Sunday, December 28, 2008

Looking Forward . . . Looking Back

It is that time of year when newspapers and magazines “wrap up” their stories and pontificate on what kind of a year it was. Usually the “wrap up” comes with a bright glowing picture of the future. The formula is as old as the trees that were chopped down to make the paper it is printed on. Rose Colored Glasses . . . It is good to be optimistic. But sometimes it is better to take off the rose-colored glasses and do a reality check. In the long run, promises of false hope do far more damage than good – particularly in the public’s view of how they are governed. It is difficult to look at Raytown’s future without taking into account some of the past events that are shaping that future as you read this page. The City Council’s experimentation with tax abatements and TIFS is moving forward at an unbridled pace even though there are signs that such machinations are not working. A good example is development of 350 Highway. The one-half cent tax districts that have been created for Walmart and Hy-Vee are already causing a ripple effect through the local economy. Just this past week, Coddington’s Thriftway announced that it will be closing its doors in 2009. Could it be that a 1970’s generation grocery store did not feel it could compete with a 21st Century grocery store that also enjoys lower property taxes and receives one-half cent of every dollar spent in its so-called development district? Late next year the full consequence of the special 23 year deal cut with Walmart will begin to be felt in lost tax dollars. At a recent meeting of the Raytown Board of Aldermen the City Finance Director put the price tag at over $300,000.00 in tax revenue (per year) the city will lose to pay off the debt created by the Walmart TIF. Walmart’s deal is sweeter than Hy-Vee’s. Not only does the retail giant receive a special half-cent sales tax on any sale within its district, they also capture the city’s regular one cent sales tax and half-cent transportation tax. Those tax dollars will not be available to maintain the city’s streets, curbs, sidewalks or other infrastructure needs in 2010. The promise that other developers will rush to build around the new Walmart on 350 Highway will remain just a promise until the economy turns around. Still, there are bright spots . . . Downtown Raytown may be the one bright spot on the city’s horizon. A group of private citizens are working hard to revitalize the oldest part of the city. A large sum of money in the form of federal, state and county grants have infused life into the projects. The city’s landmark eyesore, the old First Baptist Church, will finally come tumbling down. Look for a new bridge over 63rd Street, complete with new lighting, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and improved traffic flow upon completion. However, City Hall needs to make some improvement on how it conducts business with the new clientele it hopes to attract. Any new tax abatements should be written with solid claw back provisions that guarantee the taxpayers that the new tenants downtown are here for the long run. Another Bright Spot . . . Another bright spot is the shifting of policy with regards to street lighting and sidewalk construction. Three years ago the strangle hold former Mayor Sue Frank had on placing new streetlights was finally broken when the Board of Aldermen agree to place new street lights at Colman Park. The last two years has a seen a continuation of the policy of placing new street lights in residential neighborhoods. This year, new curbs and sidewalks were constructed along Hunter Street between 63rd Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard. The curbs and sidewalks were built at my request when I learned that the Raytown School District would not extend pedestrian walkways past the entrance (on Hunter Street) of the new Early Childhood Learning Center located at Blue Ridge Elementary. The message here is that ever so slowly, the policy at city hall is slowly turning toward being a more user friendly city -- one that recognizes the needs of residents. To be sure, there is still plenty of room for improvement. City Hall needs to become more forthcoming and inclusive in its decision making process. The penchant for hiring out of town experts to tell us what to do must be throttled back. The giveaway of tax dollars in the form of tax abatements and TIFS without the promise of a return on our investments (clawbacks) must cease. There is reason to be hopeful for our future in Raytown. By focusing our efforts on plans that offer real hope over false hope, Raytown will grow and prosper.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Between the City of Raytown and the corrupt Raytown School District wasting tax money, with the inept people running both, I hope the citizens are smarter than the above mentioned, NOT TO VOTE ANY MORE TAX INCREASES!! THEY CAN KISS MY A.. IF ANY OF THEM THINK FOR A MINUTE I WOULD VOTE FOR EITHER!!

Andy Whiteman said...

Why would any merchant want to open in the Walmart special tax district? Why would they have any customers with a higher sales tax? Especially if it is high end items such as electronics, jewelry, or automotive. No customer in their right mind will spend thousands of dollars and pay a higher tax rate?

Maybe Codington's Thrifty should request a TIF and move to Raytown Park Plaza. Raytown needs a grocery store downtown with a shorter walking distance. One of the vacant stores looks like the construction of an old Safeway. Makes me wonder is Raytown ever had a Safeway?

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Yes, there used to be a Safeway store at 350 and Raytown Road, but the corner store in Raytown Park Plaza was a Thriftway store. I think that the store in Woodson Village was a Safeway store when it was new. The store where Coddingtons is now I believe started as an A&P store, then became a United Super, then whatever else it has been since then....

Anonymous said...

And there used to be Milgrams in Raytown too.

That is all ancient history. Not really part of the discussion. Going down memory lane is not going to create an economically vibrant community, is it?

Playing favorites with tax giveaways is not the answer either.

Anonymous said...

Don't give these people at city hall anymore taxes. VOTE NO on ALL NEW TAXES for the city until they get their house in order. Two things that need to be done are a state audit to prove to the taxpayers they need the money and they still have at least one incompetent employee that needs to go. If you don't know who I'm talking about it is Teresa Newton, the city clerk. THESE PEOPLE MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE before we give them anymore money to waste. Raytown taxpayers stand up and be counted.

Anonymous said...

Ratown will never go forward until we clean house at city hall and the school board. Pouring more money into a school district doesn't make it a better school, look at KC schools.The same for the city, giving them more of OUR money isn't going to inprove the city until we get rid of this board which all they want to do is give the city away. Citizens let's get smart and think for ourselves and stand up to city hall and the school board.

Pat Casady said...

Every morning and evening as I come and go to Raytown
I drive on 350hwy. past the building site of the Wal-Mart,
I can't help but give it the old one finger salute. I tell myself
how childish for a sixty year old man to act.
Then it hit me. This store is giving a bigger salute to the people,
businesses and neighborhoods of Raytown. To the tune of
$300,000.00 a year, declining property values and closing businesses.
I see that yellow round face logo they use flipping us all the bird as they
take away a large percentage of our cities income for the next twenty three years.
Who should the people thank for such a deal?
How should the people show their appreciation?
Think about this. As I read this article in this post about the cost per year.
I was wondering how and where will this city make up such a loss?
Common sense tells us more taxes. That is the only income a city has.
Passing sales tax increases won't help if there are no retail businesses left
to collect them.
I'm afraid Coddington's is just one of the first.

Anonymous said...

Pat, you are right about passing more sales tax. If there is nothing here to buy then 6%, 8%, 10% sales tax on nothing is still zero. I don't believe that the sales tax should ever have been used to finance city government. It's a BAD, BAD, DEAL for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

I see the Raytown Post took after you and other established downtown businesses. They say you do not fit in.

As for a tax increase. Add me to those that say NO WAY until the city gets its house in order.

I heard the other day that the Mayor's employer, HOK, has been cut loose from the the parent company. The article in the KC star this weekened pretty much confirms it.

Tough times for everyone I guess.

Oracle said...

Did anyone out there catch that editorial in last week's Post?

the Publisher rambled on and on, extolling the need for parking in the Downtown area.

That's fine with me. He is entitled to his opninion. So let's just skip that.

Here is what struck me. The Publisher actually carried on about needing a parking lot in event you were struck by a urgent need for coffee, specially ground, of course, from Bennetti's.

My question is this. Is this guy for real?

I can't believe anyone with a half a load of bricks would bother writing such drivel.

Hell, the coffee isn't that good anyway. What a terrible way to start your weekend, having to trudge the streets in the pre-dawn hours looking for a pound of specially ground java.

Anonymous said...

oracle, you obviously know very little about coffee.

Anonymous said...

Didn't catch the Post because it has no circulation and no one is going to pay to have it mailed to them since it contains no real news anyway. IGNORE IT, IT'S DIEING!!!

Pat Casady said...

It's not a new thing, the Post taking shots at me or some of the downtown
Businesses. We were standing up for ourselves and that always seems
to bring out the best in the paper and City Hall.
However, I really feel Raytown needs this paper.
But, we need a paper that is unbiased, a paper that will look at both sides
of a story. So far in my "Opinion" the paper may have new owners but that's
about the only change I've seen so far. But, I'm willing to give them a little time.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sick of hearing about this downtown coffee shop. Never been in there because I don't like that kind of coffee and I've heard the prices are ridiculously high. If downtown is ever to survive, (which I don't think it will ever change) it has to have products that REAL people NEED. You don't have to have that expensive cup of coffee, but we do purchase essentials to survive. Where are these products?

Pat Casady said...

The city officials need to take a long hard look at themselves.
Ponder on what they have done to this town. Then after they realize
how much they have hurt it financially, they need to try and fix it!
Every elected official has the ability to pick up a phone and try to
promote this little town. There are a thousand restaurant chains
out there to contact and try to bring them into Raytown. As well as
other businesses.
The fact is, it would seem, that everyone at City Hall is waiting for someone
else to do the job.
Maybe Raytown should eliminate half of the elected officials, take the money
paid to them and add a bit more and hire someone that would promote Raytown.
At least the taxpayers would get something for their money.
If that person brought in new businesses, without giving away city income,
everybody would benefit.
I know that sounds too simple but, if our city wants people shop in Raytown
it only makes sense that the city would have to shop for stores that will come into town.
On the down side.....what if they have been trying?

Andy Whiteman said...

As an FYI, Bennetti's has a parking lot in the rear. I wonder why people are parking the street when there is a lot in the rear? People must like them because I see cars parked in the street and customers inside when I walk by. I am not into gourmet coffee but even in a recession people will still buy luxary items.

The Post is entitled to its opinion in an EDITORIAL but I expect the rest of the paper to be fact and not opinion.

Anon 9:31 AM, of course business for the common person will NOT come to dontown because first there is no or little through traffic and downtown is not a destination point. There is a vacant commercial lot on 63rd St apx. 1-1/4 acre but I hit a bump on the street passing it last night.

When a busness person comes to look at property, what do they see? Streets that are in such a state of disrepair that they are a public nuisance. Why would a business move to down town? Hwy 350 is a possibility since it is state maintained and has through traffic.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Since one cannot believe anything on this blog on in the newspaper, what there is of one, I checked with sources at Coddington's. Of course employees will not confirm it is closing but the mayor was in there yesterday. A day late and a dollar short as usual. When Blanton's IGA was there it was locally owned. It isn't now but what is?
The big F'in Wal-Mart at Blue Ridge and I-70 cut hard into Coddington's. And the next big Wal-Mart China store on 350 will probably do most everyone else in.
By giving away TIF money, our street money and sales tax, Raytown's board of alderman has driven off local businesses which paid sales tax, etc.
Great business decision!
Big Lots at Brywood Center is also closing, no doubt another F'in Wal-Mart victim.
Raytown would be better out without a city government. We can't annex into KCMO because the fools there are just as bad. But look at the federal and state examples.

Proud to Be A 'Merican (NOT!)

Andy Whiteman said...

It is probably that Coddington's employees have no clue if they will close. Probably only rumor. Many companies simply lock the door. When employees come to work, they find they no longer have a job. AT&T did downsizings and closings with as little notice as possible. Employees had to listen to the talk and make their own conclusions.

I think what can believed in my opinion is Walmart will lead to to closings of Smith Bros., Westlake, Coddingtons, and at least one Apple's. Then they will raise prices.

I was just in Alamogordo, NM where they have a Walmart and a Low's Grocery. I don't know what they had before Walmart. I needed Yogurt and checked the prices of the frozen foods. The prices there were even higher than Hen House's regular price. They get you in for some cheap items figuring you will also buy the overpriced items. One of the locals told me they shop Low's because of the meat counter, but who can afford meat?

As for Big Lots, I used to shop the one on Wornall but shop the one in Brywood if something is advertised and I don't want to drive that far. I have found Big Lots' prices have gone so high that there is no advantage to shopping there. I don't think Walmart has an affect on Big Lots. It is Big Lots high prices that send people away.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Whoever thought to allow Walmart tax breaks to the tune of $300,000/yr must of had an under the table deal going on. It was all spearheared (perhaps jugheaded is a better word) during the Frank/Wenson Administration. I would not exclude the past Finance Director as well. It should of been his reponsiblity to inform the less informed of the dire consequences of moving forward on this financial calamity.

Screw the residents and small businesses of Raytown, then leave for another job elsewhere. Thanks a lot. May we never see another likes of Wenson come to Raytown to fleece us.

Salamander said...

The Salamander extends to all blogges greetings of the season. Even Santa Claus appeared to be quite happy when I saw himn on tv. He was chortling “Ho,Ho, Ho.”

I do hope this sybol of the season’s gift giving extravanga was happy.
BUT

I doubt if he saw or read what is going on at city hall. If he did, Sanat would not be joyously shouting, HO, Ho, Ho.

More than likely he would be shaking his head and wondering just what on earth is goin on.
Your Salamander is referring to the latest frezy of giving away the shop by members of the city council---Awarding tax abatements to favored merchants and businesses.

If you are a favored merchant or an anointed insider I suggest you rush up to city ; throw a batch of paid bills and other sundry paper work on thedesk of the council and tell them you want tax abatement.
Don’t worry. Our genersou cityfathers wil doublessly vote almost unanimously togve whatever you want.

The entire scenario is something out of a Kurt Vonnegoth novel. Absoluely unbelievable.

A few years ago TIFs were going to resurrect Raytown. This unrealistic approach has just about shot its bolt---a complete failure. I challenge any reader toname some TIFs which ultimately paid out.

The new rage is tax abatement.
This much can be said for TIFs. Toobtain one you at least had to gothru the charade that you were going to do something tangible.

Not so with tax abatement. Here is all you have to do:
Pull any figure you want out of the air. Decide how how much tax you want abated; throw the entire mess in front of the council. Don’t worry.
You will not have to justify anything youpresent. Sit back and you will be
Taken care of. That’s all there is to it.
Some readers may question how the fhortfallof taxeswill be made up. No problem here. The taxpayers in Raytown who pay their fair share will have to pony up more of their money to cover any shortfall aused by this idiotic program.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW YEAR
The cops want another ½ cent sales tax on everything you purchase in Raytown.
And every penny of the half-penny would be handed to the boys in blue to spend as they see fit.
The gendarmes claim their work load has increased more than l00% in the last sevenor eight years. A ridiculous assertion and we should demand that evidence of their claim be produced.
Bloggers might be interested to learn that ALL police department employees recently received 5% pay raises. Not bad considering the state of the economy.
There is more: Members of the school board have quietly beganinformal discussions about another huge propertytax increase bond.

Wonder if their workload also has doubled.

Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Goodbye. Lee Gray

Andy Whiteman said...

Sounds like all year has been Christmas giveaway at City Hall and the Disfunctional School District.

How do I apply for a tax abatement on my house so I can sell it after I move?

Our city crews have done an excellant job of clearing our streets after the foul weather, but our BOA won't maintain the streets. The streets are a public nuisance and safety hazard. Can anyone explain why the city has snow and ice removal, but refuses to maintain the streets? It makes no sense to me.

I wish everyone here a Happy New Year!

Andy Whiteman

Andy Whiteman said...

Lee Gray, are you leaving us? or was it goodbye until next year?

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mr. Gray is leaving this blog, since it's not making much sense lately? Just a guess.

Andy Whiteman said...

The actions of our city fathers and the Disfunctional School District make no sense at all. Raytown would be better off to unincorporate and let the county take over street maintenance and other activities the city is unable or unwilling to handle.

Hoping for a better New Year.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

To anon 10:54 am & Lee Gray,
When does anything in this country, state, county or 4th class city make sense?
For crying out loud, we elected a man know one is 100% certain is a resident of the USA, the folly to fill this man's seat in congress was attempted to be sold to the highest bidder, we live next to a city that has a $90 MM budget shortfall but yet the media & that council has a problem with the way he runs his office with an UNPAID assistant (i.e. his wife), this more than likely completely stems from the fact the people of KC elected the person the council didn't want in the 1st place, Jackson County while appearing to do quite well has problems of its own, namely two $$$ pits called stadiums off of I-70 that bring in very little if any revenue....
As for Raytown, they are following the same path as all of the other American cities, selling out to big box corporate chains by giving away the revenue and expecting the 'field of dreams'...

My hope and wish is in 2009 the following happens:
1) residents inherit some wisdom and a spine and vote the clown alderpeople out of office
2) some real leadership steps up and is able to revitalize and re-unite a 4th class city that is obviously in its DEATH THRO'S...

maybe by this ground swell Raytown will not become just another statistic and actually a living breathing organism unlike the wounded/sleeping vulture just to the West of us.

As I see it....

Wondering and Guessing? said...

Maybe Mr. Gray is leaving this blog, since it's not making much sense lately? Just a guess.

Not sure what you mean by not making any sense. Perhaps you can elaborate. If you sign your name it would probably tell the whole story.

As for Lee Gray. Only he could stir up a hornets nest by saying "goodbye".

Andy Whiteman said...

Goodbye could have various meanings:
1) the timing could be goodbye to the year.
2) Lee Gray previosuly said he was moving. Counld this be the case?

Lee Gray being a jounalist knows how to write to get reader's attention.
*******
I totally agree with Anon 3:47PM's points. I wish he/she had signed a name. We need someone with his/her intellect on the BOA or Disfunctional School Board.

What I really wonder is why the voters dump more $$$$ into the useless pits? I know that it should bring money into the area, but with the poor economy and and losing teams, that is wishfull thinking.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

I think the animosity towards Bennetti's coffee is a generational thing. Speaking as a single mom in her mid 30's of a 13 year old daughter, Bennetti's is a jewel in Raytown's tarnished crown. It's one of the only good things Raytown has going for it. I grew up in Raytown and there was NEVER anything to do. Finally there is a cool place to hang out with friends. Some may say that it's a "luxury" item.. but in today's economy, when you want to get out of the house with friends and can't afford a movie or such, sitting around with a friend for a cup of coffee is cheap! In fact I've had plans with a girl friend of mine for a week now to go there today for coffee. I wish the place was bigger though. And I love the fact the coffee house displays local artists work. Raytown needs more places like Bennettis, meaning a nice clean environment that's relaxing that the younger generations can enjoy.
Also, I live in the 87th street and James A Reed area.. yes.. very very close the to McDonalds on 87th and Blue Ridge. The same McDonalds that has had 2 shootings in their parking lot in the last week! And almost 2 months ago someone was shot in the head at their home on Greenwood street.. one of those streets to the east of McDonalds.. but anyway I remember the news said "police say this is normally a quiet neighborhood." HA HA HA HA.. right. The chinese food place just south of that was robbed this summer. I lived in south KC at one time and never heard this much gun fire, saw this much crime. Raytown has got too many payday loan companies, pawn shops, and low end shopping. Raytown is attracting the crime. I think the Chief needs to do without a payraise, actually all elected officials should do that (ha.. I remember back in the 80's Chief Leslie proposed that and I guess the elected officials other than him didn't like that idea so they worked to vote him out and vote that no good Turncoat, I mean Turnbow in. Just goes to show you have to be dirty to be in Raytown's good old boy politics) and use that money towards hiring more officers and paying them better. I am SO sick of the crime!!!!

Anonymous said...

So the downtown coffee shop is a nice attractive new business, but how much sales tax does he contribute to the city? How many jobs has he created? To get the kind of tax break he wants he needs to do a LOT more business than he is doing now. Don't think it will ever happen.

Andy Whiteman said...

I think the issue with Bennetti's coffee is there is another coffee shop in Raytown and people have their preferences. All coffee tastes the same to me and I have time limits as to when I may drink it. When my wife was alive she always had us stop at Gloria Jean's in Bannister mall. She enjoyed it, but it was too lake for me to drink coffee.

Anon 10:52AM, You could make your point about any family owned, small business in Raytown. In Economics 101 we learned about the trickle down effect. Someone buys coffee or pastry, and a small sales tax is generated. In addition, they leave a tip for the server and there is more money coming into the city along with the server's salary. The business purchases goods and services (hoppefully from Raytown merchants). Since I make several stops on one trip to conserve gas and my time, the average person may stop at another business such as a grocery store, gas station, or hardware store. That leaves more money in the city.

One of my dogs and I used to walk past that area almost daily. We witnessed a blighted building that was on the market an excessive time turned into an attractive property with a much needed business. The issue is not if they sell luxary items. Even with a poor economy people will still buy luxary items. Bennetti's coffee along with City Grounds fills a need in Raytown where people may gather and discuss whatever over a cup of coffee. I have said several times that downtown needs something to make it a destination point. Both coffee shops are a destination point. If someone drives from 87th and James A Reed, Bennetti's coffee is clearly a destination point.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

The point is that these other, small, family owned businesses are NOT asking the city for huge tax breaks.

Andy Whiteman said...

As I recall, Clarks and Hometown Realty asked for and received tax breaks as part of the same packet. Why single out Bennetti's?

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Clark's are the only ones that legitimately should have been given one. They sell a product that generates sales tax and they employee service people. A real estate company should never be given any form of tax break. Right now these places are a dime a dozen. I'd be surprised if Knabe is employing over one or two people and generates zero sales tax. Knabe only takes from this community. As for the coffee shop it's takes a lot of cups of coffee to equal the sales tax that the sale of one washer or dryer would generate for the city.

Andy Whiteman said...

As far as I know, the requirements for a TIF don't stipulate the type of business. If a TIF is only for a certain type of business, maybe the rules need to be rewritten.

I bet the dollar amount of a "few cups of coffee" really add up. I haven't been in Bennetti's but coffee shops usually sell gourmet coffee by the pound to take home.

I remember Gloria Jean's sold a large selection of bean coffee ground to order as well as mugs and various other stuff. My wife had me buy her Chocolate Hazelnut coffee there.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Has anyone taken a look at 53rd Street to see the new curbs, sidewalks, near Brooking Cemetary?

Pat Casady said...

I don't know if any of you are still reading this section of the blog but,
When it comes to sales taxes, Benetti's Coffee and Clarks Appliance
Will be contributing more to the city coffers than Wal-Mart.
How much sense does that make?