ust a reminder to keep things in the proper perspective for this spring election.
What do I mean by that?
You don’t owe the Platte County Commission–or any other of your elected officials, school boards, city officials–anything. They work for you. You don’t work for them. They owe you a detailed explanation. You don’t owe them one. Let’s never lose sight of who is the boss (that’s you) and who is the employee (that’s them).
Specific to the county, commissioners owe you a detailed explanation of what they’re proposing to do, why they’re proposing to do it, where they’re proposing to do it, how they’re proposing to do it, and how much it’s going to cost.
Don’t accept generalities and vague answers. Generalities and a lack of specifics should be enough to cause you to vote no.
If the ballot question passes, you’re paying the bill. You deserve the details.
A word to the wise, these commissioners occasionally like to play word games. They’ve been known to say “we didn’t say that” even after they say things.
After their up-to-that-point secret plan was exposed in The Landmark last summer and a headline read “Commission pondering 510-bed jail, tax increase,” one of the commissioners actually stood up in a public setting and gave a reaction that advanced the idea of “fake news” when in fact there was nothing fake or incorrect about it. Apparently at least one commissioner wanted to take the position that adding 330 beds to a 180 bed jail didn’t mean they were pondering a 510 bed jail. Maybe commissioners thought the general public isn’t smart enough to do the math.
In their world of word games, they were pondering a 330 bed jail addition to an existing 180 bed jail, not pondering a 510 bed jail. Hmm.
Let’s add 330 to 180. That would equal a 510 bed jail. Nothing fake about that. What’s fake are disingenuous word games by folks we trust to do better.
And as it turns out, what’s fake are the “no new taxes,” “lower taxes, higher accountability,” and “increased transparency” promises current commissioners made to you when they wanted your vote at the polls.
With a $65 million sales tax increase question now is the time to hold your elected county officials accountable. You may notice to this point it’s an extremely vague plan, questionable in its immediate need, and does nothing to address what many folks say is the most immediate problem in the sheriff’s department. The most immediate need in the sheriff’s department is higher pay for deputies.
The half cent sales tax revenue for a new jail can’t legally be used to increase pay for officers. Don’t incorrectly assume that it does.
Per the ballot language, the half cent sales tax and the $65 million it will bring in is only for capital improvements. Salaries are not capital improvements and therefore revenue from this tax will NOT go to better pay for deputies.
For the sheriff’s department, the proposed new $65 million tax is only for a massive and expensive new jail.
Be on your toes for potential county official doublespeak, contradictions, and broken promises. Ask questions. If they sense you’re opposed to their proposal they’ll try to flip the script by asking you questions, they’ll ask you if you have a better solution. If you have an idea speak it, but don’t feel pressured. Tell them it’s not your job to come up with a solution, that’s what you hired them to do.
If you’re not into confrontation, you don’t even have to tell them which way you’re leaning. Either way, never let any elected official try to question you like you’re on trial. The duty to explain is on them, not you.
You don’t have to convince them their proposal sucks (deep down, they probably already know their plan is questionable, otherwise they would have opened it up to public forums and public input prior to putting it on the ballot). See if they can convince you there is an actual emergency need and that this plan is the best way–and the best time–to address it. When public officials are wanting $65 million of your tax money, don’t make their job easier. Make it harder. Don’t let them put you on the defensive. You put them on the defensive. See above about who’s the boss.
If you’re not into confrontation, that’s ok, you don’t even have to call them out. Some of you might be friends with the commissioners and don’t want to burn a personal bridge. That’s fine. Do your talking via that confidential vote you cast on April 2. They don’t even have to know how you voted.
Rather than doing their own talking, this commission would prefer to lurk in the weeds, hear you talk and then try to convince you that your belief about their plan is wrong and accuse you of having bad info. This is the opposite of how the process is supposed to operate. Make them do the talking.
Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, says the commission will do an “education campaign” on the ballot question. He wasn’t specific. And really, those types of public forums should have been held to gather public input before a plan was put on the ballot, not afterward.
They’re wanting $65 million of your dollars, primarily for a jail for which the immediate need can be fairly questioned. They’ll tell you a recent jail study says it’s needed. Fact is the most recent jail study didn’t even use the accurate current jail capacity (it used original capacity of 151 when actual number of beds is now 180) when spewing present and future needs. At minimum, that’s what can fairly be called manipulating information to fit a narrative.
Fact is the county commission didn’t even ask the recent jail study to explain why the jail population has increased. Therein lies the problem. Remember, felony crimes in Platte County actually declined three percent in the past year. Let’s figure out why the jail count is supposedly up and see if the problem, if there is one, can be solved through other means.
Let the commissioners do the talking. Then feel free to pick apart their words with your vote.
Another thing: this proposal is not the sheriff’s baby. By law, it can’t be. The sheriff doesn’t have the power to put an issue on the ballot. Only the county commission can do that. This is the county commission’s proposal. Don’t let them try to pass off ownership of the plan. Don’t let credit or blame be handed off to the sheriff. This proposal is the property of the county commission.
How about some Sunshine on a cold winter’s day?
Interesting note. The group known as Citizens for a Better Parkville sent the exact same Sunshine Law request for documents to the City of Parkville and to the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (CID) for documents pertaining to interactions between the two entities form the year 2014 to present. The requests were identical and were sent on the same day.
The responses were quite different.
The City of Parkville responded by saying it needs $500 cash up front with an earliest commitment date of one month from receipt of cash. The CID said it will provide the records at no charge in two days.
The city has a staff of more than eight and a budget measured in the millions. The CID has a staff of one and really no measurable budget.