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What all the fuss is about

What is the core issue in a lot of these recent letters/press releases is that the Fire District is asserting that they are not getting their fair share of tax revenue. Get being loosely defined and both not getting money and being charged too much in some cases. This is about the TIF tax abatement for what can be called the Wal-Mart development. The details are complex, and since I am personally not a lawyer, tax accountant, or knowledgeable in TIFs and the details of the Wal-Mart TIF, I am very hesitant to judge the merits of either sides arguments.

Even the flow of money is complex, in that in some cases instead of not getting money, the Fire District is paying from the taxes it gets back to the city to pay for its share of the TIF. Is the amount correct, should they be liable for all phases of the project, did they agree to some aspects, is their explicate agreement requires? These are all questions that may take a judge to decide in the end.

Somewhere there is a quote about sitting on the fence getting you shot by both sides, but I cannot seem to find it.

We All Want Good Teachers

Guest editorial by Nicole Nickens:

Teacher educators support higher standards for admission into teacher education programs, and value rigorous and valid assessment of education students.  However, much controversy has arisen surrounding interpretation of the initial results of the new tests for future teachers.

Faulty conclusions are based on low pass rates by prospective teacher candidates on a series of new standardized licensure tests called Missouri Content Assessments.

When a test produces a very high fail rate, a good educator doesn’t say, “My students are all stupid,” but rather, “I did not adequately help my students understand this content” or “This instrument is not a valid measure of the content/skills I intended to measure.”

The first groups administered the Missouri Content Assessments took a test that is not a valid measure of what they learned in their education programs because the curriculum in those programs was aligned to Praxis, the testing series formerly used for licensure.

This is like teaching your teen to drive an automatic, and then expecting him to drive a stick shift during his driver’s test. Your teen understands how to drive and may actually be skillful, but he won’t be able to show off those skills using unfamiliar equipment.

Blaming the test takers for a high fail rate is as incorrect as assuming that the high pass rate on the previous licensure test indicated the test was “too easy”. Does a high pass rate automatically mean a test is too easy?  Consider:

  • University of Missouri reports that in their Physical Therapy program, the licensure examination [ultimate] pass rate is 100 percent according to Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (2010, 2011, 2012).
  • Washington University in St. Louis boasts a 96 percent pass rate for Internal Medicine Board Exams 2012-2014.
  • In Missouri, 88.34 percent of candidates with a bachelor’s degree in nursing passed the NCLEX Exam.
  • For 2014, the first-time pass rate for the Missouri Bar Exam was 87.5 percent.

Using the logic of some state education leaders, it’s very easy to become a physical therapist, a doctor, a nurse or a lawyer in Missouri.

An alternate explanation for a high pass rate is that students must meet entrance criteria for any professional program in Missouri, including teacher education. Upon successful completion, they are well educated and thus well prepared for the exam.

Finally, there is no evidence yet to demonstrate these tests are technically sound in any way. The State Board also acknowledges biases against minority students, who represent the highest fail rates.

For these reasons, critics should step down. Teacher education is working hard to meet unreasonable timelines for implementing a system that is fraught with problems. We all want the same thing: quality education for all the children of Missouri.

Nicole Nickens lives in Lee’s Summit. She is a professor of Educational Psychology and department chair of Elementary & Early Childhood Education at University of Central Missouri and an executive board member of Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

This op-ed piece was written by one of my colleagues at UCM and also appears in the Kansas City Star today:

http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/as-i-see-it/article25923097.html

We are back

I am sorry to say I have neglected RaytownOnline.com for a couple of weeks. The effort to deal with the election, and the advent of yard and garden work left me exhausted and needing a break. I have fined myself a months salary for my neglect ($0.00) and have a lot of news to post to catch up.

Thank You
Michael Downing

The Political Promise of a Free Lunch

In the recent city election, a few of the candidates relied on the age-old political tactic of “promising a free lunch” when discussing the need for street repairs in Raytown.  Most reasonable people would agree that we need safe streets that are free from potholes, and curbs and sidewalks in many of our neighborhoods. To be fair, the candidates didn’t say anything actually would be free, they just failed to mention the potential financial cost of their promises. Then again, they didn’t actually promise anything specifically, they just complained about the status quo for the most part. The target of their complaint is the use of light-weight aggregate instead of mill and overlay in street repair.

Not very exciting, but please stick with me and keep reading to get the facts. Yes, mill and overlay makes a nicer surface and last 50% longer, but that process costs more than 3 times as much as aggregate.  This is a simple allocation-of-resources problem.  If you have $15 and 5 kids, you can buy one of them a steak and four of them go without dinner, or you can feed all five a hamburger.  

In the past 5 years, the city has fixed 110 lane miles of streets using a combination of the two methods. If only mill and overlay was used, that number would have been 63 lane miles. To have completed the entire 110 miles with the more expensive method, taxes would have to be raised, or other programs would have to be cut. There is no free lunch. 

The city spends about $830,000 a year on streets. To do all mill & overlay would cost almost a million dollars more. So the next time politicians promise steak instead of hamburger, they need to also tell us where the money will come from. 

At the request of RaytownOnline, the City of Raytown supplied the cost data on paving,  some of which appears below.


Street Maintenance Program Costs

The City of Raytown maintains 331 lane miles. We use the transportation sales tax and some City revenue to pay to upkeep our streets. Over the last five (5) years the City has spent $833,600 per year for this service. These costs also include sidewalk and curb repair, striping as well as handicap ramps which is a federal law requirement under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). We have to be in compliance with this law.

To understand the numbers you need to know how the Public Works Department determines costs. A lane mile is a unit of measurement used by Public Works Departments for determining progress of maintenance programs.  One lane mile is the width of one lane (12 feet) by one mile (5,280 feet). If you have a two lane street then that would be two lane miles. A turn lane also counts as a lane mile.

The two tools the City of Raytown uses are Light Weight Aggregate Seal and Mill and Overlay. The cost per lane mile and life cycle of each tool is:

Cost per Lane Mile              Life/Treatment

Light Weight Aggregate                $21,542/Lane Mile             7 to 10 years

Mill and Overlay                          $66,176/Lane Mile             10 to 15 years

In the last five years, we have been able to complete Light Weight Aggregate on 70 lane miles and Mill and Overlay on 40 miles, in total 110 lane miles have been treated, or 33% of all the roads in Raytown using both tools. It is prudent to use the most appropriate tool at the proper time.  Using the Light Weight Aggregate treatment stretches the life of the street and allows us to keep our roads in a manageable condition.

City Election Endorsements and a copy of the proposed Charter

Ward 1 Joe Creamer

Ward 2 Jim Aziere

Ward 3 Ryan Myers

Ward 4 & 5  No Endorsement

The Charter Vote NO

This is the worst of the last three charters presented to the voters of Raytown.  The previous charter was flawed with conflict and inconsistencies within it. The Charter before that attempted too many changes and was probably rejected by voters unwilling to make that great a leap into the unknown.

The proposed Charter would take us from a weak Mayor to a ceremonial Mayor.  The Mayors power would be to Chair the Board meeting and cut ribbons.

It would transfer power from the Parks Board into the hands of the Alderman and it would set the qualification requirements for Police Chief to vague standards that very well could result in litigation between candidates over whether those standards are met.  All decisions could be reviewed by the Board of Aldermen if just 3 Aldermen agree. Hiring and salary of the Parks Director us a decision made by the Aldermen

The Parks and Recreation Director may be removed from office by a majority vote of the Board of Aldermen and shall serve at their pleasure.

We would have a Parks Director with two masters, but one that can fire him.  Part of the reasoning for having an independant Parks Board with money we voted to have them use for the Parks alone, was to separate it from politics.  If the Aldermen can hire, fire and set the salary of the Parks Director, then there is no separation from politics.

Here is a small sample of from the section on Chief of Police that runs from page 12 to page 16.

Candidates for the Chief of Police shall also possess:

1) considerable knowledge of the principles of modern police administration and police methods;

2) considerable knowledge of the principles and accepted good practices and procedures as applied to patrol, traffic control, criminal investigation, and crime prevention;

What constitutes considerable knowledge and who determines if a candidate possesses that knowledge? Do they get to take a test? Does a Police Chief actually have to be able to wear every hat in the department, to oversee the department? Is there someone in the Police Department that meets these qualifications and are these qualifications tailored to insure he runs unopposed?

