A Look Back by Greg Walters
Raytown has had four separate attempts at writing a Charter. Of those four, the last attempt was truly a grass roots effort.
Interest was high in the community when the last Charter effort was made. Over 30 individuals petitioned to have their name placed on the ballot to serve on the Commission. When the smoke had cleared twelve Commissioners were elected. It was an impressive list of community leaders.
It included current and past members of the City Council, a former Mayor, a former state representative, a former newspaper publisher/editor, business leaders from the private sector and a retired school teacher.
During the roll out of the campaign to create a Charter Commission there were many profound statements from City Hall endorsing the need for change. Mayor Sue Frank told the Board of Aldermen in public session that a Charter was the most important issue before the voters in the last 50 years. Then Alderman John Wiley sagely announced that “now was the time” for the city to write a charter.
All of that changed when the vote total of who would make up the Charter Commission was tallied. Simply put, the Mayor’s candidates did not fair well.
The first sign of discord came when City Administrator Curt Wenson arranged for a meeting between the City Attorney and the newly elected members of the Charter Commission.
Many on the Charter Commission were anxious to begin their work. They also wanted the public to know that the Commission was independent of City Hall. The public venue in which Wenson set up the meeting was perceived by some as a move to show that City Hall was in control of the process.
The city attorney attempted to give a report but was politely told her services were not necessary.
Support and communication between City Hall and the Charter Commission became stilted and rare.
With its position in the community established the Charter Commission went to work.
Public hearings were held at various locations throughout the city. Charter Commissioners brought their ideas to the table. A special sub-committee of the Commission was given the task of reviewing all the proposals.
The final product was reviewed by the members and approved by a vote of nine to two with one member absent.
The proposed Charter was not especially unique. It allowed for initiative, referendum and recall. It also had a clause in it that required that senior department heads reside within city limits.*
Mayor Sue Frank and her supporters, who had been deeply disappointed when her candidates did not win a majority position on the Commission, went public with her opposition to the Charter. Using the Raytown Post and its owner/publisher Randy Battagler as her bully pulpit, she orchestrated a campaign of dirty tricks that included attempts to block distribution of copies of the proposed charter.
The angst and division of the campaign spilled over to City Council meetings. When a member of the Board of Aldermen (who also sat on the Charter Commission) tried to read the location where the public could obtain copies of the proposed Charter, he was shouted down and ruled out of order by Mayor Frank.
Local merchants told of visits from members of the Board of Aldermen who opposed the Charter “requesting” that they refuse to distribute the books. Other merchants told of individuals who tried to walk off with multiple copies of the Charter books.
I personally viewed the extent of the outright thievery of books one evening while visiting the Raytown Public Library. The library had set up a table for distribution of the Charter books. I knew that a case of books had been delivered to the library earlier that day. When I inquired as to where the books were I was told that the Mayor had removed them because they had typographical errors in them.
The books were never returned.
Finally, Election Day arrived. Voters had their say. The negative campaign waged by Mayor Sue Frank and her supporters was successful. The Charter was defeated.
An interesting footnote to this story is the issue that so deeply divided the Charter Commission from the Mayor and her supporters was one of residency for appointed city department heads.
Within one year of the Charter election, four of the city’s senior department heads had moved on to other jobs. Only one of them lived in Raytown.
Were there mistakes in the Charter that were easily exploited by the opposition? Not really. There were differences of opinion – the anti-Charter crowd was unified and able to exploit divisions within the community that had been there before the campaign began.
The Charter Commission had done their homework. They had put together a workable document that would have strengthened Raytown and made its governmental structure more responsive to the public.
The Commission was not formed to run a political campaign. In the end the difference was a one-sided political campaign. Those who put forth the effort carried the day.
*At the time, six of the city’s department heads lived in Raytown. Today, none of the city’s appointed department heads live within the city limits.
Watch for The Paul Livius Report later this week for complete coverage of Tuesday night's Raytown City Council meeting.
Win a “Go! Go! Girls” Doll by Erin Whitehead
Now that I have a kiddo, I’m always on the lookout for fun, educational toys. So when an email from Go! Go! Sports Girls Dolls landed in my inbox, I got genuinely excited. Unlike some dolls that don’t exactly set the best example... Continue reading...
Illegal Signage on the Increase
While driving around Raytown this past week we noticed that there has been an increase of illegally posted signs on telephone poles throughout Raytown. Most of the signs are red and white and advertise low loan rates for homes. Most noticeable were two signs just blocks from City Hall located at 63rd Street and Raytown Trafficway and at 63rd street and Woodson.
Certainly our codes department drives by these signs on a daily basis. If they are not removed by this time next week we will begin publishing pictures of where the signs are located so they will be able to locate them.
O’Hara Basketball Team Goes to 3 - 0 by Brother Richard Geimer
On December 2, behind the 35 point scoring by Daniel Hurtt, the Archbishop O'Hara High School boys basketball team won their third game of the season when they handed the Pembroke Hill Raiders an 83-73 defeat.
In the first half the two teams traded points with a close 30-28 showing, but the Celtics obtained a little more breathing room by outpointing their opponents 22-17 in the third quarter.
For the fans who wanted to see a lot of scoring, the teams combined for a total of 59 fourth quarter points before the game ended with O'Hara ahead by ten.
Rayshaun McDonald contributed 22 points and Kyle Baker had 17.
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