Monday, January 31, 2005

A bill that should alarm proponents of open government received its first reading in the Missouri House of Representatives today.
HB 379, filed by 120th District Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Columbia, creates exceptions to Missouri's Sunshine Law. Under Cooper's bill, requests for documents from any public governmental body can be turned down if the requests are termed to be "vexatious."
The bill defines a "vexatious request" as any request for documents which is "frivolous, repetitive, or unreasonable and made for the primary purpose of harassing a public governmental body or any member of a public governmental body."
The bill also says that if a request is found to be vexatious, "the court may award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party."
Undoubtedly, there are frivolous (maybe even vexatious) requests for documents, but that is the price we pay for living in a free society. Keeping our records open ensures that our public officials are doing what they are supposed to be doing. This law could put a chilling effect on open government. Any group trying to uncover wrongdoing can be silenced by the people committing the wrongdoing. The old boys network can make sure that no one can break their stranglehold on City Hall or the County Courthouse or the local board of education.
Sunshine laws are part of what makes America great. You don't have to be a policeman or an elected official to request public records. All you have to do is be a citizen.
The connection between O'Sullivan Industries and Newell Rubbermaid grew even stronger today with the announcement that William J. Denton, former president of Rubbermaid Home Products, has been named to the O'Sullivan Board of Directors. Denton worked for Rubbermaid for 25 years.
More recently, Denton served as president and CEO of Fiskar Brands, Inc., from August 2000 to December 2004. Denton will serve as a member of the Compensation Committee, determining the pay and contracts of O'Sullivan's top officials.
Those top officials include three who formerly worked at Newell Rubbermaid, including million-dollar CEO Bob Parker, Rick Walters and Michael Orr.
The company also named Keith E. Alessi to the board and designated him as chairman of the Audit Committee.
The two men will serve on the boards of directors of O'Sullivan Industries Holdings, Inc., O'Sullivan Industries, Inc., and O'Sullivan Industries- Virginia, Inc, according to a company press release filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Carthage's Fortune 500 company, Leggett & Platt, reported record fourth quarter sales today. According to documents filed with SEC, Leggett had fourth quarter sales of $1.28 billion, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.
Full year revenues were a record $5.09 billion, up 16 percent from 2003.
Earnings were 33 cents per diluted share for the fourth quarter, a 10 percent gain over last year.
In a news release issued today, Felix E. Wright, Leggett chairman and CEO, said, "2004 was a very good year for Leggett's investors. Our stock price rose 31 percent during the year and traded at an all-time high of $30.68 in December. Sales exceeded our prior record by 16 percent and pre share earnings improved substantially." Wright said Leggett was one of only two Fortune 500 companies to have increased dividends for at least 33 consecutive years at a compound annual rate of over 14 percent.
Reporters and news personnel are not thrilled at KODE and KSNF are not thrilled with the way their news operations have been compromised by owner Nexstar Broadcasting since its war with Cable One and Cox Communications heated up late last year.
The Turner Report has noted how the station's news personnel were forced to air a bogus protest against Cable One, which was actually staged by Echostar (Dish Network) as one of a series of similar protests in cities across the U. S., including Seattle and Oklahoma City.
News personnel were also required to read what amounted to advertising for the satellite company and slanted its coverage of the battle with Cable One over payment for airing Nexstar programs.
The KODE and KSNF websites have had an open letter from Nexstar to Cable One customers as their lead news story for the past month, moving other, more important local stories down the list. Of course, the local stations do not decide the placement of stories on their websites. All stories are sent to Nexstar's corporate headquarters where they are then placed on the individual stations' websites.
I have received communications from personnel at both stations who are not pleased that Nexstar officials seemingly have no interest in maintaining the credibility of the local news departments and appear to have no ethical guidelines other than do what is necessary to line their pockets and the pockets of their stockholders.
Tonight at midnight, barring any last-minute settlement or reprieve, KODE and KSNF will no longer be carried by the Cox Communications franchises in Lamar and Carthage. In today's Carthage Press, lifestyles editor Kaylea Hutson quotes Tim Tippitt, vice president for Cox Communications' public affairs, as saying his company is trying to negotiate with Nexstar. "But we can't negotiate with an empty chair."
Tippitt told The Press Nexstar is asking Cox to pay nearly half a million over a one-year period to carry KODE, KSNF, and another Nexstar station in Bossier/Minden, La., and Magnolia, Ark., area.
Plans have been made to add HBO Family and ESPN News to Cox in place of KSNF and KODE, Cox officials told The Press.
It must be a matter of perception.
In his most recent column for his constituents, State Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, saw a different State of the State speech than the one I watched on KOZJ. Wilson wrote, "The governor gave a rousing speech punctuated by a multitude of standing ovations." I watched as Blunt paused and waited, sometimes uncomfortably for a few seconds to get these "spontaneous" standing ovations started.
Even scarier, Wilson writes that he and the governor are cut from the same cloth. "I was especially pleased to hear his proposals for education and for streamlining state government. He is thinking outside the box that we had put around several issues and is challenging those of us in government to come up with new ideas and better ways to deliver services. In education, he talked about looking at different ways to fund education. I have been proposing that for the last two years so I was glad to hear that he was thinking along the same lines."
Let me get this straight. In a speech in which the state had its first opportunity to hear what the ideas of our new governor, his main idea is that we have to do things differently? We already knew that.
State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, chairman of the Senate's Education Committee, will be interviewed on MSSU's program "Newsmakers" 5:30 p.m Monday, Feb. 7, and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, on KGCS-TV, 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, on KOAM- TV, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20, on KOZJ.
Cable One will live up to it promise and not raise rates this year.
In a news release issued today, the company said the price freeze will apply to "all residential services encompassing basic cable, digital video recording, digital cable, and high speed Internet.
In the release, Cable One CEO said, "We are pleased to freeze rates in 2005 just as we did in 2003."
The purchase of the Pulitzer chain by Lee Enterprises Sunday gives Lee the fourth largest number of daily newspapers, 58, in the United States behind three companies with newspapers in this area.
The top company, with 101 is Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader and a loser in the Pulitzer sweepstakes. Coming in second with 96 newspapers is Community Newspapers Holdings, Inc., owner of The Joplin Globe. Liberty Group Publishing, owner of The Carthage Press and The Neosho Daily News, owns 66 daily newspapers.
While Enesco, owner of the Precious Moments line of collectibles is working on a long-term credit agreement, it entered into a temporary one today, according to an SEC filing. The company entered into an agreement with Fleet National Bank and LaSalle Bank to commit $101 million worth of credit.
A nurse who served as ICU and emergency room director at Freeman Neosho is suing the hospital for wrongful dismissal. In the suit, which was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Kelli Whitehead says she was fired due a seizure disorder from which she suffers.
Ms. Whitehead had worked for Freeman for more than 14 years before she was fired on July 16, 2004, according to the petition. She says Freeman officials made "no good faith effort to assist (her) to determine what reasonable accommodations could be made to keep her employed" and "failed to assist her in finding other job openings within (their) hospitals."
She also charges hospital officials with violating the Family Medical Leave Act.
Ms. Whitehead is asking for a permanent injunction against the hospital, barring these alleged illegal actions and is asking to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.
Ms. Whitehead is acting as her own lawyer.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Lee Enterprises has bought Pulitzer, Inc., the company that owns the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The news will be featured in the Monday edition of the Post-Dispatch.
The sale will prevent Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader from having control of two of the three biggest newspapers in Missouri.
Lee is based in Davenport, Iowa, and owns a number of small Midwestern dailies. The cost of the deal was reportedly $1.46 billion.
The Joplin Globe will report in its Monday edition that Nexstar Broadcasting and Cox Communications have made no movement to bridge the gap between the two companies and Nexstar will pull KODE and KSNF off the Cox franchises in Lamar and Carthage as of midnight today.
Workers at the former Sunbeam plant in Neosho can be cautiously optimistic following a few statements made in Wichita last week by the CEO of the plant's new owner, Jarden.
Jarden completed its purchase of American Household, parent company of Sunbeam and Coleman last week. During a visit to the Coleman plant in Wichita, CEO Martin Franklin said he saw no reasons for layoffs at the Wichita plant or for further outsourcing of jobs to China. According to an article in The Wichita Eagle, Franklin said the previous owner had done enough of that.
"All of the changes that need to be made have been made," the article quoted Franklin as saying. "Now we'll be focusing on trying to be as efficient as possible."
Franklin also indicated he is not afraid to put money into the Coleman plant, the Eagle article indicated. "The checkbook is open," he said.
Though no indication has been given of what will happen at the Neosho plant, signs seem positive so far. However, Franklin did say the first 180 days at the Wichita Coleman plant will be spent "fine-tuning the company's operations to cut costs in order to raise operating profit margins." Similar words have come back to haunt the employees at many companies.
Sunbeam has gone through much upheaval in the past decade, including the hiring and firing of controversial CEO Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap and the bankruptcy that he led the company toward during his stormy tenure.
An internet source confirms what has been written during the past several days in The Turner Report. The, a site that specializes in business sale and merger information, says that the proposed sale of Liberty Group Publishing, owner of the Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, The Neosho Post, and The Big Nickel, and 300 other publications across the United States, is off.
On Jan. 18, The Turner Report, relying on initially confidential letters that were later filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, reported that Liberty had made an arrangement with Wells Fargo for $330 million worth of loans. The loan will enable the company, which is heavily in debt to put off its day of financial reckoning for another seven years. The Deal said its information came from "sources involved in the process."
When a large amount of money was poured into the financially-troubled Boys and Girls Club of Joplin Friday, KOAM had its cameras there, but KODE and KSNF were nowhere in sight.
The KOAM report did not mention it, but Cable One has recently been putting a portion of its signup money into the Boys and Girls Club, and of course, that company is on the outs with Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF and de facto owner of KODE. You don't supposed that has anything to do with the the two stations' absence, do you?
No, of course not. Through all of this controversy, the Nexstar stations have done nothing to let us think they are less than professional.
All right, now that I've stopped laughing, time for a little personal news. One hundred dollars will be donated to the South Middle School Band Monday thanks to the performance of the South faculty at the second annual Joplin High School Band Trivia Night Friday.
The South team, which consisted of counselor Karensue Hensley, special education teacher Caryn Deckard, librarian Bonnie Turner, seventh grade social studies teacher Jason Weaver, eighth grade social studies teacher Rocky Biggers, and eighth grade communication arts teacher Randy Turner took first place out of 38 teams, correctly answering 73 percent of the trivia questions. The winning team won $100 in the event, which was emceed by KSNF weatherman Gary Bandy.
It's sad when you know that it was not Peter Falk who was originally sought to play Columbo, but Bing Crosby. The Trivia Night was a fun activity and all of the proceeds went to the JHS band. Other teams came from the Joplin schools, MSSU, and various businesses.
The arrest of a Neosho man as a result of another of Diamond police officer Internet stings unfortunately indicates that not all of the people who prey on our young come from out of state. Of course, the charges against Gary Reed Blankenship, 55, Neosho, are just that, charges.
The Sunday Neosho Daily News article on the arrest reminded me of just how often the word allegedly is misused. When someone is charged with a crime, that is the allegation. Newspaper reporters, especially inexperienced ones, but sometimes veterans, as well, have a tendency to think that the word "allegedly" is a cureall for all ills.
One example: "Also during those chats, Blankenship allegedly revealed he lived in Neosho, the assistant prosecutor said. I highly doubt that the assistant prosecutor told The Neosho Daily News that Blankenship allegedly revealed that information. He most likely said Blankenship revealed the information.
Or "On Wednesday, Blankenship allegedly told the girl he was in Lamar, would be driving to Neosho soon and would be coming to Diamond. He agreed to meet the girl at a Diamond convenience store." An easier way to handle that would be to say the same sentence, without the word allegedly, but attributing that information to the assistant prosecutor. After all, he is the one making the allegation.
The Daily then did a fine job of filling in on the background on what had happened with the other people who fell for Murray's scams.
State Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, has withdrawn a bill that would allow the courts to impound vehicles driven by people convicted of driving while intoxicated or excessive blood alcohol content for one year. Wilson indicated he plans to refile the bill later during this session.
State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, will begin tearing into the meat of the education bills when his Education Committee meets 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1.
Among the bills scheduled to be taken up by the committee:
SB 102- Allows certain school districts to be reimbursed fully for costs associated with offering special educational services.
SB 20- Creates a tax credit for teachers' out-of-pocket expenses.
SB 112- Formulates a procedure for recalling school board members.
Senators will begin discussing a bill that could lesson the strain during future occurrences of the tax increment financing situation at the old K-Mart building which will take money from the Joplin R-8 School District. SB 80, which would dedicate at least 10 percent of future TIF increments to schools affected by the TIF, will be discussed during a 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2, meeting of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Local Government Committee in the Senate Lounge.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Newton County prosecutors have told the family of James Dodson, Neosho, and his granddaughter, Jessica Mann, who were killed July 31, that the drunk driver who killed them may receive as little as 18 months in prison.
Missouri Southern State University's newspaper The Chart broke that story this week as it covered the testimony presented by Mike and Amy Mann at a Missouri State Senate hearing for a bill sponsored by Senator Gary Nodler, Joplin, which would increase the penalty of involuntary manslaughter when drunk driving is involved.
Currently, the maximum sentence that can be given to Edward Meerwald, 50, Noel, if he is convicted, is seven years in prison. Nodler's bill would make the crime a Class A felony if the driver has a blood alcohol content of 0.12, one-and-one-half times the legal limit.
Television stations will be allowed to cover Meerwald's hearings and his Feb. 23 trial, according to a decision issued by Judge Joe Schoeberl Friday. Meerwald's attorneys had filed a motion asking that the electronic media be excluded.
Meerwald's attorney did win one battle. His client will be allowed to dress in street clothes in any hearing prior to the trial, rather than in the orange county jumpsuit.
Changes in management and direction have greatly improved the prospects of O'Sullivan Industries.
That was the message million-dollar CEO Bob Parker hit hard in a news release covering the company's performance during the second fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 31.
In the news release, a copy of which was filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Parker said, "Organizational changes and a focused strategic plan are beginning to manifest themselves in the marketplace." Hmm, well, you can't beat that.
Net sales of $66.2 million were reported for the second quarter, up 1.5 percent from the first. That's definitely good news.
The news release notes that cash flow for the second quarter was $6.9 million, compared to a negative $1.2 million in the first quarter. Things are sounding better all the time.
Rick Walters, executive vice president and CFO, (and another member, along with Parker and Michael Orr, of the Newell Rubbermaid expatriates who run O'Sullivan) said, "By focusing on working capital improvements, especially on inventory efficiency and production control, we were able to generate a quarterly positive cash flow of $6.9 million while meeting all our current interest obligations. Continuing to emphasize balance sheet improvements and a company-wide focus on cash management should provide adequate funds to meet continuing cash needs and give us the financial stability for future growth."
I am sure those positive words give O'Sullivan workers and their families and the city of Lamar a sigh of relief, coming after all of the controversy that has enveloped the company since its board of directors brought in the Atlanta triumvirate and cut its ties with the Lamar people who made the company a furniture giant in the first place.
Unfortunately, that is not all that is included in the news release. It probably would be if there weren't federal requirements that you present a complete picture to potential investors. So after all of the positive statements, buried deep in the news release was a truer picture of the situation facing O'Sullivan Industries.
Despite the removal of those Lamar officials, who the board apparently thought were holding the company back, O'Sullivan had a net loss for the second quarter of $12.1 million, compared to a net loss of $5. 4 million during the previous quarter. Net loss for the first half of fiscal 2005 was $20.6 million compared to $12.7 million the previous year.
The decline, the news release said, "was due primarily to our lower operating income."
The news release adds, "As expected, the focused extension on reducing working capital, especially inventory levels, resulted in an operating loss of $3.2 million for fiscal 2005's second quarter"
No need to worry, however. "This gross profit impact was in-line with company plans and reflects the successful execution of an inventory reduction of almost $10 million in the quarter."
I can't wait to read what company officials have to say when O'Sullivan actually begins making money...if that happens.
And that may be awhile, according to Bob Parker's comments at the end of the news release. Things aren't going to get better anytime soon, he indicates, but don't worry, that's all part of the plan. "Financial performance for the balance of fiscal '05 will continue to be a challenge compared to the prior year results. We anticipate a reduction of net sales in the mid single-digit range and lower earnings due to the impact of high material costs, unfavorable manufacturing absorption as we reduce inventory, and a higher mix of promotionally priced products."
Though the point of view from O'Sullivan Industries' new corporate headquarters in Atlanta suburb Roswell are rosy, things had very different feel in Lamar this weekend as today's Joplin Globe reported the arrest of Gary Blankenship, Neosho, an O'Sullivan official, on 10 sex charges in connection with another of Diamond Police officer Jim Murray's internet stings.
Blankenship, 55, faces one count of enticing a child, one count of promoting obscene material to a minor, and eight counts of possession of child pornography, according to the Globe.
Editor & Publisher, a newspaper industry magazine, reported this week that the sale of Liberty Group Publishing may be off. In the well-researched article, writer Mark Fitzgerald gives credit to a reporter from Crain's Chicago Business for being the first to report on Liberty's obtaining $330 million of loans from Wells Fargo. Fitzgerald deserves credit for making sure it is known that another reporter first uncovered the information. Unfortunately for him, that information came out in The Turner Report more than a week before Crain's picked up on it. Both of us obtained the information by researching filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. I wrote Mr. Fitzgerald, not because I was upset about that...he had no way of knowing that a Southwest Missouri blogger had first printed that information...but just to let him know that bloggers are out here gathering information and breaking news stories. Mr. Fitzgerald quickly and graciously responded to my message, which again, was not meant as any criticism. His article was well-researched.
The Chicago Sun-Times picked up on another item recently featured in Crain's Chicago Business, writing today that Vornado may be ready to make a run at derailing the Sears-K-Mart deal.
The Sun-Times article featured the added information that problems with the stock prices of both Sears and K-Mart may open the door for Vornado.
Nexstar Broadcasting COO Duane Lammers continues to win friends and influence people.
Today's Baltimore Sun reports that Nexstar will not allow any of the cable companies that carry his FOX stations to air a high-definition telecast of the Super Bowl.
This would include the newly-christened KSFX, formerly KDEB, Channel 27, in Springfield.
"If they think we're going to give them our channels for free and then they can charge $10 or $15 a month for digital cable, then they can drop dead," the eloquent Lammers told the Sun.
"The issue at heart is that broadcasters are trying to insist that they are compensated for something they get from the government for free," Keith Cordoza, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, told the Sun.
Nexstar and the Dish Network have reached an agreement to bolster the broadcasting company's position in its fight with Cox Communications over carrying Nexstar's stations in Abilene and Sweetwater, Texas. Satellite customers had not received the stations prior to the deal.
The Sky Reporter News, a satellite industry publication, carried that information Friday.
A 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7, meeting will be held in the Nevada/Vernon County Community Center, to discuss the results of a recently completed petition audit, according to a news release from State Auditor Claire McCaskill.
As reported in the Sept. 8, 2004, Turner Report, the audit has already uncovered criminal activity.
An initial audit report indicated receipts totaling $39,701 were collected between January 2002 and April 2004, but were never deposited. Auditors said "the city does not track payments for various types of tax revenues to ensure all payments are properly received and recorded in the city's accounting records."As a result, cigarette and franchise taxes totaling $24,445 received by check were deposited into the city's bank account but were not recorded in the city's accounting records. These checks were substituted into the city's deposits and recorded cash receipts were not deposited, and (were) apparently misappropriated."An additional $15,256 was apparently stolen from the city's pool and golf course, the audit said.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Liberty Group Publishing appears to be off the auction block.
Newspaper industry sources say that Liberty's $330 million loan commitment from Wells Fargo, reported exclusively last week in The Turner Report, indicate Liberty officials were not thrilled with the offers they received after the first, and so far only, round of bidding ended Oct. 25. Liberty owns The Carthage Press, The Neosho Daily News, The Neosho Post, and the Big Nickel in this area, and more than 300 newspapers nationwide.
Liberty's rush to a sale was due to a whopping debt payment that comes due this summer. The refinancing through Wells Fargo will help delay the company's day of financial reckoning for another seven years.
Liberty earnings totaled $44.3 million in the first nine months of 2004, but those were erased by the interest payments on the company's debt, which increased to $47 million, up from $32 million the previous year.
SEC records indicate Liberty lost $17.8 million over the first nine months of this year, compared to a $10.5 million loss over the same period in 2003.
Chicago Business is reporting that Vornado Realty Trust may be getting ready to attempt a takeover of Sears, in an effort to trump the previously announced, but unclosed deal with K-Mart.
The newspaper reports that Vornado filed papers with the SEC indicating it plans to issue as much as $2.5 billion in equity and $5 billion in debt. The company already owns four percent of Sears and indicated in its SEC filing that it might use the money for the "funding of an acquisition."
The deadline for antitrust approval for K-Mart's proposed takeover of Sears, is midnight tonight, the article said.
Vornado has been rumored as an obstacle to the Sears-K-Mart deal since it was first announced late last year.
Jarden Corporation has completed its acquisition of American Household, owner of the former Sunbeam plant in Neosho, according to a company news release filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission today.
The deal, which was originally announced Sept. 20, had Jarden paying $745.6 million and repaying $100 million worth of indebtedness.
American Household features the Sunbeam and Coleman brands.
On the same day that Jarden released to the SEC a copy of the news release it issued upon the finalization of the American Household purchase, the company also released information indicating it knows how to take care of its least if those employees are at the upper end of the totem pole.
New employment agreements were filed for the company's three top executives, including British-born CEO Martin E. Franklin. Franklin, 39, will receive an annual salary of $1,840,000. If he does a good job, he will receive an annual bonus of $920,000. He also will receive stock options, four weeks of paid vacation, and he will be able to observe all religious holidays that he "historically observes."
"For security purposes, (Franklin) shall be required to use at company expense private aircraft transportation for travel in North America unless a private aircraft is not reasonably available. Outside North America, he shall be entitled to first class air travel for business-related travel."
The company will also pay to have Franklin's personal income tax returns filed, give him a $10 million life insurance policy, plus he can have expenses of up to five percent of his annual salary, ($92,000) and he does not have to account for how he spends that money.
If for any reason, Franklin is not covered by the company's health insurance, he will receive an annual health care allowance of up to $30,000.
Slightly less lucrative arrangements were also made for Jarden's chief financial officer and chief operations officer.
The Neosho Daily News reports the metal detectors have been removed from the courthouse. No one minds some heightened security when it is necessary, but to force people who are at the courthouse to pay their taxes or to get a marriage license, to have to go through that hassle is unnecessary. An extra guard or two and perhaps metal detectors during times when particularly sensitive cases and hearing are being handled in the courtrooms would be fine, but to force everyone to go through this during every day normal business is ridiculous.
A Feb. 16 preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, who is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a felony, in connection with the hit-and-run death last week of Joplin High School senior Jamison Alexander. Wyrick entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment this morning in Jasper County Circuit Court. A public defender is being appointed for him.
The coverage of the funeral of Jamison Alexander and the arraignment of Travis Wyrick topped the newscasts on the local stations this evening with comprehensive coverage offered by every station except KODE.
KOAM, KSNF, and KFJX each offered strong packages with interviews with students who knew Mr. Alexander and Wyrick's arraignment. KODE also featured the events in its newscasts but did not offer any interviews and featured only voiceover narration for the footage it used.
Just as interesting was the way the death of Jamison Alexander and Travis Wyrick's arraignment were featured on the television stations' websites.
As of early this evening, only KOAM featured the story at the top of its news listings. Neither KODE nor KSNF led with that story, instead sticking with Nexstar Broadcasting's "Open Letter to Cable One Customers," the company's continued way of making its news staffs look like minor league operations.
KODE followed the open letter with an article entitled "Funeral for Joplin Teen Today."
KSNF followed the letter with three articles, "Alexander Funeral," "Dillon's Collections" (a story about a fund set up for Mr. Alexander by his former employer), and "Wyrick in Court."
KOAM combined those stories for its lead article, "One Teen Buried While Another Faces a Judge."
KFJX, the sister station to KOAM, juggled that station's top two articles, putting "Residents Oppose Trash Transfer Station" above "One Teen Buried While Another Faces a Judge."
Of course, even the Nexstar letters were more top of the page newsworthy than the article The Lamar Democrat led off its Wednesday, Jan. 26, edition with: "Seventh Annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Autofest- Democrat giving away 50 tickets."
If you don't have any other news for the top of page one, that might be all right, but buried beneath the fold was an article in which Lamar R-1 Superintendent Mike Resa explained the tax levy proposal which is being submitted to district voters in April.
And, by the way, has anyone told The Democrat that Daniel O'Sullivan resigned as chairman of the board at O'Sullivan Industries three months ago. It certainly seems as if that would be a major story for Barton County's paper of record.
Remember Rep. Kevin Wilson, the same sterling judge of leadership who praised Governor Matt Blunt's inaugural speech, saying he showed true leadership by cutting it short because it was cold?
Well, Rep. Wilson is at it again.
In Editor Buzz Ball's article in today's Neosho Daily News, Wilson again gushed with approval for the newly-elected governor's State of the State message. "It was an outstanding speech by the governor," Wilson told the Daily News. "He fulfilled his campaign promises by vowing to make government more accountable and making sure that we, as a state government, live within our means."
Of course, Wilson wasn't the only one kissing up to Blunt. State Senator Gary Nodler told the Daily, "The governor laid out a plan that would take Missouri forward into the 21st Century. He reassured us that education is his first priority. He constructed a road map on how to get there by increasing funding for education, while at the same time, make some long overdue Medicaid reforms."
State Rep. Marilyn Ruestman also praised the speech. "Once again,' she said, "those views are in step with the views of those in southwest Missouri."
The scary thing is, it appears these comments were made in all seriousness.

Anyone hoping for a dazzling display of leadership from our newly-elected governor had to be disappointed in his State of the State speech.
In the speech, which was presented Wednesday night before the General Assembly, Governor Blunt showed that he is willing to go to the mat (no pun intended) to give his biggest campaign contributors what they want.
A case in point would be his attacks on worker's compensation claims and civil suits. The Republican take on these issues has been that lawyers are the root of all evil. When people sue for medical malpractice, insurance rates go up astronomically. When people claim they have been injured in the workplace, insurance rates go up astronomically.
There is no denying that frivolous lawsuits and worker's compensation claims are a problem, but the hairtrigger response of insurance companies that any claim should trigger a major rate increase is just as big a part of the problem. Of course, insurance companies contribute a great deal to the Republican party, which obviously intends to protect their interests and their huge profits.
People in the Joplin area can recall a time only a few years ago when all of the local state representatives came from the ranks of the insurance industry.
Governor Blunt also showed no leadership on the education front. If you can get a sales tax or an income tax to pass, go ahead and do it. Hey, if it were that easy to get a tax increase passed, education would not be having any difficulties. And while the concept of giving an equal share of casino and lottery money to each pupil in the state sounds good, it means nothing if nothing is done to correct the imbalance between the state's richest school districts, such as Ladue in the St. Louis area, and its poorest, McDonald County.
Blunt calls for privatization of many government functions, something that traditionally appeals to his party's base, and enriches the coffers of its members, but nearly always at the expense of the working man and woman.
An embarrassing part of the State of the State message was when the governor clearly stopped his speech as a trigger for Republican applause for whatever he said. Apparently, someone had written "stop for applause" numerous times in his speech. Someone should have held an applause sign so people would have known when to clap.
Another awkward part of the speech was the governor's attempt to emulate the late President Reagan by introducing people from the audience, usually with poorly written transitions and with only vague connections to what he was talking about. It was revolutionary when Reagan did it. It really doesn't work at the state level, at least not with an inexperienced governor making the introductions.
The biggest problem with Matt Blunt's first State of the State message is that it did not show that he has any unique quality of leadership that should have placed him in the governor's mansion, other than a familiar last name.
Democrats always want Republicans to reach out and embrace some of their ideals. Matt Blunt did not have to do that in order to make an early positive impression on Missourians.
It is possible to take conservative ideals and with aggressive leadership turn them in a new direction. That doesn't appear to be in the cards for the Blunt administration. Judging from his first major speech, our new governor is tending to Republican business as usual. Big business is the order of the day.
Today is the day that friends and family will say goodbye to Jamison Alexander, 18, the Joplin High School senior who was killed by a hit-and-run driver last week. Apparently, the notation on that Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, the man who has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the incident, was being charged with a second offense, is not accurate.
His only other arrest, on a drug charge last April, ended with a guilty plea to an amended misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.
It should be interesting to watch the local TV newscasts today (those of you who are able to do so) to see how they handle the two parts of this story, Mr. Alexander's funeral this afternoon and this morning's arraignment of Wyrick. Just the vast difference in atmosphere and the contrast between the two events should make solid television.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

On the same day that friends and family will say goodbye to Joplin High School senior Jamison Alexander, the man accused of driving over him, then leaving the scene of the accident will be arraigned.
Court records indicate that Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, will be arraigned at 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, before Judge Richard Copeland in Division 5 at the Jasper County Courts Building in Joplin.
Copeland has granted a media request that camera be allowed in the courtroom.
Wyrick is charged with a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, according to court records.
Funeral services for Mr. Alexander, 18, will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Joplin Family Worship Center. Visitation is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. today (Jan. 26) at the Worship Center.
Keep good records.
That's the credo of any good reporter. You never can tell when that one little piece of information will turn out to be the piece that makes your story.
When I worked at The Carthage Press and The Lamar Democrat I kept comprehensive files on my old stories (and I still have a lot of those, though many of them had to be sacrificed when I moved to Joplin five months ago). Sometimes I could go back to an old story and find a quote that seemed to be at variance with what a public official was saying, or find some link between two people that might otherwise have been overlooked.
The Joplin Globe missed a golden opportunity this morning to add a critical piece of information to its otherwise extremely well-done article on the selection of new Neosho R-5 Superintendent Richard Page.
Wally Kennedy, who has been one of the best reporters in southwest Missouri for the last two decades did the legwork for the story, no doubt about it. He covered all of the bases.
Except one.
Kent Wilson, a member of what was purportedly a screening committee (its recommendations were totally ignored by the R-5 Board) told The Globe, "It's apparent now they have been grooming Dr. Page for the job. Superintendent Mark Mitchell, who said he was not involved in the process, wrote a letter of recommendation for Page. The board president, Steve Marble, said months ago he supported Page. The whole thing was pre-planned."
It was one thing to have Kent Wilson saying that Steve Marble supported Richard Page. It would have been far better to get those same words out of Steve Marble's mouth...and The Globe had them.
In The Turner Report last week, it was mentioned that in the Oct. 27, 2004, Globe, before the search process had really started, Marble expressed his support for Page.
In the article, Marble was quoted as saying, "I certainly wouldn't speak for the board, but there's no doubt in my mind that Dr. Page is my first look." Marble also told the Globe that Page had been groomed for the position.
The omission doesn't take away from the solid reporting done by Kennedy. Most likely it comes because of the departure of Dena Sloan, the reporter who wrote the Oct. 27 article. It is not easy to jump onto a story that was begun by another reporter.
I would still like to see something mentioned about the apparently illegal nature of the meeting in which the screening committee was selected. The Globe has not touched on this and even though the information came out initially in The Neosho Daily News, there was no indication from the Daily's article if its reporter realized he was witnessing a Sunshine Law violation.
School activities are the heart and soul of a small community, which was why I was so disappointed to see the way The Lamar Democrat handled the crowning of the Lamar High School Basketball Homecoming queen last week.
When I was at The Democrat, and for a long time afterward, the Homecoming was considered to be a major event. A photo (or two) of the queen being crowned was featured prominently on page one, not just because it was a big story for the community, but also so the community knew that we recognized that fact.
Apparently, it no longer is as important as routine meetings of the Barton County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees or the Lockwood City Council.
That's sad.
One of the top trade associations in the United States is quickly slipping from the upper echelon.
Furniture Today reported that Leggett & Platt, the Fortune 500 company based in Carthage, has withdrawn its membership from the International Sleep Products Association, joining earlier departures by Sealy and Serna.
“It is with regret that we no longer feel that continued membership in the association can be justified and is therefore not in the best interest of our shareholders,” L&P Executive Vice President Karl Glassman said in a letter to ISPA President Dick Doyle today. “In many respects, we believe that ISPA has become a supplier that is no longer meeting our needs.” The letter was reprinted by Furniture Today.
The company has almost always been the largest exhibitor at ISPA’s trade shows, the Furniture Today article said. In his letter, Glassman said Leggett & Platt will not exhibit if it is not a member.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The FCC announced today it will look into rules that are preventing cable companies like Cable One and Cox from getting network broadcasting from out-of-town stations when it is withheld from them locally.
Cable One viewers who did not get an antenna have been unable to watch NBC and ABC programming since the beginning of the year when Nexstar Broadcasting, owner of KSNF and de facto owner of KODE pulled those programs after Cable One refused to pay 30 cents per customer per month for the right to carry the two local stations.
The same situation faces Cox Communications customers in Lamar and Carthage at the end of this month. According to an article in today's Multichannel News, small cable operators have asked for the inquiry, believing that their inability to go out and get a network station from another market gives the local stations an unfair edge in negotiations.
The article said that Congress passed a law last month ordering the FCC to study the impact of its local carriage rules and file a report with the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee by Sept. 8.
The article said Congress is concerned that cable is being denied the ability to compete with satellite carriers.
The FCC will take comments through March 1, the article said.
The selection process for the Neosho R-5 superintendent position will be roundly criticized by members of the district's search committee in an article in the Joplin Globe tomorrow morning.
In the article, committee member Kent Wilson accuses the school board of having its sights set on its eventual selection, current assistant superintendent Dr. Richard Page, all along.
It also quotes committee members as being skeptical about only having 13 or 14 applications for a job that pays more than $100,000 a year. The article apparently does not mention a contention made by a committee member in a recent article written by Neosho Daily News Editor Buzz Ball, that Page was not the committee's first selection, nor its second.
Nor is there any mention in the Globe article about the apparent illegal method which the board used to select who would be on its screening committee, going into a closed session, which was not permitted under the Missouri Sunshine Law.
The Globe article features exhortations by Board President Steve Marble and Neosho Mayor and committee member Howard Birdsong to support Page.
If at first you don't succeed, you belong in the Missouri General Assembly.
Take the case of 86th District State Representative Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield. For the second straight year, the conservative Republican has introduced a bill that would discourage people from filing complaints with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Ms. Cunningham's bill would require that the person who is named in a complaint be given the complainant's name, address, and telephone number.
If that's not bad enough, her bill, HB 255, would make it a crime to release any information about a complaint while it is still a closed record, with a penalty of up to a $2,500 fine and one year in jail.
And apparently, Ms. Cunningham also wants to discourage citizens from reviewing the election records of their elected representatives, including her. The bill would require people who want to inspect or copy campaign finance disclosure forms to provide photo identification. If these are public documents, and they are, why should people have to show any kind of identification to look at them or make copies of them?
This attempt to discourage people from examining the records of elected officials failed last year, but who knows what might happen this time with a Republican-controlled legislature and a Republican governor.
No surprises were featured in The Weather Channel's response to the age discrimination lawsuit filed in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by former KODE-TV weather personality Marny Stanier Midkiff.
Weather Channel officials, in a response filed Jan. 18, denied Ms. Midkiff's allegations that she was fired because she was too old.
In her complaint, Ms. Midkiff noted that during her 16-year tenure at The Weather Channel, she "consistently received excellent performance reviews, progressive promotions and regular pay raises."
According to Ms. Midkiff's petition, Senior Vice President of Programming and Production Terry Connelly constantly referred to her and two other over-40 on-camera meteorologists as "matronly" and "dowdy."
An image consultant was brought in by Connelly in June 2003, the petition said, to "help the women look younger and sexier."
In August 2003, the petition said, Connelly held an "open forum" for female on-camera meteorologists in which he complained that "our women are matronly, dowdy, and nun-like." During the forum, he suggested that the women wear clothes that would make them look younger.
A few months later, Connelly fired both Ms. Midkiff and the other older female on-camera meteorologist. "Connelly turned over all of their management responsibilities to the remaining male manager. He turned over their on-camera work to the younger males and females he had been hiring and continued to hire during the 'reorganization.' "
He permitted the other older woman who was removed from her position on the television channel to continue to broadcast on the Weather Channel's radio program "where listeners would presumably be less sensitive about her age."
Ms. Midkiff is asking for back pay and benefits, reinstatement and/or front pay, attorney's fees, "and all other appropriate damages, remedies and other relief available."
Former Joplin Boys and Girls Club director Rob Clay's preliminary hearing on embezzling charges is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, in Judge Richard Copeland's courtroom in the Jasper County Courts Building in Joplin.
Former Sarcoxie minister Donald Peckham has been given until Thursday, Feb. 17, to file any amended motions in his attempt to have his conviction for child molestation tossed out by the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals.

Monday, January 24, 2005

A new judge has been assigned to handle the trial of Edward Meerwald, 50, Noel, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the drunk driving related death of a Neosho man and his granddaughter.
A 3 p.m. Feb. 1 pre-trial conference will be held in Judge Joseph Schoeberl's courtroom in the Jasper County Courthouse at Carthage, according to court records. Meerwald's case is being held in Jasper County on a change of venue from Newton County.
Schoeberl was assigned to the case after the Missouri Court of Appeals removed Newton County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Perigo at the request of Meerwald's lawyer.
Meerwald allegedly was driving drunk July 31 when his car left Highway 86 and struck James Dodson, 68, and his granddaughter, Jessica Mann, 7, Joplin, as they were walking in his driveway.
Meerwald is also facing wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of Dodson and Miss Mann.
KOAM's website reports that funeral arrangements for Jamison Alexander, 18, the Joplin High School senior who was killed by a hit-and-run driver a week ago, will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Joplin Family Worship Center. Visitation is scheduled 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Worship Center. Mr. Alexander's family removed him from life support over the weekend after doctors determined he was brain dead.
Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Court records indicate that this is a second offense for him, but the only other case involving Wyrick that is listed on the court website is an amended charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession for which he pleaded guilty in May. Whether that charge was originally leaving the scene of an accident is not in the portion of the court files that are on the internet. Court records indicate the amended charge came as a result of a plea agreement.
The case will be heavily covered by the news media. Media representatives filed a motion in Jasper County Circuit Court today to have cameras in the courtroom whenever Wyrick has hearings. Wyrick's arraignment has not been scheduled.
Missouri school districts will have to make a stronger effort to put out information to the public if HB 297 proposed by 121st District Rep. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg makes its way through the General Assembly.
The bill, which had its first hearing today, would require school districts to provide their annual report cards to "any household with a student enrolled in the district."
The bill says the reports must be given to all media outlets serving the district, under Pearce's bill.
The annual report cards provide information about students, staff, finances, academic achievement, and other information, including enrollment, experience level of faculty, pay level of faculty and administrators.
I would strongly suggest some additions to the bill. I would like to see the public informed just how much individual administrators make in a school system, so comparisons can be made between school districts. This will help the taxpayers to determine if their elected representatives are making wise decisions regarding how much they are paying administrators.
In the past, school district report cards included information on how much money was being spent on extracurricular activities. That needs to makes a comeback, with information broken down as to how much is spent on each activity, including the amount paid to coaches. Taxpayers also need to know how much money each of these activities makes. That shouldn't be the only consideration, obviously, but it is something taxpayers need to know.
The report cards as they are currently constituted, are handy tools, but do not really let taxpayers see if their money is going toward the best education possible.
I would even add that I would have no problem with listing the annual salary of every school employee. The taxpayers of the Joplin R-8 School District have every right to know how much money I am making as a teacher or how much any other employee is making. It's their money, whether it be coming to the school district through local, state, or federal funds.
Reports are reaching me through some of the postings on Wildcat Central that Diamond R-4 Board of Education President Wayne Webb may be preparing to push for an extra year on the contract of Superintendent Mark Mayo, who is already under contract through June 30, 2006.
The Missouri Senate's Gubernatorial Appointments Committee will review the reappointment of Charles McGinty to the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors when the committee meets 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, in the Senate Lounge.
Echostar is continuing its nationwide protests over cable rate increases, according to Satellite Industry Daily News. The satellite company's latest target was the Time-Warner cable franchise in Syracuse, N. Y. In what is referred to as guerilla marketing, Echostar has been staging protests in locales across the country, including Joplin. In Syracuse, Time-Warner recently increased its rates 8 percent. Reportedly, Echostar's protesters have not carried signs noting that Echostar is increasing rates for its DISH Network 4.3 percent as of Feb. 1.
Attorneys for former Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge have asked a federal court judge to grant a summary judgment against a former inmate who is suing because he claims he was denied proper health care.
According to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Missouri, Doerge's lawyers claim Donald Allen has no legitimate claim against the former sheriff.
It apparently does not take much to get State Representative Kevin Wilson of Neosho excited about our new governor.
In his weekly column, which runs in The Neosho Daily News and The Newton County News, Wilson talked about the speech that Matt Blunt gave at his inauguration. Wilson wrote, "A throng of people had gathered outside of the Capitol to witness the swearing-in and a drizzle of cold rain started as the new governor began his remarks. Matt gave a great speech but in respect for those gathered he did cut it a little short."
Then Wilson gushed, "In my mind, that is a true leader- one who thinks more of others than of himself. I am excited about the next four yeas because I truly believe the greatest days of Missouri are ahead of us."
I hate to see what Rep. Wilson is going to write when our new governor actually does something.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Corporal punishment is still administered, though sparingly, at most of the schools in this area.
Earlier this week in The Turner Report, Rep. Barbara Fraser's bill, HB 289, which would outlaw corporal punishment in Missouri, was detailed. Today's Springfield News-Leader explored the issue, with reporters taking the time to call every school district in southwest Missouri to find out what each school's spanking policy was.
Schools in this area that do not allow any kind of spanking, according to the News-Leader report, are: Carl Junction, Everton, Greenfield, and Miller.
Schools that include spanking as part of their discipline policies include: Carthage, East Newton, Joplin, Lockwood, McDonald County, Monett, Mount Vernon, Nevada, Neosho, Purdy, and Webb City.
The article indicated that Jasper and Lamar school officials ignored repeated attempts to get information for the article. No mention was made of Sarcoxie or Golden City.
One school, Webb City, seemed to be headed in a different direction. The district, which is known for strict discipline, reported paddling 345 students in the year 2000, according to the News-Leader article. The school also has most of its swats being administered to high school students, rather than elementary students, as in the case in most school districts.
Dr. Ron Lankford, superintendent, said some students even ask for swats. "I was over at the high school the other day and there were three high school kids who were in trouble," Lankford told the News-Leader. "They said they wanted to come in and take swats so they don't have to stay after." The quote referred to a student preference of swats over after-school detention.
CBL and Associates, the company that recently bought Northpark Mall in Joplin, is holding a fundraising collection drive for tsunami relief at all of its malls across the country, according to a company news release.
The article said representatives from local American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, United Way and other selected charities will be invited to have collection stations at the malls.
The news release said those wishing to donate to American Red Cross can also do so by visiting the website for each CBL-owned mall or CBL's website at
Nexstar CEO Perry Sook will be profiled in tomorrow's edition of Broadcasting & Cable, an industry magazine. In the article, Sook, whose company owns KSNF and is the de facto owner of KODE, claims that cable companies are mistreating his stations. The article features a lengthy biography, including the fact that his broadcasting career started in Punxatawney, Pa., home of the annual Groundhog Day celebration, and he once worked with Today Show host Matt Lauer at WOWK-TV in Charleston, W. Va.
Sook has been in the spotlight recently due to Nexstar's battles with Cable One and Cox Communications over whether those companies should pay to carry his stations. In Joplin, KODE and KSNF were removed from Cable One at midnight Dec. 31, while the two local stations are scheduled to be removed from Cox Communications franchises in Lamar and Carthage at midnight Jan. 31 if an agreement cannot be reached.
"Our goal was to have cable place a fair value on what we contribute," Sook told the magazine.
He has been Nexstar CEO since 1996.
The Texarkana Gazette reports that a number of Cox stations in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas will lose the right to carry the signals of Nexstar station KTAL in Shreveport, La., as of Jan. 31.
The cities include Magnolia, Ark., Mount Pleasant, Texas, Wright City, Okla, Valiant, Okla., Bossier City, La., and Minden, La. The article says if those stations are cut off, that will increase the number of Cox and Cable One subscribers not receiving to KTAL to 181,000.
Nexstar chief operations officer Duane Lammers told the Gazette, "We're basically saying to Cox it's time for us to figure out a long-term relationship for all of our cities. They carry us in a number of markets."
The city of Joplin requesting a jury trial in the case of a woman who claims she was mistreated during an incident that began at Souls Harbor Shelter.
In a document filed Jan. 18 in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the city, through its lawyer Karl Blanchard Jr., of the firm of Blanchard, Robertson, Mitchell & Carter, asked for a jury trial in the suit, which was filed in December by Lori Bordock of Springfield.
Ms. Bordock is suing the city and Souls Harbor, seeking a million dollars from each. She was arrested by the Joplin Police Department following an incident at Souls Harbor, according to her petition.
She claims her civil rights were violated when she was handcuffed and put in a cell with "dangerous criminals." The mattress at the jail bothered her back and she said she was eventually forced to plead guilty to a crime she didn't commit in order to get out of that place."I could not take the inhuman treatment," she said, in the handwritten petition.She filed the suit on her own, she said, because "the lawyers always ask for money. Ms. Bordock said she wanted the seven-figure payout to recompense her "for this horrendous incident that happened to me, a decent American."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A young Joplin man will be taken off life support Sunday after being declared brain dead as a result of injuries suffered in a hit-and-run accident, according to local television reports.
Charges will be likely be upgraded after Jamison Alexander, 18, a senior at Joplin High School, dies. The police arrested Travis Wyrick, 18, Joplin, on Thursday night, according to the Globe.The teenager has one prior conviction. He entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge May 6, 2004, before Judge Richard Copeland in Jasper County Circuit Court.
The court records indicate that he pleaded guilty to the marijuana charge as part of a plea agreement and that he originally had been charged with a more serious crime.
The records indicate that Wyrick received a $500 fine, was assessed $91.50 in court costs, $150 for drug testing costs, and $10 for the crime victims' compensation fund.
Wyrick's current case has also been assigned to Judge Copeland, according to court records.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Friday's Chicago Sun-Times featured an interesting column by Carol Marin on corruption in the town of Cicero, Ill., the hometown of legendary gangster Al Capone. Apparently, despite the conviction a couple of years back of town president Betty Loren-Maltese and the $1.7 million in damages awarded to the town's former police chief David Niebur, who at one time was Joplin police chief, the corruption in Cicero continues to thrive.
After Ms. Loren-Maltese was sent to prison in 2002, Ramiro Gonzalez was appointed as her successor and since then, according to Ms. Marin's column, he has appointed 18 relatives to city jobs.
Three people filed to run against Gonzalez this year. The Cicero Good Government Group, an ironically named organization led by a man named Ed Vrdolyak, who may be the big boss in Cicero, challenged the filing petitions of the three. Two of Gonzalez' challengers were removed from the ballot. Don't cry for Cicero however. Gonzalez still has one man opposing him. The only problem is Larry Dominick, the last remaining challenger, donated $2,640 to the Cicero Good Government Group over the past five years.
Not surprisingly, some Cicero residents are skeptical of his claim that he wants to put that group out of power, according to the Sun-Times column.
David Niebur was supposed to be the man to bring law and order to Al Capone's hometown, but he quickly discovered he was out of his league. When he tried to bring reform to the city, he quickly ran afoul of Ms. Loren-Maltese and was fired. By this time, realizing the extent of the corruption in Cicero, Niebur had gone to the FBI and started the investigation that led to Ms. Loren-Maltese's ouster.
Niebur served as police chief in the Illinois town from December 1997 through April 1998. He was hired to clean up a corrupt town, but when he left he feared for his life, according to a Chicago Tribune article. "For the first time in my life, I believe there are a number of people who would like to see me assassinated. In my career, I have had people shoot at me and I have killed people. But I have never been so scared as I am this week here. This is big-time crime. This is big-time corruption."
Niebur told federal officials and reporters that he had uncovered a seething cesspool of corruption in Cicero including police officers making thousands of dollars a years by shaking down illegal immigrants, making false arrests in order to set up bribes, letting solvable murders go for years without making arrests and the hiring of numerous police officers with long criminal records.
The biggest scandal involved a towing operation in which many city residents, especially minorities were having their cars towed for no apparent reason then having to pay exorbitant prices to get them back. Niebur and his deputy superintendent of police Phillip Bues were fired by the Cicero City Council and filed a multi-county federal civil rights lawsuit against the city officials in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Named as defendants in the lawsuit were Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, Town Counsel Merrick Scott Rayle, the Cicero Police Board and individual police commissioners.
Niebur issued a statement the day the lawsuit was filed. "I accepted the position of police superintendent for the Town of Cicero because I wanted to make a difference. It was well known that the police department was in turmoil and 15 to 20 years behind the times in terms of management and operations. I took the position with the intention of reforming the police department and making the residents of Cicero proud of their police officers. I thought that was the reason I was hired. "During the four months I was police superintendent, I did initiate many positive changes in the department. The town president boasted about my job performance and stated that I had turned the morale of the department around in a short time. I was doing the job for which I was hired. "It was not until I began investigating Ram towing and the irregularities in the town's towing practices that I was no longer considered a reformer. I was suspended by the town president from my position as police superintendent in retribution for my cooperation with the FBI and the state police in their investigations of the town's towing practices and alleged corruption. We are filing this lawsuit today because we are being wrongfully punished for exercising our rights under the law.
"However, this lawsuit today is not just about two police executives wrongfully punished for exposing corruption and wrongdoing within government. This action is needed to let all police officers nationwide know that they cannot be fired and maliciously slandered because they did what was right. It will also provide assurance to police executives to do what is necessary in their towns, cities and counties, even when their positions are threatened. For me, the decision to report apparent wrongdoing was the only choice available and one made without hesitation. It is my sincere desire for all law enforcement officers facing a similar situation to be confident to make the same decision."
A federal jury found in Niebur's favor and he was awarded $1.7 million. Ms. Maltese, according to The Chicago Tribune, called Niebur "unprofessional" and said she appealed the jury's ruling. In addition to the $1.7 million penalty assessed against the city, the jury awarded Niebur and another officer an additional $100,000 in punitive damages from Ms. Loren-Maltese. Niebur was featured in an article in the Saturday, May 26, 2001, New York Times. He told a Times reporter, "The hell hopefully is over now. It's just like I had just taken the most wonderful hot shower and whirlpool bath. It was just a cleansing effect. It was three years of hell."
The last time I heard, Niebur had been unsuccessful in his efforts to get back into lawsuit, most prominently in this area in a candidacy for Jasper County sheriff, where he lost to incumbent Bill Pierce (who later resigned when he ran into his own problems with corruption). During that candidacy, the local media made much of Niebur's problems in Cicero and his time as Joplin police chief, but didn't look any further into Niebur's past. At that time, I was writing for the short-lived first version of The Turner Report, a regular website that normally drew about five to 10 visitors a day from summer 2000 to early in 2002 and was updated every week or two.
On that website, I wrote:
The controversy Niebur ran into in Cicero was not the first that had enveloped the veteran police officer. As reported in an earlier edition of The Turner Report, Niebur had run into controversy earlier during his brief stint in Cicero. According to a March 13, 1998, Associated Press article, Niebur supported a deal in which Cicero city officials agreed to pay $10,000 to print and distribute Ku Klux Klan literature in exchange for the Klan agreeing not to stage a rally in the city.
"I guess it could be deemed extortion in one sense," Niebur said in the AP article, "but I don't see it that way. I think this is really a sensible solution under the circumstances." The deal was struck by city officials to prevent violence. In the article, Niebur said security fences alone would have cost approximately $20,000 and the town would have had to foot the bill for state troopers for added security.
A Niebur deal with the Ku Klux Klan would not have surprised people who knew him from his days with Minnesota police departments. According to an article in the May 1, 1998, Chicago Tribune, Niebur was one of several officers named in a federal civil rights lawsuit in the 1960s in a small Minnesota town where he worked as a police supervisor. A jury found the officers and the department had harassed a black driver, the article said.
When he was with the Minneapolis, Minn., Police Department, he had a running battle with the Minneapolis Urban League over arrest rates of African-Americans, the article said. "He had a reputation for being a racist for stopping a lot of black people on the road," former Minneapolis Police Chief Tony Bouza told The Tribune. Bouza, however, did not agree with that assessment.
"I looked at the racism issue and didn't see any racism in his actions," he told The Tribune. Bouza, in fact, promoted Niebur to head of internal affairs, according to an article in the Jan 12, 1989, Minnesota Daily, despite a record that included "42 investigations into charges of brutality, harassment and assault, primarily involving minorities," the article said. The article noted that there was not enough evidence to prove wrongdoing in almost all of the charges. The Chicago Tribune article placed the number of investigations at 48 and said charges against Niebur were sustained in eight of them.
Shortly after Bouza appointed Niebur head of internal affairs, Urban League President Gleason Glover sent Bouza a letter complaining about Niebur's record for dealing with minorities. Niebur was removed from the position shortly after Bouza was replaced by John Laux as police chief. "His (Niebur's) appointment was inappropriate in the first place," Urban League Vice President Gary Sudduth told The Minnesota Daily. "I think Chief Laux realized that if there was going to be honest rebuilding of relations with the minority community, Niebur would be a glitch in that process."
Though Niebur had asked the minority community in Minneapolis to give him a chance during an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune shortly after he was appointed head of internal affairs, any chance of receiving one might have ended five years earlier when he was involved in the shooting death of an unarmed black man named Sal Saran Scott, according to the article in The Minnesota Daily. Niebur also didn't help his cause when he told the Star-Tribune about his activities when he was a traffic control officer. According to the article, "He said that he unlawfully searched cars without probable cause and issued a record number of citations in one year, almost 6,000. Minority leaders complained that a disproportionate number of those citations was given to minorities. "I stopped a lot of blacks," Niebur told the Star-Tribune, "but I stopped a lot of whites. I stopped everybody, anyone that moved."
(As a last note, though I can't recall it ever being mentioned in any area newspaper, or even in the Chicago newspapers, Ms. Loren-Maltese's appeal of the award to Niebur was rejected by a federal appellate judge in 2003.
Major decisions are going to be made in this year's General Assembly that will affect the education of every child in this area of Missouri. This is the year in which the legislators are going to try to fix the Foundation formula, through which Missouri elementary and secondary schools are funded.
Our local legislators, at least on the House side, will be sitting this one out. While they have managed to get themselves named to every business-related committee there is, none of our area Republican legislators (there are no area Democratic legislators) Ron Richard, Steve Hunter, Marilyn Ruestman, Bryan Stevenson, Kevin Wilson, and Ed Emery, are serving on any education-related committee, with the exception of Wilson, who is on the Appropriations-Education Committee.
That means, while they will be able to represent this area by casting votes on whatever education bill is proposed, they will have no role in shaping that legislation in a way that would best serve their constituents.
These are the committees on which our local legislators will be serving, in addition to the one mentioned above:
Appropriations, Health, Mental Health, and Social Services- Stevenson
Budget- Stevenson
Financial Institutions- Hunter, Richard
Insurance Policy- Wilson, vice chairman
Job Creation and Economic Development- Richard, chairman; Emery
Judiciary- Ruestman
Local Government- Emery
Professional Registration and Licensing- Ruestman
Rules- Richard
Senior Citizen Advocacy- Ruestman, vice chairman; Wilson
Small Business- Wilson
Utilities- Emery, vice chairman
Ways and Means- Stevenson, vice chairman; Hunter
Workplace Development and Workplace Safety- Hunter, chairman
No area legislator is serving on either the Education Committee or on the Higher Education Committee, which deals with colleges and universities. Of course, there are a lot more committees that deal with various legislation that affects businesses, but this area of southwest Missouri has traditionally sent people to Jefferson City, who have voted in lockstep with what the business interests want, many times at the expense of a majority of their constituents. Of course, it is the business interests that make the donations to finance our legislators' re-election campaigns.
This week's search engine results, as always, show people find their way to The Turner Report looking for information on a variety of subjects.
The leader for the past several weeks, former KODE anchor Malorie Maddox, has been replaced atop the search results by Nexstar Broadcasting, followed by a tie between the Diamond R-4 School District, and Newton Learning. Also on the search list were terms as diverse as The Weather Channel, Cloyd Boyer of Alba, Audie Murphy, Edward Meerwald, and Miss Maddox.

The search for a new superintendent for the Neosho R-5 School District began under a cloud and has finished in the same way.
No one picked up on it when it was noted in the Nov. 7 Turner Report that the R-5 Board of Education began its selection process by illegally meeting in closed session to decide who would serve on the blue-ribbon screening committee chosen to review the superintendent candidates.
This week the board rejected the top two candidates submitted by the committee and decided to promote Assistant Superintendent Richard Page, a former Sarcoxie superintendent and Webb City assistant superintendent.
Neosho Daily News Editor Buzz Ball broke the story of the board's action in the Friday Daily in a strong story that didn't sugarcoat the board's cavalier rejection of its own committee's recommendations.
One of the committee's two recommendations reportedly had skeletons in his closet that disqualified him, but that information was not presented to the screening committee. Ball's article indicates that Board President Steve Marble may have already known about the candidate's problems and withheld that information from the board.
"If we had that information, our voting would have been entirely different," search committee member Danette Bowles told the Daily. "I think once he got disqualified, there should have been a delay in the decision making. If they truly wanted the committee's input, they should have contacted us to talk about the other candidates. I think we really needed to start over again."
The article also indicates that the board had already paved the way for Dr. Page's coronation by telling the committee it only wanted a superintendent who had worked in a district the size of Neosho...a qualification that only one candidate, Page, met.
Whether Dr. Page is the best candidate for the job remains to be seen, but he will be under the gun from the start because of the ham-handed in which way current superintendent Mark Mitchell and the board handled the selection process.
The process began with an ad being placed in various sources, including with the Jobs for Missouri Educators site. It read:
"Neosho R-5 School District Board of Education is announcing the opening of Superintendent of Schools. The position begins July 1, 2005. Applications will be accepted until the closing date of December 17, 2004. The R-5 District enjoys a long heritage as an educational leader and is accredited by the State Department of Education and the High School is accredited by North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. With a current enrollment of 4,266, Neosho Schools is a progressive district with numerous achievements including MSIP waivers and Distinction of Performance Awards. Certificated staff totals 291 and non-certificated staff totals 241. The R-5 District covers 223 square miles with a budget of 25.5 million dollars. Applicants must possess a commitment to superior lev (that's where the sentence ends and I don't have any idea what a superior lev is. It must be one of those educational terms.)"Candidates must submit a formal letter of application, current resume, updated credentials and a completed application. All correspondence should be directed to: Dr. Mark W. Mitchell, Superintendent of Schools, Neosho R-5 School District, 5 Neosho Blvd., Neosho, MO 64850 (417) 451-8600, Fax: (417) 451-8604 Email:"
The entire first part of the ad read more like a self-tribute to the current superintendent (since he most likely was the one who worded the ad) than an attempt to find a successor. And, of course, Mitchell was the first person who saw who the applicants were.
The next problem came with the selection of the search committee, a committee which ostensibly was designed to open the process to the community. The board immediately closed the process to the community by selecting the committee membership behind closed doors.
The Missouri Open Meetings Law shows no exception by which the board could discuss this topic in a closed session. School boards and city councils across the state use an umbrella exemption of "personnel" for these sessions, but the law clearly states that only applies to the hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining of identifiable individuals.
This meeting topic had nothing whatsoever to do with any of those.
This was a textbook example of how not to choose a superintendent.
Buzz Ball is not the only person who has shed light on this flawed selection process. A poster on Neosho Forums noted that an Oct. 27 Joplin Globe article by Dena Sloan clearly indicated that Marble already favored Page for the position. The article read, "Marble said board members will have to decide on an approach to finding a replacement, but Marble said he would like to consider internal candidates, and called the two assistant superintendents, Richard Page and Gretchen Guitard, 'star performers.' "
In the article, Marble was quoted as saying, "I certainly wouldn't speak for the board, but there's no doubt in my mind that Dr. Page is my first look." Marble added that Page had been groomed for the position.
In that case, why go through the charade of opening the process to the public, then rejecting the committee's recommendations.
Marble's early endorsement of Page, then his apparent withholding of vital information from the search committee, definitely makes it appear that he was pulling strings to make sure his choice was the only one who could possibly end up with the job.
Monday is the deadline for the final bids for the Pulitzer Company, owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, according to The Wall Street Journal and if the company that appears to be the frontrunner has the winning bid, it could have a big impact on the media power structure in Missouri.
The Journal article, as well as an article in Friday's St. Louis Business Journal, indicates that Gannett is the front-runner, along with Lee Enterprises. One thing not mentioned in the article is that if Gannett takes over the Post-Dispatch, it will own two of the three most powerful newspapers in the state, since it already publishes the Springfield News-Leader. The other member of the top three, the Kansas City Star, is owned by Knight-Ridder. Gannett already owns KSDK-TV in St. Louis, so there may be a roadblock from federal regulators, but the strict attitude that used to exist toward that type of relationship has been greatly relaxed over the past few years.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

It probably won't pass, given the Republican-controlled nature of the current Missouri General Assembly, but 83rd District Rep. Barbara Fraser- D-St. Louis, has filed a bill that would prohibit spanking in Missouri public schools.
The practice is already out of favor in some public schools and is a last resort in others so it would not have much of an effect in that regard, but some other portions of the bill are far more interesting.
The bill would require acts of student violence or violent behavior on school property, including school buses, or while involved in school activities, to be reported to the police.
School officials would have to report the following types of activities:
-First degree murder
-Second degree murder
-First degree assault
-Forcible rape
-Forcible sodomy
-Burglary in the first degree
-Burglary in the second degree
-Robbery in the first degree
-Distribution of drugs
-Distribution of drugs to a minor
-Voluntary manslaughter
-Involuntary manslaughter
-Second degree assault
-Sexual assault
-Felonious restraint
-Property damage in the first degree
-Possession of a weapon
-Child molestation in the first degree
-Deviate sexual assault
-Sexual misconduct involving a child
-Sexual abuse
The law would require that information about any student with a history of violent behavior will be given to the teachers who deal with those students.
Any student who is under suspension for any violent act will not be allowed to be within 1,000 feet of any school building in the district from which he was suspended, unless he or she is attending an alternative school within 1,000 feet or lives within 1,000 feet of the school.
My earlier comment about the bill not standing much of a chance in a Republican-controlled legislature was only meant to indicate that the bill stands less of a chance because it is being submitted by a Democrat.
The judge in the civil suit filed by former Newton County prisoner Oscar Alvarez against former Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge and Newton County has ordered the two sides to submit a schedule and discovery plan by March 30, according to a notice filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The discovery segment should be completed within 180 days of the day the last defendant is served, the notice said. Alvarez claims that two deputies opened his cell door while he was in jail on a misdemeanor non-support charge and allowed two prisoners to administer a beating to him. He is suing Doerge because the former sheriff was in charge of the two men, the lawsuit said. More information on the lawsuit is included in earlier editions of The Turner Report.
A personal note: One of the students in my fifth hour eighth grade communication arts class, Jee Choi, placed third in the annual Joplin Elks Lodge Essay Contest open to all middle school students in area public and private schools.
This year's topic, "What Old Glory Means to Me" was not an easy one to express in words, but the perspective of Jee, a Vietnamese- American, is a particularly interesting one. Anyone interested in reading what Jee and some of my other students had to say about the flag can find the essays on the Wall of Fame page on
A reader was curious about why I haven't remarked about the fact that the news programming arrangement between KOAM and Joplin's Fox station, KFJX, hasn't been mentioned in this blog, since I have been particularly critical of the similar arrangement between Nexstar's stations, KODE and KSNF.
That's a fair question.
Yes, it does bother me that we have only two local television news voices in this area when we have an opportunity to have four, but there are reasons why I have been more critical of the Nexstar stations.
1. To me, the KFJX 9 p.m. news is mainly an opportunity to see the news at an earlier time and it is mainly competing with entertainment alternatives.
2. I have not seen any effort by management at KOAM and KFJX to try to manipulate the public by disguising self-serving advertisements as news or by presenting only one side of a news story that involves them.
3. KOAM appears to be putting some money into its news operation while it's no secret (I hear it from people from all four Joplin stations) that Nexstar is doing things on the cheap as much as possible.
Cox Communications filed the complaint with the FCC that I mentioned earlier in The Turner Report, even though it was filed today rather than yesterday as had been anticipated.
In the 43-page complaint, Cox alleges that Nexstar Broadcasting and Mission Broadcasting "are violating their legal duty to engage in 'good faith' efforts to reach retransmission-consent deals for several stations that the broadcasters have pulled from the cable operator," Multichannel News reported today.
The complaint says, "If the commission condones the tactics and collective demands of Nexstar and Mission, acting together, then Nexstar has made it clear through its words and actions that this dispute will spread to all Nexstar and Mission television stations in markets where Cox operates cable systems, which would encompass a total of 19 stations and over 595,000 Cox subscribers."
The article also says Cox is claiming that Nexstar wants the cable company to buy $75,000 in advertising on all 19 Nexstar and Mission stations it carries. "In short," the complaint reads, "Nexstar and Mission have demanded that Cox pay in excess of $8.9 million for the privilege of continuing to retransmit the broadcast signals of five television stations that are free over-the-air in these communities."
The complaint accuses Nexstar and Mission of being involved in collusion and a conspiracy.
Nexstar COO Duane Lammers told Multichannel News he had not read the complaint but that Nexstar was complying with all FCC regulations.
In a humorous conclusion to the article, Multichannel News reported that it could not reach officials at Mission Broadcasting for comment.
If an agreement is not reached between Cox and Nexstar by Jan. 31, KODE and KSNF will be removed from Cox's cable franchises in Lamar and Carthage.
Nexstar's ideas of the relationship between broadcast and cable TV had changed considerably over the past six and a half years.
An FCC document, dated Sept. 25, 1998, shows Nexstar trying to convince the regulatory agency to force River Valley Cable TV, Inc., in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area of Pennsylvania to carry Nexstar's WYOU-TV, a CBS affiliate. Initially, FCC officials ordered the cable company to carry WYOU because of federal requirements that cable companies must carry local TV channels if the channels want to have their signals carried.
River Valley appealed, noting that the illness of an employee who would have filed the response to Nexstar's request had kept the company from doing so. In its appeal, River Valley officials noted that they already carried a CBS station which was right in the center of their operating area, while Nexstar's station was on the periphery. The FCC reversed its decision.
In 1998, Nexstar was trying to force a cable station to carry it, even though it wasn't really in much of the cable system's territory. In 2005, Nexstar wants to charge cable companies that directly serve their viewing area.
The times are definitely a-changin'.
As for tonight's local TV news:
-As far as I could tell, switching between the three channels during their 10 p.m. telecasts, KSNF was the only one to report on a decision that could make a huge difference in the speed with which the evidence from area crime scenes is processed. The station carried the information that the governor will be here tomorrow and an announcement will be made concerning the city of Joplin returning its business from the Highway Patrol lab to Missouri Southern.
-KOAM offered the best coverage of the sad story of a Joplin teenager who will be taken of life support this weekend after his father gets a chance to see him for a final time. The youth was a victim of a hit-and-run. The other stations also had good coverage.
-KOAM was the only station to offer coverage of the meeting at Diamond, in which the high school there continues to explore the possibility of setting up drug testing for students who participate in extracurricular activities. As serious as the drug problem is this area, though, I would love to see one of the TV stations or The Globe explore the constitutional issues involved in drug testing.
-KSNF also carried a feature on some Minnesota residents who came to Carl Junction to help families rebuild houses as the city continues to struggle with the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit there several months ago.
This was a night where you couldn't go wrong no matter which station you were watching.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Two Joplin area state representatives have been assigned committee chairmanships by Speaker of the House Rod Jetton. Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Carl Junction, will be chairman of the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, and Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, will head the Job Creation and Economic Development Committee.
More information about the complaint filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission about former Missouri State Representative and Enron lobbyist Roy Cagle, first mentioned in The Turner Report, will run in an article in tomorrow's Joplin Globe.
Cagle reportedly says the complaint has no merit and involves a bureaucratic snafu. The complaint alleges that Cagle did not register as a lobbyist for all of the companies he represented. Cagle says he did, but that he no longer serves as a lobbyist for the organization in question.
Nothing used to irritate me more than the annual press release sent out by Missouri Southern State College (it was college at the time) announcing that tuition rates were going up. Each year, year after year, the news release would come, always accompanied by the announcement that the college's tuition rates were still the lowest in the state of Missouri.
The good news is that MSSU did not raise its tuition rates this year. The better news is that college students may receive some added protection against this insidious practice of annual tuition increases that far surpass the rate of inflation.
The first reading of a bill submitted by 14th District Missouri State Representative Joe Smith, R-St. Charles was held today. Smith's bill would freeze tuition rates for state undergraduates from the time they enter college until they graduate.
An April 24, 2006, trial date has been set for the Diamond R-4 School District's lawsuit against Edison Schools, according to documents filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The two sides in the dispute have a July 15 deadline for discovery, the documents said.
School district officials claim they should not have to pay Edison $88,000 of the fee the company is charging for operating Diamond's summer school in 2002. This apparently is the only time a school district has gone to court to question Edison's bills. The company, under its summer school unit Newton Learning, operates summer school for the Sarcoxie, East Newton, and McDonald County school districts in southwest Missouri and have made considerable money for those districts.
Newton Learning provides the curriculum and hires the teachers, usually from within the district, and pays them. Newton also provides materials, which the school districts are allowed to keep.
The man with the $10 million dollar teeth, Martin Anthony Eck, will be questioned Friday, Jan. 28, by lawyers representing Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn and the Jasper County Commission, according to a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. Eck brought a $10 million lawsuit against the county claiming he was deprived of his dental care while he was in the Jasper County Jail. The questioning will take place at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, where Eck is serving time after pleading guilty to child molestation.
The promotion of an inexperienced reporter to an anchor position at Nexstar's KSFX-TV (formerly KDEB) in Springfield continues to be the subject of much speculation in the Ron Davis blog out of Springfield. Rachel Aram had her first night at the anchor desk at KSFX after spending only three months at KSFX's partner station, KOLR of Mission Broadcasting (the two stations have the same arrangement as KODE and KSNF have in the Joplin market. Other, more experienced KOLR personnel were bypassed to promote Ms. Aram, posters on the Davis blog said.
Apparently, she has interesting eating habits. According to her bio on the KOLR website, Ms. Aram, who grew up in Springfield, is proud of the fact that she has "two motivating, nourishing parents."
I hope she meant nurturing.
A celebration of the publication of Carthage native John Hall's book, "Mickey Mantle: Before the Glory," was planned during a meeting earlier this week at Missouri Southern State University. Members of the old minor league teams, the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids, Joplin Miners, and Independence Yankees will be recognized during the festivities.
After a meeting attended by Hall, Judy Stiles and Bill Hunt of MSSU's KGCS-TV, Mike McAfee, director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Mike Greninger, executive director of the Joplin Sports Authority, the dates of April 15 and 16 were selected and a preliminary agenda was announced.
A mixer will be held 6 p.m. April 15, at the host motel, which will be announced later. Lunch is tentatively planned for 12 noon April 16 at Joe Becker Stadium. Former area minor league baseball players, many of whom played with Mickey Mantle, will be announced during the Missouri Southern-Missouri Western doubleheader that afternoon.
A catered banquet will be held at 6 p.m. at the Joplin Sports Hall of Fame in Schifferdecker Park. Hall says a "special speaker" will be at the event and notes "the speaker will be special."
Exact figures will be announced later, but Hall says the registration fee will likely be in the $25 to $30 range.
More information later.
The industry magazine TV Business Review has come down squarely on Nexstar's side in its continuing battle with Cox and Cable One over payment for airing the programming of Nexstar stations.
In today's edition, the magazine editors noted, "TVBR stands with Nexstar to help educate television executives on the high importance of fighting now for this financial improvement by the cable MSOs or by 2006 it will be too late and the winds of Naples, Fla., will be at your back."
Nexstar COO Duane Lammers told the magazine he was not surprised by the negative public reaction against his company, but he said he and other Nexstar executives have spent "long hours" talking to customers by telephone and explaining their position and he thinks the conversations are beginning to have a positive effect.
The San Angelo Texas Standard-Times supported Cox Communications against Nexstar, in an editorial accusing Nexstar of being greedy. "Nexstar's demands aren't reasonable," the Standard-Times editorial said. The newspaper criticized the San Angelo stations for their out-of-town ownership, which struck some as odd since Cox Communications is also an out-of-town business and the Standard-Times itself is run by an out-of-town company, E. W. Scripps.
The next big deadline locally comes a week from Monday when Nexstar plans to order Cox to take KODE and KSNF off its cable franchises in Lamar and Carthage.
Former Lamar High School Principal John Garton will retire from education at the end of the current school year. Garton has been serving as part-time superintendent in the Miller R-2 School District while that district hires a new leader.
Tonight's Carthage Press article by Kaylea Hutson indicates Anthony Rossetti, currently principal at Columbian Elementary School in Carthage will be the new superintendent.
Garton, a Miller native, also served time as an interim superintendent in the Jasper R-5 School District.