The budget kings

April 19, 2013 

If Lee’s Summit City Hall is the kingdom – in this scenario, just play along with me – than the chairmanship of the Budget Committee certainly is the next best thing to the throne.

And, of course, Bob Johnson utilizes every bit of that kingdom as chairman of that committee. As he should.

Johnson has been one of the most inquisitive councilmen on city budget issues. And calculator mishaps aside, Johnson usually brings some decent dialogue to the table.

He loses that credibility when he beats up on staff or takes the discussion down a road where he has little or no support, though.

During last week’s meeting with three organizations – Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council – to discuss their public service agreements with the city, we got a glimpse of what Johnson believes his role to be as budget chairman.

He successfully tabled the public service agreements for DLSMS and the LSEDC until more of the budget talk had been vetted. And while that is perfectly within his purview, it just sets these organizations behind in planning to put off this vital decision.

It is an unnecessary delay in the process.

But more than that, the tensions from Johnson toward EDC President Jim Devine were more than apparent at this meeting.

Johnson openly questioned the amount of salary and benefits of the EDC staff compared to its overall budget and seemed agitated when Devine didn’t address that directly with him at the podium.

Time and place plays a big role here. And this wasn’t the time or place for that conversation. And, strangely, Johnson seemed to then acknowledge that, almost immediately after Christine Bushyhead – a member of the EDC executive committee – addressed Johnson’s ill-timed question.

Johnson said he would talk to Devine in private. Of course, he got the issue out, on TV and in the public record, before that.

That’s passive-aggressive governance and it’s not what we need.

Johnson has had this issue with EDC for many years and probably both he and Devine have had numerous opportunities to address it.

The chair of this committee was placed there by the Mayor Pro Tem, in this case Allan Gray. Yet he and Dave Mosby said nothing when this topic came up.

If our goal was to further empower committees, we’re getting there, certainly.

Rather than these spats at the dais, though, we should be looking at exactly the topics that were probably lost during this conversation that Johnson has hammered on before – higher end jobs and the role of our LSEDC as it relates to Lee’s Summit specifically and, as Bushyhead pointed out, its role within the greater Kansas City economic development community.

That’s a long-winded way of saying play nice, folks.

When we derail on the committee level like this, that breakdown is obvious to many and doesn’t help us get to where we need to be.

John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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