Thursday, June 27, 2013

Grandview Seat Belt Ordinance Approved

By Paul Thompson

The Grandview Board of Aldermen agreed to revise the city’s seat belt ordinance during their Tuesday, June 18 work session, in a decision that will create a $50 ticket for failing to buckle up.
The ordinance revisions had been spearheaded by Chief of Police Charles Iseman, who referred to the current ordinance as “antiquated” during a June 4 work session in which the notion of revisions was first discussed.

The board’s decision to fast-track the legislation shows that the city is taking a hard stance against drivers who aren’t wearing seat belts. Iseman noted that the threat of a $50 ticket is meant as a deterrent, and emphasized that safety is his primary concern with the ordinance. Iseman also indicated that there would be a grace period in which officers will offer warnings to drivers who are caught with an unbuckled seat belt.

“I also want to get a pretty aggressive educational aspect going with this,” said Iseman, adding that the police department plans to offer literature designed to get the word out about the stricter seat belt penalties.

The board voted 5-1 during the session to approve Iseman’s recommended changes to the ordinance. Ward III Alderman John Maloney was the lone vote against. Maloney voiced concerns about the serious penalties that violators could face if they are unable to afford the $50 ticket.

 “I want safety to be the primary thing, but I don’t want people to have warrants because they can’t pay the ticket,” said Maloney.

 But other aldermen argued that citizens would be more likely to take the revised ordinance seriously if it had some teeth to it.

“If you don’t make it significant, I think people will blow it off,” said Ward III Alderman Jim Crain. “If you make the fine stiff enough, people will wear their seat belts.”

 Maloney remained unmoved, and ultimately voted against the tightened ordinance due to the steep fine.

“Speeding is expensive, but people still speed,” he said.

Also at the work session, the board interviewed two new candidates for the Zoning Board of Adjustments. Former mayor Jan Martinette offered her expertise to the difficult commission, while fellow appointee Tony Gonzalez offered his services to the Zoning Board of Adjustments as well as the Construction Board of Appeals. The Zoning Board of Adjustments listens to appeals and grant variances to the Zoning Ordinance, and is charged with maintaining the spirit of the rules.

“I know that the Board of Adjustments is probably the toughest one of the bunch,” Martinette said to the board. “It’s very tough, it’s not a fun thing, and you don’t get any favors from anybody. There are several ways of looking at things, but you need to have the experience in order to see those things.”

Gonzalez cited a desire to have an impact in his community as his reasoning for seeking a role in city government.

“I just really want to get involved with the city,” said Gonzalez.

The board also took time to discuss the prevalence of used car dealerships within the city. The aldermen showed an interest in limiting future expansion of such dealerships, as board members questioned whether the used car lots negatively impacted the appearance along I-49 Highway.

“It’s almost like Independence’s Miracle Mile, except for ours are all used cars,” said Crain. “How do we put a stop to it? Because I don’t think that’s what we really want along I-49.”

Ward I Alderman Leonard Jones agreed, but noted that there are plenty of complications when it comes to reigning in used car sales.

 “You still have some interesting grandfather rules that we have to abide by,” said Jones.

City planner Sara Copeland and Community Development Director Chris Chiodini warned the board that although no new used auto sales businesses have opened since 2003, the prospect could emerge sooner rather than later.

“There will be applications for someone who wants to apply for a variance to operate a used auto sales business,” said Chiodini.

 “We have two pending variances for those applications,” added Copeland.

 Although no action was taken at the meeting, the board did nonetheless maintain its interest in curbing future used car sales.

“I really think a moratorium is what we really need to look at,” offered Jones.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Community Gardens Tour Offers Glimpse of Urban Agriculture

By Paul Thompson

Like fresh produce in spring, community gardens continue to sprout up throughout Kansas City.

Emily Miller, an associate of the Food Policy Coalition, stopped by the monthly Second Fridays meeting at Trailside Center last week to discuss the upcoming Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour, which will be held on Saturday, June 22 and Sunday June 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour, which only occurs every other year, is currently in its fifth installment and is designed to highlight more than 60 community gardens that have been started throughout the city. Those interested in checking it out can opt for a bus tour as well as bicycle tours. Individual tickets are available for $8, and can be purchased at www.cultivatekc.org.

Miller and the rest of the Food Policy Coalition hope that the tour can help inspire people to join or start community gardens of their own. Some stops on the tour will provide workshops and lessons for the whole family, and those on the tours will have access to some of the freshest produce in the city.

Miller noted that her organization is getting stronger, mostly due to the increasing local support behind efforts to grow fresh, locally produced products.

“Our coalition is made up of people who eat food, people who grow food, people who sell food, and people who distribute food,” said Miller. “There are a lot of people who are doing community gardening.”

Some of the groundswell of support in favor of community gardens is actually coming from city government, and the Land Bank that it created.

“One of the objectives of the Land Bank is to promote urban agriculture, to promote community gardens in those areas,” added Miller.

Although interest in community gardens has increased significantly, Miller noted that there were still road-blocks to adding more gardens throughout the city. One of the biggest issues, according to Miller, is access to water.

“They have lots of folks that want to hand over lands for community gardens,” said Miller. “But there’s no water access to those lands, so there’s no use for them right now.”

It’s a problem that 6th District councilman John Sharp has also noted.

“At this point, I think water is the big issue,” said Sharp. “Hopefully we’ll be able to work with the water department to come up with a solution.”

Also at the meeting, Kansas City Public Works project manager Damon Hodges stopped by to discuss progress on the Longview Road project. Hodges noted that although the project suffered through a late and chilly winter, his people have been working overtime to make sure that the project was able to get finished by early summer.

“Initial construction started on December 28. We were trying to get started, but as you know we had a later winter this year,” said Hodges. “That threw a big wrench in things. Our contractor was working 70-hour weeks for the two weeks before Memorial Weekend. So they did a good job.”

Those long work weeks paid off, as Hodges and company worked tirelessly to at least get Longview Road open and serviceable for the summer swimming season at The Bay Water Park. Now that Longview Road has been successfully opened, Hodges can turn his attention to Stage 2 of the project, which has already begun.

“Right now we’re in phase 2, which is to realign Food Lane,” said Hodges. “There’ll be a new traffic signal there. We’ll actually be putting asphalt down there by mid-July, maybe a bit sooner.”

Hodges also noted that Food Lane would be a two-lane street that also included a turn lane. In the past, big vehicles had seen some trouble navigating those turns. Aside from the street repairs, homeowners who experienced flooding recently will be happy to learn that the city is working on the water mains as well.

“One of the initiatives from the city manager was that each time we do a roadway project, we fix the water main,” said Hodges. “Right now, we’re having pretty good weather, and we’ve been staying on schedule. The objective is to get the roadway open as soon as possible.”

Friday, June 14, 2013

Royals Swing for Fences with Brett

By Paul Thompson

The legend is back in the dugout, for better or worse.

Now that George Brett has been named interim hitting coach of the Kansas City Royals, the stakes for this 2013 season have been re-raised. If we thought general manager Dayton Moore went all-in before the season, then we must now acknowledge that he’s bought back in with loan shark money on a season that dangled precariously over the edge of a bottomless abyss less than two weeks ago.

But what a difference those two weeks have made. Brett was named interim hitting coach on May 30, with the Royals mired in an eight-game losing streak. Since then, the Royals have gone 10-4.

The recent hot stretch, though, doesn’t change the dynamic of the Brett hire.

Moore’s seat is white-hot, and his desperate attempts to cool it down have landed Royals legend Brett right in the middle of the madness. Because of the sudden installation of Brett as the new hitting coach, the conversation has altered, if only slightly. Instead of public outcry for the jobs of Moore and manager Ned Yost, fans are once again intrigued by a team that had disappointed wildly for a full month before bringing in the local hero.

Can George Brett make a difference with struggling young supposed-to-be-stars Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer? If the Royals’ streak continues, could Brett be installed as manager? These are just a couple of the questions that will buzz through Kauffman Stadium over the coming weeks.

The problem with the hiring of Brett is that the Royals, even after considering their current run, own the worst offense in the American League. For all we know, it might be beyond repair.

For instance, you might know that the Royals are last in the American League in home runs. But did you know that the Oakland Athletics, who currently sit 12th out of 15 AL teams in homers, have hit nearly twice as many as the Royals? The Baltimore Orioles lead the league in home runs; but they would only need two players to match the Royals’ total for the season. You read that right: Chris Davis (21) and Adam Jones (14) have hit as many home runs as the entire Royals team. Can Brett fix that in half a season on the job?

Alas, the comparisons get more brutal. In 227 at-bats, Eric Hosmer has hit two home runs. Meanwhile, in 30 at-bats, Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo has hit two home runs (and put up a .700 OPS, better than all but six Royals on the 25-man roster). Starting to see the picture?

Brett has been plopped down into a seemingly impossible situation. Can anybody re-teach these hapless Royals how to hit? And could the Kansas City legend’s pristine reputation be irrevocably tarnished by his affiliation with this team?

Pandora’s Box has been opened, and these questions will be answered soon enough. But perhaps the most intriguing question from the Brett decision is this: What if it continues to work?

What if George Brett is able to get Hosmer hitting with power again? What if this team rips off 10-game winning streak to get back in contention? There’s already a statue of Brett out at Kauffman Stadium, so that’s out of the question. But if this ship is righted at the hands of Brett, fans will be calling for bumbling owner David Glass to hand over the reins of the team to their hometown idol.

It’s a mammoth risk, both for the team and the legend. It’s a sign that Dayton Moore knows he needs to produce now, and also a sign that incumbent manager Yost isn’t long for his managerial duties. What could be more undercutting to a manager’s leadership than the installation of an outspoken personality and local hero onto your staff?

For the sake of Brett’s legacy, and the sake of the team I’ve followed religiously for the better portion of my life, I hope this works out. If it doesn’t, Brett might have to face the indignity of buying his own meals in this town once again.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Casey's Resignation Leaves Open Seat on C-4 Board

By Mary Wilson
After going through the candidate interview process just a short time ago, the Grandview C-4 School Board is once again taking applications for a vacancy caused by resignation of former board president Rachel Casey. The board held a special open meeting on Monday, June 3, to approve the resignation along with two other agenda items.
According to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Susan Kirkpatrick, board member policy states that if a board member wishes to apply for a position in the school district, a resignation must be submitted. The resignation then has to be approved by the board before Casey can proceed in the application process. The board unanimously accepted Casey’s resignation effective immediately.
“We will plan to recognize Mrs. Casey at the June 27th regular board meeting,” said Board President Cindy Bastian. “She has requested that we donate to GAP (Grandview Assistance Program) if we wish to make donations in her honor.”
At a previous meeting, the board approved upgrades to the auditorium at Grandview High School. Part of that upgrade includes replacement of the carpeting, The board unanimously approved the work to be done by Mannington Commercial at a cost not to exceed $29,555.26. This will replace all of the carpeting in the auditorium, including in the back.
The board also approved the 2013-2014 salary schedule, benefits and quality of life recommendations brought forth by Grandview 10 and Grandview 8.
“Grandview 8 and 10 have worked collaboratively in making recommendations that impact both the certificated and classified staff,” said Kirkpatrick.
According to Kirkpatrick, the ratification votes were overwhelmingly passed by both certificated and classified staff in the district. The following changes in compensation were approved on Monday:
1. Apply a 2% increase to the base salary of all certificated, central office, and administrative staff.
2. Apply a 2% increase to all hourly rates on the classified salary schedules.
3. Maintain board-paid health insurance(approved at the April board meeting).
4. Continue tuition reimbursement for certificated staff.
5. Continue early notification of retirement option for certificated staff (lump sum payment not to be included in retirement calculation).
6. Fund horizontal movement on the certificated salary schedule, based on continuing education credit.
7. Fund changes to classified staff salary schedules to provide internal equity among classified staff positions, as well as equity with the external job market.
8. Align all department chair compensation – move elementary department chairs from column G to column F on the Extra Duty B-Salary Legend.
“On behalf of Grandview NEA, who is the elected representative for the certificated staff, and for GFSP, the elected representative for our classified staff, we would like to thank the board for your support in the process,” said Rebeka
McIntosh, Grandview NEA President. “It was a difficult year, but Grandview 8 and Grandview 10 worked collaboratively on some really thorny issues and came to a good package for both of our groups that was well received by both groups. Coming up on the thirtieth anniversary of Grandview 10, we can be proud of the work we did this year.”
The next regular open meeting for the Grandview C-4 School Board will be on Wednesday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m.