Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Council to Reevaluate and Reconsider Budget Suggestions

At the last council committee meeting (6/16/15) council member Jenkins had some suggestions for the new budget.  If you read this blog on 6/19, 20, 22 & 23 you will remember that council members Vaught and Sandifer accused Jenkins of micro managing the staff and the city manager.  In reality, Jenkins was doing his job as a council member to suggest possible changes.  Vaught and Sandifer on the other hand just seem to want to rubber stamp anything the city manager does.  If we have a council that abrogates their responsibilities then we don't really need a council.

Anyway, staff has been requested by the council president/chairman of the council committee Stephanie Meyer to provide specific information regarding certain, not all, of the suggestions Jenkins made. Plus some other items, so that the council committee can reevaluate and reconsider them at the 7/7/15 meeting.  This is how a council is supposed to operate.  Not the way that Vaught and Sandifer would do it.  Maybe that is because they are incapable of independent thought?

Anyway, it's nice to see that the Shawnee Dispatch has finally (yesterday 6/29/15) covered what happened on 6/16 /15.  But I don't remember reading anything about the reevaluations being done on 7/7/15.  It only makes reference that the council will set budget limits at the next council meeting (which would be 7/13/15) and set a public hearing for 7/27/15.  Well, now those figures could change based on what happens on next Tuesday.  Methinks the Dispatch might want to inform the public of that.

The Dispatch makes reference to some comments of Mayor Distler's:
Mayor Michelle Distler said she would agree with Jenkins in that the council should be able to give the city ideas and suggestions for improvement. "I think anyone can always offer any suggestion," Distler said. "It all goes back to us thinking together, which is good for the city."  and then this Lastly, Jenkins suggested that the city re-evaluates how it presents its budget each year so it is more understandable to the public. This idea is already being explored by Distler and Gonzales, and Distler said she would continue that conversation as a way to make the city's government more user-friendly to the citizens of Shawnee.

Now that is what we need, leadership and guidance by the governing body.  Not an abrogation of responsibilities.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Third Thursdays With the Mayor

This is something new, and interesting.  According to the city's web site

Beginning in July, the City of Shawnee will launch a new program called Third Thursdays with the Mayor, which will give citizens another opportunity to engage with their City government. Join us for a free cup of coffee every Third Thursday of the month and hear from Mayor Michelle Distler as she updates citizens on the latest news regarding Shawnee and takes your questions and comments. The first Third Thursday will take place on July 16 at 9:00am at the Shawnee Civic Centre (13817 Johnson Drive). All residents of Shawnee are welcomed to attend.
“One of my goals as Mayor is to make sure that our City government is always open, friendly, and accessible to all citizens,” said Mayor Distler. “This will be a great opportunity for me to provide important information on City programs and projects directly to our residents while also listening to their concerns and finding out what issues and priorities are most important to them.”

Great idea.......gives folks a chance to interact with the mayor in a relaxed atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

He Really Doesn't Get It - Part IV

This is the final installment of this series.  The previous items were posted 6/19, 6/20, and 6/22.

If you have read the previous items you will see that Jeff (The Arrogant One) Vaught was very wrong in accusing fellow council member Eric Jenkins of attempting to micro manage city staff.  And then Mickey Sandifer has to be the parrot.  All that Jenkins was doing, was his job, something which apparently Vaught is not fully cognizant of.  Obviously Vaught feels that council members need to rubber stamp anything and everything the city manager does.  That is not the function of a council member, even with a city manager form of government.

Anywhere, here are the last two items that Jenkins suggested:

4)      Storm Water Management:  I was very disturbed that we turned down substantial funding from the county to effect storm water improvement due to lack of funds.  I feel we should always be in a position to accept funding for important improvement projects in the city when our funding match is very favorable to us.  This item fits in with our highest stated priorities:  Public safety and infrastructure.  If we turn away funding for one of our highest priorities, it underscores our need to manage our budget and our staffing levels more effectively.  Our budget needs to adequately fund these projects in the future.  I propose that we budget a more realistic amount for storm water management projects in the 2016 budget and have a contingency plan available to enable the City to accept any additional funding which may become available.

