"Wing of the Democratic Party made up of workingmen and reformers, opposed to monopolies and financial policies that seemed to them antidemocratic and conducive to special privilege. The Locofocos received their name when party regulars turned off the gas lights to oust the radicals from a Tammany Hall nominating meeting. The radicals responded by lighting candles with new matches known as locofocos and nominated their own slate." (From: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9048706 )

My Photo
Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I am husband and father in a family of four, wife Verna, son Thomas, and daughter Jennifer. We've lived in Springfield's 137th District for over ten years at 800 W Calhoun St, and love the Grant Beach area. I was born to a military family, my mother and father met at Ft Leonard Wood. I was born in Ft Hood Texas, and travelled throughout my childhood, with most of my time spent in any one place in the Rolla Mo area. When I completed my own four year hitch with the US Navy, I settled here in Missouri, living in Mt Vernon. I moved into Springfield in 1994 to attend (then) SMSU and stayed, finding our permanent home in the Grant Beach Park area.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Let's Talk Safety...

City Manager Tom Finnie cites safety as the primary concern in asking for the closure of Broadway Av. He asks the City Council to act now to prevent a future tragedy at that crossing. Local residents also want City Council to act now to prevent a future tragedy.

Closure of Broadway will further restrict vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. These travelers will be forced to other railway crossings to the east or west. The closest to the west is Kansas Expressway, already very busy with vehicular traffic and hazardous to pedestrian and cyclists. The first and closest crossing is Grant Av to the east. The underpass is in deplorable shape, and no longer suited to the needs of the public. Built in 1926, it now exhibits signs of stress fatigue in cracked concrete, exposed rebar, and shows multiple scars from low clearance accidents. The crossings at Lyon and Washington are even worse. Lyon has wood trestles with plywood splints on cracked beams. Washington has several water seeps that are eroding the structure from the inside out.

Despite these obvious faults, the railroad has no intention replacing or improving these crossings. They intend to load more traffic on these structures, adding a third set of tracks to replace the tracks to be vacated for the Third Phase of the Jordan Valley project.

City negotiators are handling the Broadway closure as a separate issue from the Jordan Valley project. It’s not. It’s just easier to overcome local resistance to the closing by keeping it separate. Separating local businesses uprooted by the Jordan Valley project and local residents is a classic use of “divide and conquer” strategy.

Many local residents suspect that Broadway is being used as a bargaining chip for the West Yard vacation. The only sop to the residents is a paltry $65,000 spread over seven years for “beautification” of the underpasses. To think that $65,000 will cure the ills of these underpasses is an insult to the intelligence, and viewed as a low-ball bribe by many in the neighborhood groups. If the railroad and Tom Finnie were truly concerned with safety, they would be negotiating improvements to the underpasses before loading more train traffic on them.

Once the West Yard is vacated, these improvements will be even more costly and difficult. Make no mistake, they will need to be done some time in the future. Better to do it now, while the railway has the other yard to make up trains during renovations.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Woodland Heights Residents Weigh In

Broadway crossing
Originally uploaded by locofocomoto.

City Manager Tom Finney opened the ball saying that the City needs to be "proactive on this issue," and cited safety as the reason to close this intersection. Finney said the city is often accused of being reactive, not addressing issues until an incident occurs, and the City has a chance to prevent some future accident at this location.
In opposition, Woodland Heights residents weighed in on the Broadway Av closure issue at Monday night's City Council meeting. Five residents spoke against the proposal, no one spoke in favor.

From the Springfield News-Leader, Jenny Fillmer reporting:


Several north Springfield residents turned out Monday to speak against a proposal to close Broadway Avenue at a rail crossing between Chase and Commercial Streets which is currently blocked several hours a day by trains.

This is the third time the council has considered the closing, which is requested by the BNSF Railway Co., citing safety concerns. The proposal has been strongly opposed by neighborhood residents living both north and south of the crossing.

If the closing is approved, BNSF would pay the city $65,000 to make improvements to the area.

"We would like to work with the neighborhoods and use that money to the best way that they see," said City Manager Tom Finnie, who supports the closure.

Zone 1 Councilman Denny Whayne has scheduled a neighborhood meeting to discuss the issue at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church, 722 W. Atlantic St.

Carlson advised those at Monday's meeting that public hearing would continue at the next council meeting, a week after the neighborhood meeting.

"The rule is, you only get to speak one time," said Carlson.

Despite his warning, five neighbors of the rail crossing spoke against its closing.

"I think this would be very bad for business," said Larry Robinson, owner of American Bag Co. on Commercial Street. "We bring a lot of trucks in there."

Robert Stoviak, who has lived near the rail crossing for 49 years, called railroad claims that it was unsafe "hogwash."

"That's the safest crossing in Springfield, Missouri," he said. "Trains go over it at the most restrictive speed: 5 mph."

The council may vote on the issue Dec. 12.

As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story.

Robert Stoviak was a long time railroad employee and strongly opposed the closure. He said the railroad really wants the closure to use that section of track to store longer trains while making them up and are fearful of the liabilities they incur while using remote engines.

Stoviak also observed that Missouri has a"10 minute" rule that all railroads must comply with. Under this rule, no train can block a crossing for more than ten minutes. Stoviak challenged the statistics used by City Manager Tom Finney. "The tracks are only blocked about 10% of the time," instead of Finney's statement that the tracks are blocked 55% of a day. Stoviak observed that tracks cannot be blocked that much because of the ten minute rule.

Strident in his opposition, Stoviak said "Every time the railroads want something, they cite safety, it's bunk, and the liars outta be sued."

An important fact came to light in Larry Robinson's testimony. He refuted the implication from railroad supporters that the recent pedestrian injury was at the Broadway intersection. He personally observed the emergency response and stated it was behind his building, several hundred feet away from the intersection.

Also speaking in opposition were Mr. Watkins, David Hunter and Dudley Martin. Watkins observed that the Grant Av crossing was more dangerous than Broadway and that maintenance of the underpasses is inadequate. Hunter represented the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Assn and made a short statement that the group was opposed to the closure. Attorney Dudley Martin proposed a "Tom Finney Memorial Bridge" to span the intesection with an overpass stretching from Chase St to Division St, using new technology and materials used in a recent construction on Farm Road 148. This project could also be used as a learning practicum for Rolla's UMR and MSU's engineering departments.

Grant Beach Neighborhood residents were glaringly absent. Many of the Grant Beach leaders had conflicts in time scheduling with other neighborhood activities. Others wanted to "keep their powder dry" in anticipation of more information to be available from future meetings related to this issue. The meetings and schedule are available at their website calendar: http://www.grantbeachneighborhood.org/calendar.htm

Monday, November 28, 2005

Who Pays the Fiddler?

Blind to the Light
Originally uploaded by Rod Graves.

There is little to no oversight from the Department of Transportation in establishing policy for railway bridges. Their recommendations are only advisory. The only real requirement is that the railway put a maintenance plan in effect. Inspections of the railways are done by the owners. Most maintenance plans call for at least weekly inspection of the rails, and annual inspections for bridges.

In other words, railroads are allowed to self-regulate with no outside supervision or accountability. The railroads can refuse to release records of inspections. In matters like we face here in Springfield, it comes down to a matter of negotiation between the highway authority, in this case the City, and the railroad.

Some excerpts from the Federal Railroad Administration FAQ sheet:
Q-3. The bridge that carries a railroad over my street has a vertical clearance of only 10 feet 6 inches, and my truck will not fit under the bridge. Can FRA require the railroad to raise the bridge and improve the clearance?

A. As in Question 2 above, FRA does not take jurisdiction over clearances or the condition of the highway under a railroad bridge. Improvements to clearances and the condition of the highway under the bridge are issues to be resolved between the railroad and the highway agency.

Q-7. Does FRA require or recommend that bridges be re-rated at a particular interval?

A. No. As in Q-6 above, FRA holds the track owner responsible for the adequacy of the bridges that carry its track. If the bridge design records show that the bridge is designed to carry a load at least as heavy as the loads to be operated, and if the condition of the bridge has not changed appreciably, it is probably not necessary to re-rate the bridge. However, if an inspection shows deterioration of a component of the bridge, it might be necessary to revise the rating of the bridge.

Q-9. How can I get a copy of FRA’s database of all railroad bridges in the United States?

A. FRA does not maintain a database of railroad bridges. There is no reason for FRA to do so from a safety standpoint, and it would be an unnecessary expense for both FRA and the reporting railroads. FRA guidelines call for railroads to keep an accurate inventory of their own bridges for effective maintenance management.

Q-10. Why won’t a railroad send me copies of the inspection reports on its bridges?

A. Railroad bridge inspection and evaluation is a multi-level effort. Inspectors observe, measure, and report on the condition of a bridge and its components, but a full evaluation of the safety and serviceability of the bridge requires the training and experience of a competent engineer. Inspection reports from inspectors to the engineer are an intermediate step in that process. A person who is not familiar with the terminology and reporting methods used by that particular railroad, and who is not competent by education and experience to evaluate railroad bridges, could easily draw incorrect conclusions from raw bridge inspection reports. FRA reviews those reports on a case-by-case basis, but considers them only as a part of the full inspection and evaluation process.

If the railroad gets what they want now, there is little to nothing the citizens of Springfield can do to rectify shortcomings in the conditions of the underpasses along Commercial St. Future plans for renewal of Commercial Street will be hampered. Center City Springfield will be stuck with these eyesores as long as the railroad pleases.

It's up to the City Council to address these problems in negotiation with the railroad. If the City Council spends all it's bargaining chips to get the railroad property for the Jordan Valley projects, there won't be anything left to address the low clearances, poor conditions, and unappealing appearence of the underpasses.

And guess who pays the price for it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Too Tall Truck

Too Tall Truck
Originally uploaded by locofocomoto.

Luckless truck driver missed the 11'6" sign on Grant Av underpass. The underpass is scarred with many such incidents. I thought the underpass was in horrible condition, many cracks in the concrete showing it's age and stress fatigue. Then I took a photo safari to Lyon Av and Washington Av. They're even worse. Lyon Av has wooden trestles patched with plywood and a big gap in load bearing structure. Washington Av has at least 4 water seeps, complete with stalagmites, grape, and soda straw formations as you can see in caves here in the Ozarks.

See the photos for yourself at :


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Train Wreck Coming To Springfield City Council

Missouri's state motto,"Salus populi suprema lex esto, the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law," is being put to a test in Springfield's City Council chambers. At issue is a controversial street closure just north of Broadway and Commercial. Local residents are strongly opposed to the closure and succeeded in getting the issue tabled for over a year.

Now the issue is back on the agenda, and if the News-Leaders coverage is any indication, the railroad has regained the upper hand. Today's article quotes the BNSF press representive five times, and only one person opposed to the closure. All of the coverage is concentrated on the closure issue, and ignores related problems in the area, such as the poor condition and anitquated structure of the railroad underpasses in the area. No proposal for renovation of the underpasses gains the light of day. The only sop to the neighbors is a railroad proposal to relieve itself of responsibility for crossing maintenence with a bribe of $65,000 over the next seven years. The neighborhood groups , and ultimately the City, would then be responsible for cosmetic upkeep of the crossings thereafter.

Broadway is also the bike route crossing for the area--another issue ignored. City representatives don't seem to realize that bicycle and foot traffic in the area is often not a matter of choice for the area residents. They're not out for a Sunday stroll. They're stuck on foot or bike by necessity that will be on the rise as gas prices force more people to "shanks mare."

Area residents are increasingly frustrated with the trend of events. A school closure, giving away Grant Beach property to a non-profit agency, and the trainwreck at Broadway leave people feeling they're opinion doesn't matter.

And elected officials wonder why voter turnout there is so low.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Clouds Over Washington

anti-war.march (6).washington
Originally uploaded by marysz.

The criticism from the right continues to paint peace protesters as anti-troop. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all Americans, it is our sons and daughters over there, too. We differ in the policy of our government as prosecuted by George Bush.

"Anti-war protesters claim that while they are against the war, they support the troops. This is unbelievable when these "peace" groups actively work against our military. Protesting against the war is one thing; actively working against our military during a time of war is quite another. The left has found a new way to spit on our brave fighting men and women, " said Kathy Gonzalez, Springfield, in a News-Leader Readers Letter.

Every time the Right makes this allegation, they spit on the Constitution.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Turkey Family

Turkey Family
Originally uploaded by brookenovak.
Happy Thanksgiving To All Family and Friends

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where in the World is the Missouri 7th District Committee?

We need a viable candidate to take out Roy Blunt. Where is this person? If not Jim Kreider, who? Matt Patterson? Craig Hosmer? Doug Brooks? Bobbie Lurie? Who?

So far, the 7th District has met only once, for an election of officers. As a member of said committee, I'm disgusted that there's been no other activity. Are we going to wait for another Marc Perkel?

I can really see DFA, DCCC, and the DNC step up for that kind of candidate--NOT!

Women and men at work on recruiting a candidate, a job the party apparatus doesn't seem to be doing, get ganged up on by other dems.

Leaves me feeling like this:

Who Can It Be Now? - Men at Work

Who can it be knocking at my door?
Go 'way, don't come 'round here no more.
Can't you see that it's late at night?
I'm very tired, and I'm not feeling right.
All I wish is to be alone;
Stay away, don't you invade my home.
Best off if you hang outside,
Don't come in - I'll only run and hide.

Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?

Who can it be knocking at my door?
Make no sound, tip-toe across the floor.
If he hears, he'll knock all day,
I'll be trapped, and here I'll have to stay.
I've done no harm, I keep to myself;
There's nothing wrong with my state of mental health.
I like it here with my childhood friend;
Here they come, those feelings again!

Is it the man come to take me away?
Why do they follow me?
It's not the future that I can see,
It's just my fantasy

Oh...Who can it be now?
Oh...Who can it...
Who can it...
Yeah yeah yeah

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Democratic Dissaffection

I first found the term "Locofoco" in a tattered copy of a book of Abraham Lincoln's correspondence. It was an obscure reference at the time, but is now seeing a resurgence in usage by people tired of the "Republican Light" version of the Democratic Party. Here's a rather radical sampling of it's new incarnation from the Punk Rock band "Fleshies."


equal rights!
we want equal rights!
we're gonna tear it down!
we'll storm the armory, get all the guns
establish a new world order and then we're done
it's this kind of voice that can only be heard
when things are good, at least for the powerful
when the downturn comes
everyone turns back into a rugged individual
what'll we do when there are fights in the street
for a burger king job?
how are you gonna screw the system
when your movement's a purposeless blob?
it's time for a plan, but socialism's been done to death
maybe a kneejerk reaction could be effective
if it cuts a wide enough swath
it's pretty simple really
just remember the end of the world is nigh
and thank whoever you want that we've got the technology
to make everyone die
when i've got it in my hands
i'll be a locofoco motherf#*ker

Sound sample at: