Prior to Thanksgiving, I was thinking about things to be thankful for, when one day I noticed a couple of tow trucks trying to help a driver stranded on Interstate 29, inside lane no less, in morning rush hour traffic in Kansas City North. There’s something positive, I thought. Those two truck operators were willing to work out in heavy, fast-moving traffic.
People driving on interstate highways don’t like to slow down. Some drivers are aggressive and dangerous. How thankful we should be that if our vehicles fail us in such places someone will show up to get us out of a harrowing situation.
So with sadness this week I read about a tragedy north of the river on I-35. Tow truck driver Johnny Stewart of GT Tow Service in Smithville was struck and killed on Nov. 18 while trying to help a stranded motorist. The driver of the car that struck him fled the scene without stopping.
The owner of GT Tow Service lost a son, Blake Gresham, in 2012 from a similar accident also along I-35 in Kansas City North. Gresham’s family started a nonprofit, Move Over For Blake, as an advocacy group for safety for tow truck operators. Safety for tow services is safety for us all. For information about the issue and the organization, or to make donations, visit gttow.com/Move-Over-for-Blake.html.
Speaking of highways, Missouri voters on Nov. 6 rejected a proposed 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax. The tax would have been phased in over four years. Supporters said the tax increase would generate at least $288 million annually for the Highway Patrol and $123 million for municipalities to pay for road construction projects. The Missouri legislature placed the issue on the ballot.
The ballot measure was confusing. It seemed like money shuffling to confusing ends and the average person looks to state highway projects more than cities. Albeit in Platte County and the metro area outdated highway interchanges and coping with traffic growth are major problems. Experts and average drivers agree that Missouri’s roads need a lot of work. It’s surprising to me how many traffic backups occur in places where there are no wrecks, no construction, just too many cars for the design and scope of the roadway.
That’s unsafe for us all.
Legislators in the Missouri General Assembly need to develop a solid highway upgrade plan and approve a gas tax increase with enough revenue to support the plan. They likely fear any tax increase being used as election fodder against them, but it’s the right thing to do for governance and public safety.
Speaking of elections, I’m grateful for a resurgence of two-party politics in Platte County. Democrats dominated the county’s elections into the 1980s. The emergence of good Republican candidates and voting strength provided voters with more choices. Independent voters (like me) appreciate options. Republicans dominated in recent decades. On Nov. 6, things shifted a bit, Platte County Democrats did not get steamrolled.
Democrat Claire McCaskill lost to Republican Josh Hawley in the U.S. Senate race by only 146 votes in Platte County’s tally, and she beat him in Clay County. Democrat Nicole Galloway won in the county and statewide for state auditor. Republican Tony Luetkemeyer outpolled Democrat Martin T. Rucker II in the county’s vote numbers for the District 34 state senate seat, 22,745 to 21,102. That’s closer than anyone would have predicted a Democrat to run a few years ago.
In the only race for county office, Republican incumbent Ron Schieber held on to his presiding commissioner post by beating Democratic challenger David Park, 22,996 to 20,391. Considering that Park is a newcomer to politics and was up against a veteran politician in a county with a muscular Republican Party organization, he ran remarkably close.
I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was good and your holiday spirit is rising. How lucky we are to live in a county with peace and plenty.