Friday, December 11, 2009

A tiger doesn't change its stripes - neither does a politician

Wow. It’s been several days now since I read Puck’s accounting of Councilman Sharp’s antics as reported at Tony’sKansasCity. Not that it took me that long to process what he was saying; but the it took me that long to realize somebody else has actually caught on to Mr. Sharp. Apparently, his activities at City Hall mirror his activities in Hickman Mills. For many employees in the administration center there, his three year tenure on the school board seemed like an eternity. From what I understand, things reached a point where anyone seeing him pull into the parking lot would spread the word and many then shut their office doors. He might tell you that people were supportive of him and his campaign for city council; but that was simply to get him out of the district. From what I’ve been told several actually feared for their jobs as long as he was on the Board. He actually completed the state mandated training sessions; but it somehow didn’t stick that a board member alone has no authority. I’ve heard stories that he was in the office of the Associate Superintendent for Business almost everyday – to the point that the Assoc. Super. couldn’t get his work done.

He talked the Board into forming a financial committee which reviewed district expenditures. Naturally, he got himself appointed chair because he thought he was so financially astute. Of course we all know what shape MAST was in when he left and now he doesn’t seem to care what happens to the City’s bond rating. As Chair of the Finance Committee he could make recommendations for expenditures. Since the district has been on a tight budget for several years, it had to dip into its reserves for big expenditures like weight room equipment. Now that he’s gone, the district is feeling the pinch of those dips and had to freeze salaries last year. Of course, like I said, he’s gone now.

Back when he was running for a seat on the school board, the district tried to consolidate schools. It was both a financially and educationally sound idea. Mr. Sharp didn’t like it, though, and was able to stir up the community in protest. For year’s Ruskin High School has held their graduation ceremonies at the Community of Christ auditorium in Independence. The year Mr. Sharp’s son was to graduate, the Ruskin administration wanted to hold the ceremony at the school in an effort to save money. Again, Mr. Sharp was able to stir up the community in protest.

Sometimes it’s just so much easier to put your own needs first and not worry about the dollars, especially when you don’t think of those dollars as your own. That’s what’s good about elective office. So many times when the fallout hits, the person responsible has moved on.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Red Light Cathy's Struck Again

For several years now there has been a push to get a clinic in south KC. Then the city got involved and it actually looked like it might happen. This last week there was a meeting to talk about it. Some people who attended that meeting were quite excited because Councilwoman Cathy Jolly had told them there only needed to be one central clinic for the area south of 75th Street. That led some community activists to an investigation into possible sites around the Bannister Mall area not owned by Lane 4. Several possibilities were found and they seemed like the perfect location since they would have good transportation access.

Then the news hit. MARC, that organization staffed with people totally unaccountable to the public but which makes decisions on behalf of the public, has done a study (though only the health department has seen the data) and decided the people in Marlborough were in more need than the people in Ruskin and other areas. Because of that decision, the clinic would be placed somewhere in the Center School District. I guess it doesn't matter that those people are also closer to St. Joseph’s Hospital and I'm sure the fact that Councilwoman Jolly's husband, Scott Taylor, sits on the Center School Board had nothing to do with it.

The good news is that the city has decided there would be a phase 2 which would bring a second clinic to south KC. Of course, before that happens the City will have to find some money since it already has a $60M shortfall. Also, the crux of this week's meeting was that there needs to be more meetings to get a handle on what the need is; as if anybody but the City doesn't already know that answer.

It looks like Red Light Cathy has become the representative for the sixth district and turned the light green for her side of it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Sometimes I drive Longview Road just to avoid Cathy Jolly’s red light cameras on Red Bridge. Except for the massive amounts of concrete, driving around the roundabouts actually makes me think for a minute that I’m living in a progressive city. Then there was the day I was sitting at the yield sign waiting for a car in the circle when the driver politely stopped and waved me in. I could only sigh and proceed.

One particular day I actually needed to travel Longview Road and happened to pass John Sharp’s spray pool. Interestingly, workers appeared to be installing a chain link fence. I couldn’t help but wonder about the message to be sent. It was only a year ago that Mr. Sharp convinced many that the chain link fence around Ruskin High School looked like a prison fence. He even diverted PIAC funds to pay for a wrought iron fence around the school. It seems like those funds would more appropriately be spent for a nice fence around something more public like the spray pool.

That seems, sadly, to be typical of how this city operates. Recently, there were new sidewalks installed along Blue Ridge Boulevard from 470 to Bannister. Even after the construction was complete the ‘right lane closed’ signs remained. The new city slogan is A City That Works. I could suggest a couple of better ones. A City That Operates the Same Old Way or maybe A City That Does Things Half Way.

Then there are all those COMBAT signs. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite kosher that COMBAT funds are being used to fund this ‘campaign’. The tax isn’t even up until next year, so it would be cheaper for the County to hold this election next year when other issues will be on the ballot. I guess that’s just our tax dollars at work.

Speaking of which, why is it CID’s can contribute to campaign funds? It doesn’t seem fair that they can use our tax dollars to fund campaigns we may not favor. Councilman Sharp, who bills himself as being pro-community, says he doesn’t like CID’s. Then he goes to City Hall and votes for them.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Just a Few More Words

Hope is an illusive thing. So is change. Three years ago south K.C. was full of hope and looking for change. City council candidates made promises; then they were elected and the promises and hope turned into empty dreams. The orange revolution was nothing more than an election gimmick.

Friends of Red Bridge had hopes of building an environmentally and neighborhood friendly bridge. John Sharp even testified at council committee hearings that a big bridge wasn’t necessary. Then he got himself elected and played god with the outcome.

Around about that time, the Wizards were looking for their own stadium and hired Lane 4 to get it for them. That’s all they wanted – their own stadium. The old Bannister Mall site seemed like a good place. Sadly for them, EDC said they would need to do retail and office, also. When Kansas came a-courtin’ who could blame Lane 4? Here was their chance to do only what they wanted, get the Wizards their own stadium.

Once again, south K.C. has had their hopes shattered. John Sharp was going to be their savior and bring much wanted retail back to the area. Now he’s just another politician looking for the elusive colossus of a development. He has not, as he said he would, see that all of Hickman Mills is included in the Hickman Mills Area Plan. That leaves the entire area west of 71 Highway, soon to be I-49, without a plan. How convenient for the powers that be.

Now, if local political insiders are to be believed, Bannister Mall will become a warehouse/distribution center. That will encourage the city to widen the already too big bridge they are planning for Red Bridge Road which in turn will lead to the further widening of the rest of the road. MoDOT has already said south K.C. should have expected this when they pushed to have the interchange at Red Bridge rather than Longview Road.

While the west side of Hickman Mills has no official plan, officials have their own plan for the area. I have no doubt that John Sharp will do his best Harold Hill impression and convince the community that this type of development with its increase in truck traffic is just what they need.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Future of South Kansas City: Big Trucks As Far As The Eye Can See

Back when MoDOT was making presentations about untangling the triangle, the community was fairly upset. There were visions of trucks carrying sealed containers coming through the community from Mexico. Whether the fears expressed then were actually allayed or whether that future seemed too far away, we’ll probably never know. What we do know is that people stopped talking about it.

Time passed and conversations turned to the possibility of a Wizards stadium and the attendant retail establishments. The community had something positive to look forward to. Then the deal fell through and our council people seemed totally amazed. While the community still wants to see retail – shops and eateries – they are most likely in for a big disappointment. The game has changed and that once so distant future is looming much closer. The difference is trucks won’t be coming from Mexico, but from Louisiana.

Trucking is already a big part of development in the Southland (CenterPoint), but some recent developments indicate that it could be the only game in town -- in effect betting everything on the insatiable demand of American consumers for goods manufactured overseas (China).

U.S. 71, already built to Interstate Highway standards in the Hickman Mills area and south, is to be re-designated I-49, and will connect south K.C. with ports in Louisiana. While the justification for this project is entirely freight-based; the more likely reason is that there are people who make a lot of money building roads whether we need them or not and they have tremendous political influence, even at the local level. (It might be interesting to look at campaign finance reports and see who is contributing to our local representatives.)

A local government official has indicated not only his support, but his enthusiasm, for the idea of a warehousing/distribution center to replace the pile of rubble formerly known as Bannister Mall. To some this seems the perfect solution for a multi-hundred acre space right next to an interstate. It also fits a pattern of large-scale solutions that involve lots of money and the need for political wheel-greasing with all the usual suspects and campaign contributions to make everyone happy (except the people trapped in their homes by falling real estate values).