Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vaught Answers But...May Need an English Lesson

I'm happy to see that Jeff Vaught finally answered my question, with a letter to the editor of the Shawnee Dispatch. The letter is shown below. Eventhough he didn't respond to me directly I thought in all fairness his response should appear here also.

But, before you read it, keep in mind that Mr Vaught may need an English lesson. Read what he says about the words "witness" and "seen" then read one of the definitions for "witness" from Webster's on line.

From Webster's:
to have personal or direct cognizance of : see for oneself

Now, here's Vaught's letter to the editor. Now, even after seeing that, he still wasn't concerned about safety? Oh well:

To the editor,

Shawnee resident Ray Erlichman recently asked me at a city council meeting “have you ever ‘SEEN’ a gas explosion.” My answer was simply “yes.”

A few days later Mr. Erlichman sent me an e-mail with the following line: “…I asked you if you had ever ‘WITNESSED’ a gas ‘PIPELINE’ explosion.” He then went on to ask me when and where that was in an attempt to imply that I was lying, and is now trying really hard to make an issue of it.

Adding a word and switching a word totally changes the question. There is a vast difference between the word ‘witness’ and ‘seen.’

I think Mr. Erlichman needs to review the recording. I would be more than happy to send it to him.

And by the way, I have witnessed a gas explosion, the Gates City Glass Company explosion, July 2, 1990, at 126 W. 5th St. in Kansas City, Mo. I was in my loft across a parking lot less than 300 feet away. I have not witnessed a gas pipeline explosion though, but I have seen one or two.

Jeff Vaught

Member, Shawnee City Council – Ward III

Link is

http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/dec/22/letter-witness-or-see-wording-question-affects-res/
















Monday, December 20, 2010

Vaught Avoiding Verification

Well it looks like councilmember Jeff Vaught has not responded with verification of which gas line explosion he has witnessed.

At the November 22d council meeting when he and I got into it over dollars versus safety he was asked if he had ever witnessed a gas line explosion and he responded that he had.

In my blog post of 12/5 I asked for verification of that. Thinking maybe he didn't read that blog post, I sent him a personal email on 12/15 asking for that info and also posted a copy of that email to this blog. Still no response.

When a member of the council makes a statement about an event they need to be able to back it up.

So, why hasn't Jeff Vaught responded with verification of when and where he witnessed a gas line explosion? I can think of a couple of reasons:

1. He doesn't feel he has to respond to anybody that doesn't live in Ward 3 (not a valid reason)
2. He doesn't like me (still not a valid reason)

For both of the above he needs a refresher course in Civics 101. He is responsible to the citizens, it is not the other way around. OK, let's continue:

3. He didn't read the personal email I sent him. (Possible, but not too smart on his part, and highly unlikely. Go back to 1 or 2 above)

4. Or maybe he can't answer the question because he never did witness a gas explosion and is lacking the intestinal fortitude to admit that he misspoke (polite way of saying he lied). If that is the case, the people of Shawnee have a problem. A city councilmember who can't back up his statements of supposed factual situations is basically misleading the public. Or maybe this arrogant self absorbed person thinks we should just take whatever he says at face value without question? Wrong............that ain't gonna happen..................

I heard from a Ward 3 resident that he bumped into Vaught at a coffee shop this morning and asked him the same question. According to that resident the response that he received was to the effect that Vaught was there to buy coffee not answer questions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Request to Jeff Vaught for Info

A copy of today's email to Councilmember Jeff Vaught:


"Mr Vaught,

At the 11/22/10 council meeting when you indicated that you were not concerned about safety I asked you if you had ever witnessed a gas pipeline explosion. You responded in the affirmative.
I again asked..."You have?" and again you responded in the affirmative, as you leaned back in your chair and nodded your head also in an affirmative motion.

Anyway, there are two very simple pieces of information that I would ask you to provide.

What was the location of the explosion and when did it happen?

Thank you,

Ray Erlichman"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Southern Star Was MIA

Remember my posting aboutg the 11/22 council meeting? And how it was mentioned that some members of the council were interested in finding out if a representative from Southern Star was there to answer questions?

Well, I submitted a KORA request (Kansas Open Records Act) and the documentation I received back definitely indicated that Southern Star was notified about the item being on the agenda for that night. They could have had a rep there and for public relations value they should have.

Now, if they had had a representative there would that have really made any difference? Not really, because the city was obligated to perform as indicated in the final agreement. Posturing on the part of some of the council looks good........but that's all it could have been......posturing.

Sidebar: Jeff Vaught has not provided me with the date and location of the gas pipeline explosion that he said he witnessed. Well, maybe he didn't read my blog. Guess I'll just have to email him to try and get an answer.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

False Alarms

At tonight's F&A Committee meeting the police department will be giving a presentation regarding false alarm responses.

Last week they had a community meeting on this topic.

The amount of money being expended and the loss of manpower because of false alarms is very disturbing.

The PD has some suggestions on how to reduce the losses. Methinks the council needs to listen to them.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Boom or Bucks

Well, at the Nov 22d council meeting the item mentioned below about the Southern Star pipeline relocation came up.

Needless to say, many on the council were upset about the cost, feeling that Southern Star was taking advantage of the situation.

When I brought up the safety issue things got quite contentious between council member Jeff Vaught and me. First, when I gave my address, Vaught got real picky. Wanted me to give my complete address. Guess he doesn't like people who live in apartments addressing the council. Also, when I mentioned the safety issue he thought I should be more concerned about the money. When asked if he was concerned about the safety issue regarding the construction beginning before all easement and pipeline movements were handled he indicated that he was not concerned about the safety issue. Also, he lived in the area and I didn't.

His reasoning for not being concerned about the safety issue was, he said, because the contractor was a professional company. Well, professional companies can and have had accidents. That is why they are called accidents and not "on purposes".

I asked Vaught if he had ever witnessed a gas line explosion, and he replied in the affirmative. Now, if he reads this blog, I will ask him here and now to provide us with the info as to when and where he witnessed a gas line explosion. That should prove interesting. If I don't get a reply from him about that I guess I'll have to email him for an answer.

Ya don't mess around an 8" high pressure gas pipeline until ya get all the easements and any necessary relocations done first.

A couple of council members (Vaught included) expressed concern that nobody from Southern Star was at the meeting to answer any questions. Valid point. Question: Since their headquarters is in Kentucky were they notified that the item was going to be on the agenda and that the council might have questions for a representative of theirs?

A side note: If Vaught is so concerned about costs why did he join five (5) others on the recent National League of Cities conference in Denver from 11/30-12/4? Our council does like to compare us to other cities. So, how did other cities handle that conference? I sent inquiries to six, and received replies from three:
Unified Government Wy Co and KCK sent.........................0
Topeka, our state capital, sent..............................................0
Overland Park, sent................................................................1

Comedy line of the night at that council meeting; Kuhn stating that others were being flippant.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all who visit this blog a Happy Thanksgiving.

Side note: Will be changing computers over the next couple of days, and as such, the email notifications that are sent out about blog changes might not be going out for awhile. so, check back periodically for updates until the emails begin again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More Pipeline Problems

Well folks, it looks like the city blew another one regarding a gas pipeline relocation. Remember the problem with the Monticello Rd (south) project? Well, at least no construction was started on that one without the relocation of the pipeline.

Now, look at tomorrow’s city council agenda, item 20, by clicking here. Then, read the background in the packet by clicking here and then scrolling to page 265.

Looks like the Roberts Street roundabout was started without having certain portions of the pipeline rerouted. It also looks like the cost now to the city will be approximately $220K. And, a delay in the completion of the project.

But more importantly what about the safety issue? You don’t mess with construction around a high pressure gas pipeline until you have it properly secured and moved if necessary. These things can go bump in the night. Don’t believe me? Read what happened in Florida just a few weeks ago by clicking here.

IMHO, there are some questions that need to be answered. And the answers need to be straight forward with no Tijuana Two Stepping.


1. Why wasn't this done prior to the start of construction?
2. Could this have created a danger to the public? (re-read the info from Florida)
3. Who approved the construction to start without remediation of the pipeline?
4. Who is going to be held accountable for this?