5)      One last item of concern is the complexity of the display of our budget.  Departmental cost as reflected in Departmental budgets is not comprehensively presented.  There are too many separate budget systems for anyone other than those most familiar to the budget to comprehend without very serious study.  Public attending the budget hearings are overwhelmed by the way numbers are presented.  I believe the complexity of the budget discourages public comment or input.  I believe public input is important.  Transparency is important.  The way we present the budget achieves neither of those objectives.  If the city management team requires additional tracking mechanism, programmatic spreadsheets or other management tools, they could be maintained in-house.  However, the budget for presentation to the Governing Body and the public should be clear, understandable and of sufficient detail to allow formulation of a position.  I ask that the City Manager examine ways of simplifying the presentation of the budget to make it more user-friendly and more easily understandable to citizens of Shawnee and the Governing Body.  I believe we are too far along in our budget process to accomplish this task in this budget year, but it should be ready for the 2017 budget.

What is really interesting is Jenkins' last suggestion.  Golly gee, he would like to see the budget presented in a manner that is easily understood by both the governing body and the citizens of Shawnee.  Gee, he wants to use the KISS theory from what I can tell, when it appears that we've been given the old "if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle 'em with BS".  My take, not Jenkins. Citizens and governing body should not need MBAs in finance to understand the basics of the budget.

Sidebar:  Where was the Shawnee Dispatch on this?





Monday, June 22, 2015

He Really Doesn't Get It - Part III

Parts I & II were posted here on 6/19 & 6/20.  Please read them so you have continuity.

Basically what we are showing here is that Jeff (The Arrogant One) Vaught was totally off base when he accused fellow council member Eric Jenkins of attempting to micro manage city staff (the city manager in particular).  What Eric Jenkins was doing was his job, to wit, to recommend and suggest courses of action that could be in the beat interests of the city with regards to its budget.  Whether or not they are truly viable would have to be looked into.  Vaught, on the other hand seems to take a "she can do no wrong" approach to the city manager.  Basically, he, Vaught has abrogated his responsibility as a member of the council.  Jenkins on the other hand is doing what he is supposed to do.

Jenkins had five suggestions.  Yesterday we posted the first one.  Tonight we are posting numbers 2 & 3.  Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that Jenkins is suggesting (like he is supposed to), and not micro managing.  Well, almost everyone.  Sandifer played "me too" with Vaught's comments. 

Here are numbers 2 & 3:

    Selected Moratorium on Projected Staff Hiring to Return to Pre-Recession Staffing Levels:   I am opposed to rehiring to previous staffing levels, excepting public safety staff, i.e., police and fire positions.  It may also be prudent to examine carefully the possible limited support of Public Works positions on a case-by-case basis.  Other than those potential hires, there should be a moratorium of one year on acceptance of the proposed staffing plan to more carefully examine the justification for additional hiring.  There are multiple reasons for this position.  (1)  During the economic downturn the City put in place staff reduction policies and has purchased various automation software and equipment to reduce dependency on staff.  These improvements should begin to bring a return in the investment by the City in real terms, such as the reduction of previously filled staff positions.  (2)  The economic turnaround of the economy is a far less optimistic picture than is being offered up by the current national administration.  One could easily argue that we experienced continued recession in recent fiscal quarters.  Although revenue appears to be on an upward trend, it may not be based on a sustained recovery.  (3)  By implementing a moratorium of one year on non-public safety staff, more time would be available to new council members to review the need for these additional positions and would provide the City Manager additional opportunity for better justifying the need for these positions.  Once new staff is hired, it would be very difficult to address overstaffing issues without significant harm to those who may be subsequently let go.

     Increase Contribution to Road and Street Maintenance from the General Fund:  It is somewhat disturbing to review the budget for maintenance of our city streets and see that although the taxpayers for this city have done their due diligence and paid their taxes, we are not spending their hard-earned dollars for one of the primary purposes for which they pay.  Stated priorities for this city are Public Safety and Infrastructure.  The small amount we are allocating from the General Fund to street and infrastructure maintenance is a very small portion of the City’s general revenue.  The argument has been made that the budget is being raised for this purpose. However, that argument does not withstand close scrutiny.  The budget for infrastructure is being increased on the backs of the taxpayers by the assessment of an additional 3/8 cent sales tax.  The taxpayer would like to see appropriate funding of street maintenance from the General Fund, supplemented by the increased revenues from the 3/8 cent sales tax in order that the city can accelerate the process of catch up on postponed and deferred maintenance which occurred during the recent years of reduced city revenue.  I therefore request the City Manager submit a revision to the currently proposed budget that places appropriate priority on the maintenance of city streets. I believe that a minimum of $2 million from the General Fund, in addition to the other funding streams currently indicated in the proposed budget would be a move in the right direction.

Read the suggestions and see for yourself.  Unfortunately we are stuck with Vaught for about two more years.  Let's just hope the voters in Ward III see the light and do not return him to the council.  The citizens of the city overall saw him for what he is by bouncing him out in the recent mayoral primary.

Sidebar:  Again, where is the Shawnee Dispatch on this?


Saturday, June 20, 2015

He Really Doesn't Get It - Part II

In yesterday's post (6/19/15) I attempted to explain why Jeff (The Arrogant One) Vaught was way out of line for accusing Eric Jenkins of micro managing city departments. Vaught is the one who just doesn't get it.

Jenkins was doing what he as a council person is supposed to do, make suggestions and attempt to give guidance. In no way did he attempt to micro manage city departments. On the other side of the coin, no matter how long a person has been in a position, and no matter how good they may be at it, everybody can always learn from other individuals' ideas and perspectives. Sometimes they will be good, sometimes not.

Anyway, Eric Jenkins had five suggestions. The first one is going to be displayed below. You can hear all of them by listening to the audio of the meeting, waiting for the minutes to read them, or keep coming back here as I will be presenting them here.

Here is his first suggestion:
Department Reorganization: In looking at staff organization, it does not seem a judicious use of taxpayer dollars to fund two departments, when they could be easily rolled into one department. I would propose the elimination of the Development Services Department by combining it with the Public Works Department. The timing is excellent for making this change because the Department lead for Public Works has retired, leaving a managerial vacancy. Instead of hiring a new Department lead for Public Works, it would make sense to move the Director of Development Services and supporting staff into the position of Director of the Public Works Department. As a minimum, this would eliminate the cost of one senior management position. This would amount to a significant savings. I did bring this up with the City Manager. She was not strong in her opposition to the concept. However, she preferred the idea of combining Public Works and Development Services with the Planning Department upon the retirement of the current planning director in a few years. I disagree. The timing for a change is excellent now, and secondly, I think Development Services and Planning are not a good pairing because it removes appropriate checks and balances currently in place with them being separate.

Now, I did a little research and came up with the following information regarding compensation for the two department directors from 2009 to 2014.
Development   Low  $118,836  High  $154,715
Public Works  Low  $129,553  High  $165,562
Also, what other admin overhead could be saved by combining the two?

Rather than being thankful that his fellow councilmember is thinking about ways to make the budget better, Vaught decides to belittle the individual. Methinks he (Vaught) should be more concerned about doing some thinking himself rather than being a rubber stamp for the city manager.

When the rest of the suggestions are posted, you, the reader will see that Jenkins was doing his job, by thinking and recommending, and putting time and effort into those thoughts.  Vaught on the other hand would prefer to denigrate, wrongfully, his fellow councilmembers for doing their job.  As I said yesterday, his hypocrisy is showing as in the past when councilmembers have suggested reducing the budget he would say "show us how". Now when somebody shows some potentially viable suggestions he  becomes a shill for the city manager, and, as such is abrogating his responsibility as a councilmember.

Sidebar:  Where was the Shawnee Dispatch on this?


Friday, June 19, 2015

He Really Doesn't Get It - Part I

We witnessed a heck of a donnybrook at this past Monday's (6/15/15) council committee meeting during budget discussions. Not sure why our local newspaper, the Shawnee Dispatch hasn't reported on it. Since it did involve the budget.

First, it is important to explain Jeff (The Arrogant One) Vaught's use of the term "I just don't get it". Anyone who has attended many meetings has seen and heard him use that expression as a subtle put down directed towards other members of the council and even occasionally the public. He uses it when someone says something contrary to his beliefs, and he uses it as if to say his thoughts are more correct and he can't understand why the other person doesn't agree with him.

OK, so what happened? Councilmember Eric Jenkins submitted some suggestions regarding the budget and the organization of the city. Vaught jumped on that accusing Jenkins of "micro managing" and harping on the fact that we have a city manager form of government.

Apparently what Vaught doesn't get is what his responsibility is as a member of the council That is to set the tone, make suggestions and give guidance to staff. Apparently Vaught is one of those who has abrogated his responsibilities as a council member and become a shill, a puppet, for the city manager. The council is not supposed to be a rubber stamp for the city manager. The city manager is human, and sometimes others may have ideas and suggestions that can be beneficial. And that is what Jenkins was doing, giving suggestions.

Vaught does not understand the term "micro manage". To micro manage is when somebody on top goes down the line to control the working element. Jenkins did no such thing. As a matter of fact, Vaught was really showing his hypocrisy, in that in previous years when other council members said the budget needed to be cut he would ask them, "how?" Now, when someone tries to show how, he claims "micro manager". I really shouldn't toss out epithets, but Vaught is an idiot. And he wouldn't really know what management is since he's never really had to manage any kind of an organization. Methinks the citizens of Shawnee are finally waking up to what kind of an incompetant he really is, as witnessed by his being bounced out in the recent mayoral primary.

Then, the other puppet, Mickey (I Love Trips the City Pays For) Sandifer, joins in also accusing Jenkins of micro managing. Unfortunately Sandifer is lacking the intelligence to recognize a suggestion and positive input.

Now, if you don't believe me, go to the city's web site and listen to the audio of them meeting.

I will have more info on this in Part II tomorrow.

Sidebar: Still can't believe the Dispatch reported on the council remodeling but not what took place regarding the rest of the meeting. And alot went down. Is the Dispatch getting into that old mode of not reporting things that "make the city look bad"? That's OK, keep the citizens in the dark.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Shawnee Youth Receives Award From KSRA

Daniel Smith, 13, of Shawnee, received the award naming him Outstanding Youth Shooter of the year from Kansas State Rifle Association President Patricia Stoneking at the group's annual meeting July 13 in Olathe. Daniel has been actively shooting competitively with the Johnson County 4-H Shooting Sports program since 2008. He currently shoots BB gun and air rifle, and he will enter the smallbore rifle program this summer and the air pistol program this fall. In addition to winning this year's Top Shot award at the Kansas State Rifle Association BB Gun Championship in February, he was also this year's BB Gun Top Shot at the Kansas 4-H Championship Match in April.  As president of his local 4-H club, the Johnson County Livestock Club, he also raises and shows lambs, pigs, chickens and dogs, as well as participating in cooking and other projects. Daniel was a member of Johnson County's first qualifying squad for the Daisy Nationals BB Gun Championship Match in 2012, and he will be representing the county and the state of Kansas again this year at the national championship match in Rogers, Ark.
Way to go Daniel.

Happy Birthday - US Army

Two hundred forty years ago marks the day of the establishment of the US Army.

For a brief history on this please click here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

BBQ for the PD

Members of the Shawnee Citizen's Police Academy Alumni Association hosted a BBQ for officers and staff of the Shawnee PD.  Additionally, Shawnee was the host for a class on Field Training Officers from around the area and those folks were invited to partake of the goodies.

Among the CPAAA participants was our own Mayor, Michelle Distler, a CPAAA member and a 2011 graduate of the citizen's academy.

Click on image to view larger

Monday, June 01, 2015

Vaught Again Proves He Is Lacking In Common Sense

Ya gotta love it.  At the council meeting last week that delayed any action on electric vehicle charging stations on city property Jeff Vaught again showed a lack of common sense.

This is what is appearing in the most recent article in the Shawnee Dispatch byJeff "The Arrogant One" Vaught:

Vaught was entirely in favor of installing the charging stations on city property because of the opportunities it opened up for the city to eventually purchase electric vehicles for staff.
"Do we want to be a froward-thinking city or the last ones on the block?" Vaught asked the council. "The reality is we could probably have electric vehicles in our fleet pretty quickly.
"Forward thinking starts right here, its starts with our government."

Electric vehicles in our fleet pretty quickly?  Who is he kidding?  Let's look at the department that uses the most sedans and small SUVs, the PD.  Do we want a fleet of vehicles in that department that only get 80 miles on a full charge?  That require eight hours to fully charge?  That would have to stop every couple of hours for an electric "top off", for what, an hour?  Now, with all of the electrical/electronic equipment in these vehicles (radar, computers, radios, etc) they would never last 80 miles on a full charge.  You are not going to see all electric vehicles in public works, parks or the FD anytime soon.  Those large vehicles would never make it. The only place that I can see electric vehicles would be maybe two or three for codes administration, and even then we would probably be better off with hybrids (let the gas part of the engine recharge the electrical system).  Then he has the temerity to put his fellow council members down for not being forward thinking.

In the same article, Stephanie Meyer is quoted as saying:

"If I have the option of charging while I go watch a movie or at City Hall, I know which one people would rather choose," said Council member Stephanie Meyer.

Now that is common sense.  Put the units in business areas so folks can shop and create dollar flow.
Maybe Vaught does need a lesson in economic development.

See my two previous posts on this subject: