Council Law and Order (and rules)


(Column previously published June 6, 2012)

Bob Johnson wants to lay down a few rules. And really, this is something he’s been asking to implement for many years.

The only difference is, now, he may have the council support to get it done.

Johnson, the District 4 representative on the Lee’s Summit City Council, is chairman of the newly formed Rules Committee – a group that includes council members Kathy Hofmann, Derek Holland and Allan Gray.

This group is charged with reviewing the various rules that govern meetings as laid out in the city charter and with discussing and, possibly, setting new guidelines for council comments, citizen comments and other areas of the council meetings.

This is, honestly, Johnson’s dream committee.

In the first few minutes, the chairman discussed his disdain for a lack of consistent rules during council meetings, voiced his opinion that citizens and council members should be able to engage in dialogue and even went as far as to say he believes the city is closing too many meetings.

Gray added that when some procedural questions come up, that the council sometimes lacks direction.

Much of the council/citizens comments discussion – although it has been a topic in Lee’s Summit for some time – stems from last year’s blow up as Johnson engaged in conversation about the Ted White lawsuit and settlement during that “comment” portion of the meeting.

Johnson later said he was censured, something other council members have denied. Still, when our council can and cannot connect with citizens who come before the dais should be specific and on paper.

The committee made known their feelings last week, something that may be a preview as to how future council votes will go.

Johnson, Holland and Gray all said this process should be about openness and people interacting with their local government. Holland said he doesn’t want anyone telling him he cannot interact with a citizen who has come before the council.

Each city does this process differently. Lee’s Summit has been fairly lenient on letting citizens address the council on a variety of topics. Other towns have a sign up process. Some allow for a dialogue, others do not.

Hofmann was the lone voice of dissention on the committee, saying she was not in favor of council responses to citizen comments during the meeting.

The committee spent some time debating Roberts Rules and other issues, which is, again, something that seems like it should be or should have been in place for a city this large.

Largely, things in Lee’s Summit have been well managed and well planned out. A quick glance at our city, our streets and our parks can confirm that.

With this rules committee, we need an expectation that decisions will be firm, be quick and be adhered to. We don’t need this committee stretching out for a long period of time. These kinds of systems and policies should effortless.



The Hertzog legacy


(Column originally published Aug. 26, 2011)

I first met Bud Hertzog back in 1997 or 1998. I had no idea he was a veterinarian, that he could mend a mouse, a horse and a turtle in the course of a day, that he held a spot on the Jackson County Legislature or that he was so involved in the school district.

I just knew he was the grandpa to Chad and John.

And true to form, Bud didn’t tell me any of those things.

He just wanted to talk about wrestling.

In the mid and late 90s, I spent a lot of time wandering the gymnasium at old Lee’s Summit High, hitting the wrestling duals and spending countless hours at the annual holiday tournament with Ethan Hauck, Jay Helland and, of course, mama Hertzog (as we all called her) and the hospitality room.

Sure, we came for the wrestling – but we stayed for the food.

And even though it wasn’t football season, the elder Hertzogs were there in full force to support their grandsons on the wrestling mat.

As Lee’s Summit High School prepares to honor Dr. Bug Hertzog tonight with the naming of their football stadium, I have to wonder how much time over those decades Bud and his wife Betty spent at the Lee’s Summit football stadium and field house. Hours upon hours of wrestling, football, track and volleyball dedicated to their grandkids over the years – which are one of many reasons Bud is receiving this enormous honor.

He says he doesn’t deserve it.

I bet a lot of Lee’s Summit residents would disagree.

Grandson Chad, now an assistant principal at his alma mater, won an impressive 122 wrestling matches during his wrestling days. In 1998, he went 39-0 on his way to his second state championship. Later, he would put on the black and gold again to wrestle for the University of Missouri. I bet grandpa and grandma were there for just about every one of those wins.

Those long afternoons in the gym at Lee’s Summit were always made easier when I would see Bud Hertzog approach.

I never met anyone in Lee’s Summit during my days as a sports writer who was as appreciative of the press as he was as proud of his kids and grandkids.

Bud never slapped me around for not writing more about Chad or John or Mark. As a proud grandpa, he just wanted to be there and be supportive.

It would be years later that I would figure out just who Bud Hertzog was and what he meant to Lee’s Summit High and the community at large. And more than a decade later, I would move to Lee’s Summit and join him at many community events.

He still likes to play “remember that time” when talking about old athletes. Those are stories I love to hear.

And while the longtime school district supporter may not fully accept this honor that is about to be bestowed up him, everyone around him Friday evening will know why – why they will now call it Bud Hertzog Stadium.

A pair of (upsets?) at Tuesday’s election

(Column originally published on April 9, 2010)

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Randy Rhoads has been running on fumes lately.

The newly elected Mayor of Lee’s Summit has gotten a little sleep this week, but it has been pretty nonstop for him since Tuesday – the day he pulled the upset over sitting Mayor Karen Messerli.

Now, whether Rhoads’ win was really an upset is, I suppose, up for debate.

Messerli’s time in the mayoral seat has been largely popular and progressive for Lee’s Summit. But no one has knocked her off – good times or bad – from her post.

Until Tuesday, that is.

Much like municipal judge candidate Dana Altieri, Rhoads put together a monumental campaign. Heck, one might even call it a crusade.

Rhoads was crusading to unseat an admired mayor; Altieri was battling to somehow topple a judge who had warmed the seat in the courtroom for some 36 years.

Rhoads, the current Mayor Pro Tempore, will move one seat over in the city council chambers on April 22. Maybe then, he will be able sleep a little.

“The night before the election when your name is on the ballot, you don’t sleep worth a darn,” Rhoads said.

He was up at 4 a.m. on Election Day. Meeting people, adrenaline flowing.

“It’s a big day. You’ve worked for that day,” he said.

And by day’s end, it paid off as Rhoads defeated Messerli by more than 1,200 votes.

There were thousands, though, that didn’t vote for Rhoads. And he knows why.

“She’s done an excellent job and she left her fingerprints all over this city,” he said of Messerli. “I recognize that. I don’t begrudge anyone for voting for her.”

But he’s not worried about winning over her supporters.

“It’s my nature to work with everybody,” Rhoads said, adding he plans no wholesale changes to boards and commissions.

“I don’t have a stable of people that I want to put into certain positions,” he said. “That’s not to say there will not be any changes. Otherwise, it’s Karen Part II and that’s not what the voters voted for.”

Altieri will have to distinguish herself in a similar way over William Lewis, the man who sat in the big chair for more than three decades.

It will not be enough for Altieri to simply say she’s different than Judge Lewis. She is going to have to be different and differentiate herself immediately.

The voters spoke loudly and boldly on Tuesday.

Rhoads and Altieri now need to do some bold things themselves.