Sunday, May 31, 2015

Joplin Globe editorial: C. J. Huff is amazing, hired excellent leaders

If there was ever any doubt that the Joplin Globe is in bed with the Joplin Progress Committee/CART cabal that hijacked the tornado recovery process, that doubt was erased with Friday's editorial praising departing Superintendent C. J. Huff.

I don't suppose too many people had any doubts about the Globe's allegiance in the first place, and that allegiance is definitely not to its dwindling reader base.

That was proven convincingly when the Globe went to court to get the complete Loraine Report released, then buried its contents and never adequately addressed the conflict of interest allegations that were made against Joplin City Councilman Mike Woolston or the reasons why Tom Loraine thought the city should immediately cut its ties with master developer Wallace-Bajjali.

Instead, the Globe's coverage was focused on the portions of the report that concerned fired City Manager Mark Rohr. For the most part, voters went to the polls not knowing that the investigation placed Woolston under a cloud.

When Wallace-Bajjali slithered out of Joplin, the Globe was quick to editorialize about how awful the Texas firm was and how Joplin did not need them anyway, both of which are accurate statements. What was not mentioned, and what has remained unmentioned since are the people who brought Wallace-Bajjali to Joplin, people who, like the Joplin Globe, never bothered to check into the serious allegations against David Wallace and his company because they were so blinded by a con artist who promised them he could deliver everything they had been trying unsuccessfully to do for years.

At this point, I should correct a notion that people seem to have that I was the one who revealed the existence of the Joplin Progress Committee. Credit for that goes to the Joplin Globe, which announced its existence in a page one article in November 2013 that treated the PAC's creation like it was the greatest thing that had ever happened in Joplin- a group of like-minded leading citizens was going to screen candidates for City Council and Board of Education so it could choose people who would continue the types of policies that Mark Rohr had instituted in the city and that C. J. Huff was using in the school district. If you wanted to join, all you had to do was have enough money.

After that initial announcement, the Globe has rarely mentioned the committee and has done nothing to follow the money that has been funneled from the JPC to its favored candidates.

Nor has the Globe looked at the committee's success ratio. In this year's school board race, the only candidate endorsed by the committee who won was Lane Roberts. The people of Joplin obviously did not feel they needed the endorsement of the community's self-appointed leading citizens to decide who would best represent their interests.

However, there is no doubt that the people who make up the Joplin Progress Committee and whose members are sprinkled throughout organizations such as CART (Citizens Advisory Recovery Team) and the Bright Futures groups are still calling the shots as far as the Joplin Globe's editorial board is concerned.

How else can you explain Friday's editorial praising C. J. Huff?

The editorial began with this gushing passage:

C. J. Huff announced the end of his tenure as superintendent of the Joplin School District on Thursday in a letter to educators in which he described them as "amazing." He applauded their sacrifices, their collective commitment to excellence under extreme circumstances, their patience and their efforts to see their school district recover from the ravages of the May 2011 tornado.

We could say much the same about Huff.


Toward the end of the Globe's love letter came the most stunning statement of all:

Because Huff hired some excellent leaders during his tenure, we feel confident, as does he, that progress can continue.

Since the Globe soft-pedaled a devastating state audit of the school district, it must have ignored the part that noted that many of those who are serving in the Huff Administration are not qualified for the jobs they hold.

During his time in Joplin, C. J. Huff has systematically removed a number of administrators who had experience and ability and replaced them with many people whose sole qualification is that they will go along with anything he wants to do without question. That is a recipe for disaster and that disaster has been as devastating in its own way to the Joplin R-8 School District as the tornado was.

Only in a C. J. Huff Administration could people like Chief Operations Officer Tina Smith and Buildings Program Director Mike Johnson rise to the top and those non-educators have been placed in charge of much that had previously been done by people who had extensive backgrounds in education.

Huff and his supporters have bragged about how they have cut administrative costs primarily by eliminating all three assistant superintendent positions, however the only way he has been able to seriously make that claim is because the teaching/learning coaches (and administration spies) that have been placed in each building and who have been promoted into upper level administration positions, are not included in those administrative costs.

Apparently, those costs also do not include the extensive, unnecessary public relations apparatus Huff has installed, including not just a community development director, but an alumni relations specialist, a public relations director, and an events coordinator.

The person who has been in placed in charge of curriculum, Sarah Stevens, has just a small amount of classroom experience and was one of those who was rapidly promoted through the ranks after being a teaching/learning coach. Because of Stevens' lack of a background in curriculum, the district is hiring an assistant for her who does have that background.

No wonder she feels the need to spend $103,000 of the taxpayers' money to bring in an outside consultant.

The Executive Director of Elementary Education Jennifer Doshier was promoted to her top-level post after failing miserably as principal at McKinley Elementary, where during her last year, nearly the entire faculty either resigned or was fired. That was enough to earn her a promotion in a C. J. Huff Administration.

At McKinley, she was replaced by Terri Hart, who was not even certified as a principal until she had already held the job for a semester. Hart had moved from the curriculum director job to principal so she could get the administrative experience she needed to one day become a superintendent.

Please, Joplin Globe, start naming the excellent leaders C. J. Huff has hired.

It would be much easier to name the excellent leaders he has run out of the school district.

This all could have been prevented. People forget that there was a local media source that warned us that at his previous job as superintendent Huff had been criticized for overspending, low test scores, and running off veteran educators in favor of people with far less experience.

That was included in a Joplin Globe article from 2008 when the Board hired Huff. At most newspapers, those would have been the things that would have been watched as the Huff Administration took over. Under Editor Carol Stark's Joplin Globe, those failings have been treated like badges of honor.

The only thing that matters is that Huff has provided the kind of school district that the self-appointed leaders want to see for Joplin.

Thankfully, the Joplin Globe's influence, much like its readership, is not anywhere near what it used to be.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thoughts about Lynda Banwart, Gary Hart, and overplaying your hand

For some reason, after the Lynda Banwart/Anson Burlingame circus that took place at Friday night's Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting, the first thing I thought about was something a wise man said to me just over 31 years ago.

At that time, in addition to working at the Lamar Democrat newspaper, I was the Barton County coordinator for Gary Hart's presidential campaign and when I was not working on the newspaper, I was preparing for the Barton County caucus, which was held on an April evening in the upstairs meeting room at the Lamar Bank and Trust Company.

Those who sat on the Barton County Democratic Committee were almost solidly behind former Vice President Walter Mondale, but they heard rumblings that I was planning an insurgent campaign for Hart and did their best to put as many of the old line Democrats in the room as possible.

It was an interesting group that I had with me and it included nearly every Democratic officeholder in Barton County, and at that time, most of the officeholders were Democrats. Presiding Commissioner Doug Haile, County Clerk Bonda Rawlings, and Assessor Doug Sprouls were with me, as well as Ron Wrestler, the owner of the local pharmacy, and some young people who were barely out of high school.

When it came time to place our candidates into nomination, the county chairman Dr. Thomas Carroll, asked if we had someone to submit Hart's name. I did that and had a short speech prepared stressing that Hart was the candidate of "new ideas."

Since I had made a speech, the top Mondale supporter, Rose Marie Francis, felt she had to make one for her candidate. She was not quite as well prepared, but it did not make any difference. When the caucusing took place, Mondale collected five more votes than Hart. That was still a triumph because according to the rules which the Hart Missouri people had provided me, it was close enough that Mondale and Hart would split Barton County's two delegates to the district convention.

Only that was not the way Dr. Carroll saw it. Walter Mondale won the vote, so Walter Mondale was going to get both delegates. The argument took place in front of everyone and the doctor was adamant- Walter Mondale got both delegates.

I suggested that we call the State Democratic Committee in Jefferson City and get a ruling. At first, Carroll vehemently opposed that idea, but he finally agreed to do it. Over the next 20 minutes, he made repeated attempts to contact the state committee, but was never able to do so. Finally, he said, "I'll tell you what. Let's just vote again and the winner gets both delegates."

For the first time that evening, I raised my voice. "How is that fair? I asked. And I was about to say something else, when Doug Haile put his hand on my shoulder and said, "It's all right, Randy. Let's vote."

I was still ready to argue, but I didn't. There was something in the way Haile said those words that made it clear that I needed to back down.

A few moments later, the vote was held again- and Gary Hart won by three votes.

I turned to Doug Haile. "You knew that was going to happen."

"I wasn't sure," he said, "but I could see it in their eyes. They still like Walter Mondale better than Gary Hart, but nobody likes a bully."

As Dr. Carroll announced the results, he added, "This means that Mondale and Hart each get one delegate."

I was about to point out that Dr. Carroll said the winner would receive both delegates, but again Haile stopped me. "Don't push it, Randy; you've won. They overplayed their hand."

That was what happened last night at the Memorial Education Building.  Lynda Banwart and the supporters from the Joplin Progtress Committee/CART, the same people whose wisdom brought Wallace-Bajjali to Joplin, overplayed their hand.

Banwart, without saying it, echoed the words that Mike Landis spoke last year at an R-8 Board meeting. Elections don't matter. She showed the same disdain for the voters' choices that Landis did. It is true that Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci are one shy of having a majority to bring about the changes that the voters clearly wanted- changes that they mistakenly thought Banwart would help bring about.

What Banwart, Mike Landis, Randy Steele, and the folks on the Joplin Progress Committee seem to forget is that the voters did not elect two candidates, Koch and Martucci, to the board; they elected three.

The people who cast their ballots were fully aware that Lane Roberts was not going to be able to serve, but they wanted nothing to do with Anne Sharp and business as usual. Roberts' decision, unfortunately, has allowed Landis, Banwart, and the C. J. Huff contingent to continue playing games with the school district and circumventing what the people want, because in their opinion people who are not with them have to be an unruly mob ignorantly standing in the way of progress.

As someone who had students write research papers each year on the civil rights movement, I am reminded of the way Southern politicians continued to fight to preserve segregation and the Jim Crow mentality, using every tactic at their disposal to delay the arrival of change.

One of the arguments seem to be nearly the same- these people do not know what is good for them and they need to stay in their place.

That kind of thinking is why not one board member is left from two years ago. Change is happening.. You can push it down the line for a few months, but the stall tactics and pious declarations that Koch, Fort, and Martucci are "too emotional" are not going to keep the change from taking place.

I prefer having board members who are "emotional" about providing a better education for the children and providing a much better deal than taxpayers have been receiving during the C. J. Huff era.

The last person I want to see controlling the fate of the board is an ice queen who said she was a leader and "a mediator" who can bring people together.

Instead of coming up with a solution, Banwart would rather pass the buck to the Jasper County Commission, with the thought that the commission will appoint three people who will restore the status quo and save the unruly mob, the voters, from themselves.

Some mediator.

Lynda Banwart overplayed her hand.

The voters won't forget.

Debbie Fort: Joplin Progress Committee has declared open season on our schools

(This message to the community was posted this afternoon on Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Debbie Fort's candidate Facebook page.)

The following are my thoughts on last night's board meeting:

In the spirit of compromise and moving the Joplin School District forward, I made the decision to vote to appoint Dr. Marsi Archer to the vacant seat on the Board. I did so to help resolve conflict, reach across the aisle, and to keep the control of our Board in the hands of its elected members.

However, The Joplin Progress Committee PAC has seemed to declare open season on our schools. In my years as an educator I have never seen the business community spend thousands of dollars and support candidates that will strictly follow the best interests of the business community over learning. I have always fought for local control of our schools. I believe those who are trained in the field of education know what is best for our students, not unelected PAC members, who hide behind "progress".

The Board of Education has tried multiple times to fill the vacancies but has been shot down and stalled. After tonight the Board that you elected will NOT have a choice in who will serve the remainder of the three vacant terms.

In my campaign I promised you that I would restore academic excellence to our schools, improve staff morale, and bring transparency to the Board. I have also strived to bring candidates who mirror the values that you elected me to represent. I am proud to represent YOU, OUR students, and the generous patrons of the Joplin School District.

Joplin City Council to hear complaint about parking at Blasters games

June 1, 2015
6:00 P.M., Council Chambers
Call To Order
Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America
Roll Call
Presentations - Proclamation To Recognize June As 'Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month'
Proclamation to proclaim June as 'Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month', presented to Pam Bhend, Joplin.
Finalization Of Consent Agenda
Reports And Communications
Citizen Requests And Petitions
Request To Address Council
Request from John Moore, 103 S. High, requests to address council concerning parking when the Blasters play at home games.
Request To Address Council
Doug Hunt, 1232 Xenia Court, requests to address Council regarding the JHAP Program process & timeliness to closing on property.
Public Hearings
A RESOLUTION granting a Special Use Permit (First Renewal) to South Joplin Christian Church for the continued operation of a group residential facility to house volunteers located at 1901 South Pearl Avenue, in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and including in District R-2 property as described below and located at the northeast corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Montana Place in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
A request to declare excess property on an approximately 5,800 square foot lot located at 1402 South Ohio Avenue – City of Joplin.
Consent Agenda
COUNCIL BILL NO. 2015-609 -AN ORDINANCE approval of License Agreement by and between the City of Joplin and Alpha Air Center, LLC, to conduct an Airshow at the Joplin Regional Airport.
Minutes Of The May 18, 2015 Council Meeting
Documents: MAY 18, 2015.PDF
Ordinances - Emergency
AN ORDINANCE authorizing a Program Services Contract for WIC Local Agency Services, by and between the State of Missouri, Department of Health and Senior Services, and the City of Joplin, Missouri, and for the City of Joplin Health Department to receive additional funds for various program enhancement services, for up to Six Thousand, Three Hundred Forty-Two Dollars, no Cents, ($6,342.00); amending the Annual Budget of the City of Joplin for the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 as adopted by Ordinance 2014-177 on October 20, 2014; and, authorizing the City Manager to execute the same by and on behalf of the City of Joplin, Missouri; and, containing an emergency clause.
Ordinances - First Reading
Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading
AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and District C-1 and including in District C-3-PD property as described below and located at the northwest corner of 15th Street and Range Line Road in the City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
Unfinished Business
New Business
Vote to go into closed session, which shall pertain to the hiring, firing, disciplining, or promotion of an employee or particular employees of a governmental body involving personal information as set forth in Section 610.021(3) RSMo, as amended, 2014, more specifically for the purpose of evaluating certain Council employees.  This meeting, record, and vote to be closed to the extent provided by law. The City Council shall adjourn at the end of the session.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Cozy relationship between Banwart, commissioner spells conflict of interest

It's no wonder that Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Lynda Banwart wants the Jasper County Commission to decide who will replace Lane Roberts, Randy Steele, and Mike Landis.

On Friday night, Banwart rejected an overture from board members Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci, who proposed Missouri Southern State University professor Marsy Archer instead of their preferred candidate from three nights earlier, former R-8 Board member Jim Kimbrough. While Koch, Fort, and Martucci voted for Archer, Banwart changed her mind and told her fellow board members she wanted the choice to be made by the Jasper County Commission, which will step in once the resignations of Landis and Steele are accepted, unless someone has been appointed to replace Roberts by that time. Banwart said she felt "uncomfortable" with the process.

Banwart and her husband Christopher have a mutually beneficial relationship with Jasper County Commissioner and former Joplin Mayor Darieus Adams going back several years.

Banwart probably has more than 17,000 reasons to want the County Commission to make the choice instead of a school board in which all of those who think like her were either defeated for re-election or quit.

Banwart and her husband  raised more than $4,000 for Darieus Adams during his first campaign in 2004 and his re-election campaign in 2008.

When Banwart ran for school board in 2014, her husband contributed $13,400 to her campaign and all of that money went to Four-States Advertising for television ads. Adams is client relations manager for the business, which has since changed its name to Storm Stanley.

Adams and his wife were also hosts for a fundraiser for the Banwart campaign, according to Missouti Ethics Commission records.

County Commission campaigns

When Adams first ran for county commision, the Banwarts were hosts for a social event at their home May 8, 2004, with snacks and drinks, according to Ethics Commission documents. Twenty-six people attended and $1,650 was raised. The Banwarts contributed $1,000 to Adams during that election period.

On February 23, 2008, they were hosts for another "social gathering," collecting $2,475 from 21 participants. The Banwarts contributed $650.

School Board campaign
(From the April 3, 2014 Turner Report)

The $13,400 that Dr. Christopher Banwart gave to his wife Lynda's Joplin R-8 Board of Education candidacy all went toward television advertising, according to her eight-day-before-election report filed March 31 in the Jasper County Clerk's office.

The Banwart campaign spent $13,420.76 with Four-State Advertising, Joplin, for the ads, the report indicates.

And this.

Sen. Ron Richard and his wife, Patti, provided Mrs. Banwart with the use of Fourth Street Bowl and finger foods and soft drinks, valued at $125, the report said, for a mixer March 14. Yard signs were distributed and $925 in contributions was received. Fifeen people attended the mixer.

Hosts for the event were listed as Ron and Patti Richard, Darieus and Theresa Adams, and Dan and Teresa Brothers.

The Darieus Adams for County Commission campaign also contributed $250 to Banwart.

Hartzler: Obama Administration stonewalling probe into Bergdahl swap

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Today, Chairman Thornberry (R-TX) and Rep. Hartzler (R-MO), Chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on the anniversary of the release of the 5 Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay:

"One year ago, President Obama transferred five senior Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) to Qatar. Unless something changes, those terrorists will be free to return to the fight on Sunday. News reports suggest their activities since they left GTMO are already a cause for concern.

The transfer was carried out in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. As Americans, we always want our troops to return home safe and sound, but that does not mean this transfer was wise, well-executed, or legal. Congress and the American people are right to be concerned about the increased risk to our Nation’s safety now that these five dangerous men are no longer securely held at GTMO.

Since the transfer took place, the House Armed Services Committee has been investigating the swap. We want to know why the President and his advisors felt they could ignore a law designed to provide the people’s representatives advance warning of such transfers, not to mention the ability to ask commonsense questions related to the safety of our country.

Our investigation has been hampered by the White House and the State Department, which have refused to allow DOD to turn over material critical to the investigation. The National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House this month, and which President Obama has threatened to veto, compels the Pentagon to make a full disclosure. Our investigation continues, and we hope that we will soon be able to present our findings to the public.

On Sunday, the Administration's flimsy restrictions on these terrorists will expire. This will endanger our troops abroad and our families at home. Understanding why and how this came about is the responsibility of the Congress, one we intend to carry out." 

Lynda Banwart to Joplin R-8 voters- Go to hell

Lynda Banwart wants the Jasper County Commission to appoint three members of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education.

Three nights ago, Missouri Southern State University professor Marsy Archer received a positive vote from Banwart and Mike Landis, while Board President Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci preferred Jim Kimbrough.

Tonight, Archer was offered up as the first choice with Koch, Fort, and Martucci voting yes. Banwart voted no. "I want this to go to the County Commission," she said, despite the fact that two of the commissioners do not even live in the Joplin R-8 School District.

Banwart said the board was dysfunctional and talked about the threats that Randy Steele said had driven him to resign.

Martucci said that leaving the decision in the hands of the County Commission was "not fair" to the voters in the Joplin School District.

Koch asked Board Attorney Norman Rouse if all three finalists could be voted onto the board. Rouse said that could be done, but Banwart was having none of it.

She apologized to Archer and Sharrock Dermott, the other finalist. "I tried to support you," she said.

When Koch said that Banwart was hindering the process, a group from the audience, led by blogger and frequent Joplin Globe guest columnist Anson Burlingame, called Koch a "fraud" and people in the audience accused of Koch of talking "inappropriately," though that was the only thing he had said that had come close to a criticism of Banwart.

 Koch apologized to Banwart and the audience and asked if there was anything that could be done to convince her to vote for a board replacement.

Banwart said she was "uncomfortable" with the process.

When Martucci asked if anyone had any conflict of interest with the County Commission; Rouse who serves as the commission's attorney on numerous matters, said he did, and he added that Banwart has a conflict, also, though he did not spell out what the conflict was.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a second vote was taken to accept the resignations of Randy Steele and Mike Landis. Koch and Banwart voted yes, with Martucci and Fort casting "no" votes, meaning at this point the board still has only one vacancy, that of Lane Roberts. An earlier vote during the meeting had ended with the same split.

After the meeting adjourned, Anson Burlingame, in a self-satisfied, triumphant tone, said, "Damage done."

Joplin R-8 months behind on payments to storm shelter contractors

The construction firm in charge of the storm shelter projects for the Joplin R-8 School District claims it has not been paid in five months and that has resulted in non-payment to the companies that have worked on the projects.

In an e-mail sent Thursday to contractors, Greg Fogle, president, Midwest Operations, for Nabholz Construction Services, says, " Nabholz has continued in good faith  to serve the Joplin Public Schools without payment for more than five months. We have worked diligently to resolve the issue through multiple communications to the school district, the last of which went unanswered on May 18 when Nabholz requested  a date to deliver pay applications and related documentation with affirmation of the district's intent to pay for services already rendered."

The situation became more urgent for the construction company with this week's resignations (retirement) of Superintendent C. J. Huff and long-time board members Mike Landis and Randy Steele.

Fogle wrote, "I am sure that you are aware, in the last few days, Joplin Public Schools has undergone significant leadership changes among the administration and the School Board."

This is not the first situation in which the school district has been accused of not paying contractors for work done on the building projects that followed the tornado.

The P1 Group, an electrical contracting firm from Lenexa, Kan, is suing the district for $6.5 million it says it is owed because of extra costs and overtime associated with the district's efforts to get Joplin High School open in time for the 2014-2015 school year.

The district is also suing the P1 Group and a mediation session is scheduled Monday in the Kansas City offices of the law firm representing the district, Polsinelli P. C.

The game that Mike Landis is playing

"Elections don't matter."

If any comment ever revealed the character of a man, it is that one by Joplin R-8 Board of Education member Mike Landis, who submitted his resignation Thursday.

Landis made the remark during a discussion over who should be appointed to replace Dawn Sticklen on the board last summer. The board asked for applicants and four- current Board President Jeff Koch, Shawn McGrew, Lane Roberts, and Jennifer Martucci, applied.

Why they bothered to take applications was never clear since Martucci and Roberts were immediately eliminated from consideration because they, unlike Koch and McGrew, had not run for the board in April 2014.

When it came to Koch, who placed fourth out of seven candidates, and McGrew, who finished hundreds of votes behind Koch in sixth place when Jim Kimbrough noted Koch's greater numbers during the election, Landis barked, "Elections don't matter."

In his self-serving resignation letter and in media interviews, Landis decried the politics that have entered the board of education since the election this year of Koch and Martucci and the election last year of Debbie Fort.

Of course, to Landis, it is only politics when someone is not doing what he wants them to do. The days of 7-0 votes for whatever Superintendent C. J. Huff wanted vanished when three people were elected on platforms of fiscal responsibility and improved academics, and since Fort, Koch, and Martucci were each the leading vote-getter in their respective elections, it is obvious that their positions on those issues resonated with the voters.

But that doesn't matter to Landis, because elections don't matter to Landis. When the people disagree with him, it is because they are an out-of-control mob, being spurred on by rabble rousers. It has nothing whatsoever to do with overspending and declining test scores, because C. J. Huff has explained that you can't believe what is written in black and white. He knows the truth and Mike Landis has backed him every step of the way.

Sources close to Landis (and his media interviews) indicate that his resignation, coming immediately after the resignation of Randy Steele, has been done in a calculated effort to strip Koch, Martucci, and especially Fort, who he has privately (and publicly) disparaged and who he allowed to be bullied by Huff during the April board meeting of their advantage and shift the balance of power back to those who support the way Huff runs the school district.

Landis has every reason to believe that the County Commission, a body he would dearly love to join sometime in the near future, will appoint three members to go along with Lynda Banwart and form a majority that will have control of the appointment of the new superintendent.

And not that anything like this could ever happen, but there is no law that would stop the County Commission from appointing one or more of the ones who resigned. And there would be nothing whatsoever to stop the new board from appointing one of the people who rose to upper administration during the C. J. Huff years as the new superintendent.