With two problem instances concerning Southern Star, street construction and pipelines, it is time for the citizens of Shawnee to stand up and ask for accountability. It is time for the city council to do their job to protect the citizens and not allow, condone or perpetrate a whitewash.
And, IMHO the responsibility needs to fall on top level shoulders.

Kansas Open Meetings Act (Press ONE for English)

Another blogger's opinion of full minutes for council meetings:

Kansas Open Meeting Act (Press ONE for English)

Go here: http://nolathe.net/2010/11/20/kansas-open-meeting-act-press-one-for-english/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Police Response to Private Alarms

The below info was received in an email sent out by the city to all those who subscribe to the city's email update service. Based on the figures below the police department responded to over 3,200 false alarms. That is a terrible waste of time, manpower and money. Folks who have private alram systems need to be held accountable when those systems cause false alarms to be sent out.

Suggest folks attend the meeting listed in the email.


The City will host a meeting regarding police response to private alarms and to solicit input from the public. The meeting will be held on Monday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m. at the Justice Center in the Training Room, 5850 Renner Road.

The topic of the meeting will introduce possible changes to handling burglar alarms. In 2009, the Police Department responded to 3,291 alarms, 98% of which were false. Possible changes could involve procedure changes and/or fee increases to alarm holders. The proposed changes do not include responses to bank alarms, robbery alarms or medical alarms. For more information, contact Lieutenant Jodi Andrews at 742-6891.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Some Others Are Saying

Well, it looks like in the "Point of View" section of the Shawnee Dispatch that folks seem to think the cost of preserving council meetings with full minutes is well worth it.

http://www.shawneedispatch.com/onthestreet/2010/nov/17/do-you-think-detailed-type-written-records-city-me/

There are other places that the council could save the $17,000 without taking government transparency away from the people.

How many transcripts (and the resulting governmental transparency) could have been covered by Dawn Kuhn's trip to Vegas this year?

Good starts with a city council that is not scared of transparency.

Thanks for the Verification

While entering the city council chambers last night I was confronted by member Dawn Kuhn. She advised me that she had had an opportunity to read my blog. She said she found it entertaining (not sure if that was honest or sarcastic) and wanted to let me know that she had not been referred to as a motormouth since third grade. She then walked off not giving me an opportunity to reply.

Thank you for verifying that that personality trait was even recognizable at a young and tender age.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Transparency - To Be Or Not To Be

Last Monday's council meeting was quite interesting with one of the major topics being an attempt to reduce the minutes of council proceedings from verbatim to summary.
The meeting was covered by the Shawnee Dispatch
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/nov/10/council-delays-vote-cutting-minutes/

and the KC Star
http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/12/2423133/shawnee-looks-at-audio-minutes.html


Basically those who wanted to change the minutes to summary form kept using the ridiculous reason of cutting costs. This is ridiculous, because, as pointed out the costs are negligible and there are transcription services (including local) that can provide full minutes at lower costs.

Then why do some want the minutes format changed from verbatim to summary? Could it be as Councilmember Mickey Sandifer once said because "they use them against us"? Could it be because Councilmember Dawn Kuhn does not want the public to see how she attempts to monopolize meetings? (Former Councilmember Kevin Straub stated his research showed that overall she was responsible for 38% of the dialog).

Full meeting minutes provide the public with complete info and transparency as to what the council does. They also provide info as to what members of the public might say at these meetings. Reducing the minutes to summary format takes all of that away. Thoughts regarding this had previously been strongly mentioned by Council Members Distler and Pflumm and alluded to by others (Sawyer, and Morris) and finally echoed by Vaught.

Additionally, it took yours truly to show that other cities are also making the results of the meetings available on the web in both audio and video format for extremely low costs, to include virtually free.

Ironically, after it was obvious that seven of the eight wanted to postpone any action (even Sandifer saw the handwriting on the wall), Dawn "Motormouth" Kuhn still tried to get the item pushed through. Methinks that maybe she not only does not want folks to see how much she rattles on, but also how she does not chair committee meetings in a fair manner. That's right.....go to a meeting that she chairs. Watch, and listen. If you agree with her you can speak all you want. Be in disagreement with her, and she'll cut you off. Her facial expressions are a dead giveaway. Also, in keeping with her motormouth know it all attitudes, she has to, most of the time, add her two cents in to everybody else’s comments.

Detailed minutes are very important and need to be maintained. The argument of cost is not valid. More info on this can be provided, but one out of town trip by the council members (like the upcoming one to Denver) would cover a year’s worth of minutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010

In 2000 I composed a poem for Veteran's Day and posted it on a Veteran's web site that I was the wbmaster of.

Decided to share it with you folks.



  • The GI in the foxhole
    The sailor out to sea
    The leatherneck standing guard
    The pilot flying free

  • These are the brave men
    And yes the women too
    Standing guard to protect us
    'Neath the old red, white and blue

  • They haven't asked for much
    To them it's not a chore
    Staying ready in peacetime
    Just in case they go to war

  • Proudly they do serve
    Like thousands gone before
    Duty, honor and country
    Be it peace or be it war

  • Our sons and our daughters
    It is them that we do love
    And proudly do they serve us
    With guidance from above

Dedicated, as before, to two special veterans......at least to me.....Abraham Erlichman, USAAF, WWII and the grandson he never knew, Ashly Clayton Erlichman, 1/34 Armor, 1st Inf Div, SW Asia

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Experience or Change, Change or Experience

Every election we hear the same stories. A long term incumbent says that his/her experience will help them to accomplish more for their constituents. The challenger says that the incumbent is too much of an insider and that the constituents deserve change.

Now, let's say, that in this example the challenger wins. Guess what? Two or three elections down the road that person is now the incumbent touting his/her experience.

Which is better? Experience or change? It all comes down to who you support and for what reasons other than that question.

If you haven't early voted.............get out there Tuesday.............don't waste your right and privilege.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shawnee Voter Apapthy

With the upcoming election next Tuesday I am once again reminded about Shawnee's track record of voter apathy...........particularly in local elections.

It seems that when it comes to the "big ones" (presidential) the turnout is great...........when it comes to the local ones..........Shawnee's citizens sit on their rear ends and do nothing. Ironically, it is local government that has the greatest impact on our daily lives (public safety, sales and property taxes, road maintenance, etc)..........followed by county then state then federal.

Let the numbers speak for themselves:

2008 General Election (Presidential).....Shawnee as a whole and then Shawnee's ward 3, the ward with the highest number of registered voters:

Shawnee registered voters: 40,791
Shawnee voted: 32,266............ 79.10% (fairly good)
Ward 3 registered voters: 11,966
Ward 3 voted: 9,892................ 82.67% (best of the four wards)

2010 General Election (Council):

Shawnee registered voters: 39,862
Shawnee voted: 3,901............. 9.79% (disgusting)
Ward 3 registered voters: 11,930
Ward 3 voted: 893............. 7.49% (worst of the four wards)

What actually happened here locally is that using ward 3 as the example, 470 people elected their council member to represent 11,930 voters. Or, to put it another way, 3.9% of the voters made the decision for the other 96.1% .

Next week's election is for governor, congress, senate and some state legislative seats. I'd guess there will be about a 50% turnout...............better than the city elections...........not as good as the presidential election, and still too low. At the next city election (2012) I would hope that we as a city have a better turn out than the less than 10% we had this year.

Voting is a right, that many have served to protect. There are literally hundreds of millions of people worldwide that would like to be able to have that right. Remember that also the following week, on Veteran's Day, November 11.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travel. Travel. Travel

A luxury Shawnee can apaprently afford, NOT.

How about this? The upcoming National League of Cities Convention that has 6 people from Shawnee attending will have zero, nada, none from Topeka and KCK Unified Gov't. Two much larger, major cities are not sending anybody, but little old Shawnee is sending six people.

Now, if you remember I thought that we should send two (the mayor and the city manager). And in this case, a council member who was supposed to go on a previous trip and had to cancel would be going since the previous funds were not refunded but would be applied to this trip. So, in my opinion we have at least three too many people going.

But I guess that is OK...............our city, unlike Topeka and KCK can afford the luxury of sending a large delegation to Denver. The three who IMHO, should stay home are Vaught, Sandifer and Neighbor. And yet, we cannot afford (according to council member Dawn Kuhn) the luxury of full transcript minutes of council meetings.

Pop quiz: Which council member said last week that they did not want full transcript council meeting minutes because "........they use them against us" ?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Letter to the Council, Mayor and City Manager

The email below was sent this afternoon:

This email is being sent to the Mayor, Council Members and the City Manager of Shawnee, KS.

Dear Mr. Mayor, Members of the Shawnee City Council and the City Manager:

Below are some expanded and some reiterated comments about the council committee meeting that was held on 10/19/10.

I felt the need to express my thoughts to all the members of the governing body, and the city manager. Since Tuesday’s meeting was running long, I kept my comments that night to a minimum.

A copy of this email will be posted on line at http://www.shawneeray.blogspot.com

Should anyone desire to respond I will give consideration to posting those responses.

Committee Structure:

The current committee structure is a borderline farce. As pointed out many items appear before each committee, that based on subject matter belong to the other committee. Many council members still attend the committee meetings that they do not serve on for educational and informational purposes. Then, during budget sessions council members usually also attend all committee meetings.

As stated at the meeting of 10/19 why not go to a "Committee of the Whole Structure"? It would simplify things immensely. It could be chaired by the council president, or as suggested, rotated among the council members. Over a two year period each council member could chair (and vice-chair) each committee for three months.

Meeting Minutes:

Primarily the publication of full meeting minutes is the best way to preserve transparency. It is very simple............it provides a contemporaneous record of who said what. Does the council want the community to know what goes on or not?

Information was given to the city manager about four companies that could possibly provide transcription services at a lower cost than what we are paying now. Modern technology being what it is there probably are more out there. I was totally offended that Dawn Kuhn said that full transcriptions were a luxury the city could not afford. The city cannot afford not to be transparent.
Excessive council travel is a luxury we can do without.

With regards to the audio CDs, it is felt that requiring the public to purchase them is ridiculous. They can be posted on line and people could download them as they see fit. Additionally, the printed minutes could be annotated every 10 pages or so with minute markings so that individuals could proceed to those areas of the audio.

There were comments about video feed of the meetings. Simultaneous internet transmission of the meetings might, at this time be a cost not acceptable. Creating a video, though, and posting it on line for download by the community could be a viable alternative. One of the council members, Jeff Vaught, seemed concerned about folks downloading a video and then posting “snippets” on the web. Is he concerned that a video would show the good, the bad and the ugly of council meetings? As for “snippets”, TV news stations do that all the time. They video tape a council meeting and may only show 30 seconds on the nightly news. Seems Mr. Vaught has not as yet fully grasped what it means to be a public official. This reminds me of his stated dislike for posting advance travel of council members on the web.

Public Comment at Meetings:

The only problem I see here is, as stated by some of the council members, is that there is not enough input from members of the community.

Mandatory time restraints should only be used when there are a large number of people who want to address the council on a particular subject, like the smoking ordinance. Requiring folks to sign in to speak ahead of time can make things run smoother, but should not be a restriction to someone desiring to speak when they had not originally planned on it. Practice has shown that in most cases the presiding official at most meetings has been able to control speaker times.

Actually, in many cases, some members of the council have themselves been overly verbose when discussing issues. Ms Kuhn sort of alluded to this at this meeting, and that she was culpable of that. Amen…………no joke. Maybe time restraints need to be applied to council members?

Dawn Kuhn seemed to be obsessed with the possibility that some people might use the city’s overhead projection system to display images that were “inappropriate” and the possibility of subjecting the city to a lawsuit. Is that possible? Could the city be sued for that? More importantly, what does she mean by “inappropriate”? That is a term that is subject to broad interpretation. So much so, that various courts have nullified laws that use that term (much of the original Internet Decency Act in the Clinton administration got tossed because of that). In the 3+ years that I have been attending meetings I personally don’t remember seeing anything displayed that could be interpreted as being “inappropriate” Having this woman talk about restrictions reminds me of a few years ago when she favored a local ordinance that would give the mayor the authority to declare emergencies and restrict/confiscate weapons. Actually, that would have I believe contradicted state law. It never flew.

Well, this has been one person’s thoughts

Sincerely,

Ray Erlichman

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meeting Reminder - Tonight

Just a reminder about the meeting tonight at city hall at 7:00PM. See my post below from 10/16/10.

Conduct of public meetings is on the agenda. This is important because there could be changes proposed that could affect how members of the community can address the council, any of its committees, or any boards.

Protect your rights...................be there.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lake Quivira Inspection Contract

As pointed out by the Shawnee Dispatch, the city council on 10/11/10 authorized the rates to be charged to Lake Quivira for inspection services. See the complete info at:

http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/oct/13/citys-inspection-services-remain-same-price-lake-q/

These fees are the same as they have been for ten years.

Some interesting things were brought up at the council meeting:

1. Councilmember Pflumm was concerned that this item never went to a committee first, befor coming to the council. He was also concerned that if the fees have been the same for ten years, we need to look at possible increases. Two valid points.

2. It was brought out that the hourly rate was charged when the inspector hits the gate at Lake Quivira and ends when the inspector leaves. This writer got up and suggested that the hourly rate start when the inmspector leaves their last location. Councilmember Sawyer seemed to concur. In his line of work, when he calls for a service rep the time starts when they leave their previous lcoation, not when they hit his location. Subsequesntly, it came out that in some cases the actual charges were for only 20 or 30 minutes because of the "gate in gate out" concept. Wow, methinks we need an adjustment here. Not only on when the "meter starts" but maybe even a minimum time charge (like one hour minimum). Mr. Sawyer also asked for info as to what a private contractor would charge for these services. I believe he is on the right track on this one.

3. And last but not least it came out that Lake Quivira had already approved the new agreement because "their council meeting came first". Huh??? Council meetings are ongoing events.

Couldn't this have been brought to our council first, before going to Lake Quivira's council?

It was approved with council asking for a review in six months. There is one out.........either party can end the 2 year contract prior to that time with 60 days notice.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Very Important Meeting - Tue 10/19/10

The Public Works and Safety Committee Meeting scheduled for Tue 10/19/10 at 7:00PM could be one of the most important meetings of the year.

Why do I say that? Because policies could be proposed that would affect citizen comments at council and committee meetings. We must insure that our rights to speak out are not infringed upon.

The wording of the notice is so innocuous as to make it seem almost unimportant.

Over the past several months questions have been raised about
committee meeting structure and public comment during meetings. Staff
has researched neighboring cities meeting structure, as well as more
cost effective methods of delivering a record of the meeting minutes
to the Council and the public.


See info at:
http://www.cityofshawnee.org/Meetings/AGENDAS.NSF/vwNews/2B18F85C6A3245B5862577BC007107A6/$FILE/SNOS-8A8S5M.pdf

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Reminder to Veterans

With Veteran's Day approaching I'd like to remind veterans about some changes in federal law in 2008 & 2009.

Veterans (and active duty military) in civilian clothes now have the right to render the military hand salute when:

1. The national anthem is played
2. The flag is raised or lowered
3. The flag passes in review

This is as opposed to the civilian salute of placing one's right hand over one's heart. If you are wearing a hat, and render the hand salute, the hat stays on.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Two New Links

We have added two links in the link section (lower left side of the blog)

Shawnee Mission Times

Kansas Federalist

Both are projects of the well respected retired sheriff of Johnson County, Currie Myers.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Shawnee's Own "Bridge to Nowhere"

Or is it a road to nowhere?

On Monday, 9/27/10 the city council voted to remove entirely the Monticello Road project from the 6 year capital improvement plan. This was the planned reconstruction from Midland Drive to the 7900 block. The idea was to create a four lane roadway.

Let's do a quick recap..............

The residents of the area did not want the project. They bought these homes, most on acreage, so they could be in the country. Vehicle traffic is very limited on that road

The city said too bad.

The residents said there would be a problem with a buried 8 inch high pressure gas pipeline. The city was very cavalier on this......almost passing it off as a non-issue.Then, negotiations with Southern Star took so long, that that was a contributing factor in the original delay....whcih eventually necessitated the city returning CARS money.

By the way, under the terms of the negotiations with Southern Star, it is the city I believe who will have to pay the major portion for the movement of the gas pipeline.And, I believe, that is subject to renegotiation after a cerain point in time. What will be the costs down the road?

Whoooops and what else also happened?

Well, let's see, the city had to buy out two homeowners completely and get them relocated. Remember, that most of these homes sit on large lots, mostly acreage. Believe the city also had to buy lots of front yard, rear yard, side yard areas as additional rights of way for the larger road.

Oh yes, and then there were some new easements that the city paid for. They were so that construction equipment could encroach on what was left of those yards. Easements with time restraints that will probably have to be renegotiated because of the construction delays...............unless, as some dreamers think, those homeowners would donate the eaements without compensation. Fat chance on that one.

Should we even talk about the street lights that were taken down (to make way for the larger road) that have had to be replaced with temporary street lights? Hmmmmm, and what about yard maintenance? Believe the city has to rev up a bunch of mowers now for their newly acquired home sites.

So what has the city gotten for its 3+ million dollars already spent? A road project, that many were against, and that is now not even listed on the capital improvement plan? Land that they must now take care of for weed control etc.

What was the impetus for this? Did it have anything to do with a chunk of land on the south end? Land bordering on Lenexa that could some day be developed or sold to developers for commercial property? But, that development can't be done without a wider road?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sayonara and Good Luck to Stephen Powell

Stephen Powell, Shawnee's City Clerk will be leaving to become the Assistant Clerk to the Johnson County Commissioners.

I'd like to personally wish Stephen the best in his new endeavor. He has always been most helpful and knowledgable when asked for information pertaining to the city.

He appears to have a very promising future in governmental administration.

Good luck.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Don't Be Like Olathe - Beware of CIDs

The City of Olathe approved a CID (Community Improvement District) for use at the Great Mall of the Great Plains.

See the story at http://www.kansascity.com/2010/09/22/2242404/sales-tax-district-for-great-mall.html

If folks remember, some people in Shawnee wanted to try that at 10 Quivira Plaza (Shawnee Mission Parkway & Quivira Rd).

Here's the difference.............10 Quivira Plaza is a neighborhood shopping center with the primary merchant being a grocery store. The Great Mall of the Great Plains is located near 151st St & I-35. It's a destination shopping center and would derive most of its money from transient as opposed to neighborhood customers. Exactly what a CID is designed to do.

Be on the look out for some folks to try and resurrect the idea of a CID for 10 Quivira Plaza. Let's not put an extra tax burden on the folks that need to shop there. These are folks that don't exactly live in the highest income area of the city.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dispatch Didn't Report on Volunteer Presentation

Wow, what happened to the Shawnee Dispatch?

Both staff and a private citizen apparently put in quite a bit of time and effort for the committee presentation on 9/7.

Naturally, with that being a Tuesday it would be too late for the Dispatch to have an article for 9/8/10. But what about the 9/15/10 edition?

It was mentioned to me that there was quite a bit of discussion about this item at the committee meeting with various pro and con comments being made. Naturally, for those of us who could not attend we will have to wait for the minutes and/or the audio CD.

But what happened to the local media reporting on this? I was told that the item was tabled and is not going to the full council at this time, but, don't the citizens of Shawnee deserve to be informed of what transpired? Especially with all the effort that was put into the presentation?
It's not like the Dispatch is covering the happenings in Congress or the UN. I always thought that the Dispatch's primary function was to report about Shawnee happenings.

Or, did somebody not want the information in the press? Considering I was told the meeting lasted almost two hours it seems real strange that nothing has been mentioned about it.

Something to ponder.........................

I'm Baaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, doc is letting me go back to work come Monday.

Some folks have asked exactly what happened.

I'll keep it short and quick.............developed a case of cellulitis. Leg swelled up, foot looked like a football, pain all over the place. Then we had two additional problems. A blister which needed to be lanced first and some bleeding under the skin. Both areas needed debridement. So, that creates two open wounds.

So, when I hit the streets Monday the wounds are still being treated, but the cellulitis is gone.

Anyway, to those who expressed well wishes, thank you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Use of Volunteers in Shawnee

Unfortunately I was unable to attend last week's F & A Committee meeting. Still home recuperating. Hopefully will be released soon by the doctors.........this is draggy.

Anyway, not having been at the meeting I was unable to hear what comments were being made. The presentation that is on line gives some info but not the "give and take".

Personally, I can see where volunteers can be helpful. And, like any other project there will be certain pitfalls. In general I would be more in favor than against as long as certain guidelines are met.

Again not being able to hear what the committee members said, I'm not sure where they stand. Hopefully I will be able to attend the council meeting when this item comes up, so as to hear others' views and possibly to express my own.

Sidebar: See post below, the city changed the number of elected officials to 5. Good job

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Did We Win One?

Wow, did we win one?

Let's set the stage. On August 9, 2010 I suggested the council post on the city's web site who would be going out of town on convention trips. The reason for that is that the council was apparently not keeping with its own policy of announcing at a meeting who would be going. My suggestion was not met favorably by many of the council members

Now on August 23, 2010 Dawn Kuhn got the policy removed requiring the council to announce at a meeting their travel plans.

I haven't really been surfacing the web that much. Resting and recuperating. Got an email from an individual and they suggested I go to :

http://www.cityofshawnee.org/Web/ShawneeCMS.nsf/vwNews/3F084C6F0CCAD94B8625779300622AD7?OpenDocument

What I found is shown below. Looks like maybe we won one.


In November, six of Shawnee's elected officials will travel to the National League of Cities (NLC) Congress of Cities Conference in Denver,Colorado.

Mayor Jeff Meyers, Councilmembers Jim Neighbor, Neal Sawyer, Jeff Vaught and Mickey Sandifer, along with City Manager Carol Gonzales will attend the 2010 Congress of Cities and Exposition and have the opportunity to attend more than 20 workshops on topics critical to municipalities. The meetings also offer over 20 leadership training seminars, and opportunities to view model programs and ask questions of the city staff who implemented them.

Over 4,000 municipal leaders will descend upon Denver for a one-of-a kind learning opportunity. Those who attend the 2010 Congress of Cities and Exposition can expect to return to Shawnee with fresh ideas, proven solutions and a new network of experts to call friends.

Keep an eye on the City's website on a report back from elected officials that attend the conference.

Sidebar: Correction needed...........six elected officials are not going. Only 5..........the city manager is an appointed position. :-) :-)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Don't Get Sick

I fully intended to attend the council meeting of Monday Aug 23, 2010. Wasn't feeling very well so I stayed home. Tuesday morning I wound up in SMMC where I stayed until last Saturday. Have been home recuperating since and will be doing so for about another week. Hopefully I will be up and running around by then.

Anyway, my time on the web has been curtailed. So this will be brief. It appears that Kuhn & Kumpany have effectively thrown out one of the last vestiges of transparency that the citizens had....the requirement for council members to announce ahead of time at a meeting their planned out of town travel.

Wish I had been there................there are other ways to handle the situation.......and they will be done.

More when I'm feling better.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More on Council Travel

At the 8/9/10 council meeting I actually suggested what I had written about here. That the council publish on the city's web site their projected travel plans.

One of the primary reasons for this was that in February of 2009 the council voted to have their travel plans announced at a meeting. Well, they did not appear to be doing that, since the only way we found out ahead of time who was going to the National League of Cities March 2010 conference was because I asked a few weeks ahead of time.

Council member Sandifer said he thought it had been announced at a committee meeting, and the city manager indicated that she thought so too. Well, I checked and did not find it in the minutes. Actually emailed them to tell them that, and also to let me know if I was blind and missed it in the minutes of the meetings to let me know. Would you believe? They did not respond. Guess good doesn't start with responding to citizen emails.

Anyway, there did not seem to be much enthusiasm among the council members to have their travel plans announced ahead of time on the web site. But, having been reminded about their adopted motion of Feb 2009 four council members did announce that they were planning on going to the November 2010 conference in Denver. These were council members Neighbor, Sawyer, Vaught and Sandifer. That information was also published in the 8/11/10 issue of the Shawnee Dispatch in their synopsis of the council meeting. I thought I had heard the mayor also say that he was planning, but heard nothing from the city manager (she is not covered by that previous motion).

So, now we have upwards of 6 folks going to that conference (if the mayor and the city manager do go). These conferences can be very beneficial for Shawnee. The only question is, how many folks need to attend in these tough economic times?

My personal opinion is that the Mayor (as CEO) and the city manager (as COO) of the city should attend. As for council members, with the tight budget, my recommendation would be no more than two. Now, for this meeting coming up we have a unique situation. Mr Sawyer did not go to the previous one in Wash DC in March, but had planned on it. As such the registration fee (non-refundable) was paid. The NLC has advised the city that they will allow that to be used for the November meeting. Great............the city doesn't lose it.........so that means that Mr Sawyer would be one of the attendees under my scenario.

Now, what about the other one (with three still planning). Well, Mickey "Travelin' Man" Sandifer could sit this one out. Heck, to paraphrase Will Rogers, I don't think he ever found a trip he didn't want to take. Now that leaves two rookies, Neighbor and Vaught. A coin toss between them could decide that one. Then we'd be down to only two council members going, and possibly the mayor and city manager (and those two usually don't attend these things for the full schedule).

Now, doesn't that make more sense in these strained economic times?

Sidebar: Remember my previous post about Jeff "The Timekeeper" Vaught? (Scroll down to "Budget & Egg Timers"). Well, at the 8/9/10 council meeting a contractor who lost a bid got up and spoke (according to my watch) for 12 minutes. Don't remember our self appointed timekeeper saying anything about that. LOL Guess he is selective as to who he wants to time. :-) :-)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Budget Comments

Some peodple have asked me what it was that I said Monday night when addressing those three budget items.

So here goes. Oh, for the record, I have not timed it to see how long it will take to read. :-) :-)

1. Wonderscope: This is easy. They get a $10k subsidy from the city. Their financials would indicate they don't need it. The money comes from a tourism tax, and could be used for Old Shawnee Town. duhhhhhhhhh

2. School Crossing Guards: For this commentary I will use rounded off numbers. The city does not have to pay for them, but has been doing so for many years. The budgeted amount for 2010 was approximately $130K. Because of reduced traffic volume in certain locations, that amount is being changed to $90K for 2011 as some locations no longer qualify for a guard. The school district was approached with some options (mostly volunteers and/or the AAA program) and they shot it down. It's time that the district took over this item. My suggestion was for the amount for 2011 to be cut to $45K. The guards would be paid for by the city until 12/31/10 under the 2010 budget and until 6/30/11 under my proposal. This then gives the district almost a year to formulate a plan (volunteer, paid or a combination), to taking over their just responsibility beginning the fall of 2011. After that, there would be no city funding of this item.

3. Council Travel: This is an area that needs to be looked at closer.

From 3/2009 to 3/2010 Mickey Sandifer took 3 trips at a cost in excess of $7K. At the NLC conference in DC 3/10 he stayed the longest and spent the most of any member of the city delegation (which had four people). My comment/question was could we have done just as well with only the city manager and the mayor(who were there for two days)? And couldn't councilmembers Sandifer & Kuhn have stayed home?. These two cost the city over $5.5K for their participation.

A recent trip to Vegas has already been covered in a previous blog post (scroll down).

There are two more NLC events coming up. One is in September in Philadelphia and the other begins Nov 30 in Denver. I asked who on the council was planning on attending. Only one council member raised their hand, for the Denver trip. If any others are planning why didn't they raise their hands? Hiding it folks? It will now be interesting to see who else goes, and tried to ignore the question.

Here's something that I didn't bring up at the meeting: Going forward, I think it would be a good idea for the city to post on its website any projected/planned travel for members of the governing body (mayor and council). The info would include who is going, where, when, projected costs (per person), reason and perceived benefits to the city. The city could create a "Governing Body Travel Calendar" page. Let the public know ahead of time (45-60days) where they are planning to go to represent the city and for what reason.

If you would like to email the mayor or any member of the city council regarding the above, their email addresses can be found at http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/ShawneeCMS.nsf/vwContent/GoverningBody?OpenDocument

And, if you want, include me as a cc recipient: shawneeray@gmail.com

Monday, July 26, 2010

Budget and Egg Timers

Well, very few members of the community attended the budget meeting.

And yes, yours truly got up to speak on 3 items. The city’s contributions to Wonderscope, the payment for the school crossing guard program and council travel expenditures.

Here’s the funny part. When I was finished, rather than commenting on any of the pertinent information that was brought up, Jeff Vaught, the self appointed time keeper for the council was critical of the fact that I spoke for eleven minutes. He said citizens are only supposed to speak for three and he wants to see that enforced. The mayor did say (and I do thank you Mr. Mayor) that I did announce that I had three items to address.

Anyway here’s the kicker. In his rush to criticize the time spent (as opposed to addressing the issues) Mr. Vaught showed a lack of knowledge of city policy. The policy is 5 minutes, not three.

Maybe I should have sat down after each item, and then got back up.

Oh, where did I come up with the five minutes not three? From the city’s own website at

http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/ShawneeCMS.nsf/b62f116aa62dde94862575680053ac82/034841e84c8d782086257585005bce15?OpenDocument

This is where it says: Please keep your comments brief. Comments should be tailored so as not to exceed five (5) minutes.

The brochure for this does not actually specify any particular time limit. It can be viewed at:
http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/brochures.nsf/vwNews/81897B60DE6386C2862577200066EF4D/$FILE/PublicComment_09.pdf


Definitely would like to see if Mr. Vaught starts timing other folks………especially those that get up and speak in favor of items he supports.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

City Budget Hearing

Tomorrow, Monday, 7/26/10 the city council will hold a public hearing on the 2011 budget.

A public hearing is exactly what it means. A time for the public to comment on the item.

This is when Shawnee citizens have the opportunity to let the council know which parts of the budget they agree with, and which parts they may disagree with.

The council meeting starts at 7:30PM at city hall, 11110 Johnson Drive.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vegas, Oh Vegas........

My letter below appeared in today's edition of the Shawnee Dispatch http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/jul/21/vegas-contingent/

In a letter to the editor (July 14) Mr. Vincent attempts to justify the trip to the Las Vegas shopping center convention by Council member Dawn Kuhn.

Was he aware that four people — Jim Martin, Shawnee Economic Development Council executive director, Doug Wesselschmidt, Shawnee Development Services director, Carol Gonzales, Shawnee City manager, and Kuhn — officially represented the city?

Additionally, three local businessmen/developers “….were there representing their companies’ interest and also helping Shawnee where appropriate.” (per Mr. Martin).

Granted, Ms. Gonzales returned early because of the unfortunate and unforeseen situation that occurred within our fire department.

So now my questions are: Did we really need such a large contingent? Could we have done just as well with just Messrs. Martin and Wesselschmidt? And then maybe, only if necessary, either Ms. Gonzales or Ms. Kuhn, but not both? The other three were there on their own.

Also, a review of documents obtained under an open records request indicates that Ms. Kuhn’s return flight was scheduled for two days after the convention ended. A little vacation added on to a business trip?

Maybe we can combine two advertising slogans: Good starts with what happens in Vegas staying in Vegas.

**********

Mr Vincent's letter of 7/14/10 can be seen here http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/jul/14/letter-shopping-center-expert/

He in turn had referenced Mr Straub's letter, which can be read here http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/jul/07/letter-budget-matters/

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Apathetic Will You Be?

Yepper, will Shawnee residents once again show that they don't care about their vote? How many will not vote in the August 3d primary?

The shameful thing is that the JoCo election office has made it sooooooo easy to vote.

In person: 4 locations from 7/20 - 7/31

Advance voting by mail: Just fax in the application and they'll mail a ballot to you

On election day itself.

Just go to http://www.jocoelection.org for complete info

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tiahrt vs Moran

A few days ago I received my advance mail ballot. One of the many options available for voting in the Aug 3 primary election.

The Republican party has 4 individuals running to win the nomination to run for US Senator:

Todd Tiahrt
Tom Little
Robert (Bob) Londerholm
Jerry Moran

Now, it does appear that Messrs Tiahrt & Moran are the two frontrunners. What I find amazing is that these two gentlemen are attacking each other with such venom that one wonders are they both republicans?

It would be nice if, instead of their heavy attacks on each other they spent their time, energy, and money, on emphasizing their positives (or perceived positives), by stating factually how they voted on certain key issues etc etc.

Ironically, after the primary, the loser will probably issue a statement that to preserve party unity he will now support the other individual.

What a bunch of nonsense................

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Vaught Responds to my CID Posts

Jeff Vaught, Shawnee Council Member from Ward 3 had some email comments about my posts regarding the CID for 10 Quivira Plaza. It's only fair that I post his comments here, along with my response.

From: Jeff Vaught
To: Ray Erlichman
Sent: Tue 7/6/2010 4:55PM
Subject: RE: Sunday morning update - Sticking it to one part of the community

Ray,

I have a difficult time responding to your comments because you seem to be all over the board in your political philosophy. One of my main campaign points was increasing development and improving the development climate in Shawnee. For too long the attitude has been that Shawnee is not pro development so we tend to lose projects to other cities. This is mostly a holdover from the past when Shawnee aspired to be a “residential community” with little to no emphasis on commercial development. Nice concept, bad idea. Without commercial development and redevelopment, our residential mill levee’s will continue to rise until we are no longer able to compete with other cities for even housing. Residential development puts an extreme demand on city services, from public safety to public works. Shawnee desperately needs an increase in both sales tax revenues and commercial property tax revenues.

That being said, I am not automatically onboard with every incentive that is proposed. If you look back and read the minutes from that meeting, I voiced my concern for the 10 Quivira Plaza CID and said I was struggling with it. My goal as a Councilman is not to blow a developer out of the water at his first appearance in front of the council, but to see if we can come to a win-win agreement that we can get public buy-in on. If you truly want to be a voice for the public and not a bomb thrower, I suggest you listen a little closer and maybe even ask a few questions before you make automatic assumptions. I think it’s great that you care as much as you do, but feeding bad information to the public can be just as destructive as bad Government.

Sincerely,

Jeff Vaught
Shawnee City Council – Ward III


My reply:

From: Ray Erlichman
To: jvaught
Subject: RE: Sunday morning update - Sticking it to one part of the community
Sent: Tue 7/6/2010 6:37PM


Jeff,

In my opinion there should not have been a struggle on your part.

The fact that a certain segment of the community would be paying a higher sales tax for the benefit of a shopping center is wrong.

The fact is that if the collections of that sales tax exceeds the expenditures the city then gets to keep the difference to use as it sees fit. Contributed by one segment of the community.

The concept of the CIDs was to draw additional funds from tourist and/or transit dollars...........not from local community shopping venues.

If you are struggling with whether or not the citizens shopping in a local shopping center, where the primary merchant is a necessity merchant (groceries) should pay a higher sales tax, then sir, it is my belief that you are not concerned with the community. And again, it is one of the more moderate income areas of the city. There should be no struggle here.

A TIF was just approved for the I-435 corridor. That is where the commercial development needs to come in.

Ray

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sticking It To One Part of the Community

Reference is made to the post immediately below regarding the possibility of the CID being reconsidered for 10 Quivira Plaza.

One item that was brought up at the last public hearing about this was only given a cursory explanation.

Let's look at this item, again. In the article written by Mr Gough he states:

"After CID revenues pay all eligible project costs or CID bonds, the municipality can spend any remaining funds as though they were local sales tax receipts." (K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 12-6a34)

Now, I'm no lawyer but the above seems pretty simple. If the CID is approved, then it would seem that if there is any money left over the city can do whatever they want with it. Let's bring that down to earth.............if approved, the folks who go shopping in that center, besides paying a higher tax for things such as food, could be contributing more to the city itself. Is this why the council members of Ward 3 appeared to be favoring the CID at that time?

As mentioned above, this aspect was only glossed over at the last public hearing.

On the other hand, if a CID is formed where the majority of the business is transient and/or tourist, then the effect on members of the community could be minimal. This is described by Mr. Gough and mentioned in the post below. And again, that would be in line with the 3 current CID projects already on the books.

If the city wants to work with a developer for a CID then do it like the others.............where the money comes from transient and/or tourist dollrs.

Remember: Good starts with not sticking it to the members of the community.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Is That CID Rearing Its Ugly Head Again?

Is there a movement afoot to revisit the CID (Community Improvement District) for the 10 Quivira Plaza shopping Center (Shawnee Mission Parkway & Quivira)?

The original plan, which fortunately went nowhere, would have placed an additional 1% sales tax on the stores only in that shopping center. That additional tax money would go to the developer/owner for upgrades to the shopping center.

Today, the state sales tax was increased by 1%, which means that folks in Shawnee will now pay 8.775% on all retail purchases, including food. If the CID plan goes into effect, then folks who shop at that shopping center will pay 9.775%. Outrageous, especially when the major retailer in that center is a grocery store. Doubly outrageous when that shopping center is in one of the more modest income neighborhoods of the city.

Currently, there are 3 CIDs in the State of Kansas. One is in Maple Hill, sits on I-70 and is a truck stop. Another one is in Hays, sits on I-70 and is for a motel and restaurant. The third one is in Junction City, sits on I-70 and is like a mini regional shopping center with major retailers (like Sears).

The examples above fall in line with this statement: "If the project relies upon local business and if the CID sales tax would be unpopular in the community, a CID could negatively impact the project's business. On the other hand, retail businesses that derive a large portion of business from tourism and other transient clientele may not experience the same negative consequences from an additional sales tax."

The above statement was written by Matthew S. Gough, an attorney, who specializes in real estate financing transactions to include economic development financial incentives. The entire article that he wrote was published in both the Feb 2010 issue of The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association and The May 2010 issue of the Kansas government Journal.

If a CID, with its corresponding sales tax increase was to be placed on that shopping center it would be outrageous. How any member of the city council could even entertain that thought is, IMHO, beyond comprehension.

The citizens who would be most affected live in Wards 1, 2 & 4. I urge all, who agree that this is wrong, to contact your elected city council members and stay on them until this matter is put to rest. Side note: Ironically, when the original public hearing was held on this, the two council members who were most in favor of it were the two from Ward 3.

Flag or Advertising Banner

Monday night County Commission Chairperson Annabeth Surbaugh and Shawnee Mayor Jeff Meyers exchanged flags.

Ms Surbaugh in her remarks when discussing Shawnee's history even mentioned its first name, Gum Springs.

Anyway, when the flags were unfurled I was a little surprised. Instead of the flag that is part of the display behind the mayor at council meetings and on the pole outside of city hall, this humongous branding banner is what was shown. You know, the one that says "Good Starts Here". I might be wrong, but I always thought the city's flag was the one with the seal on it (the one with the sun's rays, the wagon, the oxen, the wheat shaft etc).

Being modern is good, ignoring heritage is terrible.

A reminder, "good starts with remembering your roots"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Litterbug

Last night the council passed a new ordinance with regards to litter.

Most of it made sense. Neal Sawyer brought up one valid point.............with a $500 maximum penalty there is no minimum penalty. The senior city prosecutor indicated that in some cases a person could get a $5 fine.

Sawyer thought the minimum fine should be a more substantial amount, like maybe $100, to get the point across. Methinks he is right.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Touchy, Touchy, Touchy

Last week I went on line to the Shawnee Dispatch to download the questionnaires that the individuals running for council answered, prior to the election. Figured that since we had 3 new members this time, that later, after about 6 months, it would be neat to look at their campaiogn comments and then compare those to what had actually happened.

Well, one item popped up regarding Jeff Vaught. As a matter of fact, I had seen it before the election, meant to ask about it, and actually forgot. Could not believe that such an innocuous item could raise such a fury. Follow the exchange of emails.

My first email to him:

From: Ray Erlichman
Sent: Sunday, June 20, 2010 11:30 AM
To: Jeff Vaught
Subject: Candidate questionnaire

Hi Jeff,

Was just doing a review of the candidate questionnaires from the Dispatch for an item I am looking at researching down the road, and then something else on your responses caught my eye.

I meant to ask you about it prior to the election and then spaced it out..............sooooooooooo...............I'll ask now: On the education section you stated "no comment". You were the only candidate who wouldn't state what their education level was. So, I'll ask it here.......what would be the answer to that question, and why didn't you wish to state it in the questionnaire?

Thank you

Ray

My second email to him:

From: Ray Erlichman
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 3:16 PM
To: Jeff VaughtSubject:
FW: Candidate questionnaire

Afternoon Jeff,

Below please find a copy of my email from 6/20/10. I'd like to think that you haven't as yet responded because of an oversight as opposed to a deliberate attempt to avoid a citizen inquiry.

Anyway, I did find it curious that you responded "no comment" to the question on education. Heck, not verybody has a PhD. I'm a high school drop out. But, your avoidance of a very basic question posed to candidates is intresting.

Looking forward to your reply, because, "good starts with timely responses to citizen inquiries"

Ray

His reply:

From: Jeff Vaught
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 5:57 PM
To: 'Ray Erlichman'Subject:
RE: Candidate questionnaire

Dear Mr. Erlichman,

On April 6th of 2010, I was successful is winning the general election for Shawnee City Council, Ward 3 with the following official results:

Jeff Vaught: 470

Dennis Kissinger: 409

Both of my opponents, Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Straub, touted their education. As we both know, the candidate you supported was eliminated in the primary election and, while I have the utmost respect for Mr. Kissinger’s accomplishments, I went on to defeat him in the general election. I find it ironic that not one of my constituents has ever questioned my education level yet you, a resident of ward 4, seem awfully concerned about it. Why?

Sincerely,

Jeff Vaught

Shawnee City Council – Ward 3


My reply to his email.

From: Ray Erlichman
Sent: Wed, 6/23/10 9:26PM
To: jvaught
Subject: RE: Candidate Questionnaire

Jeff,

Why? Simple................because you made it an item of curiosity by stating "no comment" My first email is a little more specific.

What ward I live in is immaterial. As an elected member of the city council, any citizen of Shawnee can ask you that question. Ward 3 residents vote for or against you. But when you are on the council you represent all citizens of the city. Very similar to the Congress of the United States. If I have a question for a Rep or Senator, regardless of where they are from, I can and will ask it. Just like any citizen of Shawnee has the right to voice their opinion to any member of the council, regardless of their ward. This would include, but not necessarily be limited to any opinions as to what actions they would like the council member to either approve or disapprove.

So, the choice is yours. You can either answer the question or you can refuse to answer it. We don't have to go back and forth with it. Just let me know which one.

Thank you

Ray

Guess that is a touchy subject. No reply as of last night. Guess he also doesn't realize that eventhough the voters of the 3d Ward elected him, that when he sits on the council he represents everybody and anybody can question him. Why is that such a touchy question?

As a side note: Why don't residents of Ward 3 question some things? See the post below about apathy. When it comes to local elections, Ward 3 is the most apathetic. Does that have anything to do with it?

Now he really has my cuiosity up. Touchy, touchy, touchy

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Apathy In Shawnee

Believe there have been various posts about this in the past on this blog.

I decided to share some statistical information with those who do read it. It is amazing though how the elected body that has the greatest effect on our daily lives draws the absolute smallest response on election day. At a presidential election the turnout is pretty good...........but the president, congress etc does not have the effect on us daily that the city does. It's the city that sets property taxes, local sales taxes, provides public safety services, public infrastructure services etc etc................don't think I've ever seen a congressman, senator or president shoveling/plowing snow or laying asphalt, responding to a domestic violence situation, putting out a fire, or rushing a heart attack victim to the hospital.

Here are the figures:

April 2010 Council Election

Ward Registered Voted Percent

1 -----10,104---- 1,393 ----13.78%
2 ------8,668 ------808 -----9.32%
3----- 11,930 ------893 -----7.49%
4 ------9,160 ------807------8.81%



April 2008 Council & Mayor Election

1------ 9,792----- 1,786 -----18.24%
2------ 8,412 -----1,389----- 16.51%
3 -----11,030----- 1,260---- 11.42%
4------ 8,666----- 1,373----- 15.84%


November 2008 Presidential/Congressional Election

1------ 10,370----- 8,334---- 80.37%
2------- 8,939----- 6,689---- 74.83%
3------ 11,966----- 9,892---- 82.67%
4------- 9,516----- 7,351----- 77.25%



These figures are pretty interesting and in a way show how little the community really cares about how their city is run.

What is really a shame is that the county has made it so easy to vote. A voter does not have to show up on election day. They can vote early at designated locations, or they can even get a ballot by mail and not have to physically go to a polling location.

For info on advance voting please go here: http://www.jocoelection.org/voters/AdvanceVoting.htm

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another response, re: TIF

Now, this sounds good, especially the last part:

Mike, you are correct in every assumption. Without a tiff, this property will be sold for either a high density housing development or perhaps we’d rather see large (2-5 acre) plots with upper level homes. Either way, the highest and best use of the ground would be a high end development which welcomes consumers to Shawnee. It is truly large enough to attract a theme park or some other single user, such as Disney proposed some years ago for a music themed entertainment. More likely, the TIFF would allow a developer to give a beautiful, well planned mix of retail/entertainment, office, high end living spaces all similar to development around the race track at the Legends.

__________ _________________________­
Robert E. Hodgdon – Treasurer/Board Member
Hodgdon Powder Company, Inc.

A Response to what is a TIF?

Received the below response. Mike brings up some interesting, positive points.

ray,

this corner, when developed, will be our "gateway" development to more development westbound on shawnee mission parkway, all the way out to shawnee mission pkwy. and kansas hiway 7.

if you have ever been on the property ( i have ) you would notice that like the deffenbaugh rock mining + landfill operation, it is a huge pile of rock under that soil.
to make it "development ready", it will take millions of dollars of rock detonation, earth moving, and utility installation.

in short, it is a "big deal." despite the fact that the families involved have a net worth exceeding you + i, it is still a huge endeavor, and one that cannot be undertaken without a city / landowner / developer partnership. the other alternative is to leave it alone, zoned agricultural, which produces the lowest revenue stream possible, or the owners bequeath it to a charitable-trust estate arrangement, and tax revenue could go to zero.

from a personal standpoint, i would love to see a drury inn, mixed retail / condo development / restaurant / bar area, similar to a development that i am familiar with in west des moines, iowa, that has spurred further development along a similar corridor, and is now one the current "hot properties" in polk county, ia.

i understand your concern on t.i.f., and to be sure, all t.i.f.'s are not created equal. in this case, i believe that the "give to get" scenario of this property is in the best long term interest of shawnee and the school districts.

another key consideration is that when cerner corp. builds the development out by the nascar track, the need for affordable, condo-type housing in west shawnee plays right into this future potential area. some clerical worker and her husband working at cerner can afford a nice, new, $100,000.00 - $150,000.00 2 br. condo, in an area with restaurants / bars / retail, but cannot afford to buy my home at a $250,000.00 clip.

ray, i hope that you take my commentary at face value, as i have no financial dog in this hunt, just want to see first class future development out here in my neighborhood.

permission to post to your web site is granted.

respectfully,
michael t. egan.

What's in a TIF?

Last week, the city council approved a TIF (tax increment financing district) for an area (approximately 240 acres) in the vicinity of I-435, Johnson Drive and Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Basically, this was approved once before but the DeSoto USD 232 put a stop to it.

Now it has come up for reconsideation, and the city has reapproved it. It would appear that neither of the two school districts or any other taxing authority involved will object.

So, here is the $64, 000 question (remember that TV show?): What do the families that own this property intend to do with it?

At this stage, they do not have to say. Once plans are developed then their intentions will be known, as each project will need separate approval.

First and foremost, are they going to develop it themselves, or are they planning on selling it? A chunk of land that has been recently designated as TIF has got to be more valuable to a potential developer and could possibly show a nice profit for its current owners on resale. Heck, these three prominent Shawnee families didn't get that way by staying home and watching TV.

But, that is almost immaterial as they may choose to not sell the property but to develop it themselves. Either way, that again brings up the question: What will be done with it?

1. Will it be developed as housing subdivisions? Does Shawnee need more housing? Will Shawnee need more housing down the road?

2. Will it be some sort of mixed use like Zona Rosa on the Missouri side? Or what is being considered for the Metcalf corridor to replace Metcalf South?

3. Will it be office park? Warehousing? Light manufacturing?

4. Will it be destination shopping and entertainment (like Village West)?

5. Will it be mostly hospitality oriented (restaurant and hotels) to get some of the overflow from the events at Village West?

