, according to a conversation I had with R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik on Tuesday.
“I think we’re fine budgeting for flat (keeping the tax levy the same),” Reik said. Flat was a common word in our conversation. Assessed valuation within the district “will be pretty flat,” Reik said. Preliminary assessed valuation numbers for the Platte County portion of the school district suggest very little growth, he said, with only about $3 million worth of new construction.

But as for a tax increase? Not likely, Reik said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at. But it all comes down to after (tax appeals are heard) and the Hancock Amendment adjusts our (tax) ceiling.”

Stay tuned.

******

I have fascinating information on a new way a local entity’s governing body may be using to try to circumvent the Missouri Sunshine Law. I’ll share that with you next week. . .unless breaking news changes it all.

Until then, stay dry. And stay alert.

(Always working, always on. Twitter.com/ivanfoley, Facebook.com/ivanfoley, ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


147 YEARS OF DEFENDING
THE CAUSE OF
THE PEOPLE

From 6/1/11 issue

Separated at birth.

Every time I see Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harmon on the tube he reminds me of former Platte County Commissioner Michael Short.

******

Got your own ‘Separated at birth?’ observations? Send them to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and I’ll work them in this column space.

******

A great crowd turned out Thursday night for the Patio Kickoff party at Nick and Jake’s-Parkville presented by The Landmark.

A good time seemed to be had by all. The accommodating staff at Nick and Jake’s took great care to make everyone feel at home, at one point scrambling to gather more tables and chairs for the folks who filled both levels of the impressively-designed and decorated new patio area.

The live music provided by Sean McNown, one of Kansas City’s best acoustic solo guitarist/vocalist, was outstanding, even prompting a few unexpected dance moves. For photo coverage of the event, check out page A-10 of this issue. You can view even more pictures of the fun at Facebook.com/ivanfoley.

If you haven’t befriended me yet on Facebook, you’ll want to do that if for no other reason than to view some of the dance move photos.

******

Several Landmarkers made it out for the Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff, which is the first of many joint events on the horizon between the cornerstone business at Parkville Commons and the cornerstone of Platte County journalism.

KC Confidential columnist Hearne Christopher and secret date spent a good deal of time visiting with attendees. Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki and his surgically repaired Achilles tendon toughed it out and seemed to have a good time, as did our Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Famer Bill Hankins. Landmark interns past and present, including newcomer Jared Speckman, took in the atmosphere. Office manager Cindy Rinehart and I arrived at 6 p.m. and grabbed spots on the patio. By 7 p.m. I was getting texts from other arrivals at the Nick and Jake’s lobby saying “they’re telling us the patio is full.”

The classy furniture, the impressive landscaping and the overall atmosphere will make the Nick and Jake’s patio a perfect spot to unwind on a summer evening.
Great turnout, great fun. Make plans to join us the next time The Landmark and Nick and Jake’s team up for an event.

More details coming soon.

******

Guess how many elected officials from the city of Parkville showed up to say hi at The Landmark/Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff?

The first 10 people to tell me the right amount--and the names of the Parkville elected who showed--will earn a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. Email your answer to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

******

He may not know it until he reads this, but new intern Jared Speckman, after hitting a home run with his first story (city administrator takes issue with Chamber survey--May 18 issue), will now be branching off into a sports theme for his next couple of stories, which will be of the human interest variety.

That’s what we call a tease.

******

A couple of weeks ago, The Landmark noted the beginning of its 147th year of consecutive weekly publication. With that in mind, it seems an appropriate time to look back at this newspaper’s beginning. Talk of the early days of The Landmark is a fascinating local topic.

Here’s a bit of what the fine editor of The Landmark wrote 140 years ago, way back on Sept. 29, 1871, as The Landmark was beginning its seventh year of publication:

“The establishment of a Democratic paper in this part of Missouri was even then, though the last rebel army in the country had surrendered three months before, an undertaking attended with great danger. Only a little more than a year before that, the Platte County Sentinel, a paper published in this city, by as true a Union man and patriot as ever breathed, had been destroyed by the soldiers, instigated by some Radical members of the Union League, because of its bold and manly denunciation of the thieving and robbery then perpetrated under the cloak of “loyalty.” And even as late as October 1865, when the first (issue) of The Landmark appeared, the office was threatened with destruction, and one prominent member of the Union League, a Radical “loyalist,” publicly proclaimed his readiness to assist in throwing the office into the river.

“The Radicals had entire control of all the public patronage. Every county office, save that of Probate Judge, was held by appointment from Fletcher under the ousting ordinance. Business was paralyzed and many people were even afraid to have a Democratic paper in their house, for fear some Radical thief or ruffian should make it a pretense for robbing or insulting him.

“Nevertheless, The Landmark flourished. Precious little of the public patronage did it get, but it defended the cause of the people and they sustained it liberally. It was shortly enlarged from a seven column paper and was, some months ago, again enlarged to its present size. Six years ago it was supported by the people because they wanted a Democratic organ. They support it now because they need it and must have it if they would know what is going on in the county.”

How many times over the past 147 years has local history repeated itself? The Landmark’s 147 years of uninterrupted publication is proof you can never go wrong defending the cause of the people. Making the comfortable uncomfortable ruffles some feathers, but that’s what defending the cause of the people is all about.

(Help defend the cause of the people by following the adventures of a Landmark publisher at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


IT'S A WEEK FOR PARTIES ON THE PATIO, A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT WAYS

From 5/25/11 issue

 

Made a trip to the Power and Light District (or as a guy I know jokingly refers to it, the Power and White District) over the weekend.

I’ve decided the PBR Bar is the Platte City Pool Hall on steroids.

******

With the utter devastation in Joplin caused by the massive tornado Sunday night, it seems an appropriate time to salute and mention the work of some area emergency responders.

One responder that should be mentioned is the Riverside police officer in a fight for his life after being hit by lightning in Joplin. He was part of a contingent of 12 Riverside city employees who had responded to the call for assistance in that area after the tornado left a damaged city in need of some assistance in a variety of ways. Check our front page story for details on the Riverside officer’s incident.

In Platte City, two police officers bravely handled a situation Tuesday morning that could have had a tragic ending. Officers James Tharp and Mike Reilly responded to a call of shots fired to find a man on the porch of a residence, armed with a rifle. In a suicidal state of mind, the man pointed his weapon at the officers and wanted them to kill him. Fortunately, the man’s gun jammed and the officers were able to end the situation peacefully. A witness close to the scene told me the situation was “extremely tense.”

Proof that even “small town” police officers never know what they’re getting themselves into when they respond to any situation. There really is no such thing as a “routine” call.

******

There’s no such thing as a “routine” week at The Landmark. But so far this week I have not had a loaded weapon pointed at me. To my knowledge.

******

Live music. Good food. Happy hour prices all night long. And Landmark personalities on hand.

Hey, what more could you ask for? Well, within reason.

They had me at live music. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

Join us Thursday night at Nick and Jake’s restaurant and bar in Parkville when The Landmark and the popular cornerstone of the Parkville Commons development team up for a special night. It’s the Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff event. See the color ad on page A-12 for more details.

The ‘need to know’ stuff is this: The Landmark is presenting the Nick and Jake’s-Parkville Smoking Patio Kick Off. Live music from acoustic guitarist Sean McNown from 7-10 p.m. on the brand new patio. As you read in Hearne Christopher’s Landmark column weeks ago when Nick and Jake’s announced plans for the partially enclosed patio--ventilated, heated and air conditioned with comfortable living room type furniture (described as California, Phoenix, Scottsdale-looking patio furniture).

This is going to be a good time. Join me and other Landmark personalities Cindy Rinehart, Greg Hall, Hearne Christopher, Landmark interns past and present, maybe Hall of Fame photographer Bill Hankins, Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki, and others as we help Nick and Jake’s celebrate the opening of what will prove to be a popular addition to its already-fine atmosphere.

Looking for a good time and a way to jump start the upcoming long holiday weekend?

We’ve got the answer. Hope you’ll come have some fun with us and the friendly folks at Nick and Jake’s.

******

Landmark office manager/staff meteorologist Cindy Rinehart has been on my case for years about my laid back attitude toward weather warnings. She is a weather afficionado with a caring heart who graciously lights up my cell phone with text alerts about everything from a tornado warning to a thunderstorm watch, from potential high water to Katie Horner developing a nagging cough.

I kid. Because I can. I have a column. Cindy doesn’t.

When severe weather threatened our area Saturday night, my cell phone lit up with a text from Cindy. “I think it’s just a thunderstorm warning,” I texted back. A couple seconds later the tornado sirens were going off in my neck of the woods. Huh. Maybe it could be more than that.

As guys do, I stepped out the front door to give the sky a viewing. Nothing seemed extremely ominous. After a quick trip to the basement to make sure there was a clear path and plenty of room in what has been designated the “take cover and prepare to kiss your ass goodbye” area, it was back to the main floor. I felt a desire for some popcorn. And I began pouring Pepsi into an ice-filled glass. It was time to go sit on the deck and watch the storm roll in.

My storm-watching party continued for a decent amount of time. But then a few rain drops started hitting me. Eventually the popcorn started blowing out of the bowl. That was the last straw. It was time for the party to end. Fortunately, the storm passed without the need to ever assume the full “this is serious s#=!” position.

After seeing video of the destruction in Joplin, my normally carefree attitude toward weather alerts should change.

******

You may have noticed last week on page A-10 we announced the winner of this year’s Landmark English Award, given to a top writing student at Platte County R-3 High School. The winner is selected each year by a faculty panel.

We’re proud to say this is the 30th year The Landmark has presented this award. The prize is a $250 cash scholarship from this newspaper and an award certificate--suitable for framing--that includes my valuable autograph upon it.

Here is the complete list of winners, from first to most recent:

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; 1995: Kerry Durrill; 1996: Jamie Knodel; 1997: Laura Donald; 1998: Christa Fuller; 1999: Alison Miller; 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; 2011: Sean Carder.

(Catch up with Ivan Foley 24/7 at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


IT'S AN ANIMALISTIC WEEK AT THE LANDMARK

Posted 5/20/11

Welcome to Between the Lines. Relax, it’s only kinky the first time.

******

On Tuesday, Christopher Fisher, an attorney who resides at The National, was selected as a new alderman at Parkville, filling the worn shoes left by the nomadic Jeffrey Bay.

As of Wednesday, the new alderman still lives at The National, having not yet moved to a Section 8 apartment in Gladstone.

******

Been watching a lot of the Fox News Channel lately. I’ve decided what that network needs is more commercials encouraging everyone to buy gold. I mean, one “buy gold” message every 10 minutes just isn’t enough to drive the message home.

******

Daring Landmark reporter PJ Rooks breaks the story this week of an outbreak of creepy-looking snakes at a creek near a park in Weston. PJ spent some time there bravely waiting for some of the scaly creatures to show themselves in order to add some photographic charm to her front page story. It was like an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, with me playing the role of that old dude who narrated the video while safely tucked away from danger as PJ placed herself in harm’s way, traipsing around with potentially venomous reptiles. Good times.

She did such a great job with this story we’re now expanding PJ’s role as a full fledged wildlife reporter. Got snakes? Call PJ. A raccoon terrorizing your garage? Call PJ. Hot on the trail of a mountain lion? Call PJ. Going bear hunting with a switch? Call PJ. You’ve seen the ghost of Marlin Perkins? Call PJ.

******

Sure, PJ may have danced with snakes, but let it be known that in a daring light-of-the-moon raid, I bravely climbed a tall step ladder to eliminate a nest full of noisy and loose-boweled birds who had nested themselves behind the wooden cover to the attic fan in the back of the historic Landmark building.

It was a mission that required immense testicular fortitude. It was an operation that required advance planning based on years of covert intelligence-gathering. I had waterboarded the daddy sparrow several months ago.

Upon gaining entry into their compound, I gave the birds proper warning. It appeared one had wrapped himself in an explosives-filled suicide jacket. All refused to surrender.
I’ve decided not to release the photographs. We’re bigger than that. But trust me, you won’t see those birds walking this Earth ever again.

The world--in particular my car’s paint job and the top of my head--is now a safer place.

******

If this were Fox News it would be time to insert a “buy gold” commercial right here.
Just know that Between the Lines, like gold, has never been worth zero.

******

The investigation into the head-on crash of two Central Platte Fire Department pumper trucks continues. As we all know by now, the two trucks crashed near the driveway entry of a residence that had reported a fire. Five firefighters were hurt. Two were treated and released that day, another came home later last week and two others as of Tuesday remained hospitalized (see our front page story for all the details).

The sheriff’s department is still investigating the crash. It is interesting that some revisionist history seems to be hitting the “word on the street” department. For instance, some folks seem to be insisting that the trucks crashed on the bend of a blind curve and some ‘word on the street’ folks seem to be insisting that both trucks had already passed the driveway.

As you’ll see by our exclusive photos posted at Facebook.com/ivanfoley, The Landmark was able to get very close to the point of impact. To say the crash occurred on the bend of a blind curve is not accurate. There are curves aplenty on that stretch of roadway, but to refer to the place of impact as a blind curve is taking some liberties. Also, for anyone to infer that the crash did not block the driveway entrance raises some questions in logic. If that were the case, why did the mutual aid unit from Camden Point have to access the house by going into a neighbor’s drive then maneuvering its truck across pastureland to get to the site?

While the public is grateful for all the things emergency responders do for it, respectful of the men and women who serve and praying for a quick recovery for all, a trusting public also wants the same level of investigation into any public vehicle accident that would be done if the accident had involved private vehicles.

******

It’s The Landmark’s 147th birthday. As soon as this issue hits the streets, I’m off to Queen Victoria’s for some manscaping, just in case I’m dared to jump out of The Landmark’s birthday cake wearing only a cowboy hat and a steel guitar. Strategically placed, of course.

 

(Befriend Ivan Foley--somebody has to--on Facebook and follow him at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WHEN THE WOUNDS HAVE HEALED, CONCERNS NEED ADDRESSED

Posted 5/13/11

Waiting in a not-so-fast line at the fast food drive-up window? Turn your car’s engine off. Gasoline is like gold these days.

I’ve even developed the habit of shutting the engine off while letting the automatic car wash do its thing to the Grand Prix. We’ve got better things to spend our money on than nearly $4 a gallon gasoline, right?

******

Here at Between the Lines headquarters, we’ve noticed that Parkville Mayor Gerry Richardson bears a physical resemblance to children’s television legend Mister Rogers. He even has similar facial expressions. Richardson’s expressions during a recent TV news probing by KSHB’s Russ Ptacek looked like a Mister Rogers whose sphincter had suddenly become really, really tight.

Facebook pictorial coverage of this important “separated at birth?” discovery coming soon to Facebook.com/ivanfoley

******

Monday’s tragic accident involving the two large pumper trucks for the Central Platte Fire Department is certainly sad. Appropriately, our first thoughts right now must be with those men who were injured in the head-on crash, as well as their families as they go through this difficult time. As you’ll read in our front page story, the most seriously injured of the two are Larry Bigus and Kent Pine, who both remain in intensive care. Pine is said to be in good spirits. Pine and I chat occasionally--including exchanging barbs on Facebook--so I can tell you I’m not surprised by his positive attitude.
Bigus’ son, Mike, told me Tuesday night that his dad “isn’t talking much” but indicated with a smile “that’s the way he is.”

In previous editorials over the years, I’ve consistently stressed that the volunteer firefighters should be considered local heroes. They are. It takes a special personality to respond to fire calls, accident scenes, medical emergencies at all hours of the day and night on a volunteer basis. It takes a certain “cowboy” or “hero” personality. Nearly all guys out there know what I’m talking about, because nearly all of us in the male species have it to a certain extent. Pretty sure that’s where the phrase “boys will be boys” comes from.

******

As longtime readers know, at times in the past I’ve had questions for the elected board members of multiple area fire departments. While doing so, I’ve never questioned the dedication and intentions of the rank and file firefighters. I have, you’ll recall, from time to time through the years posted concerns about the speed at which the Central Platte fire trucks often roll through a crowded Main Street while responding to a call.

But mostly my questions for the board have dealt with financial decisions. Some of the board members, quite honestly, don’t understand the whole tax levy concept, for instance. As longtime readers also know, some of the elected leaders of the fire department have proven to be very sensitive to my questioning.

Their attitude at times in the past seems to have been that since this is a volunteer department, there should be no questioning. Sorry, that’s not the way it works. As long as volunteer fire districts continue to tax the public, the public’s watchdogs are going to have questions. Deal with it. It’s part of the job you signed up for when you put your name on the ballot. If you don’t want questions, don’t serve in a public office and don’t spend public money. It’s a pretty simple concept, really.

I offer up the above information because folks privately are already raising serious questions about Central Platte’s driver training and driving habits. Let the shock from this most recent accident settle a bit, then those questions and concerns need to be addressed in a very serious and very public manner. The Landmark has received many comments via phone calls and emails since Monday’s accident. All are concerned with the firefighters’ condition and praise their dedication to service. At the same time, more than half are critical of the fact Central Platte has a recent history of serious accidents and, frankly, want some attention to be spotlighted on the way drivers of emergency vehicles can place the responders themselves in danger, as well as endanger the lives of other motorists, bystanders, and endanger public property.

Tell us that insurance covers all damages if you’d like, and that’s fine, but who’s paying the hefty bill that comes along with that insurance and in reality aren’t we really talking about a larger point?

As you’ll read in our front page article, this is the second life-threatening crash Central Platte vehicles have been involved in during the past two years. The other accident involved a Central Platte pickup allegedly crossing the center line and striking a motorcyclist on HH Hwy. near Bethel Rd. The really sad part of that one? The truck was responding to a grass fire, of all things. The motorcyclist suffered lifelong injuries and the matter is still the topic of a civil lawsuit.

Anyone who thinks these aren’t legitimate concerns is wearing blinders or rose-colored glasses. There’s a problem here and it needs to be addressed.

Granted, accidents happen, and not just in Central Platte. Dearborn’s fire department, you’ll recall, had a fatality in an accident not too many years ago. But this shouldn’t be passed off as ‘just one of those things.’ We’re talking human lives being put at risk. Quick response to potential life-threatening calls is an absolute priority, but certainly not worth putting the lives of the responders and additional members of the general public at risk in the process. Back to this topic when the heroes have healed. Thoughts, prayers and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to all affected by Monday’s tragedy.

******

One of the best pieces of advice I received from a wise man in my younger days? “Never panic.”

Very simple words. Much easier said than done, of course, and when I find myself in any stressful situation I take a moment to pause, thinking back to that conversation many years ago. Panic only leads to making a bad situation worse.

Wise advice, indeed--no matter your occupation and no matter the level of “emergency” you’re facing.

(Follow breaking news and get timely observations at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


TWITTER CONTINUES TO ROCK WHILE THE HATERS HAVE GONE SILENT

Posted 5/5/11

So here we are, holed up in the highly-fortified Situation Room at Between the Lines headquarters, cranking out yet another edition of Platte County’s only relevant newspaper while running intelligence-based operations throughout every public agency in the county.

It’s a big job. But somebody’s got to do it.

******

Unless you’ve been living in a cave--which is exactly what most of the world had assumed he was doing--you know by now that Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind the horrific 9/11/01 attacks on our country, was shot and killed by Navy SEALS in a beautifully executed military operation Sunday. It was a monumental achievement for our country’s military and intelligence agencies.

Bin Laden was killed in what the Associated Press describes as “an intense firefight in a daring raid at his hideout in Pakistan.”

For years, former President George W. Bush had insisted “we’ll smoke him out of his cave.” Turns out, bin Laden’s “cave” was what is described as a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan. So much for that visual of bin Laden living the life of a hungry, goat-loving criminal on the run from cave to cave throughout the hills of a sparsely populated area. Turns out he was hiding in plain sight, not far from a Pakistani military university, in fact.

Credit to President Obama for the ballsy decision to use a team of about 24-40, depending upon which account you hear, highly-trained tactical specialists to conduct the successful raid on bin Laden’s hideout after years of intelligence methods had tracked him to that location.

******

The killing of Osama bin Laden puts an end to the nearly 10-year search and puts egg on the face of some pundits who had boastfully and ridiculously made the claim to “mark my words” when they wrote, while trashing former President George W. Bush: “Obama bin Laden will never, ever be found.”

Don’t make me name names. You know who you are.

******

The social media outlet Twitter was the place to be Sunday night as the killing of bin Laden leaked out. Sources on Twitter were all over the situation well before the news was available on that thing known as a television. Folks, if you haven’t become a Twitter buff just yet, you really need to, particularly if you’re a news junkie. And the comedic entertainment value of Twitter is priceless if you’re following the right people.
Remember a couple of years ago when The Landmark became the first county media outlet to break into the Twitter world? Doubters joked at the social media site’s name--and rightfully so--and some proclaimed you wouldn’t find them on Twitter. Guess what? Now they’re on Twitter.

You know who you are. Don’t make me name names. I won’t rub your face in it. Enjoy the news and entertainment Twitter can bring you in short 140-character bursts.
The Landmark is approaching 600 followers on Twitter, at least three times more than any other Platte County media outlet. It’s time for you to create a Twitter account and start following the news and fun at Twitter.com/ivanfoley

******

My favorite former Platte City alderman, fiscal watchdog Andy Stanton, is gone from the board of aldermen, but thanks to a gentle push from Mayor Frank Offutt, Stanton is now a member of the Platte City Parks and Recreation Board.

Parks board members should brace themselves for some questioning. Every public entity needs at least one fiscal watchdog on its board of directors. The Platte City parks board now has one.

This could be fun.

******

My publishing buddy Guy Speckman of the Savannah Reporter called one day last week. It seems the Reporter is holding a birthday celebration soon (I think the Reporter is now 135 years old) and it seems Guy is looking for a speaker for some kind of kegger he is holding in the town square (or some damn place, I’m fuzzy on the details right now but trust me, I’ll be there). Anyway, his choices for speaker had been narrowed to Sarah Steelman and Jim Talent. He called to ask my opinion.

Yes, apparently he was having doubts about whether the smoking hot Sarah Steelman or the pasty white, monotone-voiced Jim Talent would be the better choice to attract a crowd.

As of now I’m still calling Guy my friend, but one more moment of indecision like that and we’ll have to hold hearings on whether to pull his man card.

******

Speaking of birthdays, The Landmark’s is coming soon. This beast turns 147 in a couple of weeks. That’s gonna make for a well-lit birthday cake.

It also means we’ve already started discussions on how we’ll celebrate The Landmark’s 150th in a few years. It will involve the entire community. More details being developed periodically here in The Situation Room.

******

Cabela’s joins your list of loyal Landmark advertisers this week, with a 16-page flyer inserted in this issue. Many more such ads from Cabelas are ahead. As word of this has spread, it’s become clear to me we haven’t heard this much buzz about a new advertiser among our readers in quite some time. Proudly, The Landmark has a lot of red-blooded, gun-lovin’, gone-fishin types in our database. Enjoy the Cabela’s deals--and be sure to clip and use those coupons in the flyer.

(Follow Ivan Foley on Facebook, at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or simply call him with your man card questions)


SO, WHY SHOULD LEGAL NOTICES APPEAR IN THE NEWSPAPER?

Posted 4/29/11

Just got back from a Tuesday night meeting of the Platte City Board of Aldermen. Gotta say it. Those meetings just aren’t gonna be as much fun without the notable and quotable alderman Andy Stanton on the board.

Will any of the current aldermen step forward and become quotable? Please consider it, because right now the city of Parkville is stealing all of the media thunder.

******

Well, let’s not forget at least one Platte City alderman will be back in the news soon. Alderman Charles Cook’s trial on a misdemeanor allegation of exposing himself while wearing a banana hammock is set for mid-May.

More on this in the coming weeks.

******

I don’t generally spend much time or column space writing about the newspaper industry as a whole. There are several reasons for that. The biggest reason is I’m too busy cranking out an issue of The Landmark each week packed full of news and commentary more important to the majority of our readers.

Another reason is that some of the problems of the newspaper industry are overstated. For instance, many weeklies are doing just fine, thank you very much. Many dailies are not. Another reason I tend to avoid the topic is that it’s my opinion some of the problems of the daily newspaper world have been self-inflicted, and I don’t want to defend an entire industry with one broad brush. As an example, while it’s true the Kansas City Star is not the only daily newspaper to hit hard times during this economic downturn, it’s my belief some of the Star’s problems are due to the fact it is out of touch with a majority of its readers--or should I say its potential readers.

But I digress. This is not headed in the direction of being a commentary about the Star. This is a commentary on legal notices and why they should be placed in printed newspapers. From time to time, postings on the Internet will argue against the continued placement of governmental legal notices in printed newspapers. These postings are usually written by some guy blogging late at night while clad in his underwear, working from a dark corner in his mom’s basement.

One such blog, something called Wall Street Pit, recently tried to make the argument that newspapers only lobby for the continued placement of governmental legal notices in newspapers for the money the papers make off those legals.

This stance made me chuckle. Anyone familiar with The Landmark’s bid rate to print legal notices for the county of Platte knows why I’m laughing.

“The truth is that the newspapers are the ones placing money before public access,” the Wall Street Pit writes, implying that newspapers in essence are taking some sort of bribe or kickback when they are paid by governmental entities to print legal notices.
Needless to say the Wall Street Pit’s posting drew a negative reply from newspaper folks. Kent Ford, an editor with the Missouri Press Association, did an excellent job crafting an intelligent and common sense response to the self-professed pundit.
Here is much of Ford’s response:

“Missouri Press Association regularly opposes legislation that would move public notices out of newspapers. We encourage our member newspapers to do the same. When they do defend required newspaper public notices, we suggest they not ignore the obvious — they get paid for it.

The truth is, public notices printed in newspapers are a bargain.

Here are some of the usual reasons we state for requiring published public notices:
*Not everyone can get online, and getting online is not free.

*Public notices in newspapers promote citizen participation in government.

*They provide a permanent, unalterable, unhackable record of government action.

*Notices in newspapers go to the people rather than requiring people to go to dozens of government websites to check to see if something they need to know is going on. Not everyone reads the local newspaper, but when an important public notice appears, word gets around — quickly!

*Maintaining public notices on websites is not without cost, so the claim of reducing expenses doesn’t fly.

*Public notices give elected officials rock solid evidence that they are doing the public’s business in public. (How much is that worth? Plenty, especially in times when trust and faith in government at all levels hovers around zero.)

*Archiving of printed newspapers has been going on for a long time. It’s cheap and easy. Nobody understands yet how to archive websites efficiently and economically.

*But we also point out that all the other businesses in town get paid for the goods and services they provide to local government agencies. The grocery store on the corner doesn’t give free food for those in the local lockup. The service station on the edge of town doesn’t change the oil in the sheriff’s car for nothing or fill the tanks of school buses with free fuel.

*Paying to have public notices printed in newspapers is not a bribe or a kickback or a subsidy. It’s payment for goods and services rendered.

Revenue from publishing public notices helps newspapers pay their bills, meet payroll and stay in business. People understand that, particularly those down at the chamber of commerce.

Legislatures all over the country are considering moving public notices from newspapers to government websites. The arguments for newspaper notices and against online notices are many. The best argument for online notices is false. Printed public notices are a bargain, and posting public notices online would not be free.

And there’s this: Like the Missouri Press Association, newspaper associations all across the country are creating public notice websites to aggregate on a single website all notices placed in newspapers by all government agencies in the state. Why create more government bureaucracy duplicating something that’s already being done by a non-government organization?”

(Follow Ivan Foley’s blog-like entries--made while fully clothed--on Facebook and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


LONG AGO, BAY WAS GIVEN A WINDOW TO LEAVE

Posted 4/22/11

Up and at ‘em early this deadline day after a good night’s rest. I slept more soundly than an air traffic controller.

******

Alderman Jeffrey Bay finally resigned at Parkville.

Bay, as most everybody in Parkville knew but only Bay and Parkville Mayor Gerry Richardson didn’t want to acknowledge, hasn’t really been a Parkville resident for quite some time (see our front page story for more details). So what motivated him to hold on to that seat, and what motivated Richardson not to push one of his favorite aldermen for a resignation? Only those two guys can answer that. Good luck trying to get a straight answer. I posed the question to Richardson in a phone interview just minutes after hearing Bay had finally caved to growing media pressure and tendered his resignation. Richardson gave me a well-fertilized answer to the effect that he had no proof Bay no longer lived in the city.

Please. Richardson and Bay are political bedfellows. The public is often blind, but never stupid. Richardson knew. Others did too. The Landmark reported it months ago. Bay refused to return our phone calls to address the question, which is an indictment in itself. If Bay was actually still living in Parkville, why not answer The Landmark’s simple questions: Are you still a resident of Parkville? If so, what is your address?

Bay didn’t want to answer those questions. He didn’t want to give up his seat. Obviously, Richardson wasn’t anxious to see Bay have to step away. Thanks to tips we were receiving from friends and non-friends of Bay, The Landmark reported months ago that Bay’s primary place of residence appeared to be in an apartment complex that he owns in Gladstone. At last check, Gladstone was not inside the city limits of Parkville. But that’s where family friends of Bay told me they would drop off kids who were spending time with Bay’s child. That would seem to be a pretty good indication that’s where the man was living, wouldn’t you say?

At any rate, The Landmark’s level of reporting should have been enough to guilt Bay into resigning and guilt Richardson to the point he should have pressed the alderman for a resignation. Neither happened. I guess in order to develop a guilty conscience, one first must have a conscience. I’m wondering if there is a political conscience present in the pair.

The good ol’ boy and good ol’ girl atmosphere at Parkville is getting rocked. Two veteran incumbent aldermen did not seek reelection this April. Now Bay is resigning. Meanwhile, a Channel 41 investigative news crew has been digging into some behind the scenes activity at City Hall. So Bay and Richardson have watched themselves on the television news. And now, a Parkville businessman/civic leader is filing ethics complaints against both Bay and Richardson in regard to the ‘handling’ of Bay and the way Bay continued his voting duties as an alderman while he was no longer a legal resident of the city.

With Channel 41 still probing paperwork at Parkville, things are getting uglier, with the resignation of an accounts payable clerk and the city administrator placed on paid leave. Anybody still believe Richardson recently hired a public relations firm to help explain the construction-based traffic challenges into downtown Parkville? I fully believe Richardson wanted some PR help because he knew some bad news was on the horizon. The worst of which could still be yet to come.

******

The automatic igniter on my propane grill has stopped working, so I’ve been lighting it by hand with a match stick. Is this wise? Should I be dressing in a fire suit?

******

Laptop computer crashed last week, the igniter on the grill has quit, and one of the central air conditioning units didn’t want to kick on during a recent test run on a warm day. All things mechanical in my world seem to be in a state of rebellion right now. Not that you necessarily care. The thought just ran through my mind.

******

Hey, try out one of those new gourmet hot dogs at your local Sonic. I like the Chicago style dog, loaded with good stuff like relish, tomato, jalapenos, and even a pickle. It’s good eatin.’ I’m not normally a huge fan of Sonic food items, but these new style dogs they’re featuring hit the spot. And if you tire of fried chicken at the local Church’s--where the spicy style lives up to its name-- try their shrimp. It’s tasty.

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More lifestyle randomness. Got a problem with foot pain such as plantar fasciitis? Step on one of those Dr. Scholl’s machines featuring foot mapping technology. I saw one at an area Wal-Mart and went through the awkward measurement process, which features on-screen instructions telling you where to step, when to lean this way, when to lean that way, etc. While you’re looking like a dork, the machine is mapping the pressure points of your feet and finishes by recommending which orthotic insert you should purchase to stick in your shoes.

As a sidenote, during my experience a lady in a Catholic schoolgirl-type short skirt appeared behind me. Don’t get too excited, guys, this is starting to sound like the plot of a late night show on Cinemax, but it’s not. The overly-friendly lady struck me as the groupie-type who perhaps had just pulled an all nighter on the bus of her favorite Crunk band--and hadn’t bothered to shower afterward.

Anyway, the lady seemed fascinated by the foot mapping machine and was so juiced up that she actually found my recommended product, excitedly grabbed it off the shelf and handed it to me. She then made a virtual sprint toward the store’s exit. I paid for my purchase and walked to the parking lot. I checked my car’s back seat before I got in.

The point of the story is these orthotic inserts are a worthy investment. The inserts aren’t cheap--mine were $50--but have drastically cut back on the foot pain that had been irritating the Jeffrey Bay out of me.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or sneak up on him at Wal-Mart)


WHISPERS FOUND RIDING ON THE WIND FROM PARKVILLE

Posted 4/15/11

It’s like a Shakespearean Tragedy.

It has been one of those weeks when technology--the tool that has allowed those of us in the media to do so much more in less time than ever--has not been a friend. It’s also a reminder of why I so badly despise having to get a new computer.

My laptop, perhaps my closest non-human friend in this big bad world, crashed and died early Monday afternoon. The Landmark’s world has not been the same since. Sure, with on-staff technological expert Cindy Rinehart at my side an emergency run to Best Buy resulted in a replacement being purchased, but that’s just the beginning of what amounts to a major switchover of data, files, contact lists, reloading all the necessary software applications, etc. It’s a major project. One of the young guys on the Geek Squad at the Tiffany Springs Best Buy, whose name was Justin--was masterful at pulling off important info from the crashed laptop and we appreciate his talent and willingness to put a rush on our needs.

As deadline hits, the new laptop and its Windows 7 operating program are having some major conflicts with a couple of the more important programs we employ to bring you the news each week. Thusly, your displaced publisher is working on an old desktop against the back wall of the office, feeling out of place and much less productive than normal.

Hopefully after this paper hits the streets, the post-deadline slower pace of the week will be conducive to getting the new electronic beast up and running and by next week, the output will be faster and bulkier than ever before. At least that’s the plan.

And just in time. Sounds like the upcoming weeks could be quite newsworthy. Read on.

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Whispers are in the wind at the city of Parkville. And it’s not all peaches and cream.
Word on the street indicates that a Kansas City television news investigative reporter has been doing some digging into several topics at City Hall in Parkville. You’ve read in The Landmark recently how Mayor Gerry Richardson has indicated he’d like to enlist the services of a public relations firm to help with such chores as better informing the public about traffic changes caused by downtown bridge construction. My speculation is that Richardson’s desire to have a public relations firm at the ready might have more to do with what’s about to break if/when this investigative reporter’s findings hit the airwaves.

Richardson, at last week’s aldermen meeting, reported that he had been in contact with a public relations firm and has agreed to spend $2,500 at an hourly rate of $25 per hour to obtain what was described as “much needed” advice in the area of public relations. Richardson went on to say that the city’s legal firm would actually hire the public relations firm and the city’s legal counsel will bill the city for the public relation services. Having the PR firm tied so closely to the city attorney’s office further fuels my speculation.

Followers of Parkville City Hall also noticed that a couple of incumbent aldermen did not file for reelection this year. Just burned out, or wanting to step away before some bad news potentially hits? If word of some snooping by the TV station has reached my ears, you know darn well all the players within City Hall are aware of it.

Burning question, of course, is what exactly is the television news hound uncovering, or at least attempting to uncover? It’s unconfirmed at this point, but don’t be surprised if you eventually hear stories of allegations of inappropriate purchases (not necessarily involving elected officials, if this story has legs it may or may not be aimed at an employee). Also, don’t be at all shocked if you hear more about a topic The Landmark reported on months ago--that Jeffrey Bay, alderman, may not actually be a resident of the city. In fact from the feedback we get here in Between the Lines, the only person in Platte County who believes Jeffrey Bay still resides in Parkville might be Jeffrey Bay.

We’ll see what, if anything, becomes of the time the TV news guy has put in.

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Last week’s column closed with a quick reference to Kathy Dusenbery’s “let’s all go out and talk positively about Shiloh,” the county-owned, tax money-losing golf course. I rhetorically asked if county commissioner Dusenbery was wearing a cheerleading skirt at the recent county-hosted infomercial designed to convince taxpayers that whizzing away public money on a golf course is a great idea.

Seeing that in last week’s issue, a dedicated Between the Lines reader quickly sent me an email saying: “Now I know what next week’s cartoon (top center of this page) is going to be.”

How did he know that?

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Excited to tease you with the announcement that The Landmark will be teaming up with Nick and Jake’s restaurant/bar/grill in Parkville. A still-in-the-works partnership is expected to feature Landmark personalities hosting special events at the wildly popular restaurant, which is seen as the cornerstone of the Parkville Commons Development near the intersection of Hwys. 9 and 45.

Tentative plans call for Nick and Jake’s to begin offering a low-priced Landmark lunch special on certain days.

Nick and Jake’s will soon be unveiling its outdoor partially enclosed smoking patio. The interior of the restaurant has gone to entirely non-smoking.

More on the partnership and future mutually-promoted events between The Landmark and Nick and Jake’s in future issues.

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Another big announcement: Jared Speckman, son of Savannah Reporter publishing guru Guy Speckman, will be joining The Landmark staff as a summer intern beginning next month. Jared, currently a junior at William Jewell, will be putting his vast reporting skills to work at various events and meetings.

(When he isn’t busy with his ear to the ground catching sounds from Parkville, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, friended on Facebook, or followed at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


TAXES ARE DESIGNED TO PROVIDE SERVICES NOT AVAILABLE OTHERWISE

Posted 4/7/11

This is crazy. We’re five games into the season and the Royals are still above .500. Should we go ahead and order those playoff tickets??

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Gotta say I had the most fun a guy can have at a Royals game on Sunday. Grabbed the fam and headed out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, with excellent seats 10 rows behind the dugout suites on the Royals side of the field. KC jumped ahead early, then blew the lead, then rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie and finally won the thing in the 13th.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had that much fun at the ol’ ball park. Head out to a game one of these nice warm days or evenings soon while the Royals are, uh, still in the hunt for something. If you can avoid trips to the overpriced concession stands, Royals games really aren’t an expensive outing in comparison to many other entertainment options.

******

Sad news hit Platte County last Thursday morning when word spread of the death of Lisa Pope, county assessor. She had bravely battled cancer--it started as lung cancer, even though she had never been a smoker--for several years.

Lisa was elected county assessor in 2004 after working as chief deputy in that office for many years. Though it pays well these days--as do all the county elected spots--assessor is one of those thankless positions to hold. The vast majority of attention or feedback an assessor receives is of the negative variety from property owners who feel the assessed value of their property hasn’t been fairly appraised.

Despite the public relations challenges of being an assessor, The Landmark always found Pope to be an open and honest interview. While some elected officials will feed you a line or dodge questions or employ semantics in their answers, that wasn’t the case with Lisa Pope. She always seemed to be straightforward and honest, not interested in playing political games with assessments or word games with the media. She seemed to be a good-hearted person who wanted to do the right thing. It was impressive and encouraging to run into Lisa while she was going through her treatments--impressive in that she almost always looked chipper despite her diagnosis and nasty treatment regimen. The last time I remember running into her was at an October political event, and under the circumstances she was facing she looked stunningly healthy, to the point I put my arm on her shoulder and told her how good she looked.

A sweet person who will be missed.

*******

Check out our front page story on Lisa Pope’s passing to get all the details on how the vacant position of assessor will be filled.

Meanwhile, let the rumor mill begin to churn out a list of possible applicants for the opening. One name already being whispered as possibly having interest? Longtime county clerk Sandy Krohne, Democrat, who was defeated in the Republican tidal wave last November by Joan Harms.

So is Krohne truly interested?

“I’ve thought about it. But not at this time. That’s not where I need to be,” Krohne responded via phone.

Another natural name to hit the rumor mill eventually might be Democrat Marcena Fulton, who served as Krohne’s chief deputy in the county clerk’s office for many years and who unsuccessfully ran against Pope in 2008. A call to Fulton had not been returned as of press time.

******

Conservatives didn’t get a good result in the KC earnings tax election on Tuesday. Conservatives, however, did get a good result in one of the Park Hill School Board posts, where David Cox topped current board member Fred Sanchez and some also-rans.

Longtime Between the Lines readers will recall that Sanchez, in his posts as school board member, South Platte Ambulance District board member, and member of the Democratic Central Committee, has been exposed as one of the most liberal (and possibly most out of touch) elected officials Platte County has ever seen.

His defeat is good for the causes of conservatism and fiscal sanity.

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Speaking of fiscal sanity, a public infomercial was held last week to present all the good things about the taxpayer funded money-losing play area known as Shiloh Springs Golf Course. I boycotted the meeting after seeing the press release that came out promoting it. It was easy to see based on the wording of that press release that the county wasn’t really interested in a serious discussion about the financial drain this course has been on the taxpayers of the county. Side note to libs: it doesn’t matter if the tax money to fund the play area comes from property taxes (it doesn’t) or from the county’s bloated $82 million park sales tax (it does), the bottom line is it is tax money being spent on unnecessary play stuff that is readily available in the private sector. It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find a privately-funded golf course in this area, why do taxpayers need to be providing another one, especially when the golf business just ain’t what it used to be? Tax dollars are designed to go for services that wouldn’t otherwise be readily available. Golf is readily available in a lot of privately-funded places, folks.

******

Rah rah, sis boom bah.

The most ridiculed quote to come from the Shiloh golf meeting will prove to be this one from Kathy Dusenbery, first district county commissioner:

“I can see there’s a lot of passion for this course and that’s good for us to see as we work on budgets,” she said. “That should be the message tonight -- everybody goes out and let’s talk positively about Shiloh.”

Did Kathy bring pompons to the meeting?

Was she wearing a cheerleading skirt?

There you have it folks, the key to fixing the money drain that is Shiloh Springs is for all of us to talk positively about the tax money it is losing for us.

(Send your best cheer to the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or follow his daily actions at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


LOCAL ECONOMIC NUMBERS MORE DOWN THAN UP RIGHT NOW

Posted 4/1/11

How’s the economy?

Platte County Commissioners, after looking over the sales tax revenue numbers received the first week of March, aren’t exactly in a boasting mood about the local economy. That’s in contrast from what happened when the February numbers came in. Those February receipts were 47% above the receipts from February in 2010. This prompted Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, to quickly jump on social media (I think the Obama White House calls it socialized media) outlets Twitter and Facebook to boast about how great things were economically, while thanking the fine people of Platte County for their support.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this isn’t the first time Dusenbery has been a little bit reactionary on a topic. It’s a personality trait that often makes her a topic in this very column, and for that we can be thankful. But I digress.

And digress is exactly what the March sales tax receipts did. March receipts are down a whopping 37% from a year ago.

Ouch. So much for the boastful posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, let’s not pull the opposite of a Dusenbery and overreact negatively to this. I don’t believe the sky is falling.

While the March numbers show a37% drop, the year to date receipts aren’t quite that bad. Combined totals of the county’s sales tax revenue and its use tax revenue show the county is behind almost 12% from this time a year ago. That’s bad, but it’s not a negative 37% bad, if you follow my drift.

March receipts reflect sales that were made in January. Remember, we had bad weather in January, several significant snowfalls. A couple of days the snow was so bad (well, kinda) that the county closed its doors to allow its employees to spend the day shopping, obviously a strategic move designed to try to boost the local economy.
Some folks like to say factors like cold and snow don’t really affect economic numbers. I disagree. It’s not only a physical detriment to folks who might normally get out to do some shopping or eat at a restaurant, it’s also a mental detriment as well. Are you more likely to have a positive outlook on the future of the world in general--and thus more likely to open up your pocketbook–when it’s 20 degrees and a cold wind is blowing or when it’s 70 degrees and sunny?

Spring traditionally brings optimism. Just ask the Royals.

******

Differences over a new labor deal between the unionized employees of the Northland Regional Ambulance District and the district’s board of directors have apparently been solved after some mediation. It was mentioned at last week’s NRAD board of directors meeting that a new pact calls for a 45 cent per hour raise for most employees.
Somehow this bit of news has been overshadowed by a recent land acquisition made by the NRAD board. Perhaps you’ve heard about that.

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The political fortunes of Jason Grill, former state representative for southern Platte County, took another hit last week. Grill sent out a late-in-the-game email blast to thousands of folks, throwing his support behind Mike Burke in the Kansas City mayoral race. Burke, despite walking hand-in-hand with such “progressives” as Grill and Dusenbery, was waxed in last week’s election by Sly James, 54% to 46%. For what it’s worth, Burke did run strong in his home area in the Northland.

Political observers are now wondering aloud what Grill will do. He obviously gambled on getting a schmooze job with Burke and it didn’t pan out. It doesn’t seem likely James will ask him to take a cushy position at City Hall after that email blast in favor of Burke.

We noted here a couple of weeks ago that Grill, who is an attorney but apparently doesn’t want to be, has been applying for positions in the areas of public relations and advertising. He has not yet parlayed his looks and his desire to party into a high level job in either field.

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Don’t forget to head to the polls on Tuesday when local cities and school boards will be filling spots on their respective boards.

There aren’t many contested races. For instance, no spots on the Platte City Board of Aldermen are contested and there are only three candidates for three open spots on the Platte County R-3 Board of Education.

But in the Park Hill School District, as you’ll see in our front page story on their candidate forum held Tuesday night, there is some competition. Park Hill--just like Platte County R-3 and, honestly, just like nearly every public education body out there--could use a shot of fiscal conservatism from board members who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions of the hired and highly compensated administrators. Three candidates at Park Hill who would have the knowledge, the common sense and the stones to do that are Chris Seufert, Timothy Thompson and David Cox.

Each is worthy of your vote if you’d like some voices of fiscal common sense to be heard on your school board.

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You’ll want to check out the updated standings in our Bracket Battle on page A-4. With so many upsets in this year’s tourney, many of the brackets entered have been shot. As things stand now, I would be giving away around 30 one-year subscriptions to this fine newspaper based on the fact there are about 30 of the 169 of you who entered ahead of me in the standings.

By this time next week our $100 first place winner will be announced and everyone who finished with a better score than yours truly can start contacting our office to claim your free subscription. Enjoy.

*******

See this Quick Response code (similar to a bar code) in the corner of my column? There’s also one on our front page. Scan that thing with your QR reader on your camera phone. The code on the front page will take you to The Landmark’s web site home page, and this one takes you to my column on the web.

Technology is a great thing, huh? More on this in future Landmarks.

(You can scan his quick response code and email Ivan Foley anytime at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


NRAD'S QUESTIONABLE LAND DEAL HAS BECOME REGIONAL STORY

Posted 3/25/11

It wouldn’t be appropriate to let the week get by without a tip of the cap to all the firefighters and other first responders who bravely battled tough circumstances at the fatal High Pointe Apartment Complex fire on Saturday.

Job well done. Saturday’s fire was the third notable blaze to which Central Platte Fire Department had responded in a week.

As you’ll see in an article in this issue, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt is planning a special open house event at City Hall on Friday to honor the local heroes.

You can see more of our pictures from the fire at Facebook.com/ivanfoley.

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Saturday’s fire is the latest in a string of bad luck incidents spread out over three decades at High Pointe. Prior to Saturday’s blaze, other sad incidents at High Pointe being recalled by longtime residents this week are Building F at the complex sliding down the hill in the 1990s and the tragic accidental death of a man working in the swimming pool area of the clubhouse.

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Have an interest in what’s happening with your tax dollars that go to support the county’s money-losing golf course? You might want to attend a public forum set for Wednesday, March 30 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the banquet room at Shiloh Springs Golf Course. You’ve read many reports in this newspaper over the years about how Shiloh Springs has been a major drain on the pocketbooks of taxpayers. Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, earlier this year suggested a public forum be held to explain to residents the financial challenges faced at Shiloh and to listen to any ideas presented by the public.

A press release that came out of the parks department earlier this week presented next Wednesday’s forum as being some sort of showcase event for the facility. That’s really not the approach that Dusenbery used when she first brought up the idea of hosting a public forum. Dusenbery’s public comments about the forum consisted mainly about the financial challenges at Shiloh. Upon seeing the rosy tone to this week’s press release, I phoned Dusenbery to see if the focus of this public event had changed. She says that in her mind, she still wants finances to be the main topic of discussion.

“It’s no fun getting the monthly numbers from Shiloh. They’re not great,” she told me.
Dusenbery added: “I want to hear legitimate alternatives. Do you pull the plug and keep making bond payments on it? The golf industry as a whole is going backward, not forward. I believe we should start looking at different alternatives and discussing the future past the bond payments (which she said are set to end in a few years).”

Could be an interesting meeting. Or it could be another fluffy county parks department infomercial. Time will tell.

******

So did you put an entry in The Landmark’s bracket contest? You’re not alone. A record number of you did. A few, in fact, tried to enter more than once, which is a no-no. Another one or two of you submitted only about half a bracket. When the dust had settled, we counted 169 valid entries, easily topping the previous record of 126 set last year.

If the contest ended today, 34 of you would be ahead of me in the standings and thereby would be qualified for one year of free information and entertainment in the form of a Landmark subscription. But don’t get giddy--my bracket still has balls.

Veteran bracket battlers know this much: These contests are won--or lost--in the later rounds. See the complete list of standings of the 169 entrants on page A-4 of this issue. Any complaints about your score--or the spelling of your name (some handwriting of names was uh, less than stellar, shall we say)--contact official scorekeeper Rian Babcock at rian@plattecountylandmark.com

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The controversy over the ridiculous land deal approved by the Northland Regional Ambulance District board of directors continues to pick up steam. As Landmark readers well know, NRAD paid $175,000 for three acres of land at I-29 and Camden Point from its own board president Kevin Rawlings. Less than a year earlier, Rawlings had purchased the entire 35 acre tract for $130,000 from an Overland Park man. That’s right. Rawlings bought 35 acres for $130,000, then several months later sold three of those acres to NRAD for $175,000. Do you think he came out alright on his investment?

The troubling part is that Rawlings serves on a board that in its long range plan developed more than two years ago had identified I-29 at Camden Point as being the ideal location for NRAD to locate a future ambulance facility. For anyone at NRAD to deny that Rawlings knew of that long range plan is simply dishonest. He is the board president--how could he not have known? In his initial interview with me on the topic several weeks ago, Rawlings acknowledged how the district years ago had pinpointed I-29 at Camden Point as an ideal future location. After the story hit the paper and public outcry started to grow, Rawlings and some of his cohorts have tried to change the story a bit to claim that Rawlings had no idea when he bought the property less than year ago that NRAD might be interested in that location. But the change of tune is too late. That horse already left the barn.

At least one NRAD patron says he is filing a complaint with the state ethics commission. Interestingly, I’ve received emails from folks at the state capitol who want background info on this situation. The story has gone regional, catching the eye of investigative news reporter Ryan Kath of Channel 41, who filed an excellent report on the topic Monday. Kath’s report (and he graciously credits The Landmark in several places in his report) was later praised by the wildly popular media watchdog web site bottomlinecom.com, which will further advance the audience of this fiasco. You can view Kath’s report on the internet by going to http://tinyurl.com/4n574hg (I made that link green because that's the color of the money now in Rawlings' pocket).

Bill Edwards, former alderman at Dearborn and lifetime Platte County resident, summed it up this way at Monday night’s NRAD board meeting: “This is one of the shadiest things that I’ve ever seen done in Platte County, that he (Rawlings) went and bought that property after he knew they were looking for land.”

I’ve yet to hear anyone offer a satisfactory argument against that opinion.

(Help shine light into the shade with an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


WHY IS CUTTING BACK SO HARD TO SAY? BRACKET BATTLE RAGES

Posted 3/18/11

As you know, we occasionally engage in sarcasm here in Between the Lines. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my favorite headline of the week comes from the satirical newspaper known as The Onion. The headline?

“Factual Error Found On Internet.”

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You’ll notice this version of Page 2 is missing an editorial cartoon from our talented graphic artist Matthew Silber. You’ll be able to find Matthew’s cartoon on my Facebook page and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley.

The topic? The collective bargaining discussion at Platte County R-3.

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Public disgust over the Northland Regional Ambulance District’s purchase of three acres for $175,000 from the president of its board of directors continues to grow. Channel 41 of Kansas City was in town on Wednesday researching the issue for a potential story on its newscast. I’m told the TV guys decided to make a personal visit to town with cameras rolling after repeated calls to some of the main NRAD players in this controversy went unreturned.

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For reasons I don’t quite understand, it’s tough for the new presiding commissioner to put into words but the facts are this: the Platte County Commission is cutting back on the number of administrative sessions it holds. See our front page for full story.

Traditionally held on a weekly basis, indications are now the commission will be going to an every-other-week meeting schedule. Brown won’t confirm it, dancing around the simple and harmless question posed to him this week by our trusty reporter PJ Rooks.

“We’ve gone from three last month to two this month and they’re every other week on the 14th and 28th. If that will be the same schedule next month, I don’t know because we haven’t set anything in April yet. Next month we could have two, we could have three, we could have four. We could have any number of them.”

Wow. Talk about a convoluted answer. And disingenuous.

The buzz in political circles the past couple weeks has been that the commission has decided to cut back to just two meetings per month. Even one of Brown’s fellow commissioners told The Landmark that’s the plan. Why Brown gave us a wordy answer that danced all over the calendar I have no idea. Turning the simple into the complicated is a specialty for some politicians.

“We’re going to be efficient and do what we need to do to get through these economic times,” Brown said.

So cutting back on the number of county commission administrative sessions is a money-saving move? Exactly how is that? County commissioners work on a salary ($60,000 to $65,000). Are they taking a salary cut as a result of cutting back on administrative sessions?

I like Jason Brown and many of his conservative views on the world, but some of his public comments to the press in his first three months have been head-scratchers. Some of his words might make good stand-alone political sound bites, but when you place them into their proper context they don’t pass a test of logic.

Some folks will be bothered by the commissioners cutting back on the number of times they make themselves available to the public via an administrative session, and that argument has merit. Listen, it’s not the end of the world to me if the commissioners want to cut back to every other week. But at least be honest about the intention and the reason why.

I quit sending a representative of The Landmark to cover every session back in 2009 after Betty Knight and Co. had turned the meetings into nothing but a weekly political infomercial. Each meeting seemed to feature some type of Power Point presentation about a particular county department that obviously was just a scream to the media to “give us some good press on this.” If it wasn’t the Power Point that the commission wanted to stress to the press on a particular day, then it was an obviously planned political statement made by a commissioner in the “unscheduled comments” portion at the close of the meeting.

It was a waste of time for me or anyone on my staff to sit through the fluffy Power Point presentations--and The Landmark will never be in the business of being a PR machine for unchallenged political statements made by the elected--so I stopped sending a Landmark representative unless we knew there was a particularly newsworthy item on the agenda.

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Hey. It’s time to show off your March Swagness.

Get your entry in our Bracket Battle for your chance to win $100 in cool cash and become a local media star via all the publicity you’ll be getting in the pages of your Landmark. Plus, if you beat my score, which was easy to do last year, you’ll get a free one-year’s subscription to this fine newspaper.

My overall analysis of the tournament? I think the much ballyhooed Big East Conference will have a disappointing tournament and prove to have been an overrated league. I have zero Big East teams in my Final Four.

After much study and preparation (Between the Lines BS meter just sounded), here are my picks:

First round winners: Ohio State, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Xavier, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee, Arizona, Texas, MU, Connecticut, Temple, San Diego State, Kansas, UNLV, Richmond, Louisville, USC/VCU, Purdue, Florida State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Butler, K-State, Belmont, Gonzaga, BYU, UCLA, Florida.

Sweet Sixteen: Ohio State, Kentucky, Xavier, North Carolina, Duke, Texas, Connecticut, San Diego State, Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, K-State, Gonzaga, Florida.

Elite Eight: Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke, San Diego State, Kansas, Notre Dame, K-State, Florida.

Final Four: Ohio State, Duke, Kansas, Florida.

Championship: Duke 75, Kansas 71.

(Follow the contest standings each week in the paper or at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Email the swaggalicious Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


WHAT'S NEW WITH GRILL? AND HEADS NEED TO ROLL AT NRAD

Posted 3/11/11

A lot of you have been struggling with cold and flu symptoms as of late. Shortly after recently boasting about having a healthy winter season, I’ve been hit with some kind of congestive bug. I’ve put so many drugs in my system this week I’m starting to feel like Charlie Sheen. Without the psychotic flipouts.

At least not yet. It’s still early.

******

I must have sounded like dead man walking earlier this week. On Monday, my buddy Greg Hall couldn’t get off the phone fast enough during a conversation. Usually when Hall and I make connection, much shooting of the bull ensues. GH cut it short, perhaps fearing my condition was so contagious it would work its way through the phone lines. I’ll be seeing him at the Big 12 tournament later this week. I hope he lets me talk to him.

*******

From Charlie Sheen to Jason Grill. Insert your own joke here.

When last we heard from Jason Grill, former state representative who liked to tell strangers at college football games that he was a Congressman, he had just been shockingly (to him) defeated by Ron Schieber in the November general election for the District 32 state representative.

Then the whispers started that Grill might look at running against his fellow “progressive” pal Kathy Dusenbery in 2012, when it is assumed Dusenbery will seek to renew her cushy position as first district county commissioner. But 2012 is further on up the road. What’s Grill going to do in the meantime? Glad you asked.

Trusted Between the Lines sources say the Grillmeister has been looking at some public relations and marketing jobs. Grill is an attorney, but if he’s looking at jobs in PR and marketing it seems safe to say he considers his law degree more of a showpiece than something he actually intends to use.

Grill has been seen hanging around development lawyer Mike Burke, one of the two candidates to survive the crowded race in Kansas City’s mayoral primary election. Burke and Sly James advanced to the upcoming general run-off, and the fact Grill is hanging on the sleeve of Burke could be an indication the former state rep, who liked to promote a playboy type image, could be hoping for some type of appointment and an office job at City Hall if Burke is victorious.

But James seems to be the mayoral candidate picking up momentum at this point, which could mean Grill is still job hunting after the spring election.

******

You can get into town but you can’t get out. That will be the case soon in Parkville. Well, you’ll still be able to get out. It just won’t be as easy.

The Hwy. 9 bridge work near the Parkville Post Office will enter the next phase of construction on March 21. This will involve reducing traffic flow temporarily to one-way into Parkville on westbound/northbound Hwy. 9 (more simply stated, traffic coming from Riverside). There will be no southbound/eastbound traffic allowed at the bridge. In other words, if you want to leave Parkville and head south toward Riverside, forget trying that route. In order to get there, you’ll have to leave the downtown Parkville area, travel north on Hwy. 9 to Tom Watson Parkway and then head over toward Interstate 29.

Officials want to make it clear that traffic will not be allowed to detour through Park University property. They must be really serious about this, because in the informational item they sent to me they put the word NOT in all caps. Just like that. That’s bad-ass tough talk right there.

******

As public scrutiny was building, Northland Regional Ambulance District rushed to close that land deal with its board president one day last week. As you know from our previous reports and editorials, NRAD purchased three acres of land from NRAD board president Kevin Rawlings at I-29 and Camden Point for $175,000.

Wow. As we’ve explained, this deal puts off an odor. For more thoughts from the public on the matter, check out comments made on my Facebook page. Rawlings and friends are getting ripped for this, and deservedly so.

The whispers have been out there for weeks that the Bank of Weston would have sold NRAD property across the interstate at a more reasonable price than what NRAD paid to its board president. NRAD officials, however, declined to seriously pursue negotiations with the bank.

Whatever happened to the old public service adage that if it looks bad and smells bad, don’t do it? Apparently that’s not the motto at NRAD. The board NRAD deserves all the criticism it is getting for this careless and questionable use of tax dollars.

Heads need to roll over this. Rawlings--and his fellow board members who supported this fiasco--need to draw some opposition the next time their names are on the ballot. And promptly be voted out of office.

******

The field is chosen Sunday and the NCAA basketball tournament starts next week, and I’m in full ‘promote the hell out of our bracket contest’ mode here in the paper, on Facebook and on Twitter. Top prognosticator will pry $100 from my cold hands.

Anyone who earns a better score than I do gets an equally sweet deal--a free one year subscription to this fine newspaper.

You’ll also be trying to earn bragging rights over all your Landmark personalities, including not only your favorite publisher but Rian Babcock, Greg Hall, Brian Kubicki, James Thomas, Russ Purvis, CK Rairden and our trusty facilities manager Kurt Foley.
Here are the important details: Your bracket entry is due at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 17. Fax that sucker to The Landmark at 816-858-2313 or email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com

If you’re a stickler for details on scoring, etc., see our front page article for complete rules.

(When he isn’t looking for ways to sell ground to NRAD, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and befriended on Facebook on Twitter)


NRAD PRESIDENT GETS TOP DOLLAR; SOME HUMOR IN SHEEN'S SADNESS

Posted 3/3/11

Is it narcissistic of me to think that huge “Narcissist” billboard along I-29 at Dearborn is aimed at me?

******

Credit to them for trying to spark some growth.

Platte County commissioners this week unveiled an incentive plan they hope will spark some construction activity in the unincorporated areas of the county. The county will waive building permit fees for the next six months (with some exceptions, see your dealer for details).

Hey, if the county did business under the same method of operation as the board of directors of the Northland Regional Ambulance District, you would now see county officials start new construction on their own private property while the waiver is in progress.

******

The uncomfortable--some might say slightly nauseating--land deal between the Northland Regional Ambulance District board of directors and the president of the same board of directors is about to be wrapped up. As detailed here last week, NRAD is paying $175,000 for three acres owned by NRAD board president Kevin Rawlings at I-29 and Camden Point. “The survey is done, we’re just trying to get with the title company to do the closing,” Tom Taylor, director of NRAD, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I talked to a businessman who is in a position to be familiar with land values along the I-29 corridor. NRAD is not having an appraisal done on the property it is buying from Rawlings at a cost that relates to roughly $58,000 per acre. Widely held public opinion is that NRAD is overpaying for the property, and not just by a little bit. The businessman with whom I spoke says land at I-29 and HH near Platte City--a more coveted area than Camden Point-- has a market value of about $29,500 per acre. And how about a highly visible, valuable area like near the I-29/I-435 intersection (close to the old Farmland building)? Sources say value in that area is $50,000 per acre, still less per acre than the price NRAD is shelling out at Camden Point.

Wow.

******

Time to bring you up to date on some happenings around the ol’ Landmark.

New this week on page A-4 you’ll find The Landmark’s Take on Tinseltown. This weekly feature, on the same page as Hearne Christopher’s not so confidential report on what’s happening in and around Kansas City, you’ll find some quick hitters on topics related to the rich and famous. This will be a weekly compilation of news, notes, quotes and opinions about what’s going on around Hollyweird.

No better time to start this, really, what with the country’s fascination with the almost daily flip-outs by actor Charlie Sheen, star of what I’ve said before is my favorite show on television, Two And a Half Men. I’ve enjoyed the comedic work of Sheen in movies as well as his work on the TV sitcom, so to see him go through these repeated meltdowns is sad.

Whether it’s a good or bad thing that so many Americans have an interest in what goes on with our country’s movie and television stars’ private life can be debated, but what can’t be denied is that the general population’s appetite for this information is insatiable.
We’ll do our little part to help you get your Tinseltown fix right here in the heart of America. Talented Landmark staffer Rian Babcock will head up the gathering of information for this feature, and you can anticipate some occasional dangerous drop-ins from yours truly.

******

Yes, Charlie Sheen has been all over the television news shows. You gotta love how so many of the networks TV news shows promote their conversations with Sheen as “exclusive” interviews. In the news biz, normally the word “exclusive” means you have garnered access to something that no other news outlet has. So how is that I can turn on a channel and watch an “exclusive” interview with Charlie, then hit my remote and find another “exclusive” interview with Charlie taking place on a different network? How can so many outlets claim “exclusive” when they’re all talking to the same Charlie Sheen?

Just wonderin’.

******

We all have our demons, I suppose, though most of us don’t have them to the extent that Charlie Sheen has them right now. It’s hard to envision any other outcome other than a tragic ending to life for Sheen at this point, with so many of his problems self-induced due to problems with apparent substance abuse.

In the meantime, I confess to being entertained by some of the crazy words to come out of his mouth. For instance, Sheen was asked after one of his weekends of bizarre behavior and apparent heavy drug use: “Why did you take so much cocaine?” Sheen’s answer was: “Well, I didn’t just take it. I had to pay for it.”

Now that’s a funny response.

I don’t condone Sheen’s addictions or actions. But his awareness--in spite of all the brain cells he has needlessly wasted-- that humor works in almost any situation is commendable.

******

Another of the more entertaining Charlie Sheen interview moments took place years ago, long before his recent meltdowns. Legend has it Sheen was asked about his alleged habit of paying for female ‘company’, shall we say. The interview was years ago, so I’m paraphrasing here, but it went down something like this:

Interviewer: “Charlie, you’re a good looking guy with a lot going for you, why do you need to pay women to have sex with you?”

Sheen: “I’m not paying them to come have sex with me. I’m paying them to leave.”

(When he’s not watching Charlie Sheen’s meltdowns, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


KC WILL LOSE ITS FUNK; AMBULANCE DISTRICT DEAL RAISES EYEBROWS

Posted 2/24/11

So don’t tell anybody, but I think I’m developing a crush on this singer/dancer named Rihanna. In back-to-back weeks, her voice and moves caught my ears and eyes on the Grammy Awards show and at halftime of the NBA All-Star Game.

Guys, if you haven’t checked out this performer, Google her or YouTube her right now. You’ll thank me later.

******

Personally, I’m a little saddened to see that the time of Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser at city hall will be coming to an end. Funk, whom I had the opportunity to interview and visit with on several occasions over the past few years, was an engaging character. I didn’t always agree with his views, proposals or stances on certain topics, but he seemed to sincerely believe he was doing what he felt was the right thing in his hope to better the city. I respect the man for that.

Funk and his office staff should also be commended for reaching out to the Northland and particularly Platte County during his time in office. That’s something that had not happened often--or at least to this extent--under previous Kansas City mayors.

Funk’s office folks often picked up the phone to contact this newspaper when items of interest to residents of Kansas City in Platte County were happening at city hall. He held several neighborhood forums in Platte County over the past few years, where he often talked about his efforts to improve basic services provided by the city while taking any and all questions from those in attendance. These types of things don’t typically draw large crowds unless there’s a particularly controversial topic at hand, but still it shows an elected official’s willingness to reach out and stay in contact with his constituents. Funk did not seem to shy from that aspect of the job.

Of course, the obvious is that Funkhouser was despised by many of the liberals at some Kansas City media outlets, which is another reason I’ll hate to see him go. To say he was a lightning rod for criticism is an understatement. Some of that, of course, he brought upon himself.

******

OK, so all this hubba hubba and whispering about the Northland Regional Ambulance District’s deal to pay what on the surface seems to be a steep price to purchase land from the president of the NRAD board of directors is understandable. I’m not saying there is anything illegal about what is going down, but again, what is legal to do with public resources is not always what is right to do with public resources. NRAD is buying three acres from its board president at $175,000. No appraisal of the property’s value has been performed.

I had a 20-minute telephone conversation on Tuesday with Kevin Rawlings, the NRAD board president/landowner involved in this public relations circus. From that conversation, here is what we know, and Rawlings did not dispute any of these facts:

1. For two years, NRAD has been looking for land for a more centralized location for its northern station. According to Tom Taylor, district director, it was made known the district’s ideal location would be the intersection of I-29 and the Camden Point exit (where I-29 intersects with Hwys. E and U).

2. About one year ago--April of 2010, according to county records--Rawlings purchased 35 acres on the west side of the I-29 exit at Camden Point.

3. Somewhere over the course of the past two years, a district official had made an inquiry into land on the east side of the interstate at Camden Point. NRAD was told the land was not being offered for sale, but according to NRAD officials, the “realtor” indicated the “value” of the land would be $225,000.

4. In December of this year--several months after Rawlings had purchased the property on the west side of that intersection--NRAD published a “request for proposals” in The Landmark. The wording of that request for proposals seriously limits the pool of possible bidders in such a way it is almost humorous. The specs insisted the proposed property “must be at least two acres, fronting blacktop, within 2200 feet of I-29 at exit 25.” Kinda limits the pool of potential bidders, doesn’t it? Especially when NRAD officials openly say they already had knowledge that the property on the east side of that interchange was not on the market.

5. Rawlings says he was hoping for other proposals to come in. He indicated to me that he didn’t submit his proposal until very late in the process, though strangely the public notice does not list a deadline for proposals to be submitted. He says he didn’t know there were no other proposals in hand when he threw his offer into the mix.
The public can--and will--read the facts in the matter and draw its own conclusions. Rawlings states his case in our front page article.

No money has yet changed hands, as a survey to nail down exact boundary lines is underway. Have concerns? The best advice might be to let your voice be heard. The NRAD district office phone number is 858-4450. The ambulance board holds monthly meetings--normally on the third Monday night of the month at 7 p.m. at the district station in Platte City--though this month’s meeting is tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.

******

There are two teachers unions with staff members at Platte County R-3: the National Education Association (NEA) and the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA). Which of the two unions will emerge to be the lead collective bargaining agent for R-3 staff? It’s still early in the process, but eventually staff members will hold an election to choose from one of the two unions to speak on their behalf on terms of salaries and working benefits.

NEA may feel it has the inside track on winning that election. I speculate on that simply because some NEA representatives will be speaking to the R-3 school board Thursday in a work session to update the board on the process from their point of view. This whole new collective bargaining in Missouri approach is bringing a cautious approach from the R-3 school board. “What it requires on our behalf is study and deliberate action,” Superintendent Mike Reik told me.

“I appreciate the input MSTA and NEA have given. I think it’s all well intentioned. In the end, we’ll figure out where we need to be as a district, keeping the best interests of our kids at heart,” Reik said.

(Collectively bargain with the publisher via email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


I DON'T WANT TO START A PANIC, BUT THE INTERNET IS NEAR CAPACITY

Posted 2/18/11

Is the internet in danger of reaching overload status?

Sounds like a joke, right? I mean, we all assume the internet has a capacity of infinity and beyond. A story in the New York Times on Monday tells us otherwise.

According to the New York Times article, in 1976 the best minds at the U.S. Department of Defense had to make a judgment call: How much network address space should they allocate to an experiment connecting computers in an advanced data network? They debated the question for more than a year. Finally, with a deadline looming, a man named Vint Cerf decided on a number--4.3 billion separate network addresses, each one representing a connected device.

First, I thought Al Gore said he invented the internet? His name is not mentioned in the New York Times article. I’m guessing Al is ticked.

“It was 1977,” Cerf told the Times. “We thought we were doing an experiment.” You can’t blame the poor guy. Who knew this thing would become a monster? There are 4.3 billion addresses, but there are 7 billion people on this planet. And many people have more than one IP address. The Internet Protocol addresses are a unique set of numbers assigned to each web site, computer, game console or smartphone connected to the internet.

Bottom line is that these days the internet is about to max out. Experts say within 12 to 18 months--or maybe sooner--every one of the 4.3 billion IP addresses will have been assigned and the internet as it exists today will have reached full capacity.

But never fear, the techno geeks are here. Thank God for nerds. We all should feel bad for picking on those guys back in school. They often save our collective asses. I'm glad they don’t hold grudges.

Nerds saw this problem coming years ago and the transition to a new system is on its way. Known as Internet Protocol version 6, this new standard will support a “virtually inexhaustible” number of devices, experts say. Of course the next question--and one you’ll no doubt be hearing more about soon, kinda like the Y2K scare of over a decade ago--is will the two IP systems be compatible?

Let’s don’t panic. I’m not gonna lose sleep over it. We’ve got 12-18 months. Those science geeks with the greasy hair and thick glasses we made fun of in school will figure it out.

I’m feeling guilty as hell right now. Nerds, I always loved you guys.

******

Don’t worry, folks, I really think we’re starting to win this war against winter.

Temperatures in the 50s, 60s and a forecast of a possible 70 degree day on Thursday means we have hope.

Here are the key dates, in Foley’s World, to surviving winter. Feb. 14-Better known as Valentine’s Day, but forget the fact it’s observed as a manufactured holiday primarily anticipated by the female gender. On the Foley calendar, Feb. 14 is a significant date because traditionally if we get a significant snow after this date, we can mentally handle it with no problem. Why? Because more frequent days above freezing means the snow won’t hang around long.

Second most important date in surviving winter, of course, is March 1. In my world, March 1 is a mid-major holiday. In fact if we were a government office, I would order The Landmark closed on that day every year for no justifiable reason and politicians would call me Ferris Bueller.

March 1 means we’ve already survived the worst the winter is going to bring us. It means, again, any significant snow doesn’t hang around long. Most importantly, it means college basketball takes the spotlight. Longtime readers of this column space know what that means. You’ll find The Landmark’s office television tuned to college basketball. We don’t have one of those flat screen LCD high definition televisions in our office like the fortunate administrators at Platte County R-3, so I’m a little jealous in that regard, but any TV with a college hoops tourney game on it is a good TV.

******

By the way, we will be doing our annual public Bracket Battle contest again this year in conjunction with the NCAA tournament. Details coming soon. My hope is that I’ll have a better score this year. Readers hope I don’t. Anyone with better luck than I have at picking games wins a free subscription, remember.

******

Landmark facilities manager Kurt Foley and your favorite publisher already have our March Madness trip for the season planned. Last year we hit the semifinal night of the Big 12 tourney, where we were robustly entertained by not only the quality of basketball but also by some old dudes in the row behind us giving unintentionally humorous commentary as the action unfolded on the court. Two weeks later, we spent a weekend in St. Louis at the regional finals of the NCAA tourney, then a week later attended Opening Day for the Royals.

This year we’re definitely hitting the Friday night semifinals of the Big 12 tourney (seats in the eighth row of the lower level, please don’t ask how much I paid) and have toyed with the idea of heading to Tulsa for early round games of the NCAA.

Spring isn’t far away, folks. Catch the fever.

******

So word at the coffee shop is that the Northland Regional Ambulance District wants to pay what many observers are calling an extremely inflated price for some property owned by one of its board members at the southwest corner of the Camden Point exit along Interstate 29. I guess it pays to have connections. We’ll be taking a look at--and possibly having some fun with--this topic in future issues. Doing what’s legal with public money and doing what’s right with public money are often two different things. The public can eventually decide if the situation passes the smell test.

(See if this publishing nerd passes the smell test with an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, or follow his daily antics on Facebook and Twitter. No friend left behind.)


IDEA BY PURVIS DESERVES SUPPORT; JUDGES GET MORE BUCKS

Posted 2/11/11

Just curious: When you see one of those glossy, full color 2011 Platte County parks calendars floating around the community, does it make you feel better about funding an $82 million toys tax during an economic downturn?

I know it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

******

While on the subject of tax dollars, is it an appropriate time for pay raises for state judges? Apparently a majority of the state legislature believes it is.

According to the web site courthousenews.com, Missouri state judges will get a pay raise. The salary hike doesn’t take effect until July of 2012, but it is coming.

Circuit court judges (in Platte County, circuit court judges are Lee Hull and Abe Shafer) will get a raise of around $6,500. This will move their salary to $127,020 effective July 2012. That’s an increase of about 5.4%.

Associate circuit court judges (in Platte County, these are James Van Amburg, Thomas Fincham and Dennis Eckold) will see a pay hike of nearly $7,500. The increase will put their salary at $116,858. These numbers are an increase of about 7%.

Missouri Supreme Court judges will get more than a $10,000 increase, going from $137,034 to $147,591. This mean’s the judges at the state’s highest court will be getting a hike of almost 8%.

According to courthousenews.com, the raises were a point of contention for legislators. Supporters claimed the raises are needed to keep good people on the bench and to stop an exodus to higher paying jobs. Opponents argued, unsuccessfully, that the state could not afford the $5 million price tag the raises carry.

When was the last time state judges got a raise? According to courthousenews.com, that was in July of 2008, when a 3% raise was given.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pay for Missouri judges ranks in the middle nationally.

*******

Are snow days built into the judges’ calendars and pay schedules?

******

Have a history of sinus trouble or sinus infections? Invest in some of those low-cost cool mist humidifiers. I’ve purchased three of those puppies this winter, keeping one in each of the rooms where I spend the most time. If you’ve been in The Landmark office this winter, you’ve spotted one at work right in front of my desk. It’s been like discovering gold, baby.

******

Landmark columnist Russ Purvis has an idea whose time has come.

Regular readers know the great lengths The Landmark has gone to promote the idea of smaller, smarter government. If you support this movement, be sure to read The Inconvenient Truth column by Purvis on page A-3. Russ, an attorney in Platte County, is a former Democrat who now refers to himself as an Independent. He has a solid idea that we hope will gain support. Purvis is now leading the effort to reform what he refers to as “Missouri’s ineffective and inefficient House of Representatives.” He has filed a petition to place a proposed amendment to the state constitution on an upcoming ballot. The amendment would greatly reduce the size of the state’s house of representatives, cutting the number of state representatives from 163 to 103.

Amen to this.

As you’ll read in Purvis’s column, the size of Missouri’s house of representatives is ridiculous. Missouri has more state representatives than much larger states like Texas and Califronia, for instance. Cutting the number of state representatives by 60 results in an immediate “hard cost” savings of $1.8 million annually just in salaries of the elected. Add in other factors like the reduction of staff members and benefits, and the savings will grow considerably. Purvis says the cost savings will climb to the range of $3 million to $5 million per year.

Read more of his thoughts on this topic in his column, including the reason why the state’s size of the house is so out of proportion.

A lot of us talk often of reducing the size and scope of government. Purvis is rolling up his sleeves and organizing an effort to do something about it. Let’s help him out. To learn more about the proposed amendment and what it will take to get it on the ballot--or to offer your help--contact Russ Purvis at 816-842-4357 or email him at russp842@yahoo.com

******

The lawsuit the county brought against Kendra Montgomery, a former employee in its human resources department, has not gone away, despite the county apparently wishing that it would. The county has dropped its portion of the suit, but that doesn’t prevent the former employee’s counter legal claims from being heard. It’s a fascinating story that only The Landmark has followed for you.

As a sidebar to that same situation, the sexual harassment/discrimination lawsuit filed by LeAnna Fannon--who remains employed in the county’s human resources department--against former auditor Siobhann Williams and the county is slowly making its way through the legal system.

Williams has filed a motion to “enforce discovery” that is scheduled to be heard Thursday of this week in front of appointed judge Gerald McBeth. We’ll be keeping you posted on that case as it progresses.

(Pay Ivan Foley more if you wish but don’t judge him--ah, what the heck, judge him anyway while following him at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WEATHER NERDS
GETTING IT MORE RIGHT
THAN WRONG THESE DAYS

Posted 2/4/11

Uh, we’re in the middle of a snownami, a snowpocalypse, a snowmageddon, snOMG, with all kinds of white stuff moving around in all of Ol’ Man Winter’s huffin’ and puffin’.

And The Landmark carries on. Since 1865.

******

You know, we’ve got to give the weather nerds credit this year. They are actually nailing most of their forecasts.

In past years, it seems quite often when they warned us days in advance that “the big one” was coming, the storm would fizzle out and we’d end up with flurries or minimal accumulations. Not this year. The weather geeks are warning us well in advance that big storms are coming--and they are.

Improved skills or just dumb luck?

******

So, the snowgasm cleared out The Landmark office somewhat earlier than normal on Tuesday, always one of the longer days around a weekly newspaper, with some staffers heading home to file their work from magical devices known as computers, while yours truly remained encamped at the historic Landmark office. This left me alone with just my computer, the office TV, the office refrigerator which my appetite quickly cleaned out, and a big double picture window seat to something resembling a huge snow globe.

There was limited human interaction from walk-in traffic (it gets that way during heavy snow, FYI) and fewer than normal phone calls, as Time Warner decided to have phone/internet outages for most of the workday. The result of all this? I spent much of the day talking to myself.

So in other words, I guess it was like any other Tuesday.

Co-workers can tell you stories about how I will break out into unanticipated shouts of nonsensical phrases throughout the course of the typical day. Office manager Cindy Rinehart has diagnosed me with some kind of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Columnist/office assistant Rian Babcock refers to it as my Tourette’s.

Call it what you will. I call it breaking up the day.

******

Let’s also take a moment to praise Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, for recovering from that initial panic decision to close the county buildings a few weeks ago before what turned out to be about five or six inches of snow. Recent storms have been of greater accumulation and the county’s reaction has been more reasonable--the buildings for the most part have remained open. Of course a more understandable early closing occurred Tuesday of this week as the heaviest part of the snowquake was about to hit. County administration building shut down at 2 p.m. that day. I’m told the judicial courthouse shut ‘er down at noon.

Official snowfall total at KCI during Tuesday’s Blizzard of Oz was nine inches.
Here it is Wednesday morning, and the blowing and drifting snow overnight has the county administration building closed for the day. And the wheels of justice have not only slowed at the courthouse, the wheels have stopped turning altogether, as the courthouse is shut down for the day as well.

Again, this is a more understandable closing situation than the one of Jan. 10 when the new presiding commissioner hit the panic button at 7 a.m. preceding a storm that only totaled five or six inches with no drifting and relatively mild temperatures that day.

******

This week’s storm notwithstanding, this thought does cross the mind: What would happen if the private businesses that generate the sales tax revenue that fund local governments shut down as quickly and easily as some of the government offices do?

******

We wish him well but at the same time we hate to see him ride off into the sunset, gun packed in holster.

Captain Frank Hunter is retiring after 26 years with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. Hunter in recent years became the primary public information officer for the department, which of course means he was the main contact for those of us in the media. Hunter in his early days as media contact point at times was overly tight-lipped, but we seemed to grow more comfortable talking with each other in time and overcame some early communication issues. Over the past few years our phone calls always included some laughs, and I can recall enjoying a long personal conversation with him for an extended time at a swearing-in of county officeholders a couple of years ago.

Best wishes to the ol’ captain.

******

Ace Landmark reporter Pam (PJ) Rooks has an excellent and informative article on page A-5 of this issue about the challenges facing road crews for area cities and the county during this winter’s many snow events. Her article includes a look at the physical and fiscal challenges the heavier than normal snowfall has placed upon some of the crews.

Overall, I’m giving the city of Platte City a top notch grade for its work this winter, at least in the very visible downtown area. If there are complaints coming from any of the neighborhoods, they haven’t reached the ears of The Landmark.
Nice job under trying circumstances so far this winter, folks.

(Send your evaluation of the weather nerds and the snow removal troopers to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com. And follow the Between the Lines three ring circus at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


BAD CHECKS ARE BAD AND THEY'RE DOWN SO THAT'S GOOD, RIGHT?

Posted 1/28/11

How about the snow sculpting ability of local teacher Disa Rice photographed on the front page? Rice and her “cool” work might be worthy of a future Bill Hankins’ Landmark People feature.

******

Heads up, motorists.

You know the off-ramp from Interstate 29 at the HH exit into Platte City? The speed limit for a large portion of that long off-ramp has recently been lowered. How do I know this? A generous Platte City police officer warned me about it one morning this week.

Speed limit on that stretch of roadway had been 55 mph ever since Barack Obama created Earth (what, he did, didn’t he?). Until recently. The city of Platte City asked the state to lower the limit in that area, and the state complied. Starting at the Vine Street crossing, speed limit on that off-ramp is now just 40 mph.

There is a sign in place, to which I was obviously oblivious. Thanks to the officer for kindly drawing the change to my attention.

******

Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2012. As you know, that’s the spot currently held by Democrat Claire McCaskill, one of President Obama’s closest senate friends and allies (though something tells me Claire might try to run from that connection when the campaign gets rolling).

Shortly after voting last Wednesday evening in favor of repealing the debacle known as Obamacare, Graves spoke to the media outlet Roll Call by phone about why he’s considering challenging McCaskill.

“Because I think it’s a huge opportunity, just a huge opportunity, and when you look at some of Sen. McCaskill’s votes when it comes to health care and stimulus and things like that, she’s completely wrong for the state,” Graves told Roll Call.

Graves indicated he has been considering a campaign against Claire since the result of the November midterm elections were known. That’s when his supporters started gauging his interest.

McCaskill is viewed by most observers as one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection in 2012.

So is Graves serious about this or is he just floating a trial balloon? Too early to say. He is extremely popular in his home district but a statewide race is a different animal. Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman kicked off her campaign for the senate seat in early December, coincidentally just a few days after she sent your Between the Lines columnist a message on Facebook asking me “How ya been?” I then sent her a message asking “What’s up with you?” She then said “Thinking a lot about senate.” To continue the play-by-play, I then messaged Sarah: “That would be awesome, would love to see you go for it. Let me know if I can get some exclusive interview time on that topic.” A few days later her announcement was splattered all over the media. I’m still waiting on her answer to my request for the interview. It’ll get here, I’m sure.

Anyway, former Sen. Jim Talent is rumored to be considering a bid as well. Nice guy, but Talent needs to step back. No charisma, already lost to McCaskill once, not a candidate who really can energize folks. Former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner is also taking a look at the race after losing her bid to become Republican National Committee chair recently.

******

I’m not an attorney but I occasionally try to play one in this column. Thusly (trying to sound all lawyer-like), I am sometimes treated to a copy of the publication known as Missouri Lawyers Weekly. On the Dec. 27 cover of that tabloid is a feature story about the significant drop in the amount of bad check fees being collected by prosecutors. Featured prominently in the story is Eric Zahnd, Platte County prosecutor.
As part of resolving criminal bad check charges, people pay a fee of $25 if the check’s value was less than $100, and up to as much as $75 if the check or a series of them was worth $250 or more.

The number of bad checks being written across the state is down. Way down. This is a sign that crime is being crushed and should be celebrated as such, right? The article almost painted Zahnd as lamenting the fact bad check writing is fast becoming a thing of the past.

“Missouri Lawyers Weekly didn’t put this in the article: Bad checks being down is a really good thing because that means merchants aren’t being ripped off. Does it mean that Platte County faces some additional budget pressure because we have used back check funds to fund operating expenses? Sure,” Zahnd said in a phone conversation with me this week.

Reasons for the drop in the number of bad checks, Zahnd explains, are factors such as the increased usage of debit cards and electronic checking procedures by merchants that allow them to determine in real time whether the person has enough funds in their bank account to cover the amount of the check being written.

Zahnd has seen his office’s bad check fees fall by nearly half: From more than $60,000 in 2006 to just over $35,000 in 2010. State law generally allows prosecutors to use the fund as they see fit. Zahnd says he has used the fund for office supplies and other operating costs, but his big goal with the money is to help fund a renovation of his office, including plans to turn a storage area into a private conference room. Zahnd has in the past said there is a problem in finding private quarters for his staff to meet with crime victims in the prosecutor’s office.

A solution? Legislation is being proposed that would allow prosecutors to collect on “general” restitution cases, for example in property theft cases. Zahnd explains: “Let’s say someone steals a $300 computer from you. We collect the $300 restitution for you and collect a fee for doing so.”

We’ll have more on the proposed legislation--and more on Zahnd’s effort to get the office improvements made--in future issues.

(There’s never a charge when Between the Lines catches a grenade for ya, or collects restitution. Email the leader of this protection agency at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or follow him at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


TIME FOR THE ELECTED TO FOLLOW MARCHING ORDERS

Posted 1/21/11

It’s Wednesday morning. The weather forecast is for 4-8 inches of snow by Thursday, which is potentially a bigger storm than the one last week that caused panic attacks at the county buildings.

Question of the week: Will Jason “Ferris Bueller” Brown be ordering Platte County offices closed?

******

Well, filing deadline for city and school board positions up for grabs this spring has come and gone. Sadly, Platte City will be losing the services of a staunch fiscal conservative. Alderman Andy Stanton has decided not to seek reelection after serving two terms.

I attempted to reach Stanton Wednesday morning after Tuesday night’s filing deadline but couldn’t catch him. I did speak with him earlier in the week, and he expressed frustration at being on the short end of some split discussions at the city over fiscal matters the past couple of years. Sounding like he at times feels like the Lone Ranger, Stanton indicated there doesn’t seem to be much fiscally conservative help on the current board of aldermen.

Just as Trish Stinnett has been on the Plate County R-3 School Board, Stanton has been a taxpayer watchdog at the city. His persistent questioning of the bureaucratic types aservice needed on governmental boards. A lot of taxpayer waste can flow by undetected without the bold types like Stanton around to ask questions and shine light.

Some voters and taxpayers may not realize it, but they’re losing a friend at city hall. The board will be weaker without Stanton’s presence.

******

Snow is expected to start around noon today.

Bueller? Bueller?

******

Platte County’s proposed budget is on the streets. I’ve been told it’s online, as well, and while that’s nice, I prefer to do my budget reading the old fashioned way, so I picked up a copy from the office of auditor Kevin Robinson on Tuesday. I must have been the first one to do so, because the auditor’s staff had to run make a copy.

Anyway, the proposed numbers are interesting.

Columnist James Thomas in his piece on page A-3 goes into details of what Commissioners Jason Brown and Jim Plunkett had to say to the Platte County Republican Central Committee at a meeting Monday night, so you’ll want to check out James’ column.

Some of the basics are this: The county is proposing to cut general revenue spending in 2011. According to auditor Robinson’s budget message, the 2011 budget reflects about a 2.5% decrease in revenues from the 2010 budget. The change in revenue from 2010 actual revenue numbers to the 2011 budget is a decrease of 4.6%.

Some belt tightening, obviously, is needed at the county, and the commissioners told the central committee this week that all officeholders played nice and were willing to work to find ways to help cut spending.

According to Robinson, sales tax revenues for 2011 are projected to drop by about 5%. Use tax revenue is also expected to decline, he says, to the tune of about 10%.

Property taxes provide only about 5% of the county’s general fund revenue in 2011. Sales tax revenue accounts for about 66% of county general fund revenue. Other revenue sources are the use tax, special fees, etc.

The fact no public squabbling has emerged--no whining has yet hit my phone line from any officeholder upset by cutbacks-- is possibly a sign that a message has been clearly received by the elected from the people they serve. The people have spoken. They want smaller government, low taxes. It’s time for the elected to follow through on the marching orders issued to them by their bosses.

******

Damn, I just busted that county-issued rubber band that held my copy of the proposed county budget together. I hope the budget stretches farther than the rubber band did.

******

The weatherman on our office television just said there is the potential for significant snow.

Bueller? Bueller?

******

So what is Siobhann Williams, former embattled county auditor, up to these days? Glad you asked. I wondered the same thing.

“I’ve actually been out of town, working on an audit,” Williams told me Wednesday morning in a phone call I made while trying not to wet my pants over this forecasted snowstorm (Bueller? Bueller?).

Williams declined to say for whom she is auditing, saying only that she is working in the “private field.”

“While I was out of town I kept up on the news from the county by watching your Facebook page,” she told me, obviously stroking my journalistic ego. “I couldn’t believe they shut down the offices and the courthouse.”

So what about those rumors Williams will end up working for Clay County in some capacity, perhaps in a newly created financial advisor position?

At this time, that appears to be nothing more than political rumor.

“Nobody has approached me about that,” she said.

******

Remember, if we do get some snow, take all the necessary precautions.

Bueller? Bueller?

(Hold your water and ride the storm out with Ivan Foley on Facebook, at Twitter.com/ivanfoley, or send a panic-stricken email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


COUNTY CONTRIBUTES TO WUSSIFICATION OF AMERICA

Posted 1/13/11

The life and times of Charles Cook made its way back to a courtroom Tuesday as the drama surrounding the criminal charge of exposing himself continues. Cook, a Platte City alderman and an employee of Empire Gas, is accused of exposing himself inside his pickup as he gave a ride home to a 37-year-old female employee of a local grocery store.

As exclusively reported in our front page, Cook is seeking a jury trial and a date for the action has been set for April 4. Meanwhile, Cook’s attorney has been trying to take a deposition from the alleged victim. Apparently a couple of dates for the deposition have been set but for whatever reason the actual event has not yet taken place.
According to court records examined by The Landmark, a subpoena for the upcoming deposition was served to the alleged victim recently at the grocery store. Do you know where she was served? At the meat counter.

I couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, I could, but truth is often more entertaining than fiction.

******

Ever wanted to tip a state trooper? You’ll get your chance next week. While the tip money won’t get you out of a ticket, it will go to a good cause.

On Monday, Jan. 17, Sgt. DJ Hedrick and some other Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers will be working at the Country Cookin’ Café in Platte City. The law and order dudes will be washing dishes for tips and donations to the Missouri Special Olympics athletes and the athletes’ families. They’ll be performing their chores from 8 a.m. to noon at the restaurant at 524 Branch St. (Hwy. 92).

“We contacted the owner of the restaurant (Tammy Berry of Weston) to assist us with this effort. We are calling the fundraiser ‘Tip a Trooper.’ We’ll be taking orders, filling coffee cups, washing dishes and visiting with customers,” Sgt. Hedrick tells me. “I think it will be fun. The officers will be on their own time, but just wanted to do something and give back to the Special Olympics athletes.”

Cool idea. Check it out if you get the chance .

******

In office for less than two weeks, Jason Brown, new presiding commissioner for Platte County, had an early opportunity to make a statement of strong leadership this week. He failed. In fact, his action can be seen as a contribution to the continued wussification of America.

By 7 a.m. Monday, Brown ordered county offices closed for the day. Some snow had fallen and more was on the way. There were no strong winds blowing that day (remember, the winds didn’t arrive until overnight on Monday). The temperatures were not at all brutal. And yet we’re shutting down county government for the day?

I was shocked by Brown’s tail-tucking move. The guy is a war hero who reportedly still has a bullet in his body from his time in Iraq, so there’s no questioning his personal bravery. But this public folding in one of his first moves as commissioner is extremely disappointing. At a time when voters are longing for strong leadership at all levels of government, instead Platte County taxpayers were treated to typical mamby-pamby bureaucratic BS.

Shutting down government for a day due to five or six inches of snow (official snowfall total reached seven inches at KCI, but remember some of that fell after the “work day” was complete)? Can anyone really defend this with a straight face?

I mean, I know Brown’s staunchest conservative supporters are saying things like “the decision to close reduced expenses” and “the less they’re at work the better for the public,” but come on. The expense reduction of closing the county on a snowy day is borderline fantasy, and even so, Brown didn’t order the closing to try to reduce expenses. In fact, if you look at our front page story, Brown says: “I don’t think we docked anybody’s pay for having the building closed.”

So much for the saving money argument apologists are wanting to use. Brown just killed that argument all by himself. Well, maybe there were fewer toilet flushings that day, but other than that. . .

Based on reaction from followers on my Facebook page, I’m not the only one who was shocked that the need was felt to shut down the county. Instead of making a statement to the public that “there’s a new sheriff in town” and we’re gonna toughen up the attitude and demand some accountability from those drawing a public paycheck, Brown went soft. Instead of sending a message that we have a strong new leader, the message we received was one of retreat and surrender. I fear the next thing you know Brown will be falling in love with horse trails and rainbows.

Privately-owned firms across the county still conducted business as usual during Monday’s storm. County employees aren’t expected to show for work when five or six inches of snow hits the area? And we’re supposed to trust these folks to handle a real challenge?

Right now, the weak-kneed types are winning the war.

******

I asked Pam Rooks, reporter, to contact Brown to do a story on his decision to close down the county. One of his more interesting quotes, in addition to the one above about no employees’ pay being docked by the closing, was this one: “It was in the best interest of safety and common sense.”

So does that mean those owners of private firms who did open for business on Monday were displaying a lack of common sense? “I’m not passing judgment on anybody,” Brown told me when I asked him about it Wednesday morning.

Brown also says in the story that the weather Monday was “bitterly, brutally cold.”
Huh? No it wasn’t. As I made the drive to work that day (yes, The Landmark was open for business, in case you were wondering) the outside thermometer in my car said it was 27 degrees. I comfortably shoveled snow from The Landmark’s sidewalk without wearing gloves or a hat. Hell, at one point I looked across the street to see attorney Lyle Odo shoveling his walk while not wearing a coat.

No, brutally cold was Tuesday night/Wednesday morning when temperatures plummeted to zero. Amazingly, the county did open for business Wednesday morning.

(Sometimes the little decisions create a big picture. Follow big picture analyst Ivan Foley on Facebook and Twitter and email him at ivan@stopthemambypamby.com)


FAST FOOD OPTIONS
GROWING, AS IS POLITICAL
DRAMA AT COUNTY LEVEL

Posted 1/7/11

Landmark columnist/former 710 KCMO talk radio host Chris Stigall is now on the air, big-wigging in the city of Philadelphia. He has already been featured on at least one TV station in Philly. Check out this link to see that interview of our man Stigall with what appears to be some TV diva in the city of brotherly love: http://tinyurl.com/27fl5uf

Stigall is scheduled to resume his Landmark column next week. Well, unless he has already forgotten us little people.

******

Good news on the local fast food front in Platte City. Church’s Chicken seems to be getting very close to being open inside the Conoco station at Running Horse Road and Hwy. 92, in the spot formerly occupied by KFC. If Church’s keeps its tables clean and minimizes the fly count inside, this will be an upgrade. Frankly, I’m a big fan of Church’s. I took part in two tailgating trips to Arrowhead in the fall and both times stocked up with 24 pieces of Church’s chicken from their St. Joseph location.

In other news, sources in the know are saying that Wendy’s has contacted the city of Platte City in regard to building permits and intends to reopen in the same buildng it operated from a few years ago, along Running Horse Road just south of where Church’s Chicken will be.

******

I’ve noticed something about this federally mandated narrowbanding of emergency radio communications equipment and its purported financial impact on Platte County. When this was first brought to the public’s attention, county officials said the switchover could cost as much as $18 million. After a couple of months, county officials started tossing around the projected cost as being $13 million. Now the number being spoken by those connected with the situation is “down” to $10 million, as you’ll see in John Elliott’s column on page 3.

I think we’re onto something here. Let’s just keep talking about this mandate for months and see if we can get the financial impact down to the range of a fiscally manageable figure, shall we?

******

Changes are happening, as expected, at the Platte County Administration Building. One of the early eye opening moves has been made by Joan Harms, new county clerk. Harms, a Republican, has hired former Clay County Presiding Commissioner and former Clay County Clerk Tom Brandom to work on her staff. Harms, as first reported here weeks ago, elected not to keep any of former clerk Sandy Krohne’s people on staff in a transition period. Instead, she has raised some eyebrows among her own supporters with the hiring of Brandom, a Democrat who was often a point of controversy in his time at Clay County. This will be interesting.

In other news from the administration building, Cherie Warren, one of the top staff members for defeated auditor Siobhann Williams, has found employment in the office of new Clay County Auditor William Norris. There are also unconfirmed reports--and at this point that’s all they are--that Siobhann Williams could end up working for Clay County in some capacity, perhaps in a role as a newly created financial analyst/advisor of sorts.

In addition, one of Williams’ former employees in Platte County, Justin Kuder, is reported to be coming back to Platte County to work under new auditor Kevin Robinson. Kuder quit during the audit of 2008.

A fascinating game of musical chairs in local government has begun. We’ll stay on top of it for you.

******

What will be the most fascinating aspect of watching the new county commission of Jason Brown, Jim Plunkett and Kathy Dusenbery at work? It will be watching a battle of wills. Let me explain.

Brown is by far the most fiscally conservative of the three. Plunkett got off to a fiscally conservative start in his tenure, then for whatever reason ventured off the beaten path with his outspoken support of the $82 million parks, trails and rainbow tax in 2009. He burned some bridges with the conservative plank of the Republican party during that time and really hasn’t enjoyed the kind of widespread support he was getting up until that point. Both Brown and Plunkett are strong personalities who publicly will be respectful of each other but privately are very aware they are supported by two very different camps of the Republican party. So will Plunkett become more conservative now that Brown is the top dog or will Brown go soft and allow the more moderate approach that Plunkett has taken in recent years to influence him? And will Plunkett, should he decide to run again in 2012, be challenged by a more conservative candidate within his own party? I’d say the chances right now are good, but 2012 is a lifetime away in the world of politics. Who’s to say Plunkett will have a desire to run again, and if he does, between now and then will he have returned to his conservative roots to the point he won’t face a challenge from the fiscal watchdogs?

Then, of course, there’s Dusenbery. Dusenbery when first elected described herself as a progressive, which as you know is an elected official who likes to spend someone else’s money. She spent the summer of 2009 spouting off to and publicly getting into whizzing matches with anyone who questioned the need for $82 million in additional parks and rec taxes. How smart would it have been for the county to cut that half cent sales tax for parks in half, which would have allowed room for a quarter cent sales tax for law enforcement (think mandated narrowbanding of emergency communications) to be put in place without an overall negative impact on county taxpayers?

In any event, Dusenbery in recent months has tried to get chummy with the more conservative branch of the Republican party. Whether she made the first step in that direction or whether the conservatives first started courting her, I’m not sure. But what I can tell you is that Dusenbery now seems to badly want to be embraced by the conservatives, whereas a year or year and a half ago she openly ridiculed the conservative branch of the local GOP.

Heck, I’m a local political junkie so I’m getting excited just talking about all the behind the scenes drama that is already taking place. The next year is going to be a fascinating one at the county administration building. Let’s get this party started.

(Party with Ivan Foley on Twitter, Facebook or by email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)

 


GET A TICKET THANKS TO A RED LIGHT CAMERA? TRY THIS APPROACH

Posted 1/28/12

Newt Gingrich makes following this race for the GOP presidential nomination so much fun. His bulldog mentality, intelligence and wit are a recipe for great sound bites.

Another one just happened this morning (Wednesday) as I had The Landmark TV tuned (as usual) to Fox News.

Newt was being asked about Nancy Pelosi’s comment in an interview with CNN in which Pelosi claimed the Republicans won’t nominate Newt and strongly hinted that if they do, that will be fine with her, because she “knows something” about Newt that would prevent him from being elected.

Asked about Pelosi’s comment, Newt smirked and said this: “If she knows something she should say it, if she doesn’t then she should keep quiet. I don’t think any Republican is going to feel threatened by Nancy Pelosi. I’d rather have her threaten me than endorse me.”

Classic response. Beautifully stated.

******

Hey, have you been issued a traffic ticket as a result of one of those red light cameras in Kansas City? Before you pay that ticket, listen to this story. A loyal Between the Lines reader has shared some fascinating information.

It seems one of our loyal readers was the recipient of a KC red light camera ticket. The problem with this is that he was not driving the vehicle at the time, though his name is on the title. (His daughter was driving). After numerous calls to the City of KC to get information, none of which produced any single person who claimed knowledge of how the system worked, he wrote a letter asking for proof of the driver. The response came two months later: “Request denied. No defense.”

In the meantime, since he did not pay the fine, he received a second notice with a court date. He decided to go to court and took evidence that he was elsewhere at the time of the incident. Upon arriving in the courtroom, he noticed people going up to the court clerk and subsequently leaving. He asked a gentleman sitting next to him about the process. The gentleman informed him that this was his 12th ticket and that all his prior tickets had been dismissed for lack of evidence: the cameras take video from the rear and don’t provide clear evidence of who was driving the car at the time the red light was (allegedly) run.

After speaking with the court clerk, our loyal Between the Lines reader was asked to complete a form, upon which he claimed that there was no evidence of who was driving (he was not about to turn in his daughter). Our man was then told he needed to see the judge. For a bit, it appeared he would be the only one required to see the judge. But just before court convened, another court official waived him up to his table. After a short discussion, our loyal reader’s ticket was dismissed.

The moral of this story? For the time being, “innocent until proven guilty” still applies. But the hero of our story learned an interesting tidbit on his trip to municipal court in Kansas City.

“There may be a change in the future to treat red light camera tickets the same as parking tickets so that the owner of the vehicle is liable regardless of who was driving. In the meantime, anyone who wants to avoid the fine will have to show up in court. The court official told me that after seeing thousands of these tickets issued, his view is that this is more about safety.”

Hmm. Sounds like if you get one of these tickets in the mail, it might be worth your time to show up in court to challenge.

“People can decide for themselves. For those who don’t want the hassle of a $100 ticket or a court appearance, either slow down and watch the lights or stay out of KC,” says this Platte County man who preferred his name not be used in the telling of his day in KC municipal court.

******

If you think the postal service is slow or not dependable now, brace yourself for a possible decline in the quality of service. The USPS has plans to close processing centers in such places as Cape Girardeau and Springfield, Mo, shifting these operations to Kansas City and St. Louis. While we might think this won’t affect delivery of mail sent to or from this area, that’s not necessarily true. There is a fear, justified or not, that the funneling of more volume to the Kansas City center as a result of closing other centers will have a negative impact on speed of service for those of us in this area.

The postal service is responding to criticism of these moves a couple of different ways. A district manager for the postal service in Kansas City, for instance, responded to a letter from the president of the Missouri Press Association by saying that the use of state-of-the-art automated mail processing equipment allows the post office to sort mail more efficiently than ever. “Factors have created excess processing capacity at many postal facilities where mail is sorted. The postal service is actively looking into opportunities to increase efficiency by consolidating mail processing operations, allowing us to make better use of our resources. Area mail processing is a key element of this important effort,” write Darrin R. Gadson, district manager for the post office in Kansas City.

Hmm. I would imagine must large mailers are planning to do the same thing your Landmark is doing. We’ll be monitoring this situation closely. We’re not anticipating any change in the timeliness of the delivery of our newspapers to addresses in Platte County, but will certainly be ready to respond if the opposite occurs.

In recent years, anytime we’ve had problems with slow delivery in this area, the willing and able staff of Congressman Sam Graves has been a great benefit in helping apply pressure to the postal service and enabled them to take steps to improve efficiency. Often the corrective steps, in my opinion, are as simple as a set of human eyes paying attention to details at the processing center in Kansas City.

******

Interesting tidbit: Did you know single piece first class mail volume handled by the United States Postal Service has declined by 42 percent since 2001?

(You’ve always got a green light to head to Twitter.com/ivanfoley, Facebook.com/ivan.foley or email ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


OUT OF TOUCH; AND VIEWS THAT SHIFT WITH THE POLITICAL WIND

Posted 1/21/12

Out of touch.

It’s a phrase often used. Let’s define it. And what better way to define a word or phrase than to give an example or two.

•Example number one came to me in the form of an anonymous email this week. By now, you’ve probably read the well-researched, well written article by Kent Babb on the front page of Sunday’s Kansas City Star. Entitled Arrowhead Anxiety, the article focused on allegations that the brass in the Chiefs’ organization routinely bug some of the offices in order to monitor activities and conversations of their employees. Recently fired head coach Todd Haley even told the newspaper that he believed his personal cell phone had been tampered with. I received an email this week from a reader who claimed the allegations of bugging were probably bogus and even if true, what’s the big deal. This guy then said he supported any type of monitoring over Haley, who this reader termed was too “politically correct” for his own good. Mr. PC, in fact, I recall is how this emailer referred to Haley.

Wait. Are you for real? Todd Haley politically correct? The coach who, with national TV cameras upon him, dressed like a homeless man on game day? The coach who routinely displayed public temper tantrums and dropped F-bombs like they were going out of style is politically correct? The coach who in the final couple weeks before his justified firing refused to pull a quarterback who was clearly in over his head? You can justifiably call Todd Haley a lot of things, including a bad head coach. But to call Todd Haley politically correct is a sure sign that you are out of touch, my friend.

•Second example of somebody being out of touch occurred closer to home. As you’ll see in this issue, Tom Taylor, executive director of the Northland Regional Ambulance District, has submitted his resignation, indicating he’ll retire in June. NRAD, you’ll recall, less than a year ago was all over the local and regional news--the Kansas City television news channels were all over it–after The Landmark reported the district had paid what appraisers told us was an extremely inflated price for land near Camden Point from the president of the NRAD board of directors. NRAD paid $175,000 for three acres of land owned by its board president, who had owned the property less than a year while it was common knowledge the district had been looking at property in that area for two years. The Missouri Ethics Commission was made aware of the situation and an investigation ensued. A patron appeared at an NRAD board meeting and referred to the board of directors as “a bunch of crooks.” So, during the course of my phone interview with Taylor, I asked him if the public controversy surrounding that transaction had anything to do with his decision to step away. My question sent Taylor, though relatively soft-spoken he was, into flip-out mode.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with that,” said Taylor, as he slowly grew irritated. “I can’t believe you asked me that question,” he said at the beginning of a rant, a remark he made more than once after his feathers had been ruffled.

My response to his reaction went like this: “Really? You can’t believe that question was asked? If you’re serious, that’s a sign you are out of touch with the community.”
Taylor then rambled on a bit longer, something about how he and I have a difference of opinion on the topic of that controversial land buy (note: the wording of my question did not include an opinion, it was a fact-based question that I knew was going to be on the minds of everyone reading the article). He then hinted that in his opinion the reporting about that land deal was overblown. His attitude seemed to be that, in his opinion, a majority of the public really doesn’t care.

“You’re out of touch with the public,” I said again as politely as possible, before moving on to my next question in the interview, which, shall we say, wrapped up soon thereafter.

******

Good grief, two Platte County commissioners need to take a stance and stick with it. All this back and forth about whether they will or won’t consider reducing the amount of the half cent sales tax for parks is getting ridiculous.

When Prosecutor Eric Zahnd first proposed the idea to them in a budget hearing earlier this month, Jim Plunkett, second district commissioner, and Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, listened. They gave the impression they had an open mind about it. “It wouldn’t be my first choice,” Dusenbery told me after the meeting, but hinted all possibilities would be looked at. “I’d have to have more facts to draw a conclusion,” Plunkett told me after the meeting. Then a week later, both emphatically stated in an open meeting they have no intention of taking another look at the amount of the voter-approved half cent sales tax for parks. It’s important to note their new hard-line stance was stated in front of a meeting room that contained several avid parks supporters, many of whom had been recruited by the commissioners to attend. Strangely, those comments came after the commission had issued a stop-order on the park-tax-financed expansion of two community centers. As pointed out last week, it made no sense--other than to be a political game intended to get the avid parks folks to call the prosecutor to express their desire that the $82 million park tax not be reduced--for the commission to issue that stop order if Plunkett and Dusenbery were both so emphatic about not adjusting the park tax.

So this week, The Landmark asked if the stop order is still in place. There really is no common sense reason for the stop order to be in effect with Plunkett and Dusenbery being so emphatic about their positions to not adjust the park tax, right? Well, the question got yet another flip-flop of an answer, as you’ll see on our front page.

Apparently now Plunkett and Dusenbery have not ruled out taking action that would give voters the opportunity to lower the park tax and put in a portion of its place a tax for law enforcement. (Though really, behind the scenes the commission is considering lowering the current 3/8 cent sales tax for roads when it comes for renewal and combining that lower road tax with a tax for law enforcement. They think this would be legally cleaner, and besides, a commissioner or two is/are currently upset with the county public works department and therefore wouldn’t mind jacking with its roads funding).

The bottom line seems to be this: When an elected official is not guided by a foundation of at least one core political principle--such as fiscal conservatism, as an example--their views tend to shift like the wind. Their views become not based on what meets a core principle, but based on what is politically popular at any given moment. All this waffling seems to be due to a couple of commissioners, who are up for reelection this year, trying to figure out which course of action is going to be most politically beneficial to them.

(Follow along 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivan.foley, where there is no concern about what is politically beneficial)


SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MURDER INVESTIGATION IN PLATTE COUNTY

Posted 1/13/12

After months of unsettled emotions and feelings of frustration in the community, a sigh of relief could be heard around Platte County over the weekend as an arrest was made in the recent horrific murder of a young Platte City girl and the brutal slicing with a razor blade of a young Ferrelview woman. Two extremely violent crimes. One suspect.

The suspect, Quintin O’Dell, 22, of Platte City, was a co-worker of murder victim Alissa Shippert at the Casey’s General Store in Platte City. Shippert was a clerk there, O’Dell made pizzas there, sources tell me.

As a co-worker, it is safe to assume that O’Dell would have been talked to early on by investigators. As he remained free to roam streets and prepare your pizzas at Platte City's Business of the Year, we can only assume that nothing learned in that early interview led investigators to directly target O’Dell as a serious suspect.

From all information I’ve been able to ascertain, no heavy leaning upon O’Dell had taken place from the time Shippert’s body was found on June 1 through the day after Christmas. On Dec. 26, the boyfriend of the stabbing victim at Ferrelview told investigators that O’Dell had been alone with the victim as the boyfriend was communicating with her by phone and text. Investigators, naturally, talked with O’Dell on Dec. 26. He remained free. On Friday, Dec. 30, the stabbing victim regained consciousness and was able to tell what she remembered about that night to investigators, including the fact she remembers passing out with only O’Dell present at the time.

Last Thursday, Jan. 5, the sheriff’s department told O’Dell they’d like to speak with him again. They sent a car to pick him up for a drive to the sheriff’s department. O’Dell was not under arrest at that time. He did not resist the ride for the interview. He did not have an attorney, and apparently did not request one.

At this point, it’s not clear through public information whether investigators were able to then tie O’Dell to the Shippert case or whether O’Dell started singing after realizing the evidence in the stabbing case was stacked against him. Comments made by the sheriff on Saturday indicate it was great work on the part of detectives that connected the dots. “Through dogged police work, our detectives were able to connect these two cases. Alissa Shippert’s murder remained front and center in the minds of the community, and it remained and will continue to remain on the front burner for our department until we finally bring the killer justice.”

At any rate, my recanting of the public facts as we known them at this point is done because I’m fully aware a portion of the community (see our letters to the editor section for one example) has the perception that this investigation lacked a sense of urgency, a lack of a ‘beating the bushes’ approach. There is a perception on the part of some that more direct leaning on ‘persons of interest’ might have led to an arrest earlier.

In their defense, law enforcement folks at this point now are limited in what they can say to defend themselves against that perception. At some point, after justice has been served in the case, perhaps those on the inside will give their line of defense against the public perception described above.

******

To toot our own horn a bit, The Landmark broke the story of the arrest and charges against Quintin O’Dell on Friday night on our web site and in our social media outlets.

The Landmark’s ability to confirm the details and report the breaking news came more than 12 hours before any other media outlet. The Landmark even had the suspect’s mug shot posted on Twitter, Facebook and our web site Friday night between 9:30 and 10 p.m. By the way, the mug shot of O’Dell that we posted on Twitter Friday night has been viewed 4,775 times as of this morning.

This isn’t a story that just falls into a media outlet’s lap. The ability to break a story of this magnitude comes through having developed well-placed sources over the years who trust you and you in turn trust them. It takes being willing and able to shake the bushes in a tireless fashion. To copy a term used by the sheriff, it takes ‘dogged’ journalistic work.

Embrace technology. If you’re only reading our print edition and not following us 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley, you’re often going to be a step behind.

******

Any other news and commentary this week seems a bit trivial in nature compared to the brutal murder/assault story, but I’ll offer just a few quick comments on some topics:

•Any debate over whether the wallaby should or shouldn’t be allowed to be housed inside Platte City’s city limits is ridiculous. Kansas City TV stations have played this up like there’s some kind of social injustice going on. Here’s the reality: there’s a place for exotic animals. Inside the city limits is not that place. Where would it stop? One exotic animal would lead to another, and another, and another, etc. Then you don't have a city. You have a drive-through zoo.

•Platte County commissioners back-tracked and fixed their budget crisis, but only temporarily. A long-term solution to funding law enforcement needs to be found. And if county commissioners Kathy Dusenbery and Jim Plunkett--a majority of the three-member board-- have no intention of reducing the amount of the half cent park tax, why then did the commission issue a press release outlining a stop order on community center construction projects last week? That’s either the sign of a political game or evidence of another flip-flop.

•The commission’s decision to give the sheriff even more than he requested is good in my opinion, but in doing so the commissioners have painted themselves in a corner. Plunkett in particular in the past has appeared to take delight in slashing every requested budget the sheriff makes. This year Plunkett apparently has seen the light and has said, ‘Hey sheriff, you deserve even more than what you’ve asked for.’ Now, it’s gonna be extremely hard for the commission in future years with a straight face to ever say “Hey, sheriff, you’re asking for too much.”

•Landmark columnist James Thomas this week says the county commission “had” to put the park tax back on the ballot at the half cent level to avoid losing money through the use tax. To quote a phrase made popular by Herman Cain, the problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect.

In order to avoid a loss of use tax revenue, what the commission ‘had’ to do was put a half cent sales tax of any type on the ballot. That entire half cent did not ‘have’ to be for parks. It should have been, at most, 1/4 cent for parks and 1/4 cent for law enforcement.

More on these topics in the coming weeks.

(You’re invited to be informed and entertained at the same time 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


MISGUIDED PRIORITIES CONTINUE TO PLAGUE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Posted 1/5/12

Platte County Sheriff Dick Anderson points out that the golf carts at the county-owned Shiloh Springs Golf Course near Platte City are better maintained than the fleet of vehicles in his department.

That’s sad. That’s damn sad. And it tells you how misguided then-county commissioners Betty Knight, Jim Plunkett and Kathy Dusenbery were for promoting a half cent sales tax for parks in 2009 at a time the economy was tanking and it was obvious the county was going to need to find a consistent way to fund basic functions of government.

In 2009, those commissioners put the half cent park tax on the ballot and promoted it. Even though they were well aware of it at the time, those commissioners didn’t talk to the public about the challenges the county would face in the near future, such as an unfunded federal mandate for narrowbanding radio equipment. They didn’t talk about the often-behind-the scenes budget battles they have each year with the sheriff, slicing and dicing the amount the lawman feels he needs to keep residents safe. No, the rainbow and butterfly supporting commissioners were too busy telling you how much this county needed more walking trails. More parks. More Olympic-sized swimming pools. More additions to successful community centers (these are actually government-funded fitness centers--what’s wrong with letting the private sector operate fitness centers? Why are taxpayers funding a business that should be handled by the private sector? I digress, but that’s a topic for a future column. You’ll want to stay tuned for that one, because it gets me riled).

It took the real threat of some significant budget cuts to their offices, but finally some of this county’s elected officeholders are telling you how they really feel about the misguided priority this county commission--and the county commission of the not too distant past--placed on frills like walking trails, swimming pools and fitness centers over public safety and other most basic services of government.

It’s a rhythm this Between the Lines drum has been publicly beating for years. Welcome to the party. We knew you were on board, but you bit your tongues. Why, I’m not quite sure. Anyway, it’s great to have your private feelings coming to public light in a big way.

We can talk closing the Annex at Platte Woods. We can talk replacing the nice lady who answered the phones at the county with an automated phone system. We can talk cutting back on the in-house mail system. We can talk eliminating an employee in the county’s human resources department. We can talk eliminating a position in the information technology department. These are good fiscally-conservative moves. That’s the good news. The bad news is that unless a long term solution is found, similar budget challenges are going to continue to hit the county each and every year.

The good news? The answer is right in front of us, and actually will include a tax decrease. That’s right, a tax decrease. The answer was proposed to county commissioners as far back as 2007 by the sheriff and the prosecutor but commissioners didn’t listen. Maybe they’ll listen now. Of course Knight is now gone, but her beloved, wildly overfunded parks department and its $82 million to $90 million half cent sales tax over the next 10 years remains. Meanwhile, Plunkett and Dusenbery remain in office. This is crucial timing for each of them, as both are up for election in 2012. And filing for candidates starts soon. The popular train of thought is that if Plunkett and Dusenbery don’t react to this budget situation in a responsible way, there are challengers waiting in the wings. That definitely seems the case for Dusenbery. It’s no secret that a fiscally-conservative candidate is itching to get in the first district race, especially if the lack of funding for public safety continues to be an issue.

