Sunday, October 7, 2007
Fun With Numbers
The ever volatile issue of streetlights came up at the last meeting of the Raytown Board of Aldermen. At issue was the inclusion of $10,000 earmarked for new streetlights in the 2008 budget. It did not take long for the fireworks to start. Ward 3 Alderman Christine White and Ward 5 Alderman Marilyn Fleming argued long and hard to pull the item from the budget. On the other side of the discussion were Greg Walters, Jim Aziere and Joe Creamer, arguing for inclusion of the lights in the budget. City Finance Director Dan Estes brought some confusion to the debate by reporting that the $10,000 would fund 18 lights. It did not take long for Christine White to jump on the “18 lights” to change it to “only 18 lights” – implying waste in city spending. This is where “Fun With Numbers” begins. Alderman Greg Walters asked Estes how much it cost the city per light in Raytown to keep the streets lit. Estes replied around $153.00. Walters pulled out his trusty Texas Instruments TI-5027 and went to work by doing the math. If only 18 lights were installed that the number actually reached $555.00 per light. He asked for an explanation on the discrepancy. Estes explained that he based his numbers on the cost of installation of a pole, burial of power lines and new fixture. So, if all the new lights go onto brand new structures, Estes is correct. However, if the lights were to go onto existing poles – the good people of Raytown could see up to 65 NEW STREETLIGHTS in place by this time next year. It is no secret that the administration at City Hall is fearful of the recurring cost of streetlights in each year’s budget. And it is true that 65 lights will cost more to maintain than 18 lights in future years – but to my way of thinking, street lighting is far more important than spending $20,000 on a newsletter that contains little useful news, or, for that matter, a survey that the city fathers only see fit to use when it backs up their arguments. For example, if you check out the survey the city spent nearly $20,000 on earlier this year you will find that the number one concern voiced by taxpayers is the need for more streetlights. Despite that outcry, city hall has done very little to address the concern. Aldermen White and Fleming want a five-year plan. What they do not tell you is that the five-year plan includes a tax or fee increase for a basic service that should already be paid for by the city’s general fund. This great leap forward (with apologies to Kindly Chairman Mao) is not the best way to address the problem. City officials need to reset their priorities as to what is most important to Raytowners. If we can bring Walmart to Raytown by creating 23 years of debt (with an agreement to pay off the debt BEFORE paying the bills for streetlights) then we can find a way to put in more streetlights without raising taxes. OTHER NEWS: After visiting with a local business owner this weekend it is clear that a new organization of local merchants is close to becoming a reality. Made up of the backbone of the American economy -- small businesses -- local entrepeneurs are looking at viable promotions to raise awareness and increase traffic in their businesses. THE REAL DEAL: Speaking of local entrepeneur, I had an opportunity to stop by City Grounds Coffee Shop (located at 63rd Street and Raytown Road) and found out they have increased their support of local artists. The paintings, sketches and drawings neatly framed on the wall are all for sale, as are the many crafts neatly displayed near the cash register. We can’t go on without mentioning the excellent selections of coffee and tea that are second to none in Raytown. If you have not yet discovered this secret jewel in Raytown – go check it out. WELCOME NEW POST EDITOR/PUBLISHER: I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting the new editor/publisher of the Raytown Post, Dennis Rich. But I can already see changes taking place. The last issue had more space dedicated to hard news about Raytown and less "fluff journalism" than in the past. It is a step in the right direction. Though I wonder why Mr. Rich would expect city code officials in K.C. to treat the Raytown School District differently than any other business when it comes to enforcing codes. After all, local business is the engine that makes the train run. If the process is slow and needs fixing then it should be done so for all -- not just those in the public sector.