Archive for April 2009
Anyone who visits the State Capitol in the thriving Metropolis of Jefferson usually ends up in the third floor rotunda. It's a common area between the entrances to the House and Senate chambers. And it's a gathering place, of sorts, for organizations promoting causes or pushing awareness about various subjects. Staffers, lobbyists, and reporters also gather there.
Many feet above the third floor rotunda is the whispering gallery … an area of the Capitol accessed only following a great deal of begging and pleading of people in Senate and House offices. Ask nicely and they'll take you up to this special place. If you ask really, really nicely they might take you up to the dome, itself … but it's more than 150 steps from the whispering gallery … and it's a steep climb on a very narrow staircase. Those of us who were Led Zeppelin fans in the 1970s call it the Stairway to Heaven … but I digress.
Okay … so much for the lesson. Now for today's story. One of the women taking part in an organization's display on the third floor was whacked in the head on Thursday by an object from the whispering gallery. It turned out to be a crutch belonging to a member of a group of fourth graders. The crutch was left in the wrong place and fell to the third floor rotunda, hitting the woman in the head.
While there was blood, the good news is that the woman was not badly hurt. An ambulance was called but the woman refused medical assistance. She's okay.
One can only hope this will not end the practice of allowing groups and individuals to make that trip up to the whispering gallery – which got its name from the acoustics way up there … acoustics that allow a person sitting on one side of the gallery to face the wall, whisper, and be heard by another person sitting maybe a hundred feet away on the other side of the gallery.
– Steve Walsh
A couple of weeks ago when Vice President Joe Biden visited Missouri, my Missourinet colleague Jessica Machetta gave an up close and personal account of the "hurry up and wait" situation she had to deal with as she covered the VP. Wednesday, it was President Barack Obama visiting Missouri, taking part in a town hall forum at Fox Senior High School in Arnold.
Yours truly got up before the crack of dawn to drive the fog-draped backroads (US 50) of this state as I made the trek from the thriving Metropolis of Jefferson to the thriving County of Jefferson. Which raises a question … why are there so many cities in Missouri that are not in the counties that share the name of the city? Jefferson City, for example, is in the center o the state … while Jefferson County is south of St. Louis. Then there's Jackson, in the southeastern area of the state … and Jackson County, which includes Kansas City. Okay … don't answer … I am simply digressing.
Anyway, after securing my spot at a press table I prepared for the town hall. Once the Q&A portion got underway … it became clear that while there might be plenty of time … the President would only answer a half dozen questions … because of the length of his answers. I clocked one of them at 11 minutes!
There's that old request when it comes to answers to questions: Please give me the Reader's Digest condensed version. President Obama clearly hasn't read Reader's Digest … opting instead for War and Peace. Reporters don't really mind because we enjoy what we do and we don't mind lengthy answers because it gives us more material … but some of the youngsters in the audience were clearly becoming restless.
Okay … that's it for the critical observation. Everything went fine. Even the Secret Service guys were polite to me … and I really don't think I did anything to deserve it.
One more thing … unlike Jessica's experience at Whiteman Air Force Base in which she had to get by with no cell phone bars, no Internet, and no use of the washrooms … I had Internet and phone access during my event and a clear path to the men's room. I must be living right.
– Steve Walsh
Just as the Missouri Tigers were honored at the State Capitol for their exciting basketball season … Tuesday was the day to honor the University of Central Missouri Mules – a team that reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division II Basktball Tournament.
State Senator David Pearce of Warrensburg, who represents the district that includes the school, posed for a photo with members of the team. David is the guy standing in the front row on the right.
– Steve Walsh
Senator Claire McCaskill … aka … Our Claire is going to play hooky from the Senate Wednesday morning. But it's for a good reason. She'll be heading home to Missouri to take part in President Barack Obama's visit to Arnold, where he'll mark part of his 100th day in office. A press release from Our Claire says she'll be heading back to Capitol Hill later in the day so as not to miss any late votes.
By the way … Our Claire has a seat on Air Force One.
Congressman Russ Carnahan is also taking time away from Capitol Hill to attend the Arnold event. But he has fly coach and hopes to make his connecting flight in Atlanta or he'll be late. Just kidding … Russ gets to fly with the President as well.
– Steve Walsh
Is the filibuster making the legislative process meaningless? During floor debate on a piece of legislation on Monday, Senator Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit commented that it is very hard to get much of importance through the General Assembly these days because lawmakers either vote in favor of something or they filibuster the legislation and prevent the majority from having the up or down vote.
Bartle told the chamber that this inability of elected officials to get anything done has led to more and more instances of people taking the direct route to get things done – through initiative petitions. Bartle says more and more of the decision-making is moving to the initiative petition process … by-passing the Legislature … which he sees becoming less and less of a factor in government.
Download 042709Bartle (1:18 MP3)
No doubt a few Capitol reporters have considered this while sitting at the Senate press table until all hours of the night as what Senator John Griesheimer of Washington has called "the tyranny of the minority" prevents up or down voting on pieces of legislation.
– Steve Walsh
We've been hearing a lot – from Republicans – about the benefits of voter photo ID … saying it would cut down on voter fraud. And we hear Democrats saying voter photo ID is a bad idea because it would disenfranchise voters … particularly the elderly and the poor.
At the same time we hear Democrats talking up the benefits of early voting … saying more convenient hours would bring more people into the voting process. Republicans say there's really no need for additional voting hours because there are additional costs associated with it … and Republicans add people who want to vote should get to the polling places on Election Day.
Some political observers and reporters might suggest this is all for political gain … with Republicans benefiting from photo ID and Dems benefiting from early voting.
Now … a University of Missouri survey conducted by an MU professor indicates that the public supports several voting reforms … including early voting and photo ID requirements.
David Konisky, an assistant professor in the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, asked for thoughts on photo ID, early voting, voting by mail, and election day registration. Most of the more than 32,000 people contacted liked the idea of photo ID … and early voting … but weren't too crazy about voting by mail and election day registration – fearing that might lead to voter fraud.
The most interesting part of this whole survey is that while the GOP and the Dems look for advantages at the polling places through praise or denunciation of both photo ID and early voting … most of those surveyed do not believe any party benefits from these ideas.
– Steve Walsh
The White House has released details of of President Barack Obama's visit to Missouri on Wednesday.
The President will hold a town hall meeting at Fox Senior High School on Jeffco Boulevard in Arnold. Doors open at 8:30 am for an event that begins at 10:20 am.
The event is free and open to the public … but a ticket is required … and those tickets are very limited.
Information on getting hold of tickets is available from the White House. Requests must be made by Monday afternoon at 3 o'clock … and there is no guarantee all requests will be honored.
– Steve Walsh