Despite promises to myself when I resigned from the Platte County Commission-appointed jail committee, I cannot help but respond to the report issued last week and urge that the recommendations be totally ignored. To provide context, presiding commissioner Jason Brown would not agree with the two other commissioners on the documented need for a new jail, so he agreed to a citizen’s advisory committee with each commissioner appointing three members. I reluctantly agreed to be one despite ongoing cardiac problems and told my commissioner that if the meetings became stressful, I would resign. Had I known that Jason Brown would appoint his members from the “far right” with ultra-strong anti-tax biases, I would not have accepted. One of these members appears to have been disruptive in other public forums, leading the former publisher of this paper to say in essence that he had little hope that anything good would come from the committee. There were previous experiences between some of the committee members that had left deep-seeded hostility. For more than 40 years, I have been involved in hundreds of committees as a city planning and zoning chair and as mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., and as a dean and university president. Never have I been involved in a committee where personal agendas of a few dominated the process and the outcome. Never have I witnessed such disrespect and rudeness to the committee chair and invited consultants. Never have I seen such unprofessionalism in emails and in comments during meetings, including sarcasm, scorn and mild profanity along with attempts at dominating, challenging everything and demanding information without going through the chair. Never have I witnessed such attempts at intimidation of elected officials and professionals. Never have I had to literally step between two committee members arguing in loud voices to suggest we all calm down and discuss it at a future meeting. My cardiologist and I agreed that I should resign as a result. The committee chair also eventually resigned, and another member apparently walked out of a meeting saying, “That’s enough; I ‘m done,” as reported in this paper. Absolutely amazing to me is that the final report recommended no further talks be held with Kansas City, Mo. about leasing 100 beds from Platte County until needed. The lease would have provided enough profit to staff the new jail and provide $8 million toward retiring construction cost. I could not agree more with the comment reported in this paper from committee member Cory Ball that “the committee was hijacked by political and personal agendas.” Unbelievably, after the committee was shrunk by resignations, one of the just described individuals actually was involved in reporting committee recommendations to the commissioners. While professional consultants recommended expansion, the committee recommended no expansion in what appeared to me to be arrogance of some members. Unbelievably so, a citizen appeared and presented his own analyses of inmate growth, which was accepted over that of the professional consultants. Perhaps most shocking of all, some of Jason Brown’s appointees then morphed the report into restructuring the voter-approved, dedicated parks tax into money for law enforcement, even contacting others and providing suggested ballot language. And the fact that they went so far as to rush their report to the Commissioners because of an Aug. 26 deadline to put restructuring of the parks tax on the fall ballot speaks volumes about a grand strategy. Talk about predetermined political and personal agendas. Never in my lifetime have I seen anything so blatant. I cannot help but think that this was part of the grand plan of Jason Brown and his far right friends. I have heard reports of behind-the-back meetings between some committee members and commissioner Brown, presumably to discuss strategy. I do not like to think that he is so diabolical as to deliberately subterfuge the process by appointing members who would disrupt, stall, challenge, intimidate and drive a third of the members to resign. In other words, hijack the committee. My personal recommendation based on what I have experienced and read in minutes and in the newspaper is that the committee report should be totally ignored. Commissioners Beverlee Roper and Duane Soper should proceed with jail expansion as recommended by professional consultants. Moreover, I believe it should be done now before it is ordered by the courts as it was 20 years ago, and when a contract is available from Kansas City that will pay for staffing and will significantly reduce construction costs, make beds available now. To ignore this appears to me to be not adequately planning for a core function of Platte County. Moreover, I believe the voter-approved parks tax should be left untouched, out of respect for the large number of people who voted for it twice. Oh my, I fear for the future of Platte County if this group is allowed to dominate Platte County decision-making.
Don Breckon is a Platte County resident, former president of Park University and an occasional Citizen columnist. He is retired and lives in southern Platte County and remains active in civic affairs. Breckon may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.