Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Illuminated cross travels from Sedalia to Joplin headed for tornado-stricken church

A great column by Bob Salman of the Sedalia Democrat about a group of teens working to send an illuminated cross from Sedalia to Joplin to the tornado-stricken Peace Lutheran Church:

The gift was discovered, devised and delivered by teens who were on a quest to help Joplin residents after the May tornado that shredded that city, but those teens also ended up providing comfort and inspiration to a congregation searching for light and hope.

On Sunday, the youth group from Christ & Trinity Lutheran Church in Sedalia presented to Peace Lutheran Church in Joplin an illuminated cross they made from broken glass found where Peace Lutheran stood until the EF-5 twister decimated the structure.
Simmons called the gift “truly a symbol of what God wants us to be for each other.”

In June, Christ & Trinity youths traveled to Joplin to help with cleanup and aid efforts. The trip included a stop at Peace Lutheran. Adult congregation member Cathy Hatfield, who took the teens to Joplin, said at the time: “The kids had not had time to process through all the work, and I didn’t want to leave until they could find some connection.”

Meyers brothers are Joplin Tornado heroes

The latest in KOAM's Storm Heroes series about those who came to the forefront during the May 22 Joplin Tornado.

Western Kentucky fraternity inducts Joplin Tornado victim Will Norton as honorary member

A Western Kentucky University inducted 2011 Joplin High School graduate Will Norton, who died in the May 22 Joplin Tornado, as an honorary member this week:

It’s because of Norton’s story that David Serafini, a history instructor at WKU and the adviser of PSP, first organized a trip to Joplin to help with rebuilding efforts. The first trip was in June and the second followed in October during fall break.

As Serafini watched the search for Norton unfold after the storm, he felt connected to the story, saying it brought out the big brother in him. Serafini began to learn about Norton, a YouTube star and budding filmmaker, and felt that he embodied the PSP tripod of scholarship, leadership and fellowship.

After returning from the second Joplin Run in October, Serafini said he proposed to the PSP officers making Norton an honorary brother of the fraternity. It was approved unanimously by the officers and then by the full chapter.

“We knew it was going to happen,” he said. “Joplin has become our project, I suppose, and we’ve all adopted Will in a way. He’s the reason why we go.”

During the initiation, Serafini stood in as Norton and signed the role book on his behalf.

The ceremony brought mixed emotions for Serafini and the fraternity. Despite the sadness, Serafini said he was proud and happy to make Norton an honorary brother.

“Now we must ensure that we tell Will’s story to each initiate class from here on out,” Serafini said.
(Western Kentucky University Herald photo)

Disaster recovery committee recommends changes in wake of Joplin Tornado

Changes to the prevailing wage and allowing out-of-state doctors to practice in Missouri without going through red tape during emergencies such as the May 22 Joplin Tornado are among the changes discussed by an interim House Committee discussing disaster response and recovery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joplin educators tour Kirkwood as they plan for new high school

Documentary excerpt: 8-year-old survives Joplin Tornado in closet

$635,000 in scrap tire grants to go to Joplin playgrounds

(From the Missouri Department of Natural Resources)

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has awarded $635,000 in grants to the Joplin School District and Joplin Parks and Recreation Department for 11 playground projects necessary because of damage caused by the May 22 tornado that hit the city.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Nixon announced the department’s Scrap Tire Surface Material Grants were available for public schools, parks, non-profit day care centers, other not-for-profit organizations and some local governmental organizations to submit applications for the grant funding.

The scrap tire grant funding announced today by the department will help rebuild playgrounds in the Joplin area following the tornado earlier this spring. Also included, was funding for a project, highlighted by the Governor back in August, that built a playground to serve children and families living in temporary FEMA housing in Joplin.
“Children are especially vulnerable after a disaster of this scale,” Gov. Nixon said. “Schools and playgrounds help return a child’s sense of security and normalcy by providing a stable, familiar environment.”

The Joplin School District will receive $517,720 of the funds being awarded. Many of the elementary school projects listed below include multiple play areas to meet each school’s individual needs based on their number of students and to allow for age appropriate play areas for those students:

School/Grant Amount

Cecil Floyd -- $77,680.
Duenweg -- $45,000.
Eastmorland -- $69,080.
Emerson -- $20,580.
Irving -- $64,940.
Kelsey Norman -- $61,880.
McKinley -- $95,140.
Royal Heights -- $83,420.

Joplin’s Parks and Recreation Department had three parks within the most heavily damaged storm area. The Parks and Recreation Department is receiving $117,080 of the grant funds for the following playground surfacing material projects:


Cunningham -- $48,000.
Garvin -- $31,200.
Parr Hill -- $37,880.
The grants announced today are in addition to $22,288 awarded in September for a playground project being built on land between the Hope Haven Mobile Home Park and the Jeff Taylor Memorial Mobile Home Park for children and families displaced by the tornado and currently living in FEMA housing.

The Department of Natural Resources is able to provide these grants through the state’s 50-cent-per-tire fee collected on new tires sold at retail in Missouri. These fees are also used to finance cleanup of illegal scrap tire dumps, inspections and enforcement activities. The department has awarded more than $2 million to 319 organizations since the surfacing material grants became available in 1994.

For more information on the Scrap Tire Surface Material Grants, please contact the Department of Natural Resources’ Solid Waste Management Program at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-5401 or visit the website at

Monday, November 28, 2011

KOAM video: Joplin Tornado Info up for national award

Hartzler 's House floor comments on Balanced Budget Amendment

Exclusive Joplin Extreme Makeover photos

Rules and regulations limit Christmas decoration in FEMA homes

Joplin Tornado Info nominated for Mashable award

I am happy to pass along the news that Joplin Tornado Info, a Facebook clearing house for all kinds of news related to the May 22 disaster, has been nominated for a presitgious internet award.

From the Joplin Tornado Info news release:

We are pleased to announce that Joplin Tornado Info has been chosen by Mashable’s Editors as one of 7 finalists in the “Best Social Good Cause Campaign” category. The final winner is determined by reader’s choice meaning we need your votes to win. It is our hope that we can continue to call attention to Joplin’s recovery and the integral role social media has played in that recovery.

Joplin Tornado Info facebook page (
was started minutes after the May 22nd. tornado by Genevieve Williams, CEO Your Net Working, a Neosho based internet marketing strategy business.

Joplin Tornado Info page quickly went viral gathering over 48,000 fans in 36 hours. Joplin Tornado info community members used the page to find loved ones, post needs, recovery and relief efforts, arrange logistics, promote other Joplin Tornado related facebook pages, share grief and joy.

Joplin Tornado Info page was a grasroots community volunteer effort, manned 24/7 in the days and weeks following the tornado. This grassroots community effort consists of fans worldwide and to date
has collected more than 77 MILLION page views.

Help draw attention to Joplin and the important role social media has played in it's ongoing recovery.

Vote daily through December 18th:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five years ago today- Fire claims 11 lives at Anderson Guest House

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

Five years ago today (Sunday), 11 people lost their lives as a result of a fire at the Anderson Guest House.

Reflecting on what has happened since that time, one thing has become more and more obvious- mistakes by the government and by the media make it likely that at some point in the future we are going to be faced with a similar tragedy.

Since November 27, 2006, the Guest House owners, Robert and Laverne Dupont of Joplin, have been tried and convicted in federal court on fraud charges. Robert Dupont is serving a five-year sentence, while his wife was placed on probation for five years.

