Home / Clay County / Musings: Targeted Commission Mailings Legal, Still Wasteful and Wrong

Musings: Targeted Commission Mailings Legal, Still Wasteful and Wrong

The decision in the Markenson lawsuit came down last week. You can read more about that by clicking HERE.

I can’t say that I was surprised by it at all. It’s an uncomfortable position for any judge to be in the middle of.

As with many things in our society, there’s what is “legal” and there is what is morally right. Some things that are immoral, as in not of right behavior, often go unpunished, but it’s my opinion things like that should never go unnoticed.

Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen decided that it would be cute to send a targeted mailing to a select group of Clay County citizens. Now, not just any group of citizens, but a demographically specific group of people who had a higher potential of voting.

They just didn’t send any old mailing, they sent and continue to send a mailing to a targeted demographic that has cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

This mailing is clearly intended to cast the Commissioners in a positive light playing to a frustration that many voters often have with their government: accountability and transparency.

Let’s all be honest here.

This wasn’t done to promote public dialogue, to engage citizens, or to even encourage citizens to visit the Jesse James Farm and Museum. This was done to elevate the image of Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway. It was done to improve their chances of reelection. And it was done so that both individuals wouldn’t have to use personal campaign funds to do it.

Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway used public funds to campaign.

If this was truly about informing the citizens of this county there would have been much better ways to have gone about it. There are also markedly more modern and affordable ways to do it. But, hey, one shouldn’t expect much more out of two aged, outdated politicians who obviously know nothing about modern communication mediums and platforms.

Here are a few ideas for the heck of it:

  1. The County sends two mailings every year because they have to: property tax bill and assessment. If you truly wanted to expose citizens to such an incredible tourist attraction, might you have just included something in our property tax bill? After all, some of us out here who find property taxes pretty insulting might have enjoyed the free pass to the Jesse James Farm and Museum (okay, not really, the guy was a murderer and I could care less, but you get my point).
  2. Kind of going along with number 1 here, there are great FREE survey tools on the web that would have allowed you to potentially conduct a survey of EVERY property owning citizen in the County. I’m talking about using Google Forms here. It would’ve been as simple as building the survey, getting the link, and inserting a small piece of paper in the envelope that asked the citizen to go take the survey. Now I may not have a clue here, after all I only had classes in my undergrad degree on survey research, but a broad sample of all citizens would be far better than a narrow sample of a targeted demo.
  3. Now, let’s say that you wanted to spend just a little bit of money. You could’ve used Survey Monkey, and for $1,020 you’d have one of the most advanced online survey tools at your fingertips. Again, build the survey and just give a link to the resident.
  4. Oh, here’s another great idea. Take that super-fancy, modern website that you run here in the County and start an email list where you try to engage the citizens on a regular basis.
  5. Hey, almost 3 out of every 4 Americans are on The Facebook, maybe you could update your Facebook page once in awhile and use it as a communications tool? Lots of us do it on a regular basis. It’s super easy! (Commissioner Ridgeway hasn’t updated hers since she won reelection and Commissioner Owen, well, he’s still stuck in 2013.)
  6. Hold a town hall every so often.


I run into more and more Clay County citizens that are starting to learn about the complete lack of leadership down at the Courthouse. While I appreciate their frustration, being frustrated and taking the time to get involved and express that frustration in a useful manner are two completely separate things.

I imagine it will only get worse before it gets better.

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About Andrew Palmer