BEAT BYTE: Fred Parry accuses Barb Hoppe of extortion
- THE COLUMBIA HEART BEAT -- 4/2/12Columbia's All Digital, All-ternative news source
http://www.columbiaheartbeat.comELECTION WRAP UP -- VOTE TUESDAY, APRIL 3!1) WHY I LIKE MIKE: Atkinson for 2nd Ward2) BOND DEBT TIME BOMB: The phantom menace at Columbia Public Schools3) PARRY ACCUSES HOPPE: Of "extortion" in Frat House deal4) THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAMPAIGN: Bill Tillotson's disastrous Ward race5) READERS RITE: School bonds, Belcher busting, Beat biting, spin machines
Best viewed in HTML format. All links in bold.WHY I LIKE MIKE: Atkinson for 2nd WardThe other Mike, Mike Trapp, loses me after coming out for blight and EEZ
I was in the Mike Trapp camp until I noticed he was equivocating -- i.e, hedging ambiguously -- on the whole Blight Decree thing, a disastrous solution to a non-problem that has raised so much opposition I can't see how any wise politician could support it. When Trapp finally came out in favor of the Blight Decree and Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) at the Keep Columbia Free forum last week -- the season's final candidate gathering -- I knew he had lost me.Mike Atkinson, meanwhile, spoke against the idea with the best argument I've heard from a candidate or politician: Enhanced Enterprise Zones were created for truly distressed areas. While they have worked in large metros, they are not appropriate for a small, relatively prosperous city like Columbia, which has plenty of other gifts to offer potential employers. Those sounds like the words of a smart business person.
A small businessperson who co-owns The Candy Factory, Mr. Atkinson should know the most about business needs among his 2nd Ward rivals, neither of whom has any substantive business experience. Atkinson urged City Hall to improve infrastructure and make it easier for new businesses to start and flourish, an idea that seems on no one's radar, probably because it won't generate enough money for the city's dominant development industry.Atkinson also said all the cameras hereabouts -- from red lights to downtown -- have eroded our civil liberties while nabbing only jaywalkers. I agree. I also noticed that at every forum I attended, Atkinson always stands when he speaks (while his opponents often remain seated) and looks the audience right in the eye when he has something to say. No equivocation there.READ THE REST:BOND DEBT TIME BOMB: The phantom menace at Columbia Public SchoolsA disturbing 2010 Trib story points to big trouble aheadCOLUMBIA, 4/2/12 (Beat Byte) -- After a severe brow-beating, a rushed Columbia School Board approves a huge project with less than 24 hours notice as Boone County administrators warn about enormous, unbudgeted costs around Battle High School, sold to the district by a development group that is now building subdivisions next door."The approval meeting lasted just 28 minutes before board member Christine King presented a motion to accept the deal...No district residents were in attendance...The contract could saddle the district with as much as $2.9 million in costs that were not budgeted..."
That tale was told in a disturbing 2010 Columbia Daily Tribune story that partly confirmed what this writer heard from other sources.At least one Boone County administrator, those sources say, told school district officials they were facing "at least $50 million in infrastructure costs" to accomodate Battle High and the new elementary school planned next to it. "Unless you can get funding to do all this, you need to select a different site," he reportedly advised.Though unspoken, paying for this infrastructure is a phantom menace at CPS, and may partly motivate the enormous spike in bond debt and the property taxes. A confrontation between CPS Superintendent Chris Belcher and Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid just last month suggests the problem has been festering for years."Stretched to the limit"In 2007 and 2010, voters approved $180 million in new bond debt for Columbia Public Schools (CPS), now asking for another $100 million on Tuesday and in 2014.As they are today, in 2007 CPS administrators cited student enrollment growth; classroom trailer reduction; and air conditioning for older schools (in 2007, only four of Columbia's 19 elementary schools were air conditioned).
The Trib ran its perfunctory centerpiece pitch, a plea to upgrade athletic facilities "stretched to the limit."In 2010, vast new developments CPS will catalyze became the center of attention, but many of the expensive details got lost in the haste to push approval of the $80 million Battle High School. The most expensive lost detail may be the most important: lack of funds for road construction and other infrastructure way out there in the boondocks.The battle over BattleThe Battle High infrastructure problem burst onto the public scene in March with meetings between MoDOT; Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid; and Boone County Commissioners.The leaders openly wondered who would pay to accomodate the high school; a second elementary school planned next door; and at least two new subdivisions nestled around the schools from big-time developers Scott Atkins, Tom Atkins, Rob Wolverton, Bob Pugh, the Lemone Family Trust, and Tom Mendenhall."McDavid said the city and Boone County governments did not have a say in where the schools are being constructed," the Tribune reported.CPS Superintendent Chris Belcher lashed out at the Mayor over the comments. "Misinformation is harmful to the district's reputation and community trust," Dr. Belcher fired back.But city and county officials warned Dr. Belcher about lack of road funding back in 2010. He, in turn, explained that once you start putting students through there, you will need stoplights and turn lanes.With Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller and then-Columbia city manager Bill Watkins, Belcher also discussed "additional growth," around the new schools, "which will require increased infrastructure in the surrounding area."How the funds will materialize has prompted talk that bond proceeds may quietly find their way toward projects voters never intended: roads, sewers, lighting, sidewalks, and other basics, much of which ought to be paid for by developers using the schools to catalyze their projects.Based on past budget shenanigans at CPS, these concerns are not without merit.RELATED:
PARRY ACCUSES HOPPE: Of "extortion" in Frat House dealInside Columbia publisher condemns Garagezilla, new City Hall, endorses Tillotson's "fresh perspective"COLUMBIA, 4/2/12 (Op-Ed) -- In a round condemnation of 6th Ward Columbia City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, Inside Columbia publisher Fred Parry accused Mrs. Hoppe of "a barely legal form of extortion" for her role in a settlement between the Beta House fraternity and East Campus Neighborhood Association.
"Hoppe has been described as a 'bully' when dealing with issues in her ward," Parry writes in this month's edition of his magazine. "She used a minor technicality...to 'exact' $100,000 from the fraternity."
READ THE REST:THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAMPAIGN: Bill Tillotson's disastrous Ward raceEven if he wins, Mr. Tillotson goes to City Hall a wounded politicianMr. Tillotson had an inauspicious debut when his wife Pam encouraged Facebook friends to cheat on the Columbia Daily Tribune's reader poll.Then, a mountainous molehill former Phat Guy Scott Charton made of Mrs. Hoppe's brief role in a neighborhood dispute with a Frat House became a barrage of negative ads. The Phat Guys are five local right-leaning heavyweights, Inside Columbia publisher Fred Parry chief among them.In the Frat -- or is Phrat -- dispute, a neighborhood had a little power for once. The Law Offices of Craig Van Matre didn't shut a neighborhood association down on behalf of a belligerent client. Average folks came out ahead, after the Frat's architect agreed to pay $100,000 for neighborhood beautification projects.
Yet Charton made Mrs. Hoppe out to be one step below Richard Nixon on the political sleaze scale, even donning the mantle of the "civically obsessed" to carpet bomb the Trib boards with commentary that became so desperate, readers begged Charton to quit while he was ahead.
Meanwhile, more Facebook shenanigans broke out, as a Tillotson surrogate readers nicknamed "RoboBill" posted empty-headed commentary while feverishly deleting all the push back from the attack ads. Tillotson's Facebook page went totally haywire when RoboBill posted this note:Great meeting with the Columbia Unit NAACP last night.But the NAACP meeting hadn't occurred yet, and Tillotson never attended it! He was holding an EEZ question/answer session at Old Hawthorne. Needless to say, his opponents pounced.READ THE REST:READERS RITE: School bonds, Belcher busting, and moreHaving always supported increased funding for the public schools, I plan to vote against the initiatives put forth in the April election in protest over the recent actions of our superintendent and board of education.Assuming it turns out to be true, it doesnt surprise me at all that the Columbia Public Schools administration is cooking its stats. This administration, led by Chris Belcher, has already shown its duplicity in dealing with the parents and students of the class of 2015, so why wouldnt it also play fast and loose with other facts as well?As Belcher said in answering Mayor Bob McDavids charge recently that there hadnt been enough public input into Battle High Schools location, Misinformation is harmful to the districts reputation.How right he is; too bad Belchers words dont match his deeds.After all, the administrations modus operandi has been to pretend to collect input and then to blow it off. My wife and I wasted time attending a couple of CPS sham listening post meetings at Oakland Junior High School over the past year while concerned about our daughter being forced to start at Rock Bridge and finish at Battle. While the borders as drawn now allow her to finish high school where she begins, we have several friends who were not so lucky.The majority of the people at those meetings were the parents of ninth graders concerned about their kids having to switch high schools in mid-stream. Their simple request: that the students get the choice to stay where they begin. Thats what students received when Rock Bridge High School opened, and thats all the parents wanted fairness for the class of 2015.But after all those wasted words, Belcher had the gall to say at the January school board meeting that he had never heard anything about ninth grade parents being concerned about their kids having to change schools. The decision would be laughable, since one of the main reasons for the reorganization is to cut down on the number of transitions, if it were not so disconcerting because it callously trashes the high school careers of about 350 students.Credibility stems from doing the right thing, not just saying the right thing. If Mr. Belcher and the school board believe in the CPS stated mission to provide an excellent education for ALL students, the decision to sacrifice the high school experience of 350 students in the class of 2015 was a poor way to show it to the public and cooking the statistics doesnt show much respect for the public either. -- Jim Muench, Columbia
One of the things that bothers me the most re: CPS always wanting more money is Supt. Belcher's constant complaining about the district's use of trailers. I taught for a number of years in Kirkwood, MO and was always pleased when assigned a trailer for the year. That space was more private (less distraction outside the door) and it was good to be able to control one's own heat and a/c. Thanks for letting us know where our CPS money is going. -- JB Godfrey, Columbia
One of the issues needing a close look is the school board and teacher-union relationships. Why would the Columbia Public Schools Superintendent push for a single union when that relationship has been shown to be a disaster everywhere it is implemented? I listened to his BS on a morning talk show several weeks ago and the man is a true artist in spinning his rationale.
Your work is critical to getting facts versus spin out to public view. Thanks for being a real American patriot in doing what is a critical part of keeping America free -- exposing corruption and ineptitude in the political system. -- George Hobson, ColumbiaYou have an absolutely negative attitude toward the bond increases. Read the link you provide and interview Belcher. There is a relationship between paying off one bond measure and instituting another so as to deal with the real needs of public schools such as maintenance and the trailers as well as new buildings. Some increases can be justified as Columbia grows from a large town to a small city. -- Paul Wallace, Columbia
Great work on the cost of school building; it doesn't seem like developers want to pay their own way, but why should they when they can use taxpayer dollars instead of their own to subsidize their projects it adds to their already engorged bottom line? -- Dan Cass, Columbia
Thanks again Mike for staying on top of these stories, such as imminent eminent domain. Keep shining the light! -- Pack Matthews, Columbia
Air conditioning is not a part of the bond issue the district is asking for in April, or the 2014 issue, as you stated in this part of your article: "they need $50 million this year and $50 million again in 2014 to pay for projects from classroom trailer elimination to long-overdue air conditioning." Here's a list of projects that will be included in the April bond, if you are interested.
All the remaining AC projects are being funded from the 2010 bond. The district just doesn't get all bond funds immediately.
The article from August was referencing the districts annual tax levy rate. The district can raise its levy up to the voter allotted ceiling annually to meet its needs (as determined by a formula.)
The district bumped that rate in August to meet needs and to jump start the air conditioning projects. The AC projects, however, will ultimately be paid for with the bond money once the district sells the remaining bonds. Until then, the district is essentially borrowing money from itself to get the projects started earlier, since all the bond money they have obtained so far has gone toward Battle.
So, in short they are paying for it with the operating budget now and will pay that back from the capital funds once more bonds are sold.
As far as other bonds and air conditioning, AC was part of the 2007 bond issue. The bond promised to air condition several schools that are now air conditioned. You can actually see the complete list of projects here: http://www.columbia.k12.mo.us/bond2007.php
Hopefully, that all makes sense. Let me know if it doesnt. Linda Quinley is also really helpful at explaining how district finances work, Im sure shed be willing to talk with you if you want more information. -- Catherine Martin, K-12 Education Reporter, Columbia Daily Tribune
[Ed. Note: I disagree with Ms. Martin's assessment. Before we wrote about it, CPS administrators were fixing to renege on AC altogether. Then, after promising NOT to do so, CPS raised taxes in August to pay for air conditioning projects. They are not "borrowing" from themselves until bond money comes in; they are taxing us. When the bond money "comes in," are they planning to pay us back?]
I so support you. I was even moved to write the Trib over what I see as a form of fascism -- business usurping the individuals' rights. I think the former Osco building is a blight, but, oh, it is all ready owned by a businessman (Stan Kroenke). As a newly retired person, I find I have more time to read, and also more time to become outraged. I appreciate your column more all the time. -- Steve Geibel, Columbia [Ed. Note: The old Osco building has been conveniently left out of Columbia's Blight Decree].
The $50 million bond issue this year and the one in 2014 is scheduled to cover many things, however, air conditioning is not one of those. That money was included in the 2010 bond issue. I believe several schools are receiving AC this summer. I don't have the complete list of those schools or the dates they are to start. The attached document shows when the bonds are voted on and then the amount of money that can be issued from those bonds at a particular time period. I would suspect that some of that $33 million being issued in June of this year will pay for the ACs that are installed this summer. -- April Ferrao, Columbia
Thanks! Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world. -- Judie Cooper, ColumbiaTHE COLUMBIA HEART BEAT is using Spot.US to fund investigative reportsPlease consider helping. We can't do it without you! Check it out at: