Sunday, February 1, 2015


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Lee Gray   1949 – 2015
Lee Gray, former owner of the Raytown Post passed away last week after suffering from inoperable terminal cancer.

Lee Gray made Raytown his home in 1987 when he bought the Raytown Post. He continued publishing the Post until he sold it in 2001. To say that Mr. Gray left his mark on Raytown would be an understatement.

He was not shy about expressing his opinion on public matters and openly feuded with some elected officials through his weekly newspaper, the Raytown Post.

I can remember when I first met Lee Gray. To say our relationship was off to a rocky start would be an understatement. He was very liberal, I am pretty conservative.
In time, we would patch up our differences. In 2005 we ran on the same slate of candidates for the Raytown Charter Commission. Both Lee and I were elected and I supported his choice to serve as Chairman of the Commission.

Lee Gray was more than just a newspaper owner/publisher. He was an accomplished writer as well. I remember him sharing copies of stories with me for which he had received awards. It was a side of Lee Gray that many people did not  know.

Few people know that Lee offered advised and guidance when I first started up the Raytown Report. He was also helpful in writing an occasional article for the publication.

Lee Gray’s notoriety and personality left a mark in Raytown that helped define our community. You did not forget him once you met him. He was well known in the metropolitan area. The Kansas City Star headlined Lee in an issue many years ago.

Our relationship may have started off rocky but ended in a feeling of mutual respect. I am grateful for the opportunity to have known Lee Gray.

Storm Clouds Gather 
Over City Hall
If some of the comments of the Raytown Board of Aldermen meeting are an indication, there may be a stormy meeting Tuesday night over an application by former Mayor Sue Frank to participate in what is called on the Board’s Agenda the “Sixth Amended Development Plan” for Downtown Raytown.

Sue Frank’s State Farm Insurance business is located dead center in the Downtown Raytown area. She has spent in excess of $110,000 of her own money renovating the interior of her offices without a tax abatement or assistance from the city.  Now, she has plans to revamp the exterior of the building that include a structure that will give the appearance of a two story building. Cost of the planned exterior improvements is set at $35,000.

In her request, Frank has asked for an abatement of city and school district property taxes on her property.
If approved, she will join the following businesses located in Downtown Raytown that have received similar abatements. The list includes, Benetti’s Coffee House, Clark’s Appliance, the Newz Room Café, Gary Knabe’s Coldwell Banker office, and Center 63 Sav-A-Lot, to name a few.

Some observers believe the comments made are the result of a continuing feud started over an application by Walmart to build a grocery store on the lot commonly known as the Green Space.

Frank joined many Raytowners in voicing her displeasure with manipulation by the city of design standards for the Walmart development. The retail giant eventually withdrew its application.

Comments at the last meeting by Aldermen Creamer, VanBuskirk, and Mayor David Bower (all of whom supported the Walmart development) were, to say the least, passive aggressive in nature.

Creamer wondered out loud if the time for accepting the applications had passed.* Bower and Van Buskirk wondered why the School District and Fire Board were not at the meeting since they stood to lose so much tax revenue if the proposal passed.
The Board voted to continue discussion at its next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 3rd.
*The city's Development Director, Tom Cole, told the Board the application was well within the city's timeline requirements.

Former Mayor Sue Frank has been a community leader who has shown she not only “talks the talk” but can also “walk the walk” when it comes to boosting pride in Raytown.

She has made application for a small tax abatement (it only affect the city’s property tax and school district property tax) that has routinely been given to over half a dozen other small businesses in Downtown Raytown.

Sue Frank is a second generation owner of the family business (her father originally started the business in 1959). Her commitment to Downtown Raytown is very clear. Her business is located dead center in Downtown
Raytown and will definitely be an improvement to the streetscape.

The Walmart fiasco was over two years ago. It is time for those elected officials at city hall to put the past behind them. They lost the round on Walmart. There is no reason to lose this round on redevelopment of Downtown Raytown.

How To Dress Up Your Desserts and Keep Your Resolutions
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Anonymous said...

RIP Lee; you will be missed!

Anonymous said...

A tax abatement reguardless of who recieves it is still a tax abatement it's that plain and simple.
Big business, small business or home owner it's still a tax abatement.

Anonymous said...

Lee Gray was an interesting man and sometimes misunderstood. We would have lunch often as I got to know him through varied conversations. I can still see him out for his walks down Raytown Road. Here's to ya Lee!!

Anonymous said...

Anybody find it interesting that Randy Battagler
would have nice things to say about Lee Gray after
Randy shafted Lee out of what was due him for buying
the Raytown paper from Lee?
Randy claimed bankruptcy and Lee got very little of
the money he sold the paper for.

Pat Casady said...

If there is a tax break available then Sue should take
full advantage of it. Don’t any of you tell us that “if” you
could get a bit of a tax break you wouldn’t take it.
There should be no debate on the subject. The tax
abatement is there for just this kind of thing. If Sue
doesn’t get the abatement then they should take it
away from every other business that has received it.
This should not based upon who is applying for the
abatement. This is for exactly what our so called
leaders said the abatement should be used for. To
help make Raytown a better looking town, and to
give business owners the incentive to do just that.

Martha said...

Well, Lee Gray isn't the only one that got shafted. Randy sold subscriptions to the first paper he owned. After he got several hundred subscriptions, he went out of business and kept the money. Randy Battagler is not an honest or ethical man.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Greg for giving such a nice tribute to Lee Gray on his demise. You can tell you were raised right. We celebrate birth and remember our dead; both respectfully.

Anonymous said...

What I like about these particular tax abatements is that they are small. They don't amount to whole lot of money and are specifically for small businesses. Unlike the Walmart TIF giveaway the city did on 350 highway, the people are small businessmen and women who want to see Raytown succeed. They live here. They shop here. They offer their businesses services here.

Much better than absentee owners and corporate tax breakes.

This one makes some sense.

Cadie said...

Lee was my journalism professor and my first boss when he hired me as a reporter for the Raytown Post. He was a colorful character that left a great impact on my life. He not only taught me to write, but also taught me to stand on my own two feet. He wrote me a few weeks ago letting me know that he didn't have much longer to live. He said not to be sad...that he lived well...and that he was proud of me. I will never forget him.

Doc said...

Lee Gray was a good man. I loved debating Fire Department issues over a couple of beers at the old Extra Innings bar.
He was always fun to be around.
Lee you will be missed.

Captain Doc Summers
Member of the Raytown Fire Department.

Anonymous said...

A man lives and dies but once . Thank You Greg for allowing this weeks blogs to be about the man Lee Gray; his life and death.
A legacy he left behind in so many hearts and minds