The answer to the funding challenge for basic government services is one that has been talked about in general terms in this column space. Now, a couple of widely respected county officeholders--Prosecutor Eric Zahnd and Sheriff Dick Anderson--are taking the bull by the horns and leading the public charge with a specific proposal.

The answer to the financial challenge facing Platte County is to find a long term answer to the annual dilemma of how to find adequate funding for law enforcement, prosecution, and other basic government functions in this county? The specific proposal by Zahnd answers the question.

Zahnd is encouraging the county commission to do this: Take to the voters a proposal to rescind that half cent sales tax for parks and instead replace it with a lower tax--that’s right, lower tax--that would include 1/8th cent for parks and quarter cent for law enforcement.

Let’s do the math. That’s 3/8th cent. That’s less than the half cent taxpayers are paying now JUST FOR PARKS. This proposal makes so much common sense it will likely be rejected by sitting politicians. Common sense doesn’t always accompany the acts of politicians.

It’s very obvious now--even by some of the staunchest supporters of that half cent park tax--that $82-$90 million is way, way more than is needed over the next 10 years to maintain the county’s attractive park system. Commissioners and the county’s park director stay up late at night--and then dream when they do go to sleep--trying to find creative ways to spend this money. Remember, horse trails and kayak trails are in their 10 year plan. At a time when the sheriff is needing to cut deputies and the prosecutor is needing to cut an attorney to meet the budget the commission has handed to them, it is laughable that the parks department is able to give better maintenance to golf carts than the sheriff can to his cop cars. And it’s ridiculous that things such as kayak trials, mountain bike trails and Olympic-sized pools are able to be funded by the county parks department. What a joke.

So will the county commission react positively to Zahnd’s proposal? Not likely. Why? The best answer I can give you is pride. We’re all human. None of us likes to admit when we’re wrong. It’s painfully obvious Plunkett has an ego. Dusenbery does, too, though I’m not sure why. Plunkett in particular doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who is going to publicly admit he made a mistake supporting an $82 million tax for rainbows and butterflies. I asked Dusenbery if she would support Zahnd’s proposal. “It wouldn’t be my first choice,” she said. I asked Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, for his reaction to Zahnd’s proposal. “I don’t have a personal reaction to it,” Brown said after the meeting. During a break at Tuesday’s meeting, I asked Plunkett if he would support Zahnd’s proposal: “I’d have to have more facts to draw a conclusion.”

Thanks to Zahnd and Anderson, the long-term answer to the county’s budget challenge is now on the table for public debate. Let’s see how this plays out.

(See how discussion on all kinds of topics plays out 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


A PUBLIC RELATIONS TRAIN WRECK ON HORIZON FOR INVESTIGATORS

Posted 12/29/11

Well, heck, it’s time to say goodbye to 2011. Here at Between the Lines headquarters, we kind of hate to see it go. With some head-scratching developments in the closing days--for instance, golf carts set to be allowed on the mean streets of Parkville, more questionable weirdness within the judicial system regarding that high profile DWI case that was on our front page last week--things were just starting to get fun.

At any rate, loyal readers, 2012 won’t bring a lack of topics. It’s a big election year, both on the national stage and locally. As always, there will be plenty to be cussed and discussed right here in this column space.

Between the Lines is locked and loaded, ready to inform and entertain our loyal list of readers and advertisers. Bring it, Baby New Year.

******

As you’ll see on our front page, a 21-year-old woman was stabbed to the point of suffering life-threatening injuries in Ferrelview early this week. As we go to press, we’re being told the woman’s condition is still life-threatening. The level of violence involved in the stabbing, I’m told by a source, was “extreme.”

Here’s a bit of info that will come as no surprise to regular readers: the Platte County Sheriff s Department is saying basically nothing about this case. It’s their familiar cloak and dagger approach to the release of basic information. You know, the same approach they’ve used in the unsuccessful murder investigation into the death of Alissa Shippert, the young Platte City woman found savagely attacked on the bank of the Platte River inside the Platte Falls Conservation Area last summer. Her murder remains unsolved, even though much of the public is aware of whom the top “person(s) of interest” has been.

So how is that top-secret approach with information working out for the sheriff’s department? Not well. The local media--and some, though certainly not all--members of the community have been extremely patient with the department’s secretive approach. Criticism of the sheriff’s department for its inability to solve the case has been present, but it has been a relatively quiet criticism. The longer the Shippert case goes unsolved, and the longer the sheriff’s department stays mum on even basic facts of violent cases like the one at Ferrelview, the higher the chance that criticism of the sheriff’s investigative unit is going to become louder and more widespread.

Don’t be surprised, for instance, if big market media members eventually arrive to do features on the Shippert case and any others that remain unsolved. There would be no way to spin it as a positive for the department--correctly or incorrectly, the major media pieces will make the investigators appear to be a bumbling group. The lack of information shared with the public isn’t going to do the department any favors.

If circumstances don't change, it’s not hard to see a public relations train wreck coming.

Here’s hoping the Shippert case and this week’s stabbing at Ferrelview get solved before the local investigative unit becomes widely known for what it can’t do instead of what it can do.

******

Remember last week’s big story--Parkville’s aldermen pulling a ‘what the hell?’ kind of move by approving the operation of golf carts on its city streets effective March 15?

Promoters of the idea apparently think it is a cute way to promote Parkville, supposedly to enhance the image of the town in a unique way.

Anybody think that has been accomplished so far?

Feedback received by The Landmark to our coverage and editorial of the action since last week has been 100% against the city’s move. The communication we’ve received--through email, letters to the editor, social media outlets Twitter and Facebook--has all been opposed to the bizarre choice to allow golf carts to be driven at speeds less than 25 miles per hour on city streets that have speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.

So how is this enhancing Parkville’s image? Ignoring the most important element of governing--securing public safety--is enhancing your town’s image? Making your city the subject of tongue-in-cheek letters to the editor and the butt of jokes is enhancing the town’s image?

The jokes will continue. But all kidding aside, the ordinance needs to be repealed before something other than feelings get hurt.

******

We’ve tried to reach Chris Fisher, the brainstorming Parkville alderman who is an attorney by day and by night an elected alderman who now crafts ordinances for the very board on which he serves. That’s fascinating in and of itself. Fisher drafted the ordinance allowing golf carts. The Landmark has a couple of follow-up questions for Fisher, but he hasn’t yet returned our calls. We’ll cut him some slack. Maybe he’s out of town. Or maybe he’s too busy crafting his next ‘thinking outside the box’ piece of legislation.

Meanwhile, there is a quote readers need to be aware of from Alderman Jim Brooks, who voted in favor of the golf carts on streets idea. Brooks has been quoted as saying: “The issue I see is that we will feel bad if somebody gets in an accident and we’ll say ‘oh gosh, we let them do that.’ But we can’t get involved in legislating people’s behavior.”

Um, what? I need to read that again. An elected alderman--who has made himself a candidate for mayor this spring--says that government “can’t get involved in legislating people’s behavior.”

Really? I don’t like Brooks’ chance of winning any political debates. If Brooks truly believes that government ‘can’t get involved in legislating people’s behavior,’ he would lose a debate to any middle school civics class student. Apparently Brooks believes we’re still living in the days of the Wild West.

*****

Here are a couple of important links you need to check out on the web as you think about this golf cart ordinance. This one takes you to a video of golf cart ridiculousness: http://tinyurl.com/3upqulo

And this link will take you to a tragic story of a victim of a golf cart accident and pleas from the family: http://tinyurl.com/cxa8c9l

(Stay on top of ridiculous ordinances and other Platte County news by following Twitter.com/ivanfoley or email him at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com )


THERE'S A REASON OTHER CITIES DON'T ALLOW THIS

Posted 12/23/11

To get in the Christmas spirit, I’m composing this column while riding in a one-horse open sleigh. But not on a public street.

******

Chestnuts may be roasting on an open fire, but in the past week I’ve developed a crush on a nut of a different name. Pistachios.

I’ve been eating pistachios like they’re going out of style. Or at least I was until Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart warned me that pistachios are heavy in calories, with about 700 calories in a cup, she says. How many pistachios can a guy squeeze into a cup?

Though pistachios may be high in calories, there is some good news to go along with my new favorite snack. And this has to be true because I found it at pistachiohealth.com, and we all know everything on the internet is 100% accurate:

Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease,” says pistachiohealth.com

That’s good enough for me. I’m staying hooked. At least for now.

******

Well, we had to wait until just a few days until the year was over, but finally it came. Platte County’s most bizarre political decision of 2011? Parkville’s elected aldermen take home the prize in this category with Tuesday night’s vote to allow golf carts to be driven on city streets beginning March 15.

When I first heard this, I thought it was a joke. Hence the inspiration for the cartoon-like graphic accompanying our front page story on this topic. The only thing more ridiculous than a cartoon graphic appearing in a hard news story is Parkville allowing golf carts to traverse the same narrow, hilly and often poorly sight-lined streets as cars and trucks weighing thousands of pounds.

I better watch my language--especially with the holiest of days upon us--but what in the wide wide world of sports is going on here? Can anyone provide us one piece of evidence that suggests that allowing golf carts to be driven on city streets is good for general public safety?

There are good folks on the other side of this issue, folks who have done a world of good for Parkville and want the best for the city. We get that, we understand that, we appreciate that. But what’s at stake here is too important to ignore. There is no justifiable reason to pass a measure that puts human safety at risk simply because good people with good intentions are asking the city to do so.

Let’s not even get into the potential legal liability the city might be opening itself up to. And let’s not even talk about how people tooling around on city streets in golf carts will give the impression to outsiders that Parkville is some sort of retirement community. The stance being expressed here is in no way personal. The Landmark’s strong opposition to this is solely because it is a serious public safety issue. How is it a good idea to have slow-moving, open sided golf carts--containing passengers who will not be required to wear seat belts or helmets-- sharing the road with vehicles weighing thousands of pounds driven by surprised travelers who don’t like to share roadways with something as narrow as a bicycle, let alone something as unusual as a golf cart?

Alderman Marc Sportsman, the only voice of reason on this topic (and that makes two meetings in a row Sportsman has been an intelligent voice of opposition against bizarre measures passed by his fellow aldermen--keep up the good work, Sportsman), summed it up this way: “Golf carts are built for golf courses. They have brakes on the back wheels and they’re top heavy. They are great on the golf course, but I don't know how great they are mixed up in traffic.”

Credit to Sportsman for his tact and the politically-correct way he expressed his opposition. Some of us couldn’t have been so subtle. Here’s a Between the Lines interpretation of what Sportsman was actually saying to his fellow aldermen: “Ladies and gentlemen, have you lost your freaking minds?”

Alderman Chris Fisher, an attorney in his day job, wrote the ordinance, which is interesting in itself. Parkville has a city attorney, and even though it is in the middle of transitioning from its current city attorney to a new one, why is an elected alderman crafting ordinances? Why did the current city attorney only receive his copy of Fisher’s ordinance a couple of days before the meeting? What’s the hurry in passing this eye-opening ordinance before it can be properly reviewed by either the current city attorney or the incoming new attorney?

Even one of the proponents of the ordinance, the respected Jim Allen of the Parkville EDC, who with his connections to the highly successful The National is no stranger to golf carts, appeared to try to encourage the board to approach this issue at a cautious pace: “Certainly from our perspective, sooner is better than later, but not in the context of cutting off debate or having a full or open discussion of what is best for the community,” Allen said at Tuesday night’s meeting. Minutes later, the aldermen passed the ordinance anyway.

So much for allowing time for a full debate or discussion.

Fisher, the alderman who wrote the ordinance, had this to say: “When I started talking to people about this, there was a lot of discussion about establishing Parkville from anywhere else. There is certainly not another city in the Kansas City area that allows this.”

To his credit, Fisher is correct on this much: There is no other city in the Kansas City metro area that allows golf carts to be driven on public streets. There’s a reason for that. The reason is because it’s a crazy-ass idea.

As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

Let’s hope this ordinance gets overturned before a golf cart does.

******

Golf carts on public streets? Those things aren’t even safe inside a contained environment like a football stadium. For proof, enter this address in your web browser and watch the You Tube video: http://tinyurl.com/7j2qrxn

(Just wait till somebody starts texting while driving a golf cart on Hwy. 9 from downtown to the Parkville Commons. For a safer experience, follow Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


DOWNTOWN PARKVILLE AND PARKVILLE COMMONS EACH SCORE A HIT

Posted 12/17/11

For the third time in six weeks, on Monday night I came within a few feet of hitting a deer while traveling 70 mph on Interstate 229 near St. Joseph.

As he appeared in the illuminated beam of my headlights, this latest large-sized deer did not seem a bit intimidated by the fact thousands of pounds of metal were headed directly at him at a high rate of speed. He calmly stood there in the middle of the lane, oblivious to it all. I think he was sending a text message.

******

Monday was a productive day for me. Won a $10,000 bet with Mitt Romney that Chiefs coach Todd Haley would be fired this week.

******

Quite often in the world of economic development, retaining what you have is just as important as acquiring new. Parkville’s downtown can now celebrate retaining a major business presence in the form of the decision by the company known as eShipping to remain in English Landing. Not too many weeks ago it appeared the business, with around 40 employees operating out of its downtown Parkville location, would be moving--in worst case scenario, perhaps out of Parkville altogether, and under another scenario, to the Parkville Commons. Instead, Chad Earwood, chief executive officer and founder of eShipping, and landlord Tom Hutsler of English Landing were able to negotiate a deal keeping eShipping, a business that specializes in transportation management and consulting as well as software development, in the downtown district.

A recent press release from the Parkville Economic Development Council announced eShipping’s decision to remain downtown. In that release, Earwood said: “We wish to specifically thank the Parkville Economic Development Council, Jim Allen of the Parkville Commons and The National, and members of the community in helping us make the decision to stay in downtown Parkville. I personally look forward to working with Jim and others, including Park University, as we work together to tap the unlimited potential of Parkville.”

When I called Earwood to learn more about his business and his decision to remain downtown, he also praised some of the downtown folks, like Hutsler and Kevin Heaton of Stone Canyon Pizza, for their work downtown. “Tom worked with us really well on putting something together. He has been great to work with since I’ve been here,” Earwood told me.

Heaton, by the way, this week officially stepped into the world of politics, filing to seek the Parkville alderman spot being vacated by Jim Brooks’ decision to run for mayor.
Stone Canyon and other downtown restaurants no doubt are thrilled to keep the 40 employees of eShipping reporting to work downtown. After all, those 40 folks do eat lunch somewhere each day.

Earwood, whose company also has employees based in cities like Dallas, Denver and St. Louis, said his Parkville company had considered moving to Riverside, North Kansas City and briefly looked at Gladstone. He was encouraged when the Parkville EDC and Mayor Gerry Richardson approached him. “Jim Allen from The National came and spoke to me as a unified front. A group came to my office, including the mayor, and said ‘Let us help you navigate this a little bit.’” While at one point it was being publicly hinted the business was headed to the Parkville Commons, apparently the newly negotiated deal with Hutsler helped seal the deal to stay downtown. “There really isn’t one reason we chose downtown over the Commons,” Earwood said. “From an altruistic point of view, we would like to be part of helping downtown and assist by being there,” he told me.

Parkville Commons, meanwhile, will also be boosted in the near future. Allen, in the EDC press release, announced that a building to house a primary health care provider will be constructed on the last outparcel--set to be purchased by Northland Expansion LLC. Other new construction projects are underway near Parkville Commons, including a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, a new animal hospital, and a new office building for a Parkville area dentist.

******

A little research by ace Landmark reporter Valerie Verkamp this week uncovered what I think is an interesting tidbit of information: the mayor’s position at Parkville earns an annual compensation of $14,400. The mayor’s position at Platte City, meanwhile, earns $6,600 annually.

It’s interesting. Worthy of some thought. Draw your own conclusions.

*****

The one result that I certainly hope does not come from reporting the above fact is that Platte City officials believe their elected folks are underpaid and decide to double the salary. You know, as the result of some study that was done.

******

Don’t you love it when bureaucrats defend pay raises for government workers by saying a study of salaries of government workers in other entities justified the decision to pay more?

Who did that study? Somebody on a public payroll.

To taxpayers, the bureaucrats justifying their decision to give double digit salary increases by saying a study shows it was needed is lame and is part of an endless cycle of excuses to not get a handle on localized government spending.

******

Salute to those who came out to The Landmark’s annual open to the public Christmas party Friday at the Comfort Inn in Platte City. Turnout was fantastic and, to steal a line from some of those ‘who visited whom’ personal columns from The Landmark of years gone by, a good time was had by all. You’ll get more on the party in a future column or by following along on Twitter and Facebook.

(24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley, this publisher plays his drum for you. Pa rum pa pum pum)


BASED ON RAISES, APPARENTLY THERE ARE NO BUDGET CHALLENGES

Posted 12/10/11

As reported in this space last week, the city administrator position in Platte City is making $85,000. That’s the salary of the new guy, DJ Gehrt, who comes into his post with 10 years experience.

Is $85,000 too high? Too low? Just about right?

While you’re pondering those questions, consider this: The $85,000 is a growth of more than 13 percent over what the position was making just three years ago. Yes, Jason Metten, was earning $75,000 when he started three years ago and that had risen roughly 7% to $80,000 by the time Metten left at the end of his three year contract several months ago.

No matter how you slice it, 13 percent growth in pay for a particular position in three years time sounds a bit excessive in the current economic climate (unless you’re the city of Parkville--keep reading for more on that).

Look at it this way: If that trend continues, three years from now the city administrator in Platte City will be hauling in $96,000 per year.

Wow.

******

Remember, if you are in the group that believes government salaries are too high, don’t blame the men/women taking home the checks. This is America, each of us has the right to earn as much as his or her bosses are willing to pay. The blame, if you feel like any is deserved, falls on elected officials who make the final decisions on salaries for government workers. That’s whose feet eventually must be held to the fire on this topic.

Somewhere along the line in government, an annual raise in employee salaries became like a rite of passage, something given without a lot of substantive thought or evaluation. The start of a new year doesn’t automatically mean a pay raise for folks in the private world, why does it so often feel like an automatic thing in the world of government?

There’s no law that requires a pay raise just because the calendar has turned the page into a new year.

Decisions on salaries need to be based on more than just the passage of time. Matters such as economic conditions, value of the position to the overall function of the operation (each and every job has a maximum value, to continue to pay beyond that level is fiscally irresponsible), and job performance evaluations must be factored in.

Nothing is guaranteed in life--raises for government workers should be earned, not assumed.

******

Along similar lines, you’ll notice in this issue that Platte County has decided taxpayers will absorb a 10 percent increase in health insurance benefit costs for its employees. What will this very significant hike in employee benefit costs mean when the county makes a decision on employee raises for the coming year? Taxpayers will know soon enough. Budget talks for 2012 are well underway.

******

On our front page, you’ll notice some employees at the City of Parkville are receiving sizeable salary hikes for 2012. I feel confident in saying the percentage increase for several positions will raise some eyebrows.

The city administrator at Parkville gets a 7% pay hike up to $83,000, and many of the percentages go up from there: the police chief gets a 10% bump to $77,000; a police captain gets a 15% increase to $60,000; and a community development secretary gets a 21% increase to $28,000. Other positions are receiving raises ranging from 2% to 12%.

Keep in mind, as you’ll also see in our story, the city is using part of a trust fund to finance its 2012 budget. That method was opposed by Alderman Marc Sportsman.

Mayor Gerry Richardson’s defense of the use of trust fund money in creating the 2012 budget was that the trust fund’s board of trustees would be supportive of the move because the trust fund will earn more money from the city paying interest on any loans than it would from a simple savings account. What this means, if the mayor’s words are accurate, is that the city is borrowing money to support its 2012 budget. Is this good business?

I did get a chuckle out of reading the observation from the city administrator saying she was relieved that the city did not have to “lay off” any city employees in the making of the 2012 budget. So on one hand the city administrator feared there may have to be staff cuts, yet in the final budget many double digit raises are being given? Huh?

Taxpayers are going to find that more than a little confusing.

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Feel free to come join the fun at The Landmark’s annual open-to-the-public Christmas party this Friday, Dec. 9 from 4-8 p.m. at the Comfort Inn, 1201 Hwy. 92 in Platte City. Come enjoy food and beverages provided by The Landmark and take advantage of the opportunity to chat with newspaper staff and columnists like Greg Hall, Brian Kubicki, Hearne Christopher, James Thomas, and our newest addition Chris Kamler, better known as the infamous FakeNedYost on Twitter. Heck, you can even say hello to Platte County’s most fired upon publisher if you get the urge.

The good folks at Nick and Jake’s this year have generously provided us with 10 gift certificates valued at $15 each that we’ll be giving away as door prizes. Also in the prize department, The Landmark will be holding drawings for two tickets to several Mizzou Tiger home basketball games.

Cindy “Miss Christmas” Rinehart, as is always the case, has been the official party planner for the event, assisted by our official beverage gal Janine Moore, anxious to display her drink-serving skills, while ace reporters Valerie Verkamp and Pam Rooks, as well as the venerable Bill Hankins, will be chatting up the room. Security and handwriting analysis will be provided as needed.

The atmosphere is loose. You may as well come have a good time because a good time will be had whether you’re there or not.

(Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


NEW ADMINISTRATOR SNARES HIMSELF A FINE CONTRACT

Posted 12/1/11

We’ve all been there. Nothing ruins a Thanksgiving more quickly than your pet wallaby getting loose and causing a ruckus in the neighborhood.

I hate when that happens.

******

DJ Gehrt, the new city administrator for Platte City, is coming on board with some high public praise from his new bosses and others who are familiar with him professionally.
After looking over the details of his employment agreement, it looks like Gehrt has negotiated himself a contract matching the high regard in which those mentioned above are holding him. So his first move has been a personal success.

Gehrt’s starting salary is $85,000. That strikes me as high for a city the size of Platte City (realistic population figure being around 4,000). In my mind, it didn’t seem like too many years ago Keith Moody was making in the low 60’s in the position now held by Gehrt. But a little Between the Lines research shows the starting salary for Jason Metten, hired by Platte City three years ago, was $75,000. By the time he left at the end of his three-year contract, Metten was being paid in the range of $80,000. Metten had three years experience as a city administrator when he was hired here. Gehrt served 10 years as administrator at Plattsburg. Gehrt will be subject to a merit review after one year of service, and an increase in his salary and/or benefits will be determined by a majority of the board of aldermen.

According to the employment agreement, the city tossed a bone to Gehrt to attract him to the job. At the signing of his contract, Gehrt was immediately credited with 15 days of vacation leave. Thereafter, his vacation and sick leave shall be accrued at the same rate as other city employees who have six years of employment (10.67 hours per month). Gehrt is also provided five days of personal leave each year. The leave is on a “use it or lose it” basis.

Some other highlights of Gehrt’s contract, as outlined in the front page story by reporter Valerie Verkamp: 1. In lieu of a $250 per month vehicle allowance, the city will directly deposit $250 per month into a deferred compensation plan for Gehrt. Additional mileage reimbursement may be paid for travel outside the state or “extraordinary amounts of travel within the state.” That reimbursement is subject to prior board approval. The city will not provide a vehicle for his exclusive use. 2. The city will pay $500 per month into a supplementary retirement plan for Gehrt, in place of medical insurance. 3. Gehrt agrees to establish residency within the city limits within 60 days after the municipal election on April 3, 2012, and shall continue to reside within the city during his employment. The city will pay him $1,500 in moving expenses.

Obviously, if Gehrt lives up to the high praise his superiors are leveling upon him and delivers efficient customer service with a smile it can be argued that the contract will be worth its financial weight.

Best of luck to the new guy.

******

Jason Metten, former city administrator in Platte City, still has plans to open a business or two locally. In a recent conversation, Metten told me things haven’t moved as quickly as he initially anticipated but the process is in motion.

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A team to help lead the promotional efforts to pass the 60 cent tax increase that will be on the ballot for Platte County R-3 has been assembled. Leading a group known as “The Right Choice for our Kids” campaign will be Doug Gutshall of Platte Valley Bank and Carey Rolofson, former school board member. It can’t be argued that Gutshall and Rolofson both know a lot of folks--young and not so young--within the district, so they could lead an effective effort.

The group has announced an informational meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Platte Valley Bank conference room in Platte City.

“The purpose of the meeting is to share with you information about the Platte County R-3 School District’s efforts to meet our community’s academic expectations and growing student enrollment via placing an issue on the April ballot,” said an email recently circulated to “key stakeholders.”

“This meeting will provide insight on the district’s plans, including a new elementary school, an addition to Pathfinder, technology, maintenance and security needs just to name a few key pieces,” the note to key stakeholders concluded.

The district’s 60 cent tax increase proposal comes just a few months after the school board committed roughly $2 million toward an Olympic-style swimming pool project at the Platte County Community Center in Platte City.

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A noted contribution to Twitter this week comes from a guy using the handle @thechrisarmy. Here’s what he had to say:

“Sluts have ruined the lower back tattoo for good Christians like myself that want to love God and show a little tail bone art.”

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Also on Twitter, @fakenedyost (Chris Kamler, Rambling Moron, page 3) provided this analysis of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show that aired on national television Tuesday night:

“The Victorias Secret show only lasted 8 minutes for me.”

(Get Platte County’s best commentary, breaking news about kangaroos and wallabies, and an occasional chuckle 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


SOMETIMES THINGS GET A LITTLE CRAZY, EVEN IN THE COURTS

Posted 11/25/11

Can it get any busier at your ol’ Landmark newspaper than it has been during this shortened week? The last few days have been hectic, but we love it.

Despite the craziness, we’re hitting the streets a day early, as we traditionally do during Thanksgiving week. This gives our readers a chance to have their Landmark in hand prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. We never want to make you wait for the good stuff.

You’ll find this issue packed with enough information to meet your news fix and enough advertising to help you decide where you want to pursue your shopping and dining desires over the long holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite times of the year, as once we’ve put in the extra time it takes to have the paper on the streets a day early, we’re able to catch our breath for a bit.

Enjoy your family time this weekend.

******

Add another name to the rumor mill for potential candidates for Platte County Sheriff. Cpt. Erik Holland’s name is now making the rounds, along with Cpt. Mark Owen, current Gladstone police officer William Willoughby, and Bob Zubeck of Platte City, who is retired from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

It’s going to be a fun election season in 2012.

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Please read our front page story detailing some of the rulings made by a judge in what--in large part as a result of those rulings--has become a high profile and controversial DWI case.

We watch and cover a lot of court cases--including DWI-related hearings--here at your ol’ Landmark. The decision by Judge Gerald McBeth to, at the request of the accused, disallow the county prosecutor from representing the department of revenue in a case where a DWI defendant has petitioned to not lose his driver’s license after refusing a breath test is a first for our eyes. Add to that the judge’s next decision, which was to not allow the department of revenue staff counsel to represent the department of revenue, and it has become one of those cases that raises an eyebrow or two. The judge instead insisted upon conducting his own self-described “diligent” search for a special prosecutor, and you’ll read his choice in the front page article.

The most common reaction when folks read the story, I think, will be something along the lines of, “Huh?”

It does seem odd that a DWI case has taken on a circus-like atmosphere. So can every other DWI defendant in Platte County now expect to have the prosecutor removed from the driver’s license hearing process just for the asking? So can every other DWI defendant in Platte County also then expect to have the department of revenue be denied the chance to have one of its staff attorneys represent the department? These are legitimate questions.

Vernon County is home to the outside judge brought in to hear the cases related to the DWI charge against Jim Boggs, a well-known attorney in Platte County who has served on the Sixth District Judicial Commission, a board that is heavily involved in the selection process of judges in this district.

Maybe Vernon County does things differently in DWI cases. All we know at this point is that McBeth’s decisions have caught some attention here in McPlatte County and your McLandmark will be here to let you know how the court of appeals writ panel views the prosecutor’s McChallenges to those McRulings.

******

That last paragraph has me craving a McRib.

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Close to home, thanks to the efforts of noted NBCActionNews (KSHB-TV Channel 41 to us old-timers) investigative reporter Russ Ptacek, former Clay Couny auditor William Norris now faces criminal charges. Norris resigned earlier this year after Ptacek’s investigation into nude photos and a secret felony background.

Channel 41 reports that prosecutors have charged Norris with a felony for “false swearing” in a candidate form where he claimed he had not been convicted or pled guilty to a felony. Norris is also charged with “tampering with computer data” in connection to nude photos of a woman the TV station found in his Photobucket.com account.

Fascinating story, worthy of taking note. The link to Ptacek’s report is http://tinyurl.com/6tpxvcp

******

To whom did I run into at halftime of the Northwest Missouri vs. Missouri Western football playoff game on Saturday in St. Joseph? None other Keith Moody, former city administrator for Platte City.

He looks, for the most part, the same as he did a few years ago when he was let go by Platte City, maybe a tad less hair. I was 90% sure it was him but still verbally verified it before extending for a handshake. He said he had accompanied a couple of buddies, NWMU grads, to the game.

We talked for several minutes. My intent was to stick with lightweight personal chatter, but before I knew it the conversation had drifted to in-depth matters like tax abatements and such, which brought back memories of all those times at deadline where I’d have him on the phone trying to wrap up a conversation so I could complete my story. I often asked a co-worker to slap me in the face once I got off the phone with Moody, just to restart my day.

As you know we had our philosophical differences in his time at Platte City, but our visit was cordial. Moody is now the city administrator at Harrisonville, a town of about 10,000 people.

(You can’t always slap Foley, but you can always follow his 24/7 reality show at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WINTER MONTHS SHAPING UP AS BUSY NEWS TIME

Posted 11/18/11

This just in: Justin Bieber is not my father.

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So the big small-college football rivalry gets fired up again this weekend when Northwest Missouri State’s Bearcats face the Missouri Western State University Griffons in a first round playoff game to be played at the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility, err, Spratt Stadium on the MWSU campus in St. Joe.

Just a couple of weeks ago, MoWest pulled off an impressive upset over the more highly-ranked Bearcats. It obviously was a ground-shaking result, as the Griffons topped the Bearcats in the afternoon and that night the St. Joseph area felt earthquake tremors.

Barring an earthquake this Saturday, the prediction here is that the Bearcats acquire some revenge in the playoff battle. The pre-game trash talking between some fans of the two area schools is in full form.

Leading local Bearcat fan Bill Brown already has his ticket to the super showdown. He dropped by the office on Monday to show it off. I snapped a picture of it and posted it on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/ivanfoley, and some good-natured back and forth between opposing fans began.

Expect a big crowd for the battle royale in Joe Town on Saturday.

******

Even though the holidays are quickly approaching, you’ll want to keep an ear to the local news scene. While you’re concentrating on cooking turkeys and Christmas shopping, your Landmark staff will be hard at it staying on top of the news you need to know.

What’s coming up?

Believe it or not, it will soon be election season. Filing for local school board and city council positions gets rolling in December. After the first of the year, the county election season becomes the focus with several countywide positions up for grabs this year, including both associate county commissioner posts, sheriff, assessor (filling the unexpired term after the death of Lisa Pope, winner will serve for two years), treasurer, and public administrator.

There never seems to be a dull election cycle in Platte County. The Landmark will be all over it, as always, whether or not any candidates want to take off the gloves.

And, as usual, we’ll be keeping our journalistic eyes on happenings going on in the courts in Platte County. Every once in a while there’s a head scratching development in the courts that deserves further review from the news-consuming public, kind of like the NFL coaches throwing a red challenge flag. We’ll be there when it happens.

******

If you’re in the mood for holiday spirit events, don’t forget the Platte City holiday lighting ceremony in historic downtown Platte City on Thanksgiving Eve. Zona Rosa has its holiday lighting hoedown this coming Saturday evening. A little bit later on your holiday calendar of Platte County events is the annual Parkville Christmas on the River bash, set for Dec. 2.

And as previously warned, your annual open-to-the-public Landmark Christmas party is Friday, Dec. 9 from 4-8 at the Comfort Inn in Platte City.

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Time for some housecleaning items:

Next week, your Landmark will hit the streets a day earlier than normal. As is usually the case, we’ll be printing on Tuesday during Thanksgiving week, which means most subscribers will have a hot copy of The Landmark in their hands prior to the Thursday holiday.

If you have a news item or an ad you’d like in next week’s issue, get your information to us no later than noon on Monday.

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This week, The Landmark is excited to welcome an addition to our stable of columnists appearing on page A-3. It’s the man who has made a name for himself--well, a name for his Twitter handle anyway. It’s FakeNedYost, known in real life as Chris Kamler. Kamler’s off-the-wall and often hilarious approach on Twitter caught my attention months ago. You’ll recall back in the summer, Landmark intern Jared Speckman featured Kamler in a front page story that detailed the massive following FakeNedYost has developed on Twitter.

I’m encouraging Chris--who is a Northlander and whose brother is a taxidermist in northern Platte County--to bring his irreverent Twitter style to his Landmark column. His initial column tackles the issue of common sense. Next week? He’ll have some thoughts on Platte City’s selection of Casey’s General Store as its Business of the Year.
Chris also has a video-streamed internet show and a web site. Follow his stuff at ramblingmorons.com.

******

It hit me that I’ve never given a Between the Lines mention to our gardening expert, columnist George Weigel. This guy can handle all your lawn and garden questions and problems. His column is a weekly feature in your Landmark and has made George known around these parts as simply The Garden Guy.

Apparently The Garden Guy needs to tell me how to keep from killing mums. I’ve pretty well assassinated a pair of previously good-looking mums I picked up less than a month ago. These things have been on life support for the past couple of weeks and after giving them a lookover when I entered the office this morning, a decision on whether to pull the plug will be made in the next day or two.

(Never pull the plug on Twitter.com/ivanfoley, your 24/7 home of the best news, commentary and fun in Platte County. You’ll get hooked.)


THIS IS NO TIME FOR RINOS; AND HAS PIRATE FOOTBALL PROGRAM LOST ITS SWAGGER?

Posted 11/11/11

It’s never too early to start thinking about The Landmark’s annual public Christmas party. Go ahead and mark your calendars--this year’s shindig will be Friday, Dec. 9. We’ll be making some subtle changes in the plans for the evening just to keep things fresh and delicious. One thing we haven’t changed is the location: Brady Rodgers and the other fine folks at the Comfort Inn in Platte City are providing their conference room and kitchen area once again. The party will run 4-8 p.m. Come join us for some food, beverages, conversation and fun.

******

Did you feel the earthquake Saturday night about 11? Tremors were felt in this area from a quake centered in Oklahoma. It caused a buzz of conversation in cyber space. Check out my Twitter account or Facebook page for a photo of the earthquake ‘damage’ caused at the Northland home of Twitter star Fakenedyost. I feel left out because I felt nothing.

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Voters in the Liberty School District on Tuesday rejected the idea of a 43 cent tax levy increase to pay for school improvements, 52% to 48%. Something tells me the folks at Platte County R-3 were watching this result with great interest, trying to get a feel for how the public is viewing the idea of tax increases in this economic climate.

R-3 is anticipating a tax levy hike being on the ballot in April. School officials are said to be busy trying formulating a plan that promises tax-funded gifts for every area of the district--both geographically and interest wise--in hopes of attracting a positive audience.

******

I hope you noticed that Clay County shoppers will have to pay the zoo tax, as voters in that county barely passed the 1/8th cent sales tax by roughly 400 votes, 51% to 49% on Tuesday.

Fiscal conservatives, now is the time to praise the fact we have Jason Brown as presiding commissioner. Platte County already has the highest sales tax rate around. Had Brown’s predecessor still been in office, there is little doubt that not only would the zoo tax have appeared on the ballot in Platte County, but also that the other two commissioners would have also acted like RINOS and worked hard to try to pass the thing, much like they did the $82 million park sales tax overkill in 2010.

Under Brown’s fiscal leadership, the county commission never let the process get that far. Nice job.

******

What will Platte County’s budget look like in 2012? The process is well underway. Kevin Robinson, county auditor, is forecasting an increase in sales tax revenue in 2012. He is estimating that sales tax receipts will increase by 2 percent over 2011. Also, he is estimating an increase in use tax receipts of .3 percent. It remains to be seen whether the three county commissioners will agree with Robinson’s economic forecasting.

On the flip side, Robinson says that various fees and other revenue sources from the collector and the recorder of deeds are forecasted very similarly to 2011, while several of the sheriff’s grants are down or have been eliminated. Robinson also said the county clerk is predicting less revenue with a decrease in the purchase of liquor licenses and other permits.

Robinson has drafted two proposed budgets for the commission to consider. One of them includes a three percent raise (referred to as a cost of living adjustment) for county employees (employees, not officeholders). The second proposed budget does not include the cost of living adjustment for employees.

The auditor explains that the 2012 proposed budget, which is now available for your viewing pleasure on the auditor’s page at co.platte.mo.us, reflects reductions in utilities and telephone expenses. “With advancing technology, the county is able to reduce these expenses with the implementation of motion detectors, energy efficient lighting, and consolidating voice and fax lines or pursuing voice over the internet services,” Robinson said.

We’ll follow the process over the next several weeks.

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Has the Platte County Pirate football program lost its swagger? Has the fan base gone a bit soft? At least one in-tune unbiased observer says yes. Guy Speckman, publisher of the Savannah Reporter, made some interesting observations in his column following Savannah’s recent victory over the Pirates in Platte County. It’s an insightful read:

“The Savannah football win over Platte County was exciting for any local football fan and maybe a little sweeter for long-time followers of Savage football. Even the best of teams in years past could not bring down the mighty Pirates. The Pirates of the mid-1990s were on a state championship tear that made MEC opponents wilt.

“Former Platte County coach Chip Sherman had Pirate teams with some serious swagger and weren’t afraid to show it when they planned a Savannah team that had never defeated them. During that time period, Platte County won 52 straight games at one point and Sherman had an overall record of 94-6. Even more interesting to this observer was the change in the program over the years. While Platte County still has its suburban yuppie aura, their football program has less swagger than years gone by.. They now run the spread offense which lends itself to a “softer” form of football.
“Secondly, their fan base was mild compared to the Savannah legion. A blind man would have had trouble determining whose field the teams were playing at on Thursday night. One Platte County fan made a huge fuss during the game over the Savannah students standing to cheer on their Savages. Savannah administrators were even called to the stands to try to placate the offended Platte Countian. The story made me reminiscent about Sherman’s Pirate teams that blocked our players’ entrance onto Savage Field during the 1990s in pre-planned defiance of our typical entry through the center of fans. I guess what comes around goes around.”

(Follow the process of all kinds of commentary in the making 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


EVER WONDER WHAT'S BEING SAID IN THOSE SIDELINE CONVERSATIONS?

Posted 11/4/11

So Buddy, the official news hound for The Landmark Newspaper, is a Westie. If you’re a dog lover who knows anything about Westies, you know they sometimes struggle with skin allergies at certain times of the year. Buddy is fighting that struggle right now.

The Bud Man has a prescription allergy pill and we’re also periodically giving him a Benadryl to help fight the itching and scratching. Yes, the Benadryl makes him sleepy, just as it does those of us with two legs. And yes, Buddy is a smart dog who is well aware of the side effects. He’s normally an active fella who doesn’t really care to be sleepy, so how do we get him to take his meds? You gotta hit him with his weakness.

His weakness? Cheese curls. Even if he watches us stick one of those small allergy pills inside a cheese curl, he still can’t resist the orange colored treat, even when he knows it will soon make his body very heavy.

It’s quite a brilliant strategy.

By the way, Buddy is still on Twitter. Though he has been virtually silent on the Twitter front for a few months, he is making plans to pick up the pace. Apparently some thoughtful tweets are coming into his head as he lies around in a Benadryl coma.

Follow him at Twitter.com/landmarkbuddy.

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Organizers of the Platte City Holiday Lighting Ceremony on Thanksgiving Eve want you to know that Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be making their appearance at the Platte County Courthouse that night, and not at the Central Platte Fire Station. Early news releases, including one appearing on page B-1 of this week’s Landmark, refer to the fire station as the location for the jolly couple. Organizers right before deadline this week let us know the fire department is no longer taking part and that the location for Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be the courthouse. Take note of that if you’re bringing the little ones to downtown Platte City that night.

The fire department was helping get in the holiday spirit last week. Several folks went “hmm” when they noticed the large taxpayer-owned aerial fire truck being used to help string lights on privately-owned buildings downtown.

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Remember when Twitter was just catching on as a useful news tool and entertaining mechanism for both insightful and tongue-in-cheek commentary? Remember all the haters who poked fun at Twitter for, let’s face it, the feminine-sounding name?
That was then. This is now. Even the haters are being forced to admit they’ve been missing out and have joined the Twitter world. About time. You can resist technology for a while and even bad mouth it if you like, but the end result is when you do that it makes you look out of touch.

I don’t want to mention names, but the initials of two of the most recent Twitter converts are my friends and former Twitter-haters Jason Klindt, well known political operative, and world-known conservative talk radio personality/Landmark columnist Chris Stigall.

Follow these guys on Twitter now. Just the interaction the three of us will have should keep you entertained.

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If you’re offended by someone recanting a conversation that contained foul language, stop reading now. Catch you back here next week. Have a nice day, thanks for reading.

For those of you still with me, football-watching fans all realize by now that Chiefs games feature a lot of bombs being dropped on the sidelines. I mean F-bombs. Even untrained lip readers have noticed head coach Todd Haley drops F-bombs like Hiroshima. Lately, quarterback Matt Cassel and others have started firing back some of their own F drops on Haley. Any adults who don’t know what the letters FU and STFU stand for, ask your teenage sons for clarification before reading the rest of this report. Good to go? OK, let’s carry on.

Remember 12-15 years back when I would cover some Chiefs games from the sideline and report back to you some of the observations picked up from that excellent positioning? I don’t do that these days, basically because I ain’t as young as I used to be and don’t have the desire--or back strength--to stand up for four hours straight. Fortunately, there is someone working the sidelines in a certain capacity who occasionally shares inside info with a mutual media friend. This person’s identity will not be revealed so this person can remain in good standing. But the following conversation this person picked up during Monday night’s exciting Chiefs win is worth sharing.

From here, I’ll let our source tell the story.

“At the end of the first half, Haley tried to start calling the plays. He looked at his card as the play clock was winding down. Cassel was yelling, (quarterback coach) Jim Zorn was yelling, hell, even (backup quarterback Tyler) Palko was yelling. Finally, Haley calls play 62, literally says ‘just F’n run 62.’ With the play clock at seven seconds and Dwayne Bowe on the wrong side of the field, Cassel snaps it, waits a few heartbeats and then launches the ball 15 yards out of bounds. This is when the fun starts. Cassel starts screaming FU to Haley, Haley screams back ‘STFU, everyone knows 62.’ Cassel says ‘You really think D-Bowe F’n knowns 62, FU.’ As Haley’s screaming FU back to Cassel, Zorn gets into Haley’s face, literally one inch away, and screams at him: ‘Don’t you ever do that to me again.’ I truly thought Zorn might mount up right there. Not sure exactly what Haley did, other than say FU, which is common practice at Arrowhead (just ask that poor bastard Pendergast, the defensive coordinator two seasons ago)”

Just thought Between the Lines readers might get a kick out of hearing some of the talk that goes on along the sideline during an NFL game. Hope you enjoyed the insight.

(For breaking news and occasional smart-mouth commentary, with fewer F bombs than a Chiefs game, follow Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR HAS OBSERVATIONS ON BABY LISA

Posted 10/28/11

Yes, Chiefs coach Todd Haley is starting to look like a homeless man. Our quick-witted and entertaining sports media sound bite columnist Greg Hall the other day referred to him as Hobo Haley.

I echo the following thought of Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki when it comes to Haley’s ragged appearance, his oversized clothes, faded and dirty-looking ball cap and apparent fear of a razor. Who cares?

You know what? If the coach and his Chiefs beat the Chargers on Halloween night at Arrowhead my thought is more and more folks will be talking less about Haley’s less- than-pretty appearance and more about the Chiefs being in first place.

******

Remember the transmission line KCP&L is going to construct between its new generation plant at Iatan and a Nashua substation? A lot of landowners who are concerned about the line crossing their property I’m sure remember. KCP&L officials made the rounds through the area last week, including dropping by The Landmark for a public relations visit. They showed a map outlining several possible routes for the transmission line that are still under consideration. Company spokespersons insist the goal is to impact as few folks as possible. A final decision on the route could be made about 90 days from now, we’re being told. In the meantime, a lot of landowners in rural northern Platte County are on edge.

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The story of missing Baby Lisa, as you know unless you’ve been hiding in Todd Haley’s shower, is a Northland case that has gone national. She’s the missing 10 month old, and though the case is not inside the county of Platte, any story that close and compelling enough to capture a national audience deserves some mention in your Platte County Landmark.

I won’t rehash many of the case details here, because if you’re following the situation you’re already well aware. With so many unanswered questions and so many aspects that, as they say, just don’t make sense, it seems an appropriate time to have a conversation about it with a trained set of eyes. This week I interviewed Ron Rugen of Rugen Team Investigations of Kansas City. Rugen is a state-licensed private investigator who is on the board of the Missouri Association of Private Investigators.

The obvious question, to start: Any chance the baby is still alive? “There’s a chance but things just don’t add up. First of all, you have a guy prancing around in public with a half clothed baby at 12:15 and another at 4 a.m. Those don’t tie together well. How far away was the person, was the object he was carrying animate or inanimate, is the description of the person seen in any way similar in size to Debbie’s (Baby Lisa’s mother) brother. I’m not accusing the brother, just mentioning questions that have to be asked,” Rugen said.

And by the way, Rugen nailed that one. He made that comment about wanting to learn more about what the brother knows to me on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, word was circulating that the police are taking steps to interview the brother again.

As for the witness reports of a man carrying a baby down the street: “You don’t always see what you think you see. If there was hanky panky involved, was it somebody taking the baby and disposing of the body?” Rugen remarked. “This situation is a mess. It’s starting to wear people (the public) out. If it comes out that a member of the family had something to do with this, a lot of people will feel resentful and upset because everybody has tied their emotions to this. Kansas City people really care.”

Rugen, who worked in the media--we have a mutual media friend who connected us--prior to becoming a private investigator 17 years ago, has been outside the house chatting with media members several times during the past three weeks, suggesting questions that they can then ask police. He has watched most of the coverage. He has some energy invested in it. He noted that the mother seems to be a person who wants a lot of attention, while the dad is “kind of the whipped father or husband.” Rugen finds it interesting--ok, strange--that the parents have been so eager to talk to national media but not the local media.

Rugen mentioned other angles that the police have no doubt thought about and covered but those of us in the general public may not be as in tune with, such as: “Where was the baby when the mother was out buying wine? Did the person she was drinking wine with (described as a neighbor) ever see the baby that evening? The person with whom the father was working as an electrician at the Starbucks that night--does he know anything? Is there a trash receptacle near that Starbucks? You just have to ask those things. I’m sure the police have done this,” Rugen continued.

And what about the report that a cadaver dog ‘hit’ on the floor of the mother’s bedroom for the scent of a deceased human? Trained officers have said that while the cadaver dogs may fail to detect the smell of human decomposition about 30 percent of the time, they generally don’t alert when nothing is there. One possible exception is when human waste is present.

What a sad, frustrating and compelling case. We’ll be checking in with Rugen on this situation and others for expert analysis. He has an interesting tidbit about the arrival of investigator Wild Bill Stanton from New York (remember him? He’s now back in NY) I’d like to share if we can work it in a future issue.

******

What do you think of the job Steve Young of the KCPD is doing as spokesperson to the media on this case? You’ve seen him everywhere, being grilled on local and national news. My opinion is the guy is doing an outstanding job, staying composed and patient with the questioning, even when appearing with such drama queens as Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Rugen agrees.

“He’s answering the questions without compromising the investigation. I’m not sure I would want Steve’s job. I’m sure his stress level is pretty high right now,” Rugen said.

(The stress level is never too high for you at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


JASON BROWN STRONG AT SALARY COMMISSION MEETING

Posted 10/22/11

Welcome back to Between the Lines, where we always try to make it a pants poppin’ good time.

******

Strong performance by Platte County Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown at the salary commission meeting on Monday (see front page story). His back-up band in this performance consisted of Jim Plunkett and Joan Harms, but it was clear this shutdown of any potential pay increase for the county’s elected positions was being led by Brown.

Landmark readers have been along for the ride as the newspaper has covered many of these salary commission meetings over the years. These things rarely disappoint as far as news and entertainment value. Monday’s session had its typical salary commission moments, which means there were bizarre and apparently unexpected legal questions as well as political positioning from those on all sides of the issue.

Bob Shaw, county counselor, was hit with so many legal and procedural questions he was sifting through state statutes, Roberts Rules of Order, an issue of Lawyers Weekly, and--by the time it was over--maybe a drink menu from the nearest saloon.

But back to the day’s strong performance by Brown. After the group had approved a motion 8-3 (with Brown, Jim Plunkett and Joan Harms voting no) to give the county commission authority to grant a cost of living increase to officeholders, Brown went into action.

First, Brown in essence called for a vote on this motion: There shall be no pay raise for county elected positions. Some folks like to claim there are two aspects to an elected official’s salary--base pay and then any COLA. This is crazy. A salary increase is a salary increase, it doesn’t matter to the taxpayer whether it’s sugar-coated as a ‘cost of living adjustment.’

So Brown’s first motion was clear: No pay raise for officials. It passed 9-2, with Sheriff Dick Anderson and Recorder Gloria Boyer the only two who apparently would have liked to have seen a salary hike for the elected posts. Terry Edwards, public administrator, voted yes to Brown’s motion, but a day later confessed to me she actually thought she was voting the other way. The way the motion was worded apparently confused her. She thought her yes vote meant she would support a pay increase, she told me Tuesday.

Next, Brown wanted to get down to the gnat’s behind. Even though the group had earlier passed a motion to give the county commission authority to decide the fate of a potential COLA increase for the elected folks, Brown didn’t want that decision to leave the room. He wanted to put every officeholder on the spot--would you favor a COLA for officeholders? In other words, Brown was doing taxpayers and voters a huge favor here. His purpose was to get everybody in the room on the record. Smart move.

“What we do in those salary commission meetings really does matter. It comes down to perspective. It gives an indication what our governing philosophies are. I wanted to make sure it was very clear--you’re either for doing this or against doing this,” Brown said when I interviewed him later.

So Brown’s second motion called for no COLAs to be given to officeholders positions. His goal of getting everybody on record with their thought process was accomplished. Here’s how that result came in. Voting yes (remember, a yes vote means no COLAs) were Brown, Plunkett, Kathy Dusenbery, Gloria Boyer, Sheila Palmer and Harms. Voting opposed (in other words, these folks would have supported officeholders getting a COLA) were Anderson, David Christian, Bonnie Brown, Kevin Robinson, and Edwards.

There are the important votes of record. If these positions are important to you, duly note them. And then thank Brown for putting folks on the record.

******

All the county officeholders looked healthy at Monday’s meeting. Plunkett was sporting a nice facial tan. I’m jealous. Unlike a couple of the GOP presidential contenders, Plunkett doesn’t strike me as the tanning bed type so I’m guessing he has been getting some sunshine while working his real job or maybe vacationing in natural rays. The sheriff, as always, was strong on procedural issues and points of order. Christian, the assessor who has lobbyist experience in Jefferson City, also seemed to be in tune with the ins and outs of procedure, as did former state rep Jason Brown. Early on, Dusenbery gave a welcome fiscally conservative reminder to the group that the county has a major expense coming up in the form of a switch to a digital emergency communications system. Dusenbery later, however, seemed to get unnecessarily frustrated with what Jason Brown was doing. I’m not sure she was savvy enough to realize at the time what Brown’s commendable agenda was. Edwards did a good job running the meeting, no easy task with so much positioning going on inside the room.

******

Time for the political speculation game to begin. As reported last week, Sheriff Dick Anderson is retiring at the end of his current term. He has been sheriff since January of 1997.

So a new era will begin. Who will be stepping up to run? It’s early for anyone to come out and announce, but it’s never too early for the speculation game to start.
A couple of names are already hitting the speculation cycle. Bob Zubeck of Platte City, a retired officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, is one of them. Zubeck confirmed to me Tuesday night that he has been approached about running.

“A couple of folks have reached out to me. I’m listening, I’ll just say that. I am humbled by the interest,” he said. “At this point I’m listening to what their concerns are.”

Zubeck retired at the age of 55 on Aug. 31 after 26 years with the highway patrol and a total of 34 years in law enforcement.

This name has been hitting the speculation circles for months now: William (Willie) Willoughby, a Gladstone police officer. Willoughby in the early to mid-1980s was a police officer in Platte City. Another name getting mentioned as a possibility is current sheriff’s department captain Mark Owen.

We’ll keep you posted.

(Get your local breaking news and some occasionally unconventional commentary 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley.)

 

SHERIFF: UNSOLVED MURDER IS A 'LOCALIZED CASE THAT'S ALL ABOUT LOCAL PEOPLE'

Posted 10/14/11

At about 4 p.m. last Thursday I received word from sources that Platte County Sheriff Dick Anderson had told folks inside his department he would not seek a fifth term as sheriff. With my speaking engagement set to begin about an hour later at the Platte County Pachyderm Club, I resisted the urge to send out the news by Twitter or Facebook, choosing instead to give those who would show up at the public event some breaking news.

The thing that makes this biz such a buzz is that circumstances change in a heartbeat and you’ve got to be ready to adjust on the fly, and that’s what happened here. At 5:15 p.m., the sheriff’s office was distributing an email announcing Anderson’s decision. Fifteen minutes after that, the sheriff was walking into the room where the Pachyderm Club was about to meet. Having not yet seen the email that was waiting on my phone, I asked the sheriff if he had an announcement to make to the crowd that night. He said that he did. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a fascinating night of law enforcement discussion in front of an intimate crowd at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Zona Rosa.

It was as open and forthcoming as I have ever seen the sheriff as he and I engaged in a question and answer session for much of the presentation.

Read on for a few of the highlights.

******

Let’s face it, it’s been a rough summer for law enforcement in Platte County. An unsolved murder. A questionable relationship between a sheriff’s department captain and a local tow/collision company that provided services to the county, just to name a couple of problems the sheriff has been dealing with.

So did any of this play a role in the sheriff’s decision to retire at the end of his current term? He said no to this when I asked him Thursday night.

I then brought up the topic of the unsolved murder of Alissa Shippert, 22, of Platte City, the Casey’s General Store employee who was found murdered in the Platte Falls Conservation Area on June 1. There have been no arrests and public frustration has grown. Maybe it was the relaxed setting of the room at O’Dowd’s or maybe it was the fact he had just announced he won’t be running again. Whatever the case, the sheriff opened up like I’d never seen him open up before.

“We have a very viable investigation continuing. We have very good leads to follow up on,” Anderson said. “That case is far from over with.”

The sheriff even went on to address one of his personal critics on the case. Not mentioning the critic by name--though anyone in tune with current events knows he was referring to Ron Canaday, a retired Kansas City Police Department captain who went on to serve as police chief in Platte City after retiring from KC--the sheriff said this: “There was an opinion expressed by a retired captain for the Kansas City Police Department that this investigation should have been handled in the beginning by the Metro Squad. I completely disagree with him. For one thing, his experience with homicides--his stories notwithstanding--is extremely limited,” Anderson said.

Zing. This is what a Landmark presentation at a Pachyderm meeting gets for you. This was great fun and extremely informational. With a little prompting from The Landmark podium, there was more welcome free thought to come from the sheriff. Let’s continue.
“We did call in for help in the first few days and had them follow our direction and strategy (as opposed to calling in the Metro Squad, who would have provided the direction those first few critical days). We got help from the water patrol, the highway patrol, Platte City police, the FBI, a variety of other people,” Anderson said about the murder case.

The sheriff continued: “This was an extremely intense investigation for a couple of weeks. We eliminated many suspects. (The victim) had a lot of friends. Not all of her friends were of the savory type. There are a number of people who were possibilities. We have eliminated some, but we have not eliminated some. This is a localized case. This is all about local people.”

I found the quote “this is a localized case” that is “all about local people” intriguing. After all, there are two schools of thought prevalent in the community. One school is that many folks have convinced themselves they know who did it. The other school of thought is that this young lady was killed by someone passing through and the case will never be solved. So does the sheriff’s quote mean the department believes the killer is local, and what is the sheriff’s level of confidence that this case will be solved?

“It’s my practice not to answer hypothetical questions,” the sheriff replied, the only time throughout the night he denied the chance to give a straight-up answer.

For the record, I’m not sure the question as it was posed fits the definition of hypothetical.

More from my back-and-forth exchange with the sheriff next time.

******

I’m not a doctor, but occasionally I do play one in this column space. I don’t save lives, though I’ve been accused in advance that this week I will make a claim that I have. So here’s the story.

Well-known Platte City resident Woody Grutzmacher called Monday morning explaining some personal dire straits that he was in and asked if he could stop by. Several minutes later he came stepping his way into our office at a fast pace (anyone who knows Woody has no trouble picturing this). After a few minutes of speaking about his original purpose for the visit, Woody announced he thought he might be having a heart attack. Woody has been known to have moments of drama, but nonetheless Dr. Foley immediately handed him an aspirin, a bottle of water, and a comment that he might want to get checked out by a health professional. He then bolted out the door.

Early Tuesday morning, Woody called Landmark office manager Cindy Rinehart to say that he did end up at the hospital in heart attack mode not long after leaving our office.

"I think the aspirin saved my life,” he told Cindy. “But don’t tell Ivan. He’ll want a medal or something.”

******

I don’t screen my calls or refuse visitors, but if you do think you’re having a heart attack please call 911 or seek medical assistance before calling me or dropping by for a visit.

(Miss a moment, miss a lot. Follow Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


SCHOOL SURVEYS PATRONS ABOUT A TAX INCREASE WHILE SPENDING $2 MILLION ON POOL

Posted 10/7/11

Platte County R-3 School District, on the heels of deciding to spend what will end up being in the neighborhood of $2 million on an Olympic-style swimming pool, is now conducting a survey of district patrons to take their temperature about a potential tax increase building project.

The phone survey of about 400 households has been going on at least two or three weeks and is likely done by now. Results will be discussed at this month’s meeting of the school board. The survey, which based on some of the comments I’ve heard from those who’ve received a call, includes some boasting about R-3 while asking if the survey respondent would be receptive to the idea of an increase in the tax levy to fund a building project, reported to be a new elementary school.

“It targets registered voters. We’re sampling using the Gallup criteria. About 25% of those surveyed will be south of KCI, 75% north of KCI, which mirrors the population spread in our district,” Superintendent Mike Reik said last week when I called to ask him about it.

Sounds like R-3 patrons can expect a tax-increase lease purchase proposal to be on the ballot in the spring. The district does not have the bonding capacity available to ask for a bond issue, so its vehicle of finance for its next building project will be lease-purchase, Reik said. The vote for a bond issue would require 57% majority approval. On the other hand, a lease purchase proposal with a tax increase will only require simple majority.
More on the survey results when information becomes available.

******

You’ll find details in a story elsewhere in this issue about Platte County’s newest Taj Mahal--also known as the West Platte Fire Station, hosting an open house this Sunday. This tax-funded large and impressive brick castle (perhaps with solid gold fire poles and gold-plated toilets?) is impossible to miss as you make a leisurely drive along Hwy. 45 in Weston. It will be open for tours on Sunday. Please wipe your feet before entering.

******

On Monday night, the screen on my cell phone lit up showing I’d just received an incoming text message from a long lost former Platte Countian who is now a North Carolina resident. My ol’ buddy Shaker Pepper had fired a missive, which always creates immediate curiosity. The emotions in a text from Shake can be anything from sad (like the June day he texted word that his dad Ed had passed away) to hilarious (like the late night texts sent during March Madness, when a perhaps favorite-beverage-induced state of mind had him waxing emotionally about our distant yet tight friendship over 29 years while we were cracking wise about the basketball games playing out on our televisions half a country apart).

Before this starts to sound like a love story, let me get on with it. I popped open the text message to read this note from Shaker: “What u think about Hank, Jr.” I had no idea where this was headed, as I had been encamped at my desk up to my ears in Platte County news and up to this point was unaware of singer Hank Williams, Jr.’s comments on Fox News earlier that day (which by the way are the topic of Chris Stigall’s column on page A-3.) So Shaker emailed me a link with video of Hank’s appearance. Why media folks constantly feel the need to be asking celebrities their political thoughts is beyond me. What also struck me is how Hank, Jr. (whose music sucks, by the way) seemed to be uh, well, the interview was very early in the day so surely he was sober, right?

Despite a very awkward and uncomfortable choice of words and delivery style, a decent point or two did Hank make. Shaker agreed. “He has some real points here. And I don’t care if he was totally impaired in this interview or not,” Shaker texted, and then added the classic line: “He was screwed up but making sense. Kind of like me at the Platte County Fair.”

******

After years of covering a game every Friday night for this fine newspaper throughout the 1980s and then into much of the 1990s, I admit I eventually became burned out on high school football. Burned out at least as far as attending more than one or two games a season. My one high school football game this year will come Friday night when the Maryville Spoofhounds travel to Savannah to play the Savannah Savages in a game pairing two heated northwest Missouri rivals. Why am I picking this as my ‘make a public appearance’ high school game of the year? Personal connections, really. Todd Shifflett--a senior at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville and the boyfriend of daughter Alyssa Foley, also a Bearcat senior--coaches wide receivers for the Maryville High School Spoofhounds. And then, of course, there is a Savannah connection with my publishing pal Guy Speckman of the Savannah Reporter. I have ties to Maryville. I have ties to Savannah. That means the game should end in a tie. This just in: It won’t.

Speckman previewed the game this way in his Savannah paper last week: “The game against Maryville stacks up on paper as a game for the ages. Savannah has a strong team and Maryville looks to have reloaded their machine this year. Last year, Savannah made history by beating the Spoofhounds in Maryville and I suspect that has not gone unnoticed or forgotten in Maryville. Throw in the fact that Savannah coach Mark Cole is a former coach for Maryville’s head coach Chris Holt and you can feel the pressure building. You can expect the boys in green to show up with a chip on their shoulder. Combine that with the homecoming activities in Savannah, featuring the best parade in Missouri, and you have a collision of epic proportion.”

******

Hope you’ll come see your Landmark staff in action as the publisher speaks and the staff harasses him at the meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club this Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Zona Rosa. We’ll talk politics and current events while insulting one another.

(If you can’t catch the publisher cracking wise--and unwise--at the Platte County Pachyderm Club, follow along at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


ATTORNEYS NOT HAPPY; GENERAL FUND MONEY; COME MEET LANDMARKERS

Posted 9/29/11

City of Parkville is looking for a new city attorney, and Mayor Gerry Richardson and other city leaders have made it clear that they want to go big-time. And by big-time, I mean they are saying they want a large--I mean a really large--law firm. You know, not one of those one-or two- attorney law firms that, you know, have done this type of thing for years in Platte County and are quite capable of doing the job at a reasonable price.

Let’s just say Parkville’s insistence to look at the huge out-of-county firms isn’t being absorbed so well by some lawyers in Platte County. Scott Campbell of Platte City--no relation to current Parkville city attorney Jack Campbell--is one of those not happy about it. Campbell’s firm, Cady and Campbell, did not apply for the job at Parkville, so he isn’t being shy about speaking out on this topic. At least he wasn’t that way Monday. Maybe Campbell, very active in the Platte County Bar Association, was caught at a weak moment. The normally reserved “no comment” Campbell unleashed this bombshell quote to me:

“Why does it take a boutique law firm to represent a small community that’s too big for its britches, funding itself on fudge shops and floral boutiques that aren’t open on weekends?” Campbell said.

Ouch.

******

This just now official: There will be no zoo sales tax election in Platte County in November.

Yes, after the Platte County commission declined to place the 1/8 cent sales tax proposal to a vote of the people, you recall correctly that the Friends of the Zoo filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order it placed on the ballot. But apparently the zoo friends didn’t get legal necessities in place to expedite things with the judge because nothing was announced by the end of the day Tuesday, which was the deadline for the matter to make the November ballot. “There is no way it can be on the November ballot now,” Wendy Flanigan, director for the Platte County Board of Elections confirmed to me Wednesday morning. Not even by court order, should the judge side with the zoo folks. A hearing on the matter isn’t scheduled until December, according to court records.

The counties of Clay and Jackson will vote on the tax in November. Platte and Cass counties declined to put the question to voters.

******

As reported last week, Platte County R-3 will be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million from its general fund on a swimming pool partnership with the county at the Platte County Community Center North. To clear up some misinformation floating around, the general fund is the same source of money from which teachers’ salaries are paid. While it’s true there is a Teachers Fund account at R-3, the money that is transferred into that Teachers Fund comes from the general fund. Let’s say it again: General fund money is the source for dollars that go into the fund called Teachers Fund, from which teacher salaries are paid. So to say that the general fund does not fund teacher salaries is an incorrect statement.

I’m not certain who is creating and circulating the misleading information to the contrary, but just know it doesn’t matter. The Landmark will cut through the BS for you.

******

Great times are ahead as The Landmark staffers take to the road for a couple of exciting meet and greet events in the coming week.

First, we’re excited to announce The Landmark is taking part in the effort to raise funds to assist with the clean-up and restoration of the high-water damaged English Landing Park in downtown Parkville. The big-time Parktoberfest celebration on Saturday in the Farmers Market at the end of Main Street in Parkville will feature a booth staffed by your Landmarkers. We’ll be giving away Mizzou football tickets, tickets to the Renaissance Festival, and tickets to the Kansas City Zoo. Come by to say hi and put a face with the names you see on our staff listing, and more importantly put your name in the drawings for this free stuff. We’ll also have sample copies of The Landmark and will be accepting orders for subscriptions from new as well as existing readers. Most importantly, for every subscription sold that day, The Landmark will give 20% of the purchase price to Friends of the Parkville Parks to go toward the work at the park.

The weather forecast looks great. Live music will be part of the fun. Come on out and enjoy a fall Saturday in a relaxed setting, win a prize or two, and help support the English Landing clean-up and restoration effort. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

See you there.

******

Your Landmark-style fun won’t end at Parktoberfest. Our newspaper staff will be back mixing with readers at the Thursday, Oct. 6 meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club. The club has been brave enough to ask me to speak at next Thursday’s monthly gathering, which will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at O’Dowd’s Irish Pub in Zona Rosa.

We’ll have some type of promotional giveaway ready for you at this event as well, so come out for the chance at some free stuff even if the speaker doesn’t excite you.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, a Pachyderm, an elephant, or an ass, this event is open to all. Drinks and appetizers begin at 5:30. Cost--which includes a drink and appetizers--is $12 for members and $15 for non-members. As always, the more you imbibe the better the speaker will be.

I noticed the Pachyderm Club in its press release urges folks to come “hear Foley discuss current issues affecting Platte County.” Um, ok, but let’s not limit ourselves. Between my Tourette’s and my Attention Deficit Disorder, the only thing I guarantee is that we’re going to get off topic. We’ll talk all levels of politics, hit other current events, take some questions from the audience, and then if time allows I’ll do a fork-bending demonstration while playing the spoons.

If that fails, I’ll assemble a wooden ship inside a glass bottle while playing the ukulele.

(With an inseam measurement just the right size for his britches, the publisher is a gadabout who can be found at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


PLATTE COUNTY GETS THE BETTER OF SCHOOL; BOXING GETS THE BETTER OF ITS FANS

Posted 9/23/11

Hope you enjoy another episode of Between the Lines, while looking forward to all those Olympic-class swimmers that will be developed at Platte County R-3 now that the school is putting a cool couple million bucks toward an Olympic-style pool.

******

To be brutally honest, the Platte County Commission clearly out-foxed the Platte County R-3 School District on this “natatorium” project (hey, when you’re spending $5.4 million on a swimming pool, you’ve got to call it something besides a swimming pool to help justify the expense, right?).

Think about it. Thanks to the renewal of a bloated half cent sales tax for parks--and really, can anyone now dispute that the half cent should have been cut down to a quarter cent or even eighth cent tax--the county has more money than it can possibly spend on meaningful parks and recreation projects over the next 10 years. This is evident by the simple fact the county’s 10 year plan for parks and recreation included things such as mountain bike trails, kayak trails, and horse trails. I often refer to these things in a comical way, but let’s be clear--what makes it comical is that mountain bike trails, kayak trails, and horse trails were actually all listed in the county’s 10-year plan to spend that $82 million park tax.

Humor is often found in reality. The reality is these crazy things were actually listed in the written plan as potential future park projects by the county. No one is making this up.

Now, the county has caught so much grief for listing such ridiculous items as park goals my guess is you’ll never see any of those things happen Well, maybe mountain bike trails, since some higher ups at the county like to pedal two-wheelers. But I seriously doubt you’ll ever see the county spend park tax money on kayak trails and horse trails, so we got that going for us. Selfishly, I can’t lose either way, because if they do I’ll have enough column fodder to last a lifetime.

But I digress.

The point here is that the county has $82 million projected to come in over the next 10 years for parks. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the county parks tax could have afforded to build an 8-lane Olympic-style pool at the Platte County Community Center North without a nickel’s worth of help from R-3. This is an oversimplification obviously, but $82 million minus the $5 million for a fancy swimming pool only leaves Platte County with roughly $77 million to whiz away on over-the-top fun stuff over the next 10 years.

But the county commissioners somehow convinced the school district that in order to be able to build this $5.4 million luxury, they’d need oh, about 30% or $2 million out of R-3 taxpayers. The majority of the school board, because fulfilling everybody’s wish list is what school boards like to do, thought that sounded like a great deal.

Fleeced. And fleeced just ahead of the likelihood of presenting R-3 taxpayers with a tax increase proposal in the spring.

It’s no wonder county commissioners speak in glowing terms about this partnership. On the other side of the coin, the fact that even the son of one of the veteran R-3 school board members who voted in favor of the pool expenditure has made public comments criticizing the school for the move should tell us all we need to know.

Government spending leads to more government spending. The cycle never ends.

*******

Here’s your Between the Lines definition of a progressive. Progressives are important-feeling folks who like to spend other people’s money on extravagant projects and then put their names on a plaque to praise themselves for doing so.

The end.

******

With apologies to Elton John and his unforgettable lyrics to Norma Jean, it’s time the public bid farewell to the political career of Platte City Alderman Charles Cook. Cookie, as he is fondly known to many, finally resigned last week, more than a year after a woman says he grabbed himself below the waist and took political transparency to a whole new level.

Goodbye, Charles Cook. You lived your (political) life like a candle in the wind.

******

I’m not sure who the speaker is going to be at the next meeting of the Platte County Pachyderm Club, but I’ve heard the night is going to be epic.

******

If you are one of the poor souls who paid $70 or more for the pay-per-view fight between Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz on Satuday night let’s hope you learned your lesson.

Big-time professional boxing has become soap opera for guys. Nothing more. This (stuff) ain’t real.

Like many of you, thanks to the beauty of the internet I was able to watch the controversial final round via what appeared to be video shot with someone’s cell phone. Talk about scripted. I mean, what better way to enhance the likelihood of a rematch--which would mean millions more dollars for the boxers, for the promoters, for the TV folks, etc.--than to have a controversial ‘the ref ain’t looking’ ending where evil boxer pops nice guy boxer upside the head after nice guy boxer tries for the third time to do some kind of strange-loving man hug on evil boxer, an embrace more fitting for a Promise Keepers convention than a boxing match.

If male soap operas are what you want, keep buying those pay-per-view boxing matches. Just don’t fall for the trap that what you’re seeing is pure athletic competition. What you’re seeing is a skirmish break out during the filming of an episode of The Young and the Restless.

(There’s never a pay-per-view charge to be informed and entertained at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


WHILE HINTING AT TAX HIKE, R-3 READY TO INVEST IN SWIM POOL

Posted 9/15/11

Let me just say Hearne Christopher has outdone himself this week with his newest KC Confidential column that you can find each issue (well, when Hearne remembers to email it to me) on page A-4.

Fascinating topics by the always-in-the-know Hearne this week.

******

Kudos to Landmark photojournalist Bill Hankins, already a member of the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame, on his induction into the Oak Park High School Hall of Fame last week. Hankins taught journalism at Oak Park for many years and has former students scattered throughout the world of journalism in these United States of America.

Bill becomes the second Landmarker to be installed into the Oak Park Hall of Fame. Our “Straight from Stigall” columnist on page A-3--conservative talk radio superstar Chris Stigall--is an Oak Park grad who was inducted into the Oak Park Hall of Fame a year or two ago.

Speaking of Stigall, as you know he is working his morning radio show craft in the major market of Philadelphia these days. A recent media report out of Philly indicates Stigall and his show are adapting quite well. Read this report online at http://tinyurl.com/3jty8kr

******

So what is Jason Metten, the recently departed city administrator of Platte City, up to these days? I wondered the same thing. So I buzzed his cell phone this week.

“Talk to me again in about 30 days, things might be a lot more interesting,” Metten told me.

Right now, his limited liability corporation owns a restaurant in Chillicothe, about 100 miles from here. It’s called The Catfish Place, located in an 8,000 sq. ft. structure with a large basement and a large garage at 1030 East Birch in Chillicothe. “Everybody on my mom’s side of the family has been forced into the antiquing business, basically to store a house full of (old stuff). I’ve told myself I’m not going into the antiquing business, so the restaurant building serves as a future location to store my mom’s stuff someday. In the meantime, I’m paying the rent with the restaurant,” Metten said. “It’s a catfish buffet. There’s a general manager. I’m completely hands-off.”

He says he is also staying busy “helping my folks in Des Moines and doing contract work here or there.” Metten dropped hints of hoping to eventually have some business interests much closer to his Platte City home. Stay tuned.

******

You’ll find the list of awards your Landmark won in the Missouri Press Foundation’s annual Better Newspaper Contest in a news story inside this issue. Judges from the Virginia Press Association picked the winners this year. We’re most proud of the general excellence award, as it values the overall quality of the news, editorial, and advertising content of each newspaper.

Also, the prize awarded for the editorial pages that serve as the bread and butter of what we do is another proud honor. Perennial winner Bill Hankins earned several awards in his categories, and I’m extremely proud and happy for our outstanding cartoonist, Matthew Silber, for bringing home the gold in the category of editorial cartoons.

A huge thank you to our readers and advertisers for your continued support of The Landmark in helping make this newspaper the widely recognized industry leader in the now far-reaching world of local journalism.

Agree or disagree with the editorial positions espoused here, we’re always grateful you care so much about what goes into one of the oldest continuously published newspapers west of the Mississippi.

******

As you know, thanks to every consumer who pays sales taxes in the county, Platte County has an overabundance of parks and recreation funding and is constantly looking for ways to spend your money on stuff that could be classified as “wants” as opposed to “needs.”

One of the newest ideas in place to get rid of all that park and rec cash? A $5.3 million natatorium (that’s a fancy word for an indoor swimming pool) at the Platte County Community Center North in Platte City.

Well, they say $5.3 million. At an estimated price tag of $5,360,000, it’s actually closer to $5.4 million, but when you get above $5 million, what’s another $40,000 to $100,000 among friends, right?

The idea is to build an eight-lane 25-yard competitive swimming pool. It will have “a diving component,” seating for spectators, team locker rooms and parking areas, etc.
Platte County R-3 School District is also wanting to get in on this fun way to spend. The school, in documents prepared in advance of the R-3 board of education meeting set for Thursday night, is prepared to pay $1.4 million (it’s actually $1.358 million, but I went and ahead and properly rounded up this time to tick off the bureaucrats) toward the project. Those numbers do not include financing and interest costs. It looks like annual payments for as long as 20 years could be made by my quick review of the documents.

In addition to the $1.4 million, the school--assuming this is approved, and let’s be real, documents likely would not have already been prepared unless all involved are confident of approval by the board--will make a $25,000 annual “operational user fee” payment to help “offset the county’s or the county’s operational partner’s maintenance and operational costs for the Natatorium,” according to the proposed cooperative agreement I’ve had a chance to view.

Some folks connected with the school have long hinted at a desire for something like this--as far back as the timeframe when the district was spending money to install fake grass on its football field--so none of us can claim to be shocked by this development. The expense itself and the timing of the expenditure can both rightfully be questioned, especially considering Platte County R-3 is hinting that it will be asking for a tax increase in conjunction with its next bond issue, expected to be on the ballot in the spring.

I made this comment at the time the excessive half cent, $82 million park and rec tax was being pushed by the libs in 2009 and I’ll say it again: Government spending begets more government spending. That’s what we’re seeing here.

(What you can see 24/7 is the best, fastest, and most complete local news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


WITH THIS KIND OF ENTERTAINMENT, WHO NEEDS TO GO TO THE ZOO?

Posted 9/10/11

As you’ll see in our front page story, this Kansas City zoological district sales tax issue--apparently now headed for the courtroom--is getting entertaining. I’ve seen monkey poop fights better organized than this.

Much of the story right now seems to be in a state of acid reflux, but here’s what we can tell you so far.

*Some legislation passed by the state in 2010 authorizes the creation of a Kansas City Zoological District. Some folks, most notably the group known as Friends of the Zoo, are now asking for a 1/8 cent sales tax to be passed by voters in Jackson, Clay, Cass and Platte Counties to help fund “zoological activities.” Truth be known, here at Between the Lines headquarters we’re getting a lot of zoological activity just by watching the politics involved.

*Jackson and Clay Counties have agreed to put the proposed sales tax on the ballot in November. Cass County and Platte County commissioners have declined the chance to do so, indicating they have no intention of monkeying around with such a proposal. “I’ll jealously defend Cass County’s budget before I’ll give money to a bunch of chimpanzees,” Brian Baker, one of Cass County’s commissioners, told the Democrat Missourian newspaper last week.

I don’t know Brian Baker. But I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

*This zoo tax is so silly it even has some of the not-so-conservative types hopping away from it like frightened kangaroos. For instance, a lot of us never thought we’d see the day where Kathy Dusenbery, a self-proclaimed progressive, declined the chance to support a feel-good tax like this, but here we are. Either Kathy is desperately trying to win friends with the fiscally conservative faction of the Republican party or a friend pulled her aside and used a flow chart and picture drawings to explain the current political climate to her.

*Let’s just be thankful Jason Brown, a true fiscal conservative, is presiding commissioner right now. If a less conservative type were leading the commission, something tells me at least one of the associate commissioners would have been swayed to suddenly become a “let’s do it for the children and all the animals’ children” Friend of the Zoo. After all, remember just two summers ago both associate commissioners were unabashed supporters of an $82 million bloated and extremely excessive tax--in an off-year high cost special election--for fun stuff like horse trails, butterflies and double rainbows as the economy was headed south.

******

That’s all the animalistic talk I can handle for one edition. We’ll likely have more zoo tax coverage next week. I’m putting former-paralegal-turned-Landmark-court-reporter Valerie Verkamp on top of the lawyerly aspects of the battle.

This will allow me to relax more comfortably and have fun with it from here in my cage filled with peanuts.

******

Here’s a shout of praise to the city leaders at Parkville for finally coming to their senses and realizing it’s time to remove the three-month-dry barrier of protection from the non-flood that threatened its Main Street. Kudos to Mayor Gerry Richardson. After a somewhat naive comment from new alderman Chris Fisher, who didn’t want the sandbags removed until the Corps of Engineers gave its blessing, Richardson last Wednesday said what should have been realized and stated long ago: The Corps of Engineers was never going to tell the city it’s okay to issue an “it’s all clear” announcement.

******

You gotta admit it’s been an interesting past few months from a prosecutorial standpoint around these parts. For instance, turn to the front page to read Platte County Sheriff Richard Anderson’s details of the results of that personnel investigation of his former captain Steve Johnson and then explain to me how some kind of criminal charges were not filed by the special prosecutor. Most of us can recite cases where crimes were charged with less evidence of funny stuff.

Add this to the recent crash where one fire truck turned in front of another fire truck, sending five people to the hospital--two for an extended stay--and causing half a million dollars in damage to public property with not so much as a traffic citation issued.

Then on the flip side of the prosecutorial soft approach was a perhaps too aggressive manner recently used when the county prosecutor’s office delivered a ‘you’re the subject of a criminal investigation’ letter to a frustrated Parkville businessman who was wanting sandbags moved to allow potential customers better access to his business properties. I’m not at all saying the businessman was in the right if he in fact started to remove a portion of the sand wall. But a subtle phone call from the prosecutor would have had the same positive effect on the situation without trying to publicly embarrass a businessman whose only interest was in protecting his livelihood after it became obvious to anyone with common sense that the Corps of Engineers was never going to tell the city it’s okay to stop acting like it's Armageddon.

It indeed has been an interesting summer.

*******

The long hot summer is over, and we know this because the NFL season kicks off this weekend. You’ll see our Pigskin Picks feature is back, making its season debut in this issue.

The NFL actually gets rolling with one game Thursday night. The league has created a tradition of a mini Super Bowl type atmosphere for its Thursday night season opener. Big-name musical acts are invited to the opener, some performing outside the stadium, some inside.

This year’s Thursday night opener is New Orleans at Green Bay. Among the bands invited to perform at Lambeau Field is Maroon 5. Obviously the NFL believes nothing says “now get out there and kick some ass” quite like the mellow tunes of Maroon 5.

(Catch the mellow tunes of the publisher 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


NOTES, QUOTES AND UNPAID ENDORSEMENTS

Posted 9/2/11

It appears local conservatives--and even the Republicans who pretend to be conservatives--are already fired up about the 2012 election season.

Last week’s Reagan Ranch Day event in Platte County (see back page of this section for more information) drew a tremendous crowd of 650 people.

Enthusiasm and turnout should not be a problem for the fiscally conservative crowd when Election Day arrives in 2012. As was the case in 2010, the prediction here is it will not be a good time to be on the local ballot as a Democrat or a RINO.

******

As reported here a few weeks back, Republican Rob Willard has already announced his intention to be a candidate for Platte County treasurer. Potential candidates for other positions are hitting the rumor mill, and we’re taking names here at Between the Lines headquarters. It won’t be long before some of the folks whose names are making the rounds will be getting a phone call to measure the level of validity to the rumors of their potential candidacy.

Platte County positions up for grabs in 2012 include sheriff, first district commissioner, second district commissioner, treasurer, assessor, and public administrator.

******

Steve Johnson, former captain of the road patrol division of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, will escape the filing of any criminal charges over his work with a collision and tow service that performed work on the sheriff’s fleet of vehicles overseen by Johnson. While the special prosecutor says no criminal charges will be filed, Johnson’s work with the tow company--which at the time of his suspension was described by leadership within the department as an ‘inappropriate business relationship’--may ‘give rise to the appearance of impropriety and may have merited internal discipline,’ the special prosecutor acknowledged.

It’s a break for Johnson, who could use one at this point. Johnson’s friends haven’t been shy about telling the media that Johnson is battling a very serious illness. His wife, Lynn Johnson, fire chief (correction, now more accurately being described by her employer as the ‘administrative’ fire chief) at West Platte Fire Department, has also had a summer under the gun due to criticism of her department’s action at a fatal fire on July 4.

This week’s announcement by the special prosecutor in Steve Johnson’s personnel probe no doubt came as a welcome relief at the Johnson residence.

******

I have four, count ‘em four, tickets to the Mizzou football home opener this Saturday against Miami of Ohio. The seats are in Section S, row four, count ‘em four, seats 1-4, count ‘em four.

My Labor Day weekend plans revolve around two kids coming home from college and a 9-month-old grandson coming in from Whiteman Air Force Base to be wrestled with by his young granddaddy, so I won’t be using these MU tickets.

If you’re a Mizzou fan and are interested in talking turkey on these puppies, contact me ASAP.

******

We would be crushing them in this spot had they decided otherwise, so to be fair it’s time to praise the boards of education at both Park Hill and Platte County R-3 for their decisions to keep their district tax levies the same as last year.

It made a lot of us a little nervous when both districts announced pay increases for employees recently. The fear was that the attitude would lead to a tax levy hike. At least the levies will remain level.

It’s not cause for a major celebration, but it is worthy of an atta boy and atta girl to those who made the decision.

******

Many of you--and this columnist as well--were a little taken aback by the cost per square foot price of the renovation going on at the Platte County Prosecutor’s office in the courthouse. The total price tag is $427,000 for the renovation of 3,710 square feet, which breaks down to a per square foot cost of $115.

It should be pointed out the cost does include items such as new heating and cooling equipment and renovating the bathrooms to the point of making them ADA compliant. Glen Rogers Construction of Lee’s Summit, the lowest of seven bidders by about $16,000, was awarded the contract. The initial contract was for $407,306, but a change order has already increased the cost by $20,000.

Other bidders in addition to Glen Rogers, from lowest to highest, were Yarco Construction, Bruner Construction, Julius Kaaz Construction, Excel Construction, Heartland Construction, and AB Bradley Construction.

One supporter of the prosecutor’s renovation is noted local defense attorney Scott Campbell, a frequently-mentioned-in-this-column-space connection in the legal field and by his occupation a frequent visitor to the third floor offices of the top law dogs in the county.

“While I’m generally against capital expenditures while the economy is failing, the prosecutor’s office certainly deserves to be renovated,” Campbell told me this week.

******

Unpaid endorsement alert: Have a vehicle with yellowed, oxidized headlight lens covers? My kids did. I ordered that Fast Brite Lens Restore polish from one of those As Seen on TV commercials. I did this on a whim while half asleep in the recliner and was skeptical, but this stuff worked like a charm on the kids’ older vehicles. It makes an amazing difference in the amount of light now illuminating the road ahead. Give it a shot.

(Give news, commentary and fun a shot 24 hours a day/seven days a week by following Between the Lines-style information at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)

 

 


IF THE PROSECUTION NEEDS TO COME FROM OUTSIDE, SHOULDN'T THE INVESTIGATION?

Posted 8/26/11

Random thoughts: If it’s appropriate for an outside prosecutor to be brought in to determine whether charges are filed against a former sheriff’s department captain (and I agree that’s an appropriate move), why wasn’t an outside prosecutor brought in to determine whether citations/charges should be issued in the crash of two Central Platte Fire Department trucks?

If all our public protection agencies work closely together (and I agree they do), shouldn’t we always have outside agencies brought in to make impartial judgments on these types of situations?

And along those same lines, if we need an outside prosecutor to study whether charges are filed as the result of a personnel probe in the sheriff’s department, shouldn’t an outside agency such as the Missouri State Highway Patrol have been brought in to conduct that investigation? I realize the sheriff says Cass County helped with the probe, but sheriff’s folks also have acknowledged the Platte and Cass County departments enjoy a friendly working relationship. Wouldn’t a state-run investigation have given the appearance of a completely impartial probe, more so than one conducted primarily by the sheriff’s department itself?

And if the sheriff’s department and the volunteer heroes on local fire departments work closely together at scenes of public protection--which we know they do--shouldn’t the Highway Patrol have also been brought in to conduct the investigation into the crash of two Central Platte Fire Department trucks instead of the sheriff’s department?

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

The specific observation being made here is that there seems to be a lack of consistency into how these situations are being handled. Public confidence in the outcomes of these situations would grow if that approach were cleaned up.

******

An investigation is underway to determine if the television in The Landmark office can get any channel other than Fox News. Developing.

******

As drama queens go, there can be none bigger than Megyn Kelly on Fox News. Not sure I’d wanna be a member of a trapped audience in the Megyn Kelly household during dinner-time discussions. Her daily program from noon to 2 p.m. has more over-the-top dramatic influx than any news show on the tube.

I will concede the point, however, that she is attractive.

******

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor the city of Parkville has ordered a three month evacuation of its downtown due to the earthquake on the East Coast.

******

Parkville may, however, examine the possibility of acquiring an earthquake-proof portadam for the bottom of Main Street. Bid specs would require that the portadam not only be immune to quakes, aftershocks, and temper tantrums, but also be able to survive three months of not being touched by water. Developing.

******

Here’s the inside skinny on the employment contract for Pam Windsor, who has been brought in to serve as Platte City’s interim city administrator while the search for a permanent replacement is conducted.

Windsor will work five days per week and will be compensated $6,333 per month. She will also be reimbursed for personal automobile use while on duty at the rate of 55 cents per mile. Windsor’s initial contract calls for her to work through Dec. 2, though at that time the city has the option to extend her employment for an additional four weeks, which would run through Dec. 31.

The city will not be providing any employment benefits such as paid vacation, paid sick leave, retirement, health insurance, etc.

Either party may terminate the agreement with two weeks written notice to the other. The city, of course, could terminate employment without notice and without payment if the employee fails to comply with provisions of the employment agreement.

******

You’ll read elsewhere in this issue that the Platte County Commission will be holding its twice-monthly administrative sessions at the Platte County Resource Center after giving up its second floor meeting room at the Administration Building in Platte City to the prosecutor’s office from now through the end of the year. The reason? The prosecutor’s third floor offices in the county courthouse are being renovated.

According to Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, the cost of the renovation of the prosecutor’s offices, covering 3,710 square feet, will be $427,000. If my math is correct, that equals a cost of about $115 per square foot. Glen Rogers Construction of Lee’s Summit has been awarded the contract to perform the work.

Of that $427,000 total, roughly $200,000 will be paid for using fees collected by the prosecutor’s office in its work on cases involving bad checks and folks’ failure to pay state income taxes. The remaining cost of the renovations, roughly another $200,000, will come from the county’s general fund.

“I think it’s good to use money taken from people who violate the law in place of tax money whenever possible,” Zahnd said when I asked him about the renovation work this week.

Among other things, work will include turning some unfinished space in the old law library and turning it into usable space. The bathrooms will be made ADA compliant, new heating and cooling systems will be installed, sound control of the walls and other privacy features will be enhanced to improve confidentiality of discussion of sensitive matters. A conference room is being added. The third floor is the final portion of the courthouse to be renovated, county officials say.

(Renovate your life by following Between the Lines at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


SHERIFF HAS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IN PUBLIC RELATIONS

Posted 8/19/11

Is it just me or does it seem like the month of August always lasts about six weeks?

Can we get to fall and some football soon, please?

******

You may not like the way your 401(k) looks right now after the recent plunge, but let’s have a mini celebration for the drop in prices at the gas pump. I found gas for $3.19 a gallon on Monday--still inflated but much better than the outrageousness we’ve been dealing with in recent months. A recent report by the AP said that analysts regard high gas prices as one of the biggest drags on the economy. No kidding. That would be because it cuts deeply into the amount of disposable green folks find inside their wallets.

******

When the dust settles from the recent turmoil in regard to a personnel investigation about certain alleged policy violations--and perhaps a lack of policies in certain important areas--this much seems clear among yours truly and many fellow members of the media: The sheriff really needs to take steps to improve his department’s communication efforts with the public. I’m sure the sheriff realizes that open and forthright communication with the media is an important aspect of the job of his department, he just hasn’t made it a priority. The media is his best liaison to the people who are paying his salary and funding his department.

The public doesn’t just want to know what the heck is going on in the county’s largest law enforcement agency, it has the right to know. Providing little information, vague information, or being slower than necessary to respond to requests for basic information at a time when a personnel investigation--a probe that may or may not have a criminal element to it--is not the best way to win public trust.

The media can be an elected official’s best friend or worst enemy. Most often, the direction that relationship heads is determined entirely by the officeholder’s own actions. Right now, the sheriff’s public relations efforts are frustrating to some in the media--and therefore to the public.

******

The folks at FEMA are in Platte County. Two reps from that governmental institution dropped in The Landmark office Tuesday, asking for help in getting the word out that they are in the area and wanting to assist anyone negatively affected by this summer’s manmade flood (here’s lookin’ at you, Corps of Engineers).

If the disaster has caused damage to your home or vehicle, a loss of wages, or you just want to hassle the FEMA folk, call my newest, bestest friend Pat Whitt of FEMA. She’s in Platte County but the number you can most quickly reach her is an out of area cell at 571-732-6870.

That’s my public service announcement for the week. Who says Between the Lines lacks compassion?

******

Add another well-known “celeb” to the long list of readers of your local Landmark: Scott Pioli, general manager of your Kansas City Chiefs.

Remember that story on the Three Guys in a Garage radio show on Sports Radio 810 WHB that intern Jared Speckman penned for us a couple of weeks ago? It seems the article was read and enjoyed by Pioli.

Jay Binkley, one of the hosts of the There Guys in a Garage show, said on the air Monday night that when the hosts ran into Pioli in the hallway at Arrowhead the other night, Pioli told them he had read the article that appeared in The Landmark.
I know Jared had a great time writing that feature. He joined the boys in studio for their show a time or two while researching the story, and on at least one occasion the Garage Guys put Jared on the air. The intern is now back to his day job of going to school at William Jewell, where he serves as one of the stud linemen on the football squad there.

******

There are so many places I need to be this Saturday that I have no idea where I’ll end up. There’s a Michael Reagan event sponsored by local Republicans; nationwide conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, who was courageous enough to have me as a guest on his program a year ago, is in nearby Adrian, Mo. for a “Take Our Country Back” event; Landmark cartoonist Matthew Silber invited me to a Nullify Now event on the Plaza; Parkville Days will be in full swing; St. Joe has its annual Trails West Festival; and a friend of daughter Alyssa will be tying the knot. All of this and more happens on Saturday, Aug. 20.

I’m currently in the process of cloning myself, though I’ve heard if I do that too often I could go blind.

******

The 2012 county campaign cycle is now underway, thanks to the announcement by Republican Rob Willard that he will seek the office of county treasurer. Willard, a former assistant prosecutor under Eric Zahnd, says he will file for the position currently held by Democrat Bonnie Brown.

Brown says she will be retiring at the end of her term next year, after 12 years in the treasurer’s office. Brown told me last week she has been telling friends and employees of her plan to retire “for a while now.” When I let her know word of her plan had not yet reached the ears of your Between the Lines columnist, she said: “I guess we don’t run in the same circles.”

Truer words may have never been spoken.

Brown says that while neither of her assistants are interested in seeking the post, she has been trying to recruit a candidate. “I’ve been trying to talk to banker friends to let them know I’m not running,” she said Friday.

Other county positions up for grabs next year in addition to treasurer will be the two associate commissioner spots, the assessor, sheriff, and public administrator.

(Run in the publisher’s circle on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and search him on Facebook)


AT MINIMUM, ASSESSOR GUILTY OF A LIBERAL WAY OF THINKING

Posted 8/14/11

So what about the county assessor situation, as reported in The Landmark last week? You’ll recall David Christian, new assessor who replaced Lisa Pope in May following her cancer-related death in March, finds himself in a bit of hot water after handing out payroll “bonuses” to employees in the office. Bob Shaw, county counselor, provided a legal opinion to the county commission that the bonuses were illegal. Christian later used his personal money to refund the county coffers $11,000. Still, the matter was passed on to the prosecutor to review. Prosecutor Eric Zahnd’s office will determine whether criminal charges are deemed necessary. In a phone conversation Monday, Zahnd told me he has not established a timeline for a decision.

Jason Brown, presiding county commissioner, says he advised Christian, whom he has known for several years, against giving the bonuses. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Brown, who to his credit has been all over this situation from the start, said again this week. “Legal or not, I just don’t think taxpayers will agree with the idea of giving bonuses to the very people who are out there assessing property and (potentially) raising their taxes in the process (through placing a higher assessed value on that property),” Brown said this week.

Whether Christian deserves to be charged with a crime can be debated, but what is clear is that he made a political policy blunder that will likely cost him any chance of winning an election. Who knows, maybe he had no intention of running anyway.

His thought-process for giving the money away to employees is an example of the bigger epidemic going on in our taxing entities across this country. Instead of letting taxpayers pocket the savings that occurred while an officeholder was not being paid, Christian saw that as money that normally would have been spent. In his mind, that justified giving the money away to a staff that had long been trained to handle duties in the assessor’s absence anyway.

It’s a typical free-spending approach used by tax-supported agencies almost everywhere. The “if we budgeted it, let’s go ahead and spend it” approach really needs to end.

******

Reports out of Joe Town--wait, does anyone other than a few longtime St. Joseph residents still refer to the city as Joe Town?--indicate attendance at Chiefs training camp is down noticeably this year. Theories for this vary depending upon whose viewpoint you’re listening to, and our sports sound bite columnist Greg Hall has an excellent piece on this in his Off the Couch reports at plattecountylandmark.com.

Number one reason, at least in my way of thinking, has been the oppressive heat. It’s been an absolutely brutal summer in that department. There aren’t many folks who are bigger NFL fans than this guy, but the older I get the less capably I’m tolerating extremely hot and humid conditions. Heck with it. I’d rather get my Chiefs training camp updates from guys like Hall and other media folks on Twitter than go have sweat soaking through my clothes for two hours.

It is ironic that in the two years the Chiefs have been in nearby St. Joseph I have yet to attend a practice, yet when they held camp in River Falls, Wisc. there were almost annual road trips made to that destination. It became a traditional late summer weekend getaway.

Maybe that’s the deal. Maybe St. Joe is actually too close for a lot of Chiefs fans, many of whom would prefer to turn a trip to training camp into a more methodical getaway rather than “a let’s see if we can find time after work to jump in the car and head to St. Joe” kind of experience.

At any rate, the Chiefs’ first pre-season game is Friday night, which means Friday is officially the day sports fans in this area quit paying attention to the Royals. As if they hadn’t already.

******

A couple of weeks ago, Jason Metten, city administrator for Platte City the past three years, announced he will be leaving the position at the end of this month to seek a job in the private sector.

Metten will be missed. He has a lot of positive skills, but the thing I’ll remember most about Metten is that he brought a polite, friendly, more open atmosphere to the office of city administrator. That approach was desperately needed in a community that had grown weary of quite the opposite approach from Metten’s predecessor. It wouldn’t be a stretch to also credit Metten’s demeanor for helping to further fine-tune the commendable PR skills of the mayor, who has taken on a more “man of the people” style during his current reign. It seems excellent communication skills are often contagious.

Best of luck to Metten in whatever field he decides to pursue.

******

Your Between the Lines law enforcement update for the week: Captain Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department says the personnel investigation into the situation surrounding the suspension and eventual retirement of veteran road patrol Cpt. Steve Johnson could be wrapped up within “a week or two.” But, he stressed, “there is no firm timeline because a lot of factors can come into play in an investigation.”
Expect more thoughts on that situation here when solid info from the probe is made available.

Speaking in general terms and not necessarily specifically to the Johnson situation, my initial thought at this point is to give credit to Sheriff Dick Anderson for seemingly holding his guys to an admirable standard of avoiding the appearance of potential conflicts and avoiding any business transactions that might not have a clean aroma. Longtime readers of this column space know I haven’t always agreed with the sheriff on some of his budgeting desires and have concerns about the ability of the media to extract public information from incident reports in a timely manner, but it can’t be argued that Anderson has created a sense of professionalism in the department since he arrived on the job after the 1996 election. At least from the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to be a “good ol’ boys” system in place.

(This has been your weekly Between the Lines session. Follow daily news and commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


MEMBERS OF ELECTED BODY TEXTING ONE OTHER AT MEETINGS: COOL OR NOT COOL?

Posted 8/6/11

Hey, please remind me never to serve as a volunteer for one of those “here’s how a police dog catches the bad guys” demonstrations.

******

Ever had this happen to you?

Pulled into one of those quick oil change places the other day. A guy roughly my height, maybe an inch or two taller than I am, comes out to meet me, asks if I want the full service oil change. Then, of course, he gets in my car and drives it no more than 30 feet into the work bay.

After the oil change is complete, I get in the car to drive away and discover the driver’s side electronic seat control has been adjusted to the point it was better suited for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Damn near fell backwards when I sat down in the thing.
Not sure but I think even the rear view and electric side view mirror angles had been changed.

I realize even the fellas workin’ at the oil change joint deserve decent working conditions, but was all this really necessary to drive my car about 10 yards into the work bay?

Kinda took all the convenience out of that convenient oil change on the way to work.

******

Slow economy? What slow economy? Many of the folks running your taxing entities don’t believe it’s a reality.

What is it with government agencies continuing to give salary increases to their employees while the private sector and typical hard-working families--who can’t mandate their revenue supply through that process known as taxes--slash expenses and budget their way through a sluggish economy? This is unreal.

The latest culprit is the Platte County R-3 School Board, who last week awarded what amounts to an average 3% raise for administrators and teachers. And support staff at R-3? They’ll get a 5% raise.

Slow economy? Your tax-supported entities apparently feel immune to it. They continue to reach inside your wallet.

The Platte County Republican Central Committee publicly chastised the Park Hill School Board for awarding pay increases to employees. Will the local GOP take a public stance on R-3’s decision?

******

A patron of the North Platte School District approached The Landmark recently with concerns that members of the school board there appeared to be texting among themselves during the course of a recent board meeting during discussion of certain topics.

Of course there is no hard evidence that this is happening. If it is happening, is it illegal?
Recently, I put the question to Jean Maneke, Sunshine Law specialist for the Missouri Press Association. There is no easy answer.

“The question is, are they having conversations with more than a quorum? Are these messages going within a quorum of them? If so, then that becomes public information. If they are texting each other one at a time, if one person texted enough people to constitute a quorum, it could constitute (as an improper meeting) under the wagon wheel theory,” Maneke said, just thinking out loud during the course of our phone conversation.

It’s a tough situation. Legal or illegal, it should not be seen as acceptable for members of any public body to be holding private discussions in that manner, especially during the course of a meeting where decisions are supposedly being made in a very public way.

“It’s another example of how public body officials are looking for a way to get around the law,” Maneke said.

There’s an easy way for everybody to avoid potential legal discussions on this issue. Is it too much for the public to ask that its elected officials simply not engage in private communications among themselves on policy decisions? Save those talks for the public meetings. And those discussions should be spoken, not texted.

They weren’t elected to “talk” amongst themselves.

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Some folks like to say you can’t fight city hall. Most avid Landmark readers know better--many of you have fought city hall or some other government agency at one point or another. That’s one of the reasons you enjoy The Landmark.
Kevin Blacksher of Blacksher Trash Service that serves Parkville is one of the most recent examples that you can fight city hall. He helped rally public opposition to the recent proposal to mandate recycling under some form of “one-hauler” system. He called recently to graciously thank this newspaper for its coverage of that topic in Parkville. The day Blacksher called, city officials in Gladstone were set to discuss a similar proposal, where reportedly some opposition was coming forward in Happy Rock.

“This Parkville thing has reinvented the idea that you can get government to listen to you if you make enough noise,” Blacksher said.

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Really not sure why, but many Between the Lines readers enjoy occasional updates in our series we’ve grown to call Grill Gone Wild. Jason Grill is the former state representative for southern Platte County. He had multiple behavioral incidents that put him in the spotlight while in office. He was edged last November by Ron Schieber.

What’s new with Grill these days? He campaigned long and hard for Mike Burke in this year’s Kansas City mayoral election. Burke lost, and as a result, he had no cushy job at KC City Hall to offer Grill. Also, friends of his say even though Grill is an attorney, he really doesn’t want to be. He has been applying for jobs in the public relations field. But most recently? A split with his girlfriend. The split was her idea, a person close to Grill says. “Some friends thought they would marry. I hoped for his sake they would,” says the Grill friend. Grill’s ex-gal pal has a position in PR/marketing with something called Sporting KC, which I’m told is a team affiliated with something called soccer.

(The end. Well, until next week. In the meantime, follow along at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley)


COULD THE SHIPPERT MURDER INVESTIGATION USE SOME HELP?

Posted 7/31/11

Instead of asking “Is it hot enough for ya?” how about this:

Is anybody else dreading opening that next electric bill?

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Readers are never left hungry after devouring an issue of The Landmark, and this week is no exception. We have a murder, the uncovering of alleged illegal substances at a Platte City business, the resignation of a city administrator, the suspension of a veteran law enforcement officer, pay raises dished out by another tax-supported institution, and so on and so on.

Sadly, one thing we’re not able to report is an arrest in the now two-month old murder investigation into the death of Alissa Shippert, 22, of Platte City. The Casey’s General Store employee was found on the bank of the Platte River inside the Platte Falls Conservation Area on June 1.

As is usually the case, I brought up the investigation in my weekly phone call to Cpt. Erik Holland, the handler of media inquiries for the sheriff’s department. Holland said there is nothing new to report. The longer that’s the case and the more often the public hears that there’s nothing new to report, the frustration and fear that the case will never be solved grows among the community.

That being the case, would it be beneficial if the sheriff’s department asked for assistance from outside agencies? What about calling in the well-known Metro Squad, made up of a team of special investigators from law enforcement agencies throughout the region?

“That was discussed in the beginning of this investigation,” Holland responded when I asked him about the possibility. “In the beginning we were working with a few different agencies and the case at the time didn’t rise to the level of being a Metro Squad case.”

Holland said there are certain factors surrounding a case that must be met before the Metro Squad can be called in. “But I couldn’t tell you what they (those factors) all are.”

He simply said the Shippert investigation “didn’t qualify.”

Fair enough. But if the possibility exists that the local guys can use some help, let’s hope they won’t be shy about asking for it. The victim’s family, friends and the general public deserve that much. If and when this case gets solved, it can’t, won’t and doesn’t matter who gets the credit.

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Hey, there’s great news at the blue desk that serves as Between the Lines headquarters inside the historic walls of The Landmark’s headquarters at 252 Main St. in beautiful downtown Platte City.

The statewide Better Newspaper Contest award winners have been announced. We’re proud to say The Landmark has been notified that it will receive nine--yes, that’s nine--awards this year. That’s nearly twice as many as any other Platte County newspaper. In fact, it’s nearly twice as many as all the other county newspapers combined.

I thought about giving you fake modesty right now but I just can’t.

The Missouri Press Association asks that newspapers not list their specific awards until after the statewide convention in September. Not wanting to shake the fine folks at the MPA, The Landmark will abide by their request. We will tease them, however, by saying The Landmark is a winner in the category recognized as judging the overall excellence of a newspaper. And these Landmark editorial pages you peruse each week are statewide winners in multiple categories. Also, don't be surprised in September if a certain cartoon guy--whose work you know and love--is a winner. Of course it goes without saying that our Missouri Hall of Fame photojournalist will grab some honors.

Pats on the back and cool iced tea from me to the entire staff. We’re proud to produce a newspaper of which our readers can be proud.

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West Platte Fire Protection board of directors is scheduled to meet tonight (Wednesday), with a likely topic being the department’s much-scrutinized response to the fatal fire at Old Geezer’s Mantiques on July 4. A home video shot for the first 12-14 minutes of West Platte’s arrival at the fire, while shop owner George Treese was losing his life inside the structure, has raised some questions about the sense of urgency and plan of attack used by the early arriving firefighters. And when I say sense of urgency, I don’t mean their arrival time. West Platte’s fire chief says her department was on the scene within six minutes of receiving the call, which is commendable. What is not commendable is the lack of urgency shown by the early arriving firefighters once they were on the scene.

The video remains posted on my Facebook page. Scroll down to the July 14 entry.
Ted Wilson of Weston made some excellent points in a public setting last week. Wilson explained that he ran for the fire board in April of 2010 and applied for an open seat on the board in July of 2010. He said his reason for wanting to be on the board was his concern about the staffing of the department. In a letter to the Weston Chronicle, Wilson said: “What needs to be done is a thorough review of board policies and how the fire district is managed performed by an independent entity not associated with West Platte or any other area fire department. Particular attention should be paid to the fact that other area departments are able to attract, train and retain volunteers and West Platte cannot.”

Wilson wrote what I thought was a most excellent point when he said that it would be a terrible mistake for the fire board to “sweep everything under the rug, defend the department’s actions and act like everything is OK. This is what has been done in the past and you see where we are now.”

Bingo.

It’s easy for elected officials--and even easier for some in the media--to pretend that everything is fine. Hopefully the light The Landmark’s coverage has helped shed on this situation, coupled with the common sense approach touted by people like Ted Wilson, will encourage the fire board to take concerns seriously and make positive adjustments.

(Random acts of journalistic justice are performed on a daily basis at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivan.foley. Follow along.)


LESS-THAN-CAREFUL DRIVERS WILL TAKE NOTE OF THIS

Posted 7/22/11

Kim Carnes, the raspy-voiced leggy blonde who was the singer of the smash hit “She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes” 30 years ago as I was graduating high school, turns 66 today.

Say it ain’t so. All these years while I was growing older I thought Kim Carnes was staying the same age.

******

Good news for less-than-careful drivers in Platte County: You can be involved in a head-on crash while driving more than four feet left of center and escape without a criminal charge or traffic ticket of any type.

The precedent has been set.

For good measure, damage in the thousands of dollars to public property and injuries to five people still mean you’re in the clear of a criminal infraction.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of this information, see the front page story about the crash of the two Central Platte fire trucks. One truck was being driving 4’6” left of center at time of impact. No charges, no traffic tickets.

******

Strange. The motoring public has always been under the impression that every driver has a legal responsibility to maintain control of his vehicle at all times.

Apparently under some up-till-now little known traffic law in Platte County, if your vehicle is four and a half feet left of center you are still considered to be in control of your vehicle.

A lot of drivers will be filing away this tidbit of knowledge for future reference.

******

Even if, as some like to claim, this crash occurred on a blind curve (it didn’t, I was at the scene, the crash was beyond the alleged ‘blind curve’), that doesn’t change the facts uncovered by the sheriff department’s crash team, which show Engine 94 to be 4’6” across the center line at the time of impact.

Breaking news: If you’re driving four feet left of center, you’re driving four feet left of center. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a blind curve or a perfect straightaway.

******

Consider this: Vehicles pass one another coming from opposite directions on alleged ‘blind curves’ every day. What would you guess, 99% of them do not crash head-on?

You know why? Because 99% of the time neither driver has his vehicle 4’6” left of center.

******

A former fighter of many fires, now retired, stopped in The Landmark office to view the video of the West Platte Fire District’s response to the blaze in which a downtown Weston businessman perished on July 4. Owner George Treese of Old Geezer’s Mantiques called 911 from inside the structure before succumbing to the fire.

The video can be viewed on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/ivanfoley. As remarked here last week, the video shows West Platte firefighters with no sense of urgency as they arrive on the scene of a fire where they know--or should have known, as the dispatcher’s over-the-air call had advised--a person was inside. A sense of confusion would be a better description of the firefighters’ reaction.

The veteran firefighter watched the video at my desk. About five minutes into the 12 or 14 minute video--after confusion, hesitancy, and problems getting water on the fire were evident--this man’s comment was: “It has been a circus of errors so far.”

Later in the video, after mutual aid from Central Platte’s department has arrived on the scene and the plan of attack takes on a form of effectiveness and competency, the veteran firefighting leader remarked: “West Platte’s guys are doing a good job of staying out of the way.”

West Platte spent many minutes unsuccessfully getting water on the fire, either from the hydrant or from its truck. Even without water, there should have been a rescue effort of a human life attempted.

“At minimum, the first two guys should have attached themselves to one another and got down on their bellies to see how far they could get into the building” in an attempt to locate and rescue the man known to have been inside, this veteran firefighter told me.

If you haven’t watched the video, do so. But be forewarned. It’s uncomfortable to watch the hesitancy and confusion by the early arriving firefighters while knowing that a man inside the building is losing his life.

******

The Humane Society advises that in periods of excessive heat alerts like the one we’re in right now, you should treat your pets the same you would treat yourself.

So that means tonight my dog will sweat his ass of while working in the yard and then he and I will both be sucking down a large Pepsi float while chilling in the living room recliner with the Royals game on TV and the air conditioner running full blast.

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Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong is due at Stanford and Sons Comedy Club in Kansas City Aug. 12 and 13. Local authorities destroyed those thousands of marijuana plants just in time.

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Good seats for the July 30 roast of radio personality Chris Stigall at Tiffany Greens Golf Club are still available. You’re invited to come see if any of us doing the roasting can humble the man in any way, shape or form. Reservations can be made by calling 816-248-4248.

If you don’t make it out to see this in person you’ll have to wait for the full length motion picture. Or the reality TV show, whichever comes first.

(You never have to wait a week for more Between the Lines. Follow the daily commentary at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or befriend Foley on Facebook)


FIRE RESPONSE LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED; STIGALL PRIMED FOR ROAST

Posted 7/14/11

Next year’s Major League All-Star Game is in Kansas City, folks. I’m pumped about it, but I’m just hoping next year’s game is more attention-holding than Tuesday night’s snoozefest from Arizona. A boring contest coupled with some DirecTV outages because of a storm blowing through at the time made it tougher than ever to absorb the smugness that seeps through your television every time Fox broadcaster Joe Buck calls a game.

The Royals’ representative, rookie pitcher Aaron Crow, didn’t even get in the game for a chance to balk in the winning run.

******

On Tuesday, The Landmark was provided a copy of that soon-to-go viral 12-14 minute home video of the Fourth of July fire that claimed the life of George Treese, owner of Old Geezer Mantiques in downtown Weston. To say the response and early actions of West Platte firefighters is disappointing is an understatement. I was embarrassed for those guys and can fully understand why friends and family of Treese may want to be raising some questions about the quality of response.

Let’s review some of the basic facts here. It was around 6 p.m. on the Fourth of July. I heard the fire call come across the police scanner. The dispatcher gave the details, including the fact that a person “may still be inside” the building. Lynn Johnson, West Platte Fire Department chief, boasts that her department arrived on the scene within six minutes and had the fire “knocked down” in 30 minutes.

Okay. Nice that you can quote those numbers, chief. But what about the human life that was being taken during that time? After West Platte firefighters arrived on the scene, the video shows absolutely no sense of urgency on the part of the early arriving firefighters. Were they not aware the call for help had come from inside the building? Weston Police Chief Terry Blanton last week told me the fire call had been made by Treese himself from inside the building. Treese even told dispatchers which door help should come through.

The video shows there’s a lot of standing around by some West Platte firemen, who seemed to be unaware of the seriousness or puzzled by what approach to take. There was trouble getting water to start flowing through the hose. Maybe they were simply convinced--rightly or wrongly--that they should not enter that smoke-filled building to try to find Treese. Or maybe they were scared to do the job they’ve signed up to do.

A former Central Platte firefighter called me this week to say that West Platte’s fire department in the past has been notorious for waiting on Central Platte to show up on a mutual aid call to do the heavy lifting, so to speak. The video, a copy of which is now in The Landmark’s possession and posted on my Facebook page, seems to back up that claim.

Hell, if a call came into Central Platte’s cowboys about a structure fire with a person still in the building, I’d be worried the sense of urgency would be so great they’d crash four trucks on the way. But I would not be worried that any firefighter on Central Platte would hesitate to enter a burning building if at all possible, knowing there was a chance a human life could be saved. West Platte’s guys stood around like they were smoking a brisket and getting ready to crack open a Bud Light.

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You can bet this topic--and a discussion of the video-- will come up later this month at a meeting of the West Platte Fire District board of directors. The Landmark will be there.

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And what about that new West Platte Fire District headquarters building along Hwy. 45? Criminy, have you seen that thing? Looking at the exterior, it is far and away the most luxurious structure in the city of Weston. All brick. Huge. It’s like a government-funded castle. Are the toilets gold-plated in that place?

All I can say is don’t let the Platte County R-3 school administrators see the new West Platte fire building. They’ll be jealous and will want a new Taj Majal of their own.

******

Hot shot radio mega-star Chris Stigall, formerly one of us little people here in the Kansas City market but now a big fish in the big pond of Philadelphia, will come bouncing his way back to our area soon.

As you’ll see on our front page this week, somehow the folks at an outfit called the Missourians For Conservative Values convinced Stigall to allow himself to be roasted at a fundraiser set for July 30 at Tiffany Greens Golf Club. I don’t know anything about the sponsoring Missourians For Conservative Values political action committee, but when I heard proceeds from this no-holds-barred cage match will go to something called the Show Me A Conservative election fund, I could not turn down their invitation to take part as one of the roasters.

Some of the ads for this event say “join us as we roast and toast” Chris Stigall. Listen, I don’t know who’s planning on handling the toasting end of things, but I was specifically asked to be a roaster. I didn’t get the memo about toast. So I’ll be a good soldier and plan to do as I was asked. Something tells me bulldog political strategist Jeff Roe--it’s never a good idea to get crossways with that man--will take a similar approach.

Fatherly figure Jack Cashill may spend his speaking time deconstructing Obama or trying to peddle his book of the same name. I don’t know money man Chris Butler, host of a financial show on KCMO 710 AM, but hope to be able to ask him for some stock tips. Greg Knapp, who took over Stigall’s morning slot at KCMO 710 when Chris left for the big payday, will also be on hand. A lot of Landmark readers have told me they enjoy Knapp’s show. This will be my first visit with the new guy.

Most of the toasting, I’m guessing, will come from the soft-hearted Paige Powers, former news anchor during Stigall’s show and a longtime friend of the former man-of-the-people now man-of-the-hour.

Please join us for a night of fun and friendly barbs. I just hope the room at Tiffany Greens will be large enough to hold all the egos.

(Get smart remarks and news 24/7 from Ivan Foley at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and friend him on Facebook. Or don’t.)


MURDER CASE FRUSTRATING TO PUBLIC, AUTHORITIES

Posted 7/8/11

The public is getting frustrated by the lack of an arrest in the murder of Alissa Shippert. The investigation, now starting its sixth week, has prompted rumors--some which may contain bits of truth, others that likely contain no truth at all--but no charges. The slow release of information about the case back in its early days caused some frustration directed at the sheriff’s department, and the apparent lack of progress in the case has fueled that feeling among some folks.

It could be the detectives are running into dead ends. Or it could be they know where they’re headed, just working methodically to dot some i’s and cross some t’s. Or it could be the truth is somewhere in between.

Maybe I’m reading too much into one comment spoken to me by Cpt. Erik Holland this week. All I know is that I am choosing to take this as a positive. In my weekly call-in to the captain, I asked about any new leads or new information. That question led basically nowhere, so I followed it up and Holland offered this much: “They’re still looking at a person of interest.”

That comment can be taken a number of ways, anywhere from being basically meaningless to perhaps meaning authorities feel like they have their suspect in their sights.

Regardless of how one interprets it, let’s hope the person who committed the despicable crime is eventually captured and prosecuted to the fullest extent.

******

Some things never change. Bureaucrats and big government types have always sought cushy positions. And apparently, The Landmark has always been around to expose them for it.

Let me explain.

Robert Eckert of Platte City, history buff and longtime member of the Platte County Historical Society, occasionally drops by The Landmark office to supply me with historical nuggets he comes upon during his research. This week, he furnished me with a quip from The Landmark. More accurately, the March 13, 1922 issue of the Chillicothe Constitution newspaper had quoted the editor of The Platte County Landmark from a piece entitled ‘Where the tax money will go.’ The Landmark’s 1922 comment went like this:

“The job hunters are on the trail of positions early, applying for places as clerks, stenographers, etc. at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates are already receiving applications. Most of the applicants are from Jefferson City and from those who have for many years known nothing else save some soft job to be awarded by state officials. They are chronic feeders at the public pie counter.”

You gotta love it. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Major breaking news. Well, kinda.

Buffy Smith of Platte City, field representative for Congressman Sam Graves, is a new momma. Buffy and hubby Matt are the proud parents of Kathryn (Kate) Ann Smith, born Saturday, June 25, 10:33 p.m. at Liberty Hospital. Kate checked in at seven pounds, four ounces, and 19.5 inches long.

Buffy’s absence from the congressman’s office means the field rep duties now will be handled by Jason Klindt, who also is Graves’ communications director. Upon intense media questioning, Klindt says the doubling of his duties has not resulted in the doubling of his salary.

It’ll take some doing for Klindt to live up to Buffy’s quality of performance as field rep, which Klindt likes to describe as “extremely adequate.”

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Apparently the rumors are getting, pardon the pun, fairly ridiculous.

The Platte County Fair is fighting rumors that this year’s fair has already been canceled, rumors that this year’s fair has been moved to later in the year, rumors that this year’s fair will be hot (wait, that’s not a rumor), etc. Truth is, according to fair board president Howard Prost, no changes in schedule or location are planned, at least not yet.

As you know, the fairgrounds can be victimized by flooding during years of high rainfall, and now obiously in years of bad Missouri River management by the Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless, the fair is set to go on just as originally planned. I’ll let Prost tell you:

“All plans are on to run the fair as scheduled. However, we are told the fairgrounds will most likely be under water at some point in July. If this occurs, we are looking at several options of how to run the fair: streamlined on the original weekend? Moved to the last weekend of August? Moved to an alternate location? All options are on the table, but the current plan is that THE FAIR WILL HAPPEN, ON THE FAIRGROUNDS, AS SCHEDULED: JULY 20-23!”

And hey, you know when a guy puts it in all caps and adds an exclamation point, he really means what he says, right?

******

Independence Day will forever prompt a bad memory for the survivors of a Weston man who tragically perished Monday night. Sincerest sympathy to the family of George Treese, who was killed in a fire at his place of business in downtown Weston the evening of July 4. Treese lived in the back portion of his Old Geezers Mantiques shop at 540 Main. Investigators say Treece called in the fire, even telling authorities which door to come in, but apparently had no path to escape before being overcome by smoke inhalation.

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The July 4 fire at Weston is just another example of why you need to be following The Landmark on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. We were the first media outlet to break the news of the blaze. A bit later while others were incorrectly reporting there were no injuries, The Landmark was sending out a tweet stating this newspaper was getting reports the fire had claimed a human life. About that time I was messaged by a Kansas City television reporter saying: “My station is sending me out there based solely on your tweet.”

Turned out to be a wise move by the station honcho.

(Do what the news bosses and news junkies do. Follow The Landmark at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook)


TOM HUTSLER DESERVES AN ATTABOY; CHANGE NEEDED AT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Posted 7/2/11

Tom Hutsler, chairman of the Parkville’s Fourth of July event, is an outspoken person. There’s nothing wrong with that--in fact, it’s a positive. Outspoken folks who aren’t afraid to deliver strong opinions are smart enough to expect some blowback. It’s a given that comes with the territory. The pushback comes in a variety of ways, but the experienced ones accept it as the nature of the business.

Hutsler, who has been through a tussle or two, got a little pushback from certain folks who wanted to criticize the decision for Parkville’s Fourth of July event to partner with Riverside to help pull off this year’s festival. It is a bit surprising to me that there was some criticism of the work that Hutsler, Carol Kuhns and others put in to forge the partnership. With flood waters still at bay but still providing a potential threat to a long-by-now sandbagged downtown Parkville, there really was no way the Fourth celebration could go on as usual. The partnership Hutsler and the gang created with Riverside and Park Hill South High School was nothing short of a perfect alternative.
“Sure, Main Street Parkville Association is about downtown Parkville, but we’re about the community as well,” Hutsler said when I asked him about it this week. “The whole theme is we’re giving back. We didn’t want to cancel. We want to keep the tradition alive.”

Any criticism of the MSPA partnering with Park Hill South High School for the carnival events and for the fireworks viewing seems misplaced. Students from Parkville attend Park Hill South, after all. More importantly, it’s 2011. This isn’t a geographically segregated society. Business services and community involvement and support are not--and should not--be limited by geographic boundaries or lines of residency. To think otherwise in this day and age is about as small-minded as one could get.

Kudos to Hutsler and his committee for pulling this thing off under trying circumstances in a challenging summer.

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As expected, Platte City’s Board of Aldermen renewed its $10,000 wasted investment in the arrogantly and ineffectively-led, membership-losing organization that is the Platte Chamber of Commerce. On the bright side, cutting the $10,000 check to this ineffectively-managed chamber is better than using 10,000 taxpayer dollars as kindling at the next chamber weenie roast. But not by much.

We can argue all day over whether a city should be using tax dollars to directly fund a chamber of commerce. Despite the convoluted info supplied by a public relations bureaucrat from KCP&L, it’s not common for cities--especially one the size of Platte City--to be forking over $10,000 annually to a chamber of commerce. Typically doesn’t happen, folks. Parkville doesn’t do it.

What also doesn’t happen--or at least shouldn’t happen--is for a membership-losing organization to be raising membership fees while giving raises to its ineffective staff. A better use of the money that’s being spent on staff pay raises would be to send each chamber staffer to a month’s worth of charm school. Chamber leaders are supposed to be salespeople for the business community, always asking what the chamber can do to assist entire business community. This chamber’s often-abrasive method is to approach a business to ask: What can you do for the chamber?

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how much money the city gives to the current chamber. As a Platte City alderperson told me after Tuesday night’s meeting--an alderperson who voted in favor of giving the $10,000 by the way--the problem isn’t so much the money, the problem the public has with the chamber is the staff. Bingo. That’s kinda what we’ve been talking about in this column for a couple of weeks now. It was refreshing to hear an alderperson say that. It would be more refreshing if the alderperson had the intestinal fortitude to say it publicly instead of whispering it to me after the meeting is already adjourned.

The worst-kept secret among chamber members--and by the way, The Landmark has been a member of the Chamber since 1979, longer than any other media outlet-- is that the executive director and a few other chamber leaders have an inner clique to whom they like to cater. It’s like junior high or high school all over again. Talk privately to representatives from various industries--they’ll tell you the chamber has favorites that it caters to in every industry. Those in the loop already know this. Not only is this a childish practice, but more importantly it is completely unacceptable to allow chamber staff to play games of favoritism while taking $10,000 from the taxpayers to help them do so.

So the bottom line is this chamber leadership is not using your money efficiently or wisely, and on top of that they continue to whiz down the backs of some folks while trying to convince them it’s raining.

Nothing will be any different until leadership at the chamber is changed. Executive director Karen Wagoner’s abrasive and arrogant method of operation may be starting to catch up to her. Showing up as Wagoner’s posse of support at Tuesday night’s meeting were only the public relations suit from KCP&L and a local attorney who is an unabashed political liberal. That may not be a good sign.

Membership in the chamber is down by four percent. There are rumblings in the ranks that several more members are ready to drop from the rolls. There are whispers that a focused group would like to form a new organization if the chamber doesn’t move from this rut. Change is needed. Next year, aldermen can force that change by requiring it as a stipulation before handing over $10,000 in taxpayer cash.

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Here’s a thought to ponder.

If the city is going to continue to give $10,000 of our general public tax money to the chamber of commerce, then the city should require that the chamber allow the general public to have direct input in selecting future boards of directors. Require that future boards have at least a couple non-traditional members from the taxpayer member base as opposed to traditional direct-dues paying members. In other words, taxpayers should get board members separate from the fanny-kissing back-scratching crowd.
It’s the least the city could do after having started the bad practice of subsidizing non-governmental organizations. Though the city may claim its $10,000 is going to only economic development, let’s be real. All the money is going into one chamber pot. Every tax dollar helps the chamber fund ridiculous and arrogant decisions, such as the one to raise salaries of staff while memberships are dropping.

It’s an upside down world.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook and follow his rants and whimsical remarks at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


CHAMBER'S DIRECTION SPARKING SOME NEGATIVE FEELINGS

Posted 6/25/11

Every time I hear the hit song Rolling in the Deep by Adele, I get the urge to strap on a pair of assless chaps and gallop bareback on a fast horse, swinging the whip from one side of the pony to the other.

Okay, before you pull my man card, let me clarify I was just kidding about the assless chaps. But the rest of that is dead-on.

A galloping pony just seems to fit the beat in the chorus of that song. I even motioned my way through a dance to that effect when the song came on the radio last week while our staff was mailing papers. Daughter Alyssa and office manager Cindy both gave it a thumbs down, though truthfully I think they’re just jealous of my moves.

****

Sarah Steelman, former state treasurer who now is hoping to be the Republican nominee to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2012, was in Zona Rosa for a meeting Tuesday afternoon. She came walking in the front door of The Landmark unannounced (and let it be clear we’re bragging, not complaining). Oh sure, the conversation could have focused on politics if we wanted, but there was a more important item to address: She’ll be the featured speaker when the Savannah Reporter celebrates its 135th birthday. That celebration will be Thursday, July 7, from 3-5 p.m. in the Savannah Reporter parking lot, which I’m speculating is a fine parking lot paved in silver and gold.

Anyway, I’ll be there for the shindig on July 7. You know who else will be there? Some dude playing live music. More importantly, also on hand will be Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, who is a Savannah native. Zahnd will be the first of three or four speakers that day, with Steelman batting clean-up in that department.

Publisher Guy Speckman and staff of the Reporter will be serving weenies, which will give it kind of a Platte City Chamber of Commerce feel.

Let’s load up a bunch of Landmark readers and make Guy buy another pack or two of ball park franks that day.

******

As we opined here last week, it seems a very inappropriate time for the Platte City Chamber of Commerce to be raising membership dues by $25 across the board, at all its various levels of membership. The chamber has already dropped in members by 4% from this time last year, and if the scuttlebutt I’m picking up is accurate, they were going to lose some more even before the rate hike was announced. A fee increase in a down economy is likely to push even a few more out the door.

At least that’s how most business folks would see it. The minds at the chamber apparently see it differently. Karen Wagoner, the highly compensated executive director for the chamber, told reporter PJ Rooks that cutting services might have been an option, “but in a down economy, I don’t think cutting services is the answer.”

Huh? Someone explain that logic to me. The economy is down. Business for the chamber is down. And the answer is to spend more instead of cutting expenses (payroll, perhaps?) This sounds like a typical free-spending liberal approach to government, and since the chamber annually receives $10,000 in taxpayer cash, let’s call it what it is.

Accountability needs to come into play here. We can criticize Wagoner for being very Keith Moody-like in her handling of folks whom she doesn’t view as part of her inner circle, and we can criticize Wagoner for lacking the kind of captivating personality it takes to be an effective salesperson for the local business community. Both of those criticisms, in fact, if we were to make them (and I’m pretty sure I just did), would be valid. But the real problem is over the last several years the chamber has had a timid board of directors who let Wagoner run the show without questioning her approach.

The abrasive style is divisive to those in the community--and within the chamber’s own membership base--who have no interest in kissing up. As evidenced by the way the chamber is run, either board members are intimidated by Wagoner for whatever reason, or the board members simply just want “chamber of commerce board member” to appear on their resume and have no interest in making tough decisions, so they let the director run the show.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. The board is supposed to be the boss. The director is supposed to answer to the board. At Platte City, the chain of command has been turned upside down for years. It’s so blatantly obvious that many folks in the community chuckle about it. But no board member wants to do anything to change it, apparently. Again, Wagoner isn’t to blame for this. Hey, if an employee can intimidate her bosses into giving her anything she wants and let her run roughshod, that says more about the bosses than it does the employee.

The chamber won’t reach its full potential as an organization until this approach is corrected.

******

Since the chamber wants to spend more while losing members, it’s time to take a hard look at its budget. Of the proposed $125,000 in income projected for 2011-12, nearly $80,000 of that will be spent on salaries and benefits for the chamber’s staff. Wagoner is full time, and there are two paid part-time employees. All three of the employees get an IRA benefit. Wagoner also gets a life insurance policy benefit. The chamber has lost 4% in memberships but it will spend 2% more on salaries and benefits in the coming year than it did last year.

If you have an interest in this topic--say, for instance, you’re a member of the board of aldermen who will be voting on whether to approve another $10,000 in taxpayer cash (which is something no other area chamber receives--it is a sign of a bizarre world that Platte City’s chamber receives taxpayer funding) you should take time to study the chamber’s proposed budget.

To me, it looks like Wagoner is overstating projected income. For instance, she is budgeting for membership staying at 250. Only time will tell, of course, but that could be very wishful thinking. She is also budgeting $2,000 in income from selling advertising on the chamber web site, which by the way will be redesigned this year at a cost of $6,000, with $3,000 coming from KCP&L. More importantly, look through the expense lines. As anyone with experience in budgeting knows, the easiest places to cut are the areas where the largest expense occurs. That area is salaries. No cutting going on there. In fact, the opposite.

It’s no wonder there is talk around town of a new progressive economic development organization forming. More on that if it becomes a reality.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook and follow his running commentary 24/7 at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


EVERY ACTION BRINGS A REACTION; A TALE OF TWO CHAMBERS

Posted 6/17/11

Kids, I don’t mean to brag, but I can make my left big toe pop anytime I want just by moving it.

******

Every action brings a reaction.

That’s what happened at Parkville in recent days. Last week the town was abuzz with flood preparation that seemed to be taking place with the highest sense of urgency. Officials put out calls for volunteers to help with sandbagging the lower level of downtown. Responding to cries for help that a quaint corner of the world might be ending as we know it, hundreds of caring people showed up. Some of the media, of course, played it up like property and human life were already in grave danger. A possible reason for that could be because they were given that impression by those who were making the calls for help. Calmer heads, of course, realized this is a potential flood, not a potential tornado. Those who have previously dealt with situations like this realized that floods don’t drop out of a cloud at a moment’s notice. Typically there is time to prepare in an orderly manner. No need to lose control of our bladders over it.

As of early this week, TV news crews were still doing some morning reports standing by the wall of sandbags. In the background of the camera shots, downtown looked deserted. Because it was.

It seems the urgent action--and perhaps it would never be fair to go so far as to call it an over-reaction, because a lack of any preparation in situations like this could end up making one look like a dumbass--caused an unwanted reaction. Consumers throughout the area had read, heard, seen the news coverage and were aware of the warnings being put out by local officials. The general belief among shoppers and diners became that the entire landscape in and around downtown Parkville was a freaking disaster area, best to be visited only by folks with fresh Tetanus shots and haz mat suits.
Late last week, there were even erroneous reports circulating that many businesses had already closed out of fear they would end up as part of a scene from Underwater World, that bad Kevin Costner movie America has done its best to forget.

So some damage control came into play this week. The same folks who had contacted the media requesting disaster preparation help were now contacting the media for help in getting this message out: “Hey, downtown Parkville is open for business.”

The Parkville Chamber of Commerce, to its credit, is now buying advertising promoting the town’s business district and letting consumers know that Parkville and most of its merchants are still open for business and they would love for you to come visit.

No updated Tetanus shot or haz mat suit required.

******

We’ll be taking this Between the Lines traveling circus out on the speaking circuit over the next few months. Details coming soon.

One place we won’t be able to take the road show is the KCI Rotary Club. The invitation from the KCI club had to be turned down. Seems their meetings are at noon on a Wednesday. Around here, we’re kinda tied up at noon on Wednesdays. Something to do with a newspaper deadline. Very thankful to have received the invitation, however, and sent word that if their meetings are ever moved to a different time, we’ll gladly do our best to provide oratory excellence.

******

So while the Parkville Chamber of Commerce is spending money to promote its merchants, what is the Platte City Chamber of Commerce up to these days?
Well, they’ll be grilling wienies this Thursday.

Oh, and they’re raising membership fees.

Membership count in the Platte City Chamber is down four percent from last year. The board of directors response to this slide? Raise membership fees into the club.
Now maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t sound like a winning business model. Most businesses when faced with a decline in activity, in fact, would cut rates, not increase them. But this isn’t real business. This is chamber leadership that at times appears to be in love with itself. This is a chamber that isn’t shy about asking--and receiving--$10,000 in taxpayer money from the city of Platte City each year. And yet, when faced with declining membership at the same time it says its expenses are increasing, what is the response?

Obviously, there are two choices. The chamber board has decided to try the easy way out by asking for more money from its members. The more fiscally responsible thing to do in a down economy, of course, would be to cut expenses. But that would take some tough decisions. Heck, somebody’s feelings might get hurt if somebody’s hours in an overstaffed office had to be cut . And we sure wouldn’t want that, would we?

Adam McGinness, at least until Thursday when his term is set to expire, is president of the chamber board of directors. I caught up with McGinness by phone this week. He is unapologetic about the board’s decision to hike its membership fees. It’s a dangerous approach in this business climate. It borders on being a display of out-of-touch arrogance. Last year, there were 260 memberships. This year, 250.

Is the board concerned memberships will drop even more with the higher fees?

“That wasn’t a big concern. We’ve all been a part of it long enough. . . most people that don’t renew are people who have gone out of business,” McGinness said.

Ah, I’m not so sure about that. I recall writing an editorial last year after being contacted by a spokesperson for a group of business owners who were making an organized effort not to renew their chamber memberships. Chamber leaders at the time publicly denied they were losing membership numbers. Now, the chamber admits it is down by four percent in members but says it is because of folks who have gone out of business. Hmm.

Regardless, this much is certain: Since the chamber annually receives $10,000 in taxpayer cash to help run its operation, it needs to make sure it is as fiscally-responsible as possible. And since it receives tax dollars, the chamber should make a concerted effort to promote all businesses in the city, not just those who have paid a membership fee.

Something tells me this topic will come up again. There are many more angles to be pursued if it does.

(Befriend Ivan Foley at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or follow his daily musings on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Send email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


GRAVES ANXIOUS TO CHEW ON THE CORPS; SCHOOL TAX ALERT

Posted 6/17/11

The temperature is high yet the water level is higher. At least it is in Parkville and some other areas of Platte County.

As you’re well aware by now, Parkville is in the middle of a massive flood preparation effort, with thousands of sandbags being filled to prepare for predicted conditions that will place English Landing Park underwater and threaten at least the lower portions of the city’s Main Street in its historic downtown.

It ain’t fun and games. But fun and games are part of the problem, according to Congressman Sam Graves. Graves for years now has been hammering on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the way it regulates the flow of the Missouri River. Last week, the Corps announced it would increase the volume of water being released from dams along the river to historic levels. The Corps says the problem began last year with record snowfall and was made worse this spring by heavy rains in the upper basin. The release will likely force water over the top of levees throughout Missouri. “It could cause the type of flooding we haven’t seen since 1993,” Graves said.

Part of the problem, Graves told me in a phone conversation on Monday, is that the Corps worries too much about upsetting the recreational activities of folks up north. “Reservoirs are designed for flood control. Originally, the Corps would deplete them in the winter time and have storage space when spring rains came. Anymore they don’t want to upset anybody by lowering levels too much because (recreational boaters have) docks in the water. They try to hedge themselves and only try to lower it as much as they think is needed. Then they say they weren’t expecting it to rain that much. . . they said the same thing last year,” said Graves with obvious frustration in his voice.

“The interesting thing is this year, they have so much water up there they’re not letting anybody on the lakes because the levels are too high. They can’t ever get it right,” he told me. “We go through this it seems like every single year. Let’s not worry so much about people’s docks out of the water and worry about more serious things.”

“We’re gonna have to change the way they manage the river. This is just ridiculous,” he said.

Preach on, Brother Sam.

Graves extended an invite to the head honcho of the Corps of Engineers to come tour some of the local flood-threatened areas this week. On Friday, one of the top dogs--though not the top dog--joined Graves and Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins on a tour that Graves hopes will help the Corps “better understand how their decision impacts landowners in Missouri and Kansas.”

That’s good news. But the bad news is it is probably too late to do anything to help prevent flooding this year.

******

With the imminent high water in areas of the county and the investigation into the mysterious murder case near Platte City, now more than ever you’ll want to stay abreast of local news updates by following The Landmark on Twitter at Twitter.com/ivanfoley

We’ll also occasionally post updates on Facebook.com/ivanfoley, but for breaking news you’ll always get it first at our Twitter page. It’s a must to follow us there if you want to be on top of the latest news and commentary.

******

Separated at birth?

I mentioned last week Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harmon and former Platte County Commissioner Michael Short appear to be twins. One of the ‘separated at birth?’ submissions sent to me by a reader this week was this one: “I’ve never met (Landmark columnist) Brian Kubicki in person, but when I was looking at the Nick and Jake’s photos on page A-10 last week, I thought for a brief moment that Hearne Christopher was standing next to Jeff Foxworthy.”

Bingo. We’ve talked about that one in the office many times. Check last week’s issue or the pictures on our Facebook page if you didn’t catch the Kubicki/Foxworthy resemblance the first time around. It is striking.

*******

One more separated at birth sent in by a reader this week. “How about (former Platte City Mayor) Dave Brooks and Kid Shelleen, which is Lee Marvin’s character in Cat Ballou?”

I’m not familiar with Cat Ballou, so this one is left in the hands of loyal Between the Lines readers. Do we have a valid separated at birth observation here?

******

Shameful that Park Hill is talking a possible tax increase just a couple of months after selling its patrons on a “no tax increase” bond issue passed by voters in April. See PJ Rooks’ story on the tax talk at Park Hill in this issue.

So what about at Platte County R-3? Is a tax hike on the horizon? Does not look like it, according to a conversation I had with R-3 Superintendent Mike Reik on Tuesday.
“I think we’re fine budgeting for flat (keeping the tax levy the same),” Reik said. Flat was a common word in our conversation. Assessed valuation within the district “will be pretty flat,” Reik said. Preliminary assessed valuation numbers for the Platte County portion of the school district suggest very little growth, he said, with only about $3 million worth of new construction.

But as for a tax increase? Not likely, Reik said. “I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at. But it all comes down to after (tax appeals are heard) and the Hancock Amendment adjusts our (tax) ceiling.”

Stay tuned.

******

I have fascinating information on a new way a local entity’s governing body may be using to try to circumvent the Missouri Sunshine Law. I’ll share that with you next week. . .unless breaking news changes it all.

Until then, stay dry. And stay alert.

(Always working, always on. Twitter.com/ivanfoley, Facebook.com/ivanfoley, ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


147 YEARS OF DEFENDING
THE CAUSE OF
THE PEOPLE

From 6/1/11 issue

Separated at birth.

Every time I see Fox 4 meteorologist Don Harmon on the tube he reminds me of former Platte County Commissioner Michael Short.

******

Got your own ‘Separated at birth?’ observations? Send them to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com and I’ll work them in this column space.

******

A great crowd turned out Thursday night for the Patio Kickoff party at Nick and Jake’s-Parkville presented by The Landmark.

A good time seemed to be had by all. The accommodating staff at Nick and Jake’s took great care to make everyone feel at home, at one point scrambling to gather more tables and chairs for the folks who filled both levels of the impressively-designed and decorated new patio area.

The live music provided by Sean McNown, one of Kansas City’s best acoustic solo guitarist/vocalist, was outstanding, even prompting a few unexpected dance moves. For photo coverage of the event, check out page A-10 of this issue. You can view even more pictures of the fun at Facebook.com/ivanfoley.

If you haven’t befriended me yet on Facebook, you’ll want to do that if for no other reason than to view some of the dance move photos.

******

Several Landmarkers made it out for the Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff, which is the first of many joint events on the horizon between the cornerstone business at Parkville Commons and the cornerstone of Platte County journalism.

KC Confidential columnist Hearne Christopher and secret date spent a good deal of time visiting with attendees. Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki and his surgically repaired Achilles tendon toughed it out and seemed to have a good time, as did our Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Famer Bill Hankins. Landmark interns past and present, including newcomer Jared Speckman, took in the atmosphere. Office manager Cindy Rinehart and I arrived at 6 p.m. and grabbed spots on the patio. By 7 p.m. I was getting texts from other arrivals at the Nick and Jake’s lobby saying “they’re telling us the patio is full.”

The classy furniture, the impressive landscaping and the overall atmosphere will make the Nick and Jake’s patio a perfect spot to unwind on a summer evening.
Great turnout, great fun. Make plans to join us the next time The Landmark and Nick and Jake’s team up for an event.

More details coming soon.

******

Guess how many elected officials from the city of Parkville showed up to say hi at The Landmark/Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff?

The first 10 people to tell me the right amount--and the names of the Parkville elected who showed--will earn a free one-year subscription to The Landmark. Email your answer to me at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com.

******

He may not know it until he reads this, but new intern Jared Speckman, after hitting a home run with his first story (city administrator takes issue with Chamber survey--May 18 issue), will now be branching off into a sports theme for his next couple of stories, which will be of the human interest variety.

That’s what we call a tease.

******

A couple of weeks ago, The Landmark noted the beginning of its 147th year of consecutive weekly publication. With that in mind, it seems an appropriate time to look back at this newspaper’s beginning. Talk of the early days of The Landmark is a fascinating local topic.

Here’s a bit of what the fine editor of The Landmark wrote 140 years ago, way back on Sept. 29, 1871, as The Landmark was beginning its seventh year of publication:

“The establishment of a Democratic paper in this part of Missouri was even then, though the last rebel army in the country had surrendered three months before, an undertaking attended with great danger. Only a little more than a year before that, the Platte County Sentinel, a paper published in this city, by as true a Union man and patriot as ever breathed, had been destroyed by the soldiers, instigated by some Radical members of the Union League, because of its bold and manly denunciation of the thieving and robbery then perpetrated under the cloak of “loyalty.” And even as late as October 1865, when the first (issue) of The Landmark appeared, the office was threatened with destruction, and one prominent member of the Union League, a Radical “loyalist,” publicly proclaimed his readiness to assist in throwing the office into the river.

“The Radicals had entire control of all the public patronage. Every county office, save that of Probate Judge, was held by appointment from Fletcher under the ousting ordinance. Business was paralyzed and many people were even afraid to have a Democratic paper in their house, for fear some Radical thief or ruffian should make it a pretense for robbing or insulting him.

“Nevertheless, The Landmark flourished. Precious little of the public patronage did it get, but it defended the cause of the people and they sustained it liberally. It was shortly enlarged from a seven column paper and was, some months ago, again enlarged to its present size. Six years ago it was supported by the people because they wanted a Democratic organ. They support it now because they need it and must have it if they would know what is going on in the county.”

How many times over the past 147 years has local history repeated itself? The Landmark’s 147 years of uninterrupted publication is proof you can never go wrong defending the cause of the people. Making the comfortable uncomfortable ruffles some feathers, but that’s what defending the cause of the people is all about.

(Help defend the cause of the people by following the adventures of a Landmark publisher at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


IT'S A WEEK FOR PARTIES ON THE PATIO, A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT WAYS

From 5/25/11 issue

 

Made a trip to the Power and Light District (or as a guy I know jokingly refers to it, the Power and White District) over the weekend.

I’ve decided the PBR Bar is the Platte City Pool Hall on steroids.

******

With the utter devastation in Joplin caused by the massive tornado Sunday night, it seems an appropriate time to salute and mention the work of some area emergency responders.

One responder that should be mentioned is the Riverside police officer in a fight for his life after being hit by lightning in Joplin. He was part of a contingent of 12 Riverside city employees who had responded to the call for assistance in that area after the tornado left a damaged city in need of some assistance in a variety of ways. Check our front page story for details on the Riverside officer’s incident.

In Platte City, two police officers bravely handled a situation Tuesday morning that could have had a tragic ending. Officers James Tharp and Mike Reilly responded to a call of shots fired to find a man on the porch of a residence, armed with a rifle. In a suicidal state of mind, the man pointed his weapon at the officers and wanted them to kill him. Fortunately, the man’s gun jammed and the officers were able to end the situation peacefully. A witness close to the scene told me the situation was “extremely tense.”

Proof that even “small town” police officers never know what they’re getting themselves into when they respond to any situation. There really is no such thing as a “routine” call.

******

There’s no such thing as a “routine” week at The Landmark. But so far this week I have not had a loaded weapon pointed at me. To my knowledge.

******

Live music. Good food. Happy hour prices all night long. And Landmark personalities on hand.

Hey, what more could you ask for? Well, within reason.

They had me at live music. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

Join us Thursday night at Nick and Jake’s restaurant and bar in Parkville when The Landmark and the popular cornerstone of the Parkville Commons development team up for a special night. It’s the Nick and Jake’s Patio Kickoff event. See the color ad on page A-12 for more details.

The ‘need to know’ stuff is this: The Landmark is presenting the Nick and Jake’s-Parkville Smoking Patio Kick Off. Live music from acoustic guitarist Sean McNown from 7-10 p.m. on the brand new patio. As you read in Hearne Christopher’s Landmark column weeks ago when Nick and Jake’s announced plans for the partially enclosed patio--ventilated, heated and air conditioned with comfortable living room type furniture (described as California, Phoenix, Scottsdale-looking patio furniture).

This is going to be a good time. Join me and other Landmark personalities Cindy Rinehart, Greg Hall, Hearne Christopher, Landmark interns past and present, maybe Hall of Fame photographer Bill Hankins, Parallax Look columnist Brian Kubicki, and others as we help Nick and Jake’s celebrate the opening of what will prove to be a popular addition to its already-fine atmosphere.

Looking for a good time and a way to jump start the upcoming long holiday weekend?

We’ve got the answer. Hope you’ll come have some fun with us and the friendly folks at Nick and Jake’s.

******

Landmark office manager/staff meteorologist Cindy Rinehart has been on my case for years about my laid back attitude toward weather warnings. She is a weather afficionado with a caring heart who graciously lights up my cell phone with text alerts about everything from a tornado warning to a thunderstorm watch, from potential high water to Katie Horner developing a nagging cough.

I kid. Because I can. I have a column. Cindy doesn’t.

When severe weather threatened our area Saturday night, my cell phone lit up with a text from Cindy. “I think it’s just a thunderstorm warning,” I texted back. A couple seconds later the tornado sirens were going off in my neck of the woods. Huh. Maybe it could be more than that.

As guys do, I stepped out the front door to give the sky a viewing. Nothing seemed extremely ominous. After a quick trip to the basement to make sure there was a clear path and plenty of room in what has been designated the “take cover and prepare to kiss your ass goodbye” area, it was back to the main floor. I felt a desire for some popcorn. And I began pouring Pepsi into an ice-filled glass. It was time to go sit on the deck and watch the storm roll in.

My storm-watching party continued for a decent amount of time. But then a few rain drops started hitting me. Eventually the popcorn started blowing out of the bowl. That was the last straw. It was time for the party to end. Fortunately, the storm passed without the need to ever assume the full “this is serious s#=!” position.

After seeing video of the destruction in Joplin, my normally carefree attitude toward weather alerts should change.

******

You may have noticed last week on page A-10 we announced the winner of this year’s Landmark English Award, given to a top writing student at Platte County R-3 High School. The winner is selected each year by a faculty panel.

We’re proud to say this is the 30th year The Landmark has presented this award. The prize is a $250 cash scholarship from this newspaper and an award certificate--suitable for framing--that includes my valuable autograph upon it.

Here is the complete list of winners, from first to most recent:

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; 1995: Kerry Durrill; 1996: Jamie Knodel; 1997: Laura Donald; 1998: Christa Fuller; 1999: Alison Miller; 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; 2011: Sean Carder.

(Catch up with Ivan Foley 24/7 at Facebook.com/ivanfoley and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)

 


IT'S AN ANIMALISTIC WEEK AT THE LANDMARK

Posted 5/20/11

Welcome to Between the Lines. Relax, it’s only kinky the first time.

******

On Tuesday, Christopher Fisher, an attorney who resides at The National, was selected as a new alderman at Parkville, filling the worn shoes left by the nomadic Jeffrey Bay.

As of Wednesday, the new alderman still lives at The National, having not yet moved to a Section 8 apartment in Gladstone.

******

Been watching a lot of the Fox News Channel lately. I’ve decided what that network needs is more commercials encouraging everyone to buy gold. I mean, one “buy gold” message every 10 minutes just isn’t enough to drive the message home.

******

Daring Landmark reporter PJ Rooks breaks the story this week of an outbreak of creepy-looking snakes at a creek near a park in Weston. PJ spent some time there bravely waiting for some of the scaly creatures to show themselves in order to add some photographic charm to her front page story. It was like an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, with me playing the role of that old dude who narrated the video while safely tucked away from danger as PJ placed herself in harm’s way, traipsing around with potentially venomous reptiles. Good times.

She did such a great job with this story we’re now expanding PJ’s role as a full fledged wildlife reporter. Got snakes? Call PJ. A raccoon terrorizing your garage? Call PJ. Hot on the trail of a mountain lion? Call PJ. Going bear hunting with a switch? Call PJ. You’ve seen the ghost of Marlin Perkins? Call PJ.

******

Sure, PJ may have danced with snakes, but let it be known that in a daring light-of-the-moon raid, I bravely climbed a tall step ladder to eliminate a nest full of noisy and loose-boweled birds who had nested themselves behind the wooden cover to the attic fan in the back of the historic Landmark building.

It was a mission that required immense testicular fortitude. It was an operation that required advance planning based on years of covert intelligence-gathering. I had waterboarded the daddy sparrow several months ago.

Upon gaining entry into their compound, I gave the birds proper warning. It appeared one had wrapped himself in an explosives-filled suicide jacket. All refused to surrender.
I’ve decided not to release the photographs. We’re bigger than that. But trust me, you won’t see those birds walking this Earth ever again.

The world--in particular my car’s paint job and the top of my head--is now a safer place.

******

If this were Fox News it would be time to insert a “buy gold” commercial right here.
Just know that Between the Lines, like gold, has never been worth zero.

******

The investigation into the head-on crash of two Central Platte Fire Department pumper trucks continues. As we all know by now, the two trucks crashed near the driveway entry of a residence that had reported a fire. Five firefighters were hurt. Two were treated and released that day, another came home later last week and two others as of Tuesday remained hospitalized (see our front page story for all the details).

The sheriff’s department is still investigating the crash. It is interesting that some revisionist history seems to be hitting the “word on the street” department. For instance, some folks seem to be insisting that the trucks crashed on the bend of a blind curve and some ‘word on the street’ folks seem to be insisting that both trucks had already passed the driveway.

As you’ll see by our exclusive photos posted at Facebook.com/ivanfoley, The Landmark was able to get very close to the point of impact. To say the crash occurred on the bend of a blind curve is not accurate. There are curves aplenty on that stretch of roadway, but to refer to the place of impact as a blind curve is taking some liberties. Also, for anyone to infer that the crash did not block the driveway entrance raises some questions in logic. If that were the case, why did the mutual aid unit from Camden Point have to access the house by going into a neighbor’s drive then maneuvering its truck across pastureland to get to the site?

While the public is grateful for all the things emergency responders do for it, respectful of the men and women who serve and praying for a quick recovery for all, a trusting public also wants the same level of investigation into any public vehicle accident that would be done if the accident had involved private vehicles.

******

It’s The Landmark’s 147th birthday. As soon as this issue hits the streets, I’m off to Queen Victoria’s for some manscaping, just in case I’m dared to jump out of The Landmark’s birthday cake wearing only a cowboy hat and a steel guitar. Strategically placed, of course.

 

(Befriend Ivan Foley--somebody has to--on Facebook and follow him at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


WHEN THE WOUNDS HAVE HEALED, CONCERNS NEED ADDRESSED

Posted 5/13/11

Waiting in a not-so-fast line at the fast food drive-up window? Turn your car’s engine off. Gasoline is like gold these days.

I’ve even developed the habit of shutting the engine off while letting the automatic car wash do its thing to the Grand Prix. We’ve got better things to spend our money on than nearly $4 a gallon gasoline, right?

******

Here at Between the Lines headquarters, we’ve noticed that Parkville Mayor Gerry Richardson bears a physical resemblance to children’s television legend Mister Rogers. He even has similar facial expressions. Richardson’s expressions during a recent TV news probing by KSHB’s Russ Ptacek looked like a Mister Rogers whose sphincter had suddenly become really, really tight.

Facebook pictorial coverage of this important “separated at birth?” discovery coming soon to Facebook.com/ivanfoley

******

Monday’s tragic accident involving the two large pumper trucks for the Central Platte Fire Department is certainly sad. Appropriately, our first thoughts right now must be with those men who were injured in the head-on crash, as well as their families as they go through this difficult time. As you’ll read in our front page story, the most seriously injured of the two are Larry Bigus and Kent Pine, who both remain in intensive care. Pine is said to be in good spirits. Pine and I chat occasionally--including exchanging barbs on Facebook--so I can tell you I’m not surprised by his positive attitude.
Bigus’ son, Mike, told me Tuesday night that his dad “isn’t talking much” but indicated with a smile “that’s the way he is.”

In previous editorials over the years, I’ve consistently stressed that the volunteer firefighters should be considered local heroes. They are. It takes a special personality to respond to fire calls, accident scenes, medical emergencies at all hours of the day and night on a volunteer basis. It takes a certain “cowboy” or “hero” personality. Nearly all guys out there know what I’m talking about, because nearly all of us in the male species have it to a certain extent. Pretty sure that’s where the phrase “boys will be boys” comes from.

******

As longtime readers know, at times in the past I’ve had questions for the elected board members of multiple area fire departments. While doing so, I’ve never questioned the dedication and intentions of the rank and file firefighters. I have, you’ll recall, from time to time through the years posted concerns about the speed at which the Central Platte fire trucks often roll through a crowded Main Street while responding to a call.

But mostly my questions for the board have dealt with financial decisions. Some of the board members, quite honestly, don’t understand the whole tax levy concept, for instance. As longtime readers also know, some of the elected leaders of the fire department have proven to be very sensitive to my questioning.

Their attitude at times in the past seems to have been that since this is a volunteer department, there should be no questioning. Sorry, that’s not the way it works. As long as volunteer fire districts continue to tax the public, the public’s watchdogs are going to have questions. Deal with it. It’s part of the job you signed up for when you put your name on the ballot. If you don’t want questions, don’t serve in a public office and don’t spend public money. It’s a pretty simple concept, really.

I offer up the above information because folks privately are already raising serious questions about Central Platte’s driver training and driving habits. Let the shock from this most recent accident settle a bit, then those questions and concerns need to be addressed in a very serious and very public manner. The Landmark has received many comments via phone calls and emails since Monday’s accident. All are concerned with the firefighters’ condition and praise their dedication to service. At the same time, more than half are critical of the fact Central Platte has a recent history of serious accidents and, frankly, want some attention to be spotlighted on the way drivers of emergency vehicles can place the responders themselves in danger, as well as endanger the lives of other motorists, bystanders, and endanger public property.

Tell us that insurance covers all damages if you’d like, and that’s fine, but who’s paying the hefty bill that comes along with that insurance and in reality aren’t we really talking about a larger point?

As you’ll read in our front page article, this is the second life-threatening crash Central Platte vehicles have been involved in during the past two years. The other accident involved a Central Platte pickup allegedly crossing the center line and striking a motorcyclist on HH Hwy. near Bethel Rd. The really sad part of that one? The truck was responding to a grass fire, of all things. The motorcyclist suffered lifelong injuries and the matter is still the topic of a civil lawsuit.

Anyone who thinks these aren’t legitimate concerns is wearing blinders or rose-colored glasses. There’s a problem here and it needs to be addressed.

Granted, accidents happen, and not just in Central Platte. Dearborn’s fire department, you’ll recall, had a fatality in an accident not too many years ago. But this shouldn’t be passed off as ‘just one of those things.’ We’re talking human lives being put at risk. Quick response to potential life-threatening calls is an absolute priority, but certainly not worth putting the lives of the responders and additional members of the general public at risk in the process. Back to this topic when the heroes have healed. Thoughts, prayers and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to all affected by Monday’s tragedy.

******

One of the best pieces of advice I received from a wise man in my younger days? “Never panic.”

