Thursday, December 31, 2009

Franchise Fees & Rate Increases

Looks like KCP&L wants more money. And who else benefits? Well, the City of Shawnee will 5% of the increase via its newly reinstated franchise fee. Well, 2% starting in April and then the additional 3% next January................... Check it out http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/dec/29/kcpl-requests-rate-increase/

When Councilperson Distler started talking about potential utility rate increases during the discussion of the franchise fee she was basically ignored by some of her fellow councilpersons. Fact is, this is probably just the first of many, many more increases that the various gas and electric utilities will get. Just wait and see what happens with cap and trade. Get your checkbooks out.

Just remember who voted for and who voted against the franchise fee reinstatement:

Voting for:

Scott
Sawyer
Kuhn
Sandifer
And Meyers breaking the tie

Voting against:

Pflumm
Goode
Straub
Distler

Got any comments on this subject? Post them here http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=33

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tobacco Tax Tiddlywinks

Looks like the governor wants to raise tobacco taxes again. See the AP article at http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iFLm1v-BoGpbLRKscAo7dGkrh97gD9CP61CO6

This makes me ask the same old question (which none of our local legislators, to my knowledge, wants to address): As the tax increases and smoking declines, eventually the goose laying the golden egg is going to go bye-bye. What will replace it?

Now, for all those folks who try to tell us that the tax increaes are going for health care, read these two items from that article:

"Martino said Parkinson has not decided whether to ask legislators to dedicate the new revenues to health programs, or use it to help the state balance its budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1."

This one is even better:

"But in 2002, when legislators boosted the cigarette tax from 24 cents, they did it to help close a budget shortfall. " So keep shoveling that bovine scatology about using it for health costs.............a 55¢ per pack increase (from 24¢ to 79¢ back then) and it went to a budget shortfall.

Have a comment about the above? Post it here http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=32

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kuhn Doesn't Get It

Background:

1. Back in June 09 I brought up at a city council meeting info regarding a local ban on cell phone use/texting while driving

2. A few days after that, councilperson Distler requested info as to how cities that had enacted oridinances were handling the situation.

3. In October, staff gave a presentation. Apparently there was a miscommunication as to what was asked for, and the presentation did not cover the request.

4. In November a motion was made to have the item researched again to answer the original request and to present that to the council. The motion passed but there was a substantial amount of concern, and even anger among some council members and staff about redoing the research. The primary concerns being time and money.

Current:

Prior to the council meeting of 12/14/09 I contacted Michelle Distler and indicated that I would be willing to volunteer to do the research and presentation. That would eliminate staff time (and associated costs). The only thing is that Ms Distler would have offer a motion to rescind the one from November and accepting my volunteer offer.

At the 12/14 meeting Ms Distler offered that motion. This is something that should have taken less than 2 minutes to proceed with as everything (research, time, money etc) was being taken off of the shoulders of staff. Dawn Kuhn then proceeded to offer a second to the motion if the research was sent in as a report but without a presentation to a committee of the council.

Basically the discussion now, (because of Ms Kuhn) dragged on for almost another half hour. The purpose of presenting the info to a committee of the council, rather than sending in a report, would be to get whatever info was obtained to go on the record. Even the mayor tried to explain to Kuhn that if the motion to rescind was not approved, then the original motion (requiring staff to do the work would stand). Apparently she couldn't see that. She seemed to be concerned about the flood gates opening and citizens of the community storming the gates of city hall to give presentations on items of interest to them. Well, to give a presentation would require council approval. Next, there is always the old "business from the floor" segment of a council meeting where anybody can get up and speak about literally anything. Heck it happened that night, with a gentleman who had drainage problems on his property. And, even though there is a 3 minute time limit, that item went on for awhile (justifiably so).

Ms Kuhn's actions came real close to the item staying on staff's shoulders. After her long winded, nonsensical comments, I came within milliseconds of withdrawing my offer to volunteer to do the work. Fortunately I thought better. The item came to a vote and it passed. (7-1..Kuhn voting yay, the only dissent being Ms Scott) Result: Staff does not have to spend time (and money) on redoing the research. It now falls on my shoulders.

Postscript:

The initial info that I have received from some of the cities that have these ordinances appears to be a mixed bag. Some positive, some negative. Both will be included so as to allay the fears of those who think I may try and color the results.

Ms Kuhn's rambling self aggrandizing commentaries are classic examples of the old sentiment, "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with BS" She has become a master at circumlocution. Is there anyway to get a refund to the city for all of those leadership classes she attended?

Have a comment about this blog post? Post comments at http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=31

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Kuhn Kalled on the Karpet

Wow..............this letter appeared in the Shawnee Dispatch:


To the editor:
Our Boy Scout den attended the Nov. 24 City Council meeting. We are grateful to Mayor Jeff Meyers for the premeeting tour and letting the boys lead the pledge of allegiance.


Council members won’t always agree but Dawn Kuhn’s behavior was totally unprofessional. Her obvious disdain for and catty remarks to fellow Council member Kevin Straub brought the phrases “drama queen” and “Harper Valley PTA” to mind.

From an unbiased and outside point of view — having never met any of the Council members — it appeared Straub may be the black sheep on the Council. The other members didn’t seem interested in the point he was trying to make either, but none came close to matching Kuhn’s tactless demeanor.

It’s unfortunate for the Boy Scouts earning a citizenship badge and high school students meeting a curriculum requirement that this was the model of city government portrayed. Healthy debate and openness to hearing alternatives should be welcome, but this wasn’t on her agenda this night.

Lori Onions
Shawnee


For those wishing to read it as it appears on the Dispatch's website, here is the link:
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/dec/02/letter-not-exactly-scouts-honor/

I was there that night. Among the ad hominems that Ms Kuhn tossed out were that Mr Straub was "stupid" and an "impotent coucnilmember". Not necessarily the first time she has done this.

The thing I find disconcerting is that Ms Kuhn is the currently sitting Council President. That means that in the absence of the mayor she would assume his duties. This includes filling in for him at events that he might not be able to attend, or act on his behalf in case of disability, or assume the position if he is unable to perform.

If she cannot control her personal animosities to a fellow member of the council, in council session, I'm not sure that I would like her to continue to sit as President of the Council.

My opinion.........a public apology and resignation as council president would be in order.

If you have any comments about this post them here:
http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=29

Sunday, November 08, 2009

To Approve or Not To Approve....that is the question

Once in awhile council rep Kevin Straub comes up with some good questions.. Problem is they don't always get answered...........at least in a timely manner.

On the agenda at each council meeting is always an item to review and approve the semi-monthly expenditures.

Straub wanted to know what would happen if the council didn't automatically approve the expenditures. It was a valid question since, by the time the item has come to the council the checks have already been issued and sent out. He wanted to know would we ask for the checks to be returned? He wanted to know then, why does the council have to approve this item (more or less rubber stamp). Why not just review the item with no action?

Personally, I see it two ways:

1. If the council has to approve these items then the checks need to be held until the approval is given. Could be interesting like when a council meeting is cancelled like the 10/26/09 one.

2. These items have basically already gone thru a delegated approval process. Large items have been approved by individual council actions. So, why this approval process?

Personally, I'd be leaning towards item 2 above.............but then what do I know?
Whatever the answer is, methinks it is time for Kevin to be given the info. What is taking so long? Is it so difficult to be be researched or is he being deliberately stonewalled?

Do you have comments about this item? Post them here:
http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=28

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trashy Trash Talk II

On Tuesday, 11/3/09 at 7PM one of the items on the agenda of the Finance & Administration Committee will be to discuss the recycling/trash ordinance.

This is not a decision session....rather a discussion session.

Those who have opinions on this item might want to attend.

Suggestion: Read the packet item as posted on the city's website so you have some additional background as to what is being discussed.

That is available at http://www.cityofshawnee.org/Meetings/AGENDAS.NSF/vwNews/99A892C9AA709AC18625765E00794E00/$FILE/7XATL5.pdf

Have a comment about this? Post it at http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=27

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brouhaha Brewing with the City Manager

Looks like we have a major brouhaha going with the city manager.

Let's recap for a second. In June I again brought forth the idea of banning cell phones/texting while driving at a city council meeting. A few days after the meeting I spoke with the mayor and he agreed that getting the info from other cities as to how it works for them could be useful. He advised me to contact my council rep and have the rep request the item for a committee meeting.

Michelle Distler did this on 6/24/09 with an email to the city manager:

I received a call from Ray in regards to the Cell Phone Ban. He mentioned he had spoken to Jeff and that Jeff was interested in seeing what other cities have done and how it is working for them. Jeff advised Ray to speak to me and have me ask to have this item put on a committee. I told Ray it probably would not be until after budget and he was fine with that. So I am making a request for this item to be put on a committee meeting. Thank you. Michelle

Since over the summer the budget did have priority the item came up at the F & A committee meeting on 10/6/09. As pointed out in the blog entry below of Sat, 10/10/09, the primary question was never answered nor even addressed. During the meeting Ms Distler asked if I could supply a list of some of the cities and she would pass that on so we could get the info as originally requested. On 10/9/09 Ms distler sent the city manager an email which included a list of cities that I had sent to her.

Carol,
Due to the fact the original request was not fulfilled, we would like to see this come back to committee advising as the email below requested that we see what other cities have done and how it is working for them. By presenting that no other Johnson County cities are looking into this does not address the request that was made. Ray has supplied cities that have enacted a ban and their population size.
Thank you.
Michelle
(list of cities was included
)

On 10/17/09 (8 days after the last email, I inquired of Ms Distler if the city manager had responded.

On 10/19/09 the city manager finally responded:

Here's my dilemma - we have already given two presentations on this topic. I apologize if the second one wasn't exactly what was requested. I asked our folks to give an update and I must not have sent the specific email to them as they prepared. My fault. It is my sense that there is not majority support to move forward on anything at this time related to this issue. We have limited staff and limited money - 22 vacancies - 7.5% of our work force. I have projects that staff was directed to look into as part of our budget approval that we have slated out on Committee meetings clear til April 2010 (much more than 4 months) - because we don't have the depth of staff to get to them any sooner. I have a part time intern who is preparing our whole solid waste/recycling plan. This morning I am attending a meeting on State legislative issues because I have no one else to send, and we won't have time to even prepare a legislative program (at least not a good one - I'd like to do something), let alone monitor the session the way we should. These are just a few examples to make my point which is that I really struggle with asking anyone on my staff to take 10 to 12 hours of their time to research an issue at the request of one citizen (one very important citizen of course!) on an issue that there is not a majority support to move forward on at all. Does that make sense? If someone sees it differently, let me know, but I am struggling to find a way to justify it..... Carol

Most of the above correspondence between the council rep and the city manager had the mayor, the assistant city manager and me as cc.

On 10/20/09 I reponded to the city manager's email:

Mornin' folks,

If someone sees it differently let you know? OK.

I am confused, concerned, aggravated, and various other states of being.

To say "I apologize if the second one wasn't exactly what was requested. I asked our folks to give an update and I must not have sent the specific email to them as they prepared. My fault." is an understatement. It came nowhere close to answering the question.
Now, let's look at this: "on an issue that there is not a majority support to move forward on at all" We are not talking, at this time about moving forward on anything. We were talking about obtaining information as to how other cities were handling it. Again, this is information gathering. I remember recently when the President of the Council (Dawn Kuhn) publicly excoriated a fellow council member (Kevin Straub) for that member's stand on the trash issue without having all of the information.


I would like to know specifically which members of the council are against obtaining the information as to how other cities are handling this. Are we afraid of what the information would show? That it could be enfoced? That other problems/violations have been reduced? And yes, as a side benefit, people are paying for being stupid and putting other folks' lives and property in jeopardy. Remember, this IS a public safety issue. And, quite literally, a life and death one.

Now let's look at this: "I really struggle with asking anyone on my staff to take 10 to 12 hours of their time to research an issue" Well, since you assumed responsibility for failing to pass on the question properly, maybe then you could do the research.

Last but not least. Two things stand out as very annoying. Why did it take 10 days (and one reminder) before a council member received a response from the city manager? In the business world that would be totally unacceptable. Especially since the city manger in this government model reports to the members of the council. A response in today's era would be 24-48 hours. Even if it wasn't a total answer, an interim or acknowledgment reply would be the norm. I was curious as to what would happen if a department head failed to respond to the city manager in 10 days. Again, even if it is only an interim or acknowledgment reply. Also, what job in the business world can a person do wrong and then say they are not going to do it over?
Personally I think the original question still needs to be answered. Believe that Chicago, the cities in New Mexico and Brooklyn, OH can probably give a good history.
Ray


As of today I have not received a reply to my email.

I was going to take a poll at the 10/26/09 council meeting to see exactly which council members are against getting the info (not enacting an ordinance, just getting the info). Unfortunately that meeting has been cancelled since there were not enough items for the agenda.

SIDEBAR:


It still bothers me that it took the city manager 10 days to reply to a member of the council. And then only after a reminder. Maybe there is some truth to another council member's public statements about selective members of the council getting speedy replies. This was brought out by another member of the community at the franchise fee meeting.

Also, anyone who works in the private sector who did not provide a report that was asked for by their superiors would be resoundingly reprimanded, especially if they refused to do it over. Do some folks not realize that in a council/manager form of government the council is in charge, not the manager? Have we a case of role reversal here?

Oh, I do not, as stated by the city manager consider myself a very important citizen. All citizens of Shawnee are important.

BTW, it took me less than 45 minutes to compile a list of cities that have ordinances. A short email (or phone call) by the city manager or staff to their counterparts would get the info. Is the 10-12 hours mentioned by the city manager realistic?

If anyone has any comments they'd like to make about this blog entry feel free to post them at http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=blog&action=display&thread=26

Saturday, October 17, 2009

To TIF or not to TIF

Earlier this week the Shawnee city council met with the USD 232 board.

Apparently one of the items they were going to discuss was the TIF district that the school board previously opted out of.......which basically killed the TIF district for I-435 and Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Things change..........let's look north to Wyandotte County. There is a very strong possibility now that the Wizards soccer team and Cerner Corporation are going to be locating in Village West.

Wow, what a coup for KCK/Wyandotte County. Shawnee could concevably benefit from that.

The key would be, IMHO, the type of development that would take place in the proposed TIF district. The article in the Shawnee Dispatch, http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/oct/14/city-asks-school-board-reconsider-tif-district/ indicates that some members of the School District were concerned about residential development in that area. Valid point. The lawyer for the development group indicated that any residential development would probably be lofts and townhomes. MY opinion....."probably be" is not good enough. "Must be" would be better. The area would be mixed use (see the Dispatch article). I believe the concern of the school board members about residential development is valid. Those concerns need to be addressed. We don't need developers going after Cerner's proposed work force. We need strong, viable, commercial entities up there

We need to be going after the life style/entertainment commercial properties. Like hotels, restaurants, retail and yes, some sort of destination venue. Maybe even a nightclub or two. Anybody for a Coyote Ugly Saloon? They got turned down up north (eventhough there is a Hooters up there). With everything that is happening in Village West we could definitely get some action down here. I may not be expressing this correctly.

If there were firm commitments from the developers, up front, as to what would be in the development then a TIF district might not be a bad idea.

Let's see how this plays out.

Comments about this blog entry? Post them on our forum at http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=25

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tuesday's Committee Meeting 10/6/09

This past Tuesday (10/6/09) the Finance and Admin Committee of the city council held its monthly meeting.

The first item on the agenda was to be a review of info regarding the use of cell phones to include texting.

A problem occurred when the primary question as originally asked by a member of the city council was never answered.

Let's back up for a second. Back in June I addressed the council and again brought up the cell phone use/texting question. A few days after the meeting a phone conversation took place with the mayor and myself. It was mentioned that there were some cities that had passed local ordinances regarding this item. How was this affecting them? How were the local ordinances being enforced? Accident stats, etc. He expressed an interest in at least finding out what was happening in those cities. And yes, I brought up (eventhough it's a no-no) curiosity as to what effect the fines were having on those populations. The mayor then suggested I direct my questions to my council rep for review. I did this.

On 6/24//09 Council rep Distler sent an email to the city manager. Part of the email said:

"I received a call from Ray in regards to the Cell Phone Ban. He mentioned he had spoken to Jeff and that Jeff was interested in seeing what other cities have done and how it is working for them. Jeff advised Ray to speak to me and have me ask to have this item put on a committee."

Ms Distler had cc'd me and the mayor on that email. The city manager also cc'd me and the mayor when she advised it would be scheduled for October.

Now we come to this past Tuesday's meeting. No info was presented on the effects of bans in those cities that had them. The only thing about any other cities, was that no other city in JoCo was considering this item.

Why was no info supplied as to the original request? I can think of two possibilities:

1. There was miscommunication between the city manager and staff as to what info was to be reviewed.

2. Staff was directed by the city manager to limit the scope of the info provided. Possibly because the city manager does not favor a ban.

I sincerely hope that the problem was item 1 above. As such, Ms Distler has resubmitted the request to include the names of some cities that have these types of bans. If it was item 2, then we have a problem. Why? Because in a manger/council form of government it is the council that makes policy, not the city manager. The city manager is supposed to provide the info to the council............all info..........the good, the bad and the ugly.

Have any comments about this item. Post them here:

http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=24&page=1

Additional info from the meeting:

An article from the KC Star was shown about a gentleman who was killed at the Harley-Davidson plant this summer by a woman who was talking on her cell phone, failed to stop after hitting him, and then ran over and crushed his head.

Also, this PSA from the UK was shown. If you have a weak stomach do not watch it. Not necessarily recommended for very young children.



If you have trouble viewing the above, you can click here to go to it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ttNgZDZruI

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Old Shawnee Town Makes the KC Star

Old Shawnee Town got a write up in the KC Star on 9/29/09.

The article can be viewed at http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/1479521.html

I started a thread on the forum and if anybody wants to comment, feel free to do so:
http://www.shawneeray.proboards.com

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Talkin', Textin', and Drivin'

Well, the item is up on the agenda for the Finance & Admin Committee of the City Council for Tuesday 10/6/09, 7:00PM at city hall

I'll be there. Will you?

Any comments about this? Visit the forum and post your comments at this thread:

http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=general&thread=20

Or, just visit the forum: http://shawneeray.proboards.com

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tonganoxie Proves a Point

And what is that point? Apathy. Voter apathy.

Earlier this week the citizens of Tonganoxie voted to permit alcoholic beverage sales on Sunday.
Personally, I agree with that.

But, that is not the point. The point is the vote totals.

The measure passed 250 to 132. OK that means that 65.4% of those who voted approved the issue.

Now, when you consider that Tonganoxie has 2,897 people registered to vote that then means:
a. only 13.28% of eligible voters bothered to vote
b. 8.6% of the eligible voters made the decision for the entire city

We see a similar trend in elections here, especially when the election is just for city offices.

What a waste of a freedom that many have died for. Don't just gripe about things.......go to the polls. Get involved.

Have a comment about this item? Post it at http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=17

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Slight Mistake

But, it has been corrected.

Regarding the interactive forum I set up at http://www.shawneeray.proboards.com

When I set that up it was supposed to be done so that anybody could view the commentary, without a password or ID. The only people who would need passwords and IDs would be those who wish to add comments.

Well, I found out today, that even guests were being asked to create an account before viewing the forum.

That has been corrected. Passwords and IDs are not needed just to view.

My apologies to those who wanted to read the items but could not. Please try again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Red, Yellow & Green (part 2)

Received an anonymous email that said:

"City staff had suggested this several times over the past few years. It was not her idea."

That was with reference to the Shawnee Dispatch comment that council rep Kuhn had recommended the item as a budget cut.

Interesting. Does anybody have any additional info on this?

Let me know or post it at : http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=blog&thread=14&page=1

Sex, Lies and DVDs

Did that title get your attention? Hope so. Wrong topic, but wanted ya to read this.

Franchise Fee Follies

Yep, more on this subject. In a recent letter to the editor of the Shawnee Dispatch http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/sep/16/fee-more-costly-tax/ former council member and county commissioner John Segale had some negative comments about the franchise fee. He was right. Yours truly also voiced some of the same comments at the council meeting. A small mill levy increase would have resulted in a lower cost to the citizens. Even had a chart showing that. As previously mentioned in this blog (and Segale’s letter) certain individuals are relying on people transferring the responsibility for increased costs with their utility bills to the companies rather than the taxing authority.

Mickey’s Monkey

Council member Mickey Sandifer has a monkey on his back. It’s called the misleading monkey. At least that is what it appears to be to me.

Let’s start at the budget approval council meeting. Sandifer made an impassioned statement that he was concerned about medical response times for those in need if the budget as such was not approved. The comments seemed to be focused on the senior citizens of the community. This is traditionally, the group with more health problems, including life threatening illnesses. Well, I don’t remember seeing anything in the budget that would reduce emergency services. Additionally, ambulance services are provided by Johnson County Med Act. Now it is true that our fire department also provides first responder activity, but again, I didn’t see anything about a reduction in those services. Also, what happens if the units closest to your residence are on another call? Well, a unit from another station could (and does respond). This also includes responses by units from other cities as the result of our mutual assist agreements.

For those who don’t know me, I am one of those senior citizens with potentially life threatening illnesses. Yes, I am over 62, have hypertension, diabetes, and a history of being a guest at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Mickey’s Other Monkey

Now we come to the night the council voted on the franchise fee. Apparently some of Sandifer’s fellow council members had received citizen input that he (Sandifer) had intimated that if the franchise fee was not implemented that the city could face litigation.
Sandifer claimed it was a couple of people who misunderstood him. His fellow council members indicated that it was substantially more than just a couple. Hmmmm, interesting. Now where did this supposed litigation come from?

Also, it was brought out that one person was upset because after emailing Mickey, he (Mickey)showed up unannounced at their residence. When confronted with that Mickey actually went ballistic and shouted out words to the effect that “If you email me I’m going to show up”. Wrongo Mickey baby. If someone emails you, you can email them back, call them, or send a snail mail. But you have no right to show up unannounced at their residence.

If you want to comment on this blog post (or any blog post) go to http://www.proboards.com/ and click on the Blog Commentary section..

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Red, Yellow & Green

In an article this past week, viewable at http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/sep/16/city-looks-save-money-buying-traffic-signals/ the Shawnee Dispatch reports action by the city on how the city can save $49K a year by buying rather than leasing certain traffic signals.

A thumbs up to Ron Freyermuth, DPW and Mark Sherfy, Traffic Engineer.

What made me chuckle though was this line in the above referenced article:

Researching the feasibility of buying traffic signals and street lights the city currently leases from KCP&L was one of several cost-saving measures Council member Dawn Kuhn had requested the city research.

Golly gee willikers, was Ms Kuhn the only one of eight (nine if ya count the mayor) that made cost cutting suggestions? Or was she the only one that suggested this particular item?

If anybody wants to email me with an answer to the above two questions, I’ll be happy to post those answers here. One request………keep the answers short, and to the point.

Just click on this link:
mailto:shawneeray@gmail.com?subject=redyellowgreen

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Bunch of Stuff

Got a bunch of stuff to comment on:

School Crossing Guards

An issue in Lenexa as evidenced by this item in the KC Star http://www.kansascity.com/318/story/1448422.html

Is still an issue here in Shawnee. At a city council meeting it was mentioned that parents might want to volunteer. Apparently this was an idea by several council members and members of the community.

Another member of the community suggested that the city also look into the feasibility of the AAA school crossing guard program. Not a bad idea if I say so myself. :-) :-)

See some of the comments posted to the above referenced KC Star article, after the article.

None of your business

Those were the words uttered by council rep Sandifer when council member Straub inquired about some travel expenses that were listed on the bill payment list this past Monday.

OK, Straub asked some questions that probably could have best been answered by staff prior to the meeting. But when he did inquire about some travel expenses by Sandifer, I felt that Sandifer's reply was out of line. There is no love between these two members of the council.
But, council member's travel expenses are everybody's business, other council members and citizens of the community. Personally, I feel that Mr Sandifer owes the council and the city an apology for that comment.............and an explanation now. Will the written copy of the minutes show that comment? Or will one have to listen to the CD?

Check out the forum

Don't forget to check out the on-line forum. You can respond to items already posted, or you can start a thread of your own on a topic that you choose.

This is one way to get people to interact, and to let others know where they stand on issues.
It can be reached by going to http://shawneeray.proboards.com/

Side note to city staff

Setting up your own forum could be one way to get the citizen feedback about the trash issue, other issues, and even be used as a Q & A area for other services. Comments were made at council meetings that the staff was trying to figure out a way to get that input. Many companies use that format for that purpose. Computer software companies especially. They use it as on line "help". Naturally, a software package, integrated into the city's web site would probably be preferablt to the one I set up

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trashy Trash Talk

Ahhhh yes............the trash hauling issue.

Are we having fun yet?

Anyway, I have started a thread on the new forum about this. The idea being to get citizen input and commentary.

To view this please go here: http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi then click on Shawnee and then the actual thread.

Anybody can go to the forum and read any of the posts. You do have to register though to post a comment. If used properly a forum like this can be a great way for people to get involved and state how they feel. Oh, that includes local elected officials. Feel free to sign up and post your commentary too.

Also, anybody who registers for the forum can also start their own converstations (threads).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Forum

A few people have asked me about feedback on the blog.

Basically, this blog was set up so that I could post my thoughts. There have been times when items sent to me by others have been posted here.

In an attempt to create interaction among Shawnee residents I have set up a separate forum.

It can be found by going here:
http://shawneeray.proboards.com/index.cgi?

If used properly we could probably get some interesting debates/conversations going.
Debates can get emotional. People can feel very strongly about their ideas. The one basic request is that the debates be conducted in a civil manner

The Irony of Hypocrisy

This past Tuesday the city council's finance and administration committee reviewed the info concerning possible changes in trash hauling and recycling.

A brief description of additional info that the committee and the public asked about can be seen at http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/ShawneeCMS.nsf/vwNews/7E916FAAEFF0F7028625762C0058AE84?OpenDocument

The staff had recommended Model 4 out of 5 models reviewed. Info on that can be found at http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/ShawneeCMS.nsf/0bf32ea7059198088525755100519ded/9faa79bdd540a740862575d80063928f?OpenDocument

Now, on to the subject matter. Third ward council rep Dawn Kuhn made it clear that she was in favor of the city setting up some type of vehicle for the community to be able to voice their opinions. Cool. Something needs to be done along those lines.

But here's the big bite..........when her wardmate set up a site on line
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Shawnee-Trash-Choice she was one of the more vocal critics of his action.

Granted, his site was focused to try and find out how many people would prefer choice of hauler over a city designated single source. But, it still provided a place for individuals to voice their opinion. Did the fact that over 600 people have already posted on Straub's site have anything to do with her embracing the idea of getting comments from the public?

Oh well, such is life.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Was It Political?

Yepper, we're still going to be talking about that 5% franchise fee. Probably for quite some time.

Here is an interesting item. It is from an article in the Shawnee Dispatch. The full article can be read here: http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/aug/26/franchise-fees-return-april-1/

"Meyers and some other Council members also insisted they weren’t making the decision for political reasons but for the best interest of the city. The terms of the four Council members who voted in opposition end in April next year."

Was that a little editorializing or side taking instead of reporting? Decide for yourself. Was that an insinuation that the four council reps who voted against the franchise fee did so because they are up for reelection next year? Check their records.

Maybe the reverse is true. Maybe those who voted for it would hope that the citizens of Shawnee would forget about it by the time they came up for reelection (2012). Maybe, they thought that folks would start blaming the utilities for the increased amounts and not the city council. Remember, as previously pointed out, how council rep Kuhn already indicated that folks when looking at relocating would be more likely to compare mill levies rather than franchise fees.

Welllllllll, I'll make a political statement. Three years from now when utility costs have skyrocketed and the 5% franchise fee far exceeds anything that a modest mill levy increase would have cost the citizens, remember who voted for it. Also, remember which council member came up with scare tactics to justify the franchise fee. I know I will.

Solid Waste - Trash Hauling

OK folks...............here we go again.

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009 the Finance & Administration Committee will be discussing this item.

Eventhough certain council reps give lip service to listening to the public, it is obvious that some of them do not.

Eventhough no final decisions are made at these committee meetings it is important for folks to turn out to let the council committee know how they feel.

Basically, do you want a single hauler, chosen by the city or do you want the opportunity to choose who hauls your trash?

The following two items of information are available on line:

Solid Waste Report

Staff Report and Recommendation

Folks who read this, may want to pass the info on to those of their friends, family and neighbors who might not be aware of this meeting.

Show up, be heard.

Curious, which council reps will eventually use bovine scatological scare tactics to get people to see things their way?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Local Interactions

A couple of folks and I were discussing the interactions between members of governing bodies and the population, specifically in small cities like Shawnee.

Sometimes, there can be conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest. When that happens the member of the governing body that might have that conflict usually recuses themself from involvement.

I remember one incident where council rep Straub excused himself from the discussion and vote on an item concerning Town & Country Villas. He actually exited the council chambers, and returned when the next item came up. He did the right thing.

When a member of the governing body has a direct interest in an item, or a member of their family does, then the actions like what Straub did are the acceptable way of handling it.

Next, the folks I was talking to were kicking around the idea of what if someone came before the council needing something (special use permit, zoning variance, abatement etc). And what if that person and a member of the council were not related, the council person had no financial interest in the item, but they had a strong personal relationship (weekly golfing partners, bowling partners, a business relationship separate from the item like doctor/patient or insurance agent/insured party, work supervisor/subordinate, romantic involvement, etc).

Anyway, we couldn't come to a consensus as to what would be the right way for the situation to be handled.

So, here's the challenge to the readers of this blog. If you have thoughts on this, please click here and email me with your thoughts. The responses might be posted here. Please keep the responses to 50 words or less.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

City Responds to State Rep Donohoe

The city responded to State Rep Donohoe's comments about the money that he claimed was available.

I am unable to post pdf documents here, so I had to do an image capture of the letter. As such there are actually two photos below that make up the letter. If you place your cursor over either section and click, that portion of the letter will open in another window, and larger, so it is easier to read:





















Monday, August 31, 2009

Donohoe can Deliver the Dough

An interesting thing happened at last week's city council meeting just prior to the vote to reinstate the residential franchise fees.

State Representative Owen Donohoe from the western part of Shawnee got up to address the council. He claimed to have located well over $1 million in funds that belonged to the city. He stated that he had given the info to a member of the council, approximately one week before the meeting.

If I heard correctly, we were given info that if the city issued a "kill order" for a street project we could get the money. Believe the project is the Monticello Rd project which isn't going anywhere now for a few more years. Eventhough we've already spent over $3 million on it.

Anyway, former city council pesident Tracy Thomas had quite a conversation with Donohoe. She has posted that info on her blog http://www.allthingsjoco.blogspot.com/

I encourage folks to read her comments. Then start asking questions.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Yellow Brick Road Runs Through Shawnee

If the Yellow Brick road came through Shawnee, would this be the cast?






Dorothy and associates.
Toto is still Toto.








Aren't the munchkins cute?

Aha..............






And the voice behind the curtain







Friday, August 28, 2009

Reader Unhappy With Tracy Thomas Comments

I received an email from Ashley Barton who is unhappy with Tracy Thomas' comments. Here is the email:


When I read Tracy Thomas response on your blog, one line stood out but not because it was directed at Dawn Kuhn.

"Dawn Kuhn is a know-it-all who disrespects the public."

I think Dawn's name could easily be replaced with Tracy Thomas and the sentence is just as accurate. I agree with your earlier assessment that Tracy's comments were irrelevant and in my opinion, childish. This is the kind of tactics kids resort to in the face of defeat, name calling and personal attacks. Grow up and act your age.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tracy Thomas Responds

Tracy Thomas has emailed me and asked that she be allowed to comment on my post below, since I singled her out for some of her comments at the council meeting.

The following is the email commentary from her:


Yes, it was pertinent, because of her unprecedented unprofessionalism.
In Shawnee's 153 years, we've never had a woman in the Council chambers dressed this way. Never.
If Dawn "Cleavage" Kuhn wants to come flounce into the council chambers dressed like a hooker, break a promise to the voters 20 years ago and now take $200 a piece from every homeowner in Shawnee, I say, YES, that certainly is pertinent. Where is she going to stuff all that ill-gotten money--in her bosom?
If Dawn 'Cleavage' Kuhn wants to lecture the public ad nauseum during the 2 hour Pity Party she and the council staged, to wear down the public that was there to be HEARD, YES, that is certainly pertinent.
Kuhn wants to be the next Mayor of Shawnee. She is not a college graduate, She resented that being mentioned, but it is a fact: only 3 of the Council are college graduates. No other city in Johnson County has that uneducated a council. I mention it because it goes to explain why they are so anxious to kiss up to the 273 employees who don't want to have their salaries or benefits cut. It's a fraternity, and the Council is being hazed with misinformation and scare tactics.
Dawn Kuhn started the evening aggressively by calling the arguments of ALL of the opponents of this unethical franchise fee "dishonest". So she deserved to be called out.
Frankly, I was shocked at her showing 2 inches of cleavage at a public meeting, especially since she claims to "run Bank Midwest on K-7 Highway". I understand she dresses inappropriately at MOST council meetings and events. I'll be documenting that in the future.
Dawn Kuhn is a know-it-all who disrespects the public.
Finally, Dawn Kuhn set up the City Manager and the Finance Director for major embarrassment-- that you AND the Star failed to report.
When State Rep. Owen Donohoe from western Shawnee testified, he stated we don't actually have an $850,000 shortfall--because $1.692 MILLION is secretly stashed in Topeka in an untapped fund.
City Manager Carol Gonzales, who muzzles the Finance Director during meetings, said she didn't know what it was for, "but someone does".
That was bad enough. Then Brian Kidney said I think it's for XYZ street, but then said, and I could not believe my ears: "Sorry, I forgot what town I am in!"
Then he said, "Now that I think about it, it's not XYZ, maybe it's reserved for Monticello Road, I can't remember. I think it's encumbered for that street, but maybe not. And we haven't submitted the Kill Order yet." (Monticello was moved to 2013 at the very earliest on the CIP.)
What--you are the Finance Director and you parked $1.6 million in Lot C at the airport and lost your ticket???? You should be fired for that lapse.
Then Gonzales says to Donohoe, "You kind of surprised us. If you'd told us earlier to look for that money and what it's for, we could have had the facts."
Donohoe said, "I GAVE the folder to a Council Member. I don't know why they didn't tell you about it."
For the record, Donohoe banks on K-7 at Bank Midwest, and Dawn Kuhn is his Council representative. And Donohue told me he did NOT give it to Straub. Or to Pflumm.
So, if Dawn had done her JOB, we would ALL have had the answer: that
$1.692 million is sitting in a jar in Topeka, for a project we're not going to do now, and so--voila--we FOUND THE MONEY! We do not NEED to now break the promise and tax our residential gas and electric bills that will be going up 40% in the next year anyway.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Franchise Fee Got Approved

Well, last night's long council meeting came with no real surprises concerning the franchise fee.

It got approved thanks to council members Scott, Sawyer, Kuhn and Sandifer who voted for it along with Mayor Meyers who needed to break the tie vote because Pflumm, Goode, Straub and Distler voted no.

There was one slight surprise and that was when Cheryl Scott made the motion to approve the proposed ordinances. Originally the fee was proposed to be 5% starting April 1, 2010. Scott's motion was for it to be 2% starting April 1, 2010 and then an additional 3% on January 1, 2011. So, for 8 months it will be 2% and then 5% after that. What was the reason for the change? Who decided to propose the change? Did someone anticipate a large crowd and was that an attempt to mollify the crowd?

Needless to say various suggestions from the public fell on deaf ears (well, at least 5 sets of them). Among the suggestions was to put it on a ballot. Another suggestion (from guess who?) was that if it was approved, to add a built in sunset provision and allow the fee to expire after one year. That would require council action to reinstate it at that time, and allow for more public input.

As utility rates rise, so will the franchise fee. This author feels, and he mentioned it last night, that down the road folks will hold the utility companies totally responsible for whatever total increases there are. They will "space out" the franchise fee. I got the impression that Kuhn was thinking along those lines. She indicated that when people move from one area to another they look more at mill levies and not franchise fees. when it comes to franchise fees people "........don't take it into effect".

Sidebar: Met and spoke with former council member Tracy Thomas before the meeting. Thought it would be helpful that she was against the franchise fee. That is, until she got up and spoke. Yes, she was against the franchise fee but that was no reason for her personal comments directed towards two of the council reps. She made reference to a legal problem that one of Sandifer's adult children had. That had no bearing (IMHO) on the item before the council. But, what really blew my mind was when she publicly chastised Kuhn for the amount of cleavage that she (Kuhn) was exposing. Was that necessary? Was that germaine to the topic?

Personally, I was not happy with either Kuhn or Sandifer for supporting the franchise fee, and some of Sandifer's comments, were, to me, fear mongering in an attempt to garner support. But that did not warrant Thomas' comments.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Franchise Fee-On the Agenda for Tomorrow 8/24/09

A reminder. The 5% utility franchise fee is on the city council agenda for tomorrow night. The meeting starts at 7:30PM at city hall, 11110 Johnson Drive (Johnson Dr & Nieman Rd)

Regardless of whether you are for or against this item, it is important to be there. Most of what affects our daily lives happens at city hall, not in Topeka, not in DC.

If you want to speak on this topic, you will have the opportunity. The mayor will ask if anyone from the public wants to speak. Raise your hand, he will recognize you and you can proceed to the podium to voice your comments. You don't need a long prepared speech, or even any notes. You don't need pictures, charts etc. Your opinions and thoughts are what is important.

If you want, copies of the agenda and the packet (supporting documents) are available here:
http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/ShawneeCMS.nsf/vwContent/Agendas?OpenDocument

The packet (supporting documents) will show you the exact wording of the proposed ordinances. You can view this info on line and even download it to print. A limited number of printed copies are usually available a couple of days before and on the night of council meetings at city hall.

Hope to see ya there.

Protesting at Congressman Moore's Office-part 1

From Saturday, 8/22/09

Obama is way over the line. The estimated count was 300 on the one side of the street against the government health plan and 100 across the street in support of it.
Obama is sending this country down the road to socialism. We must work, within the law, to stop this.

There were no untoward incidents while I was there. The Overland Park police department had officers there, and they did a nice job in making sure that vehicle and pedestrian traffic moved in an appropriate manner.




If you have trouble viewing the video here, then please go to this link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwChEMjz228

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cheyenne Wyoming and Texting While Driving

Looks like Cheyenne, WY may join the growing list of cities that ban texting while driving. Actually, their proposed ordinance also bans talking unless with a hands free device.

Info at these two links:

http://www.kpvi.com/Global/story.asp?S=10955223

http://asterisk.tmcnet.com/news/2009/08/19/4331485.htm

The second link goes into more detail and has indications that the matter will pass, and could go into effect in September.

Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming has a population a little less than Shawnee.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Should be an Interesting Night

This coming Monday, 8/24/09 the Shawnee City Council will consider reinstating franchise fees for they city's residential gas and electric utility users.

The council meeting starts at 7:30PM. Regardless of your position on this subject it is important, at least to many folks. Show up, listen, and maybe even voice your opinion. Let the council know where you stand. You don't need to have a speech, you don't need charts, you just have to get up, when recognized by the mayor, and say whether you support or oppose this item. Or again, just be there.

I have been to a variety of meetings here. Some of them with contentious issues, and yet have never seen the meetings denigrate to the shouting, screaming matches like the recent townhall meetings for the federal health care issue. Here in Shawnee we know how to express ourselves without getting into the gutter. Exercise your legal rights. Come on out and participate in a process that many have made sure you still have. Remember, there are many that don't have this right in other parts of the world.

Also, at this time I think it appropriate to say thank you to the 5 council members who voted to postpone this item from the 10th to the 24th so that possibly more folks in the city could get involved. It is an important matter. That would be councilmembers Straub, Distler, Pflumm, Sawyer and Goode.

I think the 3 councilmembers who voted against the postponement (Scott, Kuhn & Sandifer)really were mistaken in that action. When in doubt always allow for maximum citizen involvement.

The below quoted item appeared in an article in the Shawnee Dispatch on 8/12/09. The full article can be read here: http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2009/aug/12/franchise-fee-discussion-delayed/ Ms Kuhn was one of the ones that did not want to postpone the item

Kuhn said the only result she saw from tabling the issue was “more negative energy be spent on something that really shouldn’t be causing the turmoil in the city that it is. By waiting two weeks, the facts before the Council will not change, and public opinion – trust me, we have heard both sides of the issue en masse.”

Turmoil? Negative energy? How about the possibility that it could help to create a cohesive effect? Possibly some positive energy? Did we really hear from both sides en masse? Maybe, just maybe, regardless of the final outcome, maybe more folks will feel that they had a chance to be heard as opposed to having something (either action) jammed down their throats. Maybe a majority are in favor. Maybe a majority are against. Either way they need to be given the opportunity to speak out.

Again, kudos to the five who voted to postpone and a thump on the old noggin to the three who opposed the delay.

Looking forward to seeing you there Monday night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Correction

Received a phone call from Dawn Kuhn. she says she did not make a comment about the utility reps being able to be available.

Anyway, I'll withdraw my comments regarding that.

Will definitely grab a copy of the CD of the meeting so I can find out exactly what it was that I heard.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Correction to below post, from earlier today.

It was the 7/27 (not 8/10) meeting when Mr Sandifer said the franchise fee would be $3 per utility ($6 total) for a 1500 sq ft house.

More Thoughts on the Franchise Fee and the 8/10 Meeting

As previously stated, the franchise fee item did get delayed until the 8/24 council meeting.

Good, because the way it was put on the agenda did not necessarily allow for possible maximum input from the citizens.

Some council members felt that there was an inflammatory email going around. Maybe it was........maybe it wasn't. Perception...........key word.

Was it inflammatory, or misinformation that there were 2 sets of numbers going around about the effect of the proposed franchise fee? In a media interview the city manager said it would cost the average home owner $12 /month. At the 8/10 meeting council rep Sandifer said a 1500 sq ft house would run about $3 extra for each utility. Is that misinformation? Is that conflicting information?

What about Mr Sandifer's concern about emergency response if the franchise fee was not passed? Golly gee willikers, I don't remember seeing anything about a reduction in emergency services in the budget presentation. Taking it a step further........ even though the fire department responds, so do ambulances.......and the ambulances are JoCo MedAct and the franchise fee would not have an effect on those ambulances. Was this a scare tactic? Was this misinformation?

When the discussion was going on prior to the vote to postpone the action on the franchise fee one of the council reps (Dawn Kuhn) made a comment that totally blew me away. She was concerned that if it was delayed that there was a possibly the utility company representatives might have difficulty in attending on a different night. Whoa now. Which is more important? Allowing for maximum community involvement and input or the schedules of the utility companies? Hint: Utility companies usually have entire departments dedicated to governmental/regulatory affairs. It is firmly believed that they can handle an adjustment in the meeting schedule.

Sidebar:

Rumors, rumors, rumors? Maybe not.......maybe fact? I have been told by various folks that there are certain individuals that are extremely upset with some of my recent critical comments about council rep Dawn Kuhn. That supposedly I have gone from a community watch dog to a vindictive individual. Hmmmmm...........and it's possible that the folks that are saying this are the same ones that thought it was great when I was critical about other council members. Like certain members that Ms Kuhn is not very fond of. Seems slightly hypocritical to me.

Now supposedly these comments have appeared on one of those social network web sites. So, not only do we have the possibility of hypocrites, but gutless ones at that, that won't confront me directly. They just hide behind cyber barriers. Now my curiosity is really piqued. Are some of these folks that are supposedly making these comments members of one or more of the local KC area media outlets? Could that eventually manifest itself as biased media coverage?

For the record: This author is an EOAB. Equal opportunity ankle biter, exercising his right to voice his opinion. So, whether it is Pfrick and Pfrack or Diva Dawn, or anyone else on the council, I'm gonna call it the way I see it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leonard Pitts - Syndicated Columnist

Leonard Pitts, who writes for the Miami Herald and is syndicated had an item in the KC Star this week.

His views on texting and driving........read the item here: http://www.kansascity.com/273/story/1374543.html?storylink=pd

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Only Six Dollars Each

After reading the entry about creativity, a local resident sent me a whole list of slogan ideas. He said he'd sell them for $6 each.........naturally, it's too late to change again, but, these do give some idea of what can be proposed by just plain folks.

Happiness spoken here!

Shawnee means business

Not just another Kansas town

Take The Shawnee Advantage

A town for all seasons; a community for all reasons

The best-kept secret in Kansas

America's leading Community

The Shawnee City Council: In a class by itself

The town that works as hard as you do

Isn't it time you Shawneed?

Don't you need a place to really live?

You're in for a pleasant surprise

Let us sell you on Shawnee

Explore the Values

Meet your new neighbors

Join the Midwest at its Best

Best of all, Shawnee

There's even more: Opportunity

What an opportunity!

Shawnee, the best news for you!

Still, by popular demand

It's true! It's Shawnee!

Something to cheer about!

Check our super features!

Backed by America!

Shawnee: the sky's the limit

Chock full of life

A rich harvest of all that’s best

It's all here!

Everything you need and want

Shawnee: Everything's included!

Everything in one complete package

Then, before I could post them, he sent a few more:

We'll change your mind about living!

Why postpone your future in Shawnee?

Who could say no to success?

Don't you wish you were here?

Franchise Fee Action Delayed Two Weeks

Last night, just prior to the franchise fee item coming up, Council rep Straub raised a point of order. He made a motion that the item be removed from the agenda and rescheduled for two weeks (8/24/09). His reasoning was based on what he felt was a lack of notice to the public on this important item.

The item was apparently scheduled for one of the August meetings, and apparently it wasn't until last Tuesday that it was determined that the info was ready to go for last night. That was too late for any advance notice even by just a press release, to appear in Wednesday's Shawnee Dispatch. Technically, an item like this does not need any special notice. The fact that it was listed on the agenda, on Friday, met legal requirements of notice to the public. The Dispatch did run an item on their web site Friday..........but as a weekly (Wed publication) how many would have seen that?

Council reps Sandifer and Kuhn both voiced strong opposition to delaying the discussion and action of this item. They claimed that they had received high volumes of email from the public. They also claimed that there were emails going out with misinformation about the proposal. Kuhn's utterance of the two magical words, "trust me", made me think otherwise. I get nervous when elected officials use those two words. It was almost as if these two did not want further involvement and/or questioning by the public.

Five council reps voted to postpone the item (Pflumm, Sawyer, Goode, Straub & Distler). So now it will come back on 8/24/09.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Great Cartoon

Fantastic.......Pat Oliphant is considered by some to be the premier political cartoonist in the USA.


Check this one out http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/po/2009/07/28/

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Creativity Could Help

Was chatting with some folks a few days ago and the topic of the city's new branding came up. Yes, "Good Starts Here" along with its logo of a stylized tree. The chuckling started when it was pointed out that the tree was common to so many cities that it was not unique. Add to that a walk down the baby food aisle of a supermarket will take you to a shelf where you can buy Nestle's® Good Start® Baby Food. Believe that the city paid around $15K for the company that produced that.

