Inside City Council


Here’s some scenes from my work on Springfield City Council.  This is a project in progress and I’ll be adding dates and more images as I get time.  Technical:  most of these images are shot in a hurry with a cell phone camera.  I use an Apple Iphone ap that stitches images together in some shots.

The new Mayor of Springfield chats with Greg Burris in Greg’s office.  The main topic was John Q. Hammons and the vacant lot next to the Expo center.  Hammons and his staff are sending us directly conflicting messages: the planned hotel will be built.  The planned hotel will not be built.

Mike Brothers is the new city PIO.  He’s got a special spot in the meeting room behind the City Council Chamber next to the video editing suite.  His former specialty was music reporting for the News Leader and now he has to take his game to a new level.

This is Anita Cotter’s office.  Looking in is the City Clerk, Brenda Cirtin.  All the clerks are in one office complex... like a bee hive of female worker bees... only busier.  

This is my perspective on the new City Council.  Sometimes we know why the Council chambers are full and sometimes we don’t.  Some people say we look down on the audience, but when people stand at the podium to speak, we are all on the same level.

Here’s the famous Metro restaurant after a city council meeting.  See?  There’s no strippers; no card games going on here.  Just an exhausted Mayor after a long Monday night meeting, 8.9.10.

Scott Marrs is the City lobbyist and he’s got a small office on the fourth floor of the Busch Building.  He’s also got the biggest rolodex in town and he can do more sit ups than Chuck Norris.  In fact... Scott is the Chuck Norris of local politics.   

Doug Burlison is the Chair of the Plans and Policies Committee and here we are looking over plans for the new Police and Fire training Center on Battlefield.

The Ozarks New Energy Committee is a lively, social bunch.  We liked to meet at the GastroPub for our monthly meetings. City Utilities is spending 1.4 billion dollars on a coal fired power plant and we are trying to find alternatives.

Here’s the ribbon cutting for the new Bistro Market downtown.  It’s the middle of the Senate race and Roy Blunt is there along with the Mayor and Brad Toft of the Urban Districts Alliance.

November 3, 2009 at the Discovery Center.   The joyous Mayor announces that the special sales tax to fix the Police/Fire pension has passed.

It’s a warm day in November, 2009 and I’m riding back from a City Hall meeting.

Closed door meeting, 2.23.09.  We meet behind Council Chambers to talk over yet another chapter in the telecom lawsuits.  Note our lawyers from Lowther Johnson.  They did a great job fighting the legions of lawyers from the evil telecom companies over decades.  Council held tough in the face of a lot of insulting settlement offers.

Saint Patty’s Day, March, 2009.  I’m riding my bike in the O’Neal party.  Later we meet with the Presiding Commissioner of Greene County, Dave Coonrod, just like dear ole Glendale High School in 1971.


My campaign.  It started with the decision to run in October, 2006.  It dragged through the Primary in February and then finished in April, 2007.  That is entirely too much suffering for a job with no pay and no benefits.

My interview with KSMU, 10.19.07. Present are Emily Fox, Mike Nietzel, Missy Shelton and Tammy Janke, head of the CNAS department.  We’re talking about energy efficiency.

We tour the new Southwest Two coal fired power plant on 7.8.08.  With us is Evelyn Honea, Ralph Manley, Cindy Rushefsky and the Mayor.  Ralph tells me he used to own the farm where the plant is being built.

City Council retreat. 11.1.07.  If we weren’t talking about the missing $200 million Police Fire pension money, we should have been.  A storm was brewing.

Susan Montee, State Auditor says the City is in a financial mess. She talks about the missing pension money and the scales fall from our eyes.  12.6.07.  Note Tony Messenger, the former firebrand editorial writer, now with the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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Closed door meeting, 5.5.08.  We meet on the 4th floor of Busch to chat with the consultant and the Citizens committee about the city manager candidates.   The Citizens are not happy with our choice and they were venting.

August 12, 2008.  Mayor Carlson makes the announcement of our choice for the new City Manager, Greg Burris.  Greg gets angry when I mention that the field was pretty thin... but that’s what the consultant told us:  the pension mess had scared away a lot of talent.  Still... Greg was the best choice and as time as shown... a good one. 

Candidate for Mayor Jim O’Neal on the campaign trail.  I’m not campaigning, but I’m there for support.  We stop for coffee and to read the paper.

My view from the round table of the last Carlson city council. Manley, Wylie, Chiles, Collette, Carlson, Deaver, Burlison, Rushefsky, Whayne. 4.6.09

4.7.09.  Tom Carlson’s last lunch meeting as Mayor.  He’s in his office behind the Busch 4th floor conference room.    Tom asked me if he should talk to the News-Leader about his legacy.  I said something like “Absolutely.... be sure you get the last word”.  Tom is famous for his bow ties and wide ranging reading habits along with the longest term as office as anyone in Springfield history.

In the little room behind the City Hall City Council chambers is the video control room.  That’s Vince Crunk in red, as usual, mixing the video feed for cable and the on-line streaming.  

End of my first City Council

The new City Council arrives in Council Chambers.  Jim is with his dad, Bud O’Neal.  Scott Bailes replaces John Wylie.  Cindy smoozes with outgoing Denny Whayne.   4.14.09

My view of the proceedings. 4.14.09.  John Rush is being given the oath by Brenda Cirtin, City Clerk.  The old Mayor, Tom Carlson supervises the swearing of six new council members to join the three of us with two years experience.  The voters are angry and we have a teapot revolution on our hands.  Will the new City Council knit together?

Jim says goodbye to Tom.  They are both Springfield 1971 high school graduates and served together on City Council in the 80’s.

Jim on his first day in his new office.  He knows the drill and he knows where the bathroom is.

4.22.09.  Minutes before the news conference, the Mayor chats with Jerry Fenstermaker and Jerry Harmison, the new heads of the citizens committee to fix the Pension Mess.   Where’d the money go? 

April, 2009... War Hero Ralph Manley resigns in protest over the results of the Mayor Pro Tem election.  We interview the three final candidates and pick Jerry Compton.  Bob Stephens takes a picture of my swearing in as the new Mayor Pro Tem.  The vote is close... between me and Doug Burlison.

Our beloved new Mayor has suffered through his election with a seriously defective hip and on 5.7.09 he goes into St. Johns to have it replaced.  He damaged it along with his knee in a skiing accident over seven years ago.  That knee has been replaced twice.  So much for skiing.    With him is Debbie, his wife.

During the Urban Districts Alliance meeting the next morning on 5.8.09, the Springfield area suffers violent straight line winds and damage throughout town.  Shown is the emergency response at the EOC.

City Council got in trouble for a closed door meeting on November 15, 2010.  We were meeting to discuss the Heers building real estate issues and at the same meeting John Rush talked about progress with the museum at Wonders of Wildlife.  Our bad.  Still, you don’t know it’s a violation of Sunshine Law until the meeting is over.  At which point, it’s too late.

After the closed door meeting, the Mayor invited Doug Burlison and me to join him in his loft apartment to watch the game and talk about sports.

As I saw things on 11.29.10.  No closed door meeting that night.  Three of us use computers in place of giant notebooks full of briefing papers.   I use a Mac portable with Google Earth to see what zoning issues look like from a satellite.

We meet for a Good Morning Springfield. Dave Coonrod gives the bittersweet State of the County while also reminding everyone that he had lost his re-election as Presiding Commissioner of Greene County.  It was a bitter cold day.

2.8.11.  Mary Lilly Smith makes a case for a large TIF project to Cindy and me.  We’re in Greg Burris’s City Manager office and Fred Marty is in the chair by the door. This is how we get rare background briefings on City Council: two and not more than three at a time.  Cindy is looking at me and saying: “What’s with the camera?”

2.4.11, Busch Building, forth floor.  Greene County Clerk Richard Stuckoff makes the case to cancel the City primary election of 2.8.11.  It’s the first time he’s asked for this in over 20 years, but the poll workers can’t make it to the polling places because of the blizzard.  We vote 6-0 in favor, but the News-Leader is not happy.

All the swells in town gather for the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting at University Plaza on 1.28.11.  Count’em: 900 people who matter.  You gotta have an iron butt to sit through the whole thing so I usually leave early.  Someday they’ll give out the Wildly Unpopular Eccentric Idea award and I’ll wish I’d stayed to witness the stony silence when my name is announced. 

In his office, Assistant City Clerk, Anita Cotter briefs the unpaid Mayor on all the stuff people want him to do.  If he allowed it, his day would be tightly scheduled from 7:30 to 7:30 each day.  Jim is hobbling because he just had his second knee operation.  The job is critical to Springfield’s future, but it’s way too demanding for most people.  It takes a big guy like O’Neal to be Mayor.     

Sometimes the most work gets done in small rooms by volunteers.  Josh Jones convenes a meeting to discuss the new and innovative “Property Accessed Clean Energy” law signed by the Governor.  PACE will allow people to improve their homes and businesses with loans that they will pay back on their property taxes.  It’s a brilliant plan, but it needs midwives to bring it into the light. Note Bob Stephens, Chris Coulter, Matt O’Reilly and Zeke Fairbank.

On December 9, 2010, at the ground breaking for the new emergency management building on the Greene County Campus.  I made the now famous suggestion that we will depend on the local emergency professionals when the Alien Space Invasion begins.  We all know they’ve got a plan for that in a locked file drawer in the basement.

3.23.11.  Here’s a composite image of the progress on the Square from the fourth floor of the offices of Jennifer Wilson.  What a shame all the trees had to come down.  But still, this will be a beautiful addition to downtown Springfield.

11.5.2010.  This is the dedication of the restoration of the Square.  I made a brief speech about it and you can read it here.  

3.21.11.  We’re talking about a home for underprivileged mothers-to-be on Walnut Street.  Afterwards, the Mayor and I eat a bite at the Flame.  Jim does business on his cellphone before the food arrives.