March 3, 2015

Missourians, elected officials voice opposition to Fort Leonard Wood cuts

Missouri’s top elected officials, more than a third of its state legislature, and some 2,000 Missourians turned out at Fort Leonard Wood Monday night to urge the Army not to cut up to 5,400 military and civilian jobs there by 2020.

A standing room only crowd turned out for the listening session to discuss the proposed cutting of up to 5,400 jobs at Fort Leonard Wood.  (Courtesy; U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler on Twitter, @RepHartzler)

A standing room only crowd turned out for the listening session to discuss the proposed cutting of up to 5,400 jobs at Fort Leonard Wood. (Courtesy; U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler on Twitter, @RepHartzler)

“Hard to match this anywhere else,” U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R) told the assembled. “The support for this facility in the community is truly second to none anywhere in the country.”

Blunt said the Fort is the 5th largest employer in the state with more than 36,000 direct and indirect jobs, and presents a unique set of efficiencies.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreed.

“This is the least expensive in direct costs for training for any of the facilities in the country, so if we’re trying to save money, why in the world would we diminish this facility? We should be adding to this facility, not diminishing it, because it is so cost-effective for the Army.”

The proposed cuts are part of a reduction of about 70,000 jobs across the Army.

Governor Jay Nixon and other elected officials said Fort Leonard Wood is an important site for the military, training more than 80,000 men and women annually.  (Fort Leonard Wood Flickr stream)

Governor Jay Nixon and other elected officials said Fort Leonard Wood is an important site for the military, training more than 80,000 men and women annually. (Fort Leonard Wood Flickr stream)

U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, who sits on the House Armed Service Committee, says work continues in Congress to find money to reduce those cuts, but argued that regardless, Fort Leonard Wood should be spared.

“Here, every mission and every [person] serving at Fort Leonard Wood is vital, is needed, and needs to stay,” said Hartzler.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) said Missouri is a military-friendly state offering “unique competitiveness and advantages.”

“Our central location, our low energy costs, our robust and diversified transportation system, quality schools,” Nixon cited, as well as state programs to support military members including the Show-Me Heroes program that promotes the hiring of veterans.

The Fort will already lose about 1,200 jobs by October under a proposal that two years ago would originally have cost it 3,900 jobs.

A decision on additional cuts is expected later this year.

Missouri Senator calls for end to negative ads after Schweich’s death

A state senator has called for an end to negative campaigning after the apparent suicide of Missouri’s auditor.

Senator Mike Parson (photo courtesy; Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Mike Parson (photo courtesy; Harrison Sweazea, Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) delivered an impassioned plea on the floor of the state senate, raising the question of whether negative campaigning could have contributed to Tom Schweich’s choice to take his own life last week.

“There’s no way to justify what he did because at that point he truly acted alone. In my opinion, he made a poor choice. However if that choice was brought on in any way by the negative side of politics, and the people that work under fictitious committee names, fictitious mail boxes, all while making thousands and thousands of dollars, then shame on them,” said Parson, his voice cracking. “Shame on them.”

Parson was particularly critical of a radio ad that began running last month that compared Schweich’s appearance to that of fictional TV character Barney Fife, and called him a weak opponent. That ad was sponsored by the political action committee calling itself Citizens for Fairness in Missouri.

“The commercial had no factual basis whatsoever,” said Parson. “It had nothing to do with the duties of his job performance of being an elected official … and the fact that that commercial was aired almost two years before a statewide election speaks volumes. It speaks volumes to how far out of hand this all has become. To base things totally on one’s appearance and to make reference to one being small and being able to be squashed like a bug should be unacceptable to all of us.”

“One has to wonder,” continued Parson, “How his wife, his children felt. Somebody you’re married to, you love, that you live with, that raised children with. How do you think she felt for her husband to be described in such a way? How do you think those two children felt when somebody talked about their dad in that kind of light?”

Of reports that Schweich was angry due to his belief that others in the state Republican party were saying he was Jewish in order to cost him votes among Evangelical Christian Republicans, Parson said, “one has to ask why was the discussion even in the first place? Why was the discussion ever in the first place with consultants in the political arena.”

“I would also hope that the people involved, at some point, would admit to making a poor judgment call and would have the decency to apologize to Tom’s family for being part of such an irresponsible act,” said Parson.

Parson said he would commit to not using negative campaigning or support candidates that do. He called on his fellow elected officials to make the same commitment, specifically calling out the Lieutenant Governor, Senate President, Senate Minority Floor Leader, and those senators who are running for statewide office.

“I will no longer stand by and let people destroy other people’s lives using false accusations and demeaning statements all in the name of money and winning elections,” Parson said.

An emotional Parson was asked by Missourinet whether he believes negative campaigning did play a role in Schweich’s apparent suicide.

“I think we have people doing things, horrible situations to other people that they have no business doing.”

A memorial service for Schweich will be held tomorrow at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, the episcopal church that Schweich attended. The state House and Senate have cancelled most committee hearings that were set for tomorrow and have postponed their sessions until Tuesday afternoon, so that legislators can attend the service.

