Monday, August 31, 2015

Frazier Glenn Miller after guilty verdict: The fat lady just sang

The jury did not agree with Frazier Glenn Miller's argument that he was "right, just, and moral" in killing three people at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.

The jury took only only two hours to find the Aurora man guilty. When the verdict was announced, Miller said, "I guess the fat lady just sang."

The penalty phase begins tomorrow morning.


Could another editor have won the Pulitzer for the Globe?

In my post on the Joplin Globe a few minutes ago, I mentioned that some were touting the newspaper for the Pulitzer Prize three years ago for its tornado coverage.

In the back of my mind, I recalled that after I posted a video of the Tuscaloosa newspaper winning the Pulitzer for the coverage of that city's tornado, a reader left a lengthy comment, exploring the question- Would the Joplin Globe have won the Pulitzer Prize with a different editor, other than Carol Stark at the helm?

The three replacement editors the reader suggested were former Globe Editor Ed Simpson, former Carthage Press Editor and Neosho Daily News Publisher Rick Rogers, and me.

While I had some mild disagreement with some of the reader's psychoanalysis of me, I thought it was interesting then and remains so. How would the Globe have been different the past three years with any of the three editors, or with someone else running the show?

The comment is printed below:

I was not surprised that the Joplin Globe did not win the Pulitzer Prize. Globe employees obviously went through a lot just to keep the paper coming out every day after the tornado, but there was a certain spark missing in its coverage. Since you posted the story a couple of days ago about some expert thinking the Globe might receive a Pulitzer, I have been thinking about how the Globe might have done in the competition with one of the three big journalism egos of the past 20 years as editor instead of Carol Stark.

Yes, I have been wondering if the Joplin Globe would have had their Pulitzer with Ed Simpson, Rick Rogers, or you, Randy Turner, as the newsroom leader.

I can almost guarantee that all three of you believe that you would have brought home the prize.

Ed Simpson would not have let the Kansas City Star come in and outshine the Globe on the daily coverage and on the book. The Globe with Simpson in charge had a knack for investigative reporting that simply has not been done since May 22- except by the Star. Where is the money going? Simpson wouldn't have let his reporters accept the word of officials and allowed his reporters to regurgitate press releases. That same attitude would probably have kept him from getting the Pulitzer. Simpson's Joplin Globe never had anyone who could capture the voice of the community, the same problem the current Globe has.

A team led by Rick Rogers would have been in the running the whole way. At Neosho, Rogers showed what he could do when breaking news hit. The Daily was all over the church shooting and the ice storm, just to name two big stories. Rogers always inspired loyalty in the people who worked for him and he was not afraid to jump in and help out. Though he was a publisher and not an editor at Neosho, my guess is he would have followed the same pattern had he been in charge of the Globe. The design would have been far superior and the current Globe did a pretty good job with design.

You, Mr. Turner, are the wild card, At Carthage, your newspapers always looked like they had 20 reporters working for them instead of just a few. Unlike Rick and Ed, you always had a way of speaking directly to the reader and you always had a knack for hiring the best writers. You, like Rick, would have jumped right in and written stories and columns. Having you leading the Joplin Globe would never have worked. You were always at your best when you were competing with the Globe and the local TV stations and your pattern over the years has been to shy away from any type of challenge like being editor of a larger newspaper. You do have Ed's knack for investigative reporting combined with Rick's eye for the features, but you lack, unless you had Rick or Ron Graber working with you, the design eye that it would take to get the Pulitzer.

Could the three of you working together have accomplished it? Not a chance, because the three of you could never work together.

My final thoughts:

Could Ed Simpson have won the Pulitzer? No, he has the brains, but not the heart.

Could Randy Turner have won the Pulitzer? Maybe as a columnist; there has been no one better at writing thought provoking and touching columns over the years, but you could never win it as Globe editor. Give you some of your top reporters from the Press days and let you compete with a smaller staff and I can see a Rocky-like ending.

Could Rick Rogers have won the Pulitzer? He had the knack for rising to the occasion on every occasion, an ability to inspire his reporters, links into the news pipeline at Missouri Southern, and unlike you, Randy, he is much better dealing with the general public.

Rick Rogers would have won the Pulitzer.

A long-time observer of local news

The people of Joplin should sue the Globe for non-support

It seems hard to believe now, but in the early months of 2012, national publications were speculating that the Joplin Globe was going to win the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, for its coverage of the tornado.

Those people obviously had not read the newspaper.

The people who work at the Globe suffered just like the rest of the city after the May 22, 2011 tornado. Some lost their houses; some lost loved ones.

The Globe staff continued to put out the newspaper day after day, providing a valuable source of information. The reporters were ready to rise to the challenge of covering the number one story in the nation.

Unfortunately, for a newspaper that had a team capable of delivering superlative coverage in the wake of the biggest disaster to ever hit this city, while the reporters were ready, upper management and the newsroom leadership never sounded the charge.

For the first several days, obviously it was a major task to simply publish the newspaper, but even then, the Globe failed to serve as the voice of the community. It ceded that responsibility to Chad Elliot, Josh Marsh and the people at KZRG, people who suffered as much as anyone in Joplin, but stayed on air, 24/7, not only providing a lifeline to a community in desperate need of one, but also establishing the Zimmer stations as the go-to source for news about the Joplin Tornado.

As it became apparent that the rebuilding of Joplin was going to be the major story for the next several years, it was vital for the community to have a news source that kept an eye on the millions of dollars that were coming into the city.

This did not just mean seeing which businesses were going to rebuild and which were gone for good, though those stories were important. It also meant keeping a closer eye than ever on the people who made the decisions. It also meant being ready to pursue stories which might not reflect well on our leaders.

In that, the Globe has failed miserably and continues to do so. And not just with its coverage of government, but also with how it has handled major stories involving charities and businesses.

When the Globe was told that the Salvation Army had received millions of dollars in tornado relief money and had spent little of it in Joplin, the editors decided not to pursue the story. The source took it to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Globe also ignored early information that the Home Depot building had only been built to withstand 85 mile per hour winds. That story went to the Kansas City Star. When a Joplin woman who lost her husband and two children in the tornado filed a lawsuit against Home Depot (which locals found out about initially by reading the Turner Report), the Globe's Facebook site featured dozens of comments saying that the woman was trying to cash in on the loss of her loved ones. How could you blame Home Depot, they asked. Perhaps some of those people might have thought differently about the lawsuit had they been aware of the information that was in the Kansas City Star.

The Globe served as a cheering section for anything that was suggested by former City Manager Mark Rohr, former R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff and Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer.

No one ever questioned just how the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team was formed. Rohr, in his book Miracle of the Human Spirit, wrote that it consisted of an informal group that had already been meeting. The first public meeting of CART was held after this informal group's leadership and top members had already been selected.

The Globe went along willingly with the notion that all of the ideas for projects came from a bulletin board at a CART meeting that anyone could put suggestions on. With that many suggestions, how is it that nearly all of CART's ideas were ones that the original CART members had been promoting, for the most part unsuccessfully, for years?

Where was the investigative reporting when the idea of hiring a master developer was first suggested? Where did this idea originate? We know now that it came from David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali.

Why did the Globe never look into the background of Wallace Bajjali? I only needed a few minutes to find enough information to let me know that the city was asking for trouble. The Globe accepted Mark Rohr's word that he had checked into the company's background and he would "stake his reputation on it."

As more and more information was discovered about Wallace Bajjali, the Globe remained silent. It took the master developer's departure for the Globe to suddenly begin writing about how awful Wallace Bajjali was.

The same plan was used in the Globe's coverage of the R-8 School District. Consider the following approaches taken by the area's newspaper of record:

-Ignored a government scientific report that showed there was never any need to demolish East Middle School and keep students and staff in a warehouse building for three years.

-Failed to report CFO Paul Barr's statement on $8 million of "might-as-well" spending that was used for unnecessary athletic items at Joplin High School.

-Never called C. J. Huff to task for failing to tell the public that an employee in his technology department admitted to having pornographic photos of 10 Joplin High School girls on his laptop. The official statement from Huff said the employee had no contact with students.

-Went along with Huff's litany of excuses for why so many teachers were leaving the district. With 597 teachers in the district and more than 400 leaving in the last four years, even with some of the teachers replacing others who left a year or two earlier, it is still obvious that more than half of the teachers who were in the district four years ago have departed.

-Overlooked Huff's boorish behavior toward board members during meetings.

-Immediately began to criticize new board members who were having to deal with actions bordering on obstruction that were done by the previous board.

The most egregious violations of the Globe's responsibility as a watchdog for the public interest came in the way the newspaper dealt with investigations conducted by outside sources, especially the Loraine Report and the recently-issued state audit of the City of Joplin.

When the Loraine Report was issued, the Globe, admirably most thought, went to court to battle for the release of 10 missing pages from the report, and also for the exhibits and sworn statements that accompanied the report.

After winning its court battle, the Globe concentrated on portions having to do with fired City Manager Mark Rohr and never used its vast resources (at least compared to other news outlets in the Joplin area) to uncover the story. The newspaper provided more space to Rohr and Joplin businessman Charlie Kuehn to refute the report than it gave to the report itself.

While doing research for my latest book, I was surprised to discover that the first mention of possible conflicts of interest regarding Councilman Mike Woolston was in the pages of the Globe. The subject was broached during a Joplin City Council meeting. Woolston denied the allegation and the mention was buried on an inside page, deep into a lengthy council write up that had begun on page one.

Woolston's alleged misdeeds were pushed aside by the Globe after its reporters finally had their hands on the Loraine Report. They ignored sworn statements that indicated Woolston had used prior knowledge of development in the 20th and Connecticut area to buy up land for Kuehn, which was then sold at a hefty profit to the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation. Property owners testified that Woolston had called them "stupid" for not selling.

Woolston's interview with investigator Thomas Loraine was even more troubling. He made it clear that he had attended planning and zoning meetings as a "private citizen" to support Kuehn's projects, adding that he realized that it would send the message that he, a councilman, had a special interest in those projects. That did not bother him in the slightest.

The Globe also ignored warning signs raised by the report that all of Wallace Bajjali's dealings, including ones that amounted to millions of dollars, were being done totally through Rohr, with no input from the city attorney, including the contract that made the council reluctant to fire Wallace Bajjali for fear the city would have to forfeit $3 million to get rid of the company.

Instead, the Globe attacked the report, concentrating on its treatment of Rohr and the fact that it ended up at nearly double the price that had been agreed upon. The price was a legitimate issue, but anyone who read through the report can readily see that it was worth that much money, if not more.

The Globe provided considerable space for those who attacked the report and questioned its integrity. Never once was it mentioned that Editor Carol Stark refused to talk to Loraine, most likely because it would have been obvious that she directed news coverage to attack council members Bill Scearce and Ben Rosenberg, with much of the information being provided to her on the sly by Rohr.

It did not take long for the attack on the state audit of the city to begin. In the two weeks since the report was issued, as far as I can determine, the Globe has yet to print a letter to the editor or a "guest column" from someone who agrees with the report. It seems highly unlikely that the newspaper has not received any since the comment sections at the Globe, KZRG, KOAM, the Turner Report, and other news sources indicate that considerably more than half of the comments are negative concerning Woolston and city officials and not about the audit itself.

The Globe printed a perfunctory editorial about the need for the city to do its business in the open and then turned its guns on the audit. Major space on the opinion page of the Sunday edition was provided to guest columnist Anson Burlingame, who explained what a poor job the auditors did, the same message he tried to put across during an interminable, almost incomprehensible, monologue he performed at the Corley Auditorium on the MSSU campus the night the audit was released.

Burlingame defended Wallace Bajjali, saying that the company could have succeeded if it had been left alone without interference (presumably from council members Scearce and Rosenberg, as well as the others who were in the so-called Bloc of 5).

The same argument was made in a lengthy opinion page column by Rohr in Saturday's edition. The column was headlined "Ex-city manager offers story behind the failure."

No, Carol Stark or whichever editor handled that page. He did not offer the story behind the failure; he offered his version of the story behind the failure. According to Rohr, Wallace Bajjali did nothing wrong.

The one thing that neither Rohr nor Burlingame ever explains is why should we believe Wallace Bajjali would have been successful in Joplin when the company had never successfully completed a project anywhere else?

Why should we have had any expectation of Wallace Bajjali seeing through its $794 million plan to completion when David Wallace had never been involved with a project of anywhere near this magnitude?

Despite what Rohr and Burlingame say, the problem was not that the council interfered with Wallace Bajjali, it was the decision to allow outside vested interests to have the major say in hiring a master developer and with recommending that the position be created without a more thorough study. If there would have been some council interference before the hiring of David Wallace, a great deal of grief could have been prevented.

The latest attack on the audit came from Editor Carol Stark herself, using the Sunday opinion page. The headline reads, "Change in state law would improve audits." Almost the entire column was critical of the audit process.

Do you sense a pattern developing?

When Tom Loraine uncovered problems in the city, the Globe attacked the audit. It cost too much; he wouldn't answer the Globe's questions.

And now the state auditors are being secretive and we need to change the law because they are making allegations that hit hard at the Globe's buddies, like Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian, the people on CART, and, of course, beloved city officials like Mike Woolston.

The Globe has had access to the Loraine depositions for a year and four months. Those prove conclusively that, at the least, Woolston skated on the edge of illegal behavior. Woolston (and the Globe) seem to be of the opinion that if something is legal, that automatically makes it ethical. Anyone who reads the transcript of Woolston's interview with Loraine, which is almost completely reprinted in my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud is going to have a hard time being convinced that this man knows the meaning of the word "ethical."

A Pulitzer Prize for the Joplin Globe?

The people of Joplin should sue the newspaper for non-support.
***
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Joplin man pleads guilty to drug, weapon charges

Michael J. Watson, 37, Joplin, pleaded guilty to drug and weapon charges Friday in U. S. District Court in Springfield.

The background of Watson's case was featured in this May 5 news release from the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri:

Today’s indictment alleges that Watson was in possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute on April 10, 2015. Watson is also charged with one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Watson allegedly possessed a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol on April 10, 2015. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Watson has prior felony convictions for assaulting a law enforcement officer, possession of a controlled substance, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting a lawful stop.

Watson was arrested on April 10, 2015, when a Joplin police officer contacted a vehicle that Watson was driving. The officer initially stopped a man walking out of the Sunrise Inn motel at 3600 Rangline, and the man indicated that he was with the four occupants of a Nissan Sentra that was parked nearby. One of the passengers started to get out of the car, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The man closed the passenger door and Watson, the driver, allegedly fled in the vehicle at a high rate of speed.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, the officer returned to his vehicle and began to back up in order to follow the Sentra. Watson drove the Sentra straight into the patrol car at a high rate of speed. The collision with the passenger side of the vehicle caused significant damage. The officer felt his body leave the driver’s seat and fly upward, striking his head on the roof of his patrol vehicle. Watson got out of his car, fell to the ground, then fled on foot. Three passengers also fled on foot, in the opposite direction. The officer pursued Watson, who stumbled and fell to the ground after he jumped over a fence. The officer caught up with him and, while Watson was on the ground, saw the loaded firearm in a holster on Watson’s right side. The officer also found a hard case in Watson’s left front pocket that contained methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nhan D. Nguyen. It was investigated by the Joplin, Mo., Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

R-8 Board sets special meeting to discuss strategy for district improvement

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will discuss strategy for district improvement during a 5:30 p.m. Tuesday special meeting at the Memorial Administration Building.

The agenda also includes bids for two projects.

The board is expected to approve a $58,450 contract for Satterlee Mechancial Contracting Corporation to extend a gas line into the HVAC lab at Franklin Technical School.

Also on tap is a $254,067 contract to Trane USA to replace defective HVAC units at Columbia, West Central, and Kelsey Norman elementary schools.

Children's book tops Amazon Joplin Tornado book rankings

The newly-published children's book about the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado, I Survived the Joplin Tornado, by Lauren Tarshis tops the Amazon.com rankings of books about the tornado. It is the highest ranking book ever about the event, coming in at number 639 out of more than 10 million books on Amazon.

