Friday, July 31, 2009

Text of Nodler/Icet Career Ladder letter provided

Following is the text of the letter sent by Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, chairmen of the Senate and House Budget Committees, to Dr. Bert Schulte, commissioner of the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

Commissioner Schulte:

This letter is to inform you of the intent of the 95th General Assembly, First Regular Session with regard to the operating appropriation for the Career Ladder Program.

It is the intent of the General Assembly that the FY 2010 appropriation for Career Ladder will be the last appropriation made in arrears for this program. The General Assembly cannot assure that participants in the Career Ladder Program for the 2009-210 school year and beyond will be supported by state appropriation, and these potential participants should be notified of these changes.

The General Assembly reserves the right to appropriate money for the Career Ladder program for future years in advance of the school year rather than in arrears, if state revenues allow.

Please feel free to contact the staffs of the House Budget Committee or Senate Appropriations Committee for additional assistance.

The letter is signed by Nodler and Icet and dated June 15.

Tomorrow is the first day of August. Six weeks have passed since this letter was sent out, and we are just now learning about this?

Nodler: Career ladder money for teachers on chopping block

It appears our General Assembly, which rails each year about the quality of education in Missouri, is about to try something drastic to improve the situation...cutting the amount of money teachers are paid.

The Columbia Missourian reports our own Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a candidate for U. S Congress, and Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, a candidate for state auditor, wrote a letter to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, saying that money for the Career Ladder program may be cut. Nodler and Icet are the chairmen, respectively, of the Senate and House budget committees:

Nodler, R-Joplin, said Friday there is no opposition to the program. It's just a matter of being able to pay back the district since state revenue is down.

“If you are going to do this, do this in a way that you won't make promises to teachers that you can't keep,” said Nodler, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Career Ladder funding is used to pay for teachers for after hour tutoring programs, homework centers, educational extracurricular activity sponsorship, and attendance at seminars and workshops that are not covered under the teachers' regular contracts, in other words, exactly the kind of things that are necessary to keep children in school and improve the quality of education. Teachers become eligible for Career Ladder after they have taught five years in Missouri. It was set up as a means of improving the pay level of veteran teachers, who are often the ones who receive short shrift as schools continue to improve the pay level for beginning teachers.

Admittedly, I am prejudiced on this subject. I receive $3,000 each year from Career Ladder, which I earn through a number of activities including sponsoring the school academic team, sponsoring a journalism club, serving as chairman of the school's Writing Improvement Committee, and serving on the Discipline Committee, as well as attending numerous after-school meetings.

Lineup announced for Joplin's third conservative talk radio station

The following lineup has been announced for 1230 AM, "The Talker," when it makes it debut Monday, Aug. 3.

-Rick and Bubba, 5 to 8 a.m.
-Laura Ingraham, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
-Dr. Laura Schlesinger, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
-Dave Ramsey, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
-Dennis Miller, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
-John Gibson, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
-Dave Ramsey rerun, 9 p.m. to 12 midnight

For those who find John Gibson as insufferable as I do, the good news appears to be that "The Talker" will continue airing St. Louis Cardinals, Joplin High School, Missouri Southern State University and MU sports, which means Gibson will be preempted often.

Other than the sports, it does not appear "The Talker" will include any local talk programming.

Campaign kickoff event set for Billy Long

The kickoff event for Billy Long's campaign for the GOP nomination for Seventh District Congress is set for 3:30 p.m. Sunday a Diamond Ridge Market in PFI Town, 2816 S. Ingram Mill Road, Springfield.

The event is open to the public.

Aug. 28 preliminary hearing set for accused killers of Carthage couple

Preliminary hearings for the two men accused of murdering Bob and Ellen Sheldon, owners of the Old Cabin Shop of Carthage on Oct. 11, have been scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 28 in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, are charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and a single count of burglary.

Missouri Housing Development Commission okays ethics reform

The following news release was issued this morning by Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel's office:

The Missouri Housing Development Commission unanimously passed comprehensive ethics reform today that will bring increased transparency, accountability and enforcement to the housing agency.

"By implementing significant professional and accountable reforms that increase transparency and create enforceable rules, MHDC is now a state leader on ethics reform," said Treasurer Zweifel, who oversaw his first meeting as chair of the organization. "The reforms address removing personal conflicts of interest among commissioners and require applicants coming before the commission to fully disclose ownership interests. For the first time, enforceable penalties are provided for violations."

The reformed Standards of Conduct specifically address the following:

· Commissioners and staff shall identify personal financial conflicts of interest, disclose them publicly and then recuse from making recommendations, discussing and voting on related matters.

· Commissioners and employees shall not have business relationships with applicants coming before the commission for its resources. A violation will result in a two-year ban on the applicant coming before the commission for MHDC benefits.

· Ensures MHDC is following state law on waiting periods for former employees and commissioners leaving the commission to work for applicants. Additionally, applicants may not establish employment with a current commissioner or director. Doing so will result in a two-year ban on the applicant coming before the commission for MHDC benefits.

· Applicants for MHDC resources must disclose the principal owners, along with consultants, attorneys, accountants and others to tell the story of who is coming before the commission. A violation will result in a two-year ban on the applicant coming before the commission for MHDC benefits.

"Including this reform, the agency has had great successes recently, including being the first to allow first-time homebuyers to claim the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit upfront to help with home purchase and continuing to invest in affordable housing throughout Missouri," Treasurer Zweifel said. "Now we can turn our attention to leveraging taxpayer resources and situating MHDC to have an increased role in economic development."

Treasurer Zweifel said he looked forward to his next meeting as chair of MHDC.

"I want to thank my fellow commissioners, especially those serving on the Standards of Conduct Committee, for their efforts on this initiative," Treasurer Zweifel said. "I look forward to working with them to advance the mission of MHDC."

The next regular meeting of MHDC is scheduled for August 28.

John Hacker named Carthage Press managing editor

Sources tell me that today's Carthage Press will include an announcement that John Hacker is the new managing editor.

Hacker, from my understanding, will have something of the same arrangement I had when I held that position. He will be a reporting editor, making the decisions and directing news coverage, but leaving most of the page pushing to other staff members.

Hacker is in his third stint with The Press. He worked for me in 1995 while he was attending Missouri Southern State College, and then returned to the newspaper from August 1998 to May 1999, and again after GateHouse Media shut down the Joplin Daily two years ago.

In between, Hacker's journalism experiences have included a job with a Baxter Springs newspaper, two turns with the Joplin Globe, and news director at 1310 KBTN when it was attempting to be an all-news station.

The promotion of Hacker should come as welcome news to Press readers who have been waiting since the firing of Ron Graber for a sign that GateHouse takes the news management of The Carthage Press seriously.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Schweich, Icet speak to Newton County Republicans

Former Ambassador Tom Schweich told a Newton County crowd Tuesday night that if he is elected state auditor in 2010 he will take care of the corruption, cronyism, abuse, fraud, and waste" connected with federal stimulus money. Schweich and his opponent, Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, spoke at a Republican watermelon feed in Big Spring Park.

Icet launched a verbal attack on State Auditor Susan Montee. "She likes the idea of bigger government, higher taxes, and less freedom."

The accompanying videos, just as the ones I posted of former Senator John Danforth Tuesday night, is wobbly. I will try to do better next time:

McClatchy investigation gives lowdown on birthers

A McClatchy Newspapers investigation on the birther movement includes a brief passage about Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, who attended a birther meeting in Missouri.

The people who are behind the movement are profiled and almost every one of them is someone who has peddled ludicrious conspiracy theories before:

Marked by accusations and backstabbing, it's the story of how a small but intense movement called "birthers" rose from a handful of people prone to seeing conspiracies, aided by the Internet, magnified without evidence by eager radio and cable TV hosts, and eventually ratified by a small group of Republican politicians working to keep the story alive on the floors of Congress and the campaign trails of the Midwest.

It's a powerful story about what experts call political paranoia over a new face in a time of anxiety and rapid change — the sort of viral message that can take hold among a sliver of the populace that's ready to believe that the new president is a fraud, and just as ready to angrily dismiss anyone who disagrees as part of the conspiracy.

Rise in newspaper stocks not necessarily a sign things are better

Profits and stock prices are up at newspaper companies such as Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader, and McClatchy, owner of the Kansas City Star, but that does not necessarily mean prosperity is right around the corner.

Alan D. Mutter, formerly an editor with the San Francisco Chronicle and Chicago Sun-Times, notes on his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, that much of the profits posted by the newspaper companies come from one-time efforts such as firings, eliminating days of the week of publication, and debt restructuring:

As much as these measures helped bolster profits, they are one-time expediencies that cannot be repeated if sales continue to fall in the future at anything like the rate they have been dropping in recent years.

It is impossible to fire an employee who already has been fired, to eliminate a weekend supplement that already has been discontinued or to idle a press line that already has been scrapped. That’s not to mention such unrepeatable maneuvers as eliminating print production on certain days of the week, migrating to web-only publication or shutting a paper altogether.

Cynthia Davis: I love guns

No, the picture that accompanies this post does not show a new method being employed by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, to end hunger among Missouri schoolchildren. In her latest capital report, Mrs. Davis assures us she was scared of one guns at one time, but now she loves them. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The National Rifle Association gave me an “A” rating, but it was not for my marksmanship. It was for my laser beam accuracy in my voting record. Even though I don’t hunt or shoot guns at target ranges, I have a very strong commitment to preserving our freedom to own guns.

Guns used to scare me. I don’t enjoy watching movies like westerns or thrillers because of the gun violence. I don’t even like most X-box games for the same reason. However, last week I took a class on concealed weapons and the world is now a safer place! Before taking this class, I was scared of guns. Stop and think for a moment, those that wish harm on others are even more afraid of encountering someone who is capable of protecting themselves.

As much as I don’t like violence, I can’t deny its existence. Having a concealed weapon is parallel to having a fire extinguisher in your home. Having one does not guarantee a fire-proof home, but you’re much safer if you have one! Statistics show a community with armed citizens is safer than a community of disarmed citizens.

For me, it is part of taking personal responsibility for our own safety. Certainly if I were walking down a dark alley at night, I would rather be with a trained friend with a gun than next to a nice guy with a great personality.

History is riddled with stories of corrupt groups and governments beginning their horrors by disarming the people. My grandfather told us stories of the Turks disarming the Armenians shortly before they started the genocide that destroyed his brothers, sisters and father. Hitler did the same in Germany. Our founding fathers put the second amendment into the constitution so that we would have some way to protect ourselves against evildoers and lawlessness if all else fails. While it seems like a paradox, it is philosophically pro-life. We respect life enough that we are willing to defend it if threatened by an evil perpetrator!

The charming City of Hallsville played host to our class for the day. I had the best hamburger in years at the Route B Diner. The instructor, Tim Oliver, showed extreme patience with me at the Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club shooting range. The only harm done was that my arms got sunburned from standing in the full sun at the range. If you want to learn more about this you can go to:

While I never thought I wanted to carry a gun, I have to acknowledge that gun ownership is a very important part of our heritage and preserving our freedom.

Video: Nixon answers questions about e. coli report

In a video that can be found at this link, Gov. Jay NIxon answers questions from reporters about the e. coli report.

Blunt trying to have it both ways with birther issue

In response to Rich Chrismer's claim that comments his boss, U. S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt, saying he did not see why President Barack Obama could not provide a birth certificate, were taken out of context, the blogger who posted the original comments, has posted his entire conversations. Judging from the videos, which are included in this post, Blunt was playing politics. It is obvious Blunt knows the birther conspiracy theories are ridiculous, but he also does not want to lose the votes of anyone who might support him.

Crowell offers thoughts on state bonding

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, offers the following op-ed piece on whether the state of Missouri should becoming involved in state bonding:

I am neither blindly opposed nor blindly supportive of state bonding; I do have questions I raise for meaningful discussion and analysis in the spirit of due diligence to ensure fiscal accountability and oversight. These include: What is the real net interest rate comparison between the Build America Bonds (BABs) program and Missouri’s Tax Exempt Bonds (TEBs)? Can we afford bonding? And, what are the projects to be bonded?

According to Senate Appropriations, as the bond market stands today, Missouri could issue TEBs, by a vote of the people, at an interest rate of 4%. Through the Federal Government we would be able to issue BAB taxable bonds at an interest rate of 5.6%, but the Federal Government will pay 35% of the total interest on the BAB bonds. In terms of real dollars being spent, if we were to issue $100 million in TEBs over 25 years we will have to pay approximately $60 million in interest. Taxpayers would pay approximately $83 million in interest on the BAB, but since the Federal Government will pay 35%, or $29 million, of the interest there would be a net interest cost of approximately $54 million. So using today’s interest rates we would save around $6 million over a 25-year period, which is $240,000 per year, going with BABs. But it is important to note that whether TEBs or BABs are utilized, taxpayers on the State and/or Federal level are the ones responsible for paying the interest. The money comes from taxpayers.

Additionally, BABs have a deadline of January 1, 2011, by which Missouri must have completed the issuance of the total amount intended to borrow. Recent talk of a bonding proposal to complete all the state’s capital improvement needs has been conservatively approximated at around $800 million and I have heard estimates that are upward of $1 billion. Once either of the bonds are issued, we must immediately start making payments towards the principle and of course the interest. (TEBs have no deadline, but interest rates change according to the economic climate). This means that instead of borrowing the entire amount in a single lump sum as with BABs, we could issue out TEBs for specific projects, as necessary, realizing "cash flow" savings.

Another issue surrounding a bonding proposal is whether we can afford to incur more debt. It is my understanding that in December 2007, the general assembly initially estimated a 3.4% growth of general revenue (GR) for FY09. This was revised in December 2008 to a decline of 4.0%. As of today, GR has declined to 6.7% and could fall even lower. In dollar terms, the difference between 3.4% growth and a 7.0% decline is approximately $785 million. The FY09 budget was crafted with a growth assumption of 3.4%, but we left $390 million unspent. The combination of this unspent balance, the governor’s withholdings/vetoes, and the governor transferring $250 million from the enhanced Medicaid payments to GR is how the FY09 budget was balanced. The FY10 budget is based on an initial consensus estimate of 1.0% growth, but this was based on FY09 revenues that only declined 4.0%, not 7.0%. Even if we hit the 1.0% growth rate in FY10, the governor would still need to withhold funds to balance the budget, which he has done.

We have spent approximately $711 million of Federal Stabilization funds on on-going programs in the FY10 budget. This left us $966 million in Federal Stabilization funds to be used in the FY11 budget, but after the FY10 budget was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed, Governor Nixon used a "wildcard transfer" to move $250 million into FY09 GR. This leaves us enough to replace what we spent in FY10, but nothing to help our anticipated GR deficit in future state fiscal years. The Governor would need to withhold even more items than he already has, an additional $250 million, to get us back up to the Federal funds level of $966 million for FY11’s budget. The severe economic downturn has left real problems in Missouri’s fiscal situation, maybe not to the extent of other states like California or Illinois, but this fiscal crisis exists even without incurring more debt from a capital improvement bonding proposal. With this in mind, a careful cost benefit analysis of any bonding is necessary. We must not issue debt we can not afford to pay off and we should not issue bonds just for the sake of issuing bonds.

An issue being discussed in favor of bonding is that the debt service on the Third State Building Fund will expire in two years. Proponents state that the same revenue stream will pay for most of this new "Fifth State Building fund" with only minor additional strain on the budget. However, according to Senate Appropriations, the payments on the Third State bonds go from $33 million in FY11 to $5 million in FY12 & FY13 and $0 in FY14 and beyond. This is a savings of $28 million in FY12 & FY13, but our overall debt service on general obligation bonds only drops $14 million in FY12 and $23 million in FY13 because the payments on some of our other general obligation bonds increases. The amount of funds freed up to pay off any new bonds is not as much as it would appear to be by just looking at what happens with the Third State bonds. In addition, it appears that Missouri will still be in a difficult financial position in FY12 & FY13, so any freed up GR could be used to help reduce the amount of core cuts to state programs in those years.

Finally, I have yet to come across a list of all the "needed" buildings or what the bond proceeds will be used for. I also haven’t seen any projections as to how many jobs might be created or how much the economy will benefit from this investment. I do know however, that the Joint Committee on Capital Improvements and Leases Oversight pursuant to the charge of Speaker Richard and President Pro-Tem Shields has been meeting and will continue to meet regarding this issue. In my opinion, a comprehensive list should be developed before any bonding is approved by the General Assembly and thus sent to the people of Missouri for their approval at the next general election.

Again, I reiterate that I am neither blindly supportive nor blindly opposed to bonding. I seek only thoughtful discussion on the issues I raise herein. I stand willing to continue examining bonding with an open mind and I ask for your thoughts on this important matter.

Prominent Republicans repudiate birthers; no mention of Blunt, however

Prominent Republicans and conservatives are getting as far away as they can from the fringe birthers, an article in Talking Points Memo notes. Listed as repudiating the people who keep insisting that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president are such names as Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele as prominent conservative leaders who are not giving any credence to the birthers.

