Sunday, September 23, 2007
Hindsight is 100%
After reading the past few week’s postings by the active members of this blog it is apparent the time come to speak out on some of the issues that have spawned much of what is happening in Raytown today -- Both the good and the bad of the past eight years. It was approximately eight years ago that Curt Wenson came on the scene at Raytown City Hall. Wenson was hired as City Administrator just shy of the one year mark of Mayor Sue Frank’s first year in office. It was the unanimous decision of the Board to hire Wenson. A little known fact is that his application actually came to the Board after the deadline for applicants had passed. It was on the insistence of Greg Walters that his application be considered. When Wenson began his run as City Administrator it appeared that his administration would be one of reform. He brought with him a new city attorney (Joanne Graham) and a new Public Works Director (Beau Groceman). There were also other changes. A few people were “let go” – and there was a marked effort to make Raytown City Hall more user friendly. Policy changes at city hall were also made that ended some questionable practices by actions within departments. For instance, prior to Wenson’s arrival the police department routinely wrote traffic tickets at Walmart to people for running a stop sign on private property. Though this practice had been questioned by some members of the Board it was continued until Wenson’s city attorney (Joanne Graham) had it stopped. It appeared that Wenson was truly interested in reform at City Hall and many of his actions and the actions of his new department heads (Groceman and Graham) backed up that perception. Economic Development was where the rift began. The First Baptist Church of Raytown announced that it was building a new church on 350 Highway. The old structure was up for sale. Most of the interest in purchasing the building and grounds came from other churches interested in relocating in Raytown. Wenson saw the First Baptist Church as an opportunity to jump-start redevelopment in Downtown Raytown. The Mayor, who owns property in Downtown Raytown, quickly signed on as a supporter. There were some on the Board, most notably Alderman Greg Walters and then Alderman Jerry Briggs, who questioned putting so much capital and effort into the Downtown when the 350 Highway cooridor, with its high traffic volume, seemed a better bet. None the less, Wenson was adamant that redevelopment must start in Downtown Raytown. At the end of the day, the entire Council signed on and voted to buy the First Baptist Church. The Board of Aldermen did buy into the deal (as Pat Casady wrote) “hook, line and sinker”. To hear Wenson and City Attorney Joanne Graham tell it – both of who used their experience in Lee’s Summit redevelopment efforts as a selling tool – we were going to have to get a stick to make prospective developers stand in line to pitch their “opportunity” to them. Only two development firms came forward. This was the beginning of the unraveling of the unanimity at Raytown City Hall. As time would go forward, the Wenson/Frank/Graham team would increase its influence and become ruthless in selling its vision of Raytown. Unethical behavior, from meddling in city elections, questionable fundraising tactics and outrageous attempts to manipulate the Charter process are an outgrowth of this beginning. To be continued . . .