Archive for the ‘Clay County Commission’ Category

For those that don’t know, State Representative Ken Wilson has introduced a bill for the recall of County Commissioners. It’s HB 580 and you can read the full text here. This has been at the pushing of local activists that have been involved in the audit movement.

Full disclosure, this bill would give us no ability to recall the two commissioners we’re most frustrated with. The idea arose among many of us that are involved as a way to insure the future.

Last night, I saw Commissioner Ridgeway’s testimony against the bill posted on Facebook. I thought I’d go through her response as there are a couple pertinent points. As usual though, there are multiple things wrong and we learn a little more about her disrespect of the people she represents.

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Commissioner Ridgeway, Representative Wilson doesn’t owe you a thing. He never needed to discuss this legislation with you. He represents a portion of your district in the state house. And most importantly, he represents the people of his specific district. Personally, I hope he represents your full district in a couple years.

Furthermore, I know that you think when you speak just accept what you have to say, but you and Commissioner Owen don’t speak for the full Commission, and the only time the Clay County Commission speaks as one voice is when it passes a resolution that is unanimously supported by all three of your voices. This hasn’t happened, but yet you use that language.

You’ve been asked by Commissioner Nolte to stop doing this. As is usual with your behavior, you demonstrate an outright disrespect of the Commissioner that represents the full democratic voice of all of Clay County. You and Commissioner Owen represent political subdivisions and represent the voice of the democratic body from over two years ago. More importantly, that majority voice just spoke months ago when it told Commissioner Nolte that they were content with his representation, and I’d argue his continual oppostion to you and Commissioner Owen.

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This section of the letter is just an absolute mess. Fundamental proof that just because someone has a law degree, it doesn’t mean they know anything about the principles that founded our country.

An election is not a recall process. It’s a chance for the democratic body of a political subdivision to decide who they want to represent them going forward. A recall gives a strong minority voice of a democratic body the chance to further check the majority.

Sometimes the Democratic winds shift, and not neccessarily at the time of an election. A recall gives those winds a chance to be tempered, but also heard. Tempered by a barrier through a limit on the amount of petition signatures, heard in the form of an election if necessary.

The founders of this country were terrified of the majority voice as they knew that it from time to time makes mistakes. You’re correct in the sense that an election is one place that we can right a majority wrong, but a recall mechanism, rightly constructed, further gives the body politic a chance to correct a mistake. In today’s world, a world that is arguably quicker paced due to various reasons, a recall process makes sense and still pays respect to the construction our representative Republic.

The state constitution currently provides for 3 county commissioners whose terms are staggered. Every four years we allow the full body politic to speak in the form of Presiding Commissioner, then offset by two years, we allow smaller democratic bodies inside of the full body politic to speak.

Since you were last elected we’ve seen a growing movement of a frustrated minority that opposes your actions, the winds have shifted and they blow harder with every news report it seems, but we currently have no check on your actions due to the construction of the Commission.

Commissioner Ridgeway, people often mockingly call you the Queen of Clay County politics. And you’re writing above demonstrates that that sarcastic quip is not completely off the mark.

You’re worried about a minority harming the majority?

You don’t even respect the will of the full democratic body of this County as we just elected Commissioner Nolte for another four years. You and Commissioner Owen seem to care little about what Commissioner Nolte says, and you refuse to listen to the growing minority opposition. If we had a recall option, I suspect your behavior would be markedly different. You’d definitely be listening more than you are. You’d probably be open to compromise. And you’d be acting in ways that you showed you care about the minority criticisms.

I guess that’s maybe what you meant by this sentence:

“The net effect is that every officeholder subject to a potential recall will always be looking over their shoulder for any vocal minority in opposition.”

From your vantage point, I suspect this is terrifying to you based upon your actions of the past years. In my estimation, this should be a feature, not a bug of a well constructed representative democracy.

It was an irate tireless minority that threw off the shackles of the King of England to found this nation. Heck, even the Revolutionary War was supported by a minority of the total population.

You’re just flat wrong here.

In fairness, I always believe that you should give people you vehemently disagree with credit when they are correct. Your following criticisms of the bill are valid and deserve to be listened to.

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I agree. I see no reason to limit this recall bill to just County Commissioners. Let’s put every elected official in the state on notice that if you don’t listen to the people, that you absolutely could face a recall. The natural result of this would be better governance and politicians more in line with the democratic bodies they represent. Yes, action might even be slower, but again, that should be a feature, not a bug. We want quick action only when an overwhelming majority feel it is necessary.

I find the bill language about defining a reason for the recall unnecessary. If you’re going to start a petition, you’re going to define that in your appeal to the public. This shouldn’t be written into law. I don’t think it really matters.

I completely agree that 7.5% is way too low of a barrier for the signatures. I think this bill should be amended, and the amount of signatures increased. She’s right. If we find precedent in statute in Missouri for 25% it’s probably prudent to go with this. I agree with Commissioner Ridgeway in the sense that you don’t want too small of a minority able to do this. A recall should not be a walk in the park and we do not want too small of a minority able to interrupt majority will. The balance is probably debatable, but I think 7.5% tilts way too small.

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I’m not clear on where you’re getting the statement about a recalled Commissioner being banned from being a candidate. If you read the bill in its entirety, you don’t see a clear statement on this. I’d actually agree, I don’t think a recalled Commissioner should not be allowed to run. This would respect the tension that we hold in our form of government between majority will and respecting the minority.

I believe you’re wrong on the last concern. From what I understand, Missouri law provides for solutions to your conerns. You can still have a quorum with 2 commissioners. If you lost 2 commissioners to recall, the Governor can appoint one. If you lost 3 commissioners, decisions of the commission are kicked to the presiding judge of the circuit court.

I agree we need to improve this legislation, but there’s no reason to not support the general goal. I applaud Representative Wilson for being a leader on this bill. I look forward to supporting his primary challenge of Commissioner Ridgeway.

It will truly be for the Best of Clay County.

If you haven’t seen this report from Fox 4 KC, you should:

Continual proof that Commissars Ridgeway and Owen don’t give two craps about the people of Clay County. This is indicative of people that have spent much of their life in public service and don’t grasp the result of their actions on the people they represent.

They spent $765,571 of your money on legal fees in 2018, and it is highly possible that there is more.

Yes it’s a lot of money, heck two other first class counties testified to that fact in the Fox 4 article above.

I love these quotes:

FOX4: Clay County spent $765,571.25 in 2018 to pay outside attorneys and two lobbyists. What is your reaction?

Jasper County Commissioner Bartosh: Wow, that seems like an awful lot of money.

FOX4: Clay County spent $765,571.25 in 2018 to pay outside attorneys and two lobbyists. What is your reaction?

Franklin County Commissioner Tim Brinker: That is absolutely absurd. It’s unbelievable.

In 2018 we paid $2,840.21 in property tax on our home. The total amount that went to County services (general revenue) was $77.68.

I would say our property is comparable to many of the single family homes built in the last two decades in Clay County.

This legal bill amounts to the equivalent of the county services portion of 9,851 homes.

Seriously, think about that for a minute. Let’s just assume that four people live in these 9,851 homes. That’s 39,404 people.

The population of Clay County in 2017 was 242,874.

Assuming these numbers, you could say the county spent roughly 16% of the property tax money that it collected for the general fund on legal bills in 2018.

The absurdity is they’re spending our money to fight those of us who just want questions answered and an audit of the County. I’ve said this multiple times to people, if you’ve DONE NOTHING WRONG you DON’T FIGHT SOMETHING THIS HARD, when it’s just as easy to say, hey, bring on the audit, we don’t like the cost, but we welcome it because AS STEWARDS OF THE PEOPLE’S MONEY, we want to prove to them we’ve done nothing wrong.

It’s simple math:

At this point, you’ve spent way more on fighting the audit than the audit would have ever cost. At this point, the audit was a bargain.

It’s not a logical stretcht that you only do this for one reason:

You know they’re going to find something that demonstrates clear incompetence (highly plausible), unethical (plausible), or criminal (I’d like to think not, but it’s certainly possible).

It was recently announced that both Missouri State Representatives Ken Wilson and Jon Carpenter are going to primary the Commissars in 2020.

If you’re outraged by this, if you’re frustrated by the behavior of these two, and you sit idly by and do nothing while these two people have the courage to oust incumbents in their own party primary, then you’re part of the problem.

Elections don’t win themselves. You have neighbors, friends, and families that live in this county. Get involved, donate money if you can, help these candidates.

There is a lot of division these days between Team Red and Team Blue on the national scene, I’m proud of what I’ve seen in Clay County. It’s been a great reminder that our national politics isn’t representative of who we really are as people. We’ve seen people of both tribes respond on principle and out of concern for good governance. It’s a small group of people that have done a lot of the heavy lifting the last couple of years on this. That group of people needs your help.

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.