Bills requiring sprinkler systems in group homes have been passed, but efforts are already underway by one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the state, the Missouri Health Care Association, to have those requirements eliminated or considerably weakened.

And nowhere has anyone addressed the sloppy work done by state investigators that allowed the Duponts to continue operating group homes for the weakest among us despite a decades-long record of violating safety laws and not having the proper financial stability to run state-licensed homes.

No one has ever answered the question about how Dupont’s wife could have continued to run a number of Guest Houses in southwest Missouri even after her husband’s 2003 federal Medicare fraud conviction. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How could Dupont have been allowed anywhere near a group home despite the following items in his history?

-Dupont had declared bankruptcy in the mid-90s. State regulations are clear- Those who operate group homes must be able to prove financial solvency. Otherwise, you risk the danger of ownership cutting corners in order to squeeze dollars out of the operation of these facilities.

-Dupont had ignored serious problems with contaminated drinking water at the Joplin Guest House, problems that remained through multiple inspections.

-Dupont was connected with at least three facilities that had been closed due to numerous violations, the Lamar Guest House, Butler Guest House, and Springfield Guest House, even though it appears he pulled one of his patented tricks at that time, and fooled meekly compliant state officials into believing that it was his partner Karl Householder who had been in charge of those operations, leaving him to extend his brand of care into another series of Guest Houses.

State officials clearly dropped the ball for more than a decade as far as Robert Dupont was concerned, something that was pointed out time and time again in the pages of the Carthage Press and Lamar Press in 1997, and later on the first Turner Report website in 2000 and 2001.

State officials were unaware that the Guest House facilities had filed for bankruptcy in the mid-90s and had failed to pay property taxes in Barton County until Cait Purinton asked them about those problems during her investigation.

A vigilant media could have and should have shined the spotlight on the Duponts and on the bureaucratic nonsense that allowed them to continue in the group home business until one day those oversights cost 11 people their lives.
As far as I can tell, the Press and my blog were the only ones to ever investigate Dupont and the Guest Houses prior to November 27, 2006.

Undoubtedly, during the 2012 legislative session, we will find more politicians submitting legislation drafted by Missouri Health Care Association lobbyists significantly weakening or totally eliminating requirements to install sprinkler systems in group homes, as usual, citing the cost of burdensome regulations.

And just like the 11 people who died on November 27, 2006, the most defenseless among us, those who live in group homes, will have no one to speak for them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Seahawks sign Allen Barbre

East Newton and Missouri Southern State University football standout Allen Barbre is back in the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks, for whom Barbre made three starts during the 2010 season, signed him today. Barbre was cut loose by the Miami Dolphins earlier this year.

5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado available at Pat's Books in Carthage

As of Monday, our book, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, is available at Pat's Books in Carthage.

The book is available at a number of other sites, including Hastings, Changing Hands Book Shop, and Countryside Flowers in Joplin, and can also be purchased from through the ad on the right side of this page.

Fox KC offers Joplin Tornado survival stories

Six months after tornado, Joplin stray animal population increasing


Small City, Big Heart phrase sums up Duquesne after May 22 tornado

Joplin Schools: six months after the tornado

Interview: Live Wire talks about Joplin Tornado tribute song

Video: Iraq veteran Dennis Osborn, killed in Joplin Tornado, was a hero

Action Ministries bring Thankgiving to Joplin residents


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Joplin's LiveWire performs "Miracle of the Spirit" at memorial service

The Joplin band Live Wire performed their song "Miracle of the Spirit" which was written especially for the city following the May 22 tornado, at the six-month memorial service Tuesday.

The accompanying videos show that performance and the song's original music video featuring scenes from Joplin.

Status of legal cases uncertain after former KCUMB president's death

Joplin Angel Christmas ornament unveiled

Judge rejects Kanakuk motion for dismissal, no court-appointed lawyer for Pete Newman

In rulings handed down last week in U. S. District Court for the

Northern District of Texas, Judge Joe Fish rejected a motion by Kanakuk CEO Joe White and Kanakuk for dismissal and denied a request from former camp director Pete Newman for a court-appointed lawyer.

Earlier, Fish had turned down White and Kanakuk's request to have the lawsuit, which was filed by the family of a Texas boy who was molested by Newman, to move the case to Missouri.

Newman is spending two life sentences in prison after pleading guilty to numerous sex crime involving underage boys.

The lawsuit alleges that the parents became convinced to send their son to Kanakuk in Branson after hearing White speak in Dallas.

Cunningham will push for Proposition C Constitutional Amendment

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, says she will continue her fight against the National Health Care Plan by submitting her Proposition C as a constituational amendment in 2012:

With the result of last August’s vote in mind, the Senator says it’s time to go for the original goal. “I think legislators in Missouri saw how popular it was so my guess is, they would not be so reluctant to put it in the Constitution now.”

Cunningham plans to introduce almost the exact language of Proposition C, with one addition. She says she thought the language of the bill would protect insurance providers and carriers, making them separate from federal mandates. “Right now they have some dictates that they have no choice of whether or not they put in their plans. They put those mandates in and that raises premiums and we’re all required to pay those increased premiums.” She wants to add a separation for not only medical providers, individuals and businesses who buy health insurance but also carriers.

Apparently, our legislators will follow the same path in 2012 that they have followed for the past couple of years- submitting one bill after another dealing with national issues while doing nothing to take care of the economic problems facing this state.

Hartzler: We must protect our national security from reckless liberals

In her weekly newsletter, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler lays the blame for the failure of the super committee squarely at the feet of Democrats who refused to compromise and would not even consider any of the plans offered by the Republicans.

An opportunity missed.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, better known as the Super Committee, failed to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. An opportunity to eliminate some of our huge debt was wasted – and with it, the chance to spur economic growth and create much-needed jobs. To add insult to injury, the failure to reach agreement triggered a mechanism that will lead to an additional $600 billion in cuts to our national defense, making total cuts of more than $1.065 trillion in defense spending over the next ten years. I find this unacceptable.

It was clear, early on, that this committee would have a difficult time producing a positive result. Hopes for success were dealt a serious setback when President Obama and Washington Democrats pushed for huge tax increases on America’s job creators. The President then insisted that $450 billion of his failed stimulus policies be included in any agreement. Sadly, these “Inside the Beltway” Democrats put their tax and spend dogma ahead of the interests of the American people and failed them miserably.

We now know that Republicans made multiple offers, including a proposal to consider new revenues achieved by making the tax code fairer, simpler, and more competitive. Super Committee Democrats never seriously considered any of these proposals and never put forward any serious plan to slow the unsustainable growth of the big drivers of our national debt, which include our nation’s health care costs. The debt has topped $15 trillion, with the amount owed by every man, woman, and child in America nearing $48,000. There is no time to lose. We must get serious about dealing with this debt crisis.

President Obama, who was globetrotting in Australia and Indonesia and was AWOL during the critical stage of the discussions, is now vowing to veto any effort on the part of Congress to head off cuts to America’s security and its national defense. This position flies in the face of the views expressed by his own Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, who has warned that further cuts could “tear a seam” in our national defense. Panetta, who insists our troops and our nation deserve better, also cautions that further defense cuts could leave this country open to attack from those who are emboldened by the scaling back of defense spending. President Obama’s embrace of a strategy of taking money from our national defense to allow for continued out-of-control spending on social programs is one reason I opposed the debt ceiling agreement when I voted against it in August.

I will be working hard to see that these cuts do not take place and have already begun the process to reverse their draconian impact. Immediately after the announcement by the Super Committee, I participated in a conference call with other members of the House Armed Services Committee. We discussed possible strategies to protect America’s national defense against these ill-conceived cuts. Upon our return, we will be meeting again and plan to move quickly. Our national security must be put ahead of the reckless spending favored by liberals. That’s our duty. That’s our job. Let us hope the nation’s Commander in Chief agrees and reverses his threat to veto any legislation which would reverse the cuts to our national defense. I believe, according to the Constitution, it is his duty and job, too. We shall see.

On a more pleasant note, America pauses from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives to celebrate Thanksgiving and to join friends and family as we thank our Creator for the blessings we enjoy. Many of us learned, as children, how the Pilgrims gave thanks to God following the harvest of 1621. It is in that spirit that we give the Almighty thanks today. Despite our many challenges as a nation, America is still the greatest country in the world and we are truly blessed to live here; enjoy its beauty; benefit from its opportunities; and be blessed by its freedoms. As we gather together this Thanksgiving Day, let us continue to give thanks to God for all He has given us. Let us also thank the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces whose sacrifices protect our freedoms and allow us to enjoy God's bounty. We truly do have many reasons to be thankful this day.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Lembke: School districts' practice of passing trash with sexually abusive teachers is common

Apparently, Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, is not the only one willing to twist the facts in order to malign public school districts and classroom teachers.

In a report on the recently-concluded special session issued today, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, pushes the same misleading statistics and assertions that Mrs. Cunningham used to get SB 54 passed in the first place.

Also successful in passage was Senate Bill 1, more commonly referred to as the "Facebook Fix." This measure came to be because of challenges found in Senate Bill 54, which was signed into law earlier this year. This new law created the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which is named for a Missouri woman who was continually molested and assaulted by her junior high school teacher while she was in school. The teacher was employed by several school districts before winning a "Teach of the Year" award before retiring.

The practice of sexually abusive teachers moving across the state is so common that the Missouri Department of Education has termed the phrase "passing the trash," meaning quietly passing the abusive educator from one district to another, typically signing confidentiality agreements to not disclose the problems to another district seeking reference information and often times even paying a severance.

In a national investigation by the Associated Press in 2007, sexual misconduct in public schools was found to be at least six times more prevalent than the priesthood scandal that was so highly publicized. Studies show that Missouri is the 11th worst state in the nation for educators their licenses because of sexual misconduct. This is unacceptable.

All education organizations and teacher groups supported this bill that passed both the Missouri Senate and House unanimously during the regular session. After some teacher groups expressed concern about the social media interaction portion of the new law, some changes were brought about in Senate Bill 1.

Current law requires each school district to adopt written policies concerning teacher-student and employee-student communications by Jan. 1, 2012. Current law also requires those policies to include restrictions on educators' use of both work- and non-work related Internet sites.

Senate Bill 1 changes the requirements that must be included in each school district's policy by repealing the existing components and requirements, instead leaving those decisions to be made at the local level. School districts must adopt written policies concerning employee-student communications by Mar. 1, 2012.

Senate Bill 1 repeals the prohibition on a teacher establishing, maintaining or using a work-related Internet site unless it is available to school administrators and the child's parent. It also repeals the prohibition on a teacher establishing, maintaining or using a non-work related Internet site that allows exclusive access with a current or former student.

Lembke says that the practice of "passing the trash," or allowing a teacher who has sexually abused a student to move from one school to another is common in this state. Perhaps at one time it was, but the legislature addressed this problem in the mid-90s, adding extra layers of protection that made SB 54 totally unnecessary. The assertion has been made that the trash passing took place because school officials feared lawsuits from fired teachers. Those would be far easier to deal with than lawsuits from the families of sexually abused students if school districts allow teachers to resign quietly and then continue to abuse students at other schools.

To top it off, Lembke parrots Mrs. Cunningham's slanderous comments that the sexual abuse problem among Missouri teachers is six times greater than the abuse uncovered in "the priesthood scandal."

And finally, he uses Mrs. Cunningham's tired oft-repeated comment that an Associated Press survey showed Missouri had the 11th highest number of teachers lose their licenses because of sexual abuse.

What neither Mrs. Cunningham or Lembke ever mentions- obviously because it would not fit in with the anti-teacher message they are trying to send- is that Missouri's number was high because the measures that were enacted in the mid-90s, with the support of teachers across this state, are working. We are finding these people who bring disgrace to our profession and making sure they never set foot in a classroom again.

Our numbers are higher because many states have swept these problems under the rug and have no mechanism in place to deal with them.

Instead, self-serving politicians like Jane Cunningham and Jim Lembke have used Missouri's success in getting rid of these predators as a club with which to continue the type of teacher-bashing that has become prevalent in this state and in this nation over the past few years.

And the anti-teacher grandstanding is being accomplished with the help of a media that has never once challenged the assertions made by Mrs. Cunningham, Lembke, or the others who have made a parlor game of attacking classroom teachers.

At best, the media calls some representative of MSTA or MNEA to get a response. The more common response has simply been to print the allegation and let it stand as truth.

Lembke also offers the misleading comment that the Facebook portion of SB 54 was repealed after teachers complained about it. Yes, teachers did complain and my voice was one of the loudest, but we were also supported by many parents, students, and members of the general community who saw Mrs. Cunningham's bill for exactly what it was, a labeling of all Missouri classroom teachers as perverts lying in wait for unsuspecting children.

With comments like those made by Lembke in his report, it appears that teachers will still be under the gun when the 2012 session begins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Joplin residents in FEMA homes searching for permanent residences


Johnson family recalls nightmare at Wal-Mart during Joplin Tornado

Fox remembers Joplin Tornado victims on six-month anniversary

PoliticMo video: Nixon praises Joplin's recovery from May 22 tornado

Video: No foul play suspected in death of former KCUMB president

Herman Cain dropping everywhere except among Missouri Tea Party

Herman Cain's poll number are plummeting everywhere except among the Missouri Tea Party faithful.

Results of a statewide tea party straw poll released Tuesday show Cain garnering 32 percent of the 995 costs, beating Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich at 28 percent, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry at three percent, and Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, and a bunch of relative unknowns at one percent.

Also receiving one percent from the Tea Party faithful was President Barack Obama.

Voting took place in Blue Springs, Boonville, Branson, Camdenton, Cape Girardeau, Chesterfield, St. Peters, Warrenton, Eureka, Jefferson City, Joplin,
Kansas City, Lee's Summit, Lebanon, Springfield, St. Joseph, and St. Louis.

The following statements were released by two tea party leaders:

The results of this Missouri Tea Party Straw Poll are significant in its simple statement as to who the conservative grassroots do NOT support for President as much as who they DO support. Those who are striving to advance the core values of the Tea Party Movement (i.e., fiscal responsibility, constitutionally-limited government, and economic freedom), reveal with their votes in this straw poll that, although members of Patriot groups across the State of Missouri do not support the same candidate for President, the vast majority agree on who they do not support and have narrowed their choices to a select few.
---Eric Farris, Director (Branson Tea Party Coalition)

“This straw poll is another tool for the people’s voice to be heard about the choices being offered as presidential candidates for 2012. Many came and participated, wanting to support their current candidate of choice, although some felt no candidate really struck a chord with the Tea Party movement. We do reserve the right to change our opinions as the political landscape changes over time, but as of this moment in time we desire to state that Missouri is watching and that we are earnestly motivated to search for our country’s most liberty minded candidate to hold the highest office in our land.”
---Jeannine Huskey (Eureka Tea Party/CAMP)

Wells Fargo makes $20,000 donation to Bright Futures

Attendees comment on Joplin Tornado Six-Month Memorial Service

Steelman: McCaskill spending more time talking about her diet instead of nation's problems

Add U. S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman to the list of those who are disappointed with the no-decision announcement by the Congressional super committee. Her news release is printed below.

Today, Sarah Steelman is calling on her supporters to speak out boldly to their elected representatives about the failure of Congress and the Super Committee to deal with our country’s financial crisis.

“We are sick and tired of Congress’ refusal to act. Missouri families continue to suffer because Congress is more concerned about their own special interests and re-election bids than doing their jobs. There’s no leadership; there’s no sacrifice; there’s no common sense," said Steelman. "Congress is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar they spend. We have to stop spending money we don’t have; it’s that plain and simple.”

Steelman, who’s running to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill, pointed to McCaskill’s lack of leadership as a prime example of the D.C. mentality: self-service instead of public service. “Senator McCaskill has found time to do countless talk shows discussing her diet but has offered zero solutions to resolve our nation’s overspending.”

“The secret Super Committee was a fundraising tool for the status quo. Senator McCaskill and her D.C. counterparts are content to lay the debt burden on the shoulders of the American taxpayer yet again, while they sit comfortably behind their closed doors raking in campaign contributions.“

Late last week in a speech delivered to a women’s conference in Washington D.C., Steelman demanded Congress open the Super Committee’s doors so the American people could have open and transparent discussion. Immediately after the committee was appointed, Steelman called on those appointed to the Committee to refuse to accept campaign contributions for the duration of the existence of this committee. She started a petition on her website asking people to join her.

Former KCUMB president, involved in talks of Joplin medical school, found dead in Florida

Former Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences President Karen Pletz, known in this area for an ill-fated attempt to form a medical school in Joplin, was found dead in Florida today.

Ms. Pletz had been indicted for embezzling $1.4 million from the university.

A preliminary inquiry has revealed no foul play, but the case remains under investigation, said Detective Travis Mandell of the Fort Launderdale Police Department.

Ms. Pletz was heavily involved in the plan to bring a medical school to Joplin, but never talked the matter over with her board, as noted in the Jan. 15, 2010, Turner Report.

Video of Joplin Tornado six-month anniversary memorial service

Carpenter creating prints for Joplin High School Art Department

Joplin marks tornado anniversary with ceremony

Video: State auditors present details of theft, mismanagement to city of Lanagan

McCaskill on supercommittee failure: Too many people are playing politics

City of Joplin prepares for memorial service on six-month tornado anniversary

Spotlight shines on Rebecca Baldwin, nurse who saved KOAM's Jordan Aubey, others during tornado

Monday, November 21, 2011

State treasurer endorses Kander for secretary of state

Not that there's any surprise in this, but State Treasurer Clint Zweifel has endorsed Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, for secretary of state.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel announced today that he is endorsing Jason Kander to be Missouri’s next Secretary of State.

“Now more than ever we need elected officials that understand and appreciate what public service is all about,” Zweifel said. “Jason Kander has never been afraid to step in and make a difference. I’m confident he’ll bring the same dedication to this office and will make an outstanding Secretary of State.”

Clint Zweifel was elected State Treasurer in 2008 after serving three terms in the Missouri legislature. Since taking office, Zweifel led the charge to pass bipartisan legislation that gives Missourians a fair return on their state deposits through free market competition. This has allowed Clint to reinvest in Missouri communities and assist farmers and small businesses across the state.

“Since day one Treasurer Zweifel has focused on running an efficient and effective office that respects taxpayers’ money, while helping to create jobs across Missouri,” Kander said. “His no-nonsense approach of checking politics at the door has delivered real and meaningful results for Missouri families. I’m honored to have Treasurer Zweifel’s support and I look forward to campaigning with him during the upcoming election cycle.”

Congressman on supercommittee failure- don't tell my heart, my Akin breakin' heart

(From Congressman and U. S. Senate candidate Todd Akin)

Congressman Todd Akin, Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, today expressed his deep disappointment in the failure of the so-called Super Committee to come to an agreement on deficit reduction. Congressman Akin voted against the creation of the Super Committee in the Budget Control Act of 2011 because he did not believe that it would address the fundamental problem of reckless deficit spending, and would also put our national security at risk by cutting our defense budget dangerously far.

Congressman Akin released the following statement:

“I did not vote for the creation of the Super Committee, because I believed that the Budget Control Act did not address the fundamental problem of reckless deficit spending. Additionally, I was worried that the Budget Control Act would lead toward draconian cuts to our defense budget, while not addressing auto-pilot spending programs, which are the real drivers of our budget problems. Unfortunately, it looks like my concerns were legitimate.

“Last week, Democrats voted against an amendment to our Constitution that would require a balanced budget, even though it left the door open to tax increases. This week, the Democrats brought the Super Committee negotiations to a crashing conclusion by refusing to consider any proposals that didn’t have massive tax increases. As President Obama himself has said, raising taxes during a recession is the last thing you would want to do.

“Unfortunately, the failure of the Super Committee not only puts our nation at risk financially, it also puts our nation at risk militarily. If sequestration is enacted, the consequences will be devastating to our military and will weaken our ability to defend ourselves.

“A weak military actually increases the likelihood that we will be drawn into a future conflict, as potential adversaries see our weakness as an opportunity to attack us or our allies. A strong military will allow us to have peace through strength. The cuts that will be enacted by sequestration will imperil that strength.”

Non-partisan, self-proclaimed deficit hawk Hartzler disappointed in supercommittee

Fourth District Congresswoman and self-proclaimed deficit hawk Vicky Hartzler, (the only deficit hawk who thinks that not one penny should come from the defense budget) shares her feelings about the failure of the supercommittee in the following news release.

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) is expressing her disappointment with the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The so-called supercommittee, set up as part of the August agreement to raise the debt ceiling, was unable to reach consensus on achieving between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.

“It was clear, early on, that this committee would have a difficult time producing a positive result,” said Hartzler. “Hopes for success were dealt a serious setback when President Obama and Democrats pushed for huge tax increases on America’s job creators. The President then insisted that $450 billion of his failed stimulus policies be included in any agreement. This is a missed opportunity. Democrats put their tax and spend dogma ahead of the interests of the America people and failed them!”

“We now know that Republicans made multiple offers, including a proposal to consider new revenues achieved by making the tax code fairer, simpler, and more competitive – and create jobs,” continued Hartzler. “Democrats never seriously considered any of these proposals and never put forward any serious plan to slow the unsustainable growth of the big drivers of our national debt, which include our nation’s health care costs. Our debt situation is bad and it is time for us to get serious. The debt has topped $15 trillion, with the amount owed by every man, woman, and child in America nearing $48,000!”

“President Obama has demonstrated his inability to lead,” added Hartzler. “He was AWOL as negotiations reached their critical stage, globetrotting to such places as Australia and Indonesia as talks crumbled in Washington.”

“It appears as though President Obama is content to allow the trigger mechanism that was established in the August deal to rip $600 billion from our national defense,” concluded Hartzler. “Sadly, President Obama and other liberals in Washington are happy to take money from our national defense in order to keep spending on social programs that must be reformed if we are to secure America’s solvency. This action will endanger both America’s sovereignty and our national security. We cannot allow this to happen. This Democratic strategy of taking money from our national defense to allow for continued out-of-control spending is one reason I opposed the debt ceiling agreement when I voted against it in August.”

Congresswoman Hartzler, a deficit hawk, voted against the August debt ceiling deal that created the supercommittee.

Video: Occupy Springfield visits Roy Blunt's office

Occupy Senator Roy Blunt's Office from Steph Anderson on Vimeo.

Will Billy Long tell KZRG he's fed up with supercommittee?

The failure of the super committee to reach a deal will be the topic at 7:10 a.m. Tuesday when Seventh District Congressman Billy Long joins Chad Elliott and Josh Marsh on KZRG Morning Newswatch.

My guess- Billy will say he's disappointed- who knows, maybe even fed up.

East Middle School eighth grader wins $1,000 MSSU scholarship

Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck presented a $1,000 scholarship to East Middle School eighth grader Casandra Williams at the conclusion of the annual Academic All-Star celebration held Monday night at College Heights Christian School.

Miss Williams' name was randomly selected from the Academic All-Star list. To qualify for Academic All-Stars, students must had to score in either the advanced or proficient levels during the 2011 MAP tests.

St. John's CEO speaks to Joplin Academic All-Stars

Gary Pulsipher, CEO of St. John's Mercy Hospital in Joplin, was the featured speaker at the annual Academic All-Stars celebration Monday night at College Heights Christian School.

The celebration, which was held for students from East Middle School, and Duenweg/Duquesne, Eastmorland, Kelsey Norman, and McKinley elementary schools, is normally held at the high school but was shifted this year to College Heights after the high school was destroyed during the May 22 tornado.

Fittingly, the keynote speech was given by Pulsipher, who also had to deal with the loss of St. John's that day. Pulsipher told the students about the rewards of working at St. John's.

"It's a great place to work," Pulsipher said. "There's no better work in the world than taking care of people."

Pulsipher congratulated the students on their accomplishment. "You're just as smart as anyone out there."

Billy Long: The failure of the supercommittee is very disappointing.

(News release from Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Today, U.S. Congressman Billy Long released the following statement on the failure of the Joint Select Committee to cut $1.2 trillion dollars from the federal budget over ten years as required by the Budget Control Act.

“The failure of the supercommittee is very disappointing. Disappointing but not surprising in an environment where the Senate hasn't passed a budget in over 940 days.”

“Our current spending level is unsustainable. We must reverse the massive spending and failed economic polices that brought us $15 trillion in debt and over 9% unemployment. The American people don’t have the luxury of waiting until after the next election for Congress to act.”

Joplin High School bricks to be sold

Bricks from Joplin High School, which was destroyed in the May 22 tornado, are for sale:

Images on Tile is putting a picture of the Joplin High School "Hope" sign on a number of bricks.

Bricks will be sold for $50, mugs will be sold for $20, plus shipping. Proceeds will benefit Operation Rising Eagle - a fund to help Joplin Schools rebuild.

"We will announce December 1st, or the end of the month anyway, where bricks will be able to be picked up," says project chairman Gary Burton. "They will be on the website and they will be able to order on the website and then we will have various locations throughout Joplin where bricks will be available as well."

Weather Channel interviews Joplin fire chief as city prepares for Thanksgiving

The city of Joplin is about to go through its first Thanksgiving since the May 22 tornado. The Weather Channel interviews Fire Chief Mitch Randles, one of the many heroes of that fateful day:

t the end of the graduation, I got a call from a colleague telling me I’d better check the radars again. A storm that was approaching had completely blown up. We were in contact with the National Weather Service, and they informed us that they were going to start issuing tornado warnings on the approaching storm. I told the principal of the school to try to urge people to get to their cars and get to safety, and also made the decision to sound the tornado sirens in town.

I knew I had to get to the fire station, and I intended to bring my family home first. Along the drive, the weather was quickly deteriorating. It was clear that the storm was still very intense as it approached the west side of the city. I’m not completely sure what it is, but I changed my plan and brought my family with me as I went to work instead of continuing to bring them home. To this day, it is one of the best decisions I had made in my life.

Once at the station, we started getting a few calls from the west side of the area. Our fire station called that they had sustained damage to both the building and the trucks and were taken out of service. With tornadoes in our area, we normally do not sound the sirens again, whether it is to continue the warning or as an all clear, but something told me this was a different situation. Again, the call was made to sound the tornado sirens throughout the city, and I cannot tell you the number of people that approached me in the following weeks and months telling me that it was that second sounding of the sirens that made them really get to action and take shelter. Again, it turned out to be a very fortunate decision.

Give us your rich; Keep those tired, huddled poor yearning to breathe free away from me

(The following is my latest blog for Huffington Post and my column for this week's Newton County News.)

Leaving politicians in charge of solving the problems that face American education is an endeavor that is doomed to failure since the politicians are the problem.

Evidence of that was seen in Missouri last week when an interim committee met in St. Louis to discuss the problems of students whose school districts have become unaccredited due to low scores on standardized tests.

Sen. Jane Cunningham chaired the committee, which for anyone who knows Missouri politics, is a clear signal that public schools were not going to receive a fair shake.
Sen. Cunningham is the same legislator who during the 2011 session introduced the following bills:

-The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, which prohibited teachers from communicating with students through Facebook (and according to many would have forced teachers to close their Facebook accounts)

-A law eliminating teacher tenure and replacing it with a merit pay system based on standardized test scores. Each school would have been required to have a four-tier pay system with those whose students made the top grades receiving 60 percent more in salary than the next tier and so on down the line.

-A bill that would have repealed child labor laws. Apparently, in Mrs. Cunningham’s world, children have to be protected from hordes of predator teachers, but not from opportunistic businessmen.

During the interim committee’s hearings, Mrs. Cunningham discussed various methods of punishing public schools that will not accept students whose parents want them to transfer from the “failing” schools. Of course, it does not matter to Mrs. Cunningham that those schools do not have room for hundreds of students.

Her agenda is evident from this passage from Missourinet:

She plans to file a bill that reflects the testimony she heard during the Committee’s hearings. For her, that means seeking legislative approval for private schools to accept students living in districts that have lost accreditation. She says, “…we certainly have excellent ones out there who are willing to take these children and provide them an excellent education, and the other advantage that they noted to us was they’re in the city, or very near the city, so we would not have to spend the money and the time transporting the students out to county districts.”

She also anticipates lawmakers considering the expansion of charter schools, encouraging surrounding school districts to open their own charters in the St. Louis City Limits, expanding online virtual school options for parents who want that to help meet the needs of the number of students who will seek transfer.

Under Missouri law, the failing schools would have to pay tuition and transportation costs for students to attend private schools or for any of the other alternatives.

During the days Mrs. Cunningham’s committee was in session, not one witness was called to address the real problem that faces students in these schools- poverty.

The failing schools are invariably in the inner cities (in our state, in Kansas City and St. Louis) The students live with poverty, violence, abuse, high crime rates, problems that don’t seem to matter to Mrs. Cunningham and like-minded legislators who find it easier to put the blame on public schoolteachers and administrators.

During her time in the legislature, Mrs. Cunningham has filed dozens of punitive bills aimed at damaging public education. The records don’t show any bills designed to help alleviate the poverty that exists in our inner cities.

And sadly, Missouri is far from being alone when it comes to ignoring the plight of those in the inner city in favor of giving tax cuts and incentives to job creators who never seem to create any jobs.

Under the plans touted by Mrs. Cunningham and other legislators across this nation, the top students from inner city schools will be removed, in favor of private schools, virtual schools, or so-called public charter schools, with the public schools having to foot the bill at the expense of the remaining students.

Then as the scores continue to drop because the top students are gone and nothing has been done about the bleak existence being faced by many of these children, eventually the schools will be dismissed as total failures and shut down completely.

At one time, this country lived up to Emma Lazarus’ famed pledge- “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

For Mrs. Cunningham and the others who are introducing similar legislation across this country, the tired and the poor are expendable commodities, waiting to be sacrificed on an altar of educational reform.

South Joplin Christian Church reopens after being damaged in tornado

Sunday, November 20, 2011

5:41 author details Joplin Tornado book at Cave Springs meeting

A big thanks to the people at Cave Springs for inviting John Hacker and me to talk about our book, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado Saturday.

I apologize for the quality of the video. Sadly, it is a video I had to shoot from another video because of mistakes I made on the first one. In the video, John talks about what he did on May 22 when the tornado hit and details some of the stories in the book.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of seeing the old Cave Springs School, it is a one-room schoolhouse located near the Jasper/Lawrence county line. It was fully active from 1838 to 1966 and has been refurbished in recent years. I will post photos later.

Joplin to send 100,000 thank-you cards

Cook family moves in to Habitat for Humanity home

Crowell: Special session was a victory for taxpayers

The recently-concluded special session of the Missouri Legislature was termed a failure by many, but in his latest Crowell Connection, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, says it was a triumph for the taxpayers.

Missouri’s Special Session for special interests finally came to an end. Even though House leadership and those who were slated to line their pockets with tax credits are telling the press nothing was accomplished, the exact opposite happened. Not only did the Senate listen to your demands that government not give away your hard earned money as developer welfare, but a huge light was shed on the abuses and failures of government’s inability to pick winners and losers through the awarding of tax credits.

When the state picks winners and losers through tax credits based on campaign contributions and promised virtual jobs, you, as a taxpayer, lose. Over the last 13 years the state’s jobs plan has been to increase tax credits, which it has done by 430.8 percent, equaling $545 million in 2011 and projected to reach $639 million in 2012. Yet, the promised jobs have not come. When Missouri’s return on investment, according to the Department of Economic Development, was 21 cents for every dollar spent on Historic Preservation tax credits and 11 cents for every dollar spent on Low- Income Housing tax credits, it is clear, tax credits are not about job growth; tax credits are nothing more than a sleazy political trade for campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts.

Knowledge of this however has not stopped the politicians from giving out $250 million a year of your hard-earned tax dollars in Low-Income Housing tax credits and Historic Preservation tax credits. In fact, this special session was not about job creation, but instead was about the politicians’ efforts to get right with their fat cat campaign contributors, on your dime. So I am pleased to say they failed spectacularly, like never before and they are worried and scared because they know you are watching.

Special interests’ influence during this Special Session went as far as to get House Leadership to pass a resolution denouncing one of Missouri’s largest employers, Boeing, who employs over 15,000 Missourians. The resolution asked Congress to support Boeing’s out-state Texas rival and called an aircraft thousands of Missourians work on “aging and obsolete.” In an email to a constituent explaining why he supported the resolution slamming Boeing, the House Majority Leader Tim Jones said, “Frankly, the lobbyists and government affairs folks at Boeing were asleep at the wheel on this one.” He continued, “You would think that a large, powerful company like Boeing would have found the issue in this Resolution…and brought the issue to our attention.” As if it was Boeing’s fault he did not know what he was voting on.

The main purpose of this not so special Special Session, however, was to authorize new tax credits to for “Error-tropolis,” a topic we have covered in depth. I still believe that it is wrong, with our country facing massive manufacturing job losses to China, to make the central component of a “Made in Missouri” jobs plan the subsidization of the importation of China-made goods. Special interests convinced too many through campaign contributions, that if you give politically connected developers $300 million to build warehouses to store and distribute China-made goods, jobs will be created. By defeating this legislation, taxpayers won over the connected few.

The only thing missed this Special Session was an opportunity for reform of Missouri’s tax credits and that is truly unfortunate. As example after example of government waste through tax credits was presented, the Senate decided it was time to change our tax credits’ system to not only create jobs, but finally protect your money. We tied incentives to actual real job creation, not activities that may or may not create jobs. The Senate passed a reform and job creation bill that said Missouri will partner with you if you create jobs, but we will not subsidize activity just because you gave campaign contributions to a group of politicians.

Under the Senate’s plan, no longer would you as a taxpayer:

-Subsidize rehabilitation projects like Schultz Senior apartments in Cape Girardeau that received $373,000 an apartment unit in Low Income Housing and Historic Preservation tax credits and other government grants.

-Subsidize billion dollar sports teams like the $25 million in tax credits for a St. Joseph indoor practice facility and parking lot enhancements to the Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium.

-Lose millions of dollars when guaranteed loans are defaulted on like the $1 million from Wi-Fi Sensors in northern Missouri.

-Subsidize criminals with incentives like the CEO of Watch Me Smile who wrote $90,000 in bad checks for a dental office/clinic in Cape Girardeau.

-Subsidize companies like Mamtek which left City of Moberly taxpayers on the hook for $39 million in bonds which were defaulted.

-Be 45th in nation in Higher Education spending and 32nd in the nation on K-12 spending while spending $250 million a year to be 1st in historic preservation tax credit spending and 2nd for low income housing tax credit spending in the nation.

In the end, House Leadership killed these reforms because the special interests and their lobbyists own them, but the battle is not over. Now is the time for government to live within its means, not spend money it does not have by authorizing new tax credits not tied to real performance. The result of this special session is your hard-earned tax dollars were protected from more wasteful awarding of new tax credits and losing real Missouri jobs to China-made goods. We must not give up the fight to reform tax credits because it still goes on. The new session starting January 2012 and Missouri’s budget deficit will be a perfect opportunity for true leaders to take bold actions in reforming Missouri current broken and failed tax credits system. It will take you, the bosses of the politicians as the Missouri voter and taxpayer, to demand the right reform legislation be passed to put Missouri back on track.

Hartzler: I'm not partisan, but I blame the Democrats for everything

In her latest newsletter, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler says she does not want to make the failure to pass the Balanced Budget Amendment a partisan issue, then spends the rest of her newsletter ripping the Democrats.

It is with a great deal of anger and dismay that I begin this week’s newsletter with word of the failure of Democrats in the U.S. House to support a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the United States Constitution. This piece of legislation, which is sorely needed if we are to get the federal government’s runaway spending under control, had the support of the overwhelming majority of House Republicans. But it failed to pick up support from enough Democrats to approve the measure and send it to the Senate. It is not my intention to make an issue of this magnitude a politically partisan one, but Democrats have put party ahead of what is good for America and it is time to call them out.

This should have been a bipartisan issue. But failure of House Democrats to approve this common sense measure requiring the federal government to rein in runaway spending is a defeat for the American people and a victory for the tax and spenders who want to condemn our children and grandchildren to an unfathomable debt burden. This was a golden opportunity to put America on the path to fiscal responsibility and it was an opportunity squandered.

