Sunday, November 27, 2011

On City Residency

Like many (but not all) cities, Kansas City requires that employees live within the city limits. Given the size of the city, this is not as onerous a requirement as it is for some in other cities. Because Kansas City has a reasonable cost of living, a variety of neighborhoods are accessible to people who are being paid workingman's salaries by the city. Urban, suburban and exurban neighborhoods can be had. This is under discussion right now, because the city spent over $70 K investigating whether or not a municipal court judge was following the residency rule. They set up cameras, used private investigators and took quite a bit of time to check her out. They discovered that, after stopping at a house she owned within the city limits, she drove on to another home outside the city limits to stay overnight. She would repeat this on returning to work--stopping before starting her workday in the courts. After all this, it was judged that she was not violating the rule.
Where is your residence? Where you lay your head, or pay your taxes and have your car registered? For the first four and a half years or so I that I "lived" in Missouri, I was a resident of Vermont. How did I do this? I was a student. It wasn't until 1994, when I completed my studies that I became a resident of Missouri. People do this all the time, leaving cars registered in their home states, and doing the income taxes for two states while they go to school.
The city defines residence thusly: Residence is defined as the place where a person has his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention of returning. A person satisfies the residence requirement if a portion of the lot or the parcel of land on which his residence is located is within the city limits. Link to ordinance here.
In many ways it isn't very specific. When you look at these words, you could easily say that the judge met the requirements. She had intentions, and did return regularly to the Kansas City home. It doesn't say she had to sleep there all the time, or anything else, just that she left the house and expected to return to it.
My personal problem with what happened here is two fold: one is that we spent over $70,000 investigating this judge, using some fairly invasive techniques: cameras, stake outs, private investigators. What set off this investigation in the first place? It didn't seem like a very good use of city tax money and bordered on Big Brother privacy invasion. The second is to ask are decisions with regard to residency being made consistently across the board? If a police officer, firefighter, parks or water company employee was doing something like this, what would the decision have been? There should be no difference if it is a front line worker or an executive. If you have a rule, it needs to be applied across the board, evenly, without favoritism. What is the point of having a rule if you don't enforce it correctly and uniformly?
Maybe it is time to consider dropping the city residency rule. Maybe just require that a city worker live in Missouri, or within a certain driving time from the work place rather then requiring them to live in a specific city.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Car Spotting

Here is another round of interesting cars I've seen in my travels in the Kansas City metro. Believe it or not, I left some for next time!

In addition to being at least 40 years old, this extended cab Dodge has an interesting kludge.

This mid/late 1970s Dodge has a modification that may offend many purists...

This car almost needs its own post.

An AMC model--one way I can tell AMCs is the door handles--they are unique for the era.

And finally, a postal Jeep. How do I know that this CJ was used at one time by the U.S. Post Office?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Red Bridge Open

I apologize for my lack of posting. A family crisis has removed a lot of extra thinking time from my days as of late. I have had a few postings to Facebook, as well as interesting links and news from what is left on my scanner. Of note to those of us in south Kansas City, the new bridge across the Blue River on Red Bridge Road is now open. There appears to be still some work to do, but travel is easy in both directions now--no more dipping down into the river valley and narrow rickety bridge. There are critics with valid points out there but there is no arguing with the lack of potholes, railroad tracks and wondering just how it is that the bridge is holding up under that big truck. So enjoy a short ride with me as we cross over the Blue using the new bridge for the first time on Friday, November 18 around 2 p.m.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On "Live Blogging"

There are basically two ways to write a blog post. One is to consider your topic and what you want to say for whatever period of time in your head and then just sit down and write the post. The extreme of this method is treating the blog like a journal and literally write off the top of your head. The other is to write the erstwhile post first, before posting it using the blog format. So you might write your essay using Word or some other program, then cut and paste it into Blogger or Wordpress or whatever.

Usually, I live blog. I think about what I want to say in my head, then try to translate those ideas into words, trying to be clear, considering length etc. Sometimes a post is an expansion of a Facebook post or a comment on someone else's blog but still it is not a "second draft" of an essay. I suppose my writing would be better if I wrote drafts but it takes some of the passion out of the writing, some of the immediacy out of it. Live blogging is not always easy; posts sometimes take a l-o-n-g time to compose. Sometimes ideas just will not cooperate. The essay goes in circles. The writing just stinks. Something important ends up being unsaid.
Sometimes I do write drafts. Even with the Blogger iPhone app, it is easier to write on the note function of the phone. When this happens, it is a draft and it gets revised a bit before transfer to Blogger. Very rarely I feel that a post requires extra care; hot topic, need to fact check, like that--in that situation i might write a draft. Hazards of live blogging? Perhaps a post that isn't perfect. For example, while I was pretty happy with Saturday's post on crime, I didn't take time to get into the role of education, I didn't talk about the issue of keeping hope alive, and I wasn't completely happy with the phrase "the rest of the city needs to be protected". On the other hand I like the post for its impact as you read it.

There's a saying: the perfect is the enemy of the good. If I fret over how far from perfect my blog posts sometimes are, nothing would ever be published. That rather misses the point of writing doesn't it. It also is more stressful and much less fun.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bloody 20 Hours Leaves Six Dead

In a fairly narrow geographical area too. Kansas City's East Side. 28th Street to the south. 5400 to the east, roughly Van Brunt/Hardesty. 24th Street to the north. 2900 to the west, Benton Boulevard. One group of three, one singleton, one pair. At about 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday. No names have been released, but more then likely, the victims are members of a minority ethnic group.

You know, people have different reactions to this type of news. For some, it is hardly news, as long as it is in that neighborhood, with Those People. Others are frightened that crime is running rampant. Others demand that "something be done." Still more say not enough attention is paid, and that is due to race matters.

Honestly, what can a city's government do to prevent murders? There are some things that can be done, yes: Here's a quick list: Solve open cases to avoid retribution chains, keep truly criminal people in jail, police and city leaders need to work with the neighborhood leaders to develop trust, lines of communication, use of concentrated police work such as warrant sweeps and stings, ask that leaders of Kansas City's east side begin to speak out against the potent but minority thug culture and demand better of people...

There are the larger cultural and systemic issues: Why do people in this area put up with this stuff--when such things happen in other Kansas City neighborhoods, residents are outraged. It is not tolerated. Police are not hindered in their investigation by the witness and/or victim not cooperating. Is there a perverse pride in being the neighborhood that has the most deadly violent crime? There is nothing a city government can do for this. No amount of money will improve this, and police work is reduced to working after the fact.

The status quo is hard to move--leaders that are benefiting are loathe to change. People in minority crime ridden neighborhoods are biased to not trust the police--the police don't trust the people either and in extreme cases some officers might even consider the people less smart, trustworthy, disciplined and even less human than people in other neighborhoods or of other racial groups. Everything that happens gets filtered through Black distrust and White fear.

The problem is a murder rate, even if the majority of a city is fairly free of murders, portrays a city ridden with crime that is not safe. That affects the city's reputation, which affects the marketplace for companies and people to move to Kansas City. That in turn makes tax collection smaller, which leaves the city less able to provide basic services. To raise money, the city might consider raising taxes, which again discourages economic development. A vicious cycle.

Let's start with this: solve these three crimes and begin to build relationships between police and community. Now is the time with fresh faces in the mayor's and police chief's offices to make plans and strategies, move some resources, do some new stuff. There will always likely be more murders in the east side, if for no other reason that the culture of pleasure, scorn for education and achievement, and the ready availability of quick cash through drug dealing is extremely difficult to dislodge. The good people of the east side deserve better, the rest of the city needs to be protected. Kansas City cannot afford to ignore this problem or only apply a band-aid solution. It deserves to be made a priority, even after recognizing that violent crime will not disappear. All the citizens of the city deserve better then what is happening now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You Can Not Make This Stuff Up

Is this world just falling apart? Some of the stuff that happens is just not conceivable--if you were a writer, the publishers would turn down your manuscript because it was too implausible.

Here's what I am talking about: the mayor of a midmajor American city has to take cover because someone is shooting a firearm near him. Little tent cities have popped up in US cities of all sizes all across the country--and all these little cities have city problems--when they are not having meetings. Meantime, during a debate a man who wants to be the president forgets one of the three departments he would abolish if elected. Another man who wants to be POTUS has had five women come forward accusing him of being sexually harassing towards them.
Meantime, we have earthquakes in places like Oklahoma that usually don't experience them. We have F5 tornadoes in bunches. Snow falls on October 31 and some are still without power over a week later. An earthquake and tsunami result in radioactive food and automobiles in Japan.
On the sports front we have seasons that may never happen (pro basketball) and seasons that started by a whisker (pro football). A storied coach at a university for over sixty years fails to follow up on a credible report of statutory sodomy by one of his assistants and is unceremoniously sacked at once.
Overseas, people rise up and remove long time dictators in three countries. Other countries tip towards bankruptcy as their governments fight to maintain rule. One country in Africa, Sudan, actually formally voted to split in half and form two countries where there had been just one.
Finally, would you imagine a family with 20 kids and none of them were adopted?

Like I said, you can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

KCIR Deal Stinks Worse than Roadkill

Snipped from the video in the KCTV report linked below.

As you may have read the Kansas City International Raceway, a small drag strip in the 8200 block of Noland Road in far south eastern Kansas City, is going to be bought by the city and converted to a park. It is a deal that has an awful stink about it in so many ways. I was completely disgusted after reading this article in the Kansas City Star and posted this on Facebook.

This is a biased incomplete article that does not ask the hard questions. The KCIR sale is a boondoggle that will cost the city money it does not have, done to keep the swells happy and insure election for Circo. It will replace a business with an empty park that will not give tax income and, in fact, will likely become a crime and dumping problem for the area. They may wake up in 10 years and realize the race track was a pretty good neighbor!

One thing I didn't cover in my indignant rant is the fact that the sale was rushed through the legislative process "recognizing an emergency." So what is the emergency? To complete the sale before any public hearing can be conducted and to make sure that no one can see the exact way the sale was completed? Notice in the article how little of the usual paper work surrounding the sale of a property is being made available. If too much time were to pass before the council approved this lovely little boondoggle, the intrusive and disinfecting rays of sunshine might be brought to bear on the process. There are games being played with the negotiations, the power of eminent domain to take something without proper compensations, the refusal to allow racing until another site is secured, and so forth. The power of government--is it being used in the interest of all the citizens, or just in the interest of a few to the detriment of the many?
The entire thing just reeks of the politics of privilege. Houses of the rich and connected were built long after the raceway was there. It's a bit like building near the airport and complaining about airplanes taking off. It has been promised to the rich and connected that the drag strip would be "taken care of." Now, when the city is pinched for funds on every front, it is going to buy land and try to make it a park. Just what happens when it costs more than they anticipated to make the land a park. Does that now open up the way to a private developer coming in to "save the day"? Could that be the ultimate goal? City acquires land, then discovers it can't afford to do anything with it; looks for "White Knight" to rescue them?
If it actually does become park land, can the city afford to maintain and police it? I am not sure if it is in East Patrol or South Patrol but either way, how many many minutes will it take for an officer to respond to a crime there? There are some pretty nasty sex businesses not far from there; some of that will no doubt move to the erstwhile park. I would not be surprised to see dumping of construction junk and other garbage become a big problem too.
Of course, those "with a need for speed" will find other outlets for their need. Some might go to Topeka. Some may not go that far...

As I said before, the swells might wake up in 5-10 years and discover that the race track was a pretty good neighbor after all.

I like this post from Tony; it contains images of ordinance fact sheets that contain no concrete facts. (Where have we seen that before--I see that former MAST person raising their hand!)

Here is the Kansas City Star article that got me going today. Read the comments (if they are still there; the Star has an annoying habit of making comments go away. I actually copied the comments onto my computer.)

A statement from one of the KCIR principles describing the rock-and-hard-place the business investors and owners found themselves in.

A nice story from KCTV done in September 2011 on KCIR and its racing series for the common man. The video is cool.

Monday, November 7, 2011

On Restoration

The Roman Catholic Church is rightly excoriated on a regular basis for not facing the issue of clergy who sexually abuse children. Instead of reporting such criminal behavior to the authorities promptly and without hesitation, they tend to try and take care of it "in house." Part of this is probably the desire to prevent bad things from leaking out and tainting the name of the church, but part of this is probably a product of the desire to create redemption--a desire that is dyed in the fabric of the Christian faith.

Christianity says that the sinful person can be forgiven, and further, becomes a different and better person. That is a fundamental part of the faith. There is also the recognition that even when a person is forgiven and becomes a Christian, there is still a possibility that that person will commit a sin or make a mistake. When that happens, the wayward believer needs to repeat the confession and turn away from the action that is wrong and has offended both the father God and his fellow human beings.

When such a person is in leadership or in a position of power, such as being a priest or pastor, what to do with them becomes an issue for the church. The desire is to restore the person fully to what they were before after they confess and deal with their sin, which includes a commitment to change their behavior. However, there must be a consideration for the seriousness of the actions and for safety of those around the leader.

The Roman Catholic Church has erred on the side of screening errant priests from the secular world's penalties for their actions, and trying to hide these priests by sticking them in less public settings or moving them around a lot. It looks more like cover-up than real concern for the priest's spiritual state or relationship with God. I am sure that if you asked the hierarchy what they were doing, they would say that they were looking to give the priest a new chance to return to his previous state in the spirit of the restorative nature of the Christian faith. To the world, it looks like deliberate ignorance and cover up, and rightly, the church looks bad in the eyes of the world.

I am a Christian. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of God to change people through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. However, the church--and I mean any Christian church no matter how convinced they are the only genuine church of Jesus Christ--must err on the side of transparency and accountability both for themselves and for the wayward leaders. No where is it portrayed that the church is to be perfect as it lives out the faith in the world. It is charged, however, to be different from the world. That means being different when there is sin in the ranks. The main way that the church can be visibly different than the world is by the way Christian treat both fellow Christians and those who do not believe. It is not an act of Christian love to ignore the obvious wrong doing and its resulting harm to others.

First, the care and well being of the victim must be first. Now, that does not mean that the church tolerates dysfunctional anger, lust for blood or vengeance by the victim. It does mean that the church treats the victim with respect, starts by believing the victim's story, and when needed makes amends to the victim when and if the story proves true. In dealing with the perpetrator, the church works transparently. Obedience to the civil authority of the law, such as obligatory reporting, turning in evidence, and making witnesses and suspects available to me is mandatory. It is not a matter of being mean or punishing the miscreant priest or pastor, it is a matter of holding them strictly accountable for their actions. They must be removed from any position that involves contact with the public, especially the victim population (kids, men, etc) right away. It does not fly in the face of the Christian ideal of restoration to be quick and decisive in action against sinning leaders. In fact, it may help such a person come to their senses by not cushioning them from the consequences of their actions. The hope would be that they would realize quickly the error of their ways and seek forgiveness and turn away from their sinful ways. That is the start of the path for healing for the sinful leader.

Once a priest or pastor or minister has committed to stopping their sinful action--they have made a commitment not to contact children or seduce women or dip their hands in the offering plate--what then should the church do with them? Should they be permitted back in the same ministerial environment in which they fell and did wrong before? If I was in charge, my answer would be "No" in most circumstances. Find another ministry, or vocation not in the church. Even then, the repentant leader's life must be like an open book, totally transparent and open to inspection at any time. The idea must be that we love you, and we accept you, but we care enough about you to demand that you do what you say that you will do, that is, you will stop hurting others.

All of this to be done with gentleness and love, but wisdom. Jesus advised his disciples to be as shrewd and wise as serpents but as gentle and harmless as doves. That advice is just as valid today as it was in Jesus's day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Back Tonight

Adjustment time for all, including cat meal time...

It seems as if the time change gets later and later now and we spend more month in Daylight Savings Time. I am getting sick of it being so dark in the morning. So even though it may mean some adjustment, I am happy to see the time change coming. It comes Sunday morning at 2 a.m., so don't forget to turn clocks back one hour before you go to bed. If you forget, you will be one hour early to everything tomorrow!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Babies, Critters, Racers and Stuff: Late Night Musings

So I have been a bit busy lately and have been neglecting the long form of late. If you follow me on Facebook you've been getting links of interest and small bits of commentary--I hope you enjoyed those.
I am working on some interesting stuff. Very soon I will have some excerpts from an interesting book titled "The Price of Civilization" by Jeffrey Sachs on the economy to post. With regard to the issues of the. Roman Catholic church I have some thoughts on the balance of Christian forgiveness, restoration and the stewardship and responsibility of keeping children safe in the church.
If you will notice there has been no real news that gets us any closer to finding Lisa Irwin. All we've had is more circus and more strange behavior from her parents along with more publicity seeking from lawyers and activists.
Animal issues have been in the news: a way has been made to give the new operators of the KCMO animal shelter funds to get started on improving conditions at the 30+ year old facility and give the strays of KC a better chance to live, and be healthy and have a chance at finding new owners. The zoo is news as voters--all five of you--will be deciding on a sales tax to support the attraction. I was considering voting yes on this--until I realized it did not sunset. A tax for a specific thing needs a closing date. As much as I think the zoo is a worthwhile thing for a city of our size to have, it may not be something we are destined to do very well--it has been a struggle all the 20+ years I've lived in the metro.
Finally, the city is trying--and appears to have succeeded in buying the Kansas City international Raceway. There is a lot of blow back on this however, and while I doubt the talk of conflict of interest, favoritism and spendthrift ways will stop the sale, it will be interesting to watch. Meantime, this weekend KCIR will be hosting races and timed runs on both Saturday and Sunday. When the strip closes, and especially if no new site for a drag strip is developed, expect more drag racing on Missouri 150 between highway 71 and State Line Road, and on 135th street west of Leawood.
What do you all think of OWS? They've lost support since the 20 somethings among them whined about college loans, more allegations of crime in the camps have come to light, and fire and other vandalism was committed in Oakland. OWS may try to make the incident involving an unfortunate driver in Oakland a "Kent State moment". Whether that "he said/they said" incident can carry that weight is yet to be seen. If you found yourself in that situation, through no fault of your own, what would you do when a mob started banging on the hood and windows of your car? Do you really think you can wait for some sort of rescue?
That is all for now. Over and out. 10-42. Priority 10. We're done.
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