Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Columbia Heart Beat -- 4/7/08

News and Commentary for Columbia's Blogs and Listservs
(Open all links in new tab or window for ease of use).

Why Sturtz and Segert Won
CURTAIN CALL: For the Children's Maestro
ELOQUENT ON INTEGRATION: Rosie Tippin Finds Her Voice
CHASE RESIGNS: The Reality of Funny at "Chasing Phyllis"
EMPTY POT OF GOLD: Blogger Warns of Future Shortfalls
THE CHANGE GANG: Rosman on Anti-Semitism; Waters and Germond Vote No

TOP TEN AGAIN: Forbes Ranks Columbia IN THE TOP FIVE!

With Local Banker Tom Stone
PARTING THOUGHTS: What Really Happened to Jacque Cowherd

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN: Why Sturtz and Segert Won

Rather than simply endorse candidates in the two major local elections -- school board and First Ward City Council -- we thought we'd try to explain why 131 school board voters and 95 city council voters cast ballots the way they did over a two month period on our website.

We suspect it comes down to a single factor: seeking the most qualified candidates to initiate long-overdue change that includes BETTER INTEGRATION into the community at large.


Film is a collaborative art. Life in Columbia should be a collaborative art, too.

That's our guiding theme with cinema impresario Paul Sturtz, whose support both in and out of the First Ward is wide and deep. So well-connected and well-regarded is he around the ENTIRE community that for the first time in years, the First Ward may stand a real chance of fulfilling its long-held promise and Almeta's Dream: to join the fold, to become an equal with other wards, and to finally start shedding the shackles of a dysfunctional past.

For too long, First Ward residents have languished in relative isolation, struggling with the ghosts of segregation and haunted by reverse-Robin Hood policies that take resources out of the ward in the form of sales and property tax dollars, and send them to the fringe.

The consolation prize: block grants and other non-local dollars that Ridgeway Neighborhood Association president Pat Kelley rightly pegged. It's money, she wrote here, that "just bounces into our neighborhood and then back out of it again -- to social workers, non-profits, government programs, Section 8 landlords, etc."

The result: less of everything, from sidewalks to street lights to safety to morale.

First Ward councilwoman Almeta Crayton's situation is especially distressing. In 21st-century Columbia, America -- the most progressive city in Missouri -- a sitting city councilperson hasn't the means for even basic communication with the press and her constituents.

The people who've helped her out-fundraise Sturtz by 2-1 would have been better served by helping Miss Almeta better serve the First Ward. The six thousand or so dollars she raised for this election would have bought a top-notch computer and plenty of assistance. Instead, Almeta endures the same isolation that has plagued her ward.

Sturtz bears a more inclusive and integrated message. Is he a "smart growth" candidate? If you think "smart" means not neglecting the heart of the city, then yes.

Is Sturtz pro- or anti-business?

Ask downtown retailers how much they like the business his activities help deliver. Ask the builders and architects who worked on the new Ragtag Cinema. Ask the government agencies who collect True/False-driven sales taxes. Ask all the filmmakers and crews who now get their first big break in Columbia, Missouri -- like the cinematic geniuses behind the smash hit "Murderball" -- if Paul Sturtz is pro- or anti-business.

I think I know what they'll say.


Paul Sturtz................45 (47%)
Almeta Crayton................28 (29%)
John Clark.........................14 (14%)
Karen Baxter.....................8 (8%)


The people who voted at our site have Ines Segert walking away with the election, followed by Tom Rose in distant second and Rosie Tippin. Why?

Maybe it's because with Segert, change in Columbia has a new face: an Ivy League education; stylish demeanor; laser-sharp focus; and the voice of someone who understands what makes America great. Segert immigrated with her family from Ecuador. She brings a broad worldview to our world here.

Segert's reputation as a teacher at MU is also tops. Some 68 students at -- a place where people normally pitch a bitch -- rave about her. She's won virtually every teaching award imaginable. And she has articulated a clear platform of change that includes increased openness and a rigorous examination of a troubled math curriculum.

Her deep connections to educators around the nation will certainly help integrate our district into the larger education community.


Ines Segert ................96 (74%)
Tom Rose
........................58 (44%)
Rosie Tippin..................55 (42%)

Darin Preis......................44 (34%)
Gale Hairston .................33 (25%)
Arch Brooks.....................16 (12%)


The levy fails, by a huge margin. "Punishment" for a pampered superintendent? "Sending a message" to a board that never listens? Hold it -- don't those ideas seem oxymoronic?

No, the reason the levy fails is because people aren't seeing the money benefit them.
The lack of air conditioning in many of our school buildings, after years of fussing about the problem while stockpiling millions of dollars in reserves and boosting administrator salaries,
is a prime example.

"Columbia is one of the last Boone County school districts that still releases early for heat. Southern Boone County in Ashland, Hallsville and Harrisburg schools are all air-conditioned," reads one Trib article. Unacceptable, voters seem to be saying.

Sweltering schools not fit for kids, staff

Heat has schools on alert

Schools beat retreat from heat

Local schools plan early heat dismissal

If voters think students and teachers are suffering while money is spent on other priorities, they have plenty of evidence. So to those people who say that a vote against the levy is a punishment, we ask: who's punishing whom?

Money isn’t reaching teachers in the trenches

Superintendent Phyllis Chase boosts top admin salaries

Columbia Superintendent Phyllis Chase Salary up 63% in four years

2003-04 $123,000*
2004-05 $126,000*
2005-06 $180,000
2006-07 $190,800
2007-08 $200,430
* Does not include a $20,000 tax-sheltered annuity later converted to salary


Levy NO.......................127 (69%)
Levy Yes........................50 (27%)
Undecided.......................6 (3%)

CURTAIN CALL: For the Children's Maestro

If ever a Columbia educator has combined the magic of music with the wonder of childhood, that educator would be CPS elementary school teacher Ed Hanson.

Wrapping another year of Honors Choir and music direction at Calvary Episcopal Church, Hanson pulls off an unusual and difficult feat: combining an imperious sense of expectation with a gentle sense of humor that coaxes the best performances out of his young singers and musicians.

The result: an astonishing track record among a notoriously fickle group: young children in the throes of music education, trying to balance the need to practice with the urge to play. Hanson's style keeps attrition low: in the years my own daughter has studied and understudied at his side, I can't recall a time she wanted to drop out and I can't recall any other children who have dropped out, either.

Planning the April 17 Honors Choir finale and an April 26 choir trip to Worlds of Fun, Hanson recently announced what we've all known for some time: that he is embarking on a new dream.

"I am retiring this year after 28 years of teaching," Ed told his young charges and their parents in a recent email. "My career has been a long and satisfying one, and I now look forward to my next career -- as an actor."

To St. Genevieve this summer for a professional production of Cabaret and then to Abilene, Kansas for Thornton Wilder's Our Town.

Thanking everyone, Ed Hanson took a graceful final bow. "I am excited about these two first opportunities to 'get my feet wet' in the world of professional theater," he wrote. "I'm hoping it will be the beginning of a new and exciting career!"

For Ed Hanson, the show must go on.

INTEGRATED ELLOQUENCE: Rosie Tippin Finds Her Voice

It was an impassioned plea about a simple yet important point: if we want children to achieve, we must surround them with achievers.

When Rosie Tippin, 71-years old, petite, almost tiny, stood to make her case at the recent NAACP forum, she was the tallest person in the room.

"We can't expect poor children who are surrounded only by other poor children to do well," she said. "We can't close the achievement gap unless we are willing to teach our low achieving children alongside high achieving children. Who do children look to as role models? Other children. I've been in education for years. I know."

Shocking the audience out of silent segregation's quiet complacency, Tippin walked to the front of the candidate's table. Here a table separates us, she seemed to be saying. I want to cross the divide and speak with each of you.

"You cannot continue to pile all of your low-income black children together," Tippin said. "You’ve got to spread them out. If we take all the children from one poor neighborhood and send them to the same school, they don't learn anything new," she added. "If that school has limited resources in comparison to a school in a more affluent part of town, that only compounds the problem."

CHASE RESIGNS: The Reality of Funny at Chasing Phyllis

"I simply can't take this anymore. This morning, I submitted my letter of resignation—effective immediately—to Karla DeSpain. I quit!"

So begins another day in the office of Phyllis Chase -- or "Chasing Phyllis," a screwball reality comedy that blends blogging with blunders at the Office of the Superintendent and her "Bored" of Directors.

The latest gaffe: the possible "outing" of a school district flack on the Columbia Tribune News Forum, where discussions of Ryan Ferguson, gas prices, immigration, gay rights, and the CPS tax levy are among the top eyeball gatherers among hundreds of posts that hold thousands of peepers in gossipy sway.

Chasing Phyllis has a sharp bite, a decidedly feminine tone, and a cagey cloak that's kept even the prying-est reporters and geekiest techies from discovering who's behind it.

"Sorry for the April Fool's Day gag. I simply couldn't resist," writes comedic Columbia's favorite foil, for fear her "resignation" might be accepted. "Fear not. They will have to pry this district from my cold, dead fingers. After all, what would everyone do without me? It's a joy to be so needed."

Chasing Phyllis

EMPTY POT OF GOLD: Blogger Warns of Future Shortfalls

"Our pockets are only just so deep. If we insist on making school district funding our sacred cow, we empty a till that does not look like it will fill again soon. The city is already so overbuilt, for example, that they must contract with the County to provide emergency services in may areas....

Roads are a disgrace and they kill a lot of our loved ones every year. More cash is needed right now to fix rotting infrastructure and crappy little two lane highways that most states would never tolerate...

Our power generating capacity is looking at a huge developing shortfall that will ultimately require a new power plant that we'll have to pay for....Gas is headed to $4....

The list goes on, but the point is this: Before people simply cave in to bail out a district and a board that has been shown to be far less than competent in terms of forward planning and money management, we need to understand that the taxpayers are near the max."

FatDaddy Opines

THE CHANGE GANG: Rosman on Anti-Semitism; Waters and Germond Vote No

I am a big-city kid and a Jew and have been the target of anti-Semitic language, which I usually attribute to ignorance. Unfortunately, I have experienced more racial and religious bias in the middle of Middle America than I had living in New York or Denver. Equally unfortunate are the sources of such comments. -- David Rosman, Missourian

The talk on the street is that this one is going down in defeat big time on April 8. "This one"is the proposal to raise the property tax levy by a substantial amount because the Columbia Public Schools system has fumbled and bumbled its way through financial operations and is now some $10 million in the hole. -- Al Germond, Columbia Business Times

This election is all about establishing a new premise and process for school operations planning. The current budget has been built over decades and generations on a common premise: How can we keep expanding the operation? Not, how might we change it in fundamental ways to make it essentially different and better? -- Hank Waters, Columbia Daily Tribune

TOP TEN AGAIN: Forbes Ranks Columbia IN THE TOP FIVE!

Tigers, as everyone knows, eat Jayhawks for breakfast. Forbes Magazine, home of the world's most prestigious wealth and business rankings, has rated Columbia, Missouri #4 on its 2008 list of Best Small Places For Business And Careers in America, beating out such top contenders as Blacksburg and Charlottesville, Virginia; State College, Penn.; and Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Only Souix Falls, Iowa City, and Bloomington, Indiana ranked higher. Lawrence, Kansas merited a lowly 24th ranking.



Looking for affordable housing? Think Columbia has an "affordable housing crisis?"
Then check out this cute brick home for $89,000.00 OBO.

2 Bedroom 1 Bath all brick home in central Columbia, close to everything. Newly remodeled. Ready to move in.

FOLLOW THE MARKETS: With Local Banker Tom Stone

PARTING THOUGHTS: What Really Happened to Jacque Cowherd

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