6. Will it be a combination of any or all of the above?

Time will tell.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shawnee PD Adapting to Situation

Kudos to our Shawnee PD

There is apparently a relationship between vehicle crashes and other crimes. Our PD has analyzed this and is taking a proactive stance to work towards reducing both.

Please see the information in the Kansas City Star at:
http://www.kansascity.com/2010/06/10/2007467/shawnee-using-traffic-enforcement.html

Monday, June 07, 2010

Salute the Flag, Not Your Drink

I have sent the item below to the Shawnee Dispatch as a letter. Hopefully they'll publish it and more people will be aware of this:

This past Saturday was the annual Old Shawnee Days parade. As usual, a nice turn out and some really great participation by folks marching in the parade.

But something is bothering me. At the beginning of the parade, when the American Legion Color Guard stepped off, the lack of respect by those watching was abhorrent. Mike Thompson, announcing the event, asked all to rise. Standing across from the grandstand I did notice just about everybody stand. What I also noticed was that most were continuing their conversations and drinking their drinks. Less than a dozen folks in my field of vision actually paid proper respect by saluting the flag. Is it so difficult to shut up, stop drinking, and place your hand over your heart for approximately 60 seconds? Must be. And, while you are at it, teach and show your children respect for the flag?

Don't know what the reaction was along the rest of the parade route. Would venture a guess it was the same.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Those Who Serve, To Protect and Defend

Today is Memorial Day, and all across the country many words were being spoken to honor those who gave their all in defense of our country.

Last week, the City of Shawnee and many of her friends and neighbors turned out to render honors for Firefighter John Glaser.

These two events make me wonder about one thing? Why can't we honor these folks while they are still alive? True, there are certain periods of the year that are designated for this.......but why not on a daily as it happens basis?

Ever go grocery shopping and see a couple of firefighters there also? Buying food to cook on their watch. Would it be so terrible just to say thank you as you walk past them? Or give them a thumbs up? Or an "ok" sign? How many of those meals have been left on the table to spoil because just as they sat down the bells rang?

What about that police officer that you just saw walking back to his/her car? A thank you for his/her efforts to protect us would be nice. Ever get a speeding ticket? Or stopped for running a redlight or a stop sign? Maybe you need to thank that officer then too. He/she may just have saved your life, or even stopped you from injuring or killing someone else.

And last but not least our military members. Sure, we have Memorial Day, Veteran's Day and Armed Forces Day (honoring those who have passed on, those who have served and those who are serving). But what about what happens when you pass one of these folks in the store, on the street, at the airport etc?

A simple thank you, a thumbs up or an "ok" sign would probably mean alot.

These individuals do not "sign up" for these jobs for the glory. They do it because of a desire to serve their fellow man..............to protect us, to defend us.

Say something to them to show your appreciation, and admiration, while they can still hear it. It will mean alot to them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Condolences to the Glaser Family

Our condolences go out to the family of Firefighter John Glaser who died in the line of duty over the weekend.

Sometimes we forget the dangers that public safety personnel face while performing their duties. Then an incident like this becomes an unfortunate reminder.

More information, including funeral arrangements is available on the Shawnee Dispatch website at:
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/may/23/fire-department-mourns-loss-its-first-ever-line-du/

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Survey Results - Ten Quivira Plaza

Not exactly scientific, but just as valid (maybe even more so) as the 3 person interviews that the Dispatch does.

Would you be in favor of a 1% sales tax for the stores in that plaza which would be used by the shopping center owner to rehab the shopping center?


Yes 8 33.3%

No 16 66.7%

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New State Texting Ban

OK, the legislature has banned texting, in the state, while driving.

Now it's up to the governor to sign the bill into law.

This is a step in the right direction. Personally, I am a little upset that the bill did not contain restrictions on talking on a cell phone also. It would seem to me that that one would be even easier to enforce. Actually, the easiest one to enforce would probably be the local ordinance in Honolulu, HI. Over there a person just has to be holding the device in their hand..............

Let's hope that the governor does sign the one just passed. We can always work on expanding it.

Still curious as to why there was no publicity or press release about Mayor Meyers' letters of support for this action to our state legislators back in January of this year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Survey For the Sales Tax at Quivira Plaza

Since the Shawnee Dispatch did their "thing" about asking folks for their opinion, we thought we'd do the same.

So,
Click here to take survey

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Additional Look at that CID

In an article today in the Shawnee Dispatch on line
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/may/12/public-hearing-casts-doubts-ten-quivira-plaza-plan/ the following item was mentioned:

Council member Jeff Vaught showed some support for the district, saying most shoppers weren’t aware of sales tax rates in the various locations where they shopped. He noted The Legends in Kansas City, Kan., was one of the most successful shopping centers in the area but had one of the highest sales tax rates.

Well, let's look at it this way: The Legends ( Village West) may have one of the highest tax rates. But, that is exactly the type of location that the CID needs to be used for. A destination location, that will rely mostly on transient spending as opposed to a local neighborhood shopping center.........especially one with the major tenant being a grocery store. (See my blog post below with the reference to the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association)

I'm also concerned about this comment in the Dispatch:

Council members in support of the district said voting against it would be a step backwards in the city’s efforts to increase commercial development and send a negative message for developers.

What is the definition of commercial development? Is that office buildings, manufacturing facilities, even hotels or does that include neighborhood shopping centers?

Interesting how the two council reps (Kuhn & Vaught) who seemed to be in favor of this would have the least (if any) residents affected by a sales tax increase at Ten Quivira. And their ward (Ward 3) probably has the highest per capita income in the city, and the least number of retired and fixed income folks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Council Vacancy & the Quivira Plaza CID

1. Well, at the special council meeting Jim Neighbor was appointed as the Ward 1 council person to fill the unexpired term of Cheryl Scott. My opinion on this is pretty well known via my previous posts. Certain members of the council, used, IMHO, some convoluted logic for giving it to him. A good guy, but, again IMHO not the best qualified. See the resum├ęs at http://www.cityofshawnee.org/Meetings/AGENDAS.NSF/vwNews/6990F2D05EC85D9F862577150073D23B/$FILE/84XQXB.pdf My opinion, James O'Connell was the best qualified.

The mayor denied that there was any predetermination as to who would get the position. He must be right, and that means I am just super clairvoyant since I've been saying that no matter what, Neighbor would get it.

2. The public hearing for the CID (with its accompanying 1% sales tax) had various members of the community speaking out against it. No action was taken last night as this was a public hearing only. Council could have killed it completely but they didn't. It's possible that city staff could work it out differently and bring it back.

Five members of the council were pretty specific in saying that they would not vote for it with the 1% sales tax. These were Michelle Distler, Dan Pflumm, Neal Sawyer, David Morris and Mickey Sandifer. If Sandifer doesn't pull a flip-flop that would be enough to stop it. Dawn Kuhn and Jeff Vaught seemed to be leaning towards wanting this. The newly appointed council rep, Jim Neighbor didn't voice any opinion.

Interesting to note that the store director for Price Chopper said that they had no opinion at this time since they had not been consulted and had not had time to review the item.

An article in the February issue of the Journal of the Kansas Bar indicates that these types of financing plans should be for areas that would attract mostly transient shoppers as opposed to local neighborhood centers. The three current CIDs in Kansas are along I-70. One includes a truck stop (Maple Hill) and the other includes a motel (Hays). Common sense says those would have a tendency to derive most of their sales (and the corresponding sales taxes) from transient customers. I am currently trying to determine what is in the third one, though it too is along I-70, in Junction City.

Sidebar:

A resident, while voicing her opinion against the project was also critical of Dawn Kuhn's lengthy comments. After the resident took her seat, Kuhn then went on to explain how her constituents elected her to express those opinions and yada yada yada (ad infinitum). From her seat in the audience the lady said "be concise". Don't think the lady was saying that Kuhn shouldn't voice her opinions, it's just that Kuhn has a habit that if something can be said in 60 seconds she stretches it out to 5 minutes, 10 minutes etc etc. Is Dawn Kuhn a graduate of the old fashioned used car salesman school? You know, the one that goes, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance then baffle them with BS".