Ten Easy Questions

In advance of Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken’s appearance on KRMS’ Morning Magazine show on Monday, a few questions have been prepared by American Spring and submitted to Manny Haley, in hopes that he will ask them on the air. The public certainly deserves a few answers from the official we pay to conduct business in our names. We also want to see Manny raise the bar for our local media.

Ten easy questions.

1. Has Franken had a chance to review the software contract the county entered into with HCPS?

2. If so, how does he explain the expenditure of $53,000 for a still-faulty payroll system?

2a. If not, what HAS he been doing? (See Question # below)

Each of the three software programs contracted by the county were valued at $20,000 per program. We only received one of these three programs, the payroll system, and it is still problematic. This contract has been a center of controversy for Franken and a source of community questions and concerns.

3. Why did we spend $53,000 on a single system valued at $20,000?

4. What efforts are underway to recover the $33,000 over-payment?

The $33,000, if recovered, could go to good use in the county. A small portion of it could, for example, be used to eliminate all debt for the Macks Creek Community Park and allow the park board to move forward with leasing it for a dollar a year. The community and park board has already agreed to raise funds to maintain the park and insure it.

Let them.

In a recent email to a constituent regarding missing audio files for a July meeting of the commission, Presiding Commissioner Franken made the following statement:

“As far as non-agenda meetings are concerned, people who come in to speak informally with the commission do so in confidence to try to get preliminary information on a project or a problem that they are having. I, nor they, believe that those informal meetings should be recorded. In fact, since a certain individual has demanded that all commission meetings be recorded regardless of their content or importance, I have had several businesses that are considering coming to the area or increasing their presence in our area refuse to meet at the courthouse and I have had to go out to meet with them so they were certain that they had control of the environment that the meeting was held in. While meeting with a business at their location is not an issue, it sends a poor message to businesses about Camden County.”

5. Isn’t it the Sunshine Law, rather than a “certain individual”, that demands the content of even “informal” meetings of the commission be made public?

6. What businesses have refused to meet at the courthouse?

7. Did you inform Commissioners Luber and Thomas of any meetings away from the courthouse?

8. What, exactly, do you mean when you say these businesses wanted to be “certain that they had control of the environment”?

9. How is that an advantageous situation for the tax payers of Camden County?

10. How does transparency in government send a ”poor message” about Camden County and which businesses believe that to be true?

Tomorrow morning, Manny has the chance to ask these questions of our Presiding Commissioner. There are many others he could ask. The audio recording of the July 23 meeting of the commission brings many to mind, particularly as related to the direction of Planning and Zoning. The owners of Sugarloaf Winery voiced significant criticisms of county government. These criticisms bring huge concerns from the community and points to a cancer within local government. It appears that we run a government that is for sale to the largest contributors and bidders. For them, we offer huge breaks on the backs of the people. For the real and all-too-rare ‘Mom and Pop’ local business, that same government creates hurdle after hurdle. Overcoming each comes with a huge cost to a real small business. Those costs have continued to cull our landscape of the family businesses that made the Lake of the Ozarks the tourist destination it now is. The greater good of our community has been sold out over the years.

This practice by our local government is a result of those ”informal meetings” Franken would seek to hide. It also is a very real reason for diminishing tax revenues in Camden County. As more tax breaks are given for large corporations, developers, etc, and more restrictions are put in front of local small business, you create a downward economic spiral. Kris Franken, while promoting himself as our county’s financial expert, apparently missed this classic trend of neoliberal economic failure.

We hope is that Manny will ask them. Ten easy questions.

The answers will tell us a lot.

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At What Cost?

From Keith Broekemeier

Talk of a new road expansion for F, TT and MM has been brought to the Camden County Commission by the Bridge Corporation this past May 28th. During this meeting the Bridge Corporation wanted to discuss the Tiger 5 grant. Bridge Corp. would have to secure two million dollar to insure retaining the Tiger 5 grant and they feel confident in securing these funds and predicts a 10% increase in volume of traffic if the expansion is accepted.

Mr. Cliff Luber has brought monumental attention to the citizens of Camden County about vague wording in the Tiger 5 and Mr. Frankens willingness to put up one million to help Bridge Corp. with the grant. Mr. Luber has informed the public with details about the loan Franken has offered. This loan would be made to the Bridge Corp. with little to no interest and a indefinite timetable on paying back the loan. Commissioner Luber was never informed of any offers being made by the county till the meeting was all ready in section.

This has become a habit of Commissioner Franken, not informing our 1st and 2nd commissioners of agendas that are taking place until the meeting is already in progress.
I don’t know how we can have an effective commission when we have one commissioner always leaving our other two in the dark. This only seems to be a habit for Mr. Franken when it comes to spending the taxpayers money. Franken never informed Bev Thomas about the software deal until the day of purchase and our other commissioner (Gumm was 2nd commissioner at the time) was out of town. Which was $60,000 originally(now $53,000) and now a $1,000,000 to help out the Bridge Corp. secure a grant.

How can the county trust Commissioner Franken, when he seems to be making deals before meetings have taken place. It’s my understanding our 1st and 2nd commissioners need to be aware of what‘s happening before the day of. Thomas and Luber are there so the commission isn’t run like a dictatorship.

Franken was on the radio last Monday morning talking about county tax revenue and still pushing for the EEZ. Franken did spend three seconds stating that “if the county didn’t want to go with the EEZ, that was ok with him“. Then talked for 4 minutes making the case that the county needs it if we want to entice business’s to come here. Franken stated that the EEZ is “Missouri’s primary tool for attracting new business“. Surprise, surprise this is not true. There are many incentive programs the state of Missouri offers that are far better than the EEZ. Franken, made it sound like the EEZ is the easy way to victory for our area, which in reality it’s the farthest thing from.. It’s not pass in our county, so why not look into other incentive programs that would bring business here. This is not happening because Mr. Franken seems to think it too much work.

Manny with the morning magazine on KRMS, brought up the new Wood’s store on Hwy 5 and F and asked Franken if revenue for that store is coming in as expected. Franken said it was too early to tell at this point, he would have better information on this next month. This new Wood’s store was built with a TIF. The developer is to receive $5,300,000 in reimburse project costs, approximately 33 percent of the total project costs — $4,550,000 for site development and $750,000 for professional services. The developer projects reimbursement will be complete, or bonds will be retired, in about 15 years, by the year 2027, assuming a 7% interest rate.

Knowing the store was built with a TIF, this has added some strain on the Fire Dept. The Dept is now soliciting for tax increases because of Wood‘s tax incentive. The county knew cutting the sales tax would effect the Fire Dept. and leave it unequipped to handle a fire if one were to brake out at Wood‘s. Not only that, the new store has to double it’s revenue to meet it’s previous mark with the country.

I don’t know if this is possible. It seem to me that this store was built to appease our tourist down Shawnee Bend, not to generate tax money. Let’s remember too that this has left Greenview without a grocery store. So anyone around that area has to travel to Camdenton or Sunrise Beach. This will cost our locals more in gas. So, we have a new store and now talks of road expansion that Franken is willing to give a million dollars for.

Some might not know, if the EEZ is passed that the area from F road to the toll bridge is not effected, most of the areas effected will be where our locals live.

This makes one wonder, is the best interest of the county at heart or is the county more worried about keeping tourist happy? What is taking place to bring good paying jobs here? Most of the jobs created have been minimum wage. I understand creating this jobs are better than not having any jobs at all, but this does not fix the problem. These people will still have to be on some kind of government assistance because the wages are too low.

Those thinking the EEZ is the only way to go, do more research. It’s a small time tax incentive, let me show you.

Manufacturing suppliers located in one of the 100+ “Enhanced Enterprise Zones” that will create at least 2 new jobs (with average wages at least 75% of the county average) and $100,000 in new capital investment may receive refundable tax credits for 2% of new payroll and ½% of new capital investment (limited to $500,000/year), each year for 5 years.

Example: 20 new jobs @ $30,000 average wage and $500,000 new capital investment could result in $72,500 in refundable tax credits over 5 years.

This is not going to bring new business. Franken stated on Monday’s radio show that manufacturers want buildings with 15 to 20 foot side-walls. He also said that most of our vacant buildings are only 8 to 10 side-walls. So, why would a manufacturer move to Camdenton? This tax break is only good for manufacturing. I doubt a company would building a new facility in Camden County when other cities offer better incentives programs.

I just wonder what Franken is thinking? Why would the county help out the Bridge Corp. with a million dollar loan? They said they could come up with the money, Bridge Corp. doesn‘t cut the locals any breaks. I think Mr. luber had the right idea, use that money on the employee’s and the equipment those employee’s need to do their jobs. Just a thought

The Need for Transparency

Two years ago, when I began the website americanspring2011.com, I was inspired in part by the events that were unfolding around us. Internationally, the Arab Spring had begun in Tunisia and had spread to Egypt. The driving forces behind both of these national movements were the same. Both were under authoritarian rule and in both cases, the cost of staple goods had risen and unemployment was high.

Nationally, protests over neoliberal economic policies promoted by Wisconsin’s governor had filled Madison’s state house. The aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008 was rampant in our country. Fraudulent foreclosures were sending families out onto the streets. Wall Street and the banks that run it enjoyed huge financial windfalls, free money, given them by the Federal Reserve under the false pretense that it would ”calm the markets” and bring some ”comfort” to investors. Meanwhile, unemployment domestically was in the double digits and wages continued to drop. Food prices, gas prices were all on the climb. Wall Street and multinational corporations absorbed more and more market share as smaller businesses, in all sectors, were culled from the landscape to make room for the new Wal-Mart, the new Dierberg’s, the new DHS Fusion center or private prison. The power of corporations, and their ties to our government, were transforming our country into a corporate totalitarian state.

Locally, a manufactured crisis, created by FERC, was creating the calls for less government regulation of our Lake of the Ozark shoreline. This political version of smoke-and-mirrors was created when FERC, made up of Presidential appointees from private corporations (most of whom were appointed during the Bush administration), declared that over a thousand lake area structures would have to be removed, as they were built on ”project” land, despite private citizens’ having paid taxes on the ”project” land for years. This led to citizens rallying against ”government overreach” and chants of deregulation. Meanwhile, Ameren UE waited patiently for the sliding elevation scale to stop, as it finally did, at 662′. Litigation between Ameren UE and lake area owners is currently pending regarding Ameren’s ownership claim. The privatization of the Lake of the Ozarks shoreline is here and we are seeing that agenda unfold in our own county courthouse. Agenda 600 and Planning and Zoning in Camden County is directly at the heart of that campaign.

Since I began the blog and submitting to the Lake Sun, I have taken more than a fair share of shots at former LACC President and current Second District Camden County Commissioner Cliff Luber. I was skeptical, of his pro-corporate stances and his invocation of religion with regards to politics. My fears were that we would have someone in office who would break out a corporate stamp with one hand while raising a Bible in the other. I was afraid that we would see Washington and Jefferson City replicated at the local level. I didn’t want another Commissioner in the mold of Kris Franken, who would seek to use political office for both personal and professional gain. Our county cannot afford another elected official ready and willing to grease the wheels of the Ameren machine.

I am happy to say I was wrong about Cliff Luber.

Since taking office, he has been consistent in his fight for more transparency at the courthouse. He has been skeptical of both the practices and policies that have been on display during his short time in office. He has sought answers to important questions. He brought forth information regarding Planning and Zoning mapping that Kris Franken and Don Hathaway sought to conceal. He has encouraged the use of email accounts to make Planning and Zoning board members available to the public they serve. He has worked to bring a resolution to the situation surrounding Macks Creek Community Park. He has confirmed a stance against the creation of EEZ’s in our community and displayed a common sense approach toward bringing business to Camden County, unwilling to sell out the public he represents in order to spur private investment. He sees the challenges faced by the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District when their slice of the tax pie is given over to subsidize private profits.

Cliff has released information to the public that identifies corruption that goes beyond our county government and city governments here at the Lake of the Ozarks. His short time in office has brought much truth to countermand Kris Franken’s perpetual spin cycle.

For example, in an article from the Lake Sun in late 2011, it was reported that Kris Franken awarded a contract for software to Timothy Otten. The software was for a payroll system and a purchasing system. According to two local newspapers, Franken received only one bid and did not locally advertise the bidding process. The contract was awarded to Timothy Otten for HCPS, the only bid considered by the Commission. The software cost the county sixty thousand dollars. It was paid for in part by Rowland Todd, County Clerk and Sheriff Dwight Franklin.

Otten was friendly with the campaigns of Franken for County Commissioner, Aaron Koeppen for Judge and Diane Franklin for State Representative during the election season of 2010. From a Facebook post on the page ‘Kris Franken for Presiding Commissioner’ dated Oct. 24, 2010, Franken brags about these relationships:

“I have put together a trivia team for the Big Brother Big Sisters trivia contest this afternoon, Sunday, October 24. It is at the Elks Lodge in Osage Beach across from J. Bruners. The team consists of myself, Aaron Koeppen (R judge candidiate), Diane Franklin (R 155th Rep Candidate), Tim Otten, and John Beckett (School Board Member). Come out and cheer us on!”

The fact that Franken skirted the rules in order to award this contract to a friend has never been in doubt. Franken, in his own words, had made the sole determination that the software was “not an ‘off the shelf’ product and normal bidding requirements were not applicable”. He went on to say: “It is a custom product that is specific to our needs in Camden County and requires ‘professional services’ to complete.”

These ‘professional services’ and software programs have not been successful. As Commissioner Luber has confirmed, the county had to terminate the contract, refusing to make the final payment of approximately $7,000. The software programs have not been implemented and have been a complete waste of tax payer resources. They have been ineffective and have been jettisoned. The county IT department is attempting to build their own database to manage accounting systems.

This was characterized as a ”refund” from HCPS, who stated that the scope of the project had changed internally and county employees had gotten involved in modifications that weren’t originally contracted. This public relations statement was endorsed by Franken, who had championed the $53,000 kickback to his friend and was not eager to discuss the scheme that put county money in his buddy’s pocket for no return. Franken instead perpetuated a cover up (at least his second while in office) and parroted a line in order to hide his unethical behavior. This act is not the exception during Kris Franken’s time in public office. It has become the rule.

Kris Franken has stalked our courthouse halls long enough to develop a profile. He has left a road map of his treachery behind while in office. The man who brandishes a firearm in our courthouse is the same man who brags about having ‘files’ on people throughout Camden county, presumably to use against them in the event they uncover his lies and bring sunshine to his dealings while in office. This is the same man who has given himself sole discretion in keeping audio of Commission meetings. He is the man who recently discussed a million dollar offer, secured through the county, to subsidize private profits for those stakeholders of the Community Bridge Corporation and various other local interests who stand to gain from a restructuring of the black tops on the west side of the bridge.

Kris Franken is a man with something to hide.

The time has come for the citizens of Camden County to create their own file. The Franken File, if you like. It is past time we start connecting the dots regarding Article 600 and Planning and Zoning. It is high time we took a good long look at those in charge of these decisions at the county level. As Ameren continues to encroach on the rights of property owners at the Lake, it is urgent that we begin to have open, honest discussions about what is being done in our names. It is time to have a few answers about who our elected officials are really working for.

Recently, on the national and international stages, the issue of government transparency is at the fore. Edward Snowden has brought public attention to the massive surveillance state we live in. His revelations have brought light to programs like PRISM and the immense scope of data mining on US citizens. Before him, Bradley Manning illuminated US war crimes in Iraq and exposed the level of collusion between our government and corporations through his release of declassified State Department cables. Before that, NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and William Binney informed us of the architecture of oppression being built around us. They put the data mining facility Stellar Wind and Operation Trailblazer in the public arena, despite great personal and professional risk. Barrett Brown, a journalist who was reporting on private intelligence corporations like HBGary, has been arrested by the FBI, in part for opening research into the nature and scope of the US surveillance state. Jeremy Hammonds, whose hack of Stratfor emails uncovered plots ranging from insider trading to the targeting of American protesters for corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical, has spent months in jail without trial.

Cliff Luber has helped bring that transparency to our local level. As we see on the national stage, sunlight on secret policies and deals is necessary to maintain a free and open democracy. For bringing that accountability home, I owe Cliff a debt of gratitude. For my assumptions about him, I owe an apology. What we have in common is more important than that which divides us. Those principles of honor, trustworthiness and morality must be preserved in government. Truth is not subjective. Without it, we are at the mercy of people like Franken and Obama, who would seek to drive their agendas forward in secrecy and silence.

End-of-session Q&A with Rep. Diane Franklin – News – The Lake News Online

http://m.lakenewsonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20130528%2FNEWS%2F130529116%2F1001%2FNEWS&rssfeed=true

Lake view: Coercive appeal of Camden County’s Article 600 – Opinion – The Lake News Online

http://m.lakenewsonline.com/article/20130522/OPINION/130529612/1007/OPINION