Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Republicans and Minorities

I thought I would share a couple of youtube videos that I found interesting and profound.  As we go into the next election cycle, there are some intersting things here to consider and think about as we work on campaigns and such.

This is the trailer for a movie that is profound and insightful.  I would suggest that everyone watch this.

and then, let us not foget the words of the great Ronald Reagan in a speech that I find many people are not aware of.  It is interesting to see how timeless his words are, although with Reagan that seemed to always be the case.

I may get flamed for this but I am ok with that.  I bring this up because I am a realist.  In Missouri's first district, we have a large black and a growing hispanic population.  That combined with our large union base does not bode well for Republicans.  If we are to ever get a Republican or a right leaning Libertarian in office, we have to listen to these people.  We have to learn that this is a different audience than we are used to and reach out to them.  Too often we assume that we cannot reach this audience and that is not the case.  As many people stated in these clips and in the movie, many blacks and latinos are social conservatives.  They have just been brainwashed to think that they have to vote Democrat.  We all know that is not he case.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Obama Admits to NOT Enforcing the Laws and The Press Says Nothing

As I am going through my normal reading patterns, I stumbled upon this article in the Washington Examiner (HERE).

In it, Obama talks about how he wants to work around Congress until he can get his lapdog Nancy Pelosi back in charge.  Work around Congress.  If George Bush or any Republican said that the MSM would be screaming from rooftops about dictatorship.  Trolling through the cable news channels, I have yet to hear anyone mention this.  Drudge has it up on his website, but that is about it.

On top of that, Obama all but admits that he is not enforcing the laws on the books as his way of circumventing immagration law.  Once again, the main street media is not saying anyting about this.  Obama is all but bragging that he is choosing to not enforce the laws and not a peep.

Of course, Obama makes remarks to say that while he tempted to do his own thing, that is not how our rule of law works. 

So in one side we have Obama saying he cannot override the rule of law, but on the other side he is saying I can do what I want by deciding how and when I am going to enforce the laws.   Bush was called a dictator for his actions in Iraq even after receiving Congressional approval.

The corruption and arrogance of this administration is appaling.  They will go after Gibson Guitars for what they see is illegal purchase of wood (story found HERE) but they will not legally deport illegal aliens.  What's worse is in this example, Obama's admin would rather shut down a company based upon their interpretation of a foreign law rather than enforce the laws that are on the books.

This is what we get when we elect a community organizer for President of the United States.  A community organizer that said in 2001..
"If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that."
While Obama is speaking in the context of the civil rights movement, he is talking about redistribution of wealth and the government being granted rights.  This is a man who does not understand the Founding Fathers' concepts of individual freedoms.  This is why he believes that it is ok to not enforce the laws on the books and instead shutdown companies that may not be doing anything illegal.

If this does not explain why we need a change in 2012, nothing will.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Republican Candidate Choices

Greetings and saluatations,

Rather than re-hash an old topic or talk about Lacy Clay, I want to talk quickly about the Presidential Republican candidates.  I am probably going to get flamed for this but frankly, I do not care.  I must say that I really do not like many of the choices we have.  Most of them either come off as weak and populist or strong and unelectable.

Here are some thoughts:
  • Rick Perry - I like some of the things he has said and done, but I fear that his past and some of the things that he has said in Texas will come back to haunt him.  I think he trying to come off as electable to everyone by channeling Ronald Reagan.  Just look at him during the CNN debate.  He looked like a young wax figure of Reagan.
    • Can he beat Obama, probably. 
    • Would he be a good president, maybe.
  • Herman Caine - If I had to vote today, he would get my vote.  He is plane spoken, speaks his mind, is no nonsense.  I believe he is exactly what this country needs, a non politician who is socially libertarian and fiscally conservative.
    • Can he beat Obama, probably not.  Caine makes too much sense and does not play politics.
    • Would he be a good president, with the right VP to help out on foreign affairs, yes.
  • Mitt Romney - He is the most photogenic and possibly the least trust-able candidate.  He acts like he is small government fiscal conservative.  That said, he does not have the political background to prove this change of heart.
    • Can he beat Obama, yes.
    • Would he be a good president, 50/50 chance.
  • Michelle Bachmann - She is the Tea Party candidate.  She is also the target of much of the media's criticism.  She also suffers from what my mom calls "foot in mouth disease".  Michelle has said too many things that make her seem extreme.  True or not, she has been painted as the Republican Nancy Pelosi.
    • Can she beat Obama, not likely.
    • Would she be a good president, maybe.  I question how well she could work with  everyone to get things done.  She seems to be too much of a my way or the highway personality
  • Ron Paul - Ron makes a lot of sense 75% of the time.  The other 25% of the time, he either seems to be wrong, in my opinion, or he just rambles like your crazy Uncle.  On social issues, I agree with Paul.  On several of his fiscal issues, I agree with Paul.  When it comes to his foreign policy though, he comes off as an isolationist and that does not fly.
    • Can he beat Obama, no.
    • Would he be a good president, no.  Foreign policy is too major a part of being a president and it is much more complex than I think Paul is willing to admit.
  • Rick Santorum - As a senator, he did some pretty good things but he is not a strong candidate.  He is spending too much time downplaying his competitors instead of talking about his ideas.  I know he is trying to get his foot in the door by trying to show the chinks in the armor of his competition.  He appears to be a fiscal conservative and socially moderate.
    • Can he beat Obama, yes.
    • Would he be a good president?  He would probably be OK, not bad and not great.
  • John Huntsman - Based off of all the things he has said and presented he appears to be a middle of the road Republican.  I would not call him a fiscal or social conservative by any measure.  He may be appealing to the masses but I do not think that he is what the country needs.
    • Can he beat Obama, probably not.
    • Would he be a good president, probably not.  He seems to wishy washy and willing to bend to polling numbers.
  • Newt Gingrich - Newt is by far the statesman of the group.  What he says makes total sense.  Newt knows how to get things done in Washington and while he is a politician, he is also a scholar.  That all said, Newt brings a lot of baggage with him and because of that, would probably not be embraced by the general public.
    • Can he beat Obama, maybe.
    • Would he be a good president, yes.
If the American people knew what was good for them, they would elect Herman Caine or Newt Gingrich.  Either man would do great things for our country and in my humble opinion, the two of them together could really kick some tail.  I mean, Mitt Romney has practically agreed with Herman Caine every time the two are together.  The difference is Mitt Romney is a more polished politician. 

If I had to guess today, I would say Huntsman will be the next one out.  He would likely endorse no one and his backers would probably fall in line with either Ron Paul or Rick Santorum.  After that, it is really going to depend upon fund raising.  Gingrich, Santorum or Caine could have to bow out early if they do not pick up more money or endorsements.  As we get closer to the primaires, Ron Paul will become a non-candidate as the American public learns mreoa bout him (NOTE - After the CNN debate, it could be earlier), leaving Bachman, Perry and Romney.
So, with all that said, using a Hubble telescope type lens to predict the future, I could easily see a combination of a Mitt Romney-Herman Caine ticket or a Rick Perry-Rick Santorum ticket.  Mitt and Herman can project a pro-business, working knowledge of industry perspective while a ticket of the 2 Ricks could project strength, Christian conservative and youth values. 

There are some other VP candidates that I think would be good too and they include Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan and locally Jim Talent.  They all bring different things to the table and it will really depend upon the state of the nation and the world as to who would be offered the job.  If the economy is really in the tank and the House and Senate has a lot of internal bickering, Newt would be the perfect VP.  If the economy is still showing no signs of growth and business outlook is dim, Paul Ryan and Herman Caine would be very good choices considering their knowledge and backgrounds.  If foreign affairs becomes a hot topic due to more terrorist threats or increasing military action, Jim Talent's name could rise amongst the ranks.  Of course if there is a need to try and grab some Atlantic Coast votes as well as some Christian conservatives, Rick Santorum would be a good pick.

I say all of this and admit, though, if Sarah gets into the race, you have to throw out the entire playbook and start from scratch.  Personally, I think Sarah is bigger than the presidency at this point and can do more good where she is at now than as the President.

Now these are my opinions.  I welcome counter points and other thoughts.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Where Have I Been???

I had some people email me asking if I was quitting the blogging thing and moving on? Simple answer, No. More complex answer, Hell No!.

In all honesty, I have been spending time enjoying the wife and kids. Between that, reconnecting with some old friends, making some new friends and my days job, I just decided to take a break from blogging.

Oh sure, I have some things to write up on cars, green technology, politics, etc. In fact I have a couple of posts that I started and never finished. I promise I will get to them.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer, enjoy the fireworks this weekend and enjoy your friends and family.

Until my next post, take care all of you.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to Defeat Lacy Clay

Let's be honest and face the truth, shall we. Lacy Clay cannot be beat using standard methods. With the new setup for the 1st district, everything leans heavily in his favor. That is, if you think inside the box. For the most part, when people think of trying to dispose Lacy as our representative, they think of an Independent or Republican going one on one in an election. Much like with his father, the results are always the same, Lacy walks away with a generous win.

If we want to change the way the 1st district is represented we must recognize a couple of things:

  1. Unless Lacy does or says something illegal or incredibly stupid, no Republican or Independent is going to beat him in an election.

  2. St. Louis City and parts of North County lean too heavy in favor of Democrats over a Republican.

  3. Lacy has a great support structure in that a majority of the townships and the city are run and controlled by Democrats who want and to a lesser extent need to be liked by Lacy Clay if they want Federal money.

If we want to beat Lacy, we have to do so strategically and recognize that it will take more than 2 years to do so.

The first thing you have to do is cut off his supply line. This can be done in two fashions:

  1. Boycott people that fund Lacy's campaign coffers. Granted a lot of his money comes from unions, but there is a decent share that comes from local corporations that want to stay in good standing with him. Begin boycotting these companies and let them know that you will not do business with a company that supports a politician like Lacy Clay

  2. Remove local politicians that support Lacy Clay and do much of his campaigning for him. This is probably the biggest and hardest part of this overall plan. It is something that will take more than a couple of election cycles, but can do serious damage to his support structure.

It all starts with school boards and city councils. If you are a moderate or conservative and want to see real change, you have to start with your local area and spread out. School board and city counsel representatives are more accessible to the populace. Because of this, they can get the message out in a much more casual and personal fashion than a Congressional candidate. And, they can do it quicker. So, the first thing that has to be done is to get more Republicans or even more anti tax and spend candidates elected into positions of local authority. As these people are in office and bringing about change, they will be able to spring board up as well as inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Let me reiterate. This is the longest step in taking back control over our local government and eventually the 1st district. It is not something that can be done in 2 or even 4 years. It could take 8 or more years depending upon elections.

The second thing you have to do is keep Lacy honest. This means that we need to hold his feet to the fire every time he does and says something. God knows the media does it to just about every Republican and non line toting Democrat out there. If you know that Lacy is going to be giving a speech, go there and take notes or take video of them. Get it to me or another blogger like Gateway Pundit or Sharp Elbows to name a few. A lot of times candidates will say things that they do not want others to hear when there are no television cameras or reporters there. It is at times like these that you can hear a politician or candidate express their true opinions and that is when you can nail them.

The third thing is probably the hardest to swallow but can help weaken or even remove Lacy Clay and the dynasty he is creating. The third thing is to back a more moderate Democrat(s) while Republicans are found and put into those lower structures. I know it will pain some of you to hear this, but sometimes you can weaken a base more by splitting it. We see it all of the time on MSNBC and such when they try and split Republicans over disagreements on policy. They do everything they can to keep a big happy family for the Democrats because they know splintering the party works and leads to in-fighting and disorganization. So, the best thing to do is to swallow the hard pill support a moderate Democrat who can remove Lacy Clay. If you were to look at the last election primaries and take all of the votes for other candidates, Lacy got nearly 60% of all the votes. Now, imagine if everyone unified together and helped to support a moderate, Blue Dog Democrat. Lacy could be defeated in the primaries. From talking to friends and neighbors who are heavily involved in the local unions, they all express a dislike for Lacy, but support him because he is a Democrat and that is what they are supposed to do. If the unions had another option that they thought could win, many of the people I have talked to think their unions would hold off support until a clear winner is determined or one of their own runs.

Now, I know there are a lot of variables to this. I know that none of this is easy. I know it sounds better to try and throw good candidates up against Lacy but I must say, I hate seeing people like Martin and Robyn put their blood, sweat and tears into taking on this man and be swatted away like a fly. We must remain vigilant and look at this like a war. In war you have to cut off supply lines, have strategic bases, ground level leadership and sometimes make your enemies enemies your friends. If we do this, we can beat Lacy.

What do you think?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Homeschoolers - Do you know about Leftovers, Etc?

As many of my readers know, my wife and I ventured into homeschooling in the not too distant past. We love it. We love the way we have connected with the educational process with our children. We love that we can determine the time and speed our children need to grasp subjects. We love that we are involved in the day to day process of educating our children. We are not indoctrinating them, we are educating them. We are teaching them in the way we thing they should be taught and are able to adjust our schedule based upon their interest and how well they are understanding and retaining what is being taught. It was with great joy that my wife and I were referred to this wonderful place that caters to the homeschooling community.

Leftovers, Etc. is a wonderful place for homeschoolers. It is a non for profit 501C based out of St. Charles, MO. This place is dedicated to supplying children and educators many of the basics needed for creative learning by providing surplus resources. These are things donated by businesses, industry and individuals within the community that are committed to the development of children in the fields of education and the arts. Put basically, it is like the biggest thrift store that you will find with recycled items or all types that can be used for teaching. For example, you can find Styrofoam egg cartons that you can use for painting trays. Baby food jars and bottles that you can use for storage or to hold bugs for homemade bug colonies. There are a lot of other things and all at very reasonable prices.

It is not just great for the resource center, but it also great for their enrichment programs. Leftovers offers several classes, some of which are recurring, while others are monthly. An example of their schedule can be found HERE.

The other big reason that we really like Leftovers is because it is common sense green. As you all may know I am big into sensible green technology. This is just a sensible method of being green and practical recycling. Any chance to support being green and recycling, I think, is smart.

So, if you get a chance, check out Leftovers, etc. Even if you are not a homeschooler, they are well worth checking out. You can find more information on them including their hours, directions and much more by going to their website HERE.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Interview with Andrew Podleski - Candidate for Florissant Mayor

As I said on my last post, I am not coming out in favor of any one candidate. I do not think it is my place. With that said, I feel it is very important that all of the people voting for the Florissant mayor should know something about the candidates. That is why I have chosen to get involved with this mayoral race. I said it before and I will say it again, as Florissant goes, so goes North County.

As you already know, I reached out, via email, to the candidates for Florissant mayor requesting an interview. Three of them responded and said they were open to it. After reaching out to my readers, I drew up 15 questions to ask. All three candidates were sent the same questions. Below, you will find the response from Andrew Podleski exactly as he responded to me, unedited and just as he sent them to me. I hope you read what he has to say and think about it as you decide and choose which candidate will best represent you.

1. What makes you qualified to be Mayor of one of the largest suburbs in the St. Louis area?

I believe I have the necessary professional experience and education to effectively manage our City. My work history has given me opportunities to perform in many roles and our City needs someone who has a varied background, who understands and knows how to organize staff to accomplish the work that needs to be done. I believe I have these skills which will be a great advantage as Mayor. Having been a team leader and
team member allows me to understand both roles necessary to accomplish team tasks.

2. What advantage/skill set makes you more qualified than the other candidates?

A wide range of experiences, and an ability to resolve complex issues or problems is what sets me apart. I have worked in the Military, U.S Government service and in Private Industry in both large and small companies. I have a strong belief in my abilities but recognize a team needs members with varied skill-sets and strengths.

3. What is your stance on the strong Mayor system that Florissant has and why do you feel this way?

The “strong Mayor” system can work well given that the Mayor has good professional skills, experience and personnel management abilities. Using the alternative system with a Mayor and City manager and other staffing to support the City manager is usually more costly because you have multiple salaries to pay versus the one.

Our Charter form of government defines our current Mayor wearing both hats, not only as the head of our City government (i.e. signs legislation into law) but also the role of the chief City Administrator and is charged with running the City on a daily basis. Other cities have a part-time Mayor and a fulltime City Administrator (and in some cases an Assistant Administrator).

I believe the Citizens who framed the Charter wanted to combine these positions so there would be accountability to Citizens through the ballot box. A City Administrator is selected by the City Council, who hires and fires them and is beyond direct accountability to the voters.

Being Mayor is an enormous responsibility. But the Citizens through our Charter have the final say on the direction of the City by controlling the ballot box. I will never forget they are the ultimate boss through the power of their vote.

4. Younger families are flocking to St. Peters and O’Fallon. As Mayor, what are you going to do to attract and retain young families to Florissant.

One thing I believe we need to address is the common perception of many in the metropolitan area that our City and North County is in decline. Our City has housing stock of a wide variety and age range. A great many of our homes were built when materials and craftsmanship in home building was far superior to what you see in many homes today. These well-built homes in established neighborhoods are affordable and excellent values. Plus they have excellent commuter and travel access. The dedicated men and women of our Police Department keep our community safe and our parks system is enviable for a City of our size.

In my comprehensive plan to market Florissant, our housing office will aggressively sell these points to employers like Boeing, ExpressScripts, UMSL and other new facilities in North County (North Park). These companies will be hiring young professionals who will be looking to gain a credit history and equity in a home. It is my desire to help them make that home choice in Florissant. To pursue a plan for enticing younger residents, we will need to highlight the many services and variety of neighborhoods we have to offer. I plan to develop a professionally prepared, cohesive and aggressive marketing package to entice them. There are many possibilities and I will always be open to suggestions from our employees, current
Citizens and potential new Citizens.

5. Considering these tough economic times, do you see any cuts to the City’s Senior and youth programs?

I feel we have many great programs for our Citizens and we must try to maintain or improve them. While I do believe we need to look at every service our City offers to be sure it is run efficiently and provides value, I think any proposals to change current services needs to be viewed in the light of which programs serve the most people in Florissant. I will also look to the Senior Department and Parks Department as well as the Parks Board and Senior Committee to offer suggestions for enhancements and efficiencies in our programs.

6. The two school districts in Florissant do not have a great reputation. This is major reason people cite for not moving into Florissant. While the City does not control the schools, what are your thoughts on how the City can help change this perception?

Last week, I attended a candidate forum for the Ferguson-Florissant School Board. It became clear one topic which needs to be addressed is the engagement of the Cities (not just Florissant, but all the surrounding communities) with the School Boards and their Superintendents. I want to have regular meetings with them to discuss possible involvement by Florissant in their efforts to improve the schools. For instance Florissant may be able to provide access to our Civic Centers for after-school programs.

Dialogue is needed here. They may have ideas how we can help them, and I believe they will be receptive to ideas I will bring to them as we share a common desire to make our Community the best it can be.

7. What do you like about the City of Florissant?

As I indicated in my earlier answer about attracting and retaining younger families, there are many things I like. Our rich history is impressive and varied with interesting twists and turns in its development. Driving around the City, I see quiet neighborhoods that are obviously well maintained by their residents.

Florissant is conveniently located near several interstate highways and because of our many large arterial streets you can travel to just about anywhere you choose in the metropolitan area either by highway or by main arterial streets. We have an incredible variety of park space both large and small. I remember in my youth when these parks were always in use. I hope to see them again very busy with the new Citizens we aim to attract in the future. The best part of any neighborhood or City is the people. We have good people who are the backbone of any community. We need to keep these good neighbors here while we try to recruit new ones to join their ranks.

The large and diverse collection of businesses that includes many large well-known companies but also many small and unique enterprises makes shopping and dining easy and interesting. Small entrepreneurial operations like the City Diner or long-time successful family busineeses such as Handyman Hardware, in addition to the big outlets, provide us with an excellent retail market place and great entertainment opportunities.

8. There are a lot of vacant businesses in Florissant. What are you going to do to fill those vacant buildings and attract vibrant businesses to the city?

Empty storefronts are a problem here as in many communities during these tough economic times. I will work with the Economic Development Director create a new plan for recruiting more businesses for Florissant.

Besides the Greater North County Chamber of Commerce, there are regional groups that can be tapped for information and help to attract specific shops and/or restaurants. One of these is the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that has ties throughout the Metropolitan area. I will ask for Citizens to help by suggesting what they want to see in the way of new or expanded businesses.

Look at Florissant Meadows. We now have a sushi/seafood buffet(Hokkaido) that is drawing large crowds. This traffic creates synergy that can only help other businesses in this shopping center and the surrounding businesses of the Lindbergh corridor. I have already been in contact with several commercial Real Estate professionals who have given me an insight into how to bring new business into Florissant.

We need to let businesses know that we really want them here to serve our community. The first step is to develop a welcoming attitude for them, by becoming more business friendly. I want to establish a system in Public Works to help prospective businesses get through the City requirements of bringing their companies to Florissant. We will have a one-stop coordinator who will assist in outlining the steps to satisfy the requirements of Planning/Zoning and business licensing so the businessperson can negotiate them with reduced frustration.

9. Some residents complain that there are too many check cashing, payday loan, rent to own and used card lots in Florissant. They feel that this brings in a seedier element and detracts from the City. What are your thoughts on this?

As a Councilman, I have voted for moratoriums on car lots within our borders. While we cannot prevent businesses from coming to Florissant if they are an approved use in any particular zoning district, we can certainly try to recruit other more desirable businesses to fill these empty spaces. It will take a well thought out plan and a Mayor who will stick with this plan to make it successful.

10. It has been said that our current Mayor can be contentious if you do not agree with him. How do you plan on working with the City Council?

While there always will be areas of disagreement in government, I believe as Mayor I need to set the tone on civility. My role is to lead the discussion not overwhelm the discourse with strong opinions and a personal agenda.

A successful leader listens to all sides of the discussion before making a decision.
I want to actively involve and engage the Council on City matters. For example, creating the budget earlier and including them in the process. But as the Chief Executive of the City, I will make the decisions that need to be made. I will explain my position very clearly, and it will not be just because I do not like the opposing viewpoint. As a Councilman, some have called me a naysayer because I asked pointed questions about Bills coming before that body. I view my position on the Council as the representative of the people, who cannot ask those questions I ask those questions to help Citizens understand the processes and duties of the Council. Open dialogue is never bad, however, it must be civil and respect the other person’s viewpoint.

11. Politically speaking, who do you model yourself after?

I greatly admire Missouri’s own Harry Truman. When he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he immediately thrust himself into his work so he would be as prepared as possible. I will strive to be involved in all aspects of the City operations, but I will also try to ensure City employees are the best they can be and can move with autonomy when needed.

In the book A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, she describes how Abraham Lincoln convinced his rivals for the Presidency to join his cabinet. He was not afraid to have these strong-minded men as advisors. In fact he wanted them for that very reason. They would offer him frank advice and they would not be yes men. I hope I can also achieve success in that area by utilizing our City employees in the positions where they can perform their best.

12. Is there anything you want to accomplish in your first year?

To strive to develop a budget that is balanced without re-directing money from the Capital Improvement Fund, the Parks Improvement Fund and the Sewer Lateral Fund. The Citizens of Florissant voted for those funds to be used for very specific purposes and that should be respected. I want the budget to have input from the Council at an earlier stage.

The budget must be presented in a way that is clear to all of our residents and it will be posted on our Florissant website. This will be a difficult task, but I believe with hard work it can be done.

13. What do you think people should know about you?

Most of my life I have been a very private person and one who believes I should do my very best in whatever I pursued. I ran for Mayor in 2007 and I am running now because I feel I can make a positive difference in the City I long called home. I have accomplished much in my life, but I always remember it was not just my efforts that helped me to succeed. To manage the City effectively, I will need the assistance of every department employee and staff member, but I will be the first to give them the credit for their efforts. It is important to be approachable; Citizens and employees will be able to contact me with opinions and questions without feeling apprehensive.

14. The trash/recycling contact will expire during the next Mayor’s term. Do you want to continue with a City wide contract or have it go back to being resident’s choice?

I was somewhat skeptical about this working in Florissant, but I knew it worked in other Cities. I have been pleased with the results so far. I think we need to continue this program. Can it be improved? Yes. In negotiating a new contract with Meridian or whoever will compete for this work, there are things we can do. I would like to see curbside leaf pickup in the Fall. I will investigate the possibility of the “tag-a-bag” program for Seniors. All options are open, except going back to six or seven different haulers. Besides the huge increase in recycling in Florissant, the reduction of truck traffic on our streets reduces wear and tear on them and extends their useful life which is a great thing. Any solution implemented, would have never met all needs and expectations. Overall, I think the single hauler solution we developed was a reasonable answer.

15. WalMart in Florissant, where do you stand and what are your thoughts?

Some of WalMart's business practices in dealing with manufacturers and employees run counter to the ideals of a great many citizens, including myself. The entrance of WalMart into a community often brings a highly negative impact for smaller businesses. It has been documented how their presence can devastate smaller competitors by undercutting prices in what I see as unfair practices.

Last year, WalMart presented a proposal to build in Florissant, but only with the help of Tax Increment Financing. It is their prerogative to ask for TIF money, but we do not have to give it to them. The Council turned down the proposal.
They now have a new proposal that asks for some special considerations which requires the support of the City. I will not support any proposal which involves taxpayer money for WalMart. I believe one of the largest corporations in the world can afford to build on their own money not ours.

However, if they satisfy all of the Planning and Zoning requirements on property in our City approved under our codes for this use and build a store using their money to build it without special considerations from the City, it would be difficult to prevent them from opening in Florissant.

So, there you have it. Andrew Podleski ladies and gentlemen.

If you would like to hear from one of the other candidates, or you are a candidate and wish to have your voice heard, please email me and I will be more than happy to interview you too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Interview with Robert Garrett - Candidate for Florissant Mayor

First let me say this, I am not coming out in favor of any one candidate. I do not think it is my place. With that said, I feel it is very important that all of the people voting for the Florissant mayor should know something about the candidates. That is why I have chosen to get involved with this mayoral race. I said it before and I will say it again, as Florissant goes, so goes North County.

I reached out, via email, to the candidates for Florissant mayor requesting an interview. Three of them responded and said they were open to it. After reaching out to my readers, I drew up 15 questions to ask. All three candidates were sent the same questions. Below, you will find the response from Robert Garrett exactly as he responded to me, unedited and just as he sent them to me. I hope you read what he has to say and think about it as you decide and choose which candidate will best represent you.

1. What makes you qualified to be mayor of one of the larges suburbs in the St. Louis area?

I’m an attorney with deep roots in the Florissant community, some understanding of small business and the problems facing small business owners as well as the important role of business in Florissant, and extensive experience in, and understanding of the workings of, Florissant city government.

In such regard, I’m currently a self-employed patent attorney and mediator. That means that not only can I practice as an attorney throughout the state of Missouri, but that I am also licensed to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and can do so throughout the country. In addition, I am qualified as a mediator for both civil and domestic matters under Missouri Court Rules.

I’ve been married to my wife, Toni, who is a math professor at the Meramec campus of the community college district, for over 41 years, and we have 3 adult kids, Anthony, Joe, and Susan Therese, spread from coast to coast. We have lived in our current house here, in the middle of Old Town, on the same block where I grew up, for over 33 years. We bought that house from my grandfather’s estate.

I’m a Florissant native, and at least 3 of my ancestors have served as Florissant Mayor: my great grandfathers Sidney Garrett and August Albers, and my great great grandfather Charles Castello.

I attended Sacred Heart School, including classes held in the old school building, and, with the aid of some scholarships, eventually obtained Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Electrical Engineering from Washington U.

I’m an Air Force veteran and was commissioned and began my active duty service as a Reserve Officer before being awarded a commission as Regular Air Force Officer. While on active duty I served as an engineer in satellite checkout and launch at Vandenburg AFB. My duties included activities with a variety of systems and also required me to work with and to exercise oversight of contractor engineers and union technicians who were working on the satellite vehicles.

Following my active duty time, I attended, and graduated from law school at St. Louis U., using the GI Bill, while remaining in the inactive reserve as a Captain.

Subsequently, for over 31 years, until April 1, 2009, I operated and, for many years, managed the patent law firm of Haverstock, Garrett & Roberts LLP, a small to medium size patent law firm in downtown St. Louis, and, in so doing, became familiar with problems facing small businesses and their owners, including management of personnel.

During the time that I was with that patent law firm, I also served on the Florissant Planning and Zoning Commission, and was later elected to and served 6 terms on the Florissant City Council from 1984 to 2002. During my City Council tenure, I served 1 council term as council Vice-President and two council terms as President of the City Council. During part of that time, Jim Eagan was Mayor and during the latter few years Bob Lowery was Mayor.

During that same time period, I served on various committees and commissions of St. Louis County and the St. Louis County Municipal League, including the St. Louis Co. Capital Improvements Committee, the Boundary Change Committee, and the Special Laws & Boundary Changes Committee.

I subsequently also served on the St. Louis County Interstate 270/ Highway 367 Corridor Advisory Commission, and I more recently served as Chairman of an Old Town Partners committee that was addressing business development and the possibility of establishing a new improvement district that would encompass at least the Old Town business district. That particular committee included not only Old Town Partner members, but also several business owners from the Old Town area and several City officials.

While I served on Council, I was a strong advocate for infrastructure maintenance and improvement, and was the driving force behind establishment of a long-term plan for the improvement of streets in the Old Town grid. That plan has been initiated, but will take many, many years to complete.

I was also a supporter, along with various other council members, and in opposition to Mayor Eagan’s desires, of numerous creek paving and improvement programs that have proved a boon to the City and to residents along those creeks.

Although I was sometimes at odds with Mayor Eagan, I also worked with him on various matters, including the purchase by the City of what is now the Florissant Government Building at St. Francois and Florissant Road. I was the one who initially proposed that purchase, and was invited by Mayor Eagan to appear with him for the closing of that purchase.

Over the years I have been a staunch supporter of our City’s police department, and I believe that it is imperative that we maintain a strong and effective force into the future.

I have worked to try to respect the history of Florissant and its historic treasures while also allowing residents and the City to be able to undertake property maintenance and updates without undue regulation and interference by the City. In such regard, I worked for many months in meetings with Rosemary Davison, then Council member Geri Debo, and City Attorney John Hessel, and sometimes others, to develop an improved ordinance regarding historic structures throughout the City and the Historic District. Many compromises were necessary in order to develop a workable ordinance that would address not only historic preservation, but also desires of residents of historic structures and of the Historic District to be free of unnecessary regulation. Had we not worked out and adopted a new ordinance when we did, repairs, and even the scheduling of repairs, would have been significantly delayed and impacted following the hail and ice storms we experienced some years ago because of the previous requirements regarding approval processes.

I have been a strong advocate of business development within the City, not only because of the more immediate favorable tax consequences for the City, but also because of the jobs that are made available to City residents and because of the general improvement that such businesses afford all of us in our daily lives. In such regard, I, along with four other Council members and Mayor Lowery, pushed for the redevelopment of the old, outdated shopping center that had been located at Cross Keys, which has now been replaced with the Shoppes at Cross Keys development and includes, among other stores, Barnes & Noble, Schnucks, Pier One, OfficeMax and Home Depot. At the time, that action was very controversial, and I faced a great deal of criticism from various other Council members and a significant portion of the Florissant populace. In the days before the final vote for that project, I met at Sansone offices to discuss and work out with the principals of that corporation some of the final amendments and concessions to be included in the bill, and to address with them the significant possibility that the project might not be approved, and the consequences of non-approval. I ask you to consider what that area would look like today had that development not been pursued. Fortunately, the project was very narrowly approved. In hindsight, I would hope that everyone could agree that that was a good decision!

2. What advantage/skill set makes you more qualified than the other candidates?

No other candidate has the background, qualifications, and wealth of experience that I do. See the answer to Question 1.

Significantly, no other candidate has the legal training and experience that I do.

In addition, no other candidate is a trained mediator.

Additionally, while I was a Councilman, I believe that I became known for my attention to detail, my desire to “get things right”, and my ability to work with the Mayor and other council members even when we did not agree, and without the exhibition of ongoing rancor and personal animosities.

I believe that those abilities, especially when coupled with my business experience and my long service on the City Council, including as both Council Vice-President and Council President, make me more qualified and better able to address the challenges as Mayor of Florissant.

3. What is your stance on the strong mayor system that Florissant has and why do you feel this way?

Florissant has had a strong mayor system since the adoption of the current charter almost 40 years ago, and that system has served the City well over that time period.

I am an advocate of the “don’t fix what ain’t broke” school of thought. It doesn’t appear to me that the strong mayor system for Florissant is broken.

Florissant’s mayor serves not only as the chief executive of the City, but also as the chief operating officer. In council/manager systems, a city manager or administrator, typically chosen by the city council, acts as the chief operating officer.

Some argue that a city manager would be more qualified to run the day-to-day matters of city government because the city manager would be specifically trained for such a role. However, the history of city managers in numerous other communities shows that that is not necessarily the case. While some city managers do have specific college training and some previous city administration experience, others, when first hired by a municipality, have little or no previous administration training or experience. In some instances, the city manager is a previous police chief or other city official or politician who was able to secure the support of a majority of the council to be hired.

Some also argue that adoption of a council/manager system would get away from the more obnoxious “politics” associated with city government. That is clearly not the case. A city manager is a political appointee of the council, or more accurately, of a majority of the council. In far too many instances, a change in the make-up of the council may result in the firing of one city manager and the hiring of a new city manager. In some instances, especially where the council is fractious and closely split, the election of any new council member may result in a change in the council majority. In recent years, in several municipalities locally, on the East Side, in St. Louis County, and in St. Charles County, we have seen cities experience revolving door firings and hirings of city managers.

Some also argue that it would be cheaper to have a council manager than a full-time mayor because the mayor would be paid less. While I would expect a mayor in a council/city manager system to be paid less than the mayor of a strong mayor system, that does not mean that there will be an overall savings, however. If the City wishes to attract and be able to employ a well qualified city manager, the pay for that position would need to be commensurate with the pay for city manager positions in cities of comparable size and with comparable responsibilities. In many cases, that pay would need to be set as high or higher than the current pay for Florissant’s mayor. As of several years ago, the pay for O’Fallon, Missouri’s city manager was set at about $168,000, and an assistant city manger was paid an additional approximately $122,000. I don’t know the pay of other city managers and assistant city managers throughout the area, but a survey conducted by University City several years ago reflected that, at that time, there were at least 13-14 city managers in St. Louis County who were then being paid over $114,000. I think that the pay of the city manager of Hazelwood, which is considerably smaller than Florissant and which also employs an assistant city manager, is among those city managers who were then making over the $114,000, and I believe substantially more. Since Florissant is the largest community in St. Louis County, and is generally comparable in size to O’Fallon, Missouri, at least as of the time of the city manager pay referenced above, it would seem that it might well be MORE expensive for Florissant to move to a council/manager system.

If Florissant could not attract and elect qualified individuals who could act as both chief executive and chief operating officers, it might make greater sense to move towards a council/manager system instead of a strong mayor system, but that does not currently seem to be the case.

4. Younger families are flocking to St. Peters and O’Fallon. As mayor, what are you going to do to attract and retain young families to Florissant.

While St. Peters and O’Fallon have indeed grown rapidly over the past decade, as Florissant did in the 1960s, I don’t know that all, or even most, of that growth can be accurately attributed to younger families “flocking” to those communities. On the other hand, I do not doubt that such growth is, in part, due to some substantial influx of younger families into such communities.

Over the same period, while Florissant, as a more mature community, has not seen such substantial growth, it has remained a very stable community, and the latest 2010 census shows a slight increase in Florissant population over the 2000 census.

Part of the problem that Florissant faces is a perception problem—a perception that Florissant is stagnating or in a decline, a perception that North County is not a desirable place to live. This is attributable in no small part to repeated media statements that tend to paint the entire North County area as a less desirable part of the region and to ongoing, often incorrect, media reports that identify various problems, or crimes, or criminals with “Florissant” when, in fact, those problems and crimes are NOT associated with the City of Florissant.

Because a large swath of North County, from Hazelwood to the Mississippi River and generally from I-270 north to the Missouri River, is serviced by the Florissant Post Office, many people, including many journalists and members of the media who should know better, attribute almost anything “bad” that occurs within such area as being associated with the city of Florissant, rather than as something that is associated with an area, largely unincorporated, that is outside of city limits and, in many cases, many miles outside of the city limits. That type of “reporting” is grossly misleading and highly unfair to the city of Florissant.

Additionally, the media frequently ignore or don’t address “good” things that happen within such area, and especially within Florissant city limits, with the same fervor, and seem to prefer to issue praises for portions of West County and areas west in St. Charles County.

We have to take issue with those media outlets and personnel when they engage in such misleading “reporting”, such as when they state that a “Florissant apartment complex” has been closed down because of building and maintenance problems when, in fact, that complex is not within the city limits of Florissant and Florissant has no jurisdiction or control over the complex, or when they state that there has been a shooting, believed to be gang related, in a Florissant neighborhood when, in fact, the shooting occurred miles from the city of Florissant in an unincorporated area patrolled by the St. Louis County Police Department and not by the Florissant Police Department.

Florissant is still a vibrant community with many amenities. We offer an extensive park and recreation system and are one of only a handful of local communities that have NO property tax. Many generations of Florissant residents, of which I am one, remain in and return to Florissant and continue to call Florissant home.

I believe that we must emphasize the advantages and amenities available to young families, including the lack of a property tax, the ready access to interstate highways for rapid travel to the city of St. Louis as well as to St. Louis County and St. Charles County, the proximity of the Florissant Valley campus of the community college district, the many shopping areas within just a few minutes drive, our extensive parks and recreation system, our award winning police department, an our family life centered approach.

I would take issue with those who wrongly “report” about problems with Florissant, and would encourage everyone else to do the same, and would attempt to continue the tradition of providing the services and amenities that have made Florissant the great community that it is.

5. Considering these tough economic times, do you see any cuts to the city’s senior and youth programs?

Not at this moment.

However, it will be necessary to continually scrutinize our budget to make sure that we remain financially viable and self sustaining. Consequently, we will have to continually evaluate all our programs to ensure that they remain cost-effective, that they are truly addressing what they should be, and that they are being efficiently provided. If not, over time, changes of some type may become necessary.

6. The two school districts in Florissant do not have a great reputation. This is major reason people site for not moving into Florissant. While the city does not control the schools, what are your thoughts on how the city can help change this perception?

It was not that long ago that some of the Ferguson-Florissant schools were cited nationally for their excellence in education.

Within the last few years, the Hazelwood school districts superintendent was selected to become the head of Missouri’s department of education.

Despite such positives, test scores in those school districts are down in recent years and possible accreditation problems have surfaced.

Large, if not the greater, parts of both school districts lie outside of the Florissant city limits.

Part of the problem appears to me to be non-motivated students and a lack of involvement by parents in pushing their children to succeed and excel.

Another part of the problem is undoubtedly school funding, and the hit that such funding has taken in this down economy.

Because the City of Florissant forms only a portion of both of such districts, any actions that can be taken by Florissant are limited. Even if every Florissant child were a straight A student and every Florissant property had an average or higher property valuation, those effects can be diluted by the rest of the districts.

Consequently, we must work with the surrounding communities and unincorporated areas to try to maintain high property values and the availability of good jobs within the entire region, and we must try to reverse the perception that North County is an undesirable region. See also my response to Question 4 in such regard.

We must also try to instill within the families a belief in the value of education and the need for heavy parental involvement in the education of their children.

In addition, to the extent feasible and financially possible, I want Florissant to actively push the DARE program within our local schools in order to combat gangs and crime within the schools and to promote good citizenship and a respect for laws and the police.

7. What do you like about the city of Florissant?

Many, many things.

Let me list just a few of those things:

Florissant’s sense of community
Its family centered values
Its rich historic tradition, including
Old St. Ferdinand Shrine,
Taille de Noyer,
Casa Alvares,
and many other historic buildings and locations
Its extensive religious heritage, including
the many churches and denominations throughout the City
Its convenient location
Its continuing designation as one of the safest cities of its size in the country
Its many parks and recreation facilities
Its superior senior citizen programs and facilities
Popular business locations such as
Old Town Donuts, and
Hendel's Market Café, to mention only a few

8. There are a lot of vacant businesses in Florissant. What are you going to do to fill those vacant buildings and attract vibrant businesses to the city?

As I have previously noted, over the years I have been a strong advocate of business development within the City, not only because of the more immediate favorable tax consequences for the City, but also because of the jobs that are made available to City residents and because of the general improvement that such businesses afford all of us in our daily lives.

Unlike certain other candidates seeking the office of mayor, I was an early and ardent supporter of the highly successful Cross Keys redevelopment, and worked hard to get that approved, despite criticism for my position and despite the political downside associated with strongly advocating for what was then a highly controversial project during an election year for me. Despite the political hit that I knew I would take, I pushed for such redevelopment because I truly believed that that was the correct thing to do for the betterment of Florissant. Unfortunately for me, I lost that following election. Despite that, I believe that I made the right decision when I pushed for such redevelopment, and I believe that my position has been vindicated over time.

Mayor Lowery and the administration have worked diligently for years now to try to attract additional developments and businesses, and are to be commended for their actions in such regard, which have contributed to Florissant’s stability as many surrounding communities and areas in St. Louis County have, unlike Florissant, experienced population declines in the last decade. We have to continue such activities, especially in the current economic climate, and continue to try to improve and update the City’s business base and business properties.

With regard to some of those businesses that have opened developments in Florissant in more recent years, Mayor Lowery has advised that various of those businesses report that their Florissant facilities are among the highest performing sites of those chains throughout the country. Such reports enhance the attractiveness of Florissant as a city in which other businesses will want to expand or to set up shop.

I would continue the efforts of the administration over the past few years to attract new businesses and developments to the City and the North County area.

I believe that other activities in the past few years bode well for the future, despite the more recent economic downturn throughout the country. The North Park business park near the airport holds promise for attracting businesses to the North County area. Ferguson has established an improvement district along its downtown area that has revitalized its business area. Florissant and Hazelwood have participated in beautification and improvement projects along Lindbergh Boulevard (N. Highway 67). All of these activities are helping to overcome negative perceptions about Florissant and the North County area (see responses to Questions 4 and 6), and Florissant needs to encourage such activities.

I want the City to be seen as a partner with businesses and as a location that will work with businesses to help those businesses realize success, and not as a municipality that inhibits businesses or seeks to have them jump through hoops simply for the exercise.

That does not, however, mean that I think that the City should automatically approve everything, or relax standards, or blithely ignore circumstances or situations that may properly require critical analysis (see, for example, responses to Questions 9 and 15 relative to payday loan and related businesses and to Wal-Mart).

I would continue to aggressively pursue new business development and the jobs they would bring.

9. Some residents complain that there are too many check cashing, payday loan, rent to own and used card lots in Florissant. They feel that this brings in a seedier element and detracts from the city. What are your thoughts on this?

I agree with their complaints regarding many of those businesses.

When I was on the City Council, we tried to prohibit or greatly restrict some of those businesses. However, courts have directed that under Missouri, or in some cases federal, law or constitutions, cities like Florissant cannot prohibit or impose many of the restrictions that I might personally consider desirable.

Under the circumstances, Florissant is bound by such laws and court rulings and must comply with those, even when they are at odds with prohibitions or restriction that I believe would be more beneficial to the City.

10. It has been said that our current mayor can be contentious if you do not agree with him. How do you plan on working with the city council?

People will always disagree.

We all disagree at times with our spouses, children, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Usually, we manage to limit our disagreements to particular issues and do not let those disagreements become ongoing sources of contention.

I do not expect to always agree with everyone on the City Council or in City government. I appreciate that sometimes I may even find myself in disagreement with a majority of the City Council.

From my very first Council meeting, I had significant disagreements with various other Council members. However, our disagreements over a particular matter were, more often than not, left on the floor of the council meeting. That did not prevent me and council members such as Dave Reynolds, Charlie DeMoulin, and Ken Bond, among others, from subsequently discussing our disagreements, sometimes in colorful terms and with colorful invectives, as we later met with one another and socialized--and such discussions allowed us all to gain valuable insights as to the positions and reasoning of one another, and to sometimes understand why that “ridiculous” position or proposal by that other son of a gun Council member was not really that “ridiculous”, and to also sometimes result in follow-up legislation that was better able to address all of our concerns.

On various occasions I disagreed with Mayor Eagan, with Mayor Lowery, and probably with every council member with whom I ever served. That did not mean that I thereafter acted with ill will toward those individuals on all other matters. I believe that I became known for, among other things, my ability to work with them even when we did not agree, and without the exhibition of ongoing rancor and personal animosities. I believe that my record shows that I was able to put a disagreement about a particular issue behind me and to move forward with other matters in the best interests of the City.

Over the years, I gained respect for everyone involved, even those with whom I disagreed the most, because I came to understand that, like me, they wanted the best for the City, even if their views were, in my belief, sometimes misguided.

11. Politically speaking, who do you model yourself after?

I don’t really believe that I model myself after any politician that I can think of.

Especially in more recent history, I’m not sure that the populace would consider any politician particularly worthy of emulation.

I try to represent constituents, to look out for their interests, to provide straightforward info without a lot of BS, and to take responsibility for my actions.

To the extent that such actions may be reminiscent of Harry Truman, perhaps it could be said that, at least in some respects, I model myself after him.

12. Is there anything you want to accomplish in your first year?

I want to break the pattern of personal animus and ongoing rancor that has increasingly become a part of City politics in recent years.

I want to secure passage of fiscally responsible budget that maintains our core services, such as outstanding police services.

I want to BEGIN the re-population of vacant and foreclosed houses throughout the City and to maintain property values.

To the extent financially feasible, I want to CONTINUE street and infrastructure maintenance and improvement and other successful and popular City programs, including Senior Citizen services.

I want to continue the pursuit of, and hopefully ATTRACT, additional businesses with good paying jobs for City residents.

13. What do you think people should know about you?

That I’m well qualified and will look out for their interests.

In such regard, I would hope

that they would check out my qualifications and positions as reflected by the Qualifications & Positions presentation available on the Facebook page “Robert M. Garrett (for Mayor of Florissant)”, a copy of which presentation I have provided with these responses,

that they would watch the video of the Candidate’s Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Greater North County Chamber of Commerce, as available for viewing at http://tv.florissantmo.com/Cablecast/Public/main.aspx?ChannelID=1, and

that they would carefully review my responses to these questions.

14. The trash/recycling contact will expire during the next mayor’s term. Do you want to continue with a city wide contract\ or have it go back to being resident’s choice?

At this point in time I am open to either possibility, dependent upon the desires of Florissant residents.

I have heard various complaints from people who believe that the service that they receive is not as good as the service that they were getting when they could select their own trash service.

On the other hand, many residents seem to believe that the “price is right” for the current city-wide program, especially when one considers the recycling collection and the senior citizen discount.

My present impression is that most residents favor the present city-wide program with a single hauler, and I would anticipate that, unless there is an outcry against so doing, the City will solicit bids for a new contract.

Ultimately, the bid responses, including the prices quoted, may have some bearing upon how the City will want to proceed.

15. Walmart in Florissant, where do you stand and what are your thoughts?

While I am not enthralled with the idea of a Wal-Mart development within the City, Florissant would be obligated to treat Wal-Mart the same as any other business that might want to build a new development within the City, such as a new Schnucks, a new Sears, a new Walgreens, or a new neighborhood hardware store.

So long as Wal-Mart complies with all zoning and other ordinances of the City, Florissant would probably have no legal basis to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a store.

That being said, I believe that, in many instances, Wal-Mart has proven to be detrimental to many local businesses throughout the country, which is regrettable, and has a questionable record relative to treatment of its employees.

Although development of a new Wal-Mart store within Florissant might seemingly result in some favorable tax consequences for the City, that could be offset if the result is a loss of other City businesses.

Furthermore, if the new store is simply the “re-location” of a store from a nearby community, such “re‑location” could actually be detrimental to the region as a whole and could result in regional, including within Florissant, devaluation of property values, thereby undercutting any perceived advantages associated with the new development.

Furthermore, absent other exigent circumstances, I currently see no reason why Florissant would want to consider any TIF or community improvement taxing district for a Wal-Mart development.

So, there you have it. Robert Garrett ladies and gentlemen. Robert also asked that I include a letter that he has drafted on his qualifications and positions. I have agreed to include this document to allow everyone the chance to be fully informed. You can find that document HERE.

If any of the other candidates, in the course of responding to my questions, asks the same of me, I will do so in kind.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Florissant Mayoral Debates - Some Thoughts

As a North County resident, I felt it was important to attend the Florissant mayoral debates last night. My father has long said that Florissant is the anchor of North County and I tend to believe him. With Florissant's population base and size, Florissant is the largest city in St. Louis county. Considering all of this, I decided to attend this event to see what the candidates had to say and what direction they wanted to take for the future of Florissant. Afterwards, I hung out on the sidelines and listened to what people were saying to each other and to the candidates. Below is some of my observations.

Tom Schneider:

Of all the candidates, this is the man that best represents the status quo. He did nothing but talk about all of the things he has done in the past and all of his accomplishments. He looked to the past and really exemplified sticking with the current course.

After the meeting, most of the talk I heard was that people were not overly impressed with him. He did nothing but read and re-read a laundry list of his past accomplishments from his 34 years of work for the Florissant government. Best comment I heard on Tom was "Is he going to answer the questions or just tell us all he has done for the city?"

With that said, many of the seniors seemed to like Schneider. He is a known name and will continue to offer what they have grown accustomed to.

Andrew Podleski :

Podleski has a lot of good answers, but comes off as rather arrogant. He seems pro business and wants to work with business to bring more people into the area. Based upon what he said, he wants to promote the affordability of North County and Florissant to big businesses that are in the North County area so that their employees will live and work here. This would then help stimulate small business growth as their is a more vibrant population.

After the meeting a lot of people were high on Podleski. Since he ran against Lowry last election, his name is out there and it is recognizable outside of his ward. He has a strong service background and seems to be more of a fiscal minded. Many of those same people, though, said they got a negative vibe from him. One person said that they thought he was smug.

Susan Geerling :

Geerling could be the dark horse for this entire race. She came off as very friendly,sincere and approachable. Here big themes of the night were fiscal responsibility and open communication between the government and the people. Many times she talked of making people aware of what is going on and happening
so residents can be informed. She made an early splash by talking about reducing the mayor's salary and perks (a hot topic after the St. Louis Post Dispatch investigative article on Lowery).

After the meeting, a lot of people were very high on Geerling. They liked what she had to say and felt she could be bring about a new direction for the community. Interestingly enough, the people that liked her the most seemed to be women and those under the age of 55. The older community did not seem to be as on board with her. The knock against her is her experience as she does not have a college degree and seeing as Florissant has a strong mayor system, the mayor is in charge of city administration. Some people saw it as a positive and other saw this as a negative, but there were comments on how she is not an established name, she worked 8 years in city council and has volunteered, but is not someone super entrenched in Florissant politics.

Robert Garrett:

Of all the candidates, Garrett is probably the biggest fiscal conservative of the bunch. Bringing in business and balancing the budget were his biggest points of the night and they were points he continued to repeat. While Schneider touted being a small business owner, Garrett and Behlmann came of as the only two that really seemed to know and could talk to business and business creation. Garrett also sees the problem facing Florissant as being associated with the issues and violence in North City and areas like Berkley and Normandy. This was a strong statement that I noticed a lot of head nodding too.

After the meeting, a lot of people did not seem to know what to think about Garrett. He has been out of Florissant politics for awhile, but is now re-entering the field. He does not have yard signs and does not have any information out there that anyone could really find. Many people liked what they heard, but want to know more.

Mark Behlmann:

Second only to Schneider, Behlmann was probably the best known name at the debate. Behlmann brought a mix of the status quo and business know how that appealed to many people. He came off as a fiscal hawk when talking about budgets, mayoral perks and pay but came off as a status quo person when talking of city programs.

After the meeting, reviews were mixed on Behlmann. People know the name in the Florissant area and they know of Mark Behlmann due to his work on the Hazelwood School Board. That seemed to be both a good and bad thing for him. He did upset some people as after the debate, a couple of senior citizens approached Behlman and while I could not hear the conversation, there were some read faces and very upset people.

Michael Spreng:

Spreng was the most unprepared candidate. He brought nothing new to the debate and really seemed to rest on his laurels as a state rep. He did not appear to be engaged in the discussion nor did he appear alert. He seemed to flip flop between keeping the status quo and fiscal conservatism depending upon the issue, but did not have much substance.

No one, and I mean no one, talked positively about Spreng. Based upon the audience, he is, for all purposes,a non issue. One of the best comments I overheard on Spreng was," I am not going to vote for another guy that looks like he could drop dead a couple of days after winning."

So, what are my thoughts. Well, Florissant has done some good things with programs like the Cross Keys development and improvements in the roads and parks. That said, there are a lot of things that need to be improved as there are too many used car lots and vacant businesses in the area. People are not staying in Florissant and instead they are moving to St. Peters and Wentzville areas. The next mayor has to be able to attract more youth as more younger couples and families will bring more money and small business to the area. If I had to be pressed, I would say that Behlmann, Garrett and Geerling probably came away with the highest marks. Having lived in Florissant, though, I know the seniors will really sway this election which can really help Schneider.

It is my understanding that there will be another debate soon. When I know more, I will
post it here.

So, were you there, if so, comment with your thoughts.


I received requests for websites and email addresses. These have been added below

Name - Website - Email Address
Tom Schneider - http://schneider4mayor.net/ - schneider4mayor@gmail.com
Andrew Podleski - http://andrewpodleski.com/ - Andrew.Podleski@gmail.com
Susan Geerling - http://geerlingformayor.com/ - GeerlingForMayor@gmail.com
Robert Garrett - No webpage but you can find him on Facebook - garrettformayor@att.net
Mark Behlmann - http://hstrial-markbehlmann.homestead.com/ - markbehlmann11@aol.com
Michael Spreng - No website or Facebook page - No updated email address

Friday, February 25, 2011

Odds & Ends


I love coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love a cup of coffee in the morning and a cup in the evening. While I have tried to cut down on the amount of coffee I consume in one day, the Mrs. and I can go through a pot on a cold winter day easily.

Now, I cannot drink my coffee black. I need some creamer and I like a little bit of flavoring. So, the wife and I would buy the various flavors of coffee creamer, trying the seasonals as well as the mainstays like French Vanilla or Carmel. When we started dieting we both found that the creamers consumed way to many points. So we had to find an alternative. Skim milk and splenda, while good in a pinch, just did not really do it for us. It was with great joy, then, that we found a perfect little "mash-up" that we really love in our coffee and does not kill our diet. The outlay of cost is not substantial and while it adds a little more preparation time, it gives us some great tasting coffee house coffee.

First, you start off by going to Amazon and buying two things, a frother and a bottle or variety pack, depending upon your likes, of Torani Sugar Free syrups. The Torani is awesome and if you get the sugar free syrups, the calories/points are very low per serving. Personally, I like the Chocolate, the Vanilla and the Carmel. DO NOT make the mistake of buying the Classic Carmel, it is just not as good. The Hazelnut is not bad, it just comes off as a little bitter to me. The variety pack is good if you like or want to try these flavors and the Irish Creme or Raspberry. You can find the variety pack HERE. The other thing you need to get is a frother. We picked up this one and it has worked out well. It is a basic, no frills frother that does the job and does it well and cheaply.

Now that you have that, go and pick up some silk or blue diamond sugar free or unsweetened almond milk. You can get the flavored, if you choose not to get the syrups, but I would suggest you go flavor free if you get syrups.

Now, measure out some of the almond milk. For two cups of coffee, I generally fill up the almond milk to the line on the frother (I do not know how much that is, but I believe it is about a cup).

Add the flavoring. I will generally use 2 tablespoons per cup of coffee.

Pour the milk-flavoring into a pot and warm it up. DO NOT use a microwave as the almond milk seems to separate in the microwave. Warm up the milk until it is hot, but not bubbling hot.

Pour the milk-flavoring mix into the frother. Froth the milk for about 10 -15 pumps. You will now have a nice frothy milk flavoring.

If you have a fresh brewed pot, pour the milk into your cups and then pour your coffee. If you have warmed up your coffee in the microwave, pour the milk mixture into the coffee and stir.

Atlas Shrugged

If you have been paying attention, you know that the movie that some said could never be made, has been made. It appears to be a pretty close adaptation to the original. In case you have not seen or heard anything about this, check out the trailer below.

Recently, the producers released a scene from the movie which can be viewed below

This movie was made, according to IMDB, with a budget of only 15 million. That is nothing by today's standards. The cast is mostly television actors but from what I have seen, read and heard from those that have seen this movie, they all do an excellent job.

We all need to support this movie. As of now, I do not know if it is going to run anywhere here in St. Louis but should it, we should organize a group to see this movie when it opens. If you are in another area of the country, please get your friends together to see this movie. The producers, director and actors of this movie will probably be ostracized for being a part of this important and relevant film and we, the movie going public, should buycott this movie and make sure we all go and see it.

Who is with me?

Comic Books

Even though I am over 35, I still love comic books. I love the art and the stories they tell. While I do not buy the monthly issues, I regularly pick up the collections and graphic novels. Additionally, I watch the cartoon movies that are put out by both Marvel and DC. It was while watching one that I came across a revelation of sorts.

I was watching a DC cartoon that was had Superman and Batman. I figured that it would be no big deal to let my 8 year old daughter watch it with me. As she is curled up next to me, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the way these artists portrayed women. It was not that they portrayed them as weak or feeble. In fact all of the women were very strong physically and mentally and could keep pace with the men. My uncomfortableness was due to the way they were drawn and the clothes that they wore. Supergirl was model skinny thin but was, well, well endowed. She always wore a half shirt and her clothes were somewhat tight and showy. Pausing the movie, I checked the rating and found that it was rated PG 13. I stopped the movie and finished after my daughter went to bed.

This whole thing got me thinking, though. Girls are reading comics now. They are not just reading Archie and such. There are many young girls and women who read Spiderman, Iron Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Avengers, X-Men and so forth. The women, as they are portrayed in these comics, are completely unrealistic in body dimensions. While I understand that these are comics, I have to wonder, what does this do for already body conscious women. Comic books are fantasy, but the portrayal of these strong women in barely there outfits can be daunting. I know that part of it is for the male fantasy, but what about the young women?

I do not believe in censorship or in stopping these companies' right to draw and distribute comics. I enjoy these comics but what responsibility, other than slapping a rating on them, do these companies have? Do they have any responsibility? Are there other fathers out there that struggle with this too?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Child Rights vs. Parental Rights - What You Need to Know

What if I told you that there are people who are actively attempting to control the rights of parents to raise children as they see fit. To many of my readers, this comes as no surprise but many of you may not know how close we are coming to this.

If you have not heard, there is a movement for the US to ratify The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, often called the CRC or the UNCRC. The stated reasoning behind the need for this treaty is because

the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth

That sounds great....until you read the text of the document and understand what this "treaty" is trying to do and has done to other countries.

Since its adoption by the United Nations in 1989, the UNCRC has become the most widely accepted international agreement in history and approved by every nation except for the United States and Somalia. All participant countries pledge to protect children’s rights, foster their development, and uphold their best interests by re-writing their national laws to conform to the standards set forth in the treaty.

While this sounds great, the reality is that the UNCRC allows that national governments interfere in the decisions of individual families and parents. By invoking the “best interests of the child ,” UN policymakers and government agents have the authority to substitute the decisions of the parent on behalf of the child with their own decisions if they see their decisions as in the best interest of the child. In essence, parents do not have rights to parent, and just about become only caregivers. Parents across the world are now discovering that the family is being undermined without true regard to the results for the very children they are supposed to be protecting.

You may think that the UNCRC is just words and that the US does a very good job of taking care of children. You may even think that to worry about this treaty is nothing more than paranoia. Possibly, but here is what the results of implementing this treaty has done in some countries:

  • The Canadian government has taken steps toward rejecting parental discipline that conflicts with the "best interests of the child." In June 2008, a Quebec court overturned a father's decision to ground his 12-year old daughter after she posted photos of herself on a dating website, saying that the punishment was "too severe." - Full story can be found HERE.
  • The Canadian Senate approved a bill which would drastically restrict the right of parents to physically discipline their children. - Full story can be found HERE
  • The government of Brazil has prevented minors under the age of eighteen from being "criminally chargeable" at all. Under the Brazilian Penal Code, conduct that is usually a crime or misdemeanor is considered an "act of infraction" if carried out by a minor. Acts of infraction carry only minor penalties, including a warning, an obligation to repair damage caused, community service, or confinement in an educational institution. - More information can be found HERE
  • In France, the law also grants minors access to contraceptives without the consent of their parents, and certain medicines and contraceptives can even be obtained by minors anonymously and at no cost. A minor may also have an abortion without parental consent, so long as she is accompanied by an adult of her choice. - More info can be found HERE
  • In 2002, Italy’s highest appeals court ruled that parents are required by law to support their adult children until the children “find a job to their liking.”- More info can be found HERE
There are many other examples of how intrusive this treaty is. What is scary is that in 2009, the Obama administration indicated that it was reviving efforts to sign this treat.

If you think about it, though, it is not surprising. It is not surprising that this administration would want to push the concept of government control over children. If you look at it's track record with Healthcare, pushed Unionization of jobs and increased governmental dependency programs, it only makes sense that Obama and his merry band of idealists would sign on to this bill.

The portions of this treaty that are important have already independently been ratified by the US via optional protocols. On May 25, 2000, two optional protocols were adopted; the first restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts and the second bans the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. It is important to understand that ratification of these two protocols by the United States means that the ratification of the full UNCRC will have no positive impact with these issues.

So, I think most of my readers can understand why the UNCRC is not needed and generally bad for our country. With that said, there are those that are constantly trying to get this treaty ratified by the House and Senate. In my humble opinion, there is only one way to fight this and that is an amendment to the US Constitution. As a father, parent and concerned citizen, I believe that it is time that we amened the Constitution to affirm the rights of parents over the state. That is why I am supporting and ask each of you to review the Parental Rights Amendment.

The Parental Rights Amendment is a very basic amendment that does a lot. It reads as follows:
SECTION 1 - The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.

SECTION 2 - Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.

SECTION 3 - No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.
This Constitutional amendment guarantees the rights of the parent to raise their children as they see fit while also guaranteeing that the government can step in only in extreme measures.

Naysayers are stating that an amendment is not needed and the US and state law already guarantee parental rights. With that said, we need to take preventative action before the courts can begin using this UN ratified treaty as a determination in their decisions. In some cases, the courts are already using the UNCRC to guide their decisions in court rulings, even though it is un-ratified. Rather than reprint what has already been written, read this full article here to understand what I mean.

So, what can you do? The first thing you can do is become informed. You can do that by going to the http://www.parentalrights.org/ web page and studying the proposed amendment. You can find details regarding why the wording used was used and how it pertains to Supreme Court proceedings already on the books. Additionally you can find Senators and Congressman that currently sponsor this bill. Here in Missouri, none of our Senators are sponsoring although Roy Blunt did support it when he was in Congress and in Congress Todd Akin, Jo Ann Emerson, Sam Graves and Blaine Luetkemeyer have all thrown support behind this. Pick up the phone and call your Senator and Congressman and tell them to support this bill. Additionally, you can help out by donating your time and/or money to the cause. You can find more info on how to help at the Parental Rights web page listed above.

With the government and the left generally trying to take more of our liberties away from us, we must now act to ensure that the rights of the parent are guaranteed. It does not take a village to raise children, it takes parents.