Is Jeff Roorda Campaigning for County Council?

27 Sep

November’s showdown for the district 4 seat on the county council features two familiar faces in JeffCo politics; former councilman and former Rock Ambulance board member Charles Groeteke on the GOP side and former state representative Jeff Roorda on the Democrat side.

Interestingly, I have not seen any evidence of a Roorda campaign. I have seen no signs, no website, no ads. I haven’t even seen a website smearing his opponent, like the one that popped up during Roorda’s 2012 race for state representative. Have you seen any of this, or seen him in any parades? Let me know in the comments. He has been on CNN a few times recently to defend cops involved in shootings. He has become CNN’s go-to guy for this duty. He also has a book coming out just after election day about what he calls the “war on police.”

One thing Roorda has been doing, however, is raising money. As of the beginning of this month, he had raised over $32,000, mostly from lawyers and unions, compared to $8,000 for Groeteke. But Roorda has only made about $7,000 in expenditures (not including over $8,000 in loan repayments to himself and his old candidate committee). The expenditures were mostly putting on a golf tournament and giving charitable gifts to police and veterans groups from the campaign account. He spent a mere $200 on signs. Groeteke has spent about $3,300, including $2,100 for printing and mailing.

There are 41 days until the election. Roorda could start campaigning yet, though it is getting kind of late, but he has the money necessary to launch a late blitz. He has a fundraiser on Friday.

Fundraising Idea

I have a suggestion for Groeteke for raising some money. Every time Roorda goes on CNN, his critics launch an avalance of anti-Roorda messages on Twitter (see here). What Groeteke could do is put up a fundraising page, and when these tweet storms are happening, put out his own tweets that say “Hey, I am running AGAINST JEFF ROORDA in November. Help me defeat him!” with a link to the fundraising page. I bet he could get some contributions out of this. I would downplay Groeteke’s GOP ties on the website, though, since Roorda’s opponents are mostly members or supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and probably not big fans of the GOP.

 

Critchlow Update

25 Sep

Here’s what’s up in Critchlow land:

-You may recall that in mid-July, JeffCo prosecutor Forrest Wegge punted the Dianne Critchlow case to the US Attorney for possible federal charges after a 6-week investigation. That was 10 weeks ago – still no word from the feds.

-The Critchlow home in Arnold is still for sale – the price has plummeted 5.6% since being listed in June to $462,000. Maybe the Fox district could buy the house, and the four families on Chemin de la Vallee and Glenn Drive in Barnhart that are embroiled in a Dunklin-Fox boundary dispute could all take up residence. Or maybe Dunklin should buy it, since they’ve been getting the tax dollars from these families all these years without having to educate their kids.

-Jamie Critchlow has a trial date on October 28 for his challenge to the Dept. of Revenue’s revocation of his drivers license for failure to consent to a breathalyzer test. This relates to his May 30 arrest for DWI and leaving the scene of an accident, which is separately winding its way through the JeffCo court system. The judge for the DOR trial is Travis Partney, who is running for a full term to finish the term as judge on the November ballot. He was appointed to the position by Governor Nixon back in March. Before that, he worked for the JeffCo prosecutor’s office.

Dunklin R-5 Asks Again For Tax Hike

21 Sep

Dunklin school district put a $0.62 tax hike on the ballot in August (Proposition Blackcat Pride) to fund renovation and new construction of district buildings. The proposition, which needed only a majority, failed, with 52% of voters saying no. Undeterred, as government bodies usually are, Dunklin is back, having put the same proposition on the November ballot (quite a quick turnaround). They probably think the higher November turnout will get them the votes they need to pass this. Here is a list of what Dunklin wants to do with the money. It includes the expansion of Pevely Elementary and a new bus garage.

bcp

For comparison purposes, here is a list of the 2015 tax rates for every JeffCo school district in dollars per $100 of real estate valuation, from greatest to least. This comes from the Jefferson County web page.

  • Dunklin: 5.3662 (if tax passes)
  • Windsor: 4.8429
  • Grandview: 4.7466
  • Dunklin: 4.7462
  • Crystal City: 4.7416
  • Hillsboro: 4.7025
  • Fox: 4.6767
  • Northwest: 4.6026
  • Jefferson: 4.5967
  • Sunrise: 4.4968
  • De Soto: 4.3258
  • Festus: 3.74

Note that the Blackcat Pride ballot language says the proposition will raise the district’s operating levy t0 4.6962. This number does not include the district’s 0.67 debt service fund. Add that in and you get the total potential tax rate of 5.3662 listed above.

Get What You Pay For?

It is interesting to see that Festus, by some measures the best school district in the county (when they aren’t suspending Trump sign holders!), has by far the lowest tax rate. However, the districts with the next lowest rates, De Soto and Sunrise, are not very good districts. Windsor, another top district in the county, has the county’s highest rate.

Dunklin, which is right now the 3rd-highest taxing district, is not a great district. If this tax passes, it will have the highest tax, and will be the first district in the county to break the $5 per $100 valuation mark.

Ride Sharing Coming to JeffCo, Perhaps

9 Sep

Uber, the ridesharing service that lets you hail a ride with a smartphone app (and find a passenger if you are an Uber driver) is active in St. Louis City and County, but not here in JeffCo (specifically, you can get dropped off in JeffCo but not picked up). However, there is a new rideshare company that might start operating here in the near future.

The company is called Curvesides, and the company’s Missouri manager says that it will be active in the county when “100 riders who would love to drive” have signed up. The company is apparently live in St. Louis already.

Uber in STL charges riders a base fare of $1.75, plus $1.50 per mile, and Uber drivers get to keep about 80% of that. Curvesides says its drivers will pay the company a flat $60 per week, unless they make less than $300 in a week, in which case drivers pay 25% to the company. As for fares, Curvesides will charge a base fare of $6.75 (for 2 miles) plus $1.35 per mile. Curvesides will apparently not charge surge fares like Uber does when it is busy. Surges can increase fares by 2x or more during periods of high demand (like after a major concert).

Ride sharing is an alternative to taxis for getting home from the bar, going to the airport, or any other time you need a ride. Curvesides would have to reach a saturation point where you can get a ride any time of day within a few minutes in order to be a useful option. Uber has reached that point in St. Louis.

For those who want to make some extra money, ride sharing is a way to work whenever you want and wherever you want, independently. For Curvesides to be a worthwhile money-making opportunity, it will have to have a large rider base, to make it worth the effort for drivers. It does not appear to be close to reaching that point, even in St. Louis.

Insurance

Details about the service seem a bit vague, judging by the two websites I have linked above. One thing to consider, if you want to be a driver, is insurance. Your regular auto insurance company would frown upon you doing ride sharing, and probably drop you if they knew you were doing it (though some companies offer ride sharing riders to their policies). Uber covers you if you are heading to pick up a passenger, or transporting one, but if you are just driving around with the app on, waiting for a customer, you are not covered.

Curvesides reps say that “we have 1.5 million dollars of commercial insurance which will pay for what your insurance wont, unless your at fault then it becomes like all other insurance.” Their website, though, says “Curvesides has a  Million Dollar Commercial Liability insurance policy.” This is something you may want to get more information on if you want to be a driver.

The company has a Missouri specific Facebook page for drivers. They seem to be fairly responsive if you have questions.

I am a bit skeptical of the long term prospects of this venture, but check it out if it is something that interests you.

Sweeney Post Office Box and Local Elections

19 Aug

I wrote here about how an employee of Arnold and Byrnes Mill city attorney Robert Sweeney named Lisa French was, strangely, the deputy treasurer for the failed Prop C effort to pass a half-cent sales tax in Arnold to fund stormwater and infrastructure improvements in 2015.

French, from Hillsboro, is also the deputy treasurer for a new political action committee (PAC) called The JeffCo Dems. While French listed what I assume is her home address in the paperwork for Building a Better Arnold, she lists PO Box 20 in Hillsboro as her address in the paperwork for The JeffCo Dems. That same address is also listed as the address for the PAC itself. Allison Sweeney, daughter and law partner of Bob Sweeney, who also serves as Byrnes Mill prosecutor, is the treasurer of The JeffCo Dems and also for Democrat county council candidate for district 2 Roger Hendrix (she also wrote a letter to the Leader supporting Democrat Nathan Stewart for re-election as judge). Box 20 is listed as the address for Hendrix’s campaign committee and as the address for both Sweeney and his deputy treasurer, French.

PO Box 20 is also the address for – guess who – the Sweeney Law Firm. Generally, Bob Sweeney has preferred to do his political meddling behind the scenes, but I guess now his organization is going overt in its support for Democrats.

I asked this question in regards to Arnold Prop C, but it comes up again: if Bob Sweeney’s employees are listing the firm’s address as their address on these forms, are they doing political work as part of their job duties? Is Sweeney thus giving unreported in-kind donations to these PACs and Hendrix?

Old PAC Same as the New PAC

Now, I say that The JeffCo Dems is a new PAC, but in fact it is a reformed version of a PAC formed in March 2015 called….JeffCo Dems. This is according to paperwork filed at the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) website. JeffCo Dems was terminated on 5/25/16, the same day that The JeffCo Dems was formed. The old group transferred all of its money on hand, $3141.63, to the new group. Both groups have the same treasurers, Sweeney and French. Why end one group and start a new one just to add “the” to the PAC name?

Somehow, the old PAC does not have any finance reports on the MEC website other than its termination report. So we don’t know where it got $4,660 of the $4,920 it brought in, or how it spent $814 of that money (the rest that was not transferred to the new group went mostly to Hillsboro homecoming supplies). The new group has received about $2,300 from traditional Democrat sources: Democrat candidates, a labor group, and lawyers.

Given the Sweeney history of shadiness, I think these committees are worth keeping an eye on.

Former Arnold Pastor Pleads Guilty to Burglary of Parishioners, and Related Events

8 Aug

A former pastor of a church formerly located in Arnold plead guilty in February and was sentenced to probation in April for breaking into the home of a church member to steal prescription opiods, according to court documents. On top of that, this story takes a number of twists and turns that I will lay out in this post.

skiles

Mug shot from JeffCo Sheriff, via Mobile Patrol app.

The pastor’s name is Tom Skiles, and the church was SOS Church, which was located on JeffCo Boulevard but has since moved out of Arnold. Skiles led the church for 10 years (he got some attention in 2009 for a series of MMA-themed sermons). The relocation of the church in April 2014 to Rockwood Summit High School (RSHS) was prompted by a court judgment against the church after it fell behind by over $23,000 in rent to its landlord, according to court documents. Casenet indicates that this judgment has yet to be paid by Skiles and/or the church.

Several former members of the church are convinced that the reason SOS could not pay its rent is because Skiles stole money from the church for personal use, based on extravagant spending they witnessed. However, these allegations do not appear to have been brought to police.

However, Skiles has violated his probation with separate arrests for DWI and drug possession. The process of revoking his probation is underway in county court.

Timeline of Events

  • March 2014 – Skiles breaks into home of parishioners; relocation of church announced*
  • late March 2014 – SOS Church announces that Skiles is “taking a little break which is well deserved”*
  • April 2014 – Church relocates to RSHS*
  • May 2014 – Burglary harges filed against Skiles in Jefferson County court
  • June 2014 – Lawsuit filed against church for unpaid rent
  • July 2014 – Skiles arrested
  • April 2015 – Judge rules for landlord in lawsuit, orders payment of $24,943
  • October 2015 – New lead pastors announced at SOS – Skiles’ brother and his wife*
  • December 2015 – New name announced for SOS Church – Endurance Church
  • February 2016 – Skiles pleads guilty to break in
  • April 2016 – Skiles sentenced to five years probation
  • July 2016 – Skiles arrested for DWI and marijuana possession in separate events, motion to revoke probation filed

* These events are portrayed on social media as positive happenings; it seems that the true reasoning behind the events was concealed from or downplayed to church members.

Unreported

Now, one would expect “pastor steals from his flock” to be journalistic red meat, sure to merit mention in the papers, but to my knowledge the Leader has not reported on these events, despite being tipped off by former SOS members. This is especially strange given the sometimes mundane crimes the Leader does report on.

It was also stated by the county prosecutor in Skiles’ criminal case that he was picked up by the Festus PD in early 2016 for DWI but was allowed to go home uncharged. Recall that the Festus PD also let the city judge get away with a potential DWI in 2004, as I wrote about here. How common is this in Festus?

Might these examples of special treatment have something to do with the fact that Skiles’ aunt is the wife of JeffCo sheriff Glenn Boyer?

There is a feeling among the former SOS members I talked to that Skiles has gotten away with a lot. We will have to watch his probation revocation proceedings to see if this continues. In addition, the mug shot above was taken after the marijuana arrest on July 1 – no charges have been filed for this incident as of yet.

JeffCo August Primary Results

2 Aug

The vote results are in for our county. They came in fairly early this time, compared to recent years, with updates throughout the night instead of a big dump at the end of the night. Candidates in bold below are ones I endorsed.

For the statewide GOP races, our results mirrored what is happening statewide (so far), with Greitens for governor, Parson for lt. governor, Hawley for AG, and Ashcroft for SoS prevailing. Greitens has right about 35% of the 4-way vote both in JeffCo and statewide. On the Democrat side, Jake Zimmerman has a 3,000 vote lead at 50.7% in the AG race as I write this, but he won JeffCo by 2,200 votes at 60%. Judy Baker leads the treasurer race with about 62% here and statewide.

Locally, Bob Boyer pulled out a close win in the GOP assessor race. He was trailing early, as the votes from the southern part of the county came in first, but when the northern vote was tabulated, he won 36-34-29 over Mary Dunnegan and Cary Blum.

Paula Wagner cruised in the GOP treasurer race, 47-28-23 over Mark Paul and Ken Horton.

Charles Groeteke, known for losing two nailbiter races, defeated George Engelbach in a county council race that also seemed to come down to north vs south vote, by a 56-44 margin (almost 400 votes). He will face Jeff Roorda in November.

Incumbent Shane Roden prevailed in a five-way primary for House district 111 with 44% of the vote. Gary Bonacker came in 2nd with 28%.

Dan Stallman beat Kevin Weaver in council district 6 by 66 votes out of 3,600 cast in the closest race of the night.

Dave Marshak rolled to the GOP sheriff nomination, getting half the vote in a 3-way field. Ron Arnhart got 33% while Sean Cooper registered only 16%. Marshak will take on Steve Meinberg in November.

On the Democrat side, for House district 113, Karen Settlemoir-Berg beat perennial primary candidate Mike Evans by 59-41. She will take on Dan Shaul in November.

The three incumbent US Congressmen who represent our county did not fare all that well within our borders. Ann Wagner got only 77% and Blaine Luetkemeyer got 67% vs. minor challengers, and Jason Smith lost the county to Todd Mahn of Festus (but cruised district-wide). Likewise, Senator Roy Blunt got only 68% of the county GOP vote.

The one competitive judicial primary was won by Katherine Hardy Senkel, with a 34.3-33.9-31.8 victory over Tony Dorsett and Trisha Stefanski. Hardy Senkel beat Dorsett by only 83 votes.

The car sales tax issue Prop V won everywhere, while school tax votes lost in Dunklin and won in Sunrise. A Saline Fire tax vote was successful.

And finally, Chief Wana Dubie got 11% of the JeffCo vote for US Senator (Jason Kander won here with  69%).

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