Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Governor Eric Greitens vetoed a bill today that would have asked Missouri taxpayers to pay for a new building for dancers and art students in Kansas City. The bill passed the Missouri Senate 28-4 and passed the House 117-39.
In a statement first posted to his Facebook page, the Governor said:
“Politicians are addicted to spending your money.
This year, they passed a bill that would put taxpayers on the hook for over $75 million to build and run a conservatory for dancers and art students. I'm vetoing the bill, and I'm ready to fight them on this.
They had no plan for who would pay the bills—about $55 million in state debt and interest and $20 million in operating costs. Worse, this spending was hidden in the budget at $1 because politicians were “borrowing” the money. That’s like saying something is “free,” because it's on a credit card. You know who would have to pay that bill? You. Missouri families. I think that's wrong.
I'm a conservative outsider. And I told you that I'd act as a budget hawk and protect your money. And that's what we're doing. We've told leaders across government to do more with less tax money, and to get better results.
Here's the really good news: I have urged the leaders of Missouri's universities to think and act different, to prioritize, and to make tough decisions to take Missouri in a new direction. And they are taking a stand. Today, the President and the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri System announced that they don't want any additional taxpayer money to pay for a conservatory. Instead, they’ve committed to develop a detailed plan to pay for it by making tough budget decisions and using private funds along with strong leaders in the Kansas City community. That’s how it should be.
I think a lot of the good people in Jefferson City agree with me. In the rush of the legislative session, some were not aware of the potential hidden costs of this project. Still, you’ll hear a few politicians threaten to override my veto. That’s their decision to make. I am proud to veto this bill, and glad that we have university and community leaders who are working to take Missouri in a new direction. With my veto today, we are changing the way business is done in Missouri.”
Larry Dixon was working with a group of students on the latest class project and a persistent young man was not willing to wait his turn.
"Mr. Dixon, I need your help," the sandy-haired young man said, tapping him on the shoulder.
"Hold on a second, Travis," I'm busy helping J. J.," Mr. Dixon, at the time a veteran of two decades in the classroom, told the young man.
Only a few seconds passed before Travis said, "I really need help, Mr. Dixon."
"I'm really helping J. J."
After a brief interlude, Travis approached Mr. Dixon from behind, leaned over and spoke quietly. "O. K. then, I'm now placing one drop of hydrochloric acid on your neck."
It was a sight the student Mr. Dixon was helping, J. J. Huckin, has never forgotten, though nearly a quarter of a century has passed.
"(Travis) used a medicine dropper to squeeze some water on (Mr. Dixon's) neck and he sprung up like a cat five feet into the air and yelled like a wild banshee."
At that moment, Huckin watched a wave of anger cross Mr. Dixon's face.
Travis, cowering in the corner, cried, "It's only water. It's only water, I swear!
Huckin remembered thinking that he and his classmates would have loved it if their teacher had flushed Travis' head down the toilet and told him it was only water, but as quickly as the anger had hit Mr. Dixon, it was gone.
Travis was spared.
But it added to the legend of a teacher whose presence brightened the hallways of Lockwood High School for 35 years, a teacher whose influence led to a school nestled in a community of less than 1,000 to have far more than its share of doctors, scientists, and science teachers, all of whom give credit to Larry Dixon for the influence he has had on their lives.
Many of those students shared their stories with their favorite teacher during the last few weeks of Mr. Dixon's life as a man who had been such a vital part of the everyday fabric of Lockwood, not only as a classroom teacher, but as a member of the library and park boards, a scorekeeper at the high school volleyball matches, and the architect of the most attractive gardens in the community (foregoing Miracle-Gro and mixing his own fertilizer), deteriorated rapidly due to multiple inoperable brain tumors that eventually ended his life one week ago.
It wasn't just the doctors and scientists who flourished in Mr. Dixon's classes. The tall, broad-shouldered teddy bear of a man had a way of connecting science with students' everyday lives.
Some of that was done through tales from Mr. Dixon's earlier job at Eagle Picher in Joplin where he worked as a power systems engineer, helping develop batteries for the space shuttle and missile battery systems for the Department of Defense and stories from his time serving his country in Vietnam. His hands on projects, ranging from bug collections to throwing a bucket of dry ice down the hallway, provided memories that remain as clear as if they had happened yesterday.
Mr. Dixon and his wife, Melinda, who was a teacher and counselor at Lockwood High School for nearly four decades, helped put the school on the map long before its string of state basketball titles in the '90s, with their championship scholar bowl teams.
Starting with a set of buzzers that Mr. Dixon built from scratch, the Dixons fielded high school academic teams that blew away the competition for year after year long before the Missouri High School Activities Association sanctioned scholar bowl as a competition and then made numerous trips to the Final Four after the state began holding the tournaments.
The team's success was such that even during the height of the Lockwood basketball frenzy of the '90s, Coach Dennis Cornish paid his respect to the level of achievement the scholars had brought to the school, by giving his team's top scorer, 6-6 center J. J. Huckin, permission to attend the scholar bowl meets instead of practice and working with the Dixons to create a schedule that would allow Huckin to practice for both teams.
Though his former students paid their last tributes to Larry Dixon during the final weeks of his life, many of them shared their memories two years earlier when the Dixons were named grand marshals of the annual Lockwood September Days Parade.
A former student and later a fellow Lockwood teacher, Amy Schnelle, collected letters and testimonials from other former students and colleagues in a scrapbook, which was presented to the Dixons following the parade.
It was a labor of love for Schnelle.
"When I was in high school I dreaded taking science classes because I knew how hard he was so it wasn't until after high school that I really appreciated all that he had taught me," Schnelle said. "When I came back to Lockwood four years later as a teacher, he was one of the first to congratulate me and offer any help so there were times I had to ask him some science-related questions from my first graders."
During the awards ceremony that included the presentation of scrapbook, the Dixons also heard personal testimonials from former students. The experience had a powerful impact on Larry Dixon, which he shared a few days later on his Facebook page:
To hear from so many former students concerning our influence on their lives was incredible to me. I had always assumed that our influence might reach to their sophomore year of college but that we would then fade from most of their memories.
To find that we have apparently had that much impact on so many lives was unexpected and scary. I am proud of all of the success that our former students have achieved and dared to hope that we had some small effect. This was unexpected. We have just been given a huge bonus in "coin of the heart". We will treasure it for the rest of our lives.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Mark Christopher Kenendy, 43, was also sentenced to seven years for second degree statutory sodomy. The sentences will be served concurrently.
Kennedy was awaiting sentencing June 6 when the Carthage Police Department
arrested him on attempted kidnapping and enticement of a child charges.
Kennedy's criminal background was explored in the June 8 Turner Report:
On 6/6/2017 at about 1127 hours, Mark Kennedy contacted (names redacted) while playing in a children's pool in the front yard of (home on 100 block of Elk). Mark was driving by in his van and stopped in front of the house. He called the children over to his van while offering them candy to entice them over. A parent overheard the children and stopped the children from going over there.
Even after being told not to go to the van, Mark continued to try to entice the children. When the male resident of the house walked outside, Mark left the area.
He was soon contacted by Officer Greenstreet. With consent, Officer Greenstreet searched the vehicle and did not locate candy that was offered to the children.
Kennedy's Alford plea stems from an incident that occurred with a 10-year-old Carthage girl. From the probable cause affidavit:
On 11/26/2014, it was reported that at 1923 Wynwood Street, Carthage, Jasper County, Missouri on 11/2/2014 Mark Christopher Kennedy had deviate sexual intercourse with a 10-year-old female. Kennedy placed his fingers inside (the girl's) vagina, as well as touched her breast and buttocks while she slept on a couch in her residence.
When this happened, (the girl) said she was "shocked" and "scared". This happened on more than one occasion over a one-week period. Kennedy was a next door neighbor and landlord of the apartment (the girl) and her family resided in. Kennedy had been allowed access to the residence via unlocked front entry door to awake (the girl's) mother and mother's boyfriend for work in the early morning hours. Upon entering the residence, Kennedy would sexually touch (the girl) prior to waking the rest of the family.
Kennedy admitted to having access to the residence via unlocked front entry door. Kennedy admitted to being in the residence and observing (the girl) asleep on the couch.
Two computers were located in Kennedy's residence. Upon a consent search on 11/26/2014, the web browser history of the computer showed internet addresses for what appeared to be child pornography websites.
After Kennedy's arrest on the 2014 charge, police discovered an earlier instance in which Kennedy allegedly molested another underage female at his rental property, as well as other locations and he was charged once again with statutory sodomy.
From the probable cause affidavit:
On 8/3/2015, (a girl) and (her mother) made a report to the Carthage Police of statutory sodomy that occurred approximately four years ago at 1923 Wynwood, Carthage, 1111 W. Central, Carthage, and an unknown address near Clinton Street, Carthage. (The girl) was eight years old at the time. The assailant was Mark Kennedy, who was the landlord and neighbor of (the girl) and her family. (The girl) described several incidents that happened to her.
One occurred at McDonald's in his truck, when he allegedly pulled her pants down and looked at her vagina.
Another incident, according to the affidavit, took place in Kennedy's apartment. (The girl) fell asleep and awakened to Kennedy pulling her pants down and licking her.
The affidavit describes two other incidents, including one in which Kennedy had the girl touch his penis.
Initially, bond was set at $1 million cash only, but Judge Gayle Crane revoked Kennedy's bond during a hearing today in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Lankford will replace the retiring Paul Barr as chief financial officer for one year.
The veteran educator told those attending tonight's R-8 Board of Education meeting that he had come to appreciate the district during the past few months.
"You have great leadership, buildings, you're got great teachers in the classroom. This district is positioned to start moving forward after a long trial. You have gone through a lot."
Lankford said the new position is "kind of exciting," but he emphasized that it is "one year and done."
Superintendent Melinda Moss introduced Lankford's replacement as HR director, Ashley Jones.
Tonight marked the last board meeting for Barr and Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder.
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has announced her office has begun an audit of the Vernon County Ambulance District in southwest Missouri. Residents of the district requested the audit through the petition process.
In May, the former director and the former bookkeeper of the Vernon County Ambulance District were indicted by a federal grand jury for embezzling more than $260,000 from the district between January 2013 and October 2015.
"Even after fraud and abuse has been identified, an audit can identify processes and procedures that need oversight in order to protect taxpayer dollars in the future," Auditor Galloway said. "I encourage anyone with information that might be helpful to contact my Whistleblower Hotline."
The petition audit required 863 signatures from registered voters within the district. Individuals who would like to provide information for consideration in this or any audit may contact the State Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.
Monday, June 26, 2017
Combs won state championships in 1975, 1980, and 1983, at Parkwood High School and also coached the 1966 Trenton team to the state title.
"This was my dream job," Combs told Columbia TV station KOMU during an interview at the dedication of the Dewey Combs Athletic Complex at Junge Field on August 22, 2014. "I ended up here in Joplin and I never looked for another job."
Combs arrived in Joplin the year after leading Trenton to the state championship and remained through the 1986 season. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.