Old Drum

Commentary on Warrensburg, Johnson County and Missouri issues from a Libertarian perspective. View my earlier commentary at www.olddrum.net.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Who's Handing Out Misinformation?

Golly, I'm uninformed and handing out misinformation! At least, that's what the Hawthorne developers said in their cosy little interview with the DSJ. [That's the same DSJ that published the "factual answers" about the zoning issue in 1997 (see www.olddrum.net/zoning for how true those facts were). It's the same DSJ that published an "article" lambasting the President by a local Democratic Party official without labeling it as "opinion."]. So I guess I'd better respond, since I've been one of the most vocal of local citizens on the issus.

First, I'm not opposed to the project or the development; it would be nice to have more retail choices so the marketplace could sort out the winners and losers. While I might not be up on allthe little details, I understand the basic difference between the Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) and the Transportation Development District (TDD). And I understand the difference between a tax abatement and directly taxing citizens. Let's look at some specifics from the DSJ article.

The DSJ cited the developer, stating "some people think this is a giveaway to them from the city." A direct quote was "Technically, we have been given nothing by the community." Technically, he's right: the city hasn't given the developer money directly; instead, it has allowed the developer to take money from the citizens without the city acting as a middleman. Practically, I fail to see any significant difference.

According tothe DSJ, the developer said he didn't go for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) because he was "told it would be unpopular here." I expect so, especially with the Mayor's wife, who is on the local school board that would be affected by a TIF. In addition, use of a TIF on undeveloped property is exactly the type of abuse that is likely to be curbed wither by the legislature or by voter initiative.

The DSJ also says the developers don't want to use eminent domain on the church. Now, I'm the one who made that issue public and I did so after a conversation with a member of that church. The developer may not have any long-term plans to condemn the property, but the church member certainly had that concern. However, any talk of condemnation is likely to be moot if the eminent domain reform efforts aren't derailed by "economic development" special interests.

The DSJ article further goes on to quote the developers lauding the city staff. It's now in the open - the city made the overtures to Wal-Mart, just as I suspected. I still think Wal-Mart signed on because the alternative was worse. While it is true that Wal-Mart is involved in a TDD down at Warsaw, their new store was the anchor of the development, not a well-established on-going operation.

A lot comes down to a question of values. If economic development is accepted as good, does it thus follow that otherwise-objectionable actions are ennobled? According to my values, it is objectionable to take money from the citizenry without their consent and give that money to another citizen. The ends, however worthy, do not justify the means.

Monday, January 16, 2006

More on County Sewage

To expand on my earlier post, here's some parts of the draft ordinance, to apply to all unicorporated areas of the county, you should be concerned about:

1.4.3 - allows the health department to enter your property without proving probable cuse as long as they don't enter any buildings.

1.4.4 - the Board of Health rather than the County Commission sets the fees.

1.6 - Violating anyprovision of the ordinance is a misdemeanor. - Defines "failing system" which allows them to require you to upgrade (& comply with their rules). A sewer backup is one of the items.

2.3.19 - the inspector has to do a "site visit" before any permits can be issues.

2.5.6 - Requires plugging old wells "located on the property" - doesn't matter if they're a half-mile away.

2.7.6 - Requires detailed plans done to scale. - Allows them to deny a permit for violation of design or construction rules. So, would that mean you couldn't fix things so you'd just have to move out or pay daily fines? - It's alsoa violation of the ordinance to violate building, subdivision or zoning regulations.

2.11 - Says the ordinance will be "construed liberally to the fullest extent permitted by law."

Read it yourself and then tell the commission what you think of it.

In Liberty

County Sewage Ordinance

Johnson COunty is finally getting around to proposing a sewage ordinance for unincorporated areas, 8 years after they looked into one following failure of the last attempt at zoning. For the story, see the digitalBurg.com article.

I took alook at the draft ordinance and noted, as ususal, it's a case of detailed government micro-management and oversight. Instead of simply prohibiting actions that affect neighbors, pubic roads, or streams, they came up with a detailed 27-page rule that tells exactly how to construct a rural septic system. It includes plans and blueprints, surveys, soil samples, licenses, inspections and all that "good" governmental stuff. Don't belive me? Read it at Johnson County website (but make sure you have Adobe Acrobat reader).

The proposal exempts existing services, but if your sewer backs up and you tell anyone about it, they can consider your system "failing" and make you retrofit at great cost. It has no acreage exemption, so if someone wants to put a septic tank in by their hunting cabin in a 100-acre field, it'll cost them an extra $5000 or so to comply with the rules.

What's wrong with simply giving the County Health Service the authority to hammer anyone who's sending sewage onto someone elses's property? What's the benefit in providing detailed one-size-fits-all procedures that stifle innovation and simple solutions? Why does government need to put its hands deeper into our pockets and its eyes prying into our property?

In Liberty

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

City Council giving away $$

According to the City Council meeting report in digitalBurg.com, the city will offer $4.25 million in "Municipal Temporary Notes" for the Hawthorne development. I have a few questions:
1. What, pray tell, is a "Municipal Temporary Note" and how did we get into situation where a city can issue notes willy-nilly without a vote.
2. Who's going to buy these "Municipal Temporary Notes"? Will they be sold to/thru a favored bank or though open bidding?
3. Hasn't the City done enough to support this developer by raising our taxes at Wal-Mart?

Thye also raised their contribution to Warrensburg Main Street, Inc., from $18,000 to $30,000 a year. I think Main Street is a fine organization, but I wonder if it's a proper use of tax money. Of course, it's small potatoes compared to the $100,000 a year the Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center extracts (and squanders) from the room tax.

In Liberty

Monday, January 09, 2006

City Election, City Website

I was going to remind people of the upcoming end of filing for City Council - whether it's tomorrow or next Tuseday, but I wasn't sure which. The City of Warrensburg website should have the answer, but it doesn't. As a matter of fact, it's not very usable at all, especially if one chooses not to be a slave to Microsoft. The site is virtually unreadable in Opera and the toolbar links don't work in Thunderbird, leaving MSIE as the only usable browser. Content is lacking, as well - I found nothing on the City Council election.

Which brings me to - is ANYONE going to run against Debbie Arwood? Or are we going to allow her to be reelected without any public discussion of the Hawthorne development, tax giveaways, and the Wal-Mart tax. Almost everyone I've talked to is unhappy about the tax. Surely, someone living in the city limits would find it in themselves to step forward and force a discussion on the issue. Or will the lambs remain silent and encourage city administration to continue giving our money to developers?

In Liberty

Friday, January 06, 2006

Bonds, Hawthorne & Eminent Domain "Reform"

The dB provided us some info on next Monday's City Council meeting agenda; a meeting I couldn't find in the DSJ. It appears they're going to issue $4.25 million in notes to finance some of the Hawthorne work. I thought that the TDD issued the bonds themselves - I guess it's "easier" for the city to do it for them under some arcane rule or statute. I have no idea what the rules are, but they darn well ought to be getting competitive bids on everything they issue. I wish someone with the knowledge and the time would follow the money. And someone who'll speak out would run for City Council to create a race based on a real issue!

I wrote earlier about the possible future eminent domain threat to a small church on the fringe of Hawthorne. As I read the statements by business organizations and legislators, I don't think there's any real intent to reform the system. Whatever rules they change will be nothing more than eyewash; they'll basically preserve the "right" of cities to take property and give it to developers by providing lots of loopholes in their definition of "blight." I read Shannon Cooper's (R-Clinton) commentary via email and listen to David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) on KOKO, and neither has come out with a strong condemnation of diverting tax money to devlopers. Indeed, this morning Pearce talked about how great Tax Increment Financing is (that's when they take property tax money from schools, hospitals. parks and fire districts and give it a developer who promises a few new jobs).

Oh, and enjoy paying your extra tax when you shop at Wal-Mart - it's here!

In Liberty

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year?

If my reading of the law was correct, the Wal-Mart tax should take effect today. That will bring tax on your general purchases to 8.1% and on groceries to 5.1%. In comparison, in Sedalia's Wal-Mart you'll pay 7.6% (just like Warrensburg used to be), and they're paying for a new jail. In Clinton, it's even lower, 6.975%. While the diffrence isn't enough to pay the gas for a trip to one of those cities, it's enough to make one plan to shop if traveling there anyway.

Is the reason Warrensburg's base tax is higher than other cities is that we give so many tax breaks to developers? It's a point to ponder as you take your shopping elsewhere.

Anyway, Happy New Year!

In Liberty