When I saw that Senator Kurt Schaefer and Representative Caleb Jones, both darlings of the Republican Party, had endorsed Mark Jones for Columbia City Council, I couldn’t believe it. After all, Jones is a longtime Democrat political operative and a union boss and lobbyist for the NEA teachers union. While there are some liberals with whom I share some ideology, Jones is not one of them.
Of course, I don’t agree with Kurt Schaefer or Caleb Jones all of the time either, but, for some reason, I still expect lawmakers to act on principle, at least some of the time. All this move did is cement the fact that all of the big-money, establishment politicians are playing for the same team regardless of whether they have a D or an R next to their name.
What sort of backroom deal was hatched to get a state senator to wade into the murky waters of local Columbia politics? What sort of strings has Jones pulled to help these two Republicans? Is it because Jones delivered the NEA for Kurt during the last election? Did Kurt sell Columbia down the river for Union support? I guess it says something that even with big name endorsements, big money from both sides of the imaginary aisle, and a flawless campaign, Mark Jones only garnered 16% of the votes cast.
So why are Columbia’s liberals whining that Jones was a spoiler?
With mailers like the one pictured above and the backing of much of Columbia’s powerful development lobby, Mark Jones undoubtedly pulled more votes from Nauser than from Burns. Heck, Burns even had the backing of the local leftist political cabal and money machine, Progressive Political Partners, the group headed by Jeff Chinn that helped make Chris Kelly seemingly unstoppable and won the last 5th Ward contest for Helen Anthony, and still couldn’t edge out Laura Nauser’s grassroots support.
There is no doubt that Jones really thought he was going to pull enough from both sides to win the race. He took the left for granted and went hard after Nauser’s base by riding the Schaefer endorsement like a stolen pony. People who met him at their doors often commented that they knew he was a Democrat but he talked like a Republican. A Tootie spoiler Jones was not.
Hoppy is hoppin’ mad.
But the local Columbia leftists won’t stop spitting sour grapes all over social media. Even liberal icon Barb Hoppe, who – by the way – voted to expand Downtown government surveilance and voted for the EEZ every time until REDI told her not to, got in on the action, chiming in on a post on her hubby Mike Sleadd’s Facebook wall amidst a throng of “Jones was a spoiler” rants.
Councilperson Hoppe writes:
“Sad day for Columbia. Tootie Burns would have won hands down in the 5th Ward election if Mark Jones hadn’t been a spoiler. The weight of future bad city council decisions will be on his egotistical and delusional shoulders- and those who encouraged him -shame on them.”
Here is the complete thread from Sleadd’s Facebook page.
All I can say is “WOW!”
The April elections for the mayor and two ward seats are just around the corner and it looks like they might be fun to watch. Can underdog, populist gentleman Sid Sullivan edge out the smug, favorite incumbent Bob McDavid? Will the pedal powered Brit Ian Thomas serve as the spoiler ruining things for watchdog Weitkemper and usher in a second term for Dudley and his pickup truck? Will the third epic battle between the long-winded internet troll Skala and his arch nemesis Kespohl leave anyone unscathed? Stay tuned!
After viewing Tootie Burns’s new television commercial (above) I was struck by her comments regarding “integrity,” specifically, her own. I contacted, or attempted to contact, the 5th Ward candidates for a comment on the subject of integrity in relation to the City Council Race in the 5th Ward.
I received a written response from Tootie, Laura Nauser gave me a call, and I’ve heard nothing from Mark Jones.
The silence from the Jones camp comes as no surprise since Keep Columbia Free broke a story questioning his integrity – a story that was subsequently picked up by local media outlets. Not only is Jones an NEA union boss and Jefferson City lobbyist, he was fined thousands of dollars and his Democrat campaign committee was fined tens of thousands of dollars for filing false MEC reports and commingling funds. It’s no wonder he doesn’t want to talk about integrity.
Tootie Burns was the first to respond. In her timely, email response, Tootie said…
“Honesty and integrity should be the first qualification for public office. Anyone who knows me knows that I value my integrity more than any association with a party or organization. As the ad said, that really is who I am. To my knowledge, no one has ever questioned my integrity.
I have run a positive campaign focusing on my role as the voice of Fifth Ward neighborhoods. Despite repeated requests for comment about my opponents’ records, I have intentionally chosen instead to talk positively about what I will bring to the Council.”
Since “no one has ever questioned” Tootie’s integrity, I guess I’ll be the first.
Let’s face the facts. Watch her video again. It’s obvious that this video is a veiled attack on Mark Jones. He’s a Jeff City lobbyist who is beholden to special interests and is using this race as a stepping stone to higher office. Not exactly the “positive” message she claims in her email, right?. But that’s only the tip of the integrity iceberg.
In the video, when she gets to the bit about her integrity, I couldn’t help but think that she is responding to an attack on her own integrity. She almost seems defensive. Maybe this was just a “not-so-positive” attack on Mark Jones — or maybe not.
Let’s take a look at the proposed Providence improvements that will affect the Grasslands neighborhood. Mark Jones and Laura Nauser have this one right.
Jones’s mantra regarding Grasslands has been, “We’re looking for a $7 million solution to a $1 million problem.” A polished soundbite from a professional politician who probably has no business delving into local council politics, but true nonetheless. There are plenty of cheaper solution to this problem, solutions that were passed over at the urging of some of the influential residents of the Grasslands neighborhood, including Tootie Burns. More on that later.
Nauser agrees with Jones on this subject, although her experience on the council dealing with road improvements leads her to take a more conservative approach to the actual cost of making the changes to Providence. She concedes that the improvements would at least cost “a couple million dollars,” but should be no where near the current $7,000,000 price tag. That doesn’t make as memorable a soundbite as Jones’s 1 to 7 comparison, but God bless her for keeping it real.
Nauser asks “where is the money?”
“The council has rushed this Grasslands project like they are handing out ice cream cones. This is seven million dollars of tax money being spent on road improvements for the Grasslands. There are several other 5th Ward road projects that could use some of that money. I’m not suggesting that the Stadium improvements are not important, but if the council is handing out ice cream cones, they shouldn’t all go to the Grasslands neighborhood.”
Nauser went on, impressing me with her knowledge of 5th Ward road infrastructure concerns, talking about the problems on Forum at Wilson’s Fitness, Scott Blvd. phases 2 and 3, Nifong and Vawter at Old Mill Creek and Sinclair, and the list goes on.
So why is Tootie tooting for $7,000,000 to be spent on the Grasslands project? Well… she lives there.
She lives there, her in-laws live there and have for years, and Tootie Burns is the longtime board secretary of the Grasslands Neighborhood Association. A good portion of the $7,000,000 – of our hard earned tax dollars – for this project will be spent purchasing Grasslands properties. Some of the property purchased by the government at fair market value (some of the highest in town) belongs to Tootie’s in-laws. Most of the properties slated for purchase and demolition are beautiful old homes that have, much to the chagrin of “some” Grasslands homeowners, been converted to rental properties. Rumor has it that some influential folks in the Grasslands want to be rid of these rental properties and they want the taxpayer to fit the bill.
While Jones mentioned the project several times throughout the forum, Burns did not address Jones’ remarks during the forum. In an interview after the forum, she said she voted in favor of the project when the matter was put before the Grasslands Neighborhood Association, because it could potentially ease congestion at one of the city’s busiest intersections and could improve pedestrian safety along the roadway.
“I don’t want to have a student get killed” trying to cross Providence, Burns said. She said that the second phase of the project could result in a portion of her mother-in-law’s property at the corner of Providence and Stadium being taken for right of way.
So it’s for the children… well… not so much. There is already a stoplight at Rollins and Providence where students can cross in relative safety, although many are too lazy to walk two blocks to use it. It’s not about the safety, it’s about bulldozing beautiful old homes that have fallen into the hands owners who have chosen to rent them to students.
Tootie does admit that the sale of the Niedermeyer should not be stopped because there are no legitimate laws to prevent it, but she certainly laments the loss of this historic building.
From Tootie’s campaign Facebook page:
So what should “our priorities as a City” be regarding the beautiful old homes in the Grasslands neighborhood? What should “our priorities as a City” be regarding dropping $7,000,000 of taxpayer money on a wasteful project at the behest of Tootie and her Grasslands friends instead of funding other road improvements across our city? What should “our priorities as a City” be when spending millions of dollars of other people’s money? Should “our priorities as a City” and SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS of road infrastructure money be directed by single-issue, neighborhood politics?
It seems to me that we need to find someone with integrity to answer these questions. Tootie obviously doesn’t fit the bill.
Here is a much cheaper fix for the left turns out of the Grasslands neighborhood. Build a couple of short streets, one across the Phi Psi lawn to the existing Rollins light and one from the end of Brandon to the existing light at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course. There is no need for a new light. If Providence must be widened, take 5 or 6 feet of lawn from both sides of the road and widen it. $2 million ought to cover that.
Today, Keep Columbia Free uncovered documents that indicate Fifth Ward Columbia City Council candidate Mark Jones may have been involved in some unsavory campaign finance shenanigans during the 2002 election. Candidate Jones is a long-time Democrat political operative and campaign strategist who is currently employed by the National Education Association (NEA), the largest and, arguably, most destructive public-sector labor union in the country. He faces newcomer Tootie Burns and former City Councilwoman Laura Nauser in the February 5th special election to fill the seat vacated by Helen Anthony.
MEC documents indicate that in 2006, Democrat Campaign Committeeman Jones was fined $2500 for his part in the commingling funds among Democrat campaign committees and filing reports for Treasurer Ann Jones.
H2450 Council to Protect Missouri’s Values, et al. The Commission accepted a signed Joint Stipulation of Facts and Waiver of Hearing, Conclusions of Law and issued Consent Orders which require the Council to Protect Missouri’s Values, et al. to pay a fine of $799.85, Respondent Ann Jones to pay a fine of $200.00 and Respondent Mark Jones to pay a fine of $2,500.00 pursuant to Sections 105.961.4(6) and 130.072 RSMo.
$2,500 is a significant fine for an individual so the commission must have felt his actions were egregious. This kind of staggering ethics violation indicates a complete disregard for Missouri’s campaign finance laws.
This news should have all eyes on Jones’s MEC filings for his current campaign committee. If you take a look at his first report, you’ll notice a couple of interesting things. The first is that you have to scroll for quite a while to find a local donor. In fact, the overwhelming bulk of his money comes from out of town and out of state — certainly odd for a city council campaign.
The second item of note is the listing of small donations. The MEC only requires that donation over $100 be itemized. I’ve often seen this tactic used by Missouri Democrats who are being funded primarily by folks outside their own constituency. In order to give the appearance of significant local funding, a candidate will itemize small donations, even $5 and $10 in Jones’s case, which also serves to muddy the water for anyone digging through the report.
You can read Jones’s campaign finance report by clicking HERE.
In a recent Missourian story, Jones indicated that he believes his foreign funding won’t be a turnoff to voters since he has lived and worked in Columbia since graduating from college. This blogger believes just the opposite. If the people who you live and work next to won’t give you money, they probably won’t show up to a special election to vote for you.