In 2010, I served on the Public Safety Service Task Force considering possible improvements for the Independence Police and Fire departments. The task force provided a report (found on the city website) recommending that an additional 42 police positions – patrol officers, detectives, some support personnel – at a cost of $3.6 million per year.

In 2010, I served on the Public Safety Service Task Force considering possible improvements for the Independence Police and Fire departments. The task force provided a report (found on the city website) recommending that an additional 42 police positions – patrol officers, detectives, some support personnel – at a cost of $3.6 million per year.

The committee did not recommend any particular method of funding the additional staff but did speak to several options.

I still agree with the report. I believe we need more police staff to maintain the safety of our community. Much of Independence is becoming “easy pickings” for burglars and petty criminals, and that will only become worse over time. I personally support the use of a property tax to raise the additional funds.

Later in 2010, several residents independently studied the various issues regarding a sales tax (not an option due to confusion over the state law allowing it) vs. a property tax.

Still, I have serious questions I would like answered before I will vote in support of this issue on April 3.

They really are simple questions the city should have answered months ago. The most basic is: Why can’t we pay for the additional police by solving the $4 million-a-year Bass Pro problem?

Recall that in February the city wrote a $3.6 million check to cover the annual mortgage payment of the Bass Pro development site. In the current city fiscal year, we will pay an additional $4 million – about 5 percent of our general city budget.

The City Council has not explained how we got into this trouble (recall the project started long before the current economic downturn), no one has provided any independent review (maybe a good project for the city auditor), no one has answered what happened to the missing hotel (which, from observation of the new Drury Inn, would have been a good business opportunity), and no one has explained how long we may need to make an annual $4 million mortgage payment on the development site.

If we can convert the $4 million a year we currently spend on the Bass Pro project to the Police Department ... problem solved.

Maybe it is time for an independent review of the Bass Pro problem so we can get some answers before the April 3 tax election?

The City Council has been less than transparent about the problem and the proposed solution. Recall that no one outside City Hall was aware of the council vote to make the emergency $3.6 million mortgage payment last February until it was leaked to the media. The claims were instantly made that it was all a big secret due to a lawsuit between Bass Pro and the city. The lawsuit is very narrow and – as evidenced by the media interviews after the leak to the media – certainly was not a major inhibiting factor for our elected officials’ stony silence.

We are now supposed to trust, with additional taxes, a City Council that sought to hide the entire episode and still has not offered any reasonable explanation of what went wrong (other than the economy) or how and when we are to get out of the problem.

Menards is the answer. As we approach an $8 million investment from city general revenue – with the February 2012 payment – into the Bass Pro project we are told that Menards, a home improvement store, will be the answer.

It appears the city is serious about recruiting Menards to the Bass Pro site. It appears the city has already raised our sales taxes along 39th Street as a backwards incentive to attract Menards.

Do you recall the August vote by the city-controlled Community Improvement District committee, which very quietly raised the sales tax rate along 39th Street by a quarter cent? City documents demonstrate that only a one-eighth-cent increase was needed to meet the shortfall to pay the hockey arena mortgage. There is a pretty good body of evidence indicating the extra eighth-cent increase was to raise the sales tax rate at Lowe’s, the nearby competitor of the proposed Menards. The word is that Menards has requested that the sales tax rate of the Menards site and Lowe’s be the same. Currently the sales tax rate at the Bass Pro site is 8.725 percent while the tax rate along the 39th Street corridor (including Lowe’s) is 8.225 percent. The differences are substantial when you consider the competition among retail stores.

At the same time these various shenanigans are going on, we learn that the city auditor has been limited to re-organizing her files instead of performing audits of city functions as required by the City Charter.

While I support the need for more police officers and I support the use of the property tax to raise the funds to pay for the police officers, until the city can provide adequate answers to these expensive problems I cannot vote to provide them additional taxes. I have voted for quite a few tax increases over the last 15 years in Independence and I am happy to pay my share to have a good community, but let’s clean up the problems before we ask the citizens for more money.

I served on the City Council and when on the council I voted for the Bass Pro project.