The stripes

We’ve been thinking more about our Missouri Bicentennial license plate, particularly about the wavy lines at the top and the bottom of the plate.  As the designers have noted, they represent the rivers that have been and remain important to our state.

The Mississippi River that became the eastern boundary of Missouri was for many years the western boundary of the United States, the line that separated the nation from Spanish territory.  Failure by the British to gain control of the river during the American Revolution (thanks in no small part to the 1780 Battle of St. Louis) was key to the nation’s survival and development.

The Mississippi and its tributaries—the Wisconsin, the Illinois, and the Ohio, for example—brought the first explorers and settlers to Missouri.  Father Jacques Marquette and his voyageur partner Louis Joliet followed the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers in 1673 to the Mississippi and followed the it until they encountered a “dreadful” river flowing into the Mississippi, “an accumulation of large and entire trees, branches and floating islands issuing from the mouth of the river Pekitanoui with such impetuosity that we could not without great danger risk passing through it.”  It was the Missouri, of course.

LaSalle and Tonty came down the Mississippi in 1682. It was LaSalle who envisioned a string of French settlements that would control trade with the Indians and exploit the land with mining.  He took control of the area and named it for his monarch, Louis the Great, Louis XIV.  In 1720, Phillippe Renault set up lead mines and brought the first slaves to Missouri to work them.  Etienne de Bourgmont (sometimes spelled “Bourgmond”) built the first fort in western part of the state when he put up Fort Orleans on the north bank of the Missouri a few years later in response to French concerns that Spain was coveting the territory and might mount an expedition from Santa Fe.

The Ohio brought George Morgan and his settlers to New Madrid to establish the first American settlement in this area—on the Mississippi.

Another Mississippi River tributary, which defines our northeast corner, caused thirty years of disputes about where the line should be separating us from Iowa.  The northeast corner was defined as a line that reached the rapids of the Des Moines River.  But nobody knew where those rapids were. Or are.   The dispute triggered by that search almost led to Missouri going to war with Iowa, the famous “Honey War.”   The U.S. Supreme Court finally decided the issue.

The St. Francis River, which flows from Iron County into the Mississippi about 425 miles south, was instrumental in shaping Missouri’s southern border.  When John Hardeman Walker wanted his farm in Missouri, not in Arkansas Territory. the St. Francis River became the eastern border of the Bootheel created to include Walker’s land.

Missouri’s original western border was the western side of Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Clinton, and Clay Counties until 1836 when the federal government convinced the Indians living in the area between there at the Missouri River to move west.  The Platte Purchase added six counties in an area abut the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined and extended our northwestern border to the Missouri River.  That’s how the Missouri became part of the border of—Missouri.

Most of the founding settlements of Missouri were on the rivers: Ste. Genevieve, where some accounts say people were living as early as 1722 although other accounts date the founding at 1735 and permanent settlement at 1752; St. Louis, 1764; St. Charles, 1769; Portage des Sioux, 1779, New Madrid, the first American settlement, 1789; Cape Girardeau, 1793.  When lead mining developed in eastern Missouri, one of the biggest challenges for the miners was hacking a road through the forests to get to the river to ship their lead out.

Up to the start of the Civil War, the ten most populous cities in Missouri were all along the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers.  St. Louis, located near the junction of the two greatest rivers, was the largest city in 1860 with 160,773 people. The population of the other nine combined equaled only one-fourth of the St. Louis number.

The importance of rivers is emphasized by the location of the state capital city.  The first state legislature determined the capital should be centrally located.  And how did those lawmakers define central location?  On the Missouri River within forty miles of the mouth of the Osage.  On a principle river not far from an important secondary river that linked central Missouri with the southwest, a capital city that was accessible by a network of rivers that in those days linked all areas of the state, including the northwest corner added a decade after government moved to the City of Jefferson.

The Missouri River gave us, in addition to St. Charles and Jefferson City, the now-vanished communities of Cote Sans Dessein and Franklin, as well as Hermann, and Boonville (which tried in 1831 to take the seat of government away from Jefferson City), Lexington, and eventually Westport and Kansas City, then St. Joseph—and Omaha, and Council Bluffs.

By 1820, some settlers had moved down the Osage and formed what became Warsaw and by 1831, Lewis Bledsoe was running a ferry operation on the river, near the present Truman Dam.

The great rivers brought us legends, mechanical and human—Mike Fink, the fur traders and trappers like Hugh Glass and Jim Bridger, Jed Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick and the men of Ashley’s Hundred; of the Natchez  and the Robert E. Lee and their epic race to St. Louis,  and great pilots such as Joseph LaBarge, who never lost a boat in fifty years, or Joseph Kinney, whose magnificent home called “Rivercene” is now a B&B across the Missouri from Boonville, or Grant Marsh and his steamer Far West, best remembered for setting a downstream record on the Missouri when he carried survivors of Custer’s fight on the Little Big Horn 710 miles down the treacherous river in 54 hours, and with them brought the first news to the outside world of Custer’s fate.  It’s the river of Stephen H. Long and his Western Engineer that started an epic trip west that led to the Great Plains being called “The Great American Desert” for decades.

And what would Samuel Clemens had been if the Mississippi River was not so much of his character?

And all along the courses of these great rivers, now greatly changed, there are remains of the boats that didn’t make it all the way up or down stream and took dreams and people with them, sometimes, to the bottom.   Sometimes the ribs of those boats are exposed when the dry times drop the river levels low enough.  A couple of times—with the Arabia  in Missouri and the Bertrand in Iowa—the remains are found incredibly preserved under layers of mud that used to be the river channel and amaze visitors who have never known when these rivers were the highways that developed our state and led to development of the entire western part of our nation beyond the Mississippi.

And there’s more to the heritage of our rivers—in the form of other avenues that sprang from them.  Former Missouri River ferryman William Becknell, in 1821, left Franklin for a cross-country trading expedition that opened the Santa Fe Trail that created Missouri’s first foreign trading partner and created that path that led to American acquisition a quarter-century later of the Southwest.

And from the village of Westport, the great wagon trains set out on the Oregon and California trails that extended the reach of those first river-borne Missourians to California and to the Northwest.

It was to the river town of St. Joseph, then the westernmost point on the nation’s rail network, there came one day in August, 1859 a lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad who caught a steamboat at the city wharf and went further upstream to the river town of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There he met young surveyor Grenville Dodge who was finding a cross-Iowa route for a railroad.  Dodge, just back from a Colorado trip, and Abraham Lincoln looked west and discussed the best route for a line to the Pacific Ocean.  Dodge became a Union Army officer, was wounded at Rolla, Missouri, and in the Battle of Pea Ridge that pretty much settled any hopes the Confederacy had of retaining an organized presence in Missouri. When Congress passed an act that led to the creation of a transcontinental railroad, then-President Lincoln summoned Dodge from the field to counsel him on where the line should begin.  Lincoln’s executive order in 1863 setting construction in motion established the legal headquarters of the Union Pacific in Council Bluffs and the operating headquarters across the Missouri River in Omaha.

Rivers brought the pioneers and the pioneering spirit to Missouri, and from the towns on the great rivers, new roads of dirt and steel opened the West.

It’s a small gesture to their significance that all of this is represented by some wavy lines on the Missouri Bicentennial license plate.  But it’s a significant gesture and maybe those wavy lines will encourage us to think more about those rivers that continue to shape us as Missourians and as Americans.

Special, but not a blue plate special

Your correspondent was concerned for several months that he might have to get a new car—because a proposed new license plate just wouldn’t look good.

You see, Missouri will be celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of becoming part of the Union four years from now and a special committee has been working on the design of a special Missouri Bicentennial license plate.   Some of you might have cast votes for the five original proposals:


They’re varying shades of blue. And they just wouldn’t look nearly as nice as the current white Bluebird plates look on my white car.  They’d disrupt the entire color scheme.  Indescribable angst was increasing.

A lot of people voted for the one they thought was the best of an admittedly bland lot. But in defense of the people who designed these candidates, there was only so much they could do given state laws that regulate the layout of license plates and the Highway Patrol’s preference for plates with high visibility.

State law requires the renewal stickers to be in the middle of the plate. That was done by the legislature several years ago when authorities saw an increasing number of sticker thefts, often by people using metal cutters to cut they off the corners of the license plates.  To foil the thieves, the law was changed so the stickers are in the middle.  That, of course, imposes some limits on how a new plate for general circulation can be designed.

The Patrol took these blue sample plates out on the road to test their visibility and decided the original idea of having light numbers on a dark plate wasn’t going to work.

Great news!

So the license plate commission went back to work.  And this is what most of us will have on the front and backs of our cars by January 1, 2019:

That’s so much better.

Missouri was due for a new license plate anyway.  The current design has been around since 2009 and license plates are considered to have about a ten-year life before they get bent up too much or their reflective nature gets too dull for troopers’ eyes, or other stuff happens to them.

Representative Glen Kolkmeyer of Odessa found himself being asked to sponsor the bicentennial plate bill a couple of years ago.  He had only a few days to draft the bill and get it moving in the House.  But he made it so that the plate will be available for the era that will include Missouri’s statehood bicentennial, the centennial of the dedication of the state capitol, AND the national sestercentennial, the 250th anniversary.

This plate will be the one that most of us use.  Its design will not affect those who like to have specialty plates on their vehicles—which caused us to look into how many specialty plates the state of Missouri issues.  Wanna guess (turn away from the rest of this column for a few seconds before reading on for the answer)?

This year marks for fortieth anniversary, as nearly as we can tell from a Department of Revenue list, of the first specialty license plate.  In 1977, the legislature allowed amateur radio operators and disabled veterans to have license plates with special designs.

Since then the legislature has added another two hundred and one. It almost seems as if everybody has a specialty license plate but hangnail survivors.  And that doesn’t count the separate plates for various kinds of trucks, cycles, antique vehicles, and Lord knows what else.

Imagine being a police officer trying to run a license check.  The first thing you have to do is figure out if it’s a Missouri plate.  Take a look at http://www.theus50.com/fastfacts/licenses-state.php to see how many state plates are similar.  Then imagine all of the car dealers who think they should turn your car into a mini-billboard by sticking their own license plate bracket on your car—which obscures some plate features that might make it easier to decide what state’s plate it is.   A little road dirt, too, and the poor law enforcement officer has to struggle.

Well, anyway—Missouri is getting a new license plate that calls us to remember we didn’t get to be the way we are yesterday.  It’s taken two centuries to make us what we are in the Union—and there were some years when a lot of misery was expended to determine that we’d continue in it.

The plate’s red, white, and blue motif suggests the colors of the stripes of our state flag.  The wavy lines at the top and the bottom remind us that the great rivers have shaped and defined our borders and our character and opened parts of the state for settlement.  They remain major influences today.  The state seal is in the middle, as it is in the middle of our state’s greatest symbol—the capitol.

The Missouri Bicentennial, which is being coordinated by the State Historical Society of Missouri, will afford us a chance to consider how we got to be what and who we are.  But we hope it also will afford us an opportunity to reflect on what we can be and should be in the years before a tercentennial plate is issued.

So it’s not just another piece of metal that should be on the front and back of our cars, whatever color they might be.  And the reflective nature of the plate isn’t something of value only to police officers; it’s something for all of us.

 

The press gang

The Capitol Press Corps swells when the legislature is in session when news organizations that cover government from a distance the rest of the year reopen their press rooms on the fifth floor for the duration or add employees at the capitol or a few months. In the off-session times, the on-site “gang” is smaller.

We use the word “gang” because the headline for this column is the same headline used by the Cole County Democrat, a weekly version of the daily Democrat, on January 3, 1907 when it told readers about the reporters who were arriving in town for the session that year.  The article was written, of course, by a member of the press corps, probably the guy from the Post whose name does not appear on the list, and it is clear there was good-natured camaraderie involved in what was then a pretty competitive bunch.  But the days of two-newspaper towns are pretty much gone—Columbia being the only one in Missouri that comes to mind.

This, though, is the “press gang” of 1907 as the article put it:

+++++++

As usual the best newspaper men in the State are here to cover the legislature.  They are selected because excellent qualifications are required for the positions.  Men who have been tried and not found wanting—men who never betray a confidence and above all tell the truth.

The Star and Times of Kansas city will be represented by Walter Evans, who with the probable exception of Charlie Oldham of this city, is the best posted man in the state on Missouri politics.  He will be assisted by Claud Johnson, a very clever writer, but not well posted in politics.

The Kansas City Post will be represented by Will Williams, a most capable man, who represented the St. Joseph Gazette at the last session.  Harry Edwards of this city will represent the Kansas City Journal. His ability as a writer needs no comment, as it is well known here. The St. Joseph News-Press will again be represented by the “Kid” reporter, but as he is young in years so he is old in experience and that is Bert G. Voorhees. This is the third general assembly that Voorhees has covered for the St. Joseph News-Press, which in itself stamps him as a most excellent reporter.

Rev. Ben Deering represents the St. Joseph Gazette this year.

Jos. J. McAuliffe will, of course, represent the Post-Dispatch. Joe is one of the newspaper men who has the happy faculty of both getting the news and writing.  Joe has been coming here to legislatures and on special work for the Lord only knows how long, and each time he comes he makes more friends and “binds those he has with bands of steel.”  He will be assisted by Curtis Betts, who has lived with us long enough for us to be glad he is here and to hope that he shall always live in Jefferson City.

The Star Chronicle will be represented by W. H. Quigley, who made a name for himself two years ago by his energies and reliable work on the St. Louis Chronicle, while the St. Louis Globe-Democrat will be represented by our own Sam Kellar, the immortal “S. K.” Nuf said.

The Republic will be represented by Chas. B. Oldham, who knows more politicians and political stories than any other writer in Missouri.  Tom Masterson said to be one of the police reporters in St. Louis will be associated with Mr. Oldham in the Republic work.

These men and the members of the legislature are to be our guests for the winter; let’s show them a good time.

+++++++

We don’t know if Ben Deering really was a minister although there are some contemporary accounts from that era of a minister by that name in St. Louis and in Indiana.

Joseph McAuliffe is the reporter who stirred up the great legislative Baking Powder Scandal of 1903 that forced a Lieutenant Governor out of office and led to the indictments of four state senators for bribery.

A photograph in the press room showing Governor Donnelly meeting with the press corps in his office (this was before Warren Hearnes turned the Governor’s Waiting Room into The Office) includes Curtis Betts, still on the job in about 1947.  Also in the picture, by the way, is Bob Holliway, who arrived on the scene a few years after this 1907 article was written, and who spent time in the Cole County jail in 1917 when he would not reveal who on a county grand jury had told him a series of indictments would be issued against the former Commissioner of the Permanent Seat of Government (the equivalent of today’s Commissioner of Administration) who was indicted but never convicted for selling state-owned coal to other state officials or private citizens.

Today’s press corps is far different but no less committed than these jolly fellows of 1907 to telling readers, viewers, and listeners important things those citizens should know about what their elected legislators and state officials are up to. It’s a harder job than it was then because of the pressures technology puts on them in the form of constant minute-by-minute deadlines. And today, as then, some of the things they write are resented by those they write about—although their stories are unlikely to land them in jail. But the press corps remains an important link between citizens and those they elect to make the laws and regulations. It’s too bad there aren’t more of them.

The spirits of Eric Sloane

We’ve been thinking a lot in these days of division, anger, and anxiety of Eric Sloane, dead now for more than thirty years, and something he wrote for our nation’s bicentennial.

He was born Everard Jean Hinrichs but he changed his name when one of his art instructors, John F. Sloan, suggested artists should use assumed names early in their careers so their developmental art would not be recognized as theirs in more successful times. So he became “Sloane” as a tribute to his instructor.  And “Eric?”   That came from the middle letters of “America,” an appropriate choice given what he became.

Eric Sloane was likely the nation’s foremost illustrator and writer about Americana, folklore, and country wisdom. He published about forty books known for their illustrations, perhaps, as much as for their written content.  For instance:

For the nation’s bicentennial, Sloane wrote and illustrated The Spirits of ’76, a thin volume that focused on “ten early American spirits which I believe have either weakened or vanished.”  What he wrote for the first of the spirits resonates today. The Spirit of Respect:

“I have often quipped that the best way to learn any subject is to write a book about it, and researching early American patriotism was no exception.  When I began compiling my group of vanishing spirits with patriotism at the head of my list, I at once began learning.  With frequent flag burnings, with the stars and stripes being worn on the backsides of blue jeans and the Pledge of Allegiance ruled out as unconstitutional, I presumed that American patriotism must be at an all-time low, and that it was the national spirit most in need of return.  As I researched and analyzed the subject, however, I soon realized that patriotism has become all too closely related with war: the most patriotic people in history (like the Nazis) were always the most warlike and ruthless.  Great thinkers, I learned, very often frown upon patriotism, and the more I thought about this spirit, the more I too wondered about its real values.  ‘This heroism upon command,’ wrote Einstein, ‘this senseless violence, this accursed bombast of patriotism—how intensely do I despise it!’  One philosopher called patriotism ‘the religion of Hell.’

“I had never regarded patriotism in such a light and I began to think.  I remembered my first encounter with pseudopatriotism about half a century ago while I was a student at military academy:  while folding the flag at sundown with a fellow student, I had accidentally let it fall to the ground. ‘You son of a bitch!’ my helper cried, ‘You let the American flag tough the ground!’

“That was long ago when obscenities were treated as obscenities and I wasn’t going to allow anyone to call my mother a dog.  A fist fight followed and I still carry a small scar of the incident. I suppose it was a mini example of how wars start, where there is as much punishment to the punisher as there is to the sufferer, all in the name of patriotism.

“Stephen Decatur’s ‘Our country right or wrong,’ had often worried me.  I found more to my liking, Carl Schurz’s ‘Our Country right or wrong—when right to be kept right and when wrong to be put right.’ And so I wondered if we have not been using the word incorrectly (or even the wrong word). I went to my collection of antique dictionaries. In one old volume such as might have been used by George Washington or Nathan Hale or Patrick Henry and other early patriots, I found the answer: we certainly have been using the word incorrectly.

“Patriotism in the old sense was defined as ‘The Spirit of acting like a Father to one’s country: A Publick Spiritedness.’  This definition is quite different form todays: ‘One who guards his country’s welfare, especially a defender of popular liberty.’  I recalled how Hitler described Nazism as ‘the popular liberty’ and his storm troopers were known as ‘defenders of popular liberty.’  War, I realized, has for a long while been waged in the name of patriotism instead of nationalism.  Nationalism has been one of the most killing diseases of mankind. The American Revolution was actually a patriotic revolution against nationalism.

“The difference between twentieth century patriotism and eighteenth century respect became more evident as I researched. Johnson said, ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’ and Russell said ‘Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.’ Perry said, ‘Patriotic fervor can obliterate moral distinctions altogether.’ But Washington used Shakespeare’s words: ‘I do love my country’s good with a respect more tender, more holy, and profound than mine own life…After what I owe to God, nothing should be more sacred than the respect I owe to my country.’ I began to realize that the early patriot was more aware of his national position than the present day patriot.

“I suppose the first great American patriots were those fifty-six men who signed their names to their own death warrant on July fourth in 1776.  Yet their names are nearly forgotten to history; the average American can name only three or four of the signers of that profound declaration. One librarian was embarrassed about not being able to recall any others ‘besides George Washington and Patrick Henry’; of course neither had signed.  Soon forgotten, true patriotism is a very personal emotion, asking no reward.

“Looking away from the battlefield for an example of patriotism is difficult at first; but they do happen all around us and every day. I found one such example at a wedding anniversary dinner. I don’t like country club affairs and so I really had not looked forward to Haig Tashjian’s surprise party.  Other than my wife and myself, all were Armenian. A diminutive lady arose during the dinner and made a toast.  She confided that she was nearing one hundred years of age and she told how her family had fled in fear of the Turks, and how she came to America.  Then she told how America had fulfilled its promise of being a good home for Armenians just as it has for so many other European people.  ‘And so my toast,’ she said, ‘is not only for the wedded couple, but to the country that has made everything possible for them and for us.  Before I sit down, I want to lead you all in singing God Bless America.

“As the chorus ended I could hear the faraway strains of a rock-and-roll band playing in some adjoining banquet room; there was a meaningful hush as many wiped away a tear; then the dinner continued.  I felt unusually proud to be a native American, and thankful to Armenia for fathering such a gracious people. I had witnessed the inspiration of true patriotism, heroism in humility. Peace has just as worthy patriots as the battlefield.

In the beginning, the word patriotism came from the word pater (father) and patriotism was ‘a quality of respect of one who is devoted to his family in fatherly fashion’; it had little to do with war or nationalism.  Therefore, I offer that the word patriotism be substituted whenever possible, by the better word respect.  I find respect to be the vanishing American spirit most worthy of return to our beloved nation.

“Respect for family, respect for the nation and the land, respect for the flag and the law, respect for mankind and respect for oneself—these have been outstandingly wanting during the last few years.  Within the family, within the nation and to all other nations, the only hope for the survival of civilization is respect or love for one another. In the end, this is all that matters.

Native (-born) Americans are so frequently disrespectful to their nation that it comes as a pleasing and heartening surprise to witness respect for us from those born elsewhere.  The attendant where the Liberty Bell was shown found it interesting that those who most often removed their hats as they beheld the great bell were foreigners. Once two blind Japanese soldiers in uniform came ‘to see’ the bell, and asked the attendant to read to them the inscription thereon.  He led their hands over the raised letters and he showed them where the crack was.  He watched them leave, talking excitedly in their own language and he wondered exactly what their reaction had been.  But stuffed into the bell’s crack, he found two roses that the veterans had been wearing. ‘I didn’t think Japanese soldiers could have done it to me,’ he said, ‘but at that instant I had even more love for America, and respect for the old bell than ever before.’

“”Adlai Stevenson seldom used the word patriotism. ‘When an American says he loves his country, he doesn’t refer to the purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain.  Instead he means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.’”

Sloane’s other lost spirits: hard work, frugality, thankfulness, pioneering, Godliness, agronomy, time, independence, awareness, and an eleventh spirit—hope.

The Spirits of ’76 is out of print but it is available through the internet. My copy was published by Ballantine in 1973. It is pretty much forgotten in today’s social warfare.  But it might be good for people on the extreme wings as well as those in the middle to get it and give serious thought to those lost spirits and the challenge of finding them again. There is always that eleventh spirit.  Hope.

The gauge

For years and years The Missourinet has gotten a monthly economic report called The Rural Mainstreet Economic Index. The survey contacts dozens of purchasing managers who fit in the middle of the supply and demand cycle and bank CEOs in rural areas who keep an eye on local financial trends. It covers several Midwestern states but it also provides breakouts on a state-by-state basis. The index measures whether the strength of the economies in each state and has been useful in reporting on the strength of Missouri’s economy that cannot be measured only by looking at the monthly employment/unemployment reports from the state.

The index is compiled by Creighton University economist Ernest Goss, who heads the school’s Institute for Economic Inquiry.  He’s also worked with the Congressional Budget Office and NASA—among others.

Ernie Goss’ index is a nonpartisan gauge but it’s only one of the gauges used to measure the economic status of Missouri.

Your friendly observer has seen numerous proposals made, and many passed, that promise big economic improvements and job growth. Some have focused on preventing companies from moving to other states. Some have focused on making Missouri a more welcoming climate for industries IN other states.  Some have aimed at keeping people in certain professions from fleeing to other places where they won’t face big lawsuits. Some are tax incentives. Some of these issues and their accompanying justifications are before the legislature again this year.  Economic development is, after all, a highly competitive business and Missouri needs to be a force on this playing field. People here do have to work and they prefer to work at good jobs.

In all the years of watching these mostly well-intended efforts we have never seen a nonpartisan assessment of the results. Is Missouri an any greater magnet for jobs because of these efforts?  Are the jobs being created actually improving the economy?  Why is this or that working or not working?  Do some efforts need to be repealed because they’re ineffective instead of getting new programs layered on top of them?  Various interest groups have persuaded or tried to persuade the legislature to pass laws that will allow them to flourish—or so they claim.  Have those programs actually allowed them to flourish?  Or have they just protected those groups from competitors? Is passing economic development legislation without taking steps to finance the infrastructure system to support economic development enough?

We need more than Dr. Goss’ surveys to gauge whether all of the things passed have worked or whether familiar ideas are realistic.  We have competing groups offering competing evaluations and assessments. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Budget Project see economic growth and funding for public programs through distinctly different lenses, for example.

But suppose the heads of the economics departments at our state and private universities formed an informal Council of Missouri Economic Assessors that could regularly release studies indicating how well various initiatives of the state are working. Not a council of advisers.  A council of economic assessors. 

There is no question Missouri must be competitive.  But could we reach a point where the value of new initiatives is less than their costs to public services and programs?  When everybody else is doing the same thing Missouri is doing, are promises of positive results of a new policy hollow?

Economic development initiatives are seldom intended to produce instant results.  We recall that the special incentives offered to Ford to keep its production lines moving at Claycomo did have a pretty immediate impact.  But most of the others envision something long-term.   How long is long enough?

How many times have we heard how many governors say in one way or another what Governor Greitens says in his first state budget message: “Missouri’s budget is suffering from reduced revenue due to poor economic growth.”  How many times have we heard governors say, as Governor Greitens says in his message, that the governor “is committed to making the budget cuts necessary to balance the state’s budget and retain Missouri’s AAA credit rating.”

Underlying all of this are the questions of whether these job-growing efforts are really beneficial to working Missourians, creating employment or opportunities for meaningful employment for those without jobs and whether these steps wind up undermining other capabilities citizens should be getting.

Maybe a Council of Economic Assessors isn’t the unaffiliated body we need to tell us if all of these efforts are paying off and to what degree.  But an educated non-affiliated review of these efforts could be a gauge of where we are, where we might be going if we maintain this course, and whether there are additional facets of the issue that need support, too.

We’re just tired of hearing year after year the repetition of the phrases “job creation,” “withholding,” “triple-A bond rating,” “job-killing tax increases,” “cut,” and “poor economic growth.”  And we’re pretty sure a lot of the people at the capitol on both sides of the aisle are fatigued, too.  Isn’t it time a governor didn’t have to worry about retaining Missouri’s AAA credit rating?

We’ve thrown an idea out there. You might have a better one and we hope you share it.

A thankless job

Here’s an accurate but fictitious job description for a real position in state government:

WANTED:  Twenty-one people to spend sixteen to twenty hours every two years on a project likely to result in nothing being done.  Position is available for only four years and will require two meetings of two to three days each.  No salary or fringe benefits but expenses are paid. Expect no gratitude for a job well-done.  Scorn and public rebukes entirely possible for the results of your work.  Certain qualifications for employment will apply.  Apply to Governor of the State of Missouri.  If hired, you might be interrogated or rebuked by ungrateful beneficiaries of your work.

No, it’s not state executioner. It’s being a member of the Citizens Commission on the Compensation of State Elected Officials, established in law more than twenty years ago so legislators would not be accused of feathering their own nests.

There is some feeling among taxpayers that public servants who create, evaluate, and administer laws, programs, and services should do so out of the pureness of their hearts with no hope of financial gain or reward.  That might be extending things a little but probably not much

So here’s a question for those who think refusal is the only course:  How much would you want to be paid for a critically-important job that requires you to be away from home and family for four days a week for more than four months of the year, that requires broad general knowledge on hundreds of subjects of high public impact, that involves incredible pressures for action and favorable consideration from dozens of sources, that involves days that begin early and might last around the clock more times than you would like?  Furthermore, it would be a second job.  Your main job would continue.  If you were a farmer, you’d be away from home at least four days a week during planting season or farrowing season.  You wouldn’t be around your furniture store, your grocery store, your law office, your—-well, whatever is your main source of income—very much for more than four months each year.

Then, even while you are at home, your fellow townsfolk regularly call your home or stop you on the street asking pointed questions about what you’ve done or not done for them in your second job.

Or what do you think is the proper salary of the CEO of a, say, $27-billion corporation?   Or the salary of the other top officers of the corporation including the Chief Financial Officer or the corporation’s Chief Counsel?

You realize we’re talking about the legislature and the Governor and other members of the executive and judicial branches of government.  Because legislators are subject to the whims of public popularity, they long ago realized the political unattractiveness of setting their own salaries and those of other top officials.  But they retained the power to reject the recommendations of the 21 citizens because they fear the public thinks almost anything they are paid is too much.

The Citizens Commission on Compensation for State Elected Officials compared the salaries of Missouri officials with salaries and workloads of counterparts in other states. It looked at what people doing comparable work in the private sector made.  It went through numerous sheets of statistics and evaluations. It found those top public officials in Missouri are “substantially underpaid” for the responsibilities of the offices they hold and should get eight percent more. Additionally, the commission recommended 2.5% more for legislators.

These twenty-one people knew they probably wouldn’t get any thanks for their responsible efforts. They took some shots from some legislators before lawmakers voted on their recommendations. Governor Greitens, who continues to capitalize on distrust by the people of those the people elect, called their recommendations “outrageous.”

The commission, however, just did the its job.

The internet site Ballotpedia says legislative salaries range from zero in New Mexico (although those lawmakers get $163 a day in per diem) to $100,133 a year in California.  New Hampshire has the lowest legislative salaries of states that do pay salaries–$200 per two year term. Missouri legislators get almost $36,000 a year plus $112 per diem tied to the federal rate.  Sixteen states that pay salaries to their legislators pay more.  Several states pay a daily or weekly rate during sessions only.

Our governor makes about $134,000 a year which ranks 28th among all governor salaries.

The Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court makes about $180,000 for a two-year term then drops back to the $172,000 salary as a member of the court.  The CJ salary is 36th among all state chiefs, and the judge salaries ranks 38th.  The last time the Missouri legislature let pay raises go into effect was for the 2008-09 fiscal year.  Republicans controlled the legislature and the governorship then, as they do now.

The legislature rejected the work of the commission this week. It’s the right decision.  And it might not be incorrect to say it’s the wrong decision.

The public’s increasingly growing distrust of the people the public elects to most of these positions and the recent electoral climate in which “corrupt career politicians” became a rallying roar for thousands of voters made it unlikely from the beginning that the commission’s recommendations would be adopted. Added to that is the often-repeated fact that the worker bees in state government, the people who deserve something better than being dismissed with the derogatory term “bureaucrat,” are among the worst-paid state workers in the entire nation.  We don’t know if their situation was a public discussion matter in rejecting the commission’s suggestions, but surely it was privately acknowledged that accepting the proposed raises at a time when the state budget is so tight that the governor wants to lay off thousands more of those low-paid state workers would fly poorly in several different ways.

So it was the right thing to do.  Politically. And out of respect for the worker bees.

But it also was the wrong thing to do. And here’s why.

First, the citizens commission.  This group of people, citizens, did not take their responsibility lightly. Their job was to examine the issue as dispassionately as possible.  Had they been strictly motivated by today’s politics they might have recommended big pay CUTS.  But that consideration was not part of their responsibility. Their phrase “substantially underpaid for the responsibilities required” is not to be dismissed out of hand. We do not elect our lawmakers and our statewide officials to come to Jefferson City for a five-month or four-year marshmallow roast.  Their important decisions might be laudatory or highly-suspect but they are not made easily. And what they say or do on the floors of the House and Senate is only part, perhaps a small part, of their jobs.  The broad range of constituent services they are expected to perform consumes much of their time—and that part is a year-around labor.

So if you believe someone should be paid fairly for the work they do, the citizens commission was right and the lawmakers were wrong.

It could be viewed as wrong on the “you get what you pay for” scale. If you want an amusing assessment of that phrase, take a look at the Urban Dictionary website (R-rated for some language).  We heard that phrase used to justify pay increases for lawmakers in the pre-commission days.  We don’t recall hearing it used much in discussions of worker bee pay increases.  Should have been if it wasn’t. And maybe the phrase has a different meaning in an era when term limits devalue the expertise that long experience provides. But last year’s campaign raised the YGWYPF by inference if nothing else.

It could be argued, too, that they were wrong because there is no citizens commission on the salaries of state employees that would give legislators the chance to adopt recommended higher pay scales for the worker bees as well as for themselves.  Would it change anything?  In truth, probably not for those who have to face voters at home but maybe for the people who spend their lives in cubicles.

Friends, we have to have government.  And government cannot be an agency of the United Way and the people who bear the multitudinous responsibilities of being government deserve to be treated better than the hamburger flipper at the drive-through window.

The hamburger flipper, the cubicle dweller, the senator, the representative, the governor, and the judge all have responsibilities.  We wish we knew of a way to fairly measure and properly reward each one for the work they do and the responsibilities they bear.  In some ways the marketplace makes the determination.  In other ways, citizens commissions try to do the same.

A thankless job?  You bet.  Outrageously thankless.  But somebody had to do it.  And this fellow citizen, for one, appreciates their willingness to do it.

Erasing History in the Missouri House

The daily journals kept by the Missouri House and the Missouri Senate are bare-bones records of their proceedings.  Eloquence and folly voiced during floor debate have no place in them.  This is not, after all, Congress, where the daily Congressional Record captures every word, even words never spoken (Members are allowed to “revise and expand” their remarks).

Reading the Missouri legislature’s journals reveals some things, though.  The journals tell us that the order of procedure used today are pretty much the very same order of procedure used in our earliest legislative sessions.  There is an official structure to the making of laws that is honored every day.  Titles of bills and texts of amendments give us some indication of the thinking of the participants and thus an indication of the standards of Missouri society through time.  Resolutions, too, reflect often contemporary issues, events, and causes.   Only in recent years have debates been archived by, among others, the Secretary of State.

Today, however, we are going to tell you about a House Journal that does not reflect what happened that day because the House deliberately erased the record.   It was an extraordinary event.  We cannot say it was unprecedented because it will take someone with weeks or months of time we do not have to learn if it was.

We go back to Sunday night, January 25, 1903, when the young firebrand temperance-promoting preacher at the Christian Church about four blocks down East Main Street (Capital Avenue today) charged city officials and the people of Jefferson City had allowed Jefferson City to have a lower moral standard than any other small city in Missouri. Crayton S. Brooks charged the arrival of legislators that month had not helped.  His sermon caused great unrest in the capital city and a week of give-and-take in the local press kept the issue hot.  Legislators watched events with interest.

Now let’s look at the House Journal:

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TWENTIETH DAY—Tuesday, February 3, 1903. House met pursuant to adjournment. Speaker Whitecotton in the chair. Prayer by the Chaplain. Journal of yesterday read and approved. Mr. Kirkham offered the following joint resolution, which was read and adopted: JOINT RESOLUTION. Whereas. Hon. Dorsey W. Shackietord, Congressman from the Eighth Missouri district, has introduced into the National House 0f Representatives a bill to create a national park at the famous Ha-Ha-Tonka region, in Camden county, Missouri; and Whereas, Lake Ha-Ha-Tonka, and the Niangua river, adjacent thereto, with the surrounding natural scenery and phenomena, have been pronounced by scientists and naturalists the most interesting and beautiful spot on earth; now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of this House, the Senate concurring therein, that the same should be preserved to the people for all time as a national park, and to that end, we urgently request our Senators and Representatives in the National Congress to co-operate with Congressman Shackleford in his efforts to secure the passage of said bill; and be it further Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, duly authenticated, be forwarded to each or our Senators and Representatives at Washington.

Mr. Dolan presented a communication from the “Brotherhood of Daily Life,” condemning the passage of any legislation discriminating between the races; Which was read and referred to Committee on Railroads and Internal Improvements. Mr. Dolan presented a petition from the citizens of Jackson county to prohibit the sale of cigarettes to minors; Which was read and referred to Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

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But that’s not what happened at all when the House came into session that day.

The legislature in those days designated an official newspaper that would publish and bind the official journals at the end of the session.  It wasn’t that difficult at the end because the paper also published the daily journals and all the editors had to do at the end of the session was take all of that type that had been saved and print the bound volumes.

The House Journal for Tuesday February 3 had been published by the Jefferson City State Tribune on January 4 before the House approved the journal for the official record. THIS is what the journal said in the newspaper:

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TWENTIETH DAY—Tuesday, Feb. 2, 1903  (the newspaper had the date wrong)

House met pursuant to adjournment, Speaker Whitecotton in the chair.

Prayer by ________,

On motion of Mr. OFFICER, further reading of the House Journal was dispensed with.

MR COLDEN introduced the following resolution concerning the removal of the state capitol:

“Whereas, the pulpit and the press, the two recognized regulators of public morals and the public conscience, condemn Jefferson City, the seat of government of the state of Missouri, as a place where gambling, vice and immorality flourish without protest from the citizens or the officers of the law; and

“Whereas the seat of government was located at its present site in the days of stage coach and steamboat, and is without adequate railway facilities, and is unreasonably inaccessible to a majority of the people of the state, and is further unable to furnish ample accommodations for a capital city; and

“Whereas, the state of Missouri is practically out of debt and will soon be compelled to erect a new capitol commensurate to the needs of the state; therefore be it

“Resolved, That the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Permanent Seat of Government be and is hereby instructed to prepare a joint and concurrent resolution, providing for the removal of the capitol to some point at or near one of the great railway centers of the state, to be determined by a commission to be appointed by the Governor, and to be submitted to the qualified voters at the next general election of the state of Missouri.”

Mr. TICHACEK offered an amendment naming St. Louis as the place to be selected as the railway center named in the resolution.

Mr. GARDNER offered an amendment to the resolution as follows:

“That said commissioners specially consider the practicability of using the buildings to be constructed by Missouri on the World’s Fair site for capitol purposes.”

Mr. WILLIAMS offered an amendment, providing for one million dollars to be raised by the city of St. Louis.

Resolution, with all amendments, was adopted.

—-

The reaction from Jefferson City was immediate, strong, and pointed.  The State Tribune immediately editorialized, “After all Jefferson City is not such a bad place to live in….Jefferson City has the best streets and sidewalks, the best telephone system, the best railway station; one of the best county court houses in the state. Its waterworks and sewerage are unsurpassed.”

The competing Cole County Democrat the next day dismissed Colden’s effort as a “Scare-Crow Resolution,” saying it was “gotten up to scare the people of Jefferson City” and was not taken seriously by any of the representatives who voted for it.

The State Tribune argued that St. Louis was hardly the place to move the capitol if the lawmakers’ aim was to go somewhere lacking in “intemperance, gambling and licentiousness…cheap theatres or other places of seductive character” to lure them from the paths of rectitude.

Representative Colden was beating a fast retreat by Thursday.  “Just a joke,” he proclaimed.  “I am surprised by the seriousness of the people of Jefferson City on the capital removal proposition,” he said.  In fact, he fully supported Reverend Brooks.   So did Lieutenant Governor John A. Lee, the President of the state senate, who said he would not favor moving the seat of government away.

Then on Monday afternoon, February 9, Colden brought his resolution back to the House, noting city officials had taken action, that the charges made against the city had been hurtful, and that his resolution had accomplished its purpose. He moved that his resolution be expunged from the journal.  Another representative moved that the resolution and all of the amendments be expunged.  The House voted 55-16 to do that.

The Journal for that day contains no reference to that discussion or to that vote.

And that is why the original journal for February 3, 1903 indicates Representative Colden never offered a resolution. Nobody offered any amendments to a resolution, and no resolution on removing the seat of state government to St. Louis ever passed.  And since the official journal for February 3 says no such thing ever occurred, the Journal for February 9 contains no record of the House expunging something that never happened—but did.

We know these things happened because the newspaper published them.  And only because the newspaper published them.

We never saw anything like this happen in all our years of covering the legislature.  We hope it is never repeated.  Thanks to a newspaper, the historical record is clear even if the official record is not. That’s why we have a free press with which you can agree or disagree.  But as long as we have media that is free to record events that become history, we will know.  And in knowing we will remain free.

The era of looking outward

I was at the press site at Cape Kennedy the night of December 7, 1972 at 12:33 a. m. (EST) when the last Apollo mission to the moon turned midnight into dawn and thundered into the darkness. I felt the hammering against my chest from the controlled explosions of those engines, enveloped by a roar so loud that I could not hear my own voice describing into my recorder what I was seeing. I cherish the memories captured by my still and my movie cameras in those moments.  In my increasingly long life, I have hiked high trails in magnificent mountains, rafted in grand and great canyons, beheld sunrises and sunsets in hundreds of special places, watched two children being born, and other notable events.  But nothing was as awesome as watching that Saturn V slowly, slowly lift off and then quickly become a dot in the dark sky, a rocket assembly so tall that—were it placed on the railroad tracks below the state capitol bluff—its escape tower would be as high as the statue of Ceres on the capitol dome.  And the only thing that would return would be a capsule only one foot in diameter more than the center circle on a basketball court, and only one foot taller than the height of the basket. Inside would be the three men I had seen a day earlier at a press conference.  

In more than forty years of covering politics and dabbling in covering sports I have seen and I have met a lot of famous people but I have seen and I have met only a few great people.  It is in that small number of heroes that I place the men who rode that rocket—and their colleagues who dared greatly to push our spirits as well as our frontiers forward. I respect those who continue to ride rockets although their reach is well short of the men who began their journey so dramatically that early morning and the men who first risked everything to reach beyond our known world..   

I worry sometimes about those who are considered heroes today in a time when we are less interested in testing our potentials as societies and as mankind and more focused on protecting the little that we are. 

When Gene Cernan died last week, we lost more than the last man to walk on the Moon.  We lost another of the dwindling few human reminders that greatness derives from reaching outward while mediocrity, narrowness, and failure result from looking inward.

 In the stairwell leading to the library at my house is a poster created by Shelbi Burkhart commemorating the Apollo XVII mission.  It is signed by Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt, the geologist who landed on the moon with him. It is framed with my Cape Kennedy and my Johnson Space Center press credentials from that mission.

 Although my work gave me—and still gives me, I guess—a lot of opportunities to collect autographs, I collect only a few and those few are from those who have seen the whole earth as I will never see it (only six of them are left), or from fellow authors. One series is kind of a vicarious participation in the great adventure of exploring space.  The other is kind of a compliment, a shared experience, with those who have gone through the discipline (and sometimes the agony) of writing a book. 

But the signatures I cherish most are those who were, and are, heroes not just to me but to my generation.  They are tangible reminders that greatness is not achieved by limiting what we can be by focusing within.  I have met some of them and it is comforting to realize that people who look just like me or look just like you are capable of greater things than we often let ourselves think.  And I wonder when the time will come when we will look outward again. 

                                               

Notes from a quiet street  2017-I

(Miscellaneous musings of more than 140 characters, usually, but not enough words to be fully blogicious.)

We found ourselves wandering through an otherwise unoccupied mind one recent day when ice or the threat of ice was limiting more fruitful occupations or ambitions.

An observation after two years of retirement:  If you put on slippers instead of shoes when you get dressed in the morning, the chances are above average that you will not step outside your house more than three times during the day and you will stay outside no more than two minutes each time.  One of the trips will be to get the morning paper. Another will be to get the mail.

We are reminded of the closing lines of the movie “Patton,” a quote from the general read by George C. Scott:  “For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”

NASCAR sent us a note the other day that now is the time to load up on 2017 driver merchandise—everything from baby clothes to pull-along coolers with your favorite driver’s colors and numbers.  We thought it would be interesting to look at Carl Edwards’ stuff, which went from merchandise to memorabilia pretty fast.  Hats and t-shirts are about ten to twenty dollars off.  Jackets are forty dollars off.  And so it went with other items that became examples of the truth of Patton’s remark that “all glory is fleeting.”  Superstar today, clearance table tomorrow.  Such is life.

We were headed to Nevada, in southwest Missouri, a few weeks ago to deliver a couple of copies of our Capitol art book to Cavender’s Book Store when we came upon a large crowd of black birds somewhere near Preston clearing the road of remnants of an unfortunate creature, bite by bite.  As we neared them, the birds all took frantic flight—except for one, a much bigger bird that seemed to just spread its wings and gracefully elevate. As he lifted off, I spotted the large fan of white tail feathers and then a white head.  I swear he looked back over his shoulder, perhaps to see if my car did any damage to his snack. It’s kind of a gruesome story, I suppose.  But I’ll remember the Eagle I saw a few days before Christmas long after I’ve forgotten the rest of the long trip on a chilly, rainy, December day or even Christmas itself.

Our state has a new chemistry set in an old box.  About one-fourth of the members of the Missouri House are brand new.  The governor, as we have noted several times, is fresh to the world of political office-holding.  Five of our six top state officeholders are new to those offices.  The chemistry in our Capitol is entirely different.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the elements mix.

More than a dozen years ago, someone suggested the Missourinet start using Twitter.  The example of Twitter that was given to us was a series of twits, tweets, toots—whatever they are (perhaps depending on the sender)—from a former colleague who was telling the world he was at an airport, then that he was waiting to board his plane, then that he was in his seat, then that he was waiting to take off.  We all thought Twitter was silly and superficial, an attitude borne out a few weeks later when another friend send a message that she was on her way home from work but had to stop at a store to get a sump pump.  Your observer started calling Twitter, “The Theatre of the Inane.”

Well——?

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We are reminded by all the discussion about punitive tariffs on American-company vehicles made in and imported from other countries of a talk we had a long time ago with Kenneth Rothman, a two-term Speaker of the House who was Missouri’s first Jewish statewide elected official, Lieutenant Governor, 1981-1985.  He bought a little farm near Jefferson City during those years and wanted to get a little American-made pickup truck to use out there.  But he learned Ford’s compact pickup was made by Mazda; Chevrolet’s little truck was made by Isuzu, and Dodge’s compact truck was made by Mitsubishi.  He finally found an American-made small pickup truck that was manufactured in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.  A Volkswagen.

We have friends who flee to Arizona and Florida during these months. We pity them for the loss of their sense of adventure.

121 characters.  Including spaces.

 

Speaking of—

Speeches

Speechifying is an important element in starting a new legislative session and getting a new governor in place.  Making speeches at the start of things is always the easiest part of the job.  Hope is always its highest in the early hours or days of service in the pressure cooker we call the public arena.  High hopes often are worn down by the grit of real life and the grinder of competing ideas.  Noble words printed at the start often become nostalgic yearnings at the end.   But let’s talk about the optimism of talk when things are new in Missouri government, beginning with the opening day remarks from legislative leaders and then doing a reprise of an outsider’s warnings and pledges on his inauguration day.

Senate President pro Tem Ron Richard has started his second, and final, term as leader of the state senate.  He’s the only man in state history to lead both chambers of the legislature. Nobody will ever accuse him of being a political windbag.  There sometimes would be pauses during our news conferences while reporters waited for a second sentence. It was kind of fun.

His opening was pure Richard: “I know it’s a tradition that the new President Pro-Tem gives a big speech on the first day and sets the agenda. But I’m not big on long, windy speeches.”

Richard believes the words “Senator,” and “Senate” have values that deserve more respect than they sometimes get from his fellow senators.  “What we do here matters and how we do it matters,” he told his colleagues. “Why is it that Missourians—who are not unnecessarily extravagant people—decided more than one hundred years ago to build such a wonderful capitol?…I think Missourians then—and Missourians now—want us to feel the weight of what we do here.”

He urged his colleagues to pledge to teach other to “conduct the business of the Senate in a way that rises to the grandeur of the great state of Missouri.”  He spoke at length of history and the hope that “we are remembered for respecting the institution of the Senate and each other; for restoring civility to the chamber; and that we were able to be passionate about our convictions without being combative with one another.”

In the House, Speaker Todd Richardson—starting his second term in that job—spoke at greater length and did lay out the majority party’s agenda.  But he cautioned members of his own supermajority party not to overplay their power.  “With this greater power comes even greater responsibility—a responsibility to make this legislative process deliberative.  That means we must respect the voices and viewpoints of every Missourian…Inevitably we are going to disagree, both in our caucuses and across the aisle.  This is the people’s House and we are a body that is supposed to have spirited discussion, but those discussions and that disagreement should stay professional and mindful of our fellow legislators, and the constituents we serve.”

He pointed to several economic and societal changes in which he felt Missouri was lagging behind as he discussed the Republican agenda for the session. “Government does not create jobs,” he said. “Real people do. Government’s role is to lay a stable foundation upon which entrepreneurs and hard-working Missourians can do the job-creating.”  Minority Democrats already have served notice that they’ll noisily oppose Right to Work, don’t much like Republican tort reform ideas, charter school and private school voucher programs, right to life and LGBT positions, and the like. There’s general agreement on strengthening lobbyist controls including a ban on gifts to elected officials.   Richardson says the gift ban will be the first bill out of the House this year. He called for an end to “half measures” and a commitment to “bold action.”

Governor Greitens’ inaugural speech fit into those themes. He cited history and the character that it has built for our state and that binds all of us together.  But, he noted, that does not mean we have to agree with one another.  “Sometimes the purpose of our opponents is to be our teachers,” he said. Further, “Even as we fight for our convictions, we resolve that the greatest conviction is to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

But, he said, “I come as an outsider, to do the people’s work.”  He promised to be tough on crime and to be resistant to special influence.  He mentioned, as others before him have mentioned, that government cannot fix every problem, that people carry a heavy responsibility as citizens to care for one another and to take advantage of opportunities government provides.  “Let’s get to work,” he said at the end.

Three speeches.  Three venues.  Common themes in the beginning days of the legislature and of an administration.

Another thing Senator Richard said in his brief remarks added realism to the next few months. “We’re human, and we make mistakes, especially in the passion of the moment…How will history remember us?”

The way history remembers the participants in this annual drama will be determined in the next four months or four years.  One thing is sure:  They will make history.