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|BY GREG WALTERS|
Paul and I were having a chat the other day and we wondered about how some things have changed. Yes, some things remain stubbornly unchanged at Raytown City Hall. We came to the conclusion that patience may be a virtue on most matters. But when it comes to the City of Raytown, it can be very frustrating to find examples of real change.
We made a short list of what we found since last April’s city election in which all but one elected member of those seats up for election were replaced by a new Mayor and Aldermen.
SUPER SPLASH USA: Raytown’s aging water park, has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep open. Many former patrons of Super Splash consider it to be an unsafe place to go. Raytown no longer has the large numbers of teens and pre-teens who made up most of its clientele during its heyday in the 1980’s. Factor in competition from other facilities like the Holiday Inn at the Sports Complex, the Lee’s Summit water park and even a beach at Longview Lake, and you realize the market place has shrunk to the point of not being viable.
The only upbeat message on the bailout is that the Board refused City Administrator Mahesh Sharma’s plan to fund it with dollars from the City’s street light program.
STREET LIGHTS: The city is nine months into the budget year and has yet to install new streetlights budgeted in the 2014/2015 budget. We know for certain the money is in the budget. Otherwise, Mahesh Sharma would not have suggested transferring money from street lights in order to make unfunded repairs to the economic black hole known as Super Splash USA.
I sent an email out to the Mayor and four of the Board of Aldermen on June 23rd asking for a list of the locations of the new street lights in Raytown. To their credit, Aldermen Jason Greene and Mayor Michael McDonough replied to our inquiry. Both said they would get back to me. The amount Sharma asked to move to pay for Super Splash was $50,000. That would buy a lot of lights which are very much needed in Raytown’s neighborhoods.
STREET OVERLAY: Normally by this time in the year the city has taken bids and placed orders for planned street overlay improvements. It will be interesting to see if the city continues with the hugely unpopular tar and gravel scheme of street repair that is proving to be former Mayor David Bower’s legacy. The streets that were originally targeted for light aggregate seal have shown a marked amount of wear and tear not found with more traditional street improvements using asphalt.
WALMART DEBT: Shortly after last April’s election Ward 2 Alderman Jason Greene publicly asked at a regular session of the Board of Aldermen for a report on the anticipated debt to be paid by the City of Raytown to fund the TIF bonds used to build the Walmart Store on 350 Highway. To our knowledge, his request has not been answered. It is an important question. The payment of TIF bonds cannot be ignored. The agreement with the bondholders specifically holds the City of Raytown liable for the debt if sales tax revenues from the Walmart Store do not meet the required amount revenue to pay them.
This is one question that should be answered and not ignored.
|BY PAUL LIVIUS|
Last Week I wrote the following about the broadcasting of meetings from Raytown City Hall.
“The first 15 minutes had lousy audio due to a “technical difficulty”. It’s time for the guy monitoring the meeting to get out of his P.J.s and go into the office and do this. Off site monitoring is not working.
The video is not good. If you watch the meeting using the 1/4 screen video, it’s almost ok to see (if you squint). If you make it a full screen video, it is so grainy you can’t make anything out. What happened to all the fancy, expensive equipment they bought?
I don’t know who is ultimately responsible for making things work at City Hall. But whoever is in charge of rebroadcasting the meetings has dropped the ball big time. The result is a black eye on the city’s reputation to the point it makes a person question their competence. Either that or they simply do not care.”
So you can imagine my surprise when I read articles in the Raytown Times and the Raytown Brooking Eagle about all the fancy upgrades to the re-broadcasting of City Council meetings.
Not as surprising was that the two articles were almost word for word in each newspaper. What does it mean? It means Raytown’s traditional paper news media has fallen into the trap of blindly printing press releases from Raytown City Hall.
This is not a new practice at for the Raytown Times. It has been very clear for quite some time his paper often runs news articles written by someone at City Hall. My favorite was the story about how successful the light aggregate seal used by the City to repair streets. Apparently the writer who penned that story does not live in Raytown. Otherwise they would see where snowplows have effectively gouged away the surface and the uneven areas where the sealant was used in a failed attempt to repair cracks and potholes in streets.
But, as Mark Twain once wrote, “I digress”.
This rant is about newspapers taking the easy way out and just copying down what is handed them.
Press releases have a place in the news business. But a lot of what comes out of Raytown City Hall is not as much “news” as it is cheer leading and, even worse, arguing a controversial position on behalf of those who run city hall.
This was especially rampant during the Bower Administration.
I hope the new administration does not fall into the same trap. A public document released to the press to a public event is the proper use of a press release. But when taxpayer money is used to pay someone to write an argument on a divisive issue, be it a controversial zoning application, a method of street repair, or the prioritization of services, then it belongs on the editorial page. Not on the front page. The press release should also be signed or identified as to its source. The reader has a right to know whose pen wrote the story.
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