Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stouffer: Putting people back to work top legislative priority

In his latest capitol report, Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, says jobs are the top priority for Missouri legislators in 2011:

Missouri lawmakers have a simple mission for 2011: put people back to work.
 When the First Regular Session of the 96thGeneral Assembly begins in January, a lot of folks will be watching to see what moves the Legislature will make in terms of job creation. We have to improve employers’ ability to hire and retain employees, and secure certainty in take-home pay of every working family in Missouri.  
 We have to help rural Missouri families survive by helping employers keep and create better paying jobs with benefits. How do we do this? We need to cap the corporate franchise tax, restore balance to Missouri’s Human Rights Act, and ensure employee choice when leaving or joining a union.
 The corporate franchise tax is double taxation and hurts businesses. Business owners should not have to pay a tax just to be in business. Currently, the largest franchise taxpayer in Missouri has to pay approximately $1.9 million a year. This stifles investment, both in expansion and hiring. Kansas is phasing out its corporate franchise tax. Starting in 2011, it will be gone altogether.
 Despite the tremendous efforts the General Assembly has made, in regard to tort reform, more needs to be done. The state’s “Human Rights Act” needs to be brought in line with what federal law states. Jury trials versus trials heard by judges, company versus individual liability, and damage caps need to be taken into consideration when rewriting this act. This will cut back on money spent for lawsuits and attorney fees.
 Another priority this year will be to get a handle on the budget. We will not have federal stimulus money shoved down our throat this coming year. This is a good thing, because it will mean the Legislature will have to take charge and cut the budget the right way. At the top of this list: DO NOT raise taxes.  The General Assembly has not raised taxes in a number of years, and it has helped us to stay above water when other states are scrambling to make ends meet.
 We have to do more with less in government. Hard-working families throughout rural Missouri are doing this, so why not state government? We started this last year and will continue the trend until we start to see a real recovery, not just in Missouri, but throughout the country.
 The Legislature also needs to continue its commitment to education. We have to maintain K-12 school funding at its current level, continue to make college more affordable, remove government red tape and ensure every student continues to get a world-class education.
 The work will be hard, but the rewards for Missourians will be great. I pray that the Missouri General Assembly will work FOR the people and continue to keep rural Missouri growing and prosperous in the coming year.

Senate special education committee makes recommendations

The Missouri Senate Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee has concluded its work and issued its final recommendations . The following is taken from the Senate website:

The Senate Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee was charged with developing a long-term strategy and plan for an education system that ensures every Missouri child access to quality education and support for stay-at-home parents; studying the development of the state’s elementary, secondary, and higher education system and designing a system to better prepare graduates for global competition; and examining other aspects of education that the committee deemed appropriate for creating an educated citizenry in Missouri.
Those that served on the committee included Chairman Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), Sen. Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis), Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), and Sen. Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis).
Committee members based their recommendations around five major themes:
  • Access – Allow all students the opportunity to attend a fully accredited school, and promote the use of technology in the delivery of education at all levels.
  • Accountability – Hold all public schools accountable to high academic standards, provide access to high-quality charter schools to all Missouri students, and promote alternatives to the traditional school day and calendar year.
  • Teacher quality – Develop a statewide system for evaluating teacher effectiveness to be used in performance-based and market-driven teacher compensation.
  • School readiness – Provide parents and early childhood educators with the information they need to see that all children enter kindergarten on par with their peers, and advance efforts to support voluntary, universal prekindergarten.
  • Governance – Require new legislators to attend a seminar on the K-12 foundation formula, require Missouri’s leaders in statewide education governance to hold an annual public meeting to discuss education initiatives and progress toward achieving the 2020 benchmarks, maximize efficient use of school district resources, encourage collaboration between school districts and higher education institutions, and create a state-level education governance system that spans from prekindergarten through postsecondary education.

Steelman hoping to raise 25K by midnight tomorrow

Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, the only announced Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate seat currently held by Claire McCaskill, has set a goal of raising $25,000 by midnight tomorrow. From her letter to potential contributors:

I wish I was surprised by the vote in the U.S. Senate to ratify the new START treaty, but unfortunately it was predictable that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, would cave to the special interests and the foreign policy elites.  Now the politicians can brag about their “accomplishment” for short-term political gain, but they presented a weak and timid face to the rest of the world.  I was disappointed that my opponent, Senator McCaskill, led the charge on a treaty that was based solely on being agreeable rather than protecting American interests.
 America must remain resolute in purpose, uncompromising in principle, and swift in action.  We negotiate from a position of strength or our enemies won’t take us seriously and our allies won’t trust us.  Senator McCaskill voted to ratify a treaty that diminishes our ability to lead; compromises our ability to verify compliance; and puts our country and our people at greater risk.
 I need your help to spread our message of America’s “unassailable strength.”  I need to raise $25,000 by the end of the year.  Join our fight for freedom by contributing $25 at today.  Your contribution is deeply appreciated.

Cynthia Davis says farewell...for now

 In her farewell column, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, says she never sacrificed her integrity during her eight years in the House and decries "the left wing bloggers" whose goal was to "shame and humiliate" her. (Left wing to Mrs. Davis, of course, is anything to the left of her, which would include about 98 percent of the populace.)

She concludes by noting, "Several of my constituents have told me how sorry they are I am not moving to the senate."

More of her constituents, including many dedicated conservatives, opted to vote for her opponent, Scott Rupp, which is why he, and not Mrs. Davis, will continue to serve in the Senate.

Next week I will be ending over 16 years of elected public service to move into another arena of public service.  We all are called to public service whether we are elected or not.  Every time you pick up a piece of litter, put away a shopping cart, raise your children to be good citizens or keep your marriage vows, you are providing a public service.  The future of our civilization and our civility depends on this.

A highly respected and brave congressman once said, “"Special interests have replaced the concern that the founders had for general welfare.  Vote-trading is seen as good politics. The errand-boy mentality is ordinary; the defender of liberty is seen as bizarre. It's difficult for one who loves true liberty and utterly detests the power of the state to come to Washington for a period of time and not leave a true cynic.”

Likewise, I frequently fight the feelings of cynicism when I observe the number of legislators who start off well and then become absorbed into the bureaucratic cesspool by giving up their principles within a few years. 

It reminds me of the song, “The Rhinestone Cowboy”---“I’ve been walking these streets so long, singing the same old song, I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway.  Where profit’s the name of the game and nice guys get washed away like the snow in the rain.  There’s been a load of compromising on the road to my horizon…”  Thankfully, I have a clean conscience when it comes to standing up for our principles.  As I walk out of the Capitol for the last time I know that my priorities have never changed---honoring God and honoring my constituents.

This came at a tremendous personal cost, but it was worth what I paid for it many times over.  I value my integrity, and I have the satisfaction of knowing I get to take my integrity with me when I leave.  Not everybody can say that.

The price tag?  It meant national attention -far more than most of my colleagues- even those in leadership positions.  Those who live in my district may not realize that people in Kansas City, Springfield, Joplin, Columbia, New York, California and those who watch MSNBC and Steven Colbert may know more about me than you do.  I became the target of several left wing blogs and frequently segments of my Capitol Reports would be quoted within hours of being e-mailed.  People in other states would write me who read about what I am saying and accomplishing in Missouri.

The goal of the left wing bloggers is to shame and humiliate those who speak up for common sense America.  It is possible that they are so surrounded by socialists that it shocks them to hear someone explain free-market ideology.  More likely, they think making a martyr out of an honest mother of seven, grass-roots supported American will intimidate others from daring to state the obvious out of fear of the backlash.  It may have worked were it not for the fact that I am defined by my Maker, not what the left-wing blogs say.

I must admit that seeing people try to tarnish my reputation was not pleasant, but it didn’t snuff out my freedom of speech or my efforts to help educate and possibly embolden others.  The trailblazers who spoke the truth before me helped to develop my backbone as well.  Courage and bravery are honored virtues in America.

I know that Missouri is in better shape because I was in the Capitol for eight years.  My Capitol Reports chronicled my battles to stand up for our 10th amendment rights, remove abortion providers from the sex education classes in the public schools, free the midwives, fight against bigger government and promote legislation to strengthen families.  The rest of my life I will have the satisfaction of knowing I made a difference by being there these last eight years.

Yet, there is nothing I did that cannot be undone by others who come behind me.  Therefore, I urge you to be vigilant to support only those who side with the principles of liberty.  Talk is cheap and during election seasons, you will hear whatever is on the menu of political correctness. 

Did you ever play Red Rover?  The hard chargers who break through the line get to take another player back to their side.  They slowly build their team until there is no one left on the other side.  That game provides philosophical lessons for us as well.  We need to win people over to our side or we will lose them to the other side.  The side who holds together wins.  For those who are hiding in the shadows behind the bushes, I urge you to come out and see how good it feels to stand up tall and enjoy the sunlight.  We need more brave hearts if we are going to see the real change necessary to get our country back on track.  We owe it to our philosophical, moral and spiritual heritage to continue standing up for the truth.

In my last Capitol Report to you as your Representative, I urge you to join me in serving as a conscience for our homes, churches, communities and for our state.  Don’t ever be afraid to speak up for what is right.  I did, and I am still standing as an example that tenacity and perseverance win in the end.  There is a God who sees everything and will judge us at the end of our lives for every thought, word, deed and vote. 

Several of my constituents have told me how sorry they are I am not moving to the senate.  I am satisfied because I know I am needed elsewhere.   I plan on serving in the senate in the future.  For now, I am not really going away -I’m just reloading!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Joplin area Twitter sites top Fired Up Missouri list

Thanks to Sean at Fired Up Missouri for putting The Turner Report Twitter site at the top of his Top Tweeps for 2010.

Southwest Missouri did well on the list with Eli Yokley of The Fuse Joplin coming in at number two and Jim Lee of Bus Plunge at number 10.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Natural Disaster show

The videos accompanying this post are from our December 11 performance at the Lamar School Christmas Dinner and combined last a little over an hour:

Miami Dolphins sign Allen Barbre

The Miami Dolphins have signed former East Newton High School and Missouri Southern State University lineman Allen Barbre, according to Pro Football News:

With an injury knocking OT Lydon Murtha out of last week's game, Barbre will provide some depth for Sunday.

Questions posed by Seneca cheerleader lawsuit

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News, KY3, and KSPR.)

The details are a bit sketchy at the moment, but it appears one of the thorniest issues for U. S. schools today is in the courts now and the case originated in our corner of the state.

As first noted last Thursday on my blog, two former cheerleaders have sued the Seneca R-7 School District, all members of the board of education, the superintendent and the high school principal for actions taken against them for transgressions allegedly committed off school property and on the girls’ own time.

A television report today (Tuesday) indicates the action, as I speculated in the blog post, was taken in response to an allegation of cyberbullying.

The discussion of just how much control, if any, school officials should have over children’s activities when they are not at school or involved in school functions is one that has continued for decades.

During my years as a newspaper reporter, I wrote several stories about school boards initiating policies that would punish students in extracurricular activities who were involved in drinking, taking drugs, vandalism, or fighting. Some parents spoke up when these policies were being considered, but all of the policies were implemented.

At that time, though my stories did not reflect it, I was sympathetic toward the parents who questioned just why school officials should be able to intrude into their children’s home lives.

It did seem to be a stretch.

How could something a student did over the summer months, for instance, have an impact on the school? While I understood where school officials were coming from, I had a hard time understanding how they thought they could legally take actions against students who were not under their supervision at the time of their alleged transgressions.

My certainty about this vanished with the advent of the internet. 

Cyberbullying is a fact of life and many teenagers have mastered the art.
The whispered lies and insults that used to vanish into memory shortly after they were uttered are now available to the world to see on personal computers and I-phones.

And it is much, much easier for people to say hurtful things on the internet than it is to say them face-to-face.

Allegations of cyberbullying and the response of Seneca school officials are at the heart of the lawsuit, and the students do not believe these allegations should be held against them.

The cheerleaders, one of whom was the captain, say they were unfairly removed from the squad by (High School Principal Tosha) Fox, according to the petition. On June 10, they were "informed they would be removed from the cheer squad immediately."

They were being disciplined, according to the lawsuit, "for conduct alleged to have occurred off district property when the school was not in session."

The lawsuit says Ms. Fox singled out the students in an interview with the Seneca News-Dispatch and at an assembly of students in August and that she tried to have the students sign a bullying contract.

One of the students, referred to as "P. A." in the lawsuit says the actions of the principal and board:

-Included removal of her position as cheer captain

-Threat of preclusion from her position as a top All-American Cheerleader

-She was removed as FFA vice president

-Her position on the National Honor Society was threatened.

-She was alienated from other students and from her fellow cheerleaders

-She was precluded from receiving certain scholarships.

The other student, referred to as K. E. also referred to her removal from the cheerleading squad, alienation from students and from her fellow cheerleaders.

Both say the actions of the defendants have been harmful to their "learning environment."

They say their constitutional rights of free speech, association, and privacy have been violated.

They are asking for "fair and reasonable damages," punitive damages, attorney fees, costs, and expenses.

This is a case that area educators should be watching with interest. Whether incidents of cyberbullying take place at school or are launched from a home computer, they most definitely have an effect on the atmosphere and education at the school.

As an eighth grade teacher, I have noted several times situations in which education has been disrupted because someone posted something cruel online the previous evening.
We routinely hear of cyberbullying incidents leading to depression, violence, and in extreme situations, suicide.

School districts are required to provide an education, but to this point, courts have not extended that requirement to extracurricular activities. A negative decision in this case, or in a similar one, could end up leaving the young women in the Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls” end up looking more like Hayley Mills in “Pollyanna.”

Nodler retiring

Today's Neosho Daily News features an article on Gary Nodler's retirement:

“(Retirement) is not a new experience for me and retirement is not inactivity, it is economic liberty,” Nodler said. “So you are free to do what interests you every day. Joncee and I like to travel, we are sports enthusiasts, go to a lot of Missouri Southern basketball, football and baseball games.”
Nodler did say he has some plans for traveling including their first trip in the winter will be a warm weather destination.
Nodler thanks the people of the 32nd district for giving him the opportunity to serve them for the past eight years.
“I am appreciative for the loyal support of folks in our home area,” he said. “It is a position that allowed some opportunity to influence the state’s history for eight years and hopefully in a positive way. I think that we were able to get some pretty significant things done.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

Steelman launches campaign website

Republican U. S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman has launched her new campaign website. From the news release:

Sarah Steelman launched a new interactive website for her U.S. Senate campaign today as she seeks to work for the people of Missouri in the nation's capital in 2012. Steelman begins her campaign by inviting all Missourians to connect and participate with her and the campaign by visiting her website at The new website includes many opportunities for Missourians to share their thoughts and ideas about the issues they care about most. "I want to create a free market of ideas. I believe in the people of Missouri and want to hear from them about how we can reclaim the American Dream and return to the ideals that made our state and country great," Steelman said on Monday. "This website is designed to facilitate a discussion of the issues facing our country."

In addition, Missourians may connect with the campaign on Twitter at @SteelmanCamp and on Facebook on the "Official Sarah Steelman U.S. Senate 2012" page. On the website, Steelman begins the discussion with questions and comments about three issues: jobs, spending, and education. The website includes Twitter links for each issue and asks for comments, suggestions, and opinions. The website will often be updated with new questions about these issues as well as many others including national security, small business issues, taxes, social security, healthcare, and energy.

Steelman reiterated, "My campaign is about the people of Missouri. It's about making their voices heard in Washington and fighting for their interests. I believe in the principles of limited government, individual responsibility, and sound fiscal policy. If we put power back where it belongs -- with the people, not government -- then there is nothing that we can't accomplish together."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Remembering those who departed in 2010

Some memorable people left the scene in 2010. This was the way I remembered them in The Turner Report:

As much as I love Newtonia, I would be hard pressed to make any claims about the community’s nightlife. That pretty much came to an end in the late ‘60s when Carroll Gum’s store stopped closing at 6:30 or 7 p.m. and began shutting its doors at 5.

Oh, there was the occasional rousing game of bicycle soccer with the Letts brothers, the Oxendines, Danny Hilton, and Larry Wheeler in front of the store until there were either too many injured players to continue or until Herb Troxel called the Newton County Sheriff’s Department on us. We were always gone long before the deputy arrived…if Mr. Troxel really made the phone call.

Things changed on Jan. 10, 1969, with the opening of the Brown Derby, just one mile west of the town. It was open until 9 p.m., with fast food (or complete meals), soft drinks, and a back room with a pool table. Nightlife options had greatly improved. It was also close enough that we could walk there, even though it was highly discouraged due to the traffic on Highway 86.

It wasn’t until I started driving that my options were increased. I was introduced to the joys of Neosho, and even better, as far as I was concerned, I was able to escape from the back room pool table of the Brown Derby and sample the new restaurant on Highway 60 in Granby, Reta’s.

I don’t remember anything about the food at Reta’s in those days. After all, I was an East Newton High School student and one thing all of the boys at East Newton knew was that the best looking girls at the high school worked at Reta’s.

My first date was with a waitress from Reta’s, my first kiss came from a waitress from Reta’s (different girl, better results).

And though the young females were my primary interest at that point, there were other pluses about Reta’s. Often those of us who were fortunate enough to be there were entertained by stories from City Marshal Duane Beaver, or entertained ourselves with spirited, often noisy discussions on sports or politics.

I was usually not there when Reta’s owner, Reta Fullerton, was in the building, but there was another Rita who came to symbolize the restaurant for me and for most of its patrons.

For many of us, Rita Wheeler symbolized Reta’s. As the ownership changed, from Reta Fullerton to Pat and Vern Styron, and whoever followed them after I moved out of Newton County, Rita’s ever-present smile and unfailingly courteous manner was the one constant.

Long after I last stepped foot in Reta’s, when the owners after the Styrons changed the name of the establishment, (it seems like it was Charley’s for a while and then something about a hillbilly) if I happened to run into Rita in a store or downtown, she always greeted me by name, as if she had just seen me yesterday. I have a feeling there were very few people whose names Rita didn’t remember.

Rita Wheeler died Sunday at age 97.

Reta’s was an important part of life in Granby and this area during my teen years.

The building that used to house Reta’s is an empty shell of what it used to be with a for sale sign that may stay on there forever, but the memories linger on. Now it is nearly four decades later, and thinking of Reta’s and thinking of Rita Wheeler bring back memories I will cherish for a lifetime.

Several years ago, I bought a couple of videocassettes at the Carthage Friend of the Library's monthly used book sale and found a pleasant surprise on each of them.

The labeling on the cassettes indicated they featured Audie Murphy westerns and nostalgic for those movies, which I had watched on Saturday nights when I was growing up, I put the first one into the VCR and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Not only did the tape include an Audie Murphy shoot 'em up, but it also had a complete KODE newscast from the 1980s.

For those who can't take their news without the usual mixture of glitzy graphics and banter between anchors, the newscast would have been unbearable. The graphics were primitive and that's being generous. The conversation between the anchors was short and to the point.

For those, however, who like their news straightforward and to the point, this videotape was a true blast from the past. When Bob Phillips was anchoring the news, you never had a doubt that everything he said was true. He was not one of those blow-dried anchors with the gift of playful banter that we see so often on today's newscasts, the result of focus groups that have told us that we have to have male and female co-anchors, trading off on stories and forcing meaningless chatter on us at times when another news story would be far more useful.

In fact, to look at him, Bob Phillips should never have been anywhere near the anchor's desk. He did not look like a male model and his voice, distinctive and authoritative, but probably ponderously slow to today's viewers, conveyed the seriousness and respect he had for both his viewers and the news.

He was a radio voice for television and even at the time when he graced the local airwaves, he was already an antique and those of us who watched KODE during those years appreciated the value of that antique.

Even after his days of anchoring the news came to an end, Bob Phillips continued to add weight to KODE's newscast with his much-remembered features, "The Phillips Files," with their examinations of the Joplin area's past and unusual, interesting local people.

Bob Phillips died Saturday at age 78, bringing a close to an era when the story, not the pretty packaging, came first.

During the past few years, we were limited to seeing Bob Phillips on advertising for Always Buying Books, a perfect fit for Bob Wolfe's business and guaranteed positive memories for those who remembered Mr. Phillips' days with KODE.

I miss those days.

I have always been a person with a keen sense of detail about things that have happened in the past (and usually have the notes to back up those memories).

The fact that I can't recall how Clyde Phillips became a food columnist for The Carthage Press during my watch would indicate the likelihood the idea came from the lifestyles editor at that time, Amy Lamb.

Cooking with Clyde was different from cooking columns in other state newspapers in two senses. It was one of the few cooking columns written by a man and it was geared toward healthy recipes long before other newspapers began heading in that direction.

Take those two ingredients and combine them with a personality known favorably to the Carthage community from his time as The Press' circulation director and it did not take long for Cooking with Clyde to become one of the favorite features of Press readership, something which was borne out by our surveys, as well as by word of mouth.

I was sad Friday when I learned that Clyde died at age 75 . It was not surprising. He had a history of health issues, something which led him to using the recipes that he offered readers each week, but it deprived the world of one of its most genial, likable gentleman.

Clyde was one of those who made my move to The Carthage Press in 1990 a smooth one and he was always helpful to me. He was a bit surprised at the beginning when I regularly asked him questions about Press circulation. As the area reporter, I wanted to know the effect, if any, my reporting in Webb City, Carterville, Sarcoxie, and Jasper, was having on the readership in those communities. I also let Clyde know days when we were having a big story and needed to increase the number of newspapers left at retail outlets in area towns.

And no matter how many times I asked Clyde the same types of questions about circulation, I don't recall one time when he lost his patience. He was always pleasant and always a gentleman, both with the public and with those who worked with him at The Press.

Sadly, the passing of Clyde Phillips marks yet another death of one of the people who provided the solid foundation which made The Carthage Press a highly respected newspaper during the 1980s and 1990s, following longtime newsroom fixtures Marvin VanGilder and Jack Harshaw and composing room foreman Jennifer Martin.

They were among the people who helped make the early years of my experience at The Press so rewarding. And sadly, with the environment of today's newspaper business, it is unlikely we will ever have the chance to see so many quality people at one small-town newspaper again.

The voice of Carthage was silenced Sunday night.

Marvin L. VanGilder, whose list of accomplishments boggles the mind, died at age 83.

The reference to Marvin as the voice of Carthage contains a double meaning. Not only was he the city's biggest booster and a repository of its history, but with his booming, radio-trained voice, he commanded attention, while the words he spoke commanded respect.

I was a bit intimidated by Marvin when I joined The Carthage Press staff as the area reporter in April 1990. Having worked at the Lamar Democrat for nearly a decade, I was familiar with Marvin's book, "The Story of Barton County," and had even used many of the events he chronicled in that book when I wrote the pageant for the Truman Centennial in 1984.

Marvin was not only a historian, but he had a lengthy career as a reporter, both for newspapers and radio, and had at one time been the managing editor of The Press. It did not take long for me to understand that Marvin was not one of those hidebound 'old timers" who demanded that things be done the way they had been done for decades. He was the go-to source for all younger reporters at The Press, sharing with us historical background that enabled us to provide a context to our stories, something seldom seen in journalism, either today or 20 years ago.

The influence Marvin had on The Carthage Press and the community are still evident today. Last week, Marvin's illness forced him to miss the latest re-enactment of the Battle of Carthage, but that re-enactment, the ones held in the past, and those that will be staged in the future, would not have been possible had it not been for Marvin's steadfast championing of the city's history.

Marvin turned history into front-page stories, not just through coverage of the re-enactments and the planning sessions that led to those events, but through his thorough embrace of history as a gateway to understanding the present.

When Bill Webster ran for governor in 1992, Marvin was able to provide readers with a clear understanding, not only of what Webster's candidacy could mean for Carthage, but the historical background of Webster's father, the late Sen. Richard Webster's 1952 bid for lieutenant governor, the last time a Carthage resident had sought statewide office.

One of the biggest regrets I had upon taking over the managing editor position at The Press in 1993, was the knowledge that my promotion came at the same time that Marvin was retiring. I would have loved to have had Marvin as a sounding board, but Marvin had other work he wanted to accomplish.

And what a glorious "retirement" it was.

For the last 17 years of his life, Marvin VanGilder wrote history, he spoke to different groups, adults and schoolchildren, bringing the past to life in a way that textbooks never could. And despite his "retirement" Marvin never left the pages of The Carthage Press.

At one point, he was writing three different columns per week, one on Carthage history, one on genealogy, and one offering his perspective on current events. And for 49 weeks from 1996 to 1997, he made it four columns, also writing a history column for our short-lived Lamar Press newspaper. He also wrote three editorials per week for the newspaper. In recent years, he provided The Press readership with a weekly religion column.

It was 40 years ago this year, that Carthage Chamber of Commerce named Marvin as its Citizen of the Year. He spent the rest of his live proving the wisdom of that selection.

During his nearly 84 years on this earth, Marvin was a preacher, a teacher, a historian, a poet, a musician, an author, and a reporter and he excelled at all of these- what a remarkable life.

Thankfully, his writings and recordings have been preserved and Marvin's influence will continue to be felt for generations to come.

Death has taken Marvin VanGilder from us, but his voice, the voice of Carthage, will live forever.


One of the hardest things for a teacher to accept is that he is not going to be able to reach all children.

The instruction methods, the disciplinary techniques, the classroom atmosphere that we use successfully with the greater percentage of our students will simply not work for a few.

And I, like most other teachers, cannot accept that we will never be able to reach those students. We try new techniques, we talk to other teachers to learn how they are able to connect with the student (if they are), and we grow increasingly frustrated as the school year draws to a close and one more student has slipped away.

Brendan Garrett was one of those students I could never reach.

It wasn't because of any kind of personality conflict. When I look back over Brendan's time in my class, I can't recall ever being angry with him. He was never the kind to create a disturbance or to do anything that forced me to take my attention away from the rest of the class.

Every so often, I would talk with Brendan, and I tried not to center all of those conversations on his missing work. I enjoyed those talks, frustrating as they were. At one point late in the 2004-2005 school year, he even told me he liked my class, which gave me the opportunity to ask, "Then why don't you ever turn in any of your work?"

Brendan didn't respond; he just smiled.

As the year drew to a close, I gave a writing assignment on a topic that must have interested Brendan; he turned in the paper on time. Naturally, I thought I had made some kind of breakthrough. No such luck. Things were back to normal for the next assignment.

Finally, the last week of school arrived and I gave my traditional final assignment- critique my class. This gives the eighth graders a chance to tell me what they liked or did not like, what they learned or did not learn, and offers them the opportunity to recommend changes in my class for future students.

There have been times when students who did not put in effort on many (or any) papers for nearly four quarters would turn in astonishingly detailed and perceptive advice and give me insight on why I had been unable to reach them.

I received no such insight from Brendan. He never did the paper.

Brendan Garrett had never been a troublemaker, he had never been one of those students who delighted in taking lesson plans that I thought were well-constructed and turning them into sheer chaos.

He had just been one of those students who slipped away.

All teachers have had the experience of running into former students who created problems for them and having pleasant conversations and at least feeling better that life has managed to work out for those students despite our failure to ever connect with them.

Sadly, I will never have that conversation with Brendan Garrett. The last time he walked out of Room 210 at South Middle School was the last time I ever talked to him.

Brendan Garrett died Tuesday.

Today would have been his 20th birthday.


The 1980s were not easy years for Democrats and especially ones who lived in Jasper County.

We were living through the Reagan years, followed by four years of George H. W. Bush as president and officeholders who had a D by their names on Jasper County ballots were few and far between.

The 1990s did not start much better for local Democrats. Not only was President Bush still in office, but Missouri's governor was Republican John Ashcroft.

With all of those negatives, Ruby Sapp never lost her enthusiasm for her party. I first met Ruby in March 1992, when she stopped by the Carthage Press office to let me know that the state's lieutenant governor and in her words "our state's next governor" Mel Carnahan was going to be in Carthage. Even though she was in a building in which the Press Editorial Board endorsed Republican and Carthage native son Bill Webster, the attorney general, three times, she never lost her sense of humor and never had any doubt that we were wrong and Mel Carnahan was going to be governor.

And one year later, Bill Webster was headed to prison and Mel Carnahan was in the governor's mansion- and there was a Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton.

Though there was still on average only one Democratic officeholder in Jasper County, Ruby never gave up hoping and was gratified by the success of Kathleen McGuire when she was elected to office in the mid-90s.

One of my favorite memories of Ruby Sapp came when she stopped by The Press office in 1994, a few months after I had been named managing editor to ask me what kind of coverage I planned to give to Hillary Clinton's visit to Independence, Missouri.

I told her Independence was a little out of our reading area, but I would be happy to run some AP copy of the visit. Then I asked her if she knew anybody who was going, knowing full well what her answer was going to be.

It didn't take long for me to convince Ruby to write an account of the First Lady's visit. Lamar resident Kim Stahl was also headed to Independence that day on another mission- protesting the Clinton visit. So The Press ended up not using any Associated Press material at all. I ran Ruby Sapp and Kim Stahl's first-person accounts side-by-side under the headline "Declarations from Independence."

For Press readers, it was a fun look at politics from both sides. For Ruby,seeing Hillary Clinton was a dream come true and things only got better.

Two years after that, she was chosen to represent Jasper County at the Democratic National Convention.

For Ruby Sapp, life was family and Democratic politics.

Ruby died Thursday at age 81 and things were undoubtedly just the way she wanted them- a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat in the governor's mansion.


In just four years in the U. S. Army during World War II, Ralph Houk, a Lawrence, Kansas, native, rose from private to major and for his bravery battling the Axis forces, including participation in the Battle of the Bulge and the Remagen crossing, he earned the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart.

His service was described by his commanding officer for three years, Caesar Fiore, on the website, Baseball in Wartime. (

Houk was wounded in the calf at Willbillig, Germany during the battle, had the injury bandaged and returned immediately to combat.

"One day in the middle of the battle I sent Ralph out in a jeep to do some scouting of enemy troops," said Fiore. "After being out two nights we listed him as 'missing in action.'

"When he turned up he had a three-day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him. He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must have enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said 'I could have swore I heard a ricochet.' We marked him 'absent without leave' but were glad to have him back alive."

That brave soldier, Ralph Houk, who died in July at age 90. also was among the troops who landed on the shores of Normandy, had a connection to Newton and Jasper counties, since he lived in Neosho in 1939 and Joplin in 1940.

That was when Ralph was a catcher, playing on the minor league teams in those communities. In Neosho, he batted .286 and drove in 56 runs. At Joplin, his numbers improved as he raised his average to .313

Though he reached the major leagues following his military service, he never made much of an impact on the only team he ever played for, the New York Yankees, until 1961, when Ralph Houk replaced Casey Stengel as the Yankees’ manager.

The following passage was taken from his obituary in the July 17 New York Times:

As he got ready to manage in a World Series game for the first time, against the Cincinnati Reds in 1961, Houk was asked whether he was nervous. “Why, is somebody going to be shooting at me?” he replied, according to “The Man in the Dugout,” a book about managers by Leonard Koppett.

Houk managed for 20 seasons, with the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox. He was known for building the morale and confidence of his players with an optimistic outlook and a refusal to criticize them publicly.

“I don’t think you can humiliate a player and expect him to perform.” he said.
Houk, who was only the second manager in baseball history to reach the World Series during his first three years, never forgot that baseball was just a game, a lesson he learned early as he went from the baseball fields at Neosho and Joplin to the battlefields where he served his country with distinction.

Alaniz to begin anchoring KODE newscast January 5

The official debut of Tiffany Alaniz as anchor for KODE's 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts is scheduled for Wednesday, January 5, according to her new blog on the Four States Home Page site:

It's with great excitement and some nervousness that I start this blog to announce that I'm coming back to television news! I'm honored to tell you that I will start as main anchor on KODE-Action 12 News on January 5th. I'll start back to work full time on the 3rd and will job shadow Gretchen for a couple of days to get my bearings.
Ms. Alaniz, as noted in the November 27, Turner Report, will replace Brian Dorman, who served two years at the KODE anchor desk.

Former cheerleaders sue Seneca school district

How much control, if any, should school officials to be able to maintain over the conduct of student athletes when they are not at school?

That seems to be the question at hand in a lawsuit filed today by two former Seneca High School cheerleaders. Named as defendants in the action are members of the R-7 Board of Education and Principal Tosha Fox.

The cheerleaders, one of whom was the captain, say they were unfairly removed from the squad by Ms. Fox, according to the petition. On June 10, they were "informed they would be removed from the cheer squad immediately."

They were being disciplined, according to the lawsuit, "for conduct alleged to have occurred off district property when the school was not in session."

The lawsuit says Ms. Fox singled out the students in an interview with the Seneca News-Dispatch and at an assembly of students in August and that she tried to have the students sign a bullying contract. Nowhere in the lawsuit does it describe what transgressions the former cheerleaders allegedly committed. When KSNF broke the story this afternoon, it was reported that school officials told the television station that the lawsuit had nothing to do with the hazing incident involving Seneca football players at a camp at Pittsburg State University, but coincidentally, the cheerleaders were removed from the squad at almost the exact time the hazing allegations were leveled.

The bullying contract the cheerleaders said they were asked to sign is part of the new policy implemented by the school board following the hazing incidents.

It would appear that the allegations against the cheerleaders may have come from something posted on the internet.

One of the students, referred to as "P. A." in the lawsuit says the actions of the principal and board:

-Included removal of her position as cheer captain

-Threat of preclusion from her position as a top All-American Cheerleader

-She was removed as FFA vice president

-Her position on the National Honor Society was threatened.

-She was alienated from other students and from her fellow cheerleaders

-She was precluded from receiving certain scholarships.

The other student, referred to as K. E.  also referred to her removal from the cheerleading squad, alienation from students and from her fellow cheerleaders.

Both say the actions of the defendants have been harmful to their "learning environment."

They say their constitutional rights of free speech, association, and privacy have been violated.

They are asking for "fair and reasonable damages," punitive damages, attorney fees, costs, and expenses.

Jetton charged with careless and imprudent driving, Sen. Crowell serving as his attorney

Former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, has had nnother brush with the law, according to online court documents.

Jetton was charged with careless and imprudent driving in Butler County after being involved in an accident November 8. The case was investigated by the Highway Patrol.
His arraignment, initially scheduled for December 20, has been rescheduled to January 6, following a request by his attorney of record, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.

Jetton is also awaiting a February 3 trial in New Madrid County Circuit Court on a charge of assault involving accusations of rough sex with a Sikeston woman.

The former speaker also pleaded guilty in Laclede County Circuit Court April 23 to a misdemeanor traffic charge. According to online court records Jetton paid $10 fine after pleading guilty to a charge of operating his car without lights while using his windshield wipers. The stop was made by the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Joplin city officials to meet Monday with Reinke over Mother Road Marathon dispute

City of Joplin officials will meet with Dean Reinke of  Reinke Sports Group Monday, December 27 in an attempt to come to a settlement in a dispute that has wound up in federal court.

Documents filed Wednesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri indicate a decision on scheduling hearings in the court case has been delayed until after the meeting.

The city filed the lawsuit against Reinke, who marketed the inaugural Mother Road Marathon, claiming that he was continuing to solicit entrants for the event though the city had severed ties with him. In his response filed earlier this month in federal court, Reinke says the city has no right to the name Mother Road Marathon and he has just as much right to promote the event as the city.

The reasons why the city of Joplin decided not to renew its verbal agreement with Reinke Sports Group to promote the Mother Road Marathon were spelled out in court documents filed earlier this month.

Along with a motion for a permanent injunction barring the Reinke group from claiming any involvement with the marathon, the city attached a letter dated November 5 from former Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Vince Lindstrom to Dean Reinke, in which Lindstrom harshly criticizes the work Reinke did with the inaugural event:

As I explained in my e-mail right after the Mother Road Marathon, it is imperative that you do not include the Mother Road Marathon or Half in your 2011 promotions.

The committee has met, and it was a unanimous decision that we would not be using Reinke Sports Group in the future. We appreciate your involvement, but it was evident that we have the skill level at the local level to produce the event.

As you know, the committee was unwilling to give up ownership of the marathon and as you also know, our verbal agreement was for one year. As I told you at the time of that verbal agreement, we would evaluate how the first year went and make a decision following the first race.

To be candid, you have too much on your plate for the size of your organization. The concept of a series of half marathons in minor league cities is a good one, but you need the staff to make it happen. At this time, you are depending far too much on the local organization.

You did not deliver on the sponsorships or the expo. The shirts were not ordered on time and the food for the post party was a complete fiasco. It was not Deano's fault, or Juan's fault. You would not give the green light because you had delayed the process and you were sure you could save money the last minute.

Finally, your track record in Bentonville was awful. They want nothing to do with you.

In the petition, which was originally filed in Jasper County Circuit Court, it was noted that 1,929 people participated in the Mother Road Marathon with entry fees estimated at $100,000. The intent was always for the sponsorship of the event to remain under the control of the city of Joplin the petition said.

"Despite being informed his contract was not being renewed, defendant is among other activities: a. claiming ownership of the MRM; (b) seeking sponsorships for the 2011 MRM; (c) seeking entries for the 2011 MRM." Reinke has also established three websites about the marathon.

Unless Reinke is kept from promoting the event and using websites and web addresses connected to the event "the city of Joplin will suffer irreparable injury and damage," the petition said.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Redistricting chairman addresses census results; Flanagan to serve on committee

In the accompanying video, Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who is chairman of the House Redistricting Committee addresses the census results which were just released. Rep. Tom Flanagan, R-Carthage, will represent this area on the committee.

Steelman connection to trial attorneys, regular Democratic Party contributors noted long ago in Turner Report

The first bump in the road for former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman's fledgling U. S. Senate campaign came last week when an alleged "Angry Tea Partier," writing under the pseudonym Francis Marion noted that much of the money for her campaign for governor and previous campaigns has come from trial attorneys.

Much of the outcry that has come since the information in the memo was first circulated in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch comes from Steelman supporters who are outraged that the Post-Dispatch is relying on an secretive informant to trash their candidate.

However, anyone who reads this blog was well aware of the sources of Mrs. Steelman's funding. They are also aware that much of her money came from sources, including the trial attorneys, who normally limit their contributions to the Democratic Party.

From the July 2, 2008 Turner Report:

"Power to the People" has been Sarah Steelman's slogan, and it is also the name of a front committee which has been actively directing money to Mrs. Steelman's campaign for governor.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate nearly all of the committee's contributions have been coming from supporters who typically steer their money toward the Democratic party. Those contributions, all for more than the $1,275 limit, which is still in effect until Aug. 28, are being laundered through county and legislative district committees and then contributed to Mrs. Steelman.

Ethics Commission records show Power to the People was originally formed in 2006 as the Committee for Ethical Reform, but its fundraising did not take off in earnest until the beginning of 2008. The committee's treasurer is Patrick Horsefield, a law partner of Mrs. Steelman's husband David in the firm of Steelman, Gaunt & Horsefield.

The committee's first quarter disclosure report shows it received $52,525 during the first three months of 2008, with most of it coming from the following sources:

-$15,000 from the Alan and Hope Winters Family Foundation: Federal records show Alan Winters contributed to the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and John Kerry, and Hope Winters contributed $1,000 to Emily's List, an organization which has primarily worked for Democratic female political candidates. The Winters Foundation is heavily involved in working with the homeless and with new immigrants.

-$7,300 from Grant Davis, Leawood, Kan., and $7,500 from his law firm, Davis, Bethune, & Jones, Kansas City. Davis has contributed to Robin Carnahan and John Edwards, among others.

-$2,500 from Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, Kansas City. Top lawyers in that firm have made contributions to the campaigns of Claire McCaskill, Susan Montee, and Bekki Cook.

-$8,725 from Langdon & Emison, another Kansas City law firm. Emison contributions have gone to Nancy Farmer, Ike Skelton, Dick Gephardt, and John Edwards.

-$2,500 from K&M Enterprises. Though I was unable to locate K&M Enterprises, the address provided on the Ethics Commission document was the same as the law firm of Manson and Korback or M&K. Korback's money has gone to the campaigns of Barack Obama, John Kerry and the Kansas State Democratic Committee.

The Ethics Commission documents show Power to the People distributed that money and other money it had on hand, to the tune of $75,450, as follows:

-$8,000 to the 17th Senatorial District Committee, which gave $13,500 to Mrs. Steelman

-$13,500 to the Phelps County Republican Committee, which sent a like amount to Mrs. Steelman.

-$13,450 to the Crawford County Republican Committee, which did not have the contribution listed on its April disclosure form since the contribution was made on March 31.

-$13,500 to the Dent County Republican Committee, which gave the same amount to the Steelman campaign.

-$13,500 to the 56th District Legislative Commitee, with the same amount going to Mrs. Steelman.

-13,500 to the Buchanan County Republican Committee, which gave the same amount to the Steelman campaign.

There is no evidence that any candidate except Mrs. Steelman benefited from contributions made by these Democratic donors to Power to the People.

The July 14, 2008, Turner Report noted that the same pattern continued during the next quarter, with the following contributions:

-The Alan and Hope Winters Family Foundation- $15,000 ($30,000 overall this year) Winters has made a maximum contribution to Barack Obama's presidential campaign this year, while Mrs. Winters contributed $1,000 to Emily's List, which normally supports female Democratic candidates.

-Law Offices of Stephen R. Bough, $1,275. Bough's preferred candidates this year have been John Edwards, Al Franken, Kay Barnes, Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Page, Jolie Justus, and Jeff Harris.

-Gary Robb, $5,000

-Anita Robb, $5,000, Mrs. Robb has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top five female trial attorneys in the U. S. She has contributed to Kay Barnes campaign against Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves. Both Robbs contributed to Jay Nixon in 2007.

-Martin Meyers, Kansas City trial attorney, $5,000, has contributed to Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Independence

-Law Offices of Newman, Bronson, & Walls, St. Louis, $10,000

-Hershewe Law Firm, Joplin, $12,500. The Hershewes have also been consistent direct contributors to Mrs. Steelman

-Randy W. James & Associates, personal injury lawyers, Kansas City, $5,000, who has donated to the campaigns of Paul Levota and Sam Page.

-Becky L. Henry, West Plains, attorney, and past contributor to Jean Carnahan and Claire McCaskill. She also has contributed to Jay Nixon.
While most of the regular GOP contributors gave to Mrs. Steelman's primary opponent, Congressman Kenny Hulshof, in 2008, it appears that anyone whose credentials would be suspect, either to the Republican Party or to the newly ascendant Tea Party, put money into the front committee to be laundered through district committees before going to the Steelman campaign.

And while there is nothing illegal about these maneuvers, it is definitely fair game for those who might face Mrs. Steelman in the 2012 primary.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cynthia Davis: Why America is special

As Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, nears the end of her time in the Missouri House of Representatives, she has spent the last several weeks spelling out her philosophy on a number of issues. In her latest column, she talks about what makes America special. At one point, she notes that her son, who is studying to become a public schoolteacher, is required to take a course on political correctness. I can't recall ever seeing that one in a college catalog:

America is special

It’s not just that we have generated the most prosperity, have the most enduring constitution and serve as a model to which other civilizations wish to aspire. These benchmarks are merely the fruit of our common belief system. You may ask, “How can we have a common belief system when there is such diversity among millions of people?” The answer lies in our common creeds -the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

As a result, people here have enjoyed greater freedom and autonomy than any other country. This is not sheer luck. It is a result of our foundational principles. We believe that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. These God-given rights are what distinguish us from all other nations who believe rights are granted by the government.

Our remarkable success has created American Exceptionalism. This is far more than pride in our homeland; it is an acknowledgement that our country has surpassed all other civilizations in a remarkable way. Never to be duplicated before or since! While other countries struggle under iron-fisted rulers, our country believes that “We the people” are the government. We govern ourselves to a great degree, but this is only possible so long as we retain a common ethic of right and wrong. It is remarkable how many of our founders said that our morality is a prerequisite of the blessings of liberty. Although there are individual aberrations, our country has a national conscience and a national personality that loves liberty, is friendly and is the most generous nation on earth. We have nothing for which to apologize to other nations.

My son is required to take a class on political correctness as a requirement to be a public school teacher. In the class the teacher told the students they should not use the word “America” anymore because it makes us sound like we are the center of the universe. It’s true that other places are called “America”; however, when we say it in the context or our nation, people know it is in reference to the exceptional nation, distinctive among all others. Loyalty to our country is a virtue. George Washington said it best:

“Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”

George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

America is the most exceptional model of fair, just and free government ever known to mankind and the clear thinking citizens aren’t afraid to say so!

Our Planet Earth is Special

The planet Earth is also exceptional because we are the only place in the known universe that can sustain life. Scientists have spent exhaustive amounts of time and money to see if they can find life anywhere else and after searching billions of light years and almost every known galaxy, they have come up with nothing. For them, if the Earth is the only place they can find life, it also shows there must be a creator because this couldn’t just happen. If evolution had merit, it would be duplicated somewhere else. If it can’t be duplicated then the Earth is exceptional.

Missouri is Also Special

Our Missouri constitution has some parts that are better than our US Constitution. For example, Missouri’s Bill of Rights states:

1.) “Missouri is a free and independent state...all proposed amendments…affecting the individual liberties of the people or which in any wise may impair the right of local self-government belonging to the people of this state, should be submitted to the conventions of the people.” (Section 4).

2.) “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; that no human authority can control or interfere with the rights of conscience;” (Section 5).

3.) “No law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech, no matter by what means communication; that every person shall be free to say, write or publish, or otherwise communicate whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuses of that liberty;” (Section 8)

4.) “…The court shall excuse any woman who requests exemption there-from before being sworn as a juror.” Section 22 (b)

5.) “Private property shall not be taken for private use …except for private ways of necessity, and except for drains and ditches across the lands of others for agricultural and sanitary purposes…” (Section 28)

6.) “To be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman. (Section 33)

Packing up the Office

Due to term limits, I am getting ready to shut down our office at the Missouri Capitol. In keeping with the tradition of emailing Capitol Reports every Thursday, I have two more Capitol Reports left to send. I plan on continuing to communicate with all of you who have enjoyed my reports.

Republicans jump on Nixon's awarding of $2 million to felon

The Missouri Republican Party continues to jump on AP's revelation last week that Gov. Jay Nixon awarded $2 million to a convicted felon. From a news release issued today:

Last week, the Associated Press revealed that the president and CEO of a company awarded more than $2 million in state economic development aid was on probation for passing more than $90,000 in bad checks. A spokesman for the governor’s office told the AP that he was unaware that Weaver Dickerson had a felony record when Jay Nixon joined Dickerson in Cape Girardeau to announce the state aid earlier this month.

“If Jay Nixon spent five minutes doing a simple background check, he would have uncovered the criminal past of the man who he awarded $2 million in state aid. But maybe Nixon was just too busy watching basketball to do the job Missourians elected him to do,” said Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “It is clear that Jay Nixon has fallen asleep at the switch—and he’s now doling out huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to people who have proven that they cannot be trusted to handle money.”

Dickerson’s financial past is troubling. In addition to pleading guilty to felony charges for passing more than $90,000 in bad checks, court documents suggest that he has been taken to court more than a dozen times for default of various loans—and he’s even had several run-ins with the Missouri Division of Employment Security.

But Nixon shared the stage with Dickerson, apparently unaware of his troubled past.

That’s why the Missouri Republican Party today has filed an open records request with the Department of Economic Development demanding a list of all recipients of state aid used to fund Dickerson’s project in Cape Girardeau. It is important to determine if this is part of a larger pattern of irresponsible use of taxpayer money—and since Jay Nixon is shown himself to be too incompetent to vet those who are receiving millions of dollars in incentives, we will do it for him.

Audit of adjutant general's office uncovers numerous problems

A state audit of the adjutant general's office uncovered numerous problems. The summary of the case provided by the state auditor's office is printed below:

Findings in the audit of the Office of Adjutant General

National Guard Educational Assistance Program

Multiple concerns were noted during our review of the state National Guard Educational Assistance Program (program). The Office of Adjutant General (OAG) has not evaluated the effectiveness of the program since its inception to determine the impact on the recruitment and retention of Missouri National Guardsmen.

 The OAG also consistently failed to follow established guidelines of the program. Program personnel did not always ensure federal educational assistance was paid before state resources were used, assistance payments were not restricted to the maximum number of credit hours allowed, and applications were accepted outside established timeframes.

 In addition, the program's payment and accounts receivable tracking spreadsheets were not accurate and were not reconciled to the Statewide Advantage System for Missouri (SAMII), accounts receivable duties over the program were not adequately segregated, and receipts were not always remitted timely for deposit. Also, meeting minutes were not prepared or retained for some committee meetings held.

Capital Assets

The OAG did not maintain proper records of capital assets or adequately perform periodic inventories and reconciliations to ensure assets were accounted for properly. In addition, the OAG did not comply with policies and procedures to ensure vehicles were used efficiently and effectively, and to document vehicle usage was for official use only.

Readiness Centers

The OAG has not conducted a feasibility study in recent years to ensure the efficient use of its readiness centers statewide. The last feasibility study was performed in 2003 as a result of a prior audit finding. The OAG currently operates 63 individual readiness centers located in various cities and towns statewide. Currently, 18 of the readiness centers are rated in poor condition based on condition rating assessments performed by the Office of Administration (OA).

General Revenue Fund Subsidy

The OAG does not reimburse the state General Revenue Fund for appropriations used for some costs of operating the cafeteria located at the Ike Skelton Training Site (ISTS), and such costs are not included when determining food prices. As a result, the state General Revenue Fund is subsidizing the operation of the OAG cafeteria.

Federal Fund Balance

The OAG has not developed plans to account for a shortage in its federal fund resulting from OA allocations for statewide leasing services performed on behalf of the OAG. For the 3 years ended June 30, 2009, the OA had allocated $92,494 in statewide leasing costs to the OAG federal fund; however, these costs are not allowable for the federal National Guard Military Operations and Maintenance Projects program, which is administered through the OAG federal fund.

Cafeteria Inventory Records

A perpetual inventory of cafeteria items purchased, sold, or consumed, and inventory balances is not maintained. In addition, while OAG personnel perform a physical inventory count at the end of each fiscal year for financial statement purposes, the inventory count is not documented.