Just connect with the puppet masters

Credibility and trust aretwo keystones of political leadership. In a representative democracy, thepeople do not vote on each and every issue, but instead vote for individuals torepresent them in a public body. The people trust the ones they have electedhave credibility, represent their views and the people can trust them tohonestly and fairly represent all citizens equally.

In the city of Harrisonville the elected officials appear to have lost interest in even pretending to have credibility and are increasingly giving the public less reason to trust them.

Last Monday night, the board of alderman met and voted on two changes to the city’s code concerning commercial and residential properties.

In both cases, the questions from the board demonstrated no one really knew what the laws contained, but rather send put the ordinances back to the drawing board for clearer definitions, they took the Nancy Pelosi approach of “You have to pass it to know what’s in it?”

It is sad to see that clearly a majority of the board comes to meetings totally unprepared and uninformed and simply are awaiting their weekly marching orders.

The problem is the board continually demonstrates no long-range plan, strategic vision or a simple direction. Policy seems to be what is good for certain individuals, rarely what is best for the city.

Some recent votes and discussions prove the point:

The city recently considered selling “the old” city lake. The city had been stuck in a 20-year agreement with the Department of Natural Resources to maintain facilities at the lake and wanted out because it generates no income, but costs taxpayers. The city could have sold it and used the money for more useful purposes. In the end, the board decided not to sell. The reason was, “People have great memories about the lake and would hate to let it go.”

During a recent discussion about banking services, certain aldermen were on the record stating a strong preference for one of the choices before the costs and benefits had even been analyzed. When asked why, one of those aldermen, David Dickerson said, “It was staff’s decision and you have to trust your staff.”

Last week, the board was discussing changing ordinances concerning paving parking lots and driveways (which should have been two entirely separate discussions). Although the new ordinance will affect many businesses in town, the primary focus was on the lot on Mechanic Street between Lexington and Independence.

The owners of the Beck Event Space in 2015 signed an agreement with the city for a special-use permit agreeing to provide paved parking up to city standards by Dec. 1, 2018. During the discussions, co-owner Scott Beck made several admissions: First he attempted to obfuscate the ownership of the lot by saying it was not owned by The Beck, but another company based in Jackson County; later in the meeting, it was clarified he in fact owned the other company.

In terms of the paving, even though they had signed the agreement and the deadline was approaching, Beck said it had disappeared from their radar.

His business partner, Mike Freeland, later showed the board a proposal of how much it would cost to pave the lot, saying the cost would be $500,000 to more than $1 million. However, those familiar with the industry said the job could have been done for under $50,000.

Freeland also handed out pictures of properties which are “in compliance” but still unsightly, ignoring the fact none of those properties has signed an agreement to pave their lots.

After all of this misdirection, Dickerson again jumped into the conversation saying, “They say they want to pave the lot, we have to trust them.”

Dickerson seems ready to trust unless it is on an issue he and others are told to disagree with. For example, the Volunteers in Police Services Program (VIPS): Despite it being run by city staff using nationally recognized procedure, that the volunteers are serving only to help the city, and members undergo a thorough background check and ask for virtually nothing in terms of compensation, Dickerson and others have said they can’t be trusted.

It is starting to appearwhen dealing with the city of Harrisonville you don’t have to worry about facts,contracts or even what is best for the city – just connect with the puppetmasters. The board will follow along.

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