Sunday, May 31, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: NH Gay Marriage bill; Boggs on Abortion

Following up on last week's "Baptist Press" (BP) posting, there is more news developing in New Hampshire as relates to gay marriage legislation. Read "NH 'gay marriage' bill heads back to legis," written by assistant BP editor Michael Foust, to follow the issue.

Then, "Baptist Press" editorial columnist Kelly Boggs continues to pull no punches when it comes to where he stands on the topics of the most heated debates of the day.

In this article Boggs wrote:

"...Research indicates that 90 or more percent plus of all abortions in America are motivated by convenience and that 90 percent of U.S. babies identified as having Down syndrome are aborted. If a baby is conceived at the wrong time in a woman's life or is found to be less than perfect, then, society says, its life can be exterminated on a whim.

"A developing fetus is biologically alive. It grows and changes rapidly, but these characteristics do not make it alive as a person," wrote Steven Maynard-Moody in the book "The Dilemma of the Fetus: Fetal Research, Medical Progress and Moral Policies." To abortion advocates, babies in the womb are alive alright; they are just not persons....

...The Nazi's had a term they used to justify the killing of innocent life. It was "lebensunwertes Leben" which means "life unworthy of life." Anyone the Nazi's deemed were "not persons," like the disabled or Jews, were simply killed and disposed of like garbage. Sound familiar? It should, as it is the same calloused, hard-hearted position that supporters of abortion in America take right now."


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Feature AMW Story Raises Questions about Prosecution in Dale Helmig Case

The attorney for convicted Missourian Dale Helmig suggested Prosecutor Kenny Hulshof had a pattern of lying to jurys in an interview with John Walsh. The story was the feature of AMW's broadcast Saturday night.

Helmig was convicted of the murder of his mother and has served 13 years of a life sentence, handed down after Helmig's prior attorney failed to adequately defend him, according to family and friends.

AMW's story was titled "Was Justice Served? The Case Of Dale Helmig"

Get all the details at the AMW link above.


Where's my 4.1 Million Dollars, Dude?

That might be what Police and Firefighter Pension Trustees and the past and present City Council members are asking today

Update: Please refer to: "JackeHammer: I was wrong..."

The City of Springfield stated, in its explanation to Council Bill 2009-053 (Ordinance No. 25556), that, with Council approval, the net AT&T Mobility Settlement would equal the amount the City underfunded the pension plan during four past fiscal years, with interest. Council, clearly, unanimously approved the bill with that intent, also amending the budget, "In the amount of $10,225,361.00 for payment into the Police Officers' and Fire Fighters' Pension Fund to meet the City's net pension obligation," on March 9, 2009.

I could quote and quote from Ordinance No. 25556, noting the intent of the ordinance, and I could quote and quote from the March 9, City Council meeting, proving the belief of the City Council that the money the City would end up with, as a result of the AT&T Mobility settlement, would be enough to cover the entire net pension obligation, including the interest accrued at 7.5 percent through June 30, 2009 but, you can read the bill as linked above for yourself.

Clearly, our past Mayor, Tom Carlson, believed it was "a done deal."
Carlson stated in his State of the City address on March 5, "The newspaper put a lot of pressure on us through the editorial board but, your Council stuck to its guns (and) as a consequence of that, we are going to get enough money in here to make the full payment that we owe, with interest."

At the following City Council meeting, past Councilman Ralph Manley believed it was a big win for the City, "This is a real bonanza for us, and we're very happy that all of this settlement can go to these funds, and it's going to go a long way toward catching up some of the shortages we've had," Manley said.

City Manager Greg Burris said it would take the City from around $200 million in shortage to around $190 million in shortage amounts, "and, as the Mayor pointed out, it does make the City whole in terms of making that contribution that was recommended by the actuaries over those 4 years," Burris said.

Carlson, in an exchange with Finance Director Mary Mannix Decker asked her, "So, to say it another way then, if the Council approves this bill tonight, once the money's received, it will be placed in the pension fund and it would fully satisfy all the payments that the actuaries were requiring the City to make over the past 3 or 4 years?"

Decker responded, "Yes, that's correct."

So, what happened? Where's the pension fund's intended $10,225,361.00?

Section 1 of the ordinance might offer us a bit of direction. It states, " The City Manager, on behalf of the City of Springfield, Missouri, is hereby authorized to enter into an agreement with AT&T Mobility, LLC and those who conduct business on its behalf and named in eight tax protest suits filed in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Missouri, provided said agreement is in substantially similar form and content as the agreement entered into between the City of Springfield and Sprint Corporation and the agreement entered into between AT&T Mobility and Jefferson City, Missouri, upon the City Attorney approving the form of such agreement and the City of Springfield receiving out of said agreement the release of all taxes paid prior to June 30, 2009, and sufficient additional cash payment so that the City will receive, and have available to it, the total of $10,225,361.00 by June 30, 2009."

So, in other words, provided everything worked out the way the City, staff and attorneys thought it would, and then, with the City Attorney's approval as to the form of the agreement, and if, and if, when all was said and done, the City had available the $10,225,361, they'd put that amount in the pension fund.

Though the intent was there, the $10.2 Carlson and the past Council were counting on will not be received by the City of Springfield.

Although the bill, which the sitting City Council of the day approved in March, stated, under #3 of the explanation, "The attorneys' fees and costs for the City will be paid directly by AT&T Mobility...," and noted the stated intent, that "the City's NET settlement proceeds WILL equal the amount the City underfunded the pension plan during four fiscal years (FY2004 through FY2007), plus interest," and although staff recommended approval, "of this settlement... to meet the City's net pension obligation," it all flew out the window when the actual agreement was signed and notarized.

So, what was the agreement? What "form of agreement" did the City Attorney approve? That's the easy question, you can simply read the signed, notarized agreement* between all parties.

The City will receive only $6,125,000, rather than the budget amended amount of $10,225,361, and Lowther Johnson, Attorneys at Law, LLC will receive $4,375,000. All of it will come out of a pot of $10.5 million but, technically, AT&T Mobility will pay the City's attorney fees directly, just as the ordinance indicated it would.

The tougher questions to answer are what happened to the ordinance indicated amount of $10,225,361? Why did the agreement fail to provide the net funds in an amount sufficient to cover the City's net pension obligation plus interest, as intended?

Somewhere between the passage of that bill in early March, and April 21, our fair City lost an intended $4.1 million. Our police and fire fighter pension fund lost $4.1 million and the taxpayers of Springfield, Missouri lost $4.1 million. Okay, you say, you can't lose what you don't have, that is true but, by all previous indications, the City had a tentative settlement agreement for an amount $4.1 million greater than what the City will receive.

The moral of the story: Don't count on your chickens (or duck) before they're hatched.

*Source: "Springfield News-Leader"


Monday, May 25, 2009

SOS Spokesman Mark Wright's Email, Declining Invitation to Speak to the Springfield Police Fire Pension Citizen's Task Force

Tom Martz's summary presentation

The other day, I had a short-but-sweet discussion with Darin Chappell in the comment section of another entry. In that entry, Chappell had already explained his personal reasons for declining to present the Save Our Springfield (SOS) pension plan proposal to the Police and Fire Pension Citizen's Task Force, after City Manager Greg Burris extended an invitation for them to do so.

When Chappell noted an email, written by Mark Wright to the City Manager's office, declining the invitation on behalf of the SOS spokesmen, I thought the public would be interested in reading that email so, I requested a copy of it.

Chappell had noted, "The very nice email response that Mark Wright sent back to Mr. Burris was much more than a simple declination, by the way. It says quite a bit about the City in general, and Mr. Burris in particular, that he seems to be characterizing our decision as he is."

Technically, I can't agree that Burris characterized SOS by not elaborating upon the reason behind the group's decision not to present their plan to the task force. It really isn't Burris' job to explain the reasons behind the actions of SOS, but, that said, I suspect Burris knew the negative nuance of, repeatedly, noting he had invited SOS to speak to the task force but they'd declined, while failing to share the reason for that declination.

Eventually, Mark Wright forwarded the email response to me.

I was surprised to find out, according to Mark Wright, no member of the press or media ever contacted him to find out why SOS decided against speaking to the task force, but, rather than holding Burris accountable for the negative nuance present, due to no reason for SOS' decision ever being published, I prefer to remedy the problem by publishing the reason here, and doing what I can do, in my small corner of the world, to make those reasons available to the public.

I do wonder if media representatives felt the public would not be interested in why the SOS group, after much public fanfare about their plan, chose not to present it to the task force. I don't even know if Burris, in an earlier interview with the News-Leader, might have elaborated on the subject. It is possible he did but the News-Leader failed to include that portion of his interview in their article. Who knows? But, according to Wright, "After Mr. Burris’ letter to the editor, when he mentioned we declined the invitation to speak to the task force, I expected some inquiries and never received any. You are the first. "

Tom Martz, who had signed on to endorse the SOS plan during his campaign for the City Council General Seat A, did make a presentation regarding the SOS plan to the Pension task force. In an email from Martz, he gave a summary of his remarks to the task force, which were delivered on Thursday, May 21.

"In this presentation I gave a complete review of the S.O.S. plan and expanded upon that by pointing out many of the pitfalls of the pension plan and the 1 percent tax, which the city tried to pass in February," Martz wrote. "With the opportunity given to me by the S.O.S group, in allowing me to present the pension solvency plan, along with the City Manager and the Pension Citizen Task Force, I believe they were given an opportunity to see that tax increases should not always be the first and final solution to government problems."

Anyway, it's kind of old news now but, I think the public might still be interested in that email so, following is the body of the April 30, email, SOS spokesman Mark Wright sent to the City Manager's office after Burris relayed an invitation for them to address the task force. I have omitted the email addresses and date and time stamps:

Darren and I are grateful for the invitation by Mr. Burris, however we have concluded that SOS cannot add anything of substance to our solvency solution for the Fire-Police Pension Fund. SOS respects the valuable time of task force members and has no desire to impede their important work by rehashing our well publicized plan.

Our goal was to bring forward a temporary alternative proposal that would be tax-rate neutral, which would allow city leaders time to come up with a permanent solution to the solvency issue. We are humbled by the fact that our proposal led to the creation of the task force and equally humbled that our proposal is under consideration. If the SOS solvency plan is chosen or a superior plan is adopted by the task force, we will be satisfied.

We sincerely wish city leaders and task force members the best of success as they seek out a solution to a challenging problem facing our city. SOS is confident that when the citizens of Springfield unite behind one common effort we can conquer any obstacle.

May God bless,

Mark Wright
Darin Chappell


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Councilman Doug Burlison Offers Pension Task Force Proposal for Consideration


Councilman Doug Burlison shared a proposal with Mayor Jim O'Neal, his peers on the City Council and the City Manager's office this evening via email. He also cc'd a myself and another local blogger, along with other media and news outlets in Springfield.

Following is his proposal:

Four months have nearly passed since we, as a community, went to the polls to decide whether or not to approve a 1-cent sales tax to fix or Police and Fire pension fund. By a slim majority, the vote was against this proposal at that time. Disregarding the one-time funds that have been contributed, instead of just over $13 million being injected into the fund by a new tax, we've let the liability get almost $4.5 million deeper in debt without it. It is undeniable that this is the position that we, as a city, find ourselves in right now. We have created a Task Force to dive into this issue, to evaluate different approaches, and to make a final recommendation for City Council to act upon.

As the citizen who called for an audit of this city, and now as a member of it's governing council, I have gone through a cycle of skepticism, investigation, and evaluation of my own. I am very appreciative of having a resource like this Task Force available to take an in-depth, independent look at the various proposals offered, and in light of that, I would offer up another proposal to introduce to the table. I would ask the Task Force to analyze the impact of a new, one-time (5 year) 3/4-cent sales tax, plus one-half of the next potential renewal of the 1/4-cent Capital Improvements Projects tax to supplement the pension fund. Perhaps this, coupled with other factors that the Task Force will recommend, could get us to the once-and-for-all remedy the situation requires.

Beyond just crunching the numbers, I am also aware of the political considerations to keep in mind:

*This community has a very low appetite/capacity for new taxes.

*Job # 1 for any level of government around here is public safety, with citical public infrastructure coming in at a close second.

*We want to solve this pension problem, not just put a band-aid on it so our kids will have to take care of what we couldn't.

*We have to be competitive with other cities if we want to maximize our police/fire training dollars, and to increase the retention of qualified personnel.

I personally feel like the ladies and gentlemen of our public safety departments have their finger on the pulse of what it takes to actively compete with other municipalities for (and to keep) good quality police and fire officers. To affect a workable solution to this problem will require their input. To place their negotiated benefits under the microscope may stop a couple of minor fiscal leaks, of which the pension board has already made recommendations to repair, but it won't make a dent in the big picture. The overall problem, however, will take great fiscal effort, and perhaps the swallowing of some political pride to handle effectively. Simply satisfying the state statute is nowhere near a long-term fix, and the problem with not handling this completely now, will absolutely result in the price tag getting much higher. If we continue to not adequately address this problem, lawyers and judges are going to force a solution on us, and that price tag will be astronomical.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I respectfully request the Police and Fire Pension Task Force to consider this proposal.

Thank you for your consideration,
--Doug Burlison


This Week at Baptist Press: Religious Freedom Under Attack?

Are religious freedoms threatened by same-sex marriage laws? Do Christians have the same rights as other Americans?

This "Baptist Press" (BP) article identifies some areas where such questions might be seriously pondered.

Then, while you are still pondering whether same-sex marriage laws might be worth serious thought in terms of their consequences related to other religious freedoms, ponder the other article I have chosen to feature.

In a Frisco, Texas, public school, Gideons applied to place Bibles in a display area where other non-school related items are permitted to be placed, items such as boy scout literature, summer camp program information, and other literature which might be of interest to school children and their parents. The BP article noted:

"The district has what it calls a "viewpoint neutral" policy on such material, provided it meets strict guidelines for decency and civility."

The Gideon's request was approved based on the school district's specific criteria for approval or denial of such material.

What is interesting, to me, is that both articles deal with religious freedom but, from slightly different angles. One group seeks to create state or federal law, forcing a secular (or gay) agenda to be respected in the spiritual institution, the other group seeks permission to make religious material available (not distributed by mandate), under an existing and already implemented policy of a public institution.

The first article linked is fairly exhaustive in citing instances where special "rights" granted to same-sex couples could effect religious freedoms in many ways. There is no mention of any special "rights" being sought on the part of spiritual institutions which would effect secular freedoms or other religious institutions' freedoms. Perhaps there are no spiritual institutions seeking any special "rights?"

In the second article linked, we find that some parents are protesting the simple placement of Bibles next to other non-school related literature in a public school. Those parents, who protest, claim there is no place for the Bible in public school. There is no mention that these same parents had any objection to any other non-school related material being allowed in the display area. Perhaps there are no parents who object to other non-school related material being allowed in the display area?

The secular (or gay) "rights" seekers have little legal precedent for limiting the religious freedom of those within spiritual institutions, beyond the IRS' federal taxing authority requirements on those institutions, which limit their endorsement of specific candidates for office by a promised loss of tax-exempt status should they do so.

The Frisco Independent School District has a valid, legal argument for their policy decision:

"Those opposing the recent distribution of the Bibles must understand that if the District prohibits the Bibles from being placed in the distribution area, it must also prohibit all groups such as those identified above, from utilizing the distribution area as well. The law requires the District to permit all or none, there is no middle ground."

There seems to be little tolerance of religious freedom in America today. Ironically, while intolerance seems to be growing against religious freedom in America, the religious are the ones regularly accused of intolerance.

Are all people in the United States treated equally?


Friday, May 22, 2009

Springfield-Greene County Parks Department Receives Glowing Review

I enjoyed reading this article, "Parks hits a budgetary winner," in the News-Leader today.

I wrote an article for the "Community Free Press" about the decision process of budget cuts within the park system last year. I was proud of that article and spent a great deal of time on it, including over 2 hours of meeting time with Parks Director Jodie Adams. The article also offered document boxes with the services that were available within the system of parks for the remainder of last summer, as a public service. It would have come out in the issue that followed the article I wrote on the City versus Springfield Skatepark Association, if it had been published.

I agree the Parks Department has taken some unwarranted hits about some of their cuts in the past. I don't know how they can communicate what they do in their budget, what can be used to fund pools and parks which originated prior to sales tax revenues being approved for new parks and pools. Somehow, no matter how many times it is reported, a lot of people still do not understand it.

Of all of the articles I ever submitted to the Community Free Press, the parks article was the only one that CFP refused, or failed, to publish. Though I repeatedly asked why an article I had invested so much energy in was not published, I was never given any answer other than a promise to get back to me on what I could do to make it work for the paper.

Later, I asked Adams if she would mind if I posted it at JackeHammer. She wanted to read and approve it before I posted it. I didn't feel it was appropriate to seek her approval of the piece before posting it, something I would not do before publishing an article in a news paper, why should I do it at my blog? So, it languishes today in the file cabinet. I regret it because, I really felt it gave insight into what the parks department went through during their budget cuts last year, relayed the facts about many issues within that department the public questioned, and showed Ms. Adams in a more personal light, as she struggled with decisions she did not wish to have to make in a way that she felt would be fair to all the citizens of Springfield.

That one, I guess, is the one that got away.

The reason I sought her permission to post it here, in the first place, is because she granted her interview to a contributor for CFP, not to a local blogger. I didn't feel it was appropriate, under the circumstances, to post it here, without her permission, for that reason.


Recommended Reading 13: Councilman Ibarra on the Memorial Day Weekend

Zone 1 Matters: Remember the Reason


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Garden Plot Thickens...or not?

You be the judge

I really wanted to wait this out and see what develops when the staff report, describing the proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance regarding urban gardens, is delivered to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public but, in light of the recent news release from the Public Information Office, this posting at "busplunge," and Wednesday night's entry at the City's Web log, "CityConnect," I do have something to add.

The news release as well as the first paragraph of the "CityConnect" blog piece (which is quoted here) states:

"On Monday, City Council approved initiating a zoning change that would permit less-intense urban garden uses in all zoning districts, while requiring a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens...."

On Monday, the City Council did approve a one reading, consent agenda resolution pertaining to urban gardens but, I'm not sure that the above paragraph is a fair characterization of what the City Council approved, at least not as far as the public might have been concerned.

On the agenda, which was available to the public at Monday's City Council meeting or can be acquired from the City Clerk's office, and online, ^ the bill summary read:

"A resolution to initiate an amendment to the Springfield Land Development Code, Article 1, Zoning Ordinance, Division IV, that all zoning districts shall permit urban garden uses. (Planning Staff recommends approval.)"

The bill originated in the Planning and Development Department.

The bill's stated purpose was:

"To approve a resolution initiating an amendment to the Springfield Zoning Ordinance to permit urban garden uses in all zoning districts. (Staff recommends approval)."

In my posting Tuesday, I quoted a part of the explanation to the bill Council passed on Monday night.

Following are the complete Staff comments under the explanation to the bill:

"This amendment would allow urban garden uses with certain conditions in all zoning districts. Urban gardens are considered a community or market garden where an individual or groups of individuals grow and harvest food crops and/or non food, ornamental crops, such as flowers for personal, group use, consumption, donation or to be sold for profit.

This amendment is being proposed to allow for more sustainable living in neighborhoods around the City. Municipalities across the country are recognizing the benefits of urban gardens and sustainability which ultimately result in an improved community or neighborhood environment. This amendment would allow these types of uses in all zoning districts either by right or with conditions.

Approval of this resolution will not amend the Zoning Ordinance but only begins the process of review and recommendations by staff and Planning and Zoning Commission. Staff will return to City Council with those recommendations at a public hearing at a later date."

Maybe I would be picking a nit to note there was nothing said about less-intense urban gardens versus higher-intensity gardens or about a requirement for a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens mentioned in the agenda summary, or the bill's stated purpose, or the explanation to the bill the Council approved on Monday night.

I don't know, maybe it won't raise any eyebrows among the City Council to read such a characterization of what they approved on Monday night. They will be the ones who will consider and either approve or disapprove of any final amendment the staff brings to them at a later date but, this sort of a seeming discrepancy between what was presented for public consumption and the, later, news release and "CityConnect" characterizations of what the Council approved bothers me.

The information about what the Council was approving on Monday night that was provided for public consumption said nothing about low intensity versus high intensity "urban gardens," neither was their any mention of a required conditional-use permit for higher intensity urban gardening. The only words giving any indication that there would be conditions applied came within the staff's comments in the explanation to the bill.

Less than 24 hours after the City Council passed the resolution "to initiate an amendment to the Springfield Land Development Code, Article I, Zoning Ordinance, Division IV, that all zoning districts shall permit urban garden uses," the Public Information Office put out the news release which stated:

"The Springfield City Council Monday approved initiating a zoning amendment that would permit less-intense urban garden uses in all zoning districts, while requiring a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens."

The news release also notes:

"Council Bill 2009-124 simply starts the process to consider this text amendment to Springfield's Zoning Ordinance."

Now, like I wrote in the introduction to this blog entry, I had really hoped to let this rest until, at least, July 2, when the report detailing the amendment is to be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public but, it seems to me what was presented for public consumption regarding the intent of this proposed amendment and what it is shaking out to be are two different things.

If it was so easy to characterize exactly what the amendment sought to accomplish through the Council's "initiation," in a news release on Tuesday, and a City Web log entry on Wednesday evening, why wasn't that terminology expressed in the summary, the stated purpose, or the explanation to the bill approved by the City Council Monday night?

Then, to find out on Wednesday that what has turned out to be a broad, general, proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance, which could result in affecting all citizens of all zones within the Queen City, originated as a result of a couple in west Springfield who, essentially, want to run a truck farm in the middle of a residential area of the City?

I am troubled by the presentation the citizens of this City were offered regarding this bill. If the bill/resolution the Council approved on Monday night was to initiate "a zoning amendment that would permit less-intense urban garden uses in all zoning districts, while requiring a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens," then, it seems to me, that is what the bill's agenda summary, and the bill's stated purpose should have read, instead the summary and stated purpose mentioned nothing about conditions, nothing about low versus high intensity urban gardens, and nothing about a requirement for a conditional-use permit for higher-intensity gardens.

This sort of official presentation, versus what the City is really planning, is a perfect example of why, I believe, the citizens of this City are suspicious and feel they must keep a close eye on Springfield City government.

Note: All emphasis mine.


Gardening in the 'Burbs can be Rewarding

The fruits of our labor?


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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

(Caution: Sarcasm Alert)

Isn't it special that some members of staff in the City of Springfield want to "allow" all zoning districts in the City of Springfield to grow an "urban garden?"

What? You thought you already had the ability to plant a vegetable or flower garden at your home within the City limits of Springfield, Missouri? I did too!

Imagine my surprise when I realized that we , apparently, have no hope, as residents of the City of Springfield, of planting vegetables, fruit and flowers on our property until the City recommends and the Council authorizes it, through modifications and additions to the City's Zoning Ordinance.

The City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) aren't scheduled to seriously consider allowing us to garden in our yards until July of this year. By the time Council passes these zoning modifications and additions, it will be too late to even put out a garden this summer. Sufferin' Succotash!

Last night, the City Council passed a one reading, consent agenda bill that sounds warm and fuzzy on its surface. The explanation of Council bill 2009-124 states:

"This amendment is being proposed to allow for more sustainable living in neighborhoods around the City. Municipalities across the country are recognizing the benefits of urban gardens and sustainability which ultimately result in an improved community or neighborhood environment. This amendment would allow these types of uses in all zoning districts either by right or with conditions."

It's those conditions I'm concerned about. You see, I thought we already had a right to plant a garden at our houses. I thought we already had a right to plant a garden in a flower bed or container at our businesses.

You don't think this "review" and these "recommendations" are really about giving you, as a citizen of this City, the right to garden or about "allowing" you to plant a garden, regardless of your particular zoning district, do you? Did the Council believe that when they voted in support of the bill?

It seems to me, what unidentified "staff" members of the City are really proposing to give you is more government regulation, and perhaps, attached taxes, and permit fees, depending on your use. Someone in the City will determine what use is a right and what use should be conditional for you at some later date. Don't worry your little head, pretty or otherwise, over it.

The Council gave approval last night for the Planning and Zoning Commission to "begin a process of review and recommendations," with the promise to "return to the Council at a later date." In the meantime, not even 24 hours later, through this news release, we can get an indication of the real proposal.

Straight from Tuesday's news release:

The following changes to the Zoning Ordinance are proposed:

* Add the definition of "Urban Gardens" in Section 2-1100;

* Modify the Permitted Uses section in all zoning districts to allow low-intensity urban garden uses;

* Modify the Conditional Uses section in residential zoning districts to allow more intense urban garden uses;

* Add a section to the Conditional Use Standards that addresses intensity issues such as noise, heavy machinery, hours of operation, accessory buildings, off-street parking, chemicals and fertilizers, and retail or wholesale businesses located on the premise, and;

* Delete all references to truck gardens, which are not defined, in the Zoning Ordinance.

I'm left wondering why these proposed regulations (oh, I'm sorry, "modifications and additions") were not included in the explanation for the bill that Council passed last night? Why could the City not have shared more of the details about what they had in mind, prior to asking for authorization for P & Z to "review" what, clearly, "staff" has been considering for who knows how long?

Further, during a time when Springfield's City Manager Greg Burris is reiterating, during budget deliberations, that City staff are working harder and leaner than ever, due to a hiring freeze and sacrifices of full time positions through attrition, why are they worried about peoples' gardens and how to regulate them, today? Won't this create more work for, what Burris keeps inferring, is an already frazzled City staff?

The news release tells us there will be two public hearings, one at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on July 9, and one at the Springfield City Council meeting on Monday, July 27. Both meetings will be held in the City Council Chambers, on the third floor of Historic City Hall, at 7 pm.

According to the news realease,"A staff report describing the proposed amendment in detail will be delivered to the Planning and Zoning Commission and made available to the public on Thursday, July 2, 2009." The report does not say what department of "staff" is working on the report, to be delivered to P & Z and the public.

You can contact Daniel Neal, Senior City Planner at 864-1036 for more information.


Becky Spence Speaks!!!

Brian Brown, reporter for the "Community Free Press," landed an interview with Becky Spence. Spence had spoken earlier with Vincent David Jericho of "KSGF" radio station fame but, had deigned to make any comment to the "Springfield News-Leader" regarding her negotiations with City Utilities on property she owns, and which the utility company would like to purchase.

The CU board voted last month to approve the use of eminent domain to acquire Spence's property, "should negotiations on the sale of the site breakdown," Brown wrote.

Kudos to Brown for getting the story! The new issue is available for pdf download and reading online, just click on the cover shot of the paper here, or you can pick up a copy of the paper at all the usual haunts today.


Councilman Nicholas Ibarra Explains Vote Against use of Stimulus Funds

"At this time, I believe that accepting any stimulus funds will be a detriment to our sovereignty as a city...."

If you haven't taken a look at Councilman Nick Ibarra's Web log, "Zone 1 Matters," you are missing out on some true transparency on the part of an elected official.

After the discussion in Council chambers last night about three bills concerning improvements to the intersection at James River Freeway and National Avenue, Mr. Ibarra and Mr. Bailes voted against the second in a series of three bills related to the issue (see: Council bills 2009-115, 2009-116, and 2009-117).

2009-116, which still passed with a majority of Council voting to support it, authorized the City Manager to enter into a cost participation agreement with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC) for the intersection improvements. Part of that money will be received from the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Under 2009-116, the City, by it's approval, has agreed to abide by the provisions of the ARRA.

Ibarra laid out the reasoning behind his legislative decision to vote against Council bill 2009-116 in an entry at his blog, this morning.

For future reference, a permanent link to the Councilman's Web log is in the sidebar here. There is also a permanent link to Councilman Robert "Bob" Stephens blog in the sidebar, however, Mr. Stephens is not updating his blog as regularly as Mr. Ibarra.

Related: "Donations extend pools' hours Springfield News-Leader"


Monday, May 18, 2009

Hallsville, Ohio Indian Summer Festival 1975

Schedule from first festival in 1974

I'm posting this because some of my husband's cohorts have heard him talk about organizing the Indian Summer Festival in Hallsville, Ohio.

The first festival was in 1974 but, I found this old newspaper clipping from 1975 and wanted to recreate it here. Some of you who have heard, in particular, the story about Porkchop the rodeo clown and Thunderchicken the Sky-diving clown, will get a kick out of the story, since you know even more of the background than what was provided in this article.

Here's the article, recreated:

Clown to bring festival glimpse to shopping area

HALLSVILLE-- Persons who haven't made it to the Hallsville Indian Summer Festival yet can get a glimpse of one festival feature Friday evening at the Chillicothe Mall.

Porkchop, the rodeo clown from Wiley's Flying W. Rodeo, will arrive at the mall by helicopter about 6:15 p.m. Friday, weather permitting. The helicopter will set the clown down behind the Borden Burger restaurant, where he will put on a short show with a trained donkey, pass out free festival ride tickets, candy and hamburger coupons.

The clown will leave the shopping center about 6:30-6:45 to return by helicopter to Hallsville for the 7 p.m. rodeo performance. Donations from merchants in the mall and in the Kingston-Hallsville area made the special show possible.

The second annual festival opened Wednesday afternoon with a small crowd but an exciting program, according to festival organizers.

A flag ceremony presented by the Air National Guard at the festival opening drew an excellent response, according to festival officials.

"I saw several people choking back tears," said Larry Melton, an officer on the festival committee. "It should have been on national television. For a little old dinky festival like this, it was way over our heads."

The festival drew an opening crowd estimated at 300.

"The weather was not that great, but it was better than last year's," said Mrs. Robert Haynes, another committee official. "Last year, it practically rained us out. This year, we are in a better spot and more organized."

In addition, Mrs. Haynes said, many events for which admission was charged last year are free this year.

There also are new attractions.

The United Methodist Church is sponsoring a bean dinner in a tipi hand-painted by Hallsville youth. The church also is using a log cabin built by church men for a food booth. A country store sponsored by the Hallsville youth center is operating again this year. In addition, Army Reserve members will bake bread in field ovens at the festival Saturday, and sell the bread to raise money for the youth center.

The festival originated last year to raise money for a youth center to serve the rural Colerain-Green Township area. The goal is to acquire land and build a youth center building.

Tonight's festival activities include a karate demonstration at 6 p.m. by black belt instructor Don Madden and his students. During Wednesday night's demonstration, Porkchop the clown and Thunderchicken the Sky-diving clown added to the show by sparring with the karate experts.

The rodeo performance tonight will be held 7-9 p.m.. There also will be bingo throughout the evening and a gospel sing featuring the Joint Heirs.

Friday activities will begin at 4:30 p.m. Thunderchicken will parachute onto the festival grounds at 5 p.m., then offer hot air balloon rides for children at 6 p.m. Another karate demonstration and another rodeo performance will begin at 7. Bingo and another gospel sing also will be held.


Jackie's note: Larry tells me he built the tipi where the beans were served. He also said that he was the one who built the log cabin. The paper reported it was built by "church men."

Hallsville, Ohio Indian Summer Festival Schedule of Events, 1974

Thursday, Sept. 29

5:30 Opening Ceremonies
Flag raising by Mt. Logan Livestock 4-H Club. Advisors: Harold Schwalbach, Don Clever, and Ronnie Montgomery
6:00 Indian Princess Parade with judging immediately after.
7:30 Karate Demonstration.
8:00 Talent Show, Two classes -- 13 and under and 13 and over, Prizes! ! Any Talents Invited! ! Midway Open All Evening.

Friday, Sept. 30

6:99 Hog Calling Contest
7:00 Karate Demonstration
8:00 ALL STAR Wrestling
9:00 Square Dancing (with cake auction at intermission)
Midway Open All Evening

Saturday, Oct. 1

8:30 a.m. 10 Mile Hike for Hallsville Community Center.
2:00 Fun Games For All Ages
4:00 Karate Demonstration
5:00 Parade Lineup
6:00 Parade
8:00 Square Dancing 'til Midnight. Cake Auction at intermission.
Flea Market All Day Saturday ($5.00 per space). Call Bob Anderson 655-2629. Midway Open All Evening.

Sunday, Oct. 2

12:00 Horse Show.
12:00 Midway Opens
2:00-6:00 Ride all rides for $200.
7:30 Tent Worship Service

Amusements Provided by Nolan Shows Inc.
All Proceeds go to Hallsville Community Center


Jackie's Note: Coming soon: "Melton's Feats Rival Daniel Boone" -- (Ha)


Allow Newspaper to Do its Job, Mr. City Manager

In a rather scathing "Voice of the Day" letter in the "Springfield News-Leader" on Sunday, City Manager Greg Burris asked the Queen City's daily paper of note to "Allow task force to do its job." The task force the headline was referring to was the Police and Fire Pension Citizen's Task Force.

My suggestion to Mr. Burris would be, let the newspaper do its job, and consider giving your own Public Information Office some instruction on how to better perform their jobs.

Burris' letter followed, almost a month to the day, what I, personally, would call a tantrum, thrown by past Mayor Pro Tem Gary Deaver, in which he stated he was planning to wait until after he left his Council post to come back to a City Council meeting and "...discuss some of the coverage that I've felt that we've received on the past," in News-Leader editorials.

The News-Leader's quick response to Deaver's charges of inaccuracy on the part of past editorials, which were most recently, at the time, pertaining to a trash hauler agreement between the city and its two largest trash companies, was answered swiftly in a March 25, News-Leader "Our Voice" column:

"Oddly, he [Deaver] had never asked us to clarify anything in numerous news stories and editorials, and he didn't ask to write anything to offer another opinion himself. He also never sought a correction on the issue...."

Sunday's letter from Burris carried on this, apparent, traditional view on the part of the city, it's officials and certain Council members, by further displaying "the City's" disdain for communicating with the public through, what should be, or, at least, could be, the most valuable medium available to them, the daily paper. Burris wrote:

"After I was asked to put together a citizen task force to study the police/fire pension issue, our city staff made a conscious decision to step back and let the task force do its work rather than engaging in the News-Leader's various pronouncements about the pension plan.

"I remain hesitant about responding, mainly because I don't want my response to infer that I'm giving the material credibility. But Sunday's self-aggrandizing editorial warrants comment for the sake of the task force and our public-safety employees."

I would say to Mr. Burris, much more credibility is given to editorial comments in a newspaper when they are not rebutted, if wrong, than when they are rebutted.

The public wants the facts. The public wants the truth and, I have found, is quite ready to accept it when it is shared. Don't blame the newspaper for the City Management and the City Council's unwillingness to engage in discussion and to correct mistakes, when made. You, and the City, have no one to blame but yourselves for not being forthcoming when erroneous information is shared. Take responsibility for that fact.

When the public hears nothing from you, your employees or elected superiors, after faulty information is shared, they have no recourse but to believe that the information must have been correct.

But, all that said, I wonder, why is the City Manager of the City of Springfield writing letters to the News-Leader? Why aren't errors or misrepresentations (if they exist) being dealt with by the Public Information Office when they occur? Why are such errors, presumably, based on Mr. Deaver's comments, allowed to continue to build suspicion in the minds of the public with no rebuttal or correction on the part of the City?

Springfield's City Manager should let the daily newspaper of note in Springfield do its job and should be asking his own Public Information Office to do their jobs, they are under the manager's authority, the writers of News-Leader are not. Perhaps, instead of expecting writers of the newspaper to cease sharing information with the public about the pension issue, the City Manager should be addressing the City's Public Information Office about dealing with these issues as they arise? Is this a task beneath them?

What is the purpose of the meetings of the Police & Fire Pension Citizen's Task Force being open to the public? Why do they have their own City of Springfield provided Web page, with links to documents of the task force available for download to the public? Because, as the City's elected, appointed, and hired servants have inferred, they want the public to be informed or, because it's the law and since they have no choice anyway they might as well put a good spin on it? I ask these questions because the public keeps hearing lip service from "the City" about how citizen input is desired, about how the city desires this process, and that process, to be open and transparent but, sorry, actions speak much louder than words.

Blaming the newspaper, because they have done their job in reporting about city issues, including the police and fire pension issue, for police and firefighters retiring at the first available opportunity? Really? If confusion about the issue is to blame, it would behoove the City Manager's office and City Council to clear up the confusion. If, as Burris wrote, the News-Leader's editorials are culpable for, "scaring firefighters and police officers into retiring as soon as they hit eligibility," one would think the City Manager would wish to make addressing errors within those editorials a top priority.

I'm one person. I don't have a staffed Public Information Office behind me but, when I see a mistake in the News-Leader, somehow, free of charge, and all alone, with no support, I manage to report it at this Web log. It's amazing to me that the City, with all its staff, can't manage to do what I, often, do for nothing, all alone, here at this blog.

Take responsibility for those under your charge, Mr. Burris.

The News-Leader is not under your charge, but, would benefit from the attention of your staff when they need to make corrections. If there is not enough money in the general fund to properly address important issues of the City, hmmm, how did we get there? Oh, I know, it's the News-Leader's fault. Maybe, had they not reported on the State audit of the City, that pension sales tax might have passed in February, then the City could have afforded to address public relations through its Public Information Office.

Funny, everything bad that happens is, often, someone else's fault these days.

Allow the media in this city to do its job, which, whether you like it or not, happens to be reporting on your actions, the actions of those under you and the actions of those who are your elected superiors.

If the City's message is not accurately being portrayed or the City is having trouble retaining personnel, perhaps the City needs to look within.

In the end, I think everyone is just trying to do their jobs.

It continues to trouble me that the City appears to prefer taking an adversarial attitude toward the print press in this city, rather than working with them, to make sure factual information is shared and properly understood.

Oh, one more issue. Burris mentioned, again:

"We invited the Save Our Springfield group the News-Leader champions to present its plan, which includes a "bias" toward a tax trade-off. (They declined the offer)."

JackeHammer sent out an email inquiry to one of the spokesmen of the SOS group the City Manager claims the News-Leader "champions," inquiring about why the group declined to make a presentation to the Pension Task Force. Darin Chappell responded to that inquiry on Friday or Saturday:

"I cannot speak for everyone, but I decided not make a presentation on my own account for two reasons:

First, the SOS plan was never designed to be a permanent solution to the problem. It was only supposed to offer a temporary band aid to allow the City time to do what they are now doing. So, going before the task force to tell them what they really cannot use for the final solution seems a bit pointless.

Second, I do not think that it would serve SOS for me to be the one to make the presentation, even if it needed to be made, given the recent events between the City and myself.

So, for both of those reasons, I told Mark Wright that I would not be presenting anything.

In the final analysis, I believe we accomplished all we set out to do in that we got the people thinking about other options besides tax the City to establish the task the Mayor to sign on to much of our platform (including reopening the police and fire academies), and most importantly, let the City know that we're watching."

A later email inquiry posted to Mr. Wright has not been answered.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Fine Feathers"

I have one of these lovely [Enid] Collins of Texas "Box Bags."

Mom gave it to me two or three years before she passed. I had always admired it. I got it out today and dusted it off. It has a golden peacock with topaz, clear, and amber stones, and a golden sun with topaz stones on it. The purse's title is "fine feathers."

After I cleaned it up I did a google search for Original box bags by Collins of Texas and found out it's a pretty special little bag. I couldn't find any "fine feathers" bags on the internet. Do you think that makes it one of the more rare box bags she made?

Anyway, I was already planning on using it for the summer, now I'll be even more proud of my little box bag than before I found out about its history.


This Week at Baptist Press: Marijuana and "Gaiety"

New Marijuana Report Released

There's been a lot of discussion about the idea of legalizing marijuana these days. I've even seen polls on "FaceBook" regarding the subject. I don't know how much support there is for legalizing the drug but, "Baptist Press" (BP) published a story on how the potency of marijuana continues to grow.

The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy released a report May 14. The report stated THC levels in marijuana have reached the highest lever ever in the history of scientific analysis on the drug. Scientific analysis, according to the report, first began in the late 1970s. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

BP reported:

The federal agency also noted:

"According to the NIDA [National Institute for Drug Abuse], heavy marijuana use impairs a person's ability to form memories, recall events, and shift attention from one thing to another. THC also disrupts coordination and balance by binding to receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, parts of the brain which regulate balance, posture, coordination of movement, and reaction time. Through its effects on the brain and body, marijuana intoxication can cause accidents. Studies show that approximately 6 to 11 percent of fatal accident victims test positive for THC. In many of these cases, alcohol is detected as well.

"Other recent studies show marijuana use can be a risk factor for the onset of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals, and may be associated with other mental disorders, including depression and anxiety," the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated."

BP also cited a news report from the New York Daily News titled, "Debunking the myths about marijuana: Experts share the facts about today's stronger pot," in which myths about marijuana, such as it not being addictive, are debunked. Read all about the report's findings, including The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' rebuttal in this BP article.

Harvey Milk Day?

Another BP article outlines concerns about a California house resolution which would create "Harvey Milk Day," a "day of special significance," in public schools, if passed. Parents would not be required to agree to their children's participation in the mandated, commemorative activities meant to recognize Milk's accomplishments and contributions to the state of California. Milk was an "openly homosexual San Francisco alderman whose murder in 1978 made him an icon of the "gay rights" movement," the BP report said.

"Lawmakers are pursuing the legislation despite the fact that a statewide poll conducted in March by Survey USA found 69 percent of Californians opposed establishing a "Harvey Milk Day" and only 19 percent favored the idea, [Pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church, Chris] Clark pointed out....

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a virtually identical Harvey Milk Day bill in 2008 because popular opinion was running against creating the holiday, Clark said. He and [President of the advocacy group, Randy] Thomasson both expressed hope that Schwarzenegger would veto this year's version once it passes the state Assembly." - BP, "'Harvey Milk Day' exposes children in schools to 'gay' activist agenda, critics say"


Nixa Sucker Days

Music, luscious scents, local crafts, food, fun, and politickin'

I don't know if "sucker" fish are supposed to be served cold and hard, or how many people got cold, hard, fried fish today but, we were in the first part of the line, and we refused to let it spoil the fun as we headed up and down, up and down the roped off section of Main Street in Nixa today.

My husband lured me into attending Nixa's 52nd annual Sucker Days event with promises of plenty of craft booths. I think we managed to check out every booth, including two "Scentsy" Wickless Product booths.

The first booth I visited was warming "grape granita" scented wax. It was a wonderful scent. When asked, the "Scentsational" Consultant Tammy Tipton said, "yes," it was a personal favorite. I picked up some literature on how to become a "Scentsational" Consultant from Tammy and later found "Escential" Consultant Lisa Young running another "Scentsy" booth. There I got a brochure outlining the products.

Because the candle scents are warmed with a low-watt light bulb, there is no fire involved, no fire hazard, and another nice perk is, you don't have to live with the smell of the smoke after you blow out the candle. The scents are infused in candle wax and sold in bars or bricks. You break off a section of the bar, place it into one of their truly adorable, decorative warmers and you're done. They also sell plug in warmers, the plug in warmers are cute too. I don't know how many plug in warmer styles are available but Tammy told me there are 40 different warmer designs. The 80 different scents they boast are strong and rich. Scentsy also carries "car candles" and room spray. If you think you're interested in these products, go to Scentsy's Web site, visit Tammy Tipton's page or Lisa Young's page. Both Web pages have a link to an online catalog.

If you are a chocoholic you might think about contacting Independent Chocolatier Jennifer Barnett. Who doesn't love chocolate!? Jennifer said making chocolate and baking was something she loved to do anyway so, selling this special line of Dove Chocolate (unavailable at the store) was a perfect fit for her.

For the candy maker, Barnett sells a professional grade tempering unit, top quality chocolate molds, and transfer sheets; for the romantic, there is a Heart Fondue Set; for celebrations, the company features a "Girl's Night Out Kit," including a decadent chocolate martini mix; Surprise visitors? No problem. Try making a quick but fancy dessert with "Dove" mousse mix. You can view the Dove products here.

I also visited with "Jordan Essentials Bath and Body" representative Bo Yoachum. Jordan Essentials used to be known as "Country Bunny Bath and Body." Yoachum said when the company decided to go into international sales, the name Country Bunny did not translate well, so they changed it. You can look at the Jordan Essentials Catalog here. They have bath, body and spa products.

There were lots of other booths, too numerous to mention.

Grace Community Worship Center had a booth set up, they were passing out sample cookbooks to those standing in line waiting for cold, hard sucker fish (sorry, I'm sure I'll forget about it after a warm dinner).

The Nixa Police gave me a black plastic cup with their name in white, a pen, and pamphlet on speeding was snuggled inside. Thanks guys!

AND what would an event like Sucker Days be without some good old Ozarks politickin'!? :)

My husband's ulterior motive to get me to Sucker Days was his desire to pass out brochures for 7th district congressional seat candidate Jeff Wisdom, and, that he did, along with a few other volunteers. Wisdom's campaign manager Jeremy Boyt was on hand in lieu of Wisdom, himself. Wisdom is in the Navy Reserves and had training today so, was unable to attend.

Jack Goodman was on hand, and I saw several Robin Carnahan stickers on blouses and shirts in the crowd. Goodman is also running for the 7th district congressional seat, and Carnahan is running for Kit Bond's old Senate spot against Republican Roy Blunt.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Some Long Overdue Congrats!

I have been remiss in not congratulating the author of the Web log "busplunge" for being mathematically proven to have the best blog in Springfield.

My apologies for not giving him the clap for his great achievement upon its announcement, in March of this year. We should never be too busy or self-absorbed to recognize a peer's outstanding work.

Check the results of the mathematical contest here. If you are a blogger, you will find no one can win against the formidable "bus driver."


Thursday, May 14, 2009

'Sobering' Pension Discussions Deserve a Second Look for Clarification

If you, like me, were intrigued by a few short lines within Wes Johnson's article in today's "Springfield News-Leader": "'Sobering' pension fund issues discussed," then, you, like me, want to know more about Mehlville, Missouri's Firefighter pension fund.

Johnson wrote:

"Task force chairman Jerry Fenstermaker asked Zwiener to explain how one community, the town of Melville, solved its firefighter pension fund shortfall.

Zwiener said the fire district's trustees looked at their funding shortfall and decided to simply stop paying future benefits.

"They switched to a defined contribution plan," similar to a 401(k) , and that switch was upheld in court, Zwiener said."

Well, with a little assistance from a reader of "JackeHammer," what I found out is that "Melville" is Mehlville and it is in Missouri. I read a few articles about the Mehlville suit and decision, and I sent off some questions to actuary Michael Zwiener, thinking there was more to the story than what I, and others, read in the News-Leader this morning.

"The pension fund is sponsored by the Mehlville, Missouri Fire Protection District. What that fund did was cease the future accrual of benefits," Zwiener wrote in an email response. "The benefits of retirees were not affected. The benefits of active members earned to date were not affected. What ceased was the accrual of additional benefits after the change date, which I believe was March 2006 (guessing). In lieu of post 2006 pension accruals, the District installed a defined contribution plan."

Zwiener said Aaron Hilmer was the key player in the changes to Mehlville's pension plan. Hilmer was elected to the Mehlville Fire District Board in 2005, along with Bonnie Stegman, to whom Hilmer gives partial credit for the changes.

In a "Budget & Tax News" article, published by the Heartland Institute in November, 2007, Hilmer wrote about the case.

"The August 27 ruling by St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Thea A. Sherry struck down a lawsuit by the local firefighters union challenging the MFPD's decision to terminate its defined benefit plan and put every employee, current and future, in a defined contribution plan," Hilmer wrote.

He also stated the ruling set an important precedent, " for government bodies that hope to reduce pension costs and give employees more control over and flexibility in their retirement programs."

Hilmer wrote, after he and Stegman, of the Mehlville Fire District Board were elected, they began to work toward reforming the pension and disability plan.

"We hired a disability insurance provider to take over the disability portion, and after two years of union-filed lawsuits against that move, the change became final earlier this year when the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear the case."

An email query to Assistant Fire Chief David Hall has not yet been answered. I will update should Hall respond to my request for a comment.


Springfield City Council Agenda Available

View it here: May 18, 2009 - City Council Meeting Agenda


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Springfield-Branson National Airport: Poised to Seize the Lion's Share of Federal Aviation Stimulus Funds Available in Missouri

It's unclear how many of the 125 temporary jobs created will benefit local workers

The Springfield News-Leader article in today's issue, covering the City Council's majority decision Tuesday to approve an emergency bill in a special Council meeting, for the purpose of accepting over $14.8 million in Federal Aviation Administration grant monies to build a new taxiway at the Springfield-Branson National Airport, includes information on why Councilman Nicholas Ibarra was the lone Councilmember to vote against accepting the grant. I have been unable to, for reasons I won't go into right now, contact Mr. Ibarra to discuss his reasons with him, personally.

I believe, since joining the City Council in April, Ibarra has voted against the use of any stimulus funds from the federal government, for any reason, within the City of Springfield.

In the past, Ibarra's reasoning for voting against the use of stimulus funds has included the complaint that the projects brought forth by the City do not serve to fullfill the intent of the stimulus funding to facilitate job creation.

According to the News-Leader, Ibarra noted the jobs would be temporary jobs and would end before Christmas, 2009.

Thanks to Councilman Scott Bailes, we also know the estimated 125 jobs created will not all benefit local construction workers.

"Gary (Cyr), I think when we spoke, you had mentioned 125 employed with this stimulus money, and then you mentioned Illinois Paving, do they bring their own employees from out of state?" Bailes asked.

Cyr, the airport manager, was unable to give a clear estimate on the number of local workers who would be employed on the project, citing the fact that there are many components to the project.

"They have some out of state (employees), and then local talent," Cyr said. "When I say 125, that's probably the average of a month's time frame. They may exceed that at certain points when we're doing multiple tasks out there....We did an analysis this morning with our consultants to, what do we think would be a benchmark number on average, per month, of employees that will be working out there."

Further, Cyr added, airport administration will update the number of jobs created.

"We'll be doing updates on a weekly basis on the number of employees that are on the job," Cyr said. He described the components within the project as involving dirt work; lime treated sub-grade; asphalt; concrete; lighting; painting; and striping. "We're anticipating that, probably, we're going to average somewhere with 125 plus employees during the course of this project."

Of the $28 million in aviation stimulus project funds, allotted to the state by the federal government, Springfield will bring home the lion's share.

City Manager Greg Burris said this was due to Cyr and his staff's preparedness.

"The reason that the Springfield-Branson National Airport is getting such a large percentage of these monies that are available in Missouri, is a direct result of Gary and his staff, the airport board, being exceptionally well prepared to do this. I mean, they had done the planning, they were ready to move forward on this," Burris said.

Cyr said the airport had not expected to be able to go ahead with the project until 2010.

"This was designed and talked about 4 years ago," Cyr noted. "The funding was not there, in place, to do it at that time....The stimulus money is allowing us to jump ahead and address this with the support of the FAA because it is a safety concern."

Although the explanation for Council Bill 2009-108 included the original estimate of $18.6 million and a net expenditure adjustment to approximately $14.9 million, it did not include a list of bidders for the project.

Related: CityConnect: "City Council Approves Airport Stimulus Project"


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The New Council: A Chemistry of Respect


Okay, I could tell you the cold, hard, factual details about the City Council luncheon today, I've got it on tape and I have most of the handouts that were available but, I'd like to touch on something a little different. Besides, I might follow up on Wes' report after it comes out in tomorrow's News-Leader.

I'd rather look at the attitude and chemistry of the new Council tonight. I like it.

I see a true consideration and respect for other members on the part of our new Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Almost a deference to them that can only be described as a humbleness of spirit on the part of the Mayor and his new Pro Tem. It's a refreshing change.

Twice today, I witnessed the Pro Tem defer to Councilman Doug Burlison, who offered some good suggestions, and I think Mr. Burlison has, sometimes, felt a bit shut out in the past.

This is not to say that our past Mayor, Tom Carlson, did not allow other Councilmembers to speak, he did, but, while that is true, there never seemed to be the level of respect we are witnessing on the part of the new Mayor.

I don't really think I am the only one who got a sense there was a certain feeling of entitlement on the part of the old Council. Often, they seemed to decide how they wanted to act, with little regard to the sentiment of the public. I also don't think I am the only person within this city that sensed a certain arrogance on the part of some of the past members. Sure, they were all, personally, likeable people but, they didn't seem to be very approachable to the general public.

Another attitude I like is the respectful but firm manner in which our new Mayor deals with the City Manager. I know it is pretty early to pass any judgement on the way the new Council works but, Mayor O'Neal has already set a precedent of establishing his and the Council's unquestionable authority over Springfield's fledgling City Manager. The effect seems to be a more genuine deference to the wishes of the Council on the part of the manager. He seems a bit more tentative in recommending certain actions and time lines than he has in the past, and I believe, he may be starting to take his place, under the authority of the City Council, a bit more seriously than in his first days as manager.

All this is good news to me, in part, because I am going to be letting go of covering the City Council more and more as time goes by. I'm going through my own changes. The last 4 months has been a transitional time for me. [Really the last year, considering I lost my little dog and my sweet Mother in late December, 2007 and early April, 2008.]

I really enjoyed the work I was doing for the Community Free Press but, it became more and more clear to me that they really needed to use staff personnel for the increasing work load they were requesting of me, if, as it became apparent was the case, they were not willing to pay me appropriately for the work I was taking very seriously and spending more and more time upon. It was good business for them but, not good common sense for me.

Here's the confession: I loved what I was doing, so much so, in fact, I've been doing it for free as I have been slowly and quietly weaning myself from continuing in the same manner as I have been able to perform in the past. You see, I'm not a rich person who can afford to keep sacrificing my time in the endeavor, regardless of how much I enjoy(ed) it and regardless of how much I enjoy(ed) offering information as a community service to those who were and continue to be interested in city business.

Anyway, no promises. I'll write about the city if and when I have time or, if and when I feel like it. There's a big, broad, beautiful world out there and I have interests in other areas too. Life is good.


Monday, May 11, 2009

City of Springfield Weekly Calendar

Monday, 5/11/2009

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

Cancelled 12:00 PM Partnership Industrial Center West Administrative Council Chamber of Commerce , 202 John Q. Hammons Parkway Contact: Greg Williams, (417) 862-5567

4:00 PM Library Board Buildings & Grounds Committee Brentwood Branch Library , 2214 Brentwood Boulevard Contact: Debbie Eckert, (417) 883-5366

Tuesday, 5/12/2009

9:00 AM Board of Equalization Greene County, Room 113, 940 North Boonville Contact: Richard Struckhoff, (417) 868-4055

12:00 PM Airport Plaza Community Improvement District Public Hearing Busch Municipal Building, 2nd Floor West Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Neil Guion, (417) 886-2000

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

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

2:00 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

5:00 PM Watershed Work Session Watershed Offices , 320 North Main Contact: Loring Bullard, (417) 866-1127

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

5:30 PM Sherman Avenue Project Area Committee Busch Municipal Building, 2nd Floor West Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Marti Fewell, (417) 864-1039

Wednesday, 5/13/2009

8:00 AM Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District Board of Directors Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Barb Baker, (417) 831-6200

Cancelled 5:30 PM Landmarks Board Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 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

Thursday, 5/14/2009

8:30 AM Police and Fire Pension Review Committee Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Evelyn Honea, (417) 864-1002

9:30 AM School Crossing Protection Committee Meeting Busch Municipal Building, Traffic Eng.1st Floor Conference Rm, 840 Boonville Contact: Mandy Taylor , (417) 864-1801

4:00 PM Library Board Programs/Services/Technology Committee Library Center , 4653 South Campbell Contact: Debbie Eckert, (417) 883-5366

6:00 PM Art Museum Board of Directors Art Museum , 1111 East Brookside Contact: Jerry Berger, (417) 837-5700

6:00 PM Police Fire Pension Fund Citizens Task Force - Team 2 Sub-Committee Busch Municipal Building, 2nd Floor East Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

7:00 PM Planning and Zoning Commission Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 Boonville Contact: Mike MacPherson, (417) 864-1831

Friday, 5/15/2009

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

Tuesday Special Council Meeting Agenda



3. COUNCIL BILL 2009-108. (Ibarra)

A special ordinance authorizing the City Manager to enter into and accept a grant from the United State Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, to the City, by and through its Airport Board, in the amount of $14,878,026 for the purpose of providing funds for the Springfield-Branson National Airport Board to design and construct a new parallel taxiway to the southwest of Runway 14/32 at the Springfield-Branson National Airport; amending the budget provided for the Springfield-Branson National Airport Board for Fiscal Year 2008-2009 in the amount of $14,878,026; and declaring an emergency.



Source: Louise Whall, Director of Public Information, City of Springfield


Better Late than Never? This Week at Baptist Press: On Pollster Bias and Autism

This week, at "Baptist Press" (BP), Kelly Boggs laid out the reasons liberal bias in the media is now, more or less, an accepted and foregone conclusion but, he didn't stop there. Media bias, wasn't the entire point this week. While he pointed to several journalists' admissions about the liberal bias that taints reporting, Boggs pointed out another area that hasn't been so forthcoming in admitting a similar bias. Polling organizations.

In "Pollsters can spin their data too," Boggs pointed out, "...a recent report on a poll conducted by Gallup organization reveals that poll takers can spin their results with the best public relations firms in the land."

After citing Obama's approval rating after his first 100 days, Boggs noted Obama's rating was not compared to past presidents' approval ratings in the same way George W. Bush's approval rating was compared to past presidents after the same time period in office.

"Gallup was careful to put Bush's first 100 days into "perspective" in an obvious attempt to downplay his positive poll numbers by comparing him to all elected presidents since Eisenhower. In fact, Gallup sought to further qualify Bush's positive poll numbers by saying, "In general, the rating a president receives early in the term are quite favorable, but decline over time." No such comparisons or qualifiers were offered for Obama's poll numbers." -Kelly Boggs, BP

Boggs also looked at the headlines after Obama's first 100 days in office, with a 56 percent approval rating, and after Bush's first 100 days in office with a 62 percent approval rating.

Obama headline:

"In First 100 Days, Obama Meets or Exceeds Expectations"

Bush headline:

"After 100 days, Bush's Job Approval Rating on Par With Previous Presidents'."

Boggs made a very good case for his conclusion. Read his conclusion and the whole article, for yourself, by clicking the story link provided above.


Then, because I know I have at least one avid reader who has an interest in autism research, check out "God's gift of hope in a struggle with autism," written by Richard Nations. It's a heart warming story about one family's expectations of their son, who was diagnosed with asperger's syndrome, and how they got so much more than they expected.

"God promises "For I know the plans I have for you" -- [this is] the Lord's declaration -- "plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB)"


Friday, May 08, 2009

Involved Springfield Citizen Kick Starts City Council Discussions on Community Improvement Districts

An involved Springfield citizen spoke to the City Council under the auspices of commenting on Council Bill 2009-099. The City Council will vote on that bill at their May 18 Council meeting.

But, Fred Ellison's comments had little to do with the bill he signed up to comment on, instead, Ellison addressed points involved in the philosophical debate surrounding the more general use of Community Improvement Districts (CIDs).

Why is it important?

Well, if I may refresh your memory, back at the Council luncheon on April 28, following some comments on CIDs by Councilmen Nick Ibarra and Doug Burlison, Mayor Jim O'Neal advised City Manager Greg Burris that the Council would like to engage in a philosophical discussion on the issue of CIDs before they vote on many more of them.

"It's (the CID) an interesting political creature and I understand there's some philosophical discussion behind that," O'Neal said at the luncheon. "We'd (the City Council would) like to have that discussion before we vote on many of these."

At the luncheon meeting, a majority of the City Council voted to authorize the Mayor to sign a petition to create the Shoppes at James River (SJR) Community Improvement District. That step is a necessary, preliminary step for the creation of the SJR CID but, it did not actually create the district, that will be considered by Council at a later date. Councilmen Ibarra and Burlison were opposed to the harbinger of the creation of such a district.

Councilman Doug Burlison expressed a concern about the continuing approval of such districts' potential to have a negative effect on passage of any sort of a sales tax, which might be initiated, as a cure for the police and firefighter pension plan (See: "JackeHammer:" CID, TIF, & TDD; Tools in the City's Tool Box).

Councilman Nick Ibarra didn't like the idea that a citizen frequenting a business within a CID receives no notification they are paying a higher sales tax rate at the CID business than what they would pay at a competing business, not located within a CID (See: above noted previous entry).

In light of these future, requested discussions, having a citizen taxpayer define his own philosophical objections to the use of CIDs should be of great interest to the City Council. So, for the sake of future reference, I felt it might be valuable to lock Mr. Ellison's comments into a more accessible and permanent form.

Ellison brought up some interesting points in relation to Community Improvement Districts. He noted that only property owners within any given CID have a say in the creation of the CID; People leasing properties within a proposed CID have no voice in the creation of the district; and a CID creates a competitive advantage for the businesses within it.

"You're allowing a business, another entity, to use the taxpayer to pay for improvements on their properties," Ellison said. "That's an expense that that business no longer has to bear on itself and, therefore, it gives them a competitive advantage over other businesses that may be existing within the same line of business."

Ellison also suggested that businesses within a CID should post notice to their customers that they are paying a higher sales tax rate within the district.

"I think that businesses within a CID should be forced to disclose the fact that they're charging a higher sales tax rate than other businesses within the City of Springfield," Ellison said.

Another suggestion Ellison had was that there should be a minimum number of property owners. He noted, in the case of the CID discussed at the prior City Council luncheon, there was only one property owner, other than the City's own interest in the district.

"I don't think that's what the State statute intended," Ellison noted.

While Ellison did not note it, it could be noted that, generally, a "community" implies more than one or even two involved parties. According to Ellison, the State statute does not define how many participants must be involved in order to form a CID.

When a "community" of business owners wants to initiate a CID, it is generally initiated because it enables the property owners within the CID to ask registered voters within that district to approve an additional sales tax, specifically earmarked for developmental improvements to the property in question. Supposedly, it pertains to improvements which would be beneficial to the entire "community" zoned within the particular district.

As Ellison noted, over 50% of the property owners in both number and assessed value are required to petition to create the CID, however, only the registered voters within the CID are allowed to vote for approval or denial of the imposition of the additional sales tax within their district, though, in most or, at least, many cases, other taxpayers within the City, who did not have a vote on the sales tax rate, but, who might frequent the businesses within it, have had no say in the higher tax rate and are not notified of its existence.

In the case of the Shoppes at James River CID, there was only one property owner besides the City of Springfield, and that is why it was required that the Mayor be authorized to sign the petition calling for the formation of that Community Improvement District.

If the City Council later approves a CID sales tax initiative be placed on the ballot for the Shoppes at James River CID and it succeeds, the SJR district would use the proceeds of the additional sales tax to improve a storm water basin owned by the City, and take over the ongoing maintenance of the basin.

Without an initial 1 percent CID sales tax, Developer Tom Rankin has said he would be unable to pay the $300,000 required by the City for the developments' initial use of the basin, the improvements which would be required to it, and the ongoing maintenance they have agreed to provide for that basin.

"We can't afford to spend that kind of money without getting some return," Rankin said at the luncheon (again, see: "JackeHammer:" CID, TIF, & TDD; Tools in the City's Tool Box


Congratulations to Springfield City Clerk Brenda Cirtin

Mayor Jim O'Neal announced at the last City Council meeting (May 4) that Springfield City Clerk Brenda Cirtin had received the 2009 Quill Award from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

O'Neal said she received the award for exemplifying the goals and philosophies contained in the International Institute's Code of Ethics and Constitution.

Those goals were exemplified, O'Neal reported, by:

> Cirtin's participation in the International Institute of Municipal Clerks

> Service work in teaching other members

> Her participation in training programs to further her knowledge in her field

> Activities that enhance her profession

"I've worked with Brenda going back many years," O'Neal said. "I believe we can all attest to her professionalism and committment to (her) work and the City of Springfield."


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Recommended Reading 11

Duty, Honor, Country.

By: Darin Chappell


On Being Positive

Being positive is just one of the tips found in this article from "Copyblogger," my newest, favorite writing resource.

Fortin (in the above article) was talking about selling a product but, isn't being positive about more than writing to sell a product? Isn't is about a life style? Isn't it about finding that silver lining (or rainbow) on (or beyond) the dark cloud of whatever you happen to be looking at, any given moment in time?

Maybe, like my Mom said, your Mom or Grandma said, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

I'm not selling a product, here, unless it is my own credibility, which, I recognize, has to be built over a period of time. So, how can I say something nice when I am sharing an opinion, based on my understanding of a serious issue?

I think the way any subject is treated "nicely" is marked by how fair one can be to all sides of an issue. Have I, first, removed myself and my own opinion from the issue by reporting it, to the best of my ability, with unbiased fairness? Have I given readers enough fair and factual information to form their own opinions?

If I have been fair, factual, and respectful to the different philosophies involved in forming an opinion in favor or opposition to one side of a particular issue, I think I have come a long way toward treating the subject "nicely."

There's nothing nasty about fairly, factually, and respectfully reporting on all sides of an issue, and once you have done so, there's nothing nasty about sharing your own opinion regarding that fairly, factually, and respectfully described topic. You see, I suspect, most of the time, when there is a charge of bias on the part of a reporter or journalist, it has to do with whether the reader feels his own "side" was correctly, respectfully, and contextually represented.

If I've done all of those things, I think my opinion will be treated with respect. If I have treated others' differing opinions disrespectfully, have misrepresented the philosophy behind the formation of their opinions, or taken part of a discussion about a particular issue out of context, I can't really expect someone who opposes my opinion for fair, factual and legitimate reasons to respect my opinion either.

Sharing an opinion about an issue, a person, or even a business, can involve some strong language and there's nothing wrong with using strong words to describe a philosophy with which you disagree or deliver a review on a business, in my opinion, as long as you have fairly, factually and respectfully represented the philosophy you oppose or the business you are reviewing. If you have done that, you have left some room for others (your readers) to determine their own, educated opinions based on the facts. They might agree or disagree with your opinion, and that's their right too. My opinion is no more valuable than the next person's opinion and is only as valuable to another person as they make it.

I didn't go to journalism school but, I enjoy writing, and recognize it as a "craft" rather than an art form. Just like any craft, there are certain steps that must be taken, in order to deliver a good end product. You can mix and match some of the steps according to the type of end product you want to deliver but, there are some steps which simply must exist and can't be delivered out of order.

If you were making a wooden toy for a child, for instance, you wouldn't pick up the wood block and paint and decorate it before shaping the wood, and you wouldn't sand the wood block before you shaped it.

I thank God for any ability I have to write. If there's any good in it, it is because God blessed me with a certain amount of natural ability to do it but, that doesn't mean I can't learn a lot more about the craft and continue to improve on it.

So, I'm not an expert at writing. There are loads of people who know more about writing than I do. I don't pretend to be an expert at writing. I'm just a blogger. I don't even have a professional outlet for my writing at the moment but, I just can't give it up, it's in my blood. After all, I've been writing since I was about 12 years old. It is a part of my life, a part of me that, even if I wanted to, I simply couldn't stop performing.

I may not be able to afford the degree but I can always afford to learn about the craft of writing.