KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A grassroots movement in Platte County plans to take a different approach in order to inform the voters on current issues facing state and local governments.
Northland Progress hosted its second public event titled “Mo Sessions, MO Problems” on Wednesday, May 24 at the Kansas City Improv in Zona Rosa. The program featured Northland Progress president and board chair Blake Green of Parkville, Mo. and vice president Martin T. Rucker II of Kansas City, Mo.
The two used a bit of comedy to help explain what has gone on during the last Missouri legislative session.
“This is our legislative wrap-up to let everyone know what has gone on during the 2017 regular session,” Green said. “It’s an opportunity for us to get out in front of the public who doesn’t already know about Northland Progress and tell them what we’re about, what we’re trying to do and how we’re going to go about it.”
The topics covered in the program included public school funding, health care rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, environmental responsibility and infrastructure improvements.
Northland Progress was founded in December 2016 and is a non-partisan, non-profit membership organization with a mission to inform Northland voters on all local and state issues. Members pay $35 a year to be a part of the more than 250-person organization, which is trying to promote transparency by listing who their higher paying donors are on their website.
“There’s been a lot of press recently about dark money and non-profit organizations that are playing to politics, but there’s no dark hand or donor moving us along. This is truly grassroots,” Green said. “We are focused on not playing the kinds of games that Gov. Greitens is engaging in but we’re actually getting out into the community and trying to, as our mission says ‘engage, inform and inspire’ people to get involved in the political process.”
In February, Northland Progress held its first event that drew a crowd of more than 350 people. The second event held at the Improv was free and open to the public with food and beverages available to purchase. Improv did not charge for use of the venue.
Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway was a special guest speaker after Green and Rucker presented the review of the legislative session, including the current state budget.
“As you have seen in the news as well as in your communities, lawmakers are not always making the wisest decisions with your tax dollars,” Galloway said. “This has led to a budget crisis in the state of Missouri for this coming fiscal year. In our state budget, we are in a $500 million budget hole, and when we’re measuring dollar for dollar, that is coming out of your paychecks and being put back into your communities, taken out of investments in roads and education and infrastructure and all the different things that you care about. It is extremely troubling.”
Galloway gave an example of one of the problems she has found during a recent audit conducted on the Missouri higher education system.
“Even with the limited resources that we send to colleges and universities, they need to make wise decisions with our tax dollars,” Galloway said. “We also found in our audit of the universities of Missouri system where they were giving secret bonuses in luxury vehicle allowances worth millions of dollars to executives at the top of the system. In a day and age where state support is going down and our tuition checks and our fees and public dollars that we are sending to public universities, it is quite tone-deaf when secret perks are going to the elites at the top of the universities of Missouri system.”
Galloway said the practice was stopped within days of the audit results. She also discussed an audit on Transportation Development Districts or TDD that revealed micro-taxing that developers set up to funnel money collected into private developer assets.
“We found statewide that taxpayers are on the hook for almost a billion dollars in project costs that they don’t even know about,” Galloway said. “It basically is taxation without representation, and it’s all legal. This general assembly has legalized self-dealing and conflicts of interest through these TDD laws, and we’re the ones that are left paying the price. It is really unacceptable.”
Northland Progress is already planning the next rally and concert, called “In for 10,” concerning voting rights.
Jason Kander, former Missouri senate candidate and president of the organization “Let America Vote,” will be in attendance to discuss voter rights and voter ID laws. The event will be held on Saturday, Aug. 26 at English Landing Park in Parkville.
For more information on Northland Progress and its upcoming events, go to www.northlandprogress.org.