February 7, 2022

Meet the Candidates: Billie Ray Preston


At the top of any thoughtful list of important concerns for the citizens of Independence, MO, or any town in America, you would expect to find health and welfare, housing, a sufficiently thriving economic and industrial base to ensure every person capable of working earns a livable wage, and a wholesome environment that promotes ethics in government. Health and welfare also includes public safety. Housing and the lack thereof define the civility and compassion of a society. Economics and industry are the foundation and corner stones of every sustainable society. However, it is ethics in government that offer citizens the assurance that public resources are used to promote a fair and just community.

At the core of health and welfare is public safety. On the frontline of public safety is the police officer who responds to the widest range of summons. However, it is this very officer that is most neglected. This officer is paid such a low wage that one of our most sacred and treasured public servants is compelled to routinely work eighty (80) to one hundred (100) or more hours per week to adequately provide for family. We would never permit an airline pilot to fly a plane eighty (80) hours a week. We would never permit an over-the-road truck driver to drive an eighteen wheeler eighty (80) hours a week. There are profound negative unintended consequences. And yet, the police officer is economically compelled to work long hours because we withhold what is rightly due: a fair and just wage. No one works ninety hours a week, month after month and year after year, because "they just love their job". This is a dictate of finance or the lack thereof. It is grossly inadequate to merely say, "I support our police." We must hold adult discussions on fair and equitable compensation for our police. Anything else is mindless babble. A just wage is essential; however, continuing education is fundamental and an eighty (80) hour workweek is a major obstacle.

Affordable and fair housing is essential and indicative of a fair and just society. Adequate housing is the product of thoughtful city planning. We must do better. The Independence School District has approximately one thousand (1,000) homeless children daily, and that does not include data from the other three school districts in Independence. This is a pre-covid-19 statistic. The existing federal, state and local partnerships are the short term approach and only a partial solution. When these financial resources are delivered, we must ensure they are delivered to the intended point of need and not diverted to some pork barrel project. This requires accountability and thoughtful oversight. There also must be a region-wide approach to systemic homelessness as presently we are primarily making our homelessness problem our municipal neighbors' problem. The long term solution is as it has always been: education.

There has been municipal effort to attract a more diversified industrial base. There must be a renewed and concerted effort in that regard. However, we may be overlooking the obvious. Our wages are low because we have an under-trained and under educated population. Kirksville MO, with a population under twenty thousand (20,000), has a medical school, a dental school, a university and an incredibly engaged and cohesive local leadership team. Of course, Kirksville holds rigorous debate, but it is always thoughtful and respectful. If we address our most fundamental need, a well-trained and well-educated labor force, we will produce the clean environmental industry of education.

Ethics in government must be more than some trite campaign slogan dragged out seasonally to excuse the lack thereof. Our beloved Independence has been plagued by a dark shadow for more than forty (40) years. This dark hand has been persistent and consistent. Even before the days of Mayor Barbara Potts and to the present, mayors have pushed back. There must be a full-throated ethical movement that includes the City Council rather than having this matter exacerbated by Council members. I will not besmirch our municipal image in this format to advance. However, I intend to shine the light of justice on any proposal that betrays the oath of our fiduciary responsibility. On this matter I renew the sacred pledge to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. I intend to use every arrow in the quiver to pierce the heart of any scheme to misdirect public resources. There must be continuing education on ethics in government for our elected officials, city staff and vendors and contractors.

We must address the issues of health and welfare, housing, economics and ethics in government as a thoughtful people. We are fortunate to be the home of some of the most gifted people in America. We are bigger than our challenge, with solutions resting within our concerted and civil debate. No one person is the solution; however, collectively we embody both the answers and the problems. I choose to be part of the answer.
I am a sixty-nine (69) year old black man who came to Independence in 2008. This community embraced me and I have sought to give back. I am retired from federal service after more than twenty (20) years of enforcing federal labor laws and assisting businesses, industry and labor and professional organizations better understand the many applicable federal labor regulations.

Most of my life has been spent interfacing with the public and in public service. I have enjoyed almost every moment of it. My academic preparation with degrees in economics and real estate, along with the coaching of some incredibly talented and generous people, have prepared me well. I remain coachable, as my years in law enforcement taught me to listen carefully. Federal investigating also taught me to begin each investigation with a clean slate and not some previously held position in search of corroborating data.

Public service does not require one to agree with every position put forward. However, one is required to listen and respect input. I have never longed for public office nor have I ever previously sought public office. I embrace this opportunity because of the encouragement of many friends. They trust me and I trust them. I hope you will too.

For more information visit https://www.electbillpreston.com/



No comments: