Archive for the ‘Clay County Commission’ Category

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.

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As if there was any hope that Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen would come to their senses on the $50 million dollar certificates of participation, it looks as if they are asking for a showdown at the Clay County Commission meeting next Monday with the tax payers.

If you head over to the Clay County website and pull up next Monday’s Commission Agenda you will find that the last item on there is the approval of the certificates of participation.

What you won’t find is any specifics on the certificates of participation.

10.15.2018 Commission Agenda

As if it wasn’t frustrating enough that there’s been no public discussion on what exactly the $50 million dollars is going to pay for, they don’t even have the courage to tell us what they’re passing on Monday.

Apparently we have to pass it so that we can see what is inside of it.

I’m sure they will say they can’t publish the details by hiding behind some Executive Session excuse. That excuse is nothing more than an “opinion” given by some overpriced legal counsel. Legal counsel who does the bidding of the two behind this. These people are not judges. It’s a ridiculous excuse and pretty shameful. But, ridiculous excuses and shameful is something I would associate with Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway as that’s been pretty much the way they’ve behaved for years now.

Updated: 10/12/2018 11:57 AM – Someone was apparently shuffling around the office and found the document. I’m sure it was an honest mistake.

Get your reading glasses out, because it’s a 49 page document. Oh, and we’re getting a new astronomy center because well, you know, the people are in the streets demanding a new astronomy center. Here’s the full list of projects:

County Project List

Again, the question remains, HOW DID YOU COME TO THESE NUMBERS ESPECIALLY ON THE NEW ANNEX!

I will be attending the County Commission meeting on Monday with a video camera in hand. If able to have the opportunity, I will be standing up and speaking against the passage of this plan.

We’re going to need your help. Two weeks ago we saw Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway back down from what was going to be a tax increase. We had about 3-4 dozen citizens shown up at the Courthouse, and I think it made the difference.

We need about 5-6 times that amount to show up on Monday. I’ve watched these two for years now. They think you don’t care, and they’re only being opposed by a small minority of highly opinionated people. And in fairness, that’s been the appearance to me, too. I do think that is changing, and this is a perfect opportunity to show them.

Please don’t feel like you need to speak, just show up and make your presence known. The room where the Commission meeting is held needs to be so full that people have to leave the room and stand outside.

There’s two things to keep in mind here: First, a large crowd could potentially stop this from going ahead. Second, this needs to be about optics. Commissioner Owen and Ridgeway both need to be retired from public service in 2020. Going ahead in the face of this opposition will be terrible optics. Those sorts of things make outstanding campaign ads and mailers in an election.

This is a direct appeal to all of our state representatives, state senators, local school board members, and anyone else in the public sphere who is concerned about rocking the boat.

Rock the damn boat and show up on Monday in opposition to this. This is your County, too. I don’t want politicians who want to just get along, I want elected officials who serve the people by standing up against something that doesn’t benefit them. You’re a voter and tax payer, too. Act like one.

A few things that I need you to do:

  1. If this came to you by email, please forward it on to everyone you know in Clay County.
  2. If you are on Facebook, please join the event and tell us that you are coming, at the very least if you honestly can’t make it, please click Interested. This helps the Facebook algorithm determine the interest level in the event. The more interest the more it is shared with others.
  3. Share this Facebook Page with others by clicking share on Facebook!
  4. SHOW UP MONDAY IF YOU CAN
  5. Do not feel like you need to speak
  6. Consider bringing signs simply stating NO to the certificates of participation. Lots of people holding signs may look good on TV. I suspect a couple of local news stations will show up.
  7. Prepare for a long morning as this is last on the Commission Agenda.

 

A significant amount of money from the $50 million certificates of participation that Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway are wanting to spend involves a new Clay County Annex. 

For those that don’t know what the Clay County Annex is, it’s a second building of the County’s that provides some County government functions. It’s supposed to help people in the County who are farther away from the Clay County Courthouse in Liberty, MO. It’s located down in Kansas City at 1901 NE 48th St.

I’ll be the first to grant the Commissioners the point that the building leaves more to be desired and has some problems. Doing something about it could be, and probably is, justifiable.

The question becomes just what is justifiable.

I’ve been told that the proposed new building might cost as much as $20 million dollars. I don’t have any firm information because, well, no one really does.

You swing over to the highly advanced, and modern, Clay County, Missouri web page and you get little, if any, information in the news section. Seems we went through a 2 year period where there wasn’t any news at all to print back in 16 and 17.

Interestingly, you do get a little bit of propaganda about the tax levy kerfuffle. Business as usual folks, your Commissioners unanimously froze tax rates after Commissioner Ridgeway rode in on her legislative steed and saved the day.

Clay County Front Page

Funny, I don’t see a news item from 2017 saying Commissioners raised your taxes in a 2-1 vote. Oh, well, that news wasn’t fit to print. Busy, busy running the County, or something.

Great news though, the County is continuing “to move forward with multiple improvement projects addressing deferred maintenance and infrastructure upgrades and is committed to taking on these tasks without raising taxes.”

Sigh…

One would think that if you were about to leverage the citizens of the County for a cool $20 million that you might want to tell us about your grand scheme.

And that’s where the questions begin to get really interesting.

I find it peculiar that we’re talking about a $20 million dollar building when there’s been no serious public discussion about what this building will look like and where it might be located.

Do architectural plans for said building even exist?

If they do, how were they created?

Was there an RFP?

Who created them?

How was this architect chosen?

If plans don’t exist, how did you arrive at the $20 million?

Did you consult an architectural firm without the full knowledge of the entire commission, or did you all throw darts at a dart board?

Dart throw

Possible future architectural consultant for Clay County, Missouri?

If architectural plans exist, where is this new building going?

Or, more interestingly, do you have an actual parcel of land that you’re going to build on?

That’s a really interesting question actually, and I’m hearing some really interesting rumors.

I’ve been asking around a lot to try and figure out if it’s true or not. I’m not naming any specific names, but will if it can be proven.

There is an individual that may be a friend of a specific Commissioner who could be involved in the land transaction where this new building may set.

Now, I’d like to believe that this is a rumor and is not true, because if a friend of a specific Commissioner financially benefited from a deal like this, it would look really bad.

But, hey, just rumors, right?

I’m a practical guy. I often think we should think a little different in government. After all, it’s my money you’re forcefully confiscating, so you’d think you would want to be as responsible as possible.

Has anyone considered looking at existing office space or older strip malls for the Annex?

The Annex is functional. It serves a purpose. It doesn’t have to be an amazing building. It just needs to do what it’s supposed to do.

Considering a lease agreement on some sort of existing space could save tax payers a boatload of money, and potentially bring more business traffic to another part of the County.

Not saying I’m right here, or if it’s even possible, but we have no idea what you have considered thus far. Again, I’m part of the nearly 8,000 citizens who don’t trust anything you do.

Commissioners Owen and Commissioners Ridgeway would make the most responsible choice they’ve ever made if they just stopped everything on this. If they seriously want to proceed, they need to treat the citizens of Clay County with some respect and start giving us specifics and details. Quit hiding behind executive sessions.