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

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

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 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 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 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 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:

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:

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.

Friday, July 03, 2009

This Says It All......July 4th

Do not be embarrassed to shed a tear..............and to even admit it.

If the embedded video doesn't show, you can go here
Academy Choirs - National Anthem