Saturday, December 30, 2006

Post-Dispatch editorial: Smith decision to block Whitmore-Smith nomination was a bold one

An editorial in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch revisits newly-elected Sen. Jeff Smith's decision to block Gov. Matt Blunt's nomination of voucher supporter Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education:

Kudos to Mr. Smith for not running away from a fight. The decision to block Ms. Whitmore-Smith’s nomination was a bold step for a political novice. And it is a signal that he is not afraid to flex his political muscle when it matters most: for principle.

Globe editorial: State oversight of grpup homes was inept

State oversight of group homes, including the Anderson Guest House where a Nov. 27 fire killed 11 people, was inept, according to an editorial in today's Joplin Globe:

We urge lawmakers to give the residential-care system a thorough investigation, starting with what is an adequate reimbursement to keep an individual healthy and secure and on inspection and system reforms. The Missouri Department of Mental Health exists for the purpose of being the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Governor calls for sprinklers in all group homes

Governor Matt Blunt is calling for sprinklers to be installed in all group homes in the wake of the Nov. 27 fire at the Anderson Guest House that resulted in 11 deaths:

The governor is directing the Department of Health and Senior services to develop a timeline to implement the new sprinkler regulations to allow care facilities time to meet the requirement.
"The tragedy at Anderson is a tragic reminder that we must do everything possible to help protect Missourians who cannot always protect themselves," Blunt said in a statement.

Speaker: McCloud was a true professional

During the past couple of weeks, I have featured two columns written by Missouri Speaker of the House Rod Jetton concerning the death of his friend from his Marine days, Trane McCloud.
Many of you have written to say that you have appreciated these columns. In this third column, Rep. Jetton offers so more thoughts about Lt. McCloud:

So far, I have told you a little bit about Trane's military career and tried to give you an idea of the kind of person he was. I know we all say nice things about those who have passed on, but with Trane it's all been true. The worst I can say about him is he was headstrong, but he was always headstrong at the right time for the right reasons.

This is a guy who prayed before every meal, never lost his cool, always had good advice and never had to be the center of attention. He is the kind of person who makes the very best kind of friend. As I talked to others at his funeral that had served with him they all felt just like me, that he was their best friend.

As good of a Marine as Trane was, he was an even better husband and father. He loved kids. Cassie and I used to take our kids over and let Trane and Maggie watch them when we were at Camp Lejune. The both loved kids and we were always happy to have someone take them for a few hours and give us a break back then.

He and Maggie had three children; Hayden, Grace, and Meghan. Every minute he was not doing something for the Corps, Trane was with his family. He applied the same work ethic to his family as he did to the Marines. I only wish I had the wisdom to find the balance between career and family like Trane did.

They met in Washington, D. C. where she worked for a congressman. Maggie is a Democrat from New York and Trane was a Republican from Tennessee. She is a great lady and they were deeply in love. I can't remember how long they dated before getting married but I know he was very happy to have her as his wife.

They were separated a lot at first because we were on floats and she still worked in Washington. Camp Lejune is in North Carolina so when we were home they did quite a lot of driving to be together. Trane was fortunate to be stationed in the D.C. area a few times during his career, which worked out great for raising a family and allowing Maggie to keep working.

Even though she was very successful at her work, Maggie was always willing to pack up and move around the country with Trane and the Marine Corps. She told me once that being on base and having the time to spend with the kids and Trane when he was home was even more rewarding than work. That's how they both were. Work was important and they both were very successful at their jobs but the kids and family came first.

Losing a good friend like Trane is hard, but knowing that he was a true professional and did his duty to protect our country makes me proud. I have good memories and he taught me things about life I will never forget and can carry with me forever.

His children don't have that opportunity. The saddest thing about losing Trane is knowing his children will never get to ask their dad for advice, that Maggie will have to bear the burden of raising three kids all by herself. He was such a good man. He gave them a good start, but to not have him around to see them through is one of the saddest things I can imagine.

Maggie is a strong woman and a great lady. Like all Marine wives, she has taken care of the home front through all the deployments and absences. But each time Trane went away there was always hope and happiness waiting for the day that he would return. That has been taken from them now.

Having to raise three kids, pay all the bills plus save for college is hard for most families. Losing your spouse and having to do it by yourself is something I don't want to think about. As a Marine, you can't buy life insurance. The government provides Serviceman's Guaranteed Life Insurance (SGLI) that pays your family $200,000 if you die. Of course, that helps but paying off a house and cars doesn't leave much to set aside for college. And with health insurance costs increasing, things will be tough for Maggie. Paying for childcare while working will take up a lot of the money she needs to pay bills.

A fund has been set up to help the family. If you can, please send a donation to it. I know there are lots of needs and many other service members who have lost loved ones and set up funds. If you are aware of one then please help them out. This is one I know about and am asking you to join me in helping this family get through a tragic loss. Trane was just three years away from finishing his full 20 years of Marine Corps service, which would have left Maggie with a good retirement. Unfortunately his early death has not only taken their father and husband, but also their future income as well.

The McCloud Family Fund
C/O Richard Barns
703 Main Street
Port Jefferson, NY 11777

Make checks out to Margaret McCloud his widow. Anyone wishing their contribution to be specifically for the children's education fund should make checks to College America. It is a general fund, but College America is specifically for

Devil's Messenger, Small Town News available at Lamar Democrat

After 14 months of procrastinating, I finally have an outlet for Lamar residents who want to buy my books.
As of Thursday, Devil's Messenger and Small Town News are available at The Lamar Democrat. I am particularly pleased to have my books sold at that location since the Democrat provided me with my first experience in daily journalism back in the summer of 1978 when Publisher Dennis Garrison hired me as sports editor, and then I spent an additional seven and a half years as editor of the Democrat from November 1982 through March 1990, thanks to Doug Davis, who was, and is, the newspaper's publisher.
Small Town News costs $14.95, while Devil's Messenger is available for $13.95.
Other retail outlets for Devil's Messenger include:
-Always Buying Books, Joplin
-Changing Hands Book Shop, Joplin
-Pat's Books, Carthage

The books can also be obtained online. The websites for the books provide links to online outlets.

You can also order a copies of the book directly from me if you don't want to mess with credit cards. Send me an e-mail at for more information.

2006 a successful year for The Turner Report

What do these items have in common?

-Missouri Governor Matt Blunt returns a campaign contribution from disgraced Florida Congressman Mark Foley.
-State Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, retracts a bill which would have eliminated sales tax on bowling equipment and supplies.
-Gov. Blunt's State Board of Education appointee Donayle Whitmore-Smith has a long pro-voucher history.
-Sen. Gary Nodler is considering a run for statewide office.
-Felony sex charges are brought against leaders of a McDonald County church.

Considering the title for this post, you probably have already guessed what they have in common: All five stories began in The Turner Report and were eventually picked up regionally, statewide, or nationally (in the case of the McDonald County cult story). In fact, all of the stories ran in the last four months.

Unfortunately, there were other stories featured in this blog that should have been picked up by the mainstream media (some were picked up in the blogosphere), but were not.

The readership of the blog continued to grow in 2006. While a few detractors (usually the ones who are most affected by the stories) have continued to deride the blog for having only a handful of readers, the fact is, I have three counter systems (which measures individual visitors and not just hits) on this column and they tell a different story. On two of them, The Turner Report has topped 1,000 readers per day numerous times, while even the most frugal of the counters shows a high of 849 for one day. The frugal counter indicates the blog will have over 50,000 more readers in 2006 than it had in 2005, for an average of more than 100 per day. Obviously, this is nowhere near the amount of readers that, say, the Joplin Globe has. But the readership includes a regular sampling, as you might imagine from media and government circles, and even more importantly from readers who are simply wanting more information than they receive from the usual suspects on what is going on in government and in the judicial system.

Turner Report scoops for the last six months of 2006 include the following:


Dec. 22- A state audit shows the Missouri's attorney general's office is not keeping a close eye on its use of cell phones and Blackberries.

Dec. 20- Joplin Globe Editor Ed Simpson leaves to take a post in the Ohio attorney general's office.

Dec. 19- Ron Richard withdrew his bowling sales tax bill.

Dec. 19- Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate Sen. Nodler is considering a run for higher office and Tom Flanigan is no longer his treasurer.

Dec. 18- This was the first mention in any media of Richard's bowling sales tax bill.