For that matter, there is nothing to stop the board from asking C. J. Huff to reconsider his retirement, which he could probably be talked into doing since obviously it would be "for the kids."

The key, obviously, is Lynda Banwart. Banwart has said publicly that she will not vote for Jim Kimbrough. Three hundred notarized signatures on Kimbrough's petitions mean nothing to her and neither does the fact that the people who voted for change with Fort, Koch, and Martucci want Kimbrough back on the board to be a part of that change.

Banwart's answer Tuesday night was her assertion that she knows more about "change" than the people who are wanting the change and that she (Banwart) is an agent of change.

Landis reportedly also is counting on Banwart's connection with the County Commission to steer the commissioners away from choosing anyone who would be approved of by the people who voted in Fort, Koch, and Martucci.

That makes tonight's 5 p.m.R-8 Board of Education meeting critical. The resignations of Landis and Steele have not been accepted by the board. They will make one last effort to appoint a replacement for Lane Roberts. If they are successful, then the resignations of Landis and Steele will be accepted and the board will be able to appoint replacements at an upcoming meeting and get down to the business of righting a ship that has veered dangerously off course.

If Banwart holds up the process by refusing to appoint a new member or fails to show up, that would be a clear sign of contempt for those who put her into office, under the impression that she, too, would be part of the change.

Whether that member is Jim Kimbrough or not, the local school board needs to be the body that makes the appointment, not the Jasper County Commission.

Elections do matter. Mike Landis may never realize it, but hopefully Lynda Banwart does.

Billy Long offers COOL column

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Since 2009, stores have been required to include country of origin labeling (COOL) on unprepared or raw foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of nuts, and ground or cuts of beef, chicken, pork and lamb. The rules, based on the 2002 Farm Bill, have been the source of controversy among some livestock producers and actions against the U.S. within the World Trade Organization (WTO) from Canada and Mexico. The WTO ruled May 18 against the U.S. and determined that U.S. COOL regulation harms trade obligations with Canada and Mexico.

The ruling comes after four years of back-and-forth within the WTO and several USDA revisions to COOL. The WTO’s ruling will allow Canada and Mexico to impose retaliatory tariffs on products such as meat and crops. This could cost U.S. agriculture billions and could have a$623 million impact on Missouri’s agriculture economy – especially on beef, pork, corn and soybean producers. Canada has already made threats, stating in 2013 that it would impose a 100-percent tax on imported U.S. commodities.

This could have a large, negative impact on southwest Missouri, and that is why I am one of the original co-sponsors of H.R. 2393, which would repeal COOL. A simple repeal would shelter farmers and businesses from undue burdens Canadian and Mexican sanctions could bring. These retaliatory tariffs could deal a blow to the Missouri Seventh District’s $265 million cattle industry and $58 million grains industry.

I am a firm believer in free trade with other nations forged through agreements and mutual understanding. If it were not for trade between Canada and Mexico in the first place, Missouri- and American-made goods would have a much smaller market. After all, Canada and Mexico are the top two destinations for Missouri-made merchandise, making up 50 percent of Missouri exports’ value. This is an instance in maintaining that understanding, and we must uphold the best policies for Missourians and all Americans. Repealing COOL is the best approach to continuing a sound, beneficial trade partnership among friendly nations.

Stacey Newman offers lowdown on dysfunctional House session

(From Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis)

