United for Missouri Priorties Update

United for Missouri rolled out just over one month ago. We identified a statewide issue (Prop C) that would be our initial priority and we identified transparency on the local level as a key objective. Here is an update on the issues.

As the nation and world knows by now, Prop C passed with 71% of the vote. Every county in the state voted yes! Only St. Louis and Kansas City voted no. Given their long history of being dependent on government programs, it’s not a surprise they voted no. The surprise is that the vote in those two areas was almost 60/40 showing that even in the liberal/progressive urban areas there is a lot of concern about the government takeover of our health care.

Now, our concern must be centered on whether our Attorney General is going to defend our vote adequately or do just enough to lose!  You can remind him he works for us by signing the petition to remind him of that fact!

Besides Prop C, we challenged two school districts (Springfield and Liberty), one city (Cape Girardeau) and a fire protection district (Mehlville) to increase their transparency by putting their expenditures on-line, real-time and in a searchable format.  Several of these entities have a record of problems in the past and have made huge improvements in correcting past problems. So far, we have visited with three of the four entities and have yet to contact the fourth.

Mehlville Fire Protection District (FPD) has caused quite a stir.Over the past few years, citizen activists have been elected to the district board and taken actions that have not met with the status quo of operating a FPD. Most recently they had the audacity to place average salaries of Mehlville and surrounding districts on-line. It didn’t make the neighboring FPD’s happy but it represents accountability to the taxpayers who pay the bills!

Mehlville has provided their expenditure data to us and we have developed the basic search engine interface. Mehlville is well on their way to becoming the first fire protection district in the state to provide this information on-line and searchable format. It will be another reason for those who aren’t as anxious to provide the public the data they are entitled to be upset with Mehlville FPD.

Liberty Public Schools has made significant progress in accountability and transparency in the past few years. They provide on their website monthly expenditures on their board documents portion in a PDF and Excel format. This represents a significant step forward. While the data is provided monthly, it can be difficult to find and would require downloading several files to get a year’s worth of data. The Superintendent and board members at  Liberty have expressed a genuine interest in the opportunity to make the data more accessible to patrons!

We met with the Liberty Superintendent, Mike Brewer, and a couple of board members about making the data they provide easier to access and in a searchable format. The reception to the suggestion was well received. We have provided an example data base and search capabilities for their review. Liberty’s initial feedback was very positive.  It is our hope that in a relatively short period of time the patrons of Liberty Public Schools will be the first in the state to have this access to how their tax dollars are being spent!

The City of Cape Girardeau has also taken significant steps to increase the level of transparency they provide to their taxpayers.  They have improved the City website, placing lots of useful information to citizens on the site. They are revising their purchasing policies and will be placing them on the website as well.

We met with the Cape Girardeau City Manager and Finance Director last week to discuss the next step. They also were very open and receptive to placing expenditure data on-line in a searchable format. We will continue to work with the City of Cape Girardeau over the next few weeks to provide them the capabilities to be the first city in the state to provide their taxpayers unprecedented access to the expenditure of their tax dollars!

Our efforts with Springfield Public Schools has been slowed up a bit. We have made the conscious decision to allow the coming state audit to get sorted out a little more before pushing forward with the expenditures on-line effort.  In most ways, the efforts are unrelated except that the transparency provided through our expenditure effort will provide an additional level of trust to the patrons in the district. I’m hopeful that in September we will have begun the process with Springfield.

So far, so good but until these systems get put up on the respective websites, the job isn’t finished yet. You can encourage these entities to continue their progress by signing the petitions of support:

Mehlville FPD

Liberty Public Schools

City of Cape Girardeau

Springfield Public Schools

In addition, let the Attorney General Koster know that you are paying attention to how he defends our vote on Prop C by signing the Koster Petition.

Carl Bearden
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