Meeting Before the Meeting by Greg Walters
There is one constant in politics. Every new government feels it is re-inventing the wheel. Talk to a veteran of any School Board, PTA, or City Council, and you will hear the old cliché, “been there, done that”.
Mayor David Bower’s administration is not an exception.
Last Tuesday night he announced that Finance and Municipal Committee meetings and will be held one hour before the regular meetings of the Raytown Board of Aldermen.The intent, to create more participation by all members of the Board of Aldermen, is laudable . . . but it does not work.
Problem is, not everyone can make a six p.m. meeting.
Sources at City Hall tell us that the decision to hold the Committee meetings before regular Board meetings was made at a recent goal setting session of the Board of Aldermen.
Despite a unanimous decision to change the Finance and Municipal Committee meetings to the “meeting before the meeting” format, only five Aldermen were in attendance.
City Administrator Mahesh Sharma stated that a roll call was not necessary at the meeting.
It is, however a matter of public record that previous meetings of the Finance and Municipal Committees (before this format change) not only held roll call votes but also kept published minutes of the proceedings.
It appears that the change is a step backwards from transparency in the handling of the public’s business at City Hall.
Former Mayor Sue Frank tried this same format. Meetings were scheduled for 6:00 p.m. – just as Mayor Bower is now doing. The irregular start time was difficult to make for some members of the Board.
This caused tempers to flare during the regular meeting when questions that were covered in the “meeting before the meeting” were re-asked by those who could not make the 6:00 p.m. start time. Some members would complain that issues had already been discussed in the previous meeting. Even though it was clear all members were not comfortable casting votes without pertinent information being shared from the earlier meeting.
Hardly a fair position to take if someone was at their job and simply could not make it home by 6:00 p.m.
The other problem with the “meeting before the meeting” is that it only allows one hour to discuss the issues. The purpose of a Committee is to delve deep into issues to discover all the facts. One hour is simply not enough time to accomplish that goal.
It is Time for a Serious Look at Residency Requirements
There is also the question as to the real purpose of the “meeting before the meeting”.
All but one of Raytown’s appointed Department heads live outside of the city’s limits.
Some of them have quite a trek to get back and forth to City Hall. The two committee meetings a month means they either stay at city hall until the starting time of those meetings (generally 7:00 p.m.) or, go home and then drive all the way back to Raytown for the meeting.
Of course, this could easily be resolved by requiring senior staff members to reside within the city that pays them so well.
They could start right now. The city is currently advertising to fill the position of Community Development Director vacated by Beth Lynn last month.
By requiring the new hire to reside in Raytown, the Board of Aldermen would be taking a huge step in bring more accountability and transparency to how the city operates.
It is important to remember that all members of the City Council agreed to changing the time to 6:00 p.m. for their Committee Meetings. Yet, only five bothered to show up for the meeting.
Unless ALL members of the City Council attend the 6:00 meetings, there is no point in holding them at that time.
Melson Skips Meeting to Practice for Play
Ward 3 Alderman Charlotte Melson excused herself from last Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of the Raytown Board of Aldermen to practice for a part in the production of “Hello, Dolly” by the Raytown Arts Council.
She did, however, stop by the Board meeting to put in a plug for the play during public comments.
Melson was dressed in a period costume to make the announcement so there is little doubt that she was on her way to rehearsal.
Mayor Bower announced that Melson’s absence was a legitimate excuse for not being at the Board meeting. He also said that Alderman Joe Creamer had an excuse for being asbent though he did not elaborate as to Creamer’s whereabouts.
Anyone interested in the upcoming production of “Hello Dolly” should visit www.raytownartscouncil.com
Board Makes the Right Decision on Residential Care Facility
The Raytown Board of Aldermen deserve recognition for standing up for a residential neighborhood when it voted five (no) to three (yes) to turn down a residential care facility at 9706 East 79th Place.
A more detailed report is contained in Paul Livius’ report following this item.
For the record, here is how the Board members voted:
YES: Christine White, Shane Pardue, Jim Hamilton
NO: Bill VanBuskirk, Michael Lightfoot, Steve Mock, Pat Ertz, Jim Aziere
ABSENT: Joe Creamer, Charlotte Melson
Raytown City Council Meeting - July 5, 2011 by Paul Livius
Under the heading of General Fund (Total Revenue $6,178,158):
- Total Property Tax revenues (including Real Estate Tax, Personal Property Tax, Delinquent Taxes and Penalties, etc) were $1,094,643.
- Sales Tax gross revenues were $1,391,434, less TIF Payments of $334,347, leaving a net of $1,057,087.
- Franchise Fees (Community TV, Gas Service, Aquila, and Telecommunication Franchise) were $2,253,978.
- License and Permit Fees were $83,534
- Intergovernmental Revenue was $580,003
- Charges for City Services (Weed mowing, ambulance fee, impound fees, police reports, etc.) were $512,652
- Fines and Forfeitures (Municipal court fees, Police and Court training, DWI Recoupment fees, etc.) were $439,027
- Miscellaneous Revenue (Interest earnings, investment earnings, etc.) was $157,232
- Park Board Fees $704,151
- Transportation Sales Tax $474,001
- Capital Sales Tax $425,108
- Public Safety Sales Tax $543,393
- Tax Increment Finance $1,254,915
- Sanitary Sewer $2,982,730
- Other $151,840
It was reported that 2nd Quarter revenues were $10,952 less than this time last year.
There were some significant changes in expenditures this year from last year:
- $48,440 increase in Administration expenses due to hiring an Economic Development Director
- $115,742 decrease in Police spending was due to less overtime by the Officers and staff
- $36,948 increase in Finance Department spending due to the costs associated with the Annual Audit
- $50,988 increase in Public Works spending was due to an increase in the cost of electricity for street lights
- $23,010 increase in Community Development was due to the cost of the Community Development Director, but was offset by a savings of $10,898 because of fewer code department expenses
Mr. Willmoth stated there are three Crown Victorias and two Ford Taurus surplus vehicles that will be auctioned off. He said they use Purple Wave, an on-line auction service. This is open to the public.
Jim Hamilton said that he looked over the list of surplus vehicles and wanted to know what the City’s policy was on replacing vehicles. The vehicle from the Community Development Department only has 76,028 miles on it. He said his vehicle has over 176,000 miles and he doesn’t plan on replacing it any time soon. Mr. Noll stated that this vehicle was replaced. Mr. Hamilton asked about the replacement policy. Mr. Noll replied that he thought it was 4 years or 80,000 miles. Mr. Hamilton asked why the city replaces the vehicles so soon. Most people keep their vehicles longer and put a lot more than 75,000 miles on them before getting new ones. Mr. Noll said that the City’s experience was that at 75,000 miles, the vehicles started to need repairs, and it was cheaper to replace rather than repair.
Raytown Board of Aldermen Meeting – July 5, 2011 by Paul Livius
MEMBERS ABSENT: JOE CREAMER, CHARLOTTE MELSON
MEMBERS ABSENT: JOE CREAMER, CHARLOTTE MELSON
The Invocation was given by Cory Thompson of the Beacon Free Will Baptist Church.
During the public comments segment:
- Charlotte Melson addressed the Board, stating that rehearsals for “Hello, Dolly” were starting. This will be produced by the Raytown Arts Council Summer Production at Raytown South High School on July 15-16-17. Tickets can be obtained from the Raytown Hy-Vee. For more information, go to the Raytown Arts Council website.
- Andy Whiteman asked why the finance and budget meeting was held at 6:00pm and not the usual 7:00pm. He asked the Board if their intent was to keep people from observing the meeting. He pointed out that 6:00pm is dinner time. He also said there was a fireworks related fire in Raytown. He reminded the Board that airborne fireworks are banned in Raytown and wanted to know why the ordinance was not enforced.
Mayor Bower said the city lost a very special young lady when a stray bullet, mixed with fireworks, struck her in the neck. He said the city’s condolences went out to the family.
He explained that at the last goal setting session, it was decided to try a different format. They will have the Finance meetings at 6:00, before the regular Board meetings
- The Board voted to appoint Darlene Gregory to the Human Relations Council.
- The Board approved change orders for the Public Works department renovation project. This was for replacing rotted roof decking, concrete curbs, and interior walls. They would also insulate the entry vestibule and use a different primer on the shower areas.
- The Board amended the budget for the 86th and Arlington Sanitary Sewer project. Andy Noll told the Board that currently the sewers require monthly cleaning and still the residents experience a back up of the sanitary sewer into their homes. He estimated the cost to be approximately $90,000.
The Board heard the second reading for the conditional use permit at 9706 E. 79th Place as a residential care facility. The city attorney, Joe Willerth, reported that he had received a valid protest petition. He said he and his office have verified that there are more than the necessary signatures. He told the Board that this means that the resolution will require seven out of 10 votes to pass, instead of the usual simple majority.
Ms. Debra Thomas came before the Board to ask them to vote for the permit to operate her residential care facility. The mayor opened the floor for public comments.
- Brenda VanNoskly said her aunt was 96 years old and was in Ms. Thomas’ facility. She had been receiving good care.
- Roslyn Drafman said Ms. Thomas takes very good care of the residents.
- Andy Whiteman asked that the petition be read into the record.
At this point, the mayor asked Mr. Willerth to read the petition. It said, “We the undersigned are opposed to the Board of Aldermen issuing a conditional use permit at 9706 E. 79th Place, Raytown, MO. This is a residential area that should not be used as commercial establishments. We feel allowing this conditional use permit would have a negative impact on the character of the neighborhood.”
- Mr. Yocum addressed the Board and said he was opposed to the permit. When he moved to Raytown, he understood all the homes in his neighborhood were single family homes. He thinks this will decrease the property values.
- Barb Schapla asked the Board if this business fits in with the neighborhood. She said they would be operating a business that will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In 2007, the Board voted to keep day care centers, residential care facilities, and short term care facilities 1,200 feet apart. This was so they didn’t dilute a neighborhood with care facilities. If the Board allows this, what will keep another property on the street or down the street from being purchased and another care facility operated? She pointed out that there are many places in Raytown zoned for multi-family and perhaps that would be a better fit. The residents in the neighborhood are not concerned with the level of care at the proposed facility, but with land use. She asked the Board to deny the permit.
- Herb Braben said the issue is not good health care, but whether a business should be allowed in a residential neighborhood. If the Board allows this, then any business could be allowed in the neighborhoods.
Alderman Perdue suggested the vote should be postponed until the full Board was present.
Alderman Ertz asked about the traffic in the neighborhood. He wanted to know if traffic would increase due to the nurses and staff coming into the area, as well as doctors, pharmacy deliveries, hairdressers, etc.
Alderman Mock said that in December, 2010, the City Staff became aware that Ms. Thomas was operating her Adult Day Care Facility. He said they found out she had been operating it for five years without a city license.
Alderman White said the city has a comprehensive plan for mixed uses in areas of the city, including residential. She looked into traffic counts and there are not high traffic counts on a daily basis. She feels this fits what is allowable in Raytown. She made a motion to approve the application.
Alderman Aziere said the City needs to take into consideration the residents who live there before approving the application. The residents’ feelings and homes should be given equal credit when looking at the application.
Alderman Ertz said it’s not the care, but the where. Many residents have lived in their homes a long time as single family residential homes. The Staff could find many properties that fit the bill and having two facilities next door goes against the intensity we should have. There are wonderful places in town for this facility to locate to.
Alderman Pardue asked Mr. Ertz where he thought a better place for this facility would be. Mr. Ertz said he thought it would be better in an area where there are apartment complexes and multi-family homes.
Alderman Aziere said we already have several facilities in Raytown that are in areas zoned for commercial. There is an ordinance that says there can’t be two facilities this close together. When one takes two homes and makes them into a business, it’s no longer single family, it’s commercial.
Mayor Bower asked Ms. Thomas if she wanted to postpone the vote until there was a full Board. Ms. Thomas said no. She wanted the vote that night. The vote: 3 yes – 5 no.
The Board heard the second reading for the Ordinance amending Chapter 13 of the City code prohibiting dismantled, inoperable, junked, or unlicensed vehicles in areas used for purposes other than residential. Alderman VanBuskirk said this was an issue that had needed to be addressed for a long time. When the vote was taken, the ordinance passed.
The Board heard the first reading of an Ordinance establishing a procedure to disclose potential conflicts of interest. The proper operation of municipal government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of the governmental structure; that public office not be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government.
The meeting was adjourned.
What Type of Fat do you use for Cooking? by Jenn Walters
A few days ago we looked at the pros and cons of butter versus margarine and buttery spreads. Which got us to thinking about fat - dietary fat, that is. And you know what? Dietary fat seriously rocks. While you obviously don't want to go overboard on it, healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet . . . . continue reading.
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