Sunday, September 21, 2008
Smoking Ban on the Horizon?
Eighteen months ago Ward 2 Alderman Jim Aziere brought forth an idea to ban smoking in public places. Last April he brought a discussion item to consider bringing formal legislation before the Board of Aldermen. The majority of the Board, with a nod from the Mayor, agreed that it was time to move forward. City attorney Nancy Thompson asked that the item be held off until the first meeting in October. She said she would be ready then. Aziere reluctantly agreed to wait. Now, the Raytown Post has printed a story about a bill soon to come before the Board of Aldermen about a smoking ban. But will it? Mayor Bower has instructed that yet another discussion item be held on whether or not to proceed with the bill. Alderman Aziere is very frustrated by what appears to be shameless manipulation of an Alderman’s legal right to be bring business before the Board. He has been patiently waiting for over a year and a half. Why Bower has called for another "discussion" on whether or not to proceed with placing the ordinance on the agenda is unclear. After all, the Board has already given very clear direction for the topic to move forward. In the meantime, every city surrounding Raytown has enacted a smoking ban. From telephone calls I have received this weekend (as a result of the Raytown Post story) there is no doubt in my mind that there is substantial support for this health related issue. Aziere has proposed a limited ban on smoking that exempts smoking bars. Still the issue may prove to be a contentious one at City Hall. Three Aldermen in particular, Barb Schlapia, Christine White and Charlotte Melson, have gone on record with public criticism of Aziere’s ideas on the subject. The three seem to have the ear of Mayor David Bower on many issues. Recent examples include a bill that provided funding for a $50,000 In-Fill Housing Study and legislation supporting tax breaks for two businesses located in Downtown Raytown. PLEASE NOTE: Mayor Bower told Aziere that the “discussion item” will be scheduled for the October 7th meeting of the Raytown Board of Aldermen. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. and is open to the public. Anyone wishing to give their opinion on the topic may do so during Public Comments. Green Space Demolition of the Old First Baptist Church is said to be on the horizon. Most people are not aware that due to restrictions attached to federal and state funding for the demolition the property could end up with restrictions on how the vacant lot can be used. In fact, a recent advertisement soliciting bidders for the project stated that the finished property could only be used as “green space”. This is not the first time the city has tied its own hands with restrictions on future use of public property. A similar roadblock was met when the Recycling Committee was searching for a new site for the city’s Recycling Center (now located at the city’s Public Works Garage). One parcel of land we were extremely interested in was the large parking lot at the city’s public swimming pool, Super Splash. It was accessible, with plenty of room, and could easily by secured during the evening at the one entrance to the facility. Upon investigation we found that the since federal funds were used to build the facility, it was not available for use as a recycling center. As Chairman of the Committee, I explored ways to circumvent the federal rule. The agency that oversees the compliance of cash grants is actually managed by the State of Missouri. The ban could be lifted, but only for a temporary purpose, and at an extreme expenditure of time and effort. Once the “temporary” use time was expired, the property would revert to the original purpose of the grant. Look for the “green space” in Downtown Raytown to be developed as a city park with an outside chance of part of the property to be used for public parking. Given the state of deterioration of the old church, it is sure to be an improvement. Walmart . . . When? More than just a few people have inquired . . . when will construction begin on the new Walmart? It is a fair question, and given all the attention local politicians have focused on it and subsequent development around it, one that deserves an answer. So I asked some blunt questions as to when to some of the powers that be at City Hall. I promised anonymity to the one who gave the answer. Apparently, the corporate model Walmart uses in doing businesses is one of not moving until (literally) everything is in place. That includes documentation, licensing and planning of a new development. The most recent example of this work in practice is when the Walmart at the former Blue Ridge Mall site was constructed. It was a long time in coming, but once begun, quickly completed. So the short answer is, yes, it will be built. When will construction begin? A good question that is still unanswered. The timing is important. The TIF Agreement the city has signed requires the city to make payment on the $30,000,000 plus of bonds if the facility is not up and running by 2010.