Thursday, August 13, 2009

BEAT BYTES: Emails Reveal City Hall's Mystery Lobbyist

News Briefs from The Columbia Heart Beat

1) Emails reveal City Hall's mystery Lobbyist
2) Celebrated female pastor leaves local Episcopal Church
3) National dental magazine features MU "painless dentistry" invention

4) Alexander Ave. gets overdue speed bumps
5) Cops bust punks robbing historic neighborhood
6) Old Southwest neighbors fret over green belt sale

7) WEEKEND: Children's Maestro Ed Hanson to sing Sinatra
8) ANNOUNCEMENTS: Gerry helps Jerry tackle muscular dystrophy
9) Housing News from Bank of Missouri's Tom Stone
10) Readers Write: About the Health Dept. and Farmers Markets

1) Emails reveal City Hall's mystery Lobbyist
Last Part of A Simmering Summer Heart Beat Exclusive Report

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- When last we visited, our intrepid cabal of uptown schemers had -- with nary a word from the lowly masses (i.e. the Columbia City Council) -- laid out a scathingly brilliant downtown redevelopment plan that included a humongous new multimillion-dollar parking garage (for a town with "tight budgets" that says it LOVES bicycles); and plenty of hanging flowers for flittering butterflies.

In on the action: Columbia city manager Bill Watkins; Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank "The Butterfly" Waters; former St. Louis mayor Vince Schoemehl; assistant city manager Tony St. Romaine; and a mysterious figure known only as "The Lobbyist," or "Lobbyist 601."

They all appear repeatedly in a series of public-private emails released to Columbia Citizens Listserv founder Traci Wilson-Kleekamp under a Freedom of Information request. Here's a sampling, mostly from "The Publisher":

"Meanwhile, the lobbyist and I wll discuss possible plans to slip away to St. L. for a social outing,"

"...when we know our city schedule, we'll know how to plan some misbehavior with the lobbyist."

"That would be you and Bill and the lobbyist and girls we might pick up for dinner."

Almost in lock step with the tiny group's big plans, City Hall legislation followed. Particularly revealing: One email that appears to seal the fate of at least one TIF -- the Tiger Hotel.

"Tony: I hope I didn't create any 'disturbance in the force' on Thursday," Schoemehl emailed St. Romaine on Valentine's Day 2009, referring to a public meeting in which Schoemehl addressed a local audience.

"I spoke with Hank on Friday and stressed that I thought every effort should be made to avoid making 'the perfect the enemy of the good,'" Schoemehl continued. "The hotel project is essential and I'd hate to see it slowed down too long by discussion over how to do this better. If this hotel project were going to be done without extraordinary assistance from the City, it would have happened by now. I tried to reach Bill [Watkins] by phone to let him know that I spoke with Hank...could you let him know this?"

Of course, Vince. Anything for the former mayor of St. Louis.

If one thing sticks out about the Tiger Hotel TIF, it's that the hotel's most redeeming quality--its historic appeal--is rarely, if ever, mentioned. The one true social good that could come of TIF legislation -- historic preservation -- is thereby lost, in a discussion that seems mostly motivated by insiders' insiders, who get what they want because of who they are, rather than what they have to offer.

How else are we to interpret publisher Waters' note to Bill Watkins that he should restrict whom he invites to these important -- and frequent discussions? How else are we to interpret all those notes about "the right people," from a guardian of the people's right to know, no less?

Mr. St. Romaine responded to Schoemehl on Feb. 16. "I do appreciate your tempered remarks in light of the audience. I downloaded the Chicago TIF Encyclopedia this weekend and have started to read it, along with the Shoup book you mentioned, The High Cost of Free Parking."

Finally, in an email cc'd to lobbyist601@, the Butterfly lets it slip.

"As you can see, Schlemeier is in on this deal. Terry is an old friend of Vince's," Hank Waters says.

Terry Schlemeier -- the mystery man -- is a prominent state lobbyist who lives in Columbia. Why this group -- which includes two highly-paid public servants -- can't refer to him by name with respect to such a large and public issue is beyond me.

You might say it only adds insult to mystery.

2) Celebrated female pastor leaves local Episcopal Church

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- When she was installed as Calvary Episcopal Church's first female director -- or rector -- in its 153 year history last Fall, the Rev. Paula Robinson was celebrated as a breath of fresh perspective in a mostly male Church hierarchy, at least at the local level.

Columbia Home and Lifestyle magazine called it "breaking through the stained glass ceiling."

The Missourian called Robinson's voice "spirited and lyrical"; her parishioners pleased that she would "best fit the role of pastor for their church" after a long selection/succession process that examined a number of applicants.

Although Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori heads the Episcopal Church nationwide, and its hierarchy includes members of the gay community, locally the Episcopal religion is more conservative and traditional. With her fiery Irish brogue and commanding presence crowned by a closely-cropped coif of white hair, Paula Robinson had an almost angelic quality -- an angel with seniority and substance, as it were, come to deliver some measure of change from on High.

(Think Rosalind Russell, in her fabulous role as Mother Superior in the "Trouble with Angels" movies).

But after a decidedly short tenure, Reverend Robinson left Calvary this month for a new assignment nearer her European home. The parting appears to have been both sweet -- and sorrowful. In an open letter to parishioners and the community, Robinson called her tenure in Columbia joyful and troubled -- the best, and worst, of times.

It was her description of the worst of those times that caught many readers off guard. Though not specific, Robinson described being troubled by disloyalty, feuding, and resistance among members of her flock. She seemed palpably hurt, her choice of words curt, to the point, but painfully telling.

It was an odd way to say goodbye and an even odder way to leave a message -- if indeed it was a message she intended.

"Tell us Lord, oh how we should change, and what displeases you."

But like so many men and women of the Cloth before her -- apostles, disciples, and prophets alike -- Robinson chose to leave that question open. The message was incomplete.

Time will only tell what fruit that choice may bear.


[Ed. Note: My family and I are members of the Calvary Episcopal Church].

3) National
dental magazine features MU "painless dentistry" invention

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- Painless dentistry?

That -- and more durable fillings -- are the promises of a new dental tool that drills and prepares teeth using the stuff of stars and the Northern Lights -- a fourth state of matter called "plasma" (after liquid, solid, and gas).

An invention of MU aerospace engineers Qingsong Yu and Hao Li, the "plasma brush" made it into the July 2009 issue of AGD Impact, the magazine of the national Academy of General Dentistry, the only organization exclusively dedicated to serving the needs and interests of the general dentist and the world's second largest dental association.

“Application of plasma treatment in dental restoration procedures will effectively disinfect cavity-causing bacteria, reduce the use of the painful and destructive drilling currently practiced in dental clinics, and consequently save healthy dental tissues,” says Yu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia (UMC). “It also improves the bonding strength of restoration composites and prolongs the restoration life. Furthermore, it requires no complicated or expensive equipment.”

Calling the technology “novel,” University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry assistant professor Timothy Kosinski, DDS, MAGD, says it could “play a prominent role in all of our dental practices.”


From Distant Stars to Dental Chairs
Plasmas May Promise Pain-free and Durable Restorations

By Mike Martin

4) Alexander Ave. gets overdue speed bumps

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- Residents of Alexander Avenue in Columbia's central city are rejoicing.

After a 5-year battle -- about twice as long as it took to get that giant downtown parking garage approved -- new speed bumps were installed yesterday by public works crews braving scorching August heat.

So dogged and determined was the bump drive that resident Cherith Moore -- who presented a petition to City Hall -- was featured in a July 4th Columbia Missourian article celebrating her role as a paragon of freedom. From the Missourian:

"With Sturtz's guidance, Moore and about 10 other residents were able to write their formal request to the council for traffic control measures such as speed humps and a 20 mph limit. Moore was able to have it signed by more than 90 percent of the 43 households on the street."


5) Cops bust punks robbing historic neighborhood

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- There's nothing like a good bust to get the old rancor up and nothing like neighborhood listservs to keep an eye on law and order. Last week, after roving scofflaws broke into several cars during the wee hours of the morning in the venerable Old Southwest, CPD officers went into action, rounding them up after watchful neighbors called.

Before the capture, the Old Southwest listserv buzzed about the ongoing thefts. Some sample posts:

"This morning I was missing change from my car and noticed the car door may have been slightly ajar. So, this now begins to make sense. Thanks for the heads up."

"I noticed a black backpack under my river birch tree this morning and assumed it was thrown there after some sort of thievery. I called the police to report. Also, I did see patrol officers, at least 2, shining their spotlights around 3 am this morning along Maupin drive (between Lindell and Greenwood)."

"I just wanted to give you a heads up -- last night, B. was driving down Maupin at 1:45 a.m. and he saw a teenage boy running from the driveway of the guy who lives in the two-story red brick house. When B. looked again, he saw a couple of other kids running down the street. Last Friday night sometime, someone stole some items from B.'s unlocked car in our driveway. My Explorer, of course, was responsibly locked, so no trouble there!"

Responsibly LOCKED? Not a good idea, according to Blue Note owner Richard King.

"I hate to say this but breaking into cars in Old Southwest is pretty common," King wrote. "I have had my car ransacked several times in the almost 20 years that I have been in the neighborhood. I treat it like they do in NYC -- I never lock for fear of them breaking in and I leave nothing of value in the car."

6) Old Southwest neighbors fret over green belt sale

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- Another email alert on the Old Southwest Neighborhood listserv -- this time about the potential loss of a valuable 3-acre greenbelt near South Garth and Lathrop Streets -- prompted a stampede of responses expressing interest and concern.

"The Smarr family is listing 2.9 acres for sale, which is zoned R3, for multi-family housing. This is the quiet wooded area that was slated for the Garth Trail extension," wrote listserv member Holly Lickos.

At over $900,000, the real estate listing, Lickos said, includes "photos of the Married Student Apartment complex on Providence, which is evidently being presented to potential buyers as the kind of thing they could consider building."

Very quickly thereafter, nearby resident Lise Saffran planned a meeting at her home last week. Nearly a dozen concerned emails followed.

"I know Dave and I are interested as, I'm quite certain, are neighbors with young children on the last block of Garth. I think its a good idea to involve the neighborhood associations ASAP," wrote resident Chris Marshall.

"Please count me in the neighborhood endeavor to prevent purchase of this property for development of apartments," wrote resident Catherine Parke.

"This is a quiet residential area without sidewalks and full of children playing. We are hoping that the sellers will allow the neighbors time to explore a buy-out (perhaps toward putting in a Stewart park like area) but at minimum, we are
determined that no new development should provide a safety hazard to the current neighbors," Lickos concluded.

7) WEEKEND: Children's Maestro Ed Hanson to sing Sinatra

COLUMBIA, 8/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- Widely beloved music director and teacher Ed Hanson has mov ed onto brighter -- and bluer things since his retirement from Columbia Public Schools last year. Highlighting his new career: touring the country as an actor and bringing Ol' Blue Eyes back to life in a tribute to Frank Sinatra this Friday, 9 PM at the Vault Speakeasy, 23 S. 8th St. in The Basement of the Historic Tiger Hotel.

Here's what those in the know are saying: "With a resume of over 22 Sinatra covers, a grand piano, a special appearance by Marylin Monroe, and the atmosphere and drink specials that make VAULT the "Bees Knees", you CANNOT MISS this show."

8) ANNOUNCEMENTS: Gerry help
s Jerry tackle muscular dystrophy

TODAY is the day Gerry Blaise is going behind bars to help Jerry's Kids© and MDA. To be released on good behavior I have to raise bail and I still need your help!

All you have to do is click here:

to make a secure, online donation before 08/13/09. Your donation will help families living in our community and help guarantee me an early release. Every little bit helps, even a small donation is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

Gerry Blaise

This Saturday, August 15, I will be at the Rendezvous Coffeehouse from 10:30a to 12:00n to talk to anyone who would like to visit with me. The Rendezvous Coffeehouse is at 3304 Broadway Business Park Ct., which is on the south side of West Broadway west of HyVee.

Jerry Wade
4th Ward Council Representative

Missouri Federation of Young Republicans
2009 State Convention
Where: Les Bourgeois Vineyards and Winery, Rocheport, Missouri
When: Saturday, August 22nd, starting at 9 A.M.

Scheduled speakers:
Keynote speaker: Apostle Claver Kamau-Imani, founder and chairman of He is the host of The Christian Politician Radio Show, heard on KCHN 1050 AM, in Houston, Texas. He also is the founder and senior pastor of the Corinthian Christian Empowerment Center (CCEC) in Houston. Currently, Apostle Claver is a member of the Republican Party, and sits on the board of directors for the Greater Houston Pachyderm Club.

Other speakers include:
- Representative Therese Sander, 22nd District
- Ed Martin, former chief of staff to Gov. Blunt and possible candidate for U.S. Congress in Missouri's 3rd Congressional District (eastern Missouri)
- Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party

Other activities will include:
- Statewide officer elections and appointments
- Grassroots training
- Networking with current and future leaders of the Missouri GOP

Registration is $50, which includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. Event will end at approximately 5 P.M. Registration forms can be found at

More information about the convention

Mike Zweifel
Missouri Federation of Young Republicans

9) Housing News from Bank of Missouri's Tom Stone

Hard to believe that school is starting for most in about a week. My oldest girl will start Kindergarten. Makes you wonder where time goes. Speaking of time, we have an action packed week of news. Last week we saw signs of the economy making improvement, lower unemployment and better housing numbers.

This maybe a sign the we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel but it may just mean that some are starting to lose their unemployment benefits and are no longer counted in the employment numbers. I do want to stay positive and believe there are some signs of life.

Click here to view newsletter

Tom Stone
The Bank of Missouri
Asst. Vice President

10) Readers Write: About the Health Dept. and Farmers Markets

Regarding the Boone County Journal story Another Pie in the Face of Boone County Government, local farmers write:

I would wholeheartedly agree that the Health Dept is asinine in their strictness, especially on farmers markets. I have been to markets all over the country, and nowhere have I encountered such foolishness as our local regulations and their scattershot enforcement.

Take a look at their sampling regulations (from the same publication linked above):

All fruits and vegetables must be rinsed thoroughly in clean water. Melons must be rinsed in a chlorine solution of 50 – 100 ppm prior to slicing.

Fruits and vegetable sample servings must be protected from contamination at all times.

Sampling of processed foods requiring preparation at the site must comply with mobile concession requirements or temporary food event rules.

Sampling of jams, jellies, salsa and other similar foods may be allowed if limited preparation is required. An example might be a vendor putting a dab of jelly on a cracker, serving it to a customer on a napkin.

Not included in that is the requirement that you have a sealed jug of water, like a sports cooler (but not with a push-button spout!) and a catch bucket, and any samples set out must be covered with a screen of some sort. Now, what shopper at a farmers market wants their fresh cherry tomato sample sloshed in chlorine first?

No one has died at the multitude of markets where a farmer can just slice you off a piece of cheese, fruit, vegetable, or whatever. The customer is perfectly capable of determining whether that fresh sample (or the farmers hand) is clean. I know many farmers who think the Heath Dept is nuts and way too uptight for their own or anyone’s good.

But they’re so powerful that few people challenge them.
-- Not nuts about the Health Department

If that's really what happened, the Health Department is potentially contradicting state law and their own publications, while certainly being meddlesome.

I am a farmer and vendor at local farmers markets. In Missouri, you can sell many baked goods and other somewhat processed foods NOT prepared in a commercial kitchen, if they are clearly labeled as such. Here is the relevant passage, taken from the physical handout I received from the Health Dept. last year (I believe these are sourced in state law):

Certain non-potentially hazardous processed foods including, but not limited to: breads, cookies, fruit pies, jams, jellies, fruit butters, honey, sorghum, cracked nuts, packaged spices and spice mixes, dry cookie, cake, bread and soup mixes. The following requirements must be met:

the seller is the individual actually producing the food
the seller sells only to the end consumer
all food items are labeled with the name and address of the processor, the common name of the food, all ingredients in the food, and a statement that the product is prepared in a kitchen that is not subject to inspection by the Department of Health and Senior Services
the sales booth has a sign stating that the food is not subject to inspection by the DHSS
The Health Department has the final authority in determining whether a food item can be sold under these regulations.

You can find this on the web at:

Now, given that they claim to have final authority, they can technically be right in this.

But they allow all sorts of other baked goods to be sold at various markets under the above rules, so I don’t know why they’re picking on Cathy Salter. If nothing else, maybe she doesn’t know about the rule and didn’t label it properly. -- Trying to help

Hi Mike -- The Columbia Heart Beat is great! Valuable service to readers, and you have a great feel for writing in the investigative reporting style. Have you considered teaching a course in electronic journalism? Thanks for your good work. PS Enjoyed your science reporting that you recently pointed us to.
-- John McCormick, Columbia

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike, I really enjoy reading your blog and wonder whether you'd be willing to consider adding more information about various listservs around Columbia? I read about them but am not really privy to how to locate and/or subscribe to any that might be personally relevant. Thanks, and keep up the good work! -Lisa from Columbia