Missouri auditor remembered as family man, dedicated servant

A memorial service for Missouri’s state auditor will be held today in Clayton.

State Auditor Tom Schweich is joined by several state lawmakers as he formally announced his run for governor.

State Auditor Tom Schweich is joined by several state lawmakers as he formally announced his run for governor.

Tom Schweich is being remembered as a dedicated and focused public servant. Representative Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) got to know Schweich during the campaign for state auditor in 2010, which Schweich won. The two became friends and Hoskins says he got to know a man who in spite of his impressive education and resume, was very genuine and humble.

“Although he had an education background at Yale and Harvard that some of us, many of us like myself, would only dream about having, he didn’t rub that in your face. He was just a common guy and when you sat down and talked to him, he always had a smile on his face,” Hoskins told Missourinet.

Hoskins said Schweich also loved his job.

“He loved looking for fraud, waste and abuse in state government. His audits, as you can tell recently from the audit of the St. Joseph Public School District, were some of the toughest around,” said Hoskins.

Hoskins said Schweich’s work and political life did not come at the expense of his family. Schweich had two children with is wife, Kathy.

“He was very much a dedicated family man. I know he loved his wife and children and definitely would make time for them even as the demands of his work schedule would take him elsewhere,” Hoskins said.

“My thoughts and prayers just go out with them. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. I know it’s the most difficult times and days and hours that they’ve experienced, said Hoskins of Schweich’s family.

Hoskins declined to comment on the information released by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Schweich had reached out to reporters to talk about his belief that newly elected state Republican Party Chairman John Hancock had said Schweich was Jewish in an effort to undermine Schweich’s campaign for Governor. Nor did Hoskins want to discuss what ramifications for the state GOP might be.

He and more than 200 other lawmakers, elected officials, staff, and Capitol reporters gathered in the House chamber last week in a prayer service for Schweich and his family.

Clayton police are continuing to investigating Schweich’s death as an apparent suicide.

Related story:  Funeral set for Schweich, interim auditor appointed

Missourians, elected officials to rally against Fort Leonard Wood cuts

Missouri elected officials from all levels of government will be at a public listening session today to speak against the proposed cutting of 5,400 jobs at Fort Leonard Wood in response to projected budget cuts in Washington D.C.

The gate at Fort Leonard Wood

The gate at Fort Leonard Wood

Steve Erhardt with Friends of the Fort and the Association of the United States Army, says the loss of those jobs would be devastating.

“If these cuts did go through, which hopefully they won’t, but an estimated population decrease of almost 14,000 people within our region,” Erhardt told Missourinet affiliate KJPW. “Certainly we need to do everything we can to send a message to the army that … not here.”

Erhardt says the message to the military is proactive.

“We want to build a case of why Fort Leonard Wood is a great place for the army to do business, so as downsizing happens potentially at other installations, we think we’ve got a great story to tell as to why they should come to Fort Leonard Wood.”

Missouri’s governor, both U.S. Senators, several statewide elected officials, and state lawmakers are among those expected to participate at tonight’s listening session. As many as 1,500 Missourians are also anticipated.

The session begins at 5:30 at Nutter Field House at the Fort.

Missouri senators threaten budget cuts for schools that fail to stop bullying

State Senators have reacted to a report of the beating of an autistic boy at a Kansas City-area middle school with a threat to cut funding when schools don’t prevent such incidents.

Senator Kurt Schaefer (left) has been voted the chairman of the Joint Committee on Governmental Accountability, which Senator Eric Schmitt is also a member of.

Senator Kurt Schaefer (left) and Senator Eric Schmitt spoke about the recent attack on a 12-year-old student at the Liberty Middle School and a possible response in the state budget.

A 12-year-old boy spent several days in the hospital and suffered a fractured jaw and skull and damaged inner ear after the attack at the Liberty Middle School. His family says it had warned school officials that the attacker had bullied his older brother and says those warnings went unheeded.

Senator Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) said that part of the story, reported extensively by the Kansas City Star, troubled him.

“The grandfather, according to the news reports, sent a certified letter weeks ahead of time. Certified, which means that he knew that something was going to happen and he knew that unfortunately when it happened, he was going to have to prove that he tried to warn them,” said Silvey.

Talking with Silvey, whose district includes Liberty, and other senators in the state Senate chamber, Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) said it sounds as though Liberty school officials failed in their jobs.

“I don’t know what has to happen for some of these folks to start paying attention, but I think part of the strategy might be, you know what? All the dollars that you claim that you … some of that might be at risk if you don’t do your job,” said Schmitt.

He spoke with the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Kurt Schafer (R-Columbia) about keeping the Liberty story in mind during the budget process that will unfold in the next couple of months.

“For us to begin to think of ways to have carrots and sticks,” said Schmitt, “when it comes to people not doing their job who get millions of dollars from the state every year.”

Schmitt says he will again handle legislation to require schools to have an anti-bullying policy.  Such bills have stalled in past sessions over a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats about whether to specify what groups a policy would protect, such people who identify as having a certain sexual orientation, race or religion.