Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Stage is Set for Springfield-Greene County Parks to Take Over the Skatepark

First, the park board* decided not ro renew an operating agreement with the Springfield Skatepark Association. That contract ran out October 31, 2007, according to a City of Springfield news release, leaving one to conclude that the operating agreement the park board "elected not to sign," was an agreement all parties had been satisfied with for at least one year.

Now, again, according to the City's news release, the public is informed that "the Springfield Skatepark Association has elected not to sign a new operating agreement for the Skatepark facility."

The Park Board proposed changes to the original agreement in 2006, when the Park Board and the Skatepark Association began meeting "to try to work out a new agreement in anticipation of the contract expiring on Oct. 31, 2007."

In the meantime, the City's news release reminds us that, "In late 2007, the Springfield R-12 Board of Education offered to donate the property on which the majority of the Skatepark facility is located at 945 W. Meadowmere St. to the City."

It was recommended the City Council approve acceptance of the donated property. When City Council approved it, the donation, the news release reports, "eliminated the need for a lease agreement between the Park Board and the R-12 Board, which streamlined the ownership process."

"After receiving the donation offer, a third mediation session was scheduled in January 2008 based on these new circumstances and as an opportunity to possibly resolve this matter with the Skatepark Association."

It seems, to me, those "new circumstances" could have had the effect of taking all leverage away from the Springfield Skatepark Association and putting all the leveraging weight at the end of the Park Board's citizen-approved-1/4-cent-sales-tax-sponsored-teeter-totter. Not such a good position from which the Springfield Skatepark Association was forced to negotiate.

But, the Park Board and the City Council attended the third mediation session in January 2008, "to demonstrate their commitment to resolving the matter, to attempt to keep the Association involved in operating the facility, and to avoid unnecessary litigation."

As long as the Park Board and the City Council attended the mediation session, "to demonstrate their commitment to resolving the matter, to attempt to keep the Association involved in operating the facility, and to avoid unnecessary litigation," what can any disgruntled, dissatisfied, Skate Park Association Board member or supporter say?

The Park Board attempted, they really attempted, to negotiate a new and improved agreement with the Springfield Skatepark Association and that Springfield Skatepark Association, "has elected not to sign a new operating agreement for the Skatepark facility," you know, that agreement based on those new circumstances?

According to this News-Leader story, Springfield Skatepark Association President Annette Weatherman said, "In those mediations, they never conceded one thing to us," she said. "They didn't want to work with us. They just simply wanted to take the skate park."

The city's news release touted all the money taxpayers have spent on the Skatepark as the Parks Department used "voter-approved Parks and Recreation Sales Tax," but didn't bother to outline the expenditures of the Skatepark Association, only noting the Springfield Skatepark Association, "showed a loss of $9,371 for 2002; and a loss of $8,176 for 2003," and then, the news release further noted, "the Springfield Skatepark Association could not or has not provided IRS forms for 2004-2007."

I'd have to verify it, but I believe, unless a business shows a profit, they aren't required to file IRS forms, so just file that away in your take it with a grain of salt file, meaning, since I haven't verified it, you should verify it, yourself, before accepting it as fact.

Now, "The Park Board and City regret that no resolution has been reached with the Skatepark Association and that the Board has been left with no choice except to take legal action to regain possession of the facility in order to address park policy, safety and liability concerns."

Again, from the News-Leader story, Public Information Director Louise Whall was reported to have said, "the city and the park board worked hard to reach an agreement with the Skatepark Association," adding, "The most important thing we want to stress is that we don't want to close the skate park," she said. "We want to make it a great experience for the people who are currently using it and bring more people into the facility."

The most important thing to stress to whom, Louise?

There are, certainly, some things that trouble me about the way this news was reported, by the city's public information office, to have failed due to the Springfield Skatepark Association's election not to sign a new operating agreement. The city might even have good reason to take over Skatepark operations, but since all parties "signed confidentiality agreements regarding the actual mediation," the public isn't likely to receive answers to questions regarding this matter.

Springfield Skatepark Association members, employees and/or volunteers of the Springfield Skatepark have no reason for dismay, however, there is a silver lining. Anyone working there now can always apply for a job working at and for the Park Department's new operation. All applicants will be "considered."

You know, it isn't my intention to question everything the city/city-county park's department does as suspect, (well, yeah it is, but only because they seem to set it up that way, leaving more questions than answers in many cases, and that isn't my fault). I just really think it's important to consider both sides of the story. In this case, we really can't. If the Springfield Skatepark Association shares their side of the story, they'll be breaking a confidentiality agreement they signed. We don't even know the circumstances of that signing, was it a condition of the negotiations? It's doubtful the Skatepark Association could even tell us that, because, if it was a condition of the negotiations, then the circumstances under which it was signed by the parties also falls under the confidentiality agreement. All I can say is, if the city of Springfield wants to be perceived by the public as being open and transparent, this isn't the way to accomplish that goal.

If you'd like to read the city's news release in its entirety, Community Free Press has made it available on their website, where you can read all the City's news releases, any time, by clicking on their City of Springfield link.

Jim Lee of busplunge also has it posted at his blog, "Park Board / Skatepark Association At Impasse: Sk8rs Run Risk Of Losing Say In Operation," where he weighs in with his opinion.

Also, be sure to read the News-Leader story, as linked above. The Springfield Skatepark Association doesn't appear to be taking this news lying down. There's more on that at in the News-Leader story.

*All emphasis mine

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

President of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Charles A. Birnbaum, Issues Press Release Regarding Park Central Square


Media Contact:
Andrea Hill, The Cultural Landscape Foundation

The Cultural Landscape Foundation Hails Decision of Missouri State Historic Preservation Office Finding Springfield’s Park Central Square’s Eligible for Listing in the National Register

Recognition is first ever for work by living landscape architect Lawrence Halprin

(Washington, DC – May 23, 2008) – On May 22, 2008, the city of Springfield, Missouri’s Park Central Square, which had been threatened with almost total demolition, became the first work by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin deemed eligible to the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. The Missouri State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) determined the square “eligible for listing in the National Register” because its design is “the work of a master.” Ninety-one year old Lawrence Halprin, a Presidential Medal of Arts winner and designer of the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC, is known for his visionary urban landscapes such as Freeway Park in Seattle, Washington, and the Chain of Open Spaces in Portland, Oregon, which are celebrated places of those cities.

The determination of Springfield’s Park Central Square’s eligibility is significant not only because it is the first Halprin landscape so recognized, but because the park was designed in 1970, and thus less than 50 years old, a baseline for assessing eligibility. The Square, an early urban design commission for Halprin, was viewed by the city as an agent for downtown revitalization that would yield a “public Square for beauty, convenience, commerce and fun [with] a different feel which will be easily perceptible to everyone.” Constructed for $2 million (nearly $12 million in 2008 dollars), the Square, lauded at the time of its opening, has suffered from years of poor and deferred maintenance, and the city proposed to demolish nearly all of it.

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), which saw the Halprin-designed Skyline Park in Denver, Colorado, razed in 2003 – a decision now regretted throughout that city – intervened. TCLF noted the use of state or federal money in the Square’s demolition automatically triggered a federally mandated determination of eligibility, known as a Section 106 compliance review (refers to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act). TCLF became a lead consulting party for the review.

Along with recognizing Halprin’s significance to the Square, the SHPO determined the work proposed by the city of Springfield would have resulted in an adverse effect to the historic site. According to Mark Miles, Director, Missouri SHPO, “We felt that Park Central Square was an extremely important resource, both for the City of Springfield and for the State. It represents the work of a major figure in the field of landscape design and is significant resource from the recent past. We are grateful to the City and FHWA that an alternative approach to the project was developed--one that will permit much needed public and private investment to continue to take place in the downtown Springfield area while allowing time to fully explore preservation sensitive options and alternatives for the Halprin-designed Square. We are confident that design approaches can be developed that address the City's and the citizens of Springfield's concerns as well as protecting the significant elements of this important historic design."

“I must say that I feel immensely honored to hear that Park Central Square is eligible for the National Register,” said Mr. Halprin. “I soon hope to hear that it has gained full recognition for I know that such attention usually leads to renewed public appreciation and involvement. I have always felt that in a democracy, citizens must remain vigilant and involved regarding their important shared resources.”

“We look forward to helping the City in any way we can through this process so they can revitalize their downtown while maintaining their historic assets,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF president, adding, “as the process continues, we trust more and more citizens of Springfield will recognize they have a gem in their midst.”

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), established in 1998, is the only not-for-profit foundation in America dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness of the important legacy of cultural landscapes and to help save them for future generations. For more information, please go to the TCLF’s website,

# # #

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Opinion on Park Central Square and Other Current Issues

It's a rainy, Saturday morning. There's a robin out in the yard, soaking wet, no doubt finding plenty of worms washed up by the rain. The thunder is getting more and more distant and my day is just beginning. In fact, I've only drank half of my first cup of coffee (heh, this was two hours ago, now).

I've checked out the News-Leader already. I read the story about Randy D. Sloan's nudity and how his Attorney defends (the) case('s) dismissal. This hasn't been a story I had been following very closely. Beyond listening to Vincent David Jericho's Podcast of his interview with Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore, and sharing a few emails with a fellow blogger friend about it. I think my blogger friend is probably right in his thinking there is more to the story than the original knee-jerk reaction. In cases like this I prefer to see what the courts decide, but certainly there's no denying that a man should not be nude on his front porch around school children, any school children, elementary or otherwise, in fact, a man just shouldn't be nude on his front porch at all.

I noticed that Ron Paul supporters were characterized as cult followers in the leed of another story:

"Ron Paul, the Texas Republican with a cult-like following, will be in Branson on Friday for a 7 p.m. "freedom rally" at the Tri-Lakes Center, according to the schedule on his campaign Web site."

Some Ron Paul supporters may be cult-like in their following of Paul, just as some Obama supporters seem to be cult-like in their following of Obama, but those who don't follow Paul in a cult-like trance will probably be greatly offended by such a blanket statement. I know a few Paul supporters, and no, I'm not among their number, who will feel mischaracterized by that leed, and rightfully so.

The first story I read this morning, however, was Focus now on square perimeter. It was a fair story, not all of the stories and information about the square have been balanced, offering both sides of the issue. There has been an agenda.

At any rate, after writing my own story regarding the provenance of Park Central Square, Square Sinks into Controversy, for the May 7 issue of CFP Midweek, in which I simply tried to present a balanced article on the issue, and, since I have been following this issue closely,I decided it's an appropriate time to share my opinion, if anyone is interested in reading about it.

The first time I saw Butler Rosenbury & Partners proposed design plan for renovations on Park Central Square was at a City Council luncheon, held at Springfield/Branson National Airport. At the time I thought some of the ideas were very nice but my own concerns were addressed by Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky's query about whether the $1 million promised to be spent on the square renovation would cover all the costs of the many beautiful features Tim Rosenbury had presented. The answer was no, but Rosenbury assured the Council he wouldn't bring something to Council for approval without fleshing out some ideas on how it could be financed and it could be done in phases. So, okay.

Later, I don't even remember the date, Rosenbury showed his presentation at another Council luncheon, you'll find that presentation here. I thought it was great, I really liked it.

Mrs. Ruth Kelley addressed the Council the day Rosenbury presented the final proposed design, at that luncheon. It was shortly after her letter appeared in the News-Leader, (since gone to archive at the News-Leader website, but can still be read here, at The Cultural Landscape Foundation's website).

While I really liked Ruth Kelley's letter, and had even made it a recommended reading at this blog, at that time I was of a mind that if the city just saved Halprin's fountain that would be enough.

Really, at that point, I didn't care that much and thought it was a good idea to renovate the square, I did like the existing square and thought it could have been restored using less money, but I was willing to go along. After all, it was part of the Heer's agreement with McGowan, so it's not like citizens had any choice about whether the money was going to be spent or not and Rosenbury touted there'd been over 750 people to weigh in on the design criteria, on what they'd like to see happen with the square.

By the time the special council meeting was called and the Council approved the design concept I had a little better understanding of who Lawrence Halprin was and I had begun to start having misgivings about the wisdom of paving over (how else would the city level the existing sunken plaza?) Halprin's work. I was thinking, "this could be a great boon to Springfield, this could put us on the map, think of the eclectic, artsy types who might plan their vacations around famous landscape sites, think of how Springfield could promote this! Doesn't Springfield like to think of itself as an artist's mecca? Don't we have First Friday Artwalk Events?"

Yes, I had begun to become a Lawrence Halprin fan and I was also becoming very concerned that the rest of Springfield's citizenry hadn't been properly educated on the provenance of the square and without proper education on what we have, how could an educated decision be made about what we want?

At the February 12, special called, Tuesday morning Council meeting, where the majority of Council approved Rosenbury's design, my opinion is that there was a rush to approve the proposal. I'm not sure how anyone could argue otherwise. The Council's discussion of an email received from Kevin McGowan of Blue Urban, the developer of the Heer's Tower, indicated McGowan was putting some pressure on Council and the Council was very mindful of the August 1 deadline the City had agreed to under contract with McGowan. The contract gave McGowan the option of forcing the city to buy back the Heer's Tower if construction on renovation of the square wasn't begun by that August 1 deadline.

I've silently noted that there are some who would like to characterize those concerned about the provenance of the square as being "obstructionists" against what the majority of Springfieldians want downtown but believing the citizens of Springfield weren't properly apprised of the provenance of that square and the status of Lawrence Halprin's designs while considering what they wanted on the square, I believe that is an unfair characterization. I also noted that someone cast a bit of aspersion on my identification of Partner for Public Spaces as BRP's programming "partner" at another blog, enclosing "partner" in quotation marks, but, for the sake of clarification on that matter, I got that identifier straight out of the mouth of Tim Rosenbury, himself, so I felt very comfortable in using it. That was how Rosenbury described Partner for Public Spaces at the special February 12 Council meeting.

Now, the question in my mind is how could anyone not be exited and thrilled that our public square, Park Central Square, was designed by a famous landscape architect, a world renowned landscape architect!? How can this be considered a bad thing, an awful development!? Why wouldn't ALL of Springfield celebrate such a thing? It makes no sense to me.

I'm ecstatic, yes, I'm celebrating the fact that Lawrence Halprin designed our square and that it has been deemed eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Now all of Springfield knows it. Now real discussions can begin on how to preserve the wonderful asset Springfield has! This is a good thing, how can it be a bad thing? I would also think that every business owner downtown, including Kevin McGowan, would be ecstatic over this wonderful, fantastic news!

Stuart Soloman began the discussion in the May 21 issue of Community Free Press. Be sure and catch his column, "Looking Back to Move Forward," page 7.

Let's look back at what we have, what was planned by Halprin and not implemented, what was lost over the years of the original design (for instance, originally there were stone benches in the park instead of the ugly multiple coated green ones there now, where are those stone benches today?) and then lets move forward and celebrate this fantastic news. We all want what is best for Springfield. It wasn't in the best interest of Springfield to let Park Central Square run down, what about using some money to maintain what we have instead of building things only to let them deteriorate and run down and then bulldoze them under and start over? That would be a good discussion topic for another blog.

Note: I also meant to include another opinion: I, personally, believe Butler Rosenbury & Partners made every effort to point out to the city of Springfield that Lawrence Halprin was a landscape architect of note. The design firm even showed a film spotlighting another Halprin designed park in Oregon. According to Tim Rosenbury, there just wasn't much interest in the provenance of the square on the part of the city.

I had a lovely discussion with Tim Rosenbury back in February and found him to be very forthcoming, honest and direct in responding to my questions and wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that I feel he played a role in dismissing Halprin's relevance. BRP was contracted by the city to offer a design proposal on Park Central Square and, after informing the city of the potential relevance of Halprin's design, he concluded the city had little interest in it and so, he did his job. The design firm of Butler Rosenbury & Partners presented what the city of Springfield had contracted them to present and their firm simply tried their best to please their client.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Park Central Square Decision

Get Councilman Dan Chiles reaction to the news that Park Central Square is eligible for historic listing at Community Free Press - Midweek, here's a tease:

"It turns out that what we have here is like a little teapot on a mantel.You walk past it for 30 years and you never really quite appreciate…you know it’s pretty, so you don’t put it in the garage sale. Then, you take it to one of those Antiques Road Show television shows and they say, "Do you realize that what you have here is of great value?" It gives you a whole new light, a whole new way of appreciating something. You go back and you look at the history of it and how it was made and, once you appreciate something like that, once you understand where it came from, then your esteem for it increases." Councilman Dan Chiles responding to the news that Park Central Square is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Read more...

Park Central Square Eligible for National Register of Historic Places

City of Springfield News Release:

The City of Springfield was notified today that the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the inner section of Park Central Square is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and that the proposed undertaking would have an adverse effect on the Square.

The determination was made in response to the City’s Section 106 application to the Federal Highway Administration and to the SHPO for review that is required when federal funds are used for a project such as the proposed renovation of the Square. The eligibility determination does not designate the Square as an historic site, but means it is eligible for such a designation. Federal law requires that federal agencies take into account the impact of their undertakings on properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register. The SHPO stated that the Square is eligible in the area of Landscape Architecture and is significant for its association with noted landscape designer Lawrence Halprin.

FHWA concurrence with the Determination of Eligibility means that the City would have to work with SHPO, FHWA and other interested parties on mutually agreeable ways to mitigate any potential adverse impact the renovation would have on elements of the Square determined to be eligible for historic designation. There are a variety of ways in which mitigation could take place, such as documenting the current design or preserving historic elements of the current design. FHWA has the final decision on any mitigation measures.

The City believes the mitigation process can’t be completed in time to meet contractual deadlines related to Blue Urban’s renovation of the Heer’s Tower. Therefore, the City will quickly begin discussions with stakeholders about moving forward on Phase II of the renovation project instead of Phase I.

The Phase II renovations noted in the new design plan involve sidewalk improvements, new lighting and potentially narrowing the existing roadway around the perimeter of the Square. This phase of renovations could enlarge the outer perimeter to allow more room for activities like outdoor dining, an outdoor reading area for the Park Central Library Branch and other potential uses by property owners such as Blue Urban and Missouri State University.

The City has consulted with the SHPO and the office has indicated that it will likely be able to complete review of the outer-perimeter renovations to permit construction to start on the project in a timely manner. The federal funding for the project applied to the Square as a whole, so moving ahead on the outer perimeter is consistent with the grant funding.

“The inner Square is a higher-profile part of the project and it elicited the most feedback about changes people would like to see to make the Square more inviting and user friendly,” said Rusty Worley, executive director of Urban Districts Alliance, which coordinated the public-input process for the Square renovation. “However, the outer Square renovation is clearly a high priority and offers immediate benefits to the Library, Heer's, Missouri State University, and the sidewalk cafes.”

If there is consensus among stakeholders and the City Council to move forward on the outer perimeter, City staff and the design team will aggressively move forward on final design and construction documents to try to meet the Aug. 1 contract obligation for the Square renovation to begin. The City also has been consulting about the process with Blue Urban developer Kevin McGowan, who has expressed his support for this alternate plan.

After steps are in place to meet the contractual obligation, the City will revisit the issues associated with the inner Square and re-open the public-input process.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More on 1/8-cent Transportation Tax

Since I had posted about the 1/8-cent transportation tax here, here and here, I wanted to follow up by posting the section of my Council column in Community Free Press - Midweek that covers that issue:

1/8-Cent Transportation Sales Tax

City Council passed Council Bill 2008-116 on May 5. The purpose of the special ordinance was to allow voters to decide whether to continue the 1/8-cent transportation sales tax 4 more years, from 2009-2012.

The current tax is set to elapse in August, 2009. Councilman Gary Deaver was interested in the process of choosing the projects funded by the transportation tax.

“We work in partnership with MoDOT, Greene County, and the city and really look at where we can get the most value for the transportation dollars that we have,” Director of Public Works Marc Thornsberry answered.

Even though some believe there is subjective language in the ballot, voters have approved the transportation tax three times, beginning in 1996.

The language people have questioned includes unidentified “high priority transportation improvements,” and “other shared funding projects.”

Parking improvements for economic development priorities showed up on the 2000 ballot and street and parking were included as high priority transportation investments in 2004.

This year’s ballot language does not specify parking, but includes “other shared funding projects with county, state, federal, and developers to advance high-priority transportation projects,” which are identified in the bill as, “related to economic development and quality of life enhancements.”

Springfield’s Director of Public Information, Louise Whall, offered insight regarding the general language of the bill and ballot.

“We can’t predict with certainty whether any new opportunities or challenges will present themselves over the four-year period, i.e., a developer proposes a major retail center that needs additional infrastructure and asks for public-private cost-share or MoDOT‘s schedule changes and a project develops that could be a cost-share,” she said.

The transportation tax was used, in part, to fund the College Station and Heer’s Car Parks. According to Whall,the combined amount used from the transportation tax to build the parking garages was $2,836,950. more...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yes, the budget is a living breathing document

Okay, Councilman Wylie, I know the budget is a living document, after all it gets amended over and over throughout the year.

It still concerns me when I read something like this:

"Maerz said in years past the program has often gone over budget, so the cuts proposed will be more dramatic than they appear."

When a department head is so flippant about the fact that a program has "often gone over budget," it makes me wonder how many other programs go over budget. What is the process for going over budget? Does the Council approve it? Are the funds taken from somewhere else?

The budget is supposed to be balanced and if it is balanced, allowing a certain amount for such a program (or any number of others) and it (and any number of others) goes over budget, then where does that money come from? It has to come from somewhere.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I was fifteen

you said,


I remembered that today

I watched a wren's throat as she sang

Remember Spike

His front paws left the ground
when he barked
and he never came when you called him
like a deaf dog

deaf dog

Remember the first day
we spent together
He got away from us


We found him in the fence row

acting like a deaf dog


Remember him

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Recommended Reading 14 - The Village Law

Sarah Overstreet of the News-Leader commanded the ire of Governor Matt Blunt's chief of staff, Trish Vincent, today; but what the hooey?

(That's not to say Vincent doesn't make some valid points)

But (sorry, Stu) Sarah's also got a great column in today's paper.

Your village, your way is recommended reading 14.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Recommended Reading 13: Park Central Square

The Community Free Press - Midweek has the most in depth coverage on Park Central Square:

See: CFP Exclusive: City Holds Meeting on Square's Historic Designation

Read the Cultural Landscape Foundation's response to the State Historic Preservation Office and the email answer from Bob Cumley regarding Councilman Dan Chiles questions about the square, including the City Manager's update on the square's section 106 status from May 6, 2008.

There are also other important and informative links at CFP's website regarding the square and the section 106 process.

More: From the News-Leader, Square renovation plans in hands of state agency

Monday, May 12, 2008

Park Central Square Provenance

No claim was made that City told Tim Rosenbury of Butler Rosenbury & Partners, Inc. not to research famous landscape designer Lawrence Halprin's involvement in design of Park Central Square

At another local blog, a quote from Charles A. Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landmark Foundation, was discussed and responded to by local architect Tim Rosenbury, of Butler Rosenbury & Partners. For a refresher, here is the direct quote from Mr. Birnbaum as published in the Community Free Press and at this blog:

“In my conversation with Tim Rosenbury back in early February, he noted that, in his initial presentation to the city, his firm raised the question of Mr. Halprin’s involvement. Rosenbury noted that the city suggested provenance was not a significant consideration and he was dissuaded from researching any Halprin involvement.”

A question posed by the local blogger led Mr. Rosenbury to make a statement that nobody from the city had told him to NOT look into the provenance of the square as relates to famous architect Lawrence Halprin, so I felt it was my duty to point out, as the writer of the article to which the blogger referred, that Mr. Birnbaum never made the claim that the city HAD told him not to look into Mr. Halprin's involvement or the significance of his role in the design of the square.

Mr. Birnbaum never made the suggestion that anyone from the city of Springfield had told Rosenbury or his design firm not to look into Halprin's involvement in Park Central Square's design and neither did CFP.

Rosenbury clearly let the city know that Halprin's involvement may be of some significance:

At the special Council meeting in February, Rosenbury told the Council, “…during the presentation that we made to the selection committee we had a slide of another square that Halprin designed in Portland and we made the point that that may be of some significance.”

In a strawman sort of way, Rosenbury's answer could be interpreted that Mr. Birnbaum had said that Rosenbury had told him someone from the city expressly told him not to research any Halprin involvement, possibly giving the impression that Birnbaum was lying, but that is not what the president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation said at all .

Mr. Birnbaum stated that Rosenbury told him "he was dissuaded from researching any Halprin involvement."

My interpretation (assumption) would be that the lack of interest on the part of the city in the provenance of the square was enough to dissuade Rosenbury from further research regarding Halprin's involvement in the square design, but Birnbaum didn't expressly indicate why Rosenbury was dissuaded, therefore we don't really know why he and his firm were dissuaded from further research on Halprin involvement and the blogger didn't bother to ask that question.

For clarification, the question CFP asked was:

Did Springfield Consider Provenance of Park Central Square Before Acting?

I'm not sure we have yet received a clear answer to that question. Mr. Birnbaum claimed: "Rosenbury noted that the city suggested provenance was not a significant consideration," and that is all that Mr. Birnbaum claimed to know about the city's interest in the provenance of the square as reported in CFP.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

City Budget: A "living, breathing document?"

In: Pay for learning worth tweaking, The News-Leader's "Our Voice" column supports reimbursing city employees for college credits. I was interested to read this section:

"City Human Resources Director Sheila Maerz speaks with passion about the program, saying, "Developing a person is far better than developing job skills." She said employees in the past have trained outside their job requirements and gone on to bigger, more important roles within city government.

Maerz said in years past the program has often gone over budget, so the cuts proposed will be more dramatic than they appear. For instance, she said the program spent $194,000 in the last year for which she had figures."*

Question: If city departments are allowed to go over budget anyway, then why bother having a budget and why bother going to all the trouble of having the City Council approve it?

It appears it's just a piece of paper and departments can go over budget on programs anyway.

"The cuts proposed will be more dramatic than they appear."

Give me a break.

*emphasis mine

Arrogance and Elitism

because idiots are slow learners

arrogance - : an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions

elitism - : the selectivity of the elite; especially : snobbery
(snobbery - : snobbish conduct or character)

A very nice man once told me that I don't have to introduce myself as a "citizen" journalist. I didn't ask him why he thought I shouldn't feel obligated to identify myself in such a way, but I was thinking that he felt by identifying myself as a "citizen" journalist that maybe I was somehow denigrating myself, announcing my creditials weren't quite as "up to snuff" as other journalists who didn't feel the need to announce themselves in such a way. Now, this man is about as far away from being arrogant or elitist as anyone I've ever met in my life. He didn't mean there was anything wrong with being a "citizen" journalist, he simply didn't feel it was necessary to attach that moniker to myself.

There aren't any "citizen" doctors or "citizen" lawyers because one is required to go to school, get a degree and become licensed to practice medicine or practice law. You don't have to get a license to write for a newspaper, anyone can take a stab at it, and, if you're lucky, you'll get an opportunity to write and continue to write. It's partly a willingness to do it, not everyone enjoys the craft and not everyone who does enjoy the craft is blessed with an opportunity to exercise it. I've been blessed, but that's only sort of what this is about. The fact is: if a person writes journalistic articles for a paper and gets paid for writing them, they move into the professional realm. It's very simple.

This posting isn't about nice people whose message is that citizen journalists are valuable and can be as credible as those who are simply journalists, without the "citizen" moniker.

I'm really becoming concerned about arrogant elitism. I experience it myself and I watch as others experience it, heck, even State Auditor Susan Montee experienced it when she dared to audit such a "special" utility as CU. It's complicated, you know, auditing a utility company, that's different than auditing anything else in the world (or so some would have us believe).

If questioning a person's ability, even a professional and highly capable person's ability, doesn't work, that's okay....There are other ways to denigrate and disenfranchise them, a proper arrogant elitist can always pull the "politics" card. See: CU electric customers pay for those using gas. Read the comment left by anonymous poster, "Whereitsat." (I couldn't help but wonder if "Whereitsat" knows "It's All Downtown?")

A Springfield "citizen," Donna Bergen, had the gall to actually question some of City Utilities practices and remind other citizens about some of the questions State Auditor Susan Montee raised concerning certain practices of the public (sic) utility. "Whereitsat's" ire was engaged and that's fair game, I suppose. Question the questioner. Make the issue about something besides the issue, sure, why not?

Yes, I'm concerned about arrogance and elitism because much of the time it involves denigrating and disenfranchising the "citizen" questioner and/or the "citizen" journalist.

Why should those in a power position, read: City Utilities executives/board members, Springfield city staff, doctors, lawyers, etc., etc., etc., have to answer to you? (!) Who do you think you are? (!) Trust us,

"...just trust us,

...we're special and this is complicated (you, idiot!), or we're special and this isn't complicated and I just don't understand why you'd be confused....(you, idiot!)"

More often than not, when one is finished questioning an arrogant elitist one takes away the feeling that, "gee, I had no business questioning that superior professional in the first place," and I suspect that's just what the arrogant elitist wants the citizen, whether journalist or not, to believe, that is, if one believes they actually practice it by design (and I'm not so sure they do, it just seems to come naturally to them). At any rate, when they get through with you, hopefully, the superior and mightily, intelligent person won't have to deal with your idiotic, assinine questions in the future and you will have learned your lesson not to show your idiotic face around there again.

There's only one problem with that. Much to the

chagrin - : disquietude or distress of mind caused by humiliation, disappointment, or failure

of some arrogant elitists, us uneducated and easily confused idiots can be very slow learners.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Square Sinks into Controversy

The debate over famed architect Lawrence Halprin’s involvement continues to haunt downtown revitalization.

(Note: This is an article I wrote for the May 7 - May 20 issue of Community Free Press - Midweek)

by Jackie Melton
CFP Contributor

The City Council called a special meeting in February to pass resolution 9570, “authorizing city staff to adopt the design proposal of Butler Rosenbury & Partners, Inc. (BRP) for the downtown square.”

There were concerns, at the time, about meeting an August 1 deadline on construction of the square. Under the terms of the city’s agreement with the purchaser of the Heer’s Tower, if the city does not begin construction to redevelop the square by that date, the owner can exercise a “put option” and force the city to buy back the Heer’s Tower. The stipulation put the city under a lot of pressure to move forward on the BRP design concept.

At that time, Councilman Dan Chiles suggested the city meet with renowned Park Central Square designer, Lawrence Halprin. He felt consulting with Halprin on the design might stave off challenges by historic landmark groups. There was no apparent interest in the suggestion and the resolution passed by a majority vote of Council.

“It would have been prudent for someone, and I’m saying either the (city) staff or the contractor, to look and see what we have, which is a Lawrence Halprin-designed square,” Chiles said. “It turns out, that guy and his firm is the single, most respected and honored landscape architectural firm in the United States.”

The challenge Chiles feared came in the form of a letter to Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator, Allen Masuda. In it, Jennifer Sandy, the program officer of the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP),advised Masuda they wanted to participate in the Park Central Square review process, pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

The NTHP also expressed concern about the city moving forward with plans for the square prior to seeking compliance with the NHPA. Since the city has been granted federal highway money to perform the work, the city is required to insure the money spent will not jeopardize an existing historic work.

In a letter written to the Mayor and members of City Council, Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith assured them the city was following the rules. “Staff has been steadily working on this project since the City Council endorsed the design….” Smith wrote.

In a report the city submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in late April, the city built a case that Halprin was minimally involved in the project.

The report claimed employee George McLaughlin and unknown other representatives of Lawrence Halprin & Associates made trips to Springfield but there was no indication that Halprin, himself, ever came here.

“Of the 24 concepts found in the Halprin Collection, only one or two appear to be drawn in the loose, organic sketch and design style of Lawrence Halprin….It appears that neither concept was pursued beyond sketch level,” the report said.

Charles A. Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation disagrees. In an e-mail, Birnbaum wrote there was much more evidence of Halprin’s involvement in the design of Park Central Square than the city suggested. “I am disappointed by the manipulation of the findings,” Birnbaum wrote in response to the report the city of Springfield submitted to SHPO.

“In my conversation with Tim Rosenbury back in early February, he noted that, in his initial presentation to the city, his firm raised the question of Mr. Halprin’s involvement. Rosenbury noted that the city suggested provenance was not a significant consideration and he was dissuaded from researching any Halprin involvement.”

At the special Council meeting in February, Rosenbury told the Council, “…during the presentation that we made to the selection committee we had a slide of another square that Halprin designed in Portland and we made the point that that may be of some significance.”

After BRP’s design was adopted, Rosenbury told CFP he felt a responsibility to observe the use and revitalization criteria that came out of the public input process on the square. That process was said to have included at least 750 people. Many of the people who provided input were members of focus groups chosen by BRP’s programming partner, Partner for Public Spaces.

Former Halprin associate, George McLaughlin, also disagreed with the idea that Halprin’s work was minimal on the project.

“The only one who can professionally be credited with the project design is Lawrence Halprin,” McLaughlin wrote to correct what he felt were misrepresentations in another newspaper.

The concluding paragraph of the city’s report to SHPO reads, in part: “…There is no evidence in the Halprin Collection of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania that indicates that Lawrence Halprin had an ongoing, direct role in the project.”


Informational boxes:

Park Central Square Redevelopment Timeline

> February 15: Develop and refine design at the detail level

> May 15: Submit plans to Public Works for final approval

> June 1: Release for contractor bid

> July 1: Receive contractor bids

> July 15: Submit bids to Council for approval, prepare notice to proceed and paperwork

> August 1: Start of Construction (August 1 is the date the city is bound to begin improvements under the Heer’s building agreement).

Source: Tim Rosenbury of Butler Rosenbury Partners, Inc. at the February 12 Council meeting

Excerpts from February 12, 2008 Meeting Minutes

> Mr. (Ralph) Manley added his belief that Council should adopt this resolution as soon as possible.

> John Wylie noted his belief that this bill should be passed today.

> Mr. (Dan) Chiles expressed concern that the proposed may violate provisions included in section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

> Gary Deaver noted Council had received an e-mail from Mr. McGowan (purchaser of the Heer’s Tower) expressing his concern regarding further delays.

> Mary Collette noted her disappointment that Mr. Halprin’s design was not discussed earlier.

> Mr. Manley noted decisions need to be made immediately so no further delays will occur.

> Ms. Collette noted a plaque could be placed by the Halprin fountain to commemorate Mr. Halprin’s design.

> Council Bill 2008-052 (substitute #1) Resolution 9570 was approved by the following vote: Ayes: Deaver, Collette, Wylie, Manley, Rushefsky, and Burlison. Nays: Chiles. Abstain: None. Absent: Carlson

Source: Springfield City Clerk Brenda Cirtin, to view the complete meeting minutes go to

Monday, May 05, 2008

Transportation Tax Uses - TBA

Regarding the general nature of what the transportation tax can be used for, here is Ms. Whall's answer:

"We will be developing the project list in more detail, similar to what is on the Web site for previous project lists, for the election materials after it receives final approval."

I hope the language is less general in nature than that in Bill 2008-116.

Confusion by design???

Sometimes I wonder

Edit: The parks projects were not a part of the Transportation Tax Funding. That was a different tax. I still think it was confusing to list it on the informational page for transportation funding. Ms. Whall has provided me with a link to a page that doesn't include it but that doesn't change the fact that it was included on the page I viewed, originally. I am trying to get some additional information that I will post regarding the general nature of what the transportation tax can be used for before adding any more. I'll have a separate post on that soon. - J.

I may have some clarification coming for this post, relating to Council Bill 2008-116. First, I will have to make sure I understand what the City's Information Director is telling me before I can clarify it for the readers of this blog. I have sent off an email with questions for clarification. As soon as I hear back and have a better understanding I will share it here.

There seems to be some confusion on my part. I expected when I entered transportation tax into the city's search bar and came up with a page titled 1/8 cent transportation tax that the informational page headed that way would pertain to the 1/8 cent transportation tax.

Apparently, there is information about other tax revenue that may or may not be related to the transportation tax on the transportation tax informational page.

Rather confusin' don't you think?

~ Jackie

Council Bill 2008-132

...and a refresher course on procedure for addressing the Council

Item 13 is Council Bill 2008-132 and regards the city budget, for public hearing:

"PUBLIC HEARING WILL BE HELD FOLLOWING SECOND READING BILLS. NOT ANTICIPATED TO BE VOTED ON. A special ordinance adopting a budget for the City of Springfield, Missouri, for the fiscal year July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009 and providing that certain amounts shown in the budget document are appropriated for the various departments specified in said budget, and declaring an emergency."

The Council may decide to hold the public hearing over but aren't required to do so. That means if you have a comment on the city budget, tonight will be the night to address council about it.

Since it is an item on the agenda, it isn't necessary to do anything other than show up, fill out a card (found in the back of the pew in front of you) and submit it to the City Clerk, Brenda Cirtin.

There are two times when it is necessary to contact the City Clerk on the Friday before the Council meeting to speak to an issue. The first is when the bill is going to be read for the second time (meaning public hearing is closed), unless the Council has decided to continue the public hearing beyond the first reading. Unfortunately, in the case of a second reading bill, the Council has already heard the public and should you choose to speak regarding a second reading bill, under "petitions, remonstrances, and communications," generally you'll be called upon after the Council has already voted on the bill. The other instance in which you'd need to contact the Clerk on the Friday before the Council meeting is when you want to address the Council on an issue that is not appearing on the agenda at all.


The bill regarding the budget will be read for the first time tonight so the public may address the Council simply by filling out a card provided at the back of the pew in front of them and submitting it to City Clerk Brenda Cirtin before the bill comes up for reading.

The bill highlighted in the previous post, 2008-116, regarding the 1/8 cent sales tax revenue for transportation has already been read, the public hearing has not been extended by the Council, therefore the public hearing is closed. You may submit your name to the Clerk the Friday before the meeting and address the Council about it but you'll likely be addressing them after they have already voted either for or against the bill. You'll have your chance to make a further statement in this specific instance when you vote for or against the extension of the 1/8 cent transportation sales tax.

Suppose you want to address the Council tonight about the Pythian Castle or tell the Council what your favorite flavor of ice cream happens to be, in that case, you would have needed to have submitted your name to the Clerk last Friday by 5:00 p.m. to get listed under "petitions, remonstrances, and communications," if you didn't, tough luck, submit your name the Friday before the next meeting because that's the rule. You would not be recognized tonight unless you submitted your name to the Clerk last Friday because there is no bill on the agenda regarding the Pythian Castle or ice cream. (Now, could you submit your name to speak under Bill 2008-132 and then spend your time talking about the Pythian Castle and/or ice cream? You could try it. I suspect you'd get called down by the Mayor and reminded that this bill is regarding the budget, not the Pythian Castle and not belgian chocolate, and advised to follow protocol to speak to an unrelated issue.)

Now, regarding items found on the "Consent Agenda," that's a whole 'nuther thing. There are procedures for speaking to items on the consent agenda. Maybe I'll post about that another time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Council Bill 2008-116

Item 25 on the City Council Agenda for May 5 is Council Bill 2008-116.

"A special ordinance calling an election on August 5, 2008 in the City of Springfield, Missouri, to submit to the qualified voters a question as to whether or not to continue a one-eighth of one percent transportation sales tax on retail sales within the City of Springfield, Missouri, for high priority transportation improvements, providing for a sunset on the tax at the end of four years, and declaring an emergency."

One thing on the list of items approved for expenditures from this sales tax revenue that Springfield voters may not realize is:

Center City Parking

Revenue from the 1/8-cent sales tax for transportation will be used to construct additional parking in Center City to enhance current revitalization efforts.

Another use of the funds people might find of interest is its subsidy of the parks.

In 1998-1999 several projects were completed involving parking and other improvement projects for area parks. One might question whether it is a good use of transportation funds for roofing, building expansions, etc., considering parks already has their own funding - some might consider the parking lots and facilities in area parks as being part and parcel of the respective park.

Some examples, projects completed unless noted otherwise:

Cooper Park Soccer Improvements
Chesterfield Park/Gym Multipurpose Wing
Greenway Development
Nathanael Greene Park Parking
Oak Grove Community Center Roof
Park Improvements Programs
PK Land/School/PK Land Acquisiton - ongoing
Park Reforestation/Irrigation
Ray Kelly Senior Center Expansion
Washington Park Improvement
Young-Lilley Park Improvement
Zoo Improvement ADA Requirement

I thought people might like to know that the funds can be used to fund Center City parking garages and subsidize the parks. Everyone likes to have a place to park when heading to "Center City," (which seems to keep expanding, by the way - that's another item on the agenda) and people can decide whether they think the parks ought to be paying for their own parking lots and improvements or if the transportation fund should be subsidizing that for them.

Edit: The parks projects were not a part of the Transportation Tax Funding. That was a different tax. I still think it was confusing to list it on the informational page for transportation funding. Ms. Whall has provided me with a link to a page that doesn't include it but that doesn't change the fact that it was included on the page I viewed, originally. I am trying to get some additional information that I will post regarding the general nature of what the transportation tax can be used for before adding any more. I'll have a separate post on that soon. - J.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Metro Republicans will meet tonight

The Springfield Metro Republicans are hosting a meeting tonight (May 1) at 7:00 p.m.

The topic will be the Springfield City Charter.

If you would like to attend, the meeting will be held at the Library Center, 4653 S Campbell Ave, in rooms A and B.

Death of a parent

I don't like to get too personal at the blog anymore. Call it self protection, if you want.

People who read the comment section know that my Mom passed away in early April. I'm not bringing it up because I want a lot of people to respond with their condolences but rather to share that an old chapter has closed and a new chapter has begun.

It's a rather touchy subject, moving on from the death of someone so close, someone I saw every day, someone I considered my best friend from about the time I was seventeen and up until the time I met my husband, which is how it should be, isn't it?

Now I'm finding and quickly losing extra time. I still think of my Mother every single day and the last couple of days, I've been thinking about how I still think of her every day. I sort of hope I always will but I do hope that, at some point, instead of remembering her last days, days I worried so about her, days that were so bitter sweet, that I'll spend all my time remembering what a vibrant and full life she led before she got so sick. She really relished life, and she was so fully and completely in love with my step-dad and they had a zest for life that anyone would envy.

There are a lot of emotions that go along with losing a parent and I think maybe it would be healthy for others to see how somebody else deals with it.

First of all, it was horrendous going through those last days. Needing and wanting to see her and yet hardly being able to bear seeing her. The time I went to see her became later and later each day because I hated to see her like that, I hated to see her dying, I hated knowing she was dying, yet, on the other hand, by her own choice of going on hospice and deciding to leave life as comfortably as possible she gave us a great gift of time.

The other choice was a surgery that she likely wouldn't have survived. We could have lost her more quickly if she had chosen the surgery. So, we ended up with 7 1/2 days to say goodbye and I believe the family used those days well. It was a gift to all of us to have those extra days and those extra moments.

Now I am trying to remember her zest for life, the love she showed the people she cared about and her giving nature and I'm reminding myself that she would want nothing less for me, reminding myself she'd want me to live life to the fullest, just as she did.

I loved my Mother, I can't imagine loving anyone more than I loved my Mother, as my husband says, I loved her "hard," very hard.

Then there are feelings of guilt.

Because I have looked forward to having more time to write for CFP and now I do, I feel a bit guilty that I have that time and am enjoying it so much. I couldn't do it while I needed to be spending so much time caring for her.

I also worry about, and have worried about, what people might think of my being able to move on so quickly. I know that seems silly, but I do think about what other people think. You see, when someone loses someone close to them after a long, debilitating disease they see that person's death coming for a long time. I've seen my Mom's death coming for a long time. I didn't think it was going to happen the way it happened but I had known it could happen at any time for the last couple of years. I was braced for it, but I was braced for it to happen differently than it happened. I wasn't braced for her losing her leg. I wasn't braced for taking her to the hospital with an upset stomach one day and her never getting to go home again. I didn't think the day I called the ambulance to take her to the hospital was going to be the day that marked the last day she would ever wake up in her own home. Those things were very difficult to accept for her and for me. We wanted our life back. We wanted the life back we knew. Even though it wasn't the best quality of life, we liked our little routine. We liked our brunches and our time together every day. We liked sitting at the kitchen table watching the birds at the feeder outside the window and we liked being together. We weren't ready to let go of that. I thought I'd walk into her house one morning and she would have gone out suddenly, with no suffering. She would have had a heart attack, or just stopped breathing and I would walk in and call out to her and she wouldn't answer me. I can't tell you how many mornings I prepared myself for that scenario.

I never prepared myself for what we faced, for the road we traveled for the last 6 months of her life.

I've learned a lot about the value of life and I want to make her proud of what I do with the rest of mine. I want to take her spirit of making family, each member, feel special, feel loved, feel worth the time spent with them. There are many things I can learn from the way she lived her life. She had both a childlike naivette and a firm shrewdness. She could be so loving but when she was through, let me tell you, she was through. She was strong and soft hearted, sweet and yet no one's doormat. People are amazingly complicated, aren't they? She was a perfect example of that.

Anyway, I love my Mom, yeah, I still love her in the present tense because I know that I'll never truly be without her. I can think of her every day. I can return to moments of joy and sharing over and over and I can do it anytime I want. She'll never truly be gone.

I don't know if any of this will be helpful to anyone else or not. I've never been one to think my thoughts are any better than anyone else's thoughts, I've often thought they are worse, but not better. Maybe this has just been an exercise for myself, who knows? If it is, though, I'd have just as soon kept it to myself and not laid it out on this blog. I'm a private person. I really don't like to share my personal thoughts that much any more and since I have been practicing, pretty much, straight reporting for CFP for a while, I find sharing my own opinion about things less and less appealing all the time. I'd rather just report what someone else thinks, usually, in my opinion, other people are much more interesting than I am.

Regardless, here's an old, oft repeated piece of advice that no one ever takes seriously (at least I seldom have): Make every moment count with the people you love in your life. Your children will grow up and you'll only have memories of when they were young, your parents will grow old and you'll only have memories of when they were in their prime, you're friends are not invincible, they are very mortal and who knows what can happen? This could also be your own last day. Look at what happened with one of my favorite arguing buddies; John Stone was out taking pictures at Park Central Square one day, the next thing we know we're reading about his death in the paper and I still haven't had the heart to remove his blog from my, personal, list of favorites. Make every moment count. I think I did that, for the most part, with my Mother. I know I'll never regret it and I know that anyone who practices that with the people they love in their lives won't regret it either.

A friend of mine used to paint signs to sell, she's an exceptional artist, who, unfortunately, doesn't really enjoy painting, instead spending most of her time crafting. Anyway, she used to paint a sign, it wasn't her original thought but I loved the thought and I used to have one of her "scrolls" that said it, while seeming simple and cliche, it really says it all:

"Live well, Laugh often, Love much"

We could do worse than to live life that way.