Monday, June 29, 2009

Nothing Much has Changed on the Urban Gardening Issue

The "Springfield News-Leader" finally caught up to "JackeHammer" and "busplunge" Web logs by reporting on the "urban gardens" issue in Monday's edition of their paper. Through interviews with City staff members, and more time having played out on the issue, Johnson was able to provide a few new tidbits of information that this blog and busplunge had not previously reported.

It is edifying to note that some Springfield residents are asking some of the same questions asked by this blogger and "the bus," back in mid May.

To read those previous reports:

JackeHammer: Bill Allows City to Propose Gardening Regulations in Residential Areas of Springfield

busplunge: About This Garden Thing....

JackeHammer: The Garden Plot Thickens...or not?

Certainly I will have more to say about it later but, rather than spouting off prematurely, I'll wait until we know more about it when, according to a past City news release,"A staff report describing the proposed amendment in detail (is) delivered to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public on Thursday, July 2, 2009."


June 29 City Council Meeting

Don't forget the City Council meeting tonight will begin at 6 p.m. rather than the usual 7 p.m. start time.

Mayor Jim O'Neal announced last week they were going to begin the meeting at 6 p.m. every other Monday night rather than the usual 7 p.m. time on a 2 month trial basis.

You can view tonight's City Council agenda here.


Breaking: Council Members Issue Formal Request for Ordinance

Ordinance request seeks more transparency regarding sales taxes charged at businesses within the City

Councilmen Nicholas Ibarra and Doug Burlison issued a formal request to City Manager Greg Burris, City Attorney Dan Wichmer and other members of City staff in Springfield on Monday. The request calls for more sales tax transparency within the City of Springfield on behalf of their constituents.

In a post at Mr. Ibarra's Web log, "Zone 1 Matters," he noted the discussion needs to be more than a secondary issue when the Council is faced with other issues, "...the following was submitted to City Staff this morning, taking the first step in bringing this topic to the table as a debate in and of itself, rather than a side conversation while dealing with other topics as the basis of conversation," Ibarra wrote.

The request is not very specific or detailed regarding the way in which the sales tax notifications to the public might be posted at Springfield businesses and, while Ibarra did not want to be perceived as speaking on behalf of his fellow Councilmember, when questioned about the lack of specific details regarding placement of the notices in the ordinance request, Ibarra indicated his understanding was that Burlison has had difficulty moving ahead on proposed legislation, in the past, when he has been overly detailed in his requests for action on issues affecting Springfield and its citizens.

"When Doug and I started these discussions, he pointed out that when he has tried to get something done, the more detailed he is, the harder time he has getting anywhere… so we figured ambiguity in the beginning would be good given he is on the committee that will discuss this proposal," Ibarra wrote in an email.

The request, which Ibarra has identified as a "Transparency in Taxation Initiative," as submitted by the Councilmen on Monday, June 29:


Mr. Burris, Mr. Wichmer, and other appropriate City Staff:

Since the new Council has taken office in April, a consistent and contentious discussion has been that of Capital Improvements Districts (CIDs). While the philosophical value may vary from council member to council member as to the appropriateness of CIDs, the consistency of much of the discussion has been regarding the transparency to the customers (citizens) paying the additional tax.

While we understand that The Mayor and Council will have to charge the appropriate committee to review a request for an ordinance and the ordinance itself, this letter is a formal request to begin the process of bringing two different proposals to Council:

> The first request is one that would require any business that sells goods or services at the retail level, is part of a CID, and charges sales tax to display signage that notifies the consumer of such goods and services in an adequate manner that they are shopping in a CID and how much the CID tax amount is.

> The second request is one that would require any business inside the city limits of Springfield that sells goods or services at the retail level and charges tax to its consumers to display signage that notifies the customer of the amount of tax being paid as a patron.

As public servants, we believe that the number one duty in preserving trust with the people we serve is to offer transparency.

As a City with nearly a dozen CIDs either in place or in the works to be put into place, offering the citizens notice whether or not they are shopping or receiving services in a CID is not only about transparency, but also about honesty. Whether it comes to
fruition by way of CID-only signage or city-wide signage, to offer these two proposals to the citizens of this community for discussion and debate is the appropriate step to take at this time.

We look forward to working with Council and City Staff on this issue, and are available for questions, comments, or concerns at any time.

Respectfully Submitted,

Nicholas Ibarra, Zone 1 City Councilman

Doug Burlison, General C City Councilman


Sunday, June 28, 2009

City of Springfield Weekly Calendar June 29 - July 3, 2009

Monday, 6/29/2009

8:00 AM Joint Springfield Business Development Corporation and Airport Board Chamber of Commerce, Bill Foster South Room, 202 John Q. Hammons Parkway Contact: Terri Winchester, (417) 868-0500

6:00 PM City Council Meeting Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 Boonville Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

Tuesday, 6/30/2009

12:00 PM City Council Special Meeting Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

12:15 PM Council Lunch Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Anita Climer, (417) 864-1654

2:30 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

6:00 PM Police Fire Pension Fund Citizens Task Force Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

Wednesday, 7/1/2009

5:30 PM Sister Cities Association - Tlaquepaque Committee John Price Law Office , 2805 S. Ingram Mill Road Contact: Sister City Office, (417) 864-1191

Thursday, 7/2/2009

5:30 PM Building Trades Certification and Examination Board Fire Station #12 , 2455 S. Blackman Contact: Nick Heatherly, (417) 864-1059

Friday, 7/3/2009

Holiday - City Offices Closed


The Springfield News-Leader Offers Interesting Articles about Community Improvement Districts

Kary Booher of the "Springfield News-Leader" has provided interesting and informative information regarding the use of Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) within the City of Springfield.

Today, Booher offers two new articles on the subject:

"Council believes it lacks power to turn down CIDs," and "CIDs trouble some Springfield merchants."

Past related articles, from the most current to the oldest, written by Booher (with one article having been written by Amos Bridges) on the subject are:

"Councilmen want tax rates posted"

Janss Lumber hints it could reverse course"

CID board applicants hold sway over future"

Backlash to proposed Commercial Street CID begins"

Businesses can seek exemptions"

City greenlights CID"

Tax proposal divides Commercial Street"

Even supporters worry about effect of new tax"

Opinions vary on Commercial Street CID"


This Week at Baptist Press: Southern Baptists Continue to Buck Political Correctness on Hot Button Issues; Focus on Evangelism Draws Most Attention

Church messengers overwhelmingly supported the formation of the "Great Commission Task Force" at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), authorizing SBC President Johnny Hunt to appoint the members but, the somewhat controversial "Great Commission Resurgence Declaration" was neither discussed nor voted upon.

"Baptist Press" (BP) covered the Southern Baptist Convention, held June 23 - 24, in Louisville, Kentucky. The meeting was held at the Kentucky Exhibition Center as a way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the report said.

BP noted several issues which were discussed at the 2009 Convention, but stated the "Great Commission Task Force" drew the most discussion and interest.

"...the Great Commission Task Force was the leading issue, not only in the minds of messengers but also for several of the meeting's preachers. Evangelist Billy Graham, 90 years old, even sent a personal greeting to messengers in which he said he had read about the "call to a Great Commission resurgence" with much interest," the BP report said.

According to BP, the Convention's messengers also got an update about the "God's Plan for Sharing" evangelism initiative; passed a resolution encouraging Southern Baptists to pray about considering fostering or adopting orphaned children; "approved an Executive Committee recommendation to cease the "cooperative relationship" with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, over the issue of homosexuality;" re-elected Johnny Hunt to his second term as president and; "passed a resolution that calls the election of President Obama a step toward nationwide racial reconciliation but that heavily criticizes him for some of his policies."

International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin asked church messengers an interesting question pertaining to the number of missionaries the SBC members support:

"Are we saying that 5,000 missionaries are enough ... to evangelize the rest of the world while we support over 100,000 pastors, church staff and denominational workers in our own country?" he asked."

In regards to the resolution concerning President Obama, BP reported the messengers share "our nation's pride in our continuing progress toward racial reconciliation signaled" by the president's election. But the resolution says messengers "decry" Obama's assistance to "pro-abortion" groups. It also expresses "strong opposition" to Obama declaring June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month." The resolution also calls on Southern Baptists to pray for President Obama, and according to BP, Hunt led them in a prayer for the President immediately after passage of the resolution.

In another action sure to be controversial in some circles, Southern Baptists ceased their association with a Fort Worth, Texas church over the issue of homosexuality. BP's report said Broadway Baptist Church has at least two gay couples in their membership, and the church has allowed some of the openly gay members to serve on church committees. "Supporters of the Executive Committee recommendation (to cease Southern Baptists' cooperative relationship with the church) said that while the convention fully supports ministering to the homosexual community, the church -- by its actions -- was in violation of Article III of the SBC Constitution, which states that churches "which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" are not in friendly cooperation," BP reported.

Click here to read more about the resolutions passed at the Southern Baptist Convention and other Convention news.

Related: Story Collection on the 2009 Great Commission Resurgence, Source: "Baptist Press"

"SBC president releases ‘Great Commission Resurgence’ declaration," Source: "Florida Baptist Witness"

"Hunt: Unhealthy SBC needed ‘shock’ of Great Commission Resurgence declaration," Source: "Baptist Courier"


Saturday, June 27, 2009


The last night of "Boomerang Express" (one of "Lifeway's" Vacation Bible School themes) was Friday night.

I guess you'd have to have been in the 1st and 2nd grade class to fully understand it when I say "Hooroo" to Mr. Allambee, I hope the bloke's remaining days are all "g'days!"

If it had not been for my helper, the extremely lovely and talented Miss Rachel aka Miss Rhoda ("that's not Miss Rhoda, that's Rachel!") it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. Even after a little bout with tummy upset due to eating too much Aussie food in the down under, she still mustered up the will to make it there every night.

We had a great class, with great kids. They were mostly "Sheilas" but, it was fun to meet a couple of new "Blokes" too!

It was a great experience.

Our verse last night was Philippians 4:13, "I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me," and believe me, I'll bet there were a lot of teachers, and helpers who relied strongly on that verse this week.

So, to all of those who participated in a great VBS this year, keep "tearin' 'em up termites," and never forget, "It all comes back to Jesus!"


Note (update): If you know or have children in your family who would like to attend a Vacation Bible School this summer, some nice ladies from Hillside Baptist Church, located at 8366 West State Hwy 266 in Springfield, just stopped by to tell me about the VBS they are offering from June 29 - July 3.

If your kids or friends and neighbors kids would like to attend their Bible school, "Passport to the Promised Land," from 6:30 - 8:30 pm next week, the flyer says you can contact the church at 865-7286 for more information and to arrange a ride if needed.

Or, if you'd like to attend the "Boomerang Express" Bible school, check other local Baptist churches. I'm sure there are upcoming Bible schools scheduled at other churches in Springfield next week and possibly in August, though many churches try to hold them prior to August due to the heat factor. Hooroo!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I'm Doing this Week

I'm livin' in the land down under, teaching the first and second grades at LifeWay's Vacation Bible School 2009 - Boomerang Express ...Because ....

Next week, I'll begin sharing some things I've learned related to all the usual topics here at JackeHammer.

In the meantime, have a "G'day, mate!"

Edit: Oops, I meant to shout out a thank you to Tom Martz of Mozark Environmental for donating bottled water for my VBS class this week. "Onya," mate!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Springfield City Council to Start Monday Night Meetings at 6 pm rather than 7 pm on a Trial Basis

The City of Springfield announced Tuesday afternoon that the Monday night City Council meetings are going to start at 6 pm rather than 7 pm for a two month trial period.

"Public hearings that already have been advertised as starting at 7 p.m. will not begin before that time to comply with the advertised notice. The agenda will be adjusted at Monday's meeting to accommodate the advertised public hearings," the release stated.

Mayor Jim O'Neal was quoted as saying, "I felt like there was a lot of downtime for people who attend the meetings to wait until 7 p.m. I think this change should still give citizens enough time after the business day ends to do what they need to do and still get to the Council meeting by 6 p.m. I hope we'll get everyone home a little earlier on a weeknight."

If the new meeting time is successful, it will require a change to the City code to make it permanent.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: Yes, Virginia (and Tennesee) Democrats can be Christians too

Oh, sure, I know that might seem like a "no brainer" to me and a "no brainer" to you, Jack but, it isn't a "no brainer to everyone. That's why this week's "Baptist Press" blogumn is featuring this article:

Lincoln Davis wants life, not politics, to speak for itself

""[W]hen I meet people who tell me, 'You can't be a Christian if you're a Democrat,' I've got to start reading and quoting Scripture and explain to them, 'You need to seek forgiveness. You need to understand the plan of salvation. You need to understand how you become a Christian,'" the Democratic congressman from Tennessee said...."

There's plenty of food for thought in this week's Baptist Press feature.

"Of the "many different scriptures in the Bible that test me from time to time, and they all do, … the part that really burdens me probably as much as any is Matthew 25, 31 through 46, when Christ is saying there will come a time when we'll be judged based upon how you addressed the needs of the lesser amongst us, and He mentions the sick and the hungry, the naked and thirsty, the imprisoned unjustly, and the homeless, the stranger," Davis said.

Unlike some evangelical Christians in the Republican Party, Davis applies such passages to the government providing for the needy through Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other programs."

The above excerpt got me to thinking about something I hadn't really thought about before. Perhaps, as the constituent of a Congressman or Senator (or even President), conservatives can find a reason to rail against the government doing jobs of charity for the needy through Medicare, Medicaid, ebt cards, and other programs but, what if you were a Congressman or Senator? Would it be your calling as a Christian trying to live by Biblical principles to try to help them through policy and legislation? It's something to think about, from an angle that had never really connected and clicked in my mind before.

As an independent conservative, I've certainly railed against the government taking too active a role in the business of charity, mainly because the government doesn't make money, they take money from you and they take money from me. Shouldn't it be my decision what charitable causes I wish to support, and shouldn't it be my duty as a Christian to meet those needs through personal charitable giving, and through my own church? I still agree with that philosophy, don't get me wrong but, I'm not a Congressman or Senator (or even President), if I was a legislator, maybe my view on that could change a bit.

What do you think?

For Lincoln Davis, being a Christian, being a Democrat and being a Congressman means "he will cast what are considered conservative votes on such issues as abortion, it also means for him that he will support social programs championed by Democrats," BP reported. "His advocacy of such programs is based on his understanding of the Bible, Davis said."

Look at the title of the BP article again, "Lincoln Davis wants life, not politics, to speak for itself."

As a Christian, whether a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, Independent or any other party member, our passion should be living our life based upon our understanding of the Bible and its direction. That's the best any of us can hope to accomplish.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Recommended Reading 15: Reducing Police-Fire Pension Benefits Off the Table?

Pension reduction not among ideas Springfield News-Leader

An excerpt:

"During recent small- group discussions, members of at least two of the three task force subcommittees have said the attempt (to reduce benefits) could be more trouble than it's worth...."

While the New-Leader article reports several members noted, "Nothing's yet set in stone," and further relayed one of the task force members as stating if members of the public request further study during town hall meetings the task force can take another look at the issue, and could "stop in our tracks and backtrack," for the moment, they don't appear to even be considering recommending any reductions in pension benefits for consideration by the City Council.

A fresh look at their "charge" might be a good idea. One of the bullet points in the Police-Fire Pension Task Force's Charge is that they are to:

"Provide written recommendations to the Mayor and City Manager, ranking the one or more recommended options that should be considered, recognizing that City Council must ultimately approve any proposal. In addition to ranking the Task Force's recommendations, the report should indicate the advantages and disadvantages of each option considered from the perspective of the citizen, the City as employer, the employee, and the pension system."

Maybe it is just me but, I think the task force should include reduction of benefits in their final recommendations, what benefits the task force might recommend be reduced, and fully document the pros and cons of such a move. In fact, I think they owe it to our elected City leaders to leave that option on the table as City Council looks toward solving the pension problem by providing the means for a healthy plan for our police and firefighters for the future.

The final decision is something to be considered and determined by the City Council, not the Police-Fire Pension Citizen's Task Force.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Attorney for Springfield Police Officers and Firefighters: Attempting to Influence Public Opinion?

In a move which might be perceived as an effort to influence public opinion regarding pension funding recommendations, even before the pension task force has begun deliberations as a Committee of the Whole, the police and fire associations' retained attorney addressed the public through a column to the local daily paper. In the column, the attorney issued a warning to the public.

The Springfield Police-Fire Pension Fund Citizens Task Force is scheduled to begin making team presentations during a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday evening. Those team presentations will begin the task force's discussions, intended to narrow the options they might include as part of their eventual recommendations for addressing the underfunded police and fire pension fund.

Mayor Jim O'Neal has asked the task force to present more than one recommendation to be considered as a potential solution for the ailing pension plan.

Attorney Dan Tobben's letter, published as a "Voice of the Day" column in the "Springfield News-Leader" on Tuesday, warned:

"The task force or the council may ask you, the voters, to do a "hatchet job" on your police officers and firefighters and the benefits they have earned through "a vote of the people." This may itself be illegal and definitely will be challenged in court. ..."

Mr. Tobben is the head of litigation for the law firm Danna McKitrick, P.C.

On May 6, Tobben spoke to the pension task force (click the link <<< to watch). At that meeting, Tobben suggested, as a part of a worst case scenario, should the City not honor past promises made to employees of the police and fire departments, liquidation of the City's assets could occur, even including the sale of Springfield's Historic City Hall.

The entire meeting was a bit over 2 hours. You can move the video forward to watch Tobben or, watch the other presentations leading up to his remarks and the question and answer period that followed.

Source of link to task force video: Springfield Police-Fire Pension Fund Citizen's Task Force Web site


Monday, June 15, 2009

Police-Fire Pension Citizens Task Force Agenda for Wednesday, June 17

The meeting will be held in the Busch building's 4th Floor Conference Room at 6 p.m. Wednesday night.

The tentative agenda includes: 1) Approve minutes from June 10 meeting; 2) Task Force Sub-Committees discussion; 3) Committee of the Whole - Start Team Presentations and; 4) Any and all matters that come before the Committee.

When the Task Force Sub-Committees hold discussions, they split up. Team One, led by Harmison, will move to the 5th Floor Conference Room; Team Two, led by Horton, will move to the 3rd Floor Conference Room and; Team Three, led by Wagoner, will move to the 2 West Conference Room.

Reminder from the City:

"In accordance with ADA guidelines, if you need special accommodations when attending any City meeting, please notify the City Clerk's Office at 864 -1443 at least 3 days prior to the scheduled meeting."

Source: Director of Public Information Louise Whall


City of Springfield Weekly Calendar June 15 - June 19, 2009

I'm a little hit and miss on publishing the City's Weekly Meetings' Calendar but, remember, I don't get paid for this (so, I owe you nothing). :-) Anyway, here's the calendar for this week:

Monday, 6/15/2009:

12:00 PM Springfield/Greene County Library Board - Finance/Personnel Committee The Library Center, 4653 South Campbell Contact: Debbie Eckert, (417) 883-5366

7:00 PM City Council Meeting Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 Boonville Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

Tuesday, 6/16/2009:

10:00 AM James River Commons Community Improvement District Board of Directors Busch Municipal Building, 5th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Matthew Schaeffer, (417) 864-1100

11:30 AM Environmental Advisory Board - Planning Meeting Springfield/Greene County Health Department, Basement, 227 E. Chestnut Expressway Contact: Karen McKinnis, (417) 864-1623

Cancelled 12:00 PM Council Lunch Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Anita Climer, (417) 864-1654

2:30 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

4:00 PM Springfield/Greene County Library Board of Trustees Republic Branch Library, 1264 U.S. Highway 60 East, Republic, MO. Contact: Debbie Eckert, (417) 883-5366

5:15 PM Sister Cities Association Busch Municipal Building, 1st Floor Conf. Rm, 840 Boonville Contact: Sister City Office, (417) 864-1191

Wednesday, 6/17/2009:

10:00 AM Ozark Region Leadership Team Meeting Missouri Career Center, 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

11:30 AM Workforce Investment Board (WIB) - Finance Committee Missouri Career Center, 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

Immediately following WIB Finance Committee: 12:00 PM Workforce Investment Board Missouri Career Center, 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

1:00 PM Appropriations and WIA-Washington Update Webinar Missouri Career Center, 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

3:00 PM E-911 Advisory Board Greene County, Commission Conference Room, 933 North Robberson Contact: Debbie Moore, (417) 864-1719

6:00 PM Police Fire Pension Fund Citizens Task Force Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Sharon Smith, (417) 864-1004

Thursday, 6/18/2009:

8:00 AM Springfield Convention & Visitor's Bureau Board of Directors Jordan Valley Car Park, 815 E. St. Louis Contact: Tracy Kimberlin, (417) 881-5300

12:00 PM Ozarks Transportation Organization Board of Directors Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Tim Conklin, (417) 836-5482

3:30 PM Tree City USA Citizen Advisory Committee Busch Municipal Building, 2nd Floor East Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Benjamin Kellner, (417) 864-1178

Friday, 6/19/2009:

9:30 AM Public Housing Authority Madison Towers, Northeast Meeting Room, 421 West Madison Contact: Tom Barnett, (417) 866-4329

Source: Director of Public Information Louise Whall


Sunday, June 14, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: "Are evangelicals fractured & losing influence in the public square?"

And churches in Maine are gettin' all activist

"Baptist Press," (BP) reported this week that the "religious right" is not as fractured as some affiliates of the political left are reporting them to be, " the oft-attributed-to-Mark Twain saying goes, "Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated," BP Executive Editor Will Hall quipped.

Then, he explained what the numbers really say.

Although Obama received a 3 percent bump among evangelical Christians when compared to John Kerry in 2004, BP reports that Obama actually represented a loss of 2 points against what had been won by Bill Clinton in 1996, and a 5 percent loss when compared to the race in 1992.

But, he didn't stop there, according to Hall, "This actually is a 17 percent decline (5 percentage points Obama lost divided by Clinton's 29 percentage point base), which by any objective basis is a political calamity."

Maine churches gather petition signatures to reverse gay marriage law

Several churches in Maine have launched a petition drive to veto the approval of gay marriage legislation.

Even though, as BP pointed out, IRS law is clear that churches may involve themselves in issues of legislation, a gay "civil rights" organization filed a complaint with the IRS in May, "...claiming that the Catholic Diocese of Portland violated IRS law by publicly backing the proposed People's Veto," BP credited the Maine Public Broadcasting Network as reporting.

Under Maine's "People's Veto Law," 55,000 petition signatures will be required to overturn the recently approved gay marriage law. It was approved by what BP reported as a Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic governor but, has not yet gone into effect.

"The "gay marriage" law has yet to go into effect and won't do so until the signature effort fails or citizens OK such unions," BP reported.

Those opposed to the law have 90 days to collect the signatures after the legislature adjourns but, the churches active in gathering petitions want to gather enough signatures by the end of July so that the veto can make it to the ballot in November. Otherwise, it would not go on the ballot until next summer.

Hosanna Church Pastor Dallas E. Henry told BP people are excited about exercising their right to veto the legislation. He said a significant number of signatures has already been gathered. "They are sickened by the fact that ... the legislature keeps voting for these laws that the people of Maine do not want. They are frustrated, very frustrated."

BP indicated there has not been much polling done to track Maine citizens' sentiments regarding the issue of gay marriage but, "...a Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll of 400 Maine adults in April found that given three options, 39 percent supported "gay marriage," 34.5 percent same-sex civil unions and 23 percent opposed all legal recognition for homosexual couple(s)," BP reported. Read more about this issue.....


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will "Bible Bee" Come to Springfield?

Bible Bee:

"The Shelby Kennedy Foundation is launching the first-of-its-kind, world-class National Bible Bee Competition. The competition will begin with local contests in communities nationwide on September 12, 2009. The top 100 finalists from each age group will advance to the National Contest in Washington D.C. to compete on November 5-6, 2009."

Visit the Web site linked above for more information, Bible Bee Study Materials, Calendar and Events, etc. It boasts over $260,000 in prizes!

I couldn't find a local Bible Bee host in Springfield. The closest Bible Bees were found in Hurley, Dadeville, Ava and Waynesville.


Bus Grid System would Benefit Bus Passengers more than Downtown "Stakeholders"


A 2007 Public Transportation Programs for Seniors Final Report, prepared by The Beverly Foundation, in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association, states that according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):

"Public transportation is 'transportation by a conveyance that provides regular and continuing general or special transportation to the public...' as defined by the federal government. It includes services by buses.... It also includes demand response services for seniors and persons with disabilities...."

I was pleased to see the article, "Move to bus grid said to be feasible" in the "Springfield News-Leader" today. According to the article:

"Last year, the OTO updated its regional Transit Development Plan. Among its recommendations:

"City Utilities Transit should consider a change in the basic route structure it currently uses within the City of Springfield. Because of the effective grid roadway network completed within the City, the transit system should take advantage of such a network and implement a grid based system. This would also relieve some of the pressure on the transfer facility as transfers could occur at key intersections within the grid.""

Also, according to the News-Leader article, local architect Dan Scott, " thinks he may have designed a more efficient public transit system than the one City Utilities currently uses," and Scott claims it can be done without increasing costs exponentially, "He believes his plan would need, at most, one more bus on the two north-south lines," the News-Leader reported.

If, as the headline reads, a move to a grid system is feasible, it makes more sense in terms of providing service to those who actually need and utilize public transportation for Springfield's public transit provider to move toward a grid system than to spend stimulus and other grant monies on a new downtown bus transfer facility.

I've been looking over CU's contracted final feasibility study, and although the study lists a handful of customer safety and convenience issues, for the most part the stated "need" seems to be more focused on aesthetics meant to benefit business owners, developers and other transportation operators in the downtown area than in providing streamlined services to better benefit public transportation patrons.

Indeed, the stakeholders interviewed by the August, 2008 study provider, TranSystems, in association with Esterly Schneider & Associates, Inc., were identified as: "...representatives of the Urban Districts Alliance, the City Manager's Office, the City's Economic Development Department, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and those operating other transportation services in downtown."

The study's "Assessment Summary and Conclusions," states:

"In short, the existing facility is functional and well located relative to key destinations. It is, however, cramped and does not reflect in a positive way on the transit system or its users. It is not an attractive element of downtown Springfield."

The safety and convenience issues, noted above, are identified as: bus and pedestrian conflicts; bus/automobile conflicts; the perception of personal security; impacts on adjacent roadways; convenience and; operational functionality.

The "Assessment Summary and Conclusions," described the safety categories ranked "fair," based upon the three level scale of "poor, fair and good."

City Utilities addressed the safety and convenience issues of its passengers in the report by proposing the addition of designated bus bays, "ample space for bicycle storage in the form of bicycle racks," and providing "space for landscaping and open space to create a pleasing area for pedestrians and waiting transit passengers."

Section 1.2 of the feasibility report states:

"A tremendous opportunity exists for transit and the downtown area of Springfield. The community is in a position to leverage funding from the Federal Transit Administration to create a modern downtown transit center and in turn contribute to the continuing redevelopment of downtown by addressing the parking shortage."

I would prefer to see more emphasis placed on accessibility and timeliness issues for bus passengers than aesthetic beauty of the downtown area, personally.


Related: Bus Transfer Facility Feasibility Report, source: "Community Free Press"

CU seeks extension of grant as site search goes on Springfield News-Leader

Bus system ridership statistics graph, source: "Springfield News-Leader"

Springfield bus system subsidy graph, source: "Springfield News-Leader"

Grid-style bus plan aims for more efficient routes, source: "Springfield News-Leader"


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Need a Little Inspiration?

Yeah, I know I posted this song back in March but, this is as performed by the band who God inspired with the song. They passed it along to Chris Tomlin. For the background of how the song came to be, click on the second link and TAKE HEART!

Bluetree: God Of This City - Belfast Version

Chris Tomlin talks about "God of This City"


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

City News Release: Council Cancelled Wednesday Night's Special Meeting to Discuss Eminent Domain

June 9, 2009

News Release

For Immediate Release

Mayor Jim O'Neal said the special City Council meeting scheduled for 6 p.m., Wednesday to hear public input on City Utilities' proposed use of eminent domain for its new bus-transfer facility has been cancelled.

City Utilities informed City staff late this afternoon that it is withdrawing its motion in Federal Bankruptcy Court to lift the stay on the St. Louis Street property proposed for the bus-transfer facility. CU also has asked that its request to acquire that property be tabled at Thursday night's Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.

City Utilities presented information about its three-year site-selection process to the City Council in a special meeting today. Following the open presentation, the Council and CU representatives met in closed session under the Missouri Sunshine Law exemption for real-estate negotiations.

Council did not take any votes in closed session, which was adjourned at 2:30 p.m.

Source: City of Springfield Public Information Office

Related: CU no longer actively pursuing bus transfer station on East St. Louis Street Springfield News-Leader

CU reverses course on eminent domain Springfield News-Leader

June 10_Podcast: Vincent David Jericho talked with Becky Spence Attorney Larry Mass


Update on CU Deadline to Submit Application for Stimulus Funds

City Utilities (CU) gave a narrated powerpoint presentation to the Springfield City Council at their Tuesday meeting, before taking questions from the City Council. (Watch for the powerpoint at "CityConnect," they will likely post it, at some point.)

The subject of the deadline for the submission of CU's application, which I wrote about Monday night, came up as the Council questioned CU officials and employees.

After Councilman Nick Ibarra requested a copy, on behalf of the City Council, of the "something in writing," which CU General Manager John Twitty had earlier stated called for their application for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds by June 15, Twitty answered by reading from what he said was an FTA letter.

"Let me just read from it, and this is from FTA in Kansas City: 'With regard to ARRA funding, while CU has discussed the possibility of funding some costs related to a downtown transfer center with ARRA formula funds, FTA questions whether there is sufficient time to do so,' and this is written after we've given them an update of where we are, literally, right now," Twitty said. "'Grant applications must be submitted to the regional office by June 15, 2009 to assure timely completion of processing,' and, again, you may not have been here, I think, maybe, the information that you had was on Department of Labor (DOL) funds and these are Department of Transportation funds, and perhaps those agencies have some...."

Ibarra interjected, "Is there any way I could get a copy of that?"

Twitty: "Sure."

JackeHammer plans to request a copy of the document as well, not that I doubt Mr. Twitty's word but, it would be nice to know the particulars of the letter, the date and such, and to share that information here. So, more to come....


Monday, June 08, 2009

CU June 15 Deadline for Stimulus Fund Application at Odds with FTA's Published Deadline

Federal Transit Administration indicates deadline is July 1, 2009

Earlier today, I questioned whether City Utilities [CU] would have time to change course on the site they had selected to build their new bus transfer facility, considering the June 15 application deadline CU has reported it must meet.

Not to be repititious but, on June 4, the City's Web log, "CityConnect" reported, "[City Manager Greg] Burris said he recognizes that City Utilities is on a tight timeline for several reasons, including a June 15 deadline for applying for federal stimulus funding."

Tonight, as I read the letter Becky Spence's legal council permitted she and her assistant to release to me, I wonder what was the origin of that June 15 deadline?

Spence believes the June 15 date CU has claimed as the deadline for applying for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to be a self-imposed date, set by CU, not the federal government. Certainly, the letter I hold, from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Regional Administrator, appears to affirm that the deadline CU has widely reported does not come from the FTA.

"July 1, 2009 is the date identified in the March 5, 2009 Federal Register notice as FTA's final date to accept grant applications in order to ensure projects are awarded by September 1, 2009," the May 15 letter stated. "This date assumes that projects are "ready to go" and be implemented. As of today, this project is not ready for ARRA funding."

The FTA indicated the project was not ready for funding because, while CU has issued the notice to condemn Becky Spence's property, they have yet to file the petition to condemn it.

"...the FTA will not approve an ARRA grant for construction until CU has filed the petition to condemn the 505 [E. St. Louis Street] property," the letter stated.

Spence said she received the May 15 letter, written by U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad to Transit Director Carol Cruise, as an attachment to a May 18, City Utility letter.

An updated media advisory from Director of Public Information Louise Whall states, "The City Council will go directly into a special meeting at noon Tuesday in the Busch Building 4th Floor Conference Room. The meeting will begin as an open meeting with a presentation by City Utilities regarding its site-selection process for the proposed bus-transfer facility. Following the presentation, the Council will adjourn to closed session under the Missouri Sunshine Law exemption for real estate."

The City advisory also notes that the City Council discussed re-scheduling the meeting they had cancelled for Monday, June 8. That meeting was originally scheduled to have a public hearing concerning eminent domain, and to pass a resolution to communicate the Council's feelings about its use. It was cancelled when CU indicated they were willing to reopen the process and consider other appropriate sites for the bus transfer facility.

As of Monday, June 8, CU still had not cancelled a June 11 court date, in which they plan to ask a bankruptcy court to separate Spence's property on St. Louis Street from her other assets so that they can move to condemn it, the first step to acquiring a property through eminent domain.

A visit to the Federal Transit Administration's ARRA Main Page confirms that July 1, 2009 is the "Deadline for submitting first round grants to the DOL for review."

The good news for City Utilities is that they appear to have more time than they have reported. Rather than approximately one week to submit their application, it appears they have roughly three weeks time in which to submit the application. It might have been better for them, however, had they focused on property more available than Spence's property, protected, as it were, by a bankruptcy court.

According to the City advisory, the Council will decide, on Tuesday, June 9, whether to reschedule the special meeting to hear citizen input on the proposed use of eminent domain for 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 10, in Council Chambers at the Historic City Hall.

Spence is convinced they have her interests at heart. "The Mayor and City Council has assured me that they will take a strong stand against the use of eminent domain on my site and they are for economic development," Spence said.


Writer's note: I made an effort to contact CU Communications Supervisor Joel Alexander today. His office said he would be out of town until Tuesday. In consideration of CU's presentation to the City Council tomorrow at noon, I did not feel it appropriate to hold this entry. I'll be happy to update the information at a later date, as always. - Jackie


Stu's Potluck: "Councilmen Refuse to Admit Key Fact"

Stu, the mostly-mute blogger over at "Stu's Potluck," posted a rare entry today.

While I do not necessarily endorse Mr. Soloman's views and, at times, had a bit of difficulty following his thoughts, it was interesting reading so I thought I'd make readers aware of it.


Does CU have Time to Change Course on their Bus Transfer Facility Plans?

or, is eminent domain prospect still looming?

The City's Web log, "CityConnect," has provided an update about City Utilities plans for a new bus transfer facility.

The update is as follows:

Eminent Domain Update

City Manager Greg Burris updated the Council on discussions with City Utilities regarding the possibility of using a City-owned property for the proposed bus transfer facility.

He said three properties have been identified that could be potential sites. The City Utilities staff will quickly review the sites to see if they are suitable for the needs of the transfer facility.

Burris said he recognizes that City Utilities is on a tight timeline for several reasons, including a June 15 deadline for applying for federal stimulus funding; a June 11 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting; and a June 11 federal bankruptcy court proceeding.

Mayor O’Neal said he appreciates City Utilities’ willingness to reconsider the site being considered that would require the use of eminent domain.

posted by Louise Whall, Public Information

With the deadline for applying for federal stimulus funds one week away, it's hard to imagine it feasible for the utility to put together the documentation that would be necessary to propose a new site for the project in time to apply for that funding? - Note: the CityConnect update was published June 4, one week prior to the hearing and less than two weeks ahead of the application deadline.

The "Springfield News-Leader" first reported CU still had plans to move forward with a court hearing, scheduled June 11, last week:

"The hearing, at which CU will ask that Spence's St. Louis Street property be separated from her other assets-- clearing the way for the possible use of eminent domain -- would be difficult to reschedule, [Mark] Viguet [CU spokesman] said. "For now, I don't think there's any change in that....

...the utility is hesitant to cancel the hearing, he said, but that could change based on developments regarding other sites."


Much of the $10.22 Million from the AT&T Mobility Settlement has been Received

Ongoing Revenue Will Continue to Trickle Into the Police and Fire Pension Fund, with the Last Payment from the AT&T Mobility Settlement to be Received in July

Last week, Public Information Director Louise Whall clarified that a part of the AT&T Mobility settlement revenue slated to make up the $10.22 million to be contributed to the police/fire pension fund is still being collected and will continue to be collected through June 30, 2009.

In an email last week, Whall indicated the City of Springfield had already received the check for $6.125 million and it was applied directly to the pension fund. She also indicated the City already had the back taxes which were being held in an escrow account because they were paid by AT&T Mobility under protest. Whall said, those two amounts, plus the revenue still being collected through June 30, will equal the $10.22 million the City Council, past and present, has pledged to the pension fund.

In a later email, in response to my query for more detailed information, Whall indicated the taxes which were paid under protest and held in escrow had been released and had been deposited into the pension fund on May 18.

According to Whall, breaking down specific amounts held in escrow and the amounts received and expected to be received through ongoing sales taxes, through the month of June, cannot be disclosed due to restrictions under state statute.

"Under state statute, we cannot disclose individual gross-receipts tax paid by any single company," Whall wrote. "That information could be used to extrapolate overall revenues and therefore gets into disclosing proprietary information of private companies."

Whall wrote that by subtracting the lump sum payment of $6.125 million from the $10.22 million amount, one could get the figure which had been held in escrow, combined with what has been paid and is expected to be paid through June 30.

"We just haven't specified the number of months covered by each in order to comply with the statute," Whall added. "The "going forward" monthly payments have been deposited into the pension fund as they are received monthly. We expect to receive the final payment for the month of June in July."

Ongoing revenue, after the end of the City's fiscal year 2008-09, from telecommunications sales tax revenue streams has been proposed to hire 5 new firefighters in July and reopen the police academy with an eye toward hiring 10 new police officers.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: Boggs Claims Qualities Obama Values on Supreme Court Differ from ADA Guidelines

and home Bible studies no longer threatened in San Diego

In its editorial feature this week, BP editorial columnist Kelly Boggs laid out what he believes are disparities between the American Bar Association's [ABA] "Black Letter Guidelines for the Evaluation of Judicial Performance" and the criteria President Obama seems to value in Supreme Court Justices. The ABA guidelines, Boggs reported, originated in 1985 and were updated in 2005.

"The "Black Letter Guidelines" make no mention of an effective jurist needing to possess any specific emotive qualities," Boggs wrote. "And while the ABA's guidelines do not mention traits like empathy, caring or understanding, President Obama has made it clear these qualities will be paramount in his selection of jurists for the federal bench."

And, Boggs has a theory as to why Obama values the qualities of empathy, caring and understanding in his Supreme Court nominees:

"If the ABA doesn't bother to mention the emotive qualities of empathy and understanding in its "Black Letter Guidelines," why does President Obama deem them as so sacrosanct? Because he wants Supreme Court justices able to discover "penumbras formed by emanations" in the U.S. Constitution in order to impose a liberal social agenda on Americans."-"Baptist Press - FIRST-PERSON: Penumbras and emanations"

[For an interesting "TIME" article about "Emanations from a Penumbra," go here, Jack.]

As far as Boggs is concerned, "Feelings of empathy and understanding belong in love songs and romance novels, not in a court of law and certainly not in the Supreme Court."


I remembered some details of this story, or at least its existance, when I read this at "Baptist Press." I don't know if I featured it in the past or not.

Officials in San Diego had issued a cease-and-desist order on a pastor and his wife while attempting to seek their compliance in applying for a permit which might have cost them thousands of dollars. What was interesting about it was, the order was issued because of a home Bible study the couple were hosting in their home. They were ordered to stop hosting the Bible study unless they applied for a permit.

June 5, BP reported San Diego officials have now apologized and rescinded the order:

"In a letter to the Joneses [the pastor and his wife] and Broyles [their attorney] June 3, the county's chief administrative officer said the order was wrongfully issued and the county would conduct a review of its code enforcement officer training."

According to the BP report, the issue was originally raised by a San Diego county official who, apparently, over-zealously sought to categorize the home Bible study as a "religious assembly."

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly and in violation of the code in the county," David Jones, pastor of South Bay Community Church in National City, told Fox News." -"Baptist Press - Apology issued for S.D. Bible study threat"

You can read both of these "JackeHammer" featured articles at Baptist Press, and much more.


Sunday's Springfield News-Leader Correction

it was more than getting a name wrong

In my last entry, I pointed out that the online edition of the Springfield News-Leader's "correction" link is not accompanied by a flashy title or intriguing leed paragraph. Because the correction link does not indicate the subject of correction(s), when something beyond the misspelling of a name or an erroneous captioning of a picture appears, I may start trying to note it here.

Sunday's Correction at involved more than a misspelled name, as did Saturday's correction. Ironically, Saturday's correction needs a bit of correction too, see note added [in brackets] to the previous entry.

In Sunday's News-Leader correction, the paper reported that in a Thursday story concerning the potential of moving "current" fire and police employees into the LAGERS pension plan, firefighter union member Shawn Martin's remarks were "incorrectly characterized." The correction indicated that Martin had said, when the City has looked into moving those employees into that state pension system in the past, it was a move found to be "cost-prohibitive." Martin's comments were made during a police and fire pension task force meeting.

The News-Leader advises you can contact Robyn Bates at 836-1112 to make a correction.

Note: Thursday's story is no longer easily accessible at the online edition, if it had been, I would have linked it for reference ~ Jackie


Saturday, June 06, 2009

On Accurate Reporting

and correction policies, what to expect, and where should your trust lie?

A commentary

I had a discussion with an irritated friend the other day. He was upset about a news report he happened to hear on the radio. This friend felt the news report was a bit misleading and misrepresented. We talked about what a person should do when something like that happens.

Beyond notifying the particular source of incorrect information, I'm not sure there is much the average citizen (or below or above average citizen?) can do to correct mistakes made in the media or at a Web log, for that matter.

Being in the somewhat unique position of having been an outsider looking in, then an insider looking out, to return to being an outsider, oftentimes, looking in, again, I think I have some things that might add to such a discussion. Also, you should recognize, I have no masters degree in journalism, experience, perhaps, but, no educational credentials.

One issue my friend had was that when incorrect information or misleading insinuations are made within a report, people form opinion, potentially, based on incorrect foundations. It is a problem, and if you are like me, you don't subscribe to the "Springfield News-Leader," (and I use them as an example, you could apply this to any news source) then you rely on a link, mostly obscure, which sits under the heading of, simply, "Correction." There is no indication to what issue or error the correction applies, no eye grabbing, intrigue inspiring enticement to cause your curiosity to be aroused to see what the correction of the day happens to be.

Newspaper articles have catchy titles, and are supposed to have catchy leeds, crafted to draw the reader in and hold their attention to the end of the article. Not so with generic "correction" links.

Oftentimes, if one clicks on a correction link at the News-Leader (again, just my example for the purposes of this entry) one will find some trivial mistake has been corrected, such as a misspelled name or the wrong name being placed as a caption under a picture. Nothing exciting and nothing that would inspire one to think it was particularly important to follow corrections at the paper every day. I'm not sure what, if anything, needs to be or, could be done about that.

In Saturday's News-Leader you'll find these corrections, listed under that generic "Correction" link:

"The $68,100 cut by City Council from the budget for the Springfield Human Rights Commission is from the city's general fund. It was incorrectly identified as grant money in a Friday story.


To clarify a Friday story on Shelly Lea Compton: She was charged with possession of a controlled substance."

You'll also find this statement:

"The News-Leader strives for accuracy and fairness. To request a correction, call Robyn Bates at 836-1112."

I don't question whether the News-Leader strives for accuracy and fairness. I'm sure they do, as an organizational policy. [I believe the N-L correction above, about the Mayor's Commission on Human Rights budget being cut by $68,100, needs corrected too. I think that is the total budget and the cut Council is discussing is $67,100] And, I haven't noticed, of late, any particular, notable tendency toward bias in any of their reporting but, as is the case with all news organizations, they depend on individual reporters to get the facts correct and report them fairly for them. And therein lies the proverbial rub. Individual integrity comes into play.

Journalists are not infallible any more than bloggers, though I like to think those who consider themselves professional journalists work a little harder at fact gathering and in the consideration of all sides of an issue than bloggers, as a general rule, unless, of course, they are blogging as a part of their duty for a news organization.

Getting paid to do something and being affiliated or associated with a particular news organization does bring with it an accompanying burden of responsibility, at least it did for me because, at the time I was writing for CFP, I realized my reporting didn't simply have an affect on my own credibility but, also on the paper for which I reported. I think, since I am no longer paid or affiliated through association with the "Community Free Press" that I might be more inclined to slack off a bit. That is a tendency I try to keep in check.

But, there's a second point I felt I wanted to share today.

Yesterday, (Friday) CFP staff reporter Brian Brown left a comment on one of my blog entries. He commented that he thought a certain reporter for the News-Leader "has done a really good job on his CU stories this week," and don't get me wrong, the reporter probably has done "a really good job on his CU stories this week" but, I don't know, for sure, if he has or not, and you don't either unless you have attended all of the meetings pertaining to that issue, and have been privy to conversations held between that reporter and the people he has interviewed and quoted.

Now, it should be noted CFP's Brian Brown knows more about the issue than I do because he has interviewed those involved in the CU/eminent domain issue. Therefore, when Brown compliments the News-Leader reporter's work, it has more credence than if I did, since I've interviewed no one on the issue, personally, though I've kept up on the media reports on the issue.

In the past, I have discovered a little error here, and a little error there, sometimes a more substantial error here, and more substantial error there, in some of the reports I've read in the News-Leader about various issues. The same is true of some of the reports I have seen at local television news stations. But, let's face it, if I had not been present, personally present, at some of the meetings that were being reported upon, I would never have known the reporting was not factually correct in some areas or, that it did not seem to adequately and appropriately reflect both sides of an issue. So, I assume that News-Leader reporter has probably done a good job reporting on the CU/eminent domain issue. For the record, I was in attendance when the Council discussed the issue of CU's potential taking of Becky Spence's land through eminent domain, and at the meeting Spence called at the library on South Campbell, however, I have not spoken to anyone at City Utilities on the matter.

So, I wrote all the above to, really, just to offer these thoughts, in summary:

There are no infallible reporters or journalists, and unless you have attended the meetings which they are reporting upon yourself, you really can't know whether good, accurate, fair reports are being issued. You can "think" they are reporting well on an issue but, you can't really know unless you know the issue for yourself.

I don't think it wise to trust and have faith that journalists and reporters are fairly and accurately bringing you their reports without really knowing whether these fallible journalists and reporters deserve that trust and faith, in other words, individual journalists and reporters are in a position of needing to build that trust.

What's the answer? If you really want to know the facts you need to attend all the meetings surrounding any issue which you believe is important. It is not an easily complied with answer. We all want to have trust and faith in journalists and reporters because it is much easier to do than to take responsibility and find out the facts for ourselves. They get paid to do that, we don't.

Because journalists and reporters are paid to issue reports, and it's their job to attend those meetings, they have the time to attend them, we don't always have the time to attend all the meetings surrounding an issue which we believe is important.

So, what's the other choice? Caution. Simply recognize that journalists and reporters are not infallible and they will sometimes fail you. Recognize that unless you've been to every meeting, you're working from a vantage point of ignorance until you find out the answers for yourself.

This isn't meant to suggest you can't form opinions based on the reporting of journalists or bloggers, sure you can but, recognize you are forming opinions based on second hand information, and in the case of bloggers, sometimes you are even forming your opinions based on the opinions of those who might, also, have formed them based on the same second hand information that you have accessed. Recognize, too, you might get just as valuable information from a non-journalist, who attended the meetings you did not attend, as you do from that paid and credentialed journalist, however, the non-journalist might not be quite so articulate in the telling as a trained reporter. On the other hand, sometimes the non-journalist might be more articulate than a trained reporter...I know some people that qualify in that category, as well.

Never forget, we live in the "Show Me State," not the "Tell Me State," or the "Write Me State."


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bus Transfer Facility Feasibility Report Available; Council to Discuss CU's Potential Use of Eminent Domain

The "Community Free Press" has posted City Utilities' (CU) Bus Transfer Facility Feasibility Report < at their Web site.

Monday night, the Springfield City Council voted unanimously to hold a special City Council meeting so that they, the public, and CU will have an opportunity to engage in an open discussion about the CU board's decision to exercise eminent domain to acquire property they have selected as their choice for constructing the bus transfer site, should it become necessary.

Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky seemed to prefer the Council make a more general statement about the use of eminent domain by Springfield's government entities but, in the ensuing discussion, after Councilman Doug Burlison raised a motion to consider the issue, Mayor Jim O'Neal was adamant the Council should make a statement on the specific case of the CU board's decision to exercise use of the measure to acquire property from a private property owner, should it become necessary to do so.

Assistant city attorney Nancy Yendez indicated the Council really has no standing in the decision process of CU's board. The Council would like the city's legal department to issue an opinion regarding what options, if any, the Council has toward weighing in on the issue beyond passing a resolution as to their position.

Mayor O'Neal said he and others among the Council have expressed their displeasure of CU's specific use of eminent domain in this specific case to the CU board, to no avail, "I want to get it on the table, get it on the floor," O'Neal said.

My understanding is that the City Council intends to pass a resolution, as a result of the special meeting, after hearing from the public and City Utilities. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 7 pm Monday night, June 8, in Council chambers.

KSGF's Vincent David Jericho discussed the issue with the property owner and potential hotel developer, Becky Spence, on his program Tuesday morning. You can listen to all of his podcasts from that program here.

Related: CU backs off on plan to take land for station Springfield News-Leader

busplunge: City-CU Statement on Bus Transfer Station Site

Brown on a Blog: The New Issue

Brown on a Blog: Lunch Update

Brown on a Blog: Welcome, The Water is Fine


Monday, June 01, 2009

I was wrong...

and I admit it and I apologize. Contrary to this entry I posted on Saturday, the City will be satisfying their pension obligation plus interest for the four fiscal years that they did not meet in the past from the AT&T Mobility settlement, reached in March. The lump sum payment of $6,125,000, as noted in the agreement quoted in the posting directly below this one is only a portion of the money that will go toward satisfying that pension debt.

As explained below, by Public Information Director Louise Whall, part of that debt will be satisfied by the back taxes of AT&T Mobility which were being held in escrow, and another portion of the approximately $10.22 million debt, including interest the City owed to the pension fund, will be satisfied by the ongoing sales tax revenue which will continue to be collected through the end of the current fiscal year, or June 30, 2009.

I'm human and don't enjoy being caught in an error any more than the next person, however, my conscience dictates that it is important to own up, to take responsibility for error.

I extend sincere apologies to the City of Springfield for making an error in my analysis about the AT&T Mobility Settlement.

I also extend sincere apologies to Vincent David Jericho because he reported on my posting, which was in error, on his program Monday morning. In addition, I apologize to all of my readers for giving them faulty facts and faulty analysis, on this issue.

I should have paid more attention to my own past reporting in this piece, where there was a discussion about the revenue stream from taxes paid by AT&T Mobility through June 30, 2009. Those taxes, had I connected my own dots, from my own reporting, should have given me another clue that the lump sum of $6,125,000 discussed in the AT&T Mobility agreement did not represent all the revenue or funds which would be paid into the pension fund as a result of the AT&T Mobility settlement agreement.

I should have paid more attention to the portion of the AT&T Mobility agreement which read:

"Further, all payments related to the Protest Cases and payments remitted "under protest" for the months of January and February 2009, plus any accrued interest on those amounts currently held by Springfield, shall be released to Springfield upon the entry of the dismissal orders in the Protest Cases as described in paragraph 1 above."

I should have waited until I had received an answer from Public Information Director Louise Whall before assuming I fully understood the issue.

The City of Springfield and its staff and employees, along with its legal department did not lose $4.1 million.

I plan to learn from this mistake and I take full responsibility for it.


City Clarifies AT&T Mobility Settlement Funds

In regards to the posting, "Where's my 4.1 Million Dollars, Dude?" I received the following email from Public Information Director Louise Whall a few moments ago:


The fees to the outside counsel were paid to them directly from AT&T and are not part of the $10.22 million settlement. The $10.2 settlement is comprised of three parts:

1. The lump sum
2. The back taxes being held under protest
3. The gross receipts going forward through June 30, 2009

We have received the lump sum check for $6,125,000 and it is applied directly to the Police-Fire Pension Fund.We already have the back taxes being held under protest, which were in an escrow account.We won't finish receiving the third portion until we receive the final gross-receipts payment going through the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2009.
Those three portions equal the $10.22 million.

I regret that my earlier report was made over the weekend while City offices were closed and unavailable to answer questions, which I did pose to Ms. Whall over the course of the weekend. Based upon available information and with no clear explanation presented in the News-Leader's article over the weekend I based my analysis on the signed, notarized agreement, alone. That agreement stated, in part:

"2. Payments to Springfield. Within ten business days after the receipt of this fully executed Agreement and W-9 tax documentation from Springfield and Lowther Johnson, Attorneys at Law, AT&T Mobility will pay the amount of Ten Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($10,500,000) as follows: six million one hundred twenty five thousand (6,123,000) shall be wire transferred to City of Springfield, 840 Boonville Ave, Springfield MO 65802 and four million three hundred seventy five thousand ($4,375,000) shall be wire transferred to Lowther Johnson, Attorneys at Law, LLC, 901 St. Louis Street, 20th Floor, Springfield MO 65806. AT&T Mobility will provide a Form 1099-MISC to Lowther Johnson with respect to the payment to it. Further, all payments related to the Protest Cases and payments remitted "under protest" for the months of January and February 2009, plus any accrued interest on those amounts currently held by Springfield, shall be released to Springfield upon the entry of the dismissal orders in the Protest Cases as described in paragraph 1 above. The parties acknowledge and agree that no portion of any payment referred to in this Section 2 is in the nature of penalty."