Sunday, October 24, 2010

PANDORA'S BOX: Candidate shakes Boone County government

Ed Robb's unprecedented criticisms are democracy at work
COLUMBIA, 10/24/10  (Beat Byte) --  Want a powerful argument for Presiding Commission candidate Ed Robb's attacks against Boone County government's topsy-turvey budgeting process
Drive by the old Lifestyles Furniture building across from the courthouse. See the "For Rent:  Contact the Boone County Commission" sign once again perched where it's been nearly half dozen times since County Commissioners paid millions of tax dollars for the building -- and several others -- half-dozen years ago.
It was a move even County Assessor -- and fellow Democrat -- Tom Schauwecker questioned in 2008.  Protesting the budget, Schauwecker said that "adding to his frustrations were the recent capital acquisitions, such as the Johnston Paint and Lifestyles furniture buildings, which depleted reserve funds and did not go through the budgetary process." 
Robb (above) could use Schauwecker's quote in a campaign ad, so well does it make his case. 
By their own admission, Commissioners overpaid for the Johnston Paint Building, part of a long charade that had County Hall putting its mits out for millions in new taxes, ostensibly to improve the courthouse, but in reality to build, buy, and take -- many private buildings owned by local mucky-mucks off the public tax roles forever. 
With 11 of 12 Boone County elected officials then marching to the beat of a single political party, no one except Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin (D) questioned anything.  Even then-presiding commissioner Keith Schnarre and Judge Kevin Crane -- Republicans both -- jumped aboard the bandwagon.
Political Pandora 
Anyone who thinks that real democracy means competing ideas butting heads in the court of voter opinion ought to be pleased with the political Pandora's Box Robb (R) has unlocked -- and unleashed -- on the one-party rule that has for decades dominated Boone County government.
Apparently figuring he has nothing to lose, Robb -- a former Mizzou economics professor and state representative/vice chairman of the House Budget Committee -- is questioning everything. 
Why, he's asking in radio ads, do all 12 county elected officials -- every one a Democrat -- have salaries of at least $82,000 per year, much higher relative to counties across the state?  
Is the County Commission deliberately overbudgeting to claim savings at the end of the budget year?  
Should Boone County government overhaul a "fake" budgeting process that routinely predicts doom and gloom but delivers whopping surpluses and unprecedented reserves?     
Having failed to question the unbridled patronage behind buying $4.5 million of old downtown buildings County Commissioners still can't keep rented; having failed to decry a scandalous brouhaha that erupted a few years ago, almost tore the Commission apart, and cost a good man his long-time job; and having failed to back Skip Elkin when he would go out on a limb to do the right thing, the Boone County Democratic party now has a stink on its hands at the worst possible time.
Tea time.   
Real Democrats? 
I've asked a different set of questions over the years. 
Why wouldn't an all-Democrat County Commission support the Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS) when it desperately needed new funding?    Elkin tried to rally his compadres -- Ken Pearson (d) and Karen Miller (d) -- on this issue, but they would have none of it.  Miller even cranked at CMHS representatives when they showed a movie about their woes at a Commission meeting.  She'd seen it and didn't want to see it again! 
Why did Commissioners choose to spend our tax dollars on fancy building do-overs when they could have chosen more money for mental health care -- as Elkin had argued -- or more money for Sheriff Dwayne Carey
Why are We the Little People paying more and more in property taxes, while multi-billionaires like Stan Kroenke pay $275 per year on $10 million worth of the county's most desirable land?  Or the Sapp family, which saw the County Assessor drop their property taxes on acres of prime development land in high-end Thornbrook -- to little more than $50.00? 
Why don't Commissioners and other county chieftains with D's after their names act like real Democrats?  And why doesn't their party raise hell when they don't?   

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