Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes intends to have "as public a process" as possible as she chairs a task force charged with reviewing the Jackson County Charter. County Executive Mike Sanders named Barnes chairperson during a news conference announcing the formation of a seven-member panel that will make recommendations for changing the charter.
Joining Barnes on the 2010 Jackson County Charter Review Commission are Karen E. Curls, Dr. Robert E. Hertzog, John Humphrey, Dorothy Kennedy, Fred Mills and Paul G. Rojas.
\Although the Task Force will conduct its review independently and have the freedom to make whatever recommendations it deems necessary, Sanders expects the group to focus on reform. Since taking office January 2, 2007, Sanders has sought to establish new ethical standards and cap executive power. He's also striven to "lift the veil of secrecy over the courthouse" to make County government more transparent.
Among Sanders' first acts as County Executive was signing an order limiting the executive's power to issue unlimited no-bid professional service contracts without Legislative review. In 2009, Jackson County adopted a comprehensive ethics code. Sanders now wants to "make those reforms permanent" through updating the Charter.
"It is important that we ensure, with Charter reform," Sanders said, "that subsequent County Executives -- through the mere stroke of a pen -- can't undo the reforms that we think have reshaped and restructured the way Jackson County government operates."
Voters To Have Final Say
Describing it as "the people's constitution for determining how their County government will conduct business," Sanders stressed that ultimately voters will determine what, if any, changes are made to the Charter. Sanders has targeted the August 2, 2010, election for having Charter changes on the ballot.
To meet a May 24 deadline for finalizing the August 2 ballot, the Commission's recommendations would need to be presented to the County Legislature no later than mid-May. Legislative Chairman Henry Rizzo (2nd District) stressed the Task Force has the full support of the Legislature.
"The Legislature supports the County Executive and this commission, and will look very seriously at all the recommendations," Rizzo said. "We will put [the recommendations] before the voters just as soon as we get them. We are committed to it."
If the Task Force requires more time, Sanders said a later election date -- November 3, 2010 -- would be possible.
Rizzo called the Commission one of the most impressive he has ever seen Jackson County form. Barnes, as mayor, oversaw a review of the Kansas City Charter, and she anticipates conducting public hearings as part of this new County Charter Task Force's work.
"It will be as public a process as we can make it," she said, "because, of course, that's what the intent of any kind of charter review should be."
Areas of the Jackson County Charter have been changed over the years, but it has not, Sanders stated, undergone a full comprehensive review since voters adopted it in 1970. Calling for such a review now represents the next step in Sanders' ongoing reform efforts.
What we did after taking office is raise the bar of public expectations about what they should expect out of their local government and specifically out of Jackson County government," Sanders said.
Kay BarnesKay Barnes was Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, from 1999 through 2007. She now teaches graduate-level courses in the Master’s of Public Affairs program at Park University. She is Founding Director of Park’s Center for Leadership at the Hauptmann School for Public Affairs. She served as Jackson County 4th District At-Large Legislator 1974-1978.
During her tenure as mayor, Kansas City earned the All-America's City Award, one of the country's most prestigious community recognition awards, given by the National League of Cities. She also oversaw a review of the City Charter.
Karen E. CurlsCurls is the principal of the Curls Jude Joseph Property Group. She previously served as Director of Real Estate for the Community Development Corporation (CDC) of Kansas City, with the responsibility of overseeing the organization’s commercial and residential real estate activities. Her experience also includes working on the acquisition of funding for various programs, such as the R.T. Coles Vocational Institute (CDC), the Workforce Renovation Program (CDC), the Community Sentencing Program (Jackson County) and the Safe Haven Program (Ad Hoc Group Against Crime).
Dr. Robert E. HertzogDr. Robert E. Hertzog is a long-time owner/manager of dairy farms in both Jackson and Johnson counties. He has a long record of public service that includes 16 years as a Jackson County Legislator and membership on the Jackson County Economic Development Commission, the R-7 Lee’s Summit School Board (three terms) and the Little Blue Sewer Board. A member of the Missouri State Republican Committee for 20 years, Dr. Hertzog also worked on the executive boards of both the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
John R. HumphreyJohn Humphrey spent six years as an Assistant Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney (1988-1994), with three years as a Drug/General Crimes trial attorney. He had 31 jury trials during that time and was named a Drug Unit Prosecutor 1991-1993. He then worked in private practice (1995-2001); served as president/owner of Transmed of St. Louis, Inc., a pharmacy specializing in medications for transplant patients (2001-2004); and resumed private practice as a criminal defense attorney in 2005 with an emphasis on pro bono cases.
Dorothy KennedyDorothy Kennedy spent 28 of her 36 years as a classroom teacher in the Hickman Mills School District. She was active in the National Education Association at both the local level (serving on a variety of committees at Hickman Mills) and as a delegate to both the state and national conventions. She has served on the Jackson County Democratic Committee since 1976.
Fred M. MillsFred Mills had a distinguished career in law enforcement that spanned over five decades, from joining the Missouri State Highway Patrol in 1967 through his retirement as Independence Police Chief April 1, 2008. He rose through the ranks of the Patrol to be appointed Superintendent (overall commanding office) of the Patrol from 1993-1997. His retirement from the Patrol only lasted a few months before he returned to duty as Interim Police Chief in Grain Valley, where he later served as City Administrator (1998-2001). He returned to the area where he grew up to become Independence Police Chief in October 2001.
Paul G. RojasPaul Rojas is a former member of the Missouri General Assembly, District 23 (1972-1980). He has served numerous terms on the Jackson County Committee. He retired after 39 years with Honeywell International in 2007. He served in the Korean War as member of the United States Navy.