Very simple words. Much easier said than done, of course, and when I find myself in any stressful situation I take a moment to pause, thinking back to that conversation many years ago. Panic only leads to making a bad situation worse.

Wise advice, indeed--no matter your occupation and no matter the level of “emergency” you’re facing.

(Follow breaking news and get timely observations at Twitter.com/ivanfoley and Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


TWITTER CONTINUES TO ROCK WHILE THE HATERS HAVE GONE SILENT

Posted 5/5/11

So here we are, holed up in the highly-fortified Situation Room at Between the Lines headquarters, cranking out yet another edition of Platte County’s only relevant newspaper while running intelligence-based operations throughout every public agency in the county.

It’s a big job. But somebody’s got to do it.

******

Unless you’ve been living in a cave--which is exactly what most of the world had assumed he was doing--you know by now that Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind the horrific 9/11/01 attacks on our country, was shot and killed by Navy SEALS in a beautifully executed military operation Sunday. It was a monumental achievement for our country’s military and intelligence agencies.

Bin Laden was killed in what the Associated Press describes as “an intense firefight in a daring raid at his hideout in Pakistan.”

For years, former President George W. Bush had insisted “we’ll smoke him out of his cave.” Turns out, bin Laden’s “cave” was what is described as a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan. So much for that visual of bin Laden living the life of a hungry, goat-loving criminal on the run from cave to cave throughout the hills of a sparsely populated area. Turns out he was hiding in plain sight, not far from a Pakistani military university, in fact.

Credit to President Obama for the ballsy decision to use a team of about 24-40, depending upon which account you hear, highly-trained tactical specialists to conduct the successful raid on bin Laden’s hideout after years of intelligence methods had tracked him to that location.

******

The killing of Osama bin Laden puts an end to the nearly 10-year search and puts egg on the face of some pundits who had boastfully and ridiculously made the claim to “mark my words” when they wrote, while trashing former President George W. Bush: “Obama bin Laden will never, ever be found.”

Don’t make me name names. You know who you are.

******

The social media outlet Twitter was the place to be Sunday night as the killing of bin Laden leaked out. Sources on Twitter were all over the situation well before the news was available on that thing known as a television. Folks, if you haven’t become a Twitter buff just yet, you really need to, particularly if you’re a news junkie. And the comedic entertainment value of Twitter is priceless if you’re following the right people.
Remember a couple of years ago when The Landmark became the first county media outlet to break into the Twitter world? Doubters joked at the social media site’s name--and rightfully so--and some proclaimed you wouldn’t find them on Twitter. Guess what? Now they’re on Twitter.

You know who you are. Don’t make me name names. I won’t rub your face in it. Enjoy the news and entertainment Twitter can bring you in short 140-character bursts.
The Landmark is approaching 600 followers on Twitter, at least three times more than any other Platte County media outlet. It’s time for you to create a Twitter account and start following the news and fun at Twitter.com/ivanfoley

******

My favorite former Platte City alderman, fiscal watchdog Andy Stanton, is gone from the board of aldermen, but thanks to a gentle push from Mayor Frank Offutt, Stanton is now a member of the Platte City Parks and Recreation Board.

Parks board members should brace themselves for some questioning. Every public entity needs at least one fiscal watchdog on its board of directors. The Platte City parks board now has one.

This could be fun.

******

My publishing buddy Guy Speckman of the Savannah Reporter called one day last week. It seems the Reporter is holding a birthday celebration soon (I think the Reporter is now 135 years old) and it seems Guy is looking for a speaker for some kind of kegger he is holding in the town square (or some damn place, I’m fuzzy on the details right now but trust me, I’ll be there). Anyway, his choices for speaker had been narrowed to Sarah Steelman and Jim Talent. He called to ask my opinion.

Yes, apparently he was having doubts about whether the smoking hot Sarah Steelman or the pasty white, monotone-voiced Jim Talent would be the better choice to attract a crowd.

As of now I’m still calling Guy my friend, but one more moment of indecision like that and we’ll have to hold hearings on whether to pull his man card.

******

Speaking of birthdays, The Landmark’s is coming soon. This beast turns 147 in a couple of weeks. That’s gonna make for a well-lit birthday cake.

It also means we’ve already started discussions on how we’ll celebrate The Landmark’s 150th in a few years. It will involve the entire community. More details being developed periodically here in The Situation Room.

******

Cabela’s joins your list of loyal Landmark advertisers this week, with a 16-page flyer inserted in this issue. Many more such ads from Cabelas are ahead. As word of this has spread, it’s become clear to me we haven’t heard this much buzz about a new advertiser among our readers in quite some time. Proudly, The Landmark has a lot of red-blooded, gun-lovin’, gone-fishin types in our database. Enjoy the Cabela’s deals--and be sure to clip and use those coupons in the flyer.

(Follow Ivan Foley on Facebook, at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or simply call him with your man card questions)


SO, WHY SHOULD LEGAL NOTICES APPEAR IN THE NEWSPAPER?

Posted 4/29/11

Just got back from a Tuesday night meeting of the Platte City Board of Aldermen. Gotta say it. Those meetings just aren’t gonna be as much fun without the notable and quotable alderman Andy Stanton on the board.

Will any of the current aldermen step forward and become quotable? Please consider it, because right now the city of Parkville is stealing all of the media thunder.

******

Well, let’s not forget at least one Platte City alderman will be back in the news soon. Alderman Charles Cook’s trial on a misdemeanor allegation of exposing himself while wearing a banana hammock is set for mid-May.

More on this in the coming weeks.

******

I don’t generally spend much time or column space writing about the newspaper industry as a whole. There are several reasons for that. The biggest reason is I’m too busy cranking out an issue of The Landmark each week packed full of news and commentary more important to the majority of our readers.

Another reason is that some of the problems of the newspaper industry are overstated. For instance, many weeklies are doing just fine, thank you very much. Many dailies are not. Another reason I tend to avoid the topic is that it’s my opinion some of the problems of the daily newspaper world have been self-inflicted, and I don’t want to defend an entire industry with one broad brush. As an example, while it’s true the Kansas City Star is not the only daily newspaper to hit hard times during this economic downturn, it’s my belief some of the Star’s problems are due to the fact it is out of touch with a majority of its readers--or should I say its potential readers.

But I digress. This is not headed in the direction of being a commentary about the Star. This is a commentary on legal notices and why they should be placed in printed newspapers. From time to time, postings on the Internet will argue against the continued placement of governmental legal notices in printed newspapers. These postings are usually written by some guy blogging late at night while clad in his underwear, working from a dark corner in his mom’s basement.

One such blog, something called Wall Street Pit, recently tried to make the argument that newspapers only lobby for the continued placement of governmental legal notices in newspapers for the money the papers make off those legals.

This stance made me chuckle. Anyone familiar with The Landmark’s bid rate to print legal notices for the county of Platte knows why I’m laughing.

“The truth is that the newspapers are the ones placing money before public access,” the Wall Street Pit writes, implying that newspapers in essence are taking some sort of bribe or kickback when they are paid by governmental entities to print legal notices.
Needless to say the Wall Street Pit’s posting drew a negative reply from newspaper folks. Kent Ford, an editor with the Missouri Press Association, did an excellent job crafting an intelligent and common sense response to the self-professed pundit.
Here is much of Ford’s response:

“Missouri Press Association regularly opposes legislation that would move public notices out of newspapers. We encourage our member newspapers to do the same. When they do defend required newspaper public notices, we suggest they not ignore the obvious — they get paid for it.

The truth is, public notices printed in newspapers are a bargain.

Here are some of the usual reasons we state for requiring published public notices:
*Not everyone can get online, and getting online is not free.

*Public notices in newspapers promote citizen participation in government.

*They provide a permanent, unalterable, unhackable record of government action.

*Notices in newspapers go to the people rather than requiring people to go to dozens of government websites to check to see if something they need to know is going on. Not everyone reads the local newspaper, but when an important public notice appears, word gets around — quickly!

*Maintaining public notices on websites is not without cost, so the claim of reducing expenses doesn’t fly.

*Public notices give elected officials rock solid evidence that they are doing the public’s business in public. (How much is that worth? Plenty, especially in times when trust and faith in government at all levels hovers around zero.)

*Archiving of printed newspapers has been going on for a long time. It’s cheap and easy. Nobody understands yet how to archive websites efficiently and economically.

*But we also point out that all the other businesses in town get paid for the goods and services they provide to local government agencies. The grocery store on the corner doesn’t give free food for those in the local lockup. The service station on the edge of town doesn’t change the oil in the sheriff’s car for nothing or fill the tanks of school buses with free fuel.

*Paying to have public notices printed in newspapers is not a bribe or a kickback or a subsidy. It’s payment for goods and services rendered.

Revenue from publishing public notices helps newspapers pay their bills, meet payroll and stay in business. People understand that, particularly those down at the chamber of commerce.

Legislatures all over the country are considering moving public notices from newspapers to government websites. The arguments for newspaper notices and against online notices are many. The best argument for online notices is false. Printed public notices are a bargain, and posting public notices online would not be free.

And there’s this: Like the Missouri Press Association, newspaper associations all across the country are creating public notice websites to aggregate on a single website all notices placed in newspapers by all government agencies in the state. Why create more government bureaucracy duplicating something that’s already being done by a non-government organization?”

(Follow Ivan Foley’s blog-like entries--made while fully clothed--on Facebook and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


LONG AGO, BAY WAS GIVEN A WINDOW TO LEAVE

Posted 4/22/11

Up and at ‘em early this deadline day after a good night’s rest. I slept more soundly than an air traffic controller.

******

Alderman Jeffrey Bay finally resigned at Parkville.

Bay, as most everybody in Parkville knew but only Bay and Parkville Mayor Gerry Richardson didn’t want to acknowledge, hasn’t really been a Parkville resident for quite some time (see our front page story for more details). So what motivated him to hold on to that seat, and what motivated Richardson not to push one of his favorite aldermen for a resignation? Only those two guys can answer that. Good luck trying to get a straight answer. I posed the question to Richardson in a phone interview just minutes after hearing Bay had finally caved to growing media pressure and tendered his resignation. Richardson gave me a well-fertilized answer to the effect that he had no proof Bay no longer lived in the city.

Please. Richardson and Bay are political bedfellows. The public is often blind, but never stupid. Richardson knew. Others did too. The Landmark reported it months ago. Bay refused to return our phone calls to address the question, which is an indictment in itself. If Bay was actually still living in Parkville, why not answer The Landmark’s simple questions: Are you still a resident of Parkville? If so, what is your address?

Bay didn’t want to answer those questions. He didn’t want to give up his seat. Obviously, Richardson wasn’t anxious to see Bay have to step away. Thanks to tips we were receiving from friends and non-friends of Bay, The Landmark reported months ago that Bay’s primary place of residence appeared to be in an apartment complex that he owns in Gladstone. At last check, Gladstone was not inside the city limits of Parkville. But that’s where family friends of Bay told me they would drop off kids who were spending time with Bay’s child. That would seem to be a pretty good indication that’s where the man was living, wouldn’t you say?

At any rate, The Landmark’s level of reporting should have been enough to guilt Bay into resigning and guilt Richardson to the point he should have pressed the alderman for a resignation. Neither happened. I guess in order to develop a guilty conscience, one first must have a conscience. I’m wondering if there is a political conscience present in the pair.

The good ol’ boy and good ol’ girl atmosphere at Parkville is getting rocked. Two veteran incumbent aldermen did not seek reelection this April. Now Bay is resigning. Meanwhile, a Channel 41 investigative news crew has been digging into some behind the scenes activity at City Hall. So Bay and Richardson have watched themselves on the television news. And now, a Parkville businessman/civic leader is filing ethics complaints against both Bay and Richardson in regard to the ‘handling’ of Bay and the way Bay continued his voting duties as an alderman while he was no longer a legal resident of the city.

With Channel 41 still probing paperwork at Parkville, things are getting uglier, with the resignation of an accounts payable clerk and the city administrator placed on paid leave. Anybody still believe Richardson recently hired a public relations firm to help explain the construction-based traffic challenges into downtown Parkville? I fully believe Richardson wanted some PR help because he knew some bad news was on the horizon. The worst of which could still be yet to come.

******

The automatic igniter on my propane grill has stopped working, so I’ve been lighting it by hand with a match stick. Is this wise? Should I be dressing in a fire suit?

******

Laptop computer crashed last week, the igniter on the grill has quit, and one of the central air conditioning units didn’t want to kick on during a recent test run on a warm day. All things mechanical in my world seem to be in a state of rebellion right now. Not that you necessarily care. The thought just ran through my mind.

******

Hey, try out one of those new gourmet hot dogs at your local Sonic. I like the Chicago style dog, loaded with good stuff like relish, tomato, jalapenos, and even a pickle. It’s good eatin.’ I’m not normally a huge fan of Sonic food items, but these new style dogs they’re featuring hit the spot. And if you tire of fried chicken at the local Church’s--where the spicy style lives up to its name-- try their shrimp. It’s tasty.

******

More lifestyle randomness. Got a problem with foot pain such as plantar fasciitis? Step on one of those Dr. Scholl’s machines featuring foot mapping technology. I saw one at an area Wal-Mart and went through the awkward measurement process, which features on-screen instructions telling you where to step, when to lean this way, when to lean that way, etc. While you’re looking like a dork, the machine is mapping the pressure points of your feet and finishes by recommending which orthotic insert you should purchase to stick in your shoes.

As a sidenote, during my experience a lady in a Catholic schoolgirl-type short skirt appeared behind me. Don’t get too excited, guys, this is starting to sound like the plot of a late night show on Cinemax, but it’s not. The overly-friendly lady struck me as the groupie-type who perhaps had just pulled an all nighter on the bus of her favorite Crunk band--and hadn’t bothered to shower afterward.

Anyway, the lady seemed fascinated by the foot mapping machine and was so juiced up that she actually found my recommended product, excitedly grabbed it off the shelf and handed it to me. She then made a virtual sprint toward the store’s exit. I paid for my purchase and walked to the parking lot. I checked my car’s back seat before I got in.

The point of the story is these orthotic inserts are a worthy investment. The inserts aren’t cheap--mine were $50--but have drastically cut back on the foot pain that had been irritating the Jeffrey Bay out of me.

(Befriend Ivan Foley on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or sneak up on him at Wal-Mart)


WHISPERS FOUND RIDING ON THE WIND FROM PARKVILLE

Posted 4/15/11

It’s like a Shakespearean Tragedy.

It has been one of those weeks when technology--the tool that has allowed those of us in the media to do so much more in less time than ever--has not been a friend. It’s also a reminder of why I so badly despise having to get a new computer.

My laptop, perhaps my closest non-human friend in this big bad world, crashed and died early Monday afternoon. The Landmark’s world has not been the same since. Sure, with on-staff technological expert Cindy Rinehart at my side an emergency run to Best Buy resulted in a replacement being purchased, but that’s just the beginning of what amounts to a major switchover of data, files, contact lists, reloading all the necessary software applications, etc. It’s a major project. One of the young guys on the Geek Squad at the Tiffany Springs Best Buy, whose name was Justin--was masterful at pulling off important info from the crashed laptop and we appreciate his talent and willingness to put a rush on our needs.

As deadline hits, the new laptop and its Windows 7 operating program are having some major conflicts with a couple of the more important programs we employ to bring you the news each week. Thusly, your displaced publisher is working on an old desktop against the back wall of the office, feeling out of place and much less productive than normal.

Hopefully after this paper hits the streets, the post-deadline slower pace of the week will be conducive to getting the new electronic beast up and running and by next week, the output will be faster and bulkier than ever before. At least that’s the plan.

And just in time. Sounds like the upcoming weeks could be quite newsworthy. Read on.

******

Whispers are in the wind at the city of Parkville. And it’s not all peaches and cream.
Word on the street indicates that a Kansas City television news investigative reporter has been doing some digging into several topics at City Hall in Parkville. You’ve read in The Landmark recently how Mayor Gerry Richardson has indicated he’d like to enlist the services of a public relations firm to help with such chores as better informing the public about traffic changes caused by downtown bridge construction. My speculation is that Richardson’s desire to have a public relations firm at the ready might have more to do with what’s about to break if/when this investigative reporter’s findings hit the airwaves.

Richardson, at last week’s aldermen meeting, reported that he had been in contact with a public relations firm and has agreed to spend $2,500 at an hourly rate of $25 per hour to obtain what was described as “much needed” advice in the area of public relations. Richardson went on to say that the city’s legal firm would actually hire the public relations firm and the city’s legal counsel will bill the city for the public relation services. Having the PR firm tied so closely to the city attorney’s office further fuels my speculation.

Followers of Parkville City Hall also noticed that a couple of incumbent aldermen did not file for reelection this year. Just burned out, or wanting to step away before some bad news potentially hits? If word of some snooping by the TV station has reached my ears, you know darn well all the players within City Hall are aware of it.

Burning question, of course, is what exactly is the television news hound uncovering, or at least attempting to uncover? It’s unconfirmed at this point, but don’t be surprised if you eventually hear stories of allegations of inappropriate purchases (not necessarily involving elected officials, if this story has legs it may or may not be aimed at an employee). Also, don’t be at all shocked if you hear more about a topic The Landmark reported on months ago--that Jeffrey Bay, alderman, may not actually be a resident of the city. In fact from the feedback we get here in Between the Lines, the only person in Platte County who believes Jeffrey Bay still resides in Parkville might be Jeffrey Bay.

We’ll see what, if anything, becomes of the time the TV news guy has put in.

******

Last week’s column closed with a quick reference to Kathy Dusenbery’s “let’s all go out and talk positively about Shiloh,” the county-owned, tax money-losing golf course. I rhetorically asked if county commissioner Dusenbery was wearing a cheerleading skirt at the recent county-hosted infomercial designed to convince taxpayers that whizzing away public money on a golf course is a great idea.

Seeing that in last week’s issue, a dedicated Between the Lines reader quickly sent me an email saying: “Now I know what next week’s cartoon (top center of this page) is going to be.”

How did he know that?

******

Excited to tease you with the announcement that The Landmark will be teaming up with Nick and Jake’s restaurant/bar/grill in Parkville. A still-in-the-works partnership is expected to feature Landmark personalities hosting special events at the wildly popular restaurant, which is seen as the cornerstone of the Parkville Commons Development near the intersection of Hwys. 9 and 45.

Tentative plans call for Nick and Jake’s to begin offering a low-priced Landmark lunch special on certain days.

Nick and Jake’s will soon be unveiling its outdoor partially enclosed smoking patio. The interior of the restaurant has gone to entirely non-smoking.

More on the partnership and future mutually-promoted events between The Landmark and Nick and Jake’s in future issues.

******

Another big announcement: Jared Speckman, son of Savannah Reporter publishing guru Guy Speckman, will be joining The Landmark staff as a summer intern beginning next month. Jared, currently a junior at William Jewell, will be putting his vast reporting skills to work at various events and meetings.

(When he isn’t busy with his ear to the ground catching sounds from Parkville, Ivan Foley can be reached at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com, friended on Facebook, or followed at Twitter.com/ivanfoley)


TAXES ARE DESIGNED TO PROVIDE SERVICES NOT AVAILABLE OTHERWISE

Posted 4/7/11

This is crazy. We’re five games into the season and the Royals are still above .500. Should we go ahead and order those playoff tickets??

******

Gotta say I had the most fun a guy can have at a Royals game on Sunday. Grabbed the fam and headed out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, with excellent seats 10 rows behind the dugout suites on the Royals side of the field. KC jumped ahead early, then blew the lead, then rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie and finally won the thing in the 13th.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had that much fun at the ol’ ball park. Head out to a game one of these nice warm days or evenings soon while the Royals are, uh, still in the hunt for something. If you can avoid trips to the overpriced concession stands, Royals games really aren’t an expensive outing in comparison to many other entertainment options.

******

Sad news hit Platte County last Thursday morning when word spread of the death of Lisa Pope, county assessor. She had bravely battled cancer--it started as lung cancer, even though she had never been a smoker--for several years.

Lisa was elected county assessor in 2004 after working as chief deputy in that office for many years. Though it pays well these days--as do all the county elected spots--assessor is one of those thankless positions to hold. The vast majority of attention or feedback an assessor receives is of the negative variety from property owners who feel the assessed value of their property hasn’t been fairly appraised.

Despite the public relations challenges of being an assessor, The Landmark always found Pope to be an open and honest interview. While some elected officials will feed you a line or dodge questions or employ semantics in their answers, that wasn’t the case with Lisa Pope. She always seemed to be straightforward and honest, not interested in playing political games with assessments or word games with the media. She seemed to be a good-hearted person who wanted to do the right thing. It was impressive and encouraging to run into Lisa while she was going through her treatments--impressive in that she almost always looked chipper despite her diagnosis and nasty treatment regimen. The last time I remember running into her was at an October political event, and under the circumstances she was facing she looked stunningly healthy, to the point I put my arm on her shoulder and told her how good she looked.

A sweet person who will be missed.

*******

Check out our front page story on Lisa Pope’s passing to get all the details on how the vacant position of assessor will be filled.

Meanwhile, let the rumor mill begin to churn out a list of possible applicants for the opening. One name already being whispered as possibly having interest? Longtime county clerk Sandy Krohne, Democrat, who was defeated in the Republican tidal wave last November by Joan Harms.

So is Krohne truly interested?

“I’ve thought about it. But not at this time. That’s not where I need to be,” Krohne responded via phone.

Another natural name to hit the rumor mill eventually might be Democrat Marcena Fulton, who served as Krohne’s chief deputy in the county clerk’s office for many years and who unsuccessfully ran against Pope in 2008. A call to Fulton had not been returned as of press time.

******

Conservatives didn’t get a good result in the KC earnings tax election on Tuesday. Conservatives, however, did get a good result in one of the Park Hill School Board posts, where David Cox topped current board member Fred Sanchez and some also-rans.

Longtime Between the Lines readers will recall that Sanchez, in his posts as school board member, South Platte Ambulance District board member, and member of the Democratic Central Committee, has been exposed as one of the most liberal (and possibly most out of touch) elected officials Platte County has ever seen.

His defeat is good for the causes of conservatism and fiscal sanity.

******

Speaking of fiscal sanity, a public infomercial was held last week to present all the good things about the taxpayer funded money-losing play area known as Shiloh Springs Golf Course. I boycotted the meeting after seeing the press release that came out promoting it. It was easy to see based on the wording of that press release that the county wasn’t really interested in a serious discussion about the financial drain this course has been on the taxpayers of the county. Side note to libs: it doesn’t matter if the tax money to fund the play area comes from property taxes (it doesn’t) or from the county’s bloated $82 million park sales tax (it does), the bottom line is it is tax money being spent on unnecessary play stuff that is readily available in the private sector. It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find a privately-funded golf course in this area, why do taxpayers need to be providing another one, especially when the golf business just ain’t what it used to be? Tax dollars are designed to go for services that wouldn’t otherwise be readily available. Golf is readily available in a lot of privately-funded places, folks.

******

Rah rah, sis boom bah.

The most ridiculed quote to come from the Shiloh golf meeting will prove to be this one from Kathy Dusenbery, first district county commissioner:

“I can see there’s a lot of passion for this course and that’s good for us to see as we work on budgets,” she said. “That should be the message tonight -- everybody goes out and let’s talk positively about Shiloh.”

Did Kathy bring pompons to the meeting?

Was she wearing a cheerleading skirt?

There you have it folks, the key to fixing the money drain that is Shiloh Springs is for all of us to talk positively about the tax money it is losing for us.

(Send your best cheer to the publisher at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com or follow his daily actions at Twitter.com/ivanfoley or Facebook.com/ivanfoley)


LOCAL ECONOMIC NUMBERS MORE DOWN THAN UP RIGHT NOW

Posted 4/1/11

How’s the economy?

Platte County Commissioners, after looking over the sales tax revenue numbers received the first week of March, aren’t exactly in a boasting mood about the local economy. That’s in contrast from what happened when the February numbers came in. Those February receipts were 47% above the receipts from February in 2010. This prompted Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, to quickly jump on social media (I think the Obama White House calls it socialized media) outlets Twitter and Facebook to boast about how great things were economically, while thanking the fine people of Platte County for their support.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this isn’t the first time Dusenbery has been a little bit reactionary on a topic. It’s a personality trait that often makes her a topic in this very column, and for that we can be thankful. But I digress.

And digress is exactly what the March sales tax receipts did. March receipts are down a whopping 37% from a year ago.

Ouch. So much for the boastful posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, let’s not pull the opposite of a Dusenbery and overreact negatively to this. I don’t believe the sky is falling.

While the March numbers show a37% drop, the year to date receipts aren’t quite that bad. Combined totals of the county’s sales tax revenue and its use tax revenue show the county is behind almost 12% from this time a year ago. That’s bad, but it’s not a negative 37% bad, if you follow my drift.

March receipts reflect sales that were made in January. Remember, we had bad weather in January, several significant snowfalls. A couple of days the snow was so bad (well, kinda) that the county closed its doors to allow its employees to spend the day shopping, obviously a strategic move designed to try to boost the local economy.
Some folks like to say factors like cold and snow don’t really affect economic numbers. I disagree. It’s not only a physical detriment to folks who might normally get out to do some shopping or eat at a restaurant, it’s also a mental detriment as well. Are you more likely to have a positive outlook on the future of the world in general--and thus more likely to open up your pocketbook–when it’s 20 degrees and a cold wind is blowing or when it’s 70 degrees and sunny?

Spring traditionally brings optimism. Just ask the Royals.

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Differences over a new labor deal between the unionized employees of the Northland Regional Ambulance District and the district’s board of directors have apparently been solved after some mediation. It was mentioned at last week’s NRAD board of directors meeting that a new pact calls for a 45 cent per hour raise for most employees.
Somehow this bit of news has been overshadowed by a recent land acquisition made by the NRAD board. Perhaps you’ve heard about that.

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The political fortunes of Jason Grill, former state representative for southern Platte County, took another hit last week. Grill sent out a late-in-the-game email blast to thousands of folks, throwing his support behind Mike Burke in the Kansas City mayoral race. Burke, despite walking hand-in-hand with such “progressives” as Grill and Dusenbery, was waxed in last week’s election by Sly James, 54% to 46%. For what it’s worth, Burke did run strong in his home area in the Northland.

Political observers are now wondering aloud what Grill will do. He obviously gambled on getting a schmooze job with Burke and it didn’t pan out. It doesn’t seem likely James will ask him to take a cushy position at City Hall after that email blast in favor of Burke.

We noted here a couple of weeks ago that Grill, who is an attorney but apparently doesn’t want to be, has been applying for positions in the areas of public relations and advertising. He has not yet parlayed his looks and his desire to party into a high level job in either field.

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Don’t forget to head to the polls on Tuesday when local cities and school boards will be filling spots on their respective boards.

There aren’t many contested races. For instance, no spots on the Platte City Board of Aldermen are contested and there are only three candidates for three open spots on the Platte County R-3 Board of Education.

But in the Park Hill School District, as you’ll see in our front page story on their candidate forum held Tuesday night, there is some competition. Park Hill--just like Platte County R-3 and, honestly, just like nearly every public education body out there--could use a shot of fiscal conservatism from board members who aren’t afraid to ask tough questions of the hired and highly compensated administrators. Three candidates at Park Hill who would have the knowledge, the common sense and the stones to do that are Chris Seufert, Timothy Thompson and David Cox.

Each is worthy of your vote if you’d like some voices of fiscal common sense to be heard on your school board.

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You’ll want to check out the updated standings in our Bracket Battle on page A-4. With so many upsets in this year’s tourney, many of the brackets entered have been shot. As things stand now, I would be giving away around 30 one-year subscriptions to this fine newspaper based on the fact there are about 30 of the 169 of you who entered ahead of me in the standings.

By this time next week our $100 first place winner will be announced and everyone who finished with a better score than yours truly can start contacting our office to claim your free subscription. Enjoy.

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See this Quick Response code (similar to a bar code) in the corner of my column? There’s also one on our front page. Scan that thing with your QR reader on your camera phone. The code on the front page will take you to The Landmark’s web site home page, and this one takes you to my column on the web.

Technology is a great thing, huh? More on this in future Landmarks.

(You can scan his quick response code and email Ivan Foley anytime at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


NRAD'S QUESTIONABLE LAND DEAL HAS BECOME REGIONAL STORY

Posted 3/25/11

It wouldn’t be appropriate to let the week get by without a tip of the cap to all the firefighters and other first responders who bravely battled tough circumstances at the fatal High Pointe Apartment Complex fire on Saturday.

Job well done. Saturday’s fire was the third notable blaze to which Central Platte Fire Department had responded in a week.

As you’ll see in an article in this issue, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt is planning a special open house event at City Hall on Friday to honor the local heroes.

You can see more of our pictures from the fire at Facebook.com/ivanfoley.

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Saturday’s fire is the latest in a string of bad luck incidents spread out over three decades at High Pointe. Prior to Saturday’s blaze, other sad incidents at High Pointe being recalled by longtime residents this week are Building F at the complex sliding down the hill in the 1990s and the tragic accidental death of a man working in the swimming pool area of the clubhouse.

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Have an interest in what’s happening with your tax dollars that go to support the county’s money-losing golf course? You might want to attend a public forum set for Wednesday, March 30 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the banquet room at Shiloh Springs Golf Course. You’ve read many reports in this newspaper over the years about how Shiloh Springs has been a major drain on the pocketbooks of taxpayers. Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, earlier this year suggested a public forum be held to explain to residents the financial challenges faced at Shiloh and to listen to any ideas presented by the public.

A press release that came out of the parks department earlier this week presented next Wednesday’s forum as being some sort of showcase event for the facility. That’s really not the approach that Dusenbery used when she first brought up the idea of hosting a public forum. Dusenbery’s public comments about the forum consisted mainly about the financial challenges at Shiloh. Upon seeing the rosy tone to this week’s press release, I phoned Dusenbery to see if the focus of this public event had changed. She says that in her mind, she still wants finances to be the main topic of discussion.

“It’s no fun getting the monthly numbers from Shiloh. They’re not great,” she told me.
Dusenbery added: “I want to hear legitimate alternatives. Do you pull the plug and keep making bond payments on it? The golf industry as a whole is going backward, not forward. I believe we should start looking at different alternatives and discussing the future past the bond payments (which she said are set to end in a few years).”

Could be an interesting meeting. Or it could be another fluffy county parks department infomercial. Time will tell.

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So did you put an entry in The Landmark’s bracket contest? You’re not alone. A record number of you did. A few, in fact, tried to enter more than once, which is a no-no. Another one or two of you submitted only about half a bracket. When the dust had settled, we counted 169 valid entries, easily topping the previous record of 126 set last year.

If the contest ended today, 34 of you would be ahead of me in the standings and thereby would be qualified for one year of free information and entertainment in the form of a Landmark subscription. But don’t get giddy--my bracket still has balls.

Veteran bracket battlers know this much: These contests are won--or lost--in the later rounds. See the complete list of standings of the 169 entrants on page A-4 of this issue. Any complaints about your score--or the spelling of your name (some handwriting of names was uh, less than stellar, shall we say)--contact official scorekeeper Rian Babcock at rian@plattecountylandmark.com

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The controversy over the ridiculous land deal approved by the Northland Regional Ambulance District board of directors continues to pick up steam. As Landmark readers well know, NRAD paid $175,000 for three acres of land at I-29 and Camden Point from its own board president Kevin Rawlings. Less than a year earlier, Rawlings had purchased the entire 35 acre tract for $130,000 from an Overland Park man. That’s right. Rawlings bought 35 acres for $130,000, then several months later sold three of those acres to NRAD for $175,000. Do you think he came out alright on his investment?

The troubling part is that Rawlings serves on a board that in its long range plan developed more than two years ago had identified I-29 at Camden Point as being the ideal location for NRAD to locate a future ambulance facility. For anyone at NRAD to deny that Rawlings knew of that long range plan is simply dishonest. He is the board president--how could he not have known? In his initial interview with me on the topic several weeks ago, Rawlings acknowledged how the district years ago had pinpointed I-29 at Camden Point as an ideal future location. After the story hit the paper and public outcry started to grow, Rawlings and some of his cohorts have tried to change the story a bit to claim that Rawlings had no idea when he bought the property less than year ago that NRAD might be interested in that location. But the change of tune is too late. That horse already left the barn.

At least one NRAD patron says he is filing a complaint with the state ethics commission. Interestingly, I’ve received emails from folks at the state capitol who want background info on this situation. The story has gone regional, catching the eye of investigative news reporter Ryan Kath of Channel 41, who filed an excellent report on the topic Monday. Kath’s report (and he graciously credits The Landmark in several places in his report) was later praised by the wildly popular media watchdog web site bottomlinecom.com, which will further advance the audience of this fiasco. You can view Kath’s report on the internet by going to http://tinyurl.com/4n574hg (I made that link green because that's the color of the money now in Rawlings' pocket).

Bill Edwards, former alderman at Dearborn and lifetime Platte County resident, summed it up this way at Monday night’s NRAD board meeting: “This is one of the shadiest things that I’ve ever seen done in Platte County, that he (Rawlings) went and bought that property after he knew they were looking for land.”

I’ve yet to hear anyone offer a satisfactory argument against that opinion.

(Help shine light into the shade with an email to ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


WHY IS CUTTING BACK SO HARD TO SAY? BRACKET BATTLE RAGES

Posted 3/18/11

As you know, we occasionally engage in sarcasm here in Between the Lines. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my favorite headline of the week comes from the satirical newspaper known as The Onion. The headline?

“Factual Error Found On Internet.”

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You’ll notice this version of Page 2 is missing an editorial cartoon from our talented graphic artist Matthew Silber. You’ll be able to find Matthew’s cartoon on my Facebook page and at Twitter.com/ivanfoley.

The topic? The collective bargaining discussion at Platte County R-3.

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Public disgust over the Northland Regional Ambulance District’s purchase of three acres for $175,000 from the president of its board of directors continues to grow. Channel 41 of Kansas City was in town on Wednesday researching the issue for a potential story on its newscast. I’m told the TV guys decided to make a personal visit to town with cameras rolling after repeated calls to some of the main NRAD players in this controversy went unreturned.

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For reasons I don’t quite understand, it’s tough for the new presiding commissioner to put into words but the facts are this: the Platte County Commission is cutting back on the number of administrative sessions it holds. See our front page for full story.

Traditionally held on a weekly basis, indications are now the commission will be going to an every-other-week meeting schedule. Brown won’t confirm it, dancing around the simple and harmless question posed to him this week by our trusty reporter PJ Rooks.

“We’ve gone from three last month to two this month and they’re every other week on the 14th and 28th. If that will be the same schedule next month, I don’t know because we haven’t set anything in April yet. Next month we could have two, we could have three, we could have four. We could have any number of them.”

Wow. Talk about a convoluted answer. And disingenuous.

The buzz in political circles the past couple weeks has been that the commission has decided to cut back to just two meetings per month. Even one of Brown’s fellow commissioners told The Landmark that’s the plan. Why Brown gave us a wordy answer that danced all over the calendar I have no idea. Turning the simple into the complicated is a specialty for some politicians.

“We’re going to be efficient and do what we need to do to get through these economic times,” Brown said.

So cutting back on the number of county commission administrative sessions is a money-saving move? Exactly how is that? County commissioners work on a salary ($60,000 to $65,000). Are they taking a salary cut as a result of cutting back on administrative sessions?

I like Jason Brown and many of his conservative views on the world, but some of his public comments to the press in his first three months have been head-scratchers. Some of his words might make good stand-alone political sound bites, but when you place them into their proper context they don’t pass a test of logic.

Some folks will be bothered by the commissioners cutting back on the number of times they make themselves available to the public via an administrative session, and that argument has merit. Listen, it’s not the end of the world to me if the commissioners want to cut back to every other week. But at least be honest about the intention and the reason why.

I quit sending a representative of The Landmark to cover every session back in 2009 after Betty Knight and Co. had turned the meetings into nothing but a weekly political infomercial. Each meeting seemed to feature some type of Power Point presentation about a particular county department that obviously was just a scream to the media to “give us some good press on this.” If it wasn’t the Power Point that the commission wanted to stress to the press on a particular day, then it was an obviously planned political statement made by a commissioner in the “unscheduled comments” portion at the close of the meeting.

It was a waste of time for me or anyone on my staff to sit through the fluffy Power Point presentations--and The Landmark will never be in the business of being a PR machine for unchallenged political statements made by the elected--so I stopped sending a Landmark representative unless we knew there was a particularly newsworthy item on the agenda.

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Hey. It’s time to show off your March Swagness.

Get your entry in our Bracket Battle for your chance to win $100 in cool cash and become a local media star via all the publicity you’ll be getting in the pages of your Landmark. Plus, if you beat my score, which was easy to do last year, you’ll get a free one-year’s subscription to this fine newspaper.

My overall analysis of the tournament? I think the much ballyhooed Big East Conference will have a disappointing tournament and prove to have been an overrated league. I have zero Big East teams in my Final Four.

After much study and preparation (Between the Lines BS meter just sounded), here are my picks:

First round winners: Ohio State, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Xavier, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee, Arizona, Texas, MU, Connecticut, Temple, San Diego State, Kansas, UNLV, Richmond, Louisville, USC/VCU, Purdue, Florida State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Butler, K-State, Belmont, Gonzaga, BYU, UCLA, Florida.

Sweet Sixteen: Ohio State, Kentucky, Xavier, North Carolina, Duke, Texas, Connecticut, San Diego State, Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, K-State, Gonzaga, Florida.

Elite Eight: Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke, San Diego State, Kansas, Notre Dame, K-State, Florida.

Final Four: Ohio State, Duke, Kansas, Florida.

Championship: Duke 75, Kansas 71.

(Follow the contest standings each week in the paper or at Facebook.com/ivanfoley or Twitter.com/ivanfoley. Email the swaggalicious Ivan Foley at ivan@plattecountylandmark.com)


WHAT'S NEW WITH GRILL? AND HEADS NEED TO ROLL AT NRAD

Posted 3/11/11

A lot of you have been struggling with cold and flu symptoms as of late. Shortly after recently boasting about having a healthy winter season, I’ve been hit with some kind of congestive bug. I’ve put so many drugs in my system this week I’m starting to feel like Charlie Sheen. Without the psychotic flipouts.

At least not yet. It’s still early.

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I must have sounded like dead man walking earlier this week. On Monday, my buddy Greg Hall couldn’t get off the phone fast enough during a conversation. Usually when Hall and I make connection, much shooting of the bull ensues. GH cut it short, perhaps fearing my condition was so contagious it would work its way through the phone lines. I’ll be seeing him at the Big 12 tournament later this week. I hope he lets me talk to him.

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From Charlie Sheen to Jason Grill. Insert your own joke here.

When last we heard from Jason Grill, former state representative who liked to tell strangers at college football games that he was a Congressman, he had just been shockingly (to him) defeated by Ron Schieber in the November general election for the District 32 state representative.

Then the whispers started that Grill might look at running against his fellow “progressive” pal Kathy Dusenbery in 2012, when it is assumed Dusenbery will seek to renew her cushy position as first district county commissioner. But 2012 is further on up the road. What’s Grill going to do in the meantime? Glad you asked.

Trusted Between the Lines sources say the Grillmeister has been looking at some public relations and marketing jobs. Grill is an attorney, but if he’s looking at jobs in PR and marketing it seems safe to say he considers his law degree more of a showpiece than something he actually intends to use.

Grill has been seen hanging around development lawyer Mike Burke, one of the two candidates to survive the crowded race in Kansas City’s mayoral primary election. Burke and Sly James advanced to the upcoming general run-off, and the fact Grill is hanging on the sleeve of Burke could be an indication the former state rep, who liked to promote a playboy type image, could be hoping for some type of appointment and an office job at City Hall if Burke is victorious.

But James seems to be the mayoral candidate picking up momentum at this point, which could mean Grill is still j