wo more weeks of jail tax talk before the election. Hang in there. Stay alert and stay in tune with what’s real and what’s part real/part fantasy. Somebody has to keep those in power honest. Or as honest as possible.
If there is one thing that became clear at Saturday’s first “education session” (an egotistical term employed by our commissioners, who didn’t want to hold public input sessions before putting together a ballot proposal and instead prefer to hold sessions after they’ve come up with a plan to “educate” us lowly peasants) is that if this ‘jail tax’ passes you can forget about any tax decrease or “tax neutral” from this commission. And remember, these are the folks who, when they wanted your votes while running for office, promised things like “no new taxes” and “lower taxes/higher accountability.”
Ron Schieber was one who specifically mentioned “no new taxes” when he ran for office. Kiss that stance goodbye. John Elliott, second district commissioner, in his campaign coined the phrase “lower taxes/higher accountability” and we have seen neither in his first two years in office. Dagmar Wood, first district commissioner, talked about, at worst, holding the tax rate steady and improving transparency. Insert laughter here.
If passed, this new half cent tax will be followed up next year with a proposal to realign the current half cent park tax, likely with 1/8th cent for parks and 3/8th cent for law enforcement operations necessary to run this new prison-sized jail in downtown Platte City. Let’s do the math. Anybody see a tax decrease? Anybody see a “neutral” approach? A new half cent followed by renewal of an existing half cent, just with a portion of that existing half going to law enforcement. That doesn’t equal neutral.
Schieber proved recently he is quick to use the term “lying” when talking about folks who disagree with him on handling of the Zona Rosa bond situation. The only problem is no one has actually heard the alleged lies of which Schieber spoke. I’ll use more restraint than Schieber and avoid using the term “lying” when talking about his new position on taxes, however, we can clearly see a discrepancy between what Schieber promised taxpayers when he wanted our votes and what he is proposing now.
Why are the county commissioners trying to hide behind the sheriff in these public presentations regarding the county commission’s tax proposal? This is the county commission’s proposal, not the sheriff’s. The sheriff didn’t put this new tax on the ballot. He doesn’t have the legal ability to do so. This tax proposal is the property of the county commissioners. They’re trying to hide behind the sheriff, possibly believing that the public will be less likely to toss tough questions at the sheriff than at them.
The commissioners are the ones wanting your $65 million and will be in charge of spending it. They should at least have the tummy to take the lead in the public presentations. Declining to do so shows an embarrassing lack of accountability and fortitude.
County commissioners are scheduled to be the speakers at a meeting of the Platte City Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. At least that’s how its listed on the agenda. Will the commissioners try to hide behind the sheriff and make the sheriff do the speaking at that event?
Adding to that, the chamber event comes just days after the public became aware that first district commissioner Dagmar Wood said the business community is “perpetuating lies” in regard to the Zona Rosa bond situation.
Good times. Awkward good times.
Here’s the most succinct summary of the county’s court case against the trustee of the Zona Rosa bonds. Win or lose, the outcome isn’t going to have any immediate impact on the county’s bond rating, which is now in junk status. That’s according to financial experts we’ve talked to on the subject, who say it will take years for the county to earn back its good rating. One expert compared it to a private person filing bankruptcy. There’s no chance that good credit rating is coming back overnight, no matter how the pending court case turns out.
So if the county loses the case, it has destroyed its bond rating in advance of wanting to spend $65 million. And if the county wins the case, it still has destroyed its bond rating in advance of wanting to spend $65 million.
The county’s jail ‘expert’ predicts county jail population will rise by seven inmates per year. Of course that projection was made before the Supreme Court announced new rules about courts will stop jailing suspects not considered dangerous or flight risks, which seems destined to lower jail population trends.Let’s say the jail population does rise by seven per year. Platte County rents out at least 15 beds to house ICE inmates. Kick out the 15 ICE and you’ve bought yourself two years to better study more reasonable options.
Just another logical reason that, despite what the county commissioners and sheriff are trying to sell the public, there does not need to be a sense of urgency about the jail at this time.
Are Platte County commissioners paying attention to the outside world?
President Donald Trump: Has thrown his weight behind a plan that would reduce some prison sentences for convicted drug criminals. Gov. Mike Parson: “I am absolutely not in favor of building more prisons. Alternative sentencing is the wave of the future.” (By the way, the governor is a former sheriff). State of Missouri: “Let’s consolidate two existing prisons and invest the savings in wage increases for the corrections officers.” Also in the state of Missouri, there are efforts to decriminalize marijuana. That’s not going to happen right away but you can certainly see the train coming. Missouri Supreme Court Justice Zel Fischer: “Too many people can’t afford bail for low-level offenses and can lose their jobs while (in jail) waiting for trial.” Beginning in July, courts in Missouri will avoid jailing people awaiting trial who are neither a danger to the public nor a flight risk but simply too poor to afford cash bail. Beginning in July courts must first consider non-monetary conditions for defendants’ release. Judges will still be able to set bail, but only at the amount necessary to ensure either public safety or to ensure that the defendant will appear again in court. It was recently reported that this method dropped jail populations by 30% in at least one test county.
Meanwhile, the Platte County Commission wants a 400-bed county jail and a $65 million tax increase to pay for it. Commissioner Dagmar Wood even wants the sheriff’s department to pursue people who have outstanding warrants for misdemeanors and traffic violations. I’m not kidding. Next thing you know Wood will be proposing the death penalty for parking tickets.
And remember, the tax you’re voting on April 2 does NOT give raises to deputies and does NOT provide revenue to operate the prison the commissioners are proposing to build.
The commissioners are trying to govern by their own ideologies and not by awareness of state and national trends, common sense and business sense.
(For more analysis of local issues, watch Landmark Live on Facebook at Platte County Landmark. Email Ivan Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org)