Sunday, December 6, 2009

BEAT BYTE: Audit blasts major Columbia non-profit group

Columbia's Alternative News Source
1)  LOCAL LANDLORDS:  Bite crime at fiery, standing room only event
2)  AUDIT BLASTS:  Major Columbia non-profit group
3)  EARLY BIRD CANDIDATE SURVEY:  Rick Buford, 4th Ward Council
4)  COLUMBIA COUNCIL MEETING:  Another land grab scheme? 
5)  LOVING A JAYHAWK:  Mizzou/KU couple makes love work
6)  READERS WRITE:  Kahler marathon; sewer scandal; Trib "autopsy"
7)  HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!    Local Announcements
8)  ERRATA:  Mizzou professor Rebecca Meisenbach
LOCAL LANDLORDS:  Bite crime at fiery, standing room only event
COLUMBIA, 12/6/09 (Beat Bytes) --  He was renting to drug dealers who literally scared away some of my best renters, and I spoke about it, but wouldn't identify him.  So he identified himself.  "I'm Bob Gerau and I'm the guy he's talking about renting to drug dealers," the local fireworks baron and longtime landlord barked.  "And my houses are 10 times as nice as his."
So went the first round of fiery rhetoric, fabulous advice, and some of the best free-form discussing I've experienced, as a standing room only crowd of about 80 people -- roughly half of them local and well-known landlords -- attended Columbia's first Landlords Take a Bite Out of Crime Summit last Thursday evening in a Youzeum meeting room made for twenty-five people
Moderated by Columbia Business Times editor in chief David Reed, the forum was a healthy mix of audience participation, hard-hitting questions, robust confrontations, and expert advice.  On the agenda: 
Public Housing:  Myth vs. Reality
Effective screening/reporting
Balancing the City Hall/Local Landlord equation
Neighborhood Dynamics:  Crime, Housing, and the Broken Windows Theory
Landlords, Crime Prevention, and What You Can Do
City of Columbia neighborhood response team coordinator Bill Cantin kicked off a discussion of the Broken Windows Theory:  Crime follows broken windows and deteriorating property.  Columbia police officer and Crime Free Housing director Tim Thomason reminded that tenant screening should be thorough, checking for city, county, state, and federal offenses. 
Thomason also surprised some attendees by speaking about how landlords can be held liable and sued for the actions of criminal tenants -- a national trend that "I hope, for your all's sake, doesn't end up in Columbia," he said. 
Landlord/tenant law attorney Steve Scott explained the ins and outs of evicting tenants caught commiting crimes, and how to write iron-clad leases that keep crooks off the property.
Landlords around the room spoke about slow police and city hall responses to criminal problems.  Sheriff's deputies and police officers don't respond nearly fast enough, participants said, and building inspectors won't take complaints from landlords about tenants damaging property, but will take complaints from tenants about landlords with damaged property.
Gerau, who earlier bragged about the condition of his properties, spoke loudly about getting "too damned many letters" from city inspectors and the Columbia police.  "What am I supposed to do every time there's an old tire or a couch or some trash on the property?" Gerau complained.  Some landlords supported his call for "duplicate letters" also warning tenants. 
But others disagreed.  "Aren't we sending you those letters because we're having a problem getting you to comply?" 2nd Ward councilman Jason Thornhill asked.  "If we send a letter to your tenant, how motivated are you going to be to check out the mess?" 
"It's our responsibility to make sure we don't have trash on our property," agreed landlord Tim Sullivan.  "I inspect my places at least twice a week, so I don't get all those letters." 
Tackling some misleading stereotypes about Section 8 housing vouchers, Columbia Housing Authority (CHA) director Phil Steinhaus addressed his organization's zero crime tolerance policy.  For instance, Federal law "strictly prohibits sex offenders" in Federally-subsidized housing.  And of 1,400 Section 8 voucher recipients, CHA pulled vouchers from a mere 30, or about two percent, "for violent or drug-related crimes," Steinhaus said.  The rest were clean. 
An informal survey of Section 8 properties bears out Steinhaus' claim.  Of 82 street addresses typed into the Columbia Daily Tribune archives, only 10% showed arrests within the past three years, and of those, only 5%, or four properties,
showed arrests for violent or drug related offenses.  "We act immediately if we get any complaints about criminal activity," Steinhaus explained. 
Other evening fireworks included loud words and finger-pointing between landlord Paul Prevo and attendees who claimed Prevo was ignoring a flagrant criminal element on his property.  They passed around a large photograph as proof. 
"He called me a racist when I warned him about it," one participant said about Prevo.   "He also said Officer Tim Thomason was a racist."   
"I didn't call you a racist," Prevo countered.  "I said you were saying some racially-charged things."
Other attendees included MU community specialist Pat Fowler; 1st ward councilman and group organizer Paul Sturtz;  4th Ward councilman and mayoral candidate Jerry Wade; mayoral candidate Sid Sullivan and his wife Joan; Parkade Mall manager Ben Gakinya; city volunteer coordinator Leigh Britt; rental managers Auben Galloway from Callahan and Galloway; Shaye McDaniels from Holiday House Apartments; Trent Rosenthal from The Colony Apartments; realtors David Townsend, Ron DeLaitte, and Dave Miller; Columbia Board of Realtors president Carol Van Gorp; NCCNA board member John Clark; and landlords Mark Stevenson, Tim Burnam, Joe Doles, organizer Amir Ziv, Shelley Ravipudi, Geneva Moody, Butch Jones, and myself. 
In the end, most participants agreed:  Landlords are investors who purchase property for income or price appreciation -- investments he or she should want to protect.  Crime and criminals -- either in the neighborhood or on the property -- are among the top risks to that investment. 
Nuisances put focus on arrests
Homes of offenders draw scrutiny of city council
The Nightmare on Alton Street
City plans for more rental oversight
Landlords face more scrutiny.
City of Columbia Office of Neighborhood Services
AUDIT BLASTS:  Major local non-profit group
COLUMBIA, 12/6/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Wasteful spending, deceitful budgeting, and board member in-fighting highlight an official audit of the Boone County Community Partnership (BCCP), a non-profit group that receives some $1.2 million annually from taxpayers and donors for various charitable causes in Columbia and Boone County.
Calling the practice a "significant deficiency in internal control," Columbia-based Casey and Company certified public accountants wrote, "The Partnership spends money heavily the last 15 days of each quarter," in a 2009 report.  "This spending pattern, particularly at the fiscal year end, indicates that...the Partnership spends money at the end of each quarter or year to justify funding requests for future quarters and years."
Scolding BCCP board members and executive director W. Lolita Lucas, the auditors admonished, "The Partnership should not spend money to use up grant funds so that future funding will be based on prior spending patterns.  Expenses should be better planned for...This will allow financial statements to be more reflective of the Partnership, and make historical financial reports more accurate."
In another section entitled "Material Weaknesses," auditors identified practices they claim could result "in a material misstatement of the financial statements."  Among the weaknesses:  "Breakdown in Orderly Conduct."
"Dissension among members of the Board of Directors and the Organization's management resulted in significant turmoil," Casey auditors found.  "Board and staff resignations disrupted normal organization functioning and internal control procedures.  The Board of Directors needs to recognize the seriousness of the situations." 
Citing credit card mishandling and wasteful hotel booking, auditors asked BCCP to tighten its spending procedures.  "Use double occupancy rooms when practical.  Keep debit and credit cards in a secure location, only released on completion and approval of purchase request forms."
BCCP staff also mis-appropriated funds, the auditors discovered.  A supply account "included non-supply items such as rent and utility deposits, a refrigerator purchase, employee recognition, repairs and maintenance." 
And clients weren't required to sign receipts or other required documentation.  "When assistance is given to individuals, the individuals served should sign for the services received," auditors wrote.  "This will allow the Partnership to minimize misdirection of funds for employee personal use."
Other problems included lack of proper supporting documentation, incomplete mileage logs, and reimbursement forms "that were rarely filled out," auditors found. 
Former St. Francis House director Lana Jacobs and funeral director Harold Warren, Sr. -- who both left Columbia under fire for activities at their own organizations -- were recent BCCP board members, information included in a note with the audit sent to the Columbia Heart Beat. 
We will publish any response from BCCP in a subsequent edition.
EARLY BIRD CANDIDATE SURVEY:  Rick Buford, 4th Ward Council

Introducing the Columbia Heart Beat's Early Bird Candidate Survey from local journalists.   Survey questions went out to early filers only, for mayor and city council.  We won't be repeating the survey with any subsequent filers. 
Our first respondent, CarFax employee and 4th Ward council candidate Rick Buford, answers questions from:
George Kennedy, professor of journalism and columnist, The Columbia Missourian
Tyree Byndom, Host, Kore Issues, KOPN radio
Mary Daly, Managing Editor, The MU Maneater
Jonathan Sessions, columnist/blogger, Columbia Business Times
Answers may be reprinted or broadcast in any of these publications/formats.

Rick Buford's Answers
Tyree Byndom asks:  What type of legacy would you like to leave behind?

I guess 30 foot high flaming letters extolling my greatness is probably a bit much to hope for, so I would settle for the majority of my constituents to feel that they were fairly represented, and for Columbia to be a safer and more prosperous place.
George Kennedy asks:   
1.  What does “smart growth” mean to you?

Smart growth is yet another buzzword referring to a broad range of pro-environment concepts that are often talked about but rarely achieved.   The overall goals are an excellent philosophy to follow, preserving open space and encouraging alternatives to private vehicle use, while doing the business of a city, which is to provide a safe and prosperous environment for people to live and work.
2.  What should be the top 3 priorities for the next council?

The top priority of the next council should be addressing the safety and security concerns of it's citizens. The perception of increased crime will detract significantly from any other positive action the city might take.  I believe Chief Burton has a workable plan, but I would assure that we establish valid, public metrics to verify that we are making progress in ALL areas of the city.
Secondly, I believe fiscal responsibility deserves a much heavier emphasis in council discussions. Financial decisions should be accompanied by, at the very least, a conscious discussion of what return we expect on our investment, even if it is zero, as well as public metrics to provide feedback on long running projects.
Promoting economic development is, and should always be, a guiding philosophy of a city council. Making Columbia an attractive place for new business development, by assuring we have the infrastructure and policy in place to support it, both enhances every one's day to day life as well as providing for future expansion.
3.  Should council members be paid?

Beyond expenses incurred actually doing city business, NO.  Once compensation becomes a primary motivator for seeking a spot on the council, then the discussion turns away from the council person's responsibility to represent the people of their ward and opens the door for greed to do what greed does best:  corrupt the entire process.
I believe that one of the primary requirements for serving one's constituents is character. If you lack the character to volunteer the time required to research the issues important to your community, then you are likely not someone that I want in the job.
4.  What do you see as the proper relationship between the council and the manager?
The city council, as the the body culpable to the citizenry, establishes direction and policy. The city manager, answerable to the council, is responsible for implementing that direction. Anything in the charter that leaves that relationship unclear needs to be addressed and clarified.

Mary Daly asks:  What changes that would affect students could we expect to see if you were elected?
I have no student specific agenda. While students represent a significant fraction of the city's population, students will generally benefit the same as a non-student from a safer community and a wider job market.

Jonathan Sessions asks: 
1.  In this voluntary position, what are your expectations of necessary time commitment?
I expect to spend 20-40 hours per week between research and interacting with my ward. I like Mr Wade's idea of making himself available for a simple, sit-down conversation prior to council meetings, and would like to continue that practice either in person, electronically, or a combination of the two.  Unfortunately, I don't think I'm as big a fan of coffee, so it may have to be over pizza and/or beer.
2.   How do you plan to keep up with a demanding city council?
The same way that I keep up with a demanding job, a family, two dogs and a putting one foot ahead of the other and getting the job done. I would imagine that, just like any other job, there will be good days and there will be bad days, but how does one appreciate the good without the bad?   With a 5 month old special needs child as well as a very precocious 4 yeard old at home, the decision to pursue a council seat came only after a lengthy discussion with my wife.
COLUMBIA COUNCIL MEETING:  Another land grab scheme? 
COLUMBIA, 12/6/09 (Beat Bytes) --  Along with reviewing utility disconnection policies, the Columbia City Council will take up the troubling way city-provided home loans for energy efficiency can't be subordinated to other loans or liens at its pre-council meeting tomorrow. 
A recent letter from reader Kay Callison put the problem in perspective.  Trying to refinance her home with the city loan and the lien it creates has been a "nightmare" Callison told the Heart Beat.  The city essentially comes first, something no bank will tolerate and a rare practice among home improvement lenders.  
At first read, the program sounds like yet another way City Hall can get land on the cheap, first enticing unsuspecting homeowners to take the low-interest loans; and then turning the loans into a cudgel -- an old boy practice city managers and mayors of yore used on the black community.   
I may be wrong, and I'm sorry if this sounds harsh.  But this year's eminent domain disaster downtown has robbed me of trust for city management on or about private property -- unless that property belongs to someone big enough to fight back.   
Dec. 7  Pre Council Agenda
At their regular meeting tomorrow, council members will undoubtedly vote to add even more units to an already overcrowded development on Old Plank and Bethel Church Road area in South Columbia.  
Ordinance B313-09 allows 90 units (up from 85) including 40 duplexes, on 13 acres, taking the existing development density from roughly 6 dwellings per acre to 7 dwellings per acre.  Look just north, if you want to see the dramatic, crime-ridden effects of over-densified rentals on Columbia and the surrounding community.   And drive around the Bethel/Old Plank development referenced here if you want to see "crammed in like sardines" or "thirty pounds of feed in a 20 pound sack" given new meaning.   Other agenda items include:
B351-09 Downtown safety cameras
B352-09 Calling a special election Tuesday, April 6, 2010:  downtown safety camera ordinance. 
B337-09  Stimulus Funding for the construction of sidewalks on Walnut Street, Anthony Street and Paquin Street. 
B350-09 Amending the FY 2010 Annual Budget and the Classification Plan and Pay Plan to establish the position of Trust Specialist in the Office of Neighborhood Services; appropriating funds.  [$77,000 to hire a new staffer in these tight times.]
B338-09 Adopting the Northeast Columbia Area Plan, a supplement to the Metro 2020 Plan.  Supporting Documentation 
B340-09  Rezoning property located south of Heller Road and west of Rogers Road from agricultural to industrial.
B343-09  Authorizing sidewalk/pedway along Stadium Boulevard from Providence Road to College Avenue
B347-09 Amending Chapter 16 of the City Code to provide a limited exemption from the noise regulations for junior high school marching bands. 
LOVING A JAYHAWK:  Mizzou/KU couple makes love work
COLUMBIA, 12/6/09 (Daily Kansan) --   "I refuse to visit my friends in Columbia, Mo., let alone marry a Tiger," KU sophomore Megan Wolf recently told her school's newspaper, the Kansan.  "Being a Missouri fan is a deal breaker for me. Some have their requirements — must be tall, must love kids, must love dogs — but for me, they must not be a
The KU/Mizzou rivalry may be fierce, but that's a little ridiculous!   Thank Cupid for the romantic story of KU grad Drew Waldron and Rachel LaNoue, a Missouri graduate he met at work.  
Jayhawk and Tiger odd couple make it work
READERS WRITE:  Kahler marathon; sewer scandal; Trib "autopsy"
Mike,  I have recently become reaquainted with an effort/ministry based here in Columbia and am amazed how they are quietly, steadily, faithfully making a difference around the world.  I'm speaking of the Personal Energy Transportation (PET) project that is producing and sending "personal energy vehicles" to the poor and disabled in underdeveloped countries around the world providing them with a means of mobility that literally changes their lives.  Please check out their website  and if you find the cause compelling, please give it a mention.  Thanks.  -- Donna Spickert, Columbia
Mike:   For the past year Keith Fernandez worked with 3 of us gals and Karen Kahler doing boot camp classes at the ARC.   Each of us really loved Karen.  Karen called Keith her "Rock Star"!   Whenever someone pushed themselves physically to the limit -- to do more -- she'd call out "You're a Rock Star".  
Keith will be our Rock Star at the St. Jude Marathon he's running in memory of Karen, and dedicating his run to her son Sean Kahler.  "Be Strong Sean" is the homemade arm band that he made.  Here's a link:
 -- Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, Columbia
[Ed. Note:  Sean Kahler was the sole survivor in the shooting deaths of his mother, sisters and great-grandmother.  His father, former Columbia Water and Light director Kraig Kahler, has been charged in their deaths].
Mike,  Thanks for the latest Beat Byte.  Really appreciate these stories and the service they provide for Columbians.  These two stories intertwine:
1)  CITY HALL:  Billing mess, legal violations widen
3)  FAMED MEDIA GURU:  "Autopsies" Columbia Tribune
In September, I learned a Trib reporter was prepared to write a whole lot more about the sewer billing scandal than the paper printed, but the article never materialized. -- Joy Piazza, Columbia
Mike:  Articles about sewage users that were never charged could be put into perspective from friends of mine on West Boulevard in Columbia who were apparently paying sewer charges for years, even though they were not hooked up to the system!    Once realized, however, the city was quick to charge them a hookup fee, but no past credit.  -- Jim from Columbia 
Mr. Martin,  I do not live in Columbia, I care not at all for the Columbia Heart Beat, and I find the messages to be very unwelcome clutter in my inbox.   Please remove my name and address from your e-mail list.
-- S. R.. Koirtyohann, Clark, Missouri
Why did you take your mayoral poll down?  And why wasn't Sal Nuccio even in the choices?  Just curious because I have the feeling that "OTHER" as a choice may have meant me. -- Sal Nuccio, Columbia
[Ed. Note:  Mr. Nuccio has declared his intentions but has not filed to run for mayor of Columbia.  We took the poll down because it will not accurately represent choices until after filing has ended.]

Greetings & salutations, Mike!   As always, continue your great work!
-- Scott Cristal, Columbia
Your blog would be much more reader-friendly and look more professional to web-savvy visitors if it was in more of an actual blog format, i.e., instead of a periodic post with 6-10 headlines, post 2-4 times a week, with just a single article per post.  Basically, as soon as you have one of your articles ready, don't save it for the bi-weekly collection - post it then.

Blog readers like to check back frequently during the week to see if new content has appeared.  If you only post once every few weeks, many will lose interest.
-- Tim Robertson, Columbia

[Thanks for the advice.  I only use the Columbia Heart Beat "blog" to archive these newsletters.  I'd love to do the regular blog thing, but with the newsletter it would be time-prohibitive.  Such constraints are one of many dilemmas facing "free news" and journalism on the Internet.]
About "The most fascinating story I've ever written"
Those of us who know Mike O’Hare find these scurrilous accusations highly offensive.  I can find no justification for publishing this in any forum, let alone one focused on doings in Columbia.  Very disappointing--even with the disclaimers and negative conclusions, harm continues to be done to O’Hare.
-- Barton Wechsler, Ph.D., Director and Professor, Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs
University of Missouri, Columbia
About our story on new media guru Clay Shirky's Columbia Tribune "autopsy"
After your autopsy of the Tribune, you may like this Dilbert:
-- Bruce Duncan, Columbia
[Ed. Note:  Of course, it wasn't my autopsy.  I merely summarized that news from another site and provided a link!  (Go Dogbert!)]
So glad to see you have added Columbia Second Chance to your newsletter!  Outstanding decision!
-- June Hurdle, Columbia
Hey Mike, I went to Hemingway's for lunch a couple of weeks ago and found out they are only open for dinner now!  The crepes are as your writer said, out of this world.  Also, they have a side of brussels sprouts that are to die for.  I get them as an appetizer and split them with whomever I am with.  Even people who claim not to like brussels sprouts love them!   Thanks!  -- DeAnna Walkenbach, Columbia
Mike,  I have ALWAYS enjoyed your writing!  I used to receive your emails and I miss them!  Please add me to subscription list.  Not only do you often hit the nail on the head, but you really find it!   Keep up the good work.  
-- James McNabb, Columbia

About our stories on recent MU research
Hi, Mike!   A "Well Done!" goes out from me to Dr. Mian Liu  (  who coauthored the newest work on aftershocks on the New Madrid Fault zone.   Southeast Missouri has been a continual source of new discoveries about midcontinent geology, and this latest study seems to confirm some suspicions that some geologists I know have held about the zone for quite some time. 
Next, if Keith Contracting, LLC is a Columbia firm, it's a new piece of information for me!  The last I heard from them, they were in Jefferson City.  One job that I know they did was a pair of 60" diameter drainage pipes that went under US Highway 63 in Macon, Missouri using a trenchless technology technique known as pipejacking.  These installations were even a featured article in both Underground Construction and Trenchless Technology magazines.  This was right next to Lolli's auction barn in Macon, where they auction exotic animals in central Missouri.
Just some thoughts from a regular reader.  Keep up the good work!
-- George Davis, Certified Professional Geologist, Columbia
[Ed. Note:  Thanks for the note!   I have two addresses for Keith Contracting in Columbia, and one in Jefferson City.  The Federal contract I referenced also had a Columbia address.]  
HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!   Local Announcements
Adopt Wiley the Hound from Columbia Second Chance!   Wiley and her siblings were dumped in a Columbia Second Chance board member's yard. Wiley is very shy. However, during the last few months she seems to be getting used to the idea that humans are OK, and will come up for treats and a scratch on the nose or head. A forever home will surely bring out the best in her.
Columbia Second Chance
Christmas for the Animals!  Thursday, December 10, 6-8 pm at the Central Missouri Humane Society.
Open House, Silent Auction, Refreshments will be served.   616 Big Bear Blvd., Columbia
If you have an announcement, please send it along, but only in the body of an email.  We cannot accept attachments of any kind.  Not for profit announcements are free of charge.  For profit announcements require a nominal fee. 
ERRATA:  Mizzou professor Rebecca Meisenbach
In an article entitled MU PSYCHOLOGIST:  Studies female breadwinner troubles, the Heart Beat wrongly referred to Rebecca Meisenbach as a University of Missouri, Columbia psychology professor.  Meisenbach is a University of Missouri, Columbia communications professor:

Mike Martin
Editor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat


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