Don’t look now but the noise you’ve been making about the county commission’s priorities with the $12.2 million in CARES money could be starting to make a difference. Check out this spin job put out by Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber at the close of Tuesday’s commission meeting.
“I’d like to announce that we are in the process of working with cities, schools, and health departments in creating an ordinance for CARES funding. We are in the process of creating that public path,” Schieber said.
‘Creating’ a public path? What the hell is he talking about? There has always been a public path for the commission to give federal money to the health department, cities, and other governmental entities. The option to give money to public agencies was available to the commission from the moment it received the federal dollars months ago. Schieber, John Elliott and Dagmar Wood just didn’t want to make use of it because of messed up priorities, control freakish-behavior and petty politics.
It’s not like the commissioners needed to reinvent the wheel to give the money to public agencies. It happened in other areas across the state months ago. But the Platte County commissioners have been focused on doing things like giving $226,000 to a cruise travel company, $44,000 to a tattoo-removal business owned by the county auditor and $20,000 to the non-profit youth sports group run by Schieber’s wife (by the way, if Stephanie Schieber hasn’t yet received a pay raise from the Southern Platte County Athletic Association don’t you think she deserves one? Since April, the non-profit she draws a paycheck from has lined up $77,000 in free money from the county because of the actions of her husband and the other two commissioners. That’s good work right there).
The county commission’s $65 million jail proposal last year was a low point for this group but the commissioners’ handling of $12.2 million in CARES money hasn’t exactly been their finest hour–and has come with an unpleasant odor. Tuesday morning, there was more spin to come out of the mouth of Schieber when he mentioned the small business grant program the commission has put in place.
“We have $17 million in requests. I don’t see us giving away anything close to that,” Schieber said. Well gee, Ron, I would hope you don’t give away $17 million since you were only given $12.2 million to begin with. Are Ron’s lights still on?
The Platte County Health Department gave the commissioners financial information months ago detailing past expenses on the COVID fight and future dollars it would need through the end of the year. The state treasurer, even before sending the CARES money to Platte County, asked the commission to pass on $6 million of it to the City of Kansas City. That was way back in the spring. The county still hasn’t done it. I guess if we believe Schieber, that’s because there wasn’t “a public path” to do so, even though some other counties in the state figured out this apparently mysterious “public path” a long time ago.
The situation would be funny if it weren’t dripping with pettiness.
The commissioners have known about the Platte County Health Department’s needs for months now and still haven’t passed along any of the federal funding. It would be nice for the health department to have its financial needs met for testing, contact tracing, and other expenses during a pandemic instead of tied up in political gamesmanship.
Now Schieber wants us to believe the only reason the commissioners haven’t passed along CARES dollars to the health department is because there hasn’t been a “public path” to give money to public agencies. Talk about being disingenuous. He must think his constituents are fools with short memories. The commissioners very publicly showed their true feelings about the health department on May 4 in a commission meeting that Schieber allowed to spiral out of control–it devolved into a political rally complete with clapping and cheering during a nearly three hour roast of local health officials. It made a Ferrelview meeting look normal.
Schieber seems to be forgetting that earlier this year he made the comment: “It’s our intention to use the vast, vast majority of CARES money for small business grants.” He even talked about having two sets of grants go out to private entities, an early “survive” grant and a later “thrive” grant (which would have really put the county on shaky ground at federal audit time, in my opinion).
Hard to believe now but yes, Scheiber was in fact pushing for two rounds of handouts. Like Santa Claus on steroids. If Ron’s memory is shaky, I have the meeting in which he made those comments recorded on my cell phone. I’d be glad to let him listen to it, since his current spin on the situation isn’t really matching his previous words.
The new spin unveiled by Schieber implies that it has been the commission’s intention all along to share significant amounts of money with health departments, municipalities and other public agencies. If it makes him feel better, let him say that, even though previous actions and words indicate otherwise. It’s never too late to do the right thing and the only thing that matters is that the county commission slow down with its poorly designed crony giveaway program and instead prioritize the CARES money to help ALL Platte Countians, not select recipients.
Most observers believe Congress intended CARES money to assist public agencies first and the private sector second. Let’s not forget there were other federal programs available for business owners to acquire financial help rather than to benefit from uncapped “small business” grants from the county. It’s fair to say a good portion of the public is not happy with the way the county has funneled the CARES money to certain recipients. I’m guessing the cruise company is very happy, however.
The commissioners’ decision to give uncapped free money to certain private entities–including entities with connections to political friends and, in Schieber’s case, family members–while for the longest time shunning the health department during a global pandemic will be lampooned, joked about and mocked for years. But what’s done is done. The only thing that’s not done? A potential federal audit of CARES dollars.
So this seems like a good time for the county commission to end petty games over its disdain for the health department and the shutdown earlier this year, and start doing the right thing with what’s left of that $12.2 million.
(Spot and decipher spin doctoring with Foley via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)