The ranking may have even been higher just after its August 15 publication date, but I hadn't checked it out for the past few weeks.

The rankings are listed below:

1. I Survived the Joplin Tornado, Lauren Tarshis 639
2. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 219,576
3. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star, 223,013
4. Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, Randy Turner 554,881
5. Spirit of Hope: The Year after the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 903,001
6. Simple Pleasures, Kenna White 1,198,874
7. Lily: A True Story of Courage and the Joplin Tornado, Carolyn Mueller 1,206,116
8. Using Social Media in Disaster Recovery, David Burton, Genevieve Williams, Rebecca Williams 1,385,062
9. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe 1,471,222
10. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith 1,702,100
11. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr 1,958,157
12. Life After the Storm, Debbie Fleitman 2,146,850
13/ Shatterproof, Katrina Hoover, 2,200,346
14. Tornado Warning; The Extraordinary Women of Joplin, Tamara Hart Heiner, 2,345,723
15. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer 2,403,547
16. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett 2,441,894
17. Hindsight: Lessons Learned from the Joplin Torando, Zac Rantz 2,756,015
18. 5:22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith, Scott Hettinger
19. Out of the Wind, D. Hoggatt 3,369,648
20. Scars from the Tornado, Randy Turner 3,399,437
21. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim A. Bartow 3,736,221
22. Joplin, Missouri Tornado of May 22, 2011, David Prevett, 4,593,062
23. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston 5,073,107
24. 20th and Rangeline, Joplin, Missouri 6,070,680
***
Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, features more of the personal tornado stories that made 5:41 the top seller among all Joplin Tornado books online. It also includes stories from the following year as Joplin struggles to recover, with more first person accounts from those who volunteered, as well as original reporting and commentary from authors Randy Turner and John Hacker.

Joplin city manager provides weekly update

(The following update was provided by Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm to the City Council Friday.)

Good afternoon, everyone. Please see below for this week’s update.

 Key Meetings

-On Monday, staff from HR, Parks and Recreation, and I met to discuss some possible position changes within parks and recreation due to a restructuring of the department. We will have a meeting with finance staff next week to review the financial impact of these changes, but it is my hope to have this discussion with you during our budget work sessions.

-Later that morning I attended the monthly meeting of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. Following up on our meeting from Monday night, if you have not submitted your suggestions for items to include with the new contract to either City Attorney Edwards or myself, please do so at your earliest convenience.

-Monday afternoon, AtCM Kelly and I met with finance staff to review the evaluation of user fees and charges report compiled by finance in conjunction with other departments. There are a few fee requests that we need to do additional research on, but I anticipate the bulk of the fees will be ready for your review and discussion during our budget work sessions.

-On Tuesday, department heads and I met to discuss the audit findings. Specifically, we made it through the first three findings of the audit report. The website has been updated to reflect that 67.8% of insurance proceeds have been collected under the duplication of benefits provision (Recommendation 3.3). Pertaining to Recommendation 3.4, we will be retraining staff on how to locate and secure the proper suspension and debarment paperwork. Finance will now be responsible for retaining the proper documentation related to this finding.

-Later that afternoon, AtCM Kelly and I met to review his progress on developing a five-year Capital Improvement Plan for use by council and staff in planning out the next several years of capital expenditures. Work continues on that project and our hope is to have a draft document ready for your review at the budget work sessions, even though no formal action will be required by you at this time.

-On Wednesday, the Infrastructure Team (staff from public works, planning, and Deloitte) met to review their progress on mapping out the use of the CDBG-DR funds for infrastructure work in the recovery area. Based on the dollars budgeted for Infrastructure Projects #1 and #2 (but not including the Main & 20th Street road projects), PW staff is recommending a mix of stormwater (18%), sanitary sewer (31%) and surface element (51%) repairs throughout all zones, but concentrated in the heart of the damage area based on condition assessments that took place over the past several months. Next week, the Infrastructure Team will be meeting with the engineering consultants to prepare next steps and a timeline for implementation. After those meetings take place, I will likely be asking Deloitte staff to give a presentation/update to the council and the public at a future council meeting.

-On Thursday morning I attended a meeting with several local residents who are interested in sharing more about all of the positive things going on in our community, in spite of what we read in the headlines or on Facebook. The impetus behind the meeting was a book called For the Love of Cities, by Peter Kageyama, whom you may recall was in Joplin in May of 2013 to talk to several residents about what we can do to show our love for the cities in which we live. The “I Am Joplin” mural on 6th and Main was the direct result of that visit. Discussions are still in the early stages, but as I learn more I’ll pass the information along.

-Later that afternoon, Director Tuttle, AtCM Kelly and I accompanied council member Colbert-Kean on a tour of the city with officials from the National League of Cities. We discussed our recovery efforts and the use of various state and federal resources to help us, economic development efforts, and other topics.

-Earlier this afternoon, representatives from several departments met with the Finance Committee to answer questions related to the fee study that the finance department has completed with the help of several departments. The committee voted to advance the study to the council for review, which will also occur during budget work sessions next month. I would like to commend staff at all levels for their efforts in bringing this information to you, with a particular word of thanks to Assistant Finance Director AJ Whistler, for his efforts in researching our costs, city comparables, and compiling the report for your review.

-To end the week, I met with Callie Hudson with the Downtown Joplin Alliance. They are moving their office to 515 S. Main next week, and she also informed me of an exciting restaurant start-up/incubator opportunity that will be coming to 1st and Main, in the former Cooper’s 66 restaurant. We discussed the downtown parking proposal more, and I’ll be gathering additional information next week to share with you. Thank you to those of you who have provided input thus far; I’ll provide a summary of everyone’s responses along with additional information/answers to some of the questions you’ve raised.

Miscellaneous

Earlier this week I asked our Neighborhood Services Supervisor, Stephen Grindle, to provide an update on some of the changes taking place within the division. I am excited about the change in direction that is taking place within the division, and I think it will have some positive impacts on our community as the vision becomes a reality.

Reiboldt: EPA coal regulations a solution in search of a problem

(From Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho)

One of the key components of any successful and growing economy is affordable energy, and certainly this is true in Missouri. Like most U.S. states we are dependent upon coal for much of our electricity. Energy, especially electricity, is a foundational resource for a better quality of life, economic prosperity and environmental improvement. Global energy demands will continue to grow as there are over a billion people lacking access to electricity. Their need and our continued need for affordable and reliable energy is of the utmost importance in the world today.

Coal continues to be the world’s fastest growing, least expensive and most reliable energy resource, supplying almost 50% of the U.S. and global electricity needs. When putting together an energy plan for the future, a balance is necessary to ensure reliability of available resources. Coal, as well as oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric and renewables (solar and wind) will all be necessary to provide affordable energy for our nation and the world.

Since 2000 the cost of generating electric power in the United States has increased by nearly 50%. As this “pain at the plug” continues, a question to consider is, “Does coal have a future in the production of electricity?” The United States is called the “Saudi Arabia” of coal, with almost 30% of the world’s supply found here. Perhaps a better way to answer the question is by asking, “Will coal be a player in the future?” Many say, “Yes, and with today’s technology, we can continue to use it with almost zero atmospheric emissions.”

For me to better understand our future energy needs and to see how coal can play a part in that energy balance, I recently took part in a legislative tour of Prairie State Generating Company’s facility in southwestern Illinois. Sponsored by Peabody Energy Corporation headquartered in St. Louis, the tour allowed us to get a firsthand look at modern day coal production and gave us ample opportunity to ask hard questions regarding coal and its usage. The tour itself took place in the Illinois Basin, one of our nation’s leading coal producing areas, an area covering 50,000 square miles and including most of Illinois, parts of Indiana and western Kentucky. The Illinois Basin contains the nation’s third largest reserve of coal.

Basically located in the middle of corn and soybean fields, the Prairie State Generating facility is hailed as being amongst the nation’s cleanest energy producing facilities. It gets its coal via conveyors from the coal mine located across the road from the generating plant, thereby negating the need for additional transportation. The Prairie State Generating facility has a 1,600 megawatt plant that is owned by eight non-profit utilities, with Peabody Energy owning 5%. We were told the generating plant, having come on line in 2012, invested more than $1 billion in environmental emissions control equipment. They said that owners’ focus is to deliver reliable electricity to all its members at a reasonable cost while maintaining proper protection of the environment. We saw firsthand their commitment to employee safety and to protecting the environment.

