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DEF is a non-partisan, independent political blog based in the
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U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill broke the news at a press conference a few minutes ago: Barack Obama will be in St. Louis on Saturday for a 9:00 PM public event (no word yet where). That's just three days before Missouri and 20 other states get a chance to vote on the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Saying his mission as governor has been accomplished, Gov. Matt Blunt made the surprise announcement of the decade today.
"What we set-out to achieve four years ago has been accomplished," said Blunt in a video address.
"Once when asked if he were running for re-election another governor responded, 'Yes, I like being governor.' When I read that I thought at the time that I never wanted to run for any office just to hold it. I did not run for governor to have a title, but to bring change to state government," said Blunt.
"The habit of politicians is to remain in office and the desire to prove oneself in the next election is strong. After a great deal of thought and prayer, and with the knowledge that we have achieved virtually everything I set out to accomplish, and more, I will not seek a second term in the upcoming election. Because I feel we have changed what I wanted to change in the first term there is not the same sense of mission for a second."
Statement by Missouri Republican Party Chairman Doug Russell on Governor Blunt's decision not to seek re-election:
“Governor Blunt has been a remarkable leader that changed Missouri for the better. His conservative policies and values turned our state in a new, hopeful direction. Under his administration, budget deficits were replaced with surpluses, education was restored to its place atop our priority list, children are safer, more Missourians are working and healthcare for low-income Missourians has been transformed so that we are preventing sickness rather than treating illness once it has reached a chronic stage. I wish Governor Blunt, the First Lady and Branch all the happiness in the world as they embark on a new journey when the governor’s term expires. I also appreciate Governor Blunt’s commitment to ensuring the next governor of our state is a Republican who will continue to employ the principles of personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism and limited government so that we can be assured Missouri’s brightest days are ahead.”
Will State Treasurer Sarah Steelman be the new Republican candidate for governor?
She released this video today. Notice the lack of specificity when it comes the office she's running for.
And let's not forget about Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
Democrat Jay Nixon's response:
“My campaign for Governor has always been about moving Missouri forward. I will continue to focus on changing the direction of our state so that more Missourians have access to health care, more Missourians can find good-paying jobs and more Missouri children can get the quality education they deserve.
“I wish Gov. Blunt and his family all the best in the future.”
THIS JUST IN... Kinder is in.
"As Lt. Governor and President Pro Tem I have brought fundamental change to state government. I have served as a change agent my entire career and look forward to continuing my positive leadership. Missourians deserve a strong economy to create new higher paying jobs, a world class education, and affordable and accessible health care. I am the right person to deliver the positive change Missourians deserve. I am heartened by the outpouring of support and I will be formally announce my plans for Governor in the coming weeks."
Ed Martin, who served as Gov. Matt Blunt's chief of staff, has resigned.
The governor announced this afternoon that Martin, a St. Louis resident, had stepped down from the position to "spend more time with his family." He was a key player in the controversy over the administration's retention of e-mails.
Caving to mounting public criticism and still-possible legal ramifications, Gov. Matt Blunt today directed his administration to create a permanent e-mail retention system. Blunt says by doing so he is "setting a higher standard in state government and going well beyond present legal requirements."
The governor said he will act to ensure that anyone using a .gov ("dot gov") e-mail address complies with the higher standard, including all statewide officials.
“I take great pride in my administration’s commitment to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and commitment to accountable and transparent government. Our state has an open records law and we have followed it. But there is confusion in state government about e-mail retention. For example, some state officials who claim to retain all emails in fact do not. That confusion is not acceptable to me. I am directing the Office of Administration to develop a system allowing for the permanent retention of every e-mail throughout all of state government. I expect all elected officials to cooperate with the Office of Administration in establishing this new and higher standard of openness.
“Because retention will be automatic and permanent, state employees will be released from making case-by-case decisions on what to save. All state e-mails will be retained and be open to the public for its inspection, subject only to the limited and well-defined exceptions where legal and privacy concerns apply.
“This standard will prevent what has happened in Attorney General Nixon’s office, where the spokesperson said that e-mails are routinely deleted, and e-mail record requests to the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff are returned with very significant gaps in time.
“I expect every statewide official, members of the legislature, independent agencies, the judicial branch and anyone using a state government e-mail account to retain every e-mail they send and receive. Transparency and accountability should be bipartisan values.”
Governor Blunt has directed the Office of Administration to develop the computer and technical systems required for permanent maintenance of every state government e-mail. He says he expects their plan as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the year.
UPDATE @ 10:36 AM: As expected, Missouri Democrats are unimpressed by Blunt's new appreciation for the importance of government e-mails.
"Missouri law already states clearly that e-mails are public records and must be retained. Matt Blunt is in this mess not because the law isn’t clear, but because he clearly isn’t following the law," said Jack Cardetti, Missouri Democratic Party spokesman. "It’s a sad day when the only person in state government that refuses to acknowledge this law exists is Gov. Blunt."
"The other troubling part of the governor’s announcement is that it only regulates government email addresses," said Cardetti. "The governor's office has admitted that Gov. Blunt and his senior staff use political email addresses to discuss state business, thereby, evading the sunshine and record retention law. It would appear that the governor’s new retention system applies to everyone in state government except for his office."
Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan will see some familiar faces in court again tomorrow. The St. Louis Board of Education and the Special Administrative Board (SAB) of St. Louis Public Schools will be heading back to Callahan's court as the SAB seeks to pry some of the last remaining power from elected board's hand.
According to a district source, the SAB is asking the court to order the elected board to turn over all files relating to legal cases in which the BOE is currently involved — all those, that is, except legal docs relating to the ongoing case against the SAB, of course.
PubDef.net has learned that State Senator Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) was issued a summons last night after trying to entering the Isle of Capri Casino in Booneville using someone else's identification player's card.
According to a sources at the Missouri Gaming Commission, at 11:45 p.m. last night, Smith was cited for presenting false identification to enter a gambling boat, a Class B misdemeanor.
UPDATE: Smith tells PubDef that he and a group of state legislators had taken a guided tour of the casino that evening, learning about the economic impact on the City of Booneville. After the tour, the group decided to head back into the casino for a little recreation when Smith, who had hitched a ride, realized he left his drivers license in Jefferson City.
Smith said an Isle of Capri employee gave him someone else's player card to allow him to enter the casino. Soon after, a gaming officer tapped Smith on the shoulder and asked him to follow him. The officer ticketed Smith and escorted him from the casino.
"It was a case of lapse in judgement," Smith told PubDef. "It won't happen again."
The St. Louis senator says he plans to pay his fine and never leave home without his ID again.
After quickly spreading like wildfire, first on independent blogs, then newspaper blogs, then to TV, all that remains for the rumor of Republican State Senator Chris Koster's crossover to the Democratic Party to become fact is... well, a press conference.
How about three press conferences in three parts of the state?
At 9:00 this morning, Koster will make a "major political announcement" at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Then at 11:30, Koster will make either the same "major political announcement" or an even bigger one (like he's converting to Islam or joining the NAACP) outside the Cass County Justice Center in Harrisonville.
And last but (hopefully) not least, at 3:30 this afternoon, the Chris Koster Show comes to St. Louis as the by-then-Democratic State Senator makes his "major political announcement" in front of his high school alma mater, Saint Louis University High School, 4970 Oakland Ave.
In the meantime, Democrats around the state are already taking shots at their soon-to-be newest member.
This flier was emailed to us this morning. It outlines some of the controversial legislation that Koster supported as a Republican. The disclaimer at the bottom says it was paid for by the Boone County Democratic Central Committee.
UPDATE @ 9:55 AM: The following is a statement from Jared Craighead, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, on Koster's decision to "abandon" the Republican Party:
"Republicans are surprised that Senator Koster who has championed so many Republican causes, participated in leadership of the Senate Republican Caucus and served as a member of the Republican State Committee would decide suddenly that he is a Democrat. Chris is a personal friend of mine but I fear he has blinded himself with his desire for higher office and the hollow promises of Jay Nixon’s political machine rather than keeping his commitment to the constituents who elected him to represent them.
I expect that Chris will resign from the Senate immediately and stand for election as a Democrat in a special election so that the people of the 31st Senatorial District have an opportunity to decide whether they want him representing them now that he has totally reversed his positions on important issues like gay marriage, Second Amendment rights and Medicaid reform.
If I had to guess, Chris will likely quote Winston Churchill to describe his decision saying, 'some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others change their principles for the sake of the party.' But I would remind Chris that Churchill also remarked on the occasion of a party switch that it was the only instance he could recall of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship – that sentiment seems particularly applicable in this case.
Simply stated, Chris has done the political calculus and does not believe he can win a Republican primary and does not believe that Jeff Harris is a formidable opponent."
A source tells PubDef that Gov. Matt Blunt is going to veto HB 327, the contoversial bill containing a $100 million land assemblage tax credit, within the hour.
UPDATE: It's done. Here's the press release...
Blunt Vetoes Giant Bill Packed with Excess Spending
Governor Says Good Wages, Health Care Are Quality Jobs ‘Musts’
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt today vetoed tax-credit legislation that came to his desk loaded down with excessive spending, including incentives for businesses that fail to pay average or above-average wages and fail to provide employees with health coverage.
In vetoing House Bill 327, the Governor said he is prepared to summon a special legislative session if legislative leaders are willing to pass a more restrained bill that will achieve the good objectives of this legislation such as expanding the successful Quality Jobs program - while setting aside special projects and excessive spending items.
The vetoed bill would have spent an estimated $200 million in excess of Quality Jobs reauthorization, and there were unknown expenses associated with the legislation that could cost Missourians even more. The legislation drew Blunt’s veto after growing large and expensive with a laundry list of projects that included creation of an “eminent domain train,” tax breaks for “phantom flights” to Europe and a provision that would harm many existing Missouri employers by putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
“There are important initiatives in the bill,” Blunt said. “The Quality Jobs Act we created in 2005 has helped Missourians create more than 94,000 new jobs since 2005. Ultimately, however, it became loaded with excessive spending that simply does not benefit the average Missouri taxpayer. There is no difference between spending taxpayer dollars by appropriations and spending them by tax credits. Each should meet the same test of fiscal responsibility.”
“I am committed to signing a fiscally responsible expansion of Quality Jobs, Enhanced Enterprise Zones and the New Market Tax Credits. The savings from a sounder bill will benefit the state for decades to come,” Blunt added.
Among the sections identified as problems by the governor:
Jobs and Health Care
Of greatest concern to the governor, the vetoed bill allowed Quality Jobs tax incentives to go to businesses that pay employees less than the average county wage and, more significantly, do not offer health care coverage to their employees. Governor Blunt created the Quality Jobs Act to help generate new family-supporting jobs with good pay levels and health coverage, but the vetoed legislation would have provided the same benefits to businesses that pay lower wages and do not offer health care.
“I will insist that job-creating incentives be provided to employers who pay at least average wages and provide health coverage,” Blunt said.
Eminent Domain Trains
Another part of the bill sought to provide eminent domain power at the behest of a Colorado company that is seeking rail tracks and other property to run “historic rail cars” as excursion entertainment.
Blunt had three objections to the provision. First, it provided a public bounty for dinner theater trains, an activity that offers, at most, the very smallest of effects on the economy. Second, it could complicate the governor’s plan to expand the Katy Trail on the Rock Island rail corridor. Third, Blunt said the state must not slide down “the slippery slope” of piecemeal awards of the power to take private property against an owner’s wish. Last year, Blunt signed into law on the nation’s strongest safeguards for private ownership, which was endangered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s pro-taking decision in Kelo versus New London, Conn.
Blunt said, “We must not extend the power of eminent domain at the very time we have been successfully restricting it.”
Phantom Flights to Europe
Blunt said transportation infrastructure improvements would have suffered from a new aviation fuel tax exemption offered for non-existent, future international flights that originate in Missouri and cross an ocean. The Missouri Department of Transportation opposed the provision and said transportation improvement would lose $400,000 in revenue.
Blunt said, “At present, no transoceanic flights originate in Missouri. Of additional concern, as written, it is possible that airlines could claim the exemptions for flights that merely connect with trans-ocean flights in U.S. cities in other states.”
Hurting Established Employers
The governor also expressed concern with a change in state tax laws that could cause established Missouri employers, particularly distribution companies, to operate at a competitive disadvantage. House Bill 327 would give tax breaks to new distribution companies, while denying the benefit to existing businesses.
“We have established a new economic climate that allows innovative Missourians to more easily create new jobs and quality jobs in high numbers, attracts new businesses, and strengthens established employers,” Blunt said. “The new direction in our economy relies on the enterprising spirit of the people and the Missouri work ethic. New state policies are supporting and empowering this growth by balancing a budget that was $1 billion in the red when I became governor, by establishing clear incentives for high-quality, family-supporting jobs with health care coverage, and by protecting our small business owners and large employers from the long-ignored threats of frivolous lawsuits and other regulatory burdens.”
Since taking office Blunt has made it priority to restore balance to the state’s budget. Overcoming an inherited $1 billion deficit he was able to balance the state’s budget, make important investments in Missouri’s future and secure $200 million for priorities like education and health care in future fiscal years.
The governor signed budgets that include more than $675 million in education aid to benefit Missouri students of all ages including more than half a billion dollars for K-12 education. His Lewis & Clark Discovery Initiative generates an additional $335 million to strengthen Missouri’s colleges and universities. Blunt secured these significant increases without a single penny of job killing new taxes.
The governor has helped create a jobs climate that has enabled Missouri employers to create more than 94,000 new jobs since January 2005.
UPDATE 2:A second press release...
What Missourians are Saying About Gov. Blunt’s Veto of House Bill 327
The following Missourians today voiced their support for the governor’s veto of House Bill 327:
“We appreciate the Governor’s careful consideration of House Bill 327 and recognize the difficult decision he had to make on this legislation. We also support his call for a special legislative session to address the Quality Jobs program and Enhanced Enterprise Zones. These are core economic development programs, which must be expanded in order for our state to create jobs and encourage growth.” Jim Anderson President, Springfield Chamber of Commerce
“The governor was right to veto House Bill 327. Time and again legislators are told by special interest lobbyists that if only their particular industry could be granted an exemption from state taxes that will produce economic growth, but they never discuss how these giveaways hurt Missouri taxpayers. This legislation was packed with special interest projects and excessive spending that would have taken Missouri in the wrong direction. I applaud Governor Blunt for protecting Missouri taxpayers by using his veto pen to stop House Bill 327 from becoming law.” Matt Bartle State Senator, District 8
“I was concerned all along that the good in the bill was not enough to out weigh the concerns in other provisions. I know this was not an easy decision but the Governor made the right decision.” Ed Emery State Representative, District 126
“I supported the Governor’s priorities in this bill (Quality Jobs and Enhanced Enterprise Zones), as well as the Land Assemblage provision. It is a shame that these important economic development enhancements had to be lost due to unrelated, costly amendments. I hope the general assembly will be able to enact these three provisions quickly.” Chuck Gross Former State Senator and Budget Chairman
“This legislation would have put Cape Girardeau County into a conflict of over $500,000 for county revenue. We cannot afford this amount of reduction from our budget, if it is withheld. Gerald Jones Presiding Commissioner, Cape Girardeau County
“I agree with Governor Blunt’s decision to veto House Bill 327. There were an awful lot of good things in this bill but when you add up the plusses and the minuses the minuses far outweighed the good.” Charlie Kruse President, Missouri Farm Bureau
“I applaud Gov Blunt for giving the General Assembly a second chance to craft sound public policy that continues to facilitate job growth and economic development while practicing responsible stewardship of the people’s money and ensuring Missouri’s healthy and solid financial foundation.” Brad Lager State Senator, District 12
“I support Governor Blunt’s veto of House Bill 327. In my opinion, the bill’s negative ramifications far outweigh its positive characteristics. The uncertain fiscal impact on the state is a cause of great concern, as is the unilateral exemption of certain products and materials from sales and use taxes at the local level. Quality Jobs is an extremely important economic development tool. I urge the General Assembly to pass a clean, stand-alone bill to allow Quality Jobs to be workable and successful.” Ken McClure Gov. Blunt’s former Chief of Staff and A former head of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee Staff
“Brick and mortar retailers across the state who have to compete with foreign competitors appreciate the governor’s veto of House Bill 327, and by this action keeping the playing field level for Missouri businesses.” David Overfelt President, Missouri Retailers Association
“House Bill 327 would have had a dramatic negative impact on funding for highways and bridges in Missouri. By vetoing this bill, Governor Blunt is showing a strong commitment to transportation in our state, which means fewer fatalities on our roadways and greater economic opportunities for our citizens. I know the governor had to make a difficult decision, but it was the right decision. I thank him for his outstanding leadership on this issue and for safeguarding our critical transportation system.” Pete Rahn Director, Missouri Department of Transportation
“Governor Blunt’s veto of House Bill 327 is an example of true leadership. While House Bill 327 contains a great number of good economic development tools including some of my own amendments, the final bill missed a very important step – the conference committee. By vetoing 327, the legislature can come back with the good ideas and discard those we cannot afford.” Delbert Scott State Senator, District 28
“House Bill 327 gets in the way of keeping Missouri on a pro-growth path.” Rex Sinquefield President, Show-Me Institute
Governor Matt Blunt Office of the Governor Room 216, State Capitol Building Jefferson City, Missouri 65101
As Alderwoman of the 5th Ward of the City of St. Louis, I write this letter requesting your humble consideration to please veto HB 991 "Land Assemblage Tax Credit Act" pertaining to the "Project" as described in the media, targeted primarily for the 5th Ward of the City of St. Louis.
My concern from the beginning is there must be community input on this major economic development. Residents, Business Owners, and other stakeholders of the 5th Ward that I represent deserve nothing less and they all are citizens of the State of Missouri.
Please feel free to call me if there is further understanding of this matter required at (314) 941-0186. Thanking you in advance for your consideration and support.
April Ford-Griffin Alderwoman, 5th Ward City of St. Louis
A group of SLPS students disrupted the meeting of the State Board of Education moments ago with chants of "no takeover!" The Board went into temporary recess while order was restored.
Capitol Police officers were attempting to restore order when they got into a confrontation with one student in particular. The young man darted from the room and was chased through the Harry S. Truman State Building before being caught and maced outside of the building.
An angry crowd gathered around and followed the officers as they handcuffed and dragged the boy into the lower levels of the building.
Check back later for video... Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless
COLEMAN INTRODUCES BILL TO ELIMINATE NEW "TRANSITIONAL" SCHOOL BOARD
By Antonio D. French
Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 12:35 PM
BREAKING NEWS-- READ IT HERE FIRST!
State Sen. Maida Coleman today introduced a bill (Senate Bill 551) to eliminate the "transitional" three-person, politically-appointed board approved last week to run St. Louis Public Schools. Here is a statement from her office:
"Today, I introduced a bill that would abolish the Transition Board, an entity poised to administrate the St. Louis Public Schools. I cannot in good conscious allow the State Board of Education to install a Transition Board that would effectively eliminate the representative democracy enjoyed by other school districts around Missouri.
"Furthermore, I am alarmed at the apparent moving target the State Board of Education has been using to determine if the St. Louis Public Schools should lose its provisional accreditation. It appears the State Board is predisposed to installing a Transition Board. It also seems that when the school district’s data would support continued provisional accreditation, the State Board is seeking additional data that would jeopardize the district’s status.
"Finally, the State Board’s remedy will be no panacea for the ills of the St. Louis Public Schools. In fact, the installment of the Transition Board is a dangerous precedent that could result in the degrading of our schools in St. Louis and around the state."
Sources close to the situation say that in a few minutes the State Board of Education will indeed put in place a "transitional board" to run St. Louis Public Schools with the three members (selected by the Governor, the Mayor, and the Aldermanic President) to be announced in 30 days.
Brandon Davis, former political director for Senator Claire McCaskill, has been hired to serve in the same position for the SEIU MO/KS State Council. Davis had for weeks been lobbying to become the new executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party.
It had been rumored that former Gov. Roger Wilson's sudden departure as chairman of the Party stemmed from his strong objection to hiring Davis.
The press release:
"We are thrilled to have Brandon part of our political program," said Sherwin Carroll, President of the SEIU MO/KS State Council. "Our union and our members understand the need to have a strong political program and plan, and Brandon can help us build that."
Mr. Davis most recently worked for the Claire McCaskill Senate campaign as Political Director and played a key role in her successful election.
"Brandon will be joining SEIU State Council Executive Director Lenny Jones, giving us a powerful team as we move into the next election cycle," said Mr. Carroll.
SEIU played a major role in passing Proposition B, which raised the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour. Besides monetary contributions to the effort, Lenny Jones was the campaign manager and SEIU staff Sara Howard was communications director. An additional 35 members worked full time on the campaign in the final nine weeks.
SEIU is the fastest growing union in the country, and one of the nation's most influential political operations. In Missouri, SEIU represents thousands of janitors, nursing home workers, factory workers, municipal, state, and school workers.
Comptroller Darlene Green, nor Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury, would second Mayor Francis Slay's motion today to approve the lease agreement that would have allowed BJC Hospital to expand into a small portion of Forest Park on which it already operates a parking garage.
Green and Shrewsbury's silence came just minutes ago at a morning meeting of the three-member Board of Estimate and Apportionment.
Sources tell PubDef that the director of the city's health department has resigned four weeks after reportedly making racial jokes and using slurs in a meeting.
Dr. William L. Kincaid came under fire this morning on the "Wake Up Call" radio show when host Lizz Brown and guest Irene J. Smith reported that Kincaid, who is white, said that "the only people that drink Kool-Aid are niggers..."
The incident reportedly happened nearly a month ago and was apparently verified by the office of Mayor Francis Slay. Brown and Smith said they were appalled to hear that the mayor thought the incident only warranted a one-week suspension and not termination.
Brown asked her listeners to call the mayor's office to demand Kincaid's firing. She tells PubDef that her loyal listeners did indeed flood Slay's office today with calls demanding he take the incident more seriously. Hours later came word of Kincaid's resignation.
PubDef has also learned that members of the Aldermanic Black Caucus had also begun organizing to demand Kincaid be fired.
We got a tip this afternoon that Roger Wilson, the chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, had resigned today at a meeting of party officials in Jefferson City. We called State Committeewoman Mattie Moore to confirm, but she said it was not so. But apparently it is.
One possible reason for Wilson's departure is the controversy surrounding who will be the next executive director of the party. The state's highest ranking Democrat, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, has committed to having an African-American fill the post. Word is Wilson as well as Attorney General Jay Nixon (next year's Democratic candidate for governor) also agreed to a black E.D. But who?
Brandon Davis, McCaskill's former deputy campaign manager political director, interviewed for the job and has been lobbying officials for weeks. But word is that Wilson told Black Caucus members this week "no way" on Davis.
Readers may remember that McCaskill was instrumental in Wilson getting the chairman's seat after her defeat of former Gov. Bob Holden in the 2004 Democratic primary. If McCaskill wants Davis, who is Wilson to say no, some may wonder.
Meanwhile, sources say another African-American candidate, recommended by Kansas City State Rep. Mike Talboy, interviewed for the post. Marlin Marshall is said to have the support of Nixon. And Wilson, we're told, was more supportive of him than Davis.
Just how much this subplot played in Wilson's sudden departure remains unclear.
School Board to Meet to Protect the District from O'Brien's "Sabotage"
By Antonio D. French
READ IT HERE FIRST
Another special school board meeting has been called, this time to bypass what many call the ongoing "sabotage" of the district by three board members led by Board President Veronica O'Brien.
The meeting, scheduled for Monday, January 29, was called by Board Secretary Flint Fowler with the support of board members Bill Purdy, Peter Downs and Donna Jones. The only item on the open session agenda is a resolution authorizing Fowler, as secretary, to replace the board president as authorized signatory to all contracts approved by the Board and reviewed by legal counsel.
The issue, according to a district source, is the growing frustration with O'Brien who refuses to sign off on many of the contracts which the Board has voted to approve. According to the source, some unsigned contracts -- which include boiler repair contracts, moving contracts, and others -- go as far back as late summer.
"Venders cannot be paid and functions of the district are stopped," the source said.
He said the school district recently ended up paying approximately $60.00 per day in storage fees because O'Brien would not sign a moving contract which had already been approved by vote of the board.
O'Brien, along with board members Bob Archibald and Ron Jackson, supports a state takeover of the district.
Many would say that O'Brien's recent behavior, including trying to abruptly fire the superintendent and allegedly ordering expensive computers and iPods on the board credit card for her children's personal use, have passed the legal threshold to ask a judge to remove her from the board. But they fear who Mayor Francis Slay, who first appointed O'Brien to the board in 2004 and now also supports a state takeover, would appoint in her place.
Under the proposed takeover plan, Slay would again get to appoint a member to the newly created three-person board. The governor would appoint the primary member of the body with the President of the Board of Aldermen making the third appointment.
The posted agenda to Monday's special meeting is as follows:
The Saint Louis Board of Education will hold a Special Board Meeting Monday, January 29, 2007 at The Administrative Building located at 801 N. 11th Street in the Foundation Room. The Special Board Meeting will begin with a motion to go into executive session at 5:30 p.m. The Executive Session is closed to the public pursuant to RSMO §610-021 (3). The Special Board Meeting will resume in open session immediately following the executive session and is open to the public. This notice is posted in compliance with RSMO §610.020. The agenda is as follows:
SPECIAL BOARD MEETING AGENDA
EXECUTIVE SESSION AGENDA
1. Call to Order 2. Roll Call 3. Motion to go into Closed Session 4. Human Resources Transaction Report 5. Adjournment
OPEN SESSION AGENDA
1. Call to Order 2. Roll Call 3. Resolution authorizing the Secretary to sign all contracts approved by the Board and reviewed by legal counsel. 4. Adjournment
Last night the issue of race finally came to the forefront of the race for President of the Board of Aldermen.
At a 24th Ward endorsement meeting attended by both incumbent Jim Shrewsbury and challenger Lewis Reed, ward organization president John Corbett asked the candidates about race.
"It seems to me, along with all the crime, the schools and the tax base, the number one problem we really have is racial polarization," said Corbett. He asked what practical ideas the candidates have to address this issue.
Shrewsbury told the southside organization's all-white membership that as Board President he has balanced the aldermanic committees racially and has good relationships with the city's comptroller and fire chief, both of whom are black.
Reed, who is seeking to become the first African-American to unseat a white citywide elected official since Freeman Bosley, Jr. defeated Circuit Clerk Joe Roddy, Sr. in 1982, said that the city's political leadership should lead by example.
He challenged Shrewsbury not to use race baiting in his campaign, which he charged has already occured through the use of "push polling" and a whisper campaign to make Reed's interracial marriage an issue.
Shrewsbury denied paying for a "push poll" which was reported by the Arch City Chronicle in December to include at least two questions about Reed's race.
"I have not done that, I've never done it, and I never will do it," he said.
A source in the Capitol tells Pub Def to look for Gov. Matt Blunt to mention in his State of the State address Wednesday a change to the state's HealthNet program (formerly Medicaid) that will include Sickle Cell disease in its Chronic Care Improvement Program.
Sickle Cell almost exclusively affects blacks. An estimated 70,000 Americans have the disease, and about 10% of African-Americans have sickle cell trait. In 2003, former Senator Jim Talent sponsored the Sickle Cell Treatment Act which increased federal funding for treatment and research efforts.
Archibald and Jackson File, So Does Monroe [Updated x2]
By Antonio D. French
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 1:30 PM
BREAKING NEWS - READ IT HERE FIRST
Today is the final day for candidates to file to run in the important April school board election and it appears that school board members Ron Jackson and Robert Archibald will be filing for re-election.
Both Archibald and Jackson have called for a state takeover of the district and recently voted, along with controversial Board president Veronica O'Brien, to dismiss Superintendent Diana Bourisaw.
UPDATE @ 1:50: Sources confirm that they have filed. And another candidate also filed earlier today. We don't have his or her name yet, but that would make a total of nine candidates in the race so far.
UDATE 2 @ 2:45: Make that 10 candidates. Mr. Douglas Petty is filing right now and Bill Monroe, formerly of Thurgood Marshall Charter School, was the candidate who filed earlier this morning.
As tensions remain high between police and many of the city's youth over the shooting of 14-year-old Jeremy Robinson, the alderman of the ward where the shooting took place tells Pub Def that the F.B.I. will be launching its own investigation into the matter.
Alderman Jeffrey Boyd says that after several conversations with Police Chief Joe Mokwa and Police Board Chairman Chris Goodson, the Department has agreed to an independent F.B.I. investigation, while also conducting their own investigation of the shooting.
There are numerous different accounts of what happened Friday, December 29, in the 5500 block of Greer Avenue.
According to Mokwa, Robinson, an eighth-grader at Turner Middle School and a relative of 1st Ward Alderman Charles Q. Troupe, was a passenger in a rented pickup truck speeding through a residential neighborhood. He said the driver of the truck forced an unmarked patrol car on a sidewalk to avoid being hit. Police then began pursuing the truck, which soon crashed into a tree.
According to the police, after the crash, an officer approached the wrecked pickup as Robinson and the driver began to run. Robinson fell to the ground and pointed a .45-caliber pistol at the officer, Mokwa told the AP. He said the officer ordered Robinson to drop the weapon and then fired, killing him.
But some witnesses tell a different story.
Andre Jones, who lives two houses from the shooting site and heard the gunfire, told the AP, "I never heard them yell 'police' or 'stop.' It sounded like they just got out and mowed down the kid."
Neighbors told Channel 5 News that police ordered Robinson to the ground and shot him twice before planting a gun on his body, then shooting him four more times while on the ground.
There are also reports of officers using racial slurs over police radios when requesting backup at the shooting.
"Right now the community is really upset and concerned and there is a lot of mistrust as it relates to the police," Boyd told Pub Def. "I think there needs to be some transparency in this investigation."
"The FBI is a federal agency that is independent of the St. Louis Police Department so they will have no reason to cover anything up," said the alderman.
Boyd said the F.B.I. investigation will start immediately with Special Agent Roland Corvington leading.
At the same time, the police investigation remains ongoing with the officer who shot Robinson remaining on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, which is standard procedure in such cases.
Click here to download Boyd's letter to Chief Mokwa.
Senator-Elect Jeff Smith's Statement on Gubernatorial Appointee Donayle Whitmore-Smith:
Donayle Whitmore-Smith is a leader of courage and action. She has dedicated the last decade of her life to improving urban education by founding the Ptah Academy in St. Louis and attempting to provide additional educational options to children across the state. As an educator, an activist, and a parent, she has much to be proud of.
That said, she is not an appropriate candidate for the State Board of Education.
The State Board is the steward for Missouri's public schools. As such, its members should possess a breadth and depth of experience in public education and/or a background as strong advocates for public schools. Given Ms. Whitmore-Smith's lack of experience as a public school teacher, administrator, or advocate – and the fact that she has spent much of her adult life promoting private educational options – I am concerned about her ability to focus on improving our public schools. At a time when the St. Louis Public Schools are on the verge of losing accreditation and falling under the purview of the State, all members of the State Board must concentrate on the task at hand.
Equally troubling was Ms. Whitmore-Smith's noncommittal response to my question about the relative merits of teaching creation vs. evolution in public school science classes. In order to train a workforce that will help Missouri become a biotechnology hub, our schools must teach modern science and ensure that religious doctrine remains in appropriate venues.
It should be noted, as the co-founder of a group of public charter schools, I have advocated some of the very alternative educational options that Ms. Whitmore-Smith has supported. I neither retract my advocacy nor disparage hers. In fact, I appreciate her energy and her work. While I have not always agreed with Ms. Whitmore-Smith's policy prescriptions, she has been a passionate advocate for her cause and fresh voices like hers should be welcomed.
I have truly appreciated the input of thousands of Missourians while evaluating this nominee. Lamentably, however, some on both sides have succumbed to histrionics and demagoguery. Ms. Whitmore-Smith is not out to eviscerate public education; conversely, voucher opponents are not out to trap poor children in failing schools. And the abysmal outcomes of St. Louis public schools are not solely the result of bureaucratic dysfunction but, more broadly, the consequence of decades of segregation, benign neglect, and middle-class flight.
For the sake of our children and our state's economic future, we must move past petty political bickering to come together and find practical solutions to these problems. That means considering open enrollment policies so that children can choose any public school in a district, lateral certification opportunities for trained scientists, mathematicians, and linguists to ease the shortages of qualified teachers in their subject areas, continuation of St. Louis's voluntary transfer program, and expansion of innovative charter schools [such as the Knowledge is Power (KIPP) model] that provide increased choice within the public school framework while remaining accountable to the State Board.
Finally, I wish Ms. Whitmore-Smith the very best in her future endeavors. I hope we have opportunities to find common ground and work together on some of the above initiatives. And I hope that, in keeping with tradition and the historical mission of the State Board, Governor Blunt's future nominees have more extensive experience in public education.
In New Book, Newly Re-Elected Judge Attacks the "Tyranny of Tolerance"
By Antonio D. French
Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 2:51 PM
PUB DEF EXCLUSIVE
A new book by Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr. is sure to make some waves in the new year.
In "The Tyranny of Tolerance", which goes on sale December 26, Judge Dierker examines why a Christian is fired when he voices opposition to his employer's favoring homosexuals? Why are white and Asian students denied admission to colleges and universities in the name of "diversity"? And why does a judge who defends a monument to the Ten Commandments in a courthouse lose his job?
According to his publisher's website, "Even those outraged by America’s courts will be shocked by Judge Dierker’s story of activist judges, deep-pocketed special interest groups, pandering politicians, and others who claim to stand for tolerance, equal rights, and social justice, but actually stand for something quite different—something closer to totalitarianism."
"Judge Dierker shows how we can defeat the radical liberals’ tyranny of tolerance. By wresting back control of the courts and restoring the legal, moral, and religious principles embedded in the Constitution, we can ultimately reclaim the republic the Founders bequeathed to us."
Funny how this book wasn't released before Dierker was re-elected last month by nearly 70% of the vote in this "liberal", Democrat-leaning city.
The rematch we all expected is indeed occuring. Former Ald. Jay Ozier has filed today to run against Ald. Jeffrey Boyd.
Ozier, a close ally of another former 22nd Ward alderman, Kenny Jones, was at polls last month passing out fliers announcing his candidacy. Click here to see it.
Ozier and Jones attempted to recall Boyd in 2005, but their petition fell short of the required number of signatures after the election officials discovered numerous invalid signatures -- including those of deceased voters.
The case was referred to Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce's office months ago, but no one has been charged with any crime yet.
CNN is reporting that President Bush will announce today that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down.
UPDATE: U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement on the resignation of Rumsfeld:
"Last night, the American people sent an overwhelming message to Washington that it's time to change our failed course in Iraq, and today's resignation of Donald Rumsfeld is a belated step in the right direction," said Obama.
"But to truly end the ideological mismanagement of this war, we must replace not just a person, but a strategy, and that will take the work of both Democrats and Republicans finding common ground and common solutions in the weeks to come."
The Missouri Supreme Court just issued its voter ID decision. In a 6-1 opinion, the Court affirmed the decision of the trial court striking down the law. Only Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. (cousin to Rush Limbaugh) dissented.
From the Court's decision:
"The Missouri Constitution provides a specific provision that enshrines the right to vote among certain enumerated constitutional rights of its citizens... SB 1014's Photo-ID Requirement creates a heavy burden on the right to vote and is not narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest, so it falls afoul of the Missouri Constitution's equal protection clause... and of Missourians' specific constitutional protection of the right to vote... For these reasons, the trial court judgment is affirmed."
From Judge Limbaugh's dissenting opinion:
"Although the majority agrees that there is some evidence of voter fraud at the voter registration stage, they discount that evidence as if it had no connection with fraud at the polling place. But why else does voter registration fraud occur if not to vote persons fraudulently registered?"
"And if, as in the DOJ report, there are more voters registered to vote than persons eligible to vote, the requirement to present a photo ID will at least eliminate those who attempt to vote in the place of others and those who attempt to vote more than once."
"It must be said, too, that even if there were no substantial evidence of existing voter impersonation fraud, legislatures are permitted to respond to the potential for such fraud, and they may do so 'with foresight' rather than 'reactively'... In any event, as the Carter-Baker Commission recently concluded, 'there is no doubt that [in-person voter fraud] occurs' and that such fraud 'could offset the outcome of close elections.'"
Click here to read the both opinions in their entirety.
Related Video... At a recent neighborhood meeting in south St. Louis, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold the lower court's ruling that the law was indeed Unconstitutional.
The Missouri Supreme Court issued a ruling today allowing the proposal which seeks to raise the state's tobacco tax more than 400% to pay for health services to stay on the November ballot.
In a unanimous decision the court ruled that the reasons given by local election authorities for not allowing more than 1,000 valid signatures onto the petition were not good enough to prevent its certification.
"Although the implementing statutes are required to be followed, failure to adhere to mere technical formalities should not deny the people the power to propose changes to our laws or amendments to our constitution," said the ruling.
"Substantial compliance with the implementing statutes is all that is required."
Pub Def has learned that a bomb threat resulted in at least one downtown courthouse being evacuated this morning.
We are told police received the threat by telephone and evacuated the City Courts building, 1430 Olive, first before marshals at the Carnahan Municipal Courthouse stopped all incoming traffic and searched that building.
Soon after, they issued an "all clear" and have allowed people to again enter Carnahan. We are in route to City Courts. Stay tuned...
UPDATE: Officials at the City Courts directed us to Ed Rhode, spokesman for the Mayor's Office. Rhode said he was waiting to hear back from the police department before commenting. As of 7:40 p.m. he still had not commented.
Judge Strikes Down Voter ID Law [Updated x3 with Video]
By Antonio D. French
Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 5:16 PM
A judge has just struck down Missouri's law requiring voters to present a photo ID before they can cast a ballot. A restraining order has been issued preventing the Secretary of State's office from implementing the requirement.
UPDATE: Circuit Court Judge Richard G. Callahan today ruled the Missouri Voter Protection Act Unconstitutional, saying it "constitutes an impermissible additional qualification to vote in violation of Article VIII, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution."
Callahan also said it represented an "undue burden to the fundamental right to vote," it violated the prohibition on interference with the "free exercise of the right of suffrage" and the requirement that "all elections shall be free and open", and by requiring payment of money to vote, it violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the state constitution.
A statement from the Secretary of State's office is expected soon. And check back later for an interview we did earlier today -- before the ruling -- with the new chair of the St. Louis City Board of Elections, Kimberley J. Mathis. We talked briefly about the photo ID law.
A Circuit Court judge has upheld School Board member Bill Purdy's right to sit on the board. Purdy was being sued by two fellow board members, Flint Fowler and Ron Jackson, and 47 other citizens, including fired Vashon basketball coach Floyd Irons. The lawsuit claimed Purdy was serving on the board illegally and should be removed.
The issue was whether a person can run for the school board if he or she has relatives who work in the district. Two of Purdy's daughters and a grandson are teachers in the district. A recent change in state law allows school board members to serve even if they have family working in the system. But the school board bylaws still say that is illegal.
Those bylaws have not been amended to reflect the state law. But today's ruling by Judge Steven R. Ohmer affirms Purdy's assertion that state law trumps board bylaws.
Had Purdy lost the suit and was forced to give up his seat, Mayor Francis Slay would have appointed his replacement, shifting the balance of power on the school board for the second time in six months.
A source tells PUB DEF that former basketball coach Floyd Irons was at Vashon High School this morning when he complained of chest pains. Shortly after, he was taken away in an ambulance. Irons' condition is not known at this time.
It is not yet know what Irons, who was effectively fired by the district a few weeks ago, was doing at Vashon. He and school board president Veronica O'Brien have been battling in court and in the media since his position was eliminated.
O'Brien claimed to fear for her safety after threats she said she received from Irons supporters. After a young man who had threatened legal action against Irons for an alleged beating by the former coach in 2000 was murdered Friday (police have no suspects and have not said Irons was in any way involved), the school board voted pay for 24-hour security for the board president at a cost of up to $20,000.
Reliable sources tell PUB DEF that Gov. Matt Blunt's office will be announcing that Ed Martin, the Republican chairman of the St. Louis City Board of Elections, will be the governor's new chief of staff.
Martin would not comment on the rumor when reached by phone this morning.
UPDATE: We broke the story earlier this morning and now it's official. Click here to read the official press release.
The State Board of Education is meeting today in Jefferson City. Sources tell PUB DEF to expect some kind of action regarding St. Louis Public Schools.
We grabbed a video camera and are heading to Jeff City to see for ourselves.
Commissioner of Education D. Kent King today appointed the following five Missourians to a special committee that is charged with helping to find solutions to the "continuing turmoil in the St. Louis Public Schools":
Dr. William H. Danforth Atty. Frankie M. Freeman Dr. Donald Suggs Atty. Ned Lemkemeier Michael Middleton
Check back later for video from the meeting and subsequent press conference.
UPDATE 2: Here's a video of King's announcement. Read more at our STLSchools.org.
School Board President Veronica O'Brien has called a special emergency board meeting for 6:30 tonight. No word on the agenda, but some speculate that this could mean the end of Superintendent Creg Williams' time in SLPS.
Developing... UPDATE: Dr. Creg Williams' time as the superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools is over. It is not clear yet if the school board fired Williams or, in the face of a 4-3 vote, he resigned. What is clear is that the school board is as divided as ever and calls are increasing for the state to take over.
After the closed meeting vote, board member Bob Archibald was the first to emerge. He blasted the board majority for letting Williams go. He told reporters that he thinks the state should come in and take over SLPS.
UPDATE 2: SLPS is now headed by Dr. Diana Bourisaw who was hired by the Board just a couple of weeks ago as an internal auditor.
UPDATE 3: Mayor Francis Slay weighed in on the firing tonight, calling it a "damn shame." He told television reporters that only hope now for SLPS is a state takeover.
Sources tell PUB DEF that at about 4:45 p.m., Citizens to Recall Aldermen Bosley turned in their petitions to the St. Louis Board of Elections.
UPDATE: We interviewed Debra Gordon, of Citizens to Recall Bosley, yesterday before a contentious ward meeting at Clay Elementary School. We asked her about a rumor we heard that signatures would be turned in this week. At that time, she declined to comment. Tonight, Gordon confirmed that signatures were indeed turned in. And while she would not tell us how many signatures her group submitted, she did say it was "well over" the 1,400 required to put the question to the voters.
A source from Jeff Smith's state senate campaign said someone was arrested this morning after attempting to break into their campaign office on Olive at 3:15 a.m. this morning.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department tells PUB DEF they have no record of an attempted break-in at the address of Smith's office.
People in Smith's campaign say when they showed up this morning, the building's owner was there and he told them he received word early this morning that someone had been arrested after trying to break in. A phone call to the landlord was not immediately returned.
This video was shot less than 15 minutes ago. In it, Joe Edwards, the owner of such cool businesses as Blueberry Hill and The Pageant, asks the City's Board of Adjustment to grant a variance to allow a flashy neon sign for his planned new bowling alley, The Flamingo, on Washington Ave.
The St. Louis City Teachers' Union Committee on Political Education (COPE) has recommended that the union endorse State Rep. Amber Boykins for state senate.
COPE also recommended former school board member Bill Haas be endorsed in his campaign against State Rep. Rodney Hubbard. We are told that Hubbard never showed up for his scheduled interview with the teachers.
Local 420's executive board, which is not bound to accept the committee's recommendation, is expected to announce its full list of endorsements later this week.
Mayor Francis Slay sent out an email to city employees today touting the "renaissance" and continued population growth which was featured in a USA Todaystory last week.
"As I have said many times, St. Louis would not be improving if it weren't for the thousands of dedicated City employees who work hard every day to deliver a high quality product to our customers," wrote Slay in a copy of the email obtained by PUB DEF.
Then the mayor dropped the other shoe.
"That's why it pains me that we will not be funding pay raises for the fiscal year that begins in July," he said.
Slay said he has asked the City's Operations Manager, Ron Smith, to develop a plan that will provide a pay raise for all employees no later than July of 2007.
Employees received a 2% increase last year, but many say that the higher cost of the health care plan picked by the city has eaten that increase and more.
"It is my hope that the combination of tightening our belts this year and a growth in revenue will provide the resources necessary to meet my goal," said Slay.
The mayor commented on a recent story by Jim Merkel of the Southside Journal reporting significant pay increases for some managers. "You may not agree with what we have done. But, I want to give you straight talk," said Slay.
"It has been alleged that the Deputy Director of the Community Development Administration (CDA) got a pay raise. That is not true," he said. "We haven't had a Deputy Director at CDA for a year-and-a-half. By keeping that position vacant and asking the Acting Director [John Rataj] to do both jobs, we are actually saving $88,322."
According to Merkel, Rataj received an 18% pay increase, from $82,345 to $96,876.
Gene Stubblefield, the Correctional Center Superintendent, got a 10% salary increase, from $89,310 to $98,252. Slay said that Stubblefield is actually serving in two capacities, serving also as acting Commissioner of Corrections. "Gene is being paid more because he has more responsibility," said Slay. He said by not filling the Commissioner position, the City is actually saving $111,308 per year.
Slay said Director of Human Resources Rick Frank did receive a pay raise last September, but will not get another one next year. "Rick is very pro-employee and has been pushing hard to fairly compensate all City employees," he said.
Frank's pushing was successful for at least one person in his department. He got a 10% pay increase, from $92,742 to $102,024.
The St. Louis Board of Education tonight voted to table a proposal to close Cleveland High School to allow time for more public debate. They also requested that Superintendent Creg Williams provide more details on what problems are facing the building and exactly where the students will be moved next year.
The vote was 5-1. Board member Ron Jackson voted against tabling the motion and board member Bob Archibald left the meeting before the vote.
State senate candidate Jeff Smith today called for a filibuster to prevent the passage of a bill that would require all voters to show a state-issued photo ID before voting.
"Forty-one years after the landmark Voting Rights Act abolished poll taxes, property requirements, and grandfather clauses, the Missouri Legislature is seeking to reverse the progress so many fought valiantly to achieve," said Smith.
"Trying to force this bill through this year will result in chaos and widespread disenfranchisement. I urge voters to call their representatives and ask them to filibuster this bill," said Smith.
Smith noted that the House version of the bill banned straight-ticket voting, which is more prevalent among Democrats than Republicans. "That demonstrates that the bill is about gaining partisan advantage, not cleansing the electoral process," he said.
Smith is running in the August Democratic primary against State Reps. Yaphett El-Amin and Amber Boykins, former State Rep. Derio Gambaro, and former Ald. Kenny Jones for the seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Pat Dougherty.
By a vote of 11-3 last night, the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus has replaced State Rep. Ted Hoskins (D-80) as its chairperson.
Hoskins, who has drawn criticism from some fellow Democrats for his leadership style and his strong support of a "school choice" bill (labeled by many as a "school vouchers" bill), was replaced by State Rep. John Bowman (D-70). Bowman will serve out the rest of Hoskins' chairman term.
According to sources, State Rep. Rodney Hubbard (D-58), also a co-sponsor of the controversial school funding measure, "saw the handwriting on the wall" and resigned as Vice-Chairman before to the vote to remove Hoskins. State Rep. Connie Johnson (D-61) was elected Vice-Chairman.