Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Forty-five apply for Joplin superintendent position

Forty-five people applied for the Joplin R-8 superintendent, Board President Jeff Koch told the school board Tuesday night.

The deadline for applications was Friday.

The board is scheduled to begin reviewing the applications next week.

Watch the Joplin R-8 Board of Education live at 7 p.m.

If Donald Trump is elected, it won't be the end of the world

In my first year of teaching, in the fall of 1999, I had an unusual opportunity, though I did not realize it at the time.

I taught a writing class called Creative Language Arts at Diamond Middle School. The man who previously taught the class had moved to the high school, which was located on the same campus, so I asked him where I could find the curriculum for the class.

"There is no curriculum," he said. "You make it up as you go along."

For a beginning teacher who had not been in a classroom since my student teaching, also at Diamond, in 1981, those were not words that were welcome to my ears. I needed structure and if there was going to be any structure, I had to be the one to provide it.

My initial lack of structure turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. I was able to write a curriculum that embraced everyday writing and examined issues that were in the news.

I did not have folders filled with old lesson plans. Another teacher taught the traditional English class, so I was able to concentrate completely on improving students' writing skills and much of that was done through the news- everything from personal essays to compare-contrast papers, to research papers. The class featured frequent discussions and occasionally a video recorded from a news program.

In the late fall of 1999, the 2000 presidential race was well underway. There was no secret as to who would be the Democratic candidate. Vice President Al Gore had that wrapped up.

The Republican race was another matter. A dozen candidates had thrown their hats in the ring, with the best known names belonging to former Texas Governor George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain.

The list also included a businessman with no background in politics, Steve Forbes, an African American conservative who also had no background in politics, except for a stint as an ambassador, Allan Keyes, Sen. Orrin Hatch from Utah, and some others.

I recorded an early debate and inflicted it on my classes. At first, they were upset that they were having to sit through a bunch of old men talking, but as the hour moved along, they were beginning to get into it.

The debate occurred before George W. Bush hit his stride and he performed poorly. It was not one of McCain's best either.

However, when it came time for the class discussion and papers on the debate, it was no surprise that many of the students thought Bush or McCain had done the best. After all, those were the names they had heard the most often. A surprising number thought the best candidate was Keyes, who was on the far right of the far right. Keyes was well-spoken and struck a chord with those students.

One girl, Melissa, was steadfast in her support for Orrin Hatch during the discussion and I had a hard time figuring out why. Though he had considerable experience, he did nothing to make himself stand out. To Melissa, no one but Orrin Hatch would do.

The next day, the students wrote a paper in which they were to provide examples from the debate on why they supported their favorite candidates. It came as no surprise that Melissa wrote about Orrin Hatch. As it turned out, she had an excellent reason, in addition to his qualifications, to support the senator- Melissa had grown up in Utah before moving to Missouri and she was familiar with Hatch.

The students' papers offered insight into their thinking and often, the thinking of their parents, as well.

 The following year, Orrin Hatch, Allan Keyes, and even McCain were long since gone and the only two remaining were Al Gore and George W. Bush. I showed a portion of one of their debates to my classes and in their papers, quite a few of them wrote something in the line of "Couldn't we come up with anyone better?"

It was a question I had heard before.

How in the world did we end up with Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey in 1968, a year when an obscure senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, developed a strong following among young people and another candidate, Robert F, Kennedy, the brother of a former president, and the governor of a large state who appeared to be far more qualified than Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, were in the race? There was even a Romney in that election, Mitt's father, George, who dropped out before the race really got underway.

And we ended up with Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey?

But it wasn't just 1968. I remember hearing the same thing four years later when the choice was Nixon and George McGovern and four years after that with unelected President Gerald Ford and obscure former Gov. Jimmy Carter.

Now that I think of it, every four years comes around and we end up with two people that we wonder how they ever wound up as their party's presidential nominees.

Come on. An actor named Ronald Reagan. The next thing you know some reality television star will be elected president.

If someone had suggested 20 years ago that the general election presidential candidates in 2016 would be the First Lady and someone whose television experience had consisted more of WWE than C-SPAN that person would have been considered to be someone in serious need of psychiatric help.

How do we end up with these people?

One of our problems is that no one lives up to the picture we have in our minds of what a president should be. No one thought Abraham Lincoln would turn out to be Abraham Lincoln when he first ran for president and history shows even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had their critics.

So we end up once more with a choice that is far from perfect, but what can we do about it? Some are talking about staying at home on election day and that is their choice. If those people don't want to take the time to study the candidates we do have and their stances on various issues and their personal qualities that could either make them great presidents or poor ones, then I would prefer they stayed at home and leave the voting to those who care enough to take the time to study the candidates and the issues.

If we elect Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and it doesn't work out, it won't be the end of the world. The Republic will survive. In two years, we can make changes at mid-term elections in the House and Senate, and two years later, we will select two more candidates to run for president.

And once again we are likely to ask the same question. How do we end up with these people?

Our candidates, just like everyone else in this country, are not perfect, but as long as we involve ourselves in the process, research, vote, and speak out for what we believe, our system will continue to work, maybe not always the way we want, but there's always the next election.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hillary won the debate, except that Trump won the debate

I am not waffling about who won the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton won it, hands down.

But since there is no way my readers who are Donald Trump supporters will ever believe that, I decided to toss them a bone in the headline.

Trump had his chances. He was strong on the issue of trade, which stands to benefit him in some of the swing states, but he blew so many opportunities tonight that even if Clinton had not been at the top of her game she would have run away with the debate.

For instance, Trump initially had a good response to the question about his taxes, by saying he would release his taxes when Clinton released her 33,000 e-mails.

Somehow, after that first mention, he let the e-mails slide and never mentioned them again, while Clinton trampled all over him about the possible reasons he has for not releasing his taxes.

Of course, it is quite possible that Trump did not want to turn the debate to the role of the Clinton Foundation in those e-mails since Washington Post reporting has shown in recent weeks that the Trump Foundation has considerably more scandals attached to it.

More likely, it was another case of Trump's woeful lack of preparation.

His lack of preparation became more and more obvious as he fell into nearly every trap Hillary Clinton laid for him. He spent so much time talking over her and defending what a great businessman he is, that he did not hit on the best argument he has going for him in this political season- Things are not going right and it's time to give someone else a chance.

In a year like this, when Trump defeated 16 people who nearly all were more qualified than he to become the most powerful leader in the world, and when a challenger like Bernie Sanders gave Hillary Clinton such a hard time, Trump should have hammered home his status as an outsider. Instead, he bristled at any critical comment Clinton made and felt the need to offer a response at times when he should have been making the case for his own candidacy.

The tax issue also led to another of Trump's glaring mistakes. When Clinton noted that two of his earlier tax returns had shown he paid no income tax, he responded that showed "That makes me smart."

He made a similar argument later when Clinton mentioned the bankruptcies his casinos had taken. Trump once again, as he did in the Republican debates, seemed proud that he took advantage of the system.

His big argument is that we should put him in charge because he knows the system so well because he has used it to his advantage. After all, he had readily admitted that he gave campaign contributions because he expected favors in return, so he knows how it's done. If you follow that same line of logic, we should have hired Whitey Bulger and John Gotti to take care of crime in the cities.

Trump again came off as tone deaf when it comes to racial issues.

During the last part of the debate on foreign issues, he simply came off as incoherent.

Clinton was an easy winner, just by not breaking into laughter as some of Trump's comments late in the debate. She escaped the traps on trade and her e-mails because Trump did not pursue them.

Clinton was ready and except for a tendency to go into a bit too much minute detail in some of her answers, was solid from start to finish.

She also scored big time with attacks on Trump's treatment of women and with her refutation of Trump's attack on her lack of "stamina."

We have two more debates coming. Hopefully, Trump will consider actually preparing for them, but I wouldn't count on it.

My response to readers who say I am attacking Joplin R-8 teachers

Sometimes I find it amusing when my critics think I have made a mistake and jump all over it.

Inevitably, they find out that most other people do not agree with their assessment and they drop the attack. I usually do not find it necessary to respond because other readers do it for me.

The same thing has taken place with the post I wrote Sunday about bills that the Joplin R-8 Board of Education will approve when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Education Building.

The critics, or perhaps just one critic as sometimes it is hard to tell, are jumping on the items I wrote about the amount of money spent to provide meals for the high school laptop checkouts. The totals were $95.40 to Domino's Pizza, $225 to Orient Express, $215.94 to Red Onion Cafe, and $206.25 to Sawmill Barbecue for a total of $742.59.

Since that money apparently went to meals for teachers who were helping with the laptop checkout, that gave the critics an opportunity to go after me because I don't want hard working, underappreciated teachers to receive meals.

As usual, there were a number of comments that took issue with the critics.

Here are a couple of the critics' comments:

Everyone involved in the laptop checkout at JHS arrived between 7AM and 8AM and were there until laptop checkout concluded at 4PM, because the flow of students was constant throughout the day this prevented anyone working the checkout from taking lunch so they could go eat, therefore lunch was provided. This included volunteers. This is not something that happens often, maybe a couple times a year.

Though, I am confused why you think a company buying lunch for their employee’s is out of the norm, that is simply not true. I’ve worked for many different companies where if a number of employees had to skip lunch because of work load, the company provided lunch for them. Even in school districts, all the day long meetings and conferences teachers attend, lunch is provided to them. It’s no different. :

And this one, which particularly irritated me:

As Randy points out these occurrences, I wonder...

Did Randy have the same moral ground as a teacher? Oh, I will not eat because this is not appropriate spending. I will go to my room and eat my bologna sandwich.

I worked at Wal-Mart and they fed us time to time. It is a part of the budget. I sometimes wonder why Randy cherry picks the expenses that he does. What qualifies a former journalist and ex-teacher to determine what exactly is appropriate spending? Is this the whole expenditure list?

During meeting days or really hectic days, schools will buy lunch for their teachers. It does not occur on a regular basis, 3-4 times a year. It helps with morale and it is budgeted into the whole plan.

If this bothers you, remember with whom you trust your child.

The reader accuses me of cherry picking the bills that I write about.

Of course, I do. It doesn't make sense to write about hundreds of bills, most of which are for routine items, including things like bread, milk, and utilities.

I cherry pick information for what I write on the Turner Report and I plead guilty to cherry picking on every article I have written since I began my journalism career in 1977.

I will let you in on a secret. Every reporter is guilty of cherry picking and there is nothing wrong with it. We have to make editorial decisions on what we consider to be important to the story because there is simply not room or time to write about every bit of minutiae that might come up while covering a beat.

Each month, I choose items from the bills that I consider to be noteworthy and I write about them. Another reporter or someone who is not reporting on the bills might consider other items to be more worthy subjects, but I make my choices because these are items that interest me and which interest my readers.

The reader's assertion that I am a hypocrite because I would never have turned down a free meal like that when I was a teacher and the talk about "moral ground" and the idea that I am against the teachers probably does not deserve a response, but I am going to provide one.

First, I have never printed any information about most of the meals that have been provided for teachers and staff. There are many occasions where such expenditures are justified. For example, for years, the district paid for meals or snacks for teachers who stay three or four hours after school for parent-teacher conferences twice a year. It probably still does, but I have not had one of those since March 2013.

What needs to be reported more often is that many of these meals are provided as a result of a culture that still follows the Huff-Besendorfer example of one meeting after another and the idea that each of those meetings has to be accompanied by a taxpayer-financed meal.

What is also lost in the billing for such items is that often not only is money being spent for teachers' meals, but a considerably larger amount is being spent on the substitute teachers who man the classrooms while these interminable meetings are being held.

As for the "moral ground," I would have eaten the free meals, but do not make it look like I am criticizing each of these and that I am an enemy of the teachers.

That is laughable and it reminds me of the "Whirlwind Tour" C. J. Huff took of R-8 schools in the week before school opened for the 2014-2015 school year. At that time, Huff told teachers they needed to do something about me because I was attacking them. He could handle the criticism, but he did not want them to have to endure it. (Obviously, he couldn't handle the criticism. For someone who built a reputation based on the way he handled the aftermath of the tornado, he certainly fell apart when he was challenged by me and by board members who were critical of the way he operated.)

At the same meetings, and it is another reason why the mention of my moral character offends me, Huff continued to spread the lie that I provided pornographic material to 150 eighth grade students, when in fact- 1. No Child Left Alive, despite what C. J. Huff, Anson Burlingame, and Jeff Caldwell said was not pornogrpahic, and 2. to this day no one has ever found an eighth grader from that class who read the book (though some of them may have done so later after Huff gave it all that free publicity).

Huff attempted unsuccessfully to turn Joplin R-8 teachers against me and this appears to be yet another attempt to make it appear that I am hurting the teachers and the children by continuing to write about how taxpayer money is being spent or misspent.

Even though many of the teachers who now work in Joplin were not in the district while I was teaching there, the new teachers are intelligent enough to know when someone is looking out for them, the students, and for the taxpayers. They are not going to believe that I am being critical of teachers.

As Dan Rather used to say, "That dog won't hunt."

Why are taxpayers still paying a quarter of a million annually to Rob O'Brian and the Joplin Area Chamber?

While it is obvious that bringing new businesses and jobs to Joplin to important, why do the taxpayers have to continue the unholy alliance between the city and Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and its executive director Rob O'Brian?

Last week, during budget hearings, the Council elected to once again fork over a quarter of a million dollars to O'Brian and the Chamber for economic development.

State auditors criticized the arrangement, which caused some changes to be made, but there is still the whole problem about having so much taxpayer money going to an organization that does not necessarily represent the best interests of the citizens of Joplin and leaving it under the control of a man whose poor judgment while working with the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) ended up costing the city millions.

The dealings O'Brian had with Wallace-Bajjali were fraught with ethical problems and the state auditor believed those dealings were connected to what turned out to have all the appearances of a criminal enterprise.

State Audit

My book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud detailed how O'Brian, former City Manager Mark Rohr, and the unelected leaders of CART commandeered the recovery, pushed for the hiring of Wallace Bajjali as master developer and then pushed the kinds of projects that they had been pushing for years, taking advantage of the tornado to make it seem like these things were a necessary part of the rebuilding process.

The audit came out a few weeks after the book was published and backed everything that had been written in it, offering plenty of detail as to O'Brian's involvement in the hiring of Wallace Bajjali, including his deletion of a key e-mail that would have shown that Wallace Bajjali provided a template for the hiring of a master developer that only Wallace Bajjali could meet.

The following passages are taken verbatim from the state audit:

Wallace Bajjali may have benefited from favorable treatment during the RFP and qualifications preparation and evaluation process because the RFP preparer and two evaluators had been meeting with David Wallace or employees of Wallace Bajjali before the RFP was drafted and proposals solicited. 

In addition, the city did not take sufficient actions to eliminate potential conflicts of interest before awarding the master developer contract. The Joplin Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian (a member of the ITF) drafted the RFP and qualifications for the master developer during December 2011. 

Chamber invoices indicate Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian and another chamber employee, Gary Box, traveled to Houston, Texas, on October 1, 2011, to meet with representatives of Wallace Bajjali. They also met with David Wallace in Joplin on October 13, 2011. 

Box later evaluated the potential master developer proposals and was subsequently hired by Wallace Bajjali in August 2012. Additionally, an employee of Wallace Bajjali submitted a parking invoice from Dallas, Texas, dated December 5, 2011, which indicated he was meeting with city of Joplin representatives. 

Chamber credit card invoices indicated Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian was also in Dallas, Texas, on December 5, 2011. Additionally, in sworn testimony Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian indicated he first met with Wallace in August 2011, and met with him several other times during the fall of 2011. 

Also in sworn testimony CART Chairperson Jane Cage indicated she had met Wallace a few months after the tornado and at other times during the fall of 2011. Chairperson Cage was also a member of the CART ITF and an evaluator. Chairperson Cage developed the evaluation scorecard, evaluated the master developer respondents and completed a scorecard, and compiled the totals of the scorecards. 

It is questionable why the Chamber President, CART Chairperson, and another chamber employee had multiple meetings with a potential master developer company or its partners prior to drafting and evaluating the RFPs. 

In sworn testimony Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian indicated Wallace suggested the "master developer concept" for redevelopment of the city, and a Wallace Bajjali employee emailed him a template of a RFP at Wallace's request. However, Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian indicated he deleted the email. 

These prior relationships with Wallace Bajjali may have impaired the RFP preparer and the evaluators' ability to act impartially when preparing and evaluating the RFPs. Some of the RFP requirements and terminology may have been favorably written for Wallace Bajjali. The RFP included terminology regarding pursuit costs as a form of compensation, which was not used in proposals submitted by the 5 other RFP respondents. The ability to estimate these types of costs was also questioned by one of the respondents. In addition, some of the RFP requirements likely would have required the respondents more than a month to prepare and were questioned by other respondents. 

The audit noted that three of the seven members of the committee that evaluated the master developer proposals gave Wallace Bajjali much higher scores than the others. One of those was Chamber of Commerce employee Gary Box, who was later hired by Wallace Bajjali.

Another was Mayor Michael Seibert, who told auditors "he could not recall" why he gave Wallace Bajjali a higher score.

CART documents

The double dealings with Wallace Bajjali, which were so egregious that State Auditor Nicole Galloway forwarded them to law enforcement and the Jasper County prosecuting attorney (who never bothered to do anything), were also spelled out in CART minutes printed exclusively in the September 11, 2015 Turner Report:

Since the release of the state audit of the City of Joplin, officials involved with the selection of Wallace Bajjali as master developer have disputed the audit's allegation that the fix was in for the Texas company.

City Councilman Mike Woolston, who faces a censure hearing Monday night, says it did not happen.

Jane Cage, the director of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) says it did not happen.

Rob O'Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and a CART member says it did not happen.

The record tells a different story.

Minutes from CART meetings held in early 2012 show that some team members were in such a hurry to hand the project over to Wallace Bajjali front man David Wallace that they ignored obvious warning signs, The record also indicates that not only was the process weighted in favor of Wallace Bajjali, but any effort to give another bidder a chance was immediately squashed.

Among the revelations in the official documents:

-The CART site team sent to Waco, Texas, to investigate Wallace Bajjali projects received a guided tour and had lunch with Wallace. The group included O'Brian, Cage, City Council member Trisha Raney, and Bruce Anderson, a senior vice president at Mid-Missouri Bank. Wallace Bajjali later hired Anderson as its financial director.

-Wallace Bajjali was the only firm vetted by CART and even that process was limited due to time constraints.

-CART accepted Wallace's pledge that his company was in good financial shape even though he presented no audited financial statements and was never asked for any.

-When CART member Clifford Wert, who expressed serious concerns about Wallace Bajjali, urged that the company that finished second in the CART Implementation Task Force grading of master developer candidates, be vetted., Gary Box of the Chamber of Commerce, who had done a background check on Wallace-Bajjali, indicated it would take too much time and he didn't believe "this committee would receive enough information to honestly render a decision." Box became one of the first Joplin residents to be hired by Wallace Bajjali.

-Woolston and Cage fought efforts to delay the selection of Wallace Bajjali and vet the J Start proposal that placed second in the CART team's scoring.

The Selection Process

The first people to review the six bids for the City of Joplin's master developer were City Manager Mark Rohr, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rob O'Brian, and Troy Bolander, the city of Joplin's manager of planning and community development, according to CART minutes.

Bolander provided an update to CART's Implementation Task Force at a noon meeting February 9, 2012 saying that "three or four" of the proposals stood out.

By the time the March 14 meeting of the full CART arrived, Wallace Bajjali had already been tabbed as the top choice for master developer.

Jane Cage opened the meeting and stated that after interviewing the four firms, Wallace Bajjali came out on the top by a fairly wide margin. In our ranking system, they received 50 votes, with J-Start receiving 36 votes, or second place. This committee decided to do some due diligence and split into two groups, one group to look for references, and another group that agreed to go on-site. 
Bruce, Tricia, and Jane went on a site visit on Monday and everyone else took reference notes, made phone calls, and tried to get information. Gary Box contacted Amarillo and visited with their staff, became Amarillo had spent about $70,000 on a due diligence study related to Wallace Bajjali. They had a lot of background material. 
Ms. Cage explained that now is the time to move forward with this. Wallace Bajjali was willing to help bring in their own money in previous development efforts. They primarily asked the cities to contribute land and have not made any other concessions. There are really two pieces of experience with them. There is one piece where Dave Wallace was mayor of Sugar Land, Texas, and his involvement as mayor in many activities that were listed in our first presentation. In another set of experiences, they were actually involved as developers.
Ms. Cage explained that due to time constraints, the committee members chose not to visit Sugar Land, but visited Waco, Texas, where Wallace Bajjali actually had development experience. They are not without some controversy surrounding their name. Amarillo has seemed satisfied with their results and recommended Wallace-Bajjali.
Our committee members had an opportunity to personally visit with David Wallace and were satisfied with the information they received and stated that Wallace Bajjali had done some really nice work. The next step, as an implementation task force, was to agree that they would be the right choice to bring to the table. Ms. Cage opened this up for discussion.
Mr. Anderson has never seen a nicer public housing facility for off-campus residents. The facility was clean and well-maintained and contained all the amenities any student would want. He was very impressed with the quality of the development.
Mr. Anderson explained that a warehouse was converted into retail space, with quality work being done, as well.
Ms. Raney explained that the people we spoke to were very highly informative and honest and Mr. Anderson stated that some very explicit questions were raised.
Ms. Cage explained that some questions were raised with David Wallace directly, with our committee also visiting with one of the property managers.
Mr. O'Brian thought the input was good, and our committee had the opportunity to visit with Waco's city manager, the assistant city manager, a couple of people from Mike Seibert's calls and a couple of people previously on planning and zoning. Mr. Duncan from Waco had not worked directly with Wallace Bajjali, but was very familiar with the work they had done in Waco.
Mr. O'Brian explained that downtown Waco was hit by a tornado in 1953, with 114 fatalities. Several blocks of the downtown area were basically pushed in and covered up and made into parking lots. Mr. Duncan talked about how the downtown had struggled a lot since then and discussed the additional impact on the downtown area. Their main street, Austin Street, was substantilly boarded up. During the 1980s, another group put together a plan but failed to accomplish anything.
The City of Waco had several projects in mind when they tried to reclaim downtown in 2000. Wallace Bajjali was the first master developer to come to Waco who was willing to take the risk, with a number of projects taking place downtown. Austin Street is pretty well inhabited at this time. Three or four buildings were undergoing renovation, with a couple of these buildings in the historic area being gutted out and being put back together.
Concerns about Wallace Bajjali

The minutes from the March 14 meeting show that retired banker Clifford Wert raised questions about Wallace Bajjali.
Mr. Wert had a real concern about Wallace Bajjali on the issue of, is this the right time for this community because of the recent court decisions that have impacted Wallace Bajjali with recent fines that have been assessed against them. He is really concerned regarding "skeletons in the closet" and the investigative questions that will likely arise and will immediately place this group and 503 and the City Council and our community on the defensive in responding to, you know, if it took Amarillo to spend $70,000 on their due diligence investigation, if that same question will be asked of us, is the correct timing for us as the community to enter into an agreement?Mr. Wert was concerned about the issues of how Wallace Bajjali is going to be paying this $350,000 or $400,000 back, if they are directly responsible for it. He is very concerned that we as a community are going to be immediately placed in a defensive role that will take up a considerable amount of time. He asked if this is really the right time.Mr. Wert went back to one of Mr. O'Brian's questions at a previous meeting and Ms.(Kim) Cox's question of investigating the second choice to determine a fair comparison in just the overall facts.Mr. Wert wished to be up front with this group that he is very, very concerned regarding the perception and the publicity and the investigative issues that he believes will be thrown to all of us on this committee, to our City Council, and to our community.

The minutes show that after Wert's cautionary warning, Cage, Anderson, and O'Brian continued pushing Wallace Bajjali with O'Brian offering a rose-colored version of the company's problems with the SEC.

Anderson did the same for a housing project Wallace was in that ended up in bankruptcy.
Mr. Anderson discussed one of the housing projects Wallace Bajjali was involved in was taken into bankruptcy because of a disagreement with the developer, but he did that to control his records, and he was able to stabilize that project and pay all of the outstanding liens. They weren't aware of any local suppliers or contractors who weren't paid.

When Wert continued to express concerns, Woolston insisted he was not concerned about Wallace Bajjali.
Mayor Woolston did not believe we need to have answers to those issues, but thought that everyone probably has concerns. He asked what the alternative would be and raised the question as to if this is the right time for our city. Mr. Wert discussed the alternative of going another week or two weeks and look at J-Start and have that comparison of their team with this team to make that kind of decision.
Woolston was not interested in any action that could steer the project away from Wallace Bajjali.
Mayor Woolston's question on J-Start is that they are fairly newly developed. He is not necessarily opposed to looking into that, in that it might be a good defensive posture for the public and the media if the committee does that.To do that, Woolston noted, would throw the committee of of its time frame to present a decision to the City Council. He said the committee could delay until the first council meeting in April, but even as Woolston appeared to be offering an opportunity to look at the number two proposal, he made it clear what he wanted done. We've investigated and we've asked the company questions and we've got the answers to satisfy us.
Later in the meeting, the question of Wallace Bajjali's financial stability was brought up. IT was noted that the company had not provided audited financial statements.

Ms Cage does not have audited financials for her business either and did not know how big a deal audited financials are. Mr. (Alden) Buerge stated they are very expensive.

Mr. (Doug) Doll explained that it is pretty unususal to have financial audits. Mr. Buerge explained that they are prepared by a CPA firm and that 95 percent of his customers use them.

At that point, Gary Box attacked the credibility of the number two proposal.
Mr. Box would also like to make one comment to everybody that was done during the interviews where this committee asked about the litigation, which they were forthcoming and told us everything. When we talked to J-Start and the other three consultants, the question was asked, "Are you not or are you involved in litigation that could affect the Joplin project?" The lead person with J-Start looked up and down at all his partners and answered for each one of them, and he said, "No." Mr. Box thought that was absolutely false because there was one person at that table who has been in litigation, and he did not say anything. He commented that you are going to find dirt on everybody if you keep digging.
Mr. Box didn't disagree that maybe this committee should do the second level, but he was not sure we could do the level of investigation that we've done on Wallace-Bajjali on J-Start or Beacon.

Despite Box's statements, committee members, including Wert, Buerge, Brad Beecher, and C. J. Huff suggested it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the J-Start proposal.

Cage said that she did not see anything in J-Start's proposal "that really recommends them over Wallace Bajjali."

Wert said he would prefer J-Start over Wallace Bajjali. "I am very uncomfortable with Wallace Bajjali."
Mayor Woolston asked Mr. Wert how he balances that, if we find out that J-Start has some litigation that they didn't disclose.

Woolston never asked the same question about Wallace Bajjali.
Cage continued to note that Wallace Bajjali had agreed to put its own money into Joplin, something the other proposals did not do. Buerge suggested a quick phone call to see if J-Start would be interested in doing things differently.

A frustrated Cage was not pleased with that proposal.
Ms. Cage discussed changing the game but stated we have to move forward and have to make something happen. We can't just sit and discuss.
She also said it was not fair to ask J-Start or any other company if they were willing to invest money. "They (already) gave us their proposal."

Eventually, without even taking a second look at J Start, CART recommended the hiring of Wallace Bajjali as the City of Joplin's master developer.

Creve Couer senator critical of gun and voter ID overrides

(From Sen. Jill Schlupp, D-Creve Couer)

Even though our state Constitution allows for up to 10 legislative days for veto session, once again this year, the session was over in about 8 hours. While this was really no surprise, I had held out hope that those of us representing the minority viewpoints on the two issues that garnered the most controversy and conflict would be given ample time to make our case to those listening in the Senate Gallery and online, and to our colleagues who might just take one more look...

Instead, a procedural maneuver allowed in parliamentary and Senate processes, "calling the Previous Question," allowed for an immediate vote on ending debate-which passed- forcing the vote on question of overriding the Governor's veto. This procedure was used twice during the day on arguably the most controversial bills before us.

The override of the veto of SB 656 in Missouri, the gun expansion bill, was, according to the Missouri Times, the NRA's top national priority. The bill allows for the carrying of a concealed weapon in public without any state permit, without any firearm training and without any background check required.

Sheriffs around the state were among those groups who stood in opposition to the bill and in support of the veto. Under the current system, sheriffs have been able to deny a concealed carry permit when a person is considered unfit due to mental instability,suicide concerns, or escalating domestic disturbance calls. Since no permit will be required under the new law, people who might have been denied a permit will now be able to legally conceal and carry.

Those who choose to get permits so that they have reciprocity across state lines will be able to purchase a lifetime permit. We don’t even allow that for drivers, and cars are not intended to be deadly weapons!

And the expansion of “Stand your ground” laws (no longer referred to as the “Castle Doctrine” since its application has expanded far beyond our castles…) including no obligation to reasonably retreat, creates a “Shoot first, ask questions later” mentality, the lethal realities of which will likely pit mourning families against shooters in court.

The New York Times editorial board has characterized us as “The Shoot Me State.” Every law abiding Missouri citizen, gun owner or not, should have cause for concern in this new largely-deregulated environment in our state.

Groups such as Moms Demand Action, the Police Chiefs Association, Catholic Bishops and those who provide support to victims of domestic violence worked hard to have the Governor’s veto sustained. In the end, the NRA and pro-gun expansion legislators prevailed.


The other bill that garnered more attention than most and was voted on as a result of the Previous Question being called was HB 1631, legislation that will require a government-issued photo ID for a citizen to exercise his or her right to vote at the polls. (Less regulation for access to a deadly weapon, more regulation for access to the ballot box, interesting.)

This national GOP movement has been acknowledged as a way to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, who tend to vote democratic. The truly agreed and finally passed (TAFP) bill had a fiscal note of up to more than $2,000,000 in FY 2017; and up to over 11,000,000 in FY 2018. That estimated cost to you and me is over $13,000,000 in the first two years of implementation alone for attacking the non-existent problem of voter impersonation! We have no known cases of voter impersonation in Missouri, and very few around the country.

The problems you have read about with both alleged falsification of absentee ballots or incorrect numbers of ballots at the polls cannot and will not be resolved by this legislation. These are not voter impersonation issues.

And, while Senate Democrats had some success during session in negotiating language to minimize adverse affects of this bill in the short term, ultimately, HB 1631 will serve to silence voices and undermine the right to vote for as many as 220,000 Missourians, as estimated by the office of the Secretary of State.

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave black men the right to vote in 1870. Women won the right to vote 96 years ago when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. But truth be told, the use of poll taxes, literary tests, property ownership and other obstacles limited some group's access to the polls. It wasn't until the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the stumbling blocks keeping minorities and women from voting became law.

This bill has been characterized as a modern day poll tax, interfering with our fundamental Constitutional right to have our voices heard. The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of HB 1631 during the veto session.

Some people have claimed that you need a photo ID for everything these days, so this should be no big deal. It simply isn't true. Not everyone drives. College student IDs are not government-issued, and therefore will not quality to be used to vote. Most importantly, neither driving nor going to college, nor using a credit card rises to the level of a Constitutional RIGHT. We must protect the right to vote.

So, while we passed this piece of legislation, we have an opportunity to to protect Missouri's Constitution by voting no on Amendment 6 in November.* We should be very careful about the impact of what we enshrine in our state Constitution. The problem many claim photo identification at the polls will solve, does not exist. Voter impersonation happens rarely, if at all across the entire country. Passing this constitutional amendment will move our state backward, to a time of poll taxes and voices denied. Our hard earned rights are simply too precious to undermine.
As a member of the minority party, I don’t always come out on the prevailing side. However, at this time of friction and strident disagreement in national politics and policy, being one of currently only 7 Democrats in Missouri’s Senate seems like the place I need to be. It is critical to voice a different opinion on issues where we disagree, and to look for compromise where we can. I am grateful to my constituents for allowing me to use my brain and my heart to work toward good public policy for a better Missouri.

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