Saturday, November 28, 2015


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Reflections from Christmas lights are reflected on a flooded street in my neighborhood. Storm sewer inlets had become clogged with leaves, creating a colorful roadway that seemed to glow in the dark. 

Electric Utility Franchise Tax Increase on the Horizon?
The debate this week on the blog portion of the Raytown Report is interesting. The touchstone of the discussion were remarks Paul Livius made in his lead-in to his Paul Livius Report in which he wrote a about a proposed Franchise Tax increase on electricity under consderation by the Raytown Board of Aldermen.

The current tax rate is 8%. In effect it turns a $200 electric bill into a $216.00 electric bill.

But it really does more. That is because the City of Raytown also places a 2% sales tax on top of the 85% Franchise Tax. 
It is, in effect, a tax on a tax!

The lack of public discussion on this item is concerning. Of all the issues the Board had before them at its last meeting, this is the one that affects their constituents the most.

It would be proper for our elected leaders to go back to those who voted for them to find out if the tax increase is warranted, or for that matter even wanted. The impression left by the lack of public discussion by elected officials is disconcerting. Do they hope it will be quietly approved?
Down Memory Lane . . .
It has not always been that way. In the 1980’s Raytown City politics took a turn similar to the changes that came with last April’s election. A new Board of Aldermen had been elected. All but one incumbent was defeated.

We were a bunch of young, reform minded aldermen anxious to make some changes. Within couple of years we had left our mark.

SLURRY SEAL: The first change came swiftly. The Public Works Director was told quietly but firmly that he was to end the use of slurry seal as a repair option on neighborhood streets. The messy mixture of oil and gravel had caused a public uproar in opposition. The newly elected Aldermen listened and acted.

CITY STICKER: Within the next few years this same Board continued to take a strong stance on unfair taxation placed on Raytowners.
The first major change was the elimination of the City Sticker Tax. At the time nearly all cities required automobile owners within their city to purchase a city sticker for their cars. The tax had always been a problem to enforce.

Enforcement of the tax was spotty at best. A large number of people without city stickers were rarely ticketed unless they were stopped for a more serious driving offense. The state already issued a license plate to Missourians for the privilege of driving on the roads, requiring a second city sticker smacked of double taxation.

Our solution was to eliminate the city sticker and the tax that came with it. The Mayor at the time, Doug Hall, was about as pro tax man as I ever met. He promptly vetoed the Board’s action. We eventually voted to over-ride his veto. Like dominoes falling order, the effect was immediate. Within a couple of years, the rest of the communities in the metropolitan area followed our lead. The city sticker was no more.

FRANCHISE TAX ON WATER: In the wake of eliminating the city sticker I discovered an inequity in how the city taxed Raytowners on water.

Raytown is unique. The sale of water comes from two different entities. Raytown Water Company is one. The other is the Jackson County Water Supply District No. 2. The Board of Directors of Water Supply District No. 2 refused to collect the a Franchise Tax because they were publicly owned. The Raytown Water Company is privately owned and had no choice. It had to collect the Franchise Tax.
Utility Franchise Taxes are passed back to the end user. In this case, water customers of Raytown Water Company customers were paying the tax. Water Supply District No. 2 customers did  not pay the tax.

As a result one-half of the people in Raytown paid the tax. The other half did not.

Our solution was simple. We eliminated the tax.

FAST FORWARD TO 2015: The current Board of Aldermen has an opportunity to make similar changes. Some of the members have acted accordingly. When Alderman Karen Black learned the sales tax split promised voters in 2010 for Parks and Storm Sewer work had been ignored by both the City and the Parks Department -- she went public and brought it to the table. The result has been the formation of a special committee to resolve the situation during this budget year.

Aldermen Steve Meyers and Eric Teeman have been vocal in a call for reform on the same issue.

Perhaps there will be some changes at City Hall in the future. As was pointed out at a recent meeting of the Special Committee on the sales tax, there is a reason the last two elections have resulted in wholesale replacement of members on the Board of Aldermen.

The people voted for change. Not for more of the same. Board members should re-visit their constituency and find out what their people want to see an increase of the franchise tax on electricity.

A couple of weeks ago the Mayor’s Special Committee to Review the Park/Storm Sewer Sales Tax had its inaugural meeting. The topic was a promise made to voters in 2010 that revenue from the sales tax would be split between Parks and Storm Sewers. In the five years since that election 100% of the money has gone to Parks and Recreation.

Meanwhile, local homeowners with storm water runoff problems that range from wet basements and flood damage to property have been told the city has no money for the repairs.

The subject was brought up last August. Since then it has moved at a snail’s pace to resolution.

An impressive number of Aldermen attended the meeting that night. Aldermen Janet Emerson, Steve Meyers, Bill VanBuskirk, and Mark Moore were all in attendance, as were committee members Karen Black and Eric Teeman. So it is known they have their eye on what is going on.

Alderman Bill VanBuskirk was the only Board member to speak in favor of maintaining the status quo whereby the Park Department receives all of the tax dollars.

At the meeting VanBuskirk is fond of reminiscing how the State of Missouri changed the law and allowed for the split to take place. He is also quick to point the State does not require a municipality to split the money – just the ability to do so.

Mr. Van Buskirk has made this statement several times.  Quite frankly, I do not buy into VanBuskirk’s rhetoric. I have searched state statutes and have not found the laws he is referring to.

So I am offering this challenge.

Bill, put up or shut up. Send us a copy of the state statute citing chapter and verse where the State of Missouri allows the city to put ballot language before the voters so misleading it would not be a stretch to call it a lie.

We will print it on the front page of the Raytown Report.

A Sane Guide
to Healthy Eating
EMBRACE SNACKS: If you’re a three-squares-a-day type, start by making snack-time a part of your life. Consuming a small meal or snack not only helps manage hunger but also keeps bingeing at bay. Grab a handful of almonds or smear a banana with chocolaty hazelnut spread when hunger calls. Munching between meals boosts your energy and (bonus!) keeps your metabolism humming.

GET BALANCED: The secret to sustaining a healthy diet is balance and the best way to maintain this equilibrium is with simple geometry. Divide your plate in half and fill one side with fruits and veggies; split the other half into quarters for protein and starchy carbs. Select lean proteins and whole grain carbs for the best nutrition.

If you can’t tell a protein from a carbohydrate, get educated. Use this list to get started.  READ MORE

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Sunday, November 22, 2015


If "thank you"
is the only prayer you say, 
that will be enough.

Thanksgiving Blessings to Everyone from
Greg  and  Paul

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Park/Storm Water
Sales Tax Meeting
Nineteen people were in attendance last Thursday when the special committee appointed by Mayor Michael McDonough held its first meeting. The Committee is made up of seven members. 

Two of the committee also hold seats on the Raytown Park Board (George Mitchell and Michael Hannah), two of the members hold seats on the Raytown Board of Aldermen (Karen Black and Eric Teeman), and two members are private citizens (Steve Knabe and Angel Abercrombie). Former State Representative Ralph Monaco has been appointed Chairman of the Committee.

The Committee is tasked with recommending a solution to an impasse on the split of a Sales Tax between Parks and Storm Sewer needs. As expected, the two members of the Park Board want all of the funds to remain within the park budget. The City representatives wish to use part of the funds for storm sewer needs to control flooding in Raytown neighborhoods.

Generally speaking, Park Board members spoke of traditional support from the City to Parks in the past. City Council members point to the specific language on the ballot which clearly states the sales tax dollars will be for “FOR THE PURPOSE OF FUNDING LOCAL PARKS/STORM WATER CONTROL”.

Members from the audience threw in their two cents worth as well. A former Park Board member provided literature used in the 2010 campaign to urge support of the voters for the sales tax. Committee member Steve Knabe pointed out the campaign literature specifically mentions the sales tax will be used for both purposes.

Some members of the audience suggested without the addition of the storm water portion of the tax question, the sales tax may not have passed.

In response to comments of the need to build trust between the people of Raytown and its elected leaders, Chairman Ralph Monaco ended the meeting on a positive note.

He told those in attendance he is certain there will be resolution to this discussion. He anticipated the meetings will continue until mid-February. At which time the Committee recommendation will be sent to the Board of Aldermen for final resolution.

Paul's Notes . . . Readers may want to contact their Aldermen about a proposed tax increase under  consideration on electricity by the Board of Aldermen. The tax increase is the result of a rate increase by Kansas City Power and Light. If the Board of Aldermen approves the ordinance taxpayers will see a substantial increase in their electric bills.

The Paul Livius Report 
Raytown Board of Aldermen Meeting
November 17, 2015

SALT CONTRACT: The Board passed a resolution approving the purchase of salt for the purpose of treating roads and bridges in inclement weather from Independent Salt Company.  In June, Independent Salt Company submitted a bid for 800 tons of salt at $63.99/ton resulted in an expenditure of $51,192.00. The contract, approved by the Board of Aldermen on July 7, 2015, includes the option to purchase additional salt at the same unit price of $63.99/ton through March 31, 2016. The staff recommended the purchase of 800 additional tons from Independent Salt Company to be delivered prior to March 31, 2016 to replenish salt levels that are anticipated to be used through the winter season.

KANSAS CITY AREA TRANSPORTATION CONTRACT: The Board passed an ordinance approving a contract for transit Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in an amount not to exceed $58,151. This is a demand-response public transportation service (Metro Flex) that the City has provided under contract with the KCATA since April 2001.  The City of Kansas City also pays the same amount as the City of Raytown to the KCATA for the Metro Flex service as the service area extends beyond Raytown to make connections with the rest of the KCATA network to the north and to the south within Kansas City.  The hours of operation for the Metro Flex service are from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.; and from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The proposed agreement would maintain that level of service at a cost of $58,151 which is an increase from $55,273 for 2014-2015.  The increase is due to increased operational costs but is within the amount budgeted by the City for this service. 

This contract will be for a 12-month period that mirrors the City’s budget year.  A presentation by the KCATA will be provided at a future Board of Aldermen meeting which will provide further details relating to number of riders, origins, and destinations of riders and other service information over the past 12 months.  Shawn Strate, with KCATA, said riders must call 24 hours in advance to arrange rides.  The regular fares are $1.50 per ride or $50 for a monthly pass.  Rates for senior citizens or the disabled are $0.75 per ride or $25 for a monthly pass. 

Alderman Mock said the cost to the city is increasing due to increased operational costs.  He asked when the last time the fares were increased.  Mr. Strate said the fares are set regionally.  If Raytown wanted to increase the fares, KCATA would have to contact all municipalities in the region.  Alderman Meyers pointed out the contract stated that when the operational losses reached $82,312, KCATA has the right to terminate service.  Mr. Strate said this is standard language in all the KCATA contracts.  Alderman Meyers said this is the second reading.  No one from KCATA bothered to come last week to answer these questions. The Board is expected to vote on this contract without time to digest the new information.  Attorney Joe Willerth said under the terms of the contract, if KCATA reaches the loss limit, they can either suspend service, or come back to the Board for more money.  Alderman Meyers asked Joe Willerth if there is a tie-in with KCATA and Walmart to require the bus stop in front of the new Walmart store.  Mr. Willerth said no.

MASSAGE PARLOR ORDINANCE APPROVED: The Board passed an ordinance granting an amendment to the regulations governing massage establishments as specified in Chapter 10 of the code of ordinances. Raytown staff is proposing to amend the language written in Chapter 10, titled Massage Establishments, Bath Houses, Modeling Studios, and Body Painting Studios”, is outlining business licensing requirements for massage establishments and massage therapists.  The City has previously adopted an ordinance requiring those wishing to open and operate a massage establishment within the city limits to go through extensive procedures and prerequisites that are now undertaken by the State of Missouri as part of their licensing requirements for these establishments. Such requirements include, but are not limited to, mandatory background checks for criminal convictions, written character references from three state residents, and health certificates proving the absence of communicable diseases from all massage therapists and employees.

FAILURE TO APPEAR LAW UPDATED: The Board heard the first reading of several ordinances.  They are to bring the city codes in compliance with State statutes:
Any person who willfully violates his/her written promise to appear or who shall fail to appear at the time and place scheduled in response to any summons or warrant shall be guilty of an ordinance violation regardless of disposition of the charge upon which he/she was originally arrested or summoned, with the exception of minor traffic.  As a municipal or county ordinance violation prosecuted that does not involve an accident or injury, that does not involve the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, and for which the department of revenue is authorized to assess no more than four points to a person's driving record upon conviction. Minor traffic violation shall exclude a violation for exceeding the speed limit by more than nineteen miles per hour or a violation occurring within a construction zone or school zone.

Whenever in any section of this Code or in any ordinance the doing of any act is required or is prohibited or is declared to be unlawful or a misdemeanor, and no specific fine or penalty is provided for a violation thereof, any person who shall be convicted of a violation of any such provision of this codification or of any such ordinance shall, for each offense be fined not more than $500.00 or be punished by imprisonment in jail not to exceed 90 days, or be punished by both fine and imprisonment. Exception is a minor traffic violation as defined in Section 1-2 where the fine and cost shall not exceed $300.00.

"Minor traffic violation", a municipal or county ordinance violation prosecuted that does not involve an accident or injury, that does not involve the operation of a commercial motor vehicle, and for which the department of revenue is authorized to assess no more than four points to a person's driving record upon conviction. Minor traffic violation shall exclude a violation for exceeding the speed limit by more than nineteen miles per hour or a violation occurring within a construction zone or school zone.

CITY TAX INCREASE ON ELECTRICITY: The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance reaffirming the gross receipts tax to be imposed upon electric corporations conducting business with the city.  Kansas City Power and Light is  has been granted a tariff increase in excess of 7% which necessitates the City to either reduce the current franchise fee of 7% approved in 2014 or adopt an ordinance opting out of this “roll back”. The staff is recommending the City opt out of the rollback thus maintaining the current franchise fee.

ZONING CHANGE ON 75TH STREET/350 HIGHWAY: The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance vacating a portion of the Right-of-way, legally described as 75th street, generally beginning at its Intersection with westbound highway 350 and extending west along the Centerline of 75th street approximately 130 feet.  The Planning & Zoning Commission at their November 12, 2015 meeting gave consideration to the requested right-of-way vacation. Block & Co on behalf of Raytown Auto Developers, LLC is seeking approval of the Final Plat of Raytown Crossing East – Second Plat. The final plat proposes to vacate a portion of 75th Street, located immediately west of westbound Highway 350. The portion of the street right-of-way proposed to be vacated is indicated by the cross-hatching on the Final Plat.

The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance approving the final plat of Raytown Crossing east-second plat, a subdivision.  Block & Co on behalf of Raytown Auto Developers, LLC is seeking approval of the Final Plat of Raytown Crossing East – Second Plat. The final plat proposes to create two lots that are to be developed for a restaurant and future commercial business or restaurant. The proposed lots, as depicted on the attached Final Plat are 1.35 acres and 0.80 acres. Lot 1, which was previously platted as part of Raytown Crossing East is 1.21 acres and was the first phase of a multi-phase redevelopment of the former Dodge dealership, BP Amoco and self-serve car wash properties that are located on the east side of Raytown Road  between the east and west bound lanes of Highway 350. In accordance with the approved Preliminary Plat and Preliminary Development Plan for this area, the Final Plat proposes construction of a new entrance drive on westbound Highway 350 which will result in the vacation of a portion of 75th Street, located immediately west of westbound Highway 350. The portion of the street-right-of-way proposed to be vacated is indicated by the cross-hatching on the enclosed Final Plat.

Paul's Rant!
Gaggle of KC Star
Reporters Have It Wrong
Recently we have been treated to some old fashioned hyperbole compliments of two Kansas City Star writers, Mary Sanchez and Barbara Shelly.

Their target is any politician who believes increased screening of political refugees is a good idea. They have narrowed their target to Governors of these United States who have publicly agreed with a more stringent policy.

It should be noted the Governor’s have asked for a temporary halt. Their goal is safety and security. In light of the recent increase of terrorist attacks worldwide, it is the prudent course to take.

Not in the eyes of Sanchez and Shelly. Their response has been one of extreme partisanship, name calling, and a tendency to use weak historical references to buttress their argument.

Shelly refers to the 30 Governors as a “herd”. Sanchez is a little less demeaning, referring to them as a “pack”. I wonder how those two writers would feel if they were referred to as a “gaggle” of reporters, bent on demeaning their supposed enemies?

In Shelly and Sanchez eyes, the Governors have, as President Obama once famously said, drawn a “red line” when it comes to security in our nation.  Sanchez rants on even further in a follow-up column in which she compares 2015 to 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt had people of Japanese heritage placed in refugee camps.

Many of our political leaders, Independents, Democrats and Republicans, are concerned for the safety of our country. I have yet to read where anyone has called for our borders to be closed (as has been done in France). Or for that matter, even a suggestion of internment camps. The reality is, there is not any firm evidence Americans want or should turn their backs on political refugees.

But only a reckless fool would go on with business as usual given the number of attacks in recent weeks.

 The Russian plane crash in Egypt caused by a terrorist bomb killed 242 people. The Paris attacks were preceded by twin suicide blasts in Beirut that killed 43 people. In Mali, 21 people were killed by terrorists following the Paris attack. The death toll in Paris stands at 130.

Make no mistake, the world is at war. The tactic of this war is terrorism. It is not a new tactic, but it has never been used on a scale of this size. The enemy has shown they are capable of striking across continents and borders. We would be wise to wake up to this reality and make certain we are as secure in protecting us from those who would do us harm.

Many of our leaders have stepped up and called for more vigilance. We should open our borders to political refugees trying to flee the horrors of war. But we should also make certain America remains a safe haven as well.

Their call for reviewing the mechanics of an influx of political refugees is the prudent course to take.

Healthy (and Super Delicious!) Pumpkin Swaps
‘Tis the season … for everything pumpkin! The problem with all those delectable pumpkin products? They’re often loaded with tons of sugar and calories, along with many other unwanted ingredients (and chemicals).

Lucky for us, Senior Dietitian Amanda Foti from Selvera Wellness mocked up some easy swaps to satisfy our cravings this holiday season. READ MORE

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