Tag Archives: Columbia Missourian

Kespohl Lies About The EEZ

In response to a recent press release issued by Keep Columbia Free warning the council that they could possibly face recall if they vote in favor of blighting Columbia to insure corporate welfare via the EEZ, Councilperson Gary Kespohl made an interesting comment. Councilman Kespohl has been known to stretch the truth to get what he wants, as evidenced by the unprecedented negative ad campaign that helped him edge out Karl Skala in 2010, but his comment in this interview was more than a stretch; it was an outright lie. 

During the KOMU interview Kespohl stated that, “the city council gave citizens the opportunity to submit names of whom they would like to serve on the advisory board, but received no suggestions.” Watch the KOMU story HERE

Oh really, Mr. Kespohl? 

It just so happens that the one and only, former-councilperson Karl Skala, a member of CiViC (Citizens Involved and Invested In Columbia), a group formed in opposition to the EEZ proposal, submitted a list to Mr. Kespohl and the rest of the council five days prior to this interview. 

 

Click HERE to view the attachment Karl attached to his email to Mayor and Council. 

So why did he lie? I guess we all know why, but fellow councilperson and Chamber-endorsed running mate Daryl Dudley summed it up the best. Near the end of the KOMU video, Dudley is quoted as saying he’s “willing to do whatever it takes to get the EEZ plan up and rolling.”

If it takes a few public lies and distortions, I guess Kespohl is willing.

For a more in-depth story, visit the KMIZ video by clicking HERE

Click HERE for the Missourian story regarding the potential recall.

Click HERE to read the Missourian’s in-depth report on the issue

Contact the council today and tell them to stop lying and stop the plan to blight Columbia. Click HERE for City Council contact info. 

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Call For Council Recall

Due to the overwhelming public outcry resulting from the City Council’s plan to declare large areas of Columbia “blighted” and create an Enhanced Enterprise Zone, Keep Columbia Free is asking for volunteers to step forward and take action to recall any and all current City Council representatives who choose to ignore the wishes of their engaged constituents and vote in favor of establishing an EEZ board.

Blight-based eminent domain abuse is common in Missouri, as Missouri law provides little to no protection for property owners. Blight designations and the resulting condemnation proceedings have repeatedly been used to take property from low-income and minority populations across Missouri. This outrageous abuse of government power ignores the most fundamental property right protections enumerated in our beloved Bill of Rights and threatens the very Liberty around which our great country was founded.

As an organization dedicated to protecting and upholding the free market, Keep Columbia Free opposes tax abatement schemes, corporate welfare, TIFs, EEZs and public/private partnerships that use government regulation to distort the market and limit competition. As proponents of limited government, we call upon fiscal conservatives to stand against these perverse ploys and demand real economic freedom for all citizens.

Considering that Columbia has the lowest unemployment rate in Missouri, was recently voted the hardest working town in America, and is likely the best place to live in Missouri – if not the entire Midwest – declaring large portions of our city blighted is nothing short of fraud.

Anyone interested in volunteering to collect the small number of signatures required to force a recall vote or interested in running to replace a recalled council member should send contact information to kcf@keepcolumbiafree.com or call 573.808.4770.

For more information please visit www.KeepColumbiaFree.com, email kcf@KeepColumbiaFree.com, or call Mark Flakne at 573.808.4770, Abhi Sivasailam at 636.675.2917, or Mitch Richards at 573.777.2306.

For background info, please read the recent story by Columbia Missourian reporters Hannah Cushman and Madeline O’Leary.

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SB 764 Endorsed by Keep Columbia Free

Senator Kurt Schaefer has proposed some positive enhancements to Missouri Sunshine Law. In its April 18th edition, the Columbia Missourian reported that Schaefer stated, “The bottom line is we need more transparency in quasi-governmental entities.” KCF couldn’t agree more.

The bill would also prevent public bodies from charging exorbitant fees for time spent determining if a record is open or closed. In Columbia, citizens and groups are routinely deterred from accessing public records due to unreasonable charges. Simple email searches with records provided in inexpensive electronic format are often priced at several hundred dollars.

Read the Keep Columbia press release endorsing SB 764 by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

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When Bureaucrats Attack

If you follow Columbia politics you’ll know that, at the behest of REDI, the Columbia City Council recently passed a resolution declaring 60% of Columbia as “blighted” according to state statute. Being passed by resolution instead of ordinance effectively removed all public input from the process. A large, loud opposition quickly arose in opposition to this nefarious blight decree, the criminal process by which it came to fruition, and the tax abatement scheme it precedes which smacks of crony-capitalism. There has been much written here on this Keep Columbia Free blog and on Mike Martin’s Columbia Heartbeat blog.

While it is painfully difficult to discern whether the discussion is driven by simple, immoderate ignorance or planned, overt obfuscation on the part of REDI’s Mike Brooks, Mayor McDavid, City manager Mike Mathes, and City Attorney Fred Boeckmann, there seems to be a problem differentiating between the state statute governing the creation of an EEZ and the state statute defining the blight designation which is a legal prerequisite for forming an EEZ.

City staff, REDI, and members of the EEZ Board continually point out that the EEZ statute does not grant the city extra eminent domain powers and that the size of the original EEZ proposal has been winnowed down to a much smaller area. What they fail to realize is that the original map declaring 60% of Columbia blighted is still in place and is separate from the EEZ map. It is blight and not EEZ that opens the door for the abuse of eminent domain that has plagued many Missouri cities in recent years.  This is important because when the DED or REDI says that the EEZ does not use eminent domain, they are telling the truth. Most voters then look the other way and go back to watching American Idol without exploring the secondary dangers posed by a blight designation.

It is also true that the city can use its eminent domain powers without having declared a property blighted. What City Manager Mike Mathes is referring to when he says that the city can use its eminent domain powers without a blight designation or EEZ is the legitimate use of eminent domain for needed public projects. In these cases, the city must show a legitimate need for the taking of private property. When blight is thrown in the mix, removal of blight becomes a blanket justification for taking property and handing it over to private developers to expand the tax base. That is what we call eminent domain abuse and it stems from blight. It has happened time and time again in MO over the last few decades and is happening today.

Attorney and eminent domain abuse expert Dave Roland,  Director of  The Freedom Center of Missouri, explains how Columbia’s EEZ blight designation can lead to eminent domain abuse in this video.

When you hear… “EEZ’s don’t require eminent domain” or “The City has the power to use eminent domain,” I believe you are hearing open obfuscation. It’s like we are not even having the same conversation yet the media keeps printing and airing these verbal head fakes.

These are important distinctions to understand and share.

This video from a recent City Council meeting demonstrates either the City’s deep misunderstanding of the subject or the City’s desire to openly misinform the public.

 

 

This video brings to light another terribly troubling aspect of our city government. Notice how a paid, un-elected, city bureaucrat, City Manager Mike Mathes, effectively squashes a motion made by Helen Anthony, an elected City Councilperson and representative of we the people, while the Mayor, the rest of the council, and City Attorney Fred Boeckmann (another paid, un-elected city bureaucrat on whom we rely for legal advice) set idly by. 

Are we living under a Mathes Monarchy?

Why are these city staffers given veto power over our elected officials?

Why are bureaucrats, with lucrative salaries funded by our tax dollars, allowed a bully pulpit from which they circumnavigate the sacred democratic process that lies at the heart of our once free society?

When will the citizens of Columbia rise up and take back the reins of government from the corporatist rapscallions who grant themselves personal largess from public funds belonging to the hardworking taxpayers of Columbia?

The time is NOW!

Get involved with CiViC, Citizens InVolved and InVested in Columbia.

Call and email the City Council representatives who can influence this process.

Write letters to the editors of our local newspapers.

Call all media outlets and demand fair coverage of the issues.

Come to tomorrow’s City Council meeting, 4.16.2012 at 7pm, to stand and be counted! 

Speak up and speak out  or enjoy servitude.

 

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The High Price of a Dirty Department

A few days ago at a local holiday party I was introduced to an area law enforcement officer, not an officer of the CPD. I was actually a bit surprised and somewhat flattered when she told me that she reads this blog. After a bit of casual conversation, this officer made the comment that the Columbia Police Department is “dirty — one of the dirtiest departments” she’s encountered in her many years working in law enforcement. After making this statement she made it clear that her comments were strictly off the record.

In fact, she was afraid of the repercussions that would come her way for making such a statement. The good-ol’-boy, fraternal, police union, us v. them atmosphere in law enforcement should be frightening to us all. There are good officers who cannot speak publicly about corruption for fear of losing their career of even their life. Even First Ward City Councilman Fred Schmidt expressed a fear of reprisal from the local police after making statements condemning a recent act of police brutality. (click HERE to skip to  3:10 in this video to hear what Fred has to say about his fear)

 

 



 

It is time that the citizens of Columbia realize the high costs of allowing this canker of cop corruption to continue to fester as it has for the last forty years. 

After then-Officer Rob Sanders’s brutal shoving of detainee Kenneth Baker, the city settled with Mr. Baker for a reported $250,000. But is this really all Mr. Baker received from the city? 

A source very close to the Baker camp told KCF that there is a gag order in place and the settlement was actually $750,000 along with an agreement to drop all pending charges against Baker, including his failure to pay child support which he will presumably now be able to pay with our tax dollars.

So, besides the obvious monetary costs, keeping a violent bully like Rob Sanders on the force for the past 18 years has not only cost we the taxpayers, three quarters of a million dollars, it has allowed a noted, dangerous miscreant, Kenneth Baker, to freely walk the streets among us instead of remaining behind bars where he obviously belongs. Columbia is a more dangerous place, in more ways than one, thanks to Rob Sanders and officers like him.

And Sanders, his wife, his ex-cop buddies, and the CPOA thugs have the gall to condemn Burton for firing Sanders and demand that Sanders be reinstated as an officer. If Sanders wants his job back, he should start by coughing up $750,000. I want my money back!

Sanders should have been fired years ago along with any other officer who thinks and acts like him. Let’s hope that any remaining officers who subscribe to the Sander school of police work have the moral wherewithal to change their ways or face immediate termination by Chief Burton. 

If you are interested in supporting Chief Burton in his battle to reform our police department against the will of the police unions, please sign this petition

 

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Toni and Tony Twist the Truth

Once again, City of Columbia bureaucratic functionaries are playing fast and loose with the truth about Columbia’s red light camera program. The last time Tony St. Romaine was caught spinning statistics in the city’s favor he was merely an Assistant City Manager, but his spin skills have since earned him a promotion to the position of Deputy City Manager. 

Interested readers can read all about the previous false claims HERE  and HERE

In a recently published article in the Columbia Missourian, a new Toni joined the mix — Columbia Public Communications Director Toni Messina. As if fulfilling some sort of homophonic destiny, this bureaucratic Tony/Toni duo teamed up for some dizzying spin in an attempt to explain why the City has opted not to install the previously planned, additional red light cameras.

In the story, Messina and St. Romaine make the argument that the plan for additional cameras was scrapped due to a marked decrease in the number of red light violations and that the the four existing cameras could be credited for the drop due to some sort of magical “spill-over effect.”

That might indicate that the red-light cameras already installed have caused drivers to be cautious throughout the city, St. Romaine said. “I think it’s had a spill-over effect into the rest of Columbia.”

Messina made a similar claim:

“They’re not seeing the type of violations that they had seen earlier. The number of red-light violations has leveled off to a point where it’s looking like they [red light cameras] had the desired effect,” she said

So according to these two, the four red light cameras have worked their Gatso magic and cured Columbians of their dangerous red light running addiction.

But the two disagreed slightly on the influence money made on the decision to abandon the camera expansion plan. Of course, St. Romaine has always claimed that the increased revenue was not important and he stuck to his story.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said that revenue had no bearing on the decision not to install more cameras.

“The reason red-light cameras were put in was to make the public more aware of the potential consequences of running red lights,” he said.

Messina was singing a slightly different tune and admitted that money was a factor. Perhaps she is just a more effective spin doctor. After all, the best lies always contain a little truth.

Messina went on…

“…they had the desired effect,” she said. “When that happens, it generates less revenue and the vendor is affected by that as well.”

I think we all know that the system is all about the money. A silver-tounged salesman comes in from out of town and with a little Harold Hill song and dance, convinces Mayor Shinn — er– Hindman that there’s trouble in River City that only Gatso cameras can fix. Of course, the city loves the plan — they get to add money to the general fund. The City Manager’s office loves the idea because their respective résumés appear more robust as most of the funds are used to add to our already bloated city bureaucracy. And who can argue with the plan? Heck, it has to make us safer. It’s for the children, right?

What these government agents… I mean… city officials have failed to tell us is the real reason red light violations are down in Columbia. It has nothing to do with these silly cameras.

You see, earlier this year MODOT, in an attempt to reduce accidents at intersections governed by stoplights, changed the timing of the lights by adding more time to the yellow portion of the light timing.  And, wouldn’t ya know it, all of Columbia traffic cameras are at intersections governed by MODOT.

We at Keep Columbia Free have always argued that a longer yellow and an all-red pause would do far more to make intersections safer than any camera system could hope to. The problem with simply adjusting the lights instead of installing cameras is that nobody gets rich by merely adjusting the lights.

Now it’s time to get rid of the four remaining red light cameras in this city. Let’s run these Gatso rats out of town once and for all. The cameras were installed with little to no public input and have done nothing but fill the coffers of the corporate giant Gatso and increase our city bureaucracy. We encourage you to write to the city council and demand that these terrible Orwellian red light cameras be removed immediately.

Here are the email addresses for the Mayor, City Council and City Manager.

mayor@gocolumbiamo.com; ward6@gocolumbiamo.com; ward5@gocolumbiamo.com; ward4@gocolumbiamo.com; ward3@gocolumbiamo.com; ward2@gocolumbiamo.com; ward1@gocolumbiamo.com;  CityMan@gocolumbiamo.com

We also encourage you to get behind our efforts to have these cameras banned once and for all. A rough draft of our ballot language can be found HERE. Look for finalized language and a petition soon.

Special thanks to Matt Hay of Wrong On Red for his help with and hard work on this issue!

Mark Flakne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on the CPRB Public Hearing and Work Session

The recent Citizens Police Review Board public hearing and subsequent work session was nothing short of entertaining. Outside of Bill Easley’s cantankerous rant and Marlon Jordan‘s “klan” theatrics, the public hearing was moving. The overwhelming majority of the nearly 80 in attendance, and the 15 or 20 folks who addressed the board in 3 minute increments, were there to ask that the board reject the changes proposed by Chief Burton and the Columbia Police Officers Association. [See our previous blog on the proposed changes] There were a handful of seats occupied by current and former police officers or police volunteers, two of whom addressed the board in support of Chief Burton and the CPOA, but there were no civilians who voiced approval for the ordinance change.

When the public hearing came to a close, after a 30 minute extension, the board’s work session began with an invitation for Chief Burton and CPOA representatives, Eric Dearmont and Ashley Cuttle to take a seat on the stage. Much to the chagrin of the citizens in the crowd, public comment was stifled as these three were given unlimited time to rebut and refute any and all input from the public.

It is important to note that while the Chief is a public employee and an argument could be made for him having a seat in the work session, neither Eric Dearmont nor Ashley Cuttle are public employees and are instead paid employees of the CPOA. The CPOA, while comprised of citizens employed as police officers and attorneys hired to represent them, is not a public entity. It is a private organization, not subject to sunshine laws or official public scrutiny. In reality, the CPOA is no different than any of the other reputable organizations that were in attendance at the hearing and limited to only 3 minutes of input each.

The message sent by allowing the CPOA unlimited and unrebutted input into the proceedings is undeniable. The review board has been labeled as sympathetic to the police since its inception, and allowing the CPOA a bully pulpit at a work session only serves to bolster the label.  The reaction from the crowd in attendance was also undeniable as eruptions of vocal discord periodically interrupted the work sessions with shouts of “bullshit” (disguised as sneezes) and loud demands for public rebuttal to the misleading and outright false claims made by both the Chief and the CPOA.

In an interesting turn, one board member, Susan Smith, who this blogger previously derided as a police stooge, heroically stood her ground against the unencumbered onslaught from Chief Burton and the CPOA, and forcefully repelled the attack with well reasoned arguments. This180 degree about face caused several jaws to drop in the audience. It was a truly pivotal moment as Ms. Smith informed the Chief that it was the City Council and not the CPRB who had already ruled on who might have standing in front of the board so asking for another change would be futile. Not only had the City Council ruled on standing, they had broadened the scope of who can file a complaint after the board suggested it be tightened. Smith made it clear that the board would not be making the same request twice. Ms. Smith went on to point out the many holes in how the Chief described the board’s rulings. Kudos to you, Ms. Smith.

There were two more vocal heroes who piped up during the work session. Betty Wilson continued her stalwart support of the citizenry as she made it clear that she was having none of what the Chief and the CPOA were offering. Even Rose Wibbenmeyer, in her role as city legal council for the board, pointed out why a charter city like Columbia does not need to adhere to State definitions of misconduct and went on to refute several other disingenuous legal arguments made by Eric Dearmont. Rose maintained her professional distance and did not offer an opinion,merely facts.

Even newcomer and former LAPD officer, Roger Dowis, challenged a few of the Chief’s points, seemingly finding his voice on the board. Strangely, many for the other board members spoke only once, or for procedural rules of order, or not at all. 

Enjoy a few videos from the hearing, most of which are courtesy of the amazing folks over at Citizens for Justice.

 

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