My fellow Joplin residents, police officers, firefighters, and city leaders,
Almost three years ago, I became aware of the current public safety crisis that our community was racing towards, and adamantly began working towards the mission of staving off and helping to promote public safety by increasing Joplin Police Department and Joplin Fire Department pay, as well as focus on retention issues in both departments… and all while trying to pressure Joplin City Government to become fiscally responsible with the taxpayers money! Unfortunately, it was an effort that fell upon deaf ears, until recently.
Fast forward to about 3 months ago I went before the Joplin City Council to warn of potential problems with trying to pass a property tax, especially in the midst of a national economic recession. In fact, I warned that it could evolve into a much more serious crisis for our citizenry. One of my concerns was due to my experience with these types of Propositions. After all, as a teacher, I can attest to the massive challenges that property tax propositions face, even in the best of economic times, and even when the funds would be going to good causes, such as our precious children, or our Police and Firefighters! That doesn’t even address how this tax proposal never sunsets, the fact that city leadership has shown an incredible lack of fiscal responsibility in the past, and at the cost of $9Million annually to those who live and own small businesses throughout this great city. Sadly, for these reasons, and many more, this proposition was doomed to failure before it ever left the starting gate, whether it be for a school district, or in this case, for public safety
Sadly, my concerns not only fell upon deaf ears, but my worries that it would divide our citizenry, one against another, thus taking the attention off of those truly responsible for this disaster, which is city leadership…instead of focusing realistic solutions for those who are truly hurting, which is Police, Fire, and our citizens who become victim of crime!
The past few months have been difficult to bear for too many of our residents, as we watched citizens lash out at citizens, and even our closest friends attack one another… thus blaming our residents for the plight of our Police and Fire, rather than those who are truly responsible… which is our city leadership, spanning back more than a decade!
Ultimately, due to the economic times we are in due to our leadership in Washington D.C., our citizens have had to make some hard financial decisions, many of which they would rather not have had to make! Now, it is time for our city government to make their own hard decisions, in order to cut spending, and reprioritize our Police and Fire as the cities number one responsibility!
Sadly, the priority of our city leadership has been focused primarily on wants, rather than needs. Things like more parks, more trails, a subsidizing a sub-par golf course that very few residents have any desire to utilize, and countless other issues, which some may have a place in Joplin, but not when our government cannot fund our Police and Fire Departments, thus failing on their primary responsibility to our citizens… and that is public safety!
I had a number of concerns, in regards to this Proposition on the ballot. First of all, it had virtually no chance of passage, and I had a good feeling that this tax proposal would get ugly, pitting citizen against citizen, and creating an environment of bitterness amongst our residents that would do more harm than good, and all at a cost to those who we are trying to help! Therefore, I was afraid it would damage the effort that to help Police and Fire, and cripple our ability to promote public security! Additionally, I feared it would be used to deflect the blame of this crisis from where blame should truly be placed… and that is squarely upon our city government’s lack of fiscal leadership, and lack of proper prioritization of resources! However, there was yet another massive concern that I had, and that involved a question that I asked of our city leaders months ago. In fact, I asked them “What is your contingency plan, should this Proposition fail?” After all, responsible leadership should have a back-up plan, being that this crisis that we currently face is their own self-inflicted crisis. In fact, it should have been resolved as quickly, and as painlessly as possible for all citizens, and First Responders alike, and been dealt with long ago, rather than waiting until we reached this critical point! Regardless, our city leaders refused to inform me or anyone who I talked to, of any contingency plan in the works! Additionally, another red flag I saw was their immediate shift from their multi-year denial that Joplin had a public safety crisis, to having an immediate solution that involved the citizens of Joplin bearing the full weight and pain of the burden, with no responsibility or weight of that pain being placed on our ‘tax and spend’ city leadership, posed an issue, in and of itself.
Therefore, while the Proposition Committee began campaigning for a Proposition that was next to impossible to pass from the start, I began meeting with key community players, and planning a contingency plan that our government should have developed, prior to this Proposition being put out to the public!
First of all, it is important to understand for all Joplin residents and leaders, that every citizen of Joplin wants our Police and Fire Departments funded, regardless of some of the unfortunate rhetoric put out just before and after the election! I understand that the rhetoric wasn’t out of hate, but was out of frustration, and a common desire for those on both sides of the issue to make Joplin a better place for our families, and to fight for not only our safety, but to back our blue, and our firefighters! The only thing that separated both sides of the issue was the funding mechanism that the two sides sought out!
Therefore, we must remember that WE ALL ARE FIGHTING FOR THE SAME EFFORT AND FOR A COMMON GOAL… which is fully funding our Police and Fire Departments, as well as ensuring retention, AND ULTIMATELY THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF OUR RESIDENTS!
Consequently, I request that members of this community who fought both for and against Proposition Public Safety, let’s put our differences aside and unify… if for nothing else, do it for the sake of our First Responder heroes! After all, we should put their interests before our own frustrations, emotions, and anger!
Accordingly, we should now plan to wage a full frontal attack against this crisis, as we seek to resolve this public safety crisis within both our Fire Department, and our Police Department!
Thus, our city leaders need to start off by PUBLICLY declaring our Police and Fire crisis a PUBLIC EMERGENCY, and demand that our City Manager Nick Edwards immediately order each and every department to immediately halt all non-essential projects and programs, cutting approximately 5½% from each department. After personally reading through the 2022 budget, I estimate that it would free up approximately $9Million that we would be able to reprioritize and reapportion to our Police and Fire Departments, helping to stave off any further damage inflicted from our current Public Safety crisis!
Secondly, because we cannot move money around from bucket to bucket, as the city likes to say, our city manager Nick Edwards should immediately bring those taxes and funds before the city Council to vote upon. Any funds that require citizen approval should be immediately voted upon by Council, to officially put the reapportionment of city funds to our Police and Fire Departments on the next election ballot.
Meanwhile, city transparency needs to be a top priority in order to regain the faith and trust of our Police Officers, Firefighters, and the citizens of Joplin! They can do this by creating a Commission, with a member of the City Council, a member from every city department, and citizens, to begin helping dive in and find necessary financial cuts in each department’s budget allocation that our city leaders refuse to cut or miss, thus helping to get citizen input on cuts and allocations! Additionally, those meetings need to be made public, so public trust can be regained by our citizens!
Furthermore, this city must put forward every ounce of physical, legal, mental, and financial resources necessary, until we resolve this current crisis, and as we ensure that our citizenry and city are safe!
One upstanding citizen of Joplin recently wrote that “a crisis demands extreme measures and strong leadership. Business as usual will not end well,” and he is so right!
Finally, in addition to these measures, I am in the process of working towards an audit of the city of Joplin. If we are going to ensure fiscal responsibility of every department, and of our city leaders, a set of outside eyes looking inward is imperative, in order to ensure that every penny of our taxpayer money is spent wisely, and to ensure that each member of our leadership is doing their job to secure fiscal responsibility for Joplin City Government. In fact, I am in the process of meeting with community leaders, and working on filing for a petition for a state audit, as well as, I am looking into potentially implementing a forensic audit on Joplin public finances and actions! Therefore, I will momentarily begin working with other Joplin residents to initiate a fundraising effort to fully finance that forensic audit on Joplin City government.
However, this will take some time… time which our Police and Fire Departments don’t have. Therefore, I expect every member of this City Council, and city leadership to likewise become whole-heartedly dedicated to the cause of resolving this current crisis that you have now openly and loudly admitted and proclaimed as a catastrophic event for our city! Our residents of Joplin now expect you to provide leadership, and to provide a vision in uniting the people of Joplin, rather than creating division! “We the People” expect you to work towards the goal to provide a roadmap in resolving this crisis, and take our city back from the criminal element, by taking care of those First Responders who stand between the criminals who seek to inflict harm upon our citizens, and ‘We the People’! Our citizens are sadly paralyzed in fear of the unknown! They are afraid of the crime that has plagued our city, and fearful of the growing recession that cripples their own pocketbooks, as they try to put food on their tables, gas in their cars, keep their children cool in the scorching summer, and warm in the winter, as well as safe on our streets, schools, and in our homes!
Sadly, our First Responder crisis, as well as our economic crisis, will get worse before it gets better. But our city leadership needs to provide just that… LEADERSHIP! That is why we elected each and every Councilmember! However, make sure that you are being honest and transparent with the people of Joplin, as well as be reassuring. Meanwhile, we expect you to be openly and honestly work towards the rectification of our leadership’s past mistakes by making hard cuts to our government budget! At the same time, we will work towards the implementation of a State and/or Forensic Audit that will help provide a roadmap for creating fiscal responsibility for our city leadership, both today and into the future!
If you, or anyone you know is interested in joining the effort, feel free to contact me through messenger or email below.