Independence residents who are upset about a police general real estate tax April ballot issue should look to one man, not the entire City Council.

Independence residents who are upset about a police general real estate tax April ballot issue should look to one man, not the entire City Council.

That is what Independence native Tim Watkins said Tuesday night.

“There have been a lot of people that have been mad at the council because you decided to put this on,” Watkins said during the meeting’s citizen comment period. “To those folks, I say, If you want to throw a rock, throw it at me.”

People like himself, Watkins said, pushed the council to put a police-related issue back on the ballot. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a police personnel-related sales tax in August 2009.

“Since this has all come about and the council did make the decision to put this thing on the ballot – which I thank you for – there’s been a lot of speculation,” said Watkins, who is co-chairman of the “Protect Our Community” campaign, along with Centerpoint Medical Center CEO Carolyn Caldwell and former Independence Police Chief Fred Mills.

Watkins said he’s heard “crazy notions” of where the additional $3.7 million each year would be spent. That’s the amount needed annually for 42 additional police personnel and their equipment that would be phased in over three years.

On April 3, Independence voters will consider a levy increase of 0.3629 (comparable to a quarter-cent sales tax increase, officials say) that would result in a $5.75 per month impact on property owners whose home has an assessed market value of $100,000.

“It’s a designated tax. There’s going to be an oversight committee,” Watkins said. “On the designated taxes, they are watched very closely.”

Then, in a self-proclaimed “plainspoken fashion” with comparisons to Harry Truman, Watkins laid out this rhetorical question:

“Are you really wanting to support your community and the good people in your community and the police department that provides support for your community, or do you want to support the criminal?”

“The good people of this city,” Watkins said, deserve more police presence on the streets and better response times.

“This is something we can achieve and we can make it happen,” he said, “but it’s not just going to happen by wishing.”  

Forty days remain until the election. I’m not here to tell you how to vote. I’m not here to even tell you that you need to vote – but what better way exists to make your voice heard?

Each of us 116,000-plus residents who call Independence “home,” however, owe it to ourselves to get educated and to ask questions, if we have them.

A series of public meetings in each City Council district begins at 6:30 tonight in District 1 at Fairmount Community Center, 217 S. Cedar Ave.

Can’t make it tonight? No excuse. At least two more informational meetings are taking place between now and Tuesday. Contact the City Council office at 816-325-7022 for more information on dates and places of the meetings, all of which are open to any Independence residents.

I said it two-and-a-half months ago, but it’s worth repeating: Visit www.indepmo.org, and watch the Dec. 5 council meeting for a one-hour, 15-minute presentation about the Police Department and its need for additional personnel.

If you can’t watch it all at once, watch it in snippets, or download the audio podcast, and listen to it on the go.

Come April 4 – the Wednesday after the election – don’t say you were left without an opportunity to get educated or to voice your opinion.