Dec. 17- Gov. Blunt's first appointment to the State Board of Education, Demi Demien of Wentzville, has numerous ties to voucher supporters.

Dec. 16- The Turner Report so far has been the only source to point out the media's failures in connection with the Anderson Guest House fire.

Dec. 11- Turnaround expert Jim Malone is the new CEO at O'Sullivan Industries. Yes, it came from a barely issued news release, but as far as I can tell, no one else has picked up on it.

Dec. 8- Rep. Steve Hunter collected more than $12,000 in campaign the weeks following the election...including a maximum contribution from voucher-supporter group All Children Matter.

Dec. 8- A Turner Report investigation examined State Board of Education appointee Donayle Whitmore-Smith's background.

Dec. 6- Two posts on that day delved more into Ms. Whitmore-Smith's background, including her statement that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported vouchers, and another post showing her connection to a who's who in the voucher movement.

Dec. 6- Rep. Richard continues to add to his campaign war chest, including $1,300 from casino interests.

Dec. 4- Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, headed a committee that blocked legislation which could have prevented the Anderson Guest House fire.

Dec. 3- Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, has refiled his bill to force Missouri school districts to start school earlier. The bill has heavy support from Branson tourism interests, who not so coincidentally, have contributed heavily to Goodman's campaign. It never seemed to be a big issue for Sen. Gary Nodler either, but after he came out in favor of the legislation, suddenly he was awash, for the first time, in contributions from those same interests.

Dec. 2- Lauren Hieger leaves KSN to be KODE anchor.

Dec. 1- Former Thomas Jefferson headmaster Dr. Leonard Kupersmith takes a position with a Greenville, S. C. school.

Dec. 1- This blog was the first source to note that Gregory White, the father of the Memorial Middle School shooter, had changed his plea to guilty.


Nov. 27- The Turner Report featured three posts digging deeper into the owner of the Anderson Guest House. In one, a previous fire at a Dupont-owned facility was noted. Another noted the Anderson Guest House had been cited for a Class I violation in August, and the third noted that Dupont was a convicted felon.

Nov. 13- Rep. Steve Hunter closes in on the $4,000 mark in lobbyist gifts for 2006.

Nov. 12- KODE anchor Tara Brown walked out in a dispute over the McDonald County cult story.

Nov. 7- Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, received a maximum contribution from voucher supporter All Children Matter.

Nov. 7- Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, topped the $5,000 mark in lobbyist gifts for 2006.

Nov. 6- The laundry operation was working overtime for State Auditor candidate Sandra Thomas during the final days of the campaign.

Nov. 4- Disgraced Congressman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, was a maximum contributor to Governor Matt Blunt.


Oct. 30- This post featured one of the first examinations of the influence All Children Matter was having in this year's elections.

Oct. 26- This post was the first media source of any kind to note the pro-voucher sympathies of Donayle Whitmore-Smith, Gov. Blunt's appointment to the State Board of Education. No other media outlet made mention of this for more than four weeks.

Oct. 16- Conflicts of interest among contributors to Sandra Thomas' campaign for state auditor were noted.

Oct. 16- Superlobbyist William Gamble's contributions to the reelection campaign of Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, were noted.

Oct. 11- Out-of-district contributors continue to make up the lion's share of Sen. Gary Nodler's campaign donors.

Oct. 5- A state audit blasted the management of the Joplin Regional Center.


Sept. 30- Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., was a maximum contributor to Gov. Blunt's campaign. When other media outlets picked up on this story, Blunt eventually returned the money. Another post the same day detailed Blunt's contributions from Foley, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, and Donald Sherwood.

Sept. 23- Sen. Norma Champion received a $435 meal from AARP.

Sept. 23- Sen. Delbert Scott received 21 campaign contributions from lobbyists, none of whom were referred to as lobbyists in documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Sept. 23- Columbia Democrat Chuck Graham topped the "Hall of Shame" as the senator who had received the most from lobbyists.

Sept. 21- Grove family dentist and former Lamar resident Dr. Karl Jobst pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, but received no jail time in connection with the drunk driving-related death of his girlfriend in McDonald County.

Sept. 20- Problems with the Jasper County East Landfill near Purcell began when state officials ignored their own regulations.

Sept. 11- A liquor distributor and casino interests were pouring money into Sen. Norma Champion's campaign.

Sept. 10- Sen. Gary Nodler tops area senators in gifts from lobbyists.

Sept. 8- For some reason, the Springfield media outlets have not picked up on the case of a former Missouri State University professor who filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the college and several officials, and accused another professor of sexual harassment. This post featured the revelation that mediation in this case had failed.

Sept. 7- A country singer accused a Branson TV host of sexual harassment in a suit filed in federal court.

Sept. 1- Details of Rep. Steve Hunter and his wife, Jasper County Public Administrator Rita Hunter being wined and dined by Sprint officials were provided.


Aug. 21- Rep. Ed Emery's plea to a charge of driving on the wrong side of a roadway causing an accident was corrected from guilty to an Alford plea.

Aug. 15- It didn't take long for the rest of the media to pick it up on it, but The Turner Report was the first source to note the arrest of leaders of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in McDonald County on felony sex charges.

Aug. 7- Contrary to her statements that she submitted her "frontier justice" bill after hearing concerns from constituents, evidence shows Rep. Marilyn Ruestman's bill was one of 15 cookie-cutter laws across the U. S. being pushed by the National Rifle Association. In other posts, I noted that Ms. Ruestman pays her annual NRA dues with campaign funds.

Aug. 5- Super lobbyist Harry Gallagher found ways to put a considerable amount of money into Sen. John Loudon's state auditor campaign.

Aug. 1- A trip financed by a casino lobbyist helped Rep. Steve Hunter as he neared the $3,000 mark in lobbyist gifts.

Aug. 1- State Auditor candidate Sandra Thomas paid $35,000 to a consulting firm with ties to the license fee offices she would have been required to audit had she been elected.


July 31- State Auditor candidate Jack Jackson paid $258,000 to a consulting firm which also lobbies for Saudi Arabia.

July 30- Rep. Steve Hunter's quarterly disclosure filing with the Missouri Ethics Commission failed to note $15,000 in contributions.

July 29- Sen. Gary Nodler received $2,500 from the Missouri Bankers Association, which worked its way around contribution limits by forming political action committees for each region of the state.

July 29- State Auditor candidate Sandra Thomas paid $21,000 to a consulting firm connected to the awarding of license fee contracts.

July 23- The Turner Report was the first area news source to note that GateHouse Media, owner of The Carthage Press, Joplin Daily, Neosho Daily News, and the Big Nickel, was going public.

July 22- Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, received nearly $3,000 from the nursing home industry, acccording to Missouri Ethics Commission documents.

July 22
- The Turner Report was the first to reveal that state representative candidate Steve Helms, R-Springfield, had filed for bankruptcy.

July 21- Rep. Ed Emery pleads guilty (later corrected to an Alford plea) to driving on the wrong side of the roadway, causing an accident. He was placed on probation.

July 15- Sen. Gary Nodler comes out in favor of an early start for Missouri schools and suddenly the big tourism interests in Branson are pouring money into his election campaign. An amazing coincidence.

Those interested in seeing some of the stories broken in the first six months of 2006
can be found in the June 22 Turner Report.

Blunt spokesperson avoids term 'public education'

The Columbia Tribune remains the only newspaper making a legitimate effort to pin down Governor Matt Blunt's radical attempt to shift the education landscape in Missouri through his appointments to the State Board of Education.
I have noted the newspaper's efforts to put the governor's three appointments, Donayle Whitmore-Smith, whose official ascension to the board has been blocked, Rev. Stan Archie, and Debi Demien.
The newspaper's crack team of reporters, including Janese Heavin (pictured) have also been doing their best to pin down the governor. The Tribune has not been handling this story in the typical which set of politicians is winning this battle format that most major media outlets seem to follow. This has been a case of examining a policy and the efforts to implement it.

Ms. Heavin begins her post:

Gov. Matt Blunt is looking for State Board of Education candidates who support education, but his spokeswoman stopped short of clarifying whether that includes religious and private schooling, too.

Jessica Robinson said Blunt wants to appoint individuals "who believe all children should have access to high quality education."

When I asked if she meant public education, she said "education."

Public education or alternative education, as well? "Education," she repeated.

I admit the question put Robinson on the spot. After all, had she said "public education," Blunt would have risked losing support from All Children Matter, the anti-public education group that has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into Blunt and other Republican campaigns.

But if she had said "education" includes private schools, Blunt would have likely heard more criticism of what some already consider his anti-public education agenda.

Tribune blog explores Blunt's first state board appointee

Gov. Matt Blunt's first appointee to the State Board of Education, Debi Demien, is finally coming under some scrutiny, though only from two sources.
Mrs. Demien, a former public schoolteacher, received a free pass from the media and from the blogosphere when she was appointed in March, but following the governor's Donayle Whitmore-Smith debacle, it seems a few (put me on the list) are starting to take a closer look at all of the governor's appointments.

In her Class Notes blog on the Columbia Tribune website, reporter Janese Heavin notes Mrs. Demien's connection with Building God's Way, "which specializes in construction of churches and Christian schools," and her involvement with the Restoring America organization.

The first examination of Mrs. Demien's background was in the Dec. 17 Turner Report.

Post-Dispatch: Blogs having major effect on Missouri politics

Blogs played a major role in Missouri's 2006 elections, according to an article by St. Louis Post-Dispatch political writer Jo Mannies:

Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, says Missouri politicians must accept the fact that activities or comments that once were ignored could now end up as fodder for the Internet for all the world to see.

"If you thought you didn't have any privacy before, you really don't have privacy now,'' Robertson said.

Of course, the Post-Dispatch article focuses on St. Louis area blogs, and Fired Up Missouri and The Source. The newspaper doesn't realize that the same thing has been going on in the Joplin, Springfield, and Branson areas for some time, as you can tell by reading some of the blogs featured on the right-hand side of this page. Nevertheless, the article is a portent of things to come.

Archie says he supports public schools

In an e-mail to The Turner Report, and in comments in today's Columbia Tribune, Rev. Stan Archie, Kansas City, Governor Matt Blunt's most recent appointment to the State Board of Education, says he is not a voucher supporter.

In the e-mail Rev. Archie said he is a "strong supporter of public schools."

The Columbia Tribune, which has covered Gov. Blunt's State Board appointments better than any other state newspaper, featured this quote by Rev. Archie in an article by education reporter Janese Heavin:

Archie told the Tribune this morning that he does not support using tax dollars for private or religious schools.

"I do not support the idea of using vouchers," he said. "To use tax dollars for private purposes compromises the general philosophy of why we have tax dollars in the first place."
Archie said he comes from a family of public schoolteachers and principals and believes "strongly in public education."
He also said he has tried to separate himself from Whitmore-Smith, whom he has never met but has been tied to because of the close timing of the nominations. Archie said he has no problem with families choosing to send their children to private schools, "but that doesn't negate the responsibility to public education … to pay for and support the public school system."

Ms. Heavin's article is also the first in any state newspaper looking into Gov. Blunt's first State Board appointment, Debi Demien of Wentzville:

In March, Blunt successfully appointed to the State Board of Education Deborah Demien, marketing director for Building God's Way, which specializes in construction of churches and Christian schools.
Demien told the Tribune this morning that she's open to hearing more about vouchers. "I’m not opposed to hearing about any new idea to improve education," she said. "I'm very interested in hearing original ideas because what we’re doing now isn't working."

First, I question Ms. Demien's proposition that public schools are failing. A handful of public schools are failing and perhaps the ideas for saving those failing schools might come from other public schools which have been successful.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Case made for removal of campaign contribution limits

As of Jan. 1, the state of Missouri will no longer have campaign contribution limits. I wrote about this several times last year, including the July 12, 2006 Turner Report, in which I roundly criticized HB 1900.
Apparently, I didn't always feel that way. While rummaging through a box of old articles earlier this week, I came across a column I wrote in the July 28, 1998, Carthage Press, which ran under the headline "Throw out campaign contribution limits."
I wrote:

The amount of money spent on even the smallest of political campaigns is enough to scare anyone. It has prevented a number of people from entering politics.
But campaign contribution limits are not the answer. If there are no laws, the incumbents are going to get the lion's share of the money and the rich can finance their own campaigns.
If there are campaign contribution limits, the incumbents and the rich will still have the advantage. The incumbents are the ones the political action committees gravitate toward. Why risk money on an untested candidate, they reason. The rich can still spend an incredible amount of money on their own campaigns.
The embarrassing methods used to get around the campaign contribution limits have also made a joke out of the law. A close examination of financial disclosure forms filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows a number of fascinating ways politicians have found to get around the campaign contribution limits.
Sometimes, they receive the maximum campaign contributions from every member of a family, grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, each child, almost down to the family dog.
Other times, an incredible number of people from the same business donate the maximum allowable amount to candidates, everyone from the CEO and all the vice presidents to the receptionists and the janitors. And we all know how many receptionists and janitors have the money to spend $275 on a political campaign.
Another method that has been used successfully is taking a number of contributions from a single business, by getting the maximum allowable amount of money from each of its components. This can be taken to extremes with a politician receiving money not only from each separate part of a business, but also from each separate officer from each separate part of the business and from each family member of each separate officer of each part of the business. Sometimes, they also get their janitors and receptionists involved.
Toss out the campaign limits and make absolutely sure that each campaign contribution is documented thoroughly and reported to the Ethics Commission, with copies going to each county clerk within the campaign area.
Then the responsibility belongs to the press and to the voters. The print media, all of us, must do a better job of exploring where the money comes from to finance political campaigns.
We must print where the money comes from and then the voters should decide if that information is going to sway their votes.

Later in the column, I wrote:

Money does have an insidious influence on politics. That has almost always been the case and probably always will be the case.
As long as we (the media) show who's contributing to what candidate, how the money is being spent, then follow up by closely watching what, if any, effect that money has on the successful candidates' votes, the public will be able to make reasoned choices when they go to the polls.

While I am considerably more concerned about the removal of campaign contribution limits now than I was in 1998, the decision to do so could be if a good thing if the media does its job.
During the 2006 elections, I again found little evidence the media wants to examine anything about campaign contributions other than how much money each candidate has and how much the candidates are spending on advertising (and what kind of advertising).
Most campaign financing comes from special interest groups, not individuals backing the candidate of their choice. They would not be contributing millions of dollars without receiving anything in return. This money has influenced nearly every piece of legislation that comes down the pike, and unfortunately Missouri's news media has done a pitiful job of exploring these connections.
Now is it more important than ever that the media do what it is obligated to do. Unfortunately for Missouri voters, I don't see it ever happening.

Maddox finishes third in Omaha poll

They must take television journalism seriously in Omaha.
In his Media Notes for The Reader, a top Omaha magazine, Sean Wiede notes that former KODE anchor Malorie Maddox placed third in a local radio station's "Hottest Local News Chick of 2006." Ms. Maddox won the contest in 2005.
Disc jockey Matt Perrault defended the contest:

"This is intended to be complimentary," he said. "It's not intended to be rude or mean. Don't tell me guys don't think some of these women on the news are hot."

After reading some of the comments on this blog after Lauren Hieger was promoted to KODE anchor and then seeing this story from Omaha, it makes me wonder if anyone actually cares about the content of these local news programs.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

GOP continues to play race card with Whitmore-Smith rejection

The Missouri Republican Party wasted no time playing the race card in its official statement concerning Senator-elect Jeff Smith's announcement that he will not support Gov. Matt Blunt's controversial appointment of voucher-supporter Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education.
The state GOP issued the following news release:

St. Louis Democrat state Sen.-elect Jeff Smith today showed that he is more interested in bowing to Democrat Party bosses than doing what’s right for Missouri students by rejecting Donayle Whitmore-Smith's nomination to the State Board of Education.

In a public statement issued today, Sen.-elect Smith contradicts himself by praising Whitmore-Smith’s efforts on behalf of urban education in the St. Louis area then in the same breath rejects her nomination because of a lack of experience.

"Jeff Smith’s politically-motivated rejection of Donayle Whitmore-Smith is a slap in the face to the African American community and to our urban schools. Jeff Smith is turning his back on his constituents in order to garner favor with Democrat leaders who have opposed Whitmore-Smith’s nomination," said Paul Sloca, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party. "It is this kind of dismissive attitude toward our urban schools that have led to problems like those currently surrounding the St. Louis Public School District. It’s a disgrace."

Whitmore-Smith would have been the only African American serving on the State Board with school age children.

The slap in the face to the African American community came from Gov. Blunt, who bypassed dozens of qualified African American women with children of school age to appoint an unqualified African American woman who happens to agree with the governor's position on educational vouchers.

Blunt issues statement on Whitmore-Smith nomination

Earlier today, Governor Matt Blunt issued a statement concerning Sen. Jeff Smith's decision to block Blunt's nomination of voucher supporter Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education:

"Donayle Whitmore-Smith cares deeply about Missouri school children. She
shares my belief that every Missouri school child deserves a world class education. I am deeply disappointed that one of the Senator-elect's first actions is obstructing the appointment of a well-qualified African-American woman who would have done a magnificent job on the State's School Board.
Donayle Whitmore-Smith was one of two African-American leaders I appointed to the State Board of Education. I am pleased that Reverend Stanley Archie of Kansas City will at least be given the courtesy of a hearing even though the same courtesy was not extended to Donayle."

Leave it to the governor to play the race card. And he is obviously attempting to continue to play it in an effort to keep his nomination of Rev. Stan Archie of Kansas City, another voucher supporter who is also African-American, to the State Board. It will be interesting to see who the governor's next nomination will be for the spot he wanted for Ms. Whitmore-Smith.

Smith issues statement on opposition to Whitmore-Smith nomination

The following statement was released by newly-elected Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, concerning his reasons for opposing the nomination of leading voucher proponent Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education:

Donayle Whitmore-Smith is a leader of courage and action. She has dedicated the last decade of her life to improving urban education by founding the Ptah Academy in St. Louis and attempting to provide additional educational options to children across the state. As an educator, an activist, and a parent, she has much to be proud of.

That said, she is not an appropriate candidate for the State Board of Education.

The State Board is the steward for Missouri's public schools. As such, its members should possess a breadth and depth of experience in public education and/or a background as strong advocates for public schools. Given Ms. Whitmore-Smith's lack of experience as a public school teacher, administrator, or advocate - and the fact that she has spent much of her adult life promoting private educational options - I am concerned about her ability to focus on improving our public schools. At a time when the St. Louis Public Schools are on the verge of losing accreditation and falling under the purview of the State, all members of the State Board must concentrate on the task at hand.

Equally troubling was Ms. Whitmore-Smith's noncommittal response to my question about the relative merits of teaching creation vs. evolution in public school science classes. In order to train a workforce that will help Missouri become a biotechnology hub, our schools must teach modern science and ensure that religious doctrine remains in appropriate venues.

It should be noted, as the co-founder of a group of public charter schools, I have advocated some of the very alternative educational options that Ms. Whitmore-Smith has supported. I neither retract my advocacy nor disparage hers. In fact, I appreciate her energy and her work. While I have not always agreed with Ms. Whitmore-Smith's policy prescriptions, she has been a passionate advocate for her cause and fresh voices like hers should be welcomed.

I have truly appreciated the input of thousands of Missourians while evaluating this nominee. Lamentably, however, some on both sides have succumbed to histrionics and demagoguery. Ms. Whitmore-Smith is not out to eviscerate public education; conversely, voucher opponents are not out to trap poor children in failing schools. And the abysmal outcomes of St. Louis public schools are not solely the result of bureaucratic dysfunction but, more broadly, the consequence of decades of segregation, benign neglect, and middle-class flight.

For the sake of our children and our state's economic future, we must move past petty political bickering to come together and find practical solutions to these problems. That means considering open enrollment policies so that children can choose any public school in a district, lateral certification opportunities for trained scientists, mathematicians, and linguists to ease the shortages of qualified teachers in their subject areas, continuation of St. Louis's voluntary transfer program, and expansion of innovative charter schools [such as the Knowledge is Power (KIPP) model] that provide increased choice within the public school framework while remaining accountable to the State Board.

Finally, I wish Ms. Whitmore-Smith the very best in her future endeavors. I hope we have opportunities to find common ground and work together on some of the above initiatives. And I hope that, in keeping with tradition and the historical mission of the State Board, Governor Blunt's future nominees have more extensive experience in public education.

Governor Matt Blunt has indicated he will not push forward with the Whitmore-Smith nomination without Smith's approval.

Senator blocks Whitmore-Smith nomination

A major roadblock has placed in the way of Governor Matt Blunt's apparent plan to stack the Missouri State Board of Education with voucher supporters.
Newly-elected Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, has announced he will not support Donayle Whitmore-Smith's nomination to the board. Blunt has said he would not go through with the Whitmore-Smith nomination if the senator from her home district does not sponsor her.
Ms. Whitmore-Smith, as first noted in the Oct. 26 Turner Report,not only has been a leading proponent of educational vouchers and tuition tax credits, but has been outspoken in her criticism of public schools, describing her time in one as "hell."
Ms. Whitmore-Smith is the second of three Blunt pro-voucher nominees. The Senate has not acted on his most recent nominee, Rev. Stan Archie of Kansas City, but in March 2006, it approved his first, Debi Demien of Wentzville, a former public schoolteacher, whose background was not examined closely by the media or the General Assembly prior to the vote that placed on her on the board for the next seven years.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Former President Ford dead at 93

Gerald Ford, who died today at age 93, will never be one of those presidents who makes the top 10 lists. His tenure was short, and he deliberately took the step that guaranteed he would not be elected to the position on his own.
His decision to pardon Richard Nixon before the ex-president had even been charged with any crimes enabled the nation to move forward...and is generally believed to have cost Ford the presidency in 1976.
At that time, there were many who claimed the fix was in and that Ford had already promised to pardon Nixon. Today most recognize the decision for what it of the most courageous ever made by a president of the United States.
In these days when politicians make their decisions based on public opinion polls and focus groups, the presidency of Gerald Ford, brief thought it was, looks better all the time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Nodler: I've got the money to run

Gary Nodler has enough money to run for statewide office and he plans to continue to raise more.
In an article written by Tracy Swartz in today's Springfield News-Leader, Nodler talks about his decision to change his campaign committee to explore a bid for statewide office:

Nodler plans to hire a political consultant. He said it's too early to determine the state's political landscape in 2012, but his sizable campaign coffers would allow him to poll on support.
He's set to hold his annual fundraising golf tournament and strengthen his monetary resources.
"If I were to seek higher office, I have a pretty substantial base from which to operate," said Nodler, who had banked $104,486 as of Dec. 2.

Nodler indicated he might be interested in running for lieutenant governor or treasurer.

Globe advertises for editor

With the departure of editor Edgar Simpson a little more than a week away, the Joplin Globe has listed the position at the Community Newspaper Holdings website.

According to the ad, the Globe is looking for:

We have an immediate opening for the editor's position at The Globe

Well-rounded newspaper experience

Demonstrated ability to leading a talented team to success

Full understanding of the importance of the Globe's Readership

Commitment program

An understanding of the importance of local news

Ability to get the community involved in contributing to the newspaper's content

Comfortable in developing New Media programs along with new products that satisfy the needs of our readers and advertisers.

Great organizational skills and attention to detail

Strong interpersonal skills

Insistence in following established deadlines, as well as producing top quality products and services.

Willingness to take an active role in the communities we serve

Knowledge and experience in the investigative news process

Ability to developing individuals so that they can reach new levels

Demonstrating excellent follow-through with the Globe's organizational projects

High energy and enthusiasm

The ad sets a deadline of Dec. 29. Applications are to be made to the Globe's publisher Dan Chiodo.

As first noted in The Turner Report, Simpson is leaving the newspaper after eight years to take a position with the newly-elected Ohio attorney general.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

When newspapers neglect their obligations

Darin at the Branson, Missouri Blog has a well-written examination of the problems for a community when its sources of information become nothing more than trumpets for the local Chamber of Commerce.

Darin notes that neither the Branson Daily News nor the Branson Daily Independent features the type of daily local crime and records coverage that should be a staple of local newspapers:

One of the great things about America is the government's obligation of accountability to the public. The press has an obligation as well. It is our sacred duty to be accountable - to be a custodian of fact and to report the truth whether or not it suits our selfish purposes. We all have prejudices and preconceived notions - it takes a constant effort to check ourselves and put our own interests to the side to ensure we're fulfilling our public duty. This is a shield of virtue as we wield a sword of truth.

Another school board opposes Whitmore-Smith nomination

Add Marshall to the ever-growing list of school boards that have taken the previously unheard of step of offering resolutions opposing the appointment of a member to the State Board of Education.
The subject of the Marshall Board of Education's resolution, of course, is voucher proponent Donayle Whitmore-Smith, who has never shown anything but contempt for public education.
According to the Marshall Democrat-News:

Marshall school board President Jeanette Klinge said she and the board have no objection to private education. The problem they have is with the use of public money to fund private schools, she said.

Marshall Superintendent Rob Gordon noted that public education advocates are especially concerned that Whitmore-Smith's appointment could indicate a trend.

Not only could it indicate a trend, it definitely does. Governor Blunt has nominated three members to the State Board, all of them this year, and all three are supporters of vouchers and tuition tax credits. Ms. Whitmore-Smith has come in for more criticism, but Rev. Stan Archie and Debi Demien are also cut from the same cloth.

News Leader: Remember Guest House victims

In an editorial today, the Springfield News-Leader asks readers to remember the 11 victims of the Nov. 27 Anderson Guest House fire and reminds legislators that solutions need to be provided to prevent any such future tragedies:

It's clear that state regulations weren't being followed, and that they might need to be strengthened. It's also clear that lawmakers haven't paid enough attention to the plight of the mentally ill for too long.

Our hope is that as bills are put forth and political debates are conducted, that everybody — Democrats and Republicans — recognize that this is one of those issues that must rise above partisanship.

People died, and we have to make sure that others in similar circumstances are protected. The state has failed, and now it must do better. There can be no political blame passed around, only a solution that all can embrace.

Lawsuits filed against Dupont, River of Life Ministries

As our local media outlets reported Friday, more lawsuits have been filed against Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont and the Joplin River of Life Ministries in connection with the fire that has claimed 11 lives.
Here is the link to the Associated Press article.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Richard says he is through with bowling bill

If a bill to remove sales tax charges from bowling equipment and supplies reaches the House floor in 2007, it won't have Rep. Ron Richard's name on it.
Richard told the Joplin Globe he was through with the bill, which was dropped after it received early publicity:

Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, the owner of a number of bowling alleys, withdrew the bill after one day, but was defensive about it being questioned as being self-serving.
"Yes, it’s my business, and I’m involved in it," Richard told the Globe on Friday.

The fact that the Globe interviewed Richard on Friday is revealing. The story ran in numerous papers throughout the state, including the Springfield News-Leader, Columbia Tribune, and Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian, thanks to Associated Press.

Not mentioned in either the Globe or the AP account is the fact that Richard's bill, the only one he has prefiled thus far, was first revealed in the Dec. 18 Turner Report, or four days before the Globe bothered to interview the Joplin Republican. After the bill was publicized Monday, it was withdrawn the following day, as also noted first in The Turner Report.

Response to auditor: Attorney General never sleeps

Attorney General Jay Nixon launched into an impassioned defense of his employees' use of Blackberry devices and cell phones in his response to criticism leveled in a state audit of his office.
State Auditor Claire McCaskill noted that a high number of calls made on these devices came on weekends, after hours, and when employees were on vacation:

There were many instances where it appeared that personal calls contributed to some additional charges noted above. Employees made calls after working hours,on weekends, and while on annual leave. For example, in July 2005, an
employee made or received 421 calls of which 37 (9 percent) of the calls were made/received while the employee was on vacation and included calls to numbers in his name, as well as various businesses. However, the office did not review these calls to determine if they were personal in nature. Although the office personnel indicated that employees are required to report any personal calls and submit applicable reimbursement, there appears to be little monitoring or enforcement of this policy.

Instead of responding to the criticism, the attorney general or whoever wrote his office's response, said:

The AGO protects and serves Missourians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Fortunately, law enforcement communications technology has evolved at a rapid pace in recent years to help fulfill that mission. To better protect Missourians and help make employees more efficient and productive, the AGO utilizes a variety of modern handheld communication devices. Though they are not yet fully-integrated in state government, these devices are ubiquitous in society today. They are particularly important in the legal field, where they are utilized by more than 87 percent of the law firms in the nation. Top law schools are even distributing handheld devices to incoming students to download course materials, so future generations of lawyers are likely to be even more reliant on these valuable devices. While away from the office, a lawyer can communicate with others on official business in ways that were not possible before the advent of this equipment, avoiding delay and expediting business. For example, rather than experiencing downtime, a lawyer may productively review e-mails and attached documents,
manage his or her calendar, and share information with colleagues about a matter via e-mail while awaiting a court appearance in a distant courthouse. Meanwhile, vital information about a crime can be transmitted in real time, rather than waiting for an attorney to return to the office. It is imperative for the AGO to provide professional services for Missouri citizens, and that the AGO be able to contact an employee who is away from the office at a meeting or deposition when necessary. In addition, an employee may use the device after hours, on the weekend or even while on leave when it becomes important to communicate with the office. This is especially important because with today’s technology, a lawyer is never really away from the office. Accordingly, it is not fair or accurate to assume that any call or e-mail sent after 5 p.m. is a "personal call" in today’s law practice environment. Indeed, the volume of legitimate "after hours and weekend communications are likely to increase with the availability of these devices. The AGO takes pride in the fact that it is a full-service modern law firm that provides efficient round-the-clock service to all Missourians. Our employees often work long hours – routinely on
weekends and after normal business hours – to achieve this goal. Not utilizing readily-available communications technology to help make this possible would not make any sense.

While the attorney general is correct in much of what he says, wouldn't it still be wise to watch over the taxpayers' money by keeping a close eye on cell phone and Blackberry use. As the audit notes, these calls run into money and the taxpayers are the ones who are footing the bill for it.

Hastings debut of Devil's Messenger delayed

Some logistical difficulties have delayed the debut of my second novel, Devil's Messenger, at Hastings. Right now, the book manager is working with the distributor so hopefully, the situation will work itself out in the next few days.

Meanwhile, those of you who are looking for a late stocking stuffer (if you have big stockings) for Christmas, there is some good news. As of Thursday, three area outlets, two in Joplin and one in Carthage, are carrying the book.

Devil's Messenger is available at Always Buying Books and Changing Hands Bookshop, 528 Virginia, in Joplin, and at Pat's Books in Carthage. The cost is $14, not including sales tax. Those three outlets, as well as Hastings in Joplin and Books N Java in Neosho have copies of my first novel, Small Town News, for sale.

The websites for Devil's Messenger and Small Town News also feature information on how to order them online. Anyone not wanting to go the credit card route can order them directly from me. Information is available on the books' website.

Corky Simpson writes farewell column

Former Carthage Press Sports Editor Corky Simpson officially entered the world of retirement today, posting his final column for the Tuscon Citizen.
In that column, the award-winning sportswriter and columnist reflects on the beginning of his career:

My career began in a log cabin. . . . Well, not really. It began 48 years and 10 months ago in an old brick building in the beautiful little town of Carthage, Mo. I accepted the offer of E.L. Dale to take a sabbatical from college and become the sports editor of the Carthage Evening Press.
I would soon learn that I was also the fire department, police, highway patrol and building-permit editor.
My ambition was to make a little money and return to college. I did the former - I made very little money - but never got back to college.
I quickly fell head over heels in love with this business.
And to borrow from an old fishing buddy of mine, Herman Melville, who said of his whaling ship: "This is my Yale College, this is my Harvard . . ."
The newspaper craft is my alma mater.

In an interview with a college student, Corky offered this thought on one of the most memorable sporting events he covered during his 48-year career:

"I hate to say it, but my first big sports assignment, I was covering a pulling contest at the Jasper County Fair in Missouri.
"Now, a pulling contest is where they have a sled, and they hitch a team of horses to this sled. It usually takes place on a baseball field on the infield dirt from first to second. They hitch horses up to this sled, and they put 100-pound weights on the sled, and they eliminate teams, two horses each. As they add weight, eventually some teams can pull it, and some can't.
"They got down to the championship, and it was between a team of mules and a team of Belgians, which are gigantic horses. The Belgians went first, and they pulled the sled about three-quarters of the way to second base, and the crowd cheered and everything. That's as far as they could go. Then the mules took over. They were really a team. They pulled the sled all the way to second base, and they won the trophy.
"The neat thing was, the tractor went out, unhitched the mules, hitched up the sled and could not pull it (laughs). So that impressed me."

Cape Girardeau School Board opposes Blunt nominees

Over the last several days, I have read many articles concerning school boards opposing Governor Matt Blunt's nomination of Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education.
The Cape Girardeau Board of Education took it one step further, coming out in opposition to both Ms. Whitmore-Smith and the governor's latest nomination, Rev. Stan Archie of Kansas City, according to an article in today's Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian:

The state board approves policies governing elementary and secondary public education in Missouri, (board member Steven) Trautwein said after the meeting. "There should not be people on there who feel it would be acceptable to use public money for private schools," he said.

Of note is the opposition of two of the six board members who attended the meeting. One suggested the vote was like "beating a dead horse" since both Ms. Whitmore-Smith and Archie were going to be seated anyway.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Anderson Guest House fire claims 11th victim

The Nov. 27 Anderson Guest House fire has claimed an 11th victim.
Reports indicate the man died at a Springfield hospital.

Despite the 11 deaths and the way which he has apparently skirted the law for the past two decades, Guest House owner Robert Dupont told Associated Press he intends to appeal the state decision to close the Guest Houses and move their residents to other facilities:

"We're going to appeal," DuPont said in a brief telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "They shouldn't have taken the licenses - there's been nothing committed to have a license be taken."

Globe fails to pick up on Richard story

Associated Press posted a story last night on the decision by Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to withdraw his bill which would have eliminated the sales tax on bowling equipment and supplies.
A number of state newspapers picked it up, including the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian and Springfield News-Leader. So far, I haven't been able to find a mention of the story on the Joplin Globe website or in its print edition.
Richard, of course, is the owner of five bowling facilities and would have benefited from the legislation.

Webb City Board opposes Whitmore-Smith nomination

Webb City R-7 Board of Education member Lucinda Copeland referred to State Board of Education appointee Donayle Whitmore-Smith as "the sweetheart' of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, during the board's December meeting.
The Friedman Foundation is a leading promoter of educational vouchers, a concept that was created in the 1950s by the late economist Milton Friedman.
The R-7 Board approved a resolution opposing Ms. Whitmore-Smith's appointment, according to the Dec. 15 Webb City Sentinel.
"I don't think that's good for the public education of Missouri," Ms. Copeland said. The board took the opposite approach to the Neosho R-5 Board of Education, which said it would wait to see how the legislators felt.
According to the Sentinel article, board member Ron Oney said the board needed to take action so Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, "knows how we feel."
The Senate will vote on the Whitmore-Smith nomination next month.
It was buried in the Wednesday Joplin Globe print edition, but the Carthage R-89 Board of Education also came out in opposition to Ms. Whitmore-Smith's nomination. According to Superintendent Gary Reed, Ms. Whitmore Smith "has virtually no background in public education, but has been linked to the founding of a private school in St. Louis based on Egyptian spiritualism." Her support of vouchers and tuition tax credits was also noted.

Senator leaning against Whitmore-Smith appointment

The St. Louis American, in a thoughtful examination of the educational voucher debate, quotes newly-elected Senator Jeff Smith as saying he is leaning against Gov. Matt Blunt's controversial appointment of voucher advocate Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education.
Smith is the senator for Ms. Whitmore-Smith's district and Blunt has indicated he will withdraw the appointment if Smith opposes it.
However, Smith leaves himself considerable room to change his mind:

In an email to a constituent Smith sent Tuesday, which was forwarded to the American, Smith wrote, "I do not support vouchers, and I am leaning towards opposing (Whitmore-Smith), but this nomination is about a person - it’s not a vote for or against vouchers. Thus I will not make her position on that a litmus test for my support or opposition."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Daily News: No races in near future for Talent; he may return to lobbying

Sen. Jim Talent, who was a lobbyist prior to his successful U. S. Senate win in 2002, may return to that field.
Wes Franklin has a revealing interview with Talent in the latest edition of the Neosho Daily News. In the interview, Talent, who lost to State Auditor Claire McCaskill in November, said he did not plan to run for office in the near future, though he does not rule out anything down the road.

His immediate plans:

But while holding office might be out for now, that doesn't necessarily include the realm of politics, with thoughts of lobbyist work holding some short term possibilities for the attorney from Chesterfield, Mo.

"I could, for example, try and associate with foundations that affect particular issues," he said. "...I'm going to continue and try and help my friends who are involved in public service and potentially do some consulting and some speaking. But I really don't know yet."
It wouldn't be a brand new world. Just before his election to the Senate, Talent worked for a time under Washington lobbying group Arent Fox.

Report: Simpson out the door at Joplin Globe

On Jan. 1, 2006, the Joplin Daily came online and published its first print edition. A little later in the year, two Joplin business weeklies, Joplin TriState Business and the Joplin Business Journal started.
Former Globe reporter John Hacker is hanging in there with the Daily, quite frequently scooping the Globe on Joplin stories. Former Globe reporter Jeff Wells has pounded the Globe on business-oriented stories and is turning TriState Business into a successful stealth competitor for the Globe.
Sadly, former Globe Editor Tom Murray died earlier this year, but his Joplin Business Journal is still publishing and has lately been the beneficiary of a major ad campaign.

As 2006 comes to a close, it appears that the frantic competition between these publications for Joplin stories will lose a major figure. I have received a report from a reliable source that Edgar Simpson, who has been the Globe's editor for nearly a decade is on his way out.

Reportedly, Simpson is taking a job in the state of Ohio attorney general's office. Before coming to Joplin in 1998, Simpson served as metro editor and managing editor of the Tribune-Chronicle in Warren, Ohio, and dealt with incoming attorney general Marc Dann, a Democrat from Warren.

Richard: Bowling bill may resurface

Associated Press posted the story today about the decision by Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to withdraw his bill which would have eliminated sales tax on bowling, bowling equipment, and supplies.
Richard, of course, runs a bowling company.
The idea may not be dead, however:

Richard said he decided to wait and see what tax policy changes Gov. Matt Blunt proposes next year and determine if his bowling tax break idea fits in.
But he said he sees no problem with proposing a law exempting bowling alley owners from paying state and local sales taxes on purchases for their business even as he runs running a bowling company.
"I guess it indirectly would help me," he said. "I don't care about all that. I'm chair of Economic Development (Committee). Anytime I can help small businesses stay in business, I'm in favor of that. If it turns out to be controversial to keep Mom and Pop doing business, that's OK with me."

Of course, it is not mentioned in the story that this bill that would have benefited Richard is the only piece of legislation he has prefiled, or that it was dropped like a hot potato after it was publicized in this blog. Apparently, Associated Press came up with the idea for this story on its own.

Attorney general seeks complete accounting from Carthage Humane Society

Attorney General Jay Nixon, in a news release issued earlier today, said he is seeking a complete financial accounting of the Carthage Humane Society. The group, according to the release, faces allegations of

Nixon seeks court order for financial accounting of Carthage Humane Society "taking assets for personal use, gross mismanagement and animal abuse."

The news release continues:

Earlier this fall Nixon requested records and documentation from the Carthage Humane Society after receiving several complaints. The requests were necessary in order to investigate allegations raised in the complaints. To date, the Carthage Humane Society has produced an incomplete and insufficient set of records, Nixon said, making it impossible for the Attorney General's Office to complete its investigation and determine if the corporation has complied with state law.

"My office has a duty to ensure that non-profit organizations are using their assets in a manner consistent with Missouri laws," Nixon said. "We have been unable to do so due to the Carthage Humane Society's refusal to provide us with an accounting of its corporate assets and activities that we need. Perhaps an order of the court will get their attention."

Nixon is asking for the following records covering the period of Jan. 1, 2001 to the present in the petition for accounting, filed today in Jasper County Circuit Court:

* Names and dates of service for all individuals who have served as directors of
officers of CHS;

* List of all payments made to CHS's directors of officers;

* Detailed financial statements, audited or unaudited, including income and
expense reports, balance sheets
and the board-approved annual budget, along with copies of all audits conducted;

* Copies of all credit card statements for all CHS credit cards and list of
authorized users of CHS credit cards, along with copies of receipts for all
expenses reimbursed by CHS;

* Copies of the monthly statements for all CHS bank accounts;

* All donation records and receipts from all fund raising events held; and

* A detailed explanation of CHS's policies regarding treatment and euthanasia decisions, adoption procedures and foster placement procedures.

Blunt works to shore up Whitmore-Smith nomination

Seeking to shore up his nomination of embattled voucher supporter Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education, Governor Matt Blunt today sent Senator Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, a file of letters supporting her. Blunt has said he will not push forward with the nomination if Smith, the senator from Ms. Whitmore-Smith's district, does not approve of her.
In a news release, Blunt played the African-American card, noting that he had appointed Ms. Whitmore-Smith and Rev. Stan Archie, both of whom are African-American, to the board. According to the news release:

If the Senate approves Whitmore-Smith, she would be the only African-American parent of school age children serving on the board. Last week, Blunt appointed another African-American to the State Board of Education, Reverend Stanley Archie of Kansas City.

This seems to be an attempt on Blunt's part to add a racist element to anyone who dares oppose the appointment of African-Americans to the State Board of Education. What is not mentioned anywhere in the news release is the reason for the opposition. Ms. Whitmore-Smith has been a longtime supporter of vouchers and has always showed contempt for public schools. While Rev. Archie does not have the baggage that Ms. Whitmore-Smith carries, he, too, is a supporter of vouchers and the latest euphemism for them, tuition tax credits.

The release continues:

"Donayle Whitmore-Smith has the qualifications and background to serve in this post and help our children get the education they need to be successful," Blunt said. "She will also bring a diversity of opinion to the state’s school board. Many others agree that she is the right choice for the State Board of Education. I know Donayle would appreciate the support of her incoming State Senator and we hope that he will consider the many letters we have received endorsing her appointment."

The release continues:

The letters of support for Whitmore-Smith range from parents who sent their children to the school that Whitmore-Smith founded, to a Governor Carnahan appointee to the Coordinating Board of Higher Education, to a university administrator, to the President/CEO of the Urban League of St. Louis, to a member from the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations’ Educational Committee, to Missouri citizens who strongly support the governor’s position regarding a need for a diversity of opinions on the state’s school board.

The only diversity Governor Blunt is seeking is to appoint people who agree with the views of his supporters, All Children Matter and other voucher advocates, that the only way to repair a public school system which Blunt claims is broken, is to appoint people who are willing to divert public money to private schools. To make that assertion, and then to play the race card on top of that, is truly despicable.

Star editorial: State must improve oversight of group homes

In an editorial in today's edition, the Kansas City Star says the state must improve its oversight of group homes and it questions Attorney General Jay Nixon's assertion that convicted felon Robert Dupont was "secretly" operating the Anderson Guest House and three other area Guest House facilities:

Attorney General Jay Nixon has filed a lawsuit against DuPont and his wife, LaVerne DuPont, and River of Life Ministries, saying that DuPont had been secretly operating the business.
It doesn't seem much of a secret, however.

The Star editorial echoes State Auditor Claire McCaskill's call for improved inspection of state facilities and better staffing.

LaBarge receives $5 million contract

Work on LaBarge's new $5 million contract to supply cockpit wiring harnesses for Black Hawk helicopters will be done at the company's Joplin plant, according to a news release:

The LaBarge-built wiring harnesses will be installed in cockpits of the UH-60M and HH-60L Medevac models of the BLACK HAWK. LaBarge was awarded a $2.2 million contract from Kaman in late 2005 to provide cockpit wiring harnesses for other BLACK HAWK models. Like the previous award, the work on this latest contract will be done at LaBarge's Joplin, Mo., facility. Production on this contract is expected to begin this month and continue through early 2008.

Champion: No time for group home legislation

Sen. Norma Champion was put on the hotseat in today's Springfield News-Leader. Apparently a faulty memory keeps her from recalling how it was that Sen. Tim Green's legislation to improve safety measures for group homes never made it out of the Aging, Families, Mental and Public Health Committee last year. Ms. Champion is the chairman of that committee.
The committee's failure to move that legislation to the House floor, first noted in the Dec. 4 Turner Report, appears to be a grievous oversight in the wake of the Anderson Guest House fire in which 10 people died.
Tracy Swartz' article in today's News-Leader puts Ms. Champion on the record:

State Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, who heads the committee, said lack of time probably prevented the committee from taking up the issue.
"I expect that will be something that we will be revisiting," said Champion, who likely will be reassigned to the mental health committee. "We'll be looking much more closely at all the facilities to make sure they'll be regulated properly."

Apparently, Ms. Champion's memory is not too sharp when it comes to legislation that could save lives.

It's a shame that it takes the deaths of 10 people for Ms. Champion and her committee to consider the plight of the mentally disabled worth addressing.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Richard withdraws bowling bill

HB150, which would have eliminated sales tax on bowling, as well as bowling equipment and supplies, was withdrawn by its sponsor Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, today.
The bill, which was mentioned in the Dec. 18 Turner Report, was the only piece of legislation prefiled by Richard for the 2007 legislative session.
As I pointed out, Richard works with C & N Bowl Corporation, which has two Joplin bowling locations, as well as three in Arkansas, and is on the Legislative Committee of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America.

Nodler considering bid for statewide office

We should have seen this one coming.
32nd District State Senator Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has filed papers with the Missouri Ethics Commission indicating he may seek statewide office in 2012.
Nodler, who will begin his second and final term in January, indicated on the document, which was scanned into the state system Dec. 7, (providing another constant reminder of a date that will live in infamy) that he will seek an "undetermined" state office in the Aug. 7, 2012 primary.
The filing was made only a week after Nodler filed papers indicating he would run for an "undetermined" statewide office in August 2010. Apparently, he decided had no interest in running for state auditor. That filing also indicated that Tom Flanigan is no longer serving as Nodler's treasurer, and has been replaced by Joncee Nodler, the senator's wife.

Another board comes out against Whitmore-Smith

Add the Bunceton School Board to the ever-growing list of those which are opposed to Governor Matt Blunt's appointment of voucher proponent Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education.
According to an article in the Boonville Daily News:

In 2005 Whitmore-Smith reported to School Reform News, a pro-voucher publication, that she had attended private schools until high school and her experience at a public school was "hell." She continued to say, "Academically, it just couldn't match what I had been getting (in private school.)"
"She (Whitmore-Smith) shows a clear animosity against public schools. She has the right to feel the way she does and believe how she does, but she should not be able to make important decisions on the State Board of Education," said Battles.
Whitmore-Smith was a leading proponent of an unsuccessful pro-voucher legislation that was considered this year in the General Assembly.
In 2001, Whitmore-Smith opened a private charter school program known as Ptah Academy of Arts and Science. The school's curriculum drew on ancient spiritualism. The name Ptah refers to an Egyptian god. During school, the students meditated under ribbons of incense, ate organic meals and practiced yoga. The charter school experiment failed and was closed last year.
After some discussion, the school board unanimously signed a resolution opposing the appointment of Donayle Whitmore-Smith to the State Board of Education and asking the members of the Senate to oppose the Whitmore-Smith's appointment.

Ms. Whitmore-Smith is just one of three voucher and tuition tax credit supporters appointed by Blunt to the state board. The most recent is Rev. Stan Archie of Kansas City. The first, which was completely overlooked by the media and the blogosphere was the governor's appointment of Debi Demien of Wentzville. More information about Mrs. Demien can be found in the Dec. 17 Turner Report.

Corky Simpson featured in Wellington, Kan. newspaper

Longtime Tucson Citizen sports columnist Corky Simpson, who is retiring this month, is featured in an article in the Wellington, Kan. Daily News. Simpson began his long sports journalism career in the 1960s as sports editor of The Carthage Press.
The article also features information on Corky's book.
The anthology covers all the sports, plus a handful of columns not sports-related — the passing of television's Mr. Rogers, 'Peanuts' comic strip creator Charles Schulz and Bob Hope, who was a regular visitor to Tucson:

There’s one yarn, all true, about a golfer who missed the green by 238,700 miles, a tribute to Mickey Mantle (even though Simpson is a lifelong Yankee hater) and a poem in honor of the greatest of Yankees, Joe DiMaggio. Simpson interviewed them all — the golfer (Astronaut Alan Shepard), Mantle and DiMaggio.

Fire Safety report on Anderson Guest House issued

The Missouri Division of Fire Safety issued its report on the Anderson Guest House fire earlier today. Information from that report is featured in a Joplin Globe article by ever-reliable Jeff Lehr:

The report concludes that the cause of the fire that killed 10 people and injured about two dozen remains undetermined. But it also notes that it most likely began in the attic on the north end of the building, and that an electrical short in that area could not be eliminated as a possible cause. Bill Zieres, deputy chief of investigations for the state division, said the maintenance man’s short-circuiting of the electrical line is a possible cause of the fire. "But we also could not rule out a pre-existing problem with the wiring in the attic," Zieres said.

The information was also included in David Lieb's Associated Press article.

State officials don't buy Moark explanation

One service the media performs often gets overlooked because it is so simple. Reporters ask questions to get politicians, business owners, and others who happen to be in the news, to go on the record.
Many times the results are fascinating.
A case in point is Wes Franklin's article in today's Neosho Daily News on the state citing Moark for two odor violations:

The company's vice president of operations, Dan Hudgens, told the Daily News that what put odors over the limit were problems at the time with the filtering system inside the compost facility compound, also referred to as the Farmer Automatic Building (FAB). He said while the facility has been completely enclosed, they have experienced some difficulties with the building's scrubber - an air pollution control device that acts much like a filtering system. Hudgens said the original scrubber was a selsor pad soaked with water, but said it didn't always seem to block out foul smells.
"It hasn't worked as well as we had hoped," Hudgens said.
He noted Moark intends to incorporate new technology into the scrubber device, though he wasn't certain of the exact details involved. Hudgens stated that at the time the excessive odor readings were taken, the scrubber was shut down for readjustment in preparation for those newer developments. This was the answer Hudgens said was given to the DNR in Moark's response to both notices of excessive emissions.
However, after review, the DNR's Air Pollution Control Program wasn't convinced and filed the odor violation charges against Moark on Thursday of last week.

Jan. 9 hearing set in McDonald County cult case

A Jan. 9 arraignment is scheduled in McDonald County Circuit Court for Laura Epling, Washburn, who faces statutory sodomy charges in connection with the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church sex cult investigation. The hearing will be conducted by Judge Tim Perigo.

Mrs. Epling was bound over for trial following a preliminary hearing Monday. Details of her alleged crime were provided in Jeff Lehr's article in today's Joplin Globe.

Devil's Messenger available at Hastings

My second novel, Devil's Messenger, should be on the shelves at Hastings in Joplin sometime today or tomorrow at the latest.
We are planning to have a signing at Hastings sometime in mid-to-late January. The book is also available through various Internet sources, including, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million. The Devil's Messenger pages on those sites can be reached on the book's website's links page.

The book will cost $13.95 plus tax at Hastings.

The price of my first novel, Small Town News, has been reduced to $14.95 at the Joplin store.

Trane McCloud: putting duty first

In the Dec. 11 Turner Report, I reprinted Speaker of the House Rod Jetton's thoughts about the death of his close friend, Trane McCloud, in Iraq.
Jetton shared more thoughts about Lt. McCloud in his latest column, which is reprinted below:

I remember an old Colonel giving a speech to all the young officer recruits back in Boot Camp. He told us about the Marine Corps and what being a Marine was all about. This talk always stuck in my mind because he said, "There is an easy way and a hard way. Marines always take the hard way. Marines don't take shortcuts; we work harder, fight harder and think smarter."

This was new to me and seemed wrong. High school and college was about finding a better and easier way to do everything. Our teachers and society pushed taking the path of least resistance. I didn't know exactly what he meant at first. The Col. gave examples using past wars where U.S. Marines made tough decisions, and won battles that changed American history. He pointed out that many times their decisions made it harder on those Marines. Sometimes they even lost more lives when faced with a tough choice, but they always accomplished the mission and followed their orders.

I can't remember the name of the Colonel who gave us that talk, but it might as well have been Trane. He never took shortcuts. He always knew what the Marine Corps rules and regulations were, and he always kept us on track. He was calm and cool in all situations and nothing ever seemed to ruffle his feathers.

In time, I came to understand better what the Colonel was saying, but I have always been a rebel. The Marine Corps is hard on rebels. They want team players that will work hard, follow orders, be smart and do their duty. That's why the Corps was so good for me. I learned to depend on other people. I learned that, no matter how good I was, if I worked with others I could accomplish much bigger things. By myself, I was helpless on the battlefield.

By the time I met Trane he already knew these things, and he is a big reason I learned some of these lessons. Now, I don't want to paint a picture of Trane as some robot that just said, "Yes, sir." He was far from that. His last name is McCloud, which is Scots-Irish, and he was VERY stubborn. If you were doing things right he never said much, but if he thought you were not doing it the best way he would calmly give you his thoughts. The thing we loved about Trane was he didn't care if you were a fellow Lt. or the commanding general, he wasn't afraid to speak up and correct you.

We had this captain who wasn't a very good commander. This drove me crazy, because, back then, I always had a better idea of how to do things and I liked being in charge. This guy made following orders very difficult for all of us.

As a junior officer I learned there are a lot of politics in the military. To be promoted you have to be ranked high by your commanders. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of what we called, "butt-kissing" by some officers. For me this was no problem.

I joined the military to help win the first war against Iraq. By the time I joined the Corps and graduated from officer school the war was won even without my help Trane had seen to that. I was focused on making sure my unit was ready for combat and learning as much as I could that would help me be successful after I finished my four-year tour. So making a captain or colonel mad wasn't a big concern for me.

Remember, Trane wanted to stay in the Corps and make a career out of it. He should have been focused on keeping the commanders happy and getting credit for anything good he could. But that's not Trane McCloud. Trane wanted things done right. He was a perfectionist. He had been in a war, and he was more concerned with doing things right than getting promoted. I worried about him. He was just the kind of leader we needed to stay in the Corps and be promoted. Even though I was getting out, my Marine Corps time showed me how important career military professionals are to our country's security.

I used to get so frustrated thinking I had to take orders from this Captain who clearly couldn't lead the local Boy Scout troop in a parade through Marble Hill without messing it up. While a real leader like Trane might not get promoted because he had the courage to question orders and offer suggestions.

Fortunately, Trane was promoted and my faith in Corps was restored. He had a great career. After we returned from our six-month float he went to some specialized recon training and went back out with the 24 MUE (Marine Expeditionary Unit) for another six-month float. As a new captain, he was assigned to be a public affairs officer where he reported news for the Marine Corps and Navy. During this time, he went back to college and earned a masters degree in Journalism.

Like all Infantry Officers he wanted to get back into the fleet and command Marines. He was then chosen to be a company commander and soon after was promoted to Major. As a Major he was assigned to be the Assistant Operations Officer for the 2nd battalion 3rd Marines (2/3). He then commanded the Marine Security Element for the Joint Special Operations task Force-Pacific in Zamboanga, Republic of the Philippines.

Following his fleet tour he went back to a desk job, and was selected for the Congressional Fellowship Program, which put him in Washington D.C. He worked for Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. I was able to visit Trane and Maggie during his time in Washington. He did a great job for the Corps and made some good connections while working on Capitol Hill, but like all good Marines he wanted to get back to the fleet with the troops.

In April he received orders stationing him and his family in Hawaii, and somehow he managed to get a slot as the operations officer for his old battalion--2/3 was scheduled to deploy to Iraq last August. The interesting thing about this job is he really didn't have to do it. One thing that helps you get promoted in the Marine Corps is doing different jobs at each rank.

As I mentioned before, he had already spent time as a battalion operations officer. At the time he was headed to Hawaii, he was in the zone to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. His plan was to go out, do a float, keep his men alive, keep us safe and come back home. Then he would hopefully be promoted and have the chance to command a battalion of his own.

That's the kind of Marine Trane was. He volunteered to do a job he didn't have to do, because he cared about his men and he always tried to accomplish the mission. He loved his wife, he loved his children and even though the hardship of being away from them for so long was tough, Trane knew the men in 2/3 and wanted to do his part.

While he was in Iraq he was selected to be promoted to Lt. Colonel. First you have to be in the zone, then you get selected and finally they officially promote you. Trane was posthumously promoted to Lt. Colonel after his death.

It is taking me a bit longer than I planned to tell you about my friend. I will stop for now, but next week I want to share a bit about his family and the service in Arlington. I hope you don't mind me sharing my thoughts about Trane. I know the world has to keep going, but when you lose somebody like him, who was willing to give so much for us, I just think it's good to stop and think about what he did for all of us.