Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pension Task Force Town Hall Thursday Night, July 30

You can watch the first Police-Fire Pension Task Force Town Hall meeting or, look through the Task Force Presentation from Tuesday's Town Hall Meeting ahead of time to get ideas about questions or comments you might like to ask or make.

Following is the City's News Release providing information about the last of two Town Hall meetings:

July 28, 2009

News Release

For Immediate Release

The second of two Town Hall meetings to take public input for the Police-Fire Pension Fund Citizens' Task Force begins at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, July 30, at the Springfield Art Museum auditorium, 1111 E. Brookside Drive.

The Town Hall meeting will begin with an opening presentation by Task Force Chairman Jerry Fenstermaker, who will review the group's progress to date. The Task Force will then take public comment and questions with priority given to
citizens who did not speak at the first meeting last week.

The public input is intended to help the Task Force in developing its final recommendations, which the group expects to forward to the City Council in August.

Thursday's meeting will air on CityView, the City's government access channel, at 9 p.m., Monday, Aug. 3; and 8 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 4. It is expected to be posted on the City's Web site by the end of the day Friday, July 31, at: CityView .

Summaries of the Task Force's Committee of the Whole meetings are available at: CityConnect. The documents and presentations from the meetings are posted at: Police-Fire Pension Fund Citizens' Task Force.

Citizens who are unable to attend either of the meetings can send questions
or comments via e-mail to: .

The 16-member Task Force will hold a regular meeting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 29, at the 4th floor conference room in the Busch Municipal Building.

For more information, contact: Louise Whall, Director of Public Information, (417) 864-1009.

Note: I did provide simple hot links to the news release in place of Web page addresses.


In Memory

Big Bad John


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is Springfield's Police-Fire Pension Plan Doomed?

Or: Take that Smoking Gun Away from that Straw Man!

The first paragraph of Sunday's Springfield News-Leader article, "Observer scours pension's past for cause of shortfall" began not as a paragraph but, as a single question:

"When it comes to the city's police-fire pension woes, how much more does the past have to offer?"

That's an interesting question, isn't it? Should past mistakes weigh into any discussion of the police and fire pension task force as they are seeking a solution to the underfunded police and fire pension plan?

In "Life of Reason," Vol. 1, "Reason in Common Sense," philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana wrote, "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The quote brought forth many variants, according to "Wikiquote," among them: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it;" "Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes;" "Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it," and; "Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them."

Today's philosophers, Mayor Jim O'Neal, who has sloughed off such questions as a seeking merely to asign blame, and Pension Task Force Chairman Jerry Fenstermaker, along with many of the Task Force members, who say discerning past mistakes which contributed to the pension plan's current massive shortfall will not change or affect the recommendations handed down to the Council and, perhaps, journalist Amos Bridges, who has to ponder and ask readers to ponder how much that dusty old history has to offer, seem to disagree with Santayana.

"...that's of no benefit to the community or the task force right now," said Jerry Fenstermaker, the group's chairman. "We need to put together a plan of action ... If you go and do all this backtracking, you're not going to get to any different recommendations." - Springfield News-Leader, "Observer scours pension's past for cause of shortfall," page 1.

Present City Manager Greg Burris, while noting, "We've tried to be very accommodating and very transparent," about past history related to the pension plan, in the News-Leader article added, "If other people want to delve further, we can keep trying to go farther in layers." That's one of the reasons for the citizens task force, he said.

Certain members of the task force have, in the past, suggested that looking into the causes of the pension plan's shortfall is not a part of their charge. Again, in the News-Leader article in Sunday's paper, reporter Amos Bridges noted, "city officials and most members of the task force say that work has been done and that dwelling on the past further is a distraction."

The first charge listed on the formal "Task Force Charge" pertained to determining the scope of the problem, and later states:

"Please be aware that a significant commitment of time and effort will be required of all task force members in order to fully research the problem, analyze various options, and select one or more recommended solutions to address the problem. I encourage the Task Force to set an aggressive meeting schedule in order to permit a thorough analysis and the development of recommendations by the report due date noted above."

But, even though citizens might have expected the task force to fully research the problem and provide a thorough analysis, it appears there is an attempt being made to reduce the concerns of the citizens of Springfield who seek answers to the causes of the pension plan's shortfall to an ill thought out and immature search for a single cause (smoking gun) with the motive of finding a single boogey man to blame (hang). I believe that is a straw man argument formed to distract the public from finding the answers they deserve.

Repeatedly, in the Sunday News-Leader article it was implied that certain concerned citizens expected to find a single "smoking gun," or person responsible for the shortfall.

These are quotes and paraphrased quotes by the reporter for the News-Leader from Sunday's article:

1. "To try to pin it (the pension shortfall) down to which piece of legislation or which city official signed off on it...." - Pension Task Force Chair Jerry Fenstermaker

2. "...there is no elevator speech for how this happened -- it doesn't boil down to any one single action." - City Manager Greg Burris

3. "There's no "smoking gun," he (City Manager Greg Burris) said, and it's likely those looking for one will continue to be disappointed." - attributed to City Manager Greg Burris by News-Leader reporter Amos Bridges

4. "O'Neal said he thinks part of the motivation for the continued questions boils down to a desire to know "who are we going to hang?"" -attributed to Mayor Jim O'Neal by News-Leader reporter Amos Bridges

5. "Going forward there have been numerous mistakes made, but there's not one thing you can hang your hat on." -Mayor Jim O'Neal

6. "... If there was a smoking gun, I didn't see it." -Mayor Pro Tem Dan Chiles

7. "...right now there is no single smoking gun, unless you want to point to the election of 1958 ..." -Mayor Jim O'Neal

I do not believe anyone is looking for a single cause of the pension's current shortfall, especially not those who have spent a great deal of time and energy in examining and researching the issue.

Who does believe there is a single cause of the shortfall, a single culprit to "hang," or a single "smoking gun?" If certain entities can characterize those seeking answers in such a light, they can make involved and time-contributing citizens seem ridiculous, marginalize them, discredit them and in the process make citizens who seek answers to legitimate questions fearful of asking those questions.

In fact, Alternate Pension Task Force Member Fred Ellison's actual statements, from that same article, never imply he believes there is a single "smoking gun" cause of the pension shortfall.

"Having studied the pension plan for more than a year, he (Ellison) recently has focused on increases to the pension multiplier granted in the 1990s as a primary source of the current shortfall." -attributed to Ellison by Amos Bridges News-Leader article page 1

"He (Ellison) thinks increasing the pension multiplier -- the number multiplied by years of service and final salary to determine a retiree's monthly pension -- from 2 percent to 2.5 percent between 1991 and 1993 could account for much of the shortfall." -attributed to Ellison by Amos Bridges, News-Leader article page 2

Every citizen of Springfield who has even the smallest interest in the pension issue must resoundingly cast aside the implied strawman argument that intelligent people, who would like to understand the historical actions which caused our police and fire pension fund to become so dismally underfunded, are simply a lynch mob looking for someone to hang or a single "smoking gun" cause of the short fall.

Are such implications being made to try to shift the focus away from a complete understanding of the pension issue, including an understanding of the mistakes that were made, because our City officials, City Council, Pension Board and Police and Fire Pension Task Force find it uncomfortable to hold accountable their own predecessors?

I'm tempted to agree that Mayor O'Neal, Pension Task Force Chairman Fenstermaker and the Task Force might have a point that understanding how the pension got into the troubled state it is in today will not, necessarily, change the ultimate recommendations made by the task force but, how can we know all the contributing problems will be addressed by the recommended solution if we do not know what all of the contributing problems were?

The larger issue is the public's right to know and understand how it happened. In fact, as reported in the News-Leader article in Sunday's paper, the Mayor agreed such questions are legitimate, even as he mischaracterized the motives of those who are asking them.

"Mayor Jim O'Neal, who with Councilman Dan Chiles helped organize Ellison's meeting with city staff, said he understands the desire to find a clear reason for the current predicament.

"I think it's a legitimate question," O'Neal said. "It was attempted to be answered during the campaign but evidently not to the satisfaction of all voters.""

Some educated people believe that knowing the answers, all the complicated answers, to how the police and fire pension plan became so underfunded, and having those involved in overseeing the pension plan's management during the decline of the pension plan's funded ratio, recognize, admit errors, and take responsibility for them, would go a long way toward healing the wounds inflicted on the citizen taxpayers of Springfield so that they might be better prepared to accept and support whatever recommended and approved solution the task force recommends and the City Council approves.

And, just an aside, when are City officials and newspaper reporters going to stop playing silly games, mischaracterizing the thoughts, motives and concerns of the citizens of this city in a, seeming, effort to downplay, marginalize, and diminish taxpayer's concerns?

If, as O'Neal stated in Sunday's newspaper article, these are legitimate questions, then they are legitimate questions, period. Since I have yet to hear any citizen who has spent serious time examining the issue make any statement to suggest they expect to find a single cause or a single individual to blame for the pension's underfunding, I do not believe they exist so, why is it being suggested in what is, supposedly, a straight news report, mind you, they do exist? Who are they? Bring them, quote them.

