By Stephen Wagner
Taking a page from the federal government’s playbook on manipulating the public’s perception of issues, Mayor David Welsh of Lake Lotawana continues to not tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
From his bully pulpit, The Mayor’s Column, which formerly was on the City’s website but now only appears in the Lotawana News, David Welsh continued his disinformation campaign. And let me be clear on that: misinformation is the less provocative distribution of wrongful information usually through carelessness or inattention to all the facts. Disinformation is the deliberate misstatement of facts so to achieve a particular goal.
There are two areas of his article that are particularly onerous: the assertion that during the last election "…the City’s mil levy was a target of misinformation to the public" and the statement that "Since 2009, a mil levy has not been suggested." Both of these statements are factually wrong. I’ll suggest why in a minute. First the proofs of our position.
With respect to the allegations of a false and misleading rumor about a millage increase, he refers to former candidate for Alderwoman Debbie Wagner’s campaign documentation. (Full disclosure: I am Debbie Wagner’s spouse.) David Welsh’s contention is that this "rumor" was unfounded and lacks any basis in fact. Mr. Welsh forgets that he himself discussed at an open work session for the BOA the millage levy situation. This occurred during the BOA’s laborious and thorough discussions and vetting of the 2014 budget. The aldermen were circumspect on the topics discussed, although I may have concentrated on a few different areas.
His second point that this hasn’t been contemplated since 2009 is a complete falsehood. I direct your attention to the following excerpt from the budget presentation document prepared by the City Administrator:
"As the City's infrastructure ages, and more demands are placed on the roads, it is important to ensure the revenues are available to keep up with those demands. The Mayor and Board of Aldermen may wish to consider asking the voters to increase the property tax by 10%, which would increase the tax to $0.56 per one hundred dollars of assessed value. (Emphasis added.) This would provide needed operating revenues to enhance the services provided by City Hall, including Street and Road improvements.
The impact per residential unit would be minimal. The owner of a home whose assessed value is $200,000 in Lake Lotawana would experience a City real property tax increase of $200.00, or approximately $16.50 per month."
Additionally, during the election campaign, the City Administrator remarked to a candidate that "I don’t know how we can not have a mill levy increase." (Emphasis added for clarity.) Ms. Cornett should be commended for her honesty and a candid, correct assessment of the situation. This is in complete agreement with her assertion in the presentation to the Board.
But of course there is more.
On the City’s website you will find mention of the swearing in for Aldermen elect Tillema and Byrne on May 6th. It does not say that this is an "official" ceremony, or give any other explanation. This was agreed upon by the Aldermen. In point of fact, both candidates have been sworn in already. You’re going to love this next part.
The Mayor asserts the Aldermen-elect "have the right" to be sworn in as soon as the election is certified and that they insisted that this "right" be honored. Not David’s doing, the Aldermen elect forced the issue. This is completely made up. Elected officials have no "rights" per se: the state statue defines the process that the government must follow.
Mayor Welsh’s duplicity is compounded by his behavior just last year. He and then Mayor Howard Chamberlin directed the City Clerk to ask the Jackson County Board of Elections to "snail mail" the certification so that it would arrive after the BOA meeting. Normally these are faxed or picked up by political jurisdictions. The delay was necessary to prevent Alderwoman Aholt being seated and then voting against what was commonly referred to as the "house party ordinance." The ruse was discovered and the election certification was delivered on the Monday before the Tuesday meeting. The agenda was then changed, with Alderwoman Aholt being seated after the vote. Their plan was still in play.
But Chamberlin and Welsh were thwarted. Their shear nerve at attempting to subvert the electoral process was offset by their inability to correctly administer the meeting: the vote passed (with Chamberlin breaking ties three times, the first and only tie breakers as Mayor) but they forgot the step to make it an ordinance. You would think that Mayor’s would know the rules.
By now you have to be asking why: why were Tillema and Byrne snuck in to "exercise their rights". Well it turns out that former Alderman Terry Reed, with the support of Alderwoman Aholt led the defeat of an ordinance for sewer repairs that only had one bidder. Instead of using that whacky new fad called the "internet" to get a broader response, more competition, and possibly lowering our costs like surrounding cities do, they advertised in the Blue Springs Examiner, where they also place all employment and legal notifications. It’s a nice paper; I am not demeaning them at all. But the sole bidder from the greater Kansas City area was from Blue Springs. But there are well known websites that cities here in the Kansas City area use to post these jobs on. Former Alderman Reed, within one day, identified four reputable vendors that wanted to bid, and would have, if they had known. He forwarded that information to the Mayor and City Administrator. He then discovered that without being notified, he had been removed from Board email distribution lists. He wrote again and pointed out that state law assures that he is still an Alderman in the City until the Alderman elect is sworn in and more to the point, he was the Mayor Pro Tempore. Now we have no one to step in as mayor if there was a necessity.
Well, Mayor Welsh couldn’t have that, so the two Aldermen elect were quickly sworn in, I’m sorry, "exercised their rights" to take former Alderman Reed "off the table." Where were Alderwoman Aholt’s rights last year, David?
Finally, go look and reread the Mayor’s column. Notice how he singles out himself and the City Administrator as uninvolved sideline observers. It is all the Aldermen’s responsibility. So here is your last fact for today folks.
We raised the permit fees two years ago in a somewhat draconian fashion. So last year there was a windfall of revenue generated by those raised fees. Well, the Board of Aldermen have heard the shrieks of outrage where permits can approach the cost of materials, and they are now discussing repealing or reducing those fees. Can you see where this is going yet?
This year’s budget is based on last year’s revenue. If the fee revenue is reduced we could have as much as a $100,000 to $150,000 shortfall. Then the Mayor can throw up his hands and blame the Board. And we, the taxpayers, will pay. And that doesn’t count the new Public Works Building that remains unfinished and not completely funded. It’s being used, but I haven’t seen notice of a Certificate of Occupancy in the monthly reports. I bet one turns up.
Through all levels of government it seems we are presented with disinformation. It appears that politicians think that if they simply say the words, we will believe it. We are not sheep. Our "rights" are to be told the truth from our elected officials.