pent a couple of days in Virginia over the weekend with the oldest daughter and fam. If you’ve been out of the region at any point during the past few weeks you’ve likely experienced the same thing we did: when folks find out you’re from the Kansas City metro the first thing they want to talk about is the Chiefs. Kinda cool.
The second thing some people want to talk about is whether Kansas City is in Missouri or Kansas. Yes, this is still a thing. Apparently Trump isn’t the only one confused by this. The struggle is real.
Even a Pennsylvania man who seemed otherwise well educated and intelligent was having trouble with this topic as we sat around a fire pit near a portable outdoor ice skating rink on a chilly night in Colonial Williamsburg. The friendly older gentleman was familiar with specific locations in the country of Mexico but was having trouble with this whole “Kansas City is in Missouri”concept. He seemed genuinely intrigued with my responses and explanations, like a kid in geography class or something. He also wanted to know the city with the highest population in Kansas. I impressed myself by correctly telling him off the top of my head that it is Wichita (I later Googled it to confirm my accuracy–must be the journalist in me).
And boy, does it further confuse some folks if you tell them the professional soccer team known as Sporting KC plays in Kansas City, Kan. but the team’s administrative offices are located in Downtown Kansas City, Mo. And you’ll need to be very patient as you explain to folks that the Kansas University basketball team is a popular draw in Kansas City, Mo., and then explain that the Big 12 Basketball Tournament is a major attraction in Kansas City, Mo. even though Kansas is a member of the conference and Missouri is not.
Whew. Head spinning stuff.
Last week’s front page story on the rise in the compensation package for Platte County R-3 Superintendent Dr. Mike Reik got the attention of many in the R-3 community, including one current R-3 staffer who called our office to discuss it. The staffer, wishing not to be publicly identified at this point for obvious reasons, said it is “unconscionable that he makes that kind of money” with the other problems within the district, in particular with the southern end of the district, including apparently some staffing issues and fairly recent problems with sewer line smell in the Barry building (sewer line smell has recently been fixed but it had gone on for a while, to the point the basement level had to be left unused because teachers and students were getting sick from the smell, this staffer said).
Transparency is also a concern, as it has been at R-3 for a decade now. Staff members are expressing surprise at the level of Reik’s pay, based on the impression that has always been given that administrator’s raises were similar to other staff. The staffer says it’s now obvious the superintendent’s pay has been advanced in other financial ways “without calling it salary.” In addition, the staffer believes there is “systemic discrimination” at R-3. There is “huge inequality with the bussing” and other items as basic as band equipment, the staffer remarked. “They don’t care about what happens down south as long as the good ol’ boys up north have what they need,” the staffer said. Ouch. When the soldiers fighting the daily battles in the field are talking this way, there are problems.
You know the meeting last week that was originally thought would be the final and deciding meeting of the Platte County Sales Tax Structure Advisory Committee (lordy that’s an inefficient mouthful of words)?
Well, turns out it wasn’t the final meeting. There was analysis and then some analysis and then more analysis of revenue and expense projections that some folks think still need to be tweaked further while others think they’ve seen enough. There were so many numbers available to the group that even Kevin Robinson, county auditor who was in attendance, said “at some point you’re just pushing sand up through the hour glass” and committee member Shane Bartee said “at some point these are leadership questions” and committee member Aaron Schmidt said you can look at all the numbers you want but at some point “it becomes a policy question not a mathematical question.”
Amen to what Schmidt said.
Through no fault of their own, committee members have reached paralysis by analysis. I say through no fault of their own because the county commission made no effort to conduct public surveys or get vast amounts of public input before naming this committee. So since the committee will want to propose ballot issues it thinks will pass, members have to gauge what they think the public wants. Jim McCall, committee member, said he feels parks projects are still high on people’s list of desires. He reminded that the most recent parks question on a ballot in the county (a half cent sales tax in City of Parkville) passed overwhelmingly while the most recent law enforcement question on the ballot (a half cent countywide sales tax to double the size of the jail) failed overwhelmingly. Like McCall, Schmidt was vocal in his belief that county residents want park capital projects to continue. Schmidt at one point said he is leaning 3/8th cent for parks, 1/8th cent for law enforcement.
I do think it’s very fair and appropriate to be concerned that last year’s misguided $65 million half cent jail sales tax proposal poisoned the well for voters when it comes to law enforcement tax questions. It was a mistake by the county commission to put that monstrosity on the ballot. It was way over the top in its size and scope and now has many voters wondering if future law enforcement tax proposals will be similar attempted money grabs.
A graph shown by Gordon Cook at last week’s meeting clearly showed that the sheriff’s department projected “needs” for expenditures over the next 10 years run significantly steeper than relevant comparisons to projected growth in population and housing units. This raised a red flag with many committee members, and rightfully so.
Last week, the 10 committee peeps could not come to a majority decision, splitting 5-5 on a vote to recommend a proposal of asking voters to approve a quarter cent for parks/stormwater and a quarter cent for law enforcement. It was just a quick show of hands vote, not a roll call, but those in favor were Jim Kunce, Shane Bartee, Angie Mutti, Jim McCall, Rick Easley. Opposed: Sandra Thomas, Gordon Cook, Wes Minder, David Ketchmark and Aaron Schmidt.
The next (final?) meeting is penciled in for Feb. 24.
(Pencil Ivan Foley an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him explaining which places are in Missouri and which places are in Kansas)