Monday, August 29, 2016

Newsmakers video: Charlie Davis previews legislative veto session

Reiboldt: Hostility increasing toward Christian beliefs, teachings

(From Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Seneca)

For various reasons, including political correctness, an increasing number of Christians in America today believe their religious freedoms are under attack. However, compared to some other places around the world, Americans have not experienced the same kinds, nor the severity of persecutions as Christians in the countries of Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt or Syria. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, approximately, three-fourths of the world’s population lives in countries where there is no religious liberty or where there are major restrictions placed on religion.

Though Christians here in the U.S. aren’t victimized as are those elsewhere, there does seem to be an increased hostility and intolerance to basic Christian beliefs and teachings. For a large part, it has now become permissible in our society to mock or ridicule religion in general and Christianity in particular. Irreverence is seen daily in our liberal media, where much TV programming will somehow make jokes about Christian values. We have numerous cases in our nation where these values have come under attack. One such case that I am following with interest is the Joe Kennedy situation.

Mr. Kennedy is a former football coach at the Bremerton School in the state of Washington. He was first placed on leave, then the district chose not to renew his contract. He firmly believes his ultimate dismissal was because he prayed after each high school football game. Following the games he would go to the center of the field and “take a knee”and pray. Initially, Coach Kennedy prayed alone. Seeing his example, and having respect for their coach, players voluntarily asked to join him. Coach Kennedy’s after-game prayers were short and were never for the purpose of proselytizing young players. This is an example of one of his prayers: “Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you have given me with them. We believe in the game, we believe in competition, and we can come into the game as rivals and leave as brothers.”

Prior to his dismissal, Coach Kennedy was instructed that he could only pray in a private area where he could not be seen by players, students, parents, or other patrons of the district. Furthermore, he was told that any conversations with students could not include religious expressions and “must remain entirely secular in nature.” Admittedly, the school district officials stated not a single person in the community had complained about Coach Kennedy’s post-game prayers. Consequently, Coach Kennedy continued this practice, reasoning that he was well within his constitutional rights for freedom of speech and religion.

Following his dismissal, Mr. Kennedy filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming his removal was due to religious discrimination. He is being represented by the group Liberty Institute. They claim the school’s actions violated Kennedy’s First Amendment rights and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, an act that forbids religious discrimination in the work place. Unfortunately, the Kennedy case is not an isolated incident but is only a small part of a much larger ongoing legal debate concerning one’s constitutional freedom to exercise his or her religious belief.

When getting down to the nuts and bolts of the religious discrimination issue, whether you are a cake-baker, a photographer, a florist, or a high school football coach, you may find you are one of many people across our nation, in effect, being told by the government that your religious liberty stops when you leave your house of worship. A growing number of Christians fear that government will require them to make a choice between obeying the laws of the land or following their religious faith. Consequently, this has put religious liberty on a collision course with some groups, such as the LBGT community, and why prior to 2015, twenty-one state governments enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Legislation concerning an individual’s free exercise of religion. After the historic 2014 Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby decision, in 2015 sixteen states proposed expanding religious freedom legislation, though only two states were successful in passing it. Others, including Missouri, filed similar legislation in 2016. Our state’s legislation failed to pass it out of a committee in the Missouri House.

Mr. Kennedy stated that he is only seeking the ability to go back and to help young men. For twenty years he served as a U.S. Marine who fought for and protected the Constitution. Now he wants that Constitution to protect him. He adds, “Our goal has always been to build our kids up and send the right message about what the sport is really about, which is making better men out of them.”

Since Mr. Kennedy’s removal from the football field and the school campus, it is reported that another assistant football coach has challenged the school district with a Buddhist chant near midfield following football games. So far the district has not issued any ruling.

Striving to be politically correct certainly can have its challenges.

Audit criticizes House, Senate dealings with lobbyists

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released audits of the Missouri House and Senate legislative bodies. The audits were conducted as part of a series of regular reviews by the Auditor's Office, and identified issues related to open records, lobbyist contributions and personnel policies.

In both the House and Senate, unclear and incomplete open records policies have led to confusion over what is and is not open to the public. Both chambers claim Sunshine Law exemptions to legislators' official records and emails, but even for generally agreed open records, in many cases documents were not available or did not exist for audit staff to review. There were no records kept on meetings held by interim committees on topics related to Medicaid, the military and capital improvements. The same held true for House and Senate Joint Committees, where auditors found basic records missing for meetings on critical topics related to education and child abuse and neglect. In some cases, joint committees failed to even meet, or to submit final committee reports required by law.

The audit identified concerns related to personnel policies that were not included in either the House or the Senate handbooks, including the absence of a policy to provide whistleblower protections to employees from retaliation for reporting abuse of authority or violations of the law witnessed in the workplace. The audit also recommends the House and Senate fully comply with the Family Medical Leave Act, providing employees with leave to care for returning service members.

The audit also describes potential issues involving contributions from lobbyists that could result in the appearance, or existence, of a conflict of interest. In the House, an interim committee solicited contributions from lobbying firms to support a statewide education tour. Lobbyists also contributed to a Senate fund to pay for evening meals for senators and state employees who work for the Senate, when working late during the legislative session, despite the fact that senators already received a daily allowance of about $100. In addition, the bank account for this fund is held outside the state treasury, in violation of the Missouri Constitution.

Complete audits of both the House of Representatives and the Senate are available online here and here.

Impact of Joplin Tornado Info Facebook page still felt five years later

Writing Intern
Greene County Extension

Joplin recently marked the five-year anniversary of an EF5 tornado that left a wake of unimaginable destruction and devastation in the community. This five-year benchmark was a time for many to reflect on the losses that resulted from the disaster on May 22, 2011, but it also serves as a testament to the resiliency and persistence of the citizens of Joplin. Their fortitude and collaboration with countless volunteers and organizations has led to a massive rebuilding effort. While this unforeseen act of nature has indeed changed the Joplin and surrounding areas forever, it has also offered new insights into how resources and recovery efforts can be mobilized in the aftermath of a sudden catastrophe.

The monstrous tornado that struck Joplin rampaged its way through one of the most developed areas in the city, and at the worst part of its 38-minute duration was a mile wide with wind speeds of approximately 300 miles per hour. The consequences of this fierce act of weather were the loss of 161 lives, over 1,000 injured survivors and nearly 18,000 residents were displaced from their damaged or destroyed homes. In an instant, the people of Joplin went from bracing for a tornado to living in the aftermath of one of the worst tornados in U.S. history. But the best of human nature had a resounding answer to the worst of Mother Nature, as a swell of sympathy and compassion, gave way to a flood of first responders, volunteers and organizations that rapidly moved into the city to help those who were left to rebuild their lives.

University of Missouri Extension was proud to be a part the recovery effort from the very beginning. Many of the first responders that aided in rescue and recovery efforts in the critical hours following the tornado were trained through the MU Extension Fire and Rescue Training Institute (MU FRTI). Their extensive training and special skillset were vital in searching for survivors in the estimated three million cubic yards of residential debris generated by the disaster. As survivors were pulled from the rubble and tended to, a new kind of chaos ensued as families and friends separated in the storm struggled to navigate in their altered surroundings.

The birth of the Joplin Tornado Info Facebook Page (JTI), about two hours after the tornado hit, played a pivotal role in helping many survivors wade through the confusion. This social media page became a hub of valuable information for those seeking basic resources, like food, shelter and medical attention. David Burton, civic communication specialist with MU Extension, joined the project within the first 24 hours and worked in conjunction with the page's founders, mother-daughter team-Rebecca and Genevieve Williams.

Power outages made the Joplin Tornado Info page even more of a prized resource since those seeking help and information could access the site with their mobile devices. Shortly after the site was launched, it gained upwards of 56, 300 followers and had over 26 million viewed posts. This unique platform became an electronic bulletin board for the community where both individuals and organizations could interact by posting queries and answers. The page was also a great resource to those providing aid by offering a quick and efficient way to mobilize volunteers. Keeping the site updated with the most current and relevant information was a 24-hour job for the site's administrators. The project grew to include the City of Joplin, Joplin Schools, the Red Cross, all of the area's utility companies, Zimmer Radio group, KODE-TV, journalism students from area colleges, and the University of Missouri Extension.

This Facebook site was instrumental in uniting the community in its goal to survive, and as weeks and months unfolded it proved to be extremely important as the focus shifted from survival to recovery. For example, under the direction of Burton, MU Extension produced a video showing how to avoid injuries when performing recovery work, and soon after it was posted on the JTI page it was viewed over 23,800 times. In addition to videos like these, local MU Extension specialists also helped by identifying educational resources that could help disaster victims begin to put their lives back together. Information on how those affected could financially recover from the disaster was put together and distributed through a variety of media outlets. In a similar way, Jasper County's Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) and their Long-Term Recovery Committee used several websites including the JTI Facebook page to disperse information to the public.

The effects of the tornado are still being felt today, but so are effects of the Joplin Tornado Info page. The social media page is still active and continues to shepherd the community by posting information about disaster recovery and other topics of local interest. The creation of this page is a remarkable touchstone that highlights the profound and potentially lifesaving applications of social media. The speed at which the page developed along with the massive user response set a precedent for how social media can be used in the wake of a disastrous event. Rebecca and Genevieve Williams along with David Burton penned a book to share what they learned about the process of setting up a social page for disaster response. The book, Using Social Media in Disaster Recovery, acts as a guide for anyone interested in learning how to use social media platforms for their community in both pre and post disaster scenarios.

The successes and benefits of the JTI page would not have been possible if not for caring individuals that donated their time. The same can be said for the larger effort to rebuild the city. One 2013 FEMA report estimated that more than 176,869 citizen volunteers from across the country provided more than 1.1 million hours of service by helping to clean up, repair and perform construction work. Labor of this monumental scale was badly needed and very much appreciated by the citizens of Joplin.

The tornado's destructive path tore through an area of the city that was heavily populated with homes and businesses, and the results were dramatic changes in the physical and economic landscape. With 18,000 residents initially displaced, 9,000 long-term, a good portion of Joplin's workforce was preoccupied with acquiring the most basic provisions. The city took a financial blow, as well, with an estimated $5 million dollars in lost revenue. As multiple agencies collaborated to organize the recovery effort, it became clear that a multifaceted approach was needed for the city to rebuild fully.
With the ever-present threat of tornados to the Midwest during the warmer months, the state of Missouri and Jasper County both had disaster protocols and recovery plans in place before the Joplin tornado. However, no one could have fathomed the likelihood or scope of destruction that an EF5 tornado would bring. Now, many agencies were cooperating on federal, state and local levels to identify and meet the needs of those in the recovery process.

MU Extension partnered with several key organizations. The Governor's Disaster Recovery Program was formed in 1993 in response to the Great Flood, and the MU Extension became a member the year it was founded. This enabled MU Extension to represent the state on a local level, while still using their programs, such as the Community Emergency Management Program (CEMP) and the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers, to help victims. The Japer County Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) was founded in 2003 with help from MU Extension and has remained an active member since. It was during COAD's Long-Term Recovery Committee meetings that many of these organizations came together to form a plan of action.

Janet LaFon and Ed Browning, both MU Extension specialists in Jasper County, collaborated closely with this committee and were present for daily meetings. LaFon worked with a subcommittee that focused on how to address needs that were not being met. LaFon turned to the national Extension system and their Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) for resources. This made it possible for Family Financial Toolkits from the Minnesota and North Dakota Extension Services to be distributed to the Red Cross, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri and Salvation Army case management centers. A community response meeting hosted by Governor Jay Nixon facilitated the setup of a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), where financial toolkits and other information could be distributed on a larger scale to those who needed it most.

The idea behind the MARC was to have as many aid organizations (governmental or civilian) as possible gathered in one central location. For two weeks a collection of agencies set up booths on the south side of Joplin. Tornado survivors were transported to the MARC via shuttle from their temporary housing units provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The idea behind having the MARC was that individuals, families and business owners could take a one-stop shop approach to gathering aid and resources. Some of the agencies that participated included the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Missouri Southern State University Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC. The Joplin Chamber of Commerce partnered with MU Extension to open a Business Recovery Center (BRC) designed to deliver essential financial services to businesses impacted by the tornado. MU Extension faculty and staff from Missouri came to support the booth.

The type of assistance offed by the MARC, although badly needed, was only one part of the recovery equation. MU Extension specialists recognized that it could also help support the emotional recovery of survivors. Citizens were encouraged to voice their thoughts and opinions about how Joplin should rebuild during input sessions hosted by the Joplin Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART), and partially organized by an MU Extension regional community development specialist. Important data on safe rooms was gathered as it related to the rebuilding process and future protection from severe weather. This information was then shared with survivors, the media, and the Home Builders Association.

In November of 2011, an MU Extension human development specialist worked with a planning committee to create an awesome opportunity for the community to heal by presenting the Connect Protect 2 Conference. This two-day workshop offered educational classes on trauma and recovery for parents, professionals, educators, childcare workers, and caregivers. Nearly 300 Joplin families participated in this workshop and were given additional support from 4-H members and other volunteers by providing families with babysitting services, gift cards, and other supplies. In 2012 and 2013, MU Extension, along with some other organizations, continued to encourage the community's healing process by offering workshops that discussed financial responsibility, planning for the future, disaster preparedness, and home ownership.

The efforts made by MU Extension and other aid organizations are evident it the progress the Joplin community has made in the last five years. While the restoration process still continues, many homes, schools and businesses have been rebuilt. Perhaps one of the greatest symbols of revitalization is the completion of the new Mercy Hospital to replace the Hospital that was destroyed. With each repair made and building completed a touchstone is fashioned that represents Joplin's past, present, and future. MU Extension is not only proud to have played a role in Joplin's ability to thrive in the face of adversity, but also to be an everyday member of the community.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Greitens receives biggest campaign contribution in Missouri history- $2.5 million

On most normal days (for Missouri, at least) a candidate receiving a $265,000 contribution as Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster did today from the CHIPP Political Fund in St. Louis, would be on top of the world.

Unfortunately for Koster, that amount left him nearly $1 million behind his Republican opponent, former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens.

A 48-hour report filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission shows Greitens received the largest campaign contribution in state history, $2.5 million from the Republican National Governors-Missouri, which received it earlier in the day from the Republican National Governors based in Washington, D.C.

Greitens broke his own record, set in July when a Super PAC called Seals for Truth gave his campaign $1.975 million.

Though it was by far the biggest contribution Greitens, or anyone else, received today, it was far from the only oversized paycheck to find its way into campaign bank accounts.

Greitens also received $15,000 from Dan Drury, Cape Girardeau, $5,001 from New York businessman Mark Gerson, $25,000 from the Missouri Chamber PAC, and $10,000 from Cameron Dunafon, Columbia.

In addition to the $265,000 from the CHIPP Political Fund, Koster picked up $50,000 from the Simmons Hanley Conroy, Edwardsville, Illinois.

Billy Long: Our law enforcement must be prepared to combat terrorism

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Sadly, it has become far too common that American law enforcement officials are tasked with handling an active shooter situation. The deadly attacks in Dallas, San Bernardino, Orlando, Baton Rouge, Newtown, and elsewhere are all horrific examples of the devastation these situations are to our everyday life. Our law enforcement officials put their lives on the line to protect us, so Congress must act in every way possible to make sure that they are prepared for these threats.

Today, roughly 45 percent of police agencies in America – more than 8,000 – have undergone some form of active shooter training. In light of recent events, the value of preparing our emergency responders and training them for these situations is greater than before.

However, given that the threat is clearly increasing, the House passed legislation this month to help get every police organization in America up to speed. The “Protecting Our Lives by Initiating COPS Expansion Act of 2016 (the POLICE Act) will provide the Department of Justice with the tools they need and more flexibility in funding specialized response training with existing Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grants. It will ensure our police professionals and other emergency responder team have proper preparedness for efficient response.

This training has been proven in the field. For Nidal Hasan’s 2009 attack on Fort Hood, it was two civilian officers who were trained at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) center in Texas became integral in stopping the bloodshed that day. The center’s curriculum is dynamic force-on-force, scenario-based training. It has been adopted by the FBI as the national standard for response, and has been provided to more than 40,000 police officers nationwide.

I am proud to have supported this bipartisan bill, which was signed into law by President Obama last month, because I know that it will make a true difference in law enforcement training and the more rapid diffusing of dangerous situations. Many law enforcement associations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, agreed by way of their full support and endorsement of the POLICE Act.

Unfortunately, terrorism is a very real danger that threatens all Americans and Department of Homeland Security experts and others believe that it is not a question of if, but when, radicals will attack again and where. We must be prepared to face this threat, and more training in our communities will save lives. I will continue doing all I can to support our law enforcement officials and emergency responders.

So you want to be a Joplin R-8 Director of Facilities

(An advertisement for a director of facilities was posted Wednesday on the Joplin R-8 School District website)

Position:                      Director of Facilities
Term:                           Full-Time/12 Month

Classification:             Classified

Location:                     Buildings, Grounds, and Transportation Office

Qualifications:             College diploma or equivalent technical training helpful but not
                                    Experience in construction trades with at least five years in a large scale maintenance supervisory position desired.  Also, experience in the fields of architecture and/or engineering a plus.
                                    Such alternatives to the above qualifications as the Board and Administration may find acceptable.

Supervisory:                Yes

Reports to:                  Assistant Superintendent of Operations

The Director of Facilities will work to perform supervisory and planning duties for Support Services areas of buildings, grounds, and maintenance.

General Expectations:
  • Supports the mission of Joplin Schools.
  • Supports the value of education.
  • Complies with the privacy rights of students.
  • Safeguards confidential and/or sensitive information.
  • Communicates effectively with all the members of the school district and community.
  • Provides excellence in customer service both internally and externally.
  • Reacts to change productively.
  • Keeps abreast of new information, innovative ideas and techniques.
  • Maintains accurate records and filing systems for accountability and audit purposes.
  • Ensures that all activities conform to district and state guidelines.
  • Ability to read, analyze, and interpret common scientific and technical journals.
  • Respond to common inquires or complaints from patrons, regulatory agencies, or members of the business community.
  • Effectively present information to top management, public groups, employee groups, and/or Board of Directors.
  • Be able to work with mathematical concepts as probability and statistical inference, and fundamentals of plane and solid geometry and trigonometry.
  • Apply concepts such as fractions, percentages, ratios, and proportions to practical situations.
  • Solve practical problems and deal with a variety of concrete and abstract variables in situations where only limited standardization exists.
  • Interpret a variety or instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram, or schedule form.
  • Establish and maintain effective working relationships with staff, and the community.
  • Perform duties with awareness of all district requirements and Board of Education Policies.

Essential Functions:
  • Develop and administer a District-wide buildings and grounds program, including program planning, implementation and evaluation.
  • Manages the planning process for building and maintaining facilities needed to deliver the program of instruction.
  • Oversee the cleaning and custodial services (and staff) of the buildings.
  • Oversee the handling of hazardous and other waste.
  • Supervise and inspect major projects of building repairs and remodeling, overseeing general contract work at the respective facilities
  • Work with architects and contractors on project problems.
  • Perform minor surveying, blueprint reading, line locations such as water, sewer, gas, telephone, electric, CATV, etc.
  • Manage employee bids on open positions
  • Be involved in the interview and hiring process for buildings and grounds positions
  • Annually update the Building Summaries Book.
  • Initiate bid requests and apply for state prevailing wage rates for projects.
  • Conduct inspections of each school district facility on a monthly basis.
  • Oversees the corrective and preventive maintenance programs for the District’s physical plants and the motor fleet.
  • Coordinates the procurement of contractors’ services for maintenance and construction projects funded by the budget
  • Supervise the development and the administration of Buildings and Grounds Programs.
  • Supervise, evaluate, and direct the work of all Buildings and Grounds supervisors.
  • Coordinates the District’s energy management system.
  • Interpret school rules and regulations.
  • Supervise the staffing of Buildings and Grounds personnel.
  • Direct the evaluation of Buildings and Grounds personnel and programs.
  • Relate Capital Project needs and Buildings and Grounds operating needs in the preparation of the budget.
  • Administer the department’s approved budget.
  • Oversees the inspection, maintenance, and repair of school buses and other vehicles owned by the District.
  • Play a significant leadership role in fostering professional growth and building of staff morale throughout the area of Buildings and Grounds.
  • On call at all times for security alarm callbacks.
  • Carry out all other duties as assigned.

Physical Demands
While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to walk and talk or hear. The employee frequently is required to stand or sit. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision and depth perception.

Regular and consistent attendance is an essential function of this position. 

The work conditions and environment described here are representative of those that an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job.  Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions.

Conditions and Environment
The noise level in this position varies. When visiting a building or on a job site the noise level may be loud, in the office, quiet and at meetings, moderate.

Note:  The statements herein are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by employees, and are not to be construed as an exhaustive list of responsibilities, duties, and skills required of personnel so classified.  Furthermore, they do not establish a contract for employment and are subject to change at the discretion of the employer.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ridder: We need a graphic design class at Franklin Tech

If the recent controversy over whether the Joplin R-8 School District should hire a graphic design artist has had any positive result it may have come from a remark made by Interim Superintendent Norm Ridder during the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

One of the questions that has been posed, both by board members and by readers of this blog is why couldn't at least some of the graphic design work be done by students.

As it turns out, Franklin Tech does not have a graphic design class, though Director of Communications Kelli Price told the board that students in the regular art classes have done some work for the district.

"We need to have graphic design as part of our program at Franklin Tech," Ridder said and board members appeared to agree that should be done.

Though it is unlikely anything can be done for this school year, it does sound like the idea of bringing someone in to Franklin Tech who can teach graphic design would have plenty of benefits for the district, including having a professional graphic designer on staff who can teach students a subject for which there is a demand in the workplace and also enabling them to learn the requirements for doing the kind of work that has been the subject of the discussions at the last two board meetings.

During the meeting Tuesday, the board agreed to hire Christina Williams, who worked for the district as a graphic designer before her position was eliminated during budget cuts, at a rate of $45 per hour, with a cap of $12,000.

Mercy McCune-Brooks administrator's driver's license hearing moved to Newton County

The decision on whether Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital Administrator Scott Watson will retain his driving privileges will be held in Newton County Circuit Court on a change of venue from Jasper County.

The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 7, just nine days before the temporary stay that has allowed him to continue driving is scheduled to expire.

Watson's driving privileges were suspended after the Joplin Police Department arrested him 1:15 a. m. July 2 at the 9 mile marker on eastbound I-44 for driving while intoxicated. Online court records indicate Watson refused to take a breathalyzer test, a claim that is disputed by Watson's attorney Judd McPherson, Joplin, in his request for a stay to allow Watson to continue driving until the administrative hearing is held.

"Plaintiff was not properly under arrest and the said officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that Plaintiff committed any offense."

The petition says Watson, who was Newton County prosecuting attorney for 14 years, "did not refuse to submit to any chemical test at the request of said officers," and "was not informed that his license may be revoked upon refusal to submit to a test.:

The officer "did not have reasonable grounds to believe plaintiff was driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition," according to the petition.

The outcome of the hearing will likely determine whether charges are filed against Watson. If so, the charge will likely be filed in Joplin Municipal Court, the Carthage Press reported.


Severe thunderstorm warning extended for southwestern Newton County

(From the National Weather Service)








  NEOSHO...                         SENECA...