Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays

As we get closer to the holidays let me wish all of the folks who read this blog a Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year.

Let's make the coming year the year that Shawnee citizens show true involvement in their city and show up to vote in the city elections.  Also, keep in mind, we have many voting options to include early voting and mail voting. 

Go here to find out about advance voting:   http://www.jocoelection.org/voters/AdvanceVoting.htm

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mayor Files for Reelection

Mayor Jeff Meyers has filed to run for reelection. 

Of the five incumbents, that brings to four those who have filed (besides the mayor, council members Sawyer, Sandifer and Neighbor have filed).

Council member Kuhn hasn't as yet filed for reelection, even though she has sent out letters seeking donations for her campaign.

So far, no challengers have filed.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Mayor's Christmas Tree

Went to city hall last night to  observe the lighting of the Mayor's Christmas Tree.

Wonderful time.............the groups that participated were lovely.  Listening to the Christmas Carols and other holiday songs was an enjoyable experience.

The monies collected for charity were uplifting.

The activities at Shawnee Town 1929 seemed to be well thought out.

Kudos to city staff and all who worked to make it an enjoyable evening.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Three Filed Today

OK, three of the council incumbents have filed to run for reelection:

Neighbor  Ward 1
Sawyer     Ward 2
Sandifer    Ward 4

It Starts Today

What starts today?  Today is the first day that a person can file to be a candidate in Shawnee's April 3rd municipal election.  Which could also involve a Feb 28th primary if more than two individuals file to run for the same office.

OK Shawnee, let's make this the year that folks in this town finally get involved in their local government.

Let's get some good candidates to run for local office.  I don't know how many, if any, of the five incumbents are going to run.

Those incumbents are:

Jeff Meyers, Mayor
Jim Neighbor, Ward 1 Councilperson
Neal Sawyer, Ward 2  Councilperson
Dawn Kuhn, Ward 3   Councilperson
Mickey Sandifer, Ward 4  Councilperson

Let's look for a minute at two of the above..............Kuhn and Sandifer.  IMHO, if these two choose to run for reelection we definitely need to see some fresh blood in their places.  These two definitely need to become "former councilpersons", and every attempt must be made to see that they are not reelected, should they choose to run again.  As a matter of fact neither of these two should, again IMHO, ever be elected to any governmental office whatsoever.

Jim Neighbor is also not high on my list for being returned to office.

More to come as the time draws closer.  Meanwhile, let's see who files to run for what.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Council & Planning Commission Workshop

Last Monday, 11/21/11 the City Council and the City Planning Commission held a workshop primarily focused on economic development.

It was a somewhat interesting evening.

One of the few intelligent comments of the evening came from Commissioner Tom Beckenbaugh when he said that Shawnee needed a magnet to draw people to it.  Hmmmmmm, I liked that, and as any reader of this blog would know, that is something I've been saying.

Much time was devoted to the proposed business/industrial park at 43d and K-7.  But, will a business/industrial park be a magnet?  It can bring tax paying businesses to Shawnee, but is it a magent that brings tourism and strong economic injections to the city?  Is it a magnet that will draw folks down from the Village West complex after their races, concerts and other mass public gatherings.

Granted, when those events occur the 200 or so hotel rooms fill up and some restaurants see a slight uptick in business.  But we don't get the heavy influx that a magnet attraction would bring...........from those events and year round.

Most of the discussions were monopolized by council reps Jeff  (I'm in commercial real estate) Vaught and Dawn (motormouth) Kuhn..  Vaught never misses the opportunity to tell us what he does for a living, and usually multiple times in the same evening.  Ironically, if one goes back they will see that for a commercial development real estate person his knowledge of the International Building Code was very limited (as to what it covers).  And Kuhn was sounding more like a candidate on the stump than a council person.

Curiously Vaught seemed to be pushing, among other things, redevelopment.  This was ironic since at a committee meeting I could swear I heard him tell another council rep that redevelopment was not economic development.

There was an exciting moment when council member Sandifer took offense (quite angrily too) at a comment by Vaught that seemed to be a nasty reference to how/where Sandifer was raised.  Funny also, because Vaught was critical in the past of former council member Straub's actions/comments at council meetings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pictures From Shawnee Veterans Day Ceremony

A few weeks ago I told a good friend of mine, Bill Nichols (a retired professional photographer) about the Shawnee Veterans Day ceremony.

He came by and took some pictures, created a slide show of them and that is available for viewing below.  He will also be posting individual still shots if anybody wants to download those.  Thanks Bill.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day 2011

In 2002 I wrote and placed the below poem (or at least I consider it a poem, many English teachers would probably disagree) on another web site.  I'd like to repost it here:

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

At that time, I dedicated it as follows:

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


If you can spare about 3-1/2 minutes, watch and listen to the video below.  Thank you.


Monday, November 07, 2011

Info for Veterans

With Veteran's Day coming up I'd like to post about a change in the law concerning rendering honors to the flag and during the playing of the National Anthem.

The Defense Authorization Acts of 2008 and 2009 had some interesting changes.

Veterans, and active duty military in civilian clothing now have the option of rendering the military style hand salute instead of the civilian hand over the chest salute.  This applies to the raising, lowering or passing of the colors as well as during the playing of the National Anthem.

Those individuals who are wearing cover (hats/caps for the uninformed civilians) may keep the cover on while rendering the hand salute.  If they choose to perform the civilian hand over the chest then they should remove their cover, and hold it over their chest.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Riding With the PD

Last April, and again last month I spent some time in a ride along with a member of the Shawnee PD.  The April ride was the evening shift, and the October ride was the midnight shift (and I made it all night until 6AM)

Both times I saw various things that both impressed me and made me feel good about our PD.

First, it is obvious that the police officer of today is better educated than in years past.  Even more important, I was able to witness various actions which showed that the officers also used alot of common sense.  That is a trait that is becoming scarce in many other professions.  And part of that probably has to do with their job related training.

One thing that became obvious on a couple of the calls is that we are definitely, IMHO, short handed.  There were calls that required two officers (primary and back up) for the safety of the officer and the public.  When this happens, based on the number of officers on duty there are holes in the coverage.  As an example, one of the calls was a complaint about a party at an apartment clubhouse, and we know liquor was involved.  There could have been problems if only one officer responded. Another call was a commercial burglar alarm at a restaurant.  It's after midnight, closer to 1AM........you don't know what you are walking into.  Again, two officers have to respond.  Fortunately, neither incident resulted in a negative situation.  But until the officers got there, and investigated, they didn't know what they could be getting themselves into.

Anyway, as stated above, I personally think we have some really good people on the PD.

I would like to see the number of officers on the street increased...........and that can only happen if the department is expanded.  And that requires action by the council and the city manager.

BTW, if anybody else is interested in doing a ride along, there are forms available at the PD that you have to fill out, submit and get approved.  It can be a learning experience.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dan Pflumm Invests in Downtown Shawnee

After sitting vacant since Commerce Bank left, the building at the corner of Johnson Drive and Nieman is now owned by a Pflumm again. Dan Pflumm, owner and president of DanCo Systems, Inc., a company he established in Shawnee in 1995, recently purchased the building.


The building on Johnson Drive and Nieman once housed Shawnee State Bank, and more recently Commerce Bank. Shawnee State Savings Bank, which occupied that corner since 1908, was owned by the Pflumm family. The building’s ownership changed when they sold their interests in Shawnee State Bank to Commerce Bank in the mid 1990s.

Dan plans to renovate the hundred plus year old, 10,000 sq ft. building. The future layout will consist of a suite of offices for lease, as well as become the new headquarters for DanCo Systems.

Dan who is also a Shawnee councilman, has been involved in projects to revitalize the downtown area. The updating of this corner lot will bring more commerce to the area. Current renovation plans include exposing the original interior limestone walls of the historic building.

His company, DanCo Systems, specializes in instrumentation and control systems for the process control industry, as well as sales, support, engineering and consulting. In addition to their Shawnee location, DanCo also has an office in St Louis.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Has It Finally Happened?

Well, has it?  Has the City Council wised up?

OK, for the long term readers of this blog (and anybody that wants to research previous posts) I have been on the council's case for a long time regarding trips to various conferences.

My comments have always been that these conferences can be helpful, we just did not need to send 4, 5 or 6 people to them.  One or two would suffice and they in turn can brief the others upon their return.

Well, the National League of Cities is having a conference Nov 9 - 12.  That is next week in Phoenix, Arizona.

According to the information I received today only one person is going to represent Shawnee at the conference.  That is great, and that individual can then report what they saw and heard to all the others.

And guess who that person is that is going?  Yes, the one and only. Mr Trip Taker himself: Mickey Sandifer.

Maybe, just maybe, my constant harping on this issue has had the desired effect.  Nahhhhh, the council (certain members anyway) will probably say they did it on their own to save money.  Yeah, right.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Indicators of Apathy in Shawnee

Just did a little quick research.  This is another example how apathy about local government is rampant in Shawnee.  What I refer to as the "intelligent idiots" of Shawnee.  Those folks who do nothing about our local government but make sure they get involved with national politics. 

Below is a listing from  August 3 until last Wed, October 26 indicatiing what kind of letters have been submitted to the Shawnee Dispatch:

In 13 issues of the Dispatch there were a total of 4 letters commenting on local governmental items.  Seven issues of the Dispatch had no letters of any kind and three issues had letters that were not on topic about local issues.

10/26/11 Illinois school seeking local items
10/19/11  NOTHING
10/12/11  NOTHING
10/5/11  Self serving letter from the Kansas Press Association
9/28/11  NOTHING
9/21/11  NOTHING
9/14/11  Thank you for return of lost item
9/7/11  Local commentary/opinion
8/31/11  NOTHING
8/24/11  Local commentary/opinion
8/17/11  NOTHING
8/10/11  NOTHING
8/3/11  (1) Local commentary/opinion
            (2) Local commentary/opinion

C'mon folks...............get involved with your local government.  Don't be one of the folks that complain after the fact when something happens.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hoopla Is Directed The Wrong Way

The political season is heating up.  Eyes are on the Republican debates.  Battles over the dates of the Presidential primaries have begun.

And Shawnee is just a little over five motnhs away from a municipal election.  Whooops.........how did that sneak in there?

That's right, on April 3, 2012 Shawnee voters (well at least 10% of them) will go to the polls and make decisions concerning 4 council seats and the mayor.  And 90% of them will sit on their butts and do nothing.

But watch what happens in the Presidential election.  Almost 80% of Shawnee's voters will vote.

I'm not saying don't vote in the Presidential election.  I'm saying get out there and vote for your local government.  The President does not control your property taxes, sales taxes, street repairs, emergency services (police and fire), parks etc.  When was the last time a President plowed snow?  Or filled a chuck hole?  Or got out in the parks to keep them functional?  Never. 

Citizen participation in local governement in Shawnee sucks.  And the local government has more of an effect on your daily lives than any other government level.

Anyway, back to the upcomig elections on April 3, 2012.  Mark your calendars, as that is just a little over 5 months away.

The five people up for reelection are:

Jeff Meyers, Mayor
Jim Neighbor, Ward 1 council (election for him, he was appointed to fill an unexpired term)
Neal Sawyer, Ward 2 council
Dawn Kuhn, Ward 3 council
Mickey Sandifer, Ward 4 council

Right now I can think of 3 of the above who definitely should not be returned to office, and I have mixed emotions on the other two.  More on that later.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hmmm, Guess I've Been Quiet

Yes, I've been quiet for almost a month.  Why?

Well, there was a committee meeting of the Finance and Administration Committee a few weeks ago.  There were two items on the agenda and I could not believe that nobody from the community showed up.

One item was the redrawing of the ward boundaries.  Don't the people of Shawnee care which ward they live in?  Don't they care who their reps on the council are?  Don't they care who they might be voting for, for council (if they ever get off their lazy butts, since voter turn out stinks)?

The other item concerned hunting regulations within the city limits. 

Regardless of what a person's opinon is, the fact that folks in Shawnee continue to show as much apathy as they do about their local government never ceases to amaze me.

I am continuoulsy getting emails and phone calls with suggestions of causes and situations that people think would be good to get involved with.  My answer to them...............why don't you get involved?

By the way, the two items mentioned above will be on tonight's city council agenda.  Will you be there or will you be crying after the fact?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Missed Opportunities - Again

While some city council members keep screaming that we need economic development (commercial development), what is being done to get it?

Fast food resturants are not the answer, see the post at
http://shawneeray.blogspot.com/2011/03/king-is-coming.html Oh, and by the way, where is it?

The recent Kanrocksas concert at Village West pulled in about 60,000 people for 2 days. A bit short of their original prediction of 100,000, but then this was the first of what is supposed to be an annual event. Willie Nelson's Farm Aid pulled in over 18,000 shortly after.

What did we in Shawnee get from those two events?

We are approximately 7 minutes south of the Village West complex. A complex that was started approximately 10 years ago.The casino going in up there is moving along quite nicely. There will also be a major hotel to go with it. With the right type of development along the I-35 corridor we could receive some benefits from this. Will we ever see it? I doubt it

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is It a Hotel or Pie In The Sky

Let's use the article in today's Shawnee Dispatch as a reference point:
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2011/aug/24/city-moves-abate-unsafe-buildings-hotel-site/


The hotel project began in 2008. Basically very little has been done since then. Some structures that were on the property and are still there have deteriorated to the point that they are safety hazards. Not to mention eyesores.

So, what is happening? The city is going to hold a public hearing to make a determination. If the items are determined to be hazards and the owners do not take them down the city will demolish them. Then the city will have to bill the owners for that action.

Now, in the above referenced article appears this, from city manager Carol Gonzales:

"Gonzales said the city wanted to maintain a positive relationship with the hotel group and looked forward to the new development. However, she said, the blighted structures have reached the point where they are unsafe."

Duhhhhh!!!!!!! What kind of relationship does the developer want to maintain with the city? Why after receiving various notices about this problem have they failed to act? Why are they willing to let the city go to the expense of demolishing the structures? If the city has to do it, will the developers repay the city? Or will legal action have to be taken to recoup the funds?

The cost of demolition is about $20K...............a drop in the bucket of the budget for the construction of a hotel of this size.  Kinda makes a person wanna ask how committed is the developer to this project.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sellin' Gold

A little over a week ago I decided to take advantage of the price on gold and sell off two pieces that I don't need anymore.


One was a man's bracelet that I bought over 30 years ago in San Diego and the other was a company ring with a diamond from a company that I no longer work for.

Learned some interesting things, that I'd like to pass on. First, the price that you hear in the media is for 24k gold. Second, you're not going to get that since whoever buys it from you has to have room to make a profit. Because of that I had a price in mind of $650-$750.

With that in mind I took the 2 pieces (both were 14k) to a pawn shop on 87th Street that says they buy gold. The gentleman there offered me $400. Something just told me not to even bother trying to negotiate.

Then I went to this place over on 76th St and Metcalf that gold buying is their business. Nicely decorated, coffee available , kinda trying to make ya feel at home. The young man there, after going through some gyrations offered me $300. Told him he was crazy. His place was supposed to be a "gold buying store" and a pawn shop just offered me $400. He went through some more gyrations and called "one of the owners". Came back to me with an offer of $500. Told him he was too short and I didn't appreciate his feeble attempt at low balling me.

Then I went to a pawn shop on 75th Street. He was pretty close. He offered me $500 right off the bat, and when I went to negotiate for what I wanted he countered with $575, as the best he could do (gettin' closer) but if I came back the next day the boss might be able to do better. I liked his demeanor.

My next stop was Thompson's Jewelry at 6642 Nieman Rd. Beautiful..........John offered me $600 from the start. Then I asked if he had looked at the diamond (about 1/3 carat). He admitted he had not, he thought I might want it to do something else. When he looked at it, he said he could bump the price another $50. Now he was right in line with what my original self estimate was. We made the deal.

Moral of the story...........do business with local merchants, especially when selling gold. Remember, the prices I was given were as low as $300 to what I finally got, $650 (well, $600 for the gold) . That's a spread.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Vaught's Comparison of Shawnee to Liberty (MO) Faulty

Prior to voting on the CID for 10 Quivira Plaza 3rd ward council rep Jeff Vaught attempted to compare Shawnee with Liberty, MO.


One of the arguments against the CID was that it would increase the sales tax paid on food, since the primary retailer in that shopping center is a grocery store.

Well Mr. Vaught brought out some info that Liberty had multiple CIDs and that two of them had grocery stores.

Something didn't seem right, but I did not have the info at hand. Now I do. Liberty officials were contacted and the information received is very interesting.

In Liberty, when one shops at a grocery store the sales tax on groceries is 3% LESS than non-grocery items. OK, let's break that down. In the two shopping centers he was talking about, the sales tax (with the 1% for their CID) is 8.6%, but on grocery items it is only 5.6%. Prior to the CID the sales taxes would have been 7.6% and 4.6%. So, in Liberty the tax did go up on grocery items, but the total tax paid on them is still quite a bit less than on non-grocery items.

So as to make sure everyone knows what qualifies as a grocery item, Missouri uses the federal guidelines for SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program, formerly food stamps). If it is an item that can be purchased with SNAP it qualifies as a grocery item for the reduced sales tax rate. The reduced sales tax rate applies to all individuals not just SNAP recipients.

How come Mr Vaught did not mention the bi-level sales tax in grocery stores there?  Curious, did he do his own research or was he spoon fed the info?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

CID Approval

This past Monday the city council approved a CID (Community Improvement District) for 10 Quivira Plaza.

My opinion still stands that this is a bad precedent to use this type of financing tool for a neighborhood shopping center.  The increased 1/2% sales tax will go to helping the ownership revitalize the center.  Others might now apply for the same type of financing which could result in shopping center specific tax increases of up to 2%.

In this case the ownership will be spending $2.8 million and the sales tax is being used to obtain an additional $1.4 million for the revitalization.  I applaud the ownership for their willingness to secure the $2.8 million.  That is the American way.  I criticize them for using the citizens of Shawnee (especially Ward 2) to finance the balance.

One of the arguments used by some on the council to support the tax increase was that if the ownership had to finance the improvements then they would raise the rents and the citizens would still be paying more.  Duhhhhh.................they are using $2.8 million of their own (or secured).  Won't they still raise rents?  Leaving the merchants to pass that on to the citizens?  Maybe not on stores that have existing leases, but what about at renewal time?  What about when the empty stores are filled?  Won't the revitalization be a selling tool for setting their rental rates higher?

Now, another argument for approving the CID was that by improving the shopping center it will be assessed at a higher value, bringing in more property tax dollars to the city.  Duhhhhhhhhhhhh.............is the ownership going to absorb those property tax increases?  Of course not.  Rents will still be set higher.

Then, when the ownership sells the center, for a profit which they are entitled to, the new ownership would have to also adjust rents............which means the merchants will still have to increase their prices.

So, what does that mean?  It means that the arguments that without the CID the rents would go up and prices also, are/were bogus arguments.  Prices are still going to go up. The sales tax increase will just be
on a higher retail price, ergo, a larger dollar amount.

Three of the five council reps who voted for this increase are up for reelection in 8 months (April 2012).

I strongly urge folks to work against their reelection.  Even if you are not in their ward, there is nothing to stop you from working against their reelection.

These are:

Mickey Sandifer.............ward 4...........talks about caring about senior citizens but I don't see that
Dawn Kuhn..........ward 3.............also was a strong supporter of the 5% franchise fee..........send her packing
Jim Neighbor..........ward 1............wasn't even elected......appointed to fill Cheryl Scott's remaining time............nice guy, but a review of the resum├ęs of the others who applied for the position was not, IMHO the best qualified.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I'll Be There............Will You?

Tonight, the public hearing for the proposed Community Improvement District at 10 Quivira Plaza (Quivira Rd & Shawnee Mission Parkway).

This would include a 1/2% sales tax increase, just for that shopping center, which would include the Price Chopper Supermarket.

Shawnee City Hall, Nieman Rd & Johnson Dr at 7:30PM

Be there..........get involved.........voice your opinions.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Another Reminder

Monday................8/8/11.......7:30PM.................City Hall

On the agenda:  The proposed Community Improvement District for 10 Quivira Plaza

Be there.................voice your opinion.............

Tell your friends, family about this important meeting.  It could set a precedent.  Is it a precedent that you want?  Let's hear you.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Be There, Monday August 8, 2011

Reminder................

Public hearing for the proposed Community Improvement District at 10 Quivira Plaza will be Monday, August 8, 2011 at 7:30 PM in the city council chambers, Johnson Drive and Nieman Rd.

This is an important issue for many reasons, including the possibility of a 1/2% sales tax increase for the shops in the district.  Keeping in mind that the largest generator of revenue in the shopping center is a grocery store.

Be there at the hearing with your opinions............the good, the bad and the ugly.............but be there.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Community Improvement District - 10 Quivira Plaza

Well, this is coming up again.  The public hearing is scheduled for Monday, August 8th at the City Council meeting at 7:30PM.

If approved, this would also include a 1/2% sales tax just on the shops in that center.  The basics are that  $4.2 million is needed for the revitalization of the shopping center.  The ownership is putting up $2.8 million and the balance ($1.4 million) would come from the extra sales tax.

This is another one of those items that needs citizen input................pros and cons.

One thing that I find intriguing is that just like last time, the item did not come before a committee but directly to the full council.

Friday, July 29, 2011

No Mill Levy Increase

Whooopeeee.  Some folks are making noise about how the city budget did not include a mill levy increase.

Of course not.  We have our 5% franchise fee.  Wheeeeeeee.  OK, let's use the KISS theory.  Your utility bills have a franchise fee on them.  The fee is 5% of the utility bill.  Basically that goes back to the utility because that is what the city is charging them and state law allows the utilities to pass that on.  That is why, when it came up in the summer of 2009 many folks (including me) spoke out against it.  See what happens, is that everytine the utility rates go up, that 5% goes up.  Every time you use more gas and/or electricity your bill goes up (think super hot summer or super cold winter...look at next month's bill for the effect of the July heat), and your 5% franchise fee amount goes up.

Way back when..............I said that eventually folks might forget it was the city that levied this and would start holding it against the utilities. 

So, there are folks who can pat themselves on the back and make themselves look and sound good for not raising the mill levy............but just look at that franchise fee.  Up, up and away....... in our rising utility costs, translated to franchise fee, translated to.............tax.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where Did $79 Million Go?

Unless you were at the Shawnee City Council meeting Monday night you probably cannot answer that question.

The point I'm trying to make is that unless Shawnee citizens get involved they have no idea how the council is spending their money. 

Monday was a perfect example of what I have been saying for a long time.  During the business from the floor portion (after the budget hearing), a member of the community got up to say how unhappy he and other folks in his subdivision were with some recent street repairs.  Personally, I do not know if his complaints was valid or not.  What I do know is that he, like just about everybody else, never showed up at various council meetings when it was discussed how certain street repairs had to be modified.  They were never there when it was discussed how certain repairs, for budgetary reasons, had to be cut back.  And, he and others were not there to discuss, at the budget hearing, the various points of how to use the Deffenbaugh impact fees (infrastructure, eco development or a combination).

And are he and his neighbors among the high percentage of Shawnee residents who vote in Presidential elections, but sit home for City Council elections.  Don't believe me?  Here are the numbers, for Shawnee:

2008 Presidential election  40,791  registered voters   32,177 actually voted

2010 City Council election   39,862 registered voters  3,890 actually voted

That means that 78.9% of Shawnee citizens voted for President, but only 9.8% voted in the last city election.

The elected body that controls local taxes, provides emergency services, maintains streets and parks, plows snow,  etc only less than 1 out of 10 residents get involved to the point of voting.  How many show up at council and/or council committee meetings?  Usually the number can be counted on the fingers of one hand, if that many.

Disgusting.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tonight's the Night

Apologies to Rod Stewart....................but.............tonight's the night.

Yepper, the Shawnee budget hearing is tonight.

Will you be there to see how the city uses your money?
Will you be there to tell them what you agree with?
Will you be there to tell them what you disagree with?

Are  you interested in seeing and hearing how tens of millions of your dollars are being spent?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coming to a City Hall Near You

Monday, 7/25/11 coming to the Shawnee City Hall will be the public hearing for the 2012 budget.

Come see how the city spends your money.
Come speak on the items you agree with.
Come speak on the items you disagree with.
Come take part in the governmental process that has the most effect on your daily lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Budget Public Hearing - Mon 7/25/11

This coming Monday the Shawnee City Council will hold a public hearing on the amended 2011 budget and on the 2012 budget.  The council meeting starts at 7:30PM.

As stated on numerous occasions it is amazing how little interest Shawnee citizens take in local government.  Yet it is local government that has the most effect on our daily lives.

There are numerous items in the proposed 2012 budget that folks need to look at, among them:

Economic development vs street maintenance
A proposed volunteer program with a proposed paid coordinator
City contributions to various organizations

It would be nice for folks to turn out, listen, and even comment.  And, see and hear how your elected representatives vote on these issues.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Upcoming Public Hearings

Public Hearings at the City Council are very important events. They are one of the major ways that citizens can voice their approval or disapproval regarding items that the council will be voting on.

Unfortunately, most folks in Shawnee do not get involved at these hearings. They just wait until after the fact to ask "How did that happen?" or "Why didn't that happen?"

OK...here are the two that are coming up:

Budget Hearing: This will be on Monday, 7/25/11, at 7:30PM. Both the amended 2011 budget and the proposed 2012 budget will be voted on by the council. Get involved with how your money is being spent.

Community Improvement District: This will be on Monday, 8/8/11, at 7:30PM. The ownership of the 10 Quivira Plaza Shopping Center (Quivira Rd and Shawnee Mission Parkway) have applied for the property to be designated a CID. This would involve the ownership investing funds for upgrades and the levying of an additional 1/2 cent sales tax for part of the upgrades, applicable only to the shops in that center.

What happens at these hearings will have a definite impact on Shawnee and its citizens. People need to get involved.

As we get closer to these hearings I will be posting some opinions regarding certain items.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gotta Love Vegas

Well, ya gotta love it.

On 5/22/11 (see below) I commented on the Global Retail Real Estate Convention. It was indicated that four people were going to represent the city: the executive director of the SEDC, the city's development director, the city manager and one city council person.

It was mentioned that in my opinion we only needed to send the first two individuals and the other two could have stayed home.

So let's see what the impact was for sending City Manager Gonzales and Council Member Kuhn.

Gonzales expense report: $1,816.34
Kuhn expense report: $1,637.64

Total $3,453.98

And since they both went, why couldn't they "double up" in their hotel room? Most private businesses are requiring that now.

And last, but not least. Apparently Dawn Kuhn uses the travel to Vegas (just like last year) to extend her stay (this year an extra 4 days) past the convention's end. Apparently vacation time is needed. Granted, this is at no additional cost to the city, but because it is tied into the convention she doesn't have the associated transportation costs. I'm curious. She did this last year also...............now I wonder..............has she done this before then also? Maybe we need to look and see how many times she was the "chosen" one to go to Vegas.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whose Money Is It?

OK............we'll keep this one simple.

At last night's council meeting the use of the "Impact Fee" that Deffenbaugh will be paying was discussed.

When it was brought up that council needed to be dilligent in how this "taxpayer money" was used, Jeff Vaught went on a Dawn Kuhn style diatribe.

The problem here is that Vaught kept saying that the money was not the taxpayer's but was an impact fee.

OK, we already know that Vaught had a problem with a 4th grade vocabulary word, and for a self professed commercial real estate expert had no knowledge of the International Building Code. (working in a field does not necessarily make one an expert) Now let's add to that the fact that he apparently does not understand what funds are "taxpayer funds".

Try this Jeff: The city receives funds.............regardless of the source, these monies become "taxpayer funds" because the monies are "owned" by the city, and the city is "owned" by its citizens (where local taxpayer and citizen in this case can be synonomous). Other than grants from other entities which are provided for specific purposes (and relieve the city of using some of its monies for these purposes) these are "taxpayer monies". Ergo, it is the council's responsibility to ensure that these monies are diligently used.


DTJVSD

Monday, June 27, 2011

Short Letter to the Star

Had a short one in the KC Star on Sunday, 6/26......and it's on line
here

Or, if you'd rather read it now:

Gel fuels create hazard

I have one question in reference to the June 16 front-page article, “Gel fuels raising concerns on safety,” about the dangers of the sticky flammable materials used in some firepots, tiki torches and other outdoor fire products:

Has anybody ever heard of napalm and how it functions?

Ray Erlichman
Shawnee

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thoughts About the 2012 Budget

At last night's Public Works and Safety Committee meeting more items regarding the upcoming budget were reviewed.

One item of interest was Jeff Vaught's comments about not giving Wonderscope Children's Museum $10,000. Gee Jeff, are you finally listening to me?

Last year, and for a couple of years prior to that I have spoken out at council (it's on the record) that we should eliminate the city's contribution to that organization. There were times when I even produced copies of Wonderscope's IRS Form 990. As a tax exempt organization their IRS filings are available for public scrutiny. One year, they gave a former executive director a 15% salary increase, while we were freezing employee salaries. Hopefully the item can be struck from the 2012 budget.

Interesting side note is that Dawn Kuhn was silent on this last night when in the past she has jumped to the defense of Wonderscope. Wonder why? Does her silence mean that she does not support giving them the money?

Let's move on to the topic of economic development.

SEDC executive director Andrew Nave gave a presentation. I'm not going to go through it item by item but suffice it to say it is my opinion that some things were lacking.

There was talk about attracting various businesses, but, that we did not necessarily have the buildings of sufficient size for them. The city manager mentioned that some companies were expressing an interest in the riverfront project/area.

At no time do I remember hearing any mention of a strong emphasis to attract destination type businesses/developments that could feed off of KCK's Village West along the I-435 corridor. Duhhhhhhhhhhhh.........................

When the presentation brought up info about new businesses and their potential payrolls, Council Rep Neal Sawyer asked a very important question: How much of those projected payrolls would stay in Shawnee? Very valid.

Side note: A few years back I proposed that any incentives given to businesses should have a tie in to the payrolls remaining in Shawnee. Think about that. How beneficial is a business that employs let's say 25 people, with a yearly payroll of $1,000,000 if let's say $800,000 of that belongs to folks who live (buy/rent) and shop in other cities. Will some of that be spent here? Yepper. Would more of it stay here if these businesses brought folks to Shawnee from other cities? Yepper.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Family Squabble?? Part 2

Well, I finally listened to the audio version of the 6/7/11 Finance and Administration Committee meeting (see the earlier post below).

I'll keep it simple. Based on what I heard, Council Rep Dawn Kuhn was way out of line in her rant against Council Rep Neil Sawyer.

The post below links to an item in the Shawnee Dispatch in which it is noted that Council Rep Vaught even saw nothing wrong with Mr. Sawyer's question, indicating that if council didn't question items that we might as well have eight rubber stamps up there.

Mr Sawyer did not berate or beat up on staff as Motormouth Kuhn suggested. If anybody was insolent or antagonistic or rude it was Kuhn in her comments directed to Mr Sawyer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Family" Squabble??

Was there a "family" squabble during last Tuesday's Finance and Administration Committee meeting?

I left early...........missed it....but heard about it at http://www.shawneedispatch.com/weblogs/between-shawnee-lines/2011/jun/08/r-e-s-p-e-c-t/

Will be listening to the audio version of the situation before voicing my opinion.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Educated Idiots

Who am I referring to? The majority of the registered voters in Shawnee. Ooooops, you're not supposed to insult folks. Too bad. Read on and you'll see why.

Back in April I thanked the mayor for his comments in the city's newsletter http://shawneeray.blogspot.com/2011/04/thank-you-mr-mayor.html

I also jokingly told him in the parking lot one night that I was thinking of suing him for plagiarism. The mayor basically brought out how important it is for the people of Shawnee to get involved with what happens in the city, especially with city government. Again, this is something I've been preaching about for quite some time.

It seems that when a "big" election rolls around (presidential especially, then gubernatorial) the folks in Shawnee show up to the polls in droves. Sometimes in a presidential election maybe as many as 80% of the registered voters.

But what happens in the local elections (mayor, city council)? We are lucky to see 10% of the registered voters show up.

Well folks let me explain something to the feeble minded: It is the council that is responsible for street repairs, sales taxes, mill levies, snow removal, police protection, fire protection, emergency services, maintenance of parks, swimming pools ad infinitum. Neither the occupant of the White House or the Governor's mansion has as much of an effect on your daily lives. Yet what do the feeble minded (educated idiots) of Shawnee do? They sit home and don't show up to vote.

The worst part of it is that here in Johnson County we have an elections department that goes out of its way to provide easy access to voting. There is the basic in person at the polls on election day. Then there is advance voting at the election office and various remote locations. There is also advanced mail voting (and you don't have to be stuck at home ill to take advantage of that).

So now why do I refer to (and insult) the folks in Shawnee? That's easy. Shawnee has a very high percentage of college educated folks living in the city. But they allow less than 10% of the registered voters to control what happens in the city. Actually less than 5%.............because if less than 10% show up in a ward, then approximately 1/2 of that amount will determine the winner.............and if it's a close race, maybe in reality only 50 people or so will determine the winner. That is disgusting.

Next April four council positions and the mayor's position will be up for election. There are two council members, who, if they choose to run again, need to be unseated. More on this later.

So, unless the educated idiots get off their collective posteriors and vote they should be prepared to accept whatever happens in the city.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

More Watching

This past weekend was apparently a real hot one up at the Kansas Speedway with the race.

No long drawn out comments today.........................did we get any bleed off from the massive crowds?

Rumor has it that the two Shawnee motels were booked (217 rooms I believe) and that the restaurants at Midland Dr and I-435 did a nice business.

But, that's chicken feed compared to what we could have if we had destination development along that I-435 corridor. Even that 3d motel that was approved years ago would be nice.

Alas, as the Speedway, Village West etc have been growing for 10 years our I-435 corridor has remained void of any major attractions.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Viva Las Vegas

It’s that time of the year again. The Global Retail Real Estate Convention is being held by the International Council of Shopping Centers in little old Las Vegas.

So, who is going to represent Shawnee? Well, we can start with Andrew Nave, Executive Director of the Shawnee Economic Development Council. Then there is Doug Wesselschmidt, Development Director for the City of Shawnee. Now in my opinion, that’s where we need to stop.

But nope, two more individuals are going: City Manager Carol Gonzales and Ward III Councilmember Dawn Kuhn. Last year three local businessmen also went to represent their own interests. Not sure if any are going this year.

Will this trip prove beneficial for Shawnee? Who knows? It is my understanding that as a result of last year’s trip we got the new Burger King coming to town. Maybe this time we will get a Hardee’s.

Question: When will we, after all these years, get something to draw some bleed off from the Village West complex?

Oh, is Dawn Kuhn planning on staying a couple of extra days after the convention in Vegas like she did last year? Must be nice.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

All We Cand Do is Watch Part II

Well if you scroll down a little you will see the original post on this topic.

Now we know that the Willi Nelson FarmAid 2011 concert is coming to town. And guess where this one is going to be? At the new soccer stadium in Village West? (Side note: Soccer games are starting soon)

Will Shawnee get any bleed off from that? Do we have anything to attract those folks down the I-435 corridor?

Those guided tours of the largest landfill in the midwest are getting to sound pretty good.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Refunds & Credits

As previously noted on this blog, funds were advanced for both airfare and meeting registration fees for Councilmember Vaught for a NLC convention which he subsequently did not attend.

Inquiries to the city manager have resulted in the following information being received:

The airfare is available for Mr. Vaught to use within a year. NLC has refunded the registration, all but a $70 change fee.

So the city got back a majority of the money for the NLC registration fee. Good.

What about the airfare?

IMHO, here are the options:

1. Use the airfare in the future, which would also mean spending additional funds for registration, hotel, meals etc.

2. Same as one above, but make sure we keep the number of participants to no more than 2 and that Mr. Vaught is one of the two.

3. Suffer the loss of the airfare without paying for any additional travel related expenses.

I still think these meetings can be beneficial. Just don't feel that we need to send a whole bunch of folks. Would recommend number 2 above.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

All We Can Do is Watch

Look what is going to be happening at the Kansas Speedway this summer!!

http://www.kansascity.com/2011/04/25/2826540/kanrocksas-music-festival-in-kck.html

Read the article above. See what all the talk is about. A two day music festival, at the speedway, drawing upwards of 100,000 people, each day.

We sit right down the road from there. And what kind of bleed off are we going to get from there? What do we have along the I-435 corridor that would draw a large number of those folks to spend money in Shawnee? While Village West continues to grow what has Shawnee done to attract any strong development along that corridor? We spent money for a study. Whoopeeee!!!

I know. We could send tour buses up to Village West and offer folks a tour of the largest landfill in the midwest. Then, after that, Dawn Kuhn could take them on a side tour to see where the new Burger King is going in.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Last Tuesday, 4/19/11 the council's Public Works and Safety Committee had its monthly meeting.

One of the items on the agenda concerned the policy about mowing rights of way. In some cases it is the home owner's responsibility, in other case the city's. Basically it appears that the committee was trying to make the policy uniform in nature with specific guidelines.

The above is a subject that cannot be gone into in just a few paragraphs here, and yes, I do have my thoughts on this subject. Especially with regards to some specific areas that were mentioned.

What bothered me was the committee chairperson, Dawn Kuhn just flat out lying to a member of the public over what some may consider an inconsequential matter.

An elderly gentleman got up and complained about his hearing aids being broken and that he could not hear what was being said even with the PA system that we have.

Ms. Kuhn's response to this was:

"These are not PA system microphones. They are purely recording microphones, for our minutes and our, uh, for the record of the meeting so it doesn't matter how loud we speak into them or how closely we are they will not amplify our voices."

If they aren't connected to the PA system why did the assistant city manager head to the room where the equipment is stored when this was going on? If they aren’t connected to the PA system, then how come every time I get up to speak, I tap the mike to make sure it's on and you can hear the thump?

Other examples that they are connected to the PA system:

When the council chambers are filled to capacity the proceedings can be piped into the lobby and also into the council's conference room.

My point here is that if Ms. Kuhn, a seven year veteran of the council, having served 2 years as council president and currently is the chairperson of this committee would lie to a resident about something as picayune as this, what else would she lie about?

A cup of coffee says Kuhn will try and do some kind of Tijuana Two Step on this. Oh, her quote above is not from my memory, but from a CD of the meeting.

Good starts with being honest with residents, especially senior citizens.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Numbers Are In

Well, the numbers are in.

The four individuals who went to the National League of Cities spent a total of $8,563.03. This does not include the little over $700 that was paid in advance for Councilmember Jaff Vaught who did not go.

I'll have to check with the city manger on that. In the last email I received from her on that subject she said "The City has requests in to the airline and to NLC to have the amounts credited. Review processes are underway for each."

Anyway the four people who went were: Mayor Meyers, Councilmembers Neighbor and Sandifer, and City Manager Gonzales. In my opinion that was two more people than was needed, especially in these tight fiscal times. As predicted in a post of mine prior to the trip, Mickey Sandifer spent the most money and stayed the most number of days in DC. He personally was responsible for $3,034.55 of the total amount spent.

Also, as mentioned in a post prior to the trip, our delegation stayed at the primary convention hotel. Sandifer was 5 nights , the other three were 3 nights each.

A more detailed breakdown is shown below:
(You can click on the image for a larger view)

As a reminder, in a post on 2/6/11 I indicated which cities were planning on sending folks to this conference. Shawnee, Olathe and Prairie Village all planned on 5. Mission planned on 4 and Roeland Park was looking at 1. The following cities were not planning on sending anybody Lenexa, Merriam, Overland Park, Leawood, Topeka and the UG of Wy Co and KCK.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Thank You Mr. Mayor

In the Spring/Summer 2011 City Line newsletter (available here: http://gsh.cityofshawnee.org/pdf/events/CityLine/CityLine_Spring_11.pdf )
Mayor Jeff Meyers makes various comments about folks getting involved in city government. Among these comments are:

"It is my desire that every citizen and every business feel a part of Shawnee and its City government. Many people don't think about it, but there is no form of government that is closer to you and has more impact on your daily life than your City government."


"The impact of your City government on your everyday life is tremendous."

"It is because that impact is so significant that your engagement is so important."

These comments seem to echo many comments I've made over an extended period of time. The difference being the mayor says it so eloquently and diplomatically, where I've said that the citizens of Shawnee are disgustingly apathetic. Especially when it comes to what happens in their city. Their participation in city elections stinks. Their participation in representative government stinks. The facts confirm that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The King Is Coming

The King Is Coming.

The Burger King that is. Shawnee is getting a new Burger King restaurant at 75th Street and Nieman.


On a personal note, I’m looking forward to that. When I’m in the mood for a fast food burger I usually drive by McDonald’s and head for the Wendy’s at Wedd and 75th (and that’s in Merriam). OK burger King, we know you have one customer………….and hopefully many more.

Now, when this came up at the council meeting this past Monday we were treated to another one of Dawn “Motormouth” Kuhn’s self-aggrandizing diatribes. It’s nice that she had a hand in this, but fast food businesses are not the answer to Shawnee’s lack of commercial development. Just like the new Antique Mall in the old Hy-Vee building at 64th & Quivira is a nice touch. And, I hope they do well. But, that is not the answer to our lack of commercial development.

What we need is some strong development along the I-435 corridor (ala Zona Rosa). Look at what is happening at Village West. New soccer stadium, casino, Cerner Corp HQ and other items. The potential for getting bleed off from that area has to be enormous. Will something be done before it is too late? Mixed use………………hotels, restaurants, major shopping. And then with the proximity to I-70 what about some light manufacturing and/or corporate headquarters buildings. Technology companies with nice campuses. Now that would be exciting.

Chuckle of the night: When Councilmember Jeff Vaught questioned the requirements that were put on Burger King for appearance. He inquired as to whether or not Shawnee had a Uniform Building Code. The city’s planning director very politely had to inform him that the building code is exactly that, it has to do with various aspects of construction (electrical, plumbing etc.), not appearance. Why the chuckle? Mr. Vaught is in commercial real estate, and seldom lets a night go by where he doesn’t remind us of this. Thought he would have known that.

Sidebar: Technically the Uniform Building Code does not really exist anymore by that name. A few years ago it was consolidated with two other codes to become the International Building Code, and I’m not in commercial real estate. :-) :-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Will We Get the Funds Back?

A few weeks ago I wrote that we were sending 5 people to the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, DC. This was in my opinion, three more than we needed to send. Scroll down to the Feb 25, 2011 post, “The Five That Are Going……….to DC”.

Based on a recent posting to the city’s web site, it was obvious that only four of the individuals went. An inquiry was sent to the city manager requesting info as to whether or not funds were expended on behalf of the non-attendee, Ward III Councilmember Jeff Vaught.

Below are the three questions (in blue) and Ms. Gonzales’ responses, (in red). I would like to sincerely thank Ms. Gonzales for her speedy reply.

1. Were any funds expended on Mr. Vaught’s behalf (hotel reservations, NLC registration and seminar fees, transportation, advances for per diem and any other items)?
Two payments made in advance were for airfare and the NLC Conference Registration.

2. If yes, how much and what were they?
Air fare was $ 308.39. NLC Conference Registration was $420.

3. If yes, how much is refundable to the city and how much is lost?
The City has requests in to the airline and to NLC to have the amounts credited. Review processes are underway for each.

It is nice to know that action is being taken to get credits for these amounts. The only question that remains is, if the city gets the credits, will they be credits resulting in refunds or requiring the city to use the amounts for future meetings.

The latter has happened in the past.

What occurs is that the city gets a credit towards a future meeting, but to take advantage of it, additional funds have to be expended (lodging, per diem, seminar fees, etc.). Let’s hope that it is a refund and the city doesn’t get “forced” into additional expenditures. That is unless the funds are used for one of two individuals to be sent instead of 4, 5 or 6.

Watch this blog for info regarding how much was spent by the other 4 attendees to the DC conference.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why I've Been Quiet................

On February 28 the city council made a decision to extend the life of the Johnson County Landfill an additional 16 years until 2043. Once that was approved, the council then confirmed a new agreement with Lord Deffenbaugh regarding how much that entity would pay the city.

So why didn’t I say something at that council meeting? I wanted to. I was going to. Then I looked around and realized only one other person was going to say anything. And they didn’t (and later I found out why). Because on an issue of this magnitude the citizens of Shawnee reverted to their normal, lackluster, apathetic attitude. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with this decision by the council, the fact that the citizens of Shawnee fail to participate in local government never ceases to amaze me. One lady showed up as folks were leaving, surprised that it was all over. Unbelievable.

I have written about this before. Almost everybody (over 80%) turns out for Presidential elections, but less than 10% turn out for local elections. And, very few, if any, ever show up at city hall to see firsthand what local government is doing. Guess the intelligent folks of Shawnee feel that the President is responsible for 90% of what affects their daily lives, not the city council.

Now let’s go back and look at the world famous Shawnee dump…….oooops, I mean landfill. The largest in the Midwest. Some folks have claimed we need more commercial development in Shawnee. The city paid a fortune for a study of the I-435 corridor. OK, who is going to build there? Who wants to build there? What kind of building do they want? The council recently approved a TIF district for a substantial amount of acreage just south of the landfill. Is anything ever going to happen there? Well, the owners of that land don’t have to tell us until they submit plans, if ever.

The Village West property in KCK is growing. A new professional soccer stadium, a casino, a major corporate complex, these are some of the things that are hapopening. Not to forget possible expansion of the speedway. The I-435 corridor would be a perfect “right down the road” area to gain some benefits from what is happening up there. Will it happen? I doubt it.

This past week, Mike Hendricks of the KC Star wrote an article about the problems surrounding the development of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.


The article can be accessed here,
http://www.kansascity.com/2011/03/14/2726135/vision-of-new-community-at-old.html


What is telling, is the cross reference to the Shawnee landfill, via these comments:
“But then there was a big sticking point: The site first had to be cleansed of the toxins and explosives residues that once had the EPA contemplating putting it on its Superfund list. The soil was heavily contaminated with arsenic, lead and mercury, among other poisons.”


“All that dirt and material in dump sites had to be scooped up and hauled off.
But then another big problem arose: According to Kise Randall, who oversees the cleanup effort for Sunflower, the original estimate put the amount of soil to be removed at 612,621 tons. That’s equal to 26,621 truckloads, with most of it going to the Johnson County Landfill.”

Oh well……….guess we can forget about commercial development in Shawnee and just continue with residential development. That is, unless the lazy apathetic citizenry of Shawnee gets off their collective butts and starts getting involved.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Extending the Life of the Landfill in Shawnee Part 2

Just a reminder.



The city council will take up the matter of wheter or not to extend the life of Shawnee's landfill.

Originally scheduled to close in 2026, the extension would take it to 2043.

If extended, will this:

1. Inhibit commercial growth, or
2. Accelerate commercial growth

If you have an opinion, Monday night, 2/28/11 at 7:30PM is your chance to voice it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Five That Are Going................to DC

On Feb 6, 2011 (scroll down) I posted:

"And they're Off..........To Wash. DC"

Now we can tell you who the five people are that are going to Washington DC for the NLC conference 3/12-3/16:

Mayor Jeff Meyers (just went to Denver 3 mos ago)
Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Neighbor (just went to Denver 3 mos ago)
Ward 3 Councilmember Jeff Vaught (just went to Denver 3 mos ago)
Ward 4 Councilmember Mickey Sandifer (just went to Denver 3 mos ago)
City Manager Carol Gonzales (just went to Denver 3 mos ago)

In my previous post I guessed correctly about Mickey (Mr Trip Taker) Sandifer. Don't think this man has ever heard about a trip that he didn't want to go on.

Now, here we go again.......these meetings can provide useful information. But do we need to send 5 people when money is tight? My opinion: the city manager and the mayor should be sufficient. Just look at the previous post of 2/6 and see which cities aren't even sending anybody.

Also, since we are sending 5 and 4 of them are men are they going to take me up on the suggestion of doubling up in their rooms? Those rooms are going to be $242/night plus taxes. That will probably come up to the $280/$290 range per night. Heck, what is the room for? Sleeping, changing clothes and showering. So, why not douible up?

Prediction: Mickey Sandifer spends the most number of nights in DC (based on his actions on previous trips).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Extending the Life of the Landfill in Shawnee

On Monday, 2/28 the city council will consider extending the life of the landfill here in Shawnee so that it would close in 2043 instead of 2027.

The planning commission has voted to recommend approval for this action. More info is available here:
http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2011/feb/08/planning-commission-gives-nod-16-year-landfill-ext/

It's nice to know that we are number one in something. The largest landfill in the midwest.
More info on that is here:
http://www.businessinsider.com/worlds-largest-dumps-2011-2?slop=1#johnson-county-landfill-in-shawnee-ks-is-the-largest-in-the-midwest-us-at-over-1000-acres-1

Should the landfill be kept open another 16 years? Some say yes, some say no. If you live in Shawnee you might want to consider showing up Monday night and voicing your opinion.

Monday, February 21, 2011

City Updates Web Site

Congratulations................the city's web site now shows tomorrow's meeting as 6:00PM and at the Justice Center.

Sure happy I emailed them about it............ :-) :-)

Naturally, nobody acknowledged the email...............but they did make the change.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Location Change

Eventhough the Agenda info on the city's web site doesn't mention it, I just found out that the meeting Tie 2/22/11 will be held at the Justice Center

Why wasn't that info shown on the published notice?


Special City Council
AGENDA
Tuesday, February 22, 2011


And, it was not mentioned in the email that goes out to all who have signed up for email notifications of city activities. And, the original email says 7:00PM but the city's web site now says 6:00PM.

Special Council Meeting 2/22/11

A special meeting of the city council has been called for Tuesday, 2/22/11 at 6:00PM

Here is the agenda for this special meeting:


1. PRESENTATION AND GOVERNING BODY DISCUSSION: ROLE AS A POLICY MAKER.
Presented/Facilitated by John Nalbandian Ph.D.
This presentation and facilitated workshop will provide the Governing Body the opportunity to
discuss concepts and ideas regarding their role as a policy making body. PAGES 1 - 2
COMMENTS: ____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
2. 2010 ACCOMPLISHMENTS/LOOKING TO 2011 AND BEYOND.
Facilitated by City Manager Gonzales with presentations by Management Team Members.
COMMENTS: ____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________
ADJOURNMENT

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day at City Council

Tomorrow, 2/14/11 one of the items on the city council agenda is:

6. CONSIDER REVISIONS TO PS-7, CONDUCT OF PUBLIC MEETINGS.
DISCUSSION: At the January 18, 2011, meeting the Public Works and Safety Committee
recommended 3-1 that the Governing Body approve contracting with a third party company to
capture and record the City's public meeting audio recordings and to use software features to
create summary minutes with linked audio. At the October 19, 2010, meeting the Committee
recommended 3-1 that the Governing Body revise language in PS-7, Conduct of Public Meetings
related to summary minutes, speakers signing in at public meetings, responding to Business From
the Floor, and advanced approval of material shown on the display screen. A memo from staff
and a draft policy statement are included for review. PAGES 19 - 40


The background info is on pages 19-40 of the packet which can be read at:

http://www.cityofshawnee.org/Meetings/AGENDAS.NSF/vwNews/1EE2609988C4E11A86257833007E7DEA/$FILE/8DXTRG.pdf

Citizen input at council meetings, the methodology for keeping and reporting what transpires at these meeting should be items of interest to most folks. Hopefully folks will be there.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

And they're Off..........To Wash. DC

Yepper...........the annual Washington DC conference for the National League of Cities is coming up, and it will be March 12-16, 2011. That's coming just 3 1/2 months after the NLC conference in Denver.

Most folks will be staying at the designated convnetion hotel for $242 (plus taxes)/night. I doubt that there will be any doubling up of rooms to save money. Again I will say that these conferences can be beneficial. It is just how many folks do we have to send, because in addition to the hotel costs there are other costs. Among these are: registration for the meeting itself per attendee, registration for various seminars, transportation, per diem and probably other costs too. In the past some folks have stayed the entire time and others only part of the time. It will be interesting to see how many stay the the full schedule (arriving 3/11 the night before it starts and returning 3/17, the day after it ends) as that would be 6 nights of hotels and the corresponding per diem reimbursements.

Shawnee likes to compare itself to other local cities whenever a "study" is done. So, let's see where Shawnee stands relative to other cities in the area that were contacted. The list reflects the number of individuals each city is sending:

Shawnee............................................5
Olathe................................................5
Prairie Village...................................5 (see note 1 below)
Mission..............................................4 (see note 2 below)
Roeland Park....................................1
Lenexa...............................................0
Merriam............................................0
Overland Park..................................0
Leawood............................................0
Topeka...............................................0
UG WyCo & KCK..............................0

I didn't ask (not yet anyway) who is attending for Shawnee, but based on previous trips I'd bet that one of them is Mickey "Mr Trip Taker" Sandifer.


(note 1) Prairie Village indicated that their number might be reduced
(note 2) Mission indicated that one attendee will not be staying at the hotel, but with a friend

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Candidate Finance Reports

Ever wonder where local candidates get the money to run their campaigns?

In the past, if you wanted to find out you could go to the JoCo election office and read the finance reports that each candidate is required to file. You could even get copies of those reports.

Now, thanks to the JoCo Election office again showing initiative, you can now read these reports from the comfort of your home. Just click here
http://www.jocoelection.org/CampaignReports/CampaignReportsDisc.html

These reports are for county and municipal elections within JoCo. Statewide and federal election reports are filed elsewhere.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mile High Madness Part II

Previously I wrote and indicated what our council members spent while in Denver. Now, it's time to break down some of those expenses.

Let's look at hotel costs. This is one area that definitely needs to be looked at much closer. As previously pointed out, the rooms are primarily for sleeping, showering and changing clothes. Most of the folks' time is taken up eating, attending seminars and socializing with individuals from other cities.

Our people stayed at the Hyatt Regency. That is the hotel directly across from the Denver Convention Center. The discounted group rate was $240/night. Now if we take the mayor and city manager out of the equation we had 4 council members who between them had 16 nights at the hotel. At $240/night (including taxes) that becomes $3,840.

Now, the folks who went from Lenexa got a group rate of $137/night (including taxes) at the Crowne Plaza. Granted that was a block or so away. Golly, they had to walk a little. If our council reps had stayed there, they could have saved $1,648. And how much could those four have saved if they doubled up? Allowing for a $30 surcharge for 2 in a room they would have paid approximately $1,336 or a savings of approximately $2,500.

How much would have been saved if the mayor and the city manager had also stayed at the lower priced hotel? Naturally in separate rooms, I’m still estimating another $500 could have been saved.

The Crowne Plaza is not exactly a notel motel………it would have served the primary functionality.

The next question is how much more could have been saved if we didn't have a six person delegation? Reduced per diem charges, reduced transportation charges, reduced registration charges for the conference and reduced charges for the number of people attending the various paid seminars. That could have been in the thousands.

This becomes important for another reason. In less than two months, the National League of Cities "biggie" is going to be in Washington, DC. And, considering the time line, arrangements are probably being made right now. Will we be sending another oversized delegation? Will they be staying in the most expensive of all the convention hotels, in individual rooms?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Representation at these conferences is good. We just don't need to send an army. And, they can walk a little and stay at a better priced hotel.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Letter to Council 1/20/11

Below is a copy of an email I sent earlier today to all members of the City Council, the Mayor and the City Manager. If any of them decide to respond I'll be happy to post the response(s) here, without editing it(them).




This email is being sent to the City Council, Mayor and City Manager

Just prior to the end of the recent PW & Safety Committee meeting, Messrs. Sandifer & Vaught thought to mention the importance of the NLC conference with regards to info about audio capture of meetings.

Immediately following their comments, the committee Chair, Ms Kuhn, advised that there would be no comments about any items that were not on the agenda. What I wanted to say at that time would have been relevant, but decided not to push it.

The record needs to be set straight. Or, shall I say a reminder.

At the 11/8/10 City Council meeting these same items (method of preserving and communicating meeting minutes) came up after previously being reviewed by the PW&S committee.

Various items were then presented at that council meeting, to include the use of audio similar to the way Fairway was doing it. And, yes, it was me that brought that up. At that time, because of that and other info, Mr Neighbor moved that the item be tabled until staff had reviewed the additional info. This can be confirmed with the item in the Shawnee Dispatch from 11/10/2010 at:


http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2010/nov/10/council-delays-vote-cutting-minutes/

I bring this up, because the use of audio was brought up well in advance of the NLC conference. Naturally, I wouldn't expect either Messr. Sandifer or Vaught to mention that. Especially considering who brought it up. I will concede that the info from the NLC conference did show other methods of audio capture which could be better than the one currently employed by Fairway. The question is: If the item had not been tabled because of citizen input would the city even have looked at the audio concepts at the NLC conference? And if yes, to what extent?

Ray Erlichman

Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Forget Tuesday 1/18/11 Meeting

Don't forget the Public Works and Safety Committee meeting at city hall Tuesday 1/18/11 at 7PM.

Changes in how the minutes of city council and council committee meetings are kept will be voted on. Transparency must be kept.

Be there.

For info on exactly what is going to be on the agenda see the post with the link below.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Important Meeting - Council Transparency 1/18/11 Tuesday

There will be a meeting of the Public Works and Safety Committee on Tuesday 1/18/11 at 7:00PM.

Agenda and packet information is available at
http://www.cityofshawnee.org/WEB/ShawneeCMS.nsf/vwContent/Agendas?OpenDocument

Item 2 on the agenda would appear to be very important with regards to council transparency. This is where they will be discussing the format that the minutes of meetings will be taking. Minutes are the primary memorialization of what goes on at these meetings. Disclosure to the public is keeping within our framework of democracy. One item also includes the possibility of online audio availability.

Another part of item 2 (eventhough it doesn't show on the agenda, it is in the packet for that item) are rules for public participation in meetings. You would think that one short sentence about that could have been included in the agenda. Guess there wasn't enough room to mention that.

It is important to maintain maximum tranparency about what goes on in these meetings. It is also important to preserve citizen rights.

It would be nice to see a good public turnout for this meeting.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Hated To Do It................But...............

............because of Vaught's letter to the editor of the Shawnee Dispatch of 12/22, I just had to respond there. http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2011/jan/12/letters-word-play/

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

Back in 1974 at the Academy Awards a streaker ran across the stage. David Niven, a very gifted British actor, handled the situation with much aplomb and said “The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping ... and showing his shortcomings.”

So, why did Vaught want to show off his vocabulary shortcomings to the world?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Mile High Madness

In previous posts it was mentioned that 6 individuals were going to represent Shawnee at the recent National League of Cities conferenec in Denver.

First, let's see how Shawnee compared to some other communities in the area with regards to number of individuals sent. In the past, listening to various presentations, there seems to be a trend to compare our city with some of the others. So why not this one? OK, so, how many folks represented each city?

Olathe...........................8
Lenexa..........................7
Shawnee.......................6
Mission.........................3
Merriam.......................3
Prairie Village..............3
Overland Park..............1
Roeland Park................1
Leawood........................0
Topeka..........................0
UG WyCo&KCK.............0

Now, what did this cost the citizens of Shawnee?

Jim Neighbor, Ward 1................................$2,711.60 5 nights
Mickey Sandifer, Ward 4..........................$2,677.60 5 nights
Jeff Vaught, Ward 3..................................$1,544.52 3 nights
Jeff Meyers, Mayor....................................$1,459.52 3 nights
Carol Gonzales, City Mgr.........................$1,254.57 3 nights
Neal Sawyer, Ward 2...............................$1,044.52 3 nights
=======
Total......................................................$10,692.33

I've always felt that conferences of this kind can be useful. The big question is, in these tough times how many folks do we need to send? I said it before the conference and I'll say it again, my opinion is that two would have been enough, 3 for this one since Mr Sawyer's registration was covered by a previous conference that he couldn't attend.

Note that 2 reps (33% of the city's delegation) accounted for over 50% of the expenses. This is not the first conference where Mickey Sandifer's expenses were near the top of the group's.

Another interesting note is the cost of the hotel rooms. At $240/night why couldn't the four council reps have done what private comapnies have gone to? Doubling up. Neighbor and Sandifer were there for 5 nights, they could have doubled up. Sawyer and Vaught were there for 3 nights. They could have doubled up. Even if there was a surcharge over the $240 for a second person, in most hotels that would not be anywhere near the cost of a separate room. Also, at a conference like this what is the need for separate rooms? One gets up, showers, has breakfast, goes to meetings, has lunch, goes to meetings, has dinner, socializes, then hits the sack. Unless the rooms are being used for mini-conferences/lectures what's the need?

My original comments, months ago suggested that just the mayor, city manager and Councilmember Sawyer should go. Look at the numbers above............the city could have saved approximately $7,000.

In March there will be another National League of Cities conference in Washington DC. It will be interesting to see how many of our city officials go to that one, and what the cost factor will be.