NO ONE could have predicted the explosive end of this year's session and frankly, it seemed as if we were part of a reality television show.
Not only did the Speaker of the House resign his seat amidst drama involving a university student intern, the Senate took up only one bill after passing a "Right to Work" bill on Wednesday, May 13th.  Neither chamber went into session on Thursday May 14th and both adjourned early on Friday May 15th, before the constitutionally mandated time of 6pm.
 The legislature essentially imploded on the very days when bills are usually in a hurried state to reach the governor's desk.
 This is YOUR legislature - not one that we should be proud of.
 With just two days left to go, Speaker John Diehl left the dais during session Wednesday morning May 13th as the Kansas City Star broke this story:
 "House Speaker John Diehl issued a statement Wednesday apologizing and seeking forgiveness for exchanging sexually charged messages with a college freshman who worked as an intern in the state Capitol." 
The statement came Wednesday afternoon as he barricaded himself in the Speakers office, not leaving until about 11pm as media presence from around the state camped outside his office. The following day he released an additional statement containing his full resignation - the 7th time in Missouri history that a House Speaker has resigned.  
 We adjourned early Wednesday afternoon and almost all of Thursday.  Shortly after his resignation announcement Thursday afternoon, photos were released on social media showing John Diehl apparently celebrating at a local Jefferson City bar with his GOP state representative colleagues and lobbyists - which had many of us scratching our heads. 
 All floor activity came to a halt in the House until May 15th, the last day of session, when the new Speaker, Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) was officially elected and we finally went back to work before adjourning 20 minutes early.
 For different reasons, debate in the Senate also came to an abrupt halt after a rare "previous question" motion ended the filibuster Tuesday May 12th on HB 116, referred to as "Right to Work" legislation.
 The bill went to the governor's desk with final votes of 21-13 in the Senate and 92-66-2 in the House.  Although the PQ move is extremely common in the House, it is rarely executed in the Senate, which normally cherishes its tradition of unlimited debate. The action sparked acrimony in the Senate, which essentially shut down for the remainder of the week.  However, neither chamber is expected to be able to override a likely governor's veto on the bill.
 *MEDICAID EXPANSION?  NO -  leaving another $2 billion on the table that should be pumped into Missouri’s economy to create jobs, protect local hospitals and expand health care access for more than 300,000 Missourians
 *PUNISHING MISSOURI'S POOR?  YES -  primarily children, by removing many who currently receive federally funded food stamp benefits.
 *ELIMINATING INSTITUTIONAL INJUSTICE as highlighted by last year's events in Ferguson?  NO.
 *ETHICS REFORMS which the session proved once again are badly needed? NO.
 HB122, which would expand our current Castle Doctrine statute (allowing any persons in any home to shoot & ask questions later) had the most traction late in session.  It passed the House the end of April and then was successfully amended onto SB199 on the last day of session.  However the Senate adjourned early preventing a final vote.  We predict this bill will be refiled next session with similiar energy.
 My bills -  Universal Background Checks (HB347); Domestic Violence Firearm restrictions (HB418) and School Security Threat Protections (HB346) were referred to a committee by the Speaker on the very LAST day of session - preventing any traction.
 HB190, requiring annual inspections of Missouri's only Planned Parenthood surgical center, made it to the Senate but was not brought up for debate.  Other bills such as requiring two parent consent for minors seeking an abortion, criminalizing a pregnant woman for use of narcotics and banning abortion for sex selection and genetic abnormalities never made it to the House floor for debate.
 My bills - Compassionate Assistance for Rapes (HB352), Employee Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act (HB354) and Requiring Pharmacies to Fill Contraception (HB350) were referred to a committee by the Speaker on the very LAST day of session - preventing any traction.
 HJR1 and HB30, requiring a state issued photo ID to vote, failed to come up for debate in the Senate the last week of session.  We still believe the majority party intends to place it on the 2016 ballot so we expect swift action next session.
 My bill allowing for Early Voting (HB345was referred to a committee by the Speaker on the very LAST day of session - preventing any traction.
 However my bill allowing domestic violence victims in the Missouri Safe at Home program to be able to vote by absentee ballot DID advance to the Governor's desk - as an amendment to SB34.  
TAX AMNESTY (HB 384): Establishes a temporary amnesty period from Sept. 1, 2015, through Nov. 30, 2015, during which taxpayers can pay delinquent state taxes with penalties, fees and interest being waived.  I VOTED YES.
 EATING DISORDERS (SB 145): Requires insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders.  I VOTED YES.
 CHILD CARE REGULATIONS (SB 341): Requires all state licensed child care facilities to establish safe sleep polices for children under age 1 in accordance with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. Also requires all public, private and parochial child care facilities to notify parents if there are other children attending the facility who are not immunized. I VOTED YES.
 PAY HIKE REJECTION (HCR 4): Blocks two rounds of salary increases recommended by the State Salary Commission for statewide elected officials, legislators and judges from automatically taking effect on July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016.  I VOTED NO BECAUSE OF THE RECOMMENDATION ON CERTAIN JUDGE PAY RAISES.
 CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION (HB 42): Authorizes the expansion of charter schools, which at present can operate only in the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts, to all districts in St. Louis County and all but three small districts in Jackson County.
The bill originally was intended to fix problems with the state law that allows students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to nearby accredited districts at their home districts expense, but it does little to address those problems.  I VOTED NO.
 RIGHT TO WORK (HB 116): Makes it a crime punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine for companies to negotiate labor contracts that require workers as a condition of employment to pay dues for the union representation they receive.  I VOTED NO.
 UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS (HB 150): Establishes a sliding scale on the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits based on the statewide unemployment rate. The current maximum of 20 weeks would be provided only if the unemployment rate is 9 percent of higher, with maximum benefits dipping as low as 13 weeks if the unemployment rate is under 6 percent.  I VOTED NO.
Vetoed by the governor on May 2. House voted 109-53 in favor of override; Senate took no action.
 LOCAL CONTROL PRE-EMPTION (HB 722): Bans local governments from prohibiting the use of plastic bags by retailers or from establishing a local minimum wage.  I VOTED NO.
 FEDERAL FOOD STAMP ASSISTANCE (SB 24): Reduces the maximum time a family can receive benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from 60 weeks to 45 weeks over a lifetime, which will cause about 9,500 current recipients – including 6,300 children – to lose their benefits early when the new, lower limit takes effect on Jan. 1. Vetoed by the governor on April; veto overridden on May 5.  I VOTED NO.
 MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CAPS (SB 239): Imposes a $400,000 cap on non-economic demages for personal injury and a $700,000 cap on non-economic damages for catastrophic personal injury in medical malpractice cases.  I VOTED NO.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Joplin R-8 Board to appoint new member at special session

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will meet at 5 p.m. Friday at the Memorial building to appoint a replacement for former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts.

Board members will review applications, appoint a member and swear that member in and then accept the resignations of board members Randy Steele and Mike Landis, according to the agenda.

A. Call to Order

1. Roll Call

B. Approve Agenda - Action

C. Review BOE Member Applicants

D. Appoint New Board Member - Action

E. Accept BOE Members Letters of Resignation - Action

F. Board Member Oath of Office - Action

G. Adjourn

An update on Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud, new ending

I never expected things to move quite this fast.

David Hoover, head honcho and design genius at Dropcap Publishing, had finished formatting my new book, Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption, and the Joplin Tornado when I decided to rewrite the final chapter.

In the copy I sent to Hoover two weeks ago, the book ended with C. J. Huff's tirade against Debbie Fort and the surprise election of Jeff Koch as board of education president.

I had included an epilogue which featured more information about Mark Rohr, David Wallace, and some of the others who play prominent roles in the book.

With the events of the past two days, including the resignations of Huff, Randy Steele, and Mike Landis, I am writing a new final chapter tonight and barring any complications the book should be available by the middle of June, if not sooner.

I appreciate the patience all of you have shown. Hopefully, when the book is published people will have a greater understanding of how the governmental portion of the Joplin Tornado recovery went awry.

That emphasis on the governmental portion of the recovery is why I changed the subtitle of the book. Originally, as you can tell by the accompanying photo, I intended to call it Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: How Greed and Corruption Destroyed the Joplin Tornado Recovery.

It is obvious, however, that the Joplin Tornado Recovery has been far greater than anyone could have expected- except for the part that went through our governmental entities.  That is why I changed the name.

I promise; the wait for the book is almost over.

The classy departure of Mike Landis

Mike Landis left his long time position as a member of the Joplin R-8 Board of Education today with a display of class.

Unfortunately ,that class was kindergarten.

Landis was the last of the board of education that abdicated its responsibility over the school district when it handed Superintendent C. J. Huff a blank check following the May 22, 2011, tornado and told him he did not need to consult the board before making decisions.

"Joined at the hip," Huff referred to it during an October 2011 speech at a Missouri School Boards Association banquet.

With board member Randy Steele resigning, Landis, for a brief moment, was the only person left from that 2011 board. Phil Willcoxon and Jim Kimbrough opted not to seek re-election, while Ashley Micklethwaite, who was board president at the time of the tornado, resigned when her job took her out of town. The voters soundly rejected re-election efforts by two consecutive board presidents, Jeff Flowers and Anne Sharp. In the interim, Micklethwaite's replacement, Dawn Sticklen, also resigned after she enrolled her daughter in the Webb City R-7 School District.

The last two to go were Steele and Landis.

Four new board members, Lynda Banwart, Debbie Fort, Jeff Koch, and Jennifer Martucci, have been elected over the past two years, as the voters made it clear they were tired of out-of-control spending and administration actions and policies that have driven more than 300 teachers out of the district over a three-year period.

Steele and Landis ignored that wave of change, continuing to vote for such items as eight million dollars in "might-as-well" spending, and nearly $100,000 to replace gym seats that were the wrong color,

Steele resigned Wednesday claiming he felt "threatened" by people who wanted Jim Kimbrough to return to the board to replace Lane Roberts. They sent him letters, they called him, they threatened to attend board meetings.  Apparently, listening to the people when they did not see things the way he did was not something Randy Steele wanted to do.

So he quit.

Landis, as usual, was thoroughly despicable in the way he handled his departure. It was these "new people." They didn't know that when you get on the board, all you have to do is drink copious amounts of water, whisper and giggle with the superintendent while someone else is talking and complain in a shrill voice, "That's not how we do things."

Landis''s resignation letter spelled it out:

During the past year, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the board is turning in a direction that I feel is not in the best interest of kids of Joplin Schools, Political agendas have taken the place of what the focus of the board should be, which is setting policy for the school district.

When the members of the board are getting down in the weeds and trying to take the place of administration, then I know it's time to move on.

While Landis was upset with board members "getting down in the weeds," he showed during the April board meeting that he had no problem whatsoever with a superintendent getting down in the gutter.

Landis, who was conducting the meeting as sitting vice president since Anne Sharp had been voted off the board, did absolutely nothing to stop C. J. Huff as he verbally attacked board members Debbie Fort and Jennifer Martucci.

Now, thankfully, both C. J. Huff and Mike Landis will be in our rear view mirror, a reminder of days when substance was sacrificed for show and teachers were wrapped in an six-and-a-half mile ribbon and sold down the river.

A new day has dawned for the Joplin R-8 School District. The challenges are enormous for those who remain, but the people are engaged and ready to enter the game and help the children succeed, while the obstacles have decided to take their ball and go home.