While the City Administrator must live in the City, the Municipal Judge is not required to live in Raytown and can actually serve as a Judge for other communities.

c) Qualifications for Office; Outside Employment. The Municipal Judge shall possess and maintain the following qualifications before and after taking office:

i. Must be a licensed attorney, qualified to practice law within the State of Missouri, and shall have been engaged in active practice of law in the State of Missouri for at least three (3) years immediately preceding election.

ii. Need not reside within the City.

iii. Must be a resident of the State of Missouri and have resided in the State for one (1) year immediately preceding election.

iv. May serve as Municipal Judge for any other municipality.

 

Click Below to download a complete copy of the Proposed City Charter

CityOfRaytownCharter

We are back

RaytownOnline has suffered from neglect recently.  The main editor, janitor, and bottle washer (myself) was given an early Christmas present of a head cold, which soon became a head and chest cold.   The only activities within our limited skill set AC (after cold) were tea making and sitcom watching.  I am now going to try more challenging tasks and articles will resume.

Vote NO on Amendment #3

Editorial 

Amendment #3 would take control away from locally elected school district and apply a flawed formula for teacher evaluation and retention. Any formula that relies solely on student test scores and does not take into account what the students abilities were when they started the class is unfair.   Teachers working with students who are far behind in grade level performance would suffer. Districts with an influx of below average students from neighboring districts would suffer. 

Individual progress is a better indicator of teaching skill, rather than group test results.  

No on #2 : Allows evidence from instances where the individual was found innocent to be introduced

No on #6: Does not actually increase voter access and leaves early voting subject to the legislatures willingness to fund it.

No on #10: It is a power grab by the legislature away from the Governor. 

Candidate Endorsements

RaytownOnline Endorses The Following Candidates

In the past RaytownOnline.com has limited political attention to candidates for the City of Raytown and the Raytown School District.  Recent events concerning the Jackson County Legislature granting property tax-free status and renewal of property free status at the expense of the income of the Raytown School District in the past, prompted broader political scrutiny for the sake of our community. 

Jackson County Legislature, 1st District at Large (Democrat) Sherwood Smith

Mr. Smith can point to a long history of involvement working for Democratic values and has the skills and knowledge that the job requires. His opponent has name recognition and a commendable history working with children, but needs more political experience before tackling a job in the often rough arena of the Jackson County Legislature.

Jackson County Legislature, 2nd District (Democrat) Sterling Brown

Mr. Brown lives in Raytown with his wife and children and has a history of supporting issues that help working class families.  The former 2nd District Legislator totally ignored the Raytown portion of his district and the odds are good that his hand-picked successor with do the same.

Jackson County Legislature, 6th District (Republican) Theresa Galvin

Ms.  Galvin seems knowledgeable and articulate.   It is hoped that Raytown will receive better attention from her than it has from the incumbent Bob Spence.  To Mr. Spence’s credit, he has attended a couple of Raytown Chamber of Commerce functions recently, but after many years in office, it is too little and too late.

Ballot Issues Editorial

RaytownOnline.com position on two of the Constitutional Amendments that will be on the ballot next Tuesday.

Constitutional Amendment #1: The Right to Farm  – NO  

The very name of this amendment is deceptive. This amendment is not about the right to farm in any traditional sense. It is about the right to put HUGE hog production facilities in Missouri, without local government having any control.  The amendment also loosens restrictions on foreign ownership of Missouri farmland and loosens restrictions on puppy mills.  In the past county and city governments have been able to prevent damage to the local air quality and threats to the local water table by the use of zoning and health codes that control where large hog factories can be placed. This amendment would prevent local government from deciding where they want to allow hog factories to be placed. This bill is totally for the benefit of LARGE hog factories, foreign farm investors, and puppy mills. It does nothing for family farms and takes power away from local government ability to protect their citizens. 

Constitutional Amendment #7 Sales Tax Increase for Transportation – NO

We agree there is a need to repair and upgrade Missouri highways and bridges, BUT this is the WRONG way to pay for it.  The logical source of revenue would be an increase on the gasoline and diesel fuel tax, a tax that has not been raised for over 20 years. The fuel tax has not even been adjusted for inflation and is one of the lowest in the Midwest.  The amendment goes further, it prevents any raising of fuel taxes for 10 years.  Those that use and put the most wear and tear on our highways are the trucking industry, and they are a major force behind this legislation.  NO free ride for trucking companies at the expense of everyone else, including people that do not or cannot even drive. 

VOTE TODAY

Local elections have more real effect on our lives than any other level of elections. The quality of our  streets, lights, safety, health, and education are dependent of good local government. Our votes have more effect on local government than any other level of government.  The majority in many city elections for positions like alderman can be as low as a few  hundred and the winning margin has been under 10 votes in a significant number of elections in Raytown in the last couple decades.

Please take a few minutes to vote today. The lines are never long in Raytown. Take a step further and remind a friend or neighbor that today is a local election day and if you use facebook,  twitter, myspace, or any other form of social media, use it to get the message out that it is time to vote now. This message can be shared with almost no effort by clicking on the social media buttons at the bottom of the article. 

Thank You
Michael N. Downing
Editor of RaytownOnline.com 

The Charter Commission Candidates & Ballot Questions

The charter candidate information has been organized in a table with links to the candidates’ submissions to RaytownOnline.com and their answers to the questionnaire RaytownOnline.com emailed them.  Not all candidates have responded; consequently, the table has many blank areas that hopefully will be filled in by election day.  Due to time constraints and the amount of effort this article has taken and will take, and the fact that some of the candidates will never respond, it will be published now and updated if and when RaytownOnline receives more responses. 

Candidate Questionnaire Submitted material
Joe Burton    
Janet Emerson    Click HERE
Lisa Emerson    
Jason Greene  Click HERE  
Mark Moore  Click HERE  
Chris Rathbone    
Robbie Tubbs    
Susan Thorsen    
Jim Aziere    
Richard Koop    
Steve Guenther    Click HERE
Greg Walters    
Charlotte Melson  Click HERE  Click HERE
Susan Dolan    
Sandra Wood-Hartwell  Click HERE  
Ted Bowman    
Michael McDonough    
Mary Jane Van Buskirk    Click HERE
David McCauley    
Witty Wittman  Click HERE  
Matthew Cushman  Click HERE  Click HERE
Jerome Barnes    Click HERE

Raytown voters and Raytown School District voters will have choices to make on Tuesday, April 8th.  


 Editorial Content

Feel free to share this in electronic or printed form

For Raytown voters, these are the choices:

1.  Does Raytown renew the 1/2 cent sales tax that is earmarked for transportation purposes for a period of ten years?

Yes: This one is the easiest choice to make. I have seen major improvement since this was passed.  I can remember a street that was in total failure just two blocks from my home when I first moved to Raytown. I truly might have had second thoughts about buying my home if I had noticed this and other Raytown street conditions. Further, Raytown lags far behind our neighboring cities in providing sidewalks; many of our children wait for the school bus or walk to school in the street.

2. Does Raytown renew the 3/8 cent sales tax that is earmarked for capital improvements purposes for a period of ten years?

Yes:  This tax pays for the equipment needed to provide services such as police, ambulance, and snow removal. 

Unlike many taxes, both these sales taxes are monitored by a citizen oversight committee that insures the tax money is spent in the manner that the voters approved.  Without these revenues, the Raytown would have to dip into general funds and the money is not there. 

3. Do we create a commission to frame (write) a charter (like a constitution for a city)?

Yes:  A charter would be good for the city, if it is a good charter.  There is risk, however. We could get a commission that wastes time and taxpayer money to draft a charter that will not pass,  or a charter that should not pass. Another risk would be a charter that sets the threshold for recall/initiative/referendum so low that Raytown might be drained of our tax money paying for elections for issues that have no real popular support. 

4. Which 13 candidates out of a field of 22 shall frame this charter?

RaytownOnline endorsements will be indicated by Y, N, or ?.   Many of the candidates are not well known in the community, or did not respond to the request for information, so it is not possible for me to have an opinion on how well they will serve based on previous service in elected or volunteer positions. The key word in that last sentence is OPINION, as an endorsement from RaytownOnline.com is actually only my personal opinion, based on years of paying attention to the events that concern Raytown.

You do not have to vote for all 13 positions.  Voting for a candidate you know nothing about reduces the chance of candidates you want elected actually winning. 

Candidate Endorsed Comments
Joe Burton    
Janet Emerson    
Lisa Emerson  N  
Jason Greene    
Mark Moore    
Chris Rathbone  Y  
Robbie Tubbs  N  
Susan Thorsen    
Jim Aziere  Y  Former US Constitution teacher
Richard Koop    
Steve Guenther    
Greg Walters  N  
Charlotte Melson  Y  
Susan Dolan  N  
Sandra Wood-Hartwell  Y  
Ted Bowman  Y   
Michael McDonough  Y   Excellent people and organizational skills
Mary Jane Van Buskirk  Y   
David McCauley  Y   
Witty Wittman  Y   
Matthew Cushman  Y  
Jerome Barnes  Y  Strong history of both community service and working with diverse people towards a common goal

 

For Raytown School District voters this is the choice:

Shall the Raytown School District be allowed to borrow $22 million dollars for the purpose of constructing, renovating, improving, furnishing and equipping school facilities of the District, including safety and security enhancements, roof replacements, lighting improvements, restrooms, plumbing, electrical and technology upgrades, and renovation and expansion of the existing Raytown South High School athletic facility and issue bonds for the payment thereof?

Yes: About 85% of this bond issue is targeted at needed repairs and upgrade. Failure to make the repairs would results in greater costs in the future. Failure to upgrade school security could result in a disaster.  The expenditure to on a football field at Raytown South is not a high priority item and I would prefer that money was spent building a swimming facility to replace the loss of the YMCA pool.  The bond issue addresses a multitude of needs and it is surprising that most of them deserve to be funded.    85% is a remarkably high percentage. 

Click HERE to see the Election Board ballot for the Raytown City election.

Click HERE to see the Election Board ballot for the Raytown School District election.

Feel free to share this in electronic or printed form

RaytownOnline now has a Video Drone

RaytownOnline.com has added a high-definition video drone to capture aerial photos and video of events in Raytown. Unfortunately more work is needed for pilot training. I thought I was up to the task of flying among a stand of trees. Hopefully the replacement parts to fix the damage that occurred in this flight will arrive soon. 

It has come to my attention that this video was not viewable on some systems. It was an attempt to directly host the video, rather than use YouTube. Until the problem is resolved, I am reverting to YouTube.

 

Merry Christmas from RaytownOnline.com

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from RaytownOnline.com.  This is the start of the 5th year of existence in the community.  The video below is a collection of a few of the images of the community that were published on the website in 2013. I hope you enjoy the show. As always, this video is best enjoyed in 720p mode and full screen.

Michael N. Downing

 

Vote NO on Jackson County Question 1

On Tuesday, November 5th, please go to the polls and vote NO on the proposed sales tax increase of 1/2 cent.  This tax increase is wrong on many levels.  

1. County sales tax is not the level to fund medical research.

2. Lack of over-site by elected of appointed representatives of the taxpayers. The taxpayers get one appointment, the hospitals and pharmaceuticals get 4 on the only board controlling the money that is not advisory. 

3. Lack of expert over-site on a scientific level. This type of endeavor needs over-site for the taxpayers that has a knowledge base able to evaluate the requests and proposal that is more suited for a government agency like the National Institute of Health,  not a local politician.

4. The taxpayer is expected to fund 100% of the overhead, yet big business will keep 80% of the profits if anything is discovered that is marketable. The proposed return on investment to the taxpayer is only 20% of the profits. 

5. Food and medicine are not exempt from this sales tax.

The Kansas City Star, League of Women Voters, NAACP, Kansas City Business Journal, the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph and Freedom Inc. have all come out in opposition to this tax.  Every Jackson County Mayor that has been ask to support this tax has refused. 

RaytownOnline.com seldom takes an editorial position,  but this proposed tax is so wrong on so many levels that it required taking a stand in opposition.  The good result of this proposal is that it has united liberals and conservatives in opposition to it.  

Michael N. Downing

Editor RaytownOnline.com

RaytownOnline.com is testing format changes

RaytownOnline.com has changed from a 3 column format to a 2 column format. This will allow larger size photos and videos to be displayed on the page without the reader needing to click on the photo or on the full screen mode for the video to see a larger display. The new format will be at least 640 by 480 and sometimes a little larger than that. Clicking on a photo will still expand it to the native 1024 by 768 size and most videos can be viewed in High Definition at 1280 by 720 if the viewer goes to full screen and selects that resolution one the YouTube control bar. 

This will reduce the amount of ads for charity space available, but at present time RaytownOnline.com is not close to filling up the available space. 

Nothing is set in stone and the look of RaytownOnline.com will probably change in the future. The present format is efficient at presenting information, but the style is at least 5 or 10 years out of date. The hard choice is that stylish standards now seem to be bandwidth intensive and slow to load for readers without high speed access.  A faster page load time is preferable to a slick looking page. 

I am open to feedback on this.

Michael N. Downing
Owner, editor, photographer, programmer, and janitor for RaytownOnline.com

Vacation is over

RaytownOnline.com took an unscheduled vacation for about a week.  My wife was home from work more and my garden kept demanding I pay attention to it as well. With my God Daughters help I put in some golden raspberries and boysenberries yesterday and weeded & mulched the asparagus. 

There are some stories being worked up and they are important stories.  They are also the type stories that I will actually have to do some real journalism,  not just cutting and pasting press releases, or video recording, editing and posting.  Hopefully I will get the facts straight.  Now if those darned tomatoes would just turn red for me !

 

YMCA Tax and Budget Info editorial (part 1)

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City is closing the Raytown branch today. The stated reason is that this branch is losing money.  The  residents and government of Raytown have donated land and money to the building and operation of this facility. The stated goal of this non-profit organization is “The YMCA of Greater Kansas City, founded on Christian principles, is a charitable organization with an inclusive environment committed to enriching the quality of family, spiritual, social, mental and physical well-being“,  not turning a profit.  RaytownOnline.com feels a duty to examine this situation in detail. 

It is interesting to note that the YMCA of Greater Kansas City reports about $8 Million in stocks and bonds on their federal forms.

The YMCA Federal 990 form from 2011 ymca 990 from 2011

The YMCA Federal 990 form from 2010 ymca 990 from 2009

The YMCA Federal 990 form from 2010 ymca 990 from 2010

It is also interesting to note that the YMCA is the 2nd highest beneficiary of funding from United Way of Greater Kansas City, receiving about $1 Million a year for various programs.

The United Way Federal 990 form from 2011 unitedway2011-990

The United Way Federal 990 form from 2010 unitedway2010-990

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City budget is below.  Note that, while they got over a million dollars last year from the United Way, they only credited $2,500–less than 1 percent–  of that Million to the Raytown Branch. 

 The YMCA also receives income for providing services to policy holders of multiple health insurance companies and organizations.  It is not known if the income credited to the Raytown YMCA reflects the members and policy holders that use the YMCA. Does the YMCA organization plan to  keep this income with the rationale that the remaining Raytown members will now go to 70th and Troost?

It is also interesting that the loss projected for 2013 appears to be equal to items tacked on the bottom that are at best arbitrary and debatable.  These questionable items are things an organization doing well would like to put in the budget like building capital reserve, or items that probably will not go away like associated overhead.  (Read Raytown’s share of the CEO’s salary and other expenses that will not be reduced by the closing).

The YMCA’s own budget shows an operation that is almost breaking even if  management did not charge off building reserve funds, finance costs in lieu of sale (whatever that means, but the lending company is going to love the probable short sale), home office operations and reserve (which will continue after the closing), travel and conferences (did local Y personal get to go or is this just our “share” of the CEO’s expenses?) and other line items that require a more detailed explanation. If one were to add into the income a reasonable share of the funds the YMCA receives from other sources like the United Way and other organizations and businesses, this YMCA would be in the black. 

The major portion of the projected deferred maintenance risk comes from bad decisions on the construction of the roof and HVAC (heat and air) made by the highly paid top management of the organization. This is not something anyone in Raytown had control over and should be born by the organization as a whole and not charged off against this particular facility. This number is reported by the YMCA to come from their facility management partner, Copaken Brooks.  If they are using a management partner, what does David Byrd do to earn his much higher than average $277,000 a year compensation package? 

One thing is clear, if Raytown is only getting $2,500 credited from local contributions to the United Way, we need to make sure none of our contributions in the future end up in the hands of the YMCA and monitor the numbers in the future to make sure that there is a proportional drop in what the YMCA receives from the United Way. Independence residents should be advised to take the same course of action along with all of the Kansas City resident that used Raytown or the Independence facilities. 

 YMCA Budget

New development on the YMCA

City and School District officials have met with the YMCA and the results were not productive. First reports indicate that the YMCA has raised the price they demand the government pay to keep the YMCA in Raytown open for a few months longer and they have raised the asking price for the building. A building sitting on land given to them by a Raytown resident and a building built with the help of Raytown donors and Raytown tax money.  Expect a more detailed report on this matter when press releases are received on this from our local government agencies involved. 

RaytownOnline supports saving the local YMCA and the petition drive. We can no longer support the “save my y”  website based on the questions they ask to allow registration and other factors.

Editorial on the Winchester TIF

The resolution between Kansas City Mo. and the Raytown School District seems to be a done deal and Raytown students will benefit from the hard work of the School District Administration and the friends of the District in demanding KCMO do the right thing.

One party in this tale has still not received justice: the homeowners in the Winchester TIF District. Over 20 years ago, they were promised adequate roads, sidewalks, and city water and sewer.  This was to be their compensation for allowing Kansas City to locate a huge commercial development in their midst.

Now, KCMO wants to do less than promised and make residents jump through hoops to benefit. For example,  they may have to demonstrate financial need, cost-share in improvements, etc.  This bait-and-switch tactic is both unfair and unwise. Potentially, this leaves Winchester residents and Raytown students without sidewalks, resulting in pedestrians sharing narrow, dangerous streets with vehicular traffic.

Click HERE to see the original agreement.

Click HERE to see the latest proposal. 

TIFs in the metro area have left a trail of broken promises and changed deals.  The culprits are usually the developers and governmental bodies involved. The victims are the citizens.  This behavior results in injustice in the short-term, but results in long-term citizen resistance to future economic development.  Government bodies should be held accountable to keep their word, even if the promise was made by others more than 20 years ago. Elected officials should remember that, although they may let the developers walk away unscathed, they may still be in the castle when the peasants finally storm it with pitchforks and torches.

The first step in rectifying this situation should be the upgrading of the roads and sidewalks in the Winchester area for the safety of the public. There is no safe place to walk in many parts of the residential portion of the area. The roads in the commercial portion are wide and bordered by sidewalks, while the residential portion has dangerously narrow roads bordered by 3-foot ditches.  In many areas, two cars cannot pass safely, let alone a car and a school bus. It is easy to imagine a disaster if a school bus crests a hill only to find a car coming from the other direction, or a diver swerves to avoid a student walking in the road to avoid a mud-filled ditch.

The following photos illustrate the type of roads the Winchester TIF should be obligated to upgrade.

64TH_ST_NOTICE_SIGN_BECAUSE_THERE_ISN'T_ANY_SIDEWALKS_CHILDREN_WALK_IN_ROADWAYRAYTOWN_BUS_ON_BENNINGTON_3GOING_SOUTH_ON_BENNINGTON_3_1-2_FT_DITCHES_ON_EACH_SIDE_THE_VEHICLES_ARE_STOPPED_ON_ROAD_NOT_DRIVING_BY_EACH_OTHER_TOO_CLOSE_TO_TRY_THATTRASH_TRUCK_GOING_NORTH_ON_BENNINGTON  

Martin Luther King – I Have A Dream Speech – August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech

Email problems

The editor@raytownonline.com mail box did not get transferred to the new hosting account until today. If you received an error message when you sent an email to this address, please resend the email, it will get through now. I moved about 20 websites over the holidays and I hope I made no other mistakes.

KCMO School District makes tuition offer

On January 1st, 2012, the Kansas City Missouri School District (KCMSD) will lose its accreditation. As a result, students residing within KCMSD may transfer to neighboring districts. The Missouri Supreme Court, in July, 2011, ruled that an unaccredited district must pay tuition to the receiving district. Kansas City Missouri School District offered to pay neighboring districts $3,733 per student for the 2012 fiscal year, and proposes to make payments by the month. In their new transfer policy, KCMSD also stated they would not pay tuition for students who have not attended a KCMSD school for at least the two previous semesters.

The State Legislature has drafted a plan that would allow surrounding districts to run KCMSD schools on a contract basis.

For more on this click HERE to read a  The Republic, Columbus Indiana article  (yes Indiana!) and click HERE to read The Republics article on the proposed legislation.

For more on this click HERE to read a KCTV article.

For more on this click HERE to read a KMBC article.

 

EDITORIAL

State Ranking District Name MO Assessment Program Scores Per Pupil Expenditure
525 KANSAS CITY 33  708.56 $17,042.83
449  RAYTOWN C-2 737.87  $8,636.64

The numbers above are from http://showmeliving.org/education/ and are reported to be from the State of Missouri’s 2010 DESE report.

It is difficult to believe that the district’s tuition proposal of $3,733 is a good faith offer, since it is less than one-fourth of the current per pupil expenditure, as reported by DESE. From the data in the table above, there would appear to be only 3 reasonable starting offers. The amount they are spending now per student, the amount Raytown is spending now per student, or the average of the two.

Requiring a student to have been enrolled for two semesters is an avoidance of the district’s responsibility to provide a decent education to all students in the district. It seems likely that this policy is designed primarily to prevent students currently attending private schools at their parents’ expense from taking advantage of the opportunity to transfer to a neighboring district, at KCMSD’s expense.

 

UPDATE

RaytownOnline.com owner/reporter attended a NAACP meeting that R. Stephen Green, Ed.D., the acting superintendent of the Kansas City Mo. School District was the featured speaker. At the end of the speech, there was a question and answer session and the RaytownOnline.com  reporter was able to ask about the tuition offer.  

Animal Welfare in Raytown

We had a serious house fire while my wife and I were in Boston attending a special education convention. A catsitter was coming over daily to feed and look after our two cats (Flash and Squeek).  Luckily, the catsitters arrived while the Raytown Fire Department was fighting the fire, and were able to give them our cell phone numbers. The Fire Marshall, Matt Mace, called us several times as they got the fire out and began assessing the extent of the damage. Matt understood that our major concern was for the welfare of our animals, and personally stayed at the house until both cats had been rescued and the house was boarded up. We changed our airline tickets and flew home the next day, after calling the Raytown Animal Hospital where Flash and Squeek had been taken per Raytown’s city contract.  When I inquired about their condition by phone, I was upset to find out no one had checked them over or even appeared aware that they had been in a fire. That was also the case when we picked them up the next day. Their fur was still grimy and full of soot, and their noses and ears were black from the smoke in the house. We had to call our own veterinarian to find out what we should do to make sure they were okay.

We were very pleased with the performance of the Raytown Fire Department, and thankful that they saved the majority of the structure. We’re also happy to report that the cats are fine, and suffered no long-term ill effects from the fire. We were not pleased with the attitude of the staff at Raytown Animal Hospital, who indicated their responsibility was simply to house the animals until we could get back to town and pick them up.

At the very least, I would expect that all animals in a fire or car accident would get at least a minimal physical exam as part of the city’s contract, just as paramedics would check out a person who had been in a similar situation.

The city is about to sign a new contract with Raytown Animal Hospital.  Provisions to insure that potentially injured animals are not just tossed in a cage with food and water should be part of that contract.

Michael N. Downing

 

KC Star picks up on Legislature building China port on the backs of Missouri’s elderly and disabled

Local media has finally started paying attention to what is happening in Jeff City and they are not mincing words. Check out this story in the Kansas City Star by clicking HERE.

Why cover this story, because Raytown has a couple thousand senior households that benefit from this tax break.  Our seniors being able to go to the local grocer is preferable to their being forced to strain REAP’s* already overloaded resources.

Taking away tax breaks for poor seniors and the 100% disabled to help pay for a China Trade Port in St. Louis costs jobs here for short term gains in St. Louis. The idea of tax dollars subsidizing making it cheaper to import goods from China is like putting salt in a wound. The supporters of this airport expansion would have use believe that it will result in more exports from Missouri. Reality is that for every dollar coming in, we are going to see two going out.

If times are so hard that we have to start tossing granny under the bus, why not start with killing the tax exemptions  that yacht buyers enjoy?  Why should a yacht be exempt, but a 15 foot bass boat buyer has to pay taxes in full?

Last year the legislature quietly killed off the Homestead Protection program. It use to protect modest to low income seniors from having their property taxes jump more than 5% a year. The legislature may cut another program to assist seniors this year, but it will not happen quietly. Do your part, phone or email your legislature of senator and let them know how you feel about this and while you are at it, make sure your friends, neighbors and family know about it.

KC expert on air cargo comments on the St. Louis China Hub 

Air Cargo News article on the China Hub

FOX2 in St. Louis Video on this issue

 

Representatives

Leonard Hughes IV District 042  Phone: 573-751-1501 E-Mail: leonard.hughes@house.mo.gov

 Gail McCann Beatty District 043 Phone: 573-751-2124 E-Mail: Gail.Beatty@house.mo.gov

Gary L. Cross District 048 Phone: 573-751-1459 E-Mail: Gary.Cross@house.mo.gov

Tom McDonald District 049 Phone: 573-751-9851 E-Mail: Tom.McDonald@house.mo.gov

Senators

Victor Callahan District 011 Phone: (573) 751-3074  email address not available for senators

*Raytown Emergancy Assistance Program