I stand to address the Commission today as a frustrated and tired taxpayer of this County. As you all know, I have been down at these meetings off and on since 2015. For a significant period of time, I was here every single week.

Today I stand before you to ask you to finally listen to the people of Clay County. I implore you to vote no on this excessive spending spree that, let’s face the truth, just Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen are proposing.

Commissioner Nolte has made it abundantly clear that he wants no part in this proposal, but as is usual with you two, instead of building consensus, you are just going to roll over him as if he doesn’t exist and he doesn’t represent the entire voice of the democratic body of this county.

One of my favorite thinkers is an investment analyst by the name of John Mauldin. Mauldin’s greatest strength is he’s capable of taking complex economic and investing ideas and boiling them down to simple things. One of my favorite sayings of his is the following:

Debt is either consumption denied or consumption brought forward

Admittedly, not all debt is bad. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to bring consumption forward when it’s done responsibly and with a productive purpose.

You are proposing nearly $50 million dollars in principal payments and millions more in additional interest to be paid back for the next 20 years. You’re effectively bringing forward the future spending or denying the future spending of this County in the name of a bunch of projects that you’ve allowed no public discussion on, you’ve made no public appeal for, and you’ve made no compelling case that we even need.

Of all the projects on the list, the one I find most outrageous, and the one I’m going to take a minute to comment on is the new Annex. I would go as far to grant you the point that the existing Annex is a building that is past it’s time. It’s even arguable that we should do something about it. The problem I have is there has been no public discussion of what the actual needs are for this building.

You’re asking for $20 million for that one building!

How did you get to this figure?

Did you throw a dart at a dart board?

If you got to it with professional assistance, I want to know who the architect was and what piece of ground that you specifically have in mind. And then I want to know how come you think this is acceptable to do all this behind the back of the public?

The Annex is nothing more than a government building that serves a function. We don’t need a Taj Mahal to County government, after all we have enough of those things around this county in the form of overbuilt public high schools. At the end of the day, you could convert an old retail place to do everything that’s needed in that Annex and save current and future taxpayer’s a ton of money.

Now, I’m no expert, but I consume a significant amount of market and economic analysis on a weekly basis. The current recovery we’re inside of is the third longest in American history. There is more debt in the entire system than anytime in human history. Economic “experts” often disagree wildly, but It’s worth pointing out that the majority of reputable economists agree the Great Recession of 2008 was caused by too much debt.

You would be foolish to sit there and tell me that this economic cycle won’t end at some point. And when it does end and the tide goes out, we’re going to see who has been swimming without their bathing suits on. I’d venture to say the way things have been run the last 6 years around here, I bet we’ll want to cover our eyes just a little bit.

It’s irrelevant that we can meet the payment on these certificates of participation now. It’s responsible and prudent to be worried about the rainy day that will eventually come. Heck, your own ordinance even says it’s something to be mindful of. Just flip to page 12, the section titled “Changes in Economic, Demographic, and Market Conditions.” The payment on these certificates will have to be made. In an economic downturn, real property values will correct, and when they do, that means assessments will fall. It is not an unreasonable thing to worry about our taxes going up in the future because of your actions.  

Since the early 2000s, we have seen the County budget more than double. Assuming the rate of inflation since then and little changes we shouldn’t see the operational budget over $75 million. Somehow that budget is now over $100 million dollars, and I saw Commissioner Ridgeway on a TV news report this last week pointing out holes in ceilings in this very building.

If you can’t make basic building repairs on a $100 million dollar budget, you’re doing something really wrong.

So it begs the question, where the heck is all this money going? You stated on that same news report that “It’s time to do some major surgery.”

You know, I remember the last election, and I don’t remember either of you two saying anything about this desperate situation. If we’re having major surgery, you’d think someone would have wanted to inform the patient before we rehired the doctors. And let’s not ignore the fact that this isn’t all cracks in ceilings being addressed here, there’s a whole lot of new on this proposed project list.

You’ve done absolutely nothing to inform the people of any of these needs, so if you seem surprised that people are a little angry with you about this situation you’re completely to blame. A simple Internet search reveals that neither one of you even have active websites. Your Facebook pages have barely any information on them, and you don’t even have email newsletters. I can tell you from direct experience, it’s not that hard!

Commissioner Owen, I’m not making this up, I took a screenshot of it this weekend, your page on the County website literally says (to be finalized). You’ve been in office for almost two terms now. Apparently you both think it’s 1982, and the only way people get information is a newspaper.

If you think communication is too difficult to figure out, there’s a significant amount of people in this world that could help you figure it out. It’s really not that hard. I self-taught myself everything I’ve ever done online. Believe it or not there are a lot of books on using digital tools for communication. Since we pay you a salary, one that you felt justified in raising yourselves, you’re effectively an employee. Part of your job as that employee is to communicate to me, your constituent. I get a say-so in rehiring one of you every two years. Frankly, you’re terrible at your job.

To be honest, I fear it’s far worse than incompetence. Based upon your past actions, I suspect you have contempt for the people and don’t even feel you owe it to them to communicate.

Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen, I’ve been involved in politics in this county for almost 10 years now. Clay County has become known across the state for our dysfunction. I continually think to myself, it can’t get worse. Then you two make another decision.

If you genuinely think some of this stuff needs done, start figuring out a way to communicate the evidence for each and everyone of these items to us. Create a plan that Commissioner Nolte can get behind. Build support with the public. If you can’t do those basic things, things that show you respect the people and the hard earned money we are forced to give up to this county, then table this ordinance right now!

For the next two years, just set up there and do absolutely nothing more than the minimum. Collect your ridiculous salary and do us taxpayers all a favor, ride off into the sunset on your pension in two years.

I was sitting at my desk a couple days ago working away when my cell phone rang.

“Andrew Palmer”

Speaking.

“This is a debt collector attempting to collect a debt for the Kansas City Star.”

“I’m sorry… What?” (It’s possible I was far less kinder than this in reality.)

Needless to say, I was a little shocked.

And when I mean shocked, like, I’ve literally had credit cards since I was 16 years old. I’ve never, ever been sent to a debt collector, FOR ANYTHING, in 21 years of payment histories.

Here’s my a screenshot from my credit score monitoring service.

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So, I asked the guy on the other end of the line to explain what in the heck he was even talking about.

After some arguing back in forth, I realized what was going on.

Back in January, I decided to purchase a 26 week KC Star Wednesday/Sunday subscription through GroupOn.

Yes, folks, that’s where we are at. The once proud paper of record is hocking itself on America’s largest discount site.

Maybe I was feeling a little nostalgia, but whatever the case, I figured for $26 I could at least make my money back in coupons.

I guess I should have realized this was a scam.

Truth be told, part of me really wants local print to be successful. So I guess I was being hopeful that maybe I’d find an article or two that would surprise me. I gave up even reading the paper after about a month. To be honest, it’s just a heaping pile of leftist crap. I didn’t think it could actually be worse than it used to be, but it is.

Most of the front page of the paper is rehashed AP content. The local stories always have some sort of left leaning feel to them. Much of the local stuff is activist “journalism” that really isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Eventually I got to the point where I’d just throw the paper in the trash can after I picked it up off of the drive (maybe occasionally it went into the recycle bin, but I figure I better confess my climate sins now).

Of course, I always salvaged the coupons from the Sunday Star. Gotta protect your investment.

My mistake was assuming that the KC Star was acting out of good faith with this discount. When I bought it, I figured it was just a lead generator. Take a little loss, get people in the door, prove your paper isn’t a pile of crap, and then they’ll buy a full subscription. I seriously would have if it wasn’t so terrible and so absurdly expensive.

Yeah, no, it was a scam intended to prey on the fact that some people are busy and they don’t always read the fine print… (Truth be told, I usually read the fine print, just got lazy on this one. Might have something to do with the fact that I’m a working father of two. We’re a little busy in the Palmer household. June brain doesn’t always remember what January brain did.)

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 10.36.48 PM

See the line about “After the promotional period…”

Yeah, automatic renewal. You don’t remember to cancel. You have a de facto subscription that you owe for and you have to pay for.

Is it my fault? Yep, absolutely. I bought the stupid thing and should have remembered.

I’d bet, based upon the fact that this has been sent to collections, there are tons of these subscriptions out there that people activated and made the same mistake I made.

This is where the Kansas City Star is in 2019: laying off people seemingly every year, and trying to screw middle class people out of hard earned money.

Thankfully their editorial board and editorial page is filled with worthless leftist shlubs who rail about the evils of capitalism. We have them to protect us from the evils of this world all the while their marketing department pulls a shady tactic like this.

So am I going to pay it?

Oh, Hell no!

I guess that credit score won’t look too great soon. Oh, well, one more reason to tell the fools that peddle the paper out in public there’s no chance I’d ever buy a subscription to it.

Kansas City will be a better place once the Kansas City Star prints its last paper. You people ought to be ashamed of yourself, just ask your editorial writers, I thought businesses were supposed to respect their customers more.

 

I thought I’d take a minute to throw out a couple theories on what I suspect Commissioner Ridgeway is up to with her recent call for a charter. For those that haven’t seen the long, bloviating email from her, the basic synapsis is she wants to convene a Charter Committee to discuss a potential charter for Clay County.

Nothing like having committees to discuss potential future committees.

So, if you’re wondering why this suddenly appeared, let me explain what I think happened.

After fighting those of us that wanted an audit, Commissioner Owen and Ridgeway’s legal challenge (that we all paid for) fell flat on its face.

Ridgeway is facing a three-way primary against former Missouri State Rep. Doug Ervin and current County Clerk Megan Thompson. Ervin has been actively raising money and Thompson self-funded her campaign with a huge chunk of money.

Everything right now is pointing towards big trouble for Ridgeway because last time I checked she’s not raised any new money, and there’s just no one coming to her defense on anything she’s done. Additionally, Ervin and Thompson both have decent to good name ID and have good reputations with the people that will be electing them.

So what’s a life long politician that makes over $70k a year and pension and health benefits to do?

Deflect and change the narrative.

On it’s surface, it’s somewhat clever because in my experience watching American politics, people fall for this sort of crap all the time.

For those who are actively involved, a call for a charter is bubbling to the surface again as my good friend Jason Withington has began to push for that since the audit is now back underway.

By calling for this charter committee, which BTW is functionally useless as it has no teeth and no legal binding, her and Commissioner Owen will stack the committee with people friendly to them.

This forces the press to begin to discuss this new issue while the audit takes place in the background. She’s able to positively discuss the charter on interviews and begin to look like a leader.

The one thing that might still help Ridgeway in the upcoming primary is ignorance and apathy. I’ve been involved and followed politics in this county for over 10 years now. The one constant thing I’ve seen when it comes to the county offices is people are either ignorant about who they’re voting for and just don’t care because they’re not constantly bombarded by the press with stories on these office holders. After all, when you don’t know who is running, you simply default to the name you know on Team Red or Team Blue and leave the voting booth content in the fact that you did your “civic duty”.

If I’m Ridgeway, and I’m going to be primaried by two legitimate challengers I have to do something to get people to think I’ve not done the things I’ve done. I suspect she’s betting on the ignorant and apathetic to just start tuning in about the time this committee is up and running. It’s probably her hope she looks real good through all of this.

Another more sinister view of all this is that Owen and Ridgeway are hoping to create a committee that is dysfunctional from the start and that turns people away from the idea of charter. After all, they both opposed the charter that was put to the voters almost 20 years ago.

Whatever the case, don’t for a second this has anything to do with benefitting the county, you, or I. Just as sure as the sun rises in the east, Luann Ridgeway is always looking out for Luann Ridgeway.

They’re a waste of your time and they do little to benefit safety.

Interesting discussion with Patrick Ishmael of Show-Me Institute.