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Max Reiss's Blog in 2009
Nixon says the Lake of the Ozarks needs a clean-up

Posted 09/23/2009: 

In front of a scenic Lake of Ozarks backdrop, Missouri's Governor Jay Nixon and Department of Natural Resources Director Mark Templeton announced how the state will clean up the lake. They said their plan has 4 steps, but all of the steps will be initiated simultaneously.

The steps include an inspection of about 400 facilities that currently hold wastewater permits which will take between 8 and 10 weeks to complete. The DNR will also implement a zero-tolerance policy for any violators of the state's clean water act. There will also be a comprehensive water quality survey of the entire Lake of the Ozarks which will hit the governor's desk no later than December 31, 2009. Finally. the DNR will complete a "rigorous" review of all applications for permits in the Lake of the Ozarks watershed.

Gov. Nixon repeatedly called the quality of the Lake of the Ozarks water "unacceptable." One of the points he also made was how beaches were closed this summer and those were the events that really grabbed Nixon's attention.

This announcement came more than 2 months after the DNR's report on e.coli at the lake was released. The governor did not confirm or deny whether or not this plan directly has to do with that particular report or the subsequent ones that came after it, nor did he say whether or not this has been on his agenda since he took office January 7. Nixon and Templeton said the state has the resources to pay for this clean up but declined to say where the money would come from and how much it would cost. They did however assure those in attendance that the Lake of the Ozarks clean up effort will not take away any DNR personnel from other bodies of water around Missouri.

According to Templeton and Nixon, the plan takes effect immediately.

On a lighter note, Missourian reporter Rebecca Berg and I went to the Starbucks on 54 in Osage Beach immediately after the press conference as we headed back to Jefferson City. While there we found out Nixon's motorcade made a stop at the gourmet coffee establishment as well. Nixon ordered a grande vanilla non-fat latte; Templeton ordered a grande brew with room; and Jack Cardetti, Nixon's Communications Director had himself a grande latte.


MIAC Oversight Debate
Posted 09/15/2009: 

Today I covered the House Interim Committee on State Intelligence Analysis Oversight's meeting during the veto session. Only 10 of the committee's 16 members attended. Those 10 members spoke for about an hour and half about how best to keep an eye on the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC).

Before I discuss what little the committee did today, I think I should offer some details on MIAC. It was created in 2007 to offer information and reports on law enforcement issues. From 2007 until March 2009 it offered reports on topics ranging from the Nation of Islam to drugs to the leaked report which stirred controversy in the state legislature: the American Militia Movement. Somehow, this report found its way onto the internet when it was designed for law enforcement eyes only; I don't know how this happened. In this report, it detailed how supporters of third political parties were threats to national security. In particular, the report singled out supporters of Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin's political campaigns. This led state senators and representatives alike to call for more oversight into how the agency compiles its reports and how it is run. Furthermore, I filed a Missouri Sunshine Law request for all of MIAC's reports and found out it used Wikipedia in some reports. All of this (I like to think I had something to do with it at least) led House leaders to form an interim committee on how best to oversee the Missouri Information Analysis Center. 

Today, the committee met for the fourth time since June and it was in the Missouri State Capitol. They started about 20 minutes late and talked for about an hour and a half. There was a lot of repetition and redundancy and many of the committee members simply talked in circles for at least the first hour. The consensus, as one could imagine, was that MIAC needs oversight. Jackson Democrat Curt Dougherty argued that law enforcement shouldn't be involved at all and that there should be a full time salaried position to keep an eye on the agency. Fellow Democrat Joe Fallert disagreed and reiterated how it needed some kind of oversight. Republican Representative Kenny Jones, a former State Highway Patrol Officer himself, said law enforcement needs some kind of role. This was all repeated in some fashion by several other members of the committee until the meeting adjourned.

The committee's goal is present a draft outlining some kind of MIAC oversight to House Speaker Ron Richard later this fall to be considered when the legislature reconvenes in January. For now, we shall wait and see what the committee agrees is the best way to look over MIAC.


Red Light Cameras

Today was a busy day in the State Capitol. I'm fairly certain I  was in the building before any other member of the press corp because I was in the Missouri Digital News Office at 7:40AM. That is much earlier than I would ever arrive for a day in Jefferson City but today the story called for it. I was covering SB211, which would outlaw all red light cameras in the state. An interesting piece of legislation I initially thought because there are so many municipalities in Missouri, and around the country that enforce traffic violations with these cameras stationed on traffic lights.

The bill's sponsor is St. Louis Republican Senator Jim Lembke and he argued since a person is not the one pulling someone over or issuing the ticket in person, it makes the red light camera systems unconstitutional. He said that someone receiving a summons should have the opportunity to explain ones's self to the officer writing the ticket. The Hazelwood police chief said the cameras do not write any tickets and that the cameras are monitored by police officers at a viewing station and they are the ones that write the tickets.

This issue particularly struck me because there seems to be a sort of disconnect between Sen. Lembke and his district. The City of St. Louis had someone speak on behalf of the city in opposition to the bill. This caused me to raise my eyebrow because St. Louis City is in Sen. Lembke's district. I'm not sure this is a topic that has ever come up between the senator and his local constituents. St. Louis has red light cameras on streets all over the place. I understand there is a partisan divide between Lembke and the city of St. Louis since it does in fact have a Democratic mayor, but I would think with a bill like this, which would have such a wide ranging impact on the city, he would have consulted Mayor Slay first.


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