The United States is $15 trillion in debt as we borrow 36 cents of every dollar we spend. This is unacceptable! Our responsible measure would have required that Congress not spend more than it receives in revenues unless three-fifths of both the House and Senate agree to higher spending. Furthermore, it would have required the President to submit a balanced budget to Congress. How could anyone oppose such a logical requirement?

The blame for this devastating blow starts at the top of the Democratic Party. President Obama is opposed to a Balanced Budget Amendment. In addition, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer made clear his opposition to the bill and actively instructed his party members to vote against this bipartisan effort aimed at stopping Washington’s job-crushing spending binge. This is an amendment he voted FOR in 1995! Both should be ashamed of themselves for letting down the American people.

Rest assured, I am not about to give up on the need to put a stop to runaway federal spending. I will fight for reforms to get us on the path to a balanced budget and continue to pass job-creating legislation to grow our economy while still fighting for a Balanced Budget Amendment in the future.

On a positive note, the House passed an extremely important piece of legislation this week – a bill I am proud to co-sponsor. The Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822) will allow any person with a valid concealed right-to-carry gun permit or license, issued by a state, to carry a concealed firearm in any state allowing the same rights to its citizens. I firmly believe that the right-to-carry is an extension of our constitutional rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. This bill will protect the rights of lawful gun owners who must be allowed to protect themselves and their families within or outside the borders of their home states.

This legislation does not create a federal licensing or registration system and it does not allow federal bureaucrats to set standards for right-to-carry permits. It will, however, require states to recognize each other’s right-to-carry permits, just as a driver’s license issued by one state is recognized throughout the country. I call on the Senate to follow the lead of the House in standing up for the Constitution and the rights of law-abiding citizens and pass this important bill.

Finally, I was happy to be honored by the Republican Study Committee, the party’s conservative wing, with its RSC Golden Turkey Award which highlights absurd – yet obscure – government regulations. The RSC gave me the award for raising awareness of the egregious Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruling trampling on private property rights at Lake of the Ozarks and for introducing a bill (H.R. 3244) to stop FERC from forcing the implementation of its decree that more than a thousand homes be torn down. I am proud to have been able to bring this issue to the attention of other representatives of the American people – some of whom are experiencing similar outrageous acts in their own districts. Since introduction of the bill, FERC has backtracked, to some degree, on its ridiculous order. I plan to still move forward with my bill to ensure this government overreach never happens again and private property rights are protected in the future.

Billy Long: Gun rights don't end at the state line

Seventh District Congressman Billy Long touts his support for Second Amendment rights in the following news release after the House passed the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act earlier this week:

U.S. Congressman Billy Long fought for gun owners and individual liberty by voting in favor of H.R. 822: theNational Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, which allows law-abiding gun owners with valid state-issued concealed firearm permits or licenses to carry a concealed firearm in any other state that also allows concealed carry.

“The Second Amendment is a right that must be protected, even when somebody is traveling,” said Long. “A criminal isn’t going to care that you crossed state lines and neither should the law.”

The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 does not preempt a state’s ability to set concealed-carry requirements for its own residents. It requires states that currently permit people to carry concealed firearms to recognize other states’ valid concealed carry permits – much like the states recognize drivers’ licenses issued by other states.

The bill also does not affect state laws governing how firearms are carried or used within the various states. A person visiting another state must comply with all laws and regulations governing the carrying and use of a concealed firearm within the state.

“Studies show that carrying concealed weapons deters criminals from attacking law abiding citizens and reduces violent crime,” said Long. “Criminals already have the guns; when law abiding citizens have the right to conceal and carry, criminals think twice.”

Congressman Long, a cosponsor of the bill, is a strong believer in the Bill of Rights and defending the 2nd Amendment.

Video: Keys to new homes turned over to Ten for Joplin families


Video: Ten Joplin families move in to Habitat for Humanity homes

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ten families impacted by Joplin Tornado move into new homes

(From City of Joplin)

Thanksgiving will have extra special meaning for 10 Joplin families this year. Just six months after an EF-5 tornado swept through their town leaving them without an affordable place to live, they now have a place to call home.

In partnership with Tulsa and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity teams, the City of Joplin, surrounding businesses and organizations, and thousands of volunteers, the Ten for Joplin project built 10 new homes over a 16-day period. What’s equally impressive is the short amount of time – about 10 weeks – it took to raise more than $1 million in cash and in-kind gifts to fund the cause.

Habitat for Humanity handed over the keys to the families’ new homes today during a public dedication ceremony in Joplin.

For Thomas and Samantha Short, moving into their Habitat home marks a new beginning and added stability for their four kids.

“We no longer have to move around,” said Thomas, whose family lived in a two-bedroom apartment that was damaged by the tornado. “This Thanksgiving will be extra special because not only are we in a new house, but it’s ours. Now we can make our own traditions and our children will grow up remembering their first Thanksgiving in our own house.”

The families have an added reason to be especially thankful this year. In a surprise announcement during the dedication ceremony, Dr. Bruce Speck, president of Missouri Southern State University, told the families their children would receive full tuition scholarships for four years to the school.

“This project in itself is an amazing gift of kindness to our citizens,” said Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston. “Dr. Speck’s announcement adds to the generosity that has been ever present to our City since May 22. I want to thank Tulsa’s Habitat for Humanity for this project and bringing so many great volunteers to our community. It is another example of the amazing gifts that people bring to our citizens. On behalf of our City, I want to thank all who have been involved with this project.”

The extra funds raised for Ten for Joplin will be applied to future Habitat for Humanity builds in the tornado-ravaged area of Joplin.

“Ten for Joplin’s vision all along has been to ignite volunteer efforts to rebuild Joplin by setting an example of what can be accomplished when businesses and communities come together to help one another,” said Paul Kent, executive director of Tulsa Habitat for Humanity. “This is just a start. We know the need for housing in Joplin continues and we hope to see similar efforts follow ours.”

The Shorts are believers in the power of volunteerism now that they’ve experienced firsthand how it feels to receive an outpouring of help from others. In fact, they plan to visit Tulsa in March to help with another Habitat for Humanity build with the volunteers they now call their friends.

“I never volunteered before,” said Samantha, who along with her family and friends has put in hundreds of hours working alongside volunteers as part of the Habitat for Humanity program. “You don’t realize how thankful and happy the people who are getting the homes are. No words can explain how touched we’ve been by their generosity. We encourage everyone to take time out to help because you’ll feel good for it, too.”

In addition to a community developer sponsorship from the Habitat for Humanity International’s Women Build program, companies sponsoring houses are The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Arvest Bank, BKD CPAs & Advisors, Chase, Hilti, Samson and T.D. Williamson, Inc. Organizations that have signed on to sponsor a half house include Advanced Industrial Devices, Inc., Commerce Bank/William T. Kemper Foundation, Helmerich & Payne, Unit Corporation and Valley National Bank. Other major contributors include Asbury United Methodist Church, Bank of Oklahoma, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, The Home Depot Foundation, The Mary K. Chapman Foundation and Williams.

Companies donating gifts in-kind include Thermal Windows, Turner Roofing, TAMKO Building Products, QuikTrip and numerous others.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Parking will be available near Cunningham Park for Joplin Community Memorial Service

(From the City of Joplin)

Organizers encourage citizens to attend the Community Memorial Service set for 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 22 at Cunningham Park. November 22 is the six-month anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that traveled from the western side of the City to the eastern side and into Duquesne and Jasper County, changing our community forever.

“As the six-month anniversary, we will join together in prayer and remembrance,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “May 22 was a day that we’ll never forget in our community, and this Memorial will be a time of healing as we remember the 161 lives lost, as we gather together.”
The service will start promptly at 4:30 p.m. and attendees are encouraged to arrive early. Limited seating (approximately 1,000 chairs) will be available in addition to handicapped seating. City officials encourage others to bring lawn chairs for the service, as a large crowd is anticipated. Parking for the service has been designated at the southwest and southeast corners of 26th Street and McClelland Boulevard. Handicapped parking will be in the main parking lot of Cunningham Park and can be accessed from Maiden Lane.

All are invited to attend the ceremony which will offer prayer, music, comments from officials, and conclude with a lighting ceremony. In addition, one tree will be dedicated as a symbol of the 161 trees to soon fill Cunningham Park. Each of the 161 trees will be a tribute to those who died because of this disaster.

The service is being held at an outdoor venue, so the public is reminded to dress accordingly. In case of rain or inclement weather, the service will be moved to the Leggett and Platt Center at Missouri Southern State University. If the event does have to be moved to this alternate location, the City will post this news at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, November 22 on their website ,, and provide the relocation information to the local news media for their broadcasts.

State GOP chairman struggles to spin Kinder announcement

Talk about a thankless task. Missouri Repubilcan Party Chairman David Cole, in a statement issued this afternoon, did his bsst to put a positive spin on the announcement that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has decided not to run for governor, has endorsed a no-name businessman with baggage of his own, has probably caused a split among Republicans,,,and, well, except for that, no problem at all.

The party's news release is printed below:

David Cole, Chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, released the following statement regarding Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s decision to seek reelection as Lt. Governor:

“Peter Kinder is an outstanding public servant who has always put the hopes and dreams of Missourians ahead of his own political aspirations. Throughout his career, Peter has successfully championed government reform, and as Lt. Governor, he has been a tireless advocate for senior citizens and veterans. Over the past several months, Peter has deliberated about how he can best continue to serve the state that he loves, and we respect and support his decision to seek reelection as Lt. Governor.”

Cleaver: A big victory on jobs, but there is much more to do

In his weekly EC from DC newsletter, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo, focuses on what is being done to bring jobs to americans:

We saw a big victory this week with the passage of H.R. 674. I cosponsored this legislation to protect small businesses from a 3% withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government. For many business owners who would have been affected by this mandate, the profit margin is often less than 3% and such a withholding would create significant cash flow problems. This legislation was originally intended to improve tax compliance, but the problems it would have created would have far outweighed any benefits: everything from day-to-day operations, as well as draining capital that could be used for business expansion and job creation. The Senate also attached an amendment to H.R. 674 that will give support to our veterans. The enormity of the sacrifice our men and women in the service make for us requires that we support them when they come home. It is the right thing to do.

The added provisions, included in the President's American Jobs Act, the Bishop/Murray Hiring Heroes Act and the VOW Act, will spur the hiring of veterans. These provisions give tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans or veterans with disabilities connected to their service. The bill also provides all service-members with job training and skills they need to find a job as they begin the process of transitioning back to civilian life. Our servicemen and women are highly skilled and show tremendous leadership and courage overseas. We must now bring them home and welcome them with jobs and support. This vote was a victory for veterans, for small businesses and for our economy as a whole. Now, we must continue focusing on job, jobs, jobs. We must work together in Washington to get a balanced and fair deficit reduction plan that boosts our economy and continues to create jobs.

Kinder: I can't beat Jay Nixon

Faced with the option of having a campaign filled with innuendo about his relationship with an exotic dancer and use of taxpayer money for stays in lavish hotels, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder came to the conclusion that he didn't have a prayer of beating Jay Nixon for governor.

Kinder announced today he will forego the duel with Nixon and run for a third term as lieutenant governor.

The decision comes just days after Sen. Grad Lager, R-Savannah, announced he would run for the position and comes at a time when news reports have indicated term-limited Sen. Luann Ridgeway was thinking about running.

In Kinder's announcement, which should come as no surprise, since he has dodged committing to the governor's race for months, he handed over the position of GOP sacrificial cow to businessman Dave Spence.

Kinder also paints himself as a heroic man of the people.

Kinder's news release is printed below:

After keeping his promise to Missourians to travel the state and discuss a potential race for governor, today Peter Kinder announced his plans to run for re-election.

“I have worked hard every day to serve all the people of Missouri as their Lt. Governor. Serving as Lt. Governor is a great honor. I have the experience, track-record and desire to continue working in that capacity every day to achieve needed reforms. Missouri deserves a Lt. Governor committed to reducing government waste, and protecting Missouri taxpayer dollars,” said Kinder.

As Missouri’s Senior Advocate, Kinder’s office has been busy working with providers and senior advocates to clean up Nixon’s mess in the Department of Health and Senior Services where the health of thousands of seniors has been jeopardized by his department’s total failure to timely provide assessments to seniors waiting for approval to receive critical home care services. Kinder feels strongly that Missouri Seniors need an advocate who will fight for them, a role Kinder will continue if re-elected Lt. Governor.

“Everywhere I traveled during my listening tour people expressed their frustration with Missouri’s unemployment rate and the lack of jobs. Missouri ranked 48th in the nation in job creation in 2010 and had the longest monthly decline in employment in the country under Governor Nixon. Nixon’s leadership has been absent in job creation. Nothing would do more to improve Missouri’s job climate and economic growth potential than defeating Nixon next year. Governor Nixon has failed to lead choosing instead to stand on the sidelines while Governor in other states were taking bold actions and moving their states forward,” said Kinder.

“I believe after numerous conversations with Dave Spence that he is the Republican Party’s best chance of defeating Jay Nixon. Dave is a self-made man and proven manager who understands how to create jobs and improve the state’s economy. He is smart, serious and has a vision he’s shared with me to renew Missouri’s greatness. I am proud to call him a friend and will do everything in my power to see that he’s elected governor next year,” continued Kinder.

Kinder plans to continue his statewide listening tour throughout all corners of the state of Missouri in the near future.

Joplin High School Orchestra performs with Missouri State Symphony

The accompanying video shows the Joplin High School Orchestra performing with the Missouri State University Symphony Orchestra. Proceeds went to the Joplin High School music program.

Billy Long salutes Mel Hancock on House floor

Church groups help Joplin residents rebuild homes

Kelsey Norman principal discusses problems facing children after Joplin Tornado

Rebuild Joplin to send thank you cards to more than 100,000 volunteers

My eighth grade communication arts classes were among those who wrote thank you cards to those who volunteered to help the city of Joplin following the May 22 tornado.

Rebuild Joplin which spearheaded this project plans to send more than 100,000 cards to volunteers:

To say thank you, Rebuild Joplin has coordinated an effort with the City of Joplin, The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Joplin Schools and Bright Futures to send a thank you card to every registered volunteer.

"A thank you does more than express our appreciation for the volunteer, it helps us heal," said Kate Massey of Rebuild Joplin. "Saying thank you is also important because it further demonstrates to the world that our community is filled with hard working, appreciative citizens with a can do attitude."

Cards will be available at several locations for the public to assist in the signing process.

Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, 320 East 4th Street Friday, November 18th, 7:30 to 9:30 am

City Hall - Tuesday morning, November 22nd

Cunningham Park Tuesday, November 22nd afternoon before the Memorial Service

Joplin Tornado hero Mark Lindquist profiled

Joplin School Board discusses property negotiations, construction plans

Cousins emerge as Joplin Tornado heroes