Should Boone County be successful in making the final cut and receiving this grant, the 18 months of technical support will help us implement the best practices possible in decreasing disparities, increasing upward economic mobility, and providing greater opportunities across all sectors of our community. It would also place Boone County front and center as leading the nation in our commitment to the economic mobility of historically disadvantaged populations.
BELOW IS TEXT OF COUNTY COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE
Boone County Commission
Daniel K. Atwill, Presiding Commissioner
Fred J. Parry, District I Commissioner
Janet M. Thompson, District II Commissioner
Roger B. Wilson
Boone County Government Center
801 East Walnut, Room 333
Columbia, MO 65201-7732
573-886-4305 * FAX 573-886-4311
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Administrative Coordinator, Boone County Commission
Phone: (573) 886-4312
BOONE COUNTY NAMED FINALIST FOR
URBAN INSTITUTE’S UPWARD MOBILITY COHORT
October 22, 2020 – Boone County has been named a finalist for the opportunity to be a part of the Urban Institute’s Upward Mobility Cohort. The Urban Institute, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is looking to partner with a cohort of up to 8 counties to use metrics to inform local strategies to boost economic and social mobility and narrow racial and ethnic equity gaps.
Upon learning of this opportunity, and of the quick turnaround required for applications, Commissioner Janet Thompson convened a meeting of partners from throughout the community. In less than a week, representatives from REDI, Cradle to Career, Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA), Women’s Business Center (CMCA affiliated), City of Columbia Housing Programs Division, the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services (Steve Hollis), and the Boone County Community Services Department collaborated to develop an initial response and submit it to the Urban Institute.
Boone County is one of 26 counties selected as finalists for this opportunity. From these finalists, eight counties will be chosen to participate in the program, which will provide $125K and 18 months of tailored technical assistance from experts at Urban. The support will help counties put the mobility metrics to use to inform decision making, develop a cross-sector mobility coalition, and create a Mobility Action Plan that identifies key local mobility challenges and presents actionable strategies to improve outcomes. Cohort counties will also participate in peer-learning activities and provide feedback that informs future improvements to the metrics.
Matt Jenne, Chair of the REDI Board, says, “As the chair of our county-wide economic development board, I have called on our local leaders to strive for equality through economic opportunity. Our county will be able to use this windfall to align our priorities to our equality goals and give us necessary tools and lessons learned to get there quickly.”
Full proposals from the finalists are due on November 24, 2020. The selection of the cohort will be announced by December 31, 2020.
I used to find it mildly annoying—a crossword puzzle that wouldn’t load or an email attachment that never appeared—but since the advent of COVID-19, the impact of inadequate and unreliable internet service has been real, often disrupting, and sometimes overwhelming.
As COVID-19 has forced an increased reliance on Zoom, Skype, and Webex for meetings about County business; meetings with diocesan church leadership; board meetings of local and regional agencies; and countless committee and task force meetings, I realized what every parent in this country (and probably the world) already knew—where you live, and thus whether you have high quality, high speed internet—defines the “haves” and the “have nots.” It’s as much, if not more, of a game-changer than was electricity in the early 1900s.
I had known of, and experienced on a somewhat limited level, what it meant to be a “have not” prior to COVID-19. When I was in the Public Defender’s Office, I knew that, while I could write a brief for the Missouri Supreme Court at home, I certainly couldn’t do the online research from there. In more recent years, I knew that I couldn’t watch a webinar from the National Association of Counties (NACo) or any of the other national organizations with whom NACo partners like the Pritzker Foundation, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, or the Urban Institute. But I wasn’t a “have not” to the extent that so many others—families and individuals—experience day in and day out.
When COVID-19 hit, the inequities in internet access gave our country a collective gobsmack. The work that had been going on to create a real and robust internet system throughout this country was put in the spotlight as schools turned to online learning, families were forced to turn into home-based IT experts, and telecommuting became the norm. The fact that millions of dollars had been thrown at the issue by the federal government made our lack of service become ever more apparent.
One of the problems before COVID-19 was that people just didn’t comprehend that so many of us have miserable to non-existent internet service where we work, live and play. According to the FCC, 80% percent of the 24 million American households that do not have reliable, affordable, high-speed internet are in rural areas. This situation was in part obfuscated—and seriously underestimated--by FCC definitions of internet access in which internet service companies reported an area as having service if one person within a zip code had access. REALLY?
The program that NACo began several years ago—“Test It”—designed for each of us to use our mobile phones in every location we can find, to ascertain the level of service available at that place, became a real tool for highlighting internet deserts. I learned about the program and brought the information home to Boone County, where we immediately put information about it on the County’s website. Boone Countians began to “test” and we, along with people across the country, began to demonstrate through fact gathering, the actual state of internet inadequacy. Yes, Virginia, there is no reliable, let alone high speed, internet at my house—and I am not alone.
Ironically, here in Boone County many of us suffer from being “too rural” for decent internet service, but “not rural enough” to entice service providers to extend broadband service.
To actually get us connected, it’s going to take two things—well, actually three: money—spent wisely and with oversight; one or more local internet service providers willing to make the leap; and a sense of civic responsibility. The federal government continues to allocate funding for internet access in the form of both grants and loans, but it will take a local provider to secure the funds and invest in the technology.
USDA has been investing in rural telecommunications for decades. Their 2019-2020 ReConnect Program offered more than $1 billion for modern broadband e-connectivity in rural communities in loans and grant funds. In addition to ReConnect, the Rural Utilities Service administers three other rural broadband connectivity programs: The Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program, the Community Connect Grant Program, and the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Grant Program, not to mention the CARES funding most recently made available for broadband internet expansion.
Depending on the funding source, federal money to extend broadband to rural areas is available to co-ops, non-profits, mutuals, for-profit companies, LLCs, states, local governments, or “any agency, subdivision, instrumentality, or political subdivision thereof”.
Let’s finally make broadband internet service a reality for rural Boone County and help bring potential providers together to lead the way!
For immediate release:
October 20, 2020
Thompson Receives Realtor Endorsement
Janet Thompson, candidate for re-election as Boone County Northern District Commissioner, is pleased to announce the endorsement of the Columbia Board of REALTORS®. As rationale for thei endorsement, the CBOR Government Affairs Committee and Board of Directors cited the importance of experienced leadership on the County Commission, especially in light of COVID-19 and its effect on the local economy.
The endorsement decision was based on questionnaire responses submitted by all four candidates for Northern and Southern District Commissioners.
In acknowledgement of the endorsement, Thompson responded:
“I am deeply honored by the support of the Columbia Board of Realtors in my re-election bid for Boone County Commission and in their acknowledgement of my commitment to this community, to its progress, and to the careful stewardship of its growth.”
Thompson further noted:
“I am pleased that the realtor community understands the importance of bipartisanship in local governance and the necessity for experience in safely guiding Boone County’s future. A county the size and complexity of Boone requires a steady, knowledgeable hand and the willingness to work with a diverse group of essential community partners in meeting the challenges before us.”
Thompson’s responses to the CBOR questionnaire can be found here.
The endorsement press release from the Columbia Board of Realtors® can be found here.
For additional information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transparency is absolutely essential, as is accountability, in government, but a full understanding of any situation in which transparency is called into question is also critical. Sometimes a glimpse behind the scenes gives us a better perspective on why government officials take the actions they do, as in a recent action in which a proposed meeting was scheduled (but not held) involving only two of the three Commissioners.
Despite his protests to the contrary, Fred Parry's emails, sent through multiple personal email accounts, proved that our Southern Commissioner orchestrated the lawsuit recently brought against the Health Department Director in opposition to the COVID restrictions imposed on Columbia businesses—a Health Director who is contracted to serve the County’s citizens. Including Fred in a meeting intended to brief county officials about the lawsuit that he himself had instigated would have been frivolous.
Including him in any meeting to discuss how the County should reply, craft a responsive pleading, or determine the strategy for dealing with such a lawsuit would have served the personal interests of one Commission member and denied our responsibility to serve, first and foremost, the best interests of Boone County citizens.
As a lawyer and member of The Missouri Bar, I am required to complete a certain number of hours of training every year to remain in good standing with the Bar and the Courts. While most of the hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) can be in any number of fields, every lawyer is also obligated to obtain hours of ethics and bias/diversity training on an annual basis. In most years, the options for ethics training are few and, because of their rarity, are also very expensive.
This year, The Missouri Bar held its annual meeting in mid-September virtually, with online meetings held over several days. When I reviewed the offerings before the meeting, I saw, to my delight, that among the sessions were both ethics and bias and diversity training and, even better, the sessions were FREE!!! I immediately signed up and logged on.
The first session was entitled, “Strategies for Well-Being: Now More Than Ever.” The presenter, a lawyer in recovery since December 2009, began by explaining what she meant by well-being and how that concept relates to ethics. “Well-being” in this context means prevention of impairment, whether from substance abuse or mental health challenges or both; treating impairments when and as they occur; and preventing relapse or reoccurrence.
Well-being, as we now know, is an integral part of ethical behavior because it is a key element in professional competence and fitness to practice since it minimizes the incidence and effects of burn-out and increases productivity. On a more holistic level, a feeling of well-being is also necessary for lawyers, their work colleagues, their friends, and their families to be able to function in a stressful environment.
I can attest to the stress associated with the practice of law. In my prior practice as a Public Defender, the stress arose from the knowledge that my clients’ freedom, and often their lives, depended on my performance. My friends and former colleagues still experience that stress day after day. But, this year, that stress has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
On a national level, for the third week of July, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau’s Household Survey showed that 36% of adults were exhibiting signs of anxiety disorder, up from 8% in 2019; 30% of adults were exhibiting signs of depressive disorder, up from 6.6% in 2019; between 40 and 50% of workers reported feeling burned out; and 60% of adults reported being more tired than ever before. As the presenter acknowledged during The Missouri Bar meeting, since March 2020, most people’s “check engine light” has been on.
Stress exists in everyone’s life and, like this year, stress levels can rise to the point they affect our physical and emotional well-being, our relationships with others, and our professional performance. The question becomes how and whether we address stress, in our own life and in the lives of those around us. For many of us, across many professions, and in many communities, even acknowledging that our “check engine light” is on is difficult or even impossible.
As we navigate the next few days, weeks, or months, please take the time to acknowledge the stress in your life and make use of the many resources in our community that can help you combat its effects. Whether you make use of an Employee Assistance Program at work, take up mindfulness meditation, step up your physical exercise, or consult with a professional, it is important to care about and for yourself.
At the same time, when a colleague, a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance speaks, writes, or acts in a way that highlights negative emotions, resist the urge to reply in the same vein. Ask yourself first if the speech or conduct might be based in an emotional outburst. It might just be that their “check engine light” is on too.
Government at all levels is often labeled as being cumbersome to the point of inertia. And sometimes that label is deserved. But, over the last few days, Boone County demonstrated an ability to be nimble, responsive, and moving at warp speed to meet an emerging and serious need.
It began when the City of Columbia’s Utility Department announced that it would begin cutting off delinquent accounts on Monday, October 5, only days away. As we faced a weekend with temperatures dropping into the low 40’s, my e-mail inbox was quickly flooded with requests that the County help to find a way forward so that those individuals and families, already adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic, would not needlessly suffer further.
Members of the Children’s Services Board, school principals, and other community leaders were among those who called attention to the catastrophic blow that this would deal to families already pushed to the edge by COVID and limited resources.
Because the County Commission represents all of Boone County, not just those who live in the city of Columbia, Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill and I began by checking whether other utility providers here in Boone County were on a similar timeline as the City utility. Several emails to colleagues at Ameren revealed that Ameren had no immediate plans to cut off utility services and that, through the summer, they had been working with Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA). Since I serve on the CMCA Board, a call to Darin Preis, the Executive Director of CMCA, was only logical.
Darin quickly agreed that CMCA could serve as the administrator for CARES Act funding for utility assistance throughout Boone County, including for those facing imminent disruption of services in the City of Columbia. CMCA is uniquely qualified for this work. It has an extraordinary history of working in a transparent and accountable way with federal grant funding and it serves populations in need throughout central Missouri, including in Boone County.
We could not find a better partner.
During one of multiple conversations, Darin alluded to the contractual arrangement into which CMCA had entered with Callaway County for similar services, although on a much smaller scale than potentially would be the case in Boone County. Presiding Commissioner Atwill then quickly reached out to Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Jungermann to understand the process put in place in Callaway and to see if it could be replicated here.
Chad Martin, Boone County’s Director of Emergency Management, who is overseeing the online portal for CARES Act funding, CJ Dykhouse, Boone County’s Counselor, and Darin Preis were put in touch by phone and email so that they could collaborate and work out an agreement between the County and CMCA to help us ensure that CARES Act funding could be distributed quickly and equitably. Working evenings and through the weekend, these three readied the project to launch and by Tuesday, October 5, the agreement had its first reading at the morning Commission meeting. The required second reading is scheduled for Thursday, October 7 allowing CMCA to likely begin processing applications in the week of October 12.
It took one week. One week for multiple agencies to come together and create a solution to what could have been a catastrophic event for a host of individuals and families in Boone County. Instead of catastrophe, we will have used CARES Act funding to provide essential services for our county’s citizens in need, without compromising transparency or accountability.
Weeks like this make me proud to be part of Boone County government.
It occurs to me that one of the most important things for a candidate for County Commission to champion is the right to vote. It’s also an overlay for how I was raised and how I think.
One of my favorite memories of my Mom involves Election Day. No matter the year, no matter the political races on the ballot, as children, we watched as she voted in every single election—municipal, county, state, and national—and her actions spoke directly to her commitment to that privilege and as her right.
In later years, even as she began to experience physical limitations, she made certain that, for every election, she cast her ballot—always picking up our neighbor and good friend, Alice Neihardt Thompson (no relation, but that’s a whole other story) with her to the polling site so that the two of them could act on their best intentions.
Moms are wise that way. She understood that, if we do not vote, either through choice or apathy, we relinquish our say in how we are governed. She was old enough to understand the commitment that others who came before her had made to allow women and Black Americans the RIGHT to vote.
As we are approaching what would have been her 95th birthday—she was born on October 8, 1926—we are just six years shy of the 19th Amendment establishing the constitutional right of women to vote. In her stead, I’m compelled to urge any eligible person who has not yet registered to vote, to do so prior to the October 7 deadline.
But to honor all of the moms on whose shoulders we stand, registering is not enough! Vote on November 3! That would be the best birthday present any mom could ask for.
This Saturday morning, September 26, 2020, starting at 11 a.m., the City of Hallsville will hold an event designed to be a fundraiser for the Hallsville Police Department Foundation. The method chosen for the fundraiser is to put several candidates for office—for state representative and for county commissioner—into a mock jail until they raise enough money to “bail” themselves out.
While it is hoped that the day’s event provides much needed funding for the Foundation, the event actually highlights TWO aspects of the criminal justice system for which lack of resources is hugely problematic. The first is the cash bail system and the second is law enforcement itself.
For the fortunate many, the cash bail system is not a personal experience and usually is something only read or heard about—in the news, on a tv program, in a movie. But, for those brought to a county jail upon arrest, the question of bail is of primary importance since, if you can’t pay, you will stay in jail.
The event in Hallsville demonstrates this problem in stark relief. In advance of the event, I asked how much the Foundation hoped to raise from each candidate—the “bail.” I had the resources available and also recognized the Foundation’s needs, so I wrote a private check for $500. But, in the “real world,” what happens to those who lack those resources? What happens to those who have them? The difference is part of the problem.
For many people, it may seem logical and right that if a person is arrested because law enforcement believes that person has violated some statute, that person will be detained in the county jail. But, think about it: Susie and Joey both engage in the same conduct. They are arrested and taken to the county jail. Susie (or maybe Susie’s parents) has the ability to pay. Joey and Joey’s parents do not. Susie goes home pending resolution of her case. Joey sits in jail. As Joey sits in jail, he may lose his job; he and his family may lose their home; if he is in jail longer than 30 days, any federal benefits to which he is entitled, including Veteran’s and SNAP benefits, are suspended. And, remember, Susie and Joey are only detained—the constitutional presumption of innocence still applies to them both. Yet, because of Joey’s lack of financial resources, his situation is much worse than Susie’s.
It was in part because of that disparity that here in Boone County, a group of dedicated people created a Community Bail Fund project. Modeled on efforts begun and having success in other parts of the country, this group provides bail funding for individuals who, like Joey, simply lack the ability to pay.
Much work and discussion is ongoing in Boone County about when and why people should be detained in jail and when alternatives to detention should be considered. For many years, we have been leaders in the state through our use of Adult Court Services, which is intended to investigate and help the court determine that very question. A risk assessment—considering essentially whether the individual poses a risk of harm to the community and whether the individual is likely to show up for court—is done to help the court in making that decision.
Across the country, as well as locally, we are seeing the intersection of these two, interrelated aspects of the detention question. Judges, lawyers, community members and other policy makers are considering where and if a cash bail system is necessary, appropriate and philosophically sound. If the risk assessment process gives judges a data-driven basis for decisions on alternatives to detention, why then, some ask, is cash bail part of the discussion since, by and large, it doesn’t impact either risk of harm or risk of non-appearance. Others note that, in jurisdictions that have abolished the cash bail system, individuals are spending more and more days in jail. The conversation continues, as it should. And, the Hallsville event gives us the opportunity to add to that conversation.
The second issue highlighted by the Hallsville event, and the more readily apparent, is the lack of funding for law enforcement. This is an issue affecting practically every law enforcement agency in the country.
We count on these dedicated men and women to protect us—to serve and defend. We expect them to be available 24/7 every day of the year. Because we haven’t adequately funded social services FOR DECADES, we require law enforcement (and their brothers and sisters in Fire and EMS) to act as mental health professionals, even asking them to save those who might be attempting suicide. Yet, we fail them miserably when it comes to providing them adequate resources. And, I’m not just talking about guns. I’m talking about getting them ALL of the resources they need to do the tasks we pile on their collective plates.
If, for example, we will continue to ask that they respond alone to those in mental health crisis, we must give them access to Crisis Intervention Team training, a 40 hour interactive course that provides them with at least a modicum of skills to de-escalate confrontations and connect individuals with appropriate resources. Access to CIT training doesn’t just mean funding for the training. It means ensuring that, in a one, or two or three-person office, they have the personnel required to allow each member of that office to be out of the rotation for that week-long training.
We MUST support law enforcement. We MUST give them the tools, including training, that will allow them to make the best decisions, that will allow them to protect and defend.
We called her "The Notorious RBG." Despite the public, widespread knowledge that she had metastatic pancreatic cancer, I suspect that we hoped she was, in fact, "The Invincible RBG," that her body wouldn't fail her––or us. But, on September 18, 2020, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, despite our hopes, what we knew would happen some day, and what her family had been preparing for, it happened.
Justice Ginsburg, while tiny in physical stature, was a force to be reckoned with––as a student, as a professor, as a jurist. Her work, with its well-known focus on equality issues, especially involving gender equality, helped to change the way in which we view and address those issues. The depth and breadth of her work is too important to try to glibly gloss over it with a few sentences. Instead, I'd like to focus on the answer Justice Ginsburg gave when asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough. She famously responded, "when there are nine."
That, to me, is the essence of Justice Ginsburg's work. Think back just a few years. Until 1981 (the year I entered law school), when Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court, only men had ever served on the Court. Until 1967, when Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court, no person of color had ever served on the Court. Now, only one person of color is currently sitting Supreme Court Justice, and, until this weekend, the most women to serve at the same time has been three.
"When there are nine" means that, for Justice Ginsburg's work to reach fruition, to be complete, we will find it normal, not odd, not unusual…
• for all members of the Board of Directors of a major corporation to be people of color
• for all members of the MU Board of Curators to be women
• for leadership in corporate America and local, state and national government to truly reflect the makeup––race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and disability status––of the people.
At that point, the work of Justice Ginsburg, and the promise of those first words of the United States Constitution, "We, the People," will be fulfilled. Then, every person will be judged and rewarded, not based on the color of her skin, her gender, or any other factor, but rather on the content of her character.
It is fitting that, if we must lose Justice Ginsburg, she leaves us as Rosh Hashanah began since it is said that a person who dies on the eve of or during Rosh Hashanah is a "tzaddik," a person of great righteousness.
Farewell and shalom, Justice Ginsburg.
This week I had a birthday. Like Karen Miller, my former colleague on the County Commission (who so generously asked her Facebook friends for birthday contributions to my campaign), I love to cook and to bake! So, to celebrate my birthday week, I’d like to share two of my favorite recipes as a thank you in advance for considering a contribution to my re-election campaign for Northern District Commissioner.
A successful baking product is virtually guaranteed, even for the culinarily challenged. Don’t count the calories and ignore the carbs, at least for the time it takes to enjoy. Then, get outside and walk, or run, or bike, or just sit and count your blessings!!
Birthdays are meant to be shared, just like campaigns!
You can donate to my re-election here.
Texas Sheet Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. In a microwaveable container––I use a 4-cup glass measuring cup––microwave the water, butter and chocolate for two minutes. (I do it in one-minute increments until the chocolate is melted).
Stir after each minute and stir to blend at the end. Add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla or almond extract to chocolate mixture and stir to blend. The mixture will seem thinner than most cake batter—don’t worry!!
Pour into a greased (or Pammed!) 15x10x1-inch baking pan and bake 18-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. About half-way through the baking, start on the frosting….
6 tablespoons butter
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
6 tablespoons milk
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract
Microwave the butter, baking chocolate and milk in a microwaveable container for two minutes. (Again, do this in one-minute increments and stir after each minute or until the chocolate is melted.) Add remaining ingredients and stir––I do it by hand––until well-mixed.
Remove cake from oven and, while still warm, pour frosting over the cake, spreading to cover. Let cake cool completely before cutting. You can microwave individual pieces 30 seconds or so to maximize the amazing taste. Serve solo or with ice cream, whipped cream, or with any other addition you desire.
Alternatives: If your audience enjoys nuts, you can add nuts—your choice of variety—to the cake and/or the frosting.
If adding to the cake, distribute on top of the cake once it’s poured into the pan. Toasting the nuts before adding to cake or frosting enhances the nutty flavor.
P.S. We aren’t even talking about calories.
2 cups flour (all purpose)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter—frozen
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg
Sparkling sugar for tops
*Optional: For a sweet scone, add ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit
(blueberries or cherries are awesome). For a savory scone, add ½ cup
grated hard cheese.
Adjust oven rack to a lower-middle position and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a box or straight grater, and the side with the larger holes, grate the butter into the flour mixture. (This will produce “pea sized” pieces of butter that will spread throughout your dough).
If desired, add dried fruit or grated cheese and blend into the flour mixture. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg together, until smooth. Then add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture, stirring (or better yet, using your hands to mix) until just blended. Do NOT overmix as this will make your scones tougher.
Divide the dough in half and, on a lightly floured area, form each half into a disk eight to ten inches across. Cut each disk into eight pieces (divide the disk in half and then divide each half in half and then each quarter in half).
Place on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet about an inch apart. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if making sweet scones. Bake until golden brown, about 15-17 minutes. Can be served hot or cool.
We could talk calories, but why?