Editor's note: The letter to the editor referenced in this letter can be read in its entirety at Councilwoman proposes ways to build Excelsior's future.
On a recent evening, I was winding down from a long day of working, playing rocket ships with my kids using cardboard boxes, and getting them ready for bed.
My phone buzzed. "Have you seen it yet?"
I hadn't, but I would soon learn a sitting city council member had written a letter to the editor published in The Standard. The title included the phrase, "ways to build Excelsior's future." I was excited to learn what the plans might be.
The letter included some important accomplishments by our current elected officials. There's a lot of good happening in this community.
However, the letter quickly strayed from the city council's recent accomplishments to something that seemed entirely different.
As I continued reading, it was incredible to me that an elected official might shift the focus of a published letter away from the city's accomplishments and future to seemingly criticizing private citizens, who also happen to be constituents. What a wonderful opportunity it could have been to address their concerns.
I was even more surprised to see someone mentioned by name in the letter.
My kids can't read yet. They're still busy playing in cardboard rocket ships. But how do you suppose they might feel if they could recognize their dad's name in the paper and thought he was being openly criticized by one of their elected officials?
Don't get me wrong; we're all entitled to our opinions. It's also not as if I imagine I should be immune to criticism after sharing my perspective in the paper.
However, the feedback I've received from our community has been overwhelmingly positive. The vast majority of the people who have reached out agree the community's needs, like infrastructure, emergency services, and schools, should come first, and fiscal responsibility should be a top priority of our elected officials.
Is it possible that many of the council's constituents may view some of the council's actions differently than our elected officials do?
For example, the author seemed to imply water rates might not be a significant issue for the community. However, our combined water, sewer and trash rate are now around 50% higher than the average of over 20 surrounding communities.
Regardless of what one elected official might think, an average bill of even $125 a month for water, sewer, and trash would likely be a substantial amount for many households in this community. Some water bills are much higher.
My guess is a council member who might try to minimize the significance of the impact on the community might not be considering a person struggling to pay a $125 water bill on $1,250 a month of social security income.
In fact, advocating for more affordable water in this community is one of the main causes that motivated me to encourage our elected officials to consider focusing more immediately on our community's needs.
When I discovered over $5 million had been spent on the golf course in the last seven years, I began to consider what more could have been accomplished if some of the money had been invested in projects that benefit our entire community. Moreover, it doesn't seem any of our city officials have explained why necessities like water, sewer, and trash service should be "self-supporting" with user fees, while substantial losses from a luxury like a golf course are heavily subsidized by the community year after year.
The author of the letter even seemed to try to make the case that the golf course losing $491,540 over the past two years might not be as big of a deal as if it had lost more. I think many accountants would agree depreciation is a real cost, which may be why it was included in the city's own budget as an expense and in the higher loss figure of $811,142 I shared. Regardless, removing depreciation from the golf course's losses still seems to leave us with a significant issue.
For any of us, it would be ok both to like the golf course and to admit we've likely been spending too much money there. I think it would be wise for our city officials to consider the possibility that a significant percentage of our community might feel the community's needs should come first.
It's also worth clarifying that I have no association with either the airport or the audit. However, I more clearly understand some of the frustration the people involved might have, after seemingly being openly criticized alongside them in print.
Additionally, to my knowledge, I don't think anyone who has been advocating for more affordable water and sewer utilities in Excelsior Springs works for the Environmental Protection Agency. Several years ago, I did, but my job was helping keep people safe by making sure pesticides were properly registered, formulated, and labeled.
Unless someone else may have been alluded to in the letter, the information would be inaccurate. Why might a person who writes about lamenting "inaccurate information" include inaccurate information in the same published letter? And why might someone use it seemingly to insinuate a person's livelihood may somehow have negatively impacted the community?
Regardless of what the author's intentions may have been, to my knowledge, none of the other council members seem to have spoken out to denounce the member's letter. I hope any who may not have yet will step up and do the right thing.
Ultimately, though, to me, the most surprising thing about the letter is this: I think the author may have missed a great opportunity to focus on laying out the council's plans to build Excelsior's future.
However, there's still hope. The call to action I've made for people to vote next spring gives current elected officials an ample opportunity to refocus their efforts on the community's present and future needs well in advance of April's election. If any of them want a spot at a table where the community's needs come first, there's plenty of room.
Our community isn't being torn apart. We're coming together and focusing on our community's needs. Positive change may seem uncomfortable at times, but it's necessary to acknowledge the challenges we have as a community to be able to address them.
The good news is the conversation is changing, and it creates a unique opportunity for our city. It's time to focus on our community's needs and build a better Excelsior Springs.
A better Excelsior Springs is one with more sidewalks, so our kids can get to school safely.
It's one that includes emergency services budgets that allow our first responders to stay safe on the job and to provide the best care possible when people need it most.
A better Excelsior Springs is one with even better schools and outcomes for our students.
It's a more affordable place to live, where new families and businesses are welcomed to our community.
A better Excelsior Springs invests money in infrastructure projects that benefit all who live here.
It's a place where fiscal responsibility is a top priority, and city officials manage the community's money and resources as if they were their own.
And, a better Excelsior Springs is a place where everyone in our community has a voice.
I'm for putting our community's needs first, and I'm for a better Excelsior Springs.
What about you?