Now starts the conversation about creativity. We can't go back and change what has happened, but, we can look forward. What if, in the future we need something else in the marketing arena? Why bring in consultants? Why not approach the local colleges and their business/marketing departments. Work out an arrangement where a group of students are selected to work on the project, as interns, and to also get class credit. A cup of coffee says some of them could come up with some really original ideas. This concept could be expanded to other areas, rather than hiring consulting firms. Naturally, there will be areas where certain technical/licensed individuals would be needed. At the budget hearings one item that came up was the possibility of delaying the city's new website. Why not interns for the IT department? And, again......when things improve and additional staff can be hired, give them preference.

Why not check with local VoTech schools and or JuCos (JuCos have Vo/Tech programs)? Allow some of their students to intern in the city as mechanics or in other areas that they are studying. Then, when we go to fill those positions, they could be given preference for the positions. Yet, while interning, they could also get class credit. The position of Assistant to the City Manager remains open. Why not let an intern from a government studies program fill it, while earning class credit?

In time, as the economy improves the open positions can be filled, and again, the interns can be given preference.

There are other areas where we can probably be creative. We have actually seen some of that already. Our fire department got very creative in regards to the solar assisted fire truck. And, the department did the research and the work. A tour of our new police headquarters will show how input and creativity from those involved helped to create a highly functional facility.

Council rep Distler made a statement at the last council meeting that sometimes folks are too involved in the picture that they can't see the frame. True story.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Budgets, Franchise Fees & Whatever

Just another reminder. That 5% franchise fees for gas & electric utilities is on the city council's agenda for Monday, 8/10/09 at 7:30PM. Funny, thought it was supposed to be 8/24 but apparently it got moved up two weeks. Don't really remember seeing that in the local press.

Anyway, this is another one of those council sessions that folks need to get involved in, regardless of their opinions.

Looking back on the last council session, there were a few other items that were interesting to say the least. Council members Straub, Pflumm and Goode had a proposal that would have reduced the budget by $1.4 million. There were some problems with that. One example was that Straub said it did not involve reductions in force, yet the mayor said the proposed reduction in pet licensing expenditures would have eliminated a position. What appears to have happened is that some of the proposed reductions may have just been arbitrary, and some may not have been. This is where it gets interesting. Straub claims that the city manager did not provide him with all of his requested info to be able to review various line items. The city manager claims that he was provided with everything that was available that he asked for.

Now we have a classic "he said, she said". Actually, "what we have here is a failure to communicate"...........and maybe, just maybe, a little antagonism from both sides.

Monday night should prove interesting. Will there be a rehash of the budget itself? What sort of debate will arise over the proposed 5% franchise fees? Will we be treated to another self aggrandizing speech by council rep Kuhn?

The best info source for what happens at these meetings is what people see and hear for themselves. That is why more folks need to show up, at least to listen, and if the need arises, to voice their opinions. Oh, if anybody is interested, I have a few comments about the 5% franchise fee.............they will be mentioned Monday night.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Franchise Fee

The City Council has it on their agenda for Monday 8/10/09 to vote on a 5% franchise fee for gas and electric utilities. How will this affect you?

It is item 5 on the agenda:

"5. CONSIDER FOUR ORDINANCES PERTAINING TO AND AMENDING FRANCHISES GRANTED FOR THE USE OF PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY WITHIN THE CITY OF SHAWNEE CREATING A CONSISTENT FEE RATE OF 5% OF GROSS RECEIPTS."

Is it good? Is it bad?

The council meeting starts at 7:30PM.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Cartoon Gets It Right

The link below will take you to a cartoon that actually appeared in the hard copy edition of today's KC Star.

For some reason, I couldn't find it on their web site, but did find it at creators.com

It definitely says it very well.

http://www.creators.com/editorialcartoons/steve-breen/9618.html

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cleveland Ohio Gets it Right

In April of this year the City of Cleveland passed a city law prohibiting texting while driving.

It became effective July 19, 2009.

See info at http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/04/cleveland_city_council_votes_t_1.html
from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Correction to 7/29/09 Blog Post

One paragraph was out of sequence. Mea culpa.

The last paragraph said that a certain item was going to be on the 8/10/09 council agenda.

The way it was worded it appeared to reference the school crossing guard/AAA crossing guard thing.

It actually referred to the suggestion for an outside performance audit. It is my understanding that that item may now be delayed until the 8/24/09 council meeting.

CARS.gov Is One Scary Website

From the Glenn Beck show...........................

Very scary, and unnerving............................




If you don't see the video displayed above, go here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqfuZ7hiap0

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mike Hendricks KC Star on Texting and Driving

Mike Hendricks who writes opinion pieces for the Star called me yesterday. He was writing an article regarding texting and driving and wanted to chat. We even got a mention.

The article can be read here http://www.kansascity.com/news/columnists/mike_hendricks/story/1356295.html

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Virginia Tech Study on Texting and Driving

A study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is very interesting.

Rather than commenting on it here, please read the NY Times article for yourself at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/technology/28texting.html?_r=2

Looking forward to the October 6, 2009 Finance and Administration Committee of the city council meeting. The item will be on the agenda.

City staff is supposed to be researching and providing info as to how local ordinances are working in those cities that have them. Naturally accident prevention/reduction has to be a primary concern. Also, to teach folks how dangerous it is, I am sure those cities have some hefty fines. Wonder how it is affecting them in that area?

Have met many folks lately who have changed their minds about this item. A year ago, they thought it was nonsense to try and get a local ordinance. Now, as more and more people are texting and driving, more folks are having "near misses". They don't like it.

2010 Budget Hearing - Long Night

It was a long one.

It started off with a very boring, long winded, self serving speech from 3d ward council rep Dawn Kuhn. Listening to her one would think she was responsible for the entire budget, for any savings that might occur, etc etc etc. From now on it is possible that a count may be taken of how many times she uses the words, "I, me, my and mine" at any given council meeting.

As a matter of fact I received an email from another resident who stated: " I came to the budget meeting last night, but I couldn't stay. I couldn't stand it. I had to listen to Dawn Kuhn's speech about how hard she has been working to balance "this budget for you." I was amazed to hear how defiant she was in her efforts to save me from a fate worse than Lenexa's. I was waiting to hear her promise not to waste another three million on Monticello, the Golden Highway, but I strained my ears in vain."

The possibility of a franchise fee is looming on the horizon. As 4th ward council rep Michelle Distler has pointed out, a franchise fee could have very negative consequences particularly on low income or fixed income folks. The federal plan for a cap and trade program could drive utility costs through the roof and then any franchise fee would rise accordingly. Naturally Shawnee could see a windfall at that, but at what expense to its citizens?

Some things were bothersome. The continuation of giving funds to Wonderscope. I produced their 2006 & 2007 Form 990 filings. At the end of 2007 they had over $165K in assets. That year their executive director received a $7K annual increase (an amount of approximately 15%).
Why did they need funding from the city? Their 2008 forms are not available yet but they would be interesting to see. Did the executive director's income go up? Did they have substantial assets at the end of the year? What about the current year? Am definitely waiting to see those forms. That money could go somewhere else where needed. Old Shawnee Town seems to be in a financial pinch.............my original suggestion to use as an offset to some road costs appears to be not functional. It was explained after the meeting that that money comes from the hotel tax and has to be used for "touristy things". OK.....Old Shawnee Town qualifies. No more hand outs to Wonderscope. Side note: Why was Dawn Kuhn vehement at the 7/13 council meeting about release of Wonderscope's financial info? Double side note: Form 990 is required, by federal law (IRS code), to be made available for public distribution.

Another resident of the community, Mike Egan, suggested an outside audit to see where money can be saved. Not an audit for fraud or anything like that, but a performance audit. His suggestion went on to state that the outside agency should be from out of state but licensed to do business in Kansas. Excellent idea. Kind of like the old "efficiency experts". An outsider's views can be very enlightening. It is possible they could find that the city is doing everything it can in a highly efficient manner. Staff and residents can sometimes be too close to the situation. An outsider's viewpoint can be a light at the end of the tunnel. (sorry for the cliché)

Kuhn did suggest some changes to the school crossing guard program which could save over $130K a year. In an email to the council prior to the hearing another resident thought that could be accomplished by using PTA volunteers. Yours truly presented the council with a proposal to have the schools take advantage of the school crossing guard program offered by AAA. They do it all over the country.............ahhhhhhhhh...............memories of 48 years ago. :-) :-)

This subject will be on the next council agenda, 8/10/09. Something to be strongly considered.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tonight's The Night

Nobody can say it like Rod Stewart.

The budget hearing at city council tonight may not be the romantic evening that Stewart sings about, but it could be "hot". Remember, 7:30PM.........tonight, 7/27/09

If you can't see the video below, then click here:



Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reminder - Public Hearing - 2010 budget

A short reminder..............Monday, 7/27/09 at 7:30 at Shawnee City Hall will be the public hearing for the 2010 budget.

Be there.............be informed..........listen to how the process works............and if you want...........voice your opinion and/or ask questions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Open Records - What's So Hard About That?

Any long term reader of this blog knows that there is no love lost between me and council member Kevin Straub.

But, like most folks, he is not always wrong. Sometimes he is right.

Here's the situation: Next Monday night the council will be voting on the 2010 budget. Apparently Straub has for quite some time been requesting certain information pertaining to expenditures. City staff appears unwilling to email the info to him and wants to meet with him in person.

I'm at a loss on this. I have seen his emails about this. The info he is requesting is public info. Any individual can go to city hall, fill out a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and obtain the very same info. So, what is the problem with emailing the info to him? He is a council member, voting on the budget.

I am no lawyer but something is wrong here. Very wrong. As the title says: Open records - what's so hard about that? Give him the info.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Public Hearing at City Hall - 2010 Budget

The public hearing for the city's 2010 budget is scheduled for Monday, July 27, 2009 at city hall, 11110 Johnson Drive (Johnson & Nieman) at 7:30PM.

This is no time for people to sit back and not get involved. I can just hear some folks 3 months from now, "Gee, I didn't know the council did/did not do that"

Attend the meeting. Listen to what is going on and being voted on. And, there is always the opportunity to stand up and voice your opinion. You might agree with some items, you might disagree with some. Either way........be informed......and maybe even do some informing.

Why do folks spend so much time on national politics/government and so little time on what affects them daily (city government)?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fox4 WDAF-TV is a Disappointment

Was watching the news.

They did a little self promo about their new service. What is it? You can get text messages on your cell phone regarding traffic problems (delays etc).

So, what do they do? They show a guy driving, (looks like the camera is in the back seat), his cell phone beeps, he reaches over to get it and to read the text message............all of this while it is obvious he is driving.

Very disappointed with them on this.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monticello Mayhem - Chapter - Who Knows?

At Monday night's council meeting...........Monticello was on the agenda...........again. That's the southern project, not the northern project.

For those who have seen the Clint Eastwood movie "Heartbreak Ridge", you might remember a comment his character utters. When asked by a colonel what he thinks of a particular situation Gunny Highway responds, "it's a real cluster *^^* " The term that many a GI has applied to a messed up situation.

Some folks might get upset at this, but I think that term could apply to this project as well.

The city has spent over $3 million alrady and now the project is on hold for possibly 3-4 years.

One stumbling block was the Southern Star pipeline. I remember a resident of Monticello bringing info about that to the council and he was basically told it was no big problem. And, at one meeting was told it was not germaine to the discussion that was going on at that time.

Now, we know the negotiations with them took quite some time and will cost the city approximately $1.3 million to pay for the relocation of the pipeline (in current dollars). What will be the cost when it actually happens?

Then there are those temporary easements. Does the city really think the residents will give them a free ride when those expire in 2010? Estimates are that it would cost about $250K to renew those in 2010.........but the project will probably be held up beyond then............so what will be the real cost at that time? Also, will the project really cost the city $6 million dollars 4 years from now? Or will inflation add to that?

Now the city has to spend money for restoration for paving, street lights that were disconnected etc etc.

A nice paved two lane like the residents originally wanted would have cost a lot less. Methinks that is what the residents originally wanted.

Now, the city also bought two houses. With the delay in the project, yours truly thought that renting one of them would be a way to recoup some of the funds. Figuring the one house could be rented for $2500 - $3500/month that could be $30K - $42K/year. Subtracting a 10% fee to a real estate company to manage the property the city, over 4 years would get quite a bit more than they are going to get now from that property. Here's the kicker. Both houses are scheduled to be gone in less than 30 days. And the house I was thinking of for rental has been completely stripped out by Habitat for Humanity. Now all of that would have been fine if the project was on schedule. Once the city found out that there was going to be a delay that could have been a nice way to recoup some monies. Could have paid for the restoration. Needless to say, obviously nobody thought of that. Seems to me like that was poor economic foresight.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What Costs $9 Million and Injures 62 People?

A Boston trolley operator who text messages his girlfriend while operating a trolley.

Yeppper, it rear ends another one, 62 folks are injured (49 of which were transported for additional medical care) and $9 million dollars in damage.

The individual is now under criminal indictment.

Info at: http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/07/green_line_oper.html

15 Counties in New York State Get It Right

Onondaga County in New York State is now one of approximately 15 counties in that state that have passed no texting while driving laws. Onondaga County is the home to the City of Syracuse.

It seems that NY State currently has a no cell talking while driving law, but no state law about texting.

The fine: up to $150

More info at: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/onondaga_county_bars_texting_w.html

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Monticello On the Agenda for 7/13/09

Very interesting info at the city's Finance & Admin Committee meeting last night.

Last night was the wrap up session presentation for the city's 2010 budget. Info will have to go to a full council meeting to set a public hearing etc etc.

The city manager did bring out some info regarding the Monticello project (south). First, the funds expended to date are $2.7 million. Unless there is a large infusion of funding, the projected time frame is to have this item done in 2014.

As such the city manager mentioned that there are certain items of restoration that are needed. Believe I heard the words "sod" and "lighting". Anyway, it appears that these items will be on the city council agenda for Monday, 7/13/09 for discussion and to hear what/when will be restored.

Am guessing the lighting refers to the lost street lights. It seems that in preparation for the project, Westar reset some street lighting to conform to the planned new configuration of the road. In the process, that did away with the original lighting. This resulted in a portion of Monticello Road being blacked out.

The positive is that this is going to be discussed in open council.

Personally, I think the residents on Monticello road need to be there so they can hear first hand what is being suggested and planned.

Meeting starts at 7:30PM

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words (Or More)

Took a ride over to Monticello Rd. the other day. Eventhough the city has spent quite a bit of money already on this project (I have heard estimates of from 1 to 2 million) the project is now on hold. And it probably will remain that way for a couple of years.

The condition of the road itself leaves alot to be desired. There were a few spots that when I went over them my liver and gall bladder played musical chairs.

Now, let's talk about some of the properties. There are a variety of spots that the city now owns which look absolutely terrible. And yet, the properties across from them, that are still owned by private citizens look nice. Is the city creating itw own blighted area. Would the members of the city council (especially those who voted for this project) be willing to live across from some of these areas? They'd scream bloody murder.

Check out the images below. You can click on them to view full size.






Isn't this lush tropical overgrowth just beautiful?









Moving closer to one of the houses the city
now owns








Looking south. Property on the left (east) is owned by the city. Property on the right (west) is privately owned. Who gets the award for yard care?









More city owned property. Ya gotta click on this one and look at it full size. In the middle of the picture, under the yellow guide wires is a black spot. That black spot is the the top of a fire hydrant.








I love this one. Two new utility poles were placed on one of the properties. They are not active, so the old ones are still there. Anyway, this stump was on that property. It was dug up, removed, and dropped approximately 50 yards up the road and on the other side.
Methinks the city needs to clean this up. But how they clean it up is also important. Since we are in a budget crisis I do not think that city employees should have to do this work. And definitely not contractors. I think, that until this road project gets going that all the council members who voted for it need to get out there periodically, with lawn mowers, bush hogs, etc and clean it up.