Friday, November 30, 2012

Joplin elementary teachers, students deal with aftermath of tornado

Joplin Superintendent C. J. Huff showed the accompanying video to the Missouri State Teachers Association Assembly of Delegates.

In it, teachers and students at Irving Elementary talk about dealing with the aftermath of the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado.

Missouri NEA president in Washington, urges "kids, not cuts"

$20,000 donation to help pay for Will Norton Miracle Field

FOX 14 TV Joplin and Pittsburg News Weather Sports |

Hartzler: We need more revenue, but not higher taxes

In her latest newsletter, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler says that the U. S. needs more revenue, but not higher taxes.

The year is rapidly drawing to a close with America moving dangerously close to the fiscal cliff that could spell economic disaster for taxpayers and small businesses as well our national defense, which would face devastating cuts. According to estimates from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the tax increases would add $3,500 to the average family’s tax liability. Military and program cuts would happen because of a process known as sequestration, which results from the inability of last year’s Super Committee to reach an agreement on cutting our bloated national debt.

No one wants to go over this cliff, but House Republicans are, so far, the only elected officials who have put forward a plan to address this fiscal nightmare.

We can all agree that America needs more revenue, but the good citizens of Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District did not send me to Congress to raise their taxes. I support creating jobs and pro-growth tax reform - a simpler, fairer tax code with lower rates that will give our economy a boost. Job growth will happen if we remove onerous government regulations, lower energy costs by becoming energy independent, repeal and replace the government takeover of health care, and create certainty in the economy. A simpler, fairer tax code will lower the corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent and prevent jobs from moving overseas. In addition, it would eliminate many tax loopholes and encourage companies to bring money made overseas back into the United States economy. We must also help small businesses, family farms, investors, and other job creators by eliminating the inheritance tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Tax increases set to take effect if we go over the fiscal cliff will slow our fragile economy, making it harder to balance the budget and tougher to put Americans back to work. As I have shared on a number of occasions, Ernst & Young estimates the tax increases would reduce employment by 710,000 jobs. We cannot allow this to happen.

We must also protect national defense from crippling cuts that would, in the words of President Obama’s Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “hollow out” the nation’s military force. These unwarranted defense cuts must be replaced with smarter, safer, and more sensible changes in other programs. These changes have been outlined by House Republicans in our pro-growth tax reform proposal. If President Obama and Senate Democrats don’t want to embrace this common sense solution to our fiscal problem, they must put forward solid proposals of their own. Speeches and talking points don’t count. It is time to put forward a framework. Time is running out!

On another matter, I want to remind you that the Medicare Open Enrollment period, offering our senior citizens important Medicare health care choices, is coming to a close. Seniors should evaluate their health status as well as the coverage, co-pays, deductibles and other details of their current plans to be informed consumers who are more likely to pay less for coverage.

Doctor and hospital choice is very important. Seniors who are comfortable with the plans they currently have should check whether the doctors and hospitals they are now using will be available in the future and whether changing plans might affect that relationship. Medicare beneficiaries might also want to determine whether any new plan they sign up for might not include pharmacies that are part of their current prescription drug plan’s network. These are important facts that must be considered when choosing or changing a Medicare plan.

With the Open Enrollment period comes renewed concerns about this vital program due to insufficient Medicare reimbursement for health care providers and increased regulatory burdens. Additionally, the Medicare Board of Trustees warns that without changes the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will go bankrupt in 2024 due to increased costs and usage. The looming physician shortage coupled with additional pressures from the President’s health care law will only compound this problem. My fellow Representatives are joining me in the effort to address costs to protect Medicare for current and future generations. I am committed to reining in these runaway costs while protecting and preserving this program that is critical to the well-being of our nation’s senior citizens.

The Medicare Open Enrollment period ends on Friday, December 7th. For information on Medicare benefits and the health and drug plan options in any part of the Fourth District, I urge seniors to call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Billy Long on the Second Amendment: I'm sticking to my guns

In his latest newsletter, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long lets constituents know that he is doing everything he can to protect the Second Amendment against people like that mean old Barack Obama.

I know many of you have expressed concerns about the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts with you about this treaty, which I see as a threat to our Second Amendment right to bear arms.
I am disheartened to see a new push by this administration for a global Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations.  While the final treaty is still under discussion, its purpose is to regulate the global arms trade to prevent the transfer of weapons to oppressive nations.  To accomplish this goal, it imposes new international controls over the transfer of weapons and their components, including ammunition. 
I agree that keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of bad actors is a worthy aim, but I cannot support a treaty that allows international law to overstep its bounds and potentially infringe on our constitutional right to bear arms.  Such treaties often restrict the transfer of weapons into the hands of American allies while America’s enemies import weapons from nations that refuse to honestly abide by treaty restrictions.  America is also a major exporter of weapons, which supports thousands of jobs.  Overly restrictive controls could interfere with the ability of our businesses to ship their products to legitimate overseas buyers, which could result in the loss of American jobs.
For these reasons I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 3594, theSecond Amendment Protection Act.  This bill would prohibit the United States from providing any funding to the United Nations during any fiscal year unless the president certifies that the United Nations has not taken any action which would infringe on Americans’ Constitutional rights. 
I am also a cosponsor of H.R. 5846, the Second Amendment Sovereignty Act.  This bill would prohibit the use of any taxpayer dollars for the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations or any other United Nations action which could infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.  The measure would also prevent the use of funds to enter into any agreement that would create new regulations, controls or prohibitions against the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of light arms manufactured in the United States. 
The Arms Trade Treaty has been presented as a means to control the flow of international weapons into repressive nations, but until the treaty has been concluded and presented to the U.S. Senate we will not know all of the proposal’s details.  However, I hope my colleagues in the Senate will reject any treaty that violates our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Cleaver: We can't go over fiscal cliff

In his latest EC from DC column, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver warns of the dangers of going off the fiscal cliff.

It was a great pleasure this week to sit down with my colleague and friend, Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS), to talk with KCUR’s Steve Kraske about the looming fiscal cliff and the need for civility and bipartisanship in working to solve this, and other, major issues facing our country. 

As you know, I believe it is in reaching out and finding compromise that we find a way to move forward, keep our economy on the right track, and increase employment for hardworking people in Missouri’s Fifth District. I remain committed to the notion that ALL Americans should receive a tax cut on incomes up to $250,000. I also believe Social Security is an earned benefit, not an entitlement and should not be included in any talks of cuts. 

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office – going over the fiscal cliff would raise the unemployment rate from 7.9% to 9.1 % in 2013. We can’t let this happen. We have seen 30 consecutive months of steady private sector job growth and our economy is rebounding. Failing to act, and allowing the elimination of jobs and an increase in the unemployment rate is the height of irresponsibility. 

Under sequestration, numerous agencies would face dramatic cuts that would not be efficient or strategic. I believe they would result in a loss of jobs, and a loss of ability to serve critical functions necessary to protect us. 

There are tough decisions ahead that need to be made by those who have been elected to represent the voters. Constituents believe this is not a time for political games, harsh partisanship, or digging in and refusing to listen to valid ideas brought to the table. The proverbial can cannot be kicked down the road any longer. 

The American people, and especially those in the Fifth District, have spoken loud and clear. They want us to get things done. They want us to make responsible decisions that everyone can live with. And they want this country to remain on a positive economic track. I am working toward those goals, as well, for my children and yours. 

Complete Nixon announcement of Medicaid expansion

Million dollar Powerball ticket sold at Joplin Casey's

A KSN video

State working to help displaced Hostess employees

The state of Missouri's efforts to help displaced Hostess workers is among the items touched on in this MoGov minute.

Joplin School Board explores TIF proposal during work session

In this JET 14 video of the Joplin Board of Education work session held Tuesday, the board thoroughly examines the TIF proposal being pushed by the city's master developer David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali.

Nixon announces Medicaid push

A St. Louis Beacon video

Nixon: Medicaid expansion will create jobs, grow the economy

Thursday, November 29, 2012

February 2015 date set for Joplin Tornado wrongful death lawsuit against Wal-Mart

Don't expect the first wrongful death lawsuit filed after the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado to be resolved any time soon.

A proposed schedule filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri indicates that nearly two years will be set aside just for the discovery process in the lawsuit filed by the widow and child of a tornado victim against Wal-Mart and the trial, expected to last two weeks, is scheduled for February 2015.

The two sides will have until September 30, 2014, to complete the discovery process:

This extended deadline is to allow for Defendant to collect  the  voluminous  medical records, investigative reports, information from various federal agencies  and due to the massive scale and impact of the tornado, the multiple investigating entities and the numerous experts needed on both sides
including the very likely potential to travel outside of Missouri for depositions.  

The wife and daughter of Joplin Tornado victim Stan Kirk, 62, an aircraft technician, filed the lawsuit.

The suit charges the company for not being prepared for the EF-5 tornado that destroyed the 15th Street Wal-Mart and for not having an adequate emergency plan.

According to the petition, Mr. Kirk went to Wal-Mart that day for a "golf-related item." The tornado siren sounded at 5:17 p.m. At some point between then and 5:24 p.m., Kirk "attempted to leave the store to return (to his) home" which was three miles away, "or a seven minute drive from the store and located in an area outside the path of the storm and untouched by the tornado."

The suit alleges "(Kirk) was forced to stay in the store and directed to an unsafe/improper location. Defendants had the responsibility to adequately design and construct the store, keep patrons safe during emergency, and design and implement a proper emergency plan."

The lawsuit accuses Wal-Mart of negligence. "Defendant Wal-Mart knew or should have known that Joplin Store No. 59 was located in an area that was at a high risk of tornadoes and violent wind."

It also says store officials knew or should have known that the building was "not constructed properly considering this increased risk of violent storms and tornadoes," and "knew or should have known there was not a proper emergency plan in place at the store, including a lack of signage and identified safe areas/tornado refuge areas.'

Wal-Mart should have known that customers forced to stay in the store "would be exposed to an increased risk of serious injury or death during violent storms."

The store was negligent in the following ways, according to the lawsuit:

a. Failing to allow Kirk to leave the store to seek shelter elsewhere

b. Failing to leave the doors unlocked to ensure access for emergency personnel

c. Failing to leave doors unlocked to ensure access for emergency personnel

d. Failing to address the increased potential for tornado hazard in construction of the store

e. Failing to have proper tornado refuge areas identified

f. Failing to have a proper safe room or tornado shelter

g. Failing to have proper signage regarding building design or other indicators for employees and patrons during emergencies

h. Failing to properly label safe areas

i. Failing to have emergency plans conspicuously displayed

j. Failing to direct all patrons to, and ensure all patrons were in safe areas

k. Failing to perform vulnerability assessments prior to storm

Store Manager Andy Martin is also charged with negligence for his actions during the storm, but an affidavit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court indicates Martin was on vacation when the tornado occurred.

Kirk's widow, Janice Kirk, and their daughter Jodelle are seeking "fair and reasonable" damages, interest and costs.

The Kirks are being represented by the Hersehewe Law Firm of Joplin.

Hero gave life trying to save others in Wheaton fire

KY3 has a story on hero Jay Gemmeke, who gave his life trying to save others during the Thanksgiving morning fire in Wheaton:

One woman, who survived the fire, told KY3 she was able to wake her kids up and get out of the burning apartment thanks to Jay warning everyone about the flames.  Others say Jay initially made it out of the building safely, but he turned right around and tried to save others. 
"Anybody that would go back into a burning building for another- I am sorry, they are a hero. Whether they make it out or not," stated Harley Mennier, a friend of Gemmecke.

Public invited to reception honoring Joplin city manager as Public Official of the Year

(From the City of Joplin)

Joplin City Council and staff invite the public to join us in congratulating City Manager Mark Rohr in being named a “Public Official of the Year” by Governing Magazine. A reception recognizing Rohr in receiving this award will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 6 in the Main Lobby of Joplin City Hall, 602 South Main. Introduction and comments will be made at 4:15 p.m. Refreshments will be served during the event.
Rohr was one of seven government officials throughout the country honored this year by the national magazine that focuses on state and local governments throughout the United States. He recently accepted this award during an awards dinner in Washington D.C. introducing him and the other officials as this year’s honorees.
Those attending the ceremony hosted by Governing Magazine described Rohr as very humble in receiving the award, noting that he stated that this award was very nice although it did not belong to just him, but to everyone who has been instrumental in Joplin’s recovery following the May 22, 20111 tornado.
Rohr provided direction and led the City staff throughout the disaster response to ensure that the citizens of Joplin received efficient and effective services that would allow them to recover in the best and most appropriate manner for their individual circumstances.
Rohr has been with the City of Joplin in November, 2004. During this time, Rohr has led numerous initiatives including the success of
• Completing ten blocks of downtown streetscaping improvements which have ignited new interest in downtown revitalization;
• Leading the initiative for a Public Safety Tax that allowed for an additional 30 police officers and the construction of the city’s first police substation in the southern portion of the city. The tax also allowed for the hiring of 30 additional fire fighters and the construction of a new fire station in Southwest Joplin, which opened in Spring 2012;
• Developing and implementing a “Blueprint for the Future” which establishes short-, mid- and long-range goals and objectives over the next 10 years;
• Expanding the existing public transportation system in 2007, utilizing fixed and deviated routes and incorporating city’s historic mining district as the theme of service; since inception, this program has doubled rider usage;
• Creating and executing a Neighborhood Improvement Program that engages leaders in both public and private sectors to strengthen partnerships for success.
• Completing Phases I and II of community athletic complex that offers baseball, soccer, softball and tennis facilities and programs for residents and sports teams and organizations; and
• Solidifying the City’s financial status in multiplying the general fund by many folds during a troubled economy.
Rohr has also written a book about the City’s first six months following the disaster. It is entitled, “The Miracle of the Human Spirit.”
Prior to his work in Joplin, Rohr served as City Manager in Piqua, Ohio from 1998 to 2004; worked as City Manager in Punta Gorda, Florida from 1995 to 1998, and filled the City Manager position in Washington Court House, Ohio for five years prior to that. He also was City Manager of Newton Falls, Ohio for approximately 3 years.
Rohr received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Governing is a national monthly magazine, edited and published since 1987 in Washington, D.C., whose subject area is state and local government in the United States. The magazine covers policy, politics and the management of government enterprises. Its subject areas include such issues as government finance, land use, economic development, the environment, technology and transportation. The magazine's circulation is approximately 85,000.
According to Governing’s website, since 1994, the publication honors individual state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishments by naming them Public Officials of the Year.

EMS Benefit Talent Show to raise money for Joplin Fire Department Christmas toy program

(From East Middle School Roundabout)

 A full afternoon and evening of entertainment are on tap 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 1, when the East Middle School Student Council presents a benefit talent show to raise money to buy toys for the Joplin Fire Department's annual Christmas for Kids project.

 Holiday gift baskets, including the one in the accompanying photo, will be up for silent auction throughout the day. A concession stand will be open.

 The entertainment is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. with a performance by the JEMS Show Choir, under the direction of Ms. Julie Yonkers, followed by EMS teacher Randy French showing rope tricks, and then the crowd will receive a welcome blast of holiday spirit, courtesy of the EMS cheerleaders.

 Other acts that are set for definite times at this point include the Cady family, including Joplin High School senior Hannah Cady, which will perform at 5 p.m., EMS counselor Karensue Hensley at 5:30 p.m. and the evening will end with one-hour shows from the nationally-known gospel group, the Victorymen, featuring eighth grade history teacher and Student Council sponsor Mr. Rocky Biggers at 6 p.m. and oldies/country/rock group Natural Disaster, featuring eighth grade communication arts teacher Mr. Randy Turner at 7 p.m.

 Other acts scheduled to entertain between 4:30 and 6 p.m. include EMS students Audrey Hampton, Desirae Orlaski and Melinda Adams, Alley Gemser, Michaela West, Carly Ball, and Abigail Russell, Joplin High School students Kenya Schmidt, Mason Finnell (doing his famous unicycle routine), Taryn Parker, and Brooklyn Vickers, and Joplin High School graduates Sarah Kessler, Mary Jean Miller, and Skye Smith.

 Cost of admission is $1.

 (Photo- Melanee Day and Taylor Goff show one of the gift baskets containing items collected by seventh and eighth grade students. The other photos show baskets created by classes, teachers, organizations, and employees at East Middle School.)

Joplin school officials meet with city's master developer

KOAM TV 7 Joplin and Pittsburg

Joplin master developer explains how TIF works

In this video, Joplin's master developer, David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali, explains to the city council how TIF works. A decision on whether to go along with the proposal has been delayed, but is still on the table. I might add that not everyone agrees with Wallace's idea of the effect a TIF will have on tax entities, including the Joplin School District.

Investigator: No signs of arson in fire that killed five in Wheaton

An investigator for the state fire marshal's office says there appears to be no signs of arson in the Thanksgiving morning fire that killed five in Wheaton:

An investigator for the State Fire Marshal's Office suspects a couch in an upstairs apartment might have been where flames broke out.
The fire at Blue Ridge Apartments was reported about 3:20 a.m. Thursday.  Two people died in one unit and three others in a neighboring apartment.
The victims were Molly Doherty, 54, and Jonathan Gemmecke, 32, who were in one apartment; and Mary Henning, 43, her son, Brandon Thurston, 8, and her boyfriend, Corey Hasche, 23, in the other unit.

Kansas City pastor named to head State Board of Education

(From the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

The State Board of Education elected the Rev. Stan Archie, Kansas City, as its new president at a meeting yesterday in St. Louis.

 Current board president, Peter F. Herschend, was elected vice president.

 Archie, a senior pastor at the Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, was first appointed to the State Board in December 2006 and currently serves as vice president. He is owner and principal consultant with Successful Edge Consultants and serves as board chairman of the Kansas City Leadership Foundation.

 Archie earned a degree in divinity and organizational leadership at Calvary Bible College and a master's degree in education at MidAmerica Nazarene University. 

 Herschend has been a member of the State Board since 1991 and is serving his third term. He is founder and co-owner of Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., which owns Silver Dollar City and other entertainment properties. Prior to his appointment to the State Board, Herschend was a member of the Branson Board of Education for 12 years. 

Archie and Herschend will serve in their new positions from January 2013 through June 2014. 

The State Board of Education is made up of eight members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. Members serve staggered, eight-year terms.

Legitimate news item: Todd Akin may write a book

If Randy Turner can do it, anyone can.

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire is reporting losing U. S. Senate candidate Todd Akin may write a book.

No truth to the rumor that Akin said his next step will be to actually read a book.

And now for your listening enjoyment.

City of Joplin to seek information from property owners in tornado area

(From the City of Joplin)

The City of Joplin will soon mail letters to residential property owners who signed a Right of Entry (ROE) form in the Expedited Debris Removal (EDR) process seeking authorization to receive specific insurance policy information from their agencies. This is necessary in order to determine if a duplication of benefits has been incurred by the property owner during the debris and demolition phases following the May 22, 2011 tornado.
Specifically, those property owners who signed an ROE form for the Expedited Debris Removal (EDR) process are requested to provide permission for the City to receive some policy details during this next step of an ongoing effort to reconcile private insurance reimbursements and government services rendered during the previous EDR phase.
Expedited Debris Removal was a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) program that allowed FEMA’s government-funded contractor, the United States Corps of Engineers, to clean the loose, tornado debris from residential properties after the property owner signed the ROE. In signing the form, the property owner agreed that they would not seek a “duplication of benefit” that is defined as receiving insurance coverage to pay for the removal of storm-generated debris, in addition to having their loose debris removed from their property by a government-funded contractor, as was done through the EDR program.
In recent months, the City has been working with property owners and requested insurance documents to learn more about their insurance coverage in order to know whether a duplication of benefits has occurred. Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine if there has been a duplication of benefits from the information that was originally requested by the City. Therefore, the City has consulted with the insurance carriers, and has determined that the most accurate information can be provided directly by the property owner’s insurance company. However, in order for the insurance companies to give the benefit information to the City, property owners will need to sign a release authorizing this information can be forwarded to the City. This release form needs to be signed and returned to the City of Joplin by January 4, 2013.
“More than 18 months have passed since the devastating tornado swept through the City, and most residential property owners have completed their insurance settlements on debris removal and demolition from their property,” said Leslie Jones, Finance Director for the City of Joplin. “It is now time to reconcile the EDR process and ensure that property owners did not receive a duplication of benefits. Basically, residents cannot have received a payment from their insurance company AND also utilized the EDR. That’s a duplication.”
Jones explained that if residents did have a duplication, there will be a fee assessed for the work completed during the EDR process, and the amount depends on the size of the property lot.
“We are looking for property owners to respond to this request,” she said. “The information provided by their insurance carriers will help determine if a duplication of benefits occurred for the removal of the loose, tornado debris from their property by the government-funded contractor. There will only be a fee assessed if a property owner received insurance proceeds for the loose, debris cleanup and did not use those proceeds for the cleanup effort. “
For example, if an insurance policy provided $5,000 for the cleanup of both debris and demolition, and the Corps of Engineers cleaned the loose debris from the affected property, and the property owner paid a contractor $5,000 for demolition of the structure, there is no duplication of benefits. Therefore, a fee will NOT be assessed for this service. It must be documented that either there was no duplication of benefits or the fee assessed according to your lot size is collected if a duplication of benefits occurred.
During the process of developing the Right of Entry form, the City had established a three-tier cost structure based on the size of the lot, when discussing the possibility of a duplication of benefits.
Lot Size Cost
0 to 10,000 square feet $1,500.00
10,001 square feet to ½-acre $2,500.00
½-acre and greater $4,000.00
If it is determined that a duplication of benefits has occurred, a bill for the lot size based on this three-tier cost structure will be generated. The proceeds from any duplication of benefits are required to be returned to FEMA.
According to federal regulations, if a property owner does not sign the authorization form and return it by January 4, 2013, it will be determined that a duplication of benefits did occur and a bill will be generated for the debris cleanup at their property.
After the City reviews the property owner’s insurance information, they will receive written notification stating that either there was no duplication of benefits and no charge will be assessed or they will receive a bill for the duplication of benefits. However, this will be a lengthy process and may take several months.
The City does appreciate everyone’s assistance in this effort. For questions about this final step in the process, please call the City at (417) 624-0820 ext. 244.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Joplin Schools: Wallace Bajjali master plan would hurt school district

KOAM TV 7 Joplin and Pittsburg

Councilman on passage of LGBT ordinance: Everyone had their chance to speak

In this St. Louis Beacon video, St. Louis County Councilman Pat Dolan takes questions shortly after the council passed, by a 4-3 margin, a bill outlawing discrimination against lesbians and gays.

Lembke: People have the religious right to discriminate against gays

In this St. Louis Beacon/Jason Rosenbaum video, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, addresses an anti-discrimination ordinance against gays and lesbians that was passed by the St. Louis County Council earlier tonight.

The county already has an anti-discrimination law, but it did not include gender and had a loophole that allowed gays to be fired from jobs denied housing, or turned away from public accomodations.

Dave Spence's crybaby lawsuit against Jay Nixon alive and well

The race for Missouri governor has been over for three weeks, but it continues in the courts, where Republican challenger Dave Spence's crybaby lawsuit against Gov. Jay Nixon has not been dismissed, according to Cole County Circuit Court online court records.

If you remember, Spence filed the lawsuit in October, claiming that Nixon was not telling the truth about him in ads in which he claimed Spence was a banker, was involved in decisions not to repay TARP funds, and accepted an insider loan.

The last thing this state needs to have its political campaigns settled in court. That is almost as bad as having them settled in the voting booth.

Taking extra time to get things right did not kill Wallace Bajjali deals in Amarillo

David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali, the firm that has been put in charge of developing the area hit by the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado, has been hammering hard on the idea that delaying a decision on tax increment financing (TIF) could cause the city lose some of the investment money that is headed its way and is asking that the TIF be given immediate approval.

Apparently, there were also people concerned about Wallace Bajjali's development program in Amarillo, Texas, and as Wallace himself says in this video, the delays in that city did not hamper the projects at all.

And as you can also tell, Wallace told Amarillo city officials the same thing he has been telling Joplin officials.

Ed Emery: Give me those lobbyists' gifts

Show Me Progress bloggers Danny Ferguson casts a look on newly-elected Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, pinning him down on whether he will reject lobbyists' gifts, something Emery never did during his eight years in the House:

Danny Ferguson: Mr. Emery, will you join senator-elect Scott Sifton in calling for a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators?Ed Emery: Danny, transparency and attentiveness are the most effective means to empower citizens. It is not more government. You and Scott must trust government a lot more than I do.Ferguson: A government is only as trustworthy as the people serving in it. Banning gifts from lobbyists is a way to remove one potential source of corruption, which would make it easier for us to trust that you're working for the best interests of all your constituents rather than the financial interests of a few people who have given you gifts. This could even be a voluntary ban, at least at first. Would you consider committing to rejecting all gifts from lobbyists as John Lamping (R) and Scott Sifton (D) have?Emery: Danny, If you confine politicians to the Constitution that will give lobbyist little to lobby for. When government is no longer allowed to pick winners and losers the bidding for power will cease or be greatly diminished. I would prefer limiting government to expanding or empowering it.Ferguson: So, in other words, you're going to keep accepting meals and gifts from lobbyists. Is that correct?Emery: [No response given.] 

McCaskill: Spending cuts need to be on the table

From MSNBC'S Hardball program

Roy Blunt: We need to have business as usual in the Senate

In this video, Sen. Roy Blunt says it is important that the Senate continue to do business as usual and not change Senate rules to prevent senators from bottling up legislation.

House Democrats propose comprehensive ethics legislation

Sunday, November 25, 2012

St. John's CEO relives Joplin Tornado experience

In this recent episode of the web program CSI Iowa, Mercy CEO Gary Pulsipher tells of his May 22, 2011, experience with the tornado that destroyed the former St. John's Hospital.

The Joplin Globe should have investigated Texas developers months ago

The next three paragraphs are the extent of the Joplin Globe's investigation into the background of a company that eventually will most likely spend more than $1 billion in its large-scale plan to develop the tornado-damaged portion of Joplin.

Wallace Bajjali has been involved in two projects that hit difficulty. Rohr said the firm disclosed details of those problems in its Joplin proposal, and that inquiries by city officials verified the firm’s admissions. Those incidents involve a bankruptcy taken by some its partners in the Amarillo project, and fines paid to the Securities and Exchange Commission for investment fraud committed by two partners in a radio acquisition deal. - March 27, 2012, Joplin Globe

Two previous Wallace Bajjali projects hit snags because of problems involving partners. In one, work was delayed when a partner went bankrupt. In the other, a partner was found to have violated Securities and Exchange Commission rules in a business radio investment, which resulted in Wallace Bajjali paying a fine.

City Manager Mark Rohr previously said the firm’s principals voluntarily disclosed those issues, and a background investigation substantiated the firm’s disclosure. Rohr said he was satisfied that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Wallace Bajjali in those cases. July 2, 2012, Joplin Globe

That's it. The extent of the Joplin Globe's examination of the background of the Wallace Bajjali firm that has been entrusted to handle $794 million in development of the area struck by the May 22, 2011, is printed above.

And though everything that is written in those paragraphs may well be accurate, it certainly would be an excellent idea for the area's newspaper of record to examine Wallace Bajjali's problems with its developments in Waco and Amarillo, Texas.

It did not take me long nearly eight months ago to come up with this for the March 31, 2012, Turner Report.

As of Friday, David Wallace is free and clear as far as the Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned.

That was the day Wallace, CEO of Wallace Bajjali, the company expected to be hired as master developer for the city of Joplin's tornado recovery efforts Monday by the City Council, made his last payment covering his fine for fraud.

It was Wallace's fourth payment of $15,006.72, covering his $60,000 fine plus interest. His partner, Costa Bajjali, also made his final payment for that amount Friday, according to U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas documents.

Both men entered into agreements May 24, 2011, to pay the fines, though neither admitted to any wrongdoing.

Joplin city officials say they are fully aware of the SEC fines and have corroborated Wallace's claim that others were at fault.

In its complaint, which was filed May 20, 2011, the SEC alleged that between November 2006 and December 2008, Wallace and Bajjali "offered and sold securities in two real estate funds they controlled in Houston, Texas, called the Wallace Bajjali Investment Fund II, L. P. and the Laffer Frishberg Wallace Economic Opportunity Fund, L. P. In written disclosures relating to the securities offerings, Wallace and Bajjali represented to investors that they would limit the Funds' investment in any one business or project to certain percentages of the money the Funds raised- no more than 33 percent for the Wallace-Bajjali Fund and no more than 20 percent for the Opportunity Fund. Contrary to their written representation, Wallace and Bajjali far exceeded these limits by heavily investing the Funds' money in Business Radio Networks, L.P, doing business as BizRadio, a struggling media company. As a result, they subjected the Funds' investors to substantially greater investment risk than the Funds' written materials disclosed."

The statement of facts filed by SEC says that by May 2007 the Wallace-Bajjali Fund had received more than $16 million and had invested more than $6.5 million in BizRadio. The ratio was even higher with the Opportunity Fund, where $7 million was raised and $4 million went to BizRadio, far more than the 20 percent limit.

Court documents indicate Wallace and Bajjali entered into an agreement with a company called Investment Adviser in Houston to handle the securities funds. It would appear that the two are casting the blame on that company for violating SEC regulations.

Later that day, I followed up with information from the Amarillo Globe-News:

Earlier today, the Turner Report noted that David Wallace, CEO of Wallace Bajjali, the Texas firm recommended by the city of Joplin's Citizens Advisory Recovery Team to become the city's master developer in its tornado recovery, had made his final payment of a $60,000 fine for an SEC fraud violation.

Wallace and his partner, Costa Bazzali, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, but their deal also includes paying back approximately $1.2 million to investors.

From the Amarillo Globe-News:

The settlement approved Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Nancy F. Atlas ends claims that receiver Thomas L. Taylor asserted against Wallace Bajjali Development Partners entities in relation to an SEC investigation of Albert Fase Kaleta, Kaleta Capital Management, Daniel Frishberg Financial Services and BusinessRadio Network, Taylor said.
The settlement sets Dec. 31 as the final deadline for three Wallace Bajjali real estate investment limited partnerships to repay $879,176 in loans they got from Kaleta Capital Management, plus interest.
Under the agreement, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners also said it will pay an additional $350,000 to $400,000, with interest, from the firm’s private earnings from an Amarillo downtown revitalization project.
The SEC sued Kaleta, Frishberg and their businesses in 2009. The SEC appointed Taylor to trace money investors sank into Kaleta and Frishberg’s network of affiliated companies that allegedly commingled and misappropriated investors’ money, according to court documents in the ongoing SEC case and a related bankruptcy case.
Much of the investment capital allegedly misdirected by Kaleta and Frishberg went into the radio network, dubbed BizRadio, which “broadcast programming designed to attract clients” to a Frishberg financial services company and a Frishberg and Kaleta investment advisory business, according to a Feb. 11 status report in the bankruptcy case.
The SEC investigation extended to David Wallace and partner Costa Bajjali, who in May agreed to each pay about $60,000 in fines for exposing investors in struggling BizRadio to excessive risk, a situation Wallace blamed on the media company.
Isn't it about time the Joplin Globe did an extensive examination of Wallace Bajjali, if nothing else just to set residents at ease?

Joplin developer: I hate bloggers

In this 2008 interview, David Wallace of Wallace Bajjali, the firm that has proposed a nearly $800 million development package for the city of Joplin, talks about his book One Nation Under Blog, and how much he hates those slimy, smarmy bloggers who thwarted his political ambition.

Why, Wallace even insists in his book and in this interview, that if bloggers had been around when this country began, George Washington would never have been president.

Complete video: Webb City wins state football championship

Complete video: Lamar wins state football championship

From Spirit of Hope: This Town is My Home

The following post is a chapter from Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado. The author, Laela Zaidi, is a junior at Joplin High School. In 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Kaylea Hutson wrote about Laela's family and its experiences during the May 22 tornado. In Spirit of Hope, Laela told her own story, starting on that day and detailing her experiences through the following year. Spirit of Hope is now available at Amazon for $19.99 and can be purchased through the advertisement on the right hand side of this page. A signing for both books is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, December 8, at Changing Hands Book Shop in Joplin.


            In the hours before the May 22nd tornado, I remember the afternoon being filled with laughter. The beautiful day was a reminder to my friends and I that summer was around the corner, just two weeks away. I anticipated it not only because of the freedom, but it was the summer after my first year in high school. My plans were to spend it with old friends and new and to play tennis for my upcoming fall season. It seemed as if nothing could bring me down; I was content with life.
            Of course, nothing could prepare me for what would happen hours later. The beautiful afternoon turned ugly as a massive EF-5 tornado tore the town apart and destroyed countless homes and businesses- including my home, three of my families homes, my dad’s office and the hospital which he worked at. My high school, which I also lived across the street from, was torn to pieces. A few days after the tornado, I climbed to the top of what was left of my home. Standing on a grey slab (what used to be my room) I looked over the damage. There was nothing in sight except endless debris, chewed up homes, and, in the distance, the shell of St. Johns. A realization came upon me; the unchanged life I had known for fifteen years in this town would never be the same.
            With nowhere left to go, twenty members of my family to look after, and the possibility of more tornados, my parents decided to move everyone to the MSSU Red Cross Shelter for a week. My sister, who lives in Chicago, came down and stayed with me at a friend’s. However, this situation couldn’t last forever. A quick decision was made that we would move to Monett, Missouri. This small town, just under an hour outside of Joplin, is where my mom commutes to work three times a week. With my dad out of work in town, it seemed like the only choice. My aunt and her three kids followed us there.
            Despite what had happened in Joplin on May 22nd, it never crossed my mind to actually leave. My house may have been gone, but this town has been my home for fifteen years. Once moving what little we had to Monett, this dawned on my parents as well. My dad signed up with Mercy St. John’s and we found a new house in Joplin. By August, we moved back in town. Nothing felt better than being reunited with my friends, seeing familiar faces, and being home. Of course, our new house still didn’t feel right, but at least I was back in a familiar place. The uncertainty of living in Monett made me feel homeless, lonely, and depressed. Despite the genuine sympathy from those I met there, nobody could relate or understand the emotional rollercoaster of losing your home, high school, and neighborhood in a natural disaster. After a summer spent in misery, I felt so much joy to be back where I should be. The support of friends, family, and familiarity of the town helped in getting back to some sense of normalcy, and it has been encouraging to watch businesses and homes spring up from the rubble.
            One aspect of life forever changed, one both individually affecting citizens of Joplin and collectively, is school. For two thousand students, the loss of our only public high school has changed the way most of us think of school spirit forever. The first home football game clearly proved this. Luckily, our off-campus football stadium was spared in the tornado’s path. The filled stands were vibrant in our school colors and nothing could bring the energy of the crowds down.
Because of the loss of our building, the high school was split into two campuses. One for 9/10th graders, at a building recently used as a middle school, and a modern, newly built campus in our mall for 11/12th graders. While both are “Joplin High School”, everyone can agree the high school experience in Joplin is definitely far from normal. In order to make up for the hundreds of textbooks lost, JHS as adopted “21st-Century Learning.” Every student has his or her own MacBook laptop, and most work is done electronically. Classroom projects are done through video editing, presentations, and various other technology outlets. To most people, this seems like a unique way to learn. In reality, the ability to focus on work and be productive has become near impossible. The quality of education hasn’t increased, and there is nothing healthy about spending seven hours a day on a computer screen. Being a lover of books, paper, and pens myself may leave me biased, but many students feel just as frustrated at times as I do. 
            Like any change, especially dramatic ones this year has seen, time and patience are needed for them to be broken in. The new learning strategy Joplin Schools has adopted has much room for improvement, and without older kids to look up to in the hallways (in a place where many of them recently went to middle school) the chance for freshmen to grow up and mature proves much more difficult. Despite all this, the chance to continue our education, on time, has been the greatest blessing. High school life is far from normal, but knowing our teachers and administrators are doing everything they can to make it the best it can be is the greatest comfort.
            While the May 22nd tornado robbed me of a summer and “normal” high school year, it also gave a once in a lifetime opportunity. During the summer, Tom Fey, director of tennis at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells , California, came down and saw the damage of the storm. After keeping close contact with the JHS Tennis Team’s head coach, Sean McWilliams, he made it possible for three boys and girls to attend and be ball kids at the BNP Paribas Open- the fifth largest professional tennis tournament in the world. The top 100 players from various countries are required to participate, giving us a chance to watch world-class tennis, and even be on court with top players- such as Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, and more. What made the trip special was the fact all expenses were paid by donations and efforts of Tom Fey, Indian Wells Tennis Garden community, and the BNP Paribas Bank. Even celebrities are reaching out to our school. David Cook, American Idol winner and Missouri native, performed at our football homecoming (also giving me a chance to rush the stage and high five him!), and pop star Katy Perry is donating money, decorations, and dresses for the JHS Senior Prom. Opportunities such as these are reminders that the world still cares about what happened here on May 22nd, even months after the disaster.
            Throughout the year, the skeleton of JHS stood as a reminder of comforting memories; My history teacher’s closet where his students hung out and did homework, the classrooms, the teachers I said hello to everyday (some whom I don’t see anymore) are all things I still miss. Often, I revisit those places in my mind. One last time I walk the hallways, sit in the classrooms, and say my goodbyes. I venture across the street and one lay in the backyard of my beautiful three-story home. Sometimes I even drive past those places and vision those buildings still standing as they once did. Years from now, the old Joplin High School and the red brick, green mansard roof home of mine will be forgotten. But hopefully, there will be something bigger and better in their place. The land where my house once was will be a part of something that provides young adults an education and opportunities for generations to come. While these places leave me finding myself heartbroken today, one day I hope to look at them with pride in what my community has rebuilt in their place. Until then, the story of what took place on May 22nd will be told as one of resilience, human spirit, and what it truly means to not have a house, but rather a home shared with an entire community.