Anyone who has spent any time at all looking at this complicated issue understands there have been many contributing causes to the pension plan's reduction in funded ratio.

Statements such as those found in the News-Leader's Sunday article were unnecessary, and served no purpose, unless it was an underlying desire to characterize those seeking answers to serious questions as some sort of fire and brimstone lynch mob looking for someone to tar, feather, and run out of town on a rail.

Hogwash! There is a very small handfull of people in this City who have taken the time to study, research and try to understand all the contributing factors that caused the pension to be in the state it is in today. It isn't necessary to tar and feather any one, and especially not those who are seeking answers to these complicated but, legitimate questions.


Wait for it, wait for it....

New post coming late tonight!


Monday, July 27, 2009

City of Springfield Weekly Calendar: July 27-31

Monday, 7/27/2009

1:30 PM Ozarks Transportation Organization Technical Planning Missouri State University, Plaster Student Union Contact: Tim Conklin, (417) 836-5482

5:15 PM Sister Cities Association - Isesaki Committee at the Park Board Offices at 1923 N. Weller Ave. Contact: Sister City Office, (417) 864-1191

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

Tuesday, 7/28/2009

8:00 AM Mayor's Commission for Children Community Foundation , 425 E. Trafficway Contact: Denise Bredfeldt, (417) 864-1656

9:00 AM Mayor's Commission on Children Sub-Committee Midtown Carnegie Branch Library , 397 East Central Contact: Denise Bredfeldt, (417) 864-1656

10:30 AM Solid Waste Management District Region O Executive Board Greene County, Room 309, 940 North Boonville Contact: Ronda Gulley, (417) 868-4197

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

2:30 PM Traffic Advisory Board Pedestrian & Bicycle Subcommittee Busch Municipal Building, Traffic Eng.1st Floor Conference Rm, 840 Boonville Contact: David Hutchison, (417) 864-1971

3:00 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

3:30 PM Traffic Advisory Board Busch Municipal Building, Traffic Eng.1st Floor Conference Rm, 840 Boonville Contact: Jenny Turner, (417) 864-1980

Wednesday, 7/29/2009

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

6:30 PM Commercial Street Task Force Busch Municipal Building, Room L45, 840 Boonville Contact: Anita Climer, (417) 864-1654

Thursday, 7/30/2009

3:00 PM Board of Public Utilities City Utilities, C. Frank Knox Board Room, 301 East Central Contact: Gayla Jones, (417) 831-8311

6:30 PM Police Fire Pension Fund Citizens Task Force - Town Hall Meeting Art Museum, Auditorium, 1111 East Brookside Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

Friday, 7/31/2009

No Meetings Scheduled

Source: Springfield Public Information Office


Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 27, Springfield City Council Meeting Agenda Online; Limited Opinion on Pension Task Force

Read the upcoming Council Meeting Agenda here.

I've had so much on my mind, I haven't known where to start. I feel pulled in several directions at the moment....

I attended the first Pension Task Force Town Hall meeting on Tuesday night. The main thing I'd say, is that I wasn't all that impressed with their presentation.

It appears the task force has come to a lot of conclusions but, what is not clear is how they came to those conclusions. While I understand how complicated the pension issue is, I thought the public would be receiving a more exhaustive report than what was received on Tuesday evening.

I'm not sure the public will be satisfied with recommendations unless there is a much better understanding about what the task force went through in order to rule out a number of alternatives, and arrive at those recommendations.

For anyone who is interested in my opinion, that's really about all I have to say about it for now. I'm sure everyone who reads this blog has been keeping up on the issue themselves or has read Amos Bridges accounts of the meetings in the News-Leader.

I'll be back soon.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pythian Castle Resolution Delayed

Saturday, in this posting, I alerted readers that according to Tamara Finocchiario, owner of the Pythian Castle, the City Council would be considering whether to "spot blight" the Pythian Castle through a resolution presented on the July 27, City Council agenda.

A designation of blight would pave the way for Finocchiaro to, possibly, qualify for a HUD loan to assist in bringing the historic property into compliance with City code requirements.

Tuesday, Finocchiaro alerted me that the resolution has been postponed.

Springfield Planning and Development Department Grants Administrator Vern Morgan informed Finocchiaro the resolution would be delayed in an email on Monday.

In the email, Morgan informed Finocchiaro the Law Department had decided the City can't request an exception for a single project, and the rule change needs to be written broadly enough that other properties, under similar circumstances, might also qualify for the "spot blight" designation.

Morgan, who will re-write the resolution, said the deadline for including the amended, proposed resolution has passed for including it on the July 27 agenda but, according to Morgan, it will be re-scheduled for first reading and public hearing at the August 10 City Council meeting.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Addition to City of Springfield Calendar for Monday, July 20

The calendar released Friday of last week did not list a meeting which will take place tonight, Monday night, according to Public Information Director Louise Whall.

"The following meeting was not included on the weekly calendar sent out on Friday, July 17."

Monday, 7/20/2009

6 to 8 PM - City Council National Incident Management System (NIMS) training, Office of Emergency Management, 833 Boonville Ave.

Whall said (in an email), the meeting was, "posted on the official posting board in the Clerk's office at 5 p.m. Friday."

According to the Missouri Sunshine Law (610.020):

"At least 24 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) before a public meeting, the public body must prominently post a notice of the meeting in its principal office."

So, while it might seem a bit inconvenient that the meeting was not included with the original calendar released by Springfield's Public Information Office via email, on Friday afternoon, the City has satisfied the Sunshine Law because it was posted at the Clerk's office on Friday.

Sources: Springfield Public Information office; Missouri Attorney General's Web site (see link at sidebar)


Sunday, July 19, 2009

City of Springfield Weekly Calendar: July 20-July 24

Monday, 7/20/2009

No Meetings Scheduled

Tuesday, 7/21/2009

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

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

12:00 PM Special Council Meeting - Closed Session 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

2:45 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

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

6:30 PM Police Fire Pension Fund Citizens Task Force Town Hall Meeting Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 Boonville Contact: Brenda Cirtin, (417) 864-1650

Wednesday, 7/22/2009

8:00 AM Workforce Investment Board Planning & Oversight Committee Missouri Career Center , 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

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

6:30 PM Commercial Street Task Force Busch Municipal Building, Room L45, 840 Boonville Contact: Anita Climer, (417) 864-1654

Thursday, 7/23/2009

8:30 AM Workforce Investment Board Youth Council Missouri Career Center , 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

4:30 PM Jordan Valley Advisory Committee Busch Municipal Building, 1st Floor Conf. Rm, 840 Boonville Contact: Marcia Chism, (417) 864-1037

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

Friday, 7/24/2009

8:00 AM Airport Board Executive Retreat Firehouse 5, Community Room, 2750 W. Kearney Contact: Terri Winchester, (417) 868-0500

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

Source: Springfield Public Information Office


This Week at Baptist Press: "There is still hope for America"

I'll be honest (of course I always try my best to be honest at all times, it's just that sometimes I choose not to comment on some items in the news, believing I need to be careful in "picking my battles"). But, here's an honest confession, I like to spotlight "First Person" columns written by Kelly Boggs, columnist for "Baptist Press," because Boggs often cuts bluntly to the bare bone of important issues.

Boggs says things that other people ought to be saying, ought to be screaming, and ought to draw battle lines regarding.

Boggs column this week is such a column. He says things that others know, he says things that many people want to close their ears to and put their hands over their eyes to because, to hear what is going on and to see what is going on in our nation would force us to react, even if that reaction is non-action. Remember, non-action is an act, in itself, when it is the result of realizing there is a wrong that needs a remedy and yet, because we lead busy lives or don't want to alienate our friends, or don't want to be interrupted in our current pastime, we choose to ignore the problem.

This week, Boggs tells America we are a nation of blind people being led by blind leaders. I think more and more people are opening their ears and uncovering their eyes to the fact that our Country is being blindly run into a ditch but, it's still happening. The ditch gets closer and closer and the wheels of our wagon are getting squeakier and squeakier as they get all the more wobbly.

Boggs pointed out several specific cases of the deaf and blind leadership of our nation:

"President Obama is pressuring Congress to pass health care legislation before it recesses in August. Representatives admit that when it comes time to vote they likely will not understand all the bill entails and how much it will cost. And yet they still plan to vote on it....

The House of Representatives passed legislation known as cap and trade which was drafted to address environmental issues and "global warming." The original bill was in the neighborhood of 1,500 pages. However, at 3 a.m. the day of the vote, Democrats added an additional 300 pages. Though representatives had no clue what was in the bill or how much it would cost, they passed it.

...a similar scenario occurred in reference to the so-called stimulus package. The same was also true for the bank bail-out bill passed at the end of 2008. In each case, Congress approved legislation with little or no knowledge of contents or cost."

Boggs also touched on the media, "Rather than asking congressional leaders or the president tough questions concerning the reality of recent legislation, the media -- with rare exception -- has acted like a mere spectator simply repeating the congressional or administrative spin," Boggs wrote. "When they are not accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative of proposed legislation, most media outlets are trumpeting the trivial."

So, today, I've done my part to take action. Since what I do is report and write about things, I feel it is fair to report and write about this "thing" as my form of action.

It is not acceptable that our elected legislators are passing critical legislation before they have even read or studied what the long term effects of the legislation they are passing will be. In some cases, there are rare reports from experts about how far reaching and damaging some of this legislation will be to the future of our country but, those reports fall on deaf ears. Those reports cannot capture the attention of the populace of these United States. We truly are a nation of the blind leading the blind and because no one wants to open their ears and uncover their eyes to do something about it someday, someday not in the so distant future, there is going to be a majority of our American population who will be apologizing to their children, apologizing to their grandchildren, for not doing their due diligence to protect our nation.

These are the sad facts. How will you react?

One of the questions I asked of the Council candidates before the April election this year was, will you read the bills that are presented to you for approval or denial before you vote on them? I asked that question because I recognized the importance of our elected officials reading and understanding (and asking questions about) what is placed before them for approval. An incorrect answer would surely have ruled out any candidate I might be considering. If such reading and understanding of legislation is important in our City, how much more so, in our federal government?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Breaking News: New Hope for the Pythian Castle

I got a note from Tamara Finocchiaro, the owner of the Pythian Castle, late Friday night.

Finocchiaro wanted to share the news that, on July 27, there will be a resolution on the City Council agenda seeking the approval of the City Council to "spot blight" the Pythian Castle, "so we can qualify for the HUD loans extended to other (downtown) developers," she said.

Finocchiaro said she's been working with the economic development and loan departments of the City, and the City will be recommending the Council approve the spot blight designation.

"HUD says they are OK with it and willing to loan for historic properties," Finocchiaro said.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Recommended Reading 16: The Case of the Mounting Cases

If you haven't checked Brian Brown's blog, "Brown on a Blog," in a while, or you weren't aware the reporter for the "Community Free Press" has one, this entry would be a great place to start.

You'll thank me. :)


Thursday, July 16, 2009

City Manager's Memo Paints Bleak Picture

Eliminations hit many City departments; effect all

In a memo to Mayor Jim O'Neal and the Springfield City Council, City Manager Greg Burris indicated there are currently 101 vacant positions within City government. In addition, Burris noted another 46 temporary, seasonal and contract positions have been eliminated. All of the 147 positions have been either eliminated or are frozen.

Burris said there is a potential for further reductions in City services.

He warned the Council, they may begin receiving complaints about service delays or, about services that simply are no longer offered.

"No one should claim to be surprised by these service reductions -- especially the print media outlet and others who accused the City of "threats" when this information was shared publicly in January," Burris wrote.

The City Manager also warned the City Council that their own information requests, while they would continue to be addressed, could have the impact of further slowing existing City service functions. He encouraged the Council to carefully consider citizen-generated information requests before, "simply forwarding that request to us."

While it isn't directly stated, it might be hinted that, in the future, the public may be requested to more routinely fill out a formal Sunshine Law requests, rather than rely on informal email correspondence in seeking answers from the City government.

"I am providing updated guidance to departments on the process on how they should respond to requests for information to the Custodian of Records -- the City Clerk's Office," Burris wrote. "Our goal is to be consistent and fair in our application of these new guidelines."

Following are programs and services which have been eliminated from various departments:

Planning Department

> The Neighborhood Assessment Program
> The annual Neighborhood Trash Clean-up Program
> The Urban Neighborhood Alliance's low-interest home improvement loan program for low- and moderate-income citizens
> Support for Center City revitalization program through the Urban Neighborhood Alliance
> Support for the Urban Districts Alliance and the Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District
> Caring Communities neighborhood revitalization program through Community Partnership of the Ozarks
> Hardcopy "Front Porch" neighborhood newsletter
> Services to registered homeowner's associations
> Hardcopy Monthly Service Request reports to neighborhood presidents
> Support for downtown Wi-Fi
> Contract for downtown on-street parking enforcement

Police Department

> The Dare program
> Grant Beach sub-station staffing
> Commercial Street sub-station staffing
> Annual Police Citizen's Survey
> Car seat checks and other Traffic Safety Alliance programs

Fire Department

> Fireworks patrols
> Staffing at the Ozark Empire Fair
> Free smoke alarm program

Public Works

> All annual flower plantings

Health Department

> Phelps Grove and Rountree neighborhood rental registration program
> Multi-family housing inspections
> A number of employee health and wellness programs

Parks Department

> Firefall event
> Outdoor concert series

Human Resources Department

> All police and firefighter testing programs
> A variety of employee training sessions and workshops
> Supervisor training programs
> Employee exit interviews
> The Employee Referral program
> Participation in the Partners in Education school program
> Employee service recognition

The above listed items do not include a listing of the services which were reduced. The lists above only include programs or services which have been eliminated.

In addition to the above eliminations, the employees of the City of Springfield are not scheduled to receive cost of living or merit pay increases.

Other employee eliminated benefits include: no "thank you" picnic; no computer purchase incentives; no employee wellness program; no health risk assessments or wellness incentives and; no employee sick leave incentive.

Other topics of the memo will be addressed in a separate entry.

Source: Memo from City Manager Greg Burris to the Mayor and City Council dated July 15, 2009

Related: For information about how to fill out a formal Sunshine Law Request, complete with a "fill-in-the-blank" form, go to this page of the Missouri Attorney General's Web site.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"busplunge:" where'll the dust settle?

The "bus driver" took readers down a side alley yesterday afternoon, and if they were watching through the bus windows, as he ruffled up the dormant gravel road-bed, they might have gotten a glimpse of how things happen around here, and why they happen when they happen.

The "driver" received some correspondence with some, more than likely, forgotten background information about Johnny Morris' plans to build a hotel across the street from Bass Pro Shops.

Plunging head long into the swirling storm-water run off of the issue, the "bus" quoted his correspondent:

"Morris had tax incentives that made non-proceeding more beneficial than forcing through the building of a hotel back in 1994, so after he came in and destroyed the neighborhood's neighborhoodliness, the development plan was dropped and adjacent property owners were not notified of the change in plans....

Morris's original tax incentives had a 25-year lifespan that expire in 2009," the correspondent wrote.

The bus driver also indicated there is a report titled "Fungus Amungus" floating around somewhere that he aims to get his hands on.

"There is a report, a 50 Q&A report, titled "Fungus Amungus" prepared, complete with illustrations, that was given to the city and the neighborhood association in 2006 regarding this area. I am trying to track down a copy," he wrote.

There's more to the story, including something about the property being an "enterprise zone."

Check it out, that is, if you're interested in such things or so inclined.

Related lug nuts and bolts: Anatomy of a News Scoop: The Day SBJ Broke Bass Pro’s Hotel Plans « The Fine Print*


Monday, July 13, 2009

Dog, Cat & Mouse II

"The Financial Matrix"

Source: "Ancient_Warrior's Ancient_Battles"


Dog, Cat and Mouse

Chow Hound (Org.Version)


City of Springfield Weekly Calendar July 13 - July 17, 2009

Monday, 7/13/2009

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

5:15 PM Sister Cities Association - Isesaki Committee Park Board Offices , 1923 North Weller Contact: Sister City Office, (417) 864-1191

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

Tuesday, 7/14/2009

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

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

2:45 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

3:00 PM Airport Board Public Relations Committee Springfield/Branson National Airport, Airport Board Room, 2300 North Airport Boulevard Suite 100 Contact: Terri Winchester, (417) 868-0500

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, 7/15/2009

8:30 AM Library Board Programs/Services/Technology Committee Library Center , 4653 South Campbell Contact: Debbie Eckert, (417) 883-5366

3:00 PM E-911 Advisory Board Greene County, Commission's Conference Room, 940 North Boonville Contact: Debbie Moore, (417) 864-1719

Cancelled 5:30 PM Mayor's Commission on Human Rights Missouri Career Center , 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Bob Hosmer, (417) 864-1834

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, 7/16/2009

8:00 AM Airport Board Springfield/Branson National Airport, Airport Board Room, 2300 North Airport Boulevard Suite 100 Contact: Terri Winchester, (417) 868-0500

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

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

Friday, 7/17/2009

8:30 AM Library Board Buildings & Grounds Committee Library Center , 4653 South Campbell Contact: Debbie Eckert, (417) 883-5366

Source: City of Springfield Public Information Office


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Community Improvement District Debate Continues and: An Open Question to the Springfield News-Leader

Regarding Sunday's "Our Voice" column: "Lumber company should not be forced into CID Springfield News-Leader"

The inclusion of Janss Lumber into the Commercial Street CID was based on its inclusion in Commericial Street's tax increment financing (TIF) district wasn't it?

I'd be interested to know exactly how many "economic development" improvements Janns Lumber benefitted from, in the past, as a result of captured existing sales tax generated by Janss into the Commercial Street TIF district's coffers, News-Leader?

Did Janss benefit at all?

Such "tools in the tool box," as past Mayor Pro Tem Gary Deaver liked to characterize them, are, as you pointed out, supposed to benefit the participants by economic development. If Janss Lumber has been paying into C-Street TIF district coffers but has not benefitted from the tax captured from its business, it would seem a good argument for being excluded from the CID.

It seems like I read there were some small improvements made to Janss' parking situation, at some point, through the TIF. It would have been nice to have seen that information, if I am correct in my remembrance of its existance, included in Sunday's editorial column.

It might also serve as a warning to businesses who have allowed themselves to become involved in a TIF district, intended to capture existing sales taxes from their own businesses as a sort of tax incentive from the city. Since a TIF appears to be the precursor to a later request for a CID, perhaps the time to take real action against the CID is when a TIF district is first offered. They seem to go hand in hand, if my understanding is correct.

I think you can have a TIF district without becoming a CID. I'm not sure you can become a part of a CID without having first been a part of a TIF district?

In lieu of the News-Leader answering these questions, I guess I could buck up and do the research, myself. I just don't have their staff and am working on other projects at the moment. It takes three staff reporters covering the City government at the News-Leader for a reason, you know?


City Council Meetings Still begin at 6 p.m. for the Time Being; City-Owned Property Sales: No "Windfall" for the Pension Fund

Nor will incremental sales tax revenues represent "a windfall" in the short term; it's all in the measurin' stick used

I was looking over this article in the "Springfield News-Leader" Sunday morning, and thought I would share a little fact picked up at a recent City Council luncheon.

Contained in the article is information pertaining to the sale of surplus City owned property, a small portion of which, said Deputy City Manager Evelyn Honea, would actually be eligible to benefit the police and fire pension fund because, revenue gained from such sales rarely may apply to the general fund. Any contribution on the part of the City to the pension fund has general revenue as its source.

But, back to my first point, which isn't an earth shaking revelation but, certainly worth noting.

The article reminded readers, who might want to be present for the discussion pertaining to the 900 City owned properties, that:

"The meeting starts at 6 p.m. but public hearings begin an hour later."

In an earlier, June 23, City news-release, plans to hold the Monday night meetings, beginning at 6 p.m. rather than the usual 7 p.m. start time, were announced. Mayor Jim O'Neal said the Council would try the new time for two months, and later decide if they wanted to continue the meetings with the start time of 6 p.m. or return to a 7 p.m. time schedule.

After the first meeting's trial of the 6 p.m. start time, however, there was a general consensus of the City Council to NOT continue that trial 6 p.m. start time after the trial period had run its course.

Bottom line: Those wanting to attend City Council meetings on Monday evenings should expect them to continue to start at 6 p.m., for the time being, until it is announced otherwise, however, if the Council does not change its mind between now and the end of the two month trial period, we can expect the Council will return to the historic 7 p.m. meeting start time.

Pension Fund "Windfalls" Elusive

A secondary, and perhaps more earth shaking subject, is the subject of the surplus properties which could be sold to the benefit of the general fund, and, in turn, be eligible for placement into the police and fire pension fund.

Honea has stated all along that of the, now known, 900 City owned properties, few of them will be eligible for use to benefit the pension plan if sold but, still unknown is the actual number of city owned properties which could be sold to benefit that plan.

Unclear is the percentage rate of the 900 properties, and the total amount of acres to which Honea refers. Often, City Managers and City Council members kick around figures they have been conditioned to think are miniscule amounts, and perhaps they are small amounts if taken case by case but, as a whole?

When Ms. Honea tells a newspaper reporter such property sales are, "...certainly not going to be a windfall for the pension fund," I'm inclined to want more facts before I am ready to agree. Honea's definition of a "windfall" and Joe and Josephine Public's definitions of a "windfall" might be two different things. I suspect it's easy to lose site of that when one is used to adjusting a City government budget representing millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.

At the June 29 Council meeting, Council approved the ongoing acceptance of donations to the pension fund from "Blue Noodle LLC" with the passage of Council Bill 2009-149:

"Representatives of the Blue Noodle LLC have expressed a desire to make periodic donations to the City of Springfield Police Officers and Fire Fighters Retirement System."

Most of the citizens of this City would see these periodic donations as a step in the right direction, although it might be said they represent no windfall for the pension fund.

The Pension Task Force will likely recommend some sort of sales tax to the Council for their consideration, maybe even more than one sales tax option. None of those sales taxes will represent a "windfall" for the pension fund, depending upon how they are characterized. As a monthly sales tax contribution they will seem like miniscule amounts, no doubt, but, as a plan over the course of 5 or 10 years, the sales tax revenue has a chance of making a real difference in the funded ratio of the pension fund.

As an aside, when my husband and I, ocassionally, get upside down at the bank, it isn't usually caused by us making a huge lump sum payment on a bill or for a purchase. It's the little things that nickle and dime us to death. Little things add up in reducing a bank account, little things can add up in increasing the amount of a pension fund too.

Besides all that, a "windfall" is a matter of personal perspective, in my opinion.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Police & Fire Pension Task Force to Hold Two Town Hall Meetings

The City of Springfield just issued a news release about two upcoming Town Hall meetings hosted by the Police and Fire Pension Task Force. I would have just posted a link but, the news release is not yet available at their Web site:

July 10, 2009

News Release

For Immediate Release

The public is invited to attend two town hall meetings hosted by the Police-Fire Pension Fund Citizens' Task Force on Tuesday, July 21, and Thursday, July 30, 2009. The Task Force is seeking citizen input on a list of possible recommendations before it begins drafting a final report in August.

The July 21 meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers at Historic City Hall, 830 Boonville Ave. This meeting will be televised live on CityView on Mediacom channel 23, digital channel 80. The July 30 meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the Springfield Art Museum, 1111 Brookside Drive. The airtimes for this meeting will be announced. Video from both meetings also will be posted on the City Web site.

The City Council formed the Pension Fund Task Force to conduct an in-depth study of possible methods to fund the more than $200 million shortfall in the Police-Fire Pension Fund. The group consists of 15 voting members and a non-voting chairperson, Mr. Jerry Fenstermaker. It began meeting in late April. As part of its work, the task force formed three subcommittees to study issues from three perspectives. The subcommittees examined possible recommendations
on what would be in the best interest of the Pension Fund and its beneficiaries, the taxpayers, and the City itself.

Fenstermaker and the chairs of the three subcommittees will discuss all of the possible recommendations the task force is considering thus far and how they arrived at these conclusions, then lead discussion about the recommendations. Other members of the task force also will be present at the town hall meetings.

Citizens can learn more about the Task Force's work and the Pension Fund by visiting the Pension Fund page on the City's Web site....

Here's the link to the Pension Task Force's Web site, Police-Fire Pension Fund Citizens' Task Force

Gospel Pick on a Friday

Rob McNurlin and the Beatnik Cowboys: "Workin' on a Building"


Local Writers Continue to Inform Public about Community Improvement Districts

Mark "Stormy" Davis weighed in on the Community Improvement District (CID) issue in the "Springfield News-Leader" on Friday. Davis is a member of the News-Leader's Editorial board.

What you may not know is Davis also writes a local blog, "The Storm Watch," and this is not the first time he's written about CIDs (see: "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly About CID's !").

If you are interested in learning more about CIDs, I posted links, specifically related to the Commercial Street CID, written by the News-Leader's Kary Booher back in June and for further background, Brian Brown, a staff writer for the "Community Free Press" wrote "C-Street May Seek Improvements Tax," for the November 19, 2008 issue of that paper. Brown's article also provided some basic and comprehensive facts about CIDs.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

"Now I'm Gold"

As I traveled home tonight after the Planning & Zoning Commission's public hearing on the urban gardens issue, my mind traveled many different directions.

I was thinking about what a great community we live in, here in Springfield, Missouri, and what fabulous people there are dwelling among us all, in the Queen City.

The text amendments brought for the discussion tonight were questioned, not just by the public but, also by the Commission itself, and between the people and the Commission, they had some of the same questions I had but, they had questions I hadn't even thought about.

There were questions about pesticides, about hoop greenhouses and the water they displace, many, many questions about the conditional use permit fee and nothing much said about a license fee, at all.

The commission seemed very happy with the public comments they heard tonight, and just as Senior Planner Daniel Neal had earlier indicated in an email to me, the P & Z Commission tabled the text amendment indefinitely because they hope to see the City Council create a committee to consider all the pros and cons of urban farming.

A clear distinction was drawn between an urban garden for personal use, or even that of selling produce off-site, and an urban farm, with an on-site stand and maybe even hoop greenhouses.

There is definitely a lot to be discussed and there are plenty of people who appear to be ready to engage in that discussion.

To sum it up in a nutshell, I think Commissioner Matthew Edwards said it about as well as it could be said, "We want to make it easy on community gardens but, keep the standard high for urban farms," Edwards said. "We definitely need to do this (encourage urban gardens and farms) but, we have to be careful with what we do here because, it will set a precident."

So, I could tell you about the wonderful discussion. I could go on with quotes about the concerns and ideas offered but, I would prefer to say, at least for tonight, the system seems to have worked. Besides, Wes Johnson from the News-Leader was there. He'll surely file a "professional" report on it tomorrow, and even get paid for it. :)

Earlier today, I got an email from my brother, who has a little venture of his own going on in the blogosphere. He found himself frustrated because he was trying to say too much at once, and I don't think he'd mind me sharing that. I reminded him, that is the beauty of a blog. There's no one limiting your word count. You've got all the time in the world to take care with one issue before moving on to the next one you believe to be important, "I self-impose deadlines on myself all the time, so I keep pressure on myself. I try to remind myself that I don't get paid for this!" I wrote. "But, to me, and perhaps to you, it is about more than getting paid for it, it's about serving the public by sharing information we think is important for them to know. Right?"

And, of course, my brother agreed because he IS my brother.

So, I think I might have had the wonderful opportunity to have played a role in something big and something with a happy ending tonight by sharing what I did about the issue with others, I have a sense of satisfaction about that tonight. Nah, I don't have the "big-head" thinking I did anything special or was the cause of the great turnout of wonderful people at the meeting tonight, don't get me wrong. But, if I want to think I might have played some very tiny part in what happened at City Council Chambers tonight, just humor me. It's all I get for the trouble.

This song is dedicated to all the lovely people who turned out at the meeting tonight. Every one of them was "gold."

Related: Zoning commission tables garden talks, source "Springfield News-Leader"


Still No Clear Answer Regarding Which "Urban Gardeners" would be Affected by Proposed Ordinance Text Amendments

Answers regarding who would be affected by licensing and conditional use permits under proposed "urban garden" ordinance text amendments remain unclear.

On Tuesday, July 7, still uncertain of my understanding about which "urban gardeners" would be affected and which would not, I wrote in a follow up email to Mr. Neal:

"...I am still not clear on certain points. I have read the report in the News-Leader and have been privy to comments made by the Public Information Office in the past regarding how these changes will not affect residential gardens within the City, however, the definition proposed for an urban garden seems to encompass those who may be doing nothing but growing daisies to place in a vase on their kitchen tables, and in item 4 of the staff comments, re-pasted below for convenience sake (but not included in this JackeHammer posting), I do not feel my question has been answered."

I received an answer Wednesday morning regarding that question. Mr. Neal indicated that commercial use is the primary factor in determining the "urban gardeners" who would be affected.

"Regarding the language, the amendment will not change accessory gardens in residential districts or any legally existing related businesses," Neal wrote. "The commercial use is the difference and distinguishing factor proposed."

I had considered the "principal use" of the property would factor in when I wrote in a previous entry:

"Millsap wants to purchase a lot within a residentially zoned district, adjacent to her home, for the principal use of farming crops. Not for an accessory use, with the principal use being that of housing. My understanding, if my "Sherlock Holmes" hat is sitting at the right angle, because, it is never clearly explained in the proposed text amendment, or even in Neal's email response, is that Millsap's principal use as a commercial garden, where no house sits, would require a conditional use permit, while my garden, as an accessory to the principal use of the lot, my residence, would not require a conditional use permit, even if I am selling produce from my house."

And yet, if the "principal use" of the property does not factor in and the determining factor is solely whether there is a "commercial use" of the property, there still remains, in my mind, a nagging question about whether a resident who has an accessory garden, who grows excess produce to sell "commercially" at the Farmer's Market, would be affected by the new language proposed to amend the applicable ordinance. So, I sent a link to my previous entry, with the above excerpt included and asked Mr. Neal if my understanding of the issue was correct and if he had any comments regarding my entry.

I have received no response from Mr. Neal since inquiring further about the issue, so, I still wonder if I had "my Sherlock Holme's hat adjusted at the right angle," when I deduced that a home gardener who grew excess crops for the purpose of commercial sales at a Farmer's Market would be affected by the proposed ordinance.

I felt these were details and distinctions of which the public should be aware. It seems to me, for the public to be adequately prepared to share their thoughts and concerns regarding this proposed amendment, the public should have no questions regarding the amendment's content.

Again, the public hearing before the Planning & Zoning Commission is tonight, Thursday July 9 at the Historic City Hall in Council Chambers on the 3rd floor, at 7 p.m.


Gospel Pick on a Thursday

Alison Krauss - "Down in the River to Pray"


Just a Little Food for Thought and Discussion...

Forgotten Founding Wisdom


July 13 City Council Meeting Agenda Available; Public Hearing Tonight

City Council Meeting Agenda

And, don't forget, the Planning & Zoning Commission will be holding a public hearing on "Urban Garden" issues tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of Historic City Hall!

While "staff" has recommended the proposed definition of an "urban garden" and ordinance text amendment changes be tabled after the hearing, it is important the Planning & Zoning Commission hear from the public about the issue. Public comments could have bearing on future proposed legislation related to the issue when, and if, the City or City Council determines to pick up the issue again.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"...Cuz Weeds are High Where Corn Don't Grow"

The Grascals: 'Where Corn Don't Grow'

In Denver, the Associated Press reported that the numbers of farmers who are considering suicide have increased across rural America.

The AP report said, the largest network of crisis hotlines in America for those in the field of agriculture has reported a 20 percent increase in calls through May of this year as compared to the same period last year.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Breaking: City Planning Staff Recommending Zoning Amendments Defining "Urban Gardens" be Tabled

...with an unpredicted ending

Even before the scheduled public hearing has been held, Planning and Development Senior Planner Daniel Neal indicated City Staff has recommended proposed ordinance amendments, related to "urban gardening," be tabled after the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) holds its scheduled public hearing on Thursday night.

P&Z's public hearing on the issue will take place at 7 p.m., July 9, in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Historic City Hall.

The purpose of the zoning ordinance text amendment regarding "urban gardens," as described in the staff comment section of a staff report was to have allowed, "an urban garden as a principal use on a vacant residentially zoned lot and an accessory use on a residentially zoned lot with a house."

Planning Staff was proposing to define an urban garden as, "A principal or accessory use where an individual or groups of individuals grow and harvest food crops and/or non-food, ornamental crops, such as flowers for personal use, group use, consumption, donation or to be sold for profit. Gardens may be divided," the proposed language stated, "into separate plots for cultivation by one or more individuals or may be farmed collectively by members of the group and may include common areas maintained and used by group members."

The Zoning and Subdivision Report from the Planning and Development Department was released on Thursday, July 2.

Part of the plan included requiring a business license and conditional use permit be obtained for certain "urban gardens" within Springfield. A recent "Springfield News-Leader" article reported the proposed conditional use permit would cost an urban gardener required to obtain it $1,120.

There may be a question as to whether the City of Springfield can legally mandate licensing, taxes, or fees on urban gardens within Springfield.

RSMo 71.630 states, "...No incorporated city, town or village in this state shall have the power to levy or collect any tax, license or fees from any farmer, or producer or producers, for the sale of produce raised by him, her or them, when sold from his, her or their wagon, cart or vehicle, or from any person or persons in the employ of such farmer or producer in any such city, town or village." Chapter 71 provisions are relative to all cities and towns.

Missouri Revised Statute 71.010 states, "Any municipal corporation in this state, whether under general or special charter, and having authority to pass ordinances regulating subjects, matters and things upon which there is a general law of the state, unless otherwise prescribed or authorized by some special provision of its charter, shall confine and restrict its jurisdiction and the passage of its ordinances to and in conformity with the state law upon the same subject."

Springfield, a first class, home rule city does have a provision within its City Charter that, "License taxes and regulations may be imposed by ordinance upon all lawful objects of taxation, including, but not limited to" an extensive list of occupations and businesses.

Show-Me Institute Attorney Dave Roland told JackeHammer, "Generally speaking, where you have a state statute prohibiting a City from taking certain actions, that will be binding on all Cities."

Roland had not had the opportunity to closely examine the proposed text amendment but, had been involved in a smoking ban case in Kansas City that had some similar circumstances. He wanted an opportunity to look closer at this issue but did say, "where there's a conflict, if the City tries to institute something prohibited by State law, the City's ordinance will give way (to the State statute)."

"I think that the statute cited (71.630) probably prevents the city from requiring a license to farm or to sell produce, and it very probably prevents the city from taxing the produce sold, " Roland wrote in an email. "However, I don’t think it would prevent the city from taxing the land itself, and it would probably allow the city to charge a fee for re-zoning the land (or granting conditional use permits) if they decided it was necessary, so long as the fee was similar to those charged for any other conditional use permit."

Roland felt an easier solution, "would be to modify the ordinances so that gardens not in excess of a certain area would be permitted in residential zones and the lots so used would be taxed at the normal rate for residential property." But, Roland also noted, "That doesn’t mean the city has to allow sales to take place there any more than it has to allow other types of businesses to operate in residential areas, which I think is a concern for those considering the changes."

According to Planning and Development Planner Neal, this issue got its start about three months ago, when Melissa Millsap submitted a zoning inquiry to the City.

"The applicant, Melissa Millsap, had wanted to purchase a piece of property adjacent to her and start a share/subscription based produce business which included a produce stand," Neal wrote in an email response. "She called it Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and provided the City with some information from other municipalities that have adopted new regulations regarding this new form of urban agriculture."

Millsap was informed "her proposal could not be accomplished under the current zoning ordinance," Neal said. He said it was "discussed that in the residential district that only one principal use is permitted. This would mean if someone had a house on any size land under 20 acres that they could not establish a commercial garden on the premise."

He also noted, "The draft text amendment for discussion at Planning Commission would require a conditional use permit if commercial practices are taking place on-site in a residential district," but he added, City staff wanted to discuss it further with the Planning Commission and the public.

According to Neal, "The draft text amendment would delineate between an urban garden as a principal use with retail or wholesale sales on-site and one without."

Neal said, because, only one principal use is permitted in a residential district, the word "accessory" was added to accommodate situations where someone wanted to establish a commercial garden on land under 20 acres with a house on the premise.

If that is what the "draft text amendment" would delineate, then it failed to accomplish that goal as laid out in the "Propozed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment" that was attached to the staff report released July 2. It was for that reason there was a question about the use of the term "accessory."

Item 4 of staff comments stated, "Staff is proposing to define an urban garden as a principal or accessory use when an individual or group of individuals grow and harvest food crops and/or non-food, ornamental crops, such as flowers for personal use, group use, consumption, donation or to be sold for profit." Later, Item 4 also stated, "This amendment will not affect accessory gardens in residential districts or any legally existing business."

Not clear was how, if a residentially zoned urban garden is defined as principal or accessory use within residential districts, it could be said that the amendment would not affect accessory gardens in residential districts. Neal's explanation is appreciated in that regard because the "draft" or "Proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment" did not clearly distinguish when an urban gardener would be effected and when an urban gardener would not be effected. In fact, the text amendment raised far more questions than it answered upon reading it.

Millsap wants to purchase a lot within a residentially zoned district, adjacent to her home, for the principal use of farming crops. Not for an accessory use, with the principal use being that of housing. My understanding, if my "Sherlock Holmes" hat is sitting at the right angle, because, it is never clearly explained in the proposed text amendment, or even in Neal's email response, is that Millsap's principal use as a commercial garden, where no house sits, would require a conditional use permit, while my garden, as an accessory to the principal use of the lot, my residence, would not require a conditional use permit, even if I am selling produce from my house.

The report also revealed that of all the discussions staff members had with other cities which had instituted urban gardens, none of them permitted a retail operation in a residential district.

The report stated that most cities with successful urban garden programs are linked with other public entities, such as their Parks and Recreation Departments.

"Denver started something and it has evolved to what it is now where non-profit receives $285,000 per year from the CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) program to operate," the report said.

In an email, Neal repeatedly stated staff was open to discussion on the matter. That's a good thing. He did not indicate, if the Planning Commission agrees to table the amendment, when, or if, it might be picked up again or why staff had recommended it be tabled.

Perhaps Planning and Development has spent a little more time thinking about tying such "urban gardens" to public entities? Those cities tied (or "linked") to the urban garden projects are responsible for insuring the people who tend them. The city, or a non-profit organization of the City's development and/or choice, might stand to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in CDBG grants if they shut out individuals like Melissa Millsap and cash in on the next "green thing." But, what about Melissa Millsap? What about other Melissa Millsaps in Springfield, Missouri?

Don't you just love unpredictable endings? Now that I think I fully understand the issue, I might have sided with Millsap. It appears she may be the underdog fighting against City Hall, and that old bloodhound has got the scent of money in its keen snout.


Note: a very slight edit was made to the original report


Sunday, July 05, 2009

City of Springfield Weekly Calendar July 6 - July 10

Monday, 7/6/2009

10:00 AM Board of Directors-Shoppes at James River Community Improvement District Busch Municipal Building, 1st Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Matt Schaefer, (417) 864-1100

Tuesday, 7/7/2009

8:00 AM Mayor's Commission for Children Executive Committee 425 Trafficway, CFO Contact: Denise Bredfeldt, (417) 864-1656

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

Cancelled 1:30 PM Board of Adjustment Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 Boonville Contact: Matt Schaefer, (417) 864-1100

Cancelled 3:00 PM Administrative Review Busch Municipal Building, Room 285, 840 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

Cancelled 3:30 PM Land Clearance for Redevelopment Busch Municipal Building, 2nd Floor West Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Mary Lilly Smith, (417) 864-1094

5:15 PM Environmental Advisory Board Busch Municipal Building, 4th Floor Conf. Rm., 840 Boonville Contact: Karen McKinnis, (417) 864-1623

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

Wednesday, 7/8/2009

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

8:00 AM Workforce Investment Board Marketing Committee Missouri Career Center, 1514 South Glenstone Contact: Karen Dowdy, (417) 887-4343

11:45 AM Executive Committee Sister Cities Park Board Offices, 1923 North Weller Contact: Cindy Jobe, (417) 864-1341

5:30 PM Landmarks Board Old City Hall, Council Chambers, 830 Boonville Contact: Daniel Neal, (417) 864-1036

Thursday, 7/9/2009

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

9:00 AM Watershed Work Session Lake Springfield Boathouse, 2312 Lake Springfield Park Road Contact: Loring Bullard, (417) 866-1127

6:00 PM Art Museum Board Art Museum Conference Room Contact: Jerry Berger, (417) 887-5700

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

Friday, 7/10/2009

8:30 AM Park Board Cooper Tennis Complex, 2331 E. Pythian Contact: Jodie Adams, (417) 864-1049

Note: Tuesday's Council luncheon tentative agenda includes an overview of stormwater management

Source: City of Springfield Public Information Office


Saturday, July 04, 2009

This Week at Baptist Press: Celebrity Worship; Call to Prayer for Military

The celebrity worship of Michael Jackson alledgedly led to the death of at least 12 Jackson "followers"

Baptist Press (BP) weekly columnist Kelly Boggs got a bit philosophical this week as he took a look at celebrity worship.

With the recent death of Michael Jackson and Boggs' note that 12 Jackson fans, as of July 2, had reportedly committed suicide over the death of a pop music star they likely, never met, Boggs may have a righteous point.

Boggs credited 17th century writer Blaise Pascal to make his case that people are filling a natural void meant to be filled by God with something other than God. Pascal said, "Inside of every man there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill," wrote Boggs. "...if God is not filling an individual's spiritual vacuum, the individual will seek to fill it with something or someone else," and Boggs believes celebrity worship has reached religious proportions.

"I am of the opinion that entertainment, as a whole, has achieved religion status. And, like the Greek pantheon of old, entertainers are the gods who are worshiped," he wrote.

It is a sad testiment, to be sure.

12 people were so devastated by the death of Jackson that they felt they could not continue in life without him.

12 people reportedly committed suicide over his death.

12 people who, if they had had their faith vested where it belonged in the first place, would have been more inclined to draw strength from the One they worshiped, rather than devastation and loss of hope.

What madness.

Boggs, then, drew parallels between religion and celebrity worship, in the end reminding us all that the God shaped void in our hearts is meant to be filled by Jesus Christ.

We'll always, ALWAYS, be disappointed by people but, if we spend the appropriate time getting to know and love the Savior, Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed. Remember, "Love never fails," 1 Corinthians 13:8a, and there is no greater love than the love that God has for human kind.

Fourth of July fireworks can set off memories of war; Call to prayer for our military

Iraq Military Commander Chris Plekenpol lamented, "Fireworks remind me of an arcing transformer sending electric ash to the ground. The next thought is that of an Iraqi male about 40 years old running and screaming in Arabic, carrying a little girl who is bleeding profusely." ...Read more

And, as is always appropriate, Sara Horn, the wife of a Navy reservist and founder of Wives of Faith, a faith-based military wives support organization, called for us to pray for the military this summer.

Horn reported on a conversation she had with Army Chaplain Jim Murphy who was stationed just south of Baghdad.

"We could tell a difference when the people back home were praying for us and when they weren't," Chaplain Murphy told us. "It was like night and day."Besides the scorching temperatures, summer also brought many reports of death, when conditions were the worst and morale was the lowest. But, Chaplain Murphy said, "When people started praying for us again toward the end of August, that's when things started turning around."

Horn asked that people visit to purchase a bracelet with a service member's name on it or to register a name for prayer. The Web site is a ministry of Del Rio, Texas' Northside Baptist Church.

Operation M'Brace's mission "is to bring every member of the United States Military under the intercessory prayer of concerned Christians."

To read Horn's column, recommended, click here.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Alternate to the Pension Task Force Proposes Police and Firefighter Retention Idea

Fred Ellison carbon copied me on an email he sent to the Mayor and City Council today. Ellison is an alternate member of the Police and Fire Pension Task Force. In the email, he presented a very intriguing idea for retaining police and firefighters who have reached retirement eligibility.

Following is Ellison's email:

Mayor and Council Members:

It has come to my attention that Police and Fire employees who exceed the period of employment for the maximum years of service are still required to contribute to the Pension Plan. This is a direct disincentive to any potential decision to continue their employment.

If the employee contribution for these retirement eligible employees was discontinued, this would be equivalent to an 11.35% raise and could provide the incentive for these very valuable employees to continue working for a few more years. This could be particularly helpful during the current personnel shortages in these two vital service departments.

I believe that this change is also a matter of fundamental fairness from the standpoint that when they stop receiving any additional benefits, they should no longer be required to make contributions.

Fred B. Ellison


KSGF's Jericho Interviews State Auditor Susan Montee

State Auditor Susan Montee was a guest on the Vincent David Jericho Program this morning. Listen to the discussion, which revolved around Missouri's low income housing tax credits and the commission which oversees that program (I haven't even had the chance to look at it myself).

Montee and her staff filed a report on the Missouri Housing Development Commission in June of this year. You can read the report here.

Thanks for the great programming, Vince!


No "Smoking Gun" on Alleged Discrepancy Regarding CU's Application Deadline for Stimulus Funds

I think it unfair to keep City Utilities in suspense any longer. I know they are wondering what I will write about the information it took two Sunshine Law requests and some wrangling to receive from them.

Perhaps this information no longer even matters to the majority of the public, since City Utilities (CU) dropped their plans to possibly use eminent domain to condemn and take Becky Spence's property at 505 E. St. Louis, for the time being. But, I believe there is a single distinction that needs to be made regarding what I had previously characterized as a discrepancy regarding the deadline for CU to apply for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, in order to partially finance the new bus tranfer facility they would like to construct.

There is something I need to clarify for my own (somewhat personal) benefit, and because Mr. Twitty, when speaking to Councilman Ibarra at the City Council luncheon on June 9 said, "You (Ibarra) may not have been here. I think, maybe, the information that you had was on Department of Labor (DOL) funds...."

Twitty might not have known about the mention I made in this entry on June 8, to information I linked from the FTA Web site which stated July 1, 2009 is the "Deadline for submitting first round grants to the DOL for review," however, that was simply mentioned as a secondary source in that previous blog entry, and I would also note, the information fell under a category headed "American Recovery & Reinvestment Act."

That FTA page has since been updated.

The primary source of the July 1 deadline I wrote about was a May 15, 2009, letter. The letter was written by U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad, and sent to CU Transit Director Carol Cruise. The letter, according to Becky Spence, was sent to her as an attachment to a letter she received from CU via fax. CU had been reporting the deadline as June 15. I questioned the discrepancy between the July 1, deadline noted in the letter I held from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the June 15, ARRA application deadline CU was reporting.

The May 15 letter from the FTA that Spence provided me, was specifically dealing with ARRA funding. It stated: "We remain very interested in ensuring all ARRA funds apportioned to CU are obligated in grants for CU. 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. This date assumes that projects are "ready to go" and be implemented. As of today, this project is not ready for ARRA funding."

It took two Sunshine Law requests to receive the email, dated June 8, which Mr. Twitty read from at a City Council luncheon June 9, as noted in this entry. I'm not sure why CU only provided a portion of the email the first time they answered my request but, a line written by FTA Regional Counsel Paula L. Schwach made it clear there was more to the email than what was first provided. That line read, "I have reviewed the e-mails included below and discussed this response with the Springfield FTA team members."

City Utilities did not provide me with the emails Ms. Schwach included when they first answered my Sunshine Law request so, being the stubborn blogger I am, I sent them another Sunshine Law request, specifically asking that all attachments and inclusions to the original email be included.

After finding out the email Twitty read from at the luncheon was sent the day before the Council lunch, and some time after CU began reporting the deadline as June 15, I inquired as to when CU was first informed of a change in the deadline, knowing that the letter Becky Spence had provided to me was dated May 15. Ms. Hamlin responded, "Information from the FTA regarding the June 15 deadline was mentioned in phone conversations prior to June 8, 2009. However, the information from June 8, which was previously provided by Joel Alexander, was the first written documentation the City Utilities Transfer Station Ad Hoc Committee received from the FTA regarding the June 15 deadline." Hamlin had been out of the office when I filed my first request so, Joel Alexander had responded to it.

Later, when I received the email, in its entirety, Cheri Hamlin prefaced it by writing that in a conference call between the FTA and "our ad hoc committee" held on May 15, the June 15 deadline was discussed. That was the very date of the FTA letter Spence provided.

"On May 15, 2009, a conference call was held between our ad hoc committee and FTA," Hamlin wrote. "The revised deadline was discussed at that time. In addition, another member of our staff, through her work with FTA grants, learned of the revised deadline shortly before this conference call."

Now, before I received the email, in its entirety, I couldn't help but wonder if CU was trying to hide something from the public because, it seemed to be a very difficult and time consuming process to get my hands on a document Mr. Twitty had held in his hands only two days before I filed my first informal and, then, formal Sunshine Law requests.

I wondered why Mr. Alexander requested, at first, and then, later insisted, I fill out a formal Sunshine Law request in order to receive the June 8 document. I was asking for it on June 11. Remember, Mr. Twitty had just read from it on June 9, when Councilman Ibarra asked for a copy of the "something written" Twitty had referred to earlier in the meeting. Twitty's response to Ibarra's second request for a copy had been "Sure," as though it wasn't a problem but, maybe it is for eyes other than my own but, I saw no "smoking gun" when I was finally able to read the entire email exchange between City Utilities and Ms. Schwach.

I will note, I had thought I would contact the Regional Counsel myself, and ask about it because, in my view, it is still a bit confusing and unclear when the actual deadline is, considering CU's Chris Haller wrote, "Most notably, CU is currently expected to meet a June 15, 2009 timeline for inserting all the necessary detail into the on-line grant application document!" But later added, "The actual deadline for having all the information in the electronic file in preparation for official submittal is July 1, 2009," However, that noted, it does not change the fact that in Ms. Schwach's response to CU General Counsel John Black, on June 8, she noted, "With regard to ARRA funding... Grant applications must be submitted to the regional office by June 15, 2009 to assure timely completion of processing."

At any rate, the email exchange between CU officials and the regional counsel was interesting, in my opinion so, since I have it, and since someone, even if it isn't many, might be interested in reading it for themselves, I am providing the email exchange, in it's entirety. I do think the exchange provides valuable insight into the process CU was going through, and that can't be a bad thing.

All phone numbers and email addresses have been removed and the emails have been put in the order in which they occurred. Unless noted otherwise, the people who sent and received emails were City Utilities employees with City Utilities email addresses.

In an email dated June 3, 2009, Chris Haller wrote to CU General Counsel John Black and carbon copied to John Twitty, Wade Stinson, Carol Cruise, Robin House, and Mark Viguet:

John B.,

Below is a summary of what we discussed in yesterday afternoons conference call with Paula Schwach, Counsel for FTA Region 7. Our understanding upon presenting the explanation contained herein, was that she would confer with Mokhtee Ahmad and other staff as necessary, and provide us with an appropriate acknowledgement/reply.

As explained, City Council has engaged in public discussions (at the June 1, 2009 City Council meeting) questioning the appropriateness of using eminent domain to acquire the property at 505 St. Louis (Becky Spence property). While the Board of Public Utilities (City Utilities) has charter/statutory authority to proceed with eminent domain without action by City Council, it appears that the political climate may be shaping up to making such action an impracticality.

That said, here is a brief summary of our phone conversation of June 2, 2009 and/or the answers to the questions posed to Ms. Schwach. These are presented with the general assumption that CU is likely faced with seeking -- and subsequently securing -- yet another site for the facility, perhaps one that is already owned by the City.

Grant Funding Status (5309): Grant funds are presently secure. The grant could again be amended to accomodate a change in preferred site as long as it's within the scope of the original grant language, namely for a downtown transfer station meeting the needs of the ridership. However, FTA will halt our ability to draw on any more grant funds until such time as we can demonstrate that we are prepared to move forward with another site. This would require certain assurances from CU. The burden of all expense (including cost for any additional study) incurred up to the point of demonstrating that we are again prepared to acquire (or have acquired) a site and are ready to proceed with design and construction would be borne locally. The following are the two possible scenarios whereby CU might secure another site.

> Scenario 1: CU starts from square-one with another study to identify a new site, bearing all associated costs for re-doing the study. Based on the cost to perform the original study when we were considering a joint development project with the City(parking garage), that added cost would be expected to be at least $50,000.

> Scenario 2: CU resumes consideration of one (or two) of the top, city-owned sights that were subject to the purview of the most recent study. In this case, CU might be able to provide a summary to FTA of the previous study work, update the NEPA documentation for the re-visited site and obtain an environmental determination with limited expenditure of additional local funds. See background explanation below.

Stimulus (ARRA) Funds: Any stimulus funds CU hoped to associate with this project would NOT BE SECURE. They are subject to a different set of more stringent criteria. Most notably, CU is currently expected to meet a June 15, 2009 timeline for inserting all the necessary detail into the on-line grant application document! CU was planning to use half of the $2.87M of available stimulus funds to supplement this project. The actual deadline for having all the information in the electronic file in preparation for official submittal is July 1, 2009. Using stimulus funds on this project is in jeopardy unless we can resolve the location issue in a matter of days!!!

In the event that we do find it politically impossible to move forward at the St. Louis Street site given the most recent position taken by City Council, we understand that FTA will put our Grant Funding (5309) in a "hold" status until such time as we can provide assurances as outlined above. In the interest of protecting the investment of the Federal Government, we understand that FTA cannot continue to authorize expenditures for activities that have already been completed (i.e. -- feasibility study, NEPA process, etc.)

Brief Background: When CU was pursuing a joint project with the City to build a parking garage along with a bus transfer facility, a site at Boonville and Olive was identified as the best location. This site was -- and still is -- primarily controlled by the City. In fact, when the City abandoned the parking garage idea and CU was faced with proceeding to identify an appropriate site for ONLY a bus transfer facility, this site WAS AGAIN identified as the best, even though a number of additional sites were found to be available and entered into the study process.

Scenario 2 above is presented because there are/were viable, city-owned properties considered as part of the previous study. Some of these properties may still be available and the information contained in the report still current, having been completed and submitted as recently as August of 2008. Our Environmental Finding (DCE) was issued by FTA on August 28, 2008. We at CU are in hopes that we can limit additional expenditure of resources, meet all the necessary requirements and still realize the intent of the original grant -- providing the public transit patrons of the Springfield region with the bus transfer station that is needed. A need that has been demonstrated and proven by the $3.1M grant successfully obtained for this region by Senator Bond and his staff.

Please forward this to Ms. Schwach at your earliest convenience, so that FTA might provide us with the necessary feedback to this summary and any additional guidance as they deem appropriate. City Council has proposed the public forum to discuss the use of eminent domain on Monday June 8, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. It may prove beneficial that we have a discussion with the City Manager, the Mayor, the Chairman of the Board of Public Utilities and perhaps others prior to that public meeting.

To my knowledge, we have not yet approached the City staff with a suggestion to meet prior to the public meeting on June 8, 2009, but feedback from FTA would certainly be pertinant to any and all of these discussions.



In an email dated June 4, 2009, CU General Counsel John Black forwarded Haller's email and wrote to FTA Regional Counsel Paula Schwach. The email was carbon copied to John Twitty, Wade Stinson, Carol Cruise, Chris Haller and Cynthia Moses (FTA):

Paula, please find forwarded Chris Haller's documentation of our phone conversation of 6-2-09, [above] whereby we indicated Springfield City Council has announced it is concerned with the use of eminent domain. A corollary is that city property, or city controlled property, appears to be now back in consideration. Previously identified sites 2A and 3, which the City had removed from consideration, are being discussed. As you are aware, we are set for hearings on June 11 to proceed with eminent domain for the St Louis street site. We are working toward being able to have an
agreement to be able to avoid those hearings. We would very much appreciate FTA guidance/suggestion on agreements or arrangements we should have in place, or matters we should bear in mind, before we cancel those June 11 proceedings.
One issue is match for land. As you know, City Utilities is part of the City of Springfield, CU governed by its own Board of Public Utilities. The "City" tracts 2A or 3 are owned either by the city or a city created public building corporation. If owned by the City, my understanding is the land could qualify for local match based on approved appraisal, and if CU transferred funds to a City budget, that would be our internal issue. However, if part of all of 2A or 3 is technically owned by a public building corporation, would the federal funds be available directly for acquisition? Or alternatively local match?
Also, please take a look at Chris' memo to check our understandings as stated there.

Thanks for all your help. We consider all this progress, which may be able to move up the time when a new transfer station will be operating in Springfield. Thanks again.

John Black, General Counsel
City Utilities of Springfield, MO
301 E. CentralSpringfield, MO 65802

The information contained in this email message is privileged and confidential attorney/client communication. It is intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, or the employee or agent responsible to deliver it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately at (417) 831-8607, or by replying to the message and deleting it from your computer. Thank you.

In an email dated June 8, 2009, FTA Regional Counsel Paula Schwach wrote to CU General Counsel John Black and carbon copied to John Twitty, Wade Stinson, Carol Cruise, Chris Haller, Cynthia Moses (FTA), Sharon Graves (FTA), William Kalt (FTA), Joan Roeseler (FTA), Cindy Terwilliger (FTA), and Mokhtee Ahmad(FTA):

I have reviewed the e-mails included below and discussed this response with the Springfield FTA team members.

You have asked for FTA guidance on agreements or arrangements which City Utilities as part of the City of Springfield, Missouri (“CU”) should have in place prior to proceeding with eminent domain of a site on St. Louis Street which would be used for a bus, downtown transfer center. What follows are some comments in response to the e-mails and the request for guidance.

1. FTA’s goal is the successful implementation of the bus, downtown transfer center and fulfillment of the purpose for which Congress earmarked funds, now represented by grant MO-04-0120. It is FTA’s intent to delay the amendment of this grant and to hold draw-down of funds under this grant until FTA can be assured that City Utilities has control of an acceptable site pursuant to an FTA NEPA finding related to the specific site. Additionally, for FTA to be certain that CU has the legal, technical and financial capability to implement this project going forward (and given the delays associated with selecting and then rejecting now multiple sites), FTA requests that once CU has again selected or confirmed a site that it provide to FTA: a letter from the Mayor representing that the City supports the specific site selection, confirmation of the scope, new schedule and revised budget for the downtown transfer facility. And we remind CU that while funds are generally available in an obligated grant until spent, this presumes: (a) reasonable progress in meeting the grant purpose, including the schedule; and (b), that Congress does not rescind funding which is either not obligated in a grant (like any pending amendment amounts) or does not rescind funds obligated in FTA grants where certain identified progress goals are not being met. It appears that because of the budget deficit, Congress is now considering rescissions.

2. With regard to NEPA, we advise as follows: The environmental finding issued by FTA on August 28, 2008 was specifically for a transfer center located on St.Louis Street. FTA has not made an environmental finding for a transit center located on Boonville and Olive. Before FTA funding can be used for a transit center at Boonville and Olive (or any other location besides St. Louis Street) NEPA requirements would need to be met. Please provide feasibility and NEPA documentation to support any new location. CU can either update the existing study to address the changes that have occurred since the August, 2008 study was completed or begin a new study process. Note that if CU decides to update the existing documents it is important to be very thorough in addressing all the issues associated with the site selection and each potential environmental consequence area. With regard to site selection it is important that the site selection analysis is updated to reflect the current facts. For example, the August 2008 study indicated that the Boonville and Olive site had fatal flaws. Do those fatal flaws still exist or have the facts changed? We would need also a site plan that shows how any new location will meet public transit needs. NEPA documentation, generally is “site specific”, therefore the environmental analysis to support a documented categorical exclusion would need to be developed for the new site. Please contact Joni Roeseler at 816-XXX-XXX with any questions regarding the feasibility study or NEPA requirements.

3. With regard to site control, we advise as follows: (a) City-owned land would qualify as local match subject to FTA’s acceptance of an appraisal and review appraisal and the value indicated by the appraisal being adequate to provide the necessary 20% minimum share for a Section 5309 grant. (b) CU may transfer any utility tax revenues to the City Budget; it may not transfer either fare box revenue or grant funds to the City Budget in exchange for land which is used for local share in an FTA grant. (c) if land is not used as local share, then the Section 5309 grant can pay for up to 80% of the land so long as there is not an identity of interest between the owner of the land and CU. Since CU is part of the City, there is an identity of interest between CU and the City. With regard to a public building corporation, the question of whether there is an identity of interests is one of state law and FTA would likely request a legal memorandum for its benefit from CU and you as its counsel. FTA would not allow for the City to transfer now to a public building corporation and then back to CU to make some costs otherwise eligible only as donated local share eligible as a direct grant reimbursement.

4. 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. Grant applications must be submitted to the regional office by June 15, 2009 to assure timely completion of processing.

Paula L. Schwach
Regional Counsel

In the end, I do not regret raising the issue and questioning City Utilities about what clearly appeared to be a discrepancy between the ARRA funding application deadline the document from the FTA which Becky Spence provided me specified, and the application deadline which CU was reporting.

The moral of the story, in this case: Communication and transparency can be the government's friend but, they must embrace it.