Thursday, May 31, 2012

TAMKO's Humphreys gives Ed Martin a quarter of a million

Republican Ed Martin's campaign for attorney general received a quarter of a million dollar cash infusion today courtesy of David Humphreys of Joplin, according to a 48-hour report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Latest Spence ad no better than the rest

The latest David Spence for governor advertisement continues to show the same high quality seen in his others. It begins with an attack on Gov. Jay Nixon for failing to broker compromise  in the state legislature. It makes you wonder why the governor did not think of that. After all, how difficult can it be to work with Steve Tilley, Tim Jones, Jane Cunningham, Scott Dieckhaus, and some of the other leaders who have stepped to the forefront in the legislature?

Billy Long: The resilience of Joplin known throughout the nation

In his May newsletter, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long addresses the one-year anniversary of the Joplin Tornado.

One year ago our friends and neighbors in Joplin witnessed the destructive force of Mother Nature when their community was devastated by an EF-5 tornado.

I was humbled by the outpouring of help offered by families in our district, in our state, and in our country. The eyes of the world were watching and we showed what it means to help your neighbors in their greatest time of need.

I saw the immediate aftermath of this disaster with my own eyes, and I know it is vital to get the right resources to the right people as quickly as possible, because lives depend on it.  As Joplin’s representative in Congress, it was my job to make sure the federal government worked with local and state officials to provide disaster relief.  As a neighbor, it was my job to help in any way I could, from setting up cots in aid stations with other volunteers to helping with search and rescue. Missouri is called the Show-Me State, and Missourians and Americans from across our great country showed the nation and the world the compassion and generosity of the American spirit.  Over 120,000 volunteers poured into the Joplin area to offer their help and support, and some are still assisting with rebuilding efforts.

Before the life-changing event of May 22, 2011, Joplin was just a town in Missouri, but now its sense of community is known throughout the nation. While the Joplin community is still picking up the pieces from that fateful day, I know they have a bright future ahead.  Though lives were lost and homes and businesses destroyed the one thing the tornado did not take is the sense of community that makes Joplin a welcoming place to live, work, and visit. Joplin is stronger despite this tragic event.

Even though we can’t explain why tragedy strikes, we can use what happened here to remind us of the good inside us all and to remind us that even though we lost a lot, we did not lose everything. Joplin has faced challenges that most communities will not ever experience, but the outpouring of support is also something any community would be fortunate enough to receive.  

Four plead not guilty on Joplin Tornado disaster fraud charges

Four people accused of disaster fraud and making false statements after the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado pleaded not guilty this morning in U. S. District Court in Springfield.

Court documents indicate Amber Nicole Peters, Karen Marie Parks, Scott Bradley Olsen, and Ronald Marshall Irby entered the not guilty pleas during an 11-minute session.

The four were among eight indicted by a federal grand jury.

 Ms. Peters, 22, was indicted on one count of disaster fraud and two counts of making false statements to FEMA. She allegedly told FEMA officials between May 28 and September 26 that she lived at 2426 S. Picher Street, when that was not the case.

Ms Parks, 37, told FEMA she lived at 1502 S. Michigan Avenue. She has been released on a personal recognizance bond.

FEMA officials were told between June 10 and July 21 that Olsen, 58, lived at 2305 Virginia, when that was not the case. He was freed on a personal recognizance bond.

Irby told FEMA between June 13 and June 14 that he lived at 1823 W. 22nd, when that was not the case. He was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Earlier, not guilty pleas were entered by Wanda Gail McBride, 51, Joplin, on one count of disaster fraud and two counts of making false statements to FEMA, and Shane Ellis, 37, who was charged with single counts of disaster fraud and making false statements. Both entered not guilty pleas last week.

The government alleges that Ms. McBride claimed that between June 29 and Oct. 20, 2011, that she had moved into a $400 a month apartment, a claim that was false and designed to help her get FEMA payments after the May 22 Joplin Tornado.

Ellis claimed he lived in a home at 2115 Virginia that was hit by the tornado when, in fact, that was not his residence.

Also indicted by the grand jury were Pamela Ann Shafer, 57, who told FEMA she lived at 1705 Kentucky Avenue North Apartments, when that was not the case and Ann Valerie Jay, who told FEMA officials between May 27 and November 4 that she lived at 4915 E. 27th Street, when that was not the case.

The maximum penalty for disaster fraud is 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the maximum penalty for making false statements to FEMA is five years in prison.

All of the defendants are being represented by federal public defenders, according to court documents.

MSBA report focuses on Joplin Schools

The May 22 groundbreakings at Joplin Schools are featured in the monthly Missouri School Board Association report, with information on what the new schools will be like.

The MSBA monthly reports are shown at school board meetings throughout the state.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Missouri Soybean Association endorses John Brunner

(From the John Brunner campaign)

Today, U.S. Senate Candidate John Brunner announces the Missouri Soybean Association’s endorsement — another major statewide endorsement as Missouri’s agribusiness coalesces in support of Brunner’s campaign.

Adding to the John Deere PAC endorsement, the Missouri Soybean Association support shows that Brunner is the best candidate to represent Missouri’s agribusiness in the U.S. Senate. The Association is member driven and seeks to represent the interests of Missouri soybean producers through legislative issue advocacy, education, and research.

"The MO Soybean Association's PAC has voted unanimously to endorse John Brunner in the race for U.S. Senate because of his deep understanding of the struggles that Missouri's farmers face in today's economy,” said Dale Ludwig, Executive Director/CEO Missouri Soybean Association. “John Brunner knows first-hand how burdensome regulations can destroy family farms and small businesses, and he will lead the charge to fight for real regulatory reform that will protect our industry for future generations." 

The endorsement comes on the heels of the recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce and FreedomWorks endorsements.

“I am extremely proud and grateful to have earned the Missouri Soybean Association’s endorsement,” Brunner said. “Missouri’s agribusiness needs a Senator who uniquely understands how needless EPA regulations are hurting our agribusiness and as Missouri’s next citizen-Senator, I will work tirelessly to ensure we unleash America’s economic potential and restore our prosperity.”  

KOAM offers coverage of Stella, Pittsburg Memorial Day observances

KY3 Report: Joplin Tornado turned strangers into friends

C. J. Huff on JHS Class of 2012: They're phenomenal

This KOMU Columbia interview took place shortly before the May 21 Joplin High School Graduation.

National Geographic documentary on Joplin Tornado

On Day of Unity: Lantz Hare would be proud

St. Louis KMOV coverage of Joplin High School Graduation

Two Joplin High School seniors and Principal Kerry Sachetta are interviewed by Steve Savard of St. Louis station KMOV in this coverage of last week's Joplin High School Graduation.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Complete breakdown on Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado

John Hacker and I are less than three weeks away from publication of our book, Spirit of Hope: The Year after the Joplin Tornado and I had my first look today at the work our designer, David Hoover, has been doing.

The cover you see will probably be very close to what the final cover looks like, there a photo has been added to the back cover.

All of the stories and photos are in, except for John's introductory story. Right now, it is shaping up to be slightly more than 400 pages and we have had to eliminate a considerable amount of worthy material. Much of that material will be put on the book's Facebook page, which we will unveil soon.

Our approach to this book was to tell the story of the Joplin Tornado from the moment it hit through last week's Day of Unity, through stories that have been contributed to us, material that John and I wrote, and documents and speeches that help contribute a fuller understanding of the amazing story that Joplin's recovery has been.

A breakdown of what is included in the book follows:

-Introduction by Mitch Randles, Joplin fire chief

-Spirit of Hope by Randy Turner, my introductory story

-John's introductory story, as yet unnamed

-One Year, One Community, One Direction: John's coverage of the Day of Unity

-I'm Proud of Joplin- The text of City Manager Mark Rohr's speech at the Day of Unity.

-God Was With Me- My story on the Joplin High School Graduation, focusing on graduate Sarah Kessler, who lost her house in the tornado, but never lost her faith

-St. John's Has Been Hit- Rebecca Williams tells the remarkable story of how Joplin Tornado Information, a lifeline for the people of Joplin and those who wanted up-to-date information, began.

-Waiting Out the Storm- Brennan Stebbins tells the story that went viral after the audio was posted on YouTube, recounting how he and his friends waited out the tornado in a cooler at Fastrip.

-Love Led Me Through- Andrea Thomas, whose story about dealing with the loss her home was featured in 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, offers an uplifting follow-up on what has happened to her and her husband, Joe, and how she has been inspired to give back to the community.

-Pancakes, Prayers, and Progress- Former area newspaper reporter Rick Nichols tells the story of what happened at the International House of Pancakes during the tornado.

-The House of Bricks- My visit to the apartment complex behind the 15th Street Wal-Mart and my conversation with Pizza Hut hero Chris Lucas' father and sister.

-A Tale of Survival- Andrea Queen writes about how she and her family rode out the tornado.

-Ground Zero- Former Joplin Tri-State Business Editor Jeff Wells writes about his mother and grandmother, how they survived the tornado, and dealing with its aftermath.

Will There Be a Christmas Tree?- Former Joplin resident Marty Oetting writes about his chance discovery of a string of unclaimed Christmas lights after the tornado.

We Were All Affected- Joplin Tornado Information co-founder Rebecca Williams shares some of the stories that have been sent to the website.

This Town is My Home- One of the most memorable stories in 5:41 was Kaylea Hutson's portrait of Joplin High School student Laela Zaidi, who lost her home May 22. This time, Laela does the writing, filling us in on the year at JHS and how she never wanted for an instant to leave her home.

Peace in the Midst of the Storm and Miracles at Wal-Mart- In these two stories, Chris Robinson and Becky Kropf tell two versions of the tornado at Wal-Mart, complete with the miracle survival of a dog.

Local Radio's Finest Hour- In 5:41, I wrote about the job KZRG and Zimmer Radio did before, during, and after the tornado. This chapter is the text of a speech given by Gov. Jay Nixon to the Missouri Broadcasters Association praising Zimmer and its employees.

My Tornado Story- One of my favorite students at East Middle School last year, Jennifer Nguyen, tells her tornado story as the title suggests.

Pushed to the Breaking Point- Joplin emergency services director Keith Stammer talks about the tornado and what happened afterward in this story from John.

Miracle of the Spirit- The text of City Manager Mark Rohr's speech at the gathering at Cunningham Park a week after the tornado.

Sometimes Love is All You Have- The Gilbert family lost its house in the tornado, but it its bouncing back and part of the recovery, Amy Gilbert writes, is when her daughters took part in the annual Country Music Association Awards.

I'll Never Forget- Pittsburg State University student, and one of my favorite former South Middle School students, Amy Herron writes a moving essay about the tornado.

Medical Community Finds New Opportunities in Devastation- John's story about three hospitals finding a way to serve the public in the aftermath of the tornado.

An End and A Beginning- John's story about the change from St. John's to Mercy.

Autistic Children Benefit from Ozark Center- John writes about how Freeman's Ozark Center bounced back from May 22.

Mercy Joplin Opens Component Hospital- The fourth of John's hospital stories, this one relates the opening of the component hospital that will serve until construction of the new Mercy is completed.

We Will Have School- What was termed as a family gathering for Joplin Schools employees turned out to be much, much more as Superintendent C. J. Huff promises that school will start on time in this story I contributed.

Will Norton is With Us in Spirit- This is the article I wrote for Chapman Magazine at Chapman University where Will Norton had planned to attend in the fall of 2011. It tells the effect he had on a campus full of students who never had the chance to meet him and includes interviews with Chapman students and officials and a couple of Will's Joplin High School classmates.

I Want to Keep the Spotlight on Joplin- The text of Rush Limbaugh's Fourth of July speech at Cunningham Park

A Blessing in Disguise- John updates us on the work done by Samaritan's Purse.

We Will Not Be Kept Down- Another of my favorite former South Middle School students, newly-minted JHS graduate Mary Jean Miller, talks about the role the high school Key Club, a service organization, played in allowing students to contribute to the recovery.

These Are My Students; This is My School- Teachers have their down days and in this story, I write about my misgivings as I moved into a school in a warehouse.

School Begins Today in Joplin- The promise is kept and I write about the return of Joplin teachers and staff on Aug. 15.

The Toughest Town on God's Green Earth- The text of Gov. Jay Nixon's speech to Joplin School staff when they returned to duty.

An Opportunity to Move Forward Together- Superintendent C. J. Huff's speech to returning teachers and staff.

A Day of Miracles: Joplin Schools Start on Time- My article about the day the students returned to the Joplin Schools.

Back to the Country- One of my favorite former Diamond Middle School students, Gary Harrall, contributed the shortest story in 5:41, and he repeats the feat in Spirit of Hope, as he writes about leaving Joplin, returning to the country, and finding the love of his life (his new wife Kelley, one of my favorite former South students).

Nothing Stop Us- One of my favorite former East students, Denton Williams, who contributed a story to 5:41, writes about the strength of Joplin.

Tornado-Battered Joplin Honors Victims of Terrorist Attacks- John covers 9-11 in Joplin, including the visit of the flag from Ground Zero.

Anti-Muslim Sentiment Clouds Gift to Joplin Schools- Our community overcomes the initial resentment of a few people toward the gift the United Arab Emirates gave to the school district, enabling every high school student to have a laptop.

I'm Proud to be a Rising Joplin Eagle- JHS sophomore Micaela Tennis, (not one of my former students and that is my loss) leaves no doubt how she feels about being a part of this school and this community.

Six Months after the Joplin Tornado- John's coverage of the six-month anniversary

Come Home to Joplin- City Manager Mark Rohr's speech at the six-month anniversary

Cunningham Park History- John provides a background on the park that has played such a major role in the community since the tornado.

God Bless the People of Joplin- Rose Fogarty, who wrote a memorable story in 5:41 about coming to Joplin because of Will Norton, has stayed with us ever since and she writes about her remarkable St. Lou Crew.

Remembering the Forgotten School- I pay tribute to the destroyed school that no one ever talked about, the old South Middle School.

A Day in the Life of a Joplin Student- Another favorite South Middle School student, Karissa Dowell, offers another look at the fishbowl existence that ahe and other students at the mall high school had to go through.

Student to Student, Sharing Stories- John has a couple of stories about young people volunteering to help in Joplin over spring break.

A New Hope High School for Joplin- I write about the voters in the Joplin School District approving a $62 million bond issue to replace schools destroyed in the tornado.

A Seventh Grader's Gift That Keeps on Giving- Every one did their part to help the city and schools in Joplin in their time of need, including a seventh grader from New York who gave my students a lesson in public service.

Avenue of Hope- John attends services in the parking lot at Peace Lutheran Church one year after the church held outdoor services after its building was destroyed.

God Remains With Us in Joplin- Bill Pape, who was interim minister at Peace Lutheran Church last year, writes about that first outdoor service.

Thanks Be to This Ever-Present God- The text of pastor Kathy Redpath's sermon at last week's outdoor service at Peace Lutheran.

Rejoicing, Remembering, and Rebuilding- Laela Zaidi's thoughts after the Joplin High School Graduation

Tornado Teaches the True Meaning of School- My thoughts on the last day of my first year in our warehouse building at East.

Graduation speeches from Barack Obama and Jay Nixon

The book will also include the speeches made by President Obama, Gov. Nixon, and Rev. Aaron Brown at the May 29, 2011, memorial service at Missouri Southern State University, the final National Weather Service report on the tornado, the Center for Disease Control report on fungus attacking tornado victims and more.

The book will also feature dozens and dozens of photos.

The tentative publication date is June 15.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Video: Obama leaves Joplin

Brunner campaign manager: My candidate's the best

In a political shocker, U. S. Senate candidate John Brunner's campaign manager says that Brunner is the best man for the job. Who is he supposed to say would be best for the job, Sarah Steelman or Todd Akin?

Jon Seaton, Campaign Manager for John Brunner, issued the following statement following Republican U.S. Senate Candidate John Brunner’s victory at tonight’s debate.

“In Willard tonight, John Brunner stood out as a candidate with the experience, values, and intellect to take on Claire McCaskill and serve as the next Senator from Missouri. John Brunner clearly articulated his plans to grow the economy, cut government, balance the budget and get Missouri and America working again. He recognizes the urgency of the situation and will draw on his 33 years of manufacturing experience and time as a Marine Corps infantry officer to take an immediate leadership role in turning around our economy.

John Brunner knows that our economy needs 4 key components to grow: an energy plan, a reduction in the corporate income tax, a roll-back and moratorium on red-tape regulations, as well as real tort reform.

For the 2nd debate in a row, John Brunner pointed out Sarah Steelman’s opposition to tort reform while serving in the Missouri Senate. Treasurer Steelman can try to change history, but facts are stubborn things: she was the only Republican Senator to oppose tort reform, both in 2003 and 2004. Facts are stubborn things, Treasurer Steelman. It is time for you to come clean to the voters of Missouri."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sarah Steelman: I chose guns over the will of the people

In this excerpt from KY3's Republican Senatorial candidate debate, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman speaks with pride about how she sponsored the successful bill to permit conceal and carry in Missouri the year after the people voted against it.

The other candidates' answers aren't much better.

Mission Joplin's tornado stories

Video: Air Force One arrives in Joplin

In the accompanying video, Air Force One lands at the Joplin Regional Airport prior to Joplin High School graduation ceremonies.

Video: Irving Elementary groundbreaking

Nixa man indicted for ripping off elderly tornado victims

A federal indictment unsealed today indicates a Nixa man ripped off an elderly Joplin couple, threatened a potential witness, and tried to cover up his crime by making it seem like the Joplin man had beaten his wife.

The grand jury issued a 23-count indictment, including six counts of bank fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, three counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of witness tampering against Terry Parker, 57, owner of Alliance Contracting.

Court documents indicate the Joplin couple, the wife is 88 and the husband 84, had a significant portion of their house damaged in the May 22, 2011, tornado. The husband has been battling cancer, while the wife required home care and nursing assistance.

The indictment shows Parker insinuated himself into the couple's home, taking over their office area, and then had them pay for installation of internet service (the couple did not own a computer). Without the couple's permission, Parker allegedly had their banking account changed so that the couple would no longer receive paper statements, but the information would go directly to Parker online.

Parker created a PayPal account in the Joplin man's name and began putting money into that account, according to the indictment. He transferred more than $34,000 from that account into his own PayPal account.

PayPal officials made an effort to determine if the transfers were legitimate, calling the Joplin man, referred to as "H.B." in court documents. Since H. B. had no idea what they were talking about, he handed the phone to Parker, who claimed to be H. B. and said there weren't any problems.

Parker also allegedly forged H. B.'s signature on a check for $38,640.

Parker threatened one of H. B.'s caregivers, according to the indictment:

"In or around November 2011, Parker attempted to intimidate one of H.B.’s caregivers, identified herein as L.S., who had expressed concern regarding Parker’s taking advantage of H.B.  In response, Parker stated to L.S. that she should be careful how she treated him (Parker), because one day H.B.’s house would belong to him."

Parker's scheme began to fall apart when H. B. visited Southwest Missouri Bank to determine why he was no longer receiving paper statements. At that point, H. B. discovered $34,420 had been electronically transferred out of his account and that the check for $38,640 had been forged.

"Immediately following H.B.’s report of the thefts to bank officials and filing of a police report, Parker filed a complaint with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which he then knew to be false, alleging that H.B. had abused his wife by striking her and failing to give her proper medication as prescribed by her physician."

On some of the charges, Parker can face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

Billy Long: FEMA needs flexibility

Information about the upcoming book, Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado

This is an edited version (my jokes at the beginning have been eliminated) from my presentation to Carthage Rotary Club about Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, the book John Hacker and I will be publishing in about three weeks.

At the time, the speech was made, we were using a different working title, but pretty much everything else in the video is up to date.

John and I are finishing our additions and revisions to the book today and tomorrow, so I will have more updates over the next several days about what will be included in the book.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Latest Spence ad attacks Nixon, "the invisible governor"

No police force in Lanagan after chief, officer arrested

U. S. Department of Education awards $818,185 grant to Joplin Schools

(From the U. S. Department of Education)

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students, formerly the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, has awarded Joplin Schools in Joplin, Missouri, an Extended Services Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling $818,185 to continue assistance for ongoing recovery efforts following a deadly tornado that ripped through the state last year.
Project SERV provides critical support to districts and institutions of higher education that have experienced a significant traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and re-establish a safe environment for students. The Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded more than $28 million to 93 grantees, including Joplin Schools, since the grant program began in 2001.
"The citizens of Joplin are doing heroic work to rebuild their schools and their community," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "The Department of Education is honored to provide continued support through Project SERV to help the learning process continue, and offer resources to students and educators who may still be dealing with the trauma of last year's devastating tornado."
The May 22, 2011 tornado caused 161 fatalities and numerous casualties and severe physical damage to Joplin Schools. Three schools—Joplin High School, Irving Elementary and Franklin Technology Center—were completely destroyed, and six other schools were severely damaged. Thousands of residents lost their homes and hundreds of businesses were damaged as well. Today, members of that community continue to experience trauma in the aftermath of the tornado.
To support the transition from short-term to long-term recovery, and to restore the learning environment, Joplin Schools requested and were granted Project SERV Extended Services funding. The award would provide support to personnel who will undertake a comprehensive school-centered, multi-tiered intervention and response initiative. Efforts include training educators and other personnel to provide behavioral interventions that support positive academic and behavioral changes of students.
Modeled after the student-centered multi-tiered intervention program for students, Joplin schools will implement a similar program for staff. Led by a case manager, there will be an intervention and support process for staff that includes facilitating access and referrals to mental health supports, as well as support training in "compassion fatigue." Compassion Fatigue recognizes that educators and staff are personally experiencing trauma and, at the same time, they are expected to continually care for and support the mental and behavioral needs of their students.
Department Efforts to Date to Help Restore Joplin School District:
The U.S. Department of Education has provided a continuum of resources for schools and has been working with the Joplin School District to support recovery since the tornado. Most recently, the Department awarded Joplin Schools an Immediate Services Project SERV grant of almost $50,000 to help provide local students and education staff with academic and mental health services.
Specifically, Office of Safe and Healthy Students and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Office of Individual and Community Preparedness have been collaborating to facilitate recovery and necessary support for Joplin Schools. Activities have included conference calls, technical assistance and facilitating relationship-building between Joplin School officials and key local, state, and federal officials involved in the response and recovery.
Additionally, in the fall of 2011, Duncan visited Joplin Schools, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino.
President Obama delivered the commencement address at Joplin High School on May 21, nearly one year to the date of the 2011 tornado.

Rescue crews reflect on Joplin Tornado anniversary

KY3 Ozarks Today expanded coverage of Joplin Tornado anniversary

Day of Unity offers remembrance, reflection, dedications

(From the City of Joplin)

After the 6,000-plus walkers arrived at Cunningham Park around 5 p.m. on May 22 from the Walk of Unity, they quickly filled chairs, bleachers and grassy areas for the concluding program of the Day of Unity. This special program at the park dedicated to remembering and reflecting on the past year. City Manager Mark Rohr welcomed a crowd of more than 8,000 people representing the community, volunteers, and local, state, and federal partners present for the program.
Hal Donaldson, keynote speaker and founder and president of Convoy of Hope, offered an inspirational message to the crowd. Through its world-wide operations, Convoy of Hope has brought aid to millions of people across the United States and around the world. Immediately after the May tornado, their trucks and relief teams arrived in Joplin and they have been here ever since: passing out food and water, removing debris, and rebuilding homes. Donaldson’s message at the ceremony emphasized the importance of hope and faith for the future, noting Joplin and Duquesne focused on three important elements during the past year’s recovery: hard work, unity and courage.

Donaldson’s message was followed by a moment of silence at exactly 5:41 p.m., the time the tornado struck one year ago. This moment of silence allowed individuals to reflect on the lives lost last May and the events of the past year.

After the moment of silence, Mark LaPerle played the song that many heard last year during the one-week memorial, “Joplin’s Heart Will Sing Again”. Following his performance, three symbolic dedications were made: the presentation of the time capsules, the unveiling of the bronze memorial plaque, and the planting of the  161st tree.

The time capsules were placed in the base holding the bronze plaque. The capsules will be opened on May 22, 2061, the 50th anniversary of the tornado. This date was selected so that those who experienced the tornado as children could pass the living history onto children and grandchildren not yet born. There are a total of six capsules that represent “Our Youth,” “Our Seniors,” the “Class of 2011,” “Our Community,” the “City Operations,” and the “Media Response.”  All six capsules are dedicated to the Citizens of Joplin in the year 2061.

o   The “Our Youth” capsule contains messages from elementary students impacted by the tornado. Three students presented this capsule: Kaylnn Connor, 5th grader, Emerson Elementary; Morgan Keller, 1st grader, Irving Elementary; and Carmen Colson, 3rd grader, St. Mary’s Grade School.

o   The “Our Seniors” capsule includes messages of Joplin’s history and hopes for the future and was presented by Dennie and Loretta Lynch.

o   The “Class of 2011” capsule includes reflections on the year and offers inspiration to the Class of 2061. This capsule was presented by the Will Norton family.

o   The “Community” capsule contains a 100 foot scroll with messages of hope, encouragement, and memories and was presented by Charlie Brown.

o   The “City Operations” capsule represents the efforts of the City of Joplin and was presented by Keith Stammer.

o   The “Media Response” capsule was devoted to local media and tells the story of how they told the story to the world and was presented by Josh Marsh of KZRG Radio, part of the Zimmer Group that broadcast live for nine days following the tornado on all of their radio stations to provide vital information to the community.

The second symbolic dedication was that of the Bronze Memorial Plaque. This plaque is inscribed with the names of the 161 citizens who lost their lives on May 22, 2011 and will be displayed in the memorial at Cunningham Park.

The final symbolic dedication was that of the 161st tree. This tree serves as a memorial to friends, family members, and citizens who were lost that day and will serve as a lasting reminder for generations to come. Two families were present to assist in planting this tree.
After these three dedications, Lynn Britton, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Hospitals, made a dedication on behalf of Mercy.

As a gesture of “Paying It Forward” to help kick-off Star of Hope for Minot, Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Keen passed one of Joplin’s stars to Dean Frantsvog, President of Minot City Council in Minot, North Dakota. Minot is a community that sustained major damage from flooding last June. New York Says Thank You and their Stars of Hope Program, which has been in Joplin since last September, will move to Minot this September.

After the dedications, the ceremony concluded with a community singing of “Go Make a Difference.” This song represented the community’s efforts thus far and encouraged citizens to move forward with a positive outlook. 

McDonald County grand jury indicts Lanagan police chief

(From State Auditor Thomas Schweich)

A McDonald County Grand Jury has indicted the Lanagan chief of police and one of his officers for felony forgery.

Lanagan Chief of Police Larry D. Marsh was charged with five counts of felony forgery for writing citations with a "non-existent" Missouri statute and altering a racial profiling report.  Lanagan Police Officer Michael Gallhue was also charged with two counts of felony forgery for similar offenses.  All are Class C felonies.

State Auditor Tom Schweich issued an audit of the McDonald County town in November 2011.  Among the key audit findings were missing funds and evidence that the city routinely violated Section 302.341.2, RSMo, popularly known as the "Macks Creek Law," by failing to relinquish  excess revenues received from speeding tickets to the state for distribution to local schools.  Schweich's auditors discovered the police department filed incorrect Missouri Vehicle Stops Annual Reports with the Missouri attorney general, which helped hide the excess revenues.

Schweich's office shared the information with McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Pierce, who then convened a grand jury investigation.  Last week, Pierce asked the Missouri Highway Patrol to arrest Marsh and charge him with falsifying reports.

"This is a great example of what teamwork between state and local government can do to uphold accountability,"  Schweich said.  "We have an outstanding staff of experienced auditors and an exceptional legal team that reviews every audit and takes action when misdeeds like this are identified."

 McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Pierce added:

"I appreciate the work done by Auditor Schweich's team," Pierce said.  "The action we took last week shows no one is above the law, and this office will not hesitate to vigorously pursue those who violate the public trust."

Schweich's audits were instrumental in the arrest of another local official last year.  The Schuyler County Collector resigned after a state audit showed she had embezzled more than $500,000 for her own personal use.  She pled guilty to felony mail fraud and has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Fierce Desire for Educational Change

(My latest Huffington Post blog)

As a teacher who has had English students write research papers each year on the American Civil Rights Movement, I was stunned to find out a few moments ago that I am on the wrong side of the great civil rights issue of our time.

It has to be true. Mitt Romney says so.

That great civil rights issue, he told the Latino Coalition Economic Summit Wednesday is education. I have been on the front lines of that issue for 14 years and apparently, according to the former Massachusetts governor, I am part of the problem.

Because I oppose what Gov. Romney calls educational “reform”, I obviously have “a fierce determination to keep things the way they are.”

If keeping Gov. Romney and his band of reformers from steering federal educational funding toward unproven charter schools operated by speculators wanting to make a killing from the education markets fits the description, then yes, I have a fierce determination to stop that.

If it means stopping a move toward rewarding digital and online entrepreneurs who are touting profit-making (and in many cases, highly dubious) schemes to enrich their bottom lines, then yes I am going to remain fierce.

And if the governor is moving to “reform” schools by rewarding the testing and test prep companies that are slowly, but surely damaging the fabric of public education, then I am absolutely determined not to keep things the way they are, but to move them in another direction.

“Teaching is a highly valued profession,” Romney, reportedly with a straight face, told his audience, unless, of course, you are one of those teachers who happen to belong to a union.

Then you are a member of  “a group that has lost its way.”

“The teacher unions don’t fight for our children,” he said. “Good teachers put the interests of their children first.”

Yes, they do, Gov. Romney. I work every day with teachers who put children first and many of them are members of one of the organizations you targeted for criticism, the National Education Association. Others are involved in the Missouri State Teachers Association. They also put the children’s interest first.

Perhaps when you have to install an elevator for your cars and provide for the maintenance on your wife’s Cadillacs, Gov. Romney, you are forgetting one basic truth- if our primary interest was financial, we would be in a different line of work.

Far too many times during the past few years, we have heard politicians, mainly those in the governor’s Republican Party, insisting that our public schools are failing children and the biggest reason is bad teachers. So they do their best to remove veteran teachers, many times in favor of recent college graduates with no education training. This is putting the interests of the children first?

They push merit pay proposals that would guarantee more standardized tests, more tests to prepare for standardized tests, and more tests to prepare for the tests to prepare for the standardized tests, therefore removing the joy of learning that is a key to educational success. This is putting the interests of the children first?

And, as always with these alleged reformers, there was not one single word dedicated to removing the diseases that have helped cause the problems in our inner-city schools. No mention of crime. No mention of drugs. No mention of physical abuse, mental abuse, or sexual abuse.

In other words, there were no mentions of the problems that sometimes make success in the classroom secondary to simple survival.

Of course, it would be hard for Gov. Romney and his supporters to take a stance against the real problems of education since they want to eliminate the government programs that offer at least some relief, some glimmer of hope to the children in our inner cities.

Tackling the real problems would cost money, money, which apparently can be better used to cut taxes for job providers who never seem to provide any jobs.

I do not have a fierce desire to keep things the way they are. I want to teach in a school where the students never have to suffer hunger, poverty, or unspeakable treatment in their homes.

I want real reform where the people who are making the decisions for us are thinking with their hearts and minds and not with their pocketbooks.

I have a fierce desire to make sure that life will be better for my students and that education will open the doors to success for them.

So Gov. Romney, please take your tired, your poor, your huddled mass of ideas out of the political discourse and if you truly want to give parents “choice in an unprecedented way,” as you told the Latino Coalition, bring the same energy to saving their communities that you did to saving the Salt Lake City Olympics.

If you do that, you will be the one on the right side of the civil rights issue of our time. You will be the one who is putting our children first.