In addition, we learned that when monitoring air quality, there are four major pollutants to consider: nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury levels. The facility we toured is in compliance with all federal and state requirements and has successfully removed 85% of nitrogen oxide, 98% of sulfur dioxide, 99% of all particulate matter, and 90% of all mercury from its emissions. Not only does this facility meet all permit requirements, but it actually exceeds them. After touring the generating plant and the nearby adjoining mine, I have no doubt that coal can and will have a significant place in our future energy resources, especially after seeing firsthand how efficient and environmentally compatible it is.

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, air quality in our nation has continued to improve and is today among the best in the world. With advanced technologies available to us, we are on target to see air quality continue to get even better; however, new federal standards recently proposed by the EPA on coal generating plants could be the costliest regulations ever mandated on any U.S. company in our nation’s history. Many believe that the EPA is acting outside its authority under the Clean Air Act in an attempt to rewrite energy policy and force a standard that is impossible to achieve, thus seeking to discredit and eliminate the use of coal.

The day we toured this facility, even under full plant generation, the air was so clean and clear we were able to see up to 30 miles away in all directions as we stood outside on the six story platform near the exhaust stack. So, once again, it appears the EPA is mandating a solution in search of a problem, without any consideration of the people.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ethics hearing for Mike Woolston postponed

(From the City of Joplin)

The hearing for Councilman Mike Woolston on alleged ethical violations that was originally scheduled for Monday, August 31, 2015 has been reset for September 14, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. Councilman Woolston hired attorneys Charley German and Jason Hans of Kansas City, and they requested the continuance. Municipal Judge Chuck Brown is the hearing officer assigned to preside and decide procedural matters at and related to the hearing. He granted the continuance request.

The City’s budget work sessions originally scheduled for September 14 through September 16 will be moved to Tuesday, September 15 through Thursday, September 17. Thursday’s session will only be held if budget discussions are still ongoing at the close of Wednesday’s meeting.

For more information, contact Lynn Onstot, Public Information Officer at 624-0820

Hartzler: Congress must say no to deal with Iran

(From Fourth District Congressman Vicky Hartzler)

I have previously expressed my concerns regarding the nuclear deal with Iran – a state sponsor of terrorism – calling it dangerous because the agreement hands the Iranians billions of dollars in sanctions relief while allowing them to continue their march toward nuclear capability.

I have been discussing these concerns with citizens as I travel around Missouri’s Fourth District, most notably at two informational presentations I held in Harrisonville and Sedalia. These forums provided an opportunity for Fourth District residents to share their thoughts and concerns with me. Based on the comments I continue to hear, I share your concern about this deal.

If this deal weren’t dangerous enough, we recently learned of a side deal that was cut between the IAEA and the Iranians, allowing Iran to use their own “experts” to inspect the Parchin nuclear site, removing impartial international inspectors completely out of the equation. Parchin—an Iranian military installation—is where it is believed that Iran has been working on nuclear weapons. This side deal, while not negotiated by the Obama Administration, was blindly accepted by the administration as part of the larger package. This is outrageous!

A state sponsor of terrorism, which is being monitored to ensure it does not engage in the development of nuclear weapons, is being allowed to monitor itself. It was bad enough when Secretary of State John Kerry’s promise of “24/7” inspection authority evolved into giving the Iranians "24 days" notice of a desire to inspect, but now the Iranians will be allowed to use their own inspectors to investigate violations at a secret Iranian military complex.

Since details of this side deal have come to light, it is fair to ask how many more of these special deals have been negotiated as part of the overall agreement and why the Obama Administration agreed to them.

Knowing what we know now, it is truly baffling that any Member of Congress would vote “yes” on this agreement. Congress must do what is in the best interests of our national security and that of our allies in the Middle East and around the world by giving a resounding “NO” to this perilous deal.