Sunday, March 20, 2016

Globe six months late on news that Joplin Progress Committee disbanded

For those remaining few who receive all of their news from the Joplin Globe, it must have come as quite a shock to learn that the Joplin Progress Committee, that group of civic-minded Joplin residents (and Webb City and Carl Junction residents who want to tell Joplin residents how to think) no longer exists.

That information was tacked on at the end of an article about Joplin City Council candidates.

As far as I can remember this is the first time the end of the Joplin Progress Committee has been mentioned in the area newspaper of record. The Turner Report broke that story on September 13, 2015- more than six months ago:

The Progress Committee started in November 2013 with much fanfare. Its existence was revealed in a page one Globe story that breathlessly revealed how these people were banding together to find candidates who could best serve Joplin- in other words those who did things the way former City Manager Mark Rohr and former R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff wanted things done.

During the last part of its existence, an endorsement from the Joplin Progress Committee was a kiss of death. In the 2015 board of education election, the committee endorsed incumbent Board President Anne Sharp, Bright Futures USA Chairman Nancy Good and former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts. Of the three, only Roberts won, and that was the result of a protest vote to keep Sharp from returning to the board since voters were fully aware that Roberts, who had been appointed head of the Missouri Department of Safety, would be unable to serve.

In her article today, Globe reporter Debby Woodin quotes the committee's treasurer and spokesman, Webb City resident Clifford Wert, as saying the committee was terminated because those who participated felt it best to make contributions on an individual basis.

Now that is an understatement.

A large number of people in Joplin did not care for the idea of a self-appointed committee of elites telling them how to think and how to vote. Of course, to be fair, anyone could join the Joplin Progress Committee and participate in its deliberations on who to support- as long as $500 was forked over beforehand.

Naturally, that was only to keep the wrong kind of people from becoming involved. You can't be too careful these days.

Anyone who believes that Joplin Progress Committee members are not meeting and deciding how to spend their money probably also believes that the City Council should have paid former council member Mike Woolston's attorney fees.

Today's Globe article seems to be an effort by the remnants of the Progress Committee to make us think there is no longer any interference in local city council and school board races.

We are not that gullible.

The following is what I wrote on September 13, 2015:

The Joplin Progress Committee, the group of well-heeled power brokers who wanted to tell the rest of us how to vote in city council and board of education elections, is no longer open for business. at least not in an official capacity.

The committee, which has had mixed results in its efforts, filed termination papers with the Missouri Ethics Commission Friday.

The remaining $2,179.68 in the committee's bank account was donated to the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas.

The committee started with a mission to elect council members and board members who believed in their vision of sitting back and letting administrators, primarily City Manager Mark Rohr and Superintendent C. J. Huff, totally run the show.

That mission became more one of payback when the City Council, by a 5-4 vote, fired Rohr in February 2014. Two of those who voted against Rohr, Jack Golden and Trisha Raney were targeted. Initially, the committee announced it would support candidates Ryan Stanley, Miranda Lewis, Gary Shaw, and Michael Seibert and provided money to Stanley and Seibert (Lewis accepted the endorsement, but not the money).

At the time, the committee did not endorse Councilman Mike Woolston, who was up for re-election since Woolston's name had just been tarnished by the release of the Loraine Report. Later, with no fanfare, the committee released literature backing Woolston along with the other candidates and poured money into his campaign.

All five candidates won.

The results were nowhere near as good in the school board races in 2014 and 2015. The top vote-getter in 2014, Debbie Fort, was not supported by the committee, though it supported the other successful candidates, incumbent Randy Steele and Lynda Banwart.

In 2015, the committee endorsed only one successful school board candidate, former Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts, who had taken the position as head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety. The other successful candidates, Jeff Koch and Jennifer Martucci were not on the committee's list.

The demise of the Joplin Progress Committee does not mean that the efforts by the people who served on the committee and/or contributed to it to gain control of the City Council and Board of Education will cease. Committee members have taken a public relations hit as their efforts have been publicized. That, more than anything else, led to the decision to change tactics

When the committee's existence was first announced in a Joplin Globe article, much was made about committee members wanting to do things aboveboard and where its actions would be open. That apparently is not a concern any more.

Reportedly, top committee members have already tabbed at least one City Council candidate and one Board of Education candidate for the April 2016 election.

For those who complained when I continuously referred to the "secretive Joplin Progress Committee," there will no longer be any reason to complain.

Too much sunshine left our unelected power brokers too uncomfortable, so now they have scurried back into the darkness.

Fortunately, Missouri Ethics Commission records, and past Turner Report posts, reveal to us who participated in the Joplin Progress Committee and further evidence of these efforts to show that this unelected minority's contempt for decisions by the voters can be seen in the names of those who filed petitions in the summer of 2015 to take the decision on filling Board of Education vacancies out of the hands of the duly elected board and place it in the hands of the Jasper County Commission.

The Globe may be eager and willing to accept the demise of the Joplin Progress Committee, (though six months late in reporting it). I intend to follow the money.

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