Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Well, this week’s council meeting was covered by the Shawnee Dispatch in two areas. One area was the story of the meeting and the other area was an editorial.

These can be viewed at:

The article:

The editorial:

What a mess. What we have is a situation where two members of the city council, over a period of three council meetings cannot get their stories correct as to what happened.

What they don’t realize (or don’t want to realize) is that it is not necessarily the money, but it’s the constant giving forth of misinformation. It is also their cavalier attitude. .

This can be evidenced by Pflumm’s comment that the whole thing was “no big deal”. No big deal when between him and Straub we can’t get straight answers as to how many people were there? No big deal when between him and Straub we can’t get straight answers as to the names of these people? No big deal when between the two of them we can’t get straight answers about alcohol being served?

Let’s look at it from another perspective. The big, “what if?”. What if a department head had gone to a meeting of their professional organization? And what if that department head had submitted an expense report with questionable information? And then, what if the city manager questioned that department head, and got multiple misleading answers?
What would happen? The department head would be subject to severe disciplinary action to include dismissal. And, based on previous performance at city council, these two would be screaming for that department head’s head…………on a platter.

Now, let’s look at something else. At the first meeting that this came up Straub indicated that the legislative staffers would remember Shawnee down the road. Would they? Gee, why should they when the two council members can’t even remember which staffers were there? And, the total number (4 or 5) can be counted on one hand. Also, let’s talk about follow-up. If these staffers were taken to dinner to possibly be able to help Shawnee in the future how can these council members perform follow up? What’s follow up? That’s contacting these staffers 3, 6, 9, 12 months down the road to see what is happening that could be beneficial to Shawnee? If you don’t know who they were, how can you follow up? Is that “due diligence”? I am sure, based on their non-government work background these gentlemen are familiar with “follow up”.

And last but not least: indicating the name of a US Senator’s staffer, that was not there just because one had their business card. Read the confirmation statement on these expense reports. Was that confirmation statement adhered to?

But then, Pflumm says “it’s no big deal”.

City council members need to be held to a higher standard, and I don’t think these two have been open enough on this situation. Again, misinformation on top of misinformation on top of misinformation.

Maybe the next time someone presents something to the council and Pflumm says “show me” maybe that person should give Pflumm his own response back of “because I said so”.

We can’t forget Straub’s accusation that this was a witch hunt. Witch hunt? You open the door when you Texas Two Step around the truth.

Anybody in wards 1 or 3 want to check out KSA 25-4301?

Apathy Can be Expensive

Yes, apathy can be very expensive, especially when it refers to folks not getting out and voting in elections.

We cannot afford to do anything that would jeopordize our right to vote. And for those who think and say that their vote doesn't count, I could present a list, ad nauseum, of close elections with low voter turn outs.

Please, exercise your your voice be heard at the polls.

For the record, yesterday, I sent in my mail ballot for next Tuesday's primary.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Responses to Questionnaire

Well, the responses are in. Actually only two of them. One from Senate Dist 10 and one from House Dist 23. That means that 5 candidates in total did NOT respond. Wild. These questionnaires were sent to the House and Senate Districts that I reside in. Now a real big question comes up: If these five people won't respond to questions from someone whose vote they want, would they act that way if elected? Or are the 5 who did not respond trying to "duck and cover" (old 50's term) from this particular topic? First the Senate candidates, followed by the House candidates. Remember, excise tax revenue drops as the number of packs sold declines, and we are talking millions of packs over the past 5-6 years.You might have to scroll down a bit:

Candidate's Replies 10th Senate
Do you feel that we would or should have to raise the cigarette excise tax?
Objectively, I would have to say no to an increase in the states cigarette tax. The current excise tax is $0.79 a 28.3% tax rate. Missouri is $.17 a 6.9% tax rate while Oklahoma is $.23 a 9.3% tax rate per pack. th eimpact to Johnson and Wyandotte countis is apparent as a spread of $.62 cents a pack or $12.20 a carton must drive some revenues across the state line. As a regressive tax raising the excise tax will disporportionately impact lower income citizens and will simply drive more revenues across the state line; and may be one reason why the measure to raise Missouri's excise tax failed (rank 19th in the Union) to pass their legislature. In the time given to respond I was unable to confirm wheter revenue's in Missouri from the sale of tobacco products is on the rise but in a quick search I did not find an article suggesting a revenue shortfall in this category.
Do you feel we would or should have to raise other taxes to make up for the shortfall created by the loss of cigarette excise taxes? If yes, which ones.
I am on record in support of raising the tax on all tobacco products not jsut cigarettes. Currently the state has a 10% wholesale tax on all tobacco products. I would be in favor of raising the wholesale tax on cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco and snuff to 15% or 18% while lowering the excise tax to $.50. This will shift the tax burden from the individual to the free market as cigarette purveyors adjust their margins to maintain their sales. At the same time the individual smoker can shop for a better price and the excise tax spread between Missouri and Kansas will be somewhat marginalized.
Do you feel we would or should have to create new taxes to make up for the shortfall created by the loss of cigarette excise taxes? If yes, what are you proposing we tax?
Do you feel we would or should have to reduce government services to make up for the shortfall created by the loss of cigarette taxes? If yes, which services should be reduced.
None that I can speak to authoritatively but the legislature is spending the people's money and should always look at ways to effectively deliver services in the most efficient manner possible.
Any additional comments:
If the original intent of this measure was to help improve the general health of our citizenry and deter our youth from picking up the habit then a forward thinking legislature should have anticipated, forecasted and budgeted for a decrease in revenues; touting revenue erosion as a positive not a negative. This is yet another example of how our legislature is failing to lead. We must govern in the present with the future in mind; not govern for today with the special interest in mind!

Candidate's Replies 23rd House
Do you feel that we would or should have to raise the cigarette excise tax?
Do you feel we would or should have to raise other taxes to make up for the shortfall created by the loss of cigarette excise taxes? If yes, which ones.
Do you feel we would or should have to create new taxes to make up for the shortfall created by the loss of cigarette excise taxes? If yes, what are you proposing we tax?
Do you feel we would or should have to reduce government services to make up for the shortfall created by the loss of cigarette taxes? If yes, which services should be reduced.
Any additional comments: "I believe the legislature will shift to gaming revenues for new sources of general fund receipts ($125M +/- in license fees in 2009) to balance the budget. Depending upon the next session's testimony by the Kansas Health Policy Authority, there will be some movement to increase excise taxes per pack. I would not be favorable to this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

DC Dinner Part II

Last night's city council meeting was almost non-eventful until near the end.

Mr Straub again brought up his concept regarding council travel and how many meetings a year they could go to and what approval was needed.

That was when I said to myself, "enough is enough". Prior to the meeting I had received a copy of the itemized $392 dinner that he and Pflumm were the hosts for (it was on Pflumm's tab).

Refer back to my blog entry of 6/25/08. I had asked Mr Pflumm if there was alcohol included on that tab. He said no, and that I had to rely on his word. Horse nonsense. Open records requests are beautiful.

Now with the full receipt available I informed him (and Straub) that there was $78 worth of alcohol on that receipt ($10 beer and $68 wine). Mr Pflumm then apologized for his original misleading response, saying he was not prepared at that meeting to answer it (huh????). Simple question Mr Engineer. He said that there was alcohol served prior to dinner, but on a separate tab. Guess what? You charged the city for booze for dinner, eventhough you claim you didn't drink any of it. More than one somebody at the table did, and you didn't notice?

Now the kicker. Pflumm indicated on his expense report that there were four people at that dinner. He claimed himself, Straub and one aide each from Sen Brownback's & Sen Roberts' offices. I asked him to explain how come the receipt showed 5 persons and there were 5 entrées served. Whooops, now he and Straub suddenly remembered that there was another senate staffer at that dinner. Who? Hmmm, don't remember, gotta go home and look at the business cards. Amazing eh? Couldn't remember to add that 5th person "another senate staffer" to the list on the expense report? Didn't even think to volunteer the info when the matter of the dinner came up at the 6/23 meeting.

Yes, I am still curious who the 5th person was. Was it really a senate staffer or was it an individual not authorized to have their dinner paid for by the city? Will be looking forward to seeing if a name is provided. For the record: Open records requests apply to federal offices as well as local. I believe there are logs in Senate & Congressional offices that would indicate when staffers were taken to events (dinner, ball games etc) by individuals having an interest in something that the Congressman and/or Senator can provide.

Oh yes, Straub thought I was carrying on a vendetta against him and Pflumm on this blog.

No Kevin, not a vendetta. Just tired of BS, and sanctimonious holier than thou attitudes. I'm still ticked off by Pflumm's "because I said so" comment on 6/23, apology notwithstanding. And Kevin, you want to control council trips but boy, you and Pflumm sure took advantage on the last one. And anyway, there are many other topics on here that don't include the two of you.

After all of the above (and there was quite a lengthy discussion by the council on Straub's suggested "controls") Dawn Kuhn came up with a motion.

Dawn proposed that the council decline their scheduled pay increase. The motion carried.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Senate District 10, House District 23

The letters and questionnaires are in the mail.

Now what am I talking about? Well, what I am talking about is what will the candidates for these two offices say about the cigarette excise taxes. I sent them copies of the tax work up that was done in conjunction with the Shawnee Smoking Task Force.

Since the number of packs being purchased have substantially (we're talking tens of millions of packs) declined the question that needs to be asked is what will make up for the lost tax revenue? Remember, the excise tax does not necessarily go towards smoking related issues or healthcare. Everytime the state needed money it was an easy target.

Some of the options are to increase the existing excise tax, increase another tax, create a new tax or cut back on services.

It will be interesting to see what these candidates have to say since their predecessors (State Sen Nick Jordan and State Rep Judy Morrison) did a Tijuana Two Step and avoided direct answers. You can view previous blog posts of mine on this subject and those two individuals. Jordan is now running for Congress and Morrison is retiring.

The candidates who got the letters, back-up info and questionnaires are:


Michael Bolton
Pete Roman
Mary Pilcher Cook
Sue Gamble


Mark Talia
August Bogina III
John Crabtree

The candidates were requested to return the questionnaires by 7/25. That way we can post them prior to the primary election. Any questionnaires received after that date will not be posted, as we don't want candidate's to have an unfair advantage and feed off of other candidate's responses.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rev Jesse Jackson, Medicine Man?

Need a legal opinion from someone.

The Rev Jesse Jackson was recently overheard to express a desire to perform a surgical procedure on Barack Obama. Specifically he was referring to testicular removal.

Would this be considered battery or practicing medicine without a license?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Shawnee's New Resident

Well, according to the KC Star, Phill Kline has now moved to Shawnee.

The address he lists with the JoCo Election Department is 6918 Marion St. That probably is much nicer than that apartment in the storage facility that he was living in, in Stilwell. Guess his family will have more room too out there on Marion Street.

Anyway, as a registered Republican I will be voting in the August primary, against Mr Kline.

When he ran for reelection as state Attorney General he was soundly defeated, not only statewide, but very heavily in Republican party dominated JoCo. Hopefully the republicans of JoCo will send him packing and undo what the precinct committee persons had done.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

City Budget and Cost Savings

It's in the papers, it's at council and council committee meetings, it's all over town.

The city is looking to initiate some cost savings plans for the 2009 budget.

Many folks have made suggestions, and apparently city staff is creating what could be some viable plans.

One thing that I feel needs to be looked at is an adjusted work week for some of the city departments. Many other cities, counties and even states are either looking at or have implemented the four day work week (10 hours per day) for certain departments. Usually the plan is to have half the department(s) work Monday-Thursday and the other half to work Tuesday thru Friday. This is not necessarily viable for all departments but could be for some. And, the departments would still be staffed five days. Some say that 4 days of 10 hours each can actually be more productive than 5 x 8. Plus another side benefit is that employees only have to drive to work 4 days instead of 5.

Would love to see a study on this to see if it is viable for Shawnee.