JOPLIN, Mo. —
Christmas “elves” are scurrying in the wee hours this morning after a busy night for Christmas “angels.”
The “angels” are members of the local “Bright Christmas Dreamers” club who collect Hallmark Christmas ornaments. They, along with Hallmark representatives and local retail stores, are staging a national event in Joplin for collectors.
The “elves” are the 178 Hallmark collectors who plan to line up before dawn today outside Amanda’s Hallmark Shop, 1651 W. Seventh St., to get a chance to buy ornaments made especially for the Joplin event and for signings of the ornaments by three Hallmark artists who participated in designing them.
Members of the public may attend the event as well. Appointment times will be assigned for the signing event starting at 10 a.m. outside the store. Signings will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Members of the local club get first dibs inside the store at 8 a.m.
Retired artist Linda Sickman and senior sculptors Kristina Gaughran and Ruth Donikowski will do the signings. They are among those who create ornaments for the “Keepsake” line.
A banquet was held Friday night at the Butcher’s Block Banquet Center where the artists were introduced, and dozens of Hallmark door prizes were handed out by the “angels.”
Club member Barbara Hogelin said the Bright Christmas Dreamers won one of four grand prizes awarded by Hallmark. It entitles clubs to hold the events. Hogelin said the process is competitive and the Joplin club won by making a chronicle of the 2011 year in Joplin on a video, using a Hallmark calendar and ornaments to mark significant dates. Club members started making the movie on Jan. 1, 2011, and little did they know then the year would bring about a February blizzard topped by an EF-5 tornado in May that destroyed about a third of the city. Karon Wheat Debby Woodin 8/3/12 stetand Heather Cantrell shot the video. It will be shown continuously at the Amanda’s store today.
“It’s a real privilege to win one of these events,” Hogelin said.
Hogelin said Hallmark collectors donated about 7,000 ornaments to replace Christmas decorations lost by Joplin residents, and those were distributed last November.
Donna Garrigan, president of the club and manager of Amanda’s, said Hallmark has the contest for the signing events every other year. “There are two exclusive ornaments you can only get at a signing event,” she said.
That’s what many collectors like about Hallmark, some of them said.
Tommie Kukes of Springfield was at the banquet with her aunt, Lori McDaniel of Duncanville, Texas. McDaniel formerly owned a Hallmark store and hooked Kukes on collecting 20 or so years ago. Kukes now owns more than 1,000 pieces, she estimates, which she uses to decorate three Christmas trees in her home during the holiday season.
Asked what attracted them to the ornaments, McDaniel said, “Quality. There’s a lot of pretty ornaments, but Hallmark’s are just so unique and such good quality.”
“They appeal to so many different interests,” Kukes said.
Garrigan said she had no concerns that the event would draw a crowd.
“Hallmark puts it on their website. We didn’t really have to advertise it. There are very dedicated collectors out there, and they find out about them and just come.”
Proceeds from tickets to the Friday night banquet will be donated to local nonprofit organizations: Southwest Missouri Alliance, Breast Cancer Awareness, Ronald McDonald House, New Hope Services/Special Olympics, and Children’s Haven.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Christmas “elves” are scurrying in the wee hours this morning after a busy night for Christmas “angels.”
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Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
“The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.
Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
“Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
“We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”
“The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
“There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
“We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
“We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.
Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.
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