Call serves up the year’s Most Misguided Quotes

Originally Published on: 2010-12-29

“Call the Tune” by Mike Anthony
Executive Editor

Former Call staffer Burke Wasson a few years back began selecting gems uttered by elected officials and others throughout the course of a year and called them the Most Misguided Quotes of the Year.

The Most Misguided Quotes of the Year column now has become a Call tradition in which we chronicle the most misguided, misinformed and sometimes just downright asinine statements of the year. So without further ado, we offer the Most Misguided Quotes of 2010.

The annual retreat conducted by the Mehlville Board of Education typically is a raucous affair and this year’s gathering was no exception, offering a treasure trove of candidates for inclusion in this year’s column.

We’ll offer just cream of the crop of the board’s discussion in August of whether to seek a 94-cent tax-rate increase in the November election — and whether reducing that amount would help or harm the chance of a referendum succeeding.

Board President Tom Diehl said, “… When you start cutting out to try and meet this mythical idea that people will only vote for something under 50 cents — which is a lot of crap — you wind up giving the people who want to support us no reason to support us. And we’ve got a program here that’s been proposed and discussed for going on four years now and refined. The survey shows that there is support for it and the survey shows that if we do an effective education effort, we’re gonna win this …”

Board Vice President Venki Palamand said later, “Well, what about reverse logic? Why don’t we try for $1.30? Do we get more people enthusiastic about it … just rationally thinking?”

“I think it passes with flying colors,” then-board member Karl Frank Jr. said. “I think it really does get more ‘yes’ votes. I’m not just saying that. I mean, I think there’s legitimate reason to think that.”

Despite pleas to place a reasonable measure before voters in November, six members of the Mehlville school board — Palamand was absent — voted to place an 88-cent tax-rate increase called Proposition C on the Nov. 2 ballot. With many eerie parallels to Mehlville’s failed 97-cent taxrate increase in 2006, voters overwhelmingly rejected the 88-cent taxrate increase.

Less than a week after the defeat of Prop C, Frank announced his intent to resign from the school board at its Nov. 18 meeting.

Frank, who was elected to the board in 2005, initially said he decided to step down to devote more time to his family and his computer consulting business, but also because of a “disconnect” between the direction he and the community believe the district should go.

But in an e-mail to board members and Superintendent Terry Noble on Nov. 15, Frank gave another reason: He doesn’t want to serve on a school board that doesn’t have Noble as its superintendent.

Frank wrote that he is “sick and ashamed of the majority of the Mehlville community.”

“I do not want to serve it and I do not want to be elected by it,” he wrote. “Quite frankly, the fact that I was ever elected at all by this community makes me wonder what in the world people are thinking.”

He added, “After the failure of Proposition C, I was strongly encouraged as a board member to take responsibility for its loss. For years board members have been pointing fingers at each other and others for (failed) ballot initiatives. Screw that. I am not taking responsibility for something I have dedicated my life to for no pay and no glory …”

Frank apparently knew something the public did not as Noble announced Dec. 1 he would retire at the end of the current school year — another eerie parallel to the district’s failed 2006 tax-rate increase when then-Superintendent Tim Ricker announced his retirement two days after voters rejected Proposition A.

Another event providing much fodder for this column was a 90-minute forum in which Democratic County Executive Charlie Dooley and Republican challenger Bill Corrigan debated such issues as a St. Louis city-county merger, trash districts and crime. At one point during the forum, Dooley went after Corrigan for frequently referencing and holding up his economic development, tax reform and ethics plans when answering questions.

“Let’s be clear. Leadership means making difficult decisions in difficult times … not holding up a piece of paper, talking about what you think you have on paper, which you have absolutely nothing,” Dooley said. “If you had something on paper that was meaningful, you’d be a swami.

“We’re talking about real issues that impact people’s lives. And it’s insulting that every time you speak, you’ve got some four-point plan, six-point plan, eight-point plan that’s not real, it’s a fabrication in your own mind.”

“I’ve been called a lot of things in life,” Corrigan quipped in response, “but never a swami before.”

Given that exchange, it’s astonishing Corrigan lost to Dooley in the November election.

Corrigan has handled his defeat much better than former Sunset Hills Mayor Mike Svoboda, who lost his re-election bid in April to Bill Nolan. Given his post-election comments critical of Nolan, Svoboda apparently was a little bitter over his defeat.

“I don’t have any hopes for him. I had hopes for me,” Svoboda told the Call after the election. “He was wrong about everything he was talking about, but he fooled the people and there’s been a change. But that happens in politics …”

We believe Nolan was the right choice for Sunset Hills and as mayor he has done much to restore the lack of transparency that existed under Svoboda’s administration. Just consider what was done in 2008 when the newly elected Mayor Svoboda tapped Patricia Fribis to fill his vacant Ward 4 aldermanic seat. Her appointment was approved unanimously during a special meeting in May 2008.

“What he (Svoboda) proposed we do is meet over at O’Leary’s (Restaurant & Bar),” Fribis told the Call earlier this year of her pre-appointment meeting with the board. “All the current aldermen and himself then met me. We talked for a couple of hours. They asked me any question they wanted to. It was a very comfortable situation.”

And consider Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy’s misguided interpretation of the Sunshine Law, “As long as there’s no votes taken, you can meet socially. We were just meeting someone in another part of the city … We didn’t take any votes. It was simply a social gathering … no different than me meeting a neighbor.”

Yet Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s Web site notes that a public meeting is any meeting of a public governmental body where public business is discussed, decided or public policy is formulated.

We believe those on the public payroll have an obligation to treat residents with respect. But that’s not what happened last summer when resident Martha Duchild questioned Crestwood City Attorney Rob Golterman of Lewis, Rice & Fingersh about the political activity section of the city’s civil service rules.

Mrs. Duchild, who was on the Civil Service Board when it undertook a review of the rules in 2006 and 2007, said while Golterman now believes the civil service rules’ political activity section could infringe upon an employee’s constitutional rights as a private citizen, he did not have a problem with it during the document’s review.

“Fortunately, Mrs. Duchild, I don’t stop learning, OK?” Golterman replied. “Fortunately I’m open to enhancing my legal abilities. And fortunately I continue to educate myself in the area of municipal law and constitutional law, and I don’t close my mind off. So occasionally I become smarter and more educated, and that may have been the case here. And if the board wants me to provide an explanation, I’d be happy to do so. Whether you think I owe the board an explanation, I really don’t care.”

Finally, no Most Misguided Quotes of the Year column would be complete without a comment from Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson. While Roy has been on his best behavior this year, he did make one comment that we couldn’t ignore. During a discussion about Pulaski Bank’s desire to negotiate a new development agreement for a retail center it owns, Roy was told that aldermen opposed to a new pact were not going to change their position.

“Well, can’t pistol-whip people I guess,” Roy responded.

We don’t disagree with Roy’s assertion that you can’t pistol-whip people. But until now we’ve never heard an elected official work the words “pistol-whip” into the official proceedings of a governmental body. For that reason alone, Roy’s comment merits inclusion in the 2010 edition of the Most Misguided Quotes of the Year.

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