Last week, Jan Marcason and 8 other members of the city council sponsored a bill at the council level that would require any city volunteer to undergo hours of volunteer training and background checks for all city volunteers.
The ordinance is actually geared toward one person, mayor Funkhouser's wife Gloria Squitiro. I don't know Gloria. Never met her. I don't know enough information about the lawsuite over her alleged "insensitivity" is legit (although I've heard from several sources that it's not). Regardless, it's become very clear that the majority of the council doesn't like her...it may or may not be founded. Personally, I don't really care.
My bigger problem with this whole mess is the council's clearly not-well-thought-out initiative to require all city volunteers to undergo extensive background checks and training sessions -- and that they cannot volunteer for a city group where they have a relative that works.
The council has already backed off some. They clearly realized that the parks department relies heavily on volunteers to help keep our parks clean and maintained. However, it's also very clear that they haven't considered other areas that rely on volunteers (or may at some point in the future).
Due to budget cuts, the city has actually considered shutting down our animal shelter. Many animal shelters across the country have been very successful in getting volunteers to help keep the shelter going who will work at no cost to the city. For many reasons the KCMO shelter doesn't use volunteers now (primarily because volunteers don't like working for the KCMO shelter that kills an average of 20 pets a day), but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be beneficial in the future to build a strong volunteer base. This will be infinitely harder with this ordinance.
There are many other departments that would be affected.
It would now become virtually impossible for the city to organize volunteer groups to clean up city streets and sidewalks.
Places like the leaf and brush pick-ups would not be able to solicite additional volunteer support following major storms when the drop sites are much busier.
The KCATA may or may not rely on volunteers to hand out information to neighborhoods affected by changes in bus routes that might occur in light of building a multi-million dollar light rail system.
Any community centers that are not covered under the parks and rec department would not be able to have volunteer help.
It will become more difficult to get volunteers for any future city-run recycling programs, or to help people who want to take advantage of the city's paint program, that provides paint to people free of charge from a collection of partially used paint cans dropped off at city sites.
The list could get longer.
The reality is that the city SHOULD WANT to rely heavily on volunteer workers. It is a completely great way to bring down city costs, and to promote involvement from its citizens.
And the city council is willing to throw away these potential opportunities because they have a beef with one person who is the wife of the mayor and works in the mayor's office (for free).
More and more the city council reminds me a lot more of a group of 7th graders on their student council than a group that should be running the 2nd largest city in the state of Missouri.
Let's get over the petty disagreements and work out these issues like adults. Let's not pass broad-sweeping laws that will prohibit volunteerism in the city and increase the need for taxes to pay for all of the work that needs to be done, and start acting like a real city run by adults.