Sunday, September 25, 2016

RAYTOWN'S LEADING NEWS SOURCE

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VOTER IDENTIFICATION LAW
It is the Voters Turn to Decide
BY GREG WALTERS
On November 8th, Missouri voters will cast their ballots for the next President of the United State. An equally important ballot issue is a Constitutional Amendment that would allow the State of Missouri to require voters to provide a government-issued Photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
The following language is taken from the Missouri Secretary of State’s page explaining the issue.

Official Ballot Title:
Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?

Fair Ballot Language:
A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to state that voters may be required by law to verify their identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification. Exceptions to this identification requirement may also be provided by law.

A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding elections.
If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

The effort to implement a photo identification card to vote in Missouri is not new. This year should be the final say on the matter. The reason it is going to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment is because previous efforts were deemed unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court. Should voters approve the amendment, the final stumbling block to guaranteeing the integrity of Missouri elections will be history.

Raytown Report encourages a YES vote for the proposed Voter I.D. Law.
Naysayers are quick to point out the difficulty some have in obtaining a state approved identification card as their base argument against the amendment.
To which we say “nonsense”.

Years ago the argument would have been valid. But now, as we near the second decade of the 21st century, the argument is without merit.

Missouri motorists are already provided a photo identification card when driver’s licenses are issued. The State also provides a state identification card upon request for anyone who does not have a driver’s license. The technology is in place and being used at all state motor vehicle license offices as well as state office buildings. This state of the art technology is truly “print on demand” . . . which means you receive your photo id when the picture is taken.

The question remains, is it really necessary?

Our answer is “yes”, and not just for reasons of voter identification.
Our world is changing. The use of photo-identification has become common place in America.
 
Try getting on a plane, opening a bank account, entering a federal office building, even (if you look young enough) purchasing a beer at a baseball game without a photo id. All we can say is “good luck”!
 
One of the ironies of this particular issue is that the Kansas City Star, which has time and again taken editorial stands against picture identification to vote, requires a picture id to enter their building!

All of which is necessary to keep our cities, our country, secure from those who would cause harm.
 
As Bob Dylan once wrote, “the times they are a’changin”. Requiring a photo id card to vote is simply one more step in taking advantage of the technology already in place to guarantee the integrity of our elections.
Vote Yes on Constitutional Amendment 6.


BY PAUL LIVIUS
The Paul Livius Report
Raytown Board of Aldermen Meeting
September 20, 2016
The Board passed a resolution approving the purchase of computer equipment and supplies from Dell Marketing in an amount not to exceed $20,864.79 for the purchase of:12 Dell Workstations / 1 Dell Laptop / Dell Server Warranty Extension /  Dell UPS / Dell server memory upgrade.

The City utilizes an IT hardware replacement schedule, where eligibility is based upon a 5- year replacement cycle. In some cases, if equipment is failing and/or replacement of the equipment is preferable to repair, equipment may be replaced in advance of the scheduled replacement. This computer replacement program allows the City to forecast, budget and coordinate for leveraging current and newer technology, in an ever transforming business environment. Dell provides for government pricing through government contracts. The City utilizes the pricing in the Midwestern Higher Education Commission Contract # MHEC-07012015 This request was presented to the Sales Tax Oversight Committee on 07/19/16 and was found to meet the intent of the Capital Sales Tax.
 
The Board passed a resolution approving a memorandum of understanding for the purpose of developing the real property legally known as lots 2 and 3, Raytown Crossing East.  This Memorandum of Understanding between Raytown 350 Inv Group LLC and the City of Raytown is for the purpose of deferring construction of and identifying future responsibility for a cross-access driveway between the property of the proposed Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers at 10019 E. 350 Highway and the property currently occupied by Bank of America at 10017 E. 350 Highway.

As part of the development of the site at 10019 E. 350 Highway that is proposed to include a Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers restaurant, the City has requested that a Memorandum of Understanding be drafted between the developers, Raytown 350 Inv Group LLC, a subsidiary of Block and Company Inc. Realtors, and the City of Raytown, identifying the location of an easement that identifies the developer’s responsibility for construction of a future cross-access driveway between the Freddy’s location and the property currently occupied by the Bank of America. The future cross-access driveway is part of a planned connection identified in the Highway 350 Corridor Plan that would provide vehicular access all the way from Raytown Road to Walmart Dr., the road that connects eastbound and westbound 350 Highway and abuts the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Walmart Dr. is owned and maintained by the City and used as a public road as part of the Highway 350 Corridor Plan, including the proposed connector between Walmart Dr. and Raytown Rd. As part of the execution of the Highway 350 Corridor Plan, the City has gradually been requiring properties to add their part of the connecting road as they redevelop.

The cross-access drive at the Freddy’s location would only be halfway completed should the City require its immediate construction; the Bank of America property owners would not need to complete their half of the connection until that property itself was redeveloped, which to the City’s knowledge there are currently no plans by its owners to do so. Instead of requiring that the developers at the Freddy’s location build their half of the drive now, the City instead is requesting a Memorandum of Understanding be drafted that states that should the Bank of America property ever be redeveloped, Raytown 350 Inv Group LLC would then be responsible for, and required to, complete their half of the cross-access drive.
 
The Board passed an ordinance amending chapter 4, alcoholic beverages, and licenses relating to the locations and other restrictions on licenses. Raytown staff is proposing to reduce the separation requirements in the Code of Ordinances that prevent new liquor licenses from being established within 300 feet of a school, church or other building regularly used as a place of religious worship. The proposed amendment would reduce the separation requirement to 100 feet, which matches the requirements for all liquor licenses issued by the State of Missouri.

The Missouri Revised Statutes grant municipalities the ability to increase liquor license separation requirements from their 100 foot minimum up to a maximum of 300 feet; as such Raytown currently has the most restrictive ordinance allowed by state law. The amendment would not change how the separation requirement would be measured, which is currently from the nearest point of the applicant building to the nearest point of the building of a school, church or other religious institution.

Approval of the amendment would immediately provide three known businesses with the ability to apply for a new liquor license that are currently unable to under the existing ordinance, and would also allow for potential new liquor licenses to move in to previously unavailable properties.

Raytown currently does not have a restriction on the number of liquor licenses in the City.  Alderman Van Buskirk proposed an amendment to the ordnance “No alcoholic beverage shall be issued for any premise when said premises are within 300 feet of a school, church, or other buildings regularly used as a place of worship measured from the nearest point of the enclosing wall to the nearest point of the school or church building except the alcoholic beverage license may be issued to an establishment located within 100 feet of the school or church if the establishment meets legal requirements of a bar as defined by state law.” 

Alderman Meyers said this is very complicated and will require tracking by the staff.  Right now he fills out his city form and sends it in.  The city gives him a license and there is no audit process.  With this amendment, there would have to be an audit process.  He won’t support this amendment. 

Alderman Teeman said the Board is picking and choosing.  There is this establishment and may be one more.  The ordinance was originally because churches didn’t want bars next door.  This will be cumbersome on the staff and he won’t support it.  The amendment failed to pass.  The Board passed the original ordinance as it was written.
The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance amending the benefit program of the Raytown employees participating in the Missouri local government employee’s retirement system (lagers).  Currently the City provides a pension benefit for all employees through the state-run LAGERS program. The current plan is funded 100% by the City and provides a benefit roughly equivalent to 1.25% of the average annual wage over the last five years in the system times the number of years of service.

This plan is near the bottom level of programs offered and is not competitive in the metro area. After reviewing the other options in the LAGERS program the Employee Benefit Committee asked LAGERS to perform an actuary comparison between the current plan and the L-12, L-14 and L-6 programs assuming mandatory participation.

After further review and feedback provided during the discussion in the department meetings, the Benefit Committee is recommending the City change the current LAGERS program. In reviewing the increased cost to the City and understanding that there will likely be a system wide increase for the City, the Finance Director is recommending a change to L-12 participatory. This will require all employees to participate in their retirement program and significantly increase both future and current earned benefits without a significant increase to the City. There is a 45-day review process so the second reading of the ordinance will not occur until the expiration of that time.
The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance establishing the annual property tax levy rate.

The City has received its notice of 2016 Assessed Valuation from the County. The Finance Department has recalculated the levy rates using the formula supplied by the State Auditor's Office. These calculations indicated the City could levy a rate of $0.3530 per $100.00 assessed valuation for general city operations and a rate of $0.1764 per $100.00 assessed valuation for park operations.
 
The 2016 proposed combined rate represents a slight decrease of .0001 compared to 2015. According to Zillow the median home value for Raytown is approximately $89,900.00. The total taxes collected for the City and Parks on the median home would be $90.43 compared to $90.44 last year on an equally valued home. The Adjusted Assessed Valuation:

• Real Estate values decreased by $915,183 or .46% from last year's amounts for a 2016 value of $239,023,007; 

• Personal property value increased by $183,672 or .30% from last year's amounts for a 2016 value of $61,606,366; Based on the assessed valuation and the proposed mill levy, the staff is projecting that approximately $1,100,000.00 will be generated for the General Fund and approximately $550,000.00 will be generated for the Park Fund. In accordance with State law, the City must hold a public hearing on the establishment of the levy rate prior to passage of the ordinance approving the 2016 rates.



Paul’s Rant!
The Rest of the Story.

Three items of note took place at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting. They are all related to one topic. And, they all shed light on how and why things are done at City Hall. This is not a criticism of the action(s) taken by any of the principal players. But it does show why our Aldermen acted as they did. More importantly, it also shows who is really to blame for the debacle of which I will now tell the rest of the story.

NEWZ ROOM CAFÉ: The Newz Room Café was recently purchased by its current owner earlier this year. When the new owner bought the business, he decided to continue the practice of showcasing live music on Friday and Saturday nights. He also decided to continue serving alcoholic beverages at those events

So, he goes to the State of Missouri and asks to purchase a liquor by the drink license. The State directed the owner to apply for a city liquor license first. Which he did. The City of Raytown denied him the license. So he was stuck. No city license meant the state would not issue a license either. The problem was the city did not issue liquor by the drink licenses to establishment within 300’ of a church or school. State law requires 100’ feet.

The problem for the city was the previous owner had received a city license for the operation from Brenda Gustafason, the former Public Information Officer of Raytown. Brenda has since left the city’s employment.

So now the city decides to change their law to match the state law.

Ward 4 Alderman Bill VanBuskirk did not agree with this change and he pressed the issue to a vote. Bill proposed an amendment to the bill on the agenda (see the minutes in the Paul Livius Report for detail).

Mr. VanBuskirk was not alone in his opposition to having liquor by the drink establishments closer than 300’ to a school or church. When his amendment was voted, here is how fellow Aldermen voted on his amendment.

VOTING YES: Bill VanBuskirk, Janet Emerson, Jason Greene, Jim Aziere

VOTING NO:   Josh Greene, Mark Moore, Eric Teeman, Karen Black, Steve Meyers

Credit is due a number of the players in this issue. First, to Alderman Steve Meyers, for insisting the item be moved to the early part of the agenda to accommodate the residents of Raytown. This is not the first time Mr. Meyers has asked for this accommodation for the public. Truth is, this item should have been listed first since it had been carried from a previous meeting. All the same, Mr. Meyers deserves an “attaboy” for his effort.

Alderman Bill VanBuskirk was doing his job in bringing forth alternative language to keep the 300’ barrier between liquor by the drink establishments and schools and churches. As the vote shows, he was not alone in that position. We cannot help but wonder what the vote would have been if the late Alderman Steve Mock’s position had been filled by now. That appointment is up to the Mayor. The delay on filling Mock’s position is something only he can answer.

Finally, this whole episode would not have taken place if Brenda Gustafason, under the tutelage of former City Administrator Mahesh Sharma, had done correctly In the first place. So much for the vaunted “professionalism” we often heard about under Sharma’s watch.


Now you the rest of the story.




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Sunday, September 18, 2016

RAYTOWN'S LEADING NEWS SOURCE

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BY GREG WALTERS
BITS AND PIECES . . .
Paul and I were brainstorming yesterday to come up with some ideas that we believe would help Raytown’s image and increase the city’s sense of community.

KATY TRAIL: It appears there are plans for Raytown to be one of the first areas to be developed on an expanded Katy Trail. The trail could pass through Downtown Raytown and could lead directly to the Harry S Truman Sports Complex. Raytown could become a pre-game location, especially for bicyclists. The trail would be perfect. Sports fans could park in the Downtown area, unload their bikes and peddle up to the games. The savings in parking cost would be well worth the exercise!

DOG PARK: Probably the most under-used public area in Raytown is the Green Space in Downtown Raytown. With the exception of an annual beer festival, the land sits vacant for most of the year. For a small investment, the area, or at least part of the area could be fenced for a dog park. The Green Space is easily accessed from all points of the city. It is close to other public services, police, ambulance and fire protection. The other upside is that the city can make use of the land with little expense. If plans are made for development, the city is only out the cost of a chain link fence.

RECYCLING CENTER: This idea is not a new one. Raytown had a functioning recycling center at two different locations from the 1980’s through 2009. Former Ward 1 Alderman Greg Walters championed the cause at both locations. The first location was located at what is now Walmart on 350 Highway. When the mega Walmart was built, he was able to persuade the city to move the location to the Public Works Garage. Former Mayor David Bower had the service shut down shortly after Walters left office in 2009.

The Park Board has decided to shut down Super Splash USA. There is a large parking lot which would be more than adequate to start up a new Recycling Center in Raytown. It is not in a residential area, it has easy access off of Raytown Trafficway. And, it can only be entered an exited off of one entrance way off of Raytown Road. This makes it perfect to keep secure during night time hours. All the police will have to do is lock a gate in the evening and open it back up in the morning while they are making their rounds.

Perhaps there are some members on the Board of Aldermen who believe recycling is good for a community will take on the project.

Raytown had a recycling center before. It can be done again.

BY PAUL LIVIUS
25% Pay Increase for Board,
Judge and Police Chief 
Some may call it a mystery. Others may call it manipulation.
A couple of meetings back the Board of Aldermen held a discussion regarding pay increases for the public officials in Raytown. A "special committee" assigned by Mayor Mike McDonough had recommended a pay 25% pay increase for the Board of Aldermen. Some pretty hefty pay increases were suggested for the Municipal Judge and City Marshal as well.
We did some checking. The Raytown Municipal Judge has a salary somewhat below surrounding cities. However, it should be remembered that Raytown is one of the smaller cities on the Missouri side, which should bring smaller dockets for the Judge to handle.
The Raytown City Marshal (Chief of Police) is the highest paid Police Chief in a fourth class city in Missouri. Once again, Raytown is small when compared to Lee's Summit, Independence, Blue Springs, and so on. It is only ten square miles in land area. It is land locked. Which means it is not going to grow. The population (according to the last census) has actually dropped!
Currently the Chief receives a car, fuel and insurance included, health insurance, and a pension that will leave him a wealthy man when he retires. Add to this a salary that pushes the total benefit amount into six figures.
It comes down to this. A small town can only afford to pay so much in salaries. Trying to compete with the salaries paid a Chief of Police in cities four an five times the size of Raytown is a fool's errand.
The same holds true for the Board of Aldermen.
Raytown is made up of five wards. There are ten elected officials. They are currently paid $450 per month plus a $50 car allowance. A 25% pay increase will make them one of the highest paid City Councilman per capita in the metropolitan area (each ward is made up of approximately 5,000 people). The wards are approximately two square miles in size! And remember, they share the responsibility of representing the people in their wards with a seatmate who also represents the 5,000 souls under their watch!
But that is not the mystery part.
The mystery is what happened to the agenda item addressing the pay increase question?
One week it was there -- then -- it was gone!
Don't be surprised if you see the Board bring it back before the budget is due for final review (October 31st). Then watch for this trick. Someone on the Board will offer a "compromise" to get the pay increases passed.
In the car business they call this the "bait and switch".
In politics they call it dirty!

Good Luck Kris! BY GREG WALTERS 
Alderman Steve Meyers took time to pen some kind words about Kris Collins of the Raytown Eagle. Kris is the reporter for the Eagle, and in my opinion, a damned good one. My experience with Kris was a good one. I had written a story to be published in Raytown Eagle and Times.

Kris found a grammatical error in the text I had provided and called me to ask permission to correct it. I thanked him for pointing out the mistake and asked him to make the appropriate change.
Contrast that treatment to what I received from the Raytown Tribune. The editor of that paper did not find the error. This was done because the two stories, though similar, had been written separately to make them “fit” the publication in which it would be published.

The editor at the Times, deleted an entire paragraph from my work. Worse than that, he “shared” the story with others before publishing it.  I found this out when portions of what I had originally written in an original draft were mentioned by a letter writer to the Times paper!

From my observation and reading his work, Kris is a professional in every way when it comes to his newspaper work. Meyers wrote that Kris is heading to Germany to further his education. Germany’s gain will be Raytown’s loss.

I wish Kris well on his travels.

Rice Tremonti Fundraiser
The Friends of Rice Tremonti will host an old fashioned “lawn party” at the historic grounds of the Rice Tremonti Home located at 8801 East 61st Street on September 25th from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

People are invited to bring lawn chairs to relax and enjoy music performances by the Short Leaf Band, Betse and Clarke, and Kelly Hunt.

Re-enactors will be on hand as well in period dress from the 1840’s.

The event is free to the public. Ice cream will be served and homemade jams and bread will be for sale.
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