Saturday, October 31, 2015

Part III - A Step To Insure Open Government

Scroll down if you'd like for Parts I & II

At this past Monday's meeting (10/26/15) the Shawnee City Council approved a slight modification to Policy Statement -7 which provides for additional input by members of the community at these meetings. Shawnee Dispatch article is here

The change was to allow for comment during that portion of the meeting known as "Miscellaneous Council Items". There have been occasions when council members have used that portion of the meeting to add additional comments to an item that was on the agenda earlier in the evening and even to comment about members of the community. These comments were made with presupposed impunity as it has not been routine for citizens to add their own comments to those made by council members. It was almost like the council members were being given a free pass to say whatever they wanted to.
Anyway, yours truly finally requested the council to consider the change at a previous council meeting and the action then started at a committee meeting on 10/6/15. That Dispatch article is here

At this past meeting the council was reminded of Section 3 of the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution, which, among free speech allows for citizens to "instruct their representatives". Also, a copy of the city's organization chart was displayed and it clearly shows that at the top are the citizens of Shawnee.

Anyway, five of the council members voted to approve the change and it will now be part of PS-7. The five members of the council who voted to insure citizen rights were Dan Pflumm of Ward I, Eric Jenkins and Mike Kemmling both from Ward II, Stephanie Meyer Ward III and current council president and Brandon Kenig of Ward IV. All five of them voiced various positive reasons both at the council meeting and the previous committee meeting for input by the public.

Two council members voted against the action, Jim Neighbor of Ward I and Mickey Sandifer of Ward IV. One of Neighbor's reasons for voting against it was a provision in PS-7 that says that council members are not to engage in debate with members of the public. Where has he been the past couple of years? Whenever a member of the public comes to the podium, and if council members ask questions, and opinions are rendered isn't that a debate? What a lame excuse. He also said that members of the public could comment at a later meeting in business from the floor. He had to be reminded that by doing that it did not get the comments in in a contemporaneous manner and on the record (minutes) as such.

Sandifer used two of his favorite comments to justify being against public input. First, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and then he questioned the cost of staff to prepare the change. Adding a half sentence to the policy statement? Well, it was broke, because there was no assurance that the public could comment at that time and based on his previous votes for costly items to complain about the cost for adding a half sentence to a document is a form of hypocrisy. I really question both his thought processes and his intelligence.
Jeff Vaught of Ward III was absent from the meeting and did not vote. But, at the previous committee meeting he had joined Neighbor and Sandifer in voting against bringing the matter to the council meeting. He was quoted in the earlier Dispatch article about that committee meeting as saying "I think we’re encouraging it to turn it into a conversation, which isn’t good because then we turn it into a conversation about something that’s not on the agenda," Vaught said. "I just don't want to make a comment and have somebody get up and turn it into a debate against me at the end of a meeting."

Excuse me! Vaught thinks his comments are exempt from rebuttal/challenge or questioning.  Another example of his arrogance, in his own words.

At the meeting this week yours truly mentioned that no member of the council is above the citizens of Shawnee. But I guess Vaught thinks he is on a higher plain. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Vaught's Answers Just Raise More Questions

The Shawnee Dispatch today published an article concerning Jeff Vaught's use of dealer license plates.  Some of his comments seem to raise more questions, and some of them seem to be made in the manner that Hillary Clinton answers questions. The article can be read by clicking here

We are also quoting the article here, and interspersing in red, our comments/questions.

A member of the Shawnee City Council is explaining why some constituents have seen him driving a vehicle with special dealer plates that don’t require him to pay all the usual motor vehicle taxes that other residents are required to pay.
Shawnee City Council Member Jeff Vaught has been seen driving on dealer plates — which are speciality plates issued by the state to licensed car dealers — for more than a month. Dealer plates do not require a county registration fee, which is a significant source of income that the city of Shawnee uses to fund city operations.
Or has it been two to three months?
Kansas law states that dealer plates are “issued to dealers for demonstration purposes” and that “owners and their spouses can legally drive on dealer plates as long as the vehicle is in the dealership inventory for sale.” State statute also allows salespeople who work more than 20 hours per week to drive on dealer plates.
Vaught says that he is not an owner of the dealership, but his brother is and that he serves as an “officer of the corporation.” Vaught started the used car dealership Vaught Boys, 11711 Kaw Drive, in Kansas City, Kan., with his brother in 2000. Vaught is currently the secretary treasurer for the company and he says his role in the company justifies his use of the plates.
Is that what the law says or is that Vaught's interpretation?
Vaught says he regularly works with his brother to help sell cars, which he described it as “flipping” cars. He takes used cars, which he said remain in his brother’s inventory while he drives them, and does maintenance and upgrade work on them.
What maintenance and upgrades has he done to that Avalanche?  Does he put in 20 or more hours a week?  Even if the vehicle is in inventory for sale, if he is driving it around for his real estate business how can potential buyers know of its availability?
Vaught is a licensed car dealer and can legally purchase cars at auctions. He said that even though he works primarily in commercial real estate through his company, The Vaught Group, he has always remained active in his brother’s business and helped sell cars.
But is that 20 hours or more a week?
He said that their father and grandfather also sold cars and that selling cars has been a family business for generations.
And how does that comport with him complying with state law?
"I've always sold cars," Vaught said.
For 20 hours or more a week?  At which location?
Vaught explained that the Chevy Avalanche truck he has been driving is registered under his brother’s name, is for sale and will only be in his possession for a short period of time. Vaught also owns two cars that are registered and tagged through Johnson County on which he does pay property taxes.
Hmmm, is it supposed to be registered in his brother's name or the name of the dealership?  How long has it been in his possession so far?  If it is for sale, is it sitting on a lot during business hours or is Vaught driving it for his real estate business?
Vaught has not been cited for his use of the dealer plates.
Is that because what he is doing is legal, or because the proper authorities are/were not aware of it?


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Electric Charging Stations - Walmart

As a reference point you might want to read my previous posts about when some folks wanted to put electric car charging stations on city property (city hall and the justice center) and have the city (read that as taxpayers) pay for the owners to charge their cars up.

A review of some recent building permits indicates that Wal Mart will be putting in electric chargers at two locations (74th & Nieman and SMP & Maurer).  This is really very positive, as folks needing to charge their cars will be able to spend time shopping.  Totally different from sitting at city hall or the justice center with nothing to do while waiting for a charge up.  It is unknown at this point as to who will be paying for the use of the charging stations, the vehicle owner or the merchant(s).  If current trends are any indication it will probably be the merchants.  But, for them, that would be good public relations/advertising. 

Fortunately the city is not stuck with these items, on city property, and paying for their use with taxpayer funds.  Even though his royal arrogance Jeff Vaught aided and abetted by Jim Neighbor were pushing for that outcome.  BTW, that item will come back up in about another six months.  Will keep you folks posted about that so we can do what needs to be done to stop that travesty from happening.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Vaught Fails to Respond Re: Dealer Plates

If you scroll down you will see my post of 10/9/15 regarding the use of dealer license plates by Jeff Vaught.

An email was sent to him asking about the plates since with dealer plates there are no property taxes paid.  To date, Vaught has not responded.

There are three possibilities:
1.  Vaught is using the plates contrary to state law and needs to change them.
2.  Vaught (or his spouse) have become owners in a car dealership which makes the use of the plates legal, provided the vehicle is carried in inventory and is available for sale.
3.  Vaught is working 20 hours or more per week as a car salesman and is authorized the use of the plates, similar to 2 above.  Has he had to make a career change from commercial real estate?

So, which is it?  One would think that as a council member Vaught would respond, especially since it involves property taxes.  But then, his arrogance probably is coming to the forefront in that he doesn't feel he has to answer to citizen inquiries.  That arrogance probably was a contributing factor to his not advancing past the last mayoral primary election.

When will the local media start inquiring and demanding specific answers?

The original post can be viewed here.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Mayor Distler, A Class Act, To Meet With Hostile Group

Mayor Distler was invited and accepted an invitation to speak at the NW JoCo Republicans meeting on Monday, 10/19/15 at Minsky's I-435 & Midland on Renner. There is a self pay dinner at 5:30PM for those wishing to eat and the meeting starts at 6:00PM.

This is just additional proof that Mayor Distler is more than willing to meet with people who not only did not support her candidacy but were actually hostile towards it.

It is no secret that I blogged in favor of her candidacy.  The vitriol that I received about that from the senior leadership of NWJCR both in emails and verbally was outrageous.  Their hostility was obvious by the various adjectives used to describe Ms. Distler.  The icing on the cake was a call made by that same senior leadership on the night that the mayor was sworn in.  Outrageous!!!

IMHO, Mayor Distler is definitely a better person than the leadership of that group for being willing to walk into the lion's den to speak with a group whose leadership is openly hostile towards her.

She is, as they would say in Yiddish, a mensch.  Not familiar with that term?

A mensch is a someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being "a real mensch" is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. (Rosten, Leo. 1968. The Joys of Yiddish. New York: Pocket Books. 237)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Third Thursday With The Mayor - 10/15/15

Reminder, tomorrow, Thursday Oct 15, 2015 is the next "Third Thursday With The Mayor"

Mayor Distler has started something that no other mayor has done and that is to have monthly, informal meetings so citizens of Shawnee can come in and exchange info, ideas and ask questions.  This is keeping with her campaign promise of promoting more open and transparent government.

Additional info on this event can be found by clicking here.

A Big Thank You to Our Out of Town Visitors

I'd like to take a minute to say thank you to those folks who do not live in Shawnee/KC Metro who visit and read this blog.

Over time we have had visitors from various cities in California, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Washington DC, many, many, others, and our favorite, those fine folks from Mansfield Mass.

We appreciate the visits and hope you find the blog interesting.

Again, thank you for visiting.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Part II - A Step to Insure Open Government

The Shawnee dispatch has posted an article concerning the council committee meeting from this past Tuesday.  It can be read by clicking here.  You can also scroll down in the blog and read my comments in my first post.

When reading the Dispatch article you might want to pay particular attention to this item concerning a statement of Jeff Vaiught's:

“I think we’re encouraging it to turn it into a conversation, which isn’t good because then we turn it into a conversation about something that’s not on the agenda,” Vaught said. “I just don't want to make a comment and have somebody get up and turn it into a debate against me at the end of a meeting."

As I have previously stated, it would appear over time Vaught has given lip service to open government but is not really a proponent.  He feels that as a councilmember he is above the people of the city.  His arrogant attitude towards using the miscellaneous items section of the meeting to be a bully pulpit becomes more evident every day.  This arrogance has to be one of the reasons why the citizens of Shawnee voted against him in the recent mayoral primary so he did not advance to the general election.

Methinks that councilmembers Sandifer and Neighbor need to rethink their position on this issue if they want to be looked at as truly supporting open government.

In the Dispatch article Council President Meyer, who voted in favor of the proposed change is quoted:

Meyer said she could see the value of allowing the change as well.
“I have seen instances where members of the council have sort of said something directed at someone who spoke earlier and then they don’t get an opportunity to respond to that,” Meyer said. 

She and the other four who voted to advance this item are to be commended for their open government stance.  That would be Meyer, Dan Pflumm, Eric Jenkins Mike Kemmling and Brandon Kenig.


Friday, October 09, 2015

Dealer Plates = No Property Taxes - Will Vaught Respond?

Below is a copy of an email that I sent to Councilmember Jeff Vaught earlier today.  It is interesting that a member of the council would drive a vehicle that has not had property tax paid on it, since part of that comes back to the city.

As stated in my email, there are basically two scenarios in which this is legally permissible.  See the State of Kansas info on page 12 on this web site.

I have asked Vaught if he qualifies under either of  the two legally permissible scenarios, and if so which one?  Past experience would indicate that Vaught will not respond to my email.

The email:

Good afternoon,

It has been noticed that for about two or more months you have been operating a motor vehicle that is displaying dealer plates.

When a vehicle displays dealer plates it is usually because it is for demonstration purposes.  Since it is not registered to an individual there are no personal property taxes being paid to the state and as such the corresponding percentage is not remitted to the city.  As a sitting city council member I am sure you are aware of that fact.

The State of Kansas on page 12 at this location provides the information as to when it is appropriate for individuals to use these types of plates:

“Dealer plates are issued to dealers for demonstration purposes. Owners and their spouses can legally drive on dealer plates as long as the vehicle is in the dealership inventory for sale. Licensed salespersons that work 20 hours or more a week are also authorized to drive on dealer plates. Newly licensed dealers are eligible for 3 plates per plate type to begin. Their business may require more dealer plates and can be requested if sales warrant additional plates to be issued. Dealers must have 5 sales per plate type to maintain or increase their plate quantity. We will automatically decrease plates at renewal time if reported sales do not equal plate allowance. The first auto/motorcycle plate is $275.50; each additional plate is $25.50. Manufactured Home and Trailer plates are $25.50 each. K.S.A. 8-136, K.S.A. 8-2406”

As you can see there are basically two scenarios that would allow a person to use dealer plates.  Do you qualify in either of those categories? If so, which one? These are two very simple questions.  Should you respond with the answers to these two questions I will be happy to post those answers on my blog.

Thank you


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A Step to Insure Open Government

Last night at the council committee meeting there was an item on the agenda to insure open government.  The item was a proposed change to PS-7 which would clarify that citizens could comment on items brought forth by council members during the portion of council meetings known as "Miscellaneous Council Items"

Five council members voted to forward the item to a council meeting with a recommendation to approve the change.  These five were Dan Pflumm, Eric Jenkins, Mike Kemmling, Stephanie Meyer and Brandon Kenig.

Three of the council members voted against this item.  They were Jim Neighbor, Jeff Vaught and Mickey Sandifer.  As to be expected Vaught especially showed his true colors when it comes to open government and citizen participation.  Neighbor and Sandifer were not far behind him.  Naturally, Vaught, feeling he was immune from citizen feedback, has on numerous occasions used that portion of the meeting as his own personal bully pulpit to excoriate individuals and entities.

He did say last night that if I didn't like what was said I could always blog about it.  Well, I'll continue to do that too.


Thursday, October 01, 2015

Shawnee PD Looking for Suspect in Shooting

Please read the article in the Shawnee Dispatch about a shooting that took place early this morning.

Shawnee PD are looking for an individual relative to this incident.  The individual's name and physical description are in the above article.