Monday, December 31, 2012

McCaskill on fiscal cliff vote: I'm embarrassed it took so long

Claire McCaskill tweeted the following statement moments ago after the Senate approved the fiscal legislation by an 89-8 vote:

Final vote 89-8.Wasn't pretty & I'm embarrassed it took so long but glad I'm part of compromise to protect vast majority from tax increase.

Blunt on fiscal cliff legislation: This vote protects middle class

Sen. Roy Blunt issued the following tweets about the fiscal cliff bill, which passed the U. S. Senate by an 89-8 margin less than an hour ago:

Having worked hard to pass these tax policies in 01 & 03 I'm glad this vote protects middle class families &  owners from tax hikes

This bill permanently protects 99% of taxpayers from a tax increase & provides permanent tax relief & economic certainty for every American.

This bill also ensures the vast majority of farm families & small businesses in Missouri will not face the unfair death tax.

McCaskill: No raises for Congress best reason to vote for fiscal cliff bill

The fiscal cliff compromise passed the Senate by an 89-8 margin moments ago with Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt each voting in favor of it.

It goes to the House later today.

One part of the bill met with Sen. McCaskill's enthusiastic approval. She tweeted, "Good news. In deal we will STOP any pay increase for Congress. Thank goodness. Good reason to vote for it."

Roy Blunt addresses fiscal cliff on Senate floor

Akin Breakin' Heart: In 10 years, this will go viral

As 2012 draws to a close, I thought I would check my video saluting one of the biggest Missouri (and national) political stories of the year- Todd Akin's legitimate rape statement.

I discovered that the video for "Akin Breakin' Heart has just reached 2,500 views. At this rate, in another 10 years, it will go viral.

Sinquefield group contributes $100,000 to three Missouri politicians

Missourians for Excellence in Government, a group started by retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield ended 2012 with $100,000 in contributions for three politicians.

Documents filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission show the biggest recipient, at $50,000, was St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

Picking up $25,000 apiece were Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.

City of Joplin hires assistant finance director

(From the City of Joplin)

The City of Joplin has announced that Michael Wade has been named the Assistant Finance Director, and will assume these responsibilities starting January 2, 2013.
Wade’s career includes various positions in government finance, and most recently he served as the City Treasurer for the City of Nevada, Missouri. Prior to that position, he worked as the Finance Director at the City of Belton Missouri for eleven years before retiring as director. He has also worked in the finance departments of Grandview and Independence Missouri.
With much experience in governmental accounting, Wade will work closely with Finance Director Leslie Jones, assisting with the management of accounting and finance functions, accounts payable and receivables, and other daily operations in the department.
“Mike has a great deal of knowledge and proficiency with city government finances,” said Jones. “He brings a lot to Joplin and I know he’ll be a great asset to our organization and community. I look forward to working with him here at the City.”
Wade holds a Master’s Degree in Management from Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Mo., and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.
Wade starts at the City of Joplin on January 2, 2013 with an annual salary of $64,480.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reiboldt: It's not the guns; it's the movies and video games

Judging from his latest report, Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, has not had any of his constituents tell him that it might be time to take a look at limiting the type of weapons that have been used in killing sprees in Connecticut, Colorado, and elsewhere. All of them have been talking about giving teachers guns, putting armed guards in schools, dealing with mental health issues, and addressing the problem of violence in movies and video games.

In his article, Reiboldt mentions the money being made by those who produce violent video games and movies. Perhaps someone should tell Rep. Reiboldt, that those who manufacture guns are making money, too.

Christmastime is a season for happiness and a time for making fond memories. My hope for you is that your memories will always be pleasant ones. However, we know that for some, this year's holiday season will be anything but pleasant. If you have ever lost a family member or even a close friend around Christmastime, most likely you know the sadness and emptiness that the holidays can bring.
  • Personally, I cannot imagine what those parents, families, and friends in Newtown, Conn., must be dealing with at this time. I, as do numerous others, express my deepest sympathy to them following their recent losses. As our nation mourns this terrible loss, we add our own thoughts and prayers for the entire community of Newtown.
    Since the Newtown tragedy, I have received several calls and letters asking for legislation that would help to prevent this type of tragedy from ever occurring in our state or local communities. Many would like to see armed officers stationed in every school. Others are calling for principals to be allowed to carry guns, as well as some teachers who have their concealed carry permit. Currently, there have been two bills filed in the House dealing with this issue. I am sure there will be other bills to follow, and I will give them my careful consideration.

    It is sad that we would even need to consider such legislation as is being requested, but unfortunately would-be killers oftentimes seem to target a gun-free zone, like schools, churches, malls, and theaters—areas where there are lots of people and where there are no weapons being carried. When shootings such as what happened at Newtown occur and the authorities show up with force (weapons), the killer usually takes his life or is killed by an officer, putting an end to the tragedy. But what damage might have already been done?

    Some contend that a gun in the right place at the right time could stop a dangerous individual before loss of innocent life occurs in places such as schools, hospitals, churches, malls, etc. Another suggestion that has been made is to use tasers. They say we need to consider that the use of tasers in these locations — in conjunction with guns —might be an effective way to squelch potential threats and verbal or physical assaults on school officials, employees of hospitals (especially emergency room staff), or employees in other public work arenas. There have been numerous reports of verbal and physical assaults on healthcare workers, as well as on utility workers and teachers. Last year we introduced several bills that dealt with assaults on hospital and utility workers and public transit employees.

    It has also become apparent that it is time to re-open the debate on mental health. While we are not laying the blame for the recent tragedy solely on mental health issues, it is obvious that those matters played a large part in the events of Dec. 14. I am concerned that some of those who suffer from mental illnesses are not receiving necessary care and help. 

    In addition, Americans need to examine about why our society has become so violent. We need to ask ourselves if the Hollywood hypocrisy of making violent movies or if those producing video games depicting murder and mayhem must take some responsibility for our nation's recent tragedies. While some are trying to blame guns for the horrific events we see, Hollywood produces films and game makers create games that promote violent behaviors; however, Hollywood moneymakers are some of the first to stand up and say we need to ban guns and take them out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. All the while, they, and the game makers, make millions on the sale of their violent wares.

    We, and all America, need to step back and take an honest look at what our nation's young, impressionable individuals are watching and doing. Reports tell us that by the age of eighteen the average American has seen approximately 200,000 violent acts on TV, including 40,000 murders. These figures do not take into account violent acts viewed on video games or in movies. We need to ask ourselves if the content of their entertainment mediums are helping or hindering these malleable minds, and how do we handle those individuals who seem to have problems separating fiction from reality.

Wintry weather on tap for New Year's Eve

(From the National Weather Service)


Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: Remembering those who are no longer with us

As the end of each year approaches, The Turner Report looks back at some of those who have passed away during the past 12 months. This year's list includes a few unusual departures, but ones which meant a lot to me and hopefully, to some of you who are reading these words.


(March 23 Turner Report)

At the end of October, I made my final stop at the old South Middle School, the place where I spent the most enjoyable six years of my teaching career. It was difficult to see a shattered shell of what had once been a vibrant center for learning.

Now, even the shell is gone and I had to stop by and see it for myself. The only thing that remains of the South Middle School I knew are the steps that I walked on everyday to get into the building and the signs around the parking lot.

The school, the marquee, the other evidence that once thousands of students made the transition from elementary to middle to high school at that spot, is all gone, thanks to the May 22 tornado and the necessary removal of the damaged building.


(From the February 16 Turner Report)

A bit of sad news for those of us in Joplin who have patronized the business for the past 18 years, but Hastings announced yesterday it would close its Joplin store March 21.

Over the years, Hastings has developed a reputation as a store which worked well with local authors and I have enjoyed holding numerous signings for my books there over the years.

Unfortunately, it continues a nationwide trend of bookstores closing.

(Photo: Michelle Nickolaisen, Ron Graber, Julie Johnston, and me at the first signing for Devil's Messenger)


In the movies, the house on the hill is always the place where horrible things happen.

Sometimes, it’s the home of the town boss or the mad scientist who is conducting unspeakable experiments.

Those are other houses, other hills. In Granby, that house on the hill was a place of warmth. That was where Max Carter brought family and friends together to share fun, friendship- and above all else- fried fish.

“Uncle Max had the best family fish fries,” Amber Swartz Gallemore remembered, “Games, laughs, and great food.”

When word spread earlier this week that Max Carter had died at age 82, the memories started flowing. It seems like Max has always been a part of life in Granby and Newton County. It is hard to walk the streets of Granby without coming across something positive that he did for the community, whether it be during his time as mayor or during his long service to the Lions Club or any of the other organizations that were lucky enough to have him as a member.

Before Max Carter made it a priority, there were no senior citizen apartments in Granby. He also provided the Lions Club with a home and a place to serve the community. Pat Styron recalls that during the 1980s, when Max was president of the Lions Club, “he was instrumental in getting Dr. Preston Chester to donate the old Post Office building at 213 N. Main St. to the club. The club still owns the building and has had it rented out ever since we have had it. The revenue from the rent helps the club do the many projects that we do. Even though they are both gone on, that incident will keep on giving to our town,”

Max Carter spent much of his life giving back to the community, whether it was through his three terms as mayor, his single terms on the Granby City Council and the Newton County Commission or the many years he spent on the Granby Senior Citizens Housing Board of Directors, including seven as its president.

Just one paragraph of Max’s obituary would be a lifetime for others. In addition to the accomplishments already mentioned, he served two years as chairman of the Economic Security Executive Committee, two terms as vice president of Local 65313 Communications Workers of America, past president of Heart of the Ozarks Telephone Pioneers of America, past-Master of Granby Lodge 514 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and past patron of the Order of the Eastern Star. And don’t forget his status as a charter member, not only of the Granby Lions Club, but also of the Granby Historical Society.

He was also involved in Newton County Republican politics, serving as a county committeeman for 22 years.
It was no wonder that Max rose to the top in everything he attempted. He was a people person long before that term was ever coined. He put the needs of others first and as many have noted, once he was introduced to someone, he never forgot that person’s name.

But that partial list (and yes, that was only a partial list) of accomplishments was never at the top of Max Carter’s priorities.

That place was always reserved for family, including his wife of nearly 64 years, Ruth, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The best times were not the meetings with “important” people or even the time he has honored as Granby’s Citizen of the Year.

For Max Carter, the best things in life were family and friends and gatherings at the house on the hill. Those days were filled with stories, fun, laughter and love.

That’s a legacy that’s hard to beat.


I first met Tracy Stark back in the early '80s when I was serving as master of ceremonies for a variety show at Triway Elementary in Stella. She was one of the judges and apparently liked my voice.

I was working at the Newton County News at that time and she was at a radio station in Southwest City. She tried to convince me that radio, not newspapers, should be my path for the future. I wasn't interested, but I appreciated the thought.

A couple of years later, when I was out of work and she was at WMBH in Joplin, she offered me a job as an all-night dj. Instead, I took an offer from Doug Davis to work at the Lamar Democrat.

When she later moved into the television world, I never received any more job offers from Tracy. Apparently, she recognized a face that was made for radio.

Though Tracy Stark had been ill in recent months, the death of the former KODE anchor earlier this week at age 56 still came as a shock to her friends and former colleagues.

Many of the women who are currently working at Joplin area radio and television stations don't know her name, but Tracy Stark blazed the path for all of them. "I worked with her at WMBH/Z-103 in the early 80s," Rebecca Williams said. "She was among those that paved the way for women in media today."

Tracy took an unusual path to local television, entering it after a career in radio and her first anchor job was a challenge. Russ Riesinger, news anchor at WJAV, Savannah, Ga., and former KODE sports anchor, recalls. "She took over for Diane Gonzales, who had replaced Lisa Richardson, so she had some big shoes to fill. What I remember the most is that some of the people in the newsroom (who had a whopping two years of experience in the business themselves) were skeptical about her ability as a journalist. She had no experience in television news, but had a name from doing a morning radio show (with Gary Bandy, I believe). Anyway, she did a great job making the transition from radio to news. She had a good personality that came across on the air and people liked her very well."

One of her competitors after she took the KODE job, former KSNF anchor and now candidate for Newton County Commissioner Jim Jackson was able to catch the best of Tracy Stark's work in radio and television.

"When it came to broadcasting," Jackson said, "Tracy was a natural. I had the pleasure of working with Tracy when she started her broadcasting career at KCTE radio in Southwest City, Missouri, in the late 1970s. Tracy was a communicator with a soft, soothing voice; everyone liked her on and off the air. Tracy got to live her dreams with a career and having a wonderful family. Everyone who knew her will certainly miss her."

Russ Riesinger's replacement at the KODE sports desk, Steve Edgerley, currently a teacher in Dayton, Ohio, also has fond memories of Tracy. Edgerley, who became known during his stay in Joplin for his work on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, remembers how much work Tracy put in for that good cause.

"For every minute she spent on the telethon, she spent hours with kids with a muscle disease. She got me involved with MDA. I owe her and I will miss her giving spirit."

As much as her work in radio and television, Tracy Stark will be remembered for her sense of humor and for how much she cared for others, her former colleagues said.

"I got to KODE in '89 as a part-timer in the studio," former KODE news director and sports anchor Erik Schrader, now news director at WTNH in the New Haven/Hartford, Connecticut, market, said, "and Tracy treated us all like family. She never talked down to the part-timers and was pretty funny. She had a great ability to laugh at herself. I remember a couple of on-air bloopers that would have sent some anchors into a funk but she'd be there laughing as hard as anyone. When she got married, I shot the wedding, and I don't think it was long after that she said goodbye to television news. But whenever you ran into her, she'd have some funny story. Really caught me out of left field that she's gone."

"I remember going to Vegas with her for MDA meetings," Edgerley said. "I lost my wallet, so she loaned me money and we went gambling and had a blast. She was a giver. She gave to many, but none more than the children with muscular dystrophy. She had lifelong relationships with those kids and made a difference in their lives."


I have been trying to remember just how long ago it was that I last made my way to the home of Mr. Patrick.

I had not been there many times, but on this particular occasion, I was there because he had told my dad he had something for me. Despite the fact that his wife of 65 years, Helen, had died shortly before that, his house was still meticulously kept, a solitary outpost of civilization in a mostly backwoods area, just outside of Newtonia, about halfway between the city and the Civil War Cemetery.

Mr. Patrick was expecting me when I arrived and graciously asked for me to enter. It was the first time I had seen him in a few years, but he looked exactly the same as I remembered. We talked for a few moments, then he showed me the reason he had asked me to stop by.

"You are a newspaperman, I thought you might like this," he said, holding out a book containing old newspaper stories. He was right; I did like it and read it cover to cover when I returned to my apartment later that evening.

Though I had not seen Mr. Patrick for several years, since the days in the mid-70s when the Newtonia Community Center first opened and I served as master of ceremonies at the musicals held the first Saturday of each month. He was at each of those events, drinking coffee and eating a piece of whatever pie was for sale, watching his favorite performer.

Most of the entertainment was a combination of bluegrass, country, and gospel music, accompanied by fiddles, guitars, and the piano. He listened while Hattie Mae Johnson entertained with her monthly poem, but his favorite artist was the ragtime piano player, Mrs. Patrick, a woman who had both regal bearing and a skill at bringing back that musical style of yesteryear.

I did not see Mr. Patrick for years after that, but we did keep in touch because I was a newspaper editor and he was the last of a dying breed, a prolific, literate author of letters to the editor. I eagerly awaited each new letter. I didn't always agree with the thoughts he expressed, but I knew that well-reasoned letters (and his were on a wide variety of topics) were a rarity and were meant to be cherished.

Occasionally, he would send a month's worth of letters, to be run once a week when he was going to be busy or out of town. When his letters were absent for a few weeks, he would inevitably offer a handwritten apology. Though some who read his letters took him to be gruff and curmudgeonly, I always thought of him as being someone who was unfailingly polite (but who did not tolerate fools).

Hodgen O. Patrick died Monday at age 98, leaving a handwritten obituary to the local newspapers to be run word-for-word the way he wanted it. Whether that was a reaction to any hamhanded editors who dared touch a word on his letters, I don't know. I certainly never changed a word. It would never have occurred to me to do so.

Nearly four decades have passed since I saw Mr. Patrick on a regular basis. I can vividly picture him sitting in the back of the Community Center enjoying the show.

Hopefully, he is once again listening to ragtime music played by his favorite entertainer. They say the sound system is much better up there.

Joplin Globe's new statehouse correspondent: I have never been a blogger

The Joplin Globe's new statehouse correspondent, Eli Yokley of the PoliticMo blog, asked me to print a clarification of his remarks that I posted earlier today from a Joplin Globe article that said Yokley considers himself a "journalist" not a blogger.

I am happy to oblige.

Yokley's statement:
"I have never taken on the title 'blogger' because I never considered the work I do blogging. I took on the title of journalist because I believe I've spent the last nearly three years doing real shoe-leather journalism that I felt was lacking in Missouri. With The Fuse Joplin and PoliticMo, I took on journalism as a public service, and with the opportunity The Joplin Globe has given me, I hope to continue in that same spirt.
Yokley also took issue with my statement "Though he started with the Joplin Fuse blog and then PoliticMo, apparently blogging may be a bit beneath Yokley's station at this point."

"Things like this are why my perception of bloggers is the way it is," Yokley said.

Blunt delivers weekly GOP address

New Joplin Globe state house correspondent: I'm not a blogger; I'm a journalist

In today's Joplin Globe, Editor Carol Stark announces, as most of us expected, that Eli Yokley, 20, Webb City, author of the PoliticMo blog, will be the newspaper's statehouse correspondent for the coming session, the first the Globe has had since Jim Wolfe died.

Though he started with the Joplin Fuse blog and then PoliticMo, apparently blogging may be a bit beneath Yokley's station at this point:

Yokley, 20, a junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is a full-time college student and heads the blog PoliticMo. It has been ranked as one of the nation’s best blogs for state politics by The Washington Post.
Yokley said he does not think of himself so much as a blogger, but as a journalist.
In a recent interview, Yokley said: “Whenever I think ‘blogger,’ I think of partisan guys who sit in their basements and yell about things from the left or right. That’s not what I do.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Turner Report reaches 17,000 posts and I'm not done yet

My post a few moments ago about bonuses for GateHouse Media executives was number 17,000 for the Turner Report since it began in October 2003.

I have mentioned this at earlier milestones, but I would never have thought nine years ago that this blog, which at the time was lucky to reach 30 or 35 viewers per day, would ever reach the point where it would be getting more than 5,000 per day during the coverage of the Joplin Tornado, the Kanakuk scandals, and some of the various Missouri political stories.

Thanks to those of you who have been with me since the beginning and those who have joined in along the way. Your encouragement and loyalty has helped me as I have branched out, writing for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Newton County News. (You also helped me make 65 cents in royalties from Akin Breakin' Heart, but that's another story.)

I am still not tired of this, so I hope you're ready for the next 17,000.

The GateHouse Media success story: Six cents a share, $1.5 million in bonuses

GateHouse Media, delisted by the New York Stock Exchange a couple of years ago, closed at six cents a share today.

The company is billions of dollars in debts, fired hundreds of designers and copy editors while setting up central copy desks in Massachusetts and Illinois, and to top it all off, the company, which has done everything it can to take the "community" out of community newspapers, has had its new management structure investigated by the SEC.

Using the same dictionary that enables it to call its products "journalism," GateHouse officials awarded themselves $1,495,000 in bonuses today, according to a filing with the SEC.

The amounts of the bonuses are listed below:

Michael E. Reed
Chief Executive Officer
Kirk Davis
Chief Operating Officer
Polly Grunfeld Sack
Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel
Melinda A. Janik
Chief Financial Officer
Mark Maring
The company began as a sort of pyramid scheme, buying up as many small town newspapers as it could collect, cutting them to the bone (and then some), combining services, centralizing operations and continuing to grow to more than 400 publications as it grew further and further into debt.

Finally, the time came when it could no longer make any more cuts on a regional basis, so the decision was made to reorganize according to the size of the publications and farm out copy desk and layout functions to central desks in Illinois (for larger newspapers) and Massachusetts (for smaller ones).

It awarded the contract to a company, Saxotech, a startup that had never done anything on this large a scale, something that quickly became obvious. The conversion was a miserable failure and has still not been completed (even though GateHouse has already eliminated dozens of jobs to pave the way for the new venture). Now the company is indicating that some of its newspapers might not go through the central copy desk until late fall next year.

Give those GateHouse officials a bonus. In fact, despite mounting losses, the top officials collected $80,000 more in bonuses than they did in 2011.

And as GateHouse Media and the hundreds of "community" newspapers it represents head toward their own fiscal cliff (2014 when its billions of dollars of debt are due),  the company's top officials, especially CEO Michael Reed have nothing to worry about.

SEC filings indicate Reed, who has referred to the firing of hundreds of loyal employees as "rightsizing," will be sitting pretty when GateHouse finally goes under or when it decides to rightsize him.

 If the company sells and the new owners send him packing, Reed is guaranteed three quarters of a million, including $500,000 in severance pay, a $200,000 bonus and continued health insurance payments.

This week, the forward thinking Reed showed how he earned his $800,000 bonus when he announced another new deal. Don't get your hopes up. It has nothing to do with investing more money into his newspapers to restore them to their former places of respect in their communities.

That would be too much to ask for. Instead, GateHouse trumpeted the announcement that it will now be using TV Guide to provide its television listings.

That ought to be worth another $1.5 million next year.

Newman to file bill to close gun show loophole in Missouri

Anyone with common sense knows that it is time to close the gun show loophole in Missouri and require background checks for those wanting to buy weapons.

So let's see how far this goes in the Republican-dominated Missouri House of Representatives. Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, has announced she will prefile a bill that will close the loophole:

“After the recent horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, we must ensure that all firearms purchases, regardless of where they are sold, include the same comprehensive background checks as required for licensed firearm dealers,” Newman said in a release about her proposal. “We cannot sit idly by and wait for a similar tragedy in Missouri. Doing nothing is no longer an option.”

Coming to Missouri? Utah teachers taught to use guns in classroom

We could be regulating the use of high-powered weapons that no one needs for hunting or protection.

We could be allocating more funding for mental health instead of fighting to save every dollar we can for people who already have millions.

Instead, this is what Utah and Kansas already has and what Rep. Mike Kelley and others would like to see in Missouri- guns in the classroom.

Hartzler: We must not raise taxes on the rich

In her latest report, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler comes out against raising taxes on the rich (she phrases it as not raising taxes on anyone, but we all know what that means).

I hope you had the merriest of Christmases and are able to enjoy time with family and friends during the holidays.

As of this writing, 2012 is drawing to a close and there is still no agreement in place to avoid having our country go over the fiscal cliff, which would result in huge tax increases for American families and businesses and would devastate our military in addition to cutting some of the programs depended on by many Americans.

The House has passed common sense legislation to prevent the fiscal cliff and stands ready to work with the Senate if and when that chamber takes up any of the prior measures that have been passed by the House, approves versions of its own, and begins the negotiation process. The House cannot negotiate with itself. The Senate must pass something for our consideration. Even though the Senate has not yet acted, I am returning to Washington this weekend so we can move quickly in the event the Senate does act.

Now is not the time to raise taxes on anyone. Our economy is fragile and a robust recovery cannot take place until the focus is put on reining-in out-of-control spending. Washington does not have a tax problem; it has a spending problem. I stand ready to return to Washington to do my part to avert the largest tax increase in American history and to address the underlying problem of reckless spending.

And, as an eventful 2012 comes to an end, we look forward to new challenges and triumphs in 2013. One of the changes will be the look of Missouri's Fourth Congressional District. Due to congressional redistricting, which is Constitutionally required every decade, many congressional boundaries have changed. As a result of the changes, I look forward to welcoming the good citizens of Boone, Cooper, Howard, Randolph, and parts of Audrain Counties into the Fourth District.

At the same time, I will miss serving citizens living in Ray, Lafayette, Saline, Cole, and parts of Camden, Polk, Jackson, and Webster Counties who are now in different districts. It has been an honor to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past two years.

2013 will also see me adding to my responsibilities in Congress. In addition to serving on the House Armed Services and House Agriculture Committees, I will begin a new challenge as a member of the House Budget Committee – the committee primarily responsible for developing the annual budget resolution. I feel fortunate to be able to bring to the table my experiences as a small business owner, farmer, wife, and teacher, as well as the common sense ideas the good citizens of the Fourth District have shared with me over the last two years - ideas which are sorely needed in Washington. It makes sense to us to live within our means and not spend more money than we bring in. Those concepts need to be followed in D.C., as well! I look forward to working on developing a plan to get us back to a bakanced budget and getting our country out of debt.

2013 is the time to begin building a true economic recovery and we can do this by getting people back to work and stopping runaway spending that burdens our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt. I am committed to working to cut out-of-control spending and to strengthen our economy to allow America’s businesses to create jobs - and ask for your prayers in taking on this task. It is possible with all of us working together and God's blessing on our nation.

I wish each of you a blessed, healthy, and prosperous 2013.

Cleaver: We must put aside angry rhetoric, get the job done

In his latest EC from DC column, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, D-MO, discusses the situation as the nation heads toward the fiscal cliff.

The coming of a new year always holds so much hope – so much promise. As we look to 2013, there is indeed much to be thankful for. And as we continue celebrating this holiday season with family and friends, we also begin to look toward a year that will require serious thought and hard work. 

Over the last few weeks the focus in Washington, and across the country, has been on the fiscal cliff. The politics are frustrating for most of us. As I travel throughout the Fifth District of Missouri, so many of you have wondered aloud why elected representatives cannot simply put the angry rhetoric, partisan politics and entrenched positions aside – and get the job done. I could not agree more. 

A balanced budget is critical for our nation to continue the economic rebound we are now experiencing. It is not happening fast enough, but it is happening. Getting our deficit under control is a necessary step for the long-term health of our economy. Businesses here at home and abroad must have confidence in our ability to accomplish this for job growth and economic security to continue. This is something we must do not just for ourselves and our children, but our children’s children. I am committed to that goal. 

I am also committed to strengthening the middle class and avoiding tax hikes on these hardworking families. This would include some 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses. These are the families playing by the rules, getting up each and every morning and going to work, and in many cases, still struggling to put food on the table. At the same time, I believe the wealthiest Americans should pay their fair share. And I will defend Social Security and unemployment insurance for those actively looking for a job. All of this can be accomplished while continuing to boost the economy and grow jobs. 

We must get a comprehensive package put together and time is of the essence. I have often referred to the fiscal cliff as the New Year’s Nightmare. And while automatic cuts would not begin all at once, this is not a road we need to begin traveling at all. What we need to do is come together, with open hearts, calm heads, and a spirit of cooperation. That is what you elected us to do and that is what I will continue doing. 

Joplin legislator's bill threatens fine, imprisonment for paying prevailing wage

It's not enough to get rid of the prevailing wage for workers on public construction projects in this state. A new bill prefiled Thursday also threatens to punish those who actually want to pay workers what they are wroth.

HB 98, sponsored by Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, would eliminate prevailing wage in Missouri except for federal projects.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, contains the following language:

 "Public works", all fixed works constructed for public use or benefit or paid for wholly or in part out of public funds. It also includes any work done directly by any public utility company when performed by it pursuant to the order of the public service commission or other public authority whether or not it be done under public supervision or direction or paid for wholly or in part out of public funds when let to contract by said utility. It does not include any work done for or by any drainage or levee district.            290.342. Except for federally-funded projects and services provided to the federal government, no person in this state shall be paid a prevailing hourly wage.

The bill also appears to penalize anyone who decides to pay workers a decent wage. Since there would no longer be a prevailing wage, it would seem that the only violation of the law that could occur would be if someone actually paid workers what they should be receiving. A new section of the law specifies what would happen if someone decides to increase workers' wages:

(Violators will be) punished for each violation thereof by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Each day such violation or omission continues shall constitute a separate offense as contemplated by this section.
HB 97,  also sponsored by White and co-sponsored by Burlison, would eliminate prevailing wage for all construction of public housing projects in a disaster area.

That ought to keep those union workers in their place.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nixon: People of Joplin well-deserving of national award

(From Gov. Jay Nixon)

Gov. Jay Nixon today said that the people of Joplin were well-deserving of the national award for resilience announced today by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The Rick Rescorla National Award of Resilience was awarded to Jane Cage, chair of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) in Joplin, and the citizens of Joplin in recognition of their contribution in the aftermath of the devastating May 2011 tornado.
"The people of Joplin, through the leadership of folks like Jane Cage and many others, have exemplified the word 'resilient' in the year and a half since the tornado hit," Gov. Nixon said. "I've said time and again that they are the toughest people on God's green Earth, and this prestigious national award stands in recognition of how this community has picked itself back up."

Should teachers carry guns in the classroom?

The trendy answer to the problem of gun violence in our schools has been to put weapons in the hands of classroom teachers or administrators. That includes HB 70, pre-filed earlier this month by Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, which would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons.

If you would like to send a message about how you feel about that bill and other suggestions that guns in the hands of teachers would be a good idea, take a few seconds and take the poll on the upper right hand side of this page.

Jane Cage, citizens of Joplin receive National Award for Resilience

(From the Department of Homeland Security)

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that Jane Cage, Chair of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) in Joplin Mo., and the citizens of Joplin have been awarded the Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience, recognizing their contributions in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes that struck Joplin in May 2011. 
“The Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience recognizes outstanding response to a catastrophic incident and leadership in fostering resilient and prepared communities," said Secretary Napolitano.  “Jane Cage and the Joplin community demonstrate this spirit of resilience and strength, serving as models for communities across our nation.”
As Chair of CART in Joplin, Jane Cage demonstrated exceptional leadership in helping the Joplin community recover from the devastating May tornado. After the tornado, the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team was established to provide a forum between citizens and the City Council as the community recovers and rebuilds. Jane Cage created the “Listening to Joplin” plan, which served as the foundation of the community’s recovery efforts. CART used a variety of opportunities to reach members across the community, including those who were personally overwhelmed by their own losses from the storm. 
The entire Joplin community played an important role in the recovery process, deciding together to build more resilient schools outside of the floodplain, develop stronger standards for home construction, and to develop shared facilities to use as storm shelters.   
The Joplin tornado, which killed 161 people and injured approximately 1,000, ranks as one of the deadliest disasters in United States' history, and is the costliest tornado in U.S. history.
Earlier this year, Secretary Napolitano announced the creation of the Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience, in memory of Richard "Rick" Rescorla, who on September 11, 2001 led a massive evacuation of Morgan Stanley's 2,700-person workforce located in the South Tower, saving the lives of many of his coworkers.
The Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience is the Department of Homeland Security’s first national resilience award for superior leadership and innovation by a non-governmental individual or organization who exemplifies the qualities and achievements of Rick Rescorla, emphasizing leadership in effective preparation, response, and recovery in the face of disasters.
For more information, visit

Joplin legislator prefiles anti-union bills

Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, prefiled three anti-unions bills today.

The description for HB 95 says the following:

Prevents employees from being required to join or refrain from joining a labor organization as a condition of continuing employment.

The complete text of the bill is not online yet.

White's other anti-union bills, HB 97 and HB 98, attack prevailing wage laws.

Mike Kelley: Teachers can hide their guns from students

In an article in the Nevada Daily Mail, Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, sponsor of HB 70, which would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons at schools, is not worried about the prospect of a student getting hold of one of the weapons.

"There are some teachers who would never even pick up a gun, but 'concealed weapon' doesn't necessarily mean a handgun. They could carry Mace or a taser."Asked if he is concerned that a student might take a gun from a teacher, Kelly said weapons could be concealed in such ways as to keep students from knowing the teachers had them.
I can already tell this is going to work well.

Ed Emery on arming teachers: The best defense against an illegal gun is a legal gun

Add Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, to the list of politicians who think allowing teachers to carry guns into the classrooms is a good idea:
"The best defense against an illegal gun is a legal gun," Emery said. "If we're entrusting our children into our teachers' hands, I'm not sure how to explain why we should not let the teachers defend the children, even with deadly force if necessary."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Natural Disaster does Dylan: Knockin' On Heaven's Door

In this video, our band Natural Disaster performs Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door at the December 1 benefit show at East Middle School to raise money to buy toys for the Joplin Fire Department's Christmas for Kids program. This number was late in our set and Student Council members were putting up some of the chairs, which accounts for lead singer Richard Taylor's changing of a few lyrics at the beginning of the song.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chance for snow for Joplin area downgraded

(From MODOT)

Weather Forecast: Earlier snow predictions have been downgraded across Southwest Missouri. However, snow is still expected to fall in the southern part of Missouri with heavier amounts in southeast Missouri Christmas night into Wednesday. In some areas of south-central Missouri, precipitation may begin as rain or sleet and then change over to snow.
Driving will become difficult as the winter storm increases in intensity Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
Possible snow accumulations in Southwest Missouri:
-- 1 inch in Stone County.
-- 2 to 3 inches in Taney County including the Branson area.
-- A dusting of snow in Webster County.
Snow totals could vary depending on how the storm tracks across the area.
Winds could gust up to 29 mph hour tonight into tomorrow which could create visibility problems with dry, blowing snow. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

MODOT issues winter weather travel advisory for Christmas day

(From MODOT)

Weather Forecast: Snow is predicted to begin falling across the southern half of Missouri starting late morning or early afternoon Christmas Day (Tuesday, Dec. 25). Rain or sleet could precede the snow.
Driving will become difficult as the winter storm covers the region Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning.
Possible snow accumulations in Southwest Missouri:
-- 1 to 3 inches between Route 54 and I-44.
-- 3 to 6 inches south of I-44.
-- As much as 9 inches along the Missouri-Arkansas line and in areas of south-central and southeast Missouri.
Snow totals could vary depending on how the storm tracks across the area.
Winds could reach 15 mph to 25 mph which could create visibility problems with blowing snow.
Travel Conditions: Drivers should be prepared for snow-covered roads and limited visibility beginning Tuesday afternoon into early Wednesday.
1. Allow plenty of room to stop your vehicle and DRIVE ACCORDING TO CONDITIONS.
2. If traveling near a snow plow, please stay back at least 100 feet so they can work and to keep salt from hitting your vehicle.
3. If you do need to travel, make sure to leave in plenty of time to reach your destination.
Road Clearing: MoDOT crews will begin arriving in maintenance facilities throughout the Southwest District beginning at noon on Tuesday. Crews are prepared to begin clearing roadways as soon as the storm arrives. Crews will work round-the-clock plowing roadways and spreading salt and other materials to keep the main roads passable until the storm ends.
Crews will focus efforts on the highest traffic volumes routes like I-44, I-49, Route 65, Route 13 and Route 60. They will make it to lesser traveled routes at least once or twice during the storm to plow and to treat hills, curves and intersections.
Driving Tips for Traveling on Conditions:
* Buckle up
* Slow down
* Avoid sudden stops and turns
* Increase following distance
* Make sure vehicle windows and vehicle lights are cleared to ensure visibility
* Keep plenty of fuel in the tank and carry an emergency kit
* Use headlights
* Keep at least 100 feet behind a truck plowing/salting the road
Road Condition Information:
* MoDOT Customer Service: 1.888.275.6636
* MoDOT Traveler Information Map:
* Highway Patrol Road Conditions Hotline: 1.800.222.6400

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Billy Long: Hearing your concerns without ever meeting with you

In his latest newsletter, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long asks readers to share their concerns with him. An interesting idea for someone who has yet to hold a town hall meeting in his two years in Congress and has limited his contacts with the public to tightly controlled telephone town hall meetings. Billy Long's newsletter is printed below. After that, you can read my response, originally posted May 1, 2011.

I am grateful for the trust you have placed in me, and I am humbled to continue to serve as your liaison to your government.  I will continue to bring Southwest Missouri values to Washington.  Your voices do not go unheard.  I am committed to making decisions which reflect the values of the 7th District and am fighting right beside you to restore fiscal sanity and moral diligence to Washington.
We face a critical moment in our nation’s history as our economy continues its lackluster growth while government continues its excessive spending.  We must rein in our spending while providing pro-growth solutions to help our economy fully recover.  Our tax code is far too complicated and burdensome for small businesses and individuals.  We need comprehensive tax reform that simplifies the tax code and eases the strain felt by families and business owners. 
In the next Congress I will serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where I will work to find solutions to help small businesses, create jobs, reduce burdensome regulations, and boost domestic energy production.  Accomplishing these goals will move us towards a self-sustainable energy future, providing relief at the pump, and jobs for Missourians.  We have the resources to achieve this future; it is time for the government to get out of the way so we can.
The people of Missouri’s 7th District expect me to make the difficult decisions our country desperately needs to return to financial stability.  Just as the American people must balance their own checkbooks each month, our government must live within its means.  I will continue to address the budget deficit with a sense of urgency, and I hope that you will continue to be engaged in this process and share your views with me.
I described Billy Long's communications with the public in this May 1, 2011, post:
Anyone waiting for an opportunity to ask Seventh District Congressman Billy Long about the issues that affect southwest Missouri and the nation might as well forget it.

Long's aides are letting it be known that the Congressman feels he reached more people through his recent telephone town hall meeting than he could reach through in-person meetings.

Left unmentioned is the obvious: With the telephone meeting, Long may have reached thousands of people, but all they had a chance to do is listen to Long reel off folksy one-liners and take questions from carefully pre-screened listeners. I might add that in the one hour town hall meeting, Long only fielded five questions, with one of those being specifically about one man's problems with the Veterans Administration.

I described the electronic town hall meeting this way in an earlier post:

It was a glorious opportunity for constituents who might never have a chance to talk to the Congressman. Unfortunately, only about five people were squeezed in to the 60 minute meeting.

Don't blame those people for taking up 12 minutes apiece of Billy Long's valuable time. That is not the way it worked. Long did not take his first call until approximately 13 minutes had passed and spent about the last 10 minutes offering a glimpse of his radio talk show days as offered a mix of home-spun one-liners and assertions that he was still fed up.

A portion of the remainder of the time was spent offering two polls of the telephone listeners, with the second one revealing the mind-numbing information that 68 percent of those "attending" the town hall meeting did not believe in First Amendment protection for those who burn the Bible or the Koran.

The questions Long took were typically bland and offered more of an opportunity for the questioners to offer their opinions on softball issues while Long agreed with them. For each question, Long was able to dig into his treasure trove of long (pun intended) countrified stories, a couple of which even pertained to the subject.

I was one of those who punched star-three to ask the Congressman a question. I did not anticipate getting through, but was still surprised when Long cut off the questions with more than 10 minutes left in the hour.

Since the most recent recess began, Long has made a point of saying what he has been told by the people of southwest Missouri. Since he only talked to five people during the electronic town hall meeting and has held no face-to-face meetings, who are these people and what have they told the Congressman?

Without the dealings with the public that are expected of all elected officials, how are we going to believe anything except that the only ones who have the ear of Congressman Billy Long are the ones who can provide sizable contributions to his campaign account?