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  • skcablog 4:31 pm on January 25, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Hickman Mills Needs Scrutiny 

    Tony’s KC reported on an article by Jodi Fortino of KCUR which compares student population in the Hickman Mills School District with that in the North Kansas City School District. It’s good that someone is now paying a bit of attention. For the last two years people in Hickman Mills have been trying to get the media to listen to issues plaguing the district, but to no avail. While those issues are much larger than these quotes from the superintendent, it’s easy to see, at least in part, the reason the district continues its downward spiral.

    Some quotes from the article followed by my comments:

    “Enrollment at Hickman Mills dropped by 15% in the last five years, from 5,565 students in 2018 to 4,758 this year.” In October Superintendent Obeng insisted enrollment was not declining and was currently at 6,000.

    “Obeng says projections of continuing enrollment decline led the district to close two elementary school buildings and reconfigure grade levels in most of its buildings.” That was in 2019 when the district hired a consultant to perform a demography study which showed there would be continual decline in student population for the next 10 years. The superintendent now seems to contend that study was incorrect.

    “Closing schools allowed the district to improve its financial picture even with fewer students in its seats, Obeng says.” Closing schools would certainly save in salary and maintenance costs, but there have been no figures to show if that amount offsets the amount the district has lost in per pupil funding from the state.

    “Obeng said he hopes ongoing conversations with developers about adding more two- or three- bedroom housing units to the area will draw in more families.” While we’re not sure what developers the superintendent may be speaking with, there are currently 3 such housing developments proposed within the district, all in URD (urban redevelopment district) areas. That, in itself, means fewer tax dollars for the district. There was also a community meeting held this last Saturday hosted by Councilwomen Bough and Parks-Shaw to discuss the prospect of creating yet another rather large URD area within the district boundaries. The superintendent was invited but did not attend and did not send a representative. Also, the community would prefer to see single family housing, which would also more than likely add more stability to the current high student turnover district.

    “Obeng said teachers coming to the district will bring their own children with them, further boosting enrollment.” I’m not sure why he believes new teacher hires will even move to this area when they are most likely established elsewhere. Also, why would teachers knowingly enroll their children in an unaccredited school district?

    “He said the district is in the process of demolishing old buildings it had previously closed (currently still standing and blighting neighborhoods) and rebuilding them.” These schools have sat vacant since 2019 and with a lack of security they were often vandalized, including being set on fire. As of last March at least one was proposed to have a complete renovation. Any thought of rebuilding was never shared with the community.

    Almost a year ago, a bond issue was passed in order for the district to renovate buildings and demolish vacant ones. None of that has occurred; possibly because plans keep changing. There has been talk of everything from a new 6th grade center to a second middle school. Ideas seem to keep changing even though there should have been a concrete plan prior to asking for a new bond issue. (Items from the previous bond haven’t been completed.)

    Now, seemingly, the district wants to buy a new building (the former Pinnacle Career Institute) with bond money – even though purchasing property wasn’t part of the bond wording; using $22M of bond money and $26M of COVID money. It would house district administration and a real world learning center with no definite plans for the space administration now occupies. The district actually owns a building specifically built for administration but opted to move out of it several years ago. Rumor has it now that it has been or is in the process of being sold. (fodder for another blog)

    The crux of this whole issue is that there seem to be no actual plans, simply whatever hits someone’s (the superintendent’s?) fancy on any given day. It certainly doesn’t help to have a nonfunctioning board; or at least one with its own priorities which are not necessarily those of the district or the community. What family in its right mind would move into such an unstable school district?

     
  • skcablog 11:03 am on January 19, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Election Fraud? 

    The HIckman Mills School Board has been a hot mess for some time. That’s what happens when you have politicians sitting as board members. Now there’s a new twist.
    DaRon McGee, who won a seat three years ago, would be up for re-election this coming April. As such, he duly filed his intent to run again. Therein lies the crux of the matter. In November he was elected to the County Legislature. The short story is: three other school board members were also elected to the legislature; the charter says these 4 must give up those positions; a lawsuit was filed; the 4 resigned their board seats, including Mr. McGee.
    The problem is that he has not removed his name from the filing list and as of next Tuesday it will be too late for it not to appear on the ballot. Because his name appears last, there is a good chance he could garner enough votes in April to be re-elected to the school board since many voters simply vote for the first and last names. In any event he will most certainly take votes away from other candidates.
    Should he be re-elected, will he give up his seat with the county legislature which is a paid position and where he was also elected chair? Or will he again resign his seat on the school board? If his intent is the latter, is that election fraud?

     
  • skcablog 10:59 am on January 16, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Quinton Lucas, Red Bridge Shopping Center   

    Hickman Mills Nonexistent? 

    The closing of the Sun Fresh Market in the Red Bridge Shopping Center was announced recently; and it didn’t take long for the Mayor to jump on the political bandwagon:

    “Our Red Bridge area deserves high quality services, including grocery and shopping options. I will work with area leaders and neighbors to secure a new store that will continue the resurgence of the Red Bridge Shopping Center and South Kansas City.”

    While I’m sure he thinks this will gain him votes, which he doesn’t need since he will be running unopposed, it struck a nerve in another area of KC which he apparently does not recognize.

    The Hickman Mills Community was annexed by Kansas City in the 1960s and is actually located in the southeast corner of Kansas City, yet it seems the mayor is denying its existence. To him, South Kansas City would appear to mean Red Bridge and Martin City because those areas are where the “resurgence” is.

    The question is: Why does he believe the Red Bridge area is deserving of “high quality services” while he continues to ignore the dilapidated shopping centers in Hickman Mills which are nothing more than eyesores? Why does he not believe Hickman Mills is deserving of a “resurgence” and “shopping options”?

    When running for office 4 years ago, the mayor actually had a community meeting in Hickman Mills in order to listen to concerns of the people living there. He even participated in a forum at Ruskin High School. In what many expected to be a close race, he was looking for votes wherever he could find them. Now it seemingly doesn’t matter and once again the Hickman Mills Community not only loses out but isn’t even recognized.

    Kansas City could be a truly great city if the powers that be would stop trying to improve the already well-developed areas and focus more on areas of need. At the very least, they could acknowledge all areas of the city as being part of the city.

     
  • skcablog 9:13 pm on January 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Gamesmanship is Pure Politics 

    The question is, why is DaRon McGee playing games with the lives of 5000 students in the Hickman Mills School District? He (conceitedly?) tried to sit on the county legislature while remaining on the school board. After a judicial appeal was filed, he resigned his school board seat and was almost immediately elected president of the legislature. ( a political subdivision where he has no experience)
    While one may smile – or frown – at these political shenanigans, they have no place in the political subdivision of school boards. In the almost three years he served on that board in Hickman Mills, the education of kids was rarely on the agenda.
    Even though he resigned that seat and should now focus on county issues, he seems to still be playing games in and with the Hickman Mills Community. Before resigning his current seat, he filed to run for another 3-year term on the school board and as of this writing has not removed his name from that ballot.
    The April election will be a big one. There are 41 candidates who have filed for 12 seats on the city council. By and large, that will be the focus of most who go to the polls. When they see the need to also vote for 3 school board members, most will have no clue. Many will likely vote for the first and last candidate because that has been shown to be what voters do when unaware of candidates’ backgrounds.
    The actual filing for seats has closed which means, unless he removes his name in the next week, Mr. McGee’s name will appear last. Should he win the seat, will he then resign yet again leaving the remaining board to appoint someone to fill his seat? Regardless of who is elected in April, Freedom, Inc. endorsed candidates will still hold the majority of votes. Is the game here for Mr. McGee, a Freedom, Inc. endorsed candidate himself to simply help ensure Freedom, Inc. maintains a majority of votes?
    That, in itself, would not be a bad thing. What is asked is that whoever is elected or appointed, have the best interest of the kids at heart. It may be trite, but it’s true – they are our future. Anyone serving on a school board should not only want to protect their own future, but should want to give the students they are actually responsible for, the best education they can in order to make the students’ lives better. For the last 3 years that has not seemed to be the case.

     
  • skcablog 9:53 pm on January 4, 2023 Permalink | Reply  

    Just Can’t Let Go 

    City council elections are coming up and it should be noted that John Sharp’s 8-year double term as a PIAC representative, appointed by 6th district councilman McManus, possibly in return for election help, is coming to an end. Also ending are his tenure as president of South Kansas City Alliance (SKCA) and board member of the Community Assistance Council in the Hickman Mills Community. While the normal course of action would be to simply step aside graciously and allow other community members (along with fresh ideas) to step in, rumor has it that Mr. Sharp is trying to get the by-laws for both groups changed so he can hang on in his current positions. (It should also be noted that Mr. Sharp was instrumental in developing the current by-laws, including officer term limits, for the SKCA. Also, he was on the city council when they extended the duration of their terms by a few months.) Many have been heard to say over the years that he has no life outside politics and that he craves the spotlight in order to perpetuate the idea that he is influential. Should the rumors prove true, he may be proving this last point.

     
  • skcablog 4:44 pm on December 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Your Tax Dollars At Work 

    Surely everyone has received their tax statement from the County. Those living within the Hickman Mills School District should notice a tidy little increase over last year. If you recall, that’s because the majority of voters decided to approve a tax levy increase that the school district asked for. Information from the school district stated it was necessary in order to raise teacher salaries and if teacher salaries were higher, more teachers would be attracted to teach in Hickman Mills. That levy increase made the Hickman Mills salaries the highest in the area – at least until another district raises theirs. Like someone said, it’s a race to the bottom. Also, Independence is betting the 4-day work week will attract more teachers, so at least they’re trying something before asking their constituents to foot the bill.

    The problem is that the District ran a bit of a stealth campaign and only talked about teacher salaries, so probably no one realized that when teachers get more money, everyone gets more money. I’m fine with that, to a degree, because the non-certified (support) personnel certainly deserve a raise. What most people didn’t realize is that the raise also includes administrators. Just as an example, the superintendent currently has a base salary of $251,000+. That doesn’t include any “perks” such insurance, annuities, travel expenses, etc. for overseeing a district with just over 5,000 kids (according to DESE, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). For that, his salary is almost $100,000 more than our previous police chief was making; and with the increased tax levy (money coming out of the community’s pockets), the superintendent will also be receiving a substantial increase. Must be nice.

    Of course that is contingent on his receiving a satisfactory review by the board of education; but since they gave him a 5-year contract last year rather than the usual 3, it does’t seem likely they will mark him down too badly, if at all.

     
  • skcablog 2:17 pm on December 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Hickman Mills School District,   

    School Board Elections – Are the Children the Losers? 

    Filing for school board seats opened last Tuesday and Ms. Hicks, the superintendent’s and school board’s secretary in the Hickman Mills School District can apparently make up school board election rules as she goes.

    Last year she stated that she was listing candidates in the order in which she received their completed paperwork. She even cited the Missouri Ethics Commission as her source for doing so, even though they have no jurisdiction over school board elections.

    This year, while Missouri law states all political subdivisions holding elections must post a notice of the filing period in the local newspaper prior to the opening date of filing, she elected to not publish any information. It seems obvious that actually publishing the times and dates would provide the needed information for anyone who wishes to file; and not doing so might cause some to miss the deadline. Even so, on the first day of filing, 6 candidates filed. Ms. Hicks provided numbered chairs for the candidates and currently has them listed in the order of the chairs, but later stated that order may not be as they actually appear on the ballot. Apparently, she has her own criteria as to ballot position and isn’t sharing with anyone. 

    All of this leaves one with several issues to ponder: 

    • Would not publishing times and dates give unfair advantage to possible candidates with inside information? (Apparently, Ms. Hicks is not aware that she could be sued if someone were unable to file due to her machinations.)
    • 3 independent candidates filed first, followed by 3 candidates (2 incumbents and a former school board member) who have been supported by Freedom, Inc. and Southland Progress. If these are all who file, it might be all well and good. People will be voting for 3 so most will probably choose either the first 3 or the last 3 rather than picking and choosing; especially since most of those voting will be voting on city council candidates and will not know a lot about the school board. However, this presents a couple of scenarios:
    • 1) Some believe more people vote for those first on the ballot, so perhaps when the final list of names is sent to the election board, the current last 3 could become the first 3. 
    • 2) Perhaps other candidates will file which would mean the current last 3 would end up in the middle. That might mean the current last 3 remain the last 3 regardless of how many newcomers 
    • 3) The current last 3 will become the first 3 to better insure their win.

    We can surmise all we want about the reasons name placement may get manipulated, but regardless of those, the real issue is that they may actually get manipulated. Is that fraud?

    The law has already been broken by not publishing the information regarding place, dates, and times. How far will this go to ensure the “right” candidates get preferential placement? The big loser in all this seems obvious. No one is thinking about the reason we have school board members in the first place – the children. The reason the Hickman Mills School District is so broken is because it has simply turned into a political game. Shame on Ms. Hicks, who has one of the most powerful non-certified jobs in a school system, for debasing herself like this and believing it’s okay.

    School board elections should not be about politics. They should be about who is best and most qualified to oversee the superintendent to ensure the kids—our future—get the best education possible.

     
  • skcablog 4:54 pm on December 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply  

    The Selfish Generation 

    Just read the KC Star article about school board members also being Jackson County legislators. Apparently, Manny Abarca, who currently serves on the KCPS school board and was also recently elected to the county legislature has filed a court challenge to the interpretation of the Jackson County charter which says “county legislators can’t serve two masters”. He says he wants to remain on the school board because there’s still work to do. Hmmm. Seems like he should have thought of that sooner. Besides, isn’t there always work to do for school boards? He also said “he would like to fulfill the commitment he made to district families.” Again, maybe he should have thought about that sooner. Kind of sounds like he wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Of course that $38,000 a year which the county pays is a bit of an incentive over the $0.00 that a school district pays.

    DaRon McGee, who is on the Hickman Mills School Board and was also recently elected to the Jackson County legislature, is not a plaintiff in the suit but is rooting for Arbarca, which of course means he’s also rooting for himself. McGee paid property taxes in Grandview for years while living in KC. If that indicates he needs the money, maybe it also indicates why he wants the paying job with the county. After all, he had to leave state government under a cloud of shame before he was there long enough to qualify for a pension.

    McGee says he wants to stay on in Hickman Mills because the district is “making headway”, and references the fact that Hickman Mills will be demolishing two schools. Sounds like real headway to me. What about test scores? Graduation rates? No mention.

    According to the County, both of these gentlemen were well aware of the charter provisions, but chose to ignore them—as were two other school board members who were elected, Donna Peyton from Raytown and Megan Marshall from Lee’s Summit.

    Aside from the county charter, there’s also a conflict of interest involved. It’s the county that sets the real estate property values and that’s what school districts use to set their tax levies. Property taxes are the major source of funding for school districts.

    Abarca said he believes “the current legislators’ interpretation to be politically motivated” but does’t explain what that motivation might be. He went on, “It is clearly time for …old political gamesmanship to end.” While he was trying to denigrate the current legislators, he was actually right on the money.

    Why can’t they just finish the job they started? Wouldn’t that be the best way to serve their original constituents? Instead they’ve chosen to show a lack of respect for those who elected them to the school board. Crystal Williams, a current county legislator said it best, “calling the move an unseemly grab for power.”

     
  • skcablog 9:08 pm on December 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Grandview, traffic engineering   

    Road Efficiency in Grandview 

    Some years ago (was it when Grandview was updating Truman Corners shopping center?) the Powers That Be in Grandview city government decided to make the outer roads along then 71 Highway, now officially I-49, one way. Times change. Minds change, sometimes. Grandview city government now seems to include those with more modern ways of thinking. Believing the one-way roads are not helping business, it was decided to return them to their original two-way status.

    That presented a bit of a challenge with the seemingly always busy intersection of Main Street and I-49. How best to solve that problem? Why of course with a round-about! That, folks, is contemporary thinking unlike what we have here in KC where we can only do what we’ve always done.

    The roundabout is actually pretty big, but it is efficiently marked so there’s really no way to get lost. (Even if you do the first time around, don’t you just go in a circle?) I give major kudos to whoever decided to partner with MODOT and bring a bit of modernization to this town that seems to be on the move. Not only have they returned the two-way front streets (it’s a bit unnerving the first time you drive one and see oncoming traffic), they have created a means to cut down on the carbon emissions of cars waiting for green lights/arrows at the intersection. It’s also more efficient for the drivers who can keep moving rather than waiting for their light.

    I have to say it again: Kudos to Grandview! Great job! Also, take note KC.

     
  • skcablog 2:03 pm on November 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: climate crisis, conservation, environment   

    There Was a Glimmer of Hope 

    At last Tuesday’s City Plan Commission, Jeff Williams, head of our illustrious planning and development department, presented an amendment to the Zoning and Development Code which would create a new section for Tree Preservation and Protection.

    This sounds like a good thing in so many ways, but seemingly could still be overruled at a City Plan Commission hearing or even by council members who decide their proposed project is so important, it warrants chopping down trees.

    Construction is still underway to unnecessarily widen Red Bridge Road from Holmes to Wornall. Had this new section been enacted several years ago, over 20 old trees wouldn’t have been mowed down in order to lay more heat absorbing pavement.

    It could also have prevented Cerner from uprooting 12-15 trees which had been planted in the median of Hillcrest Road prior to them removing the median and closing the road to the community.

    Another very positive thing happening centers around the Heartland Conservation Alliance. They are working very hard to return the environs of the Blue River back to its former self. Their mission is to “conserve, protect, and restore natural lands and open space within the Kansas City region.” They are working to create recreational opportunities the length of the Blue which actually starts in Kansas and flows to the Missouri River. That’s where the disheartening part comes in. There are many groups working to make these things happen, but one has to wonder where KC is.

    The KC Parks Director was asked if his department is a part of this huge and wonderful project and he had no idea.

    So, glimmers can be seen and we have to hope they will widen. At least there is a start even if some things are a bit late. Many of us remember the Mayor declaring a “climate emergency”. What a powerful message – with little follow through. The message we’ve all known was coming, came yesterday. There will be a “downtown” ballpark which has made a lot of climate activists cringe. After all, the mayor said there is an emergency. He didn’t say he cared.

     
    • b l 8:55 pm on November 21, 2022 Permalink | Reply

      Yes! I agree with most of your post. The part about Red Bridge road not needing to be upgraded to make a better east-west access to both sides of south kc (those east of 71 hiway & those nearer St. Line) is incorrect. The city could have easily left the old trees & put in 2 TRAFFIC lanes on each side of them. Where else can you go from Ks to Lees Summit or Grandview, other than the insane 435? Why does Kansas WIDEN & improve all their major streets, not choke them down to the size they were 100 years ago (like the bridge that was put in over the river)?

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      • skcablog 4:14 pm on December 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply

        The Hickman Mills Community was annexed by the city of Kansas City in the 60’s but nothing has been done about its infrastructure. The commenter more than implies that Red Bridge Road should be a “commuter” route when, for those living in the area, it is the only east/west means of everyday travel and most here don’t want to have to compete with commuters. The widening of Red Bridge Road would also necessitate the installation of at least one stoplight. Not only would that lead to more pollution, it isn’t fair to those living in the area to be made to wait so commuters can get to their destination quicker. (For those who aren’t aware, Red Bridge Road and Bannister Road (over 4 miles to the north) are the only through east/west streets west of 71 Highway. There are also no north/south through streets from Holmes to Blue Ridge Boulevard, unless you consider the winding and limited Grandview Road. If you have been to any community meetings, you have heard this issue brought up over and over.)

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      • skcablog 4:15 pm on December 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply

        As to the question in the comment ”Why does Kansas WIDEN & improve all their major streets, not choke them down to the size they were 100 years ago?” That does not have a simple answer, but it does have a simple response. Many studies have shown that widening roads does not lessen traffic issues. In fact, widening roads simply guarantees that communities will have more of the same. Increased lanes = increased usage = increased pollution and congestion. The commenter actually mentioned the “insane 435” which was supposed to be an improvement, but seemingly isn’t to the commenter.

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      • skcablog 4:16 pm on December 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply

        The “new” bridge over the Blue River was also mentioned and is seen by the commenter only to “choke” traffic down to what it was 100 years ago. That bridge was actually a compromise between the city who wanted a “highway” bridge and the community – on both sides of the river – who wanted to maintain the quality and nature of the historic area. Perhaps instead of rushing towards 71 highway to make a get away from the area, the commenter should take a few minutes to study that bridge to become aware of the historic nature of the area and maybe also meander a bit up to Minor Park to see where there are still wagon ruts from where those wagons of long ago traveled through the area.

        Hickman Mills is a quiet community and would like to remain that way. Commuters are welcome, but not at the expense of those who find the roads a necessity.

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        • b l 5:08 pm on December 26, 2022 Permalink

          In reply to those that want to keep everything the same, how are they answering on a computer & internet that has only come about in the last couple of decades? Also, I live near Longview Road, which has been widened to 3 lanes plus a bike lane & new curbs & some storm drains, which are never cleaned. I enter it from a small side road that has a stop sign for it & there is not one on the wide & more heavily traveled main road, just as it should be. I almost never have to wait more than a few seconds to go either direction. This section of Longview is one mile long between 2 major north-south streets. The city did NOT put in a bunch of polluting, traffic stopping unnecessary lights. The 2 times there was a backup, the rush hour traffic on 470 was detoured from that stretch. These major roads also connect 5 cities and 2 states. How are all the residents on Red Bridge having to live with no access to Red Bridge. And it looks like they are adding stop lights on that stretch also. As there is only 1 grocery store, a bank or 2 & only a couple of eating places along there, how do area people get to shopping? I guess it is by the “bike lanes” that is added to so many of the main streets south of the river. So you must be a senior citizen who uses their bike to do their major shopping, like many in this area cannot do.

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