"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.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

Recent events culminated in praise from the Springfield News Leader on burying Public Input, and raising it to new life.

On the same day that the NewsLeader covered the burial, they ran an online poll asking:

"Do you think city administrators and elected officials listen to public comment on local issues?"

The results were not good news to city leaders;

Total Votes: 760  Yes 17.1%  No 82.9%

This bodes ill for real citizen participation in civic affairs, at least with the current administration.  Thankfully, there is another form of public input coming in 2007--city elections.  In this form of Public Input, the citizens cannot be ignored.

(Ed note:  I've chosen to republish the Our View piece in it's entirety since the NewsLeader charges for access to past articles beyond a certain time.  It's ironic a paper that consistently harps on free speech and public access to information puts commercial barriers in the way of the public.  Thankfully, archiving such information is allowable as "fair use.")

From the NewsLeader:

Published February 20, 2006


Neighborhoods best advocates for needed improvements

Residents of Springfield's Grant Beach and Woodland Heights subdivisions remain angry at the City Council for closing the Broadway Avenue railroad crossing.

Give them credit, though, for coming up with creative ways to express their anger.

Last week, they staged a mock funeral. "Public Input" was eulogized and laid to rest at the site where Broadway is now interrupted. "Neighbors question the purpose of spending time and energy providing input when they know it will be ignored," Robert Brantley said during the eulogy.

But they don't question it so much that they will retreat into the shadows. By the end of the funeral, Public Input had been reborn with a pledge that the two neighborhoods will keep working together to improve north-south routes through their area.

We hope they will. The biggest challenge facing them and the city is the inadequacy of the antiquated Grant Avenue underpass. Trucks regularly get stuck there, snarling traffic and blocking any emergency crews seeking to get from one side of the tracks to the other.

This needs to be fixed, and the best advocates for improvements will continue to be these two neighborhoods. Long live their public input.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Republicans Seek to Deny Voting Rights for 170,000 Missourians

Your Vote IS Your Voice
Originally uploaded by D.James.
Under the guise of "election reform," Republican legislator Delbert Scott sponsored a bill to limit access to the polls for 170,000 prospective voters. The bill also contains language to strike at voter registration activists, exit pollsters, and eliminate pay for voter registration workers. Overall, the bill looks to be a naked attempt to eliminate tools used primarily by Democratic and liberal organizations.

From the Springfield News-Leader:
Election officials in the Ozarks are waiting and watching as Missouri lawmakers consider a proposal to require photo identification for all voters.
"The devil will be in the details," said Greene County Clerk Richard Struckoff on Tuesday while he perused the bill, which runs to dozens of pages of provisions that would replace the current voter identification rules in the state.
"We really need to investigate this," he said. "One side says it's a barrier, others say it's not that much of a barrier, that most people have ID and it's necessary to prevent fraud."
The bill was filed Monday by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry, who said, "The core of the whole issue is to restore voter confidence in Missouri's elections."
Only six other states require photo identification to vote.
The level of fraud the bill is intended to prevent appears low here.
Scott's bill would also expand the size of the buffer zone around polling places from 25 to 50 feet for people who are demonstrating or taking opinion polls, require registration of anyone involved in a voter registration drive, and prohibit payment for signing up new voters.
Mike Seitz, a spokesman for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, said 170,000 people in Missouri don't have a photo ID, and 20 percent of those are seniors. Carnahan, he said, wants election reform that would "make it harder to cheat and easier to vote." The legislation, he said, needs to be implemented in a way that doesn't "get in the way of anyone's right to vote."
Scott's bill would still allow casting provisional ballots — votes that are counted only if the voter is later proven to be eligible — if the voter was unable to obtain photo ID because of physical or mental disabilities or because the voter had a religious belief opposing photo identification.

170,000 Missourians don't have state identification--and requiring a photo id (fee required), while seemingly an innocent enough requirement, would be an indirect poll tax. The bill contains language requiring the state to issue a free identification for such voters--but that won't help for thousands of voters who discover the need on election day. Provisional voting would still be allowed--by Federal law. Under provisional voting, only federal election races are counted, eliminating state and local ballots for these voters.

Other provisions in the bill are indeed the "devil in the details" that Struckhoff cites. In the 2004 election, thousands of voters were registered by paid canvassers through efforts like ACT (America Coming Together). The bill would eliminate this kind of effort, and put barriers in front of volunteers before they could help someone get registered to vote. It also doubles the distance requirement from the election polls for exit pollsters, electioneering, and demonstrators.
In an interview on KSMU, Struckhoff, expressed his doubts of need for the bill and said "We should take a good hard look at how this is working out in other states," beore implementing it here.
Scott's bill is a naked partisan power play with Missourians caught in the middle. It's quite hypocritical for the Republicans to espouse democracy for Iraq, while limiting access to the polls at home.