Sunday, January 27, 2013

Greg Walters

Public Wants Better Access to City Hall BY GREG WALTERS
It began as a simple request by an Alderman of the newly appointed Public Information Officer, Brenda Gustafson. She had just finished her presentation to the City Council in which she laid out broad plans to increase the city’s transparency through the use of the internet, television and print media.

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Aziere asked for her to investigate broadcasting City Council Meetings on U-Verse. He said he had received many requests for expanding the broadcast of public meetings in Raytown. Currently only subscribers to Comcast can watch City Council meetings on their televisions.

Mayor Bower interrupted the conversation by saying the City looked into ATT U-verse two years ago and the cost was $15,000.  He then ended the conversation by telling Mr. Aziere they could discuss the subject after the meeting.

Aziere is right on the money on this one.  I can tell you from my time on the Board that Raytowners want to know what is going on in their town. Even though I am no longer on the City Council I still am approached by people telling me they miss watching the meetings because U-Verse does broadcast.

The comments of many people on last week’s blog re-enforce that position. A sampling of comments follows this story.

What Do Other Cities Do?
Paul Livius did a quick survey of surrounding communities. He found that ten area cities broadcast City Council meetings via U-Verse. It is interesting to note that City Administrator Mahesh Sharma can watch Council meetings from the comfort of his home in Raymore on U-Verse.

Here is a list of cities that broadcast on U-Verse:

Blue Springs, MO
Grandview, MO
Johnson County, KS
Kansas City, MO
Lawrence, KS
Lee’s Summit, MO 
Olathe, KS
Overland Park, KS
Raymore, MO
Greenwood, MO

Garth Bare
Why Comcast Broadcasts Council Meetings BY GARTH BARE
Long time city residents will remember that Raytown was one of the first cities in the metropolitan area to have Cable TV. The service was called Raytown Cable Television. It was a “mom and pop” operation. When they were approached by a consortium interest in taking over the operation they understandably jumped at the opportunity to sell.

The owners of Raytown Cable Television asked for an early renewal of their franchise agreement with the city to enhance the value of their company. They asked for a 20 year extension.  

I, along with Ward 1 Alderman Greg Walters, saw an opportunity to enhance the value of the deal for all of the citizens in Raytown.

We asked that the franchise agreement be limited to five years. More importantly, we asked for an agreement with the cable company to provide a “Government Channel” without charge, along with equipment to broadcast city council meetings and a system to post public announcements when Council were not being aired.

The City Council followed our lead. Greg and I were pleasantly surprised when the cable provider donated state of the art color television broadcasting equipment to the City of Raytown.

As it turned out the donation paid dividends for the Cable Company. They were granted a ten year extension of their franchise agreement and a public relations coup that became the benchmark for other communities to follow.

Personally, I am puzzled by Mayor Bower’s insistence that it would cost $15,000 to broadcast on U-Verse. For one thing the figure he quotes is conveniently too round.

I have not seen the current franchise agreement between the city and the U-Verse, but am certain that it can be amended. Even if there is cost involved it would be worth the goodwill and increased public participation in Raytown’s governmental process.

Finally there is the fact that many other cities broadcast on U-Verse. Don’t the people of Raytown deserve as much?

Paul Livius
 Speaking of Transparency BY PAUL LIVIUS

DeleteI listened carefully to the goals set by the newly Appointed Public Information Director, Brenda Gustafson. She spoke eloquently of enhancing the public access to Raytown City Hall. 
We believe her to be sincere in her goals. And I wish her the best in her efforts.

But something happened later in the meeting that shows she is going to have a long row to hoe in reaching her goes.

The subject was a business license application of a Mr. Greg Wagner to open a car dealership on 350 Highway. The property was vacated and in disrepair.

Council members debated back and forth – finally, a visibly angry Mayor Bower called for a recess. Council members unofficially disappeared from the dais and allegedly met in the hallway behind the council chambers. 

Ten minutes later the Mayor reconvened the meeting. With very little discussion, the Council approved the license with conditions of improvements to the property.

The Missouri Sunshine Law require ALL the public’s business be discussed in open session*.
As I wrote earlier. When it comes to “transparency”, Ms. Gustafson is going to have a long row to hoe with this bunch.

*Legal and Personnel matters are the only exception. The licensing of a business is NOT a legal matter under the Sunshine Law.

Raytowner’s Speak Out
The following comments are a sampling of those published on the Raytown Report last week.

 Posted 1/13/12
Really, Mr. Mayor?  Is there some reason you didn’t want to discuss it out in the open?  Could it be you were afraid the other aldermen would agree with Mr. Aziere?
We, the residents of Raytown would like to know why you are against spending $15,000 to broadcast the meetings to more people.  After all, you were willing to spend $56,000 to renovate City Hall.  You were willing to spend $15,000 on new carpet at City Hall.  And, of course, you were willing to give a $30,000 pay raise to one person.
We would like to know why you are willing to spend money on things that only benefit you and your friends, but you are unwilling to spend money to increase the transparency of the City.

Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:15 AM
I don't know about the rest of you but I do not think it is fair that the city favors Comcast users of U-Verse user. We pay just as much tax on our television bill as they do. We should get to watch city hall meetings too.

Hey BOA -- do the right thing. Broadcast your meetings on U-Verse.

Posted January 21, 2013 at 2:42 PM
What about those of us that have Direct TV or Dish we would also like to see the council meetings. I have not seen a council meeting for 4 years or more as we have Direct TV, why, it was cheaper than Comcast. Shouldn't everyone in our city be able to watch those meetings and see how our tax money is being spent. Why should it be just a select few? From what I hear I keep missing a lot of Boewers rudness to the people who elected him.

Posted January 21, 2013 at 6:57 PM
I have ATT U-Verse and I pay the franchise fee, same as Comcast users. City hall can't say there is not money for it. The franchise fees payed by the ATT franchise fee should cover any cost to the city. All you people that have ATT, check your bills and you'll see you pay the same franchise fee. It's time we start demanding that we get what we pay for.

Posted January 21, 2013 at 8:09 PM
I saw on the blog where someone wrote they paid the same franchise fee as Comcast subscribers. I did some checking, and the ATT U-verse franchise fee is a little over $3.50 per month. That works out to about $42 per year. If only 500 people in Raytown have ATT U-Verse, that is $21,000 per year in franchise fees from these fine folks.

Now, please explain to us why the City can’t afford to broadcast the City Council meetings on ATT U-verse if the cost is only $15,000.

Posted January 21, 20-13 at 9:10 PM

Let's see. A $30 thousand dollar a year raise for the City Administrator who refuses to live in Raytown, but no money available for Raytown citizens who want to watch channel 7, but do not have Comcast.

Mayor, do you not see a problem here, or are you really that out of touch with the people who live in Raytown?

C'mon Man!!!

 Posted January 21, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Over the air TV is priced much better. Namely FREE! I didn't have money to waste on receiving TV. I felt it was discrimination to air the BOA meetings on Comcast so only the rich could watch it. If meetings are aired on pay TV, the should also be aired on antenna TV for us poor people who don't have money to waste on TV. That is why I have had issues with the city claiming putting it on TV (which I and many others couldn't receive) was legal notice. TV is not legally legal notice. Legal notice must be published in a newspaper of general circulation.

8:09 PM You may pay $3.50 in franchise fees but I am sure it varies higher or lower depending on what service you have subscribed to. Add on a few premium channels and it will go up.

Rita Bennett
Rita Bennett Files for Alderman in Ward 4
I am Rita Bennett and your candidate for Alderman for the 4th Ward.  I have lived in Raytown for 15 years and first moved here because of location and stayed because I felt safe and comfortable here.  I have been the resident manager of Raytown Village Apartments for 8 years, having been Assistant Manager the prior 2 years.

I have been active in the community, was a volunteer for the Reaching for Tomorrow effort and a member of the original Tree Board for three years, serving as Chairman for one year.
I am seeking a position on the City Council because I am interested in how issues are being handled at City Hall and am concerned by recent events that have taken place.

I feel strongly that Raytown can be in a leading position in the Metro area as to providing a wonderful place to live and having all the amenities people want close to their homes.  There is already a forward movement to attracting all types of business which is the driver to bringing people into the city, and I would like to see Raytown be a place that offers neighborhoods that welcome people to come in either singly or with their families.

There is no reason why Raytown cannot be a jewel in the crown of the greater Kansas City area.  The location here is very attractive in many ways, especially in the economic times we find ourselves in.  I would work hard to bring Raytown to the attention of young people just starting out as to buying a home and settling in for a lifetime.

Keeping finances in mind, Raytown could invest a relatively small amount of money in a city-wide effort to connect all areas in a theme such as the stonework and street lights already installed at 63rd Street and Gregory and Raytown Road.  These places have a finished look, and where there is room a fountain could be added.  While we are enjoying the benefits of being stronger commercially then can we not extend this to the neighborhoods and areas where we live?

Election day is April 2nd and I would very much appreciate your vote.  If you are not registered yet then you can do so at the Public Library, 6131 Raytown Road, phone# 353.2052. until Mar 6th for this election.  If you go to all that trouble, then please vote for me! 

Contact Information: Email:  
Oh Flu, I Hate You BY ERIN
Why is it that we only appreciate our healthy bodies to their fullest when we’re not at our healthiest? It seems that we take for granted all of their natural abilities when something knocks us down. We’ve seen it with Jenn and her broken bum. We’ve seen it with Tish and her darn acid reflux. We’ve seen it with... Continue reading

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Anonymous said...

That 10 minute meeting sounds like the Mayour took the Board back and told them how to vote!

We need some independent minded Council people.

This bunch has only learned how to do as they are told.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Greg for the informative report on the city's hard headed refusal to air the Government Channel on U-verse. We can all rest assured that the city will never waiver, never fail on disappointing the poor fools who actually thought city hall had our best interest in mind. In fact, give the $15000 to the city administrator as another big "salary adjustment" That commute from Raymore must be brutal...

Anonymous said...

As much taxpayer dollars as our city leaders
spend and give away I wonder why they don't
take a trip down Grandview's main street?
I never liked Grandview very much mainly
because they were my high school rivals but,
they have turned their downtown into a show
piece. The lights, sidewalks and just plain
beautiful design. Now there's a town that seems
to work for the people.

Anonymous said...

There is some discrimination involved. If BOA meetings can appear on Comcast, they should appear on ALL paid providers. There is no reason this can't be included in the franchise agreements. Just don't try to tell people that something broadcast on TV is LEGAL NOTICE because it isn't. Someone thought that I was dumb enough to believe that!

I have inquired about these issues from Department Heads and received responses of
1) Meetings can't be broadcast on the internet because it will eat up too much broadband. Also in my opinion, some people don't have a high enough speed connection to watch video and some ISPs throttle video and/or high usage.
2) The equipment is from Comcast and cannot be used on another carrier due to contract.

I agree with #1 but #2 is hogwash to put it politely.

Why is U-Verse the only carrier in question? Why not all if it is PUBLIC access?

If it really costs the city to broadcast, why not sell commercials to recover the cost? This would be an advantage to allow local merchants to be able to advertise to only Raytown customers at a lower cost than advertising metro wide. Small business could buy time at reasonable prices.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

I justed ask my Alderperson who the tenant was for the 40k sq ft single retail in the old first baptist church location. Since JMC Realty who purchased the property (for $650k)is still in "due process" to close the deal one of the alder-people respectfully declined to disclose the information. The other has not yet responded nor has the Community developement director. I read a letter to the editor in the Dispatch indicating it was a Wal-mart Neighborhood Grocery (i have heard this rumor before alone with a Dollar General Store which is also owned by Wal-Mart) I don't see DG bringign 90 jobs to Raytown nor do i see them in 40k sq ft. So we have to assume it is Wal-mart.

We do not need another Wal-mart.
This is not the information shared with citizen about how the "mix use" of this area would be.

I think the words Up-scale and boutique have been used to discribe the possible tenants of this location.

Wonder why Wal-Mart would want to put a grocery store in Raytown (less than 1.5 miles from the 40 HWy Super Center) - could it have anything to do with the Rock-Island Transportation Hub?

I guess we should be greatfully that CURRENTLY they are not asking to use tax payer money.

Join me in the fight to let the citizens of of Raytown, those that warm seats in city hall and those that want to be elected know this is not what we want and its time the citizens win.


Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but, Rita Bennett is living in the Land of Oz. We don't need fancy street lights ect. The code violations need to taken care of first. You would be amazed what that would do for the image of the city. Shes has the cart before the horse.

Anonymous said...

You are right it is time to DUMP all of these incumbent aldermen. These four that are left on the ballot are the poorest excuse for elected officials that I have seen since I have lived in Raytown. (Been here a long time) Just keep talking to people about the $30,000 dollar mistake. People that I talk to can't believe that ANYONE would do such a DUMB thing it these hard economic times. Let's vote out these LIBERAL REPUBLICANS next April and put some real folks in that will watch our tax dollars better.

Anonymous said...

I never heard of an "upscale" Walmart.

If Sam is correct about Walmart opening a grocery store in the green space, how much will it cost ther taxpayers of Raytown? I question intent to operate said store for any length of time. Walmart could open the store, collect the TIF and then close the store in a manner similiar to Sav-A-Lot.

We are thinking of stores as making a profit which is the reason most people go into business. But some businesses open stores as tax write offs. Walmart made out like a bandit on the other Raytown store with taxpayers paying them to open a store.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Dollar General is not owned by WalMart. It is a publicly owned company partially owned by Warren Buffet.

Anonymous said...

A community center in the middle of the community would be a great ideal. There are a lot of town down areas that have been renovated around the area. All except Raytown of course. O sure, we hear stories about how it is going to happen, but after years of being told lies, I do not believe anything until I see it.

One of the problems of course is the budget. City hall cannot substain giving out $30,000 year raises and hire a $60,000 a year PIO, which are not really needed.

$90,000 a year could of hired extra code enforcement, PD, EMS, U-verse, etc...

I see tax increases in the future to support this waste of taxpayer dollars.


Anonymous said...

I went by the Raytown Plaza yestereday to look at all the new shops that are opening. Guess what. They are not opening. I don't know who gives Randy at the Raytown Times his copy but if you say stuff is supposed to be open soon it would be a good idea to do a reality check before printing the story.

Anonymous said...

Greg. You should change your headlines from Public Wants Better Access to City Hall to Public DESERVES Better Access to City Hall.

That place is like a closed secret society. It sickens me the way the Mayor and his cronies sold out to Walmart in Downtown. So typical. To avoid having to pay for any street improvements walmart isn't purchasing any of the buildings on 63rd Street!

From what I hear, the lucky property owners on Raytown Road will make out okay.

Guess that's what they call progress at city hall.

I call it being sold out by your own government.

The only ray of hope I see in the future is that there are NEW people running for City Council this time around.

Pat Casady said...

To Anonymous 5:46,
I own C&C Starters on Raytown Road.
I have not been offered a nickel for my
property. I only talked to the rep. from
J.M.C. once and he was vague as to what was
going on. Yes, I have heard the rumors but,
I have been down this road three other times
and every time they fell through. I don't
think anybody has anything to worry about.

Anonymous said...

What have your current aldermen done about codes? NOTHING, NOTHING and NOTHING!!! Vote AGAINST Hamilton, White, VanBuskirk and Mock. These are the real problems at city hall.

Anonymous said...

You are right we don't need another Wal-mart anything. We are already paying through the noise with the one we already and they will want another TIF as well. It's because of wal-mart that our city is is in the fix we are already in,why would we want another one?

Anonymous said...

Those of you who think that this mayor is going to do anything about the codes problems in our city you are dreaming. He's all talk and NO NO NO action. He talks big but when he turns his back on you he is laughing at you becaues he thinks he has you buffaloed. He wants no waves that might keep him from being elected. He wants those of us who have to deal with it on a daily bases in our neighborhoods to do it for him. That is not our job if we have to do that job then we should turn in a bill for our time and the hard feelings that will result in our neighborhoods.

Another thing, if this mayor is not going to make the whole city council meeting opening to the public ("ie" meeting in the hall)then it's time to call the Attorney Generals Office. This mayor has many secrets that need to be out in the open.

Anonymous said...

Rita Bennett are we going to have yellow brick streets too?

Anonymous said...

Check out the story on page A4 of this morning's Kansas City Star. The story is titled DA RIPS SHAWNEE OFFICIALS OVER OPEN MEETINGS LAW. Makes you think about the last Council meeting when the Mayor called for a recess. All of the Aldermen disappeared into the hallway behind the Council Chambers and re-appeared 10 minutes later with very little discussion to cast their votes.

Here is the link:

Anonymous said...

Mayor Bower should be taken to task over his open meetings violation. The aldermen are also subject to fines and punishment. We need be contacting the Jackson County prosecutor. Another nail in the coffin of these 4 incumbents running for re-election.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion VanBuskirk and Mock are very active in a clean and presentable Raytown. Both are known to go around on their own time and removing illegal signs as well as helping with other issues. I commend both and if they were in Ward 2, I would have voted for them.

Property vales in Raytown are way down and over-accessed creating a falser illusion that value is there and ripping off the owners who can't afford high taxes.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Here is an outside-the-box idea of what Raytown truly needs, a full-time Mayor.

Personally, I like David Bower. I don't think he has any malicious intent behind his actions. He, like most of us, is overworked. Balancing a full-time job as an architect, family life, and running a city is not an easy task for anyone. In a city lagging behind as Raytown, I think its darn near impossible.

If a Mayor is putting enough time in to meet the daily demands of this city, it necessitates full-time commitment. Find $30-$50 thousand dollars and add it to the Mayor's current salary with the caveat that the Mayor not have a second full-time job. $30-$50 thousand in a multimillion dollar budget with room to give a raise to the city administrator is not unfeasible.

By offering $45-$65 thousand dollars per annum, a retired professional might be willing to take on the task and help turn this city around. Until such a change is made, it is unfair to expect attention be paid to all of the issues brought to the public's attention by this blog.

How to accomplish such a change? ... I have no idea.

-"A Clever Individual"

Anonymous said...

Are you writing about the same MAyor Bower I watch on Council meeting broadcasts? He does not strike me as a nice guy.

Anonymous said...

-"A Clever Individual" makes a valid point. Long ago I said that Raytown needed a full time Mayor. I doubt anyone would work for $45,000 to $60,000. Finding a retired person to do that is wishful thinking.

Having both a Mayor and a City Administrator (if the Mayor is full time) is a duplication of jobs and and salaries. I feel Mahesh has done a superior job but I fault him for refusing to move to Raytown so he would know what it is like to live in the hood. If Raytown is able to go to a full time mayor, the CA's job is unneeded and should be eliminated or downgraded to a grant locator.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

I fault Mr. Mahesh for breaking his word when he promised he would move to Raytown after three years. Even worse is the Boards decision to give him a $30,000 pay in crease when he broke his word.

I am not sure which is worse. The liar or the enabler.

Anonymous said...

David Bower is a BULLY. This guy knows nothing about governing, so he intimidates people into doing things his was. HE NEEDS TO BE STOPPED. VanBuskirk and Mock are phonies. They pretend to care about codes but then when they get to the critical votes(the $30,000 mistake) we see them wasting our tax dollars. Get real folks, vote these two guys OUT.

Anonymous said...

Thew enablers are worse because they allowed that act to take place. The voters are responsible for the enablers. Hopefully they wil get off their duffs and vote in the next city election.

Andy Whiteman

Anonymous said...

Bower a nice guy? You have to be kidding!! He is nothing more than a bully. He uses his size to push people around. I am sick and tired of all these close door meetings. I have lived here 55 years and remember when this town was booming. Now it is a dump and Bower is the main problem not wanting to inforce codes. I can't move due to the depressed hosuing values and I am not giving my house away at below market value. I checked to see about refinancing and J.B. Nutter saw that I lived in Raytown and he said that is the worse town for fallen property values and high realestate taxes. Remember our current brainless adler people have voted to raise our realestate taxes again in 2013 so we can pay for more of the inter city trash to send their kids to our defunct school district that will soon loose their acredidation.

Anonymous said...

I watched the re-run of the last council meeting on television the other night and I heard something very instering. The discussion was on Gear Automotive and the code violations on the property. Alderman Creamer said he had called violations in on the property back in the fall and then continue with this comment," are we that far behind on looking at violations?" As you might guess the good 'ole mayor shut him down real fast. I think we the people of Raytown deserve an answer to that question. We all know codes has major problems and the mayor is just down right burying his head on this. Mr. Mayor you had better get a handle on this and I mean now or there is going to be hell to pay. People are mad, VERY MAD they would like to see your head roll on this one. If you don't have the guts to stand up and do your job then resign people won't be upset as a matter fact there will probably be dancing in the street. Get the job done!!!

Anonymous said...

King Mayor Bower should quit sucking the air out of every room he enters. Instead of feeding his ego he should fully fund the police Department.

Anonymous said...

Take back the $30,000 raise they gave the city Manager and spend it on putting cops on the street.