Harry Greninger walked up to me and started laughing.
“You’re working hard,” he said.
“Some days I can hardly keep up with everything,” I said back to Harry, who laughed again.
See, Harry was thinking I wasn’t working hard because I was sitting in the second row behind home plate at Joe Becker Stadium watching the Missouri Southern Lions baseball team play the Fort Hays Tigers on a sunny, warm spring afternoon.
Hey, I didn’t just magically appear at Joe Becker, I did have to drive to the ballpark.
I think that’s something.
And before I drove to Joe Becker, I attended a musical brown bag lunch at Grace Episcopal Church in Carthage for a column that I plan to write in a few weeks.
It wasn’t all rest and relaxation.
OK, the truth is I really wasn’t working that hard Monday. I decided to go to Joe Becker when I found out that the game — originally scheduled to be played in Fort Hays — had to be moved to Joplin because of the recent heavy snows in western Kansas. The fact that the weather in Joplin was near perfect made my decision even easier.
I don’t get out to Joe Becker as often as I would like, so when I get a chance like I did Monday, I jump at it. Besides, I wanted to check on the work that the city’s parks and recreation department has done to upgrade the press box and concession area at Joe Becker.
Between the first and second innings, Chris Cotton, the parks and recreation director, took me to the press box. There still is a little bit of touch-up work that needs to be done, but the remodeled and expanded press box looks great.
I checked out the concession area on my own. The way I did that was to ask the nice lady at the window for a cheeseburger and a bottle of water. I was pretty sure the cheeseburger would be good because I could see a guy flipping a bunch of them on the grill. It’s always a good sign when you can watch your burger being grilled.
When I got my burger, I put some mustard on it, found my seat behind home plate and took a bite. It was very good. Maybe not “Mutt Burger” good, but so good that I decided to have a second one. Who knows? Maybe what made the Mutt Burger — served up for so many years by the late Mutt Miller — so good was the idea of the Mutt Burger. In any event, as good as Mutt Burgers were, I can say the burgers I had Monday were also pretty good.
Did I mention that I had two of them?
The great thing about watching baseball at Joe Becker is you get to sit pretty much right on top of the action. Because of that you can usually notice something neat that you might have missed at a bigger ballpark.
For example, in the first inning of the first game, Lions outfielder Dane Kolkmeyer came up to bat with runners on second and third and only one out. In a situation like that, the batter’s sole responsibility is to drive that runner from third to home either by a hit, a long fly ball or even a well-placed ground-ball out. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, you just need to get that runner home.
Dane struck out that time.
A couple of innings later, Dane was at the plate again. I was anxious to see if he had learned anything from his first at-bat. A few pitches later, I got my answer when Dane slammed the ball over the left field fence for a home run.
That’s why I like to watch baseball at Joe Becker.
Harry Greninger walked up to me and started laughing.
- Local News
30 volunteers a day would be a ‘game-changer’ for Rebuild Joplin
Betty and Louis Wirick, both 79, say they are grateful to have survived the 2011 tornado as it tore down part of their home of 25 years on South Bird Avenue. But three years later, they are frustrated.
Event for veterans on tap at Crowder
For area veterans who have returned home from more than a decade at war, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks hopes to send a simple message at an event this weekend: Welcome home.
Fair to feature goats, chickens and decorated bras
Along with the usual fair sights, sounds and smells — livestock, poultry, produce and the like — there will be something a bit unusual at the Cherokee County American Legion Free Fair this year: Decorated brassieres. And pink. Lots of pink.
Prison term meted out in carjacking case
A Newton County judge assessed a defendant in a Joplin carjacking case seven years in prison Friday on a conviction on a charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.
Co-workers, friends honor nurse with 50-year career
Wilma Massey has worked a half century in health care and, even at the age of 74, she’s the first to arrive at work each morning.
Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit
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.
Brownback names 3 Kansas Board of Regents members
Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday named a former veteran Kansas House member and two attorneys to the board overseeing the state’s higher education system.
Grant to fund solar energy system for PSU’s Plaster Center
An $80,000 grant from Westar Energy will fund solar panels to provide both energy and education at the Robert W. Plaster Center, now under construction at Pittsburg State University.
Survey seeks views on Joplin’s future goals
Residents are being asked to fill out a survey on priorities for Joplin’s future. The effort was inspired by a meeting of community leaders last month. Survey forms are available at the Joplin Public Library and online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/jointjoplinareaplanningsurvey.
Habitat slates volunteer work days
In the wake of the 2011 tornado, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has been a partner with organizations and individuals in the construction of 86 new houses. But what’s also needed, Executive Director Scott Clayton said, are repairs to area homes.
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- 30 volunteers a day would be a ‘game-changer’ for Rebuild Joplin