Op Ed
August 31, 2007

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Dear Dog Lovers
by Deb Hipp

Editor’s Note: The following email was sent out to members and friends of WOOF! (Well-Organized Off-Leash Friends) concerning the group’s effort to get an off-leash area in Sunnyside Park in Waldo. It is posted here with permission.)

On Aug. 28, the (Kansas City) parks board that was appointed to increase parks usage and serve the citizens totally screwed us and shut down our entire dog park plan in the most flagrant display of disregard and rudeness to the public that I have ever witnessed. I am saddened and outraged. This is what happened:

When I called to check on the parks board agenda, which I couldn’t find online, I was told that there was an ”amendment” to the city ’s dog park guidelines on the agenda. When I asked Parks Department Director Mark McHenry what the amendment was, he would not tell me and told me that I was ”welcome to come ” to the meeting and find out. That is when I sent out my urgent e-mail urging people to come and speak at the ”public hearing ” portion of the parks board meeting, which is ALWAYS open to the public.

This amendment was news to me, which led me to believe that they were trying to slip it in and screw us over with little attention. What I feared was true, and when I tell you what happened next, you will be as outraged as I am.

About 40 dog park supporters showed up and at least a dozen signed up to speak during this ”open ” public hearing portion. The room was packed. As the parks commissioners walked in, Commissioner Aggie Stackhaus, who has made no secret of her friendship with Eula Inloes (opponent to our park and president emeritus of Here ’s Waldo Neighborhood Association) or her opposition to our dog park, walked by me and gleefully said, ”loving every minute of this.”

As the PUBLIC hearing began, Commissioner John Fierro announced that NO off-leash dog park testimony would be ALLOWED and that they would be making an announcement pertaining to the proposed dog park. I objected to this, and several other people, who had taken off work to testify, also objected. One supporter raised her hand and said, ”I ’d like to talk about transparency in government” but was told that NO, she would not be allowed to speak about that!

They rushed through the reading of this policy change, “which excludes any dog park from being in a neighborhood park, near homes,” in other words, OUR dog park, voted hurriedly on it and then, as people shouted out their dissatisfaction, just went on with the meeting as if none of the forty of us were even present. We kept on talking though, and managed to get on the news as several reporters were there.

As a crowd of us gathered in the lobby and discussed this obvious back-room deal struck up by parks commissioner, who seemingly — and blatantly — believe that they are above answering to the public that they were appointed to serve, the Parks Department actually called the police! — on a bunch of people wearing WOOF T-shirts discussing this denial of the public process (after) we were promised a public hearing from day one. We have followed every procedure, been polite, professional, courteous, thorough and honest — something our few opponents (less than a dozen outspoken people) have never demonstrated — and this is what has happened.

I believe that this parks board cheated us out of our public hearing (the big one that we were PROMISED) because they knew that with the overwhelming show of public support for our project, they would have looked foolish to not approve it. Now, they have chosen to look foolish anyway, and callously disregard what the public wants — in full view of news cameras and citizens.

I have not had time to plan our next move, but trust me, there is one.

Information on WOOF! can be found at www.waldodogpark.com. Deb Hipp can be contacted at dhipp@kc.rr.com.


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