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 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

And, if you want, include me as a cc recipient: