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Massive Government Overreach: Obama’s AFFH Rule Is Out

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/420896/massive-government-overreach-obamas-affh-rule-out-stanley-kurtz

by STANLEY KURTZ July 8, 2015 10:47 AM Today,

HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced the finalization of the Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule. A front-page article preemptively defending the move appears in today’s Washington Post. The final rule is 377 pages, vastly longer than the preliminary version of the rule promulgated in 2013.

AFFH is easily one of President Obama’s most radical initiatives, on a par with Obamacare in its transformative potential. In effect, AFFH gives the federal government a lever to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood — imposing a preferred racial and ethnic composition, densifying housing, transportation, and business development in suburb and city alike, and weakening or casting aside the authority of local governments over core responsibilities, from zoning to transportation to education. Not only the policy but the political implications are immense — at the presidential, congressional, state, and local levels.

It is a scandal that the mainstream press has largely refused to report on AFFH until the day of its final release. The rule has been out in preliminary form for two years, and well before that the Obama administration’s transformative aims in urban/suburban policy were evident. Three years ago, when I wrote about Obama’s policy blueprint in Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, the administration’s efforts to keep this issue under the radar were evident. Only last month, an admission of the stealth relied on by advocates to advance this initiative was caught on video. http://www.brookings.edu/events/2015/06/01-place-and-opportunity-social-mobility-reeves and 3 minutes captured by NOlathe here

Obama has downplayed his policy goals in this area and delayed the finalization of AFFH for years, because he understands how politically explosive this rule is. Once the true implications of AFFH are understood, Americans will rebel. The only prospect for successful imposition is a frog-boiling strategy of gradual intensification. The last day the frog will be able to jump is Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Fundamentally, AFFH is an attempt to achieve economic integration. Race and ethnicity are being used as proxies for class, since these are the only hooks for social engineering provided by the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Like AFFH itself, today’s Washington Post piece blurs the distinction between race and class, conflating the persistence of “concentrated poverty” with housing discrimination by race. Not being able to afford a freestanding house in a bedroom suburb is no proof of racial discrimination. Erstwhile urbanites have been moving to rustic and spacious suburbs since Cicero built his villa outside Rome. Even in a mono-racial and mono-ethnic world, suburbanites would zone to set limits on dense development.

Emily Badger’s piece in today’s Washington Post focuses on race, but the real story of AFFH is the attempt to force integration by class, to densify development in American suburbs and cities, and to undo America’s system of local government and replace it with a “regional” alternative that turns suburbs into helpless satellites of large cities. Once HUD gets its hooks into a municipality, no policy area is safe. Zoning, transportation, education, all of it risks slipping into the control of the federal government and the new, unelected regional bodies the feds will empower. Over time, AFFH could spell the end of the local democracy that Alexis de Tocqueville rightly saw as the foundation of America’s liberty and distinctiveness.

At this point, municipalities across the country need to seriously consider refraining from applying for Community Development Block Grants and other grant programs sponsored by HUD. Take one dollar of HUD money and you will be forced to submit to its demands, which can reach far beyond housing. Unfortunately, this is a highly imperfect solution, and not only because municipalities would be surrendering money taxed from their citizens’ pockets. The recent Supreme Court decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project has provided the federal government with a second club to use against municipalities seeking to escape HUD control. (See my piece on Inclusive Communities in the latest issue of National Review.) Ultimately, only a Republican president acting in concert with a Republican Congress can stymie AFFH and undo the damage of the Supreme Court’s recent housing decision.

This brings us to politics. As noted, AFFH is a largely unacknowledged attempt to force economic integration on every neighborhood in America. Yet in a recent Rasmussen poll, 83 percent of respondents said it was not the government’s job to diversify neighborhoods by income level, while only 8 percent say that this is an appropriate task for government. Now you know why the Obama administration and a compliant press corps have kept this initiative quiet.

It will take time to collect the data on which HUD’s new demands for local governments all over America will be based. While important enforcement will begin under the Obama administration, the major impact of AFFH will come under President Hillary Clinton, should she be elected. And Obama’s AFFH enforcer, Julian Castro, is widely touted as a likely vice-presidential running mate for Hillary. That means AFFH is going to be an issue in the next presidential campaign.

And the political implications go deeper still, to every level of government. Westchester County, New York, where AFFH has had a dry run of sorts, is now administered by Republican county executive Robert Astorino. Many forget that before the Obama administration tried to force Westchester County to cast aside its own zoning laws and build high-density, low-income housing at its own expense, Westchester was a liberal Democratic county run by liberal Democrats. After all, this is where Bill and Hillary Clinton live. At the local level, the Obama administration drove Westchester into the arms of the Republicans. The same thing could happen nationally, at every political level. But only if the frog wakes up and jumps by November of 2016. Even with AFFH now public, the Obama administration and the press corps will do everything in their power to obscure the real issues at stake in the massive AFFH power-grab. Don’t let that happen. —

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at comments.kurtz@nationalreview.com.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/420896/massive-government-overreach-obamas-affh-rule-out-stanley-kurtz

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For what it’s worth, thanks for keeping me and the NC Farm Coalition abreast of what’s occurring in KS. Your missives continue to be shared with FC supporters and legislatures where appropriate and as representative of the tenor occurring nationwide that may influence NC public policy.
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Otherwise, unfortunately, land-use and rural rights protections, IMO, have lost to development interests here if recently published research proves reliable over the foreseeable future. As you may recall, development interests descended upon NC’s Piedmont beginning in the late 60’s, having identified its milder climate, beauty, medical and educational (university) alternatives, mountains and ocean communities as what our aging population would (and now) seeks. By 1971 they’d successfully lobbied to dramatically change state laws whereby, thereafter, towns controlled all rural land three miles outside municipal borers but rightful property owners (largely farm owners b/c of their large plots targeted for development and eventual annexation).
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The landmark laws adopted in June 2011, IMO, were too little too late. Since 1997 the FBI had ranked NC tops in the Nation for corruption (various categories). The evidence clearly supports that, regardless of which political party governs NC, the development juggernaut is so embedded in every level of government since and at this time as to make the 2011 laws laughable. In other words, as with law enforcement, the legislative process is “reactive”; seldom if ever able to surmount the forces of greed and evil.
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In December this was summarized by the release of a UNC study which illustrated a “megalopolis” reaching from east of the state Capital, Raleigh, westerly towards mid-state Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem and then southerly to include greater Charlotte. Overall 24 counties (of 100) have been compromised and the landowners in all have lost big time and continue to do so. Whereas the 2011 laws did acknowledge 40 years of Unconstitutional “involuntary annexation” of tens of thousands of agricultural acres, the development of hundreds of rural subdivisions representing the eventual annexation of innumerable thousands of residences, and how state laws for decades denied landowners “due process” and “just compensation” for their lost homes, land and livelihood — again, the die has been cast.
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Development interests continue to advertise nationwide “move to NC” and at a time when the forecast is for a
30% shortage of potable water and a 50% food shortage within NC by 2025, the dissipation of governmental processes, lack of leadership objectivity, endemic greed, and ignorance ensure this outcome. 500,000 more “carpetbaggers” are expected to arrive into NC by 2020. And at a time when the EPA has demanded a 40% reduction in potable water contamination levels — which, predictably, continues to be disassociated with ongoing development goals.
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In one-on-one meetings with the commissioners of Commerce (Decker) and Natural Resources Skvarla) last April, each concurred with the above forecast. Each asked me “What can we do about it?” Each acknowledged helplessness as their boss, and the first Republican administration and GA to govern NC in 142 years continues to pursue a decades of Democratic corruption, if for no other reason than to get re-elected. Again, in other words, slowing the juggernaut is impossible; NC, already iconic for its endemic corruption, will soon become a total loss. At least this is how the General Counsel of Commerce see it. But, then again, who really cares! The FBI simply claims helplessness – lack of resources, “no bodies yet to bury”, a thorough focus on terrorism.
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Thanks again for keeping me in “the loop”. If you’re inclined to pray, do think of us from time-to-time. I and my farm are among the many hundreds of farm owners expected to be bankrupted after year-end 2014 — the deadline for NC to finally comply with the EPA’s 2001 to reduce N and P contamination, the product of unrestricted urban development. Once farmers lose water rights stemming from saturation of watersheds from urban development, farming will cease. Farmland has been targeted to serve as “the giant sponge” necessary to filter contaminants before they collect in watersheds but the latter are already known to be full-up and beyond being able to comply witih the EPA mandate. In the meantime with the mandate deadline looming, local governments have raced to exhaust every imaginable opportunity to plop down new housing and commercial structures. And in related scams not address by recent laws, development interests via control of local governmental processes have developed targeted farmland by up to 94%, effectively positioning such for acquisition once rightful owners face bankruptcy.
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I’ve written more than I set out to do. As I opened my remarks to NC’s leaders this past spring, “NC has been positioned to become the next New Jersey of the United States! What are you doing to prevent this?” The answer, sadly, is nothing.
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So please do not “look to the East” for a model of the future. We see no viable future, except for the un-informed and greedy!
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Marilyn Kille
Chapel Hill, NC
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Unbelievable! One more time!
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This AM I spoke with Orange County’s Tax Assessor re an update of local land valuations, using my land as an example. Bottomline: My farm should have a current market value up to $356,566 per acre. Instead, arising from NC’s laws and development scams, it’s current valuation is between $11,865 – $16,252 per acre, about 4.4% of market value. If interested, read further.
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As illustrated by the numbers below, a comprehensive understanding of developer scams was never considered during the run-up of the 2011 Annexation Reform and Farm Protection laws. For what it’s worth! M.
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– In Dec, 2012 Orange Cty’s water authority (OWASA) illustrated via its GIS mapping that my farm’s acreage IS NOT subject to the highly restrictive state and federal watershed regulations; however,
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– Since 1988 Brough/Carrboro have convinced all that my and my neighbor’s farms (2,000 acres), in fact, are watershed restricted; thus, zoned “WR” since;
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– Not so coincidentally, our land has remained zoned 3-ways: for agriculture, residential subdivision and commercial uses [the latter likely to enable future developer acquisition];
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– As a result (and as reflected by the county’s Jan. 2014 land records), the market value of my farm’s 19.47 acres is less than I paid for it 20 years ago, merely $700,094 [$35,958/acre] (explained as “What a developer might pay for it!“); its discounted “farm use value” is $316,425 [$16,252/acre];
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– By comparison, the underlying value of the comparable 13.86 acres immediately opposite my farm has a current value of $4,942,000 or $356,566/acre;
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Now, keep in mind that, through Dec, 2013 there were an estimated (unprecedented) 45,500 viewings of my farm’s various online real estate site listings BUT not one offer. Explanation? Carrboro continues to incorrectly inform inquiring “none preferred” developers and realtors (potential non-commercial buyers) that (a) under the 2011 Farm Protection law, the town continues to have jurisdiction over my ETJ farm and (b) it will not grant to a buyer the permits necessary to operate either for agriculture or development (until his agenda plays out, of course).
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Add to this understanding how, in July 2011, Brough engineered the devaluation of the neighboring Ray Farm estate to about $11,865 per acre [to serve as the “comparable” for the remaining annexable 2,000 farm acres, positioning our farms for when our water rights disappear by year-end 2014]; . . .
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Conclusion: There is absolutely no reason why my land isn’t worth something far greater than $11,865 per acre and something closer to $356,566 per acre; nor why, instead, it’s market value is merely 4.4% of comparable land opposite the farm. But, of course, this represents developer scammming at its best.

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(NOlathe note: Missouri House and Senate passed during 2013 but Nixon vetoed, trying again 2014.)

TONY’S KC BREAKING AND EXCLUSIVE NEWS!!! KANSAS CITY RESOLUTION STANDS AGAINST MISSOURI REJECTION OF AGENDA 21!!!

An oddball resolution is working its way through Kansas City local government this week. Apparently, City Hall is set to take up the mantle of the United Nations.

To wit . . .

KANSAS CITY PREPARES TO STAND UP FOR UNITED NATIONS AGENDA 21 AND AGAINST MISSOURI POLITICOS ATTEMPTING TO HALT COOPERATION WITH THE CONTROVERSIAL MEASURE!!!

Background . . .

Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development according to the world’s most accurate encyclopedia. Agenda 21 is also the subject of Conservative angst, a horrible Glenn Beck spy novel and a great many conspiracy theories.

Now . . .

The Missouri legislation in question is sponsored by gunslinger and Prez Obama hater Missouri State Senator Brian Nieves

Check the text of the Missouri bill . . .

SB 618 – “This act prohibits the state and any political subdivision from implementing any policy recommendations that infringe on private property rights and are traceable to Agenda 21 adopted in 1992 by the United Nations or any other international law or ancillary plan of action that contravenes the federal or state constitutions.

In addition, this act prohibits the state and any political subdivision from entering into an agreement with, expending any money for, receiving funds from, contracting services from, or giving financial aid to any organization accredited and enlisted by the United Nations to assist in the implementation of Agenda 21.”
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They tried this last year too.

Accordingly . . .

SPONSORED BY MAYOR PRO TEM CINDY CIRCO . . . KANSAS CITY STANDS UP FOR AGENDA 21 AND AGAINST MISSOURI CONSERVATIVES WHO SEEK TO OPPOSE COOPERATION WITH THE UNITED NATIONS MEASURE IN THE HEARTLAND!!!

Here’s the Kansas City response . . .

RESOLUTION NO. 140065

The key part of the resolution . . .

WHEREAS, pursuant to the non-binding text of Agenda 21, the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council would be involved in voluntary implementation of Agenda 21 and the list of non-governmental organizations who are in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council includes the Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Association of Home Builders of the US, the American Library Association, the International Association of Safety Professionals, the League of Women Voters of the U.S., the Make It Right Foundation, the Summit Foundation, the YWCA of the U.S., the American Heart Association, the NAACP, and the UMKC Women’s Council, as well as numerous other professional, civic, environmental, and charitable/philanthropic organizations; and

WHEREAS, the City of Kansas City, Missouri (the “City”) has a strong commitment to sustainability and the Mayor and City Council have stated a vision to employ innovative strategies to develop sustainable healthy communities where all prosper; and

WHEREAS, the City desires to pursue partnerships with various entities and organizations to promote social equity, economic vitality, and environmental quality, some of which may be prohibited should SB 618 become law; and

WHEREAS, SB 618 is an unnecessary restraint of the City’s contracting or police powers related to serving the health, safety and welfare of its residents and will likely have unknown and perhaps unintended consequences that would undermine the ability of the City to implement ongoing and future measures to be a more sustainable community, all to the detriment of its taxpayers and citizens; NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

That the Mayor and Council hereby express their opposition to SB 618 and urge the members of the Kansas City legislative delegation and the Missouri Municipal League to oppose SB 618 for the reasons contained in this Resolution . . .
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And so, you read that right . . .

MAYOR PRO-TEM CINDY CIRCO’S RESOLUTION ORGANIZES KANSAS CITY CIVIC GROUPS IN SUPPORT OF AGENDA 21 AND AGAINST THE FAR RIGHT FACTION OF MISSOURI REPUBLICANS IN JEFF CITY!!!

And yes, this “culture war” stuff can get kinda silly but what thisstrange Show-Me State United Nations kerfuffle really indicates is that Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo is thinking about the bigger political picture and that might provide a peek at her political ambitions . . . Also, City Hall seems horribly confused about the priorities of local residents who have more pressing problems closer to home.

Developing . . .

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Contributed by Shawn Dietrich

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Mark Twain “Wait five minutes.”

Politician “Vote for proposition XX”.

Shawn Dietrich “Study earth’s history”.

So they are telling me that we have had global warming up until 400 years ago that was equivalent to what we have right now?  And then all of a sudden we had global cooling for the last 400 years that covered those plants in ice?  This is an inconvenient truth is it not?  I wonder if Al Gore will address this issue on why there were plants 400 years ago exactly where there is a glacier melting today?  But then again the center of the earth is several million degrees as seen here.

http://www.examiner.com/article/400-year-old-plants-showing-signs-of-new-growth-shock-scientists

Shawn Dietrich

Start with the premise that where ever you find an oil based substance, it was once (or several times) covered with water, mainly sea water.  The Permian Basin in West Texas extended the Gulf of Mexico not less than three times North to modern day Wyoming and beyond.

Whether you believe in Creation or Evolution, the documentable patterns of warming and cooling cycles has long been geologically proven without question.  IT IS SCIENTIFIC FACT.

While politicians blame all our problems on mankind,  “If you don’t like the weather……Vote for proposition XX.”

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It”
Ken Dunwoody                                      
GOD
Henpecked Acres                                           One Nation
14850 W. 159th St.
Olathe, Ks. 66062
(913)768-1603
kdunwoody2@aol.com

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Johnson County got a deal on King Louie. Turning it into a national suburbia museum won’t be a bargain

Turning King Louie into a national museum won’t be a bargain.

            by

http://www.pitch.com/kansascity/king-louie-west-museum-of-suburbia-johnson-county-commission/Content?oid=3256283&showFullText=true

King_Louie_Bowling_Ally_Sabrina_Staires_6_2013_5134

Photo by Sabrina Staires

Mindi Love has an encyclopedic memory of Johnson County’s history. Off the top of her head, she can say what year Country Club Plaza developer J.C. Nichols completed his studies at the old Olathe High School.

As she leads a tour through the narrow corridors of the Johnson County Museum of History’s cramped Shawnee house, she summons facts about Johnson County and offers context for its suburban past, from the time it was settled through the post–World War II development boom that would eventually make it one of the country’s most affluent counties.

Some exhibits in the museum are generic — the faux raspberries and potatoes that demonstrate the once-agrarian nature of Johnson County. Some are sobering — the exhibit that covers deed restrictions, which sought to keep out blacks and Jews and Syrians in some of Johnson County’s developing neighborhoods unless they were there as servants.

Love has been the director of the Johnson County Museum since 2000, and for all of that time she has worked in its 19,000-square-foot building at 6305 Lackman Road. It’s not as easy to spot from the road as the nearby Target-anchored shopping development, off Shawnee Mission Parkway and Interstate 435, but it attracts about 30,000 visitors a year.

Many of those museumgoers are children, whose smaller size is an advantage here. Exhibits line hallways not much wider than those found in an average residence.

“You can’t give a tour to a large group of people,” Love says. “Can you imagine a group of 90 third-graders in here?”

On the day she leads The Pitch through the museum, her voice competes with the din of children clattering through various interactive exhibits designed to give young people a simulation of 20th-century suburban life.

But the museum has more problems than a high decibel level. For one, it’s largely static. Its main feature is an exhibit called “Seeking the Good Life,” which was erected in the late 1990s after a fundraising campaign. It remains mostly unchanged.

The gallery devoted to rotating exhibitions is a space the size of an average home’s dining room. At the moment, it’s taken up by a show of editorial cartoons by Bob Bliss, of the defunct Johnson County Sun newspaper. (One of them takes a jab at Johnson County’s bus system, depicting a Jo bus with two people in it and the caption “The Jo’s ridership doubles!”)

It also has flooding problems. The building’s foundation kept rainwater out during a modest May 30 storm, but a 2009 downpour damaged exhibits and records in the basement. That event accelerated the county’s search for a new Johnson County Museum space.

Love may be on her way to getting that wish, if the county remakes the museum in the old King Louie West building, in Overland Park.

Johnson County bought the dormant bowling alley in 2011, and the proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year contemplates spending more than $5 million to ready the dilapidated building for use. The museum is calling for another $5 million in the following year’s budget to remake King Louie in the museum’s image.

The Johnson County Museum Foundation also wants to raise $2 million for new exhibits in time for a Johnson County Museum opening at King Louie in 2017.

That’s a big goal for a small foundation.

The nonprofit fundraising arm of the Johnson County Museum has raised $23,000–$38,000 a year since 2007, according to the most recent tax records available.

Love says those records don’t include grants that flow through the county books. One such grant: a $120,000 stipend to study a 2011 interpretive plan for what a future museum would look like. Another study was done to explore the feasibility of raising $2 million in time to get the museum moved into King Louie by 2017.

That study purports to describe how the foundation might grow from a five-figure fundraiser to a seven-figure one. Larry Meeker, president of the foundation, declined to share that study with The Pitch. He says: “The bottom line is, we’ve settled on a very doable plan for moving in, building a base for further fundraising starting with a base of $2 million to freshen things up, get us moved in [to King Louie] and, if all goes well there, begin the fundraising for expanding the fundraising.”

The expanded fundraising that Meeker is talking about would move the foundation toward a much bigger goal: Putting together another concept museum that backers want at King Louie, the National Museum of Suburbia and Suburban Policy Forum.

The museum would pay homage to the phenomenon of suburban sprawl, cul-de-sacs, The Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan, and other testaments to the out-migration from urban centers.

To do that — and to develop a museum that may have to sustain itself — the museum would have to raise almost $10 million on its own.

The Johnson County Museum today receives more than $600,000 a year from the county to support its operations.

“I’m firmly convinced, no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that this is a good idea,” Meeker tells The Pitch. “That it is something that will be acted upon at some point in the future, here or somewhere else.”

Others don’t envision a Johnson County–based national suburbia museum as a slam dunk.

“If activities can be fully funded by the private sector, that’s good,” says Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert. “I think it’s a concept that, if it were to happen, needs a lot more work. I hate to discourage somebody who is thinking outside of the box. There are realities to making those kinds of concepts come to pass. It’s going to be very, very difficult.”


Eilert insists that Johnson County didn’t buy King Louie to house a national museum of suburbia.  (NOlathe note: 2011 documents and video transcripts previously posted show “suburbia museum” was the major factor in purchasing a property that must be sold prior to 2012.  Interviews with The Wallstreet Journal confirmed and documented in 2012.)

But the county’s decision to buy the property at 8788 Metcalf raised eyebrows among those who pay attention to Johnson County politics.

Built in 1959, the 70,000-square-foot King Louie is the sort of structure that local officials call, perhaps euphemistically, “iconic.”

Its architecture, then and now, seems more like a ski chalet in Loveland, Colorado, than a bowling alley. But, with its dozens of lanes and its ice-skating rink, the place was a popular suburban destination for decades, until it fell on hard times in the late 2000s.

The building was owned by Western Development Co., a Shawnee real-estate entity controlled by John Mitchell, who lives near the Country Club Plaza. By the end of its life as a teen hangout, the building was riddled with codes violations, ranging from an assortment of electrical hazards to frozen sprinkler pipes to chicken wire covering exterior windows. It closed for business in 2009 and went up for sale.

Not long after, Johnson County staffers started looking around for a new museum site.

King Louie was on the county’s shortlist, but Mitchell’s $3.5 million asking price seemed exorbitant. The bargain shoppers at the county crossed the bowling alley off the list and moved on, exploring dozens of possibilities for the new museum site, mostly in the 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot range (with an eye to an eventual expansion).

Among the six locations toured by county officials was the developing Lenexa City Center at 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard. Former Johnson County Commissioner Doug Wood wanted to combine the museum with the Oak Park Branch of the Johnson County Library. None of the ideas gained consensus.

Then King Louie’s sellers, who were represented by real-estate firm Kessinger/Hunter, lowered the asking price to $2.5 million and indicated a willingness to perhaps go down even further. Joe Waters, director of facilities for Johnson County, brought the idea of buying the discounted King Louie to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners in November 2011. He said the sellers wanted to close the deal by the end of 2011 for tax purposes.

So the Johnson County Commission did Western Development Co. a solid and voted to have the building purchased by the end of 2011 — just one week after the deal was first presented.

Commissioners, concerned that the upcoming holidays would prevent a December quorum, quickly voted November 17 to buy the building for $1.95 million; they also voted to allocate another $1.6 million to protect the building from the elements. Then–Johnson County Commissioner David Lindstrom, whom Kessinger/Hunter employed in the 1970s and ’80s, was among those who voted to approve the purchase.  (NOlathe note: Commissioners voted when to purchase this property without concensus of how to pay for it.)

Western Development’s $193,000 mortgage on the property, dating back to 2003, was paid off shortly after Johnson County Commissioners voted to approve the deal.  (NOlathe note: NOlathe contends the purchase contract was used as a ‘bankable note’ to acquire funds to release the mortgage providing a clear document prior to JoCo’s purchase).  The $1.95 million initially came from the county’s reserve fund, basically a savings account for the county government to pay for unexpected costs such as, say, a damaging ice storm.

A loan was later taken from UMB Bank to replenish the reserve fund, as rating agencies were warning governments about keeping up adequate reserve levels.

Michael Ashcraft, a Johnson County commissioner whose district largely covers Olathe and Lenexa, had reservations about the way the building was bought and the county’s plans for it.

Johnson County was still in belt-tightening mode from a deep recession. Officials had begun publicly contemplating closing libraries and cutting staff across various departments — only to throw seven figures at a building for a possible county museum.

“I really have become much more ardent and much more concerned about the acquisition,” Ashcraft tells The Pitch. “Before, I was willing to talk about it and learn and see what the deal was. I had hesitancy at first. I’m just not in the game in terms of being a supporter of it. I think there are lots of other things we can do to support the museum and the history of Johnson County. The acquisition of a facility like that — because we had no plan and we’re trying to make a plan, we’re trying to rationalize the acquisition now to put a bus stop there or a bus park there and move other agencies in there. It’s like, no wonder people question how we do government when we make acquisitions like this and we don’t have a clear direction and clear utility for precious resources.”

Ashcraft would rather send resources to Johnson County Developmental Supports, which assists people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). The cost to serve someone needing that type of assistance is $35,000–$40,000 a year, with 60 percent covered by the feds. The waiting list for services is a lengthy six to eight years.

“I like museums,” Ashcraft tells The Pitch. “We’ve got limited resources. That [IDD] population is the gold standard.”

Eilert says the county bought the right building at the right price.

“I had a chance encounter with a local real-estate developer on an airplane flight to D.C.,” he says. “This individual was going to look at some property on the East Coast, and the story was in the newspaper a day or two earlier. He said, ‘I’ve been watching that property,’ and he said, ‘You got a heck of a deal.’ ”


The old King Louie building won’t house just the Johnson County Museum. It’s expected to become the new advance voting center, replacing the location at Metcalf South Mall, which is due to be razed for redevelopment.

It’s also expected to have space for the Enterprise Center of Johnson County, a business incubator hosted by the county that pays $200,000 in rent to Lenexa. Other county agencies might move in, too.

It’s not certain whether the proposed National Museum of Suburbia, coupled with a scholarly Suburban Policy Institute, would take space in King Louie.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, is home to the National Center for Suburban Studies. It’s seen as the pre-eminent location for academic research into suburbia and related issues, such as problems associated with planning and redeveloping aging suburban towns. Few other academic programs for suburban studies exist outside Hofstra other than an on-again, off-again center at the University of California–Riverside.

Christopher Niedt, academic director for Hofstra’s center, says the concept of a suburban museum has to extend beyond sentimentality.

“It also needs to be about more than suburban nostalgia,” he says. “It has to ask hard questions about what was good and what was bad about suburban living.”

There hasn’t been a market study or a feasibility study to determine the demand for a national museum of suburbia in Johnson County. A 2011 master plan for the idea envisions theatrical exhibitions; re-creations of old suburban model homes, such as Sears & Roebuck houses; and maybe an “interpretive car wash experience.” Installing all of this would cost, the plan says, about $7.7 million.

The plan predicts 60,000 visitors a year and goes on to describe that figure as a conservative estimate. But no source is cited for that guess. Ticket prices would range from $2 to $6 a person (the Johnson County Museum doesn’t charge for admission), with projected revenue of $193,000. Food sales, museum-store income and fundraising events — and $1 million in county operational support — raise the plan’s total projected revenue to $1.5 million a year.

Steve Klika, a Johnson County commissioner whose district covers the southeastern corner of the county, doesn’t see the concept as viable. Klika, who was elected to the commission after the purchase of King Louie, says, “I know when I ran for election … there was zero support for trying to promote this.”

Museum officials say they’re not really analyzing the prospects for a national-scope museum yet. They’re more focused on raising the $2 million necessary to help move the current museum out of Shawnee and into the King Louie building.

“I wouldn’t say we’re on the back burner,” says Love, director of the Johnson County Museum. “It certainly wouldn’t be realistic for us to raise $10 million in three years.”

The last major fundraising campaign for the Johnson County Museum, from 1996 to 1998, to build the current “Seeking the Good Life” exhibit, raised $800,000.

And though the Johnson County Museum’s fundraising drive to move to King Louie hasn’t started in earnest yet, it’s likely to face competition from another museum in Johnson County.

Fred Merrill Jr. is developing the Museum of Prairiefire, at LionsGate, a mixed-use project at 135th Street and Nall Avenue that includes a museum. It would book traveling exhibitions from New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

Merrill has established a foundation to support the museum via donations. Its campaign aims to raise $5 million–$6 million. Merrill says the campaign has reached about 20 percent of that goal. “It just takes a lot of work when you’re raising money for something,” he says.

Whether the work would be worthwhile for a national museum of suburbia, given the absent analysis of demand, is anyone’s guess. But Ashcraft and other county commissioners remain ambivalent.

“Is that a venue that would draw me or my family repeatedly?” Ashcraft says. “I’m not seeing that. I may be surprised.”

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EPA acknowledges releasing personal  details on farmers, senator slams agency

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Published April 09, 2013

FoxNews.com

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/09/epa-acknowledges-giving-out-personal-info-in-request-that-included-data-on/

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The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged Tuesday that it released  personal information on potentially thousands of farmers and ranchers to  environmental groups, following concerns from congressional Republicans and  agriculture groups that the release could endanger their safety.

According to a document obtained by FoxNews.com, the EPA said “some of the  personal information that could have been protected … was released.” Though the  EPA has already sent out the documents, the agency now says it has since  redacted sensitive details and asked the environmental groups to “return the  information.”

But Sen. John Thune, who originally complained about the release, slammed the  EPA for trying to retroactively recover the sensitive data.

“It is inexcusable for the EPA to release the personal information of  American families and then call for it back, knowing full well that the  erroneously released information will never be fully returned,” he said in a  statement to FoxNews.com. “While EPA acknowledging that it erred is a first  step, more must be done to protect the personal information of our farmers and  ranchers now and in the future. I will continue to demand answers from the EPA  on how this information was collected and why it is still being distributed to  extreme environmental groups to the detriment of our farm and ranch  families.”

The information on livestock and produce farmers was sought through a Freedom  of Information Act request by the groups Earth Justice, the Natural Resources  Defense Council and the Pew Charitable Trust. They were given information on  roughly 80,000 farmers and ranchers.

Pew returned the original information, per the agency’s request Thursday,  according to documents obtained by Fox.

The agency acknowledged the information included individual names, email  addresses, phone numbers and personal addresses.

Thune, of South Dakota, where 500 farmers and ranchers had their information  made public, sent a letter Monday to the EPA requesting the agency answer a list  of questions — including whether agency officials reviewed the information to  see whether the release complied with the federal Privacy Act of 1974.

“The EPA has threatened the health and safety of agriculture producers and  their families and has damaged the security of our food system,” Thune said. “There is a growing gap of trust between America’s farm and ranch families and  the EPA. Much of this lack of trust is due to EPA’s aggressive regulatory  agenda.”

Other concerns expressed by Thune, farm bureaus and others include whether  the EPA first consulted with the departments of Agriculture and Homeland  Security, which had already advised against compiling a public database with  similar information and whether the EPA still intends to create such a  record.

“Does the EPA intend to gather any more personal information on livestock  producers?” Thune asked in his letter to agency Acting Administrator Bob  Perciasepe.

The EPA said the data was related to farms in 29 states with “concentrated  animal feeding operations” and that the released information was part of the  agency’s commitment to “ensure clean water and public-health protection.”

The groups wanted the information, they say, because such large-scale  operations are a major source of water pollution and they want to hold the EPA  accountable for enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Critics have characterized Earth Justice and the organizations as being “extremist groups” and say the released information included data on family  farmers who feed fewer than 1,000 animals, which excludes them from having to  comply with the Act.

“This information details my family’s home address,” J.D. Alexander, a  Nebraska cattle farmer and former president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef  Association, told FarmFuture.com. “The only thing it doesn’t do is  chauffeur these extremists to my house.”

In response, Jon Devine, an attorney, wrote in a blog for the Natural  Resources Defense Council: “The most irresponsible charge made by NCBA is that  providing this information to public interest groups somehow may facilitate  criminal acts against facilities. That accusation is entirely unwarranted. NRDC  and Pew condemn such illegal activities.”

The EPA said the majority of the data was already publicly available through  state databases, web sites and federal and state permits, or is required to be  released under federal or state law.

However, in response to privacy concerns raised by agricultural groups, the  agency redacted sections of information from 10 of the 29 states that contained  some personal data, the release said.

Read more:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/09/epa-acknowledges-giving-out-personal-info-in-request-that-included-data-on/

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