As far as I can tell Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt has not distanced himself from the birthers following his statement that he did not know why Obama could not produce a birth certificate. As noted in an earlier post today, Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer said the video in which Blunt clearly makes the statement was edited (Chrismer did not tell us what Blunt said that would make the quote sound any different) and that Blunt, unlike Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan, is willing to speak on the issues.

Apparently, Blunt is also willing to speak on the non-issues.

City of Joplin to vigorously defend against Burcham lawsuit

The following news release was issued this afternoon by the city of Joplin regarding the lawsuit filed by former Rep. Tom Burcham, R-Farmington:

In recent weeks there has been much discussion regarding a potential lawsuit against the City of Joplin by Tom Burcham, a southeastern Missouri lawyer and former state legislator from Farmington, for what Burcham calls “tax stacking” – having more than one sales tax. The City was recently notified that the petition was filed in the Circuit Court of Jasper County late last week. The lawsuit relates to the City’s Public Safety Tax approved by voters in November 2006, which is a ½- cent tax that received voter support by a margin of 53% to 47%.

The lawsuit claims that Missouri cities are allowed only one general sales tax. The City of Joplin currently has a one-cent sales tax, passed in December 9, 1969, and with the passage of the ½-cent public safety tax in 2006, the City has two general sales taxes.

The Missouri Municipal League reports that more than 60-80 cities have multiple sales taxes as do numerous counties, and the authority to do so has long ago been acknowledged by the Department of Revenue as well as separate judicial authority as far back as 1991.

“It is a shame that the City will be forced to expend taxpayer money to defend this lawsuit,” said City Attorney Brian Head. “This tax originated from a citizen committee, was promoted by a grass-roots effort of the people, and was ratified by the voters. We believe that this lawsuit defies the will of the voters of Joplin, and the City will defend their intention vigorously.”
The lawsuit is one of many Burcham has filed across the state based on collection of pennies in sales taxes but seeking his personal attorney’s fees in each and every case.

Voters approved the ½-cent public safety sales tax in November 2006 and collections of the tax began in April 2007. Since then, approximately $12.4 million has been collected. Nearly $5 million has been used for stated purposes of the public safety tax including the hiring of 24 additional police officers, five detectives, and six firefighters. In addition, $398,000 has been utilized to provide wireless access capabilities and mobile data computers for public safety employees to make their work in the field more efficient and response-oriented. Some $20,000 has gone to the City’s streetlight program to brighten neighborhood and dark roadways.

Wells says so long to Joplin TriState Business; Chris Roberts is new editor

Jeff Wells, who has been editor of Joplin Tri-State Business since its first issue, penned a farewell column in the most recent issue.

His successor will be former Carthage Press reporter Chris Roberts, who has been a reporter for Tri-State Business.

1230 AM will convert to conservative talk Monday

I am sure this is by popular demand but 1230 AM, The Sports Fan, will become 1230 AM The Talker Monday, giving Joplin three conservative talk show stations.

KZRG's latest newsletter, issued today, notes that four KZRG shows, John Gibson, Dennis Miller, Laura Ingraham, and Dr. Laura Schlesinger, will move to the Talker, while KZRG will debut Mark Levin, who modestly refers to himself as "The Great One" from 5 to 8 p.m. and Jason Lewis from 8 to 11 p.m.

Reportedly Sean Hannity's program will move from KQYX, the third conservative talk station (the one not owned by Zimmer Group) early in 2010.

Reportedly, St. Louis Cardinals, Joplin High School, and Missouri Southern State University sports programming will remain on 1230 AM.

Blunt spokesman: Birther video was edited

U. S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt must be getting negative feedback from the release of a video showing him asking why President Obama cannot show a birth certificate.

Dave Catanese at KY3 Political Notebook tracked down Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer, who said, of all things, that the video was edited.

Of course, the video was edited. That is obvious from anyone watching it, especially since it goes back and forth between the rather obnoxious interviewer and various members of Congress. But at the same time, what Blunt said is clear.

In a statement to The Notebook, Blunt campaign spokesman Rich Chrismer said, "We encourage this blog to release the video of the entire interview instead of only the edited version which take his comments completely out of context."

"This is what happens when you talk to reporters and have press conferences. Things can be taken out of context when you open yourself up to media on a daily basis. We are not going to take the Robin Carnahan approach of dodging questions and hiding from the media," Chrismer said.

Chrismer is right on the money. Robin Carnahan must be dodging the issues. As far as I can recall, Blunt is the only one running for U. S. Senate from Missouri who has questioned why Obama can't provide a birth certificate.

Roy Blunt will discover that only the far fringe of his Republican base buys into this birther conspiracy theory. He needs to distance himself from it as quickly as possible.

Winans tabbed as the one who stabbed Carthage couple

Matt Laurins, 19, Springfield, one of two men charged with the Oct. 11 murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage, has fingered the other defendant, Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, as the man who stabbed the couple.

The grisly details of the crime, taken from the probable cause statement, are included in Jeff Lehr's article in today's Joplin Globe:

The affidavit filed to obtain an initial search warrant for the home states that deputies were called to the residence late on the morning of Oct. 12 after the couple’s son Danny Sheldon discovered their bodies.

Deputies found Ellen Sheldon lying on her back on the floor just inside a hallway door at the west entrance of the house. She had a stab wound to her chest, the affidavit states. Robert Sheldon was found seated in a chair in the living room. He had multiple stab wounds, the affidavit states.

Deputies noted a blood trail leading to the couple’s dog, which also had been stabbed to death. The document designates the location of the dog’s body in a small room between outer and inner west-entry doors.

Nixon says his office did not withold e. coli information

At a couple of stops Wednesday, Gov. Jay Nixon said his staff did not withhold information about e. coli contamination at Lake of the Ozarks:

Nixon said as soon as his chief of staff, John Watson, learned of the May 26 test results on June 23, Watson ordered DNR Director Mark Templeton to release the report, which he did on June 26.

"I would be pretty confident that whatever level of my senior staff was talking to whatever department out there, that we would be telling them to move information out as soon as they were aware of it," Nixon told reporters in Lee's Summit. "The record reflects, pretty clearly, that.

In his article, Springfield News-Leader report Chad Livengood notes that Nixon has not explained why e-mails the newspaper obtained through a freedom of information request indicate Department of Natural Resource Deputy Director Joe Bindbeutel requested the report weeks earlier for a visit to the governor's office.

DNR officials have admitted withholding information about the contamination to avoid hurting tourism.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blunt discusses health care on CSPAN

GOP seems to be forgetting something about Nixon, e.coli controversy

It did not take long for the Missouri Republican Party to jump on Springfield News-Leader reporter Chad Livengood's revelation that DNR e-mails indicate a top official was planning to tell Gov. Jay Nixon about e. coli contamination in the Lake of the Ozarks. The GOP news release is printed below, but it fails to mention one thing- Chad Livengood picked up the information from his story from e-mails obtained via a freedom of information request.

That same request would not have been likely to get results during Gov. Matt Blunt's administration and would definitely have not been fulfilled that quickly:

A review of e-mails and meeting minutes suggests that Governor Jay Nixon was involved in a decision to purposely withhold information from the public about E. coli in the Lake of the Ozarks, according to today’s Springfield News-Leader.

The article reports that Joe Bindbeutel, then-Deputy DNR Director and longtime Nixon confidante, requested the secret E coli data for a meeting in the governor’s office. The minutes of a later meeting between DNR employees and the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance declare that the tests have “drawn the attention of the Director of DNR as well as Governor Nixon.”

“The evidence continues to mount that Jay Nixon and his top officials knew about dangerous levels of E. coli in the Lake of the Ozarks and deliberately withheld the information from Missourians,” said Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “This was a grave breach of the public trust—yet Jay Nixon has not taken responsibility. We hope that the investigations being conducted by the State Senate and the Attorney General reveal the truth about what Nixon knew and when he knew it.”

From the News-Leader:

Nixon's office says Bindbeutel visited their Capitol office on June 4 for a meeting about energy policy with an industry lobbyist and deputy legislative director Kristy Manning -- not water quality or E. coli… But that doesn't explain why, according to two e-mails, Bindbeutel told a deputy director of DNR's division of environmental quality that he needed the E. coli report for a meeting in the governor's office… The e-mail that ties Bindbeutel to a meeting in the governor's office was sent by a veteran bureaucrat. "Joe said he needed it for the meeting in the Gov. Office tomorrow," Pabst wrote in a June 3 e-mail to Templeton's secretary.”
“Included in the News-Leader's request for documents were notes from a June 12 meeting between Bindbeutel, Pabst and other DNR employees and members of the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance , who volunteer to collect water samples for DNR as part of a five-year study of the lake's health funded by AmerenUE. The minutes offer a hint that the governor's office may have been made aware of the high levels of E. coli earlier than Nixon or his staff have publicly acknowledged… Bindbeutel is paraphrased as saying, ‘the recent water testing has drawn the attention of the Director of DNR as well as Governor Nixon,’ according to the minutes, which were taken by a LOWA volunteer.”

Wallace: Merit pay for teachers will expand throughout the state

I am not one of those teachers who marches in lockstep with those who think merit pay for teachers is one of the seven deadly sins.

In fact, I would favor merit pay as long as there was a reasonable way to determine who would receive it.

The door to merit pay in Missouri schools was opened earlier this month when Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill which allows merit pay in the St. Louis school long as the teachers give up their tenure rights, something which seems to be the main target of the bill.

The bill's sponsor, Maynard Wallace, R-Thornfield, in a recent interview, said he thinks the current limited use of merit pay will expand. "Maybe we can encourage better teachers to come here if they make $10,000 more. Perhaps we can encourage them to stay. Will it expand throughout the state? I think if it's successful, it will."

Contrary to what some politicians would lead you to believe, tenure is not damaging education. Tenure is not what keeps bad teachers in the classroom. If those teachers were bad at the end of five years and were hired for the next year, they were obviously lacking in the first, second, third, and fourth years, as well, and something should have been done much earlier. Tenure does not prevent a bad teacher from being fired, it offers the teacher due process. And we all know of cases where a teacher has done an excellent job and ran afoul of a school board member or a particular administrator.

Returning to merit pay, if student test scores are the sole determining factor, then forget it. You have no way of determining whether a teacher deserves a pay raise based on one year of test scores. In the first place, the way Missouri's MAP program operates, you are not comparing students to what they have accomplished in the past. You are comparing them to what a totally different group of students accomplished. That would be like having Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright leave the Cardinals as free agents and then expect Tony LaRussa to win more games with lesser players. Sometimes, a teacher will end up with a better group and test scores will go up. Sometimes, it works the other way.

How the students did the previous year needs to be taken into consideration, along with administrative evaluations, and even peer observations. Tests have to be a part of merit pay, but they cannot be the entire program.

Certainly, good teachers do not like it when they know they make less money than inferior teachers just because those teachers have taken extra classes or have been in the classrom a few more years. The system is undeniably flawed, but the cure for the problems appears likely to make them even worse.

Blunt: I don't know why Obama can't show a birth certificate

In this video, Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt, a candidate for U. S. Senate, appeared to be appealing to his conservative followers, check that, his far to the right of conservative followers. In this video, Blunt, one of several Republicans interviewed, says he can't understand why Obama can't produce a birth certificate.

Stick to health care, Congressman. This birther nonsense reminds me of the preparedness expos of the late '90s, including the American Heritage Festival in Carthage in 1998 where conspiracy theorists suggested the U. S, created the AIDS and Ebola viruses, was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, started the crack cocaine epidemic in Watts, and that Richard Nixon was behind the Kennedy assassination:

Carnahan received at least $86,200 from stem cell research supporters

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, accused in a civil action filed Monday in Cole County Circuit Court of using her position to derail pro-life legislation, has accepted at least $86,200 in campaign contributions from stem cell supporters.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show Mrs. Carnahan, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U. S. Senate seat currently held by Kit Bond, received $30,000 from Supporters of Health Research and Treatments on Oct. 8, 2008, and $5,000 from the Life Science Fund of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce the following day.

On June 13, 2007, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce contributed $25,000 to the secretary of state. She received a like amount from Supporters of Health Research and Treatments on May 24, 2007, and $1,200 from the group on April 13, 2006, according to the Ethics Commission documents.

Missouri Roundtable for Life brought legal action against Mrs. Carnahan and State Auditor Susan Montee Monday in a petition, which was reported first in The Turner Report:

The petition, filed by Missouri Roundtable for Life, a group that is strongly opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells in scientific research, claims Ms. Carnahan completely changed the proposed ballot language to mislead voters and that Ms. Montee went out of her way to find people who would say the amendment would have a negative fiscal impact on the state.

The proposed ballot language read, "In any fiscal year, the first $200 million disbursed from the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund (LSRTF) be spent on primary healthcare for low-income Missourians, provided, however, that no such funds shall be expended on abortion services, human cloning, or prohibited human research."

By the time, Ms. Carnahan and her staff were finished with the ballot language, it was hard to recognize, the petition indicates. The finished version, which was submitted to Attorney General Chris Koster, eliminated any reference to abortion or human cloning, terms that would make the proposal attractive to a large number of Missourians. The new ballot language read, "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to reduce the amount of money available by $200 million to improve the quality of life science research in Missouri and redirect this money solely to pay for certain primary health care for low-income Missourians?"

The petition alleges Ms. Montee provided a misleading fiscal impact statement claiming severe damage could be done to the state, when, in fact, the proposed amendment does not mandate that any money be spent.

The initiative petition is being "manipulated,' the petition says, "so as to mislead and confuse Missouri voters and to create prejudice against a proposed constitutional amendment."

Missouri law requires that ballot language not be worded in such a way that it appears to be for or against a proposed amendment.

Former state rep files lawsuit challenging Joplin sales tax

The lawsuit that the most powerful man in Missouri, Rep. Ron Richard, was unable to prevent, was filed today in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Former Rep. Tom Burcham, R-Farmington, claims Joplin's law enforcement sales tax is illegal. Burcham has had success in similar lawsuits, including one at Purdy and is also challenging Granby's sales tax.

As Columbia Daily Tribune reporter Terry Ganey recently noted, a law backed by Richard would have prevented this type of lawsuit, was stopped dead in its tracks by House Majority Leader (and Ethics Committee chairman) Steve Tilley, who has accepted $110,000 this year from a committee led by Burcham.

Plea hearing set in Guest House fraud case

A 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, plea hearing has been scheduled in federal court in Springfield for Kelly Wheeler, stepdaughter of Anderson Guest House owner Robert Dupont.

Ms. Wheeler, her mother, Laverne Dupont, Dupont, and Joplin River of Life Ministries are charged with numerous felony counts centering around their operation of numerous Guest House residential care centers in southwest Missouri.

A pretrial hearing for all defendants is set for 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, in Springfield.

Ms. Wheeler is charged with conspiracy to defraud United States and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Dupont is accused of hiding his control of the Anderson Guest House and defrauding the government. Dupont was the owner of the Anderson facility in November 2006 when it burned to the ground, killing 11.
An affidavit signed by Special Agent Peter H. Blackburn of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health of Human Services said Dupont was executive director of Guest House facilities from 1993 through 2006, including the time following his 2002 conviction for Medicaid and Medicare fraud.
Facilities owned by Dupont, according to the affidavit, included the Anderson Guest House, Carl Junction Guest House, Carthage Guest House, Guest House I in Joplin, Guest House 2 in Joplin, Guest House 3 in Joplin, Lamar Guest House, and St. Louis Guest House. Apparently, the government missed the Springfield Guest House.

According to the affidavit, "Robert J. Dupont was owner and president of Guest Houses of Missouri. Inc., a for-profit corporation Dupont created in January 2000" that operated the Guest Houses in Anderson, Joplin, Carl Junction, and Carthage.

"On June 15, 2000, Dupont was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States relating to billings he caused to be submitted on behalf of Butler Guest House, Lamar Guest House, and St. Louis Guest House. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States on Feb. 13, 2002, and was sentenced on Feb. 21, 2003, t0 21 months federal imprisonment. The offense to which Dupont pleaded guilty involved his conspiracy with others to conceal his ownership and control of a company that submitted billings to Medicare and Medicaid." Because of this, the affidavit said, Dupont was excluded from participation in any federal health program, including Missouri Medicaid.

"During March 2002, shortly after Dupont's guilty plea but prior to his sentencing, Dupont formed a new corporation, Joplin River of Life Ministries that began assuming operational control over the residential care facilities," the affidavit said. "On April 10, 2002, Guest Houses of Missouri, Inc. notified the Division of Medical Services, the agency which administers Missouri's Medicaid program that as of May 1, 2002, Joplin River of Life Ministries was taking over the operation of the residential care facilities formerly operated by Guest Houses of Missouri, Inc."

The affidavit continues, "On or about April 15, 2002, JROL submitted applications to the Department of Health and Senior Services for licenses to operate long-term care facilities specifically Anderson Guest House, Carl Junction Guest House, Guest House 2, and Guest House 3." Robert Dupont and his wife Laverne were listed as owners and landlords and Robert Dupont was listed on the Joplin River of Life Ministries board.

On July 31, 2002, the company applied to participate as a Missouri Medicaid personal care provider and was approved.

"On March 19, 2003, prior to Dupont's surrender on March 21, 2003, to begin serving his federal sentence, Dupont convened and oversaw a Joplin River of Life Ministries board meeting in which he announced the employment of Laverne Dupont, his wife, as the incoming executive director of JROL and corporate documents after that date list her as executive director," according to the affidavit.

Dupont was released to a halfway house in August 2004 and completed his sentence the following month. "In contravention of state and federal law, Dupont resumed the operation and control of JROL upon his release from prison," the affidavit said. "In day to day operation of the facilities, Dupont makes unilateral hiring decisions, terminates employees, directs staffing levels, and unilaterally decides whether to accept potential residents referred to local hospitals. Dupont has prohibited facility managers from seeking decision making authority from Laverne Dupont, his wife and the individual listed as executive director of JROL, and threatened to terminate employees who fail to seek his authorization for decisions."

The affidavit concludes, "During an interview conducted on Nov. 28, 2006 (following the Anderson Guest House fire) Dupont denied any control over Joplin River of Life Ministries and asserted that he was an uncompensated employee. However, W-2, wage and tax statements filed by JROL indicate that Dupont received a salary in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005."

Sept. 28 sentencing set for Lamar Catholic Church arsonist

A 1 p.m. Sept. 28 sentencing is scheduled for John Franklin Manco, 19, Lamar, who pleaded guilty Monday in Barton County Circuit Court for crimes committed in connection with the Feb. 6 fire that destroyed St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lamar.

Court records indicate Manco was charged with arson, tampering with a motor vehicle, and two counts of burglary.

The story in today's Lamar Democrat indicates Manco pleaded guilty to arson and an unrelated drug charge.

New attorney for accused killer of Carthage couple

Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, one of two men charged with murdering Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage on Oct. 11, 2009, has a new attorney, according to online Jasper County Circuit Court records.

Public defender Joe Zuzul made an entry of appearance in the case Tuesday.

The next hearing for Winans and co-defendant Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, is set for 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, before Judge Richard Copeland.

Some thoughts about Rowan Ford murder and capital punishment

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

The jockeying has begun.

Eight months remain before David Wesley Spears and Chris Collings go to trial for the brutal rape and murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella, and public defenders are doing anything they can to keep their clients from being put to death.

Since both men have confessed to the crime, according to media reports, whether they live or die seems to be the only thing left to decide, though nothing is ever certain when it comes to the law.

The next hearing for Spears, Rowan Ford’s stepfather, is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, in Pulaski County, where the trial is scheduled to be held on a change of venue from Barry County, where Rowan Ford’s body was discovered Nov. 2, 2007.
Online court records indicate Spears’ attorney has filed a motion asking that the aggravators, the reasons for seeking the death penalty, be tossed out.

In documents filed shortly after the arrest of Spears and Collings, Barry County Prosecuting Attorney Johnnie Cox listed three aggravating circumstances that led him to seek the death penalty:

-- "The murder in the first degree was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, or depravity of mind;"
--"The murder in the first degree was committed while the defendant was engaged in the perpetration or was aiding or encouraging another person to perpetrate or attempt to perpetrate a felony of any degree of rape . . . "
-- "The murdered individual was a witness or potential witness in any past or pending investigation or past or pending prosecution, and was killed as a result of his status as a witness or potential witness."

A hearing in Collings’ case was scheduled for last week, but was postponed until Feb. 23, 2010, according to court records. Collings’ trial will be held in Phelps County.

Collings, a friend of Spears, you may recall, was the one with the MySpace site, which was filled with graphic, violent pictures of demons and included the note that his mood was “horny.” The date of his last sign-in, when that mood was recorded, was the day Rowan Ford, a fourth grader at Triway Elementary School, was murdered. The company took down the MySpace site following action by Gov. Jay Nixon, who at that time was the state’s attorney general. Nixon requested the removal after reading about the page on The Turner Report blog.

During the next few months, state public defenders are likely to try to make a deal in which their clients’ lives are spared in exchange for guilty pleas and life in prison without possibility of parole.

Odds are it is going to be a tough sell. Even opponents of the death penalty have to admit that if any crime calls for the ultimate punishment, it is this one.

As I wrote in my May 8, 2008 column:
Anyone who doubted the concept of evil had ample evidence to cause them to change their minds when the horrifying details of the death of Rowan Ford were revealed to the public late last year.

How could anyone do such barbaric things to an innocent nine-year-old child? And how can anyone argue that the world would be a better place by allowing these two (both of whom have given statements to authorities saying they were involved in the murder) to continue living?
After taking all of this into consideration, I am still not sure I can agree with capital punishment as public policy, but if you have to execute someone, I can’t think of two people who deserve it more.


(Previous posts about Rowan Ford can be found at this link.)

News-Leader: E-mails indicate governor's office may have known earlier about high e. coli levels

E-mails obtained by Springfield News-Leader reporter Chad Livengood through a freedom of information request indicate Gov. Jay Nixon and his staff may have known about high e. coli levels in the Lake of the Ozarks much earlier than what they have been saying. Department of Natural Resources officials have already acknowledged they knew earlier and kept the information secret to keep from damaging tourism.

Livengood's account also indicates that he is getting the runaround from state officials, usually an indication that a reporter is onto something.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Danforth: We have a mission

Sen. John Danforth told Newton County Republicans tonight that the party has work to do.

"I think that we have a mission. I think that we have a message and it is very important to our country at this point in history that we deliver this message to the people of America."

Danforth criticized President Obama for being elected on a platform of change. "But he never really defined what change was. Now that he has been in office six months we know what he was talking about." The change, Danforth said, "is the most dramatic change in government we have ever had. Big government to the extreme."

(I left my tripod at home and that was a mistake. The wind was whipping up pretty good and you might want to close your eyes and pretend these videos are podcasts).

I was wrong about Kinsley Joplin Globe blog

I need to keep better track of the Joplin Globe community bloggers. The Globe discontinued Mark Kinsley's blog because of his impending candidacy for the 129th District State Representative seat.

I had a reader who e-mailed me segments of a blog entry he made today, and I had not noticed that his blog was no longer being carried by the Globe.

My apologies for the error.

Court claim: Carnahan, Montee, played hanky panky with proposed constitutional amendment

A petition filed Monday in Cole County Circuit Court charges Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and State Auditor Susan Montee with playing politics in an effort to damage the chances of a proposed constitutional amendment.

The petition, filed by Missouri Roundtable for Life, a group that is strongly opposed to the use of human stem cells in scientific research, claims Ms. Carnahan completely changed the proposed ballot language to mislead voters and that Ms. Montee went out of her way to find people who would say the amendment would have a negative fiscal impact on the state.

The proposed ballot language read, "In any fiscal year, the first $200 million disbursed from the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund (LSRTF) be spent on primary healthcare for low-income Missourians, provided, however, that no such funds shall be expended on abortion services, human cloning, or prohibited human research."

By the time, Ms. Carnahan and her staff were finished with the ballot language, it was hard to recognize, the petition indicates. The finished version, which was submitted to Attorney General Chris Koster, eliminated any reference to abortion or human cloning, terms that would make the proposal attractive to a large number of Missourians. The new ballot language read, "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to reduce the amount of money available by $200 million to improve the quality of life science research in Missouri and redirect this money solely to pay for certain primary health care for low-income Missourians?"

The petition alleges Ms. Montee provided a misleading fiscal impact statement claiming severe damage could be done to the state, when, in fact, the proposed amendment does not mandate that any money be spent.

The initiative petition is being "manipulated,' the petition says, "so as to mislead and confuse Missouri voters and to create prejudice against a proposed constitutional amendment."

Missouri law requires that ballot language not be worded in such a way that it appears to be for or against a proposed amendment.

KZRG publicizes Kinsley candidacy

Mark Kinsley, who announced his candidacy for 129th District state representative this morning, has name recognition in the district through his years as host of KZRG's Morning News Watch and Afternoon News Watch.

That is an asset for Kinsley, who is a bright, personable, and sincere young man, who has been kind enough to have me on his shows numerous times.

That being said, his candidacy does present a problem for himself and for KZRG.

That problem has been presented in the way the station covered the announcement of Kinsley's candidacy.

I received the following breaking news e-mail from KZRG:

1310 KZRG's Mark Kinsley announces his candidacy for Missouri House seat for District 129. Mark is hoping to replace Speaker of the House Ron Richard who term limits out next year. Mark is challenged by Joplin attorney Shelley Dreyer who announced her candidacy for the seat. Listen to NewsTalk 1310 KZRG for continuing coverage of Education 2010.

Kinsley's candidacy was also promoted by the following tweet from KZRG:

Newstalk 1310's KZRG's Mark Kinsley throws his hat into the ring for Mo State Rep..disrict 129

Will Shelley Dreyer's official announcement Aug. 4 also be considered breaking news? She registered her campaign committee with the Missouri Ethics Commission weeks ago.

Should the news announcements be referring to the candidate as "KZRG's Mark Kinsley?" Obviously, his association with the station needs to be mentioned since that is his job, but it needs to be phrased differently.

When Kinsley offers his opinion on various issues as he often does on his program (and there is nothing wrong with that), is he simply doing his job or is he receiving an in-kind contribution from KZRG, something which would have to be reported in his filings with the Ethics Commission?

If a Democrat decides to run for the position, how will that candidacy be treated?

I expect Kinsley has already considered these questions and has a plan in place, but the treatment the station has given his announcement is troubling.

The 129th District is not the only one in KZRG's listening area, the station has now set the precedent that any candidate who announces should have that announcement treated as "breaking news" and promoted by the station. I am sure that is exactly what will happen.

Cold blooded liquor store killer's place is behind bars

They just don't make cold-blooded killers like they used to.

After 21 years of acknowledging his role in the 1974 murder of Carthage Airport Liquor Store owner James Stemmons, John Steven Martin, in an obvious ploy to gain his freedom invented a new version of the truth during an Aug. 19, 1998, parole board hearing in Potosi.

At that time, Martin insisted he was performing a mercy killing when he shot Stemmons three times in the back of the head. It was Martin's partner in crime, Leslie Sanders, who shot Stemmons initially, Martin said. Then according to Martin's recreation of reality, Stemmons, with his dying breath, begged Martin to put him out of his misery.

Martin, the killer with a heart, could not say no.

"He changed his story, Mr. Stemmons' daughter-in-law, Donna Stemmons, told me shortly after the hearing. She and nine members of the Stemmons family who attended that hearing were stunned by the turnabout by Martin, who had never made any such claims, though he had gone through numerous parole hearings.

"It sounded like it was all rehearsed," Mrs. Stemmons said. Martin's presentation included the traditional litany that his evil acts were caused by "peer pressure" and his fondness for drugs and alcohol.

Since that story did not work, it remains to be seen what approach John Steven Martin will take during his next attempt to gain his freedom, a hearing set for Aug. 19.

I know the arguments for releasing people like Martin. Our prisons are overcrowded, and yes, some people do deserve a second chance.

Martin is not one of those people.

Because of his actions, at least two people died. Another was wounded and the families of the victims are suffering to this day, a suffering that will never end, but which will be increased if Martin once again sees sunlight.

James Stemmons was not the first man to die at John Steven Martin's hands. In October 1974, while knocking over a Rolla gas station, Martin shot a man to death and wounded another man. During his 1998 parole hearing, he did not mention that murder. Did that man also beg to be put out of his misery?

Less than two months after the murder in Rolla, Martin brought his brand of carnage to Carthage. He, Sanders, and David Pugh decided to get some beer, and opted against going to Gale's Liquor Store because Martin, 19 at the time, had been carded there.

They opted to go to the Airport Liquor Store. "They had me drop them off beside the building," Pugh later testified, "and they walked around it and went in the front door and I left and went down and sat parked at the car wash out east of there."

Martin and Sanders returned to Stemmons' pickup. They had Stemmons with them. Pugh said he followed them to a field southwest of Carthage along the banks of Jones Creek.

"I was stopped out on the road and sat there for a little bit and heard gunshots and then they came over and got in the car and we left. John was carrying a shotgun and a pistol and Leslie was carrying two bottles of some kind of whiskey," Pugh said. "John said they shot him and I couldn't believe it. I said, 'Man, how come you shot so many times?' "

James Stemmons' body was found near his pickup eight hours after a customer found the liquor store deserted. He had been shot in the head three times and struck in the back with a shotgun blast.

As the three men left the body behind, they divvied up the loot.

The life of a man with everything to live for, a family that loved him, people who cared about him, countless friends, was ended for the grand sum of $115.

Sanders was found guilty of first degree murder, but that verdict was thrown out because of a faulty instruction to the jury. He later pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

A Dade County jury found Pugh guilty of robbery and kidnapping. He was found not guilty on the murder charges. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1977. Sanders and Pugh have been released from prison.

John Steven Martin was sentenced to life in prison in 1975 for murdering James Stemmons and life in prison for the murder of the Rolla man.

During his trial, Sanders said Martin threatened Sanders' wife and child if he did not go along with the robbery.

When Martin entered uis guilty plea in 1975, his story corresponded with what Sanders said. He told the judge he forced Sanders to take part in the robbery and murder. He said Pugh had nothing to do with either the robbery or the murder.

Now Martin has come up with a story designed to make him seem more sympathetic to the parole board. For the past decade, the play has not worked, but each new hearing is an opportunity for the killer to change his luck. Let's pray the parole panel does not buy the snake oil this killer is selling.

John Steven Martin does not deserve any more of a second chance than the one he gave James Stemmons.

(Note: Most of this post comes from an opinion column I wrote in August 1998.)

Poplstein signs on as Nodler campaign manager

Dave Catanese at KY3 Political Notebook reports that veteran political operative Chuck Poplstein has signed on to manage the Congressional campaign of Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin.

The last three campaigns Poplstein has worked on have been McCain-Palin, Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign, and Jim Talent's U. S. Senate re-election campaign.

Apparently, Poplstein is latching onto a surefire candidate like Nodler to break that losing streak.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some memories of afternoon newspapers

The long tradition of afternoon newspapers in the United States continues to fade, as the Jefferson City News-Tribune announced Sunday it would switch from afternoons to mornings on Monday, Oct. 5.

Having spent 10 years of my life working for afternoon newspapers, nine at The Carthage Press and one at the Lamar Democrat when it was a daily, I hate to see the afternoon newspapers continuing to bite the dust.

Growing up in Newtonia, I can still recall the fellowship of young and old alike as we waited every afternoon for the Neosho Daily News to arrive at Gum Mercantile. For a while, when I was in high school, I also bought the afternoon Joplin News-Herald from Alan Oxendine every day.

Not only did I get the local news, but I loved the syndicated columnists, especially Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, any information about the St. Louis Cardinals (sometimes even the Kansas City Royals after that franchise began in 1969) and the rest of the news that was going on in the world.

When the weather was nice, we would head to Gum's store after school and sit on the sidewalk outside and talk to the older men who would gather there each day to wait for the Daily.

If it was cold, we would go inside and sit around the wood stove in the back of the store, sometimes watching the television back there I can vividly recall watching Bob Gibson strike out 17 Detroit Tigers in game one of the 1968 World Series (games back then were held in the afternoon).

Afternoon newspapers have long since ceased being the method of bringing a community together that they once were, but it is still a shame to see them rapidly disappearing from our landscape.

Message to Sarah Palin: Don't blame the media, your problems were self-inflicted

Anyone expecting Alaska Gov. (now former governor) Sarah Palin to deliver a well polished farewell speech was sorely disappointed Sunday. Mrs. Palin, quitting halfway through her first term, left with her usual rambling, including a series of self-serving attacks on the media.

This video, shot by an obvious Palin fanatic (his commentary is interspersed throughout), includes Mrs. Palin's blatant attempt to make it appear that she is the best friend our soldiers have, and that when anything negative has been writen about her, it is anti-American and an insult to our soldiers who are fighting for our First Amendment freedoms.

"How about in honor of the American soldier, ya quit makin' things up?" she asked.

What a cheap way for a politician to use our American soldiers.

Undoubtedly, there were excesses in the coverage of Sarah Palin, But it was not those excesses that led to her problems. The media did some of the damage when it told the truth about Mrs. Palin. The rest of the damage was self-inflicted.

Hulshof committee shuts down

Former Congressman Kenny Hulshof, who lost to Jay Nixon in the governor's race last November, officially shut down his campaign committee July 16, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The final $24,213.79 in the campaign account was sent to the Missouri Republican Party "for refund of contributions," according to the filing.

Kinsley announcement set for Tuesday

KZRG Morning News Watch host Mark Kinsley will make the leap into political candidacy 10 a.m. Tuesday, announcing his run for the 129th District House seat during an event at Cycle Connection Harley Davidson, 5014 Hearnes Blvd, Joplin.

State Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, is scheduled to be a special guest at the announcement.

Kinsley is the second candidate for the GOP nomination, joining Joplin attorney Shelly Dreyer. No candidate has emerged on the Democratic side.

The incumbent is Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who is barred by term limits from running again.

Hermosillo leaving KSNF

KSN reporter Iris Hermosillo, who has made quite a mark at the station since she arrived in June 2007, will leavw after next weekend. Miss Hermosillo has been hired as weekend morning meteorologist at KCTV5 in Kansas City. One of KCTV's weekend anchors is former KODE anchor Amy Anderson.

Miss Hermosillo has done weekend weather and has been a general assignment reporter during the week. This was her first broadcasting job after graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

Danforth, Kinder to be in Neosho Tuesday

A couple of Republican heavy-hitters will be in Neosho Tuesday night. The following news release was issued last week:

Former U.S. Senator and Ambassador John Danforth will deliver a special message at a local Southwest Missouri Republican event; Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder will also be speaking. The Annual Free Watermelon Feed, hosted by the Republican Women of Newton County and Newton County Republican Central Committee, will be held Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 6:30P.M. This event will be at Big Spring Park, 308 West Spring St, Neosho, MO 64850. Special guests also include two candidates for State Auditor.

“The Free Watermelon Feed is an informal occasion that allows you to connect with friends, neighbors and prominent Republicans from Missouri like Sen. Danforth and Lt. Gov. Kinder,” said Missouri Speaker of the House Ron Richard who represents Jasper and Newton counties. “This is an entertaining, all-ages political event the whole family can attend.”

The Free Watermelon Feed is open for everyone from surrounding counties to attend. Watermelon and bottled water will be provided—free of charge. Bringing your lawn chairs and appetite is recommended.

John Danforth is a fifth generation Missourian and served Missouri as State Attorney General and as a three term U.S. Senator from 1976 to 1994. Sen. Danforth also served as U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

Peter Kinder is a native of Cape Girardeau, MO and served 12 years as the State Senator for the 27th District. In 2001 Peter Kinder was elected President Pro Tem when the Republicans gained a majority in the Missouri Senate for the first time in 53 years. Elected Lt. Gov. in 2004, Peter Kinder was reelected to his second term in 2008

Republican candidates for State Auditor, State Representative Allen Icet and Ambassador Tom Schweich, will each have three minutes to address the Free Watermelon Feed attendees.

A straw poll will be available to those in attendance. The ballots will serve as entries into a 12 gauge and .22 ammunition raffle drawing to take place at the conclusion of the Free Watermelon Feed.

In case of rain, the Free Watermelon Feed will be moved to the Neosho Recreation Center at 418 Fairground Rd, Neosho, MO 64850.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kraske: Purgason's a joke; Roy's the boy

Roy Blunt does not have to campaign against newly announced GOP opponent Chuck Purgason as long as he has Steve Kraske to do it for him.

In his latest Kansas City Star column, Kraske tells his readers Purgason is out of the mainstream, is a joke, and doesn't have the slightest chance of winning:

He’s as conservative as Ron Paul. He wears bolo ties. His wife and kids serve as his campaign staff. He can spin a quote.

All of that is a problem for heavy GOP favorite Roy Blunt. The media’s going to love Purgason.

He won’t win. But he’s going to have Blunt chewing Excedrin like some folks down yonder chew tobacco.

Apparently, Kraske thought that last line was pretty clever. Perhaps if he had done a little digging, he could have given us some information on Purgason's stances on issues and how they differ from Roy Blunt's.

Purgason's candidacy may easily turn out to be Quixotic effort and he could turn out to be a joke as a candidate, but I would rather have reporters who examine the record and then offer analysis based on that than reporters who want to marginalize candidates before the campaign even begins.

The portion of Kraske's column that is devoted to the Purgason candidacy almost seems to have been spoonfed to him by the Blunt campaign. Of course, only a cynic would believe anything like that.

Missouri GOP rips awarding of St. Joseph fee office to Montee

It did not take long for the Missouri Republican Party to rip into Gov. Jay Nixon for the Departmtnt of Revenue's decision to award the St. Joseph fee office to attorney James Montee, ex-husband of State Auditor Susan Montee. The following news release was issued today:

Amid an ongoing controversy over the process he uses to award fee offices, Gov. Jay Nixon brazenly awarded another fee office to Democrat power-player James Montee, ex-husband of State Auditor Susan Montee. Montee’s selection also comes less than two months after he was rewarded with the lucrative Lee’s Summit license office, drawing criticism from at least one prominent newspaper editorial board.

“Jay Nixon is absolutely shameless. Each time Nixon taps another prominent Democrat to run a fee office, his claim to have reformed the system grows weaker,” said Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “It is hard to make the case that the new process has had the outcome that the General Assembly intended. Just as before, the most lucrative fee offices in the state continue to be awarded to Nixon donors and influential Democrats. Missourians want results, but as the saying goes, Jay Nixon is all hat and no cattle.”

After Montee defeated three other bidders, including a non-profit that serves battered women and children, for the Lee’s Summit fee office, the St. Joseph News-Press printed an editorial blasting Nixon for failing to avoid the appearance of impropriety: “Ending political patronage in awarding contracts for driver’s license fee offices needs to account for both reality and perceptions… But efficiency in running the office, plans for extended hours and generous sharing of the revenues with the state take no account of whether selecting one applicant over another might look like favoritism. And to say that appearances do not count in this process is to miss much of the point about patronage. Detractors — virtually all of them Republicans — have ample ammunition in criticizing the selection of St. Joseph attorney James Montee to run the Lee’s Summit office with a partner.”

Over the past four years, Montee and his law firm have donated nearly $100,000 to the Democratic Party and its candidates, including Claire McCaskill, Robin Carnahan, Barack Obama, and the Missouri Democratic Party. He was also liable for a $500,000 to his then-wife’s campaign for Auditor. The 27th District Legislative Committee, which is based in one of Montee’s law offices, donated $13,475 to Nixon in 2008.

In addition to his profligate political contributions, James Montee has a history of activism on behalf of the Democratic Party. He was a delegate to the 2004 and 2008 Democrat National Conventions, a former member of the Democratic State Committee, and his law offices have housed various Democratic headquarters, among others.

Even Democrats have cried foul. The selection of another donor to run a separate Kansas City-area fee office prompted a Democratic state representative to reveal Nixon’s true motives: “It’s all politics. Don’t let anyone fool you.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Laclede County officials give in to Phelps, Westboro Church of God

Members of the extreme Westboro Church of God can protest at military funerals in Laclede County, Missouri, to their hearts' content.

Notice of a consent judgment between Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church member who was suing county officials was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The notice, filed by ACLU lawyer Anthony E. Rothert, who represented Ms. Phelps-Roper and the church, says the judgment "permanently enjoins defendants Wright and Wrinkle in their official capacities and Laclede County, Missouri. their employees, representatives, agents, servants, assigns, and successors from enforcing or attempting to enforce" the Missouri state statute barring the protests at soldiers' funerals.

Among the defendants remaining in the case are Gov. Jay Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster, Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent James Keathley, and Lebanon Police Chief Raymond Blackburn.

The history of the case was outlined in a motion filed Sept. 2, 2008, in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri:

"Phelps-Roper alleges that her religious beliefs dictate that 'homosexuality is the worst of all sins and indicative of the final reprobation of an individual.' "

“Because of this belief, the motion said, "Phelps-Roper and the WBC believe that "God is punishing American for the sin of homosexuality by killing Americans, including soldiers." WBC members regularly picket outside of public buildings, churches, parks, and funerals, including the funerals of individuals who have died while serving the United States in Iraq.

“On Jan. 26, 2007, the court ruled against Ms. Phelps-Roper, but she filed an appeal and the stay was issued in February 2007 and has been in place since that time.

“The Eighth District Court of Appeals overruled the district court Dec. 19, 2007, saying the case should be reopened since there was a chance that Ms. Phelps-Roper could prevail, though the decision was careful to say it was not commenting on the Missouri law's constitutionality.”

The constitutionality of Missouri's law is not yet been decided by the court, but an appellate court decision late last year allowed the protests to continue until a ruling is made. The text of that court ruling can be found in the Oct. 31, 2008, Turner Report.

Lawyer for Rowan Ford's stepfather files motion to have death penalty taken off the table

A pre-trial conference for Chris Collings, Wheaton, who is charged with the murder and rape of nine-year-old Rowan Ford of Stella, originally scheduled for today in Phelps County Circuit Court, has been postponed until Feb. 23, 2010, according to court records. Collings' trial, being held in Phelps County on a change of venue from Barry County, is scheduled for March 2010. The state is seeking the death penalty.

Collings, you may remember, is or was a friend of Rowan Ford's stepfather, David Wesley Spears, Stella, the other man accused of her rape and murder. Collings was the one with the MySpace site that proclaimed his mood as "horny" on Nov. 2, 2007, the day that Rowan Ford was murdered.

Spears' case has been moved to Pulaski County. A 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, hearing is set for a motion to remove the death penalty from the table.

Collings and Spears are being represented by public defenders who are experienced in dealing with capital murder cases.

Previous Turner Report posts on the Rowan Ford murder can be found at this link.

Hearing for accused killers of Carthage couple moved up

The next hearing for Darren Winans, 21, Jasper, and Matthew Laurin, 19, Springfield, which was postponed Wednesday until Aug. 5, has been moved up a week.

The two men, who sre charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and a single count of burglary in connection with the Oct. 11, 2008, murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage, will be in Jasper County Circuit Court before Judge Richard Copeland 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, July 29.

Schoeller, supporters engage in metaphorical pork cutting

I enjoyed this news release from Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Springfield, who is taking a shot at the speaker pro tem position:

In a record turnout, more than 500 dinner guests joined Rep. Shane Schoeller Thursday, July 23, in cutting the pork in Missouri. While the pork they cut at the BBQ hosted by Rep. Schoeller was the pork on their plates, the event called attention to the continued need in cutting wasteful spending in Missouri’s budget.

“We had a huge turnout for this BBQ and I am overwhelmed to have the support of so many hardworking Missourians who want their government to live within its means,” said Rep. Shane Schoeller. “The pork on our plates was the perfect way to bring attention to the importance of spending citizens' tax dollars wisely.”

Joey Williams of Springfield who attended the BBQ said, “This was the perfect way to show my frustration with all the wasteful spending going on in government. Shane has always fought pork barrel spending and I’m thankful to have someone like him watching how my tax dollars are spent in Jefferson City.”

Along with calling attention to wasteful spending, the event offered folks a chance to contribute to Rep. Schoeller campaign to become the next Speaker Pro-Tem, which is the number two position in the Missouri House. His supporters donated more than $8,000 to his efforts, which will help him not only win re-election but will also help him become the next Speaker Pro-Tem.

As Vice-Chairman of both the Appropriations and Ways and Means committees in the Missouri House, Rep. Schoeller is in a strong position to identify and cut wasteful spending. Because of his leadership in the budget process, over $200 million was set aside for emergency times, helping Missouri to endure its current revenue shortfalls without raising taxes.

“Being Vice-Chairman of two important committees has allowed me to take part in cutting wasteful spending and balance our state’s budget. As Speaker Pro-Tem, I will continue to shrink the size and cost of state government so that we can allow citizens to keep more of their own hard earned dollars,” Rep. Schoeller added. “With the current economic downturn and how they are handling it in Washington, what we do with tax payer dollars here in Missouri over the next two years is more important than ever!”

Judge allows failed McDonald County sheriff's candidate's lawsuit to continue

Federal Judge Richard Dorr rejected an attempt by Robert W. Evenson, the father of McDonald County's sheriff to dismiss a lawsuit against him by the man his son beat last November.

In his ruling, the judge said the lawsuit was not far enough along to determine if the case has any merit.

Jeff Sutherland and his wife, Tammy, filed a lawsuit in December in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri charging the County's 911 Board, and its attorney, Evenson, of violation of their "right to equal protection," "Invasion of privacy,' and of violating Missouri state law in connection with the release of a July 13, 2007, 911 tape of a call made by Mrs. Sutherland to media outlets and to Neosho Forums, where it was posted on Aug. 3.

At the same time, an advertisement was published in the Big Nickel, indicating the call concerned an earlier incident in which the ad referred to Sutherland as being intoxicated and firing his weapon. Other allegations were also made in the ad against both Sutherland and Republican sheriff's candidate Gregg Sweeten.

Listed as defendants in the lawsuit, in addition to Evenson, Lisa McCool, the 911 Board's executive director; and Brian Massa, an employee, as well as board members. The 911 Board as an entity was dismissed as a defendant.

The suit alleges the release of the tape and an examination of Tammy Sutherland's driving records by Massa were a conspiracy to violate the couple's rights. The Sutherlands are asking for damages, attorneys' fees, and costs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rove, Romney, McConnell among Republican bigwigs who contributed to Blunt

It's not just the Missouri GOP that is lining up behind Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt as he works to sew up the Republican nomination for U. S. Senate.

Blunt's quarterly report, filed earlier this month with the Federal Election Commission, makes it clear that Blunt is receiving considerable support from national GOP figures, as well.

Karl Rove, Fox News commentator and former strategist for President George W. Bush, contributed $1,000, while Fred Fielding, who served as counsel to the president under President Bush and President Nixon (and at one time was considered to be a top suspect to be Deep Throat, Bob Woodward's Watergate informant) also gave $1,000.

Janet Ashcroft, wife of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, contributed $4,800, while KITPAC, the leadership committee established by the man Blunt wants to replace, Kit Bond, gave the maximum $10,000, $5,000 each for the primary and general election campaigns.

Blunt also received sizable contributions from the leadership PACs of some of the best known Republicans in the country, including:

-$5,000 from Sen. Mitch McConnell's Bluegrass PAC
-$4,672.52 from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Free Strong America PAC
-$5,000 from former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's Keep Our Mission (formerly Keep Our Majority) PAC
-$1,000 from Sen. Lindsey Graham's Fund for America's Future PAC

Blunt's PAC total also includes thouaands from his House colleagues.

Lobbyists pour close to $75,000 into Blunt campaign

GOP Senate candidate Roy Blunt received at least $72,300 from lobbyists during the last quarter and that does not include the money they brought in from clients, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Blunt, who was known for his efforts in making K Street lobbying firms an integral part of the Republican establishment, may well have more contributors who are lobbyists, but only a handful are actually described as such. Others are referred to as partners in their lobbying firms, (none of which, for obvious reasons, have the word lobby in their names), many are consultants, or governmental affairs, or a combination of the two, and one had the words "information requested" in the occupation area of the form, but news articles refer to her as a lobbyist.

The Blunt campaign also had dozens of other out-of-state contributors with no occupation listed, simply "information requested."

The lobbyists represent many interests whose officials also came through with sizable donations, including American Airlines, Walt Disney, and numerous insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical companies, who would benefit from the health care proposal being pushed by the Seventh District Congressman in the video that accompanies this post.

This is not the first time Blunt has relied heavily on the kindness of lobbyists. As I noted in numerous previous Turner Report posts, Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs PAC has relied on the beliefs and contributions of lobbyists and the special interests they represent.

Montee company tabbed to run St. Joseph fee office

A firm connected to St. Joseph lawyer James Montee has been tabbed to run the lucrative St. Joseph license fee office.

A news release issued earlier this afternoon by the Missouri Department of Revenue said St. Joseph License LLC had been selected to run the St. Joseph office following a competitive bid process.

The five offices awarded today are the latest to have their management chosen using a comprehensive bidding process that was implemented when Gov. Nixon took office on Jan. 12. The process calls for people or groups to submit detailed bids to obtain the management contracts to operate the offices. The Cassville and Chillicothe license offices both received one bid, Grandview received two bids, and Joplin and St. Joseph both received four bids.

Corporation records filed with the Missouri Secretary of State's office indicate the registered agent for Saint Joseph License LLC (you have to spell out Saint or you will not find it) is Montee, ex-husband of State Auditor Susan Montee, Saint Joseph LLC was formed Feb. 23, 2009, with the purpose of "licensing and all other legal acts permitted limited," according to the incorporation document.

Saint Joseph License LLC was formed the same day as Lee's Summit License LLC, the firm which received the contract to operate the Lee's Summit license fee office on June 2.

Montee was also involved in a successful bid earlier this month to run the Liberty fee office.

The bids have been heavily criticized by the Missouri GOP, which notes Montee has bee a big-time contributor to the Democratic party, though he did not make any cnntributions to Gov. Jay Nixon.