I will vote no on April 3 regarding the police tax proposal in Independence.

I will vote no on April 3 regarding the police tax proposal in Independence.

I believe we need more officers, and I am OK to pay an increased property tax for that. I was active in the early stages to pass this issue in 2010, but during the last 14 months I have become very concerned about how city government is operating.

I am not prepared to accept a City Hall bent on hiding critical issues from the citizens (Bass Pro development, hidden until leaked to the media), tax increases hidden from the citizens (Community Improvement District committee tax vote without any public report or discussion before the city-controlled committee held its vote), the hamstringing of the city auditor for more than two years, and the use of the recent hockey arena tax increase to damage Lowe’s in order to bring Menards into town (Menards wants the sales tax rate at Lowe’s to go up before it comes to town). I am not able to support a city government that is reclusive, dishonest, manipulative, incompetent and leaderless.

Until we have a major change at City Hall I suspect I will be joining a new set of friends who vote no when City Hall wants more money and power. I have worked on, and often led, previous citywide ballot efforts on streets, parks, storm water, secondhand smoke, a new development license surcharge and a charter amendment, but this time around I will vote no.

Let me make my case.

The story of the city and the City Council hiding the Bass Pro debacle until after it was exposed in the media is old hat. Did you know we have now spent more than $8 million with this problem? There has been no outside, independent evaluation of how we got into the problem. The problems at the Bass Pro site began before the economy collapsed, and the missing 180-room hotel could have been built despite the recent economic downturn (note the nice Drury Inn, Staybridge Suites and Comfort Suites that have been built). There has been no outside, independent appraisal of how to get things back on track, just more of the same folks telling us the same things.

Of course, one source of an independent evaluation of City Hall actions would have been the city auditor, but that office was tied into knots over the last several years and by design not allowed to perform audits.

Despite that problem, curious elected officials should have sought out a second or third opinion on a $4 million-a-year debacle instead of trusting everything city staff or city-hired lawyers might say. Where is some degree of inquisitiveness? Don’t they know it is OK to ask questions?

I sat through the Bass Pro v. Independence trial in December, which our elected officials claim prohibits them from speaking out. The trial was about two narrow issues, one of which was settled in mid-October and the other is about who pays the development tax for the site, Bass Pro or the city. The issue has nothing to do with the failure to get additional retail development or the missing hotel or what efforts are needed to get the development moving again. Claiming a privilege to avoid speaking about the Bass Pro development problem based on the narrow issue of the lawsuit is disingenuous.

The Community Improvement District committee (controlled by City Hall staffers) voted to increase our taxes at the 39th Street shopping area, and our council, suffering from a profound lack of curiosity, never said a word publicly or asked questions. None of them asked for a report by city staff or questioned the action until long after the vote was taken.

This astonishing lack of curiosity extended to the amount of the CID tax increase. According to the city’s own records, and the comments by the non-City Hall staffers on the committee, the tax increase was double what was needed (and by the way voted on in August, when it was not needed until this coming July). We have the very unethical situation in that our city government has raised our taxes for the primary purpose of raising the sales tax rate on the primary competitor to the Menards that the city is seeking to attract to the Bass Pro site.

To make it worse, the rumor is around town that Menards is wanting another increase in sales tax rate at Lowe’s as it is still below the sales tax rate of the pending Menard’s site.

Our City Council has become very disparate. Our council – previously a group of nice, honest people – is promoting a dishonest tax policy to find an answer to a problem that they are incapable of solving without subterfuge.

I have lost my faith in the people who sit on the council, five of whom I voted for and for whom I worked on their election efforts. I have no expectation that they have the ability to honestly find answers to a difficult problem. I no longer expect anything from City Hall but misdirection and incomplete answers.

Until such time as City Hall provides open discussion on critical issues; and provides some independent evaluation of the questionable actions around the CID vote, the tax increase designed damage a legitimate business; and the real reason for the failed Bass Pro site ... until we return to basic openness and honesty at City Hall, I will vote NO.