Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Endorphins, beer, bay mist and fresh sunburn

1) SUNDAYS WITH ANDY: Endorphins, beer, bay mist and fresh sunburn
2) AT THE FOOD BANK: The right way to work with a board of directors

3) NOTED ACTIVIST CHALLENGES: Councilman on Humane Society

4) RESEARCH REVEALS: Who built Columbia's shotgun house

5) SEPTEMBER COMMENTARY: Germond, Rosman, Kennedy, Miller
6) READERS WRITE: A little hate mail


Endorphins, beer, bay mist and fresh sunburn
from Reflections on a Lived-In Life by Amanda Clifton

I found myself on welfare at the age of 26 with a two-year-old and a GED. I wanted better for my son before he was old enough to remember, a quiet, pokey life like his father had growing up, going to the same school with the same bunch of kids in the same dinky, uneventful town.

I'd been told I should learn a trade, and while I think they meant hairdressing, I needed something that paid better and I wanted something that allowed for some alone time, some isolation, for when I felt cranky, sarcastic, or down. I thought of the lady welders who built the ships during WW2. I could do that. And as soon as Baby was old enough to say "Bye, Mom" I went to Laney College in Oakland to learn how.

I was surprised to discover that I was better at welding than most of the guys in my class. They were clumsy, slow to pick up the feel of the thing. I knit, crochet, do needlepoint, all that girly crap. I already had the fine muscle control of a good welder.

After I got certified, my teacher suggested I shop around for a union. The Shipfitters wanted too much money to sign up. The Millwrights couldn't put me to work right away. The Ironworkers laughed at me. Finally, I tried the Piledrivers, the guys who build bridges, docks, and foundations.

From the moment I walked into their union hall, I knew how it felt to be a varsity recruit. The Piledrivers signed me up and put me to work in three days.

My first job was on the Cypress Freeway replacement in Oakland. According to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Cypress Freeway was built in the 1950s to connect Alameda County to San Francisco and Oakland's industrial waterfront.

The freeway's path through West Oakland split the black community in half, uprooting 600 families and dozens of businesses. It cut off roughly four square miles from downtown and more affluent sections of West Oakland. In time, neighborhood businesses withered, and residents endured fumes and noise from thousands of cars overhead.

Millions of baseball fans were watching the third game of the World Series at Candlestick Park when history came calling and on October 17, 1989, the 7.1 Richter scale Loma Prieta earthquake struck.

Of all the scenes of destruction, the lasting image was the Cypress Freeway's collapse (right). Concrete pillars supporting the double-deck buckled. And forty-two people died, a terrible possibility we who live where the Earth shrugs have learned to accept and abide.

Rebuilding the freeway would change the local dialogue because this time, Caltrans would work with the people rather than through them. History would get better, and I would be a small part of it. Thinking about things this way helped keep me sane and get me through.

“You! Get in the hole!” That was my first foreman, a hulk from Idaho named Heber Floyd still fuming about being assigned a female apprentice. I don't think Idaho missed him.

It was mud season, and walking across the jobsite on my way to the hole (my first mistake), I got stuck in mud up to my knees and stepped out of both boots.

The hole was a footing, the foundation for a bridge support, 20 feet square and 20 feet deep, with five more holes in the bottom, 3 feet wide by 75 feet deep, laid out like spots on dice. I went down a sketchy, mud-encrusted wooden ladder with two guys and we steered and braced reinforcement cages lowered by crane into the smaller holes.

All day, I ran in mud steering and securing cages with large, panicky men screaming at me to keep my goddamn hands out of the way, stupid. By day's end, I was filthier than I 'd ever been, covered with mud dried black. That first night I was too tired to eat and too hungry not to. I lay in bed dozing and chewing, chewing and dozing, leftover Chinese food. The hardest thing I've ever had to do was get up the next day and go back.

It got better. I got faster and stronger and smarter. Eventually they put me on a different crew working 60 feet in the air on the roadbed itself, connecting the columns whose footings I'd braced. The work was just as hard, but different. I got a chance to look around.

I was surprised at how I felt, normal cynical me, awestruck by the tightly choreographed mayhem of freeway construction, the whole bizarre Stonehengeyness of what we were trying to accomplish, the backdrop of the San Francisco bay. I began to think of this as a bubble: This time, this place would only exist once; right now. I would make myself remember, from this point on, not just how everything looked, but how it all felt.

The wonder of hitting the debris layer from the 1906 earthquake on a foundation job in the Financial District, finding bits and shards of lives, a teacup handle, a picture frame, a broken toothbrush, an opium pipe.

The thrill and the fear of crowding with five men into the bed of a pickup, watching a tide of swine that could kill me if I fell sweep toward Pittburg's main drag after a livestock train derailed.

Bright sun and cold spray, boating atop 15-foot swells to the middle of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

The desolation of the almond orchards in Linden with their giant squirrels and the lonesome desperation of San Quentin.

The unsettling quiet of 9/11/01 at the San Jose airport.

The feel of welding, of throwing lightning. Of driving 16-penny nails in two hits, of racing the other guys nailing up handrail, of beating them.

The wind on my skin, the smell of fresh plywood, the feel of muscles working, of bay mist on fresh sunburn in the evening, the smart of it cutting through endorphins and beer.

I wrote my son's name on the inside of the bridge with a big lumber crayon, before they covered it with roadbed. It was tradition, proof that you were there. Our Lascaux. I wrote that his mama loved him.

Maybe they'll find us, if the bridge falls down again.

Preparing Good Food with the Food Bank's Good Board
by Mike Martin for the Columbia Business Times

Earlier this year, University of Missouri marketing professor Joel Poor invited me to a board of directors meeting.

Poor, a board member, and I, his guest for the evening, stood across the table from one another. Commerce Bank president Teresa Maledy, another board member, stood next to me, and we never sat down.

On the agenda: frozen peas. And frozen beans. Huge boxes full, loaded into the boardroom by forklift and eagerly repacked into individual bags for future distribution.

Repacked by hand, that is. By the board. During the board meeting. And under the upbeat direction of a leader who many say is this community's most dynamic nonprofit executive, Peggy Kirkpatrick.

Welcome to the Central Missouri Food Bank, where team building, hands-on involvement and mutual respect define a board of directors that defies the rubber stamp stereotype of disengaged overseers who hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil until evil comes pounding at the boardroom door.

The Good Board

After the inauspicious departure of Executive Director David White from the Missouri Theatre, I opined in these pages about a host of directorial dysfunctions that have cost many agencies in Columbia and Boone County dearly in the past: Superintendents and school boards erupting in embarrassment; the city manager and city council going their separate ways; secrecy, dissension and the strange politics of board dynamics squatting like dead weight on organizations and their missions.

Then I saw Kirkpatrick and the Food Bank board, packing food and talking; packing food and planning; packing food and laughing and doing something most boards never get accomplished in a single meeting: actually getting something done, something tangible, real and worthwhile.

"Projects like this build a sense of team among the board members," Maledy told me. "It is a great way to get to know the other board members on a more personal level. It also gives the board a close-up and practical look at what is involved with getting the food out to our customers."

In other words, a practical look at the heart of the mission in a way that "connects us personally and perhaps emotionally to those in need," Poor said.

Team-building exercises are also about fostering trust and respect, he explained, the twin glues of healthy board interaction. "When one of us disagrees or some of us dissent, that's fine. We don't turn away; we don't turn a cold shoulder if someone doesn't go along. We respect each other, and we know that if someone takes issue with something, it's important that we listen and learn."

Plugging in

Recruiting board members who have a "clear vision of what your organization is trying to accomplish" is the most important part of building a good board, Kirkpatrick told me. As with most nonprofit groups, the food bank seeks "representation from various segments of society" and a wide geographical distribution "since we serve 32 counties."

But board members aren't demographics, an insight Kirkpatrick emphasizes with an uncommon mantra: "We try to help each board member plug in to the mission in a way with which they are most comfortable." Plugging in by packing food "was actually the board's idea," Kirkpatrick said. "They wanted to know firsthand how the volunteer process worked, the challenges we have with bulk product, and they wanted to expose their friends to the food bank in a fun way."

Encouraging engagement

For board members like Poor and Maledy, service to a most worthy cause — feeding the hungry — keeps them interested, excited and coming back for more.

As a bank president, Maledy, a longtime member of the food bank board, is in demand and has to be choosy about where she spends her limited time. "I need to believe in the organization," she said. "I want to contribute ideas and support based on my experience and skills. I also believe in lifelong learning."

But Poor reminds us that not every organization, or its executive director, encourages the level of engagement and learning that Kirkpatrick does. "Our board members know she really appreciates each of us," Poor said. "And how important is that? A director who actually wants you there."

Kirkpatrick sees board service as a two-way street down which her organization gets tangible assistance while giving something far less tangible but just as meaningful in return. "My hope is that each board member will become aware of the faces of hunger," Kirkpatrick said. "And by their involvement, become the faces of hope."

NOTED ACTIVIST CHALLENGES: Councilman on Humane Society

A couple of weeks ago, 4th ward councilman and mayoral candidate Jerry Wade criticized my position on funding the Central Missouri Humane Society. When I suggested that humane society supporters campaign and vote against any politicians who refuse to support them, Wade said, "The tactic you suggest they pursue is one of innuendo and threats of reprisal if funding requests are not met. That is not an appropriate, necessary, nor likely successful, approach." He also criticized my journalistic integrity.

Columbia Citizens listserv founder Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, who also co-founded TARRIF (http://www.tarrif.org), a group that successfully opposed a number of developer-friendly tax increases, responded.

Dear Councilman Wade:

Over the past year, I have heard a number of news reports about Humane Shelters across the country getting hard hit with a surge in animals. With the tremendous loss of jobs and homes, many people have abandoned, given up and/or have been unable to afford care for their animals. Humane societies across the country have increased fees and cobbled together creative partnerships to meet increased demand.

I am sure the local economic climate has presented fiscal challenges for the Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS) as a not-for-profit organization. I am also aware of the City's reported budgetary challenges.

That said, is there a plan or is it possible for the City to help CMHS find financing sources (grants, etc.) in the event that they are unable to secure adequate dollars in these extraordinarily difficult economic times? What alternate plans are in place or being discussed to aid in the protection and care of unwanted or abandoned animals? What will happen if CMHS is unable to secure additional financing?

While you may disagree with Mr. Martin, in my personal opinion to challenge his professionalism because he questioned [5th ward councilwoman] Laura Nauser; challenged the City's spending priorities; and encouraged citizens to "get political" to advocate for change is unfortunate.

It bothers me when elected officials accuse community members and the press of being irresponsible and uncivil, when they aggressively challenge a situation. You seemed to intimate that Mr. Martin is also remiss by NOT celebrating enough of the positive things in our community.

I think it is both inappropriate and unprofessional to make a public issue so personal. Via The Columbia Heartbeat, Mr. Martin frequently does what I consider to be very good work with his reporting, not only in his investigative efforts, but in shining a bright light on many positive aspects of the community. Mr. Martin is quite frankly so effective that he challenges our local media to work a bit harder.

Like Mr. Martin, I feel that citizens should become political -- expecting, demanding and advocating for policies they feel adequately address their priorities.

These concerns aside, I appreciate that you answered Mr. Martin in a point by point fashion, explaining the facts as you see them. I do think it is appropriate to give the public an informed understanding of the City's contracts, budgets, challenges and capabilities. I also think it is wise to deal with the public's expectations, especially when you feel they may far exceed the City's financial capacity. People want the City to spend our tax dollars wisely and hold contracting agencies accountable.

Seems to me the big positive here is that we already have much common ground. Many people in the Columbia community care deeply about animals and the viability of CMHS.

Best regards, Traci Wilson-Kleekamp

RESEARCH REVEALS: Who built Columbia's shotgun house
by the Boone County Historical Society

Research on the shotgun house -- recently moved to the Boone Junction Historic Village from the corner of Garth and Worley Streets -- has revealed that the first owner and probable builder was Luther McQuitty. McQuitty was born about 1871, probably near the old Boone county community of Everett of at least one parent who was a former slave. One of his parents or grandparents was also white.

City Directories, census enumerations, and deed records first document the shotgun house at the northeast corner of Garth and Worley in 1911. Mr. McQuitty owned the lot and his family lived there for about ten years.

He married Ella Davenport in 1892 and they had three children. About 1911, Luther and his third wife, Lottie Wright, moved into their new home, a 16'x34', three-room house at what was then 423 N. Garth, on the northeast corner of Garth and Worley.

Pushing aside obstacles in post-Civil War Boone county, McQuitty went from being a laborer to a plasterer to an owner of a dozen properties in the general vicinity of Garth and Worley in Columbia, making him one of Columbia's largest landlords.

One of McQuitty's descendants sent a photograph of Luther McQuitty which will be displayed inside the house when it opens to the public at the Boone Junction Historic Village south of town. If you'd like to volunteer time to work on the house, work sessions are held each Thursday from 8 am to 1 pm.

SEPTEMBER COMMENTARY: Germond, Rosman, Kennedy, Miller

George Kennedy on Columbia activist Paul Albert
We old-timers remember, with varying degrees of delight and revulsion, Paul Albert. For the benefit of any newcomers in the audience, I’ll just say that Mr. Albert was our pre-eminent gadfly of city government. His harangues, directed mainly at Ray Beck and the City Council Ray dominated during his years as city manager, were notorious for their length and their vitriol.

J Karl Miller on downtown cameras
I am also in Mayor Hindman's corner for installing mobile surveillance cameras in downtown Columbia....Where public safety is concerned, the city must err on the side of individual protection and crime deterrence whenever possible.

David Rosman on a new mayor
There are problems and directions that the next winner of the coveted “Councilman at Large” seat cannot avoid. The new mayor will be able to see Columbia and Boone County not only through the next decade, but for the 2020s and beyond.

Al Germond on the history of David Lile's Quickie Quiz
It began with a call from David Lile, host of the Morning Show on News Talk 1400. A listener wanted to know when KFRU’s daily “Quickie Quiz” feature first aired, and Lile asked me if I could come up with the date. The answer came after rolling through microfilm copies of both Columbia daily newspapers in the superb newspaper library at the State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia. The mission was successful, but it also sprung a trap.

READERS WRITE: Collected hate mail, unedited

-- Greg Smith, Columbia
Mike Martin the Blowhard. He is nothing but a hack with a blog and a small column in a local business rag [the Columbia Business Times]. Not a real reporter, and totally biased in his reports. I'm tired of seeing his spam all over the place--you can't hit a locally based group site without his weekly beg being posted to visit his site--like any of us care....
-- Marla D. H., aka Insanidea, Columbia

First allow me a comment on Blogs in general and yours in particular. There are no rules and no accountability when it comes to publishing a Blog. You and your fellow bloggers can say anything without suffering any consequences when what you publish is false. Sadly many people believe what you say, especially when you knowingly write what you think they want to believe. I think this is called pandering. Shame on you! -- Bob Pugh, Columbia


Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe will host a meeting on safety issues at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2615 Shepard Boulevard, on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 starting at 6:30 p.m. Representatives of the Columbia Police and Health departments and from the Neighborhood Response Team will be available to listen to residents, address any concerns they may have and answer questions.

Mike Martin
Blogitor in Chief

The Columbia Heart Beat

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