Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Columbia Heart Beat -- 6/12/08

Paperless News for Columbia's Blogs and Listservs

“RUARACIST?”: In Columbia, slapping critics with The Scarlet Label
SID SULLIVAN: Brings "Coffee House Office Hours" to County Campaign
SUDDENLY SURPLUS: CPS and the Evolution of a Bamboozle
THE CHANGE GANG: Wilson-Kleekamp on CPS' Sudden Surplus; Karl Miller on Police Review
RUMOR HAS IT: Paige Laurie Getting Hitched This Weekend?
NEW WATER AND LIGHT HONCHO: Watkins Taps Texan To Watch our Taps
2008 CAMPAIGN AD: Christopher Walken For U.S. President

WHEN SEWERS ATTACK: In the Old Southwest, a Stinky Epidemic
VILLAGE VOICEOVER: Code Enforcement Confab Crowded and Productive

CELTIC ARTS: In Columbia
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Coffee House Office Hours; Celtic Music Fest
MIKE COOK MEDICAL FUND: Injured by Scumbags, Paper Carrier Needs You!


OPENING THEME SONG: The Epitome of Cool


In Columbia, slapping critics with The Scarlet Label
By Mike Martin for the Columbia Business Times

“RUARACIST?” Imagine opening an email – from a Columbia school board member, no less – with that in the subject line. I did not long ago, and it was a doozy.

Responding to a critique of Superintendent Phyllis Chase, the board member told me I was "perpetuating the [Columbia Daily] Tribune's bias against Dr. Chase." The racial implications continued in another email, where this individual noted that if "members of the Waters family were among the biggest beneficiaries of 'urban renewal' in the 1960's" and if the "Tribune building was indeed built where Sharp End was" – a well-known African-American business district – it was all an "interesting coincidence."

"How dare…!" my wife said. I agreed. Criticism is not racism just because its object is the district’s African-American leader. To suggest otherwise is to inject an element of ethnicity where it doesn’t belong. It was just another instance of someone in a position of power applying an inappropriate label – "racist" – to shut down a critic or challenger.

Watershed moment

Former Tribune columnist Tony Messenger wrote about this sort of name calling in his July 20, 2005 column, “Opposition group fights those who too quickly label them." Following a group of citizens called TARRIF who joined forces to fight tax increases they thought unfair, “Traci Wilson-Kleekamp is a nut. A kook even,” Messenger began. “Ditto Ben Londeree, Renee Richmond and DeAnna Walkenbach. And don’t forget Karl Skala. The whole bunch is nuttier than a fruitcake.”

Harsh words for citizens many would just as eagerly label “caring and engaged." But ”that’s what you’ll hear from a few self-appointed city leaders in the next few months, as Columbia debates an expected vote in November,” Messenger admitted. “For their efforts, they’ll be labeled loud-mouthed, anti-growth, not-in-my-backyard troublemakers.”

Why the labels? In TARRIF’s case, City Hall and other establishment players wanted “to do all the talking, and they want us to shut up,” Wilson-Kleekamp opined. But the group pressed on, Wilson-Kleekamp telling Messenger that she was fully aware “the more she spoke out, the more some folks would try to marginalize her views,” which included wanting “the city to develop a comprehensive growth plan before it decided to start seeking tax increases,” Messenger wrote.

Likewise, Skala wanted the Columbia “Planning and Zoning Commission – from which he was recently removed – to have more say in the development process," while Richmond and Walkenbach wanted “developers to treat residents’ property rights as equal to their own.”

In defeating two of six proposed taxes, the group created a watershed moment in our little burg’s political history. Gone were the days of dismissing establishment critics as crackpots. Columbia would never be the same.

The Scarlet Label

Despite a grassroots revolution that three years later has seen once marginalized players like Skala ascend to the city council and several stern status quo rebukes at the ballot box, establishment players – and former players – still play the labeling game. Public hearings “bring out the cranks, the professional complainers and those with an ideological ax to grind,” former Columbia school board member Kerry Crist commented in the Tribune last week, while noting that not enough people attend public meetings.

Largely considered an “august body” of educated and successful elites, the school board has sported many of the labeling game’s most practiced players. At a recent meeting, members slapped several labels – from “alarmist” to “micromanager” – on Ines Segert, a colleague who was challenging proposed budget cuts.

Those labels didn’t make sense, and they rarely do. Tribune publisher Hank Waters did not “kill” the district's tax levy, as a several levy supporters suggested at Flat Branch restaurant on election eve last. Voters killed it, and by a large margin.

At the district’s first “listening forum,” when amidst groping for the message voters intended with that defeat, I suggested they might have fired the superintendent, board member Steve Calloway scolded me for “getting personal." But the superintendent is a high-ranking public official and the discussion had nothing to do with her personal life.

Speak no evil

I often ask myself why the things my mother taught me – and insisted I teach my own children – are so often junked in adult life. Johnny, think for yourself. Johnny, stand up for what you believe in. Johnny, get involved. Vote. Run for public office.

But name-calling – especially in a smallish town – can make getting involved intimidating enough to shut down debate, which often appears the establishment’s end game. Will they think I'm a “crank” if I criticize the tax levy or a “professional complainer” if I report the mold problem at Benton Elementary? Will they think I have an ‘ideological ax to grind" if I advocate for a different math curriculum?

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Is that why violent crime is pounding our town? See no gangs, hear no gangs. Everything, dear citizen, is absolutely fine.
SID SULLIVAN: Brings "Coffee House Office Hours" to County Campaign

Southern District County Commission candidate Sid Sullivan is introducing the latest flavor of Coffee House Office Hours -- "County Chicory" -- this Saturday, when he'll begin holding office hours at Cafe Berlin on Providence and Broadway. From there, Sullivan will be traveling all around southern Boone County, from Ashland to Rocheport. A progressive Democrat, Sullivan hopes to "meet, share stories, and exchange opinions and dreams of Boone County -- what it is and what it could be."

Populism is sweeping local politics. It has recently placed five members on the city council and two members on the school board. It has split the local Democratic Party into an old-school, ol' boy wing and a new school, progressive wing. And it has prompted all sorts of constituent interactions, including the school board's new "Listening Forums" and Coffee House Office Hours, a morning brew that originated with 3rd Ward Councilman Karl Skala and now comes in several flavors.

A County Commissioner sharing an office with a City Councilman? Years ago, they did -- in the Daniel Boone Building. And should Sid Sullivan become Boone's next County Commissioner, history will repeat, as he and 4th Ward Councilman Jerry Wade both hold "office hours" at the Rendezvous Coffee Shop near HyVee.

Sullivan's Coffee House Office Hours for the next few weeks are:


Saturday, June 14, 2008
9:00am-11:00 am
21 N. Broadway, COLUMBIA

Saturday, June 21, 2008
9:00am-11:00 am
105 E. Broadway, ASHLAND
(2 DOORS EAST OF Broadway and Main)

Saturday, June 28, 2008
9:00am-11:00 am
3304 W. Broadway, COLUMBIA
(In Business Park west of HyVee)

Saturday, July 5, 2008
9:00am-11:00 am
3304 W. Broadway, COLUMBIA
(In Business Park west of HyVee)

Future Locations will be posted in July and at

"If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write me at or call 234-2374," Sullivan says. He faces incumbent Karen Miller in an August 5th Democratic primary.


SUDDENLY SURPLUS: CPS and a Bamboozle Evolution


"You’re in a downward spiral," Allan Crader, principal consultant with LJ Hart & Co. said, pointing to the district’s dwindling reserve fund.


"It was one of 70 new jobs the district created earlier this academic year, using $10.5 million from district reserves. That’s roughly the same amount as the district’s budget deficit, according to information provided to board members."


"With a year-over-year average 34.6 percent underestimate of reserve fund balances, CPS could easily have $9.2 million more than it estimates with no tax increase, leaving a far more modest deficit of about $1.5 million that relatively painless budget cuts could cure."


"No, the district will NOT start the year with an $8 million deficit. The deficit...would be about $1.2 million this coming year."


If funds have been "found" every year for over 10 years, at what point can we safely stop calling them "one time" funds?


THE CHANGE GANG: Traci Wilson-Kleekamp on CPS' Sudden Surplus

This discovery of a surplus is something I often saw in big city politics in Southern California. Politicians and administrators would wring their hands and say.. woe is me.. there is no money. Taxpayers paying attention and following the excessive spending habits of politicians declined to support tax increases, particularly when proposed increases followed big raises and expanded bureaucracy.

It never ceased to amaze me how many times "one-time" revenues where FOUND at the 11th hour. It was really sickening and twisted how many times politicians came back and said that the "one-time" revenue spending could not be supported with ongoing revenues and expenses. Hence, politicians were back at the table with their hands out asking taxpayers for more. Taxpayers were generally tender-hearted when it came to public education and generously supported increases -- until they grew weary of this trick.

The question now is: does the school board think by spending "one-time" revenues on teacher salaries, they are appeasing teachers and parents; or if they are implementing a decision that impacts the quality of public education in Columbia?

I believe teachers definitely deserve good pay. But it will really be something if in the next few months, the board comes back wringing its hands claiming they need additional cuts because they lack sufficient revenues for the ongoing support of the salary increases.

Seems to me that Mrs. Chase and her rubber stamping crew erred in expanding their own bureaucracy first, not to mention big raises for Mrs. Chase. This is a symbolic act of public contrition to appease the community. Are concerned Columbians that easily appeased?

And is it a fiscally responsible decision to spend these "one-time" revenues or is it a politically motivated decision to avoid the discussion about the public's lack of confidence, not only in Ms. Chase but the school board, too?

THE CHANGE GANG: Civilian Review Board No help to Police
By J. Karl Miller for the Columbia Missourian

I have never made a secret of my opposition to a special civilian review board as sufficient oversight is provided by the mayor and City Council, the city manager, the free press and the Police Department’s internal review process. That policeman need not be constrained in the performance of his duty by the specter of second guessing by a panel of citizens who have never walked in his shoes nor the fear that he may be exceeding some arbitrary racial quota in his arrests.

Read the rest at:

RUMOR HAS IT: Paige Laurie Getting Hitched This Weekend?

By now, it's all over town: rumors that Waltonian Heiress Paige Laurie is getting hitched at the family farm/ranch/compound south of town. Did Fred Parry tell me about it? Is he going? Is Inside Columbia really getting the Inside Scoop on this Sensational Shindig? I'll never tell.

Planning for hundreds of guests is apparently under way, and once again rumors are flying that a superstar band will appear. Absent the occasional scandal, rumor is about the only thing we hear about our elusive clan of billionaires, so who knows. If it's true, Mazel Tov Paige Laurie. And may you find that amazing life only true love can bring.

NEW WATER AND LIGHT HONCHO: Watkins Taps Texan To Watch our Taps

City Manager Bill Watkins has appointed J. Kraig Kahler as the new director of the Columbia Water & Light Department, effective July 14, 2008. Kahler presently heads the Weatherford, Texas utility department, 25 miles west of Fort Worth. The K-State grad has an online biography here:

J. Kraig Kahler

2008 CAMPAIGN AD: Christopher Walken For United States President

In these dark times -- global warming, secrecy, war, foreclosures, terrorism -- there's only ONE candidate....

WHEN SEWERS ATTACK: In the Old Southwest, a Stinky Epidemic

When Old Southwest resident Wendy Murray descended into the carpeted basement of her historic 80-year-old Thilly Avenue home on Memorial Day this year, she got a wet, smelly surprise.

"I turned on the light. I was standing in a foot of sewage," Murray said. "It was the grossest thing I've ever seen." She and husband Bob -- a local attorney best known for his DWI practice -- had to rip out the carpet, replace furniture, and fight a lingering stench. "You walked into the house and it hit you in the face," she said. "It was just raw sewage, and a lot of it. Disease-causing, typhoid-carrying raw sewage."

A week later, when Murray and her family were out of town, the sewage seeped in again. "It sat because we weren't home," Murray said. "Now, the smell is so bad I don't know when we'll ever get rid of it."

Homeowners in the historic Old Southwest are no strangers to sewage seepage and basement backups, problems that have developed because clay pipe designed to last 40 years has been channeling raw sewage for over 80 years. Correcting the problem has been an all-spring event between Maupin and Broadway, where workers have dug up roads, sidewalks, yards, and driveways. Digging a trench down Maupin earlier this year, an excavator for Rackers Construction told me his crew found several places where the clay pipe was simply no more.

So where was the sewage going? I asked. "It wasn't," he said. "It wasn't going anywhere, just emptying in a lot of yards."

Murray's plumber actually saw this problem first hand. "We hired MasterTech Plumbing to scope the sewer line," she said. "They found that it went a few yards and then near the street corner, nothing. No more pipe. I can't tell you how gross that is."

She's joined other grossed-out neighbors to sign a petition requesting the City of Columbia take action. The sewage seepage epidemic has the entire area in its grip, Murray said. Heavy rainfall hasn't helped. "I'm not looking forward to dealing with this, watching all the action on Maupin," she said. "But I know we have to. Handling sewage is probably the most basic thing a city can do."

VILLAGE VOICEOVER: Code Enforcement Confab Crowded and Productive

Tuesday at the Daniel Boone Regional Library, the North Central Neighborhood Association hosted a code enforcement confab, discussing ways to aid and empower the Neighborhood Response Team (NRT), whose director Bill Cantin took questions and educated attendees. Largely responsible for central city code enforcement, the NRT is an official 2008 "Mayoral Priority." But a cumbersome system that relies on liens instead of fines to force property owners to mitigate mostly outdoor building code violations has slowed the team to a crawl when it comes to compliance.

"Everything ends up heading toward court," Cantin said. "We've fantasized about the day when we can just write a ticket rather than file a lien."

First Ward councilman Paul Sturtz was there. So was 3rd Warder Karl Skala, who sat alongside his former campaign opponent Gary Kespohl. The Columbia Board of Realtors sent government affairs director Elizabeth Holden. One of the city's largest rental property owners, Mark Stevenson, offered several ideas to improve a troubled situation. And a group of MU students with a novel weatherization program offered their assistance, too.

Stevenson suggested funding a remediation team to help low-income homeowners and senior citizens fix code violations. Pat Fowler's MU students offered general maintenance help all around the house. Describing scenes of filth and squalor, Fowler said her student weatherization team "walks into some pretty bad situations, in terms of how people are living."

Skala and Sturtz said they strongly support fixing what Skala called "a broken system." Understaffed and under-empowered, the NRT now has double its previous territory, taking in Benton-Stephens and East Campus. A traffic-ticket style system that would fine non-compliant owners "would really speed things up," Cantin said. It should also satisfy civil libertarians, by replacing the threat of a property taking with the fact of a monetary fine.

Neighborhood association leaders Amir Ziv and Linda Rootes agreed. "These enforcement actions need to have some teeth, some real teeth," Ziv said. "They need to hit the wallet."

CELTIC ARTS: In Columbia
by Kate Akers

Central MO Celtic Arts is a nonprofit arts organization that presents concerts and folk dances, offers classes and social jam sessions, fostering traditional music and dance from Ireland and Scotland.

Since 2001 we have hosted an artist-in-residence each summer in Columbia to teach Irish music, dance and Gaelic (language). These teachers have been college students from traditional music and language programs in Ireland who come to both share their talents, culture and knowledge and soak up ours.

This summer our artist-in-residence, Conor Caldwell, is a student at Queens University Belfast, just finishing his undergraduate degree in music with specialization in the traditional music and dance of the northwest region of Ireland. He plays Irish fiddle, mandolin, tenor banjo and tin whistle as well as being an accomplished dancer of Irish social dances (called coutry sets). Conor will be arriving in Columbia on June 11 and in addition to teaching classes, he will be playing music and sharing his talents and skills at Irish music jam sessions, small performances like Twilight Festival, and our local Irish ceili dances (social dance evenings).

Conor will be playing music with us at Twilight Festival from 6 - 7 pm in front of Bluestem Crafts on Ninth St. On Friday June 13, we will welcome him at our monthly ceili (kay-lee) dance and social. This dance and social is free this month -- no door fee -- and we welcome longtime members and new visitors alike to come dance and listen to great music.


MIKE COOK MEDICAL FUND: Injured by Scumbags, Paper Carrier Needs You!

Somebody will undoubtedly jump on me for using the pejorative, Dirty Harry Callahanesque "scumbags," but when you kick a man in his face, breaking his nose,. cheekbone, and eye socket trying to get a paltry few bucks during a robbery where you're armed to the teeth and he's got nothing, you're a scumbag, plain and simple.

To help Post-Dispatch newspaper carrier Mike Cook with his medical bills, which are sure to pile up, please contact Linda McBee at 800-574-8901 or Judy Sapp at Boone County National Bank, trustees for the Mike Cook Medical Fund. You can read more about Mike and the attack he sustained here:


WHERE? The Coffee Ground, Broadway Shops, 2703 E. Broadway
(North side of Broadway just West of Hwy 63)
WHEN? 8:30-10:30 a.m.
DATES? June 14; July 5 and 19
WHO? Everyone is welcome. Drop in and share your questions, opinions, ideas, and concerns!

COFFEEHOUSE CONVERSATIONS with 4th Ward Councilman Jerry Wade
This Saturday, June 14 coffeehouse conversation will be from 8:00 to 9:30am. PLEASE NOTE THE TIME CHANGE FOR THE COFFEEHOUSE CONVERSATIONS. The Rendezvous Coffeehouse is at 3304 Broadway Business Park Ct., which is on the south side of West Broadway west of HyVee. This is a regular event the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month.


"You're the strangest person I ever met, she said & I said you too & we decided we'd know each other a long time."
-- Brian Andreas, featured at Blue Stem Crafts in the District

Mike Martin
Member: National Press Club (

The Columbia Heart Beat
Circulation: Roughly 3,470

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