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The Missourinet Christmas Wish List for 2009

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  • Gov. Nixon: a better bottom line.
  • Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder: a bicycle built for two.
  • Sec. of State Robin Carnahan: unchallenged ballot wording.
  • Auditor Susan Montee: numbers that add up.
  • Treasurer Clint Zweifel: more takers of unclaimed property.
  • Attorney General Chris Koster: a doggy in the window, well taken care of.
  • Senator Bond: a record chestnut crop.
  • Senator McCaskill: earmarks for books only.
  • Members of the legislature: an indictment-free year. 
  • Spokesman of the Democratic Party, Ryan Hobart, and the Republican Party, Jonathan Prouty: “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale and “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
  • St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Holliday and a long term contract for Albert Pujols.
  • St. Louis Rams: A No. 1 pick for the 2010 NFL draft who makes the team — in more ways than one.
  • Kansas City Royals: Good health for Zack Greinke.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: A packed Arrowhead, once again.
  • The Missouri Tigers: A trip to the Final Four in basketball. Respect in football … like a better bowl game next year.
  • Northwest Missouri State Football Coach Mel Tjeerdsma: a sixth trip to the NCAA II Championship game, same result.
  • Lindenwood Football Coach Patrick Ross: another trip to the NAIA Championship game, different result.
  • KU Athletics: good will among football and basketball men.
  • Dept. of Natural Resources: enough chlorine for the entire Lake of the Ozarks.
  • Missouri Highway Patrol: fewer than 850 traffic fatalities in 2010.
  • Governor’s Office Building: Caller ID for the elevator telephones.
  • Dept of Conservation: No deer in headlights.
  • Missouri National Guard: Peace on Earth.
  • Our listeners and readers: A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Written by learfield

December 23, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The stone wall is getting higher

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A message from behind the lines.

The rise of the official spokesmen, spokeswomen, spokespersons, spokesones—pick the one that works best for you— for state government agencies is becoming more pervasive and more oppressive with each administration in Jefferson City.  It too often reaches a point where reporters are refused opportunities to speak to those in state government who are most knowledgeable about a subject, a policy, or an issue. 

It is not a uniform matter in all agencies. Some of the PR people understand one of their functions is to connect reporters to the knowledgeable people in their departments or divisions who are prepared to answer any questions reporters might have.  But others have taken the position, or been given the position, of keeping reporters away from department or division directors or others within the bureaucracy who have the specific expertise the reporter needs for his story.    

Such is the case this week with the Department of Economic Development’s study called “The Green Jobs Report.”   The report was compiled by the Missouri Economic Research & Information Center for the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, a division of the economic development department.  The report was signed by MERIC Director Marty Romitti.  It had some interesting stuff in its 41 pages. 

We shared the section on “Green Farming” with our colleagues on the Brownfield Network, our Agriculture Network, who provided some interesting questions to ask.  

It strikes us as naive to think that a department public relations person could give the candid answers to questions at that issue and the others that could be given by a person intimately familiar with the compilation of the information and the interpretation of its meaning.  We have found PR people pretty good at repeating what’s in a news release or in a report but often not real solid when it comes to probing questions beneath the release. 

We called the DED PR person who wrote the news release, Keener Tippin, and asked for Marty Romitti’s phone number.  Some time later we got a call from another PR person, John Fougere, who told us we couldn’t talk to Mr. Romitti but we could talk to him or maybe to the department director, perhaps, the next day.  We opted for the department director.   The next day now has passed and we have heard from neither the second PR guy or from the director of the department,

The concept of elevating PR people to be impenetrable walls between the media and people in state government who can and should provide their expertise and knowledge has been increasing at least since the Holden administration.  It got worse during the Blunt administration and has degenerated even more under Jay Nixon’s reign.  

It was rare not that many years ago when we called someone in state government directly and were told we had to go through the agency PR person, who in those days mainly wanted to know that the conversation was going to happen, often so the department director would not be surprised to see someone from his or her agency quoted in the press.

Even that was a point of contention from time to time.  But it was usually resolved rather quickly.      

Not today.  The walls are up.  The bureaucracy is carefully protected by it by the department spokesmen who, unfortunately, are not as all-knowing as they want us to believe.   The reporters at the Missourinet don’t think the public is well-served when the people in state government who have the best answers are put off limits by the stone wall (one word or two, your choice) builders.

— Bob Priddy, News Director

Written by learfield

December 18, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Clement Clarke, Bond, sends Harry Reid a Christmas wish

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“This is a week before Christmas when all through the hill, not a creature was stirring, not even a bill.”

So begins Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) wish his politicized version of the Christmas classic.

Bond’s poem, and his point, chides Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for his wish to get a healthcare reform bill passed by Christmas.

Reid has been trying to get fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to back off his request to eliminate the proposed Medicare expansion.

But Reid isn’t ready or willing to sacrifice what he calls a key element of the health care bill, and has told reporters he first wants to see the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the Medicare buy-in.

Lieberman has been accused of “holding up the will of 59 others,” when the bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, but after a caucus meeting Monday, he reportedly has relented and says he will join the Dems in approving the measure. Politicos say abortion funding is still the hinge upon which this bill hangs.

Either way, it’s clear Bond thinks this healthcare reform measure is, in his words, a lump of coal in America’s stocking.

There is one issue Bond talked about today in his Washington Listening Post report that doesn’t have an “R” or a “D” in front of it — chestnuts. He started an orchard in Mexico, Mo., years ago and is now reaping the rewards. For more on Bond Chestnuts, visit www.kitbond.com. You’ll find some lovely recipes and you don’t even have to be against healthcare reform to enjoy them.

Bond Christmas Poem.mp3
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Bond calls healthcare measure a lump of coal.mp3
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Bond Chestnuts.mp3
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Bond_chestnuts

Written by learfield

December 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

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Hats off – and much more – to Bearcats and their fans

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It gives me great pleasure to tell you I am away from the office this week, killing off a week of time that is owed. While I won’t be writing much during the next week … there are some things that just must be publicized. This is one such thing.

Saturday, I was in Florence, Alabama for the Division II National Championship Football Game – won by the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats.  Football is great … but what fascinates me is how some fans are more than willing to embrace cold weather – very cold weather (temps hovering in the 30s) – to show support for their team.

It was cold … very cold … and the students from Maryville didn’t mind sucking it up. Ah … to be young again!

Congrats to the Bearcats – Missouri’s national champs!

Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

December 14, 2009 at 3:46 am

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Benefit of film production tax credits called into question

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The Show-Me Institute, a St. Louis-based free market think tank, is coming out against tax breaks! Well, not all tax breaks.

A commentary written by Show-Me Institute research analyst Christine Harbin is critical of the use of tax credits to encourage film production in the state. She suggests these tax credits do not promote lasting job growth and do not attract significant revenue into state coffers. Not only that … but she claims many of these film projects can cost more in state funding than they generate in temporary economic activity.

The Show-Me Institute is generally supportive of efforts to reduce tax burdens … but gives the thumbs down to tax credits targeted to filmmakers.

Steve Walsh

 

 

Written by learfield

December 9, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

We shall fight for our rights … unless it’s raining

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In our never-ending effort to highlight examples of symbolism over substance … we bring you what had been scheduled as Planned Parenthood’s “Stop Stupak!” bus tour.

The notices went out on Monday informing the media that the bus tour would kick off in Central Missouri, stopping by the Columbia offices of Senators Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond. All this was to have been an effort to call on Missouri’s U.S. Senators to vote NO on the health care overhaul amendment put forward by Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak – an amendment, approved by the House, that would prevent any public funding of abortions.

But the “Stop Stupak!” tour never gained much traction … because of the rain. Tuesday morning the word went out from Planned Parenthood that the Columbia portion of the tour was being cancelled … “due to the weather conditions.” There was, however, information that the Kansas City portion of the tour would take place.

Doesn’t this remind you of the recent decision by students at Westminster College in Fulton? They had planned on spending time in cardboard boxes to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless … but the weather got bad so they called it off.

Ahhh … convictions of convenience … aren’t they special?

Steve Walsh

 

 

Written by learfield

December 8, 2009 at 11:30 pm

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He supports me … he supports me not …

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Does anyone remember that memorable line from 1967’s “Cool Hand Luke” … when the chain gang captain says, “What we’ve got here is … failure to communicate?” Okay, fast forward 42 years to Missouri politics … and it seems the Republican campaigns for State Auditor might have a bit of a failure to communicate.

Late last week the Tom Schweich for State Auditor campaign sent out a press release with the names of various people supporting the Schweich candidacy. Included on the list was State Senator Delbert Scott of Lowry City. Monday afternoon the Allen Icet for State Auditor campaign released a statement telling one and all that Senator Scott had “set the record straight.”

It quotes Scott as saying, “That listing was unauthorized by me,” concluding with, “I continue my strong support for Allen Icet for State Auditor.”

In a bipartisan effort to avoid more confusion, Democratic State Auditor Susan Montee has opted not to discuss support for her reelection bid.

Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

December 7, 2009 at 11:24 pm

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WHAT’S A LITTLE WATER FOR A SUBMARINE?

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Pity the poor sailor on a day like this.   And many of us did Saturday in Groton, Connecticut as the new USS Missouri was christened.   The 137 members of the crew of the new Virginia-class submarine marched to their positions on the aft deck of the sub, facing an enclosed podium for speakers and their guests  On either side of the sub, dignitaries and visitors–many who had flown from St. Joseph and Jefferson City to Groton on a Missouri National Guard C-130 transport plane–sat in special tents. 

     Members of the press felt the sailors’ pain.  Reporters and photographers were herded into a couple of open platforms, only one of which had sight lines good enough for photography, where television reporters like friend Kermit Miller of Jefferson City’s KRCG-TV did all he could to keep his camera dry enough to function. 

     The cold, steady rain on a low-40s day dampened the celebration but not the spirits. It wasn’t the most miserable conditions in which I have covered an event (the famous 1977 "Freezedale" Inauguration remains unchallenged for absolute misery), but it is undoubtedly amongst them. 

     The crew of the Missouri stood at attention, then at parade rest, until Congressman Ike Skelton told the sub’s commander to give the crew "at ease" almost half an hour into the ceremony.

     We were lucky.  The University of Connecticut played the University of South Florida in a big snowstorm not far away (nothing in Connecticut is far away) and as I write this just before midnight Saturday, the weathercaster on the TV is telling us there will be snow on  the ground when we get on the bus to take us back to our C-130 which will meet us at Quonset National Guard base in Rhode Island, an hour away from our hotel. 

     Covering an event such as this is a mixed experience. The ceremony was held at a defense facility, the Electric Boat factory in Groton, Connecticut.  Electric Boat didn’t want to risk the chance that any of the journalists might see something or photograph something that would endanger national security.  Fat chance of that.  Each of us had a "tender."  Those of us from the news media who were with the Missouri delegation were prohibited from riding the same  bus from the hotel with the delegation.  In fact, until shortly before departure from the hotel, we didn’t know howwe were going to get to the Electric Boat factory.  A long-time EB employee arranged a vehicle to take us there.

When the ceremony was over, we walked back to the media center, passing buses that looked like the ones that had taken the other Missourians to the ceremony, and had to give up the temporary clip-on press badges we had been given.  We were told that was so we wouldn’t use the badges to get back into the factory and see something we weren’t supposed to see.

Understand that the press is sometimes seen as antagonists in certain situations.  I don’t think I"ve ever been considered a security risk before, though.  And while there might have been people I have covered who have thought of me as sneaky and devious, I have never been looked upon as a potential spy.   Or I don’t think I have;.

Elecric Boat did provide a box sandwich lunch to me and fellow potential agents and did give us the number of a cab company to call.  We had to stand in the rain outside the fence until the cab arrived.  

We later were taken to the Naval Base, not part of the Electric Boat complex, for a reception for the crew.  We interviewed a crew member from Jefferson City and the boat’s Executive Officer, enjoyed a couple of meatballs, some cheese, and a piece of commemorative cake before they took us to the Nautilus museum.  We got to go through the world’s first nuclear-powered sub, which seems considerably more commodius than the WW II subs I’ve been on at various museums.  One can only wonder how much more impressive the inerior of the USS Missouri is.  But wondering is all that’s going to be possible, at least for now.

We don’t want to leave the impression that this was a lousy day.  Far from it.  This was a special event apart from the weather and other factors.  It’s the first time in 65 years a new Navy ship has been named for our state and that alone makes this an important and memorable event.  Several conversations with various crew members about things other than the weather shows them to be exceptional people,  deeplly committed to the Navy and to the nation.

We have the entire ceremony with today’s story on Missourinet.com.   There are times when you can listen carefully and hear the rain falling and an occasional sea gull.

It’s appropriate that we say a big "thanks" to the Missouri National Guard that provided transportation from St. Joseph and Jefferson City to Quonset Air National Guard base in Rhode Island.  And we also thank the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserves for its work in coordinating the trips to the ceremony by more than 50 people from St. Joseph and Jefferson City. C-130s are not designed for comfort but they are utilitarian and the cargo area was warm enough for us.  The flight crew gave us smooth, although noisy, rides both ways. The ESGR folks provided us with box and sack lunches—and earplugs. 

There is a support group for the USS Missouri.  It wants to raise $300,000 or more to provide the ship with the things that make it Missouri, not just a boat with our name.  You can probably find it on the internet as the USS Missouri SSN-780 Commissioning Committee.

Here are some miscellaneous things about the new boat:

It is so big that it would just barely fit inside Memorial Stadium in Columbia.  if it could stood on its nose, it would be 100 feet-plus taller than the state Capitol.  It can operate for months at a time under water, hundreds of feet deep, stealthily.  It weighs more than7800 tons, carries 40 weapons,k has four torpedo tubes and a dozen vertical launch missile tubes. 

The sub will come in about $72,000,000 under budget and well within its time schedule.  The Missouri heads for open water in late March on its first sea trial.  The commissioning ceremony, when the Navy actually accepts ownership of the boat, will come in August.  

I hear Connecticut in August is a  beautiful place.  .

Bob Priddy    

Written by learfield

December 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nixons host candlelight tours of Governor’s Mansion

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It’s a Christmas tradition in the thriving Metropolis of Jefferson … Candlelight tours of the Governor’s Mansion.

Friday night … hundreds of folks from throughout the state and beyond braved temperatures hovering around the 40 below mark to visit the Gov’s home and to shake hands with Governor Jay and First Lady Georganne Nixon. Okay … it wasn’t 40 below … but it was cold … with temperatures in the 20s.

The reception line didn’t appear to be as long as in previous years in which I’ve attended the event. It’s probably a safe bet the colder than expected temperatures were responsible for that. But the folks who did show up seemed to enjoy their visit which included a chance to hear schoolchildren singing Christmas carols.

If you’re in the capital city and you missed Friday night’s candlelight tours of the Governor’s Mansion you’ll get a second chance Saturday. The tours run from 2 until 4 pm.

– Steve Walsh

Photos: 1) Nixons welcome visitors; 2) Nixons prepare to light the outdoor Christmas tree; 3) Students sing Christmas carols

Written by learfield

December 5, 2009 at 1:42 am

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Antiabortion group: No Holy Communion for McCaskill

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Insurrecta Nex, an antiabortion group, wants St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson to bar Senator McCaskill from partaking of Holy Communion unless she supports an antiabortion amendment to the healthcare overhaul bill now before the Senate.  One of the group’s members admits she does not know if McCaskill receives Communion but tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “Her soul is in danger.”

The healthcare bill requires insurance companies that would receive federal subsidies to keep those funds separate from any consumer-funded abortion coverage.  Antiabortion interests want an amendment that bans abortion coverage by any private or public healthcare plan that receives government subsidies.

The St. Louis Archdiocese has not responded to the urging from the group. Carlson has been on vacation. 

The issue is not new to Senator McCaskill. She has been confronted by it for several years. It achieved some prominence in her 2004 run against then-incumbent Governor Bob Holden and has surfaced from time to time since then. 

McCaskill is a convert to Catholicism.  She divorced her first husband a year after he was arrested on a marijuana possession charge–she was the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney at the time–has remarried and worships at a Catholic Church in St. Louis County.  She says she does not partake of communion because she has refused to go through the annulment proceedings of the church. 

McCaskill responded to the criticism from Insurrecta Nex during her weekly teleconference on Wednesday.

– Bob Priddy 

maccath5.mp3
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Written by learfield

December 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized