Dr. George Layton of Platte City was critical of the Platte County Commission’s decisions and choices surrounding the $12.2 million in federal CARES money during the commission’s meeting this week.
Layton’s remarks came during the public comment portion of a meeting in which the commission approved more CARES grants for businesses (see related story).
Layton said he believes the county commission’s CARES business grant program which has, among others, given $226,000 to a firm selling cruise vacations and awarded grants to businesses such as pizza places and beauty shops.
Layton explained that saying in a politically correct way, the program is “economic socialism.” More direct, he said “un-politically correct, I would call it cronyism.”
Layton said in capitalism “the strong will survive, and that’s not what we’re doing here.”
Saying he was formerly in business for himself, Layton added: “I guess this is possibly a bad time for me to be out of business because I could have possibly got some of this money. Not that I feel I would deserve it.”
Layton then said he had researched the commissioners and found that John Elliott, second district commissioner, had campaigned on “lower taxes and higher accountability” and first district commissioner’s Dagmar Wood literature described that she wants to “ensure the stewardship of taxpayer resources.”
“I think a lot of people are upset about paying taxes. Taxes are a necessary evil. But I don’t think any of us want our tax money being spent unwisely. That’s where the problem is. And I really see that this (the county’s CARES business grant program) is being part of the problem,” Layton remarked.
“In all fairness, I can’t put all the blame on you guys. Because I really view this as a trickle down effect, whether it’s from the governor or our president. I can kind of see ‘well, if I don’t do it, somebody else will. We’re getting the money let’s use it.’ And it just really upsets me as a taxpayer that it’s like giving money to people that are not surviving when our health department has not received any money on this,” the doctor added. “I know that’s not the primary intent, however, there’s something that’s called doing the right thing.”
He added: “I think that $300,000 that went to the cruise line could have gone a whole lot better to our health department and our schools.”
In response, Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, said the health departments shut down non-essential businesses in the early days of the pandemic. Schieber said that businesses that are putting money on the owners’ table and employing people are essential.
“We can argue the point that the strong survive but when government first interfered by shutting down non-essential businesses I was quite upset about it,” Schieber said.
The presiding commissioner then added: “But we agree that our public entities also need help and we’re working on this. We are planning a public path for cities, health departments, etc.”
Dagmar Wood, second district commissioner, compared the temporary shutdown of non-essential businesses to an eminent domain situation, “where a government entity would like to take property from a property owner. This is very similar to a government taking of property. They’ve had their revenue slashed and now are getting a fraction of the reimbursement of what I believe they are due.”
In regard to the health department, Schieber said the county has asked the state treasurer for minor changes in a memorandum of understanding that would indemnify the county from responsibility for how that money is spent once transferred.