Sunday, June 22, 2008
Sewer Rates / Light Rail / The Public's Right to Know
Sewer Rates Raytown residential sewer rates are supposed to be based on wintertime water usage. A short discussion at a recent meeting of the Board of Aldermen points out that they really are not. Two meetings back, the Board approved sewer rate increases. During the discussion that followed I asked how residential rates were determined. I was told that the water usage bills from the local water companies were taken from the months of November, December, January and February to determine the average monthly wintertime usage of residential properties. At the time of the meeting, it seemed like a logical and fair way to determine where to set the rates for sewer bills. But is it really a fair test of how much water people use? On reflection, it is not. Wintertime averages should be just that – a wintertime average. Throwing the month of November (which is actually in the Fall) skews the usage to a higher amount than it should be. Especially for those who plant and maintain a second seasonal fall garden or do any type of seeding to improve their lawn. And, it is now an accepted fact that global warming has effectively lengthened the growing season and shortened the winter months. I have sent a memo to the City Administrator to include a discussion for changing the city’s policy on how wintertime water usage is attained to a more fair and honest system by eliminating the month of November from the formula. Light Rail A lot is being said and written about Light Rail. It is a popular concept of new age cities with clean, quick mass transit linking together neighborhoods, businesses and recreational venues. Three mayors (Kansas City, Raytown and Riverside) have jumped on the bandwagon. A couple of weeks ago Raytown held a forum on the subject. This past week it was Riverside’s turn. Most other cities and counties have shown a preference to a more reasoned approach to solving the riddle of light rail. They either sent a representative to the meeting(s) or in their stead or did not show at all. Most telling was a letter drafted by Independence City Manager Robert Heacock and supported by nearly all Eastern Jackson County Mayors calling for a two year study to find the best formula for light rail in eastern Jackson County One thing is certain, light rail will not be built without federal aid. The only plan that has even been considered by the feds is a starter line that runs north and south along Troost Avenue from Downtown Kansas City to Volker Boulevard. Public discussion is always healthy. But mindless “blue sky” babble and over-reaching by setting unattainable goals is not a pathway to a solution. In fact, it can have just the opposite affect by undermining popular support of light rail because of a lack of real movement on the subject. Eastern Jackson County leaders who signed off on the concept of a serious approach to light rail are on the right track. Those who have ignored that call should re-think their position and climb on board the effort to come up with real solutions to light rail. The Public’s Right to Know At the last Board of Aldermen meeting I raised some questions regarding some expenses that have not been thoroughly documented by the city for public review. One had to do with how the city has spent its money on computers. City Finance Director Jeremy Wilmoth was not at the meeting and City Administrator Mahesh Sharma was unable to provide a breakdown of how the money was being spent. Another topic of discussion was over out-of-state travel by city employees. Two trips have been approved that I am aware of -- one to San Antonio, Texas and one to Las Vegas, Nevada. The veil of secrecy over how much has been spent on travel this past year may soon be lifted. At the meeting I requested that City Clerk provide a breakdown of ALL the travel the city has paid for this year. As of this writing I have not received any information back regarding the money spent on computers or travel. Perhaps another week will give them time to decipher the 2007 – 2008 budget. A budget that long on bottom line numbers but extremely short on descriptions of how money is spent.