We all find ourselves greedy at times. If your team is winning, you want one more score. If we have a cookie for dessert, we may want another. If our neighbor has a nice car, we may want to get a nicer one. But, when greed comes at the expense of thousands of people living their daily lives—raising their children, tending to a backyard garden, or retiring in peace—then greed has gone too far!
This is the situation we woke up to earlier this year when we discovered that Aden and Jenny Monheiser wanted to build a landfill within the city limits of Kansas City for their personal greed. Located in southern Jackson County, the Monheisers had been secretly planning a landfill on property immediately adjacent to Lee’s Summit, Raymore, Grandview, and Belton. Given that the location sits a few feet outside their borders, residents in these cities have no say in what happens.
Obviously, my neighbors and I, who now number in the thousands, were quite upset to learn this news. Fortunately for us, leaders in some of these municipalities were upset as well and took the fight to Jefferson City. Rep. Mike Haffner sponsored HB909, and Sen. Rick Brattin sponsored SB590. Both bills had many co-sponsors and wide-ranging bi-partisan support to change an existing law that requires one municipality to have the permission of an adjacent municipality to build a landfill on their border from half a mile to a full mile.
What we didn’t have, however, were deep pockets like the Monheisers. They hired lobbyists from firms like Catalyst, Nexus Group, Gamble and Schlemeier, F Minus, and others to lobby for this landfill in a residential neighborhood—across the street from a grade school! Regardless, our bill passed out of the Missouri House with overwhelming bi-partisan support: 139-16.
The senate, however, was another story. We discovered much of the information they distributed was misleading. We refuted much of this during the hearings. Simple details, like how much property they actually owned, were misrepresented. Senators challenged them! Our sources told us we had more than enough support to pass this simple change. However, Senators Mary Elizabeth Coleman and Curtis Trent, at the behest of these lobbyists, decided to filibuster our bill. For over 2 hours, we heard Sen Coleman speak about her high school, Dr. Pepper, and how wonderful closed landfills are. Sen. Trent then took the floor and ran out the rest of the clock.
While it is completely within the senate rules for such action, it was frustrating! If our bill was not good enough to become state law, then vote it down. I could accept that. However, for the thousands of citizens in this area to be denied a vote by senators who live hundreds of miles away filibustering FOR a landfill is reprehensible, and these lobbyists should be ashamed!
I’m looking forward to the next session where we will bring our bills back with more time on the clock, more followers and supporters, and maybe a lobbyist or two of our own. We will not quit. We will not back down.
Rick Meyers is the President of the Stop the Landfill Coalition.