Rebuilding Joplin High School: Federal strings or Joplin strong?

September 18, 2011

I open TheCorner this morning with the online comment I posted in response to the Globe article School District, Property Owner Have Competing Visions:

I’m one of those not so hardline conservatives who actually believes there is a role for federal government. As in assisting in the initial aftermath of major disasters, bringing resources to the scene that no one local community could afford to have sitting around waiting. It’s an efficient use of tax dollars.

But for crying out loud, since when did it become the responsibility of the federal government to rebuild Joplin Schools?

Those ‘federal’ dollars are ALL our dollars and under the current fiscal insanity coming out of D.C. almost HALF of them are BORROWED!

If there was ever an example of the similarity between crack addicts and local government/political entities it is the absolute fanaticism and the lengths to which they will go to secure their next ‘high’ no matter who they crush in their pursuit.

It’s not that wanting a grand, 21st century complex is a bad idea, it’s that that idea is a ‘want’ vs a ‘need’.

This nation won WWII and put men on the moon without air conditioned schools and laptop computers. The basics of education are still the same.

What has changed though is the mantra that it’s the buildings and the surroundings,the growth of the bureaucracy, and a decrease in learning.

Sure it’s wanted but at what cost? (And yes there is a cost when a political entity takes up 80 some private parcels of land, some of which end up just being taken because the owners did nothing else other then be in the way of ‘progress’.)

Dr. Huff and crew are an example to the world for opening schools on schedule this year.

But to run roughshod over private property rights to chase after ‘federal’ dollars sullies that work. After all, even if the school board plows ahead and forces their view, those ‘federal’ dollars they’re so eager to have are all stolen from the future generations they claim to want to help.

The screaming from the media of late regarding Washington is ‘compromise’, seems the school board might want to re-visit the definition.

The feelings espoused above are not to disparage C.J. Huff and the tremendous achievements he and his crew have made since May 22nd. They speak for themselves, are remarkable and commendable and TheCorner has stated such in previous posts.

The comments are intended to point out the one thing that seems to constantly get overlooked in any discussions of this type: The almost rabid intensity that is brought out in normally good people when the red meat of “Federal Dollars” is dangled in front of them.

While the “vision” espoused for the schools by some is no doubt what they feel is only in the very best interest of future students, it does not mean it must be a “this vision or else” path forward.

There is nothing written in stone that the only way Joplin schools can move forward is with federal money. (St. Mary’s will be moving forward and they’ve got not a snowball’s chance of getting federal money or filing court actions. Yes, their school is smaller, but so is their financial base. They will rebuild and they will do it the old-fashioned way: of their congregation, by their congregation and for their congregation.)

The point of the comment on the Globe site was not to debate one vision over another, but to spur discussion of just how addicted this entire nation has become to “federal” dollars and how it has infected our thought processes and actions.

This nation is in one helluva financial mess. Almost half of EVERY federal dollar now spent is stolen from our children and future generations to support the selfishness of today.

Joplin has shown the world, the very best of the best of what being American means. Do we really want to tarnish that image by condemning private land in order to chase borrowed federal dollars?

If that becomes the community vision so be it.

But no citizen voting for or going along with such a plan should ever again tout Joplin’s self-reliant, can-do, attitude. (Trading independence for strings attached federal money is by no definition, “independent”.)

Sacrificing some of it’s own to appease the federal God is not “self-reliant” or “can-do”, it is hypocrisy.

7 Responses to Rebuilding Joplin High School: Federal strings or Joplin strong?

  1. Uncle Jed on September 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

    How DARE you challenge the Joplin School Board! They have a vision and by GOD Joplin’s going to go along with that vision, or else. (Or at least a few property owners who can’t fight it and will see their property confiscated no matter what.)
    This is a disgrace.

  2. Long time Joplin on September 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    The comments over on the Globe and Facebook are running at least 10 to 1 against the school board on this but don’t look for that to change anything.
    Like one commentator already stated, this bunch is more interested in having their name on a plaque in the new building and patting themselves on the back then they are about involving the entire community in what they want.

  3. anson burlingame on September 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm


    You raise an excellent issue in terms of addiction to federal money.

    As I understand it, JHS and other buildings were “fully insured” before the tornado. Had they not been so insured, someone should have been fired.

    If only JHS had been destroyed by fire, for example, we would have had to be content to rebuilding up to the amount insured or call for voter approval of tax hikes. Replacement value of property is part of insurance and is adjusted each year for inflation, cost of rebuilding, etc.

    If a homeowner lost a fully insured home with a replacement value clearly stated on his policy of $200,000, he would know exactly what he could rebuild with such proceeds from insurance. If he chose to build a $300,000 new home he has every right to do so but will only receive the replacement value from his insurance policy.

    I sure sounds like the BOE, locally “had” a $100 Million school fully insured but now wants a “$200 Million” (or whatever) new school and the federal government is willing to give them the money to do so.

    Forget property owners rights under the threat of eminent domain. The real question is why should the federal government suplement and perfectly good insurance policy?

    Rebuild a school with the insurance proceeds. If it is no big enough or whatever afterwards, then go for a voter approved bond to build a new annex to house the overflow. We would have done that without a tornado. Why should we not do so with a tornado.

    The reason as you point out is “addiction to “free” money” from the federal government.


    • Geoff on September 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm

      EXACTLY! It seems as if the tornado has become a ‘reason’, ‘excuse’, or whatever to do what would not have been done under normal circumstances.
      Some call it taking advantage of a tragic situation for the better, others (myself included)find it more on the seedy side.
      If Joplin school board wants to rebuild twice the size as before the tornado, that’s fine. Just have the decency to involve the community as a whole.

  4. Dian M. Jones on September 20, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Geoff — I am so glad I found your blog! This is my first time here.

    I sent an email to Governor Nixon about the Joplin School District. I am going to share it here with you. Please share your thoughts after you read it. Thanks — Dian

    Dear Governor Nixon:

    The citizens of Joplin, MO need your assistance, and quickly.

    The following article is from the Joplin Globe:

    The article is about the Joplin School District purchasing properties near the high school location that was destroyed. Dr. Huff, Superintendent of Joplin Schools, has stated that the high school will not be able to be built where it was because it is in a flood plain and the government requires the school to be built in a location that is not a flood plain in order to receive federal funding. THIS IS NOT TRUE!

    The FEMA document referenced below states that schools in a ‘V Zone’ are not eligible for federal funds if the school was destroyed and is rebuilt on the same site. I am not able to copy the link, so just type in ‘Chapter 5 Making Schools Safe from Flooding’ and just click on the hit P-424, which is the 2nd hit for me when I Google, and you’ll be able to read the entire FEMA chapter, if you want to, about this. It’s very detailed.

    The catch here, and what the Joplin School District is NOT TELLING THE PUBLIC is that the Joplin High School was NOT IN A ‘V Zone’.

    A ‘V Zone’ as defined by FEMA is: “Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event with additional hazards associated with storm-induced waves. Because detailed hydraulic analyses have not been performed, no Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) or flood depths are shown. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements and floodplain management standards apply.”

    Joplin, Missouri is NOT an area along a coast!!

    From the FEMA document (P-424: Chapter 5: Making Schools Safe From Flooding, page 27): “If completely destroyed by an event that the President declares a major disaster, schools in V zones are not eligible for post-disaster public assistance funds to rebuild on the same site (44 CFR §9.11(d)(1)). This is another reason to select higher (more conservative) design criteria when designing and constructing schools in areas with a high flood risk.”

    Governor Nixon, the people of Joplin have suffered so much due to the devastation of the tornado of May 22, 2011 including me and my son. We were flooded out in Texas on May 22, 2007 and lost most everything. Then, four years to the day later, my son and I survived and EF5 tornado, but suffered damage once again. In addition, my son’s father passed away on January 17, 2009.

    Anyway, it hurts me to see that the Joplin School District is not being truthful with the public. According to the information I found, the Joplin High School could be rebuilt right where it is. FEMA does not require that the high school be built somewhere else in order to receive federal funding! It’s only if the high school were in a ‘V Zone’ that building elsewhere would be a requirement. This is not right and the people of Joplin need your help quickly. Time is of the essence since negotiations are in progress. I feel so bad for the woman, Cynthia Turner, who is just trying to put her life back together but had to stop any progress she was making due to Dr. Huff, Joplin School District administration and school board.

    Please, check with FEMA and contact school and city officials about this. I have contacted the Joplin Globe and spoke with the the writer of the article referenced above. She is going to contact FEMA and see what she can find out. The information I provided about the FEMA documentation on schools in flood zones is accessible to anyone.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Dian M. Jones

  5. Melissa Braun on September 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I completely agree with the majority of these posts. The problem is that the BOE has taken away the public’s right to speak at a board meeting. It order to get your 3 minutes during the public comments time, you must submit in writing what you want to say. It must then be approved by the pres., vice-pres., and the superintendent. Only if they approve, will you be allowed to speak. Therefore, they will NEVER hear the opinions of the voters. Taxpayers need to find a way to let the district know that this is not how we want our schools represented. People have lost so much. The district should not be taking peoples home, no matter how much they want to expand. And I would like to know about the Globe article from Feb. 2010 that talked about a storm water drainage system that was to be installed around the high school paid for by the city? Why can that not be done before they start building? Then they wouldn’t need to take lots and homes from taxpayers.

  6. Geoff on September 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    To both Dian and Melissa,
    I am sitting in the Seattle airport at present and won’t return to Joplin till late Friday night but wanted to thank you both for your input and to let you know I’ll do what I can to get the word out.
    I’m a transplant to Joplin (five years on now) and I must admit I am quite surprised at the actions and attitudes of so many of the ‘public’ entities. (City Council, County Government, Dunn, School Board etc…) It seems they are all more like little political kingdoms than actually bodies serving the public that pays the bills. (But that’s just one columnist’s lil-ol opinion don’t ya know! lol)
    Again, thanks for reading. (And feel free to spread the word! lol)


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