Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shocking MU contract settles City Hall debt-- 10/30/09

1)  SHOCKING MU CONTRACT:  Settles City Hall debt
2)  NEW NON-PROFIT:  Seeks city money to hire director
3)  CITY COMMISSION:  Questions water quality
4)  "TIGER" JOHN CLEEK:  National advocate for scholarships
5)  STAN KROENKE:  At City Hall hog trough Monday night
6)  FINAL NUMBERS IN:  For Roots and Blues Fest
7)  HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!  Local Announcements
8)  HOUSING NEWS:  From Bank of Missouri's Tom Stone

SHOCKING MU CONTRACT:  Settles City Hall debt
Part 3 of an investigative series
COLUMBIA, 10/30/09 (Beat Bytes) -- On September 24, 2009, with neither the advise nor consent of the Columbia City Council, public works director John Glascock entered into a formal agreement with University of Missouri facilities director Gary Ward, following a meeting between city and campus officials on July 14, 2008 -- one month before Glascock would submit a $1.1 million sewer rate hike for approval to the city council
Years of underbilling for sewer service at MU was costing the city nearly $1.2 million annually by estimates of sewer maintenance superintendent Bill Weitkemper, a career city employee who uncovered city-wide underbilling in March 2006.  The MU contract gradually ramps up payments, starting at $60,000/year ($5,000/month) and increasing by that same amount for 10 years, finally reaching $600,000/year.   The contract is unclear about how the past underbilling is collected, if ever, and never approaches $1.2 million yearly. 
A letter confirming the deal reveals the true nature of the astonishing oversight, raising the University's sewer rate over 1,000 times!   "Dear John [Glascock]," writes Ward.  "The University of Missouri...agreed to increase the sanitary sewer basic monthly service charge from $4.35 to $5,000.00 per month."
That's right:  From $4.35 to $5,000 per month! 
The flabbergasting MU/Glascock contract also departed substantially from protocol in which the City Council reviews and approves virtually every city-related deal or project, as one look at any given council agenda attests:
At this Monday's meeting, for instance, council members will be considering just such an agreement with MU, this one related to solid waste: 
Why Glascock and city manager Bill Watkins chose to withhold the MU sewer agreement from public scrutiny speaks volumes about how it came to be in the first place.  It also raises questions about why Glascock and Watkins have prodded the council to raise sewer rates while pushing the public to vote for multi-million dollar sewer bond issues absent knowledge about this critical and ongoing shortfall. 
Business as usual?
In a November 2007 report entitled "City of Columbia Sewer Utility Billing Irregularities and Recommendations," Weitkemper referenced a play from the good ol' boys handbook.  Identifying the University of Missouri as the "single largest source" of uncollected sewer revenue, Weitkemper wrote, "Apparently many years ago, someone with the City made some type of unwritten agreement with someone at the University, and the University has only ever been charged a single basic sewage service rate."
The unwritten agreement violated city law and cost ratepayers a fortune.  "It is my understanding that recently the University has agreed to pay the City an additional $1.2 million per year in sewer revenue," Weitkemper continued. 
That was in November 2007.  It wasn't until September 2009 that Glascock revealed the real deal, which is nowhere near an additional $1.2 million annually. 
Gross underestimates, "special" agreements
In a detailed September 2008 email to city manager Watkins, Weitkemper complained that in an employee award citation, his supervisor Terry Hennkens lopped nearly 4,000 underbilled premises from 6,000 identified in an internal audit. 

"My bonus recommendation stated that my suggestion resulted in an additional 2,328 units being billed [for sewer]," Weitkemper wrote.  "That is not even close.  I told Terry that this number was not correct before it was published in the City Insider [an employee newsletter].  Apparently he feels he can do whatever he chooses."
Then, citing his largest find, Weitkemper dropped the MU bombshell.
"I had indicated in March 2006 that the University of Missouri, Columbia (UMC) was not being billed properly.  I was told then that there was a 'special' agreement with UMC that allowed them to only pay a single base sewer charge.  I asked for a copy of this 'special' agreement.  Apparently, it never existed." 
That was on September 2.  On September 16, 2008 the Columbia City Council approved the $1.1 million sewer rate hike, with no knowledge of the ongoing billing problems; no knowledge of the unwritten agreements; and under the false impression that they'd heard everything during commentary from a public equally in the dark.
NEW NON-PROFIT:  Seeks city money to hire director
COLUMBIA, 10/30/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Cynics, start your engines. 
In this era of budgets so tight city employees are shouldering cuts and city services aren't happening, supporters of a new
"community foundation" will seek $40,000.00 from the Columbia City Council this Monday night to hire an "Executive
Director."   City Hall would employ the as-yet-unnamed foundation's director, and in a miraculous move, city staff "have identified funding which could be used to hire a person for the balance of 2010," according to a city council report on the issue.
Community foundations are non-profit organizations that accept donations to better the community.  But with a surfeit of non-profit groups clamoring for a pie city officials claim is shrinking, support for this latest group seems untimely.  "With city support, an Executive Director should be hired quickly," the staff report for Monday's council meeting reads.  "Funding for operating expenses are needed.  A board of directors will need to be identified...of 12 to 18 persons, all prominent in the community."
Backed by local VIPs like accountant Bob Gerding and Columbia Tribune managing editor Jim Robertson, the community foundation's proposal reads like so many other non-profits, with talk of marketing brochures, leading citizens, directors, staffers, and money, money, money.
Too bad all that money, time, and effort can't go directly to the people -- or existing non-profits -- who need it now.  How about a group of leading citizens going through our more impoverished neighborhoods, fixing, cleaning, and doing, rather than planning, meeting, and marketing?   
CITY COMMISSION:  Questions water quality

COLUMBIA, 10/30/09 (Beat Bytes) -- City Hall's top voice on environmental issues, the Energy and Environment Commission, is raising questions about a plan to drill a new water well in the McBaine bottoms, a wetlands area that may be collecting trace contaminants: herbicides, pesticides, and other harmful materials that could leach into the groundwater.  
"Based on many years of data from the US Geological Survey; Missouri Department of Natural Resources; and the City of Columbia, the proposed location for alluvial well 16 is questionable from a water quality standpoint," board members explained in a letter to the Columbia City Council for its Monday, Nov. 2 meeting. 
Citing numerous unanswered questions, commission members are recommending city staff review different locations for the well and wait for the results of a new water treatment study. 

"TIGER" JOHN CLEEK:  National advocate for college scholarships
COLUMBIA, 10/30/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Supporting the loyal customers who helped make his rent-to-own furniture chain a household name in mid-Missouri, John Cleek recently spoke up for college scholarships as president of the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations, a national trade organization that has spent seven years building a trust fund to award scholarships nationwide. 
"The rent to own industry's commitment to education and scholarship funds is a testament to the industry's growth and establishment as a vital industry and contributor to the economy," said Cleek, best known in Columbia as a major University of Missouri booster.  "The rent to own industry is here to help our future with the most powerful contribution to our children through education scholarships."
Cleek became a franchisee of Aaron's, a nationwide rent-to-own chain, in 2008. 
STAN KROENKE:  At City Hall hog trough Monday night
COLUMBIA, 10/30/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Billionaire developer Stan Kroenke -- who enjoys some of the region's lowest taxes on some of its most expensive properties and projects -- will be visiting the City Hall trough Monday night to accept two payments totalling nearly $200,000.
Represented by his usual phalanx of lawyers, TDDs, and pseudonyms, Kroenke's Conley Road Transportation Development District and Broadway Crossings II, LLC will be convincing us all that the $180,000.00 we'll be spending on Trimble Road utility improvements -- adjacent to one of Kroenke's tracts -- is for our own good. 
The words "City will reimburse TDD for the costs incurred by the TDD" which appear in the contract seem absurd, as the TDD is really John and Jane Q. Shopper, paying a higher tax on any retail goods they purchase at said TDD-funded retail establishments.   
"TDD shall complete the improvements on Trimble Road," should therefore read, "Future shoppers shall complete...."
In other Kroenke related business, the council will pay Kroenke's THF Grindstone Plaza Development $20,190.00 for an easement to repair a pump station.  THF, for those who don't know, stands for "To Have Fun" -- with your money in many cases.   Too bad Mr. Kroenke can't simply donate the easement, given everything he takes out of here. 
Ahh, where to have fun with all that taxpayer money?  The soccer field, of course!  Mr. Kroenke just increased his stake in the UK soccer team Arsenal, taking him to the verge of a complete takeover and knocking out a rival Russian billionaire:   

FINAL NUMBERS IN:  For Roots and Blues Fest
COLUMBIA, 10/30/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Presenting a check to City Hall for services rendered during this year's Roots and Blues Fest, Thumper Entertainment has released a full accounting of ticket sales which includes a list of "Festival VIPs" topped by noted dermatologist and HSBM (husband of school board member) Dr. John Despain. 
This year's festival grossed $168,170.00 through the sale of 11,523 tickets.   Promoters also comped another 2,243 tickets, for a total of 13,766 ticketed attendees, according to a statement on file with the city. 

HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!  Local Announcements
The Columbia planning and zoning commission will meet November 5, 2009– 7:00 P.M. DANIEL BOONE BUILDING, CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS, 4TH FLOOR.  On the agenda is a request to rezone by Grindstone Investments to rezone agricultural land to commercial land of property located on the southwest corner of Heller and Rogers Roads, containing approximately 116 acres. 
4th Ward councilman and mayoral candidate Jerry Wade will hold coffeehouse office hours this Saturday, October 31.  The 3:00p – 5:00p Oct. 31 at the Rendezvous Coffeehouse, 3304 Broadway Business Park Ct., on the south side of West Broadway, west of HyVee.
3rd Ward councilman Karl Skala has kicked off his re-election campaign.  "I want to continue to help make our neighborhoods safer, improve our roads and city services, develop more thoughtful city planning, and create a more responsive city government," Skala says.  Skala will not hold office hours tomorrow as previously scheduled, but will resume his regular Sven's Kafe office hours NOVEMBER 21, 2009.   For more information, contact: 
Karl Skala
Columbia Third Ward City Councilman
Columbia Missourian columnist David Rosman invites readers to check out his new commentary blog, devoted to a different set of issues than his long-running Missourian column:
The City of Columbia's meeting calendar for the week ending November 6 is now available on the City's website at
HOUSING NEWS:  From Bank of Missouri's Tom Stone
"THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS..." Or so the famous saying goes. And when it comes to really understanding the various reports and events unfolding in the economy, it's important to take a look at the details - not just the headlines. Here's what you need to know.
On the inflation front, the Producer Price Index, which measures wholesale inflation, unexpectedly fell due to a drop in energy prices. While that seems like good news on the surface, keep in mind that next month's number could climb higher again, as oil and natural gas have both been on a tear higher lately.
In housing news, Housing Starts and Building Permits both came in a bit below expectations, but this may be a sign that builders are exercising some caution - particularly in the face of the $8,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers that is presently set to expire on November 30th. 
Existing Home Sales came in better than expected - and a whopping 45% of those homes were sold to first time homebuyers - rushing to move in on that credit. Recent studies have shown that many who qualify for this tax credit aren't even aware of please let me know if you or someone you know needs more information - the clock is ticking!
Additionally, the level of existing homes inventory shrunk to a 7.8 month supply, down from a recent high of 10.1 months in April.
Tom Stone
The Bank of Missouri
Asst. Vice President
Office:  573-874-4700
Cell:  573-489-4059

Mike Martin
Blogitor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat


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Monday, October 26, 2009

MU analyst to run for 4th Ward council

1)  IN-FIGHTING STALLS:  Sewer billing stink
2)  MU ANALYST GREEVER-RICE:  Declares for 4th Ward Council
3)  ANGRY TRIB COMMENTS:  Spark latest Humane Society flap
4)  SULLIVAN SHINES:  Mayoral candidate on KFRU radio
5)  RUMOR HAS IT:  Auto baron/attorney pondering mayor/council races? 
6)  DINERS REVIEW:  Addisons, an American Grill
7)  READERS WRITE:  Headline error; Susan Taylor Glasgow

IN-FIGHTING STALLS:  Sewer billing stink

COLUMBIA, 10/26/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Three and a half years ago, Columbia sewer maintenance superintendent Bill Weitkemper notified his then-supervisor, Dennie Pendergrass, that a long-standing sewer billing practice violated city law. 

Weikemper's odyssey through his own bureaucracy is eye-opening, but not for reasons many readers may think.  A serious read of over 150 pages of documents related to the billing snafu reveals no corruption, no incompetence, and no stupidity, contrary to the opinion of Columbia Tribune publisher Hank Waters, who called the mess "stupid but innocent" in a recent op-ed. 

What it does reveal is a top-down management system that sends mixed messages, on the one hand giving cash awards to employees for their cost-saving and revenue-enhancing suggestions, while on the other hand griping, groaning, and procrastinating on the way to implementing those suggestions.   "Why do we have to bother with this stuff?" is an unfortunate undercurrent in dozens of conversations. 


There's no such thing as a "sewer meter," so sewer bills are based on water meters, "which allow for many apartment complexes with one meter, like Villa be charged a single Basic Sewer Service Charge," wrote Weitkemper, a 34-year public works employee, in March 2006.  "It also allows the University of Missouri to avoid paying a Basic Sewer Service Charge for most of its individual properties and rental units." 

Problem is, city law says each sewer user shall pay the sewer charge, so that sewer bills should be issued, not for a single water meter, but for each unit in an apartment; each store in a mall; each office in a building; and each room in a dormitory.  

Keeping notes as part of his official records, Weitkemper transcribed meetings with his superiors.  One spring 2006 morning, public works director John Glascock (above, Columbia Tribune photo) "was sitting in my office," Weitkemper writes. "I had just told him we were not billing sewer users according to the sewer ordinance and we were losing a lot of money." 

Pendergrass walked in.  "Do you think we will change how we are billing?" Weitkemper asked. 

"I didn't see that there was any suggestion to do anything different," Pendergrass responded. 

"The suggestion was that we need to start following the ordinance and bill every sewer user." 

Glascock jumped in.  "You mean we aren't following the ordinance?" he asked.

"I thought we were following the ordinance," Pendergrass said.  "We charge for sewer based on water meters."

"That's not what the ordinance says," Weitkemper reminded.  Pendergrass walked away. 

"We'll look into it," Glascock said, ending the discussion.   

NO PROGRESS:  October - December, 2007

Fully one and a half years after documenting his concerns and following up dozens of times, Weitkemper sent a frustrated 10/25/2007 email to public works operations manager Mary Ellen Lea.  "Needless to say, I'm just a little disappointed that we are no farther along on this issue," he wrote.  "I brought it to everyone's attention in March 2006....I need to know up front how you and John Glascock wish to proceed.  We need to get this done."   

Passing the buck right back, "Bill, You need to work with Terry on this," Lea responded, referencing Weitkemper's new supervisor, Terry Hennkens.  Pendergrass had since retired.  "John and I are relying on you and Terry to make recommendations on how to proceed." 

After two months and more exchanges between Weitkemper, Hennkens, and other city employees, Weitkemper emailed Lea for an update.  "Have you received any recommendation yet from Terry?  He doesn't like it when I communicate with you or John [Glascock] but he does not communicate with me.  What a mess!

"Terry mentioned some more billing issues, old and new," Lea replied.  "Frankly, until we get more action from the Utility Accounts Billing department, we're kinda spinning our wheels." 

BIG BILL, LITTLE BILL:  Christmas, 2007

Weitkemper asked Lea if anyone had informed the city manager about the problem.  Hearing nothing, Bill Weitkemper
emailed Bill Watkins.   It was the Saturday before Christmas, 2007

"Writing this is certainly difficult," Weitkemper told Watkins.  "I am still not sure if I should be contacting you.  I am concerned with retaliation, both from those who failed to correctly apply the ordinance as well as those who have thus far not done much to correct the situation." 

After carefully laying out the same case he'd recited so many times before, Weitkemper concluded by saying, "My intent was never to embarass the City or any City employee.  My intent has been to assure that the billing ordinance is being correctly applied....There is no question the Sewer Utility has failed to collect SIGNIFICANT revenue because the sewer ordinances have not been correctly applied."

Records show no reply from Watkins. 

OVERNIGHT, AFTER 2.5 YEARS:  September, 2008

Thirty months, hundreds of emails, and dozens of reports later, the tension surrounding Weitkemper and his discovery was evident.  During a September 2008 meeting with Lea, Weitkemper reminded that he had made his way up the chain of command. 

"I want you to know that I complained to the City Manager about the billing issue," he told Lea.

"I know," she said.  "I'm not sure that's going to do you any good." 

"I didn't expect that it would.  I just feel that I deserve answers to the questions I've asked."

"You can't expect for everything to be worked out overnight," Lea responded.  She pointed toward her old office.  "I've been working on billing problems since I was down there." 

"I don't expect things to be worked out overnight," Weitkemper said.  "It's been 30 months since I brought this up."

"Well, we are trying to work things out."

Two days later, Weitkemper learned that John Glascock was upset about a $3,000.00 employee bonus Weitkemper had received for discovering the sewer snafu.   After Watkins had issued the checks, Glascock told another supervisor, "You need to tell Bill [Weitkemper] that this is it.  That's all he's going to get." 

But the supervisor, referred to in notes as "EE," refused to say anything.  "I'm not going to tell Bill that," EE told Glascock.  "You are going to have to tell him yourself." 

NEXT:  Still unresolved, September 2009 

MU ANALYST GREEVER-RICE:  Declares for 4th Ward Council

COLUMBIA, 10/26/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Former City of Columbia planning and zoning commissioner Dr. Tracy Greever-Rice (right, Columbia Business Times photo), a data analyst with the University of Missouri and long-time 4th Ward resident, has declared her candidacy for the city council seat Jerry Wade is vacating in favor of the mayor's race.  By yesterday afternoon, she had collected most of the required signatures on her candidacy petition. 

A Columbia Vision Commission member whose husband Glenn currently sits on the planning and zoning commission, Greever-Rice presently serves as the associate director of the MU Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis.  She received her Ph.D. in rural sociology at the University of Missouri; has taught courses in juvenile delinquency, public policy, community service, and rural outreach; and published papers on a wide array of issues, from children's health care to retail economics.   

A former member of the City of Columbia energy and environment commission, Greever-Rice "has a top-notch, analytical mind and will serve the 4th Ward well," said long-time friend Deanna Walkenbach.   "She's an incredibly hard worker and will be very pro-active." 

Filing for slots on the city council opened last Friday.  So far, Wade and Sid Sullivan have filed for mayor, and 3rd Ward councilman Karl Skala has filed to retain his seat.   

RUMOR HAS IT:  Auto baron/attorney pondering council/mayor races? 

COLUMBIA, 10/26/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Dave Machens (right), whose father Joe started one of the midwest's best-known automobile dealerships, may be considering a run for mayor of Columbia, say folks in the know.  Machens took over the dealership, Joe Machens Ford, et. al., after his father Joe passed away in 1997.  He later sold his remaining shares in the company to current owner Gary Drewing and according to his website, presently serves as the financial director for Wright Communications, LLC.

Another possible mayoral candidate may be Paul Love, variously noted as an employee of O'Reilly Automotive and CarFax in local newspaper stories.  Love has testified before the city council with environmental concerns about development projects.  "Paul Love has posted on Facebook that he is running for mayor," a credible source told the Heart Beat.  "He already has a petition and is halfway to collecting his signatures." 

Attorney Sarah Read (left, Columbia Missourian photo) who mediated a dispute between the Shepard Boulevard and Timberhill Road neighborhood associations and developer Stadium 63 Properties, LLC over the controversial Cross Creek project, may also seek the 4th Ward council seat.  Read is listed as president of Columbia Parents for Public Schools in an April 2009 forum post on that organization's website.  Friends and acquaintances say she has circulated a candidacy petition.


ANGRY TRIB COMMENTS:  Spark latest Humane Society flap

COLUMBIA, 10/26/09 (Beat Bytes) -- A pending change in animal adoption policy at the Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS) -- allegedly prompted by Columbia Tribune readers -- has animal care advocates crying foul, and Humane Society staffers broadcasting a plea for help that made its way to local online listservs.   

"Our Board of Directors is re-drafting our adoption policies in response to the handful of angry folks who leave comments on the Columbia Daily Tribune message board about how 'rigid' the current guidelines are," wrote CMHS Foster Care/Rescue Coordinator Jeffrey Trotter.  "They are essentially changing our mission by taking out all screening procedures."

Under the new policy, Trotter said CMHS would no longer:  call applicants' landlords to assure that pets are allowed; check veterinary references to see if applicants are vaccinating pets they presently own; or prohibit leaving adopted animals outdoors 24/7.   

Trotter urged animal care advocates to voice their opinions at an open board meeting this Tuesday at 6 p.m.  A flurry of emails followed.   

"This is a desperate plea.  Their Board has NO CLUE."   

"With all the crazy things going on with CMHS, I think we need to be present and have a statement, but stay level and still supportive." 

"The proposed adoption policy for CMHS is disgusting, and potentially puts a lot of needy animals in danger of not receiving the care they should be getting."   

"With Tiffany McBee leaving the CMHS board, there are no longer any true animal advocates as members."

Both McBee and longtime CMHS advocate/staffer Heather Duren-Stubbs have recently departed CMHS.   Interested parties may call (573) 999-4955 or (573) 443-7387 for more information about the board meeting. 

SULLIVAN SHINES:  Mayoral candidate on KFRU radio

(Commentary) -- Coming off two small victories on the long road to Columbia mayor, candidate Sid Sullivan outmatched KFRU Sunday Morning Roundtable devil's advocate Skip Walther, a noted attorney, to emerge victorious in a series of mini-debates on the radio program yesterday morning.

By showing up at 5:00 am on the opening of candidacy filing last Friday, Sullivan claimed the top spot on the ballot and handed in one more signature than 4th Ward councilman/candidate Jerry Wade on his candidacy petition: 149 to Wade's 148.

The electoral gods kept smiling on Sullivan during Sunday morning's 45-minute exchange, during which Walther -- who frequently represents developers in front of the City Council -- crystallized Columbia's piecemeal approach to planning.  Are you suggesting that we don't simply allow a builder or developer to approach the council with his or her own plans, and then seek approval?  Walther asked Sullivan.  Are you suggesting that there's a different way?

Developers shouldn't be the city's main planners, Sullivan replied.  Rather, planning should be a function of the entire community, and where necessary, individual government entities -- like the school district and City Hall -- must work hand-in-hand to accomplish big projects, like the new high school.   

Co-host Al Germond asked Sullivan if he would have voted for the star-crossed Cross Creek project.  "I had a lot of problems with that proposal," Sullivan explained.  "We need the whole city involved in projects like a huge car lot on a major entrance to the city.  But instead, it was a plan that emerged during a fight between neighborhood associations and a developer.   After council defeated it the first time, I wouldn't have allowed it back for at least another year.  With the economy in the tank, nothing's happened and it's left a big hole on the east side of town." 

Callers praised Sullivan.  "It's nice to finally hear someone who is willing to say 'no' when necessary," said a woman concerned with unplanned sprawl in the Derby Ridge area.  "It's nice to hear from someone who will be the adult on the city council." 

Even the normally contentious Broadway Expansion Guy liked what he heard.  "It's high time we got away from this elitist planning system, where the builder with the most money dictates where high schools go and what improvements get made." he said.  "So far, I like what I'm hearing from Mr. Sullivan." 

Sullivan also said he supports council pay "because without it, too many good people, including many small businesspeople, can't even think about serving."   He suggested better pay for police officers and a common-sense additive to red light cameras

"We need to put up signs that warn drivers ahead of time, This Stop Light Patrolled by Camera," Sullivan said.  "That way, they really will slow down, and we're not just catching them after the fact." 

DINERS REVIEW:  Addisons, an American Grill

Calling it "another surprisingly good restaurant in Columbia," diners from Santa Clara, Calif. recently gave Addisons, a downtown dining favorite, 4.5 of 5 stars.  "We started by sharing the sweet potato chips, which is a huge and delicious appetizer." 

Known for its lifesize David Spear paintings of restaurant life, Addisons combines family-friendliness with adult sophistication.  I've dined there with family and friends dozens of times over the years, with consistently good food and service.  Readers at share my enthusiasm.   Here are some selected comments: 

"I had the mediterranean salad and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty addition of basil and artichoke hearts.  But I think the best deal was my husband's ahi tuna sandwich.  It's not really a sandwich, but more of a large ahi tuna steak on a piece of focaccia.  It was delicious, and seemed like a lot of tuna for $8.99!" 

"Order the phyllo-wrapped brownie!!  It might be the best dessert item at any restaurant in CoMo!" 

"The atmosphere is cheery and bright. I remember the wait staff being helpful also. The food was just OK though."

CHECK OUT Addisons on Yelp -- and at 709 Cherry Street in the District

READERS WRITE:  Headline error; Susan Taylor Glasgow

Re:  Susan Taylor Glasgow
Hi Mike:  I've received many, many fine comments about the article you wrote for American Craft Magazine about my work.  Personally, I feel it's the best article about my work to date!   Heller Gallery, my representative in NYC, also expressed what an insightful article it was.  The timing was perfect too -- right before my show there in September.   Thanks again. 
-- Susan Taylor Glasgow, Columbia

Re:  Sid Sullivan declares for Columbia mayor
One can't help but support a candidate nicknamed 'Sulley' to pilot Columbia's future.   
-- James F. Fairchild, Columbia

Here's a suggestion for Columbia Mayor -- reasoned, seasoned, brilliant, thoughtful:  Tim Harlan.
-- Nancy Copenhaver, Columbia

Just wanted to let you know I thoroughly enjoy your informative and entertaining emails.  Also, the table of contents says Stephens College: Named top military-friendly school, but in the story, it says Columbia College.  Keep up the great work!!
-- Christy Old, Columbia  
[Thanks!  Several other readers caught that error.  Columbia College, not Stephens College, received the honor.]

Mike:  I was about to forward this to my husband (he works in public relations at Columbia College), when I noticed that you have "Stephens College" in your table of contents when it should say "Columbia College: Top military-friendly school." Thanks for all the great reporting you do.
-- Marilyn L. Cummins,  Columbia

Hello Mike, I was reading your latest “BEAT BYTE” and I noticed that we at Columbia College got a nod for being awarded one of the top military friendly schools.  It was jarring however, to see the headline summary giving Stephens College that honor instead.  Would it be possible to clarify in an upcoming issue?   We’re pretty proud of the exclusivity of this honor, and regard it as a call to action to continue serving our veterans with the respect and professionalism they deserve.
-- Brendon Steenbergen, Director of Development, for Annual and Planned Giving, Columbia College

Mike:  The table of contents should read "Columbia College," and not "Stephens College."
-- Bob Hutton, Facilities Director, Columbia College


Mike Martin
Blogitor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SEWER STINK: Scandal swamps City Hall

1)  SEWER STINK:  Scandal swamps City Hall
2)  SULLIVAN DECLARES:  For Columbia mayor

3)  FIRST TIME HONOR:  MU hosts minority medical student conference
4)  COLUMBIA COLLEGE:  Named top military-friendly school 
5)  MASSIVE METH BUST:  Rocks Centralia
6)  MIZZOU ENGINEERS:  Make blast-resistant glass
7)  HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!   Boone County Republicans Chili Supper This Friday

SEWER STINK:  Scandal swamps City Hall

COLUMBIA, 10/21/09 (Beat Bytes) -- A 150-page soap opera starring personality conflicts, inappropriate job duties, and financial confusion that has cost Columbia residents millions of dollars.

That's one way to describe documents about a so-called "sewer billing scandal" released to the Columbia Heart Beat through a City of Columbia Freedom of Information Act request.  The documents -- mostly internal memoranda and emails -- cover three years in the beleaguered life of city sewer maintenance superintendent Bill Weitkemper, a 34-year public works employee who became alarmed when he discovered a strange and costly situation in 2006:   Thousands of sewer users weren't being billed; City Hall was violating the law; and the public -- through higher rates and bond issues -- was picking up the tab. 


"Bill -- I know you well enough to not take your note as some sort of threat, but I must tell you it reads that way." 

That's Columbia City manager William Watkins, responding in an email to Weitkemper last August, shortly before city council members adopted the 2008-09 budget.   After two years of trying to right the sewer underbilling problem, Weitkemper had finally worked his way to the top of the command chain.  He was reminding Watkins of some wisdom from their former boss, city manager Ray Beck.

"I remember what Mr. Beck told me many times about making a decision," Weitkemper wrote.  "Always ask yourself, how would this look to the public?  Would the public support this decision." 

Weitkemper's concerns -- that the city council would adopt yet another budget ignorant of the decades-long problem -- seem justified.  Worries about how the public might view the problem on the cusp of a major funding vote had come up before.  The idea seems to have been:  keep public and council in the dark, so as not to upset the budget cart. 

"I've been thinking about what you said about not wanting to take the chance of upsetting voters before the sewer bond election," Weitkemper wrote in Jan. 5, 2007 email to Public Works operations manager Mary Ellen Lea.  "This billing issue could turn out to be a critical issue for that election.  The city must be very careful to be completely open with the public."

But kept in the dark, voters approved the $77 million bond issue in April 2008.  A bond is a loan, to be repaid through utility rate increases in future years.  But if all sewer users were paying their fair share, those rates needn't rise nearly as much as they have. 


Imagine a 100-unit apartment complex with one big water main supplying the whole place.  Each apartment has a shower/bathtub, toilet, bathroom and kitchen sinks -- four sewer lines each. 

One big water line in; 400 sewer lines out.  Now imagine City Hall, which controls the sewer utility, has for years only billed the apartment complex on the basis of the one water line, violating a city law that says you have to bill each individual sewer user.   Imagine the problem multiplied, to some 6,000 unbilled sewer lines across the city.  Now multiply that by several decades and tremendous growth. 

It's a big number, and City Hall's failure to collect it has cost us all in the form of higher utility rates that only keep going up.

A sewer billing problem can be fixed, and city officials have taken action, including a 2007 audit that proved Weitkemper was correct.   But the harder fix lies in a dysfunctional management culture that automatically assumes the public and our representatives -- the city council -- are too stupid to understand the way city government works. 

"City administrators call us 'The Tourists,'" a former councilman once told me.  He had heard some staffers talking about this concept in the hallway.  "Tourists are dumber than locals, and always come and go."   

Smart as they are, city administrators are encouraged to interpret the laws council passes before they follow them. 

You read that right.  Department directors at City Hall routinely interpret the law -- like little Supreme Court justices -- before they implement it.  City law is clear about how to bill for sewer charges; what hasn't been clear is how individual department chiefs have been interpreting the ordinance over the past several decades, with each new leader adding a new level of confusion and disarray. 

"I believe the method of charging for basic sewer service has been dependent on interpretations of the ordinance by Finance and UAB people," wrote Weitkemper's supervisor, Terry Hennkens, in a 4/27/2006 email. 

"I plan to tell Bill [Watkins] that these things cannot be fixed through operations, they are billing problems," wrote Mary Ellen Lea in a 12/20/2007 email to Hennkens.  "We can help with interpretation of ordinances, but we should not be the ones trying to fix billing problems."

"Does user mean dwelling unit?  Can we relate the base fee to the meters?  Still don't think this clarifies when and how we apply the base fee," city finance director Lori Fleming emailed public works director John Glascock on 9/30/2009, fully three years after Weitkemper first broached the problem.

Add clashing personalities, miscommunications, and conflicting management styles, and the mess has metastasized.  It's a mess we'll be covering in detail, in this Fall investigative series.

COLUMBIA, 10/21/09 (Beat Bytes) -- Planning advocate Sid Sullivan, who ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against southern Boone County commissioner Karen Miller last year, has formally declared his intention to seek the office of Columbia mayor.  Sullivan joins 4th ward councilman Jerry Wade and Eastside Tavern owner Sal Nuccio for the upcoming April 2010 election. 

Citing the need to tackle a broad array of citywide issues, Sullivan told the Columbia Heart Beat he wants to be "a mayor for all the people."   City Hall's focus on parks and trails "has been great," Sullivan said, "but we need to work on the basics, like crime, roads, and growth.  These are issues for everyone."

Sullivan's supporters are gathering signatures for Friday, the official petition opening day, when candidates can first deliver their nomination petitions to City Hall.   Mayoral candidates need at least 100 signatures; council candidates need 50.  For more information, read Section 122. Nominations by Petition in the Columbia city charter:

Students who want to work on campaigns and folks who want to sign petitions can contact the three candidates as follows: 

Sid Sullivan

Jerry Wade
(573) 447-0064 

Sal Nuccio
(573) 256-1500

FIRST TIME HONOR:  MU hosts minority medical student conference

COLUMBIA, 10/21/09 (Beat Bytes) --  For the first time ever, the University of Missouri School of Medicine is hosting an annual conference for the Student National Medical Association, the nation's oldest and largest independent, student-run organization for medical students of color.  Boasting some 8,000 medical students, pre-medical students, residents and physicians SNMA was established in 1964 by medical students from Howard University School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, both traditional black colleges.

"SNMA is dedicated both to ensuring culturally sensitive medical education and services, as well as increasing the number of African-American, Latino and other students of color entering and completing medical school," says a note on the organization's website.  The conference kicks off October 30th and runs through November 1st, 2009.


COLUMBIA COLLEGE:  Named top military-friendly school

COLUMBIA, 10//21/09 (CCIS) --  G.I. Jobs magazine has named Columbia College a top school for educating former military members.  The magazine ranked the college in the top 15 percent of all schools nationwide based on military-friendly policies which include the Yellow Ribbon Program, a matching servicemembers' tuition program


MASSIVE METH BUST:  Rocks Centralia 

CENTRALIA, 10/21/09 (Fireside-Guard) --  In Columbia, bikes, pedestrians, and wheelchairs have been on recent city council agendas.  But in northern Boone neighbor Centralia, a new state law which enables municipalities to legalize golf carts on city streets was brought up to that city's Board of Aldermen and shelved for later discussion, according to the Centralia Fireside-Guard.

Also in the news:  A massive methamphetamine bust earlier this month.  Centralia Police officers arrested five people at a duplex, ending a months-long investigation.  Officers also found an active meth lab, five miles west of Centralia in rural Audrain County. The Boone County Sheriff's Department assisted. 

"This was a lab capable of easily making an ounce of pure meth every 24 hours," Centralia Police chief Larry Dudgeon told the Fireside Guard, noting that waste products posed an environmental hazard.   Among those arrested: Jebadiah Romine, 28, for distribution, possession, and maintaining a drug house within 1,200 feet of Chester Boren Middle School and Chance Elementary School.


COLUMBIA, 10/21/09 (MU News) --  Blast-resistant glass that Mizzou engineering researchers are developing may substantially reduce collateral damage from exploding bombs and natural disasters. 

With a $250,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant, Sanjeev Khanna, a mechanical and aerospace engineering associate professor, and Zhen Chen, a civil and environmental engineering professor, have developed thinner and less expensive blast-resistant glass.  They tested the glass this spring by exploding a small bomb within five feet.  The glass panel withstood the blast.

Ultra-thin glass fibers embedded in plastic give the glass its strength.   Only about 25 microns thick -- half the thickness of a human hair -- the glass fibers literally have no room for defects that could lead to cracking. 

The Mizzou blast-resistant glass is less than a half inch thick and would cost a fraction of what such glass currently costs, Khanna said.  For instance, it could protect residential windows from hurricanes, flying debris, or earthquakes.


HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!   Boone County Republicans Chili Supper

Longtime local radio talk show host Tom Bradley will host/emcee the Boone County Republicans Annual Chili Supper
this Friday, October 23rd, at the Elks Lodge in Columbia (4747 E. Elk Park Drive).   Dinner starts at 6 P.M., Program begins at 7:15 P.M. 

Children's Playroom Will Be Open During the Event

Confirmed Speakers include
- Kevin Jackson, conservative author, blogger, and radio host; wrote "The BIG Black Lie",
- Keynote: Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, 9th Congressional District*
- Congressman Roy Blunt, 7th Congressional District*, candidate for U.S. Senate
- State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, 19th State Senatorial District
- State Sen. Chuck Purgason, 33rd State Senatorial District, candidate for U.S. Senate
- State Representative Allen Icet, candidate for Missouri Auditor

*Plan to attend but are dependent on House of Representatives' schedule. Other speakers TBA.

Tickets: $12.00/person in advance; $15/person at the door; Children 3 and under free. Make checks payable to Columbia Pachyderm Club.  Tickets are also available for purchase at The Columbia Pachyderm Club meetings on Fridays at Noon at Jack's Gourmet Restaurant on Business Loop 70 (across from Westlake's at Old Hwy. 63).

You can also contact Jerry at 573-489-0106 or via e-mail at,or at

Directions to the Elks Lodge of Columbia:

- From Hwy. 63, go East, follow East Broadway/Route WW East approximately 1.5 miles, just past Cedar Ridge School (at street light), turn right onto E. Elk Park Drive.
- Then merge left to access Lodge parking

If you cannot make it, but would still like to support the Columbia Pachyderm Club, please send your non tax-deductible donation to:

Columbia Pachyderm Club
PO Box 30642
Columbia, MO 65205

Missouri United Methodist Church Youth Missions & The Center for Women’s Ministries is hosting a home-made cinnamon rolls fundraiser on October 24, from 8:30 a.m. onward.   The church is located at 204 South Ninth Street (across from Shakespeare’s).  Contact the YOUTH GROUP at (573)-443-3111. 


MORE INFORMATION about tonight's CPS Band Curriculum meeting is at these links:

Mike Martin
Blogitor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat


Visit us on: 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

WADE v. NUCCIO: Columbia mayor's race so far

1)  WADE v. NUCCIO:  Columbia mayor's race so far
2)  WADE-ING IN:  The councilman's conundrums
3)  NUCCIO NOW?  Can an Everyman win?
4)  BAND AIDE:  Are school bands the next big CPS issue?
5)  READERS WRITE:  Dorothy Kee, "Anus" burgers, nuke battery 

WADE v. NUCCIO:  Columbia mayor's race, so far

A case of deja vu put the Columbia mayor's race back in the news last week, as Eastside Tavern owner Sal Nuccio (below) declared his candidacy for the April 2010 mayoral election.    Announcing for First Ward city council in 2007, Nuccio ultimately withdrew after failing to secure the fifty signatures necessary for his candidacy petition. 

Columbia Tribune readers greeted his mayoral announcement with cheers online. 

But Missourian readers -- many of whom remember what happened on the old Trib news forum in 2007, when Nuccio dropped some F-bombs to quash some questions -- weren't as exuberant. 

Fourth Ward councilman Jerry Wade (above) wasn't greeted as kindly when he declared.  He's not an Everyman like Nuccio and he's not well-known outside his ward.  Many of his core supporters have fled his latest ambition.  He faces tough challenges on the road to the mayor's dais, but given the floor so early in the race, Wade has chosen reservation over communication -- the same strategy pundits say killed Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. 

So go the first lurching steps toward the biggest change in Columbia governance in nearly two decades.  Replacing long-time mayor Darwin Hindman -- who, regardless what you think of his politics, navigated this city's disjointed fiefdoms with astonishing aplomb -- will be the biggest challenge faced by a local politico since Hindman first took office in 1995. 

And getting elected is only the beginning.  Among challenges facing Columbia and its new mayor:  Wresting leadership from the city manager, who is hired at the council's pleasure to manage -- not lead.  Problem is, he's been doing both -- as the tag team of Beck and Watkins -- for 25 years.  With the population hitting 100,000, an unelected public official cut off from voter approval, advise, and consent who has so much power and control simply doesn't work anymore. 

We elect the mayor and council, and they need to start leading on our behalf, not merely following the city manager because it's the easiest, least-confrontational thing to do.     

(Photos from the Columbia Missourian)

WADE-ING IN:  The councilman's conundrums

As most of his 4th ward supporters know, Jerry Wade has the kind of sassy brilliance that could -- if he chose to exercise it -- move Columbia governance into the 21st century.  An aging city charter (constitution) is crying for change, and among his peers on the council, Wade is best suited to tackle real reform.  He can be as feisty as a junkyard dog when he knows he's right, and he has the analytical mind to stop a specious argument in its tracks.  

There's been talk among council members about moving Mr. Watkins -- the leader of the executive branch -- from his inappropriate center seat at the legislative table to a seat on the side.  Jerry Wade is the only person I can envision staring down the sultans of snark who always emerge when the manager is challenged, and pulling off such an uncomfortable but perfectly appropriate trick.    

But Wade's fire has grown cold, say folks who know him politically.  He has become an apologist for problematic governance in the eyes of many supporters, who regard his swing votes in favor of Cross Creek and the Lemone/Maguire Blvd. extension as nothing less than dual betrayals, sellouts to his future ambitions.  He lost scores more supporters when he tacitly supported City Hall's big eminent domain/historical museum play.   In each case, Wade has justified his support by blaming "imperfect" processes that need changing, but have to be followed nonetheless. 

Today, nearly three years after his election, Wade's once-firebrand consitituency is scratching its collective head.  Where they used to ask when he planned to work on the changes he'd been promising, they've given up asking much at all.   Wade doesn't return phone calls and emails the way he used to; he shuts down discussion, rather than embracing it; and he's attracted dogged critics, like the "Broadway expansion guy" who calls the morning radio shows, relentlessly attacking the 4th Ward councilman's positions.

If Jerry Wade has made too many deals with the devil, that devil is in the details:  The imperfect, ripe-for-reform processes and procedures that Wade can navigate like few others, but that will never change unless a mayor more like the old Jerry -- the brilliant feist-meister -- steps up, and demands that wealthy special interests at City Hall -- and their enduring champion, the city manager -- stand down. 


NUCCIO NOW?  Can an Everyman win?

Look at a photo of Sal Nuccio -- with his tattooed arms and Jersey-esque stubble -- and you know you're seeing an Everyman, the kind of candidate whom, according to Columbia Heart Beat polls, would probably win against an incumbent city council person or bureaucratic egghead of almost any legal or academic stripe.   

Potential Everyman candidates include Cool Stuff owner Arnie Fagan and former councilman Larry Schuster: A little town, a little gown; a little right, a little left; some business savvy, some progressive chops; a swarthy brow, a feisty grin.   A no-nonsense hardworker too busy to play footsie with City Hall's underworked, overpaid special interests. 

But Everymen and Everywomen don't poll well against seasoned, tempered establishment types.  In our longtime mayoral poll, banker and Trib pundit Bob Roper wiped the floor with Fagan and Schuster, beating everyone but the other seasoned, tempered establishment choice -- former state rep Vicky Riback-Wilson.  But Roper and Wilson have made clear they will never eat green eggs and ham and never run for mayor, which leaves the race more open, at least for now.   

Salvatore Nuccio has vocal supporters, and despite his tough persona, a thin political skin.  Peppered with questions on the old Trib news forum, he was crabby and impatient, especially when the questions turned to his lack of establishment cred -- no service on any city panels like Planning and Zoning, for instance -- and his ongoing legal troubles, particularly with the State Department of Employment Security, compliments of Casenet.   

F-bombs may work in taverns, but they don't stand a chance with the League of Women Voters. 

The average voter has an average checklist that includes basic questions:  Have you served in government before? Have you run afoul of the law?  Do you have scandals in your closet?  Do you pay your taxes and vote?  "Change" candidates often avoid checklists.  They aren't patient enough with the system to abide it, yet to win they have to show familiarity with it.  If Sal Nuccio and other anti-establishment candidates face one hurdle, it's proving they know enough about City Hall to get under the hood and fix it.

The average voter also skews older, with chronically pathetic voter turnouts populated by seniors and the better-healed.  Statistically, the young, loud, boisterous, beer-hoisting iconoclasts cheering for Nuccio now are less likely to vote, and even less likely to shovel the kind of cash at him he'll probably need to win. 


BAND WARS:  Are school bands the next big CPS issue?

Joy Piazza may be to the Columbia Public School district what Tracy Greever-Rice is to Columbia's 4th Ward -- a well-informed, critically-minded policy aficionado with big questions about the status quo who doesn't yet hold elected office.


Where poorly-planned development has coaxed Greever-Rice into the political spotlight, Piazza -- a former City of Columbia historic preservation commissioner -- is fired up over a move to eliminate 8th and 9th grade marching bands that would adversely affect her daughter.  A new plan replaces outdoor marching bands with indoor concert bands, based on what CPS music honchos call "research and best practices."   

So-called "research and best practices" also drove the contentious math debate.  The same posturing that many observers claim guided math policy, Piazza sees in band:  secrecy, opacity, intimidation, shady surveys.   And like school board members Ines Segert and Michelle Pruitt -- who rode the math wars to elected office -- Piazza is taking political action.

The idea that concert band trumps marching band for 9th graders is sheer poppycock, she says.  And like Pruitt before her, Piazza backs up that charge with hard data.   "I did my own survey of Missouri’s marching bands, and haven’t yet found a school that does not include 9th graders," she said.  "Why would so many high performing and award-winning high schools have 9th graders in their bands if this is such a poor practice?"   

She gave such pitch-perfect commentary at last Monday’s school board meeting that a Missourian article "very nearly quoted my comments without naming me," Piazza said.  After the meeting, she sent out a detailed press release to local reporters about what she calls a move to exclude 9th-grade parents from the band debate -- a meeting this Wednesday where parents from grades 6 to 8 only will fill out a survey of possibly dubious design for the school board.

A letter about the meeting "from my child’s band director informs me my point of view is not invited," Piazza told reporters.  "The letter makes explicit the current class of ninth graders and their parents are not invited to attend the meeting or otherwise offer input on the curriculum change.  The letter is written in a language and style that could be taken as intimidating."  And based on CPS' past history, the survey it offers, she says, could be less than objective on many levels.


In the end, Piazza views the new plan -- call it "integrated band" -- the way Pruitt and Segert viewed integrated math.  "As I see it, this plan will hang high school freshmen out to dry," Piazza claims.  "My interest is not in engaging in a battle with CPS’ music program, but rather to ensure equal access to quality public education." 


Re:  The Long, Tragic Courthouse Journey of Dorothy Twala Kee
Mike:  Dorothy Kee sounds like yet another victim of the economic attack on mental health care.  In the "old days," mentally ill people had options.  Now they live untreated, alone and self-medicated.  I would venture to guess that 75% or more of our crimes are committed by people who would be very different if they (or their parents) had access to mental health care.  I'd also guess that 75% of innocent people in prison are there because of a mentally ill person making false accusations. 
-- Mickey Havener, Coordinator, Boone County Jail Ministry

Mike:  Just a short reply to the “anus” burgers at McDonald’s.  It was not a misspelling;  it was a prank done after business hours.  -- Gary McLaughlin, Columbia 

Mike:  On the all-important, intergalactically critical "anus" burgers issue:  What do the Starship Enterprise and toilet paper have in common?  They both circle Uranus looking for Klingons!  -- Name (naturally) withheld by request 

Mike: Thanks for the MU Nuclear Battery information.  This other "energy breakthrough" information was in an article submitted as an opinion piece to the Tribune, but rejected.   Recently Drs. Steven Greer and Theodore Loder III of the Orion Project ( and the Advanced Energy Research Organization ( submitted an important energy research and development proposal to President Obama and the U.S. Congress.  The document provides background information about energy-producing technologies that are outside the usual awareness and attention of mainstream scientists and engineers.  -- Bill Wickersham, Columbia

Mike:  I realized that I had not received one of your wonderful e-newsletters in a few weeks.  Could you check and see if I'm still on your list?   A friend just emailed me yesterday's installment.  Thanks for looking into this and keep up the good work!
-- Kay Allen, Columbia 
[Ed. Note:  Thanks for the kind words.  You dropped off our e-list, but we've added you back!]

Dear Mike,  Thanks for your messages.  I feel they keep me in touch with what is going on and I think you help us all.  Keep up the good work!!    -- Jan Franz, Columbia   [Ed. note:  Thanks so much!  And tell you know who to get well soon!] 

Mike:  Love your blog! 
-- Beth Worley, Columbia

Mike Martin
Blogitor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat