Monarch Fire Prevention District: From November 30 to December 30 the Monarch Fire Protection District scheduled 14 meetings. Nine of them were closed to the public. I don’t know, but does the Skull and Bones Society at Yale hold as many secret meetings?
Monarch isn’t alone. The West County EMS & Fire Protection District in Manchester for years held a closed meeting before every regular meeting. You would hope a month would go by where things were running smoothly enough for one of these fire districts to survive on exclusively open public meetings.
“A public governmental body is permitted, but not required, to close its meetings, records and votes when they relate to certain issues listed in Section 610.021,” according to the Attorney General’s office.
The key here is “permitted, but not REQUIRED.” This means government bodies are not require to hold closed meetings and should strive not to.
How an elected public body can hold almost twice as many of their meetings in secret is beyond me. I served two years on a city’s board of aldermen and during 48 meetings there were two that had closed sessions and I question whether one of those should have been closed.
After having a number of closed meetings for personnel decisions where the board decided to fire the entire command staff, you would think they might go back to holding meetings taxpayers could attend. This does not appear ready to happen anytime soon.
I'd like to see candidates run for the board of directors of Monarch, not on a union or non-union platform, but on a pledge to have open meetings.
Rockwood School District: On December 15, Rockwood School District School Board member Stephen Smith resigned as president of the board—but not from the board. This immediately begged the question…why didn’t he simply resign from the school board entirely.
Here is what Smith did in 2011 as the school board president:
- He allowed Borchers to hire friends as consults. They worked 17 days and collected $30,000.
- He then approved hiring Borchers’ friends for full-time jobs with salaries of $138,000 and $125,000.
In light of these points, one might think Smith should step down as president of the school board. But no, there is more.
Next, the public learned Smith is a school board member and employed by Glenn Construction—the company that manages the school district’s construction projects (since 1994) and headquarters its corporate office in a school district building.
Then, it's disclosed that when the school district has asked for bids to do the work that Glenn Construction does, no one opened the competitive bids, but simply gave the contract to Glenn Construction.
Smith, as president of the school board, had been allowing Glenn Construction to use a school district building as the company’s corporate office. Smith, it would seem, had a day office and a night office at the school district.
The presidential role of a school board is that of a figure head, like an emcee—running the meetings. But the president also has a vote.
Smith needs to do himself, his family, his employer and residents of the district a huge favor. He needs to resign from the school board completely.
He needs to stop getting a paycheck from his employers’ bosses. He should stop voting on issues, and as another big favor, stop coming to school board meetings.
NEWSHOUND OR THIEF: There are two area printed publications that may claim to print news—but I don't agree.
The Ladue News and Town and Style Magazine have taken over printing what used to be called “The Society Pages” of daily newspapers back in the 1950s and 1960s. In short, the two print photos and stories about rich people at parties and sell ad space to merchants who want to sell products and services to rich people.
I believe there is no news in the Ladue News, unless you consider news to be high-dollar real estate ads and photos of swells at swell charity events.
Now, the Town and Style Magazine was started by former editors of The Ladue News. And it's more pictures of rich people at parties and ads for expensive items and services.
It includes a section titled “Talk of the Towns” written by Bill Beggs, Jr. Beggs appears to now lift news stories from Chesterfield Patch and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and reduce them to weekly blurbs for Town and Style.
On December 5, my Chesterfield Patch column was a recommendation that people should give a gift of life this Christmas, and stop using cell phones while driving. I wrote how that would be a nice Christmas present to families everywhere, and particularly to Mark Tiburzi’s family. I told how Tiburzi died in 2008 when his car was run over by a tractor trailer driver reaching for his cell phone on I-64/40 (at the Town and Country border with Chesterfield.)
I went on to describe how Tiburzi was manager of the store Famous Footwear. He had left the Chesterfield store and was going to the Brentwood store.
But still, imagine my surprise when nine days later my column had been reduced to a long paragraph for Begg’s "Talk of the Towns" as an opinion item against using cell phones.
I swiftly emailed Dorothy Weiner, editor of Town and Style, saying that perhaps Beggs should give credit where credit is due, and mention from where he lifts his material. Her reply:
“John, I spoke with Bill and he did indeed glance at your column, to which he was attracted by the Tiburzi name. . . and we agree that in this instance it would have been preferable to mention attribution, as it is such a specific (and dated) example.
Sorry for causing you any distress over this. I hope you'll accept our apology.
I think perhaps Town and Style should just stick to pictures of swells.
WRONG SONG: What was the band director at Missouri State University thinking? Recently the band played Dixie at an event held at a town park in Springfield. It so happened that the park was also a site of a lynching years ago.
The University of Mississippi no longer allows its band to play Dixie. The tune had been the school song for over 100 years, but in 2010 it was outlawed from being performed by school bands.
I was once on a cruise ship making a transatlantic crossing. A member of the staff who was British had planned a pub night in one of the lounges where everyone would enjoy some drinks and sing songs. He even handed out song sheets. I was amazed when they began singing back-to-back Dixie and When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.
When those songs came up, many of the Americans stopped singing and some walked out. I told the staffer he might want to avoid those two songs in the future since 150 years after the Civil War, they will be found offensive by many of American passengers. I suggested he stick with the The White Cliffs of Dover and Till We Meet Again.
I would make the same suggestion to the Missouri State Band. When they feel like playing Dixie, try The White Cliffs of Dover.