Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Why so worked up, Snookums?

From Paul Faber, Ellis County resident:

My phone rang. “Hold that thought, Rudy,” I said, “I have to take this call. It’s my wife, and you of all people should understand that.” Chuckle, chuckle.

“Hi, Honey. You sound upset.” Covering the speaker, I said to Rudy, “Rudy, this may take a while. Help yourself to some nuts.”

Back to my better half. “Oh, you were at the county commission meeting. Now calm down and tell me what happened. Keith Pfannenstiel and John Schmeidler spoke. That’s nice. What did they talk about? Ah, the moratorium again. Yes again. They asked for a year’s moratorium to allow time to establish a comprehensive plan and fix the zoning regulations before any big industry comes into Ellis County? I see. Makes sense, so what’s the problem?

“Oh, Commissioner Vernon Berens thinks that our zoning regulations are fine, at least as long as you can recognize that there is no such thing as perfect zoning regulations. Sweetie, you are getting way too upset. Remember what your doctor said. Yes, Dear, I understand that stating the obvious does not excuse one from correcting the problem.

“Wow! Someone from the crowd shouted out that the zoning board was a joke.”

Winking at Rudy, I mouthed, “I know you deal with hecklers all the time.” I switched to the speaker phone so that Rudy could hear how we deal with hecklers in Ellis County.

“Sorry, I didn’t quite catch what you said. What was Mr. Berens comeback?”

“He said that the zoning commission was not a joke,” she said.

“Great comeback. I bet that quieted the crowd,” I said, giving Rudy the thumbs-up sign. “Honey, Rudy is getting all newyorky on us. He thinks that a public servant in an elected position should say something like ‘What reason do you have for calling the commission a joke?’ Or ‘Can you give me an example of what you mean?’ or something like that.”

“Well, even though no one asked, the audience guy gave him his reasons,” said the sweet voice on the speaker phone. “He said that one board member threatened to resign if the commissioners voted down the conditional-use permit for the wind project and then the next thing you know he’s the chairman of the zoning commission. In the same meeting, another board member pushed hard for his own step-dad to receive a conditional-use permit for a gravel pit and succeeded. You’d think that a conflict of interest is a vice, but instead they made him the vicechair.”

Now Rudy is giving me the thumbs up!

“Yes, Pumpkin, that most certainly does sound like a conflict of interest. Did you take your pill yet?”

“Keith talked about appointing an independent committee,” she continued, “so they could write the comprehensive plan for our county - a committee with no ulterior motives, which is not like in the case of the wind project, where zoning commissioners had family ties to leaseholders who would stand to profit big time from the wind project. Keith also pointed out how David Yearout, a hired zoning consultant for Ellis County, was paid $16,000 to help the zoning commission, which was appointed by Mr. Berens and Commissioner Vernon Pfannenstiel, to write the regulations. But when Mr. Yearout recommended that they start with a comprehensive plan and use the plan as the foundation for writing the regulations the way normal folk do, the commission declined to take his advice. “

“Hey, Bunny Love, it’s a free country, don’t make yourself sick over it. Sugar, I need to get back to Rudy.”

I noticed that Rudy had begun to fidget with my Enron paperweight embossed with the words, “Glory Days.”

“Is there anything else?” I asked.

“Well, the commissioner Mr. Pfannenstiel, in response to commissioner Mr. Henman’s request for a moratorium, moved that the commissioners abolish county-wide zoning. He said that without the county-wide zoning we wouldn’t have this issue.”

“That’s leadership,” Rudy said to me.

“Does Mr. Pfannenstiel remember,” love-ums continued, “way back in the first zoning commission meeting for public comment on the wind project, the first words spoken by Krista Jo Gordon, the project manager, were ‘We do not go into counties which are not zoned.’ So what does Mr. Pfannenstiel mean? Does he mean that today we would have a wind industry next to our home or that we wouldn’t have it? Oh, who knows? All I know is that we need a comprehensive plan and soon!”

“OK! OK!” I interrupted. “Now remind me — what is a comprehensive plan?” I attempted unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn. “OK. So without a comprehensive plan, the county can put turbines, swine or even a dirty sock factory on my beloved golf course.

“Wait a second, are you saying that we don’t have a plan at all? What do you mean ‘chill’?”

Submitted by:
Paul Faber
Hays, Kansas

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