Friday, October 19, 2018

Missouri girl gets a taste of local politics



by Mary Wilson 

Mayors across the state of Missouri are showing their sweet side as one five-year-old girl invites each of them to meet her for an unforgettable treat. Taylor Duncan, the “almost six-year-old,” as she’d tell you, from Waynesville, is on a mission to meet every mayor in Missouri while learning about each town and enjoying some ice cream along the way.

On Saturday, October 13, Taylor, her mother and younger siblings, visited Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones, her 116th mayoral ice cream visit, to be exact. The idea came about when Taylor, who is homeschooled, was studying the state and learned that the ice cream cone originated in Missouri. So, she set a goal to have an ice cream cone with every mayor in the state.

“It’s a really delicious idea,” she said through a big bite of her rainbow sherbet.

Taylor toured the Truman Farm Home before heading over to Topsy’s with Mayor Jones for their special treat. There, she also met Alderman Damon Randolph, and was excited to ask questions of both elected officials. Randolph, with bubblegum ice cream, and Jones, with his vanilla swirled with fudge and peanuts, answered questions from Taylor like why they decided to get into local politics, the biggest challenges, and what their favorite thing about living in Grandview is.

When asked which mayor has been her favorite so far, Taylor responded, “Mommy asked me to not answer that question.” Her mom said that she’s supposed to answer the question differently than that, but Mayor Jones is convinced that he’s the favorite.

While she couldn’t answer which mayor she likes best, cotton candy ice cream is the flavor she chooses most. She also loves orange sherbet. Following their treats at Topsy’s, Jones, Randolph and the Duncan family headed over to City Hall. There, Taylor was impressed with the size of Grandview’s municipal government building. She also sat at the mayor’s desk and played at Freedom Park.

After Grandview, the family was headed to Oak Grove. Taylor’s trek across the state is documented by her mom on a Facebook page. Follow her journey at Show Me Ice Cream.





Friday, October 5, 2018

Aldermen approve a number of ordinances to finish out Grandview’s fiscal year


Splash park and shooting range to become reality; shopping center revitalization receives CID; outer roads to eventually convert to two-way

by Mary Wilson


With sixteen ordinances to get through in one meeting, the Grandview Board of Aldermen had a stacked agenda before them for their regular session on Tuesday, September 25. In just over an hour, all 16 ordinances were approved, but not without opposition on a handful of items from one alderman.

“Each issue I voted no on is the same issue that I voiced concerns and opposition to during all previous work sessions,” said Ward 3 Alderman John Maloney. “Though, knowing that I am in the minority doesn't stop me from voting no on any issue that I have serious concern or opposition to. Our responsibility as aldermen is not to be a rubber stamp, but to make the best decisions for the future of our city. Luckily, the Board usually sees eye-to-eye and we always treat one another with respect, but I believe we can all do a better job saying no and asking for more responsibility and accountability from staff and developers.”

Maloney’s first opposition of the evening had to do with the construction of the city’s newest splash park, which will be located adjacent to The View community center. Grandview citizens approved a no tax increase bond vote in 2014 for the splash park for $2.25 million. The project had been tabled after the original bid came in over budget. Mega Industries will be responsible for construction in the amount not to exceed $1,859,653. The project will include spray features, playground with slides, site furnishings, cameras, and fencing.

“We have a very limited amount of money, and I think we’re doing a very poor investment by putting the Splash Park next to The View,” said Maloney. “I think this is being used as an excuse to raise membership rates at the community center, and we’ll essentially be competing with ourselves because we have a free Splash Park on the other side of the city. This goes against what the parks commission and staff are wanting.”

With Maloney’s no vote, the ordinance still passed 4-1 (Alderman Sandy Kessinger was absent from the meeting). Ward 3 Alderman Jim Crain stated that while the location of the splash park is not preferable to him, he is simply going along with the majority on his yes vote.

Maloney also disagreed with the two ordinances on the agenda that would begin the process of converting Grandview’s I-49 outer roadways to two-way traffic. While both passed 4-1, Maloney said that he was not in favor of the conversion project partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission

“I’ve voted no on the outer roads before,” said Maloney. “Grandview lost a lot of its economic competitiveness years ago, and most of the businesses that have moved out don’t even exist anymore. Everyone wants to blame Grandview’s loss on the outer roads. We just didn’t do a very good job selling ourselves while neighboring communities offered so many incentives to developers and they went elsewhere.”

Finally, Maloney also opposed the petition to establish a Community Improvement District (CID) for the Grandview Village Shopping Center, located on Main Street. The property owners propose to use the CID as an economic redevelopment tool to upgrade the center, demolish a vacant building (former Econo Lube), and build a next-generation Dairy Queen Restaurant (DQ Grill and Chill). It will impose a one percent sales tax upon all retail sales within the CID, all proceeds to be used for the redevelopment project.

“I will not be supporting this tonight,” said Maloney. “I find it very hard to support an owner who has built and maintained this property from start to finish and has allowed it to become in certain array to be considered blighted, and then reward them with a CID. I think that sets a very bad tone for our city, in which all our property owners are allowed to just let their property become in disarray and then ask for a CID.”

Despite 4-1 approval, Ward One Alderman Damon Randolph expressed concern that shop owners and managers didn’t seem to have any knowledge of the CID process for their buildings nor had any communication with the property owners.

“I know several people up there, and from what the current tenants say, they haven’t been told anything,” said Randolph. “They read about all these improvements happening at the center in the Advocate.”

The project attorney said that he was surprised to hear that the tenants were unaware, but will ensure communication happens going forward.

The first of the unanimously-passed ordinances included the construction of the shooting range to be installed next to the Grandview Ball Park, off of Arrington Road. Grandview citizens approved a no tax increase bond vote in 2014 for the shooting range in the amount of $750,000. An additional $250,000 was secured from the Land Water Conservation Fund, along with an additional $12,300 from earned interest on the bond. TRS Range Services, out of Idaho, will be responsible for construction, including handicap parking and walkways, shooters briefing building and storage shed, the range, a target turning system and fencing.

With the project estimated to be completed in the spring of 2019, Grandview Police Chief Charles Iseman said that they plan to offer an education along with the opening to make patrons aware of the expectations and what will and will not be allowed at the public shooting range.

“This is a new adventure for us, so there definitely needs to be an education piece to it,” said Iseman.

Also approved at the meeting were the installation of a new roof at City Hall; a one-year extension to the Metropolitan Area Regional Radio System (MARRS) user agreement for all city radios along with software support for the Response CAD system, Police RMS and other public safety systems; an increase in charges for ambulance services ($900 for residents and $1050 for non-residents), an increase in the first-aid rate to $250 and an increase in the mileage charge to $14 per mile; and an ordinance to begin use of an electronic grant management system with the Federal Railroad Administration for the Blue Ridge Boulevard overpass replacement project. 

Grandview High School freshmen Taj Manning and Cierra Smith recently competed
on the international level at the first ever Junior NBA World Championships
in August. For their accomplishments, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones issued a
proclamation during the September 25 Board of Aldermen meeting in recognition
of their outstanding individual efforts, team play, sportsmanship and success in
their sports and academic careers now and in the future.
“On behalf of the Board of Aldermen and the citizens of Grandview, I hereby
congratulate the Central Boys and Girls teams for their Junior NBA World Championship,”

said Jones.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kander excuses himself from Kansas City Mayor race

About four months ago, I contacted the VA to get help. It had been about 11 years since I left Afghanistan as an Army Intelligence Officer, and my tour over there still impacted me every day. So many men and women who served our country did so much more than me and were in so much more danger than I was on my four-month tour. I can’t have PTSD, I told myself, because I didn’t earn it.
But, on some level, I knew something was deeply wrong, and that it hadn’t felt that way before my deployment. After 11 years of this, I finally took a step toward dealing with it, but I didn’t step far enough.
I went online and filled out the VA forms, but I left boxes unchecked – too scared to acknowledge my true symptoms. I knew I needed help and yet I still stopped short. I was afraid of the stigma. I was thinking about what it could mean for my political future if someone found out. 
That was stupid, and things have gotten even worse since.
By all objective measures, things have been going well for me the past few months. My first book became a New York Times Bestseller in August. Let America Vote has been incredibly effective, knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors and making hundreds of thousands of phone calls. I know that our work is making a big difference. And last Tuesday, I found out that we were going to raise more money than any Kansas City mayoral campaign ever has in a single quarter. But instead of celebrating that accomplishment, I found myself on the phone with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line, tearfully conceding that, yes, I have had suicidal thoughts. And it wasn’t the first time.
I’m done hiding this from myself and from the world. When I wrote in my book that I was lucky to not have PTSD, I was just trying to convince myself. And I wasn’t sharing the full picture. I still have nightmares. I am depressed.
Instead of dealing with these issues, I’ve always tried to find a way around them. Most recently, I thought that if I could come home and work for the city I love so much as its mayor, I could finally solve my problems. I thought if I focused exclusively on service to my neighbors in my hometown, that I could fill the hole inside of me. But it’s just getting worse.
So after 11 years of trying to outrun depression and PTSD symptoms, I have finally concluded that it’s faster than me. That I have to stop running, turn around, and confront it.
I finally went to the VA in Kansas City yesterday and have started the process to get help there regularly. To allow me to concentrate on my mental health, I’ve decided that I will not be running for mayor of Kansas City. I truly appreciate all the support so many people in Kansas City and across the country have shown me since I started this campaign. But I can’t work on myself and run a campaign the way I want to at the same time, so I’m choosing to work on my depression.   
I’ll also be taking a step back from day-to-day operations at Let America Vote for the time being, but the organization will continue moving forward. We are doing vital work across the country to stop voter suppression and will keep doing so through November and beyond.
Having made the decision not to run for mayor, my next question was whether I would be public about the reason why. I decided to be public for two reasons: First, I think being honest will help me through this. And second, I hope it helps veterans and everyone else across the country working through mental health issues realize that you don’t have to try to solve it on your own. Most people probably didn’t see me as someone that could be depressed and have had PTSD symptoms for over decade, but I am and I have. If you’re struggling with something similar, it’s OK. That doesn’t make you less of a person.
I wish I would have sought help sooner, so if me going public with my struggle makes just one person seek assistance, doing this publicly is worth it to me. The VA Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255, and non-veterans can use that number as well.  
I’ll close by saying this isn’t goodbye. Once I work through my mental health challenges, I fully intend to be working shoulder to shoulder with all of you again. But I’m passing my oar to you for a bit. I hope you’ll grab it and fight like hell to make this country the place we know it can be.
Jason