Rushed government generates reaction from concerned public

The protests dotted the country, and KCI Airport right here in Platte County was included in the uproar.

Over the weekend, thousands turned out to rage against an executive order from President Donald Trump that placed a ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries. The quickly rolled out plan became just another political flashpoint in Trump’s tenure with outrage seething about delays and alleged mistreatment for Green Card holders and dual citizens.

Protestors turned out in droves to airports to oppose the order. They brought with them home-made signs to express their contempt, and many congregated outside international arrival areas to cheer on people coming through the gates.

For me, the biggest issue came with the apparent confusion on who was involved with drafting the order, parts of which were contested in federal courts, and how the details were communicated to agencies tasked with implementing enforcement.

All levels of politics can feature these type of snafus. The Platte County Commission, which elected two new members in November, experienced a little of the same the past two weeks.

The budgeting process took on a different feel after the three commissioners discovered an error in Platte County auditor Kevin Robinson’s preliminary budget. The omission of a nearly $1 million payment for a federally mandated emergency radio update led to an overstatement of projected cash carryover for the upcoming year.

This provided an opening.

The Platte County Commission tried to rush through some changes, seemingly exploiting the so-called $1 million hole. Suddenly, cuts were sought to a previously balanced budget in what Robinson called an unprecedented process during his tenure.

In a Trump-like manner, the Platte County Commission took action and started making good on promises to run a more conservative government. The commissioners didn’t just talk about rocking the status quo, they went ahead and did so — right from the beginning.

However, posting a potential transfer of nearly $3 million from the Platte County Parks and Recreation capital project fund to its maintenance fund created some uneasy feeling. Citizens and government officials showed up in droves to attend Monday’s session and question a perceived lack of transparency in making the move.

Platte County presiding commissioner Ron Schieber didn’t apologize for the unorthodox approach to the budgeting process but did acknowledge a lack of warning to parks officials to make an adjustment.

You can read plenty more on this complex situation starting on Page 1 of this week’s issue, but ultimately, the transfer ended up delayed. Enough people paid attention to the government process to help steer the politics of this county in a constructive direction.

The Republican-only commission has promised changes with an eye toward smaller government and less tax burden on the citizens. I would guess that this transfer — in some form — will happen after officials can properly investigate options for how to make the numbers work.

Originally, the commission also planned to make significant budget cuts through staff reductions, although department heads were able to make adjustments to avoid most of those issues. 

All of this came up after the “hole” was discovered. My guess would be that many of these items were on the commissioners’ to-do list during the current regime, but the opportunity to expedite the process came from Robinson’s mistake.

In this case, the process moved just a little too fast.

The biggest positive to take out of these situations — Trump’s executive order and the Platte County Commission’s proposed budget changes — came in the form of information. People became involved and learned more about what was happening in government.

I even saw some people engaging in constructive conversation to try and come up with workable solutions. Crazy thought, I know.

I’ve written in this space before about the importance of knowledge in elections at all levels, but that goes for information on how government operates, as well. I’m excited to see people trying to understand the inner workings and reading complex documents to try and figure out how to make the changes they want.

We still face a lot of political division, but that makes involvement even more important as we try to move forward and bridge some of those gaps. Too often we have allowed the landscape to change in front of us and only becoming engaged once the effects have shown.

I urge all of you to be more proactive in your approach to politics and less reactive. And try to be a little